Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Numbers Behind NUMB3RS

I just finished reading The Numbers Behind NUMB3RS: Solving Crime with Mathematics by Keith Devlin and Gary Lorden (New York:  Plume Books [Penguin], 2007).  Devlin is NPR's "Math Guy" and Lorden was the math consultant on the TV series NUMB3RS, to which this book is related.

The book discusses some of the mathematical tools and theories that we see math genius and professor Charlie Eppes use on the series.  I confess that I did not nearly understand all of the book, as I am pretty much a mathophobe.  However, I enjoyed NUMB3RS, as did my mathematically-inclined husband, because it was a well-written and well-acted series with interesting stories. The Detective/Police genre is my favorite (as if one could not tell from references in entries on this blog).

Possibly the authors could have explained some of their points in a way that laypersons such as myself could better understand, but I don't regard this as a serious complaint.  I was intrigued by a number (not to be punny) of the concepts dealt with in the book, and how these are being applied in crime-fighting today.  Nice to know that such fine minds as those described in the book are applying themselves to solving problems in crime detection and the pursuit of perpetrators.

An appendix gives a "mathematical synopsis" of plots of the episodes of the first three seasons (the book was written while the series was running).  I have all six seasons on DVD, a Christmas gift from my husband.

People who enjoy reading the story behind the story, those interested in reading about the sciences in general, those interested in math, and people as enchanted as I was by the TV series will enjoy this book.  Even if you, like me, do not completely understand all of the explanations.

Monday, May 14, 2012

"The Untouchables" Drinking Game

This is just for fun.  It's peripherally related to a book, actually to one I read when I was a teenager.  That is to say, The Untouchables by Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley.  It was this book which was the basis for the television series that aired from 1959 to 1963 and starred Robert Stack as Eliot Ness, the U.S. Treasury agent who formed a special squad of incorruptible men to take on the beer empire of Al Capone.  They weakened Capone enough so that the Internal Revenue Bureau was able to come in and audit his books, building a case against him for income tax evasion. 

The book is, to be kind about it, embellished in its telling of the tale.  There are liberties taken with facts.  But it is a good and exciting read, at any rate.  I also enjoyed the TV series, and am enjoying it again on DVD.  I have the first three seasons, and season 4 comes out in July.

Game requirements:
1.  The episodes (four seasons) of the original Desilu Productions series “The Untouchables” (1959-1963) starring Robert Stack.
2,  This list.
3.  Beverages of choice.
4. Players – the more, the merrier!

While watching an episode, when a condition of this list is met, take the recommended number and type of drinks.  A “sip” is just that – a small amount of beverage.  A “gulp” is a large amount of beverage.  A “chug” is to drain your glass.  Refill as needed.

            Remember, you are watching “The Untouchables.”  As you are imbibing alcoholic beverages, be warned that you could be raided.

I.  Generic actions

A dress worn by an actress or extra in a previous episode
            is worn by another in the current episode.                  1 sip

A dress worn by an actress in a previous episode is worn
            by the SAME actress in the current episode               chug

Someone kills someone else instantly while his
            gun seems aimed at something  (or someone)
            other than the intended target                                      chug

A prop you have seen in another episode turns
            up in this one (not including guns or cars)                  1 gulp

A prop looks like something that might appear
            on Antiques Roadshow                                                1 gulp

You actually have seen that prop on Antiques Roadshow       chug

Stock footage is used                                                               1 gulp

The stock footage used reveals a temporal anomaly
            (i.e., cars from the 1940s or 1950s, etc.)                     chug

A temporal anomaly turns up in a non-stock scene                1 gulp
            (such as Anne Francis reading “Prevention”
            magazine – not published until the early 1950s –
            in “The Doreen Maney Story”)

Someone is wearing glasses, but there are
            no lenses in them                                                         1 gulp

A woman screams                                                                   1 sip

Mountains show up in the background when
            the scene is set in a place where there are
            no mountains (Illinois, Indiana, Florida)                    chug

Someone – good guy or bad – fires more
            that six shots from a .38 revolver                               1 sip per gun

A flute solo plays when someone dies or
            is about to die                                                              1 sip

A man slaps a woman                                                             1 sip

A woman slaps a man                                                             1 gulp
A woman is the boss of whatever criminal operation             1 gulp

Someone takes out a pack of cigarettes, lights a
            cigarette or is in a smoke-filled room                       1 sip per weed

Someone takes a drink (this will get you plastered)               1 sip

Someone takes a drink and spits it out because it
             is rotgut                                                                      1 gulp

Someone takes a drink directly from a bottle                          1 gulp

Someone drinks directly from a bottle, then someone else
            drinks from the same bottle                                         1 gulp

Someone (other than Eliot Ness) breaks a bottle                     1 sip

II.  The Ensemble Effect

An actor who played a good guy (including one of
            the Untouchables) in one or more other episodes
            plays a bad guy in the current episode                         1 gulp

An actor who played a bad guy in one or more other
            episodes plays a good guy (including one of the
            Untouchables) in the current episode.                          1 gulp

Any actor or actress makes a repeat appearance                      1 sip

An actor makes a repeat appearance in the same role              1 gulp

A bad guy shows up repeatedly, played by the same               1 sip
           actor (Bruce Gordon as Frank Nitti does not count)

A bad guy shows up repeatedly, played by different                1 gulp
III.  Eliot Ness

Ness pushes his hat up just a bit                                                1 sip

Ness hits a wall or a table with his fist                                      1 sip

Ness hits some hood with the back of his hand                        1 sip

Ness goes out of control on some hood and the
            other guys have to restrain him                                     1 gulp

Ness throws himself on the floor to fire at a bad guy               1 gulp

Ness says he’ll protect someone and
            they end up dead                                                           1 gulp

Someone asks to meet with Ness but is murdered
            before the meeting can take place                                 1 gulp

Someone tries to bribe Ness                                                      1 gulp

Someone orders a hit on Ness                                                   1 gulp

Ness lights a match with his thumbnail                                     1 gulp

Ness breaks a bottle.                                                                  1 gulp

A woman makes a pass at Ness.                                                1 sip

A woman slaps Ness                                                                  1 gulp

Ness gets slugged, beaten, or otherwise injured                        1 gulp

Ness actually mentions his wife                                                 chug

Ness hooks a thumb on a trouser pocket                                    1 sip

Ness taps his thumb or finger (either hand)
            while thinking, debating, talking,
            or deciding something                                                    1 sip

IV.  The Untouchables (singly or as a group)

The team stands in the open with bullets flying
            all around, and none of them get hit.                              1 gulp

Untouchable Jack Rossman has no lines                                    1 gulp

One of the Untouchables gets shot and no one
            reacts or goes to his aid                                                  1 gulp

 One of the Untouchables dies       Stand and raise a toast to a fallen hero.

The Untouchables get a government
            car or other government property trashed                      1 gulp

One of the Untouchables holds a loaded gun so that
            it points to another one or to a civilian                          1 gulp

An Untouchable who died in a previous episode
            shows up in a later one                                                   1 gulp

An Untouchable is beaten up, shot, or otherwise
            assaulted (includes single blows)                                   1 gulp

Any of the good guys respectfully removes his
            hat in the presence of a dead person                               1 gulp

The Untouchables grill a suspect under bright lights                 1 sip

A wiretap installed by the Untouchables is found out
             and destroyed                                                                1 sip

The bad guys put a wiretap on the Untouchables                      1 gulp
One of the team brings the rest coffee                                        1 sip

Thursday, May 3, 2012


TRQ is the abbreviation I and friends of mine use for "to-read queue," the list of books we have waiting to be read.  Since I will be starting graduate school in the fall, I am planning to spend the summer reading at least one, if not two, books per week.  And as I will be concentrating on history, and specifically on Florida history, here is my TRQ for the summer:

Paul E. Hoffman, Florida's Frontiers (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002).  A graduation gift from friends.  I told them I was going to have fun with this one, because I've had some bones to pick with the author.

Patricia Seed, Ceremonies of Possession: Europe's Conquest of the New World, 1492-1640 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995).

Margaret R. Greer, Walter D. Mignolo, and Maureen Quilligan, eds. Rereading the Black Legend: The Discourses of Religious and Racial Differences in the Renaissance Empires (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007).  The "Black Legend" refers to the reputation the Spanish gained for brutality and greed in the conquest of the New World.  This legend arose out of accusations made by Bartolomé de las Casas, whose writings castigated what he saw as maltreatment of aboriginal peoples, and was fueled by Great Britain, as it was to her advantage to 'diss' Spain.

 Marc Bloch.  The Historian's Craft: Reflections on the Nature and Uses of History and the Techniques and Methods of Those Who Write It (New York: Vintage Books, 1953).  Big title, small book, and the title says it all.

Georg G. Iggers.  Historiography in the Twentieth Century: From Scientific Objectivity to the Postmodern Challenge (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1997).

Anna Green and Kathleen Troup, eds. The Houses of Hisory: A Critical Reader in Twentieth Century History and Theory (New York: New York University Press, 1999).

José Rabasa.  Inventing America: Spanish Historiography and the Formation of Eurocentrism (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993).

José Rabasa.  Writing Violence on the Northern Frontier: The Historiography of Sixteenth-Century New Mexico and Florida and te Legacy of Conquest (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000).

Matthew Restall.  Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).

I also plan to indulge in some light reading, some of which I haven't selected yet.  It looks like a formidable list.  It will be good practice!