The San Diego Fire Rescue Department bomb squad investigated a suspicious package in Mission Beach on Thursday. Crews used a robot equipped with an x-ray device to examine the package, which was found at 3447 Bayside Walk near Lido Court.

Upon entering the home, officers saw something they said looked like sticks of dynamite taped together with wires leading to a clock face. The officers exited and called the fire department who deployed the bomb squad. The bomb squad determined there was no power source to the package and that there was a sticker on the device that marked it as a novelty item.

A suspicious package was found Friday morning at a Kanawha County bank. A robot was used, and it was determined the package was a newspaper that had been placed against the door.

A suspicious package was found in Hayes Valley neighborhood Sunday afternoon. The package turned out to be someone’s suitcase.

A suspicious package was reported Friday outside of the Woodburn Premium Outlet Max Studio store. A bomb squad from the Oregon State Police x-rayed the package and determined around 8:45 p.m. it was not an explosive device.

A suspicious package was found on a Weir High School bus Wednesday morning. School officials say a student found a box under a bus seat which appeared to contain electrical wires. After further investigation, including using K-9s, police determined it was not a threat and the all clear was given shortly after 9 a.m. Officials say the box was part of a school project.

The discovery of a suspicious package shut down a San Francisco Public Health Department building in the city’s South of Market neighborhood this morning. At about 10:40 a.m. a loud blast shook the neighborhood, setting off car alarms and prompting one man standing on 10th Street to exclaim, “Damn!”

A suspicious package left in front of the Chula Vista courthouse Friday turned out to be a backpack containing old Playboy magazines. Authorities, including the sheriff’s department Bomb/Arson Unit, were summoned to the courthouse at 500 Third Avenue after the abandoned backpack was found at about 8:45 a.m. Investigators at the scene used robots to inspect the backpack, which had an antenna from a radio coming from the top.

Police officers evacuated a city block after a suspicious package was reported in 500 block of Tulare Ave. in Parlier. Officers are now trying to figure out who duct taped a suspicious device to the bottom of a vehicle. Police did not want to elaborate on what the device was under the car, except to emphasize it was not a bomb.

Authorities in Henry County responded to a report of a suspicious package at an Abbeville law office Thursday. According to the sheriff’s office, employees at the law office of Samuel Christopher Money thought the addressing on a package seemed “peculiar.” It was also very heavy. Abbeville police, the Henry County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigative Task Force and the Dothan Police Department Bomb Unit responded. The area was evacuated, and the bomb squad x-rayed the package. The package was determined to not be dangerous.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office was called out to Royal Palm Beach Elementary School after a suspicious package was found near the school’s marquee on Wednesday afternoon. The suspicious package turned out to be a suitcase full of clothes, according to investigators.

A suspicious package was found in the 1600 block of Barrington Street (Halifax) around 9:30 a.m. The owner of the backpack approached police a short time later and explained that he had forgotten his backpack, which contained his lunch, at the location.

Elmhurst police were alerted to a suspicious package at the Elmhurst Post Office on Sunday. The postal inspectors x-rayed the package and determined it posed no immediate hazard. Police said it was filled with “electronic media bundles.” A note was included in the package that said, “Mary has passed on—thanks for all that you have done to keep her listening.” The box had no mailing or return address.

A couple found a bag full of cylinders and wire next to a dumpster Wednesday that looked suspicious, so they brought it to the northeast substation where police determined it was a battery pack used in large toys. The bomb unit was called out, and the unit found that the package was not harmful.

After hours of evacuation, the Detroit Lakes Walmart is reopened. The Crow Wing County bomb squad investigated the store because of a suspicious package found on Friday. The “suspicious package” turned out to be a zipped-up coat with several other store items inside of it. Authorities suspect the shopper was planning to steal the merchandise-filled coat, but decided against it; hiding it in the store where coats don’t usually belong.

Witnesses say the [suspicious package] drama unfolded when a man walked into the food court area here, dropped luggage on the ground, made the sign of the cross, then walked away. The Chicago Police Bomb and Arson unit, the Chicago Fire Department Hazardous Incident team and State Police dogs were used to investigate the luggage. “It was pretty scary at first, because the first thing you think about is 9-11. So it was really scary for a minute there,” said Curcuz. In the end, it was determined, the luggage was harmless.

A package filled with newspapers caused quite a scare at a bank in Elkview. The package was found at the front door of the Poca Valley Bank about 10 a.m. Friday. The Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department’s bomb squad was called to the scene to check it out. A robot looked inside the package and found bags of newspapers inside.


Adapted from Modernist Cuisine’s recipe for Mac ’n’ Cheese. with thanks to Linda.

  9 ounces of water
  2 teaspoons food grade sodium citrate
10 ounces of cheese, about half white cheddar and half Manchego

  Stick blender

Grate the cheese, the finer the better, and set it aside. Coarsely-grated is okay.
Bring the water and sodium citrate to a simmer (180°F) in a 2 quart saucepan.
Turn off the heat.
Add the grated cheese a handful at a time, mixing continuously with the stick blender.

Be sure each handful of cheese is blended into the liquid before adding the next handful. Adding and blending all the cheese in should take no more than a minute or two.
Use immediately or refrigerate. It’s supposed to keep for a week, but I haven’t tried.
Cleanup can be messy, and a non-stick saucepan helps.

Velveeta® is a registered trademark of the Kraft Foods company. The specks in the picture are bits of wax from the cheese. Be more careful than I was if you care about specklessness.

DLabelAs you know from my previous How Do You Arrange Your Cheez-Its? posts, Sunshine Cheez-Its are the perfect food. Better yet, some varieties have serving sizes — such as 14, 27, and 29 crackers — that subdivide into great combinations of perfect cubes and perfect squares.

Today’s Cheez-It variety is Scrabble Junior Cheez-It. One serving, can you believe it, is 26 letters crackers! And of course, not only can you arrange a serving into several combinations of perfect squares, you can also arrange a serving alphabetically. You can even do both at once!



A25 1

Figure 1. A serving of Scrabble Junior Cheez-Its arranged alphabetically.
26 = 25 + 1


9 1 16

Figure 2. A serving of Scrabble Junior Cheez-Its arranged as three squares.
26 = 9 + 1 + 16

9 9 4 4

Figure 3. A serving of Scrabble Junior Cheez-Its arranged as four squares of two sizes.
26 = 9 + 4 + 4 + 9

December 8, 2012. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that Loughrey told police he had emptied the magazine of his 9-millimeter Taurus handgun, and he didn’t know there was a bullet in the chamber. The gun discharged and his son was struck in the chest.

February 13, 2012. Authorities in St. Petersburg, Fla. say the daughter of a pastor was accidentally killed at church Sunday when a gun went off. Investigators say a man was showing his gun to another church member interested in buying it, but didn’t know there was a bullet in the chamber. The gun went off and fired through a wall at Grace Connection Church, striking 20-year-old Hannah Kelley in the head.

December 11, 2009. Asked by the judge why he pulled the trigger, Airman Hernandez said, "I trusted him; I’d seen him doing it earlier that night, and I trusted him. Even though I saw him load (the gun), I didn’t know there was a bullet in the chamber."

December 31, 2006. He didn’t know there was a bullet in the chamber of his .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun when investigators say he pointed the weapon at his friend’s head.

September 8, 2006. “It was my fault,” Robert Christie told the neighbors, according to a sheriff’s report. “I didn’t know there was a bullet in the chamber.”

October 16, 1998. “She was chiding him in her discussion with a friend,” Givens told Wagner. “He didn’t know there was a bullet in the chamber and pulled the trigger.”

September 9, 1994. Steinberg said Cruz recklessly pointed the gun at his brother after ejecting the clip and didn’t know there was a bullet in the chamber.

February 15, 1988. Defense lawyers claim that Matthews didn’t know there was a bullet in the chamber of the .380-caliber handgun.

March 10, 1971. He told police he had removed the ammunition clip from the pistol and didn’t know there was a bullet in the chamber when he pointed the gun at the girl.

David Petraeus. A Brilliant Career With a Meteoric Rise and an Abrupt Fall

Tony Watt, Scottish footballer. Dream night against Barca caps meteoric rise for Watt

Justin Welby. New Archbishop of Canterbury: Justin Welby, the meteoric rise of an ‘astonished’ former oil trader

Eben Etzebeth. Young Etzebeth’s meteoric rise

* See “METEORIC RISE” at Michael Quinion’s excellent site, World Wide Words.

I’m a mathematics teacher, and I have some arithmetic problems for you to solve.

1. Mitt drives to the beach and back.

Q. Mitt Romney drives 50 miles from his home one of his homes to the beach and back one summer, with or without a dog on the roof. He averages 50 miles an hour on the way out, and he averages 10 miles an hour on the way back. What was Mitt’s average speed on the road?

A. It was 16-2/3 mph¹, but Mitt’s campaign insists he’s no slowpoke and that he averaged 30 mph. (They also say the trip explains his tan.)


2. “Going Dutch” with Mitt.

Q. You and Mitt Romney have lunch together at Chick-fil-A. The bill is $15, and he only has a $10 bill, so he pays 2/3 of the bill. Later, you have dinner together at the country club, and the bill is $300. He puts in $100, and this time you pay 2/3 of the bill. Are you even-Steven?

A. Of course not, but Mitt says you are, because he paid 1/3 once and 2/3 once.


3. Mitt Sees Red.

Q. In the four squares below, about what percentage of the area overall is red?


A. About 10%. Certainly way less than half. Mitt disagrees. He says the percentage of red is over 75%, and he surprises you by providing actual details instead of saying he has a secret calculation that solves the problem and comes out the way he wants it to. He says there are three 100% red squares and one 5% red square, for an average of 305%/4 or about 76%. Ann tells you to stop giving him a hard time.


Earlier today, the Romney campaign website posted a letter from PriceWaterhouseCoopers “PWC” LLP summarizing the Romneys’ tax returns for the years 1990-2009. The carefully-worded letter² states that

The average of the annual “effective federal personal income tax rates” as computed based on the returns as prepared during the period is 20.20%.

PWC computed each year’s “effective federal personal income tax rate” as instructed by the Romneys.

As you requested, we compute each annual “effective federal personal income tax rate” as total taxes owed divided by adjusted gross income as shown on the federal income tax returns as prepared.

First of all, the Romneys’ “adjusted gross income” (AGI) may be less than what most of us think of as simply “what the Romneys made.” For example, the expenses of carrying on a trade or business (such as dressage) can be deducted from total income. The Romneys’ tax rate on their total income is lower than that on their adjusted gross income. Maybe a little, maybe a lot.

More importantly, however, is how Mitt and Ann instructed PWC to compute a number they could call an “average.”

Despite appearances, no one has said that the Romneys paid 20.20% of their adjusted gross income in federal income taxes during the period 1990 – 2009. They probably paid less.

The 20.20% figure is not the Romney’s federal income tax rate for income they earned during the period 1990 – 2009. It’s the average of 20 separate annual rates. Mathematically, it’s a weighted average of their annual rates.

If you think the average of 20 annual rates is the same as the 20-year average annual rate, you’re wrong. By that flawed logic, Mitt averaged 30 mph, you and he are even-Steven for splitting meals, and the colored squares in the picture above are 75% red. Go away.

Further blurring the issue, the campaign today also posted a letter from Brad Malt, the “trustee of the Romney’s [sic] blind trust,” about Mitt’s taxes. Malt tries to say that PWC calculated something that it didn’t calculate.

Regarding the PWC letter covering the Romneys’  tax filings over 20 years, from 1990 – 2009:

Over the entire 20-year period, the average annual effective federal tax rate was 20.20%.

Malt omitted two short and crucial words: of the. PWC did not say that Romneys’ average annual effective federal tax rate was 20.20%. They said that if you average the 20 separate effective rates on their 20 federal tax returns, you get 20.20%. It’s a silly thing to calculate, but it’s what the Romneys told them (and presumably paid them) to do.

The Romneys’ overall tax rate might have been lower than 20.20%. It might have been higher, too, but given the outrage over the relatively low rates they pay compared to working Americans, if it were higher, he’d have said so. And Mitt won’t release his tax returns. We can only assume the worst.

If you value the truth, vote for Barack Obama on November 6, 2012.

¹ Let’s figure it out. Mitt drove a total of 100 miles. It took him 1 hour (50 miles at 50 mph) to drive the first half of the trip and 5 hours (50 miles at 10 mph) to drive the second half. He drove a total of 100 miles in 6 hours, so his average speed was 16-2/3 miles per hour.

² The letter is signed personally, in blue, by PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP, because why wouldn’t they sign it? Corporations are people.

[This will be brief and sloppy, since I should be packing, not blogging. With luck, there will be an update later this month/year/decade, but don’t hold your breath.]

Today went like this:

5:00 a.m. Wake up a good four hours before my usual wakey-uppy time, because in order to get to the Marvin Hamlisch Memorial Choir rehearsal, I had to catch the 6:21 train.

7:45 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Rehearse for and sing at Marvin’s funeral. While it isn’t the subject of this post, highlights of the event were a) President Bill Clinton, b) John Updike’s Perfection Wasted, a sucker punch if there ever was one, and c) Terre Blair Hamlisch’s heartbreakingly stunning eulogy to her late husband.

12:45 – 2:30 p.m. Lunch at Serafina on 61st (a martini and a plate of paglia e fieno) with fellow singers Andy, Darcy, and the just-married Baninos. Disappointingly, although we were all dressed in black, no one asked “Who died?” Only in New York.

3:45 – 8:03 p.m. Procrastinate.

8:04 p.m. See Dr. Rubidium’s provocative and pithy tweet,

People, eggs are bad for you AGAIN.… … via @Jezebel #untiltheyrenot


“Your Breakfast Is Trying to Murder You: Eggs Are Almost as Bad for You as Cigarettes,” Jezebel crowed.

Well, I love me my eggs, and egg slander is up there with salt slander and sugar slander as a high crime against food. Eggs give Cheez-Its a run for the money as the perfect food, and this had to be wrong.

Here’s the hard-boiled truth. The latest research on eggs and heart disease is flawed. Eggs are not going to kill you.

Jezebel and other news outlets have jumped on Egg yolk consumption and carotid plaque, a paper recently published in the journal Atherosclerosis, which claims that a person’s carotid plaque increases exponentially with their egg yolk consumption. (This paper is referred to below as EWKY, for Eggs Will Kill You.)

Most likely there is no exponential relationship at all. But if you believe the authors’ statistics, perhaps you will believe what I can prove by an identical analysis:

The length of objects, measured in centimeters, grows exponentially with length measured in inches.

Of course, this is ridiculous. The length of an object in centimeters is exactly 2.54 times its length in inches. The relationship is linear, not exponential. After you finish reading this post, I hope you’ll realize that the egg slander in Atherosclerosis is also ridiculous.

The “exponential” dependence of plaque on egg yolk consumption is an artifact of skewed data.

I created a data set with the same distribution as the EWKY data to investigate a hypothetical relationship between inches and centimeters, using the same flawed way the authors of EWKY analyzed the relationship between egg yolk consumption and plaque.

Briefly, the authors of EWKY treated “quintile”  as a scale variable, which it is not.

Here are the histograms of my data and the EWKY data. Pretty much the same.


And here are error bar charts of my data and the EWKY data. Both appear to show a clearly non-linear relationship.

The error bar chart from EWKY is the sole justification for the claim of an exponential cigarette-like relationship to plaque:


(My error bars are much shorter because the correlation between inches and centimeters is perfect. While the relationship between egg-yolk years and plaque is not, it’s nevertheless not exponential.)

There are other statistical gaffes in EWKY, but I don’t have time to delve into them. I’ll mention the worst very quickly.

First, most of the EWKY analysis compares lifetime egg yolk consumption to plaque. Lifetime anything consumption is a proxy for age, and atherosclerosis is strongly age-dependent. Nowhere do the authors of EWKY provide convincing evidence that the relationship between egg yolk consumption and plaque is anything but an artifact of the proxy for age.

Furthermore, the authors pay no heed to the always-important question of effect size. They provide a single analysis that shows a statistically significant relationship between the non-age-proxy measurement of egg yolk consumption per week (as opposed to over a lifetime) and plaque that’s independent of age:

Screen shot 2012-08-15 at 0.02.39

The difference in plaque area between the <2 eggs/week group and the 3 or more eggs group (an arbitrary split, and ignoring the several hundred subjects who ate from 2 to 2.99 eggs/week) is about 1/20 of a standard deviation, otherwise known as squat. The fact that p < 0.0001 after adjustment for age is irrelevant, because with such a large sample, significance might appear for an even smaller effect (micro-squat).

Gotta run, gotta pack. Thanks for listening.

[Note added 2012/07/26 4:42PM EDT: The Spider-Man designs appear on only one side of each Amazing Spider-Man Cheez-It. Crackers were arranged design-side up.]


My friendly neighborhood Shop-Rite is carrying more and more varieties of Cheez-Its lately, but it didn’t take long to decide on The Amazing Spider-Man Cheez-Its.

The top reasons? 

1. Serving size is a sum of consecutive squares.
2. Flavor is not Monterey Jack.
3. Spider-Man, Spider-Man!




Figure 1. A serving of The Amazing Spider-Man Cheez-Its arranged as a frustum.
29 = 16 + 9 + 4


The Amazing Spider-Man Cheez-It is not the perfect food, but it’s closer to it than Cheez-It BIG Monterey Jack. Spideys taste almost like the original, but they’re a little too hard and crunchy. I can’t imagine eating an entire box in one sitting.


Figure 2. The Pythagorean identity 3² + 4² = 5² was applied to the previous serving.
29 = 25 + 4

The Amazing Spider-Man Cheez-Its are slightly less uniform in size and shape than regular Cheez-Its or Cheez-Its BIG. The crackers chosen for these figures are a more uniform sample than one would expect in a random serving.


Figure 3. Another sum-of-squares serving of The Amazing Spider-Man Cheez-Its.
29 = 25 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1

Another Steve on the internet has written more about The Amazing Spider-Man Cheez-Its, so I’ll just wrap up with two more arrangements. You should definitely head over to the other Steve’s blog when you’re done here.


Figure 4. One serving of The Amazing Spider-Man Cheez-Its. (Aztec arrangement)
29 = 9 + (1 + 9 + 1) + 9



Figure 5. A variation of Figure 4 with more symmetry.
29 = 9 + (1 + 9 + 1) + 9

Yes, you read it right: white people are more likely to marry other good people.

Just kidding!

Now that I have your attention, though, I hope you thought I was out of my mind. I may be, but for the record, I’m absolutely not saying that white people are good (and that non-white people aren’t). And geez, if I wanted to say that (which I don’t), I’d say it directly, not with underhanded rhetoric.

In the title, I wrote “white people . . . other good people.” That doesn’t even make sense, really.¹ It’s like talking about your other Range Rover when you only have one.

What did I mean by other good people when I hadn’t mentioned any particularly good people in the first place? Or had I?

Now read what David Brooks wrote earlier this week in the Opinion section of the New York Times:

Affluent, intelligent people are now more likely to marry other energetic, intelligent people.

Brooks mentioned “other energetic, intelligent people,” but he hadn’t mentioned any energetic, intelligent people in the first place; he’d only mentioned affluent, intelligent people.

Maybe Brooks didn’t notice his slip, because to him, the affluent people are the energetic people. Or maybe he intended to say flat out that poor people are lazy — which I think he believes — but he knew it would have been crude to say.

Even worse, saying that poor people are lazy, even if you believe it, wouldn’t have been “gentlemanly conduct.” Gentlemanly conduct is a thing the “best of the WASP elites” had, according to Brooks (in the same article). The WASP elites (and some Catholics) also thought the poor were lazy. They weren’t. They aren’t.

Why are 30 million Americans poor? To many the answer would be obvious: They are poor because they are lazy, or lack initiative, or prefer welfare to work.

Wrong, . . .

  — Jack Rosenthal, The New York Times, November 16, 1969.


¹ I’m not sure I’ve explained this clearly, so here’s an extended try. The construction “<adjective> people . . . other <adjective> people,” refers to some <adjective> people and then some additional <adjective> people of the same kind. For example: Tall people often date other tall people. Loud people sometimes even disturb other loud people. Clumsy people occasionally bump into other clumsy people.

On the other hand, to say “<adjective> people . . . other <different adjective> people” is a mistake, a ruse, or a (not necessarily good) joke. For example: Dumb people often marry other blondes. Homosexuals are more likely to marry other sailors.


As you know from my last and first How Do You Arrange Your Cheez-Its? post, not only are Sunshine Cheez-Its the perfect food, the serving size of Cheez-Its is 27 crackers, a perfect cube.

As the name suggests, Cheez-It BIG crackers are bigger¹ than Cheez-Its, and a serving contains fewer crackers — 14 instead of 27. While 14 is not a perfect cube, it is the sum of consecutive perfect squares, which is nearly as wonderful.



Figure 1. One serving of Cheez-Its BIG arranged as a pyramid. 
14 = 9 + 4 + 1



Figure 2. One serving of Cheez-Its BIG arranged like a pyramid.
14 = 8 + 3 + 2 + 1



Figure 3. One serving of Cheez-Its BIG arranged unlike a pyramid.
14 = (2 + 3 + 2 + 3 + 2) + 2


Unfortunately, Cheez-Its BIG, the Monterey Jack variety (which I purchased by mistake) is not the perfect food, and I can only recommend it for arranging, not for snacking.



Figure 4. The author (center) ascending a Pyramid not made of Cheez-Its BIG.


¹ “Twice the Size!*”, the front of the box declares.²

² The asterisk leads to a footnote, in smaller type: “*Than Original Cheez-It® Crackers volume.” My rough measurements confirm this. One Cheez-It BIG is about 35% larger than a Cheez-It in each of its larger dimensions, and about 10% thicker.

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