Wednesday, April 30, 2008
©2008 Robert Sommers
I am taking off for the next several days in order to exhibit my wares at the Los Angeles Modernism Show in Santa Monica. There is a link to it below. Wish me luck - I don't always resonate that well with the "beautiful people". Hope to see my Angeleno friends.
She was shaking with the tremors only vagrant drunks know, trying to remember which key opened the safe, fearing the gun, fearing the worst. He smelled her fear, slammed her against the safe, moved the gun up and down her tight thighs, breathing heavily upon her neck, “Open the fucking safe, bitch!” She made $8.25 an hour as a cashier, how could her life be on the line for minimum wage….who will remember to turn the crock pot to low at 5pm? Which key will give him what he wants??!!!
Finally it opened, like Jesus' tomb…empty!!!! “Dear Jesus, tell Lavelle and Kiki I love them”she prayed,…Corky spun the cashier…screaming “Bitch!” “Fuck, what am I gonna do now!!”
Everyone looked past the gun into the eyes of one jonesing crack head, knowing the options were few…He threw her to the ground grabbed the cash from the registers and the guns, pushed the door open with his back, shot three times in the air and ran shaking and cursing into the alley….over the fence and into a downstairs apartment.
Fuck!!! What to do??
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
A congressional candidate is defending his speech to a group celebrating the anniversary of Adolf Hitler's birth, saying he appeared simply because he was asked.
Tony Zirkle, who is seeking the Republican nomination in Indiana's 2nd District, stood in front of a painting of Hitler, next to people wearing swastika armbands and with a swastika flag in the background for the speech to the American National Socialist Workers Party in Chicago on Sunday.
"I'll speak before any group that invites me," Zirkle said Monday. "I've spoken on an African-American radio station in Atlanta."
The 2nd Congressional District includes a large portion of north central Indiana spanning from South Bend to Kokomo. It includes Pine and Jackson Townships in Porter County and parts of Washington Township, which includes the eastern edges of the Valparaiso.
It is currently served by Democrat U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly.
Porter County Republican chairman Chuck Williams on Tuesday denounced Zirkle's appearance at the gathering.
"He certainly doesn't hold the view of the of the Republican Party," Williams said. "I don't know why you would stand up in front of a picture of Adolf Hitler when millions of Americans fought against that kind of oppression."
Zirkle compared his speech to other politicians appearing at Bob Jones University.
George W. Bush, then a candidate for president, was criticized eight years ago for speaking at the South Carolina school, which teaches students that Catholicism is a cult. Also at the time of the speech, the school banned interracial dating, a policy that has since been dropped.
Zirkle said he did not know much about the neo-Nazi group and that his intention was to talk on his concern about "the targeting of young white women and for pornography and prostitution."
Zirkle will face John Frame and Joseph Roush, in addition to Puckett, in the May 6 primary.
The event was not the first time Zirkle has raised controversy on race issues. In March, Zirkle raised the idea of segregating races in separate states. Zirkle said Tuesday he's not advocating segregation, but said desegregation has been a failure.
Zirkle received 30 percent of the vote in the 2006 primary, losing to incumbent Chris Chocola, who was defeated in the general election. Zirkle said Tuesday that winning the election is not his primary goal.
"My primary purpose is to educate and inform," he said.
Monday, April 28, 2008
My stepfather, Murray, died yesterday at a hospice in Pennsylvania. Although small in stature, Murray was a great man with a giant heart who put up with my mother for many years. Born in Boston, Murray spent his life in the furniture business. He moved to the Poconos with my mother about 25 years ago.
Murray was passionate about sports, and beat a major league gambling addiction in the 60's. He went to meetings and I respected him. He put up with all the little dogs that were always underfoot in the Fisher/Rosenberg household and all the other attendant crises.
He was a loving, devoted husband to my mother and took the heat off the children whenever possible.
Death came hard and painfully and I regret my absence at the end. I hope that my mother can bear up - he was the nicest of her four husbands. Patient and extremely kind.
Raise a glass to Murray, a real mensch!
Sunday, April 27, 2008
As Lavelle stepped back to close the door on another day of trimming split ends from his flock's heads and hearts, a final ray of desert sun stopped him, casting a godly arc across the hair-strewn floor. And into the light stepped a miracle. A goddamn miracle.
It began with the leg of a saint, a perfect, wrap-around-your-hips-for-a-virgin-ride, cocoa brown sister of Sofia Loren's that reached into his heart and between his loins and drew forth from his diaphragm a magnificent Hallelujah Chorus - all four voices - of a moan. The leg was followed by a body that conducted Lavelle's string section along a mighty wave of pizzicato that plucked him from his soul to his sacrum.
And then he saw her face. Wondrously languid eyes, ravenous lips and a chin god surely intended to fill the empty space in every man's - and woman's - lap, all surrounded by a tawny halo of silken, slightly kinky waves that caught the lingering light and revealed her as the Madonna. His very own Virgin de Needles.
Her labial presence lifted him to the tips of his cowboy boots as he ascended a mighty, pulsing crescendo. Her lips parted. He opened his heart and every orifice he possessed to welcome the manifest manna for which he had waited all his life.
She looked into his eyes, his essence, and she purred, “Yo, Baby. Hi. You my bro', man. Er, half bro'. Who knows, maybe quarter. Was never too good at math. Anyways, pleased to meet chu, man. I'm Isabel, with an 's.' Everyone trying to stick in 'zs' these days where they don' belong. Mama was the same. …”
Lavelle's ascension had peaked, excruciatingly unfulfilled, and his various parts descended back to Earth with a thud when he fell to his knees. He took a deflated look at his Virgin as she continued her rapid-fire delivery of familial connections.
“So. Wasn' sure you knew Mama kicked.” Isabel reached out a powerful arm to pull him from the floor. “Just las' month. Pretty sure you didn' know about me, either.” She thought he was dizzied by the news and pushed him into his barber chair. “I'm the only one to stick with her, I guess. She was one crazy bitch, sure, but no one's all bad. Chu know? She wan' to love us. We got a sister out here, too, right? And I got a secret. Mama gimme it. A family secret gonna make us fat an' happy an' rich. Que rico! So, you ever hear about them ol' Harvey Girls?” She leaned against the counter, her back to the mirror.
Lavelle had no idea what she was talking about, but the veil of ecstasy was finally fully drawn back and he truly saw her for the first time. From her matte black engineer's boots and pink lace socks to the virulent magenta shorts that didn't quite cover her divinity to the halter top that barely reined in her voluptuousity, he'd gotten the sexy stuff right. She was six feet of brown beauty. But the rest of her? He knew Satan had a hand in this woman's creation. On the other hand, fat, happy and rich had some appeal. He decided to listen, warily, with his hand clutching his pocket Bible.
“So, like I says, great-great abuela, Martha, now she was cool, Mama say. Had to be good to be a Harvey Girl. Worked hard at the El Garces hotel for a year and save every peso of it. But they din' hold them customers to the same standards. One of them bastards takes her and then has the frickin nerve to pay her to shut her up. Course, she no' stupid. She take it, but she can' stay shut up forever. Come six or seventh month, they throw her out. Jus' like that. They say she a whore and tell her never come back. She set out for L.A., and five generations later, we more brown than white, kinda black in your case, bro'.”
Isabel put a booted foot on either arm of the barber chair. Lavelle began to sweat as though he'd gone for a noontime jog, and he tried mightily to keep his eyes on hers.
“So now here's the secret. Chu ready, man? This so good, it make you piss. So Mama, just before she die, she say great-great abuela, she never get to take her stash with her. It still there. It still there, man! In a secret place only we have the hint to find. From great-great abuela to her daughter to her daughter - you get it, right? It's there jus' waitin' for us.”
“What's there?” Lavelle's hand had abandoned the pocket Bible and he clasped his sister's ankles. Or half sister or whatever the hell she was. He didn't really care, because his eyes had left hers and he was on the verge of the most carnal of sins.
“Gold, bro', gold! Oro del Dios! An' it ours, man. All ours, and the sister.”
Lavelle's hands dropped as quickly as his eyes raced back to Isabel's.
“We just got to find it, bro'. Problem is, they 'bout to fix up that ol' hotel. Come March. So I go by, to check it out, right? That casa's one big stinkin' cooker of honky trash. Bad asses in every room. But we got to get in there, man, find our great-great abuela's stash. It's our destiny, bro'. We got to get it between them booting out the tweekers an' they start knocking out walls. It ours, man. Mama say. You in, man?”
Saturday, April 26, 2008
This weekend we are having our first film festival in Fallbrook. I was one of the judges. Some of the films were great - some as you can imagine, well sucked. Last night we screened The Flyboys with one of the Baldwin brothers, as well as a host of other films. Lots of fun, multiple venues. Lots of beautiful people as well as industry people.
I am your host at the Irish pub's screening room tonight, first round is on me - seriously!
It starts at 5:30 and there is another batch at 7:30. Come on down if you are local. Buy the 10 buck ticket at the village square.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Monty Hall problem
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In search of a new car, the player picks door 1. The game host then opens door 3 to reveal a goat and offers to let the player pick door 2 instead of door 1.
The Monty Hall problem is a puzzle involving probability loosely based on the American game show Let's Make a Deal. The name comes from the show's host, Monty Hall. The problem is also called the Monty Hall paradox; it is a veridical paradox in the sense that the solution is counterintuitive.
A widely known statement of the problem appeared in a letter to Marilyn vos Savant's Ask Marilyn column in Parade (vos Savant 1990):
Suppose you're on a game show, and you're given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1, and the host, who knows what's behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, "Do you want to pick door No. 2?" Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?
Because there is no way for the player to know which of the two unopened doors is the winning door, many people assume that each door has an equal probability and conclude that switching does not matter. In fact, in the usual interpretation of the problem the player should switch—doing so doubles the probability of winning the car from 1/3 to 2/3.
When the problem and the solution appeared in Parade, approximately 10,000 readers, including several hundred mathematics professors, wrote to the magazine claiming the published solution was wrong. Some of the controversy was because the Parade statement of the problem fails to fully specify the host's behavior and is thus technically ambiguous. However, even when given completely unambiguous problem statements, explanations, simulations, and formal mathematical proofs, many people still meet the correct answer with disbelief.
1 Problem and solution
1.3 Bayesian analysis
2 Sources of confusion
3 Aids to understanding
3.1 Why the probability is 2/3
3.2 Increasing the number of doors
3.3 Venn diagram
3.4 Combining doors
4.1 Other host behaviors
4.2 Two players
4.3 Sequential doors
4.4 Quantum version
5 History of the problem
6 See also
6.1 Similar problems
8 External links
The statement of the problem in the Ask Marilyn column in Parade leaves critical aspects of the host's behavior unstated, making the problem mathematically ambiguous (Mueser and Granberg 1999). The standard analysis of the problem also assumes that the host is constrained to always open a door revealing a goat, to always make the offer to switch, and to open one of the remaining two doors randomly if the player initially picked the car (Barbeau 2000, p. 87). A mathematically explicit statement of the problem (Krauss and Wang 2003, p 10) is:
Suppose you're on a game show and you're given the choice of three doors. Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. The car and the goats were placed randomly behind the doors before the show. The rules of the game show are as follows: After you have chosen a door, the door remains closed for the time being. The game show host, Monty Hall, who knows what is behind the doors, now has to open one of the two remaining doors, and the door he opens must have a goat behind it. If both remaining doors have goats behind them, he chooses one randomly. After Monty Hall opens a door with a goat, he will ask you to decide whether you want to stay with your first choice or to switch to the last remaining door. Imagine that you chose Door 1 and the host opens Door 3, which has a goat. He then asks you "Do you want to switch to Door Number 2?" Is it to your advantage to change your choice?
The player may initially choose any of the three doors, not just Door 1, and then the host opens a different door revealing a goat and gives the player a second choice between two unopened doors.
The chance of initially choosing the car is one in three, which is the overall chance of winning the car by sticking with this choice. By contrast, the chance of initially choosing a door with a goat is two in three, and a player originally choosing a door with a goat wins by switching. In both cases the host must reveal a goat. In the 2/3 case where the player initially chooses a goat, the host must reveal the other goat making the only remaining door the one with the car.
Player picks car
(probability 1/3) Switching results in the other goat.
reveal Goat B
Player picks Goat A
(probability 1/3) Switching wins.
reveal Goat A
Player picks Goat B
(probability 1/3) Switching wins.
The player has an equal chance of initially selecting the car, Goat A, or Goat B. Switching results in a win 2/3 of the time because 2/3 of the time, the player's initial pick was a goat.
As shown in the diagram above, there are three possible situations corresponding to the player's initial choice, each with probability 1/3:
The player originally picked the door hiding the car. The game host has shown one of the two goats.
The player originally picked the door hiding Goat A. The game host has shown the other goat.
The player originally picked the door hiding Goat B. The game host has shown the other goat.
If the player chooses to switch, the car will be won in either of the last two cases. A player choosing to stay with the initial choice wins in only the first case. Since in two out of three equally likely cases switching wins, the probability of winning by switching is 2/3. In other words, players who switch will win the car on average two times out of three.
The reasoning above applies to all players on average without regard to which specific door the host opens and all individual players at the start of the game, but not to a specific player at the point the player is asked whether to switch given which door the host has opened (Morgan et al 1991). This difference is subtle, but depending on the exact formulation of the problem may affect the result (see Other host behaviors, below). Determining the conditional probability of winning by switching given which door the host opens requires a different analysis.
Tree showing the probability of every possible outcome if the player initially picks Door 1
A decision tree can be used to determine both the overall probability of winning by switching and the conditional probability given which door the host opens (Grinstead and Snell 2006, p 137-138). Assuming the problem statement given above and that the player initially picks Door 1, the tree shows that switching wins in the two cases in which the player did not initially pick the car, with a total combined probability of 2/3. This is the overall probability of winning by switching. The tree also shows that there are only two possible conditions in which the host opens Door 2, and that switching loses in the 1/6 case where the car is behind Door 1 and wins in the 1/3 case where the car is behind Door 3. Similarly if the host opens Door 3, the tree shows switching loses in the 1/6 case where the car is behind Door 1 and wins in the 1/3 case where the car is behind Door 2. Switching wins twice as often as staying regardless of which door the host opens, so the conditional probability of winning by switching given either door the host opens is the same as the overall probability — both are 2/3.
An analysis of the problem using the formalism of Bayesian probability theory (Gill 2002) makes explicit the role of the assumptions underlying the problem. In Bayesian terms, probabilities are associated to propositions, and express a degree of belief in their truth, subject to whatever background information happens to be known. For this problem the background is the set of game rules, and the propositions of interest are:
: The car is behind Door i, for i equal to 1, 2 or 3.
: The host opens Door j after the player has picked Door i, for i and j equal to 1, 2 or 3.
For example, denotes the proposition the car is behind Door 1, and denotes the proposition the host opens Door 2 after the player has picked Door 1. Indicating the background information with , the assumptions are formally stated as follows.
First, the car can be behind any door, and all doors are a priori equally likely to hide the car. In this context a priori means before the game is played, or before seeing the goat. Hence, the prior probability of a proposition is:
Second, the host will always open a door that has no car behind it, chosen from among the two not picked by the player. If two such doors are available, each one is equally likely to be opened. This rule determines the conditional probability of a proposition subject to where the car is — i.e., conditioned on a proposition Specifically, it is:
if i = j, (the host cannot open the door picked by the player)
if j = k, (the host cannot open a door with a car behind it)
if i = k, (the two doors with no car are equally likely to be opened)
if i k and j k, (there is only one door available to open)
The problem can now be solved by scoring each strategy with its associated posterior probability of winning, that is with its probability subject to the host's opening of one of the doors. Without loss of generality, assume, by re-numbering the doors if necessary, that the player picks Door 1, and that the host then opens Door 3, revealing a goat. In other words, the host makes proposition true.
The posterior probability of winning by not switching doors, subject to the game rules and , is then . Using Bayes' theorem this is expressed as:
By the assumptions stated above, the numerator of the right-hand side is:
The normalizing constant at the denominator can be evaluated by expanding it using the definitions of marginal probability and conditional probability:
Dividing the numerator by the normalizing constant yields:
Note that this is equal to the prior probability of the car's being behind the initially chosen door, meaning that the host's action has not contributed any novel information with regard to this eventuality. In fact, the following argument shows that the effect of the host's action consists entirely of redistributing the probabilities for the car's being behind either of the other two doors.
The probability of winning by switching the selection to Door 2, , can be evaluated by requiring that the posterior probabilities of all the propositions add to 1. That is:
There is no car behind Door 3, since the host opened it, so the last term must be zero. This can be proven using Bayes' theorem and the previous results:
This shows that the winning strategy is to switch the selection to Door 2. It also makes clear that the host's showing of the goat behind Door 3 has the effect of transferring the 1/3 of winning probability a-priori associated with that door to the remaining unselected and unopened one, thus making it the most likely winning choice.
Sources of confusion
The solution would be different if the host did not know what was behind each door. Other factors, such as if the host sometimes had the option of not offering the player the chance to switch, or if the host chooses to open one of two doors concealing a goat non-randomly, may affect the player's decision, if that information were available to the player. Some statements of the problem, notably the one in Parade Magazine, do not explicitly exclude these possibilities or many other possibilities, such as there being a known pattern in the placement of the prize. For example, if the game host only offers the opportunity to switch if the contestant originally chooses the car, the probability of winning by switching is 0% — while if the host does not know what is behind the doors and has opened one randomly revealing a goat, switching and staying have the same probability. In the common understanding of the problem as stated by Krauss and Wang, the host must reveal a goat, must reveal a random goat if both unpicked doors conceal goats, and must make the offer to switch.
Once the host has opened a door, the car must be behind one of the two remaining doors. The player has no way to know which of these doors is the winning door, leading many people to assume that each door has an equal probability and to conclude that switching does not matter (Mueser and Granberg, 1999). This "equal probability" assumption, while being intuitively seductive, is incorrect. Under the conditions stated above, the player's chances of winning the car actually double by switching to the door the host offers.
Another reason the Monty Hall problem may be so counterintuitive is that the host is expected to be deceitful (Mueser and Granberg 1999). If the host offers a door only when the player has chosen correctly, then when the host offers a door the player should never opt to switch.
Another possible reason for confusion is that the problem is often stated as though the host takes the player by surprise by opening the door and offering the choice. This tends to give the impression that the host is trying to confuse a player who has chosen correctly, and would mean the player did not know the rules in advance. If the player did not know the rules, that would not alter the probability in the particular case, but it would mean that the player could not definitively make the optimal choice. This confusion is dealt with in the unambiguous statement of the problem where the host explicitly relates the rules to the contestant in advance.
Aids to understanding
Why the probability is 2/3
The most commonly voiced objection to the solution is that the past can be ignored when assessing the probability—that it is irrelevant which doors the player initially picks and the host opens. However, in the problem as originally presented, the player's initial choice does influence the host's available choices subsequently.
This difference can be demonstrated by contrasting the original problem with a variation that appeared in vos Savant's column in November 2006. In this version, Monty Hall forgets which door hides the car. He opens one of the doors at random and is relieved when a goat is revealed. Asked whether the contestant should switch, vos Savant correctly replied, "If the host is clueless, it makes no difference whether you stay or switch. If he knows, switch" (vos Savant, 2006).
In this version of the puzzle, the player has an equal chance of winning whether switching or not. There are six possible sequences of events that can occur, each with probability 1/6:
Player picks Host reveals Third door contains
Goat A Car Goat B
Goat B Car Goat A
Goat A Goat B Car
Goat B Goat A Car
Car Goat A Goat B
Car Goat B Goat A
In the first two cases above, the host reveals the car. What might happen in these cases is unknown—perhaps the contestant immediately wins or immediately loses. However, in the problem as stated, the host has revealed a goat, so only four of the six cases remain possible, and they are equally likely. In two of these four cases, switching results in a win, and in the other two, switching results in a goat. Staying with the original pick gives the same odds: a loss in two cases and a win in two others.
The player's probability of winning by switching increases to 2/3 in the problem as stated by Mueser and Granberg because in the two cases above where the host would reveal the car, he is forced to reveal the remaining goat instead. In the table below, the host's picks from the table above are highlighted. Because he cannot reveal the car, his behavior is altered in two cases:
Player picks Host reveals Third door contains
Goat A Goat B Car
Goat B Goat A Car
Goat A Goat B Car
Goat B Goat A Car
Car Goat A Goat B
Car Goat B Goat A
This change in the host's behavior causes the car to be twice as likely to be behind the "third door", and is what causes switching to be twice as likely to win in the "host knows" variation of the problem.
Increasing the number of doors
It may be easier to appreciate the solution by considering the same problem with 1,000,000 doors instead of just three (vos Savant 1990). In this case there are 999,999 doors with goats behind them and one door with a prize. The player picks a door. The game host then opens 999,998 of the other doors revealing 999,998 goats — imagine the host starting with the first door and going down a line of 1,000,000 doors, opening each one, skipping over only the player's door and one other door. The host then offers the player the chance to switch to the only other unopened door. On average, in 999,999 out of 1,000,000 times the other door will contain the prize, as 999,999 out of 1,000,000 times the player first picked a door with a goat. A rational player should switch.
The factual accuracy of this section is disputed.
Please see the relevant discussion on the talk page.(March 2008)
The average probability of winning the car by switching can be illustrated using Venn diagrams. After choosing Door 1, for example, the player has a 1/3 chance of having selected the door with the car, leaving a 2/3 chance between the other two doors, as shown below. Note that there is a 100% chance of finding a goat behind at least one of the two unchosen doors, because there is only one car.
The host now opens Door 3. Under the conditions of the problem statement the host is required to open one of the other two doors, and equally likely to open either unchosen door; opening this door does not affect the probability of winning the car by staying with the original choice, which remains 1/3. There is still a 2/3 probability that the car is behind either Door 2 or Door 3. However, since the car is not behind Door 3, we know that being behind one of these doors means that the car is behind Door 2; thus, that 2/3 probability is now a probability that the car is behind Door 2, as shown below. Another way to state this is that if the car is behind either door 2 or 3, by opening Door 3 the host has revealed it must be behind Door 2.
Instead of one door being opened and shown to be a losing door, an equivalent action is to combine the two unchosen doors into one since the player cannot, and will not, choose the opened door. The player therefore has the choice of either sticking with the original choice of door with a 1/3 chance of winning the car, or choosing the sum of the contents of the two other doors with a 2/3 chance. The game assumptions play a role here—switching is equivalent to taking the combined contents if and only if the game host is required to open a door with a goat and chooses between two losing doors randomly with equal probabilities.
In this case, what should be ignored is the opening of the door. The player actually chooses between the originally picked door and the other two—opening one is simply a distraction. There is only one car and it does not move. The original choice divides the possible locations of the car between the one door the player picks with a 1/3 chance and the other two with a 2/3 chance. It is already known that at least one of the two unpicked doors contains a goat. Revealing the goat therefore gives the player no additional information about the originally chosen door; it does not change the 2/3 probability that the car is still in the block of two doors.
A simple way to demonstrate that a switching strategy really does win two out of three times on the average is to simulate the game with playing cards (Gardner 2001, p 243). Three cards from an ordinary deck are used to represent the three doors; one 'special' card such as the Ace of Spades should represent the door with the car, and ordinary cards, such as the two red twos, represent the goat doors.
The simulation, using the following procedure, can be repeated several times to simulate multiple rounds of the game. One card is dealt at random to the 'player', to represent the door the player picks initially. Then, looking at the remaining two cards at least one of which must be a red two, the 'host' discards a red two. If the card remaining in the host's hand is the Ace of Spades, this is recorded as a round where the player would have won by switching; if the host is holding a red two, the round is recorded as one where staying would have won.
By the law of large numbers, this experiment is likely to approximate the probability of winning, and running the experiment over enough rounds should not only verify that the player does win by switching two times out of three, but show why. Two times out of three, after one card has been dealt to the player, the Ace of Spades is in the host's hand. At that point, it is already determined whether staying or switching will win the round for the player.
If this is not convincing, the simulation can be done with the entire deck, dealing one card to the player and keeping the other 51. In this variant the Ace of Spades goes to the host 51 times out of 52, and stays with the host no matter how many non-Ace cards are discarded.
Other host behaviors
In some versions of the Monty Hall problem, the host's behavior is not fully specified. For example, the version published in Parade in 1990 did not specifically state that the host would always open another door, or always offer a choice to switch, or even never open the door revealing the car. Without specifying these rules, the player does not have enough information to conclude that switching will be successful two-thirds of the time (Mueser and Granberg, 1999). The table shows possible host behaviors and the impact on the success of switching.
Possible host behaviors in unspecified problem
Host behavior Result
The host offers the option to switch only when the player's initial choice is the winning door (Tierney 2001). Switching always yields a goat.
The host offers the option to switch only when the player has chosen incorrectly (vos Savant 1996, p. 185). Switching always wins the car.
The host does not know what lies behind the doors, and opens one at random without revealing the car (vos Savant 1996, p. 181). Switching wins the car half of the time.
The host opens a known door with probability p, unless the car is behind it (Morgan et al 1991). If the host opens his "usual" door, switching wins with probability 1/(1+p). If the host opens the other remaining door, switching wins with probability p/(1+p).
The host acts as noted in the specific version of the problem. Switching wins the car two-thirds of the time.
In this variant, two players are each allowed to choose a different door. The game host eliminates a player who has chosen a door hiding a goat; if either player has chosen the car the other is eliminated, otherwise one of the players is eliminated at random. The host then opens the eliminated player's door, and offers the remaining player a chance to switch to the originally unchosen door. Should the remaining player switch?
The answer is no. Switching in this game leads to a win if and only if both players originally picked goats; the likelihood of this is only 1/3. By sticking with the original choice, the remaining player wins in the remaining 2/3 of the cases. So stickers will win twice as often as switchers.
There are three possible scenarios, all with probability 1/3:
Player 1 picks the door with the car. The host must eliminate player 2. Switching loses.
Player 2 picks the door with the car. The host must eliminate player 1. Switching loses.
Neither player picks the car. The host eliminates one of the players randomly. Switching wins.
Player 1 is the remaining player in the first case and half the time in the third case. Switching loses twice as often as it wins: 1/3 chance of being the remaining player and switching losing vs. 1/6 chance of remaining and switching winning. Similarly, player 2 is the remaining player in the second case and half the time in the third, and also loses twice as often by switching. Regardless of which player remains, this player has a 2/3 probability of winning with the sticking strategy.
The two player game, from the final player's point of view, resembles the single player game: the player chooses a door, a goat is revealed behind another door, and the player is given the opportunity to switch. However, the significant difference is that one player is eliminated. The process of surviving the elimination improves the remaining player's chances of having chosen the car from 1/3 to 2/3. Another way to look at this is that the chances of the remaining player having not chosen the car initially is a combined probability: it is the chance of not choosing the car initially and not being the eliminated player: (2/3)x(1/2) =1/3. The only other scenario for the remaining player is choosing the car and since the two possible outcomes must have a probability of 1 the probability of having the car is now 2/3.
The two player game is exactly the same as the one player game, except in reverse. In the one player game, it is the player's chosen door that is guaranteed not to be opened, and which therefore retains the original probability of 1/3. In the two person game, it is the unchosen door that is guaranteed not to be opened, and which therefore retains the original probability. If there were a three person game, in which one of the goat doors is randomly chosen, then no door can be categorized as guaranteed not to be opened, and therefore none of them retain the original probability of 1/3. In such a game, there is a true symmetry between the doors, and there would be no benefit to either switching or not switching.
There is a generalization of the original problem to n doors. In the first step, the player chooses a door. The game host then opens some other door that is a loser. If desired, the player may then switch to another door. The game host then opens another as-yet-unopened losing door, different from the player's current choice. Then the player may switch again, and so on. This continues until there are only two unopened doors left: the player's current choice and another one. How many times should the player switch, and when, if at all?
One possible strategy is to stick with the first choice all the way through but then switch at the very end. With four doors, this strategy can be proven optimal; it has been asserted that with n doors, this strategy is also optimal and gives a probability of winning equal to (n-1)/n (Bapeswara Rao and Rao 1992).
This problem appears similar to the television show Deal or No Deal, which typically begins with 26 boxes. The player selects one to keep, and then randomly picks boxes to open from amongst the rest. In this game, even until the end, the box the player initially selects and all boxes left unrevealed are equally likely to be the winner. The distinction is that any box the player picks to open might reveal the grand prize, thereby eliminating it from contention. Monty on the other hand, knows the contents and is forbidden from revealing the winner. Because the Deal or No Deal player is just as likely to open the winning box as a losing one, the Monty Hall advantage is lost. Assuming the grand prize is still left with two boxes remaining, the player has a 50/50 chance that the initially selected box contains the grand prize.
A quantum version of the paradox illustrates some points about the relation between classical or non-quantum information and quantum information, as encoded in the states of quantum mechanical systems. The formulation is loosely based on Quantum game theory. The three doors are replaced by a quantum system allowing three alternatives; opening a door and looking behind it is translated as making a particular measurement. The rules can be stated in this language, and once again the choice for the player is to stick with the initial choice, or change to another "orthogonal" option. The latter strategy turns out to double the chances, just as in the classical case. However, if the show host has not randomized the position of the prize in a fully quantum mechanical way, the player can do even better, and can sometimes even win the prize with certainty (D'Ariano et al 2002).
History of the problem
An essentially identical problem appeared as the Three Prisoners Problem in Martin Gardner's Mathematical Games column in Scientific American in 1959 (Gardner 1959). Gardner's version makes the selection procedure explicit, avoiding the unstated assumptions in the Parade version. This puzzle in probability theory involves three prisoners, a random one of whom has been secretly chosen to be executed in the morning. The first prisoner begs the guard to tell him which of the other two will go free, arguing that this reveals no information about whether the prisoner will be the victim; the guard responds by claiming that if the prisoner knows that a specific one of the other two prisoners will go free it will raise the first prisoner's subjective chance of being executed from 1/3 to 1/2. The question is whether the analysis of the prisoner or the guard is correct. In the version given by Martin Gardner, the guard then performs a particular randomizing procedure for selecting which name to give the prisoner; this gives the equivalent of the Monty Hall problem without the usual ambiguities in its presentation.
In 1975, Steve Selvin wrote a pair of letters to the American Statistician (Selvin 1975a, Selvin 1975b) regarding the Monty Hall problem. The first presented the problem in a version close to its most popular form; the version presented in Parade 15 years later is a restatement of Selvin's version. The second letter appears to be the first use of the term "Monty Hall problem". The problem is actually an extrapolation from the game show. Monty Hall did open a wrong door to build excitement, but offered a known lesser prize—such as $100 cash—rather than a choice to switch doors. As Monty Hall wrote to Selvin (Hall 1975):
And if you ever get on my show, the rules hold fast for you—no trading boxes after the selection.
Phillip Martin's article in a 1989 issue of Bridge Today magazine titled "The Monty Hall Trap" (Martin 1989) presented Selvin's problem, with the correct solution, as an example of how one can fall into the trap of treating non-random information as if it were random. Martin then gives examples in the game of bridge where players commonly miscalculate the odds by falling into the same trap, such as the Principle of Restricted Choice. Given the controversy that would arise over this problem a year later, Martin showed a lack of prescience when he stated, "Here [in the Monty Hall problem] the trap is easy to spot. But the trap can crop up more subtly in a bridge setting."
A restated version of Selvin's problem statement appeared in Marilyn vos Savant's Ask Marilyn question-and-answer column of Parade in September 1990 (vos Savant 1990). Though vos Savant gave the correct answer that switching would win two-thirds of the time, vos Savant estimates 10,000 readers including several hundred mathematics professors wrote in to declare that her solution was wrong. As a result of the publicity the problem earned the alternative name Marilyn and the Goats.
In November 1990, an equally contentious discussion of vos Savant's article took place in Cecil Adams's column The Straight Dope (Adams 1990). Adams initially answered, incorrectly, that the chances for the two remaining doors must each be one in two. After a reader wrote in to correct the mathematics of Adams' analysis, Adams agreed that mathematically, he had been wrong, but said that the Parade version left critical constraints unstated, and without those constraints, the chances of winning by switching were not necessarily 2/3. Numerous readers, however, wrote in to claim that Adams had been "right the first time" and that the correct chances were one in two.
The Parade column and its response received considerable attention in the press, including a front page story in the New York Times (Tierney 1991) in which Monty Hall himself was interviewed. He appeared to understand the problem quite well, giving the reporter a demo with car keys and explaining how actual game play on Let's Make a Deal differed from the rules of the puzzle.
Over 40 papers have been published about this problem in academic journals and the popular press (Mueser & Granberg 1999).
The problem continues to resurface outside of academia. The syndicated NPR program Car Talk featured it as one of their weekly "Puzzlers," and the answer they featured was quite clearly explained as the correct one (Magliozzi & Magliozzi, 1998). An account of mathematician Paul Erdos's first encounter of the problem can be found in The Man Who Loved Only Numbers—like many others, he initially got it wrong. The problem is discussed, from the perspective of a boy with Asperger syndrome, in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, a 2003 novel by Mark Haddon. The problem is also addressed in a lecture by the character Charlie Eppes in an episode of the CBS drama NUMB3RS (Episode 1.13) and in Derren Brown's 2006 book Tricks Of The Mind. The Monty Hall problem (though it was called "the game show host problem" in the film) appears in the film 21, in which the main character, Ben, correctly answers the question in his MIT college math course. Economist M. Keith Chen identified a potential flaw in hundreds of experiments related to cognitive dissonance that use an analysis with issues similar to those involved in the Monty Hall problem (Tierney 2008).
Bertrand's box paradox (also known as the Three cards problem)
Boy or Girl
Three Prisoners Problem
Two envelopes problem
Adams, Cecil (1990)."On 'Let's Make a Deal,' you pick Door #1. Monty opens Door #2—no prize. Do you stay with Door #1 or switch to #3?", The Straight Dope, (November 2, 1990). Retrieved July 25, 2005.
Bapeswara Rao, V. V. and Rao, M. Bhaskara (1992). "A three-door game show and some of its variants". The Mathematical Scientist 17, no. 2, pp. 89–94
Barbeau, Edward (2000). Mathematical Fallacies, Flaws and Flimflam. The Mathematical Association of America. ISBN 0-8838-5529-1.
Bohl, Alan H.; Liberatore, Matthew J.; and Nydick, Robert L. (1995). "A Tale of Two Goats … and a Car, or The Importance of Assumptions in Problem Solutions". Journal of Recreational Mathematics 1995, pp. 1–9.
D'Ariano, G.M et al (2002). "The Quantum Monty Hall Problem" (PDF). Los Alamos National Laboratory, (February 21, 2002). Retrieved January 15, 2007.
Gardner, Martin (1959). "Mathematical Games" column, Scientific American, October 1959, pp. 180–182. Reprinted in The Second Scientific American Book of Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions.
Gardner, Martin (2001). A Gardner's Workout: Training the Mind and Entertaining the Spirit. A K Peters, Ltd.. ISBN 1-5688-1120-9.
Gill, Jeff (2002). Bayesian Methods, pp. 8–10. CRC Press. ISBN 1-5848-8288-3.
Grinstead, Charles M. and Snell, J. Laurie (2006-07-04). Grinstead and Snell’s Introduction to Probability (PDF), Online version of Introduction to Probability, 2nd edition, published by the American Mathematical Society, Copyright (C) 2003 Charles M. Grinstead and J. Laurie Snell.. Retrieved on 2008-04-02.
Hall, Monty (1975). The Monty Hall Problem. LetsMakeADeal.com. Includes May 12, 1975 letter to Steve Selvin. Retrieved January 15, 2007.
Krauss, Stefan and Wang, X. T. (2003). "The Psychology of the Monty Hall Problem: Discovering Psychological Mechanisms for Solving a Tenacious Brain Teaser," Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 132(1). Retrieved from http://www.usd.edu/~xtwang/Papers/MontyHallPaper.pdf March 30, 2008.
Magliozzi, Tom; Magliozzi, Ray (1998). Haircut in Horse Town: & Other Great Car Talk Puzzlers. Diane Pub Co.. ISBN 0-7567-6423-8.
Martin, Phillip (1989). "The Monty Hall Trap", Bridge Today, May–June 1989. Reprinted in Granovetter, Pamela and Matthew, ed. (1993), For Experts Only, Granovetter Books.
Morgan, J. P., Chaganty, N. R., Dahiya, R. C., & Doviak, M. J. (1991). "Let's make a deal: The player's dilemma," American Statistician 45, pp. 284-287.
Mueser, Peter R. and Granberg, Donald (May 1999). "The Monty Hall Dilemma Revisited: Understanding the Interaction of Problem Definition and Decision Making", University of Missouri Working Paper 99-06. Retrieved July 5, 2005.
Nahin, Paul J. (2000). Duelling idiots and other probability puzzlers. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, pp. 192–193. ISBN 0-691-00979-1.
Selvin, Steve (1975a). "A problem in probability" (letter to the editor). American Statistician 29(1):67 (February 1975).
Selvin, Steve (1975b). "On the Monty Hall problem" (letter to the editor). American Statistician 29(3):134 (August 1975).
Tierney, John (2001). "Behind Monty Hall's Doors: Puzzle, Debate and Answer?", The New York Times, 1991-07-21. Retrieved on 2008-01-18.
Tierney, John (2008). "And Behind Door No. 1, a Fatal Flaw", The New York Times, 2008-04-08. Retrieved on 2008-04-08.
vos Savant, Marilyn (1990). "Ask Marilyn" column, Parade Magazine p. 16 (9 September 1990).
vos Savant, Marilyn (1996). The Power of Logical Thinking. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-612-30463-3.
vos Savant, Marilyn (2006). "Ask Marilyn" column, Parade Magazine p. 6 (26 November 2006)
vos Savant, Marilyn (2007). Game Show Problem. Retrieved on 2008-04-06.
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Further reading & explanations
Eric W. Weisstein, Monty Hall Problem at MathWorld.
The Monty Hall Problem at letsmakeadeal.com (quotes Monty's letter to Steve Selvin in full)
Graphical Proof of the Monty Hall Problem–tea cups and diamonds
Monty Hall Dilemma at cut-the-knot
Grand Illusions–explanation and various simulators
Secret of Monty Hall–explanation from the bad-door side
Monty Hall Problem: Tree Diagram – a tree-diagram of the Monty Hall problem under the Marilyn vos Savant assumptions
The Monty Hall Problem Web Page–a simple presentation of the problem and its solution
The Game Show Problem–the original question and responses on Marilyn's web site
How to Name a Goat: Simplifying the Monty Hall Problem
"Monty Hall Paradox" by Matthew R. McDougal, The Wolfram Demonstrations Project.
Realtime global simulation–a simulation which tallies up the results from every user who has ever played
The Monty Hall Problem - A game simulation–illustration by a demonstrative, user-friendly and versatile game simulation
Monty Hall Simulator–simulators for the keep and change strategy in Perl, with data files representing the results of playing the game one million times with each strategy
Monty Hall Simulator–Python script that can run the problem any number of times and tallies results for each strategy.
"Monty Hall Problem" by Fiona Maclachlan, The Wolfram Demonstrations Project.
The Monty Hall Problem at The New York Times.
Monty Hall Paradox (let's make a deal)–lengthy bibliography
Thursday, April 24, 2008
©2008 Robert Sommers
Lavelle was plainly worried. There was something in his sister's voice that bothered him and he couldn't put his finger on it. He pulled the wet curl of jet black hair up tight between his middle and index fingers and sheared it off with his sharp scissors. It had been a long day and thank the lord, he had been blessed with a steady stream of customers. One last cut and he could get ready for the revival meeting and start making the pasta.
The sun was starting to set on the mountains. It was filled with the most beautiful colors of coral, pink and yellow. People that saw the pictures of the Needles sky would swear that it was unreal and made up but he was lucky enough to see God's glorious light show every evening. Praise the lord!
As pastor of the Abyssinian Methodist Church of Needles and the proprietor of the Kurl and Kut Beauty Salon, conveniently located in the rear of the building, Lavelle had an important position in the community. His beautiful creme colored 1920's spanish revival bungalow gleamed on the otherwise battered street. It's grape stake fencing and the white gypsum rock that covered the front lawn presented a picture of immaculate tidiness. The peaked wooden sign for the church rose out of the middle of the rocks and had a quote written on the bottom in removable thalo blue letters, " Jesus will never let you down".
And Lavelle could provide testimony to that. He had managed to stay on the straight and narrow and not get seduced by the Devil's temptations. He had been offered a four year free ride track scholarship to Cal State Los Angeles to hurdle at the same time he had been called to the lord. But he had never regretted his choice. Yes, materially he was a poor man, but he had managed to feed his wife and daughter and to minister to the unfortunate. The lord's word said that the wicked will prosper in this life and the righteous in the world to come.
The pastor had a wide variety of souls to minister to. Many of his parishioner's lives had been touched by drugs, abuse and alcohol. Some had been cleaned out in Laughlin and couldn't make it a foot farther. Others were loners who couldn't seem to fit in. His steady stream of sinners came in all colors, shapes and sizes. But they all had been touched by the lord's loving hand. I come for the least of you, Jesus had said.
If only his sister would hear the word. "Oh Lord", he intoned to himself," remove the scales from her eyes..." The haircut finished, his client got up from the chair. Lavelle slowly flipped the open sign over and peered out the door into the darkening sky.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
The DEA agent compared the license plate now refecting in his rearview mirror to the readout on his laptop. It was Corky Jeffson all right-yes THE Corky Smith Jeffson-wanted by the FBI for a list of numerous crimes, including neutering a Idaho narc with a twelve inch hard steel Finnish anglers knife.
Corky was a loser and he had nothing to lose. He had been lost since he was a child, growing up in Colorado City. Corky's mom was one of eleven wives of the polygamist Rufus Jeffson III. Corky was only 13 years younger than her. They looked like brother and sister more than mother and child. Corky was the runt of the litter and Rufus didn't take to him well. He wasn't like the other young boys at Colorado City. He was lazy and had a penchant for stealing, and by the age of 12 he noticed he had his fathers genes and a eye for the girls. The town elders tried in vain to straighten him out and Rufus's leather belt could not detour his wicked cravings. By age 15 he had fathered a child and was excommunicated and banned from Colorado City. He was on the road.
He had learned two fatal bad lessons growing up - lie to the law, and every gentile is your enemy. He had been in and out of juvenile halls, state prisons, and half way houses ever since. He loved Meth. He also loved the rush of being evil. He liked to brag to his Golden Shores buddies that he had once taken a man's life in a botched robbery at a BunBoy Restaurant in Baker Calif. His favorite hobby was stealing. Sometimes he would steal from his so-called friends just to keep in practice. He couldn't be trusted by anyone at the makeshift commune. Most of the court jesters gave him a wide berth. The Glock 23 that he was undoubtably carrying was most certainly the one stolen from Turner's Outdoors just days before.
The task force had spent two days analyzing the video surveillance tapes. "I don't wanna kill anybody here!" Corky had shouted out nervously as he pushed the .40 caliber weapon deeper and deeper into the cashier's abdomen. "Ain't no one gonna die long as you give me the money from the cash registers and these guns---don't move---I mean it!!! Where's the fucking safe? Some motherfucker let me into the safe!!!! Don't move or this bitch is dead!" screamed Corky, unaware that he was being videotaped on the stores camera system as he pushed open the back doors of the store looking for an exit into the alley with his hostage. It was a scene right out of an Oliver Stone movie, only it was real.
The tired local cop was now at the DEA agent's side. These multi unit task force jobs brought everybody out. Dolorez was cranky from the sweltering heat and had almost dozed off. She couldn't stand the humid 100 degree Mohave weather. Missy D had the undercover car's air conditioner and AM radio on high blast and was multi-tasking, putting on some cheap Sam's Club red rouge lipstick, organizing her purse, answering her cell phone and trying to find just one decent Needles radio station that did not play that disgusting redneck Country and Western music. Basically she was doing everything but her job. Anyway nothing ever happens in these hick towns on stake-outs. Until today................
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Patient:Sommers 11/06/57 Before and after cardioversion
You will have to excuse me, I have had a mild case of literary laryngitis. The prognosis is quite sunny, I am assured, with a few brisk applications of shock treatment and a pinch of thorazine.
As many of you know I live on a california ranchette. This is my 28th year of the rural life and with each passing year, things around the place are looking crappier and crappier. A wise man once said "buy one acre or a hundred, and nothing in between" and I think the old sage had it right. We got the place painted last week (after a solid decade of gentle remonstration had turned into a persistent nag). I left all aesthetic and practical considerations to my partner and I must say that she handled it wonderfully and her vision was spot on.
The rural canyon that we once inhabited with its forgiving, hippie holdout, do it yourself attitude has morphed into orange county south, replete with a touch of Tuscan style stucco and tailored landscaping. I am an embarrassment to my community and forefathers. Its a really good thing I don't give a damn. Today I wrestled with the new weedeater. The neighbors all spray with Roundup but with my cancer history, I have chosen to forego it all together this incarnation. And the weeds are coming up faster than ever and draining my checkbook.
The horse died almost a year ago. It is strange to look at the lonely, forsaken corral. I had Jasper for 27 years, a polish arabian grandson of the great Abu Farwa, but dingier than a hoot owl. He just up and died one morning - rolled around and there was nothing I could do. And after a twice a day feeding routine for 27 years, it's like a big hole opens up in your life. But I'm too old to give another horse the attention he deserves. Had a goat once - annabelle - the horse would chase her around the pasture.
In a month or two the Santa Rosa plums will be ready. I love to stand under the tree and sample until I get the perfect bite with the perfect tart/sweet balance. You follow the birds - they are a lot better at it than we are.
I need a truck so that I can haul off those artifacts of life that hang around the homestead and never seem to find a place to go for decades. There are serious holes in my life that need to be tightened up. Both my wife and I are champions at stacking things and making big piles that never seem to disappear. I pretend that I could live a different way but something tells me that I get energy from chaos. Imagine that.
We don't really entertain at home. The house was constructed in 1970 by an old navy electrician. A practical man, but one not seduced by finery. Still have the original harvest gold carpet and the acoustic ceiling tiles, the avocado green appliances have all long ago died a natural death and given way to their stainless steel descendants. You never have enough closet space in a 1700' home. One of the rooms is so crammed with stuff that entry is impossible. The prehistoric side mounted toilet in the downstairs bedroom cracked many years ago and the part hasn't been manufactured for decades.
I don't think that iconoclasts like Leslie and I could handle normal cul de sac subdivision life. And it surely couldn't handle us. Maybe an apartment in New York or Paris... But the eccentric beats the hell out of the mundane.
I have made a fair amount of money over the years and guess I could have built a new house. A remodel is pointless - might as well tear it down. But I think we will probably amble by like we have always done - unless a really big ship/painting comes in. Because we have each other and our true friends and we really don't care all that much about anything else. (and the marriage might not stand a new house)
Monday, April 21, 2008
I used to buy posters from Bob Hite at the Capitol Records Swap Meet. Incredible voice, very underrated band. Got to party with Larry Taylor a couple times as well. My first concert experience as a preteen was Canned Heat at Stonybrook College.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Whoever (whomever?) was jamming the gun in his ribs, pressed against his back and blew a heated blast in his ear.
“You a moron?” Delorez whispered. “If not, why the hell are you in here blowing our cover?”
“Just wanted a magazine to pass the time. Hey--you needed cupcakes, I needed someth--”
Ms-with-a-z jerked the gun harder into his ribcage. “Fool. Now turn real quiet and go over to the pharmacy. Buy some cough medicine and see if that’ll change some minds about who you are.”
“Back off with the barrel. Feels like you’re gonna bruise me.”
“Bruising will be the least of it. Move!”
Bitch thought she could boss him-- The detective turned halfway round to ease the pressure on his ribs, only to have her bite his ear lobe hard. He jumped and they jostled into the customer behind them, stepping on his foot. His plastic bag dropped to the floor and glass smashed inside. Cherry syrup spread out over the floor.
“Sorry, sir, we were just having some fun here.” Delorez flashed a smile so big her gums gleamed while quietly pocketing the gun in her polyester windbreaker. “We’ll buy you another bottle of whatever it is you had in there. My little daddy here was just goin’ back to get something he forgot. Men without shopping lists…” She chuckled and shook her head.
Don, still feeling the after effects of last night’s binge in Golden Shores, stared down at the leaking bottle on the dirty cement floor. Shit. Rocky had been too screwed up to come today. Frank had not been impressed by yesterday’s bootie--“One bottle?--gimme a break--go back and get more or I’ll shoot the dogs.” Don liked the dogs, drooling, gaseous, flea-bag killers that they were.
He looked up at the woman in front of him. Not a woman to mess with. Some pale-looking wimp was behind her, partially blocked from view by her curvy six foot tall frame. “There ain’t any left on the shelf," he muttered.
The plainclothes detective shifted nervously in line. He had felt his partner's eyes boring in on the back of his neck as he entered the Walgreens. Basha's was out of the cupcakes and wouldn't have another delivery until at least tuesday. He would slip in to the drugstore, take a quick glance at the moto cross magazines and be out in a flash. He knew that he had violated a cardinal rule of the stakeout - the need to keep a critical safe distance from the suspect. But he thought for sure he could be in and out in a minute.
Unfortunately there were three other people in line ahead of him and it wasn't moving. The cashier with the caked on blue eyeshadow gazed absently past him while the customer in front fumbled in his pocket for loose change. People that buy their liquor cheap from drugstores are a special tribe and one that could be quickly distinguished by the shake in their hands and the tremors in their voices.
The detective felt keenly aware of his alien presence in the store. His starched clothes and new tennis shoes stood out in contrast to the skimpy and worn attire of his fellow customers. He might as well have held a neon sign that flashed the word cop. His partner was surely having conniptions in the car. "My god", he sighed to himself. It was bad enough to be paired with a minority but this one was a domineering bitch as well. Coming from Orange County, he hadn't had a lot of experience with black people. But he had to admit that he felt strangely attracted to this woman. As a red blooded male, he knew that he could get the hots for any woman that he was trapped in a small space with for hours on end. It was only natural, right?
Of course, he had a new girlfriend back in Barstow. He had met her at the Sandees diner and she was a lot of fun. They would go to Tommy's tonight if he got back in time for a double cheese and then walk hand in hand through the outlet mall. Anything to be out of the heat. Maybe they would even talk about playing house and her moving in to the apartment. Just as an experiment.
The detective's daydreaming was rudely interrupted by the cold shock of a Smith and Wesson 38 calibre snub nose revolver jammed into his left rib. It was turning into a very bad day, indeed.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Lavelle. He believed he had all the answers. Heaven and hell and god and why we’re here on earth all wrapped up pretty in a white bible with Lord, our Savior embossed in gold on the cover. Delorez loved her younger brother, but couldn’t swallow his preaching, even if it came with a side of pasta and cheese.
“There’s something going down across the way--talk to you soon.” She rang off, turned over the ignition, and punched the button of the air-conditioner. Just to let it run a few minutes and clear the fetid air of this p.o.s. car. She tapped her fingernails on the dash while her mind ran over plans for the evening. Nothing too special. Drive home to her apartment. Unlock the door with one hand while her other hand reached back and unsnapped the hooks on her bra. Whip it off the minute the door shut behind her and feel a brief moment of freedom. Walk directly to the refrigerator. Stand in its coldness and stare at its well-stocked shelves. Pick out the leftover cheesecake. Turn on the stereo and listen to Morris Day from The Time wail, “You don’t gots to go home, but you’ve gots to get the hell out of here--” while she ate standing up using her fingers as utensils.
“Dammit.” She snapped off the engine and picked up the binoculars again.
"It's Delorez with a Z" she said softly as she lowered the government issue Fujinon Techno-Stabi binoculars away from her tired eyes and safely tucked them below the drivers window of the Crown Victoria. Her new partner managed to grunt in the affirmative and continued to scan the Walgreens entrance in the largely deserted strip center. Weeds were growing up through the cracked asphalt in spots and were set off chiaroscuro against the backdrop of lonely shopping carts. "My momma had a unique way of spelling, guess I'm lucky I didn't get named after some imported car, huh."
"How long are we going to have wait on these little shits?" he muttered rhetorically for at least the tenth time. " We both know it's pointless. Some of these tweakers out here are third generation already. Build a big zoo and let them kill each other off."
Delorez carefully reached her right arm over the sticky upholstered seat of the unmarked car and grabbed her badly knocked off Vuitton handbag. She found the cigarette pack," hot damn two left" and started the pat down search for a lighter. Easing the cigarette in between her cracked lips, she sucked the nicotine infused breath deep into her lungs.
Exhaling the menthol cloud into a pretty sequence of concentric rings she turned and faced the young rookie. "Stakeouts are like watching paint dry. Get used to it. And why not make the best of your tired, complaining ass and run over to Basha's and get me some of those hostess cupcakes with the white squiggle on the top. Not the two pack, make sure you get the three pack."
The new deputy dutifully obeyed the senior partner's wishes and set off across the parking lot toward the market. Delorez sunk further back in the seat and continued to monitor the activity in the store. This petty thievery ring from the Arizona side had been causing a lot of mischief and the chief wanted them caught. These punks were buying cold medication for the ephedrine and cooking it up in their little tin castles to further enslave the countryside. It was hard to miss the effects on the native population, the meth mouth, the blank stares, the skull like eyes...
Her cell phone rang on the seat. "Hello?" It was her brother Lavelle, the preacher. "Ya'll coming down to the church tonight. We're having spaghetti and chicken parmesan." " No honey, I got other plans, sorry," Delorez with a z lied, as the hot desert wind started skipping an old plastic garbage bag in a nimble dance on the pavement.
©2008 Robert Sommers
Monday, April 14, 2008
I am getting tired of bashing George Bush. It's really a little too easy and I think like most of us, he justifies his actions by his own experiences and internal frames of reference. In his mind, he might be doing god's work against the enemies of heaven. I don't think that he is necessarily the smartest man that has served his nation but, to his credit, he doggedly pursues his convictions.
But a few things that purportedly are in his background give a person an opportunity to pause and consider.
Prior to his first election to the presidency I heard stories that he would regale his high falootin guests at cocktail parties in Austin with his great imitations of prisoners asking him for parole and clemency (which he denied at a pretty high clip). And if these stories are true, and granted I wasn't there, they would show just a touch of brutality in his makeup.
One thing that I am pretty sure of is a story related to me by one of my wealthy clients from Houston, who is a cousin to a man that worked in the Bush One's presidency. Her name will not be broadcast because I don't want to out her and subject her to recrimination and its not a huge deal but maybe an interesting tale.
She told me about being at the pool of the Houston Country Club one day many summers ago and seeing a teenage boy brutally abusing the younger children. She watched until she couldn't take it any more and grabbed the punk kid by the ear. The next thing you know the lad's mother confronted her and told her to unhand her son in a rather nasty voice. And you guessed it, it was Barbara Bush and the once and future king, I mean Prez. She said told Mrs. Bush that she didn't care who she was, her kid was an asshole picking on children a lot younger than he was and that they didn't belong to the club anyway. A minor side note and not that revealing but you have to wonder about what might be an early penchant for brutality.
I saw the following blurb on Bush's grandfather Prescott and his affinity for the fascists and will leave you to cogitate for yourself:
Prison Planet | November 29, 2007
Paul Joseph Watson
Author Naomi Wolf, who made headlines earlier this year after she identified the ten steps to fascism that were being followed to a tee by the Bush administration, spoke publicly for the first time yesterday about the origins of what we see unfolding today, Prescott Bush's attempt to launch a Nazi coup in 1930's America.
Speaking on the Alex Jones Show, Wolf said that she was first alerted to begin researching America's slide into fascism when her friend, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, warned her that the same events that laid the foundations for the rise of the Third Reich in early 1930's Germany, when it was still a Parliamentary democracy, were being mirrored in modern-day America.
"A small group of people began very systematically to use the law and dismantle the Constitution and put pressure on citizens to subvert the law - and that opened the door for everything that followed," said Wolf.
"When I started reading, not only are tactics and strategy being reproduced exactly right now by the Bush administration - but actual sound bytes and language and images and scenarios are being reproduced," she added.
Wolf's essay, Fascist America, In 10 Easy Steps , has received plaudits for how it succinctly describes the ways in which dictatorships the world over thro ughout the 20Th century have evolved by following the exact same blueprint for tyranny that we see unfolding in America today.
"Everybody that wants to close down a Democracy does the exact same ten things, the same classic steps and unfortunately we're starting to see these ten steps being put in place in the United States," said Wolf.
For the first time publicly, Wolf traced the origins of contemporary developments back to President Bush's Nazi grandfather, Prescott Bush, and his plan to launch a fascist coup in the 1930's.
"There was a scheme in the 30's and Prescott Bush was one of the leaders of this scheme, an industrialist who admired fascism and thought that was a good idea - to have a coup in the United States along the lines of the coup they saw taking place in Italy and Germany," said Wolf, referring to the testimony of Marine Corps Maj.-Gen. Smedley Butler, who was approached by a wealthy and secretive group of industrialists and bankers, including Prescott Bush - the current President's grandfather, who asked him to command a 500,000 strong rogue army of veterans that would help stage a coup to topple then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
A recent BBC radio report confirmed that there was an attempted coup led by Prescott Bush.
"Smedley Butler had been involved with violent regime change throughout his career, but he was approached by these conspirators, including Prescott Bush, and he outed them and he testified to Congress that they were planning a coup in the United States - it's in the Congressional record," said Wolf, adding that the coup was being bankrolled by German industrialist and one of Hitler's chief financiers Fritz Thyssen.
"What is amazing to me and resonant to me is that when the Nuremberg trials were finally put in place, these Nazi industrialists, some of whom had colluded with Americans including IBM, were about to be brought to trial and sent to prison - there was a moment at which they were going to look into turning the spotlight on their American partners," said Wolf.
The author added that laws such as the Military Commissions Act of 2006 were consciously designed to protect current President Bush and his co-conspirators from being indicted for war crimes, harking back to Prescott Bush's history.
"The family history is that you can make so much money uniting corporate interests with a fascist state that violently represses people, that's why when I saw the recycling of so much Nazi language, Nazi tactics, Nazi strategies, Nazi imagery in the Bush White House and then finally belatedly people brought to me this history of Prescott Bush's attempted coup and Smedley Butler's revelations - it gives me absolute chills," said Wolf.
The fact that Bush's grandfather was a Nazi cannot be presented alone as proof that President Bush is carrying on the legacy, but his policies and rhetoric, which in her essay Wolf clearly documents are borrowed from the Nazi playbook, and in particular the recent move to smear administration critics as potential terrorists, are evidence that George W. Bush is the figurehead for a modern-day fascist coup in America led by the Neo-Cons.
Wolf concluded that history shows the only safe course for preserving freedom in such a climate is to prosecute and jail the protagonists of the coup as early as possible, a process many would argue should have been enacted several years ago.
I think that the idea that he has a genetic predilection for brutality and fascist behavior is a stretch. His dad in retrospect seems like a pretty good egg. But the nasty boy was not quite up to the challenge of leading this nation.
I am thinking about getting a video camera and am at a sort of loss. I have a souped up intel mac and don't know the best video format for it and would love your suggestions if anyone has experience with video. I want something that will firewire or usb into imovie or final cut and cost under a grand. I think that my two best options are mini dv or high def. I guess I am not sure if mini dv will be obsolete in a short period of time or if there are any clear advantages in going that way.
My limited research tells me that I want to steer clear of dvd or mpeg4 formats which don't work well with the mac and require additional conversion. I hear that the Panasonics are good but that you have to remove the battery to stick the firewire in. Don't know anything about the Canons. Sony supposedly doesn't like Mac.
I would like to post my own video to You tube to stick on the blog.
On another note, Google cleared me if I want to start posting ads on my site and I almost did but ultimately didn't. They actually pay you. The reason I declined is that it appears that Adsense tracks blog viewers web meanderings and I refuse to allow that. In addition they reserve the right to censor what they deem is inappropriate content and I don't want anyone looking over my shoulder.
I am really stupid when it comes to new technology - can't even figure out the Google Analytics Site to see how many hits I am getting. In the blog world you can't ever call someone up and get help. You have to do it yourself and try to figure it out through viewing some obscure forum where people possibly know even less than you do. Wish I could find a Blog tech/expert to tighten up the ship. I have asked a close friend who was the Gadget editor for Wired Magazine for years to join the blog and write an occasional column and hope that he accepts.
Have a great week. It's beautiful here.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
I am feeling a little lethargic today - got the blahs - locked the door of the shop because I have kind of had it with people, ever have one of those days? I have been thinking about a few things and thought maybe I could write my way out of my malaise. If this doesn't work I start self medicating, pronto.
Anyway I have been mentally ranting and thinking about two different locations, Africa, and Cuba. In Zimbabwe, Mugabe is starting his tired act again and wont release election results that pretty clearly show that he has lost. He has proclaimed that the opposition will never rule in Zimbabwe. Now armed thugs are patrolling the rural areas beating up opposition supporters. And in today's paper, one of his chief enablers, Mbeki in South Africa, says that he sees no problem with the election.
Mugabe is one of the nastiest dictators in the world and has decimated what once was the "Breadbasket of Africa". They have 100,000% inflation. Total disaster. He has embarked on a horrible and successful racist campaign to strip whites in his country of their land holdings and has ruled with an iron and deadly fist. Now I remember when Rhodesia was a success story and a paradigm of integration. Stevie Wonder may have even penned them a song.
My point is, screw Africa. Until the African people can live in a civilized manner and stop oppressing each other, to hell with them. They always blame the old "Colonial Powers" but that act is getting a little old right now. Their problems are self inflicted. Mugabe says that maybe Tony Blair used chemical weapons to cause a drought in Africa. Total paranoid crap. Somebody take responsibility. A good place to start might be Zimbabwe. Or Darfur.
I was in Tanzania and Kenya in decent times in the late eighties and have now seen Kenya go to hell as well. Arap Moi's rule with his ethnic favoritism toward the Kikuyu tribe has now come home to roost. Along with Rwanda, Somalia, Chad, Sudan, etc., etc. Rampant tribalism and nepotism. Name me an African democracy that is functioning normally and responsibly (or an Arabian one for that matter.) They don't exist. And until they get their shit together all we will hear is a great big sucking sound with our foreign aid going into the vortex or some strongman's Swiss bank account.
Mbeki has been almost as disappointing in South Africa. His bury your head in the sand approach to fighting aids has caused the crisis to explode exponentially. He refuses to condemn Mugabe and now says that there is no political crisis in Zimbabwe. The only thing that the Africans can agree on are that white people are bad and the ultimate cause of their problems.
Nigeria is another country with huge petroleum dollars that is going to hell and has horrible internal ethnic division and poverty. Their election last year was universally condemned as fraudulent.
We cannot help these countries until they start to help themselves and not accept this continued pattern of deceit and corruption. Colonialism is long gone, time to look in the mirror. Yes it sounds awfully patronizing but tough shit, start acting like human beings or we cancel the aid. I feel the same way about Iraq. You want to kill each other, have at it. But lets not spill another drop of American Blood. I don't really see a lot of white hats in the area.
Do I turn a blind eye to Israel? Let's say that with the current players in the area, I see little hope that it doesn't turn into a nuclear bloodbath there eventually as well. The Israelis love to keep a hole card and to play the grand finesse. One day they might come up empty. Their neighbors are committed to their destruction and have superior numbers and financing. I see dark clouds on the horizon.
Now my take on Cuba is completely different: our approach is one of total hypocrisy. Why do we extend normal relations to tyrannical regimes like Beijing and Burma, that harvest organs of prisoners, occupy Tibet, employ slave labor and engage in a litany of repression against their own people and yet demonize a small country like Cuba where everyone is fed, educated and has access to free medical care?
And from what I have encountered, it seems that most Cubans take great pride in their country. Yes, the security apparatus is huge and yes, wages are minuscule, but look what they have been up against for the last 45 years? A U.S. embargo. And they have withstood it with flying colors. Freedom is severely lacking and you need a ration card to get milk after the age of seven. Granted. But lets not forget that pre Fidel Cuba was in some ways a cesspool under Batista, a mob playground infested with all of our famous western vices. But there are all these Cuban octogenarians in Florida that are just itching to get off their lawn chairs and reclaim the old title and I don't think it's never going to happen. Fidel, Raoul, whoever. The people who stuck it out there have acquired title. By sweat and blood. And I admire them. Lets partner with them and not dictate to them in the new millenium.
Hugo Chavez is an asshole and he is playing with fire in Venezuela. He will continue to squawk and he will get his eye poked in. But lets ease up on the Cubans. I would like to visit. I would like to hear their musicians. I would like to visit their museums legally. After all, I can go to China and Burma. What the hell is the difference?