Redemption Gone Bad

Redemption? No, a bad look. Very bad. Our Cerebral Man by day, widely revered quarterback by night, having been given an open mic proposed to set the record straight, to dispel the lies and disinformation spewed from our public podiums (Flitter, Faceplant, Instachat, Snapgram, what have you). These untruths about me, he began, were pervaded by… wait for it… of course, The Woke Mob!

By this time I’d straightened in my chair, made the video full screen, turned up the volume as high as she’d go. What’s this? I leaned in, not wanting to miss a word.

A little background first…

You remember the game show Jeopardy, where a contestant chooses a category and then Alex Trebeck (R.I.P.) reads an answer to a question in that category. The first contestant to click their buzzer gets to “answer” with the corresponding question. Get the question right, and the contestant is awarded the points for the answer. For example: “Alex, I’ll take ‘Famous Misleading Statements‘ for $400, please.”

Trebeck: “I’ve been immunized.
Contestant: “What was Aaron Rodger’s reply to the question, ‘Have you been vaccinated’?

Correct for 400 points!

Now, imagine the subject, a candidate replacement for Trebeck no less, would have us believe that the contestant’s response in fact would have been incorrect. The correct question to the answer, he’d have us believe, would’ve been: “What was Aaron Rodger’s reply to keep the Woke Mob off his back.”

Nope, that’s wrong. Deliberately misleading people is wrong. C’mon, we’re talking an ethic any sixth grader understands. Woke Mob, puhleez 🙄 . What you did (said) at that presser back in August, Mr. Rodgers, is called deflection. You said it to exempt yourself from the inconvenient protocols the NFL player’s union – of which you are a member! – agreed players would have to abide. At least one of which you personally judge, unscientific. That last would be easily dismissed as merely amusing if not for the fact that you want your fandom to understand you as a “critical thinker.” (Never mind those crackpot conclusions from your own personal research 🙄 ).

No, Mr. Rodgers, you misled (lied) because you didn’t want to have to follow the rules other players – fellow members of the player’s union – had to follow after they acknowledged, truthfully, they are not vaccinated. You evidently think you’re special somehow, not all rules apply to you.

And to think you almost got away with the deception, if not for getting infected with the virus.

Your critics are right, you gave evidence you’re untrustworthy. Stop sniveling and Own It.

Coffee Culture

Let’s kick this post off with a little coffee porn. Meet Guissepe!

We still name things in and around the home, animate and not. Our former machine, Geppetto, after fourteen years of dutiful service has moved on to a new home, that of a recent house-sitter who I came to learn loves espresso. She was once a barista herself. Guissepe is a dual-boiler machine with a pre-infusion chamber, ideal for lightly wetting the coffee “puck” before the push of pressurized steam. This improves the flavor profile of the shot. Can you tell I’m a purist ;-). He’s also programmable, allowing you to automate the precise temperature and volume of every shot (double or single). I rarely pull singles for myself or HW (she enjoys milk-based drinks) but it’s a nice-to-have for the occasional guest whose caffeine tolerance is lower than mine. The steam wand is a four-hole jobber, so creating silky micro foam for lattes and cappuccinos is a breeze, once you get the hang of it.

There are many factors at play in an exceptional shot of espresso. It starts with the beans, of course. (Pro tip: Did you know the coffee bean is the nut of the fruit of a coffee plant (or tree), which is classified as a cherry). The type of roast one prefers is subjective. There are many good beans to choose from. I tried this one recently, a medium roast, and it was very good. Regardless of the roast you prefer, the beans must be fresh. Opinions differ on what “fresh” means in this context. My opinion is roasted beans, properly kept (air-tight container in the dark) should be consumed within 4-5 weeks of the roast date. Much beyond that and something happens to the beans causing the flavor to decay. The cause of this (chemistry) interests me though I don’t yet understand it.

Next comes grind. This is hugely important. For espresso, you must purchase a quality burr grinder. Do not even think about trying to make quality espresso using a conventional coffee grinder, it simply cannot grind the coffee fine enough. Burr grinders are not cheap. Ours is a Mazzer mini (aka Massimo, photo: left of Guissepe) that we’ve had for over fifteen years now. It’s a continuously adjustable model allowing you to dial in the grind just right. Which is what? Well, like everything else, it depends – mostly on the roast color (light, medium, or dark), the freshness (believe it or not, fresh vs old beans can render very different coarseness on the same grinder setting), and even bean size. Once you account for all that your goal is ground coffee that has the consistency of finely granulated sugar. Compared to the coarsely ground coffee you’d use in a drip machine, a fine espresso grind maximizes the surface area of the coffee exposed to the infused water, which extracts the flavor into the shot.

Then there’s the volume of ground coffee in the basket. Experts recommend about 16-18 grams (for a double), adjustable depending on the size of the basket of course. Most “prosumer” machines, like Guissepe, have baskets large enough for that dose. Next comes the tamp. You need to invest in a good tamper, and like every gadget in making good espresso there are many to choose from. My advice: stick with the old-school style tamper, like this one. The rule-of-thumb is to tamp (compress) the evenly-distributed (!) grounds in the basket to about 30lbs of pressure. Although experiments I’ve seen concluded no difference in the final shot quality over the range of 5-30 lb. tamps. My advice: experiment til you get it right.

So, you’ve nailed the proper grind, decanted 16 grams into the basket, and tamped appropriately. That’s the puck. The next factors are water temperature and the bars of pressure needed to force hot water through the puck. I like 94 degrees centigrade for temperature at the brew head. As noted above, this value is programmable on Guissepe; the pressure on the other hand is a readout, displayed on the manometer (see photo). As the shot is being pulled the dial shows the pressure at the brew head. Again, depending on the volume of coffee, the grind, and the tamp, this should be around 7.5-9 bars of pressure. Below that minimum and the grind likely is too coarse; above, too fine.

Some machines don’t have a programmable volume feature. On those, another factor in drawing an a exceptional shot is how long to let the steamed water infuse the grounds. Opinions vary, but the rule-of-thumb for beginners is about 25-30 seconds (including pre-infusion if you have it). Guisspe has this feature but I still pay attention to the shot time. For a double, if it’s well outside this range I change my upstream parameters (finer/coarser grind, coffee volume, tamp strength, etc.).

And that’s it – time to enjoy! If you’ve dialed in all the parameters that go into an exceptional shot of espresso it should look something like this

Aficionados will note the quality of the crema there, that exquisite caramel cap on a perfect shot. If it’s too thin (or “blonde”) the coffee was likely over-extracted, and probably bitter; too thick and oily, under extracted, possibly sour.

At my workstation, during an average day, for myself and HW I will pull a total of four, sometimes five, double shots. At day’s end I clean up my mess, wash dishes, refill the reservoir (2.4L) and shut him down. I do that on my phone now since I connected Guissepe to a smart switch, which also lets me turn him on in the morning to heat up, without getting out of bed. First-world living!

Q & A With Myself

What’s your worldview regarding the goings-on in Afghanistan, especially the evacuation?

Tragically, it looks like the last really bad mistake of nineteen years of mistakes. Not twenty years, because to be fair I think the original casus belli in 2001 – the Taliban giving safe harbor to Al Qaeda – was a reason (it could be justified) to bring American hellfire to bear (sorry, “coalition” hellfire). But after that mission was accomplished, the inexorable segue into nation building (something Bush, you’ll recall, thumped was not going to happen in Afghanistan!) was a fools errand. But what should we expect by now from American military adventurism? Except for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice, I doubt anyone else thought that ramping up a military presence in Afghanistan to keep the Taliban at bay, rebuild infrastructure, improve the lives of women and children, and train Afghans to provide for their own security (American-style), was going to end well. It certainly didn’t help that nearly every year since 2001, when military commanders updated the senate foreign relations committee – “Hey, how’s it going over there, are we still winning hearts & minds?” – they replied, “Yes.” In so many words, anyway. So yeah, the evacuation, operationally speaking, is not a good look. But that in itself shouldn’t come as a surprise, because the American public has been misled for years about how things are going over there. That, or not paying attention. I mean, seriously, what do people expect the evacuation should look like, the orderly boarding of a flight from LA to Miami? War is hell, remember? Even in the wrap-up phase, evidently.

What’s the explanation for the unexpectedly rapid takeover by the Taliban?

Unexpected by whom? I doubt this was unexpected by the Taliban, or most citizens of Afghanistan, or that feckless former president, Ghani, or even the Pakistani government who has been giving support to the Taliban in one form or another for years. (BTW, that last is a dirty little secret most Americans have not been told). So no, I don’t see it as unexpected. The other thing many Americans don’t appreciate is that the Taliban likely became better fighters by every measure simply as a result of being hunted and killed by the American (sorry, “coalition”) forces for twenty years. In a nutshell, we forced them to get better. Another reason it was so fast is that it appears the Afghan government forces, the ones we spent twenty years propping up and training, put down their arms and walked away in return for assurances from the Taliban that they (and their families) would not be killed after the takeover. Other reports I’ve read indicate that many (how many is unclear) Afghan forces were never loyal to the government forces in the first place. In fact, many were known to be Taliban sympathizers, if not wannabes.

Are you sympathetic toward the special fears women in Afghanistan have now that the Taliban have regained control?

Yes, without reservation. There’s no evidence the Taliban leadership, however constituted, will begin to play nice and show respect for human rights, women’s in particular; these men are under the spell of a Dark Ages form of religion. But whenever faced with a question like this, my thinking usually turns to how the mess could have been avoided in the first place. Alas, I don’t have a good answer for that. The tragic fate of many women and girls under the truncheon of Sharia Law predates the start of the war in Afghanistan. This brand of barbarism has been in place for a very long time. What I think I know – something Biden seems to understand – is that an indefinite military occupation of the country is unlikely to fix this in a practically sustainable way. There just have to be other institutions more suited to bring about this kind of transformational change with staying power. It is magical thinking, for instance, to conclude military force can keep prideful, exceptional STEM girls excelling for generations to come

And while STEM is great, imagine the simple gift of learning to ride a bike

How did you come to this worldview regarding Afghanistan?

Twenty years of paying close attention and a slow read of the book Directorate S by Steve Coll. Steve Coll won a Pulitzer prize for Ghost Wars, which I understand is an equally eye-popping book.

I want to turn to domestic matters now. Your wife – Happy Wife we understand you call her – we’ve learned has recently resigned her position at the medical practice where she’s worked for the past twelve years. How are you two doing?

We are well, thank you. She resigned sooner than she’d planned to, a year ago we thought it’d be next year. But circumstances at the practice changed, or, I should say, didn’t change, so it was clear to her now was the time to go. We’re debt free, we’ve invested well. I’m pleased as punch to begin the next phase of our lives with this woman, truly I am

How about you, care to describe the arc of your professional life?

I’d call it more a sinusoid than an arc. I’ve always been intellectually restless, never able to settle down long enough to become a rock star in any one field of work, and then climb an organizational ladder to manage people as though I was. I’ve enjoyed a couple leadership roles over thirty-five years, but by and large I’ve been a rank and file worker, whether in the commercial or academic space. I like to learn new things. In some cases completely new things. I like to say that when I matriculated the biomedical science program in Pharmacology at Case Western, I didn’t know a mitochondria from a nucleus. I had some chemistry chops, but the mol-bio part I had to learn pretty much from scratch. Case was a fantastic place to do that.

Not counting grade school, I’ve spent about eighteen years of my life in school, part- or full-time. So by now, at LinkedIn, my headline skill set reads: Researcher | Software Developer | Geophysicist | Husband . Not necessarily in that order 😉 Overall, it feels like a win, but in terms of fulfillment, yeah, it’s been a roller-coaster.

Will you two stay in Alaska?

Certainly for the near term. We have plans to travel Outside next year more often and for longer than we have in past years. Even Black Dog will join us on certain adventures! He’s pretty jazzed about that. We’ve talked about moving, likely somewhere in the northwest if we do (Happy Wife cannot do southwest), but the combination of high home prices right now and being we’re pretty picky about the community we see ourselves settling into, it’ll take time. So for now we enjoy the summer lilies and the flourish of Amanita popping up among dwarf dogwood. A walk in the woods with Happy Wife and Black Dog is a good day


Details Matter

Seen during our last day on Maui. Evidently we missed the beheading? The prints in the sand suggest a dog was involved. We paused briefly, cringed, then moved on.

Back in Anchorage, at the dog park. If I recall correctly, I snapped a photo here sixteen years ago and made it the wallpaper on my lab computer, so I’d never forget how simply serene it is. It still is. Except the one big change we noticed since returning in 2009 is the number of trees felled by beavers, mostly near water’s edge, but also at certain spots around the lake quite a ways up the bank. And it’s not only trees, them beavers can wreak havoc on dogs caught swimming in the lake. Not so serene then.

Anchorage is opening up. The Goodthinkers at City Hall say the vaccinated among us may now move about nearly everywhere sans masks. And why not? Because the vaccine is 95% effective at preventing infection from Sars-CoV-2 (the details are important, keep reading), what difference does it make if there are cheaters among us, i.e. people who are not vaccinated and won’t wear a mask. That should concern other cheaters, but of course there’s a simple (and free) way for them to solve that problem, get vaccinated. That way you can sit right next to me at Suite 100 and enjoy a grilled fillet of Copper River King salmon over a garlic mash, with of medley of veggies, worry free. And if I’m feeling generous, I may even buy you your first glass of Cabernet, as a thank you for your contribution to herd mentality immunity. Win win.

I see signs around town advertising Covid-19 tests, the PCR kind!. Funny how the pandemic has established PCR in the modern lexicon. Even though most people will have no idea what it means (Polymerase Chain Reaction), how the test works, or any of that. Why should they? The technology most of us use day to day, we have no idea how it works. It takes me half a class period to explain to genetics students how PCR works. And they come to class with a basic understanding of DNA, if they’ve done their homework and attended lectures that is. But students aside, the average person doesn’t understand what DNA is, much less how it’s analyzed in a PCR test. All they need to know is that a negative PCR test for the virus avoids a ten day quarantine when they arrive in Hawaii. And who even cares how an exhaust emission test works, all I want is a Pass score on my car to fast-track it through registration, to avoid the dreaded visit to the DMV.

Imagine instead that before you could use a technology you had to prove you understood the basics of how it worked. Imagine the proof involved explaining to a child in the most basic of terms how a toaster works, how a combustion engine works, how a text message gets from one phone to another (it’s fascinatingly complicated). A close friend of mine once posited that if the average modern were sent back in time to the 17th century, well before the first chemical battery was invented, and had to explain to a renaissance scientist what a battery is and the basics of how it works, your average time-traveler would have no clue.

As a practical matter it makes no difference to most people how things work. If you want a crisp bagel you slide the two halves into the toaster slot, depress a handle, and wait. You don’t need to understand how a combustion engine works to drive a car, or how the “I love You” emoji gets to your wife’s phone, it just works, don’t ask me how. If you want to know the implementation details of how pretty much anything works in atomic detail, you need to educate yourself. This takes time – often a lot of time – and hard work. There are very few short cuts.

Most people don’t know (or even care enough to want to know) how Ibuprofen relieves pain, you just pop 800 mg into your mouth, wash it down with water and wait. For a long time I was one of those people. Then, in 2000, while living and working in Santa Fe, after having become disillusioned with the kind of work I was doing there, and had done for many years prior, along with the prodding of a close friend to break away from that to do something that interested me, I revisited my nerd-like interest in how drugs worked – and by interest I mean the actual implementation details of how they work, at the level of biochemistry.

Such learning takes time and commitment. And if I was going to do it, and succeeded, maybe I could parlay all that learning into a new career (though I didn’t give that part nearly enough thought). So off I went to get a PhD in Pharmacology, in the company of a woman soon to become my wife and two jug-headed dogs. None of them were too keen on leaving Alaska.

Fast-forward sixteen years. Have you ever thought about how THC makes you feel high (or for that matter what THC is)? I think I know now! Or even wondered more deeply about alcohol? Like why does the addition of a single carbon atom to methanol (C-OH), itself a very lethal compound, create a new alcohol called ethanol (C-C-OH), which doesn’t kill you, but instead merely makes you drunk (notwithstanding lethal doses, relatively rare among drinkers). Add another carbon and you get propanol, similar to ethanol in how it effects humans, but much more potent and more likely to be lethal. Add still more carbons to the chain, or change the order of how atoms connect (who knew stereo-chemistry was so important!), and the alcohol’s properties get even more weird.

Ever wonder why drugs have so many side effects? Some can be severe. For example, listen to the mellifluous voice on any TV ad pitching a new drug (call it, Euphorimab) – “Euphorimab may cause stroke, internal bleeding, or complete loss of appetite. If you lose consciousness or die after taking Euphorimab, please notify your doctor immediately.” Ha ha, funny, right? But all kidding aside, do side effects occur because drug company scientists don’t really know how the drug works, the implementation details? No. The bar for approval of a drug is actually pretty high, usually including proof of the molecular mechanism of action of the drug. There are exceptions*. Before a drug is approved scientists must provide considerable experimental evidence that shows Drug X modulates (inhibits or activates) a specific protein known to be causative in whatever malady it was designed to alleviate. But there remain two big challenges in drug development 1) Many of these “target” proteins occur in different parts (tissues) of the body, and 2) many drugs are promiscuous, in the sense that they have unexpected, off-target activities in the body. Meaning the drug can bind to and modulate proteins it wasn’t designed to target.

* A class of drugs known as volatile anesthetics are a notable exception to the rule. They’ve been used to anesthetize patients starting 160 years ago, before the FDA took on its regulatory approval function. They’re still approved for use in patients undergoing surgery even though nobody knows how they work at the molecular level. You’d probably get a Nobel prize if you could figure it out. I once rotated in the lab of an anesthesiologist (and pretty good geneticist) who was trying to figure it out. We never did figure it out but we killed a lot of worms trying.

Example: Vicodin is (or was) a widely prescribed narcotic active in the central nervous system to alleviate musculoskeletal pain. But for a lot of people it also makes them very drowsy, nauseous, and constipated, some severely. Mood swings and poor judgement are not uncommon side effects.

Scientists are pretty certain Vicodin works by binding to and modulating a class of proteins called mu-opioid receptors. Activating these receptors in the central nervous system has the downstream effect of inhibiting the brain’s pain response circuit, but at the same time activating certain reward pathways in the brain (the reason for opiate addiction). But these receptors occur in other places in the body too; one of which is – believe it or not – the gut. The gut doesn’t do the thinking or pain processing in the body, that’s the brain’s job, so what are these receptor proteins doing expressed in the gut? Answer: it’s all about context. Tickling mu-opiod receptors in the gut (versus the brain) with a dose of Vicodin triggers them to “signal” back to the brain, via the nervous system, that something is out of whack down here. That in turn generates another cascade of effects, also mediated by the nervous system, which end in the feeling of nausea in the gut, and often a backup of poop. So, generally speaking, depending on which tissue a protein is expressed in, different (unintended) side effects may occur after a drug binds to it.

The other cause of side effects, drug promiscuity (so-called “dirty drugs”), is much harder to deal with. As mentioned, drug approval usually requires experiments to prove how a drug works at the molecular level, and in turn how that will reduce disease (or pain, etc.). But selective experiments can’t detect if the drug is also active against other protein targets. It’s only after the drugs get into real patients that the side effects of “off-target activities” are discovered, and the corresponding proteins/pathways identified (sometimes). Certain chemotherapy drugs, for instance, are notorious for off-target effects – hair loss, severe fatigue, constipation, vomiting, weight loss, bleeding, muscle & joint pain, etc. (Can you hear that voice on the TV ad?).

Wait, don’t we have precision medicine now? Can’t you design a drug that targets only a single protein? Yes, but it’s damn difficult. Gleevec is the best example I can think of. It’s used to treat certain types of leukemia. It was designed to target a mutant protein (oncogene) produced in patients with a specific chromosomal aberration. It took many scientists working many years to characterize the molecular details of this aberration, and then more years to design a specific drug to target it. Think about how difficult it would be, and how long it would take you, to make a key for a lock you can’t see with the naked eye, and can only model (in 3-D) using indirect experimental evidence.

OK, I’m rambling. The point is, drugs are really just another kind of technology. And, like most other technologies one people don’t need to understand the details of in order to benefit from. Coming to know the details, on the other hand, if you’re curious like I was, will convince you just how freakin’ complicated biology really is.

Some Time Away

By day we awake to this
By night…
Happy hour at the Seahouse
A visitor arrives. A red-crested cardinal it appears. Sorry fella, we were ordered not to feed you.
For dinner…Island-made crab cake with sweet chili sauce, homemade Tabouli salad, fresh Ono and asparagus grilled, served over a bed of Gazebo fried rice

MvS Was Right, Hope I Am Too

With Covid defeated (we’ve been vaxed) we tripped up to Fairbanks (aka Squarebanks) recently for a long overdue visit with family. The flights to and from were uneventful and Alaska Air even upgraded us to first class both ways. That’s Happy Wife’s brother on the right, his bride rear center with the peace sign flanked by their two daughters. They live in a cavernous log home brother Mike chinked himself way back when. We ate lots, drank too much, played board games and walked the trails around the property. They experienced epic snowfall up there this year so you had to be careful not to step off the trail lest you sank in up to your waist.

Their daughters are a delight to hang with. One is off to the U of Montana come Fall, the other is still in high school. They’re both smart as a whip. The younger daughter does math for fun. Being reminded of that we got off on the topic of the Monty Hall problem. Actually, I think it was one of the girls who brought it up. A long time ago in a magazine a reader posed a question to Marilyn vos Savant, aka MvS (smart as a whip herself):

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?

Marilyn replied the contestant should always switch because doing so gives the contestant a 2/3rds chance of winning. Most people, even really smart people, loudly disagreed with her. Duh, they said, obviously with only two doors left there’s a 50/50 chance of being right, i.e. picking the door with the car.

Showoff Marilyn stood her ground, calmly explained why she was correct in a follow-up comment, but still many people couldn’t bring themselves to accept the truth. In fact, pose this same question to people today and many will insist the answer is 50/50.

Back to our conversation… turns out the girls were also in disbelief, though being smart as whips were interested to hear my take on it. I admitted to being among the disbelievers when I first heard this problem. Then, after doing my homework, came to understand why MvS was correct. I diagrammed the problem for the girls on paper, assigned the initial probabilities to the car being behind each door (trivial), randomly picked a door to start a game, then revealed one of the goat doors as Monty Hall always did. I then showed them why the probability of the car being behind the remaining un-chosen door is 2/3rds, not 50/50. Good diagram here.

You could see on their faces the light go on! Notice that switching doesn’t mean the contestant is sure to win, only that on average, over repeated games, doing so wins the car 2/3rds of the time. The only way you lose with this strategy, of course, is if the car is behind the door you initially selected.

When we got back home I wrote a simulation to once again prove to myself MvS was right. Here’s the code (Java)

import java.util.concurrent.ThreadLocalRandom;

public class MontyHallSim {
	
	private int goats[] = new int[2];
	private int prizedoor ;
	private int guessdoor ;
	private int goatdoor;
	private int revealdoor;
	
	private int Rand(int min, int max) {
	  return ThreadLocalRandom.current().nextInt(min, max + 1);
	}
	private void Guess() {
	  guessdoor = Rand(1,3);
	}
	private void Seed() {
	  prizedoor = Rand(1,3);
	  if(prizedoor == 1) {
           goats[0] = 2;
	   goats[1] = 3 ;
	  } else if (prizedoor == 2) {
	   goats[0] = 1;
           goats[1] = 3 ;
	  } else {
	    goats[0] = 1;
	    goats[1] = 2 ;
	  }
	}
	private void Reveal() {
	  int goat = Rand(0,1); // random index into goats array 
	  revealdoor = goats[goat] ;
	  if(revealdoor == guessdoor) {
	    revealdoor = goat == 0 ? goats[1] : goats[0] ;
	  }
	  goatdoor = revealdoor == goats[0] ? goats[1] : goats[0] ;
	}
	private double Run(long games) {
	  long wins = 0 ;
	  for(int i=0;i<games;i++) {
            Seed() ; // randomize goats and prize behind doors
	    Guess(); // randomize contestant's guess
	    Reveal(); // Monty reveals a goat door
	    wins += guessdoor == goatdoor ? 1 : 0; // switch & win!
	  }
	    return (double)wins/(double)games ;
	}
	public static void main(String[] args) {
	  long ngames = 300000000 ;
	  double prob = (new MontyHallSim()).Run(ngames) ; 
	  System.out.println("Probability of winning if you switch       
          (n=" + ngames +"): " + prob*100.0 + "%") ;
	}
}

Compile that and let ‘er rip on your computer, say three hundred million times (see ngames value). Guess what the output is?

Why, it’s precisely what MvS said it would be

Probability of winning if you switch (n=300000000): 66.665%

Moral of the story: Never bet against MvS.

What fascinates me is how counterintuitive the right answer is. Way back when I first encountered the problem I was like no way.

Late last week then we hosted our first dinner party in over a year

HW spent all day and part of the night before making a truly delicious Coq au Vin, served over Polenta with a side of grilled bread. That last was the only part I was directly involved with, except I did have the forethought to de-cellar what turned out to be a sumptuous 2007 Amarone from one of my favorite producers.

Those are our dear friends we did that crazy Pittsburgh –> DC bike ride with a couple years ago. All of them are retired. Being we’re next in line to reach that milestone (ever so close) I pick their brains all the time. I’ve been working tirelessly pulling together a spreadsheet of information I need to do predictive financial planning for the next thirty years of life (fingers crossed). Because, as our financial advisor says, “Rod, a goal without a plan is merely a wish.” She’s right of course. So, god willin’ and the creek don’t rise it looks like we’re all set to go. I spend at least a half-day each weekend spinning what-if analyses in the spreadsheet. Even with conservative estimates of all the relevant variables (SS, ROI, etc.), and a very generous annual spending budget, we will likely leave money on the table when we exit this life. I don’t yet know how I feel about that prospect, compared to the alternative that is. Though I’m sure our beneficiaries will be thrilled!

Too bad MvS isn’t still with us, I’d ask her opinion.