30 March 2009

6000 Years

I've never been patient with dogma or orthodoxy. To be fair, my mother has told stories about me in kindergarten that show that I've just never been patient.

It's probably just because I've been following Bad Astronomy, and he in turn is following the deeply disturbing turn of events in Texas, where the Board of Education contains at least one member who apparently unapologetically believes the universe is 6000 years old. He believes this because some dead guy figured it out, based on translations by dead guys of texts originally written by other dead guys.

I have dear friends, whom I respect and admire, who hold deep faith. I don't think any less of them for it. On the other hand, I am coming to appreciate iconoclasm.

28 March 2009

El Salvador 2-2 US

Tonight R took a break from "Pride and Prejudice, and Zombies" to watch "Sex in the City", so I started watching the match with the score 1-0, ten minutes into the second half. The US conceded a goal with shambolic defending and found itself down 2-0 in front of a raucous jubilant crowd. Altidore sharply headed in the first goal, and Hedjuk nodded in the second to even the score. The US dominated possession; El Salvador frequently had all eleven players on their third of the pitch.

Both sides will be disappointed with the result: El Salvador for losing a two goal lead, and the US for conceding two goals to a weak opponent.

First Growth

We went to the semi-regular blind wine tasting last night. Chris Hinton was there and brought the 1990 Château Haut-Brion. It was fantastic. I think it unlikely that I will ever have the means to afford wine of this reputation. Thanks, Chris, for your incredible generosity in sharing such a superb wine. It was clearly superior to the (higher rated) bottle of 1989 that I tasted last year.

Keith, by the way, thought that it was the 1990 Château la Mission Haut-Brion, which is pretty damn close (remember that this was a blind tasting). My assessment (and they are never so precise as that) was that it was an older (~1995) left bank Bordeaux, which is remarkably accurate for me.

Everything else on the night paled in comparison. I brought the 2000 Vieux Telegraph (Châteauneuf-du-Pape) which showed reasonably well and the Frescobaldi Mormoreto, which showed very poorly.

Who is the best?

In the US, there is a pointless argument about whether the collegiate American football season should conclude as it does today or with a knockout tournament. Television talking heads (and, I assume, talk radio) blather endlessly on the subject. The current method includes attempting to match up the top two teams, based on a combination of mathematical models and polls of coaches and sportswriters. This method sometimes produces an inconclusive result. The argument in favor of the tournament is that then we would know who the best team is. Only we wouldn't.

Existing constraints mean that there is no practical structure that can determine the best team (if such a thing even exists - any given Sunday, etc.). Selecting the best team from the forty or so reasonable candidates would be hard enough, but with a schedule of only about a dozen games per team, with most of the opponents either chosen by avaricious athletic directors or long-standing conference affiliations.

My argument is that the world is very much the same regardless of whether USC or LSU is national champion. Or if they are "co-champions". The NCAA pretends to be about students, or about education, and for nearly all of its sports, it might be. But for the two big money sports (football and basketball) no one should be confused about whether it's about the money.

Absent objective metrics, discussions of who is the best can descend to nasty name calling. Who is the best football player in the world? There is no definitive answer, and that's OK with me. I'd say there is a short list of candidates: Kaka, Messi, Ronaldo, Casillas, etc. On the pitch on any given day, though, any of those candidates can lay an egg.

Zinedine Zidane, a player who for many years could lay claim to a spot on the short list, recently suggested that Liverpool's Steven Gerrard belongs on the list. Typically, the comments posted by readers tended to be extremely partisan. That's too bad. My club is Liverpool, but I think you have to be able to admire the quality of players on other clubs (even on arch-rivals). I don't think that Gerrard is the most talented player. But he has more talent than most, and brings a relentless determination that consistently influences the game more than any other player I've seen (in the short time I've followed the game).

Is he the best? I don't know. I'm not even sure what that means. But I love watching him play.

22 March 2009

LFC 5-0 AVFC

Liverpool scored quickly, and much of the first half was exciting, open football. Liverpool's second goal, against the run of play, was a combination of poor defending by Villa and a pretty volley by Riera. A penalty on meant that a Villa fightback seemed less and less likely. In the second half, Gerrard put in a free kick, then Friedel was sent off. For much of the first half, it looked like it could be anyone's match, but with each succeeding goal, Villa's energy slipped away. Brad Guzan had to face a Gerrard penalty kick as his first Premier League action. Yikes.

Liverpool are second in the league and ahead in goal differential. For Liverpool to win the title, though Man Utd will need at least two draws while Liverpool surely cannot afford to drop any more points. Still, it's nice to be putting pressure on them.

Rafa the Rotator

Before Mascherano and Torres had settled in, Benitez tinkered incessantly with his lineup (and in his defence, at many positions no player stood out from the others). For the last fifteen months or so, though, he's mostly gone with his best eleven, except when injuries, suspensions, or exhaustion make it prudent or necessary to do otherwise.

In their (heh, heh) 2-0 loss to Fulham yesterday, Ferguson started Fletcher, O'Shea, and Evans with Tevez, Rooney, Anderson, and Carrick on the bench. The press would be positively apoplectic were Benitez to make a similar change. I'm sure the Scot had good reason, the point is simply that when Ferguson did it, it was a non issue.

Today I expect: Torres/Riera Gerrard Kuyt/Mascherano Alonso/Aurelio Skrtel Carragher Arbeloa/Reina, with Cavalieri, Lucas, Babel, ElZhar, Benayoun, Hyypia, and Dossena on the bench.

If Alonso is not yet fit enough for ninety minutes, Lucas would be the likely replacement. If I thought Dossena's recent form would hold up (I don't), I might be tempted to give Aurelio another chance in midfield instead of Lucas.

The historical rotation policy was really born out of the parade of not-good-enough players on the squad, many of whom were signed on his watch. Crouch, Voronin, Pennant, Bellamy, Gonzales, Zenden, Garcia, Kewell, Fowler, Kuyt (at CF): the list goes on (and clearly in some cases, the players were simply past their sell-by date).

Now that there is a "best 11", Liverpool need to improve at a couple of positions and add depth.

If Liverpool win today, this might be my new wallpaper:

21 March 2009

GHSFL Championship 2008/09

The Georgia High School Fencing League held its championship tournament today. Only fencers who had qualified by finishing in the top 16 of any earlier tournament were able to participate. Coming in to the tournament, our younger son was ranked 42nd (of the 88 qualified fencers who had registered), but perhaps because his girlfriend texted him this morning that she was ill and would not attend, fenced well below his ability. He lost all of his pool bouts, and was not among the top 64 who advanced to the knockout stage.

Our older son was seeded 6th coming into the tournament. He was undefeated in his pool, which earned him a tie for the 5th seed in the knockout stage. As you'd expect with that seeding, he advanced comfortably through the rounds of 64 and 32. In the round of 16 he fell behind 5-1, but kept his composure and won 15-12 (well, I think it was 12).

Ordinarily, medals are awarded to the top four fencers, but for the championship, eight spots were honored. He was assured a medal before his bout in the round of 8, against another of the top fencers in the league. The bout was very close (neither fencer ever had a lead of more than one touch), but Blaise won 15-14. It was one of the best fenced bouts I've seen.

Unfortunately, his next opponent is extraordinary tall (easily 6'6"), and this got inside Blaise's head even before the bout began. When he fell a few touches behind, he became frustrated and fenced far too poorly for the semifinals of a championship tournament. He lost by a wide margin.

Still, he won 3rd (both fencers eliminated in the semifinals are awarded 3rd) in the most difficult high school tournament he's entered. He ended the season in a tie for 5th overall in the league.

Here are the men's top four medalists:

Blaise was disappointed, but the young man to his right lost, to my knowledge, only one bout all year: the other semifinal today.

I wouldn't want to read too much into it, but Blaise did seem to spend a fair amount of time after the tournament with a new friend.

6+5 would be a victory for mediocrity

I happened across this article on 6+5, which triggered a long post blathering on and on about the economics of this provision (it artificially modifies demand for domestic/foreign players). I'll spare you that.

6+5 might increase the number of British players, but if so, at the bottom end of the quality spectrum (the most talented are already playing football).

The top clubs will sign the best British players. Other clubs will receive a cash windfall as their rosters are stripped bare of the quality players, but will then have to cobble together rosters using lesser British talents.

English clubs will be less successful in Europe. No wonder Platini supports it.

20 March 2009

Could be worse

The Free exchange blog at The Economist has a brief article detailing why, even though the immediate economic news is dire, we are unlikely to see another Great Depression. I feel better. Not a lot better, but better.

xkcd nails it again

Congress and news agencies are willfully or ignorantly distorting the AIG bonus "scandal". The former is lying, and the latter is incompetency. You decide.

As usual, xkcd is spot on today.

Not Again!

Liverpool have drawn Chelsea again in a Champion's League knockout stage (the fourth time in five years). That winner will get the winner of Bayern Munich and Barcelona. On the other side, Manchester United could not have hoped for a better draw than Porto in the Quarter finals, and (assuming they advance) the winner of Arsenal-Villareal.

19 March 2009

It may be hard to believe, but this is good news

And hopefully the business press will drop the AIG story, as well; it's getting hard to find other stuff to write about. But here's something—for the first time since January, oil rose above $50 per barrel. The move is seen as stemming from rising expectations for the global economy and the likelihood of a falling dollar amid quantitative easing by the Fed.
From The Economist

---

As an aside, the AIG bonus story is exactly the kind of issue (righteous indignation over something relatively unimportant in the big picture) that Congress thrives on.

Texas Board of "Education"

I weep for our future. (link)

18 March 2009

Death Penalty

Here's the thing. I do believe that there are crimes so heinous that the death penalty is appropriate (though perhaps not so many as some others). However, I also believe that is unacceptable that a single innocent man (and not surprisingly the overwhelming majority on any state's "death row" is male) should die because of flaws in the judicial system. There have been many examples in the recent history where DNA evidence has exonerated death row inmates and, sadly, people for whom the DNA evidence was examined too late.

I applaud Governor Richardson's position. According to Wikipedia, the other countries which carried out the most executions in 2007 were China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iraq. Seriously, why would we want to be in a club that includes those members?

Ryan Giggs

I've been following English football for less three years. I picked the team that I would follow before I watched my first match. I am annoyed by fair weather fans, so there was no way I was going to pick Manchester United.

I ended up choosing Liverpool, whose history can be polarizing. I knew about some of the history when I chose the club, but I've learned a lot more since. Tragedies at Hillsborough and Heysel precipitated changes to English football. During Liverpool's period of dominance, it is not unlikely that their supporters could be insufferable.

I get the impression that Man. Utd's gaffer is still driven by the burning desire to surpass all of Liverpool's impressive trophy tallies. In 2002, he said "My greatest challenge is not what's happening at the moment, my greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their fucking perch. And you can print that."

It is not common for a Liverpool supporter to express admiration for a United player (ask one about Gary Neville sometime). I came across this article recently, in which the ageless Ryan Giggs showed great class. I've always felt that trash talk was, um, trashy. I think that Rooney's comments were candid, and possibly ill-advised, but not really trashy. Anyway, my point isn't that he spoke well of my team, though that's what brought him to mind. At 35, he is past his prime (aren't we all). Ferguson is no sentimentalist; if Giggs is still on the squad, he has earned that.

He is approaching 800 first team appearances and 150 goals. Ten league titles, four FA cups, twice champions of Europe. He has had a share in unprecedented team success; that kind of success and his longevity are testaments to his quality on the pitch.

My opinions on some current MU players:
Ronaldo is a brilliant talent, but he's a bit of an ass.
Rooney is tireless, strong, and quick (if a little crude).
Giggs is just class.

17 March 2009

Stunning

Yes, it's condoms that are making the AIDS crisis worse. Not a policy of pretending that people can be talked out of having sex.

The church's policy on birth control is why on my best day I was apostate. This could be hilarious or it could be tragic. Since people are dieing, I'm going with the latter.

Rome fiddles while the world burns.

15 March 2009

Aston Villa in the New York Times

The (NY) Times is one of the rare American newspaper that even pretends to cover the beautiful game. Here is a light piece on Villa (one of the four top flight clubs I've seen live).

14 March 2009

Go Green – Be Green

The city of Johns Creek held the (poorly named) Go Green – Be Green 5k race this morning. Educational signs (far too small to be read by a runner) raising environmental awareness were posted along the course. There was also meant to be a St. Patrick's Day connection.

I have not been training since December. Indolence, mostly, though my travel schedule hasn't helped. Two weeks ago, a friend emailed that he'd be running this race. Taking this as impetus, I immediately registered online. I managed one session on the treadmill before I had to leave town again.

I have now run three 5k races. The first was about 15 months ago. I had been training sporadically for most of 2007, then stopped sometime in November. My time in that race was around 40 minutes. I ran the same event a year later; that time I was training better (but still not as much as I ought) and my time was much improved, about 33 minutes. Given the lack of training, today's time isn't too bad, but I really do intend to get my time under 30 minutes; an achievable goal even with my slothful tendencies.

My time was just under 35 minutes; I don't know the exact time. There is a clock at the finish line, but it measures the times since the official start; it doesn't adjust for the fact that you don't typically reach the starting line until well after. In large races, the difference can be minutes. For this race, it was probably under 30 seconds. I need to get a wristwatch with a stopwatch function to get a more accurate time.

The sky was gray, the temperature was 39f/4c, and there was a light rain. Running in the heat and humidity of summer is no fun, but neither was this. I now have some sense of what it must be to run in England.

MUFC 1-4 LFC

The scoreline flatters the visitors, who were relentless and opportunistic, but not three goals better than their opponents. It was nice to see Manchester United misfiring for once. Man. Utd. made too many defensive mistakes and Liverpool converted. On both penalties, the keeper guessed correctly, but couldn't cope with the blistering pace of the shots.

Perennial scorers contributed from Torres and Gerrard. Aurelio again showed that his left foot can be deadly from free kicks with a shot that froze van der Sar. Dossena, as on Tuesday against R.M., came on as a substitute and knocked in a goal. This one was a dandy, a chip over the Dutch keeper.

Whether Liverpool still have a legitimate chance at the title remains to be seen (color me dubious). The race is more interesting today than it was yesterday.

12 March 2009

New Cocktails

I maintain a Google document with mixed drink recipes; I use it to store interesting recipes that I run across. Once sampled, the recipe may or may not be retained depending on whether I find the product worthwhile. You can find a link to document if you scroll down on the left hand side (or here).

A rich source of cocktail information is Mixology Monday, a "monthly online cocktail party". Participants take it in turns to host, which seems to consist primarily of declaring the theme for the month. I've learned a lot about mixed drinks (history, ingredients and of course, recipes). These purists prefer natural, historical, or esoteric ingredients (you can find a recipe to make your own tonic water, for example). These tend to be elegant, balanced drinks. The difference between this daiquiri and the one made in this video is as between night and day (and don't get me started on the frozen ones).

As an aside, the typical American bar offers a cocktail menu that favors cloyingly sweet drinks made from neutral grain spirits and artificial flavors and colors. An Appletini would be savagely ridiculed at MxMO.

This month's theme is "The First Time", being drinks to offer neophytes to authentic cocktails. I love the Sazerac, but I would not suggest it to someone who hadn't tried and enjoyed a Manhattan. The web site Oh Gosh (great URL, by the way: http://ohgo.sh/) offered an eponymous cocktail. First cousin to the Daiquiri, the Oh Gosh is delightful. I substituted Grand Marnier. Light and balanced, it should appeal to all but the most jaded palate. I may buy a bottle of blue Curacao just for this drink.

An entry last August by mixologist Jamie Boudreau had looked interesting, so I bookmarked it. Last night, I finally got around to making one. The Vancouver combines gin, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, and orange bitters. Deelish.

11 March 2009

More Wine

I'm tired of going on about politics, so here's more wine!

While traveling last week, I got an email of a sale from our favorite wine store. Typically the sales offer a single wine and sell out very quickly (often the same day), fortunately the store allows you to reserve the wines over the web.

Their web store is actually reasonably well done, given that this is a very small business. If the store were Amazon, I'd say it was pathetic, but for a neighborhood wine store, it's adequate.

Trying to order the wine in Prague through a web proxy and in a time-zone six hours different from home, I managed to click one too many times and inadvertently ordered seven bottles (rather than the more typical half-case) of the Jean Luc Colombo 05 Cotes du Rhone "Abeilles".

Last night we had dinner on our back porch (the weather has been beautiful in Atlanta recently): bratwurst, purple cabbage and potato pancakes. I decided it was as good a time as any to try the new wine. A Cotes du Rhone is not a particularly good match for such hearty fare (though as it turns out, it complemented the vinegar in the cabbage surprisingly well).

Given that I paid $7/bottle, I didn't have particularly high expectations, and there were no surprises. My impressions: sweeter than I prefer, low acidity, a decent nose, a little too "grape juicy", not unpleasant, and a long finish. It is not awful, but neither is it very good. I wouldn't serve it to guests, except perhaps at a large party in place of abominations like "white zinfandel".

10 March 2009

Wine in Prague

I have been to Prague twice this year, and on both trips we visited the same nice Italian restaurant. On the first trip, a colleague from Holland ordered a glass of Barolo and a colleague from England did the same. A bottle contains a bit more than four full pours, and usually costs about the same as three ordered by the glass, so I asked for a bottle. Shortly afterward, the sommelier arrived to apologetically inform us that the Barolo served by the glass is not available by the bottle.

I like to pretend like I know something about wines, and while I know more than some, my actual knowledge is quite paltry. I was now faced with an extensive wine list from a Czech restaurant. Oops. Barolo can be quite pricey, and I try to keep travel expenses reasonable so as to avoid the wrath of HR. The steward recommended another Barolo, the 2003 Rocche dei Manzoni, which was priced about 2,000 Kč ($100/£70). It was recommended, not outrageously expensive, and a Barolo, so I went with his recommendation.

Having chosen a not inexpensive bottle, we were treated to the wine opening ceremony. To be honest, I enjoy a little ceremony in enjoying wine (it's why I prefer corks to the technically superior screw top). This night, there was an ostentatious presentation of the cork, a table-side decanting, a pour for the sommelier, and finally I was given a sample. This ritual was, I think, a little over the top. It's not like I had ordered 1982 Pétrus (and lest you be impressed, I looked that up).

The wine was drinkable, but ridiculously tannic; after drinking it I felt as though someone had sandpapered my tongue. The wine was big, but there was not a lot of fruit to be found. Definitely not my style (and for the money I think we could have done much better).

Last week we were again at the restaurant, this time with a larger contingent that included more senior colleagues (e.g., my boss). One of the executives in attendance is known to favor famous (read: expensive) wines, e.g., Silver Oak (which is openly ridiculed by my wine savvy friends), so the wine selection was steered to me. This time, I found Frescobaldi's Nippozano, a Riserva Chianti. We have it at home from time to time. It enjoys a fairly wide distribution, and is a relatively good value. In this case, the wine was around 800 Kč ($40/£30). To be honest, I preferred it over the Barolo (never mind that the Barolo cost two and a half times as much).

I've recently purchased two half-cases of Côte du Rhône (one from 2005 and one from 2007), but we haven't opened either yet. My wife prefers the lighter grapes, and these were attractively priced. Perhaps with dinner tonight...

Sacrilege

The idea that the world needs "Christian" salt is either hilarious or terrifying. Since I believe that the Creator creator intends to profit from the proposition, I will choose the former.

There are many religious faiths in the world and many believers are absolutely certain that they have the One True Faith, and that people with other beliefs are infidels. In retrospect, I'd have to concede that for most of my life I've been a heretic, but I've slid into full apostasy. One might think I'd choose the safer bet, but I can't bring myself to it.

LFC 4-0 RMFC (5-0 Agg.)

Liverpool started brightly and fully deserved their lead when Kuyt and Torres combined for the first goal. I don't watch much Spanish football, so I only know Iker Casillas by reputation, but he made several impressives saves early on to keep Real Madrid in the match. As in the match at the Bernebeu, Heinze was again involved in a Liverpool goal, but his so-called "hand ball" was, on replay, clearly a mistake by the referee. Still, such was Liverpool's early dominance that a two-nil scoreline did not seem unreasonable.

Any club defending a 3-0 aggregate score at home might be expected to assume a more defensive approach, one coached by Benitez all the more so. Instead, Liverpool came out pressing and just two minutes into the half, Babel supplied a ball to the skipper that was hammered in for another goal. Finally, late on, Dossena opened his Liverpool account

I hope Rafa is encouraged by the performance to play more aggressively. Perhaps the team was motivated by the Champions League stage, but the ruthless quality of Liverpool tonight merely highlights their shocking recent domestic league form. It is incomprehensible that the same side that was so awful against Boro could so thoroughly dismantle one of the best clubs in the world.

Substitution Notes: Guti has shaved his ridiculous 1970's porn star mustache. Jay Spearing made his second ever appearance with the first team (both in the Europe). Champion's League roster requirements, Riera's suspension and Benayoun's injury conspired to limit Benitez's options at midfield. At one point, Anfield sang "There's only one Jay Spearing". Nice.

09 March 2009

A Republican Woman Speaks Sense

I am suspicious of political dynasties. At least Ms. McCain seems to have inherited her father's penchant for straight talk. Political expediency may yet suffocate this breath of fresh air. To be honest, I wasn't that impressed with her writing in the full article. On the one hand she's very young (b. 1984), but on the other she went to Columbia and I expect more from such an august institution. In any case, anybody who calls out that bilious shrew Coulter (herself a Cornell alumna) deserves a shout out.

08 March 2009

A Sustainable Future

America careens from crisis to crisis, from ill-planned middle eastern war to financial system meltdown, with no shortage of unhelpful partisan screeching. "Long term" planning is still contained within the lifespan of a goldfish.

This article struck me - our global economy is so dependent on conspicuous consumption that I have seen suggestions that if you have the means and are frugal, you are acting irresponsibly. I am struggling to comprehend that.

I am fortunate to have a level of income that affords a quite comfortable standard of living. I don't consider myself wealthy (the human mind is such that almost no one does). On the one hand, we live in one of the most modest houses in our neighborhood. On the other hand, we live more comfortably than billions.

We could live reasonably well on half our current income; it was only about one goldfish lifespan ago that we did. If we and everyone in our circumstances did that, the global economy would collapse (much worse than we are seeing currently).

I believe the rest of the world will eventually not tolerate the current concentration of wealth. Leaving racism out of the equation, the transition from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe may well portend our future. I find it difficult to be optimistic for the long term (say, ten or twenty goldfish lifespans).

That Shakespeare Was A Clever Fellow

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
-Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene II

When I had started this post a couple of weeks ago, I was in a different mood. I still love the quote though.

05 March 2009

Travel Placeholder

I am in Prague today, we flew from Moscow last night. Some quick impressions - Muscovite women must have the most heavily sculpted brows in the world. Moscow is a huge, bustling, vibrant city. It is also sports some of the most oppressively unattractive architecture I have seen. It is hard to imagine a much more striking contrast than between the grey, rectangular, grimy buildings of the Russian capital and the charming elegance of the Czech capital.

Bad planning on my part means that I have only a few images taken with the crappy camera in my cell phone. I'll download them when I get home and see if I can find any worth posting.

01 March 2009

MFC 2-0 LFC

Uninspired.

I honestly considered leaving this post that single word.

Whatever thread of hope Liverpool might have held for challenging Manchester United died an undignified death Saturday on the pitch at the Riverside. Injuries to Torres, Riera, and Arbeloa meant that some roster juggling was inevitable. With Degen (thankfully signed on a free transfer) injured yet again, the choices at right back were young Stephen Darby or one of the central defenders. Rafa decided to try Skrtel, Carragher having been unimpressive in his previous assignments at Right Back. Not surprisingly, Skrtel was also unconvincing. Babel, last year's choice at left wing filled in for Riera while Kuyt moved to his old role as striker with Moroccan El Zhar taking the right wing. Liverpool dominated the game until Alonso deflected a corner into the net for an O.G. After that, Liverpool looked unconvincing. If the score didn't reflect the match, neither could Liverpool make any claim to deserve better. After the second goal Rafa started substituting. First Ngog for El Zhar, then Benayoun for Carragher; an attacking player for a defender is not surprising, but that Hyypia was preferred to stay on over Carra was. Skrtel moved to his preferred central role and Mascheano served as a makeshift right back for the remainder of the game. Gerrard took a knock and was subbed by Lucas, but by then, Liverpool had the look of a defeated team.

I have no idea whether this insipid performance was a letdown after Madrid, or fallout from Parry's announced departure, or just a good (but not as good as one might hope) team having an off day. As they say, maybe next year.

Project Euler: Level 2

Well, I've made level two by completing my 50th problem, but I expect progress going forward to be much slower. I believe this for two reasons.

One, I need to complete fifty additional problems before I reach Level 3 (twice as many as it took to reach levels one and two. There are currently 1395 people at Level 2 (though they only count members at level 1 and level 2 who have solved at least one problem within 60 days). The actual number is certainly larger. There are only 927 who have ever made level 3 (which they cheekily have named "Novice").

Two, I've been solving problems, more or less in descending order based on the number of people who have solved them. Problem 1 has been solved by 53,479 (it's trivially easy). The least-solved problem I've cracked was solved by 4,675. There are few "low hanging fruit" remaining on the tree.

The good news is that I'm much sharper on Ruby now. Early, I spent as much time learning the language as solving the problems. Not so now.