Friday, June 30, 2006

WTF: Chessboxing? (aka: life imitates beer commercials)

Jolene posted this on AG's blog and I'm sufficiently amused that I am going to put a link to the sport of chessboxing here.

Basically, it is kind of what it sounds like: 11 alternating rounds of chess (6 rounds) and boxing (5 rounds).

Also, it reminds me very much of a series of beer commercials (not that I remember which beer it was) concerning various whacky sports combinations. (The one that comes to mind at the moment was the extremely amusing pasttime of "full contact golf.") However, I didn't exactly think that we'd be seeing such odd combinations in real life...

Like the bible, only trippier (and much more worthwhile)

Maybe some of you remember the stories of Joseph? (You can probably guess rendition of these stories you'll find...)

Anyway, I saw the current tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat today, and it was both extremely fun and extremely awesome. It covers some version of several of the stories at the end of Genesis. I assume that much of the colorfulness was around in earlier versions, but there are numerous things that most likely were less extreme in old version and some that definitely were not in old versions that I really enjoyed.

Naturally, he colorfulness of everything wasn't surprising at all, but I liked a lot of the extra things they did. First, some of the anachronisms were extremely amusing. My favorite was when we see Potiphar counting shekels while his slave holds up his laptop for him. (Potiphar uses one finger to count his shekels.) Earlier, when Joseph and Son's commercial interests are discussed, we see Joseph briefly doing business on a cell phone. Other times, we see modern trappings like high fives (which may well have been in the earlier versions of the musical) and body bumps, which I first recall seeing in the mid to late 90s.

Another awesome thing was the various musical/clothing styles. Pharoah/Elvis made the Egyptian girls swoon. (This whole scene was seriously funny. I knew it was Elvis from the very beginning---from the palace with giant sunglasses and his starting with his back to the crowd.) Potiphar and his crowd are wearing yuppy outfits and Potiphar is playing golf. When Joseph is lost (and deemed dead), we see a western theme, with a slow, mourning country song (when Jacob is present) alternating with a fast-paced celebration when he's not. There was also a scene that gave me visions of Fifth Element and Space Channel 5 (not that I ever played that game, but the style was distinct), which included lots of neon clothes and wigs. When Canaan was starving and Egypt was not, we see a view of "Cafe Canaan" with Frenchmen sadly reminiscing about how things used to be (complete with a French maid to mock them). At some point, there was also a calypso song, complete with limbo spears held by two guards. There was also the whole Grease thing at some point (with Joseph's brothers) and the grand finale had an R & B element to it.

Almost everything was very good. There were some little kids from a local elementary school who had bit roles and lacked the talent of the others, but thankfully they were mostly part of the background.

An upcoming musical I want to see is Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. It starts at the Pantages on August 15th, so maybe some of you (Lemming?) are interested in that.

Also, the lyricist for Joseph, Tim Rice, was also involved with the play Chess in which he collaborated with two members of ABBA. I hadn't previously realized the two B's from ABBA were involved, but in retrospect it makes sense. A new version of Chess is slated for the near future, and I have really wanted to see that for many years---in part because it is the origin of the song "One Night in Bangkok." All together now: "I get my kicks above the waistline, Sunshine!"

Thursday, June 29, 2006

I'm such a media slut.

It looks like Physical Review Focus is picking up our PRL on nonlinearity management in optics.

I came up with another one of my intriguing signature terms ("Kerr sandwich" in this case) in the blurb we sent them. I may not be much of a scientist, but I am certainly putting the journalism part of my background to good use---my experience with The Tech has actually been extremely useful for my scientific career. Also, I can come up with some damned sexy terminology and analogies sometimes. :) "How well can monkeys rank football teams?" turned me into a media slut, and there's just no going back now... I guess I didn't completely forget my Beverly Hills roots after all.

Hopefully this stuff will make it into some newspapers (and into Physics Today), although what I really want is this exposure to help spur the analogous experiment with Bose-Einstein condensates (as well as a particularly interesting follow-up in optics). It would also be nice if it helped me get a job. :)

Crawling and navigating the Web using Matlab

Go here and download Cleve Moler's surfer.m file, which takes a url as one of its arguments and starts building a network by navigating the web starting from that page (up through whatever number of unique pages you want). This is very cool for network studies, and one of my collaborators has already adapted the program for a specific data retrieval purpose. [In fact, what he has done has given me an awesome of idea of getting a particular set of baseball data from a particular group of baseball pages in order to study Hall-of-Fame selection using network theory. (I can already see how this will work, so now we just need to do it.) That is going to be so fucking awesome! (Now we just need to find a student to work on this project. Maybe this will come from the students my collaborator is currently recruiting.)]

The script got stuck when running from my web page as a start, so it may require some finagling in terms of URLs to ignore. (I'm going to try running it from .../cover.html instead of .../index.html to see if that fixes it, but I won't be spending any serious time with the finagling, especially when I ought to be doing work instead of writing this blog entry.) I'll try running it from Travis's blog too, unless he wants to start the computation first.

Incredible crop of rookie pitchers

This year, we've seen an absolutely incredible crop of rookie pitchers in the Majors. This is especially true in the AL, where this crop currently includes three Cy Young contenders (Justin Verlander, Jonathan Papelpon, and Fransisco Liriano). Liriano, in particularly, is bloody awesome. With him and Johan Santana, the Twins have the best top two in the Majors, and it's not even close!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

No Civ IV for me for a while...


The Mac version of Civ IV is finally shipping and my laptop at home doesn't even come close to meeting the spec requirements (which are apparently much heftier than the spec requirements for the PC version. Aspyr Media even included a discussion of this in their FAQ, so it looks like I'm out of luck for a little while because---in the interest of getting work done and finding a job---I'm not going to put this on my office computer.

I guess I'll buy it in a year when I use my start-up funding to buy a new computer. Or, if I get my grant, than maybe I can get this as early as January 2007.

I'll just have to occupy myself with DS games, Super Paper Mario, and Wiiiiiiiiiiiiiii.

Commonalities between X-Ray Diffraction and Sudoku

I've been meaning to make a post about this for a while. (I have a three-month-old reminder in my e-mail box.)

In a February Cornell press release, you can read about Cornell physicist Viet Elser's new algorithm that is apparently extremely good for X-ray diffraction microscopy (so it really helps in imaging tiny biological specimens, which I like to call by the more technically accurate name of "stuff"). However, he and his collaborators also found that the same algorithm can be used to solve Sudoku puzzles (all of them, apparently). Funky.

This algorithm was then used to design a really huge Sudoku puzzle, which an obsessive mother of a Cornell graduate eventually solved by hand. Others had previously solved it algorithmically (or rather, their computers did the solving and they supplied the algorithm).

Anyway, the part that I think is really cool is the diverse uses of Elser's algorithm.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Web page for the child of Judy and Damian (born today)

Here is an amusingly-titled web page that commemorates the birth of Maya Burch, daughter of Lloydies Damian '00 and Judy '98.

In other Lloydie news (actually, I've known this for a few weeks), Melvin Leok's wedding is in August. He told me which day, but I don't remember which one.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Amusing manager tirade

Go to this article and click on the link to see an amusing managerial tirade, in which he (among other things), demonstrates a slide into second base, picks up second base out of the ground and throws it, and empties a water bottle onto home plate.

Now, in terms of visuals, this one is pretty nice, but I grew up watching and listening to Tommy Lasorda's tirades, and Tommy was consistently the best at it. In fact, Tommy was particularly awesome when it came to postgame tirades. If you google his opinion of Dave Kingman's performance and Kurt Bevaqua (who "couldn't hit water if he fell out of a fucking boat!" --- yes, that is where the Bull Durham quote comes from), among many others, you should be able to find some audio. I also recommend trying to find Lee Elia's tirade from (I think 1984). He was on the Cubs and spent a couple minutes verbally nailing the fans. Tony LaRussa's "Be a Man!" interview is also very funny. In a tirade of more recent vintage, Priates Manager Lloyd McClendon once proved that one can steal first base. (He lifted the bag and too it with him into the dugout after he was thrown out.) Bobby Valentine's attempt to sneak back into the dugout wearing Grouch Marx glasses (after being ejected earlier in the game) is also highly amusing.

Among player tirades, I suggest googling Carlos Perez vs the water cooler. That was a classic!

"We're on a mission from God."

As many of you know, I've been trying to gradually catch up on movies I should have already seen. The quote above comes from The Blues Brothers, which has possibly the most intimidating credits I've ever seen. (I'm not 100% sure it's #1, but it's at least damned close to it.) I had recognized a couple of the singers (like Ray Charles) during the movie, but I had assumed in other cases that it was just the relevant actor lip-synching to the song. However, when I saw the credits, it realized that it was invariably the actual singer of the song ("Minnie the Moocher" by Cab Calloway, etc.) who was in the movie.

The movie was awesome! This is Dan Akroyd at his deadpan finest. (The quote above is uttered several times by Dan Akroyd in absolutely perfect deadpan.) John Belushi was also in this movie. I don't believe I had ever seen a movie with him before, although I had heard from him because of his very well-publicized early 80s death. (Actually, I remember the newscasters harping on it back then.)

Also, the 'mystery woman' (played by Carrie Fisher!) provided some amusing interludes, especially when Akroyd and Belushi would carry on with whatever they were doing after one of her stunts (like blowing up Akroyd's apartment) as if it had never happened or was a usual part of day-to-day life. It was awe-inspiring.

I was also able to brace myself for The Ride, so I got through that scene unscathed.

By the way, does anybody have any plain white toast?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Today's highlight: meeting up with an old friend

Amidst finding sign errors (and other bugs) and having to redo some calculations and numerical simulations in finishing up a paper, I was able to take a break from the academic doldrums and have coffee with an old friend of mine from high school who I hadn't seen for 10 years. She brought her "Swedish boy" (who she has given the acronym SB in e-mail conversation---and all this time I thought that stood for "Soul Brother") along, although he seemed to take it well when we discussed high school people we know. The conversation going there was (naturally) inevitable, although it didn't dominate things.

This particular friend belongs to the set of people I like to call "nerd groupies." (Another member of that set has shown up to game nights that I've hosted since my return.) I have to admit being impressed when she brought up MC Hawking. Also, I actually caught the reference from the words/intonation without the artist being mentioned. (It was a line from the song "All My Shootings Be Drive-Bys.") Lots of witty banter ensued and for a little while, 12 years went away. I forgot about this until just now, but I just remembered it was her who comandeered my video camera during calculus on my last day at Beverly High (and started filming instead of letting me be behind the camera, which is what I had intended). I don't remember any of her commentary during those "interviews" (which is unsurprising, given that I forgot about the incident), so I'm going to need to remember to watch that video the next time I'm at my parents place. At the time, I think I told myself I wouldn't watch the video for 20 years (or maybe it was 15?), but 12 seems reasonable enough because the real point was to let a lot of time pass and then watch it. (I considered going around to my friends with my camcorder on one of my last days at Tech, but I didn't end up doing it because I think I was able to find only a few of my friends when I did that at the end of high school. Right now, I am wishing I had done it so that I could look back on what people said, but making sure I stay in touch with people is more important. Ah, priorities...)

Then after we had some chocolate at my place, it was time to depart. (It better not be 10 years this time!)

I then went back to my research (and found a couple more bugs, that I should be able to finish fixing tomorrow---originally, I thought I'd finish tonight).

While I was out, one of my students e-mailed me with a very good idea. It warms my heart when my students come up with good ideas. I may be hopeless, but at least my students are able to accomplish things.

Anyway, this is to let you know that I occasionally do have my priorities in order.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Physics term of the week

I was reading an article in the June 2006 issue of Physics Today and I was reminded of the term Schumtzphysik, which means "dirt physics" or (translating it a little less literally and a little better) "dirty physics." This is the term that Pauli used to describe early solid state physics.

By the way, the word "schmutz" is also the Yiddish word for dirt. I grew up listening to complaints about cleaning up schmutz, which is why certain last names can be amusing. :)

Sometimes it's useful to know a little Yiddish.

District B13

District B13 is a French-language action film (it came out in 04 in France) that is currently in limited release in the US and is probably going to be gone soon.

This isn't the special effects type of action film, but rather the type where actors are actually doing their own stunts. It was good and very entertaining. (The pacing was excellent, as far as the action goes.) As I had read, the plot isn't exactly the strong point of the film, but that's not why you should be seeing it. Go for the action.

Luc Bessen and Bibi Naceri (the original boss in the film) have the writing credits. The film takes place in an eponymous ghetto part of France, filled with tatooed drugdealers and other hoodlums. The government has given up on it, having removed the school and other things (which at some point includes the police station and at some point doesn't...I was a bit confused there), added walls around the city, and (finally) decided to use one of their own missles to kill the city by having their best operative enter secretly and accidently start the thing going when he thinks he's disarming it.

What else to mention...? This is the third movie with a character named "Lola" that I have seen in the past month (and maybe some change). This one is more in line with the second Lola (though much tougher and this one wore a dog collar at some point) rather than the first, which more in line with what the Kinks sang.

One last thing: There were occasionally translation hiccups in the English words at the bottom of the screen. One might say that they "mega-"blew it a couple times. Well, it was easy to figure out what they meant, but whoever did the translation made more than his/her share of elementary errors.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Tales from the arXiv

I just love the following abstract:

Paper: physics/0606186
Date: Wed, 21 Jun 2006 16:35:20 GMT (6kb)

Title: Alice and Bob Get Away With It: a playlet
Authors: Anthony Sudbery
Comments: 7 pages
Subj-class: Popular Physics
\ Alice and Bob use Aravind's version of a Bell-Kochen-Specker paradox to fend off awkward questions about what exactly they were doing in Amsterdam last week.
\\ ( , 6kb)

Alice and Bob are clearly getting some hot throbbing quantum action (not to mention angles). [This is a bad joke, but I apologize... for nothing!]

An impressive box score

Check out the box score from today's game between the Cardinals and the White Sox. Jason Marquis allowed 13 earned runs...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Spatial Resonance Overlap in Bose-Einstein Condensates in Superlattice Potentials

This paper, which I wrote jointly with one of my Georgia Tech undergraduate research students, was just published a couple days ago by International Journal of Bifurcation and Chaos. My former student is now a Ph.D. student in applied math at Stanford. (I converted her from a EE person to an applied mathematician. I am so proud of myself.)

The idea behind this paper is that a periodic lattice (represented by a sinusoid) is like a parametric excitation in space when one is looking at standing waves in Bose-Einstein condensates, which are describved by a cubic nonlinear Schrodinger equation. A superlattice (which I discussed briefly in earlier blog entries) consists of a sum of two sinusoids, so one can see a resonance with respect to either of the two forcings. (By the way, the canonical physical example of a parametric excitation is a vertically vibrated pendulum. A somewhat more complciated situation is the Faraday system, in which a tub of water is oscillated vertically. Mathematically, the simplest equation describing a parametric excitation is the Mathieu equation.) Each of the forcings can separately cause some chaotic behavior, which increases in significance (more precisely, in the area of the phase space that is chaotic) as the forcing amplitude is increased. When more than one forcing is present, at some point the resonance zones from the separate forcings start to overlap and this leads to the onset of globally chaotic dynamics. How strong a forcing is required for this to happen can be estimated crudely using what is known as "Chirikov's overlap criterion." In our paper, my student (Vivien Chua) and I did this. Naturally, as this was a student project, she did nearly all of the work. I was the advisor.

My first PRL!

Yesterday, I finally got a paper accepted by PRL for the first time. Now I can finally say that I'm a real physicist. :)

I had tried several times and came progressively closer each time, and this time we finally got it in. (Actually, it was accepted with flying colors.)

I have mentioned to occasional people (with some colleagues getting offended by it for reasons I can't particularly fathom) that I liken a physicist's first PRL with a little girl's first Barbie doll.

"I'm a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world. Wrapped in plastic, so fantastic!"

Note added later: Hmmm... My use of the English language in this post was a bit "creative." This definitely wasn't a work of art, but I'll leave it as is for posterity.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Ice cream that stirs in its slumber...

Justin just sent me a link about Cthocolate ice cream.

Remember: red ice cream is perfectly healthy, but you might want to be careful with green fuzzy ice cream.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Research group wikis

One of the very useful thing to do with wikis is to create group and research-subdiscipline webpages. Here are two examples:

Caltech's Quantum Information wiki has been around since August 2005.

Yesterday, one of my collaborators set up a network theory wiki yesterday. (Well, there was work on the set-up that occurred before yesterday, but it went public yesterday.) We are splitting this into private and public parts. The private part will allow us to share things more easily while we're at remote locations (we have some group meetings by phone nowadays). The public part will hopefully serve as a gateway to scientists to spread cool datasets around, etc. (Right now, everybody has to ask other people privately for their data, so something like this could have a really positive impact.)

We're hardly the first (or even close to the first) to set things up like this, but it seems to me that wiki is really the right way to have a group web page.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Tough loss

Every other team in the NL West lost, so the Dodgers had a golden chance to extend their lead to 2 games (and pick up ground on everyone else). We were leading 3-1 going into the bottom of the 8th inning, but exited the inning trailing 4-3. We scratched out a run in the 9th to tie the game and things remained at 4-4 until the 17th inning. (Meanwhile, we left tons of people on base, couldn't hit a lick with runners in scoring position, and basically squandered tons of opportunities to score throughout the entire game. In one inning, we had a leadoff triple and couldn't score.) Then, with two outs, we lost when our pitcher walked the batter with the based loaded (after having walked the previous two people). Suck.

(Note added on 6/18: This was our longest game in 10 years.)

I like my women like I like my [insert noun]:

Tim and I (and occasionally others) have had several discussions over the past several months based on some snappy one-liners from movies (from Airplane, for example) and related comments that one can find on the web (or from Tim himself).

Tim's version that I particular like, because it is both funny and reasonably (though not entirely) accurate for me: "I like my women like my coffee: cold and bitter." One of the related ones we've seen on the web and on t-shirts (how many copies of this did we see at Coachella?) was "I like my women like my coffee: ground up and in the fridge." Maybe this isn't the most politically correct line in the world, but I think it's hilarious!

We were talking about chocolate and bitterness at Buca today (in the lunch in honor of Doug's graduation...we were in Riverside for his commencement today), and I tried to come up with a similar line for chocolate on the spot. It wasn't that great, but then the fun began. We started naming nouns and making a game of it.

"I like my women like my cheese: slightly moldy."

There were myriad other extremely funny ones.

By the way, I highly recommend this game for first dates....

By the way, the commencement ceremony consisted of a few minutes of cheering for Doug and then lots of time playing multi-player games on the DS while waiting for chances to cheer for Doug. When we went inside for air conditioning, we saw three other people with DSes and played some 6-player battle Tetris with them (with some vicious Mario Kart-inspired twists...lightning bolts are evil in this game!). It was really fun and it also showed me something that is bleedingly obvious in retrospect: Having my DS with me is a great way to try new games when other people around have a DS and is also potentially a way to meet some people with common interests. I think if this had occurred to me earlier, I wouldn't have waited for New Super Mario Brothers to come out to buy one.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Echo and the Bunnymen

Tim and I went to Hollywood to see Echo and the Bunnymen in concert on Monday.

Echo has a lot of cool music and the concert was good (though not spectacular). They were compared to The Doors earlr in their career, and they always play (at least) one song by The Doors when they perform live. This time, they played "Roadhouse Blues," which is unfortunately not a song I like. I was really hoping to hear their covers of "People are Strange" (they recorded a studio version of this, which is their biggest hit by a huge margin) and "Paint it Black" (I have a live version of this on my iPod playlist). The only other song I really wanted to hear that they didn't play was "Bedbugs and Ballyhoo."

The lead singer was having conversations (that were not always entirely kind) with the people in the front. I was having trouble understanding him on lots of occasions---I heard him, so maybe he was speaking in Simlish? At some point, I heard him say that he wouldn't play a song that was requested, and I knew that the request must have been either for "Freebird" or for "People are Strange." They have a reputation for refusing to play "People are Strange" in concert, and Tim noticed them definitively refusing this song later in the concert.

Going back in time a bit, Echo was something like 35 minutes late in starting their concert. (Lame...) The opening act gets my wtf award, and Tim had an even more adverse reaction to them.

Going back in time further and befitting our location, the person at security who checked me seemed to enjoy feeling me up for more than was comfortable for my tastes. But it's the price you pay when you go and see a concert in Hollywood (especially when it comes to a group that peaked in the 80s...well, not really, but it's fun to say). I did much better with the security at Coachella, so clearly I should have brought a math journal with me on Monday.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Reality Baseball

Can fans collectively manage a baseball team? Well, one of Bill Veeck's old teams went through this briefly, but the new experiment, involving an independent league baseball team, is going to have fans collectively managing a team for the second half of the season.


In other baseball news, the Dodgers recently put Eric Gagné back on the Disabled List. Also, if the Diamondbacks lose today, we'll be back in first place by ourselves.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

What did the elephant say to the naked man?

Today, a few of us saw A Prairie Home Companion, which was an absolutely awesome film. (I've been doing very well with movies lately---between seeing this and Cars in the theatre and seeing Blues Brothers, which I still need to review, on DVD.) You absolutely must go see this.

First, let me predict right now that this movie will include several Oscar nominations and quite possibly some wins. Kevin Kline, as the eponymous Guy Noir, was brilliant, and the others actors weren't lollygagging through their roles either. The cast was incredible. There are a lot of well-known people in the movie, and they pretty much all did an excellent job.

The movie concerns the last broadcast of Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" (a real show; does the show still exist in real life?), and we see show performances intermingled with the stuff going on behind stage. Some of the on-show performances were excellent---I am thinking of the "bad joke" song in particular. ("That's cute, but can you breath through it?") The sound-effects guy was also cool to see. (I have heard old radio broadcasts where sound effects were used by baseball announcers who broadcast games from scorecards and had to fill in the sounds of crowds, etc. The funniest one ever was for the guy who really had to pee and just couldn't wait for a commercial, so he told the listeners that it was starting to rain and used a bucket that happened to be in the studio... I laughed so hard when I heard this recording.)

While the movie wasn't a comedy, and some aspects contained highly nontrivial sadness, there was a ton of repartee, which is among my favorite things in this or any other world.

Anyway, even if you're not the type of person who normally goes to films that are only released in "artsy" theatres, you need to go see this one. You won't be disappointed. It's not my film of the year, but it's on the short short list for best films this year. There are definitely some Oscars coming its way...

Spoiler alert:

The one quibble that comes to mind was that the foreshadowing of a certain character's death was far less subtle than it should have been. (I saw it coming a mile away. They really ought not to have been so blatant when they showed him stumbling during his song. I knew right there that they were going to kill him off.)

The original Lloyd gong has been found!

I received some very awesome news on Friday.

While working on their stack, a couple seniors found the original Lloyd gong in an obscure corner of the Lloyd roof. Along with it was the faded remnants of Blacker's prank note. I was very pleased to hear this news! (Of course, somebody knew where it was for all these years, so it would have been nice if he/she had passed the information along after it wasn't found for a little while.)

On this note, the Lloyd gong was originally purchased by Slayer during his presidency exactly for the purpose of its being RFable, as it was supposed to increase interaction with other Houses. The gong being declared unRFable is a damned shame.

In Legends IV (which won't be appearing for a while), we'll have stories about the various House symbols. (We collected some of the info a while back but in the interest of having all of these in the same volume, we decided to put them in volume IV. It's a good thing, too, because now we have important things to add to the gong and cannon stories.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Here in my car, I feel safest of all.

Before going on, did you catch the reference in the title? (I think I may have explained it to Lemming, or I at least previously told him that that line is a reference. (There are people reading this who have a fighting chance of catching this without looking it up, although it might depend on how good your memory is.)

Anyway, a bunch of us went to see Cars on Sunday night. Our conclusion: Pixar is awesome! (OK, like we didn't know that before...) While Cars isn't as good as The Incredibles, that's pretty much only because that's a task that almost no movie can handle. This wasn't my favorite movie of the year, but it's on the short short list with V for Vendetta and Thank You For Smoking. (I'm not including older movies I've seen on DVD.) It may rank as my second favorite Pixar movie, but I'm not sure. (For me, there is a huge gap between The Incredibles, my 2004 movie of the year, and their other movies---though I like their other movies quite a lot.) The short movie before the main feature was also supremely awesome. (For that matter, I very much appreciate the fact that Pixar and Dreamworks are upholding the tradition of having a short cartoon right before the main feature. I have thoroughly enjoyed most of those that I've seen over the years.)

Which character was Fillmore? (It's not coming to mind.) Apparently, George Carlin did his voice. (Oh, I just realized it. He was the hippie. Dude, that is so bloody awesome!) "I'm telling you, Man. Every third blink is slower." John Ratzenberger, originally of Cheers fame, did his usual awesome job for Pixar. (I especially liked his voice work while the credits were rolling---simply awesome! People who have seen the movie know exactly what I'm talking about here...) Cheech Marin was the voice of Ramone. I also greatly appreciated the bit-part voice actors (like Bob Costas and Jay Leno) playing cars with analogous roles to what they do in real life. The bit role by Richard kind (the guy who refused directions) was sweet. (Kind also had an awesome bit role in the movie Bewitched and he was excellent in a regular role on "Spin City.") And Ahhhhhhhnuld as the Governator/Hummer was simply one of the best bit roles of all time!

Here are the wikipedia entries for Cars and for "Cars" (which is the song from whence the entry title comes). (People who lived or spent a lot of time in Kaos when I lived there heard me play a CD with this song a number of times.) They don't yet have a discussion of the English translation of a certain Italian phrase from the movie, but I imagine that will find its way there eventually. (There were apparently a bunch of very brief references to older Pixar stuff that appeared in the middle of the movie. I missed almost all of them. I wish I had caught the reference to "For the Birds," which is a spectacular short cartoon.)

Another thing worth pointing out is that Pixar avoided the tendency to overdo the Redneckery despite their choice of subject matter. My one worry about the film was that they might succumb to this tendency a bit, but there weren't any issues at all. The film was thoroughly enjoyable. If you haven't yet seen it, go buy tickets right now!

One final thing: "Freebird!"

Google search leading to my website

I'm sure plenty of good searches that hit my website fall under my radar (as I only look at that stuff quickly), but I noticed a good one today: Some found me with does the pink panther masturbate in one of his cartoons?

Well, does anybody know the answer?

I'm never going to work again!

I just got handed to me a certain package from EBGames that contains a certain video game system.

It's probably a good thing that my copy of New Super Mario Brothers is waiting languidly for me in my apartment. Now I can stop staring at it longingly and play with it instead...

Anyway, I know what I'm doing tonight (well, after the Dodger game and other baseball stuff).

Sunday, June 11, 2006

First place!

With their win today and the Diamondbacks loss (to the Mets), the Dodgers now have first place in the National League West to themselves!

Firefly links

These links were recently sent to me, so I'm passing them along in case there's some interest. (I need to get around to watching the one-two episodes I haven't yet seen.) I can't vouch for any of these because I haven't looked at them yet, so let me know if they're any good. :)

Mosquito: A Firefly Parody

Into the Black: A Fan Made Series of Episodes in the Firefly Universe
(currently in production, but will air for free online)

Firefly - The Virtual Episodes: (Here are comments from the person who sent the e-mail: "Season 2 onward written with a highly skilled writing and production team. There's even plans for turning these into podcast radio plays with voice talents.")

Friday, June 09, 2006

Caltech's 2006 commencement

I decided to set my alarm and go to commencement after all. Here are some things to point out:

1. Baltimore is no Sandra Tsing Loh. Unsurprisingly, he spent a good bit of his speech harping his own accomplishments. (I'm not going to include a link to it. At some point, I started just tuning out what he was saying; the part that wasn't about him was extremely generic and uninteresting.) He took 9 years to "graduate," but he was bested by...

2. Alex Sheive (originally from the class of 2000), who finally graduated this year. (He wasn't at commencement, however.) I remember when Alex first got into Lloyd. Within 2 weeks, almost everybody was saying he'd never graduate. It turns out that he was just on the ten-year plan. I wonder if he's the last undergrad who overlapped with me as an undergrad who will get a Bachelors degree from Tech? I suppose it would be fitting. On the first day that I showed up on campus (6/03/05) after returning to Tech, I ran into Alex Sheive. That's how I knew I was really back. (I ran into Kacie Shelton '00 that day as well. I hadn't realized she was still around. I talk to her a bit at today's ceremony and she games with us on occasion.)

3. I love how the current Lloydies bang the gong for all Lloydie graduates. (This started after I left.) As I was mentioning to Tim, the first time the non-seniors wore their yellow shirts was when I was a senior. I believe Pei is the one who came up with that idea. I remember Kristie Armentrout remarking that she almost had years in her eyes when she saw that. (As cool as it is as a tradition---and it is a very fine tradition!---it really means so much more when people aren't expecting it!) I accidently knew it was going to happen. While Tim was helping me with the infamous triple-Tarzan Boy chaser sequence (it's been a few years, but in the past, I've heard references to this from Lloydies who didn't overlap with me) on my last day as an undergrad, I accidently saw that e-mail about the shirts. While I wasn't hanging out with the bulk group of Lloydies (though I do know a few of them), I did wear a yellow Lloyd shirt. To increase style points, I wore my really faded shirt (which is actually faded because it was bleached once when it was washed; it didn't become the way it is gradually) rather than the bright one that I have. It was absolutely essential that I wear the faded one rather than the bright one. It increases the effect. :)

4. I saw some visiting alum friends with whom I did not technically overlap: Deb Eason '02, who I knew was coming because her sister was graduating, and Nick Tanushev '02, who I didn't know was coming but I had figured was one of the very likely people to come. (Nick's sister is a Darb from my class. I used to work on math 109 with her.) One of the things about Caltech undergraduacy that I have always found very special is how people visit and one can become friends with people who weren't technically there at the same time. Many alums visit for graduation every year, providing one of the best reflections of why undergraduate life here is so special. (It's one of several reflections, but [as an example] nobody does this at my high school, and I can't imagine there is much of this at larger schools, so I think this is among the better reflections.)

5. In terms of (much) older alums, I also had a chance to talk a bit with Dave Zobel '84, with whom I have communicated by e-mail several times over the last few years (because of the Legends project) and who I finally met in real life in May at a local lunch for alums. He's a funny person. (If the name is familiar, he's the one who won the Lyton contest for coming up with a truly awful opening line for a book.) He introduced me to the editor of Caltech News (who I only previously knew by e-mail), so now I think I know almost every major Caltech PR person, and I definitely know the editors of all their publications. (In other words, in addition to talking to old friends, I even did some networking today.)

There's some other cool stuff I found out today, though it's not related to commencement, so I'll leave that for another time.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Rockin' the Suburbs...

...just like Quiet Riot did.

I just got back from watching Over the Hedge, which is a good movie (although I expect Cars to kick it's butt because Pixar >> Dreamworks).

Let me start by explaining the title. There were a couple songs sung by Ben Folds during the movie and as soon as I heard the first one, it occurred to me that the song "Rockin' the Suburbs" (which is a stupendously awesome song) had an appropriate title for the movie and I was thinking that a modified version of it might be used during the credits. Sure enough, the credits started rolling and I heard the very familiar tunes of "Rockin' the Suburbs." The lyrics were completely changed and quite sanitized over the original. (One of the refrains in the original was "Y'all don't know what it's like to be male, middle class, and White." If you've never heard this song, you owe it to yourself to do so. IMO, it's Ben Fold's funkiest and best song by far.) The next song in the credits was Ben Folds covering The Clash's "Lost in the Supermarket," which was also quite appropriate.

The movie had a very talented cast of voice actors. Steve Carrell was particularly awesome as an extremely hyper squirrel, which reminded me very much of Hoodwinked. The parallels run much deeper---this squirrel was specifically denied an ultra-caffeinated beverage until the moment of truth in the movie, in which he was specifically given a large can of this beverage to chug so he could go ultra-fast and save the day. (They switched to his perspective and had time stop.)

William Shatner made fun of his own tendency for clip-talking (they showed some of this in the trailer), which I greaty appreciated. (Later on, somebody mentioned Star Trek II. It was just a question of which Star Trek reference would be used...)

Wanda Sykes was very funny as a skunk. (She finds a boyfriend who has no sense of smell.)

The short cartoon before the film had some amusing moments (about an engineer and a blue jay), but it pales in comparison to some of the previous ones.

X-Men III SPOILER ALERT: This is a non sequitar, but I'll mention something briefly about X-Men III here. Since seeing the film, I found out that there was a brief scene after the credits roll in which they make the resurrection of Xavier extremely explicit. I need to remember to stay until the end of the credits for movies like this...

The Trials and Tribulations of Jason Grimsley

Jason Grimsley is the just-released (at his own request) Diamondbacks pitcher whose home was raided in an investigation for Human Growth Hormone. (He named names, although they are blacked out in the documents that people beyond a limited few have seen. It will be interesting to see which names surface---they will surface.)

The reason I am bringing this up is that Grimsley was involved many years ago in another well-known baseball incident. Back in the day, Albert Belle was caught using a corked bat and Jason Grimsley, then a member of the Indians, was the person who went Mission Impossible in everybody's butt and switched the bat with one of Paul Sorrento's.

I think I read Grmsley's account of this incident a few years back. The link I provided includes a link that I assume includes it.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Today's fortune (x2)

I got two copies of the same fortune today (in two different fortune cookies). They each read, "Next month is your time to make headway, so move quickly." I better get my butt in gear...

(By the way, the two fortunes also have the same set of lottery numbers on the back.)

Ultimate geek shirt: today's nominee

Take a look at this shirt. Wow.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Game Over.

Eric Gagné got his first save since June 2005 today. His fastball reached 92 mph (several notches below what he used to be able to get, but this should partially come back in time) and his signature change-up was simply knee-buckling.

Moreover, the catcher today was Gagné's countryman, Russell Martin, making this the first time in Major League history that there was an all French Canadian battery. (Moreover, Martin and Gagné even attended the same high school in Montreal.)

A great day for summoning devils...

Today is 6/6/6. Had it occurred to me earlier in the day, I would have worn my tie-dye pentagram t-shirt, but I can always do that today for our post-frisbee dinner.

Novel ideas in carry-on luggage

Try frogs.

It's only tangentially relevant (if that), but I can't help thinking of a certain scene in Magnolia...

Monday, June 05, 2006

The name game: another reason why parents suck

One of the Mets' top prospects (actually, he's probably the #1 guy in their farm system), who was just called up, is named Lastings Milledge.

I was wondering what was up with his first name, and Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully told the story behind it today: Lasting was the 3rd of three children and his parents had decided he would be their last child and named him accordingly.

Now, his name is very cool and has a nice ring to it, but stuff like this just sucks when you're growing up. Still, at least he isn't named Gaylord. (Do people still use that term? I haven't heard it in precisely that form in 15 or more years.)

Tales from the arXiv

Here is an abstract in which the authors "explicitly renounce" competing theories (I've highlighted the appropriate sentence):

Paper: cond-mat/0606083
Date: Sat, 3 Jun 2006 11:13:16 GMT (130kb)

Title: Normal Transport Behavior in Finite One-Dimensional Chaotic Quantum Systems
Authors: Robin Steinigeweg, Jochen Gemmer, Mathias Michel
Comments: 7 pages, 6 figures
Subj-class: Statistical Mechanics
\We investigate the transport of energy, magnetization, etc. in several finite one-dimensional (1D) quantum systems only by solving the corresponding time-dependent Schroedinger equation. We explicitly renounce on any other transport-analysis technique. Varying model parameters we find a sharp transition from non-normal to normal transport and a transition from integrability to chaos, i.e., from Poissonian to Wigner-like level statistics. These transitions always appear in conjunction with each other. We investigate some rather abstract design models and a (locally perturbed) Heisenberg spin chain.
\\ ( , 130kb)

The language isn't close to as strong as that in the abstract Gazebo reported a while back, but it's enough to amuse me.

I hate customer "service."

I've been dealing with the kind folks in customer service for various companies today. Groan.... (I've also noticed that ITS seems to be having an e-mail problem, as I'm almost positive that I am missing important messages that I should have received. Something I CC'ed to myself didn't arrive, so there definitely seems to be something going on. Groan...)

OK, so what have I learned:

1. Requests for refunds on services that were (a) never ordered and (b) charged to my credit card (they had previously ignored my e-mail message, where I had followed their instructions [!] and stated that I did not want the service this year and that they should thus not automatically renew me mean that they should cancel the service but not refund the $100 charge that never should have been there. (I found this out because one of the guys to whom I talked from MLB's video service indicated that I had requested that the service be cancelled but not that I be refunded.)

2. The finance department, which is totally separate from the customer service department, has the right to decline memos from the customer service department that they should issue a refund. They also do not let the customer or even the customer service representative know if the stuff has been declined (because apparently we can see this from the psychic patterns that are emanating from their brains). There is also no way for a customer to contact the finance department directly.

3. Next time, I am not going to inadvertantly lose my original e-mail requesting that I not be charged.

4. I despise automatic renewal policies because it increases the amount of customer screwage from stuff like this.

5. Earlier promises to refund my money can be revoked at will even when there is a written record of them. Furthermore, the excuse that the customer service person from before screwed up is sufficient reasoning to justify any decision on the part of the current customer service representative.

6. Customer service people at don't have to provide their last names. While this guy claimed to agree I was being treated unfairly, perhaps my evident frustration made him feel a little scared of what I might do?

7. The MLB customer service people don't deserve the many ours of attention I have given them over the past several weeks. How many dates could I have gotten with similar temporal effort? (Do not answer this question! I'm being rhetorical. However, I have been trying to get practice at introducing myself [with real people], so maybe I will feel more comfortable about things when it counts.)

My other customer service stuff today was my fault... I had to give a couple companies my new credit card number to make sure various orders come through correctly. (The MLB people didn't want that because presumably the refund will automatically go there because the card comes from the same account, but I am dubious about this.)

Damnit, this is frustrating!

Now I need to make an important phone call because I don't know whether the guy responded to my e-mail and it's just the hiccups that have prevented my receiving them, and I need to talk to him before he leaves town after today.

Maybe I'll even be able to get some work done today...

Sunday, June 04, 2006

"Rope" (the play)

Today I went with the CPA theatre crowd to see a play version of "Rope," which was originally an Alfred Hitchcock movie. I have never seen the movie, but my fellow postdocs were mentioning its marvelous technical achievements (e.g., there were no cuts).

The play, which was at Fight Club theatre (and included at least one of the people from that play with Josh, although this guy didn't do that great a job), was very entertaining and his highly recommended. While not an Evil Overlord, the leading bad guy broke some of those rules that an Evil Overlord should be following. (He was very conceited, and this allowed the crime to be discovered. He didn't wear a cape, though.)

The play itself also had a bunch of social commentary concerning the young Oxford crowd. The social butterfly and the guy hooking up with her were both present. There was lots of fluffy talk with little content (that Hitchcock was openly mocking) that goes right with the Oxford (and Ivy League) stereotypes of people who are full of themselves and who have a lot to say about nothing. The person whose character I enjoyed the most was the sarcastic intellectual, who made plenty of lovely snide remarks. (I would like this...) This guy has apparently appeared on Saturday Night Live, and he did an excellent job.

One annoying thing about the play was that the course of events were so bloody obvious that it was ridiculous. We knew what was coming from the very beginning. This was by design, but it's not a choice I would have made.

I am curious to see the original movie version at some point, but I want some time to pass first.

Saturday, June 03, 2006


This post is a bit belated...

Anyway, I saw the movie Hoodwinked on the airplane on the way back from Copenhagen. Well, I occasionally saw a person standing in the isle who was slurping his lover from there instead of from the comfort of his seat, but I saw the movie when he wasn't blocking my view.

The movie is ok. It was neither great nor horrible, but we didn't have multiple channels in coach on this plane and this was a 10 hour flight and only my first of two flights of the day.

The movie was supposed to be the "true" story of Little Red Riding Hood. It was basically that old fairy tale meets a maniacal bunny + extreme sports. It was occasionally amusing (though nothing special), and Patrick Warburton unsurpisingly did a good job as the wolf. (He was better as The Tick, however. Unfortunately, that show only lasted a few episodes...)

I wouldn't go out of the way to rent this movie, but it does it's job if you're stuck on a long airplane ride and are unable to read on planes (like me). I haven't tried any Gameboys on planes for a while---I couldn't do that either the last time I tried---but it's been a while, so we'll see once my DS arrives.

Top 100 things an Evil Overlord should never do.

In a current thread, the Gazebo linked to a list of 100 things that an Evil Overlord should never do. I may have read this year's ago, but it's been long enough that I don't remember having done so. I definitely enjoyed reading it just now, however.

"I can't believe it! You caught me monologuing.!"

By the way, Evil Overlords most definitely should not wear capes. That's just bad news. (Also, I can't wait for Cars to be out in theatres!)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Gagne is back!

Eric Gagné pitched in today's Dodger game (which we unfortunately lost). This was his first appearance in a Major League game since last June. He didn't have his command (and it will likely take some time for that to come back completely), but he did hit 94 or 95 mph on the radar gun (depending on which gun you believe).

This is a very good sign.

Also, while we have (again) had our share of injuries this year, the products of our farm system are demonstrating why the Dodgers are basically considered by everybody in Baseball to have the best collection of prospects in the game. We'll end up keeping some of them, and others will indubitably be turned into an established Major Leaguer (such as Dontrelle Willis, to name one possibility) later this summer.

Our two long mediocrity streaks at the beginning of the season seem far, far away (in time). The season looks very bright at the moment! (I need to go find my shades... so that I can wear sunglasses at night.)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Mathematical Moments

My expository article, Ground Control to Niels Bohr: Exploring Outer Space with Atomic Physics is the source material for one of the more recent "mathematical moments" posters the American Mathematical Society is using to preach the wonders and utility of mathematics. You can see this stuff posted in mathematics departments around the world. These posters also get translated into lots of languages (I don't know how many, but it's a lot). For example, here is the Chinese version. When I have a spare moment, I'll print it out and put it on my door.

One of my expository articles from 2001 was translated into German and Spanish. (The rights for the Italian version were purchased, but it never got published in that language.)

Sadly, none of my research articles have ever been translated (to my knowledge, at any rate).