Friday, February 29, 2008

Hu's on First

The Dodgers have now played two spring training games, and the expected "Hu's on First" joke has now been told by (at least) two different teams of announcers when shortstop Chin Lung Hu reached base. I'm sure this will eventually get old, but right now I am still extremely amused by it.

Note: I have some movie and concert reviews that I'll post at some point, but given the extreme grant proposal situation, I need to do stuff like that (and letters of recommendation for my students) when I am typing lots of text. I'll sneak a few potentially longer bits in here, and then things should calm down a bit after a couple of weeks (so that I can reduce how much time I do work at night).

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Politicians and The Colbert Report

One of my collaborators, James Fowler (who is becoming increasingly prominent), studied the boost that some politicians receive (the "Colbert bump") when they go on The Colbert Report. You can find an op-ed that he wrote for The Los Angeles Times on this page. (This piece includes is a link to his scientific article.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Earthquake (in Britain, of all places)

Last night while I was watching an episode of Angel I felt was seemed like an earthquake, but I figured it was maybe undergrads up to some shenanigans because I didn't expect any local earthquakes. As it turns out, there was a small earthquake (magnitude 4.7). I must admit that it made me feel a little nostalgic. :)

Something that small is no big deal to me, but of course I'm from Southern California, so I am curious what locals think of it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Epic of Craig Biggio

Here is an article (posted on Slate) that Bill James wrote about Craig Biggio in his new book. (Also see Biggio's wikipedia page.) I don't entirely agree with the essay but I mostly do, and I am posting it here because it states very eloquently why Biggio is my favorite baseball player of recent years and possibly my favorite of all time. (It turns out that he was James's favorite player for a while too, which I don't know though I was well aware of James's work in pointing out just how great Biggio truly was in his prime.) Biggio retired after last year and was hanging on for the last couple of years (though, unlike James, I am not bothered by the fact that he played a little too long so that he could make it to 3000 hits and get some long-overdue recognition for his career), but the thing I really like about him was that while he was never the flashiest player, he is one of the players who best exemplified getting the most out of what he had through obscenely hard work, an excellent attitude, and even sometimes with a smattering of sheer determination. (And he got dirty just about every single game! What represents a gritty baseball player more than that?) These are things I respect in all walks of life, and this is why Biggio was my favorite player for so long. (The whole idea of rooting for the undiscovered gem didn't hurt either.)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Learn Chinese in 5 minutes

I'm sure this was spammed to me back in the day, but I was reminded about this again (indirectly, by Reza Mohsin) and I got a nice laugh out of it, so I'm passing this along. You can find the link here. My favorite one is #4 on page 1.

Spring training!

As you can see from this page, the first published spring training box scores are coming out tomorrow night. (Baseball's spring training recently started.) I don't know if I'll be able to get the audio for any of tomorrow's games, but I'll be able to soon!!!! This will be a nice audio backdrop for my continuing work on my grant proposals. (If there is video, I'll just have to have the baseball game on screen while I continue working on my grant proposals. I seem to be overloaded with those these days...)

Has the world frozen over?

You know what happened today?

I actually received my reimbursement check from Charter, which overcharged me when I cancelled my service effective last October first. (This is separate from the summer fiasco, which sadly never got resolved in my favor.) The stamp on the envelope is dated February 20th, but the check is dated something like October 30th of last year for some reason. (Part of me thinks that the bank is going to insist that the check has expired when I try to deposit this... That would certainly fit in with the Charter motto.)

Other things: Joss Whedon did something rather evil in the credits towards the end of season 6 of Buffy. (I don't want to give spoilers, so I'll leave my comments for private discussions or later blog entries.) Also, the "Supersymmetry" episode of Angel made my heart warm and fuzzy with certain things (like mentioning Ed Witten and Brian Greene by name and referring to them as the Nomar Garciaparra and Sammy Sosa of string theory) but it also annoyed me in numerous respects by getting just about the entire physics and journal publishing atmosphere dead wrong. On a completely separate note, I have some teaching stuff I want to rant about. That will also have to be part of a private conversation.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Three Plays

I recently had a three-week period in which I saw one play each weekend (in addition to other performances, which I'll discuss later).

The first was The Rivals, a play by Richard Sheridan. I previously read it in my 10th grade English class. (By the way, this play is where words like "malaprop" originated.) I saw some humor in reading it, but seeing it performed was unsurprisingly greatly superior. The Oxford student newspapers complained that the performance was "traditional," but I was quite pleased with that. I liked it a lot.

I then saw a very non-traditional theatrical version of Alice - Through the Looking Glass. It was enjoyable (and it worked, in spite of its unusual way of presenting things) and some of the ideas were very clever, but I think I would have preferred a traditional version. Also, I was disappointed by a absence of the Cheshire Cat, the absence of the caterpillar + bong, and the minimized role of the Mad Hatter.

Finally, I saw a version of Sheridan's A Trip to Scarbarough that seemed to be based pretty much on the 1982 revival version. It had a couple of very clever ideas, but unlike Alice this one pretty much failed to work. I was a bit disappointed overall.

During the third of those three weekends plus the following Monday, I also saw Alison Moyet in concert (more on that in another blog entry) and a stand-up comedian named Mark Watson (who was ok but nothing special).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I feel like crap.

I hate being sick. Right now, I'm having a lot of trouble doing any work that isn't urgent---i.e., I am punting the grant proposal that I need to revise (now that I've been given some feedback from my colleagues) and am just doing things I have to do like teaching stuff and seminars to which I had committed that I didn't want to cancel or delay. I hope I feel well enough to deal with the grant proposal. I really need to get it soon. (And that's actually one of two grant proposals that are demanding my attention.) Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Quantum Construction

Arcane Gazebo posted a sign from a company called Quantum Construction on his blog.

I'm amused.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Collected Poetic Works of Roger Clemens

I've purposely been avoiding blogging about the whole Roger Clemens steroid hearings in Congress because (simply) I think there are better ways for all of us to spend our lives.

However, Rob Neyer's blog included a link to this article in Slate that is so amusing that I had to break my moratorium and post the link here. Perhaps with a brief nod to Find me Guilty, this article takes word-for-word quotes by Roger Clemens and compiles them in poetic form. Fantastic!

For example, the following haiku ("Offensive Haiku") occurred in the 2/5/08 deposition:

I am offended.
I will be honest with you.
I am offended.

I approve!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Illness + Ping Pong + Zelda

I have had an awful sore throat all day and I'm feeling very fatigued right now. I will try to fight it, but people have been getting sick around here the last couple of weeks and I think I may have finally succumbed. (I started feeling a little bit bad physically a few weeks ago, but it was thankfully a false alarm, as I felt fine the next morning.) Sigh...

I played ping pong today because I needed to skip last week to go to the Alison Moyet concert (about which I'll blog at some point) and I didn't want to skip two weeks in a row. I actually played pretty well despite how crappy I felt, and I did well against challenging competitors. A couple of the people I played today are particularly good practice opponents for me because their style of play forces me not to get overaggressive (by trying to kill a shot instead of just applying pressure to get a better shot the next time). Hence, playing them helps me develop better playing habits in general. They also often hit the ball to my backhand, and I have noticed that I have been getting a bit more consistent with my backhand as a result of practicing against them. (Well, my opponents tend to hit to my backhand so that they don't have to face the wrath of my forehand loop, but today was doing a couple of reasonable backhand loops, which is something I need to practice. My backhand needs to be stronger simply so that I can get more forehand shots and kill people with those.)

I also almost beat Zelda: Twilight Princess last night. Unfortunately, I had some trouble with the final battle against Ganon/Ganondorf and I ultimately died. My eyes and hands were tired, so I didn't try a second time yesterday. I'll try again in a week or so---I think I will take a break from Zelda and play some Super Paper Mario in the intervening time---but I am finally almost done with the game. It's about time too, as a couple of my students now keep asking me every week where I am in the game (and have now started asking me if I've finished). I feel like I can't let them down and I don't want to disappoint them by letting this game linger even longer than I already have. (I'm also planning to do the game's "Cave of Ordeals" before I start focusing on other games, though I may need to wait until spring break to do that because I suspect it might take several hours of real time to go through the whole thing. I probably will not bother getting all the special fighting moves, though one of my students tells me that those will really come in handy for the Cave of Ordeals. If I fail without those, I might go ahead and get those. I'm not going to bother collecting all the poes and golden bugs because that just isn't a good use of my time. I have OCD in numerous aspects of my life, but for the most part it doesn't extend to video games. I just don't get much enjoyment out of collecting everything in a game for its own sake.)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ig Nobel performance in Oxford (March 6th)

A quick note for the locals...

There is going to be an Ig Nobel UK tour in March, which includes a a performance in Oxford on Thursday March 6th. It should be extremely good!

And in honor of today, I think it's worth pointing out the winner if the
2000 Ig Nobel prize in chemistry:

Donatella Marazziti, Alessandra Rossi, and Giovanni B. Cassano of the
University of Pisa, and Hagop S. Akiskal of the University of California
(San Diego), for their discovery that, biochemically, romantic love may be
indistinguishable from having severe obsessive-compulsive disorder.
[REFERENCE: "Alteration of the platelet serotonin transporter in romantic
love," Marazziti D, Akiskal HS, Rossi A, Cassano GB, Psychological Medicine,
1999 May;29(3):741-5.]

I hope I eventually get one of these, although my original plan to do it by
levitating a sumo wrestler has already been taken. :(

10-year anniversary of my (in)famous Black Celebration

As I briefly discussed in this space two years ago today, February 14, 1998 was a special day in my life. It was my favorite episode of the radio show that I broadcast on Lloyd Radio with Lemming.

Given my propensity for enjoying groups like Depeche Mode, mood swings, and an enjoyment of bittersweet songs in general, there would occasionally be special episodes of our radio show (and of the radio show I did by myself the previous year) that I liked to call "All Depressing and Cynical Song Specials". On this day ten years ago, we decided to have the "All Depressing and Cynical Song Special: Valentine's Day Edition" in which we started with a live version of Depeche Mode's "Black Celebration", play depressing and cynical songs about love for about 2.5 hours, and ended with "Blow Your Brains Out" (What is this song actually called? And who sings it? I never remember...).

While we were doing this, there were naturally two recently-hooked-up couple slurping each other right outside where we were broadcasting for the entirety of the show. (It's not clear precisely how much they were aware of what we were doing just a few feet away.) One of the things I distinctly remember is our Resident Associate walking out of her apartment (which was also next to where we were broadcasting) and giving us (or was it just me?) just about the most horrified look I have ever seen in my life. She also seemed to have a sort of helpless feeling because there was simply nothing that she could do about it. It was wonderful.

By the way, there were a couple of other episodes of my radio show that were rather memorable. One of them was when my show was "taken over" by certain people who insisted that I play The Ride until they got showered (people finally had to come over from Ruddock to help with this). Autumn Looijen and I are planning to include a blurb about this incident in Legends IV. (It was punted from Volume III to Volume IV at the last minute.) The other was when I got the folks on the second floor of page to drunkenly sing along with the chorus to Faust and Lewis's "Save the Beer" back when Lloyd Radio was still broadcast from the "Llove Shack" (the bunker that Nestor Ocampo and Walter Brisken built for their Ditch Day stack).

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

One Braves fan's impression of Mike Hampton

The Braves are supposedly "counting on" oft-injured (just about always injured, actually---though he was once an excellent pitcher) Mike Hampton taking a regular turn in their starting rotation this year. That's just laughable. In fact, it's so laughable that one fan has recorded a short impression of what might happen when Mike Hampton checks his e-mail. Awesome!

(By the way, I found this link on Rob Neyer's blog.)

80s music reference of the day

Today's best 80s music reference occurred in the following line that appeared in a team preview for the San Diego Padres:

"But despite the dreams of Huey Lewis (and the News, for that matter), we don't live in a perfect world, and it's likely that the Padres will need the services of LeBlanc in their rotation at some point this season."

I approve!

(The song "Perfect World", which includes the refrain "Living in a perfect world", is one of the biggest hits by the band Huey Lewis and the News. Fore!)

Podcast version of my 'Unearthing Power Lines' Mathematical Moment

The podcast version of the "Unearthing Power Lines" Mathematical Moment based on my research on Congressional networks was posted on the American Mathematical Society website today. The interview took place during the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego last month. The interviewer was Mike Breen of the AMS.

I really am in the mood to guest-host Berkeley Groks again. That was fun. Also, tomorrow is the ten-year anniversary of a particularly memorable episode of the old radio show that Lemming and I used to have. I might blog about this tomorrow. There's always room for a black celebration. :)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Friday's birthday party

On Friday I had a birthday party at my place. It was extremely well-attended---in fact, one of my best-attended events ever in terms of percentage (2 of the 3 people who couldn't make it knew well in advance that they would be out of the country). The friends I invited consisted of a union of applied math, complex systems/physics, and Somerville people, which exhausts the three basic mechanisms I have here to meet people.

I bought lots of chocolate and toffee for the event, and I have way too much of it left. (There is a really good chocolatier nearby.) One pair of friends brought a cake, and others brought some gifts (such as a new stuffed animal for my local menagerie and a book about how to be an alien in England [to help me adapt to local ways]), although the most important thing they brought by far was themselves. In such a short time, I've managed to meet some very special people here and I haven't had the experience of making so many new friends so quickly since I was a frosh at Caltech. It is a testament, I think, to how good a fit Oxford is for me socially. (I suppose one might not think a priori that that would be the case, but Caltech and Oxford have a ton more similarities than differences, at least according to the basis vectors that I use. They are bother isolated from the outside world via bubbles, are filled with intellectuals and people are are genuinely both nice and interesting, lots of cool stuff is in walking distance, I get to be regularly coddled, and so on. It's true that the dress is typically fancier here, but that is a detail rather than a fundamental truth of how the place works and the things that make this place a good fit for me and me a good fit for this place are the big picture items.) I've started to get closer to a couple of people, which is also very good as that as one of my usual extreme difficulties with new people. A couple of them have taken to picking on me, which somehow always seems to happen when people becomes friends with me. Very strange. I've never seen the bullseye that other people seem to notice. The other thing that is extremely important is that because I've been getting closer to a couple of people, I finally feel like I've mostly recovered from last summer's emotional ordeal. I'm a little surprised that 6-7 months was about all I needed to be mostly recovered, and the major turning point has definitely been finding and getting to know special new people in a new environment---though in general I suspect it hasn't been so obvious to people around me that I actually needed very badly to recover from something. :)

By the way, today I turned 10000 in base 2, 20 in hexadecimal (which means that I am young but legal!), 32 in base 10, and 40 in base 8 (which is just like base 10... if you're missing two fingers). The party was on Friday because I had already purchased theatre tickets for yesterday in December and concert tickets for tonight in October. (The concert I am attending is Alison Moyet! I've been looking forward to it for months! Hopefully, she'll play some of the stuff from Yaz in addition to her solo stuff.)


Excuse the math pun in the title.

There was a power outage yesterday and I found out one of the unfortunate side effects of having my office and apartment across the street from each other. Namely, the power outage took out both places, so I couldn't just go to the other place and get things done easily. Power returned after about 1.5 hours, but I didn't have internet access at all until this morning and the mathematics mail server is still down so there are various e-mails that I might have gotten that I won't get a chance to look at until tomorrow. Se la vie. Hopefully there won't be anything that requires any action on my part. (I have various meetings tomorrow and if anybody sends me anything for those, then I simply will not be able to deal with them until after the meeting has already occurred.)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Worst projected Major League regulars

Courtesy Rob Neyer's blog, here is Dayn Perry's list of 2008's worst projected Major League Baseball regulars.

The left fielder is none other than Juan Pierre, though I beg to differ with his assertion that "As long as Pierre's in center field, he is mediocre enough to tolerate." I call bullshit! If he were in center field, I think he'd be the worst player at that position too!

If the Dodgers are smart, we'll just eat Pierre's contract and let both Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier play every day in the outfield. That would improve the defense slightly and improve the offense considerably!

I am heartened, however, that three of the four infielders projected to be the worst at their position are geriatric Giants. That is a team in serious decline, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. (Now I just need to be able to say that accurately about the Yankees as well...)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

OSCAR Nominations (2008)

The 2008 OSCAR nominations have now been released, and I'm again going to make some fearless predictions. As I recall, I did much better last year than I did in 2006.

Thankfully, there were at least a few sensible nominations--especially when it comes to giving Juno recognition. That film was awesome!

Anyway, here are my predictions and my comments on who will win and who should win.

Best actor: I haven't yet seen any of the films with nominations, though I do want to see Sweeney Todd. (Do any of the locals reading this want to go with me?) I'll predict that Johnny Depp will win just because he's awesome.

Best supporting actor: I haven't seen any of these films yet, so I'll pull a prediction of Philip Seymour Hoffman (for his performance in Charlie Wilson's War) out of my ass. OK, this is an education guess. By the way, did you know that it's now written into the U.S. constitution that Seymour Hoffman is required to appear in one out of every five indie films that are released in the U.S.? (FYI: I adjusted the joke because I can't remember who the other guy was, and I couldn't think of another canonical person in the time I wanted to spend on this.)

Best actress: Ellen Page should win this for her performance in Juno. Hands down. Not that I'm biased when it comes to this film or anything... Anyway, I think that she should win, and I'll go ahead and predict that she would win.

Best supporting actress: Cate Blanchett for I'm Not There will and should win because she was (by far!) the best Bob Dylan in the whole damned film. (By the way, I'll post a review of this film at some point. RIP, Heath Ledger.)

Best animated film: Ratatouille will and should win. I wanted to see Persepolis, but I think it made it into indie theatres after I fled the country. Maybe it will come out in the UK at some point?

Best art direction: I'm going to guess Sweeney Todd on this one.

Best cinematography: I'll guess No Country For Old Men here. By the way, I have heard some people who love this film and others who hate it. Opinions on this film appear to be pretty polarized, so I'm curious if any of you have any thoughts on this. (I haven't seen it and I'm trying to decide if I should.) Is what's-his-face who the Coen brothers always off in this film?

Costume design: I'll guess Elizabeth: The Golden Age on this one, but I don't have an opinion.

Best directing: I'll guess No Country for Old Men on this one. (Hey, Juno got nominated here as well, but I'm not sure if I'd be able to say it's the directing that stood out. How can a movie-watcher judge something like that?)

Best documentary feature: Sicko is the one that will win, but the movie that should win (The King of Kong) wasn't even nominated. It's a fucking crime!

Best short documentary: I have no idea. And when I have no idea, I simply pull something out of my ass. So let's say that Sari's Mother will win. I should check my "predictions" from 2006 and 2007 to see if I did comparably well with the stuff I pulled out of my butt versus the opinions that I actually had.

Film Editing: I'm not sure. Let's just say No Country For Old Men.

Foreign Language Film: Hmmm... I saw a lot more of these in 2006 (including 4 in a row at the end of the year) than 2007. Let's pull The Counterfeiters out of my ass.

Makeup: Hey, look--Norbit actually got nominated for an OSCAR! How in Hell did that happen? It can't win, though, because that's the 6th sign of the apocalypse and we haven't yet seen any of the first 5 signs and I simply they won't occur fast enough for this to work out. Pirates of the Carribean: At World's End seems a safe bet here.

Music (score): Why don't they have a category for best soundtrack? Because then Juno could have been nominated for that! Let's say Atonement is going to win this. Hmmm... I feel like I am pulling more things out of my butt this year than I did last year. I guess my favorite films correlated a bit more poorly this year with the ones the Academy considers hip?

Music (song): Wow, those days when a song from a Disney film won this category every year seem forever ago now, don't they? Three songs came from the same film (just like in The Lion King), so it's probably a pretty safe bet that one of those will win (not to mention the fact that these folks got lots of victories in this category for their work on Disney films). So let's say "That's How You Know" from Enchanted because I think the Academy likes mushy love songs and (based on the title) I strongly suspect this is one of those.

Best picture: Juno will and should win. (Well, I am actually tempted to predict that No Country For Old Men will win, but I'm still going with Juno out of loyalty.)

Best animated short film: Let's pull Meme Les Pigeons Vont Au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go To Heaven) out of my ass because I like the title. By the way, roosters go to Hell (the goats need company).

Best live-action short film: Let's see--yet another category where I haven't seen anything. Let's try Il Supplente (The Substitute).

Sound Editing: The Transformers will and should win. Booyah!

Sound Mixing: The Transformers will and should win. Booyah! (I love copy and paste.)

Visual Effects: The Transformers will and should win. Booyah! (I love copy and paste.) They're more than meets the eye, and the sequel might even have Shockwave and Soundwave in it. (This better happen.)

Writing (adapted screenplay): Let's predict Atonement (though No Country For Old Men is another tempting one).

Writing (original screenplay): The winner here is Juno hands down. This film probably has the best writing of any movie I've seen in years. And I think the Academy will agree with me on this one. By the way, I am also heartened that Ratatouille got nominated. It's very pleasing to see an animated film considered in this category.

I wasn't particularly up for Shenanigans tonight (we had our weekly formal dinner in Somerville tonight), though I did get a chance to hang out a bit with my friends. Also, there was a mini-concert (with the sister of a Somervillian singing some classical and Jazz music, including "Moondance"---which briefly made me think of the Ath, except this was a live performance, which was sweet). After that, I spent a bit of time with my friends and headed back to my apartment to play Zelda. (I'm not sure if they went pub crawling or not, but I wasn't up for hanging out with even a moderately large group tonight. There were just one or two specific people to whom I wanted to talk/shoot the breeze a bit before I went back home.)

Books that make you dumb

Courtesy The California Tech, here is an article about books that make you dumb, which is a recent project of Virgil Griffith, the Caltech grad turkey who created WikiScanner while he was an undergrad.

Basically, Griffith mined Facebook data and correlated peoples' lists of their favorite books with their SAT/ACT scores. He's since gotten a lot of hate mail (for example, because the bible had the 9th best correlation with the low end of SAT/ACT scores---note that I haven't checked how precisely how he measured the correlation, so I can't say what is meant by "low" and I don't care enough to look it up; the plot to which I link shows more detail). Lolita apparently had the highest positive correlation with high SAT/ACT scores, which is also fantastic on several levels (though I found the book thoroughly unenjoyable).

Monday, February 04, 2008

2007: The Year in Music

Here is another post that is over a month late.

I didn't listen to too many full albums, so I'll just give out a few awards:

Best Lyrics: Suzanne Vega, New York is a Woman (this song has seriously fantastic lyrics!)

Best (re)discovered cover: Tom Jones, Situation (thanks, Lemming!)

Best discovered band: The Lovemakers (thanks again, Lemming!)

Song that always gets stuck in my head: The Torreador Song (from "Carmen")

Most belated song acquisitions: stuff by Joy Division that isn't "Love Will Tear Us Apart" or "She's Lost Control"

Best concert: Loreena McKennitt (of course)

Best movie soundtrack: Control

Most appropriate (and 'best' in some sense, but not the sense of my liking this collection of songs better than others) movie soundtrack in a movie that isn't about musicians: Juno

I think I had other things to mention and if I remember them at some point, I'll put them here. But I didn't get enough sleep last night, so for now (at least), I'll leave things as they are.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Other visiting friends

I meant to blog last term about a couple of other high school friends who visited me last term. Mimi Harris (who I hadn't seen since my ten-year high school reunion in October 2004), who overlapped with me both at Beverly High and a couple of years at Hawthorne elementary school, went to London on business in November, so I hopped onto the train and went to London to hang out with her and one of her friends (who hitched a ride with Mimi during a layover in New York). This is the day that I finally came to understand the glory of the "mind the gap" meme (I really want to get one of the shirts with that...), and I also created my own meme when we visited the Tate Modern. In one of the abstract art sections (I can't remember the official name of the general type of art in that section of the museum) was a painting that consisted of a brown background with a few orangish stripes. A nearby picture by the same artist had the same background and a single orangish stripe. I was pondering how little effort this took and how pointless this was (and was also reminded of a brilliant scene with John Malkovich in a recent indie movie in which he was an arist and a teacher as a prestigious art school), and every so often when I was ranting about how pointless this picture was, I reiterated (in defense of my opinion) the line, "But it's just a fucking stripe!" OK, so this probably doesn't seem particularly funny at all with the above description, but it became a meme (at least for the day) and was funny then. Or at least I thought it was funny, and the my companions got at least some amusement out of my caustic commentary. I guess that made the painting worth it after all (given the enjoyment that ranting about it gave me), but I still think that that particular piece of "art" is pointless.

Late last term, Maria King (opera singer extraordinaire) took the train down to Oxford to hang out with me for a few hours. She came down from London, which she was visiting from her temporary (few-month) home in Germany. She's now back in her regular home in New York City. Anyway, we hung out for a while and had fun.

Hmmmm... I think that this blog entry would have been much better if I had written about it several weeks ago the way I intended. Ah well, the important message is the following: I hung out with my old friends and had fun. I look forward to a lot more of that!

Friday, February 01, 2008

RIP Herb Keller (1925-2008)

I was browsing through various mathematics society websites and I just noticed a short article that Herb Keller died on January 26th. Herb was one of the pioneers of 20th century applied mathematics (along with his brother Joe) and was one of the people who built the department (Caltech's applied math department) from which I got my undergraduate degrees. I never got to take a class from him. When I was recently back at Caltech as a postdoc, Herb was quite active in attending applied math and physics seminars, and I'm pretty sure I saw him walking around at some point at the recent Joint Math Meetings in San Diego. Here is an article that has some more information. Herb is old enough that I shouldn't be surprised, but it seems like he never stopped being active so I didn't particularly see this coming.

Quote of the Day

Spring training is getting ever closer, and with that in mind it's time to get a little bit more into the swing of things when it comes to baseball. There are so many time-honored traditions from this time of year---like reading top-prospect lists, thinking about who is going to be on my fantasy baseball team, looking at all the projected starting lineups and rotations, and (most important of all) insulting Juan Pierre.

With all these things in mind, my quote of the day comes from an online chat hosted by ESPN's Rob Neyer. The chat concerned whether Joe Girardi (new Yankees manager) will have a bigger impact than Joe Torre (new Dodgers manager). A reader named "Viktor" from Azusa, CA wrote the following:

"As long as Torre doesn't give Pierre the 668 AB's he got last season, he'll fit in just fine."

Comment: A-fucking-men!

I need a half-orc name other than "Sawtooth"

I am finishing up my 0th level half-orc aristocrat who is going to take his first level in paladin (despite that not normally being allowed---I OK'ed this with the DM) once he has enough experience points.

This half-orc is lawful good and in fact is modeled a bit after a lizardfolk paladin I played for a couple of sessions in a game that was unfortunately quickly-aborted (the DM had too much classwork).

Well, I'll need a name before anybody responds to this blog entry because the game starts in about 15 minutes, but I figured I'd ask anyway for good ideas even though it will be too late for me to use any of them for this character. :) Sawtooth was such a memorable character and I'm writing this entry partially because he came to mind. :) Definitely one of my favorites...