Sunday, February 28, 2010

Grothendieck has spoken: what now?

This declaration by Alexandre Grothendieck, has been placed on the homepages of the Grothendieck Circle (in French), and Ferment Magazine (in English):

Declaration of my intention to refuse permission to allow my works to be published

I have no intention of publishing, or republishing, any work or text of which I am the author, in any form whatsoever, in electronic or print media, whether it be in the form of entire works or extracts, whether or not they be texts of a scientific or personal character, or any other kind, or in the form of personal letters addressed to others - as well as all translations of texts of which I am the author.

All editions or transmission of such texts which have been produced in the past without my express permission, or shall be made in the future as long as I am alive, which will or has been done in opposition to my will, as it is precisely expressed herein, will be deemed illegitimate in my eyes.

To the degree that I become aware of them, I will insist to the makers of these pirate editions, or any other publications including, without my express permission, texts from my own hand (apart from possible citations of a few lines at most), that they immediately withdraw these works from the marketplace; that the directors of libraries holding copies of my works, that these works be removed at once.

If my intentions as an author, as clearly expressed here, are treated as dead-letter, then let the shame of their contempt for me fall upon the heads of those responsible for those illegitimate editions, and on the directors of the libraries that harbor them. (From the moment that one or the other be informed of my intentions)

Made at my residence January 3, 2010 AG

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 404 IT STINX

OK, I admit it: I never liked phones. I tried to live without one but having a wife and no phone is not possible. Actually, even before that - I moved into Livjaegergade without phone, but one day Carsten got so annoyed that he ordered one for me. As one fifth of Danes share the same name, and rest the remaining dozen names, they use their profession to distinguish themselves in the phone book. I got "fa." as a suffix, and an irate call from a ladyfrom the phone company to complain that I was misrepresenting myself, as I was no "fabrikant" (factory owner). Took me a while to get her to accept that I was a "fremmed arbejder" (foreigner worker), but she eventually gave up, and "fa." I stayed for next twenty years, with phone numbers everywhere: Copenhagen, New York, Chicago, Atlanta. Urrrgh. But at least I have no cell phone. Yet.

If one calls my number 404 487 8469, any number of phones in US that I set as active ring: home, office, Chicago home, a cell phone, or wherever I happen to be. If none of them answer, records callers message, and sends it to me by email. For example, one can try to pronounce my name, and it shows up in my email:


It also transcripts it - and that is hilarious, it does not like any immigrant accents, so far only a lady from GaTech Human Resources got transcripted sensibly. Typical result is more like this:


If any phone picks up before google voicemail kicks in, then I do not get
a message - that's why I am trying to disable voicemail on all phones.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Inhuman Resources

I did my best to fill in my p-card (work purchasing credit card) and sign 7000 places, but not once since 2001 has this thing just gone in - always comes back to me multiple times. For example, there is some person in Inhuman Resources who does not like the way I sign these things. So I feel it less traumatic I put these forms in a cubbyhole of one of our administrators who actually does not do these things, but has gentle hands. It will be passed on, and come back to me in a few days.

It's also an occasion for celebration, because I refused to authorize Inhuman Resources to do a criminal check on me, so this is my last p-card, and from now on my attempts to get purchases refunded will take on a still more voluminous paperwork form. I was hoping for something more in the tradition of Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence (Magna Carta, presumption of innocence, stuff like that) when I immigrated to these shores from "them" (the comrades of former communist Yugoslavia).

Gowd, I must be turning Libertarian? It's something they are adding to Virginia-Highlands water.

But having all administration (financial offices, grant office, computer people) turn from supporting us in our work to running interference and policing us is getting increasingly tedious, so I'm getting edgy. This is what happened. First a secretary somewhere embezzled tens of thousands of dollars (our annual budget is 1.2 billion dollars). Then another secretary posted naked pictures of herself using work computer. The level of wrongdoing remains the same. To cite Patrick Jenkins, senior Information Systems Auditor (Whistle, April 2010):

It's important to remember that it's a very small minority involved in questionable activity. [...] The problems we run across are easily 0.01 percent or less of what we look at, overall.
Total 2010 GaTech budget is $1.2B, so we are talking about $120K in questionable spending. School of physics alone has about 4 people using most of their time generating paperwork related to faculty purchases. My wild guess is that we are spending between $1M and $10M to prevent faculty from initiating potentially questionable spending in $100K range. Would it not be much cheaper to assume that the faculty and staff consists of upright citizens, and criminally prosecute the few that stray from the straight path?

Nevertheless - transition took only couple of years - we have been kidnapped by a locust cloud of liability lawyers, who construe the purpose of the Flagship of Technology and Science of Southeast to be preventing people who work here from doing anything that could become a criminal liability for the institution.

In the old time my computer would greet me like this:

--- welcome to "zero", the CNS linux network server ---
--- ubuntu/dapper linux 2.6 2 amd86x64 ---

Now that KBG has taken over, it greets us like this:
This system is for the use of authorized users only. Individuals using this computer system without authority, or in excess of their authority, are subject to having their activities on this system monitored and recorded. Be advised that if such monitoring reveals possible evidence of criminal activity, system personnel may provide the evidence to law enforcement officials.
Well thank you so much. In my innate state of moral turpitude the thought that criminal activity might lead me to law enforcement officials never crossed my mind. Now I'll be doubly vigilant while engaging in it. And while we are at it, can you please hang a sign around the neck of every child entering the campus saying:

Georgia Civil Code Secs. 19-7-5/19-15- 1/49-5-180 and Georgia Criminal Code Secs. § 16-3-20. Parent or person in loco parentis reasonably disciplining of a minor has a justification for a criminal prosecution based on that conduct.
plus rest of the penal code, lest we forget. So now we are recruiting top talent by whispering sweet nothings in their ears while a job offer that reads like incarceration papers is in the mail.

As an added security measure, an unattended computer on my desk locks up every 15 (fifteen) minutes and pops up the above winged greeting. Then you press [ctrl][alt][del] and type in your user ID and your password, and voila! you can continue your criminal activities. Really improves your productivity while keeping you out of the jail. So everybody is lugging their laptops to work, and waiting for the day when a G4 wireless connection will liberate us. Part of our research is already running on John's off-campus server, and I'll have to move the rest as well.

The stupidities our IT Security Organs impose in their very effective work on preventing us from working... For example, CNS network Tzar and I could not [shut down] the Center communal W7 PC, so we had to request the KGB administrator to come, log in as administrator. What goes through IT people's heads I cannot fathom. My instinct is that if you give people a chance, they'll do the right thing. Why would they be doing science otherwise?

I'm writing pointless letters of protest, like to our telephone police. "They" just informed us that from now on they will erase any voice mail older than 30 days. So I'm trying to figure how to move all my voice mail to They are not technology powerhouse, like us, but they seem to be able to keep voicemail for more than 30 days. If the locust cloud of liability lawyers does this to our emails - and - for added computer security - to all our computer files, the life will become so much simpler again. As secure as the death itself.

Followup: What I wrote above was in the morning. Since then I got this email: "You have turned in your January p-card statement. However, you have not signed it on the cardholder signature line. Please come by the Finance Office as soon as possible to sign your statement."

I'm fairly sure I signed that piece of paper, but not on the right dotted line. The world will collapse and both our departmental Financial Officers and I will be taken away in ball and chains if I do not "come by the Finance Office as soon as possible to sign". But I feel too fragile to attempt such a thing in my present condition.

Nobody said that life here would be a bed of roses.