Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christopher Hitchens: will miss you

As we will remember him:
“In the hate column: dictatorship, religion, stupidity, demagogy, censorship, bullying and intimidation.
In the love column: literature, irony, humor, the individual and the defense of free expression.”

As his friends knew him: the sentence least likely to be uttered by Mr. Hitchens’s was
“I don’t care how rich you are, I’m not coming to your party.”

Sunday, October 23, 2011

all things are ephemeral

My personal playwright, of K. und K. fame:
Even for someone who doesn't have a real job, I am always swamped with crap to do. I've come to the philosophical conclusion that nothing is eternal, all things are ephemeral, so one might as well blow off once and a while. After all, as they say in L5P this time of year, "Life's too short, so you might as well stop and smell the zombies along the way."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Siri Answers Questions

Siri Answers Questions From Readers - NYTimes.com:

and now, the insult: Say hello to Iris, Intelligent Rival Imitation of Siri, or Siri backward, who surfaced in the wake of Siri's debut.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

That's my (much younger) sister

David Pogue, New York Times Oct 12 2011:

Siri is billed as a virtual assistant: a crisply accurate, astonishingly understanding, uncomplaining, voice-commanded minion.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I have a friend in Minsk, who has a friend in Pinsk

Edson is not a professional mathematician.

I went to Professor Weiss and asked him: "I have a blah that can be turn into bi-blah by Schzmolukowzsky's conjugacy. Has somebody generalized this Groethendieck categories of uni-blah with Schartzwitoskwicz points (fuctors for which the critical holonomy is diffeo preperiodic to an unstable climacterium), so the conjugated balh has monotone laps. Remember anyone who has done that?" You would ask the same, no? Somebody must have done it, it is so obvious.

Professor Weiss gives me a happy grin and says: "Of course. Since my childhood I had only worked on Schma, never on Blah, but my dear friend Vargas in Minsk knows everything that is to be known on Blah, ask him."

So I ask, and Vargas writes back: "From the best of my knowlodge, i don't  know any result in this direction"

Wrong! Wrong comrade Vargas. This is how it is done:

1) when anyone asks you a real question (other than "How are you?") you immediately say: "Sorry, I do not work on Blah, I only work on Schma, but I have a friend in Minsk, who has a friend in Pinsk, who, .... knows all about Blah". An easy corollary follows:
     Corollary: Weiss is a professional mathematician.
     Subsidiary Lemma: Vargas is not.

2) Theorem: Every sequence of mathematical referrals is a closed loop, ie., no matter who you send me to, eventually the guy in Dnepropetrovsk will refer me back to Weiss,

but now Vargas has spoiled the game that Howie so professionally initiated.

On the other hand, Vargas is honest. Do I even have to cite any theorems on how unprofessional that is?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ketzel Cotel 1992-2011

Ketzel the cat is dead.  This sad piece of news was broken by the New York Times's City Room blog on Tuesday.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Accentuate.us

accentuate.us is pretty cool (except that it does not work yet in either of languages that I need it for):

Dataists.com: "Many languages around the world use the familiar Latin alphabet (A-Z), but in order to represent the sounds of the language accurately, their writing systems employ diacritical marks and other special characters. [...] Speakers of these languages have difficulty entering text into a computer because keyboards are often not available, and even when they are, typing special characters can be slow and cumbersome.    [...]
To solve this problem, we have created a free and open source Firefox add-on called Accentuate.us that allows users to type texts in plain ASCII, and then automatically adds all diacritics and special characters in the correct places."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Barbara Memorial program

A gathering to share our memories of Barbara Spiegel took place March 19th at the Auditorium of the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University. Mimi, Jean-Luc, Judy, Holly, Sara, and Philip shared their reminiscences of Barbara (you might have suspected that Barbara was a wild teenager, and now we know) and the music was utterly beautiful: 

Natalie Aroyan, Soprano 
Pavlina Dokovska, pianist 
Pleurez mes yeux from LE CID By MASSENET [French] 
Io son l’umile ancella from ADRIANA LEVOUVREUR By CILEA [Italian] 
“Ay Vart” (Oh Rose) By SKENTYAROV [Armenian] 

Groong” (The Crane) by KOMIDAS [Armenian] 
Nye poi krasavitsa” (O sing no more) by RACHMANINOV [Russian] 
Ebben! N’andro lontana from LA WALLY By CATALANI [Italian]

[music links point to performances by other artists]
[to view the program, click here] 
[to view Mimi Gross program sketches, click here]
[for more photos, click here] 

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation in Barbara's name to either 
Oratorio Society of New York
1440 Broadway 23rd Floor
New York, NY 10018
or 
Falmouth Public Library
300 Main Street
Falmouth, MA 02540
Requests for additional information can be sent to this email address: barbaraspiegelmemorial@gmail.com.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Valentine: Evolution Made Us All

You would NEVER guess who told me to see this
           http://vimeo.com/19416924
Watch it - it is lovely. And never forget - evolution made us all. Though every sun-like star has 25% chance of an Earth-like planet in the Goldilocks belt, and there are so very many different paths, the chance that any one of them culminates in Sarah Palin can be rigorously shown to be arbitrarily small.
2012-03-24 footnote: (1) no idea who told me to see this. I'm on statins, so that's OK. (2) The video was removed from YouTube (?!) but I found it on Vimeo. It must have been the complaint from this lovely, deeply religious student.

La Patrona

[A friend from Mexico (an amazing friend, really) writes (for a Google translation, see the bottom of this post):]

Pues el día de hoy regresamos de la visita al municipio de la Patrona en Veracruz cerca de Orizaba, les cuento sobre esto porque es algo muy intenso que cuando se vive se regocija uno con la vida pero también caes en cuenta de lo indiferentes que somos y del mundito en el que a veces nos encerramos. La Patrona es el lugar por donde pasa el tren ( La Bestia ) que viene desde el sur de Mexicio, Arriaga Chiapas y al cual se suben los migrantes que vienen de Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala etc. en este lugar de 3 mil habitantes hay 14 señoras que desde hace 15 años trabajan por su voluntad en darles de comer a los migrantes cuando pasa el tren, todos los días dos o tres veces al día tienen comida preparada , arroz, frijoles, pan y agua que empacan en bolsas de plástico y que se las dan cuando el tren a su velocidad normal, a veces el maquinista baja la velocidad cuando pasa por ahí porque ya lo saben, les dan también ropa, o zapatos todos los días desde las 7 de la mañana en una cocina de leña preparan la comida. Es solo desde hace como 3 años que esta acción humanitaria comienza a ser visible para la sociedad y el gobierno mexicano, fuimos invitados por una asociación de jóvenes que las ayuda, hicimos acopio de ropa, llevamos dos costales de arroz, uno de frijol, bolsas de plastico y cacahuates para ayudarlas, estuvimos el sabado y el d omingo, les ayudamos a preparar y cuando pasó el tren corrimos junto con ellas a las vías para dar la comida, claro que nos vimos medio novatos la primera vez porque tiene su chiste darles las bolsas o las botellitas de agua amarradas para que no te reboten a ti y te lastimes o a ellos, es algo indescriptible cuando pasa el tren con los migrantes agarrados y que extienden su mano y uno se lo logra dar, es verdaremente algo que resientes en el cuerpo, adrenalida, emoción pura, estas mujeres son felices cuando lo logran, uno es feliz cuando lo logra ¡¡¡ luego nos fuimos a Orizaba a las vías y les llevamos zapatos y ropa porque el tren se para y ellos se tienen que bajar a esperar que otro tren parta, ahi estuvimos platicando como con 25 migrantes casi todos de honduras y el salvador, llevaban 8 días en el tren bajando y subiendo, con frío y hambre los habían correteado los zetas en Tierra Blanca y se habían llevado a 20 ellos eran realmente sobrevivientes, dos de ellos hondureños se fueron con nosotros a la Patrona y durmieron y comieron allá, hoy los pasmos a dejar a Puebla porque iban con una cuñada que los ayudaría a esperar la llamada de aviso para irse a Celaya a contactar un pollero que los pasaría, unos de ellos iba hasta virginia , en las vías había un muchachito de 16 años que iba a Huston... fue un fin de semana maravilloso, pensamos en seguir colaborando y tratar de ir con la Patronas una vez cada dos meses o mes y medio, tienen muchas carencias, cocinan con leña les hacen falta muchas cosas para seguir con la labor y sobre todo animarlas y alentarlas porque lo que estan haciendo es un acto de humanidad invaluable ayudar a los migrantes a que ese viaje de tortura en el tren sea más llevadero o por lo menos ellos saben que ahí en ese pequeño poblado de Veracruz hay 14 mujeres que les dan una caricia con un poco de pan y arroz....

les mando este link
para que vean un documental de las Patronas mujeres maravillosas mexicanas.... ojalá tengan tiempo de verlo, Norma es la lider de ellas es una mujer maravillosa... todas los son, la mayor de ellas doña Leo...

Angry white people in Arizona - what are they thinking? Is it really so long since their ancestors came there, poor and hungry? The story brought back my grandmother, a Czech peasant from Slavonia and the stories I heard from her about the life through the Second World War and the aftermath, stories that shaped my lifelong conviction that men are a useless gender on the way out.

The men, mostly, were forced by random circumstances into joining random factions, they fought and they terrorized the populace. Women tended gardens, raised chickens, fed everybody - from German officers quartered in grandmother's house to every scared and hungry orphan that came up to the doorstep. Grandmother would slaughter one of her pigs, and then she would use every gram of it - smoke hams, make sausages, fry the skin and then throw the bones and  what else was left over into a lime pit and make soap. Towards the end of the war her older son was taken by Serbian royalists, now turned communist partisans, and buried alive. Her younger sun was in the woods with the partisans, and roads were full of dispossessed and fleeing.

The worst was the aftermath. The British turned over to the communists several hundred thousands who had fled across Slovenian border into Austria. Thousands were executed right there - in 1991 I met a woman in Denmark (with whom I share the last name) who was lined up with other children in front of a trench but survived the execution. The rest were force-marched across Croatia and into Serbia on "Krizni Put" (El Camino de la Cruz), along river Sava, and through Slavonski Brod where grandmother lived. And here La Patronas images come in: the women would brave the Serbian guards, come up to the side of the road and throw food to the endless procession of thousands and thousands miserable, starving and barely alive war prisoners.

[a Google translation of Mexican friend's letter]

Well, today returned from a visit to the city of the patron in Veracruz near Orizaba, tell them about this because it's so intense that when one rejoices to live life, but also fall into account what we are and indifferent the little world in which we sometimes locked. The Patron is the place where the train passes (The Beast) coming from southern Mexicio, Arriaga Chiapas and which are raised migrants from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala etc. In 3 thousand inhabitants there are 14 women who work for 15 years for his willingness to give food to the migrants when the train passes, every day two or three times a day have prepared food, rice, beans, bread and water packaged in plastic bags and they are given when the train at its normal speed, sometimes the driver slow down when going through there because you know, they also give clothes or shoes every day from 7 morning in a wood stove preparing food. It's just like 3 years that this humanitarian action begins to be visible to society and the Mexican government, were invited by a youth association that helps, we gather clothes, carry two sacks of rice, a bean-bags Plastic and peanuts to help, we were on Saturday and UNDAY, we help them prepare and ran when the train went along with them the ways of providing food, of course we saw the first half rookies because it has a joke to give bags or bottles of water tied up so you do not bounce off you and hurt you or them, is indescribable when the train passes migrants caught and extending his hand and one he does give is something that he feels verdaremente the body, adrenal, raw emotion, these women are happy when they do, one is happy when he does then we went to Orizaba to the tracks and I wear shoes and clothes because the train stops and they have to come down to wait for another train leaves, there were talking as 25 migrants almost all of Honduras and El Salvador, took 8 days on the train going down and up, with cold and hunger they had chased the Zetas in Tierra Blanca and had led to 20 they were really survivors, two Hondurans were with us to the patron and slept and ate there today Puebla spasms to leave because they were a sister to help them await the wake-up call to go to Celaya to contact a pollero that happen, some of them going to virginia on the tracks was a boy of 16 who went to Houston ... was a wonderful weekend, think about continuing to work and try to go with the pattern once every two months or six weeks, have many shortcomings, they cook with firewood they lack many things to continue the work and especially encourage and encouraging because what we are doing is an act of humanity invaluable help migrants that travel on the train torture more bearable, or at least they know that here in this small town of Veracruz there are 14 women who give them a pat with a bit of bread and rice ....
I send you this link
to see a documentary about the Mexican Patronas wonderful women .... hopefully have time to see, Norma is the leader of them is a wonderful woman ... all those are, most of them Mrs. Leo ...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Servicing undergraduates

[Cannot keep up with the stream of email ordered tasks. One hypothesis is that there is more crap floating in, the other is that I'm slower. But my email is nothing compared to what my younger friends get from their undergraduates. Especially if you are a young considerate woman. Here is one of the reports from the front trenches:]

[...] there is definitely more crap floating in. My students send messages of the type 

"I cannot come at ... for ... But I can come between 13:17 and 13:21 on Wednesday or between 15:07 and 15:09 on Thursday."

(only slightly exaggerated).
 
"We have not succeeded in the homeworks and we didn't attend the first exam. Can we participate in the second exam?" 

(Yes, you can, according to university regulations but in any case you won't get any credits, also according to university regulations ... You should know that yourselves.) 

"I want to go to Spain as an ERASMUS exchange student. Do they have the courses "Introduction to bullshit 1" and "Specialization in dirty Maths 2" at University XY? These are the courses I still need to take for my degree."

followed by the threat

"If you cannot answer that on the spot I'd like to take an appointment."

Where are we?!? Kindergarden?


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Virginia-Highlands past

Pat Conroy, the author of "The Prince of Tides," grew up in the house next to mine, or perhaps second one over going south. It is a setting for an important part of "The Prince of Tides." In this wonderful podcast where he talks about the books that shaped him, Rosedale Road comes back: he talks about his mother reading to him and his sister, also a poet.

While I am on former neighbors: Daniel Pearl lived in this neighborhood in 1990's. As lead violinist in an Atlanta band called The Ottoman Empire, Mr. Pearl received the thrill of his musical life in 1993 when his band opened for The Kinks at an Atlanta club. His murder at age 39 hurts more when you read about him.