Saturday, July 31, 2010

Dodgers trade for Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot

The Dodgers have acquired Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot via trade from the Cubs. Yeah, we have a another solid starting pitcher. Of course, we're far enough behind that it might be too late, and naturally it remains to be seen how high the prospect cost is. I am not immediately saddened by anybody who we gave up, so we'll see how things go.

In a separate deal, we made a trade with the Pirates for reliever Octavio Dotel. We gave up pitching prospect James McDonald to get Dotel.

Update: I am watching the Dodgers game, and the announcers just mentioned that today is 12 years to the day that the Dodgers traded (then minor leaguer) Ted Lilly away in a deal with the Montreal Expose to get Carlos Perez and Mark Grudzielanek. I knew we had traded Lilly away back in the day, but I didn't know that it occurred on July 31st. It's the circle of life...


I just ordered the brand new 4th edition of Legend of the Five Rings RPG. (Second edition was d20, and I pondered but never bought the 3rd edition.) I hadn't previously heard about it---I found it when searching for the 3rd edition on Amazon---but 4th edition just came out on July 1st.

Now I should learn the system and DM a game in it. I really like the Rokugan setting, and I've been wanting to play a game in that setting for a long time. And I think learning a new system and playing in it will be very good for me anyway. Maybe because of my sabbatical, I'll even be able to do some DMing?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Website Legacy

Many years ago, when I was a postdoc in Georgia Tech's math department, I kept track of the talks in the seminar series that I was organizing on an excruciating simple website. I did this because the math department didn't have a good central site for seminars at the time.

During my postdoc, a person who was organizing our PDE seminar asked me for my .html code, which I gladly sent. Many years later, this code is still being used. The original person didn't think to delete the Sitemeter tick at the bottom that incremented the count for visits to my websites. And, many years later, that still remains as well.

However, I am significantly prouder of the legacy on this page, which is the graduate student seminar series that I started at Cornell in Fall 2000. Now it's 10 years later, and my seminar is still running. And the text on the website that describes the series is almost exactly the text that I wrote originally.

(In case you're interested, I wrote an opinion piece about it that appeared in 2002 in the Notices of the AMS.)

Dodgers Trade for Scott Podsednik

The Dodgers have made a trade with the Kansas City Royals for Scott Podsednik. Maybe Podsednik can be the new Juan Pierre? In any event, we have injuries to our outfielders right now, so maybe he'll be a useful spare part. We'll see. What we really need, though, is pitching.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pictures from China

Here are some pictures from my recent trip to Shanghai.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ersatz Word Origin of the Day

This origin of the word "testify" might not be true, but if I am called to testify in court, can I still do it this way instead of swearing on the bible? Please...?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

We're all unique.

Can we please use the word "unique" correctly from now on?

As a case in point, consider the sentence "He holds a unique place in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry since he's one of four men to manage both the teams...", which appears in this article.

Ladies and gentlemen, that means he's explicitly not unique. There are three other people just like him! Damnit. (And get off of my lawn!)

And in other news, is it unfair for me to think less of a white-collar employee whose line of work doesn't depend on spelling but who makes trivial spelling errors? I feel a bit guilty because maybe I shouldn't think less of this person because of this, but a native English speaker who makes certain kinds of spelling mistakes reduces my comfort level even in professional contexts in which spelling doesn't actually matter. Maybe it's just that feels like there's a lack of caring involved? (I of course know that some people are just worse at spelling than others, but when I get the impression that somebody can't be bothered, it annoys me.)

Medical Condition of the Day

Carl Crawford of the Tampa Bay Rays is missing today's game with a "testicular concussion". Ouch!

I had never actually heard this term before, but it sounds painful. You can guess how such an injury might occur when playing baseball, and Crawford insists that he will continue to not wear a protective cup. That's playing with fire...

Update: Apparently, it's a testicular contusion, not a "concussion". That makes much more sense, though I swear the Orioles' announcers called it a "concussion" during the broadcast today. Though I have to say that I do very much like the term "testicular concussion"...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

That's All, Folks!

My photoblog project is now done, so now my pictures will be part of regular photography and photo albums for the forseeable future. The the last entry, from 7/16/10 (I didn't post until now because I needed to return to Oxford to recharge my camera's battery) features three of my Somerville math students and me at the World Expo in Shanghai. And I think that it is absolutely awesome that I was able to hang out with 3 of my students in their home country of China! (One of them is actually from Shanghai, and she showed me around the "Ancient Town") near her parents' home.

I'll write more about the Expo later---maybe tonight. I also have a couple more Shanghai tidbits to share that I didn't get a chance to blog about for the past few days (because I was tired from doing them!).

The total number of photoblog entries was 367, so I went just beyond the promised 1 year. I hope you enjoyed this project as much as I did!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tales from the ArXiv: Anonymous Diffusion

I love the title of this paper, which was just posted on the arXiv. It is: Fractional Lie Group Method for Anonymous Diffusion Equations. Of course, the author means "anomalous diffusion".

This is right up there with "consecration of angular momentum", which was a beauty that I once saw from one of my Georgia Tech students.

I love language. ("I love words.") And I understand how such mistakes are very easy to make (and I of course make them too when I attempt to say a word in another language), but they're still amusing.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Caltech Undergrad"

Zifnab sent me a link to a recording of the song "Caltech Undergrad" on YouTube.

Caltech people: This song is pretty funny, though I think "Caltech Girl" is much better. (The sound quality of the video is unfortunately rather poor.)

Others: In case knowing me doesn't give enough evidence, Caltech students really are like this! This is not an exaggeration.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

National League Wins First All-Star Game Since 1996

The title of this blog entry says it all: The National League won baseball's All-Star Game for the first time since 1996. About bloody time.

The force play in the 9th inning was awesome!

This was the first All-Star game that I was able to watch in its entirety for a few years. In recent years, I have been victimized by a combination of time zones and conference attending. However, China is enough hours ahead that the broadcast started at 8am local time, so I was able to tune in. (The broadcast started at 1am UK time and the game started just before 2am, so I wouldn't have been able to see it.)

On the downside, being able to watch the game means that I needed to put up with Tim McCarver.

RIP George Steinbrenner (1930-2010)

New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner (aka, "The Boss") has died. King George was certainly a visible baseball owner and---love him or hate him---he will end up in the Hall of Fame, and (in my opinion) he'll deserve it.

Another Yankee legend, former Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard, died a couple of days ago at the age of 99.

Update (7/15/10): This is in incredibly poor taste, but The Onion came up with a laugh-out-loud doozy.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


The people who work at the coffee place (near the SJTU campus) where I've been going know me now. They know what I usually order and that I want a receipt (and there is the potential for confusion every time I ask for a receipt at a new place). It's a small thing, but they also gave me a notepad with their name/logo on it when I was leaving today. (I think that one of the girls behind the counter remembered that I was eyeing it curiously one of the times I was in there.) People were also playing Uno today, and seeing the Go set and other games there makes me want to get my Go Moku skills back, go back to trying to learn Go, etc. The place is pretty cool, but I do wish that their coffee drinks had more caffeine in them and that their cold drinks were colder (say, with actual ice in it). Still, I like the place, and I have only seen coffee chains where I can get truly cold drinks or blended coffee drinks in the downtown areas. And the people who work there do seem very nice, even though we can't understand each other. (Maybe that helps? :) )

Also, I bought my first souvenir today (not include the pictures I have taken and my memories, of course). In fact, I don't normally buy souvenirs at all even when I travel to interesting places. I was rather utilitarian, though, as I got a carrying case for my ping pong paddle---which is something I had been meaning to buy for several years. I did consider buying a nice stuffed octopus yesterday, and I will likely buy either a stuffed animal or something artistic at some point. Maybe when I go back to Nanjing Road (which is a ridiculously huge shopping area)?

Friday, July 09, 2010

Update on Paul the Octopus

Paul the Octopus (yes, he has a wikipedia entry, and a rather thorough one at that) continues to do well, having correctly predicted the outcomes of all of Germany's 2010 World Cup games thus far. It's silly, but the whole thing is awesome (and also "awesome"). Paul is now apparently even getting death threats and has also joined the 'Downfall of Hitler' meme. I love how Paul's wikipedia entry lists his occupation as "oracle".

In other news, I actually almost bought a stuffed octopus today. I'll figure out what souvenir to get later.

Here is my other blog entry about Paul. I first found out about him almost 13 days ago when I saw a blurb on CNN Saturday night after my garden party. (I delayed a bit before actually posting the blog entry because the whole thing gradually started amusing me more.) The article that I first noticed was this one (about Paul's prediction of Germany over England), and at the time I immediately sent it to a friend of mine who is German and was planning to watch the game the next day with her English boyfriend.

Blue Eyes

Blue eyes and an American accent will apparently get one pretty far in some parts of town.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Old Friends, Old Town, Somerville Student, and Dumplings

I went to one of Shanghai's 'old town' areas tonight. Here is a really sweet picture of it. I went with Joy Zhang, who is one of my undergraduate students from Somerville (she's from Shanghai), and her mother. Joy knew that I sought dumplings, so we went to her favorite dumpling place. We also walked around to soak up the scenery, and I took some seriously awesome pictures. Competition for today's photoblog entry was absolutely fierce, so just wait until you see other pictures from today in my the picture gallery I post for my visit to China.

Yesterday I had dinner with Anatole Faykin, a Lloydie (class of 1996) who is living in Shanghai right now. He's lived here before, and he tends to move around a lot. I hadn't seen him since my birthday party in 2009---he was living in London at the time. I plan to see him again before I go. I am also planning to see Chris Shu, a fellow 1994 Beverly High grad, who I haven't seen since graduating from Beverly (or possibly early in summer 1994)! He's been living in Shanghai for many years. He started using an English name when he moved there; he used his Chinese name when he was at Beverly.

My lecture course on networks has also been very rewarding. I have worked very hard for the course on this trip, but the whole experience has been wonderful thus far---with lots more cool stuff on the way.

Oh, and I also saw a store whose name reminded me of a name of another old friend of mine (and, indeed, a friend who is actually from Shanghai).

Sunday, July 04, 2010

XKCD and Lower Crotch

The new xkcd strip reminds me of Lower Crotch conversations (and also Upper Crotch Conversations, for that matter). In fact, I'm sure that this topic has arisen on several occasions, and there are even specific people who I could imagine making the final comment.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

What's in a Name?

Here is an interesting article on about baby naming rules in different countries.


I went to a Hong Kong style restaurant in downtown Shanghai today. (I ended up seeing a dedicated dumpling place while walking back to the metro station, so I'll either go to that one, or the one Mou Li recommended, or perhaps some other random one later. But anyway, there are dumplings in my immediate future.)

I very carefully avoided the menu item whose English translation was "Speculation Shrimp".

Also, the best exchange of the day went as follows:

Random Chinese Guy: "Where are you from?"

Me: "Los Angeles"

Random Guy: "Oh, France... [pause] Are you an artist?"

Friday, July 02, 2010


It looks like I'm going to be supplied with a cell phone during my stay in Shanghai.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

What Happens in Shanghai Stays in Shanghai

At about 1:30 pm or so, I'm going to get on the bus to Heathrow airport, from which I'll be flying to Shanghai! This will be my first trip to China, and probably the trip to which I have most been looking forward among any trip I've taken in the past several years. It's going to be awesome. I'll be working hard---I am teaching a 2-week summer school on network science---but it will also be a lot of fun. Even the hard work should be eminently worthwhile, as my lecture notes will basically be the first draft of what will eventually be an introductory book at the level of first-year applied math graduate students. I have one from high school who lives in Shanghai, and also one friend from Caltech who lives there. Plus, one of my Somerville students is from there, so I think the plan is for her to show me around. Two of my other Chinese students from Somerville also plan to be Shanghai during my trip, so I'll hang out with them as well. I also will try to visit other places in China as well during my trip. (My students were each trying to convince me to visit them in their hometowns.)

Update: According to the weather report about an hour ago, it was 97 degrees Farenheit in Shanghai and the overnight lows for the next few days are around 79-80 degrees. I knew this was coming. I am crossing my fingers that my place there will have air conditioning! There are also supposed to be thunderstorms, so we'll see how things go. But it certainly looks like I am going to transition from trying to be outside as much as possible to wanting to spend quality time inside...