Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Coefficient of Obliviousness

This paper has the best scientific term ever: the coefficient of obliviousness, which is denoted by a backwards question mark.

(Tip of the cap to the Annals of Improbable Research newsletter.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

First Jon Garland and Now Juan Uribe

It won't become official until the physical scheduled for tomorrow, but the Dodgers have apparently signed free agent infielder Juan Uribe to a contract for 3 years and 21 million dollars. Uribe becomes our starter at second base. He isn't great or anything, but he sure beats Jamey Carroll, who was previously slated as the starter. Recently, we also signed Jon Garland to a 1-year, 5-million-dollar contract to be our 5th starter. Now that was an excellent move! (We had previously resigned Ted Lilly to a 3-year deal before the free agency period began and resigned Hiroki Kuroda to a 1-year deal.) Our starting pitching is in shape, and now some of the other stuff is coming along too. We still seriously need to improve at both 1st base and catcher---our incumbents are substandard---but things are looking up in Los Angeles.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Old Job Application Materials

I keep passing along my old job application materials (from Fall 2006, my last time on the job market) to various people, so I have decided to repost these items. You can find 2006-era teaching and research statements on this page, which also contains two LaTeX introductions.

Feel free to pass these materials along to anybody who might benefit (even if you want to use them as examples of what to do wrong).

I won't post any materials from when I applied for postdoc positions during the Fall 2001 season because, frankly, my research and teaching statements from that era sucked.

I am happy to pass along old cover letters as well, but I won't be posting those publicly.

(And, obviously, these materials are most relevant to mathematicians, physicists, and the like. I think, however, that they are not entirely irrelevant to others.)

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Tonight I had Thanksgiving with 4 of my friends. I was the only person from the US there, but of course the point was to invite the people I wanted to invite. I hosted, one of my friends cooked, and I helped with shopping and setting things up. We played some Trivial Pursuit and Time's Up. I found out tonight that my version of Time's Up has The Ride, and my heart start beating more rapidly whenever it was hummed (even the first time, in which it was hummed poorly ... I knew it was The Ride and not something else because my heartbeat had accelerated!). Because it was a special occasion, I used Ms. Pac-Man napkins that I had purchased at Toys 'R Us when I was 5 years old. (Well, I asked my mother to buy them and she did.) These napkins are older than one of the friends who was at my place tonight. Also, this is the first time ever that anywhere I have lived (aside from my parents' house, of course) has hosted a proper dinner. I even almost set the table correctly (I put the spoons in the wrong place) and alternated my styles of cutlery between adjacent seats. Anyway, it was rather fun!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Student Removal

My first thought when I saw this business card was that this was some type of pest removal. I really amuse myself sometimes...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cookie Monster Should Host SNL!

I think that Cookie Monster should totally host Saturday Night Live! (Parts of the video are hilarious, by the way!)

(The video on that Facebook page is highly amusing, by the way.)

Update: This similarly-themed demotivational poster is also really funny.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Didn't We Read About Such Things in Old Dystopian Novels?

The more I hear about the new security measures in US airports and related things, the more I feel like withdrawing from the world and just doing the best I can to live inside my bubble---hang out with my friends, do my mathematics and science, play games, and otherwise just pretend I am living in a better time. The world in which we actually live just sucks in so many ways. Didn't I read about such things back in the day in dystopian sci-fi novels?

I feel like the only way to show my true allegiance is not to be a citizen of any country. I just want to take my friends with me and live in my own little world. Sigh...

I wish I could just have a world citizenship passport that states 'no country affiliation'. Sigh. They all suck. I am registered to vote with no party affiliation in the US, so why not...

Solving Mazes Using Image Processing

I only looked at the pictures (and briefly at parts of the descriptions), but this use of image processing ideas to solve mazes is pretty damn cool.

(Tip of the cap to Matlab's post on Facebook and whoever is responsible for this particular post.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Quote of the Day

Once again, Henri Poincaré has shown himself to be awesome. I just saw the following quote of his: It is by logic that we prove, but by intuition that we discover.

Comment: Amen.

Josh Hamilton wins American League Most Valuable Player Award

Josh Hamilton of the Rangers has won the American League Most Valuable Player award.

The full rank ordering is here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Joey Votto wins National League Most Valuable Player Award

Joey Votto has won the National League Most Valuable Player Award. This was not a surprise and is also the correct decision. Albert Pujols finished second, which is also a good call.

In going to Google News to find an article that lists the full rank ordering, I was highly amused by what I found for the article on MSNBC. The headline for the article reads "Reds' Votto wins NL MVP in a landslide", but the link on Google News (and, I assume, a preliminary version of the article from before the award results were announced) instead reads "Reds' Votto edges Pujols for NL MVP". And in related news, Dewey beat Truman. I'm amused.

I will post a link to the full rank ordering as soon as I can bloody find one... Grrr... I'll go get some work done first. The e-mails keep coming.

Update: OK, here is the full rank ordering. I should have known to go directly to the BBWAA's web site, but it still shouldn't have been this hard to find!

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Today I played pool for the first time in 3.5 years. (I played with Pageboy Greg Fricke '00 at The Green Room in Durham, NC.) I was certainly rusty, but I also had a lot better muscle memory on this stuff than I though would be the case---and I played better than I was expecting. My knowledge was still there and my lag to start the game of 14-1 was actually really good even though I hadn't done a lag in so long. Wow, it felt really good to play pool again! I need to find a place in Oxford to play. I want to play regularly again. (I never actually wanted to stop.)

I do have enough money these to buy a pool table, so I wonder if that might be a decent solution...

And for those of you who don't know, I actually used to be really good at pool!

Update (11/23/10): Hmmm... I can easily afford a full-size pool table plus all of the trimmings. Very, very tempting... If this wouldn't mess up my living room and kill its use for having friends over, I'd possibly buy a table right now. However, that would be way too much to sacrifice, so the question is whether a regulation-size US table will fit and whether I can find a good one that can double as a dining-room table. (The website above has non-regulation tables that can double as dining-room tables.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

May the Force of Typography be with you!

This is possibly the best use of typography I've seen! Wow!

(Tip of the cap to Rob Neyer.)

King Felix wins American League Cy Young Award

Yes! The Cy Young award voters really do seem to be genuinely more intelligent than they used to be! After Zach Greinke and Tim Lincecum (correctly) won Cy Young awards in 2009 despite the presence of pitchers with gaudier win-loss records, Felix Hernandez of the Mariners has done the same in the American League this year. King Felx only had a 13-12 record, but that was through no fault of his own, as he was the best pitcher in the American League this season. I approve!

You can fine the full rankings on this web page (though notice the messed-up url, given that this is the 2010 ranking---I wonder if that will be changed...).

I didn't mention this for the National League Cy Young ranking (because I hadn't realized it), but starting in 2010, voters could give their top 5 pitchers instead of their top 3. In some circles, this is informally known as "the Keith Law rule".

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Headline of the Week

This demotivational poster is a big win. Awesome!

Legends of Caltech: The Movie

I've been helping out with this project for quite a while (I first read a script draft in February 2010, for example, and my discussions with the script-writers date back to February 2009 or earlier), and it finally gets to become public information! Tell all of your friends, neighbors, and countrymen (and maybe even Romans) about the "Legends of Caltech" movie!

The movie is inspired by a series of books in which I've had a certain amount of very deep involvement. :) In fact, I am co-editor of the third book, which you should buy. ("Buy my book!")

As of today, the movie has a Facebook page.

My Aunt's Art

Some of my relatives have a lot of artistic talent.

For example, I should have realized that my aunt* Anita Evers has a website devoted to her art. You should take a look at it! (I already knew about her talent.)

* Anita is my mother's first cousin, so I think that makes her my cousin once-removed or something like that. I never remember the terminology. Instead, I'd rather give directions on how to follow the family tree. It's more algorithmic anyway.

(Tip of the cap to my second cousin Leyda Evers.)

Erwin Schrödinger Institute in Critical Condition

On 25 October 2010, the Erwin Schrödinger Institute in Vienna was informed without prior warning that its funding by the Austrian Ministry of Science will be terminated with effect from 1 January 2011. It might not be too late to reverse this decision---and I really don't like the idea of something like this on that type of ridiculous time scale---so take a look at a letter circulating among mathematicians and maybe try to help mathematics in Austria.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Legend Continues

After coming back from coffee this morning, I did an extremely "awesome" thing: I accidentally walked into the wrong apartment, which I can assure you is not a very good idea. I love how it took me a couple of minutes to figure out what I did, and for a while I was just confusedly thinking "That's odd. How did Kin [the friend with whom I'm staying] manage to buy a dog in the 30 minutes I've been gone. And all that while he's asleep."

I am really awesome sometimes.

Some notes:

(1) I didn't actually see the dog---only the carrier in which it can be transported. [I chose this phrasing on purpose.] I am guessing that the apartment's resident was out walking the dog.

(2) Kin's apartment is exactly one floor up from the one I entered, and in the analogous spot.

(3) This isn't a Robert Downey, Jr. situation. I was just groggy.

(4) I have been going into this apartment on numerous occasions, so I made this mistake after lots of previous successes. So while it's odd that I failed on this occasion, allow me to stress that my success rate is actually rather good. Also, see (3).

(5) After entering the apartment---I'm not sure how the key managed to work (maybe it wasn't really locked?)---I locked the door behind me. Then I had my time pondering about the dog before realizing that a more likely situation was that I was in the wrong apartment. The unknown flip-flops by the door confirmed that notion. Then I realized how bad this could be and tried in vain to unlock the door to leave. I eventually managed to unlock the door and went upstairs to Kin's apartment. Oy vey.

(6) Did I mention that I'm "awesome"?

Roy Halladay wins National League Cy Young Award

Roy Halladay has won the National League Cy Young award. In fact, he won unanimously, as he garnered all 32 first-place votes. You can find the full rankings on this page.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Buster Posey and Neftali Feliz win Rookie of the Year Awards

Catcher Buster Posey (San Fransisco Giants) and pitcher Neftali Feliz (Texas Rangers) have won baseball's Rookie of the Year awards for 2010. I agree with the choice of Feliz over Austin Jackson (who finished 2nd), but feel that Jason Heyward of the Braves deserved the away over Posey. Posey did have an excellent year, but Heyward was better. You can find the full rankings on this page.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cars on a Hill

Thanks to Lemming for helping provide me with enough information to successfully google this classic video, which is set to the tune of "Yakety Sax" by Boots Randolph. (I'd also love to see a similar video that uses "March of the Toreadors" from Carmen.)

Part of the reason for this blog post is to help myself have the link in my records, and part of the reason is that the video is a big win.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A-Rod in The Onion

I love this article, especially the headline:

A-Rod Finally Leads Rangers To World Series

Now that's a big win!

Topical Bias in Mathematics Journals

A new article about topical bias in generalist mathematics journals looks very interesting. Based on just a quick glance, I want to draw your attention to where the applied topics tend to show up in certain prominent journals. Very interesting (and, as a cynic, highly unsurprising)...

Monday, November 08, 2010

"Intrinsic Energy Localization through Discrete Gap Breathers in One-Dimensional Diatomic Granular Crystals"

I have a new paper on granular crystals that just got published in Physical Review E today. I am an embedded author on this paper, as I am not one of the major players on it. Hopefully I'll do some more granular crystal stuff at some point, but I have pretty much not been involved in the current stuff in progress by my collaborators (including a new paper that got posted on the arXiv today).

Title: Intrinsic Energy Localization through Discrete Gap Breathers in One-Dimensional Diatomic Granular Crystals

Authors: G. Theocharis, N. Boechler, P. G. Kevrekidis, S. Job, Mason A. Porter, and C. Daraio

Abstract: We present a systematic study of the existence and stability of discrete breathers that are spatially localized in the bulk of a one-dimensional chain of compressed elastic beads that interact via Hertzian contact. The chain is diatomic, consisting of a periodic arrangement of heavy and light spherical particles. We examine two families of discrete gap breathers: (1) an unstable discrete gap breather that is centered on a heavy particle and characterized by a symmetric spatial energy profile and (2) a potentially stable discrete gap breather that is centered on a light particle and is characterized by an asymmetric spatial energy profile. We investigate their existence, structure, and stability throughout the band gap of the linear spectrum and classify them into four regimes: a regime near the lower optical band edge of the linear spectrum, a moderately discrete regime, a strongly discrete regime that lies deep within the band gap of the linearized version of the system, and a regime near the upper acoustic band edge. We contrast discrete breathers in anharmonic Fermi-Pasta-Ulam (FPU)-type diatomic chains with those in diatomic granular crystals, which have a tensionless interaction potential between adjacent particles, and note that the asymmetric nature of the tensionless interaction potential can lead to hybrid bulk-surface localized solutions.

ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Team Broken Up

Jon Miller and Joe Morgan have been announcing ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball as a team for more than 20 years, but they will no longer be the announcing team for Sunday Night Baseball in 2011. Jon Miller still might return---and I hope he'll be back---but Joe Morgan won't be returning. I actually don't think Morgan is that great an announcer, but Miller is awesome.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

What Happens in Seattle Stays in Seattle [2010 edition]

Tomorrow I am heading to Seattle for the first time since August 2007. I will be giving a seminar at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. While I'm around, I will also be giving an applied math talk at University of Washington.

Once I land in Seattle, I will be living in my 5th time zone in less than a week. (Technically, things like Eastern Daylight Time and Eastern Standard Time count as separate time zones, and I have "fallen back" twice in the past 8 days because the UK and US experience the fall clock change one week apart.) I live in a very confusing world sometimes.

Friday, November 05, 2010

"A Piece of Their Mind"

Here is a really neat blog entry about 4-year-old conjoined twin girls who are in fact craniopagus. (They share a skull, and there is even a bridge between each girl’s thalamus.)

Thursday, November 04, 2010

RIP Sparky Anderson (1934-2010)

Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson died today from complications of dementia. Here is his wikipedia page.

The one remark I want to make about Anderson is that he always looked much older than he actually was. I'm also not entirely clear on what constitutes complications from dementia, so I might look that up later.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Jerry Brown is once again Governor of California

Looking at this from a bird's-eye view and without thinking about partisanship, Jerry Brown regaining the California governorship after serving from 1975-1983 is just a really neat story. And his campaign commercial inspired by Dos Equis beer is simply a big win.

I have OCD.

From volume 1 of things not to do in the customs hall at the airport: Have a sudden thought about one's page proofs, and then let OCD take over and find a corner of the room to open up one's laptop so that one can check a formula in the .pdf file while other people are doing the usual thing and going through security. Then spend long enough doing that so that a security guard becomes suspicious and comes over to ask you what you're doing. (I did manage to talk my way out of it, though!) Um, oops?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

What Happens in Durham (NC) Stays in Durham (NC) [Take 2]

In about 45 minutes, I will be on the bus to Heathrow to take my 2nd trip to North Carolina to visit SAMSI. I will be there for 3 weeks (except for a few days in Seattle) and will again be staying with Kin Chan.

Congressional Networks Research Back in the News

You can find the blurb about my research here. I had never heard of the venue io9 before, but it seems to have a pretty healthy readership.

Tracking Break-Ups via Facebook Status Updates

Here is a CNN.com article about a journalist and graphic designer who minded Facebook status updates to try to discern when people broke up the most. (And, of course, this is a sensible way to do that. On a similar note, one of my collaborators is involved in a project that tracks the nation's moods---and, e.g., election updates---by following tweets.) However, I don't understand the plot that goes with the article. There is supposed to be a spike around Christmas, but the graphic that goes with the article clearly does not show such a spike. What gives?

Smile on a Baseball Card and Live Longer (and maybe also Prosper More)

One often hears comments that people who smile more live longer, which has to do with the positive emotions. But how to test this? Well, how about with baseball cards. Now that's pretty damn cool!

And in other news, I have a book deal. And I'm going to try to be concise when I write it. Stay tuned. (Or ask me, but I have to actually write the book first...)