Sunday, January 30, 2011

New High Score!

Some demotivational posters really make me laugh. I approve!

Can my Student Break a World Record?

My PhD student Anna Lewis is trying to break a world record. She sets off tomorrow and notes the following:

After various delays, I'm setting off in a rowing boat across the Atlantic tomorrow morning in a crew with 13 other people. We aim to break the world record for fastest row boat across an ocean. You can track how we're getting on, and leave any messages, on

Our row in facts and figures:
Approx number of strokes we will each take: 450,000
Amount of Haribo on board: 50kg
Max amount of consecutive sleep possible: 3.5 hours
Hygiene rations: 10 wetwipes and 2.5 tissues per person per day
Number of plastic cutlasses I am smuggling on board: 2
Number of holes we accidentally made beneath the water line: 1
Number of potential pairwise personality clashes: 91
Number completed ocean rows: 287
Number incompleted ocean rows: 168
Captain's description of starting weather conditions: ideal
Captain's definition of "ideal" weather conditions: 30 knot winds and >5m waves
What I am most worried about: using the loo bucket

One of my friends was recently diagnosed with MS, and she is part of my inspiration for signing on to this challenge. I have set up a just giving page for the MS Society: Thanks so
much to all of you who have made donations, it means a lot to me, and it is a great cause.

Thanks so much for all the well wishes and support, I very much looking
forward to seeing everyone back on dry land!

Good luck, Anna!

The Simpsons on Grad Students and PhDs

As is often the case, The Simpsons absolutely nails it. For example, here is a snippet about grad students and PhDs.

(Tip of the cap to Jimmy Lin and Frank Ling.)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Read the quote in yellow. Seriously.

The quote in this Demotivational Poster is my quote of the day. Just click on the link, and you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

My New Toy: 50'' Plasma TV

As a birthday present for myself, I bought a 50'' plasma tv. It just arrived today. Now I just need some help setting it up, as it's way too heavy for me to set up on my own. There will be movie nights! :)

Also, I think I might have convinced Somerville's new Principal and her husband to come over and watch Army of Darkness. :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Journal of Universal Rejection

I love the Journal of Universal Rejection. Hilarious!

(Tip of the cap to James Fowler.)

Microbiological Laboratory Hazard of Bearded Men

Sometimes, I just love biology. An Ig Nobel prize was awarded for the paper Microbiological Laboratory Hazard of Bearded Men. I'm amused by a couple of the pictures in the article.

(Tip of the cap to mimi-AIR.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

"Bad Project" from the Zheng Lab

Making the rounds at Facebook has been the video Bad Project from the Zheng Lab. It's a parody of a Lady Gaga song that I have never heard, but the video is pretty damned funny.

Decomposing Song "Lyrics"

I love this xkcd.

And, in other news, I just bought myself a birthday gift.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

How did this toy get to market?

Shouldn't somebody have noticed something odd before this toy was made available to the public? I'm just saying.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Flamestrike in the Office?

Earlier this evening, I received a spam e-mail that included the following statement:

Please join me in congratulating [name]. Based on [his/her] high level of professionalism and performance, [his/her] job level has been increased from a level 8 to a level 9.

Here is what I wrote to one of my collaborators who is very familiar with the organization in question:

So is it supposed to be universal knowledge what level 8 and level 9 actually mean? Can [name] cast 5th level spells now?

And here is his response to my message:

Wow, that's just cryptic. I'm so glad I'm not on that mailing list! Maybe [he/she] gets a new cape?

And my response to that comment:

I would like to think that I now have to be careful about Flamestrike being cast in the office. I hear that self-immolation is pretty popular these days.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Professorial E-Mail Signatures

The new PHD Comics strip concerns the semiotics of professorial e-mail signatures.

In general, I do sometimes wonder if particular signatures from friends or colleagues signify anything relative to other things I have seen them use. Obviously, one must consider the habits of the individual in each case.

I don't follow the pattern described in the comic strip at all. I either use my first name or I use nothing at all (I never use initials), and then of course there is a .signature file (which includes my first name) if I am sending something from my regular e-mail account. I never use something formal like "Regards," or "Sincerely," unless I am ballistically pissed off or upset at the recipient(s) of my message. If I use my last name or my formal title outside of what's already in the .signature file, then there is Hell to pay. I will sometimes write "Thanks," if my .signature file that has "Mason" in it is too far down from where I am typing (and hence I will actually be typing my name instead of using what is in the .sig file), and I only use that as a surrogate for writing "Thanks." or "Thanks!" when my name in the .sig file is immediately below. Hence, my putting "Thanks," in my signature usually doesn't indicate anything (though it admittedly can on occasion mean that I am mildly upset).

For my friends, I also mostly use my first name or nothing at all, though for specific extremely close friends I'll use "Love," as a sign of affection. (Sometimes I'll use "Take care," in specific circumstances as well, especially if it's a friend from whom I haven't heard in a while.)

(Tip of the cap to Mariano Beguerisse Díaz.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Vi Hart

"Mathemusician" Vi Hart has some very cool stuff on her web page. You can read about her in the New York Times. Very cool!

(Tip of the cap to SIAM.)


This demotivational poster is pretty damn funny. Thriller, indeed!

Monday, January 17, 2011

New to the Blogroll: "LegendsofCaltechProject"

OK, I admit that I added the capitalization and describe in my blogroll what the blog legendsofcaltechproject actually is (a blog about a project about making a movie version of Legends of Caltech) instead of using the technically correct title.

This blog has its first entry: an article in The California Tech about the project. (This issue of The Tech includes an article about the proposed new core curriculum, which continues recent trends to reduce the amount of mathematics and physics that's required. I know there are a large variety of things out there, but I think that's a shame.)

I approve!

I approve of this billboard. (The fact that it's a Demotivational Poster doesn't actually add to the big win that's already there.)

In sum, I approve!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mad Covers

Here is a medley of almost 30 different versions of the song Mad World, which was originally by Tears For Fears.

(Tip of the cap to GFreak.)

Friday, January 14, 2011

I Have Civ V

My copy of Civilization V, which I ordered through Amazon last Saturday, was waiting for me in my Somerville mailbox when I checked it today (I just got back just over 3 hours ago). Now the question is how long I will be able to resist playing it. This might have a substantial influence on my productivity this term. :)

Just... one... more... turn.

4th Annual Oxford SIAM Student Conference

On February 9th (though not in early celebration of my birthday, as has perhaps been rumored in some circles) will occur Oxford's 4th annual SIAM Student Conference. Oxford's student chapter has been a resounding success, and student chapters are starting to spread elsewhere in the UK. (We had the first one in the UK and one of the first few in Europe.)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Did this really happen?

While I was waiting for my drink at the airport Starbucks, she noticed my t-shirt and said to me indignantly "Nerd is a much better label than geek, even if you are using an html tag."

Perhaps this was a missed opportunity, but I was rather dizzy at the time and I wasn't in the mood for a conversation that started out with indignation.

As I'm sure you've guessed, "she" = a young lady, but it sounds much better with the pronoun because then it's easier to imagine it as a sentence in a novel.

(The quote is approximate, by the way.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Techer on "Champion" Magazine

A Techer has made the cover of NCAA Champion Magazine.

The funny part is that the magazine cover has only the word "Champion" in large letters on the top.

Here is what I wrote in my Facebook entry: "Clearly, the correct Caltech --- or at least Lloydie --- usage of the term "Champ" has been lost. :) Oh dear... They have doomed this guy."

Then I looked a bit more closely at the cover and corrected myself in a comment: "Um, I should have looked more carefully at the cover. They have doomed this girl."

(Tip of the cap to whoever does Caltech's Facebook postings.)

Best and Worst Jobs of 2011

Mathematician was named the 2nd best job of 2011. Software engineer was first. And perhaps that is indeed true, but mathematicians are much cooler than software engineers! [He says as he ducks a lot of virtual tomatoes.]

Check out the 3rd worst job. I always thought that they were ok.

(Tip of the cap to SIAM.)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Trevor Hoffman Has Retired

Trevor Hoffman announced his retirement today. He is the all-time Major League Baseball saves leader, though Mariano Rivera will eventually pass him. Hoffman has a very good chance to make the Hall of Fame someday, but it's usually iffy when it comes to relief pitchers. (Rivera is in a class by himself and will make it easily.)

Saturday, January 08, 2011

What Happens at SAMSI Stays at SAMSI (Take 3)

I just started the 3rd of my 4 trips to Durham, North Carolina. I am here for SAMSI's workshop on Dynamics OF Networks. I'll be back in Oxford on Friday.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

"Yes. I always have my coffee when I watch radar, you know that."

I thought of two things when I saw this story about a coffee spill leading to a false communication about hijacking from an airplane (which was subsequently diverted from its intended landing airport to a different airport):

(1) The beginning of the music video for "Land of Confusion" in which the DC Follies version of Ronald Reagan accidentally hits the 'nuke' button in the morning instead of the button to get his morning coffee.

(2) A certain seen from Spaceballs that contains the above quote.

Blyleven, Alomar Elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame

It's official: Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven have both been elected to Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame.

It's been a very long road for Blyleven, who has now finally, finally, FINALLY made it in his 14th year of eligibility. He should have made it the first time but had been jobbed for many years, and last year missed by just 5 votes. Congratulations, Bert! Now we need to campaign for people like Tim Raines to get in.

Alomar made it in his second year of eligibility but should have made it the first time (he missed by 8 votes). This year, he got more than 90% of the votes, which is a record high---under the current election rules, which have been in place for more than half a century---for somebody not in their first year of eligibility.

Pat Gillick had already been voted in by the Veterans Committee. The article to which I link shows the full results. For example, it looks like Barry Larkin will get elected next year (and he'll likely be the only person elected next year), and he also ought to have already been elected.

This, by the way, is my first blog post of the year.

Update: Jayson Stark discusses some of the records Alomar set. (By the way, he's slightly wrong about the first above 90% in a year that isn't the player's first year of eligibility, as this did happen years ago before the voting was in its current format.)