Tuesday, June 28, 2011

U.S. Supreme Court Rules that Video Games are Art

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that video games are art. So there!

As pointed out in the article, it's great when Justice Scalia starts giving old-school examples of violence in children's literature.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Rosie + Optimus

This picture is worth clicking on just to see Rosie (from The Jetsons) in the lap of Optimus Prime. That's pretty funny.

None of the humor comes from this being a demotivational poster---other than the fact that I had never seen that picture (or scene from the show, for that matter) before.

Alligators, Faraday Waves, and Love

As reported on i09.com, some physicists found that the alligators were creating Faraday waves with nothing more than their backs, some uncontained pond water, and the force of their love.

Alex, I'll take pattern formation in nature for the win.

Also, here is the wikipedia entry for Faraday waves.

(Tip of the cap to Louis Wang.)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

"A Terse Introduction to Networks" (ETA: January 2013)

As some of you know, I am writing an undergraduate textbook on networks. I have already signed a contract with a major publisher, and the book is currently scheduled to come out in January 2013. (I suspect that it might take a little bit longer than that.) I have created a Facebook page for my upcoming book, so please 'like' it if you have a Facebook account. I hear that that's the hip way to hype things these days.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Box Score of the Day: Three Rodriguez Roast

I like the box score from yesterday's game between the Astros and Rays, as all three pitchers for the Astros yesterday have the surname Rodriguez. Nice.

This begs a few questions. For example, in how many games (aside from complete games!) has every pitcher for one team had the same last name? Additionally, in how many other games (aside from, perhaps, other Astros games this season) have at least three pitchers from one team had the same surname? And aside from this year's Astros, is there any other game in which three or more pitchers with the same surname have been the only pitchers for a team? Inquiring minds want to know! I think I'll pass this along to sportswriter Jayson Stark, as he loves this sort of thing.

Some ideas come to mind. For example, back in the day, Pedro Martinez sometimes relieved Ramon Martinez for a two Martinez lunch (surely it was Vin Scully who coined that term?), and I assume there must have been some games in which only those two hurlers pitched for the Dodgers.

Update (7/06/11): Here is yet another Three Rodriguez Roast. I have not progressed any further on the questions that I posed above.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Once again, xkcd nails it. I need to bring a copy of this with me to High Table the next time somebody insists that wine is more sophisticated than video games.

Update (6/23/11): Justin sends along this link.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rangers to Wear Their Sunglasses at Night

With both baseball and a reference to one of my favorite songs from the 1980s, I had to pass this story along. Just remember that people ruin their lives trying to get into that book.

The Art of Science

Caltech recently hosted an Art of Science exhibit. Way cool!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bring Back the O'Malleys, Please!

My beloved Dodgers have become a laughingstock. Here's the latest news. Sigh...

Update (6/27/11): The Dodgers have now filed for bankruptcy. Big sigh...

Trader Jack is Back!

Apparently, 80-years-young Trader Jack Mckeon is going to be named interim manager of the Florida Marlins. First of all, that's old school! Second of all, I approve!

(This is almost as cool as Scott Coolbaugh being named the hitting coach of the Rangers, which is only cool because it's a private joke from back in the day.)

Update:: Courtesy of Rob Neyer, here is an article that puts Trader Jack's career into perspective.

Update 2 (6/21/11): Rob Neyer mentions some active oldsters who are even older than Trader Jack. My favorite person (by far) on this list is of course Vin Scully.

Update 3 (6/21/11): Trader Jack is so old school that he even smoked a cigar in the dugout. For those of you on Facebook, here are better pictures.

Friday, June 17, 2011

That Kind Of Makes Sense

According to The Onion, we might be living in a world with an ominpotent diety that has bipolar disorder. You know, that kind of works. :) The article's headline is especially awesome.

P.S. Onion FTW!

The Owls Will Be Woolly (Oxford versus Cambridge: 2011)

Yesterday, Oxford's Mathematical Institute hosted the 15th Biennial Oxford/Cambridge "Battle of the Applied Mathematicians" (my phrasing) to see who would be able to keep the coveted Woolly Owl trophy for the next two years.

Cambridge was shockingly victorious in 2009, so Oxford was hungry to get the Owl back and put it in OCIAM's display case (where it rightfully belongs... not that I'm biased or anything). It was a courageous battle of our graduate students versus their graduate students, but we won, so the Woolly Owl will be at Oxford for the next two years---which (among other things) means that Ock might be a bit better behave than usual, at least for a little while. :)

Oh, and in case you were wondering: The title of the entry is a reference to this immortal line, which received a lot of airplay on The Jim Healy Show.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I received a letter today telling me that I now officially have the Oxford version of tenure. It's known as "reappointment to retirement age" and is in fact rather different from the US version of tenure. In particular, the bar is much lower than is the case for tenure in the US, and it's pretty much a box-ticking exercise. (In Oxonian language, I am no longer in my "probationary" period.) Now hopefully I will be a full professor soon. I'll let you know when that happens.

Monday, June 13, 2011

VINYL Recommendation

OK, now that is seriously awesome.

I got an item-recommendation e-mail from Amazon recommending that I buy a VINYL version of Depeche Mode's new remix collection. Now that's old school! I wholeheartedly approve! (And there is just something about this that makes me feel very happy.)

I already bought the collection as audio files on the day it came out, but now this makes me imagine, say, a victorian era automated recommendation system. Granted, those 1910 predictions of what the world might be like in 2000 (as discussed in my blog entry from earlier today) are still on my mind.

Thanks, Amazon!

Predicting Life in 2000 During 1910

Here are some postcards from 1910 that forecast what life was supposed to be like in 2000.

Some of the forecasts are actually pretty spot on.

Some quick googling is not helping me figure out much of anything about Villemard other than the fact that he was a French artist to whom these postcards are attributed. And I was hoping for a wikipedia entry. :)

(Tip of the cap to Karen Daniels.)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

But I'm Feeling Much Better Now!

Everything is alright again!

It's been a long (almost) two months, but what was bothering me has now been resolved---and very positively at that! There will still be some stuff that is worth discussing (because that will be healthier in the long term), but I feel good again and I am once again ready to take on the world with my best buddies at my side. Bring it on!

For the future, I'd like to try to not act like an idiot. That would be very helpful for my relationships with people.

P.S. I expect many people to get the reference in the main text, but maybe some of you will get the reference in the title as well?

Precocious Scholars

On most occasions, I have a bone to pick with Stephen Wolfram, but his blog entry about new Caltech ACM alum Catherine's Beni's pseudo Caltech record for youngest PhD (whether she has the record or not depends on how one does the counting) and his experience as a precocious youth is actually pretty interesting.

I have known people like this (including Catherine, though not well), and I have witnessed firsthand the struggles of some of these people. I have seen things turn out poorly, eventual happy endings, and also ones that worked out well from the very beginning. My experiences were different from theirs, as I started at Caltech at age 18, but in some cases I was around for some of the experiences, and even with my inability to understand what even my best friends are thinking (which gets me into trouble way too much and has caused considerable pain in my own life on multiple occasions), I'd like to think that I have some understanding of precocious scholars because of my interactions with some of them.

Anyway, Wolfram's blog entry is an interesting read.

Update (6/14/11): Here is a Caltech feature about Catherine.

Tony LaRussa Manages 5000th Career Baseball Game

Damn, that's a lot of baseball games. In fact, it's the second most all time (to Connie Mack). That is quite impressive!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

New to the Blogroll: Systems and Signals Group

If you want to read about systems and signals, then you might want to go to the Systems and Signals Group blog, which is hosted by my friend Nick Jones and his group.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

News About the Legends of Caltech Movie

News about the Legends of Caltech is spreading! Here you can find an interview with a couple of the participants on the blog Super Hot Nerds.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

What Happens in Tarragona Stays in Tarragona

In about 1 hour, I will be boarding a coach that will take a 3.5 hour trip to Stansted Airport, from which will fly via RyanAir to Barcelona, at which point I will be picked up by my host Alex Arenas to go to Tarragona. I will be visiting his group there until Wednesday night, when I will take a flight that will get me back to Stansted airport at about 10:30 pm, and then I will get a bus just after midnight (when I will be letting it all hang out, of course) and get back to Oxford at around 4am. Remind me why I decided to do the Stansted/RyanAir combination? I made sure to buy some very strong medicine to deal with my severe motion sickness.

As some of you might know, I have been having a tough time in my personal life at the moment, and in fact this is the worst I have felt since summer-fall 2007. That was the era of She Who Shall Not Be Named, so any of you who know what happened then will realize that I'm feeling positively awful these days. This situation, which I will not discuss (but for which I am talking to a friend for pep talks and advice), is a rather different one---and in particular, it is one that I expect will ultimately have a positive outcome, even though things are difficult right now and I have my moments when it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

So, Spain is supposed to be a place where one can forget one's troubles, right? It's too bad that having a fling is not my style (it's not even remotely my style), but I have to admit that I wonder if that might be one of the healthier things I could do? It seemed to have beneficial effects in this movie.

At the minimum, I will enjoy the academic interactions and the opportunity to practice my Spanish.