Friday, December 30, 2011

iTunes Oracle: 2012 Edition

Well, it's Friday December 30th, but I am going to be gaming tomorrow night, so I'll write this blog entry now. What I really ought to do right now is work on a grant proposal (due imminently) or read the draft of a chapter of my student's Ph.D. thesis (on which feedback is needed immediately), but I'm not in the mood right now. Sorry. And it's already December 31st in the UK anyway---so there!

It's almost the end of the year, and it's time to once again bring out the iTunes Oracle, because I have to figure out somehow what 2012 has in store for me. You can take a look here to see the predictions for 2011 and links to the predictions for 2006-2009 (I skipped 2010).

The iTunes Oracle ambiguously predicted "One Hit" for 2011, and we'll see what the future says about whether that is indeed the case. I think I had my share of both hits and misses in 2011; happily some of the hits were big; some of the misses were big, too, but I have fought through some and will fight through others. Such is life. So what did this year have in store for me? Well, 2011 included a new friend, one new niece (that I know of), the usual academic adventures, a trip to Korea, some professional and (now-resolved, thankfully!) personal hiccups, lots of gaming, movies, baseball, Glee, occasional reminders that I am human (in both good and bad forms), and [most importantly!] plenty of good times with good friends (old and new). And did I mention gaming? And I'm sure there was other stuff that I am forgetting. Perhaps gaming?

Before I get into what the Oracle has to say, perhaps it's worth mentioning that I should just make my usual New Year's resolution: be a little bit less neurotic than the year before. [I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to ponder whether this is a 2-step recursion or a 1-step recursion.]

Here is what the iTunes Oracle has to say about my 2012:

1. The Covering: A-Ha, There's a Reason For It
2. The Crossing: The Smithereens, Cigarette
3. The Crown: Simple Minds, New Gold Dream
4. The Root: Rammstein & Wolfsheim, Die Flut
5. The Past: R.E.M., Mine Smell Like Honey
6. The Future: Nouvelle Vague, Friday Night Saturday Morning
7. The Questioner: Enrique Iglesias, Solo Pienso En Ti
8. The House: The Rosebuds, Leaves Do Fall
9. The Inside: ABBA, Take A Chance On Me
10. The Outcome: Gipsy Kings, Pide Me La

Bonus Track: Oingo Boingo, Goodbye-Goodbye

Well, The Covering is nicely telling me that there is a reason for the reason. Isn't it supposed to actually give me a reason. Seriously, I should get my money back. The Crossing makes no sense. Usually things are ambiguous enough that I can at least fake a hokey interpretation. Come on, Oracle. The Crown seems to be rather positive, at least---or maybe it just refers to getting access to the gold luxury in my current Civ V game? I might well understand The Root, except I don't speak German and am too lazy to look up a translation. I think there is no comment that I could make about The Past that wouldn't sound really bad. The Future, however, is so bright (if short term) that I gotta' wear shades. Actually, given what that song is about, things really don't seem to be very promising at all. The Questioner seems to be heading in the direction of OCD. Or something. I suppose that The House can be construed to make some sort of sense in some sort of highly generic sense. (Does it even make sense to be "highly generic"?) The Inside could mean a lot of interesting things, and it has the right level of ambiguity for a fortune. And, yes, please do ask me about The Outcome. This whole thing is like answering a question with another question. Not that I would ever do such a thing.

And, finally, the Bonus Track is practically an ideal way to end things in this kind of blog entry. So, Happy New Year to all of you. And to those friends of mine who are reading this, drop me a line if we haven't talked in a while---or even if we have---and I hope to see you soon!

And in the end, I think there's really only one thing to say about 2012: Bring it on.

The Power of the Mind (Pure Energy?)

The contents inside this demotivational poster (ignore the caption, which is stupid) are pretty damn amazing. I was indeed able to read the scrambled words without a problem. That's pretty damn cool.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Great Latke Debate

My mother and brother made latkes for lunch today. Yay!

When it comes to latkes, though, there are two big debates: thin vs thick and sour cream vs apple sauce.

I am on the side of thin (though this seems to be a rare preference) and sour cream.

I didn't previously realize this, but there really does seem to be a genuine latke-hamantash debate. This looks pretty damn funny! I especially like the comment about which one constitutes the universe's dark matter.

One Does Not Simply Google-Map into Mordor

Wow, this is awesome! Way to go, Google!

(I checked Google Maps myself and verified this easter egg. I approve!)

Messing with the Youngsters

My brother recently told me a short story about my Grandma Doris, who was sharp as a tack until the day that she died (in December 2003 at, I think, age 93). I don't remembering hearing this story before, but I have to say that it doesn't surprise me.

Although Doris was sharp as a tack (unlike most people her age, who usually exhibit a good amount of dementia), she did seem to occasionally be forgetful. One might start out a story with something like "Did I tell you about the time...?" And, on occasion, Doris would do that with a story maybe 5 minutes after having told us that same story. Well, one time, my brother caught her doing that on purpose---with full knowledge of having just told the story---just to fuck with us. And I bet she did it a lot; I certainly wouldn't put that past her, and I'm sure we deserved it, too.

I am so going to steal this idea when I'm old (assuming I last that long) and it's my turn to tell stories to the youngsters. Right before I tell them to get off my ****ing lawn...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"I'm a Jew on Christmas"

Thanks to Lemming for showing me this lovely song a couple of weeks ago. It summarizes my feelings about this "holiday" rather nicely.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The New Mathematics Building is Like Disneyland

We really need to be adding easter eggs into these monthly time-lapse movies of the construction of the new Mathematical Institute building. Somewhat less interesting (to me, anyway) are the daily time-lapse videos.

Every time I see something like this, I always think of the old time-lapse movies of the construction of Disneyland. I suppose that a new mathematics building is a little bit less sexy than that, but I like it.

As a special bonus, can you find me in any of the monthly videos?

By the way, one thing that would have been really awesome is to turn in such a video along with one's PhD thesis when ending one's graduate-school career.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Mathematical Genealogy and Department Prestige"

Here is my latest winning entry in Chaos's Nonlinear Science Gallery. It's also apparently my final one, as (sadly) the competition has been discontinued.

My coauthors on this paper are Sean Myers and Peter Mucha.

Also, I'd like to give a special shout out to Chaos staff member Janis Bennett, who is retiring in a couple of days and with whom I have corresponded about numerous of my papers since I submitted my first paper to Chaos in 1999. That paper was the first scientific paper that I ever published (the final version came out in 2000). [Previously, I had submitted a paper from my undergraduate research to a couple of places, but it got rejected.] People like Janis, who need to put up with people like me, don't get enough credit for their hard work.

(Several means something like a dozen, by the way.)

What Happens in the LA Area Stays in the LA Area (Take N)

I am flying to LA at about 11:30 am tomorrow morning, and I am slated to arrive at LAX just after 3 pm. Hilarity will ensue.

Among other things, I am looking forward to friends, gaming, and sidequesting. I'll also spend a week and a half visiting Andrea Bertozzi's group in the UCLA math department. Once again, hilarity will ensue. Actually, I'll be collaborating with her group on mathematics and social systems, and I am particularly keen to work with them on something that uses the LAPD crime and gang data to which they have access.

And did I mention that I am going to be seeing my friends and gaming? Yay!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Too Many Turns?

I keep reading the local "Christmas Art and Craft Fair" signs as "Christmas Antiaircraft Fair" signs. Clearly, I have been playing Civ V way too much lately...

(This isn't quite as extreme as the Tetris pieces that used to fall when I closed my eyes and went to bed, but I still don't think that this is a good sign.)

Toffee Wins the Battle!

You can tell that toffee is of high quality if it comes with a hammer (and accompanying instructions) to help break it into pieces.

Maybe I should schedule an appointment with a dentist while I am in LA?

(I hope somebody gets the allusion in the title. Also, I encourage responses with your best possible MC Hammer references.)

New Mnemonics

XKCD has come up with some awesome new mnemonics! They will surely make school much more fun for the modern kids! Yet another big win from xkcd!

A big opportunity was missed, though: the planet one really should have included a joke about Pluto.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Models Discussing Quantum Mechanics

This commercial is fantastic.

I would love for some of the academic text I've produced (even if plagiarized, as was the case here) to end up in a commercial like this one.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hitler Reacts to Albert Pujols Leaving the Cardinals

This isn't as cool as the video about the proverbial third referee, but Hitler's reaction to Albert Pujols leaving the Cardinals is still pretty amusing.

What Happens in Henley-on-Thames Stays in Henley-on-Thames

In perhaps the irony of the century, I am here in Henley-on-Thames for an Interdisciplinary workshop on the evolution of social norms.

Because you know me: I'm all about social norms. Yup.

By the way, I thought getting here would be easy, but in fact there was massive confusion, so I'm going to need to talk to the organizers about this. (I got so frustrated that I actually came close to heading back on the train to Oxford tonight.) Anyway, I'm here and I'm looking forward to the science!

(In fact, I will have one norm in my talk---exactly one norm: the entry-wise matrix 1-norm.)

"Tastes like fresh milk"

Sorry, but I'm skeptical.

Alternatively, one could attempt a 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' joke.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lyrics of the Day

Today's lyrics are the first three lines of Pi by Kate Bush:

Sweet and gentle sensitive man
With an obsessive nature and deep fascination
For numbers

Lookin' Out My Back Door

This is the current view from my back door (rotated by 90 degrees).

I am absolutely sick of such shit being put in front of my door and invading the sanctity of my home. I have tried to be patient, but I am now out of patience. Formal complaints to the city will follow shortly if this is not removed soon and if anything takes its place. If a war is what they desire, then a war they shall have.

Here are some more pictures.

As for who "they" is, that is not entirely clear. My College (Somerville) has asked for prior things to be moved when I have brought this up before with them, and I have been assured that things won't be put back. (I believe it has usually been the contract workers they've hired who have actually put this stuff here.) That's all well and good---but this needs to start being enforced in practice, and it needs to happen now. So I'm not even sure who to file a complaint against and I will need to figure that out. But this has got to stop.

Oh, and cue the Creedence.

Update (12/11/11): I forgot to mention this, but notice all of the warning and danger signs on this 'skip' (to use the UK term). I especially like the sign about the in-progress asbestos removal. Because that's what they're doing: they are in the process of removing asbestos from College buildings (for safety reasons!) and storing it 3--4 feet from my house while work is in progress! Bastards.

Friday, December 09, 2011

"As You Are No Doubt Aware..."

Here is what appears to be a Britishism: "As you are no doubt aware" means something like "I think you missed this really obvious point (you moron)."

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Albert Pujols Signs a 10-Year Deal with the Angels

Wow, this is pretty major! Albert Pujols has signed a 10-year contract with The The Angels Angels of Anaheim! Wow!

Update: As you can see in the linked article above (which has been updated), the Angels have also signed free agent starting pitch C.J. Wilson.

Update: Meanwhile, my beloved Dodgers continue their tweaking with greaybeards. Aaron Harang is just about officially signed now. All of these bit players are useful (and trading Dana Eveland for prospects is solid), but we really need to get our ownership situation in order so that we can do some more serious things. Thankfully, we have signed Matt Kemp to a mega-extension, and that of course is an excellent start to righting the ship. Anyway, we have two of the best players in the Majors in Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, and hopefully the minor tweaks will help enough in the short term to really get our butts in gear once the ownership situation is fixed.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Epic Fail. Just Epic.

You're kidding me, right? Apparently, Tim McCarver has won the Ford C. Frick Award (and his name in small ink in the part of baseball's Hall of Fame museum dedicated to broadcasters) for his excellence in broadcasting. He sucks. He is absolutely one of the single worst broadcasters I have ever heard. He's sometimes correct in what he says, but even then McCarver makes his point in seemingly the most arrogant and condescending manner possible---and then he repeats it almost word for word at least five or six times.

From a baseball awards perspective, this is a nightmare. While we're at it, why don't we also make sure that Juan Pierre gets into the Hall of Fame based on his playing career?

I know this is very much a First-World Problem (tm), but still: What on earth were they thinking?

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Realism Redefined

Here is what some children's drawings would look like if they were painted using a "realistic" style. Sweet!

(Tip of the cap to Kevin Hickerson.)

Null Hypothesis

This xkcd comic strip about the null hypothesis is an old one but a great one.

(Thanks to the London Mathematical Society Newsletter for reminding me about it.)

Monday, December 05, 2011


This video montage is best described using one word: fascinating.

You definitely want to watch the whole thing, by the way.

(Tip of the cap to Rob Neyer.)


The security guard at the Oxford train station location of Mark and Spencer followed me around and kept staring at me as if I were going to steal something!

I was going to pick up my dinner (and maybe some sweets) there, but screw that! I'll buy dinner elsewhere or skip it entirely.

I might not always behave with dignity, but that doesn't mean that I don't have dignity!

P.S. Notice the use of the subjunctive. :)

Sunday, December 04, 2011

What Happens at University of East Anglia Stays at University of East Anglia (2011 Edition)

I am at a lodge on the campus of University of East Anglia, where I will give a talk tomorrow in the math department.

I ordered some Chinese food for delivery, and I am currently waiting for it to arrive. Exciting, isn't it?

(I was previously here for NetSci 2008.)

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Comic Sans Strikes Back

Seriously, this is brilliant.

(Tip of the cap to Mark Rogers.)

Friday, December 02, 2011

Paper Sculptures

The paper sculptures shown in this blog entry are incredibly awesome.

(Tip of the cap to Alex Cayco-Gajic.)

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Freedom University

This interesting article about "Freedom University" is very much worth reading.


This demotivational poster is exxxxxxcellent...