Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What to do this morning?

It's quarter to eight, or so: I'm about to get my coffee, then off to teach the first class.  I know what I am teaching, in the big picture, and the details will come in real time.  But how to begin?  How to grab their attention?
Ah yes.  I know. 

How much taller is my travel coffee mug than the circumference?  It is after all, quite tall, and quite narrow.

Measure it yourself with a piece of string.  It might surprise you.

Yours, going for the element of surprise,

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

On the morrow comes the craziness

And finally, I am on the eve of the craziness of summer.  Our boot camp course starts in the morning, and I'm as ready as I'm going to be.  We have way more students enrolled this year -- almost thirty -- than we've ever had before; so given our class style (lots of time devoted to students presenting their work) we're probably going to have to add an hour or two of class time per day.  Fortunately, we have room booked all day, and the students are ours, body and spirit, for the next five and a half weeks.

Yours, once more, stepping into the fray,

Monday, June 28, 2010


Condolences are in order to the family, and friends, and country of Senator Byrd, who died last night, having served in the US Senate and House of Representatives for a total of nearly sixty years, a quarter of the history of the
USA.  He had some repellent views in his early years, but for most of his term in the Senate he has been a powerful voice for tradition, and in many instances a force for much good.

And given his reputation for bringing home the bacon, his state will miss him too.

Yours, reflecting on the passing of one of the biggest figures in US history,

Sunday, June 27, 2010

One week later, the sports are done

One week or so ago, I was surprised by how many thrilling sporting events were going on.  And now, a week later, I'm amazed by how quickly everyone I wanted to follow has lost.

Yours, thrilled that I don't care about sports that much: otherwise this would be depressing!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Idyllic weekends

Every once in a while, idyllic weekends happen.
Yesterday, LOML and I drove a couple of hours to a lovely dinner party, had a marvellous time, and slept in past 7am this morning.
This afternoon we drove out to our friends in the country, who have lots of land, a horse or two, and a swimming pool.  LOML and the children are camping outside tonight, while I'm taking a more sensible approach, sleeping in one of the spare beds.

But the weekend has just been idyllic.

Yours, relaxed,

Friday, June 25, 2010

Good food, good conversation, good times

A lovely evening tonight: LOML and I were invited to a dinner party in the big city, two hours away, and after some difficulties (almost everyone who would be a good choice for a babysitter was out of town) we managed (thanks, J!, in spite of the fact that M is out of town!) to go.

We had a delightful time, chatting with cookbook authors, eclectic conference organisers, and just-plain-lovely people

And now, we are tired.  Goodnight!

Yours, thinking this was a lovely evening,

Thursday, June 24, 2010


The regatta, the one regatta which can be referred to just as the regatta is still as prestigious.  And still as hidebound in tradition.
In spite of the fact that there appears to be absolutely no television coverage available live, there is no feed (at least no obvious feed to me) on their website.

I had hoped that perhaps this year  they might have had some video available.

Yours, disappointed in tradition occasionally,

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sports? Sports? We don't need no steenkin sports

It's not even rowing.  Or snooker.  (Although Henley must be coming up very soon, though I doubt it will be shown live on ESPN).
No, it's minor sports like the World Cup, the College World Series, and Wimbledon.  (Okay, that second one is pretty minor, but...)
I will admit to having watched -- simultaneously --- the final few minutes of both the USA and the England games.  And enjoyed both.  But what amazes me today is the tennis match still in play.  Four sets played, the fifth still going on.  A typical longish five set match might have, say, 50 games.  These two have a score of 59-59 in the final set alone!  About three times as long as a typically long match!

Yours, impressed by their stamina,

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

We fought the computers and the computers won

No!  The computers lost!

I got skype installed on the appropriate box this morning, and thanks to my tech guru support, got audio working with more than several seconds (but fewer than several minutes) to spare.
The talk by my math guru went superbly well: he gave a very polished presentation, in spite of being fourteen hours later than us, and hence more ready for a night cap than a recap.   There are lots of things we will change next time we do it, but for a first attempt I thought that it went really well.

Next, my algorithms/optimization guru sat down with my research group to discuss various possibilities, and gave lots of good advice, and is interested in the project.  Hopefully this will provide a shot of adrenalin to the project (which is going quite well, but could be faster).

Then, time to turn the tables: off  to the bookstore, where, as soon as I walked in, I heard a chorus of "Breadbox!  Would you like to install a modem?"  After ascertaining that in fact they meant a wireless router (as I assumed), I told them I would try.  Unfortunately, their ISP  is ATT, which means that the installation process is awful, involving an installer which does nothing but get in the way.  After two times through the installation, with the installer telling me I'd made an error, or that there was something wrong with the installation, I decided to do it the right way (semi-technically speaking, I entered into the address bar of the browser, and did it all manually).  Two minutes later (after forty minutes battling the installer) it was done and working.  Three minutes after that, I'd set wireless up, and was able to just visit the store for a while!

All in all, I make the score as follows:
gurus for me: 3
me as a guru: 1

Yours, considering it to be win-win day for everyone, despite the score,

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fight computers

We hope to have our first seminar-at-a-distance tomorrow morning, with a friend speaking from his home in Australia, fourteen hours later in the day than us.
Unfortunately, we've hit some software glitches, which are getting in the way of everything being smooth sailing.  Here's hoping that I can fix some things at 6:45am in order to be ready for the pre-talk set up at 7:30, so that at 8:00 everything will magically go well!

Yours, reaching for the moon?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dinner and a pool party

We had a lovely day today, beginning with a quiet trip to the lake, where LOML walked the dogs, and I watched as the children swam and played in the lake.  This afternoon, we followed up by visiting friends who had a not-quite pool party, wonderful food and good conversation with very nice people.

Yours, enjoying one of those super early summer days that help define the season,

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cherokee dancers

This morning we went to celebrate the official opening of the Cherokee Worldview Garden at the botanical gardens.   It is a beautiful addition to a wonderful facility, but as underused and underfunded as the gardens are,  I was expecting that our family would be a significant proportion of those in attendance. 
To my surprise, when we arrived, the rather large car park was relatively full, with many dozens of cars already parked.  And to our delight, when we left at the end of the event, it was relatively full!  This suggests that at least a couple of hundred people attended the event.

There were several different presentations going on: a story-teller, a weapons-maker demonstrating throwing spears and atlatls, another demonstration of pigments and dyes from ground geodes, and the piece de resistance, a group of Cherokee warriors demonstrating traditional dances.

They were thrilling and enthralling: the children watching with faces frozen in wonder, LOML and I enjoying, laughing and thrilling to the antics.  An absolutely marvellous show, and we now want to visit their historical reproduction of a Cherokee village really soon.

Yours, thrilled,

Friday, June 18, 2010

The summer

This summer, as with most, we have a regular ritual:
I go to work early, and  either LOML takes the children to camp, and goes off to run a program, or they all stay home for the moment, LOML designing great fun and educational activities for Boo and Skibo, and often, various other friends who are over.
In the afternoons, however, we try to make it out to the pool: we've become members of the local outdoor pool, and we are trying to make sure that we get everything out of it that we can.

It's amazing to see what good swimmers the children are turning into: Boo, as I have mentioned before, dives beautifully, and this afternoon, Skibo decided that he was going to do sitting dives from the side of the pool.  It appears that my policy of encouraging him, then giving up and letting him do it on his own schedule has worked!

The other, less wonderful, summer ritual, though, is bedtime.  With it as light as it remains late into the evening, it gets harder and harder to persuade the children that they should be asleep.  Still, a few more days and it will get easier every night.

Yours, hoping that the children turn these summers into beautiful memories,

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Saying goodbye

One of our summer research students left this morning.  She had come from Britain to work with us, and was enjoying the program tremendously: unfortunately, her grandfather, to whom she is very close, became ill and she felt that she needed to be back close to him. 
Friday morning he is scheduled to go in for surgery, and hopefully we'll get quick news that he will be okay.

Yours, sorry to see a friend leave, but knowing that it really is what she has to do,

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Warranty --- guarantee to fail

Yet another example of what so often seems to happen.
We bought a new -- and not inexpensive -- dishwasher last year in March.  It came with a one-year warranty.  So now, three months after the warranty has run out, so has the life of the drain pump.
It seems that it is going to cost $250 to replace it.
So, here's to the great company of Bosch, who made said dishwasher.  You should all rush out and buy their products, keeping in mind to save thousands of pennies for repairs.

Yours, sarcastically,

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Between the Folds

For those of us who do origami, who fold paper for pleasure or for art, or even for profit, it is always a thrill to see our art form appear in the mainstream media.  This year there have been a number of shows in which origami played a peripheral (or occasionally, even a pivotal) role.  But the program which stands head and shoulders above all the dramas which incorporated it a little is the wonderful documentary Between the Folds.  It's a beautiful piece, focussing on several of the worlds best origamists: Lang, Jackson, Palmer, Demaine, Hull, many of whom I am privileged to have met, some of whom I'm privileged to call friend.  They are great people, it's a great movie, Vanessa Gould is a great director, and PBS picked it up to show on their series Independent Lens.
And now, it's in the running for the best documentary of the year in that show: if you'd care to vote for a wonderful piece, you can do so here!

Yours, happy to promote this movie,

Monday, June 14, 2010

Boo's becoming a big girl

Boo is no longer a small child: this comes through every day in so many ways: but this afternoon she threw me for a loop.

We'd gone to the pool: LOML, Boo, Skibo and me, together with A, Skibo's friend, a lovely five year old boy.  We returned after swimming to the house, and I was preparing dinner when Boo came through, rather distraught:
"I've just done the most embarrassing thing in my life" my seven year old says
"Oh?" says I, curious
"Oh yes", she says. "I went into Skibo's room, but hello, A was in there, and hello, I was naked.  And a boy was in there!"

This from a girl who has, with A & M, and Skibo, defined summer for the past
few years: including, but not limited to, lots of running around without clothes.

Yours, unprepared for my little girl to be growing up so quickly,

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Paul Erdős

We had dinner this evening with friends K&K (at their house, for a lovely change).  It was a very pleasant late afternoon and evening, ending a lovely day.  But one thing stood out for me: I was not aware that I had spared any of my friends stories about one of my favourite mathematicians: the late Paul Erdős.  But apparently I had never mentioned him to K!  And I thought, that just in case some of you had never heard of him, I'd offer up a link to his Wikipedia page.
He was an amazing person, and I'm proud to say that even if he didn't always remember my name, he could usually be relied upon to recall what sorts of mathematics I did:-)

Yours, in tribute,

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The nice thing about three hours in the pool

is that we know that the children will sleep well tonight.

So why is it that they don't?

Yours, frustrated,

Friday, June 11, 2010

A hundred years ago today

One hundred years ago today, a great human being, one of the most influential environmentalists ever, was born.
Jacques Cousteau and the crew of the Calypso spent years on our televisions showing us the world beneath, the beauty and mystery of the deep.  Almost everything I know about the ocean I know because of him (and much of it I learned directly from his shows).  He was an inspiration to millions to learn about science and nature, and his influence lives on to this day through his grandchildren.

Yours, in tribute,

Thursday, June 10, 2010


LOML insists that I ought occasionally to photoblog.  So here is a picture.

This is Boo, diving on Sunday afternoon, taken by LOML.  I'm one incredibly proud parent!
Yours, proud of LOML's picture too,

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Yesterday and today we had a visitor to our summer program.  Physically present, going out to lunch with everyone, etc.  This, of course, is wonderful,
and we prefer it to be done this way when possible.
But sometimes time, and distance, and expense, get in the way.
So in a couple of weeks we hope to have our first speaker at a distance: specifically, we're having a seminar speaker attend from Australia.  From his house, yet (although since it will be videoconferencing, we hope he won't be wearing his pyjamas!)

Yours, present, at a distance,

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


The  great thing about our summer program is that we get to bring in a
sequence of visitors to speak about mathematics, life, and academia.
Today we brought in an old friend of mine, who did a great job of informing, entertaining and amusing the students.  Also, he gave great advice.

Yours, as always, grateful for friends!

Monday, June 7, 2010

New kitten today?

It seems likely that we will take on a new kitten today.  He was abandoned by someone a few days ago, and our vets asked if we would be willing to take him on.  Pictures to follow.

Yours, recognizing our natural state as two adults, two children, two dogs, two cats, completely balanced in every way,

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A delightlful two days by the pool

courtesy of our friends S&E, who have the pool.
Unfortunately, LOML came down with a rash, a sore back, and a swollen right eyelid today, which meant much less fun.  But in spite of this we all (LOML included) managed to have a lovely time hanging out with new friends and recent friends, swimming, diving, eating and enjoying.

Yours, thinking that it feels like summer already,

Saturday, June 5, 2010

In explanation

I'm trying hard to blog every day, but some days I just don't have anything to say.
Or, now that I know that some people I know are reading this occasionally, I feel that I have things to say that must be left unsaid.

But at the same time, I don't want to get into the habit of not blogging every day, for then I will stop, and I'll miss the routine.  I know me: I'll never take it back up again.  And so for a couple of days' posts I've put in silly "this page intentionally left blank" style placeholders, to show that I cared enough to post, just not enough to post anything worth reading (even by my rather shallow standards).

Yours, still close to silent, except for the word or two of explanation,

Friday, June 4, 2010

This one too

Nothing to say.

Move along.

Yours, also moving along,

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hot dogs and tumble dryers

Bella gets hot under the collar when there's a storm around: and this year has been an absolutely normal year for storms: late spring brings afternoon storms to drench the earth, and to terrify Bella.

A couple of days ago, though, she outdid herself.  She jumped into the tumble dryer in search of a safe place during the storm. 

Now, I knew that one shouldn't microwave a poodle: my question: is it safe to tumble dry a golden retriever?

Yours, at a loss as to how to handle a terrified golden,

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


LOML and I went to cheer on Boo this afternoon at the first grade awards ceremony: she's done quite well in general, and as far as we can tell, exceptionally well in reading.  We were surprised, therefore, that the two awards she received were in art and writing.
Now, don't get us wrong, we are delighted that she is doing well in those subjects. But we are very keen that she read well, and she has been doing so, and is reading, so we are told, at about three grade levels above expectations.
So, when we tell her every day how thrilled we are with how well she reads, and then she is not one of those called up for reading achievements, we are less than thrilled.
Now, strictly speaking, the two reading awards had nothing to do with ability: one was for "improvement", and the other was for participation in an accelerated reader program.  I understand, and agree that the improvement award should probably celebrate those who were not doing well and have improved (rather than those who were doing incredibly well, and have improved even more).  The other program, on the other hand, appears to be more aimed at those who jump through certain hoops rather than achieve reading fluency.

LOML and I have sworn that we won't become those parents: the ones who are upset at any perceived slight, any lack of recognition, etc.  But we are in danger of getting that way.  But we're going to continue to resist the urge.

Yours, knowing that I sound like I'm complaining, but trying instead to celebrate Boo's achievements as the best reader --- by far --- around,