Sunday, October 31, 2010

The big, bad wolf

Before trick-or-treating (and even before trunk-or-treating, which was, surprisingly, quite fun) we took the kids to a play: The Trial of the Big Bad Wolf.  It's a dramatic retelling of the classic tale of the three little pigs, with the jury pressganged into playing out the pigs', and then the wolf's sides of the story. 

A fun time for us all.  And I like the fact that once or twice a year we walk down to the local theatre, of the stage variety, and watch people act out parts.

Yours, hoping to get a chance to watch Boo and Skibo act on the same stage next summer,


Boo was a ladybug fairy (what we would call a ladybird fairy in the UK): Skibo was Obiwan Kenobi -- the young Obiwan, replete with lightsaber.

LOML and I were parental units tagging along, watching over them like hawks.  Several pounds of candy collected, we returned home to bounce off the walls. 

Yours, hoping the sugar helps them sleep,

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Do you hate it when you speak too soon?

I planned to spend today rebuilding linux on my new laptop.  I had to be at work to supervise a contest, and figured that that would be a good time to install my OS.

Unfortunately, I hit an unexpected snafu: I couldn't connect to the ethernet.  I spent an hour or so trying to figure it out, trying this, trying that, etc.  No success.  And since Fedora releases their next release on Tuesday, I'm going to take my time coming to terms with it.

Yours, severely pissed off nonetheless,

Friday, October 29, 2010

When you play a country music song

backwards, you get your car back, you get your computer back,.....

Yours, happy that the day has played some country music backwards for me today,

Thursday, October 28, 2010

No car yet

No car, and still no new hard drive. 

Yours, missing my technology,

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


The fourth and final window in my car now refuses to wind up or down.
The other three had broken down over the past couple of years or so, but the driver's side window still worked.  Until last night --- and what is worse, it was open and refused to close. And Murphy being Murphy, of course we had heavy thunderstorms all night.

Yours, hoping that the garbage back taped over thew window kept out some of the rain,

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ten score days and eight years ago

I quit smoking 200 days ago, plus eight years.  And why mention it today?  It's the day that Boo was due to be born.
Yours, wishing Boo a happy due-day-versary!

Advertising a course

I"m offering a course for honors students next semester, and the honors college put together a poster presentation session this afternoon so that all eighteen or course could be advertised together.  I was very impressed with the students who showed up and showed interest:: they asked good questions, and seemed unscared by what could potentially be scary mathematics. 
It appears that any concerns that I had that I might not have enough students are unfounded.  Now the question appears possibly to be this; how many students am I going to have to turn away?

Yours, excited, and a little nervous,

The dog ate my homework

Actually, it wasn't my homework, it was a library book.  And it was Skibo's alrhough for complictated reasons he took it out on my library card.  And while Mustard didn't exactly eat it, she did gnaw away a good portion of the lower end of the spine.
As such, I'm going to have to buy the library system a new copy of it.

Yours, not amused,

Monday, October 25, 2010

Seagate, let me sing your praises

Since your drive managed to last at least a month, it had to be shipped back to you rather than to the vendor: and although the shipping service tells us it was delivered to you on Thursday last, you are still not aware that it has arrived.  And since you won't ship a replacement until you get the damaged drive back, you're leaving me waiting and waiting.
Now, will it take longer to get the new drive than the old one lasted?

Yours, thinking how much easier it would have been if the drive had died after two weeks instead.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Oh joy, oh bliss, bestill my beating computer

One thing is clear.  Let me nowhere near your computer.  Not until I am cleared of all influence.
I've just killed my second machine in ten days: this time, I suspect, a three year old graphics card --- not a particular surprise that it should die after that length of time, but annoying none the less: especially with my new main machine out of action for at least a few more days.

Yours, severely pissed off at computers right now,


Having enjoyed Benedict Cumberpatch's performance as a brilliant mathematician fighting an all intrusive state, I was looking forward to his performance as Sherlock Holmes in a modern setting.
From the very start, I was not disappointed: the dialogue was funny, gently so, in keeping with Holmes-and-Watsonian banter: the assumption by Mrs Hudson that they were gay being a particularly delightful touch.  I have some niggling little annoyances, but by and large, I thought it a brilliant piece.  I'm really looking forward to the second episode of the series.

Yours, thinking that Cumberpatch is going to redefine Holmes, in much the same way that Jeremy Brett did,

Playing Possum

Revisiting the whole possum magic/possum tragic series of events, it turns out that the series is (at least) a trilogy.  LOML now informs me that it appears said possum was not "sad" possum at all, but merely playing possum.  And has vanished off in the way that possums do.

Yours, happy to hear this,

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Quiet day by myself

LOML is off at Brownie Camp with Boo, Skibo is still over at a sleepover, and I'm having a lovely quiet day.  Get up late, walk the dogs, do a few dishes, and then fold a little.

Yours, relaxed,

Friday, October 22, 2010

Possum tragic

I am informed by LOML that one day recently, it appears that possum magic has become possum tragic.
It appears that one of Monty and Mustard may have lived up to their instincts, and said possum is now dead possum.

Yours, a little saddened by this turn of events,

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A marvellous time!

In a reprise of the Gathering for Gardner, all around the world yesterday (and this weekend) there were events in honour of the late Martin Gardner's 96th birthday.  I went today to one such event, and enjoyed great conversation and company, incredible hospitality, marvellous food and drink (very little of the latter for me, since I had to drive a fair way home after the event), and great entertainment, largely from magicians.

Yours, hoping every event was as much fun as the one I went to,

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Another lovely date

In US format, middle-endian, 10/20/10: in little-endian 20/10/10, in big-endian, 10/10/20: either way, the middle is the sum, or one end is the sum of the other terms.
Yours, knowing it is meaningless, but enjoying it nonetheless,

Long days, made longer

Long days, made longer by the addition of committee meetings, long discussions with colleagues, and the beginning of advising season.  In addition, I'm making plans to travel to a Celebration of Mind tomorrow, in honour of the late Martin Gardner's 96th birthday, so I'm having to get done today some of what would usually be done tomorrow.

Yours, feeling rushed,

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Possum Magic

We've been visited, as I may have mentioned, by a possum.  Not once, not twice, but multiple times.  I thought that I would post a picture of said visitor, from the first occasion, when we found it in our recycling bin outside the house, trapped.

Yours, noting that the title refers not to this possum, but to the title of a wonderful Mem Fox children's book,

Monday, October 18, 2010


The latest addition to the household.

Yours, introducing Mustard,

Merlin is off to a new home

Merlin, our larger cat, or rather the larger cat who used to visit us occasionally, has a new home.  He's been living outside by choice for a couple of months now --- he was taken in by a family a mile or so away for a part of that, but they couldn't keep him.
Anyway, a nice couple have decided that they love him, and took him to the vets: so, now we know he is well, and being looked after.  If they let him in and out, perhaps he'll even come visit once in a while.

Yours, relieved he'll be well looked after,

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Apple sauce

Skibo had a bunch of books to read over the past few days, and he's gotten behind schedule.  So this morning I sat down with him and tried to get him to read through them.  We managed a couple of them, in particular, one called Apples to Apple sauce.  He was thrilled by the description of peeling, chopping and cooking apples, so this afternoon we went to the store, bought apples and lemons, and came home to cook up a batch.
I peeled the apples, he pressed down on the corer, and then chopped the segments into smaller pieces (all the while with my watchful, and very nervous, eye on the very sharp knife he was holding).
The apple sauce was very good, I'm told (not being a fan myself).

Yours, having fun teaching him to cook,

New bicycle

I've been thinking about buying a new bicycle for a while now -- the old one is perfectly serviceable, if you know how to service it -- but I don't, by and large.
The silliest little annoying detail is the fact that it was made (nearly twenty years ago!) back when most bikes still used presta valves, and the wheels are a slightly odd dimension, so it's apparently non-trivial to replace with Schrader valves instead.  And all pumps these days are made for Schrader valves, and I am forever misplacing the tiny adapter.
Anyway, this afternoon I bought a new bike, a hybrid (i.e. not a racing bike, not a mountain bike, but half way between: straight handlebars, narrow tires).  Now to find a time to try it out: perhaps tomorrow  afternoon, or Tuesday morning, weather permitting.

Yours, looking forward to cycling again,

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Peaceful mornings

A nice lie in this morning, peacefully waking late: thanks at least in part to the fact that Skibo was away on a sleepover.  How nice on a Saturday morning not to be woken by a six year old boy jumping onto the bed.

Yours, sleepy-eyed even still,

Friday, October 15, 2010

An interesting afternoon

I spent an interesting afternoon discussing potential new courses: spies and spy novels; the death of privacy; Hamlet from all sorts of perspectives; and a bunch of others.  I'm considering adding a few to the list in the future: mathematical card tricks; mathematics and poetry; and my favourite, the science of cooking.
What a joy to be able to get together with a group considering offering off-the-wall, yet intellectually stimulating, material.

Yours, on the wagon with being off the wall,

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Failure rates

Equipment fails in an interesting fashion.  There's a binary nature: it either fails immediately or very early in its life, or it lasts as long as is expected.
My new laptop, just a couple of months old, is a perfect example of this: we installed extra RAM very early, and it was faulty, so we had to wait for a replacement.  Then we put in a larger hard-drive, since I choose to dual-boot: this was fine, for over a month.  And this morning, it failed.  Died a death, it did.  The machine won't boot from the hard drive, and booting with a rescue disk shows no drive connected to the machine.
Fortunately, I'd only made it my machine for regular use a week or so ago, so even though it is not properly backed up, the lost material is minimal. 
It is helping me appreciate my three year old machine more, though.

Yours, annoyed, but living with it,

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


All miners are up.  All rescue workers are up.  An amazing 24 hours or so of exciting, international rescue.
Way to go, Chile.

Yours, in celebration,

One miner left

There is just one miner left to bring up: and then either five or six more rescuers (I hope that they continue live coverage of the rescuers coming up --- it will seem quite unfair if they do not!)
This really has been an amazing event to watch: I spent much of the day flipping between work and watching the rescue.  I can't believe how smoothly it has all gone so far, so well, so quickly, and more than a couple of months ahead of the original schedule!

Yours, just a few more to bring up,

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I have been watching the coverage of the attempts to bring up the Chilean miners: what a heartwarming, tear-bringing sight it has been.   I can't believe we're going to get to see all the miners reunite with their families, let alone the amazing shot from inside the mine!   I have to sleep, of course, but tomorrow I can imagine that I'll be glued to the net for the continuation of the rescues.

Yours, keeping my fingers crossed for the miners,

Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

To everyone who has a connection to Canada, Happy Thanksgiving!!!!
Of course, here in the US, where it's Columbus Day, I am still at work.

Yours, wondering who would choose not to have a connection to Canada,

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sleep in until when????

Every Sunday, it is my wont to listen to the sunday puzzle segment with Will Shortz on NPR.  This week was no exception.  It was still my intention: but I was foiled by the fact that, without family running around, left, right, back and forth, I slept in past nine in the morning: a time I've not slept past in months, perhaps years.

And after that, I still managed to clean most of the kitchen before LOML and the kids returned, and make bread, and pizza dough!  What a lovely way to spend the day.

Yours, relaxed still,


The nice thing about today's date is that it doesn't matter whether you are big-endian, little-endian, or even, as in the US, middle-endian (and how did that ever come to be the convention?), the date is still the same. So, happy day of universal agreement!

Yours, realizing that there are many exceptions, given that there are lots of other calendars in use around the world,

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Brownies, Cubs, and Quiet

A rushed morning today, as I had to co-ordinate getting Boo and her friend M to brownies, or rather to the parking lot where the troop was gathering to go help at a soup kitchen.  LOML and Skibo had gone off to cub scout camp last night, and after Boo and M were done, I drove them over there too.
The town was crazy busy, hundreds, thousands perhaps of people gathering for the annual Fall Harvest Festival. So, rather than going out and doing something, I just had a very nice quiet afternoon to myself, at leftovers for dinner, and basically just enjoyed the unusual solitude.

Yours, peacefully

Friday, October 8, 2010

More possums

The title of this post notwithstanding, I don't actually believe that more possums have been involved.  In fact, I believe we've seen exactly two possums this week.  The one in the recycling bin, and the one who came in the window.
Three times.
Once yesterday, and then this evening there she was again, surrounded by barking mad dogs.   I took the dogs out of the room, and managed to shoo her out of the window again.
Relieved, I went back to putting Boo and her friend (here for a sleepover while LOML and Skibo are camping with the cub scouts) to bed.  
A few minutes later, when I went through to that room again, I saw a scurrying little creature, and hear a little pattering.  Sure enough, she was back in the house again.  This time I had to chase her around, blocking her way with a broom, a door, a foot a couple of times, until finally she headed out the door I'd left open for her exit.

I'm not sure why we're being so blessed with possum visits today.  And I'd rather they didn't come back, at least not in the house.

Yours, noticing that none of them have "played possum" at all.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Possum Magnet

We're big fans of lots of childrens' authors: one in particular who has written many wonderful books is Mem Fox.  One of our favourites, and one that resonates especially for us, is Koala Lou: about a young koala who thinks that her mother is too busy to love her any more: she decides to enter the bush olympics, but fails to win, but in the end discovers that her mother does love her anyway.  We've adopted the tag line for our own:
"I do love you, Boo, I always have and I always will"
is a frequent line from our mouths (and similarly for Skibo).
Another of her books that we really love is Possum Magic, all about a young possum, turned invisible by her grandmother, and their quest (via traditional Aussie food like lamingtons, pavlova and vegemite) to undo the spell.  
This was all brought to mind by the fact that this week we've had two (different, I believe) possums turn up: one in a recycling bin outside, the other inside the house, having come in an open window (a window ten feet above the ground, but with ample climbing surfaces nearby). The first I released by the side of the house, the second LOML and I managed to persuade to scuttle back out the window.
Not believing in magic, I am assuming we have some other attractive qualities, probably not including two dogs and two cats.

Yours, in the role of possum magnet,

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


LOML made calzones this evening: I'd made pizza dough for last night, and we had fewer guests than we might have fed, so put the extra dough in the fridge.  Now LOML and I thought that they tasted delicious (although I did the standard stupid trick of filling mine twice as full as I should!) but unfortunately the children decided to be unwilling to try them with an open mind.

So, given children's reluctance, and adult enjoyment, I'd say that we'll try them again, but it won't be any time soon.

Yours, wondering what the kids might have found not to like....

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


As part of the fiscal woes we're going through, the institution is restructuring, asking all departments to consider ways to save money, productive places to invest our energies in for the future, and how to get there from here.
Today we had our meeting with the vice presidents to give them our views, and a meeting scheduled for 90 minutes lasted at least two hours.   I had to leave at that point, so I'm not sure how much longer it lasted.

However, I have to say that I came away relatively impressed with the whole process, which I had not expected to happen.   Hopefully, the outcomes will reflect a similarly positive outcome.

Yours, in transition,

Monday, October 4, 2010

New laptop

I've made the transition from my old laptop to my new one.  I spent several hours this morning backing up my old machine, then several hours this afternoon restoring the data to the new one.
As of now, most things are working after a fashion.  And it's very nice to have a good battery again --- the old one would only hold about an hour's charge.

Yours, dealing with change, and dealing with it well (if slowly)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie!

The weather has taken an autumnal turn, at last, and so my food thoughts turn to comforting cuisine.  LOML expressed an interest in having chicken pot pie tonight, so I threw one together.  Just threw it together, yes.
I'd made chicken soup for yesterday, but we ended up going over to a lovely party with the vets, and so the soup was ready for today.  I scooped out a little of the liquid, and a lot of the vegetables and chicken, and mixed it with a little cream: ladled it into a pastry-lined pie plate, topped with more pastry, and baked it until it was delicious.
I used to be very afraid of pastry: but a combination of technique and recipe has changed that.  I use the pastry recipe from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, with the following technique:
Cut the butter sticks into three slices lengthwise, and cut each strip into three lengthwise, then cut along the strips so the butter is in cubes about the size of a pea.  Put the flour into a ziplock bag, put the butter in, and shake to distribute evenly.  Put the bag in the freezer for at least an hour, together with the bowl, blade and top of the food processor.
Now follow the directions to make the pastry (pulse a couple of times, add the ice water, pulsing, turn out onto plastic wrap, form into a ball, and refrigerate).
Since making pastry this way, I've not had a bad batch.
And this pie was no different either.  Just plain spectacular.

Yours, in favour of a chicken in every pot (pie)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Off to put up a poster at the cafe

We're off to the cafe for breakfast, the children and me.  LOML's helping out at the vets' clinic for the morning, so I'm taking the kids to eat, then we'll go to the library and get some books.  We've taken Monty and Mustard for a walk: we're going to have to shut Mustard up in the bathroom while we're gone, I think: she's a bit of an escape artist, having figured out how to unlock the cat flap and get out of it.  I've rescued her from the front garden several times already.
I'm going to put a "Found: Dog" poster up at the cafe: perhaps her owners are missing her....

Yours, perceiving the adoption happening minute by minute

Friday, October 1, 2010


The new dog, she, it turns out, is now named Mustard.  I realised that she looked just like the dog of the same name in our illustrated copy of Ogden Nash's "Custard the Dragon", and hence the name stuck.  LOML's going to make posters with her picture and place them around the neighbourhood: until then, we're making her welcome.

Yours, knowing that now we've named her.....