Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Some highlights of the break:

  • Books:
    1. Exile's Honor and Exile's Valor by Mercedes Lackey -- I enjoyed these more than I thought I would. It has been a while since I've read anything by Mercedes Lackey; perhaps I read too many of them in too short a time before. They do tend to be predictable, but I enjoy the writing style well enough, and the main character of these books (Alberich) is one of my favorites.
    2. Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold -- I enjoyed the book, as I've enjoyed most of Bujold's books, but it was not my favorite. The writing was fine, but the perspective seemed bleak and grim with little breaks of humor. I much prefer the Vorkosigan books, in which I think she takes herself a little less seriously.
    3. The Elder Gods by David and Leigh Eddings -- I was really disappointed by this book. In most of the Eddings books I've read, I've enjoyed at least one of the plot, the writing style, or the character development. But this book seemed flat.
    4. Service of the Sword by various authors -- This is an anthology of stories in David Weber's science fiction universe. Some of the stories were pretty good, some less good. But overall I enjoyed it.
    5. The Culture We Deserve by Jacques Barzun -- Excellent, even if some of the essays tend toward polemic. Barzun writes briskly, and is quite clear about stating and arguing his position. I enjoy the writing even -- or perhaps particularly -- when I disagree.
    6. Caress of Twilight by Laurell K. Hamilton -- Fun. Read quick.
    7. The Art of UNIX Programming by Eric S. Raymond -- ESR is one of the characters of the UNIX community. Sometimes I agree with his points, sometimes not -- but they're worth reading. The book has a lot of little useful nuggets, some of historical interest, others of interest from the difference in perspective. But it read quickly, and when I finished I'd added a few books and papers to my to-read list. That's always welcome, even if my to-read list is always too long.
  • Food:
    1. Fruit cake -- I've never figured out what people have against fruitcake. I really like the stuff.
    2. Cookies -- Cookies of all sorts are good. So I ate cookies of all sorts.
    3. Mandalay Cafe -- This is the first time I've eaten Burmese food. I liked it.
    4. Ham-bean-potato soup -- This is just green beans and potatoes cooked with ham and some water. With a loaf of homemade bread, it's hard to beat.
    5. Bread -- It's all good stuff: plain bread, bread with dates, bread with raisins.
    6. Veggies -- I rarely get radishes for myself. But I love them, and think I finished most of that part of the vegetable platter when it was out. I ate a lot of the little plum tomatoes, too.
    7. Popcorn -- I've never met anybody besides my immediate family who makes popcorn with brewer's yeast. Or rather, I don't know that I've met anybody out of my family who does; it's possible that I just don't know, as I usually don't ask people about their popcorn-eating habits. But it's good. I used to not particularly care for the flavor, but apparently my tastes have changed over the years.
  • XEmacs amusements
    1. M-x tetris
    2. M-x snake
    3. M-x sokoban
    4. M-x hanoi
    5. M-x all-hail-xemacs
    6. M-x spook
  • The cats:
    'Twas two nights before Christmas,
    And all through the house,
    The cats batted string toys,
    But never a mouse.
    1. Jasmine and Thyme -- The two black kittens were new arrivals since the first time I was home. They weren't going to curl up in my lap to be petted, but they were happy to play with a bit of string, even if I was at the other end. They were also fascinated by things moving on a CRT, whether it be a television screen or a monitor. I know Thyme has a few white hairs at her neck, but that didn't help me much when I tried to distinguish them. I still couldn't really tell them apart by the time I left.
    2. Pounce -- She was still happy to play the last time I was home. This time, she was less interested (though she did pounce on my foot under a blanket a few times). Mostly, she seemed happy to observe what was going on.
    3. Misty -- The old grey cat is just what he used to be. He still pounces on a bit of string -- more sparingly, but more effectively, than the kittens. And he was happy to hop into my lap and rest or be petted for a time.
  • Things to drink
    1. Hot water with lime juice
    2. Hot cider with lemon juice
    3. Ginger beer (not an alcoholic beverage, despite the name)
    4. Holiday tea blend (black tea with fruit bits)
    5. Russian caravan tea

This about hits the mark.

The trip back to California was long and crowded, but otherwise mercifully uneventful. I took a window seat in the back, and spent most of the eight hours on the plane sleeping, reading, or staring out the window. I finished reading The Culture We Deserve by Barzun and The Art of UNIX Programming by Raymond. Both were interesting books. As far as the view from the window goes -- there were a lot of clouds. For parts of the flight, the clouds came in neatly painted stripe; for other parts, the clouds looked like a snowy landscape, with snowbanks and crevasses. Near Oakland, the clouds were irregular, and often sat close to the ground. I was briefly reminded of superficial fascia, the connective tissue that ties together muscle to skin -- but only briefly. After a moment's thought, I decided that the resemblance wasn't that strong, and that I'd worry if I ever saw muscle that shade of green.

After I returned home yesterday, I went grocery shopping, surfed the web briefly, ate something, and went to bed. I'm not sure what it is about air travel that I find so tiring, but there is something there. I slept until late this morning, too. I spent some time reading, and then spent a while walking around outside. I felt restless after sitting all day yesterday. I thought about going to campus to retrieve some papers that I want to reference, but I didn't.

According to the news, there will be 200000 revelers at the official New Year's Eve celebration at the Embarcadero in San Francisco. I'm immensely glad not to be there, particularly since the weather predicts rain, occasionally heavy. I'll be next door with a small group of neighbors and friends instead. The path from here to there is entirely covered.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

When I was young, Dad built beds for my brother and I. I grew up dealing with essentially one major piece of furniture in my room: the bed, desk, and dressers are all of a piece, with the bed perched atop the dressers and over the desk. The ensemble is a sturdy monument to my Dad's engineering skills and his love of power tools.

When I was small, my brothers and I used to pretend the bed was a ship -- whether a sea ship or a space ship depended on our mood -- manned by our favorite stuffed animals. I dubbed the game Frog and Other Animals, modestly putting my favorite stuffed animal (a threadbare frog which I creatively named Frog) in a position of prominence over the equally creatively named Bear-Bear and Whale. I doubt Dad intended it this way, but the structure of the bed lent itself perfectly to our play; under the desk was the engineering deck, the middle deck was the bridge, and the top of the bed was the watch deck -- I think. We had a grand time passing orders, information, and Lego constructions of questionable purpose between the decks.

Over the years that I grew into that bed, I refined my technique for entering and exiting it. To get into bed, I would put one foot on my desk, swing my body down and my left leg up, and roll into place. I exited by a similar procedure. By high school, I frequently bypassed the desk when entering or exiting; I jumped instead. I might have tried further variations on the theme, but I was somewhat restricted by the fan and light fixture that jutted perilously close to the edge of the bed. If I jumped into the fan, I figured I risked possible decapitation and almost certain embarrassment, neither of which sounded particularly appealing. I bumped my head against the fan at times despite my cautions, but managed to avoid the more drastic of my theorized fates.

I remember waking up on weekend and summer mornings and spending a lazy time draped over the guard rail on the bed, staring out the window at the play of light and dark in the leaves of the trees. I'd engage in similar contemplation in the winter months, particularly when it snowed, but in such times I usually didn't leave a leg dangling over the edge as I was wont to do in other, warmer seasons. I kept my feet together, tucked under the warmth of my old yellow quilt. It may have been warmer around my perch near the ceiling than it was near the floor, but it was cold enough that I practiced caution.

I've been using the desk, but I'm not sleeping in my old bunk bed this winter. Mom has turned the top into storage space and a staging area for various cloth-based projects. I've slept instead on a more ordinary box spring placed where I used to keep the gooseneck rocker. It suits me well enough. Sometimes I sit on the new bed and look at the old bed and think its time may be past. It should be packed away, or passed on to some other child who will treasure it as much as I did; a simple desk would take up less of the room, in perception and in fact.

But tonight, I'm feeling nostalgic, and I'm glad the old bed is still there.

We picked Dad up from the hospital on Christmas morning, and Rick returned in the early afternoon. So all five of us were home for Christmas. Dad will be wearing a cast on his hand for a while, but the doctor said he thought it looked good at Dad's appointment on Friday morning. He'll have to return Monday for another checkup, but it seems likely that his hand will heal to full function again in the next several weeks.

I spent the past few days visiting. On Friday, the whole family visited Rick and Sarah's new house. They've done a lot of work on it, and while the basement still needs some attention, it's a very pleasant place. Mom and I took a tour of the neighborhood as well. And we all had lunch together at the Mandalay Cafe in College Park. That was a fine meal; it sounds like it's a favorite of Rick and Sarah and Scott.

On Saturday, I went to visit college friends. We exchanged news, and I heard about houses and kids and career plans and such. We all gathered at Will and Liz's home in Towson, and while I made it there without incident, I got lost on the way back. I wandered into some fairly run-down neighborhoods of Baltimore along North Avenue before I found a road I recognized and made my way back. The detour only added about half an hour to the trip, though, so I can't complain too much.

Today, my aunts and uncles came to visit, and we all had lunch and then chatted and ate cookies and sipped coffee. My relatives are fun. They're sharp, pragmatic, silly folk, and I miss visits with them when I'm in Caifornia. In the evening it was just Dad and Mom and I, and we sat and talked for a while more before we dispersed to our solo evening activities.

I've done less fiction reading this week than I thought I might. I spent a lot of time visiting, and playing with the cats, and eating. I spent some time helping chop, saw, and stack wood for the stove. I spent time admiring the woods, and time listening to music, and time playing Tetris (M-x tetris under XEmacs) while thinking about nothing in particular. I saw Return of the King. I extensively edited a technical report that I'm working on, though I've only finished revising a bit under half of it. The total length is about 45 pages right now. And I've read a substantial chunk of Eric Raymond's Art of Unix Programming, which is a far more entertaining work than one might think from the title.

Time flies. I have only one more full day at home; I return to Caifornia on Tuesday. I'll miss leaving the woods when I go. I always do. But it feels like time to return, since right now I'm starting miss my daily work routine.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

While diagnosing a problem with the tractor early this afternoon, Dad broke a high-pressure hydraulic line. The stream of fluid cut his right hand, and some of it got into his finger. Scott took him to the emergency room, and early in the evening he went to Union Memorial in Baltimore to see a hand surgeon. They'll probably have done the surgery by now -- they were going to cut the had open to irrigate it, in order to clean out as much of the fluid as possible. He's there overnight, but should be back tomorrow.

Otherwise, it was a quiet Christmas Eve. Rick and Sarah visited, and Scott came back from waiting at the hospital around 9:30. We ate well, and the cats were funny. I enjoyed listening to the rain in the morning, and spent some more time editing my paper in the afternoon, and in the evening I visited with Rick and Sarah, played Tiddlywinks, and nibbled on various food items.

Rick and Sarah took off a little while ago, and Mom and Scott retired to their beds. I think I may retire to my bed soon, too.

  • Currently drinking: Hot water with lemon

Friday, December 19, 2003

Programmer job reductions worry me.

I planned to come home and do some reading, writing, and arithmetic (or at least algebra) along with visiting friends. I've done more reading than I have writing or arithmetic, but I did finish a sanity check calculation last night that has been on my plate for a while. And maybe I'll do some more this evening.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

I'm home. Big flakes of snow are falling, though they don't seem to be sticking right now. The cats are hilarious, particularly the two little ones. They're still a little afraid of me, I think. And I've been reading and sleeping a great deal for the past couple days. I think I was more tired than I'd realized. That always seems to happen at the end of the year, almost independent of how much or how little I've been doing.

And I can't get PPP to work under Linux. I tried for several hours last night, and again for several hours today. After fixing the initial problem with the kernel module for the driver for my WinModem (which I'd apparently hosed since the last time I was home, doubtless in an attempt to do something else that required a kernel patch), I've been stymied. The PPP daemon connects, negotiates an IP address, fetches the DNS information -- and fails to transmit any IP level packets.

How annoying. It all worked the last time I was home.

On the other hand, I can watch the snow from my window and listen to it on the roof. I have something to read, and the cats are fun. And I'm trying hard not to set to howling, about the computer or about anything else.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

I'm listening to classical music on the radio. It's a familiar tune, one by Bach, but one I can't name. There are a lot of tunes I can't name.

I remember in a conversation with Kahan once, he commented that he thought about mathematical concepts not verbally, but as ghosts and images. I know a number of people -- myself included -- who as often think nonverbally as verbally. Verbal patterns are great for working through details and for communicating ideas. But mathematical inspiration is, for me, a nonverbal process. The problem with nonverbal thought processes, though, is that they are often difficult to translate accurately into speech. The same difficulty holds for feelings, which is perhaps the reason why the phrase words cannot describe is a cliche -- because so often words can't accurately describe a feeling.

There are so many simple things that I enjoy: walking, reading, cooking, eating, thinking, learning, or just sitting alone. I enjoy cleaning and organizing. I enjoy bullshitting with friends. I enjoy feeling like I'm helping make the world a little better. I enjoy coding, and solving problems, physical or mathematical. I enjoy playing with words and ideas. I enjoy my research. I enjoy a lot of simple things. But I have a hard time saying why I enjoy these things, exactly. Why do I find some things so engrossing? Why do I sometimes feel so strongly the need to retreat and be alone? What is so comforting to me in a warm cup of tea? I cannot say clearly, and am frustrated when I try. Perhaps that's part of the beauty of time alone: the freedom to think in a manner as verbally fanciful or as completely nonverbal as I wish, without concern for whether anyone else understands or cares.

I've had occasion to think deeply of late on what I enjoy and what I want out of life. Right now, I want to finish my degree and move psat graduate school. Life as a graduate student at Berkeley has been rewarding, and I don't regret it in the least. And I'm getting very ready to be quits with it -- not with research but with the Berkeley graduate student status. So is that the reason I seem to have such a strong affinity toward work of late? Why not take it easy and go one step at a time? I have my own answers to those questions, but the answers seem weak when translated to speech. Is that because the answers themselves are weak? I think not.

I spent a lot of the day feeling pretty miserable. Work didn't help in this case; bullshitting with friends for a little while and then spending time alone listening to music did help. Actually, bullshitting with friends who talked about three-dimensional visualization of molecules and who asked me about quaternions really broke through the cycle of gnawing self-doubt; sitting quietly and listening to music just brought me the rest of the way back to good cheer.

I leave for home on Monday, and I'm looking forward to the time off. I look forward to seeing family and old friends, and I look forward to some time late at night when the cats are playing and everyone else is asleep, and I'm alone with my thoughts. Historically, this has also been a very productive time of year; perhaps it will be a productive time this year as well. I will probably take a break from writing in this blog until the new year -- if I feel the urge to write, it will probably go into papers or into e-mail. And so, gentle readers, though there may be few of you, and fewer still who I will not see on my trip home: best wishes to you as the winter starts and the year ends. It is a hard season, even festooned as it is with holidays. Be well.

Good night, moon.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

The right thing is such a nebulous phrase sometimes. Body shakes, stomach aches. It's probably best to sleep.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Two of the three problems on my fluids final are done. The remaining one looks trivial, but in the interest of not making foolish errors, I will put off finishing it until morning. For similar reasons, I think I will put off reading about micromechanics of damping, thermoelasticity, structured matrix computations, location of codimension 2 bifurcations, or any other of the technical things that I could be working on.

Instead, I'll write about shaving.

I learned during my first year of college that I don't look particularly good with a beard. It grew unevenly, and was laced with more silver than I cared to see. My friends seemed to agree with my assessment; when I eventually shaved it off, one friend told me that I'd started to look too much like some stereotype of a crazed mathematician. I took it as a compliment, much the same way I try to take my neighbor's exclamation that I look like the original Unabomber sketch when the hood of my sweatshirt is raised. But at the same time, I shaved the beard, and I have not let it return since.

I continue to wear the hood of my shirt, at least when I think nobody is around. It keeps my ears warm.

At any rate, some time in the middle of my college years, after the unfortunate experience with the beard, my electric razor ceased to hold a charge. And so I started to shave with an ordinary safety razor, and discovered that I got a much cleaner shave. I found the experience of shaving with an ordinary razor enchanting for about a week. After that, enchantment faded to a more prosaic sort of enjoyment. I enjoy shaving in the same way I enjoy showering, washing my hands, or brushing my teeth. It's a pleasant ritual that yields concrete results.

At the same time I enjoy shaving, there are a few things about the process that really irk me. The main source of irritation is a simple matter of geometry: no matter how I stretch my jaw, my chin remains pointed, and the corners of my jaw remain sharp corners. Consequently, I'm usually unable to shave my chin and the corners of my jaw quite so clean as I might wish. On the other hand, I tend to scratch itches on the back of my hand with the scruff at my chin, so perhaps there is a silver lining. In fact, there is certainly a silver lining -- and it's a good deal harder to shave than the part that is brown.

Pointy facial features aside, shaving is simple and the effects are immediate. Alas, the same can rarely be said of programming computers or proving theorems. Perhaps I would feel differently were I a barber.

There's a thought to sleep on.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

My PDE final is done. The apartment is clean, my laundry is done, and I have food for the next few days. I have new (nonleaking) shoes, and hair that no longer curls into my ears. I spent time with Winnie, and I spent a little time just staring into space. I read Michael Crichton's Timeline, which I don't recommend, though it was fine for a couple hours entertainment. I slept well, and I ate well, and I finished the work I absolutely needed to finish, plus a little. I didn't finish all that I wanted to finish this weekend, but perhaps that's simply a sign that I need to strive for more realistic expectations.

The fluids final is assigned tomorrow at 9:00, and is due 48 hours later. I hope it only takes a few hours, as I would very much like to have an extra day for writing. I've made good progress on a number of fronts over the past few weeks, but I have not written as much as I intended.

I look forward to going to the family home to visit. I only have another week before I take off.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Evans made what I think is one of the most amusing remarks of the semester in class today.

This technique [deriving an inequality by contradiction rather than calculus] is sort of like the One Ring. On the one hand, it has great power, and when you use it you get all sorts of magical results. On the other hand, it makes you evil. I'm neutral -- this is a really slick proof, but if you do the calculation directly, as your Puritan work ethic tells you to do, you get a little more information. Any questions, either about the proof or the Ring?
  • Currently drinking: Mint tea, I think -- the label was lost.

I did a few things today, but perhaps the most satisfying was the reorganization of my collection of papers. When I found that I could no longer put my hands on the paper I wanted, but had three copies of a paper I no longer cared about, it seemed time to do something. It's now possible to tell at a glance roughly the topics I work on: eigenvalue computations; computational mechanics and finite element simulations; modeling MEMS at a variety of levels of abstraction; and floating point arithmetic. There are folders for other topics, too, but those are mostly thin folders each containing a few papers related to a side project or a secondary line of inquiry.

One of the papers I uncovered during my sifting was a short piece entitled Research as a Life Style, written for the Retrospective section of Applied Mechanics Review (Aug 97). The author is the eminent fluid dynamicist George Batchelor; it was a name I recognized when I happened across the article about a year ago while looking for something else, and it is a name I know even better now that I've spent a semester using Batchelor's fluid dynamics text. It's an entertaining article and a pleasant counterpoint to some of the essays by Barzun which I've read recently.

A few sentences particularly plucked my interest:

  • On the central role of research in a life, sometimes at the expense of other activities:
    Any assessment of the nature of scientific enquiry as a human activity must recognize that research is more than an occupation or a career. One becomes hooked on research, which can be, an usually is, a demanding and compelling search for knowledge which dominates your life.
    I do not know how to reconcile these two aspects of the life of research, firstly, the pure bliss accompanying a bright idea or clarification that comes as a consequence of a long period of concentration, and secondly, the guild accompanying demands made on family and friends and the loss in personal relationships. Perhaps the best a scientist can hope for is a compromise rather than a reconciliation.
  • On how collaborations begin:
    ... since I knew him [Alan Townsend] to be a first-rate physicist and an electronics wizard I suggested that he too should work on turbulence under G.I. Taylor and that we should collaborate. He said he would be glad to do so, although he wanted first to ask two questions: one was What is turbulence? nand the other was Who is GI Taylor? My answers were evidently satisfactory, for the outcome for both of us was a marvelous decade of turbulence research which began in 1945.
  • On my new favorite coffee table design:
    The Department at which I work at Cambridge encourages this informal communication by providing coffee tables with laminated tops on which people may draw or write, and I believe this simple device has endeared the Department to several generations of young scholars.
  • On scientific writing:
    Reading a paper is a voluntary and demanding task, and a reader needs to be enticed and helped and stimulated by the author. Contrary to popular opinion, the words in a theoretical paper need to be understood no less than the equations for the effective communication of science.
    If the present poor average standard of composition in scientific papers is to be raised, and if the preparation of a paper is to be turned into a minor art form, as is desirable in view of its dominant role in scientific communications, we shall need to proclaim openly and often the importance of good writing.

And that, I think, is enough for the day.

  • Currently drinking: Chamomile with lemon
  • Currently nibbling: Freshly baked cranberry-carrot bread

Monday, December 01, 2003

I just took a break and found more math jokes. There are a lot of them, some of which I'd heard before, some of which I hadn't. Two of them really tickled me:

An engineer thinks that his equations are an approximation to reality.
A physicist thinks reality is an approximation to his equations.
A mathematician doesn't care.

Q: What do you get when you cross the Godfather with an economist?
A: An offer you can't understand.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

On Thanksgiving, I took my desk chair next door for my neighbors to use. The plan was that six of the people present would eat in their apartment and four would eat in my apartment, with people shuttling back and forth to get food items. The meal did not go according to plan, of course -- we all ended up eating sitting on the floor in their apartment. It was a comfortably informal arrangement that scarcely detracted from the meal.

I did not think to retrieve the chair until today. When I asked Mike about it, he commented that it was very comfortable, and -- unlike any of the chairs he owned -- didn't bring any pain to his problem hip. So I sold it to him. And now I'm sitting in the remaining chair in my room, a sort of upholstered rolling rocker which used to serve solely as a reading chair and a hanging place for an overshirt or windbreaker. It's a fine, comfortable seat, and it retains my body heat far more effectively than the other chair ever did. That's a distinct advantage in the evening, when the temperature in the apartment sinks to 60 F or so.

This grey rocker has character. I bought it from my former landlady when I moved. I wanted a chair, and she wanted the space. It reminds me in little ways of several chairs in my past. When I lived with my parents, there was an old stuffed rocker in my room where I used to stretch and read for hours on end. The handles were carved in a design I never quite understood, with a little indented circle at the bottom that looked like the eye of some stylized bird or snake. The seat was nearly twice as wide as I was, and so it was easy to spread a blanket over my lap and have space for a cat to curl up beside me. The handles on this grey chair remind me a little of those handles, and the way the chair rocks reminds me a lot of that old chair.

In another way, the chair reminds me a little of Big Red. Big Red was my desk chair (and reading chair) when I was an undergraduate. It was a bit threadbare, but most of the surface was still covered by a maroon cover flecked with a sort of slivery blue. It wasn't pretty, but it was comfortable, and I was attached to it. As a freshman, I carried that chair from the store where I bought it along Route 1 through College Park, across the campus, and up six flights of stairs to my room in the high rise. The trek was perhaps two miles, and I carried the chair on my head for much of that distance. In memory's light, that trek is one of my treasured adventures from college days -- but those days are not so far past that I don't remember getting something of a crick in my neck on the walk home. Regardless of the crick in my neck, I felt some attachment to the chair from the moment I set it down in my room. I think Big Red still sits by the desk in my old room at the family home.

This grey chair previously sat nestled in the nook bounded by one of my bookshelves, the foot of my bed, and my floor lamp. That lamp is another comforting piece of furniture which I purchased inexpensively and carried some miles from the Berkeley Salvation Army store to my home. On the wall between the shelf and the lamp is a world map, tacked up so that the bottom is perhaps four feet from the floor. That nook seems startlingly empty, now. I think I may fill the space with a set of brick-and-board shelves to relieve the overcrowding of my existing book shelves. But that is a task for the new year, after I return from my visit home.

Perhaps by that time I will be able to use the space for some boundary element books borrowed from the Berkeley engineering library. I spent some time this evening searching the catalog for books related to boundary element simulation of elastic wave propogation from structures sitting on an elastic half space. There are a few books that look like they may be very useful -- and most of them are checked out. The fact that those books all have the same due date makes me think that one person has probably checked them out. I have some guesses as to who that person might be, though. Perhaps the easiest way to find the information I need is to e-mail the people who I think might have those books (or might have read them recently) and ask for their help.

Meanwhile, I've more than enough other tasks to occupy my time. Before I call it quits, I think I may spend another half hour revising some text describing posterior error estimates for interpolated invariant subspace bases for twice continuously differentiable parameterized matrix families. Or perhaps I'll just drink a glass of water and sleep a bit early.

The winter rains have finally come to the Bay Area, and they bring to me a sudden desire for new footwear. My sneakers are leakers. In particular, there is a hole at the top of the tip of the toe of my right shoe which seems to turn that shoe into a bucket. There's still a lot of life left in this pair of sneakers, but perhaps it's time to retire them until the rains are past.

I ate well enough on Thursday to be full and happy but not to be overstuffed, and I worked well enough this weekend to be comfortable while still having time to walk and to read a little. And I spent a little time procrastinating, too. It was interesting procrastination, though -- I found out something I didn't know about Marshall McLuhan's book The Medium is The Message.

  • Currently drinking: Rasberry Zinger
  • Currently reading: The Culture We Deserve by Jacques Barzun

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

The apartment is clean, and dinner is simmering on the oven. The slowly growing stack of clothes draped over the back of my chair is stowed, as are the stacks of books that were starting to grow by the base of my shelves. I made some good progress this week in my research work; I had interesting conversations with colleagues, some of which may lead to future collaborations; and I have only one homework left for the semester. I have lots of research work that I'd like to do before I leave for Maryland (not to mention two take-home finals to do), but I can worry about that on Friday or Saturday.

Now, though, it's Thanksgiving Eve, which is an approximate Friday. So perhaps I'll curl up with a book and go to bed early.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

I saw Master and Commander: the Far Side of the World with Winnie this weekend. We chose that over going to see Matrix Revolutions on the IMAX screen, and I think we chose well. It was a fine movie, and I enjoyed the visit to San Francisco.

I ate a scramble of eggs, peppers, onions, tomato, and sausage for breakfast, as well as a few cinnamon rolls with orange frosting. For dinner, I made a spicy black bean soup with celery, peppers, onions, tomato, and sausage, and topped the meal off with fresh-baked cinnamon-raisin bread. Do I seem to repeat myself? If I've played the same theme twice, though, at least it was a theme worth playing. I enjoyed both meals.

I finished reading Stephenson's Quicksilver. I enjoyed it, but not as much as I enjoyed Cryptonomicon. I'm now reading The Culture We Deserve by Jacques Barzun, which is a pleasantly brisk and direct change of pace. Perhaps I'll stick to essays and short stories until I go home for the holidays.

  • Currently drinking: Hot water with lemon

Thursday, November 20, 2003

I made cinnamon rolls this evening. Yeast dough with a little sugar, filling of butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins, and honey. Bake 20 minutes at 350.

This evening, I solved no partial differential equations. I wrote no code. I baked cinnamon rolls, and drank hot apple juice with lemon, read, and sat quietly doing nothing in particular. I've burned the midnight wattage too many nights this week. Tonight I'm going to sleep early.

Monday, November 17, 2003

I visited Vince's page this evening. There is a new addition to his site: a blog kept by Susie the Guinea Pig. Susie's entries make me wish all over again that I had the ability to digest cellulose.

Vince and Heidi are the only old friends I know still keeping interesting web pages alive. Perhaps this is a sign of my own ignorance, though.

  • Currently drinking: Green tea

Sunday, November 16, 2003

I think all the following jokes are funny. This is further evidence that I'm probably better suited to computational mathematics than to stand-up comedy.

  • The self-help group for compulsive talkers: On and On Anon.
  • What looks a lot like a tote bag? An asymptote bag.
  • All famous mathematicians are Armenian. Just look at the names: Gaussian, Lagrangian, Hamiltonian, ...
  • To estimate the time for a task, take your best estimate and double it. Apply recursively.
  • I'm totally normal: < totally, David> = 0.
  • The calculus of variations is a small part of the beach of changes.
  • World ends at 10! More at 11.
  • Get thee to a punnery!
  • I'd like to fill out an apple-cation to become an orange-anion.
  • C is for cookie my browser fetched for me; C is for cookie that's sent by TCP...
  • If it ain't broke, you haven't meddled enough.
  • Do differentiable manifolds have something to do with integrable exhaust?
  • A baby eigensheep is... a lamb, duh. A baby eigencow says mu. And why are all my jokes about wavefunctions met with psis?

Friday, November 14, 2003

The Word.A.Day list to which I'm subscribed has archaic words as this week's theme. The words for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are anon, gainsay, and harken. I think I've used all of those words at some point; I'm sure I've used the gainsay and hark, at least.

I figured out the fluids problem. I made one mistake very early on that led me to rule out solutions of a particular form, and was then immensely frustrated when I found every attack of even modest success seemed to drive me toward solutions of the form I'd ruled out as impossible.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

One of my college roommates, Scott, took a course called Thanatos - The Many Meanings of Death. Despite (or perhaps because of) the grim-sounding title, it was one of the most popular seminars offered through the University Honors program at College Park, and it's still offered. After class one day, Scott mentioned a comment the professor made: that the educational system teaches a sort of controlled obsession. I think the comment was more specific -- that technical education teaches controlled obsession -- but it was a passing comment five years ago, and I've forgotten that detail.

I have a stubborn streak in my own nature, and I'm fully capable of pondering a problem during most of my waking hours, and then having dreams about it at night. It can be consuming. I'm trying to understand some aspects of interface waves right now, and I awoke this morning to vague memories of a dream about wave interference patterns on the surface of a sea of fried onions. And while taking a tea break last night, I found myself idly tapping the table and watching the ripples spread across the surface of the tea in the pot -- and thinking whether I could estimate the wave velocity by tapping at the right frequency to set up a constructive interference pattern. I've also spent far too many hours so far this week trying to figure out my fluids homework, and it's likely that will show up in my dreams tonight, too.

Is that stubborn streak taught, or innate? Probably both. Is it constructive? Yes. Is it obsessive, with the unhealthy connotations that word carries? I don't think it is. Call it concentration, or perhaps stubbornness.

Call it time to think for half an hour more.

  • Currently drinking: Water

Monday, November 10, 2003

An article in the Sunday NY Times described the world's tiniest guitar, ten microns long, fabricated from silicon. It was an amusing article, generally well done, but at the end there was a reference to Michael Crichton's Prey and the book by Dr. Martin Rees which includes berserk nanorobots among the technological threats to the future of mankind. I was reminded of Dyson's article in the New York Review of Books critiquing such arguments. I was also reminded of another article Times article I'd just read, entitled Does Science Matter? To summarize in an exaggerated way, the point of the article is that a large fraction of the American public is willfully ignorant, frightened, or perhaps just bored of science.

Actually, that's not much of an exaggeration.

Science and technology are not Faust's devil, Pandora's box, or the broomsticks of the sorcerer's apprentice. Those stories are powerful myths, and perhaps useful metaphors. But hyper-intelligent nanorobots seem like a ridiculous sort of bogeyman when you consider not only that they're physically implausible (see Dyson's article), but also how little success we've had in building any sort of machines with even a fraction of the general cognitive ability of a human. For that matter, building a water-carrying robot takes some doing -- much more doing than waving a wand.

I would rather wonder at what we're finding out about the universe and what we're learning to construct, and worry about the wisdom of our politicians. I know some would wonder at the wisdom of our politicians and worry that we're learning too much about the universe, but I find such an attitude perplexing.

Perhaps it's even more perplexing than the calculation I was doing before this procrastination break.

  • Currently drinking: Apple cider

And now for something completely different.

The majority of my shirts are plain in cut and single-colored (blue or monochrome, typically). But a substantial minority of my shirts are decorated with some piece of text that shouts to the world, This man is a geek. The collection began with a shirt bought in high school with Maxwell's equations on it. Alas, that has gone from being whole to being holes. But that still leaves me with plenty of other such shirts, accumulated over the years. More than enough, right?

Still. Perhaps I should find a replacement Maxwell's equations shirt.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Saturday was the long-awaited Pumpkin Extravaganza. Well, it was as long-awaited as anything planned about a week in advance can be. I used about 1.75 medium-sized pumpkins for making pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and toasted pumpkin seeds. There was also fresh apple cider, quiche, bread, pate, a salad with candied walnuts and cranberry goat cheese, and some pork and chicken. There was also a curried cabbage dish and some cupcakes. It was all quite tasty, which is good -- I still have another quarter pumpkin in the refrigerator with which I should do something.

Friday evening, I had dinner with Mike, Tracy, and Anant; most of Saturday was devoted to pumpkin buying, cooking, and eating; and I had lunch with Winnie at Vik's Chaat House today. And then the past few hours were spent coping with the realization that I'd planned to do at least three days worth of work this weekend, and only scheduled Sunday evening in which to really do it. Such is life.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Comments I've received this semester:

  • So how does a computer scientist get such an intuition for fluid dynamics?
  • So you do numerical linear algebra, right?
  • As a mathematician, you probably have a different intuition, but I'm a networking person.
  • So you're in mechanical engineering, right?
  • So you're an EE, right?
  • Well, this makes life easier for the mathematicians, but harder for the engineer -- yes, but you are the engineer in this case.
  • So you're a PDE guy?
  • I didn't know mathematicians could think such un-lofty thoughts.
  • Yes, I dealt with that by joining both departments, but it's a bad idea for junior faculty.
  • So when are you graduating? (times umpteen)

Ah, the joys of multidisciplinary research -- it sows such confusion. Lots of people attack the same problem from different backgrounds, and they all get confused about different things.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

We just set up the printer to work with the print server built into our wireless router. It was an adventure. It started printing garbage (I may have set the wrong print driver); then the paper jammed; then it refused to respond to any requests at all. Things began to work only after we reset the printer, our router, and our respective print daemons. It will doubtless continue to work, now, until the full moon. Then we'll have to do a little ritual dance around the apartment to appease the Goat in the Machine.

I'm told the Goat in the Machine will be replaced by a more standard Ghost in the Machine in the next firmware release.

Monday, November 03, 2003

I received notice that my Amazon order shipped on Saturday. When I came home this evening, the box was on my desk. This is with the cheap 5-9 day shipping option. Whee!

Giving those new books a home proved trickier than expected. When I tried to put them into on my desk, I knocked over The Pile. The Pile, which grew for at least two months unchecked, contained most of the junk mail, book catalogs, paid bills that I received. It also contained many pages of scribbled intermediate computations, which I may once have found deeply meaningful. The Pile and I form an agreement during the periods when I'm busy: if it doesn't disturb me (e.g. by falling over at the slightest provocation), I won't disturb it (e.g. by discarding most of its contents).

So. The Pile is now again just the pile, an inoffensive stack of blessedly non-urgent business. Once I'd cut The Pile down to size, it made sense to straighten the rest of my room. I can be a packrat, but I'm a tidy packrat, so there was little enough mess outside the confines of my desk. I straightened my covers, put away a nail clipper and a coaster, and scooped some scattered loose pennies into a jar. And then I stowed my books, which was the whole point of the endeavour.

Time flies when I'm procrastinating. But since my room is clean, I have groceries, and my homework sets for the week are finished, I suppose I've no more good excuses.

  • Currently drinking: Black tea with unidentifiable spice bits

Sunday, November 02, 2003

I made a big dinner this evening: black bean soup with Irish soda bread and with apple-rhubarb-raisin cobbler for dessert. I had a cup of hot apple cider on the side. I filled myself quite comfortably, and shared with Patxi and my neighbors, too. There will still be leftover food for the next couple days, I'm sure.

The weather has turned cool, at least as much as it does in the area. Construction practices in this area place more emphasis on seismic soundness than on insulation, which is as it should be. But as a consequence, the difference between the inside and outside temperature is not so great as I might wish. All of which is a roundabout way of saying My feet are cold.

My feet are cold. But my hands are warm, thanks to the cider, and my ears are warm, thanks to my hood. I find contentment in these little things.

Friday, October 31, 2003

Happy Halloween.

I'm dressing as a slightly befuddled graduate student. I have the mannerisms down just so: right hand pushes hair back while thinking, eyes staring off into the distance, slight drumming of the right heel. Jeans, t-shirt, and some sort of sweatshirt for warmth. I figure I should occasionally take a break to get coffee or lend someone in hand, just to stay in character.

I also considered dressing as a house plant. But that costume would have required taking greenery away from the plants on my desk. I don't really water them as often as I should, and I think that taking any of the (unwilted) leaves from this poor White Butterfly Nepthytis would just about do it in.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

The math colloquium today was given by Prof Barenblatt, on the topic of mathematical modeling of turbulence. I didn't follow all the details (I rarely do in an actual talk), but I followed the general theme. And I was tremendously amused. Something about the combination of his personal presentation style and the thick Russian accent tickled me.

A quote that I found particularly entertaining:

When we submitted this paper, one of the reviewers wrote I believe the publication of this paper will severely damage the reputation of the authors. It should therefore be published immediately. The editor, upon some consideration, decided that counted as an approval, and the paper was duly published.

And now I've returned home, and it's time for some rice pudding and the beginning of the evening's exertions.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

I made an Amazon order today. Why? I wanted to get another book on perturbation methods, since they seem to be showing up with increasing frequency in my recent research endeavours, and since they're showing up in class as well. That was just the excuse I needed. I picked up a few other books from my wish list as well, though I've taken less time to read recently, so that my queue is perilously full. The books are:

  • Perturbation Methods by E.J. Hinch -- a concise, mathematically-oriented treatment
  • Simple and Direct by Jacques Barzun -- on writing style
  • The Culture We Deserve by Jacques Barzun -- cultural criticism essays
  • Moving Toward Stillness by Dave Lowry -- essays on the Japanese martial arts
  • Alistair Cooke's America by Alistair Cooke -- a history by the BBC correspondent

Back to the code.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

People who take measurements of physical artifacts do some amazingly clever things. I went to a meeting on Thursday where there were two talks. The first talk was about measurements of the waves going through a high frequency piezoelectric resonator. Think of waves rippling across the surface of a drum. Now think of trying to measure the shape of those waves -- when the drum is only tens of micrometers across, the surface of the drum moves only a few nanometers, and about two billion waves pass through a point in one second. It seems more fanciful than trying to count how many steps are made by a collection of angels furiously tap-dancing on the head of a pin. But by bouncing a laser off a mirror sitting atop an atomically sharp tip on the drums surface, the first speaker managed to measure the shapes of those waves with startling accuracy. The second speaker was working on building and tuning the types of devices that the first speaker measured. I think both the construction and the measurement are awe-inspiring.

The fact that we understand as much about fluid dynamics as we do is equally awe-inspiring, though in a different way. So much nonlinearity! I spent some time Friday afternoon photocopying the fluids notes on reserve in the library. I copied most of the material after the basic tensor calculus and continuum mechanics at the beginning of the course; at the end, I had exactly a hundred pages of material. It will be a good supplement to reading the text by Batchelor.

I went with Winnie to the UC ballroom dance Fall Ball on Friday. I'm not much of a dancer, and doubt I ever will be. It turns out that Winnie feels much the same, but it was a chance to catch up with old friends and to get dressed up. I hope that the dance made up for the time she spent in traffic; the traffic from the South Bay to the East Bay is apparently surprisingly dense on a Friday afternoon.

Yesterday, we walked along the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a good day for such a walk. We're experiencing a final burst of hot weather, and the breeze from the Bay somewhat balanced the heat of the sun. The bridge really does offer some postcard views. It's possible to see so much in one glimpse: the buildings of San Francisco, the hills of the East Bay, the woods of the park at the San Francisco side, and the boats sailing out of the docks on the Sausalito side. It takes only a little imagination to see the hills and water and trees, to see how it attracts so many residents, and to see how powerful the geological forces that shaped the region must be. The bridge itself is interesting, too, but the structure doesn't compare to the landscape. Actually, we passed three bridges yesterday: the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Richmond Bridge. All are interesting in their own ways.

There is a book by William Gibson, Virtual Light, in which much of the action takes place on the Bay Bridge, in a future in which, after an earthquake made it undriveable, people wandered onto the bridge and made it a sort of city unto itself. I was reminded of it a little yesterday.

It was another good weekend for food, too. I made ham and white bean soup on Friday night, and had eggs scrambled with ham and onions for brunch on Saturday. On Saturday night, we had a mushroom-spinach stuffed crust pizza from Zachary's Pizza, and this morning there were bagels from Noah's Bagels, which Patxi and Esther picked up. We finished off the Monk's Blend tea on Saturday night, too; I think I will have to get some more. I also continue to enjoy having an occasional bowl of yogurt and raisins with honey and cinnamon. And there is a baguette in the kitchen which seems to be calling my name now. Ah, food.

Daylight savings time ended last night, and I have turned back all the clocks except the one on my laptop. At some point, I will convince the computer to change its clock as well, but right now it doesn't seem worth the bother. Linux keeps a software clock which is semi-independent of the hardware clock, and so changes I make to the clock setting seem to get lost when I put my machine to sleep. It's probably an easy thing to correct, but it's easy enough to subtract an hour mentally, too.

  • Currently drinking: Coffee

Friday, October 24, 2003

The PDE midterm, a three-problem take-home exam, was assigned this afternoon. I solved the problems and wrote solutions this evening. The questions were indeed about the same level as most of the homework, which is to say they were a good deal more humane than the problems for many classes I've taken. That still leaves me with too many tasks in my queue -- trying further to debug a particularly vexing code, running resonator simulations, learning how to solve problems involving elastic waves in a half space, and maybe computing polynomial coefficients from roots with high accuracy. It's all great fun.

I also plan to go to a dance with Winnie tomorrow. I don't know how to dance, but that's okay. And on Saturday we'll make pumpkin-based foods. Perhaps I'll have some time to read this weekend, too. If I do so, I'm not sure whether I will read more from Quicksilver or whether I'll read something technical (about fluids, statistical mechanics, microstructural defects, elastic waves, or Laguerre's iteration).

And I'll have some time to sleep, too. Come to think of it, I have some scheduled time to sleep right now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Some days I drink tea as an excuse to have time to write. Some days I write as an excuse to have tea. Some days I have tea because I was missing ingredients for dessert; some days I have tea with dessert. Some days I miss tea altogether; maybe I have coffee, or just water.

Vince and I have a recent running joke that his guinea pig would be a perfect graduate student. She's shy, and likes to hide in dark places; she gnaws on electrical cabling; and she would probably join any movement that offered free food. But, alas, I've decided I don't think most guinea pigs would be good graduate students after all. They have too high a self-preservation to curiosity ratio.

  • Currently drinking: Earl Grey

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

The most recent SIAM Review arrived in the mail today. This looks like a particularly interesting issue for the articles alone, but since the book reviews are shorter I read them first.

The book reviews this time are particularly amusing. There's a two-volume set on scattering that goes for $1000 -- and I complain about the price of text books at a tenth that cost! There's a review of a book on ethnomathematics which describes such things as binary codings used in various divination systems; graph theoretic properties of social networks among the Basques; and the calendar system of Bali, which apparently uses overlapping weeks of length 1, 2, ..., 10 days. Then there's a review of a book on nonlinear dynamics which includes a quote from the Roman poet Lucretius in which the poet appears to be grappling with the concept of a nonlinear flow. There's also a book on nonlinear dynamics which the reviewer recommends as an applied math book that I strongly recommend for sharing with your students and lovers, patrons and presidents (the book is SYNC: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order by Steven Strogatz). I'd send Mr. Bush a copy, but I think I know other people who would appreciate it more.

  • Currently drinking: water

The computer is generating quadrature rules, and I'm going in circles debugging. I take great comfort in the thought that my computer is doing something useful even if I'm stuck.

Lunch yesterday was courtesy of the CS faculty. Every Monday, they have a lunch meeting that goes from 12-1; and every Monday around 1, the graduate students raid the leftovers. Yesterday was Mexican food, and it was quite good. And for recess? I walked to the top of Solano last night and bought a copy of Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver. I thought I might read for an hour or two before I went to bed last night, but the walk was sufficiently invigorating that I had energy to keep working until around midnight. At that point I fell asleep before I could even think about reading.

  • Currently drinking: green tea

Monday, October 20, 2003

Despite my best intentions, I did not print transparencies before my talk on Friday. Fortunately, the laptop projector worked fine. The talk seemed well-enough received, and in any case is now presented and past.

Winnie and I spent Saturday afternoon at Lake Elizabeth in Fremont. We paddled around the lake in a boat for a little while, and spent some time walking around. We played on the swings for a few minutes, and contemplated playing on various other things in the playground. Not every playground toy scales as well as a swing -- a six-foot slide doesn't work so well for a slider just over six feet -- but it was fun nonetheless.

Returning from the BART station in El Cerrito, I encountered a gentleman wandering barefoot along the sidewalk, drinking something that smelled like paint thinner from what looked like a pickle jar. As I walked past, he said to his companion Hey, he looks like he might know something about computers! And he stopped me and asked a few technical questions about Linux and about a Windows XP reinstall he was contemplating. His speech was a little slurred, but his comments made perfect sense. Huh. Something similar happened a few weeks ago when I was stopped by a gentleman smoking outside his apartment. He didn't want to ask about computers, but he did want to read my t-shirt, which had a summary of the RSA cryptosystem algorithm on it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

When I was young, I used to respond to inquiries about my day by saying We ate lunch; and we had recess... Since then, I've added a few things to my list, like I had coffee, and I attended a seminar. But if asked what I did at the end of the day, my inclination is still usually to blink owlishly and ponder for a while. If pressed, I'm likely to blunder and talk about whatever I was thinking about most recently, whether or not it had anything to do with the bulk of my day. It takes me a while to digest experiences.

I remember food, though. So far, this has been a good week for food. I spent Saturday with Winnie, and we had Zachary's pizza for lunch and black bean soup with sausage for dinner. The pizza was thin-crust, not the usual deep-crusted Zachary's pie with all the fillings on the inside. They didn't have the deep dish pizza by the slice, and I still owe Winnie a deep-dish pie at some point, but the regular slices were still good.

The rest of the activities of the afternoon were like lunch: they didn't go as planned, but they turned out well in the end. We went to Sausalito and spent some time walking around there, and planned to then walk over the Golden Gate Bridge. But we missed the turnoff at the beginning of the bridge and ended up stuck in traffic in San Francisco. This weekend was the Fleet Week celebration, and about a million people went to San Francisco to see the Blue Angels stunt flying. Consequently, we were in traffic for a long time. But we listened to Prairie Home Companion on the radio while we waited, and had a very satisfying dinner when we got back: bean soup, bread, asparagus, potatoes, and chocolate turtle brownies for dessert.

Sanjay had some of his students over for dinner on Sunday evening. The food and company were good, and the kids were cute. Dessert was a fancy-looking chocolate cheesecake, though Sanjay claims is simple to make. Whether it was simple or difficult, it was delicious. On Monday, Dave D. and I had ceviche (a Mexican fish dish) and tacos and talked about a change-of-basis problem. We finished the brownies from Saturday for dessert. And later I had tea biscuits with my tea, and ate some of the chocolate turtle candies that Esther bought.

I seem to be eating a lot of dessert recently.

Perhaps there's a correlation between more desserts and more computer failures, for surely that has been another characteristic of this week. Hardware that has thus far been quite reliable -- my laptop, for instance, and the router that Patxi and I use -- has decided this week to show its cantankerous side. My laptop usually goes for weeks at a time between reboots. So far this week, though, I have rebooted at least once a day. You'd think I was running Windows, but I'm not. I believe I know what the problem is, though. There are documented peculiarities in the video hardware on this laptop, and I've been stressing that hardware more than I usually do in the preparation of my fluids homework for this week. Perhaps I just need to upgrade the driver.

While I think I may know the issue with my laptop, I have no idea what has gotten into our wireless router. Occasionally the router just hangs; at other times, everything but the DNS redirection seems to work. Rebooting the router usually fixes the issues -- though not always -- but it's still troublesome. Perhaps I should update the firmware for the router as well as the video drivers for my laptop.

The matrix computations seminar today was made more entertaining by a hardware failure, too. The overhead projector would not project, for no reason that any of us could ascertain. So we all tested our eyesight by looking at the monitor and at the whiteboard until one of the media technicians could come to fix the problem. He did come in the middle of the hour, but eventually declared, Sorry, folks. I'm going to have to look at this later. It just doesn't seem to respond to commands. At that comment, Ioana leaned over and whispered, We could have told him that. Which is true, but probably beside the point -- I doubt he would have believed us.

I've prepared a computer presentation for the talk I'm to give Friday, but perhaps I'd better print overhead slides tomorrow as well, just for insurance. This does not seem to be a week to test the determination of whatever spirits enforce Murphy's laws. I imagine that I'll seem curmudgeonly enough by the end of my talk without any projector failures, though. My talk has three parts: an overview of resonant microstructure design; some ideas underlying eigenvalue computations; and advice about how to be a wise consumer of numerical software. I've tried to leaven the last section with humor, but I think people draw some really boneheaded conclusion from poorly conceived numerical experiments, and I expect my opinion of such shenanigans shows in the slides.

In reviewing my slides, I'm also reminded that graduate students supposedly turn into their advisors over time. I hope that I'm combining the better parts of Jim and Kahan's respective presentation styles, and not taking the worst of both and adding a few new flaws of my own. For better or worse, I can see the influences of each of them in this talk.

Usually, I drastically underestimate the time it will take me to finish a presentation. I've gotten better at recognizing my optimistic tendencies and compensating for them, but I somehow managed to finish the slides for this presentation in about the time frame I had planned. Perhaps to compensate, I spent far too much time this week on my fluids homework. The problem wasn't particularly hard, but it was fun and it generated pretty pictures, and so I spent a lot of time exploring. In essence, we were looking at the movement of fluid around two propellers, each active in turn. It's a little like the flow generated by an egg-beater; the material is pulled around the propellers, and at the same time it gets folded up, so that very quickly it becomes interestingly complicated. So I spent far too much time generating and admiring pictures of what happens when you draw an initially square grid in the fluid and then stir it up with the propellors, or of what happens when you drop a string into the flow and then let it get stretched and folded. The problem is due Friday, but I turned it in early this afternoon, purely out of defense of my productivity for the rest of the week.

Also out of defense of this week's productivity, I have decided to skip the IEEE meeting for the month, which takes place tomorrow. I really want to get some things done by the week's end, and it does not seem wise right now to take a day off to pick floating point nits. If I have some extra time during the week, I'd much rather spend it on books than on meetings. I still have not finished To Say Nothing of the Dog (Willis), and there are new books I would very much like to read some time soon: Quicksilver (Stephenson) and Paladin of Souls (Bujold). I'd also like to spend more time working my way through the technical texts I bought at the beginning of the semester. Reading and writing and thinking seem much more important right now than trying to stay awake through meetings does.

On the whole, I think I've done well recently at balancing time reading and thinking with other demands. I spent some time this afternoon hiding at a cafe in Berkeley and reading through Kahan's notes on Laguerre's iteration for finding polynomial roots. And last night I spent some time reading the most recent SIAM News issue. Of course, the thing I remember most from reading SIAM News is that there is a new edition of Allgower and Georg's classic Introduction to Numerical Continuation. Their old edition was released into the public domain some months ago, and so I returned the aging copy I'd checked out from the library and switched to the electronic version. But if there is a new edition with better typesetting and new material, perhaps I'll invest in a copy. It's a book I already use, after all.

I'm convinced. I think I'll go buy that book, now. And then I'll make some food. And perhaps take a short recess.

  • Currently drinking: Green tea

Saturday, October 11, 2003

There were students in the fluid mechanics course this morning, but there was no lecturer. From what I heard, it sounded like most of the class was still mumbling over the homework, and was perhaps happy for the time to confer. I spent the time talking with another CS student taking the course, a graphics guy who I've known for a while and who is interested in a lot of the same simulation issues. And then I was able to go to the office at 9:30 instead of 10:00. So while I'm disappointed that I missed the lecture, I did at least get some unexpected time out of it.

I spent the afternoon working out the slides for the talk to Anant's group. I think I have them in more-or-less final form, except for a few at the end. My talk is scheduled for this Friday now, and I'm glad it's so. I look forward to giving this talk, but I also look forward to being done with it. I have too many things on my plate right now. That's eternally true, but it makes it no less a relief to be able check tasks off.

I had an interesting conversation with Anant, Mike, and Tracy after dinner this evening. The conversation wandered back and forth across a range of topics, as conversations often do. At some point in the natural flow of topics, Tracy commented that my speech reminded her very much of a Pennsylvania Dutch colleague. I said I thought it was likely in the vowels, since that's what I notice most when I'm among relatives in Pennsylvania. She thought it was the lack of variation in my tone during normal speech.

I thought a little more about Tracy's observation later. I've been told the same thing on other occasions, but I still have not figured out why my accent should sound Pennsylvania Dutch. It's true that this is my mother's accent, and the accent of her side of the family. But it isn't my father's accent, nor the accent of where I was born (Iowa), nor the accent of Maryland, where I spent my years from middle school through the end of college. And I know there are traces of all those places in my speech. So why does the contribution of a specific Pennsylvanian subdialect stand out so?

I made fried potatoes and sour cabbage with honey and apples this evening, and Anant made daal. Surprisingly, the three dishes went together reasonably well. Tracy likes this variant of sour cabbage better than the one I often make (with garlic and pepper), while I think Mike prefers the other version. Anant didn't express a preference. I'll happily eat either.

Monday, October 06, 2003

I just found out there is such a thing as an Anger function. It's a special function related to Bessel functions. I have no idea where it is used, nor do I particularly care at the moment. I just think it's an amusing name.

I'm sure there's also a generation of students who thought it amusing to have classes with Professor Anger.

I don't have the same special dislike for Bessel functions and their kin that I think my dad acquired in college, but neither am I thrilled when they appear in homework computations. Usually by the time I'd think of using Bessel functions, though, I've given up on analytical methods and turned to the computer. And the fact that I remembered where to look for Kelvin's differential equation is dumb luck. Well, it was dumb luck insofar as there is anything lucky about looking in a standard reference. Blessings on the heads of the late Milton Abromowitz and Irene Stegun.

I spent some of Saturday evening visiting with the chemical engineering crew and eating an after-dinner dinner. We played a card matching game called Set and talked about this and that, where this was about half science and that was about half mathematics. I'm glad to have friends who find such conversations as fascinating as I do. Or at least who find them fascinating.

I went to San Jose yesterday afternoon to visit Winnie. That was a lot of fun. She's good company, and I really liked the carrot soup we had for dinner. I'd say it was better than Bessel functions, since the alliteration appeals to me, but I think that would be damning both the soup and the company with fainter praise than they deserve.

And now I'm going to make a cup of tea and switch from homework to research work. I think it would be appropriate to choose somethng that doesn't involve cylindrical harmonics.

  • Soon to be drinking: Green tea

Saturday, October 04, 2003

My cold was mercifully mild and short in duration. I felt well by Thursday afternoon. I'm still drinking the wild berry zinger tea, but that's just because it tastes good. And it's a hot liquid, which is nice when the days are cool, as they have been since midweek.

I bought a Scrabble board yesterday afternoon, and played a game with Mike and Anant last night. I managed to play hyssop on a triple word score, which made my day. I enjoyed playing, as I think Mike did. It seems Anant is less fond of Scrabble.

I visited this morning to look up information on a few recently released books. It's amusing to see Amazon's recommendations. I thought the software might recommend Quicksilver, the new Stephenson book, but instead it suggested Moving Toward Stillness by Lowry and Elements of the Theory of Functions and Functional Analysis by Kolmogorov and Fomin. I suppose I can forgive the failure of Amazon's software to read my mind, since the recommendations are based on limited information and since it still manages to recommend books that I find interesting. And I do think both functional analysis and Lowry's essayson Japanese martial arts are interesting.

The recall election takes place in only a few days now. I will only listen to the news about it on the radio every once in a while, since otherwise I'm sure my eyes will roll right out of their sockets. It's a campaign of style over substance. I do not plan to vote for Schwarzenneger, but that's because I don't know his position on many issues, and because his rhetoric is ludicrous. I did not come to such a decision because I felt infuriated by the allegations of harrassment against him, nor because he might believe Hitler was an effective public speaker. After all, Hitler was persuasive; otherwise, he would not have been nearly the danger that he was. If anything, I'm irked by attack ads and quotes from people who probably doubt the accusations as much as I do.

I feel like I spent the week helping other people out more than working on my own tasks. I like to feel like I've been helpful, and I don't mind spending some time to provide assistance. But I'm glad that I have the flexibility to sometimes work from home, where it's much less likely that someone will knock on my door and interrupt my train of thought. And I'm also glad to have friends who will visit for dinner, and books to read, and other ways to take evening breaks from technical tasks -- my own and others'.

  • Currently drinking: Black coffee

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

I have a cold, or at least a good approximation to one. I also have a cup of herbal tea with honey. The two don't cancel, unfortunately. But the tea is hot and sweet and berry-flavored, and it's gentler than a cup of coffee. My symptoms are mild -- just a stuffy nose -- and I have high hopes that they will dissipate soon. Hope springs eternal.

I've lost my Sandia National Lab mug, which saddens me terribly. I should remember to bring a replacement mug to the office. The cabinet at home is full of mugs to the point of overflowing, so taking a mug to the office would solve (or at least partially ameliorate) two problems at once.

I have a difficult time remembering how exactly my week has gone so far. There was a lot of interaction with various folks: I was a guinea pig for Raffi's user study, helped Sanjay with a presentation, talked to a classmate about the fluids homework, and sent out an example parameterized system for Jiawang to use for his experiments. I also finished the fluids problem for this week. And I intended to go to bed early Sunday night, Monday night, and Tuesday night, and failed each time.

Perhaps I'll succeed in going to bed early tonight.

  • Currently drinking: Wild-Berry Zinger with a liberal dose of honey.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.
-- Oscar Wilde

I'm not working hard right now. I'm listening to To the Best of Our Knowledge online, reading Oscar Wilde quotes, and sipping chamomile mint tea. It doesn't seem such a bad way to spend Sunday night.

The following recipes have seen recent use.

  • Beef (I used about a quarter pound -- tofu would probably work, too)
  • Small onion
  • Mushrooms (ordinary cut)
  • Garlic (2-4 cloves)
  • Ginger (perhaps half as much as the garlic)
  • Soy sauce
  • Black bean sauce (half a spoon)
  • Red bell pepper (one)
  • Hot peppers (I used two serrano)
  • Baby corn (half a can)
  • Vegetable oil (a couple teaspoons -- I use olive oil)
  • Sesame oil (maybe half a teaspoon)

Cut up the beef (or tofu) into a bowl. Dice or grate the ginger; crush and dice the garlic. Mix the ginger, garlic, and black bean sauce with the meat, then douse liberally with soy sauce. Put the bowl aside to blend for a little while.

Dice the onion, bell pepper, and hot peppers. Heat the olive oil and sesame oil in the pan, then start the onions. When it smells ready, throw everything else in -- the meat, the peppers, and the baby corn. Let it cook until it smells done.

  • Green beans
  • Peanuts
  • Garlic cloves
  • Soy sauce
  • A little oil

Put a little oil in the pan. Dice up some garlic and throw it in, too. Cut up the green beans. Put in peanuts -- I use a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio of peanuts to green beans (by volumes). Cook on the stove on high, seasoning with soy sauce to taste.

  • Red cabbage (half a head or a whole head)
  • Plenty of vinegar (white vinegar, cider vinegar, rice vinegar, balsamic, or some combination thereof)
  • Salt, pepper, and garlic to taste.

Drop everything in the pan. Heat until the red cabbage is flexible and the vinegar is bright purple with the cabbage juice. Don't skimp on the vinegar. Add salt and pepper as you cook, tasting frequently to make sure it still tastes right.

  • Plain yogurt
  • Diced fruit
  • Honey
  • Cinnamon

Mix honey into the yogurt to taste. I use perhaps a teaspoon of honey per half cup of yogurt, but I like the yogurt tart; the ratio also depends on the type of yogurt you use. Sprinkle cinnamon over the top, enough so that you can see distinct swirls when you stir things up. Put the yogurt over top of the fruit or mix the fruit into the yogurt, whichever way seems most appealing.

  • Two cans of black beans
  • One large can of tomatoes (use fresh tomatoes in season)
  • One large onion
  • Garlic (2-4 cloves)
  • Salt
  • Lime juice (or a lime)
  • Cumin
  • Chili powder
  • Hot peppers to taste

Saute the onion and garlic. Add the black beans and tomatoes and squirt in a generous amount of lime juice, or just cut a lime in quarters, squeeze the majority of the juice over the beans, and then toss what remains of the fruit into the pot. Sprinkle the top of the mix with equal parts cumin and chili powder, enough to get a film over the top of the entire pot. Add salt to taste. Throw in a bay leaf or two if you fancy it, simmer until your hungry or you're finished with other dishes, and eat. Goes great with rice. You might want to fish out the limes before you eat, though.

All recipes go well with a half cup of adaptation before and a cup of tea after.

  • Currently drinking: Chamomile and mint

Autumn is here.

Autumn in this part of the SF Bay area is not so dramatically different from the rest of the dry season. The days are shorter, and some of the deciduous trees are just beginning to think about losing leaves. This morning it cool and grey and quiet, and there is enough moisture in the air that the edges of Albany Hill appear monochrome, and just slightly flattened and blurred, as they might in a charcoal drawing. Even here, though, there are autumn days when the clouds roll out, the sky is a bright, clear blue, and the air smells of cool days and turning leaves.

Patxi received bike tires by UPS this week, and both Esther and I were here Friday afternoon to ensure that Patxi wouldn't have to go to Richmond to pick up his package in person. We were both working in the living room when Esther asked, Bindel, are you feeling homesick? I thought for a second, and replied A little. I wasn't really sure why, then, but it sounded right. I think, perhaps, I miss fall in the woods most of all right now.

On Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon, I took a break and had a cup of coffee with Christof at Brewed Awakening. There was a breeze, and bits of fallen leaves kept showering onto the heads of passers by. Christof commented that it was like rain, and I replied that perhaps this is why the season is called fall. Then we went back to the office to work.

Yesterday morning, I finished Children of God (the sequel to The Sparrow) by Mary Doria Russell. I highly recommend both books. Yesterday in the early afternoon, I finished my PDE homework for the week, and in the late afternon and evening I spent time with Winnie.

Today, I think, is reserved for polynomial computations, fluid mechanics, talking to Patxi about numerical solutions of ODEs, and perhaps taking a walk in the sun.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

I'm drinking Stash peach-flavored black tea again this evening. It suits me particularly well this evening.

Sanjay and I met at a cafe at 9:00 this morning to talk about where we were and what we wanted to ask Howe and his students when we met them at 10:00. The meeting with the resonator folks was productive, I think. After the meeting I had a short break, then PDE lecture. Then I spent some time quietly scribbling my way through some more scrap paper, and then came home. I bought some groceries on the way back: milk and cereal, pears and yogurt, cabbage and baby corn, and black bean sauce and chow mein noodles. Huzzah for food! And for someone to help eat it.

I think I should turn in early tonight. When I'm tired, my eyelid betrays me. In fact, it betrays me whether or not I actually realize I'm tired. It started to droop markedly shortly after I returned home. My eyes have been particularly irritated since yesterday morning, or perhaps even since late Sunday night; all the more reason to let them close early.

  • Currently drinking: Black tea with peach

Monday, September 22, 2003

I re-registered to vote, got my student bus pass for the semester, and fixed my 1D thermoelastic code for today. I did a few other things, but not so many that I was impressed with myself. I worked some this evening, but I also took some time to visit Trader Joe's to buy ginger cookies, tea, and rolls for lunch for a few days.

I'm digesting a lot of things right now. Part of the process of doing that digestion is to spend a lot of time staring into space. Sometimes I look like I'm daydreaming; sometimes I daydream in truth. But for me, time spent staring at a wall is as vital as time spent staring at papers and code, or as time spent scribbling page after page of scribbled equations and interspersed with question mark. I know this is true, yet I still find it frustrating not to be able to point to something concrete at the end of the week and say There! I have worked well, and that's the evidence.

Think, think, think, as a certain stuffed bear was wont to say.

I remember talking to Kahan once about his days as a graduate student. He said there was a courtyard where people would walk and think. No e-mail or phone calls, just time to think. And that, he concluded, is a problem for students now: where is the time to think? I'm not sure I believe there was such an idyllic time, though I wasn't there to witness either way. Online time has its own stresses, but the computer also simplifies tasks, both as an assistant to computation and as an aid to data management and communication. The only trick is the ability to walk away from the computer, perhaps to scribble on a pad, perhaps to stare into space over a cup of tea.

I spent yesterday neither staring into space nor staring at a computer. Instead, I spent the afternoon and early evening wandering about San Francisco with Winnie. She's good company, lively and funny. We walked from the Powell Street BART station through Chinatown to the north edge, then turned at Pier 39 and walked west along the coast to the Palace of Fine Arts. Then we walked back along the coast, with a break for ice cream at Ghiradelli's square. Then we took the trolley to near where she parked. She drove me to my place, and I made tea; but since it was late and neither of us were all that hungry, we decided to save dinner for another day.

It was a day of no math, unless you count the conversation about the chimney decoration that reminded me of an integral sign. I thought that someone might make an action show starring me, in which the transitions were marked by a spinning integral sign zooming into the screen and then zooming back out, as the old Batman episodes had transitions with a bat spinning in and out. Winnie thought it might make also make a good hood ornament. And I did only a little work at the computer, and that in the morning. I did no computer work, either, except in the morning. But we walked and talked and enjoyed the day, and that's important, too.

Tomorrow morning, I meet with people to talk about simulating damping mechanisms in resonators. And that will be fun, too.

  • Currently drinking: Black tea with peach

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Once a month, I travel with W. Kahan and Jason Riedy to some location in the South Bay for the meeting of the IEEE 754 floating point arithmetic standard revision committee. It is a monthly lesson in arithmetic, computing history, and perhaps a bit of cultural anthropology. It's also a test of endurance and a penance, though I'm not sure for what it is a penance. We have dinner afterward, though, and this month was no exception. So if it's a penance, it's an imperfect one.

The IEEE meeting is not a red herring, a lame duck, or a shaggy dog. More's the pity.

I intended to do a little more work this evening after returning home, checking some equations, and writing my solutions to some homework for tomorrow. I've now returned home and finished with the problem set and the equations, and decided that there is little essaying any more for the day. I'll make a cup of red tea and end on a high note.

  • Currently drinking: Cold water

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I left the house late this morning expecting that I would miss the delivery of the last part of my book order. When I returned, though, there was no sticker on my door to say that UPS tried to deliver while I was out. I'm not sure whether to be glad, because I didn't miss the delivery after all; or impatient, because I want the book to come soon. I think I'll settle for glad.

I finished the proof of a theorem that I conjectured was true nearly three weeks ago. Ultimately, the proof was short and simple, but I'm more inclined to pat myself on the back for finally finding it than to chastise myself for not finding it sooner. Still, I expect this result to be useful in my evaluation of a source of (mercifully rare) error growth in the structured eigenvalue solver I've looked at for the past few months. Yesterday, I did some calculations based on the sensitivity of the coefficients of a polynomial to perturbations in the roots. Tomorrow, perhaps, I will spend some time actually devising test code based on these results.

Actually, I expect I will spend much of tomorrow wearing my mechanics hat. There is a homework set due on Friday in my fluids class, and with the IEEE meeting on Thursday, I expect little time to finish the homework after tomorrow, and I'm a little confused by it right now. I hope that I'll find out in office hours tomorrow that I'm confused on something simple and that the problem is, in fact, as simple as it sounds like it ought to be. I'm also supposed to meet with Sanjay tomorrow afternoon to compare notes on our respective numerical solutions of a simple 1D thermoelastic damping problem. I'd like to review my code before we meet, since he mentioned that the solution has a boundary layer that I may not have resolved. I don't expect that any refinements I make will substantially change my results, but I should still check.

I worked from home and from a local coffee shop for most of today. I was in the office just long enough to have a conversation with Kahan regarding evaluation of accuracy for polynomial root finders. Then I went to the cafe and sat with my cookie and coffee and pad of paper for a while to think thoughtful thoughts. Anant came by a little later, and we had an interesting conversation. Conversations with Anant are always interesting; he works on nuclear magnetic resonance and I work on numerical computations and linear algebra (and other odds and ends), but we both have at least a little understanding what the other does, and we both like to explain what we're working on to anyone who looks even remotely interested. So I tell him about eigenvalue problems and he tells me about nuclear spins and we both walk away happy and a little more informed about the world.

My days have been full and interesting recently. It keeps me happy, but it's exhausting, too.

  • Currently drinking: Red tea

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Walking with a friend along Solano Ave for the Solano Stroll, visiting, then sharing a meal and tea. PDE homework and fluid dynamics and thermodynamic relations that turn into a snarl of notation. Models for thermoelastic damping and radiation boundary conditions. Finite elements and nonsymmetric eigenvalue problems, polynomial computations and error analysis. More Fourier transforms than you can shake a stick at, particularly if you're only willing to shake sticks in a narrow range of frequencies. Gazpacho and green beans with peanuts and fruit with yogurt. Friendly e-mail and technical correspondence and technical support. Floating point and measure theory. Books on statistical mechanics and SPICE and the making of the Oxford English Dictionary.

That's not what I've been up to since this time last week. That's what I've been up to since Sunday morning.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Grinnell's Law of Labor Laxity:
At all times, for any task, you have not got enough done today.
-- from Unix fortune

I spent the morning thinking about thermoelastic problems, then went to PDE lecture in the early afternoon, and then worked on my presentation for the matrix computations seminar tomorrow. I'm re-running some of my experiments now, and I was surprised to find that some of my work to correct subtle numerical difficulties in my code also made the code run faster. Usually there is a trade between speed and stability. The suspicious side of my nature sees a silver lining and wonders where the attached thunder cloud is hiding.

There was a lot of mail on the 754R floating point committee mailing list about stochastic rounding. The idea with stochastic rounding is to round and random. Authors of similar schemes in the past made grandious (and erroneous) claims about how probabilistic error analysis significantly enhanced reliability and made conventional error analysis unnecessary. The proponents of stochastic rounding write that their scheme differs significantly from probabilistic error analysis, but I'm not sure I see how different the spirit is. Floating point arithmetic is not exactly real arithmetic, but neither is it fuzzy. It has precise rules, and it's possible to take use those rules to do remarkable things. But more people learn a little about significant figures and standard normal distributions than learn about floating point arithmetic, so perhaps it's not so surprising to find people who think floating point arithmetic is just real arithmetic with fuzz.

I should probably get back to my slides, now.

  • Currently drinking: Red tea

Monday, September 08, 2003

What makes the universe so hard to understand is that there's nothing to compare it with.
-- from Unix fortune
  • Currently drinking: Coffee with a little milk

Sunday, September 07, 2003

I spent yesterday afternoon with a friend at Golden Gate Park, and then we went to dinner at an Indian restaurant. Esther informs me that this counts as a date; I'm not sure, but it doesn't matter much what the word is. I enjoyed the company and conversation immensely, I enjoyed exploring the park, and I enjoyed dinner. I didn't burn, but I'm much more tan than I was yesterday morning. And if I spend most of today working, at least I took a day of this weekend for fun.

I finished The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell last night. Well, early this morning. It's a very good book, well written and thoughtful.

I made a dish of chickpeas, lentils, and tomatoes with paprika salt, chili powder, and black pepper for dinner Friday. It turned out well. I invited Anant over to try some and to help me figure out a paper on a particular dissipation mechanism for microresonators. Mike had a few bowls, too. I looked in my cupboard this morning, and thought that it was probably a good thing I had dinner out last night. Maybe I could make a meal from what I have left, but I should probably go to the store and restock rather than straining my creativity. Maybe I'll do that this afternoon.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Conversation while boarding the BART train:
Stranger: That's a great book.
Me: Have you read the sequel?
Stranger: There's a sequel?
Me: My friend loaned me both.
Stranger: I'm off to the book store.

Friday, September 05, 2003

There were two quakes this evening: a magnitude 4 shock around 6:30, and a magnitude 3 shock a while later. The epicenter was in Piedmont, just a few miles away. If I was a doomsayer, I might interpret the combination of dry lightning, earthquakes, and the prominence of Mars as inauspicious signs. Fortunately, I'm not a doomsayer.

I was tempted toward doomsaying on the BART ride home, though. The first Richmond-bound train to arrive in the station after I got there sat for about fifteen minutes before disboarding all passengers and going on its way. One of the doors was stuck, and so it was officially Out of Service. Most of the passengers couldn't hear the tinny voice of the PA system asking them to step back so the train could depart; consequently, it took a while for the train to leave even once it was emptied. I had misadventures with BART in the morning, too; the machines were mightily unhappy about my ticket, for reasons that neither I nor the station agent understood. He fished the ticket out of one of the machines, shrugged, and said Did you put any more money on it? No? Well, try the other machine and see what happens.

What happened, fortunately, is that it worked.

I bought technical books this morning: Batchelor's fluid mechanics text, Chandler's little green book on statistical mechanics, the SPICE book, and a book on multiscale modeling. None of the texts was exorbitantly priced, but they weren't cheap, either. I think I just spent most of my planned allotment for books for the month. Even with the expense of money and shelf space, though, I've rarely regretted acquiring a technical book. They are the tools of the trade.

To the curious anonymous asker: the title Tea Total for this blog is a pun on teetotal, a verb which means to abstain from alcohol. I chose the name because I enjoy tea and puns.

  • Currently drinking: Water.