Saturday, May 31, 2008

Juggling as meditation

I've always been a fairly introspective type, and juggling has fit well with that. I've not seriously juggled for quite some time, but I can say that I served as an unpaid extra juggling in a commercial play. But even if you're not a juggler, this NY Times piece about one of the best jugglers in the world is well worth the read. A son of a math professor and someone who eschews the showbiz aspects of juggling, I can really relate.

And article or no, check out some of his juggling videos on YouTube.

Monday, May 19, 2008


  • I agree wholeheartedly that young Americans need some improved basic financial education.
  • I had meant to mention that I picked up some stamps honoring Pauling, Hubble, and Bardeen (and Gerty Cori of whom I've not heard). Since that was months ago and since the rate has increased from 41 cents to 42 centers, I'm not even sure if they're still available.
  • Philip Greenspun, who usually has what might be called a "fresh take" on current events, has a rather strange post questioning why Farrakhan/Jackson/Wright would vote for Barack Obama.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


  • Krugman seems to be showing quite a bias towards Hilary Clinton. No big deal I suppose, but I've certainly looked to him as one of the more intelligent and objective observers out there.
  • With classes over, I'm trying to decide on what to concentrate this summer. Be safe, and just do what I'm equipped to do? Or start this new project I've got in mind for which I'll have to learn new stuff and which may not work out?
  • These so called rebate checks from the government's stimulus program... in what sense are they a rebate? The letter I got from the IRS called it something like a "stimulus payment" that doesn't need to be repaid when one files 2008 taxes. So, unless I'm missing something, it's just the government giving me money. (I don't consider a rebate on 2008 taxes since the payments can be more than one has paid in tax).

    Update (5/30/08): Here is a FAQ on the so-called "rebates" which mentions this naming issue:

    You have a good memory and, like the 2001 rebates, this really ought to be called a "prebate" because it is a prepayment of a special tax credit created for 2008. Because the point is to stimulate the sluggish economy, though, Congress didn't want Americans to have to wait for their money until they file 2008 tax returns next spring. So, the prepayment was authorized and the "rebate" misnomer was born.

  • Chad notes one of the funnier problems with students and uncertainties, that being their religious faith in all things digital. I find teaching uncertainties totally frustrating. Some (neh, most) kids will never get it...and what's going on in their bio and chem classes? It seems that those classes don't even mention uncertainties.
  • Via Gizmodo, an article at Popular Science on experiments to model brane inflation with a BEC. Somehow it transitions to black hole analogues.
  • What's new with sonoluminescence? Not my field (which field is it?), but can some physics blogger out there give us the latest? It seems I've not heard anything new for a few years.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Faculty Shuffle

  • The Ponderer wonders why there aren't more faculty shuffles. On the contrary I can easily see how such moves aren't so common. Sure the superstars can pick where they go, but for a school to hire an established, proven, quality professor presents a number of obstacles. Assuming tenured, the hiring school has to convince a department and administration to make a big commitment. But more than that, the school has to come to grips with itself. I think most departments have an inferiority complex and suffer from the complex "if this person wants to come here, they must not be stellar." With a beginning person, they see it as a gamble and there's not a clear sense of how good a new person is. But for an established person, it's so hard to rate them appropriately that you get some strange stuff. Recently, someone in my field did a mid-career shuffle, but they're the exception. They're easily subpar in the field, but have an uncanny ability to project a sense of "expertness" to those outside it. Very discouraging, but what can you do?
  • I'm not too clear on this whole Facebook etiquette thing. Can someone enlighten me...Recently I've had a few friends from back in high school try to "friend" me. I dutifully say "sure," expecting to get some message to the effect of "hey, what's up?" However, no such message comes. After all this time, they find me listed on Facebook, and just want to add my entry to their ever-growing list of friends? It seems almost rude. Am I the one who's supposed to send the message?
  • Regarding sports, I'm quite happy that Roger Clemons is being dragged through the mud. I've disliked him for a long, long time, but especially after his wussy behavior with Piazza a while back. On another note, I wonder what percentage of the audience for PTI watches American Idol?
  • Nina Totenburg interviews Scalia and corrects him about an Oregon case on which he ruled. Not sure which segment I heard, but here's a link.
    And then The Daily Show the other day showed a clip of him on 60 Minutes totally dismissing the Gore-v-Bush case in 2000. What an ass.
  • Doug and the Ponderer discuss cheating. I was recently amazed to hear about a number of professors at my school who simply ignore cheating. Beyond simply abdicating what is part of their job, they make things harder for me by essentially encouraging the practice of cheating.
  • When this presidential race started, I was delighted we had a good female and a good African American candidate in the mix. I didn't have a strong preference, though I wasn't so thrilled with having yet another political dynasty (Bush/Clinton). But Clinton has really turned me off. Fine, she can go after Obama and fight hard and maybe a bit dirty. But to say nice things about McCain in her effort to question Obama! I'm referring to her comments about her perception that only she and McCain have proven their ability to be president. And now her support of the cessation of the gas tax? Come on! The NYT has a nice editorial pointing out how silly that is.