Thursday, November 27, 2008


Top ten things I am thankful for:

1) Family and friends.
2) The food whose smells are wafting towards me even as I speak.

Now with the mandatory thanks out of the way...
3) Being born in a time and place where they actually pay people to do mathematics!
4) Along those same lines: The Enlightenment.
5) Literacy. Not only do I personally love to read, it has my vote for the most important aspect of civilization, the ability to reach across time and space to communicate.
6) Peace. The U.S. and others are at war, but compared to the last century, this is still a remarkably peaceful time. Only time will tell if it stays so.
7) The Sixth Amendment o the U.S. Constitution. The right to face ones accuser and know the evidence presented against them at trial represents a shift away from barbarism and fear. I only wish it were universally applied.
8) The Internet. I studied the building of the railroads in history class, but here was a brand new network growing and evolving before my eyes. The technology, the bubble, all of it was and is wonderfully exciting.
9) Science fiction. A library full of people who believed that new discoveries where always around the corner.
10) And right now, the sunny day that is giving me a beautiful view of the water. Sometimes the simplest things are the best.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

I'd rather have a tooth pulled...

Ok, so I had a tooth pulled today. This entry is not for the easily disgusted. Here goes.

The actual procedure turns out to be pretty painless with modern local anesthetics. The victim in this case was a late coming wisdom tooth that was actually pointing at about a fifteen angle away from down towards the back of my mouth. Useless for chewing, but great for collecting food in a nearly impossible to floss location, and with no matching lower tooth to boot. So that sucker had to go. But the pulling, it turns out, is the easy part.

There's a little condition called "dry socket" that occurs in about 5% of cases. Basically what is supposed to happen is that a blood clot forms in the gap left by the pulled tooth that covers everything until the gum and bone have a chance to heal. When dry socket occurs, the clot is dislodged or washed away, leaving the bone exposed to air--by all accounts a pretty painful and nasty thing to have happen. Minimizing the chance of dry socket is at the top of the post-op to do list. So that means no carbonated beverages, alcohol, or rinsing my mouth for the first 24 hours.

No rinsing. No brushing, no flossing, no tongue touching.

Like most people I never thought about how often I rinse out my mouth until it was taken away from me (the caffeine through carbonation I had realized how much I used--let's just say I was "mildly" irritable today.) Ease of access to potable water has spoiled me at every turn I suppose, but I now realize that I tend to rinse fairly often through the day. Just not today.

So now my mouth feels icky. Part of that is the blood that is supposed to seep from the socket for the first 12 hours or so. But mix that seeping blood with the usual saliva and then add NO RINSING OF THE MOUTH to the mix (and of course I'm not allowed to get the tongue in there to that cleaning that the tongue loves to do) and I feel like I've been drinking from a pool of scum collecting below a garbage can. For eight hours.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Quantum of Solace

I saw the new James Bond movie last Wednesday, and was blown away. Well, not literally, although they tried their hardest. This is a fast paced Bond that drives, runs, fights and shoots its way from one scene to the next, with barely a time for a breath.

The action scenes were shot with the kind of quick cuts intended to capture the chaos inherent in improvised action. The movie opens with a brilliantly staged car chase scene through a traffic jam. After that, you know that this is going to be an imaginative romp through Bond's paranoid world where all the women, whether a femme fatale or a brave agent, are drop dead gorgeous and all the villains are going to be unbearably fond of their own monologues.

This is a serious Bond--there's none of the camp of the Moore era on display here, and there's little in the way of comedic relief. Still, Craig is a powerful enough presence that he pulls Bond through his dark path without losing sight of his duty, a delicate balancing act is an increasingly unbalanced world.

4 out of 5 stars

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Halloween was great fun this year! The friends of mine, Leo and Stanca, who had a baby last month now are renting a place out in suburbia. They invited myself and a few others out for dinner during the trick or treat period. Little Radu looked extra cute in his costume.

I have not had any trick or treaters for the last ten years in my various apartment dwellings, so it was lots of fun seeing the little (and not so little) kids in their costumes.

The next night was the stat department's annual Halloween party. The past couple years have been somewhat low energy, but this year they really outdid themselves. I went as an orc this year.

To see all the pictures from the party (and there were some great costumes), go here.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Johns Hopkins

Last week I visited Johns Hopkins University to give a talk in the Department of Applied Mathematics & Statistics. One of my good friends and coauthors, Jim Fill, is there, and we had some good discussions. There are a variety of different ways to organize math departments. If you look at four groups: pure math, applied math, stats, and operations research, some places bundle all four together while in others they are separate. Applied math & stats is actually one of the more unusual combinations, and even more interesting at Hopkins they are part of the School of Engineering rather than Arts & Sciences.

Anyway, Johns Hopkins has a campus that is breathtakingly beautiful. They have just undergone a renovation of many buildings, and it shows. Brick with white trim, white marble, and spires everywhere you look. Very nice!

I also had a chance to check out Baltimore. Most of my time I spent around the Inner Harbor area (the dolphin show and frog exhibit at the aquarium are great!), but I also took a side trip out to Fort McHenry, best known for inspiring Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner" during the War of 1812.