cubby_t_bear: (Eeyore)
2013-08-24 10:14 am

Omelet trials 3 and 4

After a very long hiatus, I decided yesterday morn that I would prefer something other than my usual eggs sunny-side up (also, I had, in a fit of relative insanity, tried making sauce for fish a few days prior, and had mushrooms and onions to use). Heedless of the bloated disaster that had been omelet trials 1 and 2 (now safely in the mythical past), I proceeded ...
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cubby_t_bear: (Cuzzy!)
2012-04-26 05:02 pm

Oh my, fruitses and brownies ...

I'm up at Columbia today, and their math department has the most amazing tea setup. Espresso machines. Teabags that aren't Lipton. Four large platters of fruit (watermelon, canteloupe, honeydew, grapes, kiwi, strawberries ...). Brownies!

Add to that, that the wireless on campus is free and universally accessible.

It's like I crossed into some alternate dimension where mathematicians are not shabby cousins, the internet is free instead of being hemmed in by 9 types of authentication, and they let you into their library just because you're visiting, without giving you the 3rd degree.

This is totally alien to my experience in Princetonia, or NYU, or Austin, or wherever.
cubby_t_bear: (Boddin)
2012-04-17 04:14 pm

The Long Goodbye


I'd forgotten how much I like Chandler - it was the only useful thing to come out of my LA distribution requirement in college. The dialogue is amazing. By modern standards, it's ridiculously pugnacious and aggressive - did people ever talk like that? But it's also very very smart, and it leaves me wondering what's going on half the time, and deeply curious. I don't know my literary history well enough to know if Chandler was the first guy to come up with the world weary aggressive and cynical private eye, but he renders the voice perfectly. Such a very different sort of thing from what I normally read, and yet so much fun at the same time.
cubby_t_bear: (Default)
2012-01-29 09:38 pm

Book Review: The Fatal Shore


The Fatal Shore, by Robert Hughes.
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cubby_t_bear: (Default)
2012-01-20 01:18 pm

Only in Princetonia

http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/01/16/29784/

Fate of IAS faculty housing project hinges on geohistorical brawl over the precise route taken by Washington's forces in their counterattack at the Battle of Princeton.
cubby_t_bear: (Default)
2012-01-13 04:04 pm

Hat!

So I finally found a hat (normal, wintery, keep-warm kind, not silly stuffed-animal-on-top-of-head kind). I was walking back from visiting JDB at Facebook, and there it was, in a window.

Finding hats that fit has been a nontrivial problem for my dad and I, since we are fatheads. Or, if that term is now derogatory, big-skulled :) My dad has it worse than I do - the XL size hats won't fit him, so my sister knit him one. The XL size ones do fit me, it's just that the previous time I went looking, the stores had not restocked post-Christmas, and I'm not very good at finding things in meatspace, where Google is less than optimal.
cubby_t_bear: (Cuzzy!)
2011-12-26 10:44 am

My Mom is a Nerd!

It shouldn't have been unexpected, given that she is an absent-minded mathematician par excellence, but she plays the Asian Mrs. Bennet so well ...

We went to the Met, for her to do some Christmas shopping, and some general touristing fun. The Mom picked out a nice poster, and told me that since they were doing some sort of 3-for-2 deal, I should go ahead and pick out two posters for my apartment (where the walls are bare, and the floors are crowded). I picked out a nice park scene and a seaside scene, and my mom remarked that I picked exactly the same ones she would have. This would never have happened to the BYS, but evidently it does to me :)

Then there was the Museum proper, which was awesome. We spent a lot of time admiring the Islamic art section, particularly the Korans and the calligraphy, and it was hilarious to see her enjoying the Japanese storytelling exhibit, which are honestly just comics painted onto scrolls with Japanese calligraphy instead of printed text. They had lion headed multi-armed monsters, heroes, vengeful ghosts, etc. The modern Japanese clearly follow in the footsteps of their ancestors.

The Mom completely nerded out over the Ming Dynasty calligraphy and started giving me a guided tour complete with humorous commentary about the various calligraphic styles and motifs and mores of classical Chinese scholars. She didn't notice, but she had attracted an admiring audience of 4 or 5 other Chinese people who followed along behind us. And to think I'd mostly thought that I get my liking for making humorous commentary about history from my dad ....
cubby_t_bear: (Brainy Smurf)
2011-12-23 12:53 pm
Entry tags:

Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China


Ezra Vogel wrote a really really long biography of Deng Xiaoping, the second Emperor of the Communist Dynasty. It's massive, packed with detail, enormously interesting, and more than a bit scary. Read more... )
cubby_t_bear: (Default)
2011-12-18 12:41 am

Christmas arrived early!

Halloween, technically.

A few weeks ago, my dad made a cryptic comment that I should open up my winter-suitcase before shopping. I didn't quite get it, since I knew that I needed hat, scarf, and gloves, and I knew the suitcase had none of the above when I packed.

I just opened it up now, and right on top, there are a brand new set of hat, scarf, and gloves! So warm and cheery, and I had not gone shopping in the weeks in between, so it worked out :) My dad's side of the family is very laconic.
cubby_t_bear: (Default)
2011-12-13 10:32 pm

Purloining Postdoc's Property

So I took the A up to Yeshiva to visit a collaborator on Monday, and, as I do, I spent a good chunk of the trip up reading cheerfully away on my phone. Upon getting off the train, I noticed the weight of my bag felt wrong - and this was because several pockets had been opened, causing things to flap about.

The innermost pocket had been opened. The side pockets had been opened. And here's the irony: except for pens, scratch paper, the odd math paper, and the various miscellany that make up my existence, there was nothing in the opened pockets! There was a camera hidden in a deep pocket within a pocket within a pocket, but that was not taken.

In fact, nothing was taken. I suspect the would-be thief was throughly disgusted with my inability to provide him with a laptop, or tablet, etc. A cautionary tale, but a happy one.
cubby_t_bear: (Boddin)
2011-12-10 06:40 pm
Entry tags:

I never thought of that ...

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/12/the-right-and-wrong-way-to-die-when-you-fall-into-lava/

Short version: lava has very high density and viscosity. If you fall into lava, you will not sink. You will displace your mass in lava very slowly, so you'll sink in maybe half a centimeter, and then float.

The application to D&D is obvious: get yourself some major protection from fire, and you can *run* over a field of lava, where your non-demonic, non-elemental enemies cannot follow!
cubby_t_bear: (Default)
2011-11-09 05:23 pm

The world gets more surreal

"If you look at the troubles which happened in European countries, this is purely because of the accumulated troubles of the worn out welfare society. I think the labour laws are outdated. The labour laws induce sloth, indolence, rather than hardworking. The incentive system, is totally out of whack.

"Why should, for instance, within [the] eurozone some member's people have to work to 65, even longer, whereas in some other countries they are happily retiring at 55, languishing on the beach? This is unfair. The welfare system is good for any society to reduce the gap, to help those who happen to have disadvantages, to enjoy a good life, but a welfare society should not induce people not to work hard."

Jin Liqun, the supervising chairman of [the People's Republic of] China's sovereign wealth fund.
http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/talktojazeera/2011/11/2011114434664695.html
Well, we Americans are often overly sensitive and pad our words to avoid giving offense. It's clear that China does not suffer from this problem.

Aside: it's fascinating how quickly the Chinese have resurrected ye olde Confucian work ethic. This lecture from a former Red Guard (this is supposition based on his age) could have come from my grandparents.
cubby_t_bear: (Default)
2011-10-31 09:35 pm

Redefining cheap corkscrews

My corkscrew just snapped off in the middle of the cork. I must admit, I've never experienced that particular failure mode when opening a bottle of wine before. New experiences ...
cubby_t_bear: (Default)
2011-09-12 08:18 am
Entry tags:

On China

This was Henry Kissinger's take on China. It was okay, meaning it was insightful in parts, useful for some historical nuggets, and quite readable. This is, after all, Henry Kissinger, America's greatest diplomat, writing about a country whose modern relations with America were created by him.
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cubby_t_bear: (Default)
2011-09-08 10:50 am
Entry tags:

Nothing to Envy

Nothing to Envy is the novelized story of six North Korean refugees who were interviewed after they made it to South Korea.
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cubby_t_bear: (Default)
2011-09-08 10:42 am
Entry tags:

Alternate History

http://www.tor.com/stories/2011/09/lee-at-the-alamo?WT.mc_id=0

Tor has got a Turtledove short up. The title more or less spoils the story, and it's a fun read. Turtledove can sometimes be annoying, but he captures the mystical reverence American history has for Robert E. Lee very well.
cubby_t_bear: (Default)
2011-09-04 11:19 pm

A Fun Day

I went to Ikea today. Ikea was its usual awesome-cool, blue-and-yellow self, with dozens of couches to lounge upon, lines of mattresses to flop on, and lots of shiny furniture to gawk at. The problem was that there were far too many people. I stood in line at the cafe for what felt like an hour, but the meatballs were worth it! I barely escaped the checkout line with a waste paper basket, some power strips, and some other odds and ends. The coffee table I had hoped to get, and the dresser, were all sold out. This was entirely forseeable, and entirely my mistake - next time, I will go to Ikea after school has started, on a work day, at 10 am. I'm a postdoc who sets my own hours; I should take advantage of this.

Afterwords I ended up at the Met's re-screening of Lucia di Lammermoor held in the plaza in front of Lincoln Center, which was fairly fun (except for the bit when the cops came to order us to return the chairs we took from a nearby park). Their Enrico looked extremely like Severus Snape (both hair and nose were correct), and their Edgardo had some passing resemblance to Sirius Black. Not understanding a word of Italian, I mentally substituted appropriate dialogue - resulting in occasional chortling and giggling, and weird looks from my neighbors. It may also be somewhat disturbing that I found myself wanting to give Enrico (the villain of the piece) advice on how to properly conduct an evil plot.

The clothes are in the closet, the plates are in the cupboard, the books on their shelves. Pretty soon, the room will be as close to civilized as I get! I just need to get rid of those pesky underfoot not-yet-emptied boxes of odds and ends ....
cubby_t_bear: (Default)
2011-09-04 10:48 am
Entry tags:

Six Days of War


Diplomatic history nerds (and their denied cousins, the military history nerds) know, in outline, about the Six Day War: the Israelis launch a pre-emptive strike, destroy the Egyptian air force on the ground, and proceed to walk all over Arab armies several times their size and expand their country to its present borders, in six days, kicking off the perpetual Middle East "peace" process. This book gave a lot of substance to that outline - it's a pretty interesting story.
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cubby_t_bear: (Default)
2011-02-05 08:38 pm
Entry tags:

Project Azorian


Project Azorian: The CIA and the Raising of the K-129Read more... )
cubby_t_bear: (Default)
2011-02-01 09:07 pm
Entry tags:

The Story of the Malakand Field Force - An Episode of the Frontier War

So the parents gave me a Kindle for Christmas (arriving a bit after New Year's), and ever since then I've been a little book-crazy, mostly rereading old friends everywhere I go.

The Story of the Malakand Field Force was Winston Churchill's first published book, and it came out long before he was rich and famous enough to hire a large staff of ghostwriters and researchers. It was one of the books that made his reputation as a writer, and that reputation is pretty well deserved: it reads very well, and hit a lot of the things I look for in books non-mathematical.

There are wry and surprisingly perceptive commentaries on the state of life along the frontier, adventure stories a-plenty, no shortage of self-aware pride in the Empire, unflinching descriptions of some of the nastier and more brutal facts of life. It's a fun read, and some of the observations, and speculations, about the nature of the tribes and the future of India are very ironic in retrospect.