Friday, January 25, 2008


I know this was a fad a few months ago, but I've just joined LibraryThing, home of the ever-brilliant UnSuggester, the lovely piece of science which tells us that people who own Kushiel's Dart are unlikely to own John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian religion.

As it turns out, typing ISBNs into the computer is more fun that it should be, and now that I have run out of books (I apparently own 201, 44 of which live in my office) I feel the need to keep going. I've made sure as many of the books as possible have the correct cover images associated with them, and even put notes on some of the obvious ones.

Fun facts: my library apparently shares two books with Tupac Shakur's and three with Thomas Jefferson's (but none with Amadeus Mozart—his are old and German anyhow). I apparently have three books autographed by the author; in order of date acquired, these would be The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene, I Sold My Soul on eBay by Hemant Mehta, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling. There are only three books which I have in common with only one other LibraryThing member; one of these is a friend who I did not know used LibraryThing but apparently took the same silly French class in college that I did. I would guess now that there are at least half a dozen books which I am the only user who has (somehow I was unsurprised I am a 1905 copy of Lanzo's Applied Mechanics or one of the Thai massage books I bought in Chiang Mai); unfortunately, while I can easily get the number of other users who have a certain book, I cannot sort my entire library by this parameter.

I also apparently have 30 unread books (or, if they are textbooks [which one rarely "reads" cover-to-cover], essentially never-been-used). I find this to be a surprisingly large nmber; I know I have a stack of about half a dozen books in my "to be read" queue (mostly new ones like Freakonomics and The Assault on Reason), but really?? Thirty?! And here I am wanting to go and buy other books? At least this will give me an excuse to start using the date started/date finished cataloging feature LibraryThing provides.

In unrelated-except-that-it's-also-on-the-internet news, I finally uploaded δ Carina to Kittenwar. She has currently won 4 battles and lost 2 ... how could someone not realize she is the cuttest kitty in all of existence?! Silly people.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mystery Hunt 2008 Post Mortem

I spent this past weekend at MIT for Mystery Hunt, and like last year, I was planning on doing an "obligatory hunt post." But this year's hunt, to be blunt, was simply not fun. The puzzles were too hard, required too many leaps in logic to solve, relied too much on flavor text, and often came with a basketfull of extraneous information and red herrings. Hunt started at noon on Friday and by 7pm I was ready to stop ... and it just kept going until 9pm on Sunday (by the time the coin was found, our team was almost completely cleaned out of headquarters, in the middle of a team debriefing, and setting up a dinner mob). I could say more, but since the winning team is known to write a good Hunt (they wrote last year's, for example), and I'm actually not in the mood for a full-fledge rant, I'll share with you this Sesame Street gem that came up in the middle of an "oh my god I'm so sick of trying to solve impossible-to-solve puzzles" conversation Saturday night:

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


This paper by Conroy, Wechsler, and Kravtsov has got to have the best footnote I have ever seen. They put forth a straightforward way to model "galaxy clustering through cosmic time," and their model does a surprisingly good job of mathing the data. The text to sum this all up reads: "Overall the agreement is excellent on all scales for all four samples.8"

Footnote reads: "8 Booyah!"

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A Belated iPhone Post

Yesterday marked the end of vacation, complete with the last leg of all-day driving, this time from South Carolina back to Ohio. Hanging out in the car all day can be really boring, especially when preceded by a day of hanging out in the San Francisco airport watching what we were told was the "worst weather in over ten years." So, naturally, I started playing with the (not my) iPhone:

I just learned that I can't upload photos directly from an iphone to blogger. But now we are at a toll plaza in West Virginia. Typing on the iPhone is hard so I don't think I'll finish this post here. Also the road is curvy and Carina wants a belly rub.
Here is said picture of δ Carina sitting on my lap:
The problem with these kinds of "vacations" is that they are not at all relaxing—and yet it is still really hard to even pretend to get work done, so they are just exhausting. I doubt that going to sleep at 8pm the night before returning to the office is a sign of renewed enthusiasm ...

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The One Thing Humans Can Agree On

New Year's Eve (and Day, I suppose) is my favorite holiday of the year for the reason that it is an entirely human celebration ... there is no "giving thanks" or implicity-but-now-commercialized worship to some deity that most people don't believe in anyhow. It's quite simply a celebration of saying goodbye to the old and hello to the new, an arbitrary reason to try to "start over." But moreso than that, I like New Year's because the time and date is the one thing that we as the human race can actually agree upon. No one right now is actually saying, "no, no, it's really February 17, 2086."

I'd say more, but in five minutes it's going to be 2008 here and then I can go to sleep, so I'll end with the lame question of: can you come up with anything else that everyone agrees upon?