Go Ducks!

Read the game was good. Go ducks!


Top Chef

Anthony Bourdain wrote in Kitchen Confidential, that the folks cooking in the Michelin-two-star restaurant you booked for your anniversary dinner are "wacked-out moral degenerates, dope fiends, refugees, a thuggish assortment of drunks, sneak thieves, sluts, and psychopaths."

This is not what we see on Top Chef. More's the pity.


Two-Item Grocery Lists of the Damned

The Sylvia
  • Razor blades
  • Bubble bath

The Rock Star
  • Tylenol PM
  • Jack Daniels

The Surprised Redneck
  • Lighter fluid
  • Lighter fluid

The Drunk Driver
  • Peppermint Schnapps
  • Breath mints

The Misinformed Tween
  • Coke
  • Pop rocks

The Spartans
  • 1M Persians
  • Body oil



NPR needs to stay out of my mp3 player. I've had it up to here with hearing my songs as bumper music.



It's in the Genes?

I have always enjoyed the movie Gattaca.



Like many of my fellow citizens of the United States and Earth, I hope the President-Elect doesn't disappoint me too badly in the coming months and years. I'm sure he's probably saying Alan Shepard's prayer:"Please, dear God, don't let me f**k up."


A little belated, the six month stats

Weight: 17 lbs, 15.3 oz

Length: 27.75 inches



Whatever bug Susan got has laid me low since Friday evening. Yesterday was extremely unpleasant, as was this morning. I'm not a big fan of colds that invade your sinuses, and am thankful that I've not had too many of them... but is there anything worse in this world than when you get all worked up to sneeze and the urge subsides?


The Weakly Standered

Soren just pulled himself from a sitting position to a standing position in his crib. Oh, goodness. He's been doing great going from prone or supine to sitting position and then back, crawling a bit and rolling with intent... now he's bouldering in his crib.


Time Machine or Decapitation Hazard?

Right now I think I'm just glad that gull-wing doors are rare. I was biking in to campus this morning at a fair clip--in order to keep with traffic--when I was hit with a door.

A delivery-type truck-door popped into my field of vision, it's edge barely far enough out to catch me. Had it been a passenger car, I'd have cleared it easily. Instead I was thrown around/over the door, rolling out towards the sidewalk so I didn't damage myself in the landing.

Even so, it really wasn't great. I'm bruised and scraped and was very, very startled at the speed with which crap happened. I'm okay, but I don't want any part of that again, and my bicycle is the worse for the wear. The two lower-geared drive sprockets are bent--the lowest-gear bent dramatically--presumably from impacting the door. The cross-post has a big streak of the door's paint. Poor bicycle.



I filled out my absentee ballot the other day. Good times. California is quite odd.


Walter in the West Wing

Well, Walter Mondale was the first Vice President to have an office in the White House. I certainly understand that the active role is new, but c'mon! That's insane!



If Google's weather reporting is to be believed, it's going to be ten degrees cooler tomorrow than it's been the last few days, and thirty degrees cooler by Saturday. Awesome.


Tom thinks starfish are creepy

Max: Do you like starfruit?
Tom: It's all right. It's not the five-fold symmetry that bothers me.
Max: That quote totally has to go up on the blog.


The Osmotic Governor

I'm thinking a list is in order
  • Idaho's Butch Otter: legislative, executive, and military experience, a Catholic.
  • North Dakota's John Hoeven: very popular, nation's longest serving gov, former CEO, a conservative Catholic.
  • Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty: legislative and executive experience, a former executive of a company, Evangelical. Interacted with officials from India, China, Mexico, Canada on matters of trade.
  • Vermont's Jim Douglas: political wunderkind with legislative and executive experience. Established a sister city in Russia, fluent in Russian. No doubt deals with Canadian syrup poachers. A Freemason!
  • Florida's Charlie Crist: right there in the name. Methodist swing-state gov.
  • From the former Republic of Texas, Rick Perry: long-serving gov, former Air Force officer, legislative experience, social conservative. On the other hand, Endorsed Giuliani.
  • Hawaii's Linda Lingle: long-serving Jewish gov. Mayor, council-member, high approval rating. Hawaii is very close to a number of other countries... compared to a lot of states.
So, I'm not sure... but do you think one of these border-state governors might have more experience than the one up for VP? Maybe even useful experience? No? Seriously? Alaska?


Ruud the Day

Shoulda read my blog, Ruud.

Read This One Rich

The book I couldn't recall was The Calculus of Consent:Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy, by Gordon Tullock and James Buchanan. It enumerates the cases pretty convincingly, and points out that in determining the optimal decision-making procedure one has to consider the increase in coordination costs vs the imposition of external costs.

Ultimately, I was not happy with their assumptions, though--I can't recall which, exactly, though, unsettled me.

Another book I couldn't recall was by Michael Pollan, and called The Botany of Desire:A Plant's-Eye View of the World. It talked about the coevolution of humans and plants.

Little Flyer

Soren came through the flights with ease and as much aplomb as a baby can muster, much as he seems to come through everything.

In order to facilitate logistics, we asked Susan's folks to front us a car seat that we'd buy from them as we left. We came away with a very nice Britax Marathon carseat. It should be good for Soren up to 49 inches standing height and 65 pounds. Hopefully that won't be, per our friend A.M., at 17 months old, or whatever her extrapolation was. The very nice thing about this seat is that the straps are padded a little, and don't come as close to the rapidly growing neck of the little 'un. Also, we have a "blowout protection" pad, to catch any runaway poos.


Carrot Salad

We had a salad-themed dinner last evening. Potato, fruit, pasta, carrot, and cucumber salads were on parade. M and D made the potato and fruit salads, Susan made the pasta salad, and I made carrot and cucumber salads. I made a pretty normal cucumber salad that we all know and love, though I made it undersweet, much to my chagrin. The carrot salad I got from Mark Bittman, and it was delicious.
More or less, it goes like this:
  • peel and grate 1 1/2 lbs carrots
  • combine juice 2 oranges, 1 lemon and 2 tbsp olive oil
  • add 1 tsp cumin to liquid
  • toss the carrots in the liquid, salt and pepper to taste
It was delicious.


My Ties Are Cooler Than Me

I don't know how that happened. Well, I do know how I got them and I'm painfully aware of my level of coolness, but it still seems somewhat of a mystery how these cool ties got into my closet.



That was exciting.

World War Z

So, on my way to work at night, I've been listening to the audiobook version of World War Z, which Tom got and read a while back. It took a little while to get into it - the format is just a series of interviews - but by the end of the first disc I was pretty engaged. In addition to the author, Max Brooks, a whole cast of actors is involved in reading the book (Alan Alda, Mark Hamill, Carl & Rob Reiner, and John Turturro, to name a few). I was frustrated at first by the guy who read the part of the Chinese doctor; his accent was distracting and really poorly done. But once I got past the first few segments, the actors did a better job, and it's pretty interesting how much detail Brooks put into his work. His interviewees are quite varied in their backgrounds - military, civillian, government officials, medical personnel - so you get a sense of how the Zombie War played out from many different perspectives, and each one moves forward chronologically just a bit from the last.

Anyway, I'm not quite done with the book (almost 4/5 of the way through), but I think I've heard enough to say that it's worth a read/listen. It's a little creepy, a little slow in the beginning, but entertaining overall.


Intolerable Cuteness

Soren is wearing his little University of Oregon one-piece and hat. I cannot stand it. It is cuter than anything I've ever seen in my entire life.




We picked up some pictures from my parents when we stopped on our way back to LA. I scanned them in and Susan's been fixing them up during the wee hours. Check them out at my flickr page.

Watching a Bit of Soccer

Message to Ruud Gullit: What are you doing with those bums in your defense? I would be willing to play for a reduced salary. Call me.

God Bless America

Channel surfing, just now, we stumbled upon Alien Nation, en EspaƱol. Who among us didn't love the kidney-bean-head aliens and their daring salt-water Russian roulette?


More about "The Economy of Cities"

Okay, in comments there was a question:
So is this book written from the perspective of "I know how to best plan cities"? Without any data, how can the author make a claim that mixed zoning is physically inefficient?
To the first part: no. The author basically claims in this book that the "city planning" we mostly know and loathe is worse than useless, and development should mostly be allowed to occur spontaneously.

To the second: there isn't any data presented, so she can't, if you ask me.


Grand Parents

My dad, much on his dignity, on the floor with my son:

My mom, soothing a weary, tiny, traveler (>700 miles in the car today):




I haven't laughed this hard at something in a while.

Check it out.


Oh, NPR.

I was listening to a local show which does film reviews on Friday. As they were discussing the movie Mongol, one of the film critics complained that the movie had too many battle scenes. In a movie about Ghengis Khan? Too many battle scenes?


Inefficient Cities as Sources of New Work

As I continue with "The Economy of Cities" there have been a number of assertions that seemed relatively uncontroversial (what with my vast knowledge of development economics). However, there's no data in this book, that I've yet seen.

I've gotten to the point in the book where the author is contending that inefficient cities--those that are somewhat "organic" in their physical and economic layouts--are engines of innovation. The idea seems pretty reasonable: a number of small firms duplicating work (economically inefficient) and/or being lumped hurly-burly next-door to different pursuits, whether business, residential, or commercial (physically inefficient) may lead to new ways of doing work, new firms making new things, what have you.


Never Thought I'd See That in Print

I jussst started reading The Economy of Cities, by Jane Jacobs. Not fifteen pages in, this gem:
...factories in rural West Virginia employed local people who already knew how to sew and possibly even made their own underwear but this should not persuade us that therefore brassiere making developed from subsistence underwear making in West Virginia.
"Subsistence underwear making" is just hilarious. Like, there they are, barely scratching out their chemises and boxer-briefs.


Here you go.



Well, that went okay. I fear that my talk was pitched to the wrong
level, but a few people seemed to follow it and even enjoy it a bit.

I had something like fourteen one-half-hour interviews, as well as
lunching and dining with some of the people. Those all went very smoothly.

For someone with actual knowledge of that industry, it seems like it
would be a truly wonderful place.


San Jose

Going up tomorrow afternoon. I have a day of interviews there and will be giving a seminar on my research at a research unit of a well-known tech company. Somewhat nervous, but also not too bad, as I don't think a) there's a single chance in hell I'll get it, b) don't even really want it.

Still... advice?


Soren's Growth

Continuing apace


Oh, Patton. Another Jest!

"Casserole of evil."

That's some good coinage.


Air Talk

Sometimes, I'm terribly surprised at the things I hear on the radio. With the Pope's visit coming up, it seems as though NPR is all Christianity, all the time.

Yesterday, while interviewing a couple of men in seminary, a hostess made the point that the general public don't really know much about what the lives of seminarians and priests are like. She actually said something to the effect that "the perception is that priests live very cloistered lives."

This morning, I got off the phone and turned the radio on and heard a
host talking to a priest--I think it was a priest--about coitus interruptus.


Dawn of the Dead

Hilarious if you leave the captions on. E.g. "Undead gnashing of teeth" and "cadaverous moaning."


Where is my mind?

I like this song by the Pixies. It came on my internet radio station at work. I said to myself, "Tom"--'cause that's what I go by, back home, is 'Tom'--where is your mind?"

Oh - stop

With your feet in the air and your head on the ground Try this trick and spin it, yeah Your head will collapse But there's nothing in it And you'll ask yourself

Where is my mind?

Way out in the water See it swimmin'

I was swimmin' in the Caribbean Animals were hiding behind the rocks Except the little fish But they told me, he swears Tryin' to talk to me, coy koi.


The What Wing?

In the sixth season, there's an episode where the President hosts peace talks between Israel and some Palestinian authority. In comments on the progress of talks, C.J. mentions the great success of the lunch buffet. The menu included Maryland crab cakes.

A big hit with those Israelis and Palestinians? Really?

I'm thinking not.


Sooo, About That Job Interview

I just found out they want to make me an offer.


I Chose A

I'll tell you about it later.


Tie Vote (har har)

As our hero prepares for his big job interview in DC next week, he seeks the wisdom of the people in an important aesthetic decision.

Option A:

Option B:

Commence voting!


No, Not Them!

Since Susan and I are planning on a natural childbirth for our soon-to-arrive progeny, I've procured and started to read Husband-Coached Childbirth. An interesting passage:
My personal experience covering forty-six years and over twenty-three thousand babies is a zero maternal mortality rate. This is in spite of the fact that we have a high concentration of high-risk patients--kyphotic dwarfs, pneumonectomy patients, cardiac surgery patients, diabetic patients, and the most frightening of all, the Jehovah's Witnesses who came to us in droves.
Oh no! Not the Jehovah's Witnesses!


Weird Meme

Okay, here it is: find the book closest to you. Turn to page 123. Locate the fifth sentence. Post the sixth, seventh, and eighth sentences.

The book closest to me was The Physics of Information Technology, by Neil Gershenfeld. The selection is below.
To find the field distribution everywhere, it's necessary t o solve Maxwell's equations in cylindrical coordinates for a diverging wave. This is a surprisingly non-trivial calculation [Yariv, 1991], but the result drawn in Figure 8.4 for the fundamental radial and azimuthal mode TEM00 is close to what we just found. At the focus, the phase fronts are parallel and the transverse amplitude has a Gaussian dependence with a standard deviation of w, the beam waist.
So, that was fun! Do it, people of the world!


Very Tired

Between work and moving, there is little rest for the weary, let alone the wicked.


Tourist Tips for D.C.?

Anybody have any? The people at Pentagon directorate did decide to bring me out for an interview.


Fondue or die!

Okay, the organization of the fondue dinner has passed email capability. I'm making a post here to get it all out there. Discuss in comments.

Fondue dinner and dessert. Currently we don't have fixed recipe, but the requirements are minimal: gruyere, emmenthaler, dry white wine, garlic, kirsch, and cornstarch for the dip. Suggested victims are: cubes of a nice, slightly stale, bread, lightly seared strips of lamb, pork, and various vegetables (carrots, broccoli, asparagus).

We have access to Demetri's fondue pot. We will need at least one, probably two more (one for a meat-free version, and one for dessert). Mostly, any heavy-walled sauce pan ought to do. We'll need several tea-lights or votive candles and something with which to raise the pots over them (here we could use the grates from Max's stove and some trivets).

If anyone (besides us) has a Lazy Susan, it would be great if we could borrow it, to grant easy access to the dipping-foods.

Dessert seems likely to be chocolate fondue. I don't know a recipe for this, but I'll bet it will involve a bunch of dark chocolate, some small amount of toasted nuts (filberts, maybe?), a bit of milk or cream and a bit of red wine. For dipping we have suggestions: strawberries, tiny oranges.

Max's apartment.

Duh. Cheese.

Saturday night, current proposals are 6:30pm, and 7:00pm.

Currently we have Max, Demetri, John, Susan, Tom, Alice, ML, Dan, and Auna M.

We can get the "fondue" ingredients. Others want to sign up for the dipping-foods, tea-lights, and anything else we've neglected?


Even Steven Gets a Pony

Well, career week has come to a close. I had a couple of on-campus screening interviews. One went very well. Unless I completely misjudged the second one, it did not go so very well. That's okay, though: I got a USB key and a golf-towel out of it. No, I didn't mug the interviewer.

The upshot is that a directorate within the Office of the Secretary of Defense is very likely to bring me to D.C. to interview for a position as a staff analyst. Very interesting work, seems pretty important.

David Brooks

The lesson of the Ecology Narrative is that, in most cases, the market corrects itself. Maybe this year banks will change their pay structure so there’s not so much emphasis on short-term results. Maybe companies will change their boards to improve scrutiny over complex new instruments.
Pfffffff. Sure, you bet! Path dependence is a myth, and the principal-agent problem doesn't exist!

The Perfect Reality Show

Wow. Oh. My. Jeez. They're showing new episodes of Chuck, again. As a special treat, they decided to show two episodes tonight. Between, they sandwiched an episode of The Celebrity Apprentice. But this post is not about that! Susan changed the channel so we wouldn't have to see that, and stumbled upon... Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew! Interestingly, it is set at his clinic in Pasadena, and (occasionally) at Huntington Memorial Hospital, also in Pasadena. Such luminaries as Daniel Baldwin, Mary Carey, Brigitte Nielsen grace the halls, messy and bizarre.


Man, you really like Tide

At lunch today the topic somehow got turned to historical mathematicians. I think we were talking about Cantor, and how he went crazy. That was a shame. Euler, interestingly, continued to do stuff after he went blind. And he had, like, twelve kids.

We also talked about how several scientists (like artists) had patrons who supported them. We imagined what it would be like if scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers, were sponsored in the modern sense: Isaac Newton's universal gravitation, brought to you by Fidelity! Occam's Razor, brought to you by Gillette!


Better Lucky than Good

Last Friday an old classmate of my advisor came calling at Caltech to do some recruiting. I (all unawares because I thought he'd be around this week for the career fair) met with him and talked for an hour or so about what I've worked on, and what he works on. In the end, he said he'd filled the position in his group but that he was recruiting for several groups at his company and that I ought to send him my curriculum vitae.

After a couple of hours polishing it up a bit (with the help of Susan and Max), I sent it along.

Apparently I made a good impression, because they'll be inviting me for an interview. It may be too soon, as a practical matter, but it is exciting.



Ever been rear-ended at the grocery store?

What about by a crazy lady with a cart?

When you were standing in the checkout line?

Gentlemen and ladies, I implore you! Do not run into people's butts with your fully-loaded grocery cart. Those things sting.


What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

I often get the question: What do you want to do with your degree?

The honest answer is that I don't much care. I can get interested in just about anything.

One possible response I've come up with is that I'd like to find a wealthy benefactor and then just relay interesting information to them. Any wealthy readers in need of a bard, minus the singing?