Saturday, January 31, 2009

Farewell, Weekend America!

The last show of Weekend America aired today on the radio. Now, I have to admit, that I never much cared for the show--I thought it veered wildly from deep interviews to bubbly fluff that undermined any credibility the more serious reporting might have built up.

Still, I was somewhat sad to see it go. For one, as someone in the middle of a job search, I can empathize with the process that everyone who works on the show must be going through. Will I find a new job? Will I have to move somewhere I won't fit in? Why now, as the economy is going through such troubles?

On the other hand, all things have to end. Otherwise, the world wouldn't be life, just some Garden of Eden lite. Of course, everyone who's played video games understands this. Games that are too easy where there are no setbacks, no challenges, are boring as all get out. As we get closer to creating virtual worlds, the same rules apply, and act as tests that can be applied to reality. What is typically regarded as a frivolous activity--video games--may provide a new form of scientific philosophy where experiments can be directly used to test the big questions.

In any event, I'll miss Weekend America--mindless fluff included.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

This week's cold front did a number across the whole country. In Durham it brought the first snows of winter.

Durham isn't a big place for snow, but it does happen maybe once or twice every winter. And when it does, schools close down big time. Except for Duke of course, which has a policy of "we don't close for anything". Which is fine, because let's face it, if a prof really can't get into town all they have to do is call in and have class canceled anyway. Fortunately, I live near the intersection of several major traffic arteries, and so the snowplows are always out in full force, so it is never an issue for me.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Galactica is back!

Watched the first of the last episodes of Battlestar Galactica today, and I was completely blown away. Usually a long hiatus like BSG had--in the middle of a season, no less--pulls me completely out of the storyline, but five minutes into the opening and I was back firing on all emotional cylinders.

The episode had all the nice touches that have come to characterize this show: great acting, nice art direction, and imaginative ways of turning the emotional screws to the viewer. Other sci-fi shows have had emotional resonance, but BSG seems to be the first to reach outside the hard core fans of the genre.

I am definitely looking forward to the next 9 weeks!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A cold day in Krzyzewskiville

Camping out for men's basketball games has long been part of the Spring semester experience for Duke students. At my undergrad alma mater, Harvey Mudd, we also camped out--but it was for a good spot in the line to register for next year's courses. At the joint Math meetings this year, I learned that has ended at HMC, now they just randomly assign an order to everyone.

In any even, being a lot smaller (and I have to say somewhat more practical) than Duke, the HMC campouts were always mostly indoors. Last night the temperature hit the mid teen's overnight in Durham, and are likely to do so again tonight. The tents pictured below typically are chock full of electrical devices (although I don't know if heaters are allowed given they are in tents). Still there will be a round of freezing students every time this happens. But I wish them luck.

After all, there's a certain joy to be found in pitting yourself against the elements (even North Carolina style elements rather than say Minnesota.) There's no need to over think things--you're out there trying to get your goal through sheer defiance of what the world is throwing at you. College is all about creativity, organization, and multitasking. Camping out is about none of that: just sitting in one spot for long periods of time, and can be a welcome change indeed.

Of course, I'm not teaching any undergrads this semester, so I don't have to encounter the whooping cough ward in person that always results from cold weather. Oh well, if it was easy, everyone would do it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Happy New Year!

Up to 2009 already? And still no one has figured out what to call this decade. Still one more year to work it out I suppose.

In the meantime, I had a great time visiting D.C. for the joint math meetings. This year I went to a number of screening interviews, including my first for industry and government positions. I also got to meet some old friends at the Claremont Colleges profs, students and alums get-together, as well as catch up with a recent Duke Ph.D.

It's meetings like that where I realize how many people I have met and become friends with over the course of my life. I'm not the kind of guy who stays in constant touch with old friends--I have more of a hit or miss approach as I wander into range of those I know. But that wandering happens more and more frequently as I meet more people in different parts of the country and the world. It just seems weird to me because it's not something that I set out to do in my life. Like the best things, it just kind of grows organically into its own strange pattern.

The new semester has started, and with it some new faces in my graduate course in measure theoretic stochastic processes. So as this is my first post of 2009, I'll start with a toast: To new friends and old, may our paths always intersect!