Texas Wisecracks

Texas humor has some goofy qualities: folks often say some truly dreadful things as long as they’re self-deprecating, and many jokes have ridiculous punchlines, just to check if you’re listening. A typical example is the car keys joke:

A man dashes into the counter at the quick-stop and asks "Can I use your phone to call my wife? I locked my keys in the car."

"Sure," the cashier answers. So the fellow phones home.

"Honey," the man tells his wife, "come on down to the quick-stop with the other car keys. I locked my keys in the car, and left the motor running."

"And hurry! I left the top down, and it’s fixin’ to rain!"

My wife–who is the exact opposite of an airhead–zapped me with one just the other day. I mentioned that a new self-serve carwash was being built in the neighborhood.

"How nice," she replied, "and it’s within walking distance."


Gaudy Night

Dr Richard Brougham, a philosopher at San Antonio College, has been giving me pointers about the philosophy of science for my fall freshman seminar, Systems of the World. One of the philosophers Dr B put me wise to is Susan Haack at the University of Miami. Her article on preposterism in the Skeptical Inquirer made me an immediate fan; her thoughtful review of Dorothy Sayers Gaudy Night has got me reading old mysteries again:

"Why do they send these people here? Making themselves miserable and taking up the place of people who would  enjoy Oxford? We  haven’t got room for women who aren’t and never will be scholars. It’s all right for the men’s colleges to have hearty passmen who gambol round and game in Prep. Schools. But this dreary little devil isn’t even hearty. She’s a wet mess."

"I know," said the Dean, impatiently. "But schoolmistresses and parents are such jugginses. We do our best, but we can’t always weed out their mistakes."

–Dorothy Sayers, Gaudy Night

Of course, that was 70 years ago, in far-off Oxford. We’re modern, and in Texas (search for "Graduation Rate").


Not blindingly fast, not even especially fast. BUT, for the 17th year, the Fat City Six, otherwise known as the Buddhas (for our obvious rotundity), completed the Corpus Christi Beach to Bay Relay Marathon on Saturday, May 20. This year’s team was Anuradha Roy, Mike Anderson, Ed Oliver, Jake Oliver, Steve Rodriguez, and Andrew Rodriguez. While we did overindulge on the traditional fudge from Winton’s Candy Shop, a one-hour wait for tables precluded Ed’s tradtional Bananas Foster at Landry’s. The usual Saturday beach party was cancelled due to Keely Porter’s sprained ankle, which gave us an excellent excuse to overeat at the new, and exceedingly excellent Vietnam Restaurant.

Update: We have photos.







Just received: A Great Mathematica Reference

Today the UPS man dropped off my newest toy, Keikki Ruskeepää’s hefty guide, Mathematica Navigator, 2/e. Not only is it chock full of useful, well-explained examples [Bayesian statistics and MCMC algorithms in Chapter 27, oh joy!], but it’s great reading. Chapter 1 reels you in from the start:

In 1903 at a meeting of the American Mathematical Society, F.N. Cole read a paper entitled "On the Factorization of Large Numbers." When called upon to speak, Cole walked to the board and, saying nothing, raised two to its sixty-seventh power and subtracted one from the answer. Then he multiplied, longhand, 193,707,721 by 761,838,257,287 and the answers agreed. Without having said a word, Cole sat down to a standing ovation. Afterwards he announced that it had taken him twenty years of Sunday afternoons to factorize the Mersenne prime 2^67-1.

Based on Ruskeepää’s example, I tried it on my trusty home PC:

2^67 – 1

FactorInteger[%] // Timing
{0.015 Second, {{193707721, 1}, {761838257287, 1}}}

Ain’t computers wonderful?

The $69.95 price tag is about the going rate for a Mathematica book, but this one has a bonus: the entire book is also provided as a Mathematica notebook on a companion CD, gratis. What a deal.

What a Pleasant Surprise

The wife and I just got back from the monthly big band dance at Fritzi’s Blue Bubble Ballroom. Those old warhorses, the Paul Elizondo Band, were playing up a storm–they play great Latin stuff, but Paul obviously never tried to dance to any of his swing or ballroom stuff (Paul–synchonize your metronome!). However, we were all in for a treat, because Paul had brought along San Antonio’s premier jazz singer, Joan Carrol. Joan sang a bunch of Ellington and Harry James, stuff that’s not on either of her CDs. Here’s hoping she has a new CD in the works!

Zhou GOT to be zhitting me!

Some folks at the University of Oregon are cooking up new pronouns. ze and hir. Linguistics major Pira Kelley describes them this way:

"For those who are not familiar with ze/hir, it is used rather than she/her or he/him/his for some people who identify outside of a man/woman dichotomy."

I, for one, welcome this addition to 21st century doubleplus goodspeak, and I suggest adding the second person pronoun zhou.  I predict this will quickly become the latest codeword for someone of nontraditional sexual orientation, replacing metrosexual, which replaced g-a-y a while back.

Thanks to Joanne Jacobs  for spotting this one.