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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Adam's LiveJournal:

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Monday, February 26th, 2007
3:21 pm
I don't seem to have posted in a while...
...so here's a really bad joke.

One day, a D, an F and an A walk into the bar. The barman say, "I'm sorry, I don't serve minors." So, the F leaves and the D and the A have an open fifth between them.

Actually, I do have something vaguely contentful to post which is that I'm going to be in England from May 18th till May 31st this year. I definitely hope to visit Oxford at some point and am open to suggestions of other places where people I know are that I can visit. I quite fancy doing something college-y... Friday night formal? A Sunday evensong? If anyone I know's defending in that period, I'd be happy to make the train journey up to trash them.
Wednesday, February 14th, 2007
10:58 am
Happy Ss. Cyril and Methodius day!
Apparently, some people celebrate the life of some other saint today, but in the Roman ordo, today is the feast of Ss. Cyril and Methodius*! Their story would make rather a good Hollywood movie: they had a big difficult thing to do (evangelising the Slavs); their local boss was a bit of a meany, but their local boss had a bigger boss who liked them (successive Popes were very supportive, even when their bishops weren't); one of the characters dies unexpectedly halfway through; lots of it happens surrounded by gorgeous architecture and/or landscape. Unfortunately, there's no love interest, and the invention of graphological systems isn't one of Hollywood's top themes at the moment.

Anyway, to celebrate C&M day, and to make a nod to the local folk festival, here's some Cyrillic (named for Cyril, who was a pioneer of it):

Моя любовь словно птица, которая готова взвиться в вышину


* Well, this year it is. If 2/14 were to fall during Lent, which it could, this would be the commemoration of Ss. Cyril and Methodius, rather than the feast.
Friday, February 9th, 2007
11:07 am
Wanna be back in Oxford!
I just got the Old Members' email (who wants to be Johnny Foreigner's Latin alumni when you can be good old English old) from my old college and it's full of tantalizing tidbits. I normally say that the weather in England is always strictly worse than in Berkeley but currently we have rain and they have...

Oxford has been covered with snow and it really does make everything look so beautiful. It has also brought out the child in nearly everyone with an increase in snowball fights and a rather impressive array of snowmen (or in reference to the example that was in Front Quad, snowwomen) dotted around the city centre.

Also, I leave the college choir and suddenly (well... three years later) they have all these fun things happening:

On Sunday 11th February 2007, BBC Radio 4's 'Sunday Worship' will be broadcasting a live programme at 8.10am from Jesus College Chapel. Sir John Houghton, former head of the Met Office and Old Member and Honorary Fellow of the College will be articulating why Christians should be at the forefront of concerns about climate change.
For those of you who prefer a bit more of a lie-in on a Sunday morning or are in a different time zone, you can hear the programme throughout the following week, at any time of day by going to the BBC's Listen Again service


As well as the usual services, Jesus College Chapel Choir are leading eight other colleges in a Corporate Evensong in the University Church, and broadcasting live in BBC Radio 4's 'Sunday Worship' programme (see above). On top of all this, the high point has to be the up-coming choir tour to Rome. For six days in July, the choir will stay in Rome, and sing services and concerts in many venues including Santa Maria Maggiore, All Saints' Church, and St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.

We only every got to go to Oxfordshire villages and Wales!

That said, we have some good stuff coming up at Newman choir-wise in the next few weeks, so I shouldn't moan too much. I don't think they'll furnish me with snow, though...

[Italisized quotes used by virtue of fair use. They're probably copyright Alison Profitt-White, Old Members' Officer, Coll. Iesu, Oxon.]
Saturday, January 6th, 2007
11:43 pm
To blog...
This isn't my Rome trip write-up, just the notes I need to supplement my short-term memory to be able to actually write it. I just thought I'd whet your appetites.

Tue: Arrive mid-afternoon. Horrible long walk from train station to hostel with heavy bag with broken wheel. Go to Santa Susanna to pick up tickets for Papal audience and go to Mass. Went to OK trattoria. Went to La Traviatta.
Wed: Papal audience: wow. St. Peter's basilica: good. Discovered wonderful buy-by-the-slice pizza: happiness. Tried to go to Mass at English college, but it seemed to be closed for Christmas vac. Walked in on pontifical Mass at San Andrea Apolostolo by mistake: v. cool. Then off to strange but fun take on vespers at Santa Maria in Travestere.
Thu: Walked up to Spanish Steps: less impressive in real life (and drizzle) than in films. Went on walking tour of centro storico: interesting. Got lost / went for walk (take your pick). Tried to visit Jewish Museum, but they didn't have change for a ten (???). Toured Collosseum (trivia question: who named it Collosseum?). Went to Mass at Trinita dei Monti (in French for a change), then to concert of opera arias (much better than actual opera I went to on Tuesday).
Fri: Vatican Museums (including Sistine chapel), Castel Sant'Angelo. Meant to do Forum, but didn't have time, so went to visit Maria Maggiore instead. Mass + Exposition/Benediction at Il Gesu: very moving. Went out with hostel people to Epiphany Eve-party (v. big in Rome, it seems).
Sat: Started off with pontifical Mass at Maria Maggiore (relic of crib, so where else for Epiphany?), then toured another three of the Major basilicas (John Lateran, Holy Cross, Saint Laurence outside the walls). Meant to do Forum, didn't have time. Went to bizarre concert at Holy Cross (teenagers singing Christian pop and a rapping Cistercian monk), then more sensible concert at Maria delli Angeli (Rossini's Petite Messe Solemne). Hung out with hostel people.
Sun: [Yet to happen...]
General: hostel oddities; variable Italian-language competencies; horrible Roman street signage (or lack thereof); my own lack of good walking shoes.

Oh, and happy new year!
Monday, January 1st, 2007
3:31 am
Christmas / New Year's
I had a good Christmas. The small parish near the domus familius that struggles to provide hymns on normal Sundays really makes an effort with Christmas music and even gave us an anthem during the OOR! It's a very cosy and friendly little parish and I enjoy getting the chance to visit there.

Christmas Day itself with the family was very nice. My main present was a new watch -- my old one broke late August and I'd been making do with my phone since then and hating it, so very glad to have a new watch now. People seemed happy with my presents too: middle sister has been wearing Cal sweater and exchanging Go bears!s a lot; youngest sister liked the boots but didn't like that I wrote Have a boots-iful Christmas! on their card; father has now joined the iPod generation.

On Friday, we went for my "Goodbye meal" (slightly odd timing with all the other events happening this trip) at a very nice local restaurant. My starter of pepper and goat's cheese mousse was very nice, but didn't come with enough bread; main course of tarted up seafood lasagna was very good, though the shrimp was a little over-cooked; vanilla brulee to finish was tasty, though the top wasn't quite crispy enough. Basically, an excellent meal (I'm not happy if I can't find anything to quibble about). The bill came with a confusing statement -- Only excellent service deserves a tip! -- we weren't quite sure if this meant that service was included or whether it was just a bland platitude.

Spent NYE in a pub for the first time ever (I've normally gone to house parties). Very good evening -- affordable drinks, good company, nice atmosphere. Photos will be going up on facebook soon (possibly not till I get back to Berkeley). The one downer was that I had to go home without my jacket as someone else had taken it home by mistake. All sorted now (actually, while I was writing this post) as they've realised their mistake and brought it back to the pub, so I'll have to go over today and pick it up (it's a hard life!).

Off to Rome tomorrow (early!), so I need to pack and finish the Teach Yourself Italian book/CD I got for Christmas (very pleased with it by the way -- tourist focussed, very immersive, not afraid to do a little grammar here and there, just a bit lacking on vocab).
Wednesday, December 20th, 2006
10:05 am
Seat Karma
Twenty-three hours and fifty five minutes before my flight was due to take off (I'm in England now, btw), I checked in online and got an aisle seat in the exit row, which I was very excited about. That was good news.

The bad news was that my row contained half of a married couple and the whole of their young baby. So, being the generally kind hearted (and modest) soul that I am, I agreed to swap seats so as husband and wife could sit together in the exit row to look after baby. This left me with a minging seat -- j in a non-extra room row that looked like abc defg hjk.

But then, there was good news. One of the World Traveler Plus passengers didn't board, so the cabin crew offered me her seat as a thankyou for having taken a worse seat to help the family out earlier. (World traveller plus is a roomier version of World traveller, which is what BA call standard class).

This, and the food being quite good, made up for the film selection being nadge. I watched Scoop which was passable, but v. poor for a Woody Allen movie. There was also the option of Volver which I'd have liked to have seen but I was never organized enough to start watching near enough the start for it to be worth it.
Saturday, December 16th, 2006
4:13 pm
Linguistic ignorance at the beeb
So, Mark Liberman's posted about a new piece of hopeless reporting relating to language on the bbc website. Unfortunately, he either didn't take the quiz or missed a trick.

At one point they claim Mcfitty is an adjective. This seemed rather unlikely to me, though I'd never heard the term, as I knew of fitty as a noun and Mac- as a derivational morpheme that attaches to nouns to form nouns (eg. MacJobs), so I did a google:

(1) Nice work on the McFittie front!
(2) I bum Lee too harshley hes a lilk mcfittie!!!!
(3) [...]who refers to me as a "McFittie."
(4) Who I'd like to meet: A Pretty McFittie!

I won't go on -- this is blatantly a noun, you can insert for yourself the typical rant about lack of basic linguistic awareness amongst journalists, etc.
Thursday, December 14th, 2006
4:14 pm
Technical Query
I seem to remember that if I ssh into my math account, there's some very simple one line command I can type to set my math email to forward somewhere else (my gmail). However, I can't remember what it is. Does anyone else?

(This is prompted by the huge amount of math spam I got today that I've decided I want gmail to deal with not me).
Tuesday, December 12th, 2006
5:00 pm
Prison, Mexican dancers, frogs and plantains
The title gives you a brief summary of last weekend for me. It was a good weekend, but a very busy one.

Friday night, I had my first night teaching math at San Quentin prison. Disclosure rules limit the extent to which I can blog about this, so I'll play it safe and just say that I'm incredibly glad I signed up for this -- it was an incredibly rewarding night and I'm sure it'll only get more so as I get more used to things. Hopefully, my stomach won't turn quite as badly during the few seconds we're locked in the sally gate next time.

Saturday night, I went to St. Joseph the Worker's where Bp. Cummins was visiting to bless their new icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The service was interspersed with music and dancing from the Ballet Foclórico and was in general great fun. While it's always good to see a full church, it was especially good to see so many young people and to see so many people in a Catholic church for a service other than the Mass. St. Joseph's is the main Hispanic church in Berkeley (I think it's the only one with at least weekly Spanish Mass) and I think Americans with Latin backgrounds have done much better than, say, the Irish or Poles at preserving Old Country extra-liturgical devotions.

After that, I went home and watched Magnolia with rdore which was quite good. I felt the sound track overly dominated at times, it could have been a bit tighter timewise and they should have synched the monitors with the cameras in the bar scene, but apart from that it was good.

Sunday night we had the department holiday party which I'd been organizing with Bianca. Bianca had really been the brains behind the operation, but I'd put in quite a bit of leg work so I was keen for it to go well. Which, I think, it pretty much did. We sold 80 tickets, the space was great, the food was good and I enjoyed the bar service (other people were complaining about the speed but I guess I must have got lucky).

Right now I'm just winding down for the semester. Pretty much finished my Christmas shopping (just need to pick something up I've got on reserve at a store and I'm done). Now, to get started on that reading I wanted to get done over break...
Friday, December 1st, 2006
11:53 am
I stormed the ice
Well, we had just won the big rivalry game (vs. Standfurd) and everyone was doing it and I was egged on by a priest, so I suppose it was OK, but I've never been part of a pitch invasion before.

The scene for this was the Big Freeze, the annual Cal vs. Stanfurd ice hockey game. I'd never really gotten into hockey before, but Fr. Charlie was cajoling some Newman peops into going and I thought I might as well. Turns out it's a really fun game to watch: the penalty box rules keep the game varied, icing forces them not to play a "long ball" game (yes, I know I used to be a Dons fan, but there's a time and a place for everything...) and the existence of walls adds a interesting element.

Also, Cal won (7-3), which helped make it fun to watch, but didn't completely dominate (they were 2-2 at one stage, though I don't think the Cardinal ever actually had the lead). Apparently, this was an unusually high scoring game, which might mean it was unusually interesting to watch, but Fr. C said that the ref.s were stopping play far too often for minor things and games are more interesting to watch when they let plays last a bit longer, so maybe that would balance out. The ref.s didn't seem to have any notion of playing advantage from the little I could gleen. I don't know whether that's sportwide or just these ref.s.

Anyway, after we won, the Cal fans (to be honest everyone apart about 6 people there seemed to be Cal fans) stormed the ice. I was surprised how easy it was to walk on in sneakers*. One of the players came up to me and asked me to take a picture of him and his girlfriend** on the ice. Afterwards, I shook his hand and congratulated him and he thanked me for coming, which seemed kind of weird but apparently this is the best crowd they've had for any game for years. I felt a strange sense of brush with celebrity, even though I've no idea what his name was, or even if he'd had any ice time that game (he wasn't the substitute goalie who's the only guy I know didn't get any).

It was fun, and I may be trying to drag people down to the ice rink next season.


* See a previous entry for why I call these shoes sneakers rather than trainers.
** Well, I presume she was his girlfriend. Maybe she was just a random groupie? Do hockey players have groupies?
Monday, November 27th, 2006
2:47 pm
And the bad notation 1971 award goes to...
Jensen's original paper on fine structure is in general very well written, but I really shouldn't sit for a while puzzled, then have to write a marginal note to remind myself on future readings that "[circled thing] is a period, not a multiplication sign."
1:57 pm
The long weekend was wonderfully relaxing. Thursday, I went out to Zyg (a fellow bass in Newman choir)'s place. My gratin dauphinoise were well received, though everyone kept calling them "scallop potatoes". I didn't really mind, as they used the phrase in utterances like those scallop potatoes are really good, who made those?, so I'll accept a slightly less sexy sounding renaming of my dish.

I also discovered that I don't know what a wooden mandolin is in a cooking context. The recipe suggested I might use one to cut the potatoes into thin slices, but I just used a knife. I'd obviously done a good job of approximating the effect of the thing I didn't know as someone asked me if I'd used a wooden mandolin to chop them.

The rest of the weekend was quiet and happily so. A highlight was going to the baptism of the children (elementary school age) of a pair of recovering recovering Catholics (IYSWIM... raised Catholic, moved away, moving back) on Saturday. Lots of touching moments, including the oldest child (8?) helping look after her youngest sister (3?) during parts of the service. It must be very confusing for children having your parents change their religious practice at that age, but these three girls seemed really happy to be joining this larger family. Good on them, and on Frances, their catechist.

Another highlight of the weekend was winning a game of Civ III for the first time (on easy mode though, so I have a few difficulty settings to work through still).
Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006
4:14 pm
What do I do?
A lot of people ask me what I actually do as a logician who's ABT but feels miles away from a T. It's a decent question and the advisor meeting I've just had gives a pretty decent snapshot. Ofcourse, in addition to this kind of stuff, I also teach, go to seminars and engage in various "professional activities".

I'd been reading a paper (Jensen's original work on Fine Structure for those who care). While I'd been reading it, a few little problems had suggested themselves to me: things he asserted without proof that didn't look obvious to me, wondering what happened to the theorems when you jiggled the hypotheses a bit, thinking about whether these two things he'd defined differently might not in fact always come out the same (they won't), etc.

I'd solved a few of these questions and presented the proofs to my advisor. Two of them were right but the other not only was wrong but purported to prove something false. He explained to me why my proof didn't work and we worked through a couple of ways of actually proving the claim was false. I liked the one I came up with after he said "you do know that foo is the same as bar don't you?" (No! I hadn't even thought bar had anything to do with it, and I think bar is cool so that's good), but he came up with a much slicker one.

We then discussed some of the big picture of what's going on (theme: nothing comes for free; the first time you get blah, you don't get blah plus epsilon) and what I'd read for next week (a more modern exposition of the same stuff).

Right now I'm off to brave the supermarkets on Turkey Day Eve so as I can spend tomorrow morning cooking. (Potatoes dauphinoise [for those who care]_{mark two}).
Friday, November 10th, 2006
5:40 pm
I've just finished reading Jamie O'Neill's Killbrack. It's one of his earlier novels, before At Swim, Two Boys which is what brought him fame. People are right that this isn't as good as that, but it's still worth a read.

The book centres of O'Leary Montagu who remembers nothing of his life before the car crash. Armed only with a book, a history of a village in Ireland, he's become infatuated with, he heads to the village write a biography of Nancy Valentine, the writer of the book. He arrives to find the characters from the book just as they were left.

The supporting cast provide almost as much interest as Montagu himself, each having their own particular neurosis. For a long while it seems as if Livia is an exception, the only un-neurosised character, less charactertured, but eventually we find her self delusion too. Still, in a strange way she's the most "real" character -- an icon of normality which serves to exagerate the strangeness of the other characters by contrast.

While the book stays in third person narration throughout, in each section there's always one and only one character whose thoughts the reader is privy to which gives it some of the feel of changing first person narrative. When Montagu is the "focused" character we are also privy to the fact that his internal monologue often drops into varying literary genres the choice of which are not of his control but reflect his mood. Once you're used to them, this is a very effective technique but I think O'Neill introduces too many tricks like this too quickly -- after the reading the first chapter I felt that this book was too clever for its own good. After a few more chapters, I'd decided it was good enough to be that clever. I wonder if the start could have been reworked to avoid my initial doubts?

The mystery element of the book works well: O'Neill drops hints well and we often have the pleasure of being a step or two in front of some of the characters, though not uniformly so (and the surprises help keep our interest up). The book is also very funny in places (the seduction scene is the least sexy and most amusing I've read in a while). All in all, a well crafted, fun read, but nowhere near the league of At Swim, which is much less showy and in which O'Neill paints everything with a much subtler brush.
Saturday, October 28th, 2006
4:47 pm
These a few of my current new things
1. In December, I'm going to go see The Sound of Music in London (new stage production). The lead was chosen by a Pop Idol / American Idol / X factor / etc. -esque process, which means my sisters are excited. I'm excited just because it's The Sound of Music and supercool. Do you think I should ring them up and ask if they'll need a spare Rolf for the night..?

2. Gillian Russell has a nice post on OfSted-ese: when satisfactory's just not enough. Here are two more fun linguistic facts about OfSted:

a) The British government has set up enough regulatory bodies beginning with Of (pronounced [ɒf] like off) (eg. Ofsted for standards in education; Ofcom for communications media) that Of has taken on a new life amongst political comics as a highly productive bound morpheme, eg. in Oftoff a jokey nickname that seems to be sticking for a body regulating access amongst students from lower socio-economic backgrounds to Higher Education.

b) As any teacher who's been subject to an Ofsted inspection can tell you: there's only one F in Ofsted.

3. I'm still in the process of formulating an amazing post explaining my minimalist reading of Free Speech. It's going to contain the words bene esse and generally be fab.

4. If I get knocked down by a bus tomorrow, I'll be able to say that I've actually contributed something to mathematics. A couple of weeks ago, I found a gap in a proof in a draft of a paper by a BigFamousGuyWithStuffNamedAfterHim. After checking with my advisor that it really was a gap, not just me being dense, we emailed him. He's now fixed the proof and the corrected version will go off to the publisher in a few weeks.

5. I thought the meeting of graduate students we had yesterday in preparation for the review of my group by the division was really productive.

6. It looks like the Department Holiday party is actually going to happen, which is cool.

7. I have a NetFlix account which is very shiny. If you have one too, let me know and we can become NetFlix friends. I don't know what that actually does, but it would seem another way I could waste time online.
Monday, October 23rd, 2006
9:34 am
I need coiffurial advice. Most people reading this are probably familiar with my current hairstyle -- it's pretty much the same as the one in this picture taken two years ago. I've also had it for about four or five straight years now (and had it previous to some other intermediate styles). If I want to keep this style, it needs cutting in the next week or two, as it's getting a bit long for this style to work.

I'm think about switching to what I'd call curtains: centre parting with a reasonable depth of hair, whilst not being too long: roughly something like this (only with my natural colour) [Googling for that was so annoyingly time-consuming]. Unfortunately, I don't have enough hair for that at the moment, I tried to over the weekend and it just looked ridiculous.

Any ideas?
Thursday, October 19th, 2006
11:21 am
My life is very exciting at the moment
Why, even before breakfast this morning I removed a bike lock key from my key ring and added a filing cabinet key. I should probably reflect on this critically, talking about the loss of youthful pleasure and increasing burden of responsibility I find in my life, but I'm far too exciting to do that.
Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006
2:25 pm
Number Theory Problem
So, the following "fact" came up in the topology class I'm helping teach. Lots of people seem pretty sure it's true but I've stared at it for five minutes and can't prove it. Call a rational a "p2" rational if it can be written in the form p/2^n for some prime, p, and natural, n. Given ε >0, can we find a p2 rational in the interval [1/3, 1/3+ ε ) ?

The route of least resistance towards a proof seems to be looking at the asymptotic density of primes but I can't really make any headway.

[Edit (9/4): Um.. I kind of misread it. p doesn't have to be prime, so it really is obvious. Calling non-prime numbers p confuses Adam.]
Saturday, September 23rd, 2006
12:03 pm
I've just finished reading Margaret Atwood's Penelopiad -- her retelling of the Iliad / Odyssey from the point of view of Penelope and the twelve hung maids*. Apart from the short length, it's very typical Atwood (which means it's very good!).

One of Atwood's main themes is that waiting is boring. Somehow, she's managed to write probably about a thousand pages about this in her career, and it's still interesting to read. I still don't quite understand how she makes boredom interesting, but she manages, and this book is no exception.

I'd never read any of her verse before, so it was nice to see solid dogerrel writing (and some more sophisticated stuff) in there breaking up the monologue. Like most Atwood, it's first person interspersed with a few bits of a different genre: in Blind Assassin the other genre is fantasty; here, Greek choruses. She also reuses the trick from Handmaid's Tale of ending in the Academy, looking back critically at what she's just explored in the fiction.

Penelope narrates this from the underworld, and includes a few cute comments on how she's seen society evolve since her death. A good example is after discussing how Odysseus used a potion to make himself run faster in the race for her hand in marriage, she says this has become a tradition even in modern foot races.

Overall, Margaret Atwood really only has one trick, but she does it very well, does it here and I hope she'll keep doing it.

* Blink and you miss them in the Odyssey: Telemachus hangs twelve maids who have been sleeping with (in Atwood's version, been raped by) the suitors after he and Odysseus kill the suitors. I didn't remember this bit at all, but maybe it had been edited out of the Students Edition we read in school?
Tuesday, September 19th, 2006
6:15 pm
Last weekend
Haven't updated in a while. Can't think of anything hugely intelligent to write, so I'll just fill you in on my weekend.

Friday night I went to the new Salvadoran restaurant on University, which was quite nice. Service was a little distant, but food was good, especially desert (stuffed plantain). The fish was very bony for people who get put off by that, but I wasn't (especially as it was a whole fried fish, so there wasn't exactly any way to remove the bones). If we could ever get people to walk past the Thai place we often go to it would be good for logic dinner.

On Saturday, I went to the Cal footbal game with people from church. It was a bit of a Cal whitewash (42-16), but Portland did manage to get the first points on the board (a field goal after Longshore gave away an interception on his first pass of the game). Things definately improved after that though, although you can see why Longshore's the first choice QB after the look at Ayoob and Levy we got in the second half. I thought Levy played pretty well in the big game last year (which was the only time I'd previously seen him in that position), but he wasn't on Saturday. Though, in fairness, the offensive line weren't always making it easy on him -- it seems they tired quicker than the Vikings defense.

That evening, a few people came over to play board games. I actually managed to win one of them for once (very rare when playing against mathies!) We should play Citadels more often. Citadels involves absolutely zero spatial reasoning, which does get rid of the main disadvantage I have when playing board games.

Sunday morning at Mass, we sang Rutter's Garlic Blessing along with a few other nice bits and bobs. It seemed to be well received, although I kept worrying that the rest of us were over-bearing on the sop.s, who really have the melody throughout most of that piece.

Sunday evening, I watched two horror movies from the forties: Cat People and Revenge of the Cat People. The second (the sequel) turned out to be bizarrely non-horror, given that the first was pretty much horror.
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