Thursday, March 29, 2007

Dear John Deere

My neighbor, who I call deer hunter (I forget his real name) does not mow his lawn. It's ragged and overgrown and thatched with pine needles. His backyard, I have learned, is paved. It is where he stores his industrial John Deere riding lawn mower with halogen headlights. His wife is blind.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Eating in LA - Part I

You make soy and tofu regular parts of your diet.
You only shop at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Bristol Farms.
You’re so over Sprinkles, it’s all about Pinkberry now.
You’ve waited in line over an hour to buy cupcakes (Sprinkles).
You’ve waited in line over an hour to buy frozen yogurt (Pinkberry).
You have an opinion about Dough Boys, either way.
You know the difference between nigiri, maki, and temaki.
Your Sunday brunch starts at 2 pm at Hugo’s, the Griddle, or Toast.
You’ve eaten quiche at Urth CafĂ©, but don’t know why.

Friday, March 23, 2007

And These Are My Hummel Figurines

Recently, my friend Betsy attended a dinner hosted by her Ph.D. advisor for all of his doctoral students. Her professor, a Czech Jew who survived Dachau during WWII, created the following awkardness before the meal:

Professor: [giving an impromptu tour of his home] ...and this is my personal library. That entire bookcase is filled with foreign language translations of my books.
Students: [oooh, aahhhh]
Professor: And over here is a collection of my brother's sculptures.
Betsy: These are remarkable. Is he a famous Czech sculptor?
Professor: No, he did these when he was eight...
Students: [mild, respectful laughter]
Professor: These sculptures survived the war. He, however, did not.
Students: [awkward silence, dry cough, sniffle...]
Betsy's imagined response: Oh, did you watch him die in your arms at the concentration camp? (Because really, what the hell are you supposed to say to that?)
Professor: And on this shelf is my collect of Hummel figurines...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

My Favorite Norwegian: Sondre Lerche

Set against the sea of fedora hats that marks any indy concert in Los Angeles, Sondre Lerche rocked the El Rey theatre last night with help from the Faces Down band. It was Lerche’s third performance in LA and his first return to the city since recording his latest album Phantom Punch here last year. In contrast to his last album, Sondre’s Phantom Punch is a frenetic mix of rock and melody—a one-eighty from the jazzy stylings of the Duper Sessions. The entire concert took on the flavor of a Modest Mouse show, though complete with Sondre’s keen sense of humor and wit. Unfortunately, the Los Angeles crowd seemed less familiar with the band’s latest album and remained slightly subdued as a result. But when Sondre unleashed his hits from Faces Down and Two Way Monologue, the crowd’s excitement was tangible. Highlights included: Modern Nature performed as a duet with the audience, Sondre’s pep-talk before Phantom Punch, a classic performance of Track You Down, and my personal favorite, a rare treat, All Luck Ran Out. If you haven’t fallen in love with the Phantom Punch album yet, see this show—you will.

Play List:

airport taxi reception PP
say it all PP
phantom punch PP
tragic mirror PP
face the blood PP
well well well PP
happy birthday girl PP
dead passengers FD
sleep on needles FD
modern nature FD
all luck ran out FD
two way monologue TWM
track you down TWM
the curse of being in love DS

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

OU Gymnastics

Saturday evening Bee-Spot author Blythe and *The Life and Times author Shain attended the No. 5 Oklahoma vs. No. 9 Iowa gymnastics dual meet at the OU Field House. The following are each author’s respective versions of that night.

Mr. Shain’s Version:

Senior and defending National Champion Brian Carr prepares to begin his Floor Exercise after OU has already posted three solid scores on this event. OU leads Iowa by two full points.

Bee-Spot: This is really exciting Shain, all eyes are on Brian during this competition. He’s really the heart of this OU team. You can just feel the tension in the air can’t you?

Mr. Shain: You’re absolutely right Blythe; this boy’s on his way to a Wheaties box!

Bee-Spot: Brian’s opening pass is huge—a double twisting double layout! And he sticks it! NICE. That landing is so difficult because of the speed of those rotations, but he’s not giving anything away with extra steps tonight. OU’s really improving their floor routines this season.

Mr. Shain: Absolutely Blythe! Oh wow, he’s working the floor! Brian knows exactly what he’s up against tonight—he’s got to go clean on this routine. Punch front one and three-quarters, flawless. Wow… whip two and half to prone! What does that fulfill in terms of the requirements?

Bee-Spot: I have no idea Shain. But I’m sure it’ll be hard to beat! His third pass… half-in, one-three quarter roll out… he did have a little trouble with this is warm-ups earlier. But not tonight! Solid!

Mr. Shain: Oh he nailed it! Brian’s getting bonus for his connections between these acrobatic skills now. Legs fully extended, straight, tight, beautiful. He really stands above the rest in terms of his flair Blythe.

Bee-Spot: Yes, that is tight isn’t it. And look at that Y-scale, Shain, see how far apart his legs are, he’s earning virtuosity for that. Ok, Brian’s final pass is a double Arabian in a piked position—this is one of the toughest elements being performed tonight.

Mr. Shain: And he nails the landing! There’s no way anyone from Iowa can touch his package tonight Blythe! I think he just locked it up for OU!

Bee-Spot: He certainly locked it up for me Shain!


Bee-Spot’s Version:

Bee-Spot: Why am I here again?

Mr. Shain: blah blah blah pass I used to be a gymnast therefore I'm better than you blah blah blah.

Bee-Spot: Can we drink yet?

Mr. Shain: blah blah rings horse blah blah blah.

Bee-Spot: OU loses points. Their outfits are entirely too sparkly.

Mr. Shain: I love gymnastics!

Bee-Spot: Do you think the ladies teams get funding for bikini waxes? Do you think I should get a brazilian?

Mr. Shain: Why? It's not like you're sleeping with anyone. Or ever will. Jumping! Spinning!

Bee-Spot: I like the shorts the boys wear when vaulting. Hot. Oh God, these boys are three [actually up to six] years younger than me. I'm so old. That one's got his shirt off! Muscles.

Mr. Shain: Yeah, you are. And ugly. Dismount!

Bee-Spot: The Iowa coaches look like they're going clubbing after this. She's got rhinestones on her shirt. This is a gymnastics meet, for Christ sake. Those are the ugliest heels I've ever seen. Does Marc Jacobs design for Wal-Mart yet?

Mr. Shain: Are you talking, because I'm better than you.

Bee-Spot: I need a pedicure.

Mr. Shain: Shut up. That was a tough vault.

Bee-Spot: She just fell! Ha!

Mr. Shain: Point-five deduction.

Bee-Spot: For the stupid ribbon in her hair. These women are in college. Ribbons? Bows? This is a fucking sport not a fashion show.

Mr. Shain: Running! Cartwheels!

Bee-Spot: We are not sticking around for the autograph session. In fact, we're leaving right now.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Barefoot Contessa & Me

This weekend I read a NYT’s article about a Food Channel favorite, Ina Garten. To be quite honest, her wildly successful show, The Barefoot Contessa, irks me. It portrays the food stylings of a middle-aged Hamptonite who throws tea parties and prepares elaborate brunches for her island lady-friends. And there’s the perennial “special Friday dinner” which she prepares for her husband Jeffery when he returns home for the weekend (he works in New Haven if you can imagine!). I always watch hoping the camera will pan down to her feet to confirm her barefootedness and reveal that she’s actually chained to her kitchen. However, this Time’s article pointed out that Garten started her career not with baking scones, but as policy analyst for the Office of Management and Budget during the Carter administration. It turns out that the woman can actually read more than a cookbook. And it made me think, if you can go from white collar State Department analyst to Hampton homemaking guru in a lifetime, where the hell will I end up at fifty? A philosopher-king of some small African fiefdom or bowling alley shoe attendant? It could go either way I guess.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

These Things I Learned

Today, amidst snow and the functionally illiterate, I returned to Seminole Oklahoma after an 8-year absence to judge high school debate. Debate is the technical term, but it is altogether misleading. The word cluster-fuck seems more illuminating.

Now some of you, not from Oklahoma, may be asking, "but what is Seminole?" Although not a Native American linguist, I contend that "Seminole" simply denotes the maximal set of organizational skills that can be acquired via the union of two first-cousins plus a leaded water supply and a suspicious proximity to high-voltage power lines; i.e. I advance the theory that the meaning, or bedeutung as Frege wrote, of "Seminole" is merely the empty set, similar to "Santa Claus," "the present king of France," or the class of prime numbers less than 2. There's just nothing there. Yet, I digress.

Today, while young men and women fight and die in Iraq to defend our American freedom and protect our sacred institutions such as public education, I witnessed spectacular atrocities right in my own backyard. A squat, compact, sophomore boy, when confronted in a speech contest with a question regarding US and Iranian relations with Iraq, dazzled his audience with an exactly 17-second long oration in which he declared that "we ain't got nothing to do with them folk over there" and left it up to us to fill in the rest of the puzzle. Foreign policy W-style I thought.

During a different, yet equally horrifying event at the tournament, four students were asked to prepare sermons ranging from the American deficit to the SAT. A sharp fellow from a small, western town, which contains neither a library nor a hospital, but has found room to accommodate two competing liquor stores and a "Bait-'n'-Ammo" shop, informed the eager crowd that had gathered to hear his word, that the recently elected Congress would not "hurt the deficit." Two minutes into his speech it became evident he had confused the word "deficit" with "Laura Bush," and despite some initial reservations, he was now convinced that Madame Speaker Pelosi would not try to kill First Lady Bush in a supposed hunting accident. After impressing me by completing a 3-minute speech without reference to "rag heads" or "camel jockeys" the contestant was summarily disqualified for cheating. In fact, 3 out of the 4 contestants were caught cheating. Another cheater was a soon-to-be-junior-college-drop-out whose best friend was a genius and only received a 13 on the ACT, but herself did even worse (though she quickly qualified that of she was not a genius). And the third cheater: a bright, cheerful, blond girl who tried to multiply 13 by 200 during her speech but, after several seconds of silence, was unable; embarrassed, but not ashamed, she boldly declared, "Heh, well I don't know. I suck at math!" Feminists around the globe suddenly became nauseous.

It is perhaps worth noting, for the readers own moral enlightenment, that the sole orator whose integrity remained intact, thus allowing him to win the tournament, gave the following argument to explain the rise in capital murder cases in the US:
1. Wages are increasing, but not as fast as consumer spending.
2. Increasing interest rates are forcing both parents into the workplace fulltime.
3. Due to the family's purchase of a new car, childcare is out of reach.
4. More children are home alone.
5. Parents have guns at home.
6. Children, alone, play with guns, and inevitably shoot each other.
7. Therefore, the rise in capital cases is due to murderous children with guns.

This argument went unrequited. It really makes you think.

Now home, retired by the fire in my dressing robes and reflecting on the day, I can engage in the sort of radical skepticism Renee Descartes immortalized. Though I doubt not my own existence or the potential of real knowledge, I doubt the future of American education.

The profoundly retarded walk among us; and sometimes if you live Seminole, they are also your math teachers.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Local News

Boy stays in home with dad's body for 2 days

OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma (AP) -- A 6-year-old boy stayed in an apartment with the body of his father for two days after the man died on their sofa, obeying instructions to never leave without permission, firefighters said.

The boy, whose name was not released, didn't want to leave even after firefighters arrived, fearing punishment if he left, fire department Maj. Noble Lee said.

"He wasn't as distraught as one might think," Lee said. "I don't think he understands the gravity of the past few days. He wasn't as upset at the situation as he was about being outside the residence without permission."

His father, Kevin Dale Judd, 52, appears to have died of natural causes, authorities said. The body was found late Monday after neighbors and a maintenance man reported a foul odor, Lee said.

According to a police report, the boy told police his father had been feeling ill and laid down. The boy left the room to watch television, and when he returned his father was slumped over.

The boy did not know to call 911 in case of an emergency, said Department of Human Services spokesman George Earl Johnson Jr. He apparently had not eaten in two days but refused food and water offered by firefighters and paramedics, Lee said.

Johnson said the boy will remain in DHS custody until relatives are found to care for him.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

These Things I Know, or Knew, Maybe

It is a popular topic for philosophers, the question “what is knowledge?” Up until the latter half of the twentieth century, three words succinctly answered this question: justified true belief. Like E=mc2 before it, K=jtb had a seductive simplicity which seemed to satisfy the sophist’s epistemic lust. Here’s why it seems to work:

Belief: In order to know that you have two children, for example, you must believe you have two children. You can’t know much without believing in it first. True: Your belief must be true in order to count as knowledge. I cannot know that the capital of California is Los Angeles because the object of my belief is false. Our beliefs must match up with the way the world really is for us to know our belief. Justified: Your true belief that this week’s lottery numbers are 8, 32, 16, 7, 29, & 2 must be justified in order for you to know the lottery numbers. For example, suppose on Monday I bought a lotto ticket with the numbers listed above and claimed to know these would be the winning numbers. Who would believe me? Very few… very, very, few (only a dozen people are even aware of this blog’s existence). But suppose Friday rolled around and the very same numbers I predicted five days earlier are drawn. Would anyone agree that I knew the winning numbers? Not normally… most you would assume it was simply luck, even if I truly believed those numbers would win. Without justification, my beliefs remain only beliefs, ungrounded. After I’ve won the lottery, and someone asks me, “What were this week’s numbers?” then I do KNOW the winning numbers—my belief is true, it matches the numbered ping pong balls that popped up during the drawing, and it is now justified by the newspaper that published the results, the live news broadcast, the lottery board writing me a check for $237,000,000, and the like. Now I know.

I knew until 1963, when a small-time assistant professor, Dr. Gettier, at Wayne State University somewhere in BFE destroyed knowledge in a two-page paper that was his first and only published work. Gettier destroyed our sexy definition of knowledge with a mere counterexample.

Suppose Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones work at Whole Foods (not Gettier’s choice but I’ve updated the story for my audience). Mr. Smith knows, i.e. has a justified true belief, that Mr. Jones will get the promotion to produce manager (suppose his boss Ms. White told him and Jones’s name is frosted across a congratulatory cake in the bakery, etc.). Mr. Smith also knows Mr. Jones has ten coins in his pocket—he’s counted them himself (they’re quite close). With this information, Mr. Smith deduces that the new producer manger will have ten coins in his pocket. However, when the big announcement comes from Whole Foods management, it is Mr. Smith who gets the job, not Mr. Jones. Oh, and guess what… Mr. Smith also has ten coins in his pocket. Breakdown:

Mr. Smith has a justified true belief about the new producer manager. His belief: The new manager will have ten coins in his pocket. His justification: Ms. White told him Mr. Jones would be the new manager and Mr. Smith knows Mr. Jones has ten coins in his pocket. The truth: The new manager has ten coins in his pocket. Ergo, Mr. Smith has a justified true belief, but does not appear to have knowledge because it is SMITH not JONES who is the new manager. FUCK.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Kierkegaard on the Self

A human being is spirit. But what is spirit? Spirit is the self. But what is the self? The self is a relation that relates itself to itself or is the relation's relating itself to itself in the relation; the self is not the relation but is the relation's relating itself to itself. A human being is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity, in short, a synthesis. A synthesis is a relation between two. Considered in this way a human being is still not a self. In the relation between two, the relation is the third as a negative unity, and the two relate to the relation and in the relation to the relation; thus under the qualification of the psychical the relation between the psychical and the physical is a relation. If, however, the relation relates itself to itself, this relation is the positive third, and this is the self. --Kierkegaard

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

General Relativity Is Hard

So I've been sick, and tired, and busy. I have nothing to say except that my physics course is kicking my ass. Here is a recent email from my professor:

GR 6333 students

Hint for evaluation the Riemann tensor.

The Riemann curvature tensor Rabcd has a maximum of 20 independent components. When all 4 indices are down it has the symmetries of equations (21.29) of Hartle. You can think of Rabcd (all down) as a 6x6 symmetric matrix Mij =Mji with ab being one index i and cd being the second index j. Because of the anti-symmetry on ab and cd each pair can take on 4x3/2=6 independent values, e.g. i = (t,r),(t,theta),(t,phi),(r,theta),(r,phi),(theta,phi). Because Rabcd=Rcdab, Mij is symmetric and can have at most 6x7/2=21 components. (21,29d) removes 1 additional component making a total of 20.

To work this problem I would suggest using equation (21.20) with your connection symbols for Schwarzschild, to evaluate Rabcd (a up and bcd down).

Look at 6 expressions, e.g., one of which is Rabtr, and see which of the values of (a,b) give a non-zero component. Because the metric is diagonal ab =(t,r) is a possibility but you don't need to compute ab=(r,t) because it will not be independent of ab=(t,r).

There are only 6 independent non-vanishing components of Rabcd the Schwarzschild metric and they can be found on page 554 of Hartle.