February 3rd, 2016


Wednesday Hodgepodge: 3 February 2016

The Wednesday Hodgepodge appears courtesy of From This Side of the Pond.

1. Describe love using all five senses.

Love is the taste of the chicken tenders that you ordered at a fancy restaurant, even though you didn't want to, because your daughter wanted to take a chance on ordering something more adventurous on the menu and you agreed to order something "safe" in case she didn't like what she ordered and wanted to trade plates.

Love is the sound of your toddler's voice at three am saying "Daddy, I'm sorry, but I wet the bed again".

Love is the smell of soiled diapers coming from somewhere in the room, and the subsequent absurdity of walking around the room smelling everyone's butt as you try to identify the source.

Love is the touch of your partner's hand, when you're too tired to do anything more than that.

Love is the sight of your kids walking out into the world and making it better, and wondering where they managed to learn that.

2. February is Canned Food Month. What's your favorite food that comes straight from a can?

These days?  Probably Coca Cola Zero.

3. A principal in a UK school recently sent home a letter to parents requesting they (the parents!) dress appropriately when escorting their children to/from school (basically saying please don't wear your pajamas) You can read the letter here. It's gotten a lot of publicity, both positive and negative. Your thoughts? And do/did you ever make the school run (or hit Starbucks, Walmart, etc) in your pjs?

I really can't get worked up about this.   Parents judging other parents appears to be a popular pastime in some areas.   I'm just glad the parents care enough about their kids to make sure the kids are getting to school.   Everything else is minor in comparison.

4. Crew neck, V-neck, turtleneck, scoop neck...which is most prevalent in your wardrobe?

Mostly V-neck --- my wardrobe is mostly polo shirts.

5. I read here recently a list of four things to avoid so you wake up happier. They were late night snacks, hitting the snooze button, social media just before bed/upon waking, checking emails.
Are you guilty of any of these behaviors? Which on that list do you need to work harder at avoiding?

The only thing I tend to do is late-night snacking ... which I need to avoid because I need to avoid snacking period, because I'm overweight.

6. Share something you remember about a house you lived in as a child? Of all the homes you lived in as a child, which did you love best?

I lived in one house through the end of sixth grade, and another through high school (where my folks still live today), so the first house is really my only "childhood" home.   It's hard to say what I remember the most ... maybe the pocket doors with the odd latches that separated the kitchen and one of the bedrooms from the back entryway and stairwell to the basement.

7.  Your favorite movie based on a true story?

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

This week, our campus lost another faculty member.   Professor of Mathematics Brian McCartin passed away on Saturday.   He had just retired in December due to failing health, though none of us really knew how bad things were.

For a number of years, my office was just around the corner from his.   We didn't interact much --- but when we did, it was delightful.  He had a background in computing as well as in mathematics.   So when I was having problems figuring out the reason why matrix LU factorization was such a big deal, he was gracious enough to explain it to me without making me feel foolish.   He hosted a few mathematics seminars that I attended (my background in computing is heavily mathematical), and he always made me feel welcome.
Students seemed to like him as well, for all the right reasons.

He was nationally renown as well, though I never really knew that until much later in his career.  He won a couple of prestigious national awards in mathematics based on a couple of papers he published.

And yet, it was never beneath him to work on all the mundane duties that we all have to do in university life to keep the place going.   He spoke truth to power, even when it was unwelcome --- and was also gracious enough to apologize when he'd gone too far.

He was also the chair of the department promotion committee during the year that I applied for promotion and tenure (a big deal for us academic types).   I'll never know what was involved in that, because such processes are usually secret, but the process went very smoothly for me when it didn't for others.   I'll credit him with helping to make that path smooth.

Since he knew he was coming to the end of his career, he was given the special opportunity of giving his "Last Lecture" (a great tradition in academia).   I attended, and was astounded at how much I was able to understand of it.   So many lectures I've attended by researchers seem to be focused on intimidating the audience by showing how superior the lecturer's knowledge is ... and I often end up hopelessly lost within the first ten minutes.   His lecture was different; he showed the brilliance of his work while bringing you along to understand it along with him.   You should watch it for yourself.

We lost Reg Bell in July 2015.   We lost Brian McCartin in January 2016.   Yet again, the campus feels a little bit emptier this week.

Rest well, my colleague.   Your final proof is completed.   QED.