Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Sun’s Not Yellow, It’s Chicken

An afternoon’s chance to blog from New Haven, Connecticut. It’s been a good trip thus far, from Saint Charles to Greenwich Village to Yale. Katie and Dad didn’t get into any spats on the car trip, so I guess I owe her a cookie. The NYU campus is a little awe-inspiring, although the awe wore off around the time we carried Katie’s stuff up to the fourth floor of her Fifth Avenue dorm. She seems to be doing better now than at first; the preponderance of East Coast pretty party people was a culture shock to the Midwestern theatre girl.

Sunday Mass was a relief to this overprotective Catholic Nerd brother. The local parish has incense every week, a soup kitchen in the basement, Dominican priests and in particular a pastor who once taught theology and philosophy. He knows and trusts the Church, and it shows; any fears of wackiness were dispelled early in his very good, erudite homily. He preaches the way I imagine I would were I called to the priesthood, except more humbly and eloquently by far.

Then we left Katie to her orientation, set Mom on her plane home, and Dad and I started on my graduate school tour. Today he’s working, giving a training session for U.S. Surgical in Norwalk, and I’ve been traversing the campus of Yale.

After talking with some graduate students and the head of the Yale math department, I’ve pretty much decided that the school isn’t for me. They have some serious problems with department size and the breadth of research, and the funding system has been precarious since the VIGRE grant was lost. Furthermore, the grad students chose the school for a specific area of math or by default; I got the impression that as friendly as the department is, many of the grad students wish they were elsewhere.

Pity that there’s such a gorgeous church across the street from the math department. Again run by the Dominicans, Saint Mary’s has stained glass, ornate old confession booths, an altar rail, and the back of the church has prominent booklets for Eucharistic Adoration, daily rosaries and an invitation to a novena supporting life.

I heard "King of Pain" on the radio yesterday and laughed. I hope they have it for karaoke in the Shoreland; the only way to top The Police in Latin would be to cover the Beatles in Klingon.

Next up is Harvard tomorrow.

I miss Alice.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Whoa, I Still Have A Blog

I don’t think I’ve made anyone cry by not posting for a while, but anyway...

I’ve had the chance to see Alice twice more this summer; most recently she stayed with my family here in Saint Charles for a few days after visiting her grandparents in Ottumwa, Iowa. She and I saw some of St. Louis’ many (not many) attractions together (this wouldn’t work in text, but ask either of us about the turtles at the City Museum). We strolled around on the cobblestones in Old Saint Charles and had ice cream floats. I made her breakfast with the one recipe I can handle. We sat and read/cross-stitched/talked through quiet Midwestern evenings.

Alice was her wonderful self, and reminded me yet again why I do love her so. She learned to take nonverbal cues from my sister (though I can’t recall whether I really deserved to be elbowed at the moment). My parents liked her just fine, trusting her with the bad jokes they reserve only for the closest victims.

It’s going to feel like a long few weeks until Chicago starts again.

At least I’ll be busy for a while now. Our family is in the hectic process of preparing Katie for her first year at NYU; we’ll be driving out toward New York tomorrow, taking a van full of probably more stuff than I brought at the time. After she’s set up in her nice haunted Fifth Avenue dorm, Mom will fly back while Dad and I hit the East Coast schools I’ve been considering for graduate school. Once again, I find myself presumably less worried about the application process than I ought to be by any measure.

Oh yeah: the rest of my summer happened, too. My REU came to a successful conclusion; Matt, Joey and I presented more than an hour of work and conclusions, produced a rather spiffy paper on Graded Betti Numbers and Simplicial Complexes (the PDF of which I hope to be able to post if I can figure it out), and may perhaps be invited to talk about the REU in Atlanta next year (nota bene: that would rock).

For the curious (and so that Ian can prepare to challenge my mastery of the young game), the rules of Clubs are as follows:

Players: 3 or 4
To Win: Have the greatest score when someone hits -100.
Overview: Like hearts or spades, this is a game of tricks; the winner of a hand takes the cards and leads off the next. Cards are worth certain numbers of points.
Twist #1-Throwing Clubs: The notion of following suit is altered, but not eliminated. You must play either the suit that was led, or a club, unless you are out of both. A player who leads in clubs may declare another suit (meaning that others must play either that suit or a club unless out of both), or may declare clubs alone.
Taking Tricks: Clubs are, in fact, a semi-trump suit. Only clubs and the suit which was led are eligible to win a trick. Each club is ranked slightly higher than the corresponding card of another suit. For example, if diamonds are led, the seven of clubs beats the seven of diamonds but not the eight of diamonds.
Start: Deal out the deck. If there are 3 players, leave the last card face down on the table. The two of clubs leads off (unless nobody has it since it’s in the middle, in which case the 3 of clubs leads). If there were three players, then the player who takes the final trick takes the extra card.
Scoring: At the end of the hand, tally the cards in the tricks you’ve taken as follows: First, give yourself -1 for each card you have. Give yourself back +3 for every club you have except for the Jack of clubs; instead, tally an additional -10 for the Jack of clubs. This final tally is your score for the round, unless...
Twist #2-Scrambling: If one player’s tally is -26 or worse, then everyone recounts their score for the hand by a new formula. There is now no per-card penalty; each club is worth -3 except for the Jack of clubs, which is worth +10. This rule exists to further complicate the strategy, and to make it possible not to get screwed too badly by a terrible hand.

So try it out in your homes, and tell me how the rest of America likes it! Or, if it causes riots in the street, don’t tell me!

In either case, I better go help pack. Au revoir!

Sunday, August 15, 2004

In an interstellar burst,
I'm back to save the universe...

Safely returned to Saint Charles, MO. Blogging to ensue.