Saturday, January 27, 2007

A short but important note.

5 AM is not the time for me to get up, walk next door, bang on the window and ask you politely to stop your all-night music party that woke me up again and again. 5 AM is the time for ARSON.

Friday, January 26, 2007

They can't grab me if I'm on fire.

Faulkner, dead shoes, cowardice, debt from society, Octo, overactive imagination, the Who, the rejection of philosophy in public reason, failure, webcomic situations, horrific allegations, wacky subcultures, Oasis, conversion of St. Paul. There. Blogging Tourette's.

P.S. Whoever's been calling me from the University of Chicago, could you please leave me a message, or pick up when I call you back, or how about sending me an e-mail? This is the third time at least.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Once I was worried that I'd get bad grades.

Then I logged in to find I had no grades at all.

I've run afoul of the Berkeley administration over a $4.00 University Health charge and a spiraling sequence of late fees (which shouldn't have been applied at all to this situation), of which I remained blissfully unaware until after break- when I found that I couldn't register for classes this semester.

And now I've just found that they revoked my credits for last semester, which means that I am in serious trouble, department-wise. I'm sure that I can clear this up (OK, I hope that I can clear this up), but still, ARGH. FOUR FRIGGIN' DOLLARS.

In other news, apparently my silent and awkward visage didn't get broadcast on basic cable yesterday after all. EWTN interviewed Berkeley Students for Life at the Walk for Life, and I was trapped in a no-man's-land spot between subject and reporter. But it looks like they didn't use our footage after all.

Aforementioned walk was a success, again.

LATER YESTERDAY: Dierdre and I were mobbed by large puppets on a BART train. The mosquito heckled me for flubbing my taxonomy (in my defense, he had no wings and a plaid suit), and then some guy got on with a guitar, and they all sang a song about the subway (holding up "SUB-WHAT?" signs for the chorus). I realize that this sounds as if I'd consumed the "special" spices at Brandy Ho's Hunan, but I assure you that this actually happened. Does anybody else know who that group might be?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Thank God.

It is finished. The paper should never have come to this, but I am finally done with it; and I'm ready to take a long break before I have to think about math again.

Oh, drat.

I am exhausted. Tomorrow, classes begin.

The wedding of John and Wavelet was as incredible as anticipated. The wedding Mass was simple and beautiful, everything quite proper- kneeling before the altar, Gregorian chant, Fr. Zak scolding them in his Polish accent for not having eaten before the wedding, Tobit and Ephesians and the Wedding at Cana, anxious faces before and relief afterwards. Everything that ought to be solemn was solemn.

And with the reception, they showed that everything that didn't have to be solemn was fair game. Mexican wrestling masks (i.e. Strong Bad's head) as wedding favors? Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots as a dance song, with bride and groom doing the Robot? YES.

There's something about dozens of young children out on a dance floor that screams "Catholic Wedding". Also, the family held an after-after-party the next day to finish off all the fantastic food put together by Erik. Also, I'm not yet sure whether "Deirdre" (sist-or of the bride) is recovered yet from her 36-hour partying spree. Also, hello to the brothers and sisters of the groom who asked about my blog- I greatly admired the cut of your collective jib! Finally, 'twas excellent meeting Dan of Bloody Papist, even if our dispute (whether reincarnation would be incoherent or simply unfitting for humans- of course we agreed that it doesn't happen) was not totally resolved by appeal to Tommy A.

Alright. Now, sleep. SLEEEEEEEEEEEP.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

But I shot a man in Reno,

then calculated pi.

As noted (obscurely) below, I got a short extension on that math paper that should have been done in December. I'm mostly finished with it.

But I didn't have the guts to tell Dr. Christ that I'd been planning to go on a ski trip this week. Ah well, it was very much worth it. I went with the grad student gang, drove out to Reno and stayed at the Atlantis casino (the rooms were cheap but great; they expected us to gamble away much more money than we did), then up to Mt. Rose on Wednesday. I got the hang of snowboarding this time! (Almost.)

Monday, January 08, 2007


GUILT to take his place in Patrick's mathematical career. Details at 11.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


I am the Joe Ayoob of mathematics.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Free the Bowl System!

I’d like to take exception to Thom Brennaman, the FOX broadcaster who claimed that Boise State’s 13-0 season indicates the need for a BCS playoff. (If college football doesn’t interest you, dear Reader, you may be excused. I tend to get this way late in the football season.)

There’s all sorts of talk about how the “best team in college football” can’t be decided by polls, how only a 4-team or even 8-team playoff will allow the best programs to rise to the top.

Here’s the problem: Once again, THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS FATE IN SPORTS. The better team can, and does, lose in the most unexpected situations. Was UCLA a better team than USC this year? Was Ohio State really better than Miami in the 2002 national championship- if they had played 10 times, how many would Miami have won? And what if LSU, despite its two early losses, were actually superior to all the teams that would enter a 4-team playoff?

The only way to reach any statistical confidence in a college football verdict would be for each pair of teams to play 10 times. We’re quite aware that’s impossible.

My point is that there’s simply no way to determine beyond all doubt who is the best team in college football. There might not be the same team playing best from week to week; or there might be a Rock-Paper-Scissors order to the top few teams (see this year’s Big East contenders).

So what do we do instead? We pick the games we most want to see. And we make every one of them final. No saving the back of the playbook for next week’s second-round game. No holding back. Every team in a January bowl has nothing to lose, and the excellent slate of games showed it this year. I refuse to look a gift horse in the mouth after receiving incredible incarnations of Wisconsin v. Arkansas, West Virginia v. Georgia Tech, and Boise State v. Oklahoma. Screw playoffs; I just want to watch excellent football games, and these fit the bill. (Especially the last one; did you see that?!?)

Finally, I want to note that all three games above fit the same mold, one which the bowl system encourages: a more-talented but underachieving team meets a hungry opponent; the underdogs come out motivated (football is half psychology) and grab a shocking lead (10, 18 and 18 points, respectively); the favorites get angry- and there’s nothing more dangerous than a talented team playing with gusto- and roar back in the second half. Can the plucky underdogs survive? There’s hardly a more nail-biting script in sports; watching Cinderella with a lead is ten times more tense than Cinderella trailing and hoping.

An overachieving Wisconsin team just barely did hold on, 17-14. The unique powerhouse West Virginia (whom I was rooting for out of admiration, to heck with the underdog) came back from 35-17 to win 38-35, with the help of one of those back-of-the-playbook specials (the offensive line just stayed frozen in their stance; the defense hesitated, confused and worried they’d jumped offsides; the quarterback threw just before the unblocked linemen arrived, right into the arms of the receiver streaking past the bewildered secondary; touchdown WVU!). And Boise State-OU? That game had a shocking finish, against all laws of probability and all my expectations, to rival last year’s Rose Bowl.

So I suppose that, in the end, what I want to say about college football is: