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Date: 2009-07-24 10:44
Subject: The end of my summer fling.
Security: Public
 My mustache and I decided to call it off today.  We had a good time together, some laughs, some tears.  I'll never forget the time it got soup in it and the subsequent giggles.  We rolled through the grass together, laughing and resplendent in the sunset.  For a time, it seemed perfect for me, the Nancy Reagan to my goatee's Ronald, a perfect Van Dyke of harmony.

However, there were dark storms on the horizon.  For a time we appeared swarthy and older, yet there was always a glimpse of being simply unkempt and off-putting.  We had started out of simple apathy for shaving, and I always realized that it could never be a long-term relationship.  The small gap on my upper lip along my levator labii superioris alaeque nas muscle (a small facet of human evolution apparently designed to prevent me from ever looking like Charlie Chaplin) grew more and more irritating and needy each day, and eventually I decided enough was enough.

So, I'm doing okay.  It was for the best.  Across the seedy bar I'm sitting in I spy sideburns winking at another table, and I'm tempted at least as a rebound.  There's also a slutty soul patch that won't stop looking over here, but I ain't that lonely yet.
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Date: 2009-07-08 16:58
Subject: Another update.
Security: Public
I went to a therapist today.  He said I probably had a major depressive disorder and urged me to go to a doctor for a formal diagnosis.  Based on what I told him, it's probably gone undiagnosed since high school.

Still trying to sort this one out.  There was a rather telling exchange during the session (somewhat paraphrased):

"Well, I don't think I really have depression.   I really am a terrible and selfish companion, and I think I'm just sad often because people don't really like me when they get to know me."
"Nick, examine what you just said and tell me if you think you have depression."

I guess this doesn't really come as a surprise for people who know me fairly well.

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Date: 2009-06-05 15:57
Subject: Brief epoch-in-my-life-defining update
Security: Public
So, I'll be going to the University of Waterloo for grad school this fall.  I'm concentrating in Combinatorics and Optimization, focusing on quantum information theory.

Reasons why this is exciting:
  • Waterloo's a phenomenal school, one of the best research universities in Canada.  Their Institute for Quantum Computing is regarded as the best in the world.
  • It's nice to have a plan for the next few years.
  • More math!  More science! Yay!
  • I get to become Canadian.
Reasons why this is terrifying:
  • I've never actually been to Canada.
  • Waterloo is apparently a tough place.  Professor Martin, an alum, has given me scores of warnings about the rigor of the coursework and demands on the students.
  • OH NO I HAVE TO FIND AN APARTMENT WITHOUT A FEASIBLE WAY TO VISIT (since I don't yet have a passport [working on it!])
  • OH NO I HAVE TO MAKE NEW FRIENDS.  I'm pretty bad at that.

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Date: 2008-12-19 09:55
Subject: OH HELL NO.
Security: Public






If Lurhmann decides to make The Great Gatsby as "original" as his dreadful "Romeo + Juliet," I'll cry.  I liked "Moulin Rouge!", but it seems that Mr. Lurhmann has made a mandate out of it, and decided that a half-assed rock/punk sensibility is the way to go.  (Disclaimer: I haven't seen "Australia.")

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Date: 2008-11-15 11:24
Subject: Reading for Saturday
Security: Public

A hilarious interview with Karl Rove, one of the most fascinating and intelligent, yet smarmy and despicable, people in politics.  Did anyone else find it unsettling that he had basically arbitrary reign over the WSJ editorial page?  He also provided some memorably dickish moments on Fox News during the election cycle.

A beautiful poem by Rita Dove, one of my favorite contemporary African American poets. 

Oh, tenure.  It's a beautiful thing to be able to write this as part of one's career.

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Date: 2008-08-10 13:35
Subject: Two news stories I cared about this weekend.
Security: Public
Goodbye, Bernie Mac.   I loved your standup (even if it wasn't really that exceptionally good) and your TV show.

Hello, ohpleasegoddontmakethisanyworse.  If this doesn't die down quickly, and it probably won't, I'm terrified as to how large it could become.  Incidentally, the first picture here illustrates how high-cost a full-scale Russian war would be; that's the only road from Russia into South Ossetia, since mountains block off everything else.  My opinion on this: while Russia has acted far from commendably in this conflict, Georgia seems to be at fault here (if fault can even be attributed at all).  There are a number of Russian citizens in South Ossetia, and Georgia acted with stupid brutality in the region, pretty much begging Russia for a response.  While Russia overstepped its authority in bombing Gorgi, Georgia foolishly provoked a conflict they cannot win, and by hard-headedness greatly destabilized all of Eastern Europe.

Incidentally, this gives another reason why I'm afraid of John McCain: his hardline dialogue regarding Russia is dangerous and stupid, with a Cold War mentality that most people should find completely unacceptable.  It is in the best interest of the entire world for Russia and the US to have good, friendly relations, on the order of the American-French friendship, and threats to remove Russia from the G8 really really doesn't help.  While I think the G8 should be expanded to include Brazil, India, Spain, and perhaps China and South Africa (the so called "G8 + 5"), Russia is too important to the global economy and general global stability to play "tough guy" with.  While McCain is right to be concerned about the increasingly despotic Russian government (epitomized by Putin's prime minister - president - prime minister sham), his rhetoric is counter-productive towards the goal of a truly fair Russian republic.
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Date: 2008-08-08 12:05
Subject: I can't believe I'm writing about Robert Recorde again.
Security: Public
Robert Recorde was an English mathematician from the 16th century. I wrote about him in an earlier post, regarding is coinage of the term "zenzizenzizenzic" to denote a number raised to the eighth power. He also introduced the "+" and "-" notation to English mathematics, by way of the following beautiful quote:

"There be other 2 signes in often use of which the first is made thus + and betokeneth more: the other is thus made – and betokeneth lesse."

"Betokeneth" should be used in everyday conversation more often.
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Date: 2008-08-06 14:29
Subject: Nearly two decades of hardline, unforgiving language Nazism pays off!
Security: Public

Your result for The Commonly Confused Words Test...

English Genius

You scored 100% Beginner, 100% Intermediate, 100% Advanced, and 100% Expert!

You did so extremely well, even I can't find a word to describe your excellence! You have the uncommon intelligence necessary to understand things that most people don't. You have an extensive vocabulary, and you're not afraid to use it properly! Way to go!

Thank you so much for taking my test. I hope you enjoyed it!

For the complete Answer Key, visit my blog: http://shortredhead78.blogspot.com/.

Take The Commonly Confused Words Test at HelloQuizzy

I don't remember where I found this, but it was a result of unproductive LJ stalking at work. Incidentally, I was tempted to answer a few questions that led themselves naturally to puns (my favorite: "Navel travel leaves me sick to my stomach."), but my pride superceded my self-congratulatory cleverness.

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Date: 2008-07-20 11:55
Subject: Black Geniuses (possibly part 1 of an indeterminately long and self-aggrandizing series)
Security: Public


I've always been somewhat interested in the intellectual achievements of black Americans, and in the general controversy of the impact of race on intelligence.  I don't personally believe that race has anything to do with intelligence, other than possibly sporadic isolated cases.  Although I think the underlying premise is spurious, I'm willing to accept as plausible that social pressures on Ashkenazi Jews requiring them to be exceptional bankers and merchants in Europe may explain their slightly higher IQ.  Of course, the IQ of Ashkenazi Jews in Israel is apparently nothing out of the ordinary, giving credence to the idea that the higher rates of achievement in Ashkenazi populations is, in fact, cultural and sociopolitical.

But I am not a sociologist or psychologist, and really have nothing intelligent to say about the matter.  Instead, I engaged in a small thought experiment: what if I had my same brain, but instead were a black man?  If this were the case, I highly doubt I would be a student, let alone on track to being a mathematician.  Although I'm somewhat intelligent, and my strong social dysfunction would shield me from "bad influences" endemic amongst black youth, my low self-esteem and underwhelming personal motivation would probably prevent me from pursuing higher education, and I lack the exceptional mental faculties to bring myself beyond that in noble scholarly ambition.  If I were black, pressures on me because of my race, both by overt racism and the ongoing legacy of slavery and segregation (keep in mind that I'm from Oklahoma City, which didn't even pretend to desegregate until the 1970's) may very well have prevented me from studying mathematics.  Of course, I do love math, and this love may have been sufficient motivation for me to study math at university, but it would have undeniably been harder to do so.  This injustice is impossible to ignore.

I decided to write this for a number of reasons:

  1. The aforementioned injustice; how many blacks who may have otherwise held ranks with the likes of Poincare, Noether, Faulkner, Darwin, and Pushkin, but by social and racial pressures were instead relegated to working a low-paying job, and were never allowed a spark that engaged their intelligence?* 
  2. Black History Month has an unfortunate, and perhaps inevitable, habit of emphasizing community leaders, "firsts" among black people, and soundbites as opposed to actual achievement.  For instance, many people may know (or learn then promptly forget) that the first black PhD in mathematics was Elbert F. Cox, but might never learn that one of America's greatest mathematical statisticians, David Blackwell (of the Rao-Blackwell theorem), was a black man.  I think it's important to look beyond the likes of Carver, Douglass, etc. (who are nevertheless crucial).
  3. I think the study of genius is interesting in it's own right, and the stories of these people are fascinating outside of the sociopolitical implications.

In this, I'm (probably) going to focus more on blacks whose whose genius extend beyond just one area (mathematics, music, art, literature, etc.), which means I won't be discussing people like Charlie Parker, Jacob Lawrence, and Blackwell as much as people such as Ralph Ellison, Cornel West, and W.E.B. Dubois (though probably not those people, as they are well-known).  So, here are the first two profiles:

Paul Robeson
Paul Robeson was an early 20th-century singer, well-renowned for his deep and clear bass voice.  He was also an actor, paving the way for black actors to move beyond stereotypical "Negro" roles, and was a huge influence for Sidney Poitier.  In college, he was a noted athlete, and remained well-remembered at Rutgers University until his left-wing political leanings got him in trouble, and resulted in his name being removed from the All-American team rosters.  However, beyond all this hid an intellectually prolific and curious man.  He graduated valedictorian from Rutgers, and was a member of nearly every honor society on campus; an astonishing achievement for the only black person on campus.  He was a member of the football team, and was often abused by his teammates; once they held him down and pulled off his fingernails in an effort to torture him off the team.  After graduation, he got his law degree at Columbia, and worked at a lawyer for a time, before racism caused him to quit (a white secretary refused to work with him, and his colleagues treated him cruelly).  He studied African and East Asian culture in London before finding fame as an entertainer.  He spoke and sang in 20 languages (apparently through self-study), was heavily involved in civil-rights issues, and is hailed as one of America's premier intellectuals.

Glenn Loury
A contemporary economist and social scientist at Brown University, Professor Loury has received acclaim both for his mathematical research in game theory, his studies in natural resource and income economics, and his sociological studies on racial inequality.  He is one of the growing numbers of black public intellectuals in the manner of Cornel West, and has earned the John von Neumann prize for his intellectual achievements.  Here is an interesting article on affirmative action (written by Ronald Fryer, a rising star in black economists who was granted tenure at Harvard University at age 30); his rather ugly webpage has more interesting articles and information.

* Of course, I hold no delusion in assuming that there were scores of black Gausses, Goethes, Hypatias, Ramanujans, and Sidises; these people were of such intellectual superiority that nobody can reasonably claim to expect large numbers of them.

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Date: 2008-07-13 15:38
Subject: Restoring my faith in Obama
Security: Public
 A brilliant interview with Fareed Zakaria, one of the best political commentators on television

A) He owns up to his mistake of an undivided Jerusalem, clarifying that he meant that Jerusalem cannot be torn apart by Israeli-Palestinian differences.
B) He shows clear knowledge and nuance with his policy, and a truly post-Cold War view of the world, one that America desperately needs.
C) Yes, we really do need to emphasize the terrorism, and not the Islam.

Read this yourself.  It's a shame most people will never see this interview outside of soundbites regarding Bin Laden.
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my journal
July 2009