Thursday, January 31, 2019

Incredibly retroblogging

An honest assessment indicates that I mostly want this blog as a post-dated account of things I once did, some time ago. Want up-to-date Lila information? want breaking Lila news? want to know where Lila is, what she's doing, and what she's thinking?

... well, you won't find it here.

On the other hand, you will find all that information, edited and curated as usual, for past iterations of Lila. In particular, starting with the "Repatriation Phase 1", you can now find the following new old posts:

The tiniest steamroller
Purple tree
Sky in mirrored skyscrapers
Ithaca is gorgeous
Bring Up the Bodies
License to Quill

Just so you know, my sycophantic readers, my curious future students, and my intermittently-checking-in relatives, I have made a resolution in 2019 to blog more consistently. And I've beeminded it, so if I fall off from my goal, the sharp sting of a penalty will (maybe) prompt me to post more frequently. I've successfully managed my akrasia on several other topics using beeminder. Here's to 2019, and the 11/12ths of it that remain!

This post's theme word is nuncupate (v tr), "to solemnly pronounce," or "to declare a will orally." Long-time readers considered Lila's nuncupation as tenuous and tongue-in-cheek, which it probably was.

Monday, January 28, 2019

In which "snake" is not a valid proof technique

Non-proof techniques that students tried today in lab, hesitantly, knowing that I wouldn't buy it:

  • proof by picture
  • proof by snake
  • proof by interpretive dance

This post's theme word is satisfice (v intr), "to satisfy the minimum requirements in a given situation." Your snake is very clever, but it does not satisfice in this class.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Mathematical property of friendship

As part of my lecture, I ask interactive live-polling multiple choice questions. Today, one of those questions was:
Let S be the set of Swarthmore students. Consider the binary relation "is a friend of" defined over S x S. This relation is symmetric.
(a) true
(b) false
The point of this question was twofold: first, I wanted to confirm that everyone was on board with the notation, vocabulary, and definitions involved in reading the question. Second, I wanted everyone to laugh --- the joke is that either answer can be correct, depending on your attitude about friendship. (The class was pretty evenly split across (a) and (b), with one outlier protest vote for (d).)

Imagine my complete and sheer delight when one student's defense of answer (a) was "This is a Quaker school, so we are all friends."


It is utterly, totally perfect as a response: it confirms that the student understood the concepts AND that they got the joke AND that they joked right back, indicating they're comfortable with the classroom environment already, in week 1.

Dear student: you made my day, 'twas a stellar reply, thank you very much for your in-classroom participation today.

This post's theme word is breviloquence (n), "speak briefly and concisely." English humor favors breviloquence.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

What is the silliest nickname you've ever had?

I take attendance by having the students answer a sign-in question.

What is the silliest nickname you've ever had?

Because answers to this question are fairly identifying, I'll just highlight some non-name-based nicknames that stood out for their silliness and their non-identifying-ness:

  • couscous
  • Baracuda
  • sea cow
  • Anpanman
  • extra toppings

This post's theme word is endogenous (adj), "originating from within." There is no such thing as an endogenous nickname.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Favorite

The Favorite is a movie that tells the (fictionalized, edited) story of a snippet of the life of Queen Anne (of England) and two ladies who are vying for her attention and the political and social power it confers. This move was advertised at me with what was surely targeted ads online... and they were right, it's in my wheelhouse: a British Period Piece Featuring a Strong Female Lead.

And which of these tremendous actors is the "lead"? The plot allows all three of them space and time onscreen to develop an inner world, and they have the breadth of real people. No one is single-minded, no one is consistent, no one's inner monologue is transparently interpretable by the audience. I really enjoyed that the audience was left space to feel sympathetic, or outraged, or critical, of the characters at different moments. I did not emerge from the movie with a clear hero in mind, or a clear villain, or even a clear moral. There was no overarching lesson, as far as I could tell.

This movie passed the Bechdel test in a ferocious way. Most scenes featured only women, talking about whatever topics they want. Occasionally men were allowed to be furniture, or backdrops; when men were permitted lines in scenes, they discussed women. The single two-man scene consisted of them desperately discussing how to change their behavior to get women to notice them. It was fascinating to watch this happen, so naturally, and to notice when I noticed that men were being so sidelined.

The Favorite featured what I am sure will be my favorite sex scene of 2019. Possibly of the decade. (I am confident I can say this because popular culture's take on sex scenes is so skewed. I don't want to spoil this one for you, but it really stands out as unusual and memorable.)

We left the theater and immediately read the Wikipedia articles for Queen Anne and Sarah Churchill. Then I requested Churchill's book --- an after-the-queen's-death smear job, reportedly --- on interlibrary loan (full text here with OCR errors, scan of the physical book here).

In summary: of course I recommend this movie. I left it and assigned myself reading homework! Some days I truly am living my best life.

This post's theme word is desacralize (v tr), "to deprive of hallowed status." A falling-out between friends can result in desacralization and loss of peerage, if the friends are royal.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Boston Molasses Disaster

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Boston Molasses Disaster, wherein a giant tank of molasses burst and caused immense destruction.

Fluid mechanics are fascinating. Here's a quick video with some light information about viscosity and the disaster:

This post's theme word is cunctative (adj), "delaying; slow." While the initial pressure drove a powerful and quick-moving wave, viscosity made the residue a cunctative challenge for rescuers.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Merry non-Christmas!

In the spirit of un-birthdays, merry non-Christmas to you!

Today's a pretty unexceptional day, so it's a great time to contemplate the infinite possibilities happening in parallel universes not our own.
Cartoon by Tom Gauld

This post's theme word is pernoctate (v intr), "to stay up all night", or "to pass the night somewhere." I passed the time with phantasms of present, past, and parallel realities, pernoctating while pondering possible payoffs.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Family joy

'Tis the season to ritually retreat to the place of your birth (or at least wherever your strongest familial anchor is) and Spend Time Together. Hooray!

An upwelling of goodwill and warm familial emotional comfort to you, to me, to all of us. Here in my snowy childhood retreat, I am surrounded by snark and sotto-voce comments and offhand references to literature and clever puns about math and it is like being immersed in a warm, soft pool of almost-mirrors of myself. In the least egotistical way possible, it's delightful and I love all these people intensely.

Here are some amusing and mostly out-of-context snippets of the family holiday season, which as usual, extends well into January.

"Every pushup is like 10^{-6} points. It's like mining Bitcoin."

"There's a microbrewery like every 3 blocks in Ithaca now." (originally tweeted)

Re: wisdom teeth and roommate
"Sarah won't let me decorate with them."
"First strike."
"She's a sensible girl."

Alert: we've had to unfurl the backup cheese board for auxiliary cheese feasting. (originally tweeted)

"Shitty superpower: the Man who Makes Women Menstruate. ... maybe there was a local election. A school board election? Those happen every year."

"If you just WATCH me do the chores, it doesn't count towards your chore wheel, Jayjay."
"Lila, usually dogs don't HAVE a chore wheel." (originally tweeted)

"I know there's a cure for hepatitis C, but there's no need to jump headlong into it."

"You might think there is a time signature. There is not."
"This is a seal attempting to play an electronic harmonica. Underwater."

"These tights are the #1 bestseller in beekeeping supplies!"
"Beekeeping tights are NOT a thing."

Suave pickup line, delivered slimily: "You might not know this, but the real numbers? They're ordered."

"What the hell is that thing, Ernie?"
"It's hair containment. You might not be familiar."

Regarding his own conception: "I'm sorry, that was the best sperm I could get, Andrei."

"I don't see the sloths."
"The sloths are right in front of you!"
"Those are 100% rhinos."
"Oh, yeah."
(originally tweeted)

"My boobs are so low now, they can't hold anything up."

Attempt and failure at generating a pithy saying: "If wishes were fishes, then... dishes... would... britches?" (originally tweeted)

"He's bludgeoning the cheese into slices."

Someone left on Google voice assistant, which chimed in, unexpected: (originally tweeted)
"Can I help you find something?"
"Find the yeti!"
(it did not oblige)

"Isotropic pressure!" (re: hats) (originally tweeted)

On e-shopping as you fall asleep: "... it's very hard to get the best price." (originally tweeted)

"Just think, if that had been a rink, you'd be wearing sequins to work." (originally tweeted)

... now, back to work, one and all!

This post's theme word is exeleutherostomize (v intr), "to speak freely." The pithy, flippant people exeleutherostomize when amongst family.