Friday, June 25, 2004

Isaiah 64:1
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains would tremble before you!

James 1:20
your anger does not produce God's righteousness.

another ambiguous compliment

"I'm going to have you give the toast at my wedding." (This is ambiguous only because the complimenter is both gay and a commitmentphobe. But it was sweet that he was impressed by my toast to my parents--it was after I gave a recital, on their anniversary, and I'd said something like, "Asking a group of people to sit still while I sing takes a certain amount of arrogance. I'd like to thank my parents for not beating that arrogance out of me while I was a child."...of course, my mother's response was "We tried!")

quote for dissertation

dixitque Deus
fiat lux
et facta est lux

--Genesis 1

Every beginning, after all, is nothing more than a sequel
and the book of events is always open in the middle

--Wislawa Szymborska

Les Philosophes qui font des systèmes sur la secrète construction de l'univers, sont comme nos voyageurs qui vont á Constantinople, et qui parlent du Sérail: Ils n'en ont vu que les dehors, et ils prétendent savoir ce que fait le Sultan avec ses Favorites.

--Voltaire: Pensées Philosophiques (1766)

Sunday, June 20, 2004

ambiguous compliments

"You're the most literate physicist I know."

"You sing gospel pretty good for a white girl."

"You're not too bad [-looking] for 29." [I was 28 at the time]

Thursday, June 17, 2004


I tried to start a political debate in the "Christian" community on Orkut by quoting the following bits of scripture. Didn't work, but it was fun to try.

Matthew 22:37-40 "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Matthew 25:40 '...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

James 2:18 'But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.'

Galatians 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

Wisdom 11:24 "For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made, for you would not have made anything if you had hated it."

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

things I've been quoting a lot recently

"Not without its charms is this terrible world,
not without its mornings
worth our waking."

--Wislawa Szymborska, "Reality demands", translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak

"there are no questions more urgent
than the naive ones."

--ditto, "The Turn of the Century"

"A word on statistics" (the whole thing)


"I am perfectly convinced that Mr. Darcy has no defect. He owns it himself without disguise."

--Elizabeth Bennett, in Pride and Prejudice (of course)


"Ninety percent of everything is the paperwork."

--Terry Pratchett explains dark energy

Sunday, June 13, 2004


I've been thinking a lot recently about moving out. November seems awfully close. I'm (I assume) going to be living on my own for the first time ever--no family, no housemates, no dorm-buddies. My space. All mine. My underwear festooned about the livingroom to dry; my dishes in the sink for as long as I want to leave them there. And nobody else's dishes there, either; and no seven-liters-of-soymilk-and-six-of-OJ cluttering up the fridge; and no conflicts about who gets to watch movies tonight; and no friends-of-friends showing up unannounced to crash on the livingroom floor so that I step on them when I'm going to work at 4 am...nobody with an eerie sense of timing such that he always starts taking a long shower at the precise moment when I realize I need to pee really really badly...nobody to make animal noises with while cooking pasta...nobody to hassle me when I come in at an unseemly hour...nobody to sit around the kitchen table with me, gossiping about ancient empires and current friends....

Man I'm going to miss you guys.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004


So I was all puzzled about why I couldn't fit my elastic scattering data with monte carlo simulations of 3He on a gold target...turns out there's a simple reason for that: it was actually 4He that we were using. Duh, open the run logbook from time to time....

If I were just a little brighter, life would be much easier.

Friday, June 04, 2004

A thank-you to the "out" (first published on orkut, 3/10/2004)

Several people recently have pointed out opinion polls that show support for gay marriage growing. The increase is especially remarkable when you consider the trend over the past twenty years. I saw an article with actual statistics recently, but I wasn't clever enough to copy the URL at the time and now I have no idea where it was, alas; but the general trend is a huge increase in support, correlated with a huge increase in the number of people who know openly-gay people. (The other interesting statistic is that there's a massive generation gap, suggesting that the rabidly-anti-gay-marriage folks are dinosaurs, and we just need to let nature take its course.)

This is slightly depressing to me, but more in the every-silver-lining-must-have-a-cloud sense: why must humans be so unimaginative as to feel compassion only for people they know and like? Surely, at least among adults, we could hope for a bit more devotion to abstract ideas of justice and equality, independent of who our buddies are.

But given that that's how people are, there is a huge (and hugely encouraging) moral here: living with integrity and courage does make a positive difference in the world. Every person who has decided not to hide who they are and has come out of the closet is someone's cousin, neighbour, school teacher; every person who cares about their happiness will be forced to think twice about denying them the right to marry.

So to all of you who are out I say: thank you. You're making the world a better place for every citizen of this country--and indeed of the world--whether they know it or not.

George Eliot, epigraph to Ch. 21 of Daniel Deronda

It is a common sentence that Knowledge is power; but who hath duly considered or set forth the power of Ignorance? Knowledge slowly builds up what Ignorance in an hour pulls down. Knowledge, through patient and frugal centuries, enlarges discovery and makes record of it; Ignorance, wanting its day’s dinner, lights a fire with the record, and gives a flavour to its one roast with the burnt souls of many generations. Knowledge, instructing the sense, refining and multiplying needs, transforms itself into skill and makes life various with a new six days’ work; comes Ignorance drunk on the seventh, with a firkin of oil and a match and an easy "Let there not be" — and the many-coloured creation is shrivelled up in blackness. Of a truth, Knowledge is power, but it is a power reined by scruple, having a conscience of what must he and what may be; whereas Ignorance is a blind giant who, let him but wax unbound, would make it a sport to seize the pillars that hold up the long-wrought fabric of human good, and turn all the places of joy dark as a buried Babylon. And looking at life parcel-wise, in the growth of a single lot, who having a practised vision may not see that ignorance of the true bond between events, and false conceit of means whereby sequences may be compelled — like that falsity of eyesight which overlooks the gradations of distance, seeing that which is afar off as if it were within a step or a grasp precipitates the mistaken soul on destruction?

Charlotte Bronte, from the preface to the second edition of Jane Eyre whose eyes whatever is unusual is wrong; whose ears detect in each protest against bigotry, that parent of crime, an insult to piety, that regent of God on earth. I would suggest to such doubters certain obvious distinctions; I would remind them of certain simple truths.

Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last. To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns. These things and deeds are diametrically opposed: they are as distinct as is vice from virtue. Men too often confound them: they should not be confounded: appearance should not be mistaken for truth; narrow human doctrines, that only tend to elate and magnify a few, should not be substituted for the world-redeeming creed of Christ. There is--I repeat it--a difference; and it is a good, and not a bad action to mark broadly and clearly the line of separation between them.

The world may not like to see these ideas dissevered, for it has been accustomed to blend them; finding it convenient to make external show pass for sterling worth--to let white-washed walls vouch for clean shrines. It may hate him who dares to scrutinise and expose--to rase the gilding, and show base metal under it--to penetrate the sepulchre, and reveal charnel relics: but hate as it will, it is indebted to him.

Lu-DRISH-uss how I used to think "ludicrous" was pronounced. (I guess I encountered the word in the "Anne of Green Gables" books, and never heard it said.)

I discovered that a friend had the same misconception. From then on, we used the word to each other nonstop in the lab: "They won't schedule you for scanner time until next month? That's ludricious!"

We felt that our work as minions of Satan was done, the day we heard someone who wasn't in the know saying "ludricious".

Since many people seem to be finding this blog by searching for the definition of "ludricious", here's the OED definition of ludicrous, for which "ludricious" is a mis-spelling:
ludicrous, a.[f. L. ludicr-us (app. evolved from the neut. n. ludicrum: sportive performance, stage-play, f. ludere: to play) + -OUS.]
1. Pertaining to play or sport; sportive; intended in jest, jocular, derisive. Obs.
2. Given to jesting; trifling, frivolous; also, in favourable sense, witty, humorous. Obs.
3. Suited to occasion derisive laughter; ridiculous, laughably absurd. (The only current sense.)
4. absol. (in senses 2 and 3).

Glad I could clear that up for you.