Sunday, November 28, 2010

Recent Distractions

Under The Dome
Stephen King

I've read most of Stephen King's book, and "Under the Dome" is clearly one of his best. It's the story of a small city suddenly cut off from the rest of the world by a transparent barrier, the "Dome." On the one hand it's one of these stories that show how many things we take for granted are quite fragile achievements of civilization, like water, electricity, or food supply. On the other hand, King masterly tells how the small-town leaders abuse their power and manipulate the town folks, while ordinary people find their inner hero. Of course the book also has a significant yuck-factor, King-style. The end leaves the scientist somewhat unsatisfied as to explanation, but then King isn't known as a sci-fi author.

Ian McEwan

One long Saturday in the life of a neurosurgeon. It's an extremely well-told story with very carefully worked out and authentic characters. While there isn't actually much plot in this book, the reader gets to share the mind of the main character, his thoughts about current events, terrorism, the war in Iraq as well as aging and happiness in his own life. I found the book in parts quite annoying because of side-long detailed explanations about every move in a squash match or how to cook a bouillabaisse for dinner, but if you occasionally like to see the world through somebody else's eyes, this book is for you.

Ian McEwan

The main character of this novel is Michael Beard, a Nobelprize winner, now in his late 50s, with a long history of marriages and affairs. He doesn't see how he can make further contributions to physics, so he sets out getting famous in the flourishing business of clean energy and climate change. The story is a mixture of his private life with his attempt to leave a mark in history by not-so noble means The physics is sufficiently plausible, the author has clearly done his homework, and I found the story highly amusing and entertaining. As with "Saturday," by reading this book you'll get to see the world through somebody else's eyes. Very recommendable.

Duma Key
Stephen King

The main character of this book is Edgar who, after a work-accident that leaves him one-armed, loses also his wife and moves to Florida for a new start. There, he finds he has acquired a new talent, painting. And not only does he suddenly come to fame by his new talent, his paintings also have an eerie influence on his and other people's lives and bring him in contact with scary powers that awake from a long sleep. Together with newfound friends, Edgar sets out to battle these powers and put them back to sleep. It's a well-written story and an easy read, though there are repeated remarks about some good power watching over our heroes, so they "just know" what to do, which is never explained. The reader is left to wonder what this is all about, definitely not a feature I've encountered in earlier Stephen King novels.

Lisey's Story
Stephen King

King tell's the story of Lisey, the wife of a recently deceased famous who had, one could say, access to a parallel world. King being King, besides the writer's inspiration there's monsters and dangers lurking in that world. The story of that other world is woven together very nicely with Scott's family history and his marriage. The story is told after Scott's death, when Lisey has to deal with a mentally distorted person who is threatening her. However, the plot takes several hundred pages to actually start, and then lots of it doesn't make very much sense. Lisey is constantly following some intuitions for doing this or that which are never explained (similar to "Duma Key"), but she "just knows" it's the right thing to do. It's very unsatisfactory.


  1. King isn't known as a sci-fi author.

    Don't believe it, that's what King wants you to think. Uncle Stevie is far and away America's most popular fiction writer of the last 30 years, but he's also highly sensitive to criticism by the "Literati" of NYC, who trashed his work mercilessly when he exploded into popular culture.

    Personally, I would have considered that a badge of honor. The Literati, the fiction critics, are like drama critics. Failed at their profession, they then make a name for themselves pissing on the success of others (Frank Rich was the worst, before he switched to Tea Party politics, which figures). Thank God we don't need them anymore because we now have Amazon reviews by real honest people without an agenda, critiquing honestly. Phew.

    "The Stand", my favorite King novel, is an example of how well King can do Sci-Fi (considered the LOWEST of genres by the Literati, who think Norman Mailer is good). My only knock against The Stand is its length, about 1000 pages, which is about 600-750 pages longer
    than any novel need be.

    And how did King make his initial fame? By writing excellent normal-length books like Carrie, The Shining, The Dead Zone, Salem's Lot, Pet Sematary, and Cujo. Classics, all. I refuse to read a novel of 1000 pages anymore, they are unnecessarily verbose.

    The Lord of the Rings is also a thousand pages, but I can forgive Tolkien because he's English and the Brits are always too wordy. Some Americans have forgotten who Ernest Hemingway was and why he was important.

  2. Read all of these except "Saturday" by McEwan and "Lisey's Story" and truth to tell both don`t sound too attractive. Duma Key and Under the Dome were a bit of let down for me but I loved Solar very much.

  3. Hi Bee,

    Somehow or other I’m lead to believe your reading speed to be much greater than my own:-) Also to be completely honest I don’t share the same level of passion for fiction that you seem as having, with my reading mostly relating to science, philosophy and mathematics, to include the history and lives of the people and events which influenced each.

    As for the fiction I have managed to read the majority of it being science fiction, as I find it more often as to better address the overall human condition compared to other forms, which most often simply reframe the faults and defects which plague us from the individual level. I guess that being as I’ve found as Socrates did as being the best way to understand others is to first make an honest attempt to understand one’s self.

    Now I have found some exclusions to this, such as the writings of Mark Twain and Ernest Hemmingway, in finding them as having been able to examine the human condition by extrospecting it with the aid of their own introspections; if that makes any sense:-)



  4. small-town leaders abuse their power and manipulate the town folks Homeowners Associations re Phillip Zimbardo's experiment - Stalin's charm with Mussolini's ability. Death is not instructive, mutilation is instructive. The lady of the house is a lawyer. HOAs are slow to learn but fast to bleed, then faster to to learn.

    Support evolution, shoot back. (Oh yeah... The Simpsons did it!)

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  6. This just in: Today's edition of The Wall Street Journal has a review of Bojowald's new book and therefore of Loop Quantum Gravity: here.

    Hi Phil,

    All work and no play makes Bee a dull girl, which she obviously isn't. I share her love of fiction, though I must confess as I age I've had my fill and wish to explore the actual Science behind science fiction. At Bee's age (29+X), I must confess I read at least as much fiction as Bee. This year the only fiction I read was Peter Hamilton's "The Evolutionary Void" which, if it doesn't win the Hugo for Best Novel, will be a crime.

    My point is that fine minds need a break every now and then. Einstein played the violin, and quite well from what I've read. His mother Pauline enrolled him in lessons at a very early age and he stuck with it. Music and Fiction are Art, and Art inspires Logic, so both Bee's/mine hobby and Einstein's hobby were not and are not, in the long run, mutually exclusive.

    Extra Credit! About 4 months I discovered the perfect mnemonic to memorize Stefan's last name, which I'd regularly screwed up, prior.

    It's a two step process and it goes like this:

    1) Think of the word "school", then droop the "ool" part.
    2) Think of the expression "er, er ..." which you see in play scripts but of course no American actually SAYS (we say "Um..." and "Uh..", instead)

    Now add them:


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  8. You read the Wall Street Journal?!

    Some regard it a matter of honor NOT to read such extensions of Fox "News" and favorite of the "fat stuffers" who would sell out their country and nature for a buck or two.

    This is especially so after it was acquired by the clown prince of "journalism".


    12:23 PM, November 29, 2010

  9. Pontifications and extrapolations from Emily Lane are not appreciated, Bob, if in fact you don't know what I know about Business (I have an MBA) and Science (I have a BSME), although I do believe you know who Gordon Moore and Intel are, a beauteous combination of both.

    So allow me to elucidate:

    Rupert Murdoch, owner/conqueror of the WSJ is, in my mind, THE Anti-Christ and therefore an enemy of us all, which I state as a metaphor because I don't necessarily believe that a "real" Anti-Christ exists, and I find discussions of which boring in the extreme.

    Nevertheless, whenever LQG makes the news, as it does in the upper right-hand corner of my webblog thanks to the blogspot gadget: "Physics News", I take notice, and simply wish to impart to others that it has done so.

    Capice, Kemosabe?

  10. As I am of the opinion, that some first time pregnancies(twins especially) do require absolute bed rest sometimes. To bring to full term, we know it's better for the babies to be in momma's tummy.

    That being said, relaxation can be a time of discovery too, about those authors who are artistic in expression so that we can merge with the author for a moment, travel to distant places, and pass the time.

    It's okay, yet I am like Phil too, that much has caught my attention in the factual to have paid attention less to the fictional side of things, although as Steve has said, it is nice to just escape with out applying discerning ability to information contained in that science literature.

    Quote from Scienceblogs,"Shifting Literature by Jennifer L. Jacquet?

    Ursula Le Guin

    In its silence, a book is a challenge: it can't lull you with surging music or deafen you with screeching laugh tracks or fire gunshots in your living room; you have to listen to it in your head. A book won't move your eyes for you the way images on a screen do. It won't move your mind unless you give it your mind, or your heart unless you put your heart in it. It won't do the work for you. To read a story well is to follow it, to act it, to feel it, to become it--everything short of writing it, in fact. Reading is not "interactive" with a set of rules or options, as games are; reading is actual collaboration with the writer's mind. No wonder not everybody is up to it.


  11. On a more serious note, how is it one can become,"completely independent on the prejudices and fashions of his times," to be able to bring something new to the table? (in bold added by me)

    “Somebody who only reads newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else. And what a person thinks on his own without being stimulated by the thoughts and experiences of other people is even in the best case rather paltry and monotonous. There are only a few enlightened people with a lucid mind and style and with good taste within a century. What has been preserved of their work belongs among the most precious possessions of mankind. We owe it to a few writers of antiquity (Plato, Aristotle, etc.) that the people in the Middle Ages could slowly extricate themselves from the superstitions and ignorance that had darkened life for more than half a millennium. Nothing is more needed to overcome the modernist's snobbishness.”

    "On Classic Literature" from Ideas and Opinions – Crown Publishing (1954)-Albert Einstein (page 64) originally published in the Jungkaufmann, a monthly publication of the “Schweizerischer Kaufmaennischer Verein, Jugendbund" (Feb, 29, 1952)(Thanks Phil)

  12. From Steve, aka the Pontif-In-Chief: "Pontifications and extrapolations from Emily Lane are not appreciated, Bob, if in fact you don't know what I know about Business (I have an MBA) and Science (I have a BSME), although I do believe you know who Gordon Moore and Intel are, a beauteous combination of both."

    What a piece of work!

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  14. Hi Plato,

    I liked that page, very thought-provoking, thanks. I especially liked this quote by Ursula Le Guin there:

    Reading is not "interactive" with a set of rules or options, as games are; reading is actual collaboration with the writer's mind. No wonder not everybody is up to it.
    ... Ursula Le Guin

    Two exceptions, maybe, bearing in mind an exception does not necessarily falsify a rule so much as reveal our ignorance of same, which leads us to explore deeper ("Dig, we must!"), are ...

    The books of Hawking on Gen Rev and Greene on SuperString Theory.

    The "exception" I note is that in no way when I read them do I feel I am "collaborating," simply because they do not delve into the math enough to satisfy me. What we are then left with is an increasingly, seemingly "mad" series of thoughts/conclusions without logical (mathematical) backup, other than "acceptance" of the similar that went before. Essentially: "Trust us, we have the PhD's."

    Which is fine and all and I very much want to trust them, but one thing I've noted if nothing else is how much Physicists disagree with each other. I can therefore see no other recourse than to actually study the maths (which isn't hard .... it's the notation that's challenging) to ask more intelligent questions, and that takes time.

    But for REAL disagreement in Science, you can't beat Astronomy and Cosmology, right Oldershaw?

    Which reminds me, Bob, since you say you're affiliated with Amhurst College, whom should I contact to see what they think of your theory (which still intrigues me as I spent 2 hours the other day trying to understand it)? Professors George Greenstein or Houjun Mo in Astronomy, or one of their 10 Physics professors? Give us a name, luv, and my most sincere apologies for "pontificating" to an expert in Cosmology such as yourself. I should have used better language. My bad.

  15. What I find as most evident in such discussions, being the need to be right as often mistaken for what represents as the best solution or the accommodation for only one voice seen as equivalent to finding consensus. It is as if Socrates had never existed or perhaps it’s as most still so lost in the forest as to have never been able to hear.

    “Know Thyself”, “The unexamined life is not worth living”


  16. Hi Steven,

    ” My point is that fine minds need a break every now and then. Einstein played the violin, and quite well from what I've read.”

    Not that I find my mind as fine as some others, yet I most whole heartedly agree and that’s why I so love golf, as it able to afford me both tranquility and humility :-)



  17. LOL, on the humility part, Phil. NOTHING teaches Physics the hard way like golf. Which if Bee will allow, reminds me of my favorite golf joke, as told by Tiger Woods in GQ magazine when he was just starting his career, back when we all loved him:

    In Heaven one day Moses, Jesus, and a really old man approach a Par-3 with a really big pond in front of the green. Moses goes first, hits a high parabola, and the ball lands in the pond. Moses walks to the edge of the pond, raises his arms, and the waters part. He walks to the bottom of the pond and knocks the ball up to within 4 inches of the hole.

    Jesus hits next with the same result. He walks across the pond, holds out his hand, and the ball rises to the surface and sits there. Jesus then hits the ball to within an inch of the cup.

    The old man then tees it up and hits the ball too hard and too low. As the ball passes over the pond, a fish jumps out of the water and swallows the ball. Just before going back into the pond, an eagle swoops down on the fish, grabs it, and starts flying away over the green. As it nears the green, a storm cloud appears and a lightning bolt strikes the eagle and fish turning them into skeletons. The ball drops out of the fish, lands on the green, bounces once and goes into the hole.

    At which point Jesus turns on the old man and exclaims: "Dad! If you don't cut that shit out we're not going to play with you anymore!"

    Not an eagle falls to Earth that goes unnoticed by the Father, yet still the eagle falls. And all for a bloody hole-in-one!

    I added that last bit, sorry. ;-p

  18. Steve says: "my most sincere apologies for "pontificating" to an expert in Cosmology..."

    No problemo.

    My name is not Bob.

    It is spelled Amherst.

    At least until quite recently, no one at Amherst College is/was qualified to give you a proper evaluation of the new discrete self-similar paradigm.

    Decide for yourself, for crisakes! Do you need someone else to tell what is s%#@ and what is shineola?

    The Krampus bears precious gifts to delight and birch switches to sting. Often the naked apes appear to prefer the switch. How very odd! But then again de gustibus non disputantum est.

    Remain Calm

  19. It is spelled Amherst.

    Thank you, Robert, my bad. I will return the favor by reminding you that shit is a four-letter word, not 5, and that there is no "e" in Shinola.

    My name is not Bob.

    Really, how does "Rob" grab you then? No? Look at it this way: at least it beats the nickname for "Richard".

    Decide for yourself, for crisakes!

    I will someday, I just asked because I hoped you would shorten the learning curve. Fine if not. I've only been back into MathPhys for 2 years, Robert. My "general" education completed, my current goal is to find that which in Physics I wish to specialize in.

    Cosmology is OUT with me my friend, sorry. I like the field, but the realm of the very small interests me so much more. And I'll tell you why: that damned speed of light thing combined with the limit it imposes, that we can't see farther than radius 13.7 Bly away, or 20-something Bly given universal expansion, and the fact that the filaments/voids structure of our universe doesn't seem to change one whit from here to the limits. So sorry, but you and Alan Guth will have to get along without me. ;-)

    I am calm, Robert, no Amherst professor will be called in the immediate future, be calm yourself. And contemplate the golden ratio Phi. Chaos and Fractility are in their mathematical infancy. Much work to be done. Ciao, and R.I.P., Benoit.

  20. To me it seems you 'talk the talk' but do not 'walk the walk'.

    For those who might think: "But the Krampus only brings the birch switches", I have a little secret.

    Very few know the subtle truth that St. Nick and the Krampus are one and the same, just as the light and the darkness are two sides of the same coin.

    One can choose the glare and effort of illumunation, or one can choose the soothing comfort of remaining in the darkness.

    Personally I think its time to put our scientific adolescence behind us.


  21. To me, it seems you couldn't market yourself out of a paper bag. Here I am, trying to meet you at LEAST half way, and all you can do is criticize. Bad form all around, man. Good luck, and goodbye.

  22. I know something that might cheer you two up and forget your (relatively) minor physics differences. Read about Wikileaks latest info dumps and the outraged responses from those powerful people who look bad. Julian Assange is my new hero.

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  24. Thanks for that Eric. I haven't read the leaks so I don't know which country comes out looking worse. Either US, Israel or Saudi Arabia, right? That makes me wonder where to put the over/under on his unnatural lifespan. Pretty low if it's Israel, shrug, dunno. On the other hand, he's had a lifetime's experience of moving around thanks to his Mom, so it's an interesting developing story. But if he really wanted to make a difference, he'd go after the "global" corporations. Hurting the puppets doesn't hurt the puppeteers. They'll make more.

  25. Hi Steven,

    I tried to post the same comment on your own blog only to have it and then another without the HTML rejected. It does seem to have held on Einstein’s moon where you posted your observation. It’s a good thing I’m so scientifically minded as otherwise I would think forces were involved to hide the truth:-)



  26. Hi Steven,
    Saudi Arabia and the USA, in the form of Hillary Clinton, certainly don't come off too well. Hillary put it down on record that foreign U.N diplomats should be indiscriminately spied on, especially their financial records. Presumably the information would be used to blackmail them if a vote in our favor was ever required. Here's to the new boss, same as the old boss.

    I read an editorial at Slate which stated that she was irrepairably compromised in her future negotiations and should resign. I agree. The interesting thing was that in the comment section almost everyone said that since everyone else was doing it then it was ok. The usual argument of moral relativism. That's exactly how the world gets in the state it is presently in. So, here's to Mr. Assange. Hopefully there iare entities out there actually capable of being shamed.

    Also, google Forbes and Assange together. He did an interview where he comes off as very level headed and not coming from a position of bitterness, as so many like to present him.

  27. I just checked to see if there was responses to the Slate editorial and, lo and behold, they erased all the comments. It reminded me once more what I like best about Bee. A pretty much non-existent censuring of comments. We are all allowed to show our blemishes and let the reader make their own decision about where the truth lies.

  28. Hi Steve,

    The "exception" I note is that in no way when I read them do I feel I am "collaborating," simply because they do not delve into the math enough to satisfy me.

    That's where the discriminating factor comes in that Phil talked about, and of course, further need to understand "the math most certainly can be years in progression, that's if, you left open the possibility to see the comprehensiveness of the program toward that understanding.

    It's hard to create an opinion of something you have no idea "can form" before you understand what that math represents? You agree?

    The conceptualization of the way one can speak can necessarily harbor the "mathematics of discourse" that you are seeking, yet, can it be said that such conceptualization in the forms of modern language can have a mathematical basis to it? Those authors can speak plainly, yet, you did not recognize their math?

    So, "the concepts" can light the way to the underlying basis of the language called math?

    Myself, I reserve my judgment even after the numbers of years I strived to understand the most basic of concepts and how the math meets those conceptualization. Some most definitely hide behind the math, can form a opinion about something theoretic as to be so definitive according to consensus? Whose consensus?

    You distinctly have an advantage with your background, as Bee does, "as a basis for her" to shift to the theoretic and physics?

    The program agenda of exploration for the understanding of "quantum gravity" has not discarded the methods toward comprehension of the theoretic involved, or, as a means to understand the integration of the question mark where all meets. These concepts are behind all the physics involved?


  29. Hi Plato,

    At the heart of any equation, by way of its structure and form, lies both symmetry and conservation as in being equal demands each side to be preserved and also the same. However for me what I find to be meaningful is that which stands as its utility (purpose) to be good as to manifest such quality. This is revealed in neither its structure nor form as quality is what dictates both as if being any other having it not to be found.



  30. Hi Phil,

    A Planck Length, do we say "it is a Elephant" or is it "just noise?"

    Theoretic methods to describe this area of perspective is fuzzy indeed, yet some such descriptions of a "space within" have been formulated, as to describe that space(even gravity?).

    Thought experiments branches toward understanding the tangibles "of reason" to understanding that space.

    So any thing below Planck length "is a blackhole?"

    Any entropic design then is an decay of that perfection? What designs are inherent that such a decay will have evidence of some matter constitutions that we will say are varying degrees of that perfection/freedom? This may dictate "a dimensional reference" to phase transitions?

    So, what structure is this to describe it's potential? Varying degrees of thought, from nothing?:)


  31. One last point here Phil, and for Steve as well.

    Not everyone agrees with this idea. Its foundation is formed with math rather than hard data, as is common in theoretical physicsHogan’s holometer: Testing the hypothesis of a holographic universe

    Bean counters always need a way in which to count, so measure assures us we are dealing with some kind of reality and not suffering from illusions that cannot be documented.

    It's as if, they have taken the magnifying glass, microscope, and shone a light on an area with which phenomenological approach has to go toward identifying the process toward realization of the math. You see?



  32. Where's Uncle Al and his EOT-WASH GROUP ideology when you need him?:)

  33. "A way" to describe that space in the distance of, "R?"

    Metaphorically we can say this measure is analogize in some way in which we can describe "the strengths and weaknesses?" A "topological relation" between Q to Q ??

    Fig. 1. In quantum chromodynamics, a confining flux tube forms between distant static charges. This leads to quark confinement - the potential energy between (in this case) a quark and an antiquark increases linearly with the distance between them

  34. Hi Bee, btw it's Stephen, not Steven King.

    Hey, we haven't heard from Bee in a while. Birthin' some babies, maybe? Getting some sleep, and lots of it, hopefully, if not.

    Eric, who knows where Assange is going? He's in the UK at the moment, and the police know exactly where. However they won't arrest him because the Swedish rapes he's accused of committing were timed in a suspicious manner, right after he leaked re Afghanistan. Here's to the Brits for requiring more detailed information from Sweden, glad to see someone is keeping their cool in this whole mess. Hillary should resign, and not because she's an alleged lesbian in a sham marriage to an Arkansas playboy. She never struck me as honest. Lincoln, she's not.

    Plato, the best book re Physics is Yau's and Nadis' book on Calabi-Yau manifolds, The Shape of Inner Space. That doesn't go into deep mathematical details, either, but it's far superior to Greene's, with a lot of dope about how Poincare's conjecture was proven, because it narrows down the specific areas of Maths to study to be more fluent. As far as "hiding behind the maths", that's what people like Lubos want to believe, that its way beyond we the little people's capability. But it's not.

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  36. Hi Bee, btw it's Stephen, not Steven, King.

    Hey, we haven't heard from Bee in a while. Birthin' some babies, maybe? Getting some sleep, and lots of it, hopefully, if not.

    Eric, who knows where Assange is going? He's in the UK at the moment, and the police know exactly where. However they won't arrest him because the Swedish rapes he's accused of committing were timed in a suspicious manner, right after he leaked re Afghanistan. Here's to the Brits for requiring more detailed information from Sweden, glad to see someone is keeping their cool in this whole mess. Hillary should resign, and not because she's an alleged lesbian in a sham marriage to an Arkansas playboy. She never struck me as honest. Lincoln, she's not.

    Plato, the best book re current Physics is Yau's and Nadis' book on Calabi-Yau manifolds, The Shape of Inner Space. That doesn't go into deep mathematical details, either, but it's far superior to Greene's, with a lot of dope about how Poincare's conjecture was proven, because it narrows down the specific areas of Maths to study to be more fluent. As far as "hiding behind the maths", that's what people like Lubos want us to believe, that its way beyond we the little people's capability. But it's not.

    I also read the biography of Dirac by Farmelo this year. Awesome, great book. And back to math, Fearless Symmetry by Avner Ash and Robert Gross, which is a great introduction to Group theory. Highly recommended. As as far as websites go, John Baez is really stepping it up at Azimuth. He's in Singapore, and apparently doesn't know many people there, so he's become the blogging banshee. Good Stuff all around.

  37. Hi Steven,

    You're right of course, it's Stephen King. Thanks, I've fixed that. I'm fine, I just don't get very much done these days, everything seems to take me forever, and it's quite exhausting to carry around two 5 pound babies all day. So, excuse the silence. Best,


  38. Bee!

    What the hell are you even DOing ANYthing for, other than eating and potty? You're in the last third of your last trimester, so the ONly thing you should be Doing is getting tons of rest. I bet the Director of Nordita will back me up on this. Let your support people, starting with Stefan of course, be the one who does things.

    Hey, if you can manage it, go for 22 hours of sleep per day. That way, the time will pass faster and you'll meet the newest family members sooner, with good dreams as a fringe benefit.

    And forget us and this blog! That reminds me, what the heck is Stefan doing? Spending 250 euros in time and money to save 50 euros on a double stroller? Pfft. That's what baby showers are for!

    Hey Stefan, if you got a sec, we haven't heard from you since Oct. 5. Weigh in, son. Fathers are the forgotten parent, it ain't just you. ;-)

    Honestly, first-time Dad stories are even funnier than first-time Mom stories. Stay well both of you. Enjoy your rest while you have the time. It won't be long now! ;-p

  39. I seem to spend an enormous amount of time filling out forms and trying to sort out my parental/maternal/sick benefits, as well as my tax status and the slight issue that I can't find my German ID card, not to mention that I learned the other day that I apparently never informed the city of Frankfurt I moved out of my apartment there 10 years ago, so I was still registered living in a building that for all I know might not even exist anymore. Besides that, I've been reading and baking Christmas cookies :) That btw also explains why Stefan doesn't have time to blog: because I'm keeping him busy with all the stuff I'm not supposed to do, like assembling the furniture, driving to IKEA and buying nursery equipment, doing the shopping and literally everything that requires bending down and/or lifting. But don't worry, you'll hear from him sooner or later. Best,


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  41. Oh yeah, bureaucracy. Sucks, doesn't it? We wish we could help, but bureaucracy is the price we pay in a society that by hook or by crook does more things right than wrong, even if it seems like some days are 3 steps backwards and 2 steps forward.

    But if you think about it, we wouldn't have our society if it didn't have a clear record over time of 3 steps forward and 2 back. Been that way since Mesopotamia and the Sumerians. That's why we know about them. They kept records.

    About the loss of the German ID thing though, I'm afraid you're you're on your own there (wish I could pop over and scour the premises and help, but I'm 5000 miles away). I thought the Germans were the neatest and most organized people in the world? Well, something inevitably slips through the cracks, that's why you're in your current condition!

    One last thing. Don't fret about the the whole "childbirth" thing. It will be over in a flash, and then the real fun begins. Stefan, who will hold the babies first, will have the biggest smile on his face you've ever seen on him.

    Then the REAL fun, the greatest adventure of your life as Christine reminds you, parenting, will begin. Everyone will be fine.

    I think your biggest problem now is that you're used to being Busy Bee, not Queen Bee depends-on-others-Bee, which you are (soon to be Momma Bear Bee ... and NObody messes with Momma Bear), and not used to.

    It's just a temporary condition. This too will pass, just like everything else, including Leslie Nielsen.

    And please don't call me "Shirley." :-)

  42. Oh hi, Christine. We posted at the same time. :-)

    Very interesting about your life as a former athlete. And yup, first-time parents are always astounded how these little 7-10 lb. balls of flesh are so exhausting! How can that be? But you hit the nail on the head: they wreck your getting a good night's sleep. For about 2 months, if normal. After that we're good until they hit their teenage years and think they require the wardrobe of a princess.

    men do not have the same structure as women, and they *do* manage sometimes to sleep deeply while the baby is crying, so... be prepared!

    Diff'rent folks, diff'rent strokes. Actually I was the one who fed the little ones in the wee hours, since I'm a light sleeper and the Mrs. sleeps like a log. Heh, we're all unique, just like everyone else.

    Back to the books! Book time! Book time for Bee.

    Solar seems to be the only one I'd read of those you've reviewed, although reading about an anti-hero doesn't sound enticing. Tough to write well about those, but if McEwan does it right, I'll give it a shot.

    The main book of fiction I'm looking forward to is Wilczek's upcoming murder/Physics Nobel prize mystery. Should be out any month now, right? Anyone know when?

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  44. Hi Christine and Steven,

    Not to show disrespect for motherhood, as being a parent myself, yet all this talk of mountain climbing and marathons I find to be a little over the top and out of context. That’s not to suggest Bee shouldn’t get as much rest as possible, as she most certainly has some trying days ahead, which have been further complicated with the fact she is going to give birth to twins, along with a few other things. However it should not be lost sight of this being a natural process, for which she has been similarly endowed with what is needed to cope and in many respects attributes that exceed what most have, which include her demonstrated fortitude, perseverance and intelligence.

    So to look at things from another perspective, is to ask, if I were a child about to come into this world and given the ability to select my mother, Bee would certainly be seen as a wonderful choice, along with Stefan a great selection as a father. You might think such evaluation being made based on what they do as to be component in professionally; yet that would be a mistake, as what it primarily attributed to resultant of my observations connected with the writing and maintenance of this blog. That is over time has it not only have made evident them being intelligent and thoughtful people, yet more importantly ones who genuinely care for others; with my fellow loyal readers out there standing as both witnesses and benefactors. So if I were a child, understanding the demonstrated capacity these two have in regard for those who are essentially strangers, I find it hard to imagine the quality of nurture I might enjoy, as provided by their depth of guidance, caring and compassion as being their much loved offspring.

    So rather than reminding, as perhaps to alarm Bee and Stefan of the difficulties and challenges they face, I would have them assured not only they being able to cope, yet have already demonstrated to many they are so able better than most.



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  46. I don't think Christine and I are trying to alarm Bee & Stefan, Phil, so much as have them look at the bigger, wonderful, long-term picture soon to come. Also, taking their minds off the uncomfortable present that is late-stage pregnancy isn't a bad thing, is it?

    Phil, if babies could choose their parents then Bee and others like her and Stefan would have to have 100 pregnancies to make up for the 20% of parents who shouldn't be so. :-)

    All is moot in any case, here comes Huxley's "A Brave New World" in a couple of generations, and no one will be choosing anything. I'm glad I won't be alive then.

    I'm speculating a Dec 14th or Dec. 15th birthdate, 11 or 12 days from now. That's kind of cool, being one of the last born at the end of the first decade of the 21st century.

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  48. Hi Steven,

    Not to disagree with you, that to be a good parent not being a test of one’s metal, yet as you being an engineer you better than most knows one first needs to look at the type and quality of metal as it relates to the need for concern. As to when that happy day will arrive I would wish it to be sometime in early January or as to be close to full term, as to have the metal of both the parents and the children requiring the least confirmation of my personal and yet convinced evaluation of their quality :-)



  49. In the end it doesn't matter when they're born, as the ability of hospitals and medical science to care well for preemies is nothing less that extraordinary. We live in good times..... that way.

  50. Dear Phil,

    You completely missed my point, and I am sorry for that. It's not my intention to terrorize Sabine and Stefan for what it is to come. On the contrary, I have stated many times that their life will change into a new, marvellous world that only parents have the chance to experience.

    I am sorry to have mentioned my previous "athlete life" specially in comparsion for the labor of taking care of a baby. In fact, Steven understood it quite well: the exhausting factor lies in the lack of quality sleep. So I wanted to give that advice: sleep all you can now, because you will miss it when time comes. As simply as that.

    Also, in your comment it was as I wanted to call attention to myself as having being an athlete, that was not my intention, but I see now that some people could interpret it that way.

    In any case, my intention was to give some advice to Sabine, that is unsolicited advice, of course, and I have no idea whether it was welcomed by her. I just want to help in the best of my intentions.

    Finally, I would never in my mindful state say that Sabine and Stefan are "unfit" for parenthood, how could I say that to anyone? We are all unprepared as first time parents. Experience comes with time of course. Your last comment really made me very disturbed for the misunderstanding.

    But you at least made me think again: posting comments on blogs can often lead to misunderstandings and waste of time. So thanks for reminding me not to do this again.

    For that reason, I will be removing my past comment in order to avoid such unpleasant outcomes.

    Have a nice day,


  51. Dear Christine,

    You must believe me when I say I never took it that you intended anything other for Bee than to offer sound advice, as only having her best interests at heart. Also I never thought you were boasting about your athletic accomplishments or anything else regarding yourself personally. To the contrary over the last few years I’ve come to hold you in high regard, as finding you presenting as a very thoughtful, intelligent and caring person, who at the same time being a mother which loves her son dearly.

    The only thing I had difficulty with as to have expressed, is in feeling you along with some others forgetting the person being addressed, as one having her head planted soundly on her shoulders, who also at present being in the company of her loving husband having this as the same. So I am truly sorry if you took what I said as a condemnation, as that was not being my intention.

    However I will say this whole misunderstanding has reinforced for me as to be assured your depth of compassion not being limited to your immediate family, as I find the level of concern you express for Bee consistent with that of a mother. In such respect you might say I was simply expressing the feelings of a father of two daughters, one which has also blessed me with giving life to a grandson. That as having learned, even with your own, there comes a time, although they will always remain as ones children, one must recognize them for what they’ve become, being grown as to be capable women and men.

    Kindest regards,


  52. Christine, I REALLY wish you hadn't done that! Those were terrific replies! But, OK.

    Hey Phil, don't you understand that when you tell a woman trying to explain to another woman the joys of parenting that "all this talk of mountain climbing and marathons I find to be a little over the top and out of context" is definitely going to be considered a "condemnation."

    Maybe you were never a housewife or a househusband, Phil. I was. It's work, trust me, but the very best and most important work of one's life. I used to lift weights for example, and was able to continue doing so with one child, but with 2? Pfft, no time, too exhausting.

    OK then, we're all friends again, right? Let's move on.

    Back to the books!

    My wife asked me what I want for Xmas, and I said ... a book! After her eyes stopped rolling, she asked which one? I said, don't you mean how many, because I have 2 in mind and ... just one she said. Yikes! Another science book, she asked? No, I said. Phew, she exclaimed. A mathematics book, I said. More eye rollerage ensued.

    So I've narrowed it down to two, and wish the assembled would help me make my pick. It comes down to one of these:

    Euler's Gem:
    The Polyhedron Formula and the Birth of Topology by
    David S. Richeson


    The Princeton Companion to Mathematics
    Edited by Timothy Gowers
    June Barrow-Green and Imre Leader, associate editors

    It'll probably be the first as it's cheaper.

  53. Dear Phil,

    Do not worry, I understand such events as pure misunderstandings, and sometimes I think that I do exaggerate, so it's a good reminder to keep some things to myself and not jumping quickly to write a blog comment. I have great respect for you.

    Dear Steven,

    I recommend the following book: 1120 pages of great content (Russian school) for math lovers, and all that jewel for only $23.72.

    Mathematics: Its Content, Methods and Meaning by Aleksandrov et al.


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  55. Hi Steven,

    You are of course correct that what I might perceive as simply being a point of relevancy, might be considered by others as being a judgement; that is especially when it comes to things relating to the intentions of a woman respective of expressing their womanhood. I would say this difficulty to have ourselves understood is related to our need to understand, which appears at times as nearly impossible and might well be exactly why each of us has become constructed, as to be instilled, with having us able to maintain our general interests born of fascinated wonder. That is as I’ve often contended, that passion and compassion being related, with the human animal’s insatiable need to know, as having it able to expand its own sense of existence. This of course is stated with absolutely no judgement or pun intended, yet only appreciation.

    ”Women May Fall When There's No Strength in Men”

    William Shakesphere -Romeo and Juliet-Act II, scene iii



  56. No problemo, Phillip, por favor. But I think it's simpler than that. There are orders of magnitude more connections between the left and right brain halves of female humans. That's important because it means they can switch back and forth between the different types of thinking faster than us guys, who have a tendency to focus like horses with blinders on. What that means is women understand each other better. I'm jealous! What is also means is women have it ten times easier understanding men than vice versa. So much for the "why can't men be more like a women?" and vice versa comments. Because ... we're not. Same species, different wiring. So an example would be when a woman asks a girlfriend what her guy meant by something he said, the fact is he meant exactly what he said! It may have been wrong, but that's the woman's job, see? To straighten us out. :-)

    Hey, thanks Christine! Looking good. Three volumes in one! Although I'll buy it for the 3rd volume, as I already have studied the stuff in the first two. But that third volume stuff, Lie algebras and Topology, the stuff they don't teach Engineers, is what's important to understand and intelligently discuss modern Physics, I've learned.

    Also, what is it about the French and Russians that they've produced so many great mathematicians over time out of proportion to their populations? Hmm.

  57. Hi Steven,

    I would say you hypothesis fails, as Christine and I both clearly misunderstood one another, respective of intent as it relates to content. I would also point out, that as the world until recently being primarily fashioned by men, as to reflect their natures, such that it’s observable state doesn’t stand as to support what you find as our wiring mandating greater transparency. I would say that men in being more able to hide their true feelings, rather than having less to be considered, has them more often to be purposely be misunderstood than their counterparts and thus that is why science being so important as it insisting observable actions being more revealing than words; although I would agree the world might be a better place if more women had a say as to how it was to be constructed and to what purpose it serves.

    ” "The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones".

    -William Shakesphere- Julius Caesar- Act III, scene ii

    My quotes are of course being my attempt to have my comments still found to be relevant in respect to the subject:-)



  58. Although I'll buy it for the 3rd volume, as I already have studied the stuff in the first two.

    Yes, but the value of that is to read from the perspective of top Russian mathematicians. I have other books on "basic" mathematics that give a new light to the "basics" and I have enjoyed them a lot, e.g.

    Elementary Mathematics from an Advanced Standpoint: Arithmetic, Algebra, Analysis by Felix Klein;

    Playing with Infinity: Mathematical Explorations and Excursions by Rozsa Peter

    So I am always interested in getting back to the "basics" if I can see something new, elegant, or unexpected. That is the point.

    But that third volume stuff, Lie algebras and Topology, the stuff they don't teach Engineers, is what's important to understand and intelligently discuss modern Physics, I've learned.

    There are several books on that. For a physics-minded reader, I'd suggest the following, they are good and cover a wide range of that material, e.g.:

    Geometrical Methods of Mathematical Physics by F. Schutz

    (His book on GR--introduction is also very good).

    The Geometry of Physics: An Introduction, Second Edition by
    Theodore Frankel

    A Combinatorial Introduction to Topology by Henle

    Tensor Analysis on Manifolds by Bishop and Goldberg

    References for more advanced material can be found in these excellent books. I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy them all. But be prepared, although they are introductory, it does not mean they will be easy to read throughout. Give time to yourself to get "math-maturity"...

    Ah, do not forget Penrose's book, if you have not yet purchased it, I recommend it.

    The Road to Reality.

    (I have not read it completely, I have skipped some parts, but it is a fantastic as far as I have explored. It covers a lot of that mathematics you are interested).

    Bottom line: as you are an engineer I'd look for books with a physicist reader in mind, I advice against purchasing pure mathematics books on that matter, at least not before fully understanding the subject at a basic/intermediate level.


  59. Hi Christine & Steven,

    From strictly from my own point of view, as one more concerned with fundamentals as they relates to their consequences in respect to potential I like reading books explanative of mathematics that present as to be the same. In such regard the best of these that I’ve read is one entitled “Pi In The Sky; Counting Thinking, and Being” written by John D. Barrow. This book addresses mathematics, beginning from its primitive conception all the way up to the time of it being published, in 1992. I think Steven would particularly enjoy it as in reading it one is exposed to Barrow’s profound sense of humour.

    “Ask a philosopher ‘What is philosophy’ or a historian ‘What is History’ and they will have no difficulty in giving an answer. Neither of them, in fact, can pursue his own discipline without knowing what he is searching for. But ask a mathematician ‘What is mathematics’ and he may justifiably reply he does not know the answer but that does not stop him from doing mathematics.”

    -Francois Lasserre (Quote noted in “Pi in the Sky: Counting Thinking and Being, by John D. Barrow” (page 1)



  60. Thanks ever so much for the links, Christine and Phil.

    Yeah Christine, I own Road to Reality, it's one of my top 5 favorite popular Physics books, and yup I should probably read the first 400 Mathematics pages first. I skipped over them because I had a handle on them and had studied most of that stuff; I was more interested the learning the Physics at the time and what Sir Roger had to say about it.

    Now if only I could FIND the damn thing, it's lost under a mountain of books in my bedroom somewhere! :-)

  61. Hi Bee,

    Anyone remember Bee? Click here Bee for a nice story about a former American child star (and author of Mathematics books targeting young girls) who is recently a first-time Mom, and her feelings thereof. I was thinking of you when I posted it, and also that not every American celeb is as screwed up as Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan.

  62. Now if only I could FIND the damn thing

    Alarming! So what you need then is a good shelf or if you do... just order... (my mouth again...).

    Seriously, I have a problem with my books. I care so much about them that I treat them as... well, babies! :) I do not let them get dirty, I carry them with care and keep them safe in shelves with glassy doors. If someone grabs one of them, as if they were common *things*, I get nervous. I know where each one is, all the time. And no, I don't want virtual books, just real ones.


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  65. Thanks, well, I don't need a bookshelf (I have plenty and they're stuffed), I need to stop buying books! Because if you think about it, the Internet provides so much damn information it's increasingly obvious that we needn't ever buy books again! Real or virtual.

    Which reminds me btw, Amazon has just passed the point where they're selling more virtual than reals. How can Borders and Barnes and Noble compete! Sad the day the bookstores go away. Then eventually: books themselves, until McCoy presents Kirk one of the last remaining "A Tale of Two Cities", 250 years from now, sniff.

    But there's something really nice about holding a "thing" in your hands, a thing filled with knowledge. Sigh.

    I guess what I'm saying is I have to step up my knowledge of differential geometry and Topology. So damned important these days, and well into the foreseeable future. I'm surprised I took so long to get serious about them. Maybe I took the joke that "topologists can't tell the difference between a doughnut and a coffee cup" too seriously.

    But not anymore! Yau and Nadis' book cured me of that! Poincare's conjecture! Perelman is widely credited with proving it, and he did, but only because Richard Hamilton took it 90% of the way (with great input by Yau) over 20 years before getting stumped, with Grisha finishing the job.

    Just great stuff, interesting stuff, and inspirational stuff. It makes me want to keep studying till I drop, and hopefully someday, make a contribution. Ciao.

  66. Hi Steven,

    ”I own Road to Reality, it's one of my top 5 favorite popular Physics books,............ Now if only I could FIND the damn thing, it's lost under a mountain of books in my bedroom somewhere!”

    How could you have such a thing go missing, as in hard cover its over 1000 pages (not including the index), 2 ½ inches thick and must weigh at least four pounds. My own copy sticks out like a sore thumb sitting among the rest. I have to wonder what size house you have as it must be as large as Citizen Kane's as it almost like his misplacing of Rosebud :-)


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  68. Phil, you've spoilered the ending of Citizen Kane! :-) NObody watch that ending until you've seen the film first, please.

    My problem at the moment is my 4 adult-sized children (ages 15-21). Our home is modest, not large. It's a 3 bedroom 35 x 50 ft. footprint standard American split-level, which we've converted to a 5-bedroom by sacrificing the den and my former office/library. The attic and garages are full, so when the kids wish to clean up their rooms, yup, they dump their stuff in the parent's bedroom. :-)

    Once we get to our empty-nest years, hopefully sooner than later (but who knows when in this economy), we shall be organized again. Ah, breathing room.

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  70. Hi Steven.

    “The attic and garages are full, so when the kids wish to clean up their rooms, yup, they dump their stuff in the parent's bedroom. :-)”

    So what you are basically saying is you lost the book, not from having too big a place, yet rather from simply having too much damn “stuff “ !!! :-)




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