On his birthday

O Poet! my Poet! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
   Here Poet! dear teacher!
            Your words live in my head!
                  It is some dream that on this earth,
                        You’ve long been cold and dead.

30 x 5 = 150

Today is the 30th day of the 5th month of the year, and also the 150th day of the year. If you multiply the day of the month (30) by the number of the month (5), the result is the number of days in the year so far (150).

How rare an event is this? Is this something we can say is true for many days of the year? Obviously it is true for all 31 days in the month of January, but that’s a sort of degenerate case.

Not counting January, how many days in the year have this unusual numerical property?

The general relativity centennial blues

Let’s hearken back to a time pre-millennial
For today is a calendar date most centennial
When Eddington went on the trip of all trips
To Príncipe, where he measured the total eclipse
Which led to a truth most perennial

‘Twas a topic, they say, of some sensitivity
Noted physicists felt extreme negativity
Toward Einstein, whose spirits were certainly lifted
When all of the stars on the photo-plate shifted
Which confirmed, for all time, relativity


Yes, in case you were wondering, as we all watch the daily outpouring of idiocy, the thought has indeed occurred to me: Our so-called “president”, and the current U.S. “administration”, is in fact a parody created by Mad Magazine.

The only thing that puzzles me is this: Has Mad Magazine ever sunk to this level of juvenalia? I would have thought that even they would have had more dignity than this.

Alas, I have a suspicious feeling that if Harvey Kurtzman and Bill Gaines were alive today, they’d be turning in their graves — not from despair, but from jealousy. It has taken more than half a century, yet finally somebody has succeeded in creating a parody that is ridiculous beyond even their wildest dreams.

Kombucha, by any other name

Is there one here among us, who dislikes the tea fungus?
How lucky for me, to drink kargasok tea
I hear Titus Andronicus drank fungus japonicus,
And down in the Congo they like to sip hongo
In old Vietnam they’re enjoying teeschwamm
Meanwhile in Madras they drink loads of teekwass
And the knights toast their leige with a pint of cajnij
Whereas in Macao they all drink fine haipao
After which thereupon they will take some kwassan
While somewhere in Toronto they will serve you spumonto
Where a start-up (a Newco) prefers fresh tschambucco
And sometimes for thrills they will try wunderpilz
So perhaps it would suit ya to drink some kombucha

A challenge

At a meeting the other day at our lab, one of our invited guests was Professor Hiroshi Ishii from the MIT Media Lab. After experiencing our co-located VR technology, he issued the following challenge: How can we know when our technology has really succeeded?

But Hiroshi went further than that. What he was really seeking was a clear and concise answer.

So he looked at everyone around the table, and challenged us to convey our answer in the form of a haiku. I thought this was a very fair test, and I gave him the following seventeen syllable response:

      i foresee a day
      when we’ll use our tech within
      a meeting like this

On a train, backward

At the moment I am riding on a train backward. The train is going one way, whilst I am facing the opposite way.

It’s definitely a different perspective. Instead of focusing on things that have not yet happened, you have the luxury to ponder where you have been, to take a few moments to savor the experience.

Sure, it is inarguably true that when you are in this position on a train, you can’t quite see where you are going. But the nice thing about riding on a train backward is that you can always see where you have been.

Looking back on what I have just written, I realize that I am on a train of thought. I will take a few moments to savor the experience.

Hours in the day

Suppose you could randomly insert as many extra hours as you wanted into your day — for example to make those pesky deadlines. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, doesn’t it?

But suppose this gift came at a high price: For every extra hour you get now, two hours get subtracted off the end of your life.

Would you go for it? Or would you balk at the steep interest rate?

For me, just knowing such a deal was available would make me think long and hard about how I spend my time. Rather than accepting the offer, I think I’d end up spending my existing hours more efficiently.

One day, hopefully a long time from now, I’m sure I would thank me.

Notes on the incoming class

(last name first)

Fly, May

She’s too flighty to last long.

Fold, Manny

He’s all surface.

Gagger, Lolly

She’s always late.

Gamesh, Gil

This kid’s got an epic story.

Gory, Ali

He isn’t what he seems.

Gram, Ana

She reminds me of Mara Ang.

Guard, Van

He’ll be first in his class.

Ho, Ida

She is always in a state.

Idian, Flor

I like her tan.

Ificent, Mal

He’s a bad kid.

Light, Skye

She’s extremely bright.

Lightful, Dee

I really like this one!

Livit, Glen

I think he’s Scotch.

Mander, Jerry

He’s all over the place.

Manity, Hugh

He’s just like everyone else.

Metric, Barry

Kid can’t take the pressure.

Munn, Otto

This guy’s a couch potato.

Nomial, Polly

She loves math.

O’Bite, Gig

He’s got quite a memory.

Oh, Pattie

She likes hanging out outdoors.

Ovan, Dennis

Is he a Neanderthal, or what?

Pyre, Em

She’s got ambition.

Ramony, Pat

I hear he inherited a fortune.

Russe, Bella

Is that a Russian accent?

Shire, Devon

I love her accent.

Stick, Joy

She’s so controlling.

Tard, Leo

He just came here from the gym.

Tedd, Jill

I hear her boyfriend dumped her.

Torius, Vic

This one’s a winner.

Tosterone, Tess

She’s a tough one.

Trope, Zoe

She keeps going in circles.

Tucky, Ken

He’s from the South.

Uflect, Jen

She’s so polite!

Undrum, Ken

This one’s a puzzle.

Vation, Sal

He’s very religious.

Walker, Jay

He never follows the rules.

Ward, Lee

Ugh, I can smell him from here.

Warm, Luke

Don’t know if I like this guy.

Winkle, Perry

He’s always blue.

Yuery, Jan

She’s just starting the year.

Yurism, Ann

She gives me high blood pressure.