180 degrees

When I was a kid, there was a TV show where children would be invited on, and would then be asked various challenging questions. I don’t remember any of the answers, except one.

A little girl was asked “Why is the boiling point of water 180 degrees higher than the freezing point of water?” She thought about it a bit, and then gave the most awesome answer.

“It’s because,” she explained, “the North Pole is 180 degrees from the South Pole.”

Chinese restaurants

This afternoon, just as our lab’s research meeting was about to start, one of my students, who is from China, asked me an interesting question.

“Why,” he asked, “do Jewish people have Christmas dinner at Chinese restaurants?”

There was a pause.

“Jewish people,” I finally said, “don’t have Christmas dinner.”


I really love travel to wonderful places
So much good food and so many new faces
It expands my horizons, I learn many things
I treasure it for the great joy that it brings
But after I’ve traveled all over the map
Then it’s nice to home and just take a good nap

Movies that move the needle

There are movies that give you what you expect from a movie, and then there are movies that move the needle, change the conversation, reinvent the whole idea of what a movie is or could be. The former are much more common than the latter, but to me the latter are much more exciting.

Some notable examples that come to mind are Psycho, Everything Everywhere All at Once, Poor Things, Synectoche NY, Stranger than Fiction, Twelve Monkeys, Brazil.

This is far from an exhaustive list, and I would be curious to hear other peoples’ favorite examples. Don’t get me wrong — I love a good RomCom or thriller as well as the next person — but there is something transcendent about going to the movie theater and being completely surprised by something that is nothing like anything you’ve ever seen before.


This week I had a conversation with some colleagues about self-driving cars. I reiterated my long-standing opinion about the best way for the idea of self-driving cars to gain traction.

I said that somebody would need to decide to create a “self-driving car only” zone, perhaps in a small town somewhere. The key is to avoid mixing with human drivers.

If the only vehicles on the road are self-driving cars — without the need to account for the unpredictability of human drivers — then the whole thing essentially becomes a cooperative packet switching network. Such networks are well understood, and known to be safe and reliable.

“But what about traffic lights?” somebody asked. “Self-driving cars sometimes get those wrong.”

I pointed out that there would be no need for traffic lights. Cars would all be communicating with each other behind the scenes to cooperatively maintain the most efficient traffic flow.

Eventually I realized that the problem was the terminology. For many people, “self-driving car” is a trigger word.

So instead I think we can just use more appropriate and descriptive language. The future is not about self-driving cars. The future is about a small-vehicle public transportation system.

Happy birthday W.S.

It’s said that all the world’s a stage
Well, one man’s work has been the rage
For about four hundred thirty years
And so today some birthday cheers
For that wondrous Englishman
Who gave us Lear and Caliban
Hamlet, Portia and Ophelia
Iago, Oberon, Cordelia
Macbeth and Puck and Tatiana
Never since the Pax Romana
Has one man’s star shone quite so bright
And filled the stage with such delight
There has never been another maven
Like the man who comes from Stratford on Avon