Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The Awesome HD

Awesome Salad

We met today with the awesome HD at the Awesome Coffee restaurant downtown, and this salad above was an awesome salad packed with awesome nutritional value for my awesome wife to enjoy.

There's little to say about the awesome HD since everyone already knows of his awesomeness - and besides, I don't want to blow his awesome cover.

The awesome HD recounted various stories of his awesome youthful escapades - but I can't talk about them because we need to go shopping in the awesome local Walmart!

But trust me. These tough, stirring words hide some awesome meaning. . .

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Monday, August 03, 2015

The End of Christianity in the Middle East?

End of Christianity

Eliza Griswold, reporting for the NYT (July 22, 2015), asks, "Is This the End of Christianity in the Middle East?" - adding that "ISIS and other extremist movements across the region are enslaving, killing and uprooting Christians, with no aid in sight." As an instance of this barbaric treatment, Griswold reports that one Christian mother saw her daughter openly kidnapped by an 'emir':
[Aida], her husband and another witness recounted . . . [that] she was pleading for her daughter when the emir himself appeared, flanked by two fighters. He was holding Christina against his chest. Aida fought her way off the bus.

"Please give me my daughter," she said.

The emir cocked his head at his bodyguards.

"Get on the bus before we kill you," one said.

Christina reached for her mother.

"Get on the bus before we slaughter your family," he repeated.
Confronted by such a threat, Aida finally got on the bus. There's more to the story, but I'll leave the reading to you . . .


Sunday, August 02, 2015

A Lifetime Achievement?

Of all the unexpected things to happen, this one has surprised me most: The City of Salem has awarded me a "Recognition of Achievement Award" for my "Lifetime Achievement"!

I'm not sure I actually deserve this award, but I'm happy to play the role. The ceremony was informal, taking place in the home, and my older brother, Pat, stood in for the mayor, as you can see below:

I then confessed that I felt sort of like the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, brainless but now endowed with some official semblance of "smarts" due to my "Recognition of Achievement Award" - as you see in the photo below:

I added that I hoped this 'lifetime' recognition of my 'eminence' didn't imply some imminent end! But life - as they say - goes on.

I hope so . . .

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Lake Scenes and Bottle of Beer

We went for a walk around Salem's city lake yesterday, and Sun-Ae took some photos, which I reproduce below and which offer close-ups by clicking on the photos, respectively.

Here's a photo of the lake from a small wetlands area fed by a tiny creek behind us and therefore not visible in this photo:

Next is a peaceful shoreline scene:

You see in the photo below some local wildlife (several geese and a duck, but I can't make out the duck as I post this), though these fowl don't seem especially wild:

The lake has a dock, but whether for small boats or just fishing, I don't know:

Here's a view of the lake showing its length:

After the lakeside's arduous march without provisions, we stopped by at my brother Tim's place, where I enjoyed a small bottle of the devil's brew:

The drink would appear to be obscurely hinting at the possibility that it offers a 'bottomless' bottle of beer, but there was - fortunately for me - a bottom to this bottle.

I therefore had another . . .


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Conversation with Jim Scott . . .

Republican Road
Geoview Info

Yesterday, I visited my old high school math teacher Jim Scott for about four or five hours to ask him various questions pertaining to his views on life at 82. I hadn't seen him since 2010, but he's still very sharp mentally.

He lives with his wife, Barbara, on their Ozark farm just off Republican Road in Fulton County, Arkansas, near my hometown of Salem, and that reminds me of a question I forgot to ask him, namely: How did Republican Road get its name? Any readers know?

Anyway, Jim and I had a grand time discussing his responses to my various questions, though we both got stumped on our affirmation of free will - what it is and how it works.

But I did get an answer to my question as to when he realized that he was a very smart individual, and to my surprise, he replied, "In the army." The military administered him an IQ test, and he scored very high. Only then did he notice that he was quicker at insights and solutions than most other people he knew.

But he started mathematics late, after two years in the army and a few years living a cowboy life, and he stopped working for a doctorate in math when he realized the need for a practical job to support his growing family.

But he admitted that his interest in math was more practical than theoretical, anyway, and that he preferred to use math in building things. Nevertheless, I read him the analogy that Charles Fefferman made about higher math being like playing chess with the Devil, and Jim agreed that the analogy was a good one.

I asked what gave him the most satisfaction in his life, and he again said that it would have to be building things, particularly his house, which he designed and constructed pretty much on his own.

I asked if his surveying work also gave him satisfaction, but he said, "Not as much." But we had an interesting conversation about surveying, anyway, and he explained a problem with the old Gunter's Chain - it tended to lengthen with use as the links rubbed against one another and wore the metal down. Because of this, surveyors in the old days were issued two chains, one to use in measuring land and the other to use as a standard.

After our long conversation, I showed Jim my novella and related the story as we went through the illustrations, and Barbara came through the room as I was doing this, noticed the colorful story, and decided she'd have to order it for her Kindle.

By that time, we were getting hungry, so I treated them to dinner with Sun-Ae and me at a local Mexican restaurant, where we spoke of other things.

That day ended, and another now begins . . .

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Winging It to Memphis

Wingin' It

We flew into Memphis yesterday, where my brother Tim picked us up and drove us the 150 miles to my hometown, Salem, Arkansas, but the photo - as you can see, if you also trust me - is from our Detroit-to-Memphis flight,

Detroit, by the way, seems to be recovering - if the airport is a hint of better times. The place looked much better than the last time I was there, which was 2010, I believe.

Anyway, we've arrived safely in the Ozarks and are both looking forward to a great two weeks!


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sparse Blogging, Next Two Weeks

I'll be in my old Ozark stompin' grounds the next couple of weeks, so the blogging might be sparse, but I'll try to report on the Hodges Boys Reunion as well as on my High School Class of 1975 Reunion, and on places my wife and I visit, along with pictures, if possible . . .


Some EWIS Feedback . . .


I received some feedback from a student who took my EWIS course, and her words are a 'virtual' advertisement for the course:
EWIS Gll is the best course for a student who has a definite content and a specific goal of writing. 1:1 tutorials with the professor, who usually checked an overall flow of a draft as well as concrete details and subtle nuances of words and expressions, were very helpful to upgrade the quality of the draft. Even when a student had an ambiguous direction, the professor helped to develop the idea by giving some guidance of where to get started, how to approach, and whether the idea had a logical flaw. It was a huge advantage not to force students make an outcome in a particular format but to manage a student to write for herself on her necessity. I am preparing to apply for a master's program in the United States, and with the professor's help I completed the three versions of my statement of purpose and CV in the classes. Other students also wrote for their fields and interests and the professor counseled each student and gave her guidelines. In such a process, the students could realize their understanding of their field or interests, and learned how to make a persuasive argument. As for me, I earned a clear concept of writing, for applications that the institutions wanted, by the professor's guidance, and could develop a strategy for each of them. If I had not taken this EWIS GII course, I would have been in chaos, not knowing where to start my writing and how to complete it. In this sense, I think that it was very fortunate to have a chance to take this course, and thanks to that, I could go one step forward to my goal.
Maybe I should spend a bit more time on grammar, but I think what I do is a far better use of time, and I thank the student for her implicit understanding of that.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Issam Amira Aims at Conquering the World for Islam

Issam Amira
His Aim Is Bad!

In the Memri circular for July 4, 2015 (Clip No. 5001), the Palestinian Cleric Issam Amira is described  as having announced in the Al-Aqsa Mosque the need for an Islamic state and having revealed that "Our Main War Is with [the] U.S. and Europe; Russia and China Will Embrace Islam Peacefully":
An Islamic state is required to deliver the call for Islam to the whole world. Therefore, this state must be qualified for expansion, militarily, ideologically, economically, and geographically . . . . Therefore, our main war is with whom? With the Byzantines, with America and Europe - with France, with Britain, with those places . . . As for Russia and China, there's no need to worry about them. I am optimistic that when the Emir of the Believers writes to the Chinese [demanding that they convert or die], they will convert to Islam, because they are reasonable people. As for the Russians, they are stubborn, but once Moscow is liberated from the shackles of the USSR, of Bolshevism, of the Czar, and even of Putin, they will join Islam, and that will be that.
Russia might gradually come to have a large Muslim population due to higher birthrates among the Muslim mminorities, but I don't see the Russians themselves going under the banner of Islam without a fight. As for the Chinese, they are an old, proud civilization and have no interest in becoming Muslim, so they won't prove so 'reasonable' as anticipated by this Muslim cleric. He has a few words for the great infidel regions:
The problem will [be] with America and Europe, but we are ready for them.
Ready because Allah will score - or make an assist to his celestial minions:
Don't be afraid of America's nuclear weapons. The angels have anti-nuclear capabilities.
The angels have high-tech capabilities, or so Amira implies, and these weapons will assist the Caliph in his Islamic state:
The Islamic Caliphate must be restored, so that it will lead the armies to war against the infidels . . . . [so we must] establish the Islamic State . . . . Show no mercy or compassion.
Show no mercy? Right. For instance:
When you unleash the [Muslim] people, they will shatter these false idols. Unleash the [Muslim] people upon banks that exact usury, and they will destroy them. Unleash them upon unveiled women, and they will pounce upon them.
I suspect pouncing is merely the first step toward many atrocities and war crimes! Such are the high moral standards of this so-called 'cleric.' I wonder where he picked his ethics up.

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Tao of Mathematics: Playing Chess with the Devil

Terry Tao
Graeme Mitchell
The New York Times

Gareth Cook tells us of "The Singular Mind of Terry Tao: A prodigy grows up to become one of the greatest mathematicians in the world" (New York Times, July 24, 2015), but even for him, the process wasn't easy:
The true work of the mathematician is not experienced until the later parts of graduate school, when the student is challenged to create knowledge in the form of a novel proof. It is common to fill page after page with an attempt, the seasons turning, only to arrive precisely where you began, empty-handed - or to realize that a subtle flaw of logic doomed the whole enterprise from its outset. The steady state of mathematical research is to be completely stuck. It is a process that Charles Fefferman of Princeton, himself a onetime math prodigy turned Fields medalist, likens to "playing chess with the devil." The rules of the devil's game are special, though: The devil is vastly superior at chess, but, Fefferman explained, you may take back as many moves as you like, and the devil may not. You play a first game, and, of course, "he crushes you." So you take back moves and try something different, and he crushes you again, "in much the same way." If you are sufficiently wily, you will eventually discover a move that forces the devil to shift strategy; you still lose, but - aha! - you have your first clue.
Does one ever defeat the Devil in this game? Not really. One might win a game, but that game is simply part of a larger game. One merely gains ground, game by game, in the great game of an infinite number of games, and the Devil has all the time in the world, but you don't. Interestingly, Fefferman takes the chess analogy further, as we see in an interview with Daniela Martínez Nava for Ciencia Nostra, “Math is a chess game against the devil” (June 10, 2012):
Math is like playing chess but you are playing a game against the devil. But you get to take steps back; you get to take back as many moves as you like. So if you play against the devil[,] you get crush[ed] and you think about why you lost and you try to change your move and again you are crush[ed]; you are simply wrong, whatever reason you thought was the reason for you being crush[ed] that's not the reason at all. But sooner or later maybe you get an idea and then you get a little scare[d] to play and get crush[ed] again[,] but you give it a try because the devil will have to make another move, and pretty soon after a few years of playing many games[,] you start to see what is going on[,] and after a while of fighting[,] you win. But while you play this game God is whispering in your ear "move your peon [i.e., pawn] over there, is all you have to do and then he is in real trouble[.]" But you can't hear, you are deaf . . . well not deaf[,] but you have to pay a lot of attention [because] if not[,] you can't know what God is telling you. But that is the spirit of the thing.
Interesting. God plays a role. I gather mathematicians sense that they dealing with a logical mind when they attempt to elucidate proofs . . .

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