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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: November 14-November 27, 2004

Monday, November 22, 2004:

Saturday night, I decided it'd be funny and fun to hop a plane on a whim and surprise Bev by visiting her in Maine. It was surprisingly easy and cheap to get a non-stop flight to Bangor, where she picked me up. I hadn't been in Detroit's new Northwest Airlines terminal since it was constructed a year or two ago, and it's actually not bad. Can't compete with the coolness of LaGuardia or even the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, but it doesn't give you the feeling that you're walking through the haunted remains of an abandoned, Cabinet of Dr. Caligari-style mental hospital like the older terminals at Metro Airport do. As I'm not much for flying, I bought a New York Times and a copy of the new Time and then sat in the "Chili's Too" airport-restaurant-nugget, drinking Sam Adams until I realized that that the name of the establishment accidentally left off the words "Damned Expensive to be Able to Afford More Than One Beer." I was also given an intrusively "thorough" search by the security guards, who said that I'd been selected by the airline to undergo "continuing investigation" or something of that nature. The younger of the two security guards who searched me did compliment me on my Super Mario Bros. 2 wallet, but I still kind of resented it.

One nifty feature of the new Northwest terminal is that some of the gates require you to take an escalator underground, through a tunnel whose moving walkways are lined by gigantic fiberoptic color-changing panes that are like a cross between Space Mountain and a psychedelic aquarium, while Ray Lynch-esque new age music plays. Totally unnecessary, but still random and fun.

Anyway, so I flew to Bangor International Airport, mildly buzzed and increasingly infuriated by what a tool of the Bush administration Time has become. The guy sitting next to me let me eat his packet of pretzels. Bev picked me up and my heart bounced all over the place when she met me there. The parking lot in which she'd parked only charged her $1.00 for renting one of their spaces. I think I like Maine.

Side note: I left my copy of Time with Bev yesterday morning, because there was an article about the imminent extinction of polar bears that I thought she'd be interested in, and she sent me an e-mail last night that read as follows: "I was reading the Time you left, and found an ad for Hydro-Sil. It's a sort of electric heater. *digging out calculator* The top part of the ad says, "Families have saved up to 50% on heating costs and never have to buy fuel--wood, oil, gas, kerosene--ever again!" Hah! Calculations! An 8' strip is 2000 watts and heats 250-300 square feet. The upstairs of this house is 1008 square feet (24' X 42'), so we'll pretend it takes 4 eight-foot strips of Hydro-Sil to heat the home. An 8' strip on for 1 hour uses 2 kWh. (2000 watts multiplied by "on" time, divided by 1000 equals kWh.) So four of those running 12 hours a day (because I'm sure they wouldn't be on 24 hours; I'm thinking twelve is a nice conservative estimate) for 30 days (yup, a month) would use...2880 kWh per month. That's $425 per month in heating costs alone. Now, because this can be permanently installed, it could qualify for the electric heat rate. During the electric heat rate season, the electric heat rate discount (which may be discontinued in the near future) would bring that down to about $278 per month. (Yes, we're ignoring taxes. In Maine, anything over 25 kWh/day on a residential service is taxed.) That's not including anything else...like running a water heater, or lights or a computer or refrigerator or dishwasher or clothes washer or clothes dryer or well pump, etc. HOW IS THIS SAVING FAMILIES MONEY?"

Yet another reason I love her. I have such an obsession with proving news articles and advertisements objectively incorrect and/or dishonest...

Anyhoo, Bev drove me around the Bangor/Brewer area for a bit, giving me a nighttime tour of some of the two cities' cooler pieces, and it's a very nice little area. Lots of gorgeous and gigantic old houses, a cool downtown area that's not so tiny that it feels as though it's caught in the past but also not so huge that it's impersonal (plus it's got a head shop with a giant neon light reading "4:20" in the window, which amused me), etc. It's a nice change from what I, the City Mouse, am used to. Bev's house, the house in which I will eventually live, is nothing short of magical. She's got a xylophone-like musical instrument made out of roofing shingles that play the pentatonic scale! Attractive jars full of Lite-Brite pegs, sorted by color (Jon's idea), line a bookcase! Caffeinated products galore! She kept trying to reinforce upon me that the place was cluttered, but I think we're going to be able to turn it into a really great home together, between her boundless creativity and my Trading Spaces fanship.

Anyway, Bev and I had several months' worth of fun crammed into about 17 hours. We got a pizza (which gives any vacation an automatic 500 points), I made friends with Maxine-Gertrude the cockatiel, and I was once again treated to the formidable [Will gets sidetracked at this point, returns to the computer with absolutely no idea how this sentence was supposed to end]. She's so wonderful and sweet and fun.

At Bangor International Airport on Sunday afternoon, on the way back to Michigan, I was yet again pulled out of line for a manhandling in the guise of security, which sent up red flags in the conspiracy theorist part of my brain. Being chosen randomly once I could understand, but twice in two days? I luckily thought better of asking to speak with my lawyer before they went ahead with the search. This security guard didn't seem as enamored of my wallet as the last guy had been.

The flight home was fairly uneventful, as Bev got me good and doped up on Benedryl and Dramamine beforehand, so I slept most of the way. Flying is really boring, I've decided. Although I do have to admit that coming back into the Detroit airport at dusk, it was glorious to see the city from several miles up. (As close as you'd ever want to get, really.) I find that it's a lot easier to be charitable and affectionate to your fellow man when you're that far above them.

Genetically, I mean.

After I returned home, Bev and I watched My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss with each other over the phone. It contained what may have been the funniest line I've heard on TV all year (well, besides numerous ones from South Park and Arrested Development):
ACTOR POSING AS THE HEAD OF MARKETING FOR A FICTITIOUS COMPANY, TO THE CONTESTANTS WHO AREN'T IN ON THE RUSE: Yes, I am the head of marketing, and yes, I am the CEO's son. Now, I know what you're all thinking: "He slept his way to the top."
CONTESTANTS: [Horrified silence.]
ACTOR: Okay, well, enough jokes.

Anyway, nobody touch my stuff while I'm in Kentucky for Thanksgiving.

CURRENT MUSIC: Beta-testing a mix I made for Bev, entitled Round Trip to Whiskery Potash. I'm currently on "One More Try" by Timmy T.
CURRENT MOOD:
Contentedly exhausted.
STRANGEST THING I SAW ON MY TRIP:
Well, besides televangelist Pastor Arnold Murray, whose non-sequitur ravings Bev taped for us to enjoy together ("If you don't agree with what I'm saying, tough thing!"), the albino corpse of a fly that was trapped between the two panes of window glass next to my seat on the flight back to Detroit. It had obviously been dead for awhile, after somehow becoming trapped in there, but all its color was totally drained from its body, leaving nothing but a pinkish husk. Kinda cool.
TIME:
5:03 PM.

Doot? | |

Friday, November 19, 2004:

Occasionally at Math Reviews, a reviewer to whom we've assigned a paper will include, with his review of said paper, some comments that are directed at our editors and not intended to be published. Usually they're just little notes asking us to update their contact information or saying, "I hope this review is ok" or something inconsequential like that, but every now and again, we'll get one that's particularly insane or scathing. I collect those. I'd been entertaining thoughts of putting together some sort of Dirty Fan Male-esque (link not work-safe but worth a look) spoken-word piece with them, but I realized that's probably not something that would appeal to anyone except myself and my coworkers.

So in the absence of anything else to do with 'em, I figured I'd transcribe these comments here for the amusement of you people. Technically if you want to get technical, this stuff is probably all the property of the American Mathematical Society, but they're not going to do anything with it. Much of what follows was given to me by Tracy, who has a similar stash, and bear in mind that a lot of the reviewers are from suspicious non-America nations, which is why these remarks are written the way they are. Enjoy!

"I guess you will have trouble with this review. This paper is a nonsense."

"If you don't like this review, deciding what to do with it is your problem. I wash my hands of the matter. The editors of this journal should be ashamed of themselves."

"Thank you for your not forgetting me and sending me an article again. But, as you know, I am always busy with struggling against a vicious internal control signal flowing into my brain 24 hour a day. Recently, this control signal force is getting stronger and stronger. So, I am afraid this time I cannot afford to share my time to make a review about this paper. Please forgive me for sending you back this paper."

"I return herewith the paper by Anio O. Arigoni. It is unreal. It is unlike anything I have seen. It is unbelievable. I searched in vain for one intelligible sentence. I showed the paper to six highly respected colleagues. Their comments: 'It must be a joke.' 'Is this a refereed journal?' The kindest explanation is that the author had trouble writing in English. I am returning the paper on the slim chance that somewhere in the world there exists a reviewer who can find a few bits of sense in it. Maybe someone in FUZZY SETS or NON-STANDARD ANALYSIS. Someone who could help punctualizing and synthetizing molteplitcity condictions of stocastic hypotetic diacronic performation."

"Please send all my coupons to Mr. Gary Faulkner from the North Carolina State University at Raleigh to recompensate to him part of the harm Mrs. Vipera from Perugia has done to him converting him and herself into a primitively unfriendly corrupted, distastefully dishonest in research pair of people."

"To the editor: Thank you very much for sending me the paper for review. Probably I wrote the unnecessary specified and in some places emotional review. But this happened only because the problems discussed in the monograph are very close to my scientific interests. If it becomes necessary, you can abridge the review to the exigible size yourself or commit this to me indicating the upper allowed boundary of the review size. I think you once more for giving me the possibility to get to know an interesting for me mathematical problem."

"Why do you send meaningless reports with no proofs for review? Even the Russians do not pay attention to them. Just list the title and a classification."

"Dear Sir, This is in a reply to your written message sent on Nov 01 99. You asked me: Is 'sacy cap' ok? What is the etymology? I already sent you comments about the 'sacy cap'. This was done by e-mail on 31/10/99. Now I am answering you note dated November 01, 1999. As I said before, the word should be 'Saci cap' or 'Saci hat'. It refers to the shape of the hat used by a 'Saci'. Saci (Sasi) Saci-Perere is a word of the Tupi language (Tupi was an Brazilian Indian nation that existed before and during the colonization period) that was incorporated to the Portugese language in the XIX century. It names an entity that shows up as a black boy with a single leg, that walks jumping, uses a funny hat and smokes a pipe. This entity is part of the Brazilian folklore. He shows up at night, frightens the cattle, the horses in the grass, scares the travelers in the solitary paths. For the purpose of this review, the important point was the shape of the hat used by Saci. This shape is exactly the form of the surface mentioned in the work of Earp and Brito and is written in their paper the expression 'Saci cap'. So, I mentioned that in the review because 'Saci cap' is the statement of the theorem proved by them."

"I am sorry for the delay in sending you that review but some of the so called famous American mathematicians and their Italian prostitute were so extremely rude to me, only because I had solved their mathematical problem, that I started to think seriously about giving up your mathematical community, especially when I needed a lot of time to recover after that. Anyway, my decision is to not apply for any research grant to the United States of America nor to attend any conferences in your country especially when I need a single room with a bath or shower and a discrete place for work with a good library."

"The work am reviewing touches interests of many people of present and the past, and I believe, I must clear up the situation. It is impossible to do it in the review and I do not try to do it here. Nevertheless, too many remarks must be done about it, therefore the review comes out rather long. In fact, I do not know how to do it because, on one hand, publishing the true about all this, is much bigger mistake than publishing works like this, and, on the other hand, until something is done about it, misunderstanding of what happened and what is going on overcomes in the community of people working in the area. I guess there must be some narrow group of interested people among mathematicians whom I would tell the true very few of physicists know, and I want to do it. Besides, some results obtained in this branch of physics need to be legalized in pure mathematics. Will you recommend me anybody from AMS whom I would contact for this end? I can promise that my story will be quite interesting."

"It seems Arabs are experts at belly dancing rather than mathematics."

"Dear Editors, I have made an honest attempt to review the paper sent to me. However, I came to the conclusion that the paper is either some kind of joke or the author has mental problems. Basically, the paper contains a collection of various definitions having to do with categorical mirror symmetry and then a couple of claims about some computer algebra problems. However, no connection between these can be derived from the paper. Perhaps the best thing for MR is to take the abstract in place of review. In any case, I can't possibly write a review for something like this."

"I didn't spend much time on this article, but I think it was more time than the article deserved."

"This is probably the worst book I have ever seen. That with the typoes is not an exaggeration: on one page (118) you will find Mendelian trains (instead of traits), DNA being described as deoxyribomucleic acid, the chromosome as a double felix like a twisted latter, and nucleotides called mucleotides. The formulas are not better. There are also many typoes that any spell checker would find and formulas sticking out into the side margin. The style of writing is very noncommunicative and uninviting."

CURRENT MUSIC: Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lake State by Sufjan Stevens, who I saw at the Magic Stick on Wednesday night. His live act is highly recommended: his band is tight and versatile enough that they give the songs a heartfelt immediacy without losing the delicate emotion of the studio versions of songs like "For the Homeless in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti." Plus, how many banjos are you gonna see in your lifetime?
CURRENT MOOD:
Dazed.
CURRENT BEST WEBSITE EVER:
For those who haven't yet seen it, here's a collection of hilarious Weight Watchers recipe cards from the '70s.
TIME:
7:24 PM.

Doot? | |

Sunday, November 14, 2004:

I just snapped my ice cube tray in half when I was trying to dislodge a few of the cubes. Apparently, I've become Lenny from Of Mice and Men.

CURRENT MUSIC: Milkshake x Infinity by The Other Leading Brand.
CURRENT MOOD:
Undercaffeinated.
VERDICT ON SIDEWAYS: I liked it a lot. In a lot of ways, it makes a fine companion piece to About Schmidt, in that they're both films that simultaneously illustrate the horror of hitting rock-bottom in your life and the realization that having done so allows you the freedom to claw your way back up from hopelessness. Like all of Alexander Payne's films, it wrings a lot of squirmy laughs from moments of stomach-twisting embarrassment for the main characters, and the dialogue is masterfully underplayed (Paul Giamatti had better at least get an Oscar nomination for his ability to believably deliver his character's hilariously pretentious sommelier cliches like "It's quaffable, but far from transcendent"), but it's got more genuine, haunted emotion than anything else he's yet directed. You totally need to check it out.
TIME:
10:06 AM.

Doot? | |

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