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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Odin's Dad's LiveJournal:

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Sunday, November 7th, 2010
1:50 am

I've come up with a great one-word summary of my Aunt Marion: vivacious. I have never met anybody so happy just to be alive.

So, in one of the world's small ironies, in the wee hours of Thursday morning she became the first of my Dad's relatives to pass away since 1980. "Surrounded by family", it says in the obituary as it always does; but I bet she actually, literally, was.

I spent more time around her than any of his other siblings. My older sister and I lived under her roof for two months in 1983, after we returned from Nigeria, so that I could graduate Grade 8 and obviate the paperwork for high school that fall. Starting in 1985, I saw her every June for three years, having done ludicrously well in the Canadian Mathematics Competitions and earned trips to Waterloo for a week-long nerd camp.

In 1987, I left home for the first time, and it was Marion who found me a place to live near campus for a relatively non-outrageous amount. I moved in gratefully, and found that the landlady threw an alarm clock in for free - I was awake at 6:53 A.M. every weekday, whether I wanted to be or not, as the Windsor-to-Toronto VIA train rushed by 20 metres from my bed.

I didn't live with her, but only because her house was literally the opposite end of town from campus. We did get together regularly so she could feed her stringbean of a nephew, let him play on her computer, watch 60 Minutes together, and so forth. It was at some point in my four years in Ontario that she gave up smoking, although I doubt I was the cause of that.

Whenever I found myself in southern Ontario, maybe half a dozen times since my Waterloo days, I could count on seeing her and usually Uncle Don and often her sister Betty, picking me up from the Greyhound station or Pearson Airport and getting me to wherever I needed to be. She always made sure I had eaten my fill somewhere before sending me on my way.

Other than that, we'd see each other at the family reunions, every five years, except that I missed the one in 2005. The last one was less than three months ago, just outside Jasper on the bank of the Athabasca River. She was as vivacious as ever, and a grand time was had by all. We all packed up and said our good-byes on the morning of August 13th.

One month and two days later, they diagnosed her lung cancer.

Marion spent most of her last six weeks in the hospital where she worked for the past 25 years. Her newest grandniece, my younger sister's daughter Clara, was born eight days before she died. She did get to see pictures.

Naturally, being the nerd I have become, I just made the mistake of looking up the etymology of "vivacious". The Latin root is vivax, and its original meaning was "long-lived". Aunt Marion was only 64.

Being a member of the working poor, I can't make the funeral. I hope the kids at the Help Centre forgive me if I seem a little distant on Tuesday, because my mind is going to be about 3000 km east of here. My thoughts are with all her loved ones, of whom there are many. Husband, three children, six grandkids, a sister, three brothers, one sister-in-law. Nieces and nephews, regular and grand-.

Current Mood: melancholy
Thursday, November 4th, 2010
12:50 pm
M*A*T*H, 4^0.77 = TH
A fresh-faced youth stares up at me, panicked and sweaty. He doesn't look much older than seventeen. I can see his brain oozing out his left ear. A page full of formulas lies unnoticed in his lap. I tried to get to him earlier, but now it's too late. The assignment was due at 1:30.

"What's the derivative of..." is all he gets out before he expires. I'm glad I won't be the one to break the news to his family.

Every hour. On the half-hour. Another class lets out; another horde of wounded floods in. Derek can hear the chopper blades before I do.

For every question I answer, another five hands go up. We do what we can, but the carnage is too massive to describe. I don't know how much longer I'll be able to keep going.

Current Mood: numb
Tuesday, October 12th, 2010
1:41 am
Update 2
Still haven't heard from the doctor. But, Jo isn't pregnant. (Thanks for visiting, Aunt Flo!)
Wednesday, October 6th, 2010
3:35 am
So, Jo went to the doctor a week ago Monday. They ran a hormone test. (Women have hormones? Who knew?) We're still waiting.

Tonight we watched a programme ("King and Empire") about Vimy Ridge. It wasn't bad, although the narrator got a little whiney at times. He was all OMG! Fewer than 100 people a year visit such-and-such war cemetery! As if there aren't literally a thousand others like it within say an hour's drive. And I'm not being a curmudgeon here; my Dad and I took a six-hour cab ride to pay our respects at El Alamein, but there are 23,000 war cemeteries, and that's just the Commonwealth ones. When I go to Vimy, even I probably won't be able to hunt every last one down.

That said, the show was informative and interesting. It got even more, yeah, interesting is a good word, when Whiney Host tried to pronounce one of the towns by the ridge. Givenchy. As in the fashion house. Although no direct connection.

The guy was pronouncing it to rhyme with da Vinci. And with a hard 'G'. GaVinci. Yours truly may not know the first thing about how to dress himself stylishly, but come on! I flinched involuntarily every time he said it, and Jo laughed at me.
Monday, August 30th, 2010
9:48 pm
Mathematics according to Tim Horton
On a more serious note: On my way to work today, I got a double-double.

So if I shared it with my co-worker, would we each have a single-single? Or just a double?

Current Mood: curious
9:46 pm
I had a lot of respect for Ben Stein until last night. Then I found out about his anti-science stand.

In particular, he's an anti-evolutionist. And from what I've read, his reasoning appears to be this: Evolution is bad because it caused the Holocaust. (I'm paraphrasing, but unfortunately, not very much.)

So, here's my open letter to Ben Stein.

Dear Mr Stein:

Blaming the Shoah on the theory of evolution is as fallacious as blaming the collapse of the World Trade Center buldings on the theory of gravity; furthermore, it fails to make it any less true.

Odin's Dad

Current Mood: shocked
Saturday, August 21st, 2010
1:56 pm
Number semantics, a.k.a., Why I Love My Wife, reason omega + 4
"I'm going upstairs to play with my numbers."

"Okay. Have fun numberbating."

"Please, it's numerical sex."


Current Mood: numberbating
Thursday, July 29th, 2010
2:18 am
Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan
I've seen The Merchant of Venice before. Studied it in high school. Saw one of the movies.

Went to see it tonight at Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, and it blew my mind. Especially the surprise ending, about which I will say nothing except that it has to be seen to be believed.

Oh, and Henry Woolf plays Shylock. If you haven't heard of him, he's the guy who commissioned Harold Pinter's first play. He's 80 and runs circles round the rest of the cast.

Go see it. If it doesn't rip your heart out, I'll pay for your ticket.
Sunday, July 25th, 2010
2:07 pm
Spell-check-assisted typo of the day
"My mother was parallelized..."
Monday, July 5th, 2010
6:52 pm
Sunday, July 4th, 2010
3:25 am
Snork of the morning so far
Source: The Beeb (who else?)

The article covering yesterday's Pride London parade starts out: (direct cut-and-paste, ellipsis at the end mine)

A woman in the crowd at Oxford Circus pushed her way to the front of the barriers snaking their way through the centre of London.

"Is the Queen coming past?" she asked.

Not quite, but…
Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010
1:41 pm
I less than 3 BBC Sport commentators
I'm following the World Cup matches via live text, and the ones currently on the field are at half-time. The commentator there said: "[S]pare a thought for John Isner and Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon. The pair have been going at it for more than nine(!) hours and it is 53-53 in the fifth and final set." Clicking on the embedded link, I went over to the live-text Wimbledon coverage, and the entry at the top reads:

2027: Isner leaps out of his chair and bounds to the baseline, boosted by his seemingly impregnable 54-53 lead. Not really, he shuffles along like a man coming round after major surgery.

Scrolling down, it seems like every comment has something clever in it.

2007: It's Isner 52-51 Mahut, and I half expect to see the umpire tucking into a plate of steak and chips as he gazes down on the neverending story.

1959: In a brief moment of clarity, I'm marvelling at what I'm seeing here. Mahut fires down his 77th and 78th aces of the match to make it 50-50. "Fifty games all!" booms the umpire as the crowd stand for a prolonged ovation. I feel quite emotional. Partly for my lost youth.

1926: Day 36, and John is in the diary room. He has a recurring nightmare that every time he holds serve some chirpy French fella does exactly the same and he's back to square one. Isner 46-45 Mahut. I'm going to need a shave soon.

From Nick in Irvind via text: "They're putting the Mahut v Isner match on DVD. It'll be a box set mind!"

1829: There is a sense of delirium in Commentary Box Four at the moment, we are living Isner-Mahut. Suggestions that both men should be given laptops so they can check their emails at the next changeover, and we can't be far off a hairdresser being called to Court 18. It's 38-38.

Et cetera. Why can't we have commentators with actual intelligences and senses of humour on this side of the pond?

UPDATE: The match isn't over yet, and it already has its own Wikipedia entry. Apparently it started yesterday and they postponed it due to darkness at two sets all. Isner was due to play a doubles match today, but needless to say that's been postponed as well.

UPDATE: 2040: Isner holds to love and practically crawls back to his chair as the set moves past six and a half hours. Big John leads 56-55 but decides against a banana on this changeover as he probably doesn't have the energy to peel it.

UPDATE: 2102: Germany's Daniel Brands knocks out seventh seed Nikolay Davydenko 7-6 7-6 6-1. I might have earlier suggested that Niko was two sets up, I can't quite remember. Nothing much makes sense any more.

UPDATE: 2111: "I want to play but...."was all I could hear from Mahut as he approached the net with the score at 59-59 in the final set. Despite the crowd chanting, "We want more, we want more!" the referee says enough is enough. An incredible, incredible event with the match suspended after 10 hours and they deserve to come back on Thursday to try and win it with relatively fresh legs.
Monday, June 21st, 2010
12:50 am
Jam it or fold?
When do you want to go all-in in Texas Hold'em?

Okay, let's make it much more specific: If you're the first player to act before the flop, when do you want to go all-in?

Well, that's still way too hard to analyse mathematically. Let's trim it down to a bare minimum:

1) 2 players.
2) The small blind's only decision is whether to go all-in or fold before the flop (no calls or raises).
3) The big blind's only decision is whether to call or fold when small blind goes all-in.
4) Both players play perfectly and are trying to maximize their expected value.

Now when should you go all-in? It's still a tough problem, but at least it's doable.

I'm working "from infinity down"; if both players have a large number of chips—two thousand times the small blind is enough—then the optimal play for SB is to go all-in with pocket aces (AA) only, the provably-best Texas Hold'em hand, and BB likewise only calls with AA. I've made my way down through the first 35 strategies (which gets me below 300SB, but still a long way to go), and come across a few surprises along the way.

The very first was the first non-AA hand for SB to go all-in with. It happens that if you know your opponent has AA, the second-best hand you can have (after AA) is suited six-five (65s). Now 65s ranks pretty low against random hands, but happens to be the least bad against AA; it wins about 22% of the time, mostly due to hitting a relatively large number of straights and flushes.

In fact, when I was setting up my spreadsheet, after I ran the probabilities of AA versus every other hand, the second sheet I worked up on Excel was 65s. Each sheet takes me over an hour of copying and pasting, because I'm too lazy to learn both awk and Excel properly. Eventually I'll have to do all 169, but they're going in strictly as needed, and I was pretty damn sure that 65s was going to be the first one needed.

So, of course, then I worked up the ranking sheet and hit "sort", and lo and behold, 65s was the 26th-best hand, with a profit point of 1109SB (rounded down).

Another AA naturally worked out best (profitable at any stack size), but second to that, profitable up to 1667SB, was suited ace-ten (ATs)! This made no sense to me at first, since it is way down the list, winning only 13% of the time against AA. But when I triple-checked my math, ATs was clearly the winner. And the other 23 hands that beat 65s were precisely the other 23 hands that had an ace in them, right down to unsuited A9 (profitable up to 1371SB) that only wins 6% of the time against AA! What the heck was up?

Making an ass out of u and umption; spot the logical flaw!Collapse )
Friday, June 18th, 2010
11:48 pm
A new algorithm
I was helping a number theory student with a question yesterday about how to solve a Diophantine equation. The technique they were using is called Euclid's algorithm, but this one student was having a problem pronouncing the Greek name. Which resulted in this wonderful question:

"How does the Useless Algorithm work again?"

I tried to stay professional. So help me, I tried.
Thursday, April 22nd, 2010
2:16 am
So *that's* what I've been doing wrong all this time.
One of the fun things about riding the bus is reading other people's magazines. I got such an opportunity on the way home from work today, sitting on the back bench seat, when a lady of the female persuasion sat on the sideways-facing seat in front of me and promptly got out the latestlast week's Life & Style. (Cover story: KIM'S REVENGE BODY!) I read along with her and learned all sorts of things I didn't know before. Ben and Jen are Do-Gooders! Who would have imagined?

The last article I got to read before my stop was "SIX WAYS TO STAY CLASSY (And Stop Being Trashy!)". #4 was bad enough; apparently less make-up is better! But #5, well, I don't know if I can do it.

Yes, it's just that awful. Read on at your peril.Collapse )

Current Mood: intimidated
Tuesday, March 30th, 2010
12:46 am
Some news items just make you ask questions.
This one, for instance, makes me ask: Ricky Martin had a closet?

Current Mood: inquisitive
12:31 am
...aaaaaand straight back to the Geek Department.
My new shirt came in the mail today, just in time for me to put it on for work.

Another one should be arriving later this week.

Current Mood: geeky
Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010
4:50 pm
Today, I officially graduated from "geek" to "nerd".
So there I was in the Help Centre today, after helping a student with a question, and I found myself with a pencil in my hand. As I put it into my breast pocket, I caught myself thinking, You know, I could really do with a pocket protector.

I then immediately thought, Nooooooooooooooooooooo, but it was too late.

Le sigh. Sorry to disappoint you, world.

Current Mood: nerdy
Thursday, March 11th, 2010
5:14 pm
Question for math nerds
Seeing some engineers on campus with Pi Throw t-shirts (said event being held on or about Pi Day, March 14th) led me to wondering:

If there were an e-throw, would it be held on February 71st, or 72nd?

Current Mood: geeky
Monday, March 1st, 2010
12:11 am
The Generation Gap
jls123's mother: There never used to be any damn Asians in the Olympics, and now they're taking over all the sports!

Odin: Mom, what's an Asian?
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