Monday, November 30, 2009

loveliness 339

How to make friends: wander around the math department with a bag of cookies. Upon entering LAMPS (LAboratory of Mathematical Parallel Systems), someone yelled "congratulations." For bringing cookies? Well, I'll take what I can get.

loveliness 338


Reinvigorating the lost art of reading aloud. We are reading Driftwood Valley by Theodora C. Stanwell-Fletcher, in a wonderfully stained 1946 edition, that, according to the name on the inside cover, was once owned by one "Olive Pinder." Every time I close this book, the rag-covered hardcover slaps against the soft pages with a satisfying thhwump, which never fails to remind me of those annoying but endearing scenes in The Princess Bride (I need to see this again soon!!!!) in which the grandfather reads aloud to his sick grandson from a similarly old volume.

I apologize for the poor and long-windy quality of the previous two sentences, and the non-sentence character of the first sentence.

ps. when looking for a link for Driftwood Valley, I came across this review of the book, which starts off so well (first paragraph) and then goes steadily downhill with the statement "the best book written on an outdoor theme by a woman." Pssshhh.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

loveliness 337

I just made this venn diagram for my talk next week. I'm feeling pretty pleased with it. I am also pleased with my new "I ♥ NY" T-shirt. And a halfway decent dinner which featured my least favoured element of every single foodbox: the lowly potato.  Plus, I discovered Ravelry today, which seems pretty cool if you like to knit... or maybe even just if are lucky enough to have someone in your life who has promised to make your world cozier with a hand-knit sweater! And finally, the band with the best band name ever (You say party! We say die!) actually has some pretty great and catchy "dance-punk" love songs on their new album XXXX.

Friday, November 27, 2009

loveliness 336

Oh the ping is making me dinner... (roast squash and chestnut risotto!!).  I'm sipping fancy wine from a fancy glass and it was previously in a fancy decanter.... everything is fancy and I'm feeling cozy. Oh friday! xoxo

loveliness 335


Heat is back!!! New furnace is so ON! This is nice, nice, nice.

loveliness 334


Fractal food in the food box! I was delighted to find one of these guys nestled in amongst the potatoes and beets etc. Better yet, a google search for "fractal vegetable" gives all the right results ('cause who knows what these things are called?). I was surprised to learn that this is actually a heritage variety, even though it looks totally futuristic or perhaps related somehow to the transgenic bunny (but is it art?).  I may try to photo this thing before we eat it, but truth be told it is a little grubby, and not as perfect as other internet fractal veggies. In the meantime, here is a photo from the wiki:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

loveliness 333

Loveliness 333.  Yeah, I said it!  And for your reference, lovelinesses 222 and 111. (Actually I'm a little disappointed with this retrospective, I thought it would be more special.) But this will be special.

Here is a great quote:
“You can read Sylow’s Theorem and its proof in Huppert’s book in the library... then you can use Sylow’s Theorem for the rest of your life free of charge, but for many computer algebra systems license fees have to be paid regularly [...] With this situation two of the most basic rules of conduct in mathematics are violated: In mathematics information is passed on free of charge and everything is laid open for checking.”
— J. Neubuser (1993)

Today I learned about Sage, which is open-source mathematical software. It runs on Python, or sometimes Cython (Python with a hint of C). Why are nerds such nerds?

I'm looking forward to getting this installed.  I got waaaay too excited when I found out what Sage does with matrices. (Oh, you want to know? Input your matrix as a vector of vectors (basically like how you would in maple) then do your computations -- kernal, cokernal whatever -- then you can get Sage to just convert it right into LaTeX code. I know! I ♥ this idea a lot).

Monday, November 23, 2009

loveliness 332

Today I was happy to experience the post-apocalyptic landscape of the brand new Busway to York. YES! We don't have a subway, but we do have a busway. And other than the not-so-nice possibility of going skidding off the icy bus-only roadway into a hydro tower (to set off a domino-like effect for the other three kilometers of hydro towers), this thing is awesome. Thanks Giambrone!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

loveliness 331

Hey there bird-knobs:

loveliness 330


A transplanted dinner party with bestest friends -- it was our ten year friendiversary! So many wonderful elements -- a baby, new and old partners, singing and piano playing, a fashion show and of course eating, lots of eating.

loveliness 329


The surprises continued, but not in a good way. Smell of gas, broken furnace, bad timing. But it brought out the loveliness of supportive friends and family -- thanks everyone!

Friday, November 20, 2009

loveliness 328


Surprises all over the place today! Surprise house guest brings surprise wine and surprise boyfriend has a surprise when his flight is cancelled. Hey surprise beet soup!

Also hurray again for that international scientific community. When can we remove $k$ edges to leave a $k|V| - k$ graph? Let's ask someone who knows! Works like magic. (<--------- magic!).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

explore (loveliness 327a)

loveliness 327

Yay -- oh a good day! I feel like I literally flew threw it.
It started with a laughing meeting with ww, the loopiness!
Then another interesting dancer in my life! But where is the dance in my life? She inspired me to think about getting back to it.
The dancing thread continued later when I purposefully ran into an acquaintance from the national ballet school -- la la ti da ti da.
And finally, a tender organic cabbage nestled in the food box! My day is complete (and at only 5:48pm).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

loveliness 326

Well I never really read my horoscope anymore (not for the past 15 (!!) years anyway since I stopped buying those horo-scrolls at the drugstore), but for some reason I read it today. So here is the edited version:
"Gemini: Keep pushing for different solutions. [...] Tonight: Sort through possibilities."

How accurate! Computing the ranks of hundreds of thousands of matrices (terribly inefficient code too) must count for something.

And speaking of possibilities,  here is a little tidbit by way of twitter: test your knowledge of the 100 most commonly used words in the english language. No great surprises here, but still a good waste of twelve minutes.

loveliness 325

Snow day! Well, my school obligations are cancelled anyway. Nice.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

loveliness 324

A different view on the city today. Down to Queen's Quay, watching the planes taking off from the island airport.
Later walking all the way up Bathurst to Bloor in the lovely dusky fall evening.
night building

Saturday, November 14, 2009

loveliness 248



loveliness 247


You thought I forgot. It is actually better this way, because now I am used to November and thinking back to the cottage is making me feel happy. Look at this warm warm light:
So it is cocktail hour I guess. Beer in hand, there is probably a bowl of chips (chipsss) around somewhere.

loveliness 323

2pm. Shadows stretch long, my belly is full of curried okra, it is a warm afternoon and I'm wearing my favourite dress that I haven't worn in years (which totally annihilates the advice of all those closet-purging types).

Today we visited "War at a Distance" at Gallery TPW on Ossington. There were some interesting and challenging pieces, but I was blown away by Stephen Andrews' The Quick and the Dead. This was an animation display composed from hand-drawn images made from crayon rubbed over a window screen onto mylar.  

The effect is reminiscent of newsprint, or perhaps a television screen viewed too close. The flickering images of war rendered in this way were powerful and yet seemed so far away, prompting reflection on the reactions and emotions we experience when we view war (in fact, edited and packaged versions of war) from a distance.

I'm not going to call this lovely exactly, but was an interesting and beautiful thing to have seen. Many of the other pieces in the show were also very interesting (Allyson Mitchell's Afghanimation and Francesco Simeti's Watching the War were two other stand-outs). Show is up until November 21.

loveliness 322

FRIDAY (always behind!)

Hello, bicircular matroid.

And speaking of nerds, I ordered some new glasses today! Oh yessss!

Friday, November 13, 2009

loveliness 321


Cross town trip for more wedding dresses. We didn't find The One, but we did find the cake shop I remembered. Plus G found a shirt in her closet to donate to my non-shopping cause. New clothes for meeee! Plus the amazing combination of fresh ginger, a squeeze of lemon and a generous spoonful of honey. Nothing could be more soothing for da sniffles.

loveliness 320


Ah Neeve dinners. So so good. Especially when they involve slow cooked tex-mex deliciousness.... oh geez. The best mid-week event.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Some press...

Here is a little write-up of the Art Meets Science show.

loveliness 319

I know I say this a lot, but it is great to meet interesting people. Especially when they are warm, funny, science-y, art-y and most importantly, open. And interested to know about homemade yogourt. (As an aside on that topic, last week someone said that anything you put on the internet is "like a tattoo". Shittttt.....  but back to my story....)

I also enjoy that strange synchronicity phenomenon. This morning, in my meeting with the afore mentioned amazing-people, the topic of the "Cabinet of Curiosities" or Wunderkammer came up. I had never heard of this idea before. Then later, reading a magazine while waiting for the optometrist, what should I see but a mention of this very concept (Toronto Life magazine likening the AGO's collection of small pieces to a cabinet of curiosity). Thinking about it now, I really love the thought of a collection of things without categorical boundaries (actually that is what I want to be when I grow up)! I suppose my little in-between Gallery of Funn is along these lines. And there is room for so so so much more.... stay tuned!

Oh, and the other thing that I wanted to record here is this: magic. This is mainly just so that I don't forget later that I am thinking about this now. But you should think about it too... I'm really intrigued by this idea right now because I keep finding things that I want to describe as magical, from the cabinet of curiosities to the white squirrel to homotopy (as seen in the video below).

Monday, November 9, 2009

Composition, Equation, Combustion

Our fire-math-sound piece is finally live on the tube!!!

There is more information up now at the ambi-valent object site, with more still to come.

loveliness 318

Today was a good day. That is a really non-descriptive statement, but still feels like an appropriate way to start this post.

No major single source of loveliness (or magic, like that squirrel) today, but just a sequence of small nice things.  OH WAIT, I almost forgot that I was introduced as a "math goddess" today. That was probably the highlight right there.

But back to those small nicenesses:
Took a morning run in balmy Trinity Bellwoods, the skyline shimmering in front of the glowing orange sunrise, gorgeous. In some ways the best part about this is that I don't run with a camera, so I am forced to enjoy it just as it is without the lens of well, the lens. Sometimes the impulse to take a photo gets in the way of actually just enjoying whatever is right there. (For example, apparently I missed out on some white squirrel acrobatics yesterday which I was fussing with my camera).

Amanda's talk in my "coffee + conversation" series about math education was really great. She was talking about the symbiotic relationship between social justice and math education, which was quite interesting. On the one hand, mathematical knowledge can be seen as a determinant of critical citizenship and social welfare. On the other hand, examples from life with some social significance (such as the ecological footprint) can be used in teaching math to help students connect the ideas with their own lives, and see mathematics for the vital and wide reaching study that it is.  And like last week, I'm appreciative of the students who took time out of their days to stay for this seminar.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

loveliness 317

Today, on this gorgeous 17 degree day, we set out to find.... the white squirrel. And we did! SO magical!
Patrick likes his beady red eyes.

loveliness 316


Ah Saturday. I'm sore from Saturday. I have new admiration for Marie, fitness instructor extraordinaire, who I have just learned was touched by the deepest and most profound of tragedies. I am amazed by the energy and open-heartedness she brings to her classes, her smile brightens the morning.


Friday, November 6, 2009

loveliness 315

Only fifty lovelinesses left... Wow.

Today was also a good day. If yesterday was a day of surprises, then today was a day of doing scary things and enjoying them.

Today my friends, I was released. Uhhh, literally. This morning I went to a dance class, I guess you could call it that anyway. It was actually a class in the Skinner Releasing Technique, which I can only really describe as moving meditation. It sounds scary, doesn't it? Actually, it was really scary. But I survived. I released even. I loved and hated it. It was uncomfortable and beautiful at the same time. What is 'rolling without effort'? What is 'cultivating supple-ness'? What is dancing with feet that are just collections of flesh, without bones? What is a dance or movement that explores autonomy? Or perhaps just autonomy of the shoulders?
I'll tell you what it is, it is weirdness and wonderfulness.

We did a number of exercises and explorations, and a number of partner activities, in which we physically manipulated our partner's body, trying to get it to release and let go. This was really really really hard for me. My palms were sweating, I feel bad for my partner. But letting a stranger manipulate your own body -- physically lifting your shoulders and touching the backs of your knees with softness and tenderness -- this was kind of amazing. I'm still processing this experience, the physicality of it, and how utterly different it was from the ways I am used to moving through space.

The only actually bad thing that I will say about the Skinner Releasing Technique, is that I forgot how painful rolling on the ground is for a lady like me (maybe for anyone?). This is a key feature of modern dance it seems, this rolling and rootedness to the ground. But I think I'll have some bruises on my hips tomorrow.

On a more light-hearted scary note (!), I also went shopping for a wedding dress today (NO, not for me). I was worried that this would be traumatic somehow, like shopping for a bathing suit can be for many women. But actually big poofy wedding dresses are designed to flatter women's bodies, unlike most bathing suits, so it was really the opposite of traumatizing.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

loveliness 314

Today was a good day.

I was pleasantly surprised by a number of things:
- "Taking the 'duh' out of dossiers" didn't suck. In fact it was good. And it was great to bring along a math friend who could actually talk with me about some of the issues that are unique to teaching mathematics.

- Having a chance to talk to Ros Woodhouse, who facilitated this session was also fairly awesome. It sometimes seems essentially impossible to break the mould of math teaching that is used in universities -- but perhaps it can and should be challenged! Ros "implored" me to do this. Commanding!

- On that note, I had a kind of dumb realization today, which is that I am surrounded by interesting people doing interesting work, and they know lots of things. This is good, because I can basically just go ask them things that I want to know.  I know, I know, this is what networking/existing is all about, but still... I like the idea of dreaming up questions and then drawing on these contacts to help answer them.  For example, Ros, the academic director of the Centre for Support of Teaching at York. She has a very cool job which is kind of meta, and I'd like to know more about how she got there, since I wouldn't mind ending up in a similar type of role.

- Hey guys! I chanced on the Charles and Camilla pre-show at varsity stadium today. This is what my phone + the good old 'enhance' button did to that. The thing is, this seems CRAZY (and hilarious) to me. Why do we put on this kind of show for the royals? They are used to all this crap, and I'm sure their people do it better, being so much more well practiced at it. Instead I suggest we just get them to tag along with Matt Galloway on his *ideal afternoon in the city* for a real(er) taste of what life is like around here.  (And for those of you who know my one and only complaint about this man (Matt, not Charles), check out his first sentence).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

loveliness 313

Well, I'm really unhappy with this particular graph right now. But it is cute, so... I'm sharing it.
On the bright side, we got a free bag of pears in our food box today! Pear crisps are on the way.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

loveliness 312

Today some nice space-related themes. Maybe they were even tropes, I don't know.

First of all, consistent with our programme of expanding our music library, today I purchased Mission to Sedna by Nuclear Ramjet. I'm putting that link there, but you might not like it. Unless of course, you like space, and space sounds.  I'm loving this track, "The Missing Moon." It is the new victim of my repeat-mania.

Speaking of the moon, it was anything but missing when I was out for a stroll earlier this evening. It was hanging large and low and 98% full (waning gibbous to be precise, according to the moon phase calculator which is now junking up my sidebar there) in the sky, with a few illuminated spooky wisps of clouds drifting around. It was so very beautiful.

And finally, on the space front, this reminds me of the Quirks and Quarks episode I heard this weekend in which Bob McDonald made a statement about Canada's space program. He said that this program costs tax payers about $10 per person annually to run, yet it actually does good not bad things (good things being putting astronauts into space, bad things being building expensive rockets). And to all the space-program bashers he pointed out that we probably spend more money on Halloween, aka feeding really really really unhealthy food to children, than we do on our space program.  Moon-food for thought I guess, at least for me as I've never really been a big fan of space exploration.

loveliness 311


Well Hi there.

Today I got myself an arXiv account (pronounced "archive", in case you don't know), and then I put our paper there.  This is kind of like part II of loveliness 309.  But the satisfaction of sending this thing out into the ether is considerable. And even though publication in an academic journal would be the ultimate endorsement, I enjoy the open-access community of the arXiv.

Also on this day: happy feelings about the handful of TAs who came out to talk about teaching math (and to eat Halloween candy).

Sunday, November 1, 2009

loveliness 310

What to do on an extra-long and beautiful but chocolate-hungover kind of day? To High Park, says Pingram.

This is an accidental terrarium inside one of the park lights!!
accidental terrarium

This is what the ground looks like

loveliness 309


At long last, my coauthors and I submitted our paper, which is my very first paper. It is satisfying to finally have that out the door, and I hope that the SIDMA likes it. I'm also pleased that the collaborative writing process may be coming to a close for a while. Unfortunately this was cause for celebration with many many too many halloween sized candies, which, together with the wine, might explain my rather low energy level today.

loveliness 308

FRIDAY, and day 3 of the Canadian Science Policy Conference

Science Policy

Well, I thought I was only going to attend one panel today, and instead I stayed until the end. What an excellent conference, I wish that my math conferences were this inspiring. I'm also pleased that I stayed until the end because I was initially very put off by the number of suits, and almost turned away before it had even started. In fact, I ended the conference with a handful of new contacts, friends and ideas.

It was also lovely to see folks mobilized in another way today, namely helping The Tang move to her new apartment. What organization! And what fun!

loveliness 307

THURSDAY, and day 2 of the Canadian Science Policy Conference.

WOW. I'm blown away on this day by some incredibly powerful and inspiring speakers and conference attendees (in particular Elana Brief, Bonnie Schmidt and Hiromi Matsui). Hopefully I'll find some time to write a little bit more about this after I've consolidated my notes and thoughts from this conference. But let me just say for now that one of the central themes that emerged was one of my favourite topics,  and I'm going to make you scroll down for it.........


As if this wasn't good enough,
A moment of grace: a Karen Kain sighting on the way home, and then,
A moment (several moments, really) of deliciousness: Alison's homemade macaroons......... YES.

loveliness 306

WEDNESDAY, and Day 1 of the Canadian Science Policy Conference

Creativity, openness, tolerance and rationality. This is the "scientific temper", according to Bruce Alberts. It is kind of beautiful to think of science as the true "universal language" -- forming the basis for an international community of cooperation. And, because opinion has no place in science, we (scientists) all agree. Yes, as I said, a beautiful thought. In practice perhaps not always so rosy, but still a positive place to start a discussion about how science can (will?) shape our lives in the future.