Odd names

I hope that no one is offended by this post. Some names are unusual, and stick in the mind. Not just the silly celebrity ones, but “ordinary” ones too. Here are a few I can recall offhand, mostly from people that I have met or have met someone I know, or I have seen in print. I am sure I will increase this list in future. As someone who has a rather common and “boring” name, I sometimes wish my name was more distinctive (it makes Google search a lot easier) – however there are limits …

The names so far:

Robbie McSporran, Sec Gloyne, Septimus Skates, Delegation Borg, Mary Righton, Nancy November, Shane Lavery (think about using only the first initial), Purple Tang, Seabourne Rust, Vega Time, Typhoon Nurse, Amanda Threat, Mike Nutter (Philadelphia’s mayor), Dennis The (Menace?), Peers Noble, Ginger Pinholster, Robyn Waterfall, Leviathan Peach, Natasha Distiller, Honeysuckle Weeks, Twist Phelan, Geoffrey Freshwater, Cat Huff, Park Overall, Sherlock Licorish, Ginger Ogle, Brooke Pancake, Rudy Leak-Packer, Jill Ovens (president of service and food workers union), Ebony Kite-Bell (a unique contraption), Winsome Stretch, Mirth Starfish, Hunter Eagle, German Creamer, Cars Hommes, Crystal Gong, Cotton Seed, Tertius Ralph, Rocky Start, Pink Dandelion,

Note: There are some interesting names in this article, including my favourite, Preserved Fish.

Scenes from 4ICC

The just-finished conference 4ICC, of which I was the chief organizer, produced some memorable talks, and even more memorable statements. Some of my favourites (paraphrased and from memory):

  • Every romantic movie must have a kiss; every math talk must have a proof. But just as showing too much in a romantic movie leads to pornography, showing too many proof details is also in bad taste. (J. de Loera, also quoting H. Lenstra).
  • There are two schools of statisticians with respect to this question. The first maintains that the question is well-posed and worthy of study, the second maintains that the question does not make sense. To which the first replies, “Yes, it does!”. That is as far as I have been able to penetrate into the subject. (A. Barvinok)
  • If Santa Claus gives you the dimension, then you can solve it using only linear algebra. [description of how to do this] … The catch is, Santa Claus does not exist. I’m sorry to have to break it to you. (J. de Loera)
  • “Cossing a toin”, a great Spoonerism from Doron Zeilberger

Algorithm song contest!

The NZIMA programme in Algorithmics is sponsoring a competition to produce a song on the topic of algorithms. There is a well-known parody of Billy Joel’s “For the Longest Time”, but this is 20 years old, and we are sure that New Zealand can produce something of comparable, if not higher, standard.

Rules: entry is open to anyone resident in New Zealand. The song must be to the tune of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”. It may be submitted either as lyrics or audio file (or both). The best entry by a secondary or tertiary student will receive $200 of textbooks of the winner’s choice. Desirable features of an entry include correct scansion and real content about the subject of algorithms. The deadline for entries is 28 February 2009.

UPDATE: deadline extended to 31 May 2009.

A token post for August: illogical lyrics

Personal circumstances have made it hard to post for the last few months (I may post more details about the reasons later, but suffice it to say that this year has been very eventful). So as not to have a whole blank month, I will mention a song lyric that I find to be illogical. Perhaps we (meaning I and my handful of occasional readers) can build this to a more comprehensive list – I am sure there are more.

“You are to me like honey is to the bee”. (“The Door is Still Open to my Heart”, sung by Dean Martin). Although is is precious to them, bees are not especially attracted to honey, and it is made by them digesting nectar and then regurgitating it in some way. This doesn’t seem to convey the desired sentiment, not to mention using “like” instead of “as”, another of my pet linguistic dislikes).

Humour: US election news

 Check this out!

I read a lot of Noam Chomsky in my younger days. Not so much now, and I certainly have become less enthusiastic about his political ideas. But Manufacturing Consent I still regard as an excellent book. I suspect Noam wouldn’t find this sort of cynicism funny, but it made me smile.

I’ve got a little list

I wrote and performed this while a graduate student at UW-Madison. It can be adapted to any local academic environment quite well (lots of lines ending in “ist”). I can’t quite remember all the targets I took aim at in those days, but I’m sure they all deserved it. 🙂

[To the tune of “I’ve got a little list” (Mikado – Gilbert and Sullivan)]
[By Mark Wilson 1992 – first performed September 1992]

As some day it may happen that the budget must decay,
I’ve got a little list – I’ve got a little list,
Of mathematical offenders who might well be sent away,
And who never would be missed – who never would be missed!

There’s the pestilential lecturers who won’t define their terms,
Like CLT-groups, n-jets and biholomorphic germs .
All speakers who can’t tell the time or see you’re there no more,
All speakers who wish earnestly to chitchat with the floor,
And the picture-drawing low-dimensional topologist,
They’d none of ’em be missed – they’d none of ’em be missed!

CHORUS. He’s got ’em on the list – he’s got ’em on the list,
And they’ll none of ’em be missed – they’ll none of them be missed.

There’s the nonsmoking crusader and the others of his race,
And the all-but physicist – I’ve got him on the list!
All category jugglers who would live in twistor space,
They never would be missed, they never would be missed!
The people who embark on proofs without hypotheses,
Insert, delete and alter them in any way they please.
The hapless student who believes on every single day,
“if P yields Q then Q yields P”, and then demands an ‘A’.
And those singular anomalies, applied set theorists,
I don’t think they’d be missed – I’m sure they’d not be missed!

CHORUS. He’s got them on the list – he’s got them on the list,
And I don’t think they’d be missed – I’m sure they’d not be missed!

And that outgrowth of heuristics who the calculus would save,
The nonstandard analyst – I’ve got him on the list!
All axiom-stretchers, lemma freaks, and definition slaves,
They’d none of ’em be missed – they’d none of ’em be missed.
And insufferable support staff of an antisocial kind,
Such as what-d’ye call her, thing-em-bob, and likewise – never mind.
And ‘St-‘St-‘St- and What’s-her-name, and also You-know-who –
The task of filling in the blanks I’d rather leave to you.
But it really doesn’t matter whom you put upon the list,
For they’d none of ’em be missed – they’d none of ’em be missed!

CHORUS. You may put ’em on the list – you may put ’em on the list;
And they’ll none of ’em be missed – they’ll none of ’em be missed!