Linkage

Kenji explains the science of no-knead bread. I have to try making some this summer.

A nice post about Punjabi Mexicans in California, a little-known bit of South Asian immigration history in the US.

Detection of correlations is a snazzy title, but they mean something very particular by it. Also, why does everyone hate on the GLRT so much?

I want to see The Trip, especially after watching this clip. (h/t Adam G.)

P. Sainath on civil society in India. (h/t Soumya C.)

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Readings

Robert Tavernor, Smoot’s Ear : The Measure of Humanity – This is an interesting, albeit dry, history of measurement in Europe, starting from the Greeks and Romans, more or less, up through the development of the metric system. It’s chock full of interesting little facts and also highlights the real problems that arise when there is no standard as well as when trying to define a standard.

Naguib Mahfouz, Palace Walk – The first in Mahfouz’s masterpiece trilogy, this novel follows a very traditional family of an Egyptian merchant, who spends his time partying every night while terrorizing his family during the day. It’s set during the end of the British occupation at the end of WWI and the protests against the British that start at the end of the novel seem eerily relevant today.

Nell Irvin Painter, The History of White People – This is a popular history of theories of race, beauty, and intelligence and how they became entwined with skin color, head-shape, and other measurable quantities. It was an interesting read but felt a little incomplete somehow. Also, she uses the work “pride of place” too many times. It was distracting!

Vivek Borkar, Stochastic Approximation : a Dynamical Systems Viewpoint – This slim book gives a concise, albeit very technical, introduction to the basic methods and results in stochastic approximation. It’s fairly mathematically challenging, but because it’s to-the-point, I found it easier going than the book by Kushner and Yin.

Linkage

I’m heading off to Mexico in less than 12 hours for a week during which I hope to disconnect : no email, web, or phone. I guess I’ll miss the majority of the post-Bin Laden news cycle. In the meantime, here are some more links because I am too lazy to post content.

Speaking of 9/11, this is simply terrible.

An interview with George Saunders, one of my favorite authors.

Blackwell’s proof of Wald’s Identity, as told by Max.

Long pepper looks fascinating and tasty!

Can Voter ID Laws Be Administered in a Race-Neutral Manner? The short answer is no. The longer answer is a 30 page paper.

Frank has blogger about our trip last weekend to The 2nd 8th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational. My arteries may never be the same again.

There are no more typewriter factories. This makes me especially sad, as I have a 1914 Underwood No. 5 that I love (and lug).

Readings

Felix Gilman, The Half-Made World – A rather stunning and harrowing fantasy/western (don’t think Jonah Hex). I didn’t like it quite as much as Cosma did, but I couldn’t put it down, so that is something.

Jane Margolis, Stuck in the Shallow End : Education, Race, and Computing – really insightful look at the race-based gap in access and enrollment in computer science classes in 3 very different LA high schools. Margolis and her discuss how the actions of teachers, counselors, and administrators create barriers and disincentives that lower black and Latino enrollment in computer sciences when they are available, and that gut computer science classes for everyone in favor of computer skills classes.

John Crowley, Love & Sleep – second book in the Aegypt cycle. I found it more self-indulgent and flatter than the first one, but maybe it’s because the characters are not new to me. The writing is, as always, beautiful, but I was less excited than I was by The Solitudes.

Ian Hacking, The Emergence of Probability – a slim book about early ideas about probability and ending at Bernoulli and Hume’s problem of induction. Hacking traces how “probable” went from meaning “approved of by experts” (as in “probable cause”) to a more aleatoric interpretation, and at the same time how problems such as computing annuities brought forth new foundational questions for philosophers and mathematicians. A key figure in this development was Leibnitz, who worked on developing inductive theories of logic. The last few pages sum it up well — the early development was spurred by changes in how people thought of opinion and on what it should be based. “Probability-and-induction” required a different change in perspective; causation had to be thought of as a problem of opinion rather than of knowledge. I found the book fascinating and pretty easy to read; nice short chapters highlighting one point after the other. Hat tip to Marisa Brandt for the recommendation.

assorted links and news

More on self-plagiarizing.

This looks like an interersting book on the homeless, especially given all the time I spent in the Bay Area.

Tyler Perry has shortened the title of his film adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.

Evaluating Fredric Jameson.

Max really digs in to directed information.

In other news, after ITW I went to Paris to hang out and work with Michele Wigger on a small story related to the multiaccess channel with user cooperation. While I was there saw some fun art by Detanico/Lain and caught a show by Fever Ray at L’Olympia. In fact, I’ll be headlining there soon:

ADS Headlines at L'Olympia

Have a good Sunday, everyone!

some slightly more recent reads

Suspended in Language (Jim Ottaviani and Leland Purvis) — a graphic novel about Niels Bohr, his life, his theories, and the birth of modern physics. This was a great read and wonderful introduction for those with a scientific bent but perhaps less physics background (me in a nutshell).

Logicomix(Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou) — continuing with the intellectual comic book trend, this was a semi-fictionalized history of the foundations of mathematics from the perspective of Bertrand Russell. There’s a lot going on in the book, which tries to examine the connections between logic and madness, maps versus reality, and Russell versus Wittgenstein. I very much enjoyed the beginning of the book but it sort of rushed into the ending : I wanted more about Gödel!

Botany of Desire (Michael Pollan) — this is a lyrically written book about the relationship between people and plants. Pollan goes through 4 case studies : the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato, and describes how the plants satisfy human desires and how humans have shaped the course of their evolution. The writing in this book is beautiful, but his favorite words seem to be Apollonian, Dionysian, and chthonic, which lends some of the text an almost 19th century feeling. His dissection of the issues with GMO farming and Monsanto in the potato chapter is great, but I wish it was more accessible to the average reader. Ah well, it’s a book for elites, and a very pretty book at that.

Interracial Intimacy: The Regulation of Race and Romance (Rachel F. Moran) — This was a slightly more legalistic and policy-oriented analysis of how interracial relationships were regulated by the state in the United States. Unlike Kennedy’s book, it has a fair bit more about non black-white relationships, and highlights the differences faced by different ethnic groups. Also unlike Kennedy’s book, it is not aggressively arguing an a particular agenda. Kennedy was building up an argument against race-matching in adoption, and Moran is a little more circumspect and seems (at least to my mind) to be more attuned to the dangers of being prescriptivist. It’s definitely a dry read, but I found it quite informative.

Noose at UCSD Library

A noose was found at the UCSD library, and the campus police have issued a report calling it “[h]anging a noose with intent to terrorize.” It’s unclear if the incident is related to the recent outcry over the off-campus “Compton Cookout” party. During a recent teach-in, there was a massive walk-out by students angry at the school’s response. There are going to be new protests today over the noose incident.

update: I say that it’s unclear if it is connected but what I really mean is that it’s not clear if the party organizers are involved. The timing is too close for it to be unrelated. I would not be surprised if it turns out to be some idiot’s bad idea of a “joke” or “site-specific provocative art.”

update 2: A student has contacted the police and confessed to placing the noose. No other news, however.

update 3: Students are occupying the chancellor’s office.

update 4: More updates here.