Sunday, June 27, 2004

ANTS pix

Someone went nuts with a digital camera at the conference I was at in Vermont earlier this month. They managed to capture me in a few pictures -- here are some of the clearer ones.

  1. On the bus to the conference dinner
  2. Waiting to board the dinner cruise
  3. Grabbing some food on the cruise

Friday, June 25, 2004


My parents and Rudy just got back from a week in Yosemite. My father sent along this picture.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Where's Jon?

I noticed that the conference I went to in Switzerland last month posted pictures from the rump session and banquet. My vanity required I look through them to see if I was visible in any of them.

Can you spot me in any of these three pictures?
  1. Rump Session 1
  2. Rump Session 2
  3. Banquet

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Vermont Pictures

OK, I finally got around to downloading (and uploading) pictures from my Vermont trip.

We had Wednesday afternoon free for excursions. I decided to drive up the Champlain Islands, in the middle of Lake Champlain. I was motoring along when I surprised to come across a drawbridge.

The view on the drive was quite nice.

I drove to the northern end of the lake and took a left to get to New York State. I knew which road I wanted to be on, but I wasn't able to find that road -- just the truck detour for the road. Oh, well, I figured -- at least the truck detour would get me there. I drove along and came to a stop sign where the highway I was on ended on another road. I looked to my right and saw a big "Welcome to the United States" sign and a border guard. Uh-oh. I was wondering how I was going to explain myself, when I realized there were two lanes, one of which went past the border check, and the other of which I was about to turn into. To my right, there was a "Welcome to Canada" sign. I felt like I was in some sort of weird purgatory.

I drove through Lake Placid, which seemed over-touristed, to the Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center near Paul Smiths. I had a nice walk on the trail.

There was a path over a marsh.

And wildlife.

On the way back, I decided I didn't want to drive around the lake, so I took the ferry. There was a nice view of the sunset over New York.

On Thursday night, the conference dinner was a cruise, also on Lake Champlain.

Here are mathematicians enjoying the buffet.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Green Mountain State

Here I am in Vermont at a math conference, and I'm finally adding it to my list of states visited. It's more than just a checkmark on a list -- it's interesting to see how life here compares to elsewhere in the US.

Quaint. That's the word for it. Everything is so darn quaint around here. They seem to take their quaintness fairly seriously -- where they do have chain stores like the Ponderosa Steakhoue near my hotel, it's clear that local authorities have negotiated a tamer look for the signs. Anyone who has seen the new IKEA sign hovering over the Beltway in College Park can appreciate that.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

More Mexico Pictures

It was wonderful to meet Christina's family in Mexico. Everyone was very warm and welcoming, to the point of conducting large portions of the conversation in English, which was primarily for my benefit! My only regret is that we were so relaxed most of the time we didn't think to break out the camera, so we only got pictures of some of her relatives.

This is a picture of Christina's cousin Miguelangel, and his fiancee.

Here is Christina with her uncle Gus, who took us to Cholula on Sunday.

Here is Christina's Aunt Salme, a friend of her uncle's, and her Uncle Nacho (Ignacio). The dog is Giorgio, and belongs to her cousin Tita.

Here is, clockwise from top left, Christina, her cousin Tita (Salme), her cousin Eduardito (Eduardo), and Eduardito's fiancee.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Mexico Pictures

When we got to Mexico City, it was late, and we stayed at the airport Hilton before heading to Puebla the next day. The hotel room featured a view unlike any I had seen before.

The next day, we headed to Puebla, where we stayed at the Holiday Inn. It had a gorgeous lobby.

And a much nicer view than the Hilton. We could see the historic center of Puebla, including the cathedral where Christina was confirmed. Update: Christina tells me that's not the cathedral. We do have a picture of the cathedral from our window; I'll replace with that one later.

In fact, Puebla is a World Heritage site, the 23rd I've visited.

On Sunday, we visited the pyramid at Cholula.

We also visited the Church of Santa Maria de Tonantzintla.

Coming soon: pictures of the family!

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Do the Math

You know, it bugs me when newspaper articles make numerical claims without regard to the underlying math. Today's Washington Post contains an article, "High Gas Prices Send Drivers to Corporate Rental", which opens with this paragraph:
"In April, Silver Spring management consultant Yvonne Braxton stopped driving her 1989 Acura Legend on trips to Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. The standard 37.5 cents per mile government reimbursement -- a figure set for 2004 long before gas prices began soaring -- didn't come close to covering her costs anymore."

Yvonne, Yvonne, let's do the math. $.375/mile * 23 miles/gallon = $8.625/gallon you're getting reimbursed! That'll more than cover your gas costs.

Wait a minute, you might say...why is the government standard reimbursing at such a high rate? Well, the fact is that gas costs are not the major cost of owning a car. Every mile Yvonne drives her car is a mile closer to having to buy a new car, and also a mile closer to needing more maintenance. On the other hand, given that Yvonne is driving a 1989 Acura, she has chosen a very reliable and durable car and chosen to keep it a long time...minimizing her costs compared to someone who buys a new car every 3 or 5 years.

It's possible that her total cost for operating the car exceeds $0.375/mile...if the car is starting to break down a lot and require expensive repairs, for example. In that case, however, the change in fuel prices she says she needs -- to $1.50/gallon, or a drop of about $0.60 -- wouldn't significantly effect the total expenses, and wouldn't help if the current situation is that she isn't "close to covering her costs."

Having driven Hondas, I know that getting reimbursed at the government rate can be a pretty good deal. I still sometimes get work to rent a car for me...if I don't want to push my car past the next maintenance threshold, or if I want Christina to be able to take over the driving (since I still haven't gotten around to teaching her how to drive a stick shift). But I don't use bad math to blame it on gas costs.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

The Web, A to Z

For my 500th post, I thought I'd look at various web sites I've been visiting lately. Mozilla, my favorite web browser, "auto-completes" to suggest sites I've visited most recently and most frequenly.


A is for Amazon.


B is for Blogger.


C is for CNN.


D is for


E is for Expedia, the travel site


F is for Flyertalk, a frequent flyer discussion site.


G is for The Prince George's County Memorial Library System (Geoweb catalog).


H is for Holiday Inn. I stayed at 2 Holiday Inns in May, which is unusual for me.


I is for The Diamondback, the University of Maryland student newspaper, hosted at inform@Maryland.


J is for Jimmy Fallon. I can't remember why I was looking at his site.


K is for Kausfiles, Mickey Kaus's weblog on Slate.


L is for Linens N Things. I only visited that once, when Christina asked me to look up something, so I'm not sure about the algorithm used to pick these sites.


M is for My Yahoo!


N is for Number Theory.


O is for The Obscure Store, a collection of links to unusual news stories.


P is for Pseudoprime.


Q is for...hmm, nothing there.


R is for the Redskins!


S is for, Christina's site.


T is for Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall's political blog.


U is for United, on which I fly 50K+ miles/year.


V is for Vantage House, where I found a link for my previous post.


W is for Wonkette, a political gossip sheet.


X is for, host of the very useful Universal Currency Converter.


Y is for Yahoo! Yellow Pages.


Z is another link I was looking up for the previous post.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Books I Read on the Mexico Trip

OK, I started the first one while getting my oil changed, and finished the second one last night, but I read the bulk of them on the plane or bus or whatever in Mexico.

Count Down

Count Down : Six Kids Vie for Glory at the World's Toughest Math Competition is a book following a bunch of students competing for the US team in the International Mathematics Olympiad. You probably weren't aware there was such a thing. I was -- mainly because when I was growing up, and going to math camps, I knew some of the kids who competed, or aspired to compete, in them.

I was never part of that crowd -- for whatever reason, I'm not a "math contest" sort of guy. As I went on in mathematics, I discovered that there were some very good mathematicians who weren't, either, which made me feel better. Some of the math contest people seemed to look down their nose at the rest of us.

Anyway, since I was never part of that world, but knew a little bit about it, I thought it would be interesting to learn more. Turns out, well, I guess if it had been more interesting, the author would have had a lot less filler. There are mildly interesting, but extensive, digressions into things like the nature of intelligence.

Oh, well. Not too bad, and it did allow me to check for people I've met who are mentioned in the book. For the record: Alex Kasman, Julian Stanley and Jordan Ellenberg.

Rendevous with Rama

Rendevous with Rama won both the Hugo and Nebula awards when it was released in 1973. Of course, it is an excellent won these prizes, and it is written by Arthur C. Clarke, one of science fiction's great writers. So I make just a few observations.

First of all, Clarke's pacing is always very slow. But it is slow in a good way -- as a reader, I feel that Clarke is moving at the pace of the universe, and that the truth of the story will be revealed in due time. This slow pacing only really bothered me when watching the movie version of 2001, and then it didn't really bother me; it just induced a nap.

Secondly, I hadn't realized how often Clarke's work has to do with "First Contact" -- initial human contact with alien civilizations. Of course, this book and 2001 fall into that category. Childhood's End and, if I remember correctly, part of Songs of Distant Earth also do. Songs of Distant Earth is also a novel I remember as part of Clarke's slow pacing.

Thirdly, the book ends with a huge cliffhanger. And he didn't write the sequel for 16 years. Well, that would have been annoying if I had read the book, in say, high school.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Draft Day

Well, it's been a month and a half, but I'm finally getting around to posting pictures from the Redskins Draft Day Party I went to. I'm usually out of town or busy on draft day, so it was good finally to be around. Unfortunately, everyone else was either busy (Christina, in particular, was hosting our yard sale) or not in the mood for some draft day excitement.

Here, the masses assemble to await our first-round pick:

Ooh, look, that's us!

OK, so here's my exciting draft day story. After the pick, Joe Gibbs flew out to FedEx Field to give a pep rally for the fans. As he was striding towards the podium, everybody was cheering. In the excitement, I decided to give him the ol' thumbs up. He looked right back at me, and returned the gesture!

I know what you're thinking. How self-centered, Jon, to think Gibbs was giving you the thumbs-up. So, to verify, I looked around at the other fans lined up against the barricades, and nobody else was giving the thumbs-up. QED.

Fred Smoot was also in attendance, and I got him to sign my Smoot jersey.

Finally, how many things can you find wrong with this picture?