Nice card trick

Via Mark Frauenfelder I came across this nice card trick. I like it because it is very simple and does not require any manual dexterity. It enables you to look as if you can predict the outcome of a sequence of cards from a shuffled deck better than your opponent. It is not even a trick in the usual sense of the word but an exercise in logic that someone could work out. But thinking of it at all is what is clever.
[Read more…]

I’m back! And am now a grandfather!

I have just returned from a trip to welcome our first grandchild! He was born on Tuesday and we managed to get there in time to see him a couple of hours after he was born. Everything went well and I had a wonderful few days with him and his parents.

Being a grandfather is a strangely wonderful experience, hard to describe really. It definitely feels like the passing of the baton to a new generation, more so than with the birth of your own children, because you are now much older and you know that you have not many years left to live. When your own children are born, you think that you will be around long enough to protect them until they reach adulthood. With grandchildren, you realize that your children have that responsibility because it is unlikely that you will be there that long.

While I have always had the sense that we have a duty to leave the world in a better place for future generations, that feeling gets even stronger when you see a grandchild entering it now and wonder what it will be like for him when he grows up.

Cyrano was a man before his time

Most people are familiar with the fictional title character in the play Cyrano de Bergerac, a man who was so self-conscious about his big nose that he hesitated to declare his love for the beautiful Roxanne because he thought it was hopeless. However he was willing to compose beautiful love letters that Christian, his inarticulate rival for Roxanne’s affections, could pass off as his own, and Roxanne is so charmed by Christian’s borrowed eloquence that she falls in love with him. We might think that Cyrano was a bit of a dope to be so self-sacrificing but people can do surprising things when they are in love.
[Read more…]

The British are really serious about their tea

While Australians seem to really care about their beer, the British love their tea. I have commented before that you cannot watch British TV shows without being impressed by the major role that tea plays in them. People are always either drinking or making tea and as soon as anyone enters someone else’s home, even if it is a police officer investigating a crime, the first question is whether they would like a cup of tea. They seem to drink it by the gallon.
[Read more…]

Social pressure to drink alcohol

I do not drink alcohol. I have no objections to it and do on occasion drink a beer or some wine but usually only because there is no alternative or the occasion is festive, like toasting someone. My reasons for not drinking are that I do not enjoy the taste of alcohol and on one occasion when I had a little too much, I did not enjoy the sensation of being lightheaded and losing control.
[Read more…]

The academic renter from hell

Those of us who work in academia tend to think of ourselves as the kind of people who subscribe to a certain standard of behavior. This makes us especially vulnerable to those in our midst who exploit that sense of camaraderie and trust. A University of California, Berkeley professor learned that lesson the hard way when, during her sabbatical in Paris, she rented out her home to a professor from another university who was spending some time in the Bay Area. Since he was a fellow academic, she did not bother to check his references or do any other kind of due diligence that she might have done for anyone else, and that was her mistake.
[Read more…]

Great moments in neologisms: phubbing

There is nothing like new technology to spawn neologisms. Some of them are pretty good but some are downright ugly. In the latter category I would place one that I have been coming across recently: phubbing. This is a contraction of ‘phone snubbing’ and is used to describe the phenomenon of when one is ignoring the person one is with in order to communicate with the phone. I assume that there are extensions ‘to phub’, ‘be phubbed’, etc.
[Read more…]

Are you beautiful enough?

It is such a drag for someone who is drop-dead gorgeous to be surrounded by ugly people. Well, if you are in that situation, there is hope for you. My eye was caught by this item about a dating site that caters only to beautiful people. The website is refreshingly frank about their mission, which is to enable members to “Meet REAL beautiful people who actually look in real life as they do online” and “Browse beautiful profiles of men and women without sifting through all the riff raff”. One can become a member only if the existing members think you meet the high standard of beauty
[Read more…]