Sort of appropriate, these days and this time.

1 Corinthians 13:4–7
Love is patient and is kind. Love doesn’t envy. Love doesn’t brag, is not proud, doesn’t behave itself inappropriately, doesn’t seek its own way, is not provoked, takes no account of evil; doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things

A Man Said to the Universe

Stephen Crane, 1871 – 1900

A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”

My 5 top books & why #LifeBooksWriting

Five books, Only five books? Only five books!

The most difficult part of this is picking out only five books.

  1. Roughing it – Mark Twain

This is Twain’s first real book. By the time it was published he’d written newspaper copy, become a well known spoken humorist, and published a number of short pieces of humour. He was a newspaper correspondent at the time. It describes his journey from an ex-confederate guerrilla (barely mentioned) to a successful speaker on the verge of a successful career. His gift for dialog and digression is just starting to strut its stuff. The pacing is a little slow for modern audiences, and there are a lot of horse jokes that don’t make much sense today, but it’s a great book. It’s also my favourite book to take backpacking because it withstands many re-readings under an led headlamp.

  1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

This is nearly the perfect novel. Anyone who has any pretense of writing regency romance had better be familiar with it. I could have put in a Georgette Heyer novel, but Austen’s characters are much deeper and her ear for dialog much stronger.

  1. The Forever War – Joe Hadleman

I met this book at college as an undergraduate. It’s innovative, anti-war and treats the effects of relativity in a more realistic manner than most. I also remember it because the good friend who showed it to me was run over while bicycling by a drunk shortly afterwards.

  1. The Blessing Way – Tony Hillerman

I could have picked any of his works. Their cultural sensitivity is fantastic, and they describe New Mexico to a ‘T.’ As an author, he was especially skilled at building a sense of menace and evil with tiny little hints as the story progresses.

  1. The C Programming Language – Kernighan and Ritchie

Sorry about this, but this book set me on the path from experimentalist to computer scientist. I bought myself a copy of the first printing of the first edition and dedicated my birthday to learning the language. The idea of using structs (an ancestor of objects) to extend the language suckered me into software engineering and almost literally made me what I am today.

Night Fell

Florence Ripley Mastin

Night fell one year ago, like this.
He had been writing steadily.
Among these dusky walls of books,
How bright he looked, intense as flame!
Suddenly he paused,
The firelight in his hair,
And said, “The time has come to go.”
I took his hand;
We watched the logs burn out;
The apple boughs fingered the window;
Down the cool, spring night
A slim, white moon leaned to the hill.
To-night the trees are budded white,
And the same pale moon slips through the dusk.
O little buds, tap-tapping on the pane,
O white moon,
I wonder if he sleeps in woods
Where there are leaves?
Or if he lies in some black trench,
His hands, his kind hands, kindling flame that kills?
Or if, or if …
He is here now, to bid me last good-night?

This poem was written during the American involvement in WW1.(1918).

A Day in My Life #lifebookswriting

Let’s see, a typical day. That’s actually hard because there are seldom typical days.

So here goes:

5-7 am. Wake up. Actually my wife wakes up first, usually. I let her have the first shower and either read or check email. If I’m teaching undergraduates, there’s always something from a student. Usually along the lines of “I’ve just started this homework at 11:45” They’ve had it for two weeks, “and can you extend the deadline past 12?”  I never check my work email during the evening when there’s a class. It only encourages them. Mind you, if it’s something substantial, I answer it.

She’s done, out walking the dog and training our cats. So it’s time for my morning ablutions. Before they went to uni, this was when I’d wake our boys. Wake them for the first time, that is. Now I just shower.

Breakfast: For someone who occasionally posts dashed good recipes, I keep it simple. A quesadilla; tortilla on griddle, hot sauce on tortilla, cheese on hot sauce, fold, and brown both sides. Mexican soul food. Did I mention I’m as anglo as they come? By now the tea is cool, but that’s fine.

Then I write and do author stuff. I’m usually sitting at the end of the table across from my wife, and she’s doing much the same. Atlanta traffic is ferocious.  If you can, and we often can, it’s best to wait it out. If I leave at 8, I’ll get in at 10. If I leave at 9 I’ll get in at 10. If I leave at 9:45, I’ll get in at 10. The car seats aren’t that comfortable.

Then it’s research, right now really difficult optimization problems – large systems of simultaneous transcendental equations (If you get that you’re good), or machine learning. We’re looking at faster ways to do Boltzmann machines. That Stat. mech. I took as an undergraduate in the dark ages still comes in useful.

This is often the truly fun part of being a professor. Working with the PhD students and teaching them how to formulate – then answer problems. Undergraduates are the next most fun, but they’re a little clueless. That can get frustrating. The rest, administration trolls and arbitrary power struggles over trivial things; well that can take a hike.

Usually, lunch at my wife’s office. She’s also a professor. Then after more work, the drive home.

Atlanta traffic comes into it’s full power in the afternoon. Between 3 and 6, it’s a parking lot. So we go the back way. Still an hour on the road, but at least you’re moving. We follow the line of march from Sherman’s army on the way home. There’s nothing wrong with the South that a visit from William Tecumseh Sherman couldn’t fix.

Then it’s a couple hours more writing, usually a mixture of work and fiction. Always with a pot of tea. Unless the trolls have been active; then it’s a beer.  Since we’ve had children, I’ve usually done the cooking (my wife nursed the kids when they were infants), and she’s done the cleanup (I played with and changed them). That division of labor has survived school, scouts and university. Before then we used to swap. Dinner, walk the dog, and in the immortal words of Pepys “off to bed.”

Patience Taught by Nature #fridayread #fridaypoem

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1806 – 1861

“O Dreary life!” we cry, “O dreary life!”
And still the generations of the birds
Sing through our sighing, and the flocks and herds
Serenely live while we are keeping strife
With Heaven’s true purpose in us, as a knife
Against which we may struggle. Ocean girds
Unslackened the dry land: savannah-swards
Unweary sweep: hills watch, unworn; and rife
Meek leaves drop yearly from the forest-trees,
To show, above, the unwasted stars that pass
In their old glory. O thou God of old!
Grant me some smaller grace than comes to these;—
But so much patience, as a blade of grass
Grows by contented through the heat and cold.

Windy Tybee Island Beach.
Windy Tybee Island Beach.

Nonsense Alphabet

Edward Lear, 1812 – 1888

A

A was an ant
Who seldom stood still,
And who made a nice house
In the side of a hill.

a
Nice little ant!

*

B

B was a book
With a binding of blue,
And pictures and stories
For me and for you.

b
Nice little book!

*

C

C was a cat
Who ran after a rat;
But his courage did fail
When she seized on his tail.

c
Crafty old cat!

*

D

D was a duck
With spots on his back,
Who lived in the water,
And always said “Quack!”

d
Dear little duck!

*

E

E was an elephant,
Stately and wise:
He had tusks and a trunk,
And two queer little eyes.

e
Oh, what funny small eyes!

*

F

F was a fish
Who was caught in a net;
But he got out again,
And is quite alive yet.

f
Lively young fish!

*

G

G was a goat
Who was spotted with brown:
When he did not lie still
He walked up and down.

g
Good little goat!

*

H

H was a hat
Which was all on one side;
Its crown was too high,
And its brim was too wide.

h
Oh, what a hat!

*

I

I was some ice
So white and so nice,
But which nobody tasted;
And so it was wasted.

i
All that good ice!

*

J

J was a jackdaw
Who hopped up and down
In the principal street
Of a neighboring town.

j
All through the town!

*

K

K was a kite
Which flew out of sight,
Above houses so high,
Quite into the sky.

k
Fly away, kite!

*

L

L was a light
Which burned all the night,
And lighted the gloom
Of a very dark room.

l
Useful nice light!

*

M

M was a mill
Which stood on a hill,
And turned round and round
With a loud hummy sound.

m
Useful old mill!

*

N

N was a net
Which was thrown in the sea
To catch fish for dinner
For you and for me.

n
Nice little net!

*

O

O was an orange
So yellow and round:
When it fell off the tree,
It fell down to the ground.

o
Down to the ground!

*

P

P was a pig,
Who was not very big;
But his tail was too curly,
And that made him surly.

p
Cross little pig!

*

Q

Q was a quail
With a very short tail;
And he fed upon corn
In the evening and morn.

q
Quaint little quail!

*

R

R was a rabbit,
Who had a bad habit
Of eating the flowers
In gardens and bowers.

r
Naughty fat rabbit!

*

S

S was the sugar-tongs,
sippity-see,
To take up the sugar
To put in our tea.

s
sippity-see!

*

T

T was a tortoise,
All yellow and black:
He walked slowly away,
And he never came back.

t
Torty never came back!

*

U

U was an urn
All polished and bright,
And full of hot water
At noon and at night.

u
Useful old urn!

*

V

V was a villa
Which stood on a hill,
By the side of a river,
And close to a mill.

v
Nice little villa!

*

W

W was a whale
With a very long tail,
Whose movements were frantic
Across the Atlantic.

w
Monstrous old whale!

*

X

X was King Xerxes,
Who, more than all Turks, is
Renowned for his fashion
Of fury and passion.

x
Angry old Xerxes!

*

Y

Y was a yew,
Which flourished and grew
By a quiet abode
Near the side of a road.

y
Dark little yew!

*

Z

Z was some zinc,
So shiny and bright,
Which caused you to wink
In the sun’s merry light.

z
Beautiful zinc!