Health Warning A Bath colleague writes "I note, in passing, that your blog is a Grade A Time Destroyer. I therefore peeled my eyes away from it as quickly as I could."

[In case anyone wonders where I get the time to type all this, the answer is (largely) into my smart 'phone on the subway. A former student, now working in London, writes

It is an interesting diary and in solidarity with the fact that you mostly write while in the subway I added the blog to my reading list and will read a bit every time I'm in the tube.

In any case, Fulbright wanted me to maintain a blog. I have just (19th February) discovered how to link directly into a chapter of my lecture notes, so I've upgraded the links.] I also now have the link to the amazing poem "White like you" that was read out at the same event as I performed the Jabberwocky. I've also found a picture of my local 125th street station. Here are two photographs of the International House where I am living.

Sunday 2 July 2017

Sunday 2 July 2017

Euro Atlantic seems to be a Portuguese airline: the most obvious clue being that the exits are marked SAÍDA/EXIT. It is some years since I have been to Portugal, but having a Brazilian colleague (whose surname is the Russian for German - no, he can't explain it) in Bath, and conversations in Rapid City with the Porto-based team who run South-West Europe mean that I can recall the (male) Portuguese for thank you when speaking to the cabin crew. Pragmatically, this lets me beg a second coffee with breakfast, at which point I've been up 24 hours.

At Victoria, I had arranged to have lumch with my sister-in-law, who lives not far away. Very pleasant. However, having spent five months boting my readers (if any) with the subway engineering works, it is only fitting that there are enginering works in London, and the Circle line, the obvious one to get from Victoria to Paddington, isn't running, so I have to take Victoria and Bakerloo lines.

There's an NY Times (yes, I've redirected the electronic subscription to my Bath e-mail account, and mya keep it) about Justice Gorsuch's record to date, very much in line with what I wrote earlier. Must stop this and go to bed: 21:30 UK time so I've been up 35 hours.

Week 22 Summary


Trump's tweets attacking journalists seem to have caused substantial reaction. As his defenders say: Trump was not "sending military guards to go shut down" the press. A fairly weak defence.

But is amusing to see California Politicians taking to Twitter to defend themsevles against Trump.

On a slightly different front, a colleague had pointed me at this article, ostensibly (I will let readers make their own deductions) describing the Republican eagerness to access Hillary Clinton's e-mails.

I'd also forgotten that Trump had actually set up a Voter Fraud Commission described as "That group is tasked with following up on Trump’s as-yet-unsubstantiated claim that between 3 million and 5 million illegal immigrants voted in the 2016 election". It has requested large amounts of personal data from states, has had legal problems over his stance on voting rights.

This WP article is about the closest I have come to understanding the health care issue, but it's still not easy reading.


Not sure if this is Life or Politics, but it's an amusing reflection on a country without an equivalent of the Advertising Standards Authority.

Reading the supercomputing press, there's a good article on the GW4 supercomputer, and its intended use of ARM processors. There's also a posting from one of the techie journalists covering the recent International Supercomputing Conference, quoting the graph shown, which shows that,away from the top of the pyramid, Ethernet (presumably 10Gbit) is in very significant use.

And an article we wrote some time ago has been cited in the Eastern-European Journal of Enterprise Technologies: a journal of whose existence I was hitherto woefully ignorant. Bizarrely, this also uses ARM processors. There are abstracts in both Ukrainian and Russian, but fortunately the article is written in a language bearing a passing resemblance to English.

HPC Interconnect Data


July 2017

Saturday 1 July 2017

Unusual talk title at the Museum of Mathematics "Diffusion of the Dead" - alas I'll be back in the UK. But I haven't unsubscribed from the mailing lits: should at least keep me amused.

Coming back, the messages at 14th street were confusing. Being a weekend, 2 and 3 trains do not run into Brooklyn. The 3 stop at 14th street on the downtown express track, and then head uptown from there. There is an uptown 1 signalled on the uptown local track, but the train that comes in has 2 on its indicator. The announcements on the train say "2 express, but it behaves like a local, at least to 34rd street. We are held there, and a train goes past on the express track, possibly the 3 that was signalled as 'delay' at 14th street. Just North of 34th street there's a set of points we swerve over, and we arrive at 42nd street on the express track. Just before 72nd street it's announced that we're running local from 72nd street, and indeed we pull into 72nd street on the local track. Still have to change at 96th street. The underground subway stations are hot. At 125th street, the down escalator is working as if to tease me.

When I get back to I-House, they let me back into the building, but I find I can't open the flat door. I go back to Reception, but since it's my last day, I have to go to the cashier, where there's a long queue. Eventually I get to the front, explain the problem, and the cashier resets the time lock on my door from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.: no allowance for the half-hour wasted.

Winding down my possessions has done pretty well: I throw away 1/4 of a jar or orange juice, milk and instant coffee, and, after making two marmite sandwiches to use up the last of the bread, 1/8 of a packet of butter. I have $9.25 left on the laundry card. Donation to the next user. The bad news is the dining card: even after 'brunch' today, I still have $99 unused. Donation to I-House.

Working on referees' comments on a grant application (energy efficient housing in India: don't ask) prompts me to look at this UN source, which rates the New York/Newark metropolitan area as the tenth largest in the world, at 18M people.

Spend the afternoon, after formally checking out of I-House, in their air-conditioned lounge. I catch up on AI certain amount of work-related admin, including making a (very small) dent in the mountain of expense claims. Suddenly realise, at about 16:45, that there's also a mountain of back postcards. A few I had written, but just not had stamps for. I had bought what I naïvely thought were enough last week, so I wrote until I was out of stamps. That took me until 18:00 (fortunately I-House has its own postbox) then collected my suitcases from reception. Lugging them to 125th street subway was harder than I had expected, and the final 24 steps at the station needed two trips.

At 59th street, the A/B/C/D goes under the 1/2/3, and I actually find and use the down elevator. There are three stops: Upper Mezzanine, Lower Mezzanine, and Platform. You need to have serious ESP to know that "Platform" means A/B/C/D downtown, "Upper Mezzanine" means 1 downtown, and "Lower Mezzanine" means access to uptown platforms! Anyway, it works for me.

A woman on the A train asks me if the train goes to Utica. As far as I know, Utica was a town in Roman Africa (see Cato of Utica in Purgatorio, canto 1 from memory). It might also be a town on the canal in New York State that brought us Ithaca, Rome and Syracuse. But I don't recall it. In either case, the answer is so patently in the negative that it would be an insult to the interlocutor's intelligence to proffer it, so I fall back on "I'm not from round here", and she asks some-one else, who intuits that she means Utica Avenue, Brooklyn. Live and learn!

At Howard Beach (I saw no beach) I change to the JFK AirTrain (paying $5 from my cash MetroCard for the privilege). This is an elevated train, and my attention is drawn by some children to the rainbow over the oil tanks. Then to terminal 1 and checkin. The good news is that I haven't suddenly become feeble: my suitcase really is heavy. The bad news is that it's $75 overweight. Oh well, that's $15/month. While eating my marmite sandwiches, I observe two (?Russian-speaking) travellers photographing something. It turns out to be the rainbow, so I do the same.

Advertisements one (at least this one) finds hard to take seriously: "Aeroflot: the world's most powerful airline brand".

The flight is, according to a text I got a couple of days ago, being operated by Euro Atlantic. There were two calls for volunteers to take different flights, which I wouldn't have minded had the alternative flight been earlier, or to Heathrow, but in neither case could I actually contact the Norwegian hot line. Oh well. The flight is actually over an hour late: "late arrival of the inbound", which means a change of gate and the ensuing chaos. By now it is past my usual bedtime.

June 2017

Friday 30 June 2017

Subjects you don't see much research about Mapping Early Modern Quiring. The author helpfully recites the standard definition.
It was normal in the early days of printing to impose [sc. sheets] for gatherings of several sheets tucked, or quired, inside each other. Thus a folio gathering might consist of three folio sheets [i.e. three sheets folded once], the outermost of which contained pages 1 and 12 (printed from the outer forme) and pages 2 and 11 (from the inner forme); the middle sheet had pages 3 and 10, 4 and 9; and the innermost sheet had pages 5 and 8, 6 and 7. All three sheets were signed with the same letter (A1 on page 1, A2 on page 3, and A3 on page 5), and the folding is designated ‘2° in 6s’ (GASKELL 2012: 82)
From the (badly labelled) graphs I observe, rather to my surprise, that his source catalogue contains as many 64mo books as 32mo books from the 16th century, and that together they outnumber quarto. Folio is still the most common, though.

Possibly my last day into NYU (there's always Saturday, of course). Back in NY the weather is distinctly hotter, and more humid, than it was in Ithaca.

If all else fails, ask for advice. The MTA website suggests a truly weird way of getting to JFK: take the 1 North to 168 street, then change to the A to Howard Beach, and then the Airtrain. I sing it hard to believe that this is faster than going South and changing at 59th street, but that's what the website says. This may work because of the express nature of the A.

So, I leave NYU at 5.30 p.m., having e-mailed myself all the (important) files from the work computer. Farewell meal with a couple of friends from Courant (wholive in New Jersey) at the fusion Indian-Chinese restaurant in Willianmsburg (Brooklyn) that One-ot-World introduced me to, but they didn't know about. Went very well!

Thursday 29 June 2017

Chance to get a couple of hours of mathematics in that afternoon with Mike Stillman. We're not sure when we last met (1992?), but he wasn't at Cornell when I was last there in 1983! Good to catch up.

Nice bus-ride back, at least the first phase. Left my pickup point at 17:40. Crossed a single-track railroad (probably in use: the rails looked polished) in Lisle, NY at 18:40. Shortly thereafter, I look up and wonder why we're on a one-way road in the country, then see that it's a divided highway, divided by about 400m! We're following a slightly different route back, just avoiding the NE corner of Pennsylvania, and going along the edge of the Catskills State Park, Nothing but trees, lakes and rivers.

We get back to the Cornell Club (6 East 44th street) at 10 p.m. Actually, we don't, as the bus stop is blocked. So we're let out at about number 20. I walk to the 1 at 42nd street. By now the overnight closures have started. The uptown express is also closed, so the 2, which I catch, is running local.

Get out at 96th street to catch the bus because of engineering works. Get to the bus stop to see a bus unable to leave as people are (vainly) trying to force their way in the rear door. No bud comes for five minutes, so I decide to walk. I get to 109th before two rail replacement (in fact, their indicators just say "#1 train") buses overtake me, but I overtake them as they struggle to load at the 110th street stop. They get to 116th (where I would have alighted) a couple of minutes before I did. Therefore (with 20/20 hindsight) if I'd started immediately I would have beaten them. Of course, given the size of the queue at 96th street, there's no guarantee I'd have got on them. Which would have made me hotter I don't know. The whole walk back to I-House took just over 30 minutes, and I'm ready for bed: 23:30 is late by my NY standards.

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Lovely weather today (and yesterday) - high of 27C/81F, but not humid and very pleasant. The health care issue continues to run and run.

Last week I had a slight run-in with Zenodo, a data repository. I complained to the help desk, as follows.

I got this request, logged in, and hit the 'accept' button. 10 minutes later, I still have a 'no entry' logo when I mouse over the 'accept' button. Logging in from another machine seems to show that record as accepted, though. Is this to be expected?
The reply is a masterpiece of helpdeskery.
Yes, this is the actual behavior of this button. Thank you for expressing your justified confusion, we will be looking into changing the behavior of the action to something more responsive and obvious.
As I said: "So it’s not a bug, merely a Feature of Negative Utility". Actually, it's a "FNU we'll do something about", which is better than a "FNU fixed in stone", as one too often encounters.

E-mail at 03:00 (I was briefly awake) asking whether I could (actually telling me to) run the 06:00=11:00UK discussion with a potential partner for a bid. I knew the firm, but not this interlocutor. He asked where I was, then "what ungodly time it was" - it seemed to have convinced him of my seriousness. We got on very well: two deep techies being forced to talk business. Anyway, a successful call, even though it took longer than I expected.

Re-read, print out, and post my letter to the Chargé d'Affaires at the US Embassy in London (since the previous one was appointed by Obama, Trump sacked him, but hasn't yet appointed a replacement), protesting the proposed 47% cut in the Fulbright programme.

In the evening I head to Ithaca (NY: I have fond memories of a holiday in Ithaca Greece). This involves taking a coach from the Cornell Club on East 44th street. Coach leaves at 18:30, which means midtown is pretty crowded. For reasons best known to the Gods of the Manhattan one-way system, we head roughly South-West, achieving six blocks in 25 minutes, and entering the Lincoln Tunnel precisely one hour after leaving the Cornell Club. The traversal takes 8 minutes. At 20:15, so 7/4 of an hour after leaving the Cornell Club, we are in Clifton NJ, at essentially the same latitude as I-House. In fact we are heading essentially West, and at 21:15 there's a toll plaza marking the entry into Pennsylvania. This means we're crossing the Delaware, rather less flamboyantly than Washington did. At around 22:15 we cross into New York State, and at midnight we're at Cornell University in Ithaca. So 1.75 hours in NY City, 1 in New Jersey, 1 in Pennsylvania, and a further 1.75 in New York State. We're at least an hour late, and the driver does apologise, blaming it on the traffic. It's rather over half an hour's walk from the dropping off point to my hotel, which is in downtown Ithaca, rather than on campus. My host's secretary had apologised to me when she sent the booking, saying that the on-campus one has no rooms. In fact, we had passed it, and it was right next to the School of Hotel Management: I spot a certain symbiosis here.

Tuesday 27 June 2017

I spent the morning (apart from a bunch of calls back to UK) listening to a webinar in Reading. A friend was talking about the problems of ambiguity, illustrated by this picture.

More lawsuits are reported over the opioid epidemic, including criminal prosecutions of doctors. Going back to the front page of the Washington Post website, I see that, despite their feud, the "TRUMP SOHO" [New York] is advertising on the page. I wonder if Trump actually knows, or whether this is a feature of algorithmic advertisement placing. It's possible the WP doesn't know either.

Going home from Houston Street on the 1, I couldn't see an express signalled at 14th street, so stayed on the 1. Mistake, as two expresses overtook us before 42nd street. But the second one was waiting when we got into 42nd, so I changed into that. We left before the train I had left, and overtook two locals before 96th street. Then I had to change, so caught the earlier of the two overtaken ones, so I am two trains up. At 125th street, the down escalator is out of service again. But if that's the greatly of my problems today life is not too bad. Several colleagues had warned me of a nasty subway accident at 125th street,but that accident was at the A/C 125th street, not my 125th street. Still not pleasant. One of the articles quoted from that article, as it tries to explain the subway's problems, quotes it as 4million passengers/day. I don't believe that: I think it means 4million trips/day. Fact geek alert - checking up: the details are "annual ridership" 1757million . The London Underground quotes 1370million/year (and that must be trips!): it doesn't figure in the MTA's list of top 10 (Paris is 10th, at 1526million). The NY subway quotes 358 million miles, but the London Underground 83.6 million km = 52.3 million miles. This discrepancy seems unlikely, until I see that the NY figure is for car[riage]s rather than trains. Since most trains are 10 carriages, this is more like 40 million miles. The longest direct journeys are 54.9km = 34 miles and 31 miles respectively.

Humorous sign

Dinner at I-House: possibly my last. I join a group including a young Russian lady. She is somewhat surprised when I translate 'Caucasus' into Russian for her. It turns out, bizarrely, that although I have been to Moscow three times, she never has.

Monday 26 June 2017

The Washington Post reports the Supreme Court's fudge over the "Muslim Ban" Executive Orders. Now that I understand the subway better, time to plan my return trip. I note that I haven't documented the details of my outbound trip: after the JFK Skytrain I took the E from Jamaica to 42nd Street, then the 1. But that's a messy change at 42nd street. A better plan might be to take the 1 to 59th street. Here I can change to the A/C, but not the E. One might (I did) think I could take the A/C until it meets the E, then change to the E. Alas, Jamaica is in Queens (even though JFK is in Brooklyn), so I'd need the E in the other direction. Better, I think, to take the A to Howard Beach, and then the other branch of the Skytrain.

The West Village area still has lots of police barriers left over from yesterday's Pride Parade. The media are not reporting any disasters, not are my friends, so I assume it went well. It would have had good weather: sun but not too hot.

Locals have told me that "West Village" is a realtor-coined neologism. Originally there was just Greenwich Village, where "West Village" is now. Then Greenwich Village started moving upmarket. Hence realtors started branding the next street East as Greenwich Village as well, and the creep continued. Then it was close to the distinctly disreputable area known as "Bowery", which got rebranded as "East Village". Hence the original Greenwich Village was losing its identity (and exclusiveness), so "West Village" was born.

Google recommends the 1 home. But I take it from Christopher street, so have the express option from 14th street. However, another local goes past before an express comes. This is so full I have to squeeze onto it. We overrtake the second local at 34th street. The train rather empties there. But 34th street is anomalous: express doors open on the other side. I discover that I am pinned: my backpack is caught in the door. I am released at 42nd street. Overtake a local at 59th street, and meet another at 72nd street. Get out at 96th street, and a short wait before I get into the train we had met at 72nd street. I think I am one train ahead of the one I was on at Christopher street.

Sunday 25 June 2017

The Washington Post has a "News of the Week" quiz. I score 9 out of 10, promptingthe comment "Bravo! You're an exceedingly well-read citizen of the world". The one I got wrong was the location of a recent terrorsit attack: I said Bali and and answer was Mali.

I see an engineering train heading uptown as I get onto Broadway. Since the numbered lines have a narrower clearance than the lettered ones (history: originally different companies), all engineering trains are to the narrower clearance. They also have automated stop systems on both sides, as the two divisions disagree on this as well! I must remember that the overnight closures North of 96th street are happening next week as well!

Just miss a downtown passenger train at 125th street. Next one is apparently not for 15 minutes. I suppose I shouldn't be too upset: after all, what's the London Underground train frequency like in the suburbs [not that 125th counts as a 'burb] at 06:45 on a Sunday morning? It was certainly 15 minutes on the RER when I lived in Orsay in 2011. They advertise an 8 minutes wait for an express at 96th street, so stay local. Another chance to inspect the mosaics at 50th street downtown. They are really two: one is White Rabbit and Alice, and the other is a mixture of about half a dozen Wonderland characters. I still like it. Many Americans do know these books (more than know his book Symbolic Logic or his work on determinants, but the same could be said of the British!): I recall recommending Martin Gardner's The Annotated Alice to one I-House resident.

Today is apparently [Gay, they don't use the prefix, it seems] Pride March. I definitely see a lot of police barriers lining Seventh Avenue as I walk from the subway into NYU. I thought the March was up Fifth Avenue, but looking at Google Maps (which marks it specially) I see it starts in the West Village, then goes past the Stonewall Memorial on Seventh Avenue (obviously!) and then across West 8th Street and up Fifth Avenue. The notices at 125th street announcing the engineering works on the 1 line were in English and Spanish. But at Broadway-Lafayette, the notices announcing the engineering works on the D line were in English and (I think) Simplified Chinese. This poses fascinating conundra: what are the rules governing the languages used? Does it depend purely on the station at which the notices are being posted, or also on the destination? Do weekend notices obey the same rules as weekend ones? Why can't my iPhone spell "conundra"? I then see that the notice on the D train itself is in English, Chinese and Russian. More conundra!

Department of bad HCI: I'm filling in a form at I-House, which wants my address (so I give my Bath home address), including the drop-down box "Country: United Kingdom". There's a box "State(U.S. and Canada only):" so I leave that blank. Error: "box State(U.S. and Canada only) must be completed". So I go back, and select the box, and an option (not the first) is "Not U.S./Canada". Ouch!

Our paper at the Gothenburg conference has been accepted. Trying to work out how to get from Saarbrücken to Gothenburg, I learn a new (to me) German word: Blindenführhunden - not hard to guess. This looks like being a painful trip: the train options are to depart 18:59 arrive 12:35 with a bus ride from 02:15 to 07:30 from Hamburg to Copenhagen, or depart 21:19 with an overnight "no food or beverages" train from Koblenz to Hamburg (or a sleeping train from Heidelberg to Hamburg, but departing Heidelberg at 00:18) and a 1 hour wait at Mölndal Nedre (no, I'd never heard of it either), finally arriving 18:16, or depart 03:40 (what joy, what rapture) and arrive 19:20, or depart 05:31 arrive 22:20. Google helpfully tells me that sunset is 21:19 that day in Gothenburg (Sweden), but 20:50 in Gothenburg Nebraska. Just as well I'm my own travel agent!

In the evening there's a comedy night in the I-House pub: a place I had seen, but never been to. Alas it's not impressive: the audience was small, and I was distracted with trying to hit a proposal deadline that night with a Bath colleague (but in Princeton). The line I (and much of the audience) liked most was "My mother has such a thick Russian accent, she could get security clearance at the White House".

Week 21 Summary


I've been having some discussions on terrorism with a friend. This was caused particularly by the London Bridge attack on 3rd June. Then on 19th June and for the next few days we had this exchange.
I have the news on and I learned that a van rammed into people near London. I don't know if it's a terrorist attack.
Thanks for your good wishes. Yes, it looks like the racists are fighting back with the same weapons.
I am watching the news and according to Msnbc news, that was a terrorist attack.
we have the ocean which separates us from the terrorists. But we have homegrown terrorists here.
'Terrorist' in the sense of trying to engender terror, certainly. But the perpetrator is a lone individual of British extraction who grew up (sad to say) not far from Bath. It's terrorist in the same way that the killings on the Portland subway were 'terrorist', and I don't recall the American press using that word then.

I then drew her attention to this NY Times article, which is distnctly more equivocal than I would have liked.

Terrorism is a real threat.

The press is slanted. They should of reported that it was terrorism in Oregon. This is awful.

Terrorism is of course a risk. Objectively, though, it's not a big one. 100 people died in Paris in the Batalan attacks 19 months ago (I was actually in Paris that weekend), which is of course extremely sad. But 10,000 died in France during the 2003 heat wave. Similarly, 3000 died in 9/11: again terrible. But that's 18 days worth of opioid deaths at 2016 rates. Put another way, the opioid epidemic is growing so fast that in 2016 it claimed more than two 9/11's worth more than it did in 2015. I believe that, for most years of "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland, you were more likely to die in a car accident than of terrorism.

All this is not to say that the terrorism problem isn't real. It is, and it needs addressing by policing, vigilance, legal, educational and political means. But to be terrorised by terrorism is to hand the terrorists the victory.

This sounds awfully preachy and political. But, as a mathematician, I do do these calculations. And I certainly believe the last sentence.

James, what you wrote was very enlightening.


I am not sure what to make of this article, calling for a separate US military Space Corps. Conversely, I am exactly sure what to make of this article on Trump's tweeting: right on, alas.

The Washington Post has an article about Trump's business dealings in India, and the ethics conflicts that a zealous newspaper (or indeed anyone) can see.

There's still a lot of to-and-fro over the healthcare reform(?) proposals. Some of this is about how it would States took advantage of the ObamaCare rules: I hadn't fully realised that so much of ObamaCare was discretionary in that sense. Though it's probably unfair to Proust, I couldn't help smiling at one comment.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia simply said she would read it, with all the enthusiasm of a college senior faced with a weekend assignment of Proust.
There's some quite amusing (as one not affected: I am sure it is pretty messy for those who are) internal tit-for-tat over discriminatory laws, as described by the Washington Post.

More sadly, there's some deeply disturbing replacement of argument by force in academia described here.

Saturday 24 June 2017

The heat in the flat over the last few days has forced me to explore the windows more seriously, and I've found one I can open, and I now keep it open at night. Nevertheless, I am still basically living in a double-glazed bubble. Hence it was quite a shock to come out of the front door and see the rain bucketing down. Fortunately I keep a folding umbrella (great invention, those) in my backpack. The gutters in Claremont Avenue are practically rivers, but at least there's a decent slope leading down to the Manhattan Rift Valley, so the water is flowing away.

Just miss a 1 train at 125th street: next one in 6 minutes. There's an express 2 (air conditioned!) just pulling into 96th street, so I change to that. I don't think we overtake the train I missed before 42nd street. Between there and 34th we switch to the local track as a consequence of the weekend tunnel engineering works. At 14th street I call in at my usual coffee shop, the Greenwich Avenue branch of Roasting Plant (until I came to write this, I didn't realise they had multiple branches). I get a slightly different view of their roasting technology - see photograph.

I normally walk through Washington Square, a nice park, to get from the subway 1/2/3 to NYU, but today that part of the square is closed for tree pruning. So I walk round the square, which takes me closer to NYU buildings, and my iPhone picks up WiFi (and more e-mail) as I am typing this.

While getting a coffee at "Think Coffee", I see a headline in one of New York's less intellectual papers: "Beat Cop". The subtitle is "Former Dominatrix Efforts to Become a Cop".

JavaBot Coffee Roasting
Decide to go home R/1 route. This may have been a mistake as there seem to be engineering works here: southbound express trains are crawling through 8th street (NYU) station, and there are more lights in the tunnel than usual. But a train arrives. It's an N, which I thought was an express train, but it'll do for me. Just catch an express 3 at 42nd street. It actually seems slightly air-conditioned as well. There's something happening between 66th and 72nd, as we go through slowly and hooting. Also between 72nd and 79th. There was a totally empty 1 train (very implausible) going through 72nd without stopping. We overtake it just North of 79th. I get out at 96th and indeed this train comes through, marked "not in service". It's 21:00 when I get to 96th street, and the closures start at 22:00. Indeed, I only have to wait four minutes after the "not in service" for a genuine 1 to appear.

Being Saturday, there's no dinner at I-House, so it's "hero jamón y queso" from the local Spanish-speaking deli again.

Friday 23 June 2017

Bath (University business) is getting seriously excited. I had set my alarm for 03:45 in order to read e-mail and possibly Skype at 04:00 (09:00 UK time). The e-mail was there, and needed reading, but the Skype wasn't until later.

Change at 96th street from the (crowded, non-air-conditioned) local to the less crowded (I might have been able to get a seat), air-conditioned express. We overtake the local at 86th street. First time I've really noticed the air-conditioning effect, but, if you'll pardon the pun, the effect is palpable. The 1/2/3 trains are all externally isomorphic. Internally, the 2 trains have a "next destinations" indicator that is joint between 2 and 5 trains, so there's clearly a generational difference. This is the sort of thing Wikipedia probably knows. Since the indicator is discrete lightbulbs, it's pre-LED and presumably at least SSI rather than discrete logic. Late 1980s? [I'm seriously wrong. According to item R142, it's 1999-2003 for these, as opposed to 1984-87 (item R62A) for the 1 line trains.]

I review quite a lot for Computing Reviews, and there's a new book review on their site: Parachuting cats into Borneo: and other lessions from the change café. Fortunately the review explains the title somewhat (quoting this link about one of the RAF's more bizarre exploits), and also states that the book is suitable for dog-lovers as well. A better link, in my humble(ish) opinion, is this one, as well as being more memorable.
The Washington Post continues certain media's obsession with Trump's obsession with the "Russia inquiry". But I suppose it's possible to comment that this blog is obsessed with the media's obsession with Trump's obsession with the "Russia inquiry".

Talking, tangentially, about Russia, a research student forwards me this blog post, from a pretty reputable source, about why there is such a supply of Russian hackers: a combination of supply (a good school system) and lack of legitimate demand.

A group of Fulbrighters/One-to-World have a farewell dinner. It's organised by my Singaporean friends in a Singaporean restaurant on W104th street, and working clockwise from them, we have an Italian philosopher and her husband (a Greek lawyer), a Georgian (ex-USSR) anthropologist, an Ecuadorian something-or-other, myself, my Armenian friend and a Japanese Fulbrighter. Truly what the Fulbright programme is meant to be.

While waiting for the others, I did some shopping at the local Gristedes. Eggs (my last dozen in US) and I manage to find some decently-priced sparkling water. Normally the choice is Perrier (France) or San Pellegrino (Italy), and sometimes Fiji (yes, South Pacific), but this one has Poland Spring (Poland, Maine!), which I often see still, but never before sparkling. Also there's a post office, so I get some stamps. I am seriously behind-hand on postcard-writing.

Fulbright farewell at Singaporean restaurant

Thursday 22 June 2017

Walking to 125th street I see that the down escalator is closed. Also there are no trains between 10 p.m and 5 p.m. The alternative arrangements to far uptown and the Bronx are complex, but for me it's either buses to/from 96th street, or take the A/B/C/D to their 125th street station. The latter is a reasonable alternative if I'm that late.

We did some work at the 2016 OpenMath meeting in Białystok, and the imminence of the next meeting has forced us to finish this off. Trying to compose a message to co-authors, I am forced to remember (by my own pedantry: no-one else cares) how do decline Białystok (it's not trivial: I actually need Białegostoku, as the adjective in the compound noun also declines), so look up Polist declensions. Ouch! The way adjectives decline depends on whether the noum is animate or inanimate.

Standing at Houston Street, I can see light at the end of the tunnel. But alas it's the light on a 3 (express) not a 1 (local). I'm on my way home #ifdef AA (After taking in the 18:30 instantiation of the Midnite meeting) #endif after a not-very-exciting day of tidying up loose ends. One of these was a 1-hour Skype to a tutee finishing his sandwich year in Cambridge and wondering about related final year projects. Anyway, at 14th street it says 4 minutes to the express, so I'll risk it. The express catches up with the local at 34th street (the station where, exceptionally, there is no cross-platform interchange) and 42nd street. I don't observe us overtaking another local, but at 96th street it says 3 minutes to the next local, which seems improbable if it's the one we left behind at 42nd street. Anyway, I certainly haven't lost out. Of such mental gymnastics is the life of this NYC commuter made.

Just after I get down the steps to street level at 125th street (recall that the down escalator is out of service) another uptown train pulls in. That's probably the one I got out of at 14th street.

Walking up La Salle Street from the subway, I meet a British Fulbrighter coming the other way: she's going out for dinner. I ask if she is a Marmiter: alas not. So what to do with the half-jar I have left?

Wednesday 21 June 2017

An interesting story (BBC and Live Science) about Phoenix Airport being closed due to the heat. A Bath colleague reported that the BBC had said it was the operating temperature of the engines, but after I had reminded him of Boyle's Law (not "Watt's pots never Boyle") he commented "I can now see why the BBC were mislead: they relied on the local Fox News affiliate". Reminds me of a nice tee-shirt I saw. Live Science states that Phoenix is the second-fastest warming city in the US. The general "Urban Heat Island" effect is described here: this effect certainly contributed substantially to the death toll in the Paris 2003 Heat Wave: there's a better analysis here: Paris suffered 60% more deaths in the heat wave than New York did in 9/11.
In the morning I take the 1 to 96th street. Get out, but next express isn't for six minutes, so get back into the local. Correct decision (this time!): we're not overtaken, and the express comes into 42nd street after I'm half-way up the platform. Because my auto-pilot has betrayed me another way. I had walked all the way South on the platform at 125th street, which is right for 14th street, but precisely wrong for 42nd street, as I am changing to the R there to go to the Summer Solstice celebration at MoMath.

It's not actually at MoMath, but rather just South, at Flatiron Plaza, just North of the Flatiron Building, and West of Madison Square Park (which is green, unlike Madison Square Gardens, which seems to be entirely concrete). In fact I'm there before the organisers, and help them lay the plastic sundial. One of them admires my (Trinity) tie: it turns out he's King's. The sundial is adjusted for Daylight Saving, which slightly confused me, and the North on it is Magnetic North, which I'd have thought was pretty dubious anywhere in Manhattan, given the amount of steel around. They had advertised free sundial kits for the first 100 participants, but they deemed me to be an organiser, so I don't get one. Serve me right for volunteering (or one could say 'muscling in')!

JHD in the centre of a subdial on Flatiron Plaza

Someone from my Trinity days, now a professor at Oxford, is speaking at this week's event. On the way out, I run into one of my publishers (from Springer) whom I haven't seen for at least 15 years. She instantly recognised me, which is both flattering and worrying. We have a good chat. They have a series of booklets, which might be a good place to put some of what I have learned here.

More filming going on, at least to judge from all the supporting trucks. But this one seems to be ga filmin event (not just a broadcast, as there are several bags marked 'props') from the Union Theological College opposite Riverside Church.

Tuesday 20 June 2017

Another 05:00 telco. This part of life I don't think I'll miss. And I'm bizarrely double-booked tomorrow: I had signed up for the 07:30 (a.m. of course: I still find the fact that Americans don't understand the 24hour clock odd) Summer Solstice event at MoMath forgetting that I had a 13:00(=08:00) meeting of the IMA Research Committee. Oh well, it'll be a somewhat non-standard excuse.

Though the circumstances of the USS Fitzgerald collision in the Pacific are still unclear, and tragic, it's prompted a good NY Times article on the meling-pot that is the US Navy: "One out of every 13 sailors is foreign-born".

There's a Washington Post article"In just one year, nearly 1.3 million Americans needed hospital care for opioid-related issues", which is alarmist, since the actual data are 1.27M visits, not distinct patients, but still worrying.

Nothing daunted by last night's issues, I take the R from NYU/8th street, change to an express at 14th street, and (probably) save enough time to catch the local at 42nd street. There's an express due in 4 minutes, but I opt for the local: we'll see (possibly). Guessed wrong: an express overtook us at 59th street, which does slightly surprise me.

Monday 19 June 2017

On the way into work I take the local 1 (no choice) to 96th street, then there's an express 3 due. At Times Square (42nd street) we are told that there's a police investigation at 34th street, and advised to change to the local. This after a local 1 has been through - by weekday timings it was the 1 before the one I got off. Both express and local trains stop at 14th street, my destination. In fact there are substantial delays, and I get off and transfer to the A/C/E (despite knowing it's a long walk underground at 42nd street) to 14th street, but of course that's a different 14th street stop.

The Washington Post send out a special e-mail about this story, where the Supreme Court is looking, apparently for the first time, at political gerrymandering, rather than racial gerrymandering.

On the way home I take the R from NYU/8th street. At that 14th street (not to be confused with any other 14th streets in today's saga), the conductor helpfully informs us that there's an N (therefore express) just entering the station. Get out and wait for the N. R leaves. N conductor informs us there's a delay, and recommends the (local) W. It leaves first, is overtaken by the N, then overtakes the N, and makes a prolonged stop at 23rd street where the N overtakes us. Apparently the delays are due to the earlier storm, which was pretty significant. Then a Q overtakes us. but it slows down in 23 street, and we pull ahead of it. We stop in 28th street, and the Q overtakes. Then another N. We're both in 34th street, but the local leaves first. At 42nd street, I can't get into the first express, but do squeeze into the second. Overtake a local between 79th and 86th, and change into it at 96th.

Apparently, shootings are the third most common cause of death in American children, with over half of those being homicides (but over a third were suicides).

Sunday 18 June 2017

"Two nations separated by a common language" strikes again: advertisement on one of the WiFi pillars for what I suspect is a new brand of smoothie - "tastes like sweet and tart had a love child".

It's not as hot as it had been the previous week, but the freshness of yesterday morning has gone, and by my standards it's quite humid. But not actually raining. There wasn't an immediate express signalled that I could see at 96th street, so I stayed on the local, but we were overtaken by an express at 79th street, and it didn't wait at 72nd for us. I suspect that the engineering works mean that that express had a non-standard destination, so I didn't recognise it. Oh well. 14th street station, underground, was distinctly hot and humid.

Although it's in California, I owe this description of avocado theft to the BBC. Talking of commerce, in this NYTimes article on Amazon's attempt to take over a physical chain of stores to counteract Walmart's increasing moves into online, I read the following (and think ouch!).

Nearly every weekday, I wear a dress shirt [JHD notes two nations again: in the US a dress short means what JHD would just call a shirt, as opposed to a tee-short or a polo short, and not a shirt for wearing with black/white tie] that is either light blue, white or has some subtle check pattern, usually paired with slacks and a blazer. The description alone could make a person doze.
Talking to another Brit, the concept came up that we are in a city (and indeed country) that has both British Rail envy and London Underground envy. To explain the latter, I quote from this NYTimes article
More than half a century ago, a 20-piece marching band in green and gold uniforms assembled near Track 37 at Grand Central Terminal to herald the arrival of what was hailed as an engineering marvel: the city's first stainless-steel subway cars, known as Brightliners. On a recent rainy Thursday morning, as soggy passengers were huddled on a crowded platform waiting for the C train, those same cars were stuck. A signal problem had forced service to be suspended. Again. When the train finally arrived, the cars no longer seemed a gleaming symbol of modernity but instead, as they rattled and clanked along the deteriorating maze of tracks beneath the city, tin-clad markers of years of neglect. In fact, the C train cars, once the pride of the subway, are now, according to New York subway officials, the oldest in continuous daily operation in the world.
Furthermore, although the trains to replace them are due "real soon now", they can't be totally retired, as apparently they'll be needed for fill-in services when the L line gets its post_sandy repairs in 2019.

Nice tee-shirt seen (on a beautiful woman, but that's irrelevant) on the subway: "science is not a liberal conspiracy". Alas, currently this is a country where that needs to be said.

Take the local 1 uptown from Houston street (it's a local-only stop). No express advertised at 14th street, and I can't see at 42nd street. In fact, we're overtaken by an express at 66th street, but (self-justification?) it's very unlikely it will catch an earlier local between there and 96th street.

Although my EU project hasn't yet had its 2017 workshop, we have to apply for the 2018 one. Some debate over the application, which was due in tomorrow. Anyway we seem to have converged, and I submitted the application last night.After I get the acknowledgement, I forward it to the partners, accompanied by the statement "alea jacta est" and the photograph on the right.

My normal evening meal at I-House has been the "fusion food cooked to order" counter, e.g. andouille jambalaya. This counter is run by African-Americans. However, with the summer it closes earlier, and I have been going for the pre-cooked counter. (The other options are re-warmed pizza and a salad bar.) This counter is operated by Spanish speakers, who enjoy making me practice my Spanish. It's good for my vocabulary, at least. My pronunciation suffers from the fact that I have been more recently in Italy, and keep forgetting "double ell is y". Oh well, it keeps them amused, or so I console myself after every mistake.

`Frontier' sign on the river Rubicon

Week 20 Summary


I was pleased to see, in the coverage of Gorsuch's Marshall speech that he paid tribute: "we owe a good chunk of it [judicial independence] to our forefathers and theirs in England". The WP states "Gorsuch received a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford", neatly avoiding the Ph.D./D.Phil. terminology.

I have no idea what to make of Trump's change of Cuba policy. It seems that I'm far from being alone in this respect. As far as I can understand, it is popular in certain circles simply because it's a reversal of Obama's policy, but I've seen no thoughtful support. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place, of course. After the much-heralded House vote to "repeal and replace" (except it was no such thing) Obamacare, the Senate has still to vote. I don't understand all the machinations, and again suspect I am far from alone.

Talking of Trump and reversals, there's an interesting WP article on "Help wanted: Why Republicans won't work for the Trump administration". Even Trump's Lawyer's Very Confusing SUnday.


I found an interesting quote
Yes, algorithm. The word you hardly knew until HBO's Silicon Valley focused an entire show about the immense power and responsibility that comes with creating one.
in an article about robot-designed Nutella packaging for the Italian market. I wonder if that's really how "algorithm" got so popolar (the pedant in me would say misused) in America? E-mail the reference to the article to a friend of mine who is the only person I know to have been invited to a spread's birthday party: in his case Nutella's 50th in Italy (Turin if I recall correctly).

I have commented earlier on the use of acronyms in American topography, but portmanteaux are also common.

The Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County, Indiana defines Michiana as St. Joseph County and "counties that contribute at least 500 inbound commuting workers to St. Joseph County daily."
This is five counties of Indiana and two of Michigan.

A former student comments on my description of the French Paris-centric train system.

Regarding a "Paris-centric train system" our Eurostar (Marseilles-Londres) neatly avoids the place, presumably by following the same tracks as the Avignon-Lille-Brussels TGV that also passes Roissy (as the locals somewhat unhelpfully call CDG airport) and the hated Disney land. The "direct" Eurostar service from Avignon is in fact an hour slower than taking the TGV to Lille then changing - this is because they take 90 minutes to security check the entire Eurostar in Lille whereas you only need 30 minutes for the change. If however the TGV is delayed, they will put you on the next train and the rest the will be spent in the delightful company of 1000 screaming Micky and Minnie mice.

Saturday 17 June 2017

There's a discussion on "Computing at School" about school prizes, and whether the children should have choice: I post the following.
Same comment as Peter (and same caveat: I'm not a school teacher). The year before we were due to start Latin, I found out what book the teacher used, asked my father to ask the Regius professor of Latin what a better book was, discovered that it cost 15/6, whereas a book prize was 15/- [pre-decimal coinage] and saved up the 0/6. I still have the book at home. Shows how differential inflation is: the calculator says that's about 15 pounds today. Amazon claims to have the hardback for $34, which frankly surprises me.
I must have been a truly obnoxious 8-year old!

It was low 90s/30s F/C in Princeton, earlier in the week, and much the same in NYC, but today is much cooler, and indeed I am glad of my jacket, which wasn't really the case earlier.

An express train is pulling out of 96th street just as my 1local arrives: couldn't it have waited? So I stay on the local. At 72nd street I peek out of the door, but don't see an express scheduled, so stay on the local. Mistake: at 59th street an express overtakes us. Oh well.

Adverts on the subway for a film "Tour de Pharmacy" with the slogan "winning is in their blood, ...". [I couldn't take down the rest, but it was on the lines of "along with much else".] Wikipedia describes it as a 'mockumentary' (a new word on me), but doesn't help. Googling "Tour de Pharmacy Poster" finally produces the quote: "Winning is in their blood, amongst other things".

It may have rained while I was in the subway but it was beautifully fresh, albeit cool, as I walked across Washington Square. By 13:30, as I went to the usual salad bar to buy lunch (via the NYU bookstore to buy an NYU tiepin), it was bucketing down. Indeed, for the first time I took their hot buffet: very fusion - poached salmon, noodles, and brussels sprouts in soy sauce. The NYU bookstore (that's its name, though I've only bought a tie and computer parts there, and its bags say NYU computer store) has, like several upmarket stores, a supply of disposable "wet bags" for customers' umbrellas. I had thought this slightly pretentious, but today I see the sense. In the evening I am back at the Museum of Mathematics to hear Keith Devlin talk (notes here) about "the book about the book about the book", his book describing how he came to write his book about Fibonacci and his book, abbaci (usually rendered Liber Abbaci, but Keith left the image of the Siena manuscript [generally believed to be the oldest of the three known copies of the second edition] up long enough for me to notice that there is no "Liber" in the prefatory words). This is a very lengthy Latin text, unlike the much shorter abbacus manuscripts circulating in Italy until printing. I think one has to read the "book of the book" to understand this. I bought an autographed copy of the book of the book of the book, though.

For sheer rarity value, I bought a pack of dodecahedral dice (they also had tetrahedral and octahedral, but not icosahedral ones) at the MoMath shop while waiting. Also a Caesar cipher wheel, which, sign of the times, also has the Python code for Caesar cipher on it. Strikes me that this is essentially a 'rotor' in the Enigma sense (though as written it's the rotor with the identity permutation) which might make teaching Enigma easier. Maybe I should have bought several of them? There's an invitation to "Math is Sexy: celebrate Pride with MoMath" - not sure I'll do that one.

Friday 16 June 2017

This story about the shooting at a Congressman reminds me that violence is not confined to one part of the US political spectrum, and indeed the Jo Cox annniversary story reminds me that it's not a purely US phenomenon at all.

Decide to stay in for the morning, because of possible (Skype) 'phone calls. Paradoxically, I wake up earlier than usual, and am answering e-mails by 05:00. My colleague back in Bath has a key meeting at 15:30=10:30 NY time. It's actually the first time I've had lunch at I-House: similar to dinner, but good. In fact, at dinner I realise that one can have too much of a good thing.

In the evening I go for some shopping (it's got to the point of working out what packs of eggs to buy to end up with an empty cupboard) and a walk. I want to see the point just North of here where 126th street meets 127th street. However, when I get there, I discover

Oh well.

I'm off to hear Keith Devlin "In search of Fibonacci" at the Museum of Mathematics tomorrow. Tonight's e-mail brings an invitation to a mathematical concert there, but it's in July.

The CNN block headline is "Obstruction: Impeachable or Impossible". Given the polarisation of American politics, I'd have said "impossible". After all, Trump has already admitted giving beyond-Top-Secret information to the Russians.

Thursday 15 June 2017

When I got into Claremont Street after my maritime adventures last night, there were (almost) no cars parked in the exclusion zone, but no other signs of filming. However, this morning there was a man guarding several powerful lights of the sort I associate with filming. He said "TV series for Netflix". Since I doubt even Netflix is big enough to want to film two series in the same street in New York (OK, I suppose it's photogenic, but not that photogenic), I imagine it's more of the one I saw being filmed earlier. I had bought an iced coffee while waiting for the ferry yesterday, and that part I hadn't drunk was still cold as I finished it waiting for the subway. I have a fridge/freezer in my flat, but I haven't located any ice-making equipment.

I actually get an e-mail from The Honorable William Wall, which I think is the first time I have received an e-mail purporting to be signed by a ship.

Wednesday 14 June 2017

Although I've written a lot about the drug problem in the US, it is worth recalling that the Uk has a major one too, as this article from the Guardian makes clear. Indeed, as in many other aspects, the UK is part-way between the US and continental Europe. Talking of which, I am not sure what to make of this article on Portugal's decriminalisation (well, that's not a completely accurate description) of drugs.

As we walk out of the house, my colleague asks "what's that clanking?". I think, then realise it's the ice cubes from yesterday afternoon's iced coffee, still ice 16 hours later in that presentation coffee cup: I knew it was good, but not that good: thanks NYU Law School.

The train from Princeton to Princeton Junction is known as DINKY. Amazingly (but then NJ is not NY) this is not an acronym, despite being spelled in capitals. NJ Transit clearly has an inflexible robot announcer: "The [time] train to [destination] is now departing from track [number]", so that at Princeton it has to say "from track single".

In the afternoon/evening, I-House Alumni have arranged an event in NY harbour. This involves catching a ferry from the "World Financial Center Ferry Terminal" - fascinating demographics, as men and women in smart suits rush to catch these small ferries across to New Jersey. We are met at the terminal by a young man in jeans, but a white shirt with a lieutenant's two-ring epaulettes. He's from the ship we are due to visit, scans our electronic tickets, and gives us tickets for the ferry. It's "Liberty Landing Ferry: a Hornblower Company". We cross the Hudson to Warren Street (I think in Hoboken), then are picked up by our hosts' launch.

Our hosts are the Manhattan Yacht Club, aboard their floating clubhouse: The Honorable William Wall, which is anchored near Ellis Island. We are there to witness their usual Wednesday race, 13 yachts doing three laps of a circuit in the mouths of the Hudson and East rivers. I begin to suspect that the tide is flowing, given the difficulties the yachts have with the downstream leg in the mouth of the Hudson. I had encountered a very nice Polish-American and his (British?) wife and mother-in-law. He had been at I-House some decades ago. He had been involved in a project on historical railway cartography with a chap from Exeter, and we had the obvious discussions on Polish and Ukrainian railway gauges. While researching this blog post, I realise a subtlety: I normally refer to this gauge as "five foot gauge", and indeed that's how the first such were constructed, The (American) engineer was not worried about compatibility as "it will never be connected to Western European railways". However, five feet is 1524mm, and apparently metrication means that Russian railways are now 1520mm (though Finnish ones are 1524).

I need to go to Cornell, which is in Ithaca, NY (a canal builder was philohellenic, hence also Troy, Syracuse, and, I believe, Rome). Strictly speaking, you can't fly there from New York City (one can from Newark NJ, but hideously expensive - more than any US internal flight I've taken this trip. But Cornell now have a campus in NYC, and an inter-campus bus. Book this.

Tuesday 13 June 2017

I'm off to visit friends in Princeton. After my previous commitments I have some time, so a friend directs me to what turns out to be an excellent (though not cheap) barber for one of the best haircuts I have had recently. I then get the subway to Pennsylvania Station. I am still early, and there are dire announcements about delays, so I catch the earlier train. There's a letter from the CEO of New Jersey Transit on the seats, explaining the delays, caused by Amtrak repair work on the tunnels (see previous posts). It doesn't explicitly say that these are post-Sandy. There simply isn't enough capacity, so for the summer the Morris-Essex line is diverted to end in Hoboken, rather than cross the Hudson into NYC. Other operators will honour tickets, and NJ Transit has laid on extra ferries. I was about to be sarcastic when I recalled that there are also waterboats in London, not that they have ever formed part of my own commute.

The train crosses a river and I see some nice campus-like buildings: no, not Princeton, but New Brunswick (NJ, not to be confused with New Brunswick/Nouveau Brunswick Canada), home of Rutgers, as the train station is labelled. My train stops in Princeton Junction (West Windsor), whence we get a shuttle train to Princeton itself.

I am met at Princeton station by both my Bath colleague and a friend from my Yorkown Heights days who now works in Princeton. It is a distinctly warm day (90s/30s). We go to lunch with my colleague's husband (hence all combinations of {British,American}x{Princeton,Bath} were present), and then my Yorktown Heights friend and I talk maths and life for a while, in the (air-conditioned) Princeton University Art Gallery. He leaves, and I feel caffeine-deprived, so head, via the centre of campus, where there's a statue of Witherspoon, who was brought from the UK to be President of New Jersey College in 1767 (and apparently introduced the lecture method of teaching to the New World - 250 years ago), to Nassau street (the main street) and Starbucks, where I buy an iced coffee for my NYU coffee container, and catch up on e-mail (again). Then back to the Art Gallery to meet my friends, thence (via Lyft) to a ratherup-market pizza parlour. Good meal, thence, again via Lyft, to their house in Plainsboro, essentially the next town to Princeton (and home to the Princeton Plasma Lab, and much else).

Monday 12 June 2017

I've been trying to coordinate a joint UK/France small research grant, which involves simultaneous submission. I think we have the UK one submitted, but my French colleague writes "Yes, but I think my application is still in a superposition state.". I reply
Yes, my understanding of the quantum physics of international collaborative agreements is that the two applications, entangled though they are, travel separately from now until they meet at the joint reconciliation panel, when we discover whether Schrödinger's cat is alive or dead.
An amusing sideline in the Washington wars: ironic that it's DC itself, and Maryland out of which DC was carved, that are suing Trump. The article is run, on the website at least, alongside the image here. There's a lot of coverage round this, notably on how Trump properties are being bought by shell companies with the true owner concealed.

I found this graphic particularly telling when one looks at selective reporting.

On a lighter note, I am pleased to see that my use of one thousandth of a nanosloth has made it into Google - I use the periphrasis to maintain the uniqueness of the instance.

Image from Washington Post

Sunday 11 June 2017

Only 20 days to go, as my airline helpful e-mails me. Sigh. As I leave I-House, I see some (not very official) no parking signs taped to lampposts, and a notice warning of filming next week. A very American object seen on the subway this morning: a Chicago Cubs tee-shirt, with all the text in Hebrew.

Shopping at CVS (Pharmacy). Press "pay by debit". Voice says "please swipe your card". I do, and voice says "card must be inserted", and then standard Chip+PIN exchange. Receipt says "US debit" and the last four figures of my card number, plus a lot of other numbers not obviously related.

What I see (others might disagree) as a sad story on the compartmentalisation of education in England.

The Washington Post website has a banner advertisement for "TheRussiansAreHere.Org",but it's an ad for a television series. There's also a a href="">curious story in the WP about the Capital Pride parade being disrupted by protesters complaining that it was too corporate. The comments on the article are probably more interesting than the article itself. Seen in my reading:

For most people, the name "Pavlov" rings a bell (pun intended)

One article describes a potential heroin vaccine, i.e. reducing the euphoric effect. Interesting, certainly. I wonder if it would be obtainable after the Republicans gut Obamacare?

I am visiting friends in Princeton on Tuesday, so decided, given how confusing I find Penn Station, and how long I have seen the queues, to buy the tickets on the way home. Double checking on the NJ Transit website says that 'Seniors' is 62 or over, and that a passport is valid proof. Take the A/C/E from 4th street to Penn Station, come out of the curtilage of the subway (but still underground) find an NJ Transit ticket machine, then into the 1/2/3 subway at the other side of the station. I only get lost twice. At Penn Station, uniquely, it is not a case of an 'uptown' platform, with express and local on the two sides, but rather an express platform in the middle, with uptown and downtown on the two sides, and local platforms either side. Hence you need to decide which to take before using the stairs, unlike all other stations where you can be opportunistic.

Week 19 Summary


Saturday 10 June 2017

As my photo shows, my 125th street station is elevated some 40 feet above Broadway. On the West (my) side there are up and down escalators, but on the East side merely steps. I had wondered whether this were racial discrimination, but it would have been hard to put two escalators on the East side given that 125th street crosses Broadway at an acute angle. Anyway, the down escalator is closed off: "out of service until 8 June". But today's the 10th and it's still out. This reminds me of this story, saying that the C trains are the oldest subway trains in regular service in the world. People occasionally ask me why the Tube is so much more reliable. I didn't know there was "Tube envy". This is especially odd, as the local/express system in the Manhattan core gives, as I have observed (readers will doubtless say ad nauseum), much more graceful fallback and maintenance plans, even if I don't fully understand the intricacies. Long Island Rail Road delays have hit a 10-year high.The Chicago 'L' (short for 'elevated', even though more that half the track-miles are underground - the precise opposite of the NY subway) is 125 years old this week.

On my way in today, there isn't an express at 96th street. Some people get out, and I hesitate, but decide to stay on the local. Mistake: an express overtakes at 79th street. So this train has already been through 72nd street, the next interchange point, so I stay on the local. At 50th street, I therefore get a chance to examine the mosaic opposite me: a rabbit consulting a pocket watch pulled from his waistcoat. Nice, but I've no idea why. There's also an "Alice" mosaic. Many of the other stations, I now observe, have mosaics, but mostly functional, e.g. "23rd street".

Quiet(ish) day at work, though my current office-mate is it. Three Skypes back to UK. I've discovered that the Courant lobby has much better WiFi (for Skype) than my office, so take them there. The lounge also does, but it's closed at weekends.

There are no uptown locals (if I knew that, I'd forgotten it), so over to the downtown platform to take a downtown to Chambers Street and pick up an uptown express. While there I see a notice.

The 98-year old Clark Street Tunnel, which carries 2 and 3 trains between Manhattan and Brooklyn, was heavily damaged by storm surge flooding during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Closed 23:45 Friday to 05:00 Monday until Spring 2018. Repairs/rehabilitation of track, signals, pump rooms, fire protection system, power and communication cables. Instead, the 4 and 5 are extended in Brooklyn.
Hence, I was quite lucky to get back on a 2/1 pairing last night, since, as we know, the 1 and the 4/5 do not connect well in Manhattan

Friday 9 June 2017

A notification from the WP says that Trump has tweeted "Total and complete vindication" about Comey's testimony; curious use of the word "vindication".

A colleague is retiring at the end of this month, so we'll miss each other. She very kindly writes as follows.

I have greatly appreciated that support, and your brilliant sense of humour and keen observation. You are one of the many colleagues I will miss on leaving this place.
I e-mail a Bath colleague:
JHD: Terrible election results: more people voted BNP than Monster Raving Loony. him: They're different parties? JHD: Totally - clear blue sky between them! Though when I was election agent for the Science Function Loony Party in Cambridge in 1976, it was very important that we polled more than BNP, which we did. Key platform was levelling Oxford to make room for a spaceport.
More seriously, the Washington Post reports that there are more women MPs than before: over 200.

Today I decied to attend the NYU Data Science in Medicine Workshop. Interesting and I learned a lot. But the NY subway is not only organisation to have naming problems. The Workshop is in Lipton Hall, and I checked my e-mail last night, and sent this to the organiser.

Forgive my being picky as a newcomer, but do you mean that Lipton Hall (33 Washington Square West) or the Lipton Hall in the Law School, http: which is at 40 Washington Square South?
In fact, the correct address was neight, but rather 108 West 3rd street, though I believe that's the one I referred to, and NYU was giving me the address of the Law School, rather than of Lipton Hall within it. The workshop started late as participants debugged this one!

After the Data Science Workshop, I catch up on administration (and do some printing) in the office, before heading out to Brooklyn for this Macbeth. This involved taking the southbound R, which I've not done before. Its entrance is the opposite side of the road from the Northbound, which I had worked out, but I am still surprised by the comparative invisibility of subway stations. I clearly haven't lived here long enough. I actually get a W rather than an R, which terminates at Whitehall Street (sic). But an R arrives in a couple of minutes. The subway link under the East River here is quite long. According to the map, there are four distinct subway tunnels here. I emerge at Court Street in Brooklyn as planned, but it's slightly further to the theatre than I had expected (I took the wrong exit). They aren't open yet (IIE told me 19:30 start, but it's actually 19:30 doors open) so I adjourn to Starbucks. The barista recognises my Fulbright pin, and we discuss the UK election. This seems like a very nice area of Brooklyn, probably very expensive given the short subway ride to the Wall Street area.

The programme (very helpfully) explains that the names of the witches are those of the three Greek Fates, but translated into Maori (see the plot under Thursday). Equally, the foreign interlopers are called Haole (apparently the Hawaiian for 'foreigner'). In line with this theme, the witches dance is done as a haka, which is quite impressive. However, I am somewhat puzzled by "'till Burnham Wood shall come to Cofunga". This is repeated several times, and indeed the entire performance is a Dunsinane-free zone. At the end, I ask the usher, who refers me to the director (who was just behind me), who explained "it was a town in the South Pacific that fitted the scansion" - fair enough, I suppose. After the play, I recalled that the exit I had used from Court Street was also marked 2/3, so repaired there and caught a 2. In line with my earlier musings about the commutability of this area of Brooklyn, the next stop but one on the 2 is indeed Wall Street. Here, and at Park Place, there is just one uptown track, but by Chambers Street we have the local/express trackage I have come to appreciate from the 1/2/3 line.

Thursday 8 June 2017

A sudden offer from the Institute of International Education of tickets to a performance of Macbeth in Brooklyn, more precisely First Unitarian Society, 116 Pierrepont Street between Clinton Street and Monroe Place (one could make bad jokes about this). It's not a part I've been to before, and the description is intriguing.
In the 1960’s, on a tropical island in the South Pacific, where witchcraft abounds, passions play against ambition in a deadly game for tribal control. In our mythical setting, a group of AWOL soldiers have insinuated themselves into the local populace. After a time, the natives seek to wrest back their homeland, with the aid of their spirit world. This fast-paced 90 minute (with one intermission) adaptation features a multi-cultural cast, indigenous choreography and exciting stage combat.
This evening is One-to-world's final social event of the academic year.

The event is being held in the co-working space of WiX on 23rd street, between 7th and 8th. Google recommends the C from 4th street to 23rd street. However, when I get to 4th street, "due to an incident, uptown C trains are running on the express track" (so don't stop at 23rd). However, E are using the local track, so I get there just in time. Curious incident that affects C but not E.

There's a talk about their WYSIWYG (WYSIAYG) editor. See my notes (when I post them). Then wine/juice/cheese and a further chance to catch up with this motley (in the nicest possible sense) crowd of fellow internationals. It's the social organiser's last event - she leaves tomorrow. She's French, and we've spoken French. She's doing this as "stage industriel" from her studies at Sciences Po[litiques], so, as I had warned her, I wear my Ècole Polytechnique tie (but a Cambridge tiepin!). Also a further conversation with my new Singaporean friends. My Armenian friend is trying to organise a farewell meal for us.

After I leave the after-party and just before I cross 7th avenue to get the uptown 1 subway (23rd street being one of those where uptown and downtown have different entrances) I spot a shop with a fairly prominent sign "Beach Bum Tanning" - two nations separated by a common language again!

Wednesday 7 June 2017

Telepresence at BCS Board of Trustees,starting at 11:00 = 06:00. Yesterday's late start was indeed a rare bonus. For some reason the Computing magazine has starting sending me their italian edition: I liked
La guida essenziale per prevenire e difendersi dagli attacchi ransomware

I cyber criminali sfruttano le possibilità di attacco in rapida espansione nell'odierno mondo "any-to-any".

Not an enormous need for Google Translate here!

Also some interesting news about our relatives: Homo sapiens hanging out in Morocco 300,000 years ago.

A bizarre side-effect of the Trump-lauded boycott of Qatar by its neighbours is that many more Qatar Airways flights now pass through Iranian airspace, at $2000/time. And these payments aren't affected by any sanctions. Of course, the extra distance the 'planes fly isn't good for global warming, but we know Trump doesn't care about that.

About one of the first things I bought here was an insulated portable (i.e. sippable through the lid) coffee cup, which I carried in the back pocket of my backpack. Yesterday morning I couldn't find it, and had to buy a disposable cup on the way in. It wasn't at the office either. So I had to buy another disposable at lunch. Fragile Green credentials indeed. Nor is it at home. Either I've been the victim of a pickpocket with perverse tastes (the umbrella in the same pocket wasn't taken, despite being equally useful in the current NY weather) or I lost it somehow. But wait, the Privacy Research Group presented me with one: I'd thought of it as a trophy, but maybe it's functional. Think Coffee opposite Courant don't bat an eyelid, and when I explain that it's a new design on me, the barista comments that it should keep the coffee warmer than the old one. Also I now have one fewer thing to pack. I'm beginning to think like that now.

In the evening, I have another trip to the Museum of Mathematics, this time to hear Marcus du Sautoy speak. The Museum is on 26th Street, and Google maps reckons my best way back to I-House is by subway from 28th street, but not the 28th street nearest the Museum (which is R line), but rather by walking to 7th Avenue and taking that 28th, which is on the 1 line. That wouldn't have been my immediate response faced with a subway map, as I would have gone to the nearest station, but Google has more data than I have. The 1 (local) train goes very slowly, hooting as it goes, between 66th and 72nd, which makes me think there's more engineering going on. A nice fact courtesy of the "Internet pillar" by 125th Street subway: "Under 10% of Manhattan buildings with 13 or more floors actually have one numbered 13". Too late for dinner. I stop at the local deli/convenience store for a ham/cheese hero. I manage to order it in Spanish this time.

Tuesday 6 June 2017

A nice article and quote
President Trump has excellent lawyers. They have a challenging client.
I had my own problems with the new tablet, particularly with installing the University's version of Microsoft Office. I'd reported this over the weekend. One team member checks back with me, and as he's a physicist, I wrote
As one might expect from 1,000,000 picosloths in one enterprise, a reboot seems to have cured it. [An allusion to the common "Microsloth".]
I'm intrigued by this piece of research on brain plasticity. "It's 10 a.m.: time to Skype UK", but fortunately 10 EDT and 15:00 BST for once. Quite a challenging call. Then another US call. In the last three weeks I've spent £15 on Skype credit: I hate to think what conventional calls would have cost. It's damp and fairly cold today. Being Tuesday, I have lunch with my host. He suggests Indian, and Google suggests a good one nearby. It's mild (as I had expected) but really very tasty, and good value, at least by Manhattan standards. My host comments that he prefers this weather to 90F and steamy: I tend to agree.

I'm late leaving work due to another piece of UK fire-fighting. I encounter a white American, or so it seems to me. She says that she grew up in rural Oregon, and is the daughter of a German-Irish father and a Japanese mother. "Here [New York] I am white, but back home [Oregon] I am Asian", and tells some fairly sad stories of racial abuse. Perhaps the violence in Portland is not as aberrant as I had thought.

The Washington Post (I get the e-mails, but my free subscription courtesy of Amtrak has run out) tells me that Sessions, the Attorney-General, has offered to resign, but apparently ABC carried that first. On a lighter note, the BBC reports a, fortunately harmless, piece of pilot error at Rapid City.

Monday 5 June 2017

A sad reminder that the violence in American politics is not all verbal. And apparently a majority of Americans oppose Trump's withdrawal from Paris. Many commentators are also confused about the fact that Trump can view non-binding targets as draconian. But there are many things confusing here, including a stunning ability to score own goals over the travel ban. Many Americans have commiserated with me over the recent terror attacks in London, simultaneously apologising for their president's response. There was a lovely tweet to that effect:
Donald Trump is a hard man to ignore, but so worth the effort.
And one for the euphemism dictionary: "A gunman who had been fired from an Orlando business shot and killed five former colleagues Monday and then apparently turned the gun on himself in what authorities are calling a workplace violence incident".

And one for confusing geography. Relatively near I-House there's "Manhattan Avenue" (halfway between 8th and 8th Avenues), but this is "Manhattan Avenue, Manhattan", not to be confused with "Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn", which is essentially parallel to the Manahttan Avenues, and therefore parallel with the North Brooklyn Streets and perpendicular to most of the Brooklyn Avenues.

We (Fulbright etc,) have dinner tonight in Brooklyn, actually that part known as Williamsburg. The suggested algorithm is R from 8th street to 14th street, then the L to Bedford street (no, Avenue) in Brooklyn. I get lost at 14th, not knowing the golden rule that to find the L from the R, you have to follow the 4/5/6 signs. Fortunately the man I asked knew this.

Get somewhat confused in (this part of) Brooklyn. In Manhattan, if you continue walking West on East 3rd Street, you end up on West 3rd Street, so there's really only one 3rd street (though the two halves have separate numbers). In this part of Brooklyn, North 1st Street is the street immediately North of, and parallel to, Grand Street, whereas South 1st Street is the street immediately South of, and parallel to, Grand Street. South 2nd Street is immediately South of South 1st Street and so on (except that what ought to be North 2nd Street is actually called Metropolitan Avenue). So I arrive by subway at North 7th Street, and our destination is "China Club" on Grand Street. Good enough.

The owner asserts his great-grandfather was one of the Chinese brought to India in 1900s to work on the railways, hence the cooking style is Chinese-Indian fusion (but served with chopsticks, or a fork if you want. The appetisers are communal ("family-style" in American), but the main dishes are individual: I order Manchurian garlic chicken with jasmine rice. Nice. The dessert was some kind of Indian waffle with coconut milk ice cream - nice.

At dinner I was sitting next to a man of about my own age. He said that he was from Singapore. His wife, next to him, was an English teacher "because Lee Kwan Yew was very insistent on English". I warmed to him, and said "I don't always say this, but I was at university with your current Prime Minister, his son". Ah yes, he said, he went to the school I am now Principal of [National Junior College]. It actually turns out that his wife, Tay May Yin, is Principal of the English Language Institute of Singapore, and she's actually the Fulbright Scholar. He's an "accompanying person". I tell him (one of) my accompanying person stories from ICCEES 1995 (Warsaw).

My Singaporean friends and I go back together, as they live near Columbia, i.e. 116th street on the 1 line. They intend to take the L to 14th street, then change to the 1. I do not think this is a great idea, as the L and 1 are a long way apart here - the "Monument for Bank" effect. However, instead of getting out at 14th street, they get out, before I could stop them, at 14th street. This was actually the route I had intended, as from this 14th street you can get the N/Q/R/W (the way I came)) to 42nd street. You may be thinking that the L line is pretty perverse to have two stations named 14th street, but you'd be wrong, as in fact it's very perverse and has three consecutive stations named 14th street.

Sunday 4 June 2017

1 trains still running express from 72nd street. I wasn't quite sure why, as all the engineering works are South of 42nd street, but I now see that they are also redecorating the 50th Street downtown local platform. There is quite substantial work at the points just North of 34th street, and on the 34th street local downtown platform.

I'd dedicated the day to catching up on my marking, but in fact I'd finished the queries after the updates after the queries after the marking by 14:00, so had time to work on my article about 'algorithms'. My spelling checker doesn't like 'determinative', but I resort to the OED, which does, with Hobbes as the first citation. Given that Hobbes' work heavily incluenced Jefferson, and several phrases in the Declaration of Independence are based on it, this seems appropriate for where I am now.

Week 18 Summary


Saturday 3 June 2017

Last day to book tickets on the GWR "extra savings for senior citizens" offer. Alas it only applies to advance tickets, but might still help. Or so I thought - I'm a day out the wrong way. Sigh. Nevertheless book Gatwick-Bath, and Bath-Lodon via Luton (BCS Business). The track relaying (do I really need a hyphen here: re-laying?) work on the downtown local 1, which was at 28th street last weekend, is now at 34th. It's drizzling, and I remark to a friend that the New Yorkers are very hospitable, even arranging rain in June (rare here) to make a Limey feel at home. At the "Think Coffee" opposite Courant I see an old NY Times (May 27), with a beautiful insult: "He couldn't sell vodka to the Russians". Book a ticket to hear Bath Honorary Graduate Marcus du Sautoy speak at the National Museum of Mathematics. Realise I'm booked for "an adult evening of mathematical games" there this evening.

A further sad reminder of the addiction problem.

I always knew the French railway system was Paris-Centric, but I have been almost unable to persuade it to let me travel from Lille to Nancy except via Paris Est. I say "almost" because I did find a route via Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.

I have written about the opioid epidemic in North America. A snippet in the Washington Post explains quite a lot: a team of Canadian doctors observed that a brief 1980 letter in the New England Journal of Medicine was (mis-)cited 608 times (as opposed to an average of 11 for letters of the period): for example over 80% of the citers did not note that the letter referred to patients being treated in hospital, and therefore not taking the drug at times of their own choice.

Awesome purchasing technology at the Museum of Mathematics. The sales clerk at the "Adult Games" evening has an iPad with a card (stripe) reader plugged into the headphone jack. This asks me to sign with my finger on the iPad screen. When the "mail a receipt" option comes up, it already knows my e-mail - it's the same system (Square) as Think Coffee opposite the Courant Institute (and in Ann Arbor). I really enjoyed the evening, even though I didn't play with the deeply confusing chess set. The games were mostly new to me, and quite ingenious. I bought one called "set": the cards have four attributes, each of which can have one of three values. The aim is to find three cards such that for no attribute does the cardinality of the set of values of that attribute equal 2 (alternatively, they are either all three equal or all three disjoint). I played several games with a guy who said "I used to be head of compiler design for a company before your time - Univac". It's not actually before my time, thought I don't think I actually used one, and I don't think they ever made it into British academia.

Friday 2 June 2017

A small disclaimer tells me something I didn't know: "Jeffrey P. Bezos, founder and chief executive of, owns The Washington Post".

I go to the I-House office to check a few things. To my dismay (but shouldn't be surprise, why had I expected much else) I learn that checkout on my last day is at 11 a.m., but I can leave luggage at the desk. Given the mixture of students at I-House, I oughtn't to be surprised that there's an advertisement session in the cafeteria for the India-Pakistan cricket match. Walking past the West (river) side of Riverside Church I see some (fairly low-key, possibly student) preparations for filming. On my way into town I try the local->express at 96th street trick. The express is due in three minutes, so the local leaves first, then there's an announcement that we're being held by the train despatcher, the another local comes in. Should I change back? I decide not to. Our train leaves first, and at 50th street we overtake the local, then it comes back, and we get into 42nd street at the same time. I'm going that side of Courant, so I change at 42st street to the N/R/W.

The Washington Post does us all a favour with fact-checking like this. And Trump seems to be somewhat misled on the domestic front as well. NYU (at least, Courant) is very quiet: the "forthcoming seminars" only has two seminars, and one is in August. Walking back from the B subway through Columbia University, I observe that the university has its own ambulance, which in post-exams party time (at least I assume that's the rationale) is parked on campus. As a European, I am amused that it's labelled "cava", since in a British university that would probably be the cause of many of its patients. But the word is essentially unknown here.

The television in I-House refectory is, unusually, set to Fox "News". I use inverted commas as the commentator, over pictures of the Berkeley riots, is saying "these spoiled rich kids are forcing spineless university administrators to shut down Christian small businesses". Fortunately for my blood pressure, it is then switched to CNN. It's not that good, though, as the subject is Trump/Paris Agreement. Apparently some governors (at least CA, NY and Washington) have formed a league of States determined to stick to Paris. Interestingly, CNN puts former NYC mayor Bloomberg on, who not only contradicts Trump's jobs numbers, but also says he's giving $15 million to fight climate change. It's also amusing to note, as the Guardian did, that the Paris agreement is one of the few things the Israelis and Palestinians agree on.

Thursday 1 June 2017

There are quite a lot of people moving out of I-House, mostly Masters students who have graduated. That reminds me: I have only a month to go, and my subway ticket needs renewing tomorrow for the last time. Last night at dinner there was a man around my own age I hadn't met before. Turns out he's a local resident, whose father first brought him when he was 5. He's been a member (but not a resident) of I-House for 35 years. A new aspect of the community. He tells me that in the summer I-House gets a lot of German students interning at the banks. We also had a useful discussion about CyberSecurity and viruses.

I really have to do more writing up of my work here. But there are so many interesting articles, like this one, on monkeys learning how to ransom goods. Last night's television news had quite a bit on the likelihood that Trump will walk away from the Paris Climate Agreement, but there's more bad news on the climate front: the Amazon basin's rôle isn't what we thought.

A posting on the Computing At School website by Stephen Wolfram alerted me to the opening of the new train station at Cambridge North. I doubt it'll change my life much, but it might help many people, and the decreased congestion at Cambridge might help. Google Maps already knows about it.

A very American solution to the opioid epidemic: sue the manufacturers. Don't knock it: look at tobacco.

Remembered to renew subway ticket. Painless procedure at machine, provided I remember to describe my debit card as an ATM card not a credit card.

Wednesday 31 May 2017

CNN may be no friend of Donald Trump, but even it has its limits. For sheer humour value, it's hard to beat this, especially as I've just come from an academic contest in South Dakota. What a dilemma (no, that's North Dakota). And there's also a salutary reminder, after far too much politics, that the US Supreme Court (occasionally) does something useful and non-political.

Other than the various bits of news/humour, I am fighting grant applications (3: the big one, supercomputing and Anglo-French mathematics) and papers (2: write up House of Commons evidence, and note on performance of SAT solvers), as well as trying to run my current grants. What was that about actually doing some research?

Tuesday 30 May 2017

There are new notices being electronically displayed on the local WiFi/charging points (which no longer say "beta"!). One is "since [this started] New Yorkers have used enough data to send 10,000,000,000 e-mails", and another is "... Listen to 174,000,000 songs". I am intrigued by the equation "1 song = 60 e-mails", but suspect reality is much closer to songs than e-mails. Last evening my host had pointed out some telephone boxes near Herald Square and said that these were disused, and there had been plans to convert these to Internet stations, which were abandoned after it was discovered people were using them to view pornography. Human nature!

The subway is back to normal (i.e. crowded) after the long weekend. Advertising from I-House for an FBI Diversity Agent Recruitment event. Slightly dated, as it still quotes Comey as Director. But maybe that's deliberate?

CNN tonight is really going for Trump personally, with "around the belt" statements that he put on weight on the recent overseas trip. There are a large number of commentators saying the obvious, that running USA is not like running his previous business. Talking of which, that seems to be going well: apparently the PGA Tour has finally come to a Trump-owned golf course (source: headline in Daily News, so not completely reliable).

Monday 29 May 2017

The US (or at least New York) has a precise equivalent of "Bank Holiday Weather": it's drizzling slightly as I leave I-House. But it's forecast to clear up later, which is good, as Courant's Librarian has suggested we explore for dinner tonight. On the way in, I take a closer look at the engineering works at 28th street on the local line: they are actually replacing the tracks there. For some reason I'd not seen it before, but there's a sign on a local pharmacy on my walk in from the subway: "NYU campus cash accepted here". NYU is a big part of Greenwich Village. It must be a serious holiday: the local salad shop to Courant is open, but has no salads made. I have to settle for a "ham hero",

The Washington Post has a good article pointing out that Richard Nixon actually wasn't impeached, as he resigned earlier.

I am meeting my friends, the Courant Librarian and her husband, at the Prêt-à-Manger (the advantage of having a French soft keyboard on my iPhone) at the 7th Avenue exit from Penn Station. But I get to Penn station on the 1/2/3, whereas they are coming into NY by train from NJ. I emerge onto 7th Avenue and have to ask a policeman where the station is. It's right opposite, under the awning labelled "Madison Square Gardens" - how tourist-friendly! But I make it, find the shop, buy a coffee, and work while waiting. They suggest we walk to Herald Square. I had always heard it as Harald Square, but no: like Times Square, it's named after a newspaper.

We are due to take the N (express) or W (local) to Astoria Boulevard in Queens. Being a holiday weekend, though, we actually get an N on the local track. Then there's an announcement that the train is stopping at Queensboro Plaza, with free shuttle buses to the other stations. There are indeed lots of these buses, but they aren't programmed to announce the subway stops. Fortunately I knew it was five stops to our destination - Astoria Boulevard.

A wonderful Greek fish restaurant, helped by my remembering to say "kali spera" to the waiter. There's no main course menu - just point at the fish. There's a chalkboard with the names of the starters, in Latin script, but some dishes are in transcription, such as horiatiki. Wonderful conversation as well: my host's husband is a physicist, and we exchange stories of European conferences we have been to. But I have my photographs of Transylvanian grape trampling and a Polish stork sanctuary to support my stories!

I had noticed that Astoria Boulevard was a stop on the M60 bus from Columbia to La Guardia, and so it transpired. A shuttle bus was passing, and my hosts managed to catch that, and I had a 14-minute wait for the bus back to Columbia - definitely far better than bus+N+1.

Sunday 28 May 2017

The MSc write up also requires Word, I discover, so it's into work again. When I get back to I-House, it's laundry time after the travelling. The passageway from North level B to South level C goes past a terrace. I've never seen anyone there before, but now there are two groups barbecuing. Lunch was "lamb over rice" from the only food truck outside Courant (even those guys take holidays!), so I'm short of vegetables. I'm also slightly worried that I'm not eating enough at I-House, so I also take a bowl of fruit and yoghurt with dinner.

May 2017

Week 17 Summary


More on gerrymandering, which is interesting given that there's a good mathematical technique to demonstrate it.

The Washington Post has a good article on the Montana election, where the Republican won a "special election" (bye-election in UK terms) after being charged with assaulting a Guardian reporter. It is an interesting comment on American journalism/politics interaction that the local newspapers both pulled their endorsement of the candidate, that the Fox News reported who witnessed the incident would make a good witness for the prosecution, but that the local television station did not mention the incident. So which régime was Mrs Clinton speaking about?

There's also more going on with the Trump family/Russia/election story: it truly is the case that truth is stranger than fiction.

As my father would have said, Mr Trump is too stupid to get everything wrong, and here's an Executive Order that's won some praise. However, there's a strong economic case that Trump is wrong and California is right on issues like regulation. And here's an example of what a pro-Trump state looks like, with four-day school weeks.

Of course, not everything is going well for California, as this landslide illustrates.

Waterstones (booksellers) in the UK send me an advertisement for the televison series (but presumably hoping to sell the book) of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale: their trailer reads as follows.

Beginning with a fracturing of society as we know it, The Handmaid’s Tale takes place within the newly formed Republic of Gilead, a fundamentalist, totalitarian regime driven by fanatical Christian extremism. Freedom is a thing of the past, civil liberty is limited and women have no rights at all: forbidden to read, forbidden to choose, forced into slavery and used as reproductive vessels for the state.

And back to UK politics: a national forum on "The future for Careers Policy in Rngland" has three speakers, DfE (subject to Department Commitments), the Careers and Enterprise Company, and the CEO of Pimlico Plumbers. What was that about policy being too London-focused?


There's a good article about the light/shadow side of Manhattan.

Also an article about the University of California: claims of overpaid university executives and vast reserves strike a chord!

Faculty leaders say cynicism has crept into their ranks for years, a result of painful funding cuts by the state, profligate management salaties, and a sense that their voices are being increasingly sidelined in university governance.
Of course, some people would be proud that their university is emulating the University of California.

But it's always nice to see a new henge being discovered.

If you're interested in the "should train companies own the tracks" debate, here's a view of what happens when they do.

There's an interesting report on EU funding, though cynics would say that it is characteristic that it needs a two-page list of acronyms. I noted that the EU puts twice as much into university research as UK industry. One might have expected computing, where there are large dedicated IT programmes, to be the winner, but in fact both archaeology and classics beat it in terms of percentage of research income from the EU. In absolute amounts, computing was fifth.

Saturday 27 May 2017

The last Monday in May is Memorial Day, which conveniently coincides with our Bank Holiday back home. Many people make a long weekend of it, and New York (I have no statistics, so I should say "the 1/2/3 line and West Village", rather than generalise spuriously) was definitely less crowded on the preceding Friday.

On Saturday, "downtown 1 and 2 trains are running on the express track from 72nd street to Chambers Street". Fortunately I want 14th street which is an express stop. Else I would have to go beyond and double back on the uptown local - tedious, but much less so than the equivalent in a system without express/local tracks. The conductor reminds us of the doubling back procedure. Indeed, there are several workers on the local track at 28th street. It's hard to see exactly what's being done, though. There are notices saying that this is the period when the MTA remove rubbish from the tracks, but I think more that that is being done. I observe that Washington Square is alive with people, and buskers, including a brass quartet.

Though I have all the word-processing tools a mathematician needs on my new machine (since they're free) I don't have Micro$oft Word. One of my tasks is filling in a complex Word document to apply for funding to build a community of users and staff (probably in the other order) around our £3million regional supercomputer. I don't trust Google documents with a form like this, so have to use the old computer, which is happily plugged in at work. On the way uptown, by way of complementing the express-only downtown, the 1/2/3 are running local-only. Though this slows me down, I admire the anti-symmetry. I have an invitation to help the Georgia Research Foundation with assessing research grants. That's Georgia ex-USSR of course, not Georgia USA.

Friday 26 May 2017

One of my local coffee shops has an ingenious mechanism known as JavaBot (I believe named after the coffee-growing island, though for all I know the software controlling it may well be programmed in Java) whereby the beans are roasted "just in time" (see here) and delivered to the grinders and coffee makers by a system of vacuum tubes. I decide that this is worth recording, and have taken this picture.

I had made several attempts to restart my laptop, with no success. I took it to the systems team member on duty at Courant. I swear he did exactly what I did, but it worked for him! So I left it running in his office, and went and bought an external drive from the NYU store. The backup process claimed to be 99% complete for half an hour when the brilliant supporter needed to leave, and unplugging the computer from the mains interrupted the backup. Took the laptop (still running) to my office and restarted the backup (it was clearly doing top-level directories in ASCII order). Then went out to buy lunch, and met the Courant librarian doing the same. We agreed to have lunch on the terrace outside Courant, as it was sunny. By the time we got there, cloud had covered the sun, but we ate anyway, and I talked through my equipment issues (among other things) with her. Checked on the backup, and went back to the NYU store in search of a laptop. They only had heavy (4lbs - a few years ago I would have regarded that as incredibly light!) disc drive ones. So I opted for the Microsoft surface, and spent much of the afternoon installing software on it. No serious maths software, just Google Chrome, LaTeX, and editing/communication utilities. In some sense a wasted day, but it could have been far worse.

JavaBot Coffee Delivery

The last Monday in May is Memorial Day, which conveniently coincides with our Bank Holiday back home. Many people make a long weekend of it, and New York (I have no statistics, so I should say "the 1/2/3 line and West Village", rather than generalise spuriously) was definitely less crowded than on the preceding Friday.

Thursday 25 May 2017

Today is the departure day for ICPC, and should be relaxed, except that I have another call back to UK, and Rapid City is seven hours different. I offered my interlocutor noon UK = 5a.m. for me, saying "anything earlier would be heroic". Fortunately (for me) he has exam invigilation, and went for 06:00. Just as well, as I was shattered after the long day (05:00-22:00) and 4 hours of walking printouts and balloons round the arena. I am not as fit as even my undeluded moments think. Exciting developments back home.

Then to breakfast, which we have buffet-style in a separate room. Pass the main dining room, which advertises

I tweet this, as "weird menu we have seen", and get a like from a former research student, now based in San Francisco. If he liked it, it must be really weird!

At breakfast, this motley, but very friendly, international bunch who assemble every year say "goodbye, see you next year in Beijing". Fortunately I'll still be in post for Beijing: North West Europe ( which I represent here) rotates around the countries, while many other regions have a permanent base and representatives. There is a computer room at the hotel where I could print out the boarding passes I had downloaded during my lunch break yesterday. Then time for a swim and some more e-mail before the 09:20 (how civilised!) bus to the airport. I pay a bit more attention to the scenery. Relatively English: small fields (by American standards - East Anglian by UK standards), streams and the odd clump of trees. The coffee shop attendant at Rapid City airport asked where I was from in England, then explained that he'd spent his high school years in Upper Heyford when his father had been posted there: he had really enjoyed it! I can believe that, from what I saw of the USAF bases in East Anglia. One of our Scandinavian colleague is flying Rapid City-Denver-Frankfurt-Stockholm, which looks to me like three sides of a square.

Coming in to Denver airport I see a stereotypical American countryside: enormous fields with no landmarks at all. Plenty of crop circles, though.

The bus drops me at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, which is notionally on the 1, but in practice there's a substantial walk underground.

So what do I make of Rapid City, and South Dakota in general? South Dakota is 60% of the size of England, with 1.5% of the population (roughly that of greater Liverpool). Hence the overwhelming impression is spaciousness. Rapid City is 30% larger that Bristol in terms of area, but has 3/4 of the population of Bath. I certainly detected none of the xenophobia one might have expected, but I get the impression that quite a lot of the Trump-feeding xenophobia is abstract rather than personal. The hotel did its best with the range of customers, with the breakfast buffet alternating between

(served in different dishes). Personally I preferred the second - while turkey ham works fine for me, somehow turkey bacon doesn't: the differences in the anatomy, and the distribution of fat, really show up. Oh well. Ditto the buffet meal at Crazy Horse. There were buffalo sausages (?are these OK for Hindus) but this was explained to us. Of course, Rapid City, despite appearances, is a tourist destination, with apparently three million visitors a year. I am flying back into Newark from Denver, a detail I had forgotten. I am sitting near the St Petersburg ITMO team, who occasion some comment by storing the ICPC trophy in the overhead locker. It's a completely unremarkable flight, which I spend (as indeed I spent the previous one) marking MSc projects. A convenient feature is that the "Bath thesis" LaTeX style, which a former research student started many years ago, and which I worked hard to make official, downloads reasonably well onto a Kindle, so I read on that and enter comments into my iPhone, easier than trying to wield a laptop in economy class. Maybe I need to investigate a tablet? I had surrendered my suit carrier at the gate to be checked in, but that meant baggage reclaim, rather than jetway collection, which costs me 20 minutes. Next time I might (actually I doubt it) be more selfish. Possibly a mistake, but I take the bus from Newark airport to Manhattan. Late at night it takes 30 minutes, which is probably faster than the train+train alternative, but not by much.

Back in New York, the subway feels almost like home. I give a family of tourists directions (Wow - am I a local?) to the subway from the PABT - they want the A/C, which really do stop there. It's also raining. I wonder what the relative rainfall figures actually are. I remember a London Tourist Board advertisement: "less rain than Rome", which is actually true in terms of mm/year, just not in terms of wet days.

Oh dear: get in and discover laptop is dead - recognises that it is plugged in, but that's all. Furthermore I rely on the USB on the laptop to charge the iPhone - that at least should be easily soluble. At least that gives me a foolproof excuse for missing the 10 a.m.=5 teleconference in the UK: I can spend the time sorting out the laptop.

Wednesday 24 May 2017

Contest Day starts like the dress rehearsal: breakfast at 05:00, go to the contest hall and set up, including distributing 400 packed lunches, but each contestant had pre-made a choice of beef/ham/turkey/vegetarian - I tweeted this as "the feeding of the 400". Then I was on sentry duty until H hour, then a runner, distributing balloons and printouts to numbered tables. The print manager and I worked together last year, and banter over the table numbers, so that a delivery to table 64 becomes "four cubed" (to which I reply "I make it eight squared"). At one point he said "zero one three", so I gave it to table 11. Next time I came back, he asked rather anxiously "You did get the octal?". Sentry duty for the last half hour, then while the contestants get the answers, the runners do the tear-down.

After the contest, while the contestants relax and hear the answers and the results, we runners tear down the contest infrastructure, packing up 134 PCs etcetera. Also pretty tiring. Then onto buses (coaches in UK-speak) and into the Black Hills National Park. The "Black" is not so much the colour of the rock (which is a yellowish granite) as that they are covered in conifers. Apparently it used to be mostly spruce, but now is mostly pine. This is quite a tourist area, and we pass a Railroad Museum, with steam engine and an 1880 coach.

Our destination is the Crazy Horse Memorial, a sort of riposte to Mount Rushmore. It's pretty incomplete (just his head and the outline of his outstretched arm), but then the original design for Mount Rushmore was busts, and all we have are heads. The sculptor, Ziolkowski, had worked with Borglum on Rushmore. There are clearly strong ties here, as some bronze pieces are joint work of Monique Ziolkowski and James Borglum. There's quite a nice museum here too, partly about the local Native Americans and partly about the sculpting process (largely dynamite) and the sculptor. There are no images of Crazy Horse, but the sculptor was able to meet old natives who had known him. The sculptor also carved an image of Wild Bill Hickok out of a 3 ton chunk blasted from Crazy Horse, and gave it to Deadwood. All in all, quite interesting. Were I musical, I would also have been interested in the native flute playing. I learn that the then Governor designated 1990, the centenary of the Wounded Knee massacre, as the "Year of Reconciliation".

There are quite a number of pawn shops in Rapid City, including the "Fair Deal Pawn and Gun". Also several casinos.

I get back to the hotel, utterly shattered, at 21:50. There's an e-mail from IHouse, with a Coastal Flood Advisory for New York City: tides 1-2 feet above normal.

Tuesday 23 May 2017

ICPC World Finals Dress Rehearsal this morning. Breakfast at 05:00 for an 06:15 bus taking officials (I am a mere 'runner') to the contest site. Over by lunchtime.

I was very nearly guilty of "contempt prior to investigation", but decided I ought to visit the town museum. I am very glad I did: a lot about the geology, the Indian peoples, and the history of their interactions with the USA. Of course, the Indian peoples were not static before the white men came, and the Lakota are relative newcomers to the area. Apparently the Lakota Indians used the rough side of a buffalo's tongue as a comb! There is a surprising amount of American history here.

I learn from the museum that there had been a massive flood in Rapid City in 1972, when the eponymous river Rapid had a massive storm in its headwaters. Drowned 268 people, and the modern Rapid City has a large memorial park, rather than rebuilt housing, on what turned out to be the floodplain. I am reminded of Spring 2009 in Canada. Apparently the North Dakotans had been laughing at the Manitobans for spending all that money on flood defences, while the Manitobans had been laughing at the North Dakotans for not spending such money. The Manitobans had the last laugh.

I finish the museum and get back to the Civic Center at 14:50. There's meant to be a bus to take us back toO the hotel at 15:00: I am 12th in line, and there's a couple behind me who are mobility-challenged (also gravity-challenged). So I decide to walk at 15:10. Sod's law says that, at the last point at which I can see the waiting queue, I see a bus pull up. But no, I'm saved: it's the hotel shuttle bus, which holds 11, so I wouldn't have fitted anyway.

I passed Oglala Lakota College. There was a list of tutors on the door: I particularly liked the fact that the Maths tutor was called "Boyd Looks Twice". There was a sign by the shopping mall saying "space available" - pretty redundant in South Dakota it would seem.

I get to the hotel at 16:00 (just in time to see the hotel shuttle bus arrive - presumbaly on a second trip), and my room at 16:05 (it's a big hotel - several hundred rooms, but as it's only two stories, very spread out: I estimate at least two hectares). Time for a swim!

Monday 22 May 2017

Fun and games at US colleges. In fact much of the discussion at the Annapolis dinner was about the cost of college, and how this has been inflating at 15%, when certainly faculty salaries have not. Seemed awfully familiar.

Advertisement for a dentist, whose address is "5615 Nugget Gulch Drive" - does that describe his bank balance?

The South Dakota licence plate slogan is "Great Faces Great Places", an assusion to (and image of) Mount Rushmore - see later.

After a day and a half of briefings and discussions, we are off for a quarter-day excursion to Mount Rushmore. The weather is really trying to make a Brit feel at home: 10C and raining at the end of May. The terrain just outside Rapid City reminds me painfully of Salisbury Plain, and the driving horizontal rain only adds to the similarity. As we head into the Black Hills (no, not Montenegro, nor the Black Mountains), the scenery imperceptibly morphs into the Brecon Beacons, and the rain continues to add verisimilitude.

Mount Rushmore is pretty impressive. The heads are 60 feet high (twice the Sphinx) and apparently 90% done with dynamite, with only the last three inches carved. Hence the injunction "Blast our Presidents". I hadn't realised that the Mount Rushmore carvings were essentially private enterprise: notably the sculptor Gutzon Borglum.

There are still piles of snow in corners. Also a lovely placard extolling the dietary virtues of bison meat. I succumbed to the ice cream ostensibly made according to Jefferson's 1780 recipe: "2 bottles of good cream, yolks of six eggs, sugar" - not very quantitative.

The opening ceremony is in the Rapid City Civic Center, which is an enormous building for the size of Rapid City: the main theatre probably seats 1500. The ceremony begins with the US National Anthem "Oh say can you see, by the rockets' dim glare ...", which reminds that I once served with O The Rocket Troop, Royal Artillery, whose predecessors fired the Congreve rockets at the siege of Baltimore in 1814, to which those lines refer.

Mayor: "I am not responsible for the weather: that is still controlled by the former mayor, but I am responsible for the hospitality". It appears that the Civic Center actually serves a radius of about 250 miles. This also probably explains the size of the airport. However, the Governor could not make it, due to tornados in the eastern part of the state. The local arrangements team got a special award, not least because their heroic efforts on visas: of 140 issues, over 100 were resolved successfully.

There's a neutrino experiment being run between Fermilab in Chicago and the Sanford lab in a disused gold mine in South Dakota near here. Odd to think that I took a two-hour flight along "modulo the Great Circle effect" a physics laboratory.

Sunday 21 May 2017

An interesting time at the World Finals, as our leaders brief the Regional Contest Directors. I sometimes think my job, with 11+ countries (the + is the Faroe Islands) and four time zones is hard, but I should think of Africa. The various European regions will come together this afternoon to discuss the future, and in tribute to this I am wearing my Transylvanian tie. However, I am clearly doing too good a job at pan-Europeanism, as the SuperDirector for Europe asks me "how do you like your new President" (meaning Macron).

Week 16 Summary


If one wanted more anti-Trump from the Washington Post, it's here and here.

On the other side of the house (lower case, I think, is appropriate), this would be just another sex scandal, were it not for this paragraph.

He was ultimately the owner of a computer, seized by the FBI for sexting, that ended up playing a massive role in the 2016 presidential election. He was the husband of one of Hillary Clinton's trusted aides, now he's her ex-husband.
Elsewhere (yes, it exists), there's controversy over removl of Confederacy symbols in New Orleans and elsewhere. I like the quote "Heritage is selective recall".


Its really nice to know that major archaeological discoveries are stil being made. Conversely, this might be one of the most bizarre, but ultimately informative, experiments I've read about.

Saturday 20 May 2017

The phrase "adult games" is often a euphemism, but in "an adult evening of mathematical games" (which I have just signed up for at the Museum of Mathematics) I expect it has just its straight meaning. Here's some news for fans of hot peppers.

I leave I-House at 04:30 to catch the bus to La Guardia. There's more filming going on in the same location. The bus is somewhat disrupted by a man preaching, loosely on Genesis 11, but in practice a rant against same sex marriage. He is also very much against the "false god of global dang, what's it called". His involuntary audience don't enlighten him. I am flying out of La Guardia to Chicago with United (fortunately I am not an Asian-looking medical doctor) and my pre-printed boarding pass says "gate C7". Hence I get off the bus at Terminal C. The gates are marked Delta, so I ask, and they say "you're United, that's Terminal B". I say "but it says gate C7", and we're engaging in a dialogue of the deaf until one of the Delta staff interjects "yeah, United call their gates in Terminal B as A and C gates". Aha! Terminal B was the one my bus stopped at before C, and I need to get a bus from C to B. While on it, I scan the boarding pass for any indication that the flight is from Terminal B, and finally find it under 'car parking', which of course I had skipped. Anyway, all's well that ends well. I had signed the waiver to give up my place if needed (better that than be dragged off bloodied) but in fact it wasn't. Also, although I'd purchased a flight with no checked luggage, they insisted (politely) in checking my suit carrier through to Rapid City.

The flight to O'Hare is uneventful. O'Hare does have free (30 minute limit) wiFi, so I catch up on e-mail. The Battery is talking about a trip to Ypres at the end of September for the centenary of the third battle of Paschendale, in which it fought. My vacation message is

JHD is attending ACM ICPC World Finals in Rapid City, South Dakota, but cannot guarantee that his response to e-mails will be toponymic,
and a colleague congratulates me on the "return to form".

I didn't have an assigned seat on the flight to Rapid City, but the gate attendant gives me 8C. The aeroplane is a Canadair RJ700, with A/B port and C/D starboard of the aisle. I need to look twice to determine which is 8, as the labels are poorly aligned with the rows. 8D is already occupied. Then there's an issue as the real 8D arrives, and the person in the seat I had determined to be 8D actually should be in 7D. We're all correctly seated when the same scenario plays out with respect to 8A. The small cartons of "half and half" (how come in America it's a version of milk, but in the UK it's a, largely obsolete, beer option, as in the old Punch cartoon which I sometimes quote as an example of the need for context in natural language parsing - man walks into a pub and orders "a half, and a half, and a half and half, and a half of half and half") are branded 'Carnation', but the fine print says "distributed by Nestlé Professional Beverages" - what are amateur beverages?

Rapid City is not populous (according to the 'welcome to' sign 67,556), but spread out compared with Bath. The bus that collected us from the airport passes a brontosaurus on a hilltop, then goes round various hotels, so we see a bit of the city. There is a freight railway running through it, but I was unable to inspect the tracks for signs of recent use. Various shops, including one whose sign advertises "Buffalo skulls" - a new one on me. I am sitting next to a colleague from Waterloo, and we have a fantastic discussion on teaching programming. We actually pass Waterloo Street and Maple Street, making him feel at home, and New York Avenue for me. For all of us, there is the street named "Disk Drive" - I joke that it is to be renamed "Flash Drive", which goes down very well with a busload of fellow-geeks. Our hotel is on North Lacrosse Street.

The ICPC host says "it's a large hotel, but they built out rather than up", and so it proved: the check-in clerk asked, slightly incredulously, "are you walking to your hotel room?", though in fact it's not that far. By now it's 11 hours since breakfast, mitigated by two cups of airline coffee and one of airport coffee. The choice opposite the hotel (once I had braved crossing the six-lane highway with no traffic lights) is Dunkin' Donuts, Burger King and others I've never heard of but don't look any better. In Burger King I order "whopper and fries", to be greeted with the question "is that a meal?". Though this sounds like a fascinating invitation to gastronomic philosophy, I somehow intuit that that's not what's happening, and request an elucidation. It turns out to mean "do you want a drink with that" - varieties of English! In a fit of mock-sophistication, the address on the receipt is printed "La Crosse Street".

Friday 19 May 2017

Up early again, just to re-establish routine. Not quite as obvious as last week, but the subway is slightly less crowded. The weather is also much hotter. It had been 28C in Annapolis, but was much warmer than the previous week in NY as well.

Take the 1 to 96 street, change to the express, and see the 1 depart. Then there's announcement on the express that the previous train had had the emergency brake applied. Another local arrives, so we all pile into that. It takes off, but crawls down to the stopped express train, then stops opposite it. I conjecture a brief chat between drivers, then we move on.

Checking in for flight to Rapid City (SD) tomorrow. I am going via Chicago, and am (still) slightly surprised how big the USA is - the second leg is as long (time-wise, at least) as the first. After a day in the office (modulo a couple of excursions for coffee: less than four hours sleep is not good news), mostly hacking UK business alas, I head to the Simons Foundation for another one of their public lectures: their address is 160 Fifth Avenue, but the door is in 21st street. Take the R to 23rd Street. Excellent, though as usual I didn't follow all the details. Then home, taking the 1 from 23rd street, but, such is the naming convention, not the same station that the R deposited me at. However, at 103rd street, they announce "next stop 137th street", so I and many others get off and wait for the next 1 train, which we board. This too suddenly has the announcement "next stop 137th street", so I and many others get off and wait for the next 1 train, which we board, and get to our destinations.

Thursday 18 May 2017

After a very nice night at my friends' house, breakfast and their ferrying the kids to schools, he and I head into work at the US Naval Academy (Annapolis). My knowledge of this is largely from the book Patriot Games, so it was interesting to see it in reality. Fun and games getting me connected to the USNA guest network, but worked quickly. Useful discussion with my host's star midshipman, as students at USNA are clearly called. Quite interesting walking round a place like this: old reflexes are fully engaged, but we didn't seem to see anyone outranking me.

Annapolis town centre, where we go for lunch, is truly beautiful. There are quite a few Georgian houses, but not as Bath knows them. Rather, these are detached brick houses, modelled more on a country house. Main part, two quite substantial wings, and connecting corridor+ parts. The whole is apparently known as "5 part house" pattern. Indeed, the White House in Washington is much the same design only larger. Similarly, the DC Capitol is very like the Maryland State House, which is in Annapolis, the state capital.

My hosts arrange a supper with some guests including another USNA professor, their children, and the other USNA professor's son. The professor's wife is away: the professor explains, but I mishear and think she is at Peano Camp, which strikes me as a wonderful way to learn logic. But in fact she's at Piano camp, which is doubtless a wonderful way to learn music. After the very nice supper, my host drives me back to New Carrollton station. British Rail should be envious. The 19:56 local train from Baltimore is boarding at 20:50, and the 20:16 in the other direction is on 'Lastcall' at 20:51. Since it's an 11-minute journey from Washington, that means the train has a 300% delay. I should be grateful that my train, coming from Savannah, is only 30 minutes delayed, as it's a 12-hour journey, so 300% delay would mean Saturday morning. On the platform, which is elevated, there's a good view of what looks like pretty spectacular thunderstorm. I can't hear the thunder, but the lightning looks impressive. On board the train, I look at the in-train magazine. There's a map of the Amtrak network, from which I see that Souh Dakota (where I am heading on Saturday) is the only one of the 48 states with no Amtrak presence at all. The train is consistent, arriving half an hour late at NYC, i.e. 00:30. From Penn Station, I need the 1 to 125th street. Normally the 1/2/3 lines are marked with the appropriate digit in a red circle (whereas, for example, A/C/E are light blue, and so on), and one gets used to following the colour code (as one would black for the Northern line, the Underground line that goes furthest South!). However, at one point in the rabbit warren that is Penn Station, the red circles give up, and one has to read the mosaic on the walls that says "Seventh Avenue Subway", which is what the line that is now 1/2/3 used to be called. Know your subway history! The subway is still running, of course, but rather less frequently than I am used to. Also rather slower. Hence home at 01:30.

Although I-House's postal address is 500 Riverside Drive, and that's where the grand entrance is, the working entrance is (as I discovered on the first night) on the parallel Claremont Avenue. La Salle (which is logically 125th street) climbs up from Broadway (where 125th street subway is) to Claremont, where it ends, and I turn left for I-House. When I get there at 01:25, there's an NYPD car blocking La Salle (for cars, not pedestrians) and several trucks parked in La Salle, and a great deal of activity in the right-hand branch of Claremont. I ask what is going on, and the answer is "making a film for Netflix". I turn left into Claremont, and this is also blocked for traffic, but this time by a Columbia University police car. Curious synergy.

Wednesday 17 May 2017

I liked the hunt for Caligula's orgy ships. A former colleague, now at another UK university, writes
I have a question about French Bureaucracy and I could think of no one better to ask.
I suppose better famous for something than nothing. The question was about RIB.

Definitely in the land of peanut butter and jelly: those are the only spreads available for the bagels at breakfast at my new hotel in Washington itself.

Today's 'state of the Internet' report mentions "malware that compromises Internet-enabled toasters to mine Bitcoins" - I can't envisage a use for an Internet-enabled toaster myself. The attack is discussed in more detail here. I am also really glad that I don't program in CSS. The fact that the author spells his name with a macron over the a makes me wonder whether this is a tribute to the French president.

Spend the morning catching up with a whole bunch of e-mails from the UK. It really feels as if I'm not away at times. Then take the metro to the train to New Carrolton. The Metro is confusing, as I bought a card for $10 (actually with $8 value because the card costs $2), and the first trip was $3.70, and the second one was shorter, and the card shows $1.35. It won't let me in, saying 'top up card'. I add $2, but it stil won't let me in, saying the same, and that my card only has $0.65 on it. Aha - it must have been -$1.35 before, and the second fare must have been more than I thought as it wasn't Sunday. Add a further $3, and then I am let in. Then the train, which takes some time to find. It's actually an 11-minute ride. My friend meets me, and we have an enjoyable afternoon working, and evening with the family. Then they go to bed, and I try to resolve a lingering problem: turns out that the version of (the software) bison on the University of Bath's 2017 Linux service is the 2013 version not the 2015 version, and misplaces some comment lines. At least I haven't lost all my debugging skills.

The state of politics gets even more confusing. I just saw "Deputy attorney general appoints special counsel to oversee probe of Russian interference in election".

A warning to caffeine addicts. Apparently this is quoting a recommended limit of 400mg/day of caffeine, which reminds me of an excellent paper on the variability of caffeine content/expresso, ranging from 52mg at Starbucks, via 170 at Costa Coffee to 322 at a local (to Glasgow) independent.

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Another telco in the early morning, which means I don't get a chance to use the swimming pool at all: sigh. The 30 minute walk from the hotel to the conference centre (no other pedestrians today) is very pleasant. Tree-shaded sidewalks etc. it takes me past "Adventist Medical Center" - a curious combination.

Looking at the coffee service at the conference centre, I see they have small portions of "half and half", but also CoffeeMate dispensers in two flavours: French Vanilla and Hazelnut. I don't think I've ever encountered flavoured CoffeeMate before.

After the meeting (the last session was some rather tedious wordsmithing on the communiqué) a colleague drops three of us at the Metro. Thence to the hotel I had booked for the night in DC itself. Marginally cheaper (no swimming pool) but more central for transport. A friend in NY had warned me that the DC metro is more spread out than the NY subway, and so it seems. The hotel is 15 minutes walk from one Metro station, and 20 minutes from an adjacent one. I am extremely tired,and an early night is called for. No early morning telcos, either!

Monday 15 May 2017

A colleague writes "I must say, I’m a little disappointed with your less humorous than usual auto-reply James!" (the reply was "Professor Davenport is travelling in the USA, and attention to e-mail will be more sporadic than usual."). Alas, I have had complaints about the frequency and frivolity of my replies, generally from Northern Europe. I have probably over-reacted. My colleague writes "I would be happy to champion the counter-campaign!".

My original plans had been to swim before breakfast, as the hotel has a pool, but a friend reminds me that we are Coxing and Boxing on a meeting in London starting at 11:00 (06:00 DC time). Bother! But the meeting is worth going to (virtually).

More news on the airline passenger front. Also Reuters reports a Supreme Court decision not to rehear a case (on voter registration) on which the 8-justice court was tied. The Court of Appeals decision (which therefore stands) found the following.

the North Carolina law's provisions "target African-Americans with almost surgical precision" and "impose cures for problems that did not exist," concluding that the Republican-led legislature enacted the measure "with discriminatory intent."
However, the Washing Post says
If you’re a Republican legislature, the message is clear: When you’re looking to keep African-Americans from the polls, just don’t be so obvious about it, and the Supreme Court will probably uphold your restrictions.
An amusing (for those not involved) case is the Texas one, allowing hunting licences as IDs, but not state-run college identity cards.

My hotel is on Shady Grove Road, which I had not expected (silly preconceptions) to be a six-lane divided highway, complete with that very American concept the drive-thru ATM. It's a 20-minute walk to the conference centre. Despite Google's warning, there are sidewalks, and (some) traffic lights. The drivers are polite, but I suspect this is out of astonishment at seeing a pedestrian. In the trip I see one other. The Conference centre is on Great Seneca Boulevard. I wonder what Roman stoic philisophers have to do with the DC area, though possibly advisors to emperors who are forced to resign (at least Comey wasn't forced to commit suicide) are relevant after all. A little more research shows that 'Seneca' is also one of the five tribes of the Iroquois. But again not in this area, as far as I can tell. Wikipedia>/a> claims they are indigenous to New York.

It never occurred to me to wonder how to measure biomass, but apparently the unit is kg/km^2: the article is worth reading anyway.

The difficulties of natural language came up at the conference: one cooks iwth "chicken stock", but speculates with "Apple stock". Then you have to ask which bears prefer.

Sunday 14 May 2017

I am off to Washington (DC) this morning. There's a conference at NIST (technically speaking, Maryland rather than DC) that I normally dial into but have never attended, so this seems like a good chance to do the human side. Also, a friend at Annapolis has asked me to visit and the coincidence seems too good to miss.

Have to allow for the fact that the 1 line is distinctly less frequent on Sundays, and it's not clear that the local-express game is worth it. Definitely not: at 96th street it is saying 10 minutes to the next express. There's an advertisement for a film called "Building the Wall": given recent politics it might be interesting. Apparently the people living right on the border in Texas don't want the wall ("take away my land", "ruin my view" etc.) and have promised a long fight over compulsory purchase. They want more technology (drones etc.) and I can see their point. This clearly won't be over quickly.

Very curious behaviour at Penn Station on a Sunday morning: 7 westbound departures in 30 minutes, then nothing for 30 minutes, then 7 more departures, then another gap. My train is the first out after the gap, which might be good news.

I had forgotten, though, how pathetic Penn Station is. Passengers are held upstairs, and then have to queue to go down a single escalator to the platform, even though there are two. You have to book for a specific train, and are allocated "a reserved seat", but in fact it's merely a seat, and there are no allocations, and hence the coaches near the escalator fill up first. Sort of "RyanAir meets Network SouthEast". Anyway, I get on and find a seat.

Once out of the NY/NJ metropolis, parts of the track are good and we do over 100mph. I am impressed by the railway bridges crossing the Susquehanna river, and what look on the map like quite small branches of Chesapeake Bay, but on the ground look like the Firth of Forth in terms of span.

Get into Union Station, apparently the largest railway station in the world when it was built in 1907, about 5 minutes late. Next door is what used to the Post Office, an equally monomental building, but now the Post Museun.

Observe, for the first time, some DC number plates. Whereas NH, for example, is "Live Free or Die", DC's is "Taxation without Representation": very ironic. Perhaps they need a Potomac Tea Party! Also see the US Government Printing Office. In the days when you needed a bookcase of manuals to operate an IBM mainframe, the joke was that USGPO was the world's second biggest printer after IBM. I suspect it's now the biggest. I am well aware of the Balkanisation of US law enforcement, but I was surprised to see that USGPO has its own police force.

Take a small walk to and round the Capitol. Having used Library of Congress cataloging, I actually photograph it. But there's a lot to DC, so I take the open-top bus tour. Actually a really good way to see the city. Then by metro to my hotel. I estimate I need a $10 metro card, but have a $20 note. Pay with that and get ten $1 coins. I'd only ever had one in change before, and that was in Boston.

Week 15 Summary


Just when I thought it couldn't get any more bizarre, Trump claims to have invented the phrase "priming the pump". The Economist has a good analysis on the naivety of Trump's economic policy. There's also an analysis of the explanations being proffered for the firing of FBI Director Comey. The story about the firing of the Director of the FBI looks like it's going to run and run. I particularly liked Trump's threat to cancel White House press briefings over the fact that his staff gave inconsistent reasons. The real problem is not that they were inconsistent with each other (which they were), but that they were inconsistent with what he subsequently said. Does no-one at the White House know how to organise a sacking?

Apparently even Fox News, normally pro-Trump, can't get anyone to explain Comey's firing - "MIA" is American military, but in very common use after Vietman, shorthand/slang for "Missing in Action". Given his Watergate past, it's worth seeing Carl Bernstein's views on Trump/Comey.

More on refugees fleeing to Canada - an old article, but I've only just found it, via this article on the taxi driver doing the driving to the border being done for over-charging.

And alas, the racist alt-right is alive and kicking. I heard an interesting story about Arlington, the US Natonal Military Cemetery. It belonged to Robert E.~Lee, and, after he went to join the Confederates, the Unionists (immediately according to the tour guide, a few years later according to Wikipedia) started using it as a burial ground to score a political point.


There's more on fraternity hazing, including the comment "That would not have happened in an on-campus dorm", which makes me worry about Bath's scaling back of in-dorm resident tutors.

An interesting experiment is reported in Cambridge (Mass.) about drug overdose first aid.

Though it's nothing to do with me or my research, I was pleased to read about the prompt action by a fellow-Briton that temporarily slowed the latest malware attack.

Saturday 13 May 2017

Today is a Fulbright-organised boat trip on the Hudson. The area where we are meeting the bus for our Hudson boat trip is clearly "Mixed Ethnic land": "Turkish Mediterranean Cuisine" is across the street from "ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΟΝ International Gourmet Products". We are meeting outside the Yotel, but I am disappointed to see that a 'Yotel' is not to a 'yacht' as a 'Botel' (pictured, from Amsterdam; my room was the 'O') is to a 'boat'.

The boat trip is from Beacon NY. We actually take the Lincoln Tunnel under the Hudson, go up the West Bank in New Jersey then New York, and cross back to the East Bank at Beacon. A sign announces "First settled 1708". The boat trip itself is on a Hudson Sloop, a variant of the Dutch design for the deep water of the Hudson. In fact the boat is a replica, built in 1969 - apparently using old paintings as templates. It is named the Clearwater, and was part of the campaign that led to the passage of the Clear Water Act, essentially against river pollution. I remember, working at IBM not far from here ten years later, the echoes of those battles, and side law suits. There are serious consequences to this day. There's a chart saying that Upper Hudson fish are totally off the table, but adult men, and women over 50, are allowed one fish meal a month from the Lower and Middle Hudson. Ever the professor, I could not resist expounding the potamology of the Husdon, chart in hand. The photograph is courtesy of my good friend Nver (photograph taken later in the art gallery: the table of cakes over my left shoulder is, alas, merely art.

Fulbright's agents, the wonderful One-To-World, have produced a set of photographs of the day, with a disproportionate number of JHD's in it.

After the boat trip, lunch, and visit to the Hudson Valley Center for Creative Arts (one of the pieces was so minimalist, just pieces of string in space, that one of us nearly walked through it), it was time to get the subway home. There's an engineering train parked on the uptown local at 14th street. The train on the express platform is a 1, but I take a gamble and let that go in the hope that the express 3 due next will overtake it and the train ahead. We shall see. In fact my 3 pulls into 96th street (last chance to change to 1) just before a 1 train. It's actually the 1 I had let depart from 14th street (subway carriages have prominent numbers), so while I didn't lose, it was a close thing. This experiment makes me think the express/local game is really only worth playing on weekdays.


Friday 12 May 2017

Another 05:00(=10:00 UK) call. Back on the 125th street elevated subway station by 07:00: a few minutes later than usual. Bright sunlight and I need to have my back to the sun to see the iPhone screen and type this. When I get to the underground subway and pick up WiFi, I see the banner greeting is "Happy Mothers' Day": early, but then "Cinco de Mayo" ran late, so I deduce the team that changes these banners don't work weekends. Subway is distinctly less crowded than it was at the same time a couple of weeks ago. University term is winding down, but I wouldn't have said (or thought) that the 07:00 or earlier subway riders were students.

Give a seminar at CUNY this afternoon. Yes, I've already given one, but this is in a different series. Nevertheless, I try to make them pretty different: at the organiser's request, this one talks more about our EU project. Before, five of us go to lunch: a very nice Persian restaurant. One of the others (who can't stay for my talk) is the first Russian ever met from Khabarovsk, which I have only ever known as a junction on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Some of the others were discussing a GAP programming course, but the consensus was that that was for their graduate students and postdocs to do. I was reminded of a Cambridge discussion many years ago.

This prompted another story (none of us were American, so gently making fun of Americans is OK) from my host, who has been at IHES in (greater) Paris.
American mathematician: learning French is really hard: can't I get my postdoc to learn it instead?
In the evening, dinner at the Pakistani Permanent Representative's was a modest success (for me, a great success for her, of course). I was able to make conversation about a Pakistani writer whose book I had 2/3 read, and discuss the inventor of 'Pakistan' with the ambassador's husband. The guest list was 12 Pakistani women, 4 Pakistani men, 2 Western men (myself and an American) and 2 hosts (later 4).

The Pakistani Permanent Representative's residence is a nice Upper East House: pretty nondescript on the outside, but beautiful inside. Were I materialistic, I would have had an attack of chandelier envy. Nicely furnished, in what my untutored eye suspects is "Second Empire". According to the Permanent Representative, the office building is even better. It used to belong to the Aga Khan, who was Pakistan's Permanent Representative early on, and he gave it to Pakistan afterwards. Her office there used to be Rita Hayward's bedroom.

The food is also excellent. As I remark to more than one of her compatriots, this is true subcontinent (an attempt to be politically correct: I can't really say 'Indian') food [why does the iPhone autocorrect keep changing 'food' into 'good'], not dumbed down for American palates, and I feel quite nostalgic (for the Eastern Eye in Bath in particular).

Thursday 11 May 2017

The Guardian reports that the Dakota Access Pipeline has had its first leak. I had assumed that Trump's reversal of Obama's environmental block on the pipeline was just "change for change's sake", but the Guardian reports that Trump "has close financial ties to the oil company". I recall one native Dakotan I met in Michigan saying "I'm not sure if this is my country any more: I sure don't feel listened to". Using the search engine, I find the story in the NY Times, but it's not prominent. The Guardian described the spill as 'relatively minor', but the NY Times quotes 84 gallons as the figure, which is extremely minor by oilspill standards, though of course still too much.

05:00 (10:00 UK time) conference call, followed by 06:00 BCS Council meeting. Their lunch break is late, so coincides with I-House being awake, and my being able to pay the rest of my bill (interesting process, in view of my interest in payment processes), finish some laundry, and borrow (I wonder if NYU knows that an NYU photo-id is valid collateral for the loan of a broom) some floor-sweeping equipment. Then to work.

Decide to go home via 8th Street and R-1 changing at Times Square. As I get to the platform at 8th the train doors close, but open again to let me in. Thanks! At the next stop a lady gets in and sits next to me, then asks whether it goes to 86th street. I remark, probably unnecessarily "I'm not from round here" then say "but I think you need a Q, and this is an R: you can probably change at 42nd street". Add New York to the list of cities in which I have given correct subway directions.

I had no idea (until I saw a poster for the NY Air Show, which takes place at Stewart International Airport, another airport of which I had never heard, but is 60 miles North of Manhattan) that the USAF aerial acrobatics team was called the Blue Angels. Which came first: that or the Red Arrows? The Internet appears to think the Blue Angels, but in fact they're US Navy/Marines. So they're performing at the most inland NY airport! Apparently also, the Red Devils (parachte display) predate the Red Arrows by a couple of years, and the Red Arows precursors go back a lot further. There are moments when the Internet seems ot have too much information.

Having sacked the Director of the FBI in a move many interpret as preventing an enquiry into Trump-Russia links, it seems pretty blatant only to allow Russian press into a meeting on US territory between Trump and the Russian Foreign Minister. The NY TImes has a very forthright editorial masquerading as an open letter to the Deputy Attorney-General.

Wednesday 10 May 2017

Apparently, the White House press secretary would only answr questions about the firing of the FBI Diretcor if he weren't filmed. In a normal country, this would be curious. The headline in the Daily News, not the most intellectual of New York's newspapers, is simple: "Coup de Trump". But according to the Washington Post, Fox News announced that Comey had resigned. Generally, relations between the Government and the press seem pretty poor. The attempts at rewriting history are also amusing, or would be if they weren't so serious.

On a more mundane note, my laptop (Windows 10) wants to reboot. It says "outside working hours" which are 08:00-17:00 (and my laptop has stayed on UK time - Windows has historically been awful with time changes, and I don't want to risk it). I try to set it to 11:00-02:00 (i.e. 06:00-21:00) but Windows will only accept at most 12 hours of working time. Is it trying to tell me something? This particular airline issue really doesn't seem to be the airline's fault, which makes a pleasant change.

For the fourth year running, the number of drug-related deaths in Germany has risen ... 1333 - depressing of course, but still small when compared per capita with the US.

The HPC team and colleagues in Bath, whom I generally trust, claim that 64GiB is not enough memory for a logging server. I reluctantly acquiesce, saying I remember helping ensure that HRH (Philip) ran in the second MiB. Is 32768 times enough memory truly insufficient? Then realise that was 45 years ago! If I can detect that I'm turning into a grouchy old man it must be serious.

While walking to 4th street subway, I see a bizarre piece of plant parked: belongs to "Mobile Steam". As I'm photographing this, a party pig truck turns up. Anyone would think it's the end of term!

Tuesday 9 May 2017

The coffee shop where I get a take-out in the mornings on my way to work does espresso and macchiato in single, double, triple or quad! Unfortunately at that time in the morning I tend to want a longer drink.

This airport riot was the same airline I flew to Detroit with two months ago. The delay then was pretty chaotically handled.

My invitation to the Pakistan Permanent Representative has been reinstated for Friday. The airline said, of the pilots "This is clearly unlawful activity under the Railway Labor Act, which governs labor relations in the airline industry". Also "for a third year in a row the airline ranked last for customer satisfaction in the American Customer Satisfaction Index annual survey." This does not surprise me. The Flynn saga continues to run and run.

There's also some amazing science being reported.

An evening drinks party by the NY chapter of I-House alumni, near (in fact I misunderstood and thought it was at) the Flatiron building (so called because it looks a bit like one standing on end, due to the awkward triangular lot where Broadway meets Fifth Avenue). Not many, and I think I was the only current resident. Very pleasant talk with an alumna who is now a data analyst with an organisation working with incarcerated women. She tells me (and is rather surprised that I already know it) that the US has 25% of the world's prison population. She also says that 80% of the women prisoners are there for drug dealing. She also tried to explain to me the difference between 'prison' and 'jail', but other than the fact that prison is upstate and jail is on Riker's Island (an island in the convex hull of NYC, but I am not sure it is legally in NYC: Wikipedia says it is part of The Bronx) I don't really get it.

Monday 8 May 2017

Another journal I have never heard of: "Caspian Journal of Computational & Mathematical Engineering". It claims to publish two issues a year, but, although founded in 2015, the only issue (April 2016) appears to have no findable content. The sad side of US Fraternity life is captured here. I didn't realise you could charge a fraternity as such with manslaughter.

I liked the title of one book on the Jehovah's Witnesses' stand at the 59th street subway (changing from B to 1, if you're curious): "The Four Horsemen - how their ride affects you".

Tonight we (I-House North floors 6-9) had our last social of the academic year: curry from the local Indian. Milder than I'd have liked, but quite tasty. Good chance to swap notes and wish each other all the best.

Week 14 Summary


Just when you thought it couldn't get more corrupt.


A couple of conversations about food. I had Saturday lunch (during the conference) with a professor at CUNY of Lebanese origin. I complained about the price and quality of the bread. Basic supermarket bread, that I would pay less than £1 for, is $3 or more, and I haven't found better. Since I'm eating bread rather than toast, the quality matters more. She agreed, but gave me directions to two artisanal bakers, one near NYU. I have yet to go there, though.

Sunday evening in the laundrette I was talking to a lady of Indian origin. She's in I-House with her husband and son (5?). They had previously lived in Dubai. She said that the supermarkets there were very American (her son likes Orios for breakfast for example) but half the price of Manhattan. With three of them, the higher-than-expected price was worrying. She had found a CostCo crosstown she used for big shops.

Sunday 7 May 2017

There's an engineering train on the uptown track at 125th street. Diesel-powered, which seems sensible. I'm not sure what's actually happening, though. Still "Feliz 5 Mayo" on the subway WiFi.

How come there are three avenues (Lexington, Park and Madison) between Third and Fifth (at least near Hunter College). More issues with the Manhattan metric, and I photographed two more singularities, one documented, last night. Also it's Fifth, not Park, that's the edge of Central Park. Furthermore, the avenue East of First Avenue is not, as it would be at King's Cross, Zeroth, but rather York. Hence it is possible to have the address "York Avenue, New York, New York". In case you're wondering (or even if you're not) the one East of York is East End. I had a serious attack of "TA Centre envy" looking at the Park Street Armory.

Come back via the 6 downtown, then the B uptown to the other 125th street.

Saturday 6 May 2017

This weekend is a Sectional (meaning Eastern) meeting of the American Mathematical Society here in New York (Hunter College). In fact, Friday afternoon's CUNY Seminar was a warm-up event. Starts at 08:00, but given all the early morning telepresences this isn't the hardship it might otherwise have been. While waiting at 125th street, I see an uptown train going up the middle track: the uptown local is closed. I must remember that tonight. WiFi as I change toan express at 96th street still wishes me a happy 5th May.

So Hunter College is on the 6 at 68th street, but, as we know, the 6 and the 1 don't really connect, and Google maps recommends the Q to 63rd street. As I'm getting off, an M train pulls in, marked "last stop". This is odd, as this station is not on the M at all. Weekends!

Good conference, but many parallel sessions and I am torn. The last plenary was extremely good, by a Magdalen man I know. He's done fantastic work, improving a result on gaps between primes that has stood since 1938 (and certainly not for want of trying, including by my father). Get an idea for a final year project talking to him. On the way back, another M materialises at 63rd street, but I'm too stupid to catch it. Look at map and see it would have worked.

When I said 'back' I should have said 'on' as a friend from CUNY, who had spoken at the Cryptography session, had suggested that we meet at a bar known as 'Park', which is nowhere near Park Avenue, or Central Park, or Washington Park, or any other Park I can see, but rather is at 17th and 10th. That's in the area that describes itself as 'Meat Packing District', but seems to be 'Party District', at least on Saturday night. Enjoyable hour talking maths. Then home, remembering the uptown 1 is running express, so take the A from its 14th street station instead. Stop off at the deli at the bottom of La Salle Street (the one that would be 125th if 125th weren't crooked) for a sandwich at 22:00.

Friday 5 May 2017

Slight drizzle as I leave I-House, and get to Courant. WiFi on the subway as a change to the express at 96th street wishes me a happy 5th of May (Cinco de Mayo in Spanish). By mid-morning it is bucketing down, and I-House send a flood advisory, relayed from the National Weather Service. It's also in American Sign Language, French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, a language in a non-Latin script (which has been badly mangled by the mailer), and, the first time I've seen it written, Kreyòl Ayisyen. I doubt I would have recognised the words before these trips.

Sit in on a doctoral defense, as it seems like an interesting result. Then off to CUNY for a very interesting seminar. Get completely drenched on the way to the subway, and again from the subway to CUNY. Get there slightly early (deliberately) and have a 20-minute Skype to Exeter, planning more work around our high-performance computer.

By the time I came to leave CUNY, just after 15:00, the rain had more-or-less stopped, but there were still big puddles. I walked along 34th street to 7th avenue, then down that to the One-to-World offices, where they're having an open office afternoon. First time for me, and it seemed to good a chance to miss. One of them asserts that British and Americans speak the same language. I deny this, and try telling the story about Davenports. Turns out she had never heard the word. One of the others said it was a kind of sofa, but another said she'd read it in old novels set in the South, where it seemed to be a writing desk. So much for Americans having a common language at all!

Then a Greek scholar of modern history, based at Yale, turned up. He knew of Sir Antony Beevor, and was most impressed that I knew his orator. We also discussed the Davenport-based history of New Haven. Then a scholar studying at Yeshiva University turned up. I'm going back in eight weeks, and the Greek in three, but he's here all calendar year. The office say "You two miss the awful summer, but not him". He says that he's done one, and it's not that bad - he's from New Delhi! I have to convert Fahrenheit/Celsius between the Greek and the office.

Take the 1 from 28th street to 116th. At 96th, the train suddenly becomes express to 137th, so I have to get out and wait for the next. That shouldn't have taken too long, but the "express" train sits at the platform for three minutes, rather ruining the point.

Nice dinner at I-House: myself, a German lady who is finishing a Masters at Columbia and going on to a PhD at Cambridge (Kings) and three Indian men. They are discussing the start of the cricket season. Apparently Van Cortland Park (Northern end of 1 line, in The Bronx) has ten cricket pitches, though some boundaries overlap slightly. That's more that the number of cricket pitches I would have guessed there were in the USA: globalisation! One item on the news that I didn't fully follow (or indeed at all) is a proposal to rezone parts of Staten Island affected by Sandy. Writing this makes me realise that, although I say I'm in New York City, I'm in fact in Manhattan, and the pretty pathetic score for the surrounds is: Staten Island 0, The Bronx 0, Queens 4 (but only La Guardia), Brooklyn 4 (JFK, Masha and the Bear, 2 NYU), New Jersey 4.

Thursday 4 May 2017

Another early morning committee in Bath: 06:15 local time. I am meant to be chairing this one (Faculty of Science Research Computing Committee), but I know that, even if technology is perfect, the difficulty of reading the body language makes remote chairing very hard. So I had already asked a colleague to do it. She opens the meeting by announcing that she has never chaired any committee before, but makes an excellent job of it.

Then an invitation to a Committee at 11 p.m. UK time on Friday in Bristol. How civilised: I am reminded, very wise, and say so, which may not have been so wise, of the French Army's inviting the insomniac Proust to a 1 a.m. medical (alas both invitations were errors). Talking of invitations, my invitation to the Pakistan Permanent Representative has been cancelled due to logistical issues.

I had thought bounty-hunter was as obsolete an occupation as crossing sweeper, but I am sadly proved wrong. "Most of the defendants are bounty hunters and others were bail bondsmen, although police didn't specify the exact breakdown" makes me wonder whether the two occupations (I am loath to say professions) are really distinct. The commonly quoted case on the enormous powers of bail bondsmen (I've never head of a bondswoman!), Taylor v Taintor, seems to be mis-cited, as the paragraph in question is obiter dicta.

I am totally confused by this article, and I'd never considered the apparent moral dilemma of a church having to pay, via health insurance, for the birth control of its employees.

I'm going to the theatre, in a church on West 86th street. An area of New York I've been under twice a day, but never seen before. In fact I take the B from Broadway-Lafayette, which lets me go via the dry cleaners.

The plays are "Nec Spe" (about Caravaggio, of whom I had heard) and "Nec Metu" (about Gentileschi, of whom I had not heard, but apparently another Baroque painter) offered free by the Institute of International Education - part of the Fulbright operation. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, or nihil metuo as the Romans might have said. I think the plays are in English. When I pick up my programme, it turns out to be Nec Metu, with an excerpt of Nec Spe. Apparently the playwright's company "received the Davenport space grant". I wonder what the second prize was. It's very much a workshop, with an audience of 12.

The excerpt of Nec Spe is a 40 minute monologue by Caravaggio. Though notionally a confession, it's really a boast. Very well done. Nec Metu is a 70 minute monologue by Artemisia Gentileschi, who is apparently the better (than her father, though he's what today's language would describe, non-ironically, as "very supportive") artist daughter of another painter of that name. With the protagonist trying to live as a woman artist in a time not renowned for gender equality, I can see why the title was chosen. Not renowned for tolerance of free thought either: there are descriptions of the artist corresponding with Galileo in prison. There's also a lot about sexual violence: Susanna (book of Daniel: Wikipedia states that Artemisia painted a Susanna), Lucretia (Livy volume 1) and, to turn the scale, Judith. It later transpires that Artemisia herself was a victim. Though a monologue, at various points she uses a life-sized marionette almost as a deuteragonist. Talking to another Fulbrighter, we agree that it's both ingenious and successful. Definitely not something I would have chosen myself, so I'm grateful to Fulbright/IIE for the push.

Wednesday 3 May 2017

I have fortunately arranged a proxy for all elections back in the UK. There's one for "Mayor of the West of England" (whatever that might mean) on Thursday. My proxy hasn't received a polling card for me, so doesn't know where to vote. It could be any of three places, as they keep changing. E-mail my next-door neighbour, who tells me, and I pass it on. I have rather dropped out of contact with UK, I realise.

Surprisingly, at least to me, it seems as if there was soemething (not much, and possibly no intent) behind the Clinton-emails story.

Afternoon at the Simons Foundation, and evening at the National Museum of Mathematics, where my colleague was due to give public lecture. My colleague's lecture was very good, of course. I was pleasantly surprised how many of the audience, many of them schoolchildren, identified Florence Nightingale, though few recognised her as a statistician. I also liked the fact that the door handles to the Museum are π shape.

Tuesday 2 May 2017

Lovely 'Freudian' slip: an advertisement for the "International Journal of Hyperconnectivity and Internet of Things" is actually entitled "Internal Journal of Hyperconnectivity and Internet of Things".

Updated the Wikipedia page of Choudhry Rahmat Ali, the Emmanuel student who coined the name "Pakstan" (The "i" was added later for euphony). I had an invitation to vote for Wikipedia trustees, but I hadn't made enough edits last year to qualify: I wonder if this year will be different.

Another sad story about what, at best, one can call police over-reaction. I note the Washington Post article quotes the Guardian's analysis.

A Bath colleague is in New York to lecture at the National Museum of Mathematics. We'd met briefly in the lobby of Courant on Monday evening, but he calls on me properly this afternoon. His host, who apparently remembers me from a presentation I gave in 1985 (actually as part of my first EU research project), is rather annoyed that she didn't know I was in town earlier. My Bath colleague had told her about this blog, and she said it was quite amusing seeing New York through a foreigners eyes. I catch up on what's happening in Bath, and UK mathematics, and then we go out to dinner together. Back home (via a branch of my bank I happen to see: I haven't really internalised where they are since my local one closed) by 21:30 and catch up on laundry and other administration.

Monday 1 May 2017

Specialist conferences we have seen: "the 23rd Annual Wheel Rail Interaction Conference", proudly sponsored by "Trains magazine", to which I seem to have acquired a subscription, but the inner geek doesn't mind. It's a three-track conference (if you'll pardon the pun): "Principles" (including two lectures on Fundamentals of Track Geometry), "Rail Transit" and "Heavy haul" (with a speaker from Network Rail: the only one not from North America, as far as I can tell).

Registering for the Ontology Workshop, I almost didn't check Google's autofill, and would have ended up witha ttle of 'Davenport', as well as a surname. Changed the title to 'professor', though I toyed with the idea of changing the other. Would cause ID problems, I fear. Despite being held at that spearhead of the technological revolution, the National Institute for Science and Technology, I have to fax in my Alien Registration Form: e-mails not allowed. When I get my approval through, it's times for four hours before I asked the Courant administrator to fax the form - magnificent.

There's a sad article about the stabbing at University of Texas, Austin. Apparently there was a machete-wielding assailant at Transylvania University, Kentucky, a university I must admit I had never heard of.

Back to I-House this evening to help facilitate a group discussion sesion on "Interpersonal Integrity". Part of me would rather watch corn grow, as they say in Champaign-Urbana, but it's all part of being a half-way good I-House citizen. At the start we were all asked by the chief facilitator to describe our view of the film: mine was 'repugnant', which she quite liked. It was more exciting than watching corn grow: typically the disbelief by the other non-US that life in the US could be the way the film portrayed it. The film focuses sexual violence on American campuses, and the role fraternities ("Greek life") have in promoting it and covering it up. A girl (Israeli, but studied at Harvard) commented that there's no Greek life as such at Harvard, which let me do the serious name drop "judging by his tutorial reports, Harvard himself was not too fond of Greek", as when I first went to the USA as a Fellow of Emmanuel College, the archivist, Dr Stubbings, showed me some of Harvard's tutorial reports

April 2017

Sunday 30 April 2017

One really nice side-effect of the airport at Champaign-Urbana being owned by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is that one has the eduroam network in the departure lounge: now that's what I call a perk of academia. Just uploaded the latest version of this blog that way.

I had noticed flying in that the fields all seemed freshly ploughed. I ask the taxi driver: apparently the main crops here are corn and soybeans. "you come back in August and it'll all d green". He had heard of winter wheat, but that doesn't work round here, and there's not much spring wheat. I use the word "cyclone" talking to the driver. He laughs "You from down South? Up here we call them tornados". I meet a couple of colleagues at the airport, also flying via Chicago.

After the plane lands in Chicago and we can turn devices on, the lady seated in front of me turns hers on and immediately checks the "Storm Center" service. None very close to Chicago, but one South of Champaign-Urbana. Colleagues and I grab a coffee and talk. For some reason I get the employee 15% discount on my coffee. I joke that it must be the Cambridge tie. My 'plane is delayed 20 minutes, so I detour via the bookstore. They do have at least one piece of Pakistani literature: Exit west by Moshin Hamid. Now all I have to do is read it! I notice there's a City of Chicago 7cent bag tax. So they are luckier than NYC in this respect, whose tax was vetoed by the State.

The plane from Chicago is 30 minutes late, and very full, so that, although I am in row 11, my bag is above 26, and therefore I am among the last off. There's a bus to Columbia at the kerbside, and I perform the "use season ticket to get free piece of paper that no-one looks at anyway" ritual and board. The bus ride gives me the chance to see parts of New York at street level rather than subway level. Given that April 15th is the tax return deadline, I was amused to see a firm of accountants in Harlem with the 'phone number 888-april-15. Memorable, at least. I also liked a shop called "the mattress firm".

Back in I-House by 17:15, which is bad, as the waiting list for the "end of (academic) year" supper opens at 17:00. Put my name on the list (number 24) and am told to come back at 17:45. Time to rush back to my room, shave and get into black tie: the medals may have been over the top, but did at least provide conversation points. I wasn't the only guy in black tie, and many of the ladies were in evening dresses or national costume. We wait listed people are told we can mingle with the crowd for drinks and appetisers. Dilemma: gorge on appetisers (dips, cheese and biscuits) in case I don't get into dinner, or leave room for dinner in the hope I am admitted. Go for (mostly) the latter. Eventually we are admitted. Grace is said in Haitian Creole (just about followed, and liked the part about blessing the hands that prepared the food) and then English. Very much an "end of school year" event: speech by the President of I-House exhorting us to take the lessons of I-House with us out into the world, presentations to "over and above" staff, leading residents, and then those leaving this year (including me) line up on stage, second exhortation by the Chair of Trustees (a Rockefeller descendant), then as we leave the stage each of us is presented with an I-House pin by one of the trustees. This description sounds a bit mechanical, but the event was well done and surprisingly moving. Good line from President's speech "Imagine how much better the world would be if Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump had both been at I-House, preferably at the same time". The event concludes with a candle lighting ceremony where we promise to pass the light of I-House on to future generations.

Week 13 Summary


There's agreement on a spending bill apparently, described by the Washington Post as "won't look too much different than the deal that could have been struck on President Barack Obama's watch last year". It includes $68M "to reimburse New York City and other local governments for costs involved in protecting Trump Tower and other properties". Nothing about the costs of airport shutdowns in Florida.

I've only just been sent a pointer to this excellent article about the 2016 Electoral College, but also a lot of uS history (the two are tightly interwoven. Apparenly Michigan got the Upper Peninsula (the topologically disconnected from Detroit component) because Ohio got Toledo. Discussing the 1888 election, when Democrat Grover Cleveland wonthe popular vote, but lost the electoral college, it says

He won the popular vote by dominating the Deep South, where white supremacist Democrats had succeeded in disenfranchising Republican black voters since the end of Reconstruction.
Doesn't really sound like today's politics in terms of semantics, but the attitudes and complaints are all there.


The media are full of that utterly arcane (to me) ritual of the NFL Draft. I have not tried to understand it.

Saturday 29 April 2017

The airport in Champaign is actually called "University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Willard Airport" - I don't know who Willard is/was, but yes, the university does own the airport. An American friend says that this isn't uncommon in the MidWest.

Apart from the '$' sign, very European line in the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette: "People attending the EarthCare Expo may also buy raffle tickets for $1 each and enter to win a compost bin or rain barrel." For those who I think I am being inconsistent, the conurbation is called Champaign-Urbana, but the University is Urbana-Champaign: it straddles the boundary between the two towns, but apparently has more teaching rooms in Urbana than in Champaign, or so the story goes.

Good conference, though small. I knew about half the participants, which was nice, and made some plans for the future. I ended up introducing the other speaker from New York (State), with the quip that one New Yorker should introduce another. She's actually Russian, and did her undergraduate thesis with E.V. Pankratiev, whi translated our Computer Algebra book into Russian, and who's son Anton has the same role for the Moscow Region as I have for North-West Europe in the International Programming Contest: small world.

Friday 28 April 2017

Up at 03:30, and leave at 04:40, as I was going to the East Coast Computer Day in Champaign (Illinois, not Ohio). I had been planning to take the bus to La Guardia from outside Columbia, but Google maps knows of an even nearer stop, at La Salle and Amsterdam. There's an electronic indicator saying how many minutes until the bus arrives, but it takes seven minutes to count down three. As I had learned on my previous foray, the bus doesn't take MetroCards, but there's a machine at the bus stop which will give you a paper ticket if you put a season ticket MetroCard in, and this the bus driver accepts. Still quite a lot of traffic at 05:00. About 12 passengers on the bus, but three get off before the airport. The actual bus ride was scheduled to take just under 30 minutes, and was a bit longer due to a jam just outside the airport. While waiting, I could see the inbound Grand Central Parkway, which was pretty busy at 05:15.

Flights (Champaign via Chicago) were OK. I was reading a paper by Chistov on the flight from Chicago, and the guy across the aisle said ``reading a mathematics paper?'' and we were talking. He was going to a different conference, so we shared a taxi to the Maths Department. Urbana-Champaign (technically two towns) is very much a university town. I left my bag there, and explored the town.

Then to the university, where I worked on IMU issues with the Mathematics Librarian, who had asked the University's copyright librarian to join us. Three hours of useful IMU work. Then walk to the hotel via Armory Drive, which takes me past the University Armory, home of the ROTC. Enormous building, and I take a photograph to make Bristol UOTC jealous.

Thursday 27 April 2017

I can see into the subway tunnel leading into the 137th street station from the 125th street platform, and hence the headlights on an approaching train except for a short period. I now deduce that (as in London) there's a slope down, imperceptible to the naked eye, so that gravity can accelerate trains leaving the station, and decelerate those entering. Cunning.

I note ``United Airlines reaches settlement with passenger dragged from plane'', and apparently United have also increased their maximum compensation. Also ``Flynn was warned not to accept foreign payments in 2014'', but I suspect that ``warning'' is actually a perfectly normal discharge procedure, not a special warning. Is this the first recorded case of a sheep-carrier sinking a naval ship? This article isn't particularly impressive, but i like the idea at the end, which the WP is apparently doing consistently, of awarding Trump clan statements a number of Pinocchios.

Fascinating seminar/conference at NYU Law School on Accountability in Algorithms. Really good mix of speakers, but it'll take me some time to get nine hours of lecture notes and conversations into postable shape. The conference continues tomorrow, but I'm going to Urbana-Champaign. Pity, but I haven't yet mastered personal ubiquity, despite the Royal Artillery battle honour.

Decide to go back to I-House via the R from 8th street. There's a signal failure on the downtown side, and I can see MTA workers with torches guiding the trains through. Primitive on the one hand, but since "signal failure" seems to cripple British Rail and London Underground, better than nothing. On the express from 42nd street, stand next to two Brits who wanted 66th street, which is a local stop. Instant reaction - "how silly", followed rather by "look how far you've come". I was rushing back to I-House for a "dumplings evening" for my floor, billed at 7-8:30. I got there at 7:10, and there was practically nothing left: students+free food = haste!

Wednesday 26 April 2017

Chair the BCS Academy Board for the first time (06:15 call before 07:00=12:00 meeting). I actually ask the Staff Director to run the physical meeting, as it's very hard to see the body language of the meeting, or the secretary pointing at the agenda, remotely. Meeting finishes at 13:50=08:50, which is just as well as shortly afterwards the WiFi goes off (we had been warned late the previous night about this). Quite productive, though I say it myself. Then compose several follow-up e-mails.

Congratulations to the Emmanuel College Development Director: she informs me that the inventor of the term 'Pakistan' was a member. Well worth knowing. So I nowneed to update the Wikipedia entry. More history: an article points out that Fibonacci can't have written the 'Livero d'abbecho', as that was in Umbrian, not Tuscan. He did, of course, write Liber Abaci in Latin, as any self-respecting scholar would.

This is a reminder that Administrative Professionals Day will be celebrated today, starting at 3:00pm in the 13th floor lounge.
There's a lot happening in politics. This article points out the chronic 'foot in mouth' that the adminstration suffers from, this time over the 'sanctuary cities' order. There's also the proposed budget. As a friend of mine had predicted, buried in it is a provision to eliminate deducting state taxes from federal ones, which will really hit New York and California.

Data show that the US is getting older, at the rate of 0.2 years/year. The median age (37.8) isn't quite half the life expectancy (78.9) but very close to it. Conversely, in 1980, when the average age was 30, the life expectancy was already 73.6.

Attended the NYU Privacy Research Group seminar: last one of the academic year. The leavers (including me) were each presented with an NYU PRG "Klean Kanteen" insulated coffee cup. Unexpected souvenir! I told them about the House of Commons publishing the evidence I had worked on.

Again leave NYU at 16:30 to go to I-House for an alumni event (tempus fugit) and again see a convoy of NYU buses parked on Broadway. So it is a standard feature. Also several public service notices pointing out that most insurers now cover pre-existing hepatitis C, and urging readers to seek treatment. What it doesn't point out is that "now" is a feature of 'ObamaCare', and is therefore under attack.

There's a bus stop to La Guardia half-way from I-House to the 116 street metro. After 04:00 it's every 12 minutes, then every 10, then 8. Before 04:00 it's every 20 or 30 minutes. Truly "The City That Never Sleeps".

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Up at 04:30 for 05:00 teleconference. It wouldn't be so bad except that I hadn't got back from "The fuzzie and the techie" and the book-signing that followed until 10p.m.

A new feature: the [conductor on the] 1 train from 125th street announces that it's running express to 96th (skipping 116, 110 and 103) and that the next one is local. One way of catching up from delays, and there was a notice warning of delays.

Monday 24 April 2017

Up at 5 after an early night. It's still just dark, but very definitely full daylight when I leave at 06:45. There's a lady standing on a balcony diagonally opposite I-House, looking rather declamatory, with a ladder propped against it, a 'cherry-picker' nearby, and a small crowd. My first thought was to wonder about a suicide attempt, but there are no emergency services, so maybe it's filming (of which there's quite a lot up here). Any other suggestions?

Get into work, and there's more e-mail, of course. Part of the downside of being interested in privacy is that one gets lots of snake-oil salesmen. I particularly liked this one's credentials.

[Name deleted, we did say 'privacy'] is a writer for [Name deleted, we did say 'privacy']. He has a master's degree in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies, specializing in aesthetics and technology, and is a one-time winner of a kilogram of jelly beans.
An interesting description of the CEO of Uber:
"Travis's biggest strength is that he will run through a wall to accomplish his goals," said Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks [A basketball team, not necessarly a group of start-up founders] owner and billionaire investor who has mentored Mr. Kalanick. "Travis's biggest weakness is that he will run through a wall to accomplish his goals. That's the best way to describe him."
Bath's previous Vice-Chancellor, an American, used to object evey time anyone uttered the phrase "The US Higher Education System", pointing out that there wasn't one system. A quote from this article makes his point.
Most colleges define a full-time course load as 12 credits a semester, which is, not coincidentally, the ceiling for receiving the maximum Pell grant and most state financial aid. But degrees usually require 120 credits. Do the math - most students don't, and it's difficult to catch up: You need 15 credits a semester on average to get through in four years.
Some fairly weird things happen here: I have just received an invitation to dinner at the Residence of the Pakistani Permanent Representative to the UN to celebrate the Lahore Literary Festival. I suspect this happened because I took notes when the Ambassador gave a talk at I-House. On a (to me) lighter note, I-House is having "gender neutral bathrooms" as the topic for its April Roundtable Discussion. I may pass on this one, but I do recall a hotel in Corfu, where the ideograms were a female silhouette in a miniskirt and a male silhouette done as an evzonos. Many a mistake was made, especially late at night. But just to prove that weirdness can come close to home, there's this one!

Book return flight: land 11:00 Sunday 2nd July at Gatwick. Norwegian again: I've decided I quite like them, though my recent comparators have not been great. Al least I haven't witnessed "Fight Club".

Further digging shows that it's probably the New York edition of the Lahore Literary Festival that is being celebrated, but it's still weird. Arrange that I-House will circulate this to their Pakistani members.

My old school is launching a campaign to rebuild its Memorial Hall, built to honour the 749 who died in WWI. That's only slightly fewer than the school's whole capacity when I was there. Ouch! The campaign is led by a name I recognise: the Commanding Officer of my regiment when I was in the Suffolk and Norfolk Yeomanry in the late 1970s. Contrary to the "old school tie" stereotype,

Le Monde's take on the British press's take on the French election is amusing. Among the top four candidates (I haven't checked the positions of the rest), the remain/leave margin was about as tight (but in the other sense) as at the UK vote. I'm not sure there's as much to rejoice about as some think.

Back to I-House for what might be an amusing event, billed as "The Fuzzie and the Techie". The speaker (Scott Hartley, a former I-House inmate) was launching his book of the title. The subtitle was "Why the Liberal Arts will Rule the Digital World". There's some sense in it, or at least that a purely tech education is limiting. On the other hand, my tech life has enabled me to travel much of the Northern Hemisphere, and I am the richer (emotionally etc., not necessarily financially) for it. The great advantage of being a mathematician is that one has a great deal in common with people from totally different backgrounds, and can communicate, even if only in writing. My father always felt that CP Snow's "The Two Cultures" was wrong, but then he was a mathematician who enjoyed reading Gibbon (and much else, though my mother never persuaded him to like Thomas Mann).

I was at the 75th anniversary dinner of the Cambridge Computer Laboratory in 2013 (it predates digital computers) and the Head of Department wondered, in his speech, "How much longer can Cambridge continue to compete with the MIT and CalTech of this world when we have to carry all this Arts baggage". The response to the speech was made by a former Vice-Chancellor (i.e. President) of Cambridge (himself ex-IBM and no mean techie), who recounted how he had been in 'the other Cambridge', in a supermarket where there was a sign "8 items or less" over the express lane. He was aware of "two nations separated by a common language", and forbore from pointing out it should have been "8 items or fewer". Anyway, a student arrives with his cart piled high. The teller looks at him with infinite world-weariness and says "Which is it: Harvard and can't count, or MIT and can't read?".

Sunday 23 April 2017

At 06:40, there's a works train on the uptown track at 125th street, as far as I can see collecting garbage. Engine, three garbage wagons and two crew wagons. I actually look at the MTA website, and see that the repeated engineering work at the South end of the 1 line is part of "Operation Fix and Fortify": post Hurricane Sandy work. There's substantial anger among people who live in NJ but work in NYC that the NJ Governor didn't sign up to the work on building new Hudson tunnels so that the current ones could be properly repaired. The NJ Governor had a cameo appearance on Trump's transition team, but I only just found out that "The president was reportedly prodded [to sack Christie] by son-in-law Jared Kushner, whose father Christie had sent to jail as U.S. attorney in New Jersey".

I particularly liked this line from a description of one of America's bigger (it's hard to get a total figure, but 1.4M in Illinois alone had name/SSN pairings stolen) hacks.

Q: Why do you need Social Security numbers in the first place?

A: The federal government requires that we ask for your Social Security number. As the AJL system indicates, however, you are not required to provide it.

The Washington Post is claiming that the Mordochs knew of harrassment claims against O'Reilly which had been settled, but re-signed [that's a very important hyphen!] him with an unusual "clause permitting 21st Century to terminate him, with up to a year's salary as severance, if new allegations arose".

Bizarre (to me) fact I learned while doing some background reseach about the French election: the population of Paris now (=2013) is only 77% of what it was in 1931. I can only assume this is due to slum clearance and gentrification, as the borders haven't changed. This despite a 57% increase in French population, so Paris intra muros (i.e. the actual department, not "greater Paris") has gone from 7% of France to 3.4% of France. "Greater Paris" has gone from 14.3% to 16%. Essonne, in particular, has almost quintupled in population since 1931.

Engineering works strike again. I need to go food shopping, so I aim to take the B/D from Broadway-Lafayette (appropriate given the French election) to the other 125th street. At that station, B/D are on one side (good for me) and F/M on the other side (bad for me, as they go to Queens, rather than uptown). Bizarrely, an A train arrives on the F/M platform. Assuming it's going in the right direction, it's good for me, especially as the A is an express. Or maybe not, after doing something bizarre at 4th street to get onto the right track, it then runs local, stopping at 23rd street. But after 50th street (also local) the conductor announces it's running express from 59 to 125, despite being on the local track at 59th. So it turns out. On the way from 125th street subeay to the shops, I pass some excellent cherry blossom, in an extremely small (0.038 acres) park dedicated to FDR.

Dinner at I-House. I share the table with a French girl and a Chinese one. The Chinese girl comments that she has been to Paris, but it wasn't very crowded at all. The French girl and I instantly comment "you must have gone in August", and indeed we were right. The French girl comments that everything French happens in Paris, and was qute surprised when I recited the statistics from the previous paragraph but one.

Week 12 Summary


If you think you understand the USA, try this quiz. For those of you who think Trump was elected on a 'cut taxes' ticket, think again. And if you have stereotypical views of American college athletes, and the system that supports them, well, at least it's trying: "Additionally, beginning with the 2019-2020 academic year, Division I schools' share of NCAA revenue will be tied to academic achievement".

It's the annual playing poker with the spending ritual. Trump appears to be insisting on the wall, saying it will curb illegal immigration (possibly, but the rhetoric is already helping do that) and drugs, but it's not clear that imported drugs are the major problem. One commentator describes the situation thus.

The standoff continues a Washington trend, as banal now as it is nonsensical to veterans of the Capitol: legislative cliff-jumping in the name of brinkmanship, frustration or some combination thereof, with no clear endgame.

The last government shutdown was in 2013, encapsulating an era of bitter partisanship and Republican opposition to President Barack Obama. The distinction this time is that the Oval Office, Senate and House are controlled by the same party.


So, half way through. My aim of tracking the evolving privacy debate in the US Congress has essentially disappeared, as there is no debate: straight repeal of what progress there had been seems order of the day. But what I have learned from the NYU Privacy Law seminar (as much the tone of the discussion, and the general update sessions as the formal presentations) and associated events has been extremely helpful in formulating my work on the IMA and BCS submissions to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. Post the general election discussion, we have to see what will happen to these.

The "payment card data" project has also not evolved the way I intended. Life, and facts, most of which are not secret, but I would never have discovered without this project, and being, and living, in the USA.

Saturday 22 April 2017

Good early morning trip into work: I sat on both the local and express, and managed to write six e-mails en route. NYU's graduation and prize giving has some pretty obvious tents and balloons. I like the slogan for today's D.C. March for Science: 'The oceans are rising, and so are we'. Also 'If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate'. "(Meanwhile, the National Math Festival is also in Washington - so there's an unusual number of people in town who can recite Pi to more than five digits.)" - you mean that, even in Washington, most people can't? I also liked As scientists erupt in protest, a volcanologist runs for Congress. Also "Because there is no Planet B". In fact it's a good day for humour: a Bath colleague sends me a link to a YouTube video On The Turing Completeness of PowerPoint.

An article in Stack Overflow, ostensibly about when programmers program, but of course actually about when the subset of them that use Stack Overflow ask questions. Nevertheless, the graph is interesting.

Programming hours
When I used the tool to add more options, the best I could discover is that mathematics questions are the ones with the greatest late-night appearance, and that even hibernate programmers are diurnal. There's no analysis by time-of-year, though. There's also the O'Reilly salary survey of software developers, showing that the lower quartile in the US make more than the upper quartile in Western Europe, and the lower quartile in Western Europe make more than the upper quartile in Eastern Europe. But I don't believe that Canada is as poor as Eastern Europe. Programming hours

My Fulbright hosts have a wonderful event: a canoe trip along the Bronx River, but alas I am double booked, ironically in Rapid City.

It's another bad day for airlines - I'm flying American next weekend, to the East Coast Computer Algebra Day 2017: now you might not have thought that Champaign (which should be spelled Champagne, from the the French geographical term: French Wikipedia is unsound on this point, and maybe I should edit) Illinois was on the East Coast, but Boneyard Creek drains into the Saline Branch of the Salt Fork Vermilion River, which drains into the Vermilion River, which drains into the Wabash River, which drains into the Ohio River, which drains into the Mississippi River (actually vice versa, as the Ohio is larger), which drains into the Atlantic, so that's OK.

Perhaps uncharacteristically, the Washington Post has an article with a photograph of Trump which is not critical of him (it's critical of Taft instead, who golfed more often than Trump, who in turn golfs more often than Obama, despite criticising Obama for it). More characteristic is this article.

In yet another article about Fox News, I come across the phrase that the younger Murdochs are to be praised for having introduced "vastly enhanced reproductive coverage for women". Given that this was meant to have been in the post-groping age, I can only assume this is American for "maternity leave".

Friday 21 April 2017

11:00=06:00 call back to England, and this time it really is a 'phone call. I had been planning to do this from the office, but that's not open. Hence I'd investigated Skype-to-landline calling (long overdue, I now realise). Slightly chaotic meeting, but useful results.

I also get alerts from the Washington Post; I particularly liked Kissinger on Trump's son-in-law. Various items in the e-mail: a security exercise at JFK tomorrow (fortunately doesn't affect me) and the event below, which I decide to go to.

Fifty years ago an M.I.T. computer whiz kid named Peter Samson and a group of his schoolmates attempted one of the most audacious stunts in the history of the New York City subway system. Samson programmed M.I.T.'s PDP-6 mainframe computer -- about the size of a passenger elevator -- to calculate the most efficient route to ride the entire subway system in the least amount of time. In their outrageous attempt to break the existing riding record the team employed payphones, runners, and a teletype hook-up between a makeshift "data center" in midtown Manhattan and the mainframe in Cambridge, Mass. Michael Miscione, the Manhattan Borough Historian, will interview Samson and one of his schoolmates, George Mitchell, as they recount the Great Subway Race of 1967.
Truly wonderful talk with a student I taught in 2009, who has got his Masters degree from NYu with the Prize for the best Mathematics Masters Dissertation (though he didn't tell me that: I only found out later in the day). Moments like this make academia worthwhile! We also discuss the course I taught, and how I could improve it.

Overflight of Manhattan is clearly still contentious. I get this e-mail.

Notification issued 4/21/17 at 3:28 PM. On Saturday, 4/22 a small aircraft (Tail number #N466SR) is scheduled to conduct aerial photography over Midtown Manhattan at approximately 12:00 PM. The aircraft will fly at an altitude of approximately 3,000 feet and the activity is expected to last about 30 minutes.
The subway race talk was fascinating (to me - really brought out the not-so-inner geek). It was nice to have it confirmed that the PDP-6 planning software was in LISP. It was good that the current record-holder (but Guinness uses London rules even in New York, not the three-class New York rules that these guys invented) was there, and spoke about his experiences. The lecture was at Hunter College, which is on the 6, easily accessible from Bleecker Street near work. But to get home I have to solve the 4/5/6 and 1 routing quandary for real. My solution was via the 7 from Grand Central to Times Square. There are alternatives, but I didn't have a nice LISP program to tell me.

Thursday 20 April 2017

Lovely description in a call for contributions to a conference: slight pity that it comes before the description of the intellectual content.
Guilin has long been praised as the most picturesque place in China, as an old Chinese saying goes: "Guilin mountain/water scenery is the best under heaven." Embraced by lofty hills with the winding Li River flowing through, Guilin boasts magnificent natural beauty and many precious cultural relics, most famously the Elephant Trunk Hill, Reed Flute Cave, Seven-Star Park, Folded Brocade Hill, plus limpid lakes, grotesque rocks, unique rice terraces and minority villages.
I thought ESTAs were valid for two years, but I get this "The travel authorization submitted on February 7, 2016 via ESTA will expire within the next 30 days. It is not possible to extend or renew a current ESTA travel authorization". Fortunately my current trip isn't an ESTA one.

While buying a (very late: 15:45) lunch in the local salad bar, I see that the headline in the Daily News, not normally the most politically correct of NY papers, describes O'Reilly as "vile". I also liked this one, that dropped into my inbox via O'Reilly (the technology publisher, this time, not the putative groper).

In early February, President Trump's administration made a change to the White House website. The site's digital updates are often small and insignificant - updating a photo, fixing a broken link - and therefore may go unnoticed. But this one was different, and it could have an impact on every single American. The update eliminated the White House's open data.

On the surface, those 9 gigabytes of data sets may seem inconsequential: They include White House visitor logs, the titles and salaries of every White House employee, and government budget data. But that information helps to ensure transparency in government. It helps reporters and citizens figure out who has the ear of the president and his staff, for example. In response to this very issue, Democrats have introduced the Make Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act, or MAR-A-LAGO Act, legislation that would require the Trump administration to publish visitor logs for the White House and any other location where the president regularly conducts official business.

Meet, by prior arrangement, a Bath colleague and his Italian partner at Think Coffee - not the one opposite Courant, but the one whose address is 1 Bleecker Street, but whose front door is actually just round the corner in Bowery. In fact, they have to lean out of a Bleecker Street window to tell me to go round the bend. After coffee (plural in my case), we go to 18 Bleecker Street, to see a performance of Byron's Manfred, not a work with which I am familiar.

Manfred was published in 1817, so this is the bicentenary, and there's a conference to mark this tomorrow (which is why my friends are in town). Though formally written as a play, with stage directions, special effects notes etc., Byron did not intend it to be performed as such, and the first performance was not until 1834. Not that the play was a flop: it sold 6000 copies immediately, which is an enormous number given the population and literacy rates. I have a discussion about this with one of the Byron experts after the discussion that followed the performance, which was a "dramatic reading", rather than theatrical performance as such. The distinction is fairly fine. At the discussion, the director admits to significant licence in that he had cut 45% of the play (one of the other experts said that he'd only cut 40% when he did it, and my friend objected privately to the cutting of one monologue), and done some gender-bending so that all the mortals were male, and all the spirits female. Definitely interesting, and I'm glad my friends persuaded me. The three of us skipped the party afterwards, and ate just North of Washington Square. Then home together, as they are also living on the 1 line.

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Webinar isn't until 07:50 EDT, which is positively relaxing. I try to have a lie-in after Monday's 18-hour day, but can't really. Turn round various things while waiting. See a deeply weird conference: "Seventh International Conference on Innovative Computing Technology (INTECH 2017) Luton, UK August 16-18, 2017; Colocated at Porto, Portugal July 12-13, 2017". Given the choice, I know which I would prefer, but it's a very odd use of "colocated".

Two notifications from different media (one was Washington Post, not sure about the other one) that Bill O'Reilly is out from Fox News. Leave NYU at 16:15 to go to a lecture at the Simons Foundation. I don't think I've done this before. There's an NYU bus convoy (5-6 buses) parked on Broadway. I don't know if this is normal or not.

The Simons Foundation has very impressive offices etc. at 160 Fifth Avenue (but entrance on 21st street, presumably as the shop-front opportunities are too good to waste). Lovely introductory video to the auditorium in tongue-in-cheek airline style - "bearing in mind that the nearest exit may be behind you". It is very functional, in the laudatory sense: built-in microphones for questioners, at seat power supply, and laptop-sized fold-out tables. The lecture was extremely good as well: I particularly liked the fact that Jane Austen (P&P) and Virginia Woolf (The Lighthouse) have statistically identical word entropies (9.06/9.13) but very different predictive powers (3.51/2.75). Many other gems, especially as he applies this to politics.

Signal problems on the 7 line. Fortunately these don't affect me

Tuesday 18 April 2017

A colleague in Bath asks in an 05:45 (my time) "Will the election change things?". I query this, and he forwards me the BBC article, beating the Washington Post's 'breaking news' alert by 15 minutes. Of course, this probably means all the work for House of Commons is moot.

On the 1 subway at 06:53, and change at 96th street. The train says - well, that's a lie: NY subway trains don't speak (yet: give AI time) but do have signs on the front/sides - it's a 5, which is very odd, as the 5 is an Eastside train. Like seeing a Northern line train at Ealing Broadway, or a Central at Clapham Common. Anyway, it behaves like a 2, which is all that matters.

A colleague at Courant draws my attention to Banks scramble to fix old systems as IT 'cowboys' ride into sunset. I reply.

Lunch with my host, and we try a local upmarket burger place. Really makes you understand the American etymology of the computer use of 'menu'. Meat: beef or bison (+$2.75) or elk (+$1.75) or duck (+$1.25) or chicken; in a bun (4 choices I can't remember) possibly with bacon (+$1.25) or Canadian bacon (+$1.75) or two other options I can't remember, plus one of six choices of cheese, plus any three of nine choices of vegetables, plus one of four sauces. There were also some pre-selected combinations. I opted for the "specify all ingredients" route, starting with elk, but my host went for a pre-specified with a couple of changes ("but with duck instead of beef and [I forget]"). I wondered about how many different ways you could order the same burger, and the computational complexity of determining the fewest words to achieve a desired effect. The tribulations of an over-active brain!

Two friends of mine are in NY for a week's vacation. One's from Bath, the other from Parma (Parma where the hams come from, as opposed to Las Palmas where the tourists go to, which is where last night's Spaniard came from). We exchange e-mails, and I decide to join them at the theatre on Thursday night.

Back at I-House, the television news is largely about the fact that the US carrier group in the Pacific isn't where people thought it was. There's also a story I haven't really been following, about sexual harassment at Fox News (no, not the one about the former CEO, another one). Personally, it strikes me as about as newsworthy as poisoning at a scorpion get-together. The claim on CNN is that the Fox audience believes their beloved Fox is giving in to a feminist plot. There's a lot of talk of major advertisers pulling their adverts from this show, but it's largely symbolic, as they've pre-bought large chunks with Fox, or with the cable channels, and they're just moving it around.

Monday 17 April 2017

Up at 04:30, as our hostess intends to leave the house at 05:30 to drop us off at Nashua bus terminal before getting to work. This is great, as the 06:00 bus will get us to Boston with some leeway to catch the 08:15 train (my friend had originally suggested a later train, but I talked him out of it as there's a great seminar promised at Courant this afternoon. Bloody mathematicians!). In fact, we make the 05:40 bus, and are in Boston in prenty of time for the 07:15 train, except that that's sold out, as indeed now is ours. It doesn't look anything like full as we board, but the conductor is adamant, pointing out that it's spring break.

We pick up lots more passengers in the next two Boston stations. After leaving Boston, the train picks up speed. The home page on the WiFi claims 113 mph. I can believe this, though its veracity is dented by the fact that the speed fluctates, but 'time to next station' doesn't change in step, but jumps seemingly disconnectedly, and when we're stopped in Providence, it reads 13mph. Amtrak stations have three-letter, airport-style abbreviations, so Providence is PVD. But Boston South Station is BOS, which I had always thought of as Boston Logan Airport. Separate name spaces! Incidentally, the rail system in Boston is disconnected: some trains run to/from South, and some to/from North, but there is no connection between the two.

On the way to the buffet car, I am mistaken for an Amtrak conductor. It must be the Transylvanian University tie that does it! In line with the policy of communication on social media (except that I still haven't joined Facebook), I tweet about this, and get a 'like' from St Andrews. A side-effect of Amtrak is that I get a six-week free subscription to the Washington Post: there's a disturbing story about judges and sexual assault in Utah.

The train is on time to New Haven, five minutes late at Stamford, but 20 minutes late into New York. Some-one in our carriage is complaining into his 'phone that commuter trains get priority here. Anyway, into Penn Central and try to find the subway. Finally work out my confusion: at Penn Central, the concourse is above the trains, and the subway is above the concourse. It really is a subterranean station. No doub London will see the same with Crossrail - I just hope it's better signed.

Back to Courant for the afternoon. Good subject, but rather technical for me. I should know more statistical physics. Then One-to-World have organised a social dinner at a local (to me, very nice) Afghan restaurant, called, what else, Khyber Pass. Three Brazilian ladies, a Spaniard and an Armenian were on the table I joined. The Armenian was rather surprised to find an Englishman who spoke Russian, and we got on with the waitress, who was also Russian. I then accumulated more brownie points by knowing the capital of Armenia, that Noah's Ark landed there, and the date of the genocide. The Spaniard was studying translation at Hunter College, so I showed him my "what the Englishman says/what the Englishman thinks" chart, which went down well with the whole table.

Then home, after realising that the nearest subway (Astor Place) is no use ot me, but 50m away is 8th street-NYU, which does work. Get the IMA draft off to the office at 22:30 EDT, then get to bed: it's been a long day even by my standards.

Sunday 16 April 2017

Our hosts live in a wonderful house in the woods outside Nashua NH. First time for a long time I've slept without an alarm clock, and it's wonderful. He brings in the newspapers. Tomorrow is a work day in New Hampshire, but a holiday (third Monday in April, which happens to be Easter Monday in 2017) in Massachusetts. Hence it's the Boston Marathon on Monday. One of our hosts' daughters works for an event security firm, and is working the marathon. The holiday is Patriots' Day in Massachusetts, but Patriot's Day in Maine. What I didn't know (nor did my host) is that Maine used to be part of Massachusetts until 1820, when it became a separate state as part of the Missouri Compromise.

Bizarre article in (paper) NY Times, about a sculptor who is suing a church for moving a work of his. Apparently there's a law giving artists rights over their works after sale. (In deference to my readers, if any, I went and found a URL for the article: while doing so, I found more about art fraud).

Though I don't have a television to watch it, I am pleased that Saturday Night Live (satrirical American politics show, for those who don't know it) is still going strong.

Week 11 Summary


There's an NY Times article on the Senate manoeuvring that went into appointing Gorsuch to the Supreme Court (they changed the rules to prevent a Democratic filibuster). This article traces it back to the fact ("epic blunder" is the phrase used) that George H.W. Bush actually appointed a judge who voted other than on strictly party lines. [Update: see here.]

There's an interesting article about the American Far Right and its connections to the Trump family.

Also, an article points out that Trump is the first US president never to have served in either military or government before. "To be sure, Mr. Trump remains a historically unpredictable president". Perhaps more importantly, his team is historically inexperienced: five cabinet officers have no government experience either, nor many White House staff. Courtesy of my ex-student, here's an interesting article on Donald Trump's financial success: would he have been better just buying the stock market? The short answer is "Yes".


The claim in Easter, ham or lamb? article, is that the average American eats just under a pound of lamb a year, compared with 50 pounds of pork (slightly more beef, and double that in poultry). I actually suspect the modal American eats no lamb. I'd seen very little lamb on previous trips to the USA, and here I see it only in the halal lunch trucks outside the Institute. The EU as a whole doesn't eat much more lamb, but the OECD figures don't break it down further. This story about conditions for Italian grape pickers, which I didn't notice in the Guardian, means that the Europeans can't be smug about the Californian industry, which I discussed earlier.

Saturday 15 April 2017

I've very kindly been invited to spend the Easter weekend (including Monday, but I need to get back for a good Maths seminar in the afternoon, and a Fulbright group ethnic dinner in the evening) in New Hampshire with the family of an NY friend. We're taking the Amtrak to Boston to be met there. I apparently qualify for the Senior Citizen reduction (62+): not as generous as British Rail, but all you need is proof of age, not an expensive card delivered by physical post.

Someone tweets about his uncle helping those ordering curry in Latin by .declining poppodom'. I reply.

Personally, I would never decline a poppadom. But de gustibus non disputandum.

Earlier, I described the USA death rates as including "Firearms at 33,674 and homicide at 15,809", which at the time slightly worried me. There's a quiz in today's NY Times about drug deaths, and it asks you to complete the death rate curves for various causes. Not surprisingly, I do fairly well (apart from H.I.V., which wasn't on my early reading: this is a dramatic fall, from 40K/year in the mid-1990s to 6465 in 2015: still too many, of course), but on gun deaths the NY Times noted "over 60% of gun deaths are suicides". In 2015, for the US as a whole, drug overdoses were more than car accidents plus gun homicides. Again, very uneven, with some counties showing over 35% of deaths in 15-44 year olds being caused by drug overdoses.

Addition to plan: lunch with a former student with whom I had a paper in 2000 coming out of his final year project. I knew he would be in NY with his family on holiday after finishing his Cambridge MBA (wonder what the Latin is? We didn't have them in my day!), but this is our first chance to meet.

I'm not sure what it's an advertisement for, but I liked "I didn't go nine months without chardonnay for you to hate your job: Love, Mother" [JHD's punctuation, their capitalisation]. This sign was seen while waiting for my ex-student at the NE corner of 11th and 44th. He was meeting his family later at Pier 86, and an algorithm my father had taught me in 1963 "Pier number-40=street number" suddenly returned to mind. Google maps had indicated a good food court there, known as West Gotham Market. Indeed it was a good choice, and we both had pulled pork heroes. Good chance to catch up, and get news of other students of his year.

Then he goes to meet his family, and I go to Penn station. This is slightly odd, as in the 1970s/80s the trains for Boston left from Grand Central. Nearly a disaster - with 10 minutes to go, my iPhone indicates that I'm there, but I can't see it. Dive into the subway, onto the platform, then follow the directions. We meet in time (fortunately my friend is tall) and the train is called shortly thereafter. Penn station is basically all underground! The train leaves heading East, on the same tracks as the Long Island RailRoad, and then, after crossing the East River into Queens, doubles back into Manhattan and joins the line from Grand Central by the 125th street Metro North (i.e. Commuter train) station. Then the ride is much as I remember it, along the northern shore of Long Island Sound, sometimes very near the coast, with views of salt marshes that I don't think you can see any other way. At New London (CT) the train station overlooks the harbour, and I see quite a large car ferry loading. My friend thinks it's probably for the Eastern tip of Long Island, and that certainly makes sense. After New London, the ride gets a lot smoother. And indeed slightly faster: we were averaging 45 mph until there, but do almost 50 overall (assuming one can trust the railway mileposts). My friend and I compare them with Google's air and road distance, certainly reasonable.

We get to the bus station at 19:25, just in time to buy tickets for the 19:30 bus. But it's full, and the next bus isn't until 22:00. Sigh. The WiFi in the bus station exists, but isn't great: 2.2 seconds for a 'ping' pack to Bath. Still get some work done, go down to the train station food court to but a take-away Chinese meal

Friday 14 April 2017

There's a worrying piece of research about the security of mobile 'phone fingerprint readers. It was largely done at NYU's Computer Science Department, but not the one I'm in, the one in Brooklyn.

Judging by the amount of cardboard outside I-House, there's at least some cardboard recycling taking place. There are recycling bins at I-House, and at NYU, but just one generic bin, with no or sparse (e.g. "For NYC recyclables") instructions. Although it's apparently not a holiday (certainly not at NYU), the subway is less than half full at the morning rush hour. Plenty of seats on the express from 96th to 14th.

Earlier, I described the USA death rates as including "Firearms at 33,674 and homicide at 15,809", which at the time slightly worried me. There's a quiz in today's NY Times about drug deaths, and it asks you to complete the death rate curves for various causes. Not surprisingly, I do fairly well (apart from H.I.V., which wasn't on my early reading: this is a dramatic fall, from 40K/year in the mid-1990s to 6465 in 2015: still too many, of course), but on gun deaths the NY Times noted "over 60% of gun deaths are suicides". In 2015, for the US as a whole, drug overdoses were more than car accidents plus gun homicides. Again, very uneven, with some counties showing over 35% of deaths in 15-44 year olds being caused by drug overdoses.

Nice public information notice: "Texting and driving makes good people look bad" - somehow more subtle than my stereotype of American notices. I actually pass a physical newsstand, and the headlines are essentially "U.S drops Mother Of All Bombs on ISIS", with the fact that it's Afghanistan scarcely mentioned. One online headline (where space isn't so important) was "U.S. Drops 'Mother of All Bombs' on ISIS Caves in Afghanistan".

Thursday 13 April 2017

11:30 UK = 06:30 EDT: Skype meeting back to Bath, planning the supercomputer upgrades for next teaching year. Then into work. Apartment rental ad (same firm) - "I collect vintage flamethrowers, which makes 'Board approval required' difficult" - I don't understand the detailed semantics, but get the drift. Talking of humour, while food-shopping last night I saw mushrooms branded as "Mr FunGuy" - quite appealed to me. The rental advertisements also introduce me to a new linguistic contraction - 'burbs. Presumably short for suburbs.

Wow Air are offering a one-way from Newark to Bristol on 1 July for £270, but of course it's £360 by the time you include luggage etc., and via Keflavik, an airport which has more than tripled in passenger throughput in the last 10 years. It is my cynical understanding that, by going via Keflavik rather than directly transatlantic, the maximum ocean passage is much less, and the safety requirements less onerous.

Talking of airlines, the United case is drawing more bad publicity, and is being used as the publicity for a new NYU debating society (right). The pilots are objecting, though this looks more like a union/low cost internal argument to me. United new class: Fight Club.

Now here's a research call that should appeal to an IT professor and TA officer: "future generic open soldier system reference architecture". The officer isn't convinced by the idea of an open soldier, but the professor parenthesises the phrase as "future generic open (soldier system) reference architecture" (for the benefit of fellow-pedants, with inplicit right-association otherwise, so this is one of 132 possible interpretations).

I nip out for a coffee refill, and on the way back explain to the NYU security guard that, though the British drink tea, computer scientists drink coffee, and in my case that clause wins. Easter has really crept up on me: I have probably heard more about Passover than Easter in casual conversation, and I've seen no Easter-related advertising. Commenting on this to a Bath-based research student, he asks:

Is there much Easter advertising in America/the chocolate egg tradition? And are the chocolate bars shrinking there as well, or does the generally lower amount of cocoa solids in their chocolate make them somewhat immune to the price rises in production?
I reply
I endeavour not to measure, or otherwise deal in, chocolate bars! But there's almost no visible Easter advertising. April 15 being the tax filing deadline, there's more accountant advertising than Easter.
I've heard of Belgian chocolate (which is very good) and Dutch courage (though it should really be Deutsch), but my local supermarket sells 'Dutch chocolate' ice cream. Odd. Subsequently, the research students adds " Get to Christopher Street for the train back to I-House, which is where the lecture is, and get onto the uptown platform, which is crowded, and the indicator says "delay". Then there's an announcement that all uptown trains are running on the express track, and one should go downtown to Chambers Street and change. This means leaving the station, crossing the street and going in the downtown entrance. When I try this, my Metrocard is refused: "recently used". And this entrance is unstaffed. Someone in the same position crawls under the turnstile and opens the emergency gate. We pass back through Christopher Street about 20 minutes after I first got there. Not brilliant, and I might have done better to walk to Washington Square, (certainly better had I been telepathic and gone there in the first place) but probably better than a network without local/express could have achieved.

The lecture was pretty interesting, from an I-House (Chicago) alumnus, who now heads a not-for-profit developing K-12 STEM (but not computing as such) educational software. He had some very impressive simulations of molecular dynamics, and of genetics.

Having had some of my best ideas swimming, I really liked the conference announced by the UK Research Office: "Horizon 2020 Waterborne Research Conference" --- on investigation it's an editing error, should have been "Horizon 2020 Waterborne Transport Research Conference" - sigh.

Wednesday 12 April 2017

Positively relaxed: my UK commitment is at 13:00 UK, i.e. 8 a.m. EDT. So alarm on 6 - luxury. The US can get as worked up about bye-elections (known as "special elections") as the UK can, and in my view about as spuriously. I see a piece of television "news" on my way to NYU Privacy seminar: "Tillerson says US/Russia relations are at a low point".

An amusing quote on automation.

Imagine, if you will, that you are a horse in the early 1900s. Despite breathtaking revolutions in technology over the previous hundred years (e.g., the telegraph overtaking the Pony Express, and railroads cannibalizing horse-powered travel), you might be feeling pretty happy about your prospects. In fact, the US horse population continued to increase approximately sixfold between 1840 and 1900. Your confidence in future job opportunities might begin to seem like an idée fixe: equine labor is in some fundamental way resistant to automation. Such confidence would soon crumble under its own weight. By 1950, the US equine population declined to 10% of its 1900 level.

Tuesday 11 April 2017

Forgot my 10 a.m. (BST, 05:00 EDT) conference call back to UK this morning. What a pity! I've placed reminders in my diary for the previous nights in future - I suspect 'masochist' is the technical description. Another piece of "new technology" news: apparently Tesla is now valued more highly than General Motors by the stock market.

26 March was the 205th birthday of the word 'gerry-mander'. As part of my work on the IMA submission to the House of Commons inquiry into 'Algorithms', I look at this practice, spot an anachronism [reference to the wrong incarnation of the Boston Gazette] in the Wikipedia article, and fix it. Oddly enough, in 1812 the 'Democratic-Republican' party favoured by the gerry-mandering was one party: as Wikipedia helpfully says "Not to be confused with" the modern parties. Other than possibly John Hancock, Governor Gerry is probably the most famous man to have been elected Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts - no woman has been elected, though a female Lieutenant-Governor has acted as Governor.

A German colleague is organising a computer algebra summer school in October (OK, but it's summer there) in Cameroon, more precisely in Limbe, which (as we all know after checking with Wikipedia or Google: Wikipedia also say sit is twiined with Seattle!) is not far from Douala. Looking at flights is amusing. Turkish Airlines are the cheapest ($541) and fly via Istanbul, which is hardly direct, and takes 13 hours. Royal Air Maroc is next ($799) anbd fly via Casablanca, which should be a win except there's a 30 hour layover, so a 39 hour journey. Brussels Airlines, via Brussels, is among the quickest, at 9:45 (but $1230), an dthen there's Air France via CDG, at 9:25 but $1965.

We have already reported on United Airlines: they now have more problems.

A great deal is made in the UK about school catchment areas. I see an exactly equivalent advertisement for a New York apartment agency pointing out that their website allows selection by "zoned for public school 290", always bearing in mind that "public school" means the exact opposite on the two sides of the Atlantic. Talking of schools, on the way to the subway these evening I met a herd (slightly herded by what I presume were teachers, but not herded enough to be called a crocodile) of teenagers with sweatshirts emblazoned "Straight from Charter". At this point I think I need a translation.

Monday 10 April 2017

Neil Gorsuch has just been sworn in as the 113 justice of the Supreme Court. Since it's been going 228 years, and has nine members, this implies an average tenure of 18 years.

Dealing with a current student's application to study in Sweden, and a clash of bureaucracies over signing versus stamping. A former student writes:

Not sure about this work thing, train delayed 3.5 hrs due to overhead line damage, just got to Leeds in time to miss meeting and go back to London.
I reply
Ouch! There's chaos here, where Amtrak 'maintains' Penn Station, and decided that the ties were bad, but not very bad, and next day an NJ Transit train fell through. An industry inside story is here.
There's also a good article on computational thinking in education. I particularly liked one section.
"There is a reason when you go to the 'Joy of Cooking' and you want to make a strawberry milkshake, you don't look under 'strawberry milkshake,'?" he said. Rather, there is a recipe for milkshakes that instructs you to add ice cream, milk and fruit of your choice. While earlier cookbooks may have had separate recipes for strawberry milkshakes, raspberry milkshakes and boysenberry milkshakes, eventually, he imagines, someone said, "Why don't we collapse that into one milkshake recipe?".
Musical Attorneys-General didn't, in the end, save the Alabama Governor, who has just resigned after being impeached and charged. The adjective 'Nixonian' was being used.

More work on the IMA submission to the House of Commons inquiry into 'Algorithms'. In the interests of harmony, and not confusing the poor politicians more than necesssary, bounce a draft off the Royal Statistical Society.

Sunday 9 April 2017

Lovely tweet from a college friend I follow:
Bitter cups are often sweetened with the saccharine of denial.

I write this entry at 08:00 on the 125th street platform. It's 49F according to the pillar, due to get significantly warmer, and I am beginning to think it's time to shed the anorak (the garment, not the image, which I can't do much about). Heading to Baruch College for the next phase of the Kolchin seminar.

One of my research students is using Particle Swarm Optimisation as a technology in her thesis. There's apparently a good book on subject (and the French author has some great online resources), but it's dated 2006 (no time away in mathematics, but a long time away in computing terms), and he also wrote a book in 2015. So I e-mail him to ask the difference. Took me some time to remember the French for 'swarm', which I must have learned many years ago. Some knowledge takes a long time to have its utility demonstrated. Remembering the word, I could check the concept via French Google.

After Kolchin, I take the 6 downtown (23rd street is one of these stations with different entrances for uptown and downtown) to Bleecker Street, then walk to Courant, picking up lunch at my favourite salad bar en route. They don't ask me either to sign or enter my PIN. My banking friend reckons this is the issuer signalling back that it's not necessary, presumably because the same card spends $14-ish there several times a week. Into work, continue catching up on various references from the numerous talks I have been to. One of the references I am chasing from Thursday's seminar is Hua's identity, of which, shamefully, I had never heard. Wikipedia refers me to Cohn's Algebra, which is surely in the library, which is open. However the library is large, and the catalogue is down. Fortunately, I recall that the Courant Library uses Library of Congress, and that Algebra is in the QA. Not much help in a dedicated maths library, so I log into the Library of Congress and use their catalogue to look it up (QA154.3.C645). Then go to the 12th floor Courant Library and find the book. Lateral thinking wins! Of course, I still have the hard problem of understanding Hua's identity, especially as I can't find it stated as such. in Hua's 1949 paper.

Then on to the Select Committee evidence. The more I dig the worse it gets: Google offering different jobs to people depending on gender etc. Then home, and I decide to take the A from 4th street. There's a long ramp down from the 4th street entrance, and it's been "redecorated" since I was last here. It used to be Santander ads on how you could avoid monthly fees by ordering pizza on your debit card, but now it's "stop him before he drinks too much" ads, sponsored by the Mayor's office. I was so busy doing the linguistic analysis (30.8% Spanish) that I forgot to do a gender analysis: well, they always say men are bad at multi-tasking. [Postscript 2017/04/16: 10 posters feature a man and 8 a woman.]

Week 10 Summary


The politics around Trump's action in Syria are interesting. The NY Times has an interesting summary of how Congressional opinion, especially among the Republicans, has changed. I find it hard to agree with that article in calling Obama's plans "amorphous", given that Trump appears to have no plan at all. There are several comments on the extent of the U-turn, but not so many indicating that the previous statements saying that ousting Assad was no longer a priority may have been seen by Assad (?+Russia) as giving them a green light.

An interesting opinion piece in the NY Times.

By any conceivable definition, the sitting president of the United States is the utter antithesis of Christian values - a misogynist who disdains refugees, persecutes immigrants, condones torture and is energetically working to dismantle the safety net that protects our most vulnerable neighbors. Watching Christians put him in the White House has completely broken my heart.
It goes on to say that it was all about abortion. It also discusses an evening class, part locals and part immigrants: all getting on well personally, but "I think half our class just voted to deport the other half" was a comment.

Another article on Trump's generals (SecDEF and NSA) intrigues me.

Overall, the armed forces' worldview - a status-quo bias plus doses of hard power - is hardly the worst imaginable vision for Trump to adopt. But where the president's inability to back down from a big fight meets the military's willingness to start a lot of small ones lies the great peril of his presidency: not deliberate warmongering, but an accidental escalation that his generals encourage, and that the ultimate decider has no idea how to stop.


I'd earlier remarked the WiFi and USB charging pillar near 125th street. A couple of weeks ago I saw a similar one by Columbia University, and saw it was labelled "beta". A man was using the pillar to charge the mobile 'phone he was talking on. Whether he was using WiFi or not I could not tell. Next time I passed the 125th street one, I noticed it too was "beta", but seemed to have more services: at least it was showing the 'Google Maps' icon. Friday I saw it was also advertising a "design your app to run here" contest. Now (10 April) I see that it's no longer marked "beta" and is also displaying the weather forecast. I've still only seen the two pillars so far, though.

Saturday 8 April 2017

11:00 (i.e. 06:00) telepresence at a meeting in London, where we're trying to set the pilot paper for a new "Junior Algorithmcs Challenge" for schoolchildren. A very worthy effort, and several of my Bath colleagues have also pitched in. Then they break for lunch.

After 38 months, California's drought has formally ended. The Sierra Nevada snowpack has gone from 5% of normal two years ago, to 160%.

While the London people are having lunch, I finish breakfast (starting the second 8oz jar of Marmite I brought with me), and look at a research student's queries. The technique she is using is described in a (ludicrously expensive) 2006 book. Buy it for the library? But I notice he's also written a 2015 book, with a sufficiently different title that it's not clear whether it's a second edition or not. Send him an e-mail in French asking. This isn't totally perverse: said author is French, and indeed the 2006 book is a translation from French. After lunch / breakfast, the London folk rejoin, but they've decided to shuffle round bits of paper to compose the test. Carry on with the research student while they do that, them rejoin to agree the paper, and feedback requested from pilot schools. Fortunately this effort is a spin-off from the junior Mathematics Challenge, and these people know what they're doing logistics-wise.

Then into work. A lot of fairly serious construction is taking place on the express line between 42nd and 34th street. That seems to be a major switching centre for the subway system. Also serious construction on 6th Avenue. There's quite a lot of construction going on in general. I note that, at least in Greenwich Village, the streets are structurally supported on steel girders, with all the services running beneath them.

I now find the Kolchin colloquium runs until Sunday, and there's a fairly relevant talk this afternoon. The Kolchin colloquium is in Baruch College of CUNY, another location I've not visited. Turns out to be on the 6 (local) line from Bleecker Street. I manage to make the most interesting (to me) talk, and touch base with Michael Singer, with whom I wrote a paper in 1986 [There's a bizarre feature on that link: the article is correct, and the image is correct, and the links are correct, but the title of the Journal is given as "The Lancet Infectious Diseases" rather than "Journal of Symbolic Computation". Bizarre]. After that, we split into 1:1 where faculty give research students tips on job talks. I enjoy this phase too. The student I am talking to is kind enough to remind me that I heard him in Beijing two years ago: I found my notes.

Friday 7 April 2017

Last night I had seen on CNN's 'breaking news' information about the US Tomahawk strike on Syria, but no analysis. There's some in today's New York Times. Fulbright have arranged a visit to the UN for us later today, so it will be interesting to see what I can pick up there. [Retrospective note: not much directly.]

Up early again: telepresence at a 10:15 meeting in Bath, i.e. 05:15 NY Time. Lovely analogy: "this is the tip of an iceberg we should be extracting fresh water from". I got up early enough to make coffee and breakfast first. Next commitment at 08:00 (i.e. 08:00), which gives me time to finish getting up, getting dressed and my jar of Marmite first.

Then telepresence at a 13:00 meeting in Bristol. Have to leave this early to go on a Fulbright-sponsored tour of the UN. I detour (slightly) to pay the deposit for my next phase at I-House, and hand over my US debit card. It is clearly marked "DEBIT Visa", but the cashier asks "credit or debit?". I say "debit", and the transaction proceeds essentially instantaneously: the reader asking for my PIN before I can reach it. The slip of paper clearly says "signature not required", but the cashier asks me to sign anyway. Not worth fighting. There's a Kolchin colloquium in CUNY today, but my UN trip was booked before I found out (and probably would have taken precedence anyway). Take the 1 to 96th street, the 3 to 42nd street, then the 7 (my first on this line) to Grand Central - so called because it's the second-busiest station in New York, and only serves one direction: North. The subway has a recruitment advert for "NYC DHS Police": "DHS" in this context is "Department of Homeless Services", rather than "Department of Homeland Security". At Grand Central, the uptown 4/5/6 lines (local and express!) are vertically above the downtown lines. Hence the 7, which is crosstown, has to run beneath both of them, at what a mathematician would call level -3.

Plenty of interesting discussions with UN and US officials: I'll post my notes after they've been checked. Good group of Fulbrighters (as always). One, a Pakistani whose great grandfather had served with 2 Punjab in Burma (the Norfolk Yeomanry also served there according to one old soldier I met, though I can find no record of this: he may well have been attached elsewhere, of course), recognised my Royal Artillery tie, and another, Belgian, recognised the Cambridge tie pin.

Our subgroup guide for the UN building is Lithuanian, as are two of our group. Nice coincidence, though it does mean I don't follow their conversation. On the tour of UN, an Afghan Fulbrighter had used (I think as a teacher) the UNICEF 'school in a box' that our guide was demonstrating.

On the way back I pass Columbia's chapter of ΒΘΠ on 114th street with the Dantean (Inferno Canto III line 9) inscription Lasciate ogne speranza voi ch'intrate. Not the sort of welcome I'd have chosen. Editor's note: a previous version of this was commented on adversely by a colleague. I fixed an obvious typo immediately. On 5th May (it now being daylight) I rechecked it against his e-mail, and saw that the font used had practically indistinguishable 'r'/'t'. Now fixed, I hope.

I have seen the UK drug data for 2016: it quotes the UK death toll as 2655 for 2014. I have previously reported the US toll as 47055.

WonkHE asks whether UK universities should be testing "in-subject English", rather than using a "one size fits all" approach. I had instituted such a small-level scheme when I was last Director of Studies, but fear it has fallen by the wayside with changes in the Department and in Bath's English Language Unit. One of the authors is in Computer Science.

We've just had a paper published and I ma invited to tweet about it. Do so, and immediately attract another follower. Quite what he/she will make of my sense of humour has to be seen.

Thursday 6 April 2017

There's a conference on verification of computer software in the UK, which one can attend by webinar. It starts at 10, which is 5 my time. I attend until 7, then head into the office, and pick it up in the background while I can.

A paper we have written on the teaching of programing in UK Universities is being presented in Brussels. I can't go, nor can the other Computer Science colleague from Cardiff Metropolitan University, so the poor data analyst, who did a brilliant job there, allowed herself to be strong-armed into giving the talk. I stay online in case there are questions she wants to bat to me, but she's fine. Many thanks. ResearchGate the next day informs me that the paper was read by a colleague from the University of Kragujevac, a University actually 10 years younger that Bath. For those who, like me, didn't know, Kragujevac is in Serbia.

Over to New jersey again to meet by banking colleague. My colleague draws on his Federal Reserve Bank experience. USA has 75,000 banks. North of the border, Canada has 13. I recall my encounter with the US banking system in 1982. At that point, the USA had laws against inter-state banking, Massachusetts (an otherwise reasonably advanced state) had laws against inter-county banking, and at least one state (I recall Georgia) had laws against branch banking. I also learned a lot, from the bankers point of view, about the crash, Bernanke, and TARP. It is clear that some of the scars of that period haven't healed. Apparently, Lehmann Brothers "weren't big enough for their collapse to send a signal", which is not what I recall from the UK at the time.

There's a sign in the "Welcome Garden" at Newport PATH station, pointing out that the town was laid out in 1804 by Hamilton. My street in Bath is older than that town plan.

Yesterday, coming back from Newport, I got off the PATH at Christopher Street, and had to walk to Christopher Street subway station. Tonight I thought I would be more cunning and change at 14th street, which is described as "connections to subway 1,2,3,L,B,D,F,M. You still have to emerge onto the street (signed, paradoxically, as 'subway') and go round the corner (unsigned!) to go into the subway. Here I find that the walk underground from the L platform to the 1/2/3 platform is longer than the above ground walk between the Christopher streets! So much for being cunning. Catch the 2 at 14th street, running express (stopping at 34, 42 and 72 only) to 96th street, where I change to a 1. This stops at 103 and 110, where it is announced that the train is now express to 137, and passengers for intermediate stations should change here for the next 1 train. Life!

Bizarre spam: software for booking spa appointments: I know I do software and travel from Bath Spa railway station, but this is deep confusion! There's an advertisement for a Computer Science professor at Grand Canyon University. Now I have been to Grand Bend, but that's in Canada, and my vision of Grand Canyon is that it's really not that hospitable. Wikipedia is more enlightening:

a for-profit Christian research university in Phoenix, Arizona, in the United States. Founded in 1949 as a non-profit liberal arts college, the university was purchased by Grand Canyon Education, Inc. (NASDAQ: LOPE) in February 2004. The university is the first, and only, for-profit to participate in NCAA Division I athletics.

[In 1949] Arizona Southern Baptists felt the need to establish a faith-based institution that would allow local Baptists the opportunity to obtain a bachelor's or master's degree without going east to one of the Baptist colleges in Texas or Oklahoma.

I like the address: "3300 West Camelback Road".

Also on education, there's an nice story" (if you aren't involved) about investigative student journalism. I actually saw the story on CNN over I-House dinner, but their website's search engine is so broken I had to find it elsewhere to document it. I also discussed Cambridge graffiti with a Pakistani resident.

Another comment on CNN, just before the Syrian Tomahawk news broke, was "There are so many competing interests, so much infighting, because he [Trump] is a blank slate on so many issues".

Wednesday 5 April 2017

Interesting piece of calibration. The escalator at my 125th street station, when it's not working, has 50 steps. When I climb it briskly when it is operating, it appears to have 34. So in fact the escalator only buys 1/3, but I am not sure what the implications are for my cardiac effort. Certainly walking briskly up a moving escalator feels like good exercise.

A former student sends me a piece of Cambridge graffiti in Latin. My person translation would be "local homes for local people", but I think that's stretching it. I comment that the one I remember from my undergraduate days was ‘Coito ergo erit’. He has an alternative Latin phrase than the one scribbled on the houses. Turns out it's the 'Pike and Eel' pub: a great landmark. This may require a rethink of the Latin: mightn't "domos populum" be "public house"?

The BBChas picked up yesterday's story about the reduction in apprehensions at the US souther border, but with rather different figures (it quotes "fewer than 17,000"). It also quotes the US Secretary for Homeland Security as saying that the Mexicans stopped more that 160,000 at their southern border, which means the Mexicans are doing 90% of the work!

There's another underground system in New York, besides the subway (run by MTA - Metropolitan Transit Authority): it's the Port Authority Trans Hudson (always called PATH, but you must pronounce it the American way, with a short 'a', otherwise you will not be understood. It has its own ticketing system, but accepts MTA cash cards, not season tickets. Fortunately I have one of these as well, to get me to/from JFK. So off to Jersey City to meet a colleague from Chase with whom I'd had a very productive telephone conversation a couple of weeks ago. I'd got myself slightly confused: what I thought on the map was Newport PATH station is in fact the Newport station on Jersey Light Rail, but the two are pretty close. Get to the Newport Mall, where we'd agreed to meet at the CheeseCake Factory, more because it was clearly marked on the map, and presumably so on the ground, than because of a burning urge to eat there. My colleague joins me. There's a dining area on the third floor, but when we investigate it, it turns out to be the less appealing side of American fast food. We also spot a mall directory, and he sees a chain restaurant he likes, on the ground (i.e. first) floor. Soup and sandwiches, but apparently all the bread is baked fresh daily.

"Chip and pin is too slow" is an American complaint. My colleague points out that, when I went to pay for dinner, I had to swipe (and sign) even though there was a taped-over chip card reader. Since the bank can detect that the card was chip-enabled, and the reader was, it can decline responsibility for any fraud, and the merchant has to accept this. Curious.

Tuesday 4 April 2017

This is a bad start to the day. 10:00 e-committee to plan the 60th anniversary celebrations for the BCS. Odd to be planning an event for a body younger than I am. Short and to the point, though I pick up a non-trivial action. I hadn't turned on video, as I was still in my pyjamas, it being 05:00 my time. I had at least managed to make coffee. Breakfast etc. afterwards, and follow up on that action.

Lunch with my host, who points out that the repeal of privacy regulations was in fact only a repeal of regulations that were due to come into effect, not of existing regulations. Trump isn't the only one going for Attorneys. The Governor of Florida reassigned (I suppose that's better than firing) a state Attorney who said she wouldn't seek the death penalty in a specific case. It's worth noting that the NY Times article is written by the chairman of the Florida Senate criminal justice committee. There's another despairing article on opioids, pointing out that in two years, opioids killed more Americans than died in Vietman. It's five times as deadly as the peak of the crack epidemic. In 12 states there are more opioid prescriptions than people. There's also a nice leader "can Elephants Learn from Failure": the elephant is, of course, the symbol of the Republican party.

Having splashed out on a NYU tie a few weeks ago, I notice that they are selling Courant tee-shirts, and, uncharacteristically, decide to buy one (they are also selling Courant hoodies, but that really would be a step too far). IF I can get it, the A from Washington Square to the other 125th station is pretty quick, nonstop from 59th street.

An interesting document on H2020 from BEIS: the top four universities in the EU, in terms of funding, were, in that order, Oxford, Cambridge, UCL and Imperial. Bath was 24th in the UK, and 100th in the EU,

Watch CNN over dinner back at I-House. Well, maybe tough talk on immigration pays for some people. Apprehensions at the Southern border of the USA were roughly 12K in March 2017, a 63% drop on the previous year. Probably as well, as the administration is having problems getting the land to build the wall. Also, one of the easiest Government tasks I know. "After the closure of I-85 in Atlanta due to a fire in construction material stored under an overpass, the state of Georgia is reviewing the state rules on storing flammable material under bridges and overpasses". It strikes me as a case for the [Nancy] Reagan doctrine: "Just say No".

Monday 3 April 2017

Bunch of e-mails with the UK following up on some I'd sent over the weekend. Upshot is that I am writing the BCS submission to the House of Commons inquiry into algorithms (read machine learning) as well as the IMA one. Fortunately a joint submission is possible.

07:00 Skype to my European project leads, planning our paper for Gothenburg. 08:30 e-attend BCS Committee in London. Immediately afterwards, a Skype back to Bath to discuss a major bid. Then (11:45) into work. Very good seminar on the power of machine learning in medicine. This routine of getting up at 05:00 or 05:30 and not getting to bed before 22:30 is proving pretty tiring. Today I decide to sleep in, and get up at 07:00. This means actually getting up in full daylight, something I've not experienced recently.

I've had one of my tweets from March 2016 "At #CollabW16 - most of Swahili Wikipedia is written by "really dedicated" German missionaries" 'liked' - I didn't know that sort of thing happened. The liker (if that's a word) turns out to be the editor-in-cheif of Swahili Wikipedia. Keeping on the linguistic front, at the office I see the your colleague at the other end o fthe corridor who was spekaing Russian to my Russian office-mate last week. I say "Dobri Dyen'" to her, and she says that she is Bulgarian, but of course understands Russian. JHD gets it wrong again. I explain that Sofia is the only place I have ever actually lectured in Russian, not that it was very good.

Complete a survey on international universities, which asks what I spend my time doing. Answer (from last year's logs) is 16% research, 26% teaching and 58% administration. That administration includes 17% research grant writing, so I spend more time writing research grants than I do doing research.

E-mail with a Bath colleague.

I saw on Twitter from a man I met at a College reunion: "Our clothes go to the cleaners to be cleaned, our money to the city to be laundered".

Week 9 Summary


One thing I forgot to mention about the dinner experience at Wednesday's I-House lecture. Though a buffet dinner, the table was formally laid with pyramid-folded linen napkins. One American remarked that he was shocked to see the empty dining room when he arrived slightly early. He said the symbolism pained him. The Pakistanis around us seemed not to understand, and anyway were engrossed in their own conversation. So he and I carried on a conversation in veiled speech. I remarked "Well, as a European, it seems a pretty usual way to lay a dinner table, and had the napkins been laid flat, one might have thought that the establishment did not have professional 'silver service' waiting staff. But I guess it might be different in, say, South Carolina". He remarked "yes indeed, where I come from, laying a table that way would be a very definite political, indeed racial, statement". I noted that the waiting staff were pretty mixed in racial background, and didn't seem to have any problem. He said that, in his experience, you couldn't ask such people to erect such symbols. We understood each other completely, even though we never actually uttered the phrase Ku Klux Klan. I was reminded of this by the story in the Guardian about white supremacists at Trump's Kentucky rally. After some digging, I find the corresponding NY Times article. It's a Federal lawsuit, but civil, so not affected by Trump's dismissal of US attorneys. The judge has an Anglo-Saxon name, and I haven't seen any references to Trump tweets impugning his integrity.

It seems as if there's another row between Trump and the ultra-conservative Republicans, like the one that derailed the repeal of ObamaCare, over Ryan/Trump's proposed "border adjustment" tax. This is one campaign piece.

Saturday 1 April 2017

A friend falls for an April Fools' joke on e-mail, which prompts someone to post a rejoinder Sad fool.

There's apparently new evidence of substantial concerns about Flynn's connections with Russia.

I understand that my previous vacation message

Professor Davenport is now fully engaged on his Fulbright CyberSecurity Scholarship (http:
has upset some people, so I change it to
Professor Davenport is now at NYU on his Fulbright CyberSecurity Scholarship (http:
While researching my IMA task, I come up with various discoveries. "Though the U.S. has less than 5% of the global population, it has more than 25% of the world’s prisoners". The UK's incarceration rate, while the highest in Western Europe, is one fifth of the US rate.

Time after lunch (the local salad bar, as usual) for some personal administration: a hair cut. There are several men's hairdressers nearby, and I pick one on University Place. That means I have to walk North of the Courant Institute. I thought I had, but I am one street over from my usual paths, and see a vibrant area of small shops.

March 2017

Friday 31 March 2017

Slight rain as I leave I-House, getting heavier during the day. I come across a useful resource for teaching and arguing about IT security. A 1% increase in IT spend correlates with a 5% reduction in attacks - clearly this can't go on for ever, but is a useful datum.

At the 11:30 Courant CS seminar, I am introduced to one Patrick (the introducer admits to being hopeless with surnames). He has a French accept, so I ask (in French) if he is Patrick Cousot. He answers in the affirmative and asks whether I am the Computer Algebra Davenport. Small world.

Another amusing (to those not involved) piece of news is the settlement over Trump University: basically he is paying $25M to settle fraud claims over his for-profit Trump University. This despite a last-minute challenge from a student and lawyer, who wanted to see him tried for racketeering. I admire the honesty of the main plaintiff students' laywer: "Once in a long while, this profession yields some good feelings. This is one of those times". Fox News doesn't report this particular story, though there are older stories on this particular issue, including this one.

For more than six years, Donald Trump fought hard against a lawsuit in which former customers of his now-defunct Trump University accused him of fraud. Less than two weeks after being elected president, he agreed to a $25 million settlement. [...] Trump suggested the Indiana-born judge's Mexican heritage exposed a bias.
A swift calculation shows that admitting 40 new members a year to Mar-a-Lago at the new initiation price of $200,000 will more than recoup the $25M over a four-year presidency.

Thursday 30 March 2017

A challenging day. I'll work from I-House in the morning, as the network has less jitter so is much better for voice. According to the Washington Post, Flynn, the Former National Security Advisor who "resigned in February, after it was reported that he misled White House staff on his interactions with Russia" [it's also suspected that he broke Pentagon rules], has reportedly told the Federal Bureau of Investigation that he is willing to testify in the investigation of the Trump campaign's potential ties to Russia, in exchange for immunity from prosecution. This is the source. The general belief is "Well, he would ask for that, wouldn't he".

I hadn't realised today is the 150th anniversary of the Alaska purchase. I'd always thought it was in October, and indeed that's when the formal transfer took place. A joy for calendar freaks (moi?) as at the transfer Alaska switched from Julian to Gregorian calendars, but also changed which side of the date line it was, so that Friday 6 October was followed by Friday 18 October. Neither Russia nor the USA were particularly kind to the Native Alaskans, which is why the Lt.-Governor, himself a Native Alaskan, describes the event as "a commenoration, not a celebration" - a neat nuance.

Wednesday 29 March 2017

Lest anyone think that life in New York relieves me of trivia, today's e-mail as I wake (BAD habit of reaching for the iPhone before getting out of bed) brings me things to do: confirmation of e-mail address for the Internet domain, removing a schoolteacher from the Bath Computing at School mailing list and organising the updating the device drivers for the GPUs on the University of Bath's High Performance Computer. But that's life (1 and 3 solved from iPhone, 2 needs breakfast and the laptop - I try at least not to get to the laptop before breakfast, lest breakfast get overtaken by events).

One of the (many!) items in my inbox is a pointer to an article from a new field to me: political neuroscience. It starts bluntly.

Last november, over 60 million people deliberately chose to be led by a man who's repeatedly made racist statements basing his campaign on hate and fear.
For sheer weirdness, it's hard to beat today's story, which is best summarised as "causing a traffic jam with intent to settle political scores".

This evening, I-House has put on a special evening event: conversation with Pakistan's UN Ambassador. My ticket says 7, so I get back to I-House at 18:40, aiming to drop my bags, shave and change into a suit. But the notice at the entrance says it starts with dinner at 18:30. Fortunately that's a pretty relaxed 18:30, and I'm not really late. Buffet service, a Pakistani meal. I am seated next to my poet friend, in a cluster of Pakistanis, mostly girls. I talk to one, who was born in Leicester, but whose parents moved back to Pakistan when she was 3. She's not terribly impressed with the food, and I concur, saying it was probably dumbed down for American palates. She agrees, and adds that the Pakistani food in Southall (London, as far as I know there isn't a region of New York called that) is the equivalent of what you can find in Pakistan.

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Fox News has an interesting article on the US opioid epidemic, stating, probably rightly, that not enough is being done nationally, and praising New Jersey's governor. Probably not coincidentally, he is named by the White House the same day as chair of a new task force on the subject. There's some further analysis of this panel, including the faint praise "Christie is not the worst choice in a Trumpian world".

Seven minutes late leaving home due to sorting out the GotoMeeting for Thursday's EU project meeting. Light rain as I leave I-House. The subway is distinctly more crowded, and at 34th street people can't get in. On the way back, the rain is distinctly heavier. At I-House, I watch CNN over dinner. There's more on the health care issue. There's also a headline about the water pollution in Flint, ichigan, but I couldn't find the matching story at first. Also, more from the Department of 'two nations separated by a common tongue': "Gorsuch is expected to be voted out of Senate Judiciary Committee" - my immediate thought is that he's not on that committee, then realise that what it means is that his nomination will leave the committee (successfully) to go to the floor of the Senate for voting.

Another item is that Congress has voted to allow ISPs to sell browsing history etc., and prevented the Federal Communications Commission (which had imposed the ban) from ever doing so again. Trump has indicated his support for the bill. The technical press's view is best summarised in this cartoon. Updated 4 April.

Monday 27 March 2017

Gentle rain today. Spring break is over, and I see, at about 06:50, the yellow school buses going round Morningside Heights. Odd how some things, such as having school buses be yellow, are pretty standard across the US by evolution, whereas a federal standard would be inconceivable (and indeed the practice predates the federal Department of Education, and will doubtless survive its likely demise). Again I see a train leaving 125th street as I arrive. Another chance to time the service: 6.5 minutes.

I get an enquiry via Twitter about the Bonhoeffer film: about the first intelligent conversation I've had on Twitter. A shock piece of news (for those who care: I don't) is that the NFL has allowed the Oakland raiders to move to Las Vegas, apparently shock because of the NFL's historic opposition to gambling. They are staying in Oakland whie a $1900M stadium is built for them and the University's team. I can't envisage a similar move in the UK.

The press (well, NY Times, Washington Post) are still talking about the Obamacare debacle. I hadn't realised that the abortive Thursday vote was schedued to be symbolic, on the 7th annoversary of the passing in the frist place. That didn't happen, which let Obama's office put out a nice press release about what a success it had been. The NY Times claims 33 republicans blocked the bill: 15 from the House Freedom Caucus, 10 moderates from the Tuesday Group, and 8 miscellaneous. But Obamacare is not perfect, and could probably be made to collapse by a combination of Executive Orders and non-enforcement. We'll see (or at least Americans will).

Having been fingered by the BCS several times to write submissions to parliamentary committees, it's now the IMA's turn to finger me. It's actually a subject I've been learning about.

On the way back to the subway and I-House, I pass a lamppost with a very old-fashioned "Wanted" poster on it. Looking carefully, it says this man is wanted for $2.3M in child support, and it gives a web address for information. Different!

Sunday 26 March 2017

Very overcast day today, but definitely daylight again when I leave I-House at 06:45. There's a pillar advertising free NY wifi on Broadway near 125th Street (1line) station. I haven't tried it out (no need) but maybe I should on principle. Looking at it again last night, I see that it also has two USB device charging points: neat! If it really is a city service, I wonder why I've only seen the one - lack of observation, possibly. Smallish lumps of snow are all that are left now in the neighbourhood. Same at NYU, except for a massive heap in the Plaza between Maths and the Business School. It's in the shadow of both buildings, so gets essentially no sun. According to the Saturday evening security guard, it may stay for weeks, depending on the general temperature. As yesterday, there's no express downtown service. This time I see why: there's significant work on the downtown express line at 34th street. The lighting for the workers looks rather makeshift, but is effective. Our train is hooting as it goes (slowly) past the works: can London Underground trains hoot - I can't recall hearing one.

Alcoholism is a major problem for native Americans, and this article about a "town" (population 12, 4 liquor stores) just across the state border in Nebraska from a dry reservation in South Dakota illustrates the problem, and the lack of an easy solution.

More work trying to review an appallingly written book (the authors succeed in misquoting the calculations from their own paper, and I don't believe the statistics, as they contradict standard probability theory), which is nevertheless full of information, much of which is interesting, much of which is correct, and some is both. Also a long chat with a research student, which also checks out GotoMeeting. Then leave at 2 as Riverside Church is showing a film about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who apparently was also an I-House alumnus. Decide to try the A line from 4th street express to its 125th street station, but apparently the A runs local on Sundays. Another failure to read the fine print! As I walk along 125th Street I see an impressive church to my right. I then leave 125th street where it turns right, detour through the housing estate, and pick up La Salle street, which is a geometric prolongation of what 125th used to be before it turned right. There is no explanation for the name "La Salle Street".

I get to Riverside Church just on time, and am about to ask for the room, when I realise that the phrase about to trip off my tongue is salle polyvalente (a common feature in French community centres), and I have to stop and work out what the American (failing that, the English) is. I say multi-purpose room, and get the reply "You mean multi-function room". The Bonhoeffer film is shown (second showing of two) to an audience of about 20 in the multi-function room. As I enter, I am handed a "Stop the fascist Trump/Pence Governmwent" flyer. The film is challenging: there's some excellent footage of Weimar and Nazi Germany, and interviews with former students, and his fiancée's sister, as well as theologians including Archbishop Tutu. Bonhoeffer's first trip to the USA, when he stayed at I-House, (1930: he was 24, and had had his doctorate for three years, but was too young to be ordained) had been as a student at Union Theological Seminary just across the street. He had apparently life-changing experiences at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem (I wondered if that were the church I had seen, but a map exercise shows that to have been the Antioch Baptist Church), and went from being theology's equivalent of a pure mathematician (I believe the equivalent of Pure Mathematics is Systematic Theology, and the equivalent of Applied is Practical) to one with a deep intention to "practice these principles (the Sermon on the Mount) in all our affairs". The film explicitly states that he equated the plight of the Negroes in America with that of the Jews in Nazi Germany. I also hadn't realised that Bonhoeffer was close to Martin Niemöller. There's an interesting discussion of the role of Luther. Apparently he was initially approached by Jews, but they didn't convert, and he became strongly anti-Judaism, which was interpreted as being anti-Semitic. One German theologian interviewed described Luther as being "completely wrong". Afterwards, there is a discussion, to which I (uncharacteristically) do not contribute. One of the audience, a young woman and member of the Abyssinian Church, questions the accuracy of the depiction of worship at the Abyssinian Baptish Church.

The film is the 2003 one: described here. Director and writer Martin Doblmeier.

Week 8 Summary


The health care reform debacle has been amusing to watch (probably much less amusing if it actually mattered to you): I particulary liked the quote "Mr. Trump, an image-obsessed developer with a lifelong indifference towad the mechanics of governance". The infighting is amusing to an outsider:
Jeanine Pirro, a longtime friend of President Trump, delivered a diatribe against the speaker [Paul Ryan] on her [Fox News] show, which the president had encouraged his Twitter followers to watch.

The US fascination with the death penalty also throws up stories that are amusing if you are only a spectator, as in the Director of the Arkansas Department of Correction asking the Rotary Club to witness executions. But there are genuinely humorous stories also. Also some totally bizarre: United Airlines supported a gate agent who blocked two women from boarding a flight because they were wearing leggings on a Sunday.


I now understand why UK (and indeed practically any non-US) credit cards can't buy New York subway MetroCards. I also see a poster saying that prices are going up, and this informs me that one can buy 7-day Metrocards as well as the 30-day ones I have been buying. Useful for visitors.

Saturday 25 March 2017

Start my third jar of instant coffee. These are marked as "100 cups", but also "7 oz (200 grams)" - does anyone really only put 2 grams in a cup of instant coffee? I've been making coffee for 55 days, so this implies about 3 and 2/3 cups/day. Now I never have more than three (two over breakfast and one to take with me in the flask), and guess I average two, which implies I'm making my coffee stronger than the mnufacturers plan. So what's new?

On the way in, I just miss a downtown 1 at 125th street, which gives me a chance to look at the planned engineering work (none that should affect me) and to time the inter-arrival period (9 minutes). Change at 96th street to the express line. But there's an announcement that 2/3 are running on the local track, but the train I was on shuts its doors before the announcement gets far enough to be intelligible. There's a downtown 3 advertised in 1 minute, though. It takes five minutes to arrive, however. Another subway lesson: "minor" engineering work might not be advertised on these posters. I lose about 8 minutes through my "short cut".

Today's NY Times article on the collapse of the Obamacare repeal has a lovely diagram in the recursive fingerpointing in Washington. Buzarre (but so what's new) that Trump is blaming the Democrats. I am plamming my visit to East Coast Computer Algebra Day (which is actually in Urbana Champaign - a look at the map will reveal that we are stretching the meaning of "East Coast", but we habitually use the "watershed definition" - does it drain into the Atlantic? I am tring to combine this with other things, and say so. My correspondent writes as follows.

The author has submitted a new view of the familiar bird and stone discussion. There are a number of issues which must be addressed before it can be accepted for publication. First the usual ratios of science, such as the Reynolds number, the Mach number, are non-dimensional. The author has made no attempt to describe his system of units, nor the relevance of the Buckingham Pi theorem. The references to previous work need to be updated. He fails to mention the important work on birds and bushes which I published I mean which was published in the proceedings of the Palau meeting on dimensional analysis and sunbathing. I am willing to review a revised version.
I clearly need to reply.
It is true that dimension were not explicitly stated. Surely it is obvious to even the most stoned referee that the mass-ratio version of the birdstone ration, i.e. mass of birds killed divided by mass of stones used, is clearly dimensionless. This of course facilitates comparison with the more usual, but as we argued persuasively, misleading, cardinality version: number of birds killed divided by number of stones used.
On the way back to I-House, I check that the local church is in fact showing a film about Dietrich Bonhoffer tomorrow. Apparently he was an I-ouse alumnus. At I-House, I see the following notice: 'Please join us in honor of National Farmworkers Awareness week with the screening of the documentary film "Cesar's Last Fast"', and I sign up for that as well. Seems like my cultural life is on a faime/feast cycle.

Friday 24 March 2017

In the elevator at NYU on my way in I encounter Michael Burr, from Clemson University (South Carolina), with whom I have had several discussions over the years. He was also good enough to name an old idea (which I improved when I was working in Sweden three decades ago) partially after me. He is in town for a wedding, and dropped in on his old supervisor. The supervisor also has students to talk to, so the two of us spend 10:30-12:45 doing mathematics. Then the three of us have (Japanese) lunch together, and then Michael talks to one or other of us until 17:08. Quite productive, though we didn't have time to finish. Rather destroyed my plans for the day, but probably very productive in the long term.

Then home and I need to do some shopping, and the cheap supermarket is best via the 7th avenue, and its 110th street stop, so the best route is via B or C from 4th Avenue. But at 4th Avenue the B and the C are on different levels, and I pick the wrong one, chnage, and change back again. Eventually catch a D. The D is express and doesn't stop at 110th street, and it's not clear where it stops between 4th Avenue and the 59th street interchange. I ask a young American woman at one stop, and she says (somewhat surprised) that it's 50th street. I explain that "I'm not from round here", and she asks where I'm from, being somewhat surprised when I say England. She's also changing at 59th street, and, as we're waiting (rigt at the South end o fthe platform), she suddendly says "Quick, it's a C" and heads up the platform. Apparently C trains are shorter, and we are right at the end, depite having moved some way up the platform.

Thursday 23 March 2017

Up at 5 ( rather than the more usual 5:30) as I have to attend (electronically) an examination board in Cardiff. Of course, it's a rather more civilised 10 for them. Their meeting room is needed for an 11 o'clock lecture, which focuses the attention. Walking to the subway, I notice that the remaining moraines by the side of Broadway are much dirtier than those on the side roads, and therefore (being closer to black body absorption of sunshine) have melted more than those on the side roads.

Someone asks on Twitter "If I want to know a lot more about epistemology, what should I read?", to which I reply "How should I know :-)". A lot of sympathy from people over the attack and murders in London yesterday. Among other activities, I get off the proof-sheets of a paper. Not quite up to Springer's usual standards - actual formatting errors. Also test out GoToMeeting (I have a 30-day free trial) before next week's project meeting: the project aadministrator seems quite happy with it.

An extremely successful day on the main research project. A month of e-mails, talking to people who know people etc., and of occasionally being frustrated, finally culminates in two really useful conversations in the same afternoon, one electronic and one face-to-face. Now for some writing up, and digesting of what I've learned.

I learn many useful things from our face-to-face conversation.

After this face-to-face in "Think Coffee", my interlocutor heads East. I accompany him, then go to the nearest subway: 8th street. Yet again there's the nearest/most direct dilemma, and I may have judged this wrong. There's a non-trivial interchange at 42nd street. Announcement on the first subway "soliciting for money on the subway is illegal". I am reminded of 1066 and all that's comments about the Occasional Conformity Act. At 42nd street there's the local/express dilemma. There's a local in, so I catch it. We are not overtaken until 86th street, and that train waits at 96th for us, so I made a decision that wasn't wrong. By the time I walk the length of the platform and get down to street level, another uptown train is pulling in: I am not sure this is quite normal service.

Watch television news over dinner at I-House. It doesn't seem quite familiar, and in fact it's Fox "News" rather than CNN. The main item is health care. The budget office says that the revised bill delivers less than half the savings of the original (largely due to tax breaks). In the advertising break, there's an advertisement for a Hepatitis C treatment. There's a major public advertising campaign in New York (City at least, I have no idea about the rest of the state) pointing out that insurers now [I believe this means since Obamacare] fund treatment for pre-existing Hepatitis C. Ironic.

Wednesday 22 March 2017

BCS Trustee Board at 10:45 (which of course is 06:45 my time) via GoToMeeting: seems to work pretty well as a client. There's a lot of unease about the Trump budget, to put it mildly. Supercomputing is very worried about the cuts in the Department of Energy. One commentator wrote "There’s as much chance that this budget will pass as there is that I’m going to have a date with Elle Macpherson.". I have no idea who Elle Macpherson is, but get the general idea.

Tuesday 21 March 2017

The up escalator at 125th street (West side of Broadway) is broken, hence I can count the steps: 50 steps at about 6", which means that the 'mezzanine' (i.e. the East-West corridor running under the platforms) is 25' above street level, and the tracks roughly 35', which accords with my earlier estimate. I have three minutes to wait at 96th street to change from 1 to 3. At 72nd street, the next express/local interchange, the two trains pull in practically simultaneously, but the 3 leaves first. But we're held at 42nd street, and the 1 train pulls in, giving another interchange option, before we leave. At 34th street (not an interchange between these two) it leaves first. We overtake it between 28 and 23, and I estimate I'm at 14th street two minutes earlier than I would have been had I stayed on the 1.

There's a very direct attack on Trump's lies in today's NY Times. Perhaps more reassuringly, there's an article about how Americans think about climate change.

Monday 20 March 2017

I've discovered where the New York Times hides its weather forecast. 34F (+1C) as I leave I-House. I am always disappointed by how long e-mail takes. A set of queries from Bath, plus knock-on from Friday's work, plus knock-on from the weekend, takes over two hours. The rest of the day goes on refereeing an EPSRC grant (more UK work), and attending an interesting Courant seminar on Automated Machine Learning. Related to work my research students did 25 years ago, but not close enough to claim any impact, sigh! I have a new office mate today, my third in seven weeks. Like the other two, he is French-speaking: coincidence? Later on it turns out we have a third: she is Russian-speaking, but rather self-contained, and we don't speak.

On the way home, I again try the 1 from Christopher Street to 14 Street, then the 3 (as it happens, 2 would be equally good) to 96th, then back to 1. This 1 is definitely (different carriage numbers) not the same, so I've gained one, maybe two, trains. Why can't I just see what I overtake rather than guessing? Two reasons:

Watch the television news over dinner. Main items are the wire-tapping claim, which the FBI Director has refuted, and the negotiation going on around the Health bill.

Week 7 Summary


Trump has spoken widely about the 'opiod epidemic'. Here he is largely correct: the 2014 death figures in Figure 1 show drug poisoning at 47,055, suicide at 42,773, motor vehicle crashes at 35,398, Firearms at 33,674 and homicide at 15,809. The breakdown in Figure 26 is interesting: in terms of 2014 causes of death it's: Controlled prescription drugs 25,760; heroin 10,574 and cocaine 5,415. Apparently Mexican-produced heroin accounts for 79% of the total.

The USA is a large and diverse country, and, as I am coming to appreciate, one way in which it's diverse is that different parts of it have very different perceptions of its diversity. The conversation on Saturday night in Ann Arbor (a very mixed group of nationalities, but all experienced travellers) reflected this. One of us reported that a colleague's husband was denied access by TSA to an internal flight: "that passport's a forgery: there ain't no such place as American Samoa". Another, while sympathising, said that the main danger was other passengers reporting anyone 'different' as a threat. That reminded me of one of the invited speakers at SIGCSE, whose parents had moved around a lot when she was young, saying in her lecture that the big message she got at her numerous schools, from teachers as well as other children, was "You ain't from round here".

Sunday 19 March 2017

What a difference a day makes. This morning it's definitely well above freezing, much of the snow, especially on the sidewalks, has melted, and we walk happily to the Mathematical Reviews building. We ask the same sandwich shop to deliver lunch today. This time I do try the 'old' pickle - it is indeed more traditional.

The meeting was scheduled to end at 2, with the last hour being for our new member to connect from Colombia (the South American country, not the NY university!). But he doesn't, which gives us a chance to wrap up, and ensure that our liaison from the Executive Committee is properly briefed. So three members leave just before 2 to walk to the "Michigan Flyer" bus to Detroit airport. Promptly at 2, the Colombian calls. The three of us left have a really useful conversation. In particular, he will be in Colombia when the test version of the website goes live, so he can check how it performs in conditions of low bandwidth and high latency. He also asks some other good questions.

I have heard of, and read many attacks (such as National Geographic) on, civet coffee (out of interest: how on earth was this discovered?). The coffee shop at Detroit airport, and, now that I come to think of it, the coffee pods in the (excellent) Mathematical Reviews coffee machine, advertises "caribou coffee". I hope it's not a close analogy. Tastes alright, though, but has an amusing health warning: "May cause whatever-the-opposite-of-drowsiness-is-called".

Just before we take off, the stewardesses ask four people seated right at the back (not quite me) to move to the front. We take off at 20:10 from Detroit airport, but a combination of the time change and our westerly displacement mean that we take off pointing at where the sun has just set.

An uneventful flight back to La Guardia. I try to look at New York as we land, but, other than lots of grid-like streets, I can't even identify any real landmarks. I see a couple of bridges, but I couldn't identify them. I had earlier studied the map, and it appears that the M60 bus goes from La Guardia to 116th street, which seems pretty convenient. I need to get a ticket, and insert my Metrocard into the machine, which says "valid" but doesn't appear to do anything. I ask a woman near another machine, and she talks me through the procedure, but the machine says "just used". A man standing by the first machine then reaches under the "receipt here" slot and produces a small piece of paper I hadn't seen, and hands it to me. Excellent!

The bus crosses from Queens to Manhattan on a pretty complicated (looks like more than one stretch of water) toll bridge. Further research courtesy of Google Maps identifies the bridge as the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, connecting Queens to manhattan via Randall's Island. The stretch of water between Randall's Island and Manhattan is the Harlem River, apparently - I had always thought of it as the East River, but apparently that's between Randall's Island and Queens. After entering Manhattan, the bus heads along 125th street, past the 125th street Metro North train station (scene of a major miscalculation by the author in 1979) and various 125th street subway stations. At one point there's a holdup, and the driver gets a piece of unsolicited advice - "don't let the snow hold you up: take 126th". She does indeed veer North (I think by more than one block). I wonder about "snow": it's about +3C (37F) and not snowing or raining. Surely there can't be that localised a snowstorm.

The bus stops at Broadway/120th, about three blocks from where I live, and 55 minutes after leaving the terminal (40 minutes after leaving the La Guardia complex). I head one block west (past Union Seminary) and turn North. The pavement (but not the sidewalk) is blocked off, and two small bulldozers, a full-sized one and a dump truck are engaged in a moraine-clearing exercise outside the church. Maybe that's what the earlier diversion was all about. Home about 90 minutes after the plane pulls up to the jetway, which is comparable to Bristol Airport to home in Bath.

Saturday 18 March 2017

Amazing what a difference a few hundred miles (later checking: 621 according to Google maps) makes. I get up at 7 o'oclock (when I'd normally be standing on 125th street subway in the pre-dawn, and it's definitely pre-pre-dawn here in Ann Arbor. It's also snowing again, so two of us to take taxis to the meeting, the other two decide to walk. We get lunch delivered by a local sandwich house: there's even a choice of pickle: I try the new, but perhaps should have had old. Live and learn, even when it comes to pickles. On advice, we order "small" sandwiches: just as well given what is actually delivered.

The meeting was five of us physically (should have been six, but one was delayed by 24 hours due to a broken plane), plus, at various times, four people by tele-conference and one working group member who happened to be in town. The tele-conference was planned to be WebEx, and we had all the details (thanks to the American Maths Society, parent of Mathematical Reviews), but we never got our guests to get it working satisfactorily, and reverted to Skype.

Friday 17 March 2017

Comma watchers should read this. And a lovely quote/message footer from a guy maintaining networks at the Kurchatov Institute (why was I reading this: he was the first person to report a bizarre network outage):
Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live.
My host and I arrange to meet in a local coffee shop, and we get a lot of (90%) tedious work done on the OpenMath standard, mostly left over since we last met in Białystok last July. After lunch, we go to the meeting venue in the Mathematican Reviews offices. By now it is snowing slightly. A new quirk on US geography. In Ann Arbor the numbered Avenues run North-South, as in Manhattan. But the numbered Streets run North-South, as in Queens. But the Streets are west of Main Street, while the Avenues are east of Main Street.

This meeting is cursed. I was four hours late due to airplane problems. The colleague from Duke, who was actually coming from Belgium, was six hours late (late arrival), and the colleague from Stanford is 24 hours late (broken plane). Also colleagues from Columbia, Japan, and Illinois can't join at all.

Thursday 16 March 2017

My NY Times daily briefing reminds me that today is the 91st anniversary of Goddard's first test of a liquid-fueled rocket. Apparently the NY Times had earlier criticised him, and argued that thrust was not possible in a vacuum. They published a correction after Apollo 11!

Off to Ann Arbor (Michigan, so fly into Detroit) for the annual meeting of the International Mathematical Union's Committee on Electronic Information and Communication, which I chair. While walking to the subway, I discover an important rule of post-snowfall New York (strictly speaking, Manhattan, where the avenues run roughly North-South; Queens is the other way round, and I don't know about other boroughs): do not walk on the west side of avenues (or other streets parallel to avenues, such as University Place) in the (sidereal) morning, as the sunshine melts the snow accumulated on window ledges, and you end up walking through a very specific rainstorm. Almost get caught out by local/express again: I'm taking the F to La Guardia airport, but, though it's local in Manhattan, it's express in Queens. I'd counted stops ignoring this. Fortunately, I spotted that we'd been though a station express-style, and hastily looked at my laptop for the subway map and recomputed. No wonder Google maps thought the journey was quick.

Flying Spirit Airlines from La Guardia to Detroit, which an American friend of mine who speaks very good British describes as "a very bold decision". With hindsight, she was right. Getting to La Guardia is rather like getting to Heathrow in the 1970s, when the Underground didn't quite reach it and you had to get a bus for the last leg. On the other hand, I observe there's a direct bus from La Guardia to Columbia University, which might come in handy on the way back.

The flight is due to depart at 16:49, and we board about then. Sit, strapped in, listening to various announcements about a warning that a hatch isn't closed, then we disembark at 18:15. Hang around for a while, observing with frustration that the indicator marks our flight as "departed". Various departure times are announced (and e-mailed, but not quite consistently) and meanwhile the other flights meant to be using our gate are rescheduled one-by-one. Finally we board at 20:30, and are airborne at 21:30. Aim to land at 23:00 rather than just before 19:00. This not being the EU, there's no compensation (I bought myself a sandwich and coffee) but the hostess was rather apologetic at having to charge my neighbour $3.00 for water after all the delay.

Wednesday 15 March 2017

It's almost exactly like five weeks ago - leave I-House in the pre-dawn (due to the time change), moraines of snow (see photo1 and photo2) at the sides of the pavements and sidewalks, difficult footing because of black ice, etc. But that's life here. I understand the geography around NYU a bit better, and the shortest distance isn't always the quickest distance when one considers differences in snow clearing on the sidewalks. It's not often I hanker after army uniform, but walking to, and then standing on the exposed 125th street station, I am reminded of a bitterly cold exercise in Germany when we were issued with quilted longjohns. They would come in rather useful at the moment. We were also issued with Arctic rations (7000 calories rather than 5000), but circumstances aren't that desperate!

Attempting to get home, trying the B/D from Broadway-Lafayette. We're not leaving that station though: "held by the dispatcher as there's a rerouted R train ahead of us". I can't imagine being delayed on the Bakerloo by a rerouted Northern line train. Maybe the NY subway has more flexibility. Nice ad "my girlfriend works off the 1 and I work off the 4, so we compromised and live off the 1"- you really need to look at the subway map to get the joke. Same (apartment agency) firm also advertises: "I prefer a dishwasher to a washer/dryer because you can't send out dishes and have them come back clean" - very New York. Talking of which, I've found a dry cleaner one block from the office, and got my stuff back, having to wait five minutes for it to be finished.

Watched CNN News over dinner at I-House. The caption was "Wiretap dancing". Still a major story, as is the argument ('debate' is definitely not appropriate) over Obamacare. A Hawaii Federal judge has suspended the revised Executive Order on travel. Trump has viciously attacked this ruling.

Tuesday 14 March 2017

The snow forecast has been downgraded, to 4-8 inches from the orignl 8-12. Nevertheless I stay in, and get in touch with my inner sloth (more positively, deal with the accumulated jet lag).

Watched television news over dinner in I-House. There were basically two items that kept going round and round: Trump's accusations that Obama wiretapped him, and the repeal of ObamaCare, and the devastating assessment by the Congressional Budget Office of the replacement.

Monday 13 March 2017

I've discovered a dry cleaners near NYU. I ask if I can have my clothes back on Wednesday, and the answer is "depends on the blizzard": I'd better investigate. Apparently a snowstorm is forecast here for tomorrow. The subway claims to be stopping above-ground running at 04:00 Tuesday. But what about my beloved 1 line, which is below ground at 116th and 137th streets, but emerges briefly between the two, and my 125th street station is above ground? Answer: it runs, but doesn't stop at 125th street. The schools are all closed, and I expect NYU would be closed, if it weren't already the Spring Break. Apparently the City will deploy 689 salt spreaders, then 1600 plows once 2 inches of snow have accumulated. I think I'll stay at home. There's also a coastal flood watch, but I'm pretty safe from that one. On my way home, I say to the NYU security guard "probably not see you tomorrow" and he says "we're closed, so Wednesday".

Unconnected with the storm, there are signalling problems at 72nd street on the 1, and Google maps (query: is Google maps that well connected with London Underground alerts? I've never tried it) recommends the B/D to another 125th street station. I take it, and the D express is pretty quick - nonstop from 59th to 125th. Leaving 125th street, I hear a siren and see what I recognise from the NY Times article to be a fire engine with rear wheel steering. Bizarre, but, as the article says, good cornering.

I have just seen a paper by an author from "Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra", a university of which I most confess I had never heard. Wikipedia on "Constantine the Philosopher" is not much help, saying that there are two such saints, and the Wikipedia article on the University is silent on the subject. Though my Slovak is not particularly good, it is better than my Lithuanian, and a quick perusal of the University's website reveals that it is named after that Constantine better know as Cyril, after whom the Cyrillic alphabet is named, though in fact he (and his brother Methodius, born Michael) invented a different alphabet, known as Glagolitic. Should I edit the Wikipedia entry? A propos Glagolitic, the Glagolitic manuscripts in the British Library were re-cataloged in a computer-readable (i.e. XML) form by a team from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, led by the Librarian, to whom I had taught XML in the 1990s.

Week 6 Summary


In many ways, Seattle seems politically rather like New York City. Looking at the headlines in the Seattle Times (on paper, so no links), I see an article stating, in fact practically boasting, that Seattle (King County, technically) is 15th out of more that 3100 US counties in terms of the percentage of adults who believe in global warming: over 80%, versus a national average of 70%. Alameda County California is top at 84% - think Berkeley!

The paper also uses an AP article whihc noted that Trump tweeted his pleasure in the drop in unemployment reported the first jobs report of his presidency. This would be unremarkable, were it not that he had scorned them as "phony" throughout his election campaign. Seattle has passed a law saying that Uber etc. drivers have the right to vote whether to form a union and have collective bargaining. The US Chamber of Commerce is suing Seattle, saying that these drivers are contractors and therefore do not have the right to unionise.

Also, the City Council passed a law requiring the city not to renew its contract with Wells Fargo bank, since that bank is financing the Dakota Access Pipeline. Wells Fargo apparently said: "OK - go now", but it turns yt to be too difficult to execute swiftly.

While researching the previous article, I came across an article on the sloth sanctuary at Portland zoo, which even offers sleepovers: "An overnight stay costs $600 a night for double occupancy". On a sadder note, apparently sloths can die of stress.

Sunday 12 March 2017

I'm flying United from Seattle to Newark. The arrival terminal is packed. If this is what it's like at 07:30 on Sunday, I hate to think what rush hour is like. But I get through OK, and get the AirTrain to Newark Airport station. There's a certain amount of snow on the roofs of buildings and in piles, which I am fairly sure was not there when I left.

At the station, the passenger tracks are denoted A,1,4,5, but there are a couple of railway tracks between 1 and 4, which presumably are 2 and 3. I can't guess what the two to the left of A are called. B/C?, Z/Y? -1/-2?

The next stops are Newark Penn Station, Secaucus, and New York Penn Station. One poor foreigner had directions from the airport via Newark Penn Station and PATH to Manhattan, which didn't mention the need to change at Newark Airport. To make matters more confusing, there's the alternative of Amtrak, which uses the same platforms, but not the same tickets! Land at Newark at 07:20, and am at (New York) Penn Station by 08:45, so I might as well go to work. But it's cold - I really feel it as I come out of the subway.

At last, a moral justification for my coffee consumption. "The coffee plant has become a major source of oxygen in much of the world. Each hectare of coffee produces 86 lbs of oxygen per day, which is about half the production of the same area in a rain forest." Unfortunately, the source is the Coffee Research Institute, which might be considered biased.

Mostly catching up at work. I am too tired to do anything deeply intellectual, but I revise a paper based on referees' comments (damn: while writing this I realise I forgot to thank them - they have definitely improved the exposition through their misunderstandings, though I probably shouldn't put it quite that way).

Also run a spelling checker over my lecture notes from the conference, put them on my website, and send a couple of e-mails drawing people's attention to key aspects. Administratively, I buy some milk and bread. I keep thinking I must be doing something wrong, as both seem expensive to me, even using the pre-BrExit exchange rate, and I have this image from 35 years ago of America as the country of cheap food. But the truth is that it's not, at least not simplistically.

I take the 1 from Houston Street (local-only station). At 14th street it is delayed, and there's an express due in 3 minutes, so I get out and catch the express to 96th street. I try to tell a confused-looking group of young oriental (?Korean) women where we are at 42nd street, and they suddenly rush out - victims of the express phenomenon? There's a six-minute wait at 96th street, so I may well have caught the train I got out of at 14th street. The optimisation may be different on Sundays.

I am realising, helped by looking at the Seattle Times, that the NY Times is very definitely the NY City Times. There's no section, either in the physical paper (I actually saw a copy in the Seattle hotel coffee shop) or the website, for State news. News is either NY (City or suburbs, which might be in NY, NJ or Connecticut), US or World.

I had always vaguely known that the US Attorneys were political appointments, but hadn't taken that very seriously. Obama had waited until he had replacements lined up. But Sessions, the Trump Attorney-General, has asked all the Obama-appointed ones to resign. As CNN put it "the abruptness is unusual". The Southern New York one, known as The Sheriff of Wall Street, refused, and was sacked. This is interesting, as he was known to be investigating both the Mayor and the Governor, both vocal opponents of Trump. The rumour now is, of course, that he was investigating Trump. More seriously, he was investigating Fox News, which is much the same thing.

While we're talking legal, Hawaii is suing over the new Immigration EO, and San Francisco over the Sanctuary Cities EO.

Saturday 11 March 2017

The conference finishes with presentation of student research prizes, lunch and a lecture by Mitchel Resnick, the LEGO Papert professor at MIT. Resnick was a student of Papert, himself the LEGO professor. Though their theories are about the importance of computers for children, there is nothing toy about their theories.

I then go to explore the Pike Place Market, and discover that Pike Place is in fact a street, perpendicular to Pike Street: so much for my urban nomenclature complaints. The market is a mixture of tourist goods and food stalls/shops. I am not sure in which category to place the fishmongers, as they advertise "airline approved packaging". The fish does look good, though.

Then walk South, past the rail station: 6/day to/from Vancouver, and 1 to/from Los Angeles. Then the International District, split into Chinatown, Japantown and Little Saigon. I must confess to not being very impressed: the street signs were also in Kanji, the beggers were more often asiatic, and the food shops were oriental, but it didn't have the vibrancy my imagination had conjured up. Oh well.

"Seattle's first streetcars in 1884 were known to run amok" ... it appears that a power failure has caused a modern one to do the same. Seattle has a rent-a-bike scheme (at least downtown): unlike any other I have seen, next to the bike rack there's a helmet bin. I think the helmets are free if you rent a bike, but I didn't experiment.

There's a "downtown transit tunnel" in Seattle, which carries the light rail to/from the airport. I hadn't remarked this on the inbound trip, but on the way out to the airport I see that it carries buses as well, running in the same space and using the same platforms. Off-peak, the trains are every ten minutes, and the system seems to work well. The light rail station is, according to the hotel, the only one to have a Nordstrom store built into it. Indeed the store is rather larger than the station. Nordstrom stopped selling the Ivanka Trump brand, though I must confess to forgetting the reason, if indeed I ever knew. It still surprises me to see that the security staff at the store are armed. The train to the airport goes through the area of Seattle known as SoDo - no idea what the etymology is here. For some reason we have to detrain at Rainier Beach and get the next train. This one has a picture of a (small) colony of penguins, labelled "Do huddle near the door". I can't quite tell if this is official or good graffiti. The bookstore at Seattle airport has three different printings of "1984", and two of "Animal Farm". Also, nearby, a 2003 translation of de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America".

The flight back to New York is what is known as a 'redeye' leaving 22:30 and arriving early the following morning. Indeed my eyes will be redder than usual, as this is the night the clocks go forward, so I have four hours time difference to contend with rather than three. There's a good article in the NY Times about Daylight Savings Time, concluding "It has long been a cynical substitute for real energy policy. It's the ideal energy policy because it hs no apparent direct cost to consumers and it asks no one to consume less"

Friday 10 March 2017

There's an article on Trump's links to Russia. The same author wrote "Donald Trump: Kremlin Employee of the Month?".
I enjoyed the show "House of Cards" but always felt it went a bit too far, that its plot wasn't plausible. After seven weeks of President Trump, I owe "House of Cards" an apology. Nothing seems imposssible any more.
In downtown Seattle, the avenues are numbered, but the streets are named. Two adjacent ones are 'Pike' and 'Pine', which rather confused me until I realised it wasn't my bad memory. I should be used to confusing streets, given that I live on Pulteney Street, which is parallel to Pulteney Mews, but perpendicular to Pulteney Road. And, as a polite Cambridge man, I shouldn't comment on a city with two Magdalen Roads, pronounced differently!

Friday breakfast (07:00) is courtesy of BlueJay/Greenfoot, a University of Kent/KCL collaboration. The lead speaker announces that his collaborator isn't here: "wrong birthplace and/or religion". Sounds of dismay and/or disbelief. The conference is about 50:50 men/women, and about 2% of the women have their hair totally covered. None came to the international lunch, and those affiliations I could see were US ones.

The exhibitors at the conference are a mixed bunch. Major computing vendors (IBM, oracle, Google etcetera), niche solution sellers (generally automatic marking tools) and booksellers. These come with either a shelfful of books, or a bookcase, generally with a shelfful of Java books. But one (you know who you are!) turns up with two bookcases, one of which is Java books. I am reminded of a book review I wrote many years ago: "This book fills a much-needed gap in the literature" (read it carefully!). Fulbright are also an exhibitor, so I go over and introduce myself in a quiet hour.

There's a curious discrepancy in language. I go to the session on "peer instruction", which turns out to mean final year students running a help desk for first/second year students. Very valuable, but not my interpretation of "peer". Also "I am teaching 200 students" means "I am teaching the compulsory second year course". This one took me some time to understand.

Seattle is very visibly the home of Starbucks. The hotel serves Starbucks, the in-room coffee machine comes with four Starbucks (alas two decaffeinated) filter packs, the Washington State Conference Center (where the conference is) serves Starbucks at the break, there seems to be a Starbucks on every other corner (probably actually only true downtown) etc.

On Friday there is an organised (but you pay for it: fixed price) lunch for the "international delegates", about 70 attend (there are 1495 delegates in all). By an amazing coincidence, I find myself sitting next to the Chairperson, Primary and Secondary Education Committee, of the Information Processing Society of Japan, essentially my opposite number. We have a great deal in common: government edicts on school curricula with no thought given to practicality. Great conversation. He also corrects my Korean pronunciation of where I was in summer 2015 - not difficult, as my pronunciation was so bad he had to call up a map of Korea on his mobile 'phone and get me to point to the town. English is his fourth language, after Japanese, Korean and Chinese (Mandarin - "I can't really speak the Shanghai dialect").

Back at the conference, there's a speaker talking about the MATLAB MOOC they've put together. Excellent retention figures by MOOC standards. The base lecture course was 14 hours of lectures, and the MOOC is eight hours of videos. Why shorter? "there's a lot of overhead and administration in a face-to-face course, but we had to leave a couple of things out". I am very impressed and considered deploying this course until he admits that one of the things left out was recursion, which is my lecture 1: bloody philistine engineers!

Thursday 9 March 2017

Even getting up/ logging on at 04:15 Seattle time shows me how much UK-based e-mail accumulates. I'm too early for real breakfast in the hotel, but the coffee shop is open: blueberry and banana muffin. This being Seattle, a major article in the Seattle Times is about Boeing's plans for the 797. The leader, though, is about attempts by the 'conservative' state legislature to 'rein in' the 'liberal' city. Apparently the "Association of Washington Cities" was formed to deal with the aftermath of the repeal of Prohibition. Now the main fight is over the heroin epidemic (Seattle has "safe shooting areas", which the State wants to prohibit). In the light of this, I recall data about the Transit: it was funded by voters in three counties voting for an increase in sales tax and car tax to pay for the construction: in 1996, and again in 2008 and 2016 for expansions. As far as I can tell, there was Federal support, but no State support.

From today's keynote lecture: there are over 10,000 school districts in the USA. And I thought educational change was hard in the UK.

My Bath MP is asking people to confirm their e-mail addresses "prior to new Data Protection laws": his system is very sceptical, but untimately accepts, an address. Shows the contempt parliament feels for academics.

Wednesday 8 March 2017

Lengthy Skype at 09:00 my time (17:00 Bath) planning a joint reserach grant application with Education. gree to Skype again at 05:00 my time (13:00 Bath).

At a pre-conference workshop on implementing the ACM CyberSecurity-infused curriculum in Community Colleges. The chair pointed out that ``Note half of all students in US Higher Education are at community colleges, and also half of those at four-year colleges have attended community colleges''. There was quite a range of systems from the different colleges from different states, e.g. ``Our Legislature said years ago that a Community College could teach any State University course'' (Kentucky).

It's not quite the start of the conference proper and I've not met anyone. Make an excursion to buy stamps, then stop off for an (upmarket) hamburger. They even offer Kobe beef burgers, but that seems like the waste of a noble beast, especially as one of the best beef dishes I've ever had was in Kobe. The waiter asks me "what temperature do you want it?" but seems happy with the answer "rare".

The conference has two "Birds of a Feather" sessions, known as "Flock 1" and "Flock 2" - this doesn't seem quite right, but at least it's amusing.

Tuesday 7 March 2017

Morning at the office, dealing with conferences and other administration. Then off to Seattle, via Newark Airport, which involves the New Jersey Transit (NJT) from Penn Station, as opposed to Amtrak, or the Long Island RailRoad (LIRR). At Penn Station, I am momentarily puzzled by a sign pointing to LIRR, NJT and MSG. We're not near Chinatown, and even there does the monosodium glutamate really need such prominent signposting? Then the penny drops: Madison Square Gardens.

Having downloaded my own baggage tag yesterday, and printed it this morning, what to do with it? An Alaska Airlines employee hands me a plastic wallet in which to put it. I assume next time I can just print the tag myself, put it in the wallter, and the next step will be loading it onto the plane myself.

I had had an e-mail informing that the Vice-Chancellor had unfortunately been hospitalised. There's a card shop at the airport, but they don't have 'get well' cards, so I buy a blank one and write inside it. Also complete a batch of NY postcards I should have done weeks ago.

On board Alaska Airlines, the in-flight meal ($7) is "homestyle chicken prepared by Gate Gourmet". To this I have two comments.

Give me the $6 lamb over rice (with extra spicy sauce, they know me) from the food cart outside Courant any day. Having said that, the free biscuits are extremely good, almost as good as Belgian speculoos. The label on the biscuits does say "made in Belgiun", and for once I believe they might mean "Belgium, Europe" rather than "Belgium, Nebraska" (or some such).

Towards the end of the flight, a pair of stewardesses come down the aisle: the first for recyclables, and the second for general garbage. In Seattle airport, I see a threesome of bins: general garbage/recyclables/food waste and compostable. I think that's the first food waste I've seen in the US apart from I-House refectory.

The "Light Rail" to downtown costs $3, and there's a battery of ticket machines. Also advice to "game fans" to buy a day pass to avoid queueing. Even I have (vaguely) heard of the Seattle Seahawks. The train is rather like a tram, with articulated carriages, but seems efficient. Some other Americans who board it comment favourably on the cleanliness. There's an area near the door, with ceiling-mounted hooks for hanging bicycles from.

Monday 6 March 2017

In the afternoon, I'm again off to MetroTech, to talk to an NYU colleague I met at a recent symposium. I'm describing a project I recently got eccentrically involved in ('eccentric' refers to my involvement, not the project itself. Colloquially, my involvement is eccentric as it happened because I was Acting Chair of the Bath CS Department's Research Committee when the CS member who had previously been involved left; etymologically, my involvement is not in the centre of the project) about the sensitivity of the UK housing stock to events such as the 2003 Paris heatwave, and how climate change might affect this. I had thought that that event, which killed 4867 people in greater Paris was the greatest civilian mortality event in Western Europe since World War II, but apparently the death toll from the London smog of 1952 has been revised up to 12,000.

This, the Center for Urban Science and Progress (nice acronym!), is in a different MetroTech building, 1 MetroTech. They are on the 19th floor of a 23-storey building, with fantastic urban views over New York, which seems very fitting. At 23 storeys, the building has a two-tier lift system: 1-12 and 1, 12-23, which takes me some time to work out. The ground floor is owned by NationalGrid, and I seemto recall the UK's National Grid buying a US power company. There are bill payment windows and customer service desks.

fascinating and wide-ranging discussion. The colleague has just moved back to the US after several years at UCD, and has a German husband. We touch on, inter alia, the difficulties of garbage collection in big cities, and I report my observations: she is not surprised, commenting that she also generated half as much in Dublin as in New York, but a quarter as much general rubbish in Germany. Apparently there, rubbish is charged depending on the size of the container, and is collected fortnightly, whereas you can have as large a recyclables container as you want. I don't recall these arguments being made in the BVath rubbish collection debate.

On the way back to I-House (I have to catch them during the day to pay the next rent installement), I get an e-mail from the I-House President: "the White House has issued a revised version of the January 27, 2017, executive order barring migrants from predominantly Muslim nations. The new policy restricts entry from six countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The revised policy also no longer applies to people who had previously been issued valid visas by the United States." It appears that the Defense Secretary (a general) had asked to have Iraq removed from the list on the grounds that it would hamper coordination to defeat the Islamic State. There's also more news on the Trump University front.

Riverside church, which is on the next block south to I-House, is enormous, far larger than "the finest parsih church in England" (St Mary's Redcliff, according to Queen Elizabeth I). Riverside Church has an awesome collection of Bibles on public display: In particular both a 'breeches' (a.k.a. Geneva) Bible and a Coverdale Bible. Apparently both were quite common in the early colonies until gradually supplanted by King James (Authorised Version) Bible. The breeches Bible claims to be newly translated from the Greek. I am reminded of John Harvard's supervision report which I saw 35 years ago: "at Greek he is none too assiduous".

I do online checkin with Alaska Airlines (which is actually based in Seattle, not Alaska). They ask me to check (free of charge) my "carry on" bag. As a new touch in do-it-yourself, they ask you to print your own luggage tag!

Week 5 Summary


The repeal of "Obamacare", a Trump campaign pledge, but which seems to have morphed into a revise, is proving a lovely instance of 'slogan politics meets reality'. The slogan side is described here.

Another issue is that of 'Charter schools' (which seem remarkably close to some aspects of the 'academies' push in England). There's a chilling story of how corrupt they can be. As a (northern) Italian mathematician remarked to me when I described how English GCSE/A-levle examiners used to be ble to charge for 'seminars', "the neapolitans would be too ashamed to invent anything so corrupt".

The NY Times did a fact check on Trump's first spech to Congress. It's a distinct improvement on his previous efforts, with no statement except 'Families of people killed by undocumented immigrants have been "ignored by our media"' being demonstrably false. 'Exaggeration', 'cherry-picked' and 'this needs context', certainly, but that is the way of politicians, I fear.

Trump's speech to Congress made much of the fact that there were 15696 murders in the US in 2015. He forgot to mention that this is well down on 24703 in 1991. So the rate is 4.83 per hundred thousand. According to the NCHS Data Brief, the corresponding rate for drug (not including alcohol) overdose deaths is 16.3 per hundred thousand, up from 6.1 in 1999. The murder rate (which is actually 3.9 by UN definition) also contrasts with a European average of 3.0, or a UK figure of 0.9. The European average is heavily influenced by the Russian rate of 9.5, of course.

Contrary to naive expectations, both California and New York have drug overdose death rates that are statistically significantly below the US average.


I haven't said much about lunch. 4th street by the Courant Institute (and the Stern School of Management, and other NYU buildings: it's not just the mathematicians) is home to several food trucks during the day: the general system seems to be 2 in the morning, 4 by lunch and 6 in the evening; half that at weekends. They are all proudly advertising halal food, and have hygeine licence numbers. Staff as well as students use them, and a typical meal might be 'lamb over rice', which is $6 for a nourishing take-away meal. Or there's the salad bar my host introduced me to, which typically (they charge by weight) costs me $10-12 for a great salad, including hard-boiled egg and avocado. They also do coffee in my travel mug for $2.

Oddly enough, at home I am generating about twice as much domestic rubbish as I do in Bath, despite the fact that I'm cooking less (7 breakfasts and 1 dinner versus 7 breakfasts, 6 dinners and making about 4 sets of lunchtime sandwiches). The breakfasts are isomorphic (bacon, eggs and mushrooms), and bread/toast with Marmite. Why? I think the answer is less recycling - no food recycling, eggs come in polystyrene non-recyclable packs rather than recyclable cardboard packs (actually in Bath I give mine to a colleague whose neighbour has hens, but the point is that they're recycled in Bath) etc. And I haven't even begun to consider throwing away the mound of disposable plastic bags I've accumulated - I haven't discovered whether/how they're recyclable.

Sunday 5 March 2017

Remembered my hat, and very grateful for it (when I get to the office,I ask the Internet for the weather - -4C at the moment, but certainly felt colder). There's a certain amount of ice on pavements, left over from washing or other activities. Will need to be careful at night. Talking to a local as we come to a street junction. It's red, so I stop. He says "How disciplined!". I say "I'm new here: don't understand the crossing rules". He says "if you won't get hit, cross". I forbear from pointing out that this is not algorithmic.

An American friend send me the Economist article Higher education in Britain is still good value compared with America. I reply "a rather simplistic analysis, ignoring length of degrees, Advanced Placement, and also sources of funding (or not)". But it is good to point out that no US state charges as little for out-of-state people as the English maximum (for English).

I've been Skypeing, so I'm checking out my Skype profile. Where it asks 'about me' I had written "a few words: see last paragraph but one of". But that URL no longer works: part of the great Trump scheme: I resort to the Internet archive.

More engineering works. I go to the uptown entrance on Houston Street, down 30 steps, and then see the notice that says "no uptown trains". Back up the 30 steps, across the street, down 30 steps, and get a downtown local three stops to Chambers Street. Change there from the downtown platform to the uptown. There are also no trains to South Ferry, but shuttle buses. The perils of generic announcements: the announcement at Chambers Street (presumably the same as all other stations) is "To get to South Ferry, take the train to Chambers Street, then the shuttle buses". There's also a "no local uptown" between 42nd and 72nd street, and as my express goes past, I can see the track-laying on the local. Between 72 and 96 we overtake a local 1, and indeed at 96th there's an immediate cross-platform interchange to the previous 1. The joys of the subway (if you're as machine-obsessed as I am). Next question: am I in the right carriage to be opposite the exit at 125th?

Not only right carriage: right door! I'm clearly learning.

Saturday 4 March 2017

There's more engineering work on the 1 line this weekend, but fortunately doesn't affect me much. Closed South of 14 street and North of 137. While waiting for the downtown 1 train I see an engineering train come uptown: the first I've seen in New York. I've seen them in London and Toronto. This one was mostly carrying rubbish.

Spend the day working on a reply to a Bath student doing a (very interesting) Maths project with me, sorting out my first year queries, and sorting out the agenda for the committee meeting I am chairing in Ann Arbor in two weeks time. It was cold, and I regretted not weather my faux-fur hat. Even at lunch, when I make the mistake fo not wearing my anorak to go across the street to the salad bar, it's below freezing. When I get home, I check the forecast: "21F feels like 10F". But it sould be 63F on Wednesday. That would be great, except that I'll be in Seattle: 47F with 60% chance of precipitation.

On the way back, my inital plan was A from 4th street to 59th street, then the 1. But as we pull into 34th street/Penn[sylvania] Station, I realise I can change here, and explore the station and possibly buy my ticket to Newark Airport. It's actually relatively straightforward - the ticket is "valid until used".

Friday 3 March 2017

Amazon has revealed the source behind their major outage that apparently left people unable to turn their ovens off! Quite why anyone's oven should be dependent on cloud storage baffles me. Very relevant to the 22 February seminar I attended.

Having established that NYU Library doesn't have ISO 8583, I see that the union catalogue tells me that the nearest library is at Cooper Union. That's near (10 minute walk), and I have some time before the morning seminar, so I try there. Cooper Union is a rather nice building, with a statue of the eponymous Cooper in front. They don't have it, and are rather surprised by the query. I realise that the catalogue is truthful but unhelpful: Cooper Union is the nearest library, not the nearest library with ISO 8583!

My way back from Cooper Union (I thought I would try an alternative to they way I came) takes me past the NYU bookstore. They also sell NYU hoodies etc., so I go in, being me, and ask about NYU tie pins. They are sold out of these, but do have a nice NYU tie - very discreet. The checkout insist on scanning my NYU ID card first. They ask if I'd like the receipt e-mailing. They'd automatically acquired the e-mail address from the ID card - seriously joined-up thinking.

I walk back from the seminar with the Courant librarian. I tell her the story, and she sympathises over international standards. She also tells me that Cooper Union is very important historically, and later sends me a review (iself seven pages) of a book about Lincoln's 1860 speech there - the "speech that made Lincoln".

One-to-World (Fulbright's agents) suddenly inform me there's a spare place on a seminar this afternoon at I-House on "corporate governance". I am a trustee of both BCS and the University of Bath, so feel I ought to go, and this will deepen my Fulbright connections. My notes are here. What I still need to write up are my reflections.

An American friend had previously asked me "What was that about historical rules in the England-Italy rugby match?". Though hardly a rugby expert, I probably knew more than him, so did some research (BBC website and newspapers). It was the rule about forming a ruck. What really struck me was the 21st-century nature of the comments. "England and the referee had so many conversations they should have formed a WhatsApp group" was one, another was a (I think carefully edited) image of The Laws of Rugby for sale on Amazon.

Thursday 2 March 2017

The weather is curious. At 06:50 there was practically no wind (force 1) at 125th street, even though that "subway" station is on a massive steel cantilever 40 feet above street level. Coming out at 14th street there was quite strong wind (force 4 gusting 5), even though I was now at ground level and surrounded by tall buildings.

There's a discussion about the UK's non-appearance in a league table of best 50 coding universities. As part of the reason for this, I note that, when UK teams appear, they tend to be largely not people schooled in the UK:

A few years ago at the NW Europe semi-finals, I couldn't understand the best Cambridge team (again they went to the Finals) - turned out they were speaking Lithuanian.
My Head of Department responds:
Perhaps the only surprising (to me) aspect of your missive is that you don't speak Lithuanian.
I have, of course, a riposte:
There's a reason for that: "Lithuanian is often said to be the most conservative living Indo-European language, retaining many features of Proto-Indo-European now lost in other Indo-European languages". The fact that there are two genders for nouns and three for adjectives is also confusing. My mother told me that Lithuanian was the only living Indo-European language with an active dual (as opposed to singular/plural).
I'm off to a conference in Seattle next week. I get an interesting e-mail from my hotel.
Did you know you can take the Light Rail from SeaTac International Airport to the Hyatt at Olive 8? It takes less that 40 minutes and costs only $3.00 each way. The Hyatt at Olive 8 is located just two block from Westlake Station. Exit toward 5th Avenue. One interesting fact, this may be the only train station in the world with a Nordstrom store built right in! Save money and be green, take the train!
All previous e-mails from American hotels have been about limousines etc., so this is a pleasant change. Of course, it is Seattle. I'm looking forward to it! I've also just had an invitation to a (pay your own way) lunch for international delegates at the conference, since "fewer than 10% of registered attendees are from outside the United States! So the lunch on Friday is an opportunity for all international SIGCSEers to get together and to get to know each other".

Grab (and pay for!) lunch from the salad bar my host introduced me to last week. The headline in the Daily news is "AG's Russia bombshell". It appears that the new Attorney-General met the Russian Ambassador twice during the presidential campaign, and did not disclose the fact to Congress. Apparently, he has now recused himself from any investigations into the campaign.

Do I really believe "4556 people booked a flight to DTW today on Expedia"? This was said by the Expedia website while I was also booking my flight to Detroit for a commitee meeting later this month.

he weather is curious. At 06:50 there was practically no wind (force 1) at 125th street, even though that "subway" station is on a massive steel cantilever 40 feet above street level. Coming out at 14th street there was quite strong wind (force 4 gusting 5), even though I was now at ground level and surrounded by tall buildings.

At dinner, I sit with a group including a lady with excellent English (I couldn't quite tell whether she was English or from New England) who's also working at NYU. Her route is the A line rather than the 1, though. We swap subway notes. It turns out that she's Dutch, but thought KUL and UCL were two names for the same university. When I tell her the story, her response is "crazy Belgians".

Wednesday 1 March 2017

Today is Ash Wednesday. The first evidence I observed was a man dressed as a clergyman standing at the Stonewall memorial advertising "glitter ash". I did see several people with (non-glitter) ash crosses in the course of the morning, though.

Two lengthy Skypes back to Bath. Neither in my schedule, but both important. Then back home, having done a lot, but only a small fraction of what I had intended to do. I think I'll try Broadway-Layafette and the B line, since that ends up near my shops. However, the sign says Bleecker Street, but also B line. Get on the platform and ask advice. This is Bleecker Street 6 line platform. Downstairs is Broadway-Lafayette station and the B line platforms. Curious. And the uptown B at 110th street only has an exit on 109th street. Downtown has them on both 109 and 110.

n a more humorous note, there's a story about a bull that escaped from an abbatoir in Queens. There's a comment form the president of the Black Cowboys Association of Brooklyn, which is a society I had never heard of before, but it's probably not the only such in New York. Also a note that there are more than 20 abbatoirs in New York City.

February 2017

Tuesday 28 February 2017

Sun behind clouds, but definitely there as I wait on the (above-ground, as it's 125th Street) subway platform. My research has taken me in the direction of ISO 8583-1:2003. ISO standards cost serious money (173CHF, plus postage) and time delay. Whereas for many computing standards you can find draft versions on the web, not so with these. NYU's libraries don't have it. Bath's excellent Maths/CS librarian finds the 1993 version in a database we subscribe to, so I'll start there. Some libraries near NYU have the 2003 version, so that'll be an excuse for more exploring.

Looking through the Washington Arch up 5th Avenue (i.e. looking at the arch from the rear), the statue of Garibaldi is on the right. I have already commented on the demonstrations there, and a friend who lives in Greenwich Village comments that "Yes, it's New York's equivalent of Speaker's Corner". In the equivalent position on the left is the statue of Holley, who introduced the Bessemer steel process to America. I see no demonstrations here, not even of unemployed steel workers.

This afternoon Fulbright's agents have arranged a backstage tour of the Metropolitan Opera. Very good guide, and very impressive operation: 3800 seats, 3400 staff (and 16 trade unions). All the wigs are made of human hair, except for the 18th century powdered wigs, which are made of white yak hair: I once gave one of these sponsored yaks, but I don't recall the hair colour, if indeed I was ever told. Massive amounts of machinery to do the scene changing. In a given week, there will be six distinct operas, plus rehearsals. Alas, no photography.

Then on to a Russian restaurant in Brooklyn. Five of us (Belarussian, Paraguayan, Polish, Slovene and myself) are doing both the backstage tour and the Russian restaurant. The very competent organisers had placed us in the same tour group of the Opera, so we left together. The others had all been in NY far longer than I had, so I let then lead. Essentially the only subway from Lincoln Centre is the 1 (must be chaos when 3800 opera-goers try to leave!), and the nearest subway to where we're going is the L (a new one on me) and the two meet at one place (14 street) so the route is obvious. Unfortunately that's one of these "Monument for Bank" style exchanges, and we walk a long way underground. On the way back, I avoid this at the cost of doing L/C/1, but less walking and, actually, fewer stops. The L doesn't have an express equivalent, and I notice that the stations feel subtly different. In general, NY subway stations feel much less cramped than Tube stations - partly it's the four tracks (not the L), but mostly, I think, because the trains are full (American) height, and therefore the ceilings are higher.

In a culinary move that would make a Glaswegian blush, the restaurant is advertising "deep fried watermelon and pickles" (I hope served separately). My neighbour at dinner is doing a PhD on Nabokov and Salinger. I express surprise at the combination, but apparently the two knew each other, and the student had seen a book of New Yorker short stories in which Nabokov had graded every story, giving A+ only to Salinger and himself.

Monday 27 February 2017

Waiting for the subway at 125th street, I actually see the sun rising over the tall buildings (probably not tall enough to really classify as skyscrapers) of the Upper East Side. Nice to have visible markers for the lengthening days. Another day's work, making slow progress on the research, and still tidying up Bath events.

I-House Seminar on Immigration etc.

Taken by Associate Provost (International) at Columbia. Message is consistent with all schools. The speaker concluded as follows.
You folks (almost all were foreign students) are having a most exciting time in the United States. Do not forget that bad leadership is also worth studying.

Week 4 Summary


I have only just come across this January 25th NY Times article, entitled "Sanctuary City Mayors Vow to Defy Trump's Immigration Order". I am not remotely surprised that New York's mayor is a leading figure in the movement, based on my earlier postings on the topic. There's a fairly sceptical article about Trump's deportation plans. It also has a map of sanctuary counties (which is probably more legally correct than sanctuary cities, except in New York, which is a city containing five counties), and the fact that Eisenhower carried out mass deportations in 1954, and it was apparently controversial then. Oddly, it's not mentioned in Wikipedia, which does mention that Eisenhower had three Mexican decorations.

The two items being discussed this week seems to have been the 'transgender school bathrooms' issue, which apparently led to infighting between (the Departments of) Education and Justice, resolved by the President, again contrary to campaign statements (Education=DeVos apparently wanted to keep the protection, but Justice=Sessions won), and the relationship between the White House and the press. There was a 'daily briefing' from the White House which excluded CNN and the NY and LA Times, as well as Politico (a magazine I have only just encountered) and, a British friend tells me, the BBC. The NY Times editorial points out that this is also contrary to statements the excluder made in December. Also, Trump is not going to the White House Press Corps dinner, unprecedented, but not suprising given that he refers to the news media as "the enemy of the people". There's an NY Times analysis, quoting heavily from one chronicler of Trump's earlier life, ironically named Stasi.

The White House team (and its wider fellow-travellers) are, unfortunately, not without British input. As well as the recently-disgraced Milo Yiannopoulos, who blamed his downfall on his British sarcasm, apparently the new British-born deputy assistant to the President has pretty simplistic views.


I'm definitely finding my way around better. There are four plausible subway stations for NYU, of which Christopher Street (on the 1 local) is the obvious one for I-House (on the 1 local), except that, rather than going on one train, I am generally better off changing to an express at 96th street, and back at 14th street. For much of New York, the A train at 4th Street/Washington Square (so called because you can see the entrance from 4th street if you move about 200m away from Washington Square) is more convenient, and slightly nearer. The station called NYU is only on local trains, and has a fairly tedious transfer to the 1/2/3 at 42nd street. There's also a station called Broadway-Lafayette (which is on Lafayette only, and I have no idea why it has Broadway in its name), which has express trains as well. Just like London, the nearest station is not necessarily the best. Equally, the 'obvious' place to change is not necessarily the best.

Sunday 26 February 2017

Education Secretary DeVos is very keen on Charter schools and education vouchers, but the results are not good. I wonder what the corresponding English results for academies are?

Despite being as bright as yesterday, it's much colder. I really appreciate the anorak, and regret retiring the hat. More buses in lieu of subway. At I-House, an American lady of roughly my age congratulates me on my Jabberwocky, and the 'public service' intermission. Some of the younger students have assumed it's my own poem, despite the programme and my initial announcement having been, in my eyes, quite clear. Still, "better to be known as a Jabberwocky performer than not be known at all".

I spend all day catching up on my marking from Bath. My tutors have done all their style grading of the 308 programs, and it's up to me to moderate and combine. I actually get so absorbed in this that I forget that I am due at a film at the Museum of Mathematics - bother. Finally get home, have a quick dinner in the refectory, an dthen discover that I can upload the marks, but not the justification. Query this with the e-learning team.

Saturday 25 February 2017

There is an all day seminar today at NYU's School of Engineering, which is in Brooklyn. I've not been there before, and should get to know them. The 1 subway is not running this weekend (engineering works, a recurrent theme - could it be because I travel at weekends and late night?) and there are replacement buses. I knew this - it was well advertised, and decide to leave home earlier (06:15!). So I walk to 116th street, as the traffic at 125th is chaotic due to roadworks. While trying to work out the bus stop there, a woman mistakes me for a subway staff member and asks me for directions. Fortunately I also meet someone else (possibly a Columbia student) who does know. The bus comes, but is full (actually there's room at the back, but no-one moves, just like Bath) and only one person can get in. So I walk down to 96th where the 2 and 3 are running. Not quite right: at 102nd an almost empty shuttle bus passes me. And at 100th. And at 98th.

At 96th I get a 3 (but running local on the 1 track!), and there are a whole bunch of announcements, such as "D trains are running on the A track not the F track", which I can hear, but not fully understand. Also "There is no service to South Ferry: change at Times Square for R/W services to Whitehall, which is the same station". The mapping between stations and names of stations seems even more bizarre than I had thought. However, I remembered that London has two different Edgeware Road stations, so mustn't overgloat.

The workshop today is at NYU's Tandon School of Engineering, which is at MetroTech in Brooklyn. A new adventure, but fairly easy to get to, as the relevant subway stop (A/C/F/R lines) is actually called "Jay Street MetroTech". Local instructions also say that the 2 passes fairly close, but I figure I'll play safe, and get to the nearest station. Alas, no exits are labelled MetroTech (that I can see), and I emerge through what happens to be the worst one, but that's life. Find the workshop, which was due to start at 09:00. In fact, 09:00 is breakfast (coffee, muffins and fruit, which is good for my diet), and the workshop proper starts at 09:30. My notes are here (Chapter 6)

Like Friday, today was good and warm when I left I-House, and I had hesitated about taking my anorak. Just as well I did take it, as in the evening there's a major (by my standards) thunderstorm and plenty of rain. Unfortunately, I haven't found a way to pack both the coffee cup and the umbrella in the backpack, so don't have the umbrella. On the way back, the engineering works means it's a bus from 96th street. Although the 1 is local only, the replacement buses are part express (next stop 147th street) and part local - live and learn.

Friday 24 February 2017

It's very definintely warmer. OK, I had a morning Skype to UK (my EPSRc grant with Architecture) so left the I-House after 9, but even my anorak seemed a bit superfluous. I really liked the story So, Um, How Do You, Like, Stop Using Filler Words in the NY Times, especially as it was accompanied by a picture of the Compact OED. While on the humour front, I was signing up on an editorial board website, and it offered me various papers which it thought were by me (i.e. in practice by "J. Davenport") in an attempt to learn my interests. I particularly liked "Large-scale movements in European badgers: has the tail of the movement kernel been underestimated?". Despite the bizarre phrasing (at least to those not familiar with this part of statistics) the question is a good one.

In the afternoon there was the retirement event for Olof Widlund, one of the (many) great people of the Courant Institute. the lecture was the first time I can recall hearing a man describe doing Computational Fluid Dynamics on his own cranial arteries.

A Bath friend draws my attention to the BBC article on Jaffa cakes, and the court case on whether they are cakes (VAT exempt) or biscuits (VAT chargeable). I reply as follows.

Thanks. I remember the case at the time: the general feeling amongst computer scientists at the time was that it was definitive proof that "The law is an ass". I think I would now see it as an example of the weakness of informal ontologies, but that's much the same thing, since the law relies on informal ontologies.

Appealing to Wittgenstein is only guaranteed to make a hard problem insoluble. The best Wittgenstein story I heard (and it was at Trinity High Table) is that, after his PhD examination, he patted the external examiner on the head and said "Don't worry old chap, you'll never understand". [On checking this, I find that Wikipedia has the same story, with a reference into a biography, but says it was true of both examiners, which I doubt, as the internal examiner was Bertrand Russell.]

Thursday 23 February 2017

A research student writes from Toronto as follows.
I was passing by a shop that sold bathroom fittings the other day and was amused to see in the window that they were selling plaques labelled "bathroom" and "salledebain" for $23 and $25 respectively. I'm sure this is in keeping with the law, but gives a slight economic incentive to the English language...
I wonder whether they are charging by the letter, but "WC" was $5, so I don't understand.

It's definitely warmer. I'm leaving my winter hat at home, and the security guard is standing outside the building in the sun, rather than sitting inside at his warm desk. I have to submit a Data Management Plan for my EU project. One person points out that it's called "DMP Title", and there are many such documents on the Web. I can't work out how to change it, though. A colleague in Bath's Library tells me, and I comment "a totally non-obvious incantation (no goats were slaughtered in following this incantation)".

Another story (here's the first) I can't find in my US media (NYTimes, CNN) is that the White House Digital Chief failed FBI checks and has stepped down. The story is also here, in a magazine I hadn't previously encountered. Another fact from the technical media: is empty. There were apparently 40TiB of data there before.

A comment on the lambasting of the Appeal Court at the CPAC (Conervative Political Action Conference) today states "There were three judges on that court, one of whom was appointed by George W. Bush. The decision was unanimous.". There's also a story on CNN that Chicago Public Schools will only allow Immigration officers in if they have a criminal warrant.

I notice a poster saying that NYU Shanghai and NYU Abu Dhabi are advertising the opportunity to study there, either for a semester or over the summer. The recruitment event comes with a light lunch of dumplings, which is an interesting cultural compromise.

Tuesday having been the opera, my lunch with my host got moved to Thursday. But he was busy, so suggested a swift snack. Just round a corner I hadn't been round is a largish shop doing "pick your own" buffet, either hot or salad. As I am short of vegetables, I opt for salad. A great discovery - I must eat from here more often. I then make a second. The Library is on the 12th floor o fthe Courant Institute building, and the Librarian had told me that you got the best views from there. I had subconsciously interpreted that as saying that 12 was the top, but in fact 13 is the Department (staff) lounge. Complete with coffee bar! Why had I not discovered this before? Two great discoveries over lunch, and because my host was busy.

It was performance night at the International House. Mostly music, but a wide range of art forms, including Indian dance. I, of course, performed the Jabberwocky. My only concession to America was to interrupt the third verse "We believe in responsible broadcasting. Here is a Public Service Announcement. Attention all parents. Vorpal blades are extremely dangerous, and should be stored out of the reach of children." It caused me to reflect: I have no memory of actually learning the Jabberwocky: I just knew it.

For me, the highlight of the performance was the reading of a self-composed poem "White like me", by a Muslim woman. She said she composed it immediately after the Trump election, and it was very powerful.

Wednesday 22 February 2017

The NY Times reports (under 'politics', rather than 'justice' or 'foreign affairs', which is itself interesting) a case at the Supreme Court (which currently has eight members, so might well tie) about whether the parents of a Mexican teenager killed by a US border guard who shot across the border, can sue in US courts.

I thought the supernatural was getting too close to science when I saw a conference entitled "International Conference on Emanations in Modern Engineering Science & Management", but I think it really meant "Expositions". The level of English of the promoter can also be judged from this sentence "We hope that the outcome of this conference will make up a remarkable to the knowledge in these fields".

Today's bizarre fact is that Andy Warhol's death was not "after routine surgery", but after very non-trivial surgery.

Very interesting seminar at the Forbes Building. The speaker was a research student from California, and a potential hire. He had been working on reducing configuration errors in data centres, which apparently account for 25% of all outages.

Walking back from the seminar, I discuss the opera with a friend. Though "not a fanatic" she has clearly seen far more than I have. I comment on the size and role of the chorus, and she says that the role is common, but that the Met is famous for the size of its chorus (at one point I counted 70). I also realise that one could argue that I'm wrong in saying this was my first opera: I have seen a few Gilbert and Sullivan. But they're in English, so hardly count. I also need to consider the role of the chorus in Shakespeare. That's the trouble with thinking - it keeps detouring.

I'm trying a different route to the Upper West Side. Google recommends the Cathedral Parkway station on the B, whereas I know the Cathedral Parkway station on the 1. Once we reach midtown, the B/D line exhibits a different feature. The local and express are side-by-side, but uptown is below downtown, rather than next to it.

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Colder today. I've found out how to default my computer to NY weather, and it says "3C, feels like -2C". Getting to the computer at 05:30 (while the coffee water is boiling) means there's already a backlog of e-mail. I hadn't realised how much time I spent on it, especially since the university changed to what I perceive as a much less ergonomic system. While typing this at 125th street, I can see the train, apparently stuck at 137th street. There's an announcement, but the only word I can make out is "Downtown".

Fulbright and their partners have organised a trip to the dress rehearsal of La Traviata at the Metropolitan Opera, at Lincoln Center. This is 66th street - an area of Manhattan I've not explored before. There's a nice statue of Dante in the small Dante park just outside the Lincoln Center. We have excellent tickets: I am A8 in the Dress Circle. I note that the orchestra are in street clothes: clearly the 'dress' of 'dress rehearsal' does not apply to them. Of course, there's no real reason why it should. The programme notes have a good description of the plot (I'd already read, and half-forgotten the sequencing, the Opera's website version), but I wasn't quite prepared for 'the chorus of guests' being done as "Hooray Henries", nor for the very large clock, which Violetta at one point tries to stop. The chorus play a very active role, and I am reminded of (modern reconstructions of) Greek drama.

After the opera, we all go to a pre-arranged lunch in a nearby Chinese restaurant. Over the broccoli in soy sauce I tell my opposite diner (who is from Russia) a story I heard earlier. My friend had been to dinner with a Chinese friend of his in a Chinese restaurant, and heard his friend order: "unintelligible unintelligible broccoli unintelligible broccoli unintelligible", so he asked "is there no Chinese for 'broccoli'?". Apparently not, but it can, of course, be written in menus. "So what does that symbol mean?". "Western green vegetable" was the answer. To add to the ethnic mix, the scholar on my right is from Paraguay (and was delighted by last week's snow), and the one on my left says "I am a Kurd" - I think the first I have met. On the way out, I meet another scholar, this time from Belarus. I follow my mother's instructions, and say (in Russian) "I am an Englishman: I cannot speak the Belarussian language". She is rather surprised, and asks (in what I think is Russian, but may have been Belarussian) "where did you learn Russian".

In a burst of utterly atypical frivolity, I follow the opera with the theatre (well, there were four hours of work in between, mostly reading the proofs of a research student's paper on which they've kindly put my name in return for some remarks which seemed obvious to me, and planning my trip to Ann Arbor in a month's time). From the well-known (La Traviata) to the obscure (Life according to Saki), and from the Lincoln Center to a basement theatre at 89 East 4th street (but a short walk from work). Again, this play is courtesy of the Theatre Development Fund (and this was the only night they were offering tickets). Once there, I am given a programme, in which I see this show won the Best of Edinburgh award at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe. This prize, presented by Carol Tambor, consists of the New York run (flights, visas, the stay, publicity etc.): I had no idea such prizes existed.

Actually, this is just the waiting room, decorated with various Saki-related objects, including a photograph of him in uniform, with what I correctly identify as a Fusiliers capbadge. We then go upstairs to the theatre proper. The play is set totally in one dugout, with Saki and five other soldiers, played by two men and three women. However, most of the action consists of them playing out various Saki short stories, so it works quite well. I hadn't much enjoyed Saki as a boy, but maybe I should try again. The play concludes with a roll call of the death of the soldiers, and Saki pointing out to the audience that they are all mortal too, so should live each day as it comes and "unleash the inner ferret" (a reference to one of the stories acted out).

The subway is a new exploration: one stop on the 6 to 14th street (a different 14th street than the one that I usually use) then the N to 42nd street, then an express to 96th street, then the 1 to 125th street.

The subnet mask on the IPv4 network on the subway is, and the network is Each station seems to have its own subnet (presumably to force reconnection as the mobile device moves from station to station). I can't see an algorithm connecting stations to subnets, though. Must do more data collection. The DNS is on a 172 address, though. I can't find a way with my iPhone to look at the other DHCP parameters.

I had missed the main piece of political news, that Milo Yiannopoulos, the darling of rightwing "news", has resigned from the Breitbart channel, after pro-paedophilia remarks.

Monday 20 February 2017

As it's a holiday, the subway is running a Saturday service (except on Staten Island, when it's Sunday service), and it very much less busy at 06:55. I get a seat on the subway (rare usually) and can work on this blog. In particular, I ask my colleagues in Bath the following question.
I am scheduled to perform an animated rendition of the Jabberwocky later this week (it's about all I can perform!). Normally, at "'Twas brillig" I look at my watch. But, since the audience is nearly all graduate students, would it be more relevant to look at my mobile 'phone?
Two colleagues suggest that looking at a 'phone is ambiguous (good point), and that even millennials understand the gesture of looking at a wrist-watch. Another friend suggests looking at my pocket watch, to which I reply "What do you think I am: a white rabbit?", though of course that was Wonderland rather than The Looking Glass. In the afternoon I learn that I am third on, out of 17, most of whom are musical.

A complication I wasn't aware of (and I very much doubt Trump was aware of) is posed by the Tohono O'odham tribe, who live along the Arizona-Mexico border, and who would be divided by the border wall. I was aware of such tribes on the Canada-USA border, of course, but they aren't as threatened (yet). Of course, as the article points out, they are "damned if we do and damned if we don't", as if that's the only part of the border without a wall, it'll be a magnet. The statistics in that article are pretty depressing as well.

On the policy front, I saw this article about how technology policies might evolve, more under a Republican Congress than directly under Trump.

I get back to I=House, dinner, and then find the room we're performing in (a part of I-House I'd not been in before). It seems suitable, so I then retire to my falt, borrowing a vorpal blade en route. Lovely tweet from another Trinity man - "Denial is the mind's preferred painkiller".

Week 3 Summary


See Day Without Immigrants below, and the White House CISO.

Apparently, the heat has gone out of the campaign to repeal "Obamacare", now that Obama has gone, and people see what they would lose. Interesting. Ladbrokes have some interesting odds on Trump: currently 10/11 (i.e. more likely than not) for him to leave via impeachment/resignation in his first term.

Apparently, although Trump keeps saying "wall", the experts want a fence. I recall that the Berlin wall was overlooked by many manned observation towers at a density that would be impossible for a 2000 mile border, and the IGB (Inter-German Border) was fences.


At I-House, I was involved for the past two days in their thinking about sexual violence on campuses. Thinking about the film and the facilitation session, I have three sets of thoughts.

On an utterly more trivial note, I see that my local deli where I purchase heros (only one at a time!), not only sells spam, but also "spam lite", and "reduced sodium spam". Isn't spam lite analogous to decaffeinated coffee?

baffling the Swedes.

On the way back to I-House, I do a wonderful impression of Buridan's jackass. The 3 (local, it's a Sunday) train from West Houston street stops at 14th street, but I decide not to get an express. It then stops for ages at 23rd street, and I see three expresses pass it. Finally I understand the announcement "awaiting EMS [Emergency Medical Services] to attend a passenger", and it advises us to change to a Southbound (at least, I understand "Southbound", but they don't really use compass points in New York, so it may have been "Downtown") train. To do this, one has to leave the station and re-enter the other side, but, as a holder of a monthly pass, this doesn't affect me. I'd be pretty upset otherwise. I get off the downtown local at 14th street (there's a train on the downtown express) and cross over (internally, this time) to the uptown platforms. Just as I am doing so. the train on the downtown platform leaves, heading uptown. I see the sign 1 as it leaves. There's a train stopped on the uptown local platform, presumbaly held behind the train I had left. I finally see the noticeon the uptown express platform saying that, due to engineering works, uptown expresses are leaving from the downtown express platform (as I had just seen). A 1 train pulls in on the downtown express platform. So I cross back. As I am doing so, the train on the uptown local leaves (in the uptown direction) and there's an announcement that "following an earlier incident, uptown local trains are now running normally. Eventually my train leaves, and is indeed express to 34th and 42nd street, when it is going to be local. Hence at 42nd street (the triumph of hope over experience!) I change to an express 3 train. I have the slight gratification of seeing it overtake the train I got off, and another, before we get to 72nd street, where we are now on the local track. I suppose I could try the express hack again between 72nd and 96th, but I've already made enough of a jackass of myself. In fatc, although we're on the local track, we don't stop at 86th street. Incidentally, I note that 66th street, the stop for the Lincoln Center where I have to go on Tuesday, is local-only.

All this makes me late for dinner: the refectory closes at 21:00, and I'm not there until 20:55. I'm the last customer at the 'Fusion' counter, where a dish is cooked for you. Always similar: chicken or tofu + your choice of garnish vegetables, plus some form of carbohydrate - rice or pasta, or, once, naan bread. It's so late that the display screen is in shutdown mode, so I have to order blind. But it's good - one of their spicier ones.

Tomorrow is the federal holiday known officially as Washington's Birthday, and colloquially as Presidents Day (with varied spellings). NYU is officially closed, but there's a seminar, so I'm assuming the building is open.

Computing At School

There's an interesting debate here. One teacher asks the following.
I have read in several articles that insertion into a linked list is big O (1) worst case constant time. However, I don't understand why when the list has to be traversed to find insertion point. I understand if it is inserted into head. It also states deletion is the same but again, surely not since the list has to be traversed to find the item which in worst case is last item so Order (n).
Another teacher quotes the Stackoverflow discussion. I come back with the following analysis.
The issue is the specification of the question.
"Given a (pointer to) element L_k in a linked list, insert e after it" is indeed O(1): it's very like inserting at the head.
"Given a (pointer to the head of) a linked list, and an element k in the list, find the linked list node L_k and insert a after it" is O(n).
"Given a (pointer to) element L_k in a linked list, delete the element after L_k" is O(1): it's very like deleting at the head.
"Given a (pointer to the head of) a linked list, and an element k in the list, find the linked list node L_k and delete it" is O(n).
"Given a (pointer to) element L_k in a linked list, delete L_k" is actually also O(n), as you have to find the element BEFORE L_k.
I hadn't seen this analysis explicit before.
My ego is promptly stroked by another academic.
The reason some texts separate insertion from search is to emphasise that search takes O(n) in both unsorted lists and arrays, but insertion takes O(1) in lists and O(n) in arrays due to the shifting of items. This separation is certainly pedagogically confusing if it's not made very explicit, e.g. like James did.

Saturday 18 February 2017

An early breakfast - must keep my clock closeish to UK time. E-mail exchanges with Professor Crick about our paper: the conference is in April, and I was just checking that he is going. It's in Brussels, so I advise Eurostar. He replies "Eurostar definitely the best option; the actual conference is being held at Vrije Universiteit Brussel". I reply
Health Warning: Do not confuse Vrije Universiteit Brussel with Université Libre de Bruxelles These are NOT translations: two totally different universities! For a similar story about two other Belgian universities, see here.

I have stayed in the Ibis St Catherines [one of the hotels on the conference list] - good area for late-night ethnic=cheap restaurants, but possibly not the most convenient transport-wise: I haven't checked.

He asks whether a colleague of mine, who taught him, didn't graduate from VUB, and I reply
I think so, but my knowledge of Belgian academic dress is insufficient to be sure. I am also not convinced of Ede&Ravenscroft's competence here: Axel Goodbody, who graduated from Kiel, says that, when they don't give him Keele, he gets a different gown every time.
My reading of the NY Times throws up this lovely article: "Mr Trump, our 15th President salutes you", claiming that Trump could unseat the 15th president, James Buchanan, from the throne of "worst American president ever". - claiming "Sure, he [Buchanan] sent the country careening into civil war. But he never tweeted about it." I have commented about the Museum of Mathematics: according to the subway advertisements there's also a Museum of Sex, at 5th Avenue and 27th Street, i.e. practically next door. One would hope they have different attitudes towards children's activities.

Then training for this film: saw it last night. I must say I could easily write it off as one-sided propaganda. But I won't. The session starts with a session on personal pronouns. An assistant to the counseller says that one should start a circle by asking people for names and what [third person] pronoun they would like to be referred by. "My name is Tracey and I like to be referred to as 'they'". I think to myself that this is a very English-centred discussion - if this were in French, the next question would be 'ils' or 'elles'. I don't say this until the Counsellor, who has been a counsellor for transgender children, comments that this is very difficult for Spanish-speaking children. Also, some of the people whose native language is not Indo-European are clearly struggling. Then I make the remark about English-centred, and also point out that we're missing, in English, the issue of status with pronouns: tu/vous etc.

Then there's the interesting film> session, led by, as well as our own Counsellor (who apparently also teaches Gender Identity at Columbia), a key player featured in the film, who is now Education Director of End Rape On Campus, the grass-roots movement whose setting up is depicted towards the end of the film. One person present says

We actually showed this film back home in Indonesia, where women's rights are very low. We asked in disbelief "Could this change ever happen here?".
One of the things the Education Director says is how difficult it is to get an extension from a teacher when the reason is sexual harassment by the teacher: I tell her about Bath's policy that extensions are handled by the Director of Studies, not the individual teacher.

Perhaps it's as well I'm not in London: the New York Times claims "Record Pollution", blamed on diesel engines. It's also as well I don't have an aeroplane or helicopter, the NY Times has an article on the disruption caused to the aviation industry caused by Trump's frequent flights to New York (where his wife lives) and Florida (where he has established the Winter White House, which reminds me rather of Brighton under the Regency). It also quotes stunning figures on the amount of light/private aviation.

Having had two breakfast today (my own and the facilitation exercise), I have a late snack on ham sandwiches. I see that, although I ordered 'ham' yesterday from the supermarket deli counter, I actually got turkey ham. I had already noticed that there's as much turkey bacon as there is bacon in the racks.

I have volunteered to perform The Jabberwocky at the Salon Night next week. Bearing in mind it's an international audience, I ask if they can print the words in the programme: apparently not. So I teach them about (did you realise that's a Libyan URL?), so it's become Now all I need to do is find a vorpal blade. I'll ask the 'House Fellow' on my floor, whi says he might have just the thing.

Th weather is quite fickle. So for the last week it has been around freezing, and when I leave for my morning excursion it is much the same. But when I left for my evening excursion, around 19:30 The temperature was around 15C, and I felt positively warm.

Friday 17 February 2017

The moraines of snow have largely disappeared, but you can still see the remnants everywhere. Odd small patches of black ice, but the cautious can avoid them easily enough. Then a Google Hangout (great medium, but, as my EU project discovered, it's limited to 10 participants) discussing a series of workshops run over the UK last month on Research Software Management, Sharing and Sustainability: I set up, and ran jointly with Richard Evans, the Bath-Bristol one, and our materials are here.

Another e-mail from the National Museum of Mathematics, advertising Leonardo and Luca: Using art to understand mathematics, which I also sign up for. How better to spend a Sunday evening? Then up to the new building for a further seminar, and walk back by Washington Square. Pass several policeman walking away, and see the tail end of an anti-Trump demonstration. There's a badge vendor, and I buy one.

There has been quite a lot about recent arrests and deportations of illegal immigrants, but this NY Times article shows that the number is relatively normal, but the context is worrying for many.

At the seminar I met an American lady who has just moved to NYU after 12 years in Dublin, where she knew people from Bath's Architecture Department, and we agree to discuss my joint project with them. Her PA gets in toch - apparently she's based at the MetroTech Center (spelling it the American way) in Brooklyn. I take a moment to work out how to get there: fairly easy - take the A/C/E from eashington Square to MetroTech! The subway goes under the East River just downstream of the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges (there are two close-together bridges joining Manhattan and Brooklyn: one is called the Manhattan bridge and the other the Brooklyn bridge!). The area just South of Brooklyn bridge is called Brooklyn Heihts, but the area just North is called Dumbo! Nothing to do with flying elephants - "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass". The area (more accurately, of course, the entrepreneurs in the area) compares itself to Silicon Roundabout in London. This one is a recent invention, with Wikipedia saying "largely unknown in 1997", but the "DUMBO Historic District" was registered as such in 2000.

In the early evening I had a meeting with one of the counsellors, in the nearby Starbucks, as the cafeteria wasn't yet open. The man is very nice, and serious. Pleased that I am setting in. After a meal in the refectory (unusually, this was solitary - all the tables seemed to be full with active groups), I went to my room and watched, on the computer, this film "The Hunting Ground" about sexual assault on US campuses. The major problem depicted was complete lack of support by the universities. Some quite telling testimony was given by someone who had been in city police, then moved to campus police at a major university (the sort where the university is the main motor of the city), and resigned from that because of the lack of support for these cases: tellingly, he quoted the rule that campus police may not enter athletic facilities or ask althletics staff questions about athletes, which explained why the university authorities "couldn't find the perpertrator", even when 160,000 people (live, plus who knows how many on television) had seen him playing college football.

The lessons of the film seemed to be that the problems were caused by:

Thursday 16 February 2017

At least one person reads this, as there's a complaint that the link to last night's notes was missing: now fixed. My 06:30 (11:30 UK time) Skype was running late, which gave me time to do this and cook breakfast.

International House takes its protective duties seriously. I get this invitation.

I-House Resident Life (Lorraine Pirro) is inviting 10-15 residents to lead 2-3 small group discussions on interpersonal integrity and the I-House policy on Sexual Harassment. There are two requirements to prepare, one is to screen, "The Hunting Ground" documentary film and attend the facilitator training on 18 February. Participants should view the film before the training and come prepared to share their insights.
I think I should do this, but when will I find the time to watch the film?

On the other hand, some people take protective duties less seriously. The tech media (I haven't seen this in the mainstream) have noted that Trump has fired the White House Chief Information Security Officer, described prominently as an "Obama appointee" - I can't see the UK media describing the Cabinet Office CISO as a "Cameron appointee".

Trump's continued disruption of the White House's cybersecurity program has led to frustration and mockery alike from security experts, who believe it makes him particularly vulnerable to hackers. While some wags have joked that, with Trump's Twitter habits, we won't even notice if he is hacked, the repercussions of the US President suffering a breach would be staggering.
I also have an 09:00 and a 12:00 webinar, and these are somewhat disruptive in a shared office, so I stay home for them. Talking of the shared office, I haven't mentioned that I have a French office-mate at the moment. We speak French, and yesterday his curiosity got the better of him. "Où as-tu appris le francais", but the questioning stress made it more like "How the hell did you learn French", so I told him the story.

Apparently today is "Day without Immigrants", a major grass-roots movement where immigrants (legal or not) stay away from work, and, at least in New York, many businesses close in sympathy. I particularly liked the NY Times coverage: "In Washington, the Pentagon warned its employees that a number of its food concessions, including Sbarro's, Starbucks and Taco bell, were closed because immigrant employees had stayed home, and that they could expect longer lines at restaurants that were open". It's not on the CNN front page, but I can see several stories about it.

I go from home to a seminar in the new building (60 5th Avenue). It was pretty dense - I should probably have read the paper first. Then walked to the main building. This is the first time I have approached Washington Square from the North, which turns out to be the direction it's meant to be approached from. The arch, which is blank on the South, has statues of Washington on the two piers: one as Commander-in-Chief and one as President. When I get to the main building, the administrator kindly scans another document for me - I have mastered printing but not scanning.

Then off to the theatre. I have tickets that need to be picked up in advance. So I figure I'll get there in plenty of time, and explore the Theatre District (also known as Hell's Kitchen). However, the theatre tells me that Theatre Development Fund tickets aren't printed yet, and I should come back in an hour. So off to Starbucks. Despite my strictures on their caffeine content, the food was reasonable - turkey sandwich, but accompanied by slices of apple and raw baby carrots. I am having slight trouble doing that much-vaunted (but I believe somewhat short on scientific justification) "5 a day".

The play is "C.S. Lewis: the reluctant convert". It's pretty minimalist, with one actor (Max McLean, who's also the playwright and co-director), playing Lewis, and one setting, Lewis's study in Magdalen.

As the play (a 70-minute monologue) develops, I am quite impressed by the lighting. The view from the study window changes, and, when he speaks of some-one, either an author he is reading or some-one whose conversation he is recalling, the photograph on the wall enlarges. After the play, there's a 10-minute discussion with the actor, more wearing his playwright hat. It certainly seemed like a good rendition of undergraduate and junior fellow debating. I didn't know he called Tolkein "Tollers", but it's quite plausible.

Wednesday 15 February 2017

That late evening made me slightly late for a Skype with an ex-student (now a wine-grower near Avignon) and then I left home without breakfast.

It's odd now rapidly we get used to new circumstances: I am thinking of the demise of free plastic bags in the UK, whose exact date I can't remember, but I have become used to it. I still carry round a couple of supermarket "bags for life", and am slightly surprised how lavish stores are here with their free plastic bags; practically everything (even one green pepper) gets double-bagged. NY City has tried to set a 5-cent fee, but this has just been stifled by the New York State legislature and Governor.

Apparently, some banks are looking to replace ATM (cash machine) cards with mobile 'phones. I should probably keep an eye on this development.

I am invited, back at Bath, to attend "1 Day Without Us celebrates the contribution of migrants to the UK and coincides with UN World Day of Social Justice. Reject the politics of fear, division and hatred". I reply "Despite the fact that I am descended from immigrants (landed 28 September 1066), I regret that the fact that I am in a country founded by emigrants (who therefore became immigrants) means that I can’t participate".

I'm going to an event this evening at Cooper Square, which makes me reconsider the geography. If you start at East 8th street (where it meets Greene Street) and head South (and a bit West, but Greene Street is parallel with the Avenues: Manhattan is not quite Norht-South) down Greene Street, you pass Waverly Place, Washington Place and come to West 4th Street. Why West, and haven't we missed a street - all good questions.

Fascinating session at the NYU School of Journalism. Entitled "The Age of Algorithms" (by which it really meant "The Age of Machine-Learning Algorithms applied to dubious data sets") it featured two female mathematicians turned investigative journalists. My notes are here (Chapter 4). The culmination was a question from the floor, which I couldn't take down verbatim, but was essentially "humans are innocent until proved guilty, whereas drugs, bridges etc. are unsafe until proved safe. Should we move algorithms into the second category?". With the caveat that he really meant "algorithmic decision making", I think I agree with him, at least for decisions where wrong decisions have a certain impact. As noted in this paper by one of the speakers, we have that right for refusal of credit decisions, so maybe that should be the bar.

Tuesday 14 February 2017

It feels about the same temperature as yesterday, but it must actually be below/at freezing, as there's no water running off the moraines. Nevertheless, I ignore the warning, and slip (not badly) on some black ice on the 125th street platform. Change to an express, waiting 2 minutes, at 96th street. This time I carefully stand facing the local track, and observe that we pass the train I got off between the next station and the one after.

I've switched from the BBC to CNN as my default news website, but the Guardian e-mail is still my default 'newspaper'. I ought to change this, and have signed up to the NY Times. The key headline this morning "Flynn Resigns as National Security Adviser", with the subtitle "Apologizes for 'Incomplete' Account of Calls With Russian". Further details include "In addition, the Army [Flynn is a retired Lt.-Gen.] has been investigating whether Mr Flynn received money from the Russian Government during a trip he took to Moscow in 2015". There are some pretty bizarre Flynn stories. The media are apparently divided on the Flynn issue: there's a NY Times article on the subject. I also didn't realise that Ivanka Trump had been a trustee of the Murdoch estate.

Apparently I've been cited in an article published by the Vietman National University (so the ego-strokers at Google Scholar tell me). I click on the link, and I get "Internal System Error" with the option "Leave a message for the DSpace at VNU administrators". I click on this, but, instead of getting a nice message box, get the same screen as before, i.e. it's an error to leave a message about an error.

Had lunch with my host. Good conversation about my recent discoveries on the credit card security front. These events are really helpful. Today we went to a Japanese restaurant. They do good sushi, but today we had a lunch special: udon soup and various other dishes I didn't recognise.

That afternoon I get coffee ($2.25 this time) and then have a further go at the programming paper. One referee had queried the fact that our respondents had described Python as procedural, whereas it can also be object-oriented. While checking something else (isn't research always like that!) I came across one of those papers you are really glad some-one else has written: a survey of the relative frequency of key words in Java and Python textbooks. Proves our point precisely.

This evening there's a talk advertised by the local ACM student chapter on building websites. I attend, to see how they do it - free pizza seems to be a key component (I am too well-behaved myself to take pizza out of the mouths of starving students). The talk is given by a man who rejoices in the title of "Clinical Assistant Professor" in the CS Department, and he is clearly well-known to the students. My notes are here (Chapter 5). Again too late for the refectory, but this time I actually cook: pasta and an enriched (by my adding meat, peppers, onions) sauce.

Monday 13 February 2017

It's definitely above freezing, and the sidewalks are pretty clear of snow, apart from the moraines left by ploughing/shovelling.

Unfortunately both the WiFi (EduRoam and the internal networks) and the wired networks are down when I get into work, so I have to do some off-line work (overdue marking!). The system comes back about 11:30. We get an e-mail from the Department Administrator reminding us that next Monday is Presidents' Day, and NYU is closed that day, and there's an early closing at 4 p.m. on the previous Friday.

For lunch, I go (again) to Think Coffee, for a sandwich and a coffee top-up for my travel mug ($3.00 less 0.25, but plus sales tax, whereas I think for a coffee alone I haven't paid sales tax). While queueing, I look at the 'Metropolitan' section of the NY Times. A headline is "Reaction to DeVos nomination: just shrugs", but it goes on to report a demonstration of high school students, chanting

We love public school Betsy DeVos is a fool,
with the telling comment "it is hard to remember when hundreds of children could have named the Education Secretary". She is a strong advocate of "Charter Schools", eseentially the equivalent of English Academy schools. Indeed, the Education Secretary is very remote from children in a system as decentralised as the US one: the post was only founded in 1979. The Wikipedia article is tellingly brief. On February 7, 2017, Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) introduced H.R. 899, a bill to abolish the federal Department of Education. The bill, which is one sentence long, states, "The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018." - it is not clear to me how much support this has, but the Republican Party has had a long tradition of opposing the existence of the Department of Education: it was one of Reagan's campaign pledges.

On a more humorous (but still serious) note, there was a report of an Internet-of-Things attack at an anonymous (and probably embarrassed) university.

"We identified that this was coming from their IoT network, their vending machines and their light sensors were actually looking for seafood domains; 5,000 discreet (sic) systems and they were nearly all in the IoT infrastructure," says Laurance Dine, managing principal of investigative response at Verizon. There's no indication as to why hackers chose seafood restaurant searches as the tool of choice to overwhelm the servers.
JHD conjectures that they had confused 'phishing' with 'fishing'.

I listen to a Princeton seminar (pointed out by my colleague Dr Bryson) by a Princeton professor who had just come back from 20 months at the White House (actually in the next-door Eisenhower Executive Building, the largest office building in the world when it was built in the 1870s) as Deputy US Chief Technology Officer. See my notes, including his remarks on how like the White House is to its television depictions, which would make more sense if I had seen any of these depictions.

Then, just as that finished, I had a Skype with Professor Crick discussing our joint paper. Made quite a bit of progress responding to referees' comments. We were using video, so he could see that the blackboard in the office was covered in Maths.

Then to the National Museum of Mathematics, for a film on Origami. It's at E26th street, but I come out of the subway at 23rd street pretty disoriented, and have to ask which way 26th street is. I am told, but my interlocutor looks at me as if I were from Mars. As I turn round to follow his directions, I think I see why: I can see that uber-landmark the Empire State Building. The Museum of Mathematics is a "real cool" (I am trying to learn American) place, at least if you're me! I think I have to come back and raid the gift shop!

The film is "The Origami Revolution", about applications of Origami in science, engineering (especially space engineering) and medicine. It makes a good case for ``random maths is useful'', but there's very little mathematics in it. Their (Eric ? at MIT and Tomahiru, a Japanese colleague) "Orgamizer" algorithm is a universal algorithm producing Origami designs from any 3D specification (defined as an obj file). Apparently the paper was accepted yesterday.

JHD had wanted to ask "In view of the greater range of constructions permitted in Origami (see section 9.9 hereWeek 2 Summary


See Thursday evening. It is commented that "the 9th circuit [the appeal court that upheld the stay on the EO] has an 80% reversal rate". There's a good analysis of this true but misleading statement here, pointing out that the median reversal rate is 68.29%, and every circuit has over 50% reversed. This is because the Supreme Court only reviews 0.109% of the appeal court decisions, and only if four justices think the appeal has merit. Hence there's an enormous self-selecting bias. Talking of the judiciary, I also saw a comment on Donald Trump's most bone-chilling tweet.


In general, I'm much more settled in, and realising that subway knowledge is a matter of general improvement, rather than suddenly "getting it". As a general observation, I see about as much musical busking on the NY subway as I do on the London Underground or the Paris Metro. Conversely, there seems to be more straight begging in the NY subway than the London Underground, but less than on the Paris Metro. I'll let the sociologists explain this one.

Shopping is curious. On my first shop, I naturally bought coffee, and it had to be instant as my only equipment was a pan for boiling water. It cost me $7.49 for a 7oz jar in the 125th street supermarket. However, I had forgotten the price. Today I saw a supermarket at 96th street, and remembered that I was beginning to run low on coffee. The choice was 7oz for $11.39 or 10.5oz for $18.59. It didn't take much calculation to reject the second! However, when I got home, I compared the two jars: identical apart from the price. I must confess to being pretty surprised by that extent of price difference in 29 blocks.

The Spanish for "New Yorkers" is "Neoyorquinos" - live and learn.

Sunday 12 February 2017

It feels cold as I leave I-House, and it's sleeting, but in fact it's definitely above freezing, and the moraines left by the snowploughs (and plenty of manual shovelling) are slowly melting. There are more announcements on the subway. They are about the construction work I observed yesterday, and, partly because of this and partly because I'm getting used to them, I actually understand them! When I get out of the subway, the sleet has turned to hail: life!

On the way back, the hail has turned to snow, which isn't really settling, but generating mush on the sidewalks. No-one said February showed New York weather at its best.


The laundry at I-House works off its own cash card, different from the restaurant. Apparently they normally cost $3, but at checkin I had been given one which a previous resident had handed back, with the strong expectation that I should do the same. So far so good. Both I-houses have laundry rooms, but only South has the card recharge machines. Early on I had explored that room, found the obvious machine. My card read $0 (as expected). Now what? The machine said "enter code to charge", and I couldn't see any credit card reader etc. Reception suggested I 'phone the company, but I haven't got a US 'phone yet.

The English lady I had met at Flanders House had given me further instructions, as I had said that I was struggling to understand this, but again they didn't apply. Friday night I had a flash of inspiration: if the instructions are authoritative, but don't apply to the obvious machine, maybe there's a non-obvious machine. So it proved: at the far end of the laundry room, round the corner so you can't see it from the door, there's a machine to which the instructions apply perfectly.

So before brunch I start my laundry, while reading e-mail on my laptop in the lounge next door. While I'm doing so, the English lady comes past - "did those instructions work"? I tell her the saga, and she comments "That old machine: we all ignore it"!

Back to interesting stuff

Go to see "Denial" at the Athena Film Festival, at Columbia's Barnard Campus (at least, that's what my instructions say. Barnard is a private women's college, founded in 1889 as a response to Columbia's refusal to admit women. Columbia became co-education in 1983, but Barnard is still legally independent, so I question my instructions), about 600m from I-House (though in fact the actual theatre is rather further). Before the film opens, there's a slide show, including "No pictures directed by women were nominated for this year's Best Picture Awards".

The film itself is interesting. I am not sure how historically accurate it is: it shows the barrister going to Auschwitz, whereas I thought barristers left evidence to those instructing them. I hope the scene where David Irving's vanity is turned against him to go for a judge-only trial is accurate. But certainly a good depiction of the "to testify or not to testify" dilemma. I can see why it was chosen for an Athena festival - there's a nice vignette of (the actress playing) Deborah Lippstadt saluting the statue of Boadicea. I believe our (Bath) colleague Roger Eatwell was one of the expert witnesses called, but he didn't feature.

Unfortunately the evening expedition from I-House to Koreatown is called off due to the weather.

Saturday 11 February 2017

My morning reading serves me a wonderful post on the relative proportions of Stack Overflow questions on weekdays versus weekends. Apparently Haskell is the topic with the greatest pro-weekend bias.

Subway trains here are long (10 carriages on the 1/2/3 line, rather than the underground's 8, and I think the individual carriages are longer). So the 116th street station also has an exit at 115th street, and indeed 14th street has one at 12th street. Since the next station to 116th is 110th, this implies that stations take up a non-trivial fraction of the whole. This no doubt accounts for the express trains. One drawback of express trains I discovered yesterday is that, if you miss your stop, it's further until you can double back. Moral: pay attention! Difficult while also composing this blog, though.

It's definitely (though not by much) above freezing this morning. The streets I have seen look pretty clear, as are most of the sidewalks. But there are substantial moraines where the ploughs have parked the snow. Yesterday I saw one couple retrieve snow shovels from the boot, and dig their parked car out, as one such moraine separated it from the road. Similarly the above ground subway platform is largely clear (and ice-free, but yesterday I saw the MTA staff applying salt/grit pretty liberally).

Made the mistake of changing at 96th street to an express. This crawled to 72nd street (the next express stop), stopping by (not at, as there's no platform) the local stations. Just before we get to 72nd I see an engineering train in the local track, which probably explains this. There's also a lot of hooting, presumably to warn the track workers. Occurs to me that maintenance is much easier if you've got two tracks in each direction, and probably the only way you can keep a 24/7 subway running.

Quite a large police presence in Washington Square. Turns out there's a rally by the statue of Garibaldi in support of Planned Parenthood (also under attack by Trump, but via legislation rather than Executive Order). I saw no counter-protest at all. According to Time magazine the anti-abortion movement had a strong hand in Trump's election.

I'm planing a trip to a different 96th street station. While doing this, I realise that my subway map,though downloaded on 26 December for these trips, is out-of-date, a new line up 2nd Avenue, with a stop at yet another (new) 96th street station, has opened. My source says "The Upper East Side once had two other subway routes on Second and Third avenues, but the noisy elevated tracks were torn down to improve real estate values." I can slightly sympathise, living near the noisy elevated 1 line, but only slightly, as I'd much rather have it than not!

While looking at CNN, I am offered CNN Greece. The main headline is translated by Google as "'Lightning' girlfriend against the government and Tsipras", which makes me think that machine translation still has some way to go. It turns out that the 'Lightning' remarks were made by a Mr. Filis (this ignorant human has in fact spotted the capital 'Phi' and wondered). But machine translation of the rest of the article is really pretty poor: here's an excerpt of "English", which I think I would classify as 'too poor to revise'.

There is no doubt that the enemy in trading is very strong. We think we should tell someone. We? The blood dripped on the pension was and it finished? We said on December 5 closing of the evaluation and will leave the IMF. Stand guys not confirmed any appreciation. opponents very bad but we are like to go afterthought.
More seriously, being wrapped up in Trump and BrExit has rendered me rather too deaf to other crises, such as Greece. I had difficulty reading Γιουνκερ until I realised it was Juncker.

I've found a website to tell me about weekend engineering work on the subway. Just as well, as my plans to get to the 96th street (B line) are frustrated by the fact that the B and the R are not connecting this weekend: I should do R/1/B apparently. Except, of course, that the B doesn't run at weekends, so for B read D. I am all set to execute this plan, when the announcement on the train (which I could understand: either their speakers have got better or my ear is getting attuned, probably the latter) says that for the D one should chnage at 42nd street since the D is running on the A line. Seems like a better idea, even though I suspect that this is the interchange from hell, rightly so. 42nd street is packed: indeed the next local train has arrived before I can even get off the platform.

However, despite my reading, the D turns out to be express, and the next stop is 125th(A/B/C/D) [not 125th(1), my usual station], so I have to double back. While doing that, I see a poster about litter causing track fires and delay - " Fatra koze dife sou Ray" in Haitian Creole. As one of those whose first exposure to written French was the HP sauce bottle, this is my analogous experience of Haitian Creole.

I have a very pleasant dinner with a local couple. They live in a nice flat (with quite a history of being split up, partially recombined by the current owners etc.) in a 102-year old 12-storey block of flats. Very enjoyable discussion about America and other matters. Her niece had just had a blazing row with her sister (niece's mother) over Trump.

Friday 10 February 2017

Still cold (-2C). It's stopped snowing. The roads are generally plowed (American spelling), but the pavements are mixed. I fall once on a patch of black ice. I should have packed those Canadian winter boots, rather than believing the long-term weather forecast.

Q) Why did the mathematician cross the road (outside the Courant Institute)?

A) To buy coffee! (though the shop, known as "Think Coffee" is very odd: I've been charged $2.00, $2.50 and $2.75 to refill the same re-usable mug),

While I'm doing that, a voice says "Professor Davenport". The owner of the voice introduces himself as an XX10190 student from 2009, who did a Masters at Courant and had popped in to see his advisor. He was very grateful for the course - I'll try to get more details.

Thursday 9 February 2017

It did indeed snow, but when I left I-House at 06:45, it was more like 2 inches than 10. Nevertheless it was declared a "snow day", with schools and much of NYU closed. The subway was somewhat disrupted, with the 1 not running North of 137 street. I take the 1 from 125th to 96th street, then change to an express 2. However, at 42nd street, they announce that it's running local to Canal (roughly speaking, -9th street). Nevertheless, the express nature saved me a few minutes between 96 and 42.

The subway back home has quite substantial delays, and my train suddenly changed from "local 3" (which doesn't normally exist on weekdays) to "express 3". At 96th street, we were told that this was due to "signalling problems" (were they trying to make me feel at home?) rather than the weather. By 11:00 it was probably more like 5 inches. Apparenly Cnetral Park saw 9 inches, and somewhere in Queens saw 13.2 inches. Apparently the city had over 2300 pieces of snwo-fighting equipment deployed.

Alabama Senator Jess Sessions has been confirmed as Attorney-General, which leaves a vacancy, which is filled by the nomination of the Governor (Bentley). According to the official Alabama website

"This is truly a remarkable time in our state's history," Bentley said in a press release this morning. "Alabama has surely been well represented by Senator Sessions, and I am confident Senator Strange will serve as a fine representative for our people. His leadership on a national level, service as a statewide elected official and long record of taking on tough federal issues are the very qualities that will make him a strong conservative Senator for Alabama."
The Guardian sees it differently.
The favorite is state attorney general Luther Strange, who is currently investigating Bentley's relationship with a former aide, with whom he allegedly had an extramarital affair. By appointing Strange to the Senate seat, Bentley would delay the investigation into his conduct and be responsible for appointing Strange's replacement.
There is no mention of this in the NY Times, though. This may be because of the general parochialism of newspapers here, not reporting much on non-neighbouring states. It finally surfaces on CNN, but fairly low-key.

Over dinner at I-House (I tried to join others, but, unusually, we didn't really talk), the news on the television was that the Appeal Court had declined to overturn the ban on Executive Order 13769 (the immigration one). Returning to my room, I saw that CNN had posted the entire judgement (29 pages): The key sentence is

the Government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury, and we therefore deny its emergency motion for a stay.
Although the full name of the case is "State of Washington versus Trump", the case is normally referred to as "Washington v Trump": quite symbolic.

The (Federal) Government argued that the States (Washington and Minnesota) had no standing to sue. The States argued that the EO caused concrete injury to their public universities, which are branches of the States. The Appeal Court accepted that argument (top of page 13 of the judgement). I hadn't seen the fact that universities were the casus belli of the States' action stated before (maybe it had been, but I must have missed it).

Wednesday 8 February 2017

I have a telepresence at the BCS Board of Trustees at 11:00, which of course is 06:00 in New York. A friend comments "at least you don't have to be up and dressed", but alas they use video, and I forgot to pack my BCS tie. So the choice is Trinity, or Emmanuel, or French, or Transylvanian - I choose Emmanuel. That reminds me, I ought to see if I can get an NYU tie.

That tele-presence (06:00 New York time) is probably best handled from home (of course, I COULD take the subway into work first: it is running, but I doubt I would be!). The conference finishes at 13:00=08:00, and I then do some administration and catch the subway at 09:00 rather than 06:45. Equally crowded, if not more so. Many people follow me in changing to the express at 96th street. Then at 42nd street change to the N etc., being careful to get a local to NYU/8th street as an alternative way to work. But, though the N runs on what I think of as the local (outer) track at 42nd street, it has switched to the inner track at 34th street. Next stop 14th street (a different 14th street stop than the one I've mentioned earlier), where I can change to a local (W, as it happens). Hence four trains, but on only two of what I naively think of as "lines".

That Italian conference is in Pisa, but since I'm only e-present I'll miss the sight of their resident dolphin (see also here).

Today is warm, and I go to the NYU Privacy seminar without a coat or a hat. The NY Times weather forecast lists today as having a high of +16C and a low of -1C, but tomorrow as a high of -1C and a low of -7C, with possibly up to 10 inches of snow. The Theatre Development Fund is advertising a raffle, with tickets to Hamilton as the prize. It's a good cause, so why not?

The headlines in the NY Times, CNN, NBC etc. are all about the President (and his team's) dissociation from reality. Presumably there's an alternate universe in which the converse is true, but I don't know where that is. A rather worrying phenomenon, though. As well as the citing of a fictitious massacre to justify the travel ban, we also have the (now confirmed after the Vice-President used his casting vote in the Senate) Education Secretary's belief that children ought to be allow to bring guns to school to protect themselves from grizzly bears. Another bizarre one is Trump's claim that the murder rate is at a 45-year high, whereas in fact it seems to be (most recent statistics are 2014) at a 45-year low.

My knowledge of subway is improving. I seem to know where to board the 1 train to be opposite the exit at 125th street (tricky, as that's part-way up the platform. It's easier when one needs one end, which is the case at many other stations.

One of my new NY friends says that, as I am living on Riverside, I should really go and see General Grant's tomb, which is right there. He then makes an extremely perceptive comment: "of course, recent events show that the Civil War still isn't really over".

Tuesday 7 February 2017

Nearly every junction has Walk/don't walk (white walker or upraised red hand), but they are not much obeyed, either by pedestrians or by vehicles turning right. I am still unsure of the legalities, so tend to wait for others before walking on "don't walk".

I am trying to juggle an invitation to speak in person at City University of New York (but which campus?) with an e-talk at a conference in Pisa, both on Thursday 30th March. While doing so, I remember to check Summer Time: USA goes forward on Sunday 12th March, UK on 26th March. "The great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from". While checking this, I notice that, while much of Australia observes DST from October 1 to April 2, Queensland etc. don't observe it at all, while Macquarie Island observes it all year (why doesn't it just change time zone?). Easter Island changes time zone a day earlier than Chile, but I suspect that's really because it's the same day chronologically speaking, just separated by the branch cut that is the Date Line.

An interesting argument by the laywers against the EO ban on seven countries: "Here, the sham of a secular purpose is exposed by both the language of the Order and Defendants' expressions of anti-Muslim intent". Apparently one of George W. Bush's CIA heads (Michael Hayden) is also opposed to the EO.

Lunch with my host. He recommends the Theatre Development Fund, which claims "Because of your patronage and interest, TDF has been able to support 27 of the past 28 productions that later went on to win the Pulitzer Prize." They are offering tickets to many plays, including "C.S. Lewis", which should be good for an atheist like me.


My office is a (small) block from Broadway, and there's a pro-immigrant march up it just now. I couldn't really see too much, but my attention was drawnt o it by the chanting.

18:00 - Flanders House

My first real Fulbright event here, hosted by the Greater NY Chapter of the Fulbright Association. They "have two prominent Fulbright alumni host an open discussion about business, leadership, and the value of the Fulbright community. We are thrilled to bring you Alberto Vitale, former CEO of Random House and Fulbrighter from Italy, and Peter Vanham, Belgian Fulbrighter and author of the newly published book, Before I was CEO, which profiles the lives of 20 CEOs, including Mr. Vitale." The event itself is on the 44th floor of the NY Times Building, itself quite a landmark, with excellent views (here, here and here).

Flanders House is actually the home of the official representative of Flanders to the USA. Our host is the Representative-General. He is also an alumnus of KU Leuven, whose alumni association is co-hosting. The flags by the podium are EU, Belgium, USA and Flanders, all at the same height. The views are pretty good, as well.

I meet an English Fulbright scholar who remembers me from the induction in June. She asks "what is this place", so I do "Belgian politics 101" (which is all I can do), and that Flanders, and Wallonia, have their own international presences. I also explain that KU Leuven is not Université Catholique de Louvain, despite the fact that they translate to the same in English, and tell the old story about how, when the university split on linguistic grounds, they literally took alternate volumes from the Library, splitting multi volume sets.

The main speaker is Jewish-Italian, and they evacuated to Cairo when the racial purity laws were passed in Italy in 1940. His memory of Cairo was very good, with only one moment of worry, when "the Germans were at the gates of Alexandria. But the British Army had bagpipes, and drove the Germans back". There is some confusion here, and his interlocutor translates "cornemuse". This doesn't help much, so I say "Dudelsac". Afterwards the General Representative of Flanders comes up to me and asks "how did you know the Flemish for bagpipes?" I admit that it's actually the German. I tell him that I have been to Leuven, and he says "do you know the story about the University Library?".

On the way back to I-House from Flanders House, I get the express to 96th street, them the local. Just before 125th street our train stops. The driver announces that a passenger on the train ahead needs medical attention at 125th street. About a 10-minute delay. By now the refectory has closed, so I buy a sandwich (actually a 'hero') from a deli on the walk home from the subway. I had been afraid that my memories of New York (State) sandwiches from my Yorktown Heights days had been inflated by time, but this was indeed a heroic sandwich: I feel the eponymous Earl would have approved.

Monday 6 February 2017

Start of week 2. I feel reasonably settled. For (at least a subset of) my sins, I am the Bath Computer Science Department's "Impact Champion" (a job without a job description). A company is advertising "Impact Webinars". I pass this on to my deputy, commenting "One never knows what percentage snake there will be in the oil, but I am inclined to try to connect".

Part of my backlog has been reporting on an international thesis. Finally the report (8 pages) is written. The Head of Department tells me that I need to submit a signed paper copy. So I get one of the long-suffering administrators to print it. I am just sitting outside that office when a voice says "I know you" - CK Yap, another NYU faculty member I know well from the computer algebra/robotics angle, and who examined my research student David Wilson. We have a very useful discussion.

Last night it was suspected that I was missing out on I-House e-mails, but today I get one advertising tickets to a cinema festival this weekend. Unusually for me, this seems interesting, so I go home early to investigate (and do some other I-house business). After all, it doesn't much matter where I work. I purchase a ticket for 'Denial', the film about Deborah E. Lipstadt, played by Academy Award winner, Rachel Weisz, and her battle for historical truth with historian and Holocaust denier, David Irving.

En route, I look again at the "Hoverboards Forbidden" sign on the subway. Now that I know that I am reading a French Creole, I can see that 'Entèdi' in the headline is no more than a bizarre (to my eyes) transcription of 'Interdit'. The preceding word 'Ovebòd' is presumably a variant of 'Hoverboard'.

Ther have been various mentions of "Tribeca" - I now take the trouble to look it up: it's a portmanteau word, TRIangle BElow CAnal street, coined in the 1970s. Of course, the New York SoHo is also a portmanteau, SOuth of HOuston street. Hence NoHo makes sense in New York, but not in London. Wikipedia claims that 'Soho' originated as a hunting cry.

Week 1 Summary


See also the special debate on my first night, and one view on the technology community's attitude to the Trump ban. I passed one church in Downtown New York, advertising the sermon "God's extreme vetting". I picked up a copy of the local (to NYU) free newspaper "The downtown". The front-page news article is "Budget for a Sanctuary City", analysing the effect of Trump's other EO (discussed here) on New York City's budget. Not the slightest suggestion that NYC might cease to be a sanctuary city. Not even an argument on the lines of "the moral case outweighs the financial" - it seems to be non-negotiable. I have literally seen/heard no sign of support for Trump here in NYC, not just not in the University or I-House, as one might expect, but not in the streets, the subways, or among the hundreds of ordinary New Yorkers I've met outside work. New York as a state was 59% Clinton: I don't know how that breaks down for New York City.

The same newspaper comments that Amazon has sold out of George Orwell's "1984", with sales of "Brave New World" also sharply up. It is perhaps ironic that Orwell's real name was Blair (no relation of Tony, I believe). Apparently Margaret Attwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" is also selling well, presumably a response to the anti-feminist streak now rising in America - I recall that a popular T-shirt at Trump rallies was "Repeal the 19th" [amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the denial of the right to vote based on sex, as opposed to the 15th, which was race].

While researching the above, I came across Plyler v. Doe, which would seem to have interesting interaction with the Executive Order on sanctaury cities etc. I might mention this at the NYU Privacy seminar if that makes sense.

I vaguely knew that the US judicial system was much more politicised than the UK one, and that the president's appointments to the US Supreme Court really matter. But I wasn't really aware how far down the system this runs. The CNN article on the recent judicial Temporary Restrainng Order begins "Federal Judge James Robart, a George W. Bush appointee, ...", and this is typical of the coverage.

Apparently the author of the memoranda authorising "enhanced interogation" (often referred to as torture) and the opening of the Guantanamo centre says "President Trump is misusing his power on a variety of issues".

One amusing item which I haven't seen on the BBC is that, following the Executive Order, Iran revoked the visas for the US wrestling team which had been due there for a competition. Following the court order, Iran unrevoked the visas.


Life in the International House is excellent. I don't particularly mean physically, though it's not bad, and my moaning about the sparsity of the kitchen is only moaning, and a sign of my inability to adapt. It's eight years since I last lived anywhere else (Waterloo, Canada) and I don't carry a "how to equip an empty kitchen" plan in my head.

As well as the rental (which everyone at NYU says is extremely good by Manhattan standards) one has to pay $5.15/day towards one's dining card. This, the cashier was keen to point out to me, is non-reimbursable, and is meant as an encouragement to eat communally. Every time I have done so (apart from brunch Saturday 4 February, when I was working), I have chosen a table with peple on it, asked if I could join them, and we have had a useful conversation. Reminds me very much of my Cambridge days, and indeed "collegiate" is the word I would use.

There seem to be many events going on, not just the special debate I went to on my first day. These are both formally organised (e.g. a Valentine's Day buffet dinner) and informal trips to various locations. I didn't do Brooklyn Museum (Saturday, but I was working), but I quite fancy the evening trip to Koreatown next Sunday. There seems, from the paper notices, to be one event every weekend. There's also a notice encouraging us to join the Facebook group, and I think I may have to bite the bullet and join this Facebook thing.

Sunday 5 February 2017

So, after a better breakfast (fried eggs and bacon, using the pan purchased yesterday) it's into the office to work. Same diversion on the subway, but since I am expecting it, I look at the local track, and see that they're actually replacing the rails.

On the way from the subway to work, there's a small memorial garden called Stonewall Place. Near I-House, there's General Grant's tomb, so I had supposed this was a memorial to "Stonewall" Jackson. But, as it's Sunday, I thought I'd take time to investigate. There's a distinctly unmilitary piece of sculpture, and I discover it's a memorial to the Stonewall gay rights movement. The movement is named after the Stonewall Inn, scene of a police raid and riot in 1969. That apparently was next to this garden, but I can't identify it now. The next square on the way to work, rather larger, is Washington Place (yes, this is George Washington), with a rather good statue of Garibaldi - quite appropriate.

Just opposite the Courant Institute there's a seven-day-a-week coffee shop, aptly called "Think Coffee". The man I called "Uncle Paul" used to say "a mathematician is a device for converting coffee into theorems".

Dinner in I-House refectory. Again I choose a table with others on it, ask if I can join, and we talk, mostly about life in I-house. Apparently I missed the start-of-semester orientation, and it's possible I'm missing out on some e-mails and notifications of events. They are really enjoying it as well. I talk very briefly about my project (the moment I mention CyberSecurity they ask, as many do, "so you work for the British Government": commercial CyberSecurity seems not to be well-understood), but spend so much time talking I-house that I don't find out what they're doing, or even where they're from (Southern Europe I think).

Saturday 4 February 2017

I head downtown. I normally take the 1 to Christopher Street (a local-only stop). At 42nd street there's an incomprehensible announcement. Next stop 34th street, and I notice we're on the express track (being an avid train watcher does have its advantages). Another incomprehensible announcement (or it may have been the same one, of course). Next stop 14th street, still on express track. I ask a local (person, not train) if this train stops at Christopher Street (where the express track doesn't have a platform), and he thinks not. Get out, and make the discovery that this stop is no further from my destination than Christopher Street is. But since it's an express stop, I can get an express from 96th street, joining the torrent of people who get off the 1 at 96th street - now I know why: it's not that thousands of people work at 96th street.

The professors at the University of Bath vote for 12 of them (other than Deans and Pro-Vice-Chancellors, who are ex officio members) to be on the Uiversity Senate. JHD has done 28 such years, of which only three were ex officio, meaning that he has been a member of Senate for over 50% of its life. Anyway, one professor, who did not vote for himself (it is legal and usual to vote for oneself, if one actually wants to be elected), found that he had got through to the second round of the ballot, which means that at least one other person voted for him - turnout isn't high, even by modest standards. A friend has told me of a suitable nearby store "Bed, Bath and Beyond" (how appropriate), and given me some 20% off coupons for the store, so I wend my way there, and actually purchase a frying pan. It's reasonably convenient, and I can see myself purchasing more there, as I appreciate the gaps in my equipment. I do not agree with a Bath friend who defines a well-equipped New York kitchen as "a telephone and a supply of menus from restaurants that deliver".

After this I head back to I-House. Pick up my e-mail at the subway WiFi at 14th street, and discover that my co-authors are having another push on a conference paper. Agree to work on it as soon as I get home. I had breakfast (boiled eggs and ham on bread - memo to self: buy mustard, equipping a kitchen is hard) at 05:30, and on the weekend the I-house refectory serves brunch from 9:00 to 14:00, so I decide I'll have brunch while working on the paper. Then up to my room and mix this (as required by my active co-workers: one in Germany and one in UK) with a further push on editorial work on a journal special issue that got rather neglected in the push to get here.

The only meal the I-House refectory doesn't serve is Saturday dinner, so it's actually my chance to cook. But must shop first. I find the spice aisle, but can't find the mustard initially, and ask an assistant, who doesn't know, but says that his manager is in aisle 1. I go there, and providentially that's where mustard is, next to cooking oil. I try stir-fried beef, peppers and onions, with, of course, pasta and tomato sauce. I haven't cooked with gas for a long time, and need to get used to the fact that there's no thermal inertia. But it's OK.

Friday 3 February 2017

I hadn't heard directly about the StarBucks CEO's views, and actions, on Trump, discussed here. Perhaps I'll patronise Starbucks after all, despite the low caffeine content. There's also a LinkedIn post on 'The cost of clamping down on H-1B "genius" visas' by a Silicon valley CEO, but "there's a technical problem" so I can't read it.

Even in the five days I've been here, the days have become visibly longer, and it's now pre-dawn, rather than night, when I leave I-House at 06:40 to catch the subway. I have only just noticed that there are three tracks at my 125th street station: up and down, of course, but also one in the middle. I assume this is a service/relief track, but I've not seen it in use. I also realise that the occasional rumbling I hear in my flat is in fact the (above ground) subway just by the station. The next station downtown is 116th street (Columbia University). Just East of Columbia is Mount Sinai hospital. It is in fact on a distinct (by Cambridge standards, noticeable by Bath standards) hill, which I suspect accounts for the emergence of the subway as it exits the hill.

Coming out of the subway, I've gone about two blocks when I inadvertently put my foot on a patch of black ice, and fall over. Not hurt, but shaken by the surprise of it. The worst damage is that my coffee pot opens and I lose all my coffee, which will probably freeze and create more black ice! Apologies to the next person to fall over, but there's not much I can do. I process more bureaucracy: there's a "Notification of Arrival" form that I have to fill in, and get physically signed (the form says 'in pen'). This apparently has to be the Department Chair, who is leading from the front in the Department's (partial) move to a new building, so I get to go there. The local administrator in the current building points out that the new building probably doesn't have printers yet, so I get a copy printed in the current building. My interview with the Chair is conveniently timed just before their [hiring] Colloquium, which is the first lecture in the new building's rather nice main lecture theatre. Then return to the current building and get the signed form scanned. The form is duly uploaded to this agency of the State Department, who also require a scan of the Visa that the US Consulate, another agency of the State Department, put in my passport. The ways of Government are strange, but that's true the world over.

I like the ad on the subway: "Practicing law was my job. Teaching algebra is my calling." I can't quite see it catching on in England. Reminds me that the French for "it's all Greek to me" is "pour moi, c'est de l'algèbre", which, as a Greek-reading algebraist, seems fine. This evening I eat again in the I-House refectory. There's a table with three in conversation, so I ask if I can join them, and of course they say yes, and introduce themselves (but I'm terrible with names). One of the ladies is studying International Education at Columbia, so I talk about my BCS role, and Computing at School. There is polite interest until I mention Google's involvement with this, and their statement that they will not fund any school computing project, world-wide, unless the applicants have spoken to, and incorporated lessons from, CAS. I knew this was an important statement, but hadn't fully appreciated its reach until now. The lady then asked for my contact details! Obviously we discussed other things as well, but it was that impact that really struck me.

Thursday 2 February 2017

Today is Groundhog Day. Punxsutawney Phil predicts six more weeks of winter. I liked this extract from CNN's report. "Our friends (for now) to the north also have some meteorologists of the rodentia persuasion. Shubenacadie Sam in Halifax, Nova Scotia, predicted an early spring, as did Quebec's Fred la Marmotte (not to be confused with Marmite - quite a different animal, hailing from further north and really far east)". I saw this while having Marmite on bread for breakfast - I haven't mastered toast in my sparse kitchen. There was another heart-warming story Jews hand Muslims keys to synagogue after Texas mosque burns.

While checking my post (mail!) at the I-House on arrival, I had found a letter from my U.S. bank with a Visa debit card. I attempt to activate it, but the automated system fails. So I go to the bank (many thanks to NYU's Librarian, who recommended a nearby branch) and am greeted by the man with whom I opened the account three weeks ago, who says "You're the Brit I opened an account for". He sorts me out. I also want to change my $100 bills for something smaller, and he directs me to the cashier, a woman probably in her early 20s. She's not American, and asks me where I'm from. I tell her, and ask her the same, and she says that she's Ukrainian. I follow my mother's instructions on speaking to non-Russians in Russian, and say (in Russian) "I am English. I can't speak Ukrainian, but I can speak Russian, French and English". Once established that I am not Russian, we have a conversation in a mixture of Russian and English. She is very surprised that I had learnt Russian in school - when I say that, she asks whether I meant in university. I tell her that I was in Kiev in 1993, and can see her doing mental arithmetic. It may even have been before she was born, but she works out "early post-Soviet". I agree, and tell her that then the street maps were in Russian, but the street names in Ukrainian.

I mentioned sanctuary cities in my note on yesterday's privacy seminar: these are discussed again in this CNN News opinion piece.

Memo to self: do not change from the A/C/E to the 1/2/3 at 42nd street. The walk is definitely longer than "Monument for Bank", or that snare of the Paris Metro the long walk/moving walkway at Montparnasse-Bienvenüe. Still, live and learn. At least I can get an express train to 96th street: only one intermediate stop. However, if you're on the A/C, you should stay to 59th street, where the interchange is much shorter. If you're on the E, get our here and wait for an A/C. This subway will take some figuring out. Another trap is that some stations have two entrances, one for each direction, with no way of getting from one to the other once one has swiped one's ticket. Also, as just now, even if one realises one's mistake in time, the other entrance may not be obvious - "cross sixth avenue, go down one block, then turn left" were the directions I was given. In fatc, the two entrances are not intervisible.

I realise I haven't really described I-House. It's actually two houses: South and North. South is the main one, with the lounge and dining room. The floors are denoted A, B, C, 1, 2, ..., with 1 being the official "ground floor" with the official entrance and postal address - 500 Riverside Drive. But A has the de facto 24-hour main entrance, on Claremont. Next to that is the tunnel to I-house North, which is nearly all residential. To confuse, its floors are numbered G, B, 1,2,...,12, with the tunnel coming out in G. There's also a semi-open-air passage from B/North to C/South. This has taken me a little time to understand!

Have dinner in I-House again, and join some others rather than eat alone. An American on my table (after recognising my Cambridge University tie-pin!) asks "Bath, isn't that a redbrick university?". I respond "it's what's called 'plate glass', but in fact the architectural style is neo-brutalist". A Frenchman at the table asks what that means, and the American says "béton pur et dur". The Frenchman didn't quite understand, so I said "comme Jussieu", the architecturally-notorious Paris VI campus I worked at in the 1990s. The penny dropped instantly.

Wednesday 1 February 2017

I'm still having trouble understanding the subway. The station for I-House is (one of) the 125th street stations, served by line 1 only. At 96th street, the 1 is joined by 2 and 3, and some of these are express trains. At 59th street, I can change for B/D, which go nearer to NYU. But 59 is not an express stop for 2/3, but is for B/D. However, at NYU, B/D share platforms with E/F/..., which don't stop at 59th street, but head into Queens. No doubt it will make sense in due course. Although Queens and Brooklyn are both on Long island, with a substantial border between them, all but one of the subways from Queens to Brooklyn actually go via Manhattan. I start contemplating a New York Subway version of the Seven Bridges of Königsberg problem. My colleague Dr Freitag lectured the Mathematics undergraduates on this problem, and I looked up Euler's original article. It's all about Regiomontanum, which was his latinisation of Königsberg - "The King's mountain".

I have managed to purchase one cooking vessel, a 4.5 litre = 4.75 US quart (I hadn't realised the two measures were so close) pot, confusingly branded "Eurohome" but made in China. Tuesday night I use it to cook pasta, and add ragù (I have been beaten up by enough Italians not to say Bolognese). Wednesday morning I use it to boil water for instant coffee, and realise I can also make hard-boiled eggs (they have to be hard, as I've not been able to buy a spoon yet!).

12:45 - Privacy Seminar

I attend the Privacy seminar in the Law School (apparently NYU's Law School is large: the Courant Librarian shows me, from her office window on the 12th floor, the building equally tall which is the Law School dormitory). The speaker is late, so (but I think this is usual) the chair asks for any burning issues from the floor. Obviously people talk about the notorious Executive Order.

Apparently Trump has signed another Executive Order, less well known, and in fact a few days earlier. It's Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States. The conversation at the seminar was directed to Section 14: "Agencies shall, to the extent consistent with applicable law, ensure that their privacy policies exclude persons who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents from the protections of the Privacy Act regarding personally identifiable information". But in fact the entire text of the order is pretty rebarbative - from the 'Purpose' section "Many of these aliens are criminals who have served time in our Federal, State, and local jails. The presence of such individuals in the United States, and the practices of foreign nations that refuse the repatriation of their nationals, are contrary to the national interest".

The main speaker is actually from the University of Bournemouth (small world!) but on sabbatical in the Boston area. She is talking about the legal implications of Machine Learning. The details of her talk are in my lecture notes. But I am worried about the disconnect between legal and technical - I think I was the only CS person there.

January 2017

Tuesday 31 January 2017

All those 05:30 Skype sessions to Germany a few weeks ago come in useful. I have an 05:30 (10:30 UK time) tele-meeting of the BCS Academy Board: the last before I become Chair. My shopping yesterday was sufficiently successful that I can have coffee, and a roll with Marmite, as I participate. The meeting was scheduled for two hours, but in fact only takes one.

We (the GW4 group of SouthWest universities) have recently been successful in getting a three million pound grant, the largest I've ever been part of, to install a novel High Performance Computer (HPC), which will be physically hosted at the Met Office. Reviewing their documentation prior to tomorrow's (telephone) meeting of the Management Board, I see that it says "A small development HPC" - question of scale. While I'm reviewing these documents, I look up at 10:45 and see that's it's snowing quite heavily. My office-mate is French, and we discuss the fact that the USA is a single country without a single climate (in French). Have lunch out with my host: Victor Shoup. He suggests a variety of restaurants, and I pick the Cuban, as being new to me. Good cuisine - pulled beef. I come back to a plethora of social events: Fulbright is inviting me to a day at the (Metropolitan) Opera, and the International House is looking for performers for their talent night. I suppose I should contribute, so sign up to do the Jabberwocky.

I attended the start-of-semester recruitment talk for the NYU ACM Student Chapter, essentially the Computer Science society. The audience (about 80, and significnatly more than they had expected) was equally split across all four years of undergraduates. "We teach you git and GitHub, AWS and so on, organise a load of deep learning talks. If you've heard about cool things like Docket, ask us for details. We organise lightning talks sessions, so if you've written a cool app, come and talk about it. We organise talks from industry, and most of us have been offered jobs and internships with industry as a result of these. We also run sessions at the start of each semester to help you choose classes". The initial programme was given:

Very impressive. I note they actually have an office in the building, which ocntrasts with the lack of support I see at home for student societies.

One of the curious (to my European eyes) about the NY subway is the multiplicity of stations with the same name. I am not talking just Acton Town/Acton Central etc., but identical names. So there are four stations called 125th street, all on 125th street (they are not that illogical), but ranging from 4th avenue to 10th. Just South of that, there are four 116th street, except that the one on Broadway is called "116th street Columbia".

I am somewhat surprised by the high price of supermarket food, especially bread. A small shop that would have cost me 6 pounds in Waitrose in Bath costs 20$ in the supermarket here, with a loaf of bread being 5$ plus tax. The habit of adding tax to practically everything also takes getting used to: I can never work out what the bill will actually be (I think sales tax here is 8.875%).

Monday 30 January 2017

The kitchen has a (gas) cooker, and an electric fridge with an ice-cube tray, but that is it. No cutlery, plates, cups, glasses or cooking utensils. This is going to be rather more of an adventure than I had bargained for. E-mail the man who had introduced himself as the "Floor representative" and ask what people do. His advice is to join the International House Facebook group, but also gives directions to a nearby dollar shop. Realise that my shopping list might be longer than I had thought.

Not only is NY "The City that Never Sleeps", it's also "The City whose Subway Never Sleeps": there's a notice about engineering works (again) closing the section North of me weekday nights between 11:30 and 04:00. Talking of "Subway", 125th street, my stop, is actually where it ceases to be underground and starts running on columns above Broadway. Get the Subway downtown at 06:15 - standing room only! There's something very disconcerting about going into the subway when it's pretty dark, and emerging 40 minutes later into daylight. Find the Courant Institute building (251 Mercer Street) fairly easily, having been here three weeks ago (precisely). The guard vaguely recognises me. My friend the Librarian is out, but she had told her staff to look after me, which indeed they do. Find a seat, plug my technology in, and catch up on e-mail and plans for the week. Then go to the administrative office, and register for my New York University ID.

On my way home I looked at the Citibike rental scheme. Costs $12/day, which includes the first 30 minutes of each ride. Longer rides cost $4 per 15 minutes. Contrast this with a subway ride at $2.75, and it's not clear it's worth it. There are apparently monthly schemes, so I should look into these as well. It was much cheaper in Bialystok!

20:00 - Special Debate

As I travel home, checking e-mail on the subway, I find an invitation to a discussion meeting on "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States" - Trump's recent Executive Order. This is explicitly not an immigration advice session, but rather "a supportive space to identify the impact of the order through a multi-layered emotional and social justice lens". Shortly thereafter there's also a supportive e-mail from the International House CEO.

The counsellor facilitating this had copies of the order, and a set of Columbia University's resources. She requested that we (and several I-House residents are studying journalism or public policy) not record the meeting, so I didn't. There were quite a few American citizens there, both born and naturalised, and all spoke of shock and, in many cases, disgust. At one point, one of them informed us that Trump had fired the Attorney-General.

I was practically the end of the circle of sharing, and, after apologising to the Germans present for quoting him in translation, and reminding the audience that in fact he spoke many different variations of this saying, quoted Martin Niemöller's words

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me -and there was no one left to speak for me.
I check this with the counsellor, who is happy for me to post the above, and we strike up a good relationship. What amazed me is that I looked the quote up, but found I didn't need to - I had subconsciously memorised it, or been taught it by my parents.

29 January 2017

So I am finally off to New York for my Fulbright CyberSecurity Scholarship proper. Five months in NYU etc. I am not quite sure when I'm returning - "some time in July", so want a single. The only airline providing these at a plausible price (roughly half a return, rather than 95%) is Norwegian, flying from Gatwick. The trains between Reading and Guildford (a key stage in Bath to Gatwick) are replaced by (slow) buses due to Engineering works (the theme of January's blog), so a friend very kindly agrees to drive me. At check-in (automated, based on booking indicator and passport) I have great trouble telling the 1 from the I in the indicator. Fire up a different app with better fonts - the advantages of choice - and get it right. But the luggage belt is broken and there's a queue for the one working slot. After that my friend and I have coffee. After security at Gatwick, one reaches the departure gates via the shops (of course). I pause in the newsagents, and quite like the Private Eye "Inauguration Special" cover - "I promise to tell the post-truth, the alternative truth and nothing like the truth".

I ought not to be surprised by technology, but the Norwegian 787 has a feature that's new to me. The inflight entertainment screen has a cabin service menu as one of its options (not too novel), but you actually order from it and pay via the credit card reader built into the entertainment system. This makes me wonder about the security of this system and how PCI DSS 3.1 (the relevant security standard) applies. At least the transaction isn't wireless, which removes one security issue. As I write this, the aeroplane is due South of Qaqortoq - a place in Southern Greenland. I hate to think what Inuit Scrabble must be like. We make landfall over the southern tip of Labrador, rather than the more usual Newfoundland. There are still 160 minutes to go, which reminds me just how big North America is, and how non-vertical the Eastern seaboard is. We cross the Canada/US border with an hour to go, so we spend significantly longer over Canada.

Get through immigration safely. The only sign of anything unusual was, just as one was exiting customs, there were three people with handwritten signs "did you see anyone being detained? We are here to help". Then to the 'AirTrain' and the subway, using the ticket I bought last time, and had the foresight to top up. Slightly ominous sign on the subway: "In 2015 there were 172 incidents involving customers who came into contact with trains: 50 people died". I have no idea what the comparative figures are for London or Paris, but this seems a lot. The sign is repeated in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian and what now recognise to be Haitian Creole.

The studio is quite large. I see a naked bed, and intuit that there might be bedding in the cupboard, which indeed there is. There are no towels, though (fortunately I had packed one), or shampoo, and here a life of living out of hand luggage only meant that I had not thought to pack any, even though I was, for five months, actually taking a suitcase. Start my shopping list.

25 January 2017

In London for a meeting on our pension scheme. Not only does the Starbucks at Paddington give discounts for "bring your own cup", but there's something special going on, as I get my large white Americano for 75p! Again, the train is detoured via Westbury.

23 January 2017

Useful day in Saarbrücken, then trains back. I had been slightly pessimistic, and could in fact have just made the previous Eurostar. Instead, I had a good (beef) steak in Hippopotamus Gare du Nord restaurant, where I had taken my research team on the way back from ISSAC 2012 in Grenoble. I mail them to remind them of those days, and point out that I was using the loyalty card I had acquired then.

It was all too good to be true, and when I got to Paddington, I learned that trains to Bath were being diverted [it didn't say where, but obviously via Westbury] which would add another 30 minutes to the journey. Truly a journey cursed by engineering works. On the train back, the emeritus professor of Russian at Bath, who had heard about the Montenegran bus driver, asked me what the Russian is for Montenegro. I had to look it up (How? Look up Montenegro in the English Wikipedia, then manually edit the URL to change 'en.wikipedia' to 'ru.wikipedia').

22 January 2017

Off to Saarbrücken via Eurostar to Paris. But because of engineering works, the train goes via Bristol, and, inexplicably, very slowly from Reading to London, so that what should have been 90 minutes becomes 140. Fortunately I at least knew about this in advance. But my step-niece has suggested lunch in London, and I have a friend in London who could do with my step-niece's advice (about her career, not eating in London, where I always take my step-niece's advice). She has suggested lunch in the Parcel Yard, at King's Cross. It shows up in a rather curious place on my iPhone's mapping tool. I ask a local security guard, who 'phones his control, and gets complicated instructions involving crossing the river/canal, whereas my iPhone suggests it's definitely this side. Just as I am considering this, my friend 'phones. She's also lost, by the Google building (and the security guard does know where that is): I find it ironic that one can be lost by a Google building. I find her and her friend, and then phone my step-niece: she just said "above Platform 9, next to Harry Potter, then up another floor". She knew that I knew where Platform 9 was, as it used to be where the Cambridge trains left from. An excellent lunch, then I leave the rest to it (having paid) and cross the road to St Pancras and Eurostar.

Sign of a misspent middle-age: I know the shortcut down the steps at Rue des Deux Gares between Paris Nord and Paris Est, even though my mapping tool doesn't. The staff at the Starbucks at Paris Est listen with polite incredulity to my statement (in French, of course) that Starbucks UK is ecological enough (or, cynically, eco-publicity conscious enough) to give a discount if you bring your own cup. They, of course, don't, and the cappuccino is significantly more expensive than in UK, much more than the BrExit-devaluation would imply.

The TGV from Paris Est is for Luxembourg. The announcements are made in French, German (two of the official languages of Luxembourg) and English (an unofficial language of Luxembourg), but not in Letzemburgisch, the third official language. The train is a double-decker, double-length TGV, thus carrying, by my estimate, about 1500 people. Quite why 0.5% of the population if Luxembourg want to travel from Paris at 20:40 on a Sunday isn't clear, but the train is packed.

My Saarbrücken host phones: German television says that there is a problem with my connection. I go in search of the conductors (controllers), who tell me that the train from Metz to Saarbrücken is replaced by a bus, as eventally happens (there's a lot of confusion in Metz station). Two men, with tickets to Bening (Bening-lès-St-Avold, to be precise) have had to cancel their taxi, as no-one knows when we'll get there (the driver is not from these parts). The driver asks, and there's no-one else for Bening, so agreed to take them. Just before he executes the plan, a youth wakes up and asks for Bening. The driver says that he therefore has to go to Bening instead. I make an impassioned speech in French contrasting the driver's contractual duty with his moral duty to these men. So he does them after Bening, and they thank me. After he's let the rest out at Saarbrücken, he insists on taking me to my hotel (it's -10C in Saarbrücken, so I don't object). Deferred reward for moral speech! He's said he's not from here, so I ask him whence. He says "Metz, but I don't know all these byroads". I sound sympathetic, but clearly dubious, for he adds "but originally from Montenegro". So I cement our friendship by stating the Montenegran for Montenegro, and that I'd been to Podgorica.

17 January 2017

The President of the Australian Mathematical Society got a phishing e-mail apparently from the President of the International Mathematical Union. Can I advise? Of course, I can, and the Bath e-security team give me some useful additional advice.

Also caught myself taking lecture notes in Latin again: I was attending the Study Group with Agri-Business (to find out how to run a Study Group, as there's one n my latest EU grant), and one talk was on piggery management. Checking my lecture notes, I see that I referred to an 'ad suem' adjustment in the price of pigs. I check, and find that my subconscious can decline 'sus' correctly. Sign of a curiously-spent youth.

14 January 2017

Back in Bath, I go shopping in my local Waitrose. There are no bananas, or grapes, or strawberries. The instant thought that goes through my head is "attack of the fructivores". I then chastise myself for hypersesquipedalianism, and then reflect that, like "television", "hypersesquipedalianism" is half-Latin half-Greek, so no good can come of it.

9 January 2017

Up at 04:30 again, and I got the coffee machine right today as well. 05:30 Skype (just the project coordinator) and then I checkout and leave the hotel (sans breakfast) at 07:00. It's definitely lighter than it would be in Bath at the same time, which remknds me that, despite the freezing temperatures, NY is distinctly further South than Bath. It's still freezing, but dry. However, it's a little tricky underfoot where the weekend's snow has melted and frozen into black ice. The subway is no better that British Rail when it comes to making incomprehensible annuncements, but I think I hear "water on the track" as a reason for the delay. This is the point where not being a local shows. I have my route planned out, but I don't have the instinctive "Plan B" I would have in London or Paris. However, I do have a copy of the subway map on my laptop (for some reason the hotel's free map doesn't have one) and decide that, since the downtown B is messed-up, I'll take the uptown B to 57th street, and the downtown 1, to a station that's close to my original destination. This works, but I'm nearly half an hour late.

The walk to NYU takes me past what is evidently a singularity in the Manhattan metric. Tweet about it when I get to NYU (I can connect via EduRoam) and get 'like' from the usual suspects. I end up getting to NYU's Courant Institute at 09:00. The security guard tells me that my host, the Librarian Carol Hutchins, isn't in yet, but lets me take a seat (and work on the grant, of course). There's an e-mail from Carol saying that it is 8F (-13C) in New Jersey where she lives, and she may be late. She's there shortly after, and shows me a desk in the library, where I carry on marking. While doing this, I get a text and an e-mail from KLm saying that my flight is 70 minutes late, and one from Delta, saying it's on time. Check into the Delta web site and discover

Decide to trust KLM! Finish marking, and issue the marks to the students, about 11:30. Carol has found me a quiet room where I can Skype my students, as I am meant to be holding a revision class at 17:15 UK time = 12:15 US time. Quite a lot are there, and we have what I think is a good session, though there I things I can't explain over a Skype link, and I promise to do them face-to-face on Friday. Towards the end of the session, I get a text from Delta announcing that my flight is departing 70 minutes late.

I leave my stuff in the room when Carol and I go out for lunch to the local Pret a Manger, which also does hot soup (quite welcome). I need a US bank account to get the Fulbright allowance, and Carol suggests the local TD. So on the way back, I detour via that. They say that I need two forms of photo ID, and neither by Bath ID card, nor my putative NYU ID will count, as they are not Government issued. However, the passport with U.S. visa, which has a photograph, will count for two. They also need proof of a U.S. address, which I don't have on me. Back to Courant, retrieve my possessions, and forward two e-mails from the International House for Carol to print (she's already printed my boarding cards). Then back to the bank. In a display of parallel processing that impresses the bank manager, I write the postcards home (admittedly briefer than I would like) while opening a bank account with him. It's relatuvely painless given the paperwork I've collected. He gives me my online banking details (I must remember to check "paperless statements" when I log in) and three checks (as I must remember to spell them).

Then to the airport. Walking down the street, I see what looks like a letterbox (sorry, mailbox), but it has no insignia on it. Two passers-by are somewhat dubious about it as well. On to the subway, and I pass another letterbox with a U.S. mail notice on it, so deposit the postcards there. Then take the M to Rockefeller Center, E to Jamaica Center, and the Airline to JFK. There's an enormous queue for checkin, which makes me very grateful for online checkin and Carol's printing of my boarding passes. KLM were indeed right, and the flight is late.

8 January 2017

Up at 04:30 again, and I got the coffee machine right today as well. Maybe I should think about buying one of these for home. Another Skype with Germany, and a further German colleague joins in. Lasts practically 2.5 hours. The coordinator makes a throw-away remark which makes me realise that the formal EU forms have lagged behind the recent developments in the Consortium: we needed to add the University of Trento as a partner, as our main participant in Trento is a research institution which can't grant PhDs, and some-one has just moved to VAS (the Slovak Academy of Sciences). In theory the project coordinator at RWTH Aachen should fix these issues, but she has a Linux laptop, and, despite all the EU rhetoric about open systems, the EU website won't talk to it. The EU system knows that is at Bath, who is merely a participant ("beneficiary" in EU-speak), so can't edit the whole document. However, she has made an honorary member of RWTH Aachen for this purpose, so that works. I therefore fix the formal EU forms - fortunately they don't require too much data for mere partners (as opposed to beneficiaries - don't ask!).

Then breakfast, and I try the eggs "over easy" this time. Very unusually for North America, I am charged twice for two cups of coffee, which is perverse as the coffee in the lounge is free. Again, I update the blog over breakfast. Also respond to a nice e-mail from a Russian friend, whose daughter I showed round London a couple of years ago. Stories of freshly-roasted coffee beans in an Eritrean restaurant come to mind.

Out for a morning walk, and to buy sandwiches. Realise why I got lost at one point yesterday: at one point there are two roads between 6th Avenue and 8th Avenue, viz. Broadway and 7th Avenue. Also but postcards, which are 25 cents each, 10 for a dollar. Since I want five, I buy 10, especially as they also sell stamps. On the way back, I see this office and tweet with the caption "If it's the Pentagon, where's the Coast Gaurd".

Back to the EU proposal. A German colleague asks whether he should capitalise "Habilitation". I reply "I would, as it's a technical concept not an ordinary English noun, and is similar to PhD, which would be capitalised. I think capitalising it is helpful to the reader, though probably not in strict accordance with what passes for rules in English."

After that burst, I switch to marking my coursework, paying the odd attention to the grant-related e-mails.

Dinner in the hotel again (the outside cold beats my desire to be inventive). Pork osso-buco and Creme brulee. Then more grant work. To be honest, I'd also done a chunk over dinner, as there's WiFi in the dining room. Haacking the macros to save one line per research project. Definitely 99% perspiration. At 21:00 I get an e-mail from the coordinator, saying she is going to bed. I would hope so too, as that's 03:00 German time. I get another 80 minutes of marking in before I realise my concntration is waning and it's only a matter of time before I make a mistake.

7 January 2017

Up at 04:30 again, and I got the coffee machine right today. E-mail from colleague pointing out there's a typo in the URL I sent him, so I correct that. Another 05:30 Skype with Germany. The project leader has a Linux machine, so can't easily complete the EU on-line forms, so I do quite a bit of this as well. That and catching up with mail - ResearchGate informs me that a French colleague in Bath Maths has published an interesting paper, but there's a typo in the reference here, which I work out and notify her (in French) - takes me to 08:00 local time, so I go and have breakfast in the hotel: first time I've done that, as I have previously been rushing, and the conference provided coffee and bagels at 08:00. Order my eggs "sunny side up" (my American is coming back, but the kitchen is saying "huevos"). Update this blog over breakfast.

Then more grant writing, as we desperately try to answer all the questions and fit in the page limit. I go out for a walk, and to buy sandwiches. In Mathematics, we often talk about the "Manhatten metric" (or L1 to be technical) - provided you don't double back on yourself, the distance is independent of whether you go East first, or North, or a hybrid such as "2 blocks East followed by 3 blocks North followed by 5 blocks East", and it's a common Maths exercise to work out how many shortest paths there are (120 in this case).

But it's snowing today, and settling a bit. So the rules (metric, in Maths-speak) are different. It's better to walk along Avenues with subways under them, as the heat means the snow doesn't settle so much on the sidewalks (see, I can even speak some American!). Also, some Streets are better swept than others, though I have no logical explanation of which - it seems to depend on the individual stores etc. What will it be like tomorrow I wonder?

I take a break from grant-writing in the afternoon, and mark final year coursework for a few hours. Room service asks if I want anything - just more coffee for the machine tomorrow morning, I say. Also another walk. The snow is still settling, and the sweeping more varied. As I get back from the walk, several airline crew check in - more than one plane's-worth. I wonder if they've been snowed in. The receptionist is speaking on the telephone: "cars are still moving, and we're definitely open". Dinner in the hotel, and really eating local: "NY Strip Steak" (which comes with roasted garlic cloves) and "NY cheesecake". After dinner I go back to shortening the grant proposal, mostly by abbreviating the word "Beneficiary" in the headings of tables, which lets me change the column widths and so pack more text in. This grant-writing business is definitely in Einstein's "99% perspiration" category.

The first week of 2017 concludes with my statistics showing 87 hours of work and 2.85 hours of "me" time. So much for work-life balance!

6 January 2017

Up at 04:30 again. Not quite so clever with the coffee machine this morning (too tired last night). Handle a small bit of e-mail before three-way Skype with Germany for two hours (05:30-07:30 NT time). Then off to the conference again.

It clearly snowed last night. There's none on the actual roads (U.S. pavement) or the pavements (U.S. sidewalks), but it has settled on the top of letter boxes, round the trees etc. As I cross onto sixth avenue I even get a couple of snowflakes in my face. Going into the subway, I notice that I've pactically emptied the MetroCard I bought at Jamaica Center: I believe you can top them up.

Another good day at the conference. At the lunch break, the guy behind me comments on my stretching (the chairs aren't desperately comfortable). I give him my business card, which he reads and asks if I know of Harold Davenport. I tell him that's my father, and he says he read my father's book Multiplicative Number Theory in 1970. We discuss famous mathematicians, and the guy next to us comments that he lives in New Jersey, and his grandson's brightest classmate got to Princeton. She's learning calculus from "some guy named Conway". I tell my learning from Conway story. E-mails back to Bath immediately find two other professors there who also learned from Conway. While completing this blog, I am somewhat shocked to learn that Conway is 79, as he is permanently fixed in my mind as a young research student of my father.

One speaker describes BlockChain, not as "the answer to all the world's problems", as most cynics do, but rather as an "egg-laying wool/milk pig", with a beautiful cartoon and a splendidly long German noun. So the conference ends. Very informative in general, and a real chance to see some truly applied, but still difficult, research. Also some interesting facts about BitCoin - apparently its energy consumption is 10% of the total USA solar production. In view of the fact that I have a colleague in Bath interested in BitCoin, I spend some time proof-reading my notes before uploading them to my website and typing the URL in an e-mail to him. The notes are here.

At the subway, I remember to top up my MetroCard. I insert the card, and my credit card, and the machine asks for my "ZIP code". Now

I therefore guess it means PIN, and try this, but that doesn't work either. An American woman at the next machine is also having trouble with her card, so we suspect a system failure. Back to the previous technology, and I insert a $20 bill in the machine instead. [Subsequent note: it did mean ZIP code, which means that non-US credit cards can't be used to buy MetroCards: live and learn. Now I can take the subway back to the hotel, except that I am so busy writing this blog on the train that I miss my stop. The next one doesn't allow doubling back, but I reason it's actually pretty close to my hotel anyway, and this detour gives me a chance to see a slightly different part of New York: the theatre section of Broadway on a Friday night. But I fear the cold (I estimate it's just below freezing) has slightly reduced the exuberance. The hotel dining room is full, so I eat in the lounge. They have also been eaten out of NY Strip (I am attempting to eat local), but offer me a "filet mignon" (an American cut of steak that, as far as I know, does not appear in French beef butchery at all - see French Wikipedia, but is somewhat related to pavé) instead, and it's excellent.

5 January 2017

Up at 04:30, hit the switch on the pre-loaded coffee machine, back to bed, and when the 'snooze' feature on the alarm kicks in, the coffee is ready. I'm learning (slowly). 05:30 Skype to Germany about the EU grant. This lasts for an hour, and I've exhausted all the caffeinated coffee in my room, so I go down to the lobby (where there's free coffee) for a 07:00 Skype to Australia and the UK about a joint paper we are trying to write. Alas the UK colleague isn't present, but we make good progress. E-mail later from UK colleague: he'd been waylaid by his Vice-Chancellor.

A sign on the subway prohibits bringing hover boards onto any transit vehicle, because of the possibility of their catching fire. The main sign is in English, with repeaters in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian (I learn what the Russian for hover boards is: literally "gyroscooters") and a language in a Latin script, but one that I do not recognise. I think it may be IndoEuropean, but even of that I am not sure: "San danje" seems to be "safely", and Google Translate believes this is Haitian Creole - live and learn!

Another interesting day at the conference. A lawyer from Electronic Freedom Foundation is speaking about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. He quotes "Lawyers look at text like this and visions of billable hours dance in their heads". There's also a 2017-18 exemption for "medical devices as long as they are not intended for patients or patient use" (JHD wonders what this means).

Get back to the hotel at 20:00. I am rather tired of sandwiches, so decide to eat in the hotel restaurant. It's a relatively small, but good, menu, and I have the swordfish steak. Among the desserts is NY cheesecake - "when in Rome", so I order it, and it's good.

Then an hour of work on the Gantt chart for the grant. I am not proud of the LaTeX macros I write, but it's only the chart that will be assessed, not the software that wrote it. Mail this out to the partners. Also look at a colleague's presentation, who's giving our paper on "introductory programming languages etc. in the UK" at a conference I can't attend, ironically because of a strategy day for the British Computer Society. Also read the papers for the next meeting of the Group planning the new delivery of the University's Managed Printing Service: I won't be at the meeting because I'm in New York.

4 January 2017

The good news was that I got to bed at midnight on the third: the bad news was that that was midnight New York time, which was 05:00 Bath time. The really bad news was that the telephone went at 02:30 to say that I had a visitor. Turned out he had the wrong room number. This was taking "The City That Never Sleeps" a bit far for my tastes.

My alarm is set for 05:30. Fortunately there's coffee-making in the room, though I had neglected to put water in the previous night, so it took a minute longer than optimal to get the coffee in me. I'm just dressed when I am called to an EU proposal Skype from 06:15 until 07:30, which was OK since the Skype planned for 07:00 to discuss a joint UK/Australia paper on Computer Science teaching (hard to find a time when we're all awake!) was postponed until tomorrow. That means the EU Skype for tomorrow will need to be earlier: we settle on 05:30 NY time!

All this means I have forgotten my own breakfast. The hotel breakfast looks pretty leisurely (not a buffet, no visible coffee supply, and no waiters in sight, in other words), so I head to the subway via the Pret a Manger shop. It's a few years since I last negotiated the NY subway, but I more-or-less remember how to do it. I had bought a pre-paid card yesterday at JFK, which is definitely better than messing around with single tickets.

In the first break I meet my host for the Fulbright scholarship at NYU, which is really helpful.

There's a reception after the conference on the first day, which I attend the start of.

3 January 2017

I am en route to New York to attend the Real World Cryptography (RWC) conference 2017. Though formally this has no connection with my Fulbright scholarship, in practice the topics are very closely connected. I went to RWC 2015 in London and learned a great deal: the highlight was being pointed as Lisa Kamm's PhD thesis from Tartu (but fortunately for me in English). I am hoping 2017 will be as productive.

I am flying Bristol-Amsterdam-Schiphol on a flight I booked in September when I registered for RWC. Despite the apparent inconsistency of flying East to go West, this was the cheapest route at the time.

I need to leave home at 10:30 to walk to the station, quite civilised. I am having breakfast (a slightly odd meal, as I wish to finish many perishables) and making sandwiches (ditto) when I am asked to make a Skype call (the perils of breakfast with laptop - eight years ago in Canada I arranged my room so that the laptop's Ethernet cable would not stretch to the dining table, but wireless laptops have removed that piece of behavioural engineering) with a grant co-writer, which lasts over an hour. But very productive.

Having collected my e-mail on the train, I can do some processing on the bus from Bristol Temple Meads to Bristol Airport. One of my Maths first year students wishes to attend a different laboratory on 10 February. Not really my problem, but they haven't yet met the second semester lecturer, so it's reasonable to ask me. Answer the message, hoping to connect at Bristol Airport. Also handle some queries about the grant we are writing, and note a message about the grant we have. Also note a message about the International Mathematical Union committee (CEIC) I chair. This reminds me to compose a message to the IMU technician to remove the committee members who rotated off at the end of 2016 from the mailing list.

As I had remembered (an indictment of my lifestyle) the benches to the North of the airside Starbucks at Bristol Airport have power sockets, so I plug in, order a massive cappuccino, connect to WiFi, collect the cappuccino, and start work (in that order). Deal with the existing grant message, which is quite useful, but requires some effort. Also look up the New York hotel in the mapping tools on both the laptop and iPhone, while I have connectivity.

And so to Schiphol. At the due time, rather than being told the gate, it just says "wait". My brain builds macabre fantasies of missing my connection etc., but in fact the delay is only about 15 minutes.

More work while waiting, and then on the plane. I have loaded a grant application I need to review onto my Kindle, so it's easy to read. The application quotes a 20th century American sociologist, unaware that his work is a rediscovery of the Marquis de Condorcet (1785), who was later guillotined for having proved inconvenient results about voting. These were also discovered by Dodgson (alias Lewis Carroll), who was wrongly accused of plagiarism, since Christ Church had a copy of Condorcet, until Black pointed out that the copy of Condorcet in the Christ Church Library was uncut, so Dodgson could not have read it. This is probably getting a bit technical.

Land at Schiphol, the only airport I know to be named after a naval battle that took place there. For some reason my iPhone won't connect, but after I find my gate, the laptop does. The saved-up messages are sent, and the IMU technician has hacked the mailing list, so I progress with that.

747 to JFK. When the in-flight meal comes, I at first think the water is Swiss (based on the flag), but rationality asserts itself, I read the fine print, and discover it's Savoyard water. Of course, Air France and KLM have merged. Later on we get (very cold) ice cream, and Turkish water.

We land, and have to negotiate immigration. Since this is not my Fulbright trip, and I'm on a new passport, I join the "first time ESTA" queue. There's an electronic sign saying that the waiting time for this queue is estimated at 25 minutes. It goes up to 30, then jumps straight down to 10, and then oscillates between 10 and 15 minutes. In fact the process takes me 40 minutes.

Then to the subway and the City. The correct strategy is to take the AirTrain to Jamaica Center (as I am going to midtown, downtown is best server via Howard Beach). I buy a $20 Metrocard (which costs $21, as I have to pay $1 for the card itself), and the machine deducts the $5 AirTrain fee.

December 2016

To be written retrospectively.