Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hotels, the future, and the past

  • David Hilbert was a mathematician and hotelier

  • Imagine my surprise: Flight of the Conchords' Robot Song has an equally funny spiritual predecessor. German/Austrian even.

  • Wie kommt es, dass man, wenn man als Kind relativ selten lacht, meistens nur verhalten lächelt, höchstens als ein wenig ernst wahrgenommen wird, was aber letztlich nur zur allgemeinen Niedlichkeit beiträgt, wenn sich das Verhalten aber im Erwachsenenalter fortsetzt die Vermutung aufkommt es müsse ein Zeichen von Schwermut sein und damit Anlass zur Sorge geben.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Rapid Descent into Madness

"So, what have you been up to lately?"

"Nothing special, you know. Just the usual stuff... like re-enacting Michelangelo's Creation of Adam with the neighbor's cat."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Being with you made me feel like I'm somebody else

Interesting. As it turns out, inverting a perfect love story (a story about perfect love, not a perfect story about love) results in a perfect love story; seems to be invariant.

There's also Bach in the beginning and the end of Before Sunrise. In fact it's one of the Goldberg Variations. It kind of belongs there.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dear Sir or Madam. I'm afraid your modifier scope is kind of broken.

Mysterious guy who hired group of mercenaries, while standing
in front of equally mysterious machine:

It may not look like much right now, but this could be the Holy Grail of physics.
  There are four forces that control matter. The key has been trying to find how those forces interact. If we can do that, then we can explain the behavior of all the substance in the universe.
  Einstein coined a phrase, unified field theory. Many people thought he was close to finding a solution. But when he saw the atomic bomb tests at Trinity, he abandoned the research and destroyed his notes. Nobody has even come close to finding a solution since.

Mercenary leader:
So you came all the way out here because you think that the Nazis...

Mysterious guy:
...were working on the same thing. I think this machine was designed to manipulate a unified field.

[Scene from the very entertaining – yet undeniably campy – dieselpunk slash Nazi occultism horror movie Outpost]

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Feline wisdom, part I

Amazing insight into the structural properties of cats and cat behavior is about to follow: When playing with a cat, it sometimes bites or claws at you playfully. Only that after a few minutes you realize you actually have a small bleeding wound on your hand because the beast did in fact bite quite hard. If, on the other hand, a dog bites you, the effect is noticeable immediately. Why did we domesticate any of those unruly flea-ridden little buggers again?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I guess he didn't know Facebook yet


Nach Jahr und Tag
dann wieder ein Brief
Die Handschrift schräg
und die Marke schief
und du wagst ihn gar nicht zu öffnen

Du drehst ihn um
Kein Absender drauf
So lange her
doch da ist er schon auf
Und du wolltest ihn gar nicht lesen

Dann liest du ihn doch
und denkst schon entspannt
Es wird ja weder Roß
noch Reiter genannt
Und die beiden kennst du persönlich

Da erwischt sie dich wieder
kalt diese Schrift
Sie teilt dir nichts mit
doch sie ist immer noch Gift
Und du schaffst es gerade zum Waschbecken.

[Robert Gernhardt, "Weiche Ziele"]

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Science Park 904

(1) The new faculty building [NB: not my flickr account] has an established common name by now, no point in denying it. Everyone I talk to simply calls it "Science Park". I didn't like that name from the first time I heard it. "Science Park" is the whole area, not just this particular building (even though it is undeniably the dominant element there). But more importantly, it's pretty uninspired to call a building with the official designation 'Science Park 904' simply 'Science Park'. Obvious, maybe, but bland. I actually thought that 'fenwee' would sound okay, based on the acronym for our faculty, FNWI. Well, too late now.

(This reminds me of how I never liked how insipid most of the contemporary sociolect at German universities seems to be: Studenten are "Studies", Erstsemester are "Ersties", etc. Sometimes I think other languages are a bit more creative when it comes to neologisms, but maybe that's just self-deprecating thinking.

(2) Funny how constant usage of the Internet changes your way of doing things that are seemingly unrelated to it. Today, when I walked into one of the two ILLC coffee/printer rooms I noticed a note on the fridge, saying "ILLC experiments - Please do not open". I immediately thought 'bullshit', after all what kind of experiments could logicians perform that require constant cooling, so I thought it's probably just a clever way of keeping your precious unhealthy snacks safe from the other scientists ("I never trusted those biologists with their shifty eyes...")
Then again, I didn't open it, on the off chance that doing so would actually ruin something that someone cares about.

What I did think however was "I'll just google the phrase later -- probably as an 'exact phrase' search -- and maybe I'll find out something about it". Then I realized how unlikely it is that there would be any mentioning of this on the net. (Well, until now, I guess)

The strange thing is that instead of thinking that I should ask someone else from the institute about this, who perhaps might have noticed the note as well, it appears that by now my initial impulse upon discovering something new and mysterious is to want to do some research on the net. How Gibsonian of me.

(3) The security company that is in charge of guarding the Science Park building on the weekends brings a small van along, in which they keep two guard dogs (it's some kind of special car with a built-in cage), and park it right in front of the entrance. I have absolutely no idea why they would need those dogs, especially since I've never seen them being taken out of the car, not even to mention that it could be considered cruel to let them spend hour after hour inside a ridiculously small cage with just the rear door of the car (but obviously not that of the cage) open to let some air in.

Understandably, they are pretty pissed, so whenever someone leaves the building, they predictably start snarling and barking at the intruder (technically, that would be an extruder, I guess, since you're leaving the building). It certainly adds some unique concentration campy charm if every time you want to leave the place you stare into the eyes of two psychotic German shepherd dogs trying to jump at your throat.