Europe was a dead museum

from William Gibson’s New Rose Hotel. Clearly an homage to William S. Burroughs.

So maybe you’ll get the Turing machine after your ass

Count Zero by William Gibson.

I like this little episode in Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum. In Chapter 53, one of the main characters Casaubon, a scholar of European history, unexpectedly ran into Inspector De Angelis in a library. He was surprised that the policeman checked out the same book that he was looking for. Why are you reading such an esoteric book? The policeman answered: “… when I’m off duty, I like to browse in libraries. It keeps me from turning into a robot, a mechanical cop”.

In V., Chapter 14, Pynchon made passing references to the Dreyfus Affair - a social controversy that divided France near the end of the 19th century. Just by coincidence, I read something about it earlier this year. The Father Brown story “The Duel of Dr Hirsch” by G.K. Chesterton is a very odd detective story, because it’s really a commentary on the Dreyfus Affairs.

The other historical figure that plays a more significant role in V. is Charles Gordon - the British military officer who was killed in the Siege of Khartoum in 1885. Some of the characters in the novel might have encountered Sherlock Holmes because according to The Adventure of the Empty House, Holmes visited Khartoum after The Final Problem (1891)! In The Adventure of the Cardboard Box, it was revealed that Dr. Watson had a portrait of Charles Gordon in his house.

This is a review of an interesting book:Bedeviled: A Shadow History of Demons in Science, about thought experiments in science.

A colleague recommended a book called “Computer Age Statistical Inference” by Efron & Hastie. I love the organization. Part I - classical stuff. Part II - Early computer-age methods. Part III - 21st century topics. That’s exactly the type of textbooks that we need.

Idea: a Python dialect called Pynchon (after Thomas Pynchon). A pynchonic code is probably not very pythonic. Brevity is highly discouraged. Variable names should be all puns. In fact, Pynchon should be a concatenative language like Forth. This way, statements can be chained together into a longer and longer statement… until the entire program is one single statement.

Finished reading: V. by Thomas Pynchon

As a PhD student, I took a class in animal behaviour. I didn’t work very hard and have forgotten most of it. However, since I became a father, I have been thinking more about this class. One of the papers I read was the classic “The social function of the intellect” by Nicholas Humphrey, first published in 1976. The paper is packed with insightful analogies. For example, Humphrey offered an interesting interpretation of Robinson Crusoe. According to him, Crusoe’s life on the island was a relatively simple and easy one, which he managed without too much trouble. His life only became challenging after the arrival of Friday. What he meant was that it’s the complexity of society, rather than the challenges of survival that drive the evolution of intelligence. I can see this in my daughter. Her life before 4yo was quite easy and carefree. When she started to have friends and social relationships in the childcare, that’s when things became complicated. 📚

This is a good article about Gödel’s incompleteness theorem.