Older blog entries for nutella (starting at number 252)

Oh crap! The Advogato spammers are back. I hope that some of the account holders notice - although most seem to post by RSS feeds these days.

Oh, how I hate Adobe! (Part XXIII)
The U.S. government's websites now require a more recent version of Acrobat Reader to allow you to view their forms and instructions (I have a full version of Acrobat 6.0 for Windows). No alternative is provided. I thus downloaded the latest Reader (> 70 MB!) and tried to install it. This has always been nerve-wracking as previous occasions have seen them manipulate the registry and services in nasty ways. This time I am convinced that Adobe's programmers are completely retarded. There's no facility for choosing options during the install so it deletes the previous version of Reader without asking for permission. The program starts but then, when I try to open the Preferences option it just crashes (tried multiple times, believe me). I gave up and so ran the uninstall program and, of course, it doesn't restore what it had deleted and leaves everything broken. I know that Adobe has been flirting with bankruptcy over the years and now I can see why - they employ only the incompetent. GAR!

On an unrelated note, the Advogato posters who embed video are still terminating the recent entries, and their own entries, prematurely. I haven't yet investigated further.

2011 Fades Away...
Yikes, is it really nearly 2012? I haven't posted that much this year but I have some excuses: I got engaged, I lost a very special relative, I got married and work is crazybad busy (in a challenging kind of way). Who knows what will happen next year.

I am currently reading John L. Casti's Five More Golden Rules. I don't know why I waited so long, as his earlier "Five" book is one of my all time favourites, and is what started me on the path to enjoying mathematics again. A partial trigger for reading the Casti book was The Poincaré Conjecture by Donal O'Shea. I didn't keep up with all of the topology but it is a fascinating read. That was a welcome relief as I had previously grabbed a copy of Stephen Baker's The Numerati from the library and found it way too superficial for my tastes (I think I was hoping for another Mathematical People). For lighter reading I have The Brother's Christmas present, Snuff, which has an excellent Vimes proportion (maybe another Fifth Elephant). Current favourite software program is Berkeley Madonna, mainly because it is small, fast and interactive (as well as being surprisingly powerful).

Good to see that the Advogato Recent People feature is working again (and being abused, [sigh]).

It was eerie to see this great cartoon from Jon Rosenberg as I always thought there was a chance of the scene ending like that (Roy Batty meets Ozzy).

Yvonne C. Martin
My acknowledgment for Ada Lovelace day is Yvonne Martin, recognised as one of the pioneers of Computer Aided Drug Design. Yvonne started with Corwin Hansch's group in the early 1970s and (I believe) is still active (as a consultant). When I worked at the same company I always enjoyed conversations with Yvonne and always learned a great deal - especially how to be more pragmatic and less fluffy. Often she would tell me to stop wasting applying computers where they didn't belong. Long may she continue to publish!
Today I heard about Astrolabe's lawsuit related to the timezone database. That is crazy. Not just because of them trying to "own facts", but because of the people they are going after. When I worked in the same department, my desk used to be in the same room as ado, and, like everyone else in the department, I used to have an account on elsie, so I am sorry to hear that it has been taken down. When I was there ado was a great colleague - very smart, and very good at his job (done usually very quietly, and after normal hours). I had heard about his impending, and well-deserved, retirement, and I hope that this bad situation goes away very soon. I very much doubt that anyone from Astrolabe has actually met ado, or otherwise this wouldn't be happening.
Goodbye Mr. Jobs.
You will be missed.
robogato, thanks very much for the update. I had no idea the spam problem was that bad.

Also, good news on the tag fixes. I really appreciate your hard work. It would be a shame to see Advogato deteriorate or disappear.

Okay, now thanks to bad RSS feeds the Advogato front page is really messed up. The main target seems to have been the "Recent People Joining" list (which, thanks to the mess-up, now pretends to be empty). Of course, that has been the only way you can find out when the new spammers join (unless they actually create a diary entry). So, it looks as if we are screwed...

Advogato problems?
Am I the only one having problems reading the Recent Entries summary in Advogato? Fairly recently I've seen that summary become truncated due to someone crossposting a blog entry with an embedded video. Over the last few days someone's badly text-formatted crossposted entry caused havoc with the fonts for most of the summary below it. Today the summary gives up after one entry. I realise that the members causing the problems are likely unaware as hardly anyone apart from me seems to read Advogato directly these days.
I'm using Ye Olde Firefox 3.6.7 but I see the same behaviour with the work-mandated IE 7.0.

Cruising the library's "New" shelf yielded Jennifer Ouellette's The Calculus Diaries. I grabbed that because I am very much an amateur mathematician and so always hope for that "Aha!" moment from a new teacher, and I also like reading about the history of mathematics. The book is heavy on Diary (is she sponsored by Toyota?) and light on Calculus but some of the anecdotes were fun. For example, even though my job involves mathematical modeling of populations (people or cells or molecules) I had missed the 2009 paper by Munz and colleagues in Infectious Disease Modelling Progress called When Zombies Attack!.

Ms. Ouellette's coverage doesn't leap straight into Kermack & McKendrick's 1927 paper on the SIR model, but instead steps back to simple population modeling with Thomas Malthus (1798, unrestricted exponential growth) and Pierre-François Verhulst (1838, logistic model). However, history is more rich than the space in the book will support, so it isn't pointed out that it took until 1920 before Pearl & Reed rediscovered the logistic equation and used it to model US population growth. The material that is really missing is when cool things start to happen, both mathematically and historically, when we moved away from linear algebraic models and over to multi-equation (compartmental) interacting nonlinear systems. Alfred Lotka buried that approach in his 1925 textbook (mainly applying it to chemical reactions) but it came more to the fore when Vito Volterra discovered it (apparently) independently and published it in 1926 when describing fish population dynamics (Dr. Lotka's letter to the journal, pointing out Prof. Volterra's oversight, is politely understated). While Kermack & McKendrick were applying Lotka-Volterra, it was made more rigorous by the work of Georgii Gause (1932) and Andrey Kolmogorov (1936). Then Kermack/McKendrick seems to be forgotten for a while, until it was popularized more recently by e.g. Prof. Roy Anderson. These days, in the medical world, this kind of model is not just limited to epidemiological disease modeling (and prevention strategies) but can also be used to model interactions between pathogens and cells within the body (e.g. the groups of Prof. Alan Perelson at Los Alamos and Prof. Martin Nowak at Harvard).

Also, thanks to Ms. Ouellette, having finished her book I am now reading Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (but not a Choc-ice to be found...)

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