Monday, December 19, 2005

Cacoethes scribendi

I will be in Texas later today.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Snow storm

Maybe it's because I grew up in Texas, but there's something about snow. Right now flakes are falling deliberately and quickly, but earlier it was sparse puffy flakes floating down. And these little mercurial messengers always dance to the music. Liszt's Liebesträume plays softly in the background as the white dots slowly and softly paint the street in choreographed harmony.

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farmhouse at the garden's end.
The sled and traveler stopped, the courier's feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.

Come see the northwind's masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry evermore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work
So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he
For number or proportion. Mockingly,
On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths;
A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn;
Fills up the farmer's lane from wall to wall,
Maugre the farmer's sighs; and at the gate,
A tapering turret overtops the work.
And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind's night-work,
The frolic architecture of snow.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


I had forgotten what illness was. I feel always cold, but sometimes hot; my throat aches; my head is clouded. I couldn't sleep yesterday. I was up for 20 hours before I finally collapsed, but at no point was I tired.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Oh the past

This blog started as a LiveJournal blog in early 2003. My username there was txaristocrat. Then earlier this summer I set up specifically so that I could have a rather permanent, personal e-mail address. As an added bonus, in moving my blog to the new machine, I now had complete control over it. So for example, I could choose the style more freely than at LJ, or include polls, or whatever I so desired...

When I did this, the computer on which all of my site was hosted was one a friend of mine had set up at his job (at a web hosting company). Near the end of the summer though, he left that job under somewhat questionable circumstances. And he left quickly...

The computer was soon taken down, so what little information I had stored there I lost, including those blog entries made after moving away from LJ, as well as some e-mail, and perhaps a few other things. I later set up my site again at a web hosting company where I had substantially more control. I never moved my archival blog entries though, the few ones from the LJ days.

The point of this is: now I have! So you can now see all the blog entries (excluding those from this summer forever lost) since I've ever had a blog.

Friday, December 9, 2005

Tuesday, December 6, 2005


To people who set off car alarms at 6 am:

Don't. It's really annoying. It's your own car. Learn how to enter it without activating the alarm. If this is too hard, don't try to leave for work at 6 am.

Friday, December 2, 2005

Today's high in the middle 20's

Tonight's low in the middle to upper teens.


Thursday, December 1, 2005

Nival beauty

Learned a new word. No need for a thesaurus today. ;)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Who wired?

Everything in this apartment seems to be on a single circuit-breaker.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


I was restless last night. After dinner I went downtown. There were so many people, and so many unfamiliar with the city. Families would pass by the Marshall Field's and see the large trumpets and the big television display and marvel at it. That façade is so common to me; I've been at that spot often. The experience has tarnished for me. It reminds me of a quote:

I do not wish to promote any morality, but to those who do I give this advice: If you wish to deprive the best things and states of all honor and worth, then go on talking about them as you have been doing. Place them at the head of your morality and talk from morning to night of the happiness of virtue, the composure of the soul, of justice and immanent retribution. The way you are going about it, all these good things will eventually have the popularity and the clamor of the streets on their side; but at the same time all the gold that was on them will have been worn off by so much handling, and all the gold inside will have turned to lead. Truly, you are masters of alchemy in reverse: the devaluation of what is most valuable. Why don't you make the experiment of trying another prescription to keep from attaining the opposite of your goal as you have done hitherto? Deny these good things, withdraw the mob's acclaim from them as well as their easy currency; make them once again concealed secrets of solitary souls; say that morality is something forbidden. That way you might win over for these things the kind of people who alone matter: I mean those who are heroic. But to that end there has to be a quality that inspires fear and not, as hitherto, nausea. Hasn't the time come to say of morality what Master Eckhart said: "I ask God to rid me of God."

Downtown, I first went to Borders and browsed for a while. I spent a while reading Sandra Day O'Connor's book The Majesty of the Law. I would've bought it but for the long cashier lines. I recommend it.

Then I decided to go to a movie. I wasn't sure what was playing, but I knew at least the new Pride & Prejudice was out. I wasn't in the right mood, so instead I chose Ice Harvest. Ebert & Roeper gave it two thumbs up, but I think their judgment is very questionable here. It reminded me a great deal of Catcher in the Rye: angst-ridden, juvenile, and never really going anywhere. It was a mediocre film, not worth the money, but better than most films I'd expect in a mainstream theater.

The movie theater was a coup however: I learned Tristan & Isolde had been made into a movie! I was thinking just the other day that someone should make Tristan & Isolde into a movie. High time! So there are a few movies from this season I look forward to seeing at some point in time:

After all this excitement, I came back to feed the cat. :)

Monday, November 21, 2005

What a world...

See this BBC story.


What do you know? Since I wrote the post Identity, the Google listings have changed. When searching for "Jeff Garrett" the fifth result is now my blog.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Best Men

I just saw quite the interesting movie. It's highly recommended! Rent it today.

While I'm at it, another good movie is The Specials. We've tried to rent it before, but we couldn't find it at our video store! Can you believe that? On a more serious note, I watched Impromptu lately. The first two are light comedies, whereas Impromptu has a slightly heavier romantic tone. The story regards the entanglement of George Sand and Frédéric Chopin. Overall, it is quite a good movie. I highly recommend all of these.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Flying for Me

Well I guess that you probably know by now
I was one who wanted to fly
I wanted to ride on that arrow of fire right up into heaven
And I wanted to go for every man
Every child, every mother of children
I wanted to carry the dreams of all people right up to the stars

And I prayed that I’d find an answer there
Or maybe I would find a song
Giving a voice to all of the hearts that cannot be heard
And for all of the ones who live in fear
And all of those who stand apart
My being there would bring us a little step closer together


AOL, MSN, ICQ, and Yahoo! all have instant messaging networks. About 6 years ago, a superior alternative known as Jabber (or XMPP) was developed. It is now a published standard. Jabber is superficially very similar to other instant messaging systems. Each user has a Jabber ID and a roster of some other Jabber users. The online presence of those on the list can be seen, and they can be messaged. But Jabber is different:

  • Anyone can run a Jabber server. Users are not reliant upon the continuing beneficence of a large corporate entity. Users with accounts on different servers can communicate, just as with e-mail. My Jabber ID is and my home server is, but any Jabber user can message me, and vice versa.

  • There is not a privileged (often buggy, bloated, and poorly integrated) "official" client. All have access to the standards defining Jabber, so -- in theory -- all clients are created equal. Those who aren't on the most popular platform have access to a first-class client with the same features. Even those on the most popular platform have a choice of client.

  • Authorization is required to view a Jabber user's online presence. This authorization is neither permanent (it may be revoked) nor reciprocal. In fact, more fine-grained control is possible. A user -- though online and available -- can choose to be "invisible" to some or all.

  • Users may be signed into their accounts multiple times. Inbound messages go through the connection with the highest priority. This is especially useful for nomadic computer users. Forgetting to close a connection will not affect the ability to use Jabber as usual on another machine.

  • A user's roster is stored on the server. It's therefore protected from data loss, and in a single central location.

  • Users may opt to have their basic information listed in the Jabber user directory. Other users can then find them more easily.

  • Gateways to other instant messaging networks exist. Not everyone uses Jabber instant messaging yet. :-)

  • Security was a priority from the start. The whole interaction with the server can be encrypted. Even more, using the magic of public key encryption, individual messages can be signed or encrypted.

  • The basic Jabber protocol was developed 6 years ago and has (almost) completed the Internet standards process. It has been widely used during this time, and is both stable and mature. Google is deploying its Google Talk based on the same technology. (Note however that not all of the features I mention are available on Google Talk. For example, Google Talk users cannot talk to most Jabber users not themselves using Google Talk.)

  • Despite the rigidity of the basic protocol, its structure allows for easy extensibility. Features not yet imagined or codified in the standard can be developed relatively quickly and share many of the advantages of the "standard" features. There is a body who oversees this process, and publishes these enhancements.

Convinced? The first step is to find a client here and a server here or use In the latter case, be sure to read this. Your Jabber ID will be of the form username@servername. Once you've chosen a server, you are free to choose the username portion. Then you use your client register the new account. (The server will tell you if the username conflicts with another preexisting one, or is otherwise disallowed.) Now you can sign into your Jabber account and start talking. If your browser is configured properly, you can even follow this link to message me.

For more information on Jabber, check out the Jabber user guide.

Saturday, October 29, 2005


The top Google hit for "Jeff Garrett" used to be one of my pages. A very old and tendentious one, if i recall, but still mine. I have had an Internet presence for 10 years or more, after all. Now you can't even find me! :-)

I've not had a blog for as long -- only about 3 years. The top Google hit for "Jeff Garrett blog" is unsurprisingly not mine. But still, check it out. At least people can tell us apart. :-)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Go Sox!

A sweep! The first World Series appearance since 1959! The first World Series win since 1917!

Saturday, October 8, 2005


I couldn't stop sneezing today. I thought it was allergies. But it's been unusually cold in the apartment all day, and now it's so warm. I know there's a problem when my apartment feels warm in autumn...

Thursday, October 6, 2005

O Fortuna

O Fortuna velut luna statu variabilis,
semper crescis aut decrescis;
vita detestabilis nunc obdurat et tunc curat
ludo mentis aciem,
egestatem, potestatem dissolvit ut glaciem.

Sors immanis et inanis,
rota tu volubilis, status malus,
vana salus semper dissolubilis,
obumbrata et velata mihi quoque niteris;
nunc per ludum dorsum nudum fero tui sceleris.

Sors salutis et virtutis mihi nunc contraria,
est affectus et defectus semper in angaria.
Hac in hora sine mora corde pulsum tangite;
quod per sortem sternit fortem,
mecum omnes plangite!

Monday, September 26, 2005


Not that the United States is particularly keen on protecting civil liberties or not arresting people willy-nilly, it does happen elsewhere. At least it beats being shot to death by the same scared, incompetent police department.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

New horizons...

I can now attest to the fact that a ride home in a Chicago police car is much faster than taking the route 55 bus.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Mike Broshi owns a business?

You decide:

4 Shizzle!

(Found on flickr via a blog. Click on the image to go to flickr.)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Yea though I walk through the valley

I had a weird dream the other night. The whole dream was unusually vivid. The dream started at a store, very much like a bookstore, with lots of shelves, everything a light brown color. The place reminded me of Barnes & Noble or Borders. It was generic. It could've been a Hallmark store just as easily. I was there to get a greeting card, so I used a computer display in the store to make a personalized card. I don't remember why I wanted a greeting card, but it seemed an important enough reason at the time.

Once I secured the card, I had to go upstairs to buy stamps. This store was on the 28th floor so I got into the elevator to go up one floor. Unfortunately when I got in the elevator, it was but a shell of a car. Its walls were the plain metal exterior of the car. Its wiring was exposed. Its lights didn't seem to work. I began to worry. As it turns out, it was not a working elevator, and I plunged all 28 stories down to my death.

Now, although odd, at this point the dream's not entirely shocking. I've had my share of dreams where I die, or come close to dying, both at the hands of others and of purely natural causes. I've been shot at by a sniper, I've been chased down by anthropomorphic lightning... But I usually wake up--breathing heavily. It's supposed to be a nightmare. Not this time!

Although dead in the elevator, I did not wake up. The dream calmly continued. I--now dead--was suddenly back in the store. My sister was there and I was attempting to say goodbye, although she was rather bored with me and walked away. My mom was also there. Then quite suddenly I was no longer in the store. I was walking out of a house, through a patio. The patio had a covering with wooden supports, painted white, and thin wooden lattice work between the supports. I was walking with other people in a single-file line. The only recognizable person in the group was Jesus! Although he was not what you may imagine of Jesus. He was white, middle-aged, with short brownish-grey hair, wearing glasses, sandals, and a robe--a bath robe. He had a small face with tight muscles. I could see the veins near his temples and the wrinkles near his eyes.

I said to him that I couldn't recall if I had repented before death and apologized if I had. He said I had. We continued walking in silence. Then I woke up.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

My favorite quote

Although overly idealistic, I've long liked this quote:

What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: "This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence--even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!"

Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: "you are a god and never have I heard anything more divine." If this thought gained possession of you, it would change you as you are or perhaps crush you. The question in each and every thing, "Do you desire this once more and innumerable times more?" would lie upon your actions as the greatest weight. Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Examining my system

Ok, so this linode setup is pretty neat. The whole thing is based on UML, so several "hosts" run on one box. You essentially get your own computer coexisting with others on the same hardware. They have multiple distributions to install, etc. Installing and formatting the disk are done with their web interface. Once installed though, you have your own box esssentially. You can even ssh into the box your host is running on, and get console access!

So far a great experience...

Control freak

Ok, so modified it a bit. Dates appear below posts, with categories. This bugs me less. :-)

Playing with the blog

I like this theme.

Meanwhile, this is getting to be a very small Debian installation. 134 packages installed, 197 MiB used. And still it could get better.

Another day

Ok, so a little backstory... My friend WS has an excellent job as network architect/engineer for some web hosting company. He set himself up a little private box on their network, and that was hosting The purpose of my little vanity address itself is questionable, but I'd like to think of it at least as giving itself to a stable e-mail and web server. Turns out that the e-mail went down on that machine about a month ago, and I was completely unaware. I'm not so fond of e-mail. :-)

The reason for the failure was a rather questionable apt-get upgrade, shortly after Debian 3.1 was released. Anyways, this gave me the incentive to relocate. This way, (a) I'm not mooching off of WS' bandwidth, (b) he was going to need to move that machine sometime anyways, leading to trouble, and (c) I can task the machine exactly right. :-) was what I settled on. Seems like a great little UML based virtual hosting place. Anyways, right now I'm in the process of getting everything set up the way I like, and batting down the hatches as it were.

In more personal news, you may or may not know that my brother intends to become a fireman. He is taking some classes to this effect. Anyways a week ago, his equipment worth nearly $1500 was stolen out of his truck. The real downside more than anything else it seemed, was that this would put him very far behind in his class. See, he originally ordered the coat specially, to get the sleeve length right, and it took 2 weeks to get the coat in. Fortunately though, this time he had no problems at all. He has already got his equipment replaced and only had to make up about 30 minutes worth of instruction.

Yay for that!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Phoenix Moves

I have acquired for my own nefarious purposes the domain

My blog is therefore moving to

Friday, April 8, 2005

The Phoenix Rises

My livejournal account has not yet been discontinued, despite my nearly 2 year hiatus. (I think my gmail account has!) This warrants new entries. Unfortunately the math will not be as restrained, although not quite as evident as in Ian's blog.

A geometer friend Ben from college is visiting. He told me about a process through which you can associate a curve to a knot. One can then ask if infinitely many curves of genus 0 show up, etc. Apparently to do this, one starts with a knot, look at the complement in S3, give this a hyperbolic structure, look at the associated group in PSL2C, and take the character variety. There is a distinguished component, and it is 1-dimensional. Smooth this and you get a smooth proper curve defined over a number field from your knot. My first response to this was to consider the analogy between 3-manifolds and number fields. By this analogy, one would have a process which associates to each rational prime a smooth proper curve over some number field. I would be curious to know what this is. Then one could guess what the appropriate answers are to questions about the curves.

In relation to something else he brought up, the question arose if the rank of an elliptic curve over a number field is independent of the number field. That is, is it stable under extension. This is a pretty stupid question, but I don't know the answer. Another question: given an elliptic curve E over a number field K, can the set of points over K be dense in E.

Another Ben told me while ago that étale K-theory is just the étale sheafification of algebraic K-theory. Although this should've been obvious to me, it wasn't. Algebraic K-theory gives a presheaf of spectra on the small étale site of a scheme X, and one should sheafify to get a sheaf of spectra. The global sections of this of this on X is the étale K-theory spectrum. One can make sense of the sheafification with model categories and Bousfield localization. Ben suggested that the theory of Kan extensions means you can make sense of sheafification whenever you have a theory of homotopy limits. Unfortunately, I don't know anything about Kan extensions.

A more naïve approach to sheafification might be solved as follows. For a “triangulated category” D, there should be a notion of presheaves and sheaves with values in D. These should also be “triangulated categories.” One should have notions of exactness and localization. An example of both should be given by sheafification. One should have an exact global sections functor from both presheaves and sheaves to D. There should be a descent spectral sequence, etc.

Unfortunately, trying to do this naïvely with triangulated categories fails due to the nonuniqueness of the cone. One should use DG-categories, or better A categories.

This perhaps explains why one has to go through the model category structure above when D is the category of spectra, and likewise why Thomason has to work so hard to work with appropriate models of the derived category.

One can likewise introduce algebraic K-theory this way. Define it first for affine schemes, and then sheafify in the Zariski topology. I should write this all up soon.

Another example of this, would be with D the derived category of abelian groups. Then sheaves with values in D would essentially be the derived category of sheaves. The global sections functor is the usual one, and the descent spectral sequence specializes to the hypercohomology spectral sequence.