Thursday, August 31, 2006

Damn, it's hot in here

I see where California has passed a greenhouse gas bill. What a great start for the US jumping on the bandwagon. California also does radical and cool stuff like allow stem cell research.

I've noticed that the anti-global warming folks have been harping about this being a normal cycle of global warming. Wouldn't that be an extra incentive for us to cut back on greenhouse gases now that we know greenhouse gases add to the problem? Not to the deniers. And you know who I am talking about.

Anyway, how can you ban smoking in public places such as California and not ban smog?

That's a rhetorical question.

Iowa and a Crush

I am going to Iowa this weekend. I have a ticket to the first Iowa Hawkeye football game of the season. Naturally, I am totally stoked.

The excitement of the trip is completely ruining my concentration today. All I can think of is rolling through Illinois and Iowa tomorrow and seeing the corn one last time before it gets harvested.

I have been distracted this week anyway. I have an occasional crush on a woman I know. For some reason I started thinking about her on Monday morning and have been obsessed with thoughts about her since. This is something that has happened in the past. I am always relieved when the mood passes.

She likes me. (And what’s not to like? I am custom made from head to toe.) However, she would be surprised and a little uneasy if I tried to approach her in any other way than as a friendly acquaintance. But there are times when I wish she would lose control for one weekend just so that I could satisfy my lust if not my crush.

When the mood passes, I am mighty thankful she won’t ever let down her guard. I don’t want anyone to fall in love with me right now. It sounds terribly egotistical saying that, yet as difficult as it is to imagine, women have fallen in love with me in the past; love has unfortunately never been one of my strong suits.

Oh well, I am going to Iowa tomorrow and that ought to cure my latest bout with sappy romantic ideas.

Glenn Ford

I just found out that actor Glenn Ford died at age 90. He is one of those actors who played in the cowboy movies when I was a kid. But later in life I saw many of his other movies.

This is unfair to Mr. Ford. But my favorite movie of his is "Gilda." He put on a honey of a performance as the tough guy. Yet Rita Hayworth stole the show. That is the movie where she sang "Put the Blame on Mame Boys" at the end of the movie--one of the sexiest scenes of all time.

Yes, I have a crush on Rita Hayworth. More than a crush, actually. I think she is one of the most intriguing women who ever graced this earth. I am sure you will agree that is one of the most stupid thoughts anyone could have since she died when I was still a teen and she was a movie star and I have been shit all my life.

When I think of her I don't think about sex, at least not right away. I think about meeting her in a coffee shop and hitting it off with her. Then our lives evolve into this incredible romance that never dies.

Anyway, back to Mr. Ford. I have been watching his movies on TCM for awhile. In my youth I thought he was a "B" actor. Not anymore. I am fortunate I have seen his movies and his understated performances, which are more subtle than I imagined.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Road to Reality

I have started reading The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe by Roger Penrose. The text runs to over 1,000 pages. From what I understand from the reviews written by scientists who actually understand this stuff, Penrose has made a heroic effort to fulfill the claim made in the subtitle of the book.

Penrose does not shy away from presenting the mathematics required to understand modern physics. The first third of the book is taken up with the mathematics he uses to explain the physics in the last two thirds of the book. I would expect that the mathematics would deter most people from reading the book. That's too bad, for Penrose writes clearly and engagingly about mathematics.

Penrose's hope, expressed in the preface, is that the average person who has a fear of mathematics will give his book a shot anyway. That could be a stretch, but he is right in encouraging the interested person to try.

I am reminded of close reading of fiction. I mean close reading where a fiction writer might learn the techniques that work in writing good fiction. For me, that is more difficult and time consuming than learning some math.

I suppose I am merely uttering the old truism: everything worth learning takes time and effort.
There is no royal road to geometry.


Or anything else for that matter.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Reading Closely

I extend my apology in advance for this.

The clock says it is almost 1 PM. Can it really be?

My writing is completed for the day. Time for a coffee and a proposition from Newton. I have relegated my Newton studies to one proposition each day. I might die before I get to the end of the Principia.

That's OK. It is damned near Fall, and I am in the mood for reading books closely. It keeps me away from the pulp and concentrated on the good stuff.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Shut up and believe

Norman Podhoretz asks the question, is the Bush Doctrine dead? (via art&letters daily), in the September issue of Commentary. The article is pointed at conservatives and neoconservatives who have given up faith in the Bush Doctrine.

What is the Bush Doctrine?

1) The US should defeat all the evildoers in the world.
2) The US should spread freedom and democracy to all the nations of the world.
3) If there is a 1% chance that someone opposes the Bush Doctrine, they must be neutralized or killed. (this, in my harshest terms, is what Ron Suskind calls the 1% Doctrine.)

Podhoretz goes to great lengths to prove that the Bush Doctrine is not dead, because the Bush Administration still believes in it and is pursuing the Doctrine with great vigor. I'll grant Podhoretz that claim.

Podhoretz also claims that the Bush Doctrine has been a resounding success and will be recognized as such by one and all at the end of President Bush's term in office. That is unless you are hopelessly ignorant of world affairs--like me.

Let us now ask the question, how is the so called war on terror going? The answer is, with the exception of Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, and a handful of others, nobody really knows. I don't know and neither does Podhoretz. Occasionally, we hear news of people getting arrested or killed. When the news becomes more substantial, the real threat of those arrested appears rather murky.

I would say that Podhoretz definitely ranks as one of the most eloquent of the radical right. (I've now come to view the radical right as something more virulent than mainstream conservatism.) That does not excuse his extreme state of denial.

Podhoretz and others like him on the radical right want President Bush to destroy Iran's nuclear capability. Here is my guess as to why the Bush Administration has not done it already. They do not know what Iran has and they do not know where it is at. Who believes the bullshit coming from the mouths of Iranian leadership is actionable intelligence?

The radical right will not face the fact that they are as much in the dark about Iran's capability as everyone else. Nothing of any substance has come from the Bush Administration to indicate they know for sure what Iran has. I doubt if they get too specific about WMD this time around. They most likely have learned from the Iraq episode.

That brings us to an important issue. The Bush Administration knew the evidence about WMD in Iraq was thin at best. Under the 1% Doctrine, thin is good enough evidence to start a major war. The Bush Administration has no plausible deniability about the so called intelligence failure on Iraq WMD. Bush Administration policies are set by a few at the top with the President leading the operational details. They knew what kind of intelligence they had.

Podhoretz has well chastened the apostates formerly in the ranks of the radical right. Shame on them for giving up the faith. However, the rest of his argument rests on false propositions such as things are getting better in Iraq and the Middle East. The terrorists are on their last gasp. Of course, a terrorist is anyone who does not believe in the Bush Doctrine.

The net gets cast pretty wide. For instance, socialists from Middle Eastern countries who struggle to bring freedom and democracy to their home countries are denounced as terrorists by western governments and enemies of the state by their home countries. The Bush Doctrine knows no nuance in these matters. You are either an evildoer or fellow traveler, or you are one of the good guys within the radical right.

The major requirement for joining the radical right is to shut up and believe everything President Bush says.

I congratulate Mr. Podhoretz on his excellent membership qualifications.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

If talking tough won wars, nobody would ever lose

The radical right wing continues to call for a full scale war with Iran. The possibility raises some interesting questions.

With our finest troops participating in the Iraq Occupation, plus the need to recall inactive reserve Marines to active duty to fill open slots, who is going to fight in the Iran War? President Bush has not made a call to the able bodied to enlist. That would sound a note desperation he does not want anyone to hear just before Congressional Elections.

Who will pay for the next large scale military adventure? Oh well, what's another trillion dollars worth of debt between friendly generations?

What is the straight skinny on Iran's nuclear program? Iran has done a lot of posturing, but what do they really have and where is it at? The Bush Administration does not have an attractive track record when it comes to assessing WMD, so one wonders how many troopers will need to roam around a big and hostile country like Iran to find those weapons.

How will an Iran War be viewed by folks in the Middle East such as the Shiite militias in Iraq? Will they take the opportunity to wage all out war with Iraq Occupation forces? And what about other folks around the world? The coalition of those willing to fight, even in the US, is not all that large.

You can see why some conservatives have grown frustrated with the Bush Administration's fixation with Iraq. Despite the tough talk from the radical right, the options don't look very handsome.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Lesson from a master

I try to leave out the parts that people skip.

Elmore Leonard

And he is a master at doing it. I never pick up a Leonard novel unless I have the time to read it all the way through in one sitting because that is what I wind up doing whether I plan to or not.

Old habits never die

Old habits are not just hard to break; they seldom ever die. As a friend more than once fondly told me, "a leopard never changes his spots." And such it is with me.

I still cannot sleep past 5 in the morning, which echoes the old days when I had a real job.

I cannot break the habit of having a job even if it pays me no money. My new job requires that I write, read, and study for at least 8 hours each day. I hate myself when I don't do it. My current life is nothing without it.

Saturday and Sunday mornings are devoted to dreaming about new projects, projects on a grander scale than I could ever hope to accomplish. This echoes a time when the weekdays did not allow for anything but the frustrations of the office or trips to and from airports and hotels and places I did not want to go. The weekends were sacred to me during those years. I still possess the old habit of viewing them that way. This is the weekend. I don't have to write today or tomorrow other than scribbling ideas in my notebook.

My studies this summer have returned to things I never thought I would study again. I am rereading the whole of Euclid, writing new notes, and applying a new axiom system for geometry (an axiom system inscribed in my brain) I have not used in the past to understand Euclid. It is like going on a diet of nothing but pizza, chocolate, and ice cream. Am I learning new mathematics? No. I indulge myself in the most hedonistic of pleasures.

Then there is my recent assault on understanding Newton in his terms. In a way, this is studying some physics and astronomy I should have learned in previous school classes, but never really did. Along with Newton, I read Appolonius' Conics and Galileo's Two New Sciences. Appolonius is like Euclid--pure pleasure. I also dip into other geometry papers and texts as the mood or desire sways me.

What of the other things I said I would read this year? I don't have time, at least for now. My addiction to geometry has hold of me.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Here's to the last man standing

The European football season is under full sail. The window of opportunity for world football stars to get some rest was never open because of the World Cup this summer. You might expect the major competitions in Europe to be wars of attrition. Which players can survive all the way to May of next year?

The drawings for the group stage of the Champions League were held this week. Barcelona, last season's CL champion and Spanish champion, is in the same group as Chelsea last season's English champion. That has left many scratching their heads over the CL seeding system. Werder Bremen is also in that group, so the group definitely can be called the group of death.

People debate whether the club or country competitions are the more exciting. I like the club competitions. When the top clubs play each other you have more stars on the field than in most country competitions.

I have a four team parlay on the Premiership games this weekend. I picked Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Man. U. in their respective matches. Middlesbrough's defeat of Chelsea the other day still has me gnashing my teeth since Chelsea was part of a three team parlay I had at the time.

Here's a preliminary toast to the last man standing at the end of May 2007.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Studying Newton on a rainy morning

A dark and rainy morning, yet not gloomy. I'm snug at my table. A cool breeze blows through the balcony doorway. People huddle beneath their umbrellas down below in the street. They appear as walking mushrooms.

I've been studying Newton's Principia since I left my cozy bed at 5 AM. I measure progress on Newton in inches of text studied per hour. Many times it takes several hours to study a foot of text.

I look at the clock, realize I've lost track of time this morning, and also realize I have not gotten very far with my Newton studies even though I've applied myself diligently. I'm not embarrassed by my slow progress. I think of the best minds of Newton's time struggling to span the breadth and plumb the depth of his thought. It would be folly and vanity to say one such as I can keep up with one of the greatest minds of all time.

I can see my Newton studies will require a niche of time each day to travel another few inches of text. Understanding Newton is really not a project designed for me, so ignorant and slow. Curiosity, however, drives me forward.

And what shall I gain from this? Certainly not a coin. When I am dead and forgotten, no one will remember me let alone the fact that I studied Newton on this deliciously beautiful rainy day.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Proof and its discontents

Many thanks to Hoagie for pointing out a great article about the Poincare Conjecture. See Manifold Destiny by Sylvia Nassar and David Gruber in the New Yorker.

It's not so much about the math, but about the people doing the math. Along the way we learn why proof, acceptance, and recognition might not always coincide.

Two candidates wearing the same albatross

My Internet bookie has Hillary Clinton and John McCain as 3-1 and 6-1 favorites to win the 2008 Presidential election.

John McCain 's problem is that he is now behind the curve. He is courting the radical right wing of the Republican Party, a group of folks the general public has grown increasingly weary of. He'll be dancing around issues such as evolution and stem cell research for the next two years. You can chalk him up in the 'stay the course' Iraq Occupation column too.

Hillary Clinton's albatross is also her 'stay the course' Iraq Occupation strategy.

The problem is that nothing, and I mean nothing, will go well with foreign and domestic policy until the Iraq Occupation is over. The Iraq Occupation sucks the funding and life from all policies that attempt to bring peace and prosperity to the world.

When J. P. Morgan was asked how the stock market would do, he replied, it will fluctuate. You can expect these betting futures to fluctuate too until the giant sucking sound called the Iraq Occupation is no longer heard.

A not so subtle distinction

A new NYT/CBS poll shows a shift in opinion on Iraq War.
Americans increasingly see the war in Iraq as distinct from the fight against terrorism, and nearly half believe President Bush has focused too much on Iraq to the exclusion of other threats, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The poll found that 51 percent of those surveyed saw no link between the war in Iraq and the broader antiterrorism effort, a jump of 10 percentage points since June. That increase comes despite the regular insistence of Mr. Bush and Congressional Republicans that the two are intertwined and should be seen as complementary elements of a strategy to prevent domestic terrorism.

Should the trend hold, the rising skepticism could present a political obstacle for Mr. Bush and his allies on Capitol Hill, who are making their record on terrorism a central element of the midterm election campaign. The Republicans hope that by expressing a desire for forceful action against terrorists, they can offset unease with the Iraq war and blunt the political appeal of Democratic calls to establish a timeline to withdraw American troops.

The Iraq Occupation is more clearly seen for what it is, which is an occupation. The war in Iraq ended no later than the capture of Saddam Hussein. Despite a popularly ratified constitution and a duly elected government, Iraq has evolved into a country where factions fight a war of all against all. US troop presence within the country provides a lightning rod and spark for these conflicts. The small number of al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq draw their support from the enmity created by the occupying US force.

Meanwhile the profiles of terrorists grows sharper. They are not the kind of folks who can be deterred by large military force occupying a country. In fact, the recent arrests in Britain show that terrorists can be apprehended by traditional legal means that protect the traditional rights of citizens.

Republicans have made no secret that they are campaigning on the 'war on terror' platform that brought them success in 2004. However, campaign speeches cannot drown out the dreary and incessant news each day coming from Iraq. Americans support the troops, but they do not want their sons or daughters to be troops in these times of failed foreign policy.

The Republican Party conflates anti-terrorist activities with the Iraq Occupation. This is partly a cynical move on their part to get reelected. This most recent opinion poll indicates that fewer fish are biting on that bait. The far right would paint the Iraq Occupation skeptics as manipulated by the media or defeatist cowards. The problem is that these are the same people who bought into the Bush war on terror concept in the first place, but have since changed their minds.

What are people in these opinion polls really saying?: we have tried the Republican way for five years and things are worse rather than better. Democrats in Congress have drawn strength from public perception of the evidence against the Iraq Occupation. However, they have unfortunately too often participated in the same activities as their Republican opponents.

The pressure will be on the Democratic Party next year should they recapture a majority in Congress. The majority of Americans are no longer confused about terrorism and the Iraq Occupation, and with the rising death tolls for no purpose, they certainly are not amused.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

He turned it down

Grigory Perelman turned down the Fields Medal for his contribution to Ricci Flows and the Poincare Conjecture. Via CNet.
Grigory Perelman, the reclusive Russian mathematician who may have proved the elusive Poincare Conjecture, was awarded with a 2006 Fields Medal at the International Congress of Mathematicians--and he turned it down, according to Nature.

Three other mathematicians--Princeton University's Andre Okounkov, UCLA's Terence Tao, and Wendelin Werner from France's University of Paris-Sud--were honored with this year's Fields Medal, considered by many to be mathematics' equivalent of the Nobel Prize. All three of them were present at the ceremony in Madrid to accept their awards.

According to the International Mathematical Union, a Fields Medal has never been turned down before.

Does it matter when somebody turns down a prestigious prize, no matter for what reason? I don't think so. You've already been recognized and that's the point.

The general war on terror

People ask, how is the general war on terror going these days? Reuters reports: Marine Corps to start involuntary troop recalls.
The U.S. Marine Corps will start ordering what could be thousands of inactive service members to return to duty in the coming months to counter a steady decline in the number of such troops who volunteer, the service said on Tuesday.

Col. Guy Stratton, head of the Marine Corps' manpower mobilization plans, said the service is short some 1,200 volunteers over the next 18 months to fill roles in the war on terrorism. The total shortfall fluctuates regularly, he said.

Stratton said President George W. Bush authorized the Marine Corps to issue involuntary recall orders to members of the Individual Ready Reserve, part of the non-active force. It will be the Marine Corps' first involuntary recall since the invasion ofIraq in 2003.

The authorization limits the number of Marines who can be activated involuntarily to no more 2,500 at any one time, out of a pool of about 35,000, Stratton said. The length of each activated service member's duty is capped at 24 months but will likely last 12 to 18 months.

Under a general contract, a Marine serves four years on active duty and four in reserve. While on reserve, Marines may volunteer to return to active duty to fill needed roles.

But the number of Marines volunteering outside their active-duty service requirement has been steadily declining for two years, according to Stratton, who said could not offer an explanation.

The Marine Corps' authority to involuntarily recall Marines for jobs in the "Global War on Terror" -- a war whose parameters remain largely undefined -- has no expiration date.

"The authority is until GWOT is over with," Stratton said. "Until we're told to do otherwise, we'll use it."

The Marine Corps' move comes almost five years after the September 11 attacks that led the United States to declare a war on global terrorism and more than three years after the Iraq war began.

Many Marines have performed three tours of duty in Iraq since March 2003. While the U.S. Army has provided most of the ground forces fighting an insurgency there, the Marines have carried a heavy load and been deployed in one of the most dangerous parts of Iraq, Anbar province.

Beyond Iraq, which the Bush administration considers part of the war on terrorism, the broader war is expected to last many years, defense officials regularly say.

The Marines and Army have been meeting monthly recruiting goals. But some analysts have questioned the military's ability to sustain long-term operations with its all-volunteer force.

Involuntary recalls and other steps taken to stop the loss of personnel have been criticized by some as a back-door conscription and a threat to the volunteer nature of the force.

"What's really worrisome about involuntary recalls is they put even more of the burden on the handful of people who voluntarily join the military, and thus undermine the long-term viability of the whole volunteer force," said Lexington Institute defense analyst Loren Thompson.

"In some ways this is worse than a back-door draft because it penalizes the handful of people who had the inclination and the courage to volunteer in the first place," he said.

Stratton, however, said the Marines' involuntary recall was not a back-door draft and that Marines on nonactive status should always expect that they may be called when needed.

You can draw your own conclusions. Here is mine.

The occupation in Iraq is not as popular as imagined. That is why we have troops going back who have already served several tours of duty over there.

Behind the myth there is always the reality.

Foundations of mathematics, evolution, and castles in the air

I am no Platonist Realist when it comes to mathematics. Mathematics does not exist in some unseen Platonic universe. Our basic mathematical concepts arise from our ordinary experience of the world. From these basic concepts we build ever more complex mathematical concepts via analogy and metaphor.

In fact, our most basic mathematical concepts reside in our unconscious minds. It takes clever psychological experiments to tease them from their hiding places. Thus, mathematics is embedded in our evolved mental systems.

Since our most basic mathematical concepts come from our mental ability to negotiate the world, the usefulness of mathematics in explaining the world is apparent at the same time. Our sophisticated mathematical constructions depend upon the foundations in our basic biology and our creativity.

If at some point mathematics is not useful, then it becomes pure art. Pure art has its place in our lives too. Practicality is not derailed by invention nor invention derailed by practicality.

Let us take one famous episode in the history of mathematics. Until the beginning of the Nineteen Century, Euclid’s fifth postulate about parallel lines was considered basic to the structure of the world. In fact, many people tried to prove the parallel postulate from Euclid’s other postulates.

Consider a form of the postulate called Playfair’s Postulate: given a line and a point not on the line, one can draw one and only one line through the point that is parallel to the given line.

Gauss, Bolyai, and Lobachevsky showed that you can negate the parallel postulate and arrive at a geometry that is as consistent as the original Euclidean geometry. (Actually, a full proof of consistency remained to be proved later.) Negating Playfair’s Postulate gives two separate parallel postulates. One case is that more than one parallel line can be drawn through the given point (hyperbolic geometry). The other case is that no parallel line can be drawn through the point (elliptic geometry).

If one considers mathematics as a series of formal systems with undefined terms, unproven axioms, plus logic, then there seems to be no limit as to the kinds of mathematical systems one can create. Of course, their consistency must be maintained or they are nonsense because any proposition can proved from a contradiction. However, these systems may not be useful in explaining the world. That is not to say they might not be useful some day, or that the practical does not motivate invention and art.

It is at the frontiers of the foundations of mathematics that one must make a commitment to evolution or not. Our creative mathematical ability must be explained somehow. Searching for mathematics in some ethereal castle in the air that cannot be physically seen seems like searching for Zeus on top of Mount Olympus.

You can have myths about mathematics or you can have mathematics, but you cannot them both at the same time and remain consistent in your philosophy or your science.

Studying Newton via Densmore

We are lucky when a piece of scholarship is so lovingly done, it becomes the key that unlocks the door to a classic text. Such is the case with Dana Densmore’s and William H. Donahue’s Newton’s Principia: The Central Argument.

I am making another stab at understanding Newton’s Principia Mathematica. Thus I add to the amount of time spent over the past 14 years trying to understand what Newton was up to.

Understanding Newton’s Principia presents two problems.

One, he bases his exposition on the geometry of Euclid’s Elements and Apollonius’ Conics. If you want to understand Newton in his terms, you must know Euclid and Apollonius. Elements and Conics are ancient Greek mathematics texts, which are not our modern day mathematics with its algebraic and numerical manipulations making things much easier to calculate. The Greeks understood concepts such as amount, magnitude, and number in geometrical terms that are somewhat alien to our modern way of thinking about mathematics. That is not to say you cannot learn basic geometry from Euclid, for the modern course of high school geometry is Euclid reworked to take advantage of modern notation, algebra, and number systems. Modern notation was not fully available to Newton even though he invented the calculus. Even so, he eschewed using the more sophisticated notation of his time for the proofs of his propositions. He was possibly or partially motivated to see if his peers in the scientific world could understand his system even when he presented it in terms of mathematics they were most familiar with.

Second, Newton’s demonstrations are extremely terse. They were written for the major scientific figures of his day. He assumed they would easily fill in the gaps. Such is not the case for the modern student. One can wander through the wilderness for years trying to understand his opening lemmas on the calculus he uses in the rest of the book—or at least not fully understand what he meant and demonstrated.

The student with a mathematics degree might not have a better shot than the student without one in terms of studying Newton. The mathematics student might automatically respond to Newton by trying to translate his treatise into modern mathematics and physics notation, which is, in a way, to miss Newton. Those who take the classical route from Euclid through Apollonius and Galileo might have the better shot since they will be steeped in the original notation and concepts. Of course, knowing modern mathematics and ancient mathematics is the best blend.

Help is out there though in overcoming these two stumbling blocks. Dana Densmore comes to the rescue with her Newton’s Principia: The Central Argument. Densmore provides an excellent translation of the Principia along with detailed commentary on Newton’s demonstrations. She fills in the gaps with references to the appropriate propositions from Euclid and Apollonius. Her goal is to present Principia’s Book III, On the System of the World. To do this she carefully explains all the propositions from Book I that are needed to understand Book III. Donahue adds diagrams to those used in the original Principia and the new diagrams make the exposition easier to understand. In fact, Newton recommended that if one wanted to understand his work, you should study Book I, and then tackle his system of the world in Book III.

With Densmore to the rescue, all that is left is a lot of hard work and the excitement of discovering Newton.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


There are lots of dead end projects. Philosophers, for instance, who are all the rage today, pass out of sight once they are gone. That is not a bad thing. It's the way life is if progress is to be made, for you have to keep firing and hoping you will hit something.

Most ideas amount to nothing. The ideas that remain with us are called classics.

The Boat Ride

I went on a boat ride tonight--one of those cruises taking you up and down the branches of the Chicago River. The scenery consists of tall office and condominium buildings built along the river. You get some good skyline shots of Chicago too. Chicago has a nice skyline, a thing that endears the city to me. After the river cruise, we went out on the lake and watched the Navy Pier fireworks.

This was the second annual "booze cruise." The guy who sponsors the boat trip started it last year in celebration of his 50th birthday. After the boat ride, some of us went to the local bar where we all originally got to know one another. The bar was very crowded with Cardinals' baseball fans and other folks in town to see the water and air show.

I distanced myself from the folks on the boat ride once we got to the bar. I think the fireworks made me melancholy.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Air and Water Show

The air and water show is the weekend in Chicago. The fighter jets are circling the lake and making lots of noise.

The planes haven't bombed us, but the Cards are bombing the Cubs 8 to 3 in the 7th inning.

Kick Off

The European football season has started. The English Premier league starts on Saturday. FoxSoccerChannel kicks it off this way (all times Central daylight savings):

8/19, 9 AM Wigan at Newcastle
8/19 11 AM Tottenham at Bolton
8/19 1:30 AM Middlesbrough at Reading
8/20 10 AM Man. City at Chelsea

Can Chelsea pull off the 3-peat with newly acquired Shevchenko and Ballick? It's a long season.

And the FA Cup campaign starts this weekend too.

I picked Thierry Henry for my fantasy Premier team. Had to do it.

Are we excited? Yes!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Wiretaps without Warrants

This great news from Reuters: Judge rules secret wiretaps violate rights.
A judge ordered the Bush administration on Thursday to stop a domestic wiretap program it says protects Americans from terrorism but which the judge said violated their civil rights.

This has turned out to be a really great day. I expect much obfuscation from the Bush Administration about the difference between seeking a warrant and not seeking a warrant for wiretaps.


And thus I find myself on a bright and wonderful morning writing shit that nobody will ever read. What the fuck is wrong with me?


One of the central questions of politics is whether a political system can ever exist that supports open and reasoned debate based on the principles of informal persuasive logic. A further question is whether informal persuasive logic does what it is intended to do, which is persuade.

Many people, spanning the whole political spectrum from left to right, give a resounding no to both questions, or qualify the ideal state to such an extent that the state could never exist in any practical sense.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to argue with their answer. People tend not to give a shit about political events in any meaningful way unless they have a vested interest in those events. A lot of times you must threaten a person's life or pocketbook to get their attention when it comes to politics. And even then they mistake their vested interests.

Both questions seem rather arid and vacuous. The problem is that they are the central questions of our time in the era of mass destruction.

What did you do during the Iraq Occupation, Daddy?

The New York Times reports that Insurgent Bombs Directed at G. I.'s Increase in Iraq. No shit?

Of course, hard core Iraq Occupation supporters will consider this good news. It proves that the US really does have enemies in Iraq and the occupation should continue until Hell freezes over because doing right really has no end. The simple corrective of getting out eludes the blood thirsty.

The radical right has not yet put a face on the Occupation since the passing of Zarqawi. Bad news being what it is, I expect a new face won't be long in coming. Or will we have another round of "9/11 changed everything?" In a way, it did. We still have George Bush as our President, one of the most regrettable episodes in American history.

Meanwhile, there is still no news of people breaking down the doors of the recruiting offices to enlist in the occupation. In some ways, 9/11 didn't change jack shit. That is something the war loving radical right won't face up to either. They can talk the talk, but they can't walk the walk. Supporting the Iraq Occupation is a grand idea if you don't have to fight in it or pay for it.

Sorry, but that is how pissed off I am about the whole deal. I don't call the Iraq Occupation a lost cause. Calling it a cause would dignify the event more than it deserves.

The radical right is fond of branding those who oppose the Iraq Occupation as cowards and traitors. I hope I live to see the day when everyone who supports the Iraq Occupation realizes they participated in the willful and wholesale slaughter of damned fine troops. And I hope their children ask them what they did during the Iraq Occupation.

Poincare Again

I wrote about the mathematics problem called the Poincare Conjecture a few days ago and Grigory Perelman's proof of it. Since Perelman published and lectured about his results in 2002 and 2003 I have been Googling the news each day about the problem and have gotten zero results. Now there is an avalanche of news stories about it. The stories are more about the man than the math problem.

And why not? Perelman is a certified mathematical genius who did post-doc work in the US until he returned to St. Petersburg, Russia in the mid-Nineties. Some thought he had given up mathematics until he published his stunning results on the Internet in November 2002. Mathematicians have been checking his proof of Poincare since. Several long papers recently published by other mathematicians have validated his proof.

Perelman is eligible for the Fields Medal this year. The Fields Medal is given to those mathematicians under 40 years of age who have done the most outstanding work in mathematics. Perelman turned 40 in June and is still eligible by the rules. People are speculating on whether Perelman, incredibly reclusive, will show up to receive his medal. Just to put the Fields Medal in perspective, it is the equivalent of the Nobel Prize. No lightweights need apply.

On top of that, the Clay Math Institute will award a million dollars to the person who proves or disproves the Poincare conjecture. The rules state that the proof must be published in a peer reviewed journal and withstand the scrutiny of the mathematics community for two years. Perelman has not published his proof other than on the Internet. Other mathematicians have filled in the details and published papers recently. They all give credit to Perelman and claim their papers are exposition and explanation of his proof. That in itself is more than a little humble on their part because their papers run to several hundred pages of arcane mathematics.

But at least Perelman and the Poincare Conjecture are finally making the news after a frustrating lull in the reporting of it. I am really excited. Some people hate math, but what is not to like about a field where you can actually prove something profound like Thurston's geometrization conjecture and hence the Poincare conjecture a special case of it?

Thanks, Mr. Perelman. And just in case you are reading this, Mr. Perelman, even though I know you never will, I think you should pick up the Fields Medal, the million dollars, and the thunderous applause you deserve.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Politics, geometry, and foundations in general

Euclid's Elements provided a foundation for mathematics for over two millennia. During the Nineteenth Century mathematicians exposed some of the flaws in Euclid's system. Those flaws were repaired and many new foundations were provided for Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry. One of the beautiful things about mathematics in general is that it provides rigorous foundations for its propositions along with its extreme usefulness for the sciences.

Can the tools of mathematics provide a foundation for philosophy and political philosophy in general? Imagine applying set theoretic or category theoretic ideas to political philosophy so as to achieve a mapping of systems, beliefs, and states of subjects' belief systems. It would seem that is what political philosophers have attempted, but without completely embedding their results in set theoretic or category theoretic language, at least not successfully so far.

One might decide immediately that political theory is not the kind of thing that fits itself into category theoretic terms. Yet category theory is abstract and general in the extreme. One should not a priori dismiss its usefulness for mapping the structure of the political realm.

One could try the reduction of the political to category theory starting with Plato and working one's way through the classics. This would replace the informal with the brutally formal. At the end of the exercise one might have a scheme exposing what fits with what.

One of the problems with the reducing political philosophy to category theoretic terms is that category theory is itself a product of the imagination and is based on basic analogies and metaphors just as are the other abstract branches of learning such as political philosophy. That admittedly is a strong statement. How many people actually believe that our higher reasonings are produced through metaphor? However, exploring how metaphor creates foundational ideas remains a seductive notion especially when brain science provides evidence for some relations between foundations and metaphor.

Instead of the trial and error method of starting with Plato and reducing political theory into category theoretic terms, one could investigate the foundations of foundational thinking to see if a category theoretic approach is apt for studying political philosophy.

At any rate, the multitude of questions arising from foundations in general seem nontrivial and important. Are there foundations for specific foundations or are foundations just not the kind of things that work that way?


I know a lot of folks would never go to a blog called Awful Plastic Surgery. It is devoted to pictures of before and after photos of celebrities and stars who have had unsuccessful plastic surgery done to their faces and breasts and tummies. But dial up Awful Plastic Surgery. We need to be reminded how the most beautiful and successful of us feel insecure and will do anything to stay on top--even if it means creating a bizarre face that must be lived with for the rest of life.

Many thanks to my good friend Tom who first turned me onto it.

By the way, he really should go to Dan O's birthday boat ride party Saturday night. It is a beautiful ride down the Chicago River and out into the lake with all you can drink and eat. He should bring his girlfriend too.

If he really is my friend, I am sure he will go.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Radical Right is Angry at President Bush

The folks on the radical right are really angry at President Bush. The truce in Lebanon is seen as waving the white flag to Hezbollah and Iran. The irony delights me.

See Glenn Greewald's take on the situation, Bombing away terrorism, at Unclaimed Territory.
There is, at long last, a growing recognition that waging more wars does not make us stronger or more secure. It does exactly the opposite. Those who want to pursue our failed policy in Iraq indefinitely or who want to attack more countries -- in the process alienating the whole world even more and exacerbating the Islamic radicalism which even the President says is what causes terrorism -- are not people who are "strong on security." They are gradually, though inexorably, destroying our security through a mindless militarism which becomes more reckless and crazed the more it fails. And this bloodthirsty militarism becomes more desperate as the sense of weakness and humiliation felt by its proponents -- including those in the White House -- intensifies.

If George Will can come out and say that John Kerry was right about how best to approach terrorism and the Bush approach does nothing but increases it, then perhaps we can soon reach the point where national journalists will understand that there is nothing "strong" about wanting more and more wars, and nothing "weak" about opposing warmongering and advocating more substantive, rational and responsible methods for combating terrorism.

The Iraq War and subsequent occupation, and now Lebanon, has put paid to the notion that one can fight insurgent militias from the air. A military victory requires overwhelming ground support with many hundreds of thousands of troops for a decade, and even then the results are doubtful.

Yet we have the radical right still in a muddle about military actions to defeat a network that is not an army in any sense of the word.

As Greenwald ably points out, the radical right is now branding President Bush as weak and defeatist the same way they branded others who proposed other methods and necessities for fighting terrorism. Don't get me wrong, I believe President Bush is beyond weak and defeatist, but for radically different reasons.

Claiming one's opponent is irrational is risky business. Rationality lies too often in the eye of the beholder. However, the radical right's irrationality has done more to shift my political thinking radically leftwards than anything else. Their denial of evidence, logic, and distrust of science mixed with old time apocalyptic Biblical narratives about the end time leads me to suspect the rationality of their belief system.

One wonders how the war planners in the Administration feel about the efficacy of the tactics used in Lebanon to bomb and invade Iran. I am sure cooler heads in the military and intelligence communities see it not quite as handsome as originally proposed. The radical right has such a strangle hold on military and intelligence thinking one despairs of contrarian views seeing the light of day.

Meanwhile, I unapologetically grow more radicalized towards the left. If the radical right can turn on President Bush for his latest blunder in Lebanon, there is no hope for them ever coming to grips with reality.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Damned Proud

Dear Everybody,

I have been suffering from a summer cold the past four days. The damned thing has completely busted my head. If you don't hear from me again, you can assume the thing probably killed me.

And in the event that happens, I just want you to know I'm damned proud to have rid with ye.



Sunday, August 13, 2006

Escaping events out of doors

The sun is up on a bright and pleasant morning. I've washed a load of laundry, set my fantasy baseball team lineup, and finished my obligatory Internet reading. Now, studying and writing remain the only trivial things left undone. But we'll see. You never know what might happen for a certainty.

World events disorient and alienate me more each day. I immerse myself in entirely selfish and hedonistic activities to escape those feelings. For me, studying mathematics and reading, in general, work that way. Both activities shut the door on society, events out of doors, and destructive interior monologues. Fortunately, escape into reading and study is not entirely wasted, for you never know when what you learn might be useful.

I wrote a geometry book over ten years ago. The manuscript lies buried somewhere in the back of a closet. The book was not a textbook. It played a rift inspired by Euclid. As the poet says, it contained things seen that I liked. I might revisit it one day. I would add things I like to it and feel less self conscious about its scholarship. I might even print a few vanity copies of it for posterity. When I'm dead, people who knew me can say, "yes, he was an odd duck. He left behind a few vanity copies of a geometry book he wrote. Have you seen it?" However, I won't mess with it again unless I feel it has some merit for somebody other than me.

Vanity, too, provides a way to escape a world that does not fit my conceptions and expectations of it.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Thinking Small

The Bush Administration thinks small and uses one tool, the computer guided bomb, when it comes to foreign policy. The new phrase trotted out by Administration officials is solving the root causes of conflict in the Middle East. This stock phrase, like other stock phrases used by the Administration, masks intentions and actions to do no such thing.

The current root cause is supposed to be the occupation of southern Lebanon by Hezbollah, a militia intent upon destroying Israel. The Bush Administration claims waging war against Hezbollah by proxy via Israel will solve the root cause. Once again, as in Iraq, we see the notion—a limited military action fueled by laser guided bombs will solve political problems—has failed. Once again, we see a so called limited military action turn into a bigger war with much collateral damage and global implications. Just as with the Invasion of Iraq, it has galvanized world opinion against the US and Israel.

Many conservative and liberal foreign policy experts agree that the current conflict is futile in attaining its objectives and could lead to more and larger military actions in the Middle East and around the globe. The US is stretched too thin to effectively win these military conflicts that can’t attain their stated political objectives in the first place. The US won’t have Israel to stand proxy in the fight.

The root cause of the current Lebanon conflict is the failure to achieve a serious negotiated peace agreement between Palestine and Israel. Given the think small nature of Bush foreign policy, the current situation was inevitable. The notion that the US was spreading democracy and freedom about the world was given the lie when many in the newly and duly elected Palestinian Parliament were rounded up and arrested.

I know what you are thinking? Lynn, you are taking sides when you said wouldn’t. Wrong. I am not choosing sides between Hezbollah and Israel. I am taking a strong and emphatic stand against the think small foreign policy of the Bush Administration.

The current situation in the Middle East is so bad I almost feel sorry for Secretary Rice. Don’t worry, she’ll have to commit a true act of atonement for me to feel sorry for her. I don’t expect that to happen in her current position.

Many conservatives claim that those who oppose the current Administration’s foreign policy have no alternatives to offer. The alternative has been there since the beginning of the Bush Administration—negotiate a meaningful peace settlement between Israel and Palestine. The Bush Administration has had other priorities though. They have been too busy thinking small.

I leave it to your imagination as to their motives for following one mistake with the same mistake. Are they really slow learners?

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Poincare Conjecture

Huai-Dong Cao and Xi-Ping Zhu published A Complete Proof of the Poincare Conjecture and Geometrization Conjectures - Application of the Hamilton-Perelman Theory of the Ricci Flow (PDF) in the June issue of the Asian Journal of Mathematics. The paper is 328 pages of dense mathematics understandable only by experts. However, the title of the paper is electrifying to those with some familiarity with The Poincare Conjecture, for it has been one of the most famous unresolved problems of mathematics since first proposed by Henri Poincare at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. The Clay Mathematics Institute will award a million dollars to any person who proves it.

The Poincare Conjecture is stated thus:
Every simply connected closed 3-manifold is homeomorphic to a 3-sphere.

3-manifolds and 3-spheres are objects in four dimensional space so it requires some tricks to imagine them. The analogues in three dimensions are the 2-sphere, the surface of a ball, and 2-manifolds, which also exist in three dimensional space. Two objects are homeomorphic if they can be stretched, without tearing, to look like each other. So, crudely, the Poincare Conjecture asks whether all simply connected closed 3-manifolds can be stretched to look like the 3-sphere, which is the surface of a four dimensional ball.

To arrive at a proof of the Poincare Conjecture one can prove the Geometrization Conjecture proposed by William Thurston. This conjecture says that there only certain distinct geometries that 3-manifolds can have. The Geometrization Conjecture implies the truth of the Poincare Conjecture as a special case. Richard Hamilton pioneered a technique called Ricci Flows to attack the Geometrization Conjecture and made significant progress towards its proof. In 2003, Russian mathematician Grisha Perelman published three papers on the Internet that seemed to have finished the proof of the Geometrization Conjecture, and thusly the Poincare Conjecture. Perelman extended the use of Ricci Flows to arrive at his results. His work has withstood the scrutiny of experts in the field and the paper cited at the beginning puts Q. E. D. to the proof.

In fact, on page 320, the authors state:
Thurston’s geometrization conjecture is true.

Now, we see (kind of) the meaning of the paper cited at the beginning of this post.

A headline in a recent issue of Nature claims that Perelman may get the Nobel Prize for his work. (I don’t have a subscription so I have not read the article.) The Nobel does not have a category for mathematics, so I assume he will get it for physics. Why physics?

To the extent that the space in which we live is some kind of 3-manifold in four dimensional space, the Geometrization Conjecture says that there are only certain shapes it can have. This means that scientists measuring the shape of the universe have a limited set of choices as to its geometry.

As for the Clay Mathematics Prize, it requires that a proof must be published in a refereed mathematics journal and withstand two years of scrutiny by the mathematics community. Perelman is reported to be reclusive, even though he gave a set of lectures in the US in 2004, and has not published his papers other than on the Internet. One wonders if the Clay Math Institute might not bend the rules in his case if he should receive a Nobel for his work.

Jeffrey R. Weeks has written an outstanding book called The Shape of Space covering a lot of ideas about 3-manifolds. He claims in the preface that the interested high school mathematics student should be able to understand the book. He delivers on that promise. The challenge of the book is to use one’s imagination to understand what 3-manifolds look like. He gently guides the reader, via pictures, through some very interesting mathematics without all the formalism of a mathematics text. He connects the topology and geometry to the physics at the end of the book.

I am sure we will see many good books published within the next couple of years about the history and mathematics of the Poincare Conjecture. It is that exciting and interesting. Under the hand of the able writer, its importance will be made accessible to the interested lay reader.

P. S. I found Ricci Flow and the Poincare Conjecture (PDF) by John Morgan and Gang Tian via Ars Mathematica. This is a complete proof of the Poincare Conjecture.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Skepticism is a Virtue

Pat Robertson made the news yesterday with his support for Israel in the current Israeli/Hezbollah conflict. That should not be front page news since the Christian Right has enthusiastically supported all military initiatives by Israel for years. Several prominent pastors of the Christian Right have been preaching that the current Middle East conflict is foretold in the Bible. We are supposedly experiencing the beginning of an end time, apocalypse, and the ultimate victory of the forces of good over the forces of evil.

Clerics in Iran are ironically claiming the same thing as their peers in the Christian Right. President Bush and President Ahmadinejad believe in these claims and use them to their political advantage. Israel and Hezbollah stand proxy for the larger cosmic conflict between good and evil no less than pure political goals.

The vast majority of believers, whether Christian, Muslim, or Jew, are unable to police the extremists within their ranks. The voice of moderation and reason takes centuries to work its will while the voice of apocalypse takes minutes to work its vision of necessary and required destruction. Dangerous religious beliefs lie deeply buried in the human psyche no matter what theory used to explain their efficacy.

Sam Harris, in his The End of Faith, states the blunt proposition that the world is too dangerous a place for religion to coexist with weapons of mass destruction. One finds ample evidence for the truth of his proposition as one watches events in the Middle East and listens to the political and religious leaders who see mass destruction as inevitable and desirable so as to achieve God’s plan and their personal political goals.

Those sitting on the sidelines have no reason to respect the merchants of massive destruction in the world’s large religions. Over two centuries of philosophy, science, and theology have come to naught while these fools control the governments of the world. One troubling part is that so many people who promote rational and secular approaches to these problems unwittingly take sides and further abet potential mass death and destruction.

Some from the Christian Right will say this is an unfair characterization of their beliefs. I respond by saying, take a look at the books, articles, and what is being preached from the pulpits of your mega-churches by your religious leaders. Look at your political ties on the national and international scene that blind you to things like negotiated settlements, not just for the crisis du jour, but the long term safety of everyone in the world.

Many have given up their faith that reason can make life better for everyone, or claim there was no such thing in the first place. That is the deadliest stance given the world’s most dangerous religious leaders train their youth to believe in violent settlement of all arguments, whether these leaders be in the US, Israel, Iran, Pakistan, or India. In our time, one should always question another’s religious motives to discover whether they are benign or destructive fundamentalist beliefs. Yes, humanitarian and altruistic instincts ride side by side with destructive tendencies, but the destructive tendencies always win out in a crisis.

Skepticism is a virtue.

Voice in the novel The Virginian

I've been studying math the past few weeks, so my reading has slowed considerably. In fact, I have not finished The Virginian yet. And that is what I want to talk about--The Virginian.

The story is told in the first person, yet the narrative turns to omniscient somewhere along the way. The narrator talks about things he could never have witnessed. He even gets inside the heads of several characters during those episodes in which he is absent.

I wonder if that writing faux pas will be reconciled by the end of the novel. If it isn't, then my hat is off to Owen Wister, the author, for pulling it off.

Damn, The Virginian is another one of those books that makes me wish I could write.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Reborn at the Great Library of Alexandria circa 300 B.C.

I imagine sitting in the Great Library at Alexandria with Euclid around 300 B.C. I speak his tongue and he speaks mine. I have Heath’s translation of Elements with me, plus the mathematics notes I’ve collected over the years.

I show Euclid modern treatments of geometry and numbers. He shows me his original Elements and the ancient texts it was based on. At night we go drinking for a spell at his favorite spots.

The days drift by that way for who knows how long. Then the fire engulfs the library again. Our collective notes are rescued along with Euclid’s Elements. Science is advanced by 2,300 years.

I am reborn in the Twentieth Century, but this time mathematics is all changed because of our notes. The mathematics I learn occasionally sends chills through me, I can’t explain, yet I remember none of my time with Euclid.

I die again. I am reborn at the time of Euclid. We collaborate on mathematics again at the Great Library, only this time we marvel at even more mathematical prodigies. Life continues in this cycle indefinitely with mathematics advanced by 2,300 years at each cycle of birth and rebirth.

One night Euclid and I are drinking at a local bar. We figure out what has been happening to us in past lives. We try to explain it to the other scholars of the Great Library who have joined us at the bar. They take our wine away and lead us to bed. The believe we are drunk. Besides, tomorrow is another work day at the Great Library.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Oh, the Corn

I am in Iowa. I know what your thinking: Lynn, how is the corn? The corn looks marvelous: tall, green, and with tassels top.

I went to the Brucemore Blues More Blues festival this evening. They hold the concert on the front lawn by the Brucemore Mansion, an old and venerated Cedar Rapids landmark and now a National Historical site. Room Full of Blues was the headline act. They kicked ass.

I was going to upload some pictures of Brucemore and corn. Oh well, you've seen corn before.

Tomorrow I'm visiting friends and going to the Cedar Rapids Kernels baseball game.


Friday, August 04, 2006

Off to Iowa

I'm off to Iowa tomorrow to see how the corn crop is doing this year. I will post from God's Country when time is available.

Have a good weekend, everybody.

A Plug for EPI

One of my favorite places to keep up with the latest economic information is the Economic Policy Institute. They provide snapshots and analyses of the latest economic trends from the working person's perspective, plus in depth coverage of the many issues facing the working people. The information, writing, and analysis is always presented in an easy to follow format.

Check it out.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Supreme Beauty

We all have our favorite math books. Well, some of us do. One of mine is Coxeter's Introduction to Geometry, a book I did not discover until after I got out of college. I did not discover Euclid until after college either. In fact, I wasn't much interested in geometry while taking math in college although I enjoyed my topology courses a lot. Coxeter and Euclid changed my mind about the subject. Coxeter's book is not really an introduction to geometry in the sense that Euclid's book is an introduction to geometry, or the course we took in high school is an introduction. You might call Coxeter's book an introduction to the geometry that follows Euclid--the geometry developed after Euclid.

Here is some of what Coxeter has to say about Euclid in Introduction to Geometry.
About 300 B.C., Euclid of Alexandria wrote a treatise in thirteen books called the Elements. Of the author (sometimes regrettably confused with the earlier philosopher, Euclid of Megara) we know very little. Proclus (410-485 A.D.) said that he "put together the Elements, collecting many of Eudoxus's theorems, perfecting many of Theaetetus's and also bringing to irrefragable demonstration the things which were only somewhat loosely proved by his predecessors. This man lived in the time of the first Ptolemy, [who] once asked him if there was in geometry any shorter way than that of the Elements, and he answered that there was no royal road to geometry." Heath quotes a story by Stobaeus, to the effect that someone who had begun to read geometry with Euclid asked him "What shall I get by learning these things?" Euclid called his slave and said, "Give him a dime, since he must make gain out of what he learns."

Coxeter prefaces his book with an oft quoted statement by Bertrand Russell.
Mathematics possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty--a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature ... sublimely pure, and capable of stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show.

Nobody has summarized the nature of mathematics better than that. One of the better parts of my life is that I got to study Euclid and Coxeter and some other good mathematics.

Alone with Euclid

Let's say I have been sentenced to spend the rest of my life alone on a desert island. I have been told I can take either Euclid's Elements or the Bible with me. I would take Euclid. Why?

I find it more entertaining, believable, and its propositions much better argued despite some of the flaws in the arguments and system. Besides, who wants to be reminded of people when you are doomed to spend the rest of your life alone? Plus, I've already been reminded enough about god to last me a lifetime.