Saturday, April 26, 2008

Fixed Already?!?

Well, the Verizon Customer Service Robot (yes, a literal robot*- not outsourced overly polite person around the world) promised our problem would be fixed by Monday, 6 pm- but here I am online already!! We had a good dial tone this morning, so perhaps they came late yesterday afternoon or something. Or maybe this is just a fluke, and it will die again, but I will enjoy a little online time while it lasts...

*I know, I know, it probably wasn't actually a robot, more of a computer. Let me have my fun imagining an R2-D2 like creature happily coaching me to repeat phrases like "there's a problem with that" or "that'll be fine." Such images bring a certain degree of levity to an otherwise dull and tedious situation.

We are moving to State College, PA at the end of June (?) because Nate accepted a postdoc job at Penn State. Yay!!!!! A job!! It's been a long search. I am very Pleased. Time to look for housing: Wish list:

*Two bedrooms, Living room, dining room, kitchen, 1 bathroom, ample closet space
*Balcony or patio or deck of some kind
*Dishwasher, gas stove
*Air conditioning
*Ideally, no more than $800/month, including heat

If anyone enjoys searching for such things and finds The Perfect Rental for us, let me know.

Happy Saturday!
Love, Neb

Friday, April 25, 2008


Attention, Nebiverse Fans!

We regret to inform you that the Nebicommunication Network is temporarily Out of Order due to Circumstances Beyond Our Control. (No phone! No internet! Great weeping.)

We shall return as soon as possible. (Hopefully Monday.)


(using kind friends' computer to send this)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

5 Fake Post!!

It's 3 in the morning. The Vermont Maple Syrup Cheesecake is now in the fridge, cooling.

I would like to go to bed!!

Love, Neb ;-)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

6 Our Trip to Montreal

Nate has a job offer in Montreal. After a year or so of looking, a real, honest-to-goodness JOB OFFER. :-)

Last Monday we packed our bags and headed North, for a quick visit so he could meet his potential employer. We decided fairly last minute when we would be leaving, so Monday morning I was poking around on the internet looking at hotels, and Nate suggested's "Name Your Own Price" offer. Now you have to understand something- overall I am not too much into "luxury" things. If you gave me a gift certificate for a day spa, I wouldn't know what to do with it. But I do like a nice hotel room. My inner cheapskate (who pretty much runs my financial life) won't allow anything above Motel 6 on a regular basis, but I figured, hey, why not try this name your own price thing? So I said that I wanted to stay in a 3-star hotel for $60 a night, thinking nothing would come of it.

And then priceline told me that they would put us here for $60 a night [normally $140!!], and I thought I had died and gone to Heaven.

Then I found out it had an indoor heated pool.

We started packing:

This is The Chicken in her carrying case.

We left around 2, I believe, and stopped several times along the way (little Chickens will do that to your driving habits, you know.) Nate and I both got hungry someplace in the wastelands of upstate New York (why is New York the only state I've ever heard of with an "up" part? No one talks about "upstate" Pennsylvania...), so I talked Nate into pulling off at an exit that advertised Food. Once we had exited, the signs happily announced food in either direction- only 4 miles! Ha. We drove for a little while and came to a... "town"? Does a small collection of houses, all asleep for the night, and one or two random industrial facilities comprise a Town? There was no McDonalds in sight, and in the true spirit of roadtrip joviality, I pestered my husband for a few minutes about the impossibility of an American community subsisting without a McDonalds, and how surely, there must be one... just around the next corner... after all, the signs DID promise food. He didn't share my optimism, however, so eventually we decided to return to the interstate and keep trucking. Note to self: 2 1/2 hours of Route 87 in NY have very little in the way of "facilities." Be prepared!

Eventually dinner was at Friendly's in Plattsburgh, NY, home of SUNY Plattsburgh, the usual assortment of chain retail facilities one finds in a college town, and not much else. Nate and I chowed down on some tasty hamburgers and ice cream, while Madelaine enjoyed a spoon (and the adoring attention of our waitress):

We crossed the Canadian border without incident and arrived in Quebec: home of seagulls, old snow, and hard-to-interpret pictorial road signs. We decided the picture of an open tin can and the judge's hammer coming down could only mean one thing: Tin cans must remain FIRMLY SEALED at all times in Quebec.

Upon arriving in Montreal, we promptly got lost. EXCUSE ME. My husband has never gotten... uh... The L Word. Rather, he was "exploring in a creative and nonlinear fashion an alternatively distanced route to our destination." We did get the chance to drive through a very nice suburb with some brick houses of varying architectural styles, which was the only non-downtown area I got to see while in the city. Upon arriving at our hotel, we were greeted by valet parking, warm chocolate chip cookies, and THESE fabulous looking beds:

And, yes- they were as comfortable as they look!

The next morning, Nate's potential employer picked him up so as to go visit the research center and things, and I stayed with the Chicken. The first order of business of the day was to find some Food- at home I normally eat breakfast first thing, but we didn't want to try to bring food across the border (too many rules! too much hassle to figure out!) So we had nothing in our room (except coffee; a blessing). The room service breakfasts were insanely expensive (disadvantage of Fancy Hotel: they assume you can afford to buy breakfast and thus don't serve free donuts in the lobby), so I decided to go downstairs to the restaurant to see if there was something little I could get "to go" back to my room. With the baby I realized it would be easier to just sit at a table, though, so I ended up ordering a lovely delicious breakfast that cost quite more than I'd care to think. Thankfully during this time, the baby's morning poop did NOT leak out of her diaper- because I'd left her diaper bag in our room, and I do not know how I would have coped with a blowout in such a fancy/ non-child-oriented area. (Everyone else there was a French-speaking adult in trendy clothes.)

After brunch we returned to our room, and the Chicken nursed to sleep for a nap while I tidied up a bit and checked out some local TV and a magazine featuring Montreal attractions. Right away I scoped out the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts: Free admission! On the same street as our hotel! (though a mile or two away). When Nate came back, he agreed we could go, so we set off to find the Metro station for a short subway trip. This turned out to be (to me) one of the most intimidating parts of the visit. I'm so glad Nate was with me. I don't know about you, but to me, learning to navigate public transportation in a new city is usually a mildly stressful event (and this is true even after using the systems in Chicago, Atlanta, DC, Houston, New York, etc.) But learning to use the public transit system when all the signs are in another language ranks up there as a Very Difficult Event, for me anyway. We were in the main Metro system downtown, and I think there was more than one train system going through the building (maybe longer distance commuter trains as well as local subway trains?). Also, the whole thing wasn't handicap accessible, and we had Madelaine's big stroller to wrestle around. Eventually we bought two tickets from a man at a booth, wrangled our way through some turnstiles, and boarded the correct train. We eventually arrived at the museum fairly late in the day, just about an hour before closing, but still had a nice time poking around the second floor of (what I think was) the smaller of the two buildings:(The other building, across the street, with the bookstore, which we also visited)

Here's Madelaine (on her 8 month birthday), enjoying her first museum visit:
Okay, it's getting late, so I'd better wrap this entry up. Hmmm... we ate dinner at a quirky little place near our hotel advertising an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet for 7.99; the buffet turned out to be rather meager, but the menu also featured fillet mignon. It had more than the usual sense of "atmosphere," too (or I guess the term I'm looking for is "ambience":

After dinner we bought some lovely pastries at the bakery next door. The next morning, we checked out and left for home.

A few more pictures for your enjoyment:

The view from our hotel room

If we end up moving here, it will be quite the adventure.

Love, Neb


I remembered today that I forgot to include a connecting paragraph in the post below to explain that I don't know how to explain the connection between the Definition of Topology and the Donut/Coffee Cup idea on the island.

Maybe I dropped out of grad school too soon.

Monday, April 14, 2008

7. Topological Ethics

Yesterday I was thinking about car insurance. You see, we might be moving to Montreal in a few weeks, and we have discussed the possibility of maintaining the lease on our apartment here so as to keep our address available to be used for things like car registration and insurance. I have certain misgivings about this arrangement- because generally they want to give you a quote based on "where your car is garaged at night" or some such phrase. (We have checked, and our car insurance company doesn't provide coverage for residents of Canada- although we are covered when visiting Canada.) I believe in being honest and Following the Rules in life in almost every area- for example, I've paid hundreds of dollars in taxes on my private tutoring money, when most everyone I know told me "You're crazy- the government has no record of your private tutoring- just don't report it." But there are a few things, like speeding and listening to copies of copywrited CD's, that I let myself get away with. I can be a champion Rationalizer- a real danger for conscientious living, indeed- but I had a mathematically euphoric moment yesterday when I realized that

Okay, back up for a second. Back to the insurance. This is what I've been thinking: If we were only going to visit Montreal for one week, we could keep PA insurance, no problems. Well, how about a month? Even if we rented an apartment in Montreal for a month, that wouldn't really matter. It would still be like a Visit. Well, how about a month and a day? Or two months? You see where I'm going with this. How about if we were itinerant mathematicians (or musicians, or ventriloquists... you get the idea.) What would be our "address" for insurance purposes, then?

So what I realized in my mathematically euphoric moment is that my rationalization scheme (in this particular case, at least) is really what Nate (an ardent amateur philophilosophist*) would call a "line-drawing fallacy," but what I would think of as a- for lack of a better more professional term- DEFORMATION EQUIVALENCE CLASS ANALYSIS of ETHICAL DILEMMAS.

What does this have to do with Topology, you may wonder?

(*This is arguably the most redundant phrase ever to appear on the Nebiverse. I basically just said that he's a lovingly loving lover of knowledge.)

Definition: Let X be a set. A Topology T on the set X is a collection of subsets of X that satisfies the following properties:
1) The empty set is in T.
2) Any finite intersection of sets in T is again in T.
3) Any arbitrary union of sets in T is again in T. ("Arbitrary" here means it can be the union of finitely many or infinitely many sets.)

Definition: Let X be a set with a topology T. Any set that is in T is called an "open" set.
Definition: A set is "closed" if its complement is "open."

As a good example, think of X as being the real numbers; the "standard" topology on the reals is defined as follows: Let S be a set of real numbers. S is an "open" set if, for every x in S, there exists a number y greater than 0 such that the interval (x-y, x+y) is contained in S.

The empty set and the whole set are both open and closed.
Many sets are neither open nor closed.


And from all this, mathematicians launch Topology. [The above was Page 1 of The Topology Textbook in Neb's Head, by the way. Did I get anything major wrong? It's late and I'm sleepy. Erratum should be reported to the management in the morning, with kindness and charity and coffee and some soft words, please. Thanks much. Also, a morning paper would be nice.] And the most popular Tourist Attraction in Topology is the quaint little island where it is determined that
A Coffee Cup And A Donut Are Really The Same Thing!!

because one can be Deformed continuously into the other.


The car insurance company's Rule cannot be upheld held up, because it can be continuously deformed into Oblivion. A flat line. The Null Rule. Therefore, I am at Peace.

And now, very sleepy.

Good night!
Love, Neb

Sunday, April 13, 2008

8. Dreams

Last night, I dreamed about Darfur.

In the dream, I told someone "I don't know what it would be like to live in Darfur." And suddenly I was there, and the unbearable tension of living in silence and terror of imminent violence was quite a shock. There were snipers, and we were frozen, waiting for them to shoot. Then one of them was captured, and a good person had the opportunity to harm him. "I could cut off his hand," he thought. "I could stop him from killing again." But just like in the movies, the burden of the moral dilemma was relieved entirely as the bad guy got killed fair-and-square while trying to escape.

Violence figures predominantly in my dreams. It is like the black-and-white photographic inverse of my life, a life varying in sanguine shades from rather mundane pleasantries to rollicking jovialities, pleasures like tonight's birthday celebration in the home of lovely friends and their family members. My real life is cake and ice cream and sunshine, which apparently encourages my subconscious to cook up a variety of stressful, bizarre, and occasionally gruesome nighttime entertainments in counterpoint. These dreams almost never bother me, though. I can't recall the last time I actually woke up frightened, or failed to manage to get up in the morning and shrug it off and drink some coffee. Often, too, I suppose, they aren't nearly as gory or traumatic as last night's episode, but just wildly quixotic escapades of mind and matter. We all dream of flying, I know, or forgetting to wear pants to school or missing our final exams. But the things I dream of just make me shake my head.

I am thankful for my daily life of flowers, for rainbows, for the tranquil daydreams that are my real life.

I don't know what it would be like to live in Darfur.