Archive for May, 2009

Borges, the Argentine

Posted in Uncategorized on May 30, 2009 by quantummoxie

I am reading the much maligned Andrew Hurley translation of the collected fictions of Jorge Luis Borges, one of my favorite writers. I have not yet sat down and compared, side-by-side, his translation of some of Borges’ more indelible works such as The Circular Ruins, but I have done some reading on Hurley’s translation. In particular, I read Hurley’s own account of the process. Having done so, I, at the very least, gained respect for Hurley’s methods while still withholding judgment on the end result.

I have now completed nearly three-quarters of the book and have come to a realization regarding Borges that adds credence to Hurley’s work. English-language fans of Borges (many of whom are physicists and mathematicians) tend to list many of his more mystical stories as their favorites – works such as the aforementioned The Circular Ruins, Death and the Compass, and The Zahir. Indeed, these are some of my favorite stories and, as with many English-language fans, were my introduction to Borges. But when one reads his full, collected fictions one finds that a good deal of his writing – perhaps the majority of it – deals with Argentina and related South American themes. These works, such as Man on Pink Corner, are less mystical but more violent. They are rich in the history of Argentina, especially Buenos Aires, with gangs, knife fights, gauchos, love triangles, and death. While they may not be my favorite stories, they are, to me, the ones that define Borges.

This, then, brings up the nature of Hurley’s translation. If nothing else, Hurley delved into the context within which the stories were written. While many people found his endnotes annoying (they’re just asterisks – you can ignore them), they supply the needed background for people unfamiliar with Argentine history and geography. One of the most criticized translations in Hurley’s volume was the title Funes, The Memorious which Hurley translated as Funes, His Memory. It certainly seems to lack the imaginative word-smithing we come to expect of Borges. But Hurley defends his translation by saying the Spanish word used for ‘memorious’ or ‘memory’ was not unusual to a Spanish speaker. So why translate it to something – memorious – that isn’t even a word in English? This raises the question of whether or not the English-language translators have created a certain literary persona that isn’t entirely accurate. While it might help to read the di Giovanni translations that Borges himself assisted with, it nonetheless seems that translators prior to Hurley have missed that Argentine essence that is at the heart of Borges, the man.

As I said, I will reserve full judgment until I compare some of the translations. But, from what I have read so far, I think that some of the criticism of Hurley has been unfounded and I think we have missed the genuine Borges in many ways over the years.

Apparently Google worships satan – but they have “exquisite taste”

Posted in Uncategorized on May 22, 2009 by quantummoxie

Some people will find conspiracy in absolutely everything.

Those Google “doodles” that sometimes adorn the search giant’s homepage with clever variations on the company logo might be cute, but take a closer look. Critics charge that it’s possible to see in the sketches Google’s disdain for (take your pick) America, Muslims, Christians, Christmas, and creationism.

Looking back though [sic] the doodles, we’re most impressed not with how controversial they are but with how far they’ve come (see two designs on the right). Early drawings from 1999 look like something quite possibly thrown together by Larry or Sergey during a coffee break; 2009’s images, by contrast, are real works of art.

They are also surprisingly eclectic. What other company would celebrate René Magritte’s birthday, Dr. Seuss, and the Large Hadron Collider? If these are Satanists, they’re Satanists with exquisite taste.

Read the full article here.

Some fish pictures

Posted in Uncategorized on May 19, 2009 by quantummoxie

Done a lot of fishing this spring.  Here are a sampling of pictures.

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American tax dollars at work

Posted in Uncategorized on May 16, 2009 by quantummoxie

So where exactly are those billions of stimulus dollars being spent?  Well, in New Hampshire, it seems some is being spent on graphic designers and sign-makers (note that they also held an enormous press conference next to this sign one day as I drove past).

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On the more local level, I was embarrassed to see the following on my town’s website the other day (Mainers are usually more intelligent than this).  We apparently spend our tax money on scaring children and families:

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Quantum reading list

Posted in Uncategorized on May 9, 2009 by quantummoxie

At the APS March Meeting I won $100 in free books from Wiley.  Of course, in this day and age $100 barely gets you a single book.  Nonetheless, I recently cashed in my prize and (amazingly) the next day (or maybe it was two days later) the book arrived at my door.  Anyway, the book I chose is Quantum Paradoxes: Quantum Theory for the Perplexed by Yakir Aharonov and Daniel Rohrlich.  One reason is that I am intrigued by Aharonov and Rohrlich’s idea of using paradoxes in a creative pedagogical way.  Of course I just finished teaching QM for this semester, but will be teaching it again next spring so I’ll try to see what ideas they might have for incorporating paradoxes into a QM course.  The book appears unique in that it includes problem sets much like a textbook though really couldn’t serve as an actual text for a QM course.  The main text that I used this semester is the forthcoming text by Ben Schumacher and Michael Westmoreland that should be released by Cambridge University Press this fall.  I will post a more thorough review of that book soon but will say that I plan to use it again next year.

Random thoughts and links for 5/7/09

Posted in Uncategorized on May 7, 2009 by quantummoxie
  • Say it ain’t so!  Manny Ramirez has been suspended for 50 games for taking a banned substance supposedly subscribed by his physician.  I’ve always liked Manny and, in particular, had always thought it was great that he had such success while never getting tied up in all the doping crap.  With that said, I think MLB and the NFL need to revisit their policies.  Drugs should be banned, but they need to find a way to not punish these guys for certain prescription medications.  Heck, my mother is prescribed steroids now and then for her asthma and allergies (prednizone, if I spelled it correctly).  I have no great love for people like Barry Bonds who so obviously doped.  But there has to be a way to differentiate.
  • Maine passed a gay marriage bill that was signed by the governor within minutes.  We become only the second state to legalize gay marriage via the legislative process.  It faces a ‘people’s veto’ this fall, but I’m hopeful that we won’t end up like California.  Maine is very much a ‘live and let live’ sort of state.  Long live pragmatic libertarianism.
  • I’m a huge fan of the TV show Lost.  Go ahead, laugh.  I don’t care.  I love it.  It’s brilliant.  And, I have blogged about the time-travel thing in the past.  But I think they’re actually exploring something I have examined in one of my papers!  Some of the castaways are on what amounts to a closed time-like curve while interacting with other folks who are on a normal, linear time.  I discuss aspects of this in the aforementioned paper.  As a way to visualize this I included the following diagram.  It serves as a way to eliminate some (though not all) of the associated paradoxes.  Keep in mind that relativity, which is founded on the notion of preserving causality, allows for these things.

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    Dispelling Kempian myths

    Posted in Uncategorized on May 5, 2009 by quantummoxie

    In the past few days a lot has been said about Jack Kemp, not all of which has been kind (see the comments section of this article).  While I did not agree with him on many of his views, he was an honorable man.  You can take the word of Larry Felser or Gregg Easterbrook, or you can read Kemp’s own words in an open letter to his 17 grandchildren.