Happenings Apr 18

Once again it is about noon on Saturday. Not a whole lot has changed in a week. I am still planning to spend the weekend on wavelets.

Last weekend and this one have been different from my usual practice. I did not look at what was on my plate — my to-do list for math and blogging — at all last weekend, and I probably won’t look at it this weekend. Usually I am playing around with a few different kinds of mathematics, and a few choices of posts to put out here, so I keep looking at what things I might do.

But last weekend was devoted only to wavelet mathematics, and to the first wavelet post, and to the wavelet bibliography. There was no reason to look at anything else, whether mathematics or blogging — with the exception that I always get to start each day doing whatever mathematics the kid in me wants to do. (At least one morning, that was wavelets!)

I am still disappointed in the materials I have. The most recent source of frustration was a book with Matlab code which defines a matrix having J rows, and then saves something into the J+1 row. It’s conceivable that Matlab permits that (although I doubt it), but I wouldn’t write such code even if it were permitted. I have gone so far as to check the website for the book, and I have downloaded an electronic copy of their codes, and even the electronic copy — eight years after publication — shows the same flaw.

I suppose I should send an e-mail to one of the authors.

In any case, I want to get some working Mathematica code for a few simple wavelets. Oh, that is a change from last weekend: I did enough reading that I’m ready to try computing.

On a more pleasant note, my kid’s brief reading in spectral analysis last weekend sent me looking for an ancient book by Norbert Wiener. If there was a copy available, it was too expensive — I don’t actually recall whether I even found one. But I did find a technical biography of him, and I am reading it. Masani, P.R.; Norbert Wiener 1894-1964. Birkäuser, 1990. ISBN 3 76432246 2.

I am quite envious of his father’s linquistic genius: Leo Wiener spoke 40 languages. Let’s see. He lived in Russia until he was 13, but his father sent him to a Lutheran gymnasium; and that meant he learned German as well as Russian. He also learned the languages of culture, namely French and Italian; and he also got a classical education — Greek and Latin. At 13 he moved to Warsaw, so he learned Polish. At some point he found himself working with Serbian and Greek draftsmen, so he picked up Serbian and modern Greek. At 18 he sailed to the United States, learning English and Spanish on the voyage here. He ended up in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literature at Harvard, a full professor.

I was thrilled several years ago while hitchhiking in Greece to discover that my rusty, dusty one year of high school German was just barely sufficient — but sufficient! — to let me communicate with an Austrian couple who spoke no English.

40 languages. I am floored. I’ve struggled to get a little bit of 3 foreign languages. (Like Leo, I’ve had a classical education: Greek and Latin.)

Part of Norbert Wiener’s story is relevant to my blogging. During World War I, his father found him a job writing for the Encyclopedia Americana. Here is Wiener’s description:

“With all the shortcomings and unpleasant sides of hack writing, it was a wonderful training for me. I learned to write quickly, accurately, and with a minimum of effort, on any subject of which I had a modicum of knowledge.”

He eventually got into the U.S. Army during the war. (Given his vision and the lack of coordination, that’s amazing.) He was discharged in January 1919, and he took a job as a newspaper reporter, to tide him over until the fall, when he could return to academia. Cool.

My writing for these blog posts is hardly “with a minimum of effort”, and being accurate is all too slow a process. Oh, well, I’m sure I’ll get better.

Okay, it’s time to do math.

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