I’ve been suffering from terrible bronchitis for two weeks.  I can barely talk.  I had to cancel a planned colloquium.  I’m not even gonna try to describe what I’ve been coughing up.  The doctor couldn’t figure out if it was viral or bacterial, but gave me antibiotics anyway.

My laptop broke, the day before I had to give my time travel talk at QIP’2009 in Santa Fe (if you want to know what actually happened at the conference, see Dave’s blog or ask in the comments section).  First the fan started acting up—causing the machine to overheat and shut itself off whenever the computations got too complex; then the ‘G’ and ‘H’ keys became unreliable; and finally the hard disk went, taking much of my data along with it (though I recovered the most important stuff).  So I ran out and bought a new Toshiba laptop, which of course came preinstalled with Vista, which is not just said by everyone to suck but truly does suck.   (Though if you spend a day disabling all the new features, you can make it almost like XP.)

On the flight back to Boston from Santa Fe, the pressure drop during the descent, combined with my bronchitis, sent my ears into pain for days.

The shitty economy is no longer just an abstraction, as friends and close family members have lost their jobs.  I, the starving quantum complexity theorist, now feel like one of the last people I know with an income.  (Though MIT, like other universities, has lost much of its endowment and now faces serious hardships as well.)

But it’s all OK, because the competent guy is president now—even if he flubbed his Oath of Office (update: it seems most of the fault lies with Roberts (another update: Steven Pinker theorizes that the problem was Roberts’s reluctance to split an infinitive)).  He’s gonna fix everything.  Just give him a day or two.

Happy Barackday, everyone!

23 Responses to “Perspective”

  1. Blaise Pascal Says:

    In his defense, Justice Roberts flubbed it first.

  2. Ian Durham Says:


    I know how you feel in the general sense. I’ve had about an eighteen month run of similar annoyances. I feel like Charlie Brown at this point.

  3. John Sidles Says:

    Scott, at least your post has some fine set-up lines:

    … the machine overheats and shuts itself off whenever the computations got too complex …

    That’s what happens to my brain doing algebraic geometry!

    … if you spend a day disabling all [Vista’s] new features, you can make it almost like XP …

    That one I’m not even going to touch! 🙂

    Get well soon … hopefully the Inauguration will prove to be more curative even than chicken soup. 🙂

  4. milkshake Says:

    I find clarithromycin (aka Biaxin) particularly useful – it can deliver a noticeable improvement within the first day. Infections are frequently resistant to the common penicillin-class of antibiotics such as amoxicillin. The only with clarithromycin is that it makes ones tears (and saliva) taste bitter – I think its appropriate for times like these.

  5. KaoriBlue Says:

    Scott – Feel better!

  6. eyewitness Says:

    As far as who flubbed first, it was the President who jumped in too quickly, throwing the Justice off his rhythm…

  7. unbiased Says:

    As pointed out elsewhere, the real problem is that Obama had been rehearsing it in Arabic.

  8. Michael Bacon Says:

    What an incredible day Scott. Sorry you are feeling ill.

    Obama has so many challenges to try and meet in a single speech. I never thought I would see this in my lifetime.

    Wasn’t it wonderful that he mentioned atheists — even if with the softer label “non-believers.”

    BTW, he became President automatically by virtue of the Constitution at noon, notwithstanding that the oath had not yet been administered – so it doesn’t matter who flubbed up.

    Going forward, let’s not quibble with the man; let’s support his choices wherever we can. This is the moment and chance we’ve been hoping for. I wouldn’t want to have to sort out the problems with which he’s faced.

    Take care of yourself and feel better soon.

  9. Scott Says:

    John, Michael, Kaori: Thanks for the well-wishes! <cough, cough>

  10. eyewitness Says:

    If the antibiotics are not working, perhaps apple cider vinegar or garlic could speed up your recovery, Scott. I read it on, where you can find all sorts of natural home remedies. Many of them actually work! Hope you feel better soon.

  11. Scott Says:

    eyewitness: That sounds like a cure for vampires… 🙂

  12. Jon Cantwell Says:

    Regardless of what, if anything, it does for your immune system, I’ve always found that sort of thing to make me -feel- a hell of a lot better. Balsamic vinegar, too!

    Hope you feel better soon, and yes, today was a very, very good day.

  13. KaoriBlue Says:

    “If the antibiotics are not working, perhaps apple cider vinegar or garlic could speed up your recovery…”

    You know… this strikes me as a good approximation to the best Western medicine has to offer for treating most viral infections (well, maybe excluding lentiviruses). Kind of pathetic.

  14. Bilal Says:


    I hope you feel better. I too was coughing up quite a bit of god-knows-what once I got back in LA from New Delhi. I think bed-rest is the best remedy.
    Even though I am not a U.S. citizen, today I like other Americans was elated, and for the first time in many years was proud to be part of the American experience and dream. Finally after some forty odd years Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream is finally and gradually turning into reality.

  15. eyewitness Says:

    And without any harmful or undesirable sides effects except for garlic breath, which could be minimized if the cloves are chopped into tiny pieces and swallowed without chewing. You really can’t best nature.

  16. Captain Segfault Says:

    Get well soon!

    I generally take a few grams of vitamin C every few hours when I’m ill. I’m not sure it does anything, but it almost certainly doesn’t hurt.

  17. panos Says:

    The last thing that came out from Pandora’s box, was hope. This is what I remembered reading this post.
    So, I hope you get well soon Scott!

  18. math idiot Says:

    I watched Obama take an oath to formally become the next president of the US here in Hong Kong. After the oath, he made a speech in which he said he wanted to make US lead again. He meant to let US lead the world again if I didn’t hear him wrongly. I always wonder why the US always wants to lead the world.

    I only know that US led in and caused technology and science advancement. But I also know US also led us to global financial crisis and wars!

  19. matt Says:

    I hear there’s some free operating system written by a guy from Finland. Sounds pretty crazy to me, but I hear you can just download it for free. Maybe you could have used that if you didn’t like Vista?

    Nice talk, btw, but I don’t like Deutsch’s model too much. It seems kind of ad hoc. A more natural model might be to use path integral ideas. Define U_{c’,o’;c,o} to be a unitary interaction matrix between the closed (c) and open (o) curves (primes used for outgoing. Then the scattering matrix for the open bits would be sum_c U_{c,o’;c,o}. This does lead to non-unitary interaction for most choices of U which may be a bad thing, tho.

  20. John Sidles Says:

    The idea (if I grasp it correctly) that CCLs permit continuous quantum inputs to yield discontinuous quantum outputs calls to mind a classical dynamical analogue of this phenomenon, namely, what are called “non-collision singularities” in Newtonian gravitation; these include the (incredibly ingenious) orbital constructions of Xia and of Gerver.

    Readers of Shtetl Optimized who are interested in dynamical singularities, and whose cognition has been thoroughly mix-mastered by the combined effects of antibiotics, garlic, and Nyquil cough syrup, may find pleasurable distraction in gazing at Eugene Butikov’s Collection of Remarkable Three-Body Motions.

    Have fun, and get well soon, everybody! 🙂

  21. Jonathan Vos Post Says:

    Get well soon (modulo a low-degree polynomial “soon”).

    Last week I had lunch with some Caltech alumni. Last time I did, I had stories of how great my teaching was. This time I had to explain how I suddenly became unemployed, with my back-up employment also stalled.

    This is a networking lunch, with some of us job seeking and some hiring. However, this time (for the first time I recall since coming to Caltech in 1968) there were several of us, including the organizer, who’d suddenly been laid off, from about Thanksgiving through New Years.

    When we went around the table (outdoors, as we were in a record 10-day over 80 F. January heatwave) and introduced ourselves, I put a positive spin on the economic situation by saying how wonderful it was that we were in such solidarity with millions of Americans in the worst job market since 1945.

  22. Ian Durham Says:

    OK, so now I feel like an idiot since I forgot to wish you well. I was thinking it, so does that count?

  23. Louis Wasserman Says:

    My new laptop came with Vista, and I’ve been absolutely satisfied with a Linux dual-boot install.