Happy Belated Birthday, Tom Lehrer

The GoogleBlog points out that Tom Lehrer has just just had his 80th birthday. Many happy returns, sir.

We live in a world focused on celebrity, but there are also luminaries -- those guiding lights who actually inspire celebrities along with the rest of us. Today there's a luminary we'd like to call out: Tom Lehrer. It hasn't escaped our attention that Mr. Lehrer turned 80 last week. (We have it on good authority that his view of numbers is such that 80 is not so different than 79, so he probably won't mind this belated note.) We think he's great. We're fans.

Mr. Lehrer is the Harvard mathematician turned parodist songwriter-performer whose sense of humor, intelligence and rhythm created a cult following that, weirdly enough, anticipated a lot of what Google's culture tries to be about. His work is clever, playful and fun and connects things in ways that surprises, delights and inspires. (Consider "The Element Song", his ode to the periodic table, or his lesson on "New Math".) How could we not be inspired by someone who can craft a good laugh, a great tune, and an elegant equation?

From "The Masochism Tango" to "Who's Next" to "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" (trust us, you have to hear it), Mr. Lehrer's unique music carved out a distinctive place in popular music in the 1950s and '60s. He made his fans feel smart. An entrepreneur -- and we like entrepreneurs -- he self-produced and sold his songs via mail order. And for all the edginess in his humor, he ended up writing some ten clever songs for the '70s public television children's program The Electric Company, including a tune about the letter 'e.'

Although Wikipedia notes that he performed only 109 shows and wrote just 37 songs over 20 years, we think his impact and influence goes well beyond those numbers. He was the best kind of "geek" before the word made its way into pop culture. He's the kind of character as comfortable teaching a university course on the history of the musical -- which he did -- as running a seminar on the nature of mathematics -- which he did.

We hope that in retirement Mr. Lehrer is enjoying himself even a fraction as much as we've enjoyed his work. We're grateful that he's such a great example of how science, humor, music and mathematics can be combined to create such wonderful things.

Via Iqag Notes we have this performance.

Lack of Posts

I've not posted much of late. I've just not felt the urge. There's a bit of a malaise at murky internet HQ. It's not as if I've had nothing to say, not least of which is to do with the incompetence surrounding the seemingly never-ending data losses (why should a low-ranking civil servant have the ability to download 25 million records at once? It's reasonably trivial to limit access so they can get records only one at a time - This has never been explained). I don't have a problem with the 'people make mistakes' - I do have a problem with the systems allowing this particular mistake.

I think it's the end of year lull. I'm always a little underwhelmed with December. It's all the forced jollity and people buying things for people which the recipient doesn't really want, only to receive back something they don't really want. It seems so futile.


Then there's New Year.

New Year is never an event in and of itself for me, as it's tied up with my Birthday. This means I each affects the other. When I was a kid, the stroke of midnight got me the bumps - by pissed people. I've hit the ceiling a few times! Also, New Year and Birthday sort of roll together, I envied people who could have a birthday at some point mid year...

These days I've managed to foster the rule that my birthday doesn't start until after sleep happens, but everything is still tied up somehow.

This year I'm 35.

So, what do I do on my birthday? So far, have a cup of tea, look at the internet and have another cup of tea.


It's My Birthday!

Happy Birthday to me! I wrote this post back in September (1st sept, to be exact), when I was playing with future posting after movable type got an upgrade. I intended to leave the post for a bit to check that it DIDN'T get posted early, and then delete it. Obviously I forgot about it and didn't delete it. At the time I thought this might happen, so I picked a suitable date for it to go out on, a date when I could say something useful in case this happened. So happy birthday me!

Speaking of forgetting, did you forget my birthday? Don't worry, I accept gifts at any time of the year.

I'd be surprised if that blatant pointer bore fruit. Still, we live in hope.


Just to help people out who might be struggling to think what we might like... especially in my case as I have a birthday coming up too. We don't want, or need, any 'stuff'. Big/bulky things would probably find their way to the loft - our place is tiny and we've outgrown it. For any multi millionaires out there, a bigger house would be good, realistically that's not likely to happen.

We have the usual amazon wishlists on the go (maintained throughout the year as a handy place to store things for our own reference). My wishlist is here and Monica's is here