## Wednesday, March 30, 2011

### At the gate.

A spot in Middle Earth, eh?

Hmmm...

There might be much to say about Dor Firn-i-Guinar --- the "Land of the Dead that Live" a name that should resound in the hearts of all werewolves --- only we don't hear much about it as a place beyond that there are Ents living nearby at the time. I'd very much like to do a post about a spot I can only call Annon Torech Ungol, which I wrote about obliquely here, and Meredith here. Alas, I haven't got that volume handy just now.

So I'll have to try at two snatched hints at the texts... I've read it too often, but I can't be sure of memory!

"Now where's that Gollum got off to? I used to think he was after food, but I don't think that can be the case here. Not unless there's some sort of rock he fancies." ...

Frodo laughed; such a sound as had not been heard in that part of the world since ... Sam was suddenly quiet, worried almost as if the very stones had ears. But Frodo laughed again ...

... someone else will have to supply the precise words, if they like. Now, it's bad enough that the place would be lifeless in itself, But can you imagine? Somewhere no-one had ever laughed? And this is also a much-used highway. There are tales of doomed prisonners cheering eachother with jokes at Auschwitz and Dachau. In this place, it was Frodo and Sam.

That's my locus.

UPDATE

I've got my book back, and here are the proper texts:

In a dark crevice between two great piers of rock they sat down: ...
[Sam:] 'There's a wicked feeling about this place.' He sniffed. 'And a smell, I fancy. Do you notice it? A queer kind of smell, stuffy. I don't like it.'

'I don't like anything here at all,' said Frodo, 'step or stone, breath or bone. Earth, air and water all seem accursed. But so our path is laid.'
...

'... I wonder if we shall ever be put into songs or tales. We're in one, of course; but I mean: put into words, you know, told by the fireside, or read out of a great big book with red and black letters, years and years afterwards. And people will say: "Let's hear about Frodo and the Ring!" and they'll say "Yes, that's one of my favourite stories. Frodo was very brave, wasn't he, dad?" " Yes, my boy, the famousest of hobbits, and that's saying a lot."'

'It's saying a lot too much,' said Frodo, and he laughed, a long clear laugh from his heart. Such a sound had not been heard in those places since Sauron came to middle-earth. To Sam suddenly it seemed as if all the stones were listening and the tall rocks leaning over them. But Frodo did not heed them; he laughed again. ...

... 'You and I, Sam, are still stuck in the worst places of the story, and it is all too likely that some will say that this point: "Shut the book now, dad; we don't want to read any more."'

'Maybe.' said Sam, 'but I wouldn't be one to say that. Things done and over and made into part of a the great tales are different. Why, even Gollum might be good in a tale, ...

'Gollum!," he called. 'Would you like to be the hero---now where's he got to again? There was no sign of him...

'I don't like his sneaking off without saying,' said Sam. 'And least of all now. He can't be looking for food up here, not unless there's some kind of rock he fancies. Why, there isn't even a bit of moss!'

Goodness me! but it's quite a bit thicker, what with trying to keep enough of the structure/context. I particularly like the internal contrast with a cozy fireplace; you might think it made the present place feel more desolate, but I find it actually softens the mood. It is as if our hobbit heroes actually conjure up some coziness for themselves with these innocent diversions.

## Saturday, March 5, 2011

### So, you're wasting time with the internet...

(If you're here, you must be!)
... and this Batty fellow keeps intruding with things you tried to forget that you never learned because of how terribly dull your course on matrices in linear algebra was, or is...

So, yeah, I do topology. In fact, algebraic topology. One of the things I like about algebraic topology is that sometimes you get to draw nice pictures. OK, so I can't draw worth your trouble, but it's fun anyways. Maybe Emacs or someone will make better pictures.

One more nifty thing about the pictures you can draw in topology is that they're useful for other parts of math, too, like group theory. And this is a big deal! There are some Nice and Easy-to-Describe topological spaces that "know" how to calculate things that we can't calculate. This is part of what makes algebraic topology difficult, but also part of why it's exciting. And if we're lucky, sometimes they give us help understanding the things we can calculate. In particular, being able to describe a calculation by drawing a picture can help us lots.

That's my introduction to