So, not Manzano … but who?

(For new readers: in our math logic reading group, we are working through Maria Manzano’s Model Theory, as a warm-up exercise to tackling Hodges’s Shorter Model Theory.)

Writing logic books involves all kinds of comprises and trade-offs between approachability and absolute precision, between breadth and depth; and all kinds of decisions have to be made about coverage, the amount of more philosophical commentary that you give, and so on and so forth. It is, as I found writing my two logic books, a horribly difficult business making sensible decisions — which is not to say that there is just one way of getting them right. So I’m now pretty reluctant to get too critical (am I mellowing with age?). Still, I have to say that I’ve come to think that Manzano’s book really isn’t terribly good. I certainly wouldn’t recommend anyone following our example, and using the book. True, Manzano is not at all well served by her translator, but that’s only a small part of it: key ideas are far too often just not sufficiently well-motivated and clearly explained. Which is a pity because there are certainly some nice sections. But it is all too uneven in execution to be the helpful introductory guide we were looking for. Though it is certainly not obvious who, at this sort of level, we should have been reading instead.

I hereby bag the title Model Theory without Tears: A Philosophical Introduction for the book which my counterpart in some more or less close possible world is beginning to wonder about writing before the equally not-yet-started Ordinals, Cuts and Consistency. Choices, choices.

Callas, Tosca … and YouTube

There are some astonishing finds on YouTube, amongst all the trivial dross. Someone — no doubt breaking all sorts of copyright law, but in what a cause! — has posted the whole of the astonishing 1964 television film that was made of Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi in the second act of Tosca at Covent Garden, in seven parts. The first two parts 1, 2, are followed by the torture scene 3, 4, then 5 , followed by Vissi d’arte, and finally the last ten minutes of the act.

The style is indeed from a different era … yet the visceral impact remains however many times you see these legendary performances (past their vocal prime though, by all accounts, Callas and Gobbi were). Words fail me. Except to say that, if you have never seen this film, you must and now can. (Start with Vissi d’arte, then backtrack to watch the whole in sequence.)

More books — free this time

In his nice blog, Words and Other Things, Shawn Standefer helpfully notes that CSLI publications have digitalized their backlist, and put the PDFs online for free here. The list includes e.g. Peter Aczel’s Non-well-founded sets, Jon Barwise and Lawrence Moss’s Vicious circles: on the mathematics of non-wellfounded phenomena, and other very good things.

Leopard, second impressions

I’m still dosed up to the eyeballs and so finding it annoyingly difficult to concentrate on work. I am supposed to be thinking more about issues related to ACA0 — especially as I’m due to talk about this sort of stuff at Dan Isaacson’s seminar in Oxford in a couple of weeks. I certainly hope that normal brain functioning is restored sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, apologies for the consequent lack of any very interesting content here recently!

Still, I’ve been able to play with Leopard more than perhaps I’d have otherwise been able to. I’m still rather impressed. As well as the obvious things, there are lots of neat little improvements. To mention just one, being able to write yourself notes and handle reminders inside Mail turns out to be just very useful (more so than I’d have ever predicted). Of course, it is all very sad to get excited about things like that. But there it is. I’m sure I’ll get better soon.

Spread the word!

Ah well, sales for the first three months of the Gödel book are not exactly on a Harry Potter scale. But my editor does seem reasonably pleased. Still, sales in North America are (proportionally) nowhere near as good as those in the UK and Europe. So c’mon, people, some serious spreading the word is needed out there! The Gödel book is terrific: every grad student should have a copy, and every library should have three …. You know it makes sense.

Ray Gravell

Ray GravellI was sad to read that Ray Gravell, a stalwart of the great Welsh team of the 1970s, has died. Reading some of the obituaries brought back memories of those glory days. Here are J.P.R. Williams, Gerald Davies, Ray Gravell and Steve Fenwick. What heroes!

Leopard, first impressions

Leopard arrived today, in its rather cool box. And I installed it by the book — the book in question being the useful, confidence-inspiring, and very inexpensive e-book Take Control of Upgrading to Leopard. So I used SuperDuper! to clone my MacBook Pro’s hard-disk onto a bootable external drive (well, two different ones actually), did an “erase and install” of Leopard, and then used the set-up assistant to migrate all my files back from one of the external drives. Doing things the longest way round like this, the whole business, after the initial cloning, took about two and a half hours. But much better safe than sorry. (The only hiccup was that the installer initially took a long term to recognize the presence of my laptop’s hard disk, which would have been distinctly alarming, had I not seen talk of the phenomenon on MacRumors. And apart from losing the Cisco VPN Client — the university computer services say they’ll have a Leopard-compatible replacement available in a day or so — everything seems to be working again just fine.)

What strikes you first, of course, is some of the eye-candy — e.g. the new dock, semi-transparent menu bar and menus, the folder icons. Quite a few mac reviewers have hated all these (e.g. see the ars technica review which is very informative about the under-the-bonnet improvements). Well, I’m all for the dock and I quite like the semi-transparent menu bar; the transparent menus are I think are far too transparent; and the “recycled cardboard” folder icons seem quite out of keeping with the space-age look of the rest of the UI. Or at least, that’s my two-pennyworth. And it is only worth about that much fuss (especially as my bet is that these things will be subtly adjusted in an early update for Leopard). Otherwise, the cleaned-up look of the windows across the system is all pretty neat, and the new Finder windows are that bit more useful. On the whole, things look terrific.

Still, looks aren’t everything: here are four things I instantly really like about Leopard, and which even just by themselves make the upgrade worthwhile:

  1. The whole system is consistently quite a bit snappier (e.g. one bounce and iCal with seven calendars is open, similarly for Mail).
  2. Cover Flow and Quick Look are amazingly useful, as well as very pretty. For example, I have a folder into which I park PDFs and other documents as I download them. I can now just instantly browse through the folder to see what is in the various documents without opening the relevant application(s), and can eventually file them away or trash as appropriate.
  3. Spaces is a very nicely implemented way of getting much cleaner work-spaces. I’m an immediate convert. (One space for Safari, Mail, etc.; another space for TeXShop windows; etc. Very uncluttered.)
  4. Time Machine is wonderful. I was already pretty good about cloning my hard disk to a pair of external drives, one at home and one at work. But inevitably you do foul up and accidentally delete stuff. So I’ve set up a new big external drive to be an automatic Time Machine archive whenever I’m in my little study at home (drives have become so cheap, there’s no reason at all not to err on the side of caution — it would just be too painful now to lose everything): and I will still carry on cloning onto the other drives. Feels very virtuous!

Worth waiting for (and it can only get better).

G. C. Lichtenberg

Fellow local blogger James Warren recently posted a seemingly depressing list of “top books” listed on Cambridge students’ Facebook pages. But I’d not be too downhearted. Probably the moral is: don’t believe all you read in Facebook entries! I know that when I was still a college fellow and “director of studies” and so able to get to know a few students very well over their three years here, I’d repeatedly be surprised when they eventually opened up about the books that they really loved and which meant something to them. I learnt a lot that way, about the students themselves, and about books too.

Just a couple of weeks ago — I can’t at all recall how it came up — one of our graduate students warmly recommended to me the Hollingdale translation of excerpts from Georg Christoph Lichtenberg’s The Waste Books. I got a copy: this version is quite new to me, and is a real delight. I had a much shorter collection of excerpts translated by Franz Mautner and Henry Hatfield almost forty years ago; and I first came across the aphorisms and their author in a favourite book that I had when a student, J. P. Stern’s Lichtenberg: A Doctrine of Scattered Occasions. But the pleasure of re-discovery after a good few years is enormous. Warmly recommended.

Scroll to Top