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The Cat Speaks
Miss Kitty's Words of Wisdom
Matrix prequel? Don't bother! 
5th-Jul-2003 09:15 am
staring
I stayed up all night reading The Matrix: Computations, by the Watchkowskii Brothers (Golub and Van Loan, aka Click and Clack). I heard that a lot of people thought the second movie was too slow and had "too many words". I can only assume that people who said that went home and washed their minds out with Laura Croft: Tomb Raider, something by Long Dong Silver, or maybe a round or two of golf on the PC. Obviousy, I'm not a part of that crowd. I liked The Hours, even, so I hope you understand what I mean when I say that The Matrix: Computations was all words and almost no action.

With nearly 700 pages, I expected there to be some good gun battles or car chases or fist fights. I expected to read something about how the Matrix started or have a young Oracle steal a few scenes. After about 500 pages, I have to admit that my expectations dropped. I would have been happy to have read some dialogue. What were the Watachowski Brothers thinking? If you don't believe me, here is a sample. I randomly pulled it from page 449.
These connections to the symmetric eigenproblem allow us to adapt the mathematical and algorithmic developments of the previous sections to the singular value problem. Good references for this section include Lawson and Hanson (1974) and Stewart and Sun (1990).

See, this is just talking down to the reader. If you make a clever reference, and I don't think they did, you don't tell the reader "I just made a clever reference. Go look it up right now so you can appreciate how smart and erugated we are." This happens on pretty much every page, and then every so often they have a page or three of references for that section!

You have to trust me when I say it gets worse. It's even lacking the philosophy that The Matrix is known for. Sure, they talk about "efficiency" and "communications cost" and "theory", but it's just not up to the usual Watchedpotski level. Plus, the last 60 pages
are nothing but shameless name dropping. I guess they thought that people like Aki Bjork (singer), Jim Demmel (inventor of a kind of drill and other useful tools) , and John Wilkinson (inventor of polynomials) would lend some of their cool to the story, but it was too little, too late.

I can't believe this came from Johns Hopkins Press. They are reputable publishers, and I can't imagine that they would want a stinker like this with their name on it. I'm also angry at the SIAM Review. I'm part Siamese, and I think running the academic journal for the breed carries a pretty heavy responsibility. Shame on you, SIAM Journal!

All things considered, this is a book that I won't even sit on. I'll probably still try other Wachkerenski books, movies, and food products, though.

Comments 
5th-Jul-2003 02:11 pm (UTC)
I am reminded of another seminal review, namely The Story About Ping.
5th-Jul-2003 09:19 pm (UTC)
That book went way over my head. I thought it was a story about a ducky. That's why I don't use Unix.
5th-Jul-2003 06:35 pm (UTC)
I am so glad to find a book reborer who is willing to stand up to the SIAM journal. They have in sooth gone unquestioned for too long!

Do you like squid?
5th-Jul-2003 09:23 pm (UTC)
Squid? I don't think I've tried that. I'll add it to my list as number 2, just below monkey.
5th-Jul-2003 09:33 pm (UTC)
Ooh! Ooh! Liquid monkeys are the best! The most fun you can have in a barrel (TM). (Lemurs can't get into all the corners, is why.)
5th-Jul-2003 09:39 pm (UTC)
So you can get this "liquid monkey" in a store? If it comes in a barrel, it must come from Costco or something like that. Can you get a smaller can of it? If I don't like it, I don't want a whole barrel sitting around until it goes bad.
5th-Jul-2003 09:54 pm (UTC)
Actually I liquify my own monkeys, with a home monkey liquification kit. The trick is to spoon in a cup or so of good quality ice cream, 'cos it makes them happy.

Pretty much if you want fun in a barrel you have to put it there yourself. Nothing in this world is prebarrelled. Except for things that are.

Ooh, I just had an idea, you could toss in some squids as well, and get tentacular liquid monkeys! Ooh ooh!
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5th-Jul-2003 09:37 pm (UTC)
erugated

Is that really a word?

I tried looking up erugated in the The Oxford English Dictionary, but it said Sorry but there are no domains that match your search criteria. I was pretty sure that was a word. Doesn't it mean educated? Maybe I'm wrong. Every so often, I'll confiscate two words.

Demmel

Dremmel

From page 649:

J.W. Demmel (1983). "The Condition Number of Equivalence Transformations that Block Diagonalize Matrix Pencils," SIAM J. Numer. Anal. 20, 599-610.


There's SIAM again. They must think this book is really something.
5th-Jul-2003 09:59 pm (UTC)
Hey, I have a matrix pencil that needs block diagonalizing! I was trying to do it with a thermometer. Maybe I should use an equivalence transformation instead! Or a pope.

Which popes do you think have the biggest condition numbers? Or do you prefer to stay out of religious debarks?

PS Watch out for J. Numer. Anal. Oral numerology is bad enough.
5th-Jul-2003 10:49 pm (UTC)
I don't know much about condition numbers, but I know that Jim Demmel's first try at a Ph.D. thesis (back in 1981) involved calculating relative and absolute condition numbers for all of the popes. I think Pius XII had the hightest relative condition number and Urban II had the highest absolute condition number. For some reason, he had to do a second thesis about "Jordan Canonical Form," which also sounds like it has to do with religion.

I thought J. Numer. Anal. was about pooping. That explains why they sent my article back with a note asking that I never contact them again.
5th-Jul-2003 10:58 pm (UTC)
I hate it when that happens.
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6th-Jul-2003 03:32 pm (UTC)
I should point out right now that I don't have any human blood in my family tree, and I think it is totally outrecuidance that you would make such an insimulation (look it up -- it's not a maledictism)!
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