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Nicolas Robidoux
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More applied than mathematician
More applied than mathematician

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Birthday wishes

"Was saving this for another birthday, but it seems topical, so here goes:
A long time ago, I became a Buddhist. A bad Buddhist. But a Buddhist nonetheless.
Now, one of the key teachings is that we all die alone and sad.
The odd thing is that accepting that we all die alone and sad makes one feel less alone and sad.
So, I don't really worry about dying alone and sad.
And I try not to live alone and sad."

The long and winding road to tooth brushing
-----
While drawing down her candy stash, 7YO asks:
"When will I watch Octonauts on your telephone?"
I answer:
"After brushing your teeth."
"We only need to brush teeth once a day."
"No: We're supposed to do it twice a day."
"No we don't. Once a day is enough."
After some back and forth, I pause to think.
"Let's ask Google."
(Tap tap tap.)
"Google says 'The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth at least twice a day.'"
After some discussion regarding the meaning of "at least":
"I can brush my teeth tonight. Once a day is enough."
I try the "when-then" technique:
"When you have brushed your teeth, you will watch Octonauts on my telephone."
"Why can't I watch Octonauts first?"
Broken record technique:
"When you have brushed your teeth, then you will watch Octonauts on my telephone."
After some more back and forth, I pause to think.
I decide to try "Ce qui est bon pour pitou est bon pour minou" (what is good for doggie is good for kitty). I stand up and announce:
"I'm brushing my teeth."
When done brushing my teeth:
"7YO, come brush your teeth!"
She comes, right away.
"Can you help me brush my teeth?"
I oblige.
-----
No Octonauts. She's preparing and practicing a magic trick.

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In the following story, I will use the more compelling pronoun "I" even though the only important thing about who "I" is is that it could be you.
"About a year ago, I started feeling a new type of tiredness.
Hard to pin down how different from the usual exhaustion this was. But, in a subtle but nonetheless "real" way, it felt different. For one thing, I did not seem to be able to work quite as hard.
I researched andropause.
I researched depression.
No clear fit.
I also seemed to get sick more often, and be "out" for longer periods; it's hard to tell what is what with young children.
I took an unplanned vacation to ward off burn out.
There were old and new life difficulties to deal with, and I wondered if I just was reacting to them; or simply getting old.
And then, one day, I recognized it: This felt like I imagine my mother might have felt when undiagnosed cancer was eating at her and she made an emotional call for help which I did not immediately respond to, for the simple reason that it was not clear what it was about and I was a young man trying to build his own life.
Nonetheless, there was something about "eaten from the inside" that seemed recognizable, something that I appeared to have made a record of on that long ago afternoon walk.
That's the thing: I had no reason to feel like there was a feeling to recognize there, but I really felt that I did.
And then it faded.
How do you go to your doctor and say: "I think I have cancer because the other day I felt like I think my late mother felt when I think she had undiagnosed cancer a million years ago"?
Well, you don't.
You find excuses: too busy, too much to do to waste time on hypochondria, go out and have fun, love your children, pay bills, read self-help books, do laundry, figure out what's going on in your couple, stretch more, finish the code...
Some time later an ambulance takes you to the emergency room."

Does not really matter if it's cancer, or heart disease (got an itchy scalp?), or diabetes, or depression.
Or hypochondria.
If something does not feel quite right, talk to a doctor.
-----
Turns out there is a happy ending. But this is another story.

The "You've got to be kidding" compiler message of the day:

Space exceeded in Data Dependence Test

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Thank you  Alexandre Prokoudine and former student, whoever you are. Made my day.
Random +Nicolas Robidoux sighting in the wild:

"It's so weird whenever I hear my old discrete math teacher mentioned wrt. Gimp on random parts of the internet. First time he told our class that he was a contributor, I didn't believe him. Such a fun, excentric, awesome guy. Would regularly come into class looking like hell, and say "Sorry, I slept at the university last night -- was finishing up some work on Gimp".
Would give us bonus points to our final grade when we caught the odd mistake he would make from time to time.
Good times."

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