Meeting Max Merritt

I'd noticed him sitting at the end of the bar at the White Harte Pub in Woodland Hills every time I'd been there. He cracked me up for the first of many times when he dismissed Morrissey as a whiner over the radio's strains of "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now." "I was looking for a job and then I found a job?" he cracked. "That's the worst fuckin' lyric I've ever heard in my life!"

Later, another regular told me he was Max Merritt, a 2008 inductee to the Australian Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame and author of the classic '70s hit "Slippin' Away." I'd been sitting with rock royalty and didn't even know it.

It reminded me of a time years ago when I had struck up a conversation with an older gentleman wearing jeans and a cowboy hat outside of an AM/PM on the corner of Coldwater and Moorpark in Studio City. As some point he casually mentioned that he had played with Elvis back in the day. It turned out to be guitarist James Burton.

Anyway, check out this awesome clip of Max with his band the Meteors.


Woody's Winning Women

We finally had a chance to watch “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and it occurred to me that Oscar seems to favor the women who star in Woody Allen movies that include a woman’s name in the title. In fact, all four of the women who have won Academy Awards for saying Woody’s words did so in films which met this criteria: Diane Keaton for “Annie Hall” in 1977; Dianne Wiest for “Hannah and Her Sisters” in 1986; Mira Sorvino in “Mighty Aphrodite” in 1995; and now Penelope Cruz for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” in 2008. Dianne Wiest bucked the trend by picking up a second statuette under Woody’s wing in “Bullets Over Broadway,” but only after nabbing the first under terms. Unfortunately, there’s no way for a Nicole Kidman to know when she signs on for something like 2010’s typically Untitled Woody Allen London Project. And if the trend holds true, it only happens every nine to 13 years anyway.


44 Years of Stuff: Illustrated Mythology Cards

I love mythology and I love card decks, so it was a no-brainer to pick this up at an antique show in Ohio about 10 years ago for a cool 10 bucks. The Cincinnati Game Company was cranking out a lot of themed educational sets around the turn of the century. An ad card inside mentions almost two dozen others, including “Strange People,” “In Castle Land” (famous castles of the Old World), “The Mayflower” and “Yellowstone.”


Ada Lovelace Day

Since so much of the tech world is dominated by men, and I am raising a daughter with dreams of a future in which women can not only compete in male-dominated fields but eventually supplant them, I looked forward to participating in Ada Lovelace Day. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that in considering the day’s challenge--to write about a pioneering woman in technology--no names immediately sprang to mind.

The Ada Project changed that. Dedicated to providing information and resources related to women in computing, the site served up 17 names from the 19th-21st centuries. These included folks ranging from Ada herself, whose plan in the 1840s for a “calculating engine” that would work with Bernoulli numbers led to what is now regarded as the first computer program (she also anticipated a machine that would be used to produce graphics and compose music), to modern tech company CEOs like Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina.

I ended up choosing a woman whose surname happens to be similar to mine. Rósa Péter was born in 1905 and studied mathematics at Loránd Eötvös University in Budapest. After abandoning her initial interest in number theory when she discovered her early results had already been proven, Rósa ditched the field entirely to write poetry.

She re-entered the math fray in 1930 when a colleague suggested that she examine the work of Gödel, and later became a founder of recursive function theory. She wrote two books and over 50 papers on the subject, and continued to apply her theory to computers until she passed away in 1977, a year after the release of her seminal book, “Recursive Functions in Computer Theory.”

Péter is also noted for her dedication to making the public more aware of mathematics. She was especially concerned about the education of female students. It’s hard to say what such pioneers would think about our world of laptops, cell phones and iPods. But thanks to the solid mathematical foundations these things were built upon and a growing contingent of female mathematicians, my daughter will know and participate in a future that only visionaries like Péter dare to dream of.