## More detail in Les Misérables

I’ve posted before on Valjean’s parole letter being visible in one of the clips.

In the released clip of Who Am I?, you can briefly see the address and stamp on one of the letters Valjean stows away as he prepares to leave:

I believe the stamp reads “Prefecture de Paris” and the address “Javert // … De Police // … Rue de Riviera // Montreuil-sur-Mer“.

edit: I found another curiosity, and this time it isn’t some barely-visible text. In In My Life (part of the video for Suddenly), there are two candles in the room:

Now, where previously in Les Misérables do two candlesticks feature? Right.

Far, far too much detail. (Trivia: those candlesticks clang together as the Bishop picks them up; this sound was added in post-production and is tuned to the music. Astonishing, the lengths they’ll go to….)

edit 2: the same pair of candles appears in Who Am I?

## John Kerry and Mitt Romney

Some interesting observations made in the comments section at The Economist:

Mitt Romney is John Kerry’s evil twin separated at birth.

They both are Boston Brahmin, Ivy League Harvard-Yale, live in the same small Beacon Hill neighborhood, have hundreds of millions in wealth, ran for President on a major party, and both lost.

Physically both are tall, have an aquiline nose, big heads, and full mane of hair without signs of balding and both speak French fluently(and both are ashamed of this fact).

President Obama even used Kerry as a debate ‘stand-in’ for Romney.
Apparently it did not help so much with the first debate…but it got better.

A different comment pointed out that of the two contenders in 2004, one will soon be confirmed as Secretary of State with wide bipartisan support and the other is in hiding in Texas.

## The horizon

It turns out that the distance $$d$$ (in km) to the horizon from a point at a height $$h$$ meters is closely approximated by

$d = 3.57 \sqrt{h}$

ignoring atmospheric refraction, which is highly variable and difficult to model (Wikipedia).

It just so turns out then that the horizon from 6 feet is almost precisely 3 miles.

Those who bike to and/or from Gunn will know that nearly the only place around here where the horizon can be easily seen is at the Alma/Meadow Caltrain crossing. The railroad right-of-way is remarkably straight and you can frequently see trains (especially with their bright headlights) from miles away. 3 miles away, in fact, from the calculation above.

So if a train is seen at the horizon at the Alma/Meadow crossing, precisely where is it?

Well, it turns out that in the southerly direction, the track actually takes a 12° northerly turn at the San Antonio station (to the drivers among us, where Alma turns into Central), breaking the line of sight 1.2 miles (1.9 km) from the Alma/Meadow crossing.

In the northerly direction, the track is straight to the horizon at 3 miles which is, in a convenient coincidence, just past the platform at the Downtown Caltrain Station at University Avenue / Palm Drive. Refraction is unlikely to extend this distance because the track then takes a brief 2° curve at El Palo Alto before straightening again. Minor as this is, it appears to break the line of sight.

## Bonus: times

Knowing the distance of a train at the horizon may be useful, but perhaps more interesting is how long such a train will take to cover the distance.

The maximum speed of the Caltrain is given as 79 miles per hour. Considering that there are stations at both of our endpoints, the train’s average speed is almost certainly much less—60 mi/h, perhaps, or even 50. At 60 mi/h, which is 1 mi/min, the train arrives from the northerly horizon in about 3 minutes and from the south in ~1 minute 15 seconds. This of course ignores the fact that a train seen at the horizon is probably stopped at the station—in the northerly direction, it could even be stopped at the California Avenue station, 1.3 miles (1 min 20s) away.

## Wittgenstein and linguistics

This is a Structured Procrastination project. It is also downright insane.

Well, I think I may have found something more to add to the burgeoning top of my Structured Procrastination list, which already includes reading RONR (this has taken so long that a major new edition has been released while I’ve been trying to slog through my copy of the 10th), Rawls’s Theory of Justice, and the pons asinorum par excellence of computer science books, Knuth’s The Art of Computer Programming—and yes, learning Chinese (which may be put off indefinitely if I don’t get to take a class with Mair).

Said project is reading Wittgenstein’s posthumously published Philosophical Investigations. (The Tractatus can wait for much later.)

My interest in Wittgenstein comes from the fact that he appears to make several statements that on the surface seem linguistic in nature. Take, for example, his famous assertion in the Tractatus (something I learned originally in Gunn’s philosophy class):

Die Grenzen meiner Spreche bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt.

(The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.)

He seems to be intimately interested in what the concept of language can contribute to philosophy… given my interest in both, I thought I would perhaps enjoy reading his Investigations. My instincts at first glance appear to be correct in this regard: one of his maxims in PI is that

“the meaning of a word is its use in the language”

This creed bears a remarkable resemblance to that of the descriptivist linguist.

So it appears that Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations would make very interesting reading—if only I could somehow get a copy of it!

In any case—”Add it to the pile. Add it to the stock!“, as Thénardier puts it in Les Misérables.