From: Jad "/dev/null" Davis 
Subject: Mad Tea Party at 4pm.
Date: Thu, 11 May 2000 15:28:09 -0400 (EDT)

So it's the last tea message of the year.  It's the last anything message
of the year--at least for me.  So I'm running a "best of" segment, in the
rich tradition of last things.

Ok, that was it.  

I was thinking about madness today.  I was telling a friend whom I haven't seen
since I started grad school about some of the stuff we do here at ol'
Umass Com. Sci.  She said we sounded like a bunch of mad scientists (the
statement was partially catalyzed by an article she read--in Austin, TX
mind you--about Andy Fagg and his wearable computer).  So I started wondering
to myself how close to madness some of us are.  It's such a fine grained
spectrum.  I'm not talking about "the fine line between brilliance and
madness" crap that historians and biographers are always going on and on 
about.  I'm talking about the sort of detachment from reality that seems to 
progress with one's academic career.  I think we can all agree that 
all tenured faculty are mad.  I can't think of any sane associate profs
either.  Post-docs are almost always entirely mad.  Those who've been 
here for years and years are obviously teetering on the edge of madness.
I used to think that I wouldn't be able to cut it in academia, because I
wasn't tending towards madness.  But after a couple of years here, I realize
that we're all heading down that road.  If you're not mad or enjoying the
process of becoming mad, after some amount of time you get tired of the 
madness and leave.  I guess that makes sense--graduate school selects for
If you don't think you're going mad or that those around you are mad, 
stop right now and listen . . . is anyone talking to anyone else about the
"cool idea" they had last night?  They got up at 4am and worked out this 
proof of something--maybe they worked it out on the dashboard while they
drove to see a movie?  How cleaning out the fridge is just like this or that
algorithm?  How the surface of a Hershey kiss has so and so geometric 

I'm not claiming that madness is bad.  I myself thoroughly enjoy being around
mad people.  That's why I like it here so much, I guess.  Every now and then,
though, after jotting down a proof of a conjecture made in a pop song and
laughing about it for 10 minutes, some dwindling sense of objective reality
leaps up and says: "Wait!  This is Madness."  
"Hush, hush," replies the increasing majority of my mind.  "Relax and enjoy
the madness--go get some tea."

Which by the way is at 4pm, as usual, in the CS 1st floor atrium.

This weeks tea is brought to you by Don Towsley, who happens to be

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