Monday, February 01, 2010

The limerick I used to introduce Emmanuel Candes

I was assigned the task of introducing Emmanuel Candes for his invited talk at SODA. After getting tired of my incessant pacing up and down the hotel room at 3am mumbling about the text of the intro, my roommate took pity on me and composed a cute little limerick for the occasion.

Now whether it was madness, desperation or both, I don't know. But I decided to use that limerick to open the introduction, much to the consternation of my (unnamed) roommate, who hadn't intended his little throwaway to take on such prominence.

But use it I did, and it didn't fall entirely flat, for which I am very grateful. I won't out the composer unless he does it himself :), but here's the limerick:

There once was a professor from Caltech
who represented his signals with curvelets
But upon reflection
realized, he'd prefer projection
As they could better capture sparse sets.

Thank you all: I'll be here all night....


  1. Very nice!
    It doesn't scan perfectly, though. The fourth line is too long; it should be two feet of three syllables each. How about "But upon reflection, he preferred projection..."?

    Two other minor flaws:
    1. The last line begins with three successive unaccented syllables, though each foot is meant to have either the second or third syllable accented. (I think the two options are called anapestic and amphibrachic meters.) "As they better could capture sparse sets" has the right meter, but the word order is atypical.
    2. The first two lines are one and two syllables too long, respectively. The first can be simply changed to "There was a professor from Caltech", but the second is harder. Omitting "his" before "signals" allows one to save one of the two syllables, but one really needs an alternative to "represented". One option is to use elision while reading "who represented" so it only takes four syllables; in this case, the accent naturally falls correctly on the third syllable `-sent'.

    Unfortunately it's late, and I can't think of cleaner solutions at this time of night.

    (And yes, I am excessively pedantic, not just about limericks.)

  2. ...
    realized on reflection
    he'd prefer projection

  3. I like it! And I hope once your roommate told it to you, you went to sleep rather than staying up another few hours re-arranging a couple syllables.

  4. It begs the question, who is the roomate ?



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