Some personal details

Baby face

Welcome to my not-immediately-mathematical interests!

My new gadget

My new gadget is illustrated above; at the time of writing (July 2014) I obtained him just a few weeks ago. So far, having an infant seems to me much like owning a high-end 2000-2010 era laptop computer.

Let me share with you:
Jamie’s list of 22 ways that having a new infant is like having a high-end 2000-2010 era laptop computer (before everybody had smartphones and tablets and ultrabooks).

  1. He weighs 2-3Kg.

  2. He requires recharging every two to three hours.

  3. He was expensive.

  4. I had to ask my wife’s permission before getting him.

  5. He sits on my lap, and folds and unfolds elegantly.

  6. He gets hot, especially when processing, and may expel jets of warm air.

  7. He goes to sleep and wakes up. I haven’t found the shutdown button yet.

  8. He requires me to regularly update my operating system.

  9. He comes with huge amounts of packaging.

  10. He makes me wish I had more resolution.

  11. I spend too much time playing around with him, often very late at night when I should be sleeping, and too little time working.

  12. While out and about, people stop me to ask about his name/model number, where I got him, and how much he weighs.

  13. Documentation is poor, and experts issue inconsistent, incompatible, and/or incomprehensible operating instructions.

  14. Now that I have him, my wife wants to use him all the time.

  15. His processing unit regularly gets into an unusable mess, and I am expected to restore him to factory settings.

  16. He will get infected with viruses.

  17. Every so often he freezes up and crashes, and no-one knows why.

  18. I can use him as he is, but many costly programs and accessories seem necessary for optimal operation.

  19. Many of those programs and accessories turn out to be useless and/or unreliable.

  20. Older models are larger and heavier; newer models are smaller and lighter.

  21. He’s a miracle of human miniaturisation.

  22. I love him.

I’ll keep you posted.


I take photos; see here and here. (To see what I look like click here.)


I have opinions.

Travel and languages

I like to travel. Thanks to the academics, friends, and family, who made it happen.

  • When I travel I often give talks.

  • Here is a guide to treatment of invited speaker. I hope you find it useful.

  • Once, a sound knowledge of the Linux operating system saved me from getting arrested as a terrorist or an assassin. Check it out.

I speak five languages fluently: English, French, German, Hebrew, and Italian.

I learnt the first as a child, the next two thanks to language courses, and the last two on my own, mostly through reading. I do my best to keep them all active.



The perfect antidote to sitting hunched at a computer all day writing maths papers. I’ve danced since the year 2000. I started during my PhD.
I remember the moment: sitting at the computer programming Isabelle. I’d been at it for six months solid; and I really do mean 24/7/182.5. It was a Wednesday. I heard a voice in my head:
"Jamie, if you don’t get out and do something else, you’ll go mad".
I thought: people who hear voices are generally mad. There’s a voice in my head telling me I’m about to go mad. Therefore, that voice is right. (It would be interesting to find a modal logic in which to formalise this reasoning.) So I went out and did a dance class, and was hooked.


I love cycling; it takes me out of myself into what I suppose you could call a Zen state. Cycling in the UK, especially in Scotland, is interesting because the weather is so variable. You have to be prepared for at least the possibility of hail, snow, and sunshine all in one trip.


I’ve been walking for around 40 years, so I’m told. I’m sure it was fun when I started, and it’s still fun now.


I took up rollerblading in Paris and practiced a lot in Eindhoven to keep fit. In the UK rollerblading is a different proposition. Wherever you are, rollerblading is a great way to dislocate your knee and your arm — and I consider myself to have got off lightly so far. Protection stops breakages but not dislocations, but wear it anyway and get the best there is.


I use Linux. I used a Sony Vaio PCG-Z1R/P, a Panasonic Toughbook CF-T2, then a Panasonic Toughbook CF-W8, and most recently a Panasonic Toughbook J6.
The first two were groundbreaking, the third was poor (poor screen by modern standards, big and bulky for what it was), the J6 is OK. To my regret the Panasonic Toughbook range has lost its way; I’d buy a Mac nowadays, and nowadays a lot of people do. So I did: I got a 17 inch Macbook Pro. It’s a bit old now but still very useful for the large, relatively high-resolution (though pre-retina) screen.
In my opinion computer displays should be 300dpi or more and 16:10 or 16:12. I know this because that’s the format of a typical sheet of paper, which is a display technology which has evolved for longer than computer screens and has attained this form factor because that’s what works for humans.

I once bought an OQO01+ which broke within 48 hours of use. I got a replacement and the replacement also broke within 48 hours of use. If you hate yourself buy an OQO.

I like installing operating systems. I have used: Gentoo Linux; a combination of Kanotix and Debian Sarge; now I’m using Ubuntu and Linux Mint.

I keep a hall of fame for programs which changed my life.


I like to cook;

  • I specialise in Indian and middle-eastern food.

  • For fast food I like beer, goat’s cheese, and heavy dark breads.

  • I like Whisky.

  • I have found this site useful; there is a good correlation between their recommendations and what I seem to like. I buy (in airports and) from royal mile whiskies; the staff are excellent.
    Here are some tasting notes.

I have a food intolerance!

I can’t eat wheat. I am intolerant which means that I can’t digest it.

  • I can’t eat pizza, pasta, baguettes, sandwiches, cous-cous, or most biscuits and cakes. I don’t get on terribly well with spelt either.

  • I can eat potatoes, rye, oats, rice, barley, and corn; including porridge, barley cous-cous, polenta, gnocchi, pumpernickel, and so on.

  • I can also eat meat, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and so on.

  • I can eat gnocchi even if they are bound with wheat flour, so long as they are not made out of wheat flour. Likewise I can eat a gravy thickened with wheat flour since again, the amount of wheat is small. (But why bother? a mixture or rye and barley flour does not stick as easily, and has more character.)

  • Funnily enough, I’m OK with chocolate cake providing it’s really sinful. That’s all fat and sugar; no problems there.

  • I am not allergic. I am not coeliac; I can eat gluten. An allergic reaction is when the body’s immune system mounts a defensive reaction, as if it were being invaded. I do not have that. I just can’t digest wheat flour very well.

Tasting notes

I like alcohol, especially strong beers and malt whisky. I keep some tasting notes online.


My favourite joke

“Which is worse: ignorance or apathy? …​ Who knows? Who cares?”

My second-favourite joke

“If you learn one useless thing every day, in a week you’ll learn 7 useless things.”

My brother Michael Gabbay is very funny. Here are three of his creations

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I keep a miscellanea of things I approve of, disapprove of, or am shocked by.