Rashomon, North Carolina style


The first report came in:

I hear there was a home invasion on the next street over and 3 suspects at large. Can anybody add information? Police were in the neighborhood investigating.

and then:

The police stopped on Kimberly and asked the kids to get inside and spoke to one of the moms. Same info. Home invasion suspect at large.

and then:

This is very concerning. Were the suspects armed? Description?

and then:

About 10 years ago, there was an attempted kidnapping of a teenage girl from the driveway of the first home on North Downing in McConnell. She was outside watching her cat about dusk when a man approached her and started a conversation. He then grabbed her and tried to run carrying her. She fought and escaped.  I don’t think he was ever caught. It was very bizarre, but look what can happen right next door to our homes.

and then:

According to our neighborhood’s Facebook page, this was a case of 3 Hispanic yard workers being mistaken for bad guys. Please let’s be careful to correctly understand situations. The workers could have been put at great risk through misunderstanding.

and then:

Long story short–a concerned neighbor called the police to my home last evening after some unusual circumstances. However, we do NOT believe there was an actual B&E that occurred. I believe my concerned neighbor was putting my mail on my front porch when he observed my back doors open and heard an unfamiliar male voice yelling to my barking dogs. After talking to some other neighbors, the unfamiliar voice is believed to be a neighborhood child who was cutting through my back yard to the front yard to catch up with some friends who were already on the street. The neighbor that called the police did not know I was up the street with my children playing in another yard. As I am reading the previous comments, I believe any non-residents within the vicinity were quickly being investigated. For instance, within 30 seconds of 3 police vehicles coming down the next street, one police vehicle made an abrupt U-Turn and sped back out on our street. In hindsight, I believe within seconds there were two calls coming across the radio, one from my house and the other from a different report of people in the vicinity. I don’t think they are related. Unfortunately, sometimes, word travels quickly and lots of information is exchanged before the interviews and details are conveyed. The officers were wonderful. I am sure they were thinking the worst when they drove by a big group of kids, playing happily before dinner, all while not knowing if there was danger present. Thankfully, there wasn’t. But, those officers and detectives entered my house to sweep it without a hesitation–putting their lives on the line.

and then:

I think we are all a little jumpy these days! One night, around 10 pm, I saw the silhouette of a man walking around outside our townhome on Caldwell Lane Had the phone in my hand to call 911! He saw me in the window and waved It was my husband taking the dog out!

We live in a very nice, very nervous neighborhood.  Locked doors and alarm systems prevail.  I don’t think I ever saw a locked door when I was my children’s age (7 and 10), but it’s been half a century since then.

A fragment of the FORMEL Library

In 1988 I was a guest of the FORMEL Project at INRIA, as a wandering ABD.  The forte of FORMEL was the unification algorithm, and I spent some time copying papers from a filing cabinet which, after my time, grew to be 3 or 4 filing cabinets and became known as the Formel Library.  I hear that, as the project disbanded, the cabinets were donated to another institution and then subsequently lost.  I copied 56 papers from the library and put them into 5 themed binders.  Recently I was possessed of a desire to clean out a storage space I have been renting, to save money by giving back the space.  The storage space is filled with items I can’t part with and never consult, including those 5 binders.

The obvious thing to do would be to scan and upload all of the papers to something like ResearchGate.  However, this thought was nixed by the Academia StackExchange community.  But what if there was something rare, valuable and irreplaceable in my collection?  Well, I inventoried what I had, and, alas, there is no such animal.  Almost all of the papers of any merit are available either freely or for large sums of money on the Internet.  What if everything academic should be free?  A workaround occurred to me: Summarize the essentials of rare or paywalled papers.  I got an OK on this idea from the community, but I don’t have the time or the desire to carry it out.  I also can’t guess how the library evolved after I left.

The intellectual property of my sample is not lost, even if the ideas have, to some extent, lost their hold on the world: One of the chief products of Formel was the CAML language, which, alas, has been pushed out on the rankings by it’s closest rival, Haskell, which is, itself, at the bottom of the list.

My binders were organized into 5 topics:

  • Unification on first-order terms
  • Derivations of the unification algorithm
  • Knuth-Bendix critical-pair completion algorithm
  • Completion in equational systems and term rewriting systems
  • Complexity and expressibility of unification and completion

Here is what they contain (or contained, if I end up recycling them):

Unification on first-order terms

Derivations of the unification algorithm

Knuth-Bendix critical-pair completion algorithm

Completion in equational systems and term rewriting systems

  • Automatic proofs by induction in theories without constructors. 1989. Information and Computation. Jouannaud, Jean-Pierre. Kounalis, Emmanuel. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/089054018990062X
  • A general completion algorithm for equational term rewriting systems and its proof of correctness. 1983. CRIN. Kirchner, H. No PDF found online.
  • Reveur-3: the implementation of a general completion procedure parameterized by built-in theories and strategies. 1987. Science of Computer Programming. Kirchner, Helene. Kirchner, Claude. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0167642387900049
  • An Overview of Completion Algorithms. 1985. EUROCAL ’85. Llopis de Trias, Regina. No PDF found online.
  • Canonical forms for residue classes of polynomial ideals and term rewriting systems. 1983. Submitted to JACM. Llopis de Trias, Regina. No PDF found online.
  • Complete Sets of Reductions for Some Equational Theories. 1981. JACM. Peterson, Gerald E.. Stickel, Mark E. PDF behind paywall.
  • On word problems in equational theories. 1987. INRIA. Rusinowitch, Michael. Hsiang, Jieh. https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/inria-00075875/document
  • Equations and rewrite rules. 1980. Stanford U CSD. Huet, Gerard. Oppen, Derek C.. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=
  • Completion of a Set of Rules Modulo a Set of Equations. 1986. SIAM J. Comp. Jouannaud, Jean-Pierre. Kirchner, Helene. PDF behind paywall.

Complexity and expressibility of unification and completion

Jury Duty


I was seated in a criminal jury panel in Charlotte, in a case of felony gun ownership to be proved by constructive possession.  The prosecutor asked me these questions:

Do I know any police officers? (Yes: I practiced Aikido with some in New York.  No: I didn’t socialize with them off the mat.)

What kind of law does my wife practice? (Matrimonial and litigation, in New York.  No, not in North Carolina, she is not in the bar.)

Have I ever been in this courthouse? (Yes, to pay a speeding ticket.)

Who gave me the ticket, state police or CMPD? (Neither, my local town police.)

Was I treated unfairly?  (No, I was going fast.)

How was the case disposed? (I hired a good lawyer and she pled it down to Improper Equipment.)

I asked one question: “Can you please repeat the definition of constructive possession?  Does that mean in the house or lent to another person under control of this person?” (Yes, like that.)

Two ladies next to me confessed to owning guns: An AR-15 and two pistols each.  One used to be military police. The other was a local town cop.  The former MP, who was covered in tattoos and was once kept in jail over a dispute over jewelry with her mother, and another woman who had a vacation coming up in a few days, and I were recused under peremptory challenge by the prosecutor.  (The woman with vacation was denied recusal for cause by the judge and then given it by the prosecutor.)

When you look up peremptory challenge, most discussion is about recusal due to race. In this case, the prosecutor was a black woman, the defendant was a black man, and I am white.  So I don’t consider race an issue.  The MP was recused clearly because of unpleasant experience with the court system.  Why was I recused?  According to this article, probably I was too verbal.

Here are a couple of funny videos on jury duty (note: I wasn’t trying to get out of jury duty; I was just being myself):