My grandma, Barbara F. "Bobby" Halek, died on Sunday morning at the age of 83. She had had Alzheimer's for over a decade, and had been on hospice care since last June, so her death was long-expected and comes as more of a relief than anything. In particular, I'm glad that my grandpa and uncle won't need to take care of her all day every day anymore. I'm heading down to New Jersey tomorrow, where my mom and sister are flying in from California; the interment is Friday, and the memorial service is Saturday. It'll be good to see my extended family and friends of the family to help celebrate her life.
On Saturday, math and science writer Martin Gardner died at age 95. Obviously his impact on my life doesn't compare to my grandma's, but I've known of him for nearly as long as I can remember. In particular I've had a copy of his Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing since I was 6 or 7. I feel like I knew of him from other contexts as well, though I can't remember any specific books from that time period; I do remember that Marvin Gardens in Monopoly always made me think of him! I probably also saw stuff from or about him in Games magazine after I started subscribing in 1982. I didn't start reading the "Mathematical Recreations" column in Scientific American until high school in the mid-80s, after A.K. Dewdney took it over, but I later collected several of Gardner's column compilation books. Anyway, his writing about math, puzzles, and games (and, later, skepticism) was a constant friendly companion in my life, and had a fair amount to do with my becoming a computer programmer, as both a vocation and an avocation. And the cryptogram-solving skills I learned from that little red paperback have served me well in MIT Mystery Hunts!
Sunday night, of course, was the "Lost" series finale, in which several main characters died (and/or everybody died, depending on your interpretation). After 121.5 hours of TV over 6 years they left a rather ridiculous number of mysteries unanswered; I'm still mostly happy with the series, certainly in my top 5 favorites of all time, but the final ten minutes were rather disappointing. I'm hoping that some explanations from the writers at some point in the future will make me feel a little better about that—yes, I do still believe that authorial intent matters, at least a little bit—but nonetheless the series as a whole was a monument of intricate world-building and story-telling that isn't likely to be matched on TV (or film) anytime soon.
And, probably saddest of all, Brittany Murphy's widower, 39, died of a heart attack on Sunday night. What's up with that?