Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

It's only 6:45 PM here, but I'm about at the end of my homework-doing rope. I got the abstract algebra homework finished this morning with relative ease, and I have finished two out of six homework problems for advanced calculus, and made a good start on a third, but I can't seem to continue further. Apparently there are limits to my ability to work on math. Who knew?

In other news, I got 5 loads of laundry done this weekend as well, which is pretty good.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

My Day

I've been sick most of this week, and have fallen grievously (by my standards) behind in my courses. So I am counting on this weekend as a big catch-up time.

I got up at 8:30, unusual in and of itself. I went to bed at 10:30 last night promising myself a good 12-14 hours of sleep (I needed it), but I seemed ready to get up at 8:30, so I did.

With breaks for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I spent nearly all day at my desk doing math. I have to admit that the math was interspersed with web-surfing, which is a very bad habit of mine that is hard to break. Nevertheless, I was at my desk from about 9:30 AM until about 10:30 PM with only a couple of hours of breaks, which means I got a lot done even though I didn't work consistently all day (and the ratio of surfing to work increased as the day wore on).

Here is what I did:
  • Reviewed about five sections of my old calculus textbook to learn/remember what there is to know about power series, Taylor polynomials, and Taylor series, on that level.
  • Completed the homework due last Wednesday in Advanced Calc II.
  • Wrote my academic-oriented resume (or slightly CV-like document).
That doesn't sound like much, but it actually was. The homework was long and involved some concepts I felt shaky on, so I had to do a lot of exploratory work to really get it. I think it is a good homework.

Oh, and about the CV/resume. I was asked to send one to the graduate director of one of the programs I've applied to because they want to submit me for a university-wide fellowship that they think I have a good shot at. So that is very exciting! The professor told me that the resume (he did not call it a CV) did not need to be anything "fancy" so I just buckled down and did it without trying to make it ultra-perfect. There is not that much to say, really. I basically took my regular resume, put academic things on top of the work things, and very concisely summarized the work things so they wouldn't be bored out of their minds by lists of industry-specific software packages I know, etc.

Here is what I hope to do tomorrow:
  • Finish the abstract algebra homework that is due Tuesday.
  • Go over the material I missed in seminar Friday, and start on that homework. (It is due Friday, but I need to start early to give myself a good chance to think about the hard parts between now and then.)
  • Get a good start on the advanced calculus homework due Wednesday.
Between now and tomorrow morning, I have one very important task:
  • Get a good night's sleep.
So I will go do that now. Best wishes to you for a productive (or relaxing, as you choose) weekend!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Google Buzz

Google Buzz (the new Facebooky-thing you may have seen it show up in your Gmail account) is causing a lot of stir around privacy concerns. I've turned mine off for now (it's a link at the bottom of the Gmail screen).

It's not that I'm that careful about privacy things in general. I don't care much that my grocery store card is tied to my real name so anyone might find out how often I buy razor blades or what flavors of ice cream I prefer. But the thing about these various offerings from Google (including the thing where someone can follow you on Google Reader) is that I can never figure out exactly what information is and isn't being shared.

You see, I have various email correspondents. Very few are private, but those few do exist. And I subscribe to a variety of RSS feeds in Google Reader, and I most definitely do not want them shared with everyone I email from my Gmail account (e.g., my coworkers, directors of graduate studies for the schools I've applied to, ...). I can't tell if Buzz does that or not.

What I like about Facebook is that it's a self-contained universe. Don't want something about yourself on Facebook? Just don't do that thing on Facebook. If you're secretly obsessed with manga, you don't have to share that with your Uncle Herbert or your best friend from 5th grade as long as you don't join some kind of manga-lovers group. You can craft your (more or less public) image however you choose. Since nothing manga-related is in any part of your profile, you don't have to know too much about the various privacy setting options in order to keep clear of it.

The various things I do with Gmail and Google Reader, on the other hand, are closer to my real interests, and thus I would rather not share them willy-nilly in a way I don't completely understand. In short, there is something to be said for not integrating services.

Survey Says...

Today, at my school's request, I took the National Survey of Student Engagement. A screenshot of one of the last pages of the survey:

I am old.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hipster Puppies

Via Andrew Sullivan, Hipster Puppies, which attains a certain kind of bloggy perfection.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Another Grad School Admission

Today, I was notified of my admission to the highest-ranked (according to the decade-old NRC rankings) program on my list, the University of Florida. Funding notifications will begin in a few weeks.

So far, I am two for three with my admissions. There is hope I could still be admitted at the school that rejected me (they said so), but I'm not holding my breath. I don't have any funding offers as of yet (both schools will make those decisions in a few weeks), so we'll see, but I'm feeling moderately optimistic.

Update: I got a letter in the mail from the school that rejected me (Tennessee) and they have indeed now admitted me. The letter was from the graduate school and not the math department, and said nothing about funding at all, but presumably I would hear about that at a later date if they want to offer me any.

Friday, February 12, 2010

My Favorite Super Bowl Ad

Far and away, it was this one for the Kia Sorento. I especially like the ending.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Settling In

The first couple of weeks of my semester were a little nerve-wracking, but I seem to be settling in nicely now. I've turned in some homeworks, gotten good grades, mastered some material that originally frightened me, and my easy class is finally getting to some good stuff too. (It is still a little frustrating to sit in a room with students who are vocal about their difficulty in understanding the Euclidean algorithm despite being shown several examples, but I try to remind myself of all the times I am clueless and confused about things that will seem basic later on.)

I am a bit astonished by my progress as a math student over the past few years. It's not so much that I've learned a lot of math as that I've picked up a lot of skills I never had before. I now know how to read a math textbook (i.e., with pencil and paper, writing things down). I approach homework quite differently. I study. I am much better at tackling problems I'm not sure I can do than I was in the past. I am better at writing proofs. I know more Greek letters than ever before. And so on.

Life is good, I tell ya.

Monday, February 08, 2010

My Not-Very-Informative Review of Avatar

Saturday afternoon, I finally dragged Ed with me to see Avatar. I knew the plot wasn't supposed to be that great, but it was supposed to be really pretty. It was indeed quite pretty and the plot was more offensive than I'd imagined, but not as bad otherwise.

We saw it in 3D. It is, as others have mentioned, not very flashy 3D - arrows don't come whizzing out at your head or anything like that. But it was nice to see the depth, and little details, like the 3D displays on people's computer screens in the movie, excited me from time to time. The 3D made my eyes feel slightly tired by the end, and gave Ed a bad headache.

The movie is definitely racially offensive in a wide variety of ways, but I found it easy to overlook while actually watching it. The action was enjoyable despite my not being a fan of action movies. And I really did enjoy the alien world and the aliens themselves. The aliens are more attractive when they move than they look in regular pictures.

I did have trouble identifying with the main character, who is a hero man in the stupid/impulsive/brave/doesn't-take-directions mold. Given that I'm smart, extremely chicken, and a careful listener, I often don't sympathize with the choices made by such men. But then, that's why they don't send me to Pandora to be eaten by the first clawy thing that comes along.

One detail that doesn't come up as often as you'd expect is that the aliens are humanoid but about twice as tall as humans. I was surprisingly moved and excited by a scene in which the main human is tenderly picked up by his alien girlfriend. I'd love to be twice as tall as Ed (you know, assuming this didn't cause a lot of other problems).

As an experience, the movie was worth seeing. I would even see it again pretty happily if I knew anyone who wanted to go.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Two Mathy Conversations

These were both fun. The first one was between me and Ed, after advanced calculus one night. We had discussed in class the fact that infinite sums are neither commutative nor associative, e.g., if you start with

1 - 1 + 1 - 1 + 1 - 1 + ....


(1-1) + (1-1) + (1-1) + ... = 0


1 - (1-1) - (1-1) - (1-1) + ... = 1

even though those are the same terms just grouped differently. Spooky! So here was the conversation.

Ed: The stuff about series was cool.
Me: They're not associative or commutative. It's awful.
Ed: It was neat.
Me: It's wrong.
Ed: It's cool.
Me: It's an abomination.
Ed: I liked it.
Me: It's a sign from God that we aren't meant to do infinite sums.
Ed: It's a sign from God that we shouldn't confuse infinite sums with addition.

The second conversation was last night right after class, between me, another student I'm friends with (Jason), and (at the end) our professor.

Jason: I'm tired of real analysis. I want to do fake analysis.
Me: You could try rational analysis.
Jason: I want to do irrational analysis!
Me: If you're going to do irrationals, you might as well do reals.
Jason: But I'm more the irrational type.
Me: But at least the rationals are a field.
Jason: Then can I do complex analysis?
Me: That's a real course, you know. You can take that.
Jason: It is?
Me: Yeah. They have it here.
Professor: Complex analysis, it turns out, is like Disney World, in that, everything you ever dreamed might be true, turns out to be true.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

A Math Class of the Second Kind

My third math class this semester is "Senior Mathematics Seminar," which is a 1-hour class that meets once a week and could be about anything. Our particular class is about wavelets, which are like functions with finite absolute area. (In other words, the area under the curve, whether above or below the x-axis, is finite over the reals.) That's my understanding so far, at least.

I realized after the first day of this class that I've experienced two types of math classes, and this is the rarer second type. Of course, this categorization is as suspect as all such attempts, but bear with me, if you please.

I used to think of math courses as going in a line, roughly from arithmetic up through algebra and then calculus. But that's really as far as that particular line seems to go. Beyond that, the field spreads out and you have classes like probability & statistics, linear algebra, etc., that do not go in a specific order. Of course, those classes then spawn their own chains.

But these days a different classification makes more sense to me. Now I see most classes as sort of "tool" classes, where you learn a lot of tools that are broadly applicable (like calculus, linear algebra, set theory, etc.). And then the other classes are more "application" classes (whether they are applied or theoretical) in which you use various kinds of tools to understand some new area. My second geometry course was one of these application-type classes, using a lot of linear and abstract algebra (and a touch of geometry, though not much), and this wavelets course is the same way (so far mainly with respect to calculus and analysis).

At any rate, the class has been all right so far. Our professor has roughly the style and personality of a very toned-down Steve Martin - like maybe Steve Martin playing a math professor in a serious movie. I was confused a lot this past week, and left class feeling like I'd been crying, though of course I did not actually cry, and I've realized that I really need to read the book before class rather than only looking at it afterwards (which is kind of obvious, but not my usual M.O. for math). It looks like we'll only have graded assignments and possibly some kind of small projects later on; there's been no talk of exams. So it should be all right, though it's hard for me to see how I have time for two classes (this one and Advanced Calc II) that require serious thought.