How very alternative

The CD Cover meme: follow a series of steps to randomly generate text and images, which you then combine to get something indy-looking. Since I have no flickr account, I post here:

(Image La petite plage by Bertrand Monney, used under a Creative Commons licence.)

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The perils of intuition

Look at me! I’m blogging from Cafe 1842 in Waterloo, like the cool kids do!

Last week at the conference, I blandly assured my old advisor (after several drinks on both of our parts) that a certain statement about objects called “trees” and “dominating sets” was clearly true. (More details available on request, but I assume that most of my readers don’t care about the technical details enough to parse through them.) He, naturally enough, asked me to write up a quick demonstration of this, as it’s closely related to a problem we’ve worked on in the past that he’s currently waving at one of his present grad students.

I’m still convinced that the result is true, but nailing down the particulars is looking to be a mite trickier than I’d hoped.

I’ve heard that most people think in either words or pictures, and I don’t think that’s the case for me. If I were thinking of this in terms of words, then the proof would be concurrent with the thought, right? And if I thought in terms of pictures, then I could just draw out a diagram showing the source of my convictions on this score, and then explain it by describing what’s going on where. Whereas with what I’ve got, I perceive how the proof has to work on some non-visual, non-verbal level, and converting that into things that other humans might understand is the sticking point.

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Creeping ubiquity

The car dealership where I get the vehicle serviced has introduced free wi-fi. Hott.

In other news: last week was my usual Florida conference, which I only caught about two days off this time out because of it not being during my spring break. Actually, I was meant to catch two and a half days, but then there was an ice storm that impeded my progress to my outbound airport. But I got in to the conference over an hour before I had to give my talk, so it’s all good.

The corollary to this is that I’m on spring break now, without a conference to be at. Today I’m getting things done around town; tomorrow I’ll be heading into Ontario for the rest of the week, hopefully coinciding with the Big Thaw.

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Jeff Healey has died.

I tuned into contemporary pop/rock music when I was about twelve. (Before that, pretty much all I knew about rock was from my dad’s Beatles LPs. As groundworks go, that’s a pretty good one to have.) The local AM station that I got turned on to first had an hour-long program each night at 9, “Up Front”, that spotlighted Canadian music. This was the beginning of my modern musical education, the acts I heard on that show, and Healey was a part of that.

I hadn’t realized his blindness was due to cancer. I hadn’t realized he was as young as he was, not ten years my senior. And I’d lost track of his career sometime around when I moved to the States. But it feels like his passing is significant to me, somehow.

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…with a capital T that stands for Theorem

You know you’re in trouble when the main result in a paper you’re reading takes up half a page to state. Not prove; state.

You’re in bigger trouble if you’re writing said paper.

Well, more or less writing. One of my collaborators prefers to have as little to do with the typesetting process as possible, so whenever we’re putting a draft together I get a manuscript sent to me through the post. Said manuscript is almost invariably written in pencil, on the back-sides of whatever half-blank paper was lying around his office: old print-outs of other manuscripts, tests his students had written, CVs of former grad students… Also, much scribbling and crossing out, but that’s to be expected. Anyway, I’m transcribing such a manuscript now, making corrections and edits along the way. And oh my, this one theorem.

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My computer at work won’t turn on today. It’s done this is the past, but now it looks like it means it. So I’ve got my laptop in the office, which isn’t quite as useful because it has less screen space and more distractions on it.

The sign at one of the family restaurants in town said:


and my first thought was something like “Those damned purveyors of GMOs, will they stop at nothing?!”

That is all.

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Talk about the weather

I would love it if there were a weather site that didn’t treat Canadian and American weather systems as entirely disjoint. Weather Underground has a lot of good things going for it, but it’s a little too hung up on political divisions to be really useful to me.

Come on, Google! Get with this particular program!

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At my university, it seems that winning a research medal doesn’t get you a Special Merit Award (read: “bonus”); securing a large grant, however ill-fated, does. Given that I did both, yay me!

Also, I just scribbled out my likely tax situation for this year. (On the back of an envelope, yet.) Now that the people in payroll are finally treating me like I live in the county where I do, and withdrawing accordingly, it’s good news all around for once.

In other news, the term started today. I’m still unreasoningly nervous about the without-a-net aspect of my one course (that I’m teaching without an assigned textbook), but I’m sure that will pass.

I’m thinking I need to do more with this space. We’ll see if anything comes of that.

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Les Vacances

Since my last post, the following things have happened:

  • On December 15th, I drove to Kitchener through winter’s greatest hits (though I stayed ahead of the actual snowstorm until arriving at my destination for that night.
  • December 15th-20th: wandered around K/W and Toronto, meeting up with folks when I could and leaving mocking messages on their answering machines when I couldn’t.
  • December 20th: drove to Ottawa. Uneventful drive.
  • December 22nd: hit by a car. A little bit. After a few hours of “ignore it and it’ll go away”, sought medical attention in an emergency room. Nothing broken; icing and Advil prescribed.
  • December 24th-26th: various family-related Christmas activities.
  • December 27th: hit a “session” of Irish music at Daniel O’Connell’s in Ottawa. Fun, despite/because of my not actually knowing any tunes & thus having to pick them out of the air before they switch to a new one.
  • December 28th: drove to Toronto.
  • December 28th-January 3rd: more hanging around southern Ontario, more seeing people, etc. Parties and hilarity.
  • January 4th: drove back home. Uneventful.

…and that’s actually a pretty typical winter break for me. Minus the hit-by-a-car part, I suppose. Right now I’m packing my stuff to go to Vancouver for a few days, but that’s turning into its own complicated little story that I’ll tell another time.

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The unreliability of the network

Finally finished marking final exams, and I can’t submit my grades because I can’t log in to the system.

Damn it.

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