stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Week three of the semester is complete. I'm teaching three courses: Math 320, "Introduction to Algebraic Structures"; Math 421, "Linear Algebra II"; and Math 435, "Foundations for Euclidean and Non-Euclidean Geometry".

Math 320 is a tough course for our students. The problem is that the mathematical objects we study in that class, "groups", are totally unlike anything else they've ever encountered. I mean, calculus is tough, but going in the students know what functions are and they can visualize things like tangent lines. Linear algebra is hard, but they've at least seen vectors in 2- and 3-space. Groups? Nothing like them. I have thirteen students in the class; four of them have had classes with me before. (I think all four have had multiple classes with me, in fact.) When I ask questions in class, ("Okay, what's the next step?" "Why did I just do that?") it is almost always one of those four who answers. I have to directly choose one of the others to get them to speak up.

Math 421... On Thursday, I asked my students for input on the time and content of the first midterm - two weeks hence, including the extensive review material, or a week later and concentrating on the new material. The discussion was lively, one student in particular pushing hard for the latter, but the consensus favored the former option. After class, she apologized to me for the, um, vigor of her opinions... She teaches high school math, and mentioned that her students were complaining about the amount and difficulty of their homework, saying, "Kids, if you only knew!" - the latter a reference to the homework I was giving her. I told her the story of Janis Ian and Connie Willis (subtitle, "In which the famous singer learns about fangirling from the other side"); she laughed, then caught my point. "Ok, that gives me a different perspective on my students...." That may have been the best thing I did that day.

Math 435 only has four students. It probably would have been cancelled, but V, who heads our Math Ed program, vigorously defended it before the Dean as an essential component of that program - cancel it, and the students wind up delayed a full year. I enjoy that class. The first couple of weeks dealt with familiar, high school geometry, results, but this last week we got to more advanced topics like the Star Trek and Bow Tie Lemmas, and the Cyclic Quadrilaterals Theorem. Next week we fall back to similar triangles, but then roar ahead into circle geometry - radical axes, coaxal systems, and so forth.

So that's where we stand at the end of week three.

Week One

Aug. 25th, 2017 12:46 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
I don't have classes on Friday, so week one of the semester is over. A few items of possible interest:

1) I'm very fond of Geometer's Sketchpad; it and Mathematica are core components of my research. There are two copies of GSP on campus; one, on my office computer, was bought for me by the department, and the other is on the computer in one of the classrooms, bought by the university. The advanced geometry courses, which I almost always teach, are always put in that room. So, Monday, prepping for that evening's E/NE Geometry class, I put together a couple of GSP notebooks and copied them to the network, so I could access them from the classroom. When I arrived there, I discovered that GSP... wasn't on that computer. (This is the second time this has happened; when OIT reinstalls software on the university system, as they do periodically, sometimes they forget to put GSP back on that one.) I dashed off a message to the Chair; the next day his secretary came down on OIT, and by the next class meeting, GSP was again available.

2) The geometry class only has four students - it was almost cancelled because of that, but it's a required course for Math Ed and only offered once a year, so it survived - so I'm shifting from straight lecture to something more interactive. At least one of the four is really sharp, which is a good percentage.

3) After one class yesterday, one of my students caught up with me to say I sounded (to him) like Neil deGrasse Tyson - not in voice, but in cadences. I've never actually heard Tyson speak, but I'll take it as a compliment. I am aware that butter was involved, of course. After the Linear Algebra II class, one student said, "Dr. :name:, you're making my head spin! I took Linear Algebra I twelve or thirteen years ago...." I made some encouraging noises. (We're reviewing key material from LAI at a compression rate of about 4:1. Of course she's having trouble, being that out of practice!)

4) Progress continues on my research. The idea I came up with last week definitely doesn't work all the time, but I've verified that it works pretty often. That will probably go into the fourth paper in the sequence. (Still haven't put the finishing touches on the first paper....)

All in all, not a bad first week.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Don't mathematize here!


Jun. 4th, 2017 07:31 pm
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
The paper I've been working on, "Towards a Taxonomy of Polygons I: Form Classes and Triangles", is just about done. Truth to tell, I've been stalling, going over it again and again.

"That could be worded better."
"I can't use that concept yet; it isn't defined until the next subsection!"
"Do I really need to mention that in this paper?"

... yeah, stalling.

I've begun thinking about the structure of the second paper in the sequence, "TaToP II: Isolated Classes". I've known what's going to be in it for quite some time, but the details of its organization need fleshing out. That's where the next problem arises. TaToP I introduces a lot of machinery that I'll be using throughout this series of papers, and the later papers will have to, at least, recap the machinery. Thinking about it, I've realized that the recap will be a lot easier (and more comprehensible) if I change the notation I've been using. To be honest, it's not very good notation. Good notation should make it easier to think, and it certainly shouldn't be confusing - and the notation I've been using fails on both counts.

I've worked out how to clean that up. Doing so (and making another change that goes along with it) will require me to completely rewrite one section of TaToP I, and then change the notation in the rest of the paper to fit. Gaah... but it will make it a slightly better paper.
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
Pierce was one of the greatest thinkers the United States has yet produced. Logician, mathematician, philosopher - many pies have the marks of his fingers. Here is his account of his life up to age twenty, written when he was twenty. It's rather amusing, I think; I find his notation for the two Miss W's entertainingly indicative of his future.
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
After posting grades last Monday, I spent the rest of the week loafing. (Well, I had to reply to a few students asking why they got the grades they got....) No cooking - just frozen dinners, sandwiches, and cereal. No trips to campus - I did connect to my office computer a couple of times, mainly to look up the grade spreadsheets. It was too rainy, most of the week, to walk the dogs.

However, loaf time is over. I may not be teaching this summer, but I do have a lot of things to do. I have to get a new passport; as of midyear, TSA won't be accepting Illinois state IDs. I have to put the finishing touches on Taxonomy I and submit it, and begin writing TII and outlining TIII (and maybe TIV). There's lots of housework that needs doing. I'm recording my library on the latest version of my library DB (and there's been a story or two I should tell, in that connection). I'm contemplating revamping my finances database yet again. I should also prep for my fall classes; two of them are courses I haven't taught in a while.

There is a big pot of arroz con queso cooking away, for this week's dinners. I want to start using my new stock pot, and to try out some more Indian and Middle Eastern recipes. The dogs need grooming (this week!) and visits to the vet, preparatory to their badly-needed dental work.

I've drawn up a (still incomplete) To Do List. I've done that before. The trick now will be carrying it out.


Apr. 22nd, 2017 12:39 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
The talk went reasonably well; in fact, it was a bit short (only 50 minutes). I don't think I could have added more details without adding too many more, so that's all right. Attendance was smallish - four or five faculty, eight to ten students - but that's what you get when you schedule something on a Friday afternoon. (Of course, any other time, most people would have other obligations....)

Today is Earth Day, but it looks more like Air-and-Water Day here. I was hoping to do some grocery shopping today, but between the chill and the threat of rain, I'm putting it off till tomorrow, which is supposed to be sunny and 15-20 degrees F warmer. Good thought for today's marchers, especially those in weather like this!

The rabbits who visit my back yard are increasingly bold. A couple of evenings ago, I let the dogs out for a romp. As I stood on the porch to watch, I could plainly see a large rabbit off in the northwest corner of the yard, but the wind was out of the east and the dogs couldn't smell it. I watched as Buster quartered the eastern half of the yard and then slowly moved west to the fence, where he turned north. He was just about due west of the rabbit when he picked up the scent. The rabbit, judging from its ears, had been tracking his progress, and as soon as he raised his head it shot for the north fence, escaping several seconds before Buster could get there.

I finished The Obelisk Gate a few days ago, and am eager to read the third-volume finale. I'm close to the end of Death's End, and may comment on the trilogy when I'm done. I'm also reading de Mandeville's Travels and Polybius's History, both of which should take me a while. (I started reading Sumner's Folkways, but found his cultural arrogance offputting and put it back in the pile.) As for dead-tree books, my current project is a re/read of the Ring of Fire books. I'm currently on 1635: The Papal Stakes, after which I'll have to order a couple of the 1635 volumes that I don't yet have. (I have most of the 1636 volumes, but somehow missed these two.)

Blah. Dreary, lethargic day. I'm looking forward to semester's end, two weeks from now.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Back in January, the chair of the Colloquium Committee asked department members if they'd be willing to give talks about their research. She said she wanted to schedule such talks for the end of each month. After some consideration, I decided that, though I couldn't very easily give a one-hour talk on my current research (taxonomy of polygons), my previous work on geodesics on prisms did fill the bill, so I volunteered.

She told me that a guest lecturer would fill the February slot and N. had agreed to handle March, so I could give mine at the end of April.

A couple of weeks ago she asked me to confirm the title and give her an abstract so she could put together the flyers and online announcements. This I did. On Tuesday - the 18th of April, mind you, mid-April - I asked her when I would be giving the talk. "Oh. This Friday, at 3:00."

Uh. Okayyy....

I think I've got things set up. I cannibalized a copy of my paper on the subject for various diagrams and figures (a graphic artist I ain't, and this stuff really needs visual support), and sketched out the talk - what to cut, what to keep in, where to bring up a picture - but I'm worried that I've packed too much in.

We shall see. Tomorrow, we shall see.


Nov. 20th, 2016 07:59 am
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
1. A couple of weeks ago, my thermostat started misbehaving. I had it replaced last Thursday - just in time; we've been having subfreezing temperatures overnight the last few days, and NWS says that will continue for at least the next few.

2. For Thanksgiving dinner this year, I'm making a chicken curry. Haven't made curry in a long time.... I'm also going to try my hand at cheesecake, using a simple recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook. ([profile] coalboy, I'll try some of the recipes you sent me later, but for my first try I want as few complexities as possible.) I'm considering home-made bread (haven't made that in a long time either) as well, and I'll definitely go with salad-in-a-bag. (I've been using that to garnish my meat-and-cheese sandwiches lately, too.)

3. The new library database project is proceeding well; I have discovered the wonders of bound forms! For some reason I had an antipathy to them in my earlier projects, but they seemed necessary for a couple of the forms I needed for this one, and I've realized just how much they simplify things.

4. I still haven't finished the Taxonomy paper. There's not much I need to do, but I haven't had the oomph. Must get it done before the onrushing end of the semester!


Sep. 1st, 2016 03:55 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
One part of the "neat thing" I discovered last week about my Taxonomy paper involves a certain polynomial equation in variables x and y, with a parameter k; the curve defined by that equation, for any specific value of k, helps describe a class of triangles associated with that parameter k. (For a simple example, which is not the one I'm dealing with, you might look at x^2 - 2 k x + y^2 = 0; for any given k, this gives a circle with radius Abs(k) and center (k,0).) What I was interested in is how that curve changes as I change k. (Let's see, if k < 1, it's a fourth-degree oval; if k = 1, it's an ellipse; if 1 < k < 2, it's a fourth-degree oval sitting inside a sort of peanut-shaped curve; if k = 2, it's the union of two circles: etc.)

I was investigating this curve for one specific value of k at a time, and it was a tedious process. I had to find out whether the curve was in two pieces or just one, what the largest and smallest values of x were, what y was in terms of x... it took me several minutes to assemble the graph for each value of k. What I really wanted to see is how the curve changes when I change k from 3/2 to 7/4, or from this value to that nearby value, and the process just wasn't conducive to that kind of close investigation.

I finally figured out how to do it quickly. I've written a single Mathematica routine, plotLocus[k], which does it all at once and shows the graph without me having to check the fiddly details. So far, what it's showing me confirms what I thought was going on, which, of course, is what I was hoping it would do, but in terms of creating figures to go into the paper, suddenly everything is much easier.

I'm pretty happy about that.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Damn, but I miss W.

Today, I figured out how to finish up the first Taxonomy paper. In pursuit of that goal, I spent some time noodling around with Mathematica, and discovered some very neat stuff - stuff that slots in neatly with things I already know, which will put a nice cap on the paper. But, since W left, there's no one in the department I can talk to about it.

I'll just have to buckle down and finish that paper. One of the people I'm going to send the draft to - not an editor, another mathematician who has expressed interest - might have something useful to say.

It's not the same, at all, though.


Jul. 29th, 2016 07:26 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Well, I'm just about done with the rewrite of the section on second-order classes. I had to admit to myself that one chunk of material really wasn't interesting, and prune it back to a small handful of nice results. I also have one more general result which I need to make explicit, and then I'm done with that section. I've drafted about half of the section on third-order classes, but I may have to rewrite it too, and figure out what to put in the other half. Then write the intro, assemble the bibliography, and insert the citations.... I've got three people who've expressed interest in reading the paper once I've finished it, and I know which journal I'm going to send it to first.

I'll have to hurry. I'm planning on resuming going onto campus regularly starting next week, to prep for fall. There are some changes in my routine I want to make, and I'll need the lead time.

The weather continues to be beastly hot, although not quite as bad as last week. I'm making my shopping trips as early or late as I can, to avoid the midday sun. It doesn't seem to be bothering the dogs; they come to me and demand to be let out half a dozen times a day. Then they come charging in all excited and bouncy. (Not now, pups, please!)
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
Knowing things, learning things, is meat and drink to me.

There are things I know because I have experienced them.

There are things I know because I have been taught them, by teachers present or absent, living or dead.

And there are things I know because I have discovered them.

I can stroll about in my own house and learn things that, as far as I know, no one else has ever known.

And there is nothing - nothing! - like the pleasure that gives me.

Booking It

Jul. 8th, 2016 05:44 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Yesterday, being for some reason bored, I took a trip up the Great River and ordered some books.

In electronic form: Martha Wells, The Wizard Hunters (one of her Ile-Rien books; I read and enjoyed The Death of the Necromancer, so decided to dig further into the milieu); Harry Connolly, The Way into Chaos; and Ada Palmer, Too Like the Lightning. (The latter two have been recommended on File 770 and/or Making Light. F770 has been entirely too enthusiastic about getting books onto my to-get list lately....)

In paper: Bill Willingham, Wolves (the eighth book of "Fables"; I mostly buy F/SF in bit form lately, but graphic novels need more space); Eric Cline, 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed (I've gotten bits and snatches of info about that particular Dark Age, but this book's been recommended for pulling it all together); Alfred Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe 900-1900 AD (which just sounded interesting when I heard of it); and Viveka Velupillai, Pidgins, Creoles and Mixed Languages (creoles have been an interest of mine since a clash with Paula Sanch on the LMB list some years back; this is a more recent study than anything I already have).

The e-books are on my Kindle, though they'll have to wait their turn; the paper are scheduled to arrive next weekend or so. We shall see.

(This burst of activity is just about the only thing I've done in the last few days. Much lethargy; I don't even feel like playing Skyrim.)

(I have, however, come up with a single equation which partially answers a geometric question I'd been fussed about for a couple of months. So there's that, at least.)
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
The university is currently upgrading its electrical power system. Over the past few months, this has necessitated periodic pre-announced outages on campus. One of those was last Saturday, and there's another in a couple of weeks.

Because of this, I had to go onto campus Friday, to turn off my computer. I also had an appointment with a student (which I had scheduled to fit in with this need), and spent a little time on the rewrite I mentioned earlier. I got most of it done, but there are knock-ons from the changes that I'll have to deal with as well. Also, I fiddled with notation a bit. My paper involves quite a few different kinds of mathematical objects (polygons, sets of polygons, functions on sets of polygons, transformations on sets of polygons, sets of functions on sets of polygons, transformations on sets of functions on sets of polygons,...), and I'm trying to use different combinations of alphabet, case, and font for each kind. In particular, there are two kinds of transformations - different in their origins, not in what they're transforming - which I've been representing (on the one hand) by upper case non-bold Latin letters and (on the other) lower case non-bold Greek letters. While typing, I noticed that I was using "M" for a transformation which was really of the second type, so I went through (most of) the paper and changed those M's to mu's. After reaching a reasonable stopping point, I saved, shut down the computer, and unplugged it.

Saturday morning, I realized that the M/mu transformation, though it superficially resembles the second type, actually behaves in a significantly different fashion. I'm going to have to insert an explanation of the difference, and possibly change the alphabet/case/font again. But I won't be able to do that until Tuesday, despite the link that allows me to run my office computer from home - because the office computer is off, and thanks to the vagaries of the transit system, I won't be able to go in again until the holiday weekend is over.

Fuss fuss.
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)

I didn't sleep well last night - no idea why - and when I did drop off, I dreamed that my Skyrim character had a bounty of 800,000 septims in Haafingar, and every city guard in Solitude was chasing him. He was trying to find a cliff to jump over while becoming ethereal, in hopes of escaping. (There are no cliffs anywhere near Solitude - certainly not within the city limits.)

I've been dragging all day, nodding off in the middle of

Where was I? Oh, yes. Nodding off in the middle of everything I try to do.

I've spotted several points in the writeup of the first Taxonomy paper where it could be improved - unenlightening calculations replaced by a visual argument, an unnecessary subsection cut (with a couple of items shifted elsewhere), a series of closely related propositions brought together and simplified - but I don't have the oomph to actually do the rewrite. (I have inserted editorial bold italic comments to remind myself where and how to rewrite.)

All this, and it's too hot! (Yes, I have air conditioning, but the internal environment isn't completely independent of the external.)


(Why does spellcheck object to "oomph"? Why does spellcheck object to "spellcheck"?)


Jun. 15th, 2016 03:04 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
We've been under a heat advisory since yesterday morning; it's currently scheduled to expire tomorrow evening, which I hope is true - there've been extensions before. (Friday is Gracie's grooming appointment.) I haven't left the house in the last two days except to grab the mail and make one early-morning grocery run.

I'm slogging my way through the final section of Taxonomy I. SWP 6.0 is once again acting up. (I think the current problem is one I figured out how to deal with earlier, but if so I've forgotten how.) Once that's done, I'll put together the bibliography and insert the references, and then write the introduction. A couple of people have expressed an interest in looking at the alpha version, so I'll send them PDFs and get started on Taxonomy II.

I'm also slogging through my final Skyrim game; I'm up to character level 223 and need to reach level 252. Then the real fun begins....

Gah. Even inside this air-conditioned house, I'm feeling the enervation.


May. 20th, 2016 06:37 pm
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
I'm really pleased with how the first Taxonomy paper is going. I'm about halfway through the final section.

What I'm enjoying is this. The final section applies the machinery built in the earlier sections to triangles, working out "first-order", "second-order", and "third-order" classes of triangles. But it's not simply a threefold repeat of the same sort of discussion. The first-order classes are "isolated classes", which are special in lots of ways; each isolated class typically has multiple characterizations (i.e., lots of theorems). In the second order, we don't get any isolated classes; instead, we get one-parameter families. That is, in each situation (there are three of them), we have a parameter t, and each value of t corresponds to a particular class. Typically, each triangle belongs to one class in the family, so t is a parameter of the triangle, and we can ask what that parameter says about the triangle. (In one case, it turns out to be equivalent to a known parameter - but it has additional implications.) In the third order, the families are two-parameter, and turn out to yield a "parameter space" for triangles - i.e., knowing both parameters, you know everything interesting about the triangle, and there's a pictorial image of the set of all triangles, within which interesting things can be seen.

The point is that my work on taxonomy of polygons can be used in multiple directions, including some which I didn't foresee when I began this project. (And I haven't even gotten to the really neat stuff - that'll be in the third paper!)


May. 18th, 2016 08:09 pm
stoutfellow: (Three)
1. Microsoft took the debate over whether to upgrade to Windows 10 out of my hands; yesterday morning, I got up and went to the computer, only to be greeted with a cheery "Welcome to Windows 10!" I'm quite sure I never clicked "Yes" on any of those annoying pop-ups, but the fait is accompli. It took me a while to settle in; in particular, getting the right settings for Skyrim was a bit of a pain. (For a while I thought I'd have to drop the project altogether.) At any rate, everything seems to be working satisfactorily (but see below), apart from the aforementioned inability to play DVDs. (I've downloaded what's supposed to be a free fix, but I haven't been able to get it to recognize DVDs yet.)

2. I went onto campus today to plug my computer back in. There was a pre-planned campus-wide power outage on Saturday, and so I unplugged it on Friday. While there, I started the revisions to my paper that I mentioned before. (I was unsatisfied with the section on second-order triangle classes, and came up with a way to improve it by adding a little more machinery. The obvious place for that machinery was at the beginning of the section on triangles; once I started writing it, I realized that some of the material on first-order classes belonged there, and then that I could make the section on first-order classes a little less ugly by using that machinery. I got most of that in today.) What remains to be seen is whether (now that W10 has been imposed) I can still access my office computer from home. I'll probably give that a try tomorrow.

3. Tomorrow is Gracie's turn at the vet. This is very late in the year; this winter and spring were... not hectic, exactly, but they didn't leave much time for anything out of my daily routine. Both of them need to go to the groomer. There's a dog park a mile or two away that I'd like to check out, but I'll need to get Buster a stroller - otherwise he'd be worn out by the time we got there. I've seen listings for strollers on-line; they're not cheap, but I can hack it.

4. Weather's been erratic here; Monday and part of Tuesday were rainy, today has been fair and tomorrow is supposed to be likewise, but the rain is due to return on Friday. Being able to work from home is going to be important this summer....


May. 9th, 2016 01:41 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
It begins now. I finished grading a stack of term papers a couple of hours ago, and entered the grades for that course. :heaves big sigh:

Saturday was my turn to attend Commencement. Since the ceremony was to begin at 10:30, and since the bus schedule is a little wonky on Saturdays, I had to leave the house at 8AM, and wait at the bus station for about half an hour for the connecting route. I got to campus a little before 10:00, and hurried over to my office, to pick up my cap and gown.

The door to that wing of the building was locked. Another door, some distance away was open; but the interior door to that wing was also locked. I found someone who seemed authoritative, who summoned an engineer to let me in. I got myself robed and hurried over to the place where faculty are supposed to gather.

There was no one there. OK, says I, maybe I'm early; I spent some time propping up a wall and watching the clock tick away. 10:15. 10:30. What the hell? 10:45. Maybe I misremembered the time? I headed back to my office to check the mail that had reminded me of my obligation.

The door was locked again.


Eventually, the wing door was unlocked, and I went back to my office. En route, I met V, who told me that the ceremony was at 12:30. The first message, telling us when to gather, had been incorrect, and I had not noticed the later correction.

Oh, well. Done's done, and all the disasters that could have happened didn't, and the semester's over. I'm going to take a week or so to relax, and then gird my loins for renewed battle with SWP. (New ideas continue to swirl, with isotomic conjugates, trilinear polars, and circumconics through the centroid all demanding a place at the table. I'm going to ignore the circumconics, but the other two do seem to clarify things, so a partial rewrite is in the offing.)


stoutfellow: Joker (Default)

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