stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Well, summer's over, as far as the university's concerned. "Fall" Semester begins on Monday. I'll be teaching three courses: Introduction to Algebraic Structures (junior-level, basically the rudiments of group theory), Linear Algebra II (we finally get to the theoretical stuff), and Foundations for Euclidean and Non-Euclidean Geometry (which I teach pretty much every year - I think it's been given to someone else once in the last fifteen years). The first two, I haven't taught in quite a while, and the first one in particular is rough on students - it's notorious for resulting in bad-to-mediocre student evaluations. We'll see how it goes.

It was a bad summer for the canine contingent. First Gracie developed an ear infection, and I had to smear goop in her ear for a couple of weeks. Then Buster had an allergic reaction, probably flea-related, and started chewing on his right haunch and tail. Steroids and antibiotics seem to have resolved that one, so it was Gracie's turn again, with an eye infection that culminated in a crust over her entire right eye. The vet removed the crusting (G had to be sedated), and now I have to put ointment in both of Gracie's eyes twice a day. She doesn't like it, but has stopped fighting it. I just hope I'm getting it right. I'll be taking her in again Friday.

I had a lengthy to-do list, not much of which got done. I do have a new toilet in one bathroom and a new faucet for the sink in the other; I have a new bedside lamp, but the stand I bought to put it on came missing a few pieces, and the supplier is so far unresponsive; the fence has been repaired (that one wasn't on the to-do list!); and earlier this week I came up with a new technique for my polygons project, which will come in handy in the third and fourth papers in the sequence. Still need to write a new conclusion for the first paper and get it submitted.

The forecast for Monday in these parts is "partly cloudy". We're just outside the totality zone - 99.4%, I think - and the university has a bit of a gala set up for the afternoon, with eclipse glasses being provided and a couple of video screens. We'll see how it goes; my only class that day is at 6PM, so I'm free to join in the fun.

Life goes on, even amidst catastrophe.


Sep. 15th, 2016 01:53 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
It's been a while since my last post. Work's been a little heavy - classes, committees, a seminar or two - but not so much as to justify my laziness in posting.

Anyway, it's also been a while since my last trip to Amazon. One prompt for doing so now was a conversation with a potential Senior Project advisee. Normally, if they want to do something in geometry, I give them a copy of a certain book and ask them to pick a topic from anywhere after Chapter Three - but I'd already lent my copy to another possible advisee! The library didn't have a copy, so I told him I'd order one to lend to him. (It's probably good for me to have two copies of that book, anyway.) So, this morning, I went upriver and ordered that book. I also had decided to buy some more CDs, but instead of seeking out new performers, to get more albums by performers I didn't have much of. The result: I ordered Al Stewart's Past, Present and Future, Sarah McLachlan's Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, and Sara Bareilles' What's Inside: Songs from Waitress. On top of all that, I downloaded copies of Martha Wells' The Ships of Air (#2 in the "Fall of Ile-Rien" trilogy), Andrea Höst's The Pyramids of London, and Carrie Vaughn's Kitty and the Midnight Hour, and ordered dead-tree copies of Barry Strauss' The Trojan War, Brian Fagan's The Little Ice Age, Terry Pratchett's The Shepherd's Crown, and Bill Willingham's 1001 Nights.

I'm still plowing through Lyell and Fustel de Coulanges (although the end of the latter is in sight); I've finished off Andrea Palmer's Too Like the Lightning, P. G. Wodehouse's The Adventures of Sally (amusing; a bit less manic than his usual, though), and Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper (short, but very creepy - it reminded me a bit of Robert Chambers' The King in Yellow, which I think is roughly contemporary with it). Current fiction includes a reread of the 1632 books - Ring of Fire at the moment - and Harry Connolly's The Way into Chaos.

Today I have no reason to go onto campus, and I'm feeling very sluggish. I think I might take a nap.
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.


Jun. 27th, 2016 03:08 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
I don't actively try to get people to read Bujold's stories; if they ask for recommendations, yeah, she's high on the list, but I only spontaneously evangelize if I'm pretty sure they fit the person's tastes (as with my sister E). Sometimes, though, inadvertent recruitment occurs.

This past semester, the department interviewed several people for a tenure-track opening. The in-person interviews always include lunch at the university restaurant, attended by the candidate, the search committee, and as many department members as can be rounded up. Discussion at those meals is free and wide-ranging. At one of those lunches, for some reason, I found myself explaining that I had written a number of Bujold-centered filksongs, which necessitated an explanation of "filksong" and a brief discussion of some of the salient features of the Vorkosigan Saga.

This morning, I received an e-mail from that candidate, telling me that even though we didn't hire him, something good had still come of it: he's been reading through the entire (new to him) Vorkosigan Saga - currently, he's on Diplomatic Immunity. He expressed wonder that he had never encountered LMB's work before.

(I haven't responded yet; I'm thinking about just how to recommend the Sharing Knife and Five Gods series....)


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: My summer look (Summer)
Today was the departmental end-of-semester potluck, Mexican themed as usual. Most people brought taco fixings of one kind or another; somebody brought a batch of churros, which were very good, and I made a pan of cornbread. There was a bit of a scurry this morning, when I realized my honey had crystallized and I didn't have time to fix it; I fell back on straight sugar. It came out all right, I guess; the last time I looked at the pan, more than 3/4 of it had been eaten. (I didn't bring the pan home tonight because I had to give two finals back to back, and the scramble to catch the bus didn't leave time.)

Tomorrow I'll probably do some grading, and I'll be one of the judges of the Senior Presentation for one of S's students. Thursday, the take-home final for my DiffGeo class is due (but almost half of them have already turned it in); I'll hang around as late as 4:30 if necessary. Saturday is my turn to attend Commencement. and with that the semester will be over.

I got plans for summer. Lotsa plans.


Apr. 24th, 2016 01:26 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
1. I haven't been posting much lately, I see; it's the tail end of the semester, and things have been busy. (I've been on several committees which have chewed up a good deal of time as well.) Next week - the beginning of May - is finals week. After that I'm free for the summer. (Well, "free" in the sense that I won't be teaching, but I've still got a lot to do. The taxonomy papers are continuing to reshape themselves.)

2. For last week's dinners, I made a batch of Cajun-style pork ribs. A b-i-i-i-g batch; I've already had today's dinner, and there's still one more helping left. So, no real cooking this week; I'll pick up a few frozen dinners when I need them.

3. In addition to After London, which I mentioned before, I'm currently reading William Morris' The House of the Wolfings. It's sent in the Germanic lands at about the time of their first collision with the Romans, and has only a light touch of fantasy - unless you count his romanticized view of Germanic life as fantasy! It's interesting to compare the two books. Both describe similar societies, though one is post-apocalyptic and the other pre-modern. Jefferies' narrator recognizes that things are worse than they were, where Morris' feels that things will be worse than they are....

4. On a more nonfictional note, I'm also reading Fustel de Coulanges "La Cité Antique", which was, I think, one of the first major works of cultural history, showing how different aspects of Greek and Roman history developed, step by step, from the domestic religion, with its lares and penates. Fascinating stuff, although I'm sure later researchers have poked a hole or two in it. Also on the nonfictional front, I've started reading Charles Lyell's classic Principles of Geology. I've just barely begun it, and it's very long, so I can't offer any comments on it yet.

5. The department is undergoing a program review over the next year, and I need to update my vita for it. I don't recall this being necessary in earlier reviews, and I don't think I've updated my vita since I was hired. Ugh.

I have lots to do, and no energy to do it with. Two more weeks....


Apr. 16th, 2016 10:00 am
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
I've decided not to go to the Kansas City Worldcon. It would be extremely convenient - just a hop across Missouri - and I'd love a taste of their famous BBQ, but I really need to get the Taxonomy of Polygons papers (which may be metastasizing) written up and out the door, and I suspect I'll need all summer for that.

I will be buying a Supporting Membership, though, so I'll be able to vote on the Hugos.


Apr. 15th, 2016 06:51 pm
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
This was an eventful week.

On Monday, I realized that a certain phenomenon I'd noticed involving triangles was actually far more common. I had to start over on my current paper - the reorganization the new discovery suggested was rather thorough. I went in early to begin the rewrite, and split much of the day between wrestling with SWP6 and working out an extension of the new stuff to oddgons of all sizes.

Tuesday I went in early again for more of the same; in the afternoon, one of my Senior Project students gave his presentation. It was a difficult project, but he passed with flying colors.

Wednesday I had to go in early again, this time to observe a couple of our non-tenured faculty in class. I'll have to write up reports on both of them. In between were yet more SWPish wrestling, contemplation of a possible fourth or fifth paper in the series, and drawing pictures with Geometer's SketchPad. In the evening I did my taxes.

On Thursday, a candidate for a position in the department came calling. Since I am on the search committee, I had to be there for several events - a face-to-face with the committee, his teaching presentation, lunch with the department, and his research presentation. In between, V and I put our heads together, trying to wrap up the department newsletter. I also had to do some prep work for a committee meeting the next day.

Friday, I came in early yet again, this time for a meeting (which I attended remotely) of a statewide committee which coordinates GenEd courses in the general area of mathematics throughout the state of Illinois. Three and a half hours with a phone in my ear.... There was a lunch break, during which V and I got the newsletter just about done; after the meeting ended, I had another committee, this time to select a textbook for our abstract algebra sequence. That one was mercifully brief, and I was home by about 4:30. Even the bus driver thought I looked tired.

Next week, I get to start dealing with all the stuff I didn't have time for this week.

:stretches and yawns:


Apr. 2nd, 2016 10:47 am
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Somewhat related to the last post: Wednesday was a rainy day around here, and occasionally a thunderous one.

This week I began writing up the first of my papers on the taxonomy of polygons. Wednesday, I tackled a section centered on one particular rather finicky proposition. Basically, it said something like "Exactly one of situations A and B holds. In Situation A, Event X happens; in Situation B, Event Y happens". Proving it required a careful case analysis - "Suppose n is odd... Suppose instead that n is even, but not a multiple of four... Suppose, finally, that n is a multiple of four...." - and I went through the cycle "Write / Read / Think / Delete" several times before satisfying myself. I finally hit on the right way to distinguish A from B, and the most efficient way to prove X or Y, plus, as a bonus, the easiest way to handle one detail (in both cases) that I'd been kind of sluffing off.

Now, I write my papers using Scientific Workplace, which is a WYSIWYG shell sitting on top of a TeX engine; I've used it for, literally, decades. But SWP just upgraded from v5 to v6, and there is a definite learning curve. (There's at least one major improvement in v6, but a lot has changed, and v6 is not backward compatible with v5....) As a result, I found it necessary to repeatedly run Preview, so I could see whether what I'd written actually had the right appearance. Previewing the proposition I mentioned above, I saw one unsatisfactory bit, but I saw how to correct it, and did so. Then I saved, for the first time in something like an hour.

Literally two seconds later, the power went off.

(Yes, I know: waiting that long before saving is an act of folly. But they say the good Lord looks after fools and Americans, and I guess I qualify twice over!)


Apr. 2nd, 2016 10:34 am
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
One of my besetting sins - and it's a very serious fault in a mathematician - lies in the fact that it is always more enjoyable to hunt for new stuff than to write down old stuff. I can think of three or four might-have-been papers that withered on the vine because I could not motivate myself to write them up - I was too caught up by some new butterfly to chase. If it harmed my career to do this, well, it's my career, innit?

Today, in the shower (naturally), I had an epiphany, in the form of the following words.
I know things about polygons that no one else in the world knows.
It is my duty to share that knowledge.
Framing it that way locks it into some of my foundational moral axioms. There may not be many people who are interested in that knowledge, but there are certainly some, and the only justification for the self-indulgence of the academic life is precisely its sharing.

I mean, what would you think of a painter who locked all of their paintings in the attic and never let anyone else see them? OK, maybe they're bad paintings, but who can tell under those circumstances? For that matter, who can tell what budding artist might find inspiration in the villainous daubs of another?

Time to write.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
I just filled out a form, confirming that I had done such-and-such as required by my employer. The form asked for, among other things, my name. I typed in FirstName MiddleInitial+"." LastName, as I normally do in official contexts.

The form rejected it, demanding that I give a valid response without punctuation or numbers.

I don't know what to think about that.

Berned Out

Mar. 3rd, 2016 08:24 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Bernie Sanders is holding a campaign rally at the university tomorrow. He is holding it in the very building which houses my office. We have been warned that security in that building will be very tight.

I have no Friday classes. I don't think I'll go in to work tomorrow.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
1. My Inner Minstrel amused himself, much of yesterday, by trying to sing "Harper Valley PTA" to the tune of "Ode to Billie Joe". This is... disturbingly do-able.

2. The department has decided to begin putting out a twice-yearly electronic newsletter, and I've been appointed to the committee. (V and W are the others.) We met yesterday to kick around ideas for content and structure, and came up with a fair number. Should be an interesting task. We (probably) need to have it mostly together by early April, to give the higher-ups time to review and (one hopes) approve it.

3. One of the e-books I've been reading on the bus is Raymond F. Jones' The Year When Stardust Fell (1958); it belongs in the same general category as Stirling's Emberverse series, but it's very much a product of the '50s in plotting and style - no wannabe Numenoreans here! I finished it this week; not a bad example of the cozy catastrophe genre, but nothing special. (Huh - for some reason I thought he was D. F. Jones, who wrote the Colossus trilogy; they were rough contemporaries, but not the same person. This Jones is probably best known for This Island Earth (1952), which was made into a film in 1955.)

4. I also had a chat, yesterday, with my Mass Mutual agent. I pointed out some concerns I had with the distribution of funds in my account, with which she agreed, and we worked out a more satisfactory setup. She also suggested I put some of the extra (post-mortgage) funds I have into a Roth IRA. I know nothing about this, but she'll be sending me some information soon - basics and options.

:sigh: It's only the fourth week of the semester, and I'm kind of tired already. We're up to the Greeks in one of my math history classes and to Desargues in the other; in the differential geometry class, we just wrapped up the basics of curve theory, up to the Isoperimetric Inequality, and will start on surface theory on Tuesday. In late February, I have to take a one-day trip to Bloomington for an articulation conference. ("Articulation" refers to the coordination of courses and course content between different schools and colleges in Illinois, to make transferring credits, for example, as straightforward as possible.) The day after that is the annual math contest, so that weekend is pretty much locked down.

I keep wanting to just lie down and get another few hours of sleep....
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
I haven't been posting much lately. Partly it's simple procrastination; I've toyed with a number of ideas for posts in the last month or so, without ever actually writing them up. But I do have genuine justifications.

1) The semester's coming to a close. Classes ended last Friday, and I'll be giving a final on Monday and collecting a take-home final on Wednesday. It's going to be a scramble getting everything taken care of before I leave for California next Friday. (I'll be spending about two and a half weeks there, as usual, returning on the fifth.)

2) I'm in the middle of what will probably be my last game of Skyrim. It's going to take a long time; one of my goals is to earn every one of the skill perks, which will require me to reach character level 252. I'm currently at level 47, and gaining levels gets harder the higher you go. Damned addictive game....

3) I'm coding a new version (5.0) of my personal bookkeeping program. It's based on MS Access, like its predecessors; I've learned a lot about Access programming working on other projects (including the database I use with Skyrim), and I'm adding a lot of nice automation and other simplifications. If I can make it all work, it'll be a huge improvement on version 4. I've got four of the five major forms coded, and only have a couple more buttons on the fifth. (I have a couple of tweaks I'll have to make on the earlier forms, but they're minor, I hope.)

I've had time to write LJ posts, certainly, but among those three items there've been plenty of calls of duty and temptation pulling me in other directions.

(I'm about to go on vacation, and I haven't finished recapping my last vacation! Alas.)
stoutfellow: (Winter)
This evening, I scratched a longstanding itch. I went online and ordered e-books of the first three (out of five) of James Herriot's "All Creatures Great and Small" series.

I originally read the books in their British editions; they were slim volumes with titles like It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet and Vets in Harness. (I bought them during my first trip to UK, back in 1978. They vanished during one of my parents' moves; I had left them there while I was in grad school.) The USAn editions consolidated them into five fat volumes, the first four of which took their titles from a hymn. Every so often, the idea of getting new copies and rereading them has occurred to me, and I finally acted on it.

I also bought a few more e-volumes of the Ring of Fire series, getting caught up (at least as far as the novels are concerned; ain't no catching up with the Gazette volumes). A Vogues album ("Five O'Clock World" was the attractor) and first-season DVDs of "The West Wing" rounded off the order. (I saw a handful of late-season episodes of TWW and enjoyed them, so I'd like to go back to the beginning and see the whole thing. "LA Law" and "The X-Files" are also on the to-get list, although I probably won't get the last few - post-Hamlin - seasons of the former.)

Otherwise, the status is quo. My calculus and advanced geometry courses are proceeding apace; I've got two Senior Project students - one working on the Simson line construction, in triangle geometry, and the other on the Sylow theorems, which are major mid-level tools in understanding the structure of finite groups. (This is group theory, not to be confused with group therapy....;-)) The dogs are well; Buster has rediscovered one of his squeaky-toys, and has been rambuncting, a lot. As the icon suggests, I've begun growing my winter pelt - rather early, but we had a cold snap a couple of weeks ago, and I decided to go ahead with it. The "pork pot roast" has turned out to be good, but not great; the flavors took two or three days to meld, and the Brie doesn't really sit well with the rest of the components.

Meanwhile, the state is still screwing us over; our health insurance provider does not presently have authorization to spend money, and as a result many health providers are asking for cash on the barrelhead from state employees.

Ah, well. I'll survive - as long as I don't, y'know, get sick or anything.


May. 5th, 2015 05:53 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
This could have been embarrassing.

I was in the middle of preparing the cornbread for today's pot luck when I suddenly remembered that I'd used up my white flour. Fortunately, I had left myself enough time that I was able to race over to Shop'n'Save, grab a bag of flour, and hurry back; I finished the cornbread with twenty minutes to spare. (More, actually, but that would have started eating into my time-cushion at the bus stop.)

The pot luck went well, and the cornbread was well-received; about two-thirds of it was eaten, and what remains is just enough to supplement my dinners for the rest of the week.

So that worked.

Tomorrow and the next day: finals.

A New Week

Apr. 12th, 2015 11:50 am
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
Last week was kind of a bummer. The Sad/Rabid Puppies crap, a less-than-stellar Annual Evaluation, the Padres' sluggish start, and a couple of other things I'm not going to talk about.... There are times when I just get so tired of everything.

Not that the week was a complete wreck. Monday night, as I was trying to get to sleep, the answer to a research question that had been bothering me for a couple of years finally came clear; the Padres came back with wins on Friday and Saturday (beating up Bumgarner pretty badly last night); the weather's been good - a few things on the right side of the balance.

My dinners the last two weeks have been reruns - jambalaya, and beef and barley soup - but this week I'm trying my hand at chicken cacciatore (that dish beloved of the American revolutionaries, back in '76). It's still got about six hours to cook, but it's already smelling good.

Here's to a new week, and better fortune!
stoutfellow: (Winter)
Today is the departmental holiday potluck. I signed up to bring a pan of cornbread, using the recipe from Thanksgiving. This morning, giving myself plenty of lead time, I began making the cornbread - chopping the onion, starting the olive oil to heating, getting the milk out....

There was no milk.

There is always milk!

Except this morning.

I'll stop at Shop'n'Save and pick up a pie or something.

stoutfellow: (Winter)
A state judge has ruled that Illinois's recent pension reform is unconstitutional (state, not federal) - that the state's promise concerning pension benefits is constitutionally protected. Attorney General Madigan has announced that she will appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.

(The matter seems pretty much cut and dried to me; Article XIII, Section 5 reads as follows: "Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.")

Naturally, this has been followed by proposals to amend the state constitution.

Nine more years....


stoutfellow: Joker (Default)

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