Monday, May 05, 2008


Test 1, Test 2, Test 3.


Sunday, November 12, 2006


It's cold again. Became cold on Friday after having been almost 80 degrees the day before. And cloudy, occasionally there was some drizzle, and it did rain a bit on thursday night.

Today stayed in all day and did nothing but sleep and play video games. I had planned on going out and getting some art supplies so perhaps I could start drawing again, but I kept putting it off and putting it off until it was too late to go out. Of course I still have homework to do but after last week the thought of doing any mathematics makes me sick. Tonight started, finally, to read the biography of Joseph Campbell I bought nearly three months ago.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


time, time, and time. "Of what manner of stuff is the web of time wove?" --Thoreau's journal. How shall I say this...I'm tired. This will be another long night--of staying up merely because not all the problems are solved, not because I care, but because that old good student still inside me somewhere says I should be working (he has since been beaten into a small corner). Time always seems to slip away more quickly when it is seemingly an ocean of possibility. And becomes barren. Suddenly the roar of water falling off the edge of the flat world becomes audible. And your pencil cannot write quickly enough, even if your mind could tranverse the logical connections and implications fast enough to squeeze it all in, in time. This ocean of possibility is but a sickening glut. A glut of possibility is as good as impossibility. Unless one has the courage to make a decision. To begin to make an incision in this glut of time to cut it down to size.

But today, perhaps for the last time, it was warm. Probably 75 degrees. And the air smelled of warm leaves. As I walked home from school I looked out across the hills to the north-east of town to see the hills browning, and the turnpike weaving its way toward Kansas City. I've been living here three months now. I never tire of being able to look out on this vista to see how it has changed but stayed the same.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

working on take-home exam

the dreaded week is well under way. the week of the MATH 790 take-home exam number 3. Last night I spent five hours working on one problem and got nowhere. there are ten problems total and I've only solved three completely. About three more should be easy and I'm working on those now, but the remaining four I still have no idea how to solve. One of those was the one I spent five hours on, by far the hardest since the others I think I know at least where to start. The hardest one I thought that about before yesterday, but then turned out that the natural approach yielded nothing. Or at least I don't see if the natural approach is even right or not. (That's precisely what I mean by accomplishing nothing on it: I'm not even sure if my approach gives me a solution or not.) Luckily I have all day tomorrow to devote to this thing. The test is due at 1:00pm on Friday. So i have roughly 38 hours to work on it minus, say, being liberal, 10 hours for sleep = 28 hours, and minus all of friday morning since I have to teach and go to class and whatnot, so that's like 24 hours left, which sounds like a lot until you remember that I said I worked for five hours on a problem and got nowhere. Hopefully some sort of enlightenment will come before then. Quite honestly I think mathematics should be considered a religion because I feel like a monk meditating over sacred texts and symbols day and night depriving myself of sleep trying to divine a meaning that the guru says I should be getting out of them. Right now the floor of my apartment is filled with notes and sheets of paper displaying all sorts of cryptic things chanted out to us in the holy halls of the Divine Department. Furthermore, one is, as a mere postulant [as I am] embarased to admit while within the presence of the novice students [those holy ones who have passed the qualifying exams] or the ordained ones [those holiest ones with PhDs] to any activity, e.g. watching a movie or reading a work of literature, that doesn't bring one closer to mathematical enlightenment because you are looked upon with suspicion. I can't wait until this week is over.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


dropped the probability class officially last week, but didn't go to it at all the previous week since I had a Linear Algebra take-home exam that was occupying all of my time. Barely got the teaching done, my students certainly didn't like me that week. The last week was better and this week is easy (for me, not for them) since it's a testing week. So i only have to teach two out of the three days. Tomorrow is just a review day so basically I just ask for questions and if they don't ask any right away I just stand and stare at them like a perturbed teacher--i've grown to like playing that role (it's about the only fun in my week)--until someone breaks the awkward silence by asking to look at some problem and I launch into explaining to them how to solve it. Then after a while I give them some review problems to work on and I usually sit there pretending to be working through them too, and most of the time I actually am, since otherwise when it comes time to work through them together I might get tripped up by one of them and that's not good in this sort of class because the students are like sharks or wolves or something: you show them any fear or whatever and they pounce.

Overall teaching is the least of my worries though right now. I have lots of homework to do and no desire to do it. Frankly I don't give a shit about the problems. I've tried to force myself to sit down and do them but I can't get away from the fact that my mind doesn't want to work on them. I guess its like a sort of math block or something. It's more like a blindness. Up until a few weeks ago I could either see a route to a solution ("see" it as one "sees" a route in one's mind from point A to B, with various legs of the trip) or if I didn't see it I was able to evaluate the possibilities and eliminate them and process them until one proved to be a success. Now I can't even see the possibilities and keep getting dead ends right at the beginning. I've experienced this before and it never ceases to amaze me how others misunderstand this. Anybody here (i.e. my fellow students) I talk to about this doesn't understand it, ironically--they're all too smart for that. The last time this happened to me was in Budapest, and it's why i decided to focus on philosophy instead of math. Look how that worked out. If this doesn't clear up soon it's going to get interesting: another take-home exam on monday and an Analysis homework due on the same day.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

fall break

So i'm on fall break now. Going to drive back to H-boro as soon as I get the energy to do so. I'll be working a lot over the break...catching up on school work that's had to go by the wayside lately. And figure out what I did wrong on the probability exam had last week thursday. Got like a C on it. Worst math grade I've had since 7th grade. There's something new for ya. But a week before on that analysis exam I got the second best score in the class. More soon.

Friday, September 29, 2006


had an analysis exam today. overall it went well i think but i did completely blank on one of the more involved problems (that required one to give a complete proof of a simple result--all but one of the other questions were short answer type questions). I stared blankly at it for like 7 or 8 minutes (keep in mind this was just an hour (i.e. 50 minute) exam) and then decided to move on. So i ended up being rushed on the other involved problem, but I think I gave a complete solution for it--or rather complete enough for the requirements of the exam. This is why I hate exams, the pressure of having to perform freezes my mind. All through it I knew what I needed to do but just couldn't get myself to write it. If I had had the same problem as a homework problem I would've gotten it done probably in not much more time than would be required to get it on the exam. On Thursday there is a probability exam, and a homework due on Tuesday. All the while I've been neglecting work on one of my classes that has been all review material until now. The new stuff is a hell of a lot more interesting but it takes a lot longer for me to understand. This is going to be a really full working weekend. Linear Algebra and Probability tomorrow, and hopefully get to work on the new Analysis homework on Sunday. Thankfully there is a Math department picnic on Sunday afternoon--with free food and, yes, free beer. I'm there.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

another one done

I just completed another probability assignment. Not much to say about it but I don't understand this material with any kind of real understanding. Other classes going well though, for now. I've fallen into a routine here and it is less than exciting each day. Hence the lack of blogging; contrary to my anticipations. I was home last weekend. I got home on Friday night and went for a long walk around Hillsboro. The trees were beginning to change color already in H-boro--they are just now doing so here in Lawrence. As I was walking I actually managed to write a few lines of verse, which I will not be copying down here.

As far as teaching is concerned my afternoon class has become a real drag. Nobody asks questions so I end up getting through the material really quickly, and when I pause for questions or even ask a question right out I usually end up standing there for 30 seconds. When I try to get them to do group work on some problems they just fidget awkwardly like they don't understand what I'm saying. And at that point of the day I have no energy to keep myself going, let alone keep 23 students who don't want to be there interested.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

here's where it gets tough

So yeah I have a new probability assignment that I cannot get written down. All round this class has been kinda' shitty already. By "cannot get written down" I mean I've worked with people in the class about the solutions to the problems but I can't seem to get my own understanding of the solutions. Some of the problems are solved in a suplement that someone in the class found online, but the solutions given there are just the same. I can't fully understand them. Sure, I could just copy them down but that wouldn't really be doing me any good. In fact it would probably be doing more harm than good even if I lose points for giving a wrong answer when writing down the correct answer would get me those points because when it comes time for the exam I wouldn't have a fucking clue.

So basically for the last three hours I've been trying to no avail to understand the solutions, and every time I've tried to write out the solution for handing in and every time I have to stop and go on to the next problem because I find I haven't a clue really what the solution is.

It's a really shitty feeling. In the other classes I actually know what I'm doing...for now. I have a Linear Algebra take-home exam that's due on Friday at 1:00pm but I teach and have classes from 9:00am til then so I have to get it done Thursday night at the latest and this shitty probability homework is due Thursday at 8:00am and tomorrow is teaching and classes all day.

Basically it's things like this that make me apathetic. There's always some goddamn fly in the ointment.

I wan't so much to give a shit about it even when it's like this. But, you know what, it's just not there.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Being a student in a state school, I have today off--from teaching and going to classes that is. However, I should be working on writing up my Probability Theory homework. I've got most of the problems solved but now I have to actually write up the solutions in format. There's also a bunch of Linear Algebra needing to be worked on. But today there's a M*A*S*H marathon--until 2:00 am. Luckily I've seen most of the episodes before so I can sort of just put it on as background noise while I'm working.

Last night I ate supper at one of my Indian friend's apartment. Unfortunately I don't remember all the names of the dishes, but it was all really good. I'm going to try to get her to teach me how to make them, but I don't know when either of us is going to have time. The Americans at this little gathering were in the minority--just me and one other student--so after dinner and desert they all asked about American perceptions of India and its history--and vice versa.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

belly-dancing and math and ouzo

So last night I went to a party at which there were belly dancers and ouzo and everybody there was a math graduate student. The belly dancers were the ones throwing the party. Shortly before that we played a game similar to mafia. At one point I was in the center of the room with two beautiful Turkish women trying to teach me how to dance like them. I'm convinced that they must have extra vertibrae or something. My mennonite bones prevented me from moving as gracefully as them. The people at the party were an interesting mix of Americans sitting on the fringes sipping wine and Ouzo and Indians, Chinese and the Turks in the middle. And just outside there were rednecks sipping on bud light and washing a giant red 4x4 pickup.

I just have to say that Ouzo must have a very high alcohol content because I had only one shot and two hours later it was still effective. So I ended up walking about two miles back to my apartment through the KU campus, making sure to dodge all the frat boys wandering around loudly.

Unfortunately I haven't got any work done today. Need to work on probability. There's an assignment due Tuesday. And there are other due dates looming already. A take-home exam on the 11th that I need to prepare for (even though it's a take-home exam all the problems will be derived from the homework problems so I need to work through the homeworks in order to prepare). I don't have to prepare for class until Friday though--just a review day on Wednesday. Though I'll need to do some grading on Tuesday probably even though I have a grader. He's on vacation and didn't get the afternoon assignments collected on Friday.

Today I didn't do much other than take a few short naps and go back and get my car. And grocery shopping. I still have to go to the laundromat--tomorrow probably.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Sea Change

Today was an excelent day teaching. I got through all the material I needed to get through with a couple of minutes to spare, so there was no rushing and fretting over what examples to cover and which ones to ommit. In the first class I did have to ommit a couple of examples but they were merely additional examples trying to hit home a topic that is very foreign to non-math people: taking an equation in two unknowns and algebraicly determining if it defines a function and not merely a relation. Of course in both classes I taught the "vertical line test" which I really hate because its just a crutch. But that is the most one can offer students at this level of math class. However, I did try to give them some sense of the algebraic method for some simple examples. I think I got through to them. Today my grader finally made contact with me so I will no longer have to grade homeworks. Furthermore, last night I stayed up late writing my lecture notes for both today and Friday. So tomorrow's preparation will simply involve going over the notes making sure I've covered everything needed.

This weekend will be a three-day weekend so I will have some extra time for homework. I did start on my Probability Theory homework during my office hours, but by 4:30 I couldn't concentrate any longer so I went back to my apartment. After watching some TV I fell asleep for about an hour and a half, woke up groggy and watched some more TV. I will probably do some more work on probability before going to bed.

Now as I write I'm listening to Beck's "Sea Change" album--now playing "Lonesome Tears", my favorite track on the album. Especially the line "How could this love--ever changing--never change the way I feel." and then further on "How could this love--ever turning--never turn its eye on me."

Friday, August 25, 2006

first whole week

Today ends the first full week of the semester. One of the benefits of being really busy is that the time goes by really fast. Unfortunately I don't feel like I've really done much math. I've done a couple of homework problems and read some of the texts but honestly I have been much more busy with teaching and figuring out all the crap that goes along with the teaching. I just got back from "supervising" the KAP workroom/help room. Basically I'm supposed to tell all the undergrad TAs and tutors what to do and where to go. But I'm also expected to pitch in. Thankfully I have to do supervising only once a week--supervising is by far my least favorite thing to do but i'm sure it's good for me in that it "builds character" and all that jazz. Luckily I heard it directly from the director of the program that I'm getting a replacement grader (the one assigned to me originally backed out at the last minute). Yesterday I tried to get all the grading done, but then that made me not get the lesson planning done until late at night. The upside of all this is that it makes me more motivated to study math because it's a joy compared to teaching and going to all those meetings, etc.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

So today things were reversed. In the 9:00am class I didn't cover all of the material I needed to cover. There were two sections in the textbook that we were supposed to go over but for some reason or another there was a strange time-warp in my mind and when I looked at the clock realized there wouldn't be enough time to do the second section in enough detail; then as I was working through that realized that I had forgot to present a very important example from the first section. So after my analysis class that followed just 10 minutes after the 9:00am teaching I took some time to ... what? eat lunch ... no way, rework my lecture notes and after that do some homework. Then after linear algebra I had to jump in and do the lecture again at 2:00pm. That time went much better. I actually finished the essential material 5 minutes early and had some time to include some of the less important material at least in brief. I think the 9:00am class was pissed off that I didn't have time to take questions from homework. There wouldn't have been time for that though even with the better 2:00pm lecture.

There are lots of people with iP0dz (i purposefully misspelled it so the goddam search engines won't list my blog) around here. I guess they're the standard hipster wear out here like Pabst Blue Ribon is elsewhere. One guy in my 2:00pm class was listening during class. They sell them in the KU bookstore as well.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Tonight I bought a CD completely on an impulse. I was walking through the aisles of the Best Buy here in Lawrence looking for materials to setup my internet connection so I could have my cable connection in the same room without disconnecting cables everytime i wanted internet or TV. I was looking for a splitter and finally found them but was disgusted to find out that they were 10 dollars. So i wandered off and bought a Radiohead cd instead (Kid A) for 13 dollars. I had been eye-ing it for a few months but just decided to go ahead and get it.

Then i went to wal-mart and bought a splitter for 3 dollars. Although the wal-mart one isn't really meant for splitting a digital signal; seems to work but i'm sure there's some degradation of signal.

I always feel depressed after buying a CD. I usually never like a CD the first time I listen to it. It was the same when I bought OK Computer, but after a month or two came to like listening to it.

Today taught the first full 50 minutes of my class--once at 9:00am and again at 2:00pm. After the 2:00pm class I was drained...didn't go as well as the 9:00am class did. Then i actually had some energy, but by the time 2pm rolled around I had also attended a class, went to one of the many meetings I have to go to for KAP, then went to another class, with a frenetic jaunt over to the Kansas Union to get lunch somewhere squezed in there. Mondays, wednesdays, and Fridays are all going to be like this, and then Tuesdays and Thursdays are going to be filled with all the stuff I couldn't do on the other days--e.g. doing homework and studying and preparing for the next day's classes (oh and going to another meeting on Tuesdays). To be honest I don't mind being busy in and of istself but its the mundanity of it all that really kills me and the blank looks of students sucking me dry as I drone on about solving equations.

Today I felt really shitty after the 2pm class. At that point I didn't want to think about teaching on Wednesday let alone for a whole semester. Shortly thereafter I actually got to start working on some homework, which cheered me up actually because I got to spend some quite minutes alone with the text and a pen and paper working steadily on a problem.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Yesterday saw the beginning of my semester of teaching MATH 002 (Intermediate Algebra) here at KU. I didn't have to teach a full 50 minute class, however, for reasons involving the following: I am a part of what's called KAP (Kansas Algebra Program) which, you might say, is the analog of a writing center for math, except that the program actually teaches classes as well as providing extensive tutoring services. There are approximately 2200 students in the KAP program. This includes the class I teach as well as the standard MATH 101 course. I'm not sure how many sections there are of each class but there are about 22 students in each of the two sections I teach. In addition to this , for 2 1/2 hours per week I supervise the whole operation (Help room and testing center [the tests are given in large groups outside of class]), which is to say I make sure all the undergrad TAs and tutors are where they should be (all of whom know more about working in the program than I do--and I get paid more). I've only done this once so far (yesterday) and it was pretty lax, which will change once students actually start doing homework and taking exams.

So the reason I didn't teach a full class period was because yesterday (being the first class) my class along with many others were all in one group going over the syllabus with the program coordinator (my boss). I just went over some really basic operations as taking a sentence like "subtract twice a number from -15" and translating it into a mathematical expression like

-15 - 2x

And doing simple calculations like 9 + 2[(12 - 20)^2 + 10*2]. Amazingly some have trouble with even this.

On monday the real work begins. We'll start doing things like solving linear equations like

10 = 3x - 2

Which I can do in my head. x = 4

But one needs to go over with them the steps involved: Adding 2 to both sides of the equation and then dividing both sides by 3. The whole process is so simple but learning it one needs some vocabulary so that'll take me a chunck of the class to explain things like: what do I mean when I say add/subtract/divide/multiply both sides of the equation? what's a solution? what's a solution set? At least these are terms in the text book and from what I've seen of the tests the students are going to have to take they will need to know explicit definitions of these things.

Today I finally called the cable/internet people to setup my connection. I'm tired of having to come all the way to school to check email. And because my apartment is in a deep valley the TV reception is not so good. The best of the two PBS stations comes in poorly and not at all today for some reason.

They're supposed to come tomorrow to hookup the connection and give me the cable modem and other hardware. I'm glad they could come on the weekend because my Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule is chocked full; Tuesdays, Thursday's aren't much better because I'll be doing class preparation (both for teaching and taking classes) all day even though I only have one class in the morning.

So far I'm looking forward to being busy. Perhaps it's still too early to tell, but I don't think I'm going to be too busy this semester. The class prep looks like it'll be easy--the hardest part is the teaching: yesterday I felt beat after each of my classes even though the material is easy; it felt like the students were vacuums sucking my energy. Furthermore I've been assigned a grader so I won't have to do grading. I'm definitely going to take advantage of that. So really my only work is prep, teaching, holding office hours (~3 hours/wk), supervising, and going to the three meetings per week that I must go to since I'm a GTA (two meetings for KAP, and one for all math GTAs).

The classes I'm taking look rather interesting, though I've heard from many people who have taken the classes that they are incredibly hard. Two of the classes are over subjects I've already done at Tabor, the other is completely new: Probability Theory. Sure I've had the useless sort of probability theory they teach in high school, but this is a completely different (and more interesting) level--much more work though. Right now I'm looking forward to it.

Sometime today I'm going to work on some math.

Friday, August 11, 2006

live from the KU math department

So after some agonizing months I've finally decided to commit to an academic program after waffling around for what seems like to have been an interminable amount of time. Despite my previous apprehensions about doing graduate mathematics I am enroled in the KU graduate mathematics program. We'll see how this goes. Right now I'm telling myself that if I can at least get an MA here then I'll decide what to do next. Perhaps transfer to another program for a Ph.D. but I don't want to commit myself to that track either yet; who knows? i might find myself interested in some sort of applied mathematics in which case being here for the full PhD would be ok. I guess I've always been interested primarily in a pure mathematics mindset; but in the back of my mind I don't wonder if it isn't a bit too ivory tower for me to really flourish since I'm no math genius.

So I'm enroled in three classes and still waiting for my teaching assignment. Yes I forgot to mention that I have got a GTA appointment so I'll be getting a paycheck as well as not having to pay any tuition...that's nice. Teaching is going to be interesting. Probably have two sections of 35 students each for one class. In a way I'm glad they aren't telling us (GTAs) our teaching assignments until a few days before classes because I know I would be too tempted to start preparing right away and then I would have a warped view of the amount of time I'm going to have to prepare during the semester. I'm not so much worried about the act of teaching but it's all the administrative crap that one has to deal with. So far the math department has been really helpful. At the university-wide GTA/RA (research assistant) training conference yesterday there were a few grad students handing out small yellow flyers for a GTA/RA Union meeting sometime soon and on the flyer were certain statements "Did you know ...?" Wanting to get people involved in changing some of the stuff surrounding GTA's status/pay at the institution.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Finally I roused myself from the comfort of my little house on C street, from the sleepyness brought on by a good meal of beans and rice, and from the safe glow of the TV to go for a walk on this strangely warm evening in late February.

Originally planning only to take a slight detour on my way to the campus to use the internet I managed to walk pretty much around the town. From one end to the other, in a somewhat rectangular path.

There was quite a strong smell of wood smoke in the air, as it was warm, but not so warm that one wouldn't desire the crackle of a fireplace. For myself I know that I have never had such a good time just sitting and reading as when I was sitting in front of a warm fire, tending it, keeping it going all afternoon and into the evening. I remember a couple of years ago sitting in front of the fire for an entire day reading Thoreau's Maine Woods; reading almost the whole book in two days. All simply because of the sense given by the fire. A desire to remain still.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

finally getting out a little bit

last weekend went out to marion reservoir and took some pics, then drove around the country-side a bit like i used to do so much back in high shcool but now that gas isn't so cheap i don't do it very much. anywho...i'm pretty tired and don't feel like waxing poetic about going to the reservoir (for that matter i've gone out there so many times that there isn't much to say). Yet there is something possibly to say. last saturday was sort of overcast so there was some nice flat lighting with an occasional burst of sunlight trying to break through the clouds. it was rather warm as well--around 75 degrees F or so. earlier in the day i did some digging in the garden back home. have to get back there sometime and do some more digging up of the plots so the ground'll be nice'n mellow in the spring which isn't too far off.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

still nothing

still nothing to say here really. moved into my own place finally. feels nice, but also lonely at times, but feels like i've got a handle on that after my experience in budapest. i think, i guess.

the snow was nice while it was here. really peaceful large flakes fell as i walked into work on wednesday. never got around to taking any pictures. to be honest i'd rather be posting pictures of the snow here than rambling on about it.

tried hanging out with a friend tonight, he's still a student here at Tabor. he was in all day today playing computer games. one of those Sim games, the one where you're able to simulate a person living somewhere. I did actualy hang with him for about two hours--had some good conversation while his slow computer was rendering some graphics or something.

still working on grad school applications. just about to finally submit a writing sample to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee philosophy M.A. program. It's taken me forever to finally get a paper that i feel reasonably comfortable submitting to represent my writing. The thing that sucks is that the whole thing feels half-baked.