Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Unethical Apes

My friend (and co-worker) and I were discussing the various ways students will try to get out of doing work and paying attention. They come to class but play on their phones, and it often happens that the ones who play are the ones who are failing. Coincidence? No, sir! We wonder if they don't realize that if they act like that on a job, they won't have a job for very long.

Then, my friend said this: "If everyone was just honest and did the work they were supposed to do, they would pass."  Then, she laughed and added, "If everyone followed those two rules, the world would be a better place."

I agree, but I don't think it's likely to happen.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Thanks again to Dave, finder of awesome math/science webcomics.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ape Observation

     Yesterday, as I was driving across campus from dropping L off at the lab, it was early enough that I didn't have to watch too carefully for students darting across the streets.  It makes me smile, just a bit, to think that the kiddos are like squirrels, except that the University squirrels know better than to run into the road without looking.  
     I was thinking about how many roads now have buildings in the middle of them.  By that, I mean that the University built all these roads to connect the campus and then decided that 1) it was too connected to be safe for foot traffic and 2) they needed the space for new engineering buildings and rehab/expansion of some old ones.  If we're going to cram 30K people onto this campus by 2015, we've got to put them somewhere. Don't know who will teach them, but at least they'll have a nice room to sit in.
     I saw a crane over what was the other half of the road I was traveling and thought about these radical changes.  People that went to school here back when I was in my first go-round can't believe how much it's changed, and they can hardly navigate campus when they get off the main drag.
     But one thing that never changes is seeing students walk or ride bikes to class with large packs on their backs.  I love that.  I love to see the engineering students with their T-squares poking awkwardly out of their packs and an armload of drafting supplies.  There goes an art student with an enormous portfolio case and a music student with an instrument case.  The beauty, beyond the fact that they carry tools of the subject they love, is that their hands are too full with real world stuff to bother with cell phones.  These overburdened ones don't have the finger and hand availability to text or chat as they walk, and so they look up. They watch where they're going.  They observe.  They learn.  I love that.   

Thursday, April 14, 2011

iiieee!!! Math-related Comics

Two of my favorites, both of which are on my office door.

Calvin and Hobbes: Math is a religion

xkcd: Purity

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring and Summer Plans

Three weeks of the spring semester remain, and I'm hoping that Dr. C and I can finish our paper by then or shortly thereafter.  We are so close, just a few finishing touches and a proof.  We'll send it off for review, and as spring turns to summer, I'll start adding to it to make my dissertation. 

I hope to write the vast majority of it this summer.  I'm not going to teach, which leaves my days free to write on the dissertation and on my novels.  I hope that by the time August gets here, I'll have the dissertation all but finished and I'll have my next novel ready for querying. 

In the fall, I'll present at the Algebra seminar, kind of a warm-up for the main event.  Since four of the attendees are on my dissertation committee, the idea is to introduce them to my work.  That way, when I get into my defense, it will be more of a short talk than a grilling.  Dr. C told me what I should expect, which made me feel so much better. 

I know other PhDs that can spout research, names, and dates like second nature, but I really don't have a mind for that kind of thing.  Also, it's quite up in the air who actually first proved many of the theorems in the branch of group theory I'm delving into, so saying "So-and-so gets credit for discovering this," may not be true.  It's just that particular person got pissy enough to want his name on it and the other people were like, "Whatever dude.  Have it if it means so much to you."  No matter what game you're playing, there's always one, right?  Sometimes, more than one.  Well, I supposed if my teaching load, promotions, and so on were based on me publishing, I might get pissy too.

The only thing left to do, other than write the thing, is make sure all the paperwork is complete in enough time.  Since I plan to defend in January or February of next year, I should have plenty of time to get it all done with enough time for "Oops, we forgot this."  I don't want this to not happen because I forgot to file my admission to candidacy form. 

I just...when I got my master's and started work, I never dreamed I'd come back to school and actually finish my PhD.  Now, it looks like it might really happen.  I might actually complete a major life goal.  It's pretty big for me.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Thanks to Dave (one of L's Navy buddies) for this one.  It's true, and these former Navy nukes know. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Ape Real Fools

When that Aprill with his shoures sote
The droght of Marche hath perced to the rote,
Ans bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred in the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
And smale fowles maken melodye,
That slepen al the night with open yƫ
(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages):
Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages...

           --Geoffrey Chaucer The Canturbury Tales: Prologue

In a nutshell?  Spring fever - we all want to get outside and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine, even if it means a religious pilgrimage.

I see my students look longingly out the windows of the classroom, wishing they were on a blanket on the quad or on a chaise by the pool.  I've gotten in the habit of closing the blinds so that we can focus on the math.

This time of year always reminds me of one student in particular.  His name was Andrew, a trig student that I had in the first spring after my return to the University.  My classes were back-to-back, and in the ten minutes between them, I would often chat with the students as the first class trickled out and the second class trickled in.  Spring fever having hit and some students having lost all hope of passing, only half the second class attended on a regular basis, and I became friendly with those fifteen or so people. 

So it was in the five minutes before class began that I chatted with them, and Andrew made a grand appearance.  "I made it," he proclaimed, drowning out all other conversation. 

There was good reason for his enthusiasm.  He had three unexcused absences, and since he needed to replace his lowest test grade with his final exam score, he couldn't miss anymore days.  He had to come to class, no matter what.  No matter what indeed.

His white three-button shirt and khaki pants were soaked and streaked with mud and grass stains.  The knee was torn out of one leg of his pants, and I could see that his knuckles, his lower lip, and one of his eyebrows were bleeding.  He swayed and clung to the doorframe to remain upright.

"Andrew, what happened to you?" I asked.

"Whhheeeell."  He blinked slowly, and his breath washed into the room.  He was completely shitfaced.  "See, I went out last night and got really drunk." 

I nodded.  The rest of the class was now fully rapt and chuckling.  "I think you still are."

"Oh, I am."  He nodded.  "I, ah, left the bar, but I never made it home.  I haven't been to sleep yet.  Then it was like, 'Oh fuck you guys!  I gotta go to trig.  I can't miss anymore days.' So I got my buddy's bike and rode here."  He made locomotive motions with fisted hands.  I nodded and fought a smile.  "And like, I wrecked, and I got in a fight with a sprinkler."

"That explains the blood and the mud."

One of the girls in the class who knew him said, "You drunk idiot."  He pointed at her and then kind of staggered into the nearest desk. 

"Andrew, do you have a phone?" I asked.  He nodded.  "Okay.  Can you call someone to come pick you up?"  He nodded.  "Okay.  I think you should because you can be arrested for being drunk in a University facility.  I don't want to have to call the cops on you."

"But, I can't miss any more days," he whined.

"I won't count it against you."

He banged his elbow against the wall as he stood in a tazmanian devil style manner.  "Really?"  He reached into his pocket, smearing blood on its edge, to dig out his phone.  When I nodded, he dialed.  After a few moments, he said, "Dude, come get me at the front."  He staggered out of the classroom.  "No, she's totally cool.  She's not even going to call the cops!"

The class and I stepped out into the hall to watch him go.  He ran down the hall, tripped over his own feet, fell, got up, and resumed running.  Before he made it to the stairs that would take him outside, he shouted, "Woo-hoo," with fist pumps toward the ceiling and then executed a surpsingly agile heel-click.

"Well," I said as I surveyed my remaining students.  "Now that the entertainment portion of the class is over, let's get to work."  I ushered the class back into the room and continued my lecture on sequences and series.