math seminars, snow

Thursday I planned to go to a math seminar in the afternoon and run an errand or two in the area. It was cold and snowy outside, and I was slow to get started, so I ended up working from home till seminar time.

It's often said that seminars tend to come in three phases: an introduction that can be understood by anyone, a middle section that's understood by the specialists, and an ending that only the speaker follows. Math seminars often seem to move the three phases particularly quickly. Partly that's just the rather unforgivingly technical nature of the subject, but sometimes it seems due more to a lack of imagination or thoughtfulness on the part of the speaker. They sometimes focus on the technical details of proofs to the point of ignoring motivation or any high-level view of the ideas. It's as if someone presented a new piece of software by running through the most important piece of code line-by-line.

Which is one reason I haven't been to many math seminars since finishing 5 years ago. That and titles like "Generalized foobar resolutions and the Humpty-Dumpty theorem, continued" which threaten to have passed into phase three weeks ago. (Though the main reason for skipping them, of course, is laziness.)

So I was pleasantly suprised when I actually found the seminar, by Craig Huneke, accessible and interesting. He paces things well and does a good job of sketching the major ideas without skipping the details. I was hoping to say hi to him afterwards but people had a lot of questions and I didn't want to hang around too long.

Afterwards I picked up a UPS--I've been wanting one for for a while, and intending to get one at the little downtown computer place downtown on Liberty, but the proprietor is always out whenever I walk by--then had a snack and worked a bit at Eastern Accents before coming home.

So maybe I should try a math seminar at least once a month or so.

Bach and Wesnoth

I finally got through a tedious bit of Wesnoth, which turned out to be the next-to-last section of the game. The final segment was faster. Games like this are inherently a little tedious--you spend a lot of time positioning units on the board, and decisions sometimes come down to toting up probabilities which can depend on many factors. But for some reason I find this addictive. So, having finished, I immediately went back to some earlier parts of the game to figure out what would happened if I did a few things completely differently.

The last few days I've been fiddling with Brahm's left-hand piano arrangement of Bach's D minor Chaconne for solo violin. It's big, loud, repetive, and carthartic, and being forced to use one hand forces some decisions that are kind of fun. I worked on it a few years ago and then dropped it. Maybe I'll make another attempt.

Travel plans

Tuesday night we finally settled on this year's holiday travel plan, which will be to try visiting both families again. It means we get to see everyone we want to see, but it's a lot of flying in a short amount of time. We'll see how it goes....

Sunday, Monday

Sunday we stayed home and didn't do much.

Monday I worked a little later than usual and we had turkey soup and turkey sandwiches for dinner while watching "The Five Obstructions."

I've thought before that someone should make a DVD consisting entirely of extras--interviews, outtakes, perhaps a director's commentary (accompanying a blank screen). "The Five Obstructions" seems like that already. (Though the main movie is actually there, just hidden in the extras.) As I put it away I happened to notice the jacket advertises a director's commentary track. Which seems completely redundant. I wonder what he talks about?

Sandwiches and Comedy

Saturday I slept in and Sara made pancakes for breakfast.

Later Dave came over for turkey sandwiches and we went to a show by "The Corner", the sketch comedy group that includes our juggling friend Josh.

The show was pretty funny though the audience seemed excessively enthusiastic to the point of sounding forced. Maybe I was just a bit tired for it.

I finished "Gemma Bovery", but didn't really get it. Maybe I should go read some Flaubert.

belated thanksgiving

We turned up the refrigerator last night after discovering it was a few degrees below the expected temperature. Today the turkey was fine. Sara did the hard part, turkey and gravy, and I did the side dishes. It all came out pretty well.

Thanksgiving, but no Turkey

The turkey was still icy, so we decided to put it off till Friday, and have popcorn and pumpkin pie for dinner tonight. We watched Godard's "Weekend" with dinner. It would be a great movie to show at something like a critical mass event--I'm not sure I've ever seen a movie with quite so many crashed cars.

Monday--Wednesday, Nov. 21--23

When I saw "Koi... Mil Gaya" at the library, I thought to myself: *that* is the one thing the last Bollywood movie I saw didn't have--a friendly blue alien. So based on this inescapable logic, I brought it home. That was a mistake. There wasn't even anything flambouyantly bad enough to make good Smithies material, so it was just wasted time.

We also went through the Lord of the Rings movies recently. I'm not a big fan of the last movie, but there are a lot of things that are well done. I like the scene that mixes Faramir's ride to Osgiliath with Pippin singing.

We attempted to persuade a few people to help us eat our turkey but, predictably enough, everyone already had thanksgiving plans. Next year maybe we'll plan ahead....

I've been playing too much Wesnoth, but in the last few days I got to a section that looked like it would be long and tedious, and I haven't been playing as much since.

Sunday, Nov. 20

After going back and forth a while we finally decided we'd try the traditional turkey dinner this year, so today was the day to go to the grocery store and pick up the turkey and all the extras.

Saturday, Nov. 19

I did some work at the library in the morning and arrived a little late for juggling. As a result I was energetic when others were about ready for the sitting-down-and-deciding-where-to-eat stage.
Noé and I had a good time coming up with weird tricks. Or maybe I had a good time trying stupid things, and Noé had fun laughing at me.

Fred, Deanna, Sara, and I split a couple surprisingly tasty dishes at China Gate, then went our separate ways.


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