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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.