Thursday, October 12, 2006


The last few days haven't been too eventful. My day consists of going to classes in the morning (and some of the afternoon), then running some errands if I need to, and then sitting at home reading a book or typing up lecture notes. I'm trying to type up all of my notes so that (a) I can put them on my website and (b) I don't have to worry about not being able to read my handwriting. It also makes me look at my notes at least once, and points out the bits I don't understand. (Sometimes in lecture I zone out so that I don't notice some steps in a proof or something and this makes me work those out.)

The class that's surprised me the most so far has been Ramsey theory. I generally don't like combinatorics, so I wasn't expecting that much from the class. (I'm taking it because Tom said that the professor is great.) But I'm really enjoying it! We've spent the first couple of lectures proving various forms of Ramsey's Theorem, and now we're moving on to Van Der Waerden's theorem, but the bit that I like is the applications of the various theorems. (The theorems don't excite me so much as I already knew them before the class.) For example, you can use Ramsey's theorem to prove that any sequence has a monotonic subsequence, which is just cool.

A couple of the professors here are really hyper (even more so than Elkies). My algebraic topology professor speed talks through each lecture (I keep expecting him to start panting for breath at some point during the lecture). He's a little like a manic rabbit, always moving and gesturing. The professor for Lie algebras is also a little hyper, but more in the pace of his lectures than in how he talks. In algebraic topology the lectures are pretty slow (especially since I already know the material) even though the prof talks fast, mostly because he says most things two or three times. In Lie algebras, on the other hand, the professor seems to think that everything is trivial, and so he doesn't really need to explain anything. He writes on the board in shorthand (most of which he doesn't explain) and his handwriting gets smaller and smaller as the lecture goes on (although he's very receptive to requests to write bigger). I get the feeling that the lectures would be really good as review lectures, but as new material they're kinda hard to follow and sometimes I end up just writing down what he's writing (I have no time to write down what he's saying) and hoping to figure it out later. The funniest thing about his lectures, however, is that even though he doesn't bother to write out words like "weight" and "vector" and "space", he still writes interjections on the board. For example, a proof we did today started with "Well, if V is irr. rep. of sl_2 then ..." (My favorite quote from one of his lectures: "It's only in academia that one person talking can be called a discussion.")

A couple of the classes I'm taking have good content but the lectures are very dry. This is especially true in my group theory class, where the professor gives out typed notes and then reads them aloud to the class. (This is good for knitting time, but not a good use of the time: the notes are pretty clear and only take about 15 minutes to read.) Differential geometry is also kinda boring: the lectures are well-structured and are moving along at a good pace, but something about the way the professor lectures just means that he's boring to listen to... I'm not really sure what it is. I'm sure the fact that the class is at 9 doesn't help. =)

Andres came over today and went grocery shopping with me. (I can deal with most errands, but grocery shopping really really sucks. It's boring and involves a lot of weaving in and out of people, and difficult searching through shelves. It's absolutely impossible to find anything in the local grocery store, and the store's size (tiny) and the number of people in it at any point (lots) don't help. Also, the store closes at 10, so it's not like I can go late to avoid crowds.) When we came home we hung out and had tea and chocolate, which was nice. He seems to be doing ok so far, although he was sleeping when I knocked on his door (at 6 pm) so I think he might not be sleeping well.

There's a farmer's market in the middle of town here every day. It's not very large, and there are only a couple of food stalls (there's a used book stall and a bunch of stalls that sell really expensive clothes, though). I've stopped buying vegetables there, as they're more expensive than the ones in the grocery store and don't taste any better, but I really like the bread that this one stall sells. It's a bakery stall, and it has about 20 different kinds of bread in it. It's pretty expensive, though, so I've only gone a couple of times.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the cooking situation. It turns out that the kitchen on the floor below me has a stove, so I go down there to cook a bunch. On the other hand, the kitchen on my floor has a toaster and the other one does not, so the people downstairs come up to make toast. =) I've been cooking some days (mostly simple things: sandwiches, pasta, rice, fried potatoes, etc.) and others I've been eating prepared food that is sold at the grocery store. It's frozen food for the microwave, and some of it is actually decent. They also have some nifty hand-made tortellini which is good and fask to make. The only down side to not eating in a dining hall is that I don't have anyone to eat with, or a table to eat at. David's come over for food a couple of times, and we end eating off our laps. (When I eat on my own I just sit at my desk.)


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