Friday, September 19, 2008

End of Week One

The first full week of the term is over, and so far, so good. So far as I can tell, both of my classes are going well. Calculus is large, by COA standards, at least. So it will take a while to get to know everyone. Calc is always a fun topic to teach, and I'm glad lots of people are interested in it. My new class on complex networks is also lots of fun. It's forcing me to solidify my understanding of certain topics, which is always a good thing. I've already done a lot of interesting reading for the class, and lots more lies ahead.

Speaking of the networks class, I've set up a class blog, betweenness. I'm doing some blogging over there, as are (eventually) all the students.

The week ended with clear, cool autumn weather. Doreen and I had a nice dinner at Havana to celebrate the end of the week. As always, their mushroom spring roll appetizers were incredible. The tofu/mushroom entree was also great. I'm now at home, blogging and reading feeds and listening to trance around the world. Life is good.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Of Root Vegetables and Refereeing

I just finished a referee report for a journal. Unfortunately the paper wasn't terribly good, so my recommendation was to reject. This is the third paper or proposal in a row that I've refereed that was pretty bad. Worse, the papers weren't even bad in an interesting way. Bummer. Reviewing such papers isn't that inspiring.

Another bummer was dinner today, which featured two dishes with root vegetables. They were quite good, but the root vegetables were diced unevenly. This means that they cooked unevenly. Which is to say that some were soft and delicious and a few were crunchy and a little scary.

Nevertheless, I think I'd prefer the occasional crunchy beet or turnip to a long string of poorly written papers and proposals to review.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The kittens grow

The top picture is from May. The bottom picture is from late August. The kittens eat voraciously and seem to be very happy in their new home.

We decided to name the orange guy Ancho, which means "wide" in spanish. He's broad-shouldered and chunky, so Ancho seems to fit.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

Approximately Irrational Road Repair?

There is some road work being done right near our house. I think it's just some simple repaving. As one drives up to the place where the roadwork will start, there is one of those rectangular signs alerting motorists that there will be road construction for a little while. In particular, the sign says:
Roadwork next 1.41 Miles
This raises a number of questions. First, how many digits are really needed? Would alerting drivers that the construction will last for 1.4 miles be sufficient? How can the additional one hundredth of a mile matter?

But maybe the 1.41 arose because they were trying to approximate the square root of two. Maybe the construction follows the hypotenuse of an isosceles triangle whose legs have a length of one mile. The stretch of road is sufficiently curvey that this doesn't seem to be a possibility. Nevertheless, it's a fun thing to think about.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Transition to Fall

We're back from a nice five days in Quebec. And now Doreen hass gone to Amsterdam for some meetings. The weather in Maine has been wonderfully warm. Today was beautiful, warm but not hot, breezy and sunny. Just about perfect. But there are some sure signs that fall is almost here:
  • Some maple trees are already turning just a little bit orange.
  • There is Halloween candy prominently displayed at the grocery store.
  • It was quite dark by 7:40 today.
  • New students arrived yesterday. They then left this morning for their outdoor orientation trips. I spoke to parents of new students yesterday as part of our welcome-to-campus events. I've done this a lot over the last few years, and it's a fun event.
As usual, I have mixed but mostly positive thoughts as the start of the school year draws near. I'll miss the unstructured time I had in August, but at the same time I'm looking forward to getting back into a routine.