Friday, July 31, 2009

Back from China

I got back from China around a week and a half ago. It was a good trip. The workshop went well and I had a good time with workshop participants and exploring Beijing. As usual, the weather was hot and humid, the food was excellent, and Beijing was dynamic and crazy and fun. A few highlights and memorable scenes:
  • It is not uncommon to see t-shirts with random English phrases on them. Often the phrase is a little garbled but the meaning is still somewhat clear, or at least one could imagine why one might want to put such a phrase on a t-shirt. But not always. I twice saw people selling T-shirts with the following words: "Buying food at a cafeteria." The "i"s were dotted with hearts.

  • Near where I saw these t-shirts there was a book vendor on the street. His cart was mostly filled with English-language books, including quite a few business books. I noted that he had a copy of Capital, by Marx. I picked up the book and thumbed through it. The vendor noticed what I was doing and handed me another book to look at. The book he handed me? Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations.

  • I heard an incredible set mixed by Sander van Doorn at the GT Banana club. Sander was awesome and the crowd fantastic. Everybody was really into it. A great evening. Returning home at dawn my cab drove by the CCTV building and the large, burned out husk of the CCTV luxury hotel. In the early morning mist it was surreal.

Beijing now feels a tiny bit like a home away from home, especially the neighborhood around Wudaodou and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. I've been fortunate to be able to spend parts of the last six(!) summers in Beijing, and I hope to have to opportunity to spend more time there the next few years.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

At the Supermarket in Bar Harbor

Just got back from some shopping at the local supermarket in Bar Harbor. Mayhem and amusement.
  • A family of four in the produce section acting kinda like they've never been in a produce section before. Barking questions and commands at each other from across the aisles while the oldest son talks loudly on a cell phone.

  • Some disturbingly non-local items: avocados from Chile, oranges from South Africa, other oranges from Peru.

  • A man asked a supermarket worker if they had nail polish remover. Worker doesn't speak great English and doesn't really understand. The questioner explains: "nail polish remover is, ya know, like if you put nail polish on your nails, and then you wanted to take it off, nail polish remover would help you take it off." The questioner's wife came by and asked about the worker about make-up and told her husband to go get trail mix. I didn't stick around to see how it ended. The worker was cheerfully going to get assistance.

  • I don't think my checkout person had ever seen tomatillos before. But she was very nice about it.

  • In fairness to the checkout person, it appears that my spell-checker hasn't heard of tomatillos, either.

  • The person behind me in the checkout line seemed a little alarmed at my purchase. I got three jalapeno peppers and she asserted that I must be about to cook something really spicy. It's all relative, I guess.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Year in Review

July has started and so the last academic year is officially in the past. A few weeks ago I completed my annual workload report, and I thought it might be interesting to use some of the data I gathered while preparing it to make a year-in-review post. Some bloggers I know do this at the end of the calendar year, but it seems that the end of the academic year is also a good time.
  • Courses Taught: Calculus I, Theory and Application of Complex Networks, Introduction to Chaos and Fractals, and Calculus II. In a usual year I teach five courses. I only taught four this year because I had a one-trimester sabbatical this spring.

  • Average Class Size: 20. This is small for most schools, but very high for COA. In most years there are only one or two faculty with a larger average class size.

  • Number of Advisees: 14, although I lost a few and gained a few over the year.

  • Independent Studies, Tutorials, Senior Projects: I taught one (very fun) tutorial this year and supervised one senior project. I also assisted on two other senior projects.

  • Committee Work: Anthropology Search Committee (Search Canceled), Admission Committee, Academic Priorities Group of the Academic Program Review. I also coordinated the Maine Space Grant Consortium Student Research Fellowships and am COA's liaison to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Fellowship.

  • Scholarly Presentations. 2, although one of the two is a series of five lectures that I gave in China.

  • Peer-Reviewed Publications. 1. Feldman, McTague, and Crutchfield, The organization of intrinsic computation: Complexity-entropy diagrams and the diversity of natural information processing. Chaos. 18:043106. 2008.

  • Book Review: 1. Review of Complex and Adaptive Dynamical Systems: A Primer by Claudius Gros. Physics Today. July 2009.

  • Book in Progress: My proposal for an introductory textbook on Chaos and Fractals was accepted by Oxford University Press. Deadline is October 15. Current draft is around 275 and I expect the final version to be around 375. Most of the draft was written a few years ago. This year I've written around 75 pages. I have a lot of work to do the next few months.

  • Papers in Progress: 1. Hopefully it will be submitted in a few weeks.

  • Papers and Proposals Refereed: 7.

  • Grants Written: 3. One has been funded ($5000), two are pending ($956,000) and ($150,000).

  • Countries Traveled to: 5. (China, Germany, Poland, The Netherlands, Canada)

  • Letters of Recommendation: 47 total letters for 16 different students.

  • Emails Sent: At least 2418. A little under seven a day. This is just the email from my account. This doesn't include email from any of my other accounts.

  • Emails Received and Saved: At least 2016. I don't know an easy way of figuring out how many emails I received and deleted. I'd guess I only end up saving 1 in 10 emails. If so, then I received around 20,000 emails, or an average of around 55 a day. Again this is only for my account.

  • Tweets Tweeted: 363.

  • Blog Entries: 35. This is a lot less than the last few years. Twitter has been distracting me from blogging. My interest in blogging has waned somewhat.

All in all, I guess it's been a pretty productive year. It doesn't quite feel that way, but looking back, it wasn't that bad. I had hoped to have one more paper submitted by now and be a little farther along on the textbook.