Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mid-Summer Core Dump

A few people have noted that's it's been approximately forever since I've posted here, so I thought it was time for an update. Tomorrow it will be August. So I'm telling myself that I'm at the half-way point of summer. This isn't really true, of course. But I'm telling myself this anyway and trying hard to believe it. It's almost working. Anyway, a bunch of summertime thoughts follow.

This is the first summer I haven't been to China in a long time. I had gone for six years in a row: 2004-2009. I miss it. I really like Beijing. It's a fun, lively, huge city with lots to do. And the food is awesome. I hope to return again soon.

While I'm disappointed to not be in China, I'm nevertheless perfectly happy to be in Maine. This is the longest summertime stretch I've spent in Maine perhaps ever. Doreen and I went to Quebec City for a weekend and to the Boston area for a few days in June. And we have our usual trip to the Saguenay region planned in late August. But other that that, I've been here. For the most part, it's been great to be in Maine. Summers are nice here, and while I love traveling, it's also nice to stay put for a bit.

One of the best parts of the summer has been having time to do research and writing. I've spent some time with both R and python, have solidified my understanding of some statistics, and have done some interesting reading and writing. In general, it's been really fun to be able to do some programming and some real research. I find something incredibly satisfying and relaxing about programming.

I've also been doing a lot of writing. The main thing I've been working on is my textbook on chaos and fractals. I've been working on this for a while and it is nearing completion. I don't really have a feel for how much work I have to do yet, but I know that it's a lot, but also that the end is in sight. The book is under contract to Oxford University Press, and they're kind of expecting it at the end of the summer. I'm not sure I'll make it, but I haven't given up hope.

In the course of working on the book I've come to the conclusion that it is fairly easy to write a decent textbook, but that it's quite hard to write a really good one. The book by now is at a point where it works well for me. But of course I'm writing the book so that people who aren't me can teach and learn from it. So this requires a good bit of additional writing. When I teach from it I provide background motivation and transitions from one chapter to the other. But these need to be in the book itself. This has been taking quite a bit of time.

I've also spent some time the last few weeks working on a research paper. The basic results are actually seven years old, but my collaborators and I haven't published them, and there are some new ways that I have to present our results that I think will make it a good paper. It's been fun to re-acquaint myself with the research and to make some interesting plots. I hope to have this submitted in a few days.

Research aside, it's been nice to be in Maine. Although the weather was uncomfortably humid and hot for most of July, it's still be pretty pleasant. And the last few days have been amazing. Warm, dry, sunny, and pleasant. My garden is in good shape this year. The unusually warm weather has been good for tomatoes. We've already harvested a few, and lots more are on their way. I think we'll get a few eggplants. I'm not sure what's going on with our tomatillos. We had a good lettuce crop, the kale and chard is hanging on, the onions look good. and we've had lots of parsley and cilantro and basil. Winter squash vines are doing well, and I think we'll have a few cucumbers next week.

I've also enjoyed having a chance to exercise semi-regularly. We've had decent ultimate frisbee games downtown twice a week, and I've been doing yardwork on the weekends and also running and biking some. I don't necessarily feel in better shape than usual (or less worse shape than usual), but nevertheless it's nice to be moving.

Overall, being able to exercise, garden, and spend some time on research and writing has been great. I still feel frustrated that I can't do more. I wish I found it easier to get completely lost in research, but it's hard with so many things going on. There's still a lot of summertime left, though.