Friday, September 23, 2005


When we were growing up, my big sister was always the advernturesome one. I was the by-the-manual, don't-risk it younger child; she wasn't afraid to kick off her sandals and give it a try. I read the instructions before assembling; she grabbed a screwdriver and jumped in. I liked the merry-go-round; she was all about the roller coasters. Each of us got a driver's license on our 16th birthday. She drove halfway across Houston the next day; I still begged for rides within the neighborhood for months to come.

So it doesn't come as much of a shock to me that she's decided not to evacuate. It was funny chatting with her yesterday as we reminisced about growing up together in Houston, being little enough to not think of billions in damage and lost lives when a hurricaine threatened. 1984-97 was basically a hurricaine-free window for Houston, so our youthful little hopes were dashed season after season. No school cancellations, no big winds and rains and huddling in the hallway and Daddy home from work for us.

And now there she is, all grown up without me, about to face The Big One. And I'm old enough to be worried about injuries and lost lives and catastrophic property damage. Her beauitful house...? Her car...? And obviously, most of all, herself...?

I know she's a little nervous about it. But in chatting with her I can just hear that little spark that's always been in her, and I can just see her... driving to the beach and duct taping herself (and the dog and cat) to the dock and letting those massive, amazing Winds blow through her long, waist-length hair.

Good luck, sweetie (and the rest of Houston too),
Love, Neb :-)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Of colloquiem and Cake

Just for the record- in a half-asleep stage of my nap the other day, I heard myself say "and then you divide cake..." which, granted, may have more objective meaning in the external world than multiplying ice creams. But I think it's a natural extension of the Ice Cream Group, don't you? Like a quotient group or something...?

I went to Colloquiem for the first time last Wednesday, which, for those of you who don't know, is a weekly meeting where a visiting mathematician gives a talk to the whole math department. The talk was way, way over my head- it was about manifolds, which of course I've Heard Of [they're a big deal in the mathematical world] but have never formally studied. [I'm supposed to go to these things just to hob-nob with people and be "exposed" to mathematical ideas, or something like that.] The guy giving the lecture had good chalkboard handwriting; that's about all I can say about that. But the REALLY exciting part about Colloquiem is that beforehand, there are Cookies and "social time." Social time is in quotes because, well... have YOU ever seen a group of 25 people who completely lack social skills and don't know how to make eye contact and stare at their shoes a lot [which don't match anyway] try to Interact Socially for 35 minutes? My friends, it isn't pretty. Thank goodness for the cookies; at least having something to munch on lessens slightly the amount of time spent in awkward silence. My real analysis prof was there briefly, in his spiffy suit, and chatted with me for a bit, which was nice- I think the hearing aids were turned up, as he actually responded to what I said a bit! He's really very nice. Then there were some grad students, who were a bit geeky, but pleasant enough. Then, there was this... well, he looks homeless, but he's actually a Professor. If you saw him on the street you would think he escaped from an institution or something. Enormous beard, bright yellow T-shirt circa 1982. Yeah, we don't really know what else to say about that.

Anyway, I have this feeling that the Right thing to do would be to go around and introduce myself to all the professors and students I don't know, and find out how long they've been at Lehigh and what they study and where they're from etc etc etc but I really just can't bring myself to do it. I mean, I'm terrible with names, so I'll just forget anyway... and wouldn't it be a waste of mental hard drive space to try? I have a lot of math to memorize this semseter. I'd rather operate on a need-t0-know basis with the whole Names thing and just lean as I go along. Which is fine, except that I think there will be a lot of awkward Colloquiems this semester...

I'm off to read a little bit and then sleep. There's a problem I can't solve but I'll try not to think about it...


Thursday, September 15, 2005

"And then you multiply the ice creams together..."

...those were the words of my half-asleep, infantile, cryolactiphilic brain.

We got our first homework back yesterday in Probability. I got an 84/120 (although the 120 included 20 bonus points.) This was by no means a disastrous grade, but I was upset because the problems had not been hard for me, I carefully wrote up my solutions, and I was confident that they were all substantially correct. So I looked at what the grader had taken off for, then I had a little conversation with the instructor (Professor Probability, who is bright, organized, logical, fair, and kind- a winning combination in a teacher. :-)) He totally agreed with me! I got back every point I asked for and my final grade was 118/120 (those two points were for failing to but braces around a set; that was my fault so I didn't argue.) The grader, whoever she is, failed to read some of my work carefully to see that it was, in fact, correct. I am happy and relieved that in the end I got the grade I felt I deserved, but concerned that the return of every homework will necessitate a trip to the instructor to ask for points. (In math the nice thing is that, generally, it's either Right or Wrong, so you don't have to ask for points; you can just humbly say, "Can you explain my mistake in this problem?" and if there isn't a mistake, they pretty much have to give you the points.) Of course, I'm not the only student who was disconcerted about the way my paper was graded, so we'll see- maybe the instructor will have a serious talk with the grader. Or fire her, preferably, and grade the papers himself.

Anyway, I was so upset by the grade that I couldn't focus on the lecture properly, which was bad, because we're getting into harder material. Note to self: learn to control emotions and focus on the task at hand. Also, this little episode was a good reminder that there is a lot of injustice in the world (as if NO wasn't a big enough example), that I am not immune to it, and that I shouldn't expect to be. It's all about faith and perseverance, right? Right. I think so.

In more lighthearted news- from Narniaweb via my sister:

How Homschoolers Change a Lightbulb

First, mom checks three books on electricity out of the library. Then
the kids make models of light bulbs, read a biography of Thomas Edison
and do a skit based on his life. Next, everyone studies the history of
lighting methods wrapping up with dipping their own candles. Next,
everyone takes a trip to the store where they compare types of bulbs
as well as prices and figure out how much change they'll receive if
they buy two bulbs for $1.99 and pay with a five dollar bill. On the
way home, a discussion develops over the history of money and also Abe
Lincoln as his picture was on the five dollar bill. Finally, after
building a homemade ladder out of branches dragged from the wood, the
light bulb is installed.

Vivian's response:

"That was great, Queen Lucy. But in my family, when I was homeschooled, it would have gone more like this:

My mom assigns me to change the lightbulb. She makes sure there are two bulbs, one for "practice" (which can be the final bulb, if I get it right the first time) and a "final" bulb if I mess up the practice bulb. She makes a neat, orderly schedule for the light bulb changing and leaves it on my desk. Unfortunately, she's not able to actually help me with it, because she's busy teaching my younger siblings to spell "on" and "off." So she asks my dad to supervise me. But he has to go to work, so he draws me a diagram of the circuit complete with the complex symbols used by electricians and engineers, labelled in undeciperable handwriting. The diagram just makes me more confused, so I take it to my mom for advice. She finds me a manual on approved lightbulb-changing techniques, which I figure out on my own. I change the lightbulb."

You guys won't read this until next week, right?, since I just got through saying I'll only post once a week. Frequency of blog posting appears to be in an inverse relationship with the frequency with which I think or say I'll post. Taking this to the extreme, perhaps if I decide to post once a year I'll end up posting daily?

I think ice cream flavors would most defnitely and happily form a Group. A group of order 32 perhaps; with vanilla as the identity. But then what would be the inverse of Chocolate?

X = ?

Love, Neb

Monday, September 12, 2005

Time blogging = Time not doing homework!

Hello Nebiverse fans (all 3 of you),

Sorry for the long hiatus. I've been all on top of things- like, I am ON TOP of this school work, so on top of it!! You can't get any toppier than me! to the neglect of all else.

(Wow, there was absolutely no decent grammar in that opening paragraph, none whatsoever.)

What do you want to hear about? I write real analysis proofs now. I can prove that between any two real numbers there is a rational number, that square root three is irrational, and that the reals are uncountable. Most of you find these things either incomprehensable, boring, or both. I? I am Exhilerated. (Exilerated? Did I just excite myself or exhile myself somewhere? Goodness gracious. Apparently I can't spell anymore, either. Wait, I never could! But! It doesn't matter now! I'm in MATH!! Ah ha ha ha ha!! Ha! Oh, and Also? Cantor went nuts before he died! What were Professor Analysis's words? "Completely looney" or something like that. "That's what pure math will do to you, eventually," he warned us. Thanks! We needed that little bit of encouragement to keep doing homework!)

Okay I'm tired, so I'm taking off, but a couple of quick things:

1) Recent events have reminded us that there are more coasts in this country that just the East and the West. The people of Mississippi and Louisiana and the other affected regions are beautiful people and they need our help. Red Cross donations are pretty safe, and even more importantly, keep the hurricaine victims in your prayers (even longer than the media keeps them in the ever-fleeting spotlight.)

2) I'm going to try to post something every week, probably Sundays, so you can check Monday or so to read the new post and not have to keep checking and getting frustrated. (those of you who haven't given up already, that is...)

3) I exchanged the Vera Bradley bag that was given to me for something actually large enough to hold all my stuff. Behold:

Isn't it beautiful?

I feel very blessed.