Wednesday, September 08, 2010

My Sabbatical is Over

My sabbatical is over and it's back to a teaching term. Classes start next week.

Here's what I'm doing today (with updates throughout the day):

5:30 AM Woke up, had breakfast, and started answering e-mail. Hey, the Phillies are in first place in their division! I worked on processing mail for the journal I edit, the Journal of Integer Sequences.

7:40 AM The kids are off to school - both of them are now in high school! (urk)

8:30 AM Arrived at work. I'll be teaching a multi-section course on algorithms. I'm teaching two sections, with 60 students each, and another instructor is teaching the third -- so there's a lot of coordination to do. I sent e-mail to the other instructor with some suggestions about the first two assignments. I found my book of notes and overhead slides from the last time I taught the course. Some things I can reuse, but other things I will revise.

8:50 AM Time for coffee! While I was gone, we got an espresso machine. I don't like the taste, though -- the coffee machine at Oberwolfach was much better. The one here at Waterloo makes coffee that's way too bitter for me.

9:00 AM Damn, the radio feed from WBUR is acting up, so listening to the news is painful. I switch to the BBC radio program "Newshour".

9:10 AM There's a really interesting article by Lionel Levine and Jim Propp in the latest issue of the Notices of the AMS, on sandpiles. I'll have to think about this stuff more when I get a chance.

9:16 AM Answered e-mail about upcoming information session on graduate study in CS.

9:28 AM Noga Alon is visiting Waterloo, so I sent him an e-mail message asking if he would have a few minutes today or tomorrow to discuss a problem.

9:30 AM Working on the first assignment for my algorithms course. It's not easy to create good, interesting problems about big-O notation. And I want problems whose solution isn't on the web! I had a good one last year but I don't want to reuse it.

10:15 AM Got a couple of problems written, but still looking for a really hard one. Time to go check my (physical) mailbox on the second floor. Most mail comes electronically these days, but still...

10:35 AM OK, I have a draft of the first problem set done. Not completely happy with it. Sent it off to the other instructor for his comments. Noga Alon says he'll be in soon. Now - time to answer some e-mail.

11:20 AM E-mail! It's the bane of my existence. I get lots of messages a day, and don't know what to do with all of them. Best is a message that requires little thought and demands an immediate response. Worst is somebody asking a question that I'm not quite sure how to answer. I don't answer and it gets buried, perhaps never to emerge again. My mailbox always has hundreds of messages and is slow to load. Wish I could get it better organized.

Eating lunch while working. I always get hungry around 11 AM and it's hard to resist eating lunch early.

11:50 AM A colleague from another country was denied a visa to visit Canada and present a paper at a conference. This is really outrageous. I've got an appointment with my MP next week to discuss this case. I'm printing out the documentation that the colleague sent me.

12:00 Noon There's a new version of the APL I use on my mac, APL X. Paid $160 Canadian for the update through paypal.

12:30 PM Spent the last half hour trying to submit a paper to Information Processing Letters. Gone are the days when you could submit a paper by e-mailing some files to the editor. Now you have to go through a web-based form where you attach files, etc. These nearly always are terrible, offering way too many options for some things and not enough for others. I've spent 30 minutes on it so far and am still not done.

12:45 PM Whew! Submission finally done.

12:50 PM Got passcode for new version of APL, and installed it. Seems to work OK.

1:00 PM A colleague once suggested trying to find examples of k-tuples of integers S where g0 (S) > g1 (S) > g2 (S), where gi (S) is the largest integer having exactly i representations as an N-linear combination of the elements of S. Ran my little APL program and found the example S = (40,46,59,61,92), where g0 = 373, g1 = 354, and g2 = 340. It would be interesting to show there are arbitrarily long descending chains like that. Do you need larger and larger k-tuples to get them?

1:20 PM Went down to the visitor's office to try to find Noga Alon, but didn't find him.

1:25 PM Worked on the algorithms course web page.

1:35 PM Off to the grad course info session to present information about my Winter 2011 course on formal languages.

1:55 PM Back from the course presentation.

2:00 PM Noga Alon kindly came by and we talked about the separating words problem. At the same time our local computer people came by and tried to figure out why Thunderbird has lots of problems with my mail. Chaos!

3:30 PM Department meeting - free cookies. We learned about a new draft policy on privacy at the university, which as currently drafted would have the unfortunate effect of preventing professors from archiving things like student project for more than one year. This would make writing recommendation letters difficult in many cases. I certainly hope this draft policy will be rewritten.

5:15 PM Department meeting's over, and we're done for the day.

Now you know what a typical non-teaching day is like.


JN said...

Please, it's not the coffee "machine". Choose your beans better.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

I don't have any choice in the matter - the beans are provided by the staff.

Anonymous said...

If you get TCS or math related questions from strangers, like most professors do, you could direct them to and to save your time.

Catherine said...

I gotta re-post this!

Anonymous said...

Old-school Twitter!

Kyle Lahnakoski said...

JN: It could be the machine, there are some terrible ones that can only burn the coffee.

Make sure the water being forced through is not too hot. Make sure it's not steam.

Kenn Hamm said...

Sabbatical? Are you falling back on discarded religious terminology?

Eamon Knight said...

Sabbatical? Are you falling back on discarded religious terminology?

Nope. Being a mathematician, he's using numerical terminology.