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REU: Week One

I've learned a lot this week, and not just about math. Today we talked graph theory and introduced a lot of new problems, so now we have all the basic problems to choose from. I really like several of the problems we talked about today, even if I'm having a hard time wrapping my brian brain around some of the definitions, but that may be in part because I've never seen graph theory before. (I found a lot of stuff on it, so I'll be reading on it this weekend to get some more background.) So I'm going to have a hard time choosing. That's what the weekend is for, especially since Nikhil will finally be here and we can start to form groups, decide who wants to do what, and see what's going to happen. I have a list of five problems that I'm particularly interested in now, and now it's time to see who else is interested in them and who I work really well with.

I just repeated myself. A lot.

So what have I been up to? Well, after the morning lectures I've been spending a lot of time in the library, which conveniently enough happens to be right next to the building where we meet for said lectures. I've been reading up on the topics that we're talking about, but I haven't been limiting myself to those; mostly I just grab what looks interesting and read and try to work some stuff from those. I've been able to work a little bit of stuff. Most of this was in the set theory text that I was reading afternoon before last (and I really wish Agnes offered a class in set theory, and that's why I'm definitely doing a 410 in that senior year; they know they'll have to keep me busy somehow)--the other books were on modular forms and fields; I really should grab an algebra book and start from the very beginning. It'd be good to know some of the stuff before I dive into abstract this fall, even if I know a little of it already anyway. It's just working with it that I'd like to be able to do.

I feel kind of bad about not reshelving my books, though. Normally I do, or at least I leave them on a shelf so it's easier for them to do it. But apparently the library's conducting some sort of use study right now; the signs are all over the library, and as a consequence they request that we not shelve the books that we browse. This causes problems for me, as I browse a LOT of books before settling down on a book. It's sort of how I can browse an entire clothing store and leave with just two shirts. Well, I can browse an entire shelf of math books, find all of them shiny and full of mathematical truth, but find one or two in particular shinier than all the rest, so I'll read it. Then because I figure I may as well help them out a bit with this use study, I leave the books on the table. I returned yesterday, and sure enough, my math books were still on that table. I grabbed a couple more books (see, told you my attention span was really short), and kept reading. I left them at the same table. I'm kind of curious as to how long this pattern will continue. The worst-case scenario is that this use study will continue the entire time I'm here, and by the end of the summer I'll have forgotten where everything goes, and the entire table will be so filled with books that I'll have to read at another table.

Dave was the first colloquium speaker yesterday, and afterward all of us (well, minus Neil, plus the grad students helping us out and two of their wives, and plus a friend of Jessie's who did the REU last year) went out to dinner at this Turkish place. It was really good, too, and when we all went to pay Jared asked the owner where he was from in Turkey. Turns out he's from Istanbul. I heard this and immediately thought of TMBG's "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)". I told him this, and he actually knew the song! This made me really happy.

After we got back Justine, Jessie, Cliff, and I walked back together, and we noticed that if you count female as a minority (which, since we're talking math here, it is in a sense, but that's slowly changing), everyone is a minority in some way. (I do realize we're guessing on the ninth person based on his first name alone, which is a little bit racist in itself.) This led to a long discussion on racism outside the dorms, which led to me singing "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist". I do have a song for every occasion, it seems.

I found myself explaining the towel (which just happened to be bright red) this morning before the lecture. No one understood except Neil, who just said, "Do you know where your towel is?"

"Apparently they don't," I replied.

What else is there? Instead of writing everyone out, I'll just say that {{REU students}\{Shelly,Amanda}}U{Justine's boyfriend} (erm, that means everyone except Shelly and Amanda plus Justine's boyfriend; there's probably an easier way to write it in set notation, but I'm lazy and don't feel like thinking of it right now) went to the Mellow Mushroom for lunch, which is where Jessie, John (a friend of hers), and I went for dinner on... Monday or Tuesday night. I can't remember which. Justine actually originally said that I couldn't go if I was still carrying the towel (I still took it), and Jared didn't know who Douglas Adams was. The blasphemy! I finally explained everything to him.

Later this afternoon, Jared, Justine, Jessie, and I (wow, I'm the only person in that group with a non-J name) went to play ultimate frisbee with some of the grad students who apparently play regularly. We just started by standing in a circle and throwing the frisbee (or the disk, as they called it). I failed at this terribly, and figured that I might be terrible at this like I am at sports in general. (To be fair, I was a decent tennis player in middle school--I won a "most improved" award--and I'm not terrible at ping-pong, and I'm not bad at fencing, even though I don't get a chance to do it that often.)

So we split into teams; Jared and I were on one team, and Justine and Jessie were on the other. And I didn't fail miserably! Actually, I caught the frisbee that scored a goal once! *squee* And my inability to throw actually wasn't terrible since they had to walk all the way across the field to retrieve the frisbee, and we had time to set up our defense. We got that point in the end. And oh! the famous one. Someone on my team threw it to someone else (I don't remember who now), and someone on the other team was trying to block yet another person on my team. The person on the other team dropped, someone ELSE on my team dropped it, and I snatched it from under them. We scared scored that one in the end, too. It was pretty awesome. I think Jared's and my team was winning by a lot when we left. We had some really good players on the team. I'm definitely doing that again sometime.

Oh, and how did the towel come in? It marked one of the goals. Evidence that a towel really does come in handy.

And if you made it through the entire thing, I'm really proud of you. This is an awful lot to handwrite in Dr. Nbook, so expect a few of these monster updates this summer.