austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Beyond the seas of thought, beyond the realm of what

In the curious things which pass for free time around me I've been trying to put together a new textbook. This is a project which gives the impression of being useful, in that it means I'm actually doing something relevant to my nominal life as a mathematician, but which doesn't have any direct, tangible benefit to my sorry career. I suppose the publication would make me look somewhat better to potential employers, but since I'm not sure employers see me as anything better than a large empty space the benefit is hard to quantify.

Textbook two shouldn't be hard as I've got a basis of a half-dozen or so papers to use as a starting point, and actually the first task has been essentially doing a bit better than transcribing, taking what was already written and compiling it anew, with the symbols and terminology straightened out (we need more letters in the alphabet) and redundancies eliminated in favor of introductory sections of universal appeal. This, it turns out, is more work than you might figure: it ended up giving me hours to explore typing in the coffee room of the local library, where I could get to typing without my father suggesting I help him out in his tasks of applying tools to wood or having to listen to him watching the Hollering Idiots News.

My father had wondered where I'd been disappearing to all these hours. When I told him I was working on the textbook from the coffee room at the local library branch he asked me to verify that I meant the coffee room, and at the local library branch. Apparently, although he's been going there around once a week for the past six years (since the current building opened), he'd never before noticed that there's a coffee room there. It's not a particularly hidden room: it's just to the left of the circulation desk, and if you just keep walking forward from the main door you -- well, you don't want directly into it. You have to step about three feet to the left to enter the coffee room. I can't get quite clear what he did think the room was.

Trivia: From 1746 the Rhode Island Legislature rotated its sessions among the capitol buildings it had in Newport, South Kingston, East Greenwich, Providence, and Bristol. Source: Rhode Island: A History, William G McLoughlin.

Currently Reading: Herman Hollerith, Forgotten Giant of Information Processing, Geoffrey D Austrian.

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