Wednesday, December 17, 2008

And So it Goes...

'Tis my last night in Vegas.

It was fun...

Time to begin something else.

EDIT: New blog located at

Friday, October 31, 2008

The All Dayer

I used to enjoy pulling the occasional all nighter in undergrad. Every once in a while I'd stay up all night working on a school project and I'd take a 2 liter of Mountain Dew and make a party of it. Kind of like how the first half of my summer went. (I'd say all summer, but there was that 5 week stretch where I ate vegetarian and was probably reasonably healthy.)

I always managed to accomplish so much on those nights, it's hard to not look on them with a bit of nostalgia. When I managed to make it into grad school, the pace of things was different. It was rare for me to have to work over night on anything. In most cases it was counter productive. I had to think so deeply about things, an over tired brain was useless in attacking the math. Unlike the undergrad projects I used to tackle, say making my own version of minesweeper in C++ for a programming class. That work required little thought on my part. It seemed many of my classmates disagreed with me, but what did they know?

Yesterday, I stayed up all day in an effort to switch my schedule around from a night cycle to a day cycle. After living goalless for the month of October and having pretty much nothing to show for it, I decided it was time to set some goals for November and get some shit done. So today, Happy Halloween by the way, I plan to cement my daytime schedule by making sure I don't cheat and take any naps.

I'm not sure I'll get anything useful done today, but if it results in a list things to do for November, then it'll have been a day well spent. At the very least, I can get a few errands done today, like pay the rent and go to the bank and such. Now that I have a stuffed cupboard, I have no excuses to not being productive at least over the next couple of weeks.

I'll probably post again later in the day with my November goals.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Traveling Circus in Planning

I'll start with the fact that the NBA season started tonight. Even though I will be in Vegas for a while yet, I don't expect to be making any bets for now. I may place a few when Walt comes out in mid November, but I'm not going to focus on it as of now. I'm not a big fan of betting on the first few weeks of a season anyway. I like to see how the teams settle down.

Also, I did go for a walk last night for a bit more than an hour. I haven't gone for one yet tonight, but I think I will just before the sun comes up in the morning. I may go to the grocery store and pick up some stuff even though I'm not completely out of food. Imagine that, going to the store not because I'm hungry and have completely run out of food, but to supplement the food I already have. Pretty cool.

That being said, on to the purpose for this post. I have slowly made arrangements for my lifestyle change from the Urban Hermit to the Traveling Circus. I have pretty much decided at this point that I'll be leaving Vegas around Christmas time. I'll be sending my stuff back east where I'll have to put it in storage and then I'll actually have to live out of my suitcase for a couple of months.

First up, I'll be stopping in Penn Yan for the family Xmas festivities for 4-5 days.

Second, I'll head out to Albany for News Year's pomp and circumstance. Somewhere in there I'll have to contend with putting my junk in storage. At the moment, renting a mini storage unit in Penn Yan may be looking like my best bet.

Third, on January 3rd, I'll be heading to Virginia with Moose and his wife where I'll stay with him for a couple of days until the joint meetings take place from the 5th to the 8th in Washington D.C..

Fourth, will be the joint meetings. I won't walk out of there with a job, but with any luck, I'll have inspired a handful of them to offer me on campus interviews. These interviews would probably start in early February, but possibly in late January. So if colleges do want to take a second look at me, I might have to throw in a side trip or two while I'm taking my show on the road.

Fifth, I'll go to Scott's place for a few days to a week (He also lives in VA, near D.C.). He's being reassigned to New Orleans so I may have to help him pack or whatever. There is even a possibility that he'll be gone and I may have to skip this leg of the journey. That's up to Exxon-Mobil.

Sixth, I'll go back to Moose's and hang out with him more proper like for a week or two. Who knows how long. The odds are, assuming I get a job, said job won't start until August, so I'll have plenty of time to kill.

Seventh, I finally had the opportunity to talk with John tonight, and he said I could stop by for a visit near the end of January. Finally, I'll get to see his little boy (who just turned one last week). At the moment, he is out in California for a few days for work and he didn't have long to talk, so I don't know how long I'll be able to mooch off him. I would suspect his wife couldn't put up with me invading their home for more than a week. We'll see. I don't want to wear out my welcome at any of these places.

By then, I suspect it'll be close to the end of January, maybe even the beginning of February if my friends can put up with me that long. I'm not sure yet if there will be an eighth leg to the trip, as that just about wraps up all my friends (geographically speaking, of course, not numerically speaking). It's possible that the eighth leg might land me in Pennsylvania for some reason, but I'll believe that when I see it.

This will be the longest I will have gone in my lifetime living like a vagabond. In some ways I'm looking forward to seeing all my friends, but by the same token, it will be quite exhausting as well. My stuff will be locked away and we all know how I feel about being away from my stuff. Perhaps it is time to start mentally preparing myself to do without it.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


I have been sleeping for days...

At first, I thought it was a byproduct of skipping the caffeine. I always have 2-3 days of loginess when I decide I've had enough caffeine, but that was five days ago. I've been sleeping as though I were deeply sick, but aside from being sleepy and a bit stiff from so much sleep I feel fine.

The past five days, I haven't been able to stay awake for more than 6-8 hours at a time before I need a nap, but those are the long sessions. It has been more typical for me to need a nap after 3-4 hours.

I'm not sure what's going on, but one thing is for sure. I need to get out and walk a bit more. The weather has been absolutely phenomenal so I no longer have any excuse (aside from my lust for laziness). I can only assume that a little more exercise would help my narcolepsy.

I also think I need to blog a bit more. I no longer feel accountable for my laziness. If I start blogging more than twice a week, I think I'll be able to guilt myself into being more active. Maybe not.

As for the job search. It has been quite annoying as it has become much more clear that for every job, I'll have to do a different tap dance routine. They all want essentially the same stuff, but it can range from having everything submitted electronically to nothing being submitted electronically. Other places want their own applications used, some of which are available online, others I actually have to mail in for it. Can you believe that? These places are advertising jobs online, but only make their applications available through snail mail. It's absurd. The variety of different hoops one needs to satisfy to apply for each job is crazy. I suspect once I start filling out these applications I'll be able to fill out one a day. Hopefully more...

I did find a site that had a number of overseas jobs. Even one literally over the sea as a teacher on an aircraft carrier for the U.S. military. Intriguing, but I doubt I'd pass the physical at this point. I think the job in Saudi Arabia is still my best bet for an overseas job.

I have also started a third draft of Part One. It's odd, but I have grown so accustomed to reading off my computer, I can't seem to read the chapters I printed off effectively as an editing tool. I seem to be better at editing the file on the computer as opposed to a hard copy. I guess that will save me quite a bit of printer ink in the long run.

I think it might be time for a nap.

No! I'll slap on my headphones and go for a walk instead.

See, blogging is better for me already.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I feel as though I have been in a rut since I have come back to Las Vegas. Actually, the whole week before while I was in Albany felt similarly rut-like. And before anyone back in Albany thinks I am implying anything about them, this really is all me.

I often feel as though my life is jumping from rut to rut. Some of them are good or at least productive, like the rut I was in all summer where I didn't seem to do anything but write a whole lot. Every once in a while I'll ride a rut out to the end before skipping to a new one and I flounder looking for the next thing I'll focus on. Once I finished my thesis work was probably the worst rut I've ever had to get myself out of.

That's how I feel now. I feel as though I am in the most traditional type of rut. One where I am incapable of focusing on anything productive. I have tried to look through the math job listings a number of times. A few days ago, I did tough it out for about 6 hours and made a list of jobs to look into more closely. A good start, but it's really only just a start.

Interestingly enough, one of the top candidates is a job at Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University located in Saudi Arabia. Tell me my subconscious is not running from something or looking for more.

I wonder which one it is?

Probably the former. This country has grown to disgust me a great deal the past 7-8 years. Perhaps while I am there, the Muslim extremists can brain wash me into being a suicide bomber against the U.S.. Oh wait, I don't believe in their religion any more than I do Christianity. Guess that rut's out. I suspect that is for the best. I still have a long way to go before I finish writing my story.

But then again, the job in Saudi Arabia is a good opportunity, so maybe that's why it piqued my interest. The listing is here in case anyone wants to see what it offers. Truth be told, I am surprised there aren't more oversees jobs listed. I only saw two and the other one was for another job in the middle east in Qatar. It doesn't matter though. Most foreign jobs would be looking for me to do more research than I am interested in pursuing so I am not seriously looking at a lot of jobs oversees.

Back to my rut...

It occurs to me that I haven't accomplished much of anything in about 5 weeks since I did very little before I left Vegas at the end of September. I haven't even done any writing and I need to get another couple of rewrites in before I apply for the Writer's in Residence grant. (A December 1st deadline.)

The grant is an interesting conundrum. Suppose by some miracle I did win the honor in addition to getting a good job offer? Which do I choose? The beginning of my teaching career, or another year (or more) of leading this atypically ridiculous minimalistic lifestyle? Worse yet, I'd have to start looking for yet another job, while I'm supposed to be blissfully writing away as the writer in residence. I suppose I am fortunate in that I won't likely have to make that choice, but it does make for an interesting dilemma.

I guess it is time I suck it up and stop being such a pathetically lazy American...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The False Dichotomy

So my last post wasn't really about dichotomy. It was about mathematicians and the choices that crop up because they have artificially chosen to exclude the middle ground in their thinking. Despite what people may think, math is only a small part of logic; a mere subset.

In formal logic, there is a logical fallacy known as the False Dichotomy. People often try to assert in their thinking that once a dilemma has appeared then it can be solved with either A or B. It was caused by option one or option two. Things can occasionally be pigeon holed with either-or's, especially in math, but real life is not simple.

When does a person become bald? Do you have to pull out one hair? Ten? Ten thousand?

Of course, the problem lies in different people's interpretations of the word bald. It's not a precise concept. Very little in our day to day lives is a precise concept, yet we run our lives as though most everything is

black versus white,
good versus evil,
republicans versus democrat,
or even alive versus not alive. (Something that should be as dichotomous as it gets!)

As I said before, it makes things simple and tidy, but in reality, it serves only to complicate things further.

Life is a continuum. Everything is a shade of gray. If people want to consider themselves as being a member of a sophisticated species, they really need to learn to accept this. Actually, we all need to learn to accept this.

Because mathematicians have bifurcated their logic, some incredibly sophisticated issues have crept into the foundations of mathematics forcing them to be careful about the way they work their own special brand of magic. The same thing is happening to people every day, only their world isn't even based on an excluded middle.

Take the discussion Charles and I had about the financial crisis. The end of that didn't get blogged about here, but in short, my premise was that it was primarily caused from deregulation. I have since learned that some of it was also due to new securities that were completely unregulated (a not too distant issue). In an effort to simplify the view, I lumped in a whole lot. Deregulation and lack of regulations which covers a whole lot of bipartisan territory. The video Charles offered into evidence tried to make the issue a republican versus democrat issue. The video cherry picked information from the late 70's, somehow managed to skip all of the 80's and early 90's, exploded with more cherry pickings in the mid to late 90's, and cleverly tied it all together to make it look like Obama was Satan's little nephew by marriage.


Can people seriously believe that the current financial crisis is solely due to democrats? Or even republicans for that matter. Are people that limited in their world view? (I'm not meaning to pick on Charles here. I'm directing that to the fool that made the video. The premise of which was that the predatory lending was regulated. An assertion for which he appears to present a great deal of data, but he never actually links it together properly to be able to draw said conclusion.)

Is it really so hard to believe that the crisis is due to unchecked greed that we have to blame one side of the political aisle to make ourselves feel better? Do people really need things to be so black and white for their lives to go on?

Of course, the False Dichotomy doesn't appear in just the economic/political realm. Take your pick on any issue and you'll find it. Rather than trying to embrace some sort of middle ground, where most of us lie, extremists force the issues to remain black and white, thus keeping the issue alive.

I understand some issues will never die. Some issues are so evenly distributed, they will always be issues. Kim and I have talked at length about abortion and this is one of those issues. I challenge anyone to find accurate statistics on the U.S. population's opinion on this issue. Most polls have percentages of pro-lifers in the mid to upper 40's and pro-choicers in the low to mid 40's with the rest in the "pro-choice but we need more restrictions category". (Though I am fundamentally a pro-lifer, I have thought quite a bit on the issue in terms of what I am willing to accept. I have drawn my lines in the sand, as arbitrary as they are, and I guess this puts me in the third category.)

I have seen other polls broken down into more restrictive categories and this really only serves to makes things more confusing. If you check out polls with five or more categories, you really begin to see that this issue is a weighted normal curve. (Weighted a bit heavier on the pro-life end where there are a higher percentage of people who oppose abortion under all circumstances versus a small percentage that want abortions under all circumstances. This makes sense because the gray in this issue comes from under what circumstances should we allow abortion.)

The middle ground on this issue is far too complex and unlike the former issue which is all about money, this one is about life and death. When push comes to shove, at the end of the day, I am sure we'll all be able to agree that the greedy people on Wallstreet, regardless of their political affiliation, need to be reigned in.

Who needs to be reigned in on an issue regarding life and death? The death bringers? If that is always the case we need to reign in the republicans who keep pushing for these middle eastern wars. When Kim and I were watching the VP debate Palin made a comment about how we need to win these wars. As opposed to what? The unspoken dichotomy of losing these wars? How about we don't start these wars? Wait, was this war a republican versus democrat issue?

Thursday, October 16, 2008



Either - or

What a wonderfully simplifying and comforting concept it is that things can be bifurcated into black and white, on and off, true or false. Mathematics relies on it. The logic of mathematics requires an object to either be a point or not a point, a line or not a line, a prime number or not a prime number, a glob or not a glob. But even in mathematics, which relies on the Law of the Excluded Middle, things are not always so easy. Without getting into a serious lesson on the foundations of mathematics, there do exist propositions in the context of mathematics which can be shown to have no determinable truth value. In short, math itself as it is currently constructed is not strong enough to ascertain whether or not these propositions are true or false.

How do mathematicians handle this problem? There are a number of ways.

First, we can have everyone pick a side. That's right. Because the proposition cannot be determined within math itself, we are free to accept the statement as true and go on our merry way under that assumption, or we accept it as false and go on our merry way. In doing this, we are accepting the statement (or it's negation) as a new axiom. This has actually happened. The axiom of choice was eventually accepted, not because it's so intuitive (a trait that mathematicians like their axioms to have) but because it was convenient. There was much opposition to the axiom at first, but after a few generations most of it has died because we would lose a whole bunch of cool mathematics without it.

Second, we can ignore it unless we have to pay attention. A methodology not unlike having sex while small domesticated animals are watching. Sure you can take care of business, but every once in a while they might decide you're being playful and want to get in on the fun. This is how mathematicians treat the Continuum Hypothesis. Most mathematicians ignore it as it hardly ever crops up. Others accept it as true, again, out of convenience because it makes infinite sets behave nicely, but others feel there is little reason to accept infinite sets are so well behaved when finite ones don't behave so nicely.

In the end, this option means that number theory isn't really what people think it's cracked up to be. Cracked is an appropriate word because there isn't just one supreme math universe that mathematicians work in, there are many. There is a model to mathematics which accepts the Continuum Hypothesis and another model that does not. Honestly, there are models which do not accept the choice axiom, but they're a barren wasteland in terms of modern research. Physics does the same thing in that it has multiple models that can be used to describe the universe. Most physicists work in what is called the "standard model", just as most mathematicians work within the standard framework of accepted mathematics, but the splinter groups do exist.

Despite this entry being entitled Dichotomy, there is a third option for mathematicians in dealing with a proposition that cannot be determined within the context of mathematics. We can rewrite all of mathematics using different axioms altogether. Axioms that allow us to make a conclusion on these previously undetermined propositions.

Admittedly, this is cumbersome. We've done so well in creating mathematics up until now do we really need to start over? Of course not. One would only need to use their new set of axioms to create the foundations of our previously known knowledge and everything will follow after that. So in the end, it's not really that much work to rewrite all of mathematics.

I guess I'll have to finish this discussion tomorrow.