Blog: Confessions of a Mathematician

Every now and then I receive an email with a great new resource. Today’s link comes courtesy of Ava: Security Baron Blog This website has a long list of links to resources about cryptography, but it also has links specific to internet security, plus some links to games and puzzles, and finally links to learn to write some code. Thanks for the tip, Ava! Emails like yours are a delightful surprise in my inbox.

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If you try to use regular quotation marks in $\LaTeX$, you’ll notice you get wacky quotes.

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Know you want to $\LaTeX$ up a summation symbol, but don’t know the command to use? Don’t stress! Head to DeTexify and draw what you’re looking for.

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For math exams in general, it can be useful to form a study group to talk over problems and solutions before the exams. It’s also useful to retry problems you’ve seen on homeworks, quizzes, and writing assignments (without looking at your previous attempt or the graders’ comments) to figure out what you need to focus on studying. For specific tips about studying for Linear Algebra exams, read on!

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While I’m breaking for lunch today, I’ll give a quick sabbatical update. But first, today’s #loveyourmath challenge (thanks, Ashley Johnson, for the kick in the pants!).

Today’s #loveyourmath topic: What inspired you to get into mathematics?

Math was definitely not my plan when going (back*) to college. The plan, which worked out tremendously, was to major in French and Econ and then go work for the World Bank or something. In Paris. Because, you know, Paris. But when I went to Colorado College, the block plan (one class at a time) made it very easy to start in Calc 3, then go on to DEs, then Linear Algebra, then… a year of math. And so I became a math major. I don’t know if this would or would not surprise my K-12 math teachers. In preschool, I had an existential crisis over counting (what if I keep counting? Is there an end to numbers, or no end, and which is worse?!) In 3rd-grade, I was hung up on fractions, decimals, and percents (why bother with three different ways of writing down the same thing?). I flunked 7th-grade pre-algebra (ask me about my recurring back-to-school nightmare) but then started liking math again in high school (I skipped a year of history to catch up and end my HS with Calculus). At that point, I figured I was done with math because what else is left after calculus? Anyway, I owe a huge debt to Patty Parsons and Ken Oliver who made math at Amity High School exciting to this nerd. I’m delighted to have been so thoroughly nurtured (nerd-tured?) at Colorado College by then-visiting professor Travis Kowalski; professors Marlow Anderson, David Brown, and Jane MacDougall; and former professor Amelia Taylor who overlapped with me the year I worked as paraprofessional. And I never would have gotten a PhD without the University of Nebraska–Lincoln faculty, staff (thanks Marilyn and Liz!!), and fellow grad students (shout out to Ashley, Amanda, Lauren, Mike, Ben, Nora, Anisah, Sara, and so many more). Not to mention the huge amounts of coffee and beer in Lincoln; I have a spot in my heart reserved for all the baristas and bartenders that kept me hydrated.

*Yep, back. I dropped out of college the first time. I also dropped out of 1st- and 7th-grades. I like to think I was preparing for the sabbatical cycle.

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As I get my very first sabbatical going, I’m working on some homework for the American Mathematical Society’s Math Research Community in Algebraic Statistics. So far, I’ve managed to calculate a few examples by hand. But now I’m down the software rabbit hole, and I find that it’s 4 hours later and I need to vent. Successes: Got Singular installed *and* got my mac to shut up about “programs from the internet” every time I open it; Ran an example in Singular with (almost) the expected output; Ran the same example in Macaulay2 with the same output as Singular; Installed Bertini and managed to get the Bertini.

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I’ve been officially reappointed! Corollary: I get to go (officially!) on sabbatical for the next academic year.

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In 2004, I adopted a cat who was about one year old and weaning her second litter of kittens. Moo, named for the sound she made, was first rescued by friends Chad and Tiffany from a kill shelter. When I met Moo, she dropped her kittens in my lap and took a nap while I looked after them. Then, she came and gave me a headbutt. It was love at first bonk.

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For some reason, there is a growing segment of the campus population that is interested in my cats. Far be it for me to deny the public what it wants. Here’s a quick guide for those new to the craze. Cats: Moo, Sophie, and Tipper Ages: 13, 8, 1.5 Sexes: Female (spayed) × 3 Rescued: 2004 (Colorado), 2008 (Nebraska), 2015 (New York) Follow the #cats tag for more information. Coming up: Moo’s biography.

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Milestone: Turning in my reappointment file after 5 semesters at Hamilton.

One of my friends called the process “self-irritation inducing.”

And now we wait…

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