aryanhwy: (Default)
2017-08-31 05:35 pm

in which I feel disparate

This is my first onomastics conference. It's not the first time I've talked about names in a professional capacity, but previous instances have all been to medievalists (albeit often onomastically-informed medievalists). This is the first time where the default position of my audience is to already be on my side.

On the one hand, I have been surprised at how many people I've met who are marginalized in some capacity. There's the PhD student who is working on New Zealand place names in a department of Celtic linguistics. There's the onomasts stuck in a history department (the difference between historians and onomasts, per one of today's talks: historians study names as sources; onomasts study names as names). There's the guy who sat to my right at lunch on Tuesday, who's first degree was in chemistry; and the guy who sat to my left who lamented the fact that there are no longer are any programmes in onomastics in France. There's the onomast in the English lit department, justifying her presence by doing literary onomastics. There's the guy who is writing the comprehensive study of Suffolk place names in his evenings and spare time.

On the other hand, it is been both hard and easy to confess that my own project is a hobby project. It's easy to say "I do this in my spare time" and "I try not to let my home department know what I'm doing because of REF" and "I don't have any grant money, because I haven't found a funding agency that would give me the type of money I need". But it's still hard to admit it. To tell someone, "actually, my PhD is in logic, and what I teach in a philosophy department has nothing to do with names." Or to confess that the technical infrastructure only exists because my husband loves me very much and has donated more time than I could ever have afforded to pay someone for. Or just how many unpaid hours I have contributed to this project.

Even though everyone takes it in stride. Even though no one has made me feel like a fraud (one person did corner me today, having wandered around the Dictionary for awhile. His complaint? In the "how to cite this entry" slug at the bottom of every entry, there is no space between "S." and "L." in my name). Even though there are plenty of other people in my shoes, amidst all the others who are not. Even all that and more, it still feels like it shouldn't be possible, to have effectively managed to run in parallel for 15+ years two academic lives.

Take that, and add in an exchange on the excursion yesterday, which involved a lot of pleasant wandering through natural parks, and plenty of time to sit and relax and rest -- "What is it you keep writing?" -- to which I have to confess it is NEITHER my actual research NOR my hobby research but my THIRD persona, and that I was writing fiction. "Have you published anything?" "Yes, two short stories have come out this year, and I have two more forthcoming, one probably next month and one early next year." *look of surprise*

I feel...disparate. Many different threads all tied into one, when most people only expect, upon meeting someone new at a conference, one thread.
aryanhwy: (Default)
2017-06-16 08:32 pm
Entry tags:

Playing games

There's a game Gwen likes to play. I tell her "You don't like X", where X is something she obviously likes, and she bursts into gales of laughter and replies, "I DO like X" or some such contradiction.

On the way home, she played it with me -- she told me things _I_ didn't like -- and I turned the tables by agreeing with her instead of contradicting her. She thought this was HILARIOUS.

I thought it fascinating the list of things she came up with that I don't like. They include:

- Books
- Ice cream
- Birthday cake
- Wine
- Beer
- Scotch
- My glasses
- Teaching
- Doing my hair
- Myself

And then she tried to trick me by throwing in "You don't like potatoes", and she laughed and laughed when I contradicted her.

But then she thought of something that was SO preposterous and SO far from the truth that she could hardly bring herself to even say it, she was laughing too hard at the idea that this could be something I didn't like. Finally she managed to get it out:

"You don't like me."

(Of course I agreed with her completely and said she was the worst human being that I knew.)

I love that this concept is so far from the truth that she could barely even conceive of it being true.
aryanhwy: (Default)
2017-05-22 09:53 pm
Entry tags:

it's the little things

One of the most surprisingly delightful things about parenting is being able to anticipate your child in the little things.

Sainsbury's is have a promotion whereby every 5GBP you spend, you can get a two-pack of Lego character cards. Gwen was blissfully unaware of this until we got one one day, and now she thinks they are the best thing ever, especially since some of her school mates, both in her class and the two classes above, are collecting them. By the time the end of the weekend had rolled around, she'd managed to collect 14 of them, two being duplicates. She brought them to school today and on the way home was all delighted to tell me how she'd given her duplicates away to friends and received a duplicate in turn from a third.

These are just little flimsy cards. They are going to get scattered about the floor. She also has a couple packages of Trolls cards, and two cards from some yogurt fruit snacks thing. All these cards. So I decided what she really needed was some of those plastic sleeves you can put in a three ring binder, to put her cards in.

Bizarrely enough, I couldn't find any sleeves with slots of the right size either at Ryman's or WH Smith's when I stopped in this morning after dropping hr off at school, so I ended up having to order the sleeves online. They'll arrive probably by the weekend, and I figured I'd take her out shopping to pick out a fancy binder, maybe one she could decorate or something, or maybe one already decorated.

On the way home, she told me that F. had a binder for HIS Lego cards, with pockets for all the cards! And maybe someday SHE could get a binder TOO. A Lego binder like HIS! (This is when I realize, oh, yeah, that makes sense -- I bet Sainsbury's supplies a binder where you can see which ones you're missing and see which you've collected, etc., and probably they could be ordered online, or perhaps even purchased at the store, that makes a lot of sense). I had intended to keep my plan a surprise for her until the pocket sleeves arrived, but I didn't have the heart not to indulge her. And she was THRILLED. At first she wanted a Lego one just like F.'s, but I explained to her that I'd already bought the sleeves and that I thought she'd enjoy more getting to pick out a special one all on her own that would be different from everyone else's, and she decided that we should go look and see what the options were, and if she found one she loved, we'd get it, and if we didn't, we'd see about getting a Lego one online.

~3GBP later, we headed home, one proud owner over a very cute pink binder with an owl in a tree on the front.

These things. They're so little. I find it strange that I sometimes feel like my parents were too good at it, because they were good parents effortlessly. So I never saw them work at it, I never had insight into all the machinations that go into making a happy childhood. So I'm always afraid that I'm missing it, that there's something I should be doing that I'm not. (And then I look at Gwen and how delighted she appears to be with her life, and the fears quiet down again. But eventually their voices grow louder and louder.) But sometimes, I get it right. Sometimes, I can do effortless. I can buy the Dalmation puppy purse as a Christmas present. I can get an even better Pikachu than what she'd actually asked Santa for.

I hope someday she looks back on a childhood that was as effortlessly happy as mine.
aryanhwy: (Default)
2017-05-11 10:01 pm
Entry tags:

self-indulgent naval gazing

Wait, that's ships, isn't it? I can never keep naval/navel straight.

Today I got the author proofs for "The Sum of Our Memories", the 7,000-word short story I extracted from 80,000 words of 400 words/day writing last summer and sent off to a call for submissions for an anthology, and was rather shocked when it was accepted. I queued up the soundtrack for it (Genesis, "One for the Vine"; The Strawbs "Ghosts" and "Hangman & the Papist"; The Crüxshadows, "The Hanged Man"), and began to read.

Oh man. I had forgotten just how dark the story is, and how it deals with miscarriage and suicide and loss of identity, and just how many nightmares (the literal sort) were exorcised in the writing of it. I came away from reading it feeling like I'd received a punch to the stomach.


Is it hubris to say that your own writing is good? I mean, no one has ever told me that it isn't, but one can't always expect one's parents to have an unbiased opinion. My academic papers always got good marks in university, and when I submit papers to journals, the comments I get are always about content and not style. If I thought about it at all, in the last decade, I'd probably simply say "Yeah, I'm a good writer", but this wouldn't have meant much because lots of people are good writers.

Except, lots of people are not. [Shelve this thought; we'll come back to it.] And other people who I would've pegged in the "good writer" category singled me out as "a good writer". One of my co-authors, while we were drafting, specifically asked me to edit his parts of the paper with liberty, because he really enjoyed and appreciated my style. Sitting down now, I can't recall other specific examples, but I do know they exist, in the last ~2-3 years: Academics specifically saying they enjoy the way I write.

Now, this doesn't really mean that much -- many people can write well and think that other people write well; many people can write well and still enjoy a specific person's style especially. This isn't enough to justify any sort of distinction about my writing.


Then last summer I composed this story by stitching together bits of a much bigger piece, and it got accepted.

Then I started writing The Novel and continued writing because I didn't know how to stop, and ended up in some writing groups on FB, and ended up volunteering to beta read for other people, and having other people volunteer to beta read for me.

And that was an eye-opening experience. Many, many people who have read even portions of the novel have commented on the elegance of the prose, that they find it beautiful. And I read a number of things which were, um, just not very well written. And it kind of shocked me; I knew that I've always been a good writer, but being good at writing had never stood out as any sort of especial characteristic; for all I really knew, everyone else could also be a good writer.

Except they're not. Which triggered a whole bunch of navel-gazing (wait, is that oranges, or boats? I have no idea). [This post has been mulling in my mind for a very long time now.]


When I wrote the 80,000 words that eventually became "The Sum of Our Memories", I wrote the story I wanted to write. When I wrote The Novel, I wrote the story I wanted to read. After finishing the first draft, I knew it needed a lot of work. I knew I needed to read it and reread it and let it rest and print it off and read the paper version and repeat until every single word was the perfect word. And yet, I'd sit down to start editing, and suddenly look at the clock and found I'd read 50 pages and it was past bedtime, and I'd gotten so completely absorbed in it.

I've let it rest for awhile now -- I now know, concretely, a few of the major changes it needs in the next drafting -- but the other night I was looking up a specific passage in it, and all of a sudden an hour had past and I was immersed in reading it. It is still exactly the story I want to read, and when I read it, it's hard to escape the feeling that this is good, this is really good.


I had that same feeling again tonight, rereading "The Sum of Our Memories". This is good, this is actually really good.


And I had that same feeling at the end of April when I completed a long short story that I wrote over the course of the month, "The Platform Between Heaven and Earth." For the final edits, I printed off a copy and read it aloud. It took about an hour and 20 minutes, and while reading it, I kept thinking "I wish I could read this around a camp-fire to an audience. This is good. This is really good." And I shared the PDF of it with acquaintances on the internet, and the response was...well, let's just say, very gratifying.


But there is something so very strange about waxing lyrical about how good your own work is, because if there is one person more biased than your parents it's you. How on earth can I say such narcissistic things about my own writing? How am I any judge? This is one of the reasons why this post is self-indulgent: I am giving myself liberty to articulate these internal thoughts, even if I have no evidence or validation for them.

There's also the flip side: Imposter syndrome. Why am I surrounded by so many people who struggle to maintain their faith in their works, to believe that what they are writing is good, worthwhile, valuable, when I myself am not plagued by these doubts?

I had Imposter Syndrome for quite awhile -- who wouldn't when you're 20 years old and in grad school, younger by a long shot than any of your classmates, younger than many of the students you're teaching, when you're surrounded by people who know more, are cleverer, are quicker on the mark, are better at everything than you are -- but I remember precisely the day that a switch flipped and it turned off. It was my 2nd year in Amsterdam, and I was sitting in, but not taking for credit, a philosophy of math master's course. I remember sitting in the back of the room (something undergrad me NEVER did), making snide remarks to the person sitting next to me (something undergrad me NEVER did), and asking challenging questions (something undergrad me definitely did do, but US grad me didn't as much, because I could never articulate the questions I had until a few days after the class), and I suddenly realized that I had become the person I had always felt inferior to. I was the one that other people would feel an imposter next to.

And basically after that, I've never really had any false doubts about my abilities as an academic.

But I have concrete evidence, reinforced in many different dimensions, that I am a good academic; I am a good researcher, I am a good teacher. I am not an imposter.

When it comes to writing, though, it feels like I should be more suspect of my own quality. I want to be more suspect of my own quality, because only that way can I recognize where the flaws and places that need improvement are. If I am too uncritical, I can never be better. So, it worries me, somewhat, how much I like my own writing, how it affects me when I read it, how good it seems to me to be.


But because I said this post was self-indulgent, I'll indulge myself enough to end it with this: It is good, it's really good.
aryanhwy: (Default)
2017-04-22 10:07 pm

How to have a happy birthday

1. Have your husband's alarm go off 45 min. before yours is set, and have him get up soon after and let you lie around in bed while he makes breakfast for both him and your daughter.
2. Finally decided you've lain around in bed long enough 15 min. before your alarm goes off, and spend those 15 minutes in bed looking at your phone.
3. Have your daughter delightedly sing happy birthday to you upon stepping out of the shower, numerous times over.
4. Go to the gardening center while your daughter is at her weekly Saturday morning drama lesson, and buy yourself a tree! (And two cherry tomatoes, some peas, another strawberry plant, some raspberries on clearance, some peppers, and a cucumber.) Store said tree in your livingroom, and spend the rest of the day going "Gosh, it's really nice have a tree in the livingroom."
5. Have a pleasant lunch with your daughter and then head out to the FunFair.
6. Meet up with your husband at the FunFair and:
6a. Buy a bag of cotton candy.
6b. Let daughter go on basically every ride she wants to, because the FunFair isn't that huge and she doesn't want to go on any of the ones that go fast or upside down.
6c. Let daughter try the "hook a duck" game, and be pleasantly surprised that it's a "guaranteed prize" thing and the base type of prize (which she got) is not cheap plastic crap. (Do, however, veto the goldfish.)
6d. Bumper cars. For all three of you. Because none of you have ever been in bumper cars ever before. This will be the best 6 pounds you'll spend this week.
6e. Buy donuts.
6f. Let your husband go on the spinning teacups with your daughter, and laugh yourself sick as he tries not to be sick.
6g. Do the bumper cars again.
6h. Buy a bag of cotton candy for the ride home.
7. Eat cotton candy before supper. Because you are an adult, and it's your birthday. (Note: your daughter will accept this as an explanation for why she is not allowed to do the same).
7. Do the usual Saturay-night-pizza-and-scifi, with extra special beer.
8. Know that you have clotted cream ice cream in the freezer, even if you don't decide to have any tonight.

If four score and ten are all the years we get on this earth, it's all down hill from here.
aryanhwy: (Default)
2017-04-13 09:27 pm

holidaying with a child

It's a bit different, going on holiday with a kid. We have one hotel room, with a double bed and a single bed, which means when Gwen goes to bed (which has been ~2 hours later than usual, BUT France is an hour ahead of England, and we'd only been on daylight savings for a week or two before coming here, so basically it's the bedtime she'd been going to bed at up until about three weeks ago, AND we've been sleeping in until 9:30 nearly every day so she's still getting her 12 hours) around 9:30, Joel and I turn of the light and sit in the dark (thank goodness for backlit computers). Tonight he suggested running out to the Monoprix up the block to get a bottle of cider to split, which sounded like a lovely idea.

Alas, they sell cider, but not plastic cups. France is not a place where one has need of plastic cups. France is a place where one arranges one's life so that one always has all the cups one needs. But our hotel doesn't provide cups, and he couldn't buy any, so we've rinsed out one water bottle and one bottle of juice that we've accumulated, and are sitting, in the dark, in bed, drinking cider out of them.

I don't know why we aren't just chugging it from the bottle it came in.
aryanhwy: (Default)
2017-04-12 08:00 pm

occupation identification

This week I've had two different encounters where someone attempted to extrapolate my occupation on the basis of a few pieces of information.

Sunday night we were having a late supper having arrived in Paris around about 7pm French time. We were sitting in the outdoor seating that was just across the sidewalk from the restaurant when a little boy who'd been sitting in the restaurant with his parents came over to us and asked "Do you speak English?" We said yes, and he scampered off, and then after a bit of reassurance from his parent, came back and asked if Gwen wanted to play. So that ended up being a real boon, they ran races up and down the sidewalk and then sat near our table and played games on his dad's phone, and this kept her occupied and not cranky until our food came. When his parents came to collect him, we chatted a bit, and the mother commented that Gwen had been doing very well with the adding and subtracting game, and then asked if we were mathematicians! I said "yes", because, basically, we are, and then -- this is what I thought most interesting -- she immediately made the inference that I worked at a university, and asked which one.

It makes me wonder. Is there anyone who would describe themselves/their occupation as "a mathematician" who doesn't work at a university?

Today at lunch our waiter turned out to be American, and we chatted a bit off and on, and when Joel paid with our German credit card, the waiter said something about "Germans living in England with American accents!" and we said "Americans who've lived in The Netherlands, Germany, and England," his diagnosis of why we were peripatetics was -- "Are you archaeologists?"

I wonder how he came up with that one.
aryanhwy: (Default)
2017-03-26 01:03 pm
Entry tags:

no, not really worried

When I found out that G.'s school class had 11 boys and 3 girls, I was a bit worried at the gender disparity, and wondered how it would play out. (I am also still not entirely happy with the "girls must wear skirts" uniform policy, but I am willing to shut up about it so long as SHE seems happy with it.)

Friday was the last day of Lent term, and since it's already my Easter break and there was no after school club, I picked her up at 3:15 with the rest of the kids. It was a glorious day and when we got to the cathedral she wanted to run around on the grass for awhile, so I figured why not. Then M1 came along with his mom, and she convinced him to come and run around for awhile too. Then M2 came along with his parents and little brother, and joined in. And then JK came along with HIS mom, and we all shrugged our shoulders and said "Well, I guess it means we don't need to take them to a playground!" The four of them spent about half an hour running around, running races and rolling down the hill, and at one point, G. shouted, "Boys, come!", gestured, and ran off. And every single one of them followed her.

I guess I don't really need to worry about Gwen feeling cowed, or learning problematic gender norms, or anything like that. (Though I'll admit I heard an echo of myself in her, that peremptory "G., come!" that I use when we're, e.g., traveling and I need her with me, NOW. So, I guess my sometimes-strict parenting style is actually a good thing, because it gives her a clear model of female leadership. :) )
aryanhwy: (Default)
2017-03-05 01:29 pm
Entry tags:


This morning, Gwen got up some time before us (as usually happens on Sundays), and I vaguely heard her busily occupying herself. When I finally woke up around 9:30, I beckoned her to come in and cuddle, and she did, announcing, "I deserve a new cuddly toy! I tidied my room and I tidied the bathroom!" (Note: Tidying the bathroom was entirely her own idea, I had never even suggested it as a possible option.)

We've decided that a sticker chart reward system for big chores like tidying a bathroom should be instituted. Because that does deserve a cuddly toy...but not just for doing it once.


Yesterday there was a birthday party at Adventure Valley, a big petting zoo/playground/soft play/animal farm/etc. place. Most of the activities are free once you've paid entrance (and if you're there for a birthday party, the host has paid your entry!), but a few cost an extra pound or two, primarily the motorized things. While we were waiting for the party to get started, Gwen and some others discovered the motorized diggers, and she came over and asked for a pound. I told her we weren't going to be doing the things that cost money because there would be plenty to do with the birthday party. So a few minutes later, she marches up to T.'s mom, Lucy, and asks Lucy for a pound! And Lucy gave her one!

I don't know whether to be mortified, amused, or proud.
aryanhwy: (Default)
2017-03-03 02:14 pm
Entry tags:

Today's seminar is unlikely to be topped

A student, H., flagged me at the beginning of tutorial today saying he and another, G., had an announcement to make, if that was all right. (Important backstory: at the Philosophy Society Ball a few weeks previously, H. apparently proposed to G., and G. eventually agreed.) He showed me what they wanted to say, and I knew immediately, how could I say no?

So I called class to order, and mentioned that there was an announcement someone wanted to make, and H. got up, walked over to a third, I., and proceeded to request that she marry both he and G., complete in iambic pentameter and down on bended knee.

This is the best thing that I think will ever happen in one of my classes. I have been watched relationships blossom from day one, and while I have no idea how much of this is a joke and how much isn't (I'm not even sure any of they know!), I am loving it so much.
aryanhwy: (Default)
2017-02-18 10:31 am
Entry tags:

shout out to my 1st years

If Thursday was the day for reveling in my advanced seminar, today I want to put in a few good words for my 1st years. Friday afternoon from 1pm to 2pm when I have a tutorial with 13 people from my intro logic class is the highlight of my week.

The thing that's fun about intro classes is that you get a bunch of people who don't know each other, but also don't know anyone else, and you put them together in a situation which is easy for some and stressful for others, making it natural that they turn to each other for support. And then you kick back and watch friendships develop, friendships that you can tell will last. A week or two ago, they were already talking about having a "reunion" in two years time by taking my advanced logic course! (Which would be awesome.) Yesterday, I heard all about how Hugh proposed to George at the Philosophy Ball the night before, and that while George's first response was "maybe" he eventually capitulated and said yes. They then spent the opening minutes of the tutorial, while everyone was filing in, planning their wedding. :) Years from now, 10, 15, 25 years, these people will get together and their "do you remember when"s will involve "do you remember when we met and became friends in our logic tutorial", and it's such a privilege to be the facilitator of a space where this can happen.

I love how comfortable they have gotten with each other and with me, though it is tremendously amusing when they apparently seem to either forget I am there or that I am their teacher, and they start gossiping about their other courses and lecturers. (A bunch of them were distraught when the lecturer changed with the change of terms in one of their classes: "Andrew's hair was the only reason to wake up on a Friday morning!")

But not only that, they are a really smart group of people. They are invested in this course, they work hard, they help each other, and not a single one of them is afraid of making a mistake in front of the rest of the class, or to admit "I didn't understand how to do that exercise so I didn't do it". This is partly a product of my teaching style for tutorials, something which I've only been able to implement for the first time, really, this year, because of the nature of logic tutorials vs. philosophy ones. From week one there was the strong expectation that they come having done the work: I started learning people's names by going around the room, selecting a person at random and having them give their answer on the whiteboard in front of the rest of the group. For one or two people, it took only once of being called upon and then having to admit that they couldn't because they hadn't done the work before that never happened again. But the only way that this sort of arrangement works without putting a lot of pressure on students is to make not having an answer, or having the wrong answer, simply not an issue. If I call upon someone, and they can't answer, I simply move on to the next. They know there is no shame in not having the right answer, because this is difficult material that is foreign to them and I expect it to take work to get through it. The only shame comes from not having an answer because you didn't bother to work, and even then, the shame only comes from having to say that you didn't do the work in front of your classmates -- it's self-imposed, if you know what I mean. I never pass judgement on it.

The first few weeks, I would call on people either in order of how they sat, or randomly (to help me learn names), but after that I started taking volunteers -- among other things, I told them, this meant that if they didn't have answers for all the questions, or had answers they felt more (or less!) comfortable with, they could choose to answer something they were confident in answering or to answer something where they were uncertain and wanted my explicit comments. As a result, I usually am getting volunteers before I can even ask for them.

Most of the time we stick pretty closely to the nuts and bolts mechanics of doing logic; the exercises for tutorials are closely linked to examination questions, and are designed to give them practice with all the concepts I'm introducing in lecture, so there is a lot of simple practice and comprehension going on. Due to the nature of the subject, there isn't much up for philosophical debate in an intro logic course (there are of course philosophical questions relevant to topics in basic classical logic, but they are not the focus of this course), so when there is actually discussion in the tutorials, it's because people don't understand why the right answer is the right answer, and it's just a matter of talking through the right answer. But yesterday something special happened. We were doing English -> predicate logic formalization exercises, and the questions came up regarding how to know whether something is a constant or a predicate; how to treat definite descriptions; whether proper names were disguised predicates or definite descriptions; and whether something like $2.00 is a constant (the name of a number/amount) or a predicate (a property of an amount or a price paid). And all of a sudden the room erupted into discussion, with almost everyone having a particular view (there was definitely no consensus!), and people giving reasons for their views, and others countering with counterarguments or alternatives, and back and forth and without having read any of Russell, Quine, or Kripke they generated -- on their own! -- basically all of the important points of their discussions, and I pretty much kicked back and grinned for about 10 minutes as they just took it and ran. This is the sort of discussion you are always trying to generate in a philosophy tutorial, and if you get maybe three people out of the ~10-12 to engage in this fashion without any guidance from the tutor, you feel good. But this discussion involved EVERYONE, and sprung up completely without any nudging or guidance from me, and it was just amazing to watch.

I'm very proud of them.
aryanhwy: (Default)
2017-02-16 02:47 pm
Entry tags:

teaching vignettes

Today my advanced seminar switched gears from the formal logic we've been doing since October to philosophy of math. I still want the presentations to be student-given, but it's very different covering a chapter of philosophy, including motivating discussion, than it is covering a bunch of technical definitions, lemmas, proofs, etc., so I wasn't sure how things were going to go.

I couldn't have been happier. The student who volunteered for this week smashed the presentation and was very good at guiding and directing discussion, and pretty much everyone in the room was willing to talk -- and more importantly, to talk to each other rather than to me. I tried to stay in the background as much as possible, because as soon as The Teacher speaks, especially to ask a question, then the discussion suddenly becomes Students Answering the Teacher's Question, rather than a philosophical discussion.

Today was an overview of issues in philosophy of mathematics, which boil down basically to: What is the ontology of mathematics? and What is the epistemology of mathematics? I.e., what are mathematical objects, and how do we know things about them?

A lot of people already have some strong leanings towards various positions, either from their own mathematical practices, or from other metaphysical or epistemology leanings they have independently from math, and it was fun seeing them beginning to articulate these leanings to each other. At one point, one student boldly proclaimed that "THIS is what philosophy is for"---not those 'soft' questions in ethics about utilitarianism vs. consequentialism, etc. (I LOVE that "determining the real nature of mathematical objects and how mathematics relates to the world" is what they think is the most important goal/pursuit of philosophy. I guess I shouldn't be surprised; they're all taking this class!).

Another brought up the very good question of what the difference is between dragons and numbers, on an anti-realist position. One person had an answer: "Practicality. We use numbers and dragons differently".

Someone else advanced the rather bold claim that not only do we apply numbers to the real world because they work, but also the converse -- numbers work because we use them.

I am really looking forward to the coming weeks' discussions.
aryanhwy: (Default)
2017-02-10 05:10 pm
Entry tags:

it's like being an undergrad again

....except not quite.

One thing I love about teaching is getting to revisit old favorites from my own undergrad days. When my 2nd years last year indicated they wanted to do some philosophy of math this year, I knew exactly what book to go to -- Stewart Shapiro's Thinking About Mathematics, which I had as a textbook in Mike Byrd's grad-level philosophy of math course. (This will not be the first time that I'm teaching undergrads things I either got in a grad course or have previously taught in a grad course. I'm working under the assumption that if I don't tell them this is hard, they won't know. So far, it's working beautifully.)

We're starting this topic next week in seminar, so today I spent the day curled up reading a book and taking notes. It feels like being an undergrad again, the entire process is one that I don't often have to do any more (particularly this year, I have rarely had to do any teach prep earlier than about 1-1.5 hours in advance of when I teach. Reading something almost a week in advance and taking notes is uber-preparation for me!)

One thing I love about teaching from books I used as an undergrad is seeing all my notes from that era. The name/date in this book is from almost exactly 15 years ago -- January 2002. It's not as heavily annotated as some, but there is one page where the entire margin is covered in a rant against intuitionism:


And in another place you can tell from the non-verbal notes alone the strength of 20-year-old me's realism:


Sometimes I still agree with 20-year-old me's comments, sometimes my views have tempered a bit over time.

It does feel very much like being an undergrad again, except not in one very specific way. Poor Gwen had a cough yesterday that developed into an awful chesty phlegmy thing overnight, and then woke up crying "my ear hurts!" and a bit later "my heart hurts!" so we took a trip down to the doctor in the morning. The diagnosis was viral, so plenty of rest prescribed. Since I'm still feeling under the weather myself, we've both spent most of the day in bed watching movies (and look over, I think she's now on to her second nap).

I think 20-year-old me would've been pretty pleased to find out that 15 years later, I not only get to read the same things that enthused and inspired me then, but they still enthuse and inspire me now, and not only that, I get to touch them as they were taught to me, and not only that, I get to do it while cuddled up in bed, sick kid in one arm, cat in the other. Okay, she probably would've preferred the kid to not be sick, but if the choice is between sick kid and no kid, I'll take the sick kid any day of the week.
aryanhwy: (Default)
2017-02-06 04:27 pm
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for those who like my teaching anecdotes

Here's a good one.

Last Thursday a student apologized and said he wouldn't be able to make it to seminar next week. Fine with me, he knows what we're covering and if he has any questions he can come to office hours.

He showed up this afternoon with a stack of questions that we worked through, and as he left I said "see you Thursday," and then caught myself "oh, wait, you're gone then, right?" And he a bit shamefacedly admitted that he was going to be around, but his girlfriend was visiting from Italy. Then he mentioned that she's in finance, and he'd passed on a joke I'd made last seminar about people working in finances (namely, they are probably utterly uncaring about Gödel's incompleteness results), and was wondering if maybe instead of him skipping class she could come along with him? If there's be enough room for one more?

Outwardly I laughed and said of course she'd be welcome and there's plenty of spare seats in the room, and inwardly I am trying to sum up all the kinds of awesome this is, that one of my students thinks "inviting my girlfriend along to class" is a wholly commensurate alternative to "skipping class to spend time with my girlfriend".

This entire year has been just utterly surreal with the amount of romance and flirtation going on in connection with my logic classes. Whoever would've thought?
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2017-02-05 10:09 pm
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Happy birthday to Joel

Gwen is a remarkably guileless creature -- thank goodness, for if she were naturally sly, we'd all be in BIG trouble -- but there are a few times where something small deep down in me has wondered if in fact she is actually incredibly full of guile, and is just very good at concealing it. Is she actually really manipulating us by the straightforwardness of her innocence?

About a month ago, she managed to scam me. Context: Gwen has enough blankets on her bed that if she gets up to the use the toilet, she needs help getting tucked back in. I do so grudgingly, because I really really really want her to learn how to get out of bed without dumping the blankets on the floor, so that she can get back in and pull them up herself. But she's not in general allowed to ask for random cuddles. She gets a cuddle 5 minutes after I put her to bed (or, if Neffie or Goldie is on my lap in five minutes, she'll get the cuddle when I am next free to come upstairs), and if I am already in bed myself but my light is still on, she's allowed to come and lie in bed with me for a few minutes. Otherwise, I am not at home to the stalling technique known as "mummy, can I have another cuddle?" With that background, this exchange happened:

G., whispering loudly: "Mummy, can you come tuck me back in?"
Me, sitting on the couch downstairs: "All right, I'll be up in a moment."
*goes upstairs a few minutes later*
G., whispering: "I don't exactly want you to tuck me in, I just want a cuddle."

Bait and switch! She knew if she asked for a cuddle, I'd tell her she should be asleep and therefore I'm not coming up. So instead she lured me up with a request for something she knew I would come for...


Today is Joel's birthday, so yesterday we went out shopping for a gift for him. I told her to think about things he likes, and try to get something that he would like. Her first suggestion was beer and books, but then we passed the toy stall at the market where we usually buy birthday presents for her classmates, and she said "I could get daddy A TOY!" And not just any toy, she could get him a soft, cuddly toy! I probed a bit, asking if she really thought this was what daddy would like, and what would he do with it? "He can cuddle with it! He can cuddle it any time that he wants! He'll love it." So we got it, and she then refused to let it be put in a bag, and instead cuddled it close and carried it home, and occasionally referred to it as "my lambie" even though she most often caught and corrected herself to "daddy's lambie" before I could.

We wrapped it up in prep for giving it to him at supper tonight, and last night I warned Joel that she had primary choice in the present, and that she had picked something out specially for him specifically, something that she put a lot of thought into and that she was sure would be the present he'd want best, just so that he would be properly primed to give the correct response upon opening it. (Which he managed to do without laughing.) Gwen was full of all sorts of helpful ideas about what he could do with it, though she never quite came out and suggested that he give the lamb into her keeping and care. Lambie is now tucked up in our bed, awaiting Joel to come home so he can cuddle with her at night.

Even now, we are still uncertain if Gwen got Joel a birthday gift, or if she was incredibly, deviously, enormously clever and got herself a birthday gift. (Joel says to test this theory, he wants to get her a complex mitre saw for her 6th birthday).
aryanhwy: (Default)
2017-02-05 05:01 pm
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growing up

Yesterday, Gwen casually asked, "Mum, can you text Lauren [D.'s mom] and ask if I can come over today or tomorrow to play with play-doh?" Despite prompting, she hasn't yet gotten the concept of waiting for invitations. But Lauren and I had talked a few weeks previously about getting the girls together this weekend, and D. has been to our place more often than vice versa lately, so I didn't feel too bad putting the proposal to her, and Lauren promptly replied with an invite for this afternoon.

When it was time to go, Gwen suggested that perhaps this was a time in which she was grown up enough that I could walk her down to the end of our street and help her cross the street, and then she could walk the rest of the way herself. D.'s house is across the main road and then one block away; from the end of our street I can see D.'s house. And once before, before Christmas, Gwen had made a quick run over there to make a delivery and then came right back, while I stood at the end of our street and watched. Gilesgate is just too busy for me to let her try to cross it unsupervised; but if I'm there to judge when it's safe to go, then she's allowed to cross it without me accompanying her.

I love that with so many independence things like this, she's the one who takes the initiative. She was the one who suggested one day that she was old enough to be left at home alone while I ran to the store (a trip which takes about 10 minutes). She's the one who suggests that I walk up the stairs from the river to the bridge while she takes the ramp route, and that we meet at the top of the bridge. She's the one who has come up with the idea of me walking on the other side of the street from her.

It means I'm doing a good job raising a strong, confident child.
aryanhwy: (Default)
2017-02-04 12:56 pm
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conversation with Gwen

Over lunch, today.

G: What's this song called?

Me: 'Ocean Soul'.

G: What's a soul?

Me: It is the part of you that makes you you and not someone else.

G: I don't want to be me.

Me: Why not? What would you like to change?

G: My face. My face looks funny.

Me: How would you like to change your face? Would you like it to be green?

G: No. I want it to look like yours. I want to look like you.

Me: Do you know, the older you get, the more you look like me? Or rather, the more you like like I did at your age. You know what that means?

G: When I grow up, my face won't look funny. It'll look like yours.


Very interesting.


There's a stomach bug (or two) going around school right now (in addition to chicken pox), and I was silly enough to think that having vomited last Saturday morning and then being fine since that she was safe. Alas, we went out to eat last night for Joel's birthday, and our dinner was shortly curtailed by the arrival of more puke -- after which she was immediately better, spritely and sparkly and skipping all the way home. Still, she woke up once in the middle of the night to use the toilet, and when I went in to see if she was okay, she told me, "I don't want to be me any more". Poor kid, at that point, I think she was just trying to say "I don't want to be sick any more", and thus that this conversation and the one above are disjoint. But still interesting.
aryanhwy: (Default)
2017-02-02 08:03 pm
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the day to day things

That's what I've been caught up with since October when the academic year started again.

This year, I've finally gotten what I've dreamed of. I've got the 1st year introduction to logic class and the 3rd year advanced logic class. We are having so much fun.

The advanced logic seminar was scheduled at the same time as last year, meaning we have the same conflicts with maths courses, which no one seems to care about resolving. So again I have a split seminar. About 2/3 come to the scheduled time, and the other 1/3 meet at another day/time in my office. Hosting logic seminars in my office is one of my true joys in life.

For my intro students, I set them a take-home exam to do over Christmas break, to ensure that they didn't go 4 weeks without thinking about logic. We finished grading them on Tuesday and I told people they could come by my office hours today to pick up their exams. It's really, really fun handing back work to people when the grade they've gotten is much higher than they expected. (Many of them were expecting the worst.) One of them didn't believe the mark on the front, and when I assured him it was right, said, "I feel like I want to hug you, but that would inappropriately cross bounds." I told him I'd be satisfied with a happy smile. His friend was tremendously impressed by my rocking chair -- which he first identified as a throne. So he was even more impressed when I told him it rocked.

The two of them approved of my choice of music -- Nightwish -- never having been exposed to Finnish operatic metal before. One commented to the other that he could just imagine me kicking back in my throne with my music turned up loud and doing logic.

I'm glad that's the view of logic/logicians my students are getting.

It's been good. It's been busy. I tend not to do much other than teaching during term time.
aryanhwy: (Default)
2017-01-18 09:53 pm
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did I remember to tell you the story of the time Gwen wore her PJs to the school Christmas party?

What, you say, no? Because I have barely written here at all in the last month and a half? Pish. Surely I must have. But if you insist...


So the thing about going to school in uniform is that the few uniform free days they get are Big Things. There were two, last term. One, Christmas Jumper Charity Fundraising Day, they were allowed to swap school cardigans for Christmas sweaters in exchange for a few pounds, which went to charity. The other was the class Christmas party.

The class Christmas party happened to be on the same day as the Purple Class Mums were going to go out for their Christmas Do (yes, the capitals are all necessary). (And those of you on FB know all about the angst of the Christmas Do). T.'s mom invited Gwen to spend the night at their place so that I wouldn't have to worry about childcare, which meant she'd go home from school with them.

Gwen, when confronted with the fact that (a) she needed to pack her overnight bag, including sleeping clothes and (b) she was free to wear WHATEVER SHE WANTED to the class Christmas party, promptly decided that the appropriate solution was to wear her purple cow footed (and hooded!) PJs to the party. "Then I won't have to change for bed!" she told me pragmatically. I explained to her that other children might be wearing pretty party dresses and things like that, and that this was a fancy dress party, not a Fancy Dress party (yes, capitals still required). Nevertheless, since wearing the cow PJs to her own birthday party, and later on to another child's birthday party (which was Fancy Dress. Amongst the little girls present, there were three Elsas, two Annas, one Sleeping Beauty, and one purple cow butterfly. I adore my daughter), she has become convinced that purple cow PJs are the height in party fashion.

T.'s mom, when we met up that evening at the Do, looked at me bemusedly and told me "Gwen is out of this world."
aryanhwy: (widget)
2016-11-30 11:24 pm
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Draft One

144 days.

Almost 300 handwritten A4 pages, which equates to roughly 550 A5 pages when typed.

104807 words, of which exactly 50,000 were written in November.

Approximately 1000 hours worth of Nightwish.

Draft Two (editing) starts tomorrow.