Nina's Stillwater Calendar

Monday, March 31

Goodbye for Now

Well, life suddenly got crazy with moving and other events. So I won't be blogging for the foreseeable future. But I'll still check Facebook and MySpace every once in awhile. So stop by if you want to say hi.

Wednesday, March 5

El Tapatio

We stopped at one of my favorite Stillwater restaurants for dinner: El Tapatio. I almost never come here for dinner. After all, if you are going for cheap Tex-Mex, you go at the cheapest time. So usually I come here for a 4.69 lunch of tacos, beans, rice, chips, and salsa. And El Tap is the perfect place for a quick lunch. You can get in, get seated with a "Hey amigos. Follow me.", order the Speedy Gonzalez, get your food, eat, and pay the bill in under 20 minutes. The atmosphere is upbeat and energetic which brightens the day up a bit around lunchtime when I am contemplating the evening of homework stretching before me. The booths and tables and even the walls are brightly painted with calla lilies and parrots and donkeys and the green plants that sparsely decorated El Tap a few years ago now nearly cover the ceiling. The waiters work fast and efficiently, if not always particularly graciously. If you ask for a straw it appears in seconds, but don't expect the waiter to bother standing around chatting with you. The most incredible example of El Tap's efficiency is how your food is brought to you. If there's only two of you you won't see it, so try going with a group. One waiter will bring out something like a dozen plates at one time with no tray. He'll have his arms covered in an oven mitt and the plates just lined up from his hands to his shoulders.

Anyway, I enjoy all this excitement at lunchtime and usually prefer a more mellow pace in the evening. But what's life without a little variety so I branched out today with a shrimp chimichanga at El Tap for dinner. It did solve my hunger issue, but I think I will save El Tap for lunch next time. While there I saw a flyer for a Latin Dance this Friday. The flyer was in Spanish so I'm guessing it is a really Latin dance. The details are in the calendar on the right.

Saturday, March 1

Casino Night

I went to Casino Night with Shelley Heath. In the future, I will always go to Casino Night with Shelley Heath. She's hilarious. I lost all my chips but had fun anyway because she was hilarious. Shelley has a lot of attitude but does it so sweetly and matter-of-factly that I think she disarms people. Anyway, I may have won a bit on blackjack, but she was raking in the chips on poker. One hand of Texas Hold 'Em saw 3 9's on the flop. Two people had pairs and thought their full house was in for some winnings. But Shelley had the fourth nine and took their money. The dealer even took a picture of the hand.

I mentioned I lost all my chips. Lest anyone think I lost actual money, let me explain Casino Night. You show up. They take your name and give you chips. If you lose everything, they'll give you more, but only once. You play roulette, poker, blackjack, craps, and eat food for a couple hours. Then you hand your chips back in and they get added to your semester-long balance. At the end of the semester, you use your chips to bid on stuff at an auction. This is my first semester to do Casino Night, but I think I'm hooked. As long as Shelley will keep going with me to make the night extra fun.

Thursday, February 28

Trombone Choir and Brass Quintet

During lunch today I listened to a performance by a trombone choir and a brass quintet at the library. The trombones were kinda cool, but the brass quintet (tuba, 2 trumpets, 1 french horn, and something else...?) was really awesome. It sounded amazing. I think with speakers and CDs it is easy to forget how amazing that sort of thing sounds live. There were cookies and iced tea. But no water. How hard is sticking a pitcher of water on the table with the tea? I know there were only a few no-iced-tea-drinking Mormons at the show, but there must be other people who just don't want an iced tea. Anyway, the show was great.

Tuesday, February 26

Hawaiian Murder Mystery Dinner

We totally overthought it and fingered the wrong person. The killer was actually obvious once you realized it. Hmmm...much like my algebra hw this week.

Sunday, February 24

Rubbermaid head

This little girl was the youngest guest at a bridal shower for a friend. She also managed to hit her head on the tile floor 3 times and on the table 10 times. She almost cried once. But then someone poked her belly button and she reset. I think maybe her IQ ought to be checked daily.

Saturday, February 23

International Bazaar

People say there isn't much to do in Stillwater, OK. We've got laser tag, and glow-in-the-dark mini golf, bowling, and a movie theater. That's it. Slim pickins. But that's all the traditional, you have to pay for it type stuff to do. Stillwater is a college town and so it has lots of other stuff to do, it just varies week to week.

Today we went to the International Bazaar. It's held once a year by the International Student Organization. All the country or ethnic-specific groups have a table where they sell food and crafts. There's also dancing and music although that totally sucked this year. What rocked was the food. We ate yummy meat pies and donuts at the Africa table, borscht at the Russia table, rice noodles at the Thai table, sticky rice caked steamed in banana leaves at the Vietnamese table, sushi at the Japanese table, samosas with an awesome green sauce at the Indian table, fry bread at the Native American table, lentil something or others at the Turkey table, savory fried things at the Lebanese table, and a fried banana bread at a table whose country of origin has completely slipped my mind. You see, I started with the fried banana bread and then ate WAY too much and the subsequent sugar coma affected my long term memory the most. I also bought this weird hat from Thailand, because, well, I have a thing for hats. Anyway, Scott and I spent < $20 on all that and everything except the fry bread was delicious. So who says there's nothing going on in Stillwater, OK?

Thursday, February 21

Epsilon Extra Credit

I found an error in my Real Analysis book. That maybe deserves some extra credit right? Except that it was a vocabulary error. Somebody used a big fancy word. And he used it incorrectly. I think. Anyway, I asked for extra credit for finding an error. The professor awarded me epsilon extra points. If that doesn't sound mean to you, find a nerd and ask them what it means.

Wednesday, February 20

What language is this

I am sure all this means something. But I have no idea what it might be.

Monday, February 18

Really Boring Real Analysis

I have a Real Analysis exam on Friday. Analysis is not exactly my favorite area of math. I think it's kinda dry and boring. And my current professor has such a rapid fire, deadpan lecture style, that even as we pass by the cool parts I manage to register nothing more than "Huh? What? Oh...I think that somewhere in that theorem is a really interesting idea...Wait a minute! What was I thinking again? Oh well, never mind. I wonder what is going to happen next on Order of the Stick..." The book is dry too: "We begin with a technical lemma that is of interest in its own right." It's better if you read it in a stuffy rich people country-club accent. Like the one for that escargot joke in the Eddie Murphy-Dan Akroyd movie Trading Places. Anyway, the point is it's dry and boring. So I just spent 15 minutes arguing with Scott about whether something should take 120 minutes or 124 minutes, futilely practicing twirling a pen around my thumb like some people used to do at my high school because it looked cool, and throwing a dusty chalky eraser at Scott and then frantically trying to protect all of my clothes from retribution. When I tell you it was the most fun I've had tonight, you'll understand just how painful studying Real Analysis really is.

To my husband

I hope remembering those special moments helps brighten your day:

Thursday, February 14

Cake a la Mode (in a Mug)

Because when you've been studying for an exam for the past week, nothing keeps you going past 6pm like the thought of cake and ice cream coming at 8:30. We hung out in the lounge gossiping and getting a sugar high and generally avoiding any thoughts about tomorrow's exam. Big thanks to Marianne, who gave us Cake in a Mug mix and instructions for baking cake in a mug in the microwave. For anyone else out there that lives in their office:

Mix 1 boxed cake mix and 1 box of instant pudding. Divide into 1/2 cup portions. To bake, put a portion in a mug, add 1 egg white, 1 tbsp of water and 1 tbsp of oil. Stir well. Nuke on high for 2 minutes. Serve with ice cream if you possibly can.

Japanese Girl taking picture of flowers

Because its an object and she's a Japanese girl. So of course she has too.

Wednesday, February 13

Yeah! Songs about a boring life!

I've been listening to music while doing studying for an exam. And I listened to song after song with great beats and catchy hooks and lyrics about breakups and drowning sorrow in tequila and cheating and generally not fun stuff. It's not that I'm gonna stop listening to Terri Clark sing I could say I'm sorry, but I'd be lyin'. I like songs about dumping men in the most humiliating way possible while rocking to a good beat as much as the next girl. But after awhile, it started getting a little sad. I guess I can only handle so many broken lives in a 30 minute period. Then some different songs came up in the queue: Kiss Me, When Boy Meets Girl, No Fear, Life Goes On. Songs that sort of sound like my boring and perfectly happy life. And suddenly my mood improved.

Maybe there's a connection here that I should explore...Well, here goes Shelly Fairchild crooning You Don't Lie Here Anymore. I better stop before this post gets me started on a useful train of thought.

Monday, February 11

No I Don't Watch Numb3rs!

When someone asks what I do and say I am a grad student in math, there are a finite number of possible responses:

1. "You must be really smart." Stated with widened eyes.

2. "Can you tutor my kid?"

3. "I did really well in College Algebra if you ever need help." Alright, so I only got this one once. But I've heard of other people hearing similar things.

4. "Do you watch that show Numb3rs?"

5. "I hate math." This is usually followed by a description of their really crummy 5th grade math teacher.

I keep 5 index cards in my back pocket so I can pull out the appropriate response:

1. No.

2. No.

3. No.

4. No.

5. It hates you back.

But for those of you who have always wanted to know if anything on Numb3rs is real or if you should be waiting for the nerdy guy with curly hair to turn to the screen one of these days and say "Psych! I just made that up!", there is help. Some math prof has a blog dedicated to looking at the math on Numb3rs: Hope someone enjoys it.

Helping with Homework

Another grad student in my department is taking General Topology. She's a native English speaker and of the students round here who love topology, I have the best English. Maybe this is because I am the only native speaker among the topology students, but I have to take what accomplishments I can claim. Also, I had the same professor with the same book and the same homework when I took it. So I have all the answers. Some right answers and some wrong answers, but all graded at least. So she stops by to ask me for help sometimes. I don't mind since I definitely prefer working topology problems to finishing my Real Analysis homework. It's just that I totally suck at helping anyone with homework. I'm like "Yeah, you just use little x maps to x cross x and then show that's continuous - Is it continuous? Yeah definitely. Anyway, then compose that function, call it phi, with F and then that's g. But g isn't continuous so F can't be either. See?" And of course, she doesn't see. I was practically talking to myself. This is why math ed is it's own separate discipline.

Sunday, February 10

Enough being nice. Time to be real.

At church we have a women's class every Sunday. And a very common refrain at our women's class goes something like: "We women are so hard on ourselves. We are too harsh and judgmental. We need to remember that we're just human and we just need to try to do our best." If you've been reading this blog, you know my self-esteem doesn't really need any more coddling. I may favor self-deprecating humor, but it's not because I don't think pretty darn well of myself. It's because I don't want to hurt anyone else's gentler sensibilities. So I always sort of roll my eyes at this bit of advice. But I always assumed that these ladies kept insisting that "we all need to a little nicer to ourselves" because they really are typically hard on themselves. I was wrong. Most of them have just convinced themselves that they are the busiest wife/mother/woman they know and are trying to use this fact to excuse themselves from the little things that the rest of us should be doing.

"I am pregnant with my second kid and the first one is still wearing me out. I don't see how I can possibly do it. Maybe when the kids are bigger."

"I'm working and in school. Why don't you ask someone who has time?"

"I'm busy Sunday through Wednesday and worn-out Thursday and Friday. And Saturday is my catch-up day. Sorry."

Saturday, February 9

Vday gift

You can't see it real well (cell phone cameras just aren't that great), but this is me wearing my Valentine's Day gift in my office. It's chocolate. Not the shirt, the molecule printed on it in pink. I saw a woman wearing this shirt last summer and totally coveted it. Scott didn't know that, but he knew it was perfect for me when he found it. He bought a heart-shaped chocolate tin and took the chocolates out so he could put the shirt in to give me. Of course, I got the chocolates later.

Monday, February 4

Manic Depressive Weather

The weather here lately has alternated between 70 F (on Monday) and snow (on Tuesday) and cold (on Thursday) and warm (on Saturday). Nearby states had awful tornadoes tearing through. What's going on here?

Tuesday, January 29

Today's Weather Report

8:00 am
60 degrees, light breeze. Blithely throw a light leather jacket over a knit shirt.

10:30 am
34 degrees, wind at 25 mph with gusts up to 34 mph, windchill 19 degrees. Curse whatever gods can hear me over the wind and the chattering of my teeth.

32 degrees. Thank whatever gods invented corn chowder and hot cocoa while ignoring the howling wind rushing by the window.

Monday, January 28

Experts Debate Whether Christians & Muslims Can Coexist

Seriously. At the Tulsa Convention Center a debate was held between a Muslim scholar who said yes and a Christian pastor who said no. They had an entire debate on whether people with different ideas about God can possibly manage to leave each other alone. The Christian pastor had such deep thoughts as "If the Quran is the word of God, then why did God reveal it in a language that only 20% of people understand?" and "Muslims don't believe Jesus is the son of God so either the Bible or the Quran is lying." And an audience member had this epiphany: "The debate was an eye-opener...there is nothing wrong about a Muslim befriending a Christian or vice versa." We needed a debate for that?

Sad News

President Gordon B Hinckley, prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, passed away last night. I was sad when I heard the news. Not that his passing away was really all that sad. He was 97. His wife passed away several years ago. He had traveled, shared, worked, uplifted, and loved much. Who wouldn't be happy to rest a little after such a life? But I was sad because I'll miss him. The gospel was always full of love and hope and humor when he spoke it.

p.s. Sorry I've been AWOL. Won't happen again. Okay, maybe it will. But I'm still sorry.

Tuesday, January 15

Math Wisdom

Today a professor said something that almost made sense in the real world:

If you don't have an identity element then its hard to be a group.

A group is a set (e.g. the integers) with an operation (e.g. addition) that behaves nicely. In particular, it has to have an identity. In our example, that would be zero: zero + something gives you something back again.

In the real world, groups are made up of people who want to change. Political groups want to change government, churches want to reform individuals, clubs want to learn new skills. But to be successful every group has to start with a baseline something that they share in common. Alright, so this isn't a really deep thought or anything. But it was something in a topology class that almost made sense. It deserved to be remembered.

Thursday, January 10

Real Boring Analysis

I'm a topology kind of girl. There are pretty pictures and shapes and the Snake Lemma and the Ham Sandwich Theorem and Escher drawings and diagram chasing. What's not to love? Real Analysis on the other hand, puts me right to sleep. I start reading a problem and suddenly I am snoring. It takes most of a day's willpower just to focus long enough to understand the problem. I don't know why. It should be interesting. If I think about it later, without the book or my notes in sight, I think integrals and derivatives are kinda cool. You can calculate areas and averages and get a feel for what a function is up to. But somehow the class and the book conspire to take all the fun out of it. Maybe it's the professor's extremely dry manner. Sometimes he says something funny and it takes me a moment because he delivers a joke in exactly the same deadpan he delivers lecture. Maybe it's the book's extremely dry text. No excitement. Just "we start with a technical lemma that is interesting in its own right." Yawn. Maybe it's the total predictability of the notes. I have my officemate's notes from this class when she took it, and the notes are identical. The same variable names, the same word choices, the same homework exercises. And the same yawning stupor lecture after lecture.

Wednesday, January 9

Signed a Contract...

We finally signed a contract to sell our house. And if the sellers of the house we want to buy sign an addendum to change the closing date, we'll have a contract to buy a house. And that means we will really truly finally be moving during Spring Break.

The neighborhood we are moving into is really nice. The houses and yards all look nice and well-maintained. And we've only met a few people, but I am already intimidated. The previous owners of the home we want to buy were a math professor and a history professor. Jeanne Agnew, the math professor, got her PhD from Radcliffe in 1941. The next door neighbors have PhD's in chemistry and biochemistry and homeschool their four children. I haven't met the other neighbors yet, but I assume they know seven lanugages or something else impressive. At least living there is sure to be interesting.

Tuesday, January 8

History of Geometry

Some of you may have heard of Euclid. As in Euclid's Elements which set forth the axioms of Euclidean geometry which you should all have learned in high school. You know parallel lines never meet and in fact are equidistant, meaning two parallel lines are always the same distance apart. You know the angles of a triangle total 180 degrees. You know you can draw a square, which is a 4-sided polygon with right (90 degree) angles. You know a triangle has unbounded area, meaning you can always draw a triangle as big as you want. And since you know all this you are probably feeling very clever now. Enough of that.

You probably don't know that none of these statements can be proved on its own. One of them has to be assumed. Euclid assumed one, called the parallel postulate. For the next 2,000 years, mathematicians assumed they knew better than Euclid and could prove the statements without assuming any of them. After 2,000 years of failure, it occurred to someone that maybe Euclid was right after all. Why did it take so long? Well, if we don't assume the parallel postulate we open the door for some weird geometries. We all like Euclidean geometry because we can draw a picture and see what happens. There's no mystery. The next geometry people got happy with was spherical geometry. Spherical geometry is what you were doing when you learned in high school that the shortest distance between any two points on the globe isn't a straight line; it's a great circle on the surface of the planet. (Feeling clever again now?) As Dr. Maher said today in class:

Why were they happy doing spherical geometry? Well, they could draw a picture and this cheered them up!

In fact, drawing pictures cheers everyone up. As Zhenyi, another topology student, said:

That's why I chose topology. I like to draw beautiful pictures.

There you have it, folks. Mathematicians like topology (top picture) for the same reasons that 5-yr-olds like crayons and people with questionable taste like certain selections from the Museum of Modern Art (bottom picture).

Monday, January 7

Random Quote of the Day

Undergrad in hallway spots a Math TA and shouts: Hey, I'm gonna be in your class again this semester!
TA who failed the undergrad last semester says in a total deadpan: Yay.

Saturday, January 5

Back to school

School starts on Monday. So today Scott wanted to clean up around the house. Since I spent yesterday watching Hitchcock movies and the day before organizing the photos from the past year and the day before playing cards at a friend's house and the day before at the zoo...Basically, I didn't clean or grocery shop or wash laundry all break. So today we cleaned and organized and straightened and got ready for the semester. Since we'll probably be moving mid-semester we are trying to get everything ready so it won't be too painful. We could move this summer. That's what we were planning actually. Maybe we still will. But I am applying for programs that take me out of town for a few months (again). Scott indicated he wanted me there when we move so we'll move before I leave.

"Babe, it's not like you don't have plenty of guy friends to move everything. You don't need me here."

"It isn't the moving part I want you here for."

Oh yeah. He doesn't know where anything goes. One year I came home after three months to a bag of what had once been potatoes in the pantry. Potatoes I bought before I left. Point taken. We'll move before I leave town.

Day at the Zoo

We went to the zoo last Monday and spent almost the entire time in the Oklahoma exhibit. It was built to coincide with the centennial is is very cool. On this particular chilly and windy day, the Oklahoma animals apparently felt right at home because they were up and playing. All except for a black bear that just wanted to get some sleep. He laid down in a little cubby. Another bear came and routed him out and took the cubby. Then he went and laid down on a rock to sunbathe. The other bear came over and bit him on the neck. Some other favorite sights: Two turtles sleeping on top of a coiled snake and a bison trying to scratch the top of his head.