Tuesday, September 18, 2012

the comforts of home.

in case it wasn't clear, i've been away for 21/2 weeks.

first it was a short "holiday" [1] to see my family and a few friends, then essentially [2] a week in paris for a conference and a little more time off .. though you might remember how that turned out; certainly, i still do.

my visit to the louvre went well enough, though. i amused myself by watching the constant-but-shifting crowds in front of the mona lisa.

as for what i missed most, during all these travels?

breakfast, of course.
-- ☆ --

this is not to say that i constantly had bad food for breakfast. my parents' kitchen is well-stocked and the coffee supply was reasonable. my university splurged for a fancy hotel during the conference, too, which laid out an equally fancy spread of foods for many palates, every morning.

i may have gained a lb or two, actually.

so it wasn't the food or the coffee;
it was the peace for doing maths .. or rather, the lack thereof.

i missed my kitchen table with its ample space and being peacefully alone at home, having my thoughts to myself. at home, the first thing i do each morning is boil water for coffee, and maths comes soon after.
if i've become a morning person, capable of waking up early, then it's due to having to teach 10 or 11am classes during my first postdoc and not having much other time to do some real thinking.

often i'd even walk to campus, even if it took twice as long. for some reason, i can often think very clearly while walking, as i've gone on and on about. the time spent on a bus, instead, causes my brain to shift into a nervous kind of .. nothing.

at that time in my life, 40 additional minutes to my mornings was a (crucially) helpful thing. i'm not sure if i could have gotten one particular theorem without that particular habit.
at my parents' house, my mom constantly woke earlier than me. i suspect that a mathematician with paper and pen generally doesn't look like (s)he's working, if only because (s)he's not consistently writing for the whole time. so if i don't look like i'm working, even though i'm up at 7am, then apparently i mean to talk to someone..! [3]

as for the hotel, the restaurant was constantly busy at breakfast, and with the hustle-&-bustle i could only concentrate on eating. i tried waking up at the crack of dawn ..

which is not hard to do, when jet-lagged

.. but waiters shot me dirty looks when i shove aside the daintily-folded napkin-on-a-plate for extra space for my notebook. when i was eating, there was never a problem asking for more coffee; when i was eating with a pen out, then things went slightly more hostile.

it just didn't feel right.

-- ☆ --

i'm still out of practice.

by that i mean that it's not easy to sit still and hold firm to an idea .. at least long enough to see if it's a good one, a bad one, or just something that leads to the next idea.

persistence is a skill, i suspect, and one gets better at it with practice. today was better than yesterday, and i think i'm on to something from before. the details are shaping well.

[1] when it comes to family, it's never a holiday anymore, but a diplomatic mission.
well, it was good to see friends, though.

[2] i did spend about 30 hours in helsinki between those trips. my flight landed at 7:00am and i took off the next day at noon or 1pm. suffice it to say that both mornings were mathematically unproductive, but i did talk to a lot of admin staff and fill out a lot of forms .. \-:

[3] yes, this is rather unfair to my mom. i would gladly chat with her any other time of day .. which i did .. but no matter how many reminders ..?

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