Saturday, July 17, 2004

Something to Talk About

Today when I was at Target I saw that they have all the school supplies on display. I will have to control my office supply fetish and resist buying lovely new pens and pencils with the excuse that I will work faster, smarter, better with more colors to write with. No longer do I feel so alone about getting ready for school and fine tuning syllabi for courses which don't start for over a month. Still I know that thinking about my classes is just a clever excuse to avoid returning to wondering about why a certain structure satisfies a specific finiteness condition.

And now I'm wondering if I should cut my losses and stop reading through this paper and stop trying to understand the proof. The result is so clever and so elegant that I won't be able to adapt or extend or improve it. It would have been nice to understand it well enough to give a talk on it in the seminar here, but there are other (easier to understand) things which would make just as nice a seminar talk.

Even better would be for me to be working on something which I could get a paper out of. But since I've done all I can with the idea I had been thinking about previously, I'd have to start on a new question or look at things from a slightly different point of view. Realistically speaking, if I started on that now, it would be at least two years before I would have anything worth mentioning. And it could be much longer — if it pans out at all.

Long term, it would be much wiser for me to be thinking about something worth talking about at the Joint Mathematics Meetings this winter. While my current job makes me happy much more often than not, you would not put it on your list of "best academic jobs ever." Getting my name out there and being seen are fairly important. But picking a topic is crucial: I would need to submit the abstract in the next few weeks, and I'm not sure exactly who it is I'd be trying to interest and impress. I wish I could do my work for its own sake and not have to think about this whole academic thing as being some sort of game to be played or a system to be worked.