Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Conversations I Don't Know How to Have

Yesterday I got a nice email from my advisor. He let me know that the review of my paper appeared on Math Reviews. (And I am pleased to report that the reviewer wrote a useful review -- not like some of the overly negative snark that you sometimes see on MR.)

I wish that I could respond to his email with a positive update on my research, but that would simply be untrue. Why do you think that I'm devoting hours to datapoints and graphs, to the F-test and reports on assessment? Because it's so much easier than staring blankly at the problems that I could be working on instead. Problems that unravel and lose focus as I tweak hypotheses and conclusions further and further towards tautologies. Definitions and ideas have vanished from my mind because I've avoided them; I imagine that my copies of McConnell and Robson will soon start to fade and flicker out of existence like some cheap special effect in a time-travel movie. The landscape of current work seems flatter and flatter to me: I can no longer differentiate interesting ideas worthy of pursuit from banal and obvious observations.

I do need to write back to his nice email, but I don't know what to say without admitting that I'm a disappointment.