Monday, September 6, 2010

It's September!

So, last Tuesday I asked what people thought about some ideas for changes to my blog. I got one response, saying that everything I suggested sounded interesting, which is somewhat flattering. However, you are still welcome to go submit your input if you want to deflate my ego a little, steer me towards a specific track, or suggest something I may have overlooked. For now I think I'll set a schedule for September and go from there, who knows what we'll look like in October, it's exciting.

For September I am going to run a series on the Philosophy of Consciousness Fridays. I have the first one up, and you can expect the next one at the end of this week. Mondays (ooo, that's today!) will be an informal day, hopefully updating you on my life, or whatever. Then Wednesdays I shall put up some theological musings. I have decided to try to break the grip alliteration holds upon my mind, so theology will not be on Thursdays, and this will not be Sci-Fi September. On that note, I do have a series of Sci-Fi themed posts brewing, and they were going to go up this month, but I found the idea of consciousness more interesting, so it went first.

I have been trying to read more, those of you who knew me in high school, or earlier, probably remember that I was a voracious reader. I have let that facet of my personality slip, to my detriment I believe. Earlier this month I read Blindsight, a really bleak but interesting Sci-Fi novel about aliens with a strong undercurrent of philosophy of consciousness/mind theme. This partially explains why that topic won out this month. Right now I am trying to get through a chapter of ManefestA each day, and I have Sophie's World stashed in my office for down time. Considering how absolutely mind-numbing office hours are sometimes (often), I think stashing a book in there will really improve my mental habits. Sophie's World was recommended to me as an interesting fictional narrative which introduces one to a basic overview of Western Philosophy, ManefestA, as I understand it, is an overview of the state of Third Wave feminism as of the year 2000.

Went to a Labor Day get together with graduates from the math department today. There was food and conversation, the host had a really nice townhouse. Not much to say there, I am trying to be more social in Michigan, seems useful if I am going to be here three to five more years, never say I don't try. On the here x years more, those of you who follow me on FaceBook (FB) may have noticed I passed my third qualifying exam two weeks ago, knocking over another hurdle in my way on the math to philosophical doctor-hood.

The classes I am taking seem ok. I definitely like Group Theory, and am thinking of going into that subject, a scary decision I now face having completed quals. Algebraic Geometry seems like it will be tolerable, the first day was an incomprehensible overview of the subject, and I didn't sleep Thursday night so Friday was a bit blurry, but seemed to be familiar material, introducing affine and projective spaces and varieties, you know ;). Number Theory meets for the first time Wednesday.

As for teaching, I am solidifying my decision to pursue a Philosophy Ph.D. after I finish here (hopefully finish=get doctorate). I am sure my students are decent pupils, they are taking Calc II, which is something that indifferent math students can certainly do, but they are taking it in the evening, that must mean something? However, I hardly get any intellectual enthusiasm from them. My lectures feel boring even to me, but when I try to liven it up by asking questions, I feel like I am pulling teeth. I really want to try teaching a discussion based class, but don't feel that is the most appropriate manner in which to teach math, especially to 38 students. I know a lot of people are down on mathematics, saying they don't like it and whatnot. But consider this, how do you think your teacher feels being stuck lecturing to an apathetic crowd who bring almost no energy or feedback to the relationship? Sorry for the mini-rant, I get depressed at how dehumanizing teaching sometimes is.

Oh, back to reading! I am planning to attempt the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Wittgenstein, which might be the seminal piece in analytic philosophy and modern philosophy of language. If other people want to read it, I would certainly welcome a support group to hold each other accountable for timely reading and with whom to discuss the content. It is also considered one of the more opaque works of philosophy, so perhaps a background in reading philosophy would be helpful, but I certainly wouldn't turn down any people desiring to participate. I got my copy Friday, but I am definitely waiting until I finish ManefestA to begin.

That seems to be enough, have a good week!

1 comment:

Frank said...

Kenny! I really, really liked this post, because so much of it is about you and your life since I have seen you so long ago. I also like it because you have touched on three of my passions: reading and teaching and math, although I in no wise possess your mathematical gifts. So, a comment about each of these three things.

1) Lately I have gotten into Steven King. Really. let me give you two books that I know you will love: "Needful Things" and "The Stand," perhaps you have read them. I like "Needful Things" a bit more, but greatly enjoyed "The Stand," too. If you haven't read these, I would encourage you to do so as these books tell a good tale while hitting on some big theological and philosophical issues.

2) Oh, baby, can I ever relate to your calc 2 kids, but Kenny, please give yourself a break, because calc 2 with all its integration, is universally the most hated math class in the department. I had an exceptional teacher for calc 2 and it was just flat out boring, I mean how exciting can anybody make integration by parts, partial fractions or trig substitution, it's just not gonna happen. It's a grind it out, learn the rules kind of class and everybody hates it. Now, I would like to tell you something that my principal at Taft told me long ago, "Kenny, your the battery and your students will feed off of you." THAT, kind sir, is one of the greatest tricks to teaching. The teacher has to be excited and enthused, and even then, some of the kids will still be bored. But you still gotta be that battery.

3) I really love math, and I guess one of the great tragedies of my life is that I just topped out with the five graduate courses I had to take at OSU to get my master's. (by the way, being a Wisconsin kid, OSU was always Ohio State when I was your age. Now it is totally Oregon State, but then again, we've been out here 17 years) Oh, Kenny, did those math classes ever kick my butt, and I tried to stick with the computational stuff that I was good at while pursuing my bachelor's degree, but hello! it all goes theory, eventually, and wow, did that math theory kick my butt. I just think it really cool that you are pursuing a Ph.D and when you are done you are thinking about going for another one in Philosophy and I would just like to encourage you to do that, as you have the brain, the intellectual curiosity and the perseverance to make that happen.

Thank you for a very personal post. I enjoyed it greatly.