[Music] Jochen's concert

Originally uploaded by LeJyBy.
I worked all Saturday with our guest Conrado. We made some progress, but on Sunday I really needed a break: Jochen suggested to go to the concert of his saxophone's teacher, in Guelph. Jochen was invited on stage among the other students. He played a standard, Doxy, and got congratulated by several parents in the room afterward. We agreed that I should bring my clarinet sometime, we would play together "Summertime", or "Baby Elephant Walk", which sound particularly well when we play together at my place. I was under the impression that in France most academician play of some musical instrument, while in Canada (or in the US) it is kind of rare. Maybe it has something to do with the greater pressure of the tenure-track and so on. I thought that it was due to the lack of musical education in primary and high-school, but stand corrected by Jochen: it seems that Canadian students have mandatory music lessons. His girl-friend taught in primary school here, he should know ;) Anyway, it was a good break, back to work this morning after uploading the pictures for Jochen: a long week is starting!


[Art] New Glass Etching

IMG_1357.JPG Razalee and Amir

A friend named Amir lost the glass I offered him for the Persian new year, so I did another one for his birthday. With his name on it, this time: he thinks that maybe someone stole the previous one. The glass represents a character running forever around the glass, after a piece of paper attached to him. As Amir is going to defend his PhD soon, and then run for a postdoc, then a tenure-track position, and later for a tenured position, I found it adequate.

I remember the time when I was working hard for my PhD thinking that once done I would be able to do research on any topic I was interested in. And how I worked hard during my post-doctoral fellowship thinking that it was the last straight line before intellectual freedom. And I see how I work even harder now as an assistant professor, in the hope to get a stable position. I don't think that anyone lied to me, it is more a problem of me being naive, and ending in a system slightly different than the one I did my Ph D in (North America vs France), but there are definitely some days when I feel like a hamster in a cage, stupidly running on a wheel, or like the character on the glass. The rest of the time I just enjoy the running: traveling can be nicer than getting to your destination :D


[Academic] Cryptic proofs

I am getting in heated arguments with one of the students I am working with, who refused to rewrite his proof because he claims that cryptic proofs improve the chance of a paper to be accepted. This student is brilliant, but sometimes gets a bit cocky and refuses to listen to reason from his supervisors, less even from me. ;) Lately, after I managed to show him that one of his cryptic proof was hiding better results from himself by writing my own proof of his result, he agreed to rewrite some of his proofs and found several mistakes, but he still claims that "reviewers should not understand the spirit of the proof, they should just agree that it is correct". Those arguments exhaust me and I am giving up on them, but it seems that those beliefs are at least partly well-founded: I read on Lance Fortnow's weblog how, in some communities, papers are judged on the technicality of the proofs rather than on the beauty and novelty of its concepts. I am satisfied with my proofs only when I can explain why you should prove this result this way and not another way, when I can reasonably argue that minor changes to the proof won't improve the result, and basically when I can explain the main idea of the proof on a few slides (being pedagogical): I see this as pruning the tree rather than just finding a branch leading to a good leaf. I am always annoyed at papers which describe just a path, without explaining the WHY of the proof as well as the HOW, but it seems as a good way to look wise as a Dragon, through cryptic quotes...