Saturday March 5th

What is it all worth?


  • This week, two people in particular gave me things to think about that have been churning around in my head since they mentioned it.
  • The first is from a mentor, who told me that “if an environment feels toxic, it probably is”. I immediately felt pretty emotional after hearing that, but withheld my emotions, because there is something about just saying that that validated many situations in the past that I would have just worked through, believing it was just me. I immediately felt so grateful for that statement, and I’ve been thinking about all the environments I have passed through where that was the case, and I simply swallowed my judgment and decided that maybe it “wasn’t so bad after all”. Being bullied and suffering through abusive behavior can feel like the boiling frog experiment; it is only in retrospect that you can tell yourself “wow, that was super messed up. Why did I tolerate that for so long?”. And it’s important to reflect so that you don’t find yourself falling into a similar situation moving forward.
  • The second was from a friend who gave a talk and said that they were the only person they knew in the world who was working on their work. They mentioned that they had done all these things, focused for such a long time, and then something came up that meant that they couldn’t do they thing they had invested in for so long anymore. And it prompts one to ask the question, “what was the point?”. Grad school and its immediate aftermath set themselves up nicely to be a reckoning, an existential questioning of who one really is, and why they even bothered going down particular rabbit holes (’s for the journey! Growing up, I always loved the first law of Thermodynamics; that of the Conservation of Energy. Nothing is wasted.) It doesn’t help that for all of the years, only a fraction of students will actually obtain professorship. So what, then, is it all worth?
  • I tend to be a lot more optimistic about this; I have picked up a bunch of random skills throughout my life (a small sliver include sculpting, 3D modelling, wire repair, operating pallet jacks and lift gates, billing / invoicing systems, audio engineering knowledge, construction knowledge for low-income housing, oil painting mixing knowledge, architectural building modelling, CAD, econometrics, sending spacecraft into space for a mission-knowledge, simple machining, woodworking, welding, troubleshooting film and video cameras, loading and shooting with small format, medium format and large format cameras, programming lighting boards, chairing meetings, sorting gobos (I did this during a month-long “internship” for a few days), trying to hit up a random stranger to carry furniture in their car while it is pouring in New York City, rotoscoping / compositing in Nuke (I did this for a month), etc). I often laugh at how random many of my experiences have been, and how useless some of my skills are (particularly because some involve proprietary knowlege). But a lot of these things have helped me to contextualize the limits of my own knowledge; what I do and do not know. They’ve also helped me to appreciate those who have a real skill and talent for these areas, and they have helped me to determine what I do and do not have the temperament to do for hours on end. So I don’t think it’s in vain, and surprisingly, a lot of these skills come in handy at the most random times, and often surprise me because I realize that this is a unique perspective. I have always wondered why when someone is considered “non-traditional”, there is so much focus on the way they are “deficient” in the thing, rather than ways in which their other skills might make them even more valuable. This person comes with Y, imagine how powerful they would be if I could teach them X; they would now know X and Y and maybe I as their mentor could learn a bit of Y, too (which would make me, in turn, even more valuable, too).
  • I do think it’s more important to put yourself in a space where you can grow, feel challenged, and are satisfied / fulfilled with this choice (unless that isn’t your goal), at least in the general space within which I operate. If you aren’t quite getting this, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate and not feel too badly about switching. I remember the first rejection letter I had received when I switched research topics. Strangely, I was okay with it, because I was just happy doing what I was doing anyways. Just doing the work became its own reward in a way I hadn’t felt before.

This week

  • It’s my birthday soon, so yayyy!
  • I have quite a few things to get done, even though it’s Spring Break. I will be resting for a bit, though. I expect to be quite busy during the summer, so I am pacing myself.

Things done

  • In Number Theory, we covered single linear congruences, multiple linear congruences, Fermat’s (Little) theorem and Wilson’s Theorem, Lifting formula
  • In Probabilistic Graphs, we covered Poisson for Branching Processes (Galton-Watson), but I wasn’t there because I had an appointment. Super nice people (at least 2 people!) offered to provide me with notes for the class, and when I received notes, I typically write them out as though I actually sat in class in my notebook and go through them.
  • I spent a LOT of time on Tensor Products; I was in an appointment’s lobby studying them. I want to continue over break and go through some of the proofs.
  • I worked on research with my advisor in her office! (fancy times!) and didn’t have to walk home in the cold!
  • In Algebra, we spent pretty much the entire week on Properties and general proofs of Adjunctions, Tensor Products, Exact Sequences, and Tensor Product construction, etc.
  • In Elliptic curves we are about to start the dual-isogeny, but spent most of this week focusing on (invariant) differentials, Frobenius, and holomorphism as it pertains to elliptic curves and isogenies, proofs, etc.
  • I went to a really interesting Combinatorics talk on Minimum Square tiling, which led to state diagrams, which was interesting. I also noticed the T. Tao made a blog post on Tiling and Group Actions this week.
  • I also went to a really fascinating talk on Modularity and the Drinfeld Setting.
  • I signed up (and got into) a workshop on Coding Theory and Algebraic Geometry that I’m excited about, attended the Community-Driven Crypto seminar (which was super interesting and was on Cointelpro) and prepped for virtual attendance of a workshop that will take place over the next five days in the evenings on Automorphic Forms. A whole group of persons from Grad Maths went physically to the event, but I’m happy to stay home and tune in for the study groups. I also have to prep for a talk and some other stuff coming up this week.

Other things I stumbled upon this week


  • The sessions have already started for the conference and I’m already hearing about Mazur and seeing diagrams being drawn talking about number fields, 3-manifolds, Artin, Tate, Mumford, Weil conjectures, cohomology theory and automorphic forms, so I think that’s it for now. Oh, and Happy Birthday to me (I already have a cake!)! :)

And that’s it

Written on March 5, 2022