Apologies: I had meant to write earlier, as promised in my previous post about Wiles, but marking hit me like a flying fridge.
Abstract: Throughout the last two weeks, I had noted down many things to write about. I had wished to spend more time on each of these, but due to time restrictions, I will list (in alphabetical order) the keywords, with some brief elaboration. I have already talked about Wiles in the last post, but so what? Can’t I mention him again?
3 Pound Meal Deal: At Tesco, they have a three pound meal deal, which means you can select sandwiches or pasta or salad + a drink + a snack or some fruit for three quid in total. I have already claimed this combo twice, and I have every intention of doing it repeatedly in the future. It’s so great, almost a perfect lunch.
Baguette: I’ve fallen in love with buying a baguette or baton of bread from the supermarkets Tesco or Sainsbury’s. It’s just so convenient and cheap! I do believe that I cut a comical figure, striding through the streets of Oxford, holding a massive stick of bread and nibbling on the end, however it is well worth the embarrassment. The plain baguette can also augment any meal at any time. Wow.
Christine: My dear cousin Christine, came to visit me on the weekend (and staying overnight) while on exchange in London. We had a lovely weekend of sightseeing, singing, hugs, food, and “Why is Christ Church so beautiful?”‘s. I gave her a quick tour around Oxford (similar to the one given me by James of St Ebbes when I first arrived and the one I gave to Cat when she was here) and we both shared moments of wonder and astonishment and “HOW WHAT WHY ARE WE HERE IN THE UK AND IN OXFORD TOGETHER?”
David Seifert: I pleasantly discovered that David (Charles’ ex-DPhil student and now postdoc) is also officially my co-supervisor. I was not actually told this until Charles mentioned him during a discussion about academic advisors (which is apparently not the same as a supervisor). This pleases me immensely, as David is enthusiastic and absolutely lovely. He also finished his DPhil in 2014, hence the DPhil process (in particular under Charles) is still fresh in his mind. What’s more, it means I have an extra person to beg for help from. I had originally wondered whether it would be preferable to have a younger, potentially more relatable supervisor, or an older, experienced, and more well-known one. Fortunately, I now get the opportunity to have both! (Charles is quite relatable though, I really do enjoy my time with him.)
Desiring God: So Andi and I have started reading Desiring God by John Piper. We’re only 50 odd pages in, but I have found it so helpful and eye-opening. Intriguingly, the subtitle reads “Meditations of a Christian Hedonist”. I may come back and write more about this book and its content in the future. Perhaps its message can be captured by the following tweaked version of Westminster Shorter Catechism: “The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever.”
Drinks with the Principal: The Principal of the College, Professor Keith Gull (FRS, FMedSci, FRSB), invited the new postgrads to drinks in his lodgings. He is a very down-to-earth sort of fellow, warm and friendly. There’s not much else to say here, except that Chelsea and I almost knocked on the wrong principal’s door (from another College). Ahaha.
First Class: I assisted in my first classes this week under Professor Hilary Priestley. At first I was absolutely terrified (I have no right to be teaching people at Oxford), and I think my hands shook a little while I was presenting a question on the board. However, I think I got used to it and I look forward to the classes next week. What I DO NOT look forward to, however, is the marking that being a TA entails. I have to mark over twenty scripts between Monday 1pm and Tuesday 7pm, with a remaining ten to mark on Wednesday/Thursday. I both love and hate (with unequal passion) that some students actually do the optional questions… I mean come on! it’s not like we’re in Oxford or anything! oh wait…
It is Well with My Soul: (by Horatio Spafford and Philip Bliss) is a hymn I rediscovered while flicking through my songbook that I use in the morning. As is now a common occurrence, the song attracted me because of the simple ukulele chords, well within my rather weak abilities to play. It is a truly beautiful hymn – go check it out (and see why both the writers and I can sing this honestly).
John Ball: Following my declaration of target last post, I successfully caught the knight mathematician Professor Sir John Ball with his office door open. I knocked on his open door and said, “Hi professor, I’m a new DPhil student around here and I was wondering if I could get your autograph.” He looked at me in confusion at first. “My autograph?” “Yes.” “Well if you’d like.” He began chuckling. When I showed him the front page of my Rudin which now had both Andrew Wiles and my supervisor’s signature, he chuckled even more, seemingly genuinely amused. He signed it, and when I took the book back I managed to ask, “Can I shake your hand?” To which he laughed again, apparently finding my wide-eyed hero worship hilarious in the extreme, before proffering his hand and grinning widely after which I retreated with a grin of my own.
Meeting: Since my last description, I have met with Charles a few more times. Though our meetings tend to not be long, I find them extremely helpful. I like to think that I’m making a difference to this world by picking out the typos in an Oxford Professor’s work. To be honest, that’s all I’m good for, but hey, at least it’s something!
Moron 2.0: I already described my scooter accident under the label “Moron”. But here I will describe another incident that I would like to crown as the sequel. After a long day of entering and re-entering my username and password for different accounts on my computer, I received an email to my maths account sent from ‘Oxford University’ asking me to verify my maths account details through some link. Naturally, as a person of great intelligence, I went through with it without even questioning how suspicious this all was. The second I hit enter after typing out the details, I realised that I had rather impressively, been phished. I immediately changed the passwords for my accounts and emailed the mathematics IT office. There were a few things they had to check and fix, but it all seems fine now. Of course, I also warned Josh immediately. No point in both of us fools getting scammed… Why am I here… Why?
Peter Neumann: I met Dr Peter Neumann OBE (son of Bernhard and Hanna Neumann who I have heard helped set up the PhD program for maths in Australia) back in Canberra. I had previously spent about half a year doing a temporary PhD at the Australian National University (ANU) under Professor Ben Andrews, during which I encountered Peter. I saw him again during a postgraduate seminar run by students, and I again found it pleasantly amusing how he seemed to be the very embodiment of Englishness.
Probability Seminar: During a probability seminar, an overseas academic gave a talk, during which a question was asked by an audience member that posed a possible hindrance to the presented argument. The reason I have noted this down, was because I was impressed by the speaker’s humility and willingness to pause and ponder, instead of bluffing or blustering his way through (though it is probably impossible to waffle convincingly to a room of Oxford staff).
Table Tennis: I made the Oxford University Table Tennis Squad, after what can only be described as rather casual ‘Squad Trials’. Still, woot! I train on Fridays now, though I don’t think I can afford to commit to much more than having a hit once a week. I do hope that I can keep fit and stay sane through the exercise this provides. I also look forward to developing friendships with the rest of the TT crew.
Urysohn’s Lemma: The proof of Urysohn’s Lemma is one of the most ingenious proofs I have ever had the pleasure of reading, brilliantly utilising the density of the rationals in the real numbers. I first read it in Papa Rudin back in Australia, though, due to the terseness of Rudin’s writing, I did not fully appreciate the idea motivating the proof. In my Analytic Topology broadening course, I saw the proof again (in greater generality), this time with an illustration that reminded me once again of the beauty of mathematics. I think this proof will remain among my favourites for a long time to come.
Worthy of Worship: (by Terry York and Mark Blankenship) is now one of my favourite songs, if not the favourite right now. I didn’t know how to sing it, despite it being in my songbook, until Christine taught me during her visit. It sounds wonderful, and the lyrics are great. In fact, I will paste them here, as the Song of the Day:
Worthy of worship, worthy of praise
Worthy of honour and glory
Worthy of all the glad songs we sing
Worthy of all the offerings we bring
You are worthy, Father, Creator
You are worthy, Saviour, Sustainer
You are worthy, worthy and wonderful
Worthy of worship and praise
Worthy of reverence, worthy of fear
Worthy of love and devotion
Worthy of bowing and bending of knees
Worthy of all this and added to these
Almighty Father, Master and Lord
King of all kings and Redeemer
Wonderful Counsellor, Comforter, Friend
Saviour and Source of our life without end
I shall finish here with the list of names I have now accrued on the front page of Rudin, which I shall update in every blog post where progress has been made.
Black Pen (famous mathematicians who I have no real contact with other than as a fanboy): Sir Andrew Wiles, Sir John Ball.
Blue Pen (mathematicians I actually work with and can claim to have had actual contact): Charles Batty (supervisor), Hilary Priestley (TA mentor).
(Hilary had a delighted grin on her face when I asked her before our third Banach spaces class of the week and she wrote more than just her name – she signed it with a “Best Wishes” and also apparently what is her trademark symbol.)