First of all, someone commented that it’s not really a conference, since it lasts for six months. More like a program. I’ve been in a tiny bit of a conundrum when talk times roll around: do I attend the talks, or do I keep at my own work, where I’ve built up some momentum? Or to I go to the talk and surreptitiously keep doing my own work? That last option was the one I often took, but the last two days I opted to avoid MSRI altogether, and hit a cafe and a library on the respective days. I find that now I prefer libraries to cafes. I particularly like the enormous vaulted library study halls, where row after row of student works in silence. This is a new preference. One thing about being a grad student: you’re always taking note of your study preferences: how, where, and when do you work best? How much uninterrupted time do you need, and how many breaks? Do you need to eat before you work, or drink tea? I understand writers go through the same thing. About half of A Moveable Feast seemed taken up with this kind of detail.
So while I have generally preferred cafes and tea houses, I’m now thinking the library will be a better spot to head to. I’m thinking that the Seattle downtown library will be a good place to set up shop for a while.
I posted an algebraic question that came up in my work on fluther. I got some pretty interesting responses back, but nothing, ultimately, that will help me too much. I think the problem I was looking at doesn’t have a simple answer. I’m in a strange position anyway, because it’s easy to prove that a certain thing can’t happen, but very hard to prove (at least with what I know now) that it does happen. I need to know more. I’ve been sticking primarily to just one of the three main tools at my disposal to help me work; today I started reading more deeply into a second. I have a feeling I’ll have to have a pretty good command of all three to make real progress. There’s always this fantasy that you can learn just enough to make your breakthrough. But whenever I shy away from something, it turns out I need it later. Time to really push in to every available resource at my disposal.