Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Engagement with the IMA and "The Dishwasher Dilemma"

Greetings earthlings! It has been a while--actually it has been a very long while. (In my dream someone was shouting at me for not posting, so consider this a somewhat apologetic post! I haven't the foggiest who that someone was, but I woke up laughing for a change...) This post should be long and last you the whole week hopefully! (Then perhaps the shouting will disappear.)

This post is a three in one special. (I was clever and didn't mention the third thing, lest I scare anyone away).

Once upon a time (before Easter is the precisest I can be) a fellow "colleague" (HA) from the Mathsoc approached me. I was told that the Mathsoc were making an application for the education grant from the IMA, and was asked whether The Galois Group needed any money, so we could make a joint application. My initial reaction was no thank you for we didn't need any money. Had the School of Mathematics not given us their "financial backing", I would have applied for that grant as it was. I was asked again and my reply didn't change--we didn't need the money, and I wasn't prepared to write any report about what the money was used for (due to my horrible to do list).

Nevertheless, the Mathsoc did apply for it and successfully too! That's great news for them, but the pressing matter for me does not concern any grant. In my conversation with someone from the IMA, who I shall call.... Paul... the following exchange happened:

Paul: The IMA are interested in engaging with mathematics students through organised student groups.
...
Please can you email me back if you are interested in such a grant, or otherwise in engagement with the IMA and we can see how to proceed with this.

Me (beans!) : "no thanks to grant (in my long waffly way)" but we would be interested in hearing more about what you mean by "engagement with the IMA".

Paul: ...what I mean by "engagement with the IMA" is fairly responsive to what students want. Do you know the IMA and its work? I believe maths students and graduates will benefit from
membership and involvement with IMA activities, so I am interested in helping this through interaction with organised student groups. The Galois Group would seem to be a good candidate for this!

Me: I have a small understanding of IMA and its work, as the university provides us access to Mathematics today (and I try to read the "lighter" articles!) However, I feel that it isn't really aimed for undergraduate student, as much as graduates and lecturers.


Back to today. My reply to that bit had been that I will discuss this involvement with other students and see what we can come up with. That never happened, for I can't recall finding myself in conversation with people who cared about such matters. However, now I am asking a different audience: what would undergraduate students want from the IMA, if anything?

The conversation then continued with mention of a hopeful student section in Mathematics Today, which is a step towards the right direction.

Let us forget Mathematics Today for a second though, and consider the bigger picture. Today, and indeed for the past two weeks a lot of the attitudes of students have been vexing me out. (I had to use that word somewhere!!) Not just maths students, but it seems that I always find myself surrounded by a majority of students who don't like studying. GAH. Yes, I hate exams and coursework, but the buzz associated with learning and understanding new information is why I study. Yes, sometimes you have to do things you don't want to (or dislike, as I will be finding out this summer), however there is a difference between suffering for three years and three months.

The attendance at the previous TGG lecture was our all time lowest. That didn't take anything from the quality of the lectures, but I was very disappointed and disheartened by this. My full analysis and review of TGG will be happening in two or so weeks with Dr. C, but we can never be content with what we are doing. I refuse to accept that the Galois Group is a good thing and etc etc etc. We have about 1000 undergraduate students at Manchester (or so I am told), and only 16 or so attended last Wednesday. What can we do to change this, and what have we not been doing?

One thing I think we should have done, was to send an initial email to all undergraduates explaining the "Who, what, where, when" of TGG. We just started with the lectures and took everyone by surprise. Anyway, this will be discussed in two weeks time. Note to everyone though: there SHOULD hopefully be a lecture next Wednesday, so please do attend. (Pretty please!)

I hate students who are using their exams and revision as an "excuse" to not attend next Wednesday. Whoops--I meant "dislike", hate is too strong a word obviously. And even worse are those who turn the whole issue around, and make it look like that I have revised and don't care about other people's revision. Maybe I should start being selfish now, and informing others of how stressed out I actually am.

Seriously though, every student is stressed at the moment, and some more than others (me pick me!!) However, some selfish students enjoy adding to the worries of others by continuously talking about their stress, like the worlds going to end! "Beans what are you going to do on the weekend?" "Sleep. (my usual reply)" "I have this to do and that to do and this to do and oh my days--I have so much work to do. How am I going to manage, the exams are around the corner, and then I have this thing to go to and.... the notes are so much...".

Imagine if we all talked like that? I'm not even going to get started as to how I would sound like! Sorry about that little rant. I had to let it out somewhere, as I do seem to be a favourite to absorb everyone else's stress. (Yes, I probably do sound mean in that above paragraph, but for these past two weeks it has been constant and from all angles.) Sigh. I think I need to go back to safe grounds in this post-- the IMA.

The IMA might be able to help us to gather all the "means to an end" mathematics students together, but what then. And how exactly? I wish that I really did have another two hands, or even better another self. In that way one could do all TGG business and the other could study. It is really tempting to "drop studying" for my stubbornness and aspirations to see TGG where I envisaged it. Yes, my aspirations in terms of how I want to pass my exams seems to have worryingly vanished. It's just that the more people are negative, the more determined I become.

I feel really annoyed at myself because I wasn't able to get the magazine published by the end of this semester. TGG has taken a huge chunk out of me, and the only thing that I have to fill this chunk with is the 15 or 20 students who always attend TGG lectures. Nice. Why does negativity erase the positive vibe that loosely hangs in ones hand? I don't feel that the TGG has been as successful as one would have liked; although one does have ridiculous ambitions at times! Part time fourth ...pft let us not go there! Potential exists but that needs exploiting now.

The time is reminding me of the 9am start I have tomorrow!

On to the second part: Suppose that you have bought a dishwasher. Now this has the advantage that you no longer have to wash up, so water is saved and so is your time.

However(!), there had to be a problem which is: it takes time to load the dishwasher and then empty it too.

How can this problem be resolved? Or is this problem not really a problem, given the fact that the benefits outweigh the negatives?

It's your call, but I suggested employing someone to load and unload the dishwasher! From your own reaction to my statement, you might understand that my suggestion was not welcome. Well, no one else could think of anything better... (apart from doing it yourself though, but that's a trivial solution which we don't care about!)

The third thing, you would be pleased to know has been combined in the first. It was my rant at people stressing me out with their stresses. I don't mind absorbing their stress, but for Pete's sake don't turn the tables around and then suggest that I am being insensitive etc. No longer do I have the energy to oblige people to come to TGG lectures. Next year I am definitely not going to ask for favours etc. If you care enough then attend. If you feel sorry for me then attend! However, if you do attend, please don't hold it against me. People who "count" what they do for others might as well not do anything. What do you want-- a blimmin' certificate? You could always attend from the goodness of your heart...

Can you believe it, I actually annoyed myself today!! Is that possible?


PS: I can't resist a 3.5 thing: UNITED!! My face perfectly disguised my nervousness, but my foot developed a nervous twitch during the game which thankfully no one spotted. I better sleep now. (Please excuse any language used, and obvious errors of course that you are free to point out. What can I say--I'm stressed too. Pfft).

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