Sunday, July 20, 2003

I spent Tuesday evening through Saturday afternoon at the SIAM Conference on Applied Linear Algebra in Williamsburg. The conference took place at the College of William and Mary, which has a beautiful campus. I count the conference as a success: I met interesting people, heard interesting talks, and got my fast polynomial root-finding code working.

It was finally able to match faces to some names I've known for a while. When I read a paper, I give the author a mental voice, and it's always a little surprise to find out that the voice from my thoughts does not match the real voice. I form mental images of faces, as well, but those pictures are less distinct, and I'm less surprised when they clash with reality. I'm also always a little surprised to meet people who recognize me in return on first meeting. I suppose I shouldn't be, though. The linear algebra community is small and friendly, and it's not too difficult to remember names associated with interesting papers and projects.

Conferences expose me for an introvert. I meet people and socialize, and am perfectly happy doing so. But I find that it wears me out after a while. Listening to talks also requires concentration, and it's difficult to maintain such a high level of concentration for a full day, particularly when the sessions extend into the evening. I enjoyed it, but I'm glad to have a break now.

Several people told me they enjoyed my talk and thought the work was interesting. I was pleased by the compliments, particularly since some of them came from people who I admire for their presentation style. I was also pleased afterward, when people mentioned various ways in which the work could be extended. Perhaps I'll be able to incorporate some of those ideas into the paper. Of course, I hope to finish this paper (among other things) by the summer's end, so perhaps some of the extensions will wait.

I look forward to the day when I no longer have to estimate my graduation date, or answer questions about it, or guess what I might do after I graduate. I'm not looking forward to a job search, but it will be a bearable chore.

I visited Pete and Nicole and Will and Liz today. Visits with old friends are a great joy in life, and I have not seen either couple since winter. We ate and talked and enjoyed a mild sunny day. And when it came time to go, there was still light left for the trip home. Summer daylight is grand; when I made the trip in winter, I clutched the steering wheel through an anxious drive. In daylight, the route from home to Pete and Nicole's place is a pretty twisting path threading through the woods of rural Harford and Baltimore counties. After dark, the sharp turns in the road and rapid variations in the speed limit seem less charming. But I didn't get lost this time, and since the trip was in daylight, I enjoyed it in full.

And now I think I'll go stick my nose in a book.

    Currently drinking: Cold water