Saturday, February 25, 2017

Still holding

The oncologist only sent me information on one research study. Regular eye exams are frequently mentioned, as this treatment can apparently cause eye problems. That's a deal-breaker for me. The other point about the research studies is that both the benefits and the side-effects are for the most part unknown. I don't think I'll be joining any research studies.

That leaves the atezo immunotherapy. I'm really struggling with this one. Its unimpressive results and serious side-effects make it difficult to muster up much enthusiasm. So I've been coming up with reasons to procrastinate. First I decided to wait until after the opera, coming up this evening (more on that below). Then I thought, well, the next CT-scan is in mid-March, so I might as well just wait for that and see what happens. If the lesion in the liver is stable, I'll wait until after our NYC trip to do anything. Then again, I really don't want to risk my spring class, which I'm very excited about. Maybe I should wait until summer. But of course I don't want to do it in the summer either. The fall isn't good either...well, you get the idea. The reality is that I can't wait too long before making a decision. But for now, I'm waiting.

Meanwhile, life goes on as though cancer didn't exist. Tonight Wendy and I are going with Jessie and Kevin to the opera! We've found a nice Mediterranean restaurant as a change from the traditional Thai place, so it's going to be a real evening out with adult conversation; imagine that! The opera is Katya Kabanova, by the Czech composer Janacek (written around 1920). Lately Janacek has become one of my favorite composers (I've listened to the CD of Katya four times), so I'm looking forward to it even if S.O. does weird things with the production.

My classes have been keep me incredibly busy. I'm no longer willing to say that my Mathematical Reasoning class is going well. It is without a doubt the weakest class of its kind I've ever had. These kids are supposedly math majors, but the reasoning ability of most of them is very poor, sometimes beyond belief. Most readers of this blog, with a summer to prepare, could not only take this course but even teach most of it. It's not rocket science, as they say. Here are some examples of what I'm dealing with:

One student proved that an integer cannot be divisible by two different primes. Thus the number 6 does not exist, a most surprising result.

Another student, when confronted with the question ``when does ca=cb imply a=b'' said that was true only when c=0. This leads to two striking conclusions: First, all numbers are equal, since 0 times anything is zero. Second, since it's true ONLY for c=0, in particular it is not true for c=1, and therefore a=b does not imply a=b.

On yesterday's quiz they had to prove a certain formula involving a number n. More than half the class produced an answer which for n=1 implied 2=4, and for n=2 implied 4=16. As for as I know, these equations are not correct, and if it were me I would begin to suspect there was something wrong with my solution. Furthermore, by their own argument they were effectively saying they had positive numbers a,b,c such that b=a+b+c. In most cases the source of the error was a claim amounting to saying that a+b squared = a squared + b squared. If you try to carpet a square room whose sides have length a+b with this formula, the result will be unsatisfactory. But who cares? If it makes the problem easier, just assume it's true.

It's unbelievable. I'm tearing my hair out, which is problematic since I don't have that much left. They're nice kids, and most of them work hard. I don't get it.

In my differential geometry class too some students are struggling, but in this case it's completely understandable. Einstein had a terrible time with differential geometry, which he needed for his General Theory of Relativity. On the one hand the subject has much beautiful imagery and vivid intuition, but on the other hand, it has a morass of very confusing notation. We'll get there; I give constant encouragement and remind them that Einstein struggled with it too. It's a beautiful subject and a lot of fun. I have some excellent students too, although not quite at the level of previous editions of this course.

Well, it's time to start thinking about what tie to choose from my vast selection; J and K are picking us up at five. I'll leave you with a Kaia story:

We're all sitting around the dinner table. I'd been venting a bit about the mathematical reasoning class, and Kevin got going on a similar theme involving programming and job applicants at Microsoft. At one point Kaia abruptly cut in:

``This is funny; Daddy is a better math teacher than Grandpa!''

``Why do you say that?'' someone asked.

``Because Daddy is talking about math, and Grandpa has a confused look on his face.''

Clearly she confused my ``confused look'' with my ``penetrating insight'' look. I get that a lot.

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