So I started the semester, live TeXing, but after a few days of notes that wouldn’t compile and falling behind each time I didn’t know the right TeX symbol or how to begin the environment. To make a long, frustrating story short: I gave up live TeXing my class notes. Instead, I fell back into my old habits, and started to live LyX. Suddenly, the quality of my notes improved drastically. So this first post will be a reflection of that and an overview of what sorts of mathematics I will be doing for the following semester.

I know a lot of people tend to rag on LyX because it holds your hand too much and claim it teaches you bad habits. I’m here to say LyX saved my life. Okay, slight exaggeration, but its really wonderful when you really don’t have a strong grip on LaTeX. Everytime a symbol comes up I can find it in the graphics on the bottom. When you move your mouse over the symbol it displays the TeX command. I think its perfect for beginners because they’ll inevitably learn certain TeX commands that aren’t hotkeyed in the program. I think after using LyX for a sufficient period while acquiring a good ‘fluency’ with the sorts of commands a user needs in any math environment will make the transition to raw TeX easier because now they just need to learn the formatting commands and how to load packages etc. In short, it helps ease the user into the TeX world a little less abruptly. I’d recommend LyX especially to those who don’t have a good knowledge of computers.

Moving on from my defense of a piece of software that nobody was attacking (exercise: find the Latin term for the logical fallacy of attacking an argument that wasn’t made)…

What am I doing this semester?

Well, this semester I am at Penn State attending the MASS programs. My courses are called Differential Equations from an Algebraic Perspective, Dynamics Mechanics and Geometry, and Function Field Arithmetic. In addition to these courses, we have the MASS Seminar and MASS Colloquium. I am also auditing a graduate course entitled “Metric and Topological Spaces” or “Geometry and Topology I” (the various course listings seem to disagree on the title)

I hope to update this in the next few days with some samples to contrast my live TeXing and live LyXing. (The live TeXing will probably be more or less for readers to laugh at. If I recall correctly, those .tex files won’t even compile, but I have to say I think my “Differential Equations from an Algebraic Perspective” are …semi-decent)

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. I finally made the switch to Linux and now I’m one of the cool kids. I find it amusing that I now have a laptop with half the RAM of my Vista laptop but it seems like Ubuntu runs roughly twice as fast. Let me just let that sink in for a minute.