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I'm still taking classes.

FRANCE | Saturday, 10 October 2015 | Views [293]

If anyone has been quietly thinking to themselves “why is she always talking about classes? I didn’t know she actually intended to study abroad,” worry no longer. As of this week, description of what’s going on in my classes will be separated from other, more touristy information about what I’ve been doing. No more needing to wade through descriptions of Lebesgue Integrals to see if I mention seeing the Mona Lisa. This does not mean I will avoid mentioning math in my other activities, or that I’ll actually go see the Mona Lisa. But it’s a start.

So. Classes. Intégration.

First of all, the professor’s speech about letting the door close quietly behind us if we came in late had an effect. I think I heard the door slam once the entire class, which was a marked improvement over previous weeks. Especially for me, since every time the door slammed, I’d lose two or three words and need to scramble to fill in the gaps.

In another thing that made the class easier to understand, it was the first week that no one tried to talk to me during it. So I didn’t need to decide between trying to understand what the professor was saying and trying to understand the whispers of a classmate talking directly to me, which was nice.

Content-wise, Tuesday was the class that we finally got to measure and “espaces mésurés.” Not to be confused with the “espace mésurable” or “fonction mésurable.” So he provided a definition, and then some properties, and we proved them, then learned how they could provide an alternate definition of measure.

For something to be a measure, by the first definition, it needs to satisfy two properties: the measure of the empty set needs to be 0, and the measure of an infinite union of pairwise disjoint sets needs to be equal to the sum of the measures of each set. Which doesn’t seem like a terribly powerful definition. Turns out it is. Math is cool like that.

After that, I went to the harp lesson. I continued working through the exercises, trying to keep well-rounded fourth fingers, and then got another few exercises to continue working on that. One of the challenges of the harp is that you can’t really see what you’re doing, especially for your left hand. You need to go entirely by feel and by sound. Which is something that, as a musician, you would need to be able to do anyway, but still. It’s a challenge.

I played through the pieces I’d had over the weekend, and got a new one to try. The new onewas “The foggy dew,” and I absolutely loved the way it sounded when Madame Luce played it. Obviously, it sounded a lot worse when I was trying to limp by way through the passage, but that’s what practice is for.

The next day was the topology TD. Since we’d finished the Metric Spaces chapter and just started Completeness in the CM, but still had a lot of exercises in the TD to do, I figured we would finally have a day when we would just be working with definitions we were comfortable with. Nope. There was an exercise on homeomorphisms (never came up in the CM) and, two hours in, we started on completeness. Oh, and since we’d finished the first chapter, we would have a controle next week.

Have I mentioned that I hate topology?

After class ended and I was grabbing a quick dinner, I realized that I was looking forward to Russian. Like, really looking forward to it. Which shouldn’t have come as as much of a surprise as it did. I mean, I was taking Russian against the advince of most people I’d told and the sane part of my mind. I had love the language, or why would I do it? If I was looking forward to it even as the class approached, it meant I didn’t think it would be too much of a challenge.

And it wasn’t. I mean, it was still a challenge (translating sentences from your fourth to second language is never exactly going to be a breeze) but grammatically, I understood what was going on, and was able to talk for slightly longer. Apart from the moment where I tried to give the Swedish word for bread and confused everyone in the classroom, it was rather enjoyable.

Thursday, I took my normal route to school (which does still consist of getting out at Saint Paul, walking a block or two, and getting on at Pont Marie. I have figured out how I could do this without leaving the station, but that would require staying at Chatelet, which is nearly as long a walk through a metro station that is under construction. Unless it gets very cold or I lose my pass Navigo, I think I’m going to stick with that as a route) only to find that the metro at Pont Marie was delayed. I waited around for a while, listening to the announcement that there was something on the tracks twice before I read between the lines and realized this was not going to be a quick delay. By this point it was 10:45, class was starting, and my best bet was to run and come in 10-15 minutes late.

I walked into the classroom, took a seat, pulled out my notebook, and copied down what was on the boards without having any idea what the professor was talking about. I wish that was a unique aspect of having come in late. But, at the front of the classroom, there were printed out versions of the polycopie. I looked off a neighbor’s copy during the class to see examples of how to construct Sierpinski Gaskets, and at the end of the class grabbed a copy for myself.

I’m not entirely sure how fractals related to what we were studying, but they were cool. Before I could figure it out, we were done with the chapter on Completeness and on to Compactness. Well, that was short lived. (Really hope the TD professor doesn’t go “Oh, you finished Completeness? Great, we can have another controle the week after!”)

And then… it was Friday.

The first important phrase of French I heard on Friday was “when is the controle for this class?” Which was enough to make me start panicking. Even though the response (two weeks from today) was about the best it could have been, the day was not off to a good start. Three hours of Integration failed to fix that, and even just staying awake was harder than it should have been.

So, on my way back from lunch, when I passed a Starbucks I ignored the part of my mind that was asking if I was really that kind of American living in Paris and bought a pumpkin spice latte. It tasted delicious, and made me remember that it had been two months since I’d had any kind of specialty coffee drinks, and about five months since I’d had a really good latte that wasn’t matcha-flavored. I tried to enjoy one now and not think about my university’s Seattle’s Best.

The coffee worked, because I did not fall asleep during History of Math. (It turned out that class also had a test in two weeks, so my day was just getting better.) It was the format that I’d come to get used to- two hours of historical lecture, two hours of going over selected propositions from Euclid. We were up to Arab mathematics (and the rise of Algebra!) and Book 7, which was number theory in the strangest form I had ever seen it. On the plus side, I now understand why an eighteenth-century encyclopedia would say that a number “measures” another when they mean “divides.”

And then that class was over, and it was time for French. On the plus side, French is probably the easiest class I have. On the minus side… it was 18:00. I’d been in classes since 9:00. All I wanted was to go home. I certainly didn’t want to sit through another 2 hours of language classes. Especially not as the token anglophone. (“How do you say this in English, Sabrina? Can you translate it?” The answer to the latter turned out to be no.)

I found myself watching the clock. Like, really watching the clock. And time was dragging ridiculously slowly. Starting at 19:01, I converted the time to years and tried to remember what was going on in the year it currently was. I figured that had to make time seem like it was going faster. Turns out I don’t remember much of what happens in history. “World War I is going on. World War I is still going on. Um… Matthew Arnold is probably dying in World War I at about this point. Oh! Armistice day! And.. um… when does Hitler start his rise to power? OK, I should at least be able to remember some literary events. George Bernard Shaw won it. Why can I not remember anything that happened in the late twenties, early thirties? (Writing that now I feel really dumb.) Eugene O’Neill just won the Nobel Prize!” And so on. Until at last my mother was being born, and the week was finally over.

Tags: analysis, french, math, russian, school, topology

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