21 March, 2010

Spring Break, on the shore of the eternal sea

My son asked me at lunch today, So your Spring Break starts tomorrow, right?

I fixed him with a perplexed look. Where have you been? My Spring Break was last week.

It was his turn to be perplexed: he was at home all week, on his own Spring Break. But you worked all week.

Welcome to real life, I sighed.

Spring Break started with a huge disappointment, but got better. I had spent two or three months studying a problem that I was sure would be fruitful. I was right. It was quite fruitful, to someone else, seventeen years ago. Worse, I discovered his paper in my files, which means that at some point in the recent past I was aware of his work. At least I wasn't studying something pointless. In any case, it looks like I might be able to carry something further from there, but I want to talk with the author of the previous paper, to make sure I don't waste my time.

I haven't done so yet because several things distracted me. I received good news on two papers I'd submitted: one has been accepted, and I received proofs to check; the other has been deemed "acceptable, subject to revision," but the revisions seem relatively straightforward. Then there was all the other work I did, which I won't bore you with.

My wife once observed that students think that teachers and professors had the greatest jobs in the world, because it involved so little work. After all, we have no home work; we only work nine months a year, and get weeks off for Spring Break, Christmas vacation, …

Update: My wife corrected my memory of what she said.

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