I am betwixt and between. My mathematics book for teenagers, The Largest Number Smaller Than Five is now ready for publication and all that remains to be done is agree with my co-author on the cover picture. This is actually not as simple as it sounds. If one writes a book about, say, Paris, then one puts a picture of Paris on the cover. A book on Bismarck has a picture of him on the cover. But all popular books on mathematics, going as far back as my 1973 edition of Warwick Sawyer’s Mathematician’s Delight, seem to have cover pictures of brains with numbers or formulæ. Almost as though this is a requirement. So my co-author and I are split between a nice photograph with little relevance to the topics covered by the book and an attempt, using our very limited artistic skill (and fluency with gimp) to produce something clever with brains and formulæ.
Anyway, that project, which has consumed far more time than I imagined possible is now effectively out of the way and I’m casting around for a new challenge.
There is another thread in this casting around. I hate, detest and loathe commercial flying. I object to being treated by the immigration people and airline staff as dirt and refuse to queue in those back-and-forth sheep pen that they seem to have everywhere. I saw my wife off this evening at Ottawa airport—she’s going to England to see her new grandson—and, even though she had printed her boarding pass at home, it took her 40 minutes of queueing to get rid of her single checked bag. This, together with jet-lag and miniscule aircraft seats, is the sort of treatment up with which I will not put. So my wife and I are booked on a cargo (container) ship from Montreal to Liverpool in the spring when we will again travel to see our grandson. This is a new experience for us both and, if it works, then when I retire, it will form our normal mode of transport. The trip takes 8 days, two and a half of which are in the St Lawrence and I’m assuming that we will be incommunicardo the while with no Internet, no Skype, nothing. So, unless I’m too ill to move from my bunk, I shall have plenty of time to read. And get into a new subject. I used to work with a professor from the University of Victoria who, when coming to Ottawa, normally chose to come by train. He said that the 3 or 4 day trip gave him time to work. We unfortunately fell out when I over-grilled one of his PhD students at his viva-voce, not understanding that these are formalities, not an opportunity to expose flaws in the research. But that’s another story.
So, as I say, I’m casting around for a new area to explore.