prove as you go or scaffold first?

I had an interesting conversation two weeks ago about the working process for doing theory work in CS and EE. We discussed two extremes of working styles. In one, you meticulously prove small statements, type them up as you go along, getting the epsilons and deltas right and not working on the next step until the current step is totally set. I call this “prove as you go.” The other is that you sketch out some proofs to convince yourself that they are probably true (in some form) and then try to chase down the implications until you have the big result. When some deadline rolls around, you then build up the proofs for real. This could be thought of as “scaffolding first.” Fundamentally, these are internal modes of working, but because of the pressure to publish in CS and EE they end up influencing how people view theory work.

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conservative viewpoints in theater

The NY Times has an article about the puzzling lack of conservative playwrights. The lack of “fair and balanced” political perspectives in regional theaters and festivals is pretty clear, but the fact that interviewees couldn’t think of any contemporary conservative playwrights is a bit odd. I would argue that Neil LaBute is a little right of center — he addresses cultural politics and doesn’t construct paeans to Iraq war, though. I am thinking particularly of The Shape of Things.

I think a far bigger factor is the kind of resurgence and celebration of anti-intellectual and anti-“elitist” sentiment in the broader conservative movement. Going to see a play is definitely elitist, and the kind of Bill Buckley conservatives who would write theater are a bit rarer in the younger generation of playwrights. I’m surprised that some libertarian or objectivist playwright hasn’t popped up, but after reading Ayn Rand’s attempts at theater, it is tempting to think that the ideology doesn’t make for riveting drama.