15 January, 2005

Could someone please slow down Father Chronus?

No use running for cover; I'm back.

So, after two weeks in Russia, one week in Atlanta, and one week panicking over a talk I had to give at the US Naval Academy (nicest folks I've ever met, them), I'm back. Unfortunately, the photo in my profile is no longer accurate, because I'm missing a distinguishing facial feature. It was removed by popular demand. When people notice it, they are invariably polite, and remark on how I look younger — but I know what they're thinking: Wow! He's gained weight!

Alas, such are the requirements of a sedentary lifestyle and an aversion to riding my bicycle up a long, steep hill. I sometimes ride my bicycle to work, being environmentally-, health-, and budget-conscious. (I save $200 or so on a parking permit every year.) I'd ride my bicycle every day, all the time, if I could, but Lake Boone Trail is a little too intimidating. In fact, I'd say it goes well past intimidating: it's right-out suicidal. Sometimes I just walk my bike up the stupid thing to avoid putting my knees through that wringer.

I have managed the last few months to ride my bicycle up Lake Boone Trail at least once a week, usually twice and sometimes thrice. Vacations and travels excepted, of course. If you think I'm fat now, imagine my corpulence, were I driving my 1996 Saturn SL to work every day. It may get 44MPG on the highway (ah, the golden age of Saturn!) but I would have had to spend enormous sums on a new set of pants.

So, what details to relate? I'm not sure; questions are welcome.

Russia was cold, but my friends and loved ones are kind and hospitable. They laughed at the coat I brought, calling it a "bikini" and putting me in a heavy monstrosity that weighed maybe as much as I do. They found my sandals even more entertaining, but when I broke out the boots I had bought from REI, Inc., they were pretty impressed. These things are rated for -40° (F or C) and they are monsters. In retrospect, they were a little too monstrous. I'm sure there must be a happy medium between sandals and monster boots, but I don't have the patience for discovering that sort of thing.

One neat experience was watching The Incredibles in Russian. The film title was Суперсемейка, "Super Family". I don't understand very much Russian, but it was definitely an experience I won't forget.

Another experience, less neat, was working on my thesis many mornings. I finished the first chapter :-)

Moving on: In Atlanta, I attended the 52nd Annual Employment Center at the 2005 Joint Meetings of the MAA and AMS. The object of this was hoping to find employers who were interested in me, and hoping to convince some employers to take an interest in me. I don't think I was so successful with the latter, but four employers to whom I had not previously applied, expressed interest in me. At least two of them were very enthusiastic, so there's hope.

Atlanta seems like a nice town if you're a car-hater like me. My brilliant roommate found a Super-8 motel down the road from a MARTA train station. I figured that we paid about $25 per night, compared to the ~$100 that the Marriott Marquis or the Hyatt Grand Regency would have cost. To think: for that $100, you don't even get high-speed internet; you have to pay another $10; for our $25, we had free high-speed internet and continental breakfast (i.e. doughnuts and apples).

What can I say? My roommate got skills.

Speaking of monsters: those two hotels are immense! I would in the middle of them and look up, gazing at row after row of receding floor, watching the elevators race silently and smoothly up and down the towers, I felt like I was in an enormous beehive. If you've watched The Matrix (which I don't recommend, but just in case), and if you remember the first view of the giant field where humans are manufactured and then made into batteries — it's a feeling something like that.

The Marriott Marquis, by the way, also has the very unusual property that its walls seem to bulge out near the bottom. It's an elegant and brilliant design, which does nothing to lessen the fact that it's an eyesore.

Finally, I gave a research talk last week at the US Naval Academy's Math Department. I was talking about my research, of course. They were very polite, and repressed what must have been an urge to throw tomatoes and rotten eggs. A handful of them asked me very intelligent and probing questions. One of them is an alum of my university, so we started chatting and had a great conversation. I really didn't expect to have as nice a time as I did — especially considering that Maple mysteriously stopped working (again!!!), so I couldn't show off a program I'd written.

Unlike the Marriott Marquis or the Hyatt Grand Regency, the USNA is not an eyesore. In fact, the entire city of Annapolis seemed like one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. That, in spite of getting lost — or perhaps because I got lost: on my way out, I missed the turn to Route 50 and ended up passing through the historic section of town, then coming back out by the USNA, pretty much where I'd started.

Last: literature, and my pretensions to reading it! I've finished Les Misérables and I've made massive inroads on Insciallah. I'll write about both later today, or tomorrow, or... at some point.

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