They joke that a topologist can not tell the difference between a coffee cup and a doughnut / bagel. Well, I beg to differ. This is not a coffee cup, but it is a bagel. I can tell the difference!
I answered my office phone this evening to hear a very distressed guy on the other end. He muttered something that I didn’t understand. I told him that it was the wrong number and was about to hang up the phone when he said,
“I need the crisis hotline. This is the number I found!”
“I’m sorry, it was the wrong number. I hope …”
“Can you talk to me? I’m really distressed.”
What was I supposed to say? No? Of course, I said yes.
“Well, it all began over the summer. I reconnected with a friend from high school. <pause> He was a guy. I never thought I liked guys in that way, but do you want to know the truth? <pause> I liked it.”
It went on. He proceeded to tell me almost every detail of his dating life from that day on. After about twenty minutes, we were still talking about events that happened one month ago. So, I asked what happened recently to make him so upset today. (After all, I did have work to do, and now I’m in an awkward phone call and don’t know how to get out of it without causing more mental damage. How did I get myself into this situation?).
Last week, someone called him a not-so-nice name in the bathroom. I felt bad for the kid. He didn’t want to admit to himself or to any of his friends the truth — that he liked guys. He could tell me, because I was a stranger. But, he was horrified of any of his friends finding out.
Towards the end of our conversation (conversation is very generous of a description — I said very little), he told me he was worried about going to a party the next day. He didn’t want it to get out that he liked guys, and he thought that he might slip and hit on a guy or something. So, I told him about the buddy system. Always have a buddy going to the party, and never leave without that buddy. He liked the idea, but didn’t like the idea of turning one of his friends into a buddy who knows the truth. But, I may have convinced him that he needs to find a friend he can trust. It’s too isolating to hold things in. I also suggested he talk to a real doctor.
They say that you have one year to get a wedding gift. I took that very seriously when my friend April married her husband Steve. So, Dave and I decided to design a fabric in honor of their wedding and then make them various things for the house in that pattern. We designed and ordered the fabric, and I decided on the items that we were to make. Unfortunately, this was while we were in graduate school … and I was living in Austria. Even though we didn’t have it complete by the wedding, we figured that we could finish the project in one year. Three years later, I still haven’t completed the wonderful gift that I was going to make them. Fortunately, April is still my friend. I will finish this project. Better late than never, right?
For other weddings, we decided that we would not bank on me making a gift if it was not ready by the wedding date. We learned our lesson.
Our wedding has come and gone, and now we need to write thank-you cards. With me moving and traveling often, it took us a while to get the photos from the photographer, design the card, and order it. And, finally, as of today, the thank you cards are ordered. I hope this is still within an acceptable time-frame. I feel a bit of relieve that it is no longer hanging over my head that I need to order the cards; however, when they arrive, that relieve will come to an end.
- Instead of pancetta, I used thin-sliced bacon. I am partial to bacon-wrapped anything. I prefer my panchetta with a nice baguette.
- Since I love celery, I doubled the amount of celery in the recipe (I had salad for days afterwards).
- Instead of grilling, I cooked the bacon wrapped shrimp in a pan on the stove-top. I cooked them until the bacon was nice and crispy.
- In the lemon juice for the shrimp marinade, I added a little lemon zest.
- As usual, I added some sea salt and coarse ground pepper to finish the dish.
Surprisingly, I followed the rest of the recipe. It is not usual for me to stick that close to a recipe.
I tried to serve this to David since it was so delicious, but he hates fennel. He made faces when I made him try the fennel fronds, which I find barely taste like anything. However, a well-balanced bite of 30% bacon, 50% shrimp, 10% celery, and 10% fennel tasted delicious to him. Bacon does make everything taste better (although, I think fennel tastes good to begin with!) Ok, I am hungry now.
Last weekend, I went to a high school friend’s wedding in Philly. Before the wedding (well, actually, during the ceremony), I stopped at my parents house to say hello to the family. This is the first time I skipped the ceremony and went to the reception. I felt like a rebel. But, I got to see my family — so, it was worth it.
My niece was home, and had a bag full of nail polish. She demanded (she knows what she wants) that I paint her nails, and I obliged. I painted all 10 fingers and toes. She carefully watched as I delicately painted her miniature nails. As I was painting one of her toe nails, the paint came on thick … it was hard to avoid this on such tiny nails. At this point, she warns me “not too much.” I laughed, so she continued to warn me with each brush stroke until I finished the task.
Then, it was my turn. She was to paint my nails. Since I was going to a wedding, I wouldn’t let her do my fingernails but allowed her to paint my toes, thinking that it would be covered by my shoes. On one of the toes, she managed to get the entire toe minus the nail. Perhaps she was studying set complements that day. As Dave and I started our drive downtown, I remembered that my shoes were strappy shoes, not closed toe shoes! Whoops.
On Saturday, I will be running in the New Orleans Race for the Cure. Since my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer in the mid-90s, this cause has been something important to me for a while. I’ve never actually participated in a race for the cure though, and I’m not sure why. But, I am excited for this new experience (and, maybe I’ll meet another friend there … as my friends in New Orleans total about one at the moment).
If you are interested, please feel free to make a Donation on My Behalf. If you’re not interested, no hard feelings.
When I was in Russia last week, I saw my academic brother Dmitriy. There, we met Herbert’s new student and postdoc.
When I met the new student, Mabel, at the hotel, I said: “you must be Mabel, nice to finally meet you.” I say this because Herbert told me about his new student from Cuba last time I saw him. Her response was, “we’ve met before, at CTIC 2009, remember? We even shared a bed together.” And yes, she was correct … she was at the conference and shared a bed with me. How embarrassing. She was kind enough not to hate me for forgetting her though.
On the way to lunch one day, Stefan (Herbert’s new postdoc) asks Dmitriy who his adviser was. We didn’t believe that he did not know, until we realized that he did not know who my adviser was either. Then, we ask Stefan which of Herbert’s former students he actually knew. The only two he could list were Olga and Michael (current / former postdocs of Herbert). This explains why Stefan thought I did not know what a Möbius strip was when he made a bad joke the first day. [[ The joke was: "Why did the chicken cross the Möbius strip?" I thought, how do you CROSS a Möbius strip? I didn't even listen to his answer, as I knew it would be "to get to the same side". I was pondering the logistics of crossing a Möbius strip. Then, I figured out that it must be embedded on a Klein bottle. I did not find it funny, especially since it took me so long to make sense of, but he started to tell me where I can read about Möbius strips since I was not laughing. Later, we disagreed on my interpretation of the joke. ]]
A pie chart explaining my expenses for the past 6 months. It is quite amazing, although not surprising, how travel takes up 68% of my spending.
Dave is sick and I am operating on a time zone somewhere in the Pacific ocean. We both just returned from a trip across the Atlantic.
Last week, i was in Russia. I think the fact that I had little sleep in Russia (waking up early and going to bed late) has caused me to become over-exhausted on my 24 hour return journey. Or, maybe it was the fact that my journey was 24 hours … in either event, I slept until 3:00 today. Now, I worry about waking up in time for a meeting on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. I hope I can adjust my schedule in time!
While I was in Russia, Dave was in Heidelberg, Germany for the Heidelberg Laureate Forum, where Abel, Fields, and Turing Laureates were there to meet young scientists like David. There, he met a few people who knew me, one of whom said that David says my name wrong. Thinking it was someone who says “fah-see” instead of “fay-zee”, I asked how they said Fasy and if it was someone from topology. When he said it wasn’t my last name, it was my first name, I immediately asked how he says my first name. When he responded, i found out that she was right: Dave does say my name wrong.
In the middle of lunch yesterday, Peter, who was sitting next to me said “… when I wrote the book with Erdös …”. Erdös was a very famous mathematician. He also happened to be one of the most prolific. He has over 1500 publications in total. In fact, everyone who publishes in math (as well as related fields I believe) knows their Erdös number, that is, the number of degrees in publications between you and Erdös. Mine is three: I published a paper with Herbert who published a paper with six people (Boris Aranov, Janos Pach, Richard Pollack, Paval Valtr, Douglas Brent West, and Foong Francis Yao), each of whom have published with Erdös.
Peter elaborated on the collaboration with Erdös:
During a conversation, Erdös said “well, I had a result once. I don’t remember what i it was, when it was written, or where it was published. However, I think it might have been in a Polish journal sometime in the 1940s though.” Peter said that he spent a week trying to find the result.
During another visit to Vienna, Erdös went to visit Peter at his house, but arrived before Peter was home. So, he went around back and sat in a chair to wait. When Peter’s wife was setting the table, she noticed a strange man sitting outside. When she stepped outside, he introduced himself as Erdös to her relief. Then, he asked her for some money. Wondering why he needed money, she asked for how much? Turns out he wanted coins to play games with the kids, as he loved children.
Hearing these stories was quite remarkable. The mathematicians whose names I associate with theorems, books, and papers, I often do not have a face or a personality to place with them. But, talking to some of the mathematicians here, I am able to put a personality to Erdös, to Delaunay, to Voronoi, and to several others who I will never have the pleasure of meeting myself.
Today’s lunch conversation included the following story:
I met a man once from Göttingen. I asked him if he knew that Göttingen was a center of mathematics (the man was not a mathematician). He said, that in fact, he was aware of this. And, the reason that he knew this was because of what he found in his office. When he moved into an old office, there were still items left behind by the previous occupant. After being there for a few months, he took a look inside the desk, and found Carl Frederich Gauss’s brain.