March for Science MN

This gallery contains 19 photos.

Had a great time at March for Science MN last weekend.  (The fact that it was in the 70s and sunny didn’t hurt!)  Here are some photos.   Some more posters I liked but didn’t get good photos of included … Continue reading

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A nice note

Purely in the category of self-congratulation: I received a lovely note (edited below) from an advisor in the University Honors Program, for which I’ve been teaching multivariable calculus, differential equations and linear algebra this year.

 I heard through many disappointed students that you are leaving UMNTC.
Many students were sad you were leaving- you made quite an impression on them and quite a few said they’ve never had a better math professor. That is high praise, especially from my honors kids!
I wanted to pass that awesomeness along to you and let you know that you are appreciated! We will miss you here.
Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication to the students. It made a difference and the students know when a professor wants them to succeed.
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“The Bialy Eaters” by Mimi Sheraton

This short, amusing book describes attempts by the author (a former NY Times food critic) to work out the history of the bialy.  Much of the book consists of light, pleasant tales of her meetings and interviews with expatriates from the Jewish community of Bialystok, Poland, which was almost entirely wiped out during World War 2.  It was a fun read, though I have trouble imagining it would be of interest to anyone who has not eaten bialys.  Of particular interest to me, given my previous post, is the fact that Melbourne, Australia is one of several places with large groups of Bialystok emigrés that appears.  Finally, I thought the food critic nature of the author shone through in funny ways.  Sheraton is scathingly negative about many of the bialys she eats in the course of her research.  She also maintains both that it is very important that bialys be cooked until crispy and are best served straight from the oven, and that toasting a bialy is a strange and unnatural activity.

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Bialys in Mebourne

In October, D and I visited Mebourne, Australia for a family wedding.  While downtown one morning, we wandered into Five and Dime Bagels.  I noticed that the menu had bialys, something I’ve not otherwise seen outside New York.  It turns out that the owner, Zev Forman, grew up about 15 minutes from D, and had friends who attended her high school at the time she was there.  Sadly, he says that bialys don’t sell well (because no one knows what they are) and he makes them primarily for his own amusement; as a result, they hadn’t baked any that morning when I arrived.  Next time I’m in AU….

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“Moonglow” by Michael Chabon

Chabon plays heavily with the boundary between novel and memoir (for starters, the narrator is a novelist named “Michael Chabon”), jumping back and forth to various points in his grandfather’s life (as a Jewish boy in Philadelphia, a soldier in WW2 chasing Werner von Braun, a husband post-war, and as an old man and widower in the near-past). The “is it real or not?” aspect reminded me of a wonderful experience in high school reading Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried (taught by the co-proprietor of this lovely blog); I have resisted the temptation to try to find out what parts are real-real. Overall I thought a wonderful story. I will admit to finding one thread (relating to the history of the narrator’s grandmother) a bit puzzling — I didn’t feel like it exactly fit in — but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.

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“The Lowland” by Jhumpa Lahiri

This novel takes the Maoist insurrection in northeastern India as its motivating force; a student revolutionary is killed by police, and his death dominates the lives of his parents, brother, and widow.  Most of the story takes place in the US, though characters return to Calcutta at several key moments in the story.  I found the story deeply sad, moving, and wonderful to read.

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Gauss and Minnesota

Until a colleague told me about it, I had not known that there is a Gauss family connection to Minnesota: Carl Friedrich’s second son (first by his second wife) Eugene had a falling out with his father, came to America, joined the army, and was stationed at Fort Snelling.  A more detailed version of the story is available here.

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