Life update

October 21, 2008 at 8:58 am | Posted in conference, family, holidays, life, math | 1 Comment

Well, the semester is in full swing as you, dear reader, may have guessed by the infrequency of my entries alone.  But life doesn’t stop, that’s for sure.

Last weekend I took 10 students to the Fall 2008 MAA Seaway section meeting, a local math conference. The talks were very cool, and many students told me they had a great time. I was also the chair of the student program committee. Last meeting in the spring, there were only 2 submissions for the student talk session, so this time we decided to supplement student talks with other things, like math jeopardy and an ice cream social. We also had two faculty give an workshop for undergraduates on how to craft a math talk. Lots of good stuff for our students. Then we got 12 submissions for student talks! We had to get help to cover all of the rooms we needed to fit all of these activities! In the end, though, I think it was a success. And we have some ideas to make the arrangement of activities better next time.

Some family have been going through some pretty rough times, and there is nothing I can do about it. That’s weighing on me and making it hard to concentrate on anything. Life sucks sometimes.

This weekend we’re going to do some preparation for winter. We’re going to store the motorcycles, and put the trailer out of the garage and beside it, covered with a tarp. Then we’ll have the motorcycles winterized in one bay, and the car in the other. I should replace that broken window in the garage door, too.

Thanksgiving at our house is on, and we’re going to have folks over again. Hopefully we can avoid the plumbing disaster this time around.

Over Columbus day weekend Jenny and I visited some friends and relatives. The relatives were Martin, Uta, and Tanta Martha who were visiting from Germany. Tanta Martha knew me when I was a nipperkin. She nicknamed me “schlingel,” which loosely translates as “rascal,” a nickname that stuck to me with my Oma (Martha’s sister) all my life. This will probably be her last visit to the states, so I just had to make the trip. I made two different holiday liqueurs, whose recipes I learned from Oma, and brought them to share during this visit; they were a hit. I really improved the coffee liqueur this time. We also had a great visit with our dear friends Edz and Sacha. One of these years we’ll get them up here to chill with us in the north country.

Academic advising has begun. It’s almost hard to believe that it’s time to start thinking about next semester already. On the other hand, I’m already thinking about what I’m going to be teaching in the 2009-2010 academic year, so it shouldn’t be so hard to believe.

Time moves so fast. I should make some time to think long term about life and what I want out of it. I did that over 10 years ago when I was working as a waiter in a restaurant, and I set myself on this course, got back into school, and now I’m a mathematician and professor. But it’s about time for a long term view again. I’m not going to be switching careers or anything, but I need a better balance between work, home, family, etc. Jenny and I talked about that a bit on the car ride back from the visit with the german relatives. Putting it off to the “break” between the semesters doesn’t work. There is no better time than now.


February 14, 2008 at 10:08 am | Posted in holidays, romantic stuff | 5 Comments

Ok, I just got what I think is the best V-Day gift I’ve ever gotten.

Jenny & I don’t celebrate V-Day as a rule. We may say Happy Valentines Day with a kiss, but we don’t spend money on each other. We decided we spent enough on each other with birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and just-becauses. We made that decision when I was in grad school, but we’ve kept up with it. Until now.

This semester I teach until 5 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It’s kind of a bummer on Fridays, but to be honest I always had a hard time doing anything productive Friday afternoons. For me, It’s just as well that I am forced to work.

So yesterday, seconds after I had dismissed class at 4:50 p.m., as students were standing up and donning their coats, I didn’t notice at first that some students who were not in my class were walking from the door through the classroom toward my desk. They made it through my students and one of them started singing a bass line and snapping his fingers and strutting. Then another of them joined in with the bass line and the snapping. Some girls were obviously with the guys, and when they all got to the front of the room, most of them were singing that be-bop, harmonizing kind of a capella stuff we love so much.

Now, for those of you not in the know, Potsdam has two a capella groups — one male, the Potsdam Pointercounts, and one female, A # Arrangement. My first thought was that they were going classroom to classroom advertising some concert or something they were performing in. There are several Crane students in my class, so that seemed right to me. I thought to myself, good for them, at least they waited until class was over. (The Crane School of Music is part of SUNY Potsdam. I hear from everyone that being a major in Crane is extremely demanding. Those few Math majors who are also in Crane are among our very brightest.)

It was when they stood in a circular arc all facing directly at me that I knew something else was going on. One of the young women stood front and center and started singing a sweet, romantic, upbeat song with the others backing her up. I was shocked. I didn’t know what to do. I had been putting away my papers, and I alternated between looking shocked and nervously continuing to put away my papers. In a short time I just put everything down and gave them my full attention, since it was completely obvious at that point that they were singing to me. They were singing to me! I realized that someone had sent me a singing telegram. That had never happened to me before, so when it happened I didn’t realize what was happening at first!

When the lead vocalist finished her part, and one of the guys stepped up and sang out the note that Jenny wrote to me, “Ha ha – Happy Valentines for the first time ever! -Jenny.” The whole thing took about 2 or 3 minutes, and when they were done they handed me the note and a box of candy. The class and I applauded, and I shook their hands. I was beet red from the time I realized they were singing to me until well after I had arrived at my office.

It turns out this was a (relatively) new co-ed a capella group on campus, the Potsdam Pitches. They don’t have a website yet (come on, guys!), but they, along with the two aforementioned a capella groups, will be part of the A Capella Jam, and invitational hosted by the Pointercounts, on March 15 at the Crane School of Music.

You know I’ll be there! Beware the ides of March!!!

P.S. I love you, Jenny. I’ll be smiling about this for a long time. 🙂

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