austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Hit a wall, take a fall

The conference had a dinner organized to end its first day. This wouldn't be on campus; there was some restaurant downtown instead. We had the subway stop to use, and sketched out a map (remember sketching out maps?) of the area. The street plan was your classic older European city layout, roads patterned by dropping wet noodles on a surface, adding 500 years, and then dropping the Industrial Revolution and then Allied bombs on the territory, then modernizing it all. We figured we were probably on the right street, although the building numbers were elusive.

We caught up with some of the other conference-goers outside a restaurant we deduced had to be the one. It looked like the vegetarian/vegan, possibly co-op, restaurant on the outskirts of any given university campus. It also looked to be nearly two-thirds of a shoebox in size. It transpired it also had a back room, just about big enough for everybody from the conference who was attending the dinner. We did have to be split between two tables, one of which was augmented by tables from the front room brought back and placed adjacent but not level with the main.

By the luck of where we stood when the motion to sit down was put forth, bunny_hugger and I were seated opposite Peter Singer. The table was wide enough we also figured there was no meaningfully chatting with him, and we contented ourselves to talking with our neighbors on either side. One of them bunny_hugger remembered from the 2012 conference we went to in Utrecht, although she wasn't sure how she remembered the person.

And then as things started slowly to clear out Singer turned to chat with us. He seemed genuinely interested in what we were doing after the conference, and what a mathematician who wasn't even presenting was doing at the conference (and dinner). He also seemed strangely interested in bunny_hugger's uncle, whom we'd be going to visit the following week. With this strange bit of personal connection established we asked if he might have ever got to Belmar, and to the vegetarian/vegan restaurant Kaya's Kitchen. This may sound ridiculous, but remember that Singer has an appointment at Princeton University. There's a good chance he's been to the Shore, and wanted somewhere to eat there. He hadn't been there, though, or to Belmar that he remembered. So we didn't even bother asking if he'd been to the Silverball Museum. (Yes, that's ridiculous. But I had resolved that if he had been to Kaya's, why not try for an even more ridiculous coincidence?)

Sometime between people ordering a last coffee and the coffee being delivered Singer had to leave, and nearly everyone remaining did too. The couple of people left --- at the other table --- called us over and asked bunny_hugger about her planned presentation. With trepidation she did give a ten-minute impromptu version of her twenty-minute talk and they seemed satisfied. I know how anxious this made her, but I loved the feel of grad students hanging out that we had in those small hours after the dinner.

And then things finally broke up; we went back to the hotel and set the various wake-up calls we figured we might need.

Trivia: The English East India Company's initial capitalization was for £68,000 (about a tenth that of the Dutch East India Company), and all the capital was to be returned to investors as soon as the company's ships had returned from India. Source: A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped The World, William J Bernstein.

Currently Reading: ... The Heavens And The Earth: A Political History of the Space Age, Walter A McDougall.

PS: A Summer 2015 Mathematics A To Z: measure, coming up on the second half of my a-to-z glossary. First mathematics post since the last roundup, which was yesterday.

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