Monday, September 9, 2013

What should children play?

I chose a deliberately ambiguous title for the post: I'm thinking right now of musical instruments, specifically, but it occurs to me that the title can be interpreted in in so many ways.

Boo has the opportunity this year, as a fifth grader, of joining the band.  This is, of course, something that is unknown to us, having grown up in the UK, where the orchestra was for years 8 or so up (not that we called it that then there).  Her teacher strongly suggested the oboe as an instrument for her, though Boo had been saying for days that she wanted to play clarinet.  I'd have been fine with the oboe, as a purer instrument, though I think that the clarinet is a far more versatile instrument: and one who plays clarinet can participate in far more styles of music.
The kicker, though, was the price.  Oboes seem to go for four digits for cheap versions.  Clarinets, decent ones, it seems, can be had for a little less.  Or is that a lot less?  Yes, a lot less!  I didn't order the cheapest model, but went for one with great reviews from (self-proclaimed) professionals.  Hopefully, I won't regret the decision.

Yours, planning more on other interpretations of "what should children play" later,

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Somehow, I've let a few days go by without blogging (or faking it by putting up blogs a day or so late, and faking the timestamp --- yes, I do do that sometimes....)
Such is life.  Fortunately, there are only the three of you reading ( "hi there!").

I'm hooked currently on the series Silks, the latest Masterpiece Mystery series on PBS --- from Britain, of course, as are most of their MM series --- but I was delighted, thrilled, almost enough to squeal, to discover that next week the MM spot will be another episode of Foyle --- but not Foyle's war!  They've continued the series after the end of the war!

Yours, thrilled!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Topaz it may be.  For now, it's a working name for him.
Our kitten is getting a little bigger --- he's up to about a half a pound now: that's two stick of butter here in the US.  Still very sweet, except when he's peeing on my clothes.   I'm looking forward to the day --- coming very soon --- when he doesn't need to be fed with a bottle, but can lap up kitty-formula, or softened dry food.  At the same time,  I love taking care of such a tiny, vulnerable creature.  It's like having babies all over again.

Yours, melting,

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


I've signed up for a community rowing event --- I've been a little nervous about it: after all, it has been thrumpty-sevix years since I was fit enough to do something like that.  Fortunately, I gather that the race is only 500 meters, which makes it realistic: plus I went to a training session this evening for all of the other other rowers (or as many of them as could make the time): and I think that I'm on a par with most of them, and perhaps more prepared than some.
Now, since our first race is at 9:45 or so, and the final is not until about 3, there's a definite incentive to come in second in the heat!

Yours, planning on trying harder than second,

Monday, September 2, 2013

Another Labor Day

Another day in the classroom at 8am.
As much as I love teaching, I do think that a day off here or there for a Federal Holiday would be nice.

Yours, laboring away,

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Combinatorial fun!

Thanks to my cousin, Mike, a week or two back, I heard about the game Dobble, which over here in the US is marketed as Spot It.  He gave it such high praise that I immediately ordered a set.  It arrived well over a week ago, but the past ten days have been so hectic with the start of school, the start of classes for me, Skibo's testing, etc, that today was the first chance we'd had to play it.
Skibo was away on a sleepover, so it was just the three of us playing: and it was fun! And after seven or eight rounds, Boo was just not ready to put it away.  It almost led to an argument, she was so determined to keep playing.  Tomorrow we need to play again, with Skibo involved as well.

Yours, loving that a game can have so much deep mathematics hidden behind it (even if the manufacturers only put out 55 cards, instead of the 57 they could have made!)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Pictures from potluck

These are a few of the pictures from potluck. Nothing to do with food.   Everything to do with babies.

Yours, from behind the lens,

Friday, August 30, 2013

First potluck

We had the first potluck of the (soon-to-be-Fall) season this evening.  A small-ish --- but very nice --- turnout.
And there are babies in the air.  Our friends A&T announced this week that they are going to be parents, sometime in February: they were all aglow!  Our friend S has a new puppy, a small, yet-to-be named, Chihuahua.  And we have our new kitten.  Pictures will follow once I've uploaded some.

Yours, wondering about names,

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Well done, Skibo!

Congratulations to Skibo!  He just earned a second red stripe on his blue belt!

Yours, thrilled for him!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A new mouth to feed

We will, it seems, be getting a new mouth to feed.  Saturday, or so, we will be taking care of a kitten.  Apparently a fairly young kitten.

Yours, happy at Boo's excitement about this,

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Happy Birthday!

Another August birthday!  Happy Birthday to our friend S!

Yours, in celebration,

Monday, August 26, 2013

Feeding friends

Feeding friends: it's what we do.  We do it often, and I think we do it well.  And I have a new friend in town (who is also my new boss): unfortunately, he's hit some issues with purchasing a house in the area, so he's living out of a suitcase in a motel --- which means that when football season rolls around in the next few days, he'll have real issues: they'll surely kick him out for a night or two!
Anyway, thinking he might be in need of some home-cooked food, we invited him over for dinner tonight: a simple spaghetti with a meat sauce, and freshly baked bread.  Quite good, if I say so myself.

Yours, happy too have fed a new friend,

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Beach bread

It's one of the things that makes the beach for me.  Beach bread --- for some reason, the brackish water there seems to make the best bread.  Or perhaps it's the relaxed lack of caring in the way I make it that makes it wonderful.
Anyway, this year, I was unable to find parchment paper at the store there, and had neglected to bring my own (I have a stack of full sheet-pan sized sheets of parchment at home, and usually remember to bring some with me).  As a result, I just wasn't feeling the love for breadmaking, and didn't make a single loaf.
In fact, I realised today that it's been quite a while since I baked bread at all -- well over a month, possibly two!  And with my boss coming over for supper tomorrow night, I decided that I should get back into the baking swing.
Bread dough, my simplified version of the NYT already-simple no-knead recipe, now rising, ready to be shaped tomorrow lunchtime, and baked after I get home from my afternoon class.

Yours, feeling the knead, even for no-knead,

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A delightful day

Last night we went to a "celebration of the new academic year" with my department: we'd left the kids with friends, and agreed that this morning all the friends would come over and I'd cook breakfast.
I'd scored some decent less than exorbitant bacon this week (apparently there's an unknown virus that's attacking young pigs and has doubled the price of bacon this summer, which I hate, in spite of the fact that it's probably really good for me) and so I cooked up a couple of pounds, threw all the eggs I had into a bowl, added some milk, then scrambled them.
I scramble eggs the right way, over low heat, in a pan with a little melted butter, stirring constantly, so that the curds formed are delicate and delicious.  But that's the subject of a recipe post.
After lunch, Skibo was picked up by a friend to head off for the day, and for a sleep-over, and so we took Boo up to look at antique stores and craft stores.  I was stunned by her reaction to the antiques --- she was running from item to item, excitedly exclaiming over this old camera, that old doll, this chest of drawers, that old coke bottle.  I'm a little scared that we're going to create an antiques roadshow addict!
We finished the day with a little birthday celebration for our bookstore friend K, paella, a little music, a little wine, and a lot of lovely conversation.
Yours, thinking "all in all, a lovely day!"

Friday, August 23, 2013

How did I miss this?

This song was apparently released last year, but I hadn't heard it until this week --- it's suddenly getting rather a lot of air time.  "Same Love" by Macklemore and Mary Lambert.  A stunningly gorgeous song, a beautiful video to go with it, and a powerful message.  How did I not hear this last year?

Yours, simply stunned by this,

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thoughts for dinner?

It seems that we have trouble with this question every day.  What to have for dinner?  It's been made more difficult on Tuesdays and Thursdays: that's the day that I take Skibo to martial arts practice at 6pm --- a time that both gets in the way of mealtime, and gets in the way of cooking time.  And so, here I sit wondering again: what to make for dinner?

Yours, wondering,

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


... we're off.  Classes start in half an hour.  Only another sixteen weeks to go before final exams.

Yours, getting prepared,

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Pre-semester busy-ness

Although the semester has yet to start, things are already busy.  Today I have meetings all afternoon, at least from one until four, and possibly later.  Combining that with Tai Chi this morning, and taking Skibo to his martial arts class this evening, and it's a full day.

Yours, running hither, thither and yon,

Monday, August 19, 2013

There, there

Boo has a new teacher this year (as does Skibo, but his teacher is known to us).  He's new to the school, and young, but apparently highly recommended.  We were rather disappointed, therefore, to walk into Boo's classroom this morning and see that he had written four questions up on the board, and  in three of them, used "there" for "their".  How do you point something like that out?  Perhaps it is meant as a teaching moment, that he'll ask the students what is wrong with the questions?  We eventually talked to the principal, who promised to take care of it....

Yours, a little worried,

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sooner than usual

In the past, it has usually been the case that the kids go back to school on the Tuesday, giving us a day after the weekend to ease back in: this year, however, they go back on Monday morning, and have to be there by about 7:30am.  It's going to be a shock to all our systems, I suspect!

Yours, hoping it goes smoothly,

Saturday, August 17, 2013

It was 25 years ago today....

That I stumbled, and stuttered, and paused and hesitated, and failed to answer a crucial question, but nonetheless, I passed.

Yours, defended,

And we are home

Much less rain on the trip than we expected, and we made it home safe and sound.
Now to prepare to face the real world instead of the fantasy world of vacations, beaches, museums, and beer....

Yours, girding my loins,

Friday, August 16, 2013

Old friends, new friends, and saying goodbyes

A week at the beach is, in fact, nearer five full days, perhaps five and a half.  We arrived on Saturday evening, and have to be out of the house by 10am.  Take away Saturday night for getting settled in, and Friday night for packing, cleaning, tidying up, and it's really only five and a half days.  Perhaps one year we'll manage to do two contiguous weeks: every year we think about it at the end of the vacation, and never really remember it the next year.

Boo and Skibo made new friends this year, staying round the corner from us: two boys, aged 8 and 6, who loved riding the waves as much as Boo and Skibo.  There was much laughter, squealing, and assigning of new nicknames: to Skibo's chagrin, he was given "Shrimp-puff": after much complaining, Boo finally stopped insisting that the other three of them had voted on it and that that was going to be his nickname.

We reconnected with two old friends this week, though it could easily have been five if a couple of other serendipities had come through.  Hopefully, in each of those three cases, we'll manage it in the near future.

And so we pack, run the washing machine over and over, finish up food from the fridge, and say our goodbyes.  Yet again, it's a house we could conceive staying at another time.  Perhaps next year.

Yours, saying "goodbye, old beach, old friend",

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Rain, rain, yet again

We managed to get to the beach for a couple of hours this afternoon after all: we hadn't expected to be able to do so, since the forecast had been for continuous storms all day.   Fortunately they went away long enough to visit the local snake museum (an annual tradition!) and after lunch, get swim wear on and go out.

And then, the highlight of the trip, perhaps --- a bunch: at least six or seven, perhaps more, but at least six dolphins decided to show themselves, perhaps a hundred yards from where we were swimming.  And a few minutes later moved closer.  And closer still.  At one point, I'd say they were within perhaps 30 yards of us: far enough for us to feel completely safe, but close enough to be thrilling!

Yours, still abuzz with excitement,

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Visits with old friends

Yesterday we got to catch up with our old friend Elin, in a semi-planned way: we hoped that she'd still be running kayak tours, and indeed she still is.
Today's chance to catch up with an older friend was much more serendipitous!  On Monday, a mutual friend posted on facebook about him being in town, which is unusual, since he lives in St. Croix and hadn't left the island for three years.  I messaged him, to see how long he'd be around for: he replied that he was going to be visiting Charleston, so I told him we were at the beach and hoped we could get together: we were thinking of perhaps Thursday --- then this morning he messaged to ask for our phone number: a few minutes later he called to say he was on the island, and we got to spend the entire day catching up!
Not a bad way to spend the day, since the weather decided to open up on us: several inches of rain, and swimming is definitely out for the rest of the day (and potentially the rest of the trip).

Yours, so happy to have caught up again!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


One of our traditions, here at the beach, has been to go kayaking: we missed out on it last year, so this time we made sure to contact our friend Elin Ohlsson, of Edisto Island Tours: we'd taken trips to Shell Island with her a few times before, and last year we waited until too late.  We did manage to get some honey from her, which we enjoyed over the year, and managed to catch up a little.
So, as I said, this year we made sure to phone at the beginning of the week, and arranged to go out at 10 this morning.  We put into the water at about 10:30 or so, and headed out down a creek towards a tributary of the Edisto river: about 40 minutes or so out, and about the same time back. Skibo has really mastered the act of paddling a 2-person kayak in time with the person behind him: he did really well!  Boo was somewhat more reticent about paddling --- so I lucked out by having Skibo in my boat:-)

The highlight, for me, of the trip, was sighting a dolphin, just arcing above the surface of the water just before we reached the landing: very brief, and we watched for it again, but to no avail.  Unfortunately the kids didn't get to see it, although Skibo insists that he felt something smooth beneath the water....

Anyway, if anyone reading this is ever in Edisto, call Edisto Island Tours at 8430869-1937.  It's a lovely, gentle kayaking trip, with lots of interesting information about the island, the wildlife and the area.

Yours, aching nicely!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Beach life

We woke to an amazing sounding storm this morning --- I rolled over and let it go away, and it was gone half an hour later.  Peering through the blinds, the sky was blue, the air was humid, but not bad.  We took our time getting down to the beach, arriving just before high tide, meaning that the kids could boogie (board) to their hearts' content.

We decided to head to one of our most frequent hangouts for lunch: it turns out that it is only about three short blocks from the beach house (we didn't book it with that in mind, honestly!) so we could walk and drink beer and not worry about driving.

Last year's visit had been a little disappointing, so it was really lovely to have a marvellous experience today: last year was just an anomoly:-)

This evening we had a low country boil: it doesn't really work for four people, two of them picky children eaters --- but it worked out okay: the food was good, and I didn't make too much more than we could eat.
We followed dinner by sitting around the dining table playing cribbage (well, much as I wish she'd have played, Boo refused to do so, insisting that she'd be the "judge").  And even though neither Skibo nor I won the game, we didn't object to the outcome:-)

Yours, enjoying the beach life,

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Happy Birthday, Skibo!!!

Up and out to the beach by about 8:30 this morning: a beautiful morning, nearing high tide, nice waves.
Boo is a bit perturbed by the seaweed --- here's hoping she'll come around to ignoring it soon.

We're going to give Skibo a surprise birthday party in a little while: he and I are going to head to the store to buy boogie boards, giving Boo and LOML a chance to decorate the beach house and surprise him.

Yours, celebrating a new nine-year-old,

Saturday, August 10, 2013

At the beach

A long day, starting for Skibo and me with an archery workshop, and with his martial arts instructor surprising him with a new bow and half a dozen arrows: followed by a drive to the coast, stopping at a fun park so the kids could drive (go karts), putt (mini-golf) and shoot (water, in bumper boats).
As a result we reached the beach rather later than we usually would: but we had time to go get a bite to eat, shop for groceries, and still put feet in the ocean at sunset.
And serendipity strikes again: the house next door has open wireless, so I an post this tonight!

Yours, grateful to a neighbour, and also for a lovely day,

Friday, August 9, 2013

Happy Birthday, Everybody!!

This week is the week of birthdays: four in just over a week.  Today my mother gets to lie in German again (ever since I taught her to say "Ich bin neun und dreizig jahre alt" way way back when), and we are celebrating Skibo's too: we are off to the beach in the morning, so this way he gets to have a few friends over before we go.

In the morning he and I are going to take part in an archery workshop at the martial arts place: we're getting bows and arrows, and when we get back from the beach, I'm going to buy a target from "Big Billy Bob's Archery and Radiator Shop" so we can go out into the garden and practice.

Of course, tomorrow morning's plans are "weather permitting", and since the current forecast is 50% chance of thunderstorms, all is up in the air.  Still, I'll drive him out there, and his instructor can give him his bow and arrows.  And I get my bow.  Pink, of course.  Perfect color for a bow.

Yours, wishing all a happy birthday,

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Skibo and reading

This summer, Skibo has been a little better about being willing to read, it seems.  Much of this has been helped by the fact that there was a new Percy Jackson movie coming out, and we told him that he couldn't go to see it until he'd finished reading the corresponding book.  He finished the book last week, partly reading with me, partly reading by himself.
Since then, he's been reading the third book, and at bedtimes as a treat, I've been reading to him.  At nine-in-three-days, he's still young enough to enjoy being read to, and it helps him get through the book --- and he's really enjoying it --- begging for more after every chapter!

Yours, thinking I could read more to him if he went to bed earlier,

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Rain, rain, rain, and more rain

Another day, another drop.  And another. And yet more and more and more.  It's rained more this past few weeks, I think, than it did probably in the previous six months!  

And so, of course, we listened to Peter, Paul and Mary singing "It's Raining".

Yours, all wet,

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

And miles to go before I sleep

No snow, but miles to go.  I realised this afternoon that, between Skibo's advanced warrior camp this week, his regular martial arts training sessions, my regular tai chi sessions, and the archery workshop this weekend, I'm going to be driving to and from the dojang 15 times in six days.  At eight miles each way, that's 240 miles.

Yours, having forgotten to budget an extra tank of gas for camp.

Monday, August 5, 2013


This morning, I woke up to realise that Skibo had to be a his martial arts camp (fifteen minutes away) in about 40 minutes.  And needed to be up, and have his stuff together, and be ready to leave.  We made it on time:-)
I proceeded to try to stop by my office (yes, it's vacation, but I needed to do a couple of things.  Except that that was not possible.  The parking lots were jammed.  There are no classes on, this is the time of year when everyone is on vacation, it was before 9am, and there was absolutely nowhere to park.
So  I went home.  And napped.

Yours, vacationally speaking,

Sunday, August 4, 2013

All the fun of the fair

Yesterday afternoon, despite the oppressive heat, I kept my promise to Boo and Skibo and took them to a funfair: we'd passed it a couple of days earlier on the way to Skibo's martial arts class, and he'd seen the rides and got very excited by the prospect.
Unfortunately, I didn't know that the discounted all-you-can-ride wristbands ended at 3:30, so the two bands cost me $40 instead of $30 (that's total, not each):  we arrived at 3:45.  Oh well.  The fair was a rather small one, a few more than a dozen rides, perhaps, and almost the same number of toss a ring, throw a dart, etc, stalls.  I was rather disappointed at first, since several of the rides appeared to be unmanned, but the kids quickly chose a ride to go on first, I realised that they were having fun, and so decided that it was okay, and just went with it.
About half an hour in, another small boy started tagging along with them (without a wristband!) and was stopped from entering one ride: he told the operator that his father ran the airbrush stand, and was allowed to enter: he rode every ride the Boo and Skibo from then on.  It was quite nice to see an accidental friendship happen.
One of the nicest touches of the whole afternoon was when I bought lemonades for Boo and Skibo and me: the vendor had a large lemon press, and squeezed fresh lemon juice for each cup of lemonade.  A lovely touch, and far more enticing than lemonade just poured from an industrial container!

Yours, delighting in a simple summer pleasure,

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Letting go

As the kids get older, we have to loosen the strings, allow them to grow, etc.
This morning we walked the dogs, the kids riding their bikes ahead of us.  They waited at the top of the hill for us to catch up, then asked if we could go on further and visit the vet clinic --- they rode on ahead again, and waited very carefully until it was safe to cross, then crossed over.
All very nicely and safely done.  For me, a little bit of tension: I know we have to let go, but it is hard to do:-)

Yours, parentally speaking,

Friday, August 2, 2013

And... we're done

Boot camp is over for another year (this was the eighth incarnation), and I think that it went reasonably well.  But I'm looking forward to a little down time over the next two weeks: next week, Skibo is in camp, so I'll probably take him to camp, then go to the office for an hour or so --- then return to take Boo swimming --- since the pool doesn't open until 10.
And the following week, we head to the beach, taking most of Skibo's birthday presents with us.  A couple of them, a bow and arrows, will have to remain at the house, I think: but there's a workshop on how to use them the day before his birthday, so he will get his present then.

Yours, looking to relax a little,

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Boot camp, teaching, tai chi, oh my

Boot camp, our annual five week program of torture for incoming graduate students, is coming to an end: just a couple of days to go now: and we're not "teaching" now, per se, though the students are learning a lot.  We've given them a long final exam, to be presented at the board, so the final is essentially a two day long oral exam: there are seven students, so this gives lots of opportunity for each of them to present.
And even though we are not lecturing, there are a lot of teaching moments: particularly when the students are able to help each other through a knotty part of a problem.
I've been taking Tai Chi now for almost a year, twice a week, and have moved from the 11am beginners' class to the 10am advanced class.   The nice thing about this is that the instructor doesn't mind if I stick around for the second class, and has encouraged me to assist him with a little bit of the teaching: this is great, because as every teacher knows, the best way to learn something is to teach it.  Of course, there's always the danger that I'll teach it wrong, so I'm mainly sticking to the stuff I know pretty well.  There's a strong possibility that he's going to put on a couple of teaching workshops though, to help make sure we teach things the way he wants them taught.  I'm excited at the prospect!

Yours, seeing connections between teaching here, and teaching there,

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Continuing on a theme

I've now got my new machine configured to the point where I might not have to open my other machine again.  If I can go without opening it for a week, I can then wipe the drive (after backing it up, of course) and upgrade the OS: I've been running a 30 month old version of Fedora for the past while, and it really needs to be updated.

Yours, in full-on techie mode,

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

After a few days absence, and on a new machine

I've not felt that I had much to say for a few days: today, I do: I'm typing this on my new computer (it actually arrived in the department two months ago, but the larger hard-drive I wanted for it didn't get her until last week, and today I have it close to set up the way I want it.
And this is my first post from the new box:-)

Yours, getting used to gnome3 with a little difficulty,

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Bring your kids to work day

I took the kids with me to work this morning --- it was easier to do, since my colleague was teaching the class today, and I was kibbitzing, rather than the other way round --- but even if I'd been lecturing it would have been okay.  The kids sat there and read (and in Skibo's case, played on the wii) and were respectful and quiet.  At one point, Boo leaned over to me and said "Why aren't you teaching?"  I explained that the two of us were teaching the course together, and she nodded as if she understood.

During the long break for lunch, we went swimming, visiting the grocery store first, to get sunscreen, and then again after, to get sandwiches.  Then back to work, where the kids got to see my students grilled on their homework, presenting solutions to questions at the board.

I'm not sure how much they got out of the experience, but it's good to know that they can survive it and not resent it too badly:-)

Yours, wondering if they have any idea what a normal one hour class looks like,

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Skibo has reached the "why" phase

Especially at bedtime.  Oodles of questions, what ifs, and whys come out of his mouth.  Could a wormhole form in the ocean?  What is a black hole?  Why does this?  What does that do?

I'm thrilled he's asking questions, just a little frustrated that I was attempting to get him to read at the time.

Yours, thinking that he's attempting to change the subject,

Monday, July 22, 2013

Let it drop

I'm letting the baggage drop.  The bag finally arrived yesterday, less than 24 hours after I would have had it at home had the flight been on time, and the bag on the flight.
Banking issues, I need to stay on top of, but I'm hoping they will be worked out in the next few days.

Now, I am just waiting for a new annoyance.  And seeing none, being happier.

Yours, with a gentle smile,

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Carrying baggage

I'm obviously going to have to carry the baggage a little longer yet.  My lost luggage is still not here.  It's now less than an hour from yesterday's arrival time.  When it gets here, safe and sound and complete, then I can drop the case.  Until then, I continue to feel aggrieved.

Yours, wanting my stuff, damnit!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Too big to fail?

Can corporations get too big to fail?   Of course, the question is usually meant as "can corporations become so big that it is dangerous to the economy to let them go under".  But I don't mean it that way.  I mean it in the sense of can corporations get so big that they fail to provide good service.
And in that sense, the answer is clear.  PNC and BB&T between them have still failed to resolve my ATM problem for Thursday.  And flying this afternoon from Detroit, Delta managed to lose my luggage.  Just like last time I flew with them from Detroit.  The lost luggage person at the airport said that it was unlikely to make it tonight.
Yours, modifying the old acronym for Delta to fit my luggage:  Didn't Even Leave The Airport.

Friday, July 19, 2013


I'm still fuming, not just at PNC, but at BB&T too.  Surely it shouldn't be this hard to report that an ATM failed to give me my money?

Yours, still grumbly,

Thursday, July 18, 2013


I attempted to withdraw some money this afternoon from my bank account.  From a PNC machine (got that PNC? Yes, I'm talking to PNC Bank here).  And the bank ate my money.  Along with a $3 fee for the privilege.  So I call PNC.  Multiple button presses later I finally reach a person.  And am told I have to do it through *my* bank, not the thieving ba**ards at PNC.
I get through to my bank, and talk to a very helpful woman, who tells me that I can't stop it yet, it hasn't gone through.  I'm going to have to call back any time after 6am tomorrow morning. Ridiculous.  And makes me fume.

Yours, afume,

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Day three done too

Another lecture that went, I think, quite well.  It's a bit strange to give talks to undergraduates as part of a lecture series, and to get applauded at the end (and I gather that they are not applauding all the other lectures, so I'm definitely taking it as a compliment).
Walked to the hotel from the department this afternoon: it was hot --- still almost 90 Fahrenheit --- and humid, but the walk wasn't too bad: under 30 minutes.   I think that I can walk to and from for the next two days, perhaps with the exception of Friday afternoon, when we are supposed to be strong thunderstorms.
One disappointment is that some of the faculty members I had hoped to interact with here are away -- and several others leave tomorrow morning, so I am pretty much on my own with the students from now on.  But that's okay --- I can spend more time with them!

Yours, in full on teaching mode,

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Day two done

I've given my second of five lectures: a fun group of students --- I'd been warned to expect them not to interact much, but whether it is because they've been here a little longer and are warming up, or whether it's my sunny personality that's doing it, they seem to be enjoying the lectures, and are answering questions pretty enthusiastically.
Of course, the fact that I am throwing in some lovely magic tricks (developed by other people) helps a bit too. And all of the magic tricks have some real mathematical content: Mulcahy's Low Down Triple Dealing, for example, or Gilbreath shuffles, or Diaconis' fabulous riff on a de Bruijn cycle.
This sort of task, lecturing without grading, speaking on whatever I wish to speak about, covering material at a pace that suits me, with no requirement that I make it through this topic or that, is really fun:-)

Yours, running along nicely,

Monday, July 15, 2013

Little things

It is funny how little things can affect your behaviour. At my home institution, parking is something of an issue.  Enough of an issue that it probably beats out salaries as being the biggest concern of the average faculty member.  If I don't arrive at work before about 7:45, the nearest parking spot will be five to ten minutes from my office.  And that is during the summer, the off-season for academics!
But here, visiting colleagues in Michigan, parking is, if not ample, there, and so, my colleague informs me, he rarely gets to the office before 10am.  I've often taught two classes by that time of day!
Still, it gave me time to get up, eat a leisurely breakfast, and put in a good half hour on a treadmill and exercise bike this morning.  And shower.  And sit here twiddling my thumbs for another half an hour or so.
Yours, up, and ready to go,

Sunday, July 14, 2013


A lovely drive to the airport.  The traffic was light, and the rain held off
mostly the whole way.

Checked in at the airport, ran into a friend returning from the North East,
and chatted with him for a while before clearing security and going to board
the plane.

The flight was wonderful, if a little cramped: read for a while, and
snoozed.  We arrived half an hour early, so I was sure I'd make my shuttle

My bag was waiting for me as soon as I reached baggage claim, too --- so I
arrived at the sign saying "Passengers with ground transportation reservations".
And waited.  And waited.  I wondered how early they would be --- half an hour
was an uncomfortably long time to wait.  After a few minutes I thought to
look around for an information desk --- or anyone to ask whether I was at
the right place.  I followed signs to "Ground Transportation", only to find
nothing of use --- and nothing resembling ground transportation.  And still no
information desks.  And no free wifi either.  Finally I discovered where I
was supposed to be: too late by five minutes.  I tracked down a phone number
for the shuttle company and confirmed that I had, indeed, missed the bus.
And only have to wait 2+ hours for the next one.

There are no restaurants or bars at Detroit airport, unless you are through
security.  There is a stand selling candy and snacks, and a coffee shop.  That
appears to be it, unless after half an hour you realise that there are signs
pointing to a hotel.  So, courtesy of the Westin, I'm sitting with a beer,
typing this into a file (the Westin's internet and my computer appear at the
moment to be incompatible).  And I'm feeling much better than I was before
I had the inspiration to find the hotel and buy some (probably ridiculously
expensive) local beer.

Two hours later, I'm sitting on the bus, waiting for it to depart; it claims
to have free wifi, but at present I am not detecting it: and it's already five
minutes late --- if it had waited this long last time, I'd have caught it!
Patience is a virtue.  I'm trying to be virtuous.

The promised wireless appears to be just that --- a promise, and a broken one
at that.  There is no information on the bus about what the network would be
called, and of the thirty networks showing as live, almost all show up as
protected, and none resemble the names of the bus company.

Two hours later, we're pulling into my final destination, and my host, who I am
expecting to meet me at bus stop, texts to say he has a migraine --- I'm to get a cab
instead.  No problem.  There's one opposite the bus, I hail him, and he takes me to
the hotel.  (He gets a call just as we're pulling up to the hotel --- he thought I was the
passenger who had reserved him, I hadn't realised that another passenger on the bus
had reserved him, or indeed that he was reserved at all.  I feel bad for the other passenger!)

The sidewalk in front of the hotel is all torn up --- horrendous: as a pedestrian, I'm not
really supposed to leave the hotel --- I do so anyway, and make it back to my room with
an appropriate beverage (after the day I've had, it seemed necessary).  Only to find that
the wireless, working on my ipad, won't work on my laptop.  Grrrrrr.... Twenty minutes later,and finally, I can settle in.

Yours, suffering from six hours of frustration,

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Emergency state

After yesterday's rains --- several inches in the afternoon, then a very violent, powerful storm early this morning, which, according to the local TV station "decided to just sit over the town", our mayor has declared a state of emergency for the town.  Various isolated disasters --- one couple have lost their house: there are railroad tracks with six feet of empty space floating beneath them: cars with trees on them: all isolated, but putting them all together, things are in a bad way for an awful lot of people.  
We're currently very lucky: the floods have happened to people nearer creeks, and our trees haven't been hit --- but they are promising worse storms tonight, and tomorrow, and we are certainly not sure of being out of the danger zone.

Yours, feeling terrible about what has happened to some good people,

Friday, July 12, 2013


And so, as every year, it comes time to say goodbyes to the REU students.  The group of three who worked with me this year were wonderful: smart, hard working, and capable: I'm hoping we get to write several small, or perhaps a couple of bigger papers --- this will depend on how things go in the next few weeks as they work on their own (in collaboration on the net via email, skype, writelatex, etc).

But all in all, one of my favourite groups of students ever!

Yours, sad to say goodbyes, happy to know them,

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Orange and Ginger Tofu

I had tofu cooked in orange and ginger a few months ago, and have been trying to recreate the recipe.  Finally, over the past couple of days, I have created something different, but good.

Orange and Ginger Tofu
1 block tofu
1 inch or so of ginger, grated on a microplane
1/2 cup or so of orange juice
Peanut oil

Slice the tofu horizontally into three slabs, each about 1/2 an inch thick.  Place on paper towels on a plate, with paper towels separating each slab. Place another plate on top, and weight it down with a large can of tomatoes or similar weight.  After a few minutes, replace the paper towels with fresh ones, and repeat.  Leave for several more minutes.

Cut each slab into appropriate sized pieces (I cut cross-wise into three slices, then lengthwise into two, so each slab becomes six squares, then I cut each square diagonally, so I end up with 12 triangles per slab, for 36 triangles in total).

Heat a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil in a large skillet: in two batches, shallow fry the triangles for a few minutes on each side, until they are light golden brown, and have a slightly crispy texture.   Drain the tofu on paper towels, and clean the oil from the skillet.
Add 1/2 cup orange juice to the skillet, and the grated ginger, bring to a boil, and add the tofu.  Simmer until the juice is reduced to almost nothing, about 10 minutes or so.

The tofu should have a delightfully meaty texture, and a delicious orange/ginger flavour to it!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Prepenultimate day of the REU

I took my REU group downtown this afternoon --- to visit my favourite bookstore,  and then, many books in hand, next door, to the lovely independent coffee shop next door.
It was a lovely lunchtime visit: lots of great conversation, good coffee, and general good humour.

I'll miss these folks when they leave on Saturday!

Yours, enjoying this group's company,

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Very proud

I'm very proud of the job my REU students did this morning: they presented their research results in a talk, and did a fantastic job!  I'm looking forward to working with them over the next few days to get their REU paper into great shape, and then over the coming months, deciding how many papers to prepare for publication in what my institution lovingly refers to as the "archival literature".
I'm always optimistic at this stage --- often somewhat overly so --- but this year I feel confident that we can get a couple of papers out: perhaps even three --- so provided I can persuade the students to keep working, I'm hoping that this will be a great year!

Yours, proud, in loco parentally,

Monday, July 8, 2013

Cheese and onion pie --- and pastry notes

I made cheese and onion pie last night, as I mentioned yesterday: it was really really good, and definitely a keeper recipe!

The recipe is ridiculously easy, once you have pastry dough; dice a couple of large onions, saute them in a little butter or olive oil over medium low heat until softened --- about 10 minutes or so.  Allow the onions to cool, stir through with 8 ounces of very sharp cheddar (I used Cabot Farm's Seriously Sharp white cheddar), season with salt and pepper, then beat an egg and stir it in.  Roll out two rounds of pie dough: place one in the bottom of a pie plate: pour the cheese and onion mixture in, top with the second round of dough, crimp, cut a slit or three in the top of the crust so steam can escape, and bake at 350 or 375 until the crust is golden brown.

A note to myself on the pastry: the Vodka Pastry recipe I posted yesterday wasn't perfect (hubris on my part made that a likely outcome, I am sure!)  The dough didn't have enough liquid to bind together: I patted the base down enough that it worked, but with the topping, I decided I needed to reprocess the dough with more liquid, and did so, using vodka rather than water: I added perhaps another ounce or so of liquid: the dough was now easy to roll out, and despite the extra working, didn't toughen.  Pastry has become a forgiving recipe at last:-)

And the dish was a hit, except with the children.   Boo liked it okay (but didn't want any tonight when we had leftovers).  Skibo ate some, and pronounced it "two thumbs up" on one mouthful, but didn't want any more (and didn't want any tonight).

Oh well, they will develop real palates soon enough!

Yours, feeling cheesy,

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Comfort food

I was reminded this morning (somehow -- I'm not sure what brought it to mind) of cheese and onion pie: a speciality from the North of England: my mother used to make it on a fairly regular basis, and so I'm thinking of trying it tonight.  I'm hoping that it will hit all the high comfort notes that it triggers in my memory.

I was tempted to purchase pre-bought pastry to make it easier --- tempted briefly, but I was put off by the pictures on the boxes of pie dough: their images were of dough that looked more solid than flaky, and I am sure I can do better than that.  I'm tempted perhaps to buy a box at some point just to try it out, but not on a night when I'm planning to try to cook something I care about.

I've pretty much switched to vodka pastry now when I make it from scratch: the vodka retards the formation of gluten in the dough, and bakes off at a lower temperature than water does, making for a crisper, flakier result that is more workable prior to cooking.   I got the recipe from America's Test Kitchen: it calls for vegetable shortening, but when I don't have that around, I use all butter instead: and when I'm making it for a savory dish, I leave out the sugar.

Here's the recipe for vodka pastry: I'm going to hash out the recipe for the cheese and onion pie in my head for a little more --- that recipe will be added at a later date.

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices (1 1/2 sticks)
1/2 cup chilled vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup vodka , cold
1/4 cup cold water

Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined,
about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until
homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds
(dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour).
Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor
blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed
around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses.
Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding
motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and
sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into
4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes
or up to 2 days.

Yours, in search of comfort,

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Summer delights

We spent two hours in the pool this morning --- a delightful time in spite of the clouds (to be truthful, I actually like it when it's not so sunny --- being fair skinned).  Skibo even managed to play with some other children (it seems like a rare event when either of Boo or Skibo play with children that they don't know well, so it was nice to see him do so).  Boo explained to me that she wasn't comfortable playing with complete strangers, and even after I explained to her that the children were not complete strangers, she still demurred. Oh well.

Yours, enjoying a rare moment of summer quiet,

Friday, July 5, 2013

Writing, and regularity

I have been trying to write blog posts on a daily basis for years now --- and have succeeded, with massive failures along the way.  Over the past few months, I've gone for long periods without posting.

This month, I'm going to try to sit down with Boo and have her write --- her writing is wonderful, and I want to encourage her to stick with it! --- and while she's writing stories, I'm going to blog.

This will be made more complicated by the fact that I'll be away for eight days --- but perhaps we can skype while writing.

Yours, looking forward to a magical interaction with my daughter,

Thursday, July 4, 2013


Happy Independence Day!
Having grown up in Britain, my understanding of today is necessarily different, but I can celebrate the day nonetheless.

We had a lovely gathering this afternoon/evening: our twelfth annual party for this day: a combination of mathematics undergraduates about a week away from finishing their summer research program, a few fellow faculty members, and some friends from around town.

Yours, full of food and friendship,

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Menu thoughts

I'm contemplating what to cook for tomorrow: this will be our 12th annual July 4th party.
I definitely want to do beef rendang again: probably a chicken tagine, and perhaps carnitas.
Now I just need to decide what vegetables to go with this.
Oh, and perhaps a dessert or two too:-)

After more thought: it looks like the menu is converging to the following:

Beef Rendang
Chicken Tagine
Pork Carnitas
Mushroom Pate
Smoked Trout Pate
Squash Casserole
3 Bean Salsa
Carrot Cake

Yours, mouth watering already,

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Rendang redux

Beef Rendang

This first recipe is my modification of the recipe in
Cradle of Flavor by James Oseland

Flavoring Paste

1 nutmeg, cracked open with a meat pounder
5 whole cloves
3 big shallots, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
6-8 red chillis, seeded  and coarsely chopped
2 inches fresh ginger, grated on a microplane
2 inches fresh galangal, grated on a microplane
5-10 macadamia nuts

2-3 pounds beef chuck roast, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 13 oz cans coconut milk
3 stalks fresh lemongrass, gently pounded with the back of kitchen knife blade
1 piece cinnamon stick
7 lime leaves
1 teaspoon salt

Grind the nutmeg and cloves in a spice grinder (or a mortar and pestle: I use
a dedicated coffee grinder).  Add to a small food processor: add the rest
of the ingredients for the flavoring paste, and pulse until a coarse paste is left.
Stir the beef and the paste together in a large skillet. Add the remaining
ingredients, and heat over medium-high heat: bring to a low boil, and simmer,
stirring every ten or twenty minutes until the liquid has almost all evaporated.
Let the meat fry in the remaining oil , stirring to prevent scorching.  Cook
until the meat is the color of roasted coffee beans.

Remove the lemongrass, lime leaves and cinnamon.  Serve, for example with lemongrass
and coconut flavoured jasmine rice.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Happy Canada Day!

To all my Canadian friends, happy Canada Day!

Yours, in celebration!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A childrens' book about Uncle Paul

Uncle Paul, as Palibaci was known to all, loved epsilons.  He would take a pill bottle from his pocket, hold it high in the air, drop it, and catch it.  The epsilon being entertained would laugh, and Paul would generate great joy.

There is a new book about his life: The Boy Who Loved Math: a lovely little book, which Skibo loved when I gave it to him a few days ago.

This morning, I discussed prime numbers with Skibo -- he's still a year younger, according to the book, than Palibaci was when he encountered them for the first time: I had Skibo construct the sieve of Eratosthenes for the numbers up to fifty, then had him discover that all the composites, the ones he had struck out, were indeed the product of smaller numbers, and that the primes, the remaining numbers, were not.  And the best part of all? The fact that I think that he really got what I was saying:-)

Yours, initiating the prime directive

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bad numerology

My post from yesterday, it seems, was full of incorrect information.  I mis-read the stats --- I had had 2345 posts including drafts which have never made it to posts.  I have a few more posts to go to be  successfuly numerologist.

Yours, amateurly,

Rendang, reviewed

I made Beef Rendang yesterday for potluck.  The reviews were all uniformly very positive -- the recipe is very good, though I think that I will cut the cubes of beef to a rather smaller size than 2-3 inches per side, which the recipe called for.  Other than that, if we could only find fresh lemongrass, galangal etc in the area, I'd be making this on a regular basis!

Yours, rendanged,

Friday, June 28, 2013

Amateur numerology

I'm a professional numerologist, in the sense that I look for patterns in sequences of numbers: but here I am acting as a pure amateur.  As of until I publish this post, blogger informs me that I have posted 2345 times.

Yours, just wanting you to know,

Thursday, June 27, 2013

There is some hope

Having had no sink for the past several days, we are excited by the prospect that it may get fixed tomorrow. There is a definite upside to that --- I haven't been able to cook for several days, and I am missing it!

Still, there is a real hope that our 12th annual July 4th party will go ahead as planned!

Yours, excited!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


As in busy-ness.  My summer course, boot camp for maths graduate students, began this morning.  And so begins the yearly ritual of making sure that the incoming students are prepared from day one!

Yours, playing the mean sergeant,

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

That awful sinking feeling

This morning, we got that awful sinking feeling.  You know the one.  The one you get when you walk into the kitchen, and the sink has fallen out of its hole in the countertop, and has sunk into the cupboard below.
So, cooking? not so much, not for a little while -- not until we can get the sink reattached!
Hopefully it will be back in place in time for the July 4th party!

Yours, back from dinner at a restaurant,

Monday, June 24, 2013

On not believing

I read an interesting article today on support networks for atheists (I think it actually applies far more broadly, to those of us who don't express a positive belief in the non-existence of deities, while at the same time not expressing a positive belief in their existence either).
The thing that I found most interesting was the support group they left out: the daily community that churches give to their members: the built in groups of friends who hang out because they believe in the same tenets and stories and sing the same hymns.
It's why we have potluck: over the years it feels like we have our own little community: we don't build it around religion or lack of belief: it is a community of friends who come together every few days to be a community: to hug and smile and laugh, and be friends.
And that's the network the article missed.

Yours, loving our community,

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Yesterday I came across a list of exotic foods one really should taste before one dies --- and being in no hurry to have the latter happen, I'm certainly not rushing to experience one of the list --- fugu.  In fact, I'm not sure that I agree with most of the list: perhaps kobe beef someday, if I get to Japan.  Deep fried mars bar?  I'll skip it -- I have no idea how that made the list!
But beef rendang, that appeals.

Yours, thinking of slow cooking,

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A moment

Standing in the kitchen a few moments ago, I asked Skibo if he'd had an okay day.  His response filled me with happiness: "I've had a great day!"

Yours, happy to hear it:-)

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Doctor

Skibo has discovered Doctor Who --- he (and to a lesser extent Boo) have been watching episode after episode over the past couple of weeks.  This has been fun for LOML and me, since we both grew up watching the original series --- and I've enjoyed the latest three incarnations immensely too.
Skibo has been led to consider all sorts of questions by watching the show: whether there are really aliens, are sonic screwdrivers real, and if not, will someone invent one, etc.  It's been fun (and slightly challenging) to field his queries!
Yours, thrilled that he's discovered the series,

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Spinach and mushroom roulade

I just tried this spectacular recipe recently: in preparation to teach a cooking class on mushrooms, to see how hard it would be, and how it would turn out.
It turns out that it's easy, if involved, and also that it turns out really nicely.
I also tried adding some kale to the spinach, and that worked pretty well too, though I think I prefer the lightness of using just spinach!

Spinach Roulade with Mushroom Filling
(From Fresh From The Garden, by Perla Meyers)

For the filling
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed, wiped and finely minced
3 tablespoons finely minced scallions
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 tablespoons finely minced dill

For the roulade
1/2 cup homemade breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 pounds fresh spinach, stemmed, washed and dried
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 extra-large eggs, separated
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

10-12 ripe cherry tomatoes, lightly sauteed in 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh dill
The filling:

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium high heat.
Add the mushrooms and saute quickly until lightly browned
and all the liquid has evaporated.  Remove the skillet from
the heat, add the scallions and toss until just wilted.  Season
with salt and pepper and allow to cool completely.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and sour
cream, and mash together with the back of a fork.  Add the
mushroom mixture, Parmesan, and dill.  Taste, and adjust the
seasoning as necessary.  Cover and chill until firm.

The roulade

Preheat the oven to 350 C.

Line a jelly-roll pan (15x10x1) with parchment.  Butter the
paper and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and Parmesan.  Set aside.

In a large pan, cook the spinach in the water that clings to its
leaves over medium low heat, until just wilted.  Transfer to a
colander and let cool.  Place the spinach in a kitchen towel, and
squeeze out all the excess  moisture.  Chop the spinach finely and
set aside.

In a large stainless steel or glass mixing bowl,  combine the
chopped spinach and softened butter, set the bowl over a pan
of warm water, and stir until the butter is thoroughly incorporated.
Add the egg yolks and mix until well blended.  Season with salt and
pepper and reserve.
In another large mixing bowl, combine the egg whites and a pinch
of salt, and beat until the whites form soft peaks.  Fold gently
but thoroughly into the spinach mixture.

Spoon the spinach mixture into the prepared pan, using your hands
to spread it evenly into a thin layer.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or
until just set (a knife when inserted will come out clean).
Remove the pan from the oven and immediately invert the spinach
roulade onto a dry kitchen towel.  Carefully peel off the 
parchment paper and trim off a piece, about half an inch wide, from
each short side.  Leave flat or roll up gently in the kitchen towel.
Set aside to cool completely.

Spoon a thick layer of the mushroom filling over the entire spinach
surface and roll the roulade from a long edge into a tight roll,
jelly roll fashion, using the towel as a support.  Transport 
carefully to a serving platter and surround with the sauteed cherry
tomatoes.  Sprinkle the tomatoes with the minced dill, cut the 
roulade into 1/2-inch slices, and serve at room temperature.

Serves 10-12.

Yours, hoping you'll be inspired to try this!

It has been a long time since I posted.....

I was just asked if I had a blog.  Yes, I replied.  But it's been a while since I posted....
So I'm posting.  Perhaps there will be some pictures of mushroom dishes soon: I taught a class recently, and some of the recipes are really good....

Yours, in arrears,

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

In memory of a great man

Paul Erdos was born a hundred years ago today.  He was perhaps the greatest mathematician of the twentieth century: certainly the greatest I ever had the privilege to meet, to spend time with, to do mathematics with.   I think that it's likely he'd make everyone's list of top ten mathematicians of all time (and with competition like Archimedes, Newton, Euler, Gauss, Hilbert, etc, that's a tough list...)

He was an amazingly gentle soul: he spent the last forty years or so of his life travelling the world, spending a week here, two days there, as Cambridge mathematician John Cassells put it: he was like a bumblebee, spreading mathematics as though he was pollinating.  He'd take news of a new theorem around the world, telling exactly the people who would know best how to extend it, use it, generalize it.

He died in 1996, at the age of 83.  And he is still much missed.

Yours, in memory,