Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

Wishing you all a happy new year!

Happy New Year!!

May you stay safe from all the spam and viruses of the season. (As for me, I'm still recovering from a cold.)

And here's the mandatory multimedia link: a merry song for the holidays (via Luca).

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Absent-minded Professor

"You've not fallen in love, have you?" asked my friend and colleague. I wish there was some such simple explanation. But unfortunately the best explanation I can come up with is that I've become utterly careless. I'm back from LA, and while the workshop itself transpired fairly smoothly, the travelling was a comedy of errors. And I have no one to blame but myself.

The first incident was on my way to Sujit and Rajani's place (where I stayed on the first and last nights of this trip, as well as in the last one). When I reached Union Station from the airport, I forgot to collect my big bag from the FlyAway shuttle. Not until I was well on my way in the train did I notice the reduced burden. The problem was solved after a couple of phone calls and a trip back to the FlyAway terminal later in the evening. Sujit came along and we spent some time trying to take photos at the Union Station. No damage done.

Next day, I omitted to collect my not entirely inexpensive jacket from the city bus. I wasn't able to contact the lost-and-found folks during my stay in LA.

At the end of the week, on my way to the airport, I almost left behind my camera at my friends' place, but thanks to a delayed train, there was just enough time to retrieve it. No damage done.

At the airport I had a most surreal experience: I forgot that the first leg in my trip was with United and not American Airlines. So having waited through a long line at the AA terminal before making my way to the United terminal, I was too late to check in for my flight. Anyway, after another half an hour in a slow moving line (but not entirely wasted, thanks to a friendly conversation with a man returning to his homeland in Ethiopia for the holidays: at some point he wanted to ask me about a "math genius" whose name he couldn't recall; so he took out an iPod and went through a list of BBC radio programmes, and I noticed one on the Poincaré conjecture), United graciously resolved the problem: they put me on a direct flight to Chicago, in "economy plus" seating, and waived the ticket price difference (my original ticket with them was only till Las Vegas). I got into Chicago well in time to connect with my AA flight to Champaign (which had got delayed). No damage done.

Overall, it wasn't too bad (i.e., it could have been much worse). But next time I bet I'll be more careful. If not, I'll probably have more stories to share.

Friday, December 08, 2006

LA, again.

Three times in as many months: going to LA again! Saturday to Saturday. And you would think I have no classes to teach here. Well, this time that's true. Today was the last lecture for the semester.

According to the forecast, it's going to be relatively warm here in Urbana-Champaign next week, with the temperatures climbing back to above freezing. I guess I won't miss that in LA.

In other news, brother went back (again), dodging a snowstorm. So I'm left to handle the winter by myself. When I get back from LA, that is.

Food for thought: this is real,

"Two percent of adults command more than half of the world's wealth, while the bottom 50 percent possesses just 1 percent."

and this is surreal:

“Few Bahrainis have not surfed over the contours of their kingdom, comparing vast royal palaces, marinas and golf courses with crowded Shia villages nearby ... Some of the palaces take up more space than three or four villages nearby and block access to the sea for fishermen. People knew this already. But they never saw it. All they saw were the surrounding walls.”