Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spring and random events

Spring has come. The crocuses have bloomed, and the daffodils, and the popcorn tree. We have flowers on the nectarine tree, too. And one of the plum trees.

We have a lovely yard in the spring.
Of course, now that it is spring, the yard wants care. It wakes up and wants you to pull the grass out of the flowerbeds and the flowers off of the gravel path and the gravel out of the lawn. It doesn't do these things on its own. Why not? The lawn, the gravel path, and even the flower bed are carefully delineated. You would think they would know....
Even the old apple tree is growing leaves and new sprouts. This has been a very nice apple tree, pink apples, and someone will love them in September. Someone else.


Last night, over at the church, there was a dance party for families. It was a surprisingly fun event. I was not very keen on attending, and Tim was out of town, but Jonathan wanted to go because there were refreshments. (What? That's a reason to want to go?)

When we arrived, the DJ, a musician friend who lives up the street and around the corner, was playing a mix of old dance songs from every decade going back to the 1940s. Every decade. Somewhere in the middle, Jonathan learned to dance the Macarena -- after we older people remembered how to dance it from way back in our singles days in the 90s. For variety, we also learned to line dance to the Boot Scootin' Boogy. And we lined up for the Bunny Hop. And there was even a little polka to the Chicken Dance. Those who knew how also did some swing dancing, and some Latin dancing. Jonathan and I didn't know much. But we bounced around just as happily as the two-year-olds who were so glad to be free to run around the gym at last! Free at last!

It ended up being true fun for the truly uninhibited. And I was surprised at how much I loved it. What a great idea!

Families used to go dancing in these parts all the time -- at least every weekend. I know this, because I have great-great grandparents, and great grandparents, and then grandparents, who owned a resort out by the shallow freshwater lake just across the valley. In the summer months starting before the 1920s, they earned a great deal of money, in good years and slow years, by hiring a big band to come play at the lake. In 1928 they purchased a larger resort, with a famous indoor-outdoor dance floor. Buses left the nearest town at 9 pm on Saturday, so residents could come dance until 1 am. My grandparents grew up dancing, and it remained an important part of their business until a fire burned the dance pavilion in 1968.

I never got to dance at their resort.


This morning, Saturday, 8am, I had to be up early and on campus to judge student research talks at an annual college event. Because Tim is away, Jonathan came with me. He attends a math circle every Saturday anyway. He was willing to go early and hang out in my office while I did my judging, then take himself to his classroom an hour later. I had also given him the option of staying home alone. He is old enough to be ok for an hour or two. But he wanted to attend his math class.

When we were all done, Jonathan confessed that he probably would have had more fun staying home. He didn't learn much because the instructor covered material way over his head, without much explanation. Ouch.

I helped out with Jonathan's math group last week. I've been running these math circles for several years, taking Jonathan along. I've stayed with the younger children, though, as Jonathan has moved into older classes. I realized last week that the older classes have changed. A lot. The emphasis is less on "cool math stuff you can do for fun" and more on "hard competition problems you can do to impress your friends and others." The kids in the class seem more interested in tricky problems, and answering quickly, than exploring something new, or examining an old idea from a new angle.

I noticed too that a lot of the children who used to come have dropped out, even the children of other math professors. After seeing the emphasis of the class, and some of the interests of the other students, I'm kind of surprised that Jonathan wants to keep going. Being awesome in math competitions is fun and rewarding, I admit. But when the class is tailored to the interests of those who have more domineering personalities, and want to show their speed skills, and include students three years older, I am turned off myself.

Is it really possible to run extracurricular math events that don't devolve into tricky speedy problem-solving training grounds? For older children? Would anyone come?


While you think about that, here is another picture of spring.  A crooked one.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Reaching out

I've been doing outreach activities.

On Wednesday, I ran math games for the teenage young women in our church group.

Thursday, it was my turn to help out with after school math at Jonathan's school.

Friday, I agreed to be on a radio program talking about math and pi day.

And this morning, Saturday, I organized math activities for kids on campus.

Outreach is very important. We need to encourage kids to appreciate math, and to help the community realize math is fun and useful, and a skill that can be developed.

But four outreach activities in a row is a lot. I have used up my entire reservoir of enthusiasm. My smile muscles hurt. Ouch.

I'm going to write papers for a while instead. With adults.

And organize my house.

Next posts: how to organize an international move, parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, up to 70.

Monday, March 2, 2015


I promised an announcement, but haven't posted one, because life has been busy. Life is always busy. There are always other things I should be doing first. And maybe there will be a better time to make an announcement.

But meanwhile, while I'm not making an announcement, it's hard to post other random stuff, because why post something random when there is a big Announcement to post instead?

So without further ado....

We are moving to Australia.

I've taken a job at a large public university in Australia, starting in August.

Starting in August, stopping in September for a four month leave while the family will be in New Jersey, and then starting again in January 2016.


Because Australia is a very nice place to live.

Because the job looks like a lot of fun, and completely different. And I needed something fun and completely different.

Because Tim and Jonathan wanted to go to Australia, if we were going to move.

Because if you're going to have a midlife crisis, why not move to Australia?

Because Australia!

So now what?

Organizing, cleaning, selling stuff, moving stuff, visas, paperwork.