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Park City

Park City for a few days with Amy and Tweety. It was great fun shuffling cards with the teachers, getting into the problem and trying not to give to much away. One teacher, Kayty from New Yoark, had
figured out that if the card was in the n-th position, then it moved 2n -1 if it was in the top half, and 2n – 52 if it was in the bottom half. I couldn’t resist saying “so it’s almost as if we want to see 52 as 1”. c-TaP meetings less interesting but necessary. Tuesday afternoon is was raining ashes from a nearby wildfire, then real rain on Thursday leaving the sky crystal clear for the drive down to the airport Friday morning. I spent Wednesday July 4 catching up on METII, tasks for PARCC, Fractions video, while Amy and Tweety went to Three Divide Lakes. It felt good to catch up a little.  Had a lovely dinner at Talisker on Main with Amy, Tweety, and Ashli. We started outside, driven inside by the rain. Venison, morelle’s, a nice Rioja on sale because of a flaw on the label (George W Bush Presidential Library fund raiser).

Drive from Tucson to Park City

We left yesterday, stopped for lunch in Phoenix with Abby and Brendan, making it to Kanab, Utah last night. I had forgotten what a nice drive it is, rising through the rocky country on Route 17 north of Phoenix until Flagstaff, then through the reservation on Route 89. There is some landscape at the beginning of that portion that looks like the blasted pits before the gates of Morder, but soon the red mesa rises up, and you follow along west of that, wondering what is at the top of those high cliffs, with bolders the size of houses strewn down from them.  On previous trips we had stopped in Page, Arizona, but that’s a bit of a dump. Kanab was much nicer, set among glowing red cliffs, with a decent restaurant, the Rocking V. The hotel we stayed in was the Victorian House, a rather ghastly renovation but perfectly comfortable and with very nice people. There we discovered the Mormon corkscrew, courtesy of the hotel clerk (see my Facebook page). It consists of a screw, a screwdriver, and a hammer. You screw the screw into the cork and pull it out with the hammer. (He didn’t like it at all when I called it the Mormon corkscrew.) The next day we continued on 89 through a countryside of sculpted colored rock formations, green cottonwood valleys, and meandering streams. Crossing over to I-15 we saw the billowing clouds of a wildfire on a ridge west of the freeway. When we arrived, we had the pleasant surprise of being moved from the Carriage House to a 2-bedroom apartment in Park Station, at the bottom of Main Street and very nice.

Stay tuned …

I’m slowly importing old MobileMe blogs here, it will take a while for me to get all the posts up and all the photos restored. If you are looking for information on the Common Core, please go to http://commoncoretools.me.

Visit to Sera Plana, Switzerland

After Italy we drove across the Alps to visit Karen Galindo in Sera Plana, at the holiday house of her parents-in-law, Laurie and Rueddy. Here is Amy walking with Karen’s daughter Lily; Rueddy and Karen (carrying the new-born Violet) are visible in the background. Karen had warned us that Lily can be an awful walking companion once she has decided she doesn’t want to be there anymore, so Amy and I jollied her along for the entire walk, singing songs, playing games with the “ant highways” (gutters across the path). It brought back such memories of doing the same for our own kids.

Laurie and Rueddy were wonderful. Laurie has all sorts of food allergies which mean she can barely eat anything, and is very small and thin, but has a lovely smile in an apple-cheeked face. Rueddy was a traffic engineer and invented traffic light systems used in Portland, Oregon, among other places. He rode the boom in cars in the late 20th century to a healthy retirement, including the lovely holiday house we were staying in, which was modern but blended well with the old houses there. Every window has a view of spectacular alps. He helps the locals with their haymaking (which we watched on the walk, small trucks on alarmingly steep slopes).

I worked on my talk for the AMS-PMS meeting in Poland, and left the next day, on a spectacular train ride down to Zurich. Amy stayed on to enjoy Swiss national day on August 1, when they lit bonfires on the surrounding trees, like the scene in Return of the King.

Châtaigne flowers

Montagne Noire, France. I believe these are the male flowers of the chestnut tree. They litter the floor of the forest in the Montagne Noire, in the south of France, where we spent 5 days hiking. Wonderfully varied country, from alpine meadows, to forests of chestnut and beech, to mediterranean heath lower down. There are more nature photos from the trip here. The butterflies in particular were spectacular. It would be nice to identify some of them.

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Amy on top of the Pantheon

Later that afternoon we visited the Panthéon nearby. We saw Foucault’s pendulum and had an interesting discussion about why the plane of its swing rotates (and why it does not rotate 360° in a day, which at first surprised me). Saw the tombs of famous people below, where I learned that “live free or die” was coined by Diderot, and Nell remarked on a moving quotation from ?, one of the authors of the UN declaration on human rights, to the effect that nobody was free while there was one person not free in the world.

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Early morning in Atlanta

Took this photo from my hotel room in Atlanta the morning I gave my talk at the NCTM meeting. Not many people showed up because I was competing with Deborah Ball and Glenda Lappan, but there was the president of SIAM, who was about to give his talk on their new website, what is math good for.

Well, what happened in February? After the Banff meeting, on February 18, I went to the AAAS meeting in San Francisco, a session organized by Cathy Kessel about … what exactly? Some attempt to discuss the connection between higher mathematics and elementary mathematics. Tad Watanabe talked about Japanese treatment of fractions, so I followed suit with a discussion of division of fractions in various texts, and the mathematical pleasure and depth to be found in invert-and-multiply. Ours is not to reason why, just invert and multiply, goes the old saying, but ours is nothing but to reason why now that computation has been taken away from us.

On returning, on February 21 and 22, we had the Mathematician’s Corner planning meeting, where I foolishly agreed to write a grant proposal to further this activity. Had a very funny experience: the Instruction Colloquium had been Elon Kohlberg talking about Digiblocks, where I spent some time defending Investigations to him. The next day I was at the MC meeting defending the other way around. I don’t understand why two groups with such common interests—in mathematical understanding and student learning—can be so far apart. It’s like the old joke about two cultures separated by a common language.

Susan Jo Russell confirmed my sighting of Lazuli Buntings in the front driveway by saying she had seen a flock of blue birds while walking one morning in the Rillito. Abby was gearing up to leave around this time. In fact, the evening of March 1, the first night of the IME workshop on teacher preparation, we had a farewell dinner for her. She earned about $10,000 for this trip, on the higher side of what she and I had thought might be possible. On the flight over she sat next to a creep who tried to seduce her then followed her out of the airport, wanting to be her friend, but she gave him the slip.

March. Well, we had the first IME event, which went well enough, although there was too much time on presentations and not enough on interaction. But overall it was a success. Dan was there, oscillating between grumpy and engaged. He has gotten so particularly crusty bachelor in his old age, which could prove to be a real problem for the ATI. Another thing I don’t have time to think about right now. Mark, already condemned but not knowing it, hung around, not understanding his role.

March was also the time of the Arizona Winter School, much of which I could not attend because Roger Howe was visiting, also Deborah Schifter came to the Institute for those few days and Elon Kohlberg. Roger and I made progress on the MIME grant. At around this time I began to feel a threnody of regret at my slow but inexorable distancing from mathematics research. I hope I can come back to that. It was during this time also that I heard the memorable performance of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden by the Praczak String Quartet that I wrote to Pete about. The turn to tenderness at the beginning brought tears to my eyes, in much the same way as the opening pages of the Philip Roth novel I just read, Everyman, when the daughter Nancy pauses in vulnerable silence then turns to throw dirt on the coffin.

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Spring arrives

Suddenly the mesquites are putting out these green shoots. They were all quite bare from the frost. Saw a Cooper’s Hawk in the eucalyptus, and a probable Redtailed-Hawk in a tree in the wash. It must have been in transitional plumage; scalloped back, white through with red strip up the middle. In flight, notched tail, white patches on back of wing.

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Full-throated Cactus Wren

Suddenly everybody is up on wires, poles, and trees, singing away. The Pyrrhuloxias are at it too, in beautiful plumage with their elegant gray coats and red masks. The quail are up in the trees too, unusually, seeing if they can get in on the action. A quail perched on a branch has a slightly clueless, pompous air, as if he doesn’t now that topknots are decades out of style.

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Red-tailed Hawk taking off

He was sitting on a telephone pole on the way back. Nice details on the plumage.

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