Monthly Archives: August 2013

Warsaw Days 5 and 6: Now, where were we?

So —

Back two days. After my successful plenary lecture (“Linear, Barotropic Equations: Existence, Uniqueness, and Properties of the Solution”), we celebrated by spending the evening exploring Łazienki Park , which is beautiful beyond description (but here goes): 188 acres, lakes, castles, peacocks, classical sculpture gardens. Golden-green, lush, cool, quiet. Lamplighters. I loved the lamplighters:

Lamplighter in Łazienki Park, August 2013

The park is still lit by gas lamps, which give off a completely different kind of light. Tiny step into the past, as you walk in the evening glow. Modern lamps are brighter, certainly, but also much harsher.

When our eyes couldn’t take in any more beauty, we headed to the top of a high promontory, where we had exquisite food at Qchnia Artystyczna , accompanied by the inevitable (and very good) 0.5 L of Tyskie , and all of Warsaw below us, twinkling in the dark.

Warsaw by Night

Note to readers: if in Poland, at a restaurant, and there’s something on the menu that has mushrooms — EAT IT. Poles are insane about mushrooms, and they’re not those horrid button things that we have to endure in the States. They’re what we would call artisanal. Carefully grown, sometimes foraged, so many varieties I have lost count. Heaven.

Oh, for my Math brothers and sisters, this was Wednesday’s lineup:

Wednesday, 14 August
9:30 – 10:20 A. Ioffe
Metric regularity in variational analysis
10:20 – 10:40 Coffee break
10:40 – 11:30 R. Guenther and C. C. Buchanan (That’s Me! My Math Author Name)
Linear Barotropic equations. Properties of the solutions
11:30 – 15:00 Lunch break
15:00 – 15:40 M. Frigon
On a notion of category depending on a functional
15:40 – 16:00 Coffee break
16:00 – 16:40 J. Pejsachowicz
Topology and bifurcation
16:40 – 17:00 Break
17:00 – 17:40 M. Koenig
S. Bernstein’s idea for bounding the gradient of solutions to the quasilinear Dirichlet’s problem

Well, as usual, it’s very late and I have an early morning tea with a new project director / co-researcher, a very respected, brilliant fellow in his field. That’s on top of my current writeup for publication, my book, looking for a new home for the PhD, and life in general. Got to sleep. More tomorrow.


Warsaw Days 3 and 4: The Tragic History of Countess Felicja, and a Walk in Łazienki Park

The last 48 hours have been so jam-packed that I’m going to have to write this tomorrow, the Feast of the Assumption, when we get a day off.
Just to whet your appetite, here’s a shot of one of the  Łazienki Park peacocks:

More tomorrow. Lots more. I’ve got to sleep.

Warsaw Day 2: Getting to Know You … and Topology

There are four kinds of mathematicians in the world:

  1. Those who climb mountains;
  2. Those who play chess;
  3. Those who listen to music;
  4. and everyone else.

— Dr. X, Conference organizer.

He took me aside and said this to me at the coffee break. I was gulping milky sweet tea, and dunking cookies to spare my braces (yes, I have braces). “So,” he asked with a twinkle, “which one are you?” A chess player, I said.  “Then you are a Russian at heart. All the best Russian mathematicians play chess.”


I had more tea with the Russians. They didn’t know what to make of a youngish female mathematician. They said I should come to Russia and study.  They said Russian was difficult, but well worth the effort since so many beautiful theorems had been originally written in Russian.

Ah, the Russians:


 ikolmog001p1 markov




On the conference side of things, much topology today:

  • S. Bauer – On refined Seiberg – Witten invariants (and the “Jungle” of 4-Manifolds);
  • T. Popelensky – Polytopes and K-theory:  Generalization of Volodin K-Theory for Col-divisible polytopes. Volodin turns out to be isomorphic to Quillen.
  • M.Starostka – Infinite dimensional cohomology theory and the Conley index, and important results for the Floer boundary operator.
  • N. Waterstraat – A family index theorem for periodic Hamiltonian
    systems and bifurcation; index bundles for self-adjoint Fredholm operators; bifurcation of periodic orbits.

Somewhere in there I had lunch with a French mathematician from Nice, and an Israeli: back at U Szwejka , since it was close and we were ravenous. They were serving the Monday special: wiener schnitzel the size of a human torso. The Frenchman told me that wiener schnitzel that large was referred to (accurately if inelegantly) as “Schnitzel die Größe eines wc-sitz!” — Schnitzel the size of a toilet seat! — yes, they really say that in Vienna. Knock one of these babies down with a liter of Warka, and you’re in Happyland:


Dinner found me knocking back half-liters of Warka at Piwiarnia Warka with three Germans, who spent quite some time educating me about what a superterrific guy Bismarck was. He sounds like a shrewd politician, at the very least. I’ll check out his biography when I get back to the island.

We also talked about normal, quiet things: picking mushrooms and berries in the summer, how awful Oktoberfest has become, what the kids and grandkids are up to these days (horse-farm, classical pianist, mathematician). The Germans are Hiking Mathematicians, class 1 from above.  I’m very Colin Farrell about heights: “The view of what? The view of down here? I can see that from down here.”

Well, I am, as usual, full of good food, good beer, and engrossing conversation. Off to bed — another full day ahead.

Sunday August 11: Sleeping, Eating, saying “Thanks”

Firstly — fly British Airways if at all possible. Three connections, 17 hours of travel, and I felt as safe as if I was in my bed at home. The longest flight, the jump from LAX to Heathrow, was on a 747-400. I love those planes. They’re huge, safe as houses, and can do everything but file your taxes for you.

So, no-one met me at Frederick Chopin Airport due to a bureaucratic glitch, but being a Big Girl, I hailed a certified cab and soon found myself at the Banach Center, obraz ul. Śniadeckich 8, 00-956 Warszawa, for those of you curious enough to google map it. After a heated discussion between my cabbie (scant English) and housekeeping (no English) I found myself in room 515-B, which was clean and pleasant, 15-foot ceilings with damask and embroidered silk curtains, a HUGE bath all to myself, quiet as a tomb, nice view of the courtyard — and 80° F at least. So, open up the lovely Euro windows (the kind that pull down from the top), put the fan on the floor on ‘slow sweep’ — and — I kid you not — sleep for about 19 hours. Hey, it worked. I’m on Poland time now.

Sunday: up at 4 pm, Warsaw time. I print out some basic Polish things on (“I’m starving — where is a restaurant?” Where can I buy some tea?” Why is my room so damn hot?”) and go down to the front desk. Most of the answers — as best I can make out — are “Ask the desk staff tomorrow,” but — thank heavens, I am pointed towards a restaurant well worth the flight, just 2 blocks from BC:   U Szweǰka, where they kill you with delicious Polish and Czech food, free refills on wine and beer and delicious kirsch for afters. $20 USD for this:

U Szwejka

that’s bacon and sausage spread in the left ramekin (heck yes, I ate it and it was incredible) and a creamy-cheesy-dill concoction in the right (thank heavens for long-lasting lactaid)  — but this doesn’t show the second glass of wine, the heavenly apple pie with vanilla ice, or the kirsch. I rolled out of there, and wandered around the city in the twilight.

I found a great little grocer’s about a block away, and took pics of a nearby Catholic church, and what I think was some post-Soviet archway sculpture:

Catholic Church WarsawLeftoverSovietStatue2

We’re definitely in a tony section of town: little parks everywhere, big public squares lined with high-end shops. Scrupulously clean yellow-and-red electric trams and buses every 10 minutes or so — even at 8 at night. The weather was perfect: cool and pleasant, a few clouds, a beautiful sunset

Oh, how to say thank-you?  It’s “dziękuję” pronounced “Cheen-qoo-yee,” as best as I can tell.
Well, the math starts tomorrow at 9 am. Dobranoc (Goodnight)!

Just Go With It

As I head towards Warsaw, a country nine time zones from home, where not only am I giving the biggest presentation of my life, but also where it’s likely I’ll be the only woman (and a youngish one at that) — I am reminded of the parable of the goy’s teeth — from the Cohen Brother’s movie ‘A Serious Man.’



Sometimes you just have to go with it.