Sunday, August 22, 2010

A week in Warsaw

The first night in Warsaw, I met up with some friends, Galin and James, and headed out to Old Town.  Warsaw's Old Town is in fact quite new:  almost every building was destroyed in WWII, and meticulously recreated in every detail.  The result is like nothing else:  a modern medieval city with incredible artwork and detail adorning stonework that is mere decades old.

The Royal Palace managed to save some of their most impressive art, including four of the thrones used by kings of Poland.  The audiotour is great:  it includes headphones (no holding up a weighty device to your ear), and each room has a main number, with extra numbers reserved for specific items of interest.

The next day (before the conference), we headed out to the center of town and the Warsaw Uprising Museum.  This contains artifacts from the desparate days near the end of WWII.  The Red Army was
encamped outside the city, and with the hope of reclaiming the city the local resistance tried to expel the Nazi forces.  But Stalin had other ideas, and his army sat while the German first retook the city block by block and building by building, and then waited further as Hitler systematically destroyed all the important buildings in retaliation.  The Uprising Museum tells this story through artefacts, letters, photos, and even film taken by the Poles.  An immersive, moving museum.

From there we headed westward to the National Museum.  This containsone of the largest collection of medieval religious wood carvings that I have seen with intricate detail very well preserved.  And the paintings by the Polish also reveals a deep artistic tradition.

On Wednesday, the conference organized an excursion:  A guided tour through the Old Town followed by dinner in another gallery.  The dinner was great, and was accompanied by a concert by a trio of women on piano, clarinet, and flute.

Friday was the last day of the conference, and again the afternoon became a sightseeing opportunity.  The Palace of Culture and Science (Stalin's "gift" to the Polish people) looms massively in the center of town, and the terrace offers great views of the city.

One corner of the Palace houses the Museum of Technology, a history spanning from the paleolithic to modern times.  Automotive, radio, electronic, and typewriter fans will find much to love in their exhibits, and the basic science experiments are quite cool.

Finally, we swung through Old Town for some picture taking.  What a lovely place!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

New York, New York

It's hard for me to believe that last weekend was only my second time in New York City-what a fun place! Of course, much of the fun came from getting to see a friend from the Duke days (only two years ago but feels like forever sometimes), Bianca who is now at The City College of New York and now is living in Manhattan.

We saw Avenue Q after hitting the half price ticket place in Times Square, it's really a wonderful show. The next day we headed over to the American Museum of Natural History in Central Park. Awesome place! Went to a planetarium show, haven't done that in years.  Here's a picture of us enjoying the foyer.

After New York I flew over to the University of Warwick to spend a week talking with Gareth Roberts and his group--including another friend from Duke, Natesh, who will be starting at Harvard in the fall. Go Natesh!

Finally yesterday I landed in Warsaw, Poland, where I'll be giving a talk at the MCQMC conference.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The months, they are a changin'

I get it when you are a kid: Summer's supposed to fly by then. So why does it seem that as I get older every summer seems to go by faster?

Last week my REU'ers (Research Experience for Undergraduates) gave their final presentations, turned in their papers, pulled up stakes and drove/flew off into the...well sunrise since most are from parts east of ol' California.

That's eight weeks that just went by at lightening speed. The six in my group (Elise, Scott, Jason, Jacky, Dan, and Annie) broke into two projects. They turned out great presentations (yay Beamer!) and...okay papers (I'm sure with more time they would have been fabulous.) Now comes the hard part--keeping the momentum built up during the research to get those papers polished and into journals and published. Go team!