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Sunday, June 25, 2017

MATRIX Mathematical Research Institute, Creswick, Australia

That's me on the left, the famous Colin Fox from New Zealand in the middle, and Tiangang Cui, originally from China, but now a professor at Monash University in Melbourne.
I write this post as I wait for the last leg of my flight home from Australia. I left Melbourne at 11am Sunday, about 24 hours ago, and it's now 6pm in Missoula, also on Sunday (I gained a day crossing the international date line). I haven't slept since I left, so I'm exhausted, but the trip has been great. 

The last two weeks were spent with research collaborators, who are also friends. We all stayed at the MATRIX conference center in Creswick, Victoria, ate great food, drank a lot of coffee, and immersed ourselves in mathematics for two straight weeks. At the end of it, I feel rejuvenated as a researcher, which I needed. It was even worth missing out on two weeks of Missoula summer, which is saying something.

Creswick is a neat little town about 20 minutes drive from the larger town of Ballarat in the province of Victoria. People who work in Ballarat, but want a small town life, live in Creswick, so despite being small, the town has a 'hipster feel' (as Colin put it), with good cafes, restaurants, and a farmer's market. It is also winter down under and so the leaves had fallen, the days were short (sunset at 5pm), and the temps were chilly, like mid-to-late October in Montana. And finally, MATRIX is on the edge of the forest, with roads and trails for hiking and running, so I was able to keep some semblance of fitness (I hope). 

Over the course of the two weeks, roughly 50 researchers came and went, with about half staying for the full two weeks. To me, the workshop felt like a mathematics retreat, and it has left me feeling professionally rejuvenated (as I already mentioned) even though I worked, more or less, from dawn to dusk each day. Conference attendees came from Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., Canada, China, Finland, England, and Italy (I think that covers it).

The workshop was organized by my collaborator Tiangang Cui (TC), who is a new professor at Monash Univeristy in Melbourne. TC hails from China, but did his Bachelors-through-PhD degrees at the University of Aukland, in New Zealand, and then spent four years as a post-doc at MIT in Boston. TC also showed me around Melbourne all day on Saturday. We toured most of the city, which is huge at over 4 million people. All in all, it was a fantastic two weeks, but I'm anxious to get home and soak up some Montana summer.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Mountain Biking: New Deer Creek Road to Miller Creek Link-up

Here's my route from Strava
On Friday, the day before leaving town for two weeks, I went out for a long, slow mountain bike ride. I had the vague notion of trying to ride to the top of Miller Peak from town, but I got a late start and ended up exploring around at the very end of Deer Creek Road instead. In my exploring, I came across a sequence of rock cairns and flagging that lead me on trail to an old logging road descent into Miller Creek. It was a piece of cake to follow the route: ride Deer Creek Road to its end at a Forest Service gate; go through the gate and keep your eyes open for a rock cairn on your right, about a mile after the gate; then follow the cairns and flagging to an old, but well-constructed logging road that switchbacks to the bottom of the Little Park Creek drainage. On the way out Miller Creek, I flatted and a couple of fellows gave me a ride into town. They were saying good-bye to their family home, which they were putting on the market as their parents had both recently passed away. Not surprisingly, they had a melancholy air about them.

I am reading the Jim Harrison book "The Road Home" for book club. It's a great book. Here are a couple of things that have struck me in my reading. These are from the first narrator, an old man:

  • The sense of proportion in good and bad experience loses its appeal. Bad is bad and you let it go. Good you cherish as it wizzes by.
  • We think of life as a solid and are haunted when time tells us it's a fluid.
Also, I've been putting together a music mix of stuff I've been listening to through spring. Here it is.