A long-time friend, Veit Elser, comes to town to give a talk — but alas, our schedules are so badly out-of-phase that there's no way for us to get together until shortly before his flight home. Sunday morning I pick him up at the hotel and we drive to Alexandria for coffee and pancakes, at a shop recommended by a buddy who lives in that neighborhood. It's close to the airport and we have an hour to chat.

Veit is a professor at Cornell. He and Liz, like Paulette and me, have three kids. We talk about families, physics, and the pursuits that each of us have developed to help preserve our respective sanities. For me, currently it's ultrarunning; for Veit, extreme cycling and volunteer fire department work. We muse about some of the folks we've met thereby: Good People who live in dimensions orthogonal to the intellectual space that we usually inhabit.

I met Veit when he was an undergraduate at Caltech and I was a befuddled grad student attempting to "teach" my first tutorial/homework sections of a lecture course. We resonated then, and our wavefunctions have remained correlated over the decades even though we've rarely been in contact. Veit tells me that he mentioned my name to mutual acquaintance Bill Press who told him about some of my early free-text information retrieval experiments. I'm flattered.

At the airport, as he gets his suitcases out of the trunk of my car, Veit gives me one of the greatest gifts I can imagine: he shows me a Rubik's Cube that he's got in his carry-on bag and tells me that, about 27 years ago when they first came out, I mailed him one. The instructions were in Hungarian and no how-to books had yet appeared — so Veit had to solve it as I did, on his own. Besides entertainment, it got him thinking about a variety of interesting research topics.

Veit thanks me. I don't even remember sending him the Cube. Funny how sometimes the most important things are the tiniest ones ...

(cf. RubikCubism1 (16 Mar 2001), RubikCubism2 (29 March 2001), RubikCubism3 (6 Jul 2001), IndexerBrowserFlashback (30 Apr 2006), ...)

TopicPersonalHistory - TopicProfiles - 2007-11-20

(correlates: EquationsAndReality, OutOfSync, ClingingToBeliefInArt, ...)