Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Each fall and spring semester, the algebraists and topologists at my university hold a bi-weekly seminar.  I believe the primary purpose of it is that each semester, the male professors can excuse getting out of the house/office for Aftermath.  We meet at Wings, order large beers and food, and spend about two hours complaining about students, the department, the university, life, etc.

Aftermath has become the best way to get to know and hear all sorts of interesting things.  It was at an Aftermath that Dr. E shared his story of burning his feet while playing golf .  I also learned that a fellow grad student met and got drunk with Harper Lee.

Two falls ago, the department paid for the grad students' food, and Dr. E picked up our bar tab.  According to Dr. D, the department had money it had to spend on students.  Other than four dinners, the department bought 25,000 pencils and lots of candy to give away to undergrads during finals week. 

Jack:  It's nice the math department wants to buy dinner for a bunch of poor grad students.

Dr. D:  I think the purpose is so that we can get to know the students, and they can get to know us, outside the confines of the classroom. 

Me:  Right.  We get to talk to you like real people instead of authority figures.

Dr. E: (snorting and nearly choking on his beer) Authority figures?  You're really funny, you know?

The restaurant changed it's menu a bit, and so we all spent more time than usual flipping through, deciphering the puns used to name the categories of dishes and courses (e.g. Diving Catch, Fowl Plays, etc.), and trying to decide what to eat.  Dr. E was sitting next to me and informed me that he has a terrible habit of ordering the messiest thing on the menu.  I told him if he was nice, his dinner might come with a post-consumption scrub-down in the parking lot.  True to form, he ordered a roast beef Po boy, dripping with gravy.  If he hadn't asked them not to, they would've put gravy on the fries.  Gravy...did I mention how much I love brown gravy?  Almost as much as cheese. 

After stuffing ourselves and each drinking down 25 ounce frosty mugs of Yuengling, we spent quite a bit of time discussing the horrid state of pop culture.  Meanwhile, the restaurant pumped Christmas music over the speakers just loud enough to make us almost yell at each other.

Michael: What is that? (We fall silent and listen.)  I think that's what my wife walked down the aisle to.

Me: It isn't the "Wedding March."  I think my bridesmaids in my first wedding walked in to it.  Maybe "Joy?"

L: "Ode to Joy" ? (Check it out, Muppets)

Me: (I nod but then listen more carefully.) No.

Dr. E: No, that's Beethoven.  This (he lifts a finger) is something worse.

Me: Oh, I think it's Pachelbel's "Canon in D"!

Dr. E: You're exactly right.  (He bobs his head at me)  Except it's slower, with more embellishments and (he pauses) yes, singing.

Me: A while back, I was doing a bit of research, trying to find a particular piece of classical music (I was looking for "Moonlight Sonata" by Beethoven), and I stumbled upon a website of the top 100 most recognizable classics.  I was amazed how many I knew from watching Looney Tunes.  This current generation doesn't have anything like that.

Dr. D: No, they have Lady Gaga.

Dr. C: and Justin Bieber.

L: The first time we heard "Poker Face" was on South Park, and we thought it was a fake song made up for South Park.

Me: Justin Bieber has written a memoir.

Dr. C: He's only 16.

Me: I've heard it's mostly pictures.

Dr. C: What?  "Here I am in this concert" type stuff?

Me: I think so.

Dr. C:  Did Disney create him?

Me:  I think so.  I'm pretty sure he's a Disney robot. (Note: I stole this idea from The Onion; link to follow)

Dr. C: Isn't that Miley Cyrus one too?

Me: Yes, I'm certain she's a Disney robot.

Dr. D: She had that really famous father.

Me: She's far more famous than he ever was.

Dr. C: He was big until he cut off his mullet.

L: Yes, all his power was in the mullet.

Dr. T:  Well, I think you're all Looney Tunes.

Don't lie.  You all thought mathematicians were stiff, serious folk with no sense of humor.  Okay, I admit, we are generally weird, but if you give us beer, we loosen up enough to have fun. 

Today, we were all back to squeezing in those last few bits before finals next week.  We'll take our break.  Then, when the spring semester gets cranked, we'll resume the seminar and all look forward to the last week of April when we'll get together for Aftermath.

Oh, and The Onion:

Disney Lab Unveils Its Latest Line Of Genetically Engineered Child Stars

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