Arrangements in the East Bay, and other stories

I was granted sabbatical leave for the Fall semester of 2004. I spent the semester living in Berkeley, California, and working at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute. I played a major role in a program at the institute called Hyperplane Arrangements and Applications, which included three week-long workshops, several weekly seminars, and lots of mathematical discussions. I learned a lot of new mathematics, and I came home with four different collaborative projects underway, and many more ideas to pursue over the coming years.

I also used my time in the Bay Area to pursue my another passion, traditional music. I took mandolin lessons from the amazing Czechoslovakian mandolin player (and outstanding teacher) Radim Zenkl. I also took a lesson from a local bluegrass picker, Tom Kingsley. I played in a few Irish seisuns at the venerable Plough and Stars in San Francisco, and took a DADGAD guitar lesson from Rich Mandel, who teaches regularly at the Lark In The Morning camp. I went to weekly jam sessions/classes hosted by friends of a Flagstaff friend Avram Siegel and Allison Fisher (of the Kathy Kallick Band and True Blue), where I worked on lead and harmony singing, besides just picking. I went to one of the bay area picking potlucks. I did some mandolin jamming with internet friends Larry Berger (who's also a friend of a Flagstaff friend) and Arthur Stern. And I went to many outstanding concerts (see below), mostly at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley.

Because I had a child in high school, and one starting college, I moved to Berkeley solo. It was a long time to be apart from the wife and family, and that was difficult, but we survived, and it seems like it might have been a healthy thing to do. (Old married folks need sabbaticals too!) We're sure glad that part is over.

On the other hand, my brother Don, who's a year-and-a-half younger than me, lives in Berkeley (as he has for 25 years), and I was able to spend a lot of time with him. Don does non-profit housing development for the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Commission in San Francisco. He is who connected me with Rich Mandel, who is one of TNDC's tax consultants. (Real musicians have day jobs!)

To give a better idea of what the time was like, I put together a hyper-linked time line.