I was granted sabbatical leave for the academic year 2011-12. My colleague Eva-Maria Feichtner had invited me to visit her at the University of Bremen for an indeterminate amount of time, as a guest professor, so I decided to try to piece that together with other things in order to spend an extended length of time in Europe, to visit my other colleagues there and perhaps attend a few European conferences that I ordinarily wouldn't be able to. Dave Cornelison, formerly of the NAU Physics Department, had suggested a year earlier that I might apply for a Fulbright Scholarship. One day, while listening to some of my favorite Celtic music, I had a "brain wave" - I realized that there was a topologist in Dublin, Tom Brady, that I had met many years before, who works on similar kinds of things, and knows some geometric group theory and combinatorics that might be useful to me. I emailed him about "my wild idea" about two weeks before the deadline, and managed to get an application submitted. Meanwhile, I had also talked to my old friend Sergey Yuzvinsky, who has often visited the Max-Planck Institute for Mathematics (MPIM) in Bonn, about whether that might be a good place for me to spend some time. He recommended it heartily (well, in a taciturn kind of way, as you wouldimagine if you knew him). Expecting that the Fulbright application would be unsuccessful, I applied for two months' residence at MPIM. In fact, I made arrangements with my colleague Alex Suciu that we would both visit Bonn in Fall, 2011.
In the event, both of my applications were successful, and last year I lived in Dublin for four months, Bonn for two, and Bremen for six weeks. I travelled around Ireland a bit, and to Belfast, and visited Bonn and Bremen from Ireland, co-hosted an arrangements workshop in Bremen in May, attended an arrangements summer school in Pau, France, and visited Alex Dimca in Nice. Alex Suciu changed his plan, so I was by myself in Bonn for six weeks in the Fall, a very productive period, and then spent three weeks there with Alex and Graham Denham in May. My Fulbright application had included some verbiage about my musical interests, so I felt obliged to partake of the Dublin music scene, and I did. By the end of my stay I was playing in three weekly sessions, two Irish and one "American old-time stringband," two at the Cobblestone Pub in Smithfield, Dublin, and the other at Duffy's in Malahide. I also attended many concerts, some of my longtime heros: Andy Irvine, Kevin Burke, Altan, Planxty, and some that were new to me: Lisa Hannigan (my new favorite), Triur, Enda Reilly and Stephen James Smith, and many others. I made many musical and mathematical friends in Ireland, and cann't wait to have a chance to go back - it was very interesting and lots of fun.
Here is a listing of the major events, mathematical, musical, and otherwise, during the year. It's unfinished, but I figured I'd post what I've done so far, and continue editing as I have time.
|October 4-8||I visited Alex Suciu at Northeastern University in Boston, on my way to Bonn. I gave a talk in the GASC Seminar at NU.
|October 9 - November 19
||I lived in Bonn, in a studio apartment near the Kennedybrucke and Rhein Promenade, and worked at the Max-Planck Institute for Mathematics. I thought alot about blow-ups and spectral sequences ...
|November 19 - 23||I visited Dublin on my way home from Bonn. I met (again) Tom Brady and met with the Fulbright director Colleen Dube, and got a little bit of the inside scoop. Thought about where to live. Bought tickets for the Planxty reunion show, for me, Tom, and his wife Claire.
|November 24 - January 5||Home for the holidays ...|
|January 6 - April 29
||I lived in Dublin, Ireland, on Home Farm Road in Drumcondra (Dublin 9), near Croke Park.
|January 20||Planxty reunion show at Vicar Street. (Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny, Liam O'Flynn, and Paddy Glackin)|
|February 1 - 3||Fulbright orientation in Galway and Connemara.|
||Bought an inexpensive bouzouki to play in Irish sessions, from Brendan at O'Neill's Music Shop, upstairs from O'Neill's Pub, in Capel Street, on his last day of business. I figured I would sell it before leaving, but in fact, I didn't get any decent offers, so I left it with Tom. Now I'll just hve to go back to Dublin to get it.
|Later that same day
||I roped my Tom into picking me up at the Cobblestone, after the old-time session, and driving to Rathfarnham south of Dublin, to "Marley Grange," to see Kevin Burke in a solo fiddle concert. It was somewhat of a school gym setting, a fundraiser for a national traditional music school program. The place was packed, and we arrived ten minutes late, but they found seats for us. A great show. Saw a fellow there that I'd seen earlier in the day at O'Neill's - he said "so you're a boffin too." (Look it up.)
||Went to see a band called Triur ("Three") at the historic Abbey Theater. The band is comprised of master Clare fuddler Martin Hayes, fiddle, viola, and nickelharpa player Caoimhín O Raghallaigh (phonetically, Kwee-veen (Kevin) O Ra-ha-leh), and tunemeister Peader O Riada, whose father, Sean O Riada, revitalized Irish traditional music in the country in the 1950's, and was music director at the Abbey theater during part of that time. The trio plays Peader's original tunes, which are sublime - it was a magical show, recorded for posterity in a film about the band that premeired at the Dublin International Film Festival later in the spring.
||Aborted my planned trip to Malahide for the Irish session when I missed the dang bus - 25-minute walk with two instruments, turn around and walk home. When I got back I realized I'd locked myself out of half of my flat, the half with the kitchen and sitting room, with my laptop and briefcase inside. And the deadline for an article I'd promised to write (for NAU's International Office) was the next morning. So I went across the street and bought a spiral notebook, and wrote it out long-hand in my bedroom. Kinda quaint don't you think? Luckily my landlord Pat found the key for that silly door the next morning ...