Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Stockholm II.

289. Catching up at conferences, academics, and stereotypes. 
"Oh yes, of course I know he's getting married. Did you know he's getting married to his PhD student? No? Well, he is. So I've known him for nine years now, and throughout the years, he's had many relationship problems. I told him from the beginning, K., look, why are you worried? You are going to marry your PhD student, OK? He said, no, no, no way I am going to marry a colleague, no way I am going to marry a PhD student. And now what? He's marrying his PhD student. It can't get more classic. She's from his home city, she's much younger..."

290. Seminar room. Front row, directly in front of the screen. Claire and I do not work in financial mathematics, but we have been sitting in this portfolio session to listen to Anna's talk. Hers has just finished, and now the last speaker is talking about ruin probability, certainly not a cheerful topic, but something about the mannerism of the speaker makes the whole thing entertaining. "Soooo!" he exclaims, swaggers over the blackboard and begins, with a flourish of the fingers, to draw a graph. As chalk lines start appearing, he explains enthusiastically their meanings. Listening to him, I am reminded of some character that I cannot quite recognize, and it is not until almost the end of the talk that I realize who it is. If you have watched Friends, you might remember a very, very short-term boyfriend of Phoebe, played by Alec Baldwin, who had a zest for life: What a beautiful place! What a great night! As Phoebe put it, he's like Santa Claus, on Prozac! At Disneyland! Getting laid! When she broke up with him, Baldwin's character's last line was, "Isn't this the most incredible fight you've ever had in your entire life?"

As I am listening to the real-life version of Phoebe's easily excitable ex-boyfriend explaining the mathematics behind financial disasters, Claire whispers to me, "Do you think he is a hmxwewxs?" "A what?" I whisper back. "HMXWEWXS," Claire speaks a little louder. I give up and pass the notepad to her. A few seconds later, the notepad comes back. "Homosexual? Gay?" The thought had not crossed my mind before, but now that she asked, I spend the remaining of the talk listening to the real-life version of Phoebe's easily excitable gay ex-boyfriend explaining the mathematics behind financial disasters. When he finishes, the speaker points out to us that his co-author is a Master student. "A Master student! That's a great thing! Clap your hands for him if you will!" a pause, then, "well, I do anyway!!" and he starts clapping delicately. "Yes," I write back to Claire.

291. Evening. Strolling through Stockholm city centre and feeling as if I were in a lazy, pretty dream.

(Picture taken by Anna)

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