This semester I’m chairing a Fields Institute thematic program in harmonic analysis. I arrived in Toronto last Thursday and will be here for most of the next few months.

It’s good to be here.

Mathematicians are social animals. Never mind that much of our actual work consists of solitary thinking; mathematical research is, among other things, a dialogue between its practitioners. Reading papers is important, and so are long-distance collaborations, yet nothing has quite replaced actual personal contact. Most likely, nothing ever will. There’s no better way to find out what’s going on, start a collaboration, learn something new. Conferences are great for that. Programs are even better. People come for longer visits and the schedule is not as packed, so there is time to actually do some research, as opposed to just talking about it.

Apart from all the good-for-your-career considerations, it just feels right to be someplace where people share similar research interests and care about the same things. Where your work is valued. Where you don’t really have to explain why you work on something or other, because the interest is mutual. After several years of isolation at UBC, I really needed a boost!

Now, if it only were a little bit warmer here. I must be getting old, because it’s taking me forever to adjust to the colder climate and my sleeping hours are still out of whack.

Toronto looks kind of pretty, though, covered in snow on a beautiful sunny day. I live downtown close to Yonge Street, one of the main streets here. This part of Yonge is lined with 2 and 3-storey townhouses, little boutiques and restaurants on street level, living quarters (I think?) upstairs. Yet, if you look above them, there are massive high-rises in the background in every direction. It’s lovely that this little enclave here has survived in the middle of all this development. Wonder how long it will last.

That’s all for today. I’ll write a more coherent post once I’m back to sleeping normally and operating close enough to 100%.


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