Thursday, September 14, 2023

First two weeks of classes and a trip to Cambridge!

Time is flying here in London. I'm trying to catch up with blogs so I can be a bit more current!

Last time I wrote was just before classes started and we've now completed two weeks of classes and there have been many other adventures in food, theater/shows, and field trips. A summary of all the things below!


Cryptography: On day 1 we had fun with Scytale ciphers and Polybius ciphers and learned all sorts of terminology to help us throughout the semester. A group of.4 students did show up 30-ish minutes late because they took a train to a different IES somewhere on a completely other side of London. :) Lesson learned! Day 2 was a fun adventure in hieroglyphs which I taught myself enough of to teach class. We then took a walk over to the British Museum where students go to try out their new knowledge and try to translate some of the artifacts found in the Egypt wing. They also got to see the Rosetta stone live in person. 

First day of school
Cool sculpture on my walk to work

Week 2 was an intro to modular arithmetic (always fun!) and some Casear cipher wheel fun. They had fun decoding Southwestern themed MASCs...some were easier than others. 

Women Count!: New class. So much to prep and learn!! We only meet once a week, so lots to do each class. Class 1 was at the Science Museum. They spent some time exploring the Winton Mathematics Gallery. Then we met in the little picnic area and chatted about what they saw/representations of women in the space. We discussed the intro of Inventing the Mathematician by Sara Hotter and talked through the syllabus/alternative grading system.  Week 2 was all about Eugenia Cheng and category theory. Her two books (How to Bake Pi and The Joy of Abstraction) are fabulous references! They watched a YouTube video of Eugenia talking about gender and read an excerpt from How to Bake Pi. In class, we ate mini Battenberg cakes and had all sorts of great discussion! On Saturday, we went to the Open House architecture tour of Roca London Gallery designed by Zaha Hadid (a mathematician/architect). We talked all about her in class this week (see next week's blog). The tour was fascinating and the space is so cool!

Some of the students that joined the Roca London Gallery tour

I also met with my two upper-level maths students on Wednesday at a coffee shop near IES. We did some proofs related to divisibility and modular arithmetic and also dove deeper into category theory by reading Tai-Danae Bradley's blogs about category theory. By the end of class we were drawing all sorts of great diagrams!

Theater and Shows

So much theater since last time I wrote and I am loving it!!

The Tuesday of the first day of classes (when I teach 9:30-11 and 2-5) we went out the the Barbican (super cool Brutalist architecture) for a production of A Strange Loop. This is a musical about a gay, Black man writing a musical that won the 2022 Tony for Best Musical and a 2020 Pulitzer Prize. I thought it was okay, but I was exhausted from my teaching day so was a bit too sleepy to fully enjoy it. But, still glad we went!

Then on Thursday of that week was our first play with the students, The Crucible at the Gielgud Theater. They have a cool rain effect that acts as the curtain for the shows. So fun. The show was SUPER intense and 3 hours long, but the acting was fantastic, the stage was super cool, and I definitely enjoyed it. 

On Friday, as part of the Greenwich+Docklands Festival, Resurgam dance group did a cool 30ish minute dance on the front of St. Paul's Cathedral. Like from the dome down to the ground. They were dressed in colorful clothing and dancing from wires. I thought it was super cool!!! Michael and Val thought some of the movements were a bit too small for being so far away, but still a super fun way to spend a Friday night (for free!). 

Last week, on Wednesday, Michael and I went to The Choir of Men a musical about pub culture featuring all sorts of pop songs. You can even go on stage before the show and order drinks from the pub. We had front row seats and had A BLAST! I highly recommend it for anyone coming to London. Michael said it best: "I've never left the theater feeling so much joy." Love, love, love!

On Thursday, it was theater with the students again. This time, Accidental Death of an Anarchist. So well done. The lead actor was incredible. It was a modern version of a play written in 1970 about police brutality. Timely, made you think, but also so very funny. And again, an amazing stage. 

Saturday night was a fun surprise from Michael: tickets to see Nick Mohammed do stand-up. Jeremy and Val joined us too. Nick plays Nate on Ted Lasso. And I'm a big fan. AND now an even bigger fan! He did maths in his show!! Cool magic square stuff! The show was so fun and we had a blast both before, during, and after the show. Before the show we had drinks at Mr. Fogg's Tavern (loud, atmospheric, tasty drinks) and then Tequila Mockingbird (2 for 1 drinks in the AIR CONDITIONING!). After the show we did Dishoom which is always delicious. A really fun evening!

Field trips

Other than the Roca Gallery trip with my Women Count! students, we've done two other field trips in the last 2 weeks. Last Monday we did an afternoon trip to Buckingham Palace. I'd been before, so it wasn't the most exciting thing ever, but the palace is impressive as is the art collection. It was a bit crowded and hot, but I think the students enjoyed it. We missed out on a picture before the tour and no pics inside, so that is a bummer. 

Pelicans at St. James's Park after Buckingham

Buckingham gardens

And last Saturday was our day trip to Cambridge. It was SO fun! A fantastic walking tour by Johnny that included multiple references to important women in science and a stop at the Alan Turing plaque. A chance to go inside Kings College chapel (beautiful). Then, free time where we checked out 3 different pubs and attempted to go to an art museum that required a booking. Boo! Then, punting on the river. It was a beautiful day and the students really seemed to enjoy it. SO FUN! I have now decided...Cambridge is better than Oxford. Sorry, Oxford friends. The architecture is better at Oxford, but the quiet, slower pace of Cambridge is so fantastic. 

The students got so excited about the cows!

Other adventures

Our London crew (Val, Michael and I) have started going to pub quizzes! We've been to the Windmill twice (on Sunday nights) and Vaulty Towers (once on a Monday). The Windmill is definitely more our speed, but we struggle with all the UK current events/pop culture. Haha. We're learning though and getting better. We did MUCH better this past week than the first week. Thanks to Michael for his amazing ability to recognize tv/movie music! Vaulty Towers is definitely for a younger crowd. At some point Michael had to do a lunge on the bar. Chaos. But, the food (dumplings) were really good and it's super quirky in there with treehouses, caves, and hobbit holes as places to sit.

Michael and I tried out a local evening running group on a Tuesday. Well, Michael did the run and I joined for the post-run drinks after a work meeting. It was fun, but soon after Michael hurt his hip so we haven't been back. But, maybe later in the semester. Since his running injury, we've been doing lots of walks and sometimes I run. Regent's Park. Along the river. To/from other destinations. So much great walking in the city. I've also joined the local gym (Colombo Centre) a few days a week. It's a 5 minute walk and it's never busy. Perfect!

We've checked out a few breweries: Kernel and London Beer Lab. Both great. Michael has checked out even more than that. 

Food wise we had some yummy tapas at a place in Brixton (Gremio de Brixton) when we were trying to escape the heat. I also had a nice lunch one day from a cheap eats place (Kati Roll Company) near Oxford Street. Mostly been eating grocery store finds at home. Need to get out more and eat yummy things!

We've been eating yummy treats at our weekly staff meetings. Week 1 was Buns from Home. Tasty cinnamon roll like buns of various flavors. Delicious. And week 2 was Kontidor brownies from the bakery around the corner (well, I picked them up at a location near work, but we have one nearby too). 

I've had two different tea experiences I'll chat about in the tea blog. And purchased a few more bags of loose leaf tea since the last tea blog. 

That should be enough of an update for now. SO MUCH! I'm hoping this catches me up and I'll post a bit more regularly in the future.