The fellow across the aisle is a stranger to me, but I know we share a destination. He’s scanning the index of the meeting program, presumably looking for friends or colleagues delivering a paper. When I unfold myself from seat 22D and stroll toward the back of the plane, I spot a few more of us. Someone is working on foils in LaTeX. Someone else is doodling on squared paper, making lots of little stairstep diagrams—they could be Young tableaux or they could be some kind of self-avoiding walks. The group of three college kids playing cards in row 32 might be on their way to a football game, but when I overhear a snippet of conversation that includes the phrase “convex hull,” I conclude they are not just Chargers fans.
It’s time again for the Joint Mathematics Meeting, held this year in sunny San Diego—which is actually quite soggy at the moment. (In front of my hotel this morning I found a manhole cover that had floated free of its foundation sometime during last night’s downpour.)
We’ll muddle through (and try not to fall in). Sometime over the next few days, maybe I’ll even learn what all those little stairstep diagrams were all about.