View of Maastricht along the Maas River

Writing from June 19 - 24, 2008 in a few e-mail messages to family and friends

After hectic days of travel Wednesday and Thursday, Friday was a good day to really start things off. Dan came with me to the opening session of the International Mathematica Symposium and enjoyed the first keynote talk. It was about the general guiding principles of Mathematica and Dan understood about as much as I did. Then he stayed for the next series of talks because they sounded interesting, but for him (and somewhat for me) they quickly deteriorated into highly technical gibberish.

Balloons on the streets of Maastricht   After lunch together we split. He went to work balloons in the town square and I stayed for another talk. Eventually I joined Dan in town. He worked while I wandered and then we wandered together while he was wearing a crazy balloon hat, stopping to make balloons for kids/parents who wanted them. It was interesting trying to communicate with those families that did not speak English. Most people spoke enough for us to get the idea across. Also, there were many who were visiting Maastricht from local Germany, Belgium, and France.

Maastricht is a nice city. A very interesting mix of old and new. There are parts of old castles around the city and then all of these tall, old buildings crammed along the streets, curving with the shape of the roads. Yet inside the buildings are modern universities and all sorts of shops. There are tons of clothing stores! Also, there are cafes everywhere. Although, we have learned that nothing opens early for breakfast, so it is good that our hotel (more of a bed and breakfast) offers free breakfast...just not quite early enough on the weekend to make it to the 8:45 start of conference talks.

Vrijthof (Large Main Square)   Typical street in Maastricht

Yesterday (Saturday) was fun. Sessions ended at noon and we went on a river tour and a tour of the large man-made caves developed for excavating stone for cement. The caves were dark and cold and since the tour was entirely in Dutch, we didn't get much out of it. There were a few paintings on the inside walls and an altar in one section, but we do not know how old any of it is.

Caves - Most of our tour looked like this.  Cave Painting of Mary and Jesus  Altar in Caves

City view from river boat

Saturday night was a HUGE soccer game for Holland. The "Euro Cup" is going on and this was some advanced round of the tournament. Orange is the color of the day and nearly every storefront has whatever orange it sells in the window. Dan saw this in Amsterdam and separated all of his orange balloons out to save them for the event. The energy was quite high, but things didn't really get rolling until about 9:00 PM when the game actually started. I had fun accompanying him and he enjoyed the spirit of the evening. At one point he made hats and flower bracelets for a huge group of guys and young women. That was fun. Unfortunately, Holland lost the game and is out of the tournament.   Go Holland!

Public Art in Main Square

Teaching and Learning with Mathematica
My conference presentation was this morning (Sunday) and it went very, very well. People have been approaching me all day to compliment me on what I am doing and just how good my presentation was :-). One gentleman from Oslo, Norway told me at lunch that my talk was "worth the whole trip"!
Primary Conference Room

Dinner in the Caves

Today there are sessions all day and then Dan and I are going to the conference dinner which should be particularly nice...a five course meal in a restaurant situated inside some local caves.

After Monday's conference sessions we attempted some balloons while strolling through a self-guided walking tour with a brochure. We had some success with both. It was funny because we had passed many of the buildings a hundred times and only now at the end of the trip were learning about them.

Today (Tuesday) was similar to Monday. The conference wrapped up nicely and they showed us lots of cool new features that will be in Mathematica 7!...although, who knows when that will be available? Tonight we have been getting ready to shift gears and head off to Rome in the morning.

View of Maastricht

That's about it for now. We are expecting very busy days for the next week, so the mindlessness of wandering the city and making balloons has been nice.

Continue to Getting to Italy


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July 2008