November 21st, 2003

classic cylon

math team

I've been meaning to write about this for a while, but haven't had time until now. I have been thinking about this for some time, but even more so after discovering via cellio, nsingman, who is the older brother of a guy I went to high school with.

nsingman was on Stuyvesant's math team. Several other people who I knew from some of my classes were on it also. These folks were good. I mean, really good. The type of good that eats math problems for breakfast. (I mean, literally, during zero period, aka 8am, they were solving math problems.) These folks were of the math-Olympiad-winning caliber; the type that goes on to make substantial contributions in the fields they pursue.

Over the years, I've run into several of them at times. For example, while walking through East Campus (at MIT) one day, I passed Fred Helenius' room. I didn't know him that well at Stuy, but I knew who he was. (His SO was in the chorus. I had a bit of a crush on her. She used to flirt with me.) Anyway, I hadn't run into him in person at the 'tute until then, but I had encountered him virtually. (He had a "finger" entry on ITS titled "under the bed".) So when I passed by his room, I found out what that was all about; he was one of those folks with their own loft, and he has his desk and Heath terminal underneath. (Back then, lots of people had those. We are talking pre-Athena here.)

The most surprising encounter was with Ashfaq Munshi, who was in my homeroom and many of my math classes. I ran into him, of all places, outside of PAG, 529 Bryant Street, the old home of AV. At first, he wasn't sure who I was; he thought I was someone who went to Harvard with him. But he eventually remembered. I was very surprised to find out that he had founded two companies, because when I knew him in high school, he was determined to get a doctorate in physics. His parents wanted him to be a medical doctor, but he didn't want to do that, so they said if you want to be a physicist, you have to be the best. So he worked (practically all the time) on that. Our high school homeroom photo shows him engrossed in a problem.

I was never a member of the math team. I went to some of the meetings; I took home the assignments; I could even do the problems (some of them, at least). But I was never really into it enough to try to qualify for the meets. For one thing, it met at the same time the Renaissance choir met. I was already part of that and didn't want to give it up.

Like I said before, a lot of these folks have gone on to make significant contributions to their fields. What happened to me? (Just kidding. Sort of. More on that later.)

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