Saturday, January 09, 2010

From Russia with Love

We know a guy who is dating a crazy Russian woman who I do not like. The Topologist wanted to know what we should get the guy for Christmas, and I suggested that maybe there is some Dr. Laura book about how to stop dating crazy women intent on making your life difficult. The Topologist is a much more gracious gift-giver and opted for a gift card, as the guy is an unemployed lawyer with unthinkable amounts of student loan debt.

The crazy Russian woman gave us a gift, too. A box of Russian chocolates.

This morning while writing the first 180 or so words of the letter of reference for Scott, I started eating the chocolates. There was something about the flavor of the filling that seemed a bit different from what I'm used to in chocolates. So I checked the ingredient list, and there it was listed: водка. I should have expected no less from the crazy Russian but vodka-filled chocolates.*

Two more paragraphs and I should be done with this stupid letter. I'm a bit less annoyed about writing it now. Not because of the Russian chocolates but because in addition to applying to a world-class math department (did I mention that Scott has no publications and only one conference talk from eight years ago when he spoke at a regional conference about graphs on hexaflexagons?) he has now also applied to Gulf Coast Swampland Community College, Middle Appalachia Coal Mine University and Technical College, and Great Plains College of the Open Spaces.

*I suspect (but do not know enough Russian to confirm) that the chocolates are supposed to be different flavors (they all taste the same) and that the vodka is mixed with artificial flavorings in hopes of making different flavors of liqueur-filled chocolates. This is the strategy that my great-grandfather (Dziadek**) used when he ran a bar in the 1920s in upstate NY -- vodka mixed with flavorings (and water).

**What names does your family use for grandparents vs. great-grandparents? We called our grandparents Grandma and Grandpa and our great-grandparents Babka*** and Dziadek.

***Yes, the modern term should be Babci, but 100 years ago people called their grandmothers Babka. My family also calls the bathroom "wychodek."