Monday, March 21, 2005

It's a small world

in 1966 I started at Footscray Tech; that was, at the time, the next school after primary (elementary). Our mathematics class was baffling and unfamiliar because we were the first year being taught the 'new maths'. Remember that? Set theory and Boolean algebra; not at all the logical extension I'd expected from vulgar fractions etc.

Today I drove through Dallas Texas to find Laureland cemetery. I was on a mission to find my wife's fathers family grave. After about an hour of searching there it was. A whole bunch of people I've heard about but never met. I did at least get to be in North America for a very short portion of my father-in-law's lifetime though I wouldn't even hear of his existence for another 20 years! I took lots of photographs for my wife. She did pretty well in guiding me to a location she hasn't seen in 24 years!

Now you know me well enough by now to suspect a connection between the two ideas; it turns out that my wife's father was one of the mathematicians behind the 'new math' education. He was a prolific author of mathematics textbooks. Who'd a thunk, nearly 40 years ago, that one of those urchins puzzling over set theory would one day count one of the bastards behind the change as a father-in-law?

Along the way I discovered one of the differences in the way that Texas Cemeteries are organised compared to the ones I know so well in Melbourne. Here one finds a largish stone with the family name on it but not commemorating any one family member in particular; that honour is left to various smaller stones laid in the ground surrounding the large stone. In Melbourne it's a bit different; the most prominent (in the family's opinion) family member gets pride of place with lesser family members listed on the same stone.

Oh, my father-in-law was Edwin Ford Beckenbach - I'm told that there's also a link to Sam Peckinpah - same name, different phonetic spelling.

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