minutia press.
Two encounters in one week

In the past two weeks, I've managed to meet and introduce myself to two of my heroes. Revealing these two people as my heroes will tell you almost nothing new about me, and I suppose there was nothing magical about the encounters themselves, so why do I post about this? Well, it's 4:34 in the morning and our dog needed some attention. No other human is listening to me rant right now, so I'll inflict my two experiences on you.

First, I met Bob Tarjan at a meeting last week on software protection. In the group setting, he casually introduced himself as interested in algorithms and data structures. What he didn't mention is that his work is among the deepest and most inspirational contributions to computer science. In any area of endeavor, one should be sufficiently fortunate to discover achievements in that area that enoble the entire field and stand as a tribute to those who practice the field. Tarjan's work has that kind of influence on me.

I introduced myself and shook his hand. I did not mention to him what a silent mentor he had been for me, nor did I ask him to autograph his book. I had forgotten to pack the book for the trip. If I had packed that book, however, I would have exceeded the allowable density per bag, as his book is probably the densest book on my shelf. I write that as a compliment. One can spend hours on a page and still find it worth rereading.

Last night, I met Ben Steinberg, noted composer of Jewish music. Because of my involvement with music at our temple, Betsy and I were invited to dinner before services. I introduced myself to Ben Steinberg, and shook his hand. I did not mention the powerful effect his music has upon me each time I hear it. The two pieces played most often at our temple are "Shalom Rav" and "Sim Shalom", which occur in our liturgy Friday night and Saturday morning, respectively. Both pieces ask for peace to be granted to us and all of G-d's people (in our belief, that's the whole world).

Ben Steinberg's music was presented at services last night, with a professional octet of singers along with flute, oboe, clarinet, cello, and organ or piano. The music was amazing, owing to its composer and to the fine musicianship of the performers. Washington University's own Scott Levin has been serving as our cantorial soloist this year (and I hope, next year too). If you can find a way to hear him sing, at Wash U or at our temple, you will be very impressed by the richness and color of this fine baritone.

In his remarks to us prior to the pieces he conducted for the sermon, Ben Steinberg said that a composer's music is an invitation to see the world through his or her eyes. He also said that like any stranger whom you first meet, comfort, acceptance, and love are not necessarily immediate. You have to spend time getting to know a new piece of music so that it becomes familiar, and then you might become fast friends.

I salute you Bob Tarjan and Ben Steinberg. You have probably never met each other, yet you have each invited me and so many others to see the world through your eyes. My admiration has not been misplaced. Your view of the world is compelling and the way you communicate and share your view is utterly beautiful.


Wow, you met Bob Tarjan? I wonder if after you met him, he walked away thinking "Wow, I just met Ron Cytron" (pronounced correctly in his head)?

Posted by: Chris Hill Festival at November 22, 2003 9:35 AM

I never really thought of listening to someone else's music as viewing the world through their eyes, but that makes complete sense. But that makes me think that anything we do that is shared with others is giving them a view of our world, even if it is our version of an algorithm or a story, or even a post.

So you've probably inspired many silent readers with your view of the world, and that ain't bad.

Posted by: Ed at November 22, 2003 2:13 PM

wow thanks!

Posted by: rkc at November 22, 2003 3:53 PM

I know this has nothing to do with your current topic but....I have been looking for the walker bros. apple pancake recipe forever and you mentioned on another post that you have it. Pleasepleaseplease, will you share!! :)

Posted by: linda at November 22, 2003 7:48 PM

Sure, next post (tomorrow AM) -- in time for breakfast anyway.

Posted by: rkc at November 22, 2003 11:05 PM