My colleague Jan-Philipp finished his PhD last week. Thus there were some festivities – which tend to be a bit peculiar. It seems that the older universities are the more 'traditions' they have collected which demand their due. The first thing – which is rather common on Germany – was that we had to build one of those black high hats for him to put on after the whole official ceremony. These have to be a bit on the silly side and we made an effort to achieve that while still referring to his work (by chalking a few diagrams from his thesis on there).
Then we had to pick up our department's new PhDs after the ceremony. That is done it little decorated carts. Ours is quite unspectacular (the experimental physicists had a Bender shaped one!) – but what did you expect of mathematicians. In that cart they are driven to the middle of town. To the location of the "Gänseliesel" – a bronze statue of a girl looking after geese which is situated in the middle of a fountain type of thing. Once you get your PhD you have to climb over the water, kiss the girl and leave her some flowers. If you're lucky there are some chemicists around who do spectacular things with dry ice or something as well.
Being mathematicians in the town which has been the centre of mathematics for ages means that there is an extra challenge. They had to climb a monument for Gauß and Weber, sit on Gauß' lap and leave him a flower. This is more exciting than it sounds as the monument is on a three metre high pedestal.
And afterwards there was a party. Fun.
Today is a public holiday and all shops are closed. I am on my way to Berlin where Claus is having a party for his birthday. I am also going to try and see the MoMA in Berlin exhibition there. I hope I'll be able to get in as it is said to be quite popular.
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