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Libraries' Author Series Opens

The UCR Libraries’ Author Series Taps Mathematical Ice Breakers

Professor Emeritus John de Pillis talks about his book “777 Mathematical Conversation Starters”

(October 8, 2003)

John de Pillis

John de Pillis

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — — John de Pillis, emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of California, Riverside, will speak on Wednesday Oct. 15 about his book 777Mathematical Conversation Starters to initiate the 2003-04 UCR Libraries’ Author Series.

The monthly Author Series events, which began in September 2002, bring the riches of the campus libraries to the community. According to organizer Melissa Conway, who heads UC Riverside’s Special Collections, the authors are all affiliated with UC Riverside. All UC Riverside Libraries’ Author Series events are free and open to the public.
The de Pillis talk will be Web cast live from 3:15 to 4:30 p.m. from Special Collections in the Tomás Rivera Library building.

Combining his early training as a commercial artist with his research in mathematics, de Pillis uses cartoons, jokes, and examples from popular culture to explain mathematics concepts in a way that is accessible to the math-phobic and math-savvy alike.

Published by the Mathematical Association of America in 2002, 777Mathematical Conversation Starters explores entertaining topics as the mathematical value of fame, how the dry spot under a car after rain illustrates the difference between induction and deduction, and why good logic makes for better picnics.

Influenced by authors such as Isaac Bashevis Singer, Bertrand Russell, Martin Gardner and Timothy Ferris, de Pillis is at work now on a handbook for mathematics teachers, which concentrates on the mathematical process and not just the results of that process. De Pillis arrived at UC Riverside in 1965. He received a Ph.D. in mathematics from UC Berkeley.

Other authors in the series include:

Nov. 19: Sharon V. Salinger, professor of history, will speak on her book Taverns and Drinking in Early America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), the first study of public houses and drinking in the colonies. The book explores the origins of taverns, their proliferation, the ends that they served in the colonies, and their effect — or lack thereof — in breaking down class and gender differences. Salinger is also the author of To Serve Well and Faithfully (Cambridge University Press, 1987), which traces the history of unfree labor in colonial Pennsylvania. She is currently working on a study of poverty and migration into eighteenth-century Boston.

Dec. 10: William Lavender, a novelist, and Mary Lavender, a professional researcher and long-time officer of the Friends of the UCR Libraries, will speak about their collaborative work on Lavender’s historical novel, Just Jane: A Daughter of England Caught in the Struggle of the American Revolution (Gulliver Books, Harcourt, 2002). Nominated for the American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults in 2002, Just Jane is Lavender’s first novel for younger readers. Lavender has authored five other novels including Chinaberry.

Jan. 21, 2004: Iqbal Pittalwala, Campus Communications Officer for Science and Engineering at the Office of Marketing and Media Relations at UC Riverside, will read from his book of short stories Dear Paramount Pictures (Southern Methodist University, 2002). In addition to a Ph.D. in atmospheric sciences, Pittalwala holds an M.F.A in creative writing. His stories have appeared in the Seattle Review, Blue Mesa Review, Confrontation, Trikone, and other magazines. He teaches a writing and critiquing workshop in fiction at the UC Riverside Extension Center.

Feb. 18: Alan McHughen, professor of botany and plant sciences, will speak on his book Pandora’s Picnic Basket: The Potential and Hazards of Genetically Modified Foods (Oxford University Press, 2000). A molecular geneticist, public sector educator, scientist and consumer advocate, McHughen has helped develop U.S. and Canadian regulations covering the environmental release of plants with novel traits. He also served on recent National Academy of Science and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development panels investigating the environmental and health effects of genetically modified organisms.

March 24: Stephen Spindler, professor of biochemistry, will speak on his intriguing research on the correlation between calorie restriction and longevity. Spindler asserts that the fewer the calories an animal consumes — provided malnutrition is avoided — the slower an animal ages and the lower the death rate from cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Spindler has served on several advisory groups and committees for the National Institute on Aging, and National Institutes of Health.

April 14: Maurya Simon, chair and professor of creative writing, will read from her book of poetry, A Brief History of Punctuation (Sutton Hoo Press, 2002). Simon is also the author of The Enchanted Room and Days of Awe (Copper Canyon Press, 1986, 1989), Speaking in Tongues (Gibbs Smith, 1990), and The Golden Labyrinth (Univ. of Missouri Press, 1995). Her sixth volume of poetry, Weavers, is forthcoming from Blackbird Press. Professor Simon’s poems have appeared in several publications, including The New Yorker, Poetry, TriQuarterly, The Southern Review, The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, the New England Review, and in more than thirty anthologies.

May 19: Howard K. Wettstein, professor of philosophy, will speak on Diaspora and Exiles: Varieties of Jewish Identity (University of California Press, 2002), which he edited. Wettstein is also the author of Has Semantics Rested on a Mistake? and Other Essays (Stanford University Press, 1991), and The Magic Prism—An Essay in the Philosophy of Language(Oxford University Press, 2003), and numerous articles on the philosophy of language. Diaspora and Exiles considers the question of Jewish identity from the perspectives of anthropology, art history, comparative literature, history, philosophy, political theory, and sociology.

For more information about the UCR Libraries’ Author Series, call Special Collections at 909-787-3233 or e-mail Melissa Conway, head of Special Collections.

Parking is $6 per vehicle for the day or may be purchased for shorter periods at $2 per hour. Parking permits are available at the information kiosks near the University Avenue and the Canyon Crest Drive and Martin Luther King Boulevard entrances. Visitors are encouraged to park at the visitor lot near the University Avenue entrance.

UC Riverside’s Libraries are the focal points for research and study on campus. Their collections include 2,081,146 volumes, 12,444 serial subscriptions and 1,672,042 microforms housed in five facilities: the Tomás Rivera Library (serving the humanities, arts and social sciences); the Science Library; the Music Library; Media Library; and Special Collections, housing rare books and manuscripts, and unique archival resources. For more about the UC Riverside Libraries, go to
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The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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