I first met Persi in the Berkeley Statistics coffee room in 1979. I think we had previously corresponded (handwritten letters in envelopes with stamps attached) briefly, and we had two interests in common, exchangeable arrays and card-shuffling, so we hit it off and started a regular interaction.

I'm always surprised to remember that we have only 5 joint papers -- it feels like more. In all of these, he was the prime mover. I confess that a typical start would be for him to mention some simple-looking problem and for me to interrupt with "that's just a calculation" or "the answer must be ----- because -----". It's a miracle that he put up with me at all, so he's a saint! But the point is that he has the marvelous gift of seeing below the surface -- that a superficially simple problem will lead to deep and beautiful mathematics.

Continuing with the sainthood theme .... at the Friday dinner, in addition to assigning us a homework involving the Mexican hat dance, he promised everyone an hour of his time. And he really will -- but I encourage you to come prepared with questions.

When I'm in sarcastic mode -- permissable by virtue of my ethnic heritage as an Englishman -- I tend to say stuff like the following. Suppose there are 40 people working on some math topic. Someone has to be "the best", and one could devise an algorithm -- citations and awards etc -- which would output some name as "the best". But if you need an algorithm then the winner is ipso facto not outstanding but merely primus inter pares, to continue with high school Latin. The pinnacle of achievement is to be recognised as sui generis -- truly unique -- and we can all agree that Persi is the epitome of sui generis. We are all priviliged to have been associated with him.