Thursday, December 12, 2002

the night before finals.

what a person needs and creates beyond habits and basic necessities becomes religion. this includes art, money, sex. homes become shrines. books become scripture. working out becomes ritual. ...conscious worship. i'm not sure that staying in bed all morning is a form of religious observance. there has to be some discipline. some religions, such as zen, are all discipline. i'm worshipping issac newton, numbers, and they aren't fulfilling me completely. numbers aren't usually beautiful to me, but there are brief exceptions.

Monday, December 09, 2002

taking a study break. kmfa started playing that sad erik satie song, reminding me of death. at 30 going on 31, i'm that much closer to death, compared to a normally-aged physics student, who would be, say, 20. the physics book does point out that the "psychological effects" of sound wave amplitude cause small increases in power to be detected as extremely large increases in loudness. it does not mention the psychological effects of hearing satie at 1:00 AM on a Sunday evening, with rain hitting the kitchen skylight.

my college term papers from the early 90s were submerged during a flood, but luckily the ink didn't completely run. i have a file of brittle, discolored papers representing my best thoughts when my mind was fresh and pliable. a long paper that i wrote about the gayl jones book, corrigedora, made the point that certain forms of psychosis preserve important links to the past. in the main character's case, she was able to bear witness to the injustices of slavery by remaining psychologically detached from men while she was a young woman. only as a much older woman do she and her romantic interest, a man named mutt, begin to relate to one another. it's an intriguing thought, still, that dysfunction might actually serve a purpose, and that old age might serve a purpose.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

The moral value of human life develops gradually.

I took this thought out of a report that I am attempting to write about stem cells, and I needed to put it someplace. My belief is that a human embro is nothing more than a few cells and that medical researchers should do what they want with them as long as the public remains informed. I mean, god bless you for being smart enough to tell me what an embryonic stem cell is, go forward with what you are doing and godspeed.

At Duke university they began treating a child having Sanfilippo Syndrome, a very rare disease for which there were no prior treatments. The treatment involved a transfusion of stem cells derived from donated umbilical cord blood. The researchers don't understand exactly how the umbilical stem cells know how to get into the bone marrow and start repairing the immune system, but that's exactly what they appear to do. It's not unlike mixing potions.

Monday, December 02, 2002

still in chicago. wrapping up two busy days but feel fine. yesterday, mom claire and i went to the renaissance exhibit taking place at the art institute. the exhibit focused on the medicis, the royalty who funded the likes of michalangelo and da vinci. for example, "cosimo II wandered the streets, causing great consternation to his father" and then there you see an original oil painting of the goateed young cosimo II. claire had her 3X5 flash cards which i guess are related to an art history class she's currently taking. speaking of school, i will soon have to take final exams covering subjects such as double and triple integrals, wave motion, directional derivatives in 3D space. etc. it's scary. i looked through an old box in the basement that contained essays that i wrote as an undergraduate in English. my essays had a few embarrassing slips, but overall, the clarity and directness with which i wrote back then surprises me. these days, i view good ideas as being extracted at a great cost, in time, effort, etc. these essays (at the risk of sounding self-satisfied) seem to possess a thick and easy supply of "good ideas." something that is so easy to forget about literature and serious writing is that it's very good at training one's thoughts. in comparison to my skill at computing limits, correct quantities of velocity, etc., i was naturally gifted at writing and appreciating literature. i've always known that my educational re-tread is somehow a betrayal of the solid undergraduate work i did as a much younger man, but i've been working too hard at math and science to suddenly give up. it's getting late and i'm not seizing what i'm trying to get at.

meg and i saw a REALLY BIG cat skeleton at the museum of contemporary art today. that should have been enough.

(yes, two art museums in two consecutive days)

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

currently at mom's house in elmhurst, il. spent six hours in the middle seat on an AA flight between here and austin. the plane sat on the runway for about 90 minutes due to snow over o'hare. the lady to my left read alice sebold's the lovely bones, the man to my right read a golf magazine. i didn't have the energy to begin talking to either of them. it preserved a sense of balance. each of us emanated the same type of polite, quiet indifference. my mom's friend tom bought us dinner at a nice italian place, capri, on north avenue. which was great. i ate two stacks of interleaved eggplant and breaded veal slices, that floated like battleships in a sea of red marinara.

read about 80 pages of rosellyn brown's "half a heart" on the flight. the main character, miriam vener, has seemingly begun to screw things up with her daughter, veronica, who she is visiting for the first time in seventeen years. on flights, i am more aware than usual of peoples' styles and behavior, and aspects of consumerism and the comfortable life seem to be everywhere. you pick up "sky mall" and start dreaming about a more comfortable life, one where you have a huge bathroom and a tub with massaging jets, nice shirts and ties, a labrador retriever who sleeps in his cedar-lined wicker basket bed. as ashamed as i am to admit it, the in-flight consumer experience gives me hope for my future. despite myself, i am comforted and inspired by it. reading brown's book did not exactly reinforce this, but it didn't contradict it either. the main character, miriam, is somebody who has built the second half of her life around "comfort."

Sunday, November 24, 2002

tonight i went to germ polett's party. he had an interesting lineup of guests: ken lieck, ethan from the orange mothers, john erler, doing some sort of sketch art in the kitchen. i think graham shelby mingled very close by to us near the back of the yard. tall man. leather jacket. the voices of austin independent radio were there, and i didn't feel compelled to say ahem, hey have you ever heard MY show. it seemed that they were trying to pick up chicks and that perhaps i needed to be doing the same thing. i have a soft spot in my heart for one chick right now, and i've allowed my feelings to remain hidden for so long that i'm terrified to approach her.

Friday, November 22, 2002

This is my first entry. Endele yii ha! Part of happiness is being understood. A hit or miss process. Less missing might occur if I leave a trail of breadcrumbs. Paper notebooks were not causing me to articulate a purpose that others could understand, anyway.

The thought of the day regards angular momenum and figure skaters. I'm not sure that any physics student has studied the concept of angular momentum without the example of the figure skater. She pulls in her arms, decreasing her moment of inertia, thus increasing her angular velocity. It's an algebra equation set in motion. The picture in the textbook took my mind completely off of physics, though:

The sight of butt crack invariably takes one's mind elsewhere. In this case, the sight evoked a sense of empathy for humanity. This was in an engineering physics textbook. The readers are interested in building cell-phones, SUVs, smart bombs, etc. The idea that this audience must rely on a figure skater to understand a key concept says something about not taking too much pride in technological dominance. Mainly this: the things we do to express ourselves have value beyond what we may immediately understand. And people who build technology owe a debt to the figure skaters of this world. --GLS