Seven Quick Takes No. 3

1. Yes, that's Kapla. In our living room, floor to ceiling. Jacob's ladder or the Tower of Babel? We're not sure. Whichever it is, it is certainly a good metaphor for the struggles I've been having these past few weeks with my book. Theories on what will happen when it comes down?

2. My father loved math, more even than cars. He spent most of his life thinking about math, reading about math, doing as many problems in math as he could. If he could have had one wish, it would have been to have someone to talk with about math who loved math as much as he did (Freudian typo: I originally typed "does"). If only he were here now to have this conversation with his grandson; he would be so proud. (And, yes, that's calculus on the white board in my son's bedroom; my son is 13.) [Update: My son says he's corrected the equation now.]

3. Elizabeth Gilbert has achieved turiya, the fourth level of consciousness in which one's understanding and vision becomes one with the universe or God. At least, this seems to be what Gilbert means when she says she found herself in the palm of God, in a place that was no place, where she was at once as large as the universe and the universe was as small as she, the ocean dissolved in the drop, the drop expanded to fill the ocean, and everything suffused with love. I should feel jealous--okay, I do a little bit--but as I said a few days ago, I'm starting to become a bit skeptical of chasing after such spiritual experiences. Okay, so it's the goal of yoga to achieve these levels of consciousness, but in fact there is nothing to achieve. We are already in the palm of God, always, at all times. We're just not very good at paying attention to it.

4. We're going to the Bristol Renaissance Faire tomorrow and are trying to figure out what to wear. If it were a Medieval Faire, there would be no problem; by definition, nobody in the Middle Ages worried about anachronisms. Dress an ancient Greek, say Achilles or Memnon (see picture), in fifteenth-century armor? No worries! They were knights after all, weren't they? Anachronism is a Renaissance concern. I think people had much more fun in medieval times.

5. I've come to a certain degree of peace these past couple of days about my current writer's block, possibly thanks to my recent practice of centering prayer. I realize now that the reason I've been struggling so much with the next chapter is that I really didn't (and still don't quite) know what I wanted to say and that I needed (and still need) some time to struggle with it in order to figure it out. Much as we would like to pretend that writing is something that one can produce according to an industrial-style schedule, it really is more organic, needing periods of fallow in order for the soil to replenish.

6. And so, having accepted that I still needed to lie fallow a bit longer, I decided it was time to read more of Carla Speed McNeill's adjective-defying Finder, only to discover that the next volume I picked up--Dream Sequence--was in fact about the struggles of making art. Best page in the whole book (p. 133): the Jaeger-monster in Magri White's interior virtual world (accessible to others via thousands of wireless antennae implanted in Magri's brain and sprouting from his head like hair--see, I told you it was adjective-defying) is chastising Magri for his anxieties about whether his "Elsewhere" is actually original: "The solution to your problem is simple. Scared somebody will find out you get your best ideas from other people's work? That you're not the god of originality they say you are? Scared somebody'll find out you're a big fucking liar and a fake? Well, get this, fucktard. EVERYBODY FEELS THAT WAY." Footnote: McNeill's books are famous among comics fan for their extensive footnotes giving credit for her inspiration but you've never read anything like them. The books, that is, not just the footnotes. Trust me on this.

7. Doubtless as a product of doing syllabi this week for next term's courses (or maybe thanks to reading Dream Sequence), I had my first "back-to-teaching" nightmare last night (actually, this morning). The class was meeting outside in a sort of tent with picnic tables and the students were scattered about so that they couldn't hear me (the main reason I hate teaching outside: the acoustics). Having found a seat at one of the tables, I suddenly realized that I had the wrong set of notes, no syllabus, and--even worse--no clear idea of what class I was supposed to be teaching. When I asked whether any of the students could show me the reading, none of them had their books. Suddenly, a swarm of midges or mosquitoes attacked me...and I woke up.


  1. As much as I hate saying this, but... tell your son he can't have x both in the limits of integration and in dx. It's like tomato soup served at a knights' tournament: painful to see. (and I think he may already have got a mistake because of this; "may", since the computation is unfinished).

    I should mention, however, that what I see at this photo looks more consistent than a great deal of what I see at freshman calculus exams ;-).

  2. Rina,

    Thank you for pointing that out. The version up now should be correct.

    FB's cub, |gnomon|

  3. I learned many math skills from my father as well

  4. These were all great Quick Takes, but since I am a Calculus dummy (and most other math in general - I apologise to your father's memory) I'll just say I'm impressed that those numbers and letters make sense to your son. Very impressed. The other thing that struck me between the eyes was the last 2 sentences you wrote on number 3. Beautiful words. I'd do well to remember them.

  5. Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed the Quick Takes. I actually need my son to explain the numbers and letters to me, too. I'm working on remembering no. 3 as well.


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