lundi, décembre 13, 2004


So, I'm more or less been able to prove to myself that someone who was once considered a social butterfly can turn into an anti-social bug. Lately, with the things that have gone on, I'm noticing that a lot of the social graces I used to have are gone. That desire to love and take care of other people and to make hosting so seamless and easy where people's needs would be anticipated ahead of time and folks who never have to ask for anything they needed or wanted has gone subcutaneous with me now. It used to be something I did naturally. I guess I've learned my lesson being in the environs I'm in now that the way to survive is to be as much narrowed into my box as possible without smothering myself. Before, I simply knew I was with people who were the kind of friends who would care and love with all their heart as much as I did. Their intellectual curiosity challenged me to the lengths that I was able to go from knowing nothing about science to getting into a Ph.D. program in chemistry... I'm not really around people who are so tied into understanding or loving others as deeply and so I think I've forgotten how to be so social and giving. Maybe it's dormant, I certainly hope so. That's not a part of me I'd want to lose, but certainly I'm learning to be less horrified by my life here by squashing a lot of my inner self.

Mathematics blast from the past...

Here's the website of an old classmate of mine. If you're hiring for mathematicians, please make him an offer.

I remember there were days when I used to go to the Institute for Advanced Studies at 4pm(?) for tea and cookies and listen to talk and point and whisper with a few buddies of mine, when we sat behind Andrew Wiles and then there were the time when we'd go to the maths dept to join in the weekly games of bridge or Go, depending on which group of mathematicians you wanted to hang out with. Have a cuppa tea and just soak up the math atmosphere. Jordan Ellenberg, dunno where he is now, is one of the best math instructors there ever was... I loved the mathematicians. So fun in their own way. Oh and the number of stuffed animals in that department unrivalled anywhere else on campus! There was no faculty member like C. who would eat strawberry leaves and do math tricks over lunch to impress all the students at the ceej dining hall where he was a faculty fellow... he had his own little fan club, oh, heck, we were such nerd, but --my what happy nerds!

we had these musical concerts and the physics department always put on a musical recital each year...

oh, the worst of it was when one phys prof used to be in a review session or problem session and would take questions and there was this one girl who'd ask questions about the problems and usually he would cut off her question and say, "that's math not physics, next!" I had the best physcis professor there ever was... David T.Wilkinson. I never met a more patient, more loving, more kind teacher than he. Dave Wilkinson would show up in his pickup truck and help us align the huge telescope ... he'd meet students for a lab exercise at 4am help us move out and set up the apparatus for taking pictures, to show them Jupiter's moons and verify Kepler's law... ah, and he'd be forgiving when I overslept and didn't make it once or twice. He really loved teaching.

I really had an amazingly wonderful experience in college.
It makes me laugh at our dear campus and those lovely days when things were so beautiful and education such a cheery endeavor. I was certainly in a more intellectualy stimulating environment then. Education ought to be as fun as it was for me then. Yes, there were piles of work and it was intense and beautiful. Somehow despite the pounds of work, we loved life so much, lived with so much fervor and really gave ourselves over to some good pranks and shenanigans. Speaking of shenanigans, another prior classmate and mathematician Alex Heneveld is doing really cool things with his mathematics Ph.D. google him to find out more!

Musical humans

Who ever among our australopithecine ancestors imagined that homo sapiens sapiens could create such gorgeous sounds like those of a good Schubert Fantasia? or that humans would be so adept at producing such lovely strains on ivories as Glenn Gould? I like other kinds of music, but really it's amazing that time and time again the stuff that I'm always able to find something beautiful in no matter what the mood, is the instrumental only classical or jazz. I remember when I read Watership Down -oh, years ago! and weren't those tasty bunny rabbits?- that the part where the rabbits have so much leisure time as to create art gave me pause to think. For those of the more cultured set, appreciating art and music seem not to be things we could live without, but items of beauty and grace such that a world without this would be bereft indeed.

My dear friend Avi, who shares my love of music and music-making, has often spoken to me of how he imagines that I, having been trained for so many years to sing and to play various musical instruments, am unable to listen to people sing out of tune or with poor harmony. It is difficult, but I would recommend those who want a good rounding out of their musical expertise to study East Indian music, Chinese opera, and Hungarian folk songs. This, by far, challenges that musical ear beyond your wildest dreams.

As a choir teacher once taught me, "embrace the dissonance with wide open arms!"

jeudi, décembre 09, 2004

so easy it is to forget things in the past...

I was IMing a friend and he goes," oh, yeah by the way, I heard him say that." In the same context as I'm presenting it here more or less, without background. So I had no clue and he pointed me towards my own profile.. where I read my own scribbling...

I like in particular that HaRav Yehuda Amital wrote: "I am simply amazed when from time to time people who call themselves rabbis get up and think they can provide an explanation for every tragedy ... Where do these people get the audacity to think that they know something that every mortal in our generation doesn't know? It makes me very angry. The appearance of this phenomenon amongst the religious community is a sign of shallowness in Torah learning, and amongst society in general it's a sign of cultural shallowness. where logic ceases to be the criterion -Torah cannot exist, and where use of logic is made redundant, there cannot be any culture. Only in a place of cultural and spiritual hollowness can a world of fears and imaginary desires take the place of reality and clear judgment."
He was writing about how freedom makes a society that shuns committment and how media soundbites .

Funny, how memory goes so quickly. Anyway, I still like the quote even though I haven't read it in probably four years or so. I just thought I'd put it up here for others to read over. R'Amital always struck me as someone with a good head on his shoulders, a lot of common sense, and as a fine rabbi. Thanks to Leeor for reminding me of it.

mercredi, décembre 08, 2004

cat authorship in PRL

I have an encyclopedia article and an article about blood sensors using novel chemical materials, but it appears I've been rather a cat author, that is.


According to J.H. Hetherington:

“I had prepared the paper, now called Hetherington and Willard, and was rather proud of the work, considering it suitable for rapid publication in Phys. Rev. Lett. Before I submitted it I asked a colleague to read it over and he said “It’s a fine paper but they will send it right back”. He explained that this is because of the Editor’s rule that the word “we” should not be used in a paper with only a single author. Changing the paper to the impersonal seemed to difficult now that it was all written and typed; therefore, after an evening’s thought I simply asked the secretary to change the title page to include the name of the family cat, a Siamese called Chester, sired one summer by Willard (one of the few unfixed male Siamese cats in Aspen, Colorado). I added the initials F D in front of the name to stand for Felix Domesticus and thus created F D C Willard” (Weber, Robert. Droll Science, p.110)

for more information.

beautiful quotes on this webpage

It's not worth republishing all the fine quotes this nice human has put up, but it's a highly entertaining page.

For myself, I would have loved to have met the dog who could answer to such long names as mark Twain's cats had and still know it was his name. Only a cat could learn such a thing and deign to respond.

undercover cats smoking out shady institutions

check out that website...

Posted by timothy on Wednesday December 08, @07:57AM
from the can-they-get-to-university-of-phoenix-soon? dept.
CousinLarry writes "Online 'university' Trinity Southern University (Google cache of disabled site homepage) has been sued by the state of Pennsylvania." Besides spamming, this self-described school has, as another reader points out, "awarded an MBA to a cat owned by an undercover Pennsylvania deputy attorney general." I bet my cat could get a PhD.

it's a funny clip on slashdot about a cat that got a master's degree from an online university. The other comments that people make are pretty funny, too. Go to the website to read more interesting comments. I'm particularly fond of the pleasant things they say about cats, but also of the idea that here's a cat involved in the law-enforcement process.

This cat is getting a Ph.D. heh, heh.
I'm dyslexic. Silly enough, I'm apparently so brilliant that no one ever noticed until I had to do some high motor functioning thing that caused a little blip when I was leaving college. I got an undergraduate A.B. c.l. Cultural Anthropology then I got a M.S. Inorganic/Materials Chemistry. I think somehow I hoodwinked everyone into these degrees, because I don't really think that I know enough to get either degree, nor do I really think I deserved either degree. It goes to show that cats can get fine degrees from fine institutions of higher learning. I suppose perhaps cats are much better at making the world think they're okay even if they don't think or feel they are so okay. After all, we have an image to keep up.


mardi, décembre 07, 2004

revised form of the first poem

jump just jump, just, JUMP!
down, accelerating as gravity’s rules decree,
what ridiculousness my life has been
knowing nothing of meaning and rhyme, because
who am I or what am I to anyone?

Go, ending the loneliness and the bitter, in sorrow.

Standing here and watching now
as they crowd around. Flashing lights,
Bright dark Bright dark Bright dark
As the tide ebbs, I wonder if anyone will miss me.

mechanical pumping of air and vitals,
I want to live, but
desperately to end the shards of loneliness.

The intensity of my mind's isolation is
an abyss of agony between me and the world's blasé harmony.

lundi, décembre 06, 2004

what's it like

to walk among your fellow humans as if you were not really one of them? So a friend of mine says she doesn't think she's really human. Maybe she's an alien. I said, "baby! You, too?!" Exception: I've known I wasn't human well since I was a wee kitten. Anyway, I went through a phase where realizing that my paws were a tad too big and that my torso, and hind quarters were way misconfigured I didn't really fit in as well as I wanted to among the cat folk.


Being both betwixt and between. (Anthro lingo: I think I will always be an anthropologist.)

So I confess, the source of my interest in liminaltiy is my own identity. One one hand people belong and don't belong in a lot fo ways. Particularly I'm more sensitive to it, since I've had a number of personal experiences which force me to be more aware of it than others are. Lately, the highlighter that raises it is how I've been dealing with my friend's death. Yehuda joins the ranks of those who have died who really mattered to me:
Robert Barnes, WBHS -AIDS 1994
David Wilkinson, Princeton physics -cancer 2002
Carrie Gordon, Princeton-in-Asia -cancer 2003
I noticed that what I learned from them was their fire for life. I saw a video of Yehuda the other night and it shocked me cold. Afterwards I think I just needed to struggle to connect with the world to remind myself I'm part of the fabric of those living still. That's much harder to do when you're not even sure you are a member of that species.

I will have to resume this thought later on, but for now this is as far as I've gotten.
List of things I'd like to do:
understand how the body works, decide whether the major purpose of life is procreation and contiuation of the species, finish writing my research proposal on friction-structure relationships in planar materials, and have some good experiences with friends

Cry A River by Amy Grant

Looking down, I think, jump jump just,
floating down, falling to the ground, speeding up as gravity’s rules decree,
I think to myself what ridiculousness my life has been.
I know nothing of meaning and rhyme, because
everywhere I turn there is no one who knows who I am or what I am.

Here I go, ending the loneliness and the bitter, in sorrow.

Standing here and watching now as they crowd around. Flashing lights,
Bright dark bright dark bright dark
As the tide ebbs, I wonder if anyone will miss me.

Struggling inside…
I want to live
I want desperately to end the years of hurting and loneliness.

Can you know,
can you understand,
can you sympathize with the intensity of my isolation...

the isolation of my mind…

Abyss of agony between me and the world's blase harmony.

Here's another thought for you.

Sometimes I think that a particular kind of smart humans are just doomed, because of the way their minds work. It's a common phenomenon among very bright people who have a certain class of expectations that they're very much feeling beings inside and yet that's not meshed very well with the very high operating thinking being within also. The clash of the two raises a high level of feelings of isolation and frustration. Generally, the perfectionists, they want everything to be just so and that tends to lead them further away from humanity and companionship which they desire greatly.

I can't imagine that anyone really understands this feeling. I find so few people who know what it's like between the void and my reality. I don't really think I'm a human. I'm not sure I have any validity. I don't believe that I can survive this world. I don't really know if I can keep my tail out of troubles and traps. What kind of cat am I without a tail?

No Manx am I.

Here's another for you.********

Off to the side, I am your angel. I see you half-alive and half-dead lying there. Did you know when you came here what you would be suffering and doing? That you would lie in your hospital bed alone and fighting for three days? Strugging between life and death, most of the work for death already done, but that still your soul would kick and scream refusing to let go of your physical form? did you know then the power of that inner voice of yours that wanted to live? Do you know it now?


Standing back one more step, I walk backwards away from the tent.
I see beneath it the shadow of the valley
and I am afraid.
Does the angel come for me or for you?

You're already gone, though.
so is it just my mind playing tricks on me?
Does the shadow hover even when his work is already done?


vendredi, décembre 03, 2004

shmuel bet and malachim aleph

I go off on these tangents where I'll read Tanach and try to dig out more meaning for life and for death. That bit is good for me, because it begins to tap into my innate desire to know more. So I've been reading malachim and I got upset that the former advisor of David Hamelekh turns to Avshalom and then when his advice isn't heeded, commits suicide. I'm not ready to read the commentary on that yet, but someday when I do, I hope that there are some decent explanations. I've always thought that in a way the Torah teaches us with how much is left unwritten that rarely do we record the whole story, what I find interesting is that the goodness or greatness of a person -their heart -humanity, I suppose is a better word- is captured in the Torah's subtext, but not on a surface level reading.

The usual explanations about how Hashem works to make what has to happen happen and this is why sometimes good people do bad things or why bad things happen to good people, though I personally don't think people are all good or all bad, are things I've read before. I wonder about the connection of the multi-colored coat between Yosef and Tamar daughter of David Hamelekh. Maybe it really does mean that to grow, one really does have to have experienced suffering. That each person has a choice, to grow or to refuse. More than that though, I guess the layer that I read which gives me a look into how things comes together for Hashem's plan was interesting, not startlingly so, but still worth a bit of mullingover. If everything you do has a ramification (each person you talk to, each person you slight, each person you smile at, etc.) and no human can be totally aware of all the ramifications and actions that echo through humanity because of his or her own actions, then each person really is in a bit of a losing position. You see that Amnon has this terrible desire and that Yonadav? is a terrible friend in his urging Amnon to act out, but often we let people act out, because we figure on power structures, or self-reliance, etc. to hold things together. In the end Amnon dies and so does Avshalom and Shlomo's kingship is solidified as it should be. Did Tamar's suffering have to be the root of it? What underlying meaning is ascribed to the fact that she, like Joseph, has this beautiful garment? What man raises up, Gd brings down? but to His own end? Each moment we lose our good judgement -does that mean we act in Hashem's plan? I would say yes. Then, too, each time we are human -as Avshalom was being angry at both Amnon for his crime and David for not doing anything, as Amnon was for his crime, and as Tamar was for her innocent beguiling ways and her naivete -do we fall into places set into Hashem's plan? Yes, I think so. How humbling and how terrifying!

Add on, no more mention of the poor men, some good and some bad, advisors to a king or generals to fight for him, who kill themselves over their lost honor and fame. Why not? Is there not also here a psychotic break to investigate? To what end in that plan did they die? Those suicides also go one by one into the psyche of the land and the people. Probably they influence people to go with one leader or another, perhaps they destroy someone's faith so that later on that person or their progeny go easily to worship ashteroth or whomever the next avoda zara of the moment was. What a complex puzzle humanity is. Perhaps it is wisest to admire and be amazaed at the great creation that mankind is.

No one can control every action to make for the best possible outcome beyond the little scope we've got in our minds during our daily actions. The growth is a bracha... I had a Teimani teacher once who told me that when you stop suffering, Hashem has given up on you. As long as you have troubles of some kind, you are still worthy of Hashem's attention, because you have nisayonim set before you to make you grow and achieve greater and greater heights in your avodat Hashem. I believe that on some very deep internal level, but on another level -in the more practical, gotta live my life every day level, I'm not sure whether one can say that and not feel some anger at Hashem for making this world so cockaninny strange.