19 April 2011


Here is a direct quote from my textbook:

Much mystery surrounds perfect numbers. Are there any odd perfect numbers? No one knows. Are there infinitely many even perfect numbers? No one knows that either.

Which reminds me: if you haven't seen Look Around You yet, see it. Amy is the one who told me about this. For a long time Todd was in her phone as CLASSIFIED Man A, etc. Maybe he still is. If that's not true love, I'm a pink leather piƱata.

I like the math department at BYU. Do you know why? They're always talking about how math is creative. Convincingly. They make some very dope posters. There was one for a lecture about The Math of Music that was just visually stunning. Also one announcing when the New York Times data visualization specialist was giving a lecture, which I found out about the day after it happened. They have a big campaign where they use Einstein's live-traced face over the words BE CREATIVE. BYU MATH. They designed these dope t-shirts for pi day; I bet you've seen them. Baby blue with the first few thousand digits of pi in the shape of the Americas. I signed up to volunteer at the pi day activities just to get one. Yeah, that's right: pi day activities. They were fun. It was a gorgeous spring day. I'm telling you, those math people are creative. And the humanities and advertising people they've got doing their PR are also top-notch. I'm not just being snarky; I'm serious about both of the things I just said.

A math guy, I read in the New York Times recently, modeled how human language spread from Africa to the rest of the globe based on how many different sounds languages have. I mean I'm glad we can know this stuff. And we can know it thanks to math. Or maths. What I'm driving at is that math IS creative. You have to be innovative to find ways to answer the questions that interest you in a world that sometimes seems already to have been gone over with several fine-toothed combs. I mean of course for all this nature is never spent; there lives the dearest freshness deep down things. As Hopkins put it. But math and linguistics? I mean guys, this is to extend the frontiers of mortal knowledge. This is human ingenuity at its most elegant.

Are you worried this blog is turning into some kind of serial love paean to Math? Relax; it could be worse. I will tell you that I took my final today and felt pretty fine about it. Remember what I said about math tests? They can be so satisfying.

10 April 2011

Stanley Steamer.

I’ve got to stop taking such long showers.

But I move slowly in the morning, and I got up at six. I had to go to bed at ten to do it. But I got up at six. I’m counting this as a victory.

Also, my best ideas come in the shower. Have you ever read The Soul of a New Machine? One of the main computer builders in that book felt the same way. So if I take long showers it’s partly to maximize my time in the hot cloud of inspiration vapor.

Ready for a hot cloud of inspiration vapor? Here’s why I love writing. Wait, you didn’t know that? Yeah, I love writing. But (surprise) I have trouble finding time to do it, and I suppose I haven’t decided if I love it more than anything else in the world--I mean if it's what I want to spend all my time on. I know all you real writers out there are shaking your heads and clucking, Well, if you don’t by now have this overpowering urge to write stronger than your urge to breathe, you’ll never be a writer-- and you’re right. You’re right! I know! But I like writing and I also like a heck of a lot of other things, and I told this to Charles Swift one time and he told me to just set aside an hour a day and write. That was probably two and a half years ago.

I don’t mean to put words in the mouths (fingertips?) of you real writers out there. I mean there are probably some of you who feel the above-described way, and as I have mentioned, I think you’re right. But there have to be some out there too who have a more inclusive and meandering ideal of what a writer can be, and I hope you’re right too. At the very least I know Kim Johnson regards writing as a craft that can be learned, and while I don’t equate the craft of writing with the art of writing, I think taking some distinct and measurable steps toward craftsmanship would be a good thing for me. I'm saying she gives me hope. So does Wallace Stevens. I'm not trying to sound pretensions. I'm sure I have pretensions but I'm not sure what they are.

My mother is a brilliant and gorgeous poet.

My sociology teacher wrote on my paper, 'Whatever you end up doing, you should figure out how to incorporate writing.' Which is also my intention. My economics teacher has never said anything so complimentary about my writing. But he told our class that good writing can be the difference between getting published in a good journal and an okay journal. And this is a guy who runs the regressions and lets his coauthors do the writing. Lars Lefgren. He seems to be not a bad writer himself though. Really sharp guy. He graduated magna cum laude.

I like words. Do I like numbers too? Yeah. I mean sometimes I get nervous around them but I think it's just the kind of nervous you get around a girl you're trying to impress even though you know she's way out of your league. That might be the relationship I have with math. That could explain my math anxiety. I have striven to overcome it because I want to be someone who takes the opportunity to learn new things and because they are tools I want to have to help solve the problems that interest me. And at times I have despaired of ever being able to obtain a single iota of confidence or credibility in the quantitative world. But it just takes work, and when I do work at it, I can at the very least keep up. So far. And maybe just maybe my words are my ace in the hole, the key to her heart, my goofy smile that's just charming and distinct enough to make Girl take notice even though there's no reason in the world she should, and something lovely and unexpected and lasting comes out of it. I'm still talking about my relationship with Math.