Monday, June 28, 2004

Hunger is a particularly virilant form of withdrawl

So I have not eaten in almost 42 hours. Its not due to a lack of funding, but much more related to my intrinsic laziness. Food, you see, is WAY over there and I am here. Makes for an interesting conundrum if you ask me. That is not to say that I haven't been out and near places which happen to serve edible goodies, its just that I usually don't think about it. Do you think that it may be related to some sort of mental or psychological problem that I just sort of forget to eat for days at a time? Oh, maybe I have one of those trendy eating disorders, that might be fun. (Just kidding, no offense to any of you who actually have an eating disorder).
Lets see. This weekend has been a complete and total loss for me. Nothing, and I really must stress that, has been accomplished. I read a little bit in the new textbook and graded a paper or two (literally) but other than that I have done absolutely nothing at all which is of any long term (or even short term) use to me. The rains came in like a monsoon and kept me locked in my house for the duration of the weekend.
I need to go. Sorry this is such a short entry, but I wanted to at least say something today. I'm now going to go get food, the withdrawls from not eating tend to be a bit hard to deal with, and Im not feeling very well today (I wonder why). Don't let anyone lie to you though, food is an addiction that can be overcome.

Friday, June 25, 2004

A Visit from The Isaac and a New Place to Live

The thought of being homeless is a really stressful proposition. Time was running out, until today. Isaac and I have found a new place to live, a cute little apartment a little ways north of the downtown area. I guess that's my round about way of saying that its north. Those of you who know Austin will probably bemoan the decision to move somewhere up north, but I stand by my belief that Austin isn't that hard to get around in. I'm rarely in my car more than 20 minutes to get anywhere, maybe 30 if there is traffic. Still, in Austin there is always traffic.
So my brother, Isaac came down to visit and to help make a decision on the place. I really like it and I can't wait to finally move in. We get a month for free on the rent and the living room and dining area have yellow pine floors. We aren't going to have any furniture at first, but I am going to get a futon as one of my first purchases. It will have to do until I find a second job that will pay the bills in the off semesters from teaching at the school. And I have had to come to accept that there are going to be off semesters from the school.
Also in the news, I have decided to get PK fixed. He is making it more and more obvious everyday that he is suffering from a lack of the kind of attention that I cannot provide, and he is making it more and more obvious that he is going to make me suffer with him. Poor little guy, he just makes this death wail of a noise as he walks around spraying everything in his path. It is a necessity, and it must be done, though I believe that it is a violence done on him, though I know it will make him happier in my home.
See its not so much the surgery as it is the fact that I am going to willfully change his hormonal system. I cannot help but think that I am going to irrevocable take something away from this animals natural cycle of emotional development. I would not want my ability and interest in sex to be taken away from me at the will of some mentally more dominant creature who thought them trivial. I do not, and cannot know what it is like to be a cat, but I am sure of one thing, nature has made him quite fond of his testicles. I have some, I know.
Still, he cannot be allowed to mark everything that I and any guest of ours bring into the apartment. And he will, I assure you. And he is so proud of it too, he does it right in front of me, as if I am going to be pleased that my baby has taken some more ground for the empire. If he is allowed to continue he will eventually spray the entire planet and declare himself Emperor for Life (I almost made a horrible pun there about Emprrrer, now aren't you glad I didn't?). He must be stopped, and so I am consenting to let him be taken away by someone else to go and be made my faithful eunich.
I lament though that I must cause harm to a being that I love. It is also kind of horrible that I am arranging to have someone else do the dirty work in an attempt to fool PK into believing that I am innocent of the crime. It's one thing to do something that has to be done out of love, but its completely another to be deceptive about it. I just don't want him to lose trust in me, and I don't want him to feel betrayed. Anyway, c'est la vie, n' est pas?
There is kind of a poignant irony to it really. A lonely bachelor who cuts off the balls of another lonely bachelor because he gets sick of all his whining(TM) - this will soon be a short story I think....hehehe. It would certainly give me a chance to do a lot of whining for myself, and boy I sure love to do that.
Just a brief aside, can I point out that I am not homeless anymore. I have a hardwood floor of my very own, next Wednesday at 3pm. Can I get an amen? And they said that I came back with perfect credit. Yes, I say that again, PERFECT CREDIT! And I thought that I had the kind of credit that would send you to the gallows the first time you were seen in public. Oh well, ride the wave when you get it.
I made a list of the things necessary to begin a life today, but making a life out nothing is like trying to will a statue out of stone. Im going to turn on the overmind sometime tonight, so that hopefully it will be on when I get there. If I time it just right there will be no interruption in my internet capabilities. Countdown to internet (and move in), 5 days (varying on the internet). Cross your fingers and hope all goes as planned.
Anyway, I guess that I should go and tend to other trivial tasks. I think that I am going to go and see a movie tonight, wohoo. I never get out of the house to go do anything like that anymore.

A Brief Introduction to Metric Spaces (Sans mathematique)

We are all familiar with the Pythagorean theorem, "The square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides.", which defines fundamentally the concept of distance in space. It tells us how to find the separation between any two points in space that we want, if we are willing to apply it enough times and reduce it to just a number. See, space has 3 spacial dimensions (which are immediatly obvious to us) and at least 1 time dimension, which is to a large part, a mystery. This is what Newton tells us, that all of space is defined there, and I can use the Pythagorean theorem over and over again and add up all the distances to find the "straight line" distance between any two points that I want. Time then just ticks away for the whole universe at the same rate, as if the universe were an infinite expanse of Cartesian space filled with stars and simple humans sitting on an ineffible desk with some sort of universal time clicking away at every point in it all the same.
All of space in a Newtonian universe, you see, could be reached immediatly by an object moving arbitrarily fast. I could leave at this very second, and if I was moving fast enough could be almosr instantly anywhere else, presuming of course that you had either the experimental or theoretical energy to get there. Not only this, but Newton (and many great thinkers long before him) tell us that no matter how hard you try or how clever you are there are only three possible directions which make any sense. It doesn't matter what they are, any three distinct directions will do, and you can make a map of the cosmos. Just make a note of where everything is (you'll probably need some help with this) and then there you have it, the universe at that moment. Even better, Newton tells us what the very next moment will be, and the one after that, and the one after that, and the one after that......
Behold, I have made thee ALL KNOWING!!!!
But wait, lets look at our map for a second. Yeah, sure, I know where everything is right now but how do I know that my helpers have not somehow lied to me without knowing it? What if the universe is not an infinite terrarium upon the ineffible desk of God? Most fundamentally, what exactly is time and why may I have freedom in space, but not in it?
In mathematics we call the space and manifold, and its basically just a collection of points close enough together to make a theoretical fabric with no holes in it. The fact that it has no holes in it means that it is continuous, and continuity seems to be something that the universe demands in the large. Now, a manifold can be any kind of space that you can think up, so long as it has no holes in it. To be a metric space it has to be like the one we live in, the pythagorean theorem has to hold in at least some number of dimensions.
Einstein caught on to this idea and recognized that time was like that too. There were, so far as anyone who has not been drinking can tell, any gaps in the flow of time. There is all of space, and time clicking away in it, like we are flipping through a hand drawn cartoon with infinitly thin three dimensional pages. Einstein also had the benefit of 300 years worth of experimental and theoretical advancement to tell him that there was something fishy about the speed of light.
The speed of light, unlike other speeds in the universe, is an invariant. If something is coming at you at the speed of light, then you can run away from it or towards it or just stand still and it will still pass you at the speed of light. Strange, isn't it? Not only this, but it seems that any signal which has no mass travels at this velocity in space.
Einstein, now equipped with the idea of metric spaces, took this idea and propsed that the only space which is available to us is that which can be reached in a certain amount of time by anything traveling at the speed of light. Sure, the universe may be infinite, but you can't get there cause you can't go any faster than the speed of light. Not only that, but since it takes light a certain amount of time to get anywhere, the only now I can talk about for anything far away from me was what was right now when they sent out they sent a light signal back to tell me about it.
Its confusing, I know, but the important thing about it is that Einstein proposed that you can't say that two points separated in space are ticking away at some universal clock. The only way I can make any sense out of time at another place is by exchanging some sort of information with them (the very meaning of continuity, at its core) and that is going to take a finite amount of time since I am no longer empowered to travel as do the gods. A separation in space means that there MUST be a separation in time. There you have it, our metric space is incomplete. We have to step it up a dimension in order to include time since it seems smoothly attached to space.
The special theory of relativity desribes this 4 dimensional space by simply adding one more application of the pythagorean theorem, only they were very smart about it. See, I have freedom to move around in space, but I don't in time. So I set up all the equations so that all the spatial parts give me real numbers and the time dimension gives me imaginary numbers. Keeps them all nice and separate for me. I calibrate how much time is worth by multiplying it by the speed of light, and boom, I have a model for a new kind of space, Minkowski space.
Minkowski space is alot like Newtonian space, only now we have to use the pythagorean theorem one more time in order to include time as a dimension. There are several pronounced differences though. In Minkowski space, named after Einstein's math teacher, there is no such thing as simultaneous events. Nothing can go faster than the speed of light in Einstein's universe, so separations in Minkowski space describe both how far to where they are and how far to when they are.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Of regrets, blackbirds, and Prince Lohengrin

Have you ever met someone who was exactly what you wanted? I do not mean exactly what you needed or exactly what was perfect at the moment, but really exactly what you wanted? As if, almost, you had made a list of qualities, willfully, and placed them in that abstract place which is "the perfect mate". I did, almost 4 years ago to the day.
I had just moved to Dallas to start grad school and there were problems with my family. It was supposed to be the beginning of all my hopes and dreams, but the death of my grandfather and the ensuing chaos is a thing so furious and complicated that even now I can hardly understand. So much would prove to happen, as a matter of fact, that the person that I was then would be artfully sculpted into this heap of a man that you see before you today. Everything then was decay and the beginnings of decay, when the nourishment is fresh and the infection spreads its fastest. Everything but one thing.
See there was this young noble named Elsa, and she was the daughter of the Duke of Barbant. She was accused of a political ploy to come to power, but when asked to defend herself she said that she had a dream of a knight in shining armour who would come there to save her and restore order to the land. But though they waited it was only when she prayed for him that the knight came to her, in a boat drawn by a magical swan. He is betrothed to her, but only on the condition that she never ask his name or where he came from.
And there I was in Dallas. I was alone... no, worse than alone, I was living with an ex and several of his club buddies in a 1 bdroom apartment. Things couldn't have been more dismal, and then there was Lohen. (Not his real name, but he would recognize it as him immediatly)
He was the very definition of the man I would have chosen in my life, though time and circumstance teach me that he probably was the last thing that I NEEDED in my life. It's intended as no insult to him, just that we were in different places then. Still, he was the very description of my hopes and wishes. He was brilliant and academic, who spent most of the first night we met reading me welsh poetry. He was liberal and well educated, with all the perfect interests and hobbies. His apartment was filled with books from floor to ceiling, and he was emotionally detached and wrapped in layers of complexity. I adored that when I was with him everything was new and filled with more depth. I adored that I seemed to have a different kind of strength that he lacked. It seemed apparent to me, even at the beginning, that we would have so much to offer to each other. This, to my dismay, was not to be the case.
And the next day, as the sun is rising over the castle courtyard the villianous relatives of the young Elsa plot to sow seeds of discord between Elsa and her young lover. Conspirators are brought to confuse the girl, but she stands steadfast in her faith. Accompanied by King Heinrich she enters her wedding chaple.
Sometimes, I have discovered, the universe will give you exactly what you want to point out exactly how much you don't really want it. It is not ever enough to wish for specifics.
Lohen and I had a few pretty good days together. The duration of it all lasted a few weeks, everything new I learned of him was just something more to like. Though all around me there was decay and betrayel, he seemed then like a breath of fresh air. It would be the last thing that I felt for almost a year.
That night, in their wedding chambers, Elsa asks the knight, her husband, what his name was but before the knight could answer the villian Telramund bursts in. Else gives the knight his sword and he kills Telramund, but then turns to Elsa sadly. When they meet later he tells her that his father is Parsifal and his name is Lohengrin, and he is from The Temple of the Grail. He turns to leave when Ortrud bursts into the chamber and kills Lohengrins magic swan. Ortrud is killed, Elsa's brother is awakened from his enchantment and proclaimed the ruler of Bartand, and Elsa in despair over her lost love falls lifeless to the ground. (I know alot happens, but its an opera, so deal).
And so I met Lohen and I thought that things were perfect for a while, but I was young and foolish and he was, well, he was himself. Still, I had it pretty bad for him and for a long time I was crushed by a rejection which I thought was rather cruel.
These regrets man, they just seem to be everywhere. But hopes too, seem inescapable, and time and consequence just seem to march on.
There is this story. Its not a particularly interesting story at all, but its one that is most dear to my heart, and it happened just days after I met Lohen.
The rain was coming into Dallas and I was going to my favorite place in that hellish city, Celestial Park. Everything was teaming up on me then. My family, my school, my living situations. The clouds looked ominous enough to kill so I wanted to stand there in the center of the park and just let them take me up into them and rip me to shreds. I hoped that the rain would come like razorblades and rip the flesh off my bones, so long as it be done in that only holy place.
On the way there in tears I made a shortcut through a parking lot and noticed a blackbird hopping around on one leg and a wing dragging the ground. I noticed it first when another car drove past it, barely missing it as the bird tried to hop out of the path. Surely he must be hurt if he didn't fly away. So I stopped. Surely this was more important than waiting for a wild rain.
The bird was terrified and wet. The night was coming on and even though it was summertime the air had a bit of a chill to it. With the rain and the wind and the bird running from me I had to use my cunning to try and catch it.
I took some old shirts out of my car and threw them on the bird, trying to use them as a net to catch him. This just scared him all the more and he hopped out from under the shirts and was caught in the flood of water that was rushing down the storm drain. In just seconds the injured bird was swallowed by the street drain, and there was no question at all, it was all my fault.

A few weeks later Lohen would be banished to memory in much the same way. His nature and my ineptitude made a thing that didnt even exist become even more of an impossibility. You see, he and I were never lovers. We were barely even friends, but he knew of my interest and I knew of his detachment. He was not love, but an image of love. For so long I had hoped to find a man who would have just a few of the qualities that I hoped for so long, and Lohen was a checklist of them.
Youth and an explosion of chaos that it took years to tame did the rest. We lost touch. I put him more on a pedastle. I would hear rumors of him or meet one of his friends. I put him more on a pedastle. People told me that he despised me. And I have spent years wondering what I had done; especially since it had been so important to me then not to hurt him, or had the pedastle gotten just so high that I hoped to see him fall? I don't know what the reason is, but it's been like a chain on my soul for years, what had I done to make Lohen hate me? I have spent late nights thinking about it over and over, and it bothers me to this day. Sure I had been foolish and a child, but nothing worthy of hate. Or had I?
Guilt is something I have always had a hard time dealing with.
And I was guilty of this, this poor bird being swept to his doom. And I stood there aghast. The rain didn't change, nor the wind nor the sky, but I buckled there and fell.
I have never killed a thing in my life out of choice. I swerved out of the way of a possum in my brand new Mustang, a gift of my grandfather, and destroyed the car. I step over bugs and force others to as well. I am a humanitarian, damnit!
There is nothing but betrayel. There is nothing but failure. What worth am I when even my attempts at good go so wrong.
All this goes through my mind, but mostly just a sense of despair that this poor creature is dead.
And I buckled there and fell to my knees.
It seemed like days that I knelt there weaping in the rain, but seconds stretched on like hours. I had asked for the rain to be razorblades and it was, but now I just wanted it all to stop. So it did.
In the calm I heard a sound, the sound of a bird coming from the drain just down at my knees. There was hope and a covered manhole right in front of me.
Sometimes virtue will cost you. Sometimes you have to open the manhole cover and crawl down into the sewer, and sometimes you have to be honest with someone you don't know at all in the hopes of opening up. Now its modern day Austin and I have spent the day thinking that this email that I sent to someone that I barely know was a mistake. And its not the thing that is governing my day but its on my mind in the background. Then I start to worry about my loneliness a little, about my lack of friends or people to relate to. I think of Isaac and wish that he were here now to council me, but mostly to just be my friend.
Then I go online and I find a surprise waiting for me in the chatroom. Lohen is there, right in the middle of room 1.
So I crawled right down in there into the muck and the grime and I took the very shirt off my back to throw it around the blackbird with a broken wing and broken leg which was cowered on a cliff just before the water still flowing from the rain drains down into the piping. The bird was saved and my innocence was restored.
I remember a few days later I called Lohen something like 23 times. I was to take the bird, which I had been keeping in a box over the weekend, to a bird sanctuary which would give him medical treatment and free him again. I wanted to ask Lohen to go with me since I thought that the bird sanctuary had the potential to be an intereting jaunt, but mostly I think I wanted to brag of my compassions. And you know what the good book says, if you want to brag then the only praise your gonna get is your own.
So I sent Lohen a private message. I said hello and I was needlessly trite. Actually I was quite rude and I regret it. I was just so shocked. All of a sudden there he was! Everything rushed back, I had nothing to say. He was very pleasant and told me we should get in touch. He gave me his number and told me to call him soon. I was rude, and he was kind.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to say that the cosmos is bringing us back together and trying to give me a second chance at some college crush. That is not the sensation that I feel about this at all. But I have always thought that we parted on such poor terms and that there was something more left undone from when we met the first time. I have always believed that we had alot of potential to be very good friends for each other, and now we may seem to have the chance.
More serendipity. With all this fortune lying around I don't know why more people don't spend some time in paradise.
And what of the email I sent? Well, in the end its not something that will consume my days or take too much of my sleep. It takes time to get to know some people, and a little longer to find out if you want to.

Friday, June 11, 2004

My aunt, Serendipity

So I am brought here, a stranger in his homeland. The days have settled into sort of a routine of calling a few places to check on apartments and houses and planning to teach my classes. Sometimes I go out and have lemonade under the branches of this grand tree at Spider House. Still, for the most part things have settled into what life needs to be right now, the construction of my scaffolding.
Austin is a lonely place, and I do not often feel that I have people here to talk to. Kat is so busy with her life and I with trying to begin mine that we haven't really gotten together (though we have both made plans to next week). And with my phone on the highest possible level of restriction I do not often get the chance to talk to anyone that still knows me well. That is not to say that my roomates here aren't great. They are. Im getting to know them better every day, and they have been nothing but kind. Still, they lack the closeness brought through years and hard trials. Isolation is harsh, but its lessons are best learned.
Besides, it seems that PK and I did not move here alone. My aunt, Serendipity, has followed me here and has been keeping a close eye on what I have been up to. Her concern for me is touching, and brought out in the strangest of little miracles. Like just the other day I was on my way to apply for a job when fate and consequence flooded the roads and made a maze of downtown. Now, usually Im all for a maze, but it was raining and frustrating and I kept ending up at this bar downtown that I go to sometimes. The rain was pounding and I just kept passing this place by, hoping to get to the bookstore to apply for a second job. And every time that I drove by it the rain got a little heavier and something told me that I should stop. Eventually I took the advice and I did.
Inside I ended up discovering a strange and interesting thing. Someone important from my youth, a man of some distinction in my field, hangs out there periodically. He and I met a few times when I was an undergrad and he was prestigious professor. Now it seems that he has retired, as much as any professor ever retires, and is seen infrequently there.
You probably wonder what all of this means. Why is a little coincedence like this something to rejoice over? Well, on a personal level it revealed an avenue for pursuing my work and furthering my research. It means that I will probably be able to create from this chance encounter a friend in my field, and one from whom I would certainly have much to learn. But in the more general, I think that serendipity is like a wave. You have to learn to let it carry you along and appreciate the myriad of happy accidents that come your way.
This one chance encounter has not been the only thing I've noticed since I moved to Austin. The easy house hunt, having an instant place to live, this job just appearing miraculously at the last minute, PK having a place without any trouble at all, my getting an extra check. These are all the big things that demonstrated that this is the time, my life is falling back into place. But still, there have been other ones.
This place has been completely awash with synchronicity. Everywhere that I look I can see the subtle workings of the divine. I love it when my aunt comes to stay with me for a while, especially when she brings Her Father to say hello.

So I know that many of you are not here to hear the ramblings of an old man on luck. Many of you are here because you want to know how my life has been and what has been going on in it. Well, the answer to that is alot and alot of nothing. I have made a few friends, but only a precious few. As always I have met more people than I will eventually choose to keep, but is that not always the way. My work has begun but I am only just now beginning to find my niche in it. I think perhaps it will be a long road, but I have a lifetime yet to achieve perfection.
The truth be told my life here has not yet started. If you are familiar with the catechism or Purgatorio then you will recall that at the top of Mount Purgatory you spend a while in the earthly paradise, now clean of sin and attended by angels for the first time. Such is my current life here. My worries are few and easily dismissed, though the action of my life is almost nonexistant. I suppose that it only makes sense, if one begins in the void creation does take some time.
And what of love? It was this that I had most hopes for when I first came to Austin. Indeed, I think that it is this that I still have the most hope for in the short term while I am here. This is a place just filled with my kind of people, and I have already discovered some of their haunts. I haven't really met anyone out yet, at least not anywhere but at the bars, but I have been mostly observing. This is a place where a random introduction seems to be well taken, so I am sure that as I become more confident with my Austin wings that I will have no problems with at least meeting people. Still, those of you who know me best know that I become utterly impotent when faced with someone I find attractive. Its really quite pathetic.
Things go on much as they have before. The faces are different, and greater options are open to me here, but life is much as it has always been. I eat, I sleep, I wrestle with my life and beliefs, and I make certain that PK is well loved. Other than this its just like Commerce, oh, except for meeting Gary Jules and becoming friends with an important stage designer (who has already taken me to see one show). Ok, so maybe its nothing at all like Commerce.