Monday, September 29, 2003

It all begins again...

Today was the first day of classes back here at the University of Chicago. I’m on a kind of manic high right now, from all of the overwhelming geekiness surrounding me.

For example: The introductory session of Biology 101 devolved into a debate on whether we can create a reasonable criteria for “life” which excludes such things as certain computer programs. Reproduction, use of energy, growth, interaction with the environment- these things can happen in computers too!

For example: The reading list for my European Civilization class comes to 18 books for 10 weeks, with five full textbooks, source documents like “The Rule of St. Benedict”, “In Praise of Folly” by Erasmus, and Marco Polo’s “Travels”. This is hard-core Core class reading. If only it weren’t quite so expensive.

For example: I just finished an office-hours session with five first-years desperate to figure out Proof by Contradiction. I love teaching, or even this facsimile thereof. I’m worried about the students, as the instructor has serious problems with intelligibility and pace. But I’ll help the best I can.

For example: Today, I heard one of the most enlightening theological homilies, as the priest read from St. Gregory the Great on angels. We have so often represented angels in art and culture that we have this warped halo-and-winged idea of what Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are. Read this for the best philosophical explanation I've ever found (scroll down to the second reading).

I’m all unpacked and ready to roll, except for the backpack that I left at home. There was a lot of confusion when packing, and we didn’t leave for Chicago until 8 PM. In the driving rain. I’m glad we made it safe.

And thanks to all who have been praying for my family. My grandmother’s in the hospital, and we’re all very worried for her.

Gotta help cook dinner now. Peace.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Pray for my grandmother Joyce.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Epilogues...

* Anna e-mailed me after Monday's post:
"The democrats weren't the first to start blocking nominees to the federal bench, the republicans did it plenty during the Clinton administration.   That said, I'm sure that radical courts are always agents of bad change, take for example the activist court that decided Brown vs. Board and any number of other civil rights cases half a century ago.  At the moment, I think that the Senate happens to be saving my civil rights in this particular area (not that the members of the Senate haven't done remarkably stupic things with my civil rights lately, anyways, e.g. the "American Patriot Act").  So there's my 2 cents for the day."

* Day 5 of no TV. Without the ability to waste my time effortlessly, I've felt the impetus to actually accomplish something. TV withdrawal is waning, and I believe that I could go without it (excepting football games, of course) till school begins.

* Commenting about Katie's help shopping, I mentioned my quip, "Katie's Eye for the Brother Guy".
She: "You put that in your weblog, didn't you?"
Me: (sheepishly) "Yeah."
She: "You are so predictable."

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Katie’s Eye for the Brother Guy

As anyone who’s ever seen me is well aware, I am oblivious to what looks good on me. I don’t mean that in a self-congratulatory “I’m above worrying about my appearance” boast. I mean that I do worry, pathetically sometimes, but that I have no clue what I ought to look like. So when I realized my clothes were mostly old, worn-out, badly fitting, et cetera, I was faced with a challenge.

Enter my sister, fashion queen of the public high school. I brought her with me to a discount store, wherein she promptly seized a dozen overlooked shirts and pants and sent me off to the dressing room. She clearly enjoyed this more than I did: “Aw Pat, you look like a cute normal kid now!” “Hey, what’s taking you so long in there... and try these corduroys on while you’re at it!”

Katie instructed me in a few tips which I’ll have forgotten tomorrow:

1) I always buy my clothes too big, and that’s bad. I must accept that I can’t fill out a medium shirt, let alone large.

2) The way for guys to wear a long-sleeve shirt now is to roll up the sleeves exactly twice and to leave the top two buttons open.

3) Orange is a good color for me; tan is verboten. Black is always good, too.

4) Pants should be boot cut, or else shoes mess it all up. Pants are worn from the hips, not the waist.

5) Since I have brown hair, I can wear... wait, was that for the blue shirt and jeans, or maybe the tropical pattern with sweater over it? See, I’ve regressed already.

So I bought myself a few of the better (and cheaper) items. I should look a new man when I come back to Chicago. Of course, now I’m worried I’ll violate “geek chic” by looking too fashion-conscious, the dreaded “trying too hard”. Or something like that. I can’t win, and I can’t stop caring.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Odds and Ends

* My dog, Fibbonacci, is crazy in one respect. Normally a harmless mutt terrier, she goes berserk when she sees the UPS truck. Not the garbage truck, not FedEx, only that brown van with the globe painted on the side. Maybe Nacci was taken away from her family via the shipping company, or perhaps she’s trying to warn us that I’ll be run over by that truck one day. Or maybe she’s just a ridiculous dog.

* Our family room clock is having battery problems, and is slowing to a halt. I calculated how far off it is, and told myself to subtract seven hours or add five. Then, I became strangely enamored with the cadence of that phrase. Try it:
Subtract seven hours, or add five.
Is this just some strange quirk that’s peculiar to me? Or does everybody, once in a while, read uninteresting prose sentences as free verse?

* And yesterday, my sister and I resolved our quarrels over who watches what when, by agreeing to forego TV for a week. Today is Day Two; instead of watching SportsCenter, Robot Wars, VH1, and The Daily Show, I read from Søren Kierkegaard. Sadly, I still feel like watching television.

P.S. I know the name should be “Fibonacci”, not “Fibbonacci”. I was ten years old when we named her. Give me a break.

P.P.S. Fhqwhgads.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Political Firestorm

First, I know my comments are broken. So if you have something to say, e-mail me; if you want, I can even copy your thoughts here in a future post.

Okay, many of you know about the Miguel Estrada judicial nomination, the filibuster, the recent withdrawal. If not, you can check out the following:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A24547-2003Sep4.html

Okay, so essentially the tone of the nomination process has changed. Before, Presidents needed a simple Senate majority to confirm a federal judge. Senate Democrats just began to filibuster nominees, a tactic which requires 60 votes to overcome (a process called cloture). I wonder why neither side ever tried this before.

And although I haven't read enough on Estrada himself to decide whether he'd make a good federal judge, I think that in general this is a good precedent. (Yes, I said a GOOD precedent). It means that unless some party gains 60 seats in the Senate, all judicial nominees will need to be more measured and moderate from now on. Over-politicized, overactive Supreme Court judges have caused atrocities like the Dred Scott case (to use an example we would all agree on), and a more carefully screened bench can do better in my opinion.

And, as I said above, why didn't anybody think of this before?

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

A Down-Tempo Day

I can always use music to test the speed of my mental processes. When my mind is overactive and starved for stimuli, everything slows for me. The beats of, let’s say, “Oye Como Va” are spaced epochs apart today. However, when I’m agitated, or caffeinated, any rock song becomes almost punk to me. Is this just me?

In other news, for my mom’s birthday we all went to see “The Lion King” on stage. It’s one of the most visually staggering productions I’ve ever seen, and so merits watching. The downside: the extra hour of the show is made up of filler material and a few substandard songs, not any interesting deviations from the structure of the cartoon.

Oh, and I finished “Crime and Punishment” this weekend. I thought it was great; I wanted to speed-read because I really came to care about what happened to them, and at the same time I wanted to slow down and examine the ideas and the prose. It does take about a hundred pages to get going, and the ending disappointed me a bit. So it doesn’t quite crack my Top 5, but it’s still the best I’ve read this year.

Speaking of which, my current Top 5 novels:
1. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Doestoyevsky
2. All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren
3. For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
4. Moby-Dick, Hermann Melville
5. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

I know, first of all, that they’re not as a whole very unorthodox choices, but I haven’t read nearly enough to be snobbishly obscure yet. And second, I realize I just listed “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” above “Crime and Punishment”. Get over it.