Saturday, January 31, 2004

Only 25 states?

I am such a loser.

create your own visited states map

Allow me, however, to point out that I'm only counting states that were actual destinations, and not states I passed through on the way. None of this "Well, I stopped at a diner in Arkansas en route to Huntsville" equivocation.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Love, Spirit and Law

As a Catholic who takes the Church seriously on theology and morals, I was surprised recently to realize that I had taken one of their most core teachings as a figure of speech for years. It's something so basic that I could only willfully ignore it in Catholic doctrine. Essentially, although I never would have said so, I really thought that life in God meant obeying a certain set of rules. I was wrong, and I felt I was wrong, but I didn't have a theory why until recently. And that theory has major implications for my life.

But first, a preliminary explanation of an important point. When I write about love, I definitely do not mean what American culture seems to mean by it. I am not talking about an emotion, not even anything romantically related. In this post, by "love" I mean what is also called charity; I mean what is agape in Greek: a giving of self. To love another is to desire what is best for them. What is best for the other may or may not be what they want; take for example a mother's love for her son, the love which keeps her from spoiling him. Again, it has little to do with moods or emotions; a husband and wife will not always feel the way they did as newlyweds, but their love for each other can continue as long as they look unselfishly toward what is best for each other. To love is not to believe that the other is such a great person; we are, after all, asked to love and forgive those who have hurt us, but not to pretend that they are perfect.

So, Point One: Love is desiring what is best for the Other.

Now comes the part I'm just putting together. We are told that all love is of God, for God is love (1 John 4:7-12) and that the Spirit is God dwelling in us. Love is first among the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), according to Saint Paul. So, theologically, would it be a stretch to attribute all agape love to the Spirit? Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, which means the Advocate (John 16:7-15), a title in opposition to that of Satan, which means the Accuser (Rev 12:9). The Advocate desires our good, the Accuser our destruction. More significantly, this identification of love with the Spirit leads me to understand the last chapters of the Letter to the Galatians. Now, this does not mean at all that non-Christians cannot love; what it means is that all real self-giving love is the action of the Holy Spirit, regardless of whether the person understands it. We simply are not capable of "stepping outside of ourselves" except by that power, regardless of one's beliefs.

So I'll posit for now Point Two: Love is the action of the Spirit.

OK, I'll add to this later. You can start the arguments early if you wish.
Penn Bowl

I went with the College Bowl team to a tournament at the University of Pennsylvania last weekend. While the final championship rounds were heavily disputed (ruining Chicago A's day, glorious as it was till then), the Chicago B (a.k.a. Mushroom Mushroom) team had fun, going 7-4 to just miss the playoffs. I did alright, getting a lot of math and Catholicism questions (Saint Stephen, Book of Judith, The Index, etc.), as well as an embarrassing mistake or two (momentarily conflating the legends of the Wandering Jew and the Flying Dutchman, I insisted that the Wandering Dutchman was present at the Crucifixion). It was a nice escape, though I was busy on my return: time and Commutative Algebra wait for no man.
Be Careful What You Wish For

Throughout Fall Quarter, I've stated that I want a "real Chicago winter" as opposed to the gray, snowless winters of my first two years. I might want to take back that wish now. True, I did have a snowball fight on the eve of first week. But since then, there's been sleet (covering everything in two inches of deadly ice), fiendish winds, and today's air temperatures of -5 with a windchill of 20 below. OK, OK, I'm not fishing for pity. No, wait, I am. I have a cold, I'm weak, I have papers and midterms and five classes, and I can't make it across campus without my heaviest jacket and a hood.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Since It's January 22nd

This evening, I watched "Silent Scream" for the first time.

Should we return our laws to exactly the way they were in 1972 (or whatever earlier year we call 'the golden era')? No. Society dealt badly with poor or unmarried pregnant women, in a way which led to an underground network of secret, dangerous abortions. But to acknowledge those problems does not mean to give up on them, which seems to be the de facto solution now. "We don't want to consider troubled pregnant women as a social concern, so we'll just look the other way and tell them they have a 'choice', so why don't they just do the prudent thing and use it?"

There were around 4,000 abortions today. Are you willing to tell me that the majority of those women would not have wanted to have that child under any reasonable circumstance? No decision occurs in a vacuum. Men who refuse to be fathers and who threaten to leave, employers who treat pregnancy as a fireable offense, families that would rather keep up their image by having the pregnancy disappear... it seems to me that not all of these 4,000 women are exercising some elevated and free "choice" here anyway.

Am I a misogynist? Somehow I doubt that. I believe that most of today's abortions are less desired than one might think, that the enormous figure of 1.4 million per year can and should decrease, and that eventually it can and should cease entirely. It requires more from friends, family, churches, boyfriends and husbands of pregnant women than from politicians. I don't have much faith in politics, anyway.

If you're still reading, Peter Nixon linked to a series of posts from last year on the subject. He's more balanced than I care to be right now, and made me think.

That's all for now. I'll be at UPenn this weekend for a College Bowl tournament. Hope it's warmer there than here.

Monday, January 19, 2004

If It Were Basketball, We'd Be The Papal Bulls

I'm playing on the broomball team for Calvert House (the Catholic center at U of C, y'know) and tonight we voted on our team name.

The result: The Calvert House Filioque. (For those who aren't chuckling: the filioque clause was a pretext for the Great Schism, which makes for a great door-slamming, anathema-wielding, ego-clashing story.)

Runner-up: The Calvert House Popery. (Sadly, this could be interpreted as self-loathing rather than the ability to joke about ourselves. We have enough of an inferiority complex here already.)

Honorable Mention: The Calvert House Inquisition. (Although the idea was innocuous and hilarious, we agreed we didn't want to do anything that might have been seen as offensive to Jewish students. Still, it would have been great to score a goal and then shout, "Nobody expects an Inquisition!")

Thursday, January 15, 2004

John Paul II
You are Pope John Paul II. You are a force to be
reckoned with.

Which Twentieth Century Pope Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

And I haven't even mentioned the "Axiom of Choice Proof of the Existence of God" today in Math Logic. (Don't get too excited; it's a simple extension of Aquinas' Uncaused Causer, and has some philosophical gaps, as evidenced by the existence of atheist or agnostic logicians.)

Beast of Burden

...the band that will regenerate metal. We all discussed this at dinner, and we decided that angst, rage and alienation can best be expressed by:

Siamese twin drummers (four arms and four legs coordinated- unimaginable drum solos)

Bassist with congenital generalized hypertrichosis (hair growing thickly from every imaginable part of the skin; the bassist just needs to be a werewolf type)

Six-fingered albino lead guitarist (six fingers for better playing; albino for bad attitude)

And my secret weapon, the lead singer, is the world's only Partial Parthenogenote. This is an actual 13-year-old person who started when a fertilized XY egg coupled with another ovum, one which had two copies of the mother's DNA. Half of the body structures developed from one cell, half from the other. So this boy (the fertilized egg developed the genitalia) has large parts of his body with a different, female genome, left and right sides of the face looking different, et cetera, but as far as my textbook says, healthy and growing. We can only hope his vocal cords allow him to sing like either a guy or a girl.

OK, so maybe I'm getting the wrong ideas from my Human Heredity class...

Monday, January 12, 2004

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

You know, the longer I go without posting, the less my desire to set aside the time for it. Is this just a novelty that has worn off? Does anyone really care what I write here?

Oh well, I know I’m posting today at least.


If you talk to me about politics, you’re pretty sure what political party I belong to: the opposite one from yourself. But you’d be wrong. I seem to argue with just about everyone on a political level, and I don’t know what I believe or who I support on some major issues.

At this point in my life, I’m reasonably certain of my grasp on the way I’m trying to live my life, and I trust the Church on many of these things. However, it’s much less clear what policies to endorse, trying to effect the common good and avoid injustice to a nation of 300 million people. So I will argue with the Republican, and I will argue with the Libertarian, and I will argue with the Democrat, and I will argue with you. And when it comes time to vote? I only wish I knew.

More on this later, when I have time to carefully weigh my words.


Commutative Algebra- So far, so good. Most of the material is familiar to me from either Abstract Algebra or the Algebraic Geometry I did last quarter for the elliptic curves project. Murthy is a good lecturer: clear, organized, legible and understandable.

Human Heredity- Nothing special yet. Today we do mitosis. Interesting assignment, though: find a news article on some topic of human genetics or genetic engineering, then find the scientific source and analyze the reporting.

Functional Analysis- 9 AM Tuesday and Thursday, the bane of my existence. Missed the second class after a bout of insomnia.

European Civilization 2- First quarter’s teacher had the brilliant idea of requiring short response papers on the readings the night before each class, thus ensuring that we’d read and contemplate the texts. Too early to judge the new instructor yet, but the class dynamic has changed.

Mathematical Logic 2 (auditing)- The dreaded fifth class. The first quarter really interested me, so I couldn’t pass this up. Lots of set theory at the beginning; we’ll see where it all leads.

I’m also still grading calculus assignments and holding office hours. So this will be a frightfully busy quarter. Just the way I like it.

Friday, January 09, 2004

45.23809523809524% of me is a huge nerd! How about you?

Actual posts are indeed forthcoming. But I'm busy (this notwithstanding). And lazy.

P.S. Which 45% is that, exactly? My left side?