Thursday, September 01, 2005

Scattershot

I.
Continuing that tradition of unmerited good things happening to me, we give you the Berkeley Math Department Edition of "Beatus Nescius"...

(1) I was assigned a first-year advisor, who turned out to be Dr. Zworski, one of the professors who really impressed me when I visited Berkeley. He's been extraordinarily helpful in giving me an initial direction, recommending classes for me (even moving his own lecture because of a conflict with another class I wanted to take).

(2) The offer I accepted from Berkeley was to teach (lead two discussion sections of a large calculus class) in return for my tuition and stipend. I do like teaching, but that teaching load has a time commitment of about 25-30 hours per week on top of my own studies. (Thus they used to give the first-year grad students all non-teaching stipends, until the state school budget got slashed.) C'est la vie, right?

Well, I went to look up my teaching assignment last week, couldn't find myself on the list, and panicked a bit. Did they lose me in the system? Am I not going to get a stipend? I asked the coordinator, who told me that I'd just been awarded a non-teaching fellowship that day. Turns out that the graduate chair of the department had an extra non-teaching fellowship (since his thesis student needed teaching experience). He gave it to me, not because I deserved it in any special way, but because in my initial conversation with him, I'd mentioned my interest in working with the analysis group (to which he belongs). Now I can take some tougher classes, catch some seminars, do an additional reading course, etc... Wow.

(3) And today, I attended the State of the Department lecture (which most graduate students skipped), where it was announced that we grad students had all been given a 25% raise for this coming year! I celebrated today by adding a CD (Chicago II) to my Amazon order (The Analysis of Partial Differential Operators I, Lars Hörmander).

II. And now, my neuroses of late... I am, after all, a mathematician, and it's not so bad when I compare myself with Nash or Erdös or that wacko who proved the Poincaré Conjecture...

(1) You know, I don't mind bugs in general. It's flying things that bother me, as I admitted last winter about a bird loose in the house. Today it was a moth that got stuck flitting about my room. I just have a sort of 'visual gag reflex' that makes me freak out when anything begins to fly toward my face. Argh.

(2) I don't know what it is about sleeping here, but suddenly I remember my dreams almost every night (which I almost never did before). And now they're all of the same sort: a wild adventure, with my very life threatened by a specific sort of antagonist, but I am unafraid in the dream (because, thus far, I've always had the power to evade death in the dream).

First, the dream where I sat at my kitchen table in St. Charles, then realized a crazy old man with a rifle was trying to shoot me from his psychedelic van parked across the street. I had a tough time explaining the situation to a cop, but it seemed to work out.

Then, I was Goliath from Gargoyles, which I watched every day in middle school. Specifically, I was clawing my way out of a booby-trapped elevator while being watched by a mad genius.

The next time, I was Indiana Jones. Oddly enough, I didn't start out as him, but as a contributor to the commentary track of The Last Crusade, talking about the symbolism of fleeing the gold-encrusted temple with just a tin cup. Then, somehow, I became Dr. Jones, dealing with an airplane full of Nazis on the African plain.

And last night, I was just a kid touring a vast amusement park. After climbing a mountain and watching an orca leap majestically from the water (and planning to tell my sister about it), I found my way to the island of the dinosaurs, where I was cornered by a Velociraptor. Then the dream's visual style abruptly changed from 'realistic' to 'anime', for no discernable reason.

So, I'm crazy, right?

III. Look what I found in my blogsurfing...

(1) I honestly laughed out loud at the Thomism Blues. Seriously, press the "play" button before you start reading. Via Disputations.

(2) I stumbled across this quote and thought that it stood on its own as a really Chestertonian line:

"People who readily embrace the Jesus whose teaching was so shocking to those who heard it in person often can't accept that what He taught might still be shocking to people today."
-Paul, commenting on From the Back Pew.

IV. Good night.

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