Thursday, September 28, 2006

"Can one love everyone, all human beings, all one's neighbours? I have often asked myself that question. Of course not, and it would even be unnatural. In an abstract love of humanity it is nearly always only oneself whom one loves."

-Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot

N.B. By quoting this, I don't mean to say that a saintly love of humanity is impossible, just that it consists not in a general idea of love toward all but a concrete love toward each. Or something of the sort, you know what I mean.

P.S. Yeah- I'm with beards over babies too!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

And I knew that I'd never be any good

And never wear a hard hat and do things like that.

So I joined the police force.

No, there's no real post here. I'm just enjoying that song.

P.S. It's amazing how much better my mind works when I'm motivated but not worried. Watch out, math!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

$85.49: The exact value of a broken heart.

I thought I should share this with you: Ten Rules for Handling Disagreement Like A Christian, advice that shocked me with its good sense and which is routinely disregarded all over the Catholic blogosphere. It's not the most academic prose, but why need it be? (Favorite line: "This rule is sometimes referred to as the 'Darth Vader Axiom.'")

And it was written by Oakland's own Bishop Vigneron, a man doing well in a sometimes-impossible post. He could use some prayers, incidentally, haven broken his arm and wrist in a fall.

Speaking of Michigan (His Excellency was bishop in Detroit and Sault Ste. Marie before being sent to the Left Coast), Sufjan Stevens' album of that name is also excellent, though the repetition of certain melodic structures in Michigan and Illinois has me wondering whether he could expand his musical range. Still, "Vito's Ordination Song" alone is worth getting the album.

It was a heck of a week; as the quarterback from Duke quipped after finishing a 36-0 loss to Virginia Tech, "I'm lucky to come out in one piece." I made the mistake of taking a weekend off from doing math, and I paid for it dearly. But there's excitement ahead, including the establishment of the Lepanto League at Cal!

Current mood: kingly
There is a direct path from Francis Bacon, who said, "Knowledge is Power," that the value of all knowing lies in the provision of human life with new discoveries and helps, to Descartes, who in his Discourse on Method explicitly formulated the polemical program to replace the old "theoretical" philosophy with a new "practical" one, through which we could make ourselves "the Lords and Masters of nature" – from there the road leads directly into the well-known saying of Karl Marx, that up until his time philosophy saw its task as one of interpreting the world, but now its task was to change the world...

Meanwhile, our thesis... maintains that true philosophy rests upon the belief that the real wealth of man lies not in the satisfaction of his pleasures, nor, again, in "becoming lords and masters of nature," but rather in being able to understand what is – the whole of what is. Ancient philosophy says that this is the utmost fulfillment to which we can attain: that the whole order of real things be registered in our soul – a conception which in the Christian tradition was taken up into the concept of the beatific vision: "What do they not see, who look upon Him, Who sees all?"

-Josef Pieper, Leisure, the Basis of Culture

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Idleness, for the older code of behavior, meant especially this: that the human being had given up on the very responsibility that comes with his dignity: that he does not want to be what God wants him to be, and that means that he does not want to be what he is really, and in the ultimate sense, is. Acedia is the "despair of weakness", of which Kierkegaard said that it consists in someone "despairingly" not wanting "to be oneself". The metaphysical-theological concept of idleness means, then, that behind all his energetic activity, he is not at one with himself; that, as the Middle Ages expressed it, sadness has seized him in the face of the divine Goodness that lives within him – and this sadness is that "sadness of the world" spoken of in the Bible.

-Josef Pieper, Leisure, the Basis of Culture

Sunday, September 10, 2006

It's Been A Good 168 Hours.

Highlights by day:

Monday (Labor Day): Lunch and ice cream with Alice, who's been so affected by her summer in Wales that she's now using the Welsh double negative in English. Also, she's finally a beer drinker, which is a positive stage in any friend's life.

Tuesday: I completed a project I first dreamed up in June: a series of informative T-shirts that express the inner me:

You ought to see Hapless and Pretentious!

Wednesday: One of my officemates came in and said, "Who wants to go to a whiskey-tasting event?"

A few hours (and a Mission District burrito) later, I was touring the distillery within one of the country's first and finest microbreweries. My friend's whiskey-tasting club had, it seems, finagled a free tour and tasting (led by an avuncular white-haired maestro who'd worked there since 1971) as a sort of cheap marketing for the company (I think it worked). The Anchor Brewing company has started distilling a bevy of historically-faithful American whiskeys; my favorite was this authentic eighteenth-century rye whiskey, whose taste I won't try to describe because it's just silly to apply personality adjectives to 120-proof alcohol.

Thursday: I learned to use Mathematica for my Quantum Mechanics class; by entering the spherical-wave solution to the Schrödinger equation and making a contour map, I was able to see the interference pattern from the famous two-slit experiment!


So far, graduate-level Quantum Mechanics is all about math that I know; I bet it'll get harder as the semester progresses, but for now, it rocks to be the guy who's understanding quantum physics. Next, THE WORLD!

Friday: St. Anthony of Padua Philosophy Seminar, with Dierdre; we finished off the Nicomachean Ethics and finally had a Plato-Aristotle intellectual death-match! (I wore my Pretentious T-shirt, naturally.)

EDIT: I Almost Forgot... Earlier Friday, as we grad students were waiting for Dr. Christ (no, it's pronounced with a short 'i', but it's still noteworthy to have Christ the Teacher) to arrive for Harmonic Analysis, we somehow started talking about male-female dynamics. (Don't ask me how it started; it was a weird segue from algebraic geometry.)

Anyhow, some first-year grad student made a remark about how we couldn't allow women to manipulate us with their wiles. It was interrupted by a booming chuckle from Maxim, a 250-lb Ukrainian bulldozer of a mathematician. (Put on your best imaginary Soviet accent for what follows, and keep in mind that Maxim could break the first-year if he chose.)

Maxim: "Ha, ha, you only say this because you are unmarried. You get married for one year, you will talk differently. The wife always wins."
First-year: "But why should you let her win?"
Maxim: "I do not want to sleep on couch, you know?"
First-year: "Why doesn't she sleep on the couch?"
Maxim: "Ha! Ha! It does not work like that."

It was amazing. I can only wonder what kind of woman Maxim's wife is.

Saturday: It was Faculty and Staff Day: free football tickets for grad students and others! After Cal's embarrassment at Tennessee, worries were afloat at the home opener against Minnesota. We gave up a quick touchdown, then another on a kickoff return. But once the Golden Bears settled down, Nate Longshore finally proved that he was not, in fact, Joe Ayoob by firing four beautiful TD passes, Marshawn Lynch did his thing, and the defense held the power-running Gophers to almost nothing the rest of the way. The 42-17 rout was a blast. I even did my part, explaining the football rules to my German housemate Marcel who came along, and then making so much noise that Minnesota false-started on 4th and 1. (I may have had some help with the latter.)

Sunday: First, the Eucharist. It's always a good week when you can partake of it.

Then, Cheryl and Andy finally convinced me to go biking with them in Tilden Park, along the ridge of the Berkeley Hills. Despite the fearless Texans pausing to wait for me, gasping and wheezing, after every mile, a good time was had by all (even the livestock grazing by the bike path). It's too bad they're heading back to gloomy Chicago.

Then I watched football, had pizza and beer with my housemates, and wrote a narcissistic and conceited blog post. (I swear, I have ideas worth writing every now and then!) Oh, maybe I shouldn't be so honest. Well, still, it's been Quite. A. Week.

Monday, September 04, 2006

That ys ynogh!

I haue hadde it wyth thes cursed by Seynt George snakes on this cursed by Seynt George shippe!

HOLY MOSES. YOU HAVE GOT TO READ THIS. "Serpentes on a Shippe", by Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog.


When I read about Steve Irwin in the paper this morning, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry (and I immediately called Katie to talk about it). The man had survived ridiculously unnecessary danger so many times before (with incredible enthusiasm throughout) that I thought he'd made a deal with the Grim Reaper. I suppose not. As someone on the Intarwubs put it, "On a positive note, that has to be one of the most hardcore ways to die ever." I mean, stabbed directly in the heart by a poisonous stingray. Damn.

In all seriousness, requiescat in pacem, Steve; you may have earned a rather silly image, but your work showing so many animals to the world (and not from a distance) was beautiful through and through.