Saturday, December 17, 2005

And now for something Completely Different... *UPDATED!* Now with picture

I just thought y'all should all know:

1. The proper name of our bed is The Big Bed.
2. Sometimes I refer to Private University as "The Big School." (As in, "Wake up, honey! It's time to go to The Big School!")
3. Nate's right foot's proper name is "Gimpy."
4. His left foot? "Gimpy's Brother" or just "Brother."
5. Gimpy loves to be petted. Brother? Not so much. To the point that I appointed myself as Brother's social worker. I encourage him to "take his medication" and attend "group therapy." All to no avail.
6. Our sofa was named Abigail Marie when purchased. I found her listed in a Yahoo classified ad in Dec. 1999. I was a senior at Wheaton. The math department secretary and her husband very kindly drove me Very Far to some random smoking lady's house, where I purchased her for $50. She is a queen sleeper sofa. Sleeper sofas don't go upstairs or in elevators well. She did not fit in my dorm room door until we cut off one of her legs. Her entrance was so natalistic that I put up a sign on my dorm room door the next day that said something like, "Abigail Marie, born at 9:57 pm, 320 lbs, 11 oz., 7 ft. long."
7. We had to cut off another leg to get her into the door of my first apartment in Wheaton.
8. This is the third apartment she's lived in. Most people hate her and a few love her. I like her because it's more comfortable to sleep on her than in The Big Bed!

I'm done now.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Of course it wasn't really as bad as all that...

It never is, is it? Sometimes my attitude needs adjusting. Everything worked out just fine.
Professor Algebra was fine with me taking the test late. I took it Monday. We had our car towed away last Friday and I picked it up Wednesday, with a rebuilt transmission. It seems to be running very happily now.

God is good, all the time, and always provides. The Nice Transmission Man said, "You guys were really lucky because the (fill in the name of car part) was broken and it could have (fill in complicated description of Extremely Expensive Problem), but it didn't happen."

I just finished my last final tonight and one of my first thoughts was, "Must write in blog!!" The past several days have been hectic, trying to finish everything up and prepare for the exams. Tuesday afternoon was a little rough; I spent over 4 hours on one tiny part of a single algebra problem. Everyone else in my class (that I talked to) just gave up on it, but once I started it I HAD. TO. SOLVE. IT. And eventually, with God's help, I did. Objectively it (probably) wasn't truly a hard problem, but for me it was hard, so, it was hard. If everything in mathematics were simple I guess we wouldn't bother with it.

Both Baby Analysis and Probability finals were easy, MUCH easier than I thought they might be, which is yet another living example of Grace in my life. I started studying for Prob. around 9 this morning and really felt terrible with a sniffly head cold and fever- I really couldn't think straight at all- and I basically thought all day, "Well, I'm going to bomb this final, but at least I've done well on all the homeworks and previous tests so my final grade should still be decent." The list of things Prof. Probability gave us to review for the final was extensive and included a lot of difficult topics, and he likes to challenge us I think. But I guess he realized it's Nice to write the final as a survey of basic, important material instead of a last chance to really stump us with some tricky stuff (which happened a bit on the three previous tests.) That was really a great class- I learned a TON- and it was challenging, but doable. I'm taking a class Prof. Probability is teaching next semester, just because he's teaching it- he's good and clear and fair and organized and he sets High Standards, which is what's really important.

Anyway, enough yammering about school. I am DONE until the day after Christmas (when I start studying for Comprehensive Exam on Jan. 13th.) Woo-hoo! Bethany and Eric are coming to visit us tomorrow evening. It is SUCH a treat to get to think about things like finishing decorating the Christmas tree, finishing up shopping, cleaning house, getting groceries... I might even WATCH A DVD tonight or other normal (=non-grad-school) person activities!!

One of my favorite Bible verses is Job 1:21: "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." I am so amazed that God gives me such peace through everything, when I just ask. It's easy for me to get worked up over stuff and worry when I shouldn't. And now that I've reached the ripe old age of 26 I wonder, when will I learn to not overreact and worry? When will I learn that final exams probably won't be as bad as I think they will and things will turn out better than I hoped? They always seem to. But it helps me so much to think, Yes, I can give glory to God whether or NOT I do well in my classes and whether or NOT the car is broken and whether or NOT things work exactly like I think they will. There is so much grace in my life that I can't believe it, and my life has been SO good up until this point that I always think I might be due for a tragedy, great or small. But part of growing up a little bit as a Christian has been the realization that I can stand before God with my hands open and say, "Your will, not mine, Lord. I am not afraid of whatever you send me, good or bad, because You are with me always. And I will praise Your Name."

It is the most liberating secret in the world.

Friday, December 09, 2005

As bad as it can get...?

My car is broken. The transmission is shot.

We got 8" of snow overnight.

The University That Shall Not Be Named did not delay the start of classes (it was the ONLY college in the LV to not cancel or delay classes today.)

My algebra final started at 9 this morning.

I was planning to take a taxi. We have so much snow that no taxi would take me. I tried every company in the phone book (except for the one called "limousine.")

I'm not there.

I wasn't ready for it anyway.

I don't know what to do.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

never enough time

Today I need to go to the grocery store, the bank, and Staples, and then take the car for an oil change, then prepare to teach the story at our CEF club, on top of the Homework Madness that is school.

That's why I'm sitting here typing this. (?)

I would like, at some point, to write a post about feminism in response to this. Maybe tonight?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

In which I actually write a "normal" post...?

Normal meaning, I update about what's going on in my life without resorting to inane couplets or massive pictures.

School is in the homestretch for the semester. Tuesday was a Massive Abstract Algebra Marathon, in which I did FOURTEEN (!!!) problems to complete an assignment due Wed. morning. (Yes, 14 abstract algebra problems is a lot. Especially when you haven't read the sections yet. Reading the sections requires digestion of some tough proofs. It takes a Long Time. Trust me.) Today is scheduled to be a Massive Probability Theory Marathon, as there are 13 problems due tomorrow and I haven't started yet (because I actually took a Break for Thanksgiving, unlike many other students I know.)

Also, Professor Algebra was just informed by a little birdie (or his wife?) that the semester ends A WEEK FROM THIS FRIDAY, and the realization dawned on him that he has only covered GROUP THEORY and this is a class on groups AND RINGS. (Rings! Not like The One Ring to Rule Them All, but, like, a group hopped up on something possibly illegal in the lower 48 states that makes it think its elements can also MULTIPLY!!)

So, his solution to this? Assign us to read THIRTEEN SECTIONS from chapters 6, 7, and 8 on our own, and we'll mostly skip the part about having lectures on it and doing homework problems on it (you know, the things that actually help us learn it and understand it), 'cause there's no time, and then we'll have a test on it on the last day of class.

Sounds like a plan, huh?

I have a massive headache.

But I'm Very Happy. :-)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving 2005: An (Non-) Exciting Self-Interview

1. Favorite condiment for Turkey: ketchup
2. Favorite casserole: Mama's asparagus casserole with extra-sharp cheddar cheese (YUM!!)
3. Most bittersweet thought of the day: missing grandparents
4. Giddiest part of the day: I'm turning 26!!
5. Scariest thought of the day: I'm another year older!
6. Most exciting part of the trip: meeting Ngaire!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-D
7. Most relaxing part of the trip: No homework!! (well of course there's homework. But I'm not doing it.)
8. Most absurd part of the trip: Packing about 7 loads of laundry in the car to do at Mom & Dad's Laundromat
9. Most concerning part of the trip: Reminding my husband that the small dog is not edible
10. Thing I'm looking forward to the most: Being with the people I love :-)

Finally, in closing, a Poem in honor of Peter's recent feeble attempts:

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all,
And don't forget the ketchup, y'all!

Love, Neb

My Husband: The Best Kept Secret in Alternative Energy

Do you have high home heating costs this winter? Dread getting the bill from your oil company?

May I suggest: Rent-a-Nate!

That's right folks, Nate, heat source extraordinaire, will be available for a low daily rental fee.

Results guaranteed! Just this morning, he stood next to our thermostat control for a few minutes and then remarked, "Wow! The temperature has gone from 70 to 75 just by my standing next to it..."

In cold winter months, he can get into the driver's seat of our car and fog up the windshield and driver's side window just by the heat he gives off...

Your furnace isn't that efficient, is it? I THINK NOT!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Words you don't want to hear the dentist say, especially right before your birthday=Thanksgiving...

"Your gum might be sore for a couple of days. You can take some over-the-counter pain reliever for it."

Post-filling, right upper molar, 2 surfaces, 22 Nov. 2005

Friday, November 18, 2005

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Crazy is as Crazy Does...

I wrote a letter to Nana last night, my grandmother-in-law. And I included a small diagram of D8, the group of symmetries of a square.

I encouraged her to "look for patterns."

Poor woman... all she did was send me birthday money!!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Said last night

'Is "puppeteer" kind of like "commandeer"? Only with puppets?'

"Polar coordinates are untrustworthy. I think they're a subversive plot by the Communists to take over the world with navigational tricks."

"If the communists take over the country and try to take away my Cheese, I won't give up without a fight."

And by my husband, who just got up: The first words out of his mouth were,

"I've been awake for half an hour. I was sitting and thinking about the geological column."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Impeccable Logic informs all my nutritional choices, don't you think?


"Dark Chocolate has Antioxidants, right?"
"Yeah, all chocolate has antioxidants."
"So it's basically a vegetable."
"No, it's not a vegetable. " [Pause] "But it does have more antioxidants and the same amount of fat as avocado, which is a vegetable."
"So... basically, it's a vegetable."

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

List (based on the premise that there are patient humans out there who actually check my blog and are always disappointed about the lack of updates)

1) We are out of cinnamon coffee.
2) Still have a blueberry bagel left, though. :-)
3) Last night we went to Judy's house to get the rest of our laundry.
4) She had folded it and ironed it, against our explicit instructions.
5) Thank goodness for good friends. :-)
6) Some of Nate's boxers were not in a condition for outsiders to see.
7) She still likes us. :-)
8) Repeat of #5.
9) I am somewhat behind on reading my books for school.
10) I do not use time well.
11) I did, however, break down and wash dishes last night.
12) I have started a Christmas wish list already for this year.
13) Our across-the-hall neighbor moved out yesterday.
14) Now it is time to go pay bills.
15) I might write more later (how many times do I say that, and then I don't?)

Updated picture

The Most Handsome Baritone in the Choir emailed this to me with suggestions I could post it.
(Did I mention I'm married to him, too? So lucky am I!)

This is what the concert looked like from the center of the back row, where I sat for the second half of the concert. Pretty spiffy, huh?

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Tall Blonde Lady in the Shiny Green Alligator Dress Sings!

Nate's first choir concert was last night!! (He's probably not in the picture to the right, which I found on the Lehigh website, which was probably from last year, so don't go blind trying to spot him.) He looked quite dashing in his tuxedo. I wanted to kiss him passionately for half an hour or so after he put it on, but oddly enough he said he had to go to this concert thing... yes, anyway, I went to the concert thing too, with my Fabulously Cheap Student Ticket, and had quite a marvelous time. My seat was on the third row, far left, and Nate's head was invisible part of the time through the harp!! :-( So at intermission I switched seats and sat on the very top row, in the center, which gave a much better view of everything. There was a perfumy old rich lady next to me and I kept explaining enthusiastically, My husband! He is in the Choir! :-) And I tried to point him out: He is the MOST HANDSOME ONE, there, in the upper right!! For some reason, she wasn't sure which one he was after that!! Can you imagine???!?!

Anyway the music was nice, and it was mostly in German and Latin and Russian and Italian. I don't know how Nate knows how to pronounce all those languages, but he does, somehow! Also he can sing notes printed on a page! My husband, he is amazing, yes?? Anyway, the words to the songs are printed in the program and my inner Obsessive-Compulsive likes to follow along in Russian or whatever as the people sing, but the problem is, you have to do that from the very beginning, because if you get lost, it's hard to find your place again in the printed words (considering that the printed words look like this: "Puskai pogibnu ya, no pryezhde... Ti v snovidyenyakh... uvi, zasluzhennim." What kind of a word is "v," anyway?) If you get lost, one trick is to find a word that looks like it will sound very distinctive (I picked "Voobrazi," although in my head I was pronouncing it with an Italian accent) that is definitely past the region where you think the singer might be, and wait till you hear that word, then you'll find your place again. I tried this and it didn't work. You might have better luck.

The choir conducter is this cute little short man in tails, maybe he's four feet tall or something? (I'm exaggerating) who has lots of degree from places like Harvard and Yale, etc. He stood on a very high podium but even so, when the Tall Blonde Lady in the Shiny Green Alligator Dress (TBLitSGAD) came onstage I think she was still taller than he, just about. There was an Incident in the first half: the TBLitSGAD came onstage at the wrong time!! One song too early!! She came out all swishy and shiny and big and tall and soprano-y and Beamy and everyone clapped and cheered, and then the short little choir director gave her this wide-eyed look and mouthed something like, NOT YET!! So she was all embarrassed and walked back offstage. And to fill in the amazing awkward silence the director said something semi-audible like, "Nice dress!" And those of us on the third row heard, and giggled. I asked Nate, how could she goof that up...? Didn't she have a program? And he said that a Backstage Knome probably sent her, as they have people to keep track of that kind of thing for the performers so that the performers can focus on just Performing. I would NOT like to be the backstage knome who messed up queing her entrance and caught the wrath of the TBLitSGAD!! Anyway, I felt bad for her because I think half the fun of a concert (when you're a TBL who sings) is the Revelation of the Dress, and that moment was spoilt just a bit, wasn't it? Kind of like the bride starting to come down the aisle too soon, or finding out who the murderer is in the first chapter of a mystery. It almost makes you want to go home right then and there. (Except of course, I was there to see The Most Handsome Baritone in the Choir, so it was okay.)

Anyway, the TBLitSGAD was all kissy-kissy with everyone all the time, every time she finished a song and bowed and went offstage and came back onstage, she kissed people and people kissed her- like, the short choir director kept kissing her, and she kissed the first chair violinist, and she kissed the girl who gave her flowers at the end, she probably kissed the terrified little seventh-grade boy who had a couple of solo lines... Thankfully she did not feel the need to ascend the risers (she would have tripped over the SGAD, anyway) and start kissing her way through the baritone section, 'cause if she would have reached The Most Handsome Baritone in the Choir there would have been a Scene with a certain audience member from the third row, and, let's just put it this way... she wouldn't have gone home with all those shiny alligator scales intact!

At intermission, they had a refreshments ("concessions"? I don't know if that word fits. "Concessions" is a little low-brow, isn't it? Like a baseball game or a county fair? Maybe I'm way off here. I don't go to enough high-brow stuff to know if they've adopted that word as their own.) stand, which had Chardonnay! Other alchohol! In addition to chocolate and Starbucks coffee. Of course I didn't consume anything, but it was nice that it was there. :-) Also there were perfumy old rich ladies in sparkling dresses wandering around. (I was, regretfully, in khaki pants.)

Did I mention how much I love student tickets? And how much I've missed going to concerts and things since leaving Wheaton? We went to cheap-ticket concerts at Wheaton all the time. It shall go on my Things-I-Love-About-Going-to-Lehigh list.

Afterwards I took The Most Handsome Baritone in the Choir home with me (ha ha! Take THAT, envious alto section!! HE'S ALL MINE!!) and we stopped at the grocery store for the traditional Victory Giant Muffins. All in all, a very pleasant evening.

Monday, October 24, 2005

3 hours sleep (!!!!) but at least I had the satisfaction of hearing...

"Yes, the homework was hard this time, wasn't it? It took me far too long to write the solution guide. Hours and hours."

-Professor Probability
PhD, Yale, 2004.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Book titling trends: An Observation

I am beginning to doubt that it is possible to publish a nonfiction book in this country whose title does not contain a colon. Hence, I am tempted to publish a book with a title such as "This Book Title Does Not Contain a Colon," or even more appropriately, "Colons: The Secret to Success in Publishing Your Non-fiction Book."

Sunday, October 16, 2005

This post was originally entitled, "A long idea, made short," because I thought I could keep it short. Ah ha ha ha ha!! I never shut up!!!!

People are amazing to me. That's why I like reading blogs. I like the fact that just when you think you have someone "pegged" as something, you find out something rather shocking about them. For example, take the folks who comprise what we would call "conservative evangelicals" or "the religious right." So many agree on so many issues. Opinions concerning gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia, religious freedom in schools, patriotism, gambling, etc etc tend to line up right down the list. But then you realize, there are so many sub-categories within this "movement," so many variations on a theme. There is the subcategory of evangelicals whose response to certain cultural forces is to have lots of children, homeschool them, and (preferably) dress them in matching homemade jumpers. Please, please note, I am in no way making fun of these people, even though they tend to be easy targets for the numerous ways in which they stand out from the rest of the world. Minus the "homemade" part, this is more or less my own heritage, of which I am proud and fond. However, this group of evangelicals tends to be very anti-feminist in a way that I partially agree with and partially disagree with. (If you're curious, I agree with the part that observes, "God made men and women different in roles but equal in value." I disagree with the extreme that they take this to, namely, "there is usually no point in women pursuing higher education because women are meant to cook and sew and clean." I have never found a verse that says cooking and sewing and cleaning are more important requirements of Godly womanhood than university attendance.)

Then there are the evangelicals who would agree with the matching-jumpers group on just about every issue (including creationism) except the homeschooling part. These Christians support all the same conservative ideology and theology, but they feel that Christian kids belong in public schools to be a positive influence in that environment. Christians with this belief range in their opinions of homeschooling from openness to neutrality to downright disapproval. Although I don't personally agree with the decisions that these Christians make concerning the use of the public school system (Nate and I are planning to avoid it, if possible), I think that a lot of their reasoning and intentions are good and right and valid. Many of the ones who disapprove of homeschooling seem to base their opinions on individual cases they've seen which make homeschooling look bad, and although I know that can seem like good justification for their views, it always comes as a bit of a shock to me to hear someone whose worldview lines up so well with mine on so many other issues speak negatively about homeschooling. It always gives me just the tinist inkling of a feeling- "Well, whose side are you ON, anyway!?" Note that that is a *feeling*, not a rational thought; I think that those Christians are completely entitled to form their own opinions about homeschooling. It just feels a little weird.

Then there are the Christians who agree with the "standard" conservative Christian positions on all the items listed above, but have looser interpretations of Genesis than the typical 6-day view. Although the majority of my church seems to be quite strong in their belief of literal 6-day creationism, many Christians I know and have known (i.e. at Wheaton) allow less literal interpretations of Scripture and embrace [many of] the conclusions of modern science on the subject. This is a dividing point among many Christians who agree so wholeheartedly on so many other issues.

Going off track a bit (are you all out there desparately yawning over these aimless ramblings of mine?), there is another group of people I encounter a lot in the Blogosphere who I can only describe as "Hippies," although the term really doesn't suit them as they have nothing to do with free sex and drugs. I will define what I mean by a laundry list of their adgenda: organic food, Waldorf schools (or in some cases, homeschooling), homebirth, extended nursing, co-sleeping [that means your baby sleeps in bed with you, in case anyone reading this thought that sounded kind of sinister], homeopathy, herbs, green tea, acupuncture, enviromental awareness, tye-dye [or is some kind of "organic" clothing now the new tye-dye...?], co-ops, and meditation. (I am sure that is not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.) When I say that there is a "group" of people who embrace these concepts, what I mean is that people who like certain items on this list tend to like lots of the items on this list. (Someone out there with a decently sharp eye will point out that many of my items fall under the general category of "alternative medicine," so it's really no surprise that certain folks embrace "many" items on the list.) My first extensive encounter of the Hippie Worldview was serving as a nanny for some families whose kids were all in Waldorf school together, and noticing the similarities in parenting ideas and lifestyles. (The really committed familes didn't allow their kids to watch TV or play with regular toys. Their toys were all ordered from Waldorf-approved catalogues. The kids were all born at home, with interesting pictures in the family photo album to prove it. Kids with allergies went to the chiropracter to be treated with crystal therapy. On the other hand there were undercommitted families who still had a little TV time, some Mattel and Tonkas, non-organic meat, and pediatricians. [And the kids were born in hospitals, probably even with epidurals, which was forgivable because the family hadn't been "converted" to Waldorfianism at that point.])

Anyway, within THIS movement of people there is, too, a lot of diversity, spiritually and otherwise. There are conservative Christian homeschoolers who embrace a lot of these ideas, and non-Christian homeschoolers, and Christian non-homeschoolers.... well, you get the idea.

In conclusion, a tiny, tiny part of why I haven't yet changed my last name has something to do with that feeling of nonconformity that says, I line us with THIS (fill in blank) group of people so well that I must have SOMEthing to distinguish me, to set me a part from them, to preserve my sense of individualism. And honestly, I line up with the (homeschooling?) branch of the conservative evangelical movement so much, on so many issues, that maybe I need to have just one little thing that shocks people- that makes them do a double take when they hear my name and say, wait, "Your last name is... what?"

PS (Good news for my parents) I think I'm changing my name to Nancy Elizabeth Bush Wentzel soon. :-)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Desparate times call for desparate measures...

After eliminating everything that I can think of that could possibly host a thriving fruit fly community, I am now considering renting a large Costume, introducing myself as a "long-lost relative," and flagging down some of the Dear Flying Friends to ever-so-casually ask, "So, little one, where are YOU living these days...?"

They wouldn't catch on, would they...?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

One thing I will NOT miss about PA when we move... being greeted with a hearty, "YOUS HAVE A GOOD ONE!" when leaving the grocery store.

You know you've gotten a Cheap Haircut when...

1) You have to finish cutting your own bangs when you get home.
2) A 20% tip is less than $2.
3) There are no haircut styles books because they can't afford them.
4) They charge extra for a stylist who speaks English.
5) Parts of the shop (i.e., the bathroom) are sublet to help pay rent on the building.
6) Stylists must kick hair across the floor because they can't afford a broom.
7) They turn out the lights between haircuts to save electricity.
8) Stylists mention their spouses' "high-paying" jobs at McDonald's.
9) There is only one pair of scissors in the shop so that everyone must take turns.
And the number one way you know you've gotten a cheap haircut...
10) Friends avert their eyes and painfully ask, "Did you do it yourself...? You can borrow my mirror next time."

(PS In case you can't tell, only #1-3 are true, and I love my Cheap Haircut.) :-)

What I said

"We have sliced turkey. The world is now Safe for Democracy again."

The Refugees

Oh, I suppose I should point out right away, just in case anybody is reading this who doesn't know me personnally- my sister was totally fine during the hurricaine. She got about 1 1/2 inches of rain, in fact. :-D Thanks to everyone who prayed.

No, the title does not refer to storm refugees, but to the Other occupants of this apartment. The tiny short-lived ones with wings. That's right, folks, we are again (or would "still" be more accurate...?) Infested. I guess the most accurate statement would be that over the last few weeks (since the first post about this) we have occillated between Severe Infestation and Hardly Noticeable infestation, with much of the latter, and I think this is because they are quite content to live in our Trash Can, as long as our trash can is full. When Nate takes out the trash, we are suddenly confronted with the unhappy masses: Refugee families of fruit flies, displaced from their Homes, clutching babies and microscopic suitcases and looking desparately for new places to live. (Shall I construct a .00001 inch Statue of Liberty and afix it to the open window, showing them the way to Freedom...? It is worth serious consideration.)

(I wanted a picture to illustrate the above paragraph, but alas, google image search for Insect Refugee Family was rather... shall I say... Fruitless?)

Anyway, I'm hopeful that if we eliminate all unrefrigerated produce (done), clean out the trash can with bleach (again), and maintain the kitchen in an immaculate condition for a few days, they will surely die off...? [As the Gentle Reader begs, but isn't your kitchen meant to be immaculate all the time...? And I respond, by "immaculate" I mean nothing in the trash they can eat, no dirty dishes left in the sink, etc.] Also, per the advice of the Internets I have constructed a Trap for them:
I did not have cider vinegar, but I did have white vinegar and apple juice so I mixed the two. (white vinegar + apple juice = cider vinegar, yes? I thought so.) However, I think our particular population of fruit flies have read the same site: they are wise to my ways and have only curiously sniffed at the paper funnel without being tempted towards the deadly liquid inside. I can hear the self-appointed Ringleader laughing now: "Ha ha! Zee craazy Ameerican Voman! She ees trying zis treek weeth the zjar und zee vinegar, vrom zhat weebsite!! We weel not fall for her eevil plots!!"

Saturday, October 01, 2005


“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars..."

Jack Kerouac

Friday, September 23, 2005


When we were growing up, my big sister was always the advernturesome one. I was the by-the-manual, don't-risk it younger child; she wasn't afraid to kick off her sandals and give it a try. I read the instructions before assembling; she grabbed a screwdriver and jumped in. I liked the merry-go-round; she was all about the roller coasters. Each of us got a driver's license on our 16th birthday. She drove halfway across Houston the next day; I still begged for rides within the neighborhood for months to come.

So it doesn't come as much of a shock to me that she's decided not to evacuate. It was funny chatting with her yesterday as we reminisced about growing up together in Houston, being little enough to not think of billions in damage and lost lives when a hurricaine threatened. 1984-97 was basically a hurricaine-free window for Houston, so our youthful little hopes were dashed season after season. No school cancellations, no big winds and rains and huddling in the hallway and Daddy home from work for us.

And now there she is, all grown up without me, about to face The Big One. And I'm old enough to be worried about injuries and lost lives and catastrophic property damage. Her beauitful house...? Her car...? And obviously, most of all, herself...?

I know she's a little nervous about it. But in chatting with her I can just hear that little spark that's always been in her, and I can just see her... driving to the beach and duct taping herself (and the dog and cat) to the dock and letting those massive, amazing Winds blow through her long, waist-length hair.

Good luck, sweetie (and the rest of Houston too),
Love, Neb :-)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Of colloquiem and Cake

Just for the record- in a half-asleep stage of my nap the other day, I heard myself say "and then you divide cake..." which, granted, may have more objective meaning in the external world than multiplying ice creams. But I think it's a natural extension of the Ice Cream Group, don't you? Like a quotient group or something...?

I went to Colloquiem for the first time last Wednesday, which, for those of you who don't know, is a weekly meeting where a visiting mathematician gives a talk to the whole math department. The talk was way, way over my head- it was about manifolds, which of course I've Heard Of [they're a big deal in the mathematical world] but have never formally studied. [I'm supposed to go to these things just to hob-nob with people and be "exposed" to mathematical ideas, or something like that.] The guy giving the lecture had good chalkboard handwriting; that's about all I can say about that. But the REALLY exciting part about Colloquiem is that beforehand, there are Cookies and "social time." Social time is in quotes because, well... have YOU ever seen a group of 25 people who completely lack social skills and don't know how to make eye contact and stare at their shoes a lot [which don't match anyway] try to Interact Socially for 35 minutes? My friends, it isn't pretty. Thank goodness for the cookies; at least having something to munch on lessens slightly the amount of time spent in awkward silence. My real analysis prof was there briefly, in his spiffy suit, and chatted with me for a bit, which was nice- I think the hearing aids were turned up, as he actually responded to what I said a bit! He's really very nice. Then there were some grad students, who were a bit geeky, but pleasant enough. Then, there was this... well, he looks homeless, but he's actually a Professor. If you saw him on the street you would think he escaped from an institution or something. Enormous beard, bright yellow T-shirt circa 1982. Yeah, we don't really know what else to say about that.

Anyway, I have this feeling that the Right thing to do would be to go around and introduce myself to all the professors and students I don't know, and find out how long they've been at Lehigh and what they study and where they're from etc etc etc but I really just can't bring myself to do it. I mean, I'm terrible with names, so I'll just forget anyway... and wouldn't it be a waste of mental hard drive space to try? I have a lot of math to memorize this semseter. I'd rather operate on a need-t0-know basis with the whole Names thing and just lean as I go along. Which is fine, except that I think there will be a lot of awkward Colloquiems this semester...

I'm off to read a little bit and then sleep. There's a problem I can't solve but I'll try not to think about it...


Thursday, September 15, 2005

"And then you multiply the ice creams together..."

...those were the words of my half-asleep, infantile, cryolactiphilic brain.

We got our first homework back yesterday in Probability. I got an 84/120 (although the 120 included 20 bonus points.) This was by no means a disastrous grade, but I was upset because the problems had not been hard for me, I carefully wrote up my solutions, and I was confident that they were all substantially correct. So I looked at what the grader had taken off for, then I had a little conversation with the instructor (Professor Probability, who is bright, organized, logical, fair, and kind- a winning combination in a teacher. :-)) He totally agreed with me! I got back every point I asked for and my final grade was 118/120 (those two points were for failing to but braces around a set; that was my fault so I didn't argue.) The grader, whoever she is, failed to read some of my work carefully to see that it was, in fact, correct. I am happy and relieved that in the end I got the grade I felt I deserved, but concerned that the return of every homework will necessitate a trip to the instructor to ask for points. (In math the nice thing is that, generally, it's either Right or Wrong, so you don't have to ask for points; you can just humbly say, "Can you explain my mistake in this problem?" and if there isn't a mistake, they pretty much have to give you the points.) Of course, I'm not the only student who was disconcerted about the way my paper was graded, so we'll see- maybe the instructor will have a serious talk with the grader. Or fire her, preferably, and grade the papers himself.

Anyway, I was so upset by the grade that I couldn't focus on the lecture properly, which was bad, because we're getting into harder material. Note to self: learn to control emotions and focus on the task at hand. Also, this little episode was a good reminder that there is a lot of injustice in the world (as if NO wasn't a big enough example), that I am not immune to it, and that I shouldn't expect to be. It's all about faith and perseverance, right? Right. I think so.

In more lighthearted news- from Narniaweb via my sister:

How Homschoolers Change a Lightbulb

First, mom checks three books on electricity out of the library. Then
the kids make models of light bulbs, read a biography of Thomas Edison
and do a skit based on his life. Next, everyone studies the history of
lighting methods wrapping up with dipping their own candles. Next,
everyone takes a trip to the store where they compare types of bulbs
as well as prices and figure out how much change they'll receive if
they buy two bulbs for $1.99 and pay with a five dollar bill. On the
way home, a discussion develops over the history of money and also Abe
Lincoln as his picture was on the five dollar bill. Finally, after
building a homemade ladder out of branches dragged from the wood, the
light bulb is installed.

Vivian's response:

"That was great, Queen Lucy. But in my family, when I was homeschooled, it would have gone more like this:

My mom assigns me to change the lightbulb. She makes sure there are two bulbs, one for "practice" (which can be the final bulb, if I get it right the first time) and a "final" bulb if I mess up the practice bulb. She makes a neat, orderly schedule for the light bulb changing and leaves it on my desk. Unfortunately, she's not able to actually help me with it, because she's busy teaching my younger siblings to spell "on" and "off." So she asks my dad to supervise me. But he has to go to work, so he draws me a diagram of the circuit complete with the complex symbols used by electricians and engineers, labelled in undeciperable handwriting. The diagram just makes me more confused, so I take it to my mom for advice. She finds me a manual on approved lightbulb-changing techniques, which I figure out on my own. I change the lightbulb."

You guys won't read this until next week, right?, since I just got through saying I'll only post once a week. Frequency of blog posting appears to be in an inverse relationship with the frequency with which I think or say I'll post. Taking this to the extreme, perhaps if I decide to post once a year I'll end up posting daily?

I think ice cream flavors would most defnitely and happily form a Group. A group of order 32 perhaps; with vanilla as the identity. But then what would be the inverse of Chocolate?

X = ?

Love, Neb

Monday, September 12, 2005

Time blogging = Time not doing homework!

Hello Nebiverse fans (all 3 of you),

Sorry for the long hiatus. I've been all on top of things- like, I am ON TOP of this school work, so on top of it!! You can't get any toppier than me! to the neglect of all else.

(Wow, there was absolutely no decent grammar in that opening paragraph, none whatsoever.)

What do you want to hear about? I write real analysis proofs now. I can prove that between any two real numbers there is a rational number, that square root three is irrational, and that the reals are uncountable. Most of you find these things either incomprehensable, boring, or both. I? I am Exhilerated. (Exilerated? Did I just excite myself or exhile myself somewhere? Goodness gracious. Apparently I can't spell anymore, either. Wait, I never could! But! It doesn't matter now! I'm in MATH!! Ah ha ha ha ha!! Ha! Oh, and Also? Cantor went nuts before he died! What were Professor Analysis's words? "Completely looney" or something like that. "That's what pure math will do to you, eventually," he warned us. Thanks! We needed that little bit of encouragement to keep doing homework!)

Okay I'm tired, so I'm taking off, but a couple of quick things:

1) Recent events have reminded us that there are more coasts in this country that just the East and the West. The people of Mississippi and Louisiana and the other affected regions are beautiful people and they need our help. Red Cross donations are pretty safe, and even more importantly, keep the hurricaine victims in your prayers (even longer than the media keeps them in the ever-fleeting spotlight.)

2) I'm going to try to post something every week, probably Sundays, so you can check Monday or so to read the new post and not have to keep checking and getting frustrated. (those of you who haven't given up already, that is...)

3) I exchanged the Vera Bradley bag that was given to me for something actually large enough to hold all my stuff. Behold:

Isn't it beautiful?

I feel very blessed.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Quotes from the First Day...

"There is no Mathematics in the so-called Real World."- Real Analysis professor

He also passed out a list of "rules" for the class which included "do not divide by zero" and "do not speak or write the nonexistent word 'math.'" As a Perfect Southern Gentleman, he doesn't seem to be a big fan of abbreviations- the syllabus notes that we will have Examinations, not exams, etc. On day 1 we learned about The Calculus Arch, consisting of Riemann integrals (to find area) on one side and the Tangent Line problem on the other, connected by the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. All of Mathematical Analysis rests on the arch. When it comes to RA, everyone has a paradigm...

"You won't have any problems... if you know the entire Universe."- Probability professor

This esteemed young gentleman is on loan from Yale and originally hails from St. Petersburg, Russia. The accent I was worried about? No problem- his English his very good. There's even a [cute] hint of Brittish in it. His lecture style was clear and the only impediment to following it was the fact that the room was unbearably warm (most of the Math building is unairconditioned, and our bright young professor decided to close all the windows so we could hear him better. Apparently years of severe hardship make things like livable temperatures seem unimportant in the Russian academic mindset.) He seemed just very slightly nervous and got the distributive laws of set theory a bit wrong, but I helped him out. ;-) I'm very excited about this class...

"Er, hum, um, algebra. Hrhmmph. Roots. Polynomials- um, transcendental, algebraic. Hummph." - Algebra Professor

I was warned about this guy by the other grad students. He is disorganized- evidenced by the fact that he showed up for the class at the last minute, with nothing but the textbook. (I got the distinct impression that he wouldn't have shown up at all if it hadn't been for a crumpled sticky note that he found in his pants pocket from his wife: "Monday morning, 9:10, graduate algebra!! You're teaching!!") No lecture notes, no syllabus. He sort of made up a lecture as he went along, I think. Strong tendency to avoid complete sentences and definitive statements about anything. He is the happy, rumpled Computer Programmer type- his field is prime factorization and finding large primes, which he happily babbled about for the last 5 minutes of the class. I took notes, but rereading them doesn't seem to be getting me far, as they are mostly just lists of phrases like "algebraic integers" without much content. (That's what he put on the board, and that's what he said.) He said he was covering the Prerequisites chapter in the book, but there doesn't seem to be much overlap between what he babbled about and what's in the book. (Did he read the prerequisites chapter? I doubt it.)

It's a very tough book- so it should be an interesting class.

And so- We Begin! :-)

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Family Camping Trip 2005

Well, I don't think I ever blogged about our camping trip this year, did I?

I mainly want the pictures to tell their own story, but I'll fill in a few details.

My parents drove to PA to pick me up on Sunday July 3rd, just after getting back from Creation with my brother and sisters. It was great to have time to just hang out with them and relax and talk. There's nothing like a good car trip to promote deep Conversation. :-)

Sunday night we went out to dinner at Denny's, and it was a lot of fun, just the six of us again. I was very silly as always and made everyone laugh. (That's my God-given role as Middle Child.) There were whiny-sappy-oldie love songs playing in the background, and I Talked Back to the forlorn crooner. Also, I am fairly certain that by the end of the evening our Waitperson considered us all Certifiably Insane™. ("Ah ha ha ha ha!! My work here is done..."

Monday morning (or was it around 3 in the afternoon...? We tend to leave a little bit Late) we left our home in MD for Shenendoah River State Park in Virginia. Upon arrival, the Camping Experts among us (Vivian, my Dad, arguably Chris and Margaret and my Mom) busied themselves with setting up (or failing to set up) various tents, tarps, stoves, campfires, tornado shelters, etc, etc, while I found the most Clean and Sanitary place possible to sit down (which was a wooden picnic bench.) Honesty, I am Not naturally much of a Camper; I was just along for the Cameraderie and free food. ;-)

Monday night we left for DC to see the fireworks, and there was a bit of concern that we might not get there in time. To make a long story short, we finally found a place where we could park and take the subway into DC (yay for public transportation!!) and we got to the Mall just in time for them to start. That was my second time to see fireworks on the Mall, as I had been there in Summer 1999 for SPWM. Some people hate the huge crowds of people, but I love them. Well, except when we had to get back on the subway home and we waited around for a long time for the crowds to "die down," but they didn't! And there was a line Miles and Miles long* and we were worried that the last subway leaving at 11:45 would be full and we wouldn't make it! Trapped in DC overnight! Forced to call upon our Cousin George to put us up for the night! Thankfully, there was room for us. We got back to our campground late, after 1 a.m., and settled in for the night.
* a gross exaggeration

There were two tents available for sleeping, but the whole concept of sleeping on the ground is not something I really embrace, so I opted to sleep in the minivan. Van-sleeping in an ancient tradition in the Bush family, dating back several decades, although I realized that its allure of comfort and pleasantness might have been a BIT tastier back when we had a full-size-, not mini-, van and when I was a bit smaller and less prone to the delicate infirmiries of Middle Age. Also, it was quite a bit warmer than I anticipated, and there were mosquitoes. Still, I managed to get a good night's rest. :-)

Tuesday morning we went to the grocery store and loaded up on camping necessities like batteries and Steak (yum!) and I tried to teach my little sister the meaning of the term "generic." We cooked food (tasty!) and then embarked upon the highlight of the day: intertubing down the turbulent and rapid Shenendoah River (that's it in the first picture above: not the vicious white water rapids.) I had never been tubing before, so I was a bit Hesitant, but my river-experienced older sister encouraged me into it, and it was a lot of fun! (For the 1% of you out there who weren't sure: yes, the white water rapids comment above was a joke. The current was so slow at points that we wondered if we were still moving, and the river was rarely over 2 or 3 ft. deep. The tubes got stuck on rocks quite a bit.) (PS Innertubes take a LONG time to blow up and deflate- even with an air pump.)

After all that fast-paced adventure, the Bush family did was the Bush family does best: we took naps! And my mom and dad sat in the car with the air-conditioning running for a few hours, reading books. I suggested a hike, believing that if you're going to camp in the Outdoors with the Heat and Bugs and everything, you might as well get a bit of Exercise, but that was postponed in favor of an even more important Bush Family Tradition: we took a long drive through the mountains. And I was VERY glad that we did- we saw a complete rainbow!

Tuesday night there was a big thunderstorm. We cooked our dinner (STEAK!!) :-) under the big pavillion, which was nice, and I hoped that no ranger-type-people would send us away to our dark and wet campsite. (I'm not sure that use after dark was permitted.) There is nothing like Steak when you're hungry... except ICE CREAM! So we went into town after the storm cleared up for ice cream from a little Baskin Robins/ Dunkin Donuts convenient store. Ah, that's how camping should be... :-)

Wednesday morning we took the hike I was begging for, although it was really a bit more of a "hike" as we didn't have a whole lot of time. But it was just great to be together. I ran back and forth amidst the various straggling parties (don't be impressed that I ran: like I said, it wasn't that far) for a little while before getting Hot and slowing down to pant along with everyone else.
(By the way- Nate described the outfit I am wearing to the left as "busy." Who says tye-dye spirals don't go with plaid...?)

After the hike, we packed up camp and took off for the airport. Along the way, we stopped for a quick excursion on Skyline Drive, one of our favorite driving spots. A cool hippie-looking-girl with a head covering of her own (!) took a picture of all of us:
Note that we did not plan ahead and coordinate colors for this picture. Although my mom, my sister and I would make a nice Valentine's day postcard, I suppose.

Well, did I imply I was going to be brief in this post?
I've given a lot of factual details but left out the Subtext: how much it truly meant to me to be with my family, and how much I missed them after I went home. That's the story I want these pictures to tell- how it was so wonderful to not be Very Far Away from them, even for a few days. Since getting married and moving out on my own, I've missed being a part of the little everyday details of their lives, the kind of details that just don't carry too well over the phone and at holiday visits. I've especially missed being with Chris and Margaret as they grow up, because I hear the Facts, but I miss the subnarrative. Camping was great because the woods were quiet and I got to Hear just a little bit more. And that made our short time together worth all the mosquitoes in the world to me. :-)

Let's do it again next year, guys!

:-) Nancy Elizabeth

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The queen retires...

One of the things I love most about my job is that all of my bosses have a really good sense of humor.

Today, for example. [Don't be afraid- today's not "special" like yesterday was. Although I DID have another pudding cup awhile ago, so, you never know...] Today I had to do an "exit interview" which was really not an "interview," in the true sense of the word, at all, but merely a sheet of paper with questions that had to be answered. (What's that? A questionaire? A survey? Anyway.) It was basically open-ended, along the lines of, "So, do you have any suggestions to improve the Learning Center?"

After commenting about a couple of serious things, I noted that the cake and donuts have been nice, and also how much I've enjoyed mocking certain of my coworkers. Then, I got down to business with a list of 20 suggestions for improving working conditions for the Tutor, which included: ice cream bar, health insurance and paid vacation, salary, monthly 50% raises, company car (preferably Volvo) with mileage reimbursement, suggestions of Bribes for the tutors in the contract that students sign, recliners, hats that say "do not disturb," Tenure, free tickets to Dorney Park and funnel cake vouchers, Tip jars, raffle prizes, subsidized lunch program, coffee maker with free Hazelnut coffee... you get the idea.

Finally, I decided that a rearrangement of the tutoring center layout would be in order. (The current arrangement is a big room with long tables where the students sit, and tutors run around like crazy to answer their questions.)

The new arrangement would give each Tutor his or her own premium "luxury cubicle," which would contain at the center a Lazy-boy in tutor's choice of Plush Velvet or Leather. In front of the "throne" would form a line of students, patiently waiting for help. (The tutor is free to refuse tutoring to any student for any reason, including "annoyance.") Between the throne and the line of students would be a Trap Door to conveniently and hygienically dispose of any such students deemed not worthy. Immediately behind the throne (180 degrees away from the students, mind you) would be a top-of-the-line entertainment center with high-speed internet access, digital flat-screen TV with satellite, surround-sound speakers, etc. On the right of the throne would be the aforementioned Ice Cream Bar (or vodka, for some of my coworkers...), and on the left, original works of art by Monet, Renoir, etc.

My boss and a number of other staff members found it highly amusing. :-)

Tonight I went to my friend Judy's house and helped her with a couple of things on her new blog. We are equally clueless about many Computer Things so it was fun to help each other and laugh a lot. We are pet-sitting this weekend for their 3 rabbits, 2 birds, a hampster, and fish, and I remarked, "So, if the rabbit ends up floating face-down in the tank, what do we do, call your cell...?" Nate has a good sense of Animal Care so I'm trusting him to give the Druggie Rabbit its doses at the proper times, etc.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005


I am at work and there are no Studentlets to keep me busy, so I'm nodding off. And Cold. I've been cold for days.

I just wanted you all to know that I was online a total of 6 hours and 19 minutes last night. Yeah. Not that I'm a Junkie or anything. I was reading about Jewish people in Africa. Because apparently after I get a math degree, I'm going to get a degree in... something else. Something about people, that uses statistics. People are more interesting than converting polar equations into rectangular coordinates, which is what I'm doing now.

That is all.

Today's Special!

For those of you who don't recognize it, that was the title of a particularly well-loved children's television program on Nickelodeon when I was a wee small lass (and Nate was a wee small lad- he remembers it, too!) (Okay, never mind; Nate now vehemently denies all such knowledge, other than "remembering the name," even though I could have sworn that in a previous place and time we had a conversation jointly exuberating over the fact that we BOTH watched that show!! Yay, something else in common!! Or, I guess now... Not. Anyway.) (And while we're in parenthetical-no-woman's-land, we might as well superfluously mention Belle & Sebastian, Pinwheel, and The Little Prince as pre-Blue's-Clues staples of early morning Nickolodean fare- though those of you out there who had the privilege to grow up in other lands have, by now, entirely no idea of what I'm talking about. Don't worry, if you missed early 80's cable in exchange for Africa, Pakistan, or Kuwait, can I just say- the exchange was well worth it?) (But now that the paragraph is ENTIRELY structurally shot by being chopped into zillions of itty bitty ideaological pieces with all these annoying PARENTHESES, we might as well also give a big shout-out to much beloved and sorely missed EVENING Nickelodeon programming, aptly titled "Nick at Nite" and boasting of such telecinematalogical gems as Mr. Ed, My Three Sons, Leave it to Beaver, Donna Reed, The Dick Van Dyke show, the Mary Tyler Moore show... Oh SWIZZLE STICKS [50's screen idols swore like that all the time], do I have to go and HYPERLINK every one of those for y'all...? Nah.) (Ooh ooh ooh one more thing, and then I'll end this sorry excuse for a Preface and start for Real, I promise I promise I promise... it's just that... um... *squeezing facial muscles really hard to remember the one last thing I was going to say* OH YEAH! :-D Um, I was just thinking, wouldn't it be cool if someday I wrote a long post about Television: its effect on my life past present and future; its role as Educator About Popular Culture and Distraction to Other Important Parts of Life; its Absence as a Sentient Life Form and Metaphoric Symbol in the contemporary Bush-Wentzel household; and, its extreme limitations (due to the lack of Cable) as a transtextual and iconoclastic [I have no idea what that means, it sounded good so I stuck it in] ideological springboard to discuss the socioeconomic and politicogustatorial struggles of semi-employed soon-to-be Graduate Students. Except now I've kind of screwed it up because the germ of the idea is buried here, in a Parenthetical Preface/Landfill, from whence it might never escape.)


I just realized (consciously; I've noticed it subconsciously before) that the internet has made me write run-on sentences purposely, as a literary style. I was trained in the avoidance of all things Splicey from an extremely young age, and still faithfully obey the Dictional Safety laws to avoid sentencial accidents and mishaps of all kinds, Run-on and otherwise, when I write formally or academically. (Brain Burp! An idea for children's software! A small java-scripted air-bag pops out every time the child types a run-on sentence! [My probably absurd misuse of the term "java-scripted" will clue in any who would be otherwise unaware that I am most definitively NOT the one to make the program. Still, wouldn't it be cute?] [I am hypertexting there just to decorate the text with a bit of blue.]) But anyway, with the atrocious grammatical habits of The Internet World, I have found myself succumbing to the flow of the narrative voice by using commas in places where there should be semi-colons. (Chris Long will now ask, "Really? Where? All your sentences look fine to me..." But he was raised in British System, without the benefit of semi-colons (and Nick. Jr.), so we really can't hold him responsible.)

(If, at this point in tonight's discourse, any of you [n=2?] are speculating what miraculous concoction of Substances have inspired tonight's musings, let me assure you all that a SINGLE CHOCOLATE PUDDING CUP is to be held solely responsible. And now, we return to the regularly scheduled programming.)

Oh yeah! Did anyone want to know WHY Today's Special? Well, today I skipped work to get my car fixed. It was an all-day kind of thing. Last month we spent over 700 on repairs to get her (her=Sylvia, the car) through registration, and then over the weekend Nate noticed oil leaking (again!) so today we got the gaskets replaced (again!) and a few other things (fuel filter, PCV valve, alignment). We are a bit concerned by the amount being spent on repairs but still don't think we're coming out TOO badly considering that we bought her pretty cheaply. I added up purchase price, maintenance, insurance, registration, and an estimate for gas, and it works out to about .25/mile that we spend on our car. AAA says a new car costs more like .56/mile, and standard mileage reimbursement is something like .40/mile, so I guess we're doing all right.

And while I waited for the car I walked across the street to the mall and shopped the JC Penney clearance racks for Nate. I bought him the Traditional Clearance Tacky Shirts that he loves, and mourned the lack of trendy clothing in size 2XLT. So many nice shirts that just aren't available in his size! :-( They DID have a tacky line of oversized T-shirts with cliched phrases about being Big (like, "Big People rule the world!" or something of that level of lack-of-originality). Honestly, don't they know that Big People have more to their lives than just the fact that they're big? (Like, occasionally, a sense of fashion?) It's not like they make clothes for short people that say, "Check it out! I'm short!" or clothes for skinny people that say, "Hey look! You might see my ribs!" or even clothes for average people that say, "Nothing special here! I'm just average!" So I don't know why an already-way-too-small section of a big department store would dedicate an entire precious rack of space to stereotypical Big People propaganda. How about some dress shirts in updated colors, instead?!

Anyway, Nate was just thrilled because one of The Cheap Shirts had snaps instead of buttons. Snaps, do you realize how exciting that is...?!?!?

Okay I have to get up in 8 hours so it is, by definition, Time for Bed.


PS That Also! thing? That was great, wasn't it? Well, I didn't come up with that; I ripped it from Finslippy, somewhere in the archives. Just bein' honest.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

"No WAIT- you set it equal to NEGATIVE zero!..."

My husband, calculating out loud.

Hello, World

I haven't posted in a long time.

The linear algebra book and I are having a head-to-concrete kind of battle. (I'm the head, it's the concrete.) I'm not making much progress. And the Lehigh Countdown is down to 26 days.

Other random notes:

1) Trip to Houston was great, and Bethany got married!! Pcitures coming soon.
2) I have spent several hours researching Hasidic Judaism in the past two days.
3) Today I made a trip to Babies-R-Addictive to shop for "socks" for Squidgle. $(An obscene amount of money) later, I came out with, yes, socks- and the entire wardrobe of coordinates to match. I think I need a twelve-step program. I have committed to take some of the little outfits back, but will spend the next few days agonizing over which ones. :-(
4) Today was a little bit "everything-is-going-wrong-ish." I spent too long at the Baby store (my fault!), got home, asked Nate if we could drop me off at my school and then he could drive to Lehigh instead of the reverse order, and he said "no," which made me mad and sulky, and ONLY LATER did I realize that he thought I had to be there at 3 instead of 2:30! And he picked today to finally pack up the Linux computer scattered all over the living room and take it to school, which is great, since I've been after him for weeks to do that, but it took extra time and I had to help carry the heavy computer to the car and it was HOT. (Today was the day 'cause he finally got the part he needed in the mail.) So I was all sulky-mad on the way to school, because I thought he was being selfish and uncooperative and I knew I was going to be 30 min. late to work, but I knew it was my fault for lingering too long in the baby store, and that just made me feel Worse sort of. But then we got to school and my Sweetie could tell I was overheating (physically and emotionally) and he brought out cold water to the car!! (It was at that point that I found out he didn't know I had to be at work by 2:30; he thought it was 3.) Then I cried all the way to work because I felt horrible for being mad at him when it was all my fault, and he was all kind and sweet and caring.

You see how it is?!

Then lots of little tiny things went wrong: I ate too much sugar at work (like always; donuts and cake spontaneously generate at that place); I stopped for gas and couldn't remember which side of the car the tank is on and of course no one was there when I first pulled up and got out, but by the time I awkwardly turned around it was All Full so I waited for awhile then got frustrated because I wasn't aligned properly to pull in smoothly and gave up and left and got gas somewhere else; I pulled into the wrong parking lot looking for the grocery store; I stopped at the grocery store and got what was perceived to be somewhat poor service at the deli; I needed a bathroom; I got to school to pick up Nate and he wasn't quite ready to go although there was milk and turkey in the car now.

So you see?

The linear algebra book is hopeless. I'm going to go try to get some calculus done.

PS I just re-read. How gloomy! How whiny! How somber! We need more Light-heartedness and Gaity here. Some good jokes and laughter and mirth of all kind. Where is Puddleglum? He would be just the chap for that sort of thing....

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Friday, July 15, 2005

Of flies and fits and frustrating phenomena...

First off, I should just let you know right up front: our kitchen is currently infested with fruit flies. Nate took out the big bag of trash last night, and I hoped that would take care of them, but it didn't. The last time we suffered an Infestation, the source was discovered to be a bag of potatoes under the sink that were... well, a little past their prime, shall we say. Once that was removed and the area doused in bleach, the flies evaporated back into that Ether from which they had spontaneously generated. I have not yet discovered the Source of our current troubles, but hope that I will. Soon. Before dinner would be good.

Wednesday was a Frustrating day. First there was a communication breakdown with a tutoring student that led to about 30 minutes of needless driving on my part (that's probably $2 or $3 worth of gas?), and then when tutoring finally DID happen with that student, he became so frustrated with X (as a concept) that he [almost] cried. I don't know how to help him overcome his fears and mental blocks. I have seen him work fairly complicated problems in his financial math course, in which only Numbers (no evil variables) were involved. But algebra totally shuts him down. And he's spent... I don't know, over $200 on private tutoring with me, and gotten nowhere. I've told him he can come into the community college centers while I'm on duty and I'll help him free, which is more generous than I have to be, so I don't feel like I've done anything wrong by him; but I feel bad that I can't help him overcome his problems. I like helping people, but I'm not into people wasting their money on me and getting nowhere.

Then at Northampton, one of my co-tutors showed me a list of problems he was working on: the ARML 2005 Individual Problems. (Click on 2005 ARML contest, Individual problems pdf.) I solved the first one really quickly and spent the rest of the day stumped (and beating my head against the wall) on the other 7. These are HIGH SCHOOL problems, people! Our local team, Lehigh Valley Fire, won first place in the nation, beating out elite private schools and Math and Science Academies. They were coached by Prof. Don Davis of Lehigh, who helped me register for classes last spring. (Also check out this article lamenting the lack of coverage for mathematical achievements vs. athletic triumphs. Yes, the world IS against us!!!) I have now solved a total of 3 problems and probably won't get anymore.

At the end of the day (we're still talking Wednesday, in case you've lost track) I went to tutor Scotty, who's starting his senior year in the fall. I've been tutoring him longer than anyone else in PA- almost 3 years!! We've mostly been doing SAT tutoring in the past year. He's taken it twice now and his math scores have been a bit above average, but not stupendous or anything. And he only increased 10 points from the first try to the second. I had a little talk with his parents and said, "You know, working with me an hour at a time is good, but what he really needs is to just take a lot of practice tests on his own and go over the ones he misses." And then I mentioned, since high(er) SAT scores usually mean college scholarships, it might be worth it to offer an incentive for him to raise his scores. I don't believe much in bribes to get kids to be Good, but I don't see anything wrong with parents who might save $10,000 on college passing along $1,000 of that to their hard-working students as a form of incentive to study...? Share the wealth, you know? I said that I thought my parents had promised my brother a laptop for scoring over 1300 (that's an unconfirmed rumor, but he DID score over 1300) and that it had helped.

His dad said, "Well, he already has a computer... and a Volvo..."

Upon questioning [the young Scotty] it was revealed that there was NO MATERIAL POSSESSION that he lacked yet desired.

Amazing, isn't it?

Anyway, I feel a little frustrated in that situation because I think his parents have paid me around $1200 for SAT tutoring over the past year or two, and I don't know if his scores have reflected that. Maybe he would have been better off with Princeton Review...? He needs, not so much time spent with me working problems, but to do practice tests on his own, go over the results, and ask me about the ones he can't figure out. I've suggested this but he never seems to get around to working much on his own between my visits. What can I do? Maybe it's not that important that his scores improve; his parents can pay for him to go to college anywhere he wants, and he wants to go into Business anyway, so in the end his math SAT scores won't matter that much...? Do his parents continue to pay me just so they can pat themselves on the back and say, "We're good parents; we give him every chance to succeed?" Maybe I should just keep taking the money and not ask too many questions. But it's frustrating.

Anyway, here's a little closing anecdote. When I was in Virginia camping with my family, we took one of our long, winding drives to Nowhere. It was cool because we saw deer and three rainbows- one was a COMPLETE rainbow, stretching all the way across. And I thought about, why am I doing this thing? Why am I starting all over again to try to take advanced math? Because all I do is fall flat on my face. Over and over and over again. Why not do something I could be good at? All the self-deprecation above notwithstanding, I think I'm a good tutor. The community college kids love me. I'm patient and kind and knowledgable. I could do that job the rest of my life and be "successful." I think there's other things I could do successfully, too. I can read and write in a relatively literate and coherent fashion, which are increasingly rare skills in our society. I have enough interpersonal communication skills to do jobs that involve working with people. I feel that these are my Talents; why not use them? Why do I have to keep plunging headlong into a field where I DON'T have what it takes to be successful and competent and earn recognition?

Because, unless God has something completely unforseen in store for me, unless the Red Sea parts and the Bush burns and I get a mind transplant in the next two years, I am going to be, at best, a completely Mediocre math graduate student. After the UIC episode of my life, my goal at Lehigh is: to Survive. Nothing more. Don't get me wrong and think this means I'm planing to put forth a mediocre effort. It means I'm expecting to put forward a 100% effort (note I didn't say 110%. I am not an innumerate football coach that believes in the creation of something out of nothing.) which will result in, at the most, Mediocre results. But I think, in a way, that is the whole reason that out of all the things I could have picked, I picked Math: I want something that will completely and ultimately Conquer me.

When I was in my senior year at Wheaton, I felt good. I felt successful. In the big scheme of things it wasn't like I was that great or anything, I was many orders of magnitude below the math undergrads that become Famous, but I had good grades and I had won awards and I was having some trouble with pride. It was a good year, and I was happy, but I knew that the pride I had was standing in the way of my relationship with God. And I fought against it, but I was tired of fighting. And I actually prayed and told God, "Please take it all away, because I'm tired of struggling and fighting against my pride, fighting against myself." God answered my prayers.

It seems like you learn a lot more in life through Failure than through winning. Winning is just an adrenaline rush. Losing puts you into contact with that fundamental Fact of the universe that we all too quickly forget: from dust we have been created and to dust we shall return. And Failing as a mathematician will be completely worthwhile if it helps to make me more complete and honest and Alive as a Christian.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

"Thank goodness Milk isn't explosive..."

We babysat Nate's little brother from Thursday night through Sunday afternoon, so that his mom could get some rest after being in the hospital earlier in the week.

He is a sweet kid and very bright and all that, but I must say that babysitting proved to be... Interesting. Take, for example, Friday night, when we took him out to dinner at Chili's (financing courtesy of generous parental figures). Now, you take a couple our age- you know, mid-to-late twentiesh- and a five-year-old that looks young for his age- and voila, instant assumption of parenthood, no questions asked. As stated above, Elliot is a great kid and everything and it's not like I'm embarrassed to be mistaken as his parent, except that, well... Nate and I are really BAD parents 'cause we have absolutely no experience with it! Anyone that happened to be at Chili's Friday night saw a perfectly normal-looking and -acting kid accompanied by two adults who looked totally clueless as to how to interact with him.

For example- upon entering the restaurant, Elliot immediately approached the hostess who greeted us and kissed her hand. Cute, right? Except at the time I was so startled that I didn't know whether to laugh, apologize, or what. When it was time to be seated another hostess spoke to us and I saw Elliot winding up (puckering up?) for the Approach, and I sort of held him back. The other hostess (the first one) smiled and asked, "Where did that come from? The hand kissing thing?"

And I? I had to go and open my big mouth and blurt out, "I really have no idea!! We really aren't his parents!! We just have him for the evening!"

And everyone within earshot gave us The Look: How could we disown this adorable child for doing something as cute as hand kissing?

Sigh. Why do I try?

Of course, our waitress just happened to be my boss's daughter. So I murmered the usual, "This is not our child (I haven't been lying at work for three years in saying we don't have kids) he is my husband's little brother yes there IS a large age difference, isn't there?" and then she brought his mac and cheese.

But of course, all that was smooth sailing compared to Sunday morning, at church: I took him to the 4's and 5's class, and the puzzled teacher (a woman we don't know too well) hesitantly asked, Is this your nephew?

"No," I replied, "it's my husband's little brother."

She laughed for 45 seconds straight. I really didn't know what to say to that.

When Vivian and I were little, we dashed the hopes of aspiring gender-neutralizers everywhere: we played House a lot. In addition to the straightforward American Suburban Paradise model (or suburban heck, as Nate would call it), on particularly Creative days there were Alternative versions. There was "House: Antarctica Edition," where the bedsheet-over-chairs became our survival hut in the frozen North, and we made romantically desperate forays into the surrounding [shag carpet] to "find food." (I recall a particularly poignant episode in which big sis and I were deadlocked in heated debate: while I asserted that the value of salt was merely flavor enhancement, my elder sibling patiently (and then not so patiently) explained that we needed salt to PRESERVE THE FOOD. She has always been far more in touch with the practical side of reality than I.)

Then, in Mississippi, the Land of the Neverending Pine Forest, we made "bread" out of ever-abundant pine needles, so I guess that was like "House: Pioneer Edition." And even the plain-Jane version had its own tireless array of innovations: we could always argue over who had to suppress her burgeoning femininity to play the dad, and how many children we had, what was for supper, etc. Play time was a never-ending saga of Domestic bliss.

All of which is to preface... how do I break this to you gently? I was rather shocked to discover that Elliot didn't want to play house! We went to the playground together in the park next to our apartment complex (I think the correct phrase would be Elliot took me to the playground) and upon entering the typical bridge/castle/slide construction, he immediately deemed it to be-- get this-- a SPACE FORT. Furthermore, the quintessential roles of Mommy and Daddy were replaced by invading space aliens with guns that went- how do I describe it? Elliot had to patiently teach me how to make the noise: bZoom! bZoom! (Imagine high-pitched, emphasis on a fast Z sound. I think they were like the guns on Star Wars.)

And if I confess it, you won't be surprised: I am officially and certifiably No Good at "Invading Space Aliens Shooter Mutant Ninja Turtle Attack of Darth Vader War," or whatever it was we were playing. He pointed out The Enemy hiding behind trees and see-saws, and my aim was terrible. I had no Instinct when it came to attack, defend, retreat. I didn't even know The Secret Password, guys. Sheesh.

But I did the best I could, and at the end, to make up for my feelings of incompetence and worries that I'd quenched his masculine urges, I allowed him to Splash in the Puddles. Thoroughly. Until he was covered in mud. Then when we got home I made him take a bath, which was only finally agreed to upon the presentation of [makeshift] Bath Toys (like Legos.)

If I had asked him about the Alien Mommies and Daddies and Babies that wouldn't have helped anything, would it?

Sunday, July 10, 2005

An entry not for the hemophobic...

(NOTE THE TITLE [Peter, possibly Jordana]):

So, I tried to give blood yesterday. Note the key word, "tried." I'm a Happy Blood Donor, meaning, I have great veins, I don't mind needles at all, and I haven't been to African countries to sleep with people from jail who have Aids and Hepatitis and have had sex with a man at least once since 1977 while injecting illegal drugs and taking aspirin. (No kidding, that's what some of the questions towards the end of the screening questionaire sound like.) I have successfully donated a number of times.

THIS time, two interesting things happened:
1) when they put the needle in my arm... how do I put this delicately? Blood SPLATTERED. Onto the chair, onto my shirt, etc.

2) When the bag was about half-way full, I CLOTTED!! (*gasp*,*horrors!*, the blood-donating of you comment, realizing this is the worst thing that can happen in a blood donation!) Meaning, they played around with the needle for awhile trying to get it going, but to no avail. "Look," I told them brigtly, "You can use my other arm! Try a leg! The jugular vein in my neck!" But they said, sadly, there's no way to finish filling the bag from another vein (don't quite know how all that works), they can't use half a bag (it has a pre-measured amount of clotting agent in it, designed for a full pint), AND, they wouldn't just let me start over on a new bag! (Cause apparently they don't let people donate a pint and a half.) All very woeful.

The bright side of yesterday? I've never "accepted money for sex or drugs," as the question goes, but at the end of the day I DID take $100 from a student who needed a little over 4 hours of tutoring. We can eat again! Yay! I just wish I were more confident that he would actually pass his class....

Saturday, July 02, 2005

My husband has a way with words...

"You're not big. You just stick out every here and there..."

Hypocrisy, Live8, and the Truth about helping your neighbors

"Every single day, 30,000 children die, needlessly, of extreme poverty.

On July 6th, we finally have the opportunity to stop that shameful statistic.

8 world leaders, gathered in Scotland for the G8 summit, will be presented with a workable plan to double aid, drop the debt and make the trade laws fair. If these 8 men agree, then we will become the generation that made poverty history.

But they'll only do it if enough people tell them to.

That's why we're staging LIVE 8. 10 concerts, 100 artists, a million spectators, 2 billion viewers, and 1 message... To get those 8 men, in that 1 room, to stop 30,000 children dying every single day of extreme poverty.

We don't want your money - we want you!"


There is something I do not understand about the Live 8 concerts. Lots of great (or "great," as the case may be) musicians playing free concerts? Check. Good for them. They have lots of money and can afford to play free concerts to benefit others. The thing I don't understand? Why the tickets are all free! I mean, what ever happened to benefit concerts?!? Free concerts are all great and happy for folks who want to go see DMB and U2 performing, but, I fail to see the connection between free concerts and benefitting Africa. Doesn't it seem a bit hypocritical to suggest that the best way to end poverty in Africa is to enjoy a free concert (and thus "send a message" (?) to the leaders of the 8 countries?) Is it really so great of John to tell Peter to help Paul instead of just going to help Paul himself?

The concerts are supposedly being attended by an excess of one million people around the world. If the tickets were sold at very modest prices- say, 10 USD or something- that would likely not deter many (from 8 of the richest nations of the world) from attending, but it would raise 10 million in aid for Africa. Which might not sound like a lot, until you consider that these are the poorest countries of the world under consideration- countries where $32 a month can provide education and food and many other things for a child. Yet the Live 8 website proudly proclaims, "We don't want your money, we want your face!" (urging supporters to email in photos to form a "wall of support.") Other options include donning a trendy white bracelet with "One" imprinted on it, or, of course, the aforementioned concert attendance. All rather sacrifice-free ways to do something "noble," aren't they? Activism has never been so cushy.

And what about those 8 men in that 1 room? The message reeks of that simpleminded economic mindset that seems to characterize liberals in so many settings. To read the website, you would think these 8 men were sitting on gobs and gobs of their own money, twiddling their thumbs, and just too clueless or cruel to share with poor Africa. The promoters seem to have conveniently left out the rather obvious fact that when one of those 8 rich countries does something like increase aid for Africa, that money has a source, and that source is TAXES- not the supposedly overflowing pockets of people like George W. Bush. Changing trade rules and dropping tariffs is great- they just fail to note that such measures tend to lead to increased prices for consumer goods at home. And debt forgiveness is nice, too, but I think it's a bit of a stretch to emphasize "these issues are not about charity, but about equality and justice."

No, guys, there's no universal law of justice written in the sky that says "everyone should have the same amount of money." Debt relief is about charity; but since when is charity such a bad thing? Perhaps the organizers think that "charity" will be viewed as an optional thing where "justice" isn't, but frankly, forgiveness of debts is an optional thing. So is sending massive amounts of aid and changing trade laws to help someone else out financially. And please note: I am NOT (necessarily) against such things. I haven't researched them enough to know the depths and ins and outs of all the issues surrounding them, but they sound tentatively like good ideas. I just don't see how attending free concerts is all that helpful.

If you want to help people in Africa, get educated about the issues and the ways to help. Support kids through international development programs. Build houses and schools and hospitals or give money to organizations that do. And if and when appropriate, write content-filled letters to politicians supporting the appropriate measures- after you've done your part on your own and are ready to put your wallet where your mouth is.

And at the end of the day, after you've done some work and made some sacrifices- go to a concert, if you want to.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Fodder for all you suffering Nebiverse junkies out there...

Hey guys.

Is anyone still reading, or have you all given up? (All 3 or 4 of you...) Yeah, I haven't posted in about 20 days. Of course part of that was due to a week away at camp, but I've also not really felt any urgent need to write during the past few weeks. The week before camp was pretty much occupied with making 60 invitations for Bethany's bridal shower, and laundry, and odds and ends. Other than that the only thing really occupying my time has been Math.

Today I worked on Chapter 7 in the Calc. book, "Techniques of Integration," and I definitely re-learned a lot. Ah, the joys of trig sub, inverse trig integrals, partial fraction decomposition, IBP [doesn't that sound vaguely like a fertility technique? or is it just me?], completing the squre, u-sub, and then that most Mystical category of all: "Other," a.k.a., "Trickery and Chicanery of the Most Devious Nature." Some of my favorite tricks: multiplying top and bottom by the Pythagorean conjugate, winding up with the same integral on the other side of the equation after integration by parts so that you can solve for it, and transforming something like u(u+1)^(1/2) to (v-1)v^(1/2). Doesn't that just make you happy to be alive? :-)

I went baby clothes shopping tonight for Sukaina's baby, and ended up with, as always, mostly girl clothing. Only at the store did I realize she might actually know the baby's gender and I should have asked. Oh well, there's a gift receipt, so she can always exchange things.

I feel like Crap from taking cold medicine. And I probably should eat something about now but am not particularly inspired with any ideas. Hmmm, toast? A good staple for dinner. And maybe I should do some more calculus but I feel like my head is about to explode. The dangerous thing is that I think I'm spending too much time on the stuff I know pretty well (Calc I and II) and won't have enough time at the end of the summer to really hit the dreaded multivariable stuff (which is what I really need). And I'm scared of my Linear Alg. book now. I think it's taunting me because I'm only in Chapter 4 and there are 13 chapters. But I'm trying to kind of take it easy. There's no point in getting overwhelmed before I even start, is there? (And the Linear Algebra book isn't REALLY a person that can taunt me, is it? I mean we just spend so much time together and all... like, more time than what I spend with my husband some weeks...)

Don't mind me; I'm just in Love.