Wednesday, November 29, 2006

characteristics of truth...

so...what's your do you sense when you've found some?

a burst of joy?
deep peace?

how about this:
truth unifies formerly disparate areas of your life. it unites people. it brings ideas together into a grander whole. rather than contradicting pieces floating around in your mind, there is a simpler overarching vision.

truth gives me permission to hope: for resolution to the conflict in my head.

what a lovely thing.

the truth sets you free.

Ars Poetica

I've always loved this poem.

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit

As old medallions to the thumb

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown -

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind -

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs

A poem should be equal to:
Not true

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea -

A poem should not mean
But be.

--Archibald MacLeish

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


i found this picture and named it "engrossed" as i saved it in my inspiration folder.

i came across this on another blog and have been contemplating it:

Conscious faith is freedom.
Instinctive faith is slavery.
Mechanical faith is madness.

Conscious hope is strength.
Emotional hope is cowardice.
Mechanical hope is sickness.

Conscious love arouses love.
Emotional love arouses mistrust.
Mechanical love arouses hate.

the past few years i have learned the power of intuition. but there is a fine line between calling on intuition and being ruled by emotion/feelings. conscious and mindful choosing: freedom, strength, love. this is what i desire for myself.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

my take

the net effect of the international interwoven plots in the movie babel was crushing. iƱarritu directed amorres perros, also intense, but for some reason it didn't suffocate me with helpless despair in quite the same way. i realized 2/3 of the way through that most of the tragedies occurring (as the audience tensely gets quieter) are a result of men being bull-headed, arrogant, thoughtless, drunk, or heroic.

i don't believe it's that way in real life. we women create our own special brand of tragedy. but in this movie it was just the men. i wonder what that says about the director's outlook on the world.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

at last

a [fragile] vision emerges.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

this week's events

-last night a coworker (we went on the orleans trip together) caught me going to class and said "mahatma ghandi's grandson is speaking here at 7:30". turns out it was a broadcast of a speech in kansas or something, but it was cool. "lessons learned from my grandfather"

-i've been thinking: if we could study how lebanon got peace after the 80's, we might have a clue how to begin to travel towards peace in iraq. ghandi spoke of something he thought might work: a council consisting of representatives--one from each ethnic group--headed up by a chairperson appointed by the u.n. he said that iraq is not ready for traditional democratically elected leadership yet.

-walking at night i saw what appeared to be two notebooks lying in the road. they were 2007 agendas, with month style layout. father. l. & i both like these--on the day we met we discovered we had the exact same agendas--so now we have the same agendas every year. this time, for free, found waiting in the street.

-i wrote a table of contents for a math textbook. it's been in my head for a while. don't know if i want to write it or not.

heavy weight championship

when i saw this posted in a doorway in arequipa, i started to laugh and took out my camera. a very helpful young man asked me if i would like a poster, and started to get me one. i said thank you very much, but i probably wouldn't hang this on my wall.

the names of the fighters are great: steel, black assasin, the crazy one from the plains

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

my gripe

perhaps there are two purposes to education:
-you need this for your life. this will help you as you navigate life.
-this is to make you a cultured person. you may not need it but it is beautiful and significant.

i feel like the majority of the mathematics i teach lies in a lukewarm, murky puddle between the rushing, vibrant, ever-changing stream of today's numbers, and the icy crystals (more beautiful yet upon magnification) of pure math.

i think i could be happy with either extreme. but this middle ground that at times masquerades as useful and other times as beautiful (and is mostly neither) just irritates me and bores my students.

there have been many situations where mysteriously beautiful mathematics has been discovered (years later) to have an amazing and unexpected application.

however when textbooks take a topic that has traditionally (for more than a century) been a part of the curriculum, and force an application to it, the laughably contrived "examples" that result are downright embarassing to the teacher. she has no choice but to skip over them, or to tell the students she thinks they are silly.

can math education ever change? i just had an idea driving home tonight of writing a book which shows a traditional approach to a topic on one page and contrasts it on a facing page with what might be so much more interesting, useful, or beautiful.

but stories about how many nickels and dimes Susie has! or perfectly parabolic supply and demand functions? please!!

Monday, November 13, 2006

monday afternoon

it's a fabulous dreary day. perfect in every way. my windows are cracked, and candles burning. i'd take a walk but my body is completely exhausted. the quality of light, the smell of leaves, the slight drizzle on the glass.

i want to write a few things before i fall asleep (at 4:20 pm).

yesterday i was in montreal. the day began in the lovely breakfast shop--i was so happy that i understood the waiter's question "quel qu' chose a boire?" and could say "un cafe". the music was spectacular and i sat alone and drank coffee, watched the rain. this november is fabulous for rain.

i drove slowly home, enjoying the scenery after i finally conquered the montreal highways. they kept conspiring to keep me driving endlessly in circles, exiting at the wrong places and saying bad words in my complete befuddlement. i was truly amazed at my ability to get distracted right at the moment when my last chance exit was at hand, and then cruise blissfully and with great expectations into the country side before becoming suspicious that i'd missed something. french teeny-boppers at the gas station weren't much help.

upstate new york is lovely, especially in the fog. i decided to see what the back roads looked like. i guess i'd had the exact same urge about a year ago while driving the same route...and saw the restaurant "the black bear" or something like that--that i ate at last time.

continuing, i followed signs deep into the boonies that promised "fawn ridge pottery". at one point, the road became a one lane deal and as it forked left, i saw a horse with its reins dragging on the ground crossing the other fork. the man carrying a bucket across a yard didn't seem to notice.

since one of my fantasies is living far from civilization and being a potter, i was eager, yet shy, to chat up whoever was at this place. if it was open. well, it was, and the owner & potter was very friendly.

he gave me a tour of his studio, gave me a little advice, and told me that a kiln costs about $2000 but the electric bills aren't prohibitive. he said my best bet is to get lots of experience and since I have access to the studio at school i've got a great situation. he & his wife gave ski lessons to pay the bills while they got their studio off the ground.

then he mentioned that he'd apprenticed with another local potter, and sent me over to red truck pottery. i was welcomed into and liked the large, warm workroom with jade plants, classical music at full volume, and a quiet, intelligent dog at the door. bill fixed a pottery wheel as we chatted a bit. what i recall that he said is that there's plenty of boredom in his job too--the items that pay the bills aren't the ones that require great creativity, but the ones that are ordered by the 1000's that are cranked out mindlessly. i could see that this guy's work was wonderful. he had some interesting metallic oxides decorating some of his pots. i did one thing like that and really liked the effect. his was brilliant, though. a real master.

i asked him if it was a lonely job, and he said yes. it's also long hours, and you have to do what needs doing when the clay is ready, and not necessarily when you are.

i could have purchased the newly repaired wheel for $700, but instead i think i'll get involved at the studio at school or the one a few blocks from my place. he advised me to volunteer help with the firings at school to get experience with that. i asked if he studied chemistry to help him understand the science of glazes and oxides...he said he'd studied it but it didn't really help, as there are way too many variables involved. apparently he even uses some materials he digs out of the ground--he doesn't really even know what it is.

after all these excursions, it was nearly dark as i pulled back onto the highway. the coffee i picked up later to help my droopy eyes unfortunately had the effect of not letting me sleep much last night even though my body was collapsing with fatigue. instead my mind whirled with ideas for my new coffee shop. like a. suggests, i can make mugs and offer them for sale. my yellow sofa can live in the shop, along with my stylish retro red chairs, since i'll be living in a tiny little room to try to get by. then my brain informed me that i'll have a chalkboard on which my regulars can make requests for the daily bakings--which will be done twice a day. a few loaves of buttered fresh bread, oozing chocolate chip cookies. oh, and i'll bring back real organic chocolate from peru or somewhere. joel has already offered to make sure i have a fabulous selection of music appropriate for every mood. paintings and framed photography for sale on the walls.

i'm still committment phobic. i'm still scared of making a mistake. does the fact that i can SEE what is wrong with math education mean that i'm the one that needs to stick around and make changes? because it's so completely wrong that it would probably take YEARS for me to be even remotely happy with the curriculum, at least at my school. it's SO wrong right now.

is it bad that i just don't want to deal with it any more?

is it bad that i want to dedicate myself to beauty and comfort?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

despite my attitude, and the fact that hours before heading into teach today, i contacted an ecolodge in remote ecuador that wants a live-in manager...i had a great day teaching. freakin' confusing. i had FUN. and the students were into it. wtf?

off to montreal for a very short weekend. must sleep, pack, shower, get some audio books, and FLY. on the road, i mean.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

hard to believe...

..but i'm the west coast of ireland, for 11 days, over christmas vacation. wow. uncharted territory. in a way, much more of an adventure than south america treks. i have no idea what this will be like.

i am planning long walks and lots of reading. time alone. i've been thinking that i needed to take a vacation for myself and by i guess this is it! i'm grateful.

what i could be

some ideas:
coffee shop owner
professional organizer
house builder (alternative, environmentally friendly only)
ceramic artist/creator of bowls and cups
importer of handcrafts
owner of a hostel in south america
vagabond with philosophy & novels in backpack

math textbook author
math teacher
do math in industry
go back to school to get a ph.d. in math
the bureaucracy
traffic & commuting

Monday, November 06, 2006

we went to see matthew kelly, the author of a great "how to fix your life" book. however, we were disappointed. has he sold out? is he in the speaking circuit just for the money, just as a job? is he saying the same words he's said thousands of times? he seemed tired, and overweight.

i'm glad i didn't go alone. i'm glad m. & i were in agreement in our reactions to his talk. i'm also glad i went. living the dream isn't easy--sometimes you get off track.