Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Rwanda Blog

I have a new blog in which I chronicle my adventures as a Fulbright Scholar at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology in Kigali, Rwanda. The blog is ruminations and dispatches. For the next 6-7 months I will be posting there and not here.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Still Alive

Just a quick post to keep this blog alive. I think I will soon start a new blog, to coincide with a new adventure.

Life stumbles along. It is the middle of fall term, it's midnight on a Sunday, I'm listening to Armin van Buuren and grading homework. The cats are prowling around. When I look up at them they appear fuzzy. Not only because they are furry creatures, but also because I am wearing reading glasses. Yup. Reading glasses.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Prompt 5: Let Go

Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

The first thing that comes to mind is a vision of myself as a very good athlete. I have played ultimate frisbee for many years, and at one point at a fairly high level of competition.* I've not played competitively in a very long time, but the last five years or so have played semi-regularly in semi-regular and semi-skilled pickup games in Bar Harbor. I've been slowing down for quite some time, but this year I think I moved another notch slower. I seem to have perpetual hamstring problems and I just can't sprint the way I used to.

So this year I've let go the memory of the player I once was. Well, not the memory, but the idea that I can still be that person, or that it even makes sense to imagine that I can be that person. I've not been playing a high level since forever, as I've been quite aware. But I no longer feel bad about it. If someone half my age outruns me, that's ok.

* In the early 90s I was captain of my college team which made nationals twice, placing sixth in the nation my senior year. Later I was on a club team that somehow managed to place fifth at the world championships. I was not a star by any means, but I was good enough to play a supporting role on some very very good teams.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Prompt 4: Wonder

Wonder: How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

Looks like I'm not alone in feeling grumpy about some of the prompts. Anyway...

I don't think I did anything to cultivate a sense of wonder, and that's ok. I don't know that I need wonder, and to the extent that I do, I don't know that it needs cultivating. And wonder isn't necessarily a good thing. I most often find myself wondering about how things can be so messed up or stupid. But I don't have to do anything to seek this out. The stupid finds me just fine. All I need to do is go to faculty meeting. Or open my email. Or for a different sense of wonder I could read the news and think about the most recent elections. No thanks. Plenty of wonder in my life already. No need to cultivate any more.

To end on a slightly less negative note, good, uplifting trance music continues to help me not succumb to despair and/or just start punching people. Here is a track I'm liking a lot this week. I don't think it cultivates wonder, but it does make life suck a little less.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Prompt 3: Moment

Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

I'm not fond of having to choose just one. I felt very alive much of the year. Anyway, the first moment that comes to mind is kayaking on the north shore of the St. Lawrence as we do almost every year. The last day of our trip was amazing. It was perfectly still and gray and foggy. It was just an amazing day. We didn't see many whales that day, but it was still incredible. The water was so still that I could hear birds diving and surfacing on the water and seals breathing.

There were some other amazing moments from that trip. Twice we saw a trio of Northern Gannets fly by. They're intense-looking birds. Their name in French is better than English: Fou de Bassan. It was also great hanging out at our campsite, hearing whales, watching the stars come out, and seeing glowing satellites circling the earth.

A few other moments come to mind, all of them quite different from each other. For me there's nothing quite like the feeling of a class that went really well. So there are lots of little moments from teaching that stand out, especially for my Calculus, Linear Algebra, and Sustainable Energy classes. Those three courses in particular I think were quite successful.

This summer I had time to do some research that involved some programming and data analysis. It wasn't anything that involved, but being able to focus on coding for a few days was really nice. I find coding to be remarkably energizing and focusing. I wish I could do more of it. Conveniently, I'm teaching a programming class next term, so I'll probably get my wish.

I also recall a few amazing meals from 2010. We had some great food at our favorite restaurants in Portland and Quebec City. We also cooked some great food at home.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Propmpt 2: Writing

Well, I'm already behind on this reverb10 thing. So maybe I won't worry about doing one a day, but will go through the daily prompts at my own pace.

Prompt 2: Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

First of all, I find this prompt a little annoying. It's like I'm being asked to confess or someone is trying to make me feel guilty. The prompt was written by Leo Batuba, who maybe should mind his own business.

Anyway, now that I've gotten that out of my system, what stops me from writing? Well, I don't think it's any one thing. If it was, I would have eliminated that thing already, since I'm not an idiot. Usually it's the accumulation of lots of little things that just nibble away at me. I try and carve out dedicated time for writing, but life sometimes just doesn't allow it. That's not an excuse, it's just a fact.

Writing for me is sometimes surprisingly easy, and sometimes surprisingly hard. I don't really know how to predict which it will be, which is why it's surprising. Looking ahead to 2011, in some ways I hope to be writing less. My textbook should be done soon (although I've been saying that for a long time) and I'm looking forward to doing more research and coding and reading, and not writing quite so much. On the other hand, I know I'll still end up doing a ton of writing of all sorts, as in my job writing is just impossible to escape.

I think I'll end this reverb response now, because I'm tempted to say some more cranky things about Leo. The next few prompts look more more interesting. Perhaps I'll respond to prompt three tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

reverb 10

So I thought I would give this #reverb10 thing a try. I'll only be able to do it up until the 15th, since I'll traveling from the 15th to the 30th and won't have internet access. And I may get bored with it before then. But for now, here goes.

Prompt for December 1: One Word
Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?

For 2010, I guess the word would be frustrated, or maybe unfinished or incomplete. It wasn't a bad year at all, but there were a few frustrating things, and also there some major projects, mostly research-related, that I had wanted to finish but which I probably won't.

For 2011, maybe the word will be completed or finished.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Turning Toward Winter

It seems as if winter is here. I went for a run today at Witch Hole, and there was no one else on the trail. My only company were a few ducks and lots and lots of wet leaves and pine needles. Toward the end of my run it started snowing a little. It was awesome.

The town has more or less emptied out, and it's getting darker and darker. My rhythm is shifting toward winter. The last few days I've had a nice fire in the woodstove, and today I made soup using the last of the kale and chard from the garden.

There are just three weeks left in the term. The end is in sight. I'm actually mostly on top of grading, which is nice. There is still a lot of work to do, though. The toughest will be writing lots of evaluations once the term ends.

I continue to make progress on my Chaos and Fractals book. It's been tough to get a lot done during the term, but I've actually kept up some writing momentum. I really want to have the whole thing done by mid-December. I'm not sure if this is a realistic goal, but I'm going to push hard and get as close as I can.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Holistic Cat Food

The local Hannaford is out of the dry cat food that I usually get. So the other day I was looking around for alternatives. "Nature's Place," Hannaford's natural or green brand, has a type of cat food called "holistic cat food." What could this possibly mean? Does the bag come with cat brain teasers and exercise devises to stimulate the mind and body as well as provide calories? If my cats eat the food will they develop a greater sense of the connection among all things and develop a capacity to see things as connected and contextualized as opposed to isolated entities?

I won't find out. I opted for Iams indoor weight control food instead of Nature's place holistic cat food.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Scenes from Bar Harbor

At the grocery store, during the short break between customers the young woman bagging fills spare grocery fliers with hearts, drawn with a bright yellow highlighter.

At the natural foods store, a fit-looking middle-aged man in a Che Guevara t-shirt buys a large five-gallon tub of bulk tofu and hauls it into his car.