Month: August 2014

Dear Mama

 

“There’s no way that I could pay you back, but the plan is to show you that I understand. You are appreciated. Dear mama, you are appreciated.”

I’ve been into Tupac music lately. It resonates with me for a few reasons. Especially this song. I haven’t hugged my mom from a jail cell, granted. My mom doesn’t use crack either. But “when I was young me and my mama had beefs,” and–you know, there are so many other lyrics that just describe my feelings about my mom so damn well. Maybe everybody has those times and those things they more or less blame their mom for, I don’t know. The thing is, as the song pretty much says, we owe our moms so deeply. No matter what’s said, what happens, for most of us… there is just nothing that can separate a child from its mother. The love we have–at least the love that I have, for my mother cannot be severed. “I appreciate how you raised me, and all the extra love that you gave me…”

This isn’t all about Tupac though. Today I declared my major in physics, as I wrote about a little earlier. I received encouragement about my University of California application, which led me to actually work a lot on it… the writing prompt for the transfer application asks you to talk about your major, experiences you might have in the field, and how your interest developed.

Well, when I got thinking about it, I realized more and more how much I owe my parents and uncle, especially Mom, for getting me into this. How many other kids from my neighborhood ever even made it to college? (Not that college is better than any path, but certainly it is a path that more people would choose if they weren’t inhibited by poverty.) How many of those kids were smarter than me, more creative, etc., but they never had a mom to talk about science and philosophy and everything with? I don’t know. All I know is that my parents never finished high school, yet they are two of the most intelligent people I have ever known. All I know is the hundreds of science, math, classics, and literature books that I grew up with. All I know is my mom and dad never talking to me like a baby — always challenging me intellectually. All I know is the hours-long conversations my mom and I had on the telephone when she had to work in New York, about the elegance of mathematics, or reconciling belief in Creation and evolution, or the “how” vs. “why” questions, and so much more.

When I think more of it… without even detailing so many more things my parents did for me that got me where I am today… my parents have always been so proud of me when I did nothing that they should be proud of. It isn’t unlike the fact that God loves us not for our merits, but because that is his nature. So I have an earnest desire that I am only now trying to articulate… an earnest desire to become worthy of my parents pride, and, as we pray in Mass, that “we may merit to be coheirs to eternal life,” and may praise and glorify God.

I made sure to tell Mother some of this on the telephone today. God has heard my prayers, and knows I am trying to be a better daughter. AHhh. Now I conclude, as my air conditioner is broken, but I have a temporary one in a different room! If you’re reading this, go call your mother! You have time because you’re just screwing around on the Internet!

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Counselors make a difference

Rather than finish up “The Wisdom of This World Pt. 3,” which I will finish next time I am feeling philosophical, have time, and can even begin to articulate what I’m getting at, I’m going to write something else. Oh, and the stuff about wisdom, I think I will take the time to write out actual quotes from the Bible. I know approximately where most of them are that are guiding my thought. Anyway…

Yesterday wasn’t that great. I woke up cranky and tired; the air conditioner stopped working properly; my awesome Casio watch that I’ve had since 2007 broke; I scratched my car parking in my own garage (and I’m not even joking when I say I am normally great at parking); I dealt with jerks at school; and there was a substitute teacher in my calculus class! Also, not pertaining as much to my day, but kind of does, my husband got stuck forever in traffic, and got home after dinner was cold… not normally a big deal, but I had made pesto from scratch for the first time, and I was excited! I’m convinced it would’ve been better had we eaten it when it was ready, not after it had gotten cold and been reheated. Whatever. I should be happy that the pesto actually turned out delicious.

So today has really only begun, but it’s already going better. Better parking and driving experiences, there’s a maintenance request in on the air conditioner, and I’ve mourned my watch. But I also went to an appointment I had with a counselor. I knew it would go well because I’d met this particular counselor before, and he’s just a really nice, helpful, interesting guy (I mean, that’s what I’ve gotten out of spending two hours of my life with him anyway). So I went, and there were far fewer people at school than I’d expected, which is always cool. The counselor, I’ll call him “John” for the sake of anonymity, actually remembered me, despite our last meeting being a year ago! Maybe that’s stupid to some people, but to me it was meaningful. He didn’t remember me because I’m really beautiful or because I have an unforgettable body odor or something. I don’t think my name is even that unusual. But regardless, despite all the students this man has dealt with over this year, he actually remembered me. I wish more teachers and counselors and people in general understood what a positive, if immeasurable, impact is has on others, when you regard them as an individual person — you don’t even have to remember their name — instead of “just another face in the crowd.” To me, it makes a crappy impression when a professor’s introductory statement includes something like, “I’m not even going to try to remember your names.” I mean, I get that they have a lot of students — but is it necessary to make me feel so unimportant right off the bat, just in order to explain why they want your course number written on assignments?

Well, anyway, John helped me write my latest and hopefully, final education plan at this college. He really encouraged me in my field of study. He asked me engaging questions, naturally one of them being why I’m majoring in physics. In so many words, I said I was following my heart. I have a strong interest in physics topics just based on my really, really basic knowledge, and my love of “popular science” books and articles (and, even though I didn’t say this, science fiction, too). Having experience in a natural science himself, John talked to me about different things I could do with the degree, different directions I could go, etc. I guess that should be pretty standard from a counselor, but it’s actually not. It’s actually pretty awesome. We basically ended up kind of chatting about science, which was pretty damn cool, even if I am an ignorant wannabe. We talked about the intersection of astronomy and geophysics, and how incredibly far human understanding and technology has come just in our lifetimes.

Finally, John offered me encouragement about getting into the university of my choice. He said I had a really good shot of getting in where I’m applying. I love encouragement. I understand I shouldn’t need it. But I’m not Spock or Tupac*; I’m an emotional human, and irrational at times. I am definitely affected by the attitudes of people around me. So the cherry on top of my appointment with John was when he asked me to keep in touch and email him when I’m going to school at U— next year. He said he’d probably be retiring soon, etc., but the email address he was giving me he would always have. It’s just so cool to make a real connection, not some, “Let’s exchange LinkedIn contacts or something in case one of us could somehow miraculously get the other one a job someday” type of connection. It’s tiring and usually obvious when people want to “keep in touch” because they’re trying to network like they’ll burn in hell if they don’t.

So anyway, now I’m home. It’s hot. My tendonitis is still keeping me from running, but maybe I’ll go for a bike ride later. Even though I was considering not even applying this fall, I think after my counseling appointment, I’ll work a little more on my university applications after all. Oh, and not to forget all that calculus homework.

 

*I see that I wrote “Tupac,” when I meant “Tuvok.” Just noting it because seriously, was that a joke? Hm, Star Trek Voyager was made in the 90’s, when TUPAC was super famous. I find it pretty suspicious that the black Vulcan gets a name that’s so similar! I’m telling you: that was somebody’s joke. I’m telling you! Ha ha ha!

Wisdom of This World Pt. 2

Okay, so yesterday I wrote a lot about feeling passionate or not about God. I also wrote about trying to make decisions based on what I believe would please him vs. making them based on bad premises.

Long story short, I’m entering a field of study full of atheists, and often hostile toward Christianity. Okay. I’m still a semi-reasonable, logical person. I am persuaded by evidence to believe certain scientific principles, just as I am persuaded by other things that God exists and is the merciful Lord of all that is. So what? So studying science, which is really just to say, by using the scientific method to study the world, the only evidence I get is physical. I have math and logic to help me, of course. But the point of it all is to “know” things. To “know” the earth revolves around the sun. To “know” this universe is expanding. To “understand” how particles interact. On and on. That’s one type of knowledge…

But what many people seem not to see is that ultimately, scientific “knowledge,” is still based on assumptions and specific definitions. Why is a meter a meter? What is a meter? Ultimately, even if we have loads and loads of evidence, still there is no such thing as proof. Our theories must only be shown untrue once to be disproven. And as far as physical evidence of God — I say simply that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

It is hard to come to my point on this, and I do have other things I must do besides write. But I wish it were easier to articulate why I do not believe there is such a thing as proof. If only more people of my generation could come to realize that to believe in science is no more strictly rational than to believe in God…

The Wisdom of This World Pt. 1

I’ve been reading Romans lately because a few weeks back, I think there was a Romans reading at Mass, and I just remembered how amazing the letter had seemed to me in my first days as a Christian. I’m not going to quote a lot, and I’ll be honest: I often mix up parts of Romans and 1 or 2 Corinthians. I’m betting on God wanting me to get the concepts, if not the indexing, correct.

Anyway, yes, I’ve been reading Romans particularly. Reading a little here and there about saints. Reading the daily readings some weekdays. One thing I have prayed in recent weeks is for what I guess my Baptist brothers and sisters might even call a Revival. When I actually was a Baptist, I didn’t really get the whole Revival idea of refreshing and making the faith more real again, etc., because I was so new to the fold that everything was always fresh and real and exciting and–COME LORD, JESUS!

Catholics have their seasons too, of course, but I’m not even really talking about those seasons we all observe in one way or another together. I’m getting off topic because I used the word “Revival,” when I wasn’t even talking about that.

Let me put it this way. You know how sometimes the romance isn’t there — he’s peeing with the door open, and you’re not wearing makeup anymore? You still love each other, but maybe you really need to go on a date or something. Stoke the fire. Rev the engine. Whatever. Well, I don’t know about other people, but for, it’s similar with God. It’s not like I don’t love God, want to please him, want him in my life, etc. I do. Why the hell else would I live the way I do? I’m no saint, so to speak, but on a daily basis, I make decisions according to what I believe is right in the eyes of God — even when I really would prefer to do something else. This isn’t trivial. Every time I want to tell someone to eat shit.Every time I catch myself in my head judging someone else. Every time I don’t want to share my money. Every time I want to ignore someone.

I don’t make the right decision every time, but the fact that I don’t behave more selfishly is evidence that I do care about God. Part of caring about God is caring about people. I’ve told him so many times, “Lord, I think so-and-so is an asshole!!!!!!!! — Pardon my French, Lord — but anyway, I know that you made him. I know that you love him. I know that there is a fundamental good, a beauty, in this person. Who am I to ignore that? Who am I to hate someone that you love? Help me see what you see in him.”

Sometimes caring about people is remembering that “your neighbor” isn’t just “your friends and family.” In the Bible is says sometimes you minister to angels without knowing it. It says what you do to the weak is what you do to Jesus. It says if you visit prisoners, feed the hungry, etc. — you serve Jesus (this much I know is from Matthew chapter 25). So whether this means I give to the homeless, stop and chit-chat with one of my awkward classmates, or even challenge myself to be polite to one of those damned Green Peace people asking me for my money when I’m trying to get to class, I believe God can see I’m trying.

So what am I getting at? Even though I do these things, believe in God, love God, doesn’t mean that I feel as passionate as I have in the past. If my passion were graphed as a function of time, it wouldn’t show only a decrease. It would show ups and downs. I assume that’s normal. But anyway, for whatever reason, I’ve thought of those really early days when I felt the most passionate. I felt zealous. I loved God, and it was easy to hate the world too, because at the time my circumstances were such that I really kind of hated the world even without anybody telling me too. I wanted to give up everything, and if I could do that for God, then that was amazing. The way I wrote back then, the intensity I felt, the profundity inside the New Testament…

Well, I haven’t been feeling that lately. Life is so different, and I have so many questions that are different from the questions I had then. I already mentioned “hating the world,” and that’s something I wonder about. What does “the world” mean? Surely the Scripture doesn’t mean to tell me to hate the physical world which God created and made? One day I was hiking, a few months ago, and I was really struck by the beauty around me. I thanked God for the magnificence he had created. But I wondered — am I wrong? Am I being distracted by the appearance of the physical world, when really I should have my eyes on heaven? And to borrow from Eastern thought, could I go so far as to regard this physical world as an illusion that once I look past, I will see what is real and eternal and… important? There are so many questions one can ask even assuming “the world” to refer to the physical world. But really, I don’t think that’s what the Scripture is even referring to. Anyway, the questions multiply, and thinking is all very stimulating (or frustrating), but…

At the same time I have been praying to God to bring me back to him in the deep emotional sense, I have been asking for true wisdom. What’s important? All these years I have been a Christian, I have been trying to more or less destroy my ego and pride, without getting to the point that I always feel badly about myself. To talk about ego and pride is difficult, and not really necessary here. Anyway, suffice to say, I really am trying to do what is right, not what is impressive to people, or what will make me feel good about myself. A major example is, well, my college major. If I say I want to major in Physics, is it because I want people to be impressed by the difficult-ass stuff I’ve studied?

Well, actually, I don’t think so. When I first chose a major, I went for Electrical Engineering, which in my mind, is right up there with Physics, in terms of being difficult and semi-impressive. Half way through the year, I was afraid that I was just going with something scientific because I didn’t want people to think I was impractical (Art degree) or just had a bullshit education (not giving an example because I don’t want to offend anyone who might read this). I remembered how much I got out of my high school humanities classes, and how much I have loved art history ever since. I thought about the fact that of all the places I’d visited around the globe, I always made it into the art museums, but I often ignored the natural history museums and the like. So I said, “Okay! I turn away from you, ego! I’m majoring in Art History!”

And… two semesters later, I do love art history. I will keep my art history books, and read them whenever I have time to read again! I do well on art history Jeopardy questions. I still love art museums, and judge cities on the quality of their art museums! But what else do I love? FUCKING CALCULUS! It’s so cool. And chemistry. And physics. And what do I hate?! Well, in terms of taking classes for 4+ years? I hate art history. As soon as I got into my college art history class, I remembered high school better…

Yeah, I loved art history, the subject — but I actually hated the classes when I was taking them. I did, but I had forgotten that! In high school and in college, I hated my art history classes because they were so subjective, and discussion-driven. I like discussion and all, don’t get me wrong. I even acknowledge that you can learn a lot by listening to other people SOMETIMES. But the thing is with that sort of class, there are people whose opinions might help you or enlighten you. But there are those who get wildly off topic. There are those who are absolutely simply 100% full of shit because they try to BS analysis instead of actually studying cultures, history, etc. There are those who are so long winded that you just wish it were over. I can’t take that for four years, and probably more, if I ever actually wanted to be an art historian. I can’t.

So I learned is that I wasn’t going with a science major because of ego. I proved that by willingly changing to an art major. And that wasn’t “me.” Now I just encourage my friends to learn about art, so I have someone to talk to about it.

Here’s where I get to the wisdom of this world part. So now I’m in physics. I’m learning about the physical world. I’m dealing with people who either don’t care about God, or really have a problem with him, even though they supposedly don’t believe in him. I’m “superstitious” to them. I don’t think outside the box. I’m limited by words written on stone tablets thousands of years ago. Whatever. I actually get to hear things like that.

But the Bible has some provocative things to say about “the wisdom of the wise,” which touched me all those years ago when, as a high school science student, I came to believe in Christ. Now I am looking at them as a college science student, and —

I shall write more about that soon. At the moment, wise or not, the responsible thing for me to do is get cracking on homework.

Thinking about the function of math

So what I’m thinking about is math. Nothing too deep here. When I was in middle school, I was enrolled in this program in Florida called MEGSSS. I don’t remember what that stood for, and I don’t know if the program still exists. What I remember is that it was a way for so-called gifted students (gifted at kicking myself in the ass) to finish high school pre-algebra, algebra 1, and geometry. I don’t know how standard it is, but when I was going through school, the sequence was:

  1. pre-algebra
  2. algebra 1 (or this could be broken into algebra 1a and algebra 1b)
  3. geometry
  4. algebra 2
  5. trigonometry/analytic geometry (or you could take pre-calculus at this point)
  6. calculus (I think they only offered AP at my high school)

Anyway, yeah it would’ve been advantageous for me to have stuck with MEGSSS back in middle school, but… I don’t remember why I didn’t. I not only dropped back a year (which was still considered a great thing, and would’ve allowed me to start geometry in high school), but I dropped back all the way to the regular-kids track. I remember that it was mildly embarrassing and ego-squeezing because most of my friends were smart kids whose affluent parents made sure their offspring had their shit together (and are probably all engineers or something right now). But why did it happen? I honestly do not remember having any difficulty with a concept. I know I was absent from school a lot, and careless about homework. I don’t remember studying at all until college.

But I had to apply to even get into that program, so what was I doing? It’s all foggy, but I know I must’ve had an interest and/or aptitude in the first place, back in elementary school. Gosh, now that I think of it, I even took Algebra 2 twice. Who does that? Okay. Fast forward a little — when I finally made it to trig & analytic geometry in senior year. I loved it. Was it the teacher? The triangles? The abstractness? Something to do with my age? I have no idea, but it was great!

Then I saw Good Will Hunting and A Beautiful Mind, movies that at the time were old to everybody else. Growing up, my family didn’t watch many movies. We only saw what was on broadcast TV, which, to me, seemed to always be Batman or something equally uninteresting. But at the end of high school, when I was studying trig, is when my now step-father entered the picture. What the hell has that got to do with anything? Well, he’s a movie guy, so living with him meant I ended up seeing tons of movies I’d never seen before. Being a naive ass teenager, man, I was so crazy about those two movies. I’m not sure if I was infatuated with John Nash, or if I wanted to be him. And Good Will Hunting? Don’t get me started.

So my interest in math was growing. I had been introduced to a couple of philosophical concepts from my personal reading, and also from humanities classes, and this contributed to the math fascination. What is infinity? What is time? What is change? Is there one answer to all of our questions, or multiple? I mean, if philosophy can fuck you with definitions and endless questioning, math can do that too. What, I ask, is a number? I don’t know if many people ask that sort of thing, because numbers are part of an idea we work with constantly — but even in the fairly low-level math I deal with now, we still specify among types of numbers: real, imaginary, natural, etc. Oh, it’s awesome.

I got interested in math partly because it seemed like a language. (Now that I know just a little baby bit about programming, the language thing seems even more apparent to me.) I thought maybe I’d like to get into math in college, and I got a book called, “Letters to a Young Mathematician.” I don’t remember who wrote it, and I actually didn’t finish it. I’m sure it’s somewhere in my mom’s house still. I was really into that book because the author would talk about the beauty and elegance and fascination that I was just beginning to perceive.

Aaaannnnd… six years later, I went back to college, started my first semester with a trigonometry class. Awesome. The unit circle. Pre-calculus I didn’t like because it was taught mostly as a long review, because I didn’t learn how I’d be applying anything to calculus, and also because my professor assigned an ONLINE TEXT BOOK, which just doesn’t work for me. Whatever.

But over this previous summer, which is kind of when I started writing, calculus was just… tickling something in my brain. If I’d had more time, I would’ve read some philosophy books and the Bible, and pondered some questions for fun. The class was by no means easy — I worked at it every single day, including weekends, and only got a B — but it was fun. It was just cool. It really intimidates me to think someone made this up (or discovered it, if you think of it a different way), but it’s just so, so cool. I loved the analytic geometry side of it, and even the Riemann sum. It’s just conceptually so interesting. Don’t ask me why I like to envision 3-dimensional shapes, break them apart, and ask questions, but I do. And the practical arm of it doesn’t even appeal to me that much.

In humanities classes, especially the modern art class I took, we’d talk about art’s function or lack thereof. Does art have a social function necessarily? Does it communicate? Should art be created for its own sake?

Well, I don’t care much about that. Art history is an extremely interesting subject, but it’s subjective, and therefore, never ending. But I apply the question to mathematics: Should we do math for its own sake, or only for practical purposes?

I can’t remember my view on this as a kid, but nowadays, you’d never hear me ask, “When will I ever use this?” I’m only interesting in using math in the sense that using it is necessary to remembering it and getting better at it. Unlike my physics professor, for whom mathematics is “just a tool,” I kind of just like the idea of it. I honestly doubt my ability to ever do anything with math in real life. I don’t know if I am that good a problem solver or creative thinker. I still want to learn as much as I can. It feels like something worth doing. It makes me feel good somehow. It intrigues me. That’s why we date people and sometimes even marry them, isn’t it? They just make us feel a certain way. They intrigue us. It isn’t simply about sex, and it’s not about practical matters like his income or her social connections (at least not for normal people). I didn’t have a reason to follow my then-boyfriend to the other side of the globe to pursue our relationship. I didn’t have a reason four years later when I married him. He made (makes) me feel a certain way.

So while I don’t care about math being practical or not, and I didn’t have a practical reason (motive) for marrying my dearest, there’s another way studying math is like marrying the one you love:

Just because you weren’t setting out for some practical benefit, doesn’t mean you won’t get one!

I don’t know a lot about mathematical history, but I’ve read that many branches of mathematics were only found to have practical applications decades later. Even without a time delay, obviously, math does have applications in everything! It does help us with commerce, every branch of scientific investigation, building things, destroying things, and even healing people (you need math to administer the right amount of medicine to someone, for example; and math was also necessary in the development of tons of diagnostic tools and machines). So marriage yields un-looked for benefits as well — financial, legal, emotional, social, and other benefits.

I’m not going anywhere with this, just writing my feelings and observations. Now I’m taking calculus 2, and the first day was pretty tough. Sometimes I “go with” something for a while before I ever figure out why it is that way. I don’t know…. but I really, really like it. I’m trying hard to have a Christian attitude free from worry, fear, ambition, and impatience, too. A couple of weeks ago at Mass, the priest said something… something that made me realize I don’t want to have the wrong attitude about my education. I am intimidated and afraid, and I do feel inadequate and stupid, if I allow myself. But worrying won’t increase my height! Sufficient to the day is the evil (or, as I fondly remember reading from a very old German Bible, “die Plage”) thereof. Since I’ve started working on this sort of spiritual aspect of being a student, I’ve felt better. I’ve liked the math more. Where is it going? Where am I going? I don’t know.

I shall now conclude, however, as the album I was listening to has. I have work to do.

Best Friend

I should be practicing calculus right now — and I will, soon — but I’m kind of bugged lately because the person I pretty much consider my best friend has been seriously absent from my life. We’ve talked before about it’s cool having a friendship where we don’t feel obligated to talk to each other everyday, where we can always pick up after weeks or months out of touch and it just feels like old times. But I don’t know why I kind of have a bad, nagging feeling. Last contact with C. I had was in June (and before that, I don’t know exactly), when I just shot her a quick text to wish her happy anniversary. I’m really busy with school and running, and she’s really busy with two toddlers and moving (which, since we haven’t talked in a while, she may have finished with months ago). Anyway, she thanked me via text, and that was it.

I had two weeks off school, between summer and fall semesters, and so I decided to shoot a relatively brief email to C. right at the beginning of my vacation. It was the usual. I asked about things, said I know we’re busy, so I don’t expect a reply overnight, whatever, but that, you know, hey, dudette, I miss you. What’s going on in life? And I haven’t heard back.

I’m patient, I think. But anyway, finally I thought okay, I’ll just give her a call, see if she’s alive, apologize if I seem to be nagging (since there must be some reason she didn’t email me back or anything). And… I’m not saying I got “the fuck you button,” as she and I have often referred to that option of rejecting a call, but… I mean, it didn’t SEEM to take that long to go to voicemail. So I left a voicemail, and that’s all I can do. I don’t know the deal. I don’t know if something is wrong that has nothing to do with me, or if C. is just over having me in her life. It’d just be nice to either some kind of communication. Could be “I’m busy,” or “I’m having me time,” or even “Go fuck off,” — because at least then I’d know. It’s kind of a bummer.

And really, nothing against C. or any of my other friends or acquaintances, but… and I know this has gotten worse, totally understandably, since everybody (except me) started having kids, but… I always drop things, set aside time, listen to long venting sessions, and generally try to “be there.” Often I have felt like I’d like to talk about something, however, and I get put off, blown off, or forgotten. My mother isn’t exactly my friend, but it’s worst with her. I have literally called her out of desperation/loneliness (okay, I’m being dramatic), really needing to get something off my chest or get some advice or something, and she will answer the phone, begin talking about her day, then “have to go” before I ever get in a word — let alone get to talk about what I called to talk about in the first place. Is listening to other people my function in life? Smh. At least when this happens, my annoyance or frustration distracts me from whatever was making me unhappy before. Gets my mind off of the original problem, I guess.

So anyway, I’m not saying, “Oh, I need C.” right now, but what if I did? She wouldn’t be there, because she’s NOT there. Another friend pretty much flaked on picking me up from the airport this weekend too… and $45 later, I mean, it’s not like she had an obligation to pick me up… but if the roles would’ve been reversed, I never would’ve flaked on her like that.

Bottom line, I hate it when people can’t communicate. I don’t care how busy you are, unless you’re in a hospital bed in a vegetative state or something, you can shoot a text or an email, or make a phone call. C’mon.

Talking to Dad

Even though sometimes I think my parents are insane, and other times I dispute the evidence supporting their views (okay, especially my mom because she’s a total Republican), you know… it’s really good talking to my dad sometimes because he’s just such a smart person. He’s so smart, despite little education, and he does not give a rat’s ass whether his opinion or anything else is popular. My mom said that decades ago, he used to wear an earring until one day it became really popular for men to do that — and he hasn’t worn one since. I don’t know if that’s a fact, but I believe it.

As for me, it’s true that my “give a shit” only goes so far, perhaps not as far as many people’s, at least concerning some things. For example, I DO give a shit about the endangered species; therefore, I don’t eat tuna anymore, despite the fact that it’s delicious. On the other hand, I DO NOT give a shit about anybody’s opinion on my major who isn’t really qualified or directly concerned with whether I get a good job someday.

The reason I use that example is because this morning before my calc class (which was brutal in kind of a hilarious way, btw), there was some Asian guy literally asking people about their majors and career plans, then trying to break down, “Oh, this might be a better track,” or something like that. He was trying to give people advice… but I thought, “Bro, you’re in community college too! You are not qualified either by experience or education to tell anybody which engineering specialty is for them!” Know-it-all! You know nothing!

Anyway, so yeah, didn’t give a shit about his opinion. And I don’t give a shit about “the science community” or “the academic community’s” opinion on my religion either. This is kind of where Dad comes in.

Now, my father believes in Jesus. He doesn’t call himself a Christian, but essentially, that’s what he is. I think he’s just been burned in some way by church, but in any event, he just really doesn’t trust organized religion, probably especially the Catholic church (even though I told him, “Dad, I’m Catholic! It’s cool!” lol). So anyway, we were talking today about why/how the United States supports Israel, even when Israel is doing stuff that we don’t agree with, and don’t do ourselves, i.e. killing a lot of innocent children. Without typing anything more about the Israel-Palestine situation, Dad and I got into economic reasons, which eventually led into him talking about this group trying to control that, etc. He brought up religions trying to control people (whether that be a central part of some religious organization trying to control government, or the people that belong to that religion, or the people who don’t belong to that religion, he didn’t specify). “Whoa now,” I had to bring up the Darwinists and anti-religious people I have to deal with in life.

I told him about the way some people have treated me differently after finding out I believe in God (and especially Jesus!).

We talked for a while today, and one of the cool things I get from talking to my father sometimes is that we believe in God, and if other people don’t like that, then… *shrug* I said to him, “I can do perfectly good science, and believe in God. I want to study what God made, that’s it. Why is that hard to accept?” I mean, if I’m studying the physical world scientifically, does it matter if I believe God made it or if I believe it merely arose out of some incredibly complex and as yet unknown set of circumstances — or both? I know I’m only a community college student, but from what I’ve seen and read, science boils down to a few things:

-details
-measurements
-repetition
-experiments
-math
-creative/critical/questioning thinking

An inch to a Christian is the same as an inch to an atheist. The anti-derivative of one function is the same to a Christian as to an atheist. It seems to me that a lot of atheist people (this is from my experience, anyway) just think if someone believes in God or especially the Christian God, then that person must be fundamentally less intelligent. It’s as though they can’t accept that Christians are just as well-equipped to ask questions about the physical world as they are.

I’m beating a dead horse here, but the point is, I talk to my father, and he’s by no means religious. He’s not a scientist or anything either. But he just seems to see so many things so clearly, and he agrees with me that really, maybe even in some existential sense, life and the universe are quite simple. Believe what you want. Dad and I don’t agree on everything still, but I’m glad when I talk to him about this sort of thing, that at least one incredibly intelligent person I know actually accepts the spiritual and divine aspect of the world as well. To me, why would I want to study a world if I didn’t think someone designed it? Why would I care about how humanity has evolved? Why would I read “A Tale of Two Cities,” if I weren’t uncovering and delighting in Charles Dickens’ many motifs and themes and social commentaries?

Many times, we look at incredible buildings, especially ancient monuments, and wonder at our ancestors who made them. It seems incredible that ancient man could have erected pyramids and Notre Dame de Chartres. It even seems incredible that modern man has made so many big city skyscrapers. But we automatically wonder about the maker of these grand things. We know someone must have made them.

When I see forests or mountains or especially the ocean, I wonder about The Great Architect. That’s how I think of God sometimes. I don’t think the statue of liberty just happened, and I don’t think that Mt. Fuji just happened either — by a long geological process or not. I think someone made these things happen, one way or another.

And anyway, while I don’t care if my views are popular (because they don’t seem to be), it’s still nice to talk to my father, and to know that all of this stuff is intuitively obvious to him too. I am not the only one. And he reminds me that it doesn’t matter what other people think. AHH well, I have more I’d like to ramble about, but, disorganized as it is, this is all I can do. I have physics, calc, and chemistry to work on! Every little thing that I begin to understand, or every little connection I begin to make.. it’s so wonderful. The more I learn, the more I believe in God, and am amazed. He’s The Great Architect, The Great Programmer, The Great Mystery.

IF ONLY I HAD TIME FOR A THEOLOGY COURSE! Doesn’t matter. I am trying to get back to reading at least a bit of the Bible daily, and that will have to do.

Physics 1 Day 1

Not too intense. Just some stuff on vectors, basic trigonometry that I’ve “learned” probably three or four times now. I’m not saying I didn’t have my dumbass moments, and I’m not saying I’ll get an A on my lab report; but the day didn’t seem too intense.

The only thing is, which I kind of half expected, but still wasn’t stoked about, it that literally within the first minute of lecture, my professor had to refer to religion. Atheist scientists today act like science has always been dominated by atheists. Why can’t we just study how the world works without the religious debate? I’ve never tried to convert someone to Christianity in a science (or any other) class. Why must I be subjected to irrelevant atheistic views at school? I remember before I was a Christian, how annoying Christians could be — and sometimes I am annoyed by my own people, or even myself. Everyone — yeah, everyone! — is a hypocrite sometimes. Why is it that when a Christian violates his or her own moral code, oh, that person is a lousy, self-righteous hypocrite; but when an atheist violates their moral code (which is more subjective anyway), yeah, it’s just human nature? Why is it that if a Christian so much as mentions the Bible, or invites someone to church, they’re “pushing religion” on people; but when atheist teachers talk against religion in class (which, btw, is not necessary to discuss evolution, physics, or anything scientific), or a group of Darwinists set up tents at local book fairs and things, that’s “free speech?” Give me a break. I’m glad not believing in anything but the utter meaninglessness of it all makes some people feel smarter than everybody else, but it’s so tiresome. I really don’t have any lofty goals, and I won’t be surprised if I end up back in the Navy in a few years, but really, I think it would be so badass to make some great contribution — you know, become a scientist that laymen have actually heard of — and then make a public confession something like this:

So now that you guys think I’m pretty intelligent and reasonable and scientific in my methods, and that I’m not that bad of a person to be around… hey, did you know I’m a Christian?! And even worse, I’m a Catholic!

Two issues with that are 1) All of my scientific work would probably just be renounced after that, even if it meant saying, “No, we think the earth is actually a Borg cube” or something ludicrous like that, and 2) to live as a Christian in the right way, you can’t hide it, I think. Didn’t Jesus say, if you have a light, you put it on the table? Didn’t he say we’re the light of the world? Whatever good we do should be to glorify the Father?

I’m not saying that I would go around randomly inviting my colleagues to Mass, but I am saying that somebody is going to see me walking around with an ash cross on my forehead some time. Ehhh.

Anyway, it’s nothing new. Ever since I became a Christian, I’ve dealt with this stuff. It’s just crazy that Christians rarely outside of the abortion debate and mmmmmmayyyybbbee evolution in some places, try to inject their religion into anything. But constantly these innocuous bits of Western humanity’s Christian past are being shoved out or attacked or… really just made too much out of. It’s a waste or time to have government officials working on whether or not some old cross on a hill should be taken down, or whether “under God” being in the pledge of allegiance violates someone’s rights.

Who gives a shit? If I truly didn’t believe in something, I can’t imagine hating it so much. That’s all. I don’t have time to keep rambling on this. GYM TIME.

Missing Japan & Cooking Dandanmen

Today being my last day of freedom before school starts again, I thought I’d make one of those things for lunch that by mid-semester will seem like way too much effort. That something is dandanmen (sometimes tantanmen), which is actually a Chinese noodle dish, but which I used to eat in Japan a lot. Here’s a picture of today’s version:

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My better half and I used to go to a place on the 8th floor of the mall above/next to Yokosuka-chuo station called Benitora for this stuff. Of course, they made over three versions: one with white, red, or black sesame paste, plus deluxe bowls with big chunks of pork and other ramen fixings like that. After eating at Benitora, we’d often go all the way to the basement of the same mall to a bakery called St. Germain’s ( http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g298174-d6056505-Reviews-Saint_Germain_Yokosuka-Yokosuka_Kanagawa_Prefecture_Kanto.html), usually for the mini chocolate cake donuts they sold for about 80 yen a piece.

Anywho, here’s some info on making dandanmen for any non-Asians who may come across here wanting help:

Here’s a link to start with:

Cooking With Dog Dandanmen

The first time I made this, I followed the video, but now I just use their ingredients list (minus all the soy milk — I only use one or tablespoons per serving).

Once all the ingredients are mise en place (I think), I start a big pot of water boiling, and heat a pan to cook the pork in.

I get two large bowls (or one for each person you’re serving), and mix each person’s broth separately. If you use CWD’s ingredients list, simply put everything listed under “Broth” in each bowl… except for the soy milk. And if you don’t have/want to use chicken stock, what I typically do is put a little powdered chicken bouillion in each bowl, then simply draw 5 oz of water for each out of the pot of boiling water I started before.

At the same time, or maybe once I’ve started boiling noodles (follow package directions), I cook the pork. Again, use CWD’s ingredients list. The pork, garlic and ginger cook first, and the sake, soy sauce, etc., is added after a few minutes. To the pork mixture, I also add this stuff:

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It’s optional, but definitely adds depth or umami or something. I don’t know, I’m not an insane foodie. Use the kanji or the anglocized word “Tianjiangsomething,” both shown in the photos, to find this tasty chili paste in a Chinese or Japanese market near you (or maybe the Internet). Oh, and when I add this, I go with about a half teaspoon for a quarter pound of pork (which is enough for two adults).

Noodles and pork should be done! Man, that was relatively quick and easy, despite using a ton of different ingredients, and some of them kind of weird/intimidating to the Western home cook. Anyway, there it is. Ittadakimasu!

Oh, and the noodles — supposed to be ramen, but I use soba because I think they’re healthier. Do what you want. It’s good to use half ramen and half soba, which kind of gives you some benefits of soba, while keeping that special ramen flavor…

I can’t even write about Japan. I miss it so much, and it’s depressing to have been “home” for over a year now. School starts tomorrow too, and I’m bummed because I’m not taking third semester Japanese due to schedule conflicts. I don’t know how I’m supposed to keep up/maybe get A’s in physics, calculus, and chemistry, AND practice Japanese (especially kanji) in my “free time.” I have no free time between commuting, exercising, and studying. How do people do this and work or have children? Am I slow or something? It just seems like too much to have on my plate. Anyway, I’d better just do my best. One way or another, I’m hoping to both finish college AND get my ass back to J-land. Whew. That said, I guess I’ll go load up my phone with Pimsleur and Genki and stuff to listen to/speak with while commuting. Going to Mass in the evening, ready for it!

Well, tried to run again today… NOPE!

I tried to run… really carefully because I had a feeling it was a bad idea (the pain in my ankle isn’t 100% gone)… and yeah, the pain was like, “HEY! I’M STILL IN HERE!”

Which is okay. Leaving this evening for a couple of weeks in Ohio. I guess I just won’t take my running shoes? I don’t know what to do. Seek out a public pool, perhaps. Ehhhh. Let’s be honest. One of the things that makes running far superior to other exercises/sports/activities is that it’s so convenient! You don’t need anything besides some sort of foot protection (even then, there are some good places to go totally barefoot), and, for some, a sports bra (and even then, you could certainly do without if you had to).

You can run anywhere at any time. You can run in rain, snow, even ice (done it). You can run indoors on treadmills, or on a ship in the middle of a Pacific (done that too).

But biking requires, well, a bike, and a helmet. Bikes ain’t cheap, and even if they were, they’re not the easiest things to fly across the country with. Swimming? Ha! Perhaps this would be almost as convenient as running if I lived in my native Florida (I say almost because there are times when due to severe storms, you would be stupid to swim anywhere except maybe an indoor pool, which I’m not sure even exists in Florida). But here in San Diego, you’ve got to pay to go somewhere, or pay to maintain your own pool, or take your chances in the frigid misery on our coast. I’ve asked people who know the area better than me where to go swim, and most places they say they wouldn’t dare jump in. The only place that seems like an option is the ocean–and even if it weren’t freaking freezing even in summer (I know, I tried to snorkel in La Jolla once), you know… to me it’s just not great for swimming. It’s either rocky, or there are tough currents, or both. Ugh!

Not by any means saying I want to go back to Florida, or that I don’t appreciate my baby (that is, my mountain bike). Just saying I wish to God I could get through a few months without some injury that keeps me from running! Running is the best!

Oh. Plus you can eat while running, but it is much harder to do so while biking or swimming. I like eating, therefore I like this fact.

OFF TO OHIO.