Saturday, September 26, 2009

Artful Whimsy

My boys and I have always had a fondness for the art of Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte. Many years ago Jacob, our resident artist, made a number of drawings inspired by the work of these artists. One of them is included at the top of this post. Today he decided to update the process using his computer knowledge. Below is what he created this afternoon inspired by his work of years ago.You should be able to enlarge the images by clicking on them.

Here is a related Magritte, La Chateau des Pyrenees:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Sing

We're doing our family devotions in a rather unique way, I think - using a book that contains the history of hymns, the scriptures that inspired them, and the stories of their authors. Tonight we focused on the hymn I Sing the Mighty Power of God. Now I can't stop singing it! It was inspired by Jeremiah 51:15:
He made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.
I sing the mighty power of God,
that made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad,
and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained
the sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at his command,
and all the stars obey.

I sing the goodness of the Lord,
who filled the earth with food,
Who formed the creatures through the Word,
and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed,
where’er I turn my eye,
If I survey the ground I tread,
or gaze upon the sky.

There’s not a plant or flower below,
but makes Thy glories known,
And clouds arise, and tempests blow,
by order from Thy throne;
While all that borrows life from Thee
is ever in Thy care;
And everywhere that man can be,
Thou, God art present there.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

(FURTHER updated) News from the Homefront

More pictures have been added, and further news is appended at bottom.
Well, I'm 3 minutes shy of putting in a SIXTEEN hour work day. I should be in bed, but I wanted to record that for posterity (hoping it won't happen too frequently!). It was worth it - enabled me to get all 2600 problems on the midterms I gave today graded. I don't feel so good right now, so I don't think I want to do this again any time soon.

On to the fun news! I have a new niece, Ava Marie Young. Congratulations, Mike and Amy on your 10 pound, 4 ounce bundle of joy. (Notice that Ava's initials spell out her mommy's name - how clever!). New life entering the world sure does put other stuff into perspective. What an amazing thing! I hope to get pictures of Ava posted soon!Things are crazy busy/crazy good for our family right now. Mike and Amy got keys to their house today, the day after Amy gave birth - what timing! They and we worked hard all summer to have our house hunt and move-in (sorry, I'm tired, probably don't make much sense right now!) happen DURING the summer - didn't work for either one. Amy will be moving in with a newborn, and I'll be moving in in the midst of a semester which is pushing me to 16 hour days! David and I sign our final paperwork tomorrow and get our keys October 1.

Thankfully it's all good stuff - good employment - new life - homes - may blessings!

Life keeps moving on. Anthony has a cross country meet tomorrow - another on Saturday - a fun, big invitational up in the foothills. Everything else has started up again too - church youth activities, Sunday School, piano lessons and so on.(Above are pictures from Wednesday's meet.)

And now - off to what sounds like the greatest blessing right now - BED!!! :-)
I'm updating this Friday. We found out today that our new house has been recorded and is in our name now. Today is also the day Mike and Amy took ownership of their house, AND someone Amy and I used to babysit when we were teens also got keys to her new house today! This must be contagious! What are the odds?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dance and Drink and Sing

Continuing to think about the tree and all life and me, here is a poem by William Blake (1757-1827):
Little Fly,
Thy summer's play
My thoughtless hand
Has brush'd away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink & sing:
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength & breath
And the want
Of thought is death;

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Hundred Years in Sun and Shadow

I put up the poem in my last post because of a sickening CRACK and sickening sight I experienced when I arrived on campus earlier this week. The sickening crack was of a giant piece of machinery coming down over the top of a tree that must have stood 100 years or more, that was torn, literally, limb from limb in 5 or fewer sweeps of the machine. As I witnessed this it really struck me that trees have no way to defend themselves or escape. I realize this is for a "good cause," our new science building which will house the Great Valley Museum, a planeterium, an observatory, and all our science classes among other things. But I really thought they would have saved these trees and incorporated them somehow, especially since this is a building dedicated to science, including life science, so this was quite a shocking sight to me.Here is the machine that tore a hundred+ year old tree down earlier this week. The claw just came down from on top and ripped into it.Above are similar but smaller trees in the same area. Below is the carnage.It was truly sickening to watch. Were this Berkeley and were I not tenure-track (i.e. not yet tenured), I probably would have stood in front of the tree to protect it! Phrases from Nemerov's poem (below) came to mind as I witnessed this horror:
"Maybe a hundred years in sun and shower dismantled in a morning . . . there it isn't on the ground . . . at dusk the darkening air . . . will be pierced by a bewilderment of birds."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Bewilderment of Birds

They're taking down a tree at the front door,
The power saw is snarling at some nerves,
Whining at others. Now and then it grunts,
And sawdust falls like snow or a drift of seeds.
Rotten, they tell us, at the fork, and one
Big wind would bring it down. So what they do
They do, as usual, to do us good.
Whatever cannot carry its own weight
Has got to go, and so on; you expect
To hear them talking next about survival
And the values of a free society.
For in the explanations people give
On these occasions there is generally some
Mean-spirited moral point, and everyone
Privately wonders if his neighbors plan
To saw him up before he falls on them.

Maybe a hundred years in sun and shower
Dismantled in a morning and let down
Out of itself a finger at a time
And then an arm, and so down to the trunk,
Until there's nothing left to hold on to
Or snub the splintery holding rope around,
And where those big green divagations were
So loftily with shadows interleaved
The absent-minded blue rains in on us.
Now that they've got it sectioned on the ground

It looks as though somebody made a plain
Error in diagnosis, for the wood
Looks sweet and sound throughout. You couldn't know,
Of course, until you took it down. That's what
Experts are for, and these experts stand round
The giant pieces of tree as though expecting
An instruction booklet from the factory
Before they try to put it back together.

Anyhow, there it isn't, on the ground.
Next come the tractor and the crowbar crew
To extirpate what's left and fill the grave.
Maybe tomorrow grass seed will be sown.
There's some mean-spirited moral point in that
As well: you learn to bury your mistakes,
Though for a while at dusk the darkening air
Will be with many shadows interleaved,
And pierced with a bewilderment of birds.

"Learning by Doing" by Howard Nemerov (1920-1991)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

New Season

Cross country has begun again and begun with a bang including not only the starter's gun but also the first thunder and lightning of the season! The first meet is always the big invitational, lots of fun!Above - chatting with team-mates before the race.
Below - warming up. Anthony (behind a green and yellow Davis guy) and the rest of his team at the starting line.A larger view of the starting line (love that tree!!).And they're off!Anthony had lots of family support! :-)Cheering him on to the finish! He achieved a personal best for this course - kinda cool for the first meet of the season.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Time and Connections

I just read a news item that the world's oldest person, Gertrude Baines, has died at age 115. It struck me for a number of reasons. My first best friend, Katie, was 75 years older than I. She lived to be 95, so I knew her for 20 years. She would have been 119 this year - only 4 years older than this woman; given that the oldest person on record was 122, Katie could have still been around. These women could have played together as kids!

I've always wished I had asked Katie more questions about her life. She was born in 1890 and was living in San Francisco during the great earthquake of 1906. Just thinking about these women amazes me with the connectedness we have with history if we listen to the stories our elders have to share.

Both of these women were born before there was such a thing as a world war

or a world series

or a car

or an airplane

or a TV

before we had visited the moon or had computers or hand-held calculators or highways. It seems more has changed more quickly in human history over that century than any other. How amazing to have lived that span of time! Both were middle-aged before World War II broke out. This leads me to the other thing that struck me. I've been feeling kind of old lately, but, wow, if this woman just passed away and was already middle-aged way back when World War II began, maybe I am still what Katie used to call a "spring chicken."

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Do People Really Hate Math?

Well, it happened again. A "special" date popped up that caught people's attention, so I have emails in my inbox letting me know about it (which I love, by the way - keep 'em coming!).What strikes me as interesting is that so many people "hate" math, but yet so many people are intrigued by properties of numbers - or have lucky numbers - in some way have some affinity for number or pattern. I can't help but wonder if something we do in the schools, forcing some sort of performance anxiety or something, is what turns people off to math and causes them to hate it. It's been my experience that people actually like number puzzles and patterns, even if they claim to hate math. If this wasn't the case I wouldn't get so many emails about things like this with the subject line, "Check this out! Really cool!"

Today is "special" because it is (to write it one way) 9/9/9.

If you're interested in more about this day and the number 9, click on this link. Different cultures have different meanings associated with different numbers. In many countries 7 is considered a lucky number, and 13 is considered unlucky (to the point where some tall buildings have a 12th floor and a 14th floor but no 13th floor in between). In China 8 is considered particularly lucky because the word "eight" in Chinese sounds like the word for wealth. Remember last year, the Olympic Games were opened in China at 8pm on 8/8/8.

What follows is a little math paradox for you on this "special" day.

Numbers have a variety of properties assoctiated with them. There are all sorts of numbers. They can be odd, even, prime, square, triangular; there are even perfect numbers, amicable numbers, narcissistic numbers and schizophrenic numbers and many, many other types.

For example, six is a perfect number because all the whole numbers below it that divide into it also add up to it: 1+2+3=6. Six is the smallest perfect number, so it is an "interesting number" (or so some would say :-).

Here's the paradox. If we try to separate numbers into those that are "interesting" and those that are "un-interesting," we find that all numbers are interesting. If we begin at 1 and work our way up, noting the interesting properties of each number, when we came across the first one that was "un-interesting," it would be interesting BECAUSE it was the first un-interesting number - and so on. So, all numbers are interesting!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


After all my earlier enthusiastic posts about houses we've looked at - and then having lost the bids - I've learned to be a bit more restrained about this topic, but we just got a call from our realtor that it is most likely that this one is going through. The sellers have accepted our post-appraisal bid, so now it's just inspections and escrow and so on. I don't dare say it's a sure thing yet, but I am going to go ahead and dare to post at least a few pictures. I'm too excited not to.The current owners have such a wonderful sense of taste and have kept up the house and yard so well. I'd love to move in and be able to keep the decor that is there now!

If this does work out, the next challenge is going to be how to take on the task of moving in the midst of a new semester that is EXTREMELY busy for us all - far more busy than our usual busy semesters. I guess we'll figure it out - clearly other people do!