Have I ever mentioned that I won first place in my high school Science Fair as a senior with a project on fractals? Even more remarkable, I won in the math division. I don't think I did my math homework the right way -- id est, not copying the answers from the book on the ride to school and then fabricating the scratch work that led to each solution -- more than a dozen times in my six years at that institution. But when I was interested in something, usually outside of the purview of my official education, I studied earnestly.
Obviously, I lacked the math skills to understand fully what was going on in fractal equations. I still do, in fact. Nevertheless, I was so intrigued by the concept of "self-similarity" that fractals could be used to illustrate that I doggedly sought a way to deploy those equations in a mathematical framework that I did comprehend. Since that limited me to basic trigonometry, the only category of math I ever sought to master -- I was in grave danger of failing a trimester of ninth-grade geometry unless I stepped up my work precisely when we turned to that subject -- I ended up figuring out how to graft a fractal equation onto a sine wave in a manner that made the waveform's self-similarity easy to apprehend visually.
Anyway, although my engagement with math pretty much ended then, in 1986, I retained my interest in the concept of self-similarity over the years. When I was listening to Kaja Silverman discuss the idea of "repetition with a difference" in her class on Jacques Lacan, I thought back to my fractal project. And I think back on it still, particularly in trying to make sense of how social networking plays out over the long haul. There comes a time in every internet-mediated relationship when the parties think, "I pretty much know this person now. Should I stay or should I go?" Many go. But I almost always opt to stay, reminding myself that the next iteration of a person's public "waveform," while similar to its predecessors, may contain a wrinkle or two -- picture waves in the ocean, instead of on an oscilloscope -- worth checking out.
That's why I have forced myself to actually write something tonight. My hope is that some of you will share my conviction that it's better to stay than go. If that's the case, however, I need to provide enough of an update here so that my personal "waveform" can be discerned. While there's plenty of "more of the same" I could report, then, I will concentrate on what has changed. And, believe it or not, despite this absurdly long preamble, necessitated, in part, by my obsessive compulsive desire to have paragraphs that are not excessively different in scale, I really do have something newsworthy to impart.
Thursday my daughter Skylar got the kitten she has been patiently waiting for since last year. The feline's name is Punkabella. She's the one depicted in my last entry, which preceded arrival at that appellation. One look at this darling creature, who just turned nine weeks old, is enough to wash away a whole lot of badness. It occurs to me that those looking for a shortcut to being fully present in the moment, in a "Zen" sort of way, could do a lot worse than getting a kitten. Or puppy, if canines are the preference. I know I've extolled the virtues of seeking mindfulness while doing the dishes, but baby animals are a lot more fun.
I suppose some of my reluctance to spend time writing things for the internet is simply the product of the realization that I'd rather watch the kitten than sit at the computer. Skylar and I were under the weather this weekend, too, with a strange flu-like bug that she probably picked up at the Humane Society. Remarkably, although I spent most of Sunday on my back, because I knew my body needed massive amounts of rest, I only looked up the symptoms for swine flu once. Either I'm mellowing with age or my years of ill health have raised the bar. Anyway, now that I'm verging on 80% of my usual health -- no jokes, please -- I can while away time sitting in a chair typing for you instead of trying to measure the dryness of my cough.
Speaking of "humane," we took Punkabella to the pet clinic today for her adoption procedure-mandated free check-up. It had been a while since I spent time at the vet. I'd forgotten how nice an experience it can be. I kept wondering why humans can't receive medical care that is fairly priced and lovingly administered as readily as their pets. And that got me thinking about Giorgio Agamben's superb book Homo Sacer, which provides a pretty compelling explanation of why the "humane" society is not a place for humans. As a friend said, "there's a reason you can't euthanize humans: too much profit is to be made keeping them alive longer than they want to live."
What else? Well, as I was telling a friend Back East today, we've been experiencing some surprisingly cool weather over the past few days. How cool? Today's high was a balmy 92. Seriously, though, when you've lived here in the Sonoran Desert a while, you understand why a high that "low" seems like a blessing at this time of year. We've entered the dreaded "Pre-Monsoon" season, in which highs over 105 are par for the course and a few days at 110 or more are likely. I've heard rumors that this year's Monsoon is supposed to be longer and wetter than it has been a while. I am directing the full force of my secular prayers to achieve that end.
In more personal news, I abandoned the fantasy of growing a beard today. Whenever I don't shave for a while, I think it would be nice to give it a shot. But the shape of my face is not suited to a full beard and mustache. And I don't want to look like some Williamsburg hipster or Amish dude. Not that I'd ever be mistaken for either. I never seem capable of passing as anything other than what I am. Still, it's nice to have shed the maniacal drug addict look. I also trimmed my fingernails, as a lagniappe for those of you with strong hermeneutical urges to sate.
Finally, I am pleased to report that, after years of vague longing, I returned from this year's excursion to the beaches of northern San Diego County with two blackish stones that are perfect for holding in one hand simultaneously, enabling what I hope will be a therapeutic process in which I pilot my way through the limitless extent of the extension-less internet with my right hand while grounding my psyche in a dialogue with refreshingly cool material objects in my left. And, no, I have not even thought of putting these stones in my mouth, no matter how inspirational I found the biography of Demosthenes or the fiction of the man who translated himself.