Touch screen devices are all the rage: iphones, iPads, android tablets, etc. I admit that I get a great deal of satisfaction using the multi-touch pinch movements to either zoom in or zoom out of a picture or an application window. Yes, the screens are technically a glass barrier that we cannot penetrate. But it creates the illusion, at least for me, that I can actually reach in and touch, grab, and otherwise manipulate my data. And in a world of increasing technical complexity (remember when cell phones could do nothing but make a phone call?), this return to finger-painting like simplicity is a welcome reprieve to many who say "I just want to do X" without reading a 200 page pdf.
As I sit in my chair, still chewing on my pen cap while staring across pen marked index cards and loose leaf paper, I ponder the 20+ rough drafts worth of material that I would like to share with the world. I can tell you the history of each little scribble with the same enthusiasm and vividness as a man with battle scars who, living vicariously though his favorite memories of yesteryear, smiles proudly while rattling off the number of stitches received, surgeries survived, and other key pieces of minutia. Yes, these ideas are like precious children to me. They started their lives as flickering flashes of inspiration, caught simply by careful observation and awareness in otherwise ordinary moments. This begins the panicked phase 2: a mad dash to find a clipboard and capture these ideas before (and this always happens) the narrative in my head gets marred by too many self-edits and other thoughts trying to compete for my mental RAM.
Mr. V. (my high school math teacher who, having faith in me, personally drove me to visit MIT when I even gave the slightest hint that I was afraid of not being able to handle a school of that intensity), would either be proud or offended at my new discovery in life... that 1+1=7. Clearly, yes, my calculator will never agree with this conclusion. But their job is to be boringly predictable and rigid, reporting on the facts versus paving the way forward to the future.
I honestly couldn't figure out what was causing him to tuck his tail and cower in such fear. Linus, my 85 pound muscle of a dog, was definitely known for being scared of just about everything. His biggest fear of course was the UPS man (I still can't believe Linus tried to flee with such intensity that he pulled me over). But on this occasion, I couldn't for the life of me figure out what was tripping him off: No garage doors were moving; no people were around us; it wasn't windy. I was at a loss.
I've long forgotten many/most of the excruciatingly detailed derivations that I slogged through doing my college math and physics courses, which spanned 2 degrees over a decade. Yet it's the divergence theorem that I can always describe and remember. Why? Because of a stupid and yet powerful illustration by Craig Carter, my thermodynamics professor and thesis advisor.
I was so proud of my accomplishment: high jumping 4' while competing in my very first track meet during my 4th grade year at FFCS. It was the launch point for a 12 year career that ended with my senior year at MIT, where I upped my personal best to 6'6" (a full inch above my own height—another proud accomplishment). I had great coaches, reckless determination, and over a decade of practice.
Quick thought experiment: If you had to push a boulder up to the top of a plateau, would you do it all at once? A little at a time? Unless you're doing it for the exercise or for the sheer joy of repetitiveness, you're probably going to do it all at once because if you stop even just 10 feet short, mother nature (through wind, rain, and good ole fashion gravity) will likely push the boulder back down the slope and eliminate all your previous effort. Moral of the story: better finish the job or don't bother starting until you know you can take it to the logical end.
A deep breath in, my day is done,
At least seven times the clock has rung.
Begin my walk along side the sun,
while wiping dirt up off my face.
Happy? I'd like to think I am.
But I'm just an plain old working man
doing grueling work, just to feed the fam.
Odd jobs from place to place.
The tracks before me, just installed of course
took just six weeks with a ten man force.
Shiny steel rails above rocks so coarse,
gleaming softly in warm dusk rays.
Too much. Too little. The internet has both. We are drowning in an explosion of information and data creation that is (almost) outpacing our ability to store it, manage it, and our ability to sift through it to find the few pieces that are important to us individually.
Walking on the streets at night
dimly light by lamp post lights.
Ten till midnight, by my count
with not another soul in sight.