I'm very good at integral and differential calculus.
“The demand that I make of my reader is that he should devote his whole life to reading my works.”
James Joyce February 2, 1882 – January 13, 1941
According to The Writer’s Almanac, Joyce, “was educated by Jesuits, first visited a prostitute at the age of 14, dropped out of medical school and aspired to be an opera star. Joyce was afraid of thunder and lightning … and he was also afraid of dogs. On his desk he had a tiny bronze statue of a woman lying back in a chair with a cat draped over her shoulders.”
My five favorite ducks:
One thing is that I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs, in different degrees of certainty, about different things. But I’m not absolutely sure of anything and of many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here and what the question might mean. I might think about it a little bit, if I can’t figure it out, then I go onto something else. But I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in the mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is, as far as I can tell, possibly. It doesn’t frighten me.
Richard P. Feynman
A few weeks ago I did a little web searching on a mission to see if it would be possible to acquire duplicates of any or all of my grandfather’s service medals. He fought as a member of Merrill’s Marauders in the Pacific Theater in WWII and I know he had been awarded (at least) a Purple Heart and a Medal of Honor. Long, long ago, my great-grandmother — an evil, wicked woman — caught my uncle playing with the medals and threw them into a fireplace.
I learned that on July 12, 1973, a disastrous fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, destroyed approximately 16–18 million Official Military Personnel Files.
It is estimated that the personnel files of 80% of all Army veterans discharged between November 1, 1912 and January 1, 1960 and 75% of all Air Force veterans discharged between September 25, 1947 and January 1, 1964 were lost.
“No duplicate copies of these records were ever maintained, nor were microfilm copies produced. Neither were any indexes created prior to the fire. In addition, millions of documents had been lent to the Department of Veterans Affairs before the fire occurred. Therefore, a complete listing of the records that were lost is not available.”
“In terms of loss to the cultural heritage of our nation, the 1973 NPRC Fire was an unparalleled disaster.”
I did a bunch of odd jobs before I turned fifteen and was legally allowed to work in Florida. I had gigs mowing lawns, selling airbrushed license plates at the Daytona Beach Flea Market, selling ice cream during the races at Daytona International Speedway, going door-to-door selling Christmas wreaths for charity, &c. Once I turned fifteen, though, I was able to get a “real” job. Here are the five best “real” jobs I had before I turned twenty:
Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.
Let’s say a guy named Roger is attracted to a woman named Elaine.
He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else. And then, one evening when they’re driving home, a thought occurs to Elaine, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud:
“Do you realize that, as of tonight, we’ve been seeing each other for exactly six months?”
And then there is silence in the car. To Elaine, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: Gee, I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he’s been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I’m trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn’t want, or isn’t sure of.
And Roger is thinking: Gosh. Six months.
And Elaine is thinking: But, hey, I’m not so sure I want this kind of relationship, either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I’d have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily toward . . . I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?
And Roger is thinking: . . . so that means it was . . . let’s see…February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer’s, which means . . . lemme check the odometer…Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here!
And Elaine is thinking: He’s upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I’m reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed, even before I sensed it-that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that’s it. That’s why he’s so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He’s afraid of being rejected.
And Roger is thinking: And I’m gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don’t care what those morons say, it’s still not shifting right. And they better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It’s 87 degrees out, and this thing is shifting like a garbage truck, and I paid those bastards
And Elaine is thinking: He’s angry. And I don’t blame him. I’d be angry, too. I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can’t help the way I feel. I’m just not sure.
And Roger is thinking: They’ll probably say it’s only a 90-day warranty. That’s exactly what they’re gonna say, the rats.
And Elaine is thinking: maybe I’m just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on his white horse, when I’m sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centered, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.
And Roger is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I’ll give them a warranty. I’ll take their warranty and stick it right up their ….
“Roger,” Elaine says aloud.
“What?” says Roger, startled.
“Please don’t torture yourself like this,” she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. “Maybe I should never have …I feel so …” (She breaks down, sobbing.)
“What?” says Roger.
“I’m such a fool,” Elaine sobs. “I mean, I know there’s no knight. I really know that. It’s silly. There’s no knight, and there’s no horse.”
“There’s no horse?” says Roger.
“You think I’m a fool, don’t you?” Elaine says.
“No!” says Roger, glad to finally know the correct answer.
“It’s just that… It’s that I…I need some time,” Elaine says.
(There is a 15-second pause while Roger, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work.) “Yes,” he says.
(Elaine, deeply moved, touches his hand.) “Oh, Roger, do you really feel that way?” she says.
“What way?” says Roger.
“That way about time,” says Elaine.
“Oh,” says Roger. “Yes.”
(Elaine turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last she speaks.) “Thank you, Roger,” she says.
“Thank you,” says Roger.
Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn.
Whereas when Roger gets back to his place, he opens a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a tennis match between two Czechs he never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and so he figures it’s better if he doesn’t think about it. (This is also Roger’s policy regarding world hunger.)
The next day Elaine will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification. They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it, either.
Meanwhile, Roger, while playing racquetball one day with a mutual friend of his and Elaine’s, will pause just before serving, frown and say: “Norm, did Elaine ever own a horse?”
It’s the 94th birthday of Prohibition! The Eighteenth Amendment, the Volstead Act, took effect on this date in 1920, a year after it was ratified. Congress passed the Act even though President Woodrow Wilson had vetoed it. It made the manufacture, sale, and transportation of liquor illegal.
It took almost 14 years before the 21st Amendment reversed Prohibition. It’s the first and only time an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has been repealed, and you can primarily thank a woman for it. Pauline Sabin was a wealthy Republican who led the repeal movement. She predicted making liquor legal again would create jobs, weaken organized crime, and generate tax revenue.
My five favorite places on Maui:
Mac Pro-tip: Pressing ⌘ and + will make the font larger in just about every program you use. (And ⌘ and - will decrease the font size.)
It’s a silly little tip that almost everyone knows. But if you don’t know it, it’s a godsend. (It’s a little depressing to admit that your eyes are getting older, but …)
“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”
My five favorite Disney characters:
History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren’t there.