re-developing an interest in math. the interesting, exotic ideas it has produced, as they are accessible by the laymen. not the difficult, nigh impossible and confusing problems. i also happened to catch a documentary that uw put on about teachers in detroit who offer a math boot camp to middle school kids–mostly african american and very much the ones often stereotyped as being only good for careers as hip hop artists and athletes, if they are going to make it out of the gang-infested hood at all.
it got me thinking about how mr. f, probably the best teacher i ever had, left me interested in math and physics at the end of high school, and more importantly, actually able to understand it–even calculus. and how, mw, was always trying to trick us with gotcha problems, and the ta m (who knew two words of english), combined their efforts to make me hate all things relating to math, engineering and the sciences, until tb offered a stunning glimpse at how chaos and game theory, and cellular automata, and calculus, could be used to rigorously model political and economic systems.
i looked up mw online, and was surprised to learn that:
1. he’d double majored in both math AND english as an undergrad.
2. won a prestigious teaching award the year he baffled me to heck and gave me a d, thereby ending my dreams of becoming a theoretical physicist.
3. and went on to not follow up his master’s degree in math with a professorly life of publishing arcane papers about remote mathematical subjects, but instead went to stanford law school, and is now a patent attorney in san francisco.
the reality is, of course, that by the middle of my first semester in college i was much more interested in learning how to convince the grocery and liquor store clerks i was 21 to buy booze and act stupid drunk. and while mw was a pretty trickey teacher, i never once set foot inside a tutorial lab, even though these were always available, and the other kids in my class lab were finding it helpful and getting b’s and a’s in the class.
the reality is that i changed my major from anthropology (was also considering physics until i got the d in math) to political science to english, based on how easy i thought each major would be to get in the shortest amount of time. i then proceeded to get the hell out of school, not to return to take an accredited course for over ten years.
the reality is that mw spent six years as an undergrad to get a double major in math and english, then two-three years to get a master’s in math, then his cv skips a few years and you see him graduating from stanford with a law degree and honors.
and we all know that women who are hot like a aren’t looking to date shiftless web guys who are drifting at non-profits–they go for lawyers because lawyers are men they can brag about to their friends and family, and lawyers provide them the social access and security they need.
i have to say that i’m a little disappointed that my college pre-calc teacher ended up a patent attorney. i’ve formatted and corrected a thousand patents that were being translated into english or other languages, and i have to say that a dedicated and bright mind like his should be inventing stuff and proving famous theorems. you’d think i might be jealous, but i’m really not. i really am kind of disappointed. the guy was brilliant, and flawless with his delivery of explaining math problems and laying the foundation for an understanding of calculus–which is why he liked to pose tricky problems so we couldn’t simply regurgitate onto a test by rote what we’d learned.
i thought about asking him to join my linkedin network, since linkedin was where i found him, but he only has 51 connections, which means he’s either just getting started or has no interest in networking with everyone (which is the type of person he’d have to be to want to bother accepting a networking request from some douchebag he gave d to some fifteen years ago).
i’ve never really learned how to approach accountability realistically–which is more clear to me know than ever. i’ve often vacillated between deep regret over everything and anything bad that remotely touched me or was touched by me, and exulted egotistic thinking that i am practically a saint.
but maybe some of my insights into my endless need to wage war on anything and everyone around me will help me start to see the way i approach myself in the world in a different sort of light. it’s not enough to say “you beat up on yourself too much” or “you have no accountability whatsoever.” because these are paradoxical in nature, and one can’t be truthfully accused of both by the same person without wondering what the heck is going on.