A New Dream, of Math!


Extraordinary!  I woke up at 4:30 am after dreaming.  That in itself is not unusual.  For years I have been doing that, waking up at odd times of the night, sometimes from nightmares, other times from dreams of longing, or sexual excitement, or violence, and often, fear.   It’s hard to get back to sleep after that, even if I need more than 4 or 5 hours sleep.  Today was unusual in that there was none of that.  I had a teaching dream.  I dreamt I was a substitute teacher or guest lecturer at a grade school.  I was there with the teacher, whose other appointment had been canceled, so she was there.  We were trying to come up something for me to do.  I asked about lesson plans and where the kids were in their studies, when all of a sudden I decided to lecture about the number/concept of one.  I found a green chalkboard on the side of the classroom, and the teacher had the kids rearrange their desks to face me.

I talked about one, and how, of course, one times something is still one something, how division is just a question of finding out how many of some thing are part of something else.  I used the traditional example of one, starting with how many of those ones are there in, for example 25.  There are twenty-five.  Twenty five times one is twenty-five.  But, that is not the whole story. The things under analysis don’t have to be the same.  I could have 25 apples and 4 oranges.  The question, represented by mathematical symbols, could be how many apples are there in 25 apples and 4 oranges.  Well, there are still 25 apples.  There could also have been 21 apples and four oranges; 25 pieces of fruit.  The question itself has to be defined, and it is, just using symbols.  That, of course, led to questions from the students, and more discussion.  I spoke of how numbers were originally used to represent philosophical concepts,  how useful the number one was to represent the concept of a thing, and other symbols were invented to represent other things under discussion, and how that enabled counting, and the representation of sums, and how zero had to be invented to represent the concept of no thing, or nothing.

I talked of using mathematics to run a warehouse.  I gave many examples of ways to understand inventory.  I came up with an example of a warehouse that sells two things.   One day, the owner had everything in the place counted, but she was only given two numbers: 634 boxes, of which there were 389 boxes of, say, can openers.  However, she needed to know how many knife sharpeners she had in stock but everyone had gone home for the day already.  So, it’s simple, the students said, you just subtract.  Certainly, and many of you can do this in your head, or we can put this on paper, or on the board here: 634, less 389 is 245.  634 minus 389 equals 245.  634-389=245.   So there were 245 boxes of knife sharpeners.  However, she needed to know how many knife sharpeners  she had, not how many boxes of them.  Fortunately, she knew that each box of sharpeners contained 24 of them.  Then we were back to mathematics, and multiplication.  245 boxes of sharpeners, 24 to a box, so  245 boxes of 24 sharpeners is 5880 sharpeners.   245 times 24 is 5880.  245 X 24 = 5880.  “Classic representations of  problems, but using symbols,” I said to the students, “that you all know by now.”  Simple.  But, it could also be represented other ways, using other symbols, for more complex calculations.  Boxes could be B.  Can openers could be C.  Knife sharpeners could be represented by S.  389 plus 245 is 634.  C + S = B.   This led to more questions, and I went on the show them how this little statement could be even more representative of the actual inventory.  It could also be written as say, 15C + 24S = T, or total number of items on hand.   So, knowing, at any given moment, how many of each item is available depends on knowing the values of those letter symbols, in this case boxes of each.

I went on to explain how this use of symbols can more useful.  I used the same example, but the warehouse had three types of things: can openers, knife sharpeners, and knives.   So, we had, on the chalkboard, C + S + K = B.   “OK,” I asked, “what if the owner had a similar problem, but had different types of things to be determined.  For example, she knew that she had  389 boxes of can openers, 245 boxes of sharpeners, and she did not know how many total boxes she had of everything, but she needed to know how many knives she had in stock.   So, using our symbols, C is 389, S is 245, but K is unknown and B is unknown.  I asked the students how to solve this problem.  They said, just count all the boxes.  “But,” I said, “it’s too late to do that, and everyone has gone home.  She needs to know, right now, how many knives she has.  “She has to work all night, by herself, ” a student offered. Yes, I said, that’s one way, but there are other ways, and it doesn’t solve the problem of telling the manager on the phone, right now,  how many knives they can ship tomorrow to the various stores the company has.  He has to know, so he knows how many each store gets, and they each want to know today how many to expect.  “Can’t be done, ” a student called out.

“But,” I said, “what if she has other information?”  For example, what if she knows that for every set of six knives sold, she includes one sharpener.  “Could it be done then?” I asked.  This riled the students up.  Many of them had suggestions, and some said we needed more information. The discussion was lively.  The students were engaged in the problem, and things were beginning to click in some heads.  Math was no longer esoteric and boring.  This is, as I said, a teachers dream.  I had opened a discussion, gotten students involved, and pushed them to think.  That is what motivates any good teacher.  It is what drives some to become teachers in the first place.

Well, this is all very interesting, you say, but, what the hell has it to do with you?  You’re not a teacher.  What has this to do with Love, and Madness?  This blog is about those things, not teachers, not math, not symbols, or the philosophy and use of symbols.

True.  But, this is the extraordinary thing.  I never dream about such things.  I have been caught in a loop of unrequited love, an emotional roller coaster of ups and downs and confusion.  My dreams were about her, about the possibilities of life with her, and the impossibility of that ever happening.  There was no solution.  My marriage broke up, but there was no solution to that, and even that was no solution to my problem.  In fact, I was far worse off.  My dreams became worse, my sleeplessness increased, my brain spun out of control, and I couldn’t focus, couldn’t think about anything else.  I retired.  Work was nearly impossible.  On my own, I got worse and worse. Depressed. Dysfunctional. Remote. Alone.

Two days ago, I resolved the problem caused by my obsession with Karen.  She helped.  She told me to lose her address.  Finally, a clear message from her.  I liked it.  It was what I had wanted all along.  In fact, I hadn’t been able to resolve my feelings, my emotions, or lack of them.  I was stalled out.  I no longer felt anything at all, but I didn’t seem to be moving on either.  Karen’s message to me hit home.  I had carefully avoided being angry with her for any of this.  She had done nothing wrong, had always been straight with me and could not be blamed.  However, the typical scenario for getting over a lost love, failed marriage, or even death usually involves several steps, of which anger is one.  I was angry with Karen now, even though I brought that on myself.  For a brief moment, I hated her.  I wrote it down.  I said, in this blog, “Fuck you Karen.”   Never before had I thought such a  thing or wanted to direct any anger or negativity towards her.   I was wrong, very wrong.  That was precisely what I should have done long ago.  What a relief!  Fuck you Karen, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.  CLICK HERE It was a mantra for me.  It worked.  For another brief moment, I wanted to die.  Seriously, my depression came back full force, and I really, really wanted to kill myself.  But, it passed.  My head cleared.  Logic does not apply to emotions.  I would never have solved these equations:  Me plus Karen equals happiness, and Me plus Karen is impossible, and Me minus Karen is death, or zero, anyway, nothing.  Does not compute.

So, I don’t think the dream meant I wanted to be a teacher.  The reality is usually far different from that anyway.  I could try being a substitute, bring in a little cash. Hell, the damn retirement board just decided, upon careful analysis of my pension, that they had made a mistake, and I was being given $7.80 more a month than I was entitled to.  They sent me a letter, stating that, and the fact that, since I have gotten $7.80 a month too much for ten months, I now owed them $78.00!  And the motherfuckers have already deducted the entire amount from my next disbursement.  Well, fuck  ’em.  I’ll survive.  My budget was tight enough.  Actually, in their complicated math, I will get not just $78 less, but $84.25 less this month.  I don’t know how THAT works, since, if I was getting $7.80 too much, then the ten months of that is $78.00, and $7.80 less for the current month would mean I should get $85.80 less.

So, really, I may have to get that part-time job I’ve been dreading.  Hmm. Substitute teacher? Always in demand. Flexible hours.

Well, at least, my head is clear now. Maybe I can be more creative. Maybe I can get on with my life now.  

It’s Raining Again – Wonderful!


desert_rain Started raining not long after I got home.  I love it when it does that – waits for me to get home.  Traffic goes nuts in the rain, and I’m not too fond of riding soaking wet.  It had been hot and humid today; unusual for this dry desert-like climate to be humid.  So the rain cooled things off, and sounded good coming down, hitting the roof, pouring down the walls, splattering on the sidewalk and patio from the canales.  It stopped for awhile, and I hadn’t given it much thought until it started in again. Not too hard. Pleasant.  Soothing.  I got to thinking that I don’t know what to write about anymore, at least as far as my life.  The obsessive infatuation I had at least gave me a focus!

I don’t see Karen anymore.  She avoids me.  She’s always busy. Once she told me she’d be busy throughout May, but she’s still busy now.  I’ve asked a couple times if she wanted to continue having lunch, and she said she did, but she was just so busy. It’s a good indication, I think, of her immaturity.  Can’t say outright she doesn’t want to have lunch, even when I give her an opening.  Well, I suppose it doesn’t matter anymore.  I like her still, without the infatuation, and would have liked to continue the friendship, but her interest in me, whatever it was, seems to have evaporated.

Still I’m taking an antidepressant, something I thought I’d never do.  Lacking any zest for life, or feelings for anyone, any reason to continue living, seemed incentive enough to try something.  I am still practicing guitar, and hiking in the mountains.  I have a pretty and intelligent friend I hike with, and we both like sushi and salsa dancing and hiking.  I have every reason to be hopeful.

Still, I get into rages.  I nearly blew up at the Parking Services clerk.  I had visions of coming back at night to destroy the building, or at least break the windows.  I even thought about seeing which car was his and coming back to break his windows.  Such a pitiful excuse for a human being.  Him, or me.  I was angry so long over that, but the director apologized, gave me my money back, and trained her staff on how to do things the right way for motorcycle permits.  Over and done with.  I sure was angry for awhile there though.

Generally, I’m improving. Life does not appear so pointless and empty anymore.  I think less of dying. I still think about moving to Afghanistan to help them rebuild schools and infrastructure.  Might still do that.  Retirement from my current job looms ahead.  I look forward to it, but fear the loss of income and shaky future of it.  My plan had been to pay off the house my wife and I had and retire without any house payments. Our divorce screwed that up royally.  She got to keep what she’s always thought of as her house, even though we’d borrowed money to pay off her ex, and it was in both our names, and I’d made all the payments myself, including the extra money.  I’d had my own house when I met her.  It would almost be paid off now too, but I sold it at a loss to pay off debts, debts we both had.  I never dreamed that I’d end up with nothing for all that.  Well, I have my pension, but that’s all.  Rents are high.  I won’t have money to travel as I’d planned. I really don’t know what the fuck I am going to do.  I’ll probably end up working part time at something.  The chances of making a living at writing or photography seem slim, but I’m going to try.  Maybe I’ll end up playing bad guitar on the street for spare change.

I did have a real surge in my life recently.  Rarely do I go out to dinner or anywhere much anymore.  I’d been trying to get together with my step-daughter for awhile, ever since she had her last brain operation, and we found out she was cancer free after all.  It hadn’t come back.  I wanted to celebrate so much when I heard that.  I’d have bought champagne for my ex and partied, but she was in Texas, and hadn’t wanted me there.  She had a pleasant dinner with her daughter and the first husband, Maya’s dad, who she hadn’t spoken with in 25 years, but we could have gone out to celebrate if I’d been there.  Even after telling me she didn’t want me there, she called, at Maya’s insistence, to tell me how it went, and how she wanted to celebrate, maybe find a bottle of champagne.   Well, anyway, I took my step-daughter Maya to a very nice fondue place in the Old Town part of  Albuquerque. melting-pot We had a great time. We didn’t eat too much, or drink a lot, but we laughed and talked for three hours.  It was the best time I’d had in two years.  Maya said it was the best date she’d had in a long time.  It was fun, and we  reconnected.  Always had a good relationship with her.  We opened up to each other more than usual, and it felt comfortable.  A wonderful boost to my morale!

Things at work, however, are deteriorating. The loss of gas and oil revenue the State of New Mexico depended on has meant less money coming down from Santa Fe. Everyone is cutting corners, cutting operations, looking for things to cut, purge, or lay off to make ends meet.  My lab may be next, before I even get a chance to retire.  The bean counters are king now.  Regulations require that I not overcharge anyone for the work I do.  The Dean of the Medical School is slowly cutting me off of the tobacco settlement money they’d used to pay my salary, which meant my lab went into deficit for the first time ever.  I can cut costs, raise prices some, but the crazy people there don’t understand what it is I do exactly, so they have come up with outrageous calculations of costs, based on a spreadsheet that is badly thought out.  One example is raising the price of one service by 15 cents, but increasing a similar service, that actually costs less in supplies, and takes less time and effort, by over 30 times the current rate.  Unreal.  They don’t even think it’s a big deal, but it means there will be no more revenue from that service ever.  I can’t get them to understand. I accept we have to raise rates, but it has to be based on real data, not numbers plugged into a hilariously inventive spreadsheet, just to satisfy auditors.  Gotta have a paper trail to prove we are charging the right amount!  Even when the premises of the spreadsheet are insanely wrong.  Doesn’t seem to matter that we cannot long operate under those conditions.  We need more business, more efficiency, not less income.  Idiots!  I’ve worked so long and hard at this job, and now pencil pushers are going to ruin it.  It makes me furious.  I see red, feel violent. It attacks my own efficiency all these years in maintaining a tight budget, in helping scores of researchers, and contributing to dozens of their research papers.  My knowledge is suddenly inferior to a paper-trail spreadsheet.  It must be right – how could it be wrong?  Haha.  Idiots.  Little tiny minds, desperately trying to feel important, destroying everything they touch. Fuck the assholes.  I may be depressed, but I don’t have to let them destroy all this when they don’t even understand the basic fallacies behind their calculations.

So, I don’t know if I’m improving or not.  On the one hand, I have good days every once in a while.  On the other hand, my bad days seem worse.  I will be lucky to survive the next few months without killing someone.

Seething with Anger Again


anger-1 You’d think a little thing like a parking permit wouldn’t get me so upset.  I need a permit to park at work.   Space is at a premium, so I can understand it; it even encourages people to ride the bus or carpool, which makes sense.  I don’t like having to pay, but I pay my fees and keep my permit current. I ride a motorcycle. Very fuel efficient, pollutes little, takes up very little space.  I replaced my wind shield last evening.  The permit was attached; it cannot be removed and transferred. It shreds if one tries to do so.  Previously, Parking Services had told me that if I brought the old permit in, I could get a replacement free.  So, I cut that entire section out of the windshield and took that in to parking services to get a replacement.  I gave it to this guy Charlie, who was the only person working.  I told him I replaced the windshield, so I wanted to exchange the permit.  He told me he couldn’t do that.  He asked me if I had gotten a new motorcycle, and I told him no.  I patiently explained the situation again, and he kept saying he didn’t understand, no matter how many times I tried to explain it.  Every time he asked if I’d gotten a new motorcycle, I said, no, I had just gotten a new windshield, pointed to the old one, and said I couldn’t use that one, since it couldn’t be detached.  He would just shake his head. I could not believe such density.   However, it didn’t bother me.  I’m taking bupropion to try and deal with my depression.   I’ve been calmer lately.  Finally he wants to know if I want a new permit, so I happily say yes, not even mentioning that was what I’d already said many times.  So he fills out the the paperwork, removes the old permit number from my computer file, and adds the new one.  Makes me sign for a new permit, filling out all the information again, and pay a $10 fee for replacing it.  He wouldn’t exchange the permit; he didn’t even seem to understand the concept.  But, I figured that they might have changed their policy, and $10 isn’t so much.  So far so good.   Then he tells me there are no permits to give me!  He says they ran out; demand exceeded what they had, and no new permits were going to be ordered since the permit year ends in August.  Then they’ll have plenty of new permits to give out.  So, I asked him how the parking officer would know I have a permit, if I didn’t have one to display.  He tells me that the officer can just enter my license into  his scanner, and he’ll be able to tell I have a permit from that.   I was dumbfounded.   I asked him why I needed a new permit at all, if they could just scan my plate?  He just looks at me.  Tells me he doesn’t understand.  By the third time I had to try and explain to him what I was asking him, and he still didn’t get it, I was getting angry.  My voice rose up, and I could hear the anger in my voice.   I asked him for the money back.  Another teller had come in, so I explained it to her too. She got it, after a couple tries.  But, she tells me the supervisor is the only one who can authorize a refund, and the supervisor is off today.  In fact she won’t be back until Tuesday because of the Memorial Day holiday.  She says she’ll give me her card so I can call her or email her, walks to a desk behind her, and then walks away to help another customer.  She even stops and walks back to the desk again, but still no card or number.  Finally Charlie asks her if she has a card.  She says maybe.  He goes and looks for one and gives it to me.

By this time I was so mad I could hardly speak.  I left, throwing the door open as hard as I could, but it didn’t go all the way, and another customer was leaving behind me, so it couldn’t slam shut either.   I wanted to break something.   I wanted to throw everything in the office at this idiot.  I climbed on the bike and sped away, livid with anger.  Raced in to work, because even though I’d gone in early, now I was already 15 minutes late.

So, no improvement in my mood there.   I’ve been through anger management counseling before, and I knew better than to throw things, or yell at the idiot.  I did my best to calm down, and patiently explained the situation to the other teller, but my adrenalin was pumping!  I felt like telling Charlie what an idiot he was, berating him, and questioning his ability to hold a  job, but I said nothing, beyond asking for a refund.  As soon as I had the supervisor’s card, I left, without saying another word.

But the anger I felt!  Unbelievable.  Disproportionate.  I’d have liked to destroy the parking services building right then. anger-2

What possible benefit am I getting from the bupropion or counseling if I can’ t control my anger?  If something like this almost turns me into a raging maniac?  Maybe what I really need to be taking is an SSRI (serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitor) like Prozac, Paxil or Zoloft?  I hate the thought of having to deal with those.  People report a lack of feeling, no emotions, and a sense of disconnectedness.  Hell, I already felt disconnected; that’s why I went for the treatment in the first place.

Of course now, with no way to control my anger, I could end up in jail. I’d rather not do that, even though I’m not real concerned about where I go or what I do right now.