1 Dec 2001 - 6 Dec 2001 
	Sorry about that mainly silent November.  I could blame it on NaNoWriMo, but 
as I got only 1/5 the way done, I'm not.  November is just a month sandwiched 
between my two favorite months, so I tend to merely tolerate it.  And enjoy the 
big chunk that Thanksgiving carves out of this 30-day endurance test. 
	This November, I've had the flu (or what looked remarkably like the flu), 
which I dealt with with lots of tea (herbal, not caffeinated... shee, I know 
what I'm doing), orange juice, and aspirin (I'm really an adult now!  Take 
=that= Reye's syndrome!).  I've had a buttload of papers to grade, which I have 
yet to grade (I've gotten a little less than half graded.)  I've been putting 
together stuff for Mathcamp 2002.  In the interstices of this, I've crept very 
little forward on my research.  And I've knitted some christmas gifts, finished 
a festive chenille sweater for myself (which I already wore for Thanksgiving and 
will wear again for Christmas, and maybe even New Year's if the damn thing 
survives.  I don't know if it will survive washing (and I don't know about dry 
cleaning, but I think I will try either Meurice Care on University Place and 9th 
St. or Medlin-Davis in Raleigh (those amazing people got fresh strawberry and 
red wine stains out of an ivory dress!  I was amazed!  They can do anything!)... 
the problem is that it's handmade and I've got a few loose ends I can't tie off 
because the nature of chenille.  I'm going to have to tell any cleaner not to 
pull on any threads, or a square may come undone.  Oh yeah, it's a granny-square 
design.) I'm lost in my parentheses again, dammit.)  and picked up a crochet 
project for Stu, which I'm not sure I'll finish in time.  And I've been trying 
out this new type of picture logic puzzle which really kicks ass -- tough stuff! 
I should hang on to copies of this stuff to let the kids at Mathcamp try out. 
Perhaps we can figure out the math behind these things! 
	So that was November. 
	Now onto other things. 
	So, to deal with the heaviness of November, I've made a couple museum visits 
-- twice to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (news you can use: they currently 
inspect all bags, and you must check all bags when you go in.  It felt odd not 
to have a weight on my back as I was going through the galleries) and once to 
the Natural History Museum.  As well, I've been reading =Little Dorrit= by 
Charles Dickens, which by all rights should be the least popular of Dickens 
books for good reason -- it's depressing (ok, lots of his books are that), it 
has the barest hint of a plot - the action seems driven by the desire to put 
certain characters in the same room rather than as actual movement towards some 
resolution, and it has barely believable characters with little humor at all. 
It's a very mean book in many ways, it has the regular Dickens length, and the 
leading characters never actually =do= anything -- all action is done by 
secondary characters. 
	In any case, as is usual for Everyman's Library, the book is ended by their 
original foreword by G.K. Chesterton, a grand lover of Dickens with a humanist 
perspective.  There's a particular quote in this foreword which struck me: 
	"It is no proof of sadness that a man finds black abysses sad; it is a proof 
of sadness that he finds sunbeams sad.  It is nothing that a man dwells on the 
darkness of dark things; all healthy men do that. It is when he dwells on the 
darkness of bright things that we have reason to fear some disease of the 
emotions.  There must really have been some depression when a man can only see 
the sad side of flowers or the sad side of holidays or the sad side of wine." 
	And, indeed, =Little Dorrit= is the saddest of all Dickens books.  (And 
Chesterton has some more good quotes on the only people who should be allowed to 
work are the ones able to shirk..)  I will not make a review of the book right 
now -- I am saving that for an Amazon.com review -- but I want to describe a 
marginal character named Miss Wade. 
	---- interlude ----- 
	So I left that 5 days ago, and I've been very busy and very, very tired. 
It's the end of the semester, and since I'm teaching this semester (and 
regularly tutoring) this is crunch time.  I have two more waves of grading and 
then I'm =done=.  I hope. 
	I'm so tired. 
	In any case, I don't feel like talking about Miss Wade, because she's a very 
nasty person.  As is usual in Dickens, Miss Wade is a single idea made into a 
fictional character -- that of implacable misanthropy.  Miss Wade is the kind of 
person who takes offense at a person saying "Good morning."  I suppose Dickens 
put Wade in as a balance to the disparity between surface and reality in the 
rest of the novel -- Wade is the person who disbelieves the surface in the case 
where the surface actually =is= the reality.  She thinks people who are treating 
her kindly are triumphing over her, and believes a man who shares in 
herĘcynicism to be her bosom buddy.  What a hateful idiot. 
	But there are happier things in this world.  Lately, I've picked up some 
more role models and/or favorite artists.  So far, I had picked up W.H. Auden 
and Jane Austen (along with Dickens, though I don't like him as a person.  I 
only like him as an author.)  Now I've added G.K. Chesterton and Candace 
	Candace Wheeler was a woman who started her career as a professional 
decorator and designer when she was near 50 years old, when her favorite 
daughter died of a kidney ailment at the age of 31.  She founded a women's 
decorative arts collective, to promote the designs of American women and to make 
available "the beautiful home" to the average middle-class homemaker.  For a 
while she was partner in a company with Louis Comfort Tiffany, in which they 
invented the idea of professional interior decorators, Wheeler designing (and 
sometimes making herself) gorgeous silk draperies and door hangings.  My 
favorite one was a clouds-and-chrysanthemums hanging, based on Chinese designs 
and in coral silk and gold thread.  Gorgeous.  But she quit the company because 
they were restricted to a few very rich clients, and she wanted to bring beauty 
to the masses. 
	Her design ideas came from nature, specifically local, wild nature.  One of 
her best wallpaper designs was a beecomb, bees, and clover design (she won a 
competition with that).  The designs, though patterned (as one expects in 
mass-produced goods), look like they have no pattern or symmetry.  She came up 
with interesting weaving techniques to make shimmering illusions on the cheap; a 
woman may not be able to afford silk hangings for her home, but she could afford 
a cloth cross-woven with black and red thread, that made different optical 
effects at different angles, just like silk. 
	In any case, Wheeler had a long career, and retired around age 80. She died 
around age 93.  This is something to think about, especially as many of the 
people I know expect their career peaks to occur in their 30s, and that they 
want to be retired by 50.  This woman =started= when she was 50. And this was in 
the 1870s! 
	Other things I've seen lately: at the Met - Jeweled Art of the Mughuls. 
Though I'm not sure how much art these jeweled swords and knives are.  It seemed 
to me that some of these beautiful creations got used for purposes other than 
decorative.  In any case, one gets to see these weapons covered in rubies, 
emeralds, diamonds and gold.  There's some jade as well.  At the Natural History 
Museum - Meeting God, a small exhibit on Hinduism, replete with shrines and 
videos of the temporary art made by women with rice flour during many of the 
religious festivals.  Pearls -- woo, it's pretty.  It costs extra to go see, but 
I can see why.  First of all, they can charge for it (just like they did for 
their =Diamonds= exhibit a few years ago) and secondly, I'm sure it costs more 
than their usual special exhibits.  However, it's well worth it, and much more 
interesting than the Diamonds exhibit, simply because there is more variation 
amongst pearls =and= they are gems made by animals, as opposed to geological 
forces or very special chemical processes.  They have examples of all the 
mussels, snails, and oysters that make pearls.  It's interesting to hear that 
the core of cultured pearls are taken from North American freshwater mussels, 
much of which are endangered because of runoff into streams and damming of 
rivers.  Yes, some of the runoff is industrial in nature, but the worst runoff 
into water is fertilizer - whether from farms or people's own little grass 
	How I hate grass.  Ugh. 
	In any case, I'm still tired, and I need to make sure Stu is awake.  Talk to 
y'all later. 
Prev Year Next