22 December 2001 
	This will likely be my last entry for this year.  I =could= close this year 
with a bang, a whimper, or a drunken revel, but I am about to go on a 10-hour 
trip (in some hours -- the benefit of waking up 5 hours before everyone else is 
that one can do time-wasting things like writing in one's journal and actually 
get some real work done as well, before anybody wakes up.) 
	As a year, it's been a pretty horrible one.  Yes, without the attacks on 
Sept. 11 the year wouldn't have been hideous, but it's been the worst year I've 
had in recent memory, even without two planes slamming into the most prominent 
landmark that had existed in NYC (barring the Statue of Liberty... but I wish it 
had been the statue which had been destroyed -- there would have been only a 
couple people around the statue that time of day, and the statue could have been 
	I feel like I have been wandering aimlessly, many times circling myself, 
though I believe the wandering way is my usual mode of existence.  It's not that 
I don't get stuff done, it's just that my progress is highly nonlinear and 
liable to go off on tangents.  Still, many good things have happened this year 
-- I had Beef Wellington for my birthday (which I never shall forget... unless 
Stu gets me Beef Wellie again.  In which case, I'll remember that next time, and 
anticipate the next time I get to eat it again). 
	I started with Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic (after a fitful start in 
trying to learn Braille.  That's been shelved for the time being.  I think I 
will pick up trying to read Japanese again, and try to finish that task I left 
unfinished so long ago.  There are these sci-fi stories (which I've seen a 
translation of at Barnes & Noble) which I would like to translate myself.  As 
well, I've got Japanese versions of some of my favorite novels (=Ender's Game= 
was one, and I think =Foundation= and =Murder on the Orient Express=)) -- much 
of what I read is rather tedious to me ("Simplify the rational expressions: 5. 
the fraction whose numerator is 3 x y squared times the quantity 3x + 6 and 
whose denominator is 6 y cubed times the quantity x + 2".... "Figure in the text 
is a weighted undirected graph with 5 vertices. Starting in the upper right and 
continuing clockwise, the vertices are labeled a, b, c, d, e. Starting with a, 
here are the edges.  There is an edge between a and c with the weight 5; an edge 
between a and d with weight 13. Those are the edges from a.  There is an edge 
from b to d ...") and I wonder many times when I'm describing a very complicated 
figure or algorithm being depicted (on Thursday I had to describe polynomial 
long division.  Oh whee.) how well blind students can picture the relationships 
in their minds.  Because I understand what is important and essential in a 
figure, I spend the most time on those parts, adding explanations in text that 
are not in the figures but is important to note so that they can tell what is 
important.  I understand that even dyslexic students get the math books on tape, 
which surprises me, but I can imagine that amount of text, in words and symbols, 
can be highly confusing for those to whom simple text like this can be a chore. 
In any case, my work doing this is more immediately helpful to the blind that my 
idea to become a math Braille transcriber (I still intend to do that one day, it 
just will take a long time to learn how to do that.  Literary Braille is simple 
to transcribe; math and doing embossed figures looks very difficult, partly 
because I'm not blind myself and I need to learn the spatial conventions of 
blind comprehension.  One man at RFBD told me that when he used to work at a 
restaurant, the manager told him the salt and pepper always had to be in the 
same configuration - one always on the left and one always on the right, with 
respect to a certain seat - because that is the convention for the blind; when I 
was in elementary school, I was told that we always walk on the right so as to 
not create impediments for the blind.  There are good reasons to walk on the 
right, not having to do with the blind, but it seemed to me like a good reason 
at the time. 
	In any case, working at RFBD has given me ideas for exercises in the future. 
I'm thinking of doing blind math lectures, or perhaps even blind relays. 
Problems would be described three times, and I would give problems with lots of 
visualization - some geometry problems, some graphs (the graphs of graph theory 
(with vertices and edges), not graphs of algebra (and by algebra, I mean the 
stuff you usually run into in high school, not the algebra of groups and fields. 
Confused yet?) -- perhaps a minimization problem - traversing a graph using the 
least number of edges or something like that.)  We rely so much on our sight, 
even more than hearing I believe, that none of us are prepared for it to be 
taken away; it would not be very difficult to lose our sight.  My eyesight isn't 
horrible - I'm not legally blind - but glaucoma and cataracts run in the family 
(I wonder if it's related to the diabetes) and my Uncle Tom had something where 
he had to have laser surgery, or he'd go blind. There's something out there 
called macular degeneration, from what I understand one goes progressively blind 
and there's no way to fix it (though one can slow it -- in that way, it's like 
Alzheimer's disease, or schizophrenia, or diabetes).  Even if I never go blind, 
or deaf, I do not lose anything by learning to read with my fingers.  I could 
read in the dark without annoying Stu, and more to the point, I develop my 
tactile abilities farther than most get to use them. 
	I'm a very sensuous... sensual?  hmmm, I need to see the difference between 
those words: 
	Ah, =usufruct= (Stu saw it in my =John Adams= book he was reading last 
	uásuáfruct (yz-frkt, -s-) n. 
	The right to use and enjoy the profits and advantages of something belonging 
to another as long as the property is not damaged or altered in any way. 
	What an interesting concept.) 
	sensuous \Sen"su*ous\, a. 1. Of or pertaining to the senses, or sensible 
objects; addressing the senses; suggesting pictures or images of sense. 
	To this poetry would be made precedent, as being less subtle and fine, but 
more simple, sensuous, and passionate. --Milton. 
	2. Highly susceptible to influence through the senses. -- Sen"su*ous*ly, 
adv. -- Sen"su*ous*ness, n. 
	senásuáal (snsh-l) adj. 
	1.Relating to or affecting any of the senses or a sense organ; sensory. 2. 
a.Of, relating to, given to, or providing gratification of the physical and 
especially the sexual appetites. See Synonyms at sensuous. b.Suggesting 
sexuality; voluptuous. c.Physical rather than spiritual or intellectual. 
d.Lacking in moral or spiritual interests; worldly. 
	Well, it seems both have similar meanings, and somewhat what I mean, but not 
quite what I have in mind.  "Sensual" seems to have more negative connotations; 
I would call myself a hedonist but most don't understand what I mean by that - 
they think of lusty, gluttonous people who live purely for the animal pleasures, 
which they see as the inherent evil of being flesh.  I don't think physicality 
is inherently evil, and much of what people call physical pleasure, involving 
drugs or lots of impersonal sex or loads of junk food, is really a counterfeit 
of real physical pleasures - the mystical high of considering the nature of 
reality, the physical intimacy with one you love and who one knows well, the 
satisfaction of a dish perfectly spiced, prepared and served with care, shared 
with family and friends are the pleasures I aim for and are extremely achievable 
for many people, if they'd just take a little effort and leave the gaudy 
pictures they take for the real thing.  My father told me to be a good animal, 
and I try to be, not because I wish to fulfill my father's dream, but because he 
was onto something (or on something? hmm.)  My dad knew what was possible, and 
he fell short in being a good animal himself, hooked to the cigarettes and 
excess food which probably added to his already shaky health; but he knew what 
it was like to enjoy the physical world into which we have been dropped, whether 
it was listening to his favorite music (the Rocky II soundtrack) or going off by 
himself to fish in the early morning or looking at the places where great 
battles were fought (I think I've seen every Civil War battlesite along I-95.) 
	Speaking of good things from this year, and good sensuality, that leads me 
immediately to =Fellowship of the Rings=, but I don't want to talk about the 
beauty to be found within.  See it for yourself.  I thought of getting some 
earplugs and watching the film without sound, I thought of closing my eyes 
throughout the film and listening to the film.  There is so much there, but it's 
not in your face -- I'm sure there are small things I did not notice due to the 
mass of detail everywhere. 
	Still, I'm not going to talk about much of the film at all.  My own 
experience with it has been as a timeless moment.  I felt like eternity was 
passing as I was watching, but also that no time at all had elapsed.  I would 
have been content to sit there and have all three films roll by at once (and I'm 
sure that once all three films are out, in two years' time, some theater in New 
York will do that.. akin to the marathon Ring Cycle productions that happen from 
time to time in the Opera world.) 
	I have a couple thoughts on friendship and heroism, neither of which are 
very complicated or very original, but they are fitting to this movie.  First of 
all, there is a question as to what is the nature of a hero -- there is a long 
tradition in the U.S. of telling stories of reluctant heroes, not realizing that 
=all= heroes are reluctant - all the ones we could hold as real heroes.  One 
does not wish to have heroes revelling in strife and war; these are not the kind 
of people who are welcome in peace, and their usefulness in war is questionable 
as well - men who wish for glory and honor, and thus go searching for trouble 
where perhaps it would be best to not disturb demons that have laid dormant for 
centuries.  Three of the main characters in Lord of the Rings, Gandalf, Frodo, 
and Aragorn, do not wish for the responsibilities that are laid on their 
shoulders -- none of them want glory for themselves, none of them wish for 
battle and death, but they know they must go against their personal wishes or 
all may be lost.  Real heroes are people who take care of business, who hold to 
their obligations, though it may cost them personally and though they don't want 
to be in the horrible times in which they live.  These are the people who will 
live peacefully and quietly when times are good, enjoying life and creation, but 
come to the front when darkness threatens the land. 
	This also ties in with my ideas of friendship.  The strongest friendship 
shown in the story is that between Sam and Frodo, and it is what most people 
hope for and wish for when they talk about what "true" friends are -- people who 
will be right by you during your hardest times and your painful trials.  People 
long for loyalty, for faith (not faith as in belief, but faith as in being true 
to a person) and many of us never receive it.  In our idealized concepts of 
family, we hope to find it there, in our ideal of marriage we hope to find it 
there, in the groups of friends we form in school we hope to find it.  And we 
never know if we've truly found it until life has gone terribly, terribly wrong. 
	Nowadays, people want fidelity and loyalty from spouses, friends, and 
family, but few give it in return.  Actually, that's not true.  I have found 
faithfulness in many people, and though none are perfect in their loyalty, many 
are close.  One can be true to a person, to a place, to an idea.  One can be 
true to one's own self.  We often fall short, but there is often forgiveness, if 
we just have the strength to ask for it.  In Dante's Inferno, the greatest sin, 
for which people are frozen in a great lake of ice in the 9th circle of Hell, is 
that of treaon - breaking faith with those who trust in you.  People who give 
false counsel, people who defraud others who hope for the comfort of religion, 
people who turn against their benefactors are found in this final level of Hell, 
where one can find the triple demon of treachery in the middle in the persons of 
Judas (the man who gave Jesus to the Romans), Brutus (the guy who conspired 
against Julius Caesar), and Nimrod (the builder of the Tower of Babel, turning 
against the power of God.)  Actually, as far as traitors go, I think those three 
aren't the best that could be chosen, but that's because there has been 
centuries of faith-breaking since Dante died. 
	In the Gospels it says "There is no greater love than to give up your life 
for a friend."  This was said by a man who was going to give up his life for all 
people, and said to his closest friends.  Most friends aren't tested like the 
apostles, or Sam, or the firefighters who were killed as they tried to save 
their friends who had gone into World Trade Center before them, and many of us 
would falter, but there are people like that in your life, if only you give 
faith in return. 
	And that is the end of my rambling year.  I really need to brush my hair and 
finish packing. I think I'm going to give my "God Keeps His Promises" Noah's Ark 
cross-stitch to my Grandma for her 75th birthday. 
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