09 February, 2007

Too many beautiful things to blog

Some blogquaintances have been in a bit of a fuss over comments made by the Anglican bishop N.T. Wright. I prepared a careful analysis of this, and saved it as a draft. As usual, that means it will never see the light of day. :-)

Why should it? There are too many beautiful things to blog.

This first occurred to me yesterday, while walking back from The Math Zone to my office. In all likelihood, the warm Mississippi weather contributed to my own sunny mood. Envy us, people! Yesterday the mercury topped out around 15-20°C (60-70°F). David Letterman joked yesterday about how cold it is in the rest of the nation; I regretted that my recent health precluded riding my bike. Don't worry; we've had some chilly weather, too, and of course we'll roast during the summer. But the weather's great most of the rest of the year. You Yanks may bring home bigger paychecks, but what's the point if you have to blow the difference on your heating bill?

Something else contributing to my disposition was the discovery of an elegant polynomial system that illustrates beautifully a criterion I've been studying. Developing this example more fully will help bring to press a paper I submitted last year (finally). Once that's done, I can turn my attention to polishing another paper on a related result. That's always cause for optimism.

I've also found amusement in a tale my wife told me. She sent a photo of our daughter to her family in Russia. The girl was sitting on a bed, with a black and white photo in the background. My wife's family liked the photo, but wondered who were the two people with me in the background photo. My wife went to examine our copy, and saw that baby was sitting on my parents' bed. The other two people in the photo are my Italian nonna and my mother. However, my mother is only an infant, a mere few months old. That photo is not of me, but of my Italian nonno, of whom I am a spitting image!

Speaking of my daughter, she is learning to walk. I need only hold my two index fingers before her, and she will stretch out her hands to grasp them and pull herself up. Then she lifts each leg up and plops it back down, following me around the house. She looks down at her feet as if she's not entirely sure what's going on here. Why are my feet moving?

She's becoming devious, too. She'll eat porridge when it's dinnertime, but we have to be careful not to let her see any other food. She has developed a fondness for hot dogs, and today she screamed bloody murder, refusing a single more spoon of porridge instead of the hot dog that she saw on the plate in front of her, and to which she imagined herself entitled. We settled the issue by taking her away from the table, and setting her on the floor in front of an empty box. She suddenly forgot both the porridge and the hot dog, and started playing with the box. She must not have been hungry after all.

A friend of mine once told me that one thing he likes about having dogs (real dogs, not hot dogs) was how they quiver with delight whenever he comes home. Such a profound appreciation of his existence is a welcome feeling after a long day at work, or after a few long days on the road.

Something similar happens with my daughter. When she discovers that I have returned home after work, her mouth bursts open, she clasps her hands and shakes them up and down—wayyyyyyy up and wayyyyyyy down. She pants with delight and kicks her legs wildly. It's somewhat disconcerting to someone like me, whose mother describes him as "born old". Кедрик! I exclaim. You poor thing—you actually think I'm going to pick you up and play with you. You're a sad, deluded soul.

Of course, she isn't deluded at all. My daughter, the excited little puppy...

My son used to get that excited, too, but now he is ten. He has other priorities, among them his first opportunity to participate in organized sports. He is on a soccer team! His first practice was Wednesday; his first games are tomorrow. We bought cleats, socks, and shin guards today, and when he came home he had to try them on, to make sure he knew how to tie the laces (???), and to ask if he looked okay (!!!). I hope his enthusiasm endures the first loss. I hated losing when I was a child, and our first team (the Stars) lost a lot. I cried on account of it once. I remember my mother asking me why I was so upset over a soccer game...

Another source of satisfaction has been filling out my taxes. It took a number of hours, but it was worth it!

It hasn't all been sunshine and springlike temperatures down here. My wife has just announced that her country and my country are preparing for war—something about Secretary Gates describing Russia as a potential threat. I don't take that seriously, but apparently it's made the front pages of Russian newspapers. Fifteen years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and our government still can't seem to stop offending the (somewhat democratic) Russian bear.

Finally, I have had a number of opportunities lately to kiss the cross of Christ. It's particularly discouraging when the doctor can't find anything wrong with me. "Your case is weird," is about all I can get out of him. If my case is still weird in a couple of weeks, he's sending me to a pulmonologist. I haven't always remembered to embrace the wood of the cross, but when I have, it has strengthened my courage. The way faith strengthens our courage against seemingly insuperable adversaries is the most beautiful thing of all.

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