Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Things I Love About My Sisters

Did I mention that I had four sisters? I have four sisters. And a brother-- not to forget him! But it is sisters of whom I speak today. Here are the things I love about them:

1. We sound alike, which means that we sound really quite lovely when we sing together.

2. We make each other smarter. We each have different, yet overlapping interests, and we all love telling each other the coolest things about our respective fields. Because of me, my sisters can recognize a greeting in Arabic (Ahalan wiSahalan!) and because of them I know: the name for the body of a penguin (fusiform), what Simone de Bauvoir's undergraduate majors were (mathematics and philosophy), why you can find a typewriter in the Refrigeration subclass of the Patent Office (because subclasses used to be divided according to what each examiner covered), and why October 31 is more than a worn-out, warped, pagan-then-Christian holiday to the Girl Scouts (it is the birthday of Julia Ward Howe, who was the founder of the Girl Scouts).

3. We are loyal to each other. If I complain to one sister about another, she takes that as a cue to help me realize that the other sister is under stress, or that I misunderstood her, or that I need a good night's sleep and will feel better about it in the morning. Gossip is not an option; even when I forget, my sisters do not.

4. We make each other know that we are not alone. Or let each other know, perhaps, but I think it may be stronger than letting. We remind each other of famous/successful people who were also forgetful, jobless, under-respected, close to giving up, and/or very, very poor, at least at some point in their lives. We help each other laugh, and announce how we have moved the furniture around, and change topics of conversation at a speed which, to outsiders, can be dizzying. We rejoice to each other about the younger generation-- the neeflings, as they are known on this blog-- both in announcing their accomplishments and laughing over the hilarious, child-like things they do.

5. We teach each other how to be friends. All of the things which I have listed here are true of my four "real" sisters; but from number 2 on, they have also often been true of the excellent friends I have picked up along the way. I'm not sure how prepared I would have been to actually form good friendships like that if I hadn't had sisters to train me first in the arts of friendship.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


If you haven't read the post just below this one, you might want to, just so this one will make sense.

I also know that the landscape of mathematics is not so much like a Savings and Loan or like Citibank nearly so much as it is like some sort of magnificent nature preserve with mountains and rivers and lakes and so on. And I know that it is my very ability to recognize the beauty of this landscape which allows me to keep exploring it for fun, which in turn is what has allowed me to become actually good at navigating through it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Our (metaphorical) patch of land

I'm taking a math class.

It's turning out to be-- erm-- ah-- easy. Too easy.

Yes, I DO hear your screams of frustration even through my computer screen.

This is the thing. In this modern day and age, one still needs an inheritance-- but not a patch of land, like the Ancient Israelites got, or even like my more recent ancestors-in-Manti got. These days, rather than land to make a living, one needs a profession. (Not my ideas for this part; they are from/through my brother-in-law, the esteemed Mr. Weathercolour, and his (also) esteemed friend, *Mr. Werner Woodworth, who works at the BYU business school.) So. In a broader societal context, this means that we give young people good chances for vocational/technical and/or academic training, and in particular contexts that means that particular young people are encouraged to take advantage of these opportunities.

And what is this patch of land of which I spoke in the title of this post? Well. Mom has a PhD in Math. She works as a professional mathematician by day, but has often supplemented it by tutoring nights and weekends; at the moment she is tutoring the next-door-neighbor for free, because that is just the way she is. Mr. Weathercolour has his PhD in Physics but is teaching math, at the moment, at the university level. Ivy has a bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering and got through her degree by tutoring math; and Klari has her bachelor's in Math, has been tutoring for years, and is looking to be a math teacher in the public schools. And the truly silly thing is (I am telling you really, really I am not boasting) that this math class of mine is easy not even because I have so many tutors available to me, but because it makes sense to me shortly after the teacher explains it (or after I read it in the book).

I do REALIZE that this is a prime piece of real estate on which my family has its flag planted. (We would like it to be more crowded, actually. We are, to a woman-- er, so to speak-- all math teachers of one variety or another.) But what I am saying is, I had wanted to try something different: my bachelor's is in Philosophy. I have a degree in English as a Second Language Teaching. I TRIED to find a job as an English teacher. But I am finding myself drawn back to the homeland, almost against my will, because math is something I can move forward in easily and I have become so incredibly discouraged that I have to do something that doesn't take that much effort.

OK, go ahead and be sick about it. I didn't ask for this ability-- not in this life, at least. It isn't exactly that I would trade it to you-- but-- at the moment, I'm feeling a bit George-Bailey-esque. And guilty at the same time, because the little Savings and Loan that I've inherited (from my perspective) looks a lot more like Citibank, to a lot of other people. Meaning, as an institution it is nice to the people who already have lots of their currency, and kind of mean to the ones who don't. I am already committed to sharing the wealth; but won't you come, bring your children, and become rich for yourselves so that I can go travel the world for a while?

*His real name