Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Case of the School Board vs. the City [part 1]

It's always so fun to come home. Catch up on old news from your family, see what's changed in your hometown--and what's stayed the same. And, if you're like me and grew up in a smaller town in suburban MN, hear the stories of all of the ridiculous antics that take place in the town.

This year's story tops them all!!!

Once upon a time, in a small suburb of the Twin Cities, there was a community that was growing very fast. So fast, in fact, that their high school had become too small to accommodate the amount of students entering ninth grade. And so, the School District decided to build a new high school in the city. A grand new high school, that would give the Students of the Town enough space to learn and grow and stretch their wings. And so, the School District began its search for a site upon which to build its grand new high school.

Many a site was visited, many a site was rejected for one reason or another. Not flat enough; too marshy and wet; too far away from the residential area; too close to the main highway. And then, one day, the School District found the perfect site. How joyful School District felt that day! Its dream of a new high school was that much closer to becoming a reality!

Throughout the whole process of searching for a perfect site upon which to build its new high school, the School District had many conversations and meetings with the City Council, so that the city would be aware of the School District's movements along its journey to the new school. On the day that the School District found its perfect site, the School District contacted the City Council and shared the wonderful news.

"We've found a site for our new high school!" the School District cried, almost overtaken by the joy of it.

"Fantastic!" exclaimed the City Council. "Where is this new site?"

And the School District, beside itself with glee, quickly told the City Council about their perfect site.

The City Council, upon hearing the news, congratulated the School District. "Well done!" the City Council said, shaking the School District's hand and smiling.

"Thank you!" came the excited reply. "We will begin preparations immediately for the approval and eventual building on the site. We are so excited!"

"Fantastic," said the City Council again.

And the School District, true to its word, began preparations for approving the site the very next day. It drafted a Referendum for the People of the Town. It publicized the discovery of its perfect site. And it looked at the perfect site from every angle, marveling in the perfect site's perfection.

Now, the only downside the School District found about the site was that the City Council had designated the area in which the perfect site was located to remain undeveloped until 2022. Upon further research, however, the School District soon learned that the rule could be waived if the development was in the best interest of the town. The School District worried over this for a little while, but soon shrugged off its worries when it realized that, in all of the many meetings and conversations it had had with the City Council, the City Council had never mentioned this rule as a problem for the perfect site. And so plans for the new school continued without any foreseen obstacles in the way.

The Referendum passed, adding the necessary monetary support for the school from the People of the Town. Plans were layed for the school's construction. Everything was ready to begin. There was just one last step that the School District had to take in order to get their plan for the new school underway.

And so, the School District met with the City Council.

"We have set all of the plans for our new high school at the perfect site," the School District told the City Council.

"Fantastic," replied the City Council.

"We have one last thing that we need to do so we can get underway," said the School District in a leading tone.

"What is that?" asked the City Council.

"We need to ask that you waive the rule prohibiting the development of the perfect site until 2022 so that we may start on construction of the school now," said the School District, a bit confused as to why the City Council seemed unaware that this question was the purpose for the meeting.

"Oh," said the City Council. "Well, sorry, but the answer is no. We will not waive that rule."

"What?!?!" exclaimed the School District. "How can you say this? You knew that we need to build this school now. You knew that we wanted to build the school on the perfect site. Why didn't you tell us that you would not waive this rule?"

"It never came up in our meetings and discussions," responded the City Council, annoyingly calm from the School District's perspective.

"This is outrageous!" cried the School District, rising to leave the meeting. "You have not heard the last of this."

And the School District left the room without another word.

A few days later, the City Council received notice that the School District was taking the City Council to court to have a judge force the City Council to waive this rule prohibiting development of the perfect site until 2022.

---end of Part 1---

...stay tuned for Part 2 of this story: the conclusion of the court case and the future plans for the new high school!

[This story is based upon real events from my hometown; however, parts of the story have been embellished to create dramatic effect and to reflect the opinions of the author.]

Sunday, December 18, 2005

My favorite math proof

I was math major in college, so it follows quite logically that I have a favorite proof. Mine happens to be the proof of a concept that most people use almost every day of their lives without really thinking about it. It's the proof that x*0=0, where x is any real number.

Most people think this a given. If you multiply a number (i.e. "something") by nothing, you get nothing. Simple enough. We all know this. But it's not a given, or in math-speak, not an axiom of the real numbers. The reason is that back in the days when the Greek philosophers (early mathematicians) were working out what numbers were and what theories rested with numbers, they didn't believe that 0 was a valid number. How can you have a symbol that represents the concept of nothing? they asked. It seemed counter-intuitive to them (and you can see why when you look at it like that, right?). So, every arithmetical calculation involving 0 that we take for granted had to be proven.

This history is only part of the reason that this is my favorite proof, though. The other reason is that it's such a slick proof. Concise, to the point, with a little trick that I just love! And now, you're curious what this proof looks like (even if you think you're not curious, I promise that you actually are). So, I'll type it out below. It looks better on a chalkboard, and if I could somehow put a chalkboard onto my blog and physically write the proof out on that chalkboard, I would. However, since that's not an option, this will just have to do (although I'm extremely sad that I can't use the shorthand symbols for "there exists," "such that," and "is contained in" because those always make the proof look so much cooler). Read on, and be amazed at the simplicity of this monumentous result of the real numbers...

Prove: x*0=0, where x is any real number.

Since x is a real number, and the set of real numbers is closed under multiplication, then x*0 is also a real number.

We know 0+0=0, thus x*0=x*(0+0)=x*0+x*0.

Every real number has an inverse, so there exists a y in the real numbers such that x*0+y=0.

It follows that x*0+y=x*0+x*0+y. Since x*0+y=0, using substitution, we see that x*0+x*0+y=x*0+0.

Since 0 is defined as the additive identity of the real numbers, then x*0+0=x*0, and thus x*0=0.

Ah, so slick. So sleek. So nice. Every time I go through that proof, it makes me smile. Hope you had fun with it, too!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The amazing power of floss

With a title like that, who needs an opening, right? Haha. I was on my way home from work today [no, I know what you're thinking...I didn't walk home...I took the T and walked from there] ...on my way home from work, and I had the usual array of random thoughts running through my brain as I picked my way over the icy sidewalks. But the prominent thought pressing in my mind, making me walk faster to get home: I really want to get home so I can floss.

Okay, so this is probably not something you'd normally think about on your way home. And hey, I understand. It is indeed a rather peculiar thing to cause a person to want to get home faster. See, flossing - for me - is a way to release tension. I hold tension in my shoulders mainly, and after a long day at work (in this case, a long week at work, I look for any way to release that tension. [Don't we all?] I have found, recently, that simply flossing gives me that tension release. Every time I floss (even when I'm not particularly stressed out), I get that dull ache in my shoulders associated with tension release. Every time. And so, after a long day at work, my most pressing need when I return home is to floss my teeth.

Right, you say, chuckling under your breath and trying to hide it from me. This girl relieves tension by flossing? And now you've heard everything, right? Well, don't judge until you've actually tried it. I would love to be able to tell you why flossing my teeth relieves the tension I hold in my shoulders. If it made sense, I suppose it probably wouldn't be as interesting thing to post about beyond the initial shock factor I pulled from all of you.

And with that completely random thought of the evening, I bid you farewell.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

My walk home...

[I know I'm posting twice in one day. But I just have too much to comment on. You know you love it...more to read and more time spent in my little blog-world! What's better than that? :P]

I decided to walk home from work yesterday evening. What? you say. You don't understand if this is an impressive feat or a silly reference or simply me walking down the block to my apartment making it completely pointless to even mention. [Now, now. You know I wouldn't be writing this if it was completely pointless to mention...]

I work downtown, right near Government Center and State Street, down the street from Park Street and Downtown Crossing. In the Four Corners. You know what I'm talking about. And, as my little sidebar intro will tell you, I live in Cambridge. A bit of a hike, you say? Indeed. To give you an idea of the distance, it took me about an hour and a half to walk from my office to my apartment, at a regular strolling pace (not too fast, but not shuffling my feet either), with a short stop at a Starbuck's to grab some hot apple cider in the middle of my trek. A fair distance, to be sure.

Now that you've got that information straight in your head, I know the next thing you're thinking: um, Boston...winter? cold? And you're right. It is most definitely winter...most definitely was around 15-20 degrees during my walk. Oh yes.

So we get to the last thought immediately popping into your head when you first read that I walked home from my office yesterday evening: She must be CRAZY!!!

Hehehe. And you're probably right. But let's move on from what you're thinking to what I was thinking (since I predict that is your next question for me).

I actually didn't mean to walk all the way just sort of happened. [I know, I know, walking home for 1.5 hours in 20-degree weather doesn't just happen, right? Well, it happens to me. Let's not forget that I love winter and cold weather.]

When I left the office last night, I called a friend from college that I hadn't talked to in awhile. I was expecting to simply leave a voicemail message on her phone, because we rarely get to actually talk. In fact, we joke that we've become best friends with each other's voicemails since we seem to be so unavailable all the time. :) It's about a 5-minute walk to the T from my office, perfect amount of time to leave her a funny voicemail message that's just a little too signature move on voicemail. But, instead of her voicemail, she actually picked up! Excitement! So we started talking, and I thought, "I can't get on the T right now, we haven't talked in ages!" So I decided to walk instead to the Park St station, with the intention of cutting the conversation off when I got there and resuming when I got off the T at Central.

But you know how these conversations go with someone you haven't talked to in awhile. There's so much to catch up on, so much to say, one topic leads to another, we get more excited about telling and hearing each other's stories...and then I just didn't want to get off the phone yet. Park St station came and went, and I continued on with the intention of getting on the T at Charles/MGH. I figured that'd be a good walk (especially since I wasn't 100% sure that I knew the way from Park St to Charles/MGH above ground so I figured I'd have a bit of getting lost time to add minutes to the conversation).

And then I was suddenly at Charles/MGH. [And I didn't get lost, let's hear a little applause, hey? That's quite a feat for me considering my track record for navigating above ground in this city...] I paused the conversation to ask my friend if it would be completely crazy of me to just walk all the way home. She said that as long as it was comfortable for me, she didn't see why not. [Wise words. And, let's be serious, I'm comfortable in single-degree weather with the right winter gear on, so I was set!]

So, I set off. The next stage in the journey, of course, was crossing the Longfellow Bridge into Cambridge. Walking over the river, all breezy and windy up there, potentially a lot colder than what it was merely on the ground. But, what the hay, right? I like cold. I was built for this kind of weather. I'm tough. And I decided I was all over this bridge. I can honestly say that I haven't experienced anything more beautiful in this city than the view from the Longfellow Bridge that night. My eyes actually started getting glossy, it moved me that much. Granted, I was talking on my cell as I walked and took in the view, but that didn't lessen at all the great and awesome power of this view. I've posted many times about this view...I see it everyday as I pass to and from work on the Red Line. But it's never been like this. I wasn't looking through a dirty train car window, first of all, so the images were clearer, sharper, more alive. I also can't see as much of the river when I'm on the T. There, last night, at the edge of the bridge, looking out over the Charles River at the John Hancock tower and the Pru, I saw the river turning to ice, with a section of water in the middle still lapping against ice already formed on the river. I saw an amazing bright and glowing view of the two towers and the lesser buildings surrounding them. I caught a bit of their reflections in what little water was left flowing in the river, mixed with the muted reflection of the building lights reflecting off of the ice that had formed over the rest of the river...the whole effect being the illusion of a light source emanating from the bottom of the river to help light my way across the bridge. It was breath-takingly beautiful. And the whole image was given the wintry touch when I saw my breath spilling out in front of me on the cold night air, blocking parts of my view for an instant as it moved on in the breeze flowing over the bridge and the river. And I think that's what made this picture complete. The atmosphere around me...the cold night air all around me, closing me in its wintry embrace. I love the arctic feeling of cold air filling the space around you as you walk with your warm wintry gear to protect you from the harshness of winter's cold world. It made the view from the bridge that night absolutely perfect. Better than anything I see from the any time of day.

The rest of my walk home didn't really feel cold at all. I was full of an inner warmth from having experienced that view over the river. Sure, my fingers did start getting a bit stiff from the cold...hence the stopping by a Starbucks for a hot apple cider to keep my hands warm as I finished my walk home. But between the view from the Longfellow Bridge, the excitement of walking on a cold wintry night, and the cheery conversation with my friend over the phone, I sort of forgot that I should probably feel cold after walking for an hour and a half in 20-degree weather. [Huh. Oops.]

And, thinking back on that night, it was just what I needed to clear my head and feel alive and well and happy. Winter does that to me. It's refreshing. It's exciting. It's in my soul.

As I read back over this post, I realize that I mention quite a few effects from winter weather with a casual brush-aside sort of attitude. My fingers getting stiff from cold during my walk. The 20-degree weather I walked in. The chilling arctic breeze from the Charles as I crossed the Longfellow Bridge. And I can add a few things to the list: slipping along icy paths, the "frozen nostril effect," the numbness of my legs and toes by the time I got home. I realize, as I think back on the walk, that I take these all in much so that I forget they even happen. (I had to actually think hard to come up with that list of 3 that I added in this paragraph!) I actually enjoy all of these wintry effects. They come as part of the whole package. The way I see it, you can't truly enjoy cold winter weather without loving to some degree the numbness of limbs after extended periods in the old, that crazy "frozen nostril effect," the bone-chilling breezes that come during a walk in the cold night air, the ice slipping and subsequent reaction to correct for keeping balance. Anyone claiming to like winter, but not liking all of these small things associated with the season is merely a poser. I'm the real deal, man. 100% pure winter-lover. [Heh, I totally just made up another word to describe me. I'm on a roll tonight!]

[Turns out, I've never really analyzed to this extent why I like winter and cold weather so much. I'm not sure this post gives the complete answer either, but I feel oddly enlightened as to some of the workings of my brain surrounding my love of the cold...and in the end, that's the whole point of this blog, right?]

A retro-slanger

I am a retro-slanger. This is my new term, used to describe my style of using slang in my everyday speech. It basically means that I use words resurrected from earlier decades, or else I tend to pick up terms and phrases at the tail end of their tenure as "the" slang word of present day speech.

Good times...
[ala Paris Hilton apparently, though that's not where I picked it up, but now I'm in the process of fading that term out of my vocabulary because of how many people seem to be against me saying that...who knew it was such a big deal?]

I guess I don't really have any real point for this post, other than to share the new word I coined to describe myself. Haha!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Doin' the wave

Last Friday, I discovered that one of my favorite sandwich places in Cambridge, a place called Pressed, also exists in the downtown area near where I work. Woot! So, on Tuesday, I went there for lunch. And it was fabulous, I must say. I love that place! Check Pressed out online, and then get yourself in one of their Boston locations pronto! Sooo good!

Okay, but my purpose for writing this post was not to give my personal endorsement for this fabulous breakfast/lunch eatery. I'm here to tell you the story of my first experience with my newly discovered downtown location:

So, I went in. I checked the menu to see if they had different stuff than the Cambridge location...a few. Good, I thought, different flavor...different character. Of course I ordered what I normally do, not feeling overly adventurous that day, and walked over to sit myself on their bar stool/bar table by the front window. Two guys were finishing their lunch there, and I noticed as I walked past them that one was an older mid-forties...and the other was a younger late twenties. Huh, I thought. As I shed my winter gear, I looked up to see the younger guy looking at me. He looked down again at his sandwich when I caught him looking at me (and I chuckled to myself). I looked over at him again, and saw that he's quite the handsome fellow. Looked rather sharp in his business suit, long wool coat. And a cute face, nice eyes. As I mentally compiled this assessment of his features, he looked up again. My turn to bashfully look away (and I now giggled to myself).

As I started my lunch, he and the older guy he's with started chatting up the owner...they all seem to know each other, and the chat turned to lengthy conversation very quickly. [Hey, I didn't mind, more time to enjoy the fine looking man two seats down from me as he laughed and joked and talked with the older guy and the owner.]

But, the talking ended, and the two guys eventually got up to leave. The younger guy shot me another glance before he left with his companion. The older guy walked quickly on past the window, but the younger guy dawdled a bit, walking more slowly past the window. When he reached me on the opposite side of the window, he paused, looked up, and waved. He WAVED! I sat in split-second shock [how many times do you get random men waving at you?] before waving back with a bashful smile. And then he got a huge smile on his face and, I kid you not, would have skipped away were he not all dressed up in business attire.

A couple of minutes after he left, when I'd fully processed the events that just played out in my lunch period, I thought to myself, 'Seriously, that was way too cute for words. But wait, how is he gonna peek over at me for a good 15 minutes of our lunchtime overlap, and wave at me when he left, and not give me his number or ask me for mine?'

'How is he gonna WAVE at me and not find some way of getting to know more about me?'

*sigh* He's a guy. That's the answer. Unfortunate, yes. Realistic, though? Definitely. They just don't always seem to get it.

...he waved at me...

Sunday, December 04, 2005



I love snow. I love the first snow. I love the feel of walking in snow.

I love it, I Love It, I LOVE IT!!!

It always makes me feel like a kid again. There's something so magical about snow, something innocent and wonderful and carefree about watching snow fall on the world.

Enough of talking about it...I'm going to get dressed and go enjoy the first snow fall of the winter!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Addition to Tuesdays With Morrie post:

You the other thing that's cool...all of that took place here in the Boston area. Morrie lived in West Newton. He used to go out dancing in Harvard Square. He taught at Brandeis. It just adds that little extra connection to the story that I'm here in the Boston area. Makes me feel just a bit closer to it.

Go read this book if you haven't yet. If you have, go read it again. Allow it to fill your soul. Let Morrie help you once again try to see past all of the superficial things in your life to find what's really important. And hold on to that as life throws its curve balls at you.

Tuesdays With Morrie

I just recently finished reading Tuesdays With Morrie. A book on everyone's list, or at least it should be. I've always meant to read it, but haven't been able to get around to it recently. Now, I'm not posting this to do a book report, so if you want to know about the story, you should just read it.

It just really touched me, as almost everyone who reads this book will agree. I finished the book during my lunch period last week, while eating a cinnamon-raisin bagel with peanut butter on it. [you may find this odd, but have you tried it? sooo good...] I was sitting by myself in a Bruegger's Bagel Shop, nose in my book, peanut butter spilling off of my bagel as I bit into it, and as I reached the end of the story, I felt tears start to roll down my cheeks. By the end of the book, I was close to sobbing, the tears steadily rolling down my cheeks.

Now, I'll be honest. I'm not a big crier when I'm in public. I would prefer to do my crying/sobbing/tearing up in private and then compose myself once again before others see me. So, I don't often cry in movie theaters unless the movie really hits an emotional chord with me. [Rent is an obvious example.] Books are even less successful at making me cry. Theater can do it, given the right show on the stage...musicals especially are good at bringing out my tears. But, all said, crying in a Bruegger's over a book that I just finished reading is not generally on the list of things for which I'm known.

Having said that, I found myself not at all embarrassed that I was sitting in a Bruegger's openly crying over the book I had just finished. There's something magical about that story. The way Mitch Albom tells it makes you feel you're right there learning with him as Morrie talks. After I closed the finished book, I sat, tears still rolling pretty steadily, and finished eating that delicious cinnamon-raisin bagel with peanut butter on it, and found myself not even needing to look around to see if other people were looking at me. Not that I didn't care, it just simply didn't matter. Let them look--maybe they'll see that I just finished reading Tuesdays With Morrie and either decide they need to read it or remember the feeling they had when they finished the book.

Man, that is such a wonderful feeling. I would love to feel like that all the time. Feel completely confident with myself so that I am able to express emotion, thoughts, ideas without worrying about what others around me will think. It's true, I don't obsess over what they might think...I've learned not to let others' judgments get in the way of what I want to do, but it's also true that most of us hold back somewhat for fear of what others will think of us. As stupid as it is, we all do this.

And Morrie touched me in such a way that day, that all of that fell away, and I was left with a great sense of inner peace. Sittin', cryin', eatin' my lunch, thinkin' about the lessons that Morrie left with all of us in this book.

And when my lunch hour ended, I calmly wiped my eyes with a napkin, collected my stuff, and walked happily out the door. My thoughts as I left Bruegger's centered on: "When I grow up, I want to be like Morrie. But in the mean time, I want to live life to its fullest so that I can look back and appreciate all that I did with my time."

It's like a New Year's resolution, but for life. One that is so important to follow through on.

Friday, December 02, 2005

A spurt of irrational anger, followed by a sudden notion of inner-growth...and the resulting look at a pretty scary little emotion called 'anger'

It's interesting how we notice ourselves age. Physical changes are certainly an obvious indicator. Birthdays are another obvious way to see the passing of time in life. But beyond those, there are many, many little things, subtle things, that show us that we've gotten older. Culture changes, yes. Changes in locations, friends, occupations, definitely. But it's funny how random things will suddenly trigger the thought "Wow, I've definitely gotten older."

I was walking home today, feeling kinda down and cranky. [Disclaimer: been feeling cranky all week, so it was little surprise to me that Friday ended my work week and I was full of left over crankiness mixed with relief that the weekend will give me some down time in which to breathe and regroup.] I got my cell phone out to call someone...which is a common habit of mine when I walk places...I get bored and want someone to talk to so I don't end up counting how many steps it takes me to get from Point A to Point B. [No joke, I've done that before...judge how you will.] But there's one street on my walk home that my cell phone never gets reception on. I don't know why. Other people talk on their cell phones on this street. But never me.

This annoyed me beyond reason. Recall the crankiness. It always escalates petty annoyance into irrational anger. Ugh. And I suddenly had this gigantic urge to chuck my phone out into the street, or perhaps just ahead of me on the sidewalk several feet, then curl up on the ground and scream. [This is the part where you blink and say, "Where the hell did that come from?" while simultaneously creating the mental image with mild amusement of me throwing a tantrum in the middle of a Cambridge street.] But, I obviously didn't, or this would this post would have started in a completely different way... Instead, I shut my phone, sighed very deeply (enough to make the guy passing me on the sidewalk turn to look at what the noise was), put the phone in my pocket, silently cursed it as if it's the phone's fault, and continued walking down the Street of No Reception. And, as I walked and willed my mind not to stew over something this stupid, I was struck by the inner-growth I noticed. When I was younger, I had such a hard time controlling my temper. I spent many years learning how to quell irrational bursts of anger. And I'm sure had this incident happened to that "younger me," there would have been a bigger show of angry emotion (enough to make that guy passing stop and stare). But, I have learned to recognize the uselessness of certain displays of anger. [This story being one of those.]

And so, from this sudden realization of growth, I started thinking about how I've learned to deal with anger. How I've learned to feel it completely, but not let it consume me. How I've learned to experience the anger, but not throw it back out. How I've learned to let it flow through me and out again, instead of holding it inside as a way to pretend I'm not angry. And it felt good to see how much I've learned, how much I've grown in this little and subtle way. As I write this, I think back to the little cell phone episode, and play it back in my mind, and laugh at the ridiculousness of it.

I think it's interesting how hard it is to learn to deal with anger. It's one of the most powerful of emotions. And one that people deal with in such bad ways. People hold it inside of them because they think it's wrong to feel angry about something, then it comes out when they beat their family or shoot someone in a fight or yell at an innocent store clerk or snap at a well-meaning friend. People allow themselves to feel the anger but fall into the emotion until the anger has engulfed them completely, and they live their lives isolated from people or speaking negatively about everything or judging others' actions or losing their faith in the inherent goodness of others around them. Anger rips apart families, creates huge rifts in friendships, and tears at the fabric of relationships. And yet, we all feel it. We can't run from it, hide from it, or learn not to feel it.

I don't pretend to be an expert on anger. I don't pretend to know the right way to deal with anger. I don't pretend to know the most healthy way to experience anger. I do know that I can look back in my life at the anger I've felt and honestly say that I'm not embarrassed about feeling this emotion anymore. I can say that I have dealt with a lot of anger, and I have a fresh opinion about the emotion--a fresh approach to feeling it and a fresh perspective about how I let it effect me.

And, reading back over this post, I realize I've rambled a bunch. But the rambling has served a purpose. The irrational anger from 20 minutes ago on my walk home is gone. Not an ounce is left inside of me, bottled up for no good reason. It is true that I still bottle it up sometimes. I still harbor grudges every once and awhile without noticing right away. Like I said, I'm not a perfectly correct anger-experiencer. [that's my new word, like it?] But I keep learning about my way of handling the emotion, and keep growing as I find healthier ways to experience, express, and deal with anger.

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