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3 kittens

Pushing the button in the elevator

Posted on 2014.09.27 at 23:05
Here is a beautiful rug that I passed up:

September 27, 2014

It was priced at $1000 at an estate sale, and then reduced to $665 on the last day of the estate sale. That is a very reasonable price. But it is still a lot of money.

Here is a table of beautiful necklaces that I didn't pass up:

September 27, 2014 (2)

and here is a bag that I ordered off Etsy:

September 27, 2014 (5)

I love this bag so incredibly much that I fretted about it. Specifically, that I'd (neurotically) ration my use of the bag, and not use it, that I may save it for perfect occasions. So I ordered a back-up, for the sheer psychological relief. It's an inexpensive bag.

All I ever want is to feel like a fancy lady in the 1960s, without having to deal with crumbling, brittle lining and fussy, aging zippers. I do so love this bag.

When I'm pregnant I buy a lot of accessories. I suppose it's a rebellion against these shitty maternity clothes barely stretching over my distended, distorted self.


On Tuesdays I am now meeting with my former advisor, L. from graduate school. We've met twice now. Before we met, I was having a very lazy sabbatical, chock full of naps and guilt. Not unpleasant, but a bit slothful and indulgent.

Now I am having a very productive sabbatical, chock full of math and homework. Emotionally it is easier - no more guilt - but it's unpleasant in all the traditional back-to-school ways. I don't feel guilty anymore, but at what cost.

Three major things have changed, since I graduated in 2006.

1) L. published an introductory book in our obscure area. So there is now a resource, other than papers, to check for definitions and background and examples, and it's written for a graduate student audience, not a brilliant genius.

2) What with smartphones and apps, I can now record our meetings with only a modicum of embarrassment. Obviously recording devices existed in 2005, but it never occurred to me to go buy a dedicated tape recorder in order to record our meetings.

It took me two days to work through everything L. said in forty minutes on Tuesday and more-or-less understand what was going on, and be ready to tackle the problem he recommended.

In grad school, I generally embraced the idea that I was responsible for my own learning, and my failures to understand were my own, and so on. Now, trudging through the recording, it occurs to me to be angry at L. for talking so massively fast and being stupidly out-of-touch with how much I don't understand. I do try to ask questions. Generally for the first ten or fifteen minutes, I weakly ask for clarification. Asking a question just seems to redirect the fire hydrant of information in ways I can't connect to what confused me pre-question. After about fifteen minutes, I just give up and start nodding.

Now I listen (with shame) to the recording, my weak pathetic questions and his steamroll answers. Can't he hear how little I understand, and answer accordingly? This is not how you handle someone who is confused, and I feel angry about it in a way I didn't used to.  (On the other hand, Heebie, can't you just understand a bit better? Do keep up.)

On this coming Tuesday, I'm expected to do the talking, on the problem he recommended. "These other mathematicians and I got stuck on this point, and it was quite illuminating for us to work through this example. I recommend it." Ok, I can comply.  I'm a bit embarrassed at how poorly I will inevitably do.

3) The third thing that has changed is that I'm eight years older. In some ways I'm better at thinking about math, in some ways I've forgotten everything. Maybe this is a net wash.

Here's what will happen: I will sort of understand this stuff in the next seven weeks, and then I will have a baby and be done. At some point, I will ask L. a question, a naively complicated question.  He will chuckle or something, and acknowledge that that area is poorly understood. Then he will go home and come up with a bunch of new theorems which elucidate this area. He will write these up into a paper, because he is prodigiously prolific and churns out papers constantly. My original question will allow him the to maintain the polite fiction that I helped on this paper, and he will put my name on it as a coauthor. I will protest weakly, with embarrassment, and will not understand the paper I supposedly coauthored. I will shamelessly put it on my CV and use it when I go up for promotion, though. Fine.


Last week, L. and I went out for lunch after we met. As we were waiting for the elevator, another senior mathematician got off an elevator and said hi.  (I don't think he recognized me, which is reasonable. What is unreasonable is that this guy perpetually wears his bike helmet throughout the day. He unstraps the chin straps, so it sits an inch or two higher than normal, and goes about his business. Does he wear it when he teaches? Who can say.)

Dr. Bike Helmet says, "Ok. How many mathematicians does it take to press the button on the elevator?"
L. gamely says, "I don't know, how many?"
Dr. Bike Helmet, "THREE!! One to make the request, one to press the button, and one to say thank you!"

We all stand around in perplexed silence, which drags out. Eventually Dr. Bike Helmet explains, "Just now, that happened.  I requested the 9th floor. Another person pressed the button. A third person said thank you."   L. and I dutifully laughed, hollowly, now that we understood the provenance of the non-joke.


We have a beloved housekeeper. We are pretty much unpacked. Not only are we unpacked, we turned a critical eye on a bunch of bowls and cups and so on, and repacked them, to be taken to Goodwill.

On Wednesday our beloved housekeeper was here, and she kindly unpacked all of these boxes and returned the items to their various cabinets and drawers. Comedy of errors. Oh well.


We've switched from time-outs to time-ins with Hokey Pokey, which I'm deliberately phrasing to make us seem insufferable. (What do you mean 'seem'?)  It just seems to work better if we call him aside when he's losing his shit, and talk to him and stay with him, rather than sending him to the couch, isolated, furious, while we throw escalating punishments his way.

Do we do this with Hawaiian Punch? Not so much. She doesn't respond favorably to closeness and connecting, mid-conflict. I think Hawaii is slow to change directions, emotionally - if she is not on the same team as us, the part of her that desires reconnection has no sway on her behavior. She is determined to be a single united Hawaii front.


Here are the curtains, finally hung:

September 27, 2014 (3)

I...like them? Am I communicating my ambivalence? I do like them. I can't decide if I love the linen rectangle.

Jammies' says: "It looks like we forgot to put the TV there."  Dang? But maybe that's okay?

September 27, 2014 (4)

Open, they just look nondescript. The wooden blinds will be removed, and used to replace other broken wooden blinds elsewhere.


lolliejean at 2014-09-28 21:39 (UTC) (Link)
I don't really understand the linen rectangle. Is it to let in more light when the drapes are closed?
heebie_geebie at 2014-10-03 14:17 (UTC) (Link)
Nothing practical, just aesthetic! But it is growing on me. I'm inclined to keep the linen square...despite its unpopularity.
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