Thursday, August 28, 2008

George Bernard Dantzig, The Man

A story shared in many classrooms, often begins the same, that at some indeterminate time, in some university hall, a math student shows up late, and copies down some problems, mistaking them to be homework. I have heard teachers tell the story at least a handful of times, and decided to see what I could find. How did the beginning of George Bernard Danzig's life as a mathematician get elevated to myth?

One Sunday morning a couple of weeks later he came running over to my house and banged on the door. We lived upstairs. I came down and opened the door. He rushed in and said he had written an introduction to the problems I had solved and was going to submit the paper for publication. It turns out that those two problems were two very well-known, unsolved statistical problems. I had solved them both.

That's quite a story.

It has since become sort of an urban legend. Many years later, this fellow (Don) Knuth — he's a very well-known computer scientist — was bicycling down the street one day at Stanford, and he comes up to me and says, "Do you know you are influencing religion in middle America?"

He said that he had heard a sermon while he was visiting in Illinois or some place like that in which the preacher told what was essentially my experience with the homework problems to make a point about positive thinking.

The point was this: If I had known that those were famous unsolved statistical problems, I never would have tried to solve them.

Dr. Dantzig was an incredible man, who made quite a story that has been recounted in classrooms across the world for decades. That is precisely how he became a legend. As a legend, pieces of his story disappeared, often his name, when he was a student, and what he went on to become. Dantzig was hoisted up to the class of legend, because he was late to class. He became a legend, because he was able of seeing a math problem no other math mind had seen it.

Even then, we do not know for sure no one had solved the problem before him. It is amazing to think perhaps this man's story can not stand up on its own. Many people chose to embellish it, change it, add motives, and create a story to address their own agendas.

Well, I suppose that if I wanted to establish an agenda of my own, it would be to clear away mythology , and find our way into a huge, exciting world that is fascinating all by itself. I suppose it is wonderful that we have so many positive thinkers in the world. From the books of Norman Vincent Peale, and by the power of Robert Schuler's preaching at his Crystal Cathedral, we have built a wonderful structure edifying positive thinking, and the greatness that can be achieved from it.

Does it not today seem a little silly that with so many wonderfully legitimate stories to substantiate the ideas of the positive thinking gurus that we should try to push forth a story when, with complete humility, the subject of the story admits the unreliability, the frailty of his own positive thinking?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Keeping Focus

In this period,m where I am spending enormous amounts of time on campus, I am learning more about how to focus my attention, and get things done. In my efforts to get here, I have been quite honest, off line, about my difficulties in meeting deadlines, and finishing things I have wanted to get started.

I was challenged by a friend when I admitted I was late getting everything together to start school in summer session. I promised, heartfelt, and swore that I would have everything together by this Fall session. Even then, that liuttle pink post card sat lonesome in my backpack as I pondered filling it out, buying a stamp, and mailing it off to Santa Clara to get my transcripts to their new home here in Shasta County.

So, while the process of establishing my financial aid was smooth a couplke months ago, it was not until my transcripts arrived a few weeks ago that I was able to get the financial aid office to file my petition, and get my requeests for loans and grants underway.

I guess I should not be surprized when I was loaned money by my mother who told me that I have a long history of not following through on projects. I was told that this money should be used to buy my school books, and to keep my focus. So, I have my focus today. I am buying my books, and I am committed to getting this done as quickly as possible.

Included above is a clip of music from Thomas Dolby, a song that sings to my soul. I hope you enjoy it.
Keep posted

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I woke up early this morning. I went to bed at a reasonable hour, and was primed to start my new experience as a student. My classes here, now, are designed to prepare me to transfer on to a four-year school, and get my degree. I have a diploma. From Mission College, in 1995, I was able to walk a stage in a graduation ceremony, but now, years later, I asm starting to work on actual goals.

My journey this morning began at four in the morning, and I am challenged to say that there is anything wrong with that. I love the early hours. I love texting internationally at these quiet hours, my ultra-cheap, and outdated Motorola still holds charge. My simple desire to have convenient, easy transmission of ideas across multiple time zones does not demand cellular games, a touch screen, access to movie times, or GPS trip planning.

My phone is ideal. My life as a student demands no fancy communications. My work to become a teacher is made simple now that I have online classes. I am studying multicultural perspectives on English. I have an Intoduction to American Government, General Earth Science, and a Survey of Drama as Literature. No fancy ringtones needed for my lifestyle. So, I sit here, on Shasta Community College Campus, surrounded by students fifteen to twenty years my junior, and I am constantly reminded my goal is top finish and get out of here...

So, when I woke up this morning, I was filled with hope. I exchanged some communications across the globe, and I prepared myself for the day ahead. Here is Rives, a slam poet, and performance artist, as he talks about four in the morning.

This talk was given at the TED conference in Monterey, California. Check out TEDtalks to see many other interesting speakers...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Memes are everywhere

This my first tag from Nyl(thanks my friend!). It's called "6 x 4" meme since for each of its six questions, the blogger is asked to provide four answers. I have already informed her that this is not the first “tag” I have received. This is, however, the first time I have been able to relax, and actually allow myself to participate.

Here are the meme's rules: Click copy/paste, type in your answers and tag four people in your lists! Don’t forget to change my answers to the questions with that of yours.

1. Four places I go to, over and over:
a. bathroom

b. Redding Library

c. rumah kopi

d. Orchard Nutrition Center (where I work)

2. Four people who e-mail me regularly:
a. Ricka, sayang ku

b. my mother

c. my sister

d. my best friend in San Jose

3. Four of my favorite places to eat:

a. on the floor

b. in the kitchen

c. in my parent's house

d. downtown San Jose

4. Four places i’d rather be:
a. San Jose, California

b. Jakarta, Indonesia

c. Dublin, Ireland

d. Boston, Massachusetts

5. Four TV shows I could watch over and over:
a. CSI (All three)

b. I Survived a Japanese Game Show
c. original Twilight Zone episodes with Rod Serling
d. Kung Fu with David Carradine

6. Four people I think or I hope will respond...
a. Ricka

b. Akira

c. Kikey Loo

d. Chobits

Thursday, August 14, 2008

"Kalah jadi abu, menang jadi arang."

A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshiping we are becoming. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

~Corinthians I 13:13

Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth. And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. ~Matthew 13: 5-8

I am learning something of humility. I do not mean that I am becoming humble. I also do not feel humiliated. Still, I am finding myself seeing things from a less prideful perspective. I read the quote above from Emerson, and I know that to a great degree, I have been culturing certain negativity in my life. Strangers who have n ever met me have commented in recent weeks on it. Yikes!

I am trying to sow good things ion this world. I have spoken to a friend of mine, and he has asked me about my health, about my follow through, about my attention to details. I spoke of this blog as a place for accountability. That is unrealistic. If I am not dealing with things in my life, the last place I am apt to bring them out would be in this page.

Still, to a great degree, I am fostering wonderful things in my life. I have not lied about that. Trying to achieve a critical balance, I have sen t off pointed angry email to people who I am best off ignoring. One of my friends had commented that as a blogger, a blogist, a member the growing blogosphere, I have a responsibility to myself. That responsibility is to know a part of my life is placed out to the world, the more honest I get in here. I have often recalled the quote from Matthew where Jesus says “Do not cast your pearls before swine.”

On the Internet, a man has to know that anyone has the right to come to any site that has not secured entry. For m e to note that someone I do not like has been creeping along the periphery of my site only means that that peson has a reason to know what I am writing. I would be foolish to challenge anyone's right to click on my site.

What are my pearls? What do I want to protect? These are my questions to think about, to ponder. I am blessed for everyone that visits. Indeed, I can write honestly without challenging my own personal boundaries. May everyone who visits take away something good for themselves.

I do not offer any great wisdom, but for today, I am gratified to know I can write you all one more day.

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Quiet Moments...

I am sitting here, in Redding, California, and am thinking how quickly all this stuff I write about will pass by, insignificant footnotes to my two years of life in grocer's Purgatory. My purgation is coming to its end. I have a my nervous system wired from caffeine, from indecision, from patterns of procrastination, blossoming into varying packets of anxiety and industry.

I have started my journey now into academia, and after retrieving my transcripts from Mission College in Santa Clara. I spent the morning looking at my history fifteen to twenty years ago. I looked at my mix of academic, and cooking classes. I saw a mess of dropped classes. I saw classes passed I can't remember taking. I saw classes I almost failed that demanded nothing from me. Had I exchanged youthful exuberance for my unfashionable melancholy, I would have soared through that process with accolades galore.

Well, my counselor was not interested in my emotional states during the 1990's. She sat with my official transcripts (unofficial if envelope is opened). she photocopied them so I could read them. Then with an eagle eye and a ball point pen, she found a check list, reiterated my stated goals to me, and checked off everything I had accomplished to meet that end.

Who could have told me that that time, time I felt wasted in self-obsessed angst, had resulted in anything to further my goals, and assure my future well-being? She looked at me, and as I tried to stop her, showed me that I needed only four classes to transfer to a four year college. My stated major would be English, with an emphasis on teaching.

The resistance i had was in knowing that this process was moving so fast I was not sure how to manage. One day at a time say my friends in various types of 12-step recovery. I have to calm down, and remember the next indicated action.

In the next semester i will finish my requirements for transfer to a state college. I will have to apply this month to make that happen, and in the time after Christmas, prepare to move to the city in which I will continue my education. Ooooohhhh... How do I manage, day by day? Answer: one day at a time.

I am not oblivious to what I want to do. This is an exciting journey. I hope to relax a bit, though. So, the word for the day is : Decaf!

Thank you for reading!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Just Another Pile of Papers

This has been a wonderful couple weeks. I have been to my family's home in San Jose. I have enjoyed the company of family and friends., I have seen the valley I called home for over 35 years. Still, due to mix of complications, I was not able to spend much time with my family.

Still, I was able toi retrieve my birth certificate. I was able to get an official copy of my college transcripts, and I was able to arrange appointments with Social Security, and with my college.

This week, I met with the fine people at Social Security, who were able to walk me through, painlessly the process of applying for disability payments.

I have to reapply for my County medical aid, and with patience, I have seen many things fall into place. People always remind me, that even if I think I am late, I can always be late. I no longer believe in letting things fall apart because of missed deadlines.

In the earliest months of this year, I created this blog, a resurrection of a previous blog, which I destroyed out of lack of inspiration, and hurt feelings.

Now I see how in the months I started out posting on here, I was forging out my own personal vision. It may seem scattered, but even those closest to me think I have moments of being scattered. Still, my inspiration comes when i can see how, by my regular journaling, I am forging out a game plan for my life.

I have faced the challenges of my mobility. I am preparing to go to school. I am learning other languages, and I have plans on teaching overseas. I have never acted so inspired, nor as directed in my whole life as I have in the past nine months. This is my gestation, my baby. My life is germinating wonderfulness everyday, and i need only move forward, taking the next indicated actions... No wonder these sprouting raw foods people appeal to me so much. Germination is what it is all about.

I have sat in Redding, CA wholly uninspired since December. I have fretted over my health, fretted over my money, and mostly fretted over my lack of vision. I still do not think The Secret is the vision for me.

I do believe that dating someone who wanted me to build her fortune, and her future using the principles of Rhonda Byrne's visionary Law of Attrtaction was at the core of my disgust. I have known people who always begin to explain their passionately flawed actions with the words "I thought."

I think as a society it would raise the standard of honesty if we explain our actions from time to time with the words "I felt..." It is insulting to listen to someone's chattering teeth as they explain away their ridiculous actions as the result of thought. I know when my writing is passionate. I know when I speak with passion that I face the challenge of reduced objectivity. Still, I am not afraid to use the words "I feel" as an affirmation of my own humanity.

Sigh. Maybe I can start using the words "I think" more often, and work up m y resume' for a spot on the Fox News channel.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Interview

“You do realize that if you knowingly provide false statements during this interview, we will throw you in jail?” ~Social Security worker to me, August 4, 2008

Building on a promise to myself, and promises to others, I am taking care of many things. Doctors have shown me the door thjat holds that promise of a lifetime of experiments, and examinations. Let us take some more blood, and while we are at it, we can take another scan. I am okay with this. I am not soi terribly7 frustrated. I have received an order to get an MRI done. I have to renew my CMSP coverage, and have to go to another facility.

So, following my own thjoughts, I have finally applied for Social Security. They have interviewed me for my case, and will speak to my doctors and my employers to see if they will approve me for my disability claim. I have felt irritated at being brought to this point. In my vision, I would rise above anything, and keep making money despite risks to my health and well-being.

I went to San Jose last week. It is where I grew up. I hopped on a train, and rode from Redding, to San Jose, and spent a few days in the presence of my family and friends. In a meeting at a church in San Jose, I found myself surrounded by friends, many who have not seen me in over two years. One of them asked, “When did you last call me, when youy and your girlfriend broke up?” (December 2007). Actually I did call him more recently than that, but top acknowledge it would have lessened the impact of his message...

In this he asked several of the men around me, “So, has anyone else here known anything about Keith's walking problems?” So much for a happy reunion. This was beginning to feel like an inquisition or an intervention. Of the people being updated on my life, the few left out were those who had been closest to me. In my family, I have received much advice. I have taken counsel on getting treatment, and on managing my money.

I have ignored serious changes in my fitness to do my work. I have ignored the factg that being in a very physical job, my performance has suffered, and my hours of work have been cut as a result. This is just a journal. I do not think this entry will feel terribly inspirtational.

Still, I was looking at my friend's blog, and she had a quote. The quote is:"It is not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you!" I believe that my actions define me. I believe that as I move on, I can do what tha alcoholics called “the next right thing”

What is the next indicated action? I have been challenged for sittinbg around on a day when I said I would go to the doctor. I have b een bothered by the presence of transcript requests in my bag, when the deadline to sign upo for school comes closer. I have seen many things which I have willingly dragged my feet. In my own limited volition I have stifled progress on my own stated goals. The simplicity lies in placing a stamp on a card, or walking to a busstop to visit a doctor.

Yet, in spite of myself, progress keeps happening. I am not in poor health. I am gratified by the good wishes I receive. We just have a few issues that need addressing, and the doctors addressing thjem wan t to examine my brain to find some answers.

Today, I wondered what this chronicle is worth. I write about my situation, and many have shared right back. Yesterday, I had to fill out some paperwork for the United States government.

I have a simple history of not tracking much in my life, so when they asked me questions about my medical history, I freaked out. I then realized that dates and names are easily tracked, because this blog has all the dates l;isted out pertinent to my claim.

I was pleased to visit the Social Security office. I walked in, and I saw ikn my mind how it would all play out.

A thin man with a dark suit ands horn rimmed glasses would lead me into the room. Taking my paperwork would ask, “Mr. Stahr, you walked in here today. Do you take any pain medications?”

“uh, no.”

“Any psych medications?”

“uh, no.”

His hand would sweep down, and in one swift motion would slam the rubber stamp on my claim: “Claim denied!”

Needless to say, I capitulated, and felt gratified when the worker listened carefully to my comments, and informed me of all aspects of this claim process.

Thank you for reading

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Respect on the Internet...

I read an interesting letter recently. It was about copyrights. This letter made me realize that my own integrity is warapped up in how I handle this Internet.

Years ago, to steal someone else's work required equipment, time, and a way to cast media out to the wolrd. Today, in the blogosphere, all I need is the time to get on my five year old laptop, locate the stuff to copy and paste it expeditiously into a blogpost. That is the way blogging is cheapening the world.

As we struggle to make our thoughts useful, and far-reaching, there is also a desire to do this as simply as possible. I am guilty as charged. As I went out looking for a comic (not to post, just to look at) I found the following letter, a challenge to me in my efforts to keep my own ideas as original as possible, and not plagiarize someone else's work, just to fill up space quickly. Just as the Internet has made more accessible, more quickly, so has it made it possible to devalue other's efforts, so that is my thought on that...

Enclosures: A note from Gary Larson
A note from Gary Larson
RE: Online Use of Far Side Cartoons


I?m walking a fine line here.

On the one hand, I confess to finding it quite flattering that some of my fans have created web sites displaying and / or distributing my work on the Internet. And, on the other, I?m struggling to find the words that convincingly but sensitively persuade these Far Side enthusiasts to ?cease and desist? before they have to read these words from some lawyer.

What impact this unauthorized use has had (and is having) in tangible terms is, naturally, of great concern to my publishers and therefore to me -- but it?s not the focus of this letter. My effort here is to try and speak to the intangible impact, the emotional cost to me, personally, of seeing my work collected, digitized, and offered up in cyberspace beyond my control.

Years ago I was having lunch one day with the cartoonist Richard Guindon, and the subject came up how neither one of us ever solicited or accepted ideas from others. But, until Richard summed it up quite neatly, I never really understood my own aversions to doing this: ?It?s like having someone else write in your diary,? he said. And how true that statement rang with me. In effect, we drew cartoons that we hoped would be entertaining or, at the very least, not boring; but regardless, they would always come from an intensely personal, and therefore original perspective.

To attempt to be ?funny? is a very scary, risk-laden proposition. (Ask any stand-up comic who has ever ?bombed ?on stage.) But if there was ever an axiom to follow in this business, it would be this: be honest to yourself and-- most important -- respect your audience.

So, in a nutshell (probably an unfortunate choice of words for me), I only ask that this respect be returned, and the way for anyone to do that is to please, please refrain from putting The Far Side out on the Internet. These cartoons are my ?children,? of sorts, and like a parent, I?m concerned about where they go at night without telling me, And, seeing them at someone?s web site is like getting the call at 2:00 a.m. that goes, ?Uh, Dad, you?re not going to like this much, but guess where I am.

I hope my explanation helps you to understand the importance this has for me,
personally, and why I?m making this request.

Please send my ?kids? home. I'll be eternally grateful.

Most respectfully,
Gary Larson