Sunday School

We’re talking – well, mostly the wife is talking while I play solitaire so my mind won’t wander – and the subject of Normal Borlaug came up. I had forgotten Borlaug’s birthday was on March 25th. Back in my blogging heyday, I would observe his birthday with a post. He was one of the greatest humans in history.

I interjected that I’d first heard of Norman Borlaug in Sunday school, of all things. Before I rebelled when I was 13 and refused to go to church any more, I would go some weeks and up to a certain age there was Sunday school. This could be fun and interesting, actually. I remember reading and learning about Borlaug in some publication that was the Sunday school equivalent of Weekly Reader. I never forgot that, young as I was.

For all I wasn’t religious and rebelled, I have a soft spot for the church basement where Sunday school was held. I also remember is being in the parish house when I was really little. I also have fond memories of the sisters I crushed on via church, first the one a little older and then the one a little younger than me.

Oh, I remember what I wanted to say besides mentioning Borlaug. School was for the most part a negative experience for me. Sunday was a day off from school. Thus there was extreme dissonance in putting the words Sunday and school together. Ugh. It didn’t have the pressure of school, but it was something I had to do and didn’t want to. It also involved people. A group of people of some size. This was never good for my autistic side and the need for down time.

People Are So Gullible

That’s all. Otherwise I’d be saying too much. It’s sad to watch someone otherwise admirable being awesome and then at the end have them reveal themselves as a dupe.

Of course, my father would say I’m gullible. My wife never forgave him for that. But being taken for a ride by a fraudulent local repair shop is minor league.

Sequel

I was thinking never mind a remake. A sequel could have been interesting. It could have answered some questions that will be left forever up in the air about what happened after, or it could have continued to leave ambiguity while still picking up later.

It could have been a bit like having a sequel to The Cutting Edge, another favorite movie of mine. Figure skating meets romantic comedy! What could be better? Besides something that resonates with my own childhood as dramatically as Melody manages. You come along later in their lives and they’re married. Hijinks ensue with their own kid and/or themselves. Times change. Kids not entirely. That they married for real would be some vindication, without regard for how they arrived there after whatever hell there was to pay for the antics at the end of the original.

Of course, in fan fiction anything could happen. A while back I saw someone posit a scenario where they find themselves at Hogwarts via the trolley. Surreal. Or you could put them in a post-apocalyptic situation. TEOTWAWKI could hit while they are off on the trolley, and they are fending for themselves, trying to get by with the clothes on their backs. Pure fantasies of whatever variety.

Skipping ahead would certainly fit the storytelling pattern of the movie. Just as we never see what happens when Daniel collapses after winning the 220. His mother panics! Get the medic! Maybe we don’t need to do more than infer just how traumatic it was for everyone to get their lives and schooling back to something passing for normal. Maybe we don’t need to know how the kids became married old miseries. They just are, and we revisit old friends later in their lives. Ornshaw graduates Top Gun, becomes a hero and gets to return there as an instructor. Wait, wrong movie. Since he’s actually smarter than the teachers, he goes on to become one and show how it’s done. Daniel becomes famous for his art. or at least struggles to make a living at it other than by illustrating Melody’s stories she writes for children.

Or we could throw them together years later, after they’d been torn asunder. Their love will never die, but if they are separated for a while, it takes the right circumstances for a reunion and a more adult romantic comedy before they actually live happily ever after together.

None of which is exactly where I was going with this. The wife started talking and had trouble stopping, much as happens too often when I start typing.

If you go with the Heinleinesque scenario of all realities existing even if they are fiction in our own, then there’s a very real alternate reality, timeline, dimension – whatever you care to call it – in which the events of Melody happened. Number of the Beast, but we’re not in Oz anymore. We don’t know anything about the fine details of that reality in the parts we didn’t get to see, or that came after, but they are happening to those people in that world. Except in the many worlds theory, we have infinitely branching timelines in which any little variation that could happen does happen, each propagating a new universe. Some seem familiar, even indistinguishable. Some seem utterly alien. It takes so little to make a change. A movie that’s released in 1971 and flops in the United States instead does well and makes stars of the people involved, or bigger stars of the already famous ones. That’s a huge ripple through time. Tracy Hyde becomes a household name. She has more and bigger roles. She never becomes a legal secretary. A ten year old boy who’s not entirely different from Daniel Latimer sees it and his life is changed. A far cry from seeing it 47 years later than that and feeling zealously happy yet wistful. Might not be as big a change as we’d have if that movie George Lucas released in 1977, you know, the space one, hadn’t flopped, but… oh wait, that one didn’t flop.

If you put those two concepts together, then every fiction is its own timeline, and every one of those varies and branches infinitely. The one captured by the purveyor of a piece of fiction in our world is just the one we know, not all that could be. Imagine that Icy Hot Song if Ned never lost his head. Or if Avienda, I mean, Ygritte, survived. You know nothing, dear readers.

Seriously, though, a sequel could have been fun. It would have required greater success of the original. While there’s been a great deal of inspiration provided by Melody, despite its cult status, giving us things like Moonrise Kingdom, since most people never heard of Melody, most people wouldn’t care to follow the rest of the story. A shame, but there it is.

1971 Was so long ago, I had to check with my siblings to see if we maybe had seen Melody. As expected, it was no. Never heard of it. I figured that the possibility existed that I could have seen and forgotten it. I doubt it, though. Much as I love First of May and Melody Fair, neither of those came to my attention until later in the seventies. I’d have known them from the movie. The thing is, I know for a fact that we went to see Flight of the Doves in 1971. I remember it being a big deal to my sister. That was yet another Jack Wild film. Yet all I can remember is that I saw it. I remember nothing about it. I remembered parts of the Planet of the Apes movies vividly. My father took as to all four, regardless of whether they might have been age appropriate. I think of myself as having an excellent memory, but things do get spotty from my youth. That wasn’t the best year ever, either, since my father had left in early 1970 and the divorce would be final in the latter part of 1971. Ironically, 4th grade was an exceptional school year for me, and that was 1970-1971. I had both my first crush on a peer, Carol, resembling Melody, and a crush on my pretty blond math teacher. I crashed in 5th grade and had one of my worst school years.  I’ve mentioned it before, but seeing Melody right when I had that first crush in Daniel-but-shyer (and younger) fashion would have been fascinating.

I’m rambling. (I know: “No kidding! You just figured that out?” Heh.) I should be asleep and instead I’m going on and on without saying anything further that pertains to the post. So I’ll stop and survey the damage now.

Nothing Lasts Forever But The Earth And Sky

As I was driving to the dentist, I had to pause for someone to turn to go to the athletic fields behind my childhood elementary school. For some reason, that sparked my thinking of how fast things go, and how they pass. An instant story in my head of a parent obsessed with what their kid was doing in elementary school made me think about how few years that represents, and the fact you’d be moving on from it, or finding yourself crazy.

I’ve had similar thoughts before, and have possibly even mentioned them here. Pretty sure I talked about how quickly the kids grew through stages and suddenly had moved on, sometimes leaving me feeling like I had missed something, or covered that phase inadequately.

Dust in the Wind lyrics aside, in the even longer run, even the earth and sky aren’t forever. We may not be around to see it, nor may our descendants. But flame-out of the sun or heat death of the universe or such are not what I am on about here.

It becomes easier to bear things that might seem less bearable, once you grasp, or if you remember at the time, that this too shall pass. I’ve always had issues with change, of course. Which is funny, for someone who grew up to understand and embrace the economic concept of creative destruction. It was devastating for me to lose my woods around our house, but it wasn’t our land. For a long time, I wanted to become rich enough to buy out the mobile home park that had been built there, buy out all the residents, and send it back to nature, as close as I could to what it had been. Yet is was predictable that something would happen with that prime land. It was arguably a much better use than, say, a development of 100 houses. In some alternate timeline exists the campground I wanted to put on part of the land while conserving the rest.

Hate your job? It’s not forever. Broke? It’s not forever. Stuck with a crazy marriage? It’s not forever. Bad day at work? Tomorrow will be another day. Hate who’s in office? Unless you wanted enough of a revolution to change the constitution and elect a dictator, such a popular move on the part of dupes around the world, there will be another election down the road.

It’s not always easy, even if you know this. When you’re young, you don’t. It’s all urgent. Of course, you are also helping to drive, so you can make change happen if it needs, or make things more or less bearable while you wait. It can be hard to remember that reality as we experience it is a construct in which we all have a hand.

It has seemed a long time already, and a short time, but in six short years my youngest will be at the end of high school. That’s no time! I’ve held the same job for almost ten and a half years. That’s probably absurd, but during much of that it was arguably the best option. It’s not necessarily now. Even if I don’t actively seek to change it, it’s not forever. If I really had to, even without having identified what I want to do when I grow up,* I could find something to replace it and possibly improve on it.

Please be patient with your life, as the Bee Gees might say.

* There are things I did over the years that are now “my heyday” that I would never have expected to be the high points of my life or career. It makes me wonder if this happened to people like my grandfather, with his stories of being a supervisor at shoe factories. Did he figure there’d be more, or was that just fine and he never regretted that being all there was? Makes me wonder.

Math

Last Sunday the daughter and I were talking to Naomi’s stepfather at the party we attended. He used to be a teacher and was excited that she was so interested in science, currently being most interested in being a geologist. He actually sent her home with a hunk of lava rock that I believe he got from Mt. St. Helens, though I could be mixing the origin up with his story of having climbed up the mountain not too long after the eruption.

We talked about how much the kids love math. The oldest will be taking a double track in 9th grade, one of a few students selected by the head of the math department at the high school for that program. The middle school has an advanced math program you can be in for 7th and 8th grade, so you come out of 8th grade having already covered algebra. Two of the kids are doing that and I expect the third will as well, since if anything he tends to make it seem even easier than the other two. When he’s not being lazy. So the oldest will do geometry and algebra II in 9th grade, and go on from there. That one wants to be a math major, and has been learning calculus independently.

The other one cooks and, especially, bakes. On Friday she tempered some chocolate and piped it into pi symbols. So we have a little bowl of tasty chocolate pi symbols, and a few in the shape of 3.14, in the freezer so they can’t melt.

When we were talking about it, I told Naomi’s father I had a “complicated relationship with math.” I love the idea of it and some of the concepts, but I had some mighty bad math teachers over the years and could be lazy at things I couldn’t just breeze through by being more intelligent than average. Or I would simply not lift a finger at anything I objected to doing at the time. The oldest has that last and to some degree the other problem at times. The youngest has the lazy if it’s not easy problem. The middle learned to work and will go far, since she has the brains as well. She was the one who had to learn that because the early days of school were a struggle and she had to have help and training to handle it.

I went through elementary school ranging from good, really good, to hopeless at math. It can take me time, and I tend to need to grok things conceptually. In 3rd grade, we were expected to memorize multiplication tables. Evil! Lousy math teacher plus that, forget it. Now I can… it’s hard to describe… see and feel what the numbers do in multiples. I’d have been helped, perhaps, if someone had pointed out that multiplication is addition and division is subtraction. When the kids were in school, I could see as early as first grade them being prepared for concepts like that, sets, and solving for a missing number when you already know the answer.

I don’t remember much about jr high, except that it reinforced things we’d covered and introduced or continued things to prepare us for algebra. Algebra in 9th grade was hell. Even after I’ve been all the way through college, that teacher is in a small rogue’s gallery of Worst Teachers Ever. The other two that come to mind right away are a 7th grade science teacher who was rumored to like sleeping with the jr high girls (most likely untrue, as these things go, but there was smoke), and a college professor I had for Pascal (Computer Science 101), who mostly taught math. I sometimes rank as horrible a professor I had for Accounting II, Advance Accounting, Business Law II, Federal Taxation, and Auditing, but he wasn’t in their league. For him it was more a weirdness of teaching method, use of teaching college for indoctrination, and philosophical differences.

Then I hit 10th grade, had an amazing Geometry teacher, was one of the top two students in the class, and the teacher tried to get the school to accept the two of us belatedly in to the advanced math program. I had mixed feelings about that and was just as glad the answer was no, since I felt like an imposter. In 11th grade I got sick, which is another story. I missed 48 days of school that year, was not up to braining the way I’d been in 8th, 9th, and even 10th grades, and still did adequately in Algebra II with a teacher who was super nice but just adequate at teaching. She drove me home after school a few times, I forget how I came to need a ride, because she was already going that way.

In 12th grade I was even sicker. With high hopes, I took the Trig and Pre-Calc class that was with the awesome Geometry teacher. I promptly dropped it because I was sure I was an imposter and would never be able to handle the class or the overall workload. Also I expected it to end badly because I was still sick. I missed 78 days of school through March, after which I dropped out with the couple months left before graduation. All I needed for graduating was to pass English, in which as I recall I was running an A, and Gym, which as I recall I had blown off. Plus one year of school they accidentally didn’t schedule me for it and I never said a word, and by then the state had made passing four years of phys ed mandatory to graduate. They needed to support the state college system’s big business of pumping out gym teachers. I might have hung in there if I had both of those and wouldn’t have faced taking summer school for the hated Gym, of all things. I was already not going to get my vocational certificate, since they had strict attendance requirements. I was fed up with school and there was the GED option available. I just had to wait until after my class had formally graduated to be allowed to take it.

When I went to college three years later, I needed to start over. I ended up taking Algebra and then a trig/pre-calc class, which were fine and really good. But I was required to take two semesters of watered down Calculus, plus semesters of Stats and “Quantitative Methods for Management.” That last one, MA318 by course number, allegedly needed the others as prerequisites. It didn’t. Not even close. It was easy. Reasonably so, anyway. What happened to me with Calculus was I’d start taking it, feel overwhelmed, and drop the class without dropping the class, thereby taking an F. Take away classes like those and my GPA would be considerably higher. Eventually I muddled through it, then the second part. I muddled through Statistics, which made far less sense to me than it should have, but I didn’t want to be there or expend any effort. I don’t remember clearly whether I actually took that twice. I took it with my friend Zack’s favorite math professor, who also wrote the book. That sort of added pressure and made it weird, since there was a lot of tension with Zack, my being two years belatedly at the same college, and my making a pest of myself. This was his god among teachers. If I’d been in the right frame of mind, I would also have thought he was awesome. I can see it, objectively.

I was an accounting major, and people always wondered how in the world I could do that and “not like math.” Two different things! You’re using basic math with the numbers recorded and analyzed in accounting. You’re not using Calculus. Statistics is relevant if you’re doing auditing, which was an incredibly boring class I did well in by reading the entire textbook twice. It was probably the biggest teaching fail for the professor I had for five different classes.

I came out the other end hating math studies but loving math concepts. Weird, right?

Meanwhile, the wife got almost all the way through an engineering degree before she dropped out because she wasn’t good enough. She was at the top of the class. There were other things going on, but she has some of the same anxiety about not being good enough that I do. My father wouldn’t have responded to my getting an A- by wondering why I didn’t get a real A, but my family in various ways had some of the same impact. It happens. She loves calculus. Stats maybe not as much, but she knows vastly more about it than I do. Don’t let the English degree fool you. She’s STEM underneath it.

When the two of us got together, we had the theory that intelligent people should have kids, and we did. On some level, our kids are a long term science experiment in genetics. I suppose all kids are, but we were completely conscious of it. In a way it was dangerous, since we are both possibly on the spectrum ourselves, especially me. We could easily have had autistic kids shades of The Geek Syndrome. Instead they are variants between almost normal and a good bit aspie. It can be riding a tiger, having kids who are “smarter than us,” as the wife put it. They also have resources and opportunities we didn’t. We walk around now with the cumulative knowledge of humanity in our hands. I always wanted to own an encyclopedia so I could read all of it, not just the random volumes of cheapo versions that came from incomplete supermarket volume a week specials.

It takes more than genetics, though.

When I would drive around with the kids when they were young, I would entertain them in the car by having them  answer math questions, or by talking about concepts. That would go on at home, too, but in the car it was a captive audience and they loved it. I wanted none of them to be intimidated by math the way I was after about first grade. So I taught them the concepts of multiplication and division way ahead of time. I taught them about fractions and decimals. I taught them about things like pi. I taught them square and cubes and roots. I helped them be comfortable adding and subtracting larger numbers. All kinds of things like that, especially stuff that could be explained on a car ride, or thrown out as a challenge on a car ride. They knew about negative numbers long before I did. They knew about imaginary numbers, because that went with learning about roots and negatives.

One of the math teachers thought this was awesome when I told her what I’d done when they were younger. I know we talked about other concepts and ideas. It was kind of science and math the way the Kennedy kids might have gathered around and talked politics over dinner with old Joe. Except there’d also be philosophy, politics, history, and whatever. The math is what stands out and was the thing I pointedly used on car rides with the goal of making the comfortable in mind. I didn’t set out to create a kid who would be eager to major in math, though I am proud. It’s a great major and she’ll be following in distinguished footsteps. It fits with our having raised the kids to become adults, knowing there’s a world out there in which they will need to make a living and support themselves. Nobody ever gave me that foundation. Which is funny, because I was much more free range, and in some ways I was older than them at the same age. In others I was much younger.

So yeah. I had a complicated relationship with math. I wanted theirs to be uncomplicated, whether it was anything they loved or not. The oldest helps teach the advanced math class at the moment, by virtue of being the only one who really understands what they are doing. That’s just amazing.

Not Quite 11 Years Old In 1971 But…

Brits being unable to identify the vagina seems like it fits with the innocence depicted in Melody. Other details in there too, although Chef would be proud that they know where to find the clitoris.

Not that everyone in Melody is completely innocent, given the strong presence of girly magazines and nude pictures, even if Daniel having one was completely innocent of any sexual connotations. The boys, especially Ornshaw, weren’t entirely innocent when trying to sneak at least one of them into the girly show. It’s just that they are all still on the edge of childhood and being in love doesn’t make them think “hey, let’s get naked together.” Give them a couple years, if they’re still able to see each other and he still loves her for more than a couple weeks of sixth year.

Of course, given that these days everyone calls the vulva a vagina, maybe it’s not just the Brits who are confused.

That Was Fun

As mentioned in the previous post, there was a party at Naomi’s mother’s house and I went with the middle child, who was interested in trying the expected Middle Eastern food. The youngest was upset when we got home that I hadn’t invited him, which I did weeks ago to a firm no. He assumed we’d had awesome food, which we did, but not from his perspective. He felt better when I listed off what we’d eaten. The one who went loved it. Bonus, there was lemon cheesecake! She loves cheesecake more than almost anything. She had to spend a couple hours being bored while Naomi, Sally and I gabbed, though she enjoyed watching the little kids and tiny dog playing. She also  got a piece of lava rock to bring home, from Naomi’s stepfather, who was enthusiastic about her interest in science generally and geology particularly.

There were a bunch of assorted relatives there, and some adorable little kids. A late arrival, no idea the relation, had a couple more, but older, like first grade. My eyes locked on that woman before she was in the door, and I had to make a point of not staring, she was so stunning. Basically a ginger. She seemed super nice to boot. If I were younger and prone to those serial crushes, she’s exactly the sort of scenario where her walking into a room might change everything.

I ate way too much, mostly because of the shrimp someone brought, with a dip based on mayo and Greek yogurt, seasoned with wasabi and I forget what else. There were also pita chips, pita pieces, amazing spinach dip, awesome cheese spread, hummus, feta cubes, olives that were actually good – my second encounter ever eating an olive and finding I liked it, crackers, cheese, baked ziti with sausage meat included in it, and fantastic salad. Besides cheesecake, there were good chocolate chip cookies, and squares with chocolate chips, coconut, and walnuts. The kid who thought he’d missed out *might* have tried the pasta dish and not much else. Well, there were potato chips, so he could have had those.

It was actually hard to leave because the conversation really got rolling, about books and such. But it was time to go so they could wind down and we could settle in for the night. I could be later, but there’s school in the morning.

One thing that’s funny is Naomi still thinks of me as the go to person for computer questions, even though she is pretty clueful herself. She’s gone through more computer antics in the past ten years than I have. Mostly I have things that work or don’t, and if they don’t, I somehow get something that does. Since we went broke, I spent a lot of time using hand-me-down machines. This one is a $239 refurbished Dell compact desktop, sort of thing I wouldn’t have been caught dead using back in the day. The old machine is a hand-me-down laptop that I retrieved files from for someone before the hard drive died. That was over 10 years ago, and it sat for a long time before I confirmed they didn’t want it back. I had to replace the drive and, it turned out, a bad memory stick. It got full and slow enough I needed better. I’d used it as a clamshell with keyboard, mouse and monitor all attached. Before that I had an old laptop someone else gave me. It had no disks and was kind of a mess, but I couldn’t reinstall it or fix some of the deep down settings. My last good computer I built died before that and I couldn’t keep anything I had around working reliably enough. So we talked about some of the stuff she’s been through and things she’d told herself to ask me about. Her best computer was her first one, which I’d helped her get from what turned out to be a local dealer at a computer show, back when those were a thing. We later used that dealer to supply computers for the business, until I started building them all myself.

Many Worlds

Looking at this article on parallel universes reminded me of thoughts I have had from time to time. It also reminded me of the theory that some things like deja vu and dreams that then happen are associated with quantum leakage from relatively proximate alternate timelines. That is, for there to be infinite parallel universes in which what could happen did happen, there are points of departure, just as you’d see in alternate history fiction. The more recently and/or less dramatically the alternate diverges from the one we experience, the “closer” it is. We might recognize it and be unable to detect a difference unless it affected us very personally.

The story I started a couple years back involves alternate timelines and, between them, time travel. Since it is based in part on people and places close to me, in some ways it was easier. In others it’s still hard, because writing is work, and it’s personal so I want even more for it to be perfect.

But that’s not where I was going with this. When I think what if this, what if that, presumably it has happened, or will happen if time flows slower there, in a parallel realm. All the regrets. All the wishes. All the OMG what if THAT had happened. In an endless multiverse, they all did or will, and are all playing out in many ways. They range from I took the day off work yesterday to I was never born. They range from an elementary crush being the childhood sweetheart I went on to marry young, to I never met anyone and remained single. And that’s just a tiny range of examples that are me-centric, let alone all the things that involve others but change things for me. My brother might never have met his first wife. I would never have met my old best friend. He would never have met his wife as a result. He would never have broken his back while working for me shoveling driveways. He would then have graduated with his high school class. I was due to have a best friend like him, so it would have been someone else. The prime candidate had a sister I was crushing on at that point. Maybe she’d be the one. Or at least I’d have known her well then, instead of getting to know her better than I ever knew him, decades later.

Anything could happen.

It also shows, if we are bold enough to take the lesson, that at any point going forward, we can throw the switch on which variant we occupy. Do that thing. Don’t do that thing. Everything changes, somewhat. Bigger things or cumulative things, bigger changes. Maybe it’s not for the better. Maybe it is. You build your reality. I know this. I’m still hopeless at embracing and acting on it. It’s a weakness.