Friday, October 11, 2013

Less than zero

Taken from the window of the zipcar when I went to buy groceries yesterday.

A storm came in from the Atlantic, met a handsome cold front. Like that scene in West Side Story when Tony and Maria meet at the dance, it was love at first sight for the storm and the front. They embraced each other and began to dance. That was a couple of days ago. They are so in love. We're well into day three of steady rain. It's a gentle, soaking rain - exactly what we've needed.

It's kind of a lot of rain, but I'm not complaining. The truth is, I don't have anything pressing I need to do outdoors. I can't go to the museums, after all. As for my habit of walking down to the Capitol, well, at this moment I have less than zero enthusiasm for that idea.

Less than zero enthusiasm. What in the world is that?

I'm thinking a lot about zero these days. I'm thinking about integers and natural numbers and irrational numbers. I'm thinking about factoring and the formulas and rules that keep numbers of every kind from getting out of hand. Yeah. I wonder why I feel embarrassed to admit I'm reading Algebra I for Dummies? It's much too late in life to be embarrassed that I'm a nerd. I loved Algebra in middle school, and am so far really enjoying the book. I wonder if I'll get into the workbook too? I hope so.

For years I've entertained the idea of learning a language. Learning Spanish, for instance, would be handy since I could use it every day. But I never followed through. Then last winter when I was freaking out about turning 60 I thought I should study French again. I used to be able to understand a lot and speak a little as long as it was in present tense. I had a passable accent and learned to speak quickly. If you want to speak French, you have to have attitude - or it falls flat. You can not fear the language. I love French.

But as soon as the panic about being 60 passed, I forgot all about studying French.

The urge to study Algebra came directly from my developing relationship with my new animal guide, the carrier pigeon. She is a wonderful ally who will not only deliver messages to me, but can carry messages from me, too. The thing is, she prefers to deliver messages in code. So far I've just been using a basic code, substituting numbers for letters using the numerical order of the alphabet. It's not imaginative in the least. I like to be artful whenever possible, but I don't have the skills in this arena. Also should mention she is bringing me messages in numeric form I can't interpret because my math skills are so rusty.

Yes, I really think this way.

Math is definitely a language, perhaps the language I'm destined to learn a little bit about. You think? The bottom line is, it can't possibly hurt me to study Algebra. If I get tired of it and decide not to pursue it, I'll only be out the cost of the two books. It could stimulate my aging neural network to remain as plastic as possible, a bonus, and if it gives me things to think about, that's good, too.

Which brings me back to zero. I think someone wrote a whole book about how radical it was when zero was discovered. A shock wave moved through the mathematical world. Can you imagine a world without zero? Me neither. So cool. I am intrigued!

Alright. The shutdown carries on. Someone said the chuckleheads down at the Capitol are softening. Maybe the rain is helping, who knows?

I'm not going to worry about it. I would rather think about zero, if you don't mind.

I'm drinking tea and listening to jazz, gazing out at the soft rainy grayness out there. I'm content.



Steve Reed said...

It is definitely looking pretty gray out there! I applaud your inquisitive nature, but I will leave the algebra to you. That's a language I am quite finished with. :)

Rebecca Clayton said...

My life these days is algebra! Since last year, I've had a full-time job teaching remedial math at a nearby community college. My students range from teenagers to retirees, so it's an awesome range of experience, ideas, and ways of looking at math.

I am no mathematician--I like math because it lets me think about things I'm interested in in useful ways. But it's discouraging--most people are like Steve--they would like to be done with math.

Why is that? It really is like learning a language--it's not easy, but if it helps you go where you want to go and learn what you want to learn, it's so rewarding.

Reya Mellicker said...

I think it's a matter of personal preference.

Why do I dislike pumpkin pie when others like it? Who knows?

Rebecca I'm so excited to be on a wavelength with you! And Steve, you don't need no stinkin' Algebra!

The Bug said...

I LOVED algebra in high school! It made so much sense to me. Also, geometry. And then I hit calculus & my love affair with math was over :)