Tattoo

I’m teaching a class where the kids need to design a tattoo shop. We are going to read the illustrated man by Ray Bradbury and do some math related to art. I got thrown into it and didn’t really want to do it because I am not a tattoo guy but now I’m excited. I needed what we call a “groundbreaker” to get it going so I told the kids to design a tattoo for me and that I would pick the best one and actually get it tattooed onto my body. I told them that I wanted my sons’ names on it, in Celtic lettering and that both of my boys had an “X” in their name and that I wanted them to share the X. They couldn’t do celtic lettering. I showed them how and taught them about celtic knots. They learned how to draw both. Then we studied knot theory a bit so that they could understand that the Celts actually used “Mathematical Knots” or links of those (look it up, you won’t be disappointed). We also studied some poetry written in different Celtic languages by authors who are alive today and then translated into English and I showed them the movie, “The Wind that Shakes the Barley,” and taught them a little Irish revolution history. We talked about the process of finding your own roots and I had them research a story of their own roots and to design their own tattoo. We worked on this stuff for two weeks and then went on spring break. When we come back I am going to read this amazing article with them from the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/21/science/in-andalusia-searching-for-inherited-memories.html?emc=eta1&_r=0. I will have to really deal with the vocabulary with them because of their reading levels but we can get it done. I will have them revise their work before going on to the golden ratio and golden spiral and how it’s used in art and nature and they will have to come up with some tattoo designs based on it, then it will go on from there. In the end they will have a portfolio of their design problems with math and be able to talk about their roots and the literature they read and they will have a design of a tattoo shop. They are getting both math and English credit for this and I am getting a tattoo, too.

Write your own myth. Find out your history by the fiction that comes out of where they say you came from. Don’t look for the facts, listen to the stories and retell them with embellishments and lies. That is the only way to find out the truth of who you really are. – Guru Muru

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Out of Time

Time flies. Or rather, it is not a linear function of perception. The other day, I laughed at some joke someone made about Benjamin Button. I was proud of myself that I understood a contemporary reference to pop culture. That is, until I looked it up and found out that when I saw that movie, we went out to the movies or dinner or rock climbing or whatever, whenever we wanted and there were no children on the horizon. Now we have two. In fact, the last time I posted on this blog, we only had one kid still. It’s been crazy but he is already three months old and growing out of his six month clothes. My wife had three months off and now is back to work, I am at home with him for the next two weeks. I am learning more and more how to make my time count. I’ve figured out how to quit bringing grading home (more on this later), focus on the present more, and worry less about the future, sort of. Having a new baby makes you tired but it also is like a do-over. A do-over of the first time you had a kid and kind of a do-over of life in general. In a strange way, it sort of makes me feel like I am getting younger, like I have Benjamin Button disease. 

Time is just a way to help you understand who you really are. Wherever you are going, you are already there. Anything that is going to happen, already has. The end of life, end of the world? Those are only metaphors for the reality you already belong to but need the idea of time to help you grasp it. Anyone born yesterday could explain this to you if you weren’t so limited by common thought and language. – Guru Muru

The Wandering Mind

Went to the Albuquerque Zen Center on Saturday with some friends. Those who meditate know that you are supposed to empty your mind. If anyone is honest they will tell you it’s not that easy and probably never actually happens. Here is more or less how it goes for me:

The tea they use here is good though too weak I like drinking tea from now on all I want is sushi and tea ok back to the breath… this place has good bagels but I thought buddhists were vegetarians and I liked the smoked salmon also the monk said “fuck” when he talked to us is that normal Probably but I’m supposed to be focusing on my breathing … this new baby looks nothing like my other son he has hair on his back but he is so cute, that’s just the biology talking  no it’s not  shut up  back to the breath … I can’t stop thinking about this new student in my advisory  he’s wounded  just got here from the juvenile detention center got there because he stabbed someone  say’s it’s no joke there  we will need to keep our eye on him  the other kids think it’s cool he was there  back to the breath … should I take a year off work to stay with the baby? Yes  no  money isn’t the most important thing in life but maybe I can’t but maybe I need to keep doing what I’m doing maybe I should count so  I quit thinking so much  I’m not thinking too much I’m doing pretty good this has been going on for a really long time though this is the whole reason you came here learn from it hey that’s good it was insightful I had a real insight while meditating it means that I’m supposed to always live fully in whatever moment I’m in it’s not that insightful you already knew that oh  back to the breath … I keep seeing double because I’m tired and have a wandering eye the lines on the floor the pillows across the room maybe I can get myself to see tripple I shouldn’t drive while I’m tired back to breathing … when are we done my foot’s asleep … he’s a good baby  we’re more relaxed this time around I wonder if he will be the opposite of his brother no not the opposite just different  breathe … what will we do tonight  breathe … what will we have for dinner we will play with kids and eat whatever and then watch tv sounds amazing does that make me old  breathe … I like it here it could be anywhere I’m anywhere not in Albuquerque I’m in Japan or Rome  why Rome  I don’t know  the sun is up and we are finishing good I want another bagel

Everything is Related to Everything: Dog Food and Haircuts

The baby is coming soon. I’m putting my money on 12/21, the last day of whatever and the most annoying thing on the internet. The house is ready, I’m starting another vacation, thinking of ideas for new songs and I just got a haircut. The barber told me that not everyone needs an education, that despite my request he couldn’t make me look exactly like James Dean, and that the world needs all kinds of people, including prisoners. About a month ago, my students finished their first trimester where they presented their fractal buildings and community designs to architects and city planners. The other group presented a film they produced about their city with bilingual poems narrating it to politicians, artists and others. They were amazing and then we had Thanksgiving and came back and started some new projects that my fellow teachers and I are creating from scratch. The projects I am working on? One of them is a project about Islamic tiling where they will design their own tessellations and in the end, get out the grout and make something, after firing their own tiles in a kiln. The other project is the architecture of natural disasters. We are having fun creating this stuff on the fly and I am learning how to be more efficient than ever. In between my haircut and errands today, I recorded all the pieces of a new song on my phone. It took no extra time and I have a new song. I have also been writing this blog post throughout the day on my phone. In the past two months we have cleaned out the house, moved bedrooms, set up a baby room, rewired my brain to be a dad for a second time, donated stuff to good will, put together bunk beds. All to prepare for the one thing no one can ever prepare for, the future. I have learned to shop more efficiently also. For example, dog food is bought wherever I can find it and the dog has to deal. Same with people food and haircuts. If I remember I need one and see a barber, I go there. My barber du jour also told me that he himself only had an 8th grade education and dropped out to learn construction, plumbing and haircutting. He said the barbers today are not real barbers. He said that not everyone needs to go to college, that college trains you to do one thing and convinces people that they can’t do other things. He said his dad told him that if he wasn’t going to stay in school he needed to be always willing and ready to work, learn and be his own teacher. That is just what Guru Muru says.

Be your own teacher. But don’t listen to that part of yourself that says to take it easy and avoid whatever it is you think you are supposed to avoid. Listen to the self that you are afraid to listen to. The one who tells you to face the unknown head on and learn from it, even if it looks dark. Just never ignore your need to take naps or you will never know which self is which. -Guru Muru

R.I.P. Copernicus


Tonight I killed a black widow, then my cat. It was ‘the right thing to do’ according to G. Really, it was a straw and camel situation. He had been pissing all over anything he felt like for some time and we have been problem solving it but Saturday night, he did it all over us. I wasn’t sure it was happening until he moved over to my face and peed on that. Then I knew, it was over. It wasn’t always that bad though. We had some great times and we went through a lot, the three of us. I brought him home as a Christmas present to my new bride almost 16 years ago. He moved all over California with us, then to New York where he learned to brawl with asshole kitties with accents. Then to New Mexico, where he finally has been allowed to roam free and terrorize every living thing in his path; mice, other cats, guests, children, two dogs and one rattle snake. I still remember the christmas in New York, where he stood guard over all the presents under the tree, snarling, slashing and biting anyone who tried to take one. In his old age, he got pretty messy, as we all will, and I can’t say that I will miss dealing with kitty litter, but I am a strong believer in symbolism and that was one symbolic little pussy. We have had two dogs and a kid and one is still coming but Copernicus was the one who had been through it all with us, a sign that we were tough and adventurous and had a lot to show for ourselves. He even shared our bed with us. Now he is gone, reminding us of the one thing that no one wants to be reminded of, that we are all going. Still he left us with so much. A great life and tons to look forward to. Also, I hope I go out in a similar way, not taking any shit from anyone and always letting everyone know, unequivocally, where I’m at on the issues…

Box Spring Problem

Everyone knows, deep down in their gut that math teachers are liars. We tell you that solving bullshit ‘real world’ problems in a textbook will somehow help you in life. When pressed about how the specific problems or the techniques given in the chapter will ever be useful, we say stuff like, “it’s good for developing problem solving skills.” Or, “math will help you be ready for all kinds or real challenges.” No one believes us and that is why they would rather tag our desks than factor special polynomials. Real problem solving happens everyday, regardless of someone’s grade on that polynomial quiz. Here is an example from my world this past week.

A few years ago, the National Council of teachers of mathematics published a problem about how to maximize one’s ability to fit a box spring up a set of stairs. There was a lot of highbrow math and diagrams like this one:

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My wife and a colleague of hers solved this problem for a small stairwell in our apartment in New York about 12 years ago and a friend and I solved it again this past week for an even smaller stairwell using her technique. The entire solution can be explained in the following photo, no equations necessary:

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The reason I was doing this is that we moved our bedroom down to the guest room in our basement to make room for the baby coming in December. We’re having to get rid of a lot of stuff and do some problem solving about space and how we are going to live with two kids in this house for the long haul. It is making me finally realize that it’s really happening. That things are going to change for real and that we are ready, I think, to take on the challenge.

Waffling

My mind is finally on vacation. Yesterday, X and I ditched preschool to go to the zoo with friends and it seemed like all the animals were out just for us. Then we took a long, amazing nap, watched his favorite pirate movie and made dinner. After dinner I went out with friends to Marble brewery where there was a band, belligerent drunks, some fun people, some people on horseback dancing to music and then some firemen and paramedics to handle some emergency that I didn’t really care about because it was someone else’s and I was not responsible. This morning, G and I dropped X off at school and did some shopping and went to sushi together which hasn’t happened in a long time without the kiddo. She went to work, I walked to the bookstore and bought three books: Satanic Verses, a Curious Gorge book and a poem for kids to make Guacamole. Then walked home, took a nap and went and picked him up from school. I am supposed to be making dinner but really don’t want even the responsibility for that so I am thinking we are all going out for pizza. What else have I been doing to get my mind off work? Waffling. G found this blog on waffling everything from hamburgers to pizza to mac n cheese. I made some falafel waffles and then waffled some blue corn polenta. I made enough of the polenta to use it as an italian dinner one night and then as a base for tostadas another night. I also finished a book I have been reading for a long time called “La Sombra del Viento” by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. It was a book about a kid who is introduced to a library of lost books and picks one to read and then watches as his life turns into the stuff in the book. I loved it and don’t understand why anyone reads nonfiction. I’m also tuning up my mandolin and thinking of playing some music without making it a big stressful project. I might do some recording with friends but nothing ambitious, just fun. X and I will do some hiking, watch baseball and watch more pirate shows. Also, this weekend the balloon fiesta starts here which means tourists from all over the planet, green chile roasting all over the state and hundreds of hot air balloons filling up the skies and crashing into everyone’s yards.

“If you don’t stop to rest and screw around, you will miss everything that is important.”  – Guru Muru