syncategorematic: (when I am tired)
( Oct. 8th, 2006 09:58 pm)
THERE'S a barrel-organ carolling across a golden street
In the City as the sun sinks low;
And the music's not immortal; but the world has made it sweet
And fulfilled it with the sunset glow;
And it pulses through the pleasures of the City and the pain
That surround the singing organ like a large eternal light;
And they've given it a glory and a part to play again
In the Symphony that rules the day and night.

- Alfred Noyes, "The Barrel-Organ"

I feel alone.

I have no part to play again, nor do I know where to go from here. Yet, given my eternally optimistic nature, I smile, recalling a wish I asked to have twisted in a "twist my wish" game - "I wish my ceiling was a pretty colour."

"Granted!" Erehwesle replied. "Your ceiling is now the exact shade of your first lover's eyes.

Alas, though, life has now lost its savor, and you slip deep into a heady enuii [sic], unable to do anything but contemplate past pleasures never to be recaptured while staring whistfully at your beautiful ceiling and sipping weak tea which tastes of 'naught but ghosts and ashes."

My ceiling has not yet turned black, so all I can do when I feel depressed is remember this and laugh. And my tea tastes rather good, for I was sent it by my new protegee, in a swap arranged after I read her cards.

So what if the fact the lab sent me the Three of Swords left me feeling like the Three of Swords for a couple of days?

As I sing to the tune of Vysotsky's "Song of Disturbance" - "It will work out, it will work out, it will work out."

Даже в дозоре
Можешь не встретить врага.
Это не горе -
Если болит нога.
Петли дверные
Многим скрипят, многим поют:
Кто вы такие?
Здесь вас не ждут!

Парус! Порвали парус!
Каюсь, каюсь, каюсь.

Многие лета -
Тем, кто поет во сне,
Все части света
Могут лежать на дне,
Все континенты
Могут гореть в огне, -
Только все это -
Не по мне!

Парус! Порвали парус!
Каюсь, kаюсь, каюсь.

Even on watch
You may not meet a foe.
If your leg hurts
That is not yet a woe.
The hinges of doors
To some creak, to some, sing clear:
"Who are you?
You're not awaited here!"

But the sail! They tore the sail!
I do penance, I do penance, I do penance.

To those who sing in sleep
Health and long life there be.
All of earth's corners
May lie beneath the sea
All of the continents
May burn eternally
Only all that
Is not for me!

But the sail! They tore the sail!
I do penance, I do penance, I do penance.

Yes, the song makes a very little sense - but it is cathartic, I tell you! Cathartic is the word!

I have recently been finding catharsis in art - watercolour painting, digital, and to a very small extent, Blender. I was working on a tarot card for the BPAL forum tarot, the Ten of Swords. It has not yet been published on the website used for those. Hence, because it may still undergo changes, I will not yet post it here. But I should paint more, I should.

It is better for your soul than doing logic assignments in natural deduction. Though that last is better for your grade.

Yes, all of my posts lately have had something to do with tarot. I curiously wonder what Hawkface and his QB Wiki ilk think of them.

The incident of that previous post made me smile for a long time after I woke to find Anonymous's comment in my Inbox, awaiting moderation. I, being one of the slackest moderators who ever lived, read it, tried to figure out the logic of it, smiled, and let it through.

Yes, the Internet is a strange place. And the overlap between the real person and the person who is on the Internet... Concolor may be right - what you say on the Internet counts for absolutely nothing in terms of knowing people. My brother may be right - "arguing on the Internet is like the Special Olympics: even if you win, you still suck" (and that is completely unfair to Special Olympians - I have met two, and they are awesome athletes and can kick the butt of most able-bodied people.) The Internet may now know me as someone who is satirised on QB Wiki. Or as someone who, to quote myself, "reads tarot cards to angsty little goths." And both are me, in a way. I wrote the stuff on this blog, and I will stand by it.

It was the dialogue between Anonymous and Jarvenpa that was interesting - since each of them knows only one part of me. And Jarvenpa knows a lot about me, and she knows the reflection of trivia playing in my chart is the influence of one teeny little asteroid - and even that one has a part-time job. Which is why, unlike the 400 people who view satires of me on QB Wiki, I do not go there. I am a freelancer - my involvement with the trivia world is done the moment the end-of-game clock buzzes. To judge me by my trivia involvement, though logical, will never give the full picture of me.

And who am I?

Other than a fairly-broke fourth-year math-linguistics student and wannabe writer? On discussing that question with Concolor in the Arts lobby, I unfolded my booted legs and remarked, "I am burned-out at twenty-one, heh."

"No, you're not," he replied.

"Madmen and madwomen wanted for ill-advised expeditions to the ends of the earth. Conditions poor, aims questionable, and death nearly certain. Please apply within," wrote the aforementioned Erehwesle.

He was talking about grad school. I know he was.

The pressure, the pressure to do something more with a math-linguistics degree than a simple undergrad! Yet, I know several things:

1. I definitely do not want to do speech-pathology.

2. I rather do not want to do sociolinguistics.

3. I am afraid of doing math research. The time that NSERC refused my scholarship application and Pestov scorned me for this, has sunk in my soul and left a deeper scar than I suspected.

4. I am missing information meetings and scholarship deadlines - I let them fly past me and I forget about them. I sent myself an email with important links...and upon opening it I felt nausea rising in the back of my throat. Like Carrie Bradshaw did upon trying on a wedding dress. Which means, my intuition tells me, that something is wrong.

5. I toyed for a while with taking a master's in journalism at Carleton. They have a good program there, and I suppose I can, eventually, put together a journalism portfolio. However, I got a message from yellowrose on the forum, advising me:

As someone with both undergraduate and graduate degrees in journalism, may I give you the wisdom of my life experience? Don't bother.

You're a good solid writer as evidenced by your posts and blog. There are always things upon which any of us can improve, but that comes from having experience and a succession of good editors. The field has been laid to waste. You'd do better to concentrate on linguistics and math. Let the writing happen as it well may.
She further advised me to check out the programs at Columbia. I did check out the programs at Columbia. I do not have $50,000. And being in debt only for a small amount oppresses and depresses me enough that I do not want to borrow any money, ever again.

Then my brother sent me a link from Leonid Kagan's essay on advice to writers. It is in Russian, but I will translate the paragraph that I found most interesting:
Where do they teach you how to write literature?
Practical experience shows that writing is best taught in medical schools: those produced such writers as Chekhov, Bulgakov, Lukyanenko [author of Night Watch; I will also add Conan Doyle, and I am sure a bunch of others.] Technical schools prepare writers not too badly. A notable number of writers came from the ranks of the military, sailors, and the police. Some decent writers also turned out from those who did not complete higher education at all. It is difficult, but there is still a slight chance of becoming a writer in the faculties of philology [linguistics], history, and the other humanities - there is a risk that there you will be made a humanities specialist, who clearly knows what is good, what is bad, and what is not allowed for a writer, and therefore will write strictly canonically: gray and boring. And it is completely impossible to become a writer in the Institute of Literature: in all the years of its existence, it has not produced a single good writer. In other words, jokes aside, there are plenty of opportunities to ruin writing talent in oneself, but there is no place where they help you develop it. One must simply work a lot.
I wanna go to med school now - although I am kidding, I have no biology whatsoever that I have not gleaned from Quiz Bowl, and Concolor and my mother are plenty of medical people in my life. But after reading that and yellowrose's post, I changed my mind, and decided to concentrate on carving my own career as a writer.

6. I am toying with the idea of joining Carleton's School of Intelligence and Security Studies, which I did not know existed until I read about it in the Citizen right after I sighed and wondered about grad school. The thing with that, though, is that I will have to take a qualifying year, which means some more undergraduate work, which means some more money.

Oh well.

I still need to prepare my novel for a second shot at publication, after I now am the proud owner of some expensively-heavy beige paper. Yay!

Time to stop slacking off.

Thanks for listening. You have done your part in preventing burnout at twenty-one for someone headed for ruination of writing talent in a humanities graduate degree.

I wish you joy.
syncategorematic: (sophia - curlty and in a good mood)
( Apr. 23rd, 2006 12:53 pm)
It is the dawn of my 21st birthday.

Respect the aged, o companions of the river! Respect the aged!

About five months of my twentieth year have already been chronicled here, but on my birthday, as on New Year's Eve, I always think back over what have I accomplished between birthdays: how have I changed between turning twenty and turning twenty-one.

I know Keynote, PowerPoint, iTunes and LaTeX. I know historical linguistics is a sweet wonderful love, and the only interesting thing about syntax is how vehemently I disagree with it. I know that I will never date a coward, nor someone who lacks ambition. I know complex analysis is beautiful yet not for me, and that I probably never would make a topologist. I know how to do the polka turns now. I know that Concolor is stronger than me at aikido. I know how to register at hotels. I know how to order online. I know (sort of) how to code in CHAT. I know what a Frappuccino and bubble tea taste like - and what Lightning smells like. I know that you never ask for anything of those stronger than you: they themselves will offer, and they themselves will give.

I know that my life had been a lot simpler when I thought Modern Talking were women. I know how to burn a CD, and, when I am lucky, a DVD. I know who paid for our robotics kits. I know the location of Cathcart Street. And I know how to blog.

And there are people whom I need to thank for my year:
Shilhak-Inshushinak, for coldhearted editing that turned my novel into a thing of beauty;
Concolor, for all the times I needed a drive - or a sympathetic shoulder to gripe to;
Irene, for fun times and the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab and a great many other things I would not have known otherwise;
Lady Mollweide, for wise advice and power backing me;
Professor Jensen, for introducing me to Historical Linguistics;
My entire Reach team and the U of O Trivia Team, for another wonderful year;
The Dark Lord, for giving me the Mac Lab and always, somehow in his deluded way, thinking the best of my use of it;
Amico, Consuelo and Carrie, for somehow always forgiving me my being late;
Taglioni, Luiza, Mara, Magda, Gabrielle, Lizaveta, and the rest of the ensemble who gave me dance advice and never spoke ill of my being unable to follow it;
My aikido instuctors, for teaching an art that gives me hope;
And my family - because I could have had a lot worse.

I had been trying to assemble the pieces of advice I live by: some of them hoarworn homilies, some of them the things I have come up with myself. This is a summary of the words of wisdom that I, so old and wise now that I can actually finally drink in the United States, choose to partake with you in my amazing vaunted cunning wisdom:

Tourmaline's Rulez:

If you can say thank you, do.

If you can say sorry, do.

On a choice between two evils, pick the one you've never tried.

Never wear uncomfortable shoes.

Accept no subsitutes: do not buy cheap jewelry because it looks like the expensive kind you love; do not go out with men just because they look like the man you love; they are not like the real thing and you will pine for the real thing anyway.

Pick a direction and go with it.

Always have a Plan B.

If things are not working out, you're going in the wrong direction; back up and see if you really want this.

Why scream bloody hell when you can quietly speak the ordinary kind?

Art must be done for love; never do art for pride.

I'm not ashamed
To say out loud
That being in love with you
Makes me proud;
I'm not ashamed
To stand and say
That I am in love with you,
Look at me!

If you're happy, don't hold it in; the ones who mind don't matter, and the ones who matter don't mind.

Keep a friendly crocodile in every swamp.

Do not wear running shoes with a skirt; this may not apply to the majority of my male readers, but those of my male readers who may choose to wear a skirt, please don't wear your Nikes with it.

Don't make enemies; the artificial ones are worse than the ones that come naturally.

Breathe with your belly and keep your back straight.

Yell at people and they will yell back; speak softly to them and most of them will feel ashamed of themselves.

Never be embarrassed to do something stupid in front of customer service people or anyone else who deals regularly with the public: chances are, you won't even get into the Book of "idiotic things customers have done"; you've got to be mighty stupid to be remembered at the end of the day.

Never be embarrassed to do something stupid in front of strangers whom, chances are, you will never see again. And people have worse memories and more self-absorption than you may think.

Never be embarrassed to accidentally do something stupid in front of those you love, either; if your motivations were pure, and the people are worth loving, they would not mind.

Pay your debts; it is a good reputation to have.

Do not be afraid to go for the best you can afford.

Do not be afraid to say you did not understand this.
Ok, sweetheart, put the pedal to the metal and the bottle to the throttle. Lots of things happened Valentine's Week, and many more Reading Week, and here is little Tourmaline, writing still about the SCT, and watching the Olympics like the mad Olympics fiend she is, and planning Trivia Night like there is a tomorrow and it is Trivia Night Zero Hour.

I mean, I should not have wasted so much of my time watching the Olympics, but, my dears, anyone who knows what they are doing is beautiful to watch, and trust me, even if you come last at the Olympics, you know what you are doing. Besides, like every proper Canadian woman, I have a mild celebrity-crush on Jeff Buttle. My mother's Russian friend emailed her pictures of Evgeny Plushchenko "just in case they don't show him over where you are." Of course we did watch him, although I still nurse a mild celebrity-crush on Alexei Yagudin, if I had to pick a figure skater. I am amazed at Emanuel Sandhu's immaturity, though - to walk around with a chip on his shoulder for eight years, just because he did not go to Nagano, hmph. We watch figure skating religiously here: "Marie-France Dubreuil did not hurt herself that badly! She landed in perfect breakfall position!" Now I cannot decide which of the women skaters to root for: Irina Slutskaya just because she is Russian, although my parents were criticising her plumpness right left and centre, and linking her heart problems to it; or Sasha Cohen for skating to some of my favourite music in the short program.

My mother made a very interesting observation during the first Saturday's women's 15K pursuit. Two women were leading, Neumannova of Czech Republic and Smigun of Estonia, and my mother says: "The Estonian will pass her." Sure enough, she did pass, as if pulling up secret reserves of power, and my mother says, "You know how I know? Because when the camera shows them both full-face, they are matching each other stride for stride, but the Estonian has that little added flick of the wrist that gives her a little extra power. So she could just hold back until she finds the right time to pass the Czech girl; she knew she had the speed." My mother herself used to ski competitively in the 10K and 15K, and was a master of the sport; she knows. Bad, bad me, to only go twice this winter, but it's been a crazy winter, weather-wise.

Forget about hockey; what I like watching is luge. And bobsled and skeleton. They should show more sliding sports on TV, darn them. And more short-track speed skating; that is so fun to watch. The Globe Challenge once had a contest on how to change the rules of a well-known sport to make it more interesting; I propose speed skating on the luge track.

Ok, what happened at school:

On Monday, I got my English Syntax midterm back and I did not do so well at all. I may be able to wheedle an extra mark out of it, but it got me very depressed. In topology we looked at the topological properties of the letters of the alphabet, only Pestov could not pick a serif or sans-serif font and stick with it, which annoyed me.

On Tuesday, at Concolor's request since he has three midterms and at my hearty assent since I also had three midterms, we cancelled work. All the gods there are, what a wondrous luxury it is to sleep in. But in History of Math I got another assignment back, and I had gotten 14/20 on it, which displeased me incredibly. I did not go to aikido on Tuesday; I was studying for the morphology midterm, but what actually happened was that I got hold of The Lexicon of Stupidity and did not study for the morphology midterm very much at all, as I read it. Very very funny.

On Wednesday I wrote the morphology midterm, and I will say no more about it here, because it seems that all the midterms I write about here before I get my marks back turn out bad. Well, maybe I am just incompetent, but why take chances? Then I went to work with Carrie, but we did not end up doing very much work at all. Aldonza, a visiting researcher from Spain, was there with us and so was Amico, the PhD student who supervises us, and several other Spanish grade students; they ended up having a discussion about regional accents of Spain, which turned into a discussion of swear words. I joined in, bravely using my half-grown Spanish to reference a great many Russian swear phrases. Believe me, a discussion of swearing by professional linguists, calmly citing examples, especially in Spanish, is something to be heard - but, alas, not transcribed in a family newspaper.

Then I went to English Syntax again, and found myself signed up to work on a project concerning Spanish syntax with a girl I will call Tara.

Thursday was two-midterm day. Of the other events of Thursday I will tell when I get to talking of trivia-night business. Let us just say that I could not finish two questions on the Topology midterm, and then I got my latest assignment back: 13/20. I was devastatingly depressed. I spoke of it with Concolor in History of Math. He later wrote me the following letter:

Anyway, you seemed slightly bummed about math. Don't haven't reached "the pinnacle of your understanding in math" (or however you put it). There just comes a time (for everyone) where we can't learn the material in the amount of time they give us with all the other stuff we're supposed to do. A lot of math is just a question
of familiarization; it takes time to learn what something means "by definition" and then what it ACTUALLY means (i.e. the picture you can make in your head), which is what ultimately you will take out of it.

Anyways, don't worry, none of the great mathematicians learn math the way we do now, they just spent days on one question, moved on to another one, etc. And they were never "tested" by how fast they could answer a given question.

I wrote back:


One hundred percent on the Socio midterm! (I know, we took it up in class). And the rest of the day went pretty well, although I did not go to aikido (this Saturday I better make up for my week off). I think Socio is going to be (knock wood) my safety-vest keep-afloat high-grade course. But do you also see how depressing History of Math is? Since math (along with music) is a talent that motivates brilliant child prodigies, it gets really depressing to hear of all those people who published papers at fourteen and got doctorates at twenty and think "Here I am, nearly 21, with a B+ to A- average, getting back an assignment with a 13 out of 20..." and you kind of think that if you are not super brilliant at math by now and getting the undergrad research scholarships banging down your door and papers with your name at the AMC, there is absolutely no point in you studying math, wasting your time with it just for the love of it. It gave me a mantra to remember for life when Boily, on the first day of Analysis, admitted that on his first three assignments when he took that course, he averaged 20%. So you can make it into math grad school without getting A+'s in everything that comes your way. Pestov is a prof with 'a world name,' as the Russians say; I cannot imagine him knowing of any other kind of mathematician than the ones who start off brilliant and burning bright ... and, some of them, fizz out in insane asylums.

The problem is - I like math. I find it beautiful. I guess, at heart, I am a fantasy writer first and foremost and it is the imaginary worlds that math creates that appeal to me.

However, even though I am better at linguistics and writing than I am at math - about three times better - I cannot bring myself to give up math. I guess I have in me that mountaineering song:

...And one could go down, one could go around,
But no, we choose the harder ground
And like the warpath is the path we call.
And one could go down, one could go around,
But no, we choose the harder ground,
And like a warpath is the path we call.

Who hasn't been there, who hasn't dared,
He has never tried and proved himself fair,
No matter that below he plucked stars down from the sky.
Below you won't see, in peace or strife, through all your long and happy life,
One tenth of all such wonders as on high.
Below you won't see, in peace or strife, through all your long and happy life,
One tenth of all such wonders as on high.

And math is the mountains to me, and I will not give it up. But it still bothers me what others think of my outward performance in it. I have set the standard by which I judge myself and my own success to be the things I do worst - math and dance - rather than those I do best: linguistics and trivia. It would be very easy to say "Oh, I am such hot stuff because I am the Division I trivia champion of Eastern Canada" but somehow it just makes getting a 1%-of-the-year's-mark assignment back with less than 90% on it hurt all the more. If I am so good at one thing, why not at everything? Or why not have that one thing be something that people respect, like Olympic hockey?

Reading Week icumen in
Lhude sing hooray
If you are blest to have no tests,
Forth a week of play
Sing hooray
Sing "You (school) people get your arses into gear, I cannot be the only one planning this trivia night and working on my His de Maths project as well and keeping up in aikido and trying to graduate "something cum laude" and wheedling money to go to the TWO Nationals I qualified for in one respect or another, and doing enough around the house to keep my family letting me into it, and getting money to pay all my debts and getting somewhat closer to getting people reading something with my name on it within the next year or so, and going insane! How come, if I am so second-rate, can no one else do what I want fast enough and well enough to do it right?! All of it."

That's my problem. I want all of it.

Sorry for the rant. This will go on the blog anyway.

I wish you joy

The other event that happened at school is that I commissioned a necklace from Jane after seeing her make its beginning. And by the way, Jelibeenz, if you read this I must tell you that I wore your necklace to the Secionals, hoping it will bring me luck, and was wearing it pretty continuously except for aikido since February 10. Thank you.

I will stop this post here, and start another one about my exploits off school and on Reading Week.
syncategorematic: (kramskoy-creative and dignified)
( Jan. 20th, 2006 08:38 pm)
Vain it is for us to wait for heaven's being:
Heaven isn't worth a single tear!
How can you not see it, ye the seeing,
If even the blind ones see it clear?
- Evgeny Evtushenko

I read that poem in a Russian newspaper, and now it is giving me no rest, even after I applied my feeble translation. Long, long ago, I used to bring poetry to school, and share it with everyone who would listen; I have not done that in a long time, not because poetry had stopped moving me, but because I had found few would listen. Yet now, along with the poem, the problem is haunting me.

Why is it that I come from a people who could and would and had to write poetry like that above, who can shout in defiance, "Heaven isn't worth a single tear!" - and now most of the people I live among would not even be able to understand what can make someone shout that out?

Is it because there, intelligence and creativity was hemmed in and stifled at every turn, and so the harsh reality of life made them desperate to express themselves in every way they could before they died? While here, life is so peaceful we can think of nothing greater to complain about than the snow on the roads? Can one be a well-fed poet?

I felt a painful longing for a land where I, too, can cry, "Heaven isn't worth a single tear!" and those around me would understand what I cry of, and know it for truth. Yet I have been to Russia, and it is not that land that you see on TV, even when TV shows KVN. Most people there are not writing poetry; they are surviving, surviving, surviving. They have little joy in daily inertial existence, and the poetry I live with must have joy in it, as well as this rebellion.

Or is it something genetic, something emotional that the Russians have and the people of Western Europe lack. Yet the English wrote beautiful, truthful poetry like that, and so did the French, and so, I am told, did the Germans and the Spanish.

It must be a very fine "habitable zone" in the difficulty of life that allows for a poetic line to move a continent - right between those who live until tomorrow because they had not thought about killing themselves, and those who are snug and secure and Kater Murr. Robertson Davies had tried to bring a poetic soul to Canada, but something about that rings false - his best heights of emotional drama, in Fifth Business and What's Bred In The Bone and A Mixture of Frailties, are set in Europe. Guy Gavriel Kay tried it, and put his Canadians in a fantasy world. So did I.

I want my poetry, yet I also want my hot water, and my knowing where the next pay check is coming from and how much is in it. And my ability to publish such poetry without going to bed with the censor.

What is left? America? Down beneath the plastic of Hollywood and the rap lyrics and the Gucci stores, there must still be something there to explain to people why it is that heaven isn't worth a single tear. Or in Argentina - I think the nation of Jorge Luis Borges can give the world poetry to make you cry.

Or in a fantasy world.

As I was getting ready for dance, I got caught in my parents' watching the last episode of The Master and Margarita. That novel was alleged to have a curse on it preventing it from being brought to the screen for so long that even the Ottawa Citizen's Arts section told of the final success of converting The Master and Margarita into a 10-part series. And the makers of it did it well indeed.

It was one of those movies that makes me want to leave my humdrum life and ask for something more. For a great love and a bargain with eternity. For the light in Margarita's eyes as she sets fire to her past. For the canter of black horses across the starry sky, and the broken wine jar at Pontius Pilate's feet, and the streaming light of the moon. I rode to dance, stirred with emotions that I cannot fully name and I fear that Canada cannot hold. I wanted to create and to perform. I know there are drugs that would give me a high similar to that, but I did not want drugs - I wanted to share what I was feeling. I wanted to dance wildly to Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain. Or to sing Vyssotsky's songs to a crowd of people who understand them. Or to tango all night long. Or to make incandescent love.

So why should I even care that the Dark Lord lied to me? Clever and useful as the Dark Lord is to me, could he ever read The Master and Margarita and be moved by it?

How can you not see it, ye the seeing,
If even the blind ones see it clear?

The modern western youth, too, have their myth - the myth given to them by the Wachowski brothers in The Matrix. A nobody programmer leaves his humdrum life and gets a battle for the sake of humanity and control over the fabric of the world. He is asked to follow the white rabbit, and I have told of the white rabbit in a previous post.

A lady I babysit for told me about her first marriage. When it ended, her friend told her about her husband, "He would not dance in the fire with you." "That is what you must ask yourself about every man," she told me, "would he dance in the fire with you?"

I had laughed and told her that her father's suitor criterion was much simpler. He, a dentist, told me that the first thing you should check about a potential boyfriend is - does he have a dental plan?

Dental plans are aplenty. But dancing in the fire with me - especially with me, and my mother had once hinted that my problems with dance my have a deeper root than choreographic memory and coordination: I am too emotional for a dance ensemble.

Someday, I vow now, I will write books that will make people want to leave the world they live in for another. Or change the world they live in now. Not to wait for heaven, because heaven isn't worth a single tear. No matter where I have to go to get the song in those books myself.

Come dance in the fire with me.
And the freezing rain fell down from the heavens, and all the earth was covered in crystal. And the people came out and danced in the streets. Awkwardly. And without music. That is, the freezing rain made me twenty minutes late to work, so to make up for it on my last day, I stayed twenty min
utes extra. By that time I was completely too tired to head to aikido afterwards, even if the dojo was holding its informal "party."

God rest you, merry sales staff, let nothing you dismay,
For you have witnessed all the horrors one can tell for pay.
Whatever they do, it ain't the worst at the end of the day...

I was singing that before a customer came to the deli, as Mysteryperson#1 had started whistling "God Rest You Merry Gentlemen". I stopped to turn to the customer. "Can I help you?" "Can you continue the concert?" I was a little flustered. "It's hard to go on improvising lyrics on the fly." "But that is what makes it fun!" He is a regular, fortunately; I have not scared him away. I did sing over the slicer during the next lady's order, although the words I was singing were those I had composed in my last year of high school (actually, in the Bagelshop parking lot, while pondering the meaning of "let nothing you dismay." They were printed in the Acta very badly; I print them here. To all the teachers of the world, I dedicate:

God rest you merry, math teachers, let nothing you dismay,
For you have witnessed all the horrors one can write or say,
From “seven times seven is fourteen” to limits gone astray...
All you ask is for equations to be true and defined,
And for all the equals signs to be aligned.

God rest you merry, English teachers, let nothing you dismay,
For you have witnessed all the horrors one can write or say,
In rules of grammar and common sense that students disobey...
All you ask is that commas all go in their proper place
And that Hamlet’s not misquoted to his face.

God rest you merry, language teachers, let nothing you dismay,
For you have witnessed all the horrors one can write or say,
From misspellings to brutal forms of passé composé...
All you ask is not to use vocab whose meaning is in doubt
And to at least get what the story was about.

God rest you, social science teachers, let nothing you dismay,
For you have witnessed all the horrors one can write or say,
From “where is the Atlantic?” to a thesis-less essay...
All you ask is for a clear, logical and balanced view
And for all the facts to be confirmed and true.

God rest you merry, science teachers, let nothing you dismay,
For you have witnessed all the horrors one can write or say,
From graphs on hand-drawn graph paper to vectors the wrong way...
All you ask is for the sig figs to be valid and trim
And for no one in the lab to lose a limb.

God rest you merry, arts teachers, let nothing you dismay,
For you have witnessed all the horrors one can draw or play,
From art not worth the paper to A-flat instead of A...
All you ask is that they practice, - just a little, is that fair?
All you ask is that they work and try and care.

God rest you merry, high school students, let nothing you dismay,
For you have witnessed tortures one can’t even begin to say,
And four tests and a summative set all on the same day...
All you ask is for the answers to be marked fair and right
And for at least eight hours of sleep a night.

Which hopefully is what I will be getting for a few days, as this is over now. I finally departed the Bagelshop, assuring the boss that I will not come back for the Monday and Tuesday. "I still have textbooks to buy and stuff." Mysteryperson#1, on hearing this, remarked that I should have simply said I needed time off. Being too specific made it seem too small a requirement.

I used my last discount for now to stock up on Republic of Tea teas - Pomegranate Green Tea and Maté Latte, out of curiosity - and a sparkling nonalcoholic beverage for us to welcome New Year with. Last year, when I had worked on New Year's Eve, the boss served up a glass of champagne all around, and I reprimanded him for offering nothing for those who do not drink. He then provided me with an entire bottle of a very nice sparkling cider, which ended up being a hit at the welcoming of 2005. But I digress.

The next day I woke fairly early, and after taking care of the morning necessities, I headed off to take care of various errands. Those who reprimand my jewelry obsession, take a breath: I bought shoes this time. Really nice dark blue Adelphi shoes, hard to find that colour, and comfy (a character dancer test-driving shoes is an interesting sight), and I have had my eye on them ever since they came in, and they were now 25% off. The common advice is to never buy stuff on sale that you would not have bought at the regular price. I follow that advice pretty faithfully: after all, if you buy a pair of $200 jeans marked down to $150, did you save $50 or did you spend $150? My mathematician's mind asserts the latter (and I have never bought $200 jeans, on sale or otherwise. I don't even own jeans anymore. I tried some on today. But that is another story, and they were under $20, and I did not buy them.)

A mysterious force made me wander into Tristan & America at the Rideau Centre that day. As I perused expensive stuff I would never wear, I suddenly saw a salesgirl dancing on the floor to the piped Muzak. I laughed, and she looked at me, a little embarrassed. "I do that," she said. "No, I do the same thing," I replied, thrilled at finding kin in my insanity.

Then looking around, I saw my coworker Carrie in the store, here to find a tie for her boyfriend. She teased me that she would have expected to see me at the jewelry stores. "That's on the itinerary," I joked back. We promised we will see each other next week, and then parted. I went back to perusing shirts, when I recognised a melody on the radio.

Everyone has heard "Killing Me Softly," that so frequently covered song, at least once. I heard it for the first time in my sleep. Back when all of us kids shared the same room, my brother collected vinyl records; some of them we still have, although I think the record player is gone. He put on "Killing Me Softly" when I was still asleep, and somehow my sleepy brain processed the meaning of the words and integrated them into my dream. I saw "this young boy, a stranger to my eye," only in the dream he was associated with the remains of a city after an annihilating fire, and the boy was a psychic who can tell you about your life when feeling your face with his finger (a mishearing of the lyric I believed in until very recently).

I heard he sang a good song
I heard he had a style
And so I came to see him
To listen for a while
And there he was this young boy
A stranger to my eyes

"Strumming my pain with his fingers," the salesgirl who had danced sang along. On the other side of the clothing rack, I joined in: "Singing my life with his words..."

"How can you not sing along to that?" she cried.

"When all of your coworkers rally together to tell you not to?" I arched my eyebrows, laughing from long experience. I am normal! Well, not alone, that is.
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly... with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me softly.
With his song.

I felt all flushed with fever
Embarrassed by the crowd
I felt he found my letters
And read each one out loud
I prayed that he would finish
But he just kept right on

Strumming my pain with his fingers,
Singing my life with his words,
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly... with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me softly.
With his song.

He sang as if he knew me
In all my dark despair,
And then he looked right through me
As if I wasn't there,
But he was there, this stranger
Singing clear and strong,

Strumming my pain with his fingers,
Singing my life with his words,
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly... with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me softly.
With his song.

Well, all my dark despair is something I do not have now, thank God. And the vast majority of my letters are humorous or businesslike; the ones I sent to Professor Sebbar, my Complex Analysis assignments , would make particularly interesting "strumming my pain with his fingers...singing clear and strong." But today I went back to Tristan & America, hoping to see this girl again, but she wasn't there. This time on the Muzak I heard some hiphop song by a female artist, which heavily sampled, of all things, "If I Were A Rich Man" from the musical Fiddler on the Roof. I sang along as soon as I confirmed that this was so, that songs from the musical based on the Sholom Aleichem stories about a poor Russian Jew milkman are now sung by American, likely black, hiphop artists. Interesting.

How many of us are there, the people who dance and sing, "those who dance, (who) are called insane by those who cannot hear the music"? It came to me, on the eve of a new year, that I could have sung my life.

"How you meet the New Year is how you will spend it," the Russian superstition goes. If that extends to the millennium, I am going to spend the millennium watching old movies, I guess. Last year (2005) I met in the company of not my personal friends but very nice people nevertheless; and perhaps that is how I spent most of the year. This year I declined an invitation to join an old friend and his new friends at a pub for New Year's - I would rather spend it with my family. Watching old movies, or comedies. Writing. Publishing.

My New Year's Resolutions:
1. I will attend more aikido. I will get my fourth kyu, and hopefully my third and onwards.
2. I will get into dance ensemble performances.
3. I will submit my novel, with the blessing of my editors, whom I love and wish a happy new year to.
4. I will ski lots.
5. I will play more trivia, to keep the edge up.
6. I will take the trivia team to Chicago and through a successful Reach season.
7. I will stretch daily.
8. I will edit more.
9. I will try to finally learn to drive. My New Year's resolution for 2007 has better be to learn to drive, because my license expires then.
10. I will tell the nicest people who are not right for me the truth about that as soon as I figure it out myself.
11. I will not buy so much jewelry (well, I do leave myself a loophole that the jewelry I do buy may be more expensive than in past years.)
12. I will never assume that a subject exam or test is going to be easy. I will study. Although two exams on the same day is very hard.
13. I will not let a single comment, even by someone I respect, even by someone I love and adore, ruin my view of something I love.
14. I will write to please myself. Let the math people whine that there is too much jewelry talk, and the shopping people whine that there is too much math talk, and the linguists whine that I don't only talk of linguistics, and all of them whine that there is too much poetry and song lyrics and translations. I write for love first and foremost, not to please them all. But if I am writing incomprehensible sentences, I won't dig my heels in.
15. I will not break myself to keep a promise.
16. I will not drink cheap tea.
17. I will keep in touch with my friends (by the way, the next post will be dedicated to what happened yesterday, and I will title it "A Ferrari Full of Geishas"). Perhaps this blog is a satisfactory way of fulfilling that.
18. I will take care of any pains as soon as possible after they happen.
19. I will make a sincere effort not to yell at my parents. Even when I am really stressed out.
20. I will not let interest charges collect on my credit card (not that I did this year, but this is a preemptive resolution.)
21. I will remember how to integrate by parts.
22. I will apply for a TA-ship.
23. I will learn to do eight obertas turns in a row.
24. I will not waste my time just because of a man. Any man.
25. I will learn some chiromancy.
26. I will walk more.

Happy 2006, and I wish you joy.
In algebra, there is the concept of a linear transformation such that when its argument is changed by a small amount, the image only changes in a small way. I.e. you've got some x turning into some y. Now when you move x just a wee bit, y will also move just a wee bit, not out into left field. Such problems are called well-conditioned. One can see another meaning for the term "well-conditioned problem," though: a problem that is predictable, where you know all the parameters, and you know it will not suddenly start acting in completely bizarre ways. I have been thinking about such problems lately, (especially since I have just discovered, to my shock and horror, that Applied Linear Algebra is the worst mark I have ever had in university. Aw well, go on and deal with it, another idea that has been often on my mind lately. I have managed to get $6000 from this university already, which is more than most, especially in mathematics.)

Washing the dishes on Monday morning, I began to complain again that it has been seven months since we have had hot water, and washing dishes in ice water is excruciating. I decided to try another point of attack on my father, who seems to always have other priorities and is always repeating, "You do not understand. Other things are more important than hot water. Like human relationships."

"Well," I finally snapped, "the lack of hot water is completely ruining my relationship with you, and you know what I think? I think you cannot fix the hot water problem, and you are just afraid to admit it. We will never have hot water. Stand up and admit it, I dare you. You just don't have the guts to confess there is something beyond your capabilities and ask for help for others to solve this. You don't know how to fix the water."

I went on in this rant for a while, intentionally being as cruel as I know how. I was feeling incredibly frustrated, suffering over a situation beyond my control, seeing no way out. He tried to somehow blame me for not mopping the floor as an adequate response to my accusation, an approach that does not make logical sense then or now. Finally, just as I, having vented enough, set off to go to the school, vowing that I am now saving up my money to move out as soon as I possibly can, and I do not care if to a hole in the wall, as long as it has hot water in the tap, my mother appeared. Without any shame, I repeated my entire accusation to her; from the information I had, it seemed perfectly true. "We have not had hot water since May, and we seem to just grit our teeth and bear it, and no one is doing anything about it! I think we will never have any hot water, all because of my father's stubborn pride, in not daring to admit to his dying day that there is something he cannot do, claiming instead that he just has other priorities!"

"You don't understand," my mother said. "We will have hot water. We have looked at replacement boilers. It is just that a boiler costs $2500, not including the taxes, and we do not have that money right now, what with the coming year's property taxes and the mortgage and all that. He is hoping it will get cheaper after Boxing Day."

Ontario taxes are 15% - a tenth, and then half a tenth. $375. Now why did he never simply say that? Suddenly the problem was reduced to dollars and cents, and though they were a great many dollars and cents, here was something I could actually do. Something I could actually deal with. Human relationships and human priorities, especially those of my father, I found as unconquerable as fighting a fog, and as frustrating, but I can calculate how much money I have, how much money I need, how much I can spare, how much I can project to earn. Any sizable contribution to a boiler fund would scrap or slow down any jewelry aspirations I have, and indeed put my trip to Chicago in deep jeopardy, but I now know that a hot shower in midwinter is the sweetest, most sensual luxury I have ever experienced, if you are not sure where the next one is coming from, and for that and for the feeling of grease vanishing from porcelain under my hands without cold pain, I can postpone gold and sapphires.

But why in the world didn't he simply state the problem to me, instead of yammering about priorities and human relationships and floors? I had known all my life we are not rich. It is not exactly a source of shame to lack $2500 in disposable income; I have known all my life that there were some toys I could not have, some books better acquired from the St. Vincent de Paul's than from Chapters; I dealt with it. Indeed, some of the abilities I have had to gain through lacking the money to outsource them I take pride in: I can cook, I can replace a flat tire, I can reglue a shoe sole --- and I can also order from restaurants and book hotel rooms, something my family does not do and I myself do only occasionally. It was a relief to first start earning my own money and thus developing my own taste. I can certainly understand what $2500 + tax means. It would have saved a great deal of friction to simply tell that to me instead of making me guess and flail like a fish on the ice at a problem I could not perceive.

Because of that argument, I arrived late to the NAQT practice, where I had promised I would play. Lady Mollweide was occupied, so Rustem read. I had said to the students that I would try myself against them, and if I do not qualify as an alternate on the team, I am not qualified to coach them.

Well, it seems I am not qualified to coach them, and I guess they must deal with that, because I am the only coach they've got. I only answered one tossup (on Amaterasu, Japanese goddess of the sun); the ones I knew, someone always either got or got wrong before me. I did almost-sweep a bonus on whether the following operations are associative, commutative (poor Rustem pronounced it "communicative"), both or neither. (Of course the only non-commutative thing a high school student may have heard of is quaternions, but I should have remembered diagonal matrices are commutative. Non-associative things you do not hit until Lie algebras, and I only know that because I wandered into Lie algebra seminars on occasion.)

It is the lack of practice that is getting at me; I have not been at trivia practices since at least October, and now I am slow and off. On the other hand, I am the only coach they have, and when I sat down next to Roland, he whispered to me, "That was a comforting email you sent me a couple of weeks ago." And about six tossups in, just about everyone on the team asked me, "Tourmaline, could you please read?"

So what is better, being a player or being a coach?

Higgledy piggledy
Reach volunteer coaches
Say their reward is
The joy of the game.
Once I get out of this school
What I have coming to me,
I'll recant and say, 'No,
It's the glory and fame.'
- With apologies to the late Alanna Little

On Tuesday the same thing happened. I am a little better at Reach than I am at NAQT - I wonder why. Possibly it is because the questions are shorter and begin less obscurely. Possibly it is because Lady Mollweide and Cuchulain read. I remember knowing about pulmonary arteries and jacks-in-the-pulpit. Next year, I vow I will practice more. More aikido and more trivia. Intro to Topology should hopefully be the only hard course; and I know I have said the same thing about this semester, disregarding Applied Linear Algebra. I cannot really blame Dr. Ng; first of all, since he has teaching awards to his credit, no one will believe me, and secondly, what separates the excellent students from the merely good ones, Professor Racine once told us and I never forgot it, is that the excellent students will succeed despite a bad teacher. After all, if you fail because of a bad prof, it is not like the prof sleeps any worse at night. You failed because you did not work.

Work at the Bagelshop is, as may be expected at this time of year, insane. I think the stress is getting to Rosa too, since it seems that every time we little ones catch her eye, she snipes at us with some reminder. On Monday she sent me to put out jars (of Kincade's very nice sauces and jellies) with the message, "You have to be on top of things this time of year!" Kneeling in the aisle, sorting the jars, I muttered to myself, "I hate this time of year. Hate it, hate it, hate it." Alas, a customer overheard, but said understandingly, "You're not the only one."

Christmas, especially the Christmas of December 25, means very little to the culture I originally come from. Our family has taken up giving each other presents on December 25, as well as on New Year's Day as we always do, because, well, everyone else is doing it. Besides, for New Year's Day you can ask for the things you did not get for Christmas, and take advantage of Boxing Day sales. But since my mother is guaranteed to work on Christmas, for the great overtime pay, we have very little incentive otherwise to get ourselves organised and decorate a tree or anything. Last two years we did not even have a tree. We're just an apathetic bunch. And since I would not dream of asking my family for a Birks necklace (maybe someday I'll marry rich, but even then if I respect him I would not milk him, as I said before) all I wanted for Christmas was a lovely book called The Slavonic Languages, and my brother ordered it, but then apparently informed him that the book is out of print and cannot be gotten.

So I am not in a "holiday spirit" at all right now. Ellard, one of the Bagelshop drivers (and I am certain never in his born days would anyone associate him with the name Ellard) said to me, "Oh, I bet your boyfriend will give you an expensive present." Certainly, if there was one bet I really should have made, and for my paycheck, it would be this one. I'll win.

In an effort to resist the all-pervasive Christmas carols on the piped-in Bagelshop speakers and everywhere else I go (Chez 106 Classic Rock: The Bear is a surprising island of sanity) yesterday I stubbornly rebelled and started singing all the Hanukkah songs I know. In a row. Without stopping. Repeating a previous one if I could not think of a new one. In English, Hebrew and Yiddish. Honey, if you have heard the rendition of "Santa Claus is Coming To Town" by someone who seems to be trying hard to move his bowels at the same time (I thought recording studios had washrooms available off studio space), and heard it thirteen times during a single six-hour shift, as well as a performance of "Winter Wonderland" which seems to have read the score upside-down...I bet you you would have done the same. "Yemei ha-Hanuka Hanuka migdasheinu..." (I do not yet know Hebrew html. Irene, or somebody, contribute if you please).

So I am now rebelling against Christmas driving me insane by driving my coworkers insane with Hanukkah songs (and if my coworkers read this, and Mysteryperson#1 may, wait until after New Year's Day before I even consider apologising). I went home with the firm intention to ski. But my legs were dead from the hip down. So I studied for His.Ling instead. I was very ready to call this post "The Origins of the Aardvark."

"The Origins of the Aardvark" was just a joke from Historical Linguistics class. We were discussing how Dutch changed to Afrikaans, and I queried how "aardvark," about the only Afrikaans word I know for sure (well, there's aardwolf and apartheid) came to be. Prof. Jensen, of course, recommended I write a term paper on the etymology and sound changes involved in that word. I laughed: "The Origins of the Aardvark; how can anyone resist such a title?" I was studying too much for His.Ling yesterday, only to recall today, after getting up in the morning and getting all dolled up, that the exam is at 2 pm, not 9:30 am. In memory of this, while I have still not written an exam, I want to write under the banner of the Origins of the Aardvark. (If you have not figured out yet that I am silly sometimes, (a) welcome to this blog, read some more, (b) if you have, and my silliness displeases you, you may consider other blogs, more serious ones, instead.)

Then I went out of the house - first to settle some banking, then I dropped by Magpie, just for a cursory visit, and then by Birks. Darn, I still love that necklace. I inquired about Birks cards, and was told that you get approval on the spot upon inspection of your major credit card. Now I have a stellar credit history (I mentioned before that I have a paranoid fear of compound interest), but for an amount smaller than the price of that necklace. I walked out, getting my priorities straight: hot water, tuition, and Chicago do come ahead of beautiful baubles. I will have it someday; I know I will.

Before the exam, I talked to a girl whom I'll call Rachel because I do not know her name, but I have noticed she likes science fiction and fantasy. She is apparently writing an alternate history about mutated superior beings, and wanted a name for them, since Homo sapiens superior is copyrighted by the X-Men. I made a suggestion; we spoke for a while of science fiction and school. It got me back on the ground to talk to someone who is grateful to pass courses, instead of killing herself when her CGPA slips below 8.5. I wrote the exam in a good frame of mind. Just before 3:00 I finally got the epiphany on the internal reconstruction/phonology problem, wrote the corrected answer in the booklet we were supposed to use for the bonus question, handed it in, wished Jensen a merry Christmas, and trundled off to the school.

There were only two people in Math Help today. One was my good acquaintance the p-adically challenged gentleman; the other was the spunky grade 10 (both of whom you first meet here)
There were also two young men with Lady Cauchy and the Finance teacher who were not mathematically challenged (well, they were, in a way: they were picking up the results of the Canadian Open Mathematics Challenge). We got into a discussion of the future of Calculus, (I learned nothing I have not already acquainted the reader with except for the proposal conics should be taught in Geo & Discrete - "That would be so fun!" I chirped) and the possibilities of Geometry and Discrete Math: the difference between the algorithm-based math of Advanced Functions and Introductory Calculus and the proof-based math of two-thirds of Geo & Discrete.

"The way I see it" I said, "algorithms are like going up a staircase. You go up, without ever seeing what is on either side of you. Real proof math is like flying above everything, seeing everything clearly and how it works..." I trailed off. I wax poetic about mathematics sometimes. At least that is not all I talk about.

"I have heard that in university now all the stuff that you learned in Discrete they spend like a week on," said Lady Cauchy.

"Two days," I replied brightly. "Actually, no, one day. 'This is a vector. This is dot product. This is cross product. Got it?' The next day was polar form of complex numbers; I remember because a substitute taught it. And the day after that you get straight into subspaces."

The two gentlemen got horrified looks on their faces.

"You see," I tried to explain, "a line is a subspace of a plane, and a plane is a subspace of the space R^3, and R^3 itself is a subspace of some R^4..." I had to stop again. Someday I will teach linear algebra, and teach it well. Maybe even applied. As revenge.

"What is the difference between Discrete and Discrete Gifted?"

"Very little," Lady Cauchy began to explain.

"I didn't take Gifted," I whined. Yes, my IPRC (some kind of Placement and Review Committee) said for grade 12 that given all of Tourmaline's special needs to be stimulated beyond the standard curriculum and to interact with people of similar ability, we have concluded the right place for her is the Regular program. The school was poor that year.

Lady Cauchy pointed out that most of the people who are winning math contests are not in Gifted overall. Which makes kind of sense, I thought, though I did not say it out loud. I wonder how many of the great mathematicians I know can write a good essay on the reign of Louis XIV, a thing I remember doing for History AP (don't ask me now what the Sun King did).

After the gentlemen left, having acquired their math results, and only the truly challenged remained, Lady Cauchy, the Finance teacher and I spoke for a while of a project run by National Geographic that analyses people's DNA and shows the migration routes of their ancestors. Apparently Lady Cauchy's husband's people did not get out of Africa and immediately make a beeline for Scandinavia; they hung out in Italy for a little bit first. I brought up the satem/centum language split, and that the Slavs are closer to the Indo-Persians than to the Germanic and Romance peoples. I am pretty sure my own ancestors have been sitting around Eastern Europe for a pretty long time, unless, I always allow, some Mongol raped someone. Если кто и влез ко мне, так и тот татарин. (Even if someone did crawl in with me, that one is a Tartar. - Vladimir Vissotsky) But that project would be interesting.

Then Lady Cauchy and the Finance teacher started suddenly talking about dancing, and my ears pricked up.

"What kind of dancing? When are you dancing?"

"On Friday..."

I put two and two together, and the answer was isomorphic to the Klein group. "The teachers' skit in the assembly? They're going to dance?" Now this is something worth watching!

"Or try to. Hopefully."


Lady Cauchy rattled off a list of names: Lady Runfar, Lord Locus, other teachers my life mostly does not touch...

I started reminiscing about great assembly skits of Christmas past, and somehow told the Finance teacher and the p-adically challenged gentleman the story of the skit of the Twenty-three Dark Lords, a skit I may or may not describe elsewhere at a later time. I had forgotten that the p-adically challenged gentleman is a student of the Dark Lord's Integrated Arts class. "I am so going to tease him about that."

"He'll kill me!" I cried in mock horror. "I am the archivist and historian of this school's Christmas assemblies, it seems; I actually come back here."

Lady Cauchy was leaving. "Is Lady Melpomene dancing?" I asked her.

"Yes, she is."

"Great, she at least knows how."

"The Dark Lord, isn't, though. We'll persuade him someday."

"The Dark Lord dancing is an image that is...interesting. By the way," I asked a question that eight people who may read this blog may know the reason for, "can he cook?"

Lady Cauchy has supreme assurance in every possible ability of the Dark Lord's, including both cooking and dancing. "He can fly. That means he can dance."

"I can dance," I said calmly (I think I will blame bipolar disorder for my forgetting the many times I agonised and was depressed about dancing on this blog - check any post that was written on a Friday or Sunday) "I cannot fly, though." Hey, I have aikido, now that I think of it, and I had joked that I joined aikido because I wanted to learn to fly. I found out too late that you only do it down.

After I left Math Help, declaring that as it was there was one teacher per student - the best ratio ever! - I dropped by the math office, and the Dark Lord answered the door.

"First of all, I told one of your students about the Twenty-three Dark Lords skit, please do not kill me," I rattled off. "Secondly, any better?"


"Then I will leave. Again, a reminder not to kill me."

Still cheerful, I flew off (horizontally on a bike, that is, but I danced a bit too). At Dilemme (I think there is a pattern to me going shopping after talking to the Dark Lord. Any Freudians in the audience please shut up), a lady was admiring a china mock samovar, and saying she could use it as a teapot. I pointed out that you boil water in samovars, and you brew the tea in the teapot on top of them. The lady gave me a hug, I do not know why, and said she will use it for a teapot anyhow. I left soon after. I do not think Dilemme has anything left for me, anything that is worth the price of hot water.

At Magpie, though, they had set out new Experimetal designs, including a citrine briolette necklace I tried on. But that one is the colour of pineapple juice, and vanishes around my throat, while the Birks one is liquid honey. No money, honey.

I went home, wrote some of this, then finally went to the shed to get the implements of the physical activity I love most after or concurrently with dance and aikido - cross-country skiing. Well, I think horseback riding might fit in there somewhere, but I ride as badly as I ski, and have done so less recently.

Now, if I had a car, and world enough and time, I would go to Gatineau Park. I would not say the Dark Lord is my hero, but he does have some things I envy desperately. As it is, I made a circle around the park across the street, concluding
(a) it is very bumpy and I hate making trails
(b) I need wax
(c) at least I remember how to ski enough to realise that I hate making trails and that I need wax. You have to admit, it's getting better, it's getting better all the time...
(d) dogs freak out at the sight of me. But if I go out any later, I will not get enough sleep.
(e) I still cannot kick. But maybe that is the wax's fault.
(f) I no longer dread the length of winter stretching ahead of me; I need all the time I can get to get better at this!
(g) Dark Lord, how dare you sulk when you have all those wonderful things I don't!
(Including, I would bet, knowing where your next hot shower is coming from.)

I trotted home, still singing Hanukkah songs.

Chag sameach gam l'chem - (ch is a pharyngeal or velar fricative, and a happy holiday to you as well)
I made a claim, based on Nursing Made Incredibly Easy!'s description of bipolar disorder, that bipolar disorder - episodes of feeling very good indeed mixed with episodes of feeling very bad indeed - matches being in love symptom for symptom. On looking into the Wikipedia, where there is a very good article on bipolar disorder, I may have been a little generous. Or maybe, which is more likely, I have bipolar disorder. I like Bipolar I: it sounds more fun*. All a diagnosis requires is one manic episode, and I can recall at least three.

*This may seem like a very crass statement to those people who may read this and may suffer from debilitating mania, requiring medication. By the description of mania as very high euphoria, accompanied by a flight of ideas, I have felt that quite a few times. As for distractability, ignorance of danger...well, I am typing this now instead of studying for two math exams because I simply cannot look at math anymore for at least an hour.

One episode I had in grade ten, triggered by talking to my crush, I was so intrigued by I wrote the symptoms down, and later put them in my novel almost verbatim:

"She was singing and weeping without real sound or real tears. Agony and ecstasy, good and evil, went to their extremes and met each other on the other side of the circle. She wanted to (get on her bike) and ride, ride as fast as she could and faster still, but ... she knew that it would not cure the feelings that were bursting her and tearing her heart apart. Riding was not what she wanted, and neither was weeping --- what was there to weep for? --- nor laughing, nor flying. There was just one thing she knew would cure her, and that was to tear her bursting heart out of herself, through the ribs and out, and hold it high, a trembling ball of glowing golden astral matter." [Unpublished.]

This is not something you can just make up. And this was not the only time. I often associated those episodes with talking to the men I loved (I promised I will not talk more about them) but I once had one come on in the topology lecture of Calculus III, and very often I get them by dancing to a song I like. In the Wikipedia description of hypomania, it mentions that some people have hypomania as their baseline. I think that's me:
"Insanely so." Are other people any other way, and do not have cheerful as their default state? [ibid.]

Ok, so the Nursing Made Incredibly Easy! article also says that it is very hard to diagnose bipolar in teenagers because the hormonal flux is similar to many of the symptoms. And I never had the symptom of being "overtly and inappropriately sexual" (if anyone disagrees, stand up now and state your case). Indeed, I may be playing Jerome K. Jerome, whose narrator in the book Three Men in a Boat, (To Say Nothing of the Dog), reads a medical manual and diagnoses himself with every single illness in there except housemaid's knee (or, in the Russian translation which I find even more fun, morning sickness.) Which supports my point that love and bipolar are very closely related. Or maybe my aspirations towards Bipolar I are thwarted and I may just have mild Bipolar II after all. Because I have definitely been depressed.

Just thinking of my trip to Russia the summer of 2004 still makes me shudder and want a hug, if not cry. It had begun when visiting my mother's aging stepmother and her brother. Seeing the dirt in which those people lived, their talk of pensions and laying hens and goats and local murders juxtaposed with my father's endless talk of parasites... When we were biking back to the place we were staying at, I burst into tears on the dark unpaved road: "Oh why did you bring me there! There is no hope in this place!" And the nearest people who could offer me emotional support in that dark place were a third of a world away, and no one I met had any music, or any dancing, to say nothing of email to write to the people I needed. In Moscow, I, in desperation for music, turned to Russian MTV, and the first thing I saw there was...Avril Lavigne. I was never a fan, but perhaps I owe Avril Lavigne a chunk of my sanity. Moscow was better, but during the whole of that trip I never fully recovered, and rarely had even a glimpse of hope until I saw Italy. My stability, it seems, rests on the several delicate posts of music and dance, writing, the pursuit of knowledge (currently in math and linguistics) and my relationships with the people I love, and I had only a little writing there to support me. I wrote in my journal afterwards:
"I had gone into a dark place
And forgotten how to dance."

I have had occasional episodes of feeling down and depressed before, and after, and even recently after the Friday before last's dance rehearsal. There is a poem I wrote in grade 12, when I was already acquainted with the feelings (that poem was spurred by a secret crush misunderstanding me). It has been published in Teen Angst Poetry, but the copyright remains with me, so I will put it here. Paradoxically, repeating it several times helps me a lot when I am feeling depressed, despite it exactly putting my feelings into words; maybe putting feelings into words makes them less real.

The story of pain no one can tell
Though men have told of the circles of hell,
They can’t tell of when there never was joy under the sky
And fear blocks the way to the freedom to die.
They can’t tell of when strength does not match desire;
You cannot go any higher.
Don’t even try,
You were living a lie,
All gifts that the gilded days past gave
Were to mock a weakling and a slave.
No one else can tell,
No one knows at all
Of the shards’ sharp edges when stars fall,
Of the darkness that comes when you awake,
Of the eternal scourge of one mistake,
Of the unshed tears,
Of the tangling fears,
Of calls and calls knowing no one hears,
Of cold grey rain,
Of the unwashable stain,
Of the endless refrain
Again and again,
Again, again,
All life was in vain.
Of pain.

Maybe this poem works as a reciting mantra because it basically says "Nobody knows how you feel, you are all alone, so deal with it." If anyone else reads this and has episodes of depression, you are welcome to the poem if it helps you any.

Another post I may tell of other people who have saved my sanity, besides Avril Lavigne, who just happened to be on MTV when a really indescribably lonely homesick Canadian turned it on.

Why do I tell of all this? Because if I do turn out to have bipolar disorder... for the people who love me, remember the knife edge I walk and - catch me if I fall.


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