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Friday, January 20, 2012

Murphy's Law

I am in Prof. Murphy's precalculus course again, but this time it is at night. Last semester I did not feel like talking about the fact that I had to drop two courses. It will suffice to say that everything which could have gone wrong certainly did.

The walk across campus to my math class yesterday evening seemed dream-like. After six weeks with virtually no schedule, I am taking courses at weird hours. Since it was late, there were fewer pseudo-random event generators (students) passing near me. I noted the differences in sound, scent, temperature, and just about everything else which would result from being on campus at a late hour. Class went okay though. After nearly two hours discussing functions and linear equations, it was time to leave. Prof. Murphy explained that the OSD would soon be sending me the Brailled first four sections of the book. I promised to email him if I heard anything from the OSD and then headed outside. Again, it felt so still and strange to be here this late. I had to stay focused and find the place where the short bus would pick me up or risk getting lost in open spaces.
"Amanda!" An unfamiliar voice, sounding out of breath. "I'm glad I found you. We've been Brailling all night."
The voice belonged to the OSD's new employee, who handed me an envelope containing an inch-thick volume of paper Brailled on both sides. Naturally, I was looking forward to getting some work done and began looking it over on the short bus. It contained mostly indecipherable gibberish, adding to the unreality of the school day.

Later, I sent an email explaining the situation to two people in the math department and three in the department responsible for the Braille. My last sentence, "I could really use some help," is an understatement. I've been at this school since 2007, and this sort of thing is not new. As I was composing, I received a message from Prof. Baldwin asking how the latest upgrade to my software was coming along. I didn't want to touch it. Something would surely go wrong. I imagined reams of nonsense-covered paper flying out of an embosser which I had previously unplugged from the wall. In dreams, even the laws of physics and cause and effect are not enough to constrain the chaos. All the things which should never go wrong most likely will. Dreams, or encounters with average human beings?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Picture from New Year's Eve

I am trying to learn about 3D shapes and finding it more difficult than I could have imagined. Starting on New Year's Eve, I've examined this cube from many angles in order to construct a mental 3D representation.

This picture is of me contemplating a black cube whose edges are outlined in Christmas lights. It is a cardboard box. Each dimension is a different length from the other two, and it is covered in black paper. Along every edge, at about one-inch intervals, is a hole with a light sticking out of it, so in a dark room I can only see the lit edges. For users of the vOICe, the cube is in the lower-left portion of the image. It is a little less than half the width of the image and a little more than half the height. I am on the far right side. The watch on my left arm, which is hanging down at my side, is at the bottom and the top of my head is at the top. My width is about forty percent of the right side of the picture. To me, the most noticeable things are the cube which I can recognize using zoom, the human-type shape which must be me, and the reflective watch near the right. There is also some stuff in the middle which is probably a table with papers on it. Thanks to Prof. Baldwin for cropping the picture and for his excellent descriptions. Also Thanks to Dave, the clever one who assembled the cube.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Child's Story

It was time to listen to a story. After we had seated ourselves in a circle on the soft carpet and the others had grown quiet, the teacher handed me a small book with plastic covers and pages. "You should narrate today's story," she instructed. I began to read.
"once there was a little girl named Amanda. Hey, just because the main character has my name doesn't mean I should have to read this. I am not a little girl. I've never let anyone call me that."
"just keep reading," came the teacher's voice. "Once there was a girl named Amanda..."

And then I was outside on a swing set in the middle of a perfect Spring day. Directly to my right, a familiar girl who had to be younger than ten years old was swinging in sync with me. I had no idea of where I was or even my age. On a swing set those things just don't seem to matter. From that other place came the almost inaudible voice of the other instance of myself who was still reading the story. "Amanda," called the girl to my right, "look up." I tilted my head all the way back as a friend in real life had only taught me to do less than two weeks ago. High above me I saw several branches of the tree which must have been supporting my swing. But that wasn't all of what she wanted to show me. She used many visual and color words for which I had no understanding, asking, "don't you see them?"
"The algorithm was incomplete," I heard the narrator say. What kind of kids' book contains the word 'algorithm?' It was as though I were on a wheel which had spun to the beginning of these events. I was once again the narrator, now holding the idea of a book and hearing the concept of a stern teacher instructing me to read.
"Once there was someone named Amanda."
On the swing again, the girl gestured. "Amanda, look up!" Was that excitement in her voice? I was enjoying the tree's geometry. For the first time I was aware of intricate patterns at a distance which could never be touched. Not one soundscape was ever heard. She kept trying to draw my attention to these other things. All I could see of them were nonsensical patches of varying brightness. "You have to see them," she insisted.
"But the algorithm was still incomplete," came the narrator again. So too, I realized, was the story.

Across the street from my parents' home, the familiar bells of the church struck 8 AM. About five seconds later the bell from the nearby middle school sounded four times. It had been such a pleasant dream, but the words "look up!" still echoed in my mind. What am I missing? What has to be done to complete the story?