Tuesday, March 30, 2010

High Up In The Hills

Pennsylvania roads have a pretty distinct character. It's as though you took the laid-back, sweeping openness of Ohio and then put on your 3D glasses. It's got the same kind of wonderful unlit, two-lane highways, but in Pennsylvania they go winding through hills and mountains. You get fantastic panoramic views of the Appalachians and then they plunge you into these great, wooded valleys, sometimes so steeply that you have to downshift. It's a cool feeling and it sort of smacks of America. Last year, whenever I got too tired of Philly, I'd take a Zipcar out past the suburbs just to drive around on those roads.

I had to drive to Pottstown last night for my Latin Pedagogy mentorship project. I did it late at night, after the sun was down and the traffic had cleared, and I listened to all my Josh Ritter songs. It was awesome. I could live in Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ain't Heavy

In line at the supermarket checkout, I saw a magazine ad which encouraged me to "Lose weight with the pros!"

At first, this sounds like a sensible idea. After I thought about it for a moment, though, I realized it implied the existence of weight-loss professionals. This doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. A professional weight-loser should be better than a normal person at losing weight. So are they skinny people? Skinny people, arguably, are terrible at losing weight; they aren't usually losing any at all. They don't need to. But if fat people are good at it, they become skinny people.

So then I thought, maybe a professional weight-loser goes in cycles; they lose weight, and then regain it in order to lose it again. Otherwise, you couldn't really sustain a career once some amount of weight was lost. But that doesn't really work either. If you measured their weight at the wrong intervals, you could show weight stasis or even net gain, and for me that hardly qualifies as professional weight loss. Weight loss would have to be continuous, albeit allowing for small short-term gains or losses (when food is consumed, when one gets a haircut, etc). The trouble, it seems, is that it's impossible to lose weight indefinitely.

Or is it? What if one's weight loss followed an asymptotic curve? Net weight loss could increase indefinitely but never beyond a certain point. But then you have someone who, while losing weight continuously, gets progressively worse at it. That doesn't seem to fit the bill for a professional, either.

The other possibility is that they lose weight more and more rapidly until they vanish. This means they'd have to start very very slowly, or else that they'd be in for very short careers. I don't really think that's a very likely scenario, but I do sometimes wonder what would happen if we stopped feeding Shalini for a day or so.

Anyway, that's as far as I got before it was my turn to pay.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fixing A Hole

The other day, Michael and Alex and I were standing outside Marie Mount Hall and watching a squirrel. The squirrel had picked up a student newspaper- no mean feat, as it was larger than him- and carried it laboriously up to a hole in a tree. Once there, he tried to push it into the hole, only to have it torn from his grasp by a gust of wind. Undaunted, the squirrel traipsed back down the tree and after some searching found the paper again. This time, he tore it in half, carried half of it back up the tree, successfully inserted it and himself into the hole, and then sat looking out at us with a very smug, satisfied demeanor.

"Holy shit," said Michael, "I think we just saw a live-action parable. If Jesus saw that, he would talk about it to his disciples or something."

Then we went inside to learn about Tacitus.