Random (but not really)

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Love, War and The Matrix

Yeah, I forgot to warn you, The Matrix: Revolutions was playing at the Mountainlair this weekend, so Michael and I went last night.

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Categories: Matrix  

Friday, February 27, 2004

Minnijean Brown-Trickey

Minnijean Brown-Trickey spoke Thursday night as part of WVU’s Festival of Ideas program.

Minnijean Brown-Trickeywas one of the “Little Rock Nine”-students who desegregated Central High in Little Rock Arkansas in 1957, and she spoke about how that time affected her personally, as well as changed America.

She said that the Little Rock Desegregation Crisis is part of American history, not just black history, because at its core it was a constitutional conflict. This crisis gave individuals an understanding of the theory and practice of racism, was one of the elements that helped to end segregation across the country, and was key to helping people realize some sense of self-determination.

She said that non-violence is a way of life and quoted the title of a poem by a the Spanish poet Antonio Machado “We Make the Road by Waking” saying that we can not predict the future, we instead make the future ourselves.

She said that we are challenged to take responsibility for the world we live in.

She discussed the history that led to the Little Rock Desegregation Crisis. The Plessy V. Ferguson (1892) decision was the ruling that set up separate but equal and authorized the segregation that separated black from whites in all aspects of life as the justification for Jim Crow laws. She said that there was resistance to this ruling and during this time there were unparalleled acts of violence against blacks, with 10,000 lynchings in 30 years.

Brown v Board of Education (1954) was the ruling that led to desegregation and the time that most Americans would mark as the Civil Rights Movement. She said that it was believed that if young people interacted together, it would make things easier, that children who grew up together would later get along. She said that this ruling affected not just blacks, but also Chinese, Mexicans, Japanese, and other people of color.

Her history in the Little Rock Desegregation Crisis was that in 1957, the Little Rock School Board proposed to desegregate the schools, and when they asked for volunteers and Minnijean Brown and others added their name to the list. That summer the names and addresses of the students who were to desegregate the school were published in the paper, and the violence started immediately.

On the first day of classes, the governor placed troops around the school, and there was a mob outside, as well as media from around the world. When the soldiers closed ranks to keep the students out, this was shown all around the world. This took three weeks to straighten out, and finally the guard left and the students snuck into the school, only to be evacuated for their safety as the mob outside attacked three black newsmen, one of whom died later from his injuries.

Because this was the cold war, and Eisenhower was afraid of what the Russians might think and do, he eventually sent troops to desegregate the school and provide guards for the students.

She said that she wanted to go to school, despite everything, because if they were going to be so threatened to keep them out of that school, then “there must be a treasure in there.”

Minnijean Brown-Trickey said that she never wants what she went through to happen to anyone ever again, yet it did happen again, which disappointed her. She is also disappointed that we are regressing and again becoming a segregated society, although this time the division is occurring on the basis of class and neighborhood and not the outright color segregation that occurred in the past. She asked whether we as a society have decided to allow these cultural enclaves, with the implied question of what will we do to make the change, to keep this from happening.

She said one of her favorite things was what she called the “mirror trick”, or “Seeing myself in every other person.” and she also quoted Gandhi: “We must be the change when we want to change the world.”

She mentioned several of the Principles of Non-Violence, and suggested that they should be a guide for everyone.
1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.

5. Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
6. Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.

(Martin Luther King Jr’s 6 Principles of Non-Violence)

She said most importantly, “I believe non-violence is the strongest force on earth”

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Religion & Philosophy  

Quizzy Time Wasting

You are Rerun!
Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

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Categories: Uncategorized  

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Speaking of Strange Dreams

“The Mob was afraid of me because I was hungry”

Written by Michelle at 3:30 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Non-Sequiturs  


Odd dream again last night. I pulled out one of the more coherent and amusing parts to write up.

There were even stranger parts about the house filling up with foam as a result, but that was weird even for me, so I left everything else out.

And in case it isn’t clear, this was one of those dreams where I was a guy. Not a clue, of course, as to what I looked like. I hope it was ruggedly handsome.

Written by Michelle at 12:36 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
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Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Happy Lent

In case you had missed that yesterday was Mardi Gras (French term that sounds better than Fat Tuesday), today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.

For those who missed the opportunity of being raised Catholic, Lent is the time when we are supposed to give something up—to make a sacrifice.

After Vatican II, the fish on Fridays portion of Catholicism was limited to Fridays during Lent, and for some people this is main portion of their Lenten sacrifice (my family did fish on Fridays and meatless Wednesdays, although I’m not precisely sure where the Wednesday bit came from, since my parents never really told us). One of the priests at the church where I grew up would give up smoking every Lent, only to take it back up after Easter, although I believe that he eventually gave it up permanently. In other words, Lent entails making a sacrifice of some sort, preferably something that you enjoy. (Personally I’d like my grandmother to give up high blood pressure for Lent, but I don’t see that a likely.)

I never really got the point of Lent when I was little. I knew that you are supposed to make a sacrifice during Lent, but I never understood why. It was only later, after I was older, and to be honest after I’d walked away from the Catholic church, that it finally made sense to me. The point of the sacrifice should not be our suffering, and what we are doing, and how much we are giving up, but should instead be on the suffering of others, those whose lives don’t contain the things we have come to appreciate.

In other words, giving up chocolate and sweets may be a nice sacrifice, but is it really helping anyone? Are you taking the money you save from your Lenten sacrifice, and donating it to charity?

Which brings to mind the question of why must we set aside just this one portion of the year to sacrifice for others? One answer would seem to be that we can get caught up in ourselves and our lives, and thus forget about others, and Lent serves as a reminder to us to think about others. But I wonder whether we would be better served if each Lent, instead of giving something up, we started some small act that we continued throughout the year. Perhaps a donation to a charity, or spending some time volunteering. Something that goes beyond the forty days that Lent lasts.

Of course I’m one to talk—I’m not longer sure of my faith and what I believe, but it still seems important somehow to me. That we acknowledge the suffering of others, that we make even a small step to alleviate the suffering of others. I know that I could do more, but I suppose that perhaps a yearly reminder of this isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Written by Michelle at 12:15 pm      Comments (1)  Permalink
Categories: Religion & Philosophy  

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Sylvia Nasar: A Beautiful Mind

Sylvia Nasar
A Beautiful Mind: Genius, Madness, Reawakening

WVU’s Festival of Ideas kicked off with a lecture by Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind, the biography of the mathematician John Nash.

Her talk was good—I think you could tell she was a writer—however her question and answer session was a tad bit rambling and disjointed. It seemed as if she wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to say as she was saying it. It was a somewhat disappointing finish to a good talk.

Her lecture was the life story of the mathematician John Nash. I would guess that she was chosen as the opening lecturer, because John Nash was born in Bluefield, West Virginia, so it seems only appropriate to kick of a West Virginia University lecture series with a talk about someone born in the state.

For those handful of people like myself who have neither seen the movie nor read the book, John Nash was a brilliant mathematician who developed debilitating schizophrenia at the age of 30, and by 90s it was assumed by most people that he was dead. What made his story so compelling, and what made Sylvia Nash want to write his story, is that he eventually overcame his mental illness, and won the Nobel Prize for his work in Game Theory on his Theory of Human Conflict and Cooperation (done prior to his illness). Although he made contributions in pure mathematics, his work in game theory influenced many different fields, such as economics, geometry, biology and political science.

She spoke little of his childhood in WV, other that to say he had eccentric amusements, but one can assume that he probably did not fit in. She also never mentions whether he returns home, so one is left to assume that after leaving the state he does not return. But I’d be pleased to be proven wrong.

Although the mathematics are beyond me, I found the description of Game Theory quite interesting. Initially it was worked as a zero sum game, but John Nash focused upon the more realistic concept, of a non-zero sum game, when there can be a gain for both sides, and also in a theory involving multiple players. This of course made Game Theory applicable to the real world, especially in his description of the equilibrium point, or the theoretical set of circumstance where everyone involved has done their best and is satisfied with the outcome. The whole idea of being able to derive logical rules about human behavior is quite fascinating, as we humans do not particularly care to see ourselves as predictable entities.

One interesting point she brought up, is that when Nash was asked why someone so logical could believe such strange and outlandish ideas, Nash replied that his schizophrenic ideas came to him the same way that his mathematical ideas did. It would have been interesting if she had further addressed this point—is there a relationship between madness and genius? I would also be curious as to whether he would have been willing to give up his genius if that would have meant a normal life.

Sylvia Nash emphasized that the story of John Nash was in fact a love story, and she discussed how Alisha remained with John throughout his illness, despite their divorce and his institutionalization, and she seemed to be saying that it was Alisha who led the way for his eventual recovery, in her believe that Bash’s only hope was to live in a community where at least a few people knew who he had been.

Although that is interesting, I don’t find the love story nearly as compelling as the questions brought up by his madness. Are madness and genius linked? Can you cure one while leaving the other? What was it that allowed John Nash to recover from his schizophrenia later in life? Yes, it is believed that the biological changes of aging have some influence, but what other components affect this? Could these biological changes be studied to determine what leads to the onset of schizophrenia and what causes it to go into remission.

All interesting points, and perhaps ones that will be address by someone else some other time.

Written by Michelle at 10:24 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Non-Sequiturs  
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