23 October 2007

Outside In

How to turn a sphere inside-out (but not a circle).

click for video

From the geometry center.

05 May 2007

I'm bored.

I'll admit it. I am terrified at the prospect of being trapped for more than a few minutes alone (like on a train or plane) without something to read or write.

Sure, being alone with my thoughts can be pleasant. Sometimes they slide dreamlike into each other and into unexpected and interesting territories. But like dreams, they're usually just out of reach of language and memory. And when I try to fix them in one place, or direct them, they end up in these aggravatingly useless circles, which I know I could easily straighten out with a pen and paper.

I shamelessly project these preferences on others too. I love how my dad will bring two books to the beach just in case he finishes one. I can't help but notice that subway riders in NYC read far more than those in Boston, and I can't help but feel a little surge of affection for New Yorkers every time this happens. Sitting in a Bristol doctor's waiting room with a pleasantly long manuscript to read, it was distressing to see how many other people had not even magazines for the hour-long wait. A mentally retarded guy in maybe his early 20's was in the waiting room too, and wasted no time in going to the children's area and playing with the sliding blocks. I respected that. (The toy with the marbles looked particularly fun.) And of all the atrocities committed by the US/UK in the GWOT one of the most vivid in my mind was when they banned books on transatlantic flights. Torture, massacres, dispossession---these I could understand---but what kind of twisted mind would ban books "just until things settled down"?

However, a recent paper titled A desire for desires: Boredom and its relation to alexithymia suggests that I shouldn't be so smug:

the bored individual is unaware of emotions and externally-oriented. Furthermore, although the bored person typically complains that the external world fails to engage them, the present findings suggest the underlying problem may be in the person’s inability to consciously access and understand their emotions. The present findings and accompanying literature review challenge the simplistic notion that boredom is never more than a trivial annoyance resulting from an under-stimulating environment.
This is only statistical correlation, I know, but perhaps should be occasion for introspection. On the other hand, that sounds boring, so I think I'll skip it.

30 April 2007

women's underwear

A recent post at I Blame the Patriarchy was hilarious enough to remind me of why I started reading the blog in the first place:
I mean to say that in report after gruesome report on torture tactics sanctioned by the Secretary of Defense and employed by American sociopath-imperialist forces in hell-holes like Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, one reads ceaselessly of “snarling military dogs,” “stress positions,” “deprivation of light and auditory stimuli,” “20-hour interrogations,” “sleep deprivation,” “forced to perform tricks while tethered to dog leash,” “waterboarding, and “forced to wear women’s underwear on head.”
The rest of the post continues with an excellent discussion of why this last atrocity is so particularly degrading. Instead of commenting further, I'll recommend you check it out yourself.

Instead, I'd like to add my own story to this under-discussed field.

A few years ago I was buying undershirts in a K-mart. It took me a while to find them because they weren't with the other plain T-shirts, but were in the [Men's] "Underwear and Socks" section of the store. By this time I had thoroughly explored the K-Mart clothing department. Strangely, while there was a Women's Socks department, there were no signs for Women's Underwear. Instead the place to buy women's underwear was called "Intimate Apparel." (You can see this replicated in their online men's and women's catalogues.)

Hopefully any comment I could make here about how only women are thought to be gendered and about the pervasiveness of raunch culture would be superfluous. But could I be alone here in being shocked? Has the rest of the clothes-buying world long since gotten used to this? Or maybe is one of those quotidian horrors (like American TV news) that only becomes less appalling through wearying repetition.

In the next episode, I do a gendered reading of the tanktop. For women a perfectly respectable, if informal, summer top; for men, it is vaguely obscene without a shirt over it. Stay tuned!