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:: Thursday, November 22, 2001 ::

For the past couple days I've been reading the works of Herman Melville. He's the guy who wrote Moby Dick. But I haven't been reading that. I've been reading Billy Budd and Bartleby the Scrivener. This is all for my American Literature independent study.

Billy Budd is pretty straight forward although excrutiatingly boring. It took me a good 5 hours to finish that thing. Its basically about a 1-dimensional character that's always cheerful, stutters when in a tight spot, and throws a blow when he's cornered. That's about all there is to this character. The main content of the story is when he's aboard a military ship at sea and he accidently kills a superior officer. Although he may have been in the moral right, military law demands that he be hung. And he is. So the basic premise of the story is that we have a martyrdom on our hands. Scholars compare it to Christ's crucifixion. Others claim its a parody.

Bartleby the Scrivener is a bit more involved. The title's namesake, Bartleby, is a one-dimensional character who always says, "I would prefer not to," when he's asked to do something. He starts out by being hired by the narrator to do copying work. But he only copies and does nothing else to the lament of the narrator. After a while he stops working altogether and the narrator becomes perplexed by his inactivity and his unwillingness to do anything he says. The narrator asks him to leaves a number of times, but he won't. So to be rid of him, the narrator changes offices and tries to wash his hands of the matter. Of course Bartleby bothers the next tenant of the office, and he eventually gets arrested and thrown in jail. Bartleby then does nothing but face the wall and refuse to eat. He soon dies.

The tricky thing about this story is determing what it all means. It is my belief that the narrator is the subject of scrutiny and not the reticent Bartleby. The narrator is an absolute pushover and lets Bartleby walk all over him. He makes demands, but never follows up on enforcing them. When seeing his will not followed through, he convinces himself that he's allowing Bartleby to stay around for altruistic purposes. He even ends up giving him extra money that he never earned! It seems that the whole symbolism of this story is about being weak-willed and all the self-convincing one does to avoid conflict.

Near the end of the story my hypothesis seems to break down. The narrator leaves Bartleby, but he then starts to antagonize other people in the office building. Of course, the next tenant of the office building seems to be a pushover too because he comes to the narrator to ask him to reason with Bartleby so he'll leave his office. He inevitably gets thrown in jail where he refuses to eat and dies. I have no clue what this means.

Maybe I'll think of something over Thanksgiving.
:: everist 3:09 AM [+] ::
:: Monday, November 19, 2001 ::
Last Friday I had my wisdom teeth removed. All 4 of them. The doctor put me under for about an hour, but I only remember waking up right after I fell asleep. It seemed like no time at all. I had them save my teeth too. They put them in a little plastic container that's shaped like a molar. You can really get a good look at the huge cavity I had in one of those teeth. You could fit a ball bearing in there!

My mom drove me to her house and I spent the entire weekend watching TV, movies, and reading my book. I watched Tigerland, Cast Away, and Shrek. Of course it was kind of eerie when I watched the self-dentist scene in Cast Away when Tom Hanks knocks out a bad tooth with an ice skate and a rock. Nightmare dentistry aside, it was a pleasant weekend.

I also finished reading a book called Cryptonomicon. This is definitely a geeky book. It talks about the lifestyles of being a mathematician in World War 2, and being a geek in the dot com mania. Of course this is a fiction that tells the stories side by side until they connect to a plot conclusion. Strangely enough there is a section in the book where a character talks about his nightmare wisdom teeth that were jammed way up in his skull and having a hell of a time finding an oral surgeon who would be willing to operate on him. I'm thinking this was a conspiracy or something against my teeth and I. Anyway, the Cryptonomicon has basically consumed a good portion of my life for about a week now. I'm finally coming out of it and back to reality.

I just did my homework on the symbolic nature of Edgar Allan Poe's works. Not too hard, I just had to motivate myself to do it.
:: everist 9:48 PM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, November 14, 2001 ::
I finished reading Elegant Universe on Monday. I finally know everything there is to know regarding the Unified Theory of Everything. Except for the math of course. I'm not *that* smart.

Finished reading all of my Edgar Allan Poe stories too. Now I just need to do a little writing on them as well.

Yesterday I went through the OSU schedule of classes trying to figure out what I was going to take for the next 2 terms. I mostly have to sort out what Bac. Core classes I'm going to take and when. So far on my wish list is Russian Culture, Chinese Culture, Scientific Reasoning, and some others I can't remember off the top of my head.

I also have to sort out what restricted electives I'm going to take. So far it is tentatively "Analysis of Algorithms" and whatever is on the "Selected Comp. Sci Topics" class.

:: everist 12:23 PM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, November 07, 2001 ::
More books. I'm currently reading Edgar Allan Poe for my American Literature independent study. This is the easiest author to read so far since I always liked Poe's works. His topics are always about death and despair and have strong symbolism that can't take months to dissect.

I'm also reading "Neuromancer" having picked it up from the bookstore. I originally went to the store to pick up "Shadow of the Hegemon" but it was nowhere to be found. So I ended up getting "Neuromancer" and "Cryptonomicon". Neuromancer is sometimes hard to follow because it makes strong use of slang terms that I am unfamiliar with. I can't tell if they used to real slang or were specifically invented for the book. It may have been a combination of both, but regardless I have to infer the meaning of a slang term when the author first introduces it.

Another book I'm reading is "Elegant Universe" which gives a laymans introduction to superstring theory. Its full of intuitive paradoxes and new ways of thinking about the universe and is generally a very intense read. You have to take it slow through the first few chapters to get past the concepts of relativity and quantum mechanics if you've never studied them before. But the string theory reading goes along much faster, perhaps in lieu of having less hope of comprehending the whole.

I conquered "Deus Ex", albeit with a little help from God Mode. I just needed to get through the story as quickly as possible because of my soaring obsessive impatience. Perhaps now I can start over and actually try to play the game with all cheats off. I think it would be interesting to try and slink around to defeat those tough paramilitary types without infinite ammo and invulnerability.
:: everist 12:01 PM [+] ::