Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Wanna Play a Game, Scarecrow?

Lisa from Lemon Gloria recently asked me a few questions as part of an interview game. If you want to be interviewed, too, all you have to do is comment on this post with the words "Interview me", and I'll email you five questions tailor-made for you. It's easy. You'll love it. I'll put more detailed rules at the end.

Here, then, are her questions and my answers.

1. If you had 48 hours free and unlimited cash, how would you spend the time?

Boy, oh, boy, did thinking about this question reveal my inner miser. My first thought was “Did she say ‘unlimited cash’? I’m calling a plumber to fix my leaky toilet.” Then I realized that with unlimited cash, as long as the plumber was there, he could also install the faucet I bought for the bathroom sink ages ago, and then I could ask him to put a real shower-to-bath faucet in my old cast iron tub, so I could sometimes take baths instead of showers. And only then did I stop myself and realize how petty my wishes were. Seriously, you hand me 48 hours and unlimited cash, and I call a plumber? I’m pathetic.

At that point, I decided that I was going to use my unlimited cash to buy a whole new house. Fuck it. I’ve had enough of pull-chain light fixtures and leaky toilets. I deserve a dishwasher. I can have central air. I can have insulation and new windows, so I can be warm in the winter and cool in the summer. And, oh, wait! I could have my new house in a warm and lovely place. I can relocate to the beach, and I can have a new beach house where I can take a bath sometimes and not just a shower.

At about this time, I realized that you asked me how I would spend the time, not the money. And so I scrapped the house plan and decided to go hot-air ballooning instead on some early summer morning. My grandmother went ballooning for her eightieth birthday, and I was invited to join her, but I missed it because I was working at a summer camp that year and it was an hour further away than I thought it was, so I was late to the launch, and ever since then, I’ve had an empty place in the part of my heart that would be full if I ever got to go up in a hot-air balloon.

And then, after my hot-air balloon landed, I’ll spend the other 40 hours picking out and closing on my new beach house with a non-leaky toilet and solar panels and super-insulated walls.

2. Do you feel like working with math all the time and having a math mind colors your world in a particular way? I ask this as someone with no mathematical ability, who consistently struggled in math once it got beyond the basics, really. But I feel like being so focused on words, and having studied linguistics, I am constantly listening for how people phrase things, or appreciating alliteration, or whatever. Does this happen with numbers (or numerical patterns, or geometric planes, etc), if one's brain has that ability?

OK, so I don’t listen to music, ever. My friends who do listen to it sometimes give me CDs or tell me to listen to things, and I try, but after the CD or the song has been playing for a while, I forget it’s on and I go back to not-listening to it. I dated a musician once. He gave me copies of his own songs sometimes. I would listen, and at first I would feel enormously proud and slightly embarrassed that my boyfriend was singing and playing a song, and then even he would fade into the background, and I couldn’t even tell him what I thought of his music when he asked.

I think maybe that working a good math problem tickles the part of my brain that other people can tickle with music. I can get totally absorbed, in that time-stretching way, so that all of the rest of the world fades behind me, and all I can see is whatever problem I’m working on. I can fall asleep with a good problem on my brain and I can dream the solution, so that in the morning I see the problem with new clarity. I think of that line from a song actually (the Beatles being the one, notable exception to my inability to hear music) “There will be an answer. Let it be.”

Also, you should know that I suck at computation. I can’t add or subtract (especially subtract) without paper and a pencil. Higher math has very little to do with computational skill. We turn a lot of kids off to mathematics by making it so computationally focused in the early years.

Still, I don’t feel that I apply math to the real world all that often. I love it for its own sake. I’m not a physicist. I just like playing with symbols and manipulating algebra and seeing geometric connections on the page. I think of a math team t-shirt that I once saw. It had a famously beautiful equation on the front. On the back it said, “Yes, but when do you ever really use the Mona Lisa?” It’s more like art to me than it is like science.

I think I’d be a better teacher if I did use math in the real world. I was once seduced by a guy who used math. If seducing nerdy women counts as a real-world application of number theory, then I’m living proof that it works.

3. You are on an endless breakfast quest. How would you describe a perfect breakfast?

My family would be there. We’d all be alert and not hung-over. When my family is on, we are some of the wittiest people around. The laughter alone makes the food taste better. I’d definitely get something savory, because I’m not a big sweet breakfast person. There might be some goat cheese in my dish. I’d want some potatoes that were crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. I’d want a cup of really good coffee with lots of cream and sugar. I’d want the restaurant to have a clean and airy feel with sunlight streaming through the windows. I’d want the waiter or waitress to flirt with my family a little bit as we placed our order. Everything would have enough fat and salt in it to taste good and get properly brown, but nothing would be bogged down by grease. Finally, as we left the table none of us would feel so heavy and weighted down that we’d never want to eat again. We’d all just be comfortably full, with happy aftertastes of breakfast in our mouths to get us through to lunch.

4. If you were given the choice of being able to fly or breathe underwater, which superpower would you choose and why?

I’d fly. Flying is much more practical. How often is there even water around to breathe under?

5. If you had to choose a flavor of ice cream that most fits your personality, what kind do you think you would be? Feel free to make one up if necessary.

It’d be something dark and brooding, but with some bites that are so good they would make the occasional bitter overtones worth it. Double, dark chocolate with a hint of salty caramel, perhaps.

OK, now you know you want to play, here's how:
1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.”
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions. Be sure you link back to the original post.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.


swabmenot said...

I command you to interview me.

I'm right there with you on the whole fly vs. swim thing. It's dark and scary underwater, with all kinds of things that want to eat me.

Jill said...

I would like to be interviewed by you, Al. I'm less interested in what my answers are gonna be than in the questions you will ask. I spent a lot of time in the beginning of my-life-with-Alex-in-it being scared of you so I am mentally prepared for questions like, "Why don't you work crossword puzzles?", "Why haven't you read any Jane Austen books?", "Why are you so lame?"
So, bring it on! I'm wearing my game face!

Alex said...

Consider yourself interviewed, despite your haughty tone.

Right. My questions would more likely be, "What's it like to be so tall and stunning?" or "Um, could I possibly borrow a little bit of your cool? You have extra, and I have so little." I'll work on it and let you know what I come up with.

Lisa said...

I loved reading this. I'm so glad you agreed to an interview! The thought process on your 48 hours and endless cash made me laugh out loud. And I was very curious about how you'd answer the math one. So interesting. And if I'm ever in the Twin Cities, can I please join your family for breakfast? Unless you think that's weird, in which case I'll just get you to tell me where you're going, so I can sit at a nearby table and eavesdrop on the fun (because of course, that would be totally normal).

swabmenot said...

The interview circle is complete. Now, somewhere around here I left a very comfortable couch that I'd really like to lounge upon...

Alex said...

Lisa, we'd love to have you at our table for breakfast. It would be far less awkward than the eavesdropping thing, so join us. We might even charge you with the very important task of writing the review since we're a bunch of lazy schlubs, partially tapped out on things to say about breakfast.

Emily said...

It might be nice if I have some actual content for my new blog. Interview me!