27 January 2011
This evening I am taking a break from Russian history (this afternoon was devoted to a biography of Peter I, published in 2009, competently summarizing English-language sources): I have a 2006 condemnation of string theory by a recent Princeton PhD in theoretical physics, on the mathematics faculty at Columbia.
Arguably, Woit’s book is the stake that will finally kill string theory as a serious endeavor: it is authoritative, extensive, virtually comprehensive, and damning (I plan to xerox the chapter on the Bogdanov brothers’ PhD theses).
30 January 2011, 11 am
Rain City Coffee
next to Hollywood branch library
Up at 8 am, after a Saturday night bedtime of past midnight; we’d gone to Esther Mae Jones’s benefit concert, and gotten home late.
Esther met Trudy & the boys at the Northeast Community Center (the de-franchised former YWCA building, providing the same services) at dance class, but she turned out to be a classically-trained soprano as well as a neighbor living less than a block away. She visited frequently and helped both boys with their music; when her kidneys failed and she faced certain death in the absence of a donor, Trudy promised to donate a kidney to her. Another donor’s kidney was a better match; the operation was successful; last night was a benefit concert to help pay for it, raising, unfortunately, a mere 1500 $, no more than a drop in the bucket of a debt that must be in the hundreds of thousands [I really don’t know for sure, tho.].
Chris Hager, an amateur singer who taught with me both at Grant and at Benson, and whom I hadn’t seen in more than a year, came up to me during the concert and asked if we could speak during the reception afterwards. We could and did. He retired during the academic year 09/10, more quietly than I had during 10/11, but in circumstances of eerie similarity. Over the course of several months at the beginning of the school year the Administration made a series of decisions which apparently intentionally, seemingly casually, transformed a job which was satisfying and psychologically rewarding into an assignment characterized by tedium and difficulty, but psychically virtually impossible.
In Chris’s case, he was assigned solely freshmen, but in classes of more than 40 each, and on top of that he lost the upper fifth of potential students to other science teachers, assigned in classes of 20 or so, increasing their “chances for success” [unconscious irony?]; for the large number of special-ed students in his classes no teaching assistants were assigned. Chris took medical leave and then retired, only in a manner which extracted a few more bucks from Portland Public Schools.
Comparing notes, the two of us concluded that in our cases the Administration of the school had made a conscious decision to give us discouraging, unrewarding assignments, giving us the choice — the choice of wording is mine — to eat shit or leave. We conserved our spiritual health.
I communicated yesterday with a second Benson colleague, Dave DeMaris: after reading in the morning Elaine Pagels’ excellent book comparing the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas to that of John, I wrote a five-page letter sharing its argument & conclusions with a genuinely believing Christian friend & former colleague.
17 January 2011, 6:30 pm
room overlooking front porch
My health is good. I’m only a couple of pounds over 200, altho not getting as much exercise as I am used to. My presence helps with the boys’ education: this evening we [‘we’ means that I read it & the boys listened] read some 25 pp. of the second volume of the six-volume fantasy for young adults by Garth Nixon, The Seventh Tower for example.