Sunday, May 04, 2003

I baked bread this afternoon. It had raisins and nuts, and though I should have added a little more salt, it was still good. Now I'm full, and the weight in my belly is tugging my eyelids shut. It's overcast, too, and so I've even less inclination to remain awake.

I thought of doing work this morning, but I did little. I suppose I can forgive myself for taking some time off on a weekend, but it's difficult. Self-forgiveness is a learned skill, and as with most learned skills, it easily grows rusty with disuse. I like to think that my work ethic is leavened with enough humor and common sense to make it a virtue, though, and I'm reasonable enough to accept that any work I do in a mood like this will need to be re-done later. So I take a break.

I spent time last night contemplating the books on my shelf. What began as a foray for space to store the soon-to-arrive additions to my collection quickly turned into a rumination about what attracts me to books. My most beloved books show the signs of wear. Some of my technical texts have creases in their bindings, and their corners are eroded from too many trips carried with me in my backpack. Beloved books like Moo by Jane Smiley and Iron and Silk by Mark Salzman show similar signs.

And then there is E.T. Bell's Men of Mathematics. Bell's descriptions are not without historical flaw, but I still love this book. The pages are full of descriptions of great mathematicians as people: liberals and libertines, militants and mystics, brilliant teachers, physicsts, judges, and museum curators. These are Bell's heros, and it shows in his writing.

Bell describes the mathematical contributions of each of his characters, but I most enjoy the book for the characters themselves. I read non-mathematical history for the characters, too. In history, fiction, news, letters, and blogs, the degree to which people's stories are involved is a strong indicator of the interest I'll have. I think this is so for most readers I know.

  • Currently drinking: Earl Grey