Sunday, November 30, 2003

On Thanksgiving, I took my desk chair next door for my neighbors to use. The plan was that six of the people present would eat in their apartment and four would eat in my apartment, with people shuttling back and forth to get food items. The meal did not go according to plan, of course -- we all ended up eating sitting on the floor in their apartment. It was a comfortably informal arrangement that scarcely detracted from the meal.

I did not think to retrieve the chair until today. When I asked Mike about it, he commented that it was very comfortable, and -- unlike any of the chairs he owned -- didn't bring any pain to his problem hip. So I sold it to him. And now I'm sitting in the remaining chair in my room, a sort of upholstered rolling rocker which used to serve solely as a reading chair and a hanging place for an overshirt or windbreaker. It's a fine, comfortable seat, and it retains my body heat far more effectively than the other chair ever did. That's a distinct advantage in the evening, when the temperature in the apartment sinks to 60 F or so.

This grey rocker has character. I bought it from my former landlady when I moved. I wanted a chair, and she wanted the space. It reminds me in little ways of several chairs in my past. When I lived with my parents, there was an old stuffed rocker in my room where I used to stretch and read for hours on end. The handles were carved in a design I never quite understood, with a little indented circle at the bottom that looked like the eye of some stylized bird or snake. The seat was nearly twice as wide as I was, and so it was easy to spread a blanket over my lap and have space for a cat to curl up beside me. The handles on this grey chair remind me a little of those handles, and the way the chair rocks reminds me a lot of that old chair.

In another way, the chair reminds me a little of Big Red. Big Red was my desk chair (and reading chair) when I was an undergraduate. It was a bit threadbare, but most of the surface was still covered by a maroon cover flecked with a sort of slivery blue. It wasn't pretty, but it was comfortable, and I was attached to it. As a freshman, I carried that chair from the store where I bought it along Route 1 through College Park, across the campus, and up six flights of stairs to my room in the high rise. The trek was perhaps two miles, and I carried the chair on my head for much of that distance. In memory's light, that trek is one of my treasured adventures from college days -- but those days are not so far past that I don't remember getting something of a crick in my neck on the walk home. Regardless of the crick in my neck, I felt some attachment to the chair from the moment I set it down in my room. I think Big Red still sits by the desk in my old room at the family home.

This grey chair previously sat nestled in the nook bounded by one of my bookshelves, the foot of my bed, and my floor lamp. That lamp is another comforting piece of furniture which I purchased inexpensively and carried some miles from the Berkeley Salvation Army store to my home. On the wall between the shelf and the lamp is a world map, tacked up so that the bottom is perhaps four feet from the floor. That nook seems startlingly empty, now. I think I may fill the space with a set of brick-and-board shelves to relieve the overcrowding of my existing book shelves. But that is a task for the new year, after I return from my visit home.

Perhaps by that time I will be able to use the space for some boundary element books borrowed from the Berkeley engineering library. I spent some time this evening searching the catalog for books related to boundary element simulation of elastic wave propogation from structures sitting on an elastic half space. There are a few books that look like they may be very useful -- and most of them are checked out. The fact that those books all have the same due date makes me think that one person has probably checked them out. I have some guesses as to who that person might be, though. Perhaps the easiest way to find the information I need is to e-mail the people who I think might have those books (or might have read them recently) and ask for their help.

Meanwhile, I've more than enough other tasks to occupy my time. Before I call it quits, I think I may spend another half hour revising some text describing posterior error estimates for interpolated invariant subspace bases for twice continuously differentiable parameterized matrix families. Or perhaps I'll just drink a glass of water and sleep a bit early.