Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Two of the three problems on my fluids final are done. The remaining one looks trivial, but in the interest of not making foolish errors, I will put off finishing it until morning. For similar reasons, I think I will put off reading about micromechanics of damping, thermoelasticity, structured matrix computations, location of codimension 2 bifurcations, or any other of the technical things that I could be working on.

Instead, I'll write about shaving.

I learned during my first year of college that I don't look particularly good with a beard. It grew unevenly, and was laced with more silver than I cared to see. My friends seemed to agree with my assessment; when I eventually shaved it off, one friend told me that I'd started to look too much like some stereotype of a crazed mathematician. I took it as a compliment, much the same way I try to take my neighbor's exclamation that I look like the original Unabomber sketch when the hood of my sweatshirt is raised. But at the same time, I shaved the beard, and I have not let it return since.

I continue to wear the hood of my shirt, at least when I think nobody is around. It keeps my ears warm.

At any rate, some time in the middle of my college years, after the unfortunate experience with the beard, my electric razor ceased to hold a charge. And so I started to shave with an ordinary safety razor, and discovered that I got a much cleaner shave. I found the experience of shaving with an ordinary razor enchanting for about a week. After that, enchantment faded to a more prosaic sort of enjoyment. I enjoy shaving in the same way I enjoy showering, washing my hands, or brushing my teeth. It's a pleasant ritual that yields concrete results.

At the same time I enjoy shaving, there are a few things about the process that really irk me. The main source of irritation is a simple matter of geometry: no matter how I stretch my jaw, my chin remains pointed, and the corners of my jaw remain sharp corners. Consequently, I'm usually unable to shave my chin and the corners of my jaw quite so clean as I might wish. On the other hand, I tend to scratch itches on the back of my hand with the scruff at my chin, so perhaps there is a silver lining. In fact, there is certainly a silver lining -- and it's a good deal harder to shave than the part that is brown.

Pointy facial features aside, shaving is simple and the effects are immediate. Alas, the same can rarely be said of programming computers or proving theorems. Perhaps I would feel differently were I a barber.

There's a thought to sleep on.