Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Number form

The brain sure is a mysterious thing. We can go pleasantly along throughout our lives thinking that the perfectly normal ways in which we make sense of the world are the same ways everyone else does, only come to find out that hardly anyone does it that way. Seeing number forms is one of those instances. When I happened upon that blog post today, I said a big "ah ha!" because I had tried Googling what I see before, but to no avail. I mean, how do you google, "sees numbers in brain"? If only I had thought to search on "sees number line," I might have happened upon the Wiki page.

But I didn't know before how to name what I was seeing because what I see is not so much a line as a... I don't even know what to call it. Yes, it is a line, but I move along it. There are distinct corners at 100, 1000, 2000, and 1970. It's hard to map it out two-dimensionally because I don't know what viewpoint to do it from. I see it from above as if I'm flying directly over it.

The line itself is sort of a nothingness on a black background. It's like looking into a void where just the numbers are. I don't really like it in there. Surprise, surprise, I'm not a fan of math at all. 

The reason the number line actually causes me trouble with math is the corners. Numbers between 1 and 100 are easy. (The bend at 20 doesn't cause a problem for some reason.) I can figure out 72 minus 37 pretty quickly. But 137 minus 72? So much harder because in my mind I have to turn the corner of 100.

Same goes for figuring out how long ago something happened if it happened before 2000. There is such a distinct corner at the year 2000. It's similar to the one at 100.

Wow, describing this really does sound crazy! 

I included an image of a calendar year in the drawing as well because I also "see" that, but I'm not sure if it's the same thing.Along with the seasons, I picture the names of the months and their weather and the holidays.

So, how do you see numbers, if you see them at all? If you don't see them, can you explain what that's like? I can't imagine NOT seeing them!

I wonder if this is related: To learn and retain a new word, I need to know how it's spelled. In other words, I need to be able to visualize the placement of the letters before it will make sense to me.

Monday, October 8, 2012


What is left to write by hand? There's an app for nearly everything and for most of those things, I have tried out the app. The grocery shopping app is waaaaay too much trouble for something so simple. But reminders apps are great. A piece of paper won't beep at you at a certain time reminding you to pick up the dry cleaning.

I have gone back and forth over the years on keeping paper journals. Right now, I'm all about the electronic. I can type up not for public consumption journal entries on my phone while leaning against the doors of a subway car. But I can't write those entries by hand while standing up. For some reason, things tend to become clear for me when standing on the subway like they do for others when they are in the shower. When I'm in the shower in the morning I'm too groggy and all I can think of is, "did I wash my hair a minute ago? I already forgot."

I'm glad the internet did not become so pervasive until I was out of college because up until that point my friends and I still wrote each other lots of letters. I still have some of those old letters. Surprisingly, none of my friends want their letters back and I'm unable to throw them away. I would want my letters back if anyone had any I wrote to them long ago. The letters from old boyfriends are mostly ridiculous, though. Those I did throw away.

A letter from my great Aunt Helen
My first pen-pal was my grandma. Somewhere at my parents' house I have a few of the earliest letters she wrote me. She carefully wrote them out in print so that I would not have trouble reading them.

My grandma is 102 years old and my mother and her brothers finally had to move her into an assisted living situation this past spring. Things have been going downhill since then. She's no longer able to write me back, but I try to write as often as I can. I tell myself I'll write her every week, but how quickly a couple weeks go by before I realize I haven't written her.

It's strange writing to someone knowing they can't write back. I'm used to asking questions in letters, even if I don't really expect specific answers. There is no replying to anything mentioned in the other person's last letter. There is merely following up on something I wrote previously. It feels self-indulgent or something. I probably would not keep up with writing to her so often if my mom didn't tell me that Grandma appreciates my letters very much. So, I keep it up.

I have a young pen-pal of my own now: my friend Karyl's daughter, Grace, who just turned 8 on Sunday. Bit by bit her letters back to me are getting longer. Even though she will have grown up always having a computer at her disposal, I hope she'll continue to take pleasure in letter writing. And I hope that she meets other people -- young people -- who enjoy it as well. Here's hoping!

Monday, October 1, 2012

As it turns out, I really like LA!

When a person from the East coast reads reviews of California's Mexican restaurants and sees some mediocre reviews, the translation is basically: "this food is still waaaaay better than any Mexican you'd get at home. And it will be a quarter of the price." Even the ubiquitous roadside stands are better than 95% of the Mexican food available in Manhattan. Ah well. That good food is not completely globalized is one of the main reasons I am compelled to travel as often as I do.

The one type of food that is more prevalent than Mexican in LA is donuts. Donut stands are literally in every single strip mall, no matter how small the mall. You simply cannot drive for more than 5 minutes without seeing yet another independent donut shop. All of them appear to have been in existence for at least 60 years and many are open all night long. On our last night as we were driving through a sketchy looking neighborhood after midnight, we decided to pull into one of these little donut holes in the wall and see what all the fuss is about.

A hand printed sign on the wall said that if you sat for longer than 15 minutes, you'd be kicked out. And the smell of freshly fried donuts was in the air. The man working behind the counter said freshly made crullers would be ready in 2 minutes if we wanted to wait. It is no exaggeration that that was one of the best donuts I ever ate. What IS LA's obsession with donuts? I searched on Google, but all I'm seeing is lists of the best ones. Yes, but WHY? If you know why LA is obsessed with donuts, please let me know. I'm curious.

What were we doing out after midnight, being the old fogeys that we are? Well, we had spent several enjoyable hours at the Comedy Store. It was open mic and here is how the end of that experience went down:

It was midnight on a Monday at the Comedy Store. As you can imagine, the crowd was small. It was open mic night so there had been some good comics and some duds, but we were having a good time, which was why we'd stuck around for several hours. Anyway, this guy gets up and he sits down on the stool and gets right up at the edge of the stage and starts telling this long thing that i can't even call a joke about Batman. It's going nowhere, but we're riding it out because it is amateur night after all.

And then he gets pissed because no one is laughing and he yells, "you're the worst fucking audience! It's just a bunch of dudes out there and you still don't like my batman stuff!" And I threw up my arms and yelled, "hey! I'm right here!" Now, keep in mind that there were only 8 people in the audience and he could totally see me.

He says "what?" And I say "there ARE women here!" So then he starts going off on me, saying who the fuck do I think I am, saying that he's going to be playing a sold out show in Portland and when he saw this audience and was like, shit, I don't need this crap. By this time the audience IS laughing and he says "they're laughing at YOU!" And I just shake my head and people around me are saying "no, we're not; she has a point. The batman stuff isn't funny."

And then the talent wrangler yells from the back of the room that this same thing happened the last time this dude came on and the comic gets really angry and just berates us all for the rest of his time slot.

So, that was interesting. Also, the MC had encouraged talking up, which I certainly wasn't planning on doing until this jerk heckled the audience, for crying out loud.