Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fibonacci's sequence

I find a pleasure in certain numbers and number patterns. For example, I like to think certain stores gained their name because 7 and 11 are prime numbers, although I’ve been told the name has to do with the hours these stores were originally scheduled to be opened.

Whatever. Reality is overrated.

And, while I find prime numbers interesting as singularities and the ratio pi a curiosity with it’s odd tendency to somehow not repeat itself, I really like the Fibonacci sequence.

First, consider the word Fibonacci. Nice. Rounded. Fills your mouth with just the right amount of foreignness. Of course, it’s the guy’s name. Mr. Fibonacci. Interesting fellow, but not my concern just now.

Nope, it’s the numbers themselves: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, ... continuing, I suppose, to infinity. I can’t help thinking there’s a mystery in this sequence. First, it delineates the spiral forms of nature. Think sea shell…. Or spiral nebula, if that works for you. That’s a pretty nifty thing.

But for me the real mystery is the sequence itself, or more properly, the first two numbers of the sequence, the zero and the one. You see, the rule for creating the Fibonacci sequence goes like this: you take the first two numbers, add them together and you get the third number -- which explains why the third number is 1. After all, 0 + 1 = 1…. And then you continue to take the last two numbers and add them together to get a next number in an ever expanding arc.

Fair enough…. But from where do the first two numbers come?

The zero and the one -- nothing/ nada and something -- In order for this process to begin you can’t have just the one thing, you have to have the ‘nothing.’ Both something and nothing have to exist at the same time. Except, of course, ‘nothing’ doesn’t exist -- it’s, well, nothing….

Now, OK, I know that we just have to set up a mathematical rule that you have a zero and a one and there ya go…. But, imagine you’re back at the beginning of everything; time, matter, whatever -- everything. Well, no, not at the beginning of everything, but just before the beginning of everything. Not a micro second before, since no time exists, but just before. There’s nothing/ nada… and then, poof, there’s a something. And since there’s a something, well, there’s no longer any ‘nothing.’

My point here is that you can't really have something and nothing at the same time.

But in the Fibonacci sequence, that’s exactly what you have to have in order for the thing to work -- or at least for the whole thing to begin. And I suppose if something never begins it doesn’t exist…. But of course it does exist.

Now what a pleasant paradox that is. Makes my brain itch. In a good way, I mean….

Now, I’ll confess that I don’t think mathematicians have a problem with this. As I said earlier, they postulate a zero and a one and Bob’s your uncle.

But still….

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Considering Maccha Green Tea

Ah, yes, the elixir!

... first an interesting website for anyone interested...

... with a great cartoon visit to a Japanese Tea House. Only a Japanese tea site could be this much fun! I learned more about green tea than I ever imagined might exist!

And I decided what I've been looking for all along is Maccha (or Matcha, as I occasionally spell it). Maccha tea is powdered tea and is the traditional tea used in a tea ceremony. 
I had always considered this to be way beyond anything I might ever want to concern myself, but it turns out that the process isn't all that difficult. 

A nice bowl, a scoop of the proper powdered elixir, a drop of cold water (to smooth out the powder), perhaps 100 ml of hot (not boiling, thank you) water and perhaps 30 seconds of brisk whisking with a, well, a whisk....

And then you drink.

Ah, yes. Life is good.

Shaving with a straight razor....

What you will need:
Stuff that you can't carry on an airplane.
Main reference for finding out what you really need to know: (and no, I don't get a commission....)
Begin with a 'wet beard.'
Best: take a shower
Works: soak beard with a hot, wet towel
You won't like it: throw some water on your face and lather up
This 'soaking' recommendation seems important. Apparently, scraping even the most wimpy of beards is pretty tough and anything that causes drag to the razor (such as a dryish beard) makes for irritation (if you're lucky) or ouchy gashes (if you're... well... not so lucky).
After soaking, don't dry your face. In fact, you might consider splashing your face with the occasional handful of water as you prepare your brush.
OK, I'm getting bored....
Use a badger bristle shaving brush. Lather up.
Open the straight razor. Try not to hold it by the blade. Position your arm in a twisted arc and apply razor to face. It helps to reduce the angle (and the spelling 'angel' oddly comes to mind). If you don't get the angle correct, don't worry, 'nature' will give you feedback in direct proportion to your error.
* * *
And here I self censure a paragraph that I found revolting in it's graphic, although possibly humorous, rendition of the result of the above mentioned 'feedback.' 
* * *
Keep in mind that these little 'feedbacks' generally don't hurt much and will leak only for a few minutes (seconds sometimes). So persevere and, in the beginning, just lay the blade flat against your cheek and angle it up just enough to scrape beard from face -- removing as little skin as possible.
Well, whatever.
The point is that shaving with a straight razor is a fun exercise for people who enjoy such things. It helps not to hurry.
It also helps not to be particularly shaky nor prone to sudden jerks of the arm or head.
I suspect that trying to shave with a cut-throat on a train might be ill advised.
I've been doing this for a month or so which, naturally, makes me an expert.... I have only one scar, so far, and it seems healing nicely (thank you). My friend JB suggested that I might just claim it as a dueling scar from Heidelberg.
I like that... only the direction it tilts toward seems a bit wrong. Ah well....