Calculus

It’s the first semester of freshman year at Carnegie Mellon. I’m enrolled in Calculus for Science Majors. After the midterm, I skipped a couple of the weekly recitations. Then, when I finally did show up, I looked for my test in a pile of graded assignments. On one midterm, in the space marked, “Name _______”, …

The writer we deserve

Originally published March 2, 2016, Seattle Review of Books. It’s early in the year, time for taking on ambitious, resolution-worthy reading projects, and what better project than The Dying Grass, the latest novel from William T. Vollmann? Vollmann, our young nation’s own Tolstoy. Russia can keep Count Lev Nikolaevich and his high society, literary friends, …

The second-biggest schmuck in the world

Murray’s wife: “Murray, you’re a schmuck. You’re such a schmuck, you’re the second-biggest schmuck in the world.” “Oh yeah?” responds Murray. “Why aren’t I the biggest schmuck in the world?” “Because you’re such a schmuck!” I’ve discovered a pattern in my writing. The galgo, Cervantes’ invisible dog-narrator of Don Quixote. Barsabbas, the alternate juror of …

One month of blogging.

It’s the usual practice for bloggers and independent scholars to pick a favorite topic, whether it’s World War II history or butterflies or anime or prog rock, and circle around it for a lifetime. It’s a time-tested method for gaining expertise, creating blogs, and joining a community. My way is that of Odysseus resisting the …

The Trojan Women

Seattle’s poetry bookstore Open Books: A Poem Emporium has moved to Pioneer Square! And that’s where I met up with my friend Beverly Aarons, creator of Artists Up Close, for one of our expansive chats about writing, art, technology, and the world around us. Beverly knows that I’m a big fan of the talking-dog genre …

Tunics

“As there are no accounts of these events which are independent of Herodotus, a historical reconstruction, as opposed to a validation of all or part of Herodotus’ narrative, is impossible” Figueira, “Herodotus on the Early Hostilities between Aegina and Athens,” The American Journal of Philology 106.1, Spring 1985, 49). The famine in Epidaurus The Epidaurians’ …

Cautionary tales

Just ten days after watching my first Open Yale Courses lecture, I was talking with Zachary after services and found out that he had studied with Professor Christine Hayes from the Introduction to the Hebrew Bible videos. He invited me to a weekly Talmud study group to talk about whether or not chicken parm is …