Sonnet: On Meeting You for a Weekend on Martha’s Vineyard

Image by Susan O’Leary via Pixabay

Once more you’re left alone; I’m on a plane.
My work takes me to Boston several days,
Or more each month.  And while you don’t complain,
I know you hate the time I spend away.
Still, this goodbye was easier than most:
You’re meeting me to share some time alone
Together on the Massachusetts coast.
Our inn was once a whaling captain’s home;
How fitting we should meet within these walls
That saw those lovers share their sad goodbyes.
I wonder, did his lady’s teardrops fall?
Or hide, like yours, sequestered in her eyes?
These scenes repeat, partings without end,
And I am bound to you, like the sailor to his friend.

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The Day I Met Thelonious and Nica in Heaven

Thelonious and Nica

I was sitting in my music room the morning after the biggest snowstorm of the winter, alternately practicing my guitar and looking out at the snow piled heavy on the trees. My wife walked in with a late morning cup of coffee.

“I hate winter,” she said.

Not wanting to disappoint her, I gave my standard answer. 

“I love it. It’s pretty. Besides, we get to spend the morning drinking coffee and looking at the snow.”

“Some of us have to go out and run errands,” she said, sipping her coffee. “What are you working on?”

“A Thelonious Monk tune: Pannonica,” I said handing her the sheet music. “I can’t seem to get it right.”

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Thoughts on Science and Literature

When I was very young, in my last few months of mental clarity before the storms of adolescence overwhelmed me, my career ambitions shifted from being a fireman, jet pilot, explorer, or police detective to becoming a scientist or writer. I was never quite able to choose between them, and these twin callings have defined my life and work in fundamental ways. Although our culture tends to treat science and literature (or any creative art) as irreconcilable ways of thinking, I had always felt they shared a deeper unity.

In the course of developing this web site, I had originally planned on addressing the tension between these two spheres of my intellectual life in its “About” section. Although I decided these thoughts did not really fit there, I was pleased to have finally articulated this long-held intuition and have decided to share it as posting:

  • Science is our most reliable way of understanding the structure and behavior of the natural world.
  • Literature and the arts are essential, enduring explorations of our inner lives and what it means to be human.
  • Both are the source of unending wonders found in: 
    • science’s discoveries, from black holes to quanta to the neural and psychological foundations of our experience; 
    • the understanding of our humanity articulated by artists from Homer to Shakespeare, Bach to Ellington, neolithic cave painters to Matisse, and continuing in the creations of contemporary artists.
  • Turning away from any of these wonders diminishes us as human beings.

Although Science and the Arts have their own rules and practices that must be respected, in a personal sense they are simply different perspectives on an intellectual journey I have taken throughout my life—and continue to pursue. This website, including my resumetechnical papersliterary writings, and the entries in this blog, represents a series of reports on those explorations. 

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Thank You, Mr. Brubeck

This posting was first made a few days after Dave Brubeck passed away on December 5, 2012. I am republishing it with selected postings from a prior version of this blog that was damaged in a malware attack.

Dave Brubeck died last Wednesday. Although the last few years have seen the loss of so many jazz greats of the 1950s and 60s, I found this to be especially sad because of the unique influence Mr. Brubeck and his quartet had on my musical growth, and—I say this without hyperbole—on the larger course of my life. You see, when I was 11 or 12—I forget the exact age —I heard Take Five on the radio, and it was like nothing I had ever experienced: strange, wonderful, haunting—it seemed to penetrate deeply into my adolescent being, and awaken feelings that were completely new for me. As soon as I could, I saved up my allowance and purchased his album, Time Out, playing it over and over again on my Magnavox portable stereo, a nondescript beige suitcase that unfolded into a miraculous machine that would soon teleport me into worlds I had never dreamed existed.

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Blossom’s Dance, Cognitive Science, and Being in the World

Blossom is a little cockatiel who flew down and landed on the roof of the car on night when my wife and I were going out to dinner. Even for a home where animals are not only part of the family, but also tend to flock to the yard in large numbers, this was unusual. What was stranger is that when I put out my finger, the little fellow stepped onto it quite nonchalantly, and has been living happily with us while we’ve been searching for her owners.

I have not had a bird since I was a child, so living with Blossom (we had called her Buddy until a bit of web research suggested the name might not fit) has been something of an adventure. Perhaps what has been most interesting to me is learning that Blossom not only likes music, but also likes to dance to it. I first noticed this when she started bouncing her head to a Mozart piano sonata on the stereo one afternoon. I soon learned that she also enjoys standing on my knee and dancing when I’m practicing the guitar.

Blossom’s Dance

Over the course of these few weeks, I’ve noticed that she sometimes bobs her head to recorded music, frequently does so when there is live music, and never bobs when music is absent, so I have become convinced that the two are connected. Blossom, it would seem, likes to dance.

So, what does this have to do with Cognitive Science? 

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