Burglary

The burglary occurred at the end of a long week. Any week with a biology midterm on Monday and a research paper due on Tuesday is likely to seem long, and it didn’t help that Melvyl had been down all afternoon on the day I had set aside to complete my research. “There’s always the weekend,” I had said to myself, and spent the time studying biology. But Saturday morning, as I stepped out of the shower and reached for my towel, a terrific cramp shot through the right side of my neck, down my shoulder, and into my arm. It wasn’t the first time I had experienced that pain; it seems to happen when I haven’t had enough sleep. If the past was any guide, it would last for days.

Continue reading Burglary

University Haze

Life at UCSD seems calm compared to life at Caltech. The California Institute of Technology is famous for its pranks: students once surreptitiously altered cards that Ohio State football fans were to use during halftime at the Rose Bowl game to display the school logo — the altered cards spelled out “Caltech” instead. Another time, after an unpopular instructor had a student’s car towed from his reserved parking space, students sandblasted the parking lot overnight and repainted it — with that instructor’s space missing. Once an instructor returned from vacation to find his Volkswagen, in one piece and running, in his third-floor windowless office. The funniest prank I remember, however, wasn’t the work of Caltech students. It was performed by Mother Nature.

Continue reading University Haze

Be Careful What You Wish For

Though I do not remember what the story was about, I can see the green cardboard binder I put it in. I can see my juvenile handwriting — tall and thin, with no slant — rendered in fat, dark, shiny pencil. I can see the paper: unbleached, brown, and grainy with thick, uneven blue lines. I can even see my small hands carefully printing the title on the binder, but I cannot read that title.

Continue reading Be Careful What You Wish For

Rely on Them

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. —Arthur C. Clarke

I believe in miracles. Not thunder-and-lightning, fire-from-the-sky, raise-the-dead type miracles, but miracles that happen everywhere, every day — miracles so commonplace we’re likely to dismiss them as merely “science,” “art,” or “nature.”

Continue reading Rely on Them

An Interview on the First Day

Q: …

A: The same thing that is on everybody’’s mind: the war. I doubt if my thoughts are new or innovative—they are probably as old as war itself. I am aware that the situation is complex and that there are diverse points of view. I understand that there are many people with many interests at stake. I have trouble, however, seeing the issues as being important enough to warrant the terrible tragedies that war will cause. I find it disheartening that it seems so easy for people to dismiss those tragedies when they do not see themselves as being directly affected. Notice how little concern people express about the number of Iraqis—or even the number of our Middle Eastern allies—who are likely to die as a result of the war.

Continue reading An Interview on the First Day

Specialization is for Insects

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.    —RAH

Continue reading Specialization is for Insects