Thursday, December 4, 2008

Unsteady State Diffusion in Slab

...okay. So this is mainly because I forgot EVERYTHING as far as differential equations go. Writing helps me sort things out. So while I go over my notes, I am going to write the steps down.

The first problem is this:

Consider unsteady state diffusion of a species into a slab. The thickness of the slab is b. At time before zero, the slab is at a uniform concentration Co. At time t greater than zero the surfaces of the slab are maintained at concentration C1. The PDE of concern is;


where the LHS term accounts for the time dependency and the RHS term for diffusion in the slab. Since the problem is symmetric we can solve for half the slab, using the following BCs, after placing the coordinate system at the middle of the slab:

#1) t=<0, C=Co, all x
#2) t>0, C=C1, x=b/2
#3) any t, (∂C/∂x)=0, x=0

Using separation of variables obtain the solution for C.

The solution?


The first thing you're going to do is to make everything dimensionless. This will make it less of a hassel to solve and clear out some of the terms.

Let u = (C-C1)/(Co-C1)

This is handy in several different ways. When you have a concentration of Co, your value is 1 and when you have a concentration of C1, your concentration is 0. At first glance, this might not be easy to see, but this helps your equation become homogenous, and we love solving homogenous equations. It's a lot easier.

Let X = x/(b/2)

Since our coordinates are in the middle, this makes the middle position equal to 1. Again, it's easier.

Let T = 4D/b^2*t

This can be a little harder to see. Consider that the equation, before the T substitution, looks like this:


We just made u and X dimensionless. Now, manipulate t so that it equals the other side. You should get 4D/b^2 on the opposite. Because everything else is dimensionless besides t and these constants, then we can assume that these constants together must be dimensionless.

After all of this, our equation looks like this:


It's getting simpler! :D


Now we need new boundary conditions. We write:

#1) T=<0, u=1, all X
#2) T>0, u=0, X=1
#3) any T, (∂u/∂X)=0, X=0

Easy! Just plug and play for this part. And yes, it's really simple, but don't forget this! It's essential for completely the problem satisfactorarily.


This is one place where I seem to get stuck on or forget, though really it's not that difficult.

Let u = F(X)G(T)

This means that


is now


where FG = F(X)G(T)

As you probably already guessed by now, on the LHS, F(X) is a constant and G(Y) on the RHS is a constant. So pull it out of the differential.

We now have:


Divide both sides by FG.

We now have:


Also! Don't forget our favorite little eigenvalue! :D

(1/G)(dG/dT)=(1/F)(d2F/dX2) = -λ^2

Lambda is minus because otherwise this problem would go to infinity and that's really bad. We want it to go down, after all. :P

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you'll see next section...


If you missed the last step or completely blind or whatever, look up! Now, instead of having a weird partial differential equations, we have awesome ordinary differential equations. Awesome? I thought so.

Anyway, then it just becomes a simple process to solve. Let's look at G(T) first! :D

(1/G)(dG/dT) = -λ^2

You've probably memorized the solution, at this point. If you haven't, it's this:

G(T) = k*e^(-λ^2*T)

where k is an arbitrary constant for now (we solve for it later). If you don't know how to get there, it's a relatively simple first-order ODE you can solve for fun, if you want. :P

For F(X), it looks like this:

(1/F)(d2F/dX2) = -λ^2

The solution of this second-order ODE is this:

F(X) = Acos(λX) + Bsin(λX)

Again, this should be fairly simple to derive, if you care. It's not hard in the least.

Remember that we let u = F(X)G(T). Therefore:

u = k*e^(-λ^2*T) * (Acos(λX) + Bsin(λX))


u = e^(-λ^2*T) * (Pcos(λX) + Qsin(λX))

where P and Q are just arbitrary constants.


Now we get to make this problem, which has so far been extremely mathematical and not much else, actually worthwhile to the real world! Huzzah! Remember that we are looking at our dimensionless boundary conditions. This will make our lives easier. With that, let's take a look at BC#3!


any T, (∂u/∂X)=0, X=0

Using basic calculus:

u = e^(-λ^2*T) * (Pcos(λX) + Qsin(λX))

(∂u/∂X) = e^(-λ^2*T) * (-Pλsin(λX) + Qλcos(λX))

For X=0:

e^(-λ^2*T) * (-Pλsin(0) + Qλcos(0)) = 0

sin(0) = 0, cos(0) = 1


e^(-λ^2*T) * (Qλ) = 0

Therefore, Q = 0.

So now our problem is even simpler! :D Our new equation for u is this:

u = e^(-λ^2*T) * (Pcos(λX))

Now let's apply another boundary condition! How about BC#2?


T>0, u=0, X=1

This time, we don't even have to do calculus! :D

u = e^(-λ^2*T) * (Pcos(λX))

u = e^(-λ^2*T) * (Pcos(λ)) = 0

This puts us in a little bit of a pickle. As you probably know, the cosine function is periodic, which means there are an infinite amount of numbers that make it 0. However, the numbers always fall under the pattern:

λ = π/2, 3π/2, 5π/2...

An easier way to express that is the following:

λ = λn = (1/2)(2n+1)π, where n = 0, 1, 2, 3...


u = e^(-λ^2*T) * (Pncos(λnX))

Now, let's do boundary condition #1! :D


T=<0, u=1

This is the trickiest one, but don't freak out! Here's where we use the definition of orthogonality. First, assume that T=0. Then:

u = sum(Pncos(λnX),X,0,∞) = 1

The function cos(λnX) is an orthogonal function.

Dun dun dunnnnnn!

So how are we ever going to solve Pn, if we have an infinite amount of values? Simple! Well... not simple, but it's possible to solve for Pn anyway. The way we are going to do that is to use what we know about orthogonality and solve for it that way.


This really ties in with the boundary conditions, but for some reason, orthogonality is hard for me to understand, so I'm going to write it out long, which means it gets its own section.

Orthogonality basically says this:


= 1, if i=j

= 0, if i=/=j

Remember, our function is this:

u = sum(Pncos(λnX),X,0,∞) = 1

If this is indeed orthogonal, then:

∫((1)cos(λnX)dX,0,1) = Pn∫((1)(cos(λnX))^2dX,0,1)

Where (1) is the weighting function for cartesian coordinates. Solving for Pn:

Pn = ∫((1)cos(λnX)dX,0,1) / ∫((1)(cos(λnX))^2dX,0,1)

This answer is fine for the test, which is what this is essentially for. However, using several trig identities, this can be further simplified to:

Pn = (-1)^n*(2/λn)

Thus, the solution now looks like this:

u = e^(-λ^2*T) * ((-1)^n*(2/λn)cos(λnX))

This is a much better solution! However, we're still not done.


Remember that your original problem had to do with concentration! So now you have to substitute your original values in. Recall:

u = (C-C1)/(Co-C1)

X = x/(b/2)

T = 4D/b^2*t

Now, substitute these values in your solution:

u = e^(-λ^2*T) * ((-1)^n*(2/λn)cos(λnX))

(C-C1)/(Co-C1) = e^((-λ^2*4D/b^2)*t) * ((-1)^n*(2/λn)cos(2λnx/b))

Now you're done.


Yeah. So some of you might be saying, "Wow, that math was easy, but what the hell did we just do?" Good question!

The problem asked us to find the PDE solution to a diffusion scenario. This meant that, for this problem, there was a solid box that had something diffuse into it. What the box was and what sort of material that diffused into the box really doesn't matter. That's covered in our constant "D" anyway. What matters to us is how fast this material moved through the box and how far the material moved through the box. This is what the PDE is trying to model. To measure diffusion, we looked at concentration. As the material moves through the box, the concentration of the material changes, depending on time and length.

Looking at our final solution:

(C-C1)/(Co-C1) = e^((-λ^2*4D/b^2)*t) * ((-1)^n*(2/λn)cos(2λnx/b))

...we see that both time and length play an important role into figuring out what concentration is. Intuitively, this is correct. As C goes to C1, we see that time runs to infinity and the change of concentration for the slab essentially stops. This is also intuitive. As the concentration goes to C1, we expect that there will be no change in concentration, unless another factor was there. For x, the variables surrounding that are periodic, which means it changes constantly as it goes through the slab. This also makes sense. In the long run, what determines the change of concentration through the slab is time, not the length of the slab.

This, of course, is a very simplistic problem. But these basics form many other worthier problems in the real world.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

"A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" Notes I

Haha, YES. I've done this jounal before! My notes are somewhere else on the internet, I am sure, since I am known as Snoink and I post weird things like this. ANYWAY. Here were my initial notes, just to keep things on one place.


At first I was a little turned off by the story, not because it was bad, but because it was written in a sort of flippant style that I wasn’t used to. It seemed a little bit like a fairy tale, except it was not your typical children’s fairy tale, which has a glimmer of hope or beauty or love in it, even in the beginning. This had none.

It starts out with crabs, which, though probably very important locally, almost turned me off to the story. There is nothing glamorous about crabs. They are seen as busy little creatures that work constantly and have many offspring. So, in this case, it makes sense that they caught a lot of crabs. Looking beyond that into the symbolism of crabs, we see that crabs are thought of to be “family” since they’re so many of them.

The crabs in the beginning play an important role of setting up this story’s characters. In the beginning, unlike many the traditional fairy tales we are used to, the characters are not expanded on at the very beginning, and little is said to tell us about them afterwards. But this sentence says it all:

“On the third day of rain they had killed so many crabs inside the house that Pelayo had to cross his drenched courtyard and throw them into the sea, because the newborn child had a temperature all night and they thought it was due to the stench.”

Taking that crabs are symbolism of “family” this sentence transforms this relatively simple tale into a story about mass genocide which, as the crabs are discarded back into the sea, becomes meaningless. The crabs were killed to be eaten, but they never got that far and their deaths are wasted, in order to save one newborn child. In this way, Pelayo turns into a reckless god who is quick to kill (or destroy) and quicker to cast away, if something goes wrong. This theme is repeated throughout the story in various forms from various other humans, from the treatment of the angel to the manipulation of the crowds of people.

It is by pure luck that the angel is found, in a scene that somewhat resembles the Good Samaritan parable. Pelayo finds an angel in a place that, far from being a tropical paradise, is an impoverished village that sticks with the stench of dead crabs. And, instead of arriving on his two wings in a majestic manner, he cannot even stand, forced to lay half-dead in the mud. It seems like an odd place to be for an angel, since we are used to tales about angels living in paradise, but this is hardly the case and in this way, the story is set.

At first, Pelayo is surprised and frightened from this sight, and runs for his wife, bringing her back so that both of them can get a closer look.

In the bible, angels weren’t cute naked cherubs that flew around. This was brought from Roman mythology with Cupid. Instead, nearly all the appearances of angels in the bible are described in a tone of fear, with the person being confronted by angels falling to his knees. The angel ends up having to say, “Do not be afraid!” before giving off its message.

But in this case, the roles are reversed. Though at first, Pelayo is afraid, as he and his wife look at the angel more, the more normal he becomes in their eyes. Remember that at first Pelayo is introduced as a god, and he feels superior to the angel. So when they finally speak to him and he answers, the next sentence is, “That was how they skipped over the inconvenience of the wings and quite intelligently concluded that he was a lonely castaway from some foreign ship wrecked by the storm.” They forget that he is an angel and consider him a human, but at the same time, not part of their family. He is a stranger. And then they decide that he is a lonely castaway from a ship that has been wrecked. Though the adjective “lonely” gives them away. How is one to decide whether one is lonely or not, short of reading minds?

Also, the word “intelligent” is key here in that it references back to the Adam and Eve story, where they gain knowledge in order to become more like God and God ends up turning away from them. And in this case, the same thing happens, but later in the story.

The neighbor advises Pelayo to kill the angel, but he can’t, so he locks him up instead in a chicken coop. Then, miraculously as Pelayo and his wife continue to kill crabs, the child gets better. The husband and wife are thrilled and want to release the angel by setting him out to sea, perhaps for other people, when suddenly they are confronted by a strange sight. People have come to him, not for worshipping, but rather to mock him. They throw food at him as if he were an animal instead. Later, more people come to see him, including the priest, and they try to decide his fate, eventually coming to indecision. He is kept locked up in the chicken coop.

This brings to mind the story of the Passion for me. We have several very strong images that come up. On one hand, we have the group of crazy believers who simultaneously mock and worship the angel at the same time, to the point where things get slightly crazy and bayonets are brought out to control people – until the wife gets an idea and begins to charge the people. This heightens the whole trapped feeling and makes the angel even more pitiable while showing us how insane these people are.

Speaking of insanity, let’s look at some of the ailments of these people, who are thought to be ill. There are three main people whose ailments are specifically discussed. At first, I thought nothing of these ailments, which sounded silly, but in the context of the fairy tale like setting where the real and the mystical are blurred, it’s quite alarming. One is “a poor woman who since childhood has been counting her heartbeats and had run out of numbers.” So she’s been listening to her heart for years and years when she was a child, but she’s not quite sure how to listen to it again. Then there’s “a Portuguese man who couldn’t sleep because the noise of the stars disturbed him.” It’s funny because the stars really shouldn’t be the ones to disturb him. In almost every single mythology, stars are a light, a sign from God, to let us forever be with light even when there is none. Why would he prefer the velvet blackness of the sky and be disturbed by the tiny pinpricks of light, symbolizing hope? And last, there is “a sleepwalker who got up at night to undo the things he had done while awake.” A sinner, who has done wrong and is unconsciously trying to set things right again. (So why would he need to be healed?)

Then there is Father Gonzada who is looking for guidance on high that will never come to him. And why? Because he is looking to mortals who closely resemble the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, who are too bent on the procedures of the Catholic Church than looking at the spiritual world as a whole. But the Father is still seeking justice, so, to me, he resembles Pontius Pilate. He really wants to believe, but he because of logic, he will not let himself trust the angel.

If the angel had anything to do with the miraculous recovery, he seems to have nothing to do with the humans. He hides away from them, only crying out when the mob surrounding them pokes him with a brand to see if he’s still alive. He cries out, which proves he is alive, yet the people don’t consider him as that. He is physically breathing, but they consider him more of an animal than anything. Though, back in their subconscious minds, they do have an uneasy feeling, as if they know he is sentient, but they are not willing to formally accept it. This sentence says it all: “Although many thought that his reaction had not been one of rage but of pain, from then on they were careful not to annoy him, because the majority understood that his passivity was not that of a hero taking his ease but that of a cataclysm in repose.”

And even when miracles do happen, they are strange and don’t make sense. The sick aren’t healed. Yes, they have miraculous things that happen to them, but they’re so bizarre that they really don’t end up helping anyway and instead seem as if the angel is playing a joke on them. And, as the angel turns his back on the people who surround it, God seems to turn back on those as well.

The turning point in which the mob stops surrounding the angel is when the woman who was turned into a spider. Instead of being cold and distant, as the angel is, she’s amiable and distinctly human. She can help people by her miracles and really heal them. She evens helps out Father Gonzada with his insomnia! This is a miracle in itself, especially considering how Father Gonzada reacted to the angel. Earlier in the story, as he was analyzing the angel, this passage was written about what he said:

“Then he came out of the chicken coop and in a brief sermon warned the curious against the risks of being ingenuous. He reminded them that the devil had the bad habit of making use of carnival tricks in order to confuse the unwary. He argued that if wings were not the essential element in determining the different between a hawk and an airplane, they were even less so in the recognition of angels.”

But when the spider comes around, which is obviously a smooth talker with worldly values, he is taken completely and utterly. It seems ridiculous that he would be suspicious with the angel and not with the spider, but that’s what happens and makes it even more bizarre. And his insomnia is cured. Instead of facing real life and the mess with the spider and the angel, he experiences dreams once more, so he doesn’t have to confront the angel or even reality. His insomnia is cured; he doesn’t have to live.

This seemingly innocuous statement, which is not even a full sentence, also reveals something intensely interesting: “…and Pelayo’s courtyard went back to being as empty as during the time it had rained for three days and crabs walked through the bedrooms.” For just a brief moment, the crabs are revived and are back from the dead. A miracle has happened – and no one notices.

The angel is forgotten. Pelayo’s family gets rich and eventually the child whom the angel saved meets up with him. He pretends not to notice him, but the child hangs around with him anyway, and they get chicken pox at the same time. The doctor comes and can’t resist going to the angel and checking up on him. He finds the angel barely alive, but the most interesting passage is this: “They seemed so natural on that completely human organism that he couldn’t understand why other men didn’t have them too.” The angel is divine, and he, out of everyone, seems to be the only one to realize that.

More time passes and the chicken coop collapses. The angel tries to find another place, going to the Pelayo’s house, but the wife chases him out of the rooms, screaming about a hell with angels. This image is funny since it directly tackles the inhumanity of God. Everybody considers God to be a somewhat human face, but the fact that God is not human makes other people run away, chasing the faith away from their houses. And so she does this to the angel, finally, locking him up in a shed. There, another interesting passage comes up:

“That was one of the few times they became alarmed, for they thought he was going to die and not even the wise neighbor woman had been able to tell them what to do with dead angels.”

Throughout the whole story, nobody cares about the angel. They associate him as something inhuman and thus, something strange and intolerable. Now is the first time since the mob attacked him that they pity him and realize that he can die. You can tell – before, they were calling him a Norwegian, and now they begin to call him an angel once more. But a dead angel is different from a dead human, and that makes them even more afraid. If an angel dies, does that mean a spirit can die? Does that mean God can die? And this is truly alarming to them. Remember in the beginning that Pelayo is introduced as a god. By seeing this angel die, he is faced with his own helplessness and mortality. He can die. What’s more, he can kill. The family finally come to the realization that he’s dying and they really did contribute to his death. So, while the crabs were rejuvenated in the unnoticed miracle, he will die. And that scares them.

But he doesn’t die. He gets better, despite everything, and finally during springtime, he is strong enough to fly away from everything, and he does. The last two sentences are particularly strong, perhaps the strongest sentences in the whole story:

“Elisenda let out a sigh of relief, for herself and for him, when she watched him pass over the last houses, holding himself up in some way with the risky flapping of a senile vulture. She kept watching him even when she was through cutting the onions and she kept on watching until it was no longer possible for her to see him, because then he was no longer an annoyance in her life but an imaginary dot on the horizon of the sea.”

For the first time in the story, she is at ease. God is no longer in her presence and she doesn’t have to worry about Him anymore. Once more, He becomes an imaginary deity that is too far to see and too far to be concerned about. She can get on with her life, doing all the regular things that she has not had time to do, worrying and fretting about while the angel was there.

But it’s funny that she’s cutting onions, because as you cut up onions, tears come to your eyes. Is she crying? And isn’t it strange that, though she can focus more on real life, cutting onions in this case, she forgets about it and stares out at the imaginary dot of the sea?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Journal #3: “Good Country People”

Hulga is sure that she believes in nothing. Trapped in a house with a mother who treats her as a child and several “good country folk,” she sulks until she meets a bible salesman, Manley Pointer, who accepts her as she is and leads her on a wild chase, where he finally betrays her.

The main idea here is the concept of “nothing.” The story addresses this question in several ways, with dialogue with Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman, Hulga’s futile task of getting her mother to see her as she really is, and Hulga’s unsuccessful attempt at seduction. Other important ideas are what is “good,” which is illustrated with Mrs. Hopewell’s overgeneralizations and then Manley’s wordplay of the word “good.”

My heart goes out to Hulga, not because I liked her particularly, but because she was so snobbish and intellectual that I had a feeling that she was going to get it at the end. Usually, I wouldn’t be able to stand such characters, but because of Mrs. Hopewell’s ambivalence towards her daughter and Mrs. Freeman’s cool black eyes, I felt sorry for her at once. It is interesting how her fake leg is described as where her soul is kept, and perhaps the reason why she is so resentful of everyone is that nobody seems to care. Her mother begs her to go on walks, ignoring her leg entirely, while Mrs. Freeman is curious about that leg, in a very creepy way. It seems like Manley Pointer is the one who was genuinely fascinated by it.

When Manley Pointer came in, my interest was piqued at once, because he did seem to be an angel in a way, since he was actually able to annoy Mrs. Hopewell and everyone else, yet they ended up liking him well enough in the end. I also figured that he would start a romance with Hulga, though I had no idea it would turn out like that.

It is interesting how Hulga imagined seducing him, saying, “She imagined that she took his remorse in hand and changed it into a deeper understanding of life. She took all his shame away and turned it into something useful.” In effect, this is what happens, but it happens to her, not him. Her firm belief in “nothing” is shattered, because he tears away her “soul” and she realizes that there is something after all.

My main question is, why is there such an emphasis put on Mrs. Freeman? I feel like I am missing something important here, because I can imagine this story occurring without her, yet she seems to play an important role. Also, besides comparing her daughters with Hulga, why do her daughters keep getting mentioned?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Notes on "Good Country People"

The setting seems to be after cars and roads were built. Rural America?

Mrs. Freeman ---> name means something significant? Someone who is free to do what she wants. Could possibly be seen in a bad way.

Black eyes-- seems stubborn, dull. Avoids the point.

Mrs. Hopewell ---> a hopeful person, maybe falsely optimistic?

Joy ---> the name seems to contradict her character.

Mrs. Hopewell seems a bit too eager to explain how she met Mrs. Freeman. Perhaps Joy's grudges are reasonable?

Possible themes?

"Nothing is perfect."

"That is life!"

* "Well, other people have their opinions too."

Pacifist, appeaser character.

Mrs. Freeman seems to be intimidating Mrs. Hopewell.

Mrs. Hopewell is a tenant renter--maybe in the Southern America part?

Joy wants to be accepted as an equal to her mother. “If you want me, here I am – LIKE I AM.” Wants to be free of her situation.

Joy's legal name is Hulga. Mrs. Hopewell refuses to call her this--not accepting at all.

Mrs. Freeman is creepy--relishing in Hulga's leg. Vulture-like behavior.

Hulga---> Vulcan, Roman mythology.

“Woman! Do you ever look inside? Do you ever look inside and see what you are not? God!” she had cried sinking down again and staring at her plate, “Malebranche was right: we are not our own light. We are not our own light!”

Malebranche= French philosopher who believed that God was active in every aspect of our world. Possible reference may be that we need God to be our light -- we cannot have hope by ourselves. "Malebranche argued that human knowledge is dependent on divine understanding in a way analogous to that in which the motion of bodies is dependent on divine will." -- Wikipedia

"That was something that had ended with the Greeks and Romans." <--- Hulga = Vulcan

Mrs. Hopewell thinks Hulga is dealing with un-Christian ideas.

The bible salesman! Possible love interest for Hulga?

“I know you believe in Chrustian service." <--- Chrustian? Possibly a drawl.

He has a heart condition. Could he be lying?

Haha, Joy and the bible salesman... what is his name? Salt of the Earth. English idiom: "People who are salt of the earth are decent, dependable and unpretentious."

The exact meaning of the expression salt of the earth is disputed, in part because salt had a wide number of uses in the ancient world. There are several different possibilities for the originally intended meaning of the salt metaphor:
Exodus, Ezekiel, and Kings present salt as a purifying agent
Leviticus, Numbers, and Chronicles present it as a sign of God's covenant.
The most important use of salt was as a preservative and hence the most common interpretation of the metaphor is as asserting the duty to preserve the purity of the world.
In the Rabbinic literature of the period salt was a metaphor for wisdom.
Salt was a minor but essential ingredient in fertilizer and so a few scholars such as Gundry believe that earth should be translated as soil (i.e. salt of the soil), and hence the metaphor asserts that the audience should help the world grow and prosper.
One interpretation of salt of the earth is that it orders the audience to take part in the world rather than withdraw from it

We still don't know his name. He's so awkward though. I sort of like him.

"It was like losing her own life and finding it again, miraculously, in his." <--- Christianity? Symbolizing Jesus, maybe?

Uhhh... yeah. He just stole her leg. That's slightly kinky.

And Mrs. Hopewell has got to be joking. She is the essence of simplicity.

And his name is apparently Manley Pointer. Weeeird... why didn't I catch that before?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Journal #2: “Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl”

In the story “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning,” a man sees a girl who he knows is 100% right for him, and lets her walk past, too tongue-tied to speak with her the words he is meaning to say.

At first, I hated the story with a deep and burning passion. It was too simplistic, I hated the main character since he seemed such a wimp, and I didn’t like the girl either, because of the way she was described; the main character seemed to be astounded that he didn’t objectify her the way he usually did with women. All the characters seemed to be completely shallow characters.

Nor did I like the fairy tale. His assumption seemed to be that there was somebody who is 100% perfect for him and thus would always be always be 100% perfect for him, except that didn’t seem to be the case. If they were still 100% perfect for each other, then why wouldn’t they meet happily because they would love each other 100%? Or was there something more? The title suggested this as it seemed too complex, too mathematically precise for a story as bare as this, so perhaps this story symbolized something else that, for the first reading I didn’t get.

A couple of things of the reading intrigued me: the title and the constant use of the percentage 100%; the repeated sentence where he describes himself as going west to east and her going east to west; and the fairy tale.

The fairy tale was the first thing that I probed into. It seemed too simple, but one sentence stuck out for me: “One winter, both the boy and the girl came down with the season's terrible influenza, and after drifting for weeks between life and death they lost all memory of their earlier years.” This suggests some form of reincarnation, which means that the story turns from what is said to a whole new religious level. Instead of being two people who randomly meet again, they meet again after several lifetimes, which would make the story more realistic and would make their confusion so much more tragic. Instead of embracing each other, realizing that they are meant for each other, they avoid each other, too afraid to speak out, too afraid to recognize the other.

If they are reincarnated, it hints of the divine, which brings the attention to the directions, with him going west to east and her going east to west. The first thing I thought of was the sun and moon. The sun and moon go opposite directions from each other. So according to the story, the girl would be the sun (going east to west) and the narrator would be the moon (going west to east). At first I was confused, because in mythology, usually the woman is the moon goddess and a man is the sun god, but after a quick look at Japanese mythology, I found that it was the other way around--there is the sun goddess, Amaterasu, and the moon god, Tsukuyomi.

This discovery brought forth exciting new prospects, and I, being the scientist I am, immediately thought of astronomy. What if this was a poetic metaphor describing a solar eclipse? The story is set in Japan in April 1981, so I quickly looked for any solar eclipses in that year. It turned out there was a total solar eclipse that occurred on July 31, right over Japan, though it wasn’t the April date I had hoped for. Still, the story was written in 1993, so maybe the author used poetic license instead. After all, in late March, early April, the cherry trees blossom, which is a huge event in Japan. During these months, there are celebrations of Sakura where people simply relax and enjoy each other’s company. The cherry blossom also holds interesting symbolism which Wikipedia describes as, “the transience of life because of their [cherry trees] short blooming times.” So, from being a metaphor of the solar eclipse, this becomes an event where the divine meet each other in a moment of peace and celebration, just briefly, and then fade away, only to have a blurry feeling of disconnect with each other and the world. So the gods can never connect with each other and everything fades away in monotony. The sun disappears into her people, the Earth, and the moon desperately looks after her, aware that he will never catch up with her as she goes from the east to the west. She is disappearing as a sunset. The “cosmic miracle” he has described is never long-lasting.

This symbolism sounded good initially, but it had to connect with other parts of the story to make sense. Already, we can see that numbers place a very important part of this story and they carry a certain weight. In the fairy tale, the narrator describes that it is fourteen years before they will meet up again--so they would have first met in 1967. A quick look at eclipse confirms that there was a total solar eclipse in November 1967, except instead of occurring over Japan, it occurred over Antarctica and could barely be seen by anyone. This gives the fairy tale an even more dreamlike quality. There is a cliché that says, “If a dog barks in a forest, is he making a sound?” Because nobody sees the sun and moon in meeting together in a total eclipse, are they really meeting? And, as they seem to be living in different lifetimes, then it gives their meeting more uncertainty, that quality heightened by the fact that the story is told as a fairy tale.

After all that research, the second rereading seemed much more fuller and I actually liked it. Instead of the story being about a man who loses his perfect girl, the story transforms into a story about a man who has a chance encounter with the divine after he lost it for fourteen years, just as he hit puberty. As he watches it for only a brief instance, he longs for an encounter with the divine, an intangible substance which he can barely recognize, save for the fact that it wasn’t pretty and it burned him so that his chest ached and his mouth grew dry. But as he grows tongue-tied trying to think of the proper words, the divine leaves him, slipping into the world as he stares, trying desperately to find it and wanting it more than ever. A sad story, don’t you think?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Freewrite on "Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl"

I don't like writing in my books. I hate it in fact. Whenever I write something physically in my books, my eye will constantly wander from my bad handwriting to the typed pages until I forget what I am reading. If I type, I don't have that problem. So I'm typing instead. :P

These are my thoughts as I read Haruki Murakami's "On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning." They will be disjointed and weird, but whatever. They are simply notes to myself.


Geep! We're in Tokyo! Big cultural gap, anyone?

This guy is lame. I mean, I know I am shallow and everything, but he didn't really he see her or anything, and yet she was perfect for him? WHY??? And what does he want to do with her? Not sex or anything like that like you would expect (think: 1984 with Winston, the first thing he wanted to do with Julie was rape her--not very nice, but still). He wants to talk to her about fate. Fate. There was this commercial on the radio that "summarized" Serendipity" and it consisted of this annoying female voice saying ever couple seconds or so, "It must be fate!" It annoyed me to no end. That is why I remember it so vividly.

So... I think the other guy the MC was talking to was obviously more of the Winston-type.

There is another thing that this is reminding me so far. There was this one random unicorn short story I read (a really weird one... the unicorn got gang-raped in the end... O_o) but it had to do with two ghosts meeting each other who were condemned to hell, unless they could work something out. Each had the opposite sin--an excess in love/lust for one and an excess of abstinence for the other--and they had to mingle together, to love each other fully and without any reservation. T'was interesting. The main character in that was also sort of a wimp, but at least he was a more forceful wimp.

Moving on!

AHA! SO HE DOES WANT SEX! Maybe he has more balls than I thought he did. Though he says, "we might end in bed." With his show of manliness, that may just mean Parcheesi. Hmmm...

Yay for bad one-liners?

And now she's gone! That may be a good thing. GOD, HE IS SUCH A WIMP.

A fairy tale. Oh god, he needs to grow up. I mean, seriously. A fairy tale? Obviously I am totally not the 100% Perfect Girl for him because I would probably laugh in his face or give him a really, really, really weird look and I would have made him fall in pieces. Hehehe, pieces... like the Backstreet Boys. <3


The fairy tale was lame. Seriously. He's glossing over so many things that it is quite unbearable. The first assumption seems to be that there is somebody who is 100% perfect for you, and thus will always be 100% perfect for you. But obviously that CAN'T BE THE CASE. If they were still perfect for each other, then they would meet each other happily, because they would love each other 100%. Or is this the case? Let's think about this. They left each other, though they both "knew" that they were 100% perfect for each other. There must be something important with the title, with the 100%. It might be a play on numbers, since literary folks sometimes make fun of math. :P Hmmmmmm...

So! What it could mean is that love is not certain. That you can't quantify it and that you can't say, "This person is 100% for me, because that will just backfire. Because it can't be quantified.

A question: Do the Japanese people believe in reincarnation? If that is the case, which I think it might be (I've forgotten) then this story can have an interesting dynamic to it, so that they might have met in a different life. This fairy tale, admittedly, could be turned into a myth. What emphasizes this fact is that the humans seem to be forgotten gods, in a way. "She's walking east to west, and I west to east." That sentence implies that she is the sun goddess and he is the moon god. A quick look up on Japanese mythology proves that this seems to be a correct statement: the sun goddess is a lady named Amaterasu and the moon god is Tsukuyomi.

This brings really really exciting new prospects. Maybe this is not just a stupid story about a man meeting a lady and then quickly going away. Maybe this is a metaphor, something poetic to describe a solar eclipse! Upon another quick look up, I found that there *was* a total solar eclipse that was visible in 1981--but it was in July. Still, the story was written in 1993, so maybe there was some poetic license involved. Doing some more research, I find that in April, the cherry trees blossom! This is very very important to Japan and it is a time where people simply relax and enjoy each other's company. The cherry tree blossom also holds interesting symbolism. Wikipedia says, "In Japan, cherry blossoms symbolize the transience of life because of their short blooming times." So, from being a metaphor of a solar eclipse, this becomes an event where the divine meet each other in a moment of peace and celebration, just briefly, and then fade away, only to have a blurry feeling of disconnect with each other. So the gods do not connect with each other and everything just fades away, in monotony.

However, this symbolism doesn't quite connect with some things. The narrator of this story seems to be very simple, and the way he describes the woman, as a lover fourteen years ago, didn't quite make sense. This story would have to be significant, in order for the author to write so many words about it. A quick look up on solar eclipses confirms that at least that part makes sense -- there was a total solar eclipse in 1967, one which nobody could see. In the story, such a meeting might not have existed, and in reality, this total solar eclipse would have been not really cared for, so this lines up with the story. They met up in another place, another time, so that no one but they would see.

Another interesting thought, from Wikipedia, detailing Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi:

After climbing a celestial ladder, Tsukuyomi lived in the heavens, also known as Takamagahara, with his sister Amaterasu, the sun goddess.

Tsukuyomi angered Amaterasu when he killed Uke Mochi, the goddess of food. Amaterasu once sent Tsukuyomi to represent her at a feast presented by Uke Mochi. The goddess made the food by turning to the ocean and spitting out a fish, then facing the forest and game came out of her mouth, and finally turned to a rice paddy and coughed up a bowl of rice. Tsukuyomi was utterly disgusted by the fact that, although it looked exquisite, the meal was made in a disgusting manner, and so he killed her.

Soon, Amaterasu learned what happened and she was so angry that she refused to ever look at Tsukuyomi again, forever moving to another part of the sky. This is the reason that day and night are never together. In later versions of this myth, Uke Mochi is killed by Susanoo.

They will never meet.

Okay, enough! Now, to get this organized...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Journal #1

Responding to Literature

For pages 3-6, the most important idea is that reading critically is important, not only to grasp some of the more hidden meanings, but also to make reading a fulfilling experience.

Other important ideas that this section makes is that literature can show us the world around us in a different light, from different cultural, historical, and social perspectives, which can help us understand our world more and give us a richer meaning to our lives. With that said, reading cannot be a passive pastime. When reading, the reader must constantly be aware of the feelings that he experiences, of the thoughts that bubble up, no matter how insignificant they seem to be, because they will show him connections between the fiction and reality and make him aware of the larger reality that his experience alone would not compensate for.

This reminds me of something my physics teacher said. In the first class this semester, he said that there had been a study done on creative people, and one thing that they found consistent in their results, no matter what field the people specialized in, the people who showed the most creativity were the ones who could pull something that they observed or experienced before and apply it to something else, where the connection was not so obvious. So in a way, learning from literature and paralleling it with our own lives and experiences is a lesson in creativity and, as the video we first saw in this class, creativity is the driving force of our world today. By reading literature critically, we are helping ourselves by training our creativity to flourish and in the long run, we’ll help ourselves because of this.

Several questions did occur to me, but mostly the questions pertained to the author. He introduces his essay by defending literature, calling it relevant, as if this is a debate, and then he begins to discuss expanding the literary canon. Except the way he presents this literary canon, the great works of the world seem to be frozen in space and every great work is divided into cultural categories. You cannot be well read if you only read English literature--you must also read other work by other cultures to get a better picture of the spectrum of cultures. This doesn’t really jive with what I know. As a girl, I studied mythologies all over the world and I have found that we share many of the same stories, and that many cultures have developed stories that are very similar to other cultures without being exposed to those other cultures. Since much literature follows the lead of these mythologies, I have to wonder: is the author referring to the stories or the way the stories are written when he talks about being exposed to different cultures?

Writing about Literature

For pages 36-40, the most important idea is that it’s not enough to have reactions to what we’re reading--we must record them as well.

Other important ideas that this section makes is that upon reading a great piece, a plethora of intangible emotions and experiences will begin to bubble out, but these feelings and memories won’t necessarily make any sense or be meaningful unless we organize it in a meaningful way to us.

This reminds me very much of web-blogs. I have about seven web-blogs scattered across the internet, and very often, if something stressful happens to me, I will write about it in one of these web-blogs. At first, when I first start writing a new web-blog entry, it’ll feel like my thoughts are spiraling out of control, but then as I start writing, my thoughts seem to become just as concrete as the words I am typing up. This is because these thoughts that occurred to me become vocalized and now they are not mere wisps of feeling but tangible thoughts. George Orwell wrote that clear language and clear thinking go hand in hand with each other. Clear thinking cannot happen all the time, but by using clear language to describe these vague thoughts, we can transform these muddled thoughts into clear ones and make sense out of our own lives.

Since books are extensions of our own experiences, it is only natural that we should write about the feelings that occur to us as we read and react to literature. Currently, I am reading The Great Gatsby, and I know that there have been several times already that I wanted to slam the book in the wall, not because I hated it, but because events occurred that I knew weren’t right. For instance, in the beginning, there is a scene that seemed creepy to me, but I didn’t know why at first. The scene was during the meeting of Nick and Daisy, and everything is moving in the house--the white curtains the pictures, even the furniture--and it’s almost like Nick is holding his breath because he doesn’t want to move anything more. There are only two things in the room that aren’t moving--the two women, Jordan and Daisy. Instead of moving, they’re just frozen there, unaware of the tempest that is going around them. I didn’t realize why the scene was creepy at first, but as I began to write about the scene, I realized that the reason I thought it was creepy was because everything is moving in the house in such a fury that it seems like everything is alive--except for the women. They are dead to everything. So the curtains wave around and suddenly they seem to be ghosts, haunting a gaudy, empty home full of unmoving, empty people.

The only question that really occurred to me about this short passage was a question from the line that said, “...some critics argue that the reader can never fully recover the writer’s purpose.” As an as-of-yet unpublished novelist, I can say that some of my intentions for the story changed as I wrote and rewrote it, simply because as a human, I have changed as well. In fact, some of my perceptions of my story changed because of the different reactions that my test readers had to the story. So I ask those critics: is it possible for the writer to ever fully recover his purpose?

Obligatory First Post

So, this is the place that my English journal will be put online. Beautiful? I think so!

Hopefully the other entries will be more enlightening...