While the House Burned

"I won't be here on Thursday but Alfred here will be collecting your papers on classical ornament. Say 'hello', Alfred."

“No, Ian, you’re conflating the two. Yes, bitcoin prices are high but the chances of mining a block of them are at an all time low. Just look at the block allocation model. I don’t want to call it a pyramid scheme because maybe it isn’t technically a pyramid scheme, but come on. The allocation model greatly favored the early adopters. The blocks are less common and harder to get and by now you’re competing with every dude who likes computers but is bad at math. Also: probably botnets. If you could figure out how to do it without a significant investment in hardware and energy, I’d say go for it. Fuck it, why not? You might be able to use the computers in the language lab or book time on the Cray over in Tammany but if they figured out what you were up to, well, at the very least you’d lose your financial aid.”

"That's an interesting question, mizz, uhm, Berksworth is it? Also, I must confess that I admire your courage. Most in your position would not so blatantly betray so poor an understanding of the fundamental concepts that we have now spent two months considering."

“Now, for the other half of the thing: there is no way prices can stay this high. It’s all hype. No one thought the Beanie Baby bubble would burst but it did. This is Beanie Babies for the 4chan and fedora set, for bored tax cheats who want something to brag about at dinner parties, for creeps who want their heroin mailed to them. People are buying in because they hear news stories about how rapidly the ‘value’ is growing. It’s a snake eating its own tail. Look at Cyprus. Did the Cypriots fall for bitcoin? No, no they did not. But really, do you really want to know how I know that bitcoin has jumped the shark? The fucking Winklevoss twins are all in.”

“Every semester I get a few papers that try to read a life and death theme into the egg-and-dart motif ‘modeled’ on a lackluster piece of scholarship immortalized in some fraternity’s test bank. Don’t, just don’t.”

Dave was overfull of differential equations, nigh effluent. He was all anxiety and no sleep. The midterm was at three so he had four, no, six hours. Ian and Paul were both already on campus, probably sleeping in lectures, so the house was quiet except for the sound of fans in the laundry room. The simple parts of his brain wanted sugar, bright lights, the idea of plenty. They won out, the balance of power having finally shifted, or maybe the parts of his brain that had been trying to memorize all night just conceded.

It was almost embarrassing that Diff. E.Q. was hard. It was little parlor tricks; identify the type of problem and then use a prescribed method of solution. Plug and chug. It seemed like the sort of thing you ought to be able to teach a chimpanzee how to do, or maybe an eager collie.

He took the Corolla out on the parkway and thought about how you can’t really make a mobius strip out of paper, because paper has an edge, a thickness, and anything you make out of it is going to be a volume, not a surface. That edge, though, would also be a mobius strip. So, when you try to make a real life mobius strip, you inadvertently create a second one because what you’re really creating is the volume defined by two locally perpendicular mobius type surfaces. Dave liked it when there was a sort of symmetry in an act and its unintended consequences.

He found himself, engine off, in the Walmart parking lot, with no memory of the act of getting there. It had been automatic. He went inside, shuffling past the greeters. He likes the high ceilings, the idea of space and the thought of those big steel roof trusses, and therefore the roof itself, going on forever, a study in planar geometry.

Surrounded by jars of pickles, he realized he had forgotten when it was appropriate to use the method of Frobenius. He knew this four hours ago.

He wanted coffee and so he wandered over to the coffee maker section of the store. A low counter brimmed with GEs and Mister Coffees, Dunkin Donuts k-cups. He stared at the machines, grabbed the handle of a brushed steel carafe, actually picked it up and pulled it out from under the basket before he realized the disconnect, that there was no coffee in it, and he sheepishly replaced the carafe and toddled off toward the consumer electronics department where, by the DVDs, they have the movie theater style boxes of candy for ninety nine cents.  

“If these ornamentations arose, for use in temples, from a contemplation of the question ‘What forms are pleasing to the gods?’, then their appearance in buildings of state and private residences of the last few hundred years suggests a dangerous lack of humility.”

“So, yeah, Ian, if you want to spend your time and a small fortune building an energy guzzling machine whose sole purpose is the speculation of a currency, and I say currency loosely because it is neither backed by any government, reputable or otherwise, nor is it in any way tangible, a currency whose primary use, it would seem, is its own speculation and whose value has been temporarily grossly inflated by idiots enrapt with its novelty, then by all means, go for it. Sure.  But once people lose interest and the thing crashes and any blocks you might generate, though your chances are rapidly decreasing on that, are rendered worthless, remember that I told you that this would happen.”

“Ancient forms, with unknown power, re-appropriated by an arrogant and ignorant merchant class with no understanding of the semiotics and no piety to speak of. Neoclassicism is then, at best, unwitting grave-robbing, and at worst an act of heresy against the old gods. Again, no class on Thursday but papers will be due all the same.”