Thursday, September 22, 2005

Preparing for the big trip

One persistent problem with living among academics is procrastination. The delay and foot dragging occurs on virtually every front. Ozzie is currently sitting on good papers where the data is over three years old and the text has been more or less completed for two years. Despite my prodding, the papers continue to languish upon his laptop rather than garner praise and citations in a journal. The lack of action is a mystery, though I suspect it stems from the same impulse that prevents our house from having a working garage door.

Such lethargy is congruent with the lifestyle choices of teddy bears and might be the reason that bears flourish in the Nelson household. Indeed, lethargy is a term that all too aptly describes my colleagues. The slogan "Why do today when you could nap" accurately captures Wagsy's approach to daily activities. However, Ozzie has been negligent in a matter of great importance to the bears; namely, Pi and Bear are still with us. While we greatly enjoy their company and their departure will sadden us, both Pi and Bear belong with their intended children. The children will have entered kindergarten before meeting their furry friends, at this rate.

The basics of traveling

So Squawky, the most intrepid explorer amongst the bears, took it upon himself to educate the bears on the basics of travelling. Squawky was born to fly and has travelled with Harriet to several continents. He has even accompanied Ozzie on many business trips, including the august occasion of submitting the dissertation (yet another example of procrastination). If there is any bear qualified to offer travel advice to our young proteges, it is Squawky.

So this is a suitcase

Squawky began by showing Bear and Pi a model of a suitcase. He explained that people use such containers to carry belongings -- both cherished and mundane -- when flying.

Unfortunately, Bear and Pi mistook the model for an actual suitcase and wondered how they would fit in such a small space. The reader might think I would be troubled by such conceptual difficulties. Quite the contrary. The confusion led to one of my favorite exchanges. Bear made a quip likening the small suitcase to a sausage casing and wondered if Pi would be kosher since a teddy bear is not strictly porcine. Rather than retaliate physically, Pi offered an astute application of the Banach-Tarski theorem and replied that the suitcase could be cut up and reassembled to be as large as he desired. To my delight, Bear then wondered if the Banach-Tarski might have implications for Gabriel's Horn Paradox.

Isn't this a little small?

Squawky appeared somewhat disgruntled that his lesson on suitcases and travel had been hijacked by higher mathematics. Upon further reflection, I was also somewhat disappointed in the episode for it meant that our young bears have stayed with us far too long. While I am a proud and doting mentor, such comfort with abstract topics in topology are a strong signal that Bear and Pi were long ago ready to accept the mantle of beardom and meet their children.

How to travel in style

Squawky ended with a demonstration of optimal travel arrangements for teddy bears. A shopping bag with clothing is ideal for the clothing is soft and comfortable, there is no lid to squish the occupants, and the clothing prevents your person from throwing in potentially hazardous items such as toothbrushes and makeup kits. Bear and Pi seemed entirely reassured by this mode of travel.

I don't know how to tell the young scholars that they will be mailed in a cardboard box to their new homes. Perhaps I can follow Ozzie's lead and procrastinate on this particular duty.


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