Yesterday, I visited my old high school math teacher Jim Scott for about four or five hours to ask him various questions pertaining to his views on life at 82. I hadn't seen him since 2010, but he's still very sharp mentally.
He lives with his wife, Barbara, on their Ozark farm just off Republican Road in Fulton County, Arkansas, near my hometown of Salem, and that reminds me of a question I forgot to ask him, namely: How did Republican Road get its name? Any readers know?
Anyway, Jim and I had a grand time discussing his responses to my various questions, though we both got stumped on our affirmation of free will - what it is and how it works.
But I did get an answer to my question as to when he realized that he was a very smart individual, and to my surprise, he replied, "In the army." The military administered him an IQ test, and he scored very high. Only then did he notice that he was quicker at insights and solutions than most other people he knew.
But he started mathematics late, after two years in the army and a few years living a cowboy life, and he stopped working for a doctorate in math when he realized the need for a practical job to support his growing family.
But he admitted that his interest in math was more practical than theoretical, anyway, and that he preferred to use math in building things. Nevertheless, I read him the analogy that Charles Fefferman made about higher math being like playing chess with the Devil
, and Jim agreed that the analogy was a good one.
I asked what gave him the most satisfaction in his life, and he again said that it would have to be building things, particularly his house, which he designed and constructed pretty much on his own.
I asked if his surveying work also gave him satisfaction, but he said, "Not as much." But we had an interesting conversation about surveying, anyway, and he explained a problem with the old Gunter's Chain - it tended to lengthen with use as the links rubbed against one another and wore the metal down. Because of this, surveyors in the old days were issued two chains, one to use in measuring land and the other to use as a standard.
After our long conversation, I showed Jim my novella
and related the story as we went through the illustrations, and Barbara came through the room as I was doing this, noticed the colorful story, and decided she'd have to order it for her Kindle.
By that time, we were getting hungry, so I treated them to dinner with Sun-Ae and me at a local Mexican restaurant, where we spoke of other things.
That day ended, and another now begins . . .
Labels: Friends, Ozark Mountains