Content-type: text/html Ray Manning

Thursday, March 22, 2001 9:25 AM

Different Things

The kinesiologist/biomechanics PhD student at USC is in Santa Barbara this weekend, so I go to the Frat House on Friday night. Brandon is back from Vietnam and is darker and his skin is peeling. But he is having fun! Sabrina is there and I ask if she wants a drink.

"What are you drinking?" she asks.

And when I respond with "7-Up", she says that she will have the same.

I also buy Andy, an acquaintance and tonight's disc jockey, a bottled water and set it on his equalizer. "What's that for?"

"Just because". And he smiles. He later comes over and makes idle chit chat and I want to tell him "Take me. Take me now!". But I do not.

Alex makes his appearance later in the evening and, finally, he has red accents in his hair. They are nice. We smile at each other and go about our respective businesses. Some drunk tries to pick me up and I have to fight the drunk off. Danny, one of my acquaintances, doesn't help things by encouraging the drunk. But I get out of the situation without resorting to body checking her against the bar or a high stick across the head with a pool stick.

I have a long and deeply philosophical conversation with a friend, Joe, during dinner on Monday. We are talking about relationships, careers, finances, governments, and family. When he asks what my type is, I respond with "Someone with a big heart and a cute smile. That's all it takes." I pause momentarily. And continue with "Wait a minute. Let's think about this. It might actually be someone with big hair and cute heels. Yes, that's it. Someone with big hair and cute heels."

Later Joe asks me what the kinesiologist/biomechanics USC student and I talk about. When I respond with "We usually talk about impedance- matching lower back muscle control, solving the steady state Ricatti equation, and when one can safely ignore Coriolis acceleration terms", Joe shakes his head in confusion. And shoots me the "What the heck are you talking about?" look. I don't bother to explain.

But Joe finally comes back and insists that I have a big party for birthday number 13 of Nopester. Nopester will be turning 13 people years old on March 19th. Though I assumed that Nopester (a.k.a., Nopey - his real name, Nopesterov, and Nopesterini) and I would have a quiet evening of walking and eating chocolate cake, Joe insists that I have a party. "Well, it cannot be the 19th because I have an ice hockey game on that night. It will have to be Tuesday the 20th."

"Done. I'll bring Brandon and Andy and all of my friends."

After more than 60 days without alcohol, I drink heavily when a coworker suddenly dies, when a Grand Prix marshal dies, and when a former co- worker announces that her mother has leukemia. It is more than I can take sober. On this night, whatever night it was, I drink myself into oblivion.

There is a wedding invitation that arrives in the mail on a Saturday. I know who it is from. I do not open it until Tuesday. It is from Sweetie. When I see that I am not listed as the bride, I go to the liquor store and buy a bottle of whiskey. And drink like a fish! And now I have no problems. Except for the problem of being invited to Sweetie's wedding and knowing that I should be the one in the wedding dress.

On Friday night, the kinesiologist/biomechanic and I go to a kinesiologist/biomechanics party. It is a going away party for Pan, a Thai kinesiologist, who has finished her degree and is going back to Thailand. Though she wants to stay here. I can see why people are sad because she is extremely personable, knowledgeable, and bright. As I walk into the party, I recognize a lady. I cannot picture whether I know her from UCLA or from political stuff. The people at the party are friendly, so it takes me quite a while to work my way over to her to try and remember where I know her from. My trip to see her is interrupted by fun conversations about how I fit into the group here, about EMG and muscle forces exerted during gymnastic movements, rehabilitation of stroke patients via weightless enforced motor control walking, evolution versus learning of walking motions in children, and using shotgun genetic matching approaches for determining oxygen uptake regions in the brain during exercising. It turns out that the minute I leave one group of discussions, someone walks up to me and starts another. This is a very friendly group towards strangers.

I finally make it over to the lady and introduce myself and ask her where I know her. When she says that she studied kinesiology at UCLA, it rings a bell. I put the pieces of the puzzle together for her: Theresa (a kinesiolgist at UCLA) and I went out for about a year when I was at UCLA and this lady was a friend of Theresa's. I get the feeling that she doesn't remember me, but we go on and name drop mutual friends in kinesiology/biomechanics from the mid 1980's era at UCLA. (I had helped some biomechanics with some dynamics back then, and darn it all, if they didn't get me addicted to cycling!) It also turns out that the house where the party is being held is her house. And it turns out that her husband is a CalTech geek who understands (if you can believe that) black holes and astrophysics. I look forward to talking with him but am disappointed when it is announced that he is away on business and will not be at the party. So where did he go? To Mars or Jupiter to get a better view of a black hole?

I have to explain to each and every person that I come in contact with, with an embarrassed and sheepish look on my face, that I am just an aerospace engineer. But when I tell them that I am interested in artificial intelligence and, eventually, artificial life, they decide that I am okay. DNA microarrays come up a time or two and the partygoers are shocked and surprised that I take a deep interest in the conversation and actually stay ahead of it. I receive an informal job offer from the director of City of Hope. She runs the biostatistics group and asks me to send her a resume.

Sidebar: I have not sent her the resume yet.

Second Sidebar: Nopester's 13th birthday party has not been held yet. Not Sunday, the 12th, because of a playoff ice hockey game (which was won). Not Monday, the 13th, because of a regular season ice hockey game with the other team. Not Tuesday, the 14th, because of the first game of the championship series which was won. Not Wednesday, the 15th, because of a 7:30pm business meeting with the startup. Poor Nopester!