math

365 Challenge: Day 74 – Mechanical

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Mechanical: (a) not having or showing thought or spontaneity; automatic or (b) working or produced by machines or machinery

Two definitions; two polarizing meanings and impacts. Should I get deep and introspective, or just cover the perimeter of both… What’s a guy to do on a very rainy morning? Think about pasta… seriously, look at that photo below. Did you know that’s how they shaped and created spiral noodles? I’d never thought about it before, and when I found this GIF, I stared at it for over a minute, fascinated by the ingenuity and simplicity all wrapped in one little machine. I suppose it’s baked afterwards, or maybe it hardens on its own. Very curious now… OK, back to the topic at hand… mechanical… I fit one definition perfectly, but I’m quite far from the other one. I’m sure you know by now which is which.

My father is a very handy jack-of-all-trades. He can build motors, repair most anything and understands exactly how any piece of machinery works. I, unfortunately, did not inherit any of those abilities. On the rare occasion, I understand enough to get by, but there are many things out there that still confuse me. I laugh about it, but part of me is disappointed in myself for not being able to grasp what seems like a simple concept. A few examples:

  • Toilet Bowls
    • Occasionally the lever or internal parts will stop working. Plastic breaks every few years. It’s often a simple and direct replacement. I sorta get how it works and if I really applied myself, I could probably fix it. But I’ve had a few times where I just stared, willing it to fix itself. It’s not about doing the work; I’m happy to fix and repair things. But trying to figure out which piece to hold up while you push the other down… or how to get the water level just right for the flush. Ugh… for a smart math guy, I’m pretty dumb when it comes to something like fixing a toilet tank.
  • Cars
    • I was once taught how to change a tire. I’ve never had to do it myself because I’ve never had a flat tire when I was a driver (haven’t had a car in the city in 5+ years). I had a nail in the tire once, but it was not causing any real immediate damage. I had an inspection coming up, so I dropped the car off for both to be handled. I probably could have attempted it myself. But it’s not a strength in my wheelhouse, so I avoided it. One would think I’d look at it as an opportunity to learn something new, but I don’t. It’s not laziness, as I am fine spending 4 hours cleaning every nook and cranny of the kitchen and bathrooms. I’m good with building bookshelves and planters. But I couldn’t tell a carburetor from a muffler if my life depended on it. Pretty sad.
  • Door Knobs
    • I once tried to replace a door knob and lock on my own. I thought it would be a simple task. But my brain struggles to grasp the whole concept of which direction something turns, how the gears wind or work, what loosens or tightens. In the end, I installed it, but it was still a bit loose, and I was glad it was an inside door as I’m sure anyone could have easily broken in to the place if it were the outside door. From that point on, I won’t touch door knobs or locks.

So… my point being… I can calculate numbers and advanced mathematical equations in my head. I can write a character description or scene setting you’ll fall in love with. I can grow flowers, cook and clean. I can lift heavy weights and do intense exercise routines. But I have little to no mechanical skills whatsoever. While not life-threatening, I’d not want to be stuck in a life or death situation on my own, where I needed these skills.

The only saving grace I feel in this situation comes from what other people think of me, or what they’ve told me on past occasions. A large group of friends and I once played something called “The Voting Game” during one of our monthly game nights. We found it at Barnes and Noble, and it’s basically a bunch of cards with sayings or quotes, and then you vote which person in the group is most like that card. It’s semi-anonymous, but you could play it either way. A card came up basically saying the person who you would most trust to help you get off a remote island and survive any complication thrown at you while stuck somewhere. My friends all voted for me, so that helps offset the lack of mechanical skills. At least people know I’m persistent and always find a solution to a problem.

On the flip side, I am often mechanical in my approach to things, thus meeting the first definition. I am very consistent. I follow routines. I have a linear and organized approach to planning. I often have automatic responses to questions or situations without even thinking about or interpreting what I’ve heard. So at least I fit one of the definitions. Any mechanical folks out there, either definition?

About Me & the “365 Daily Challenge”

I’m Jay and I live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. I’ve always been a reader. And now I’m a daily blogger. I decided to start my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge” where since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life.

The goal: Knowledge. Acceptance. Understanding. Optimization. Happiness. Help. For myself. For others. And if all else fails, humor. When I’m finished in one year, I hope to have more answers about the future and what I will do with the remainder of my life. All aspects to be considered. It’s not just about a career, hobbies, residence, activities, efforts, et al. It’s meant to be a comprehensive study and reflection from an ordinary man. Not a doctor. Not a therapist. Not a friend. Not an encyclopedia full of prior research. Just pure thought, a blogged journal with true honesty.

Join the fun and read a new post each day, or check out my book reviews, TV/Film reviews or favorite vacation spots. And feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

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Film Review: Hidden Figures

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4 of 5 stars to Hidden Figures, a drama released in 2017 about three African-American women who fought for the ability to work in a NASA program during the 1960s on the team calculating important formulas and equations being used to help the US launch an astronaut into space. Originally a book by Margot Lee Shetterly, you can read more about it here.

Why This Movie?

The story is fascinating… not only are three women, but three African-American women, fighting for a fair chance to participate when (1) it should have always been an option [don’t get me started on my frustration with all people not having equal rights in the past] and (2) they were the smartest people in the country at the time.

It received several Oscar nominations, but unfortunately didn’t win any of the major ones. It won a few other award shows for acting, etc. And it’s based on reality… where all 3 women are real people, some still alive today.

I usually prefer to read the book before I watch the movie, but I’ve got a backlog of books on my TBR (To Be Read) shelf with some deadlines, and my other half wanted to see the movie. We don’t often go to the movies and it was released last week onto our cable providers “movies on demand.” It became last Saturday evening’s movie of choice.

It is often compared to “The Help,” particularly because of it being the same rough time period, having Octavia Spencer and it being about African-American women fighting for equal rights. But it’s really quite different. You don’t see a lot of victimization in this movie; it’s certainly there, but the overall theme and message is more about how smart they were and what successes they had.

Overview

Katherine, Dorothy and Mary live in Virginia and work at the NASA offices in the computer room, but they don’t work on computers: they are human computers who have vast mathematical skills beyond any reasonable norm. Katherine has a particular genius for being able to calculate extensive formulas using advanced geometry and other sorts of equations. Dorothy, hoping to get the supervisor role she’s acting in but without the title and pay, is very easily able to understand computer languages and engineering, and when the first IBM comes to town, she is the one who makes it work properly. Mary’s specific skills are never volunteered, but she wanted to be an engineer and needed to get advanced degrees at a local university when it was an all-white school. Each of the women struggle in their personal lives (widow, less than supportive family and single mother) as well as at work, but they band together to help fight for the right to be part of the team to help launch John Glenn into space, especially after the Russians beat the US. The movie follows about a 6-month arc of their lives when they are first told “no” all the way to when they get their “yes.”

Notable Stars

  • MY FAVORITE
    • It was a toss up… I love Octavia Spencer, but I think Taraji P. Henson beat her out in this one.
    • Taraji is probably best known currently for her role of Cookie on “Empire.”
    • Taraji plays Katherine, a single mother of three, who lives with her own mother, so someone is raising the girls. She is the smartest in the group and eventually gets a chance to prove it when she gets put on the team to launch John Glenn.
    • Taraji’s performance was very simple and understated for 90% of the film; she was very consistent and conveyed through body language every hurt and frustration over the lack of equal and civil rights, in particular around her scenes when needing to find a “colored bathroom.” When she’s finally pushed to the edge, she unleashes in a verbal storm for about two minutes and really showcases how awful it was for women and for African-Americans during this time period.

  • OTHERS
    • Octavia Spencer plays Dorothy, and has her normal comedic timing down to perfection. Her role is probably a bit more supporting, but she is very strong.
    • Janelle Monae plays Mary, who fights for her right, and all future African Americans and women, to attend an all-white university. She is best known as the singer of “We are young,” a song I think is absolutely beautiful.
    • Kirsten Dunst plays Vivian, a supervisor who stands the line on what the company will allow its “colored” employees to do or not do. She plays her typical character, but did it well.
    • Kevin Costner plays Al, head of the division working on the space launch. He’s very strong in this role. Um… I think everyone knows who Costner is, but he plays a similar role as he always does!
    • Jim Parsons plays Paul, Al’s right hand who struggles with partnering on or stealing Katherine’s work. He’s very different than his role on The Big Bang Theory.
    • Glen Powell plays John Glenn. Glen’s best known for his role on Scream Queens. But he is very different this time – not silly humor as in the past. I liked him a lot.
    • Lots of other strong supporting cast members… in all, a good group.

The Good or The Bad

  • It’s a great film. The story is strong. The acting is good. The setting and scenery is fantastic, especially given they were recreating something almost 60 years old.
  • It got a 4 instead of a 5 only because there weren’t any major stand-out components, where I thought “OMG, new star is born, this is amazing, everyone must see it…” It was a solid movie, depicting a very sad part of American history with great aplomb. A few more dramatic scenes may have pushed it up to a 5 for me. But still very much worth watching.
  • Never any slow scenes where it felt over-played.
  • Although the mathematical formulas were critical, they were downplayed. You could see the characters calculating, but you didn’t worry about it being too advanced. It was minimal screen time. The film was more about what was going on in people’s heads over everything.

What’s Next?

  • I don’t know if I’ll go back to read the book. As much as I loved the film, I get the gist. I’d rather read something else by this author.
  • I would be interested in seeing something else with Taraji P. Nelson in it. It was a very good performance and very different from her other roles from what I understand.
  • I might consider a biography about these women… if it exists. I need to look that up!
  • I don’t know a lot about the “underground railroad.” It might be time to get more educated on this even earlier historical fight for freedom.

About Me

I’m Jay. I am 40 and live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. Each week, I will post a summary of a trip I’ve taken somewhere in the world. I’ll cover the transportation, hotel, restaurants, activities, who, what, when, where and why… and let you decide for yourself if it’s a trip worth taking.

Once you hit my site “ThisIsMyTruthNow” at https://thisismytruthnow.com, you can join the fun and see my blog and various site content. You’ll find book reviews, published and in-progress fiction, TV/Film reviews, favorite vacation spots and my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge.” Since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life… see how you compare!

Feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post. Tell me what you think. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.