Saturday, December 20, 2003

Friday night with Jacky Jacuizz - Velvet Lounge Story #1

Ain't a damn thing in this fine world a Russo couldn't teach me, and that includes my old CS Professor Eugene Zima. Here's a man wise beyond his years, and yet so scatterbrained it was hard for him to get through a class. He told us about his days at the Moscow State University (that's his residence room, upper middle-right), and his study of a ternary logic circuit. You see, computers are founded on 1 and 0 corresponding to the flip and flop of an electric signal, but someone up there at MSU felt like making it flip-flap-flop, corresponding somehow to 1, 0, and -1. And he spent a lecture showing us how it worked, the first lecture of the semester in fact, replete with slides and overhead projectors. He held our undivided attention for a full hour. But Zima never tested us on ternary logic, and the subject was never approached again. That lecture ended abruptly with Zima turning the lights off and on as if to say "time to go". My guess is he'd told us too much.

Lectures later he told us about trying to earn a Ph.D from his undergrad alma mater. On top of his thesis on Symbolic Computation, he was also obligated to write a 100-page screed on a topic of great ideological significance in his homeland, Leninism. While spending more time on the latter than the former, he didn't really see the point of devoting such a pressing effort to an outmoded political system. At first I agreed with him. But as he described those late nights in front of a cold typewriter I could tell he took the discomfort as something of a history lesson, a haunting reminder from his nation's past. Zima was Russian in every regard: intense, smart, a bit brusque, never too far from a cigarette, and carrying some vague, palpable allegiance to the Hammer & Sickle. He seemed ethereally smarter than us. But somehow he made light of it. These stories were a shrug to him, an interconnected yarn from his past. "Doesn't matter," he'd say.

Zima's best lesson to me was when I walked into the men's room on the ground floor of the Davis Centre and found myself at a stall next to him. I had to fight the urge to do a double-take, because as best I could tell he was clearly urinating while reading a newspaper -- with both hands. That's right, no captain steering the ship. He was hands-free pissing, Kevin. And this was a marathon; when I left he was still going. It was easy to see the benefits of this modus operandi: ekeing out a wineskin's worth of urine while reading the stock prices certainly gives the brain something to do. Such efficiency is unmistakably Red.

So hug a Russian today.

And in light of Eugene Zima's country's own Vodka, I ask you, Is a trip to the good Doctor ever not in order?

I should hope not. Also, see Martintrospection.


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