Monday, October 12, 2009

Roz Savage

Book Signing
At age 30-something some ten years ago, Roz woke up from her cube job in consulting and management, realizing she wasn't going to be happy going further down this road, now that she had everything she'd believed she'd wanted: a secure job, marriage, red sports car. She wrote two obituaries for herself as an exercise, one in which she had a life of adventure, a shared voyage of self discovery, of self testing, and another in which she'd clung to her drab existence, afraid to try for more than the narrow goals set by the twin ideologies of materialism and consumerism.

The call of the wild eventually won her allegiance and she realized one morning, like a light going on, that rowing across the Atlantic might be her thing (she eventually did that, is next facing part three of her Pacific row, having completed two legs). What gave her some inspiration was a married couple had tried, and whereas the big strapping guy had wigged out (intense agoraphobia and claustrophobia, a double whammy), the plucky misses had completed the row by herself. Roz saw herself as petite, not an athlete, not a superhero, not incredibly brave. What she had was drive and a hunger to live her life fully. She needed a project, one that wouldn't hurt the Earth, would on the contrary help with its healing (the Hopi were an inspiration here).

I've tended to see Roz as the paradigm action figure in a series of storyboards involving energy accounting, a way to teach math where we convert joules and calories into work, measured in miles rowed, other output. These simple physical equations about humans working were and are the focus of my First Person Physics meme, what Dr. Bob Fuller picked up on and intelligently steered towards the NSF. We got a lot done, with Roz easy to point to as a source of inspiration. Having listened to her stories tonight, I am as persuaded as ever that here's a great way to teach math in a way that will speak to many people. Her Earth-friendly environmental message plants many good seeds. Lindsey Walker showed up in Portland from Savannah with a similar math-teaching paradigm around bicycle riding and towing (instead of rowing).

I was joined by one other Wanderer I recognized (Jay, likewise a fan), next ahead of me in line. When she signed my copy of her book, I brought up the shared memory of our Thanksgiving soiree two years ago. She had just attempted her first leg of the Pacific back then, had capsized in a storm, was still recovering, including financially as the rescue of her craft had proved expensive. Twas my privilege to join this appreciative audience in my own zip code area (97214), at Powell's on Hawthorne. Thank you Roz Savage. I'm looking forward to reading your book.