Sorry I disappeared for a while.
I want to respond to the comments that I've missed.
John: Can you elaborate a bit on that last Dali quote? Destroying the most sublime dreams and creations of civilization? What's he referring to there?
Jim: Good for your wife for actually enjoying matrix manipulations. Though I guess I can at least imagine how one might find, as you say, 11x11 matrix inverses a not altogether unpleasant task. From the introduction that I've had thus far, it seems that much of linear algebra is so routinized (is that a word?) into various algorithms (like the basic Gaussian row reduction scheme that my mother mentioned) that the execution of the problems can become easily automatized. As with all other skills we learn to the degree of thoughtless but perfect performance--playing the piano, riding a bike-- there's something vaguely satisfying about standing by as witness as your own mind or your own hands carry out a task that you no longer have to supervise.
Mom: You had never told me the filing cabinet story. That's a good one. Also thank you for sharing with the University of Minnesota community my childhood propensity to fall off of playground equipment. That distinction does, at least, go a long way towards explaining my present mental state. Anyways, yes, I used to have the number of occasions counted and could recollect them all in vivid detail (except the concussion, of course).
Let's see, so, a recent time when I did something stupid and ended up physically hurting myself. Hm hm hm. Usually papercuts and other such mundane events. I remember sometime maybe when I was in high school when I was trying to remove a contact lens, and was trying to get it to stick to my fingers, and was having quite a bit of trouble, wondering why it wouldn't come out, and feeling that my eye was getting very sore -- it was then that I realized (d'oh!) that I had already taken the contact lens out. Yeah. Oops. That obviously had to be some time ago because now there's no way I could be unaware that my contacts are removed.