Sunday, 24 October 2010

100 Books Meme

AKA more about Charli's reading tastes than you ever wanted to know.

I'm not sure which hundred books these are (they can't surely be the hundred everybody should read, or even the hundred most read), but I've seen the meme in a few places and thought it might be fun to fill in.

Bold for what I've read, italics for what I'd like to, and both for those I'm in the process of reading.

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (A few times.)
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien (Many, many times.)
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte (Just once, I think. A reread wouldn't hurt.)
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling (Some books more than others.)
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible (By the end of November, I'll have just some of the minor prophets and some of the poetic books left.)
7. Wuthering Heights -Emily Bronte (I know reading this will be developing, but I started it once, and am not convinced I'll enjoy it.)
8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Phillip Pullman (I wouldn't recommend it, though.)
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens (I haven't got the hang of reading Dickens yet.)
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott (So many times.)
12. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy (More 'think I ought to' than want to, so I doubt I'll get there any time soon.)
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller (I've vaguely heard of this. When I'm more educated I'll probably want to read it.)
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare (My penchant for rereading does not serve me well in getting through complete works that I need to take in smallish bites.)
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier (I've heard of it. Maybe one day.)
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien (One of my favouritest books. I read it for the first time when I was five, and still adore it.)
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks (Haven't even heard of this one.)
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger (I enjoyed it, but didn't think it was astounding.)
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot (One day when I have lots of time.)
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald (Not sure I've fully appreciated it, though.)
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy (The trouble is that the book's too heavy to put in my backpack.)
25. The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams (A couple of times.)
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck (Although it's pretty low on my to-read list at the moment.)
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll ('Alice' is my least favourite Lewis Carroll, though I do like it.)
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens (I got about three-quarters of the way through when I was elevenish-ish, and then the hero got enough older than me that I was bored and never finished it.)
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis (You can tell 'most everything you need to know about my relationship to this series from the fact that I once worked out how to read all seven books in two school days.)
34. Emma - Jane Austen (Started it a couple of times, and skimmed the whole thing at least once, but Emma makes me cringe.)
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen (My favourite Austen novel.)
36. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
37. Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres (Haven't heard of this one.)
38. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden (I think this is probably a good book, but doesn't rate quite high enough to get italiced.)
39. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne (The originals seemed odd after the Disney version, but I definitely prefer them now.)
40. Animal Farm - George Orwell (I read half of this and discovered that I don't like dystopia-type novels. I need to have a more determined go at this and then at 1984.)
41. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (I've read enough of his other work to have a good idea of what happens, though.)
42. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Haven't heard of it.)
43. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving (Haven't heard of it.)
44. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins (Haven't heard of it.)
45. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery (Many times. I also love the 'Emily' books.)
46. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy (As for Tess of the d'Urbervilles.)
47. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood (I expect this to be mildly enjoyable, but fairly educating in terms of pop culture - or something like that.)
48. Lord of the Flies - William Golding (I ought to italicise this but it just seems so depressing.)
49. Atonement - Ian McEwan (I enjoyed 'Saturday'.)
50. Life of Pi - Yann Martel (It was clever and well written, but I didn't really like it. Might improve with a reread.)
51. Dune - Frank Herbert (Exactly once.)
52. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons (Never heard of it.)
53. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
54. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth (Nhoi)
55. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Nhoi)
56. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
57. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley (Twice. It's well done, although hardly mindblowing, and quite an easy read.)
58. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon (I think this might be worth owning. Read it once from the library in Jo'burg.)
59. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Who is Marquez? This is the second time he's appeared.)
60. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
61. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov (Reluctantly italicised, because it'd be good for me.)
62. The Secret History - Donna Tartt (nhoi)
63. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold (Seems more depressing than actually improving, at east for me.)
64. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
65. On The Road - Jack Kerouac (I've heard people rave about this.)
66. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy (Okay I might as well admit that I am scared of Thomas Hardy. Why can't I just read the nice, pretty books?)
67. Bridget Jones' Diary - Helen Fielding
68. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
69. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
70. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
71. Dracula - Bram Stoker (I don't do horror. At nineteen years old, I still occasionally refuse to turn out the light before bed. Reading 'Dracula' would be stupid.)
72. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett (Love this!)
73. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson (But I will read 'A Short History of Nearly everything' first.)
74. Ulysses - James Joyce (But I want to read 'Finnegan's Wake' first, to find out about quarks.)
75. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath (I think this is something I ought to read?)
76. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome (Our copy of this book is falling apart. We 'gallumph' down hills and remind each other of favourite scenes when we visit large bodies of water. (We do this with other books too. From this list, Lewis and Tolkien.))
77. Germinal - Emile Zola (nhoi)
78. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
79. Possession - AS Byatt (nhoi)
80. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens (Wait, I have read some Dickens! And shocked some people by giving it to my ten year old brother, who simply couldn't be old enough to read Dickens. Pfft. (He enjoyed it. Now he is twelve, and puts me to shame when it comes to reading things like history, although I think I'm still better read than he in terms of literature. (This year he decided to read 'The Silmarillion', and enjoyed it. At twelve.)))
81. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell (nhoi)
82. The Color Purple - Alice Walker (It sounds vaguely familiar.)
83. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro (nhoi)
84. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
85. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry (nhoi)
86. Charlotte's Web - EB White ('Hi, I'm Charlotte. As in Charlotte's Web.' At least people (might) remember your name after that. I am torn between enjoying the story and thinking that it has a rather confused message.)
87. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom (Sounds familiarish.)
88. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (I've read what we own, but never got around to finding the rest.)
89. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton (Awesome stories. Read several times.)
90. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad (I've heard the author's name and suspect I'm ignorant for not knowing more.)
91. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (In both English and Afrikaans - the latter for a school reading project. I think I enjoy it more in hindsight, whatever that means.)
92. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks (nhoi)
93. Watership Down - Richard Adams (Lovely book, read twice, I think, but not an absolute favourite.)
94. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole (nhoi, but it sounds interesting.)
95. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute (I would read this if someone recommended it and I had a copy handy, I think.)
96. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas (I've read the horribly abridged and unmemorable version for kids, I think.)
97. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl (Nearly as good as Matilda! I don't like all of Roald Dahl, but Charlie and Matilda are lovely.)
98. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (My cordial dislike of translations and knowledge that Hugo had lovely prose will likely slow this down.)
99. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain (I think I need to reread it though.)
100.The Outsiders - S. E. Hinton (I've read a few of her novels, and thought she was quite good, but she doesn't seem to have left much impression on me. 'The Outsiders' was not my favourite.)

Conclusion: So many books, so little time.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

I caved

I was supposed to be checking something for Sunday School, but the nice people from the Office of Letters and Light had also emailed me and this somehow happened:

Friday, 01 October 2010

Seven Quick Takes

Hosted by Jen at Conversion Diary

There's a saying that goes "be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it" (or something along those lines, anyway. I've heard it altered to be careful what you pray for"--in the same vein as "when you pray for patience, God give you opportunities to practise." Somehow, these sayings have actually made me a little nervous about praying to hard in some directions. Recently, though, I've realised that those observations are occluded by 1 Corinthians 10:13. H will not test you beyond what you can bear. So it's not actually foolish to pray for, say, patience. God will give you opportunities to practise, but he'll hold your hand while you do.

I think things like that are kind of like splinters. Sticking the needle in is very much not fun, but getting the splinter out is more than worth it. At least, most of the time.

Twitter gave me the option to enable their #newtwitter, which I did. It's quite cool and streamlined, but seems to be still in beta. I'm torn between liking the new features and layout and the old buglessness.

I came home and crashed this afternoon. In the process, I matched a couple of hundred synonyms on Free Rice. It's relatively educational (although I doubt I'll ever have much cause to use words like 'opprobrium'. I mean, I already have to make an effort not to confuse people by using big words). It's very addictive. It's weird the kind of words that end up on the same level.

I think I confused the librarian today by making a point of paying my R4.00 ($0.50) fine. The whole concept of breaking the due-back rule and needing to be fined=punished is not cool in my book . . . but a R4 fine didn't seem to be something she expects people to care about. I think that's a little sad.

While I was at the library, I saw they have a new book in about fanfiction, and the psychology and culture around it. That looked fascinating, but I couldn't justify taking out a book I don't have time to read when I was there to pay an overdue fine! I think it'll still be on display next week and maybe I'll have more time.

It's really weird that all the British/American/other people with weird calendars are starting the school year now, just as we're starting to think ours is drawing to a close. I've begun to get used to people discussing autumn (um, fall?) fashions at the beginning of spring, but the school year thing still throws me. Clearly, our calendar is much better organised, because our summer holiday falls over year's end which makes everything align neatly. Those Northerners just have things backwards.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Back-to-School Daybook

From the simple woman.

Outside my window: The leaves pressing on the pane are silhouetted against the inky night-time sky, like a half-finished art project.
I am thinking about the changes to my study programme I'm considering. I'm more and more convinced of what I should do, but change is still scary!
I am thankful for friends and family who appreciate 'nerd' jokes. Here's one I heard at varsity today:
f(x) walks into a bar and orders a drink. The bartender tells him, "I'm sorry, we don't cater for functions."
From the learning rooms: Today I learned why soap bubbles shimmer! It's to do with interference patterns as different colours of light are reflected from the outer and inner surface of the soapy film. I think that is Just. So. Cool.
From the kitchen: I made cupcakes yesterday. They came out a bit heavier than I expected, though. Hmm.
I am wearing a bright/earthy coloured print dress. (Can a print be bright and earthy at the same time? I'm much better at describing colour in terms of wavelengths and stuff!)
I am creating a steam car. The big race is next Monday and our car still doesn't actually go. That might be a bit of a problem, but I think we'll get there.
I am going towards a place where the path forks in the woods.
I am reading Confessions of St Augustine again. That is, I paused in the middle and I've picked it up again now. It's good, but heavy and slow going, especially just reading between lectures.
I am hoping that I understand the Maths I'm being tested on tomorrow! I have studied for the test, but one can always study more, and that's making me a little nervous.
I am hearing my younger brother playing guitar riffs.
One of my favorite things is the sense of wonder that comes when you understand how something works--like the soap bubble thing.
A few plans for the rest of the week:
  • Tests and studying!
  • Talking to some people at varsity about my study plan.
  • Finishing that silly steamcar.
Here is picture thought I am sharing:
An awful quality webcam shot of our steam car. (Oh, you can usually see the burner at the bottom, but that was detached when I took the picture. The problem with the car is that the boiler tubes aren't sealing properly.)

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Revisiting Anne-with-an-e

Isaac Asimov once wrote something along the lines of a book being better when you read it the second time because, having got over the suspense, you can really appreciate the writing. I confess that I enjoy the thrill of suspense a little too much to agree as easily as he seems to make the proposition, but he certainly has a point. I have the capacity to appreciate much more on my second (or third or fourth or umpteenth) time through a piece of writing. I pick up different highlights each time.

I think it's also fascinating to see how books change as we grow older (you might say that we are doing the changing, but that assumes an inertial reference frame). I'd guess I was somewhere between eight and twelve when I first read Anne of Green Gables. I thought Marilla Cuthburt was old. When I reread the book for the first time in years, I realised that a few grey streaks were not quite as aging as I'd imagined. What's more, when Marilla is described as 'without curves, but with angles', I understand that it's not entirely her personality that's being described. (Although I still think that's a nice way of reading it, which is why reading difficult books is a good thing, even if you have to come back to them later. Especially if you have to come back to them.)

I still don't know nearly as much poetry as Anne-with-an-e, but I can recognise a little of it. This is the first time I've appreciated the silliness (yet lifelikeness) of her heroine with 'velvety purple eyes'—and how practical Diana is in remarking that she's never know anyone with purple eyes. I'm rather glad that nobody told her in disgust that she was writing a 'Mary Sue' story, though. Matthew's uncritical praise and Miss Muriel Stacy's gentle admonition to only write about things that might happen in the village of Avonlea seem at least as effective and much—well 'nice' seems to weak a word to use—but it is much nicer. Kinder, perhaps. It doesn't seem to have hurt Anne's crowd to admire one another's overly romantic stories for a year or two. Then again, they were often, if kindly, informed that their stories were more amusing than pathetic, much to their consternation. I'm not entirely sure what I think about the difference between then and now, but it's food for thought.

All in all, I enjoyed reading Anne from a different perspective. Some things were the same—I still cringed at the jumping-into-an-unexpectedly-Miss-Josephine-Barry-filled-bed scene, and couldn't quite bring myself to read the whole liniment cake scene quite properly. I still think the end is terribly sad, though far from hopeless, but I understand Anne's bend in the road much better than I used to. I've always loved the line
And then–thwack! Anne had brought her slate down on Gilbert's head and cracked it–slate not head–clear across.
Now I began to see that Montgomery has something of a habit of twisting mildly ambiguous statements into slightly silly irony. It's a habit I enjoy.

My only complaint is that it's left me with a dilemma: should I reread all my old favourites or find time to read beautiful new-to-me books which will also allow me to appreciate the references the old favourites make better? Although, with school starting up again tomorrow, I may not be forced to make the decision any time soon.

Friday, 24 September 2010

More Quick Takes

Seven Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary.


This week was vac week. I am very grateful for weeks off: I've been stressing myself silly, but now I'm back to believing that I can get through the semester, maintain my Calculus mark, and maybe even do okay in my design course, despite the group work. It's a wonderful feeling.


It's not that I have anything against group work per se, but trying to simultaneously handle two different projects that we are supposed to get time in class for, but don't seem to because of the time lost in the strike gets complicated. And that's just one subject. I'm sure it's very good for me when I'm not freaking out.


Since it was holidays, I read the whole of Sir Terry Pratchett's Unseen Academicals and really enjoyed it. Partly, I haven't read anything that's not at least one of academic and written centuries ago for ages. Partly, all my reading recently has been the between-lectures or waiting-in-the-carpark sort. Partly, it's just a really good book. One of the most fun parts of Discworld is that the more you read, the more references you pick up. The books seem to be getting deeper all the time, even though you (I) know than you're (I'm) actually just finally in a place to appreciate them a little more thoroughly. I know I completely miss plenty too, but the story's good enough that it didn't matter. So reading Unseen Academicals was very happy-fying and holiday-ish.


I know that writing advice books often warn wannabe writers about overusing italics, em dashes, ellipses and exclamation marks. On rereading the above paragraph, I think I might need to add hyphens onto my list. (Ignore the wailing about how much fun hyphens are. That certainly wouldn't be me.)


I've been thinking about making some fairly major changes to what I'm studying. I'm pretty sure I know I'd enjoy the change, and it'd simplify a bunch of life decisions in the next few years. But something (like maybe my pride) keeps telling me that it's a foolish decision and a step backward and that I need to toughen up . . . I guess it'll straighten out as I keep on praying and finding more people to talk to back at varsity.


The ellipsis in #5 is totally justified, #4 notwithstanding. That's because, um, I will write badly on my blog if I want to and if it bothers you you can take it as a sign of my deep seated anxiety about changing my study plan.


I am loving my twitter account lately. It gives me the chance to be a bit more than a consumer of new media, without taking up the (relatively) huge amounts of time writing blog posts does. One day I'll master writing quick-but-meaningful posts. Until then, I'll keep practising on twitter.

Sunday, 29 August 2010


I'm wearing a cap-sleeve blouse and a cotton skirt without leggings or even shoes. Sunlight interspersed with birdsong is floating through the air outside. The scent of jasmine and freshly watered earth is floating through the kitchen door. Through the green-and-brown network of evergreens, winter boughs and brave new buds, the sky has emerged to show its pale blue face. The heavy clouds that herald the coming of summer rainstorms have been swept away; the wind is coordinating the leaves' dance. Birds are chasing across the garden. The seasons are changing.

I think Spring is my favourite time of year!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Seven Quick Takes

Hosted at Conversion Diary


I wrote two Maths tests this week, the first tests of the semester for their respective courses. I'm fortunate enough to have been a comfortable distance from failing either of them, but they made last semester look easy. And I wouldn't really have said last semester was easy. I think keeping up with the work requires a continual mindshift, because nothing ever stays the same. It's a little scary, but exciting too.


I'm in the process of starting to begin to upgrade the (Ubuntu Linux) operating system on my netbook. Mostly, I think this is great, because I haven't (as far as I recall) made a huge number of settings changes, and there are some features that feel out-of-date in the version I'm running now (like not actually running 100% properly on a netbook!) The trouble is that the more I go on, the more I realise that there are actually things I'm going to have to redo as part of the reinstall. I still think it'll be worth it though.


On Monday I mentioned that I was reading Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?. I'm not entirely enamoured with it, but it was very interesting, and introduced me to a bunch of new ideas. one of the concepts that Smith kept coming back to was the Augustinian church. I've been thinking about reading St Augustine's Confessions for a while, so I set off to find it in my university library.

Finding a copy was more difficult than I'd expected, partly because of all the literature 'surrounding' it that the online catalogue brought up, and partly because the library doesn't seem sure of how to categorise it. Autobiography? Theology? Missiology? Eventually I found a title that looked like what I wanted and set off to trek through the shelves. There was one battered copy sitting on the shelf at 242, which I grabbed and ran, having already taken longer than I'd intended.

It wasn't until the next day that I actually started reading, and discovered that I'd unwittingly picked up one of the very first translations of the work--in early seventeenth century English, complete with thees, thous and dosts. I'm quite enjoying it actually, now that I've got over the initial shock, but it was a little disconcerting!


Whenever Twitter fail whales on me, I feel an urge to tweet about how frustrating this is. I'm not sure why, exactly, since I don't usually want to tweet my frustrations. (That could make for a seriously depressing timeline!) Of course, I never can, which makes me even more frustrated at the fail whale, which I then want to tweet about, which . . .

Eventually I realise that I didn't actually need to be on Twitter and move on, but I suspect I often spend more time watching the fail whale screen than i would reading a couple of updates.


We are supposed to be building a model steam car-- just like the one in this article--for our Engineering Design course. I think it's a really fun and exciting project, but it keeps getting forgotten in the wake of all the other tests and projects we're being handed. I really do want to make some progress on it, and hoping to get there this weekend. I think having built a car will be more satisfying than handing in a couple of pages worth of questions.


There are only four days 'til Spring! That makes me happy. Hopefully it also means that we can all stop getting sick. There always seems to somebody with a sore throat or a headache or the sniffles or something. I guess it may be one of the (worth it!) perils of a large family.


Reading my old fashioned edition of Augustine seems to have effected a kind of shift in my perception. This afternoon I found myself noticing the story--the romance, almost--of everyday life in a way I haven't done for a while. I like that. It's too easy to see the world as grey and monotone, because you're wearing the wring kind of glasses. I don't want to do that.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Daybook Again

(The daybook is hosted here.)

Outside my window...

the sun is setting--although there's too much cloud cover to really see it.

I am thinking...

about a miscellany of misrelated bits and pieces: how to write MATLAB code; something a friend told me in class today; the maths tests (yes, plural!) I'm writing this week; the fact that Charles Dodgson / Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland &c was a mathematician; postmodernism; the weather. What the upshoot of all that jumble will be, I'm not sure, but I don't think those thoughts can all continue entirely independently.

I am thankful for...

the blessing of friendship. Little confidences or funny coincidences shared in the affection of friendship are really something special.

From the learning rooms...

I'm very excited about learning to code in MATLAB; the smidgeon we're doing now is at a much lower level than the stuff I did in high school (although most people didn't do any coding then), but there's lots of room to expand and experiment. Yay!

From the kitchen...

come some lovely smells, courtesy of my elder brother. I'll go help set the table presently.

I am wearing...

Jeans, purple canvas shoes and a purple Minnie Mouse t-shirt I got for my birthday. I have purple earrings and a purple ribbon in my hair too, but the overall effect is surprisingly un-purple.

I am creating...

Code! Also familiarity with the concepts in tomorrow's Calculus test. (At least, I hope so!)

I am going...

crazy, running around after group members for the group projects we're doing. Things are looking up, though, so I'm not much crazier than before, after all.

I am reading...

Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? (J. K. A. Smith). I took it out from the library because it claimed to be a non-academic introduction to postmodernism in the context of Christianity. Ahahaha. I have a passing knowledge of philosophy, but I'm struggling to follow (and not always succeeding). It's fascinating stuff, though--I might write more about it when I'm finished.

I am hoping...

That tomorrow will not be terribly draining--I have five back-to-back, heavy-concentration-required lectures, a short break, and then a test. But I want to have the energy to go to Bible Study in the evening. I know it's possible, but the whole thing is slightly daunting!

I am hearing...

my mum's car door slamming as she gets home. A good sound.

Around the house...

Ahahahahaha. You thought I actually got further than mostly making my bed? Or maybe you didn't. In the latter case you'd be correct.

One of my favourite things...

trust. It's precious.

A few plans for the rest of the week...

Bible study, maths, coercion of group members into actually working, finishing the postmodernism book.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...

Roughly what I'm trying to do in MATLAB:

Saturday, 21 August 2010

On Reaching Old Age

My perception of nineteen years is perhaps a little out of place. I see a young lady old enough to be invited into the intricate scramble of real life, but without the experience to see what's going on, never mind to participate meaningfully. It seems to me that it is an age of being watched and evaluated. If nineteen years is sweet, idealistic and thoughtful, she'll be accepted into the core of the 'social web'. If she's childish, foolish and thoughtless, she'll be condemned to run around the outside until she can make up for it. (I think his is part of the way I tend to see life as a mosaic of stories.)

Of course, I can see that it's largely nonsense. Nobody's evaluating me any harder than they were a week ago. I think there's a grain of truth in the realisation that we're not children any more--each birthday in the last few years has been a realisation of that, really. And because that scares us, we exaggerate to the point of silliness and call it 'old age'. It's easier than admitting that 'Mommy, I want to go home' isn't an option any more. Easier than saying 'going to live away from home for university will be hard, but maybe exciting too'. Easier than trying to be serious about it.

Maybe that's a good thing. I don't think birthdays are meant to be about solemn reflection and introspection. They're about fun. About discovering awesome friends who pass birthday cards around the class collecting messages. About classmates who put
∫ex2dx Hope your day is integrated by parts!
on said birthday cards. (Um, weak nerd jokes for the win?) About wearing a knee length dress even though the weather seems to have forgotten that deal we had--the one about Spring.

A few days later is the time to think that the last nineteen years have been pretty good, on the whole. That I'm blessed with a bunch of friends who can make my birthday something special. And perhaps that somewhere along the line I have actually made the transition from seeing myself as a gangling girl to being a very young lady. It appears that I am, after all, growing up. (Although apparently this doesn't prevent me from writing entirely self-centred blog posts and foisting them upon the world. ;P)

Friday, 13 August 2010

Seven Quick Takes: Not Quite All Academia Edition

(Here, this week.)


I can do Applied Mathematics again! This has been the cause of much rejoicing. Quiet, studious rejoicing, but still rejoicing. First year, Engineering Ap. Maths, but still Ap. Maths. There is now a warm fuzzy glow of geekly contentment within me. (Who would've guessed that they were using a different approximation for acceleration due to gravity? Not me!)


I'm getting old. I'll be nineteen in less than a week. (Um, I can't be that old, can I? Apparently I am though.) It's a little sad, I think, that a friend and I were reminiscing about how much we knew back when we were younger. We had so much knowledge at our fingertips! And whole afternoons to go and read things up at the library! Now we just sit in classes looking confused (or intelligent, depending on your perspective, I suppose.)

I suspect that it's partly because when we were fourteen it seemed highly erudite to know the difference between genes and jeans, but now we feel inadequate because we can't distinguish between a gene and an allele. At least, not without thinking about it. We just know more of what we don't know, rather than knowing less. At least, that's what I'm telling myself, rather than believing that I've turned daft.


Today our Material Science tutorial was cancelled, and I got to sit in the parking lot waiting for my mum to pick me up while the pure science students trickled in to go to their Physics prac. I may have felt a tiny bit of schadenfreude at this role reversal*, but if I did, it was fairly quenched when I realised that their first class of the day was after 14h00. A bit later, it occured to me that I should be more charitable, and I don't really begrudge them their free time . . . it did feel good to be going home well before dark.

*Technically not a role reversal, since I never do my trickling in at 14h00. 07h10 is more like it.


On a less academic note, Ramadan (the Islamic holy month) began yesterday. I've made a couple of Muslim friends this year, which has been very educational! It's also caused me to think a lot about my commitment to my faith. Not in the sense that I'm any less sure of it, but in the sense that what I might think is extreme can be almost commonplace to these girls (fasting, for example) and I'm not sure why. Partly, I think Islam has stricter dictates than Christianity, and obedience is born as much out of the cultural norm as out of commitment. Partly, I think we (I?) sometimes take those things too lightly. I'm inspired to attempt to read Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline. I've been praying about it too and something that's come out very strongly for me is that while these disciplines are fundamentally good things, if I start to think I should do them 'like in Islam', I'm getting all mixed up. Obviously, in one sense, but not so obviously when 'Muslim' is the girl telling me what class we have next. It's all food for thought--and prayer. There can never be too much prayer!


I mentioned in no. 2 that my birthday's coming up, and then disappeared off on a tangent. What I was going to say, is that last year I thought a lot about my birthday, and how significant being eighteen is and so on. This year it's more a case of 'Who me? Birthday? Isn't that the date of our Physics test?' Any ideas I may have once had about university students having big exciting parties have, at least in my case, not materialised. The big exciting parties are just a slightly older version of the ones I didn't like in high school (I guess it's not really that surprising). In principle I'd like to celebrate it somehow, but I suspect that I won't get very far along that path. I mean, planning a presentation on invisibility cloaking and building a miniature steam car are both way more exciting than making a birthday party and people are giving me marks for doing it.


I love bullet points. They mean that I can ignore connecting sentences. I hate going through essays and putting 'Additionally'; 'However'; 'Consequentially' &c at the beginning of new paragraphs, but I don't always find the energy and inspiration to structure the essay really well so that I don't need them. Bullet points, on the other hand, are a guilt-free pleasure. Bullet points don't need connecting sentences.


I discovered a new educational, but not particularly taxing diversion today. I had done about as much Maths as my brain could take, and my friends had variously deserted me. (This may have something to do with my getting so absorbed in my Maths that I didn't even notice them leaving. 'Deserted' is probably not a very accurate description.) I ended up wandering around the library, but determined not to take out any more reading material. So this is what I did:

  • Wander into 800 (Literature) section.
  • Hope that your library has mostly English texts. Otherwise you'd better find the 813s or something.
  • Pick a book semi-randomly. If it's a collection, read one short story, essay, poem or what have you. If it's an academic text, improve your general knowledge by reading the abstract. (Most of them aren't all that technical.)
  • Replace the book, resisting the temptation to stop and read it, because you already have three books on your library card, not to mention homework and lectures.
  • Repeat as desired. Avoiding the 500s (Natural Sciences) is recommended if you're likely to justify reading those books because they're 'in your field'.

Monday, 09 August 2010


(The daybook is hosted here.)

Outside my window...
is the scent of Jasmine. Spring is definitely on its way, despite today's cold front, and I'm very happy about that.

I am thinking...
about negative refractive indices, metamaterials, and how to make invisibility cloaks. Awesome Material Science project! (No, we can't make invisibility cloaks--yet--but we're surprisingly close.)

I am thankful for...
my God who never leaves me. Several times in the last couple of weeks I've only survived (perhaps I exaggerate a little) by taking five minutes off to pray. And oh! how it helps.

From the learning rooms...
Piles and piles of work and assignments. I'm not entirely sure how one is meant to keep up. (Yet here I am blogging--my brain just fries at a certain point and I have to stop.)

From the kitchen...
I am making sandwiches to go to university. It's my turn to cook supper tomorrow, but I have no idea what I'll be doing then. Oh well.

I am wearing...
A dress over slacks. It looks a little odd, but today was a holiday and I didn't anticipate the cold front being quite so cold and so I am wearing a dress over slacks.

I am creating...
a presentation on metamaterials and invisibility cloaking. Is it a little odd to have a storyboard for a group presentation? I couldn't think of a better way of communicating.

I am going...
to bed with a supplementary Applied Maths textbook, as soon as I've finished this post!

I am reading...
Several textbooks which are not particularly interesting for their own sakes. My latest book to read in indeterminate waiting periods was 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall'. I really enjoyed it, although I am too focused on other things to analyse it much. The new book will be Dante's 'Paradisio'. I have a theory that even if I don't think much about these books, just reading them will keep my education a little broader than it would have been without them.

I am hoping...
to suddenly grasp Dynamics. It seems so simple in class, but when I sit down with the exercises I'm flummoxed. (See above re: supplementary texts.)

I am hearing...
The syncopated clocks in our lounge. I've grown used to the two ticks one after the other and I rather like it now.

Around the house...
Im feeling rather virtuous, because I got out the airer to hang up my wet washing, rather than sticking it in the tumble dryer and causing myself ironing nightmares. I don't really have any call to feel virtuous about it, but at any rate it's satisfying.

One of my favourite things...
is a Maths problem that works out just right. That is what makes struggling through the difficult patches so worth it!

A few plans for the rest of the week...
Tomorrow night I'll go to Bible study. Otherwise, I see a lot of Applied Mathematics in my future.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...
It's a metamaterial with a negative refractive index! Aka, very nearly the stuff of invisibility cloaks.
(There's a really stunning, but copyrighted, image accompanying this article.)

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Things I Learned from Volunteering at the Seminary Library

Disclaimer: I'm not sure 'volunteering' is a good choice of words, since it implies that I was actually organised, as opposed to just sort of pitching up to see what I could do or if I should sit and read until my mum's classes finished.

  1. Those primary school exercises about arranging decimal fractions in ascending order do, in fact, have a practical application. Even the ones that go to an advanced number of decimal places, because there are a lot of decimal places in the Dewey numbers of some books. (Biblical exegesis from the African feminist perspective is only beginning to get there.)
  2. The Dewey system isn't entirely infallible after all. Are the confessions of St. Augustine theology or autobiography?
  3. The most useful thing I've learned from compulsively ordering increasingly substantial fragments of the family book collection is not how the Dewey Decimal System works. I learned that better from using the library anyway. It's how to transfer half a shelf of books in one motion, without disrupting their order. I should put that on my CV.
  4. Having access to Twitter, IM, email and the web in my pocket did not distract me. Finding Metaphysical Lyrics and Poems of the 17th Century and Humanae Vitae did. Lets not talk about the 268 shelf.
  5. However many shelves you think you will need for Church History, double that. If that seems a lot, bear in mind that New Testament history and Biblical Archaeology fall under 'Bible' not 'Church History'—it could be worse.
  6. Sorting all those books without being able to read them was tough. Librarians must be well practised in self-discipline!

Monday, 19 July 2010

The Excellent Villainy of 'Kung Fu Panda'

I recently re-watched (parts of) the animated film Kung Fu Panda . To be honest, it doesn't really appeal to my sense of humour, although my brothers found it hilarious. What I did appreciate was the characterisation, especially of the villain, Tai Lung. (As well as stuff like the animation, which is really cool, but not what I want to talk about.) There are mild spoilers ahead, so if you haven't watched the film, but are planning to, maybe don't read on.

Creating a working villain is, in my experience, quite difficult. On the one side is the camp that says villains should be believable. If you're writing for an intelligent audience "he's evil" is simply not good enough. I buy this. Exploring characters is fun, even if it's not done explicitly.

The other camp is telling me that I need to make sure that my readers hate my villain. If the villain is soft and cuddly, she doesn't pose a realistic threat to the protagonist. Even worse, my readers may end up siding with the villain instead of the hero!

In his book How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, Orson Scott Card sides very firmly with the former camp. It would be hard to pinpoint a real villain in the Ender Saga, but that certainly doesn't stop him from building up  fantastic set of novels. Isaac Asimov similarly said that he wanted people to question who was really on the right side in many of his stories. I'm sure there are examples outside the SF genre; that's just what I know best. However, while I very much admire what can be done, I don't think I'm ready to go there just yet. I struggle with much more fundamental things!

Kung Fu Panda, on the other hand, ha almost textbook characterisation. In fact, the explicit characterisation is part of what I enjoyed about it. In a flashback we see Tai Lung as an abandoned baby. He's cute and adorable, and is brought up and pampered by Kung Fu Master Shifu. Shifu doesn't see what a spoiled brat Tai Lung is becoming until Master Oogway refuses to let Tai Lung become the legendary Dragon Warrior.

At that point, Tai Lung cracks. In his mind, he is the dragon warrior He will do whatever it takes to get what he deserves. That lands him heavily sedated in a deep dark prison at the beginning of the film. Soon after the film begins, he escapes. He is completely ruthless, but there is a small sense of sympathy. Maybe he just feels betrayed. Poor guy--but he's still horrible.

Later, Shifu apologises to Tai Lung and gives him a chance to turn back. By now, we know Shifu well enough to see that he's far from perfect, but still very wise. Tai Lung rejects the apology and threatens to kill Shifu. That's where, in my book, he becomes a really well-crafted villain. He's not just innately evil, but he is, fundamentally, evil. We can see how he got there, but also that he chose to stay there. He's not misunderstood: he's evil.

Until (hah!) I reach an Asimv-esque fluidity of hero and villain, I'll be very satisfied if I can create villains like Tai Lung. He hits a very sweet point on the balance of a traditional villain.

Addendum: I would feel that I'd left something out if I didn't mention that Shakespeare has written villains that seem to fall a long way into the second camp. Iago of Othello is a good example. Clearly it can be made to work.

Friday, 16 July 2010


I like blogging, because it helps me to sort out my ideas, it makes me happy to share some of my thoughts with other people who might potentially care about them, being part of the blog community is fun and it's just one of those cool things I'd like to be the sort of person who does.

I don't like blogging because it takes a whole ten minutes out of my day.

Some days, when I've done twelve hours of schoolwork, asking for another ten minutes of brain time is pushing it. So maybe I can't blog every day, even if I'd like to. Some days, I have free time, which gets sucked up into doodling or web-hopping or staring a the ceiling.

It looks like maybe—just maybe—I should try to blog more often. And so that this post actually has a point to it, instead of being me repeating myself, I will append some unrelated bullet points to my argument.

  • Flash Fiction Month is July, which lands very neatly over the end of my world-cup-extended winter vac. I've enjoyed it far more than I've ever enjoyed National Novel Writing Month. They're both great, but they're different flavours, and FFM has made me more confident about my writing and encouraged me to experiment. I can't wait for next year, when it launches outside of deviantART.
  • I spent some time (and will spend more) working at the seminary library. I was amazed at the sheer volume of books on topics I would have thought rather esoteric. I think I found as many books on exposition from the perspective of the African woman as I did commentaries on Revelation. (Admittedly my sample may have been skewed.)
  • Mostly, I'm glad that I'm relatively independent. I'd feel awkward if my mother was still making my lunch. However, I will admit to mild envy of people whose laundry magically gets done when I have a basket of ironing that could compete with the leaning tower of Pisa and no wearable jeans.
  • Next semester I get to learn MATLAB. I am beyond excited about getting to write code again. (Last time I seriously wrote code was for my major Matric project in 2008.) Maybe I'll even stop trying to decipher the notes the Computer Science lecturer leaves on the board in our Calculus lecture theatre. Maybe.
  • The End

Monday, 14 June 2010


In the past few months I've read a couple of works of metafiction.  I've probably read books like this before, but I'm more aware of them now than I've ever been before.  I think they're fascinating.  Last year I read Michael Ende's The Neverending Story, in which the book itself plays a key role - and the narrator of part of the book turn out to be one of the characters.  Those two facts are very intertwined, and are part of what makes the book more interesting than a regular children's fantasy adventure (not that there's anything wrong with those!)

I also read Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair.  Fforde's novel has characters slipping in and out of their real world and the world of Jane Eyre.  I'm not sure if it's actually metafiction, since the focus is more on different realities than on layers of fiction, but it's certainly something very similar.

Just recently, I finished reading Life of Pi by Yann Martel.  This is the book that sent me on my quest to find out more--I got to the end of the novel and was confused, but intrigued.  A little bit of research brought up the topic of metafiction. I don't think it specifically helps me to understand the novel better, but it gives me a context to place it in.  It's also opened up a whole new world to explore.

I think Terry Pratchett's Witches Abroad, which I've loved for years, might be metafiction too--it certainly deals with the concept of metanarrative, which is somehow connected.  The cherry on the top is that my current Bible reading notes are subtitled 'Adventures in the Biblical Metanarrative'! I'm going to be looking out for the concept from now on and trying to figure out more of what it actually is.

Tuesday, 08 June 2010

There's a particular book I want to read right now. It's not just the text that I want to reread, but a particular copy that I want to hold. I want the oldish edition of Dear Daddy-long-legs with the blue and white cover and the line illustrations of the farmhouse where the heroine goes on holiday. I want the copy that's sitting on a shelf labelled 'Children's Classics', next to dozens of other books I've enjoyed. The shelf that's just between the picture books and the junior fiction in my hometown library, and across the room from the issue desk. The issue desk with the friendly librarians I've known since I was three, who will ask me how the exams are going and if I enjoyed my books. I want the same copy of Dear Daddy-long-legs that I've always read.

Unfortunately, it's several hundred kilometres from here, along with the house I grew up in and the library I almost know backwards. The library here works well enough, but right now I'm feeling nostalgic and maybe a little homesick. I guess it's part of growing up and moving on; not sad so much as different.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

For Grandpa

children, grandchildren
gather in the church
to say farewell:
eight posies
atop the casket


Words can never really be enough.


Tuesday, 26 January 2010


I've been a voracious reader for as long as I can remember -- I'll read just about any well written book, and a large number of not so well written books too. For a somewhat shorter time, I've been a critical reader. Partly it's that every aspiring writer is told to go out and read critically, but more than that at a certain point comparisons become inevitable.

Which is better, Harry Potter or Narnia? How do I predict which library shelves hold the most enjoyable books? What should I recommend to other people? Some kind of standard becomes necessary. Besides, it's fun to talk about books - nearly as much fun as it is to read them.

At some point, I discovered the fun of writing book reviews. At first I tried to list main characters and important themes; to make a literary analysis of the book. The trouble with that approach is twofold. For one thing, I'm rather unqualified to make literary analyses and quite aware of it. For another, I could write a review as long as the book itself, which rather defeats the purpose of a review.

Then, while I was exploring different kinds of nonfiction writing, I stumbled across a better way of writing reviews. A book review is a true story about an adventure I went on - the adventure of reading a good book, an awful book, or even a mediocre book. Sharing my adventure is not about what I know and don't know and it doesn't have to be exhaustive. It's even more fun to write than the formal things I learned to write at school.

My 26th of January resolution is to write more book reviews. As a kind of motivation, I'll post them too, on deviantART and at the Reading as Discipline blog. Words are fun. Words about words are even more fun!

Friday, 22 January 2010

Lo, She Emerges

At least, she hopes so. Moving house is a complicated business, and the worst part is that it means no internet! Things are more-or-less settled now, and my university orientation begins in a week, which is quite exciting.

In the meantime, the rest of my family have settled into various schools (and a seminary), and we've found a church to fit in at. In just a few weeks I've been part of a good number of different activities, and I've begun teaching Sunday School, which is awesome.

I 'click' with Sunday School. Preparing and praying and running the programme are all so much fun, so meaningful and just right. I'm very happy to be involved in that already.

Basically, we are here and even have internet! I will write a post that uses a larger section of my brain later! Have a nice day!