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because I haven't (as far as I recall) made a huge number of settings changes, and there are some features that feel out-of-date in the version I'm running now (like not actually running 100% properly on a netbook!)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.)