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'.

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