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.