Updates

It has been a long time since I posted… hence a few updates before I (try to) post here on a more regular schedule.

College I started (and finished) my first year of college. Soon I’ll declare a mathematics major, and afterward either a computer science major or minor. We’ll see. Thus far I’ve learned Python, first-semester single-variable calculus, and first-semester multivariable calculus. I’m rather annoyed with my math department for not offering a second semester of multivariable calculus, but that’s what studying abroad is for.

Writing Still working on editing Perfume, which I retitled The Tapestry. I’m currently doing a rewrite of the whole book. The entirety has been planned out and I am currently at Chapter 11, at about 29k.

Reading If I had a schedule I’d be behind. As I don’t have a schedule, I can consider that instead I’m woefully unread this year. Currently fighting through Ivanhoe, which would be interesting if I had the patience to sit down and read it in one or two sittings.

Hair I’m growing my hair out and trying to figure out things that make it happy. This includes styles, washing methods, what ingredients work well with it, etc. It’s about 25″ long right now, which puts it at about midback level. Or, according to the LHC’s (and other’s) length markers, about one inch below Bra-Strap Level (BSL). Typically I practice benign neglect with my hair, so I fully anticipate that once the semester starts I’ll forget about it completely.

Languages According to the Parisian language school I went to for two weeks this summer, I’m now at a B2 level in French. I’ll be taking FREN 202 this fall and hopefully that will be at a good level for me… if I’m slightly above where I should be for the class I’m planning on taking Italian. (I’d take Russian or Arabic, honest, but the language will be my fifth course on top of a busy dancing and tutoring schedule, so I’m going for something that will be easier to learn.)

Ballroom Dancing I’m part of the Ballroom Club at Colgate University and am planning to lead it with a good friend by junior year, and just with myself and my dance partner by senior year. So I suppose I ought to start coming up with ideas about now. Thus far I’ve learned enough dances to make it into the auditioned dances.

 

 

Math, Biology, and French

Hi. So I know I haven’t been posting often, and frankly I don’t have a good excuse, so we’ll skip over that.

I’m taking the SAT IIs in October, and I have selected Math II, Biology, and French. To be honest, in August the most I really knew about any of these three subjects was the basics: I can get by quite well in basic math (my basic math includes basic trigonometry, quadratic equations, and some functions and logarithms, as well as arithmetic, algebra, geometry. Not permutations or limits or polar thingamajiggers or radians), my biology was literally the basic digestive tract. I had a very good grasp of neuron structure. French? I haven’t spoken it since Madagascar, and I never was up to conversational level.

So maybe I’m crazy. I like to think that, actually, because when I do get an 800 I will remember why I worked so madly.

And I have been. I have read two biology textbooks cover to cover, and have outlined one of them completely, writing down review questions for myself. The second book, an SAT Biology prep book from 2001, is in progress. I’m not worried too much about it being from 2001. A guy reviewed it in 2010 and said it helped him get a 780, so I figure I’ll be fine. A math prep book has been gone through and review questions have been written. If I actually get to review them, I may be able to get above the 620 I got in the practice test.

As to French? That is the fascinating, crazy thing. In India, I was reading The Three Musketeers in French. I think I reached the middle of the first chapter before giving up on the book entirely and devoting myself to romance novels and English, American, and Russian literature. I haven’t gone back to the Three Musketeers, despite that it’s on my reading-now list and has been since January 2012. I think I decided somewhere in my brain that if I didn’t read it in French I wouldn’t read it at all.

So, that’s the plan. I’m planning on reading Les Trois Mousquetaires in French, in its entirety, in ten days. I’ll be updating with my progress on the madness daily, I hope. Probably first thing in the morning to comment on the past day’s endeavors. By the end of the whole thing, I should have, if not fluency, at least a grasp of basic literary French, while maintaining a love of reading.

God help me.

Accomplishments #6 and #7

I forgot to post yesterday, probably because… well I can’t remember. But at any rate.
June 27th:
– Finished College Admission by Robin Mamlet and wrote a review for it on GoodReads.
– Finished Assessment 9a.1
– Reached 57% in Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

June 28th:
– Finished Assessment 9a.2 and 9b.1
– Reached 75% in Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
– Sewed the beginning of my two wrap-around skirts
– Grammarchecked my mother’s translation of something for church.

Accomplishments #3 and #4

Yesterday I forgot to post because, quite simply, I thought I already had.

I’m also not sure what my accomplishment was yesterday. oops?

But accomplishment yesterday, so far as I can tell, was etiher:
Reaching 32% in The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

or

Testing and finding out that my theory on how to write the Camp Novel is good.

 

Today, accomplishments include:
1. Finishing 8th Grade Math Review with 77 marks out of 100 on the final assessment. Considering most of the answers were done from memory without actually reading the book, I’m happy with it. When I get a mark below 70 I’ll get worried. Right now, 77 is perfect. (97 would have been better, but this was getting boring).

2. Read Romeo & Juliet. I read this with my friend Bouchra as a sort of race to see who finished first. She finished literally 30 seconds before me. We had breaks, I’m sure, in between, but GAH! 30 seconds?? We’re planning on doing this more often.

A quick update

I feel as if I should have at least one post for the month of May, so here goes… an update:

  • I cannot take part in Romanian medical school as a Romanian student (but I can as a foreign student speaking Romanian), so no bacalaureat and no admissions exam.
  • We’re trying to figure out a medical certificate and lots of other things before sending in the ‘admissions’ packet.
  • In the meantime, slightly stressed and resorting to one of two preferred coping strategies, I am world-building and culture-building very very happily.

What do I mean by preferred strategies? Well, they usually include meaningless reading (romance, anyone?) or writing.

At least I’m not watching TV, right?

 

The Problem of Math, Sleep, and Keyboards

Every once in a while I get an idea and it becomes an obsession. Like tiny houses, or songs, or… school, or teaching math, or whatever.

And I couldn’t really even call these things an obsession, because I’m totally capable of turning off the song or ignoring tiny houses (I’ve seen most of what I care to see… all that remains is getting money and building one. Expending resources for research on building doesn’t help as much as expending resources on getting into school to make money to build the house). In fact, they’re less ‘obsession’ and more ‘really interesting.’

Like the fact that

The number of syllables in Cantonese number words are less than the number of syllables in English number words… therefore making Cantonese people memorize faster as opposed to English people. [1] Or, the fact that the Asian number system is so simple (21= two tens one) it allows a child of four to count to 40… whereas in English, a child of four can count to about 15. [2] [3] [4]

My conclusion came in two distinct stages:

  1. My kids will learn math in Cantonese. This presented a slight problem later on down the road, unfortunately, as I don’t know Cantonese, and as I’m not Cantonese, nor do I plan on having a Cantonese husband… and as Cantonese has no shared root-words with English… I unfortunately had to scrap this idea.
  2. * As Romanian is slightly better than English when it comes to logicality (21 = douăzeci și unu, doi= 2, zece= 10, unu=1. The instead of i in două and the i instead of the e in zece are grammatical things, and și (pronounced she) means and), but not as good in syllable count, my kids will learn math in Romanian first. This is good, because they will learn the ‘weaker’ language first (Romanian isn’t exactly the primary language in any country except Romania), and have it cemented in their brain. Then we can work on English, because Romanian is latin-based, and English smart-words are latin-based.

* This is, of course, subject to change.

Second really-interesting thing

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. A book written by Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi (Yes, I can spell that. I use the mnemonic: Chick-sent-me-HIGH, which does not exactly connote the proper pronunciation, but helps with spelling).

Mom borrowed it from the library and had it around the house for 2 weeks, then sent it back before I had the opportunity to say, “MINE!”

That said, I do know the basic idea:

Scratch that. I have no idea.

Basically the state of flow is one where you are completely involved in what you are doing in the moment, and you’re creative as well and you’re feeling enjoyment (we discussed that in Thought Pattern).

Now, I feel as if I’ve been feeling that. Because, *ahem* yesterday, by 1:30pm, I had worked six hours and 22 minutes.

More, in fact, than I worked on Tuesday, and about the sum total of work the previous Wednesday to Friday.

Before lunch!

How?

I woke up at 5:00am, sat down to work by 5:45, got stuck in a physics problem for an hour and a half (I have no idea where the time went), and then started in on literature study sheets.

And let me tell you something. When a literature study sheet about a poet makes you itch to draw something or write a poem or do something creative, you know the poet is a good one. (The poet in question is Mihai Eminescu, and according to Romanians, he is the best poet that ever lived.) I mean… I actually copied down a paragraph in its entirety describing his style merely because it sounded so musical.

So I had a lot of fun yesterday. And, unlike previous days, I wasn’t ridiculously bouncy until 8pm, when I hit 8:08 hours of work. It was pretty awesome.

Which leads into a small problem:

Sleep

Something in my brain psychology, at some point down the line, has changed.

Waking up before dawn leads to at least an hour productivity before 8am, when the household starts work… which leads into me being in a state of high gear… allowing me to crank out 4-6 hours of work before lunch if I make sure that this thought pattern is broken:

  • lazy to work >> check Facebook >> lose time OR lazy to work >> get awesome idea >> act on idea >> lose time
  • to break it, just do this:
  • lazy to work >> close eyes and concentrate on breathing for 15-30 seconds OR do 2 minute exercise set >> work
  • or, if that doesn’t work
  • lazy to work >> change subject of work.

Waking up while the sun is up, on the other hand, leads me to believe that

  1. The rest of the family is awake
  2. I can relax on FB/make noise/what-have-you

According to the schedule I made out last night, at this hour, I should be doing physics. However, I have only worked 5 minutes today, and that’s because, at 5:45am, when I sat down to work, the words were swimming, I was tired, and I went back to sleep for an hour.

I feel totally awake now, just lazy. And I’m writing a blog post while I still have the English words to write it.

As it’s very hard to go to bed before 10pm in this household, there is the problem of getting enough sleep. I could wake up at 5am and sleep 6-7 hours a night, but be ‘productive’ (until sleep dep kicked in), or I could wake up at 6-7 am, sleep 8-9 hours a night, but be ‘unproductive’ (until I figured out a ritual/switched up my brain psychology)

Therefore, the problem of sleep is:

Should I focus on changing my brain psychology or changing my sleep schedule?

To rephrase that… 1 or 2?

  1. Wake up at 6am, create a ritual to establish flow (though the only ritual I have so far is wake up when it’s dark out), and go to sleep at 10pm.
  2. Wake up at 5am, work, nap, eat, work, go to sleep at 10pm.

I’m leaning towards #2. Not only is it simpler to fall asleep than to go to work (around the world I found that I have a talent for falling asleep… anywhere), but according to my research, biphasic sleep may actually be the natural way to sleep. [5] [6] [7] [8]

Naturally, however, the worst possible time to go for a sleep schedule change is ten days before you head out across the pond to visit family in Romania… right? Right. Despite that… this sounds awesome.

The problem with biphasic sleep is that the rest of the world isn’t on biphasic sleep.

My conclusion: I’m going to test out the following schedule:

  1. Wake up at 5am, work, eat, nap at 13:30, work, go to sleep at 23:00 (or slightly earlier if need be.)

And then go from there.

 

Lastly, keyboards

The Romanian keyboard requires five diacritic marks, two of which do not exist in any other keyboard. They are ț, ș, ă, î, and â. The ones that don’t exist are ț, ș, and ă. (the diacritic is the little comma under the s and t)

On the standard Romanian keyboard I’m using, these keys take up the place of  ; ‘ [ ] \

Which means that it’s really hard to type in quotes “like this”, unless you hit the option key at the same time (I use Mac products, so I’m not sure what the Windows/Linux does).

Which means Romanians normally do one thing:

  1. Write without diacritics and rely on innate knowledge of the language to read anything written without diacritics. It works pretty well. I myself have a diacritic in my name, but make do without it. Most words that have diacritics don’t have a version without diacritics, and if they do, context helps remove and ambiguity.

But I don’t like doing that, and since people can learn keyboards pretty quickly if I use them (I type in Dvorak Simplified Keyboard), I simply added the Romanian Standard keyboard to my list of keyboards and started working.

At the beginning, it was a problem of remembering that R is R, not P, and then I was on my way to doing quite well.

That’s not the problem now, though. Now, my fingers are incapable of typing Romanian using the Dvorak keyboard (if, by any chance, I get lazy). Sometimes I have to stop and think… “Wait. Okay. Language I want to communicate in is… English. Wait, this is a Dvorak keyboard, not QWERTY. Where’s P again?” And then 3 seconds later I’m up and running and writing my 60-90wpm speeds.

 

To conclude:

  1. Math is cool. 
  2. My kids are learning number sense in Romanian before English.
  3. I’m going to try being biphasic for a while. Also, f.lux
  4. Keyboards are weird.

My Desk

My Desk

 

Please welcome my desk.

It’s terribly messy, but it’s functional and I don’t have to get up from my chair, which makes life… perfect.

From left to right, on the wall:

  • A lamp. Not plugged it]n, doesn’t work, but it’s here just in case I ever feel the need to try it out. Again.
  • reddish pink sticky note old formula for learning things… haven’t removed it yet.
  • orange sticky note reads… The price of SELF-DISCIPLINE is always less than the pain of REGRET. GET IT DONE.
  • pink sticky note holds break activities (read library books, read literature, add music to iPod, Internet, check mail), and my personality type (ISTJ) because I always forget it.
  • The memopad note between the stickynotes The limitation of my activities to participating in a Howrse breeding group (this is limited, but necessary as I made a commitment way back when), writing Camp NaNoWriMo novel, doing literature or history tests, reading literature books, history textbooks, or creating an outline/timeline.
  • The three memopad notes underneath The things I have to do… the first one is from Saturday, the second from Sunday, and the third from today. Since I didn’t finish Saturday/Sunday’s work, they’re still there.
  • sheet taped to the wall the schedule, also says PUSH-UPS EVERYTIME YOU GET THE URGE TO SURF
  • Big notebook with pink writing. It says April 12, 2013 I CHOOSE ENJOYMENT. I CHOOSE TO PASS THE EQUIVALENCY EXAMS. I choose to let go of the FEAR OF SUCCESS. I choose to let go of the FEAR OF FAILURE. I choose to let go of the QUASI-NEED FOR PLEASURE. I CHOOSE TO WORK.

From left to right on the desk, first ‘line’

  • A stack of books which holds most of the books I’m currently studying from. It works as a place to stick all the things I don’t need at this moment, but will  need soon. On the top is a notebook, on the bottom is a red physics manual.
  • My waterbottle. I try to drink 4 bottles full a day.
  • Golden pen holder thing. Holds a broken highlighter (which has sticky bookmark things), my fountain pen, a pen from my aunt, and every once in a while my blue pen (to the left of the base of the water bottle) and my pencil (just to the left of the laptop).
  • Chapstick and lint-free cloth. For lips and glasses.
  • Laptop. The thingamajig extraordinaire itself. Program onscreen is Alarm Clock 2 and Notational Velocity
  • Tablet and tablet pen Much nicer than a mouse or trackpad.
  • Collection of papers, project list, quick to-do list, and a tissue. Also sticky-note pad, orange.

Left to right on the desk, ‘second’ line:

  • tape for putting up memopad notes and sticking sticky notes better
  • history tests
  • memopad for taking notes of people I need to look up.
  • history textbook, open at page 52.
  • a memopad sheet I need to throw out.
  • highlighters
  • and, underneath, a Rudyard Kipling book in Romanian because I was going to read it. A long time ago.

If I really want, I can make the desk look clean, too:

2013-04-22 10.05.54

Thought Pattern

Have you ever tried to pull a tractor tire behind you?

I haven’t either. But judging from the sweat running down peoples’ faces when they attempt it (or the blood-hue of their faces), it’s hard work.

I don’t feel like that’s what I’m attempting when I work. I feel like I’m trying to move a mountain with my mind. And while I’m trying to move a mountain there’s an hourglass with sand in it that’s steadily trickling down and down and down to gather into an ever-growing heap of sand at the bottom.

Continue reading

How My Studies are like Novel-Planning

((I am throwing out the schedule.))

How my studies are like novel-planning:

Biology. This takes the place of world-building. My usual approach is to figure out the bare minimum that will allow me to get by without having to pause in the middle and think, “Wait… are these people Asian or European so I know what they look like.” That, literally, is about the extent of world-building. 

 

Physics. The magic system. “Um… it looks like this and this is what it does and it’s vaguely based on…” *looks around wildly* “PENS!” Wait, no, pens don’t have magic. Everyone would be making pens. Um… um… um… “TREES!” Trees is good. Okay. Cool. So what’s the outcome of this?

 

which leads into…

 

History. The story. The lovely plot. The interesting part that allows for the broad, sweeping, thoughtless actions of my characters. There is extrinsic motivation, just the way I like it. Not like…

 

Literature. Character feelings and motivation. Ugh. Intrinsic stuff. Figuring out the little nit-picky details… knowing out what they like and dislike and the symbolism of the fact that Jenny likes green beans as opposed to peas… not for me. (Translated to literature… the reason that ‘night’ is used more than ‘day’ in a particular poem and how the metaphor of sparks translates to cloud formations…)

What’s school like for you?

Assisted Self-Discipline

This post was on time, except that the final spellcheck was about 5 seconds too late and the internet turned off.

If you’re anything like me, whenever you sit down to work, you are siren-called by that great and terrible beauty: the Internet.

If this has never happened to you, you are blessed. Not only do you have what must be the coolest job/hobby on the planet, you must also be a cyborg.

If you’re not a cyborg and your job is less interesting than the latest meme, then we are in the same boat. (Though I have been called a cyborg, it’s usually not in the context of avoiding the internet).

In order to avoid checking Facebook/Twitter/e-mail/name-your-poison, you need one thing:

Self-control.

Self-control, though, is hard to come by. It depends heavily on willpower, which is finite. You only have a set amount that you can expend.

It’s really quite simple. If you’re on a diet and someone offers you a cookie, it may be easy to refuse the first time. But if they offer it to you a hundred times, at some point you are going to take that cookie. (If not, see the second paragraph.)

It’s the same thing with the internet. That internet is beckoning. You may ignore that twinge in you that says, “Check Facebook” once. You may ignore it twice. Things get a bit fuzzy after the third time, and at some point you’re on Facebook and beating yourself up because you got sucked in. Again.

Enter SelfControl. This Mac osX application blocks your internet access to certain sites on your black-list (or the entire web, with the exception of sites on your white-list). There are alternatives for Windows users.

You open up the program, set a black-list or a white-list, set the amount of time you feel ready to do without the internet for… and then click Start. Input your password and the internet turns off. No matter what you do, you cannot access the internet until the timer runs out. Quitting the program or restarting your computer does nothing.

Side note: StayFocusd, a Google Chrome add-on, only allows you to visit certain websites for a certain amount of time each day. But I use Safari and I’m not eager to switch browsers. Besides, if I really wanted to procrastinate, I could just open up Safari after my Facebook time was done for the day.

I used SelfControl for the first two weeks of school. The only problem is that turning ON SelfControl requires self-control. However, thankfully, the website referenced someone who had programmed SelfControl to start automatically, at certain times of the day.

How it works:

Create an Automator script that sets the SelfControl timer and activates it by inputting your password for you.

Create a Calendar event that opens the script at a certain time of day.

Set the Calendar event to run every day for the rest of your life.

Do without internet.

There were a few hiccups, as I didn’t know that saving the Automator script would automatically create a Calendar event, forcing me to do without internet in the process of learning how to work this system. And I wasn’t aware of how the events worked, so one morning instead of being taken over by gremlins at 7:45, my computer worked normally. And one day, instead of the internet going off for two hours, it went off for three.

But those are minor problems. It’s working extraordinarily well so far.

What do you do to keep from checking out the shiny things on the internet?