July 9th, 2009



I was up until 2 last night working on my physics assignment - it's not so much that it was hard, more that I had yet to solidify a lot of the concepts involved in the questions. I'm on my way to becoming a sixth-rate mathematician, but physics is helped along so greatly by an intuitive grasp of math, and this combined with the lightning speed of this particular session makes me feel like I'm only half-awake. Also, the classes are long. Ninety minutes of physics instruction per day is enough for me, thanks. When we're coming around to the 2 hour mark (out of three), I feel like getting up and leaving. Today I wasn't the only one - I think we were all a little spent after the assignment.

Today the teacher was talking about stupid math mistakes, like making sure that you multiply to undo division, as in how:

10 - 8 = (1/2)(v)^2


2(10 - 8) = v^2
20 - 16 = v^2
4 = v^2
2 = v

and then he started laughing and asked the class, "Did anyone here go through CPA?"

I alone raise my hand half-heartedly.

"Anyone have Mr. Lyne?"

"Yes," I groaned. "I failed his class - I got a 16!"

He went on to talk about how Mr. Lyne had a coin jar that everybody paid into when they'd make a silly math mistake. The teacher joked that his own son probably singlehandedly funded the term-end pizza party.

You couldn't have said the same thing about me - I wasn't even doing the math, therefore I wasn't making mistakes. ;-) I was terrible - I started out relatively eager and OK, but suddenly things got away from me. It was a combination of my PEI elementary education, two years in a Seventh-Day Adventist school with abysmal math and science, and my own personal hatred of school borne from the daily strife and harassment I faced there - all that thrust upon a teenager is, in retrospect, a pretty good recipe for failure. Toss me in Mr. Lyne's no-nonsense, no-sailing math class, and I instantly crumbled. I ended up failing Math 10 three times with three different teachers: 16, 8, 25... and then the school gave me a "Trucker Math" 10 credit that I graduated with. I came back and got my Grade 11 and 12 Academic and I did pre-calculus this summer, but that year continues to haunt me. About the only pleasant thing I remember is Mr. Lyne's bread.

These days I know how to use my deficiencies to my advantage and make lemons out of lemonade, but in those days I didn't, and I wish someone had tried to show me - can't blame them, though, because I was busy pushing people away.

I was so throughly rejected by everyone that I started preemptively rejecting others - people would say hello to me in the corridors, and I'd coldly ignore them. I really became my own worst enemy, probably in order to avoid the pain of straight-up rejection, but ironically it brought much more pain than just accepting the inevitable rejections we all receive would have been.

I just can't believe how much I've learned this summer. Apparently, for me, the best way to learn about myself and about other people is to take a bunch of math and science courses!

* * *

It was good for me to admit my failure in Mr. Lyne's Grade 10 math to everyone, even though it was thirteen years ago. Earlier in today's class I think I ruffled some feathers when we were talking about how you have to use fundamental units when using Newton's laws to find an orbital radius, while with Kepler's 3rd law, you can use whatever you want, as it's just Radius^3 / Period^2 of your unknown object compared to known values Radius^3 / Period ^2 of another (such as Earth's, if you're talking about the Solar System). (Note that the Kepler shortcut only works in situations where we know the properties of one other orbiting body. Kepler described the situation, but it took Newton to explain it.) So I suggested that for Rearth, just write 1AU.

Since Rjupiter = Rearth (Pjupiter / Pearth)^(2/3)
12 years / 1 year = 12
[years cancel]
12^(2/3) = 5.24 * 1AU = 5.24AU = Rjupiter.

Isn't that fun? Quick and dirty, but over these distances, who really cares?

* * *

A buddy of mine dropped in here and asked me about my plans for the fall. A lot of people are asking me how long it will take me to get my B.Sc. I guess the B.Sc. is really just a signpost - it's just a symbol for an achievement, not the achievement itself. Accordingly, I'm not really fussed about when it comes. I really just want to be on track towards getting somewhere, and I don't really care where the road goes. For so long I was just going nowhere, save for temporal bliss in places like Poland and Sainte-Anne. (My buddy asked me if I'd take courses during the summers to speed things up on the science end. Perhaps, but I'll probably be trying to get more Explore bursaries if I can!) Now, now I'm going somewhere, and it's so mystifying to strangers that I really do have to say things like, "Well, I'm going to do astrophysics, because I always wanted to be a star!"


Sometimes cockiness backfires. Less often than you may think it might, but sometimes it does. You have to watch your cadence, rhythm, and pay attention to the body language of your interlocutor (which you should always do anyway) - there are all kinds of factors at play.

Anyway, so I'm returning my towel at the gym. Once you throw it in the bin, they give back your ID card. "What's your name?" the girl asked.

"I'd have thought you'd memorized my name by now!" I smiled.

The expression she flashed said something like, "Wow, I would like to stab you with a fork."

Know your audience. That is all.

T. on Facebook made an excellent comment: "I think the critical component is your intonation. there is that 'this is obviously facetious' tone, which i do think you have." That might be the key: I was a little bit tired coming out and I wasn't as careful with my intonation as I usually am. I even felt a little off balance as the words spilled out of my mouth. It's not the content, it's the delivery.
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