Thursday, October 29, 2009

Peace in Silence

"Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence." --Max Ehrmann

I have begun to take a peculiar delight in small pleasures. I have begun, in fact, to fully reject the slimy decadence of a constant desire for something better, the very disease that runs our current America. I find myself these days enjoying the taste of a ham and cheese sandwich, a moment of peace, or the way the light plays on a curved glass, as though I were recently released from bondage in some foreign cave. I find myself appreciating things in a way that is crudely represented by the phrase, "looking on the bright side." It is more than that, however; it is to purely ignore that which is unpleasant, insofar as it is safe to do so, and to accept and enjoy that which is enjoyable. For, why reject joy?

On Fridays I have a 7:30 AM lab, which was primarily a terrible idea, and which invariably means I do not get enough sleep the night before. However, when I am walking to class, I do not mind it at all. There are few people on campus at that hour and the air is generally pleasant. There was one Friday morning that I experienced an impossibly beautiful fog, and quite delighted in strolling through the soft air. Last week, the sky was an absolute symphony as the sun rose and spread his colors throughout the variously-shaped clouds, the visual incarnation of a loud and vibrant music, played for me and me alone since no one else seemed to hear it. To notice this, and not my desperate need for coffee, indicates that perhaps amid the homework and the noise I have found some small, perfect note of peace.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Difficulties in Mathematics

"Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater." --Albert Einstein

Ever since I learned about undiscovered Mersenne Primes in seventh grade, I've had this idea in my head that I would eventually do something great and useful in mathematics. In one summer off, I forgot nearly everything I ever learned about calculus, so that seems a bit doubtful. Yet, I keep coming back to it, to million-dollar math problems and unsolved ciphers and whether P=NP, these problems of numbers or computer science to which no one on this earth knows the answer. I want to find these answers, decode the Voynich manuscript, solve the Collatz conjecture, find the next Mersenne prime. I don't, however, expect any of these to happen if I don't spend the time and effort on so much as my math homework.

I am currently taking an honors seminar class, called "Mathematical Modeling with Scientific Computing," that requires the ability to use calculus--at least the basics of integration. As I stated, I don't remember much of calculus these days, and problems that already have clear answers don't much interest me. Unfortunately, it is impossible to run a marathon if you haven't any legs, so I'm going to re-learn calculus by some means, as training for bigger things.

The final project for the class should be interesting. We are to mathematically model something that hasn't been done, or to expand on something that has been done--to strive to do something publishable. My partner (who is, mercifully, a math major) and I will be working in the realm of digital audio, attempting to create an algorithm that can automate sidechaining with a compressor (see the related Wikipedia if that meant nothing to you). My audio professor says that would be quite the useful plugin, to take out the guesswork by using frequency and amplitude and math. I am a bit excited about the possibility that this will be something useful in math done in part by me, and it almost makes me want to pay proper attention to calculus again.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Language Barrier

I never knew how much meaning I attach to the very syllables of the English language, until I started to learn French. I took two years of German and a year of Latin in high school, but this is my first language course where I have endeavored toward the eventual end of fluency. To speak by translating every word in my head is utterly inefficient, and could not lead to knowledge of the language, so I have been working to skip the step of mental translation and associate pure meaning directly with the words.

But how difficult this is! I did not know how much is held on the word, that single-letter word "I," until I tried to move that weight to the French "je." Such a heavy weight on such a deceptively tiny word! The prepositions cause less trouble, such simple words with simple meaning. But "room" I cannot reconcile. Those four letters create four walls before my mind's eye. "Salle" does not, to me, compare, does not build that tiny architecture in my head. It is abstract, it falls flat, it is meaningless. And never mind "word" itself! "Mot" is not "word." "Mot" is applesauce. "Mot" does not at all say "I am a tiny mess of letters that can mean so very much if you properly understand me."

I see why it is that as people get older, languages are harder to learn. It is not a lack of memory, some failing of the brain or tongue. It is simply too many years of colors and people and places and lines, too many years of habitual and unconscious association, to copy from every word of their mother tongue to the sister words of another tongue.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Musings About My Future Career

I don't really know what I want to do when I grow up, "grow up" being a relative term. I wish I could afford to be a student all my life, have nothing hanging on the grades or the homework, and really just hang out with professors and study and research and learn things that I find interesting. Good heavens, perhaps I ought to be a professor. Then again, I couldn't well stand to teach, and I hear that part is important.

I say I want to be a writer. I think I want to be a writer. But I do not know. I feel as though I may be one of those people for whom a career is only a side piece of my life, and is not my life; for a writer that is probably a good quality. What life experience belongs to the one whose entire life is writing, and of what shall anyone write except the experiences of his or her life?

Perhaps I shall fund my life experiences with the money I get from my writing. That would be working for a living, certainly. But how shall I begin? Is this why writers are poor, or waitresses? This is why I am not majoring in Literature. I do, in fact, have other useful and technical skills; I simply do not wish to use them for the remainder of my potentially long life.

I do want to be intelligent, and wise. I have some men I might call heroes; I want in some ways to be like them. They say if you want to be a millionaire, you must hang out with millionaires. Perhaps if I read their works, it will be like hanging out like them. I am currently reading a copy of some diary of Edison that I found in the electrical engineering section of UCF's library, as well as That Hideous Strength, the third book in C. S. Lewis's Space Trilogy. If I keep it up, this hanging out with men by reading the books of men, perhaps I, too, will share their intelligence and wit.

Alternatively, I might simply turn into a book.