November 29, 2011

Extreme Brain Death


There may be a lot of blog headings like that between now and the end of January.  I have spent all frelling day on SHADOWS.  I’m too old to go on like this, this hour after hour thing, counting the passage of time by how often the hellhounds want something.  What?  You want another hurtle?  Didn’t you have one just . . . six hours ago?  And furthermore I didn’t go to bell practise again tonight.  This is . . . extreme.* 

             Right.  I have nothing to say . . . so I’ll answer some forum comments.

Diane in MN:

Really bad teaching won’t only convince the student that she’s stupid, it will make the subject seem useless and terminally boring. This takes a long time to get over. But you now get to follow whatever paths interest you and read stuff written by good writers, so it’s no wonder it’s a lot more fun than sitting in a classroom with a dreary textbook stuck in front of you. Also no one will give you an exam. 

Part of what is so frustrating in hindsight is that even though I’ve known for years that a lot of my dislike of various subjects was in part due to bad teaching I have felt very little urge to find out how much because the belief that I am stupid lingered, like Greasy Build Up in your kitchen drains.  It didn’t matter that I’d been taught badly if I was unengageable on this or that subject anyway, you know?  When I think of everything I managed to be turned off in school I almost wonder what I’ve spent my life doing.  Well, sneaking around the back entrance, for one.  I thought history in school was pretty much a total snore too, but I did contrive to decide that was because I wasn’t interested in kings, politics and wars:  I was interested in what was going on with the little people back home in the villages, trying to raise enough crops and critters to keep eating.  

            I’m still pretty exam phobic, which is still tiresome.  This isn’t how it works in the real world, but what exams are supposed to be for is to tell you if you’ve learnt the material or not.  If you don’t do some of the frelling problems how do you know if you can?  I get this just flipping through PROFESSOR STEWART’S HOARD OF MATHEMATICAL TREASURES while falling asleep in the bath.  I rarely do achieve the answer, but I’m a lot more engaged if I’ve tried.  (He says this himself, gently, in the introduction.)** 


And re memory, if Raphael and the Angelic Horde have already stuck in as many extra memory chips as your main laptop has room for, then yes, as you say, the poor thing has come to the end of its evolutionary journey. 

Only this time I’m not going to let them take it away.  Last time I bought a laptop they did take the old one away, with some likely story about a refit for some deserving charity . . . is there anyone who takes elderly, semi-viable computer kit any more?  But as several people (including, I think Diane in MN and Blogmom) have said, with reference to the final straw of the battery on this one going phut, you don’t need a battery if you keep it plugged into the wall.  And I have occasionally missed having ready back up.  I’m going to miss having laptop back up at the mews when they take this one away to transfer all its secrets to the new one. 

Of course, the log-jam will partly depend on how many of your mega-programs you have open at any one time. 

No, no!  You misjudge me!  You wound me!  Even I know to turn everything off before I turn Finale on—and I not only turn everything off, I go make a cup of tea when I turn the homeopathic stuff on.  It takes FOREVER to load and then it sort of sits there grumbling to itself and twitching like a sleeping dog till it finally concedes that it might work if I asked it nicely.  I’m hoping this situation may also improve with the new one with the more memory than an entire pantheon of gods (and goddesses). 


I wanted to clarify that Robin’s pendant does not say: Public Restroom This Way or I Am an Apple Dumpling (which may be a very difficult task considering we’re only looking at two characters. At the most it could have said ‘restroom here’ or ‘I apple’). 

I had thought some of those wildly complicated characters one sees in Chinese (or Japanese) are wildly complicated because they’re saying more than just one simple word.  I feel that either of the characters on my pendant have enough waving fronds to have been quite specific about the apple dumpling.  It could even be the complete recipe.
It really does say happiness (and good fortune and blessing) and long life (and old age, age, life, birthday…and funerary).
The first character on top is Fu (second tone) and here it is in the simplified: ?. Fu means happiness, etc.
The second character on the bottom is shou (fourth tone) and here it is: ?? Shou means long life, etc.
Happy belated Birthday to Robin, since I’ve left the ranks of stalker and have now crawled out of my shell to contribute to the conversations. ??  

I had originally planned to ask if anyone had any idea where to find the font support or whatever you call it for the characters, because on my screen, anyway—I don’t know if it’s WordPress or IE, or what—in the forum they just show up as little blank rectangles.  But I copied and pasted into Word to write the blog post and . . . lo and behold, here they are as beautiful little characters.***  (Presumably they will regress to little blank rectangles once I paste them into the admin window however.)   So anyone else out there frustrated by characterlessness . . . try pasting in Word or equivalent.  I don’t suppose WordPress has an add-on gizmo for Chinese/Japanese characters?

            And now, what does the last character say?  Happy belated birthday, shell crawled out of, or conversation contribute to?  It seems to me quite complex enough to say all three, but then I was expecting cinnamon and pastry with the apple dumpling. 

            And . . . thank you!


It may be worth noting that in one sense Geometry is the most Mathematical course that most students take in the field. The arithmetic-algebra-trigonometry-calculus sequence is very useful but it is usually taught in a relatively applied way. Geometry is frequently taught from a more theoretical point of view emphasizing why things are true rather than what you can do with them. 

Oh!  Now I was always in the liberal-arts college track in school, so Experience May Vary, but what I had was the algebra-geometry-algebra II-DUCKING THE ISSUE BY TAKING EARTH SCIENCES† sequence.  I was told that liberal-arts wusses like me always liked geometry best because . . . unh . . . it was the most describable in English, that is in language type language rather than maths type language. 

            I wish I could remember my geometry teacher’s name, because he was another total sweetie, and I’d (cough cough) immortalise him here too if I could.††   He was another piece of extravagant luck:  Mrs Curry was young and enthusiastic;  he was old and near retirement, and too nice for his own good, and was stuck teaching the really dumb kids.  I was in that class not because they had twigged that I was really dumb, but because of a scheduling conflict caused by being new to that school system.   But I was happy with the dumb kids.

            You’d think that after two years of good maths teaching that my barrier wall might have crumbled a little, but it didn’t.  The years from kindergarten through the beginning of eighth grade with Algebra Teacher from Hell were not shed that easily. 


Is it wrong that I now want to read “Attack of the Zorgs”? It sounds quite… exciting…  

Well, let me see.  Zorgs have rather long, elliptical bodies, with one large eye on a stalk, and three limbs variously used for handling and locomotion, each limb ending with a kind of hand with three grasping talons, and they are very fearsome warriors. . . . 

* * *

 * I wasn’t going to be able to hitch a ride with Niall tonight and I thought, no worries, I’ll take Wolfgang.  But about half an hour before I was due to leave I thought hmmmmmmm.  Under the current workload I’m only just barely keeping the ME back behind its electric fence^, driving is a weak point even when I’m feeling hearty and fettlesome and it’s the first thing to go when I start fading and I’m driving Peter and me to see Tabitha tomorrow . . . can I afford a forty-five minute commute behind the wheel tonight?  Erm.  Maybe not.  So I didn’t go.  I stayed at home and flogged myself silly over SHADOWS.  But at least there isn’t far to fall from a chair at the kitchen table. 

^ Think ‘triffids’ here 

** Speaking of user-friendly books . . . I forgot to remind you of ALEX IN NUMBERLAND the other night, which I found very user-friendly.  Oh, and ALICE IN QUANTUMLAND is now on my wish list . . . but it doesn’t seem to be available as audio.  Rats.  Speaking of the wrong kind of inoculation:  I was thinking of this after recoiling in horror from the illustrations in BRIEFER HISTORY.  I don’t think the photos are really terribly helpful . . .  but part of my ‘training’ as a maths phobic is to look at equations and go AAAAAAUGH.  Having listened to ALEX before I looked at the pages I’d heard the numbers before I had to face them in a format I remembered from school.  I’m keeping this shocking revelation front and centre as I try to hack through a little of my teach-yourself-hard-stuff books. 

*** Much as it pains me to do so I may have to pause here a moment and praise Word. 

† Going to boarding school for your senior year has its uses.  I don’t think we cracked an equation all year, but we had deeply mathematical experiences like going camping in Mt Katahdin State Park.  

†† Note that the reasons for remembering Mrs Curry’s are twofold:  first that it’s such an intensely romantic name—Penelope Windsor Curry—or I thought it was, and second she went riding at the same stable I did.

* * *

Curiouser and curiouser.  Britabri’s characters show up fine here in the editing window . . . but are question marks on the public blog.  What does anyone else see?


Please join the discussion at Robin McKinley's Web Forum.