Hi guys! As part of my semi-resolution to, you know, get out more, stop being an hermit, and utilise the resources that living in Sydney offers me, last night I went out and saw an El-P show.
This post is not about the show, it is about the peoples I met there.
The first dudes I met were from Newcastle. I didn’t really meet them, what happened was they were next to me in line and they irritated me a bit with their stupid stories. Because their stories were dumb. Hey, it happens to everyone sometimes, it is nothing to be ashamed of. But as we got in they were talking about having to make the 11:15 train, so I talked to them a bit about the awesome limitations placed on a person by having transport stop at 11:30 or so.
Turns out, if you live in Newcastle, there’s another train at like 1:45, which is practically cheating. Not like living in the outer west, where, once that ship has sailed, it’s sailed for good.
Or, I guess, until about 5:30. Whatever.
Around this time it came to me (as though in a dream) that I required some chewing gum. So I went out and I got some chewing gum! At the seven-eleven, there were two folk who were kind of semi-standing in line, but not really, so I stood behind them, for politeness sakes. The girl told me she wasn’t in line, and the guy did too, but he pushed in front of me to ask the counterman where the Gaelic club was, at which point I informed them that I would escort them to said club in a short while, after I had finished buying my gum.
Their names were Jaime and, I think, Lisa. They were from Canada, in Australia for a couple weeks, rocking out at shows because, once you are a tourist, you are already mostly over the ‘man, guys, going to shows is hard’ thing. Because, check it out: you already in another country! So it’s not such a big deal to go out and see things, I guess? Also, what else you gonna do? Sit on the internet at home? Implausible!
So we talked a bit about the respective hip-hop scenes of our respective towns. Calgary, guys, it’s a place. It’s got… snow, and dudes with mics. I think that’s about it? That’s all Jaime told me about, anyway.
I don’t know anything about the hip-hop scene in Sydney, so who knows what I told him? Probably a tissue of lies!
It’s how I roll.
At this point there were maybe 40 people in the venue, so there was a lot of space and it was a bit depressing to think of some guy coming from over the ocean to perform there. How would that be, on part of your world tour, looking out at the gaelic club and seeing 40 loosely clumped, mostly disinterested people?
Not super-great, is my understanding.
So anyway! I watched some dudes drunkdance with the hippity-hopstyle, for a while, which was pretty entertainment. Then a guy called Scott Burns came on stage, and I seriously thought it was a guy I knew, a guy called Dave. Because basically they are the same person? Only one of them rocks out on stage, I guess. And Dave… I guess he rocks out all the time. He’s a pretty cool guy.
Anyway! Scotty Burns had songs, and in every single one of them, there was a reference to something which made me laugh. This is a good scheme to make me interested in your music. Also, random references to Trevor Chappell and the underarm bowl, good times. I have, somewhere, a tiny, tiny cricket bat, signed by Greg and Trevor Chappell. This is not relevant, but trivia is awesome (guys, let’s get some trivia going).
Later, as the show unfolded, and the venue became actually occupied, I was right up the front. Next to me was a girl who had previously been drunkdancing in the open spaces offered by not having any people around, but who was now also kind of wedged up against the stage. She was from Wollongong. I know only two things about her, one that she’s from wollongong, and two that she’s got an extra-large Public Enemy singlet top, which was the only size they had left when she got to the merch stand, which she will only wear when she is pregnant.
Which I didn’t really know how to respond to, as a conversational opener. So I guess I told her her baby would be awesome.
I mean, probably that kind of environment would be awesome for a baby? Public Enemy has some words to say, about some things, which instill the appropriate attitudes in our youth from Wollongong?
Then, someone I did not meet: El-P. He was surprisingly not involved with the fans who were, like, right there up at the stage. It was a bit disappointing, though I guess eventually he shook my hand. Hmm.
The show was pretty awesome, though, so that was good.
Scott Burns had mentioned in one of his songs that he was going to the Strawberry Hills hotel after the show, so I went there, for, maybe lols, maybe nothing. I ended up sitting on a table with a man from Kiwistan, an Islander dude, and his girlfriend. They were pretty cool, we talked about music (as I had just come from a show and they are going to the future music festival today), and languages (the kiwistani guy was threatening to teach the islander guy kiwanese), and other stuff. But it was also awkward because, what the hell, sitting at a table drinking and chatting with people you don’t know?
I mean, that is part of my no-hermit (no hermo?) plan, to be able to speak more to whoever without it being a thing, and I think I reasonably executed it, but also it is straight up weird.
So then I went to shorthaus, and some people were there, and it was good times. There was cake (oh man! such cake!) and cakesoup (oh man! such cakesoup!) which I spilled all over the place (Sorry Tab!), and talking about stuff and things. So that was good, I think I prefer to hang out with people I actually know, rather than randoms, on balance.
Then I came home! Then I talked to the internets! Now I am awake again and I am sore, goddamn.
The Four Colour Theorem is a famous problem in mathematics. It is very simple to express, but proved very difficult to solve. The method of solution was both new and controversial, to the point where some mathematicians still consider the question unanswered.
In 1852, a graduate student by the name of Francis Guthrie noticed something interesting when he was colouring in a map of the English counties. He discovered that he could colour it all with only four colours, so that no two regions which were adjacent (that is, shared a common border) had the same colour:
As any good mathematician would do in this situation, he generalised the question – is this true of all maps? If some catastrophic occurrence befell the English counties and all the lines were redrawn, would he still only need four colours? What about a completely abstract partitioning of the plane, such as this:
Yep, still only four colours!
He simplified things down a little bit – countries that had more than one connected piece were disallowed, to avoid situations like these:
There is no way to colour this map with four colours, if both the regions marked A are to be the same colour.
It’s easy to show that at least four colours are needed (try it yourself!), but he couldn’t answer why only four were needed. No doubt he tried many different combinations, scribbling in notebooks and trying to find an easy counterexample. Instead, he passed the problem on to someone else.
Augustus De Morgan was a rather famous mathematician – anyone who has studied complex numbers will no doubt remember De Morgan’s Laws, not to mention his work on solidifying the method of proving by induction. He was able to prove a simpler result, which he hoped to generalise: any map with five (or fewer) regions could be coloured with only four colours. However, he couldn’t prove it for an arbitrary number of regions.
After the problem was published in the journal Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society, a man by the name of Arthur Kempe struck upon a brilliant idea.
First he proved that any map has a region with five or fewer neighbours (which is quite remarkable, considering the generalities in which we’re talking). He described a process of shrinking which he claimed was reversible: if a region has three or fewer neighbours, we can shrink it away so that the map now has one less region to colour. We shrink everything down until our map only has four regions, colour those arbitrarily, and reverse the process:
The grey regions are shrunk one at a time until we have only four regions – they are coloured, and the shrinking process is reversed.
Everyone was happy for 11 years, until Percy (!) Heawood found that the process wasn’t as reversible as everyone had assumed: a region with five neighbours couldn’t be shrunk like this (so that you could colour the rest and put it back nicely), and that was an unavoidable for some maps. The proof was sunk.
And yet, no-one could find any map that required more than four colours. They tried everything they could think of, but mathematicians are always (or should be) mindful that they are rather meagre minds in the light of the massive order and reason they are wrangling with – perhaps people just weren’t clever enough to come up with the required counterexample!
The language of graph theory was being developed, and was nicely adapted to this problem. Instead of considering countries and regions, the graph theorists considered coloured points, with lines between them representing adjacency:
With the results of graph theory now at their disposal, mathematicians quickly dispatched the Five Colour Theorem – I read the proof, and actually reproduced it rather faithfully in my exam, when I took Graph Theory in second year. However, the Five Colour Theorem wasn’t much help – moving from a graph that is five-coloured to one that is four-coloured often requires a lot of recolouring, as can be seen in this example:
A five coloured map.
The same map, now four coloured – note that the central blue region is now green, and its lower left neighbour is now blue.
In 1922 a man by the name of Philip Franklin proved that any map with 26 or fewer regions could be four-coloured. His proof used an idea called a reducible configuration, first introduced in Kempe’s proof (though not named as such). The idea was similar – take a number of adjacent regions, remove them, and four-colour the remainder. If you can put the regions back, regardless of how you four-coloured the remainder, then the regions are said to form a reducible configuration. Note that this is a generalisation – we are removing groups of regions, rather than one-at-a-time like Kempe proposed.
The idea was therefore formulated that would later be the starting point of the proof: prove that every possible map has a reducible configuration. Then, when you remove it from a particular map, the new (and simpler) map will also have a reducible configuration, and you can repeat the process and we have our result.
But what do these reducible configurations look like? It was demonstrated that a region that has four or fewer neighbours was reducible, but was that it? Could this turn into a proof?
A new age of proof
In 1970, Wolfgang Haken began his search for the full list of reducible configurations. Most estimates put the number at about 10,000, but the number might have been anything up to infinite (therefore frustrating his search for an exhaustive list). Working with another mathematician, Kenneth Appel, they developed computer software to help them find this list. They wrote their program, fired it up, and hoped that it would one day terminate and say “Here it is, the full list!”.
In just under 1,000 hours (about 6 weeks), the process stopped at 1,936 reducible configurations. They had found the list. Every map had at least one of these configurations – if you removed it to make a simpler map, the new map would contain one of these 1,936 configurations which you could take out. Eventually you could get down to just four regions, colour those and reverse the process. Thus the theorem was proved.
It was one of the first computer-assisted proofs to be presented, and as such gained a lot of attention due to the problem’s age – computers had achieved something humans were unable tackle with over a hundred years of pondering.
Scepticism and acceptance
Modern computers can do Haken and Appel’s computation in just under an hour, but the computation is so hard that no human could ever hope to do it, even if they devoted their entire life to this theorem. Mathematicians were very wary of this result – it comes down to trusting that the computer has done things the way you wanted it to. Computers are rather predictable machines, so most mathematicians do accept the proof today, but there are still some that remain sceptical.
Perhaps a bigger problem is that the proof doesn’t give us a very good understanding of what’s going on – what is it about a plane that it can be coloured in this way? So far, the only answer we have is that we’ve tested all the possible cases. Mathematicians want to be able to understand things like this, to assist in our generalisations.
If we are colouring a sphere or a cylinder, the result is the same. But what if we were to colour a torus, or donut shape? In that case, we actually need seven colours:
Seven regions, each with six neighbours, if we were to roll it together like so:
…so we know we need at least seven colours. Is seven all we need? Again, we’d need to feed all of this into a computer, which would probably give us an answer. The method of proof is therefore “give the computer a surface, and it will test it for you”, rather than a nice formula to describe how many colours you need, no matter how your object is sitting in space. What about a donut with two holes? What about a Mobius strip? The answer is the same – ask the computer.
What about higher dimensions? Again, ask a computer. We don’t have a good knowledge of what the connection is between the shape of an object and how we colour it – we just know that if we do a whole lot of calculations, a computer will give us an answer.
The fact that four colours is the maximum number of colours we need is now clear. However, the way that the fact was proven makes it almost useless to help us in our understanding of what’s really going on. The problem is therefore still being worked on to this day, so that one day humanity may be able to understand without the aid of a computer. We’re working towards a better answer, even though we already know what it is.
(I predict that computer assisted proofs play an increasingly prominent role in modern mathematics. As computer power begins to outstrip the capacity of the human brain, we will want to answer questions beyond our own power to solve. We won’t be able to help ourselves!)
Mathematics is often portrayed as a black-and-white, right-or-wrong subject. Whilst this may be true for much of high school mathematics, it is clearly not when it comes to problems like these. What it means to be right, how you’re right, how you go about finding answers and whether you can use your methods to answer bigger questions is far more important than simply knowing whether your attempts agree with the proverbial answers in the back of your textbook!
(Okay so, this title is actually a reference to the BEST DESCRIPTION OF HEATHER EVER, and certainly the terse bit is irrelevent to my post, but as soon as I decided what to write about, this was the only title I could think of. Title copyright Heather.)
(Also, this post is maybe a little emo. I hope it doesn’t make any of you guys emo – this isn’t supposed to be a big pity party, I’m just trying to work out how my brain is formed, and where it goes wrong, and how I can maybe avoid that stuff in the future.)
I thought I would write about forgiveness, and my issues with forgiveness.
I am a very forgiving person, until one day when I’m not any more. This makes me sound kind of fickle and harsh, but I don’t think I am, simply because I tend to forgive people for MUCH longer than I really ought, and so by the time it eventually becomes all too much for me, there’s a fairly large supply of ill-will stored up, and it means I’m kind of angry for a while. I don’t LIKE being angry, I don’t like the way I am when I’m angry at a person, it’s kind of hard and stressful. This is a thing I’m trying to improve about myself at the moment, because I’m currently pretty goddamn angry at a few people, and it’s unpleasant and stressful for me, and awkward for mutual friends. I’ve been thinking a lot about my own reactions to this sort of stuff, in an attempt to fix the things I can fix.
This is difficult, though, because I sort of like the reasons why I forgive people. I would like to think of myself as a fairly compassionate person. Particularly with my friends, I understand that stuff is hard, and sometimes people do shitty things without meaning it.
I’ve isolated the two main patterns:
1. A friend constantly hurts me in very small and insignificant ways, which seem not quite worth mentioning. Mostly this is due to maybe being inconsiderate, but for a long time, and with few episodes of doing awesome, considerate things to make up for it. One day it is TOO MUCH and I snap.
2. A friend is awesome some of the time, but does seriously horrific hurtful things to me the rest of the time. I forgive them because they’re having a hard time, etc, and because when they don’t suck, they totally rule. I try to fix whatever it is that makes them suck sometimes. At some point I realise that being friends with them is a huge strain on my mental health, and decide to cut them off.
The second thing has only really happened twice, and both times I got to make the decision about ending the friendship. Both times I felt a HUGE weight off my shoulders when I went “this person is no longer my problem”, and both times, Tom and my other friends completely supported my decision (which is more important to me than it probably should be – if I’ve ended a friendship after being seriously fucked over by someone, I would like to know that my close friends who understand the situation can support my actions. I don’t necessarily need people to take sides, but I need people to accept that what I’ve done is the right move for me).
The first scenario is much more common. I think the trait of Heather’s that I envy the most is her ability to tell someone when they’ve pissed her off a bit. This is a thing I’m definitely working on to improve this whole situation. See, if someone does something minor, and I know they haven’t meant to hurt my feelings, I’ll generally let it go. This is okay a lot of the time, because for most people, they ARE just having a shitty day and it’s a once-off. However, I know I really appreciate it when I’ve done something slightly thoughtless and Heather calls me on it, because she does it in a way where she lets me know that I didn’t intend offence, but that I hurt her feelings. This allows me to apologise, make sure I don’t do that shit again, and then everyone can move on, no harm, no foul. The one person I can always, ALWAYS do this with is Tom, and I’m pretty thankful about that.
The problem is, I guess, that the more someone is inconsiderate towards me, the less I feel like I can explain my feelings to them without them either dismissing it, or making drama happen. Also, when people are consistantly inconsiderate towards me, the first reaction I have to it is kind of thinking I deserve it. This is hella unhealthy, but it’s from bad friendship patterns built into me during my impressionable teenage years, when I had friends, but not often really good friends who I could rely on to do good things for me. For most of my teenage years my friendships were with people who tolerated my personal quirks, rather than kind of loving them, and so they weren’t really the kind of people who gave any real thought to doing nice things for me, ever. (This is possibly another reason why I am kind of crazy about birthdays being a giant celebration of the birthday person). So yes, when a friend first starts being kind of consistantly inconsiderate, I don’t put a stop to it right away, and then it gets out of hand and one day they will do something inconsiderate when I really, really need them to be there for me and then things are OVER FOREVER and it makes me feel bad and stressed about seeing them, and this is crazy and I really do not enjoy being crazy.
(I say consistantly inconsiderate because this is a very, very important point – there’s a big difference between someone having a crap day and doing something which bugs me, and that being the norm of our relationship. I would also like to add that of you guys here at AP5, I don’t think you even do occasional shitty things to me, because I’ve been trying to think of an example and I can’t, so, go you guys! Possibly this is also due to the fact that sometimes I like a stamp with you and so I am fairly aware of how you’re formed and so things you do don’t bug me at all. )
Anyway, the problem with this first teen regression is that when I realise I’m letting someone treat me like Heather Chandler treated Veronica Sawyer I kind of flip out, and while I don’t react in the same way as Veronica Sawyer, I kind of get my righteous fury on.
Mostly it’s because I get really mad at letting someone treat me that way because I am an awesome person and a good friend and goddamn, bitches betta recognise. And then I get mad at myself, and then I get mad at them for making me feel the way I did when I was in highschool because that was a time which sort of sucked for me and part of my mental health management plan is NOT feeling that way again, oh man.
I have awesome friends who I don’t mind doing lots of stuff for because I know that if I’m in a bad way, they’ll pretty much drop everything to see that I’m okay. I do nice things for my friends because I love them deeply, but really, as long as they occasionally come through for me when it matters, everything is cool. I think the things that really, really get to me are when people either don’t come through when I’m having a legitimate crisis (if they’re having their own crisis, it’s cool, though), or if they ruin something which I’ve been relying on to be a good time and improve my mood, by being selfish and crap. Once again, NONE of you are guilty of this. Man, I promise never to use this blog for passive-aggressive suckarsery. That shit, it’s wack.
I guess another part of the problem is the issue of reconciliation. For the two situations of Type 2, I’m not interested in that friendship because it is too toxic and because both times, that person has become someone I find genuinely reprehensible. So reconciliation isn’t really an issue, there. For Type 1, though, I think a really big problem is that to move on to some kind of new friendship, I need an admission of wrongdoing. Not because I like making people feel guilty, but because I need to know it won’t happen again. However, I tend to be so completely angry at this person for what’s transpired that I feel unable to calmly say “back when we were friends you did this stuff, if we are to be friends again I need to know that you understand that what you did was extremely hurtful and that you’ll attempt to not do this stuff again”, because I feel like if I begin talking to a person about what they’ve done I will go off into a terrifying rant which won’t solve any problems. Even if I understand (due to stamps) WHY someone might act inconsiderately, I feel like I really, really need them to be aware of this tendency in themselves so it doesn’t fuck me over again.
So, um, yeah. Any suggestions? How do you guys forgive serious transgressions?
So, that was kind of full-on, so here is something exciting and filthy. I’ve been watching Season 3 of the UK TV show Skins, and in a recent episode, a character’s sister was in a reality TV show to become the next member of “Sexxbomb” (a fictional version of the Pussycat Dolls), and performs this song – Ass2Ass. For anyone who doesn’t know, “ass to ass” refers to when a gentleman is becoming intimate with two ladies, and he places his private member inside the posterior of one lady, and then pulls out and places it in the posterior of the second lady. It sounds most unhygienic. But yes, this show is mostly fairly serious, except that sometimes they have completely deadpan shit like this in it. This should also be watched to see Bob Fossil from Mighty Boosh as the show’s judge, and also the proud look on the faces of this girl’s dad and brother as she performs this song.
Also, y’all, let me know when you’re free for some kind of AP5 dinnerfoods deliciousness.
 Man, I really, really want to watch this film right now. It’s in my head, like when you get a song in your head, except this is a film.
Once again guys, sorry about the lateness of my post! I have no excuse this time, other than that I was tired and uninspired last night. But, now I have thoughts! Wedding dress thoughts.
This post is mainly an appeal to you all for opinions about my wedding dress options. I’m torn at the moment, because I had, for about three years, had my heart set on this dress:
It’s from Wheels & Dollbaby, a gorgeous Australian pinup style store that has a boutique in Surry Hills that breaks my heart every time I enter it’s doors. I’ve been salivating over this dress (along with most of the other dresses in that shop) since Heather, Georgia and I (along with some others who I can’t remember- sorry guys!) ventured inside after a Saturday brunch at Kawa. I think it may have been Georgia who suggested that this be my wedding dress. That set off a cascade of excited lustings for a very rebellious, retro pinup, risque, cocktail, evening wedding with all of my bridesmaids in W&DB clothes. The thought gives me tingles!
When I tried on this dress, it fit me like a glove. It’s really flattering, cute and sexy and less formal than most wedding gowns, which I like. I think it’s more individual, and really suits my personal style tastes. Another plus is it’s only $385 because it’s not officially a wedding gown!
Here’s a picture of me in a top of the same design, to give you some idea of how I would look in the dress:
I have always known that wearing this dress at my wedding would rock the boat a little. In fact, that is part of what I like about it. However, another part of what I really like about it is that it suits me, my style, and I would be more at home in it than in a formal dress/gown.
That was challenged when I showed it to my Mum and she said that she thought it was ‘trashy and not appropriate for a wedding’. I think her main objections are that it’s not formal and that it is future-hugging and shown some skin. My sister likes it, but thinks I should wear something that is more classic and less of a representation of my style now because she thinks I might look back on it in the futuretimes and say, “ick, that was so noughties!” or some similar.
Andrew also admitted that he doen’t like the bow, which makes me less inclined to wear it, considering the bow is the most prominent feature of the dress, and I would like my future husband to think I look nice on my wedding day! I think the bow’s the feature that makes the dress so cool!
I really don’t want my family thinking I look like a tramp, and my husband-to-be being unenthused by the dress I chose, so I think that would make me less comfortable wearing this dress. I also wonder if my sister has a point, that I might find I hate it in 30 years. At the same time, I realise that this is my wedding and I should wear what I like best. Hmmm…
Another option that I’m considering is wearing my sister’s wedding dress. Here’s a few shots of me in it:
This dress is from Pronuptia, a well known, British wedding gown brand. I think, if I am remembering correctly, that it cost around $2,500 when converted from pounds. But, for me, it would be free, apart from dry cleaning and alterations. It also fits me perfectly, and is incredibly flattering, which wierds me out a little because it’s not at all a style I would have chosen for myself.
I adore the bodice. The shape does wonders for me. The emroidery – especially where a flower escapes over the top of the bodice bustline – is truly special, and the buttons down the back are stunning. This style would make my family really happy, and thus would make me more comfortable.
However, the skirt is problematic for me. I don’t usually go for ‘foof’ or A-line in a dress. Also, the idea of wearing a dress like every other dress irks me, and that;s kinda what this one’s like. It is, however, like I said, very flattering.
I have vague notions of possibly having it altered slightly so that some of the voluminous skirt material is pulled back into something resembling a bustle, and maybe securing it with some kind of gorgeous clip or brooch. The aim would be to give the dress a bit more of a streamline shape. The resulting bustle sounds pretty rad perk of this plan!
Here are some shots of me in the dress pulling it back as if it were altered in the above fashion:
I guess, when I’m honest with myself, I’m not in love with it. It’s a beautiful dress, it fits, and is flattering and is free. It would make my family happy, and I would be comfortable wearing it. But, it’s not what I would choose. It also kind of ruins mt fantasy vision of a cocktail wedding.
So, the other option is buying a new wedding gown in a style that I love. It’d make my family happy, and I could have it just how I want it, but it would be WAY more expensive. Here are some that I have found on the internet that I really like:
This one’s from Circa Brides, who have an amazing range of vintage-inspired wedding gowns. I think it’s really elegant, and not so ball-gown-like.
This one’s from Culture Shock, a fantastic, Sydney-based maker of more individual wedding dresses. I particularly like the vintage feel of this one. I adore the slinkiness, the lace and the buttons on the back. The shape is how I always imagined my wedding dress would look. I do get the impression that the price will be crazy though because this one is under the couture category on the site.
That picture reminds me that the lovely Jodi – Nathan’s girlfriend, my former housemate, and amazing seamstress and Milliner extraoridaire – has generously agreed to make me a fascinator for my big day! I think a fascinator would suit any of the styles I’m considering, and would be a great alternative to a veil. Which ever dress I choose, it’d lend an elegant, eveningwear feel to it. I’m envisioning something with netting that comes down across one side of my forehead and one eye, with some feathers sticking up and some kind of a beautiful embroidered clip or base to hold them all to my hair. I haven’t found any I’m in love with yet, but I’ll keep you posted and show you when I do.
Please, let me know what you think of all of these ideas. I really want your input! Also, if you know of any interesting places to buy unconventional, vintage inspired wedding dresses, please inform The Tab.
Sorry I failed last week, folks. I had most of this draft, but I kept having the tireds. And then my mum went back into hospital yesterday for more chemo, and today I’ve got some kind of a sore throat thing, but I WILL post tonight.
I’m at that irritating stage of moving where I spend (at least part of) every Saturday looking at flats, and then I fill in forms and I drop them in and then I don’t get picked for the places. It seems pretty likely at this point that my lack of a tenancy history is causing trouble – people look at that and think I’m going to wreck the place and not pay the rent, and don’t look at the part where I’ve been saving money the whole time I’ve been living with my mum and paying board, and my financial situation is far more stable than a lot of people I know who’ve started new tenancies recently.
I missed a call from a real estate agent today, though, and when I listened to the voicemail (at 6pm, naturally, well after the office would’ve closed) I discovered that they were seeking to confirm that I’m still interested and haven’t found anywhere else. The agent also said that they hoped to have an answer for me by lunchtime tomorrow.
Well. This is the best response I’ve had so far. The flat in question is one I looked at on Saturday and applied for on Monday. Julia gave me the idea of sending a cover letter with my applications spelling out why I have no tenancy history. I also sent the last statement from both of my bank accounts along with my payslip, and in the letter I drew their attention to this summary of my financial position.
So! Tomorrow morning I will have to call the agent and confirm that I’m still interested. Of course, I’m having a minor panic about it, as I do about all moderately large financial commitments – what if it’s not perfect? What if I find something better next weekend?
Except, that would be the best thing ever, if I had this place, because then I could stop looking and spend my weekends on something else. I am: very sick of househunting.
(When I call the agent I also need to ask about the oven/stove… it has a fairly minimal kitchen, which is probably fine for just me, but I would hate to sign the lease and then find out that it only has one of those dodgy little toaster ovens.)
Much though I’m sick to death of actually looking for a place, I don’t seem to tire of dreaming of what it will be like when I find it. The putative flat, the one I have to call about tomorrow, has sort of inspired me. I can imagine what my life would be like in there.
It doesn’t have a bath. I wanted a bath. But it has one of those modern shower cubicles, not like the other ones that I have applied for that either had wired glass or bizarre fibreglass moulded things with a curtain. Both of which were charming in their own ways, but this one is nicer. It also has a powder blue pedestal sink.
(Also it’s just now occurring to me that I could be wrong about pretty much any or all of this. Possibly if I get the place I will have a follow-up column about how I am wrong.)
The kitchen is sort of just the end of the living room. This probably means I’ll have to have my fridge sitting on the carpet. I am sort of inclined to make a face about that, but I think I may buy a square of lino from Reverse Garbage or somewhere and it’ll be fine. Also tiny kitchen at the end of the living room means that I’ll be able to watch my stories while I cook. Dan has finagled me an enormous television, and while it will be a pain in the arse to have to store it until I move, my stories will be very large. I’ve been looking for a suitably large piece of furniture for it. I would really like it to be about waist-high, so that if I wii-box the height will make sense. Possibly this one is too small (or it may not even be strong enough) but I am a bit of a sucker for Leksvik these days.
I can keep my Wii in there, and probably I will buy a ps2 so I can keep playing GTA3 and also We Love Katamari. It’s important. I’m also thinking of getting a DVD or HD recorder, which is also convenient because it’ll have the digital tuner built in, and then I can watch ABC2 which seems to have all the things that are good. And I’ll be able to record Yo Gabba Gabba so I don’t have to get up at 7:30 on a Saturday morning.
I’m going to get a couch. Probably I won’t be able to fit a dining table, so it’ll just be the couch and a coffee table. I already have the coffee table, though. I would really like to get a long and comfy couch so I can lie on it.
I’ve been ogling prints on etsy a bunch. I’m more taken with things with words on than I would ever have expected.
I especially like this one for the bedroom:
While I’m at Ikea I’ll also need some slats for my bed, because a few are broken and I cbf trying to pretend to be a handyperson. Also I have needed a chest of drawers for some months, but have basically been putting it off for the future when some men with overalls that say Ikea on them will already be driving a truck to my house.
The top of my chest of drawers seems like an ideal place for storing my jewellery. Probably if a TV show were to give me an organisation makeover, that is one of the things they would pick on for me. Currently I have necklaces on the dining table, on the bookshelves in the room outside my room, on a box (of books, unpacked since moving in August 2007) next to my bed, on my bedside table, and on my quasi-desk. I can’t seem to not take them off when I sit down, and rings fare no better. Probably I could fix this a bit with a forest of these:
Otherwise I might do something with pins and a corkboard. I’ve seen a number of things around that have one covering a corkboard in fabric and pinning necklaces and stuff up. I also recently saw a crafty thing whereby one can make a pinboard by attaching carpet tiles to a piece of wood, but this would rely on me being able to find non-hideous carpet tiles. But any excuse to buy a hot-melt glue gun will do. Otherwise I might just find some old pretty dish at the markets and repurpose it.
So! In conclusion: with any luck I will be moving soon, and I hope it will be awesome. Househunting sucks, moving sucks, but window-shopping an reading design blogs is rad. Also, I hear shopping is the responsible thing to do right now.
First off, here’s that linking stuff I always do except when I forget and fall asleep on Sunday night:
And now, something much more appealing:
So, yeah, this is my new cat.
I’ve never had a pet before, so it’s quite a strange thing having a little animal around the house. We’ve had mice; and they were quite cute, but they never actually wanted anything from you – they were just scenery, essentially. A cat appears to be quite a different proposition. First, another photo:
It’s a lot more like having a little person around the house. Something like a very quiet, co-ordinated toddler without the opposable thumbs to get into real trouble. I’m told flametiger is somewhat unusual. Although we got him from the RSPCA, he’s not at all afraid of people, and likes lying on people, headbutting them, and standing on their shoulders. He’s only a couple of months old, but he came to us already litter-trained – which means I get to avoid the whole stepping in cat-poo thing. And he seems to be extremely inquisitive, which I find charming – he’s spent the last two days scampering wildly around the house, exploring all the dark corners and crannies, and occasionally freaking Julia out by disappearing behind large stacks of bags in rooms where a window may have been open at some point. Then I have to check outside for… yeah, but such a thing has not yet come to pass, knock on wood.
But what I find most intriguing are his front paws.
Both Julia and I talk with a degree of hand motion, and – being humans – we use them for just about everything we do. I’m unsure of how active other cats are with their paws, but I have the distinct feeling that Flametiger is trying to imitate our hand motions. He does this unusual thing, where he opens one paw up wide, like a spread hand, and puts it up towards us, and then relaxes it and repeats the motion with the other hand. He’s definitely a smart little sucka; I’m kinda wondering if that’s normal, or if he’s trying to actively communicate.
Welcome to The Amazing World of Imaginary Anthropropathia, with your host, Tom the first-time pet owner! So yeah, probably not true. But it is curious.
He also swings between looking very much like a cartoon cat, all scrambling limbs, big eyes and pink nose, and something very much more alien and dangerous.
Anyways, enough about Flametiger. You’ll hear all about him soon enough. It’s time, instead, to psychoanalyse my own reaction to our new flatmate.
I was mainly nervous about getting a cat. Having never had one before, and having the impression that most cats were kind of standoffish or bezerk, I was a bit leery of introducing a new, unfriendly and demanding creature to my hitherto quite welcoming home. I figured, moving out of home some years ago, that I’d get to pick and choose my living partners based on temperament and agreeability from that point onwards. No more erratic or dull siblings for me! (Apologies to any siblings reading (Sort of)) A cat – whose moods may not be easily inferred from the interview, I assumed – could easily mess up the pattern. And a pet is a long-term commitment, so I couldn’t boot it out again if it turned out wrong. However, I’ve never had a cat, so I didn’t really feel I had the expertise to say no to what might be a perfectly nice cat. Try anything once, or something like that.
So I’m quite glad that this particular cat has none of the aloof, unfriendly qualities I’d sort of dreaded. That’s sort of a pleasant surprise; and it’s a lot more fun than I’d anticipated. The kind of dumb stuff you can only really do with toddlers once they’re old enough to respond to “Chief”, “Champ” and “Bigfella”, you appear to be able to do with cats straight away – throwing stuff and having them knock it around the floor, make them chase stuff on a string, and playing hide and seek all seem to be kitten specialties. I also probably have a somewhat sanguine view of its ability to take care of itself, as evidenced by the fact that Julia has me progressively shutting all the windows whenever Flametiger is in a 5 meter radius. Our window sashes are probably on the verge of collapse by now.
It also seems relatively cheap. On the way to the supermarket to get cat things, Julia played it coy.
“Well, it might cost a bit of money…”
“Oh?” I enquired lightheartedly, writing off my delicious tax-payer funded shamwows in my gut.
“You know, ten, maybe twelve dollars a week.”
If I was a cat, I may well have farted in relief at this point. Actually, probably not. It seems to be a remarkably clean little animal, also. I dare say it’s more bothered by our smell (clustered around bin and laundry pile) than we are its. Apart from pooing entirely in the litter, and then burying it (better than most humans), it also seems to exude little of the “cat-odour” the normally trustworthy infomercials on our stories-box warn us of.
But yeah, me. I have the impression from Julia and others that having my first pet at 25 is in some way odd, or shameful. Apart from the normal little contrarian in me yelling “Up yours, sicko animal fanciers!”, I suppose statistics tell me they must be right. In 1994, 40% of households owned a dog, and 25% owned a cat. Less than 30% of households with a child between 10 and 14 had no pets at all in 1994 – when I was 11. Woohoo! My first minority experience! (Says the brown-haired anglo-irish straight guy with a university degree)
Her sister’s reaction was even more extreme: “My god, seriously? How is he not a serial killer?”
(Because my other two siblings armed themselves after Terrence disappeared,
(Yes, that’s a joke.)(End creepy aside.)
Apparently, she had always harboured doubts about the ability of any child growing up without pets to know the emotion of love. I think that might be slightly hyperbolic, but apparently deeply felt. But, uh, shouldn’t a properly formed child be able to know love without relying on training dummies? You know, with that parent(s) it presumably has? Harry Potter, he could use an owl or something; but your average kid should be alright, right? Apparently not.
I used apparently 3 times in that last paragraph. And presumably once. In 4 and a half sentences, that’s a lot of scepticism, I feel.
Anyway, I’ll wrap it up. Lastly, one more picture of my new cat:
For the past few weeks, my life has been devoted to the teaching of mathematics. I’ve been lecturing Calculus at the Summer School, and teaching school leavers 2 unit mathematics in the form of an intensive bridging course. I’ve had a chance to interact directly with over 100 students, and their attitudes towards mathematics were similar to those I’ve encountered while tutoring privately. I thought I’d blog about the difficulties many students face, and how I’ve attempted to tackle them.
It’s counterintuitive and (therefore) hard
Mathematics attempts to deal with some rather abstract concepts. Most people will know a bit of mental arithmetic, but even something as simple as the “times tables” are drilled into us at a young age as part of their mathematical training. People tend to remember some very well, but not others – the 6’s, 7’s and 8’s are particularly confusing for most, since their ‘pattern’ is not as easy to identify (even though the pattern they make is rarely emphasised – rote learning is the key, for some reason).
Asking students to add fractions is an order of magnitude more difficult – it makes sense (according to how they think about addition) that 1/2 + 1/3 = 2/5, rather than the correct answer of 5/6. The necessity of generating a ‘common denominator’ is not something students understand. The fact that 2/5 is less than 1/2, and that adding a third to a half shouldn’t make it less than what you started with, or what 2/5 represents, doesn’t occur to them. What’s worst is when they don’t even know whether they’re wrong or right. They just write stuff down and hope it turns out to be correct, using rules that are often completely inappropriate for the given situation. This stage, which I encounter frequently, is a classic case of a mathematical collapse. The student is left feeling helpless and stupid, and the more you feel like that when you’re engaged in any activity, the more likely you will be to avoid it in the future.
And that’s just fractions, something you should have mastered (according to the syllabus) by the end of year 7. Once we start talking about the trigonometric functions like sine and cosine, students can’t put all the pieces together. It’s a function, rather than a number – something students cannot have automatic intuition for. Functions are mathematical machines, invented in our brains. They don’t exist anywhere else but on our calculators (who have a computer-designed approximation anyway). Thus you cannot add sine or divide by sine without knowing what you’re doing – applying the rules designed for numbers aren’t going to work here.
What is sine? It’s a function of angle that gives the height of a triangle inscribed on a unit (radius 1) circle with the given angle. Here’s a nice .gif:
What sine does is not so hard to explain, and cosine is nicely symmetric – it gives the horizontal distance rather than the height of the same triangle. It’s apparently hard enough, though, that most teachers will resort to “It’s a button on your calculator that you push. It’s equal to Opposite over Hypotenuse”. People who get this explanation are receiving explanations on the order of “World War 2 happened because Nazis were evil”. Easy, but oh so wrong. Perhaps you are dumb enough to need that kind of oversimplified explanation, but I sincerely doubt it.
The tools that mathematicians have developed to understand things such as massive quantities, probability, algebra and calculus are deeply unintuitive. Every method is developed with particular objects in mind, and generalising to other objects is hard – if it works for one thing, why doesn’t it work all the time? These questions are hard to answer, and even harder to answer in a 40 minute period with 30 other children in the class. This leads me nicely into:
Mathematics relies on generalisations of previous knowledge
Whenever I start tutoring students, whether they’re in year 7 or year 12, I always start with fractions. I’ve never had a student, not once, who could perform all the (rather elementary) operations without any mistakes. When you ask students to deal with something like fractional indices, you’re assuming that they can work with fractions. How can a teacher even begin to talk about fractional indices while their students can’t add a half and a third?
Many students get a blank look on their face when they find out they’re wrong after attempting to apply their reason to a problem. They have no idea why they’re wrong, but they don’t know what they don’t know. They gaze off in a helpless stupor as you try to explain to them what they should have done. They’re sure it all makes sense, but they no longer have any idea of why one approach will give the answer, whilst another will not.
Mathematics relies on the foundations that were (or should have been) laid in previous years. If you miss out on those lessons in fractions, or spend an entire period thinking “I hate my teacher” rather than concentrating on the concept of negative numbers, you start to fall behind. Most students never recover to a point where they can enjoy maths again, because it will forever be an uphill battle.
It’s my challenge as a teacher to locate these misunderstandings, correct them and press on with the more difficult material before the stupor sets in.
Mathematics is poorly motivated
“When are we ever going to use this?” is a question I get asked all the time. Mathematics is the kind of subject where the motives aren’t always clear, but the question always seems like an excuse for not working or succeeding whenever my students ask it. Clearly, if it’s all just fanciful nothingness, it’s not so bad if I can’t do it, right?
Sure, students might not be able to see exactly how to use mathematics to improve their life, but I don’t see how it’s any different to how other subjects work. Any benefit you will get out of learning most subjects will be tangential. You never hear:
“This perfectly executed sentence got me my job. Thank you English!”
“Thank god I knew about the way castles were fortified against sieges – the zombies would have eaten me otherwise! Thank you History!”
…and so forth. In reality, it’s more:
“I’m a more critical thinker now, and have good analytical techniques when it comes to messages being communicated to me. Thank you, English/History!”
…which is not something you can quantify.
Mathematics is sometimes represented as learning to be like a calculator or a computer. Whilst mental computation is a useful skill, it’s certainly not what the subject is from about year 7 when we start talking pronumerals and make claims about all numbers. I think this is an attempt to quantify the skills you are learning, rather than appreciating the abstract and tangential benefits you will learn to master.
The response in recent years seems to have been to make mathematics very connected to the real world. Taking a look at the General Mathematics syllabus, you can see their attempts – there is a large portion devoted to financial mathematics, the most boring kind of maths. Seriously, depreciation models. Any interesting subjects (such as spherical geometry, probability and the normal distribution) are dumbed down to the point where virtually no mathematical understanding is required – simply some real-world flavour coating on easy substitution (put x into the equation in the formula sheet) problems. I can’t tell you how frustrated it makes me when I flick through the textbooks of my students and feel so uninspired. If I can’t feel excited about this stuff, how can they?
I think there’s a problem at the heart of mathematics that makes it all seem a little pointless, and it goes deeper than just the “when will I use it in the supermarket” question. Mathematics is all about deductive logic – making conclusions from a given set of premises:
Premise 1: Whimples are awesome.
Premise 2: I am a whimple.
Conclusion: I am awesome.
In a sense, the conclusion was already hidden among the premises, that is, in order to communicate the three statements above, I only need to communicate the first two. A mathematical problem is therefore about discovering true things (that are very often profound) by looking at what premises and conclusions you have already reached or discovered, and about the economy of expression.
This is very different to inductive logic, which is what science is. It attempts to take what you know and generalise outwards from there, for example:
Premise: All the whimples I’ve ever met were awesome.
Conclusion: All whimples are awesome.
I find deductive reasoning all the more fascinating and wonderful, which is why I chose to become a mathematician (even though science is WAY AWESOME). However, I can see why many students might feel a sense of “why bother?” when it comes to mathematics. There is only one answer, it’s there, and someone else can figure it out, really. Or you can just copy it from Bob – the Back of the book – and it’s not really that big a deal. The answers have no real meaning in and of themselves, so what’s the harm in copying?
The great profundity that I find in mathematics is its ability to say such powerful things about such a general class of objects. By starting with a few premises, so much can be artfully deduced. Mathematics truly is an art of elegance, much like poetry – it’s all in the selection and expression of thought. How we learn mathematics is also similar to the way you learn to play a musical instrument, or even learn to dance – drills and scales and boring repetition are all designed to get you used to the tool (the instrument or your body) that you’ll be using for profound expression later on.
… but it’s hard to tell that to the girl who’s got to pass MATH1011 so she can go be a vet and never think about x’s and y’s ever, ever again. Whilst I think that mathematics is one of the most essential things in life, and that it teaches you about proof, how to be sure, how to listen and how to deal with so many problems you might face in life (be they logical conundrums or even moral quandaries), deals with the secrets of the universe and holds the most exquisite beauty possibly conceivable by the human mind… I can honestly (and grudgingly) say that you could do without formal training. In the same way that some people just don’t like music or reading or television or the internet and instead find something else to fill their time, I can see why you might just not enjoy anything about mathematics. I am confused by this response, but I can accept it. Give me 10 minutes, though, and I think I could tell you something mathematical that you’ll find quite awesome (I hope to do this for my next blog post!).
Mathematics is Inhuman
Mathematics is all about discipline. It teaches you to ignore your intuition on many levels, instead forcing you to use your reason in very specific ways in very specific contexts. It teaches you to keep all the facts and assumptions in mind when you’re talking about anything, as the most basic properties may hold the key to your success. It really does stretch the brain out to places humans really haven’t needed to go (in terms of evolution), so the fact that we can do it is truly amazing.
However, it is inhuman in the sense that there is never any grey areas. Your answer is either right or wrong – at least in all mathematics before third year pure. You cannot argue your way out of mathematics or ‘fudge’ it with natural talent the same way you can with many of the humanities – remember those times you didn’t read the book but still got a good mark on your book review? Or wrote an essay that was kinda crap but you made it sound impressive with your words? Not so in mathematics. If you don’t know SOHCAHTOA, and what it means, then there is no way you can get any marks in a trigenometry test. It’s not so much about the inherent difficulty of the subject, but more about what questions are asked. I try and encourage in my students an open, inquiring mind that forms its own mental models of what’s going on, their own mental methods for solving problems. I try and ask questions that have multiple answers, using open questions rather than “what is s when t=1”. By encouraging them to actively engage with it in a more organic way, they need less help in staying motivated.
Those are some preliminary thoughts. I’ll work more on this stuff for more postings in the future, perhaps when I’m not feeling so sick and rundown. I sure do want to talk about general numeracy as well as the wonders of mathematics a whole bunch. Please comment and let me know of your own personal feelings about and encounters with mathematics, because I’m always, always interested!
In the meantime, I’d like to keep you abreast of the awesome internet phenomena, such as kittens inspired by kittens:
….that video has exploded across the internet in just a few days. Funny how a video like that can lie dormant for months, and then the right connections are made and the right sites hear about it and before you know it your video has over 2 million views.
Also, sorry about the late post. Next Sunday, we’ll have Finn delivering a post, and Aidan the Sunday after that.
Firstly: Sorry this is late, guys, I went to a wedding yesterday and then was sleepy.
So, over a month later, our house is finally, mostly clean. Success! You’ll all see this on Saturday night at my party (hint hint), and, obviously, Tom and Heather have already seen it.
I love it. It feels wonderful to have all this useable space in our house again, and I’ve already done a lot of very grown-up, social things. Last Saturday night, my parents, my grandma and my sister and her husband (and Amelia) came over for dinner. This was because my sister’s birthday was the 13th and my dad’s was the 17th, so we generally combine the two and have a dinner somewhere. This is the first year that Amelia’s been around for this, and I suggested it might be simpler for everyone if the dinner was at my house. It was, particularly for Sarah and Robert. Amelia got to sit in her bouncinet on the coffee table while we were eating, so she could look at everyone (she’s 6 weeks old now, so she’s just starting to become really interesting in her surroundings, especially people). Nappy changes could take place in the spare room thanks to their fold-up travelling nappy change mat (it is seriously cool), and my sister (who’s not a fan of breastfeeding in large groups) was able to sit on the spare bed to feed her. It was lovely being able to cook for my family, too. It was a nice relaxed evening, and I got to cuddle my niece for a really long time (until my dad showed up and demanded grandfatherly rights).
My sister has also been over for tea, with the baby, which was pretty cool. Sarah’s mum lives a couple of blocks away from us, and so Sarah spends quite a bit of time in Summer Hill. When Amelia is a big bigger, I have plans for an Amelia drawer at my house – a drawer full of things for her to play with. My godfather had a Julia drawer at his house when I was small, and it was awesome.
I feel really grown-up, right now. We have a lounge/dining room, we have a spare room. My family can come for dinner. My cousin can stay the night. We can entertain like adults.
The most exciting thing, probably, is that on Sunday Tom and I are heading off to the RSPCA at Yagoona to obtain a kitty. This was the treat for cleaning, a real kitty, of my very own. I have visions of my sister bringing her baby over, and then me putting the kitten next to the baby, for the cutest thing in the whole world.
We’ve thrown out so much stuff, and we haven’t even started on the stuff in our storage unit yet. I have been extremely strict on throwing things out, and it’s been really freeing. I’m going to try to throw out useless junk in the future, because man, I really don’t want to become a hoarder.
Anyway, I thought I would tell you some of the lovely things our flat is now set up for.
I’ve already had one of these for my family, and I can’t wait to start having my friends over for evenings of too much food and too much wine. Dinner parties, in my culture, are raucous and lively and fun. Some people think of sedate, quiet meals, but honestly, that’s not how I roll. Even at Millthorpe, we’re not really sedate at meals. Food + Booze + Friends = Good Times.
We have a dining table and chairs, AND a coffee table and two couches. This calls for some serious geekery to begin. This is to help with Tom’s plans of doing more geeky things – I would like to run or host a regular RPG (possibly a reworking of mah 1930s nWoD game), and I’m also interested in having boardgaming days on weekends.
At some point in the near future, I’m going to treat myself to some really fancy-pants tea equipment (and maybe a cake tier), then have my favourite ladies over for tea and cakes. Because, oh man, that stuff is so lovely.
The kind we used to have, back in the day, where half the guests crashed at our place and then we all had breakfast. I miss those really big parties, and I hope we can start doing that again. I’m not ready to be old and boring, yet.