“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Theodore Roosevelt (via Lifehacker)
Now that I’m working on the final module of my MEd, I found myself wondering what advice I would offer myself if I could travel back to the start.
1. Nothing is more important than sleep and exercise
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve worked late to meet deadlines or to “get things done”. It took me a long time to realise that the later I worked, the more tired and less efficient I became.
2.Stand up (and stop procrastinating)
Discomfort from too much time spent sitting at my normal desk forced me to try a standing desk. It turns out to be a very comfortable way to work.
Oddly, since I’ve been standing up, I’m spending more time on task. I don’t know why, but it’s a good result.
3. Life happens, so make space for it
The last couple of years have been exceptionally eventful for me. Even if there are no big dramas, there will be setbacks during any extended period of study. It only took a simple viral infection at the start of my latest module to put me out of action for a week and leave me playing catch up.
My advice to my past self: Enrol for one module at a time. Don’t commit to eleventy-nine other things. Leave yourself some space.
I don’t think my past self is listening.
4. Little and often is the best way to study
Obvious really, but it still took me a long time to stop trying to allocate big blocks of time and start doing little bits of tasks throughout the week.
5. I like paper. And Instapaper.
I used to wonder why people moaned about PDFs. Then I started reading a lot of research papers and became one of those people. PDFs are a pain. I’ve tried working with them electronically, but in the end I’ve gone back to printing them out and working from paper.
Of course, some enlightened folk also publish their work on actual web pages. Thank you enlightened people! Instapaper does a fantastic job of adding these pages to my Kindle for later reading.
6. Get a bibliography manager
I don’t want to think about how many hours I’ve wasted looking up references, trying to find where I downloaded papers from, formatting bibliographies and so on. I finally tried Zotero a few weeks ago. Now I save papers complete with all the data I need, cite with a couple of clicks and auto-magically create a reference list. It’s fantastic – how did I ever manage without it?
In a sense I knew all of these things before I started studying. I’d read lists like this one on other people’s blogs. But sometimes being told isn’t enough. Sometimes you have to live it to learn it.
Photo: The Passage of Time by Toni Verdú Carbó on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons Licence.
I was expecting a standard book of quotations, but was pleased to discover that this wasn’t quite what I had anticipated.
There are, as the title suggests, around 100 mathematical quotations from people as diverse as the hoopy frood Douglas Adams, Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman, the statistically inclined Florence Nightingale and the 11-rated visionary that is Nigel Tufnell. The book opens – as perhaps all maths books should – with definitions, before taking us on a tour of geek pride, perseverance, failure, the universe and even a spot of careers advice.
The quotations themselves are an interesting mix: some are serious, some humorous, some flippant, others profound. Each quote comes with a brief (and often tongue-in-cheek) biographical description and commentary. By the end of the book you will have met David Hilbert, infinite hotelier and nodded sagely at Alfréd Rényi’s assertion that “a mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems”.
This is not a reference book that you would cite in a scholarly manner. It is a very entertaining read. If you like maths and quotations – and you can cope with a few rude w*rds – then I think you’ll enjoy it.
The only disappointment is that 100 quotations makes for a fairly short book. Hopefully there will be a sequel. 2n Mathematical Quotations perhaps?
4 out of 5 stars – really liked it
Photo: Book 8 by Brenda Clarke on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons Licence.
It’s been an eventful year – but I’m sure that’s true for everyone. Despite the normal good intentions, I’ve barely posted, so here’s a quick catch up on the big events:
Mr TLC was declared recovered and discharged from the hospital back in March. We celebrated by buying Mr TLC a new bike. His return to fitness has been slow (the consultant did add that Spring 2013 will be better than Spring 2012), but Mr TLC has now clocked up around 1800 miles on the new bike. Not bad for a man who spent the previous cycling season on the sofa.
My Mum spent several months in hospital following her stroke earlier this year, but she’s now home. Not fully recovered, but fully home.
Some idiot decided that she could do two modules of her MEd at once. Foolish woman! As it turns out, it is possible to do two modules at once, just not to do them well. I passed, but I won’t be repeating that mistake.
Oh, hang on a minute, I’m doing MEI’s Teach A Level Maths course AND my final Open University MEd module this year. Oh. Oops. In my defence, they do fit together nicely, without the two assignments-due-at-once thing that caught me out last year. Yeah right. Who am I kidding?
Anyhoo, 2012 may not have been the best year for me, but it was far from being the worst. Just another eventful year, but hey, that’s life. I wonder what’s next?
Picture the scene: a real ale pub on the night that a convention/festival of morris dancers was in town. Those of us who thought we had the night off had received frantic phone calls and emergency taxis to get us to work. It was quite busy. Actually, it was insane, but in a cheerily joyous kind of way.
In the midst of the packed bar, a team of sword dancers started doing their thing. "You could have someone’s eye out with that!" muttered the landlord as the swords wove in and out. It did look pretty impressive, though.
Fast forward a couple of decades, I decided it was time to take another look at this Yorkshire tradition, so Mr TLC and I set off to Grenoside, where sword dancing dates back some 150 years, with Boxing Day a long established fixture. We joined the crowd outside the Old Harrow pub and enjoyed the show. A variety of teams young and old, male and female performed. The finale involves the ritual beheading of the captain, who gets to lie in the road and play dead for a bit.
I thought that the idea was to keep death off the roads, but surprisingly, Death was the marshal, directing traffic away from the temporarily blocked road, wearing a costume that was way cooler than the high-vis vests that Mr TLC and I wore when performing similar duties at an event last year.
He was very polite was Death. I asked him if he minded having his photo taken and he replied “Not at all” before apologising and explaining that he had forgotten his scythe and had been forced to borrow a broom.
A brush with Death, how appropriate.
It’s not only the Queen who gets two birthdays, apparently very excited four year olds can do that too. Last weekend was the family do, with a kitten cake that turned out to be a mouse. This weekend a princess-themed children’s party had been planned. A princess theme? Blimey, I didn’t realise Granddaughter Mr TLC was all that interested in cars
Anyhoo, that provided me with an excuse to make another cake. Despite my predictions that he would probably turn out to be a mouse, he was immediately recognised as a hedgehog. The birthday girl seemed very pleased with him. Splendid. And since he was going to a princess-themed party, we named him Austin.
The maker though it was a kitten, but the birthday girl declared it be a mouse. Who am I to argue? The main thing is that she loved it.
The only disappointment was the realisation that my ever-present camera had been left in the pocket of the bag that had accompanied me earlier in the day. Oops. Fortunately Mr TLC stepped in and snapped away with his phone. The results may be a little low on pixels, but they remind me rather fondly of the Instamatic snaps of my own early birthdays. Nice.
I woke up with a very sore knee today. Probable cause: too many hours sitting at my desk, something that was on the agenda again today. Hmm.
My solution was a spot of DIY. I pulled out the unused bookshelf that lurks under the bed, popped it on top of a couple of open drawers and voila: I had made a functional standing desk.
It’s been very comfortable. It’ll get packed away tonight, but I’ll be using it again. The knee feels better too
Everyone gathered at Mount Pleasant Park and waited for the Sheffield Samba Band to lead the procession.
Sharrow Lantern Carnival 2012 – Scenes from liggybird on YouTube
We followed a parade of magical lanterns that ranged from small stars, hats and mushrooms to giant unicorns and even a fire-breathing dragon.
The route wasn’t long, but at samba pace it was dark long before we reached our final destination. The darkness of the cemetery was the perfect backdrop for the lanterns and some fire spinners.
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