Sunday, May 21, 2017

Feynman notebook

I'm tackling calculus, with Silvanus Thompson's Calculus Made Easy. A subject that I entirely detested, but have since found beauty in. But learning is hard.

Cal Newport has a blog post about a study hack method called Feynman's notebook. The idea is simple: translate your growing knowledge of something hard into a concrete form and you’re more likely to keep investing the mental energy needed to keep learning

A notebook with handwritten notes has sprung up. THINGS I DON'T KNOW ABOUT. Indeed.

Weekends & mindfulness

This weekend, for the first time in a while, we spent the time doing family things - binge watching some shows, eating, teasing one another, laughing, catching up on sleep, reading and enjoying one another's company (until we got on one another's nerves!). The weekend still has an hour or so left in it, and the house is calm.

I also did something that seems terrifying - I uninstalled most social media apps from my phone. Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn (why do I still have that?). Given that I seem to be checking one or the other for unmentionable periods of time, including as soon as I wake up, or just before falling asleep, this purge is well warranted.  I'm going to give it a shot, anyways. Given my experience (& failure) with these sort of experiments, I'm trying it out one day at a time.

Being mindful.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Creaking bones

Last week, my wife insisted that I spend 45 minutes with her at the community exercise program on Monday morning. She's been going a few weeks now, & says it's been awesome, so why don't I give it a try?

I get lot of exercise - focused very much around my fingers: scrolling across the screen on my mobile or typing on a keyboard, for most of the day. This year, as I slide into an age demographic that's properly considered middle aged, the disconnect between how my mind feels about my body, & how my body responds to such feelings couldn't be more clear.

I work from home on Mondays, so I could manage this time. I let my wife convince me that going to this was a good idea. Many people come along, she said. Most of them are like you & me, have had no proper exercise, or the time to get any of it either - children, partners, dogs & life in general tend to get in the way. My wife, the rock upon which our family's structure rests, has for the first time in over a decade been able to actually get some time to herself, after both kids get bundled off to school.

Trusting as I am of my wife, I signed up for this last week. The sign-up page required my physical metrics, & in the 'why' section, I selected "would like to get a few kilos off my frame".

Nothing could prepare me for this morning though. My wife was right. There were many people, sure. Young, old, shapely, shapeless. Something seemed a bit out of place though: THERE WERE NO MEN! When the session finally began, one other male, a retired gent who looked about 65, joined the group.

Everything after that was a blur. We warmed up, did several reps of exercises, cooled down, & got home. As I'm typing this out, even the bones on my fingers are hurting.

The 45 minutes of exercise went by quickly.
I've been exceptionally productive all day today, getting through most of the tasks I'd set out for myself.
And for the first time, I'm actually feeling good after having done some exercise that wasn't something other than walking.

Will do this again next week.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Learning anew

How much I hated the rote learning of formulas, especially when it came to trigonometry & calculus!

For one, I didn't understand why it was remotely useful for those of us who'd taken up accounting / commerce as our primary learning area (no, we couldn't do double degrees - one was bad enough!) Worse still, was the (now apparent) lack of understanding of some teachers themselves, in so far as being unable to explicitly tie the things we were learning to something in the visible world.
There was neither the intrinsic motivation to learn, nor did it seem relevant or important to just get on with it, & get an intuition for it.

There may have been a few of my fellow students who innately understood it in relation to their technical interests, but I strongly suspect they cared about as much as I did, which was very little.

A couple of weeks ago, Rasmus Baath, a researcher, tweeted a link to a 100+ year old Calculus text book, which he followed up by tweeting that his one post that went viral was a book on maths, not cats! I was curious why that may have been so, & spent a little time looking for the pdf of the book that is now clearly out of copyright, & therefore freely available.

Two pages in, & I was hooked. I mean, how could you not be, when the book is titled: "Being a very simple-est introduction to those beautiful methods of reckoning which are generally called by the terrifying names of the differential calculus and the integral calculus by the RFS".

The quote on the next page simply states: "What one fool can do, another can" (Ancient Simian proverb)

The prologue is even more relevant: "To deliver you from the preliminary terrors, which chokes off most (kids) from even attempting to learn how to calculate", with a lucid explanations about the dreadful symbols for differentiating & integrating!

I've now spent at least a good few hours of my time learning about the fascinating teaching style of the author, a man named Silvanus Thompson! I know he'd have gotten an incredible amount of needling from the boys he'd have taught (if my classmates were any reflection of the cruelty reserved for teachers). I'm grateful that he took the time to write as he has, & that the book is still available.  I know it is, because I bought a used copy off one of my favourite online bookseller.