favourite books.

In 3rd year uni I had a knee reconstruction right before my mid-year exams. The heay load of study combined with strong painkillers meant that the familiarity and easy reading of Harry Potter was about all I could cope with in terms of leisure activity. I read the whole series through three times. (I’m pretty sure it was three… might have been five though…) I began to think that I knew the whole thing off by heart. Although, to be fair, even before that reading spree I knew the series fairly well.

I was given the first two books for my birthday (tenth, perhaps), we bought the 3rd soon after, and the remaining 4 as they came out. Each time a new book came out I read it all the way through, without pausing, before passing it off to one of my siblings or parents. Along with this quick read through, my parents also started a tradition whereby we read Harry Potter at dinner time. Every night, after tea, a chapter or two would be read aloud. My mum read most often but I think all of us read sometimes. We kept this up until Deathly Hallows, when dinner was not a consistently five person affair.

And so I say that the Harry Potter series are my favourite books. I’ve never thought, before now, that I had a favourite book. A year or two ago I tried to decide and came up with a list that included Ender’s Game, Sherlock Holmes and Anne of Green Gables. It didn’t include the Book Thief but only because I hadn’t read it yet. So what changed my mind?

I have just spent a year without Harry Potter books. I moved to Perth and let my Harry Potter books remain with their set in Adelaide. And I have missed them terribly. Numerous times in libraries and bookshops I’ve swooned over them and wanted to take them home with me but something always stopped me: a new book I’d been recommended, or the fact that I’m meant to be saving money… whatever. Yesterday I gave in. Yesterday at the library I decided that I had missed Harry Potter for long enough and I was going to read them all again. Of course the library didn’t have Philosopher’s Stone in so I had to pick up Chamber of Secrets instead but no matter.

I loved it.

In memory I’ve always thought of Chamber of Secrets as the weakest of the books (certainly the weakest of the first 3) but it just made me so happy. I don’t know if I can really explain how happy I was to go back and remember it all. Nonetheless I am now convinced that Harry Potter is my favourite and possibly will remain so forever.

the wibbly-wobbliness of time and feelings

There are only a few weeks until I go away and I have a lot to do before then. Each day seems to stretch out forever though and no matter how much time I seem to waste my work is progressing at such a rate that I will finish it all on time. This week has lasted forever and yet I can’t really believe we’re almost at the end of July. Is this what growing up is all about? The nonsensicalness of time? Who knows.

Mid-week I was panicky that I hadn’t done enough work and everything was falling apart. At the end of the week I can look back and see that actually this week was quite successful. Now how do I manage to stop myself from panicking next week when I’m sure it’s all falling apart again? If anyone has worked this mystery out, please let me know.

In any case, here’s to a relaxing weekend, folks!

Books I don’t own.

Do you ever go to your bookshelf to pick up a particular book and realise with sudden shock that you don’t own it?

Well perhaps it has never happened to anyone else but it happened to me today. I wanted to skim through Pride and Prejudice to check something. Note: I wasn’t even going to read it because I’ve read it so many times, I just wanted to check a detail. I was sure I owned it. If anyone had asked me this morning which Austen books I own, I would have listed it. But then, as I tried to recall the physical book I realised that I’d read several different copies of it: one a large print from the library, one a small print from the library, one on my kindle* and one on wikisource. How had this happened? More importantly, how was this not the first time this had happened? A few months ago I looked for Ender’s Game and realised I didn’t own a copy of that either.

So I’m going to make a list of books that I should own – books that everyone should own – and that I think I own but actually I don’t.

For starters:
Pride and Prejudice
Ender’s Game

Anyone got any other suggestions?

*Yes, I’m aware that owning a book on kindle is one form of owning a book but I like to own books in physical format too.

adventures in ikea

Today was beautiful. It was one of those days which makes me wish I could take Perth’s weather with me wherever I go for the rest of my life. It’s almost exactly midwinter and today was 23C and sunny. Infact, it’s still warm now at 6pm.

We went adventuring in Ikea today. The plan was to buy a cheap bookshelf but we didn’t like any they had on offer and bought two candle holders, 4 blocks of chocolate, and lunch, instead. The candle holders were only 75c each so we spent the most money, by far, on food.

Fortunately we decided to take a wander around the area and found a couple of op-shops nearby, one of which contained a stock standard white bookshelf (which was originally from Ikea) for $20. I’m considering doing something interesting to brighten it up (spray paint, decoupage… I don’t know) but in the mean time we’ve loaded it up with all our books. The strangest thing about today was the realisation that we don’t actually have very many books. They’ve been piling up everywhere recently but ordering them seems to have diminished their magnitude…

Anyhow, I hope you’re all having a lovely weekend.

Yep. That is all.

the last dragonslayer

I don’t really mean to be a book review site because I prefer reading books to writing critically about them. Nonetheless, I read The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde and it’s a pretty amazing book so I thought you all should know. I really like Jasper Fforde as an author but I’d never read anything he’d written specifically for YA. This one definitely felt more like it was aimed at middle grade or YA but his humour worked just as well. I feel like most of his books are equally accessible to adults and teens, though, so it wasn’t too surprising.

One of my favourite things was the creation of a world in which people are judged by their maturity and so the main character was considered mature enough to get a drivers licence at 13. I always wished I could be judged purely on my maturity, rather than my age, so it was just the kind of idea that made me smile.

I loved the main character and her side kick. I loved all of the bit part characters. I really just loved the whole thing.
Yep. That is all.

the double-edged sword

I’ve noticed that, since I’ve grown up, a lot of good things come with work and responsibilities attached.

From those who have been given much, much is expected.

I’m going to a conference in Italy, now I need to prepare a talk.

I’ve finished writing my book, now I must edit.

I was given the funding to go overseas, and a reminder that I need to hand in my confirmation of candidature.

Every new door marks responsibility and celebration – we need to remember both.

Yes, that is my uni. How pretty is it?

stage fright? not me.

I like a big stage. I love to perform and my favourite way to experience a crowd is from the stage. But there are times that I have trouble with speaking in front of people and I’ve been called shy more than once. I get nervous when I’m not given time to prepare or when something is so casual that I’m not even expected to have prepared for it.  In middle school the idea of being in a conversation with five people was incredibly stressful. I was always stuck for things to say and terrified I would say the wrong thing. Speaking in front of the whole school would have been a much easier task. It could be the adrenalin of the situation, or maybe it’s that you don’t need to make eye contact with anyone, but there is definitely something about being on stage.

I’m going to be travelling to Europe soon and, while there, presenting my work at two separate conferences. The actual presenting-the-work aspect does not worry me at all and even if they ask me questions after the talk I think will cope. However if they ask me questions over dinner I suspect I will get very nervous.

I know I will need to constantly remind myself to stop, breathe, and remember that one person’s opinion of my opinions will not destroy my life.

a change of area

The last two weeks I’ve discussed fairly simple (to understand) mathematical problems which were both relating to prime numbers. I don’t want to give the impression that number theory is all there is to do in maths so today I thought I’d talk about something completely different…

The brain!

Yes, the brain. Specifically how it transmits information. About this time last year I was finishing off my honours year. One of the coolest things about honours is that everyone does different projects. We were all working in the same room, and discussing our work, but there was pretty much no crossover between research areas. So anyway, one of my friends was studying the neuron firings of the brain.

How do you study that? What is there to do? Well, in the world at the moment we have a lot of data. We record a lot of things without knowing what they mean. The world of mathematical modelling is about finding the mathematical equations that govern the things we have measured.

Mathematical modelling often ties into other subject areas like biology and physics.

Equations are about plugging some facts in and receiving another fact out (that is, describing the relationship between two or more things, if you’re being fussy). To find out your average speed on a trip you plug in the variables of distance and time taken. With the neuron firing of the brain you plug in physical factors like the current in the brain and the action of other neurons.

As I was writing that last sentence I felt like a fraud. I have no idea what those things really mean. That’s the crazy thing about it all. I could probably understand the equations and even work with them (at a stretch!) but I have no idea about the biology behind them.

But this stuff is really cool. Why are we still researching it? Because we don’t have a perfect equation, like we do for average speed, yet. We have approximate models that are improving – that is they are getting closer to the measured data – but none accurately represent what’s going on.

And I think it’s pretty cool that there are people researching the mathematical equations behind how our brain transmits information…

NB: This stuff is too complicated to really get into the details of it but if you’re interested in mathematical modelling then click here, and if you’re particularly interested in modelling the neuron firing of the brain then you probably know more about it than I do but here is a link anyhow

breakthrough

As previously mentioned, I’ve definitely been struggling with motivation lately. My brain feels that the book is done and there’s no longer any need to think about it anymore. As I type this I realise that I’m the same in all areas of my life. In maths I stop being interested once I’ve got the concept behind the proof. I don’t feel the need to work through the teeny details.

Having said that, I have finally had a breakthrough today. I realised that it’s not about writing a book that is “good enough” by some standard, it’s about writing a book that I would be proud of. I forced myself to think about what I’m going to do with this book when I’m finished it (if I don’t win the hotkey books competition!) I realised that I want to be able to submit a book to editors+agents that I would be happy for them to publish as is. That I would be proud if they published as is. Now I know they won’t publish as is, but I need to get it to a stage where I would be happy if they did.

I hope that makes sense to you. In any case it makes sense to me and has given me the encouragement to work hard at my novel again. Success!

the highs and lows

I’ve been spending a lot of time distracted lately, what with my parents visiting, me preparing to go overseas and general life stuff. But even more distracting than all of those things are ideas. I keep finding myself lost in the dreamland of ideas for the next book I want to write. My mind has become tired of the novel I’m finishing up and no longer gets excited by those characters. I can make myself interested in it again but it doesn’t happen spontaneously.

Today though, I wrote an ending I like. I wrote it on paper, unlike the rest of the story, and I think that helped me focus my attention. So hooray for learning ways to focus and hooray for endings.

Now to finish it all up in the next 4 weeks…