Friday, April 30, 2010

One Down, Two To Go

My math seminar met this morning for the second-to-last time. I was hoping we wouldn't meet during our final exam period (as required by law), and indeed we will not. And I was hoping the homework assigned today would be the last one. Instead, the professor assigned no homework today. ("I know it's the end of the semester," he said.) Next week will be a little bit of a wrap-up plus a show and tell from him about Daubechies wavelets.

Even though not having this last homework is a very small thing, I'm immensely relieved by it. I'll go next week, of course, but as far as having to do actual work, the course is over for me. He did say that if we aren't quite at an A, we can have an extra assignment due finals week to make it up. My average, however, is something in the A+ range, so I can safely skip that.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tigerlily's Unfortunate Adventure

This morning, around 7 AM, I awoke to the sounds of Sammy meowing, and Ed starting his shower. It's not unusual that Sammy wakes me up before my alarm goes off at 7:30 (which happens 7 days a week so that he is fed at more or less the same time every day), so I promptly went back to sleep.

But Sammy kept meowing, wandering around, and I realized that (a) it is unusual for him to meow in the morning - he usually wakes me up by purring or touching me, and (b) hey, wait a minute, that's not his feed-me meow, that's his Tigerlily meow!

And I remembered wondering about why Tigerlily hadn't come to bed yet, when I went to bed.

And I remembered closing the open balcony door right before bedtime.

And I got up and rushed over to the balcony and opened the door.

And Tigerlily was pressed into the opposite wall-hugging corner of the balcony, looking terrified. She meowed piteously several times after I opened the door, but wouldn't come in right away, so I went to tell Ed what had happened, and she came in shortly afterward, still looking all scared and moving around in the tail-down, low-running way of scared cats.

Poor Tigerlily! She seems fine now (all rubbing on everything in the house), and I'm just really grateful that it wasn't a super cold night. (We've had snow and freezing temps lately, so this isn't a silly consideration, but I don't think it got much lower than 40 last night. She felt cool when she came in but didn't seem to be shivering or trembling.)

I am such a bad cat mommy.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Trouble with Infinity

Infinity has been giving me some trouble lately - not the concept, but the symbol. You see, when I write it, it comes out all wonky-looking. You'd think it's just a sideways 8, so what's the trouble?

Actually, there are two ways that I write the number 8 - I either start at the top, go counter-clockwise, and make (not coincidentally) a figure 8, or I draw the two ovals separately. It kind of just depends on my mood.

The infinity symbol doesn't look good either way, when I write it, but I recently realized that part of the problem is that, when I write it in the "figure 8" way, I start off going clockwise, which is opposite to how I write an 8. So I started writing it counter-clockwise instead. Now my infinities look great!

...and my 8's look like crap.


This week, I have exams in abstract algebra and advanced calc. Next week is the last week of school. The following week, I'll have finals in those two classes.

The abstract algebra exam is tonight. I'm well-prepared for it, and should do well, though the tests in that class are harder than the class generally is, so I'll still have to think and work hard to do well tonight. I'm on track to get an A in the class, which I'd like to do, especially since I really enjoy the material.

Tomorrow night is the advanced calc test. I'll finish studying for that tonight, but I don't feel very well-prepared for it. There is also a take-home portion due next Monday that I'm not looking forward to. I feel in some ways really done with this class. Of the three test grades (not counting the final), one is dropped, and my other two grades are an 83% and a 92%, so I could let this one go non-catastrophically, but I'll need to know the material for the final exam anyway, so I might as well apply myself and try to do well.

Assuming this test grade is not higher than an 83% (and is thus dropped), I'll need about a 10% on the final exam in order to pass the class with a C (required for graduation), or about a 50% to get a B. It's very unlikely I would get less than a 50%, but I'd hate to scrape by with an F on the final.

My third class, the "seminar" that is not, has becoming increasingly abstruse to me. I still need to finish up the homework that was due last week, that I got stuck on and got some hints in class about, plus this week's homework. I am hoping that we'll only have one more assignment after this, rather than having one due finals week. (We won't have a final exam, at least.) I can usually fake my way through the homeworks; I have about a 98% average in the class so far.

I'm ready for the semester to be over. It still boggles my mind that I'm actually graduating.

Friday, April 23, 2010

America's Next Top Model

America's Next Top Model (hereafter ANTM) is one of my favorite TV shows. This might be surprising, considering that I have never shown any interest in fashion, conventional female attractiveness, hair and makeup, or anything you'd normally associate with modeling.

I started watching because I am basically a sucker for reality shows in which someone is dismissed at the end of each episode (I will watch almost any show of that type) and because there are a lot of ANTM episodes out there to see. I think there have been 14 seasons of the show by now, and every weekend, Oxygen broadcasts an entire season back to back, which I have my DVR record, so that basically whenever I want to just space out in front of the TV, it's likely to be ANTM that I'm watching. I think I've seen 6 or so seasons in their entirety at this point.

The setup is the same each season. Out of thousands of women who send in videotapes or are recruited in malls and the like, Tyra Banks (the supermodel who produces and hosts the show and is like a "mother hen" to the contestants) chooses 35 or so to show up. During the first episode, this gets narrowed down to about 13, and these finalists move into a fabulous house. Each week, there is a "teach" (where they learn more about runway walking, acting, posing, dancing, makeup, or some other relevant skill), a challenge (where whatever was taught is tested, with some prize for the winner), a photo shoot (or sometimes commercial shoot), and a judging, in which one woman is sent home. The finale each season has them choosing between the last three girls to see who will become "America's Next Top Model." (The prizes for winning the show include a modeling contract with Cover Girl, representation by a modeling agency, and a cover and spread inside a magazine, usually Seventeen.)

The contestants are generally all (or almost all) within the physical parameters of models - that is, tall, and thin, except that usually one or two are plus-size models (which is a specific range of size as well). Some are conventionally very pretty and others are more odd-looking. The odd-looking ones can generally skate by a bit longer in the competition by virtue of their odd looks; conventionally pretty women need to shape up quickly or they will be kicked off for being too commercial or relying on their looks.

All of this doesn't exactly sound appealing to me, but the actual show is very interesting to watch. They are always striving to make the women more edgy, less commercial, more editorial, and basically more strange. (On one episode, Tyra helped the women develop a "signature pose." One of the women - Marjorie, shown at left in a different pose - wanted to do "the hunchback of Notre Dame" as her pose, and Tyra loved it, and helped her mold it into something awesome.) The women who look strange, like Marjorie, tend to be my favorites. I usually have a favorite every season - someone I could look at for hours - and my favorite usually makes it pretty far, but so far has never won.

One thing that interests me is watching and cataloging, over time, what traits are needed to succeed on the show. The most important one I've seen is that you have to be simultaneously completely aware of your body (how it looks, how it's catching the light, what positions you personally look good in) and completely un-self-conscious (willing to try anything, look foolish, be over the top). You need to be confident but also open and willing to learn and listen to advice. Being either arrogant or insecure will not work.

I'll never be a model, but this is an attitude I want to work on having more of for grad school especially - the willingness to try things, and work hard at them, without any guarantee of success, but also without apology or insecurity. And, of course, I want the ability to receive and profit from advice from people who know more than I do.

In my own experience, humility is the key to hitting both points. Humility makes you not too afraid about failing, because you don't see your awesome glorious self as being put on the line. You're just there doing your best and learning as you go along, and you basically don't view everything as being about you and your image. I mean, I don't know any of this for sure, since I don't really have the quality that I'm talking about, but it seems to me that if I could cultivate it, it would help.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Brand Recognition

When the very first slide (shown at left) of this semi-animated ad came up in my browser, it drew my eye. More than that, I knew exactly what company it came from -- a combination, I think, of the font and what is shown in the ad (which I had not seen before, as far as I can recall). I think it's pretty impressive that the company in question has made its mark on me to this extent.

Do you recognize it too?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My SOP Word Cloud

I think it's safe to say my SOP was a bit less focused than Sally's. It also looks, to me at least, a bit more me-me-me.
Incidentally, when I made this word cloud it contained the name of a state my university is not in. I really hope that was an artifact of saving drafts at the wrong time and that I did not tell University of [Delaware] that I looked forward to studying at University of [North Dakota]. I guess it worked out all right regardless, but sheesh.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Getting Rid of Stuff

Due to a server glitch, it wasn't possible to work at my job today. I thought about coming home and taking a nap, but instead I came home and got rid of some crap, namely

  • a saxophone, donated to local middle school
  • 7 of the $1 reusable grocery bags full of books (and I mean really full), dropped off at the library
  • 1 box of Ed's books (hanging out in the car for a while now), also donated to the library
  • my camping equipment (tent, sleeping bag, and a foam mat), dropped off at a thrift store
  • a big pile of DVD's (most of a $1 grocery bag), sold to a used CD/DVD store

So that was good. I am now down to about 3 shelves of books, total, and a couple more shelves of things I can't get rid of, like photo albums and binders full of CD's.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fun with Word Clouds

Sally has posted a couple of word clouds from a recent paper and presentation. It made me think how much more...well, boring, a word cloud from a math paper would be. I don't write papers very often, but here, for instance, is the cloud from my last one (via


Friday, April 09, 2010

Grad School Applications Round-Up

Earlier this week, I accepted the one funded offer that I received as a result of my grad school applications, and as of tonight, I have declined my offers of admission from the four other schools that admitted (but did not fund) me, and withdrawn my applications from the two schools I hadn't yet heard from. I of course did not need to communicate with the two programs that rejected me.

One of the four schools that admitted me informed me I would not receive funding. One had me on a waitlist for funding. Two had not said anything one way or the other. It's possible that I might have received an offer, especially after April 15, but now we'll never know.

So, I guess that's all done with.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Sweet Little Pandora

In the spirit of this XKCD cartoon, I will share with you all an experience I had tonight. A song came on Pandora that I think I have literally not heard since high school -- a song I would never in a million years have remembered -- and it immediately touched me, and I remembered loving it quite dearly. It was "Blue Savannah" by Erasure:

(I can't recommend the video, unfortunately. If this song were more famous it would be absolutely ripe for one of those literal video remakes.)

Erasure is one of the only two bands I have ever seen in concert, and I was totally into them in high school. There is a swoony (gay) voice thing they do that, for my adolescent self, brought up vast feelings of romantic and sexual longing -- you can hear that when he sings "to you only" in this song. In the development of my musical tastes as well as what I thought was sexy, Erasure fell chronologically right between George Michael and Depeche Mode.

Thank you, Pandora.