On sleeping through seminars

It seems as soon as I enter a lecture theatre I fall asleep..

At the very latest when they turn on the beamer and start talking.

It’s not quite full on sleeping, just dozing off and waking up a few seconds later when my head jolts back up, but it’s frustrating to be completely incapable of listening to someone talk about their research for 40 minutes without falling asleep.

The room wasn’t too warm or too cold, and neither too light nor too dark. The topics were interesting and complicated and the speakers were anything but monotone.

I think I might have a bigger sleep-deficit than I’d imagined..

***

Anyone got any good ideas for staying awake?

On the day the world didn’t stop turning

Sometimes, when you’re small and still busy growing up, people tell you not to do certain things because otherwise Bad Things will happen.

Sometimes, many years later, you do those things anyway, and realise that the world doesn’t actually spontaneously combust, or stop turning or fall on your head.

It’s quite a let down in a way. But it’s a welcome let down. I didn’t want to be responsible for the end of the world 😉

On making things harder for myself

Way back when I lived by myself, I used to cycle quite a lot (to work, into town, through the vineyards, etc). I lived in a very hilly place and I could cycle to work and back without getting off and pushing.

I now live (almost) in Berlin. Berlin is flat. The same way Holland is flat. The only hills that exist are man-made, full of rubble from the war. Because that’s obviously the best thing to do with rubble. Pile it up and cover it with grass. Maybe Silbury Hill is an ancient version of the same idea.

Whatever.

I have started cycling to work here. On the way there’s a bridge with a very long, very gentle incline. Just a couple of metres over quite a long stretch of road. 1-in-100 or even 1-in-50 is not steep by anyone’s reckoning. There have been days when I fought so much I actually contemplated getting off and pushing. There’s nothing like failing to cycle up an almost nonexistent hill to make you feel the need to get fitter..

***

I picked my bike up from the workshop on Wednesday.

They’d had to replace the front wheel and realign the back wheel and adjust the brakes and do something technical with the gears.

I asked them to explain what had broken in the dynamo and how I could avoid breaking it again.

My understanding of the ensuing explanation is as follows. It may or may not be an accurate representation of what they actually said.

The axel was slightly off centre which lead to unequal distribution of pressure/weight/something which lead to the metal walls of the dynamo straining and eventually breaking, which lead to everything coming loose.

It appears that these things just kind of happen…

…but that most people notice earlier.

I thought that was odd, and said so, because I’d brought it in the day after it died…

… except apparently it’s been dying for several hundred km.

He was amazed that I’d cycled it so far without realising that there was a problem. He showed me the pieces of the broken dynamo, and the pieces of a new one. The difference was incredible.

Not as incredible as the difference having a new wheel made to my perceived fitness the next morning tho!

I’d struggled to get to work in under 40 minutes and reach an average speed of anything above 11kph.

On Thursday I was there in 30, with an average of more than 14. And it was windy and snowing.

I was amazed.

***

I was also amazed (and a bit confused) to realise that my rowing machine was no longer set to the easiest setting. I have zero recollection of changing it so I have no idea how long I’ve been using it like that.

It reminds me of mistakenly skiing down a black slope and wondering why I was suddenly so prone to falling over..

On making the wheels go round

(or: on letting go of what is not yet broken)

If it’s working and you know it, leave it alone!

If it’s working and you know it, leave it alone!

If it’s working and you know it, and you really want to keep it that way,

If it’s working and you know it, leave it alone!

***

I cycled to work again today.

It’s been really cold lately and it was still around freezing when I left the house, late.

The wheel was stiff when I tried wheeling it away from the bike stand and towards the road. It felt like the brakes were jammed on tight, but they weren’t. After a bit of gentle persuasion and a few angry words it unstuck itself and off I went.

I assumed (see, there’s that bad word again, almost as bad as “planning”) there must have been ice in the works somewhere – it did get thoroughly soaked last week and it was icy this morning (never thought I’d have to scratch ice off the saddle, but I did).

***

I left work while it was still light to cycle to my maths/English/German student. As it turned dusky and got darker and darker I realised I was riding without lights. Argh. As a car driver, I can’t stand cyclists without lights.. as a cyclist, I try to be car friendly, in the hopes that they won’t run me over. Also, as I found out on Wednesday, lights are useful.

***

After we’d talked about adjectival attributes (?!) for as long as we could concentrate, I borrowed a front bike light from my maths kid’s mum and headed home.

Except I couldn’t. The front wheel was stuck again. It took me several metres of pushing and kicking and cajoling before anything happened. When it finally did start rolling, the nut holding the front wheel onto the forks starting turning too..

I stopped and did it up as best I could with gloves on. Another couple of paces and it was loose again.

At some point I noticed that the cables from the dynamo were hanging in the breeze and the box they’re supposed to join into was riding round in circles, presumably enjoying unknown freedom.

I prodded it a bit, retightened the nut and rode home, very very carefully.

***

It would appear that my dynamo has died.

When I said I was thinking about getting new lights, I didn’t mean I no longer wanted the old ones.

Tomorrow, I will have to find a bike doctor before work. Even if I was willing to buy new lights and ignore the dynamo, I am not willing to hurl myself at the pavement when the wheel falls off.

I expect I will have to leave my bike there and then walk to work or at least walk to the train station.

Sometimes I really love my life.

***

I think it’s time for a new motto/mantra:

If it’s working and you know it, leave it alone! Do not touch it, use it or think about it. Do not criticise it. Do not think about changing it or replacing it.

Instead, be thankful for it..you never know when it’s going to stop working..

On the difference between days

Yesterday I mended the tip-ex mouse, helped the secretary with some tricky stuff on her computer and maybe taught a year 8 kid some maths (“maybe” because I’m not sure how much stuck.). I feel those are 3 good uses of a day.

Today I have nothing of note to mention. I assume I must have done something because I’ve been awake for many hours. When I try to remember my achievements, all I can think of are the things I still haven’t done yet. Things that need doing, things I could have done earlier, things I should probably be doing right now instead of writing this.

Funny how different days can be. Or at least one’s attitude towards them.

On learning how to program a snake

I’m not particularly keen on snakes.

I don’t have anything in particular against them, but I have less for them. I have no desire to be bitten and/or poisoned and possibly even less desire to be squeezed to death.

This isn’t about that kind of snake.

***

Recently I started learning Python. That’s a programming language. One of many.

Luckily for me, my brother is a multilingual programmer.

He’s teaching me how to write python.

Or trying to.

He’s very knowledgeable and mostly incredibly patient.

I am not knowledgeable. At all. And I’m not patient enough when it comes to listening, testing and understanding. I feel like I’m not progressing fast enough but simultaneously not going slowly enough for it to really sink in.

He keeps trying to tell me I’m not totally rubbish, but my head keeps telling me otherwise.

There are so many opportunities to get completely and utterly lost. There are so many commands and functions and strings and lists and dictionaries and tuples and maps and syntax and arguments and types and loops and iterators and keys and indexes and classes and sets and definitions and numbers and ranges and braces and brackets and immutable things and sums and and….

… I don’t even know some of the words in ordinary daily use (and have forgotten them already) and have to have them explained before I stand a chance of understanding their role in the program.

The guy sitting across from us on a train home heard us talking, and watched us tapping away on my laptop. When he got to his station he stood up, gathered his things together, took a step towards the doors, paused, turned back and told me it’s fun when you get the hang of it. That makes sense. Most things get better as you get better.

I don’t give up easily, and I know it’s ridiculous to want to learn a language in a few days, but it’s frustrating floundering about in the simplest instructions.

We’ll see how I get on between now and next year/decade/century/millennium…

Wish me luck!

On complicated coffee

I went out for coffee with a guy from school and his wife today. I’d borrowed some books for him and he was returning them now that school’s over. It was too cold to stand outside the library for long so we decided to find a café. Most cafés don’t appreciate cards, so I went to find an atm while they went to find a suitable café. By the time I joined them, they’d already chosen a table and ordered.

Turns out you can’t go up to the till and add to an existing order, no, that would be too simple. Instead you have to go through a rigmarole involving going to the cake counter to choose a cake, getting a piece of paper with a number instead of a piece of actual cake, going back to the table, giving the paper to the waitress when she comes to take your drink-order, then waiting for her to bring whatever you ordered. You can’t go to the waitress, you can’t get your own drink, you can’t carry your own cake.

Life is complicated. I knew that. I also know that I don’t go out very much ans haven’t had much practice at placing orders in posh cafés. I didn’t know how complicated simple things like ordering cake could be. I also didn’t realise that it’s normal for a slice of cake and a cup of hot chocolate to set you back more than 10€.

In the end my friend from school paid for all of us to say thanks for the books. With the money I didn’t spend in the café, I bought approximately 3 months worth of fish food and 18 plants for my house and balcony, and still got change back. That seems to be a much better way to spend money, even though I really enjoyed meeting up with them and appreciated having a place to sit out of the cold.

On winning

I passed – wheeeee!!!

🙂 🙂 🙂

I don’t know how well I won, but I think it’s the winning part that counts.
Now to catch up on lost sleep 🙂
(And later, on lost (/missing) posts)

On the moment of truth

I wrote here almost exactly a year and a half ago to say that I was starting school again.

I’m writing now to say that I’m [hopefully] about to finish school.

My last exam starts in less than half an hour (ARGH!).

It’s an oral defence of my thesis, followed by a whole lot of questions.

By midday, I’ll know if I passed….
See you on the other side! 🙂

On green cards, chocolate and a small flashing light

That very short list just about covers the things I’m living for at the moment.

The stacks of carefully written green and blue cards prove I’m revising, the chocolate provides motivation to carry on writing, and the small flashing light makes me smile as it blinks to tell me someone’s written to me.