Sunday, February 15, 2009

Letters to a Young Mathematician

"... [Paul] Erdős reckoned that in Heaven, God has a book that contained all the
best proofs... In his view, a mathematicians job was to sneak a look over God's
shoulder and pass on the beauty of his creation to the rest of His creatures." (p. 93)

Ian Stewart's book, Letters to a Young Mathematician, is a series of mentoring letters to a girl named Meg as she journeys through her mathematical career- undergraduate school, then graduate, then as she becomes a professor herself. I picked it up because I wanted to be sure of the path I'm headed before I start university.

After reading the book, I'm more sure than ever. As he explains, secondary school math is more accurately named arithmetic in comparison to the real mathematics that explore nature. It's necessary, but unfortunately not as awe-inspiring as the golden ratio. A lot of people have asked me why I'm interested in studying mathematics, and I have a hard time explaining to them which parts interest me, because I have not yet been exposed to too much. However, what I have... I like. In it he spends a great deal of time focusing on mathematical appearances in everyday life, proofs (in particular, Wiles's proof for Fermat's Last Theorem),

So, to all my friends, if you'd like to understand me, read this book. In my copy, I've circled the chapters that would explain my reasons to non-mathematicians (but if you're not really interested in mathematics, the others would likely put you to sleep). It even has a neat chapter about Houston's bayous (upon which I went on a glorious walk the other day). I think it's a pretty well written book, and it helped me feel more secure in my decision, so mission accomplished.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Unique Valentine's Situations

I have had an extremely stressful week full of tears and misunderstandings, but it seems to be getting a lot better. I am so thankful that today, on Valentine's Day, I will have an undoubtably delicious dinner with a young gentleman that will distract me from that for a couple hours.

In any case, here are a couple links I have found in the last couple days that deal with the issues of love and this day that many people do not know what to do with. It's unfortunate when married people play this day out through obligation, or single people reject it because they do not see a connection to their lives. Hopefully these links will help avoid that.

  • From Mars Hill's Resurgence, an article on the history of Valentine's Day.
  • My own review of The Four Loves on YLCF and on this blog.
  • From Young Ladies Christian Fellowship, two articles on how to be a good wife, and one on being a good husband.
  • From Bounless Webzine, an article for men on romance.
  • From Ben Stuart, a sermon on the dynamics of marriage. (Takes time to download)
  • From Mars Hill, the homepage for the Peasant Princess sermons on marriage, with links to the ten sermons along the bottom- highly reccomend.
  • From one of my friends, a personal opinion, full of wisdom, on her singleness.
  • From Young Ladies Christian Fellowship, an article on contentment in waiting.
  • Again from Young Ladies Christian Fellowship, my favorite poem that explains purpose in waiting.
  • Also from Young Ladies Christian Fellowship, a collection of articles meant to serve as encouragement through singleness. One, Two, Three, Four.
  • From The Scriptorum Essays, a quote on singleness:
""Thus the bachelor is on the defensive. Not only does he seem to be surrounded by couples, but he feels that he must show his couple-potential by being seen with a woman, even if he’d rather stay home and read a book.” Those words by Sheldon Vanauken come from his book Under the Mercy (pp. 152-62). He laments the decline of the nobility of bachelors, “men who are so wrapped up in some mighty ambition that they don’t have time or freedom for marriage. A monk or a priest in the service of God. A scientist or poet reaching for the stars. A naval officer for whom the Fleet comes first. An explorer or adventurer… there are, in fact, a great many reasons for bachelorhood, and perhaps fewer reasons for marriage than there used to be… There is a great deal to be said for calling oneself boldly a bachelor. It is a strong, independent-sounding word and suggests a deliberate choice. A way of life. ‘Unmarried’ is a bit like ‘unemployed’ or ‘unfed’—negative and crippled. ‘Single’ (‘one-legged’) isn’t much better. But bachelor makes a statement, and it conjures up a tradition…”"
(For citation purposes, here is the link, but I do not want to promote all points in this article.)

My point is, work on it from where you are. If you're single, take advantage of that time and do not be ashamed of your opportunity. Take Valentine's Day to show your love for someone else. If you're in a relationship (dating/courtship or marriage) then use this day to bless your significant other. Make them feel special and loved, however that looks for them. Everyone can always better their relationship with attention. Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Little Chelsea Lamb

I saw this picture this morning, and so many thoughts rushed to my head that I had to write about it. First off, it's at face value a powerful image to being lost and the metaphor of the Good Shepherd:
"I myself will tend my sheep and have them lay down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak..." (Ezekiel 34:15-16a)

In the photograph we can see the youth of the lamb. Perhaps he's still enjoying his adventure away from the others, but we can begin to see fear creep into its face. He feels lost and alone. He doesn't understand what's going on. He's looking around and doesn't see his mom. We know the Shepherd has a more aerial view, and can see the rest of the flock in the distance. He can bring the little lamb back.

Once I read the verse in Ezekiel, I thought about the common association the Christian community has with lamb and lost. It's probably because most verses deal with salvation (Psalm 119:176, Isaiah 53:6-7, Matthew 25:32). We have all heard that God "searches for the lost and brings back the strays," that He rejoices in the one found sheep (Matthew 18:12-13). The metaphor is usually used with evangelical undertones. However, the verse continues to say he "will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak." I myself don't think of him as a Shepherd often when I'm still in the flock.
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures,he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." (Psalm 23:1-4)

There's no mention of being lost. Read it again, closely, especially if you've heard it before. The Shepherd is actually "with me". I feel with God right now- maybe not 48 hours ago, but yes, now. I had run ahead of the shepherd, and I'll be back in that green valley one day, but next time with His presence and blessing.

What I'm dealing with now is missing the valley. It is a good valley- why not go now? Why do the other sheep insist on sticking around here for so long? That is my valley. However, I hold onto the faith that my Shepherd knows what he's doing- and has the power to guide those sheep too, if he feels it's best. No matter how amazing that valley is (for it really is), it's not worth being there without my Shepherd.

Photograph by Matt Blakemore, . Creative Commons licence: Attribution and Non-commercial.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A JPG Submissions

There's a photography magazine called JPG that relies on reader submissions for its content- photojournalism articles, portraits, anything. They have a couple topics open for each issue, and one of the current open themes is "House." Here's a picture that I have submitted, as well as the link to vote, if you'd like.

Click here.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Isn't That a Candy Bar?

Great news! I applied for a position at Pine Cove a couple months ago in the Baby Ruth program. It's a staff position for girls during the summer between high school and university (the boys' program is called Young Guns). While we're not in charge of a cabin, we're responsible for the support work around camp (cleaning, cooking, decorating for theme nights, etc). It's also a time for the Ruths to grow together and prepare for life on our own.
Anyway, I got in! I don't know which camp I'm at yet (there are several), but I know from July 4- August 16 I'll be at one of them. I also know one of my friends that I went to camp with, Kelsey, was accepted for the same weeks. I know that whatever happens, I'll be taken out of my comfort zone for six weeks and will undoubtably grow through that experience.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Another Patience Tester

One of my jobs around here is tutoring my little step-sister in math. I just sat down for my first hour with her, and I don't know what to make of it. She's scatter-brained. She verbally says one thing and writes down something completely different. She tries to apply identical principles to completely unrelated problems. She writes down an answer, I explain which part of it is wrong, so she erases it... and writes down the same thing again... twice.
The saddest part (or possibly the most hopeful for her) is that it reminds me of me. I hated math in grade 5. When we had "Fast Fact" quizzes every week (addition/subtraction/multiplication/division memory tests) I would get 40%, even when I came in at lunch to do them to reduce test anxiety. In grade 7, I got a C in math. It all sort of changed with Algebra I in grade 8, but till then, I was a math mess. Now, I love it. I love the order. I love how Ian Stewart puts it: "Your entire life bobs like a small boat on a vast ocean of mathematics." So lovely and peaceful and ordered.
I hope it turns out that way for my sister.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Compare and Contrast

I spent the day with a twelve year-old girl today. She watched as her brother and I played chess, and cheered me on as I was the foosball victor. :P As I read Calculus, I listened to her mother teach her the Biblical account of creation and later peeked in and watched her work on her lapbook. I listened to her practice the harp and reherse her finger-plucking, ready for her sister's lesson. All day she was smiley and jumpy and full of hugs.

I came home to another twelve year old girl. She has a boyfriend named John, but she's not sure if she likes him so she doesn't want to make a big deal about it in case they break up tomorrow. However, she asked her mother if she could borrow a "cute" shirt to wear to school in the morning. For her birthday, she wants an iPhone because her best friend has one, and a girl at school called her a [not-good-word-I'm-not-going-to-repeat].

I bet you the first twelve year-old has never even heard that word.