Saturday, December 31, 2011

In which a year does not fit into a blog post at all well

(And I ignore the concept of 'title case' in writing my title.)

Tomorrow will be a brand new year! Imagine that. It will be the twenty second year I've been alive in and all sorts of interesting things will happen in it. If I don't write about them here, I might remember to write about some of them tomorrow or, you know, in the course of their actually happening. In the mean time, I will have a bash at writing about some of the interesting things that happened this year.

I changed my degree. Actually, most of the decision making related to this happened way back in 2010, but the living it out was part of 2011. It's been tough at times, but I'm not the least bit sorry I did it; and really, for all I think it's been tough, it couldn't have been very much easier than it was. The paperwork was awful, but is finished forever, now. I've missed my engineering friends and classmates, but I've made new friends too. I haven't missed the engineering mindset: it's an incredibly useful (and I think to many people natural) way of looking at things, but I didn't find it nearly as fun as the 'pure' science perspective. I certainly haven't missed the move to a bigger, less personal campus. I love class sizes of fifteen and twenty and the very real interaction that just about has to happen in classes that small. I've felt the thrill of being the 'senior' science student first-year-me thought I never could: silly things, really, but happy things. I can walk past hordes of first years into the labs without waiting for demonstrators or technicians. I know the code for the lock on computational physics department door. (I also know that there are just two rooms behind that door: the dedicated postgrad and undergrad physics LANs.) I've begun to understand the complicated geography of the Maths/Stats/Comp. Sci. floor of science block and I've spent entire days without leaving that building until I go home. Somehow it might be most significant that I've learned that there will always be proofs and theorems omitted -- but sometimes you know you'll come back to them later.

I've discovered an academic-ish subculture. I read maths webcomics. I know that if I take my homework to the Physics LAN, there's a good chance I'll end up talking instead of getting work done. Also, that that's okay. I've found authors like Richard Feynman and Tom Korner who make maths and physics as beautiful as I think it should be (and sometimes leave me feeling rather stupid). I can get distracted trying to derive a formula for the volume of a right rectangular pyramid (it's rather pretty) or realise in the middle of reading a novel that I suddenly understand Gauss' law of electrostatics (I don't know why I still get mixed up about it). I've found out that I'm not the only person in the world who does things like that.

I've made a fuss about things that matter. I'm not very good at 'being an activist'. I don't have lots of (or any) posters, bumper stickers, hyperlinks or explanatory texts about the things I care about. But that doesn't have to mean I don't care. I've run events that were in danger of neglect and made a little me-sized difference. I've fought fights that jolly well ought to be fought, even when people have forgotten to care that things are being done wrong. I've ignored things too, wisely and unwisely, but I've learned that I know how to kick up a fuss. I joined the church youth leadership team. I decided that things should happen in Sunday School and did [some of] them. I [sometimes] stuck up my hand and said 'Shouldn't there be an extra term in that equation?' instead of just making an adjustment to my notes. I found out where the uni timetabling offices are, looked up the contact email and spent [a little] less time moaning about maths/physics clashes. Even small things have to count for something.

2011 has been a spectacular year. I can't believe that it's already finishing or that I walked into my first Physics II lecture less than twelve months ago. There have been ups and downs, but looking back, Romans 8:28 seems awfully applicable. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him[.]

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