Thursday, August 30, 2012

Poor Little Smart Girl

This is one of the first posts where I'm going to be brutally honest about myself and discuss one of the things about myself that I don't like. You are welcome, to like myself, hate me that little bit for having this side to myself. It isn't a nice person, or the person I'd like to think myself to be. It is the kind of person I would look at and think poorly of. As the Bible verse goes "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" (and for anybody who's never thought to look that original reference up it is Matthew 7:3). This is but one of many planks.

Everybody knows the concept of the 'poor little rich girl'. Goodness knows the concept has spurred a multitude of movies and most people are now trained from birth (or school entrance age) to pick out the girls spoilt by daddy's money. My own best friend lives next to one. The poor girl doesn't comprehend why spending $300 dollars on a dress would even cause us to blink or how the 'simple trinket' her mother brought her back from Greece would make us dumbfounded.

I'm not rich. I come from a single parent household (mostly but my actual family living arrangements are a story in itself so we'll go with the short version here); the daughter of a teacher. Certainly a member of the middle class which by the standards of 50 years ago does make me pretty spoilt by default. Nothing noteworthy though; I never had my own television or computer, I got my first mobile phone as a high school senior, pretty standard stuff.

However I am smart. I just get things. I was the quickest off the bat of course, in lower primary school I was nice and average. By middle school, however, I'd flow past my classmates. Despite accidentally skipping a grade going from Australia to the US I was easily on par for the work. Grand marshal at the Grade 8 graduation when I was in Grade 7 in fact. That is to mean top of my year level.

Then coming home to Australia I dropped back down the grade. My mum is very VERY against the ol' grade skiparoo. So I stopped having to work. Yes being 'kept down' even if unofficially like that did bad things to my work ethic. Just the same I am definitely one of those kids who needed the social maturity aspect of staying with my own age.

At not point from then on did I need to work particularly hard. Or if I did work it was in order to ace it, beat every other kid in the class, that kind of thing. I graduated dux of my high school having topped 4 of my 6 subjects. This stuff just came easily to me.

That is not the negative side to this. I don't communicate my intelligence very well. That isn't 'I completely lack social skills' so much as 'I can't explain smart things to you'. I can talk out my ass about the weather, my favourite kind of music or how much I don't want to be doing XYZ. You teach me something and put me in front of a test paper and I'll ace it. You ask me for the same information immediately before the test I'll fumble my words, and likely look dumbly at you unable to work it out at all. The knowledge trapped inside my brain is not easily accessed.

At its very worst my smart spoilt brain exhibits incessant perfectionism and the inclination to skitz out. When asked to do some kind of assessment and I can't do it. I can't exhibit any kind of patience. I stress, in the past I've been known to break down in tests to the point that the teacher provided some general guidance on the questions. Admittedly that was test I still failed - but had the teacher not provided assistance like he did I would have got about 10% instead of 43%... I study engineering most people fail sometime. I'm too slack a procrastinator to maintain high marks. My problem is I still generally do maintain high marks despite my procrastinating.

Just this past week I went to do a lab test. This being a test of objectives from the previous 4 assisted labs. Where you have to answer some questions (among them 5 true falses which I guessed) and then construct an experimental rig and explain how it tests what you've been asked to do. I couldn't do it. I couldn't remember any of the rigs. Yet I lucked into the easiest question available, then when it came time to construct it I left out a component so critical the lecturer pointed out that it was missing rather than simply give me the mark I deserved. You know what I got for that test? 10 out of 10. If I got 10/10 I shouldn't have been the only one. But you know what, I was.

That's my luck. I'm the poor little smart girl. I stress about things, fear I'll fail and rarely get below a Distinction. I screw my face up and get really stressed and people bend to help me feel smarter than I really am. I live in fear that one day I'll get the mark I really deserve. It will not be pretty.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Pro Housewife - The Joy of a Well Made Bed

Perhaps I missed my calling. I would have done great in housekeeping. This post is about bed making. Now I will admit to being as slack as the next person. My doona gets dragged to cover the mattress the pillows get laid correctly at the one end but only for practicality. When you live in a bedroom, and everywhere else in your life is communal having the space of the 'bed bench' for sitting, working, laying of random stuff... you get the idea.

However that one day every fortnightsheet change dayis a very special day indeed. I go the whole hog. I love it. Not just for the joy that is clean crisp sheets. One of the true free love-my-life moments comes when I do a hospital corner on my top sheet and it folds smooth and effortless into a nearly perfect 45 degree angle. (Though don't listen to people who insinuate this is a complex task - the angle will be consistently correct if take the extra second to fold the sheet flat before tucking the bottom section under the mattress.)

You can't see in the pictures, but yes both of the sheets used in these pictures are flat sheets. To be clear, I'm not that much of a weird keen bean. With the exception of these photographs I don't typically use a flat sheet bottom sheet. You have to admit though that they allow for much more crisp corners on a bed than fitted sheets. (It doesn't help that I have an awkward not a Single yet not a King Single mattress so no fitted sheets fit properly.) This first picture is my favourite. It seriously makes me feel good about myself just looking at that crisp sharp bed edge.

I want to go on record saying the bump in this second photo was created by a worn out mattress where the actual mattress covering didn't sit smooth against it's innards. Also I will apologise that you can't actually see the corners in either of the photos. This is not my current bed so I couldn't go back and rectify the missing photographs. 

My only downfall in all this is, to my shame, I can't get the hang of folding fitted sheets. I've looked at all the pictures; watched all the videos. That kind of thing became 'all the rage' a few months ago. (Or at least as 'all the rage' as a tedious house task can ever become.) Nope. It's just not my speed at all. I'll settle for good sheets ON my bed rather than IN my cupboard. Maybe that isn't good housewife skills after all...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Addictive Procrastination. Colour Me Happy.

As I tried to demonstrate in my last blog post I am trying to improve myself and trying to break some very old habits with the intent being that I will become both more productive and more happy as a result. However even as I attempt to prevent myself from wasting too much time doing actually nothing I am bombarded but cool, inventive new ways to almost do something.

The latest of these, and to be honest there has been a long line of them, has been COLOURLovers. Firstly, it took me a bit to notice but the web address is spelt correctly but they do get some extra brownie points for having colour spelt with a u (if only in the web address and name). What is COLOURLovers? Essentially a community styled website where people create and share palettes of up to 5 colours, name new colours as they come across them, colour patterns and love and favourite other peoples creations. The truly creative people even make new patterns, but that tends a bit too far down the 'actual skill' and 'time, effort, productive' paths for me.

What is it that COLOURLovers has me doing that is so bad then? Well, essentially they have given me a gadget that makes filtering through the 16 million colours that exist within HEX easy. Then they said if nobody has done it before me I can name it. Maybe it is too many years of Pokemon growing up (yes I did play Pokemon as a child I hope that doesn't make you feel differently about me) but you give me a restriction like that and I suddenly must HAVE ALL THE COLOURS. I enjoy naming things. I enjoy naming things that other people are then forced to comply with my names for. I mean in 16 million I currently only possess 173 as you can see in the above screen shot. However clicking the button, then coming up with a slightly creative name for the new colour, this is how I waste my days.

That's without even considering palettes. Three days of this and I struggle to come onto the internet and not go immediately to COLOURLovers and click the create button over and over and over again for hours. One more thing I need to add to my 'banned during working hours' list. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My Productivity Pact

I don't know about you. Perhaps you are the epitome of perfection and productivity. (Not to offend you but seriously you've found my blog and are actually reading it so I doubt that a little bit.) Maybe you have never had this issue and have never looked at yourself and realised 'Wow I don't do anything ever'. I am a collector of things, a hoarder of thoughts, a watcher of experiences.

Have you ever been to StumbleUpon? Or perhaps like me spent hours of time on StumbleUpon? Read the cool list, or the instructions for a craft or the recipe of a divine looking cake. Stopped for a brief minute and thought 'Hmmm... cool', maybe even gone so far as to click the 'Like' button (as if by doing so you were saving it to come back to it another time), then clicked Stumble to move on to somebody else's record of something they've actually done. Tell me, no really please tell me, what has that stumble done for you really? Are you enriched?

I don't claim that stumbling around unto the stumble topics of psychology or history you don't in fact pick up new information that may in fact be enriching in its own right. Even there, however, you have likely picked up only the information from another person's blog. Did you stop to check their references or their recommended books? I doubt it, though forgive me I am very much projecting my own self onto you.

I don't do it. I never do it. I have read three quarters of a book this year. As in the entire year. No I'm not kidding, though I'm also not counting romance novels which I go in and out of but I've likely read close to 50 of them this year. What book have I been reading? The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely. Actually. I just lied I've also read Sense and Sensibility - which while 'romance' I couldn't ever group Jane Austen in with my other non-book romances.

Fair enough. I mean I study engineering - maybe I don't have the time. Likely I shouldn't however truth be told I don't work hard enough on that either. I just don't do stuff. I will waste hours just looking at things other people are using their time for. A Photoshop tutorial advertising this takes 30mins to an hour... I look at it and know I have just spent the hour that could have been spent achieving that end state looking at 50 different tutorials and doing none of them.

So I have reached the point where I am making a productivity pact with myself. (I'd claim productivity pact to be my own term however its alliterative use of buzz words means somebody out there has likely come up with the same phrase before me. Just the same I invented it independently.) This productivity pact is to enable me to look at myself and see things I have done. To hopefully avoid the sense of psychological paralysis I often feel when I look back on my week on a Sunday and think 'what the hell have I been doing?'.
I solemnly swear to do something productive. Whether it is school assignments, Photoshop, craft, cooking, reading, writing, blogging, exercise, thesis, photography or any combination thereof. In a documented and intentional manner. Every day for the next month.
I know you  are looking at this list and thinking. Is she for real? That is pretty much every day life. Pretty much. I want to be a proper human, one with something to show for myself. I need to stop bemoaning my state of nothingness and get in and get stuff done.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Yesteryear... Bring Back the Hymns

Ok. Perhaps I should point it out nice and early. I mean, it is likely to come up a bit. Few things provide as many old-fashioned mannerisms as Christianity and in particular the 'religion' side of Christianity. (Yes I do believe Christianity to be more than a religion - I have a set of beliefs that extend much more than purely why I would go to church on Sunday - I'll come back to those in more detail I'm sure.) 

To get to my point. I love hymns. I don't know if you are familiar with church. Even if you have never set foot in a church (might I suggest you try it there'll be no lightning I promise) you likely know of the tradition of singing as part of a church service. Once upon those were... well actually to be honest Psalms I'm sure at one point, in more reasonable history (a few hundred years) they are hymns. Contemporary church music is most generally simply called 'songs' to differentiate them from their more senior siblings.

Church songs have their advantages. Hundreds of years have gone into perfect the sing-ability of church music. Without question I can go into a church and sing along to 90% of a song I've never heard before without messing up the melody. A melody I have never heard before. I love hymns for their complexity. They come from a time when, to a large extent, they shared melodies with pub songs. They forgo initially sing-ability in the name of memorability. My own church averages about one hymn a week and - with the exception of Be Thou My Vision - it is often like a mini quiz to see if you can remember how to follow it.

Church songs come in a wide variety of lyrical content. Ranging from the exceedingly fluffy right through to the hardcore 'trying to fit the entire message in the 3 minutes of lyrics'. Different churches typically take different stances on the level of 'fluffiness' they want in their lyrics. Hymns tend to sit towards the 'hardcore' end of the spectrum yet still manage to have better flow than most newer songs. The words just mean more - though sometimes you feel the need to have somebody explain some of them like 'Ebenezer'.

My favourite hymns in recent weeks?

And Can It Be
How Great Thou Art
It Is Well With My Soul

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Solidly 21st Century... I Study Engineering

I am currently in my final year of an Electrical Engineering degree. Now that is something that well and truly defines me as being a woman in the 21st century. Hell, even now engineering is a male dominant area of society. In my class of 16 there are 2 females... and by all reports from larger universities that 1 in 8 is actually quite high. Across all our engineering streams in my year level there are 8 girls (there is about 80 engineers total - yes I do come from a seriously small university campus).

I have to say too, engineering girls rock, in spite of the obvious fact that we are seriously in the majority all of my best friends are engineering girls. Before you point out the obvious 'you spend the most time with those people' I don't the other engineering streams stop mixing with electrical engineering in first year. However when it comes to getting into conversation engineers all think the same.

Just the same. I am pretty positive I take engineering solely because I live and breath in 2012 and not 1982. That image above? I'm in my senior year, and yes we do think like that, all the time. Why? Why do I put myself through this degree? Do I even LIKE engineering? I am not sure of the answers to any of that.

Why did I start out in engineering? That is perhaps the one question I can answer. I joined university as a scientist - a hard scientist (Maths, physics) rather than your pussyfoot sciences (geography,IT) but I felt like I was working too hard and stressing too much not to make the step sideways into an engineering degree. So I did. And there are times I regret it.

I like being an engineering student. Certainly I appreciate being allowed to be the smart person in society. I am a young woman in 2012.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Where to Start... Quantum Leap

Where to start for a blog? The awkward introduction phase for a blog. I'd say I have to set up the premise of the blog but this is currently pretty broad-brush. To look at things I do that make me the career centred modern woman, and the bits of myself that are a through-back to another time. It fascinates me to see where things have changed and where things haven't, and then where I comply with the society changes and where I don't.

I came up for the concept after watching too many hours of Quantum Leap. Never seen the show? Well I'm not one for aimless reprimands - I much prefer 'corrective training'. You need to rectify this issue as soon as you can. For a quick overview of the show's premise you can listen to the show's own intro below (not to mention it comes free with a whole string of random clips). Or settle for my own description - a time traveller set about righting wrongs and subsequently getting involved with a whole string of the revolutionary changes of the second half of the 20th century.

So in essence, Sam (if you don't know who that is... I did tell you to watch that clip didn't I?) spends a lot of time leaping into women (Scott Bakula clearly enjoys the freedom of dresses) from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Women who are fighting for the changing rights, pioneering as the earliest career women and empowering the housewife. So in my addictive re-watching of the entire series in the last few weeks... I have to wonder. Who would I be in those critical alternate times?

Would I have been the housewife and happy? Would I have been one of the earliest women in the work place (in whatever profession)? Would I have been a 'career' woman before career women were cool? Would I have taken part in rallies to change the world for women? All these questions run through my head for many days. The last question I think I can answer - with 'no'. Which leads me to really think hard about how much of who I am takes those who have come before me for complete granted.

So. In summary. This blog will be a lot about me. About my likes, my interests and things I think make me who I am. Hopefully in doing that I'll build my own self into just a bit more of who I want to be. (I'm not sure that person will ever incorporate 1950s housewife cooking but who knows right?)