Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Reading, Writing and Other Dangerous Pursuits




I've scored a couple of Penelope Livelys from the used bookstore, the usual layered many sided narrative, wonderful sweep which simply picks up you and bears you forward. The Photograph is the latest, about the accidental discovery by a man in search of paperwork in his house, of a photograph of his late wife indicating that she may not have been as faithful as he assumed. That's the first shot in a rapidfire series of discoveries, rethinking, as the kaleidoscope of many lives hers intersected with is shaken and all the people fall down any old how in different places than they thought they were, staggering to their feet and trying to reorient themselves to this new world. Finally, she has power from the grave. Wonderful writing. She has all kinds of insight into the different forms of memory, and I'm very aware at the moment of how one gesture or picture or word can trigger vivid memories from many years ago, and the need to fathom some meaning in them, or to realize they're just random associations the brain has made. Everything doesn't have significance.

And the Victorian mystery, about a bumbling English police officer and his astute household staff who assist him constantly, thereby keeping him in a job and themselves in a good billet, funny, good for when you don't want to be seriously thinking.

Then there's my latest math discovery, about algebra. I was in the libe this morning and couldn't resist starting on this, complete with quizzes and little surprising things, ended up spending two hours studying it and had to bring it home to continue. I was even making notes and comparing my answers to the correct ones.

I love to explore the foothills of math, probably as far as I'm going to get at this point, without the pressure of the teachers I had in school many years ago,who I now realize were no good at all, sigh, and probably didn't like the subject themselves. This time I'm going to get further into algebra since this writer promises I'll actually understand not just how to work it, but why it works as it does, something they never teach you in school. The least I'll get is a new adventure.

I've already learned about ten new things about number patterns just from the introduction. At school I could do all this stuff, but my attempts to find out what was behind it, how the mechanics of it actually worked below the surface, were firmly rebuffed by teachers who, I'm now guessing in hindsight, had no idea themselves and were unwilling to look silly in class!

So, just to show how stubborn Yorkshire folk can be, here I am nearly 65 years later, still determined to find out! I expect my teachers have all gone to the great chalkboard in the sky by now. My parents, who never had the chance to learn algebra, used to pronounce it the historically correct way: alGEBra. Which is really how it is, since it's an Arabic word, the Arabs having taken it on, developed and codified it to very much where we understand it today. At some point the ALgebra pronunciation took over and that meaning was largely lost.

This evening my DVD shows continue, tonight with Secret Life of Bees, just to see how I like it. I did try the novel, couldn't seem to crack it, though, but here goes another way of trying.

Did I mention that I'm considering a new approach for the New Year: that I don't have to finish anything if I don't want to. This will be a seismic shift in my hellbent approach to life, and will be interesting to see what comes of it. Imagine: throwing down a book because I'm just tired of waiting for it to work for me. Switching off the music I have heard enough of for now. Coming home halfway through a walk because I don't feel like finishing. This will be a different world if I manage this.

5 comments:

Minimiss said...

Your new approach to the world is exactly what I would be applying to your little book on alGEBra. I nearly stopped reading your post as soon as I saw the title. I think I must have had a younger version of your teachers or else they were just too brilliant to be bothered with trying to get the light-bulb on in my brain. I might have to look for the book in my library to see if the introduction can intrigue me as it did you. But then again, I probably won't as I have lots of other things that I would much rather do than alGEBra.

Enjoy.

dogonart said...

Interesting view into your brain (I was going to say convoluted, but didn't want to be rude). I know what you mean about finishing projects and used to feel the same way but then decided it was just Catholic guilt dunning me down, so now I just do whatever I feel like. also something to do with being 81 perhaps !
Happy post Christmas.

dogonart said...

Interesting view into your brain (I was going to say convoluted, but didn't want to be rude). I know what you mean about finishing projects and used to feel the same way but then decided it was just Catholic guilt dunning me down, so now I just do whatever I feel like. also something to do with being 81 perhaps !
Happy post Christmas.

Magpie's Mumblings said...

Algebra - oh the horror of it! I never could manage to make one bit of sense out of how on earth letters could be turned into numbers and end up BEING anything. No, math was not my forte until I hit grade 11 and got to take accounting which finally made sense! I am happy to leave the study of the 'a' word to you!!

annie1931 said...

My nemesis was an arithmetic 'teacher' in grade three who smiled sweetly and said "well, dear, if you can't do that, we'll just go on to the next chapter'...my math angel was the lady who informed my parents that to insist I continue with upper school mathematics would be utterly useless. Bless her.
But I have a math book now that is wonderful. I've made a note of yours and will continue on with it when I'm done this one. At at 80+ (well before, actually) I put the 'Protestant' guilt behind me and told uninteresting books, projects, walks to just go hang. Do hope you can stick to your resolution!