Thursday, August 7, 2014

Rambles on Neverness

I read a book. It made me think.

What is a point? I was taught it was a dot in space, a single location, the very basis of geometry. It has no size, no features, only properties that it follows. How simple. And yet I can't even envision this lengthless, widthless, sizeless thing. What is a point? A point is a point.

I rather hated this book, so full of pretentious themes and presumptuous questions. How I ached to abandon it, to close its nonexistent pages (for you see, the book did not even have the redeeming quality of being a book - it was a text file).

What then is a line? A collection of points? But if a point has no size, then how does a line, a string of points, come to have an infinite length? How is the summation of an infinite set of zeros produce infinity? How does everything come forth from nothing? How, how, how? What is a line? A line is a line is a line.

It was exhausting, this funny little text file. Seconds, minutes, whole half-hours would pass as I read on. Sometimes I would note every dragging tick of time and sometimes I would not. How strange a read. How utterly curious.

And a square? What is that? Why it is the union of four intersecting line segments, touching just so. Defined by its right angles and its quadruplet of equal length sides, the rectangle suddenly adds width to its parent line. 2D from 1 from 0. What is a square? A square is a square is a square is a square. 

It was, perhaps, the strangest book I have ever read - daring to call its characters arrogant and vain when it, itself, thought to write answers to the fundamental questions of life and death shrouded in clouds of "big words" and "higher vocabulary." Oh how I hated this book.

And so the whole of geometry is built from the feathery wisps of concepts that are at once primitively simple and frighteningly incomprehensible.

I hated this book, this text file, this thing enough to shudder past pages of torture and death and cruelty. I hated it enough to scroll through three hundred and sixty odd pages, squinting at a dizzyingly bright screen in the dark. I hated it enough to write about it in a blog abandoned for over a year.

Is that not beautiful in its own, albeit confusing, mathematical (or is it artistic?) way?

Perhaps I hated Neverness enough to feel a shred of reluctant love for it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Leaves - A Bio Project

Recently, in biology, our class was challenged to work on a creative project that related to things we learned this marking period. With such extensive leeway (and knowing the fact that this could be worth 10% of my grade) I decided to lean back on a hobby I haven't had the chance to work on for years: stitching.

In the end, I was inspired by the lovely maple tree in my yard to use stitching to show the different margins and venations of leaves. What resulted were three different "leaves" - each showing a different venation and margin. So, without further ado, here they are:

Margin: Undulate
Venation: Palmate
The Maple Leaf
This leaf, which is my personal favorite, has an undulated margin. Undulated margins are those that are wavy, in appearance, and create shallow "dips" or lobes into the leaf. This particular leaf is not lobed as those dips do not go deeply into the center of the leaf, but are maple leaves can be lobed. 

Maple leaves are known for their uniquely palmate venation, meaning that their veins extend out from a point on the bottom of the leaf out to each of the five major extrusions. An easy way to remember this type of venation is by thinking of the pattern as the palm of a hand (palm/palmate) since the veins almost look like the bones of the human hand. 

Margin: Crenate
Venation: Pinnate
The Pale Jewelweed Leaf
This leaf  has a crenate margin. Crenate leaves are those with rounded, non-pointy edges, which differ from triangle-toothed dentate leaves and triangle-tooths-that-point-forward serrate leaves.

This simple pinnate venation is found on many leaves. There is a single major vein which runs lengthwise along the center of the leaf, with smaller veins branching off of it, usually in an alternating pattern. See below for a more clear example.

The Grass
This is another popular type of margin, known as entire. These plants are easily identifiable as they have smooth edges with no lobes (indentations) or teeth (extrusions).

Plants that are monocots, including grass, have an extremely simple type of venation called parallel venation. Here, several veins run parallel to each other, lengthwise along the leaf.

Parallel Venation ( as seen in my house)

This particular leaf has very
dramatic coloration that
shows pinnate venation
very well.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

One Year Down... A Reflection

There's really only days left at school and the only thing blocking our way to summer break is finals. It's been quite a year, with its fair share of ups and downs, but, all in all, I can look back at freshman year with a smile.   There were late nights when the glare of the computer would reflect off my glasses until my head hit the keyboard and early mornings when the last thing I wanted to do was leave my nest of blankets and pillows. There were tests and presentations and projects, leaving me constantly frazzled. But then there were Latin classes spent laughing hysterically, biology classes spent listening to stories, and lunches spent under the warmth of the sun. In a year, I met so many amazing people and made some wonderful friends that would make it terribly difficult for me to stay upset or stressed for long. Freshman year was an experience, certainly very different from what I expected, but one that was memorable, nonetheless.

If I could go back, though, and give my past self advice on how to handle freshman year, I would say five things:
  1. STOP PROCRASTINATING - This is such an over-said, cliche piece of advice, but it truly cannot be overstated. It's so very tempting to say that you'll finish those last three bio objectives in a half an hour, you just need to go get some cookies, but that half an hour of cookie-munching will turn into an extra hour of looking up pictures of cats on the Internet. Don't go there.
  2. Commit to clubs/activities - In the beginning of the year, I was so determined to really get involved in clubs, but somehow forgot about my intention as I got buried in piles of homework and quizzes and tests. It's so easy to forget about out-of-class activities as stress mounts, but having those extra, fun stuff will help keep you sane (and look good for college, of course).
  3. Keep stashes of food in your locker - Of course, don't tempt ants, but having an extra bar of dark chocolate really helps after you get back that one trigonometry quiz that leaves you wanting to sit in a corner and cry.
  4. Study, study, study (and read!) - That half an hour on the bus when you're just listening to music and being bored? Put away your iPod and take out a book. It doesn't matter if it's an old Harry Potter book or a math textbook, don't waste time just staring out the window. Personally, I find that sleeping on the morning bus ride and reading on the afternoon ride works best.
  5. Take advantage of all opportunities - Often, teachers will mention a New York Times contest or a research grant that students can participate in. Actually do these things, especially in research! Not only do you get some extra lab experience, but if you win something, it's great for college. Don't just limit yourself to things that you do in class; get out there and try to find opportunities for yourself.
So, one year down. Three more to go. I can't wait :)


Friday, May 31, 2013

Roses and Mint

It's that time of year when spring turns into summer and sitting inside in a classroom feels like a crime when it's so nice outside. Winter was unusually long this year and my poor garden looked like it would die before anything could even start growing. But for the past few weeks, our mint have somehow sprung up, so much so that I'm afraid they're going to take over the entire garden. Last year, we ended up giving away entire stalks of mint to everyone who came over our house just to try and control its growth. That, apparently, did not work. Still, it's nice to have a constant source for mint tea. In between the conquering mints and random weeds are strawberry, broccoli, and chilli plants (with a few odd flowers thrown in there, as well). This is the first year we're trying to grow broccoli, but so far it's going rather well! A few years back, when we started our garden, we tried growing strawberries, tomatoes, and cucumbers. The tomatoes and cucumbers were quickly eaten by deer, though, who somehow managed to get around our barbed wire fence... But our strawberries survived and have popped up every year after, even if we don't actually plant new seeds. The strawberries are definitely nowhere near as big as the fruit you see at grocery stores, but I think they taste much better (they're so sweet!) But my favorite plant in the garden has to be the chilli. Watching the actual chilli grow and change colors from a deep green to a dull yellow to a vivid orange and then a bright red is really cool. Plus, the chillis taste amazingly spicy and are awesome in any Indian dish my mom makes. 

Deer may look pretty and innocent,
but they're actually tulip murderers.
We also have tons of flowers growing in random places around my house. Some, like our jasmine and hydrangea plants, grow inside, but most of them are outside. Near our garden, we have daffodils and azaleas. While the daffodils are reaching toward the sky, though, the azaleas are being eaten by more evil deer. These same deer have already eaten my mom's tulip bulbs before the poor flowers could even bloom. Needless to say, I do not harbor any love for deer. And of course, there are our roses! We have a few rose bushes surrounding our patio outside and they have just started to bloom this week. Let me just say, I am no fan of pink, but the color of these flowers is pretty enough to make me question that. They're really very lovely, which even makes up for the fact that they have very sharp (and very painful) thorns. I will be posting photos of all my mostly-alive plants soon (it's too dark now) so look out for that in the next week!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

APs and Ice Cream

This past month, I managed to cram my head with a year's worth of biology and world history, all for the sake of AP testing. And this past week, I managed to regurgitate it all onto the actual tests. I have learned that self-studying for an AP actually requires a good deal of willpower. When the tests are weeks away, you're so tempted to procrastinate (especially when the weather is so beautiful outside and you just have to go for a bike ride or run in the grass or just sit in the breeze). But when it's the weekend before you're supposed to take said tests and you realize exactly how much you have to memorize, you start to wish you could go back in time and tie your past self down into a chair to study. Aaand then when you're actually taking the test, frantically writing an essay as the clock moves way too fast to be accurate, you just want to go back and smack some sense into your past self. But now that that experience is behind me, I can start looking forward to actually enjoying spring! Or, I can once I finish two essays and two and a half projects, but after that I'll actually have time to sleep. Hopefully.

In any case, to celebrate the end of APs, I went to the store this weekend to buy some ice cream, only to find that there is actually such a thing as ice cream tacos. Naturally, I had to buy some. Apparently, the taco shell is just a folded ice cream cone, the ice cream is inside it, and the open part of the shell is closed with dark chocolate. It's definitely a novel idea, but I think I'll stick with my cookies 'n cream sundaes and lemon Italian ice, thank you very much. Speaking of which, there's a bowl of ice cream waiting for me in the freezer, and so I shall end this post to go get some...yum.

Friday, May 3, 2013

I Hate May...But Love Divergent

Flowers poking out of the ground, sunshine dancing on your skin, squirrels finally forced to find their own food source as bird feeders are put away. It's May, in the middle of what is turning out to be a beautiful spring, and I can't bring myself to enjoy it. In a time when I usually begin to relax about schoolwork and start counting the days until summer, this year, I find myself swamped with work. With two research papers due in a week, two AP tests in a little over ten days, two long-term projects due by the end of the month, two council events to plan for, and two piano tests within the next few weeks (two is apparently not my lucky number), most of my time seems to be spent in one of three locations: at the computer, frantically typing out work, on my bed, desperately studying some more, or at the piano, tiredly memorizing another piece. So, needless to say, I can't wait for this month to be over.

There have been a few bright spots though! For one, the Freshmen Picnic at my school was yesterday! Every year, the school's current freshmen host a picnic for the incoming freshmen, to welcome them and give them a chance to make friends (since we all come from different districts, the picnic gives us a chance to meet and talk to each other.) Preparing for the picnic meant spending a few days worrying over whether we would have enough food and supplies, but, in the end, it all turned out just fine, which was a huge relief. And some of the incoming freshmen seem really fun, so I look forward to getting to know them more in September!

    An even brighter spot of my month has been finally reading Divergent. For months, now, some of my friends have insisted that I start the series, but I never found the time to go and get the book from the library. Yesterday, though, a friend noticed that it was on my teacher's bookshelf at school and so I immediately went to grab it. I was hooked after reading the first five sentences. Certainly, its setting (an apocalyptic society that attempts to be a utopia, but fails miserably) is overused and, to an extent, cliche. The plot line (a rebellion against the "utopian" government) and themes (human hunger for power) are rather overused, as well. Still, something about the book's writing, its brilliantly flawed main character, and the constantly moving plot manage to hook you right in. It's simply brilliant :)


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

So... What Now? Revolution Time?

Since we're now well into April and March's Slice of Life challenge has ended, I've been wondering how often I should update my blog. Alas, I have no answer to that and will simply store this question among many of life's other unanswerable ponderings. After taking a rather long break from posting, though, I think I'll start posting either once a week or once every other week, so look for those! 

And since I won't be posting daily, that'll allow me to get the focus of my blog back to food and books, as originally intended. So, to continue in this vein, I'll spend today talking about my latest read: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly. At first glance, yes, it didn't seem like my cup of tea. Angsty teenagers who contemplate suicide on a daily basis? Characters routinely skipping school to play guitar in sketchy NYC? Drugs inhaled daily as if they're water? No, thanks. I think I'll reread Pride and Prejudice, instead. Not that there's anything wrong with such stories; they just simply get on my nerves with their predictability. There's always a character with a mysteriously hidden, but superbly tragic past who relies on some form of art or violence as an outlet for their manic depression. Then, if it's a romance novel, along comes this person who helps to pull them out of their pit of despair and onto the road to recovery, which is right when the novel ends. Revolution admittedly did fill those requirements, but I was, for some reason, willing to look past that. And that reason most likely lies in the fact that this book was partly historical fiction. 

Before I go to in depth, though, let me offer you a brief summary. So once upon a time, in the far off land that is New York, there lived this girl, Andi, whose life was filled with tragedy. Her brother was killed two years ago and her internationally-famous scientist of a father left her mother months later to go and marry his significantly younger girlfriend. Andi was left with her mother, who slowly began to succumb to the overwhelming weight of her depression, and turn insane. Andi, meanwhile, reacted as any typical, talented musician would. She drowned herself in her guitar and pills, struggling to get a grip as her world came crashing down on her. It was only when she was threatened with not graduating high school that her father reentered her life, taking her to Paris to focus on schoolwork to get back on track. There, Andi finds the diary of a mysterious girl from the French Revolution and somehow finds herself trapped in the middle of an ancient quest to save the lost prince of France.

I know, I know. It sounds really cliche, but I found the writing to be beautifully captivating; it really hooks you in. The book is relatively long, over 450 pages, but you can easily sit and read for hours without surfacing, once you get well into the plot. Better than the plot and history, though, was the main character, Andi. This girl is flawed enough to appear real, to make you at once  be sympathetic to and angry with her. Her entire being is a mixture of this furious fire, fanned by wailing winds rattling through her empty chest. It's simply brilliant.