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Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Inside my brain

Have you ever looked at a person who’s studying and wondered what’s going on upstairs? Humor me, and I shall describe what I’m experiencing. Perhaps you’ll find it interesting.

I’m currently studying AC Theory. Well, I’m currently writing a blog post to get a break from studying my AC Theory. But I digress.

The topic currently giving me figurative hives is inductance. I won’t go into the details, but basically it’s the principle that makes motors and generators work. When you put a magnet and a conductor together in the right way, you can turn motion into electricity, or vice versa. Wickedly cool stuff in practice, but understanding the principles behind it has proven a bit more complex for me.

When I say complex, I really mean incomprehensible and mind-boggling. Start with a bunch of brand-new jargon. You know, words that don’t make any damn sense, but which get thrown around to refer to very specific concepts.

Then, consider that the concepts themselves are new. So not only do I not understand the words being used, I also don’t understand what they refer to. This has led to a two-step approach for me. First, I ignore the terms and figure out the concepts, then second I back up and apply the terms to the concepts that I now can understand.

This is tricky enough when I have a teacher lecturing, but today I’m doing a make-up class, so I’m on my own. Just me and the ol’ textbooks.

Yup.

So how am I doing with all this, you ask. Well, to be totally frank it isn’t going well. I’m a bit overwhelmed.

Part of my psyche is babbling incoherently, curled in the fetal position in the corner of my brain and crying its little eyes out because it doesn’t, it can’t, and it won’t ever understand. That’s right, my starting point here is that I’ve utterly lost it. (Not an exaggeration; tho I’ve developed enough self-control that I won’t ACTUALLY do this, I have a clear mental picture of exactly how it would look.)

But it doesn’t stop there folks, because there’s another part of my brain that’s calling it quits. Yes, a not-inconsequential part of my mind has thrown up its hands, yelled, “DONESKI!” to the uncaring sky, and picked up its heels as it hits the road. Done and gone and not coming back. Nope. This is BS and I have better things to do. I’ll fail the test, study for another week, and then figure it out later. Don’t even care, my give-a-damn is past repair.

The rest of my mental faculties have spent the last hour and a half idly scanning the text, trying to string together the words on the page in a way that will make some form of sense. I read the questions in the work book, turn to the text to understand them, and find that the concepts are presented in a completely different way. One book is full of square pegs, the other is populated with round holes. And I have to somehow build a saw that will cut one to fit into the other, without any experience or instructions.

What I’m saying is that it sucks a little.

It’s not insurmountable, but it takes a lot of effort. More effort than I would expect it to, in fact. Many of you know exactly how this feels; the comments field may end up populated with your similar experiences. (Please?!?) The answer is, of course, to finish this essay, shut the laptop so I’m not tempted to go to Facebook, and focus on my work. Which I will do very shortly.

So next time you see a student staring uncomprehendingly at a page, consider that seeming inactivity might mask a world of energetic (and psychotic) internal motion.

Such a knockout!

Electricians don’t just work with wire.  In fact, as I was surprised to learn on my first site, electricians spend more time working with the pipe that’s going to carry the wire than with the wire itself!  Where the pipes join together, we install junction boxes – usually steel – in which we cut, drill, or punch holes for the pipe.  The pieces that get left when we cut the holes look like this:

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You can see flat ones, which come pre-punched at the factory, then are tacked back into the box before shipping.  That way, they’re easy to remove if we want, but if we don’t want a hole there they stay put and provide a secure barrier to protect the wire.  There are also a couple crescent-shaped ones in there, which are punched eccentrically (rather than concentrically) so you can choose what size hole you want.

Notice the difference between those and the wavy ones.  There’s a size difference, of course, but I love the shape of the wavy ones!  They get that shape because they’re punched out locally with a tool that cuts the hole in two or three places, rather than all around the diameter, at the same time.  So much interest!  So fascinating!  They’re like little pieces of art, all by themselves!

Well, to me they are.  To the rest of the crew they’re so many pieces of detritus, to be swept out with the rest of the garbage.  But the first time I saw one, I saw beauty.  So I took it home and filed it and turned it into this:

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Oh, yeah.  THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT, BABY!!!  A knockout necklace that’s made of a knockout! And hopefully will get bought and then worn by a knockout.  ;-D  You can buy it here, BTW.  Just sayin’.

Now I have a million ideas on how I can use these.  With leather, on chain, drill holes in a whole series of them and make a jingly anklet…  So.  Many.  Ideas.

But they all start with finishing the damn things.  *le sigh*  Which means a lot of work.

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Have to grind off the sharp edges, file or sand away the scrapes and dings, then get them to whatever level of finish I want.

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Aside: I am absolutely giddy with excitement that I finally got to use my polishing compounds!  Squee!

With them and my handy-dandy rotary tool, gift of my darling HSO (who reads this blog but I’d say that even if he didn’t), I got a near-mirror finish on one of them:

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The photo doesn’t do it justice, but it is SHI-NY!  Still has some imperfections, but I did rush it a bit.  And I’m relearning stuff I only learned halfway, twenty years ago.  Plus, I’m figuring out how to get different finishes, and I’m not even sure what I want or what my options are.  So I’m giving myself some wiggle room.

At any rate, this is how I spent a couple hours this evening.  Very enjoyable hours, too, though my hands hurt after a while from all the vibration.  Next step is to try out my rotary tumbler with some steel shot, so I can see what kind of results that gives me, then I’ll try them in different orders and see what happens then.  SCIENCE!

Rheo-what?!?

Last night, on the way home from Union, my dash lights decided they didn’t want to work.  *sigh*  All the other lights are fine headlamps, dome, brake and turn signals) as are the dummy lights on the dash.  But the lights behind the gauges aren’t coming on.

Today I checked all the easy fixes – fuses, grounding wires, etc. and have come to the conclusion that it’s probably the knob itself – or in particular, the part of the knob that works as a dimmer switch.  Thus we have today’s vocabulary lesson – a rheostat is a type of resistor that has variable settings rather than just on and off.  Apparently.

So I need a new one, at any rate.  Which will be just awesome, since I love learning how to do new things!

Oh, and PS from last night’s post – sure enough, things are much better today!  😀

Ed. 8/28:
The rheostat was fine; turned out to be a bad fuse, which I somehow missed when I checked them.  :-\  So the fuse was replaced, and then a couple days later it promptly blew again – TWICE.  Al noticed that the wires on my front driver’s running light were exposed (long story that involves a post and a dude in a wheelchair)  and deduced that since the running lights are on the same circuit, that might be the source of the short and the cause of my repeated fuse blowings.  Or however that should be phrased.  Can’t say I really care right now.  😉  Day one: no blown fuse.  I am cautiously optimistic that I will not have to replace my wiring harness or involve myself in any such other ridiculously difficult and expensive and time-consuming project.

Healing, perhaps

I guess it’s more than perhaps, it’s more like “apparently.”

Five years, seven months, three days, one hour, and forty-nine minutes ago, the first man I truly adored was killed.  He’d come into my lonely, desperate, incomplete life, and he filled all the empty spaces that bothered me.

Then suddenly he was gone.

Being the type of person I am, I of course pulled myself up by the bootstraps and went on with life.  *sigh*  I’ll be honest with you, I don’t really know how to grieve.  I don’t know how to lose.  I don’t know how to be hurt.  I just have no idea how to do any of that.  My default reaction is to take a deep breath, consider all the good things that still exist in my life, and move the hell on.

End of story.

After all, no matter what happens in my life, no matter how awful things seem, at least I’m still breathing, right?  At least I still have my health, and my sanity (or as much of it as I ever had!), and my ability to support myself, and my loving and wonderful family and friends.  So why should I dwell on what I’ve lost?  Why should I live in the past?  Why should I cling to something or someone that’s gone?

Unfortunately, my analytic mental processes don’t actually control everything that goes on inside.  So of course, recovering from The Loss Of My Entire Life was not (shall we say) a quick or easy process.  In fact, it’s still not finished.  Not even close.

But a few weeks ago I turned a corner, and tonight I turned another one.  (Does that mean I’m headed back the way I came?  *shudder*)

I spent 28 years wishing for someone who would make me feel wanted, and loved, and worthy, and wonderful.   I didn’t have him for very long, but he was instrumental in building me up to the (apparently) confident person I am today.

I’ve spent the past 5 years knowing that I’ll never find another person like him, and I’ve been not only grieving his loss, but the loss of that love and the loss of the way the love made me feel and the hope that I’d ever feel that loved again.

Oooh, there it is.  There’s the first epiphany.  I finally came to see that what I miss most about Mike Lucas is the way I felt when we were together.  Maya Angelou said it best, you know.  I will always remember the way he made me feel.  And I know I’m not the only one – anytime he walked into a room, the whole place would light up.  Everybody knew him, everybody loved him, everybody wanted to be around him.  He was just that kind of person.  Can you blame me for wanting to feel that again?

So a few weeks ago I realized that, and I realized that – wait for it – there might be someone, somewhere out there, who someday might make me feel that good again.  Who might make me feel that wanted again.  Who might make me feel like I belong again.

It could happen.  I believe it could.

So voila, there’s some hope.  And for me, hope is like air, in that I cannot live without it.  (I almost didn’t, in fact, but that’s another story.)  I now have hope that the thirteen months and thirteen days I spent with my First Mate don’t have to be the sum total of my belonging.

Huge.

Tonight I came to another confusion, as we like to say in my family.  You see, this Saturday would have been Mike’s 44th birthday, and we were talking about how to celebrate it.  I’m thinking a family dinner and maybe a toast…  Mom suggested releasing paper lanterns with messages written on them, which I really like.

But that got me thinking about how to remember him.  And how I can keep him in my life, even though he isn’t exactly in my life any more.  I acted the ass so thoroughly when I lost him (grief makes us do stupid things) that none of his friends or family talk to me any more.  His murderer is also his widow, so she gets to keep his name till she dies, she even got a frikkin’ television show.  Yeah, what do I get?  I get to feel like I’m nothing and nobody.  Which I am not, not by a long shot!  But it does feel that way.

Tonight I realized that I can, and should, find a constructive way to remember Mike.  Maybe find a cause to help in his name, maybe create something, maybe make a new tradition.  I don’t know what, I’m still working that out.  But I realized tonight that I’ve been looking for a place to put him in my life.  And because I haven’t had a place for him, he’s been floating all over and getting in the way, so to speak.

I think I’m finally getting started with this “moving on” and “healing” stuff that people have been talking about.  Sure has taken a while…  But I guess I’m a pretty tough nut to crack on some things.

Five years, seven months, three days, two hours, and twenty-one minutes.  And counting.

Depression

K, so if admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery, then I shall do so.

I’m dealing with some depression right now.  I’m at a crossroads in my life, and I’m feeling ready for a change.  But the change is taking so long in coming, it’s getting frustrating.  I was just saying last night, I’ve gone through the part where I let go of my plans and embrace the new paradigm.  So I’ve turned the mental corner and I’m ready for the new thing now.  But it isn’t coming!  So I’m still stuck here in my old life, the one that won’t work and isn’t working and that I’ve already given up.  But I can’t go on to my new life yet.

So I’m feeling really out of sorts and it’s really messing with my head.  I guess the only thing to do is soldier through and deal with it, huh?  At least I have friends who I can turn to and get it off my chest, which I really need to employ more often because it’s a much better coping mechanism than my usual ones.

Know what?  I think I’ll go clean the affirmations off my mirror and write a new one.  Something along the lines of, “You will succeed if you apply yourself.”  With the IF really big.

And then tonight I’m going to go see my wonderful family and celebrate my nephew’s birthday and bask in the love and appreciation and togetherness and understanding and BELONGING that makes me so happy to have been born into this bunch of people.

Take that, depression.

No more sales

Just concluded my 20% off sale for Easter, and have also concluded that sales don’t really work for me.  I got a little bit more traffic while the sale was going, but no actual increase in sales themselves.  In fact, the only thing I’ve done recently that’s successfully boosted sales is posting on Facebook!

So I’m not going to do any more sales.  At least not for a while.  Instead, I’m going to do some product giveaways!  In fact, I have the first one planned already…  Keep your eyes peeled, I think you’ll like it.  Will post it in a few days once I work the kinks out of it.  😀

Bad news

Let me be brief: I’m not opening a store any time soon.

Yup, after spending the last year writing a business plan, doing market research, and building interest, I’m going to have to set aside the plans to open The Bead and Bean (and Broads and Bullets and Brews and I forget what the other thing was), at least for now.

Apparently I should have taken a few steps earlier that I waited to take till I had my stuff together better.  One of those things was sitting down with somebody from the bank and talking turkey.  ‘Cause it turns out, the turkey is me.

The short version is that after a brief presentation of my business plan to a panel of four mentors, they’re very impressed with the work I’ve done and the passion I have for my dreams and ideas, but – here’s the kicker – money talks.  And I’d have to have an awful lot of it to get a lease.  In my case, around $50,000.

Once the hysterical laughter subsided and I picked myself back up off the floor, I realized they weren’t kidding and there’s no way I can do this.  I mean, really?  Fifty grand?  Ain’t gonna happen unless I win the lottery, and you can’t win if you don’t play.  So I’m out.

Now, the good news is that by waiting, I’ll be able to open the store at a better time, when the economy is stronger and I’m in a better position to make it all work.  I mean, there really isn’t any advantage to opening a store now.  Let’s be realistic.  Consumer spending is starting to come back up, but it’s still pretty darned low.  And the commercial real estate market isn’t like the residential market; all those empty buildings are not causing lessors to lower their rates.  So there wouldn’t be an upside to opening now anyways.

Still, it’s pretty disappointing for me to have to do a 180 on this, especially since I could have spent the past year improving and refining my presentation for market.  But you know, I’m still teaching, and I’m still offering classes and parties, and I’m still selling online.  And I’m not giving up, not by far.  Just going to focus on those aspects of the biz for now, and leave the store for later.

So it’s bad news.  But it’s better than opening the store in ignorance and failing miserably!

Another reason I love science

So last post I wrote about how great it is when you’re wrong.  Specifically, how great it is when you realize you’re wrong, and you figure out how to fix it so you’re right again.

After I wrote that, I got to thinking about why else I love science, which is the scientific community.  That’s right, all those nerds with pocket protectors and coke-bottle glasses with tape on them.  They’re my buds!

If you recall, it all starts with a question in your mind, which you answer with a hypothesis.  You then use that hypothesis to predict what will happen next, and if you’re right then it lends credence to your hypothesis.

This is where experimentation comes in.  So what does it take to create a good scientific experiment?  First, it has to be observable.  In other words, is has to be available to the senses of anybody who is interested.  For example, if I say that I can communicate telepathically with aliens and perform dozens of experiments in which I write down the contents of the telepathic conversations I have, my research will not be taken seriously.  (Note that this actually doesn’t prove I didn’t talk to aliens, it just means that I have no evidence.  Which is why the burden of proof is on the positive side of things.  You don’t have to prove I didn’t talk to them, you can just say, “That’s nice,” and get the hell out of Dodge.)

Second, it has to be repeatable.  I have to be able to perform the same experiment over and over again, and get the same results each time I perform it.  This ensures that the answer you got was not the result of an aberration.  In other words, repetition shows that you got a real result, not a fluke.

Third, it has to be controllable – you have to be able to change things about the experiment to figure out what’s really going on.  For example, you can hypothesize that the protective outer coating of a seed also makes it harder for the seed to sprout.  So you might plant a bunch of seeds that you’ve nicked to see if they sprout faster than intact ones.  In this experiment, you can plant some seeds that you nicked on the bottom, some that you nicked on the top, some that you nicked on the side or end, and some (a ‘control group’) that you didn’t nick at all.  This way, you get to observe how the different actions change the outcome, and you therefore learn even more.

(Keep in mind that this does not in any way discount the value of observational studies, where the hypothesis cannot be actively tested but can only be supported or disproved by observation.  In fact, there are many branches of science where observation is the only way to experiment.  Theories found by observation are no less true or trustworthy than those found by intentional and active experiments.  Even though some people like to think they are.  Ahem, climate change deniers…)

So what’s so incredibly cool about scientific experimentation?  Well, since the knowledge you get is gained from repeatable and observable and controllable actions, it’s accessible to everyone.  EVERYONE.

Yep, universal knowledge is real!  If I say XYZ is true, and this is how I found out about it, the skeptic in another city or state or on the other side of the world can perform the same experiment and see if I’m off my rocker.  And if it doesn’t work, than s/he can say, “This doesn’t work, I tried it.”  Then I can come back and ask if s/he controlled for ABC factor, or used UV protective glass, and why those would have affected the results.  So then my friendly little skeptic can try it again taking those factors into consideration, and suddenly ts/he says, “Holy crap, it does work!”

See?  It’s not that I was wrong, it’s that the methodology used was wrong.  But since all the details of my experiment can be compared to all the details of his/her experiment, we can compare notes and figure out why we got different results.  And then we find – THE TRUTH.

Hot damn, that’s fun!

Remember, if other ppl can’t verify your work, then you might as well not even do it.  Because science is at heart a peer-reviewed undertaking.  Medical and scientific journals?  That’s my pocket-protecting heroes’ way of saying, “Prove me wrong.”  If nobody can, then it really is right!  If somebody does…  Well I guess that’s the point we go back and figure out what went wrong, huh?

And as I wrote in my last post, that’s a good thing in and of itself.

Why I love science

Philosophy is divided into three categories: metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics.  I will briefly (and very imprecisely) define these as what is real, how we learn about it, and whether it’s good or bad.

Epistemology is basically the means by which you find and explore truth; the means you employ to find out about the world around you.  Personally I am an empiricist, which means different things to different people (Of course philosophy isn’t confusing, what makes you say that?) but to me it indicates an emphasis on observable reality as a means to find truth.  In other words, we learn what is in the world by observing it and interacting with it  So I’m more likely to believe what you tell me now if you’ve told me things in the past that turned out to be true.

I also put a lot of stock in science as a way to understand the world.  After all, one of the basic components of the scientific method is observation.  In fact, that’s how it all starts.  You observe a phenomenon and describe what you observe.  Then, you formulate a hypothesis to explain it – an idea that you *think* is the cause.  Third, you predict what else will happen if your hypothesis is correct, and last you perform experiments to test your hypothesis.  (Some people mistakenly equate a hypothesis with a theory; in fact, a theory is a hypothesis that has been tested many times and passed said tests.  Theories are much more certain than simple guesses.)

This method of learning about reality can be applied in an incredible variety of ways.  You can use it in your garden to figure out what flowers grow best; in your dating life to find out what potential romantic interests want; at work to get a promotion; and on your children to see what gets them to heed their curfew.

Of course, it isn’t always the best method of deciding on your next action.  You will probably want to consult a garden book, your wingman, an article about climbing the corporate ladder, a parenting class, or even just Dear Abby, first.  After all, why not try to learn from others’ mistakes and successes first?  At least then you might learn fewer things the hard way…

But sooner or later you say, “I wonder what would happen if,” and you can’t find the answer anywhere.  So you decide to figure it out for yourself.  You decide to try telling jokes as a way to break the ice with the ladies.  Girls enjoy a good laugh, right?  Make ’em chuckle and maybe they’ll accept a second date.

So you memorize a few jokes and head down to your favorite watering hole.  Sure enough, it works!  You leave that night with a pretty girl’s phone number and a date for next Friday.  Success!  The date goes great Friday – for a little while.  Halfway through the salad, the laughter becomes forced and she’s looking around the room instead of at you.  What went wrong?

This is one of my favorite parts of science.  That’s right!  My favorite thing about science is that it leaves room for you to be wrong.  Because you’re supposed to be wrong sometimes!

And that’s where the real learning comes in.  You excuse yourself from the table for a moment, go to the restroom and reflect a little.  Does she not like the jokes?  Did I offend her?  There’s no politics, no religion, no cursing.  (Okay, the one about the duck was a little blue, but that’s the one she laughed hardest at!)  Maybe she’s getting tired of the joking, maybe she wants to talk about something real.  Hmm, she has mentioned the decor of the restaurant three times.  And I think she’s some kind of art major.  Oh, I’ve been telling jokes all night, and monopolizing the conversation!  No wonder she looks bored!

So then the light goes on, and you revise your idea of telling jokes.  When you get back to the table, you ask her if she saw the sculpture by the entrance.  Her eyes light up and suddenly she’s interested again.  Success!

What have you done?  You have ERRED!!  Your knowledge that jokes are good and get you attention was incomplete, and you had to admit to yourself that your knowledge was not sufficient to explain the situation.  But good for you, you were able to adjust a proven belief (girls like funny guys) in the light of new evidence (just telling jokes is not enough to keep her interest) and change your understanding of reality to conform to what you observe.

Thus we see the beauty of science – when done correctly it is self-correcting.  Any time the evidence contradicts our understanding of the world, we must re-examine our understanding to take the evidence into account.  Our beliefs must conform to the world, not the other way around.

And that is one of the greatest strengths of science.  As long as you look at the world clearly, you will be able to find truth.  It may be difficult, it may be time-consuming, it may be frustrating.  But as it has been said, the truth is out there.

Websites, websites everywhere…

It’s amazing to me how much goes into setting up an apparently seamless social media array.  Twitter, Facebook, personal website, and throw in an Etsy shop and maybe even ArtFire, just for kicks.  What do you get?  One stressed out Mel!

But it’s (slowly) coming together.  I’m converting my Mel’s Bells Etsy shop over to just finished goods, and moving the supplies over to the brand new Bead and Bean shop.  I also set up my Bead and Bean website to automatically redirect to my Mel’s Bells site.  Because I’m lazy.  Or pressed for time.  I let you decide.

At any rate, I can now hand out my biz cards without worrying that someone will actually look me up.  Yeah, I did.  Damned shortsighted actions…

Next steps are 1. finish and distribute flyers for home parties (kids and adults), 2. hook up with churches and community centers to teach classes and do projects, and 3. set up a REAL website for B&B.

Actually the next step is to go to Tacoma and celebrate Tuck’s birthday.  But who’s really keeping track?