New distractions – Week 43

I have had a new distraction come into my life this week, and it is watching sailing videos on YouTube. To give some context, I have only been sailing once, and that was when I was a child. I have come to accept the fact that I am a fantasist; I often fantasise about living a life of leisure, no alarm, and no responsibility for anyone other than myself, and a life-long adventure.

This is why I have been living vicariously through people on YouTube who travel around the world doing whatever they feel like. The only barrier to entry for this fantastical life is money; either a means to make it whilst on your travels, or a sufficiently stocked investment portfolio that you can live of the dividends indefinitely. Usually, you reach both of the aforementioned states by the time you’re at retirement age; I am making a conscious effort to achieve both of these ASAP.

This month marks the one year anniversary since I started investing. I am well aware we are In one of the biggest bull markets in history, but this year, my portfolio returned me +15%. For those of you that don’t invest my money grew by 15%. By my calculations, based on the amount of money I have been investing, I can retire in 45 years! I was only putting in less than half than I could afford because I was scared. Since finding out how long it is going to take me to retire, I have redoubled my efforts. Anyway, that’s enough rambling for one week, if you want to understand my philosophy towards money, go here, here and here as gained all my knowledge from them, I also read this book.

I have spent a considerable amount of time this week trying to perfect a few graphs using a Python sub-package called matplotlib. It results in similar looking graphs to excel, but it is far more customisable and therefore, far more inconvenient. However, I have resolved to learn how to program, so I shall persevere no matter how perverse. After many lines of code, I achieved what I could have done in Excel in under twenty clicks. However, once the code is there, each following graph only takes seconds to produce, so at some point in the future, there will be a crossover point where this long-winded method of producing graphs will come good: I hope.

As my one-year report is due soon, I have been running around trying to organise equipment I need to collect data, so that I can have a horrible time right before the deadline writing about all of the data I have collected. In between me running around like a headless chicken, I have been writing my report and watching sailing videos.

Because of this looming deadline, I have dropped a lot of my hobbies, so that I can stress about my report for more hours per day. I find it hard to think and do anything else when I have deadlines, which is part of why I want to live a fantastical life of leisure. Why won’t people just let me do what I want and pay me unconditionally is that too much to ask?

I am very much looking forward to getting this report behind me and going back to being content with life; I expect you will see my mood towards my PhD decline at a fast rate for at least the next six weeks. Then it will bounce back up to baseline after that, and hold steady for a few years, then a significant period of depression when I have to hand in the final piece of work.

You reap what you sow – week 37 as a PhD student

The sweet, gentle, torture of having a week off of lab work; where instead, I try and write my literature review.

Writing is still my weakness. I am perfectly adept at filling a page with words that are vaguely related to the subject I am trying to write about. I still feel as if the thing I am trying to say is entirely lost from the piece; also, the section doesn’t flow well. I am confident I can fix the flow of it, but I am not sure I can figure out what I am trying to say.

One of the underlying issues is that with scientific, academic writing you need to have evidence for all the points you make for obvious reasons. However, I struggle with integrating the points I am trying to make into a coherent argument where all the points work together to make a piece. What I have just described is the source of my frustration this week; well, most of it anyway.

The other source of frustration is that it is proving a lot slower to get samples delivered than I thought it would be; I was expecting to make one phone call, and the samples would be on their way as this is what happened the previous time. Alas, this is not the case, this supplier is not so fast as the bureaucratic processes that were in place with the previous supplier are not developed. Therefore, I have to play the waiting game, and this creates some anxiety as I fell as if nothing happens soon my supervisor will be on my case.

Now that the happy stuff is out the way…

It was quite a nice week; on Tuesday we harvested all the rocket plants we planted two-weeks prior. It was backbreaking work again and the rest of the day was a write off once we got home. Although it was a nice change of pace, I will not be too worried if it doesn’t happen again.

For the rest of the week I was sat at home writing, and although I found it frustrating working from home has its charms. It is quiet, and I can manage my time how I want. This was the main draw of a PhD to me: the autonomy. It is nice to make lunch in my kitchen and nip out for a quick run whenever I reach a sticking point. It felt a lot like the earlier months of my PhD, And I hope that I have many more weeks like it. I expect next week will be the same.

Because I had been doing an awful lot of lab work in the previous month my reading has fallen behind, and next week I intend to finish A brief history of time by Stephen Hawking; I started it over a month ago, and it is a relatively short book. I was enjoying it, and as it was my second time of reading I was understanding the concepts a bit better than the first time.

One concept that fascinates me and I still don’t fully understand it time — I even wrote a post about it. For those of you who have never read any physics books you might think time is an easy concept, but in the eyes of relativity and the physical universe, it is very strange.

If anyone has any book recommendation, I would be glad to receive them as I need to get back on my reading train! Preferably non-fiction.

 

Descriptivism versus prescriptivism

Having relatively recently taken my learning of the English language seriously, I have come across the idea of descriptive versus prescriptive language.

I have always thought that as long as the intended message is sent, received and understood, the way in which this is achieved is irrelevant.

What is Prescriptive language? This is where the rules are predefined, and then we use and enforce the rules. Whenever anyone misspells a word or uses incorrect grammar, they are publicly shamed for the greater good.

Descriptive language Is where the powers that be listen to how language is being used and the rules change based on – as far as I can tell – popularity. This is why the word ‘hangry’ is now in the dictionary. The word ‘hangry’ is the joining of hungry and angry used to explain the negative emotion that ensues when you are hungry.

Prescriptivists, such as teachers and editors are hangry for ‘correct’ usage of the language.

As someone who has had my fair share of constructive comments on my manuscripts, I have become increasingly aware that, in academia at least, grammar and punctuation seem to be as important as the message. Which is why I have been forced to learn the rules. There are a lot of rules. Many of which I forget almost immediately after reading them.

I think that the ‘rules’ are much more important when you’re fresh to a topic. If you have context for the situation being described you often ignore any incongruous statements and arrive at the correct endpoint regardless.

Pls kp rdng ths pst.

I Imagine art would be a lot worse off if the prescriptivists had their way, think of how many new-fangled words Shakespeare invented. English has more than twice as many words as any of its closest rivals, although it absolutely dwarfed by Arabic which has twenty times as many words as English. Does have a greater choice of words make a language better? Presumably, we could be more efficient if we had fewer words.

I have come to appreciate the prescriptive approach to language as a technical exercise, being ‘correct’ is always fun. Especially when you’re getting roasted in a comment section and need an easy win.

Overall, both systems need to exist, and both systems do exist. One system deals with enforcing the rules and therefore societal cohesion through the language; the other tries to understand how the language is actually being used.

I am happy there are both grammar Nazi’s enforcing the rules and artists breaking them, it makes for interesting reading.

Still, I need to improve my understanding of the core principles that make up the language lest I make a faux pas in social situations. These days I am much more likely to be speaking with prescriptivists than descriptivists, especially at academic functions.

If I don’t do nothing, I may just understand all the rules at some point.