Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Freshman Journal 1.2.11

Strings of Time Concert is this Sunday, 7:30pm.

Things have stopped being what they seem to be when it came to continuity of functions: After a very convincing proof that Thomae's popcorn function is indeed continuous on all irrational points and discontinuous on all rational points, I am still not convinced to the guts that it is really so. Seriously, look at this guy

Differential Equations and Linear Algebra
Was the first in my 6 courses to wrap up. I'd be glad to pick up MA3220 as a more rigorous continuation of this theme in the indefinite future when I would feel like a risky challenge again.

Engineering Physics II
We're at quantum physics. Not too tough a nut to crack. Weird as it is, the subject is after all something we grew up with.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Tipps für Sprachtraining

A couple of coursemates asked me this earlier, and so I compile a list of all the desperate measures I have taken in learning German. No, I have never learned German before, and I have never even touched the language save one or two swearwords. So maybe this list would help aspiring upstarts in this new language to find a foothold. Also,

1. Label everything about the house with colour-coded cards (I use blue for Maskulinum, pink for Femininum and purple for Neutrum). Walk around when slacking and note each label passively every time you pass by them. It is best if they are put in as conspicuous a place as possible. This makes your life easier and gives you something to show off to guests.

2. Because not everything can be labeled, rewrite new vocabulary into a notebook and classify by nouns / verbs / adverbs / prepositions. Take special care to divide nouns by the three genders, and better still to subdivide them again: for this task, I use this scheme of classification:
i. Abstract concepts
ii. Mensural quantities
iii. Places and collectives
iv. Objects

3. Speak in a bastard pidgin of German and whatever languages you know already. This is arguably easier for Singaporeans who have been doing language syncretism all their lives. The idea is to feel a sense of ownership towards German.

4. Do your tutorials in German for subjects other than German. The ideal subjects to do this in would be Mathematics and Physics (more logic than number of scientific terms) so you can learn a minimum of German specialist terms and proceed confidently from there. Again, this is more for growing into the language than anything else.

5. Specialist terms: You might have come across a few German words as you read through class notes, novels, textbooks, etc. In that case, remember them and do not let them go! Many such terms have since been borrowed into English. Some examples:
Gedankenexperiment - thought experiment (usually used in Physics)
Schadenfreude - happiness derived from someone else's misfortune
Gestalt - The "thingness" of a group of things (usually used to sound smart)
Gesamtkunstwerk - total work of art (Art)
Sprachbund - group of superficially similar languages (Linguistics)
Urheimat - original homeland of speakers of a particular language family (Linguistics)
Weltschmerz - a feeling of despair about the world (Literary Criticism)
Urtext - musical scores as written by the composer (Music)

6. Learn from cognates: Using a little bit of imagination, link German words to their English correspondent. e.g.
die Rechnung - the "reckoning" (= calculation) - the (restaurant) bill
jetzt - "yet" - now

If you are feeling adventurous, rope more languages into the game:
das Fenster - fenestra (Latin) - window
warum - värfor (Swedish) - wherefore (early modern English) - why
kennen - ken (Scots) - to know

These may or may not be true cognates, but anything goes if it works as a memory aid!


Additional possible tip for verb conjugation: You might have noticed a pattern in the verb conjugation tables: some irregular verbs may not be so irregular after all! As it seems, some verbs actually fall into another category i.e. those with a change of pronunciation when applied to (du) and (er/sie/es). This pronunciation shift is called an ablaut (German linguistics term again!) and so we term these verbs "ablaut-regular"

eg 1: (wir/sie) nehmen - (du) nimmst - (er/sie/es) nimmt - (ihr) nehmt
ablaut: e to i
eg 2: (wir/sie) schlafen - (du) schläfst - (er/sie/es) schläft - (ihr) schlaft
ablaut: a to ä

note that the ablaut tends to be from a "broader" vowel to a "narrower" one
note also that there is no ablaut when (ihr) is concerned.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Freshman Journal 1.2.7

I. Recess Week
Wonderful seven days of mug marathon with Zhang Hao, Lin Xi, Bartle & Sherbet, Young & Freedman, and Farlow et al. all around school. Also featured were good food from Blooie's at Science Park and spectacular artistry from Dance Synergy (Tuesday) and Bubble Tea (Friday).

The NUS Science/Medical Library is a truly underrated destination in the school. Serious muggers should study there. In fact all engineers should shun Central Library and just come to study there instead, although on second thoughts that might not work out so well.

Another underrated place is the Music Library, for its cleanliness, quietness, and shelves after shelves of bundled-up Awesome.

II. Test Summary
Time spent on Analysis in Recess Week: ~2 out of 7 days
Test was on Monday. Proceedings were beautiful and clean-cut; you know how well you've done as soon as you hand the paper in, although I'm not sure if 70% is a good grade in this module.

Differential Equations
Time spent on DEs in Recess Week: ~5 out of 7 days
Returned score: 6/10
Outcome: Anguish, heartbreak, wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Electrical Engineering
Time spent on EE in Recess Week: ~0 out of 7 days
No problem on this one... Again, I see the disconcerting inverse relationship between effort and results.

Time spent on E&M in Recess Week: ~1 out of 7 days, but progress is largely made on panicking last-minute revisions during term time.
Outcome: probably better than maths.

Programming Don't even mention this psychopathic mid-term.

Think about what C can be like!