The Post About Frozen

So I finally watched Frozen. A lot of the delay had to do with my frustration with its most familiar song, “Let It Go”. Now, I’d been told not to judge the movie on the basis of that song, and my knee-jerk reaction upon actually seeing the movie is that the song is acceptable in context and that it’s a brilliant movie. On the other hand, despite it’s placement in the movie, the popularity of the song brings to light some problematic values which the movie dealt with and which the movie-going public has completely ignored.

Firstly, my initial problem with “Let It Go” is that it’s a rebellion song. (Anyone who disagrees needs to deal with “No right, no wrong, no rules for me/I’m free!”.) The movie deals with this by giving Elsa if not strictly a “good” reason to rebel, certainly a sympathetic reason. When Elsa finally caves to the incredible pressure of her isolation, loneliness, and anger, leaving her responsibilities as queen, the audience wants her to escape. However, this ultimately leads to the dawn of an eternal (or however long Elsa lives) winter of suffering that even Elsa cannot control. Unfortunately, this is not recognized in popular use, as the song functions more as a statement of “I’m going off to do whatever I want” rather than, “I’m trying to leave my issues behind.” The emphasis is on the injury rather than on healthy ways of healing. Parental restrictions *can’t* be what all these people are singing about, can they?

(c) Disney, etc. etc.

(c) Disney, etc. etc.

Looking more closely, however, Elsa was not required to seclude herself as she did. Even had her parents forbid her to speak to Anna, which was suggested but not made explicit, Elsa would have had ample opportunity to throw off the bonds of seclusion after her parents died. She didn’t. This suggests that her restrictions depended largely upon fear, and were largely self-made. Now, one could argue that her parents’ past restrictions and fear of hurting Anna still bound her. Having been a sister, I certainly appreciate the difficulty of opening up to an impossibly inquisitive little sister. But then the song becomes about Elsa’s own pride and fear, and the rest of the movie becomes about being so lost in self-pity that one can’t see the outside world. I can certainly relate to that.

You know who’s less relatable? Anna, the main character. I know that a lot of people *do* relate to Anna. As a younger sister, I find that understandable. Anna is less relateable overall because she spends the bulk of the movie in increasingly fantastical chase scenes which prevent extensive character development development. Where her character is developed Anna is essentially a weaker reflection of Elsa.  Both sisters are excited about gaining their freedom (opening the gates, on the mountain), both do stupid things with it (getting engaged, moping about an ice castle), and the movie can’t move on until they get past their expectations (rescuing Elsa rather than having Elsa or Hans fix the problem, only controlling snow). 

The real point of the movie is that we build emotional prisons for ourselves, and without outside help, we can’t escape them. For Anna, this was the need for validation from a guy: validation she eventually found from both *another* guy and her sister *after* she stopped trying to find validation and acted sacrificially. Elsa, on the other hand, trapped herself in her room even after her parents were gone and then in an ice castle because she couldn’t control her emotions. Of course, in the end it turned out that she just needed to think about how much she loved her little sister as she did her magic. So, Frozen is a brilliant movie for several reasons, and “Let It Go” is an important song, but it’s a song about a mental prison: wouldn’t a song about love make more sense in the context of the movie?

As a side note: where on earth were the trolls during Elsa’s childhood? Maybe the king should have asked for their advice more often as Elsa’s control over her powers slipped.

Grad School Decision

In my last semester at college, blogging has not come easily. Last semester, my library class enforced a (sort of)  blogging regimen, but for the last month I have been visiting and researching graduate schools in addition to my courseload. Even with so many new experiences, I still don’t feel like blogging. I feel worn out. Unmotivated. And, oddly enough, peaceful.

I finally made my graduate school decision. I spent a lot of time arguing with myself about rankings and locations. But in reality, I was splitting hairs to mask my fear of the location and the future and my slight discomfort with the fact I “felt at home in” a place I don’t really “feel at home in”. This despite the fact that I feel at peace with my decision. I’m going to Yale! The future awaits! Why am I still so tired? But I’m better with poetry right now.

Grace Enough Yale Stonework

At the end of each day
May I find grace to say
It is over, through, done
By God’s grace we have won

Perhaps we failed to find
An ending silver-lined
Perhaps we failed to do
Things we know we ought to

Yet in the end each day
I know a better way
No complaints or regrets
Peace though I don’t forget

Tomorrow comes apace
A dogged slavish race
Though the labor is tough
He has given grace enough

Weakness

*Possible spoilers for Hulk, The Avengers, Iron Man, and Captain America below*

Sometimes the things which hurt us the most are also potentially our greatest sources of strength. Take the Hulk. He has an anger/pulse management problem. Unfortunately, for most of his namesake movie, he doesn't actually deal with it. He gets a wrist pulse meter and spends the rest of the movie trying to avoid fighting anyone. In the Avengers, he doesn't do much better. However, toward the end of the movie reveals that in order to control his powers he is always angry. Yes, yes, he is. But, as witness the scene where he loses control and attempts to kill everyone, this is not the ideal solution. Did he never consider learning how not to get angry, or even how to control himself when he *is* a hulking green rage monster? (This also leads me to question whether becoming a green giant actually makes him angry if what triggered it was an elevated pulse due to physical activity and what the ramifications of that are–but that is neither here nor there)

In almost every superhero movie, the protagonist faces a villain which he can only defeat by subjugating a part of himself. (Or, perhaps, in the "course* of defeating the villain, he subjugates a part of himself.) For example, after his abduction, Tony Stark loses some of his narcissistic flair (huge guns, girls, etc.) that made him such a huge society figure, but it is only because he has such tremendous self confidence (and pride) that he *can* play the role of Iron Man. Captain America, on the other hand, loses some of his willingness to be a perfect artificial representation of truth, justice, and the American Way in an acting troupe in order to be an imperfect real representation of these things.

Weakness is just unrefined strength. For example, I am rather insecure about my skills as an organic chemist. But the fact that I care speaks volumes. It would be a true weakness if I was neither aware nor cared. But, because effort is the first step toward greatness, it is not true weakness. Since the end of the school year, I went through a brief period of mild depression. It was terrifying to watch myself, not because I was sad, but because I did not actually care. A year ago, I would probably have said that my greatest weakness was emotion. Indeed, emotional outbursts are not mature and they have delayed some of my important homework, but how beautiful it is to actually care! I have missed being able to sympathize and to write, and missed the natural instinct to treat people with respect. So no, emotion is not a true weakness; it is simply another unrefined strength which may, like the Hulk sometimes destroy things.

'But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.'–II Corinthians 12:9

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Simplicity: 4077

I don’t dress up much. This has been exacerbated (I love that word.) by my discovery that I can wear loose-fitting men’s clothing. Nevertheless, I had the need to dress up impressed on me by a summer internship at Princeton and by my mother. So I made a Nice Shirt. Then I made two more. I shall probably make more before June rolls around, but here are my impressions of Simplicity 4077.

Overview

The shirt is overwhelmingly “cute”. It is a nicely fitting shirt and works best if one is not well-endowed in front. I like this pattern a lot because the construction is very intuitive. Many patterns use a combined collar and front facing piece that is both complicated to cut and sew and uses a lot of cloth. This pattern has separate facing and collar pieces, and construction is straightforward. I lengthened the pattern a good three inches at the bottom on my second and fourth renditions of the pattern, and two and a half inches the second time I made it. (I made it the first time last summer and don’t remember how much length I gave it then). Overall, then, this is a quick and pretty shirt.

Darts

It is really hard to make the darts stop at the right place if one starts the seam from the bottom of the shirt. Often the left and right darts aren’t the same length, and they have to be fixed. The shirt actually looks better on me when I make the darts longer. (I did this on shirts 2 and 3.) To guarantee the darts are the same length, start at the top.

Sleeves

The elbow-length sleeve in view D looks really pretty. It’s kind of uncomfortable. The cuff is easy to attach: just one seam.  However, single seam allows the cuff to flap around a bit. The gathers on the short sleeve in view E are supposed to be just on top, as in shirts 1, 3, and 4 and make the sleeve really poofy. The sleeve is more floaty if there are some gathers on the side, as in shirt 2. In shirt 3, I lengthened the sleeve in view E by three inches, but I’m not sure if I like the look very much.

Collar

The collar is too long for the neck edge and continues past the beginning of the facing where it is supposed to stop–and it’s a good thing. In shirt 1 and 3, I made the collar fit to the beginning of the facing, and there is a gap between the ends of the collar. In shirts 2, and 4, I initially basted across in the inside facing, and then rip-stitched, and sewed the collar between the facing and the shirt. Where the facing ended, I cut the seam allowance so it would fold up into the collar, folded the inside edge of the collar over it, and top-stitched as  in pattern instructions.

Now having made the pattern four times, I moved on to other things.

All pictures taken with a Canon PowerShot IE, using mostly the same model. 

The 4th Dimension, God, and Buckaroo Banzai

In The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension!, the hero drives his amazing rocket car into the eighth dimension, through a mountain, and  re-materializes on the other side. The titular character (physicist, neurosurgeon, race car driver, and rock star) explains that he didn’t actually drive through the mountain. He drove onto another plane. For all the faux science-speak the movie has, it holds a grain of truth. Even if the magical machine really worked, he *didn’t* drive through the mountain. He drove around it.

Every dimension is at right angles to all the ones before it. The y-axis  makes a 90 degree angle with the x-axis in the 1st dimension, and the z-axis makes 90 degree angles with the x and y axises. So the 4th dimension must also be at right angles to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd dimensions. But what on earth does this look like?

Being In Two Places at Once

The 4th dimension is the only place  in which we can have two 3-D objects at the same point in 3-D space. In the 0th dimension, there can only be a point, but in the 1st dimension there can be an infinite number of points, forming a line. In the 2nd dimension, there can be an infinite number of lines, forming a long rectangle. In the 2nd dimension, there can be an infinite number of squares, forming a tunnel. In the 4th dimension you can somehow have an infinite chain of tunnels. So, in effect, the 4th dimension contains an infinite number of alternate worlds.

It’s pretty universally agreed that time is the 4th dimension. Normally, we move along time like a point on the number line or a square in a square tunnel. If 4th dimension is time, than 3-D beings can move through any point of  time, just as a point can move forward or backward on a number line in the 1st dimension, a line can move forward or backward on an elongated rectangle in the 2nd dimension, or a square can move forward or backward in a tunnel in the 3rd dimension (as long as nothing gets in the way).

Furthermore, if a line can contain an infinite number of points, a square an infinite number of lines, a cube an infinite number of squares, and the 4th dimension an infinite number of worlds, than someone in the 4th dimension can be in two places at the exact same time, just as a line can have two different points.

Not Seeing Everything

This brings up a fascinating point. Each higher dimension can only “see” in lower dimensions and guess the existence of their own dimension. However, each higher dimension can see inside lower dimensions. A point in the 0th dimension can see nothing. A line in the 1st dimension x-axis can see only a point in the 0th dimension. A square in the 2nd dimension x-y plane can only see a line in the 1st dimension, but it can see the middle of a line, which the line cannot. A cube in the 3rd dimension x,y,z can only see shapes in the 2nd dimension. This is why we use paper instead of  cubes. We see one side of the cube. We feel the other sides. We cannot read both sides of the paper at once. Someone in the 4th dimension can actually see inside 3-D objects, but even he can only see his fellow man in terms of the 3rd dimension.

Having More than One Facet

When a higher dimension encounters a lower dimension, the effects are very weird. If a 2-D circle passed through a 1-D plane, first a short line would intersect, than the lines would grow longer and longer until the middle of the circle was reached and the lines grew smaller and smaller until they vanished. A 3-D circle passing through a flat 2-D paper would start out as a dot and grow into a larger and larger circle until it began to shrink again. A person from the 4th dimension who carried his entire life with him would intersect the 3-D plane as a baby, and grow and grow until he reached adulthood, at which point he would begin to shrink until he finally died, but the rate at which this happened would depend on how fast he was moving through time.

Implications

I think the implication here is people don’t belong in the 3rd dimension. We’re stuck here. We have 4th dimensional quantities, such as time, although we’re stuck at a certain age rate. Yet, I’m not sure time travel the way we try to invent it is possible. Never mind Doctor Who, there would be some very wonky results, such as a person living out their entire life in both medieval France and modern Germany.

The 4th dimension explains how God is omnipresent: someone in the 4th dimension can be two places at once. It explains how he is omniscient: he can see the inside of us, of our minds. It explains how God is undying: He’s a time traveler, and time traveling involves being able to move between times with your entire life. It explains how some people can sense God: we cannot see all three dimensions, but we infer that they are there. Likewise, we cannot see or touch time, but we can infer its presence. Similarly, sometimes, we can infer God.

I am not arguing that God is confined to the 4th dimension. (Even higher dimensions have similar properties with added benefits, but God doesn’t have to confine Himself like that.) I am arguing that if math makes room for a combined physicist, neurosurgeon, race car driver, and rock star, then math can make room for God.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal ~1Corinthians 4:18

For another look at the dimensions see Imagining the Tenth Dimension.

Reference: Flatland by Edward Abbott Abbott

Everyone on the Sidewalk is Stalking Me

It takes a certain art to pass people on the sidewalk. I don’t quite have it.

If I am passing someone from behind, which happens often because I walk quickly, I have two options. The first is to awkwardly push past or walk around on the grass. The second is to dramatically slow my pace and wonder how a single person can occupy the entirety of a sidewalk where three can walk abreast–and whether this might have something to do with the fourth dimension–and whether I might to enter the fourth dimension in order to get around them. No matter how far behind I walk, this usually leads to anxious glances behind at me and my grinning and looking harmless. “No, no, I’m not a creepy stalker.” From here, we usually continue until our paths deviate, they slow down to the point at which I have to pass them, or they stop taking up the entire sidewalk.

I have fewer options if I’m passing someone going the opposite direction, but at least they do not make me feel like a creepy stalker. On the contrary, I fear that these people are creepy stalkers. Strange males have a habit of making eye-contact at the last possible second. But they do not make friendly eye-contact, accompanied by a smile; they make weird, sustained eye-contact. It is the sort of eye-contact one would expect from a certain vampire who liked girls, but also wanted to drink their blood–or from Gollum. So I have to invent new strategies. My flatmate and her friend agree that I walk with my head down, as if examining the nuances of the pavement ecosystem. Frankly, I think everyone should do this. Tree roots are fascinating–fascinating enough to lure me in front of on-coming cars. I’ve also tried walking looking up at the trees, but that makes it hard for me to make eye-contact when I’m actually making conversation. I also bump into people.

So if you hear someone behind you, and look back but cannot make eye contact, that is probably me. Worry not, I’m not a stalker, just someone contemplating the physics of passing.

Scarce Resources

Public education is like a gigantic sponge. Classes soak up free time, but don’t use it efficiently. However, professors make allowances for people who come to class. This semester, I am increasingly facing the dilemma: How do I best use the time left over?

On average, I’m busy from when I wake up at 8:00 or 8:30 until the time I finally stagger back to the apartment after noon. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, I don’t get free until 3:00, or even 5:00. This means I have seven to twelve hours to absorb all the information I need to learn. It sounds like a lot, but I have to use that time to do everything else besides studying. On average, I lose two hours to eating and washing up, at the very least. Then there’s two hours used to de-stress, because you can’t study for more than three or four hours without coming up for air or going some weird kind of insane. That’s four hours right there, and I have plenty more distractions and obligations to prevent me from doing any sort of work.

So I’ve developed a quick list of ways I try to stay on target, and, hopefully, efficient.

  • Multitask within reason. As I mentioned in the Ranks of Lazy, it’s really easy to lose track of time when eating and surfing the web, so be careful. In addition, I try to limit the number of tabs I keep open. I’m really bad about building mountain ranges up there, but I’ve found that if I focus on one thing, and only one thing, out of a list, things get done faster.
  • Minimize down time. One exception to the multitasking rule is working while waiting for something to finish. For example, I work in a lab where we have to wait ten minutes for the machine to settle down and give us good data on our sample. It’s a prime time to read and do homework. Similarly, my hour between classes isn’t nearly enough time to go back to the apartment, for a relaxed lunch, so I use it to work on problems.
  • Take time to de-stress. See above. Too much school induces mental illness, but don’t let yourself get carried away with the breaks. The best use for breaks I’ve found is talking to God. Music also helps when it feels like everything has gone off kilter.
  • Punch in. Write a schedule throughout the day, listing everything you do, including starting and stopping times. My dad introduced this concept in middle school when he wanted to make sure I stayed on task. I find it makes me consciously think about what I’m spending time on. It’s also a pain in the neck to add starting and stopping times so oftentimes, my laziness will force me to continue working on school rather than bother to update the list. This won’t work for everyone, but it’s worth a shot.
  • Work the problems first. As soon as possible, start working on the homework associated with classes. Not only will this give you as sense of accomplishment, and help alleviate deadline stress, but it will also boost confidence, build skill. Obviously, you should take time to read the textbook before doing problems, but as soon as you finish a section, flip to the problems on that section. This routine keeps things interesting and helps cement concepts before they escape…into the mountains.
  • Write summaries. I am very forgetful, so I outline the definitions and equations. I also write summaries for a future me who has the intelligence of a fifth-grader. The notebooks and binders containing these things are some of my most cherished tools: maybe I’ve forgotten how to speak Spanish–but I past me can remind present me exactly how I learned it in the first place.
  • If possible, link ideas. For example, time management is a giant metaphor for economics. Just as there are limited resources, and specialization makes the most efficient use of these resources, time is limited, and people should look into not only how much time they spend on school, but whether that time was spent productively. The ironic thing is, the more time  or resources spent on a task, the less productive that time or those resources tend to be–a principle known as decreasing marginal benefit.
I’ve also been reading several blogs on productivity and learning. These include
I borrowed a few ideas. I hope they don’t mind. 😉

Finally,

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil.”–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring