Kara Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

9 Articles from November 2008

  1. Math hermit

    With the first term nearing its end, here's a little review of my second year so far.

    That is the best way to describe how I spend most of my time now. With three math classes, I spend nine hours a week listening to math lectures. I have three assignments due each week, so I work on those in my time between school and work. Every second week until the middle of November, I went to a practice sessions for math competitions for an hour on Fridays. Even when I'm not doing my own math, I like to help other people with their math. I am living and breathing math.


    For those who don't understand how someone can be so excited about math, the best way I can describe it is like being closer to God. I don't necessarily believe in God, but I imagine that what I feel when I'm exploring mathematical concepts is the same feeling pious people get when they do whatever it is pious people do to feel closer to God. And math truly is the language of the universe. If God does exist, in one form or another, then understanding math…

    Read more…

  2. Mondays and Tuesdays are culture sinks

    Compared to the rest of the week, Monday and Tuesday play host to an inordinately large number of cultural attractions. Yes, there's Doctor Who on Friday nights and Smallville on Saturdays, but

    Ever since school began in September, I've been cooking dinner on Mondays to practise my rudimentary cooking skills. While preparing dinner, I like to listen to podcasts. This schedule works nicely, because The Vinyl Cafe podcast is up by Monday at the latest, and I prefer to listen to the podcast, as I can't catch it every Sunday; sometimes I'm at work. I love the on demand convenience of podcasts. In addition to Vinyl Cafe, there's a new podcast of Search Engine every Monday. Lastly, if I have any left over interviews from Spark's enhanced podcast feed, I'll listen to those. Occasionally I listen to an Ideas podcast, but not regularly.

    After dinner, my dad and I watch a couple of TV shows if we're both home. First there's Stargate Atlantis, then Chuck, and finally Heroes--sometimes we save Heroes for Tuesday if we don't have time to watch it. This week's episodes of Stargate Atlantis and Chuck were particularly awesome! I loved seeing Bill…

    Read more…

  3. Help me paint my bedroom!

    It's already been over a year since we moved into our new house. Since moving in, although I've been very happy with my room on the whole, I have wanted to do three things: get new curtains, get rid of the wallpaper, and paint the white walls.

    Classes end next week, and my exams are over by December 12, which gives me a nice break before the start of next term. This is a perfect opportunity to paint my room. I need to do it soon, too, because I've already run out of space to shelve my books--and once I put up more shelves, they are never coming down.

    Over the course of this year and a month, I've adjusted to the curtains. I asked one of my coworkers (who is an artist, so I figured she could suggest some good colours) what I should do with the room, and she said she liked the wallpaper. It's certainly not Mario wallpaper((For those of you who don't stalk me, I used to have Super Mario wallpaper on one wall of my room in my old house.)) ... but then again, if I don't tear it down, I only have to paint…

    Read more…

  4. Give your heart some less than three

    I have previously talked about how amazing I consider the human body, and my opinion hasn't changed. Yesterday, a 14-year-old girl finally left the hospital after living for four months on an artificial heart.

    This event reminded me how amazing the heart is. Your heart is the one muscle in your body that, if you are lucky, never takes a break for your entire life. It keeps pumping, whether you are awake or asleep. It works harder to get you up the stairs or to help you see a marathon through to the end. Yet some people--people who have healthy hearts free of unavoidable defects--reward this hard-working muscle with a megadose of calories and cholesterol in the form of unhealthy foods (particularly fast foods).

    I'm not trying to pontificate about the evils of fast food here. I love eating burgers! This is just a friendly reminder that, if you haven't thought about it lately, think about your heart now.

    Your heart is important! Love it, and it'll last just as long as you! (Which is kind of the idea.)

  5. Hate the hate

    For the second time this year, anti-gay group Westboro Baptist Church is planning to come to Canada to stage a protest, and people want to put a stop to it.

    Every time this sort of controversy comes up in the news, I have to stop and consider it carefully. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Section 2) guarantees us the following basic rights:

    • freedom of conscience and religion;
    • freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
    • freedom of peaceful assembly; and
    • freedom of association

    At the same time, however, we also have legislation in place to protect people from hate-crimes and hate-speech. So the question is, do anti-gay groups like the Westboro Baptist Church violate this anti-hate legislation? And regardless of this first question, are we violating their rights to freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, and freedom of association? Freedom of peaceful assembly is a separate issue--whether or not this group is "peaceful" is subject to debate altogether, and I would probably say that they are not.

    I like to pride myself in being open-minded enough to truly believe in free speech for everyone, even if I…

    Read more…

  6. Taking the initiative

    Back in June, my friend blogged about people showing off their Wikismarts to him. I envy him, because on the other side of the coin, there seems to be a plethora of people with zero initiative.

    You know who I'm talking about. The people who seem to have no filter in their brain and ask you every question that bubbles up to the murky surface of their minds, even if the current discussion has nothing to do with the question. These people regularly lurk on message boards and in IRC channels, just waiting to begin asking questions that would be better answered by a trip over to Wikipedia than waiting for someone else to prepare a (probably inaccurate) explanation.

    There's no excuse, really. Most browsers come with search forms built into the browser chrome itself. Even if not, Google (or one's favourite search engine) is a single page-load away. There is no excuse to derail an existing conversation by asking for someone to explain what the topic of the conversation is all about. Go find out, come back, and show off those Wikismarts.

    This isn't much more than a short rant. It just flusters me, because I applaud those…

    Read more…

  7. Never forget

    Today in Canada, as well as in many other countries around the world, we celebrate the end of World War I and remember those soldiers who gave their lives serving their countries. In Canada, we wear a poppy to show our respect for those who have fallen; the Royal Canadian Legion makes them available in return for small donations. It is of course associated with the Remembrance Day poem "In Flanders Fields" by Canadian soldier John McCrae, who served in World War I.

    World War I was known then as "the war to end all wars." Yeah ... uh, that didn't really work very well, did it? In fact, sometimes it feels like we have even more strife than ever. We learn about the two World Wars in school, study their causes and their aftermaths, but do we really learn from these wars? Do we take to heart their morals and stay firm in our resolve to never again lead the world over that terrible precipice? Sometimes, I have my doubts.

    I'm not very into nationalism. I'm proud of my country and proud to be Canadian, sure. But I have no intention of serving in our armed forces,…

    Read more…

  8. Stargate SG-1 seasons 9 and 10

    I'm sitting here, still full of endorphins after SNL's Presidential Bash, watching a rerun of Stargate SG-1--"Line in the Sand," one of the final nine episodes of the series. And watching it, I'm coming to this realization that I may have given the final two seasons of Stargate SG-1 shorter shrift than they deserve.

    I mean, yes, the storyline sucked and the themes were flimsy and transparent. The injection of two actors from Farscape as series regulars was suspicious and also somewhat funny. But let's back up for a moment. This is Stargate SG-1. It's always vacillated between the absurd realm of Farscape and the lecturing tones of Star Trek, erring to the side of humour wherever possible. That's what made it a great show. So to criticize the last two seasons on those grounds is rather hypocritical.

    So rather than criticizing the last two seasons and harping on how much they jumped the shark, here's a couple of things about seasons 9 and 10 (especially 10) that I love:

    t: Daniel and Vala. d: Need I say more? These two have great chemistry. Both Claudia Black and Ben Browder (more so Black than Browder, however)…

    Read more…

  9. An argument for immersion

    Lately Merlin Mann has been helping Spark listeners build their "Digital You." Implicit in this new series is the fact that technology is now an ingrained part of us--how we appear online is as important as how we dress in public. Your online presence, like your personality, can be diverse: open and inviting, cold and formal--whatever works for you and gets you the audience you want.

    The era of ubiquitous technology is upon us. Smartphones are getting smarter, the Internet is (at least in places other than Canada!) getting faster. And thanks to this ubiquity, we can always be connected.

    Often people claim, however, that disconnecting is the best way to improve productivity. Close all those email programs; close the chat program; don't go on Facebook; don't update Twitter. Multitasking, after all, makes us lose focus and be less productive, right?

    Those people are right. When it's possible for anyone to reach you, anywhere, at any time, you've become too connected. I love technology, and I love the Internet, but there is a point at which immersion makes it harder to sit down and focus--or even just relax.

    But I said that this was an argument for immersion, so here…

    Read more…