First exams and moose hunting

This week we had our first exams, one in physics and another one in mathematics. I found both easy and am confident that I did well. I also noticed that taking those exams and solving the problems was fun and that I enjoyed taking the exams and showing what I can do. Especially I enjoyed the moment when I was able to apply some theoretical ideas and concepts to solve this one problem, the answer of which would have otherwise eluded me. The task was to calculate the work done by a force when moving a given radial distance in the gravitational field induced by the force. The function for the potential energy was given (U(r)=Cr, where C is a constant), but I had trouble deciding whether the work would have a positive or negative sign. However, using the definition of a potential inducing, and thus conservative, force and that of work done by a force I was able to decide that the sign is negative.

The moose season started two weeks ago and last week we got our first two. The other one, a large bull, died in the middle of woods and with roughly ten men left we had no way of getting it out in one piece by hand. Luckily one of our party members had a tractor available so we didn’t have to cut the carcass to pieces in the woods. The day ended up lasting until 9 pm before I was back home, thirteen hours since I had left for the hunt. I enjoyed the day to the fullest and was happy to be chasing moose after a four-year pause.

You should write letters by hand

About a week ago I received a small parcel from Switzerland. The sports club, the treasurer of which I was for a year and a half, had sent me some gifts to thank me for my work. I found the gesture and the gifts in themselves very thoughtful, so I decided that writing and sending them a hand written thank you card was in order.

In the past years I have written a few cards or longer greetings to some close friends and have always found the whole process very pleasant. When writing a longer letter by hand, one in which you really put thought into, is a meditative experience. If one wants to avoid using any correction fluid and insists on also producing an aesthetically pleasing letter with straight lines and beautiful letters, it’s essential to fully concentrate on the task at hand. You must consciously make every stroke, cross each t and place the dots on each i with care. Try to read your e-mails on the side and you end up either missing a word, choosing the wrong one or producing a figure that remotely resembles some letter.

What I like about writing letters by hand is how it improves my ability to concentrate. In today’s world we tend to have shorter attention spans and jump constantly between things, spreading our attention to all direction without focusing on any single one. When writing a letter by hand, you must invest hours to produce a good result. The one and a half pages I wrote to my friends in Switzerland took maybe two hours to compose. Writing letter by hand also develops your thinking as you have to formulate and develop your thought to its full conclusion before putting it on paper; each error means that everything thus far must also be written anew to produce a flawless result. Of course you can write the text first on a computer where you can quickly edit your text and correct mistakes, but writing a hard copy requires a finished text to begin with.

Hand written letters are also personal since they contain the writer’s unique handwriting instead of some preset font designed by a third person. When the letter is finally finished, you have a very tangible result of your own work. Receiving hand written letters is also nice since you know that the person must mean what they say; otherwise they hardly would have invested the time.

I am not advocating that we should stop using electronic devices for producing text but I highly encourage and recommend writing the occasional letter to someone important. It takes more time but also develops your concentration and patience while also making you think what you want to say and how to say it.

Friends won’t forget

Yesterday I was at a friend’s housewarming party. Invited were a couple of dozen people. Many of the guests belonged to the same group that started studying industrial management at the university nearly ten years ago. When I entered the apartment with some friends, also from our class of industrial engineers, I was mildly amazed to see all the familiar faces. Having been abroad for so long I hadn’t kept contact with most of my friends at the university. Somehow I didn’t think that so many of them would be there, but apparently they have kept well in touch. Now I saw many of them for the first time in years, yet they had hardly changed at all: same young faces, each with their recognizable character and familiar voice.

Starting a discussion with each of my old study pals was easy, just as I hadn’t been away at all. The topics were various and centered around topics different than ten years ago, but the feeling was the same. I was happy to see them and they seemed glad to see me and hear the latest news. Those who weren’t yet aware of my starting studying physics congratulated me.

The evening was pleasant and I was happy to feel and also demonstrate from my side how camaraderie and friendships are hard to forget.