A missing 20%

Having just been reading some of the mark sheets for my final year project, I have come across an interesting mark scheme. I had naively assumed the mark which I received would be somewhere in the range 0-100% (inclusive). While this is true, I have found it is impossible to score outside of the (again inclusive) range 15-95%. And there was I thinking that daft marking procedures were left behind at school to be replaced by sensible people at university. Apparently not.

A type of touch

I came back to university on Saturday and the wireless keyboard I use on my computer died soon after I started using it. I assumed that the batteries were flat, but that soon turned out not to be the case. I took it apart to check for loose wires and the like, but (as expected) couldn’t find the problem. I finished off what I was doing using the windows on-screen keyboard and dealt with emails from my mobile phone. The keyboard now lies dead next to my desk waiting to be thrown out (I’m not just being lazy, the outside bin is full and the second bin is the other side of lots of snow).

The keyboard is dead.

Long live the keyboard!

It wasn’t realistic for me to work without a keyboard, so I purchased one pronto and it arrived on Monday. It’s an ergonomic keyboard, which serves to highlight that I can’t type properly. I can manage a reasonable speed, but I’m still really just a two finger typist (though depending on where the key I want is I might use any finger or thumb).

Touch typing is virtually always faster than typing like I do, but it takes time and effort to learn. As I googled for a website that would teach me I came across one which also listed some extra benefits I’d not previously considered. Touch typing is more efficient once you’re proficient at it, because you can have confidence that what you type is the same as what you mean to type. This allows you to avoid wasting time looking at the keyboard or screen when typing something from a paper document, and means you don’t have to break your train of thought if you’re authoring the content as you type. The typing should not only be fast, but accurate.

Typing tests take both into account, measuring speed (measured in words per minute, wpm, in which a ‘word’ is defined as 5 key presses) and accuracy (reporting the number of mistakes). Using my usual typing style I took a typing test and was asked to type this:

“My name is O’Kelly, I’ve heard the Revelly From Birr to Bareilly, from Leeds to Lahore, Hong-Kong and Peshawur, Lucknow and Etawah, And fifty-five more all endin’ in “pore”. Black Death and his quickness, the depth and the thickness, Of sorrow and sickness I’ve known on my way, But I’m old and I’m nervis, I’m cast from the Service, And all I deserve is a shillin’ a day. Shillin’ a day, Bloomin’ good pay, Lucky to touch it, a shillin’ a day!”

My result was 53wpm, with 3 mistakes (though I could only find one, even though they were highlighted in bold – two looked to me like they were identical to the desired words!). The challenge now is to invest the effort to learn to touch type and see how much I can improve.

But Tim strengthened himself in the Lord

Yesterday was a depressing day. I had hoped to spend about 5 hours spread throughout the day working on one assignment, a report into “the architectures of humanoid robot systems”. I didn’t spend all that time working, but I did use most of it. By the time I went to bed, however, I hadn’t made any significant progress towards writing the report. I was already behind my schedule for work on that assignment, and the situation certainly wasn’t improved by a few hours of apparently finding nothing useful in my research. My feelings were quite nicely summed up by what a friend posted on facebook that evening (albeit for very different reasons to me):

“I didn’t get anywhere near the amount of work done I wanted to do today and I really can’t be bothered to do anymore now!”

It felt so unjust that I should spend to much time working, yet produce no useful output. That single assignment has frustrated me incredibly, and it is set by a lecturer who set a piece of work last year that I was forced to accept a mark of zero for because I was completely unable to do it. I felt miserable and didn’t know where to turn for help.

This morning in my daily Bible reading I came across 1 Samuel 30:6. David, not yet king of Israel, had been away from home fighting and returned home to discover the whole town had been burnt down, and all the women and children had been taken captive. As his troops rounded on him and threatened to stone him, we read

“David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.”

Is this not an immense privilege that Christians have? Regardless of circumstances, we have a God who is the almighty Lord of everything! We come to Him united with Christ and can be sure He will never turn us away. An email I was sent within the last week contained Psalm 55:22, which reads

“Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you;  He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.”

Once again I have the privilege of testifying this to be true, as the Lord did graciously strengthen me to renew my fellowship with Him. Why did I worry about my work? The Lord has control of all things, and I am His child.

An early holiday?

I live in a house with five friends. From the six of us, there will be three of us in the house for the next few days. One housemate has gone home, one is going to his girlfriend’s house and one has gone with his girlfriend to visit his extended family. It’s contributing to the feeling that it is in fact the end of term, and my calendars are lying to me. It can’t only be week five of ten; the term must be more than half way through!

Having one (easy) exam left means I’m relaxed about uni work. Having months before freshers arrive means I’m relaxed about freshers’ week. Having rediscovered the joys of Prince of Persia means I’m relaxed about my use of time. But too much relaxation is probably not a brilliant way of living. As a human I’m supposed to live a six-day working week. I’m probably doing about one day’s work each week at the moment.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that rest is wrong. I believe that resting is just as important as working. But that doesn’t mean it should take up as much time. The term is, in fact, far from over. I have to revise for the exam and commit it to God in prayer. I have to select my modules for next year, and pick a project to work on. Then I have to work on it! I have to organise freshers’ week before CU members start going home and become difficult to contact. I want to learn passages of scripture. I want to clarify my opinions towards various controversial beliefs. I want to write a  study of some of the shorter books in the Bible. This isn’t a sympathy plea, or an attempt to show you how difficult my life is. I love my life! But when you see me around, check if I’m making good use of my time. At the top of my to-do list are three things which have been at the top for quite a while:

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)

And just to keep everyone relaxed, an introduction to Apple’s latest product, the MacBook Wheel.

The joys of hard work

In recent weeks I’ve had a lot on my plate. I am continually amazed by how much work is generated by being on the committee of a Christian Union. I still don’t know what causes it all – it seems to be a continual supply of one-offs provided by God to encourage me to rely more on His all sustaining grace.

It’s incredibly tempting at times to feel resentful of the amount of responsibility I have. Not only do I have a to-do list as long as Lee’s hair, but I’m also meant to find time to pray for God’s blessing on it all? Ridiculous!

As I sat listening to Ludovico Einaudi and preparing a Bible study for the RUCU committee meeting last week I was struck by the joy of salvation, and the privilege of serving God. I’d chosen to look at Psalm 116, which is well worth a read any day of the year. The Psalmist speaks about his salvation, and his gratitude shines through in each sentence before he turns his attention to serving and worshipping God. Having written about this joyous subject, the Psalmist ends in the only way he knows how – “Praise the Lord!”

Suddenly giving up a few hours of revision time doesn’t seem so bad. The same God who raised Jesus from the dead and has given me new life is sustaining me and enabling me to work for Him! I can work hard for God’s glory in God’s power! I know God expects me to give my whole life to Him, but He expects no more. God wants 100% from me – but not 110%! He doesn’t want me to do more than He has enabled me to do. God has called me to work hard for His glory, and to trust Him with the results of it. This applies to revision, organising CU events, doing housework, talking to friends, and everything inbetween!

I don’t expect my struggles to disappear. I don’t expect to be able to get the balance between working for my degree, serving the CU and spending time with friends right. I don’t expect to know how much time to spend relaxing. But I do expect God to help me learn. I do expect God to bless the work I do for Him. Most of all, I do expect God to glorify Himself through me. And no other thought has made me appreciate my work so much!

Further reading: