This morning was so awesome. Kristina came over with a stack of surveys, a spreadsheet full of data, and no idea what to do with it. Bliss! I calculated like a fiend, transposed rows and columns like a mad man, and created graphs like there was no tomorrow. I even pulled out the special numerical keypad that I bought on the cheap here for intensive data-entry sessions when I return to my life as an engineering student. It works like a charm, by the way.
Her thesis is on body image in Chinese and Western females and the results of her survey (questions answered by 50 women from each group) are very interesting. There’s a ton of data to look at – height, weight, BMI, body dissatisfaction, eating habits, sources of pressure, etc. Double bar graphs, stacked bar graphs, scatter plots, and pie charts – long time no see! I’ve missed you.
I really enjoyed working with Kristina on this. I knew it was a big help to her, but I also enjoyed seeing the results of her work – especially unfolding before us in real time! I’m also a ridiculous graph snob, so I know I’ll sleep a little bit better tonight knowing I saved the world from one more poorly-labeled, confusing graph (or worse! The main precedent Kristina’s been following used tables almost exclusively; it made me feel unwell just looking at her report). I think I like math and science, how they’re built on such simple foundations but can be combined and derived into such complex and amazing things, but I think I’m just as passionate about communicating. The best inventions, the most innovative conclusions, and the most promising proposals are nothing if no one understands them, and sometimes I see my calling in that. Organizing data into an accessible form is just one manifestation, albeit one that brings me great pleasure.
The afternoon was also awesome. After asking around last week, I found out that Dorothy, a Filipina woman from church, has an oven and allowed me to come over and bake. I made two batches of my family’s special Sour Cream Chocolate Cake (substituting yogurt for sour cream, which is nonexistent in China) for the planned double-birthday celebrations tomorrow. I haven’t seen a 13×9 pan in 7 months, so I ended up making 4 medium round cakes and three tiny cakes. I hope it’s enough!
Today, as my calendar reminds me, is the 26th of March – my 7-month anniversary. It hasn’t seemed that long since the big 6-month mark, but looking back through my journal (which is, after all, why I keep it), a lot has happened: We started classes again – 二年下 for me, plus two challenging optional courses. I spent two weeks visiting Lester in the hospital, and along the way became much closer to him and to a few of our mutual Chinese friends. I learned and have nearly memorized the main texts of Night Prayer, which I now pray in a comfortable combination of English, Chinese, Spanish, and Latin. I lucked out in stumbling upon a few things I’d hesitated to even look for here in China: Catan, confession, and pants that fit me. I finally crossed a few things off my bucket list when we found a cheap cobbler, ordered custom-made clothes from a tailor, and visited the Xiamen Botanical Garden. I started making travel plans for the remainder of my time here, and even looked at plane tickets home. What with Fall 2010 registration just around the corner, it sure does seem close . . .