Great news everyone! As of yesterday, I have successfully completed the first draft of my second book (Agent X, as we decided to call it on my last post).
It took a few hours…Well, actually, an entire day of exhaustive writing, and by around 10 p.m., I was typing the last words of the epilogue. The rush of emotions that accompanied the completion of my second work was exhilarating, and in a way, bittersweet. I spent the rest of the night reminiscing about the two year journey over the course of which I had written the book.
Of course, there is still much that remains to be done. I will now proceed with the most arduous task of content editing my work. On the other hand, the end of this project brings up the excitement of various future prospects. Apart from the accompanying art work I intend to do for Agent X, I will now slowly make my transition into Manga school, while brainstorming my next three writing projects.
I will also be making a few changes to the content presentation on this blog. The purpose of this blog is to provide a free space where I can express my thoughts, as well as share my knowledge with all of you. To further help facilitate these discussions in an interesting manner, I intend to go about categorizing my daily posts. I’m hoping that a few months from now, I will have set up several categories of posts in subjects ranging from:
(1) Critical thinking
This will primarily involve weekly discussions on an interesting article of my choice in science, politics, philosophy, and just about anything that can wrack my brain.
(2) Teaching & Problem-solving
This will be a two-fold approach that would help complement my current duties as a student tutor at the university, where I typically face the following scenarios:
and which I try to resolve in due fashion, with ample flair,
I have yet to decide on how to organize this part of the blog, but it may predominantly involve discussions or solutions to the most interesting questions I encounter with my students on a weekly basis, or any other cool puzzles that catch my eye!
(3) Book reviews/Read-along
This is something I have always wanted to do. So far, I have done one book review (Star Wars, The Old Republic: Revan), but I would also like to try something new where I would provide a summarized read-along discussion of sorts of the books I read. An immediate choice that I will provide posts about in the near future is Carl Sagan’s Dragons of Eden, which I’m currently parsing through.
(4) My daily adventures & lots of writing!
This is fairly simple. It is what I’ve been doing so far, and will be the primary form of my communication with everyone. There is a lot to life, and everyday proves to be a grand adventure!
And that’s basically it for my update. The purpose of this post was to keep you all informed. The changes will be gradual, but I hope that you will all come to enjoy the myriad selection of posts this blog will host in the coming days!
So here we go! The title makes it quite obvious, but I have a few promo codes to give out. As I mentioned in my earlier posts, I will be promoting Our Last Summer, my autobiographical work on an occasional basis on this blog. Here is to a good start.
It is quite simple. I will be providing 5 promo codes today (at the end of the post). The codes basically allow for a free download of my book in e-book format. It is pretty much a first come, first serve recipe. So the lucky 5 who get to enter those promo codes will get to have a free e-book copy of my work.
Now, here are the five promo codes:
I kindly request that you pick just one out of the five! And once you have made your choice, get your way to,
I will continue to provide such e-book promo codes every now and then, along with other promotional materials, so I suggest everyone be on the lookout, and for the lucky 5 who get today’s codes, I hope you enjoy reading the book.
I also kindly request of my readers to provide their reviews and criticism on my work through online review outlets, for example, at GoodReads, or at prominent sellers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iUniverse, as well as other bookstore chains. I would really appreciate your comments, and it would be of great assistance in further improving and reinforcing my writing skills!
The last two weeks have been quite eventful, and I had a lot to contend with including (takes a deep breath):
Finishing an online certification course in programming
Submitting an application for research funding (for my PhD in Robotics)
Finishing the last chapter of my second book
Starting my Research Assistantship in the Robotics lab at the U of A (very, very exciting)
Finish reading the The Silmarillion, and starting on Carl Sagan’s Dragons of Eden.
All in all, it was just about a lot of work and having fun whenever possible. I’m especially happy about #3. It was an amazing ride of feelings to write up the last few pages of my second book. The epilogue remains to be completed (this week), though it will be a short piece of work, followed by the more arduous task of content editing. As of now, I’m looking at a page count of about 120 or so, though given my past experience in editing Our Last Summer: A Personal Memoir, this number is bound to change.
Now that I’m nearing the completion of my second book, I can’t wait to get started on brainstorming my next three to four writing projects which will span various genres from politics, science fiction, and fantasy. I also intend to write a short story in my native language of Tamil (haven’t written in it for years, so it will be one hell of a fantastic mess) and which will serve as the third and final act of a trilogy of books that have been inspired from my personal life, including Our Last Summer, and my second book (call it Agent X). The coming week I will also begin my courses in manga art/drawing (a crucial aspect my upcoming writing projects, some of which will be in the form of manga/comics).
Apart from this, I’m keeping busy as we near the end of the year. Working as a research assistant in a robotics lab is exciting as heck, and I have lots to learn from my peers. My plans for this coming week are to post some promotional material for Our Last Summer as well as also provide for some new topics of discussion involving science and a slice of life.
I will keep you all posted in the coming days! For now, I’m going to sit back, relax, and just creep myself out with this beauty as for All Hallows’ Eve:
So, after a week of thoughtful contemplation amid myriad deadlines, I’m excited to finally post my discussion “On the Nature of Knowledge.” I contested two methods of approach in presenting this topic: one that is grounded in philosophy, and the other that is inspired from my personal experience as a student. Ultimately, I’ve decided to stick with the latter as it would be consistent with how I’ve addressed most of the topics posted on this blog. For anyone wishing to tackle the same topic from a philosophical perspective, check out epistemology (the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy provides an awesome introduction on the subject).
Our discussion will be divided into three separate parts dealing with the following questions:
(1) What is knowledge?
(2) What is knowledge from a student’s perspective?
(3) What is the purpose of knowledge?
My objective today will be to share my personal experience and growth over the last seven years of my undergraduate and graduate studies, during which I actively and repeatedly engaged these questions. I’m well aware of the various generalizations that can be made in answering these questions, but my opinions will converge and revolve around the viewpoints I’ve accepted in my personal journey to discover those same answers as a student. Let’s begin!
What is knowledge?
I believe knowledge can be defined via three categories: personal, factual, and action-based knowledge.
Personal knowledge revolves about the knowledge gained by acquaintance with the objects, the events, and the people in one’s environment. Having just arrived in Canada for my undergraduate studies, the foundation of my life was built around the expectations and experiences I had with my family living in India, Egypt, and Sudan. Commencing my studies at the University of Alberta while living in student residence, working part-time and volunteering in various activities, my personal growth as an individual continued as I mingled and became familiar with an alien environment. My new-found freedom allowed me to fully experience and question my individuality, a process that would culminate in my identity crisis several years down the road (one that I have thankfully resolved). Knowledge, in this sense, is acquainted with my familiarity toward objects in my environment as well as the delegation of my recognition to said objects, and was highly influential in defining my identity and my decisions. Altogether, personal knowledge is very much a book in progress in our individual lives. Its measures and ends are dictated by our environments, personal motivations, and growth while actively influencing all three of those aspects.
Action-based knowledge is the knowledge of how to do something. This would involve one’s abilities to do something, like driving a car or starting a campfire.
On the other hand, factual knowledge, as is obvious, is the knowledge of facts. Action-based knowledge is different from factual knowledge. One may know the theory behind driving a car, while not actually knowing how to drive a car. Factual knowledge is evident in both action-based, and personal knowledge. With personal knowledge, in order to speak with others, one must know how to communicate. One doesn’t necessarily know a person just by meeting them, one must also know a few things about them. Similarly, with action-based knowledge, one must know certain facts about driving, like the motion of the car with respect to actions on the steering wheel, to assist and help them actually drive the car.
Despite this, factual knowledge is alone not enough. Personal knowledge involves the need for action-based knowledge that helps an individual acquire the necessary skills to interact with his/her environment, and action-based knowledge may require some factual knowledge, but that same factual knowledge cannot amount towards action-based knowledge. In fact, one could say that there is no definitive standard of connection between these three categories of knowledge, seeing how much they intermesh. For the philosophy lovers, epistemology deals largely with the views of factual knowledge.
What is knowledge from a student’s perspective?
How does this all come together for a student? Well, one of the main reasons we go to school is to cultivate our knowledge and understanding of the world. At university, this may largely be oriented by our aspirations on a field that would preferably model our future careers. I say “may” as I believe the purpose of higher studies does not have to primarily revolve about one’s career or prospective choice of employment (this in itself, leads to the crucial discussion on the structures of education or educational systems).
As a student, much of our time at university involves absorbing the factual knowledge before actually implementing them in the real world. Our action-based knowledge is attested to our success with such implementations. It is pretty similar to the notion of the scientific method, where theory precedes experiment in a repetitive cycle. This is where we also learn the difference between the static process of remembering knowledge versus the dynamic process of applying said knowledge. This is at the core of our ability to learn and interact with our environment, and is a social behavior whose roots are sown in our evolution as a species.
Factoring on to this is the personal knowledge that every individual inhibits. Being a student, you’re part of a community, one that we may or may not socialize with (each with its own share of circumstances). Putting aside the knowledge we gain from our courses, the personal knowledge we exhibit provides for the competitive play of our social lives from networking, to the establishment of our status, while satiating our thirst and drive for recognition.
All of which now leads us to ask, what is the purpose of knowledge in general?
What is the purpose of knowledge?
Personally, to this day, I believe an individual’s knowledge is characterized not only by their ideas, but also how they act upon them. The question on the purpose of knowledge derives greatly from the means of education an individual may seek, which by itself, is an even bigger discussion.
I’ve come to recognize how influential the methods utilized to propagate knowledge at an academic institution can be on its community (teachers and students alike). After my four years of undergraduate studies, I was spent, and in many ways had to rediscover my personal creativity and motivation. Following a gap year, I pursued graduate studies, which I just recently completed. Looking back at my experience, I must say that a large part of my journey also had its run of the mill circumstances surrounding my identity crisis, but I cannot deny that it came with its share of new and enlightening perspectives involving my personal opinions on the educational systems of modern-day academic institutions.
What is the purpose of knowledge? I believe it is what it is, for every one of us, however we wish to see it.
If there is one attribute to my personality that I have always been proud of, it would be my undying curiosity, and endless thirst for knowledge. In my life, this has changed from a wish to understand the world, to sharing said knowledge, and to contributing my own by enhancing the source of said knowledge. The Pensive Reverie is in fact a personification of my desire to share my knowledge, as an individual, to the world. Ultimately, as Francis Bacon put it, “Knowledge is power” but I also believe what we do with said power defines the object for each and every individual.
Firstly, this post doesn’t pertain to any discussion On the Nature of Knowledge. I’m still piecing together my ideas for that post, and will post it later this week. I’m here today to simply talk about the fun I had this weekend revisiting old memories! Just this Saturday, I attended a series of events celebrating Indie Author Day at the Edmonton Public Library.
The experience was a lot of fun, and was a motivational reminder on my aspirations to become a successful writer. Having attended a few sessions ranging from discussions on self-publishing, marketing, to friendly advice on just getting your stories heard, I was thoroughly enthused to get back on my writer’s bandwagon by the time I returned home. For those among my followers who may not know, I’m a self-published author. My first book was Our Last Summer: A Personal Memoir detailing my experiences in Sudan where I completed my secondary education. The book is dedicated to my closest friends, in memory of our time together at Khartoum American School (K.A.S.), as well as my loving family.
I started writing the book back in 2009, and it was published around the summer of 2013 after having undergone a tedious but highly enlightening process of editing, book binding, and marketing with the assistance of iUniverse, a self-publishing company. My original intentions were to continuously promote the book afterward and hopefully help in its sales. My earlier blog, ourlastsummer2013, was meant for this. But, life happened, and following the publication of the book, I became quite jaded about writing and myself. I was also enmeshed in my personal identity crisis. Consequently, my promotional efforts were cut short, and I took a break from writing.
Three years down the road, I found myself sitting in a room filled with Indie authors, spending a few hours re-reading the passages in my book, and revisiting many forgotten memories of my past. I had recovered from my identity crisis thanks to my friends, and family, and am now close to completing a second book that has been in the works for two years. By revisiting said memories of a forgotten summer, I was able to reassess my growth as an individual during the last seven years of my life, ever since I commenced my post-secondary education at the University of Alberta. I was also able to recognize the significant influence writing Our Last Summer had in my life, and felt sad that the book never got the personal recognition it deserved from its own author.
Ever since my childhood, I’ve been passionate about two things: learning and asking questions. These two attributes contribute to my personality as an autodidact and have been the main benefactors towards my motivation for higher studies, and academic pursuits in various fields from astrophysics, biophysics, plasma physics, and in the near future, robotics. My academic interests were also complemented by my love for writing, music, and art. Throughout my life, I’ve been able to engage and enhance my creativity and skills in these different subjects.
Having completed my Masters, and on the verge of finishing my second book, I’m now motivated to unite my interests toward a unique career. I have no idea what exactly it will be, but it certainly will have a mix of everything from being a scientist, writer, and an artist. It will be an infusion of the freedom and happiness I’ve found in my writing, engaging my imaginations and bringing them to fruition through my art and music, and sharing my comprehension of what I learn about the surrounding world to my friends, family, and to all of you! Part of that effort will now involve my dedication toward revamping the promotions on my first book Our Last Summer: A Personal Memoir. I will use The Pensive Reverie (and the Facebook group) along with my Twitter account to provide for promotional materials every now and then ranging from tidbits from the book, to free e-book passes, and reviews.
I sincerely ask all those who follow this blog to help and support my efforts by spreading the word as much as they can and getting others to tune in to the blog as well as my book. The book is available online (just Google it), as well as on popular bookstores (Chapters, Barnes and Noble, Kobo etc.) I will provide more info, including some promo materials, and sneak peeks on Our Last Summer along with my next post On the Nature of Knowledge.
Just wanted to send out a brief update on the topic I have decided to discuss for my next post. It took a few days of deliberation and careful thought, and given my recent completion of graduate studies, I felt it would be ideal to discuss On the nature of knowledge.
I’m well aware of the various intricacies and the large volume of literature dedicated to this subject (it is in fact a field called epistemology.) As usual, my treatment of the topic will revolve around my personal experiences albeit with some casual references to quotations and critical analyses provided by professional savants.
I wish to focus, in particular, on the role of knowledge, and how it is integrated and implemented in current educational trends at schools and universities. As an aspiring PhD student, and as an autodidact, my views on education vary from the classroom to my personal work-space at home. I have often questioned the purpose of the knowledge that I have accumulated throughout my life, both in social and academic contexts, and how to appropriately and selectively apply said knowledge in my daily adventures as a foundation towards a healthy lifestyle. Such a thought has also widely influenced my methods of finding means to an end when it comes to my dreams to be a multi-talented and well-rounded individual.
Having successfully completed another major phase of education in my Masters degree, I felt it would be entertaining to discuss a question that has been quite significant in my daily life, and is pretty much a common occurrence in almost everyone’s daily lives and careers.
I should have the post up by the end of this weekend. Until then, toodles!
It has been over a month since my last post. My absence was of necessity as in that time I successfully defended my Masters thesis, and completed my graduate degree in Physics. The whole ordeal has kept me busy for over two months, and I’m now happy to return and engage everyone again on this blog.
Just yesterday, I received official confirmation of my thesis’ approval. The reality is yet to sink in but having spent the afternoon clearing up my desk space at home, and organizing a large pile of scrap including research papers and calculations, I can say I’m thoroughly enjoying this new reality that is Ajay Peter Manuel, MSc. Physics.
Leading up to the thesis defense, I was surprised that I wasn’t nervous at all. My classmates and supervisor attributed this to my hard work over the past two years, and consequently, a collective boost in confidence concerning my research. The defense began somewhere along the lines of,
and ended along the lines of,
Jokes aside, it was an engaging and wonderful learning experience, as I thoroughly enjoyed jousting with the audience and the committee’s questions. I then spent the following week making the necessary revisions (a short and easy process) for my thesis, format it according to the rules and regulations set by the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, and finally got it approved yesterday!
And now, I’m all set to embark on a new adventure in my life. While working part-time as a student tutor, I will be studying in preparation for my PhD in Robotics on September 2017. The year long transition will allow me to relax, and sink back into my writing, music, art, and just about enjoy life everyday. Meanwhile, this will also provide me ample time to consistently write posts on The Pensive Reverie. I thank everyone for being patient so far! Look forward to an update very soon on my next post!
Also, a big shout out to my loving parents and sister, my wonderful partner, and all my friends who have supported and helped me make it this far. Thanks so much!