Category Archives: Personal

May 15, 2010, 11:41 am

The semester in review

Plot of the vector field f(x,y) = (-y,x).

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve made it to the end of another semester. Classes ended on Friday, and we have final exams this coming week. It’s been a long and full semester, as you can see by the relative lack of posting going on here since around October. How did things go?

Well, first of all I had a record course load this time around — four different courses, one of which was the MATLAB course that was brand new and outside my main discipline; plus an independent study that was more like an undergraduate research project, and so it required almost as much prep time from me as a regular course.

The Functions and Models class (formerly known as Pre-calculus) has been one of my favorites to teach here, and this class was no exception. We do precalculus a bit differently here, focusing on using functions as data modeling …

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March 4, 2010, 10:12 pm

Working and having a life, redux

Harvard Yard. Photo taken by Dudesleeper on Se...
Image via Wikipedia

The Chronicle has an article on a Harvard survey of Gen-X professors and their attitudes toward the balance of work and the rest of life. The professors surveyed indicate that they want to be successul in their careers but don’t want to sell out their personal lives in the process. The main survey report is here (PDF, 2.1MB). Here’s a representative quote from one of the interviewees, a business professor, talking about the perils of overwork that Gen-Xers perceive in their older colleagues:

There’s really nothing to be gained by closing your door and working until 11:00 o’clock at night, other than the tenure hurdle that is somewhere out there. If you want to pole vault over it, you go right ahead, but no one here is going to back up the Brinks truck and start dumping all this cash on you, simply because you’ve decided to work like you have three jobs. So that…

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February 9, 2010, 1:34 pm

How to memorize the value of e to 15 decimal places

I learned the following trick for memorizing the value of e from my colleague, Gene White. It never fails to impress calculus students (given a wide enough definition of “impress”).

Start by carefully looking at this picture:

That’s a 20 dollar bill, so memorize “2″ and put down the decimal point.

The picture on the bill is of Andrew Jackson. He was our seventh President, so put a “7″ after the decimal point to get 2.7.

Jackson was elected in 1828, so put down “1828″ next. Since there’s a 2 in front of the decimal place, put “1828″ a second time. We’re now up to 2.718281828.

Now look at the red square over Jackson’s face. The diagonal creates two congruent right triangles with angle measures 45, 90, and 45. So, add on 459045 to get 2.718281828459045. And that’s e to 15 places.

I’m open to suggestions on how to memorize more of the digits.

February 5, 2010, 8:00 am

Friday Random 10: 2/5/2010

Friday music time again, and just about the only thing I’ve had time to post this week due to classes starting back:

  1. Texas Flood (Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Greatest Hits)
  2. 40 Days (Third Day, Come Together)
  3. Who’s Been Talkin’ (Howlin’ Wolf, His Best: Chess 50th Anniversary)
  4. Man in the Green Shirt (Weather Report, Best of Weather Report)
  5. Waiting on the World to Change (John Mayer, Continuum)
  6. Where You Are (Rich Mullins, The World As Best As I Remember It v. 1)
  7. Heavy On My Mind (Back Door Slam, Roll Away)
  8. Try (John Mayer Trio, Try! (Live))
  9. Living Loving Maid (She’s Just A Woman) (Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II)
  10. Doing It To Death (James Brown, The CD of JB)

Normally I would take one of the entries in the list that gets my attention and do a video focus on it. This time… Well, the classic Led Zeppelin chestnut “Living Loving Maid” (#9) makes me think of the fantastic…

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January 30, 2010, 12:22 pm

Fractal Doritos!

Students and faculty at University Preparatory School in Redding, CA have created the world’s largest Sierpinski triangle constructed entirely out of Doritos. (Well, it’s probably the only one, but still.) It is 64 feet long and made out of 12,000 Doritos. This was done as an entry to the Doritos Crash the Superbowl contest. Watch, and be awed:

Can a 128-, 256-, etc. foot long Dorito Sierpinski triangle be far behind? I bet the parent company for Doritos would seriously consider some corporate sponsorship.

Thanks to Cory Poole, math and physics teacher at U-Prep, who sent this in. That’s a great, creative way to get students interested in math. (And you can eat it when it’s done.) There’s more on the video here.

January 29, 2010, 8:20 am

Friday Random 10: 1/29/2010

Happy Friday to all:

  1. Without The Light (Kelly Joe Phelps, Roll Away the Stone)
  2. Partita #3, Menuet II (Paul Galbraith, Bach: The Sonatas and Partitas)
  3. Tenderoni (Chromeo, Fancy Footwork)
  4. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (The Beatles, White Album)
  5. Jump Up! (Imagination Movers, For Those About to Hop)
  6. Birdland (Weather Report, Best of Weather Report)
  7. Get Up, Stand Up (Bob Marley, Legend)
  8. Territories (Rush, Power Windows)
  9. The Remembering (High the Memory) (Yes, Tales from Topographic Oceans)
  10. With My Own Two Hands (Jack Johnson + Ben Harper, Sing-a-Longs and Lullabies)

Lots of good stuff to feature here this week — the Bob Marley piece is an especially welcome reminder of warmer climates right now, as it’s 15 degrees and snow on the ground here in Indiana. But in the spirit of 80′s music started last week, here’s a live version of Rush doing “Territories” (#8). Watch it for no…

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January 22, 2010, 11:25 am

Friday Random 10: 1/22/2010

It’s Friday again, so for your musical pleasure:

  1. Bad Dream (Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater, Essential Chicago Blues)
  2. All About Love (Earth Wind & Fire, Essential EWF)
  3. No Such Thing (John Mayer, Room for Squares)
  4. Look Mama (Howard Jones, The Best of Howard Jones)
  5. Brick House (The Commodores, 20th Century Masters)
  6. The Red Plains (Bruce Hornsby & The Range, The Way It Is)
  7. How Do The Fools Survive? (The Doobie Brothers, Minute By Minute)
  8. Soul Power (James Brown, The CD of JB)
  9. A Venture (Yes, The Yes Album)
  10. Kiss Your Tears Away (The Smithereens, 11)

I think Howard Jones is a genius and doesn’t get nearly the appreciation he deserves, so here’s the video for “Look Mama” (#5). It’s vintage 1985, complete with big hair, but that’s part of the charm.

January 13, 2010, 7:30 am

Daily routines

John Cook shared this interesting article on Twitter the other day. It lists 25 great thinkers and their daily rituals. This got me thinking about my daily routine, the little rituals that I observe, and how the rhythms of a routine help me find balance, stability, and productivity in my life and work. I’ve seen the value of a routine through my kids (ages 6, 4, and 1), who early on needed routines to help them learn day from night and know when to eat and nap, and who still need to stick to a routine or else become incorrigible.

While having three kids this young makes routines and rituals more a matter of probability than anything and routines hard to follow, there are a few rituals I like to keep around no matter what happens:

  • I get up at 5:00, and from 5:30-6:15 I do Matins from the Treasury of Daily Prayer, eat breakfast, and get all the stuff the kids need for school that day as…

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January 8, 2010, 7:00 am

Friday Random 10: 1/8/2010

I just realized that last week’s Friday Random 10 was dated 1/1/2009. I guess it’s taken a week for the New Year to become natural to write. Anyway, here’s this week’s selection:

  1. “Black Cow” (Steely Dan, Aja)
  2. “Remember” (Wes King, A Room Full of Stories)
  3. “For Real” (David Wilcox, East Asheville Hardware)
  4. “How Mountain Girls Can Love” (Ricky Skaggs, Ancient Tones)
  5. “She’s Nineteen Years Old” (Muddy Waters, His Best 1956-1964)
  6. “Pleiades” (King’s X, Gretchen Goes to Nebraska)
  7. “Te Deum” (Choir of King’s Choir, Cambridge; John Rutter Requiem)
  8. “Clean My Room” (Imagination Movers, Juice Box Heroes)
  9. “Superharp” (James Cotton, Essential Chicago Blues)
  10. Samba de Bênçä0 (Maria Bethânia, Toquinho, & Vinicius de Moraes, Days in Mar Del Plaza)

Steely Dan as the first selection, two weeks in a row? Hmm.

Although it’s tough to pick from a list including classic rock,…

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January 1, 2010, 12:00 pm

Friday Random 10: 1/1/2009

No re-start of this blog would be complete without a return to the Friday Random 10 feature, where I pull off 10 random songs in a row from the iPod and do some kind of video focus on one song or artist that shows up. Here you go:

  1. “Black Friday” (Steely Dan, Katy Lied)
  2. “Broken” (Jack Johnson, Sing-a-Longs and Lullabies (Curious George soundtrack))
  3. “Hammer to Fall” (Queen, Classic Queen)
  4. “The Dancing Flowers” (The Wiggles, Whoo Hoo Wiggly Gremlins)
  5. “Work in Progress” (Alan Jackson, Drive)
  6. “Let Everything That Has Breath” (Phillips, Craig, and Dean, Let My Words Be Few)
  7. “Spanish Fantasy” (Phil Keaggy, Acoustic Sketches)
  8. “Can You (Point Your Fingers and Do the Twist)” (The Wiggles, Here Comes the Big Red Car)
  9. “Partita #3 (iv)” (Paul Galbraith, Bach: The Sonatas and Partitas)
  10. “The Calling” (Yes, Talk)

If by some accident you have never heard of Phil Keaggy (#7),…

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