to blog or not to blog

I am thinking of starting a blog for our complex variables course. I like the book I am using, but there are a few things I’d love to explore further (e. g. the roots of unity, the group structure of S^1 , etc.

We’ll see.

Last night: we went to Illinois State and saw Bradley lose 70-57 in a game that was tighter than the final score might indicate. Still, it is hard to win when you are shooting 33 percent..then again, some of that..ok much of that, it great defense by the Redbirds.

Workout notes: Yes, it is warmer but the roads are kind of slushy. So it was the treadmill for me:
50 minute froggy (0.5 incline, 4.9 start, up .1 every 5 minutes) 23:48 at 2) then at 50 minutes, upped it to 6.8 then 6.9 to make 5 miles in 54:56, then 1 mile of walking. That 5 minutes at a “faster” pace just about killed me. I handled it ok but…


January 18, 2018 Posted by | basketball, mathematics, running | , | Leave a comment

Spring Semester 2018: about to start and…

Ok, some academic stuff is on my mind…not all of it serious.

I just finished the book The Teacher Wars by Dana Goldstein (New York Times book review is here). It talks about the issues involving K-12 teaching from the founding of the country up until the later years of the Obama administration, and ends with an epilogue which has some interesting suggestions.

What I was struck by is how many of the current issues we are having really have been around for a long time. Controversies: how educated should the teachers be? (and yes, often, they were not and still are not “the brightest”) How well paid should they be? (missionaries or well paid professionals?) How should teachers be evaluated?(whims of the administrators, local school boards/parents, “value added test them to death?, “peer review”?) How should teachers be obtained and trained (converts? straight from teacher education programs?) What should be emphasized? (academic stuff, or “being a good citizen”) When it comes to who is best for a certain group of students: teachers who know how to control a class room but have poor mastery of the academic material?

Obviously, a thorough study would have to be volumes of very big books, and this is just one 280 page one, but IMHO, well worth reading. Bottom line: it was not necessarily “better back then”, at least not in every aspect.

The tough social issues (racism, sexism, the feminization of the teaching profession) are not dodged.

Current academia
Yes, there has been quite a bit of “mission creep” in academia. The number of administrators have gone up over the years I’ve been teaching at the college level, and so has the number of “very important issues” that the “professors have to be educated on”. And there are have been trends such as “assessment”, and yes, these new duties (piled on top of the old ones) really do not add a thing to student learning. And there is the old “do more with less” mentality which tends to spread us a bit thin.

Here is a small thing: I teach mathematics and yes, that means I don’t have to grade a ton of essays. That means that adding a couple of extra students to my section doesn’t increase my work load that much. But you can increase the class size to the extent that one never gets to know any of them and leads to a more “assembly line” type of class, at least for the larger sections.

And what makes it very though is a wide variation between the student abilities in a given class: a 2 standard deviation in the math ACT of a given section can make it difficult to keep the better students interested while not blowing away the lower end of the class. (and yes, the ACT is reasonably predictive).

Math related humor

I chuckled when I saw this posted in a science group:

Now I can say that even the most dedicated, hetero male mathematicians love women but yes, mathematicians tend to see mathematical patterns in many (all?) places.

Riddle me this: Many years ago, I met a girl in high school that I was sweet on; this was in one of those 1 week summer camps. Once she wore tight pants and showed panty lines that looked a bit like …well…this.

(this isn’t her; this photo was taken from cheekygenie)

And..of course I liked them…but I also thought of a mathematical graph: of a branch of the secant function!

Of course, a parabola is really a better fit.

Workout notes: this one didn’t go well…I was thinking about running 10K but..on the track..I resorted to 2 miles of “jog a lap, walk a lap” then “jog 2 laps, walk a lap” and that workout took..28 minutes! The second mile, though it included more jogging, was the same time as the first. Then I walked 2 more miles in 27:36 (yes, my “all walking” pace was faster than my “walk/jog” warm up) then 2.2 more miles on the treadmill (every 2 minutes: .5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, then .5 miles at 6, .6 at 5 (to 2.1) then .1 at 0.5; total time was just under 32 minutes for 2.21 miles of hill walking)

So, bad day, but still 10K. The body is sputtering a bit; the old “cold as hell outside but I gave blood” bit. It is almost as if I have a mild cold, sans the cough, runny nose, blah, blah.

January 17, 2018 Posted by | books, education, mathematics, running, spandex, walking | , , | Leave a comment

Pre workout thoughts: graphic software and North Korea …

Just so you know where Korea and Guam are; many Americans do not.

I am not worried about North Korea attacking the United States; having a reliable ICBM with a miniaturized warhead is a huge technological task. But a new Korean war would be a human disaster for not only Korea but possibly for those in Japan and other nearby states. The first one devastated Korea, burned down almost every major town and killed more than 1,000,000 people.

In times such as these, I want cool heads to prevail.

Graphic software: in the days of old, if you wanted to get a mathematics paper published, you’d send out the paper, get it refereed, and if it was accepted, technical typists and artists would write up the paper and you would review it.

Now, it is up to the author to type set it (I can do is a minor pain) and draw it…and well, it is tough to make good drawings with just “Paint”. I am trying to learn Inkscape and am running out of patience. I am sure I will be a pro when I finally learn it but ugh…that isn’t how I want to spend my time.

Workout notes: yesterday, 8 miles of hills; untimed but it was a steady effort. Great weather for it; I could not make myself go into the gym to do timed laps.

August 11, 2017 Posted by | mathematics, politics, walking, world events | | Leave a comment

low energy all around but life is good

I was sort of low energy today. I slept in..that felt good but I still had time for 10 miles:

My time: 2:33…15-15:10 mpm. Not much energy but I got it in.

Then I had lunch with Tracy and assembled a chest of draws for her; I am just terribly incompetent.

By the time I was done…I was tired and resolved to go home and rest..I had given up on making the Chiefs game; it was 5:45 and the Chiefs game started at 6:30. But I said…”what the hell” and left the house at just before 6.

I had time to get a ticket, get a cheeseburger and watch the game (3-1 Timber Rattlers winning; 2 run home run and then an insurance run in the top of the 9’th).

Contrast the above to the 7 dollar ticket that I got for Friday night’s White Sox vs. Cleveland game:

It was a full, if unproductive, day.

I have much to write about, re: my Chicago trip, but this trip, my nights were taken up by 2 White Sox games (one with a buddy) and travel. I also had a very pleasant lunch with a friend.

With Pat at the Cubs vs. White Sox game (Cubs won 6-3; good game though)

Our view (better than the other one)

Michelle agreed to go to lunch; I had not seen her since 1974 (in Yokota High School, Yokota Air Force Base, Japan). I played football with her brother Johnny.

I walked a bit; I did two Lakeshore path courses. This is from Northerly Island. You can see some of the skyline and Soldier Field.

From below the Shedd Aquarium

There was some great mathematics too. There were a couple of talks I wish that I had prior to teaching certain courses, and one that I wish that I had early in graduate school.

This is Dusa McDuff. She was the main speaker and gave three great talks. She is a professor at Columbia and..a member of the National Academy of Science (a very elite list, very elite; most Ivy league faculty do not make it). And yet..she rode the L to get to the airport. Someone of her accomplishment in, say, economics, would have been given a personal limo.

July 31, 2017 Posted by | baseball, Friends, mathematics, travel, walking | , , | 1 Comment

A bit of fun…

I’ll say something about the Sessions testimony (lying sack of….) and the shooting of the Congressman (deplorable, but where was the GOP calling for “toning it down” when Giffords was shot?)

But for now, something pleasant:

From here:

Ok. Suppose you choose at random. A and D are the same answer, so you can choose A/D, B or C. So you have a 50 percent chance of hitting A/D or not. That means that the correct answer is 50 percent, (B) but you have a 25 percent chance of selecting B with a purely random selection, which puts you back in the A/D or “not A/D” which puts us back to 50 percent….
and so on.

This is a version of the “this sentence is a lie” paradox (a statement that can’t be assigned a truth value); there is no correct answer to the question.

Workout notes
rotator cuff, pull ups (5 sets of 10: went well), incline presses: 10 x 135, 5 x 160 (good..decent hips), 6 x 150, military: 15 x 55 seated, supported, 10 x 50 standing, 10 x 40 standing. One arm rows: 2 sets of 10 x 50, 10 x 60

Then a treadmill run: 2-2-2-2 to 8 minutes, (5.2-5.5), then up 2 (6.7-7.0, last 2 minutes were 7.1 to 19:12 (2 miles), 7.2 to 20 minutes (2.1 miles). That was harder than usual.
Then goblet squats: 50, 50, 60, 65, 70, 70 (sets of 5)

June 14, 2017 Posted by | mathematics, running, weight training | | Leave a comment

A good reason to take a calculus of variations course

What is going on here? One path is shorter but ..


March 6, 2017 Posted by | mathematics, physics | 1 Comment

Why I usually don’t like math/science movies that *should* interest me

I kind of cringed when my wife wanted to take me to see Hidden Figures, a story about 3 black women who worked as engineers/mathematicians/programmers for NASA.

Oh do not get me wrong; these women were crazy-good; they would not have had their jobs at that time in US history (or at any time for that matter) if they weren’t, and their story deserves to be told to a wide audience. No argument there.

And yes, movies are not documentaries; there is going to be some embellishment, rearranging incidents to make a better story, and of course the “mathematics” that they would show would be mostly math jargon used out of context. And I was not disappointed though one scene showed Schrodinger’s equation on the blackboard (and ironically, I often teach Euler’s method in differential equations class, as well as Graham-Schmidt in linear algebra).

But there were many other errors; they described NASA as being segregated at a time when it was not, and they showed that one of the ladies as not being allowed to author a report, as she actually did. And the computer supervisor got that title in 1948, not 1961 (so here, real life was even more impressive than the movie).

And yes, a small kid factoring a polynomial with integer coefficients is moderately impressive, though not what most would call a prodigy; my guess is that the real person was able do much more than that.

But with all that being said, it was still a good movie (plot, excitement, suspense, relationships, and gives a reminder of our painful past). So by all means, see the movie; it IS well done. But expect some “liberal feel good, White Savior” bullshit, and remember that the real life women were actually *more* impressive than the movie shows. And if you know math, expect to wince from time to time.

You can find a “fact check” here.

Workout notes: Monday, easy 1 hour 5 mile hilly run (gentle pace)
Tuesday: same course, this time a walk after weights:

rotator cuff, pull ups (5 good sets)
bench press: dumbbells, 10 x 70, 10 x 75, 10 x 80
incline press: dumbbells, 7 x 50, 10 x 45, 10 x 45 (standing)
rows: 3 sets of 10 x 110 machine
incline press: Hammer machine, 2 sets of 10 (45, then 70 each arm) then 1 sets of 7 with 90 (each arm; 180 total)
lots of sets of 5 squats, most with 45 pound plate…maybe 6-7?
2 sets of 10 x 250 leg presses
abs( 2 sets of 12 twist crunches, 10 leg lifts, 5 moving bridge
head stand (sort of unsteady for a while)
side planks: 30 seconds each.

February 28, 2017 Posted by | mathematics, movies, running, social/political, walking, weight training | Leave a comment

In defense of “Safe Spaces” (of a type)

Ok, let me make it clear what I am not defending: while I understand male/female bathrooms and locker rooms, I do not approve of having a university sanctioned area where only men, or women, or someone of a specific race are allowed.

What I am talking about: voluntarily limiting one’s social circle when it comes to certain things.

Here is one instance: usually, I make it a point to never discuss mathematics except with other mathematically inclined people (mathematicians or experienced STEM field people).

Reason: I teach for a living, and correcting someone’s elementary error is not a pleasant exercise for me, especially when they try to insist that they are right.

This is not how I want to spend my “off work” time.

I broke my rule of thumb, and paid a small price. Here it is:

Prove: 1 = 2.

x^2 - x^2 = x^2 - x^2 Ok, true enough.

x(x-x) = (x+x)(x-x) Yes, this is true: (x+x)(x-x) = (x(x-x) + x(x-x)) = x^2 -x^2 +x^2 - x^2 = x^2 - x^2 . Yes, this also equals 2x^2 - 2 x^2 .

Now that we have x(x-x) = (x+x)(x-x) Cancel an x-x factor on each side.

This gives x = 2x which leads to 1=2 after cancelling the x.

Of course, this is wrong; we were not allowed to divide both sides by x-x as that is zero.

But someone tried to tell me that iwas ok to divide by zero even if the numerator did NOT go to zero…Oh boy.

February 27, 2017 Posted by | mathematics, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Why I mostly talk about topics on which I don’t know what I am talking about

Yes, I talk about the issues of the day; sometimes I am very noisy. Often the topics have a highly technical aspect of which I am ignorant. So, I tend to try to find out where “expert consensus” and go with them for my “base facts”. Often the debate is what to make of those facts. And sometimes one has to prioritize what they want (e. g. more safety for some vs. more liberty for others, etc.)

But there are a couple of items that I tend to NOT discuss in public: mathematics and mathematics education.
Yes, I have a modest publication record in mathematics (primarily in topology, though I have a couple of analysis papers too) and I’ve taught, in one form or another, since the summer of 1986. So I probably know more about teaching undergraduate mathematics (especially calculus) than anything else.

Yet, that is a topic that I tend to avoid, at least in public (social media).

The reasons are many.

Mathematics: at the research level, it is a highly technical field, and explaining research to those who don’t heave at least a master’s degree is all but pointless. Not only is the subject loaded with technical jargon (by necessity), but one needs some experience to even begin to understand why a particular question is interesting and worthy of investigation.

And, if you are not a mathematician, you’ll just have to trust me on this statement: most “popular explanations” of technical mathematics is TERRIBLE.

Mathematics education: most people have questions about grade school education, and I am not qualified to answer that. My experience has been with, say, teaching calculus to science, engineering or business students. These students have already met a qualifying process, and what works with them might not work with a less talented, less motivated bunch.

And there are the typical comments “I am smart but couldn’t learn math”, therefore “the teachers sucked” or “math is useless in real life” of “teachers need to be able to reach students who have “different ways of thinking”.
Frankly, I haven’t the patience to endure such conversations, hence i make a practice to avoid them.

I excuse myself from such conversations and let the “unappreciated smart people” talk among themselves.

I might talk to a non-specialist privately, but they have to be someone I really like and am already good friends with.

January 5, 2017 Posted by | mathematics, social/political | Leave a comment

Not so profound

Workout notes: I had bigger plans but my legs weren’t ready. So I did a 10K shuffle in 1:09:42 (the 5.1 mile course plus an out and back down the upper Bradley Park Hill).

Yes, the Marathon Route signs are up; Race day is the 16’th of October (Sunday)


Last week’s failure has me hungry for “a finish”; time goal just isn’t that important to me now. There was a time when I took a marathon finish for granted; that time was over a long time ago (2009?)

Personal: I thought that I had something profound to say about the moment generating function and the negative binomial distribution. I don’t. In any event, I can’t talk about it in class until I talk about joint density functions.

I was also pleased with myself when I worked about the old “every vector space has a basis” argument in my head (and mostly got it right) until I realized: “yes, you are SUPPOSED to know this stuff”. Oh well. (hint: Zorn’s Lemma)

Time to type a boring request.

September 29, 2016 Posted by | mathematics, running | Leave a comment