Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cautiously Optimistic

I took my third Discrete Optimization test this afternoon and am cautiously optimistic that I scored an A on it.  I did not, however, get a single point on the extra credit problem.  I'm no expert on algorithms anyway, and have never had a class on them, and have no freakin' idea how to modify the given algorithm to accomplish something I couldn't understand anyway!

Moving on.

It's Officially Getting Colder

Yes, it was 80 degrees outside at 6pm this evening--talk about a beautiful day!  But the mornings are getting darn cold, cold enough that I tonight I made the switchover.  Off went the regular cotton sheets, on went the fleece sheets and extra blanket!

(Recent) Experience Counts

Despite the fact that I'm working on a master's degree in math, it's still been decades since I've had to use calculus in more than a simple way.  The bottom line is, my calculus is rusty.  Oh, I can still help students in 1st semester Calculus AB, but after that I usually have to study a little bit before I can help.

Before school this morning I saw one of my former students working on some calculus problems.  We talked for a few minutes; I shared what I'm learning in Discrete Optimization, which he found quite interesting, and he showed me what he was working on.

One of his problems was "find the shortest distance from this function to this point".  I told him that I'd find the slope of the tangent line to the function (basic calculus), calculate the negative reciprocal to get a perpendicular, and then use the point and that slope--in other words, I'd take an algebraic approach with a little bit of calculus.  I asked how he'd do it.  His approach was to use the distance formula from a generic point on the function, and find the minima.

My approach was very BFI (brute force and ignorance), his was more "elegant" (to use a word math people like to use).  Recent experience counts!

And now, I have to study for this afternoon's test!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I'm Done Studying Tonight

As you can see, this is my 3rd post in the last few minutes.  That indicates that, even though I'd planned to go until 9:00, I'm already done.  An hour early.  It won't do any more good to try to stuff into my head the 7 definitions, 3 proofs, and 4 algorithms that will be on tomorrow's test.  Smoke is pouring out of my ears almost like it it poured out of the microwave last Thursday at lunch.

I'll study some more during my prep period tomorrow.  Some students told me about, at which site I created flash cards to help me with the definitions and the key points of the algorithms.  I'll use that, and practice the proofs, during my prep period and bank on "natural ability/talent" to get me through any calculations, actually carrying out the steps of the algorithms, etc.  So far that's worked for me, but I fear that one of these days that won't be enough.  Until that day, though....

How Math And Science See Each Other

There's more than a kernel of truth in this:
We’re always lumping them together, scientists and mathematicians. They’re “STEM” professionals: bespectacled, smart, pleasantly soft-spoken until you conflate Star Trek and Star Wars, after which their wrath is visited upon you.

But the fact is that, aside from being the butt of cheap jokes, mathematicians and scientists don’t share all that much in common.

And you can tell that from the way they look at each other’s fields.
You've got to love the "bad drawings".

Smart People Said This Would Happen, And It Did

You liberals can claim all day that the laws of economics don't apply in your version of reality, but much like gravity, the laws of economics are real:
Since the launch of Obamacare, at least 122 colleges and universities across the nation have cut student and faculty work hours to skirt the federal law’s mandate requiring employers to provide healthcare for people who work 30 hours or more per week.

Those who have seen their paychecks shrink as a result of the Affordable Care Act include students who work on campus at restaurants, bookstores or gyms, teaching assistants, Residence Advisers, officer workers, student journalists, and a variety of other workers, such as part-time maintenance crews and groundskeepers. Educators’ work hours have also been cut due to the mandate, including part-time instructors and adjunct professors.

A long and growing list of 450 companies, school districts, colleges and institutions that have slashed and capped work hours to comply with the employer mandate – which goes into effect next year – has been compiled by Jed Graham of Investor’s Business Daily, whose tally chronicles employers both public and private.
Liberal:  "The only way to fix this is to forbid what people and businesses will do naturally!"

Conservative:  "This law is an affront to personal freedom and a disaster in its own right.  Eliminate it and start from scratch--and try some market principles this time."

Which outlook sounds more realistic to you?

When You Live In A Fishbowl...

Having attended West Point, and now being a teacher, I know what it's like to live in a fishbowl--where someone's always watching you, just waiting for you to screw up.  When you operate under such conditions you should maintain the highest standards at all times, and when you don't live up to the highest standards you should make sure you don't live down to the lowest:
Another argument for default phone encryption: to keep criminals from accessing your personal photos and sharing them with others.
CHP Officer Sean Harrington, 35, of Martinez… confessed to stealing explicit photos from the cellphone of a second Contra Costa County DUI suspect in August and forwarding those images to at least two CHP colleagues. The five-year CHP veteran called it a "game" among officers, according to an Oct. 14 search warrant affidavit.
That this criminal (and his criminal cohorts) happened to wear a uniform makes him no less of a criminal. The difference here is that the phone containing the photos wasn't stolen by a criminal but rather seized during a DUI arrest and accessed during booking...

Not an isolated incident. Officer Shawn Harrington called it a "game."
Not your finest hour, officers.  At all.

That's A Lot Of Zeroes

How much money do they have, that they can keep losing this much money?  Or is cash flow alone the only thing that's keeping them going?  Because I love Amazon and don't want to see it go away!
Amazon’s financial results for the third financial quarter of 2014 didn’t do the company any favors when they were announced late last week; the retail giant posted a quarterly net loss of $437 million, up dramatically from last year’s 3Q loss of $41 million. The biggest single contributor to the bad news? Amazon’s Fire Phone...

Things aren’t looking financially rosy for Amazon investors for the next quarter, either. In spite of the holiday buying season’s rapid approach and the huge role Amazon will play in many folks’ gift-giving plans, the company expects an operating loss of between $430 million and $570 million in the final quarter of 2014.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Press Bias?

What else explains this?
This is a tale of two women politicians.

One is a Republican running in “blue” New York. Her name is Elise Stefanik, a Harvard alum who served in the Bush White House and now works for her family’s upstate plywood business.

If elected — and the latest poll has her 8 points up — the 30-year-old will make history as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

The other is Democrat Wendy Davis.

Davis too boasts a Harvard degree, from the law school. Back in June 2013, she was heralded as the voice of American women when she tried — and failed — to stop her fellow Texas legislators from passing a law restricting abortion after 20 weeks. Now she’s running for governor, where the latest poll has her down 13 points.

Guess who’s the national sensation?

20 of the Most American Things To Ever Happen
I enjoyed those :)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

No Electronics In Class

This seems eminently reasonable to me:
So this year, I moved from recommending setting aside laptops and phones to requiring it, adding this to the class rules: “Stay focused. (No devices in class, unless the assignment requires it.)” Here’s why I finally switched from ‘allowed unless by request’ to ‘banned unless required’.
We’ve known for some time that multi-tasking is bad for the quality of cognitive work, and is especially punishing of the kind of cognitive work we ask of college students. ...
Jonathan Haidt’s metaphor of the elephant and the rider is useful here. In Haidt’s telling, the mind is like an elephant (the emotions) with a rider (the intellect) on top. The rider can see and plan ahead, but the elephant is far more powerful. Sometimes the rider and the elephant work together (the ideal in classroom settings), but if they conflict, the elephant usually wins.
After reading Haidt, I’ve stopped thinking of students as people who simply make choices about whether to pay attention, and started thinking of them as people trying to pay attention but having to compete with various influences, the largest of which is their own propensity towards involuntary and emotional reaction. (This is even harder for young people, the elephant so strong, the rider still a novice.) ...
I assign Saturday School if I see a student accessing his/her phone in class.  The only exception I make is for students whose parents are deployed, for obvious reasons.

Common Core Will Doom AP Calculus

It's a sad day when people in the education field plan for AP Calculus to go away:
The College Board is responding to the brewing changes of today's Common Core era by revising the Advanced Placement program so that the focus is on fewer concepts and more depth.

In an AASA conference session, Advanced Placement in the Common Core Era: Changes and New Developments in the AP Program, on Saturday morning, Trevor Packer, senior vice president of the College Board’s Advanced Placement Program, told superintendents that his organization would integrate Common Core standards in AP course standards and AP exams administered each May...

Despite these measures, there are still difficulties in reconciling many AP courses with the Common Core. In particular, AP Calculus is in conflict with the Common Core, Packer said, and it lies outside the sequence of the Common Core because of the fear that it may unnecessarily rush students into advanced math classes for which they are not prepared.

The College Board suggests a solution to the problem. of AP Calculus “If you’re worried about AP Calculus and fidelity to the Common Core, we recommend AP Statistics and AP Computer Science,” he told conference attendees.

Moreover, the College Board may offer an AP Algebra course (although no plans are definite), which may supplant AP Calculus, particularly in schools rigidly adhering to the Common Core standards.
Replacing AP Calculus with AP Algebra is a step backwards--and that's putting it nicely.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Saturday Night Snack--von drei Laender

Those Arkansas Black apples are quite tasty!  They're different, somehow, from a Red Delicious, which is my usual choice, but my experience isn't enough to be able to define exactly how it is that they're different.  Still, very good.

I thought it might be nice to have something to dip the apples in so I broke out what's left of the homemade honey I bought on the Big Island over the summer.  The dragonfruit/ginger honey is amazing on an apple slice!

But wait, there's more.  I was going to make myself some tea, but as I was getting out the honey I saw this:
I don't know about nutmeg or a bay leaf--or even straining it, for that matter!--but the cocoa tea I picked up on St. Lucia in June is quite good.  It's tea so it's not "rich" like hot chocolate, but it definitely tastes like bitter, unsweetened chocolate (which in itself isn't that bad).  A little honey and cinnamon, though, and it's quite good.

An evening snack--from three lands.  One way to relive my travels....

This Morning

Got up bright and early this morning--early enough that it wasn't bright at all, or even light out--to go up to Apple Hill with a friend.

We needn't have left so early.  It's harvest season and I wanted to leave before the traffic lines back up several miles onto the freeway, but the reports of rain turned out to be true--not so much here in the Valley, but up in the foothills.  It was coming down pretty hard, hard enough to scare the crowds away so that the traffic jams didn't materialize.

It's fun watching the apple coring and peeling machine work at Boa Vista Orchards, and also watch the men press apple "puddling" (apples that have been sliced and diced into a "slop") into cider and juice.  We saw the leftovers, the "pudding" after it had all the juice squeezed out of it, and it looked something like sawdust, so much of the juice having been pressed out of it.  I'm sure it's used as feed somewhere.

Bought Arkansas Black apples, cider, cooking sauces, pastries, soup mixes--you name it.  Much of the non-perishables will go for Christmas presents, shopping for which I'm doing quite well this year.

Not a bad way to spend a morning.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Crescendo et Coda

If you've been reading my blog for the past week you know it's been a wild week.  A student protest, news vans, a threat of a school shooting--and the fire alarm going off during lunch on the day of the supposed shooting threat.  Nerves are a little frazzled.

Have you been watching the news out of Sacramento today?  Cops shot, etc.?  Well, it happened right down the road from my school, close enough that we were in a lightened version of a lockdown for awhile, one that continued about 20 minutes into lunch.  Nerves are a little frazzled.

And have I told you that I teach in an upscale area?  Waiting at a stoplight near school the other morning I counted 4 Mercedes sedans and 1 Mercedes SUV pass me going the other direction.

Yes, I had a double during 7th period (Happy Hour) today.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Voter Fraud Is Not A Myth

James O'Keefe shows how easy it is to commit voter fraud in Colorado, with the active help of liberal activists:
Many liberals are adamant there is no threat of voter fraud that justifies efforts to improve the integrity of elections. “There is no real concrete evidence of voter fraud,” tweeted Donna Brazile, former acting chair of the Democratic National Committee, this week. “It’s a big ass lie.”

James O’Keefe, the guerilla filmmaker who brought down the ACORN voter-registration fraudsters in 2010 and forced the resignation of NPR executives, politely disagrees. Today, he is releasing some new undercover footage that raises disturbing questions about ballot integrity in Colorado, the site of fiercely contested races for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House, and the governorship. When he raised the issue of filling out some of the unused ballots that are mailed to every household in the state this month, he was told by Meredith Hicks, the director of Work for Progress, a liberal group funded by Democratic Super PACS.: “That is not even like lying or something, if someone throws out a ballot, like if you want to fill it out you should do it.” She then brazenly offered O’Keefe, disguised as a middle-aged college instructor, a job with her group.

The video of O’Keefe’s encounters with other operatives is equally disturbing.  He has a conversation with Greenpeace employee Christina Topping, and suggests he might have access to unused ballots from people who have recently moved out of college fraternity houses. “I mean it is putting the votes to good use,” she responds. “So really, truly, like yeah, that is awesome.”
Did you catch that? You don't have to believe me, but you can't deny the video.

What does it say about your beliefs, and your contempt for your fellow citizens, if you don't think you and your ideas can win legitimately so you actually cheat (*cough*, IRS, *cough*) in order to win elections?

Liberals are often despicable.  They can be nice enough individuals, but when it comes to their actions related to their politics, they're often despicable.

Update:  Probability says that this wouldn't happen absent outside forces:
For whatever reason, when statewide races are decided by less than 1 point, Democrats win almost three-quarters of the time. When the margin opens to 1-2 points, that advantage dissipates, and the Democrats win only half the races.
Works that way with recounts, too. They always seem to find a box of ballots in the trunk of a car somewhere....

Think Plastic Grocery Bags Are Bad For The Environment? Look At The Alternative

California's law was passed on emotion and wanting to "do something", another common impulse of lefties:
Make no mistake: This measure wasn’t about preserving our environment—the alternatives to plastic bags have heavier environmental footprints than the now-illegal variety deemed outmoded—or protecting cute marine life. This was an exercise in punishing an industry, and the thousands of hard-working Californians it employs, that Big Green finds politically distasteful.

In both environmental and fiscal measures, bag bans are unqualified failures. This ban will engender no positive outcomes for our environment and in turn only toughen the job climate. And yet it gets even worse when one examines the process through which this particular deal was brokered.

Here, greedy special interests and desperate legislators struck an agreement to allow grocers to retain all the paper bag fees in return for their support of the legislation. Projected to earn as much as $1 billion in new revenue, the grocers gladly obliged. With the help of the grocers’ lobbyists, legislators in Sacramento had the necessary air cover to ignore the environmental science and potential for dramatic job loss. So do what they refused and consult the data.

Plastic bags generate fully 80 percent less solid waste than paper bags. They require 70 percent less energy to manufacture and 91 percent less energy to recycle. They occupy 85 percent less landfill space than bulky paper alternatives.

Now size up in-vogue reusable bags.

According to a lifecycle analysis by the United Kingdom’s environmental authority, shoppers would need to reuse their reusable totes 131 times before it became more environmentally advantageous than a plastic bag that was used just once. The Brits determined that it would take 7.5 years, assuming one trip to the market a week, for a reusable bag to have a lesser carbon footprint than a plastic bag used only three times.

But the problems with reusable bags aren’t simply limited to its gross environmental failings. They also pose a growing public health risk....
Crony capitalism plus false claims of environmental superiority.  That's California!

At CNN, Violence Against Women Is OK If It's Directed At The "Right" Women

These people are not only hypocrites, they're just foul human beings:

How do you get liberals to approve of violence against women? Just tell them the women are Republicans named "Palin."

Wednesday afternoon, CNN anchor Carol Costello hyped newly released audio of Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol tearfully recounting her being physically assaulted during a fight the family was involved in last month by saying it was “quite possibly the best minute and a half of audio we’ve ever come across.” She grinned during the entire setup.

The anchor went on to say “sit back and enjoy,” before playing the audio, in which Bristol says she confronted a man who had allegedly pushed her little sister, only to have him shove her to the ground, then drag her by her feet while calling her an obscene name I cannot republish here that refers to the female anatomy.
Costello commented, still grinning, after the audio that “the long bleep” was her favorite part. She ended the segment by saying “you can thank me later.”

Costello is the same anchor who was enraged by the NFL’s apparent lack of concern for the wife of former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice, who was punched by the football player in an Atlantic City elevator in February.

Other liberals piled on, seemingly delighted that the daughter of someone they disagree with politically was physically attacked.
Liberals like violence.  They like to threaten it, they like to see it used--it's why they believe in coercion so much, why they support totalitarianism.  Ever see a mob of conservatives riot in the streets?  Me, either.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

I tried to do something nice for people.

Some teachers are really having a difficult time dealing with the pressure of what we've been going through at school the last few days.  I thought I'd do something nice for the folks I eat lunch with, so I brought in some kettlecorn and popped it in the microwave at lunch.

Can you see where this is going?

I tried to get the smoking bag out of the room before the smoke alarm went off, but alas, I failed.  Some interpreted the fire alarm as a lockdown, given all the events of the last few days, and the office even made an announcement that we were not in lockdown but were to follow the fire evacuation procedures.  Kids are everywhere, lunches are everywhere, the fire department showed up even though all of us, including the office, knew the issue was only a smoking bag of popcorn.

Last time I try to do something nice for people!

This Is What We're Dealing With Today

I'm sure this is a weekly occurrence at some schools but it is damned annoying.  I can't stand having the newsvulture vans parked in front of school each day, fanning the flames and needlessly putting some people on edge:
Local law enforcement, Homeland Security, and the FBI are all on alert this week after Rio Americano High School employees discovered threats of a school shooting. The threats warned the violence could happen as early as Tuesday...

Rio Americano Principal Brian Ginter sent parents messages reassuring them about the investigation, stating in one web post: "Safe Schools has done a threat assessment on this situation and feels there is no evidence that it is a credible threat. With that being said, we are still taking it seriously."

It's still unclear who made the threat and why, but the warnings were discovered the same day students mounted a peaceful protest over an incident involving student Dejza Boyd-Tanner. She said a vice principal grabbed her, slammed her against a desk, and took her to the ground. The sheriff's department said the student started the confrontation, and the administrator was just trying to restrain her. Students at the protest objected to Boyd-Tanner's suspension, but investigators can't say if the threats of a shooting were related.
Teachers are reporting large numbers of absences in their first classes of the day so the bad guys have succeeded in disrupting school for days.  I told kids that instruction, quizzes, and tests will go on as planned in my classes and their absence from instruction will not get them out of any assessment.

A former student of mine is subbing today.  A few months ago he was in West Africa in the Peace Corps but had to come home because of the ebola breakout.  Of course all the local news outlets wanted to interview him, and this morning (as I was commenting on the newsvulture trucks out front) he told me how he got so frustrated with how they reported his story--they would cut/paste from the interview to give the spin that they wanted, whether or not it was what he was saying--that he eventually told them he'd do no more such interviews; the only format to which he'd agree was to sit down in a studio live and tell and tell his story.  Of course none of them took him up on his offer.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I Have Nothing Interesting To Post Today

Based on last Friday's post you might imagine that things have been "interesting" at school the last couple days, and they're expected to be just as "interesting" tomorrow.  It's dying down, but not soon enough for my taste--and the newsvultures with their vans parked out in front of school aren't helping any.  I didn't take their pictures today, as the vans weren't rather plain-looking (white, rather than colorful, even though the same station was represented in today's parade-of-fools of news vans).

I did a little interior redecorating here at Casa del Darren after I got home, and now it's time to try to understand my homework again. 

I think I'll sleep deeply tonight!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Never Let A Crisis Go To Waste

They're shameless, they really are:
In Connecticut, Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s Sandy Hook Advisory Commission has returned a curious and controversial draft recommendation: the state should increase its oversight of homeschooled children with emotional or behavioral challenges. The proposal has outraged the state’s homeschoolers, who, like homeschoolers everywhere, are keenly aware of their sometimes conditional freedoms. In Connecticut, as elsewhere, the law allows parents to homeschool if they choose. But the practice has always been viewed as threatening by left-wing academics, social architects, and teachers’ unions—all well represented on Malloy’s 16-member panel. Sadly, this is only the most recent assault on the rights of Connecticut homeschoolers.
Lanza didn't shoot people because he was homeschooled, he shot them because he was crazy.  To single out homeschoolers like this, and to use that shooting as the reason for doing so, is only slightly less crazy than Lanza was.  It's also blatant manipulation of a tragedy for political gain, something that decent people everywhere should decry.