stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Note: in the following, I am in no way boasting of my programming abilities. In the past, I've done a little programming using variants of C++, but not since IBM gave up on OS/2. (I liked that OS!) What I'm doing now involves MS Access and Access Basic - Tinker Toys, no more.

Anyway: after entering a few hundred books into my library database, I grew dissatisfied; I've begun a full revamp. (This is version 5.) Right now, I'm just plotting - working out the tables and forms I'm going to need. In some ways, this is the most fun part of the process - deciding just what I want to be able to do and how to do it most efficiently. (The limitations of Access Basic chafe occasionally, I'll admit.) Automate this process, make that information easily available on the fly, consolidate the other stuff so I won't have to enter it more than once - this is a fun challenge, and of a different kind than my workaday research.

I'm probably going to revamp my finances database too, but that can wait. I need to keep the old one around for the next while anyway, for tax and other purposes.


Oct. 20th, 2017 09:35 am
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
I've been a subscriber to the Library of America for many years. I've been pleased with their output, over the years; in addition to the usual suspects - several of the Founding Fathers, big-name authors like Hawthorne, Melville, and Twain, and so on - they've also published Grant's memoirs, a two-volume set of SF novels from the '50s (and they chose well), a volume of fantastic fiction from Washington Irving to August Derleth, and so forth.

I just opened the latest offering. The shipping box was unmarked, so I didn't know its contents until I saw the actual volume. It's the letters of Abigail Adams. That's going to be fun - if nothing else, the letters she exchanged with Jefferson during his long estrangement from her husband should be worth reading. (John didn't know about it, of course, until after she finally reconciled them.)

:rubs hands:


Oct. 18th, 2017 09:06 am
stoutfellow: (Winter)
Fall, she has fell.

Hot weather - mid-eighties to nineties F - persisted well into this month, but we seem to have turned the corner. Highs for the next while are forecast in the low seventies, with lows dipping into the forties. I haven't turned on the heater, and won't for another couple of weeks at least, but I have begun growing my winter pelt. I don't expect to shave again until early spring.

We all have our seasonal rituals, don't we?


Oct. 15th, 2017 07:00 am
stoutfellow: Joker (Default)
Happy birthday, [personal profile] filkferengi!
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Last night, I forgot to check my pants pockets before doing the laundry, and I wound up washing my wallet. Fortunately, the wallet itself seems undamaged, though the Padres logo is now a bit faded, and the cash has dried out satisfactorily. Unfortunately, my voter registration card was also in the wallet, and when I tried to take it out it tore. I'll have to drop by the city clerk's office next week and see about replacing it.

:slaps self for stupidity:


Oct. 13th, 2017 08:56 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Default)
When I played Civilization IV, I was often frustrated when one of the competing civilizations (run by the computer) was Isabella of Spain. My usual strategy involved founding as many of the seven religions as possible, and she always interfered with that. She was my nemesis.

Now I play Civilization VI, and I have discovered who my nemesis is in this game: Gorgo of Sparta. She always seems to spurt ahead in science, culture, and tourism, impossibly fast - and I'm playing at the Warlord level, before the other civilizations start to cheat. I guess the only solution is to try to find her and knock her out as quickly as possible, but, dammit, she's the Queen of Sparta!
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
This morning, the current occupant of the White House tweeted the following:

"With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!"

Those are the words of a wannabe dictator. Most of the man's threats are bluster, not to be taken seriously, but this is a direct threat to the First Amendment. I cannot *not* take it seriously.

For this, if for nothing else, the man deserves impeachment.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
I don't really mind having Gracie sleep under my chair when I'm on the computer. Putting my foot up against her is oddly comforting. What I do mind is how careful I have to be getting out of the chair, even when she's not there, because she might be anyway.
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
Well, the city just took down the last of my pear trees - the one that was split in half by the ice storm in '05. The three trees cost me a total of $144, twenty-some years ago; I'd say I got my money's worth. Still, it's sad to see such a hardy survivor cut down.

(The song just came up on random rotation, honest.)

Edit: No, I was mistaken; they only took part of it. Most of the old fella still stands.

New Digs

Oct. 6th, 2017 07:20 am
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
It looks as though our three-years-and-counting exile is soon to end.

In January 2014, the math department was relocated to the athletics building, while the old science building was renovated. (Bio and chem were moved to the new Science Lab West; physics went to another building.) We were promised that it would only be a year or so before we were returned to our old home, but budget battles in the state legislature slowed the work. "A year and a half" was the next word; "two years"; "eventually". Real Soon Now....

Yesterday afternoon, the chair came by with floor maps, to ask me which office I wanted when we moved back. I had no real preference - as long as there's room for me to sit and work, and for my students to sit and talk, I'm fine - but chose a room more or less directly above my old office. (We used to have the first floor; now, we'll have the second and half of the third.)

:sigh: I dislike relocating, but it will be good to be closer to our classrooms, and to not have to cross that enormous parking lot several times a day.


Sep. 30th, 2017 08:50 pm
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
I had a brief visit with my sister C this morning. She and her husband are in town for his high school fiftieth reunion. We had breakfast at Cracker Barrel (after following some rather dubious smartphone instructions); I had French toast, for the first time in quite a few years, and they were more moderate in their order. We didn't have time for much more than that (except for a brief stop at Target, where I picked up a shower caddie, which I've needed for some time); they had a lot of activities scheduled with his relatives.

I'm planning on going to California for the holidays, although I can see scenarios in which that won't be possible. It's good to see family, especially if (avert!) it's the only visit I get in this year.
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
We had a bit of fun in yesterday's geometry class. We were finishing up the section on triangle geometry, with the capstone being the proof of the existence of the Nine Point Circle. That done, I began showing them some odds and ends about the various points we'd been discussing - the circumcenter O, the orthocenter H, and the nine-point center N. Using Sketchpad, I'd set up a dynamic sketch displaying all of those points, and how they behaved as the triangle ABC changed shape.

One of the students then asked if it was possible for the vertex A to coincide with N. I said, "I don't know. Let's find out!". I grabbed A with the mouse and pulled it towards N. The latter point also moved, of course, but more slowly, and I was able to catch up. I couldn't get them to coincide exactly, but that was a matter of human clumsiness - clearly they could be made to match. I had a doodad off to the side keeping track of the angle BAC; one of the students pointed out that the angle was almost exactly 120 degrees. 120 degrees being a Significant Angle, I decided this couldn't be a coincidence. Then, the student who had suggested the problem pointed out that the triangle was demonstrably (not just apparently) isosceles, and we saw that that meant the triangle HBC was equilateral! I realized that this tied in to another interesting set of ideas, which I pointed out as time ran out.

Understanding may not be teachable, but it is learnable!
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
Someone on Facebook posted a quote from Stephen Hawking on the nature of intelligence, and it brought to mind something I tell my math students, prior to the first test in each class. I tell them that I test for three things: factual knowledge (in this context, the statements of definitions and theorems - and I tell them which they need to know), skills (and I tell them which skills I expect them to display), and understanding. Then I tell them that I can't tell them what I expect them to understand, because to display understanding is to deal with situations you haven't seen before. That generally involves word problems (at lower levels) and proofs (at higher).

Understanding is the hardest thing to teach. It may not be teachable at all.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Ever since I got my Kindle, I've been making trawls through Project Gutenberg, grabbing whatever looks interesting. It's not always successful; the copy of Pepys' Diary that I downloaded was a Victorian edition, considerably bowdlerized.

One recent pickup was "Bearslayer", an epic poem by the Latvian poet Andrejs Pumpurs. It's kind of a Latvian analogue of "Kalevala"; Pumpurs gathered together a bunch of folk tales about the legendary hero Bearslayer and wove them into a single poem. I finished it the other day. It's rather interesting; the Latvian gods appear, along with devils, witches, ogres, and assorted other monsters. It's set, however, in a fairly recent time-period, during the invasion of the Baltic states by the Teutonic Knights. Bearslayer is a leader in the doomed defense. There's one bit which jarred me, though. As Bearslayer's prophesied doom approaches, it is suddenly revealed that he has bear's ears, and if they are cut off his power will be diminished. No foreshadowing at all; his bride never asks, "Honey, what's wrong with your ears?" Still, it was fun.

My current Kindle reading (I rotate through them):
Lad, a Dog, Albert Payson Terhune. Yes, Terhune was a racist, and it's very explicit when it comes up. Fortunately, it's only come up once in the first 80% of the book. Other than that, they're standard dog stories.
The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe. I think this is one of the books that Jane Austen mocked in Northanger Abbey. Not too much Gothic yet, but I'm still in the early part of the book.
Sir Walter Scott's Journal. It's pretty interesting; we get glimpses of James Fenimore Cooper, the Duke of Wellington, and various other early-nineteenth century figures. There's a story of a man who'd been exiled to Australia and, feeling for some reason indebted to Sir Walter, sent him an emu. Scott accepted it, being under the impression that an emu was a sort of large parrot. He was unpleasantly surprised by the truth. (There's a later entry: "I offered the emu to Lord ####." No indication that the offer was accepted.)
Morphosyntactic Change, by Los, Blom, and Booij. This is a rather technical work on particle verbs in Dutch, German, and English, today and through history, and I'll admit I'm in over my head. But it's interesting to see what questions they're wrestling with, and what kinds of answers they give.

I'm also rereading Peter Hamilton's Judas Unchained. It and the preceding volume, Pandora's Star, are doorstops, but the story is intricate and absorbing.

A Memory

Sep. 15th, 2017 11:19 am
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
I have no particular reason to post this, but it's a memory that keeps popping up in my mind, and I thought I'd share it. It's a scene from the old Get Smart show. After Hymie the robot defected from KAOS, they sent some agents to try to bring him back. One of the agents, talking to Hymie in private, says the following.

(to Hymie): "Hymie, what happened to you? You used to love to kill, and to hellodolly, and..."
(to himself): "Hellodolly? That's not right."
(singing softly): "DUT-dut-DUT-dut-DUT-da-DUT-da-DUT-DUT, Ma-"
(to Hymie): "Maim!"

Still cracks me up, after half a century.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
I'm not good with faces.

Yesterday, a little before six, I headed over to Peck Hall for my Linear Algebra class. On arrival, I went to the elevator and punched the "Up" button. (It's on the third floor, the stairs are kind of steep, and my knees are not in good shape. I'm entitled.) As I waited, a young man joined me. When the car came, I stepped in, pushed the "3" button, and asked him what floor. He replied, "Same as you." This stopped me for a moment. Hmm, evidently this fellow has ridden up in the elevator with me several times this year. Aloud: "I'll try to remember that next time." At that point he informed me that he was one of my Linear Algebra students. I recognized him then, of course.

I'm really not good with faces.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Week three of the semester is complete. I'm teaching three courses: Math 320, "Introduction to Algebraic Structures"; Math 421, "Linear Algebra II"; and Math 435, "Foundations for Euclidean and Non-Euclidean Geometry".

Math 320 is a tough course for our students. The problem is that the mathematical objects we study in that class, "groups", are totally unlike anything else they've ever encountered. I mean, calculus is tough, but going in the students know what functions are and they can visualize things like tangent lines. Linear algebra is hard, but they've at least seen vectors in 2- and 3-space. Groups? Nothing like them. I have thirteen students in the class; four of them have had classes with me before. (I think all four have had multiple classes with me, in fact.) When I ask questions in class, ("Okay, what's the next step?" "Why did I just do that?") it is almost always one of those four who answers. I have to directly choose one of the others to get them to speak up.

Math 421... On Thursday, I asked my students for input on the time and content of the first midterm - two weeks hence, including the extensive review material, or a week later and concentrating on the new material. The discussion was lively, one student in particular pushing hard for the latter, but the consensus favored the former option. After class, she apologized to me for the, um, vigor of her opinions... She teaches high school math, and mentioned that her students were complaining about the amount and difficulty of their homework, saying, "Kids, if you only knew!" - the latter a reference to the homework I was giving her. I told her the story of Janis Ian and Connie Willis (subtitle, "In which the famous singer learns about fangirling from the other side"); she laughed, then caught my point. "Ok, that gives me a different perspective on my students...." That may have been the best thing I did that day.

Math 435 only has four students. It probably would have been cancelled, but V, who heads our Math Ed program, vigorously defended it before the Dean as an essential component of that program - cancel it, and the students wind up delayed a full year. I enjoy that class. The first couple of weeks dealt with familiar, high school geometry, results, but this last week we got to more advanced topics like the Star Trek and Bow Tie Lemmas, and the Cyclic Quadrilaterals Theorem. Next week we fall back to similar triangles, but then roar ahead into circle geometry - radical axes, coaxal systems, and so forth.

So that's where we stand at the end of week three.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
This Twitter account is fascinating: its posts describe events of World War II, hour by hour, seventy-eight years ago. The war started on September 1.


Sep. 3rd, 2017 09:02 am
stoutfellow: Joker (Default)
I don't have a Twitter account, but there are a number of Twitter feeds that I follow - Ursula Vernon, Howard Tayler, Sam Wang, my state's two senators, and like that.

The last two or three days, something odd has been happening. If I'm at a Twitter feed and I try to jump to another site - even a different feed - either the tab sits and spins or the URL changes without the site changing. Hitting the Refresh button clears the problem, but I shouldn't have to ask twice. Is this happening to anyone else? Does anyone know what's going on?


Aug. 27th, 2017 11:59 am
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Three comments concerning the flooding in Texas:

1) If you're donating, remember this. A donated blanket is a blanket. Donated food is food. Donated money is blankets, or food, or whatever else is needed. Verb. sap.

2) There will be reports of horrible savagery among those stranded by the storm. There always are. They will be wrong. They always are.

3) After Katrina, Mexico sent a convoy of army trucks with food and other supplies, and a navy ship with search vessels. This is the country the current occupant of the White House denounces as a criminal hellhole and a source of great evil for this country. I hope they will be as generous as before, despite this.


stoutfellow: Joker (Default)

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