Sunday, November 16, 2014


But we shouldn't be OK with the unacceptable bargain that football has become. If kids are risking traumatic lifelong consequences to get a shot at an education that the school isn't really giving them, that's crushing hypocrisy for a university whose mantra is "leaders and best."
From Stephen Henderson


Ok. How is "smoke" part of the weather. Weird. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014


Back in the day, I remember being amazed when I saw the bat-computer in "Batman Returns" (The picture is from the Tim Burton's "Batman", which I was just too young to see when it was new). Batman had a computer that could search through all sorts of records. It had dozens of monitors. Wait, wait. Not only monitors, but color monitors. It was amazing. At the time, we had a computer that looked something like this.
I still remember monochrome computer monitors (mono = "one", chrome = "color"). The internet was years away. Our computer games were on these big floppy disks (the ones that were actually floppy). We used "Word Perfect" to type documents. There was no mouse!
A couple weekends ago, I took a look at my computer set up. I was working on some files that were saved on my old personal laptop. I pulled out the iPad just to make the picture complete. I'm catching up to you Batman.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The bag #hashtag

I read this article and was not impressed. So, I took out the contents of my travel laptop bag and spread them out over the floor to take an inventory.

Here is everything that I have in my laptop bag, going from left-to-right and top-to-bottom.
  • Generic 6-plug power strip.
  • Kindle Fire video kit (Micro HDMI-to-HDMI cable and Micro-USB cable for power)
  • White Monster Microfiber screen cleaning cloth.
  • Apple Laptop power adapter.
  • Blue USB 3.0 cable in bag.
  • iPad 2 with green cover.
  • Black HP Laptop power adapter.
  • Black Mini HDMI-to-HDMI Cable in bag.
  • Black Micro USB and white Kindle Power Adapter.
  • Mini DisplayPort to VGA converter in bag.
  • 'Stardust' DVD.
  • Kindle Fire with stylus and case.
  • 100 Index Cards.
  • Powder blue javelin pen.
  • VGA and 3.5 mm audio cable.
  • Green HDMI cable.
  • Female 3.5 mm audio to male stereo RCA cable.
  • Male 3.5 mm audio to male stereo RCA cable.
  • 3 sets of plastic silverware, napkin, salt and pepper.
  • If... (Volume 2)
  • JVC earbuds.
  • Roll of pre-1982 pennies.
  • Smooshed bite-size Milky Way Dark.
  • 1GB SD Card in case.
  • Peter Griffin USB drive.
  • 8GB Sandisk flash drive.
  • 4GB Geek Squad flash drive.
  • 2GB Sony flash drive (compatible with Windows 98).
  • Sandisk MobileMate (SD/Micro/mini Card reader).
  • Green Lighting-to-USB cable.
  • White Apple 30-pin to USB cable.
  • Gray Mini USB cable.
  • Black Ethernet cable.
  • 15.6' HP Laptop.
  • Logitec corded mouse.
  • Star Wars playing cards.
  • Empty Altoids container.
  • 12-inch ruler.
  • Compass.
  • Bag spare styli.

Typically, I don't take the Kindle Fire and the iPad with me when I travel; I take one or the other. Sometimes my Sony Camcorder gets wedged inside the bag, too. Not pictured is the iPhone 4s and Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic that I carry around in my pocket. For a while, I also had a Kill-a-watt and a sound pressure meter in the bag, too.

On a completely unrelated note, my laptop bag is falling apart. I have looked for replacements, but I have yet to find one that is sufficiently large.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Know thyself #hashtag

I came across this article about Google Now and the power of digital assistants and predictive algorithms. The theme is about how big data is used to find patterns in our life that we neglect to see. It asks an interesting question: does Google know us better than we know ourselves? The idea of self-deception is presented and it reminded me of a thought from C. S. Lewis. When writing in the Problem of Pain, he writes:
We imply, and often believe, that habitual vices are exceptional single acts, and make the opposite mistake about our virtues — like the bad tennis player who calls his normal form his 'bad days' and mistakes his rare successes for his normal. I do not think it is our fault that we cannot tell the real truths about ourselves.
While the article focuses mostly on a positive self-deception, like the player Lewis describes, I am reminded of the continuum of possibly misguided self evaluations. In the light of Robin Williams departure, there has been a renewed public focus on depression. The other day I came across a text-based 'game' (think "Choose-your-own adventure" book) called Depression Quest. The game is rather emotionally challenging. It does remind me that for every tennis player who over-estimates his greatness there is someone struggling with a crippling sense of failure and self-loathing. That makes me wonder about the effects of predictive algorithms on the depressed mind. I wonder if they have the effect of sometimes deflating our opinions of ourselves or whether they merely pull people back to reality, which would actually be an improvement for the depressed individual.

Changing topics and building off the idea of analytics, I wonder which data collector knows me best.
Firstly, there is my bank. I use my debit card more than cash, so the result is that the bank knows when and where I spend my money. I do a lot of shopping at Meijer (A million reasons in a single store), so that does not give them insight into what products I am buying. However, they could probably tell how often I have left my house just by looking at how often I go to the gas station.
Secondly, there is Amazon. Not only does Amazon know what I actually spend money on, they have an idea about those aspirational items that I read about. For example, they know how many times I've looked at the specs of the Onkyo TX-NR626. They could probably use that information to make some predictions (At some point in the future, I hope to be living somewhere so that I can make use of a dual-zone audio receiver).
Thirdly, there is Goliath or rather Google. Not only do they know what I search for, but they have my emails. That's a big deal since I am not one for making phone calls. If you want to know what Google thinks about you, try signing into your Google account and going to Google's Ad preferences to look at the 'interests' category.
Fourthly, there is the Facebook. For a while, I would say that Facebook knew me best. However, it's been about ten months since I signed on to Facebook and over a year since I regularly visited the site. I wonder if robo-Zuckerberg, or whatever you want to call the Facebook algorithms, ever figured out why I stopped checking in with them.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Traditions #hashtag

I am surviving DB fest '14. If I had a dollar for every guy I saw wearing a wife-beater and smoking a cigarette I would be a millionaire. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Blogging via an app #hashtag

This is my first blog post submitted via the Blogger app for iOS. 
I am a few sentences in and I am already seeing some of the shortcomings. Firstly, as one might notice from the included picture, I haven't found a way to rotate pictures taken with the camera.  Secondly, the iPhone keyboard is missing one key item: commas. Surprisingly, typing standard text is simple even on the relatively small green of my iPhone 4s. This is largely a result of the power of autocorrect. At this point, I would share with you an interesting article about the history of autocorrect. However, according to the reviews there is no way to insert links. The irony is not lost on me. The Google search engine is built to look for which websites are most linked to.

Let's try this writing out the link in HTML. 
<a href="">wired</a>

We'll see if that works. If not just search for Wired the history of autocorrect.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Go blue #hashtag

Saw part of this on Sportscenter. Go Blue.

Sequel #hashtag

I found this.

I wonder how long my students would tolerate me starting each day with the learning objectives written in the crawl. . . "Episode XCVII: the Inscribe Angle Theorem"

Monday, July 21, 2014

Wiles Tangent #hashtag

Andrew Wiles quotation:
This [Fermat's Last Theorem] was my childhood passion. There’s nothing to replace that. I had this very rare privilege of being able to pursue in my adult life what had been my childhood dream. I know it’s a rare privilege, but if you can tackle something in adult life that means that much to you, then it’s more rewarding than anything imaginable. Having solved this problem there’s certainly a sense of loss, but at the same time there is this tremendous sense of freedom. I was so obsessed by this problem that for eight years I was thinking about it all the time – when I woke up in the morning to when I went to sleep at night. That’s a long time to think about one thing. That particular odyssey is over. My mind is at rest.
Good advice for life. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Organizing my digital life 2 #hashtag

In an earlier post I wrote about the overflow of technology surrounding me. Having spent more time with thew new Windows (8.1) I have come to a conclusion. Windows 8.1 isn't bad. I've gotten used to the start screen and I like it better than the start menu of the past. That only problem with it is apps. The problem isn't with the third party apps. It's the Microsoft Apps that are terrible. The combination of Internet Explorer and the Reading List app make a great combination. Everything else is garbage.

Aside from games and news apps which occasionally freeze (see video), there is the hugely disappointing Mail and Calendar apps. Firstly, the calendar app does not synchronize with Google Calendar, which makes in completely useless. Secondly, the mail app just stops working. Every couple of weeks Mail will just stop receiving new messages. I have to wait a few days for the the app to start working again or try deleting and adding my account anew. The frustrating part is that my Google Account works flawlessly with the native mail and calendar applications on my iOS devices. It is a strange world we live in in which Apple plays well with other companies and my PC has become tied to one monolithic corporation.

Here is some video of the Bing News App and Bing Sports App not working. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Rise of the Machines #hashtag

Pre-reading: Wired: The Bro App and Buy the Bro App (This is not an endorsement)

One of the benefits to a slow job hunt and a lack of graduate level classes is the freedom to read for pleasure. I cam across this article while trying to get the "Wired" App to work on my Kindle. Technology affects that way that we live and interact with other people. The way that it affects us is still difficult to evaluate. As I see, there are two possible scenarios. Firstly, technology helps us create more connections with people. Conversely, technology has the potential to replace connections with other people.

The latter idea is described in the article. In my own life, it reminds me of Facebook birthday reminders. Back in the days of my youth, when I was a regular Facebook user, I felt guilty wishing people a happy birthday on Facebook. If I didn't remember your birthday without prompting, aren't I just faking it? If I don't care enough about you to actually remember your birthday why should send a message? In this case, there is the idea that I am using technology to perpetuate the lie that someone else matters to me.

On the other hand, sometimes I forget birthdays because I don't know what day it is. When prompted, I can remember an important person's birthday. That problem is that I don't know what today's date is (This is a more common occurrence during the summer months when entire weeks blur together). There is also the matter of precision. There are a few friends of mine whose birthday I sort of know. I have a friend whose birthday is at the end of February. I know what week it is. I know that I will have dinner with that person to celebrate that person's birthday. However, the exact date is something at which I would have to guess. Now, traveling back to the circa 1970 technology, I could get by mailing a birthday card. If it arrives a few days late or a few days early I can blame it letter carrier. The instantaneous travel of text messages is less forgiving. Perhaps there is room for some electronic reminders.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Wayne plan for countywide school tax divisive

I really thought that this was a good idea until I read the line where one administrator said money would be spent on ". . . security measures such as structural changes to windows and doors and adding locks and cameras. . ." What a waste.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Day 1 - No syllabus

Today is my first day without a syllabus in a year. I had no idea how to spend my time.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Organizing my digital life #hashtag

I have too much stuff. I think that I am making up for not having the newest and best toys as a child by buying things now as an adult. Worse of all, I refuse to be a fan-boy. So, I have a Windows XP Desktop, a Windows ME Laptop, a Windows 7 Laptop, a Windows 8 Desktop, a Kindle, a Kindle Fire, an iPod, iPad and an iPhone.

Thinking about hardware for a moment...
I have my Windows 8 desktop because I was tired of having to unpack my laptop all of the time. Plus, on the off chance that I break my laptop, I still need a computer. It's the back-up. Furthermore, I want to learn the new software so that there is less of a culture shock when I eventually have to replace my laptop with a device running Windows 9.
I have my Windows 7 laptop because it is my portable office. I use it as my primary computer at school and at work. I used to play games on it, but now it is my e-mailing and document creating device.
I have my Windows ME Laptop because it is the only computer that I own that will run "Lords of the Realm 2".
I have my Windows XP desktop because it reminds me of the idyllic days of my youth.
I have a Kindle because it is the best device for reading books.
I have a Kindle Fire because it was on sale. It's a great device for watching media. It's portable enough that I can carry it around easily.
I have an iPod because I like to listen to music and, in particular, the radio.
I have an iPad because I use it to teach when using Doceri.
I have an iPhone because I wanted a small smartphone with a good camera and I didn't want to learn a new OS (Sorry Android).

I also have five e-mail address, four of which I use on a daily basis. I have an Apple ID, Microsoft Account and a couple of Google accounts. I have a Dropbox, Skydrive and an Amazon Cloud Drive.

Returning to my purpose for writing this document, does anyone have software suggestions for a new Windows 8 PC?

28 Days Later #hashtag

I miss blogging. I need to go work on my E-Portfolio or plan another week of lessons.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Never, ever, ever give up #hashtag

For the first time, I gave students an exam on a unit that I planned and implemented. While the results are still too be tabulated, I was a bit disappointed by one aspect. Even though the students had two days to work on the exam, there were students who quit on the first day. Students could think about problems and study on the night between the two days of exams. It got thinking about the nature of mathematics. With the CCSS, we have eight practices that were are supposed to develop in students. . . 
MP1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
MP2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
MP3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
MP4. Model with mathematics.
MP5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
MP6. Attend to precision.
MP7 Look for and make use of structure.

MP8 Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

How do you scaffold grit and perseverance?

One more closing thought of pessimism related to the attached image. The first panel left me with an interesting thought. Sixty years of three-month-long attempts could almost mean 239 failures before success. I am not sure if that would be exhilarating or exhausting.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Break time #hashtag

I came across a funny quip from Ben Franklin. He wrote:
"Tim was so learned, that he could name a horse in nine languages. So ignorant, that he bought a cow to ride on."
As a teacher, it made me think about the nature of education. I have to go write some papers though, so maybe someday I'll get back to this.

The word of the day is mantissa. It's the part of a number that is after the decimal point. So, for 3.18, the "point one eight" is the mantissa. It is a math word that I should have known, but was only introduced to recently.

Back to work.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

MACUL n'more (ED504)

Traveling to MACUL gave me the first time to travel with my iPad. When Apple announced that they were going to discontinue the the iPad 2, the price dropped by $100 at Best Buy and most other retailers. The barrier to entry was low enough that I purchased one and have begun using Doceri in my classroom. So, while I was moving from session to session, I was able to take notes, store them in iCloud and easily look at them while typing up the blog-post on the good old PC.

The iPad is a great tool for consuming and creating media. You can record and edit photographs, videos and music. Reading and writing text is something that can be done on the iPad easily. The iPad is touted as an educational tool. However, as a computer, you still can't really programs on the iPad. Making apps for the iPad is hard (both because of the programming complexity and closed App Store ecosystem). The reduction in the cost of computer power means that people have more and more computer power available to them. However, fewer and fewer people know how to create computers. Most of the devices we have are polished, but locked down. People rarely tinker with their laptop or smartphone.

On to the stage comes the Raspberry Pi. The Pi is among the world's cheapest computers. It is about the size of a smartphone, features all the connections to hook up to a keyboard, mouse, monitor and network cable and it only costs $35 (there is an older cheaper one for $25). It runs on free, open-source software recorded on an SD card. It is cheap enough so that students can "afford failure." Most of the computers in a school are locked down; not even the teachers are allowed to install software. The Pi gives students a sandbox to play in. It gives the students the opportunity to create software, not just be consumers of software.

Bill Van Loo has begun using the Raspberry Pi in his school with elementary and middle school students. Students in a week-long summer camp program set up their Pi's and started programming code for Minecraft. This sort of creative activity engages students in higher order thinking and problem solving, but it also gives the students a purpose for learning. In his presentation, Bill Van Loo described the process of building a circular tower in Minecraft. Writing the code to do so required revisiting how to convert polar coordinates (in which it is easy to give the equation for a circle) into the rectangular coordinates (which describes the world of Minecraft).

I was thinking this summer that I might take a vacation somewhere as a reward for graduating. Vacations are expensive, so maybe I will do that next summer. However, I can probably afford to pick up a Raspberry Pi and tinker with it. I'll never teach a programming class, but the Raspberry Pi offers the potential for a club or extra-curricular activity. It also gives me the power to create something more than just an awesome blog, but to create something that actually does something (Like run Doom!).

Returning to my iPad, in another session I came across Explain Everything. It is a video capturing/screen-casting/whiteboard application for the iPad. It allows users to import Documents, PowerPoints, PDFs and a host of other file formats. Then, the users can annotated or mark-up the file before exporting the as images or as an MP4 video. Users can get a similar product for PC's called Jing for free. However, the file format that Jing saves in is difficult to upload and edit. Explain Everything videos can either be immediately uploadable to YouTube or can be loaded into (the free) Microsoft Movie Maker and further edited. Best of all, unlike other videos editing software, Explain Everything only costs $2.99.

For the cost of parking and the gas to drive out to MACUL, I could buy a computer and start learning how to code. For the cost of a muffin at MACUL, I could download Explain Everything and start flipping my classroom.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy Pi-Day! #hashtag

Happy Pi-day.
I scheduled this to post at 1:59 in the morning, so the date and time should read 3/14 1:59AM.
Next year, I could schedule something to post at 3/14/15 9:26AM

Let's look at some pi. . .

The World Record for memorizing digits of pi is held by Lu Chao who memorized the first 67,890 digits of pi. So far, I have the first 8 digits. I am working on more. As soon as I get beyond the first 11 digits, I should beat out most scientific calculators. So, after that I can start making up digits to impress people.

Both P and pi are the sixteenth letter of their respective alphabets (English and Greek).

Albert Einstein, Billy CrystalMichael Caine, and Taylor Hanson were all born on Pi Day. That is probably the only sentence you will ever read in which Albert Einstein and Taylor Hanson appear in the same sentence.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tech Joke #hashtag

Teaching and being a grad student leaves little time for blogging, but I did have the opportunity to take this picture the other day.

This is the screen of my iPad. I am using the remote desktop program Doceri on my Windows PC to read an article about Linux using Chrome as a browser. Let's summarize: Apple device, connected to a Microsoft PC, using a Google Browser to read about Linux. It sort of reminds me of Captain Planet. Apple-Microsoft-Google-Linux-Heart with those powers combined, I have the INTERNET!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Thoughts on the Fourteenth #hashtag

It is important to remember the story of Eva Braun (Eva Brown). Hitler had a girlfriend. So, if you are spending Valentine's Day alone, it does not mean you're a bad guy. It just means you're less lovable than Hitler.

That is not entirely true. It could just be a numbers game. According to the CIA, there are 1.01 men for every 1 woman on Earth. If the 7,095,217,980 were to pair off in male-female couples for the holiday there would be an extra 35,299,592 single guys on Valentine's day (I could not find reliable information on how same-sex relationship would affect the number of "extra" men in the world). The population of Canada is about 35 million people.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Comets #hashtag

Comets are pretty amazing. On Friday in ED512, we had a brief review of the physics of motion while examining graphic organizers. The amount of kinetic energy in an object is one half the mass times the square of the velocity. While watching the Science Channel this afternoon, I learned that a comet can travel up to 1,000,000 miles per hour and be miles across. So, I picked a three mile diameter comet, converted into SI units and did the math (assumed that the comet has the density of water-ish). The kinetic energy of the quickly moving comet that I just described would have a kinetic energy of 5.89E24 joules. It's 5,890,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 joules. That is a lot. It's about 1,000 times the energy contain in all the natural gas in the world (not all the natural gas used this year, but all the natural gas reserves currently waiting to be extracted).

That got me thinking about the weird comparisons that we make. If something is long, we say that is the length of X football fields. If it's really long, we say it is the length of Y Empire State Buildings, laid on their side. When it's astronomically long, it could wrap around the Earth X times or to the Moon Y times. The volume of something large is measured in multiples of Olympic swimming pools (or fill up a bunch of football stadiums). We use strange units of measurement.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Baby, it's cold outside #hashtag

Students were complaining about how cold it was today. They were right. I checked the Weather Channel during break. It was twenty degrees colder in Walled Lake than in Siberia. Someone could get sent to the gulag and it would warm them up (both the slave labor and the outdoor temperature).

In case you are wondering, there is a 14 hour time difference between Michigan and Siberia. It was just after sunrise in Michigan, which according to the internet, is the coldest portion of the day. Meanwhile, it was well after dark in Siberia (the colder portion of the day, but not necessarily the coldest).

Monday, January 20, 2014

Tiering it up (ED510)

For our Geometry class, we implement a novel form of tiering most days of the week. Our Geometry class is a somewhat flipped classroom. Students watch videos introducing them to new material during the evening. They use a set of guided notes to help them keep track of the new material. On the day following in class, they begin with a diagnostic quiz. The quiz covered four or five problems from the previous section. Students have 15-20 minutes to work on the quiz.

When students are done working on the quiz, or after a given amount of time, we will go over the problems as a group. After going over the problems as a class, students give themselves a score for the test by totaling up the points from each problem that they correctly answered. The point totals correspond to three groups of problems that students work on in the classroom. Students who get none of the problems right would assign themselves to Group A; a student who got all the problems right would assign herself to Group C. Students are encouraged to evaluate their own level of understanding (ahem, metacognition). If a student if confident about his or her understanding of the material, the student is encouraged to ignore the numerical score on the diagnostic quiz and join the group that he or she thinks is most appropriate.

Here is one example selection of homework:Group A: Page 353-354 #16-17, 22-28, 29, 30-31Group B: Page 353-354 #22-27, 29, 31-35Group C: Page 353-354 #22-25, 29-31, 38-42, 51

While at first, it looks like a random sequence of numbers, there is a pattern. Students in Group A focus their attention on definitions and basic calculations.
Take a look at problems 16 and 17: 
There are still some problems that all students are expected to complete. Problem #29 requires students to evaluate two examples of student work. All students are expected to work on this problem; it shows up in each problem set.
Problem 51, on the other hand, only shows up in Group C’s problem set. It's a bit challenging.


How does tiering work in practice?

Creating the differentiated problem sets is relatively easy. There is a host of available resources that help select problems. The district has a unit planning guide which lays out the standards to be covered from each section of the textbook. The textbook maker provides sample problem sets depending on the desired difficulty. Designing the problem set is just a matter of aggregating information from three or four different resources. It takes time to look over the problems, but it’s doable. A satisfactory solution exists.

The problem is getting students into the right group. Creating differentiated tasks is comparatively simple. While all students pick up the diagnostic quiz when they walk into the room, the actual engagement in the task varies from hour-to-hour and day-to-day. On some days, I would say only half the students attempt the problems before we start going over with as a class. After the quiz, I am not entirely sure that all students engage in a metacognitive conversation and evaluate their knowledge. I think that some of them just work with their group of friends (SHOCKING). Also, I know of at least one student who just counts up the number of problems, ignoring the potential differences in difficulty, and does the problem set with the fewer number of problems.

Another challenge to tiering is that tiering is not a word, at least according to the MS Word dictionary.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dalmatians #hashtag

This is the 101st blog post of mine. It has been a while since I posted anything related to puppies. Here are few other scattered thoughts...

From Star Trek:
Amanda: Spock, does the good of the many outweigh the good of the one? Spock: I would accept that as an axiom. Amanda: Then you stand here alive because of a mistake made by your flawed, feeling, human friends. They have sacrificed their futures because they believed that the good of the one - you - was more important to them. Spock: Humans make illogical decisions. Amanda: They do, indeed. 
Someday, I need to watch all of the Star Trek movies. With the exception of the latest movie ('Into Darkness"), I have seen pieces of all the movies. The line about the good of the many shows through the original series of movies. I wonder if, as movies get better special effects, if we settle for worse stories. That is not to say that the plots to the original Star Trek movies were solid. I am just not sure that the word "axiom" or discussion about the value of individuals would seep into most movies in the theatres nowadays. I wonder if my students have ever seen a movie that was thought provoking.

My freshman are learning about ATP in biology class. ATP is how the body stores energy in its cells. It consists of a molecule of adenine connected to a molecule of ribose with three phosphate molecules attached somewhere along the time. I was really proud of myself for remembering most of that from my high school biology class.

We learned about Doceri this week. For the first time in my life, I am seriously considering buying an iPad. The guy in Russia who regularly reads my website knows how much I love whiteboards. Doceri might actually be better than a whiteboard. There is not as much writing space as a wall full of whiteboards; I can only have so much information on the screen at one time. However, with the ability to zoom and record, there is an almost unlimited writing space in Doceri if students choose to review the material later on.

The more that I am in the classroom, the more I grow to hate the Doc-Cam/Projector combination. It's hard to keep track of what is actually showing up on the screen ("Can you zoom out?", "Can you move it over to the right?"). You can only fit about half a page on the screen. It's hard to get students to come up and use the doc-cam. I looked into getting a wireless Doc-Cam. However, for the price of a wireless document camera, I could buy an Ipad 2 and a nice laptop or PC (or almost a Mac Mini) and use Doceri and get a much better experience (along with all sorts of functionality when doing something aside from presentations).

Star Trek, ATP, Doceri. Oh yeah, and I wrote about puppies and used a properly placed semi-colon. That is pretty scattered. It's time to go do homework. G'night all. Happy MLK Day tomorrow.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Why kids don't graduate college #hashtag

I read this article from the Fiscal Times. It's not the most credible source, but it was interesting to consider the reasons behind students failing to graduate from college.

One of the reasons that students fail to graduate from college, in four years, is that they start off behind. They spend their first year of college taking remedial classes which do not count towards graduation. This is something that I hope to prevent (that's my job from here on out).

Another reason that students do not graduate in four years is that they are balancing a work and school schedule. I am of two minds on this. On the one hand, working during college is great, it helps reduce the debt load carried by students. On the other hand, working during college probably isn't worthwhile. In the long run, it probably costs students money.

I did this calculation a few years back. For almost all students, it does not make sense to have a summer job. They would have saved money, just by looking at the tuition spent, by taking more classes at the community college instead of working for the summer (this is assuming students move 'home' for the summer). As an upperclassman, it makes sense to take summer classes, too. The average starting salary for a college graduate is around $44,000. So, graduating a year early has the potential to be worth $44,000 (at least). It's risky, but for most students, it would probably make sense to rack up a load of student loan debt (and maybe even credit card debt, crazy as that sounds) if it means graduating a year early.

Another unexpected reason that students don't graduate "on time" is that they end up with extra credits. The average college graduate ends up with sixteen extra credits (four or five superfluous classes). This was something that was partially true for me. I graduated with an extra six credits. Another issue for students is scheduling for classes. This has been something that has been true for me as a graduate student. I would have loved to have picked up a political science endorsement, but the two classes that I needed to take were only offered once a year during the morning. So, while it won't affect my graduation, I can imagine the issues surrounding finishing off those rarely offered graduation requirements.

I'll close with a fun fact: Only 1.5% of students graduate college in three years or so. Who are these freaks?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

New Menus #hashtag

I saw this menu item at a local dining establishment. I wonder if Doug Nussmeier likes meatball subs.

Mpemba Effect #hashtag

Erasto Mpemba was a high school student in Tanzania who noticed, during a project to make ice cream, that heated milk froze more quickly than the cool milk when placed in the freezer. When he asked his science teacher about his observation, his science teacher told him he was wrong. He persisted. Eventually, he came across a college professor (Dr Denis Osborne) who would repeat his experiment. The professor ended up coming to the same results. Under some circumstances, hot water will freeze more quickly than cooler water (under some circumstances, cool water freezers more quickly than warmer water, too).

So, there are two interesting things about this story. First off, this observation was made forty years ago and we still do not understand the effect. Almost every house in America has an ice tray. We know water freezes. However, we cannot be entirely sure how long it will take for water to freeze. There is still a mystery about something as elementary as ice cubes. Secondly, this initial observation was not made by physicists or chemists at the leading research universities, but by a high school student in a developing country.

Youtube: Freezing Water:
How long does it take for water to freeze? A really long time. Check out the six and a half hour long time-lapse video (Cut down to just over seven minutes). The outdoor temperatures varied between -10 and +2 degrees Fahrenheit.

Physics Q & A by the nice folks at the University of Illinois
More about the Mpemba Effect

A somewhat related phenomenon is the Leidenfrost effect. It has to do with the boiling of water.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Weight Loss made easy #hashtag

The easiest way to lose weight is to climb a mountain. Now, it is not just the sweat lost or the fat burned that helps mountain climbers lose weight. One could be carried to the top of a mountain and still lose weight. You see, weight on Earth is the measure of the force of gravity between an object and the planet. The further the object gets away from the Earth, the less it will weight. At sea level, I weight a bulky 183 lbs. If I were in the International Space Station orbiting the Earth, I would weigh almost nothing. There is a continuous line. If I could climb a ladder from the Earth to the Space Station, assuming that I didn't get tired along the way, I would notice that it took less and less effort to climb each rung as I got farther and farther from the Earth.

So, how much less would I weigh on the top of the mountain? If I were on top of Mount Everest, I would lose about two-thirds of a pound of weight from what I weighed laying out on the beach. My clothes would still fit me just as well. I'd be the same size, I would just weigh less. Not only would I weigh less, but everything with me would weigh less. So, if I happen to bring some free weights or some dumbbells with me, and assuming I could cope with the freezing temperatures and the thin atmosphere, I would notice lift a slightly heavier weight. It would not be that I had gotten strong, it would be the the numbers labeling the weights were no longer accurate. That weight that was labeled 20 lbs down at sea level would actually only weigh 19.93 lbs on the peak.

Does it get any better than this? Mount Everest is the highest mountain on the Earth, so it is the farthest I could get away from the center of the Earth, right? Actually, there might be a better place. In elementary school, we all learned that Christopher Columbus proved that the world was round (No part of that statement is true). You see, the Earth is not a sphere or ball. It is round-ish. The distance around the earth at Equator is more than the distance around the earth going through the poles. The Earth is like a sphere that got a little squished. So, if there was a really tall mountain near the Equator, then it might be farther from the center of the earth than the top of Mount Everest. Such a place exists! It is the volcano Chimborazo in Ecuador. It is more than two kilometers (more than a mile) farther from the center of the earth than Mount Everest. So, all things being equal, I would weigh three-quarters of a pound less on top of Chimborazo than I would sitting on my couch at home.

*Assumptions used to make these calculations. The mass of the Earth is 5.9 x 10^24 kg, the radius of the earth is 6,371 km. The distance from the top of Everest to the center of the Earth is 6382.3 km and the distance from the top of Chimborazo to the center of the Earth is 6384.4 km. Also, I used 6.67 x 10^-11 as the gravitational constant. Also, in real life, the mass of the mountain likely effect the calculations. It would be interesting to know if anyone has brought a very accurate scale up Everest.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sharp Criticism #hashtag

Normally, I don't care for anything Drew Sharp has to say. However, I read this article.
Ohio State didn't help the conference, proving that its No. 2 national ranking prior to the Big Ten championship game was more a product of hype than an honest assessment of its quality. The Buckeyes hadn’t played anybody ranked in the top 15 during their 24-game winning streak. And it showed.
When the Buckeyes finally played two good teams, they lost both — losing to the Spartans in Indianapolis and getting schooled by 12th-ranked Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
I'll have to read more of what Drew Sharp has to say in the future.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Polar Vortex #hashtag

FREEP: The Polar Vortex

I'll admit it. I was excited about the possibility of having a snow day today. When I read on the internet that school had been cancel, I felt relieved. I get one more day to work on readjusting my sleep schedule. I get one more day to get ahead in the readings. Then, when I found out that tomorrow was going to be a snow day, I was disappointed. I like going to school. Stupid polar vortex.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The end of give a penny take a penny #hashtag

Let's say that you own a store in Michigan you don't like pennies. You want to price the items in your store so that no matter what people buy, the total price will not require the use of pennies. One idea might be take one cent off for every dollar. So, if an item was priced at $0.99, the total after tax would be $1.05. An item priced at $1.98 would give a total of $2.10 after tax. It’s really easy to do this for any single item. By adding or subtracting a few pennies, it’s easy to get an after-tax total that would not require the use of pennies.

The problem is with combinations and rounding. Following this pattern, consider two items priced at $4.95. Buying the individual items would result in a purchase price of $5.247 which rounds to a nice $5.25. The use of pennies has been avoided. However, if someone put two of these items on the same bill, the price would double and one would end up with a total of $10.494 which rounds down to $10.49. The plan has been foiled.

So, our first plan has failed. Rather than guess and check, let’s look at the algebra. Let P be the price in pennies in the pre-tax price and N to be the number of nickels after tax. What we are looking for is a P and N that are whole numbers and satisfy the equation.
Having reduced the fraction, the only way that N can be a whole number is if P is a multiple of 250 (otherwise, the fraction on the right hand side of the equation will not simplify to a whole number). So, there is a way to avoid the use of pennies. If every item in the store is priced at $2.50 or whole number multiple of $2.50, then post-tax total will always work out to a number that does not require the use of pennies. So, there you go, problem solved. 

* What is wrong with pennies? For one reason, they are economically inefficient. You can read about it here or just search for one of the posts from my friend Mankiw. Another reason might be historic. Consider South Carolina (which has a similar six percent sales taxes to Michigan) or Georgia (the math would be similar with their four percent sales tax). There are probably some folks out there still bitter about the "War of Northern Aggression."

One might argue that getting rid of the penny would make more copper available; copper is an important item in all sorts of electronics. This isn't a very good argument. While modern pennies look like they are made out of copper, there is only the tiniest layer of copper covering a zinc disc. Only 2.5% of a freshly-minted penny is actually copper. On the other hand, nickels, dimes and quarters are at least 75% copper. So, as the old adage goes, you cannot judge a coin by the plating that covers it. Also, all that shimmers is not necessarily copper.