Long time coming

It has been ages since I last posted here — the first time I went more than a month without posting since starting to blog in 2005.  There are a million reasons, not the least of which was my father’s death in July.  That seemed to change things for me in lots of unexpected ways. 

I don’t know how often I will be back here, but I am going to try.  I’ll see you then, I hope.

June Reading

Well, June wasn’t as good a month as May was, but I am happy with my reading.

I only read one non-fiction book: Imagine Living in a Socialist USA edited by Frances Goldin, Debby Smith and Michael Steven Smith.  I had heard  Goldin and Michael Smith talking about it on Democracy Radio one Friday on my way home from work.  There were parts of it that seemed better to me than others, but I am glad I read it.  I had been especially eager to read the piece on prisons by Angela Davis and Mumia Abu-Jamal, but I have to admit I was a little disappointed in that section.  It was more academic than I was hoping it would be.  But as I have thought about it since reading it, I find I got more out of it than I had originally thought.

I also only read one novel in June,  It was The Disappeared by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and it was a great book.  Part SciFi and part detective story, it was thoroughly enjoyable.  I have not read anything else by Rusch, but I definitely plan to now.

Yes, you guessed it: only one anthology.  I read The Mike Murphy Files and Other Stories by Christopher Bunn.  They were good stories, very light and quick to read.

And not wanting to break my streak, I read one piece of short fiction: If I Were You by L. Ron Hubbard.   The title story was a little convoluted, and I had some trouble keeping it straight — but maybe I was just tired when I read it.  I felt the same way about the second story in the book, “The Last Drop”.

So I will be traveling again next week, and that may lead to a longer list next month.  Or it may not.  Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Learning from TED: June 11, 2014

I know… I was going to watch TED videos and report on what I had learned.  Well, I have been watching them, but I haven’t done so well on writing about them.  So today I want to mention some of the TED talks I have watched lately.  Most of them, as you will note, have had some tie to mathematics, my current focus as a teacher.

The last video I watched was The mathematics of war by Sean Gourley.  This talk focused on the statistics of conflicts like the war in Iraq, looking at a mathematical formula that can describe what is going on or, in this case, what was going on in 2009.  I found it really fascinating that math could be used to analyze something as seemingly random as war.  But it can.  And Gourley makes a case for examining the math of particular conflicts as a means of learning how to proceed.

Another talk that I really enjoyed was The beautiful math of coral by Margaret Wertheim.  In it she explained how she and her sister are crocheting a model of a coral reef.  They undertook the project to make coral reefs, and the effects of global warming on them, more real to people.  In the process, they demonstrate the concept of hyperbolic space.   I was fascinated by this and wanted to go out at one and start crocheting coral.  It also seemed like it might be a project some of my students, who were learning to crochet at the end of the school year.  We’ll see.  Wertheim concludes her talk calling for more playing with ideas, not just study of them.  She says:

We live in a society now where we have lots of think tanks, where great minds go to think about the world. They write these great symbolic treatises called books, and papers, and op-ed articles. We want to propose, Chrissy and I, through The Institute for Figuring, another alternative way of doing things, which is the play tank. And the play tank, like the think tank, is a place where people can go and engage with great ideas. But what we want to propose, is that the highest levels of abstraction, things like mathematics, computing, logic, etc. – all of this can be engaged with, not just through purely cerebral algebraic symbolic methods, but by literally, physically playing with ideas.

Now that is something I can totally support.

The final talk that I want to mention today is The math and magic of origami by Robert Lang.  This was another one that had me thinking of projects for my students.  Lang describes the math behind origami, something I had never thought about before.   he also talks about how origamists have been consulted in the building of space telescopes and car airbags — even heart valve stents.  It is really cool!

So I have learned a few things from these talks other in addition to getting ideas for my students.  I have learned that I need to get back to watching these talks on a regular basis.  I have also learned that math is way cooler than even I thought!



May Reading

It was a good month for reading — I spent 40 hours in the car as a passenger with nothing else much to do!

I read two non-fiction books, both of them excellent:

Affection and Trust: The Personal Correspondence of Harry S Truman and Dean Acheson 1953-1971 by Harry S. Truman, Dean Acheson, Dr. Ray Geselbracht and David C. Acheson  was an extremely interesting book.  I knew little about Truman — somehow history I studied in school, even in university, seldom made it past D-Day.  I was struck by how little the world has changed.  I was also interested to not the changing nature of the correspondence as the men grew older.  Dealing with aging parents and having noticed a gradual change in my focus over the last couple years, this was both sad and instructive.

You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train by Howard Zinn was another fascinating book.  I have admired Zinn ever since reading his People’s History of the United States, but I didn’t really know much about his life.  This book filled in the gaps.  I admire the man even more now.


I read a lot of novels.  They didn’t require a lot of concentration, so I could help navigate as we went down the road.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card was a book my son had been trying to get me to read for years, and now I am only sad it took me so long to do so.  I can see why it is so popular.  The story was great, and the writing was excellent.  I will read the others in the series now.

The Absinthe Cloud by Timothy Everhart was a fun read.  Lots of anarchists.  There is at least one more book featuring the same two main characters, and I will probably read it. I enjoyed being taken back to France in 1900, a world I know little about.

The Invisible Man by HG Wells  — How old am I and I had never read that book?   I enjoyed it, although at times it got a little tedious.  I am glad to have read it.

My anthology for the month was  Selections from Brave New Worlds edited by John Joseph Adams, which I got from the Baen Free Library.  This book was not as interesting to me as others of these collections have been.  (Even the vampires look good by comparison!) But most of the stories were interesting.

Short fiction for the month included the following:

The Adventure of the Cardboard Box” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a good story.  According to one review on Amazon, the story was considered to controversial for young readers and was, therefore not included in a collection of Holmes stories.  It is, of course, pretty tame.  But I enjoyed it a lot.

Reign of the Gila Monster by L. Ron Hubbard was not my usual kind of book; it was a western.  But it was fun to read.  Several years ago I was at a conference and received several of Hubbard’s books.  this was one of them, and it took me until now to read it.

Paydown by Nick Stephenson was a nice intro to an interesting character, Leopold Blake.  I will definitely check out more of this series.

On the Good, Red Road” by Blake Crouch was the first thing by Crouch that I have read.  It was a good story, and I enjoyed the writing.  Again, it wasn’t my usual subject matter, but I am glad I read it.

So now it is June.  It promises to be a busy month.  Let’s see how it goes, reading-wise!



School is out!

Well, school is out for the year.  We had graduation last Wednesday and parent-mentor meetings Thursday and Friday.  I am really looking forward to the break — although I have so much I need to get done that it won/t really be much of a break!


Check it out!

I just ordered took advantage of another Humble Bundle graphic novel offering.  This time it was Dr. Who comics.

I have written about Humble Bundle in the past, but it has been a while since I bought anything through them because they seem to  mostly do games, but their book offerings are pretty much always interesting.  If you aren’t familiar with them, please check them out!  In addition to making money for the content producers, they support charities, so everyone benefits!

Mother’s Day

I am struck by the fact that the first two greetings I received today were not from my own children but from my  children’s friends.  I don’t say this to criticize my own children but rather to remind myself of the effect we can have on the lives of others.  All it takes is a little bit of time and energy. 

So today I want to remind myself to take that time to listen, to encourage, to be a mother to someone who needs one.   I know I will get back more than I give.

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