Random bits of data stored in my memory from the last few days of computer programming and discovery informatics:
1111 1111 1111 1111 is the hexadecimal code that makes your monitor display the color "white". It means, among other things, that every "switch" is turned on to create the color. Logic (and my professor) says that other colors require fewer "ons" to create a color, and so requires less energy. That's important to some people, as noted here. Note that my scheme used to black, until a few days ago, and now that I know this, I may go back. Or, I might consider this.
A possible explanation of what my major Discovery Informatics is really about:
"We are drowning in data while searching for information".
When I have a better explanation of the program, you, dear reader, will be the second to know (wife gets to hear the news first).
Friday, August 31, 2007
Random bits of data stored in my memory from the last few days of computer programming and discovery informatics:
Posted by Agricola at 3:34 PM
Thursday, August 30, 2007
It's not as if Calculus isn't hard.....it's complex, difficult, and tough, all wrapped up in an enigma (I know, I stole the metaphor). It takes all of my focus and concentration to take notes, comprehend, and try to stay with the professor. And since this class immediately follows another class held in the far corner of the campus, I hardly have time to get from one to the other before the professor starts in. When I do arrive, the class is very full, and so my arrival just at the start means my choice of seats is whatever is left. Which is usually the seat in the back, at the door. Which is hard enough on my old eyes, as I squint in a vain effort to read the hieroglyphics written in an unintelligible scribble.
But what really makes the class hard is that the poor choice of seating means that I am generally surrounded by either the disaffected or those students who already know everything. Whatever the case, both sets apparently have to stay in constant contact with boyfriend, girlfriend, mom, dad, or whomever. Yes, dear reader, I am constantly surrounded by the "text-messagers" ..... that vile assemblage of folks that cannot not communicate while in class.
Texting only seems to be a problem in those classes where the professors either don't declare a firm no-phone policy or they are part of the subset of teachers who seem to feel that the getting of their giving is not their responsibility, but the student's.....which means that the texters are pretty much free to do their thing. Apparently the consideration of their classmates is not important. Is there a protocol? Is it appropriate to ask the 19 year old next to me to cease and desist so that I can learn?
Posted by Agricola at 4:32 PM
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Our Miss Teen South Carolina has apparently missed more than her geography class:
"Eat me some hamburgers," she responded. "I haven't eaten hamburgers, French fries or hot dogs in three years, and I just want to see what it tastes like."
The attached photo reveals the virtue of such a diet:
The rest of the story here.
Posted by Agricola at 5:53 PM
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Read today on the internet:
An artist, a lawyer, and a computer scientist are discussing the merits of a mistress.
The artist tells of the passion, the thrill that comes with the risk of being discovered.
The lawyer warns of the difficulties. It can lead to guilt, divorce, bankruptcy. Not worth it. Too many problems.
The computer scientist says, "It is the best thing that has ever happened to me. My wife thinks I am with my mistress. My mistress thinks I am home with my wife. And I can spend all night on the computer!"
H/T Theo Spark
Posted by Agricola at 9:38 AM
Saturday, August 25, 2007
A few weeks ago, someone interested in my adventure asked me what Calculus is. I had to honestly reply that I had no clear idea, but that I thought it might have something to do with the rate of change in a curve. Well, one week into the class, I cannot precisely define the term, but I can begin to approach the answer from a few different directions.
From my textbook: "We have seen that the concept of a limit arises in trying to find the area of a region, the slope of a tangent to a curve, the velocity of a car, or the sum of an infinite series. In each case the common theme is the calculation of a quantity as the limit of other, easily calculated quantities. It is this basic idea of a limit that sets calculus apart from other areas of mathematics. In fact, we could define calculus the part of mathematics that deals with limits".*
Today, while mowing the lawn and trying to avoid heat stroke, the door of understanding partially opened. In calculus, so far as I have learned, it is very difficult to precisely measure the value of a limit. We can try, by calculating values that are very close to that limit, and then assuming a value for the limit.
Just like my marriage. I can get very close to the line (limit), but I can't completely get there. Why, or why not, is the unknowable in each unique marriage and is not a part of this discussion. In this case, the domain and range of the function are limited to me and her and our relationship. She knows exactly how far to go, or which button to press, to elicit a response from me; she knows exactly how far to go within the bounds of my known behavior. She carefully goes no further. What lies beyond is predictable, but not knowable. The same is true for me.
As I cut the grass this morning, I worked until I thought it was not safe to continue. I know my limits (a function of age, able to be determined with a relatively simple linear equation) and have no wish to go beyond the known (life on Earth). Calculus surrounds us, and plays a central role in our lives. Who knew?
*Calculus - Early Transcendtals, 4th Edition, James Stewart, 1999.
Posted by Agricola at 11:41 AM
Thursday, August 23, 2007
While reviewing my notes from the first day of my programming class, I came upon this jewel from the professor"
"The personal computer is a cognitive prosthesis".
Before today, I thought of my pc and internet access as my drug of choice, but I now realize it is more than a drug. It is not a cause of dependency, but, rather, a tool that allows me to do more than I can do in my natural state. It is an artificial attachment to my being that provides that which I did not have before.
A brief example: While checking e-mail in the college library this very day, the young lad sitting at the adjacent terminal turned to me and asked if I was a professor. "No", I said, "I'm a student, too. But what do you need?" "Well, I'm writing this paper, and I don't know whether to use lay or lie." Quick as a wink, I went to my Google home page, typed in "lay lie" in the search window, and in a micro-second got the search results. I showed the grammar web-site, with the correct usage, to the fellow and concluded the lesson. In about 30 seconds. Could I have done this 2 years ago? I don't think so.
Posted by Agricola at 6:42 PM
Observations from the first few days:
Timing is everything - Last semester (my first), all of my classes were early. That was fine with me, as I got in and got out every day before Noon. But, I now realize, it gave me a distorted sense of the campus scene. This semester, most of my classes are in the middle of the day....and it didn't take me too long to figure out that today's college student doesn't like to get up early. The throng of students took me by surprise, until I figured out the timing thing. I think I like early morning.
Getting what you pay for - Today, the second day of Calculus, the professor was late. After about ten minutes, the murmuring began, and I could hear the question: "How late can he be before we can leave?" To which there seemed to be a variety of opinions. At fifteen minutes, the exodus began, and the classroom very quickly emptied by half. Sure enough, the professor showed up a few minutes later, and we dove into the definition and calculation of limits. What about the half of the class that was absent? Too bad, so sad. Professor @($ acknowledged in our first meeting that he had no attendance policy, except for tests and homework to be turned in, so I guess a goodly proportion of our class will take him at his word.
Now, as a former world record holder for classes cut, I have no ground to stand on. But, I also understand that the only person losing anything when I cut a class was me. I have placed a higher value on me since those dark days, but, apparently, some choose to follow in my footsteps. Maybe things will turn out better for them.
Paying Attention - While waiting for the professor, I overheard a few of my classmates discussing math and their ability to focus. Said one: "If someone can explain it to me while I can focus, I get it. But class is too long, and I just lose my focus. I really study best with Adderall". Well, I certainly remember Black Beauties from the old days, but I don't think that's what she had in mind. Times have changed.
Posted by Agricola at 3:04 PM
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
The new semester begins! New faces, new subjects, new buildings. Most of my classes are held in a different area of the campus, and it seems that the sidewalks are more crowded, the faces all unfamiliar, and the intensity just a little bit greater. None of these courses are part of the general education curriculum; all are populated with folks that know where they are going (for the most part) and how they want to get there. And the getting ain't easy....
It's way too early to judge how the semester will progress, although I will admit to a certain amount of trepidation as I sat, like the hawk's breakfast, in the calculus class. Even there, though, after a few minutes of confusion the lights went on and I actually understood the professor.
There's still plenty of time for confusion, discouragement, angst, and the like, but, for now, ...my state, like to the lark at break of day arising from sullen earth, sings hymns at Heaven's gate...that then I scorn to change my state with kings. (Sonnet XXIX).
Posted by Agricola at 5:39 PM
Sunday, August 19, 2007
With pre-calculus receding rapidly in the rear-view mirror of my academic experience, and an eight day trip to Montana providing a wellspring of pleasant memories, the Fall Semester rapidly approaches. I can't wait to get started.
With a pretty heavy load of courses, including computer programming, statistics, calculus, and the intro course for Discovery Informatics, the semester will provide the introduction to the subjects that are the foundation of the degree that is my goal. I can't wait to get started.
The books are in the bookcase, the software loaded on my desktop. The syllabi that are available have been printed and put in their appropriate course folders. The pencils are sharpened, the hole punch cleaned, new pens in the pen/pencil holder, and a semester supply of notebooks, folders, and paper bought and stored. Parking thought out, tuition paid.
Did I mention that I can't wait to get started?
Posted by Agricola at 7:21 PM
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Lolling in a stream, many miles from metropolis, received today an e-mail from my professor, advising success in the pre-calculus enterprise. Success, of course, being a relative term, but one whose current definition includes a score high enough to allow continued progress in the Discovery Informatics curriculum for at least one more semester.
Meanwhile, there are trout to catch.......
Posted by Agricola at 1:26 PM
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
The last day of the extended torture session known as Pre-Calculus was yesterday. As we all know, however, the only easy day was yesterday. Tomorrow, we "reap the whirlwind" as we take our final exam.
Little did I know how difficult the class would be. At my school, the class is, during the regular semester, a 4 hour class. That means that it meets 4 times per week, instead of three, which is the rule for most other classes. Bottom line, we have to cover 25% more material in the same amount of time as the rest of the summer denizens. Add to the mix the fact that last week we ventured into the labyrinth of trigonometry. Any concern I may have had about that subject was confirmed when a professor, in my presence, uttered a common vulgarity upon learning that I had never been exposed to the unit circle, SOHCAHTOA, or the Law of Sines. You don't know how badly that made me feel.
Honestly, at this point all I want is a passing grade so that I can move on. Will I need some of this knowledge? Apparently so, but three of my Fall classes have this course as a prerequisite, and I really don't want to have to re-jigger the lineup at this late date. We're in survival mode here, folks.
Any prayers, thoughts, intercessions, or other forms of divine intervention would be greatly appreciated.
Posted by Agricola at 8:04 AM
Thursday, August 2, 2007
For a moment today, I thought that our pre-calculus class had been moved to another room and I didn't get the memo; I had accidentally found my way to a Chinese language class. My class-mates, recently generated by our public school systems in this great state, were reciting with great gusto the answers to impenetrable questions fired from the blackboard. The chanting reminded me of news-clips from the classrooms of Soviet Russia, or Red China, where smiling students loudly chant learned-by-rote answers to the big questions of the curriculum. The professor would write trigonometric equations on the board, turn around, and the class would, as one (less one), chant the value.
It was all I could do to take notes that might be of some use as I try to decipher the information tonight and into the morrow.
In a moment of frustration, I reached out to my wife and bared my soul. A few sympathetic murmurs, and she went back to work.
A few moments ago, the phone rang. It was an associate of my wife, a scientist, who has enjoyed watching my pain during the return to school. Although the connection was poor, this is what I heard her say: "socato". I went here and found this:
Students often make use of mnemonics to remember the relationships and facts in trigonometry. For example, the sine, cosine and tangent ratios in right triangles can be remembered by representing all three rations at once as a string of letters; SOH CAH TOA (sine-opposite-hypotenuse cosine-adjacent-hypotenuse tangent-opposite-adjacent), which can be pronounced as a single word. In addition, many remember similar letter sequences by creating sentences that consist of words that begin with the letters to be remembered, so that they are remembered in the correct order. For example, to remember Tan = Opposite/Adjacent, the letters TOA must be remembered in order. Any memorable phrase constructed of words beginning with the letters 'T, O, A' will serve, and often sentences are constructed to remember all three ratios at once.
I have just found the Rosetta Stone.
Posted by Agricola at 6:52 PM