Monday, January 30, 2017

Spring Semester: A Sad Story, Part II

After Eddie accepted his fate, the fact that he would never again see his treasured black PaperMate Flair M pen, he refused to be kept back from enjoying his writing with the amazing PaperMate Flair M style of pen. Perhaps he thought several times of the harbinger passage in Isaiah, something like, I have lost my PaperMate Flair M pen, but I will purchase another package with more colors! (Mwahaha!) But it really wasn't like that.

Whether he thought it or not, the next morning he went into his College's book store, where they keep many other wonderful delights to the eyes, such as TI-30 and TI-84 Plus CE which was very costly. On the side of the bookstore, however, he found what he desired: the writing utensils. Joyously he searched through the multitude of accouterments for what he was after.

His eyes widened at the four pack in assorted colors of PaperMate Flair M pens, which was a full dollar and a half less than what they were selling at the extortionate office supply company. He thought to himself, perhaps that's why they call it OfficeMax.

Debating whether or not to spend another sum greater than five dollars to buy the much better deal of pens, he picked up the package of assorted colors and went to the counter. The transaction lasted less than a minute. Outside the book store, feeling very satisfied, he put his PaperMate Flair M pens (now in assorted colors) into his back pack and headed off to class.

Over the following days he felt that he had succeeded in finding the ideal pen for the next few months, if not longer before he found another superior tool. For now he would enjoy his new investment.

Days passed quickly, homework assignments were submitted, students were tutored, and life resumed some semblance of normality after the trauma of the missing black PaperMate Flair M pen. But this story took an unexpected turn on the following Wednesday.

He entered room SC 111 in the Science Center (clearly named after the letters before each of the room numbers) and proceeded to remove his back pack for the duration of the Lab that was to take place. But there on the instructor's desk was something that looked slightly familiar. It was indeed a black PaperMate Flair M pen. But alas, the TA was using it for his own devious schemes. Putting on the bravest face he could, Eddie walked to the instructor.

"Sir," he said, "I lost a flair pen like the one you are holding last week in lab, I was wondering if that was--"

The instructor was going to have none of such foolishness. He capped the pen and placed it in shirt pocked and gave Eddie a wicked stare. "What pen?" he said as if nothing had happened.

This wasn't good. His evil instructor's TA was now in control of a superior writing utensil, and the situation. Eddie took a step back and spent some time trying to figure out what to do in order to retrieve the ill gotten gains of the evil instructor's TA. No sooner than he began thinking, the instructor walked in. He took his place next to the evil instructor's TA where he would conduct the biology lab. Everyone in the class sat down and began to open their lab notebooks. Eddie was becoming exceedingly concerned about the evil instructor's TA's obviously nefarious plans. What could one so evil want with something so wonderful?

The evil instructor's TA walked to a shelf that had several glass canisters of chemicals. Suddenly, with a laugh that could curdle milk, he took the pen and smashed it on the counter top. Ink went all over his hands, and he grabbed several bottles of the chemicals, and proceeded to drench himself with them!

"Fools! All of you!" he said, laughing uncontrollably.

The instructor was confused by all this, and began yelling for all of the students to flee the lab as the evil instructor's TA's clothes began to rip as his body increased in size rapidly and turned a shade of  gre--

Yeah, I'm kidding. Everything after paragraph 6 is just silly.

Starting at paragraph 6:

He entered room SC 111 in the Science Center (clearly named after the letters before each of the room numbers) and proceeded to remove his back pack for the duration of the Lab that was to take place. But there on the instructor's desk was something that looked slightly familiar. It was indeed a black PaperMate Flair M pen. A soft excitement rising in his head, he went over to the instructor, already present in the room.

"Excuse me, sir," he said as calmly as possible, "but last week I lost a PaperMate Flair pen like that one," he said, gesturing to the pen holder on the desk. "I'm wondering if that was is actually mine."

The instructor took it and handed it to Eddie, "well, it is now."

Eddie took it and left the unsmiling instructor to continue his preparations. At this point, Eddie had the feeling that one has after he finds a pen he had been missing for a week. It was a wonderful feeling.

The end.

This part wasn't so sad, but it was the second part to the first, so it must bear its predecessor's title for now.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Spring Semester: A Sad Story

Once upon a time, there was a lowly college student. His name was Eddie.

Eddie took a Calculus class from a jovial man who wrote the lecture notes with a black marker of sorts. Eddie was impressed with the way the notes looked so perfect, and crisp in his handwriting. The truth was that Eddie's handwriting was good as well, but he had not the fantastic pen: a black PaperMate Flair M. He was not satisfied by the drab strokes of his .7 mm mechanical, or the rattling of the Pilot G2s he already possessed. He had to have a PaperMate Flair M pen.

I should explain to you that Eddie was something of a connoisseur of pens. There was a point at which his favorite was the UniBall Vision Elite, but the UniBall bled through the pages he was writing, and ran out of ink far to quickly. His next favorite was the Pilot G2, of which many of us are familiar, but while it's quality is excellent, and it doesn't bleed nearly as much, it still had some tough things about it, like rattling, and not feeling smooth.

One day, Eddie was trying to create a font, using, but it suggested that one should use a black felt tip marker. He thought about the pen his calculus instructor used. That, with its crisp strokes, would be ideal. He asked his mom if she had a PaperMate Flair M pen.

"Yes, I do, many," she said.

With delight, Eddie asked, "Do you have a black one, and if so, may I use it?"

She took out her collection of PaperMate Flair M pens, and he gazed upon their sundry colors. He took the black one and filled out the sheet. It was like using a toothpick to make a design in pie crust dough. Perfect feel, perfect strokes. Eddie wondered how he could have possibly missed using these up until now. But his mom didn't want to give him her only black PaperMate Flair M pen. He would have to find another way to get one.

The next day, Eddie left the college earlier than he would have normally, to try and get one on his way to picking up his dad at his work. Instead he just got lost, and ran out of time.

Then the day after, he and his dad got to his dad's work earlier than expected. With an hour to spare, he set out to find an OfficeMax or OfficeDepot. His GPS led him to the loading dock of a middle eastern market place, which was not either of those. He decided he would have to forego the acquisition of the PaperMate Flair M pen until another day came.

He set out to find his way to the college, but a different way than usual. The road he was expecting turned out to be a dead end, but on was an OfficeMax! Overjoyed, he turned into parking lot, ran in, and purchased the last black PaperMate Flair M pen they had for $1.92 (including tax). Feeling quite satisfied, he set out to his college the way he knew.

All throughout the day, he enjoyed the smooth, thick curves of his handwriting, and the perfect consistency of the pressure required to use it. It was as if his writing hand had made it to heaven.

But alas, Biology Lab came in the afternoon, and he was tired and distracted, it being the fourth class that day. He was also getting a headache. The instructor released the class a half hour early, and Eddie  packed up along with everyone else.

He came to his car, getting ready to leave for his dad's work, but he thought, "did I put my PaperMate Flair M pen into my backpack, or did I forget it?" He rifled through his backpack, and through his pockets, but the pen was nowhere to be found. He went back to the lab, but the PaperMate Flair M pen had disappeared. It was gone, without a trace. (No pun intended.)

Eddie went back to his car and completely emptied his backpack. The pen was still gone. He accepted his error and left.

The Ed.

Yes, this story was based on reality. I will have to purchase another one soon. It was so much fun while it lasted, though.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Save your pennies, I mean Nickels, wait, wha....?

There are a lot of people out there who want to get rid of the penny, including myself. But why stop there?

I'm not sure if I ever posted this, but I'll give you a few reasons why base ten is stupid, and getting rid of the penny would be a step in the right direction, but more importantly, getting rid of decimal would be the ultimate goal in mind, but we'll start with the penny.

The common argument goes that the penny is far too expensive to produce anymore. The reasons for this are kind of interesting, but more like a red herring. I don't like that argument, though.

Did you know that in strict inflation terms, a penny was worth todays quarter in 1895? It's true. You can look it up in the CPI. Of course, the CPI for specific goods was much different back then, but the average was about a quarter. If you go all the way back to earlier in our nations history, the value actually wasn't that much. Apparently from 1800 to 1900 there had been a gradual deflation of about 49%. Regardless, the penny was worth more back then, meaning that it would have been completely unfair to the general public regardless of the cost of their production, but the cost of production was lower back then anyway, so it all worked out for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

So the question begs to be asked: if the people in the eighteen hundreds only had what today we would call a dime or a quarter, why can't we deal with just having a dime or a quarter?

Well, the argument for the penny goes something along the lines of it not being fair to the people who have lower incomes to force them to pay a rounded up sales tax. Perhaps this is a straw man, but we already round up our sales to the nearest penny. Right now in Minnesota, the sales tax is 7.125%, so if you buy one something at dollar tree, you have to pay $1.07, because it's a bit of a trick to pay .125 of a penny. I don't know how exactly the people who made up the sales tax figured out that the .125% extra was important, but apparently it is.

The reason why that's probably a straw man is because I'm equivocating a round of ± $.005 to a round of ± $.025. Regardless, you will notice the ± sign that I use. I don't know if this is universal, but I think it should be rounded to the nearest and not automatically rounded up.

But here's the thing, hearkening back to what I was talking about before: What's the point of using the nickel as our lowest denomination?  I've got a better idea.

Let's make a list of all the denominations that are legal tender here in the US

$100.00, $50.00, $20.00, $10.00, $5.00, $2.00, $1.00, $.50, $.25, $.10, $.050, $.01.

Maybe some of you are looking at that list and saying $2 & $.5? Yes, they do still exist, and they're really cool. If you ever walk into a bank, ask for a roll of half dollars, and a wad of two dollar bills, then get a free lunch at McDonald's because the cashier hasn't ever seen them, and makes an issue about you trying to use counterfeit money, and the manager gets mad at him and gives you a free lunch.

Anyway, what do you notice about our currency? I notice that out of the twelve denominations, three of them end in something other than zero. This says to me that it would greatly simplify accounting if we just got rid of all the denominations that end in something other than zero, and suffered through what those of the 19th century had to deal with. What could be so wrong with that?

Notice that I'm not asking for us to get rid of the penny, I'm asking for us to get rid of the cent!

Why would I suggest such a thing? Well, I just said: it would make everything easier. We would just remove all .00 and replace them with .0. Doesn't that just look and sound so much more elegant? We've had it with the cent! Give us the dec! We'll still call them dimes, but that would be as low as we could go.

"But Ed," you say, "that would mean we would have to get rid of the nickel and the quarter too!"

Yes! Exactly! That's exactly what I want. That would make me so happy. Sure, nickels are fun, because they're so fat and heavy, but really, they're just next after pennies, so why don't we get rid of them too. And then quarters. Let's just get rid of those too. We can replace them with something that we already have: the half dollar.

"But Ed," you say, "Half dollars are huge, and nobody uses them anymore."

Okay, then if you really want, you can have a $.20 piece. How does that sound? Or, we could just make half dollars smaller. That would be nice too.

Now the opposition I can see is greedy retailers wanting to keep the $4.99 thing. Apparently that actually does help in tricking people into buying something even though effectively it's $5.00. I don't care. They can use $4.9 as the new standard for retail psychological trickery. So there.

Another great thing about this would be piggy banks. You see, you think you have a huge container of money, but about ten percent turn out to be pennies and another ten percent turn out to be nickels, so if we got rid of those, that would mean that a full piggybank would be about 30% more valuable! Sure, it would take longer to fill, but it would be so much more rewarding at the end.

And yet another thing would be at the checkout line, paying for your stuff with cash, and the person hands you a bunch of coins because your change turned out to be $.94. Three quarters, a dime, a nickel, and four pennies. That's a pile of nine coins. Now, let's say that your change had to be $.9. That would be so much easier. Either five coins, a half doll and four dimes, or a half dollar and two $.20 coins.

Alright, now here's the even more controversial argument: should we even be using the decimal system? Wait, what?

What's wrong with the decimal system, Ed? It's easy to understand, and makes adding and subtracting on paper easy, and makes comparing things also easier. Plus, we can count on our fingers.

Well, the entire premise of that argument relies on the assumption that our decimal system is the equivalent of a placement system of numerical notation. Did you know that Base ten was not the first numerical system to use a placement system? No, the Mayas, some of the greatest ancient mathematicians used a base twenty system, and the babylonians used a base sixty system. Of course, these are technically hybrid systems, because the digits were split into blocks that combined individual symbols that stood for five and one in Mayan math, which formed blocks that added up to a maximum of twenty, which were multiplied by that factor with each place moved.

Twenty doesn't make much more sense to me than ten, because it only adds two new factors: 20, and 4. It would be great if we could switch to a base sixty system, because that would mean we would have loads of factors: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20, 30, and 60.

Why do factors matter? Because the number of factors determines how many fractions you can evenly divide the number into. Sixty can be evenly divided into 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 30, and of course, 60. But sixty is impractical, because we don't want to have big blocks of symbols that add up to sixty, we want a row of symbols, with each symbol standing for one of sixty values. That would pretty much take up our entire keyboard, and would be impossible to teach to elementary school kids. Factors matter because we can represent more numbers without a repeating decimal. The more factors, the more common repeating decimals we can avoid.

Twenty isn't a very good idea, because it only adds four as a factor. How about twelve? It adds three, four, and six, so now even halves, thirds, fourths, sixths, and even sevenths without a repeating decimal.

But what does this have to do with money?

Well, in serious mathematics, algebra, trig, calculus, and so on, it makes about zero difference. It's just a different way of writing numbers. But in everyday life, it makes a lot more sense. We can have a half dollar coin, a third dollar coin, a quarter dollar coin, a sixth dollar coin and a twelfth dollar coin that all have representations using just one decimal point. What about a fifth dollar coin? We don't really need a fifth dollar coin, since really we only use a third and a quarter when doing everyday measurements. (We already have a quarter dollar, for crying out loud!) Have you ever seen a recipe that called for 1/5 cups of flour? Didn't think so. 1/5 seems to me as being the useless only fraction that we can represent with one decimal place in base ten.

Last semester I came across a girl who liked decimals more than fractions. I couldn't believe my ears. Why on God's good Earth would anyone like decimals more than fractions? I dislike decimals for the exact reason I just stated: They're pretty useless in expressing common fractions. I like fractions because they can precisely express almost any number imaginable. No, they can't express pi and √2, but we have other symbols to do that, and pi shouldn't even count because it's transcendental, and as such its very definition states that it can never be expressed without using some pretty wacky notation, so I'm fine with it being expressed with decimals.

This is just a quick tangent: Never write pi = 3.14159. You may write π ≈ 3.14159, but you are lying. If you don't have those fancy keys on your computer, either get a Mac, or write pi = 3.14159... The ellipsis is important.

Anyway, to review,

1) Get rid of the penny.
2) Get rid of the nickel.
3) Get rid of the quarter and maybe replace it with a 20¢ coin.
4) Get rid of the decimal system altogether and replace it with the dozenal system.
5) Enjoy a simpler life without nearly as much change.

Inflation rate sources:

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Spring Semester: No Homework!

I doubt this will happen very often during the rest of the semester. I have no homework this weekend!

However, I hope that I will be able to make it happen.

I read a book called "The Disciplined Life," by Richard S. Taylor over Christmas Break, in which he outlines A) why discipline is important for succeeding in life, and B) how you can become disciplined yourself. In it he speaks to the college student, exhorting them to work on the most difficult homework assignment first, then enjoy the ease of the rest. I am trying to do just that, but in addition, I'm trying to not get distracted while working.

I tried to start a YouTube Channel a few months ago, around the end of November, so not really a few months ago, more like a month and a half ago, but it really isn't working out that well. Originally, I was going to try and make a video every week, but that's just ridiculous with what I had in mind.

Things that you have to do to make a video on YouTube:

1) Write a script.

This is not that hard for me to do. I am a logophile, and I love writing. I don't feel at all bad about saying I love writing. If I had the option, I would become a professional writer, but that probably isn't an option.

2) Tag the script.

This is was taking me so long to do. The video I was working on, and thought I would get done before school started was about two thirds of the way done, but I accidentally closed TextEdit, and didn't say "Save Changes," which set me back to one third of the way done. That was a little discouraging.

3) Draw the slideshow.

My videos are in the format of Xidnaf's, where I record a voiceover track, and then create a slideshow  that's synced with the it. This would probably take the longest to do, but it's easier, because I just have to draw what I wrote in the tags.

4) Record the background music.

I haven't done this yet. For the first video I made, I put one of my favorite classical songs as the background music, but later I found out that it was technically copyrighted music, so I won't receive any ad revenue from it, which is too bad, because I was thinking that maybe if enough people liked my videos, I might be able to make a little side income and pay for college. You know, get in on the YouTube moneygrab. Well, of course it's not that simple.

YouTube want's your videos to be nice, and so they offer a ton of royalty free music within the YouTube video editor itself, but where's the fun in that? Plus, I really don't have an excuse for doing that because I am an avid musician, and I ought to have the faculties to record my own music on my virtual pipe organ, that has a record feature, that makes it sound like you're using professional microphones to record it. I basically have the piece that I have in mind ready, I just need to sit down for an afternoon and record it.

Spoiler: It's going to be the Sortie from Sep Pieces en Fa Mineur in L'Organiste, by Cesar Franck. I'm just not sure how I'll sync it with the rest.

So why am I writing a blog post and not doing that?

Well, first, I have to finish knitting a sweater, and I also have to practice a piece for my grandpa (It's his birthday, and some other relatives are coming, and my grandma wants me to play this for them. I should probably do that now.)

Anyway, a Saturday post for you guys.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Spring Semester: Introduction, and First Day Shenanigans

This is just a series of posts that will explain what I'm up to this semester.

I think that last semester, I wrote a post that dealt with the "Theory of Small Coincidences." More or less, it was a casual observation that regardless of the workload, there will always be enough time to finish do it, and have enough time to do other fun things. It came in especially handy when I wanted to attend the Understanding the Times Fall 2016 conference. I had some doubts that the theory would prevail, knowing my work load, but fortunately, taking a full Saturday, in which I would likely have done a lot homework, off did not affect my work.

Why is this?

Well, after doing a semester, relatively dependent on its value, and with some passable grades, I am willing to make it the subject of my Statistics project. Apparently for this statistics course I'm taking, he is requiring an all semester long project, in which I am to compile at least fifty data points, with two variables, write a seven page report on it, with all the fancy bar graphs etc, and it will account for 15% of the grade. It's almost like a second final, but the final counts for 20%.

My instructor actually put this course I'm doing together last semester. The purpose of it, I lament to say, is not what I was expecting. It was apparently supposed to explain how to quantify and analyze, (find the important parts) of data. A lot of data. This, he said, is particularly applicable to the medical field, with studies, and stuff like that, but also many other areas as well, like insurance, and economics.

It just so happens that the other day I was talking to my oncologist, who suggested, combined with a degree in computer science, becoming a data analyst for the medical field, which can be a very lucrative job, and desperately needed at this point. Maybe God is telling me something. We well see as the semester progresses.

Anyway, this post series intends to, in weekly increments, tell how my semester is going on, perhaps along with some comical gems, sitcom stuff. Maybe they won't be very funny to you, but maybe they will.

My Calc class looks to be more fun than I had originally thought; the instructor is a character, who knows how to dry humor. Typical math person.

Here's something new: I had to rent a TI 83 Graphing Calculator. You can't use anything but a TI 83 or 84. There's something special about the TI 83/84 calculators, or maybe Texas Instruments bribed the textbook manufacturer.

Sooo, first day shenanigans.

I don't exactly know why, but some pronouns have been getting jumbled in my head lately. It happened at pot blessing yesterday, and it happened with some awkward awkwardness today with someone whom I don't know very well. There's no way he reads my blog, so I don't feel bad about telling this story. No names, of course.

I begin in the student center, getting MyStatLab set up, and everything. I look at the clock, and I note that it is 10:40, which means my Calc class is starting in twenty minutes. I get bundled up, and start walking, cane and and all to the CLA. Lo and behold, someone whom I know impersonally, is sitting there, and I'm thinking to myself "Is he in this Calc class too?"

The story progressed as I approached, and addressed him with a rising intonation, indicative in English, as we all know, of a question. We had a short exchange before I sat down on the hall floor. (The benches were now occupied.)

Things proceeded downhill from there. I waited several seconds. "In case you don't know, my name is Edmond," I said, trying to start a conversation.

He gave me a look that said, "I'm trying to be nice, but I have no idea who you are," followed by him saying "Uh yeah. And Where do I know you from?"

Now if someone asks you this question, please note that nobody wins, but it is inevitable, much like Monopoly over Christmas break.

"I'm Aravis's Sister," said, not immediately realizing my mistake. But, before I could correct myself, his face lit with recognition.

"I mean, Aravis is my sister. I'm her brother."

"Oh yeah."