Friday, May 2, 2014

And we're off....

Or will be in a few hours.  Skibo and I leave after the school day is over, spending two days at camp.
Wish me luck --- it's my first time chaperoning!

Yours, in tow,
N.

Banding together

Last night we got to attend Boo's second band performance.  She's been learning the clarinet since last Autumn, and the progress that she (and the other hundred or so students from the four elementary schools in our district) have made since the Christmas concert is incredible!  At Christmas they were essentially playing in unison, with very few chords: today they were playing pieces in which there were more complex harmonies, and pieces with complicated stops and starts.  Mostly the tempo was still all in unison: but still, incredible progress!
We're looking forward to next year when she and Skibo will both be in band together, although we don't yet know what he's going to play.

Yours, immensely grateful for the incredible teachers giving Boo this amazing opportunity!
N

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Huge loss to the acting world

I was very saddened yesterday to learn of the loss of one of the all-time great actors of the small and silver screen:  Bob Hoskins was so good in so many things that all over social media friends were posting their favourite movie or show or scene, and there were countless different things being chosen: Roger Rabbit, Mona Lisa, The Long Good Friday, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, Mermaids, to name but a few.
Personally, I remember him best for one of his earlier stunning TV appearances, in Pennies From Heaven in 1978.  According to Wikipedia's page for the show, it was his breakout role: and even now, 36 years later, I can still recall how good he was in it.

Yours, raising a glass to his memory,
N.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Weather or not

For the past three days the weather channel has been forecasting that we'll get massive storms coming our way.  I'm beginning to suspect their forecasts: this year has been particularly full of dire warnings (a couple of months ago they threatened 8-10 inches of snow, and we got a dusting) which have failed to come to pass.

I don't mind the fact that we haven't had the side effects of the storm system: the tornadoes have been bad in other states, and I definitely don't miss having them here.

I understand the difficulties of weather forecasting, the inherent instability of the systems they need to predict.  But surely a forecast of "100% chance of rain" three days running should come through at least once?  Perhaps the percentages could be downgraded to 90% instead?  After all, a three day dry spell would only be a one in a thousand longshot!

Yours, probably bemused,
N.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Finally

I'm sure that that is what will be going through my linear algebra students' heads in a couple of hours time: I've just handed out their final exams, and they have two and a half hours to convince me that they've learned all they need to know this semester.
And it really would make me really very happy to give them all A's: all they have to do is earn it!

Yours, pulling for them (but not hopeful...)
N

Monday, April 28, 2014

A wonderful recipe site

Recently I happened across the vegan blog Oh She Glows, in particular to her recipe for "Rad Rainbow Raw Pad Thai" (which, containing no noodles is not in fact a pad thai, but I was intrigued, greatly intrigued by the recipe, and decided to try it.  It was sufficiently good that I immediately ordered her cookbook, now a month or so old.  We've tried a few recipes from it --- and in spite of the fact that we are not vegan, nor vegetarian, and sometimes we struggle to eat enough vegetables to classify as omnivores, we've been very impressed with her book so far.
She has a great sense of which flavors will mingle well, which will heighten the sensation of the dish, and she's a brilliant self-taught food photographer!

Yours,
Hoping to be inspired to be more omnivarious,
N.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

That time of year again

I love my job.  Most of the time.  Almost all of the time.  After all, I was just informed a week or two back that it was the two best jobs in the world combined: mathematician and tenured full professor!
But there are times, and this is one of them, when it comes back to bite me: I hate, despise, deplore, indeed, abhor setting tests.  I hate it worse, far worse than actually grading them!  This is, of course, ridiculous.  But it's true.

Yours, feeling testy,
N.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Losing a weekend

Fortunately, I'm about to have a few weeks of "weekends every day", so I won't regret losing next weekend too badly.  Skibo's grade at the elementary school were informed this week that they were eligible to attend a 2 day camp on forensic science next weekend.  It runs from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon --- and two of the three teachers for the grade apparently begged for me to come along as a chaperone.  Fortunately I've gone through the training, and am eligible to help out.  It's meant finding a substitute teacher for my tai chi class on Saturday (which I hope will work out fine), and I'll miss out on potluck on Friday --- but I'll get to participate in Skibo's education, and hopefully a good time will be had by all!

Yours, looking forward to losing a weekend,
N/N

Friday, April 25, 2014

And the semester is officially over!

Or not.  Actually, it's lectures that are officially over: my last class given until late June.  Exams next week, of course, and then graduation the following week, so it's not like I'll be at a loss for things to do!

But this has been a long semester, and I'm happy to close it out successfully!

Yours, at the end of a marathon,
N/N

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Celebrating students!

This evening was our annual event to celebrate the best of our students: the ones who have applied for national scholarships, fellowships and awards, and have either won them or have been awarded honorable mentions or finalist status: we had, for example, one student this year who was a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship, an incredibly prestigious award.  We had students who had won NSF graduate fellowships, Goldwater Scholars, and many other awards.
It's always a lovely event, and this year, with the President's mansion under renovation, it was held in the beautiful hall outside our theater: a delightful crowd of students, their parents and their professors and mentors.  One of the highlights of my year, even though none of my students were amongst the celebrated students this year.

Yours, in celebration,
N.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

End of semester

As we approach the end of the semester, it becomes time to give exams: first, in class, and then finals.  It's one of the duties of a professor that I like the least.  I don't mind testing what the students have learned, it's the format of it that I hate.
I recall  in my days as an undergraduate that one of my professors offered the class a choice: did we want the final exam to be open book or closed book?  He went on to point out that he could make the final much more "interesting" if we went with the open notes option --- subtly hint (or perhaps not so subtly hinting) that we might not want to choose that option.  We went for the closed book.
These days, I always allow my students to bring in a 3x5 index card: I tell them they may write on one side of it, and it should be legible.  Apart from that, it can have anything they want written on it.  This has a pedagogical purpose: the act of creating the notecard should tell them what they know, and what they need to know better, and in discovering that, they can focus their studying more effectively.  And sometimes, it works.

Yours, feeling testy,
N.