Vito Prosciutto: Teaching community college math on the road to a PhD.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Great for water fights 

From a recently posted (in the wrong category) ad on the listing service where my wife and I are looking for our next apartment:
Living room dinning room, vaulted ceilings, 1800sf huge lot, duel patios, firepits, stainless steal BBQ, huge shared bathroom with duel sinks
You can fight outside or in the bathroom. But watch out for your BBQ. It might be stolen by the stainless.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Grade protests 

I have internet access at my brother's house where I'm staying until nearly next year, but for some reason he has port 25 (SMTP) blocked on his firewall so I can't send e-mails.

Which means--so sad--I can't send anyone responses to their "I really deserved a better grade" e-mails.

I really kind of like that.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Computer follies: MySQL 

A note of explanation: When I got my current laptop, in the process of installing Panther and transferring files from my back-up HD onto the new latop, I managed to screw up the OS installation. This resulted in some problems with a memory leak that affected Safari and caused some other minor inconveniences. I decided that the best route was to do a clean install. I'm part-way through the aftermath of that (and an upgrade to Tiger). So as I re-install assorted software, item one has been to re-install MySQL. What's wonderful is that with MySQL 5 (and possibly eariler), the software is now distributed from mySQL.com as an OS X package complete with a preference pane. Very nice. I wonder if Apache and PHP have done this too?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Friday random 10 (because why pack when I can blog edition) 

  1. "Lonely Man," Swinging Steaks, Three, Two, One - It's Alive From Studio A
  2. "With a Little Help from My Friends," Joe Cocker, Easy Rider
  3. "Stand By Your Man," Blues Brothers, Blues Brothers Soundtrack
  4. "Dodo - Lurker," Genesis, ABaCab: Wrapping Up the World in Clothes of Brass and Cellophane
  5. "Headed For A Fall," Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Live At The World Cafe - Vol. 4 (fifth anniversary)
  6. "Let Go (LP Version)," BarlowGirl, Another Journal Entry
  7. "PC99," Tom Smith
  8. "Private Conversation," Lyle Lovett, KSCA Live From The Music Hall Vol. 3
  9. "Sexuality," k.d. lang, Live At The World Cafe - Vol. 4 (fifth anniversary)
  10. "7 O'Clock News/Silent Night," Simon & Garfunkel, Parsley Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

It seemed like a good idea at the time... 

I booked my travel back to the city of my birth using frequent flyer miles. The current scam with frequent flyer miles is simple: They'll give you 10,000 miles for brushing your teeth, but will make it damn near impossible to redeem them. Even with a couple months' lead time, my ONLY travel options were to leave the 16th and return the 30th (my wife who has a REAL job where she has to go in to the office EVERY day, will be coming to join me next week).

Of course the problem arose that (a) I had a final Thursday evening. A killer final. It took me an hour to do the first problem. I turned mine in (note the careful avoidance of the word "finished") after 3 hours and 15 minutes. I was the second person to leave. And (b) I had to return the rental car (that I had because my car STILL isn't back from the shop). And (c) take the cats to the pet hotel. And (d) finish grading. So, you can look at the top of this post, see when I'm writing and then realize that I haven't started packing and, I'm really hoping that you'll feel some pity for me. For being so unbelievably dumb.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Grading follies 

Not one but TWO, count 'em TWO students who think that the area of a rectangle is 1/2bh.

They were sitting far enough apart that they weren't copying off of each other, but they may have studied together or used the same cheat sheet. Either way, it looks like both will fail based on page one of the final.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The governator's morally dubious reasoning 

As you may have heard by now, the governator* denied Stanley Williams request for clemency.

That he said no, doesn't surprise me. After all, he's watching his approval ratings slide to George W Bush levels and he's trying desparately to appeal to conservatives and liberals to keep from watching Warren Beatty and Mel Gibson battle for his job while he looks over the script for Kindergarten Cop II.

But what does bother me is his reasoning: From the Times article, "Williams, [the governator] said, had never really reformed."

Which puts the governator on morally shaky ground. Before going further, I need to point out a quick bit of my own perspective. I'm a Catholic. And as a Catholic, I don't believe that anyone should be executed. And you'd think that since this is a stance firmly grounded in the Catholic magisterium and since the governator is a co-religionist, he should agree with me, but apparently not. I'm waiting for the bishops to call for him to be denied communion.

Anyway, here's the big problems with the governator's reasoning and why it's morally reprehensible.

  1. It presupposes that anyone can know what's in Stanley Williams's heart. Sorry, it's not possible.
  2. If Williams is, in fact, innocent of the crime for which he was executed, as he claimed to be, then he could not have acted differently than he did.**
  3. If Williams has not properly repented, then mercy dictates that we give him the opportunity to do so.***

* Because, to be honest, I can never remember how to spell his name.

** This is, in fact, a big flaw with sentencing in general in this country. Someone who insists that they're innocent after conviction will get a harsher sentence than someone who does not. Which means that the wrongfully convicted get harsher sentences than those who admit their crimes.

*** Samuel Richardson's Clarissa has a great line about this. Unfortunately, I'm in the office and my copy is at home.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

First thoughts on Safari RSS 

I like that I can tell right away who has new posts. I don't like reading stuff in the RSS browser and some blogs show up really badly there making me that much more likely to click on the link to the blog page. And I also don't like that I lose the sense of whose voice it is that I'm reading when everything looks the same as it does in the RSS browser. And getting instant notification of a new post is definitely a mixed blessing.

Question for the academic programming types 

I'm thinking about doing an object oriented library for mathematical uses. What programming language should I be writing in? I'm leaning towards Java because of its obvious cross-platform benefits and cleaner object-oriented model than C++ but it seems C++ could give me greater efficiency in use of computing resources (because, after all, if I'm breaking down and using a computer to do the math, it's gonna be stuff which takes a lot of computing and time). Or is there some other OO language out there which will give me even better cross-platform interoperability (and future-proofing) than C++ or Java?

The home stretch 

I offered my community college students the opportunity to skip the final* if they were happy with their grade. Pretty much everyone skipped the final.

I do have algebra finals to grade still, and it's hard to be inspired to grade them.

I didn't study for my [abstract] algebra final last night and was consequently a bit off my game for the final, but I figure that I still have plenty of points to spare and I have the A no problem.

And yet I'm not studying for my complex analysis final.

I took the cats to the vet today. Vaccinations and some tests and it ended up beingg $500! Oh my God. Two thoughts: (a) I miss having my brother the vet handy. (2) I hope this doesn't make my wife decide that keeping the cats would be a bad idea.

Hmm, at $500 for vaccines and tests, it would make sense to fly my brother in once a year to take care of the cats.

I need to go back over my complex theorems and make sure that I can do some of these complicated integrals.

* I made the offer on the day of the final: I figure that way, any learning that was going to take place would still take place.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Guaranteed to raise a smile (for faculty at least) 

Go here.

Friday random 10 

Keeping the Christmas music coming...
  1. "The Night Is Still Young", Billy Joel, Billy Joel: Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 & 2
  2. "Dear Prudence", Alanis Morrissette, Tribute To John Lennon
  3. "Crawl Back(Under My Stone)", Richard Thompson
  4. "Darkness", Peter Gabriel, The Full Moon Club
  5. "Lush Life", Billy Strayhorn, Lush Life
  6. "For What It's Worth", Buffalo Springfield, Buffalo Springfield
  7. "She Moves In Secret Ways", Polly Paulusma, Cosmic Rosy Spine Kites
  8. "When You Wish Upon a Star", Billy Joel, Simply Mad About the Mouse
  9. "Every Sperm is Sacred", Monty Python, The Meaning of Life
  10. "Carol Of The Bells", California Guitar Trio, 10 Christmas Songs

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Fun while grading 

A LARGE number of my algebra students had ONE bad test. Droppingg the lowest test score has shifted me from 2/3rds failing to 2/3rd passing. In the 8a class, exactly half the class will be taking the final. Of those who will not, 7 have high enough scores to be exempted and 10 are mathematically incapable of passing the class (in every sense of the phrase). Grading 10a's test 5, I had one student leave me a note that at first glance, I thought read
Mr Prosciutto: I am pretty
then I noticed that it continued on the next line with
sure that I'm failing this class...
(in fact, she fell in the elite category of students who have already lost so many points that even dropping their lowest test score won't give them any chance at passing).

Next on the stack, a student who needs a 94 on test 5 to have any chance at passing.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Counting down 

Getting eerily close to the end. Finals are next week and I've got a new stack of grading that will only get larger, but a stack of homework to do that can only get smaller (because, after all, the worst case scenario is that it just doesn't get done). Starting Friday, I can actually devote some time to things like packing.

Things my students have difficulty learning 

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Juxtapositions in iTunes 

I've set up a smart playlist in iTunes which gives me an attempt at a random playlist with newer songs favored. It also inserts podcasts into my listening. I just spotted this in iTunes:

How nice 

For the first time since the shortly after the semester began, I have NOTHING that needs to be graded. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

It's a truly nice feeling. Sure to be wiped out by the fact that I'm giving tests Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week and finals Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, all of which need to be graded IMMEDIATELY. It will be quite a trial for me since I tend to be a grading procrastinator under normal conditions.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Friday random 10, Christmas is coming edition 

I've let the Christmas songs into the random play rotation. It took a while for one to pop up into the random 10 though, so this is sort of the last 10 of 30...
  1. "A Life In Movies", Steve Hackett, Guitar Speak III
  2. "Where's The Money Mr Blair (instrumental mix)", The Vicar, School Aid
  3. "Firth of Fifth", Genesis, Fade 003 - Six of the Best (Disc 1)
  4. "Better Days", Robbie Seay Band, Better Days
  5. "No One Is To Blame", Howard Jones, KSCA Live From The Music Hall Vol. 3
  6. "All Night Long", Boney James, Body Language
  7. "Mere Image", NRG, No Reasons Given
  8. "City Of The Sun", Kevin Gilbert, The Shaming Of The True
  9. "A Hundred Dreams from Now", Rosalind Ilett, Rare Beauty: The Ballads of Duke Ellington
  10. "Silent Night", California Guitar Trio, 10 Christmas Songs

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I get e-mail 

Student said:
I am in your 7:30 class at DCC and i am trying to figure out my schedule for next semester. I was wondering if you could e-mail me back as soon as possible with my grade in the class so i can finish up setting my schedule. thank you.

I said:

You currently have an F. I have no record of you having attended class since sometime in September.

And I thought I'd seen obnoxious students before 

This post at acephelous (courtesy of Kevin Drum is unbelievably funny.

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