Sunday, June 29, 2008

Glory Days

I decided to add links to my page, and I needed to find the web addresses. I just Googled my old band to find the URL since I couldn't remember it. This is what I found: Just Joshing You. Josh made the astute observation that The Agency's first CD will most likely never be repressed, so he went ahead and posted all the songs on his blog. I suppose some folks might be mad about their work being published without permission, but I was just flattered. This CD is now 11 years old, and it's nice to see some occasional interest still pops up. He also says some pretty fantastic stuff about our other releases; however, I do have to take exception to his claim that Mike sang most of the songs! As I recall, we had been splitting the singing duties down the middle since about 1998, so that's about 10 of the 12 years of our existence! Come on!

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Physicist Who Snubbed Me

One of the really fun things about taking Linear Algebra is the illusion it presents me with the slightest ability to understand String Theory. Dr. Derise had just let us out for a ten minute break, and I decided to read on to the next chapter. The chapters always begin with a brief biography of famous mathematicians, and this chapter began with Emmy Noether. She was a highly important figure from the 1930s who fled to the US from Germany to escape Hitler.
Her bio reminded me of a famous physicist I recently learned about named Lisa Randall. She is doing amazing work with String Theory, and the NY Times article about her describes some pretty fascinating stuff. I was attempting to talk to my brother about some of her work over our dinner at the Butcher Block Buffet in Stephens City, VA. To my astonishment, I discovered that topics like these are best discussed in locations without children, children's magicians, or buffets. Anyway, my Linear Algebra professor has an incomprehensible depth of knowledge about mathematics and the people who practice it, so I asked him if he knew of Lisa Randall. Of course, he had, and better than that, she snubbed him! He saw her at Princeton, and attempted to ask her a question about mathematics, or physics, or something crazy of the like. Thinking he might just be a weirdo, she ignored him.
He then began to tell me of another important physicist who also gave him the cold shoulder. He asked me if I'd heard of Edward Witten. I actually had!! I've seen him in Brian Greene's NOVA documentary The Elegant Universe. Also, my good friends Christopher Aubin and Corbett Bazler have met Dr. Witten. He is almost more famous for his strangely falsetto speaking voice. Dr. Derise wanted to ask Dr. Witten what E8 means. E8 is one of those terms that string theorists throw around. It describes the dimensionality of the mathematics of string theory. Dr. Derise was brazen enough to simply ask Dr. Witten, "What is E8?". Dr. Witten answered with a series of terms that would produce spontaneous combustion of the average person's brain. Dr. Derise, being very cavalier, pressed Dr. Witten for further explanation. Dr. Witten turned and walked away. Ouch.
Doesn't he just look like a big teddy bear?
I have test #3 in Linear Algebra on Monday. Wish me luck!
Also, sorry I went so link-crazy, but do check out the links!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I'm a Big Baby

I got my grade back on test two, and I don't feel too good about it. I was telling myself, that if I didn't score at least ten points more on this test than the last test, I would drop the class. I got a 72 on the first test and a 71 on this test. I approached the professor to let him know I enjoy the class, but I need to drop it. I long ago met my quota for college screw-ups. He then spent twenty minutes telling me not to drop, he hasn't yet applied the curve to test #2, and that I probably have at least an 82 on the test. He also told me that there is certainly nobody better than me in the class, and he would go home depressed if I dropped. He also assured me, as long as I keep up with my studies the way that I have been, I would receive no worse than a B in the class. I still don't feel great about an 82, but I feel fantastic having that kind of support from my professor. This is my first exposure to truly abstract applications of mathematics, and I find it exceedingly interesting and excruciatingly difficult, but I am confident that completing this 300 level math course will be infinitely rewarding.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Almost ready for test #2 in Linear Algebra

This weekend was filled with nothing but studying and maybe a couple brief outings. I sure hope that I will be able to make up for all these boring weekends to my wife when I graduate. Our two outings resulted in a new air compressor and an evening with friends at Nawab.

Checking air pressure in your tires is pretty essential and never more so than when gas is $4.00/gal. I've been eyeing this model ever since I saw our hardwood floor installers sporting it. Pretty cool. It turns out you can save a bunch of money if you order it from Lowe's online but pick it up at the store. I saved $50. Really cool! for the rest of the weekend...

Vector spaces are descriptions of n-dimensions, and that is as crazy as it sounds. There actually are practical uses for this stuff, but you would need to be an engineer or physicist. The only way you could ever even visualize this stuff is to put it in no more than three dimensions. If you project two one-dimensional vectors with x, y and z coordinates out from the origin of a coordinate system, and then join those vectors to form a plane, you have created a vector space. If you have only cursory experience with vectors, you may have learned the definition of a vector is (essentially) a line with magnitude and direction. Until last week, that was my perception of a vector. Now, I have learned that a vector need only meet 10 criteria, so objects that meet that criteria now include Matrices, Polynomials, the traditional coordinate vector notation (which really boils down to a 1x2 matrix), and a host of other expressions. Wwphhew! I was talking to my buddy Kluas about this stuff yesterday because he is probably one of only two friends of mine who would be remotely interested in this stuff. He's smart enough to have realized that you can use this technique to solve several simultaneous quadratic equations! When I'm in class, I'm struggling to keep up, but Klaus listens for a few moments and makes little discoveries of his own. Man, I wish I was that bright! I've got one more section in the text to cover today, and then I will have done all of the homework before the test. I will spend Tuesday before the test reviewing all my notes and summarizing. This should hopefully prepare me.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Two tests down!

We had our first test in Linear Algebra on Monday and our first test in Microeconomics today. The collective results in the Linear Algebra class were a little low, and I fit right in there. I did okay, but I definitely need to work a little harder. I am not used to doing proofs, so it's a new skill I need to hone. I hate to speak too soon about a test, but I feel pretty good about the microeconomics test. So far, the material seems pretty self explanatory, but it still manages to be pretty interesting. I thought I was working for an MBA simply because it was being thrown at me by VCU, but if econ represents the kind of material I will see in Business School, I'm pretty excited. Most schools consider econ a social science and don't include it as part of the Business School, but I have a feeling that it's just a function of the usefulness of the class. Everyone should take econ just like everyone should take humanities. The reaction of the class to the econ material is exactly as it was for humanities. 60% of the class could care less, and the rest seem enthralled. The professor is a bit creepy. He tells stories, but he usually does a good job of keeping them on point. He's just a bit long-winded. He's old, overweight, and a conspiracy theorist. He also has a problem with eye contact when spoken-to. All in all, he's pretty likeable.