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A Product of Non-Sanitized Pens

Sunday, 29 Mar 2020, 10:57 GMT-0600

A contamination even occurred here this morning.

The fair and industrious Trudy started the day with the birthday song. Then she handed me a hand-drawn card. The thing of it is, I don’t think she sanitized the pens when she drew it, and this was the product:

Despite her cautionary pronouncement, the virus seems so very eager to attach. Oh well. It’s the two of us, here. (The dogs don’t count in this reckoning.)

I’ll shelter together with you, baby, for as long as it takes.

Back of the Envelope

Sunday, 29 Mar 2020, 10:30 GMT-0600

A birthday card arrived from some close friends in northwest Austin, yesterday.

The envelope had dazzling artwork on the front, a celebrate stamp in the corner, and a garland of flowers on the back. Of course, the card the bore the birthday message inside, but the back of the envelope was the particular thing.

Just look at that, will you — alternating light/dark blue on the stem, yellow tips on the otherwise green leaves, a palindrome of red and yellow flowers with the symmetry almost broken by the almost alternating leaves.

I gotta find a frame. It’s going on the wall.

Quod erat demonstrandum

Saturday, 28 Mar 2020, 09:02 GMT-0600


Some time ago, I went through a proof of the quadratic formula with the pre-AP kids. It was part of our notes. I put the proof in their homework. The proof was an extra credit question on their test. At the end of the proof, when we had arrived at our destination, I wrote on the board: QED.

I turned to the kids.

Quod erat demonstrandum,” I said. I rolled the r’s. I flattened the vowel sounds. I did my best to sound exotic.

“What’s that!?” a student asked.

“That which was to be shown,” I said. “It’s latin”.

And I repeated it again.


We did another proof a few weeks ago. Frankly these proofs are not so much proofs per se as derivations. So yeah. We derived something else. And when we got to the end, I wrote: QED.

One of the students said, “Tell us what that stands for again, Mr. Hasan.”

Of course, they knew what it stood for. What they were asking for was the latin. They wanted to hear it.

Quod erat demonstrandum,” I said. I rolled the r’s. I flattened the vowel sounds. I did my best to sound exotic.

Professor Langebartel

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Illinois, I took a Differential Equations and Orthogonal Functions course from Dr. Langebartel. He was awesome, so awesome that when I needed a math elective to finish my minor I chose Tensor Analysis simply because he taught it.

Dr. Langebartel once stopped a lecture and asked us, “Who was the greatest mathematician in history?” He waited briefly, but this was a rhetorical question. He answered it himself.

“Eudoxus,” he said.

We were in an auditorium in Altgeld Hall (which is going to get a facelift soon). I can still hear his booming voice in that large hall drawing out his sibilantsEudoxxxxxusssss! And he told us a story about Eudoxus.

It was a surprise to have a professor give historical context in a technical course. No other professors I had did this. He was the one from whom I first learned QED. And I still remember how exotic it sounded for him to draw out the latin pronunciation. Clearly my students feel the same way.

My students thank you for those lessons, professor.

Complex Conjugate Roots

Friday, 27 Mar 2020, 19:15 GMT-0600

Timothy sits in the front row. He is a good student. On days when he wears his glasses, he looks doubly studious. He had his glasses on.

It was a practice day. I had assigned some very involved complex conjugate root problems the night before, but I had assured them that today would be a practice day for them to ask me questions and to work on the problems with me nearby. I had finished my reteaching. I had worked one of the problems as another example. And the kids were now working on the rest — some in groups, some by themselves.

Timothy usually works on his own, although I’ve seen him comparing notes with the students that sit nearby. He was working on the hardest problem, head bent over his paper, glasses close to the desk. The problem was a doosie.

All of the sudden he looked at the board and said, “Ooooh this isn’t so hard, after all.”


A Leisurely Stroll

Friday, 27 Mar 2020, 17:21 GMT-0600

After a full day of environmental consulting from home, the fair and industrious Trudy headed out to Costco. I did not go along — no need to double the size of our target, and anyway, my contribution was in the 60+ line at Whole Foods and hour before opening this morning. (Age has its privileges. But I am not over 60 yet, so I am not yet in that demographic. I have two days left.)

Instead of a Costco run, Izzy and I took a leisurely stroll.

We saw two girls taking a video of a caterpillar climbing the trunk of a tree. We saw yellow and red Indian Blankets blanketing a neighbors’ yard. We saw Prairie Verbena with lavender blossoms and Blue Eyed Grass colonizing the soccer fields.

We looked for Oak saplings in the grassland that the middle school kids are creating in that field. Last fall, I did some guerrilla acorn planting there, but there was nothing to show for it except the grasses waving in the wind and a fluttering bird that we startled. That the little grassland is now an avian habitat is something, I suppose, but I was hoping for evidence of Oaks.

We saw a man throwing a frisbee. He threw it hard, and his barking dog would excitedly dash off only to stop well short of halfway from where the disc landed. Not much of a frisbee dog. Izzy seemed never noticed. Not much of a frisbee dog, either.

And finally, somewhere in the distance, I heard bagpipes. At least I think I did.

Ok, stop it. there are two days before I am formally over sixty. You may snicker at the bagpipes then. 

Friendly Friday

Friday, 27 Mar 2020, 12:02 GMT-0600

Here is the note I sent out to my students this morning.

Hi everyone,
Two things…
1) Spring Break extended further and Google Classroom.
Many of you already now, we’re now out until at least April 19.
My plan is to move to Google Classroom as soon as I’m given the thumbs up, which probably won’t be for another week. I will send more information later today. We will start slow to make sure everyone is comfortable with the tools.
2) Friends
Call a friend today. Or text them. Or do whatever you do. But do something friendly. :-)
I have a friend in Houston. He and I worked together years ago. We stay in touch. He’s was a (very good) Space Shuttle flight controller. He now works on the Orion program.
One thing flight controllers do (without thinking about it) is to plan for if things go wrong. I spoke with him the other night, and he told me how his kitchen has been fully stocked for two weeks. He explained that he’s going to start making bread, because you can’t stockpile it. He saw this coming, and he planned for it.
I shared our failed effort to find toilet paper at grocery stores in west Texas when we were coming back from camping last week. Here’s a link to a picture of his response. (For those of you who can’t see it, it’s a photo of me and a box of TP that he mailed to us. Now I think we can make it for a few weeks. :-)
We get by with a little help from our friends. You are awesome.

Working From Home

Thursday, 26 Mar 2020, 13:03 GMT-0600

Oh joy. A friend sent us seven rolls

Wait. How do I take a selfie with this thing?

The Leafing of the Pecans

Thursday, 26 Mar 2020, 08:59 GMT-0600

It got hot, yesterday — in the 90s. We kept the house open as long as it was cooler outside than in, but sometime in the late morning, we shut everything up, determined as we are to shun the AC as long as possible. (This exercise used to be one for late May, but here we are in March.)

So even though there are cold fronts projected in the forecast, the definition of “cold” in those projections means high temperatures in the 70s. Hardly a cold front. Summer is almost upon us.

Indeed, the Pecan trees next door have noticed this. A rule of thumb for local gardeners is to use the leafing of Pecans as a signal that the last freeze is behind us. So yeah. I guess there will be no more freezes.

Frankly, it seems that the conservative Pecans aren’t on board with this whole climate change thing, but then in this they are not alone.

There is perhaps some good news concealed in this leafing out. As the fair and industrious Trudy mused yesterday, perhaps the early departure of spring and the onset of summer will slow the contagion that is all around us.

Let us hope.

Singing to Charlie

Thursday, 26 Mar 2020, 07:50 GMT-0600

Here is “Thursday’s thought” that I sent out to my students this morning.

I have always identified closely with our older dog, Charlie. He was a “senior dog” when we adopted him a few years ago. He was so laid back, unlike that hyper puppy that was hopping in my wife’s lap giving her kisses. Charlie seemed to be meditating, sitting motionless, staring into the distance with half-opened (half-closed?) eyes. When Trudy looked at me, she knew who we were adopting.
Charlie is our Zen Dog. He’s mostly quiet (quieter as the years pass). He walks pensively around the yard. He wakes up stiff in the morning. He stumbles around for his first few steps. I sing good morning to him to help him wake up.
I wonder what he thinks about “the man” singing in a lousy, scratchy, low morning voice, the man’s chin against the dog’s head. I wonder what he thinks about that.
For that matter, I wonder what YOU ALL think about my scratchy, off-key voice when one of us has a birthday. My brother told me once, “You shouldn’t sing so loudly.” I should probably apologize for that (and to Charlie). But then, a sung song is a good thing. … Right?
That’s all I got. 
Students: expect a call from your 3RD period teachers today if they haven’t already called. In fact, it would make things easier for them if you EMAIL THEM with a phone number that you’d prefer to be reached at. We’ve got Skyward numbers, but I know those numbers aren’t necessarily the best ones to reach you. Let your teachers know what number they should use. It’ll make it easier for them to check in with you.
You are awesome.

Good Thing / Bad Thing

Wednesday, 25 Mar 2020, 20:30 GMT-0600

It was a writing day. I had scheduled three of them in the last two weeks — a requirement levied by the state to assess where our English language learners stand. The writing hadn’t taken much time, although I credit the early finishes of some of the speedier ones to the liberal use of whitespace between their words.

 “Is this all we’re doing today?” someone asked.

“That’s it.” 

It was hard to tell whether the question was a complaint or a celebration.

“Is that a good or a bad thing?”

There was loud acclaim that it was a good thing… except for a voice in the front.

“Bad,” she said, barely audible.

I walked over.

“Why bad?” 

“Because we’re not learning anything new today,” she said, staring straight ahead. She had spoken in a mildly sarcastic tone and had a look of mock disappointment on her face, but we both knew her words were sincere.

Oh, I live for such moments.