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The Black Gate Opens

Tuesday, 02 Jun 2020, 08:38 GMT-0600

Lights Out

Monday, 01 Jun 2020, 10:34 GMT-0600

…and nobody’s home.

A-Sittin’ on a Rainbow

Tuesday, 07 Apr 2020, 21:50 GMT-0600

In spite of ourselves
We’ll end up a-sittin’ on a rainbow
Against all odds
Honey, we’re the big door prize

     —John Prine 1946-2020

What a big ol’ goofy world.

Old School / New School

Tuesday, 07 Apr 2020, 12:15 GMT-0600

1. The Moon

“What a beautiful moon tonight!” Jenny said. She attached three pictures of the Kentucky full moon, which looked strangely like ours — big, smiling, round, white; thin, wispy clouds; a glowing streetlight in the foreground.

“We saw it!” I replied. And I told her about our venturing forth last night.

It had been three weeks since I’d run my car, Trudy’s electric Bolt being the obvious choice since we’ve been sequestered. It had been three weeks, and I was wondering about the tires and the brakes and the battery. And feeling bad about the Ash seeds and Oak leaves and pollen and other detritus making it look abandoned. So we ventured forth into that good night.

2. A Drive-By Visit

We got in the car, I at the wheel and beside me the fair and industrious Trudy holding Izzy. We drove north on an empty highway. We drove to a park near where I used to work once and another time before that — a park with a forlorn playground and a silent pond and a gravel path going around.

I told Jenny about this. About how we had gone for that drive and taken a walk and seen that moon, which made me want to say, “Guardate la bella luna!”  And I told Jenny about how on the way home, we texted some friends and had a drive-by visit with us in the car and them on the sidewalk. How we chatted about family and work and about trips cancelled and plans for maybe later. 

Old-school: you drop in on friends unannounced just to talk. New-school: you do it from a socially acceptable distance.

Lean On Me

Tuesday, 07 Apr 2020, 09:37 GMT-0600

This week we started distance learning for real. Yesterday was the first day of algebra in Google Classroom. The kids are working the small assignments I gave them. We’re being gentle on ourselves, so small is good, and no grades this week is better. 

Here is the morning announcement I sent out today.

Hi folks.

It’s Tuesday. Day 2 of Week 3 of not-at-school school. I see people making progress in Google Classroom. That’s awesome. If you need help, leave me a message in Google Classroom, or email me. Keep it up!

(You have joined Google Classroom… right!?)

Meanwhile, I’ve attached a Bill Withers tune for today. I remember when I was in middle school, my Chachi Bette introduced us to him. She knew that we needed to know his music. You do, too.

Bill Withers was not trained as a musician. He worked as a mechanic at a Navy factory when he realized that Lou Rawls was getting paid more for singing music at a local club than Withers was making at the factory. Withers taught himself music, and for eight years, he wrote and sang some amazing songs. And then he left the music business for good.

Bill Withers passed away this week. His music is still amazing and fresh and relevant.


You just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on

Those are some of the words to one of his most iconic songs.

Y’all: when you need a hand, lean on those around you. Lean on other students in class. Or you can lean on me. You know where to find me.

You are awesome.

[And I embedded a video and the lyrics of Bill Withers’s Lean on me.]

 

Moments later, a student emails this: “Mr. Hasan you like that song? I think it is amazing.”

Under The Apple Tree

Thursday, 02 Apr 2020, 18:41 GMT-0600

1. Morning

The day started out cloudy, which can be a good thing when you’re locked up at home, easily distracted by blooming flowers or blue sky or green grass. So we got right to work in the morning, Trudy in one room, I in another, both of us clicking on keyboards and talking on teleconferences. (In truth, the fair and industrious Trudy rises before the sun and is already at her desk before I stumble out some time later, lucky as I am not to have to worry about billable hours.)

Izzy of course, was up and eager as soon as the fair and industrious Trudy went into the kitchen. Charlie, on the other hand, was in no such rush. He never is, Zen dog that he is. And so, as is always the case, Charlie slept in, visibly comforted by the ample space given him on the bed now that the man and the mommy were gone.

And sleep in he did — until he didn’t. He fell out of bed with a crash, and when Trudy found him, he was spinning frantically trying to get up, unable to get any traction with his out-of-socket hips, the situation made worse by the mess he was spinning in.

2. Charlie

Charlie has been our senior dog for three years. Our Zen dog, blinking his eyes slowly from various positions of meditation. Our police dog, keeping watch on the house and yard, walking patrol around the peripheries, keeping Izzy in check should she misbehave, which she often does by his estimation.

But his fall today was a bad one. Afterward, he could no longer stand reliably. And as the day went on, unless he was napping in Trudy’s lap or mine or a dog bed on the floor, he couldn’t walk, and he couldn’t drink. Trudy had to hold him up so that he could eat breakfast, which with her aid he did with vigor — ground turkey and quinoa and celery and carrots and a little something extra for enticement. So at least he did eat a big meal.

But during the day, we would find him sitting Zen-like in the middle of a room, his collapsed hind haunches refusing to hold his weight anymore. His gaze suggested he was resigned to his plight. But when we’d lift him up, he’d turn in tight circles to the left, spinning around his z-axis, craning his head to the left, falling down when we’d let go. So we took Charlie out to the car in the pouring rain, and the three of us drove to the vet.

3. At The Vet

A vet tech came out to the parking lot and took Charlie inside. A few minutes later, the doctor, who has known all our dogs, called us on the phone from inside and told us what she could without telling us what to do. And as we sat without him in the car in the parking lot, we realized that this was his last day. 

For situations like this, even on shutdown days like these, they have a protocol. After they inserted a catheter, the doctor came out to the car with two masks and led us inside. Two masks and they let us go inside — a measure of their empathy. 

Charlie was lying on a table in a dog bed with his front left elbow neatly wrapped in a pastel blue bandage and his head propped up on a tall pink pillow. He looked up at Trudy as she bent toward him, his eyes as clear as that day he came home with us three years ago. She picked him up and rocked him in her arms. Trudy looked down at him. 

“I’m sorry, Charlie,” she said. And she began to cry.

She handed him to me, and I rocked him in my arms and held his chin between my fingers. He gazed at us as we traded him and wept.

4. The Back Forty

“You’re going to a new body,” the doctor whispered to him as she gave Charlie the anesthetic and then the final shot. “You’re going to a new body where you’ll be strong.”

I’ve never done this before. I didn’t realize this. It doesn’t take long. They fade away so quickly. So little time for one last kiss. I wasn’t ready for this. They go limp in your arms. And their eyes stay open. Charlie’s last sight was of his loving mommy’s gaze. She loved him so much. He was such a wonderful dog. We are so grateful that he spent his last three years with us.

“Don’t worry about anything,” the doctor said. “Go on home.”

When we stepped outside, the rain had stopped. The sun was shining from behind some white billowing clouds in the west. And as we looked to the east, we saw a rainbow. Charlie’s rainbow. Its colors were bright, just like his eyes. And it arched across the sky, out somewhere along the periphery.

Then just as quickly as the sun had come out, the sky was dark again, and it started raining. The two of us drove home in silence.

We know where we will bury him — out in the strip of yard we call our back forty. Out past the chain link fence. Out where the compost piles are. Where the sheet of corrugated aluminum that he loved to walk on lies on the ground. It was a place he patrolled regularly. He was even out there once this morning, teetering and turning, barely able to walk, but patrolling it, because that was what he was supposed to do.

Out there in the back forty. Under the apple tree. That is where Charlie will lie.

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

QED 1

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.

QED 2

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.”

Yesss.