Friday, July 19, 2013

the most important part of this post is the picture of Rashed.

Fondest greetings to you all!  This blog post is about four things: NYC, UROP, teaching, and other fun things.

on ze ferry.
Rashed reminds me that he and Caitlin and I never got around to writing about our NYC romp, which happened last month.  I will just say that it was pretty fantastic.  We went and saw Phantom, which was probably my favorite part (I've wanted to do that since high school), visited the Strand bookstore (at which Caitlin purchased a very cute bag with owls on it and Rashed got a book on the history of the Middle East or something like that), and rode the ferry to see the Statue.  I also got to see my Aunt Lin, who lives in New Jersey.

Caitlin and I woke up before Rashed did.  Rashed has specifically requested that he be able to view this picture, so here 'tis.

My UROP is going pretty well.  I have decided that I like this computational stuff and will apply for grad school in computation with aerospace applications.  My UROP project is about parallel simulations for chaotic systems.  My UROP experience has been less about parallel simulation and a lot more about learning what not to do.  Here are some examples of things I have learned not to do:
  • run lots of simulations without clearly documenting where all this data is coming from.
  • store data in user-friendly format.  user-friendly is computer-unfriendly, and that is a pain.
  • run code on the cluster without testing on my own machine first.
  • forget to account for edge cases.
Yesterday I spent a really long time noticing something I should have noticed in February.  Alas, I don't think I was ready for it then.  Here are some things I have learned since then:
  • all the powers of two up to 524288.
  • to use screen with ssh-ing.  This is allowing me to happily run a long script and type up this blog post simultaneously.
  • python is 0-indexed.  Also, the statement "a = b" will point a to b, not copy b to a.
  • python's LIL matrix slicing is inefficient.
Junction started last Monday, and I have now taught 6 full lessons, and one 5-minutes Firestorm class.  Topics were: Space Mission Design, Aircraft Stability & Design, Genetic Disease, Romantic Nationalism in Music, Engineering System Failures, and Short Stories.  The 5-minute Firestorm class was based on the lit class I took freshman fall - "Foundations of Western Literature".  I "covered" the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Republic, Oedipus Rex, Medea, and Genesis in five minutes and maybe 15 seconds.  I was beaten off the stage with pool noodles in the last 15 seconds for going over. ;)

I had the students act out a clotting cascade.
Sometimes people ask me how teaching is going, and I usually don't really know if you're looking for some sort of specific response or not so I just go with "well".  But there is a lot of stuff going on in my brain when I think about how teaching is going:
  • for the most part, I adore the students.  We have a great group of enthusiastic and engaged learners, which makes my job as a teacher much easier.
  • have I been boring the students?  some topics, like Space Mission Design, automatically grab the students' interest so they come eager to learn.  I know students found Aircraft Design more boring - but probably because of the way I taught it.  I can probably do better as a teacher finding interesting ways to engage these topics.
  • how do I make the students keep quiet when I'm talking?  I have a new appreciation for my K-12 teachers now... I have to continually ask the students to shush so I can be heard.
  • I think the students are here to have fun first and to learn second.  They're not like college students, where we're in classes to learn first and to have fun second.  I should find ways to make things more fun so they don't notice that they're learning. 
  • when I reflect on the last time I did a program like this (two years ago, in Germany), I realize that I am a much stronger teacher now than I was then.  I suppose age, experience, and additional grumpiness make for good teaching.
Other fun things:
Juliette & Lucetta in Two Gents.
  • Last Friday, Sasha and I went to see The Two Gentlemen of Verona on the common.  It was fun, as Maggie said. :)
  • Last Saturday, Sophie and I went to see Much Ado About Nothing in the Kendall Square Cinema.  We got lunch at Cosi first, and then took a wild detour to the theatre due to the fact that neither of us knew exactly where it was.  It involved some running, lots of asking people for help, and making it into the theatre before the movie started. :D  It was really good.
  • Reading:  I have recently finished The Princess Casamassima (James) and Death in Venice (Mann).  The former was very good, the latter... disturbing.  I am now going to work on the German things I have in preparation for going to Germany.
'tis all from me.  with very much love,


  1. all the powers of two sum up to 524288?? whaaaa?

    I miss you <3 rock on!

  2. ^ 'all the powers of two up to 524288'
    i don't think you meant to put 'sum' in there >.<

  3. "- run lots of simulations without clearly documenting where all this data is coming from.
    - store data in user-friendly format. user-friendly is computer-unfriendly, and that is a pain."
    This could not be more true! In fact I am sucking up the effects of the first point right now... trying to match up which file I compiled with which to get certain results. Your UROP sounds fun! =)