Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Stand-up Economist is coming to Ontario

I loved the video above so much that I signed up for notification at Dr. Yoram Bauman's website and he sent me the following e-mail recently: (BTW, there is also a link there to an opensource microeconomics text).

Hello comedy/economics friends:

* Comedy in Toronto and Hamilton March 25 and 26! As part of my Supply Side World Tour, I'm thrilled to be performing at Ryerson University in Toronto on Tuesday March 25 at 8pm ($10 for the general public, for details and tickets email Mike at ) and at McMaster University in Hamilton on Wednesday March 26 at lunchtime (for details and ticket info email ). Fun!!!

* PS. I'll probably be returning to the Toronto area in mid-April and mid-September. (But so far I have no shows that are open to the public.) Please email me if you want to hire me to do comedy at your college, company, or Jewish Community Center! I also give a mean talk about climate change---despite appearances to the contrary, I travel infrequently, and when I do travel I am eager to do penance by giving engaging and inspiring talks on how carbon taxes can save the planet!

* Email list administration: I send out messages no more than a few times a year. If you don't want to be on this list, just email me and I'll take you off. (Please let me know if you want off, period, or if you're in a different city and want me to let you know if and when I'm in your area.) And, in case you're wondering how you got on this list, it's probably because you signed up on . (PS. "Mankiw's Principles of Economics, Translated" is heading for 350,000 hits on YouTube!)

yoram bauman, "the world's first and only stand-up economist"

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Teacher Effectiveness

The Kitchen Table Math Blog summarizes some fascinating data about the effect of a Grade One teacher on success in adulthood. A humbling, yet inspiring read.

Minimizing Ridicule

Another fine post at Presentation Zen led me to this interesting quadratic relationship from the Indexed blog. There is something here akin to the Mathematical Poetry that I wrote about previously. Can you imagine asking students to create graphs like these?

Friday, February 22, 2008

The importance of external numbers

There has been an interesting comment thread at my cross-listed site about why people might need external validation based on measurements.

Today I realized that quite a few people are visiting this blog via There an "editor" (or is it a 'bot?) has rated my blog as "Good" - which I always thought was a sub-standard descriptor as a school child, preferring superlatives like "Very Good" or "Excellent". I suppose "Good" beats the 0.0 posts per week measurement from Google Reader.

The XO Laptop in the Third World

A presentation with fascinating photos and arguments about the benefit of bring the laptops to remote third world schools.

Do Programmers have a sense of humour?

Why yes they do! Is it too arcane for anyone else to be able to determine? Maybe. Here are some funny puzzles from a great post and a long list of comments. Can you guess what the idiom, song or movie is?

// idiom 3
injury += insult;
// idiom 6
a = getThickness('blood');
b = getThickness('water');
assert(a > b);
// idiom 9
prey = 'worm';
time = getCurrentTime();
if (time >= 4 && time <= 8) {

// idiom 19
return || way.high;

// idiom from comments

if (!fire) {
smoke = null;

// song 1
sleep = false;

// song 3;
var tiger[i];

// song 5
var it = now || never;

// song 10
compare(null, u);

// song 14 = 'jude';

// song 16
var s1 = 'tutti';
var s2 = s1.replace('tu', 'fru');
print(s1 + ' ' + s2);

// song 20
var country = new Array('UK', 'Italy', 'USA', 'Spain');

// movie 1
while (i < infinity) {
tomorrow = dies;

// movie 2
int numerator = 1;
int denominator = 0;
int mission = numerator / denominator;

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tribute to a Teacher

Dean Shareski's personal story about the impact of one teacher on his daughter and her poignant musical tribute embody so much about what is humanizing in the whole Web 2.0 world.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Fibonacci Gauge - part 2

The feedjit widget on my blog allows me to see where the readers come from, what page they are reading and to what page they leave. I find it interesting and encouraging. I noticed that a lot of readers are coming to my earlier post on the Fibonacci gauge, so I thought that I would outline a Geometer's Sketchpad construction of such a gauge.

Here are the steps that I followed:

Download the Sketchpad file.

Perhaps someone has a suggestion for an improved procedure or has a Cabri or Geogebra version.

0.0 Posts per Week

As a new blogger, I feel a little put out when technorati or blogger statistics rate my output as somehow unsatisfactory. If you add a subscription in Google Reader and search for "mathfest" you get the statistic that inspired the title of this post. However, it has been a while since the last post. I have just finished a few days away at the "Making GAINS" symposium.

One of the plenary speakers was Will Richardson. We interviewed him afterwards and the seventeen-minute video nicely summarizes his message about how the Read/Write Web changes education.

We also have set up a wiki to record feedback. One of the pages has the collection of brilliant Common Craft videos that introduce RSS, blogging, wikis and social bookmarking.

How does 39 posts over 4 months work out to 0.0 per week?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Un-Read Web?

Why is Firefox so popular among Web 2.0 enthusiasts? It starts with being one or two clicks away from subscribing to RSS feeds. But it doesn't end there. Firefox has useful add-ons, like FireFTP. Recently, I have been reading about GreaseMonkey but had no idea what it was. Then the Cool Cat Teacher blog featured the humorous, short video below.

Now this is Web 2.0! Adjusting the web to your own preferences and tastes.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Wanted Mathematical Words

CBC Radio ran a highly entertaining radio spot called Wanted Words, in which listeners submitted suggestioned new words to describe things:
  • What do you call the long, cold, dark Canadian period between New Year's and Good Friday? Forevuary.
  • What do you call someone whose plants always die prematurely? Hortikillturist.
  • What do you call @? Atpersand, ampersend, Circle-A (from a rancher in B.C.)
  • What do you call the warmth left behind when you sit in a recently occupied seat? Bumcano.
In working on CLIPS, we have come up with a few surprising wanted Mathematical words:
  • What do you call the superclass of transformations that take (x,y) and map it to (x,ay)? For some values of a we call it a stretch, for others a compression, for still others the composition of a reflection and a stretch/compression. Some sites seem to allow for a vertical stretch of factor 1/2, but would you allow one of factor -3?
  • What do you call the line in the middle of a sinusoidal? Medial axis, median line, mid-range, mean level (like mean sea level)...
Don't you think it is wild that there doesn't seem to be a least one word around for these things? I would be happy to hear any suggestions that you might have - maybe CLIPS will use your suggestion. How about the Isenegger-Clarke line? A compstretchion?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The poetry of presentation

If you drilled down at the Presentation Zen blog to the entry on the art of repetition, you might have watched Barack Obama's "concession" speech in New Hampshire, embedded here. My thirteen year-old was captivated by it.

Now, this morning on Larry Lessig's blog, which has been full of pro-Obama messages of late, we have this incredible remixing of that poetic speech into an inspirational music video. Not an example of the culture of amateurs, but still a powerful example of the power of words and imagination to inspire and convict.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

My biggest weakness

Perhaps it shows my age, but when I started preparing for job interviews, one of the favourite questions of employers was "What is your biggest weakness?". My answer, which I got a kick out of, was that sometimes I am too task-committed.

In a conversation with Greg this week, I formulated a different answer: "My biggest weakness is that I find too many things interesting." There has been a lot written lately about getting control of the time spent on Blackberry-like devices, with an RSS reader, using Twitter, Facebook or whatever. The trick must be that the time should be spent in a way that reflects our values, improves our character and connects us with folks we care about or can learn something from.

Which brings me to the quote that is the byline to McGee's Musings:

The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.
Dorothy Parker, (attributed)
US author, humorist, poet, & wit (1893 - 1967)