Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Main Question

Together with the actual job searching, I have to answer to myself what do I want?
These questions are very much related. I have miscasted myself several times in the last few years. I cannot do a good job if I am not well suited for it.
My problem has been in the past twenty years that I aimed too high and did not get there. Now what?

Monday, May 28, 2007

What Do I Know Right Now?

Some pointers to answer this question are:

  • State of the environment

  • State of my career

  • State of the US

  • Environment

    There are three documents released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently. They support the view that the state of the environment is worrisome but we can do something about it. James Martin, in his book, "The Meaning of the 21st Century", provides the necessary optimism to confront the problems ahead of us in this new century. James Lovelock, in his book, "Gaia's Revenge", presents his opinion that it may already be too late to stop the Earth from warming to the point that it will be more and more difficult to maintain the same quality of life we have today.

    My opinion is that this is a real problem and I will change my way of life as I see necessary, but I am afraid I may have to change my way of life in ways I do not want to, in other words I may be forced to change, due to the diminished resources available to me now.

    Career

    I was not rehired for next year in my present job. I am applying to jobs, but most of all, I am reassessing my contributions present and future.

    United States of America

    This is a testing time for this country where I live, where I plan to apply for citizenship. The US has an important role, both to create and to solve the problems of the 21st Century. This is the place to be.

    Cops, Coyotes and the Politics of Stupidity

    The most cutting-edge domestic issue facing the United States today is the crisis of illegal immigration. The outrage of open borders has led to the current invasion -- something never before seen in U.S. history, something that could mean the end of our American way of life. You can be...



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    Saturday, May 26, 2007

    Greg Palast Has Roves Missing Emails

    Greg Palast is in possession of the missing emails. He also points out what everyone else seems to be missing, that the attorney firings aren't the real story, the 2004 election is.



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    Thursday, May 24, 2007

    Did They Learn?

    I applied the same test I gave them like six months ago. They did a little better. We can all do better. Next time I should get them more involved. Easier said than done.

    I don't want to make irrelevant comparisons but given the state of the environment, I guess I am doing OK.

    Wednesday, May 23, 2007

    How Do We Know Students Learned?

    The test is whether they can apply what they learned correctly. School is an artificial environment to give them the opportunity to make mistakes. Later in their life that will not be accepted.

    Tomorrow I will ask my students to apply what they learned.

    Math Classes Winding Down

    This was the first year I taught math at the high school level. Some time ago I taught a remedial Geometry class in a community college, and a remedial physics class for freshmen in college. At the high school we only have a few more days to work together. My students do not know as much as I thought they were going to know by now. As it is, they did not know as much when they came into the class.

    The difference is that now I am responsible for what they learned this year.

    This Summer it looks as if I am going to be teaching math to high school students again.

    I have also been volunteering for adult education classes. If the schedules do not interfere I will be teaching the same material to adults and teenagers.

    Is there a way to succeed?

    If there is one, it has to make the students trust me. I do know what is good for them and they have to follow my instructions.

    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    The Strangest Disaster of the 20th Century

    The official death toll was recorded as 1,746 people, but that was only an estimate, because the survivors had already begun to bury victims in mass graves, and many terrified survivors had fled corpse-filled villages and were hiding in the forest. This bizarre story discusses what happened and how it is being prevented from happening again.



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    EnsayoOo De áLGebRa

    Primero que nada este ensayo se trata acerca de todo lo que he visto y aprendido acerca de el álgebra, creo que básicamente todo comienza al nacer, ya que desde que uno nace comienza a experimentar cosas nuevas.

    Cuando entré al kinder comencé a conocer los números, fue como experimentar algo divertido después de saber algunos números, para todo los utilizaba.

    Después de años entré a la primaria, ahí realmente cambió la situación ya que comencé a conocer diferentes cosas como las sumas, restas, multiplicaciones, y divisiones.

    Las sumas se hacían realmente fácil, ya comencé a contar con mis dedos y era así como las resolvía, más tarde continué con restas, me agradaban, me gustaba la forma como me las enseñó mi maestra, siempre recordaré cuando tenía que pedirle números prestados a otros, después continué con las multiplicaciones, esas fueron un poco más difíciles, ya que tenía que pensar más, pero creo que las raíces cuadradas fue algo de lo que se me dificultó más, ya que nunca ponía la atención debida, en mi último año de secundaria y pues pasaron varias cosas por las cuales descuide mis estudios. Y pues fue ahí donde perdí la oportunidad de aprender cosas nuevas. Ya que nunca hacía nada. Más tarde tuve problemas en la escuela y me corrieron, así que tuve que hacer mi secundaria abierta, pero pues realmente me dí cuenta que perdí la oportunidad de mi vida, ya que en la secundaria es donde se aprenden muchas cosas acerca de el álgebra y pues yo perdí esa oportunidad, pero pues en la secundaria abierta le eché ganas y pues terminé con buenos grados, después comencé con la preparatoria; fue algo super distinto, ya que comencé a experimentar fórmulas que nunca había visto, pero pues me estaba acostumbrando a éllas, pero casi a mediados de el año mi padre decidió que era mejor si nos veníamos para acá, y pues lo hicimos.

    Después cuando llegué aquí yo no pensaba estudiar y comencé a trabajar, pero mi padre me dió la oportunidad de entrar a esta escuela, la cual me encantó, ya que es todo lo contrario a las de México, después me fui aplicando a las clases, pero realmente era todo lo contrario, ya que no me enseñaban lo mismo que yo había aprendido en México, pero pues creo que el sistema de aquí me agrada, sólo que realmente no le he dedicado el tiempo debido a estudiar, ya que siento como que no se me dá, porque por mas que estudio no se me graban los números, pero el que persevera alcanza, así que creo que si yo digo que puedo, realmente puedo.

    También aprovecho este ensayo para darle gracias a mi maestro Cantoral, ya que gracias a él aprendí cosas que nunca había visto, y se que éso me va a ayudar toda mi vida, lo que realmente me da pena es que por nuestra culpa él pierda su empleo, ya que lo único que él hizo mal, fue darnos demasiada confianza, pensar que realmente aprovecharíamos todo lo que él nos enseñaba, pero pues abusamos de su confianza.

    Bueno creo que por ahora es todo, solo quiero decir que las matemáticas aunque son muy complicadas, son algo que te sirve para toda tu vida...

    ErICk gArCíA GaViñA

    Monday, May 21, 2007

    The Emotion Machine

    Marvin Minsky, recently wrote a book called "The Emotion Machine". There he argues that we think like we feel, or rather that feelings and thoughts are closer than we might have guessed.

    It is a pleasure to go to his webpage and find out how much he has chosen to share with us. Of course if you buy his book, you get to know his work better. I am still in the process of incorporating his ideas into my way of thinking.

    I wrote a little note on him before, you can read it here.

    Thanks Professor Minsky.

    Immigration Bill Clears Its First Hurdle in Senate

    WASHINGTON, May 21 — A comprehensive immigration bill cleared its first hurdle this afternoon as the Senate voted to start work on the legislation, which would offer legal status to most of the nation’s 12 million illegal immigrants.



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    Sunday, May 20, 2007

    Immigration Law for the New Year 1

    Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, a co-author of the bill, said the point system was devised so America “can compete for the best minds that exist in the world.”

    I posted an article from the NYT here.

    The version now under consideration with support from the White House and both parties has a new element I discuss here.

    Senator Graham wants the best minds.

    Before a very important aspect was to have reunification of families, now also the education level of the new immigrants matters.

    I agree with this change. Apart from the apparent benefit I may get because I hold a Ph.D. degree from an American university; I believe that society should give points when somebody has more education.

    On the other hand points will be given for joining the Army, there I do not get points. That is the point of politics though, there are compromises. I hope the status of twelve million illegal immigrants is changed so they can be productive members of society.

    Saturday, May 19, 2007

    George Monbiot

    There is a new book, Heat , by George Monbiot. He has a website dedicated to this book.

    You can read more about this man in wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Monbiot.

    The reason I write this is, besides my interest in these subjects, that he is one of the few people I've heard, saying that our way of life in advanced countries, is killing people in poor countries. Heat is produced in the temperate countries, and killing poor people in the tropics.

    Al Gore's 3 Cinema Display Setup

    A Time photo essay with images of Al Gore over the years. Page #20 is a recent photo of Al working on his Mac in his office.



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    MUST READ: Excerpt from 'The Assault on Reason' by Al Gore | TIME

    Amazing insight into the current state of American democracy (and other countries).



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    Thursday, May 17, 2007

    Apple iPhone receives FCC approval!

    Apple Inc. on Thursday received the official go-ahead on its first ever mobile handset, with the Federal Communications Commission giving the iPod maker the green light to commence sales of the device in the United States. "The Apple Inc. A1203 GSM Cellular Telephone with Bluetooth and Wifi, FCC ID: BCGA1203, is in compliance with the limits for ge



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    Wednesday, May 16, 2007

    Blogs and Jobs

    I write this blog; do I want a future employer to read it?

    I try to write in such a way that the reader gets to know me but not hurt me. That conflict produces the material you read here. If I was writing a confidential personal letter, I would expose myself more. The problem with the blog is that I do not know who am I writing to.

    If nobody reads the blog, it really does not matter, how or what I write. It turns into some reflective action.

    What I am thinking right now, and people that know me will know what events am I referring to, can be expressed more abstractly in the following way.

    We are accepted or not inside communities. It is like an immune response of the institution in question. I act "normal", but some people around me do not act that way, they act "normal" in their own way.

    I am going to move to a community that takes well to me, and I will take well to the community.

    Neutrinos from SN 2006gy?

    Recently I wrote an e-mail to a friend about the possibility that the biggest explosion ever recorded by humans produced any neutrinos that could be measured also?

    He has not answered, but after I posed the question I have being thinking.

    I think it is unlikely.

    I was thinking of SN 1987 A. That supernova explosion did produce neutrinos seen on Earth, but that was much closer. That event happened in a neighboring galaxy to our Milky Way.

    As far as I know SN 2006gy occured far away. Something like 238 million light years away, 1400 times farther than SN 1987 A. Therefore even if it is the biggest explosion ever, I will be surprised if any neutrinos made it all the way to the Auger detector in Argentina that I asked my friend about. That observatory is not optimized for neutrino detection. But then again, he is the expert and I am not. I eagerly await his answer. In fact if they did catch something, the World will find out, not only me.

    My friend just told me that no neutrino was observed in Argentina when the Supernova exploded. I guess that because the explosion was too far, and that detector was not built to catch neutrinos, none were detected.

    Monday, May 14, 2007

    How Do You Know the World is Ending?

    I just read the transcript of Amy Goodman's interview of Greg Palast at his Website:

    David Iglesias' case

    Today's Democracy Now posted the podcast of this interview and also the interview with two women from Irak and Afghanistan.

    05/14/1426235

    My reaction is this:

    Darfur is a clear case of Climate Change leading to genocide. People in Africa are actually jumping to the sea to save themselves. They try to get to the Canary Islands, 90 miles away from the coast of West Africa, just to be stopped by Spanish authorities that do not want more refugees.

    I expect more refugees all over the world, Iraqis trying to get to the US, Sri Lankans trying to get to India, and so on. Maybe closer to home, New Orleanders moving to Chicago. Maybe next month Georgians escaping the fire there this week.

    Is the World ending?

    The Latest on Firing of Attorney General David Iglesias

    On a single day, December 7, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales demanded the resignations of 8 United States Attorneys. What was really the purpose of the firings - and who was behind it? Investigative journalist Greg Palast reports.



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    Sunday, May 13, 2007

    This Perfect Storm Will Finally Destroy The Neocon Project

    Americans are sick of the unrepentant arrogance of this elite. But the realisation has come at a very heavy cost.



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    LA Times: The Terrorist America Tolerates

    The man was perhaps the most successful terrorist in the Western Hemisphere. He's believed to be behind a 1976 plot to blow up a civilian airliner, killing all 73 people on board. He's admitted to a series of 1997 bombings aimed at tourist hotels and nightspots. Today he strolls freely around the US, which says a lot about Bush's 'war on terror.'



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    Saturday, May 12, 2007

    The Largest Supernova Ever Discovered

    From the Article: "In a cascade of superlatives that belies the traditional cerebral reserve of their profession, astronomers reported yesterday that they had seen the brightest and most powerful stellar explosion ever recorded."



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    SN 2006gy

    "Therefore, SN 2006gy provides fertile ground for important theoretical work. "

    Nathan Smith et al.

    Taken from:

    SN 2006gy: Discovery of the most luminous supernova ever recorded, powered by the death of an extremely massive star like Eta Carinae

    This is the article reporting the brightest Supernova ever observed.

    A friend of mine, Alex Filippenko is a member of the team.

    As they write in the above quote, this discovery has the potential to increase our knowledge of the world we live in.

    You can find a link to the NYT in one of my previous posts:

    Supernova

    Better yet consult Wikipedia:

    SN 2006gy

    Friday, May 11, 2007

    Truth

    My high school students by and large do not know mathematics nor physics. I do not know how to make big groups of young people interested in what I am interested in. If I find a way maybe I can patent it.

    Cheney to Iran

    Iran has to stop development of nuclear technology or face the US administration of George W. Bush, says Vice President Cheney.

    From my humble perspective I see a military country acting as it always has. Bullying others into compliance under the moral leadership they want the world to recognize by force. In the past the name of Jesus Christ would have been used, nowadays that discourse is passé, and the justification is Democracy. The world becomes democratic or else; says Dick Cheney.

    The structure of the US makes it almost necessary to be in a constant state of war. I believe that we become peaceful, or else we disappear.

    Thursday, May 10, 2007

    He is Almost Nineteen

    My student is leaving high school and he is not finished. I believe that he had a hard time adjusting and I was not able to help. He is smart but could not set himself to work in the school setting we shared this year. At one point he ended in a fist fight with another student in another classroom because of a sitting arrangement. The other student also left, I had had problems with him also.

    Did I do enough?

    Obviously not. I could not help them in this school. As a matter of fact the school is not going to hire me next year, maybe the three of us should start a school.

    Wednesday, May 09, 2007

    Animals and Introspection

    It is becoming more and more clear that not only humans are aware of themselves. Besides other ideas this observation may produce, I write here about humans taking tests.

    We have been taking a test for over an hour now. The students are concentrated and I wonder if any other mammal would do something similar. My gut feeling is that no; mammals besides humans don't take written tests.

    Does it mean that that we are more introspect, or it is just a cultural trait?

    I think we are more introspect, and my next question is, do more introspect people do better than others?

    I really do not know.

    New GED Graduates

    Today we received the visit of three students that got their high school diploma today. They worked hard, I saw them, now they have a reward. They can continue their studies, more English, maybe medical training. The limit is their dedication to be contributing members of society.

    Congratulations!

    War in Mexico


    I saw a picture this morning on the front page of La Jornada, a Mexico City daily. There are a few distressed teen aged girls in Apatzingan, a town in the western state of Michoacan in Mexico.

    To me this looks like war.

    They are crying because people they love were attacked by the Mexican government in their war on drugs.

    Tuesday, May 08, 2007

    RFK Jr.: Rove & Timothy Griffin "Should Be In Jail"

    Voting rights attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has called for prison time for the new US Attorney for Arkansas, Timothy Griffin and investigation of Griffin’s former boss, Karl Rove for "voter fraud efforts by the Bush Administration to disenfranchise over a million voters through ‘caging’ techniques - which are illegal.”



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    Monday, May 07, 2007

    Supernova

    From the NYT

    Exponential Functions

    At school we are reviewing the exponential function. I feel that I have not given the students a sense of the growth this function can represent. I worry about the mechanics of the calculations. How do we know when to add or subtract exponents? We are finished with regular classes, and I want the students to review what they already know. I give them something to do, but they do not take to it as I would want them.

    What am I doing wrong?

    I plan to teach the next class with more feeling. A little introduction, maybe about compound interests, and then the worksheet. Something like this.

    If you put a little money in the bank at a reasonable interest rate, after a few years you may get a considerable amount. Imagine that your first paycheck ever is for ten full days. Imagine that in your state the minimum wage is eight dollars an hour. How much will you have in ten years if you deposit that amount at 8% a year?

    The answer is:

    10x8x8x(1.08)10 = 1381.71

    I hope this is interesting.

    Saturday, May 05, 2007

    ¡Ask a Mexican!

    Gustavo Arellano just released his ¡Ask a Mexican! book. He writes:

    Dear Readers: The Reconquista has arrived! On May 1, ¡Ask a Mexican! comes out in book form gracias to the literary madmen at Scribner. Expect more of the same, but más: more essays, more illustrations from Mark Dancey (the gabacho who created this column’s logo) and more questions. Below are just a sample of the preguntas the Mexican answers exclusively in his book, broken down by chapters. Want the answers? Buy the book!

    From Isham to Klebanov

    Recently Professor Isham from Imperial College, restarted my interest in an old passion of mine. What is the nature of Information?

    He proposes the study of topoi. These are mathematical constructs that generalize the concept of sets. In his view classical mechanics is described by Set Theory, and Quantum Mechanics by a different Category. Is like if Quantum Mechanics had its own mathematics different from Classical Mechanics. I will say that Information is different in the classical world as it is in the quantum world.

    On the other hand Professor Klebanov from Princeton University has recently rekindled my interest into another deep mathematical problem, the Riemann Hypothesis. Here I put these ideas from mathematics and physics into context.

    Information is different than matter and energy, but no less real. Loosely speaking matter is the stuff we are made of, energy is its motion, and information is how it moves. Recently Professor Joe Mazur from Marlboro College wrote the book The Motion Paradox, that revisits the thousands of years old idea of motion. Any one of these points I write about here is a deep part of our mental wiring, here I only touch them at the surface, and try to glimpse at some connections among them.

    Let us start with motion. Mechanical motion is the change of position in time, but then, what is position and what is time? Time is necessary so everything does not happen at once. In this same line of thinking, space is necessary so that everything is not in the same place. Abusing language I will say that Information is necessary so not everything happens the same way. Just like matter and energy are related through the most famous formula in Physics, E = mc2, I expect that Information and Energy are related through something similar; I = f(E).

    Isham has a series of papers on the use of Category Theory to build Physics Theories. This will better represent how a quantum object can be in several places at once, and a classical object cannot. You can read the last one at the Los Alamos Archive here.

    In my view what Isham is saying is that the how things move of classical physics is different from the how they do in the microscopic world. On the other hand I believe that classical physics is an approximation of quantum physics, and therefore I will be inclined to consider the category of classical physics as contained in the quantum physics one. My point is that Information is related to Energy but is not Energy, unless the whole shebang is just a bit; "It from Bit", as John Archibald Wheeler said.

    At the other side of the Atlantic Ocean from Isham we have Igor Klebanov, a young theoretical physicists at Princeton University. He found out that String Theory and Supersymmetric Yang-Mills theories are mathematically related; of course within the context of Set Theory as is used in Quantum Mechanics. Klebanov is not working on the foundations of Quantum Mechanics as Isham is, he directed a group of young scientists in a very precise numerical calculation to support a conjecture, strong and weak coupling expansions are related. This is a breakthrough, because it has proven very hard to calculate properties of the matter we are made of, like Carbon nuclei, with high energy physics theories. Now there seems to be a path through Klebanov et al.'s results.

    The Riemann Hypothesis states that Bernhard Riemann's Zeta function only has zeros on the complex plane along a known line. This line happens to be related to the number 1/2 that appears prominently in the Princeton group's calculations. There is a type of singularity, a cut singularity, that is prominent in both the numerical calculation and the hypothesis.

    Are these results related?

    I do not know how to use Isham ideas. I never studied Category Theory, it is not part of the theoretical physics curriculum, you know; but in the quagmire that String Theory had turned out to be nowadays, it looks like a way out, maybe one can decide now what is the right theory, or at least what is the role of all the great variety of known string theories. On the other hand it seems more likely to me that the young turks at Princeton now know how to proceed, and maybe they will even be able to prove the more than a hundred year old Riemann Conjecture, just after Perelman proved Poincaré's Conjecture recently.

    Wednesday, May 02, 2007

    GED and High School

    I have worked in two American High Schools and with adults trying to get their high school diploma through the GED program. Obviously there are more classes to get the "regular" diploma, but do the students know more?

    Like other things in life there are exceptions to what I write here. It is better to have a full time program with dedicated students. But in some cases students just waste time in the high school setting, they will be better served with a GED.

    If I was an employer or an admission officer at a university though, my first choice would be a "regular" diploma.

    I think some of the people that get their diploma through the GED program are better prepared than some of my students at the high schools where I have taught.

    Deep down I feel though, that either you know Algebra or you don't, no matter how you go about learning it.

    Tuesday, May 01, 2007

    Immigrant March in LA

    Why did the police in the only US city with a Mexican-American Mayor hit the demonstrators?

    I guess somebody in that city does not want to change the statu quo.

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