Sunday, May 31, 2009

Math-wise, Minnesota is in really big trouble

According to the Star Tribune, the Minnesota Legislature "that students no longer have to pass the 11th-grade math test." Many educators think the test is too difficult. See "Must-pass math test goes by the wayside", Star Tribune, 2009-05-30.

The Star Tribune also published four examples from the text. See "Could you pass the test?" I did the examples fairly quickly with what I consider ninth-grade math; I would have had all I needed to know for this test in Algebra I. I did get a bit stymied on how high the ball would go; I made an arithmetic error! The solution was only to plug in the time values of 1, 2, and 3 to find the value that gave one of the multiple-choice answers.

If 11th-grade students can't pass this test, either they slept through Algebra or never took it, a shame either way. And if so many can't do simple algebra, how are we going to find people to do the needed jobs from construction worker to engineers to scientists?

Two, too, and to are pronounced the same, right?

Once upon a time the title used to be true of American English, but not anymore. Thirty years ago when my daughter was in high school, I often heard her say "to" as "tuh". Now I hear announcers and politicians saying "tuh".

Sometimes I think American English should be called Schwaglish after the name of the unaccented, obscure sound that has crept into so many words. For example, do you say "ahbscure" or "uhbscure" for "obscure"? Do you know anybody who says "ohbscure"?

Oh, well! Change always happens to languages. If not, why don't we pronounce the number after one as "tvoo" or some other two consonant version like "två", "zwei", or "dva", all used in modern European languages.

More on two sides to every issue

It's too bad more people don't take a Jewish view of issues. Many Jewish people say of themselves if you put two Jews in the same room there will be three opinions.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Not always two sides to every issue

One of the fallacies of discourse is that there are two sides to every issue. For example, one of Carinda Horton's fans said that "Horton's show respectively portrayed both sides of an issue." This is an indirect quote by the Duluth News Tribune, "Talk show host Horton let go by Duluth station", 2009-05-28. Carinda Horton was a talk show host on KDAL-AM in the Duluth-Superior area.

There are often one side, two sides, three sides, or any number of sides.

There is really only one side to the issue of the earth being round. There may be some that believe the earth is flat, but all the evidence shows that earth is round. Not exactly perfectly round, but sufficiently round to not be flat, square, or egg-shaped.

The two-side fallacy comes from so many people believing in "two-party system". You're either Republican or Democrat. But even that was not always true. In the days when the parties were less rigid than now, many Democrats would agree on a particular issue with the majority of Republicans, and many Republicans would agree with the majority of Democrats on the same issue.

Even when there seem to be two sides to an issue, there are quite frequently really three: for, against, and don't give a damn. How many people in Duluth wish the school board and "Let Duluth Vote" would just shut up about the Duluth School District's Red Plan?

If we had a true democracy, we would have only independent candidates, each being relative unique in their positions and not beholden to any larger group. That probably will never happen, because people with similar views will work together more often than not. Our best arrangement is to have multiple parties with overlapping views. Unfortunately, we won't get this as long as people are concerned about "throwing their vote away" by voting for other than a Democrat or Republican.

The best thing about having more than two views is that we are more open to new ideas. Suppose there had been only two sides to the slavery question: keep all people with any African ancestry as slaves or send all of them back to Africa. The third side is to treat all people with any African ancestry as full citizens. Stay tuned: we're still working on that.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Will Hell freeze over?

In his column "Is the Eye of the Needle that tiny", printed in this week's Reader Weekly and High Plains Reader, Ed Raymond quoted an answer to college chemistry test on whether Hell gives off heat or absorbs heat. The answer depends on your assumptions on Hell expanding faster or slower than the number of people going to Hell.

One interesting conclusion the student came to was that everyone is going to Hell eventually. Since some religions believe that all who do not subscribe to their religion will go to Hell and since no one belongs to all such religions, everyone will go to Hell.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Coincidences or premonitions, chicken or egg

Last week I was doing a crossword puzzle and the clue was "An Oldsmobile model". I hadn't a clue but from other clues I had a-blank-ero. I don't remember if I took a guess at Alero or saw it in the next day's paper. A few days later I was in a gas station and noticed an Oldsmobile up on a hoist; it was an Alero.

Also last week I was asked at coffee if I knew what the name Pomfret had been attached to as a condition or a situation. I looked it up on my iPod and found only that pomfret was another name for the fish pampano. A few days later I saw an article in a newspaper written by Keith Pomfret (or was it John Pomfret of "Pomfret's China").

Did the first instance of each of these links forewarn me that the second instance would occur? Or did the first instance prime me to see the second instance. That is, if I hadn't seen the reference in the first instance then I would have never noticed the second instance.

I'll go with the second case. There are so many references that I see that I never see anything similar for many weeks thereafter.

And then serendipity strikes. Trying to find a reference to Pomfret in the Washington Post, I found "Why China Won't Do More With North Korea" by John Pomfret. It is worth your consideration; so often we take a view of world events congruent with our own interests and don't delve into what the interests of others are.

So, a high school may close

I may think that the Duluth School District's Red Plan to build and close schools at the same time is an expensive boondoggle, but I don't think the emotional arguments about closing schools are valid.

Why? Because my high school, West High School in Cleveland, Ohio, has long been torn down and replaced by a junior high school. West High was merged with Lincoln High to become Lincoln-West High. Sure, as a symbol of memories, it is a loss. But the schools of Cleveland are for current students and taxpayers, not for my memories. If money is better spent elsewhere for the needs of today's students, so be it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

New spear proliferation

Way back when on the island of Gaia, people settled disputes with clubs. Then Shama, who lived in the west of Gaia, discovered he could make tools with flint. He even discovered that he could put a flint tip on a heavy stick and throw it at somebody attacking him with a club. He began making more and more spears to protect himself from those with clubs.

Shama's stockpile of spears frightened Putmed who lived in the north of Gaia. Putmed began stockpiling spears to defend himself against Shama. This frightened Shama even more and he began stockpiling even more spears.

But Maowen who lived in the east of Gaia was also frightened by these two stockpiles. Maowen was loosely allied with Putmed, but he didn't fully trust Putmed to protect his interests. He too began stockpiling spears. He never stockpiled as many as Shama or Putmed, but they made him less insecure about an attack by either.

Shama, Putmed, and Maowen realized their own stockpiles were a threat to themselves and reached an understanding to not attack each other with clubs or spears.

Kog lived on a tiny peninsula of Gaia and he was frightened by all three of his co-islanders' stockpiles. Although he had some of the same ideas as Putmed and Maowen, he couldn't be sure they would support him against Shama. He decided he should start making his own spears. None of his spears worked very well; he couldn't aim them very well and the flints often came off in flight. Nonetheless, Kog was very unpredictable and Shama, Putmed, and Maowen couldn't be sure that he might throw spears at them.

Shama, Putmed, and Maowen told Kog that he shouldn't have any spears, but the more they told him this, the more he wanted to have spears.

The historical record is incomplete as to what happened next, but Gaia is devoid of human habitation. Archeologists have uncovered many skeletons in all parts of Gaia with spears through the bodies.

Monday, May 25, 2009

President Obama debuts in Doonesbury

Today's Doonesbury features President Obama in the White House. Garry Trudeau hasn't used the Clinton waffle or the Bush Roman helmet, just the White House with words from the President and an aide.

I thought the strip was rather lame with "Cheney is a war criminal", but maybe Trudeau meant it as a joke on himself.

I look forward to President Obama's first "personal" appearance in Doonesbury. Might it be as an FM mike?

Empathy already exists in the law

There is a big hew and cry from the right about President Obama seeking a Supreme Court Justice who has empathy. Whether empathy has any place in the law has been debated for generations. See "Empathy and the Law", Stanley Fish, New York Times, 2009-05-24.

Empathy has existed in the law for generations. How many judges have let people off with a warning rather than impose the maximum sentence? How many juries have failed to convict because they felt a defendant didn't get a fair hearing, even when the presented facts implied otherwise?

I remember hearing about a traffic judge in the Twin Cities who would let a traffic offender go if the excuse made him laugh.

How many police officers don't follow through with an arrest or a ticket because they felt there were extenuating circumstances? I remember the time I went the wrong way on a one-way street. I realized my mistake and was ready to turn around when a patrol car came down the street. The short story is that the officer said, "Why don't you turn around?"

If any of those who think empathy has no place in the law ever are caught evading taxes or driving drunk, may the judge impose the maximum allowable sentence on them.

Peace brings more change than war?

Roger Cohen wrote an interesting piece on the change that is coming to China and Vietnam, despite being officially one-party states and Communist to boot: "Peaceful Evolution Angst", New York Times, 2009-05-24.

Now that neither has any real threat of war with the West and has been incorporated into the community of nations, these governments have put more energy into the prosperity of their people and used less ideology to govern. For these states, "Communism is little more than the brand name given to power retention."

Power retention has become a bit more difficult because "Technology has taken the 'total' out of totalitarian." The governments may draw red lines around certain activities, but those red lines are very porous.

I've been wondering about the problem of North Korea. If China and Vietnam have become more open and less paranoid, what can we do to reduce the paranoia in North Korea? I hope we don't have to wait for a Moderate Party president to visit North Korea.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Misguided freedom

Today's Duluth News Tribune has an Associated Press story on a man who feeds bears at his cabin in Alaska ("Alaska cracks down on man who feeds wild bears"). The state charged Charley Vandergraw with several counts of illegally feeding game. Some think the state is wrong in restricting his freedom. Others think he is crazy, remembering Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend who were eaten by bears they had been feeding.

Vandergraw has been videotaped for broadcast feeding the bears, "Stranger among the Bears", Animal Planet. On one of the videos he says, "I think basically what I do is my business as long as I'm not hurting anyone." That is the fallacy of many who think their actions have no effect on others: what happens when one of those bears encounters a human who doesn't feed it?

Closer to home, we have people who think they're doing gulls and deer a favor by feeding them. They aren't doing people a favor by increasing bird droppings at Canal Park and by decreasing the flowers and vegetables in gardens.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Busking at Glensheen

Today I had my first outdoors singing performance at Glensheen Mansion. The occasion was the open house for the 30th anniversary of the University of Minnesota, Duluth operating it as a museum.

The marketing manager placed me in an outside nook of the carriage house. This suited me fine as I could either stand in the shade or stand with my back to the sun; I could avoid sunburn on a face already irritated by allergies. The walls on two sides would also amplify my voice nicely.

I could see people coming from three different paths, and as I learned my surroundings I realized that there were often people behind me on either side of the carriage house.

I didn't have any particular plan; I just started singing out of my repertoire. My first senior moment was not remembering all that was in my repertoire.

Things went quite well. Almost everybody smiled at me and three people added a dollar in the first half hour to my seed dollar in my cap. The informality of the situation made my life easier. If I made a mistake, I just shrugged it off. I even felt comfortable starting over again if I didn't feel I was right.

I tried to make eye contact as often as I could. It embarrassed some people who seemed to want to walk faster, and other people would give me encouraging looks. Whenever kids were around I would start "I knew an old lady who swallowed a fly" or "Allouette". It almost always got their attention but the family generally kept walking. These two songs made most adults passing by smile.

I did my "La ci darem la mano" segment of the seduction song from Mozart's "Don Giovanni" several times. Not one woman realized what I was singing, and so I didn't bother to follow-up with my parody, "Solamente un scherzo (It's only a joke).

I was disappointed that few people stopped and those who did really didn't make any conversation. I would get some compliments as people passed by, and some staff chatted a bit. I hoped that some people would ask what I was singing.

The real downer was that I was getting colder. It was in the 50s when I left home and I had a light jacket and no sweater. With Lake Superior only about 200 feet away it was probably in the low 40s. There were many people in shorts and T-shirts, but they were back in cars or buildings before they got to cold.

I did move to the sun (or was it the sun moved to me) and my black jacket helped a bit. Fast forwarding, I was still cold when we went out to lunch, when we took our own tour, and after we got home. I am almost warm as I write this four hours later.

At about one-and-a-half hours my throat started feeling rough and I had to choose what I sang carefully, avoid the "high" notes. With about fifteen minutes to go, I started hearing my notes wavering more and more. With about five minutes to go, my wife returned to pick me up. She could hear from several feet away that I needed to stop.

But before I packed up I had to at least pretend I was singing for a photo.

Meanwhile, the next act was setting up in the section behind me. I don't know their name, but I had seen them at the Gallery Hop auditions. They were also using a portable PA. I'm glad I didn't follow them; they were so much more polished. I waved at them as I went by and dropped one of my three dollars in the guitar case. The other two dollars I put in the donation jar for Glensheen.

As we headed for lunch the marketing manager thanked me for coming and asked me to come again. I don't know if she had heard me or gotten any comments.

My throat has recovered and I am not cold anymore. I wonder if I'll do this at Grandma's Marathon next month.

Terrorists aren't the only ones fanning flames

There is such a hew and cry about closing Guantanamo and putting the suspected terrorists held there in U.S. prisons, one would think that an Al Qaeda army was poised to invade and occupy the U.S.

When I was researching "The apologists of torture are torturing us" I came across the fact that Zacharias Moussaoui was being held in a U.S. prison. I also assumed that those arrested for the first World Trade Center plot were still in U.S. Prisons.

Today I read in the Washington Post, that quite a rogues' gallery of convicted terrorists are being held in a Federal prison in Florence, Colorado. The number given in the article is thirty-three. See "Supermax Prisons in U.S. Already Hold International Terrorists", Washington Post, 2009-05-22

Another thing to remember is we don't know for sure all of those labeled terrorists are actually terrorists. All we know is that some in the Federal government have called them terrorists. If the Federal government supposedly does so many other things wrong, how can we be sure it has really caught terrorists?

The wrong people are labeled RINOs

It has been popular among certain Republicans to call other Republicans RINOs: Republican In Name Only. Essentially, if a member of the Republican Party does not hew rigidly to certain "Republican principles", then he or she is a RINO.

After I read some recent news reports about Republican charges and reactions, I began to think many of the most prominent and objecting Republicans are the real RINOs. Among this bestiary are

Really Irritating Needless Obstructionists
Reality Is Not Ours
Ridiculous Innuendo Needlessly Obscuring
Robots Intimidating Needed Objectivists
Rigidity Is Needed Often

and the one that set this list off

Response Is NO.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

One dimensional politics for multi-dimensional people

Today I received a brochure from Allete (Minnesota Power) urging me to consider joining Minnesota Utility Investors, Inc. (MUI) The cover reads "Keep Politics from eating into your investments!"

MUI describes itself as "a grassroots organization, established in 1990, to represent the interests of individuals and business investors owning shares in utility companies operating in Minnesota."

It is a relatively low-profile organization on the web. All the hits I received were of MUI's site, a few directory listings of it, and one Public Utilities Commission notice of a MUI filing of comments.

Like so many special interest groups, MUI assumes people have only one interest, that of the special interest group. The reality is that most of us are multi-dimensional with overlapping and contradictory interests.

I am also a rate-payer. If my Allete dividends are to go up, then most likely my electricity rates will go up. I am also a taxpayer. If Allete taxes go down, then my personal taxes go up. I am also an air breather. If Allete doesn't cut back on emissions, then my health could suffer. And on and on it goes.

Just which interest do I promote over the others. I think I'll go with citizen. I have to balance all these interests.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Happiness is a book found by serendipity

I went to a library to borrow "Talent is overrated" by Geoff Colvin and found that it was not there. I often look at other books nearby and almost as often find something also of interest. This time it was "The Art of Happiness at Work" by the Dalai Lama and Herbert Cutler.

I have long been out of the work force but I thought anything by the Dalai Lama would be interesting. I was not wrong. I have scribbled a few notes on the loan slip and some of them follow.

In the chapter "The Human Factor", Cutler writes how two different cashiers affected the work environment in a supermarket. One is efficient and quick but sullen, rarely speaking. The other engages with the customers and even remembers what they bought previously. On the days the second works, the mood of the store is much brighter. Cutler quotes a bagboy, "things just seem to go better on the day's she's working."

Cutler asked the Dalai Lama about improving the work environment. He replied that we should "start by recognizing we are all interdependent..." He went on to describe how none of us really works alone; we have to depend on co-workers, customers, and suppliers.

Cutler joked about a counterfeiter working alone in his basement. If you think about it, the counterfeiter is still dependent on his suppliers and customers, whether they are marks or dealers.

The apologists of torture are torturing us

Commentators, such as Charles Krauthammer, "The Torture Debate, Continued", Washington Post, 2009-05-15 (Reprinted in Star Tribune, 2009-05-19) keep painting a scary scenario on how torture would prevent a terrorist attack, "the ticking time bomb" scenario.

In this scenario the authorities "know" there is a plot to do some dastardly deed, they have captured a suspect that they believe is involved in the plot, they believe they can only get details about the plot by torturing the suspect, and when the suspect reveals these details, they will be able to successfully foil the plot.

Like Krauthammer, they offer a real example in which they claim torture worked.

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees on any part of this scenario.

Some in the Clinton administration knew that Al Qaeda was planning an attack on the U.S. but didn't know exactly what. This information was given to the Bush administration and not followed up at high levels. See "Bush Administration's First Memo on al-Qaeda Declassified" and "Know thine enemy".

Some flight schools were suspicious of some of their students, for example, Zacarias Moussaoui, and reported them to the FBI. The local FBI office acted on these suspicions, but the Washington office denied permission to search Moussaoui's computer. It is uncertain how much Moussaoui knew about the 9/11 plot, but earlier action may have led to other Al Qaeda members.

Suppose Moussaoui had been tortured in order to reveal more details of the 9/11 plot. First, how much did he really know about that specific plot? Second, since he changed his story so many times, admitting guilt and denying guilt, could anything he said be believed? If he was to be part of the 9/11 plot, would he have admitted sufficient details under torture to foil the plot.

Years ago I heard a story about a Norwegian resistance member who was captured by the Germans. They knew he was involved with others and wanted to know their whereabouts. His interrogator drove a screwdriver into his knee and twisted, repeatedly. Despite the great pain, the Norwegian held out until he knew his friends, who were escaping Norway before being caught, were safely at sea.

So, for torture to successfully foil a plot, you have to know the plot exists, you have to know a captured suspect really knows sufficient details about the plot, and you have to be sure that he will reveal, under torture, sufficient details about the plot in a timely fashion. That is a very slender thread to hang the security of the nation on.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Magree's first law of computing

Sometimes we think about doing something so many times that we think we actually have done it. I know I've told a few people about my first law of computing, but I can't seem to find any reference to it on this computer.

With a nod to C. Northcote Parkinson's Second Law, "Expenditures rise to meet income if not exceed", Magree's First Law of Computing is
Software complexity rises to meet if not exceed the capacity of available computers.
Remember when a word processor program loaded in an eye blink. Now you can take several sips of coffee while waiting for it to load. Remember when a web page came up in a second or two. Now you can go make coffee while waiting for some web pages to come up. Let's see, we're at 7 of 10 items; no, 8 of 12; no, 87 of 106,... And the very last item takes as long to come up as all the previous items, if not more!

I attribute this to the probability that most programmers and web designers have the latest computers and the fastest available bandwidth. To them, their works are operating blazingly fast. To those of us with a bit older computers who do not want to spring for the fastest available broadband, their works are painfully slow. Pity the people who have five-year-old computers or dial-up.

The Adventures of Superwoodsman, Episode 10

Yesterday I went to our cabin to work some more on clearing the area where we wanted to plant new trees. Except for the wind, I couldn't have asked for a nicer day. It was warmer outside than it was in the cabin. Although the wind was keeping the bugs down, I hauled out the screens from the shed, inserted them, and opened the windows.

Before I left Duluth, I stopped Denny's Lawn & Garden to buy a new saw chain to replace those that I thought were too far gone. The darn thing was nearly $20!

As I was leaving, I thought I should ask for advice on what I might be doing wrong to have such bad cuts. I described how I could cut easily at the far end of the saw but not close to the motor. Tom Zemow said it could be the bar is worn out. I replied that could be true because all the paint is worn off. "OK, how much?" "About $46." Well, my checking account is getting low, I better pull out my credit card. Tom couldn't find any for my saee fw on the shelf and raided a new saw for the bar.

Shortly after I arrived at our cabin, I installed the new bar. But I used the same chain as I had used last in Episode 9. Before I put it on the new bar I wiggled it on the old bar; it sure wiggled a lot from side to side. When I put it on the new bar it hardly wiggled at all. I may do some really productive work today.

Off to cut up the next felled tree. Buzz, buzz! It went through the trunk like the proverbial knife in butter. Proof once more that one has to ask the right questions. The new chain would not have cut any better than the old chains.

I delimbed the two trees that had fallen opposite the direction I had wanted but not into the spruce, so I thought. These two had their branches tangled with each other and some of the brush they had fallen into. Cut, toss aside, cut, toss aside.

Bad news! One of the trees had fallen on a smaller spruce that I had not seen in the tangle. It might survive because although it was bent it was not broken; the only damage appears to be some needles scraped off near the top.

With a faster saw, I thought I could go back to cutting rounds, but as I looked around I realized I would not get done by time to go home. So, I cut four-foot bolts or longer, depending on thickness. I'll finish these on a saw horse some other time.

I did pause from sawing to see how easily some of these rounds split in warmer weather. I tried two and although they didn't split with the first whack, they did so with two or three. That is two or three whacks in the same place.

With many pauses for water, one for lunch, and another for some chocolate, I got all the downed trees cut up by about four. Oh yes, I had to refill the gas and oil three times and a couple of times I wondered if the saw would even restart.

Rather than get all the wood out of the way, I decided to cut the stumps flush with the ground. That means lots of work on my haunches which means that the saw is not always cutting in straight line. This work took a lot longer than I had hoped. I think I only got four stumps out of twelve or fourteen cut down before I decided I should pack up and head home.

This means we still have lots of moving of brush and piles of cut wood before we can plant the trees. We can plant around the stumps and cut them later. It's just a nuisance to work around them.

AccuWeather says it will be in the mid-60s and partly cloudy Saturday. I hope they are accurate.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Adventures of Superwoodsman, Episode 9

This weekend was to be the weekend of our annual tree planting, but the trees are now in our cool basement waiting for us to try again.

On Friday morning we picked up 25 basswood seedlings from the annual soil and water conservation district sale. Late in the afternoon we headed to our cabin with intermittent rain and arrived in time for supper. It was really windy and cool. Some of the water we had left out had ice in it.

When we had cut the trees down last week, they had few if any buds. This week the downed trees have small green leaves. Amazing how long and slow the flow of sap up a tree is.

During the night there were some real doozies of thunderstorms and some very hard rain. When we got up it was gray but not raining much. In fact, the rain gauge had only 3/4 inches of water in it. But my wife heard a radio report that Saturday night would have a low of 28; that decided against trying to plant any seedlings that weekend.

Anyway, we still had lots of cleanup to do on the planting site. I gassed up the chipper-shredder and started it for my wife. She preceded to work on one of the many piles of brush and branches we have.

I went off to put one of the newly sharpened chains in the chain saw. I also noted that we didn't have much gas for either the chain saw or the chipper-shredder; three tanks each at the most.

Before I was ready with the chain saw, I heard the chipper-shredder stop. A piece had jammed between the flywheel and the housing. Undo nuts on chute which is not an easy process. I have to use a socket wrench with an extension to get at the nuts. The nut on the engine side of the chute is positioned so the socket wrench is not straight. When I get a nut loose enough, the ratchet on the wrench no longer holds on the back stroke. I have to twist the shaft of the extension with my fingers and I can't always get a good grip, especially with gloves on. Then I have to use a magnetic wand to get the washers off and not drop them. Once I had the chute off, I was able to simply pull out the stuck wood, which is not always the case.

Then I reverse the process. First put on the outside and lower washers and nuts so the chute stays in place. Use the magnetic wand to get the washers on the engine side bolt. This takes lots of maneuvering to get the holes in the washers centered over the bolt; they always try to go on the side of the bolt instead.

I get back to the chain saw and am ready to cut. I had originally planned to cut four-foot bolts instead to sixteen-inch rounds to save time. Since we weren't going to plant trees that day, I went back to cutting sixteen-inch rounds. Delimbing the first tree goes OK, then I start on rounds.

The saw doesn't rock down easily. That is, when I cut the log more on the engine side, the chain doesn't cut much. It does so-so when I push the tip down on the far side. Also I'm not getting very big chips. I'm not the world's best saw operator, but the frequency of curved cuts instead of perpendicular cuts is ridiculous. Almost every time!! The curved cuts also reduce cutting efficiency. After I get half the first tree cut into rounds, I go back to cutting it into bolts to save time.

Let's try the second newly-sharpened chain. Like the first, this one has been sharpened many time. It feels sharp to the touch, but I'm not confident. Sure enough more curved cuts and slow cutting. Generally it blasts through branches, but once I want to cut over three inches, things don't go well. I get through another tree and it's time for lunch.

At least I think it was time for lunch. The day became a blur. I could hardly pick up my food and get it into my mouth; I had little interest in reading the paper. I think after lunch I lay down on the floor and tried to take a nap.

The chipper-shredder jammed again. Neither of us could dislodge the piece. My wife said she could see it, but I couldn't. With a keyhole saw she could feel the piece of wood, but it wouldn't grab. I said that was enough chipping for the day; I had to get back to work on the trees.

Last week I had left one tree standing in the clump I intended to cut; one that was bent completely in the wrong way. I got a rope around it about eight feet up, pulled it around a stump in the direction I wanted it to fall and then off to another stump. I tied it off with a tautline hitch. I pulled the rope and my wife slipped the knot - pull, slip, pull, slip, ... and finally my said she couldn't slip the knot anymore. Let's hope we have enough tension to pull the tree the direction we want.

Also, I'll try the third chain. It doesn't look much better than the other two, even though the teeth feel sharp. Sure enough, the chain doesn't bit well into this five-inch diameter tree. I manage to get a wedge cut out and start back cut. I've cut almost to the wedge and the tree isn't falling. I step back and my wedge cut is not in the intended direction, but my back cut is; there's over an inch before the cuts will meet on the opposite side. I continue the back cut and the cut widens. I step back but the tree doesn't fall. I give it a push in the direction I want it to go and it starts to fall, perpendicular to the direction I intended. At least it didn't hit the spruces.

I cut up another downed tree into bolts and maybe a third into bolts. Time for a banana and chocolate. Maybe this is the time I tried to take a nap, not after lunch.

It is probably after four now. We have to clean up the site a bit, pack up, and drive home. I move the bigger bolts end over end and stack them away from where we want to plant the seedlings. The smaller bolts I can stand on end and pick them up like a bigger sibling picks up a younger sibling. But there is still a whole day's work to finish cutting up the trees and getting the large debris out of the way. My plan is to go back tomorrow. We shall see tomorrow.

A "salt-in-the-wound" postscript. I was flipping through the AARP magazine and saw a picture of a 72-year-old doctor who had climbed Mount Everest. I'm one year younger and I have a hard time climbing into the back of my pickup truck!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

More thoughts on efficiency

Machines are efficient, people are inefficient. I generally prefer service by people. I would rather go into the bank to cash a check than use the ATM. I would rather go to a store to buy something than order online. Sure, if the bank is closed or I am in a hurry, I'll use the ATM. If the item is hard to find, I'll order online.

This little blog entry was triggered on listening to a server schmooze at a neighborhood restaurant. Sure, it's more efficient to go to a chain fast food restaurant and be served by human automatons. But I'd rather go to a local restaurant where the staff interacts with the customers. I've found out who has graduated from college, what job a server is moving on to, and lots more about the food than I would at a fast food chain.

Also, a machine does not give you a free beer because food took longer than expected. It is really great when management gives employees latitude to make that kind of decision.

For a variety of reasons I haven't been visiting our favorite liquor store for the last few weeks. My wife suggested I buy a bottle of wine. Lo and behold, one of my favorite clerks had returned after a stint at another job. He is the best schmoozer of all the people at the store; he makes me want to stop more often. He may bring in more money than those who just answer questions and ring up the sale.

My lack of knowledge explained

I made a remark to my wife yesterday that I never went to kindergarten. The school district that I lived in did not have a kindergarten class at that time.

She replied, "That's why you don't know everything you need to know."

See Robert Fulghum, author of "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." Speaking of Robert Fulghum, you might enjoy his essay, "The Way of Nude Food".

Friday, May 15, 2009

As tax revenues dwindled, government service breakdowns rose

There is probably no more basic government service than clean water. There is probably no government service that we are so unwilling to pay more for.

The City of Duluth is considering selling its gas and water utilities. If these are privatized, won't we have to pay even more for them and have even less control over them?

If you want a good look at the complexity of providing clean water efficiently, safely, and at low cost, see "As inspections Dwindled, Water Main Breaks Rose", Washington Post, 2009-05-15.

An agency is deemed inefficient and cuts staff. An agency says it needs more money to provide services and finally gets it. It can't use up all the money because it cut staff.

We have political bickering, either over favoring certain constituents or over ideology.

We have uncontrolled growth outstripping infra-structure.

And on and on it goes.

My idea of heaven on earth is for people to support the idea of good government and make criticisms based on facts, not ideology. I guess I'm condemned to hell on earth.

Mel, what are those funny numbers you use?

As I write this, it is 2009-05-15 14:31, the international standard (ISO 8601) for writing date and time. It is considered big-endian in that one starts with the largest unit on the left and adds the smaller units to the left. It is certainly less confusing for sorting than writing 2:31 p.m. on May 15, 2009.

I started using this when I was working for Univac in Sweden. ISO 2014 was introduced then as the standard way for writing the date. The Swedish government and most citizens adopted it. In fact, my personnummer was 380330-9217. The 9217 is both a sequence number and the coding that I was a male foreigner. Do you see the problem that was not considered in the 1970s? Do you see what other information I gave about myself?

Anyhow, I use this date and time format unless I'm forced by a form to do otherwise. Whenever I can, all my clocks are set for 24-hour time rather than 12-hour time. I've missed an alarm too often when I forgot to set it for a.m. rather than p.m.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Simple simply ain't simple

Because a University for Seniors luncheon next week is at our Russian class time, we decided we would try to sit at the same table. I volunteered to make a table tent
Русский Стол
Russian Table
As you can see above, the Russian is no problem with my computer. The big problem was rotating the text so that it would be right-side up on each side when I folded the paper.

I could find no way of rotating the text in Word. What I could find in the help files was not on any of my palettes. I tried Excel instead. I did find Text Box in the Insert Menu and I could rotate the box with the text in it.

The next hard part was getting the "two sides" balanced on the paper. It seemed each box was on a different page or somehow otherwise badly balanced. I finally would click print, look at the thumbnail, cancel, readjust the boxes, and repeat until I was happy with the result.

I had printed one copy a plain piece of paper with much grinding of the printer. We had cleaned it once recently, but kept putting off doing again.

I put in a sheet of matte photo paper for heavier stock and clicked print. Grind, grind, and then grind again. "Load paper in main tray" Darn it, there is paper in the main tray. Adjust paper carefully. Grind, grind, same error.

OK, OK! I'll clean the printer. With a bit of searching, I found the generic instructions for cleaning the printer on HP's website. I unplugged the printer, turned the back towards me, and opened the back access door. There was a little piece of paper peeking out at me! I couldn't pull it with my fingers and went downstairs to get needle-nose pliers. That did the trick but the little piece of paper was a quarter sheet of paper.

Neither of us could remember printing quarter sheets recently. How long was that in there causing all the grinding? And why did it choose this job to position itself to stop all printing?

Once I put everything back together, the paper fed properly. It still made noise, but nothing like the awful racket before.

Some two hours after I started, I finished the ten-minute job.

I also put the result in a protected space in my backpack. That should ensure that I will have it at the luncheon to "reserve" our class table. Is that Murphy I see peeking in the window?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What are you doing about excessive executive compensation?

Many of us think CEOs are way overpaid, especially those whose companies are losing money. Talk about pay for performance. How can we expect to pay teachers for performance when we overpay executives for underperformance?

You can find a good article on just how broken the system is at "Pay dirt: the executive pay system is broken", by Alistair Barr and Matt Andrejczak, MarketWatch, 2009-05-12

The authors describe a spiraling of cozy relations that make it harder and harder for people to say no. Some, but not enough, CEOs, board members, and shareholders are saying enough is enough.

What can you do?

If you own shares directly, be sure to vote your shares against board members and other compensation matters. I really think it is bad for somebody to get $50,000 a year for a part time job as a board member and for executives to get over $1,000,000 in salary. I also think it is bad to dilute shares by giving away shares or selling them at well-below market value to those who voted to give themselves the shares. I am finding that I almost always vote to withhold my vote for board members.

And should any employee of the company be on the board of directors? Maybe a founder, but not an outsider. Too many times the CEO being on the board is a conflict of interest.

If you own shares of a mutual fund, let the mutual fund know that you think executive compensation is out of line. Ask that they consider your interests in reigning in executive compensation. If they waffle, let them know you may put future money in a mutual fund that does agree with you.

Enough rant! You'll fall asleep if I write anything more.

See also "Talk about Boards with Conflicts of Interest", Melvyn Magree, Reader Weekly, 2000-04-27

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Adventures of Superwoodsman, Episodes 6, 7, and 8

I have not been writing these little adventures promptly and they are starting to run together.

Two weeks ago Monday we went to our cabin with our daughter-in-law and granddaughter. I don't think I cut any trees down; I just cut the trees from Episode 5 into fireplace lengths and piled them by splitting stumps. Our granddaughter had fun wandering around the cabin area.

That was also the day I took the wild turkey pictures on the way home. See

A week ago Monday we went to our cabin to continue felling trees.

First I wanted to clear the brush with the sickle mower that hadn't started before. This time I figured out that the socket wrench was with the chipper/shredder but it wasn't. I thought again and looked harder in a shed and found the little box with parts, wrenches, and a magnetic wand.

I pulled out the plug and it was rather black, but not coated. I tried squirting starter fluid in the carburetor and would get a tentative start. After many, many tries the sickle mower kept going. I ran it to the brush that I wanted to cut and down some went. Then some didn't. I backed off and went at different angle and down they went. Repeat many times moving forward a few clumps at a time. The mower doesn't have much power and I know the blade is dull. Keep going. Then the sickle mower dies and won't start. The route to the shed seems like miles because the mower does not free wheel well. I promise myself to buy a new plug and install the sharper blade next weekend.

Back to the nippers to clear the brush and then cut the trees down. Almost all of them fell the way I wanted them to. However, I saw that one would be going just the opposite direction and could hit some 12-16 feet spruce that we had planted about sixteen years ago. I had to plot this carefully.

I thought I saw the proper direction and it would probably break two smaller aspen that I would be cutting anyway. Make my cuts; there it goes! Smash against one of the small trees breaking off the top third. It keeps coming down right between the two small trees. How lucky can I get?

With all the fooling around with the sickle mower, I have no time left to delimb or cut today's trees up.

Meanwhile, my wife had been busy chipping some of last year's brush and branches and putting the chips on a path. I don't think the chipper jammed at all.

Yesterday we were back at it again. I was armed with a new spark plug for the sickle mower. I replaced the plug and with the aid of starter fluid I got it started. I left it running to use up the gas just in case the gas was too old.

We ate lunch and the sickle mower stopped. When I checked it was still half full of gas. I tried and tried to get it restarted. It just would sputter.

Back to the backbreaking use of nippers.

After that, I change the chain on the saw and refill the gas and oil. Off to saw away. But it doesn't work very fast. Check the teeth. They don't seem very sharp. When I had picked up two chains after sharpening, I was told that one didn't need sharpening. Maybe the shop was wrong. I change the chain again, but I'm not too impressed with the sharpness of the teeth.

I was right. The cutting goes slow. I persist and down comes one tree, two trees, and a third I have to push the right direction.

I tackle a fourth, bigger tree. This looks iffy because it leans the way I want and then some limbs are the way I don't want. Let's give it a go. Slow going to get the notch. Start the back cut. The tree isn't falling. I get a wedge and pound it in with a five-pound maul. The cut hardly widens and the tree doesn't fall. I look at my back cut and it is not level! OK, let's try going a bit further. The tree starts to fall, I step back, and there it goes, right where I wanted it. Whew!

I don't remember if I cut any more after that. I do know I left a small tree that has all of its branches on the wrong side. It would fall right into the spruces.

I'm out of energy and time. No delimbing or cutting into lengths today. Besides, we have to heave the sickle mower into the truck to take to the shop.

When we get to the shop, I show the chains to the manager and he agrees that neither is very sharp and he offers to sharpen them both again and not charge me for the one that should have been sharpened.

We then go out to the truck to unload the sickle mower. He thinks the problem is not old gas but a weak diaphragm in the carburetor. We will find out in a few weeks. Next weekend is clearing the fallen trees and planting the basswood seedlings.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Wow! We now have digital TV! So what!

Long after the original deadline for getting a coupon for a digital TV converter box, I got around to requesting one. Sometime in April we received it and I kept it in my wallet or in the kitchen. About two weeks ago we went to Radio Shack and bought one. Today I installed it.

I think I spent more time looking for a splitter for the single outlet box we have by the TV than I did installing the converter box. We finally used a Christmas tree extension cord with multiple outlets.

The hardest part was getting the screwed on antenna cord out of the back of the TV. The next hardest part was putting connector between the converter box and the TV; the ends were not threaded and I had to push them completely in.

OK, it did take awhile before I realized I hadn't turned on the extension cord and I hadn't turned on the converter box. But after I had them both on, it was just pushing a few buttons on the remote to run through the installation program.

I ran through the channels and all but one was sharp. I think it was Fox News that had the breakup that many people complain about. After a bit a banner was displayed that there was a weak signal. No great loss there.

Oh, yes, I didn't mention that our antenna is on the mantel and not outdoors as recommended. It probably helps that we almost have a line of sight to the antenna farm on the heights in Duluth.

Let's see, there was a long infomercial, a news program with much visual noise, a war movie about super tough guys, a panel of state legislators, the PGA tournament, a couple of programs on decorating, a program on the flu in Hmong(?), and the aforementioned scrambled program. Books and newspapers are far more interesting and with greater bandwidth.

Time to turn the TV off for a month or so. Except the remote won't turn it off! The original remote will but not the converter remote. Oh, well! Send a note to customer support and make do.

Back to my computer, books, and magazines.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The tortuous justification of torture

One story making the rounds is that the waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) led to the prevention of an attack on Los Angeles. Therefore torture works and saves American lives.

The problem is that the time sequence is all wrong. The plot was foiled in February 2002, KSM was not captured until March 2003. See "The 'torture prevented a west coast 9/11' lie", Jed Lewison, Daily Kos, 2009-04-23.

Now, if you think this interpretation of the time sequence is a "liberal plot" to discredit the Bush Administration, see President George W. Bush give the same sequence.

See also "The Religious Dimensions of the Torture Debate", The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 2009-04-29.

Some thoughtful viewing, an interview with Jane Goodall

The Web is a sticky thing. You follow a thread and find another thread and get stuck on the new thread. If you're not careful, you'll get stuck on the Web just like a fly on a spider's web.

I was doing some research on torture and stumbled on an interview with Jane Goodall. It is "Divine Impulses: Jane Goodall, Highlights" with Sally Quinn, Washington Post, On Faith. If you have time, select instead the Extended Interview from the sidebar.

Goodall goes into some of the behavior of chimps from brutal behavior to quasi-religious, as well as some of her own reflections on a "divine power".

You can also find an interview with her on a To the Best of Our Knowledge podcast, "Future Perfect, Dreamers, Schemers, and Visionaries: Part Three, Our Earth".

Friday, May 08, 2009

Local paper without local news?

Earlier in the week I learned from the Star Tribune that my internet provider, CPTelecom is being bought by Hickory Technology of Mankato. I did not see anything in the Duluth News Tribune where CP Telecom is headquartered. I can't even find anything with a search of the News Tribune's web site.

Today I receive a letter from CPTelecom and Hickory Technology about the merger. I still could find nothing on the News Tribune website.

Maybe if CPTelecom were headquartered in Fargo, the headquarters of Forum Communications, owner of the Duluth News Tribune, the News Tribune would have published something.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Is a moderate major party coming soon?

David Brooks doesn't suggest a coming party realignment in "The Long Voyage Home", New York Times, 2009-05-05, as much as he gives a prescription for how the Republican Party can get back to its own basic message of people working together. He complains that the Republicans have become too much the party of individualism and freedom and have lost sight that most people live in communities that they want to see work. The Republicans have also elevated means like capitalism and tax cuts to holy principles and ends in themselves.

What is interesting is some of the comments that the editors selected for separate listing. Most were thoughtful on the idea of our need to build community and work more at the local level than have the federal government solve everything.

Will this reasoned view of possibilities lead to the formation of a more pragmatic party as a counter to the two parties that are controlled more by ideology than making things work?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

I'm not a genius, but I'll try harder

I've long thought that many talents were not so much gifts or genius but hard work or social or family expectations. Either someone decided that he or she wanted to excel at something and worked at it with or without help or a family or other social group had expectations of skills and help nourish the development of those skills.

Why is it certain groups have large numbers of singers and others have so many people afraid to open their mouths? Why is it those who dabble in foreign languages keep expanding their knowledge and others just say they were never good at foreign languages?

I was encouraged again in my own endeavors by David Brooks' column, "Genius: The Modern View", New York Times, 2009-04-30 and republished in the Star Tribune earlier this week.

He singles out Mozart as not that special to begin with. He copied others' works and he was not that great a musician at an early age. He did have an excellent teacher who had high expectations and spent more time with his pupil than most teachers can, namely his father. Brooks said the young Mozart got his 10,000 hours of practice in at an early age.

Ten thousand hours of practice is what many say is needed to gain mastery of a subject. But not just any practice, but deliberate practice. One works on one's weak spots rather than practice the same thing over and over again.

I'm finding that I just can't sing pieces over and over again. I have to work on the weak spots to improve them. I found this also in memorizing the words. I've been stuck knowing only the first verse to "Padmoskoviya Vechera (Moscow Evenings)" for a long time. I started not looking at words to the second verse for longer and longer sections. I now have only one syllable to get right! Maybe tomorrow I'll start on the third piece.

I also find that I don't learn foreign languages unless I have some strong motive and lots of practice. I've made several attempts to learn Japanese, but I only extend my vocabulary a bit. I'm a long way from holding any meaningful conversation.

The next time anyone says, including yourself, "I was never any good at ...", remind them or yourself that you either weren't interested or weren't taking the time to learn the skill.

See also "Talent is Overrated" by Jim Citrin and my web pages "You can speak foreign languages" and "Mind your mind: it's a gold mine".

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Cause and effect or coincidence

What a day of changing circumstances!

The weather forecast was for rain and maybe thunderstorms for today. I waffled about walking or driving to coffee, the barber, and the grocery store. I should fill the truck and get it washed, but do I want to wash it if it will rain? I opted for driving with clouds in the sky. I went without cap or sunglasses.

As I neared the shopping area I saw that Holiday had raised its gas price from $2.029 to $2.199. As I turned towards the coffee shop I noticed the station I usually go to had gas still at $2.029. I made a quick U-turn and headed to that station.

As I pulled in I noticed that employees were changing the sign to the higher price. I checked a pump and it was still at $2.029. But I was on the wrong side for my truck. I pulled up to another pump and I'm still on the wrong side. On the third try I am on the correct side to fill and the price is still $2.029. This is the first time that I remember quickly filling up when I see the price going up.

I fill up and then remember I have to fill the gas can for the cabin. I fill it and then remember I forgot to add the stabilizer. I do so and hope the travel will mix it up sufficiently.

I go into the station to pay cash and order a car wash. The cashier is all in a dither because several things seem to be going wrong including printing receipts. Given that it is still cloudy I ask if the car wash will stay open. She says she can't promise anything. Since I pay cash I get ten cent discount on the gas, and I bought more than enough gas to get a ten percent discount on the car wash. Wow! Gas for $1.929 when the Holiday is at $2.199!

I'm "late" for coffee, pocket the wash coupon, and join my friends. As we sit in the coffee shop, the sky turns blue. So much for the rain! When we're done, I dither about getting the car washed or heading to the barber. Let's see, I might be late if I get the car washed first. And he might be waiting for me. I go to the barber shop. I wait!

After I get my hair cut, I get the car washed and under a sunny sky head to the grocery store. I won't bore you with the little adventures there, but I head out and home still with a sunny sky. Fortunately I have a spare pair of sunglasses in the truck. I head home, pull into the garage, and pick up the groceries. This little detail is important for later.

After lunch, I walk up to UMD for a University for Seniors class. Now the sky has turned gray and I remember to take my umbrella. As I turn the corner and head up the hill, the bus I could take comes to the stop I would normally use. Do I rush up to the next stop or just keep walking. I keep walking; I can use the exercise.

Just as I get to the campus, it starts sprinkling. Not enough for the umbrella, but will I make it to right building in time. I do.

After class I chat with the instructor for much longer than I normally do. When I get outside, there are big black clouds to the west. Wait for the bus or walk? I walk. Every so often there are a few drops but nothing to put up the umbrella for.

I climb the porch stairs and try the front door. It's locked because my wife has gone out. I reach into my pocket for my keys and there are NO keys! I try my jacket pockets, double check my pants pocket, NO keys! I go around to the back door and it is locked as expected. Did I leave the keys in the truck? I can't check because the garage door is locked. I bet I had taken my keys out and put them on the dining room table when I put some change in our change bowl.

I stand on the tiny back porch and wait for my wife. I work through a couple of Sudoku puzzles on my iPod. Then I hear some really loud thunderclaps and then I hear a big rattle come from the west. It's hail and bouncing all over. Right behind it is a blowing rain. I race around to the front porch where I will have a wall between me and the wind. The downspouts are spouting and the hail hits like cannonballs in the water running in the street.

Finally the storm subsides and I head back to the back porch where I hope my wife will arrive any minute. Another Sudoku puzzle. A neighbor comes home and I ask if they still have one of our keys and know where it is. Bingo! I'm in.

Now I frantically search the house for my keys. I couldn't have lost them at UMD. I won't be able to get them back until tomorrow. I look on the dining room table, in the change bowl, on all the kitchen counters, in the grocery bags, in the office, NADA! I can't check the garage because I only have a front door key.

I try to occupy myself, but can't really get motivated. About an hour after this lost keys affair started, my wife comes home. "I put your keys in the bowl by the door, and I told you that I did."

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Twin Cities to be replaced by one monster freeway

We were in the Twin Cities this weekend to visit our daughter and son and their families. We were almost overwhelmed by the amount of highway construction under way or completed.

The completed I-694/I-35E interchange must occupy the equivalent of a quarter-township. The standard township is 36 square miles. The various up and over bridges, ramps, and the multi-multi-lane highways must be at least three miles across. And guess what, the traffic was often going at slower than the posted speed.

The Crosstown interchange of I-35W and Hwy. 62 is under a massive amount of construction. The resulting land use may be twice the design of the 60s.

There were assorted projects along I-494, mostly of interchanges being redesigned.

I just kept thinking of all the tax base that was taken out for more and more cars. The bigger and faster the highways; the more people will drive them. The more people drive the highways; the sooner that even bigger and faster highways will have to be built. Before we know it, the Twin Cities may just be one massive highway.

Now maybe the corporate headquarters and the shopping centers and major and mega malls lining these highways will more than make up the tax base of the houses and small shops that were demolished. But what happens when one of these big properties has to be taken to make an ever bigger highway?

But the people who work in these headquarters and shop in these malls will have to live somewhere. But the somewhere will be increasingly farther out. More people farther out will mean more and bigger highways farther out.

What if instead of highways we had built a network of train tracks? The number of people who could be transported per acre of land would far greater than the mobile parking lots some of these highways become. It is much easier to add cars to a train or increase the number of trains than add more lanes.

I keep thinking of the line from "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?" - "When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?"

Friday, May 01, 2009

Our teachers have more influence than we credit them with

Jim Heffernan wrote an interesting blog on "battle-axe" teachers. I sent him the following response.

Thanks for your blog on battle-axe teachers.

But our education took all kinds.

My favorite battle-axe was my 10A and 12th grade English teacher, Miss Palmer at West High School in Cleveland. I remember her most for her teaching of Shakespeare. She taught Julius Caesar in tenth grade and Hamlet and Macbeth in 12th grade. I really got to appreciate Shakespeare because she first had us read an act at a time and then a few scenes at a time. We had to memorize passages but the really high point was looking at the pieces as a whole.

She also lived a block or two from me and would drive me to school occasionally and would pay me to mow her lawn. Maybe that softened my attitude toward her. But then when one of our classmates decided to go into the Army, she kept him waiting at her locked classroom door until she was good and ready to sign the necessary permissions. I thought she was being unfair.

On the opposite end were the teachers who had high expectations of their students and expressed deep regret when students went outside their expectations. I remember twice disappointing my geometry teacher when I accepted a challenge to break a pencil on my geometry book and went through to page 70 or so and when I idly used a compass to draw circles on my desk. She just couldn’t believe I would do such a thing.

One of my regrets in life is not keeping contact with such important influences on my life.