Day 705

All day today I thought it was Tuesday.  I didn't go to class or campus or anything... so it really just felt like a Tuesday (that is, a normal day on which I don't go to school).

I did have some other excitement, however.  For lunch, I went to an event for math students to commemorate graduates and scholarship recipients.  I got a cute little award thing and two nice pens!  One of the recurring announcements at this event is the recognition of students who attempt the "Putnam exam."  This is a math exam for undergraduate students and is notoriously difficult. How difficult, you ask?  Well, roughly 4000 of the nations top math students attempt it every year.  Out of 120 possible points, the median score is a 0.  That means that over half of the students (most of whom are graduating with a 4.0 or nearly a 4.0) get no partial credit on even one question.  Last year, one of the students (undoubtedly Ball State's top math undergraduate student) took it and received a point.  1 point.  It was pretty exciting.

I found a question from the Putnam exam asked in 1996.  3.6% of the students got the correct answer.
"Find the least number A such that for any two squares of combined area 1, a rectangle of area A exists such that the two squares can be packed into that rectangle (without the interiors of the squares overlapping). You may assume that the sides of the squares will be parallel to the sides of the rectangle."

After arriving home, Kimmy and I had an adventure!  There's a flea market near our house, so we decided to go.  Neither of us had been to a flea market before.  I haven't ruled them all out, but I didn't like the one we went to.  It just seemed like a bunch of people finally realized that they had way too much junk (or broken stuff) and were trying to pawn it off onto other people.  Like if people with storage units just opened the doors and let people come buy their abandoned and forgotten possessions.  It made me sad.  A little bit.  There were some pretty funny things (that we didn't get).

Specifically, we saw this shirt.  I knew dad would appreciate it.

Then we went to Wal-mar to get an oil change in Kimmy's car.  While we waited, we looked at the gardening section.  We're hoping that our apartment will get enough sunlight to grow some plants on our balcony.  That would be pretty awesome. We've picked out a few different plants that would be exciting to grow.  Neither of us really know what we're doing, but it will be fun to figure it out!

When we got back, we started making dinner.  While it was cooking, I went back to writing a test.  That was pretty much my evening... eating and writing a test.  It's finally completed!  Now I just need to look it over tomorrow morning to make sure everything makes sense.

And now it's time for bed!  Good night, world.


Day 704

The majority of today consisted of working on my final assignment for one of my classes.  And by "the majority" I mean "from about 10:30 until 3:30."  It was super intense.  A bunch of classmates and I got together to discuss what was going on and collaborate.  It was frustrating and fun at the same time.  Frustrating because it was pretty difficult and none of us were entirely sure what we were doing, but also fun because it was a challenge... and when someone did make a break through there were joyous calls of "I got a thing!  Everyone come look at this thing that I got!"

When I got home, I started making a final for my class.  I will probably end up making most of it from scratch.  Maybe I'll reuse (with different numbers) past questions, but probably most of it will be brand new.  I find it easier for me to make a good test if I make it all again.  That was test questions can replicate the lessons.  Or something.

After Kimmy came home from work, we celebrated her last day at Macy's by going to Steak 'n Shake for dinner.  It was really busy.  And the food was quite tasty.  AND we had coupons!  It was exciting.  To further celebrate Kimmy's last day at Macy's, we went to Petsmart after dinner so Kimmy could pet the kittens.

That's about it.  When we got back I talked/played games with Jared and Miles for a while.  Fun times were had.  And now I'm going to bed!  So.  Good night.


Day 702

Oh boy, this was a fun day.

Not only did I get a hair cut (which I love getting), but today Kimmy and I did one of our favorite things: we pretended to be rich people!

In preparation for our move, my new job, and the end of Kimmy's employee discount at Macy's, we did some clothing shopping.  It was pretty exciting.  Actually, no.  It was really exciting.  I got two new shirts, two new sweaters, a pair of shoes, and some new cologne!  It was pretty exciting.  AND Kimmy got some new shoes that are pretty.  Now that we've spent all of our extra money, we will return to eating Ramen noodles and hot dogs.

Kimmy and I have discussed this in great detail and determined that we get far more utility from saving up money to go on huge shopping sprees than getting one thing at a time.

After we got home, we had some dinner.  Then a super intense cleaning session.  It was pretty bad.  But now everything is clean and put away!  Yay!

Well, that's my exciting news for the day.  Now to get some sleep for a (most likely) long day of work tomorrow.  Good night!


Day 701

Well.  Here we are!  Today was yet another exciting day in the life of Joel.  

I was incredibly close to telling Tim that I wouldn't be running with him this morning.  Like... I stared at my phone for about 10 minutes trying to decide whether I should go work out or not.  Ultimately, I decided to get up.  And then I saw that it was cold and raining.

I wanted to go back to bed.

But I didn't, even though I really wanted to.  Our workout was fine.  For some reason it was super exhausting today.  I think it was just that neither of us wanted to be there.  Oh well.

I had my last meeting with the other GA instructors.  We mainly discussed final exams and end of the semester reviews.  We also talked about some of our various methods for instructing the particularly difficult topics (like conditional probability or confidence intervals).

After my meeting, I did some class preparation.  Mostly it involved making up practice problems for my students to work in preparation for the final exam next week.  Oh!  And grading.  Plenty of grading.

My research class had the last set of presentations today.  They were pretty good.  I asked lots of questions because... well, that's my thing.  But they were all able to answer my questions sufficiently.

Then I went to go teach.  Today was a review day, so... we reviewed.  I guess it was fine.  I have another review lesson on Friday, but there's no way I'm going to get through all of the remaining sections on Friday.  So hopefully my students have started studying.  That would be optimal.

When I got home, I determined that the best course of action was to be a lazy bum for a while.  So I did and it was quite nice.  Kimmy and I made ham and rice for dinner, then I got a little bit of work done... but mostly I just was a bum some more.  And it was lovely.

Ok, time for bed.  Good night.


Day 699

Today was quite exciting.

First, I went for a run with Tim.  That was invigorating, as always.  When I got home I continued preparing for my presentation today.

When I got to school, I met with one of my team members to go over the PowerPoint that I'd made and see if he had anything he wanted to add.  Then I went to go grade in my office for a while.

So I guess that my research project is officially done at this point.  The paper is turned in, the presentation is done... yeah, that's about it.  Our final conclusion was basically confirming the articles we read from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics: the average income for women is less than the average income for men, and no one is entirely sure why.  There are some very robust theories out there that do a great job of explaining most of the difference, but there has yet to be a perfect statistical explanation.

Then I got to listen to my students give their group presentations.  Most of them, anyhow.  It seemed that each presentation had some things that stood out.  Like one guy who purposefully misspelled things in honor of me (I have a terrible time with proper spelling when I teach... so I thought it was really funny).  Or the group who actually went to the Muncie mall and surveyed over 200 people to ask if they have minivans (I frequently use examples involving statistical sampling and wondering "how many people in Muncie own minivans?").  Another did a wonderful poster board of using optimal travel routes to various places on campus (often called the "Traveling Salesman Problem"... so this was a play on words).

It was all pretty impressive.  And there were a few people that were very nervous to present in front of their peers, but they got through it all and did well.  I've learned to pick up on the nuances of nervous speakers (because I've had to work so hard to overcome my nervousness when public speaking): I can hear the shaking in their voices; I notice the places they look when they talk and the way in which they shift their eyes; I see when they shift weight and get flustered when they realize they have no idea where to put their hands; I know the temptation to read through your notes at lightning speed; or the unconscious excess of "ummm," "uhhhhh," "so...." and other filler words to by your brain some more time.  But I also know how vitally important it is that people get practice talking in front of others.

After I got home, Kimmy and I went on a walk.  It was super nice outside today!  We walked through the park near our house.  Then we took the walking paths some more and went to some other areas of town.  We had fun.

We went to go see a movie tonight!  We saw "Oz: the great and powerful," which is sort of a precursor to "the Wizard of Oz."  It was good.

After the movie, we had a bit of an adventure.  We've both been getting fed up with how busy Wal-mart gets when we're grocery shopping, so we decided to do a test run and see if Target has the type of things we typically get at Wal-mart.  We determined that Target has the items we typically need and will therefore be subject to unconstrained testing on Grocery Shopping day.

I think that's about it.  Good night!


Day 697

I should just make this a weekly thing.  It's essentially become that, it seems.  Originally I'd planned on making this a weekly update after graduation, but I'm just so uninspired to updated this anymore that I may have to change all of that sooner.  Maybe I'll try to make it to at least day 700... that's a bit of a landmark.

Well, it's been a pretty exciting past few days.  I worked really hard on my research project and finally completed it.  We even turned it in to Dr. Foley, so it's totally done.  Now I just need to make a powerpoint for our presentation and that's it!

On Friday, Mom and Dad came up to Muncie.  Dad ran in a race this morning, so they stayed up here on Friday night.  Later that evening, Kimmy and I went to a carnival that Ball State hosts every spring.  It was fun... except for the part where it was sleeting for a majority of the time.  It was really cold and wet.  But we had fun.  We rode a few rides and had some pretty great fair food.

Today was pretty relaxing.  We got lunch with mom and dad and Richard, then went grocery shopping.  Just the usual Saturday routine.  Then we just spent the rest of the day doing stuff around the house.  I had some homework to do (that I almost forgot about... oops).  And now it's really late, so I'm going to bed.


Day 693

Today was filled with a lot of research.  I never imagined that I would have to write a 15 page paper for a math degree... but I am.  I think it's going to be a decent paper.  I don't really like this method of research, I've realized.  Most of these projects are starting with studies that other people have done, find a data set, and see how our results compare with the other studies we read.  I'm at a point where, given more time and my current level of understanding of the topic, I could take it all much further.  But time constraints, lack of understanding, and other human factors have made it pretty well impossible.

Our project is mainly a statistical approach to finding important factors for the differences between income of men and women.  It's been very interesting to study.  We picked about 10 variables (like age, education, occupation, region of the country, etc) that might account for a difference in income.  However, even our most robust model suggested that gender is a fairly significant factor.  The theory is that if all of the proper variables could be accounted for, there should be no (or minimal) difference.  Otherwise, there is potential for discrimination.  And I've learned a lot about the topic and why there is a difference... but no statistician or economist has yet been able to come up with an informed reason for the difference.  There's plenty of speculation, but no objective reason.  So if I had more time, I'd want to acquire more data to see if a better model could be found.  But alas, that's not going to happen.  Instead, I'll just write up a paper, include lots of tables with important numbers, and include notes on how the study could be continued.

After working on my paper for the majority of the day, Kimmy and I went on an adventure!  There's a little shop in the park by our house, so we decided to walk over there and see what was inside.  It always seemed to be closed, so we were hoping that it wouldn't be this time.  We checked the weather before we left and saw it would probably rain soon, so we brought an umbrella.  It's a good thing we did because it rained a lot.  We both got soaked.  But it was fun.  Usually our spontaneous adventures turn out poorly (like buying tickets to a comedy club in New York...).

When we got back, it was time to make some dinner.  Today's adventure was stir-fry!  Specifically, we made stir-fry with chicken, eggs, cucumber, corn, and pineapple.  It was pretty fantastic.

After dinner we were both feeling kinda antsy and just like we needed to get out of the house... so we went to the grocery store.  Apparently that's what we do when we're bored and poor.  So we went to all of our stores (Aldi, Marsh, and Walmart).  I had the weirdest experience while at Walmart.  I saw three different students that I've had over the past couple of years.  Usually one of two things happens when I encounter a student.  Either a) they greet me or b) avoid me.  I've developed this dreadful habit of simply making eye contact with my student and waiting for him/her to respond.  My favorite response happened about a week ago.  I was walking across campus when I saw a former student.  I made the obligatory eye contact and she instantly put her ear buds in and looked at the ground until we'd passed.  It was funny to me.  Oddly, there's no correlation between grades and how students react when they see me.  I've had students get A's and avoid me while students who got D's excitedly greet me.  And I've had the converse as well.  It's strange.

Anyhow, I think that's about it!  Good night, everybody.

Day 692

I should figure by now that Mondays are just long days.  As it turns out, today was no different.  It started out with some running with Tim H.  We didn't run for quite as long as we could have, but he had a meeting he had to attend.

After I got home, I got some coffee in my system, then got ready for school.  I tutored some students for a while, then I met with my research team.  We figured out what remaining things we want to talk about in our paper and presentation, then divided up the different topics between people.  It's going to be a busy week, but it shouldn't be awful.

I guess I taught.  Yeah... that is a thing that I did.  I think it went well.  It was just basic interest stuff.  I also gave them my "two minute explanation of the stock market."  Some of them claimed it couldn't be done.  And it could have theoretically been done... but not today and not by me.  I get too carried away, especially when I know I'm being timed.

When I got home, we started some dinner.  We had planned on going for a walk, but then we had to math.  And it was hard!  We were trying to figure out the bill from Macy's and it just made no sense.  Between buying, returning, getting credit for Kimmy's employee discount, giving the amount of discount back on a return, and paying the bill for last month then returning the purchased item... it got confusing.  It took us far too long to wade through Macy's billing statement.  But we eventually got it.

After dinner, I started grading and looking at grade statistics.  It's fun.

Now I'm going to bed.  I have lots of research and writing to do tomorrow... Oh boy.


Day 691

It's getting to that part of the semester where everything is dull, uninteresting, and of seemingly little importance.  I'm very fortunate that I don't really have that much to do... but I don't want to do what little I have.  It's pretty frustrating, but I'm getting used to it.  Every semester seems to end with this.  I'm hoping that I can escape this pattern once I start working. Or at least not be as regular with it.  Twice a year gets pretty old.

Today was a fairly normal Sunday.  Get up, church, lunch, and home.  Today at lunch we talked about some fond memories at Mount Vernon, and then our various moving endeavors.  Jessie and Richard are moving to their house soon and we're moving to our AWESOME apartment in just a few weeks.  It's going to be pretty awesome.

Some more people came to view our house today.  This time our landlord's wife showed them around.  We were fine with that.  I didn't really know what I was doing last time, so I was very thankful that someone else did it for me. They seemed to like the place, but they seemed a little shocked at how much it cost to heat the house during the winter.  Maybe... I'm really bad at reading people.  Anyhow, hopefully someone decides to rent this place in the near future.  That would be awesome.

After they left, we had some dinner.  We were going to make a new thing... but we were hungry and didn't feel like making anything.  So left overs.  After dinner I worked on my lesson plan for tomorrow.  I get to teach on things that aren't nearly as heavily rooted in math theory, so I'm hoping that it goes over well.  I'm excited.

Hm.  Not a whole lot else that I can think of... just two more weeks of school!  I recently learned that I don't have any finals to take during finals week (just one test to give), so hopefully that week will just be packing.  And more packing.  And grading, I suppose.

OK.  That's all for now.  Night.


Day 688

You know, I just haven't felt like updating this recently.  So I haven't been!  But today.... today I will write something I suppose.

Kimmy had to work most of the day.  I spent the morning getting my taxes ready to send out (finally), washing dishes, and doing some homework.  Kimmy came home for lunch.  Then I went up to campus to do some work with Tim B. for a while.

I'm super excited to not have to use the computers in the Math department anymore... they're really really really slow.  And they like to restart without warning.  Today I had just started a timed assignment on Blackboard when the computer decided to restart.  It then took ten minutes for the computer to restart and get back into Blackboard.  Obviously the timer doesn't pause when you close out of the browser, so I just had to deal with not having those ten minutes.  Usually that isn't a huge deal... except that right after I'd logged back in, a class came in and needed to use the computer lab.  Which is fine, but it just meant I had even less time to complete the assignment.  But we got everything done with some time to spare, so that was good.

After I got home, I did some more dishes and homework.  Kimmy got home just in time for dinner, so we ate some left over soup and.... then it was back to work.  My students have a test tomorrow, so I figured I should actually write it.

I like to make interesting questions that aren't just "Here are your numbers.  Give me new numbers."  I like to use names and silly examples.  On this test I decided to use Italian names and examples.  But that just made me want to go back to Italy....  Boo.  I do not get to go to that place.

And now it's time for bed.  For I am sleepy and have get to work out in the morning.  Woo.


Day 685

And yet another very full day!

This morning began with working out with Tim H.  Mondays are our running day.  The goal was "more than a mile."  We ended up going 2.5 miles and we were both pretty pleased with that.  I was quite sweaty afterwards.

When I got back, I had a quick shower and then went up to campus.  I initially started doing some work on my research project, then I went to go work on homework with Tim H.  Between working on the assignment and helping him tutor some students... that was my day.  And we didn't really make any progress on the homework.  We're following our notes pretty closely, but it's not making any answers that make sense.  Ugh.

I also taught today.  That went... okay.  It's a hard section and I'm having a rough time with it.  Today (at a student's request) I tried to explain by example.  It generally was fine, but there was still a lot of theory that needed to be covered.  So I wrote lots of things down, used numbers where I could, and... mainly just tried to go slowly and stop when people tended to cease understanding.

After I got home, I tried to make some more progress on the homework.  That didn't really go anywhere.  It's getting pretty frustrating.

Some people are coming tomorrow to look at the house, so we did some cleaning in preparation for that.  But after a while I just got tired of standing and doing stuff... so I stopped.  I'll finish cleaning tomorrow.

I think it's time for bed now.  Good night.


Day 684

It's been a pretty busy weekend with some late nights... hence no posts for the past nights.  And I'm getting pretty tired now, so here's a recap.


Got up early, worked out with Tim H., then got to work on some homework.  We are officially going to have a place to live in May!  There were some complications along the way, but they got all straightened out... for which I am very happy.

Friday night I played a game of Risk with Tim H., Dustin, and Paul.  It was a lot of fun.  I think Paul and Dustin ended up calling it a draw.  Tim H. and I lost early because we were too aggressive.... but we had fun.


We did our normal grocery shopping and such.  I spent a good portion of the afternoon preparing a pretty detailed review handout for my class.  It's very thorough and hopefully they find it helpful.

Yesterday evening Kimmy and I started playing a puzzle game on my computer.  It's a lot of fun!  It's a little bit cramped around my computer, but it works.  Next year I'm going to have my computer out in the living room, so there will be more space for such fun stuff.


Today was pretty standard.  Wake up, church, come home and be productive.  Kimmy and I had planned on doing our tax returns today, but we hit a pretty big snag.  I think my income is getting counted twice on some paper work, so I'm (currently) having to pay a lot of money back.  Dad's having someone look into it, so hopefully they figure something out.  I'd prefer to not pay back lots of money just because I work for the school at which I'm also taking classes.

So after a failed attempt to do taxes, Kimmy and I did dishes, then started making some dinner.  We tried to do a skillet-recipe in the oven... but that didn't go so well.  The meat cooked, but the sauce was supposed to simmer in the skillet and ended up just separating in the oven.  Oh well.  It still tasted fine.

And now I'm off to bed.  Good night!


Day 681

So I had great plans for today.  Great plans for cleaning and organizing... but none of that happened and I'm just fine with it.  Apparently I got incredibly motivated to work on my research project, so I did that for the majority of the day.

I did some writing, some statistical analysis in SAS, some emailing... and then I just gave up when I encountered a table that won't fit on a 8.5 by 11 piece of paper without some serious editing.  Yuck.

After Kimmy came home, we went up to Fort Wayne to see Rachel and Trevor, who gave us a new coffee table!  The trip was uneventful for the first 20 minutes.  Then we hit traffic.  We were stopped for the at least an hour and a half.  It was pretty bad.  I tried to name all 50 state capitals, but I did a pretty awful job of it.  Oh well.  It passed the time.  We finally got up there around 7 (2 hours after we'd planned on getting there).  So we talked and caught up on life and everything.  It was good to see them.  But we couldn't stay long because we had to get back to Muncie before it was too late.  Hurumph.

That was pretty much the excitement of our day.  Now it's off to bed for an early morning tomorrow.  Woo!


Day 680

These days are feeling super long!  It's silly.  My days pretty much alternate between doing nothing and being really busy.

Today was of the busy variety.

After some breakfast, I started writing my group's research paper.  I briefly considered splitting the paper up so each person did one part... but then I figured that it would read better if one person wrote the entire thing (instead of alternating between writing styles).  So I began writing it because I enjoy writing!

It's been going well.  I'm pretty much taking our presentation on Monday and turning it into a ten page paper with more details and pictures.  That's the plan, anyhow.  I have about two and a half weeks to write it, so I'm not worried at all.  I just need to get some more input from my other group members to see what they want included in the paper.

After I got to school, I did some grading then helped one of my students who stopped by my office for help.  Then it was off to listen to the other research groups talk about their work.  That was pretty interesting.  It's comforting to hear from other groups and actually feel like I, too, know what I'm doing.  Either that, or none of us have any idea what we're doing.

Then I went to go teach.  I felt like that went well.  I spent a really long time laying out this long structure for a specific type of problem, going through the nine different ways that a type of question could be asked.  Then I went through some practice exercises in the book to show how some of them were used.  It seemed to be pretty helpful.  The issue is that the text book expects the students to use their intuition to understand all of the different ways this problem could be represented.  After teaching for a few semesters, I realize that it just takes longer than one week to get comfortable with this material at the required level to think about it intuitively.

When I got back, I talked with Kimmy for a while, then sat around for a little bit before going to dinner with one of our friends.  That was fun. After dinner we came home and did more fun stuff!  I talked with Kimmy's mom about tax stuff, then talked/played a game with Jared.

And now I'm off to bed.  Good night.


Day 678

Oh my goodness.  This was a ridiculous day.

It began with Tim H. and my early morning workout.  Today, I suggested to Tim that we just run.  And run we did.  It was good.

When I got back, I had a quick shower, packed a lunch, then went off to school.  My research group did our presentation today, so I needed to create a PowerPoint and do some work before we presented.  I was in the computer lab working on the presentation for about three hours.  After about two hours, my group members met with me and we did some last minute analysis of our data.

Then I went to my office and did some preparation for my lesson today.  And some grading.  There's always grading, isn't there?  I suppose that's how teaching works.

The presentation was fine.  The projector wasn't working very well, but it did its job for a while.  Something went wrong during my group's presentation, so there was not PowerPoint during the last few slides.  Oh well!  Most people either seemed interested or at least not super bored during our presentation.  There were a few questions, but we were able to answer them easily enough. Dr. Foley suggested that we try adding a new variable, so we'll see if that's doable.

Then I taught.  This chapter is hard because it's not as easy for them all to grasp a practical application for everything.  And I totally understand.  I did my best to ease into the topic, but it's still pretty tricky.  This chapter is mostly just a matter of thinking about everything properly and doing lots of problems.

Finally I got to come home!  We were both pretty hungry, so we had an early dinner and then went grocery shopping.  Kimmy and I come to the conclusion that no matter what we get at Aldi, we will spend around $40.  It seems like we can have a cart full of food or just a few items, it's always around $40.  As we were leaving, I actually heard another guy tell the cashier the very same thing: "I don't get it... my total is always around $40 and it doesn't seem to matter how much I get!"  I even check the math sometimes and it always adds up to around $40.  It's strange.

Now it's time for bed.  I'm tired and had a very long day.  Good night.