Monday, November 20, 2017

Linear Algebra II Homework / Teppanyaki


Song:  Mas Que Nada

Group:  Brazil 66



Alex got this homework back last week.

He had gotten 23 out of 20 points
(he had partially answered a bonus question which was much harder to answer).

Again...
all math majors must learn how to use LaTeX mathematical coding
in order to print the mathematical symbols.

Alex said that this level of math is usually reserved just for math majors...
as most Engineers and Physicists need not pursue deeper math levels.

Alex's Linear Algebra II class started with 40 students.

After the first midterms...
the class size was whittled down to 25 students.



I had asked Alex about the bonus question.

He said that the difficulty was much higher than the regular questions...
and so, he could only give a partial proof.

So...
 although Alex had only gotten 3 out of a possible 10 points 
on the optional bonus question...
he had gotten a perfect score on his regular homework questions.



----------------------



Last week...
we went out to a Teppanyaki restaurant (Alex's choice).




Alex and I had chosen the Filet Mignon, Lobster, and Shrimp platter.


Alex had a turn at the spinning egg on the spatula trick.




We had a good time.


-------------


As Alex will soon be living in a dorm at a university...
he knows that he will have to adapt his palate to the food normally served
in the student chow hall.

We will be looking up the menu at his chosen university as soon as we find out 
which one it will be.

We will also look up some on campus restaurants through which Alex may use
 as a substitute for the chow hall on nights the food served doesn't 
particularly strike his fancy.









Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Alex Turns 17 Years Old - A Year In Retrospect


Song:  Heart

Artist:  Thomas Bergersen


Alex just turned 17 years old.

I have compiled some of the past year's most memorable moments for Alex.

This is going to be Alex's last year living full time at home.

Before he turns 18...
he will be going full time at a university...
and he will be living in the dorms.

I already feel a little sad that he will be leaving the nest...
but very happy for him at the same time.


By the time he was 16 yrs. old...
Alex had already started his 3rd year at the University of Nevada Reno for his math.


During winter...
I had Alex drive in the snow for the first time.

He did very well.


Alex had taken the AIME once again...
and he had scored his all time high score this year
(The Davidson Academy hosted AIME).


Alex was the team captain for his high school...
and they had taken 2nd place in the Academic Olympics.


Alex had gone up against some very good opponents to win gold
at a NNV Math Club math competition.


At the 2017 ARML Nationals...
Alex and two others had tied for the highest scores on the team.


Alex had been one of the instructors at the NNV Math Club math camp.


Alex had...
for the second year in a row...
designed and helped run...
three separate, but simultaneously run, math contests.
(Alex's Mathematical Talent Exhibition for elementary / middle / high schools)

He was awarding the top contestants here.


Alex was shown great appreciation at the conclusion of the award ceremony.

A 5th grader had placed and it was his first math contest.

He said he loved the competition...
and that he wants to do more in the future.

Alex had helped ignite a young man's passion for math.

This was Alex's goal...
and this had made him very happy.


Alex had taught a class at the NNV Math Club.

They had gone over Alex's math competition problems and solutions.


On this night...
Alex started his essays for his university applications.

He will be applying to the top 23 Math universities in the US.

Alex also started his 4th year at the University of Nevada Reno...
 for his math, a few months ago
(He had been attending 3 semesters a year...
Fall / Spring / Summer).


Alex opening up his iPad 3 128 G.

Although Alex had gone with us to buy it a couple of weeks ago...
he wanted to wait for the night of his birthday to open it.


His mother had made him one of his favorite meals for his birthday...
Seafood Nabe.


Alex also loves real crab.

His mother boiled the crab...
and she then shelled it so Alex could just enjoy eating it.


Alex getting ready to eat.


We will also be going out to eat at a restaurant of Alex's choice in a couple of days.


--------------



This will be my final year I can enjoy seeing Alex everyday.

Don't get me wrong...
which ever university Alex gets accepted to...
we will be moving nearby so we will be able see him on the weekends...
and on all breaks.

He will then at least be able to enjoy his mother's cooking a few times a week.

And...
we will never be too far away from him later in life.

Although we will give him his privacy...
and won't become a nuisance...
we will always be ready to visit him.


There is nothing, or no one, more important to us than our son, Alex.

We will always be there for him.


-------------


Alex is growing up so quickly.

As a parent...
I can only say the things other parents always say:

Children grow up so quickly...
treasure your time with them.

One more thing...
get a good camera...
and always take plenty of photos.

These precious memories are not only for you...
but for your children...
and for their children.















Monday, November 13, 2017

II - A Talk With Alex About Life


Song:  Icescapes

Artists:  Annie Parker / Erik The Viking




Once again...
neither my son, Alex, nor am I...religious.

However, I do try to live my life by many of the same tenants of the major religions...
not because I believe in any sort of ruling deity...
but because to live by the major tenants leads to individuals and groups of people
living their lives in a manner which guides them to safety, happiness, and prosperity.

Simply put...
the major tenants are a logical path to follow in life...
just for a different reason than the adherents of the particular religions believe.

They lead to the same result...
and results are what matter in life.





Live Life On A Positive Spiral

I have spoken to Alex numerous times about 
living life on a positive spiral...
and it all may be summed up with a paraphrased biblical proverb:

'You Reap What You Sow.'

The meaning is:

That which you plant...
whether it be good or bad...
is that which you shall harvest in life.

However...
this idiom is incomplete...
unless you understand the implied multiplication of results
for very little effort...over a period of time...
as actually happens in agriculture
(This is why a relative few can feed a nation).

It is about the compounding of interest which naturally occurs
with the planting of seeds.

One seed planted gives so much interest...
that much of the results may be enjoyed...
while giving many more seeds to plant...
and with all the resulting trees bearing over a long life time.

The core attribute which drives this, as applied to life, is deferred gratification.

All deferred gratification is...
is the putting off of immediate pleasure...
for something better in the future.

It is the ability to look at the long term gain...
and choosing it over short term pleasure.

It is to say that one should never sacrifice the long term gain because of a short term pleasure.

The natural lifestyle this leads to is the eschewing of hedonism...
as this leads to the antithesis of living life on a positive spiral...
that of living life on a negative spiral.

The main difference between a positive spiral...
and a negative spiral...
is attitude
(both meanings...the relative pitch of an object as compared to a horizontal plane...
and the mindset of an individual)...
and so...the fundamental drive towards, or away from, the tip.



This is a positive spiral

(A conical helix with a positive attitude.
And yes...both meanings  :)



This picture should bring up many realizations as applied to life:




1)  The path leads upwards.

This naturally implies it is only powered by our efforts...
and so, our upward mobility in life is a direct result of our drive
to continue to achieve our dreams.

There are three things which must happen to achieve a goal:

Having a viable goal (and so, having a direction).

The planning and plotting of the course so it may be completed in a timely manner
(The intelligent planning and provisioning of the journey with efficiency in mind.).

Never giving up until the goal is realized.




2)  The path has an ending.


This implies three things:


The end point as applied to our goals.

The end point as applied to life...that of death.

And...the automatic implication of that of time...
and the necessity to walk the path at a sustained rate
so that the goal may be reached before death.




3)  As a conical helix...
it is naturally wide at the base...
and steadily gets tighter the higher you go
(It is less of a walk to get to the next higher plane...
the higher you go).

This is analogous to a properly set up positive spiral in life.

All the main effort is front loaded (education / training).

Life steadily gets easier...
and more rewarding...
the closer you get to your goal.




4)  The path walked is not wide.

And so...
it implies a focused life...
one which follows a disciplined path towards the goal...
yet is filled with passion, and with the journey being so enjoyable...
there are no lengthly side stops.

Each step forwards brings renewed energy...
and each step forwards...always leads upwards.



5)  The conical helix was cut from a single flat sheet...
and was then raised.

This implies that all individuals in the US (in general)
start out with all of the material necessary to have their own conical helix...
and that, while the heights of the individual conical helixes may differ
according to the dreams of each individual...
all are raised according to the level of applied intelligence and forethought.


6)  The raised bumps on the surface...
depict the fruiting trees that a person whose forethought had sown...
and is ever fruiting for future reaping...
as with each instance of deferred gratification...
another seed is planted on a higher plane...
and once reached, provides a bountiful harvest.

This is what sustains you on your journey...
and what you may look forwards to as you continually climb.

With something to always look forwards to in the future...
it continually draws you forth.
The journey becomes effortless, as your drive is internalized.

Walking forth becomes a pleasure...
and everyday is looked forwards to with great anticipation.



7)  Being a conical helix...
the end is always in sight...
no matter where you are on the journey.

This implies that you should never lose sight of your goal.

All you have to do is look up.



8)  As you walk upwards on a conical helix...
you are constantly moving towards the center.

This implies two things:

1)  Your education, and so, your accumulation of knowledge...
moves from general to specific.

Specialization is a natural occurrence 
of achieving the highest quantity of quality practice or study.

To reach the pinnacle of the goal...
the one who does the most of what gets him to the goal...
soon becomes the best.


2)  Psychologically...
the goal is the passion which strikes you at your very center.

The closer you get to the center...
the more centered you are.

Life becomes more and more exciting and magical...
since every day brings new harvests...
and takes you another step closer to your passion in life.

Time then becomes your friend...
instead of a dreaded enemy.



This is a negative spiral.


As you may notice...
the pinnacle of the helix ends in a tight spiral...but is out of sight (a goal)...
but the majority of the helix is simply wrapped around a cylinder.
It is the same boring path for the duration of the journey.

This picture depicts a person who has no goal in sight...
and whose attitude is downwards.

They see any goal as insurmountable...
as they have no long term vision of their future.

Their whole goal in life is taking the path of least resistance.
And...just as a drop of water does...it always goes downwards.

They, instead, are in constant need of short term diversions...
and so, take on a life of going from one hedonistic pleasure to the next
(Drugs...constant video games or TV instead of studying...etc.)...
and with each step downwards...
they are further and further from achieving any goal...
and so, it becomes harder and longer to climb back up.

As life becomes more tedious and boring...
and they naturally get more and more depressed...
they tend to rely upon artificial means to give them momentary happiness...
and so, their decent of the spiral...
continues downwards.

As they live life...
one day at a time...
their only concern is the next step.

Their journey is not driven forth by a dream...
but by the next day's short term pleasure.

What they don't realize...
is that with every step forwards...
they are moving away from any goal...
and that their journey is not endless...
as the spiral is being driven by time...
and with every step downwards...
they are hastening the end of their journey.

Sadly...
as they had not sown any seeds for their future...
there is no harvest for them to reap.

All they have is the next short term pleasure.

Every year becomes harder and more tedious...
and all the while...
they could at any time...
simply change the direction of their lives...
and walk upwards towards a fulfilling goal. 

The depicted wall is of their own making.

Just by walking upwards...
it disappears.

Instead...
they complain of any goals being unattainable...
and that it is society's fault.

Their inevitable meeting with time comes when they are pinned 
to the wall of their own making...
with nothing to show for a life which had been wasted...
and it is at this time...they realize...too late...
that they are screwed  :)













Friday, November 10, 2017

Alex's World Literature Religious Comparative Analysis


Song:  Exodus

Composer:  Henry Mancini





1 AM...Alex at his computer...
 finishing up this comparative analysis between selected readings 
(and common knowledge) of the two major ideologies of Islam and Christianity.
(The students are assigned readings of many of the world classics...
and must write essays on them...
and then must participate in group discussions or debates).

This particular assignment is from Mountain College.
Alex is learning Japanese and World Literature from Mountain College...
and he has been learning all of his math at the University of Nevada Reno (UNR).

Alex, sometimes, also takes some courses from Brigham Young University (online)...
and the rest of his courses come from his online high school...North Star.




These were the assigned readings from which the students must base their answers
(along with common knowledge)...
and of whom must be prepared to discuss and debate with their fellow classmates...
their take on their readings.






---------------------------------


While Alex has been very busy with his homework...
and with the many, many essays he has, and will write (a total of approximately 50)...
as part of his university applications (he is applying to 22 top math universities)...
he is often up until 1 AM or later...
trying to get everything done in a timely fashion.


We have been busy filing financial records to governmental...
as well as to private agencies...
and, sometimes, to individual universities...
as necessary supplemental information to Alex's university applications.


Some words of advice to all parents whose children will be going to university...
keep all financial records close at hand...
and file everything as early as possible.

Have a scanner as part of your copier...
and convert all of your files from an online PDF converter.

Our scanner...
when set to convert to PDF...
made the files too large to be accepted.

Alex converts all of the files to PDF from a separate online converter...
and then sends them to his mother and I...
so we may then upload them to the various agencies and universities
(CSS and FAFSA).

CSS uses IDOC to transfer information to many universities...
however...some universities demand direct uploads.
You must also be aware of the various time lines
depending upon which university...
as well as the method of applying (early applications vs standard).

You also must secure a special student code from CSS before you may utilize IDOC...
and you must have SSA verification for direct upload from the IRS to FAFSA.

They both may take several days to get.

You must start early.








Sunday, November 5, 2017

I - A Talk With Alex About Life



Song:  Bring Me To Life

Group:  Evanescence




I just dropped off Alex at his math club practice.

It was just a short drive away...
but, I love to talk to Alex during such drives.

Alex is on the cusp of adulthood.

As soon as he goes off to a full time university...
he will still be 17 years old (he turns 17 in a couple of weeks)...
and he will become his own man...
and making his own decisions.

I was also 17 when I was on my own
(I went into the Army)...
however, I was taught very simple codes to live by while in the Army...
and they were constantly reinforced.

On a university campus...
there is much more freedom...
and far less supervision...as well as very little direct leadership.

Although we have raised Alex by simple codes...
and I have stressed them to him directly...
I have never formally codified them.

Before he leaves to university...
I will put them into a simple set of morals and basic principles to help guide him in life...
and I will pull principles of living life well from various religions as well.


Although Alex is very mature for his age...
he lacks experience in life.

One of my basic duties as a father is to give Alex a basic code to live by...
 as has been time tested through...
not only my life and experiences...
but through the experiences of others throughout time
(great philosophers and rulers / successful people).


It was during today's short drive (10 minutes) that
I had told him he will soon be his own man...
and as such...
he will soon be making his own life decisions

(I have stressed many times that, at any time...
and for all time...
he may talk with us about anything...
and he is welcome to seek us out for advice or guidance).



I had also stressed a basic principle to correct decision making:


  Always make decisions based on the long term over the short...
and as based upon a ratio of:

Risk / Cost / Benefit

(With the consideration of all variables:  Known (including time) / Unknown...
and to correctly prioritize them (time dependent or not, as well as the quality of each)...
as well as the possible ramifications of each (through simple logical extrapolation)).




I just came back from picking Alex up at his math club practice...
and on the way back...
I had talked to him more.

I had first recapped our talk on the way there...
and I then talked of the importance of establishing...
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs as is called in the Army) in life.

All standard operating procedures are...
is a general guideline for doing something as the norm...
unless through adaptation to a particular situation...
it is better to do something else.

As a solid operating procedure is the standard...
it means that in the vast majority of cases...
your decisions are already made for you.

This allows for rapidity of decision making...
and a way to free the mind to handle multiple situations at once.


Philosophical Morals and Religious and Social Mores are standard operating procedures
for the individuals in groups to help lead them to correct decision making to...
 not only give them a path to living a safe and well lived life...
but how to function with others...
and so, a way for societies to function and thrive.


I had given Alex an example of how certain cultures' mores lead to 
a greater level of achievement as measured objectively:

The Asians, in general, as part of their cultures...
stress two very important mores:

Respect (and the implied humility)

Education


This is why...
Asians, in particular...
excel in, not only academics...
but in their professional lives.



RESPECT

It is through respect that a child learns to truly listen and observe...
as he realizes that he has much to learn from others, and the world.

This sets up the educational aspect...
as he is then ready to truly learn.


It also sets an SOP for life...
as given respect generally leads to others giving respect to him.

To be rude is to unnecessarily make enemies out of potential allies...
of not only the person...but of all of his associates.

This leads to unnecessary conflict...
where great amounts of the rude person's resources and time
are then lost to the waging of a completely unnecessary war.

It is also a green light for all who witness the unnecessary rudeness... 
to passively resist the person by ignoring him...
or to even take aggressive actions against him...
either through direct attack...
or through more indirect actions such as opportunistic sabotage.

To be unnecessarily rude...is the mark of a stupid person.

Most will, at the very least, cut him from his life...
as they know that the person lacks long term thinking...
and because, most of all, stupid people do stupid things...
time and again.

(a stupid person isn't defined by society or by IQ tests...
but by himself...through his repeatedly stupid actions or inactions).




EDUCATION


True education is not only through the accumulation of data...
but in how to effectively and efficiently process and apply the data...
to solve problems or to innovate more efficient paths to goals.

The very first problem the Asians, as a whole, properly identify...
and set out to solve as early as possible...
is that their children's education is the key to their children's future.

They set their family's priority towards their children's education.

They start their children reading very early...
and they set their study habits from way before preschool.

They keep them ahead of the curve...
and guide them in their homework.

They give them goals and objectives...
and actively promote professions for which to shoot...
and heavily reinforce the love of learning.

They do this through the providing of a strong, unified, and supportive...
family unit.


The Asians' cultural mores of Respect and Education...
are an example of a winning formula for happiness and success...
generation after generation.



Philosophical Morals and Religious and Social Mores...
 are not artificial constructs of a person's mind based upon mere conjecture...
but rather, the reflection of reality...
as have been proven to be true through close observation over vast amounts of time...
 with great quantities of examples in great quantities of varying situations...
and as have been succinctly codified through deep reflection.

It is the way of Wisdom.

And so...
an SOP is based upon wisdom.

All a wise decision is...
is using knowledge accumulated through either direct or indirect experience...
and through simple pattern recognition...
the matching of a similar problem or situation...
 with a former similar solution.


However...
as I had explained to Alex...
to have to make new decisions all the time...
without the guidance of SOPs...
would lead to information overload.

This is why it is far better to follow an SOP...
unless it would be worse to follow one...
or, if given time, a better way is found.


I also explained why it is far better to follow an SOP...
even if it wouldn't matter in that particular situation...
and might even lead to a short term gain.

Just by breaking an SOP...
it will lead to having to examine each similar situation...
and so, having to concentrate on a lot of little short term gains...
and then losing sight of the long term larger picture...
and, unless all of the variables can be accounted for...
exposes a person to unnecessary risk.


I then went on to explain with two examples:

One involved high risk with little return.

A child at a crosswalk.

He first looks to see if the streets are clear of cars, or if they are far enough away...
and he then decides to cross against the light...
thus exposing him to possible death...
for very little return.

What he doesn't realize is that in most cases...
he can not even trust himself to accurately spot cars...
to accurately gauge the distances involved...
the speeds involved...the stopping distances necessary...
or if the driver could even see him at all.


It is the wrong decision every time because it violates the:

Risk / Cost / Benefit ratio...
and the SOP designed to keep him safe
(Always follow safety laws).

The Risk to staying is negligible.
VS
The Risk to going is death.

The Cost is minimal for staying or going.

The Benefit of going is a minute saved.
VS
The Benefit of waiting is far greater safety...
as well as reinforcing a positive habit.



I then went into the other example.

This one involved an example with low risk.

I told him why it is still the right thing to always lock the bathroom door...
even if he is the only one home.

First of all...
as with most habits...
it is automatic...
it involves no thought.
It actually takes thought to break one.

Just by not breaking a habit...
it remains an automatic action.

It is usually a combined motion...
a series of multiple motions combined into one seamless automatic motion.


To break a habit for little return...
is to have to even think of it in the first place...
where it should have been automatic...and without cost.

It then leads to the breaking of a habit (long term gain)...
for an unnecessary short term gain.

This opens the door (ahem :)...
to laziness.

We brush our teeth and floss after every meal as a matter of habit (at least...all should).

To not cross the line from habit to one where the temptation of laziness
forces a never ending battle with the will...
keeps temptation at bay...because it is not even thought of as a possibility.

To risk losing a well established habit...
because of a short term gain where the cost is negligible...
and the benefits are so high...
is the incorrect decision.

Now...
is this to say that one should never break an SOP?

Of course not.

Just as the name automatically implies...
it is a Standard Operating Procedure...
one which is flexible to change under extraordinary circumstances.

Using the same example of always locking the bathroom door as a matter of habit:

Say you are waiting for an important phone call from a home wired phone.

Then...
you have an urgent call of nature to take care of.

To close and lock the door merely because it is an SOP would be 
the incorrect choice because...
 missing the phone call due to not being able to hear it because of the closed door
would be placing the long term gain of receiving the call at high and unnecessary risk
when gauged against the risk of breaking an established habit.

The cost for both is negligible.

The benefit of receiving the call far outweighs 
the benefit of keeping the habit reinforced.

So...
it is then correct to break the SOP.


I know this was a simplistic example...
however, it is through this that a simple path to decision making is justified.


In later articles...
I will be delving into more of:

Philosophical Morals

Religious and Social Mores








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