Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Quotes from the First Day...

"There is no Mathematics in the so-called Real World."- Real Analysis professor

He also passed out a list of "rules" for the class which included "do not divide by zero" and "do not speak or write the nonexistent word 'math.'" As a Perfect Southern Gentleman, he doesn't seem to be a big fan of abbreviations- the syllabus notes that we will have Examinations, not exams, etc. On day 1 we learned about The Calculus Arch, consisting of Riemann integrals (to find area) on one side and the Tangent Line problem on the other, connected by the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. All of Mathematical Analysis rests on the arch. When it comes to RA, everyone has a paradigm...

"You won't have any problems... if you know the entire Universe."- Probability professor

This esteemed young gentleman is on loan from Yale and originally hails from St. Petersburg, Russia. The accent I was worried about? No problem- his English his very good. There's even a [cute] hint of Brittish in it. His lecture style was clear and the only impediment to following it was the fact that the room was unbearably warm (most of the Math building is unairconditioned, and our bright young professor decided to close all the windows so we could hear him better. Apparently years of severe hardship make things like livable temperatures seem unimportant in the Russian academic mindset.) He seemed just very slightly nervous and got the distributive laws of set theory a bit wrong, but I helped him out. ;-) I'm very excited about this class...

"Er, hum, um, algebra. Hrhmmph. Roots. Polynomials- um, transcendental, algebraic. Hummph." - Algebra Professor

I was warned about this guy by the other grad students. He is disorganized- evidenced by the fact that he showed up for the class at the last minute, with nothing but the textbook. (I got the distinct impression that he wouldn't have shown up at all if it hadn't been for a crumpled sticky note that he found in his pants pocket from his wife: "Monday morning, 9:10, graduate algebra!! You're teaching!!") No lecture notes, no syllabus. He sort of made up a lecture as he went along, I think. Strong tendency to avoid complete sentences and definitive statements about anything. He is the happy, rumpled Computer Programmer type- his field is prime factorization and finding large primes, which he happily babbled about for the last 5 minutes of the class. I took notes, but rereading them doesn't seem to be getting me far, as they are mostly just lists of phrases like "algebraic integers" without much content. (That's what he put on the board, and that's what he said.) He said he was covering the Prerequisites chapter in the book, but there doesn't seem to be much overlap between what he babbled about and what's in the book. (Did he read the prerequisites chapter? I doubt it.)

It's a very tough book- so it should be an interesting class.

And so- We Begin! :-)

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Family Camping Trip 2005

Well, I don't think I ever blogged about our camping trip this year, did I?

I mainly want the pictures to tell their own story, but I'll fill in a few details.

My parents drove to PA to pick me up on Sunday July 3rd, just after getting back from Creation with my brother and sisters. It was great to have time to just hang out with them and relax and talk. There's nothing like a good car trip to promote deep Conversation. :-)

Sunday night we went out to dinner at Denny's, and it was a lot of fun, just the six of us again. I was very silly as always and made everyone laugh. (That's my God-given role as Middle Child.) There were whiny-sappy-oldie love songs playing in the background, and I Talked Back to the forlorn crooner. Also, I am fairly certain that by the end of the evening our Waitperson considered us all Certifiably Insane™. ("Ah ha ha ha ha!! My work here is done..."

Monday morning (or was it around 3 in the afternoon...? We tend to leave a little bit Late) we left our home in MD for Shenendoah River State Park in Virginia. Upon arrival, the Camping Experts among us (Vivian, my Dad, arguably Chris and Margaret and my Mom) busied themselves with setting up (or failing to set up) various tents, tarps, stoves, campfires, tornado shelters, etc, etc, while I found the most Clean and Sanitary place possible to sit down (which was a wooden picnic bench.) Honesty, I am Not naturally much of a Camper; I was just along for the Cameraderie and free food. ;-)

Monday night we left for DC to see the fireworks, and there was a bit of concern that we might not get there in time. To make a long story short, we finally found a place where we could park and take the subway into DC (yay for public transportation!!) and we got to the Mall just in time for them to start. That was my second time to see fireworks on the Mall, as I had been there in Summer 1999 for SPWM. Some people hate the huge crowds of people, but I love them. Well, except when we had to get back on the subway home and we waited around for a long time for the crowds to "die down," but they didn't! And there was a line Miles and Miles long* and we were worried that the last subway leaving at 11:45 would be full and we wouldn't make it! Trapped in DC overnight! Forced to call upon our Cousin George to put us up for the night! Thankfully, there was room for us. We got back to our campground late, after 1 a.m., and settled in for the night.
* a gross exaggeration

There were two tents available for sleeping, but the whole concept of sleeping on the ground is not something I really embrace, so I opted to sleep in the minivan. Van-sleeping in an ancient tradition in the Bush family, dating back several decades, although I realized that its allure of comfort and pleasantness might have been a BIT tastier back when we had a full-size-, not mini-, van and when I was a bit smaller and less prone to the delicate infirmiries of Middle Age. Also, it was quite a bit warmer than I anticipated, and there were mosquitoes. Still, I managed to get a good night's rest. :-)

Tuesday morning we went to the grocery store and loaded up on camping necessities like batteries and Steak (yum!) and I tried to teach my little sister the meaning of the term "generic." We cooked food (tasty!) and then embarked upon the highlight of the day: intertubing down the turbulent and rapid Shenendoah River (that's it in the first picture above: not the vicious white water rapids.) I had never been tubing before, so I was a bit Hesitant, but my river-experienced older sister encouraged me into it, and it was a lot of fun! (For the 1% of you out there who weren't sure: yes, the white water rapids comment above was a joke. The current was so slow at points that we wondered if we were still moving, and the river was rarely over 2 or 3 ft. deep. The tubes got stuck on rocks quite a bit.) (PS Innertubes take a LONG time to blow up and deflate- even with an air pump.)

After all that fast-paced adventure, the Bush family did was the Bush family does best: we took naps! And my mom and dad sat in the car with the air-conditioning running for a few hours, reading books. I suggested a hike, believing that if you're going to camp in the Outdoors with the Heat and Bugs and everything, you might as well get a bit of Exercise, but that was postponed in favor of an even more important Bush Family Tradition: we took a long drive through the mountains. And I was VERY glad that we did- we saw a complete rainbow!

Tuesday night there was a big thunderstorm. We cooked our dinner (STEAK!!) :-) under the big pavillion, which was nice, and I hoped that no ranger-type-people would send us away to our dark and wet campsite. (I'm not sure that use after dark was permitted.) There is nothing like Steak when you're hungry... except ICE CREAM! So we went into town after the storm cleared up for ice cream from a little Baskin Robins/ Dunkin Donuts convenient store. Ah, that's how camping should be... :-)

Wednesday morning we took the hike I was begging for, although it was really a bit more of a "hike" as we didn't have a whole lot of time. But it was just great to be together. I ran back and forth amidst the various straggling parties (don't be impressed that I ran: like I said, it wasn't that far) for a little while before getting Hot and slowing down to pant along with everyone else.
(By the way- Nate described the outfit I am wearing to the left as "busy." Who says tye-dye spirals don't go with plaid...?)

After the hike, we packed up camp and took off for the airport. Along the way, we stopped for a quick excursion on Skyline Drive, one of our favorite driving spots. A cool hippie-looking-girl with a head covering of her own (!) took a picture of all of us:
Note that we did not plan ahead and coordinate colors for this picture. Although my mom, my sister and I would make a nice Valentine's day postcard, I suppose.

Well, did I imply I was going to be brief in this post?
I've given a lot of factual details but left out the Subtext: how much it truly meant to me to be with my family, and how much I missed them after I went home. That's the story I want these pictures to tell- how it was so wonderful to not be Very Far Away from them, even for a few days. Since getting married and moving out on my own, I've missed being a part of the little everyday details of their lives, the kind of details that just don't carry too well over the phone and at holiday visits. I've especially missed being with Chris and Margaret as they grow up, because I hear the Facts, but I miss the subnarrative. Camping was great because the woods were quiet and I got to Hear just a little bit more. And that made our short time together worth all the mosquitoes in the world to me. :-)

Let's do it again next year, guys!

:-) Nancy Elizabeth

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The queen retires...

One of the things I love most about my job is that all of my bosses have a really good sense of humor.

Today, for example. [Don't be afraid- today's not "special" like yesterday was. Although I DID have another pudding cup awhile ago, so, you never know...] Today I had to do an "exit interview" which was really not an "interview," in the true sense of the word, at all, but merely a sheet of paper with questions that had to be answered. (What's that? A questionaire? A survey? Anyway.) It was basically open-ended, along the lines of, "So, do you have any suggestions to improve the Learning Center?"

After commenting about a couple of serious things, I noted that the cake and donuts have been nice, and also how much I've enjoyed mocking certain of my coworkers. Then, I got down to business with a list of 20 suggestions for improving working conditions for the Tutor, which included: ice cream bar, health insurance and paid vacation, salary, monthly 50% raises, company car (preferably Volvo) with mileage reimbursement, suggestions of Bribes for the tutors in the contract that students sign, recliners, hats that say "do not disturb," Tenure, free tickets to Dorney Park and funnel cake vouchers, Tip jars, raffle prizes, subsidized lunch program, coffee maker with free Hazelnut coffee... you get the idea.

Finally, I decided that a rearrangement of the tutoring center layout would be in order. (The current arrangement is a big room with long tables where the students sit, and tutors run around like crazy to answer their questions.)

The new arrangement would give each Tutor his or her own premium "luxury cubicle," which would contain at the center a Lazy-boy in tutor's choice of Plush Velvet or Leather. In front of the "throne" would form a line of students, patiently waiting for help. (The tutor is free to refuse tutoring to any student for any reason, including "annoyance.") Between the throne and the line of students would be a Trap Door to conveniently and hygienically dispose of any such students deemed not worthy. Immediately behind the throne (180 degrees away from the students, mind you) would be a top-of-the-line entertainment center with high-speed internet access, digital flat-screen TV with satellite, surround-sound speakers, etc. On the right of the throne would be the aforementioned Ice Cream Bar (or vodka, for some of my coworkers...), and on the left, original works of art by Monet, Renoir, etc.

My boss and a number of other staff members found it highly amusing. :-)

Tonight I went to my friend Judy's house and helped her with a couple of things on her new blog. We are equally clueless about many Computer Things so it was fun to help each other and laugh a lot. We are pet-sitting this weekend for their 3 rabbits, 2 birds, a hampster, and fish, and I remarked, "So, if the rabbit ends up floating face-down in the tank, what do we do, call your cell...?" Nate has a good sense of Animal Care so I'm trusting him to give the Druggie Rabbit its doses at the proper times, etc.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005


I am at work and there are no Studentlets to keep me busy, so I'm nodding off. And Cold. I've been cold for days.

I just wanted you all to know that I was online a total of 6 hours and 19 minutes last night. Yeah. Not that I'm a Junkie or anything. I was reading about Jewish people in Africa. Because apparently after I get a math degree, I'm going to get a degree in... something else. Something about people, that uses statistics. People are more interesting than converting polar equations into rectangular coordinates, which is what I'm doing now.

That is all.

Today's Special!

For those of you who don't recognize it, that was the title of a particularly well-loved children's television program on Nickelodeon when I was a wee small lass (and Nate was a wee small lad- he remembers it, too!) (Okay, never mind; Nate now vehemently denies all such knowledge, other than "remembering the name," even though I could have sworn that in a previous place and time we had a conversation jointly exuberating over the fact that we BOTH watched that show!! Yay, something else in common!! Or, I guess now... Not. Anyway.) (And while we're in parenthetical-no-woman's-land, we might as well superfluously mention Belle & Sebastian, Pinwheel, and The Little Prince as pre-Blue's-Clues staples of early morning Nickolodean fare- though those of you out there who had the privilege to grow up in other lands have, by now, entirely no idea of what I'm talking about. Don't worry, if you missed early 80's cable in exchange for Africa, Pakistan, or Kuwait, can I just say- the exchange was well worth it?) (But now that the paragraph is ENTIRELY structurally shot by being chopped into zillions of itty bitty ideaological pieces with all these annoying PARENTHESES, we might as well also give a big shout-out to much beloved and sorely missed EVENING Nickelodeon programming, aptly titled "Nick at Nite" and boasting of such telecinematalogical gems as Mr. Ed, My Three Sons, Leave it to Beaver, Donna Reed, The Dick Van Dyke show, the Mary Tyler Moore show... Oh SWIZZLE STICKS [50's screen idols swore like that all the time], do I have to go and HYPERLINK every one of those for y'all...? Nah.) (Ooh ooh ooh one more thing, and then I'll end this sorry excuse for a Preface and start for Real, I promise I promise I promise... it's just that... um... *squeezing facial muscles really hard to remember the one last thing I was going to say* OH YEAH! :-D Um, I was just thinking, wouldn't it be cool if someday I wrote a long post about Television: its effect on my life past present and future; its role as Educator About Popular Culture and Distraction to Other Important Parts of Life; its Absence as a Sentient Life Form and Metaphoric Symbol in the contemporary Bush-Wentzel household; and, its extreme limitations (due to the lack of Cable) as a transtextual and iconoclastic [I have no idea what that means, it sounded good so I stuck it in] ideological springboard to discuss the socioeconomic and politicogustatorial struggles of semi-employed soon-to-be Graduate Students. Except now I've kind of screwed it up because the germ of the idea is buried here, in a Parenthetical Preface/Landfill, from whence it might never escape.)


I just realized (consciously; I've noticed it subconsciously before) that the internet has made me write run-on sentences purposely, as a literary style. I was trained in the avoidance of all things Splicey from an extremely young age, and still faithfully obey the Dictional Safety laws to avoid sentencial accidents and mishaps of all kinds, Run-on and otherwise, when I write formally or academically. (Brain Burp! An idea for children's software! A small java-scripted air-bag pops out every time the child types a run-on sentence! [My probably absurd misuse of the term "java-scripted" will clue in any who would be otherwise unaware that I am most definitively NOT the one to make the program. Still, wouldn't it be cute?] [I am hypertexting there just to decorate the text with a bit of blue.]) But anyway, with the atrocious grammatical habits of The Internet World, I have found myself succumbing to the flow of the narrative voice by using commas in places where there should be semi-colons. (Chris Long will now ask, "Really? Where? All your sentences look fine to me..." But he was raised in British System, without the benefit of semi-colons (and Nick. Jr.), so we really can't hold him responsible.)

(If, at this point in tonight's discourse, any of you [n=2?] are speculating what miraculous concoction of Substances have inspired tonight's musings, let me assure you all that a SINGLE CHOCOLATE PUDDING CUP is to be held solely responsible. And now, we return to the regularly scheduled programming.)

Oh yeah! Did anyone want to know WHY Today's Special? Well, today I skipped work to get my car fixed. It was an all-day kind of thing. Last month we spent over 700 on repairs to get her (her=Sylvia, the car) through registration, and then over the weekend Nate noticed oil leaking (again!) so today we got the gaskets replaced (again!) and a few other things (fuel filter, PCV valve, alignment). We are a bit concerned by the amount being spent on repairs but still don't think we're coming out TOO badly considering that we bought her pretty cheaply. I added up purchase price, maintenance, insurance, registration, and an estimate for gas, and it works out to about .25/mile that we spend on our car. AAA says a new car costs more like .56/mile, and standard mileage reimbursement is something like .40/mile, so I guess we're doing all right.

And while I waited for the car I walked across the street to the mall and shopped the JC Penney clearance racks for Nate. I bought him the Traditional Clearance Tacky Shirts that he loves, and mourned the lack of trendy clothing in size 2XLT. So many nice shirts that just aren't available in his size! :-( They DID have a tacky line of oversized T-shirts with cliched phrases about being Big (like, "Big People rule the world!" or something of that level of lack-of-originality). Honestly, don't they know that Big People have more to their lives than just the fact that they're big? (Like, occasionally, a sense of fashion?) It's not like they make clothes for short people that say, "Check it out! I'm short!" or clothes for skinny people that say, "Hey look! You might see my ribs!" or even clothes for average people that say, "Nothing special here! I'm just average!" So I don't know why an already-way-too-small section of a big department store would dedicate an entire precious rack of space to stereotypical Big People propaganda. How about some dress shirts in updated colors, instead?!

Anyway, Nate was just thrilled because one of The Cheap Shirts had snaps instead of buttons. Snaps, do you realize how exciting that is...?!?!?

Okay I have to get up in 8 hours so it is, by definition, Time for Bed.


PS That Also! thing? That was great, wasn't it? Well, I didn't come up with that; I ripped it from Finslippy, somewhere in the archives. Just bein' honest.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

"No WAIT- you set it equal to NEGATIVE zero!..."

My husband, calculating out loud.

Hello, World

I haven't posted in a long time.

The linear algebra book and I are having a head-to-concrete kind of battle. (I'm the head, it's the concrete.) I'm not making much progress. And the Lehigh Countdown is down to 26 days.

Other random notes:

1) Trip to Houston was great, and Bethany got married!! Pcitures coming soon.
2) I have spent several hours researching Hasidic Judaism in the past two days.
3) Today I made a trip to Babies-R-Addictive to shop for "socks" for Squidgle. $(An obscene amount of money) later, I came out with, yes, socks- and the entire wardrobe of coordinates to match. I think I need a twelve-step program. I have committed to take some of the little outfits back, but will spend the next few days agonizing over which ones. :-(
4) Today was a little bit "everything-is-going-wrong-ish." I spent too long at the Baby store (my fault!), got home, asked Nate if we could drop me off at my school and then he could drive to Lehigh instead of the reverse order, and he said "no," which made me mad and sulky, and ONLY LATER did I realize that he thought I had to be there at 3 instead of 2:30! And he picked today to finally pack up the Linux computer scattered all over the living room and take it to school, which is great, since I've been after him for weeks to do that, but it took extra time and I had to help carry the heavy computer to the car and it was HOT. (Today was the day 'cause he finally got the part he needed in the mail.) So I was all sulky-mad on the way to school, because I thought he was being selfish and uncooperative and I knew I was going to be 30 min. late to work, but I knew it was my fault for lingering too long in the baby store, and that just made me feel Worse sort of. But then we got to school and my Sweetie could tell I was overheating (physically and emotionally) and he brought out cold water to the car!! (It was at that point that I found out he didn't know I had to be at work by 2:30; he thought it was 3.) Then I cried all the way to work because I felt horrible for being mad at him when it was all my fault, and he was all kind and sweet and caring.

You see how it is?!

Then lots of little tiny things went wrong: I ate too much sugar at work (like always; donuts and cake spontaneously generate at that place); I stopped for gas and couldn't remember which side of the car the tank is on and of course no one was there when I first pulled up and got out, but by the time I awkwardly turned around it was All Full so I waited for awhile then got frustrated because I wasn't aligned properly to pull in smoothly and gave up and left and got gas somewhere else; I pulled into the wrong parking lot looking for the grocery store; I stopped at the grocery store and got what was perceived to be somewhat poor service at the deli; I needed a bathroom; I got to school to pick up Nate and he wasn't quite ready to go although there was milk and turkey in the car now.

So you see?

The linear algebra book is hopeless. I'm going to go try to get some calculus done.

PS I just re-read. How gloomy! How whiny! How somber! We need more Light-heartedness and Gaity here. Some good jokes and laughter and mirth of all kind. Where is Puddleglum? He would be just the chap for that sort of thing....