Thursday, May 5, 2016

May 5- Weighted averages

One beautiful thing about my job is that everything happens in cycles.  A semester begins, a semester ends. There's a certain comfort in knowing that no matter how weird my teaching schedule is, or if there's a time-consuming student or two, that in a few months, all of that will change. I will have a different but equally weird teaching schedule, and a different but equally time-consuming student.

I teach, I test, I grade. There's a bit of zen in all of that.

It is nearing the end of the spring semester.  There is one question I get over and over again, so I thought I'd address it here.

"What do I need to get on the (last graded assignment of choice) to get an A/pass the class?"

This is a concept that most students struggle a bit with, and it isn't hard, you just have to think about weighted averages.

You know that to find an average, or the mean of a set of values, you would simply add those values together, then divide the sum by the number of values you added.  Well, a weighted average takes into account that not every assignment given in a course is weighted evenly.

In order to calculate the weighted average, you multiply each score by the weight it carries as a decimal.

For instance, Tommy has an average of 75% on his homeworks which are worth 10%.  He had an average of 84% on the quizzes which are worth 15%.  The exams were all worth 25%, and he got a 90% on the first exam, an 80% on the second exam, and hasn't yet taken the last exam.

So, Tommy needs to set up what he has:

So, if he skips taking the last test, he would receive a D in the class. That's not good enough! Tommy wants an A! Well, even if he geta a perfect score on the last test, that isn't possible.

62.5+(100)(.25)=87.5 that's a B.

Hrmmm, Tommy thinks. Well, if the best he can do is a B, what's the lowest grade he could get on the test to get that B? Just replace the test score with a variable, and solve.

62.5 + .25x = 80
-62.5                 -62.5

.25x = 17.5
/.25        /.25

X = 70

As long as Tommy gets a 70 on the test, he'll have that B.

So, clearly, if the last assignment is worth 20% of the overall grade, then how well a student does on that assignment could have a big impact on the overall grade.  But if the last assignment is only worth 5% of the overall grade, well, it's not such a big deal.

It's funny, students will get all worked up about a little assignment, but flake off during the big assignments.  For example, a student who came into my office today told me that he was so busy completing the extra credit problems (worth 10 points) that he forgot to study for the exam (worth 100 points).  See the problem?

But honestly, it's not just students and grades.  

I'm guilty, too.

What is worth the most? 

Tonight's post is late because I was taking care of high point things today: work, a run, making great food, spending this evening with my love.

The rest can wait for tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

May 4- Take a moment to count your ducks.

This morning, I got up, put on my running pants, laced up my shoes, and readied myself for a run.  But I didn't run.

I know! Gasp!  What a terrible turn of events!

It wasn't raining, I had plenty of time to do it, but as I was getting ready, my brain was just buzzing with everything I had to do today.  Most of the time, I would have gone on the run, because my run time is my serious thinking time.  I could have quelled a few anxious thoughts out on the trail, but I still would have had a bunch to do.

So, I decided not to run, and instead took my normal running time to count my ducks.

What is counting ducks? Well, some people might refer to this process as "putting their ducks in a row."  Damnit, though, I'm a mathematician. I am not okay with just lining the ducks up. I need to know how many ducks there are.

It's a number thing. It always is with me.

(Out of curiosity, I just looked up the origins of the idiom "to have ones ducks in a row." states that this phrase possibly originated from the process of lining up target ducks at a carnival game, but the version they suggest that I like better is the process of a mother duck lining up her ducklings.)

So, I wanted to count my ducks.  This is just taking a little bit of time to put my affairs in order to make life simpler.  This is me lining up my ducklings so that we can safely cross the streets of Boston.

I work in academia, so my life works in cycles. Pre-semester is always busy- writing syllabi, preparing courses, doing a lot of computer work. Midterms and Finals times are also super busy, I give many tests, I grade many tests, and the next day I do it again. Right now I'm entering the last week of the Spring Semester, and like many people in my life, I'm feeling the crunch. It was good to take a moment.

What did I do then, instead of running?  Well, I did some house cleaning- often times when work is quite busy, as with most people, my house can get cluttered.  I've been staying on top of the clutter, but taking the time to give the house a good going over was well worth it. I swept, I vacuumed, I washed the welcome mats and the table cloths.  I also did some food prepping. Because I teach so late on Mondays and Wednesdays this semester, I don't often get a chance to make lunches for the next day. So I cooked some rice that I will fluff with some hummus and cucumbers tonight for tomorrow's lunch.

I was talking with Mia today, and she was stressed about the end of her semester, too. I suggested she take a moment to get grounded.  She figured out that it was really one project that was giving her stress, and the only reason she was stressed was because her classmate/partner wasn't doing their share.  Realizing the cause of her stress I think helped her. I also think it was good for her to talk it out and realize that she could do the entire project on her own, and didn't need her partner.  She counted her ducks.

Take a minute right now. Count your ducks. What are you stressed about? What is one thing that you could do right now that would help your stress level? If it is vacuum, then you should vacuum.  If it's going for a run, you should do that, too.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

May 3- To live at the risk of not being seen...

I came out on Sunday and announced to the world (at least to my little corner of it) that I was going to start writing. I have a book in me, I said. I am going to write every day, I told friends.  Several people encouraged me, telling me they wanted to read what I wrote, and buoyed by their encouragement, I wrote a really silly and fun blog post yesterday.

"Oooh," I thought, "I can't wait to hear what everyone thinks!"

I posted the blog link to my group, to my friends, and to other writers. I checked my post again and again. I wondered if my post actually went through. I bemoaned the techbunnies. I cursed social media algorithms.

And then, the self-doubt got me.  Why couldn't anyone see me? I just wanted everyone to laugh and tell me how cute my mouse story was. 

I felt unseen.

Please don't feel like this is a self-pitying post, or feel obliged to comment on this, past, or future posts, I'm just telling you how I felt....

This is not a rare phenomenon.  I have recently talked to several separate people who feel unseen, disconnected, unsupported and even ignored.  How can that be?

Well, one thing to keep in mind that if you use any type of social media to connect with others, you are subject to the algorithms of that platform.  If you feel unseen by people IRL, you might be out of sync with their current schedules.  

The internet is a wide beautiful place.  It gives us a false sense of closeness, and can skew our world perceptions because we join groups that are likely populated by similarly minded folk.  For instance, if I were to look at my facebook feed, I would assume that at least half of the world's population is vegan, because I make connections with vegans.  Looking at my instagram, one might guess that all of my friends were lithe and limber yogis, when in reality, most of the yogis I know would cringe to be photograph in bikinis.  Honestly, I have been surprised at the current state of American politics, because no-one I know is excited about the direction the primaries are headed. Clearly, my social circles, both on and off the internet, are biased in one way or another.

Like the internet, the human race is a varied population much bigger than we could ever imagine.

Sometimes it is hard to remember that just by shouting into the void, we are not always going to be heard.

Even when we share ourselves with those we love, we may not get the feedback we are looking for.  I asked Rob last night if he'd enjoyed my blog about the mice, and he confessed that he hadn't read it because he had too much work to do. I understand that. There have been days I've been remiss about emailing him because I've felt swamped at work.  Life happens.

But- what do we do? Is it worth it to live at the risk of not being seen? Do we just give up and stop sharing?

We can't. We just can't. Sharing ourselves is what makes us human. Whether we do so in person, or virtually via the interwebs, we must share.  And we must understand that sometimes we will be seen.

And sometimes we won't.

And we keep going. I will keep writing.

One of my favorite musicians, Amanda Palmer, has a lyric that I've incorporated into my motto lately.

"Stop Pretending Art is Hard."

Is it hard not to be seen? Sure. But harder yet is not to speak.

So, I have a favor to ask of you- if you read this, take a moment and make someone feel seen.  (Not me- I'm a big girl, I can take your silence.) Seriously, though, I implore you to tell someone who may feel under-appreciated that you see and respect them.


Monday, May 2, 2016

May 2- An open letter to the mice living under my stove

Dear Mice,

When we moved into this house, you didn't move in right away. You gave us a year to get settled, to let our guard down. Then, the second spring came with the typical east coast rain, and suddenly you were here.

Each year that you move in (and you sneaky buggers only seem to move in during particularly wet years) there's always about a month period of denial.

Me: Did you hear that in the kitchen?
Rob: Hear what?
Rob: Do you think we have mice again?
Me: Nahhh, we can't.

Part of my denial, please understand, dear mice, is that I don't understand how you can get away with brazenly setting up shop underneath the stove with three dogs in the house! Are you confused about this, too? Do you go to sleep at night thinking "Holy mouse-gods, how did we not get eaten by those barking fiends today?"

The second step, after denial, is bargaining.

Me (shouting towards the stove) : Ok, ahem, yes, hello Mice. I recognize that you're here. I get that it is wet outside and you've just moved in on a temporary basis. I'm okay with this. But let me lay some ground rules.
Me: OK, rule number 1 is that you must keep all of your activities confined to the floor area. If there is any scampering, skittering, or darting, it needs to stay on the floor.
Me: Rule number 2 is about your nesting and bathroom habits. If you could try to keep things tidy, I would really appreciate it. You'll notice that I no longer keep my baking sheets in the drawer below the oven. I've conceeded that space to you. But ONLY that space, understand?
Me: Rule number 3 is about food. If it is on the floor, it is fair game, but if you start nibbling into my supply of nutritional yeast or garbanzo bean flour, that is immediate grounds for eviction.
Me: And last rule, if and when you start procreating, please let your offspring know that you are not in development here. If they start moving out of the oven drawer and into other areas, I'm going to tell you right now, those are not friendly mouse zones. Are we in agreement?
Me: I take it by your total silence on the subject that you understand and will abide by these rules.

The third step, which is where we currently stand, is where you mice start pushing the envelope. You start getting a little more comfortable. You are still abiding by the rules, but in a taunting way. Last night, as I sat at the kitchen island, catching up on some student emails, I could catch the glimpses of movement out of the corner of my eye. No direct mouse sighting, but shadow movements, like the dust sprites in My Neighbor Tortoro.

I want to warn you, dear mice, that this kind of subversive behavior is not kind to your human hosts and providers. I know you think that because I am a vegan and I keep a cruelty free house that you are safe. You are safe, from death traps, those which might break your back, or rip off your skin. But what you are not safe from, dear mice, is me.

You see, I have amazingly fast reflexes when armed with a clear measuring cup. I have single-handedly caught many of your mice forefathers (and foremothers). I have a tiny animal carrier. I will begin rounding you up, and taking you to my running trail, many many miles away. When I catch you, you will go. Do I feel sad that you will probably never meet up with the remainder of your mouse family? Yes. But will I feel like a badass for live-catching you by hand and popping you in the woods? You'd better believe it.

So, mice, this is your warning. You can quietly leave together now. I understand that there are several rotting trees in the back yard which would provide lovely nesting material. I don't even think our feral cat shelter back there is currently occupied, if you wamt to give that a go. Or, if you choose not to leave, you need to make sure every single one of our agreed on rules is followed.

Otherwise, lookout! I'm coming for you!


May 1, Rabbit, Rabbit.

Rabbit, Rabbit.
If you've known me for a while, you know that on the first day of the month, first thing in the morning, I say "Rabbit, Rabbit."
It started in 2013, when I was reading a book wherein one of the characters said the phrase. The next day (12/1/13) I heard this quick bit on NPR's Weekend Edition (  Ever since then, it has stuck.
Do I believe my month will be unlucky if I don't say it? No, but I always say it. Just like I always touch the nose top of the bronze statue of Fala at the FDR memorial. There are just certain things that I DO. There's one particular thing I do prior to flying that I don't make a big deal about, but I just always do. After a little while, Rob asked me why I did it. It's not for luck, or anything in particular, it just is something I do. And over the years, it is cute, because now Rob and Mia do it, too.
Do I have a touch of OCD? Yes, probably. But I'm in good company. Among others who said "Rabbit, Rabbit" on the first of the month are FDR and Gilda Radner. Not a bad bowling team to join.
But this touch of OCD is probably why I love using my Mala for meditation. In Tibetan Buddhism, a mala is strung with 108 beads. Using this mala in meditation, the thought, mantra, prayer or desire is repeated 108 times, the thought being that through this repetition it is transferred into the universe.
Today I say Rabbit, Rabbit with a happy heart. Not only is it the start of a new month, but because I will finish out my spring semester this month, I'm establishing some new goals for myself that I hope to carry through (and add to!) This summer! Since May had 31 days, I'm resurrecting my #writeandrun31, meaning I plan to write every single day (and run 5+ days a week). There is a book inside me. And I want to start writing it this summer. So, even if I don't write material that will end up in my book, I will be writing every day. I'm also going to be doing some things in the next two weeks to make sure I don't get stressed with work, including meal preping, making time for yoga & meditation, and making sure I get plenty of sleep.
What are you doing today to set yourself up for the month?
And, remember, if you forgot to say "Rabbit, Rabbit" first thing this morning, don't forget to say "Tibbar, Tibbar" tonight before you go to sleep.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Plan May 2-8

I've been eating hastily lately. With travel, and evening classes, and hero flights, it is high time for a week of the cleanest, purest foods I know....

It is May 1st. I am very ready for the spring semester to end. The end of the semester gets so hectic! So I took time today to prep, grocery shop, and plan.

Yoga & walk
Breakfast: Blueberry pancakes
Lunch: leftover Pizza Poppers
Dinner: Avocado white bean crostini

Yoga & run (4+)
Breakfast: Pumpkin ONOs
Lunch: Chipotle (Teacher appreciation day! Free tacos for me!)
Dinner: Tijuana Tacos

Yoga & walk
Breakfast: Blueberry Coconut ONOs
Lunch: leftover Tijuana Tacos
Dinner: Green smoothie

Yoga & run (4+)
Breakfast: Pumpkin ONOs
Lunch: Mediterranean Rice
Dinner: Tico Taco Pie

Yoga & run (4+)
Breakfast: Cinnamon vanilla chai ONOs
Lunch: leftover Tico Taco Pie
Dinner: Sweet Potato Curry Noodles

Yoga & run (12)
Breakfast: Breakfast Muffin
Lunch: leftover Sweet potato curry noodles
Dinner: Thai Taquitos

Breakfast: Tofu Sandwich
Lunch: leftover Thai Taquitos
Dinner: Vegan Potato cakes with mushrooms

Monday, April 25, 2016

Plan April 25- May 1

I haven't been posting my food plans (OR MUCH OF ANYTHING) lately. In part because I've been writing other things. Mostly, though, because I've been traveling and working and working and working and working. Sigh. This semester is kind of kicking my butt right now...

But... I have a great plan for the future (to be shared, you guessed it, in the future). For now, I am focusing on my first goal of March Madness (remember that?) To drink 100 oz of water a day, and continuing to train for the Wildwood Half Marathon.

I was really good about yoga-ing last week. I love yoga, and find that if I can dedicate even just ten minutes a day to it, I feel better. Unfortunately, if I don't get it done in the morning, I am not very good about yogaing in the afternoon. This week I am also challenging myself to rediscover the love that is every day yoga practice.

Yoga & walk
Breakfast: Orange muffin
Lunch: Weekend leftovers
Dinner: Banana Berry Chai Smoothie

Tuesday Yoga & run (4+)
Lunch: tofu sandwich
Dinner: Pizza poppers

Yoga & walk
Lunch: pizza poppers
Dinner: Banana Berry Chai Smoothie

Yoga & run (4+)
Lunch:Mediterranean hummus pasta
Dinner: tofu sandwich

Breakfast: fruit & vega shake

Breakfast: fruit & vega shake
Dinner: Buffalo Ranch chickpea burgers

Yoga & run (10)
Breakfast: peanut butter french toast
Lunch: Buffalo Ranch chickpea burgers
Dinner: "Tuna" melts