Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Inspired boredom

I have a sinus infection.

I spent today in my room nearly exclusively.

Two rather unfortunate statements.

In order to assuage my boredom and ennui, I took to re-imagining the banality of my room using my camera and some natural light--high and low.

Taken 12/29/14 at 12:09PM EST
F-stop: f/4
Exposure time: 1/1250 seconds
ISO: 6400
Auto white balance, auto ISO
with Nikon D7000 body and Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens
I love to experiment with depth of field. This is just a tuner and capo on my mousepad. I kept the aperture stopped down somewhat to shrink the field of view and had plenty of light, so I could get away with a higher shutter speed and high ISO.

Taken 12/29/14 at 12:14PM EST
F-stop: f/4.5
Exposure time: 1/2500 seconds
ISO: 3600
Auto white balance, auto ISO
with Nikon D7000 body and Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens
Over time some bubbles formed on the inside of my glass of water--a thin enough layer that even the curvature of the glass renders some of them out of focus at f/4.5. I had plenty of light to work with here as well.
Taken 12/29/14 at 3:18PM EST
F-stop: f/4.5
Exposure time: 1/250 seconds
ISO: 6400
Auto white balance, auto ISO
with Nikon D7000 body and Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens
Here I put three objects in order (the second is pretty dusty), and used approximately the same depth of field as the previous two images. My desk was getting boring, so...to a bookshelf for this one. The painting is from a local Ludington painter. My Grandpa and Grandma Split had it in their home.

Taken 12/29/14 at 6:43PM EST
F-stop: f/1.8
Exposure time: 1/80 seconds
ISO: 6400
Auto white balance, auto ISO
with Nikon D7000 body and Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens
I stopped down to f/1.8 for this one on account of low light. The vantage point is from my desk into my neighbor's backyard. There is a little bit of orange light from across the street that gets blurred through the screen. Of the series of shutter speeds and apertures I took, this most accurately described the mood of my room at the time.

Engineering 209 class devotions (Fall 2015)

I took some time to list (with videos and lyrics) the songs I used for devotions on Thursday before class this fall. For most of them I talked about what they mean to me as a Christian, and why I think they're important themes for Christians to engage with. Sometimes I asked questions and got answers, sometimes I asked questions and got silence--both were great responses.

Him--Lily Allen
I asked students what they thought the song meant. Who is it written to? A lover, God, Christians, non-Christians? Do you think that God has a different morality than humans? Do you find the personification of God in the song to be interesting, horrifiying, enlightening?
I don't have answers, but I think the song raises some great, provocative and interesting questions about human meaning and context.
[Youtube, Lyrics]

Ghetto Gospel--2Pac
Why don't we sing songs like this in church? How does this compare to a worship song you would sing in church? How does the 'ghetto gospel' compare to the 'New Testament gospel'?
[Youtube, Lyrics

Jesus Walks--Kanye West
I love the visual themes in this music video. The first one was produced and funded by a record label, but Kanye wasn't happy with it, so he funded this one himself.
It's pretty remarkable how well this song did on the popular charts. Do you think a song like this could do well today? Why, why not?
I don't completely agree with Kanye's theology in terms of grace and redemption lyrically, but visually it is a stunning piece.
[Youtube, Lyrics

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For--U2
It's essentially a song of lament. A type of psalm perhaps--a song of longing. This is basically the reality of life for most of us. Christians to an extent have found what we're looking for, but cannot experience God outside of our frail human senses.
I love the biblical imagery in the song: speaking with the tongue of angels, holding the devil's warm hand, kingdom come, broken bonds, loosed chains, cross of shame.
[Youtube, Lyrics]

Life & Love & Why--Switchfoot
L&L&W is from one of Switchfoot's earlier albums--it was one of my favorites (the Legend of Chin was often on repeat in my room while I read).
It seems very like Ecclesiastes to me at first blush--meaning of life stuff.
My simple answer to these questions is this: the sacrifice of Christ is utterly compelling--it is singular in selflessness and purpose.
[Youtube, Lyrics]

I Don't Know--Dredg
An agnostic's prayer of sorts. I've written about it here already.
The "moments of awakening" and blanket of "the warmth of ignorance" illustrate our human struggle to interact with the divine.
Someone on a message board (Qohelet) had a delightful perspective:
although the "it" may mean more than one thing. It is interesting that we communicate as if a possible-god is obligated to guarantee us anything, as if such a being is on trial by us instead of vice versa. Speaking agnostically, if there really was some ultimate, all-knowing being able to guarantee us longevity, a special place, etc., would it be more realistic to suppose that he must prove himself to us or that we must prove ourselves to him? If the latter, then we may well be in a state without all the answers so that this possible-god can assess what we are really interested in finding out / becoming.
[Youtube, Lyrics] 

Shall Never Lose Its Power--La Dispute
From the perspective of a person/people who lost their faith and became cynical about it.
Imagery like the lion can be very comforting or horrifying depending on what perspective you have (the last lines: feeling belonging is great when you're on the inside, but the separation can be painful--tangled intruders).
My friend Mike's story: when shunned by Christians and family for being an atheist.
Clearly there's a lot of pain in this song, due to the departure:
hands tied to the tracks and left
brick to the back of your head
whining turns to wonder turns to ice
...Christianity feels like a fence.
This is why it's so important to talk about issues of doubt and the grey areas--we can hurt people on purpose or not, if we don't listen--that goes for any experience. People and their doubts deserve to be heard--everyone has a story and legitimate beliefs, even if we don't agree and even if we think that Jesus is the best thing for everyone. We don't get to decide for people.
[Youtube, Lyrics

Polarize--21 Pilots (suggested by a student)
Instinctively I think, we gravitate toward binary separations--it is generally easier to say a thing is "not" than to describe exactly where it belongs in a taxonomy.
Naturally we observe light and dark, cold and warm, often using these forms to describe our relation to the divine. In this song, Tyler illustrates this pattern in his desire to polarize his life--the mistakes and successes.
But it's not enough to put our actions in bins and weigh them against each other. He doesn't expressly give this as his purpose, other than to be an adversary to the evil he has done (make up in some way).
His redemption begins at 'Domingo en Fuego...' It's the shift that recognizes that binary categorization and work are not in fact redemptive--the redemption arises when "You'll have to come and find me."
As a whole it's an allegory for the Christian life in its realization of grace.
[Youtube, Lyrics]

To Be Alone With You--Sufjan Stevens
I think of this song as the answer to L&L&W by Switchfoot. It's the answer to why I'm a Christian.
[Youtube, Lyrics]

Some Nights--Fun.
Most nights I don't know any more...
I can relate to this. It takes you a while to figure this out.
We find this best during periods of struggle. I found out part of it in college and much more afterwards.
Find the people that help you find who you are--people will want to tell you who you are, but that's for you to decide. You have to make sense internally as a person.
Pursue harebrained ideas and do the hard things, because you can be used in crazy ways.
My own experience in academia was painful, it doesn't have to be, but it was and it lead me to be able to teach you guys, which taught me that I like teaching!
[Youtube, Lyrics

You Can't Always Get What You Want--the Rolling Stones
Kind of a cliche, but it applies to life and pays homage to God's plan as a similar theme.
There have been a number of things that I thought I wanted: PhD, job in pharmaceutical development managing a lab, etc. but...
what I have now is the opportunity to have an evolving balance in my life, teach, write/play music, lead Young Life, coach Science Olympiad, and have a full time job with the flexibility to be there for friends. It's what I needed, not what I wanted.
[Youtube, Lyrics

My God--Jethro Tull
In light of shootings, mayhem, terror, racism and sin (lecture days after San Bernardino shooting)...
No matter which side you are on: liberal/conservative, protestant/catholic, etc.-->
God cannot be used nor will he be bent to your justifications--that is no god; that is your desire and blindness of will.
[Youtube, Lyrics

MC Gift of Gab and DJ Chief Xcel are obviously at the top/peak of their craft--this track is pristine.
As engineers you'll leave this class and continue to do the same calculations that every other engineer does--how do you do engineering differently than anyone else, secular or Christian? That is something that no one can tell you. You need to figure it out for you.
Values/intention/bridge to the non-technical/how you view it/worship God through your work are a few examples, but it will be different for everyone.
[Youtube, Lyrics

Friday, December 18, 2015

Oh that the youth would know the cubic, solve the cubic

This is a generic cubic:
0 = e x3 + f x2 + g x + h

with coefficients e, f, g, and h.

This is the Van der Waal's EOS, a cubic:
P = [R T / (ν - b)] - [a / (ν2)]                           or,
P ν2 = [R T ν2 / (ν - b)] - a                              or,
P ν2 (ν - b) = (R T ν2) - a (ν - b)                      or,
P ν3 - b P ν2 = (R T ν2) - (a ν) + (a b)             or,
P ν3 - (b P + R T) ν2 + (a ν) - (a b) = 0           where,

e = P;
f = -(b P + R T);
g = a;
h = a b
and we're using ν as the independent variable instead of x, of course, but it's the same format.

[For the curious: P is pressure, R is the gas constant, T is absolute temperature, a and b are constants based on critical properties of the specific gas, and ν is specific volume.]

13/27 of my students know how to solve a cubic function.

That is less than half. You solve cubics in high school. Sometimes you solve them in middle school.

It's not surprising that many people criticize engineers for being out of touch with reality--so many just love to play with equations without thinking about what the equations are, or how they can be used/manipulated.

They are tools, not magic, and need to be treated with respect and that understanding, but not reverence.

During the final, one of my students said to me:
"No one ever taught me to solve an equation like this."

I thought about that. What I said was along the lines of:
If you don't know how to solve it, show me clearly, as far as you can, what you've done, and what you would do.

What I thought was:
No. Someone taught you how to solve a cubic; you've done it many times. You just don't recognize this is an instance of the cubic you know how to solve, because you view this equation as being special, because it is the Van der Waals EOS. It can be manipulated just like any other polynomial that you know.
Then I cried and cried and cried and probably vented to Twitter.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Silly Songs with Squad

My friends Lauren and Maddie joined in to help keep the beat by playing the tops of a couple of pots with some spoons at YL club this week. IT WAS DELIGHTFUL.

It seems like even though I always practice for the entire week beforehand, there's always something that distracts me when I'm playing in front of kids and causes me to miss a chord, or more. It could be the unnecessary sunglasses, the hilariously mistimed clanging pans, the small print, or really anything else I suppose.

I guess I really don't care, unless the kids don't like it. My philosophy remains:
Look like a fool in front of the kids, if it will contribute to their self-confidence or help them feel like they fit in and belong.
Anyway, it was fun and I found this song in the bumper music on the "Free Beer and Hot Wings Show." It's a really good song. Pretty old. From a British band.

"Airplane Song" by 'the Royal Guardsmen':

Unrelated, but this was the first time I ever just sat down and recorded something that I was ~happy with in the first take.