Perhaps it’s time I wrote something.


Pi Day Pie Fight for a Cause

Hoosier Party Girl

Pi Day Pie Image from Buzzfeed – original source no longer available

Pie on Pi Day (March 14th as in ∏ = 3.14…) is nothing new. My family loves pie and obscure jokes like math jokes. Having a pie fight on Pi Day sounds like a fun new twist. A local group that has raised money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society each year through the East Central Indiana Walk MS is upping the ante this year to make a bigger donation. Their goal is to raise $1000 before participating in this year’s walk. They are raising this money by putting on a big messy pie fight.

You can donate here to help fund MS research. If you are in central Indiana, you can join in the pie fight on Pi Day at Central Christian Church in Anderson (923 Jackson Street 46016). There will be a raffle for the right to Throw the First…

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A partial diagnosis.

So we took our son back to see the pediatric neurologist today, an appointment I’ve been looking forward to for some time.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to come to any solid conclusions. It’s clearly some sort of Pervasive Developmental Disorder, but he says he’s reluctant to put it solidly in the autism spectrum. If it _is_ autism, it’d be a very high-functioning type. Asperger’s is out of the question – he’s exhibiting exactly the wrong set of behaviors for that. We haven’t had an MRI done yet (at his age, you have to put them under general anaesthesia or they won’t hold still), and it doesn’t help that the blood tests we had done six months ago somehow never made it from St Vincent to Riley, although the urine tests did, thankfully.

About all he can offer is right now is PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified) – meaning, it’s a PDD, but it just doesn’t seem to fit any subcategories.

At the suggestion of a co-worker whose area of expertise is childhood development and education, I inquired whether an auditory processing disorder might be at work. He said that was something worth looking into, since APD is frequently co-morbid with other disorders like autism and AD/HD.

He gave us the name of another specialist, whom we’re going to try to set up an appointment with. That probably won’t be for a couple of months yet.

This might sound strange, but despite the lack of a definitive diagnosis, I feel better. Like we’re on the right path, making progress.

On the downside, we think he’s also coming down with a cold or something. If it’s not one thing… 🙂



They say “less is more.”

But, by the law of identity, more is also more.

Continue reading ‘More’


Pachinko Boards & Ferris Wheels

Back in the early 60s there was a guy at MIT – Ed was his name – who was using computers to model the weather. Computers in the 60s being what they were, Ed didn’t have a lot of the tools we take for granted in the 21st Century, like entire gigabytes of RAM. Or a hard drive to save your data. Or even a screen to look at. If he wanted to know what his program was doing, he had to include instructions to print the information.

So one night, he was in the middle of a complicated simulation, but needed to leave. So he told the program to print its current state, took the printout, and left. The next morning, he put those numbers back into the program… and something went wrong. The model the computer produced was nothing like the one it was working on the previous night.

Ed checked his program and checked it again, and couldn’t find any mistakes. Eventually, he came to a startling conclusion: his printout was at fault – sort of. See, the computer held numbers in memory out to six decimal places of precision, like 0.517228, but the code he’d written to print the program’s state rounded everything to three places, like 0.517. Such a minuscule difference… surely that couldn’t produce an entirely different result?

As it turns out, yes, it could.

An analogy: consider a pachinko board with no pegs in it, just a smooth board and a puck. Let the puck go, and it will slide down the board and land in a particular place; adjust the puck’s position only slightly, and the place it lands will only be slightly different.

Now put the pegs in, and repeat the experiment; now the tiniest change in the puck’s starting position can produce a markedly different path down the board.

This “sensitive dependence on initial conditions” is what Ed discovered with his weather model: a small change in the input can affect the result just as much as a big change.

Sensitive dependence on initial conditions – a key concept of chaos theory – is why your local meteorologist can’t predict the weather more than about a week ahead, and couches forecasts in terms of percentages – “a 30% chance of rain” and so on – because some weather patterns are more or less stable than others. (It’s also why the stickman at the craps table demands that you throw the dice hard enough to hit the opposite wall – all the creases in the side of the table introduce a level of chaos into the most controlled throw.)

When Ed told his co-workers what he’d found, one of them replied that if he was right, a single flap of a seagull’s wing could change all the weather on the planet forever.

Years later Ed would describe this mathematical reality with a similar image, although he used a butterfly instead of a bird, possibly thinking of a famous short story in which the death of a butterfly changed history. But the point is, weather is a chaotic system. It’s impossible to predict with absolute accuracy what will unfold. Who knows if a person sneezing at the top of a Ferris wheel could tip the balance and push a 50mph gust of wind up to 70mph?

Things I’m thinking about as I watch the news reports from the Indiana State Fair.



I haven’t posted since May?? Holy cow.

Part of it’s because I’ve been super-swamped at work (my regular job, plus teaching a class on the side.)

Part of it’s because I have things I want desperately to say that I’m afraid to because I worry I’m going to start fights with people I’d rather not start fights with.

I’ll try to get over the latter, while waiting for a reprieve from the former.


Auto-Pilot Program. :-(

Account -> Privacy Settings -> Applications and Websites -> Instant Personalization Pilot Program: Edit Setting. Uncheck the box.

Facebook didn’t ask our permission before signing its users up for this. Surprise, surprise, surprise.

For the moment, we’ll just have to have faith that Pandora.com, Yelp.com, and Microsoft’s Docs.com are going to play nice with the information about us that they now have. What if (yeah, right, “if”) Facebook decides that one of its future “trusted partners” will be someone that we really shouldn’t trust?

Continue reading ‘Auto-Pilot Program. :-(‘

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Look back in wonder…

Chirp. No, wait, tweet.