Archive for May, 2011

An Update on the Plants in My Life

You may remember the last post I wrote about the orchid that I’m trying to bring back to life.

we've made some progress!

I’ve been giving it special orchid food in it’s water every few days and I’ve been misting it with the orchid food 1-2 times a day. It’s started growing a new leaf out of the middle and some of its roots look more alive than they did before. I’d be thrilled if I could get it to flower this summer, but I’ll let the plant take all the time it needs to feel better enough before it starts flowering. I also thought of a name for the plant! I’m naming it Holly after my neighbor’s cat that past away a number of years ago. The original Holly was hit by a car,  just had kittens and was living in a dumpster when she was rescued (on Christmas eve, thus the name Holly), my neighbor adopted her and helped nurse her back to health. She was a very nice cat and was an outside cat. She never strayed further than a few houses away from her owner’s and wore a bell on her collar because my neighbor didn’t want her killing anymore birds.

I’m also growing some basil. Triscuit is promoting the home farming movement by providing seed cards on their boxes. I got basil seeds on the last triscuit box we had and decided to try growing them. My mom warned me that she had a lot of trouble getting basil to germinate in the past, which is why she just buys the little plants at a nursery and plants them in our yard. But I still decided to give it a go.

the seed card!

the card needs to be soaked for 2-4 hours before it can be split in half and planted

it says to plant both cards in the same 8 inch pot, but i wanted to give one plant to Scott so I went with two pots, they're just about to be covered with soil!

So I planted them on April 22. For a while they did nothing but then I saw a tiny speck of green in one of them, which has since grown into this!

a bigger tiny speck of green!


here's a close up! it made it's first mini basil looking leaves!!

I thought the other pot would be a dud, but recently it’s made it’s own tiny speck of green.

here's a closeup

They seem to be growing pretty slowly, at least way more slowly than my mother’s tomatoes. I’m thinking of naming the two of them Mr. Sam and Mr. Frodo.. but it seems weird naming them because I’m going to be eating them eventually.

Those are all of the plant’s I’m trying to grow right now, but here are some pictures of other nice things in my front and back yard. Note: not all of these are currently in season.



this columbine looks a lot like a dress

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Aging Vampires Depress Me

When I finished my finals I wasted a few days having Angel marathons on Netflix. I had started watching the series over winter break but had to stop when school started up again. After finishing the series, I went back to the first season of Buffy to watch an episode that wasn’t loading the day I had originally wanted to watch it a while back. Angel was in that episode. My first thought “Damn he was hot when he was younger!”

Angel in season 1 or season 2 of Buffy

I loved how he was always ending up shirtless. Male exploitation FTW!

The first two seasons of Buffy were great in that aspect. He really was always ending up shirtless, and half of those times he was chained to something and being abused by someone with holy water and crucifixes. My second thought after seeing the young David Boreanaz after I had just seen the last episode of Angel, “Oh crap, aging vampire!”

He's aged alright. I've refrained from posting a picture of him with no shirt on because even though he's still attractive, aging vampires depress me.

I understand that if you’re making a tv series that have vampires as some of the main characters, you can’t stop them from aging. But the thing that I find the most ironic is that that later on in the Buffy/Angel-verse was when they really started going into Angel’s history. This involved flashbacks to him being (17 supposedly) in various parts of Europe 200+ years ago, immigrating to America around 100 years ago and so on. Doesn’t exactly work well when you know they’ve aged since then.

Anyway, I liked Angel overall. At first it was really good and stayed that way, then really weird shit started to happen, then weirder shit started happening, then it got really really good again, then it got a bit weird but had a kick ass end. And not only did the black guy not die first, the black guy didn’t die period!

Now that I’m done with Buffy and Angel, I’m waited for the first two Buffy comics that I ordered to come. If they’re good I’ll consider buying some of the Angel comics and the rest of the Buffy ones, but only the ones Joss Whedon had input on.

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The Math Behind Why The House Always Wins

As a part of the course I took this past semester on teaching math in secondary schools, I (with a small group of my classmates) taught the class a unit on data analysis and probability. I also had to write a few short papers about certain things we covered in our lesson. What follows will be a merged summary of two of my papers.

Before I begin I’ll provide some vocabulary for those of you that never learned these terms or learned them and have since forgotten them.

Expected Gain: How much money we should expect to gain if we continue to gamble on one game for a long time.

Fair Game: A game in which the expected value is equal to zero. In other words if we played a fair game for a long time we should break even.

Unfair Game: A game in which the expected value is positive (we will profit from the game) or negative (we will lose money by playing the game).

Now, let’s consider a game where you win $4 if you roll a fair six sided die and it lands on “1” but lose $1 if it lands on any other number. Would you be tempted to play this game because winning $4 is more than loosing $1? The way we calculate the expected gain of this game is to multiply the chance of winning (1/6) in one play by the amount we would win ($4) in one play and add that to the the chance of loosing (5/6) in one play multiplied by how much we gain for loosing (-$1). The equation looks like this:

(1/6)($4) + (5/6)(-$1) = -$0.16666….

Our expected gain is equal to about negative 17 cents. Basically it means that if we continue to play this game for a long time, we should expect to lose 17 cents on average. If we won $5 for winning instead of $4 the expected gain would be 0 and this game would be fair.

Now you might be thinking that my example was stupid because no casinos have a lame game like the one I mentioned. If you are, I have two points to make (1) idiots will bet on anything, and (2) they might not have this game but they have others like it. Consider the game of roulette.

There are plenty of casino games I could discuss, but roulette is the simpliest to understand. There are many ways you can bet on the roulette wheel, evens and odds, red and black, a third, a single number, etc. I’ll discuss the expected gain for when we place our bet on evens or odds. The payout is 1:1 (if we bet $1, we win $1 and if we loose we loose the $1 we bet).  Do you think our chance of winning is 50:50?

If you think that half of the wheel is even and half of the wheel is odd you’re wrong because you’ve failed to noticed the two green “0” slots. If you think that more of the numbers are even because in mathematics zero is, in fact, an even number you’re also wrong because it’s not that way in the casinos. Did you notice that our chances of winning are not 50:50, yet our payout is 1:1? Our chances of winning are 17:36. The expected gain in this case is:

(17/36)(1) + (19/36)(-1) = (-323/630) =  -0.05555…

This means that on average we can expect to lose about 5.6% of what we’re betting.

The reason that the house always wins is because *every* game they have is unfair in their favor. The only exception is Blackjack (21), and it’s only an exception if you can count cards. They either rig the odds or payouts of every game so that they have some sort of advantage over you. Even if we win big, it doesn’t hurt the casino because our win is made up for by all of the other player’s losses. So there you have it, the math behind why the house always wins.

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The “math” Behind the Rapture (2011)

You may have noticed that this is listed under my category for “math” posts but this is not a math post. This is a post about a piece of pure bullshit.For those of you that don’t know, here’s how the “math” goes:

By Camping’s understanding, the Bible was dictated by God and every word and number carries a spiritual significance. He noticed that particular numbers appeared in the Bible at the same time particular themes are discussed.

The number 5, Camping concluded, equals “atonement.” Ten is “completeness.” Seventeen means “heaven.” Camping patiently explained how he reached his conclusion for May 21, 2011.

“Christ hung on the cross April 1, 33 A.D.,” he began. “Now go to April 1 of 2011 A.D., and that’s 1,978 years.”

Camping then multiplied 1,978 by 365.2422 days – the number of days in each solar year, not to be confused with a calendar year.

Next, Camping noted that April 1 to May 21 encompasses 51 days. Add 51 to the sum of previous multiplication total, and it equals 722,500.

Camping realized that (5 x 10 x 17) x (5 x 10 x 17) = 722,500.

Or put into words: (Atonement x Completeness x Heaven), squared.

“Five times 10 times 17 is telling you a story,” Camping said. “It’s the story from the time Christ made payment for your sins until you’re completely saved.

“I tell ya, I just about fell off my chair when I realized that,” Camping said.

Putting his interpretation of the Bible aside (believe me I could say a million things about how wrong it is), he did no math. It makes me even more surprised to learn that this man was a civil engineer. If you haven’t studied a lot of math you may be wondering why I claim that this is not math, but in fact, bullshit. What  this man is doing is pulling numbers out of the Bible and assigning meaning to them that they otherwise do not have, he is then performing random mathematical operations on those numbers and claiming the result has meaning because he got the same result two different ways.

His random numbers weren’t even good ones, they’re all deficient. I mean, if I were to construct such bullshit I would have used perfect or abundant numbers. How the hell a deficient number can represent “completeness” is beyond me. The reason the ancient Greek’s first called 6 a perfect number was because they thought the world was created in 6 days and thought it was cool that the the sum of 6’s proper divisors was twice 6. But even that doesn’t make 6 perfect in the non-mathematical sense, it’s just a name given to a mathematical property. There are also amicable, social and taxi cab numbers. Numbers can have all sorts of cool properties, but that doesn’t give them any real meaning. The number 3 and multiples of 3 appear all over various pagan myths. All that means is that the ancients happened to like the number 3 for some reason.

God created math and the universe. Any meaning numbers have was created by us.

Lastly, what confuses me the most, is that, if this guy was really scrutinizing the Bible, how did he miss that what is doing automatically makes him a false prophet? Jesus said only God knows when the world will end.

The world isn’t going to end in 2012 either, the alien overlords that sped up our evolution are going to come back and call us damn fools for forgetting all of the science they taught us. Or we’ll just go back to the beginning of the Mayan calender in the same manner that we get a new calender after every December 31st XD

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My Last Number Theory Class

I cannot believe that yesterday was my last Number Theory class. It wasn’t technically since I have my last exam before the final this coming Tuesday, but it was the last “class” class. It does not feel like that class is, or should be over. It feels like there’s so much more I’m supposed to learn. My professor was awesome even though my exam grades haven’t been the best.

No matter what I get on my next exam and final for this course, I can say I’ve learned a lot, most importantly that number theory is my favorite kind of math. It’s pure math, for those of you aren’t familiar there are two types of math, pure and applied. Things like calculus and probability are applied math, full of obvious applications to the real world. Pure math is when you stop caring about whether or not it has applications, in many cases it does, but it might not be immediately apparent.

One of the best things about number theory is that we only have to deal with integers. There’s no approximation because it’s all exact. FYI: I can’t stand approximation (or decimals for that matter). I think it bugs me because even though an approximate answer is considered an answer, I still feel that it’s incomplete.

Another awesome thing I love about number theory is the amount of unproved conjectures and areas of research I could go into. I feel like I actually have a fighting chance of doing something in this field if I can find a pure math master’s program with a good amount of number theory in it. There are even a few conjectures mentioned in class that I plan on playing with this summer just for the fun of it. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how hard and intense number theory is but I don’t really understand why, unless it’s because you need to understand the proofs to understand whats going on.. but I feel that that’s true of all math.

If you’re still reading and have not understood a thing I was talking about, I applaud you! Now I offer you a few of the fun facts my professor told us throughout the semester!

– That paper thing they slip over your coffee or tea at Dunkin or Starbucks is called a zarf

– Wilson didn’t prove “Wilson’s Theorem” or even come up with it. It was first conjectured by Leibniz, when Wilson conjectured it later independently, his teacher stole it and published it. It was finally proved by LaGrange. But Wilson gets the credit.

-Fermat’s Last Theorem wasn’t the only theorem he didn’t write out because he didn’t have enough room on the paper before he went and died. The same is true of Fermat’s Little Theorem. It was finally proved by Euler.

-The numbers (6 x 6 x 6), 666 – (6 x6) and 666 make up the sides of a right triangle. The area of this triangle is 666,666.

-The Law of Quadratic Reciprocity was first proved by Gauss at the age of 18 in 1796. He did six more proofs of it through out his life. As of 2000 there are 192 proofs of it.

-Euler had a thing for coming along and proving unproved conjectures

-Gauss was a genius, and was quoted “Mathematics is the queen of the sciences and number theory is the queen of mathematics.”

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Pineapple-Coconut Cupcakes!

I’m a part of my school’s Animal Rights (we’re actually more Animal Welfare.. but that is besides the point), and this week we had a bake sale to raise money to help out animals in the nuclear zone in Japan. A lot of people had to leave their pets behind when they were evacuated and are very distressed because of it. We’re planning on donating the money to J.E.A.R.S , they’re an organization made up of three no-kill shelters that joined together after the earthquake/tsunami to help out the animals.

My contribution were vegan (because our bake-sales are vegan) pineapple coconut cupcakes. Here’s a link to the recipe if you’re interested

Here they are before being decorated!

After being frosted with a sugar glaze and dipped in coconut!

.. then I put dried cranberries on them to make them look more delicious

These turned out great. I made two batches, one with the amount of sugar the recipe suggested, but I found that those weren’t sweet enough. They tasted more like pineapple bread than cupcakes. The next batch had twice the sugar and the cupcake effect was fully achieved! I frosted them with a sugar glaze in stead of the icing the recipe suggests for two reasons: (1) I hate frosting, (2) all of these vegan frostings use fake animal product of some kind, which means it’s more processed that I would like and probably has carrageenan in it, which I am allergic to.

Now a bit about “vegan” sugar. Some members of the group were telling me normal sugar isn’t vegan, because to refine the sugar is sifted through cow bones to make it white. I can kind of see the logic, but most of the websites I’ve looked for vegan recipes on don’t specify to use vegan sugar (but they do specify to use vegan butter, eggs, milk, cream, etc.) It has no bones in it, or else they couldn’t certify it as kosher. Technically my cupcakes were vegan because they contained no animal product, but they weren’t hardcore vegan because the sugar was refined using cowbones.

I don’t see how it’s directly fueling the cattle industry. I’d compare it to the use of rennet in cheese. Since a large number of people have stopped buying veal because of how cruel it is, now rennet is often mixed with an enzyme from pigs or stuff that comes from plants but achieves the same effect. The supply of veal went down so the cheese makers changed their ways. I think if there was a demand for less beef, the sugar companies might change start to their ways as well. I’d consider using vegan sugar next time if it doesn’t cost an absurd amount.

In the end I’m just happy I didn’t use any eggs, as they treat the chickens worse than they treat the cows.

And in other news, I have a part time job now, and a crap load of finals coming up. That is all.

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