The Liebster Award for Blogging

I’d like to thank Richard, at https://photosociology.wordpress.com/, for nominating me for the Liebster Award for blogging. It’s an honor to simply have someone choose to follow my blog, and I feel grateful every time I get a new follower, but this takes that feeling of being honored to a whole new level.

liebster1

These are the guidelines for the 2018 Liebster award:

• Thank the person who nominated you
• Display the award on your post
• Write a small post about what makes you passionate about blogging
• Provide 10 random facts about yourself
• Answer the questions given to you
• Nominate 5-11 other blogs for this award
• Ask them creative and unique questions of your own
• List the rules and inform your nominees of the award

What makes me passionate about blogging? Well, for as long as I can remember, I have been passionate about mathematics, to the point of obsession. Blogging gives me a way to record and share the results of that obsession. My blog isn’t 100% math, but mathematics-related posts outnumber everything else here by a wide margin, and it is my love of mathematics that keeps this blog going.

On to the ten random facts about myself . . .

  1. I have Aspergers Syndrome, now officially known in the USA as high-functioning autism. I didn’t discover this until I was already in my 40s (I’m now 50), though, for which I am grateful. I see being an “Aspie” as a difference, not a disease, nor a disability.
  2. I’m married to a wonderful woman; we celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary soon.
  3. I’m a high school teacher. Next year will be my 24th year in the classroom. I mostly teach mathematics and the “mathy” sciences. My wife is a teacher as well; she teaches mathematics.
  4. Strangely enough, both of my college degrees are in history. This generally puzzles people, but it’s easy enough to explain: I chose to major in something I didn’t yet know much about, and about which I was (and still am) curious. My experiences in elementary, junior high, and high school math classes were abysmal, and I didn’t care to continue that experience.
  5. I’m not religious. The label I prefer is not “atheist” nor “agnostic,” though, but simply “skeptic.” This reflects the fact that I have two primary methods for determining what I consider to be true: mathematical proof, and the scientific method. Skepticism is essential for both.
  6. I see my brain as an organic computer, and frequently work on re-writing my own software, usually while asleep. This is something I’ve blogged about before, as are most of the things in this list.
  7. I started blogging on Tumblr, and came to WordPress a few years later, in 2012, to escape what I call Tumblr’s “reblogging-virus.”
  8. My political orientation has changed over the years, and is now best captured by the term “anti-Trumpism.” I’ve also been known to call myself a “neo-Jeffersonian.”
  9. I’m LGBTQ-friendly.
  10. I’ve seen the fantastic band Murder By Death seven times. Here is a sample of their music, from one of their older albums. You can find much more about them at http://www.murderbydeath.com.

Now I need to answer the questions which Richard has posed for me. I have a hunch my “Aspieness” will come out in some of these answers.

1. How straight is straight?

“For any two points, there is exactly one line which contains them.” This is a fundamental postulate of Euclidean geometry. Straightness is a characteristic of such lines.

2. What would you think I was referring to if I told you to ‘put it down’?

The contents of my hand(s), of course. If I wasn’t holding anything, I’d simply be confused, and would ask for clarification.

3. Why are swans graceful?

Swans have the characteristics they have because they evolved that way. It is human beings who have chosen to label some of those characteristics as “gracefulness.”

4. Would you be a superhero or a sidekick, and what would your name be?

I would do neither, for I have at times suffered from delusions that I had superpowers. I don’t want my mind to go there again. One example of this was a belief, years ago at a time of ridiculously high stress, that my emotional state could control the weather. If I start thinking I have superpowers again, I’ll immediately take the medication prescribed by my psychiatrist for just such an eventuality. 

5. If you could remove one letter from the English alphabet, what would it be, and what consequences do you see coming from it?

I suppose I would choose the letter “c,” for the soft “c” can be replaced by the letter “s,” and the hard “c” by the letter “k.” I’m not sure what we’d do for the “ch” sound, though.

6. What was the last thing you lost and never found? What do you imagine has happened to it?

That’s my Social Security card, which I need to get replaced soon. I don’t have a clue what happened to it.

7. What significance does the number seven have to you? What memories do you associate with it?

I’ve blogged about the significance of the number seven, so I refer you to that post for the answer to this question. The only memory of the number seven I recall is when a friend of mine named Tony explained to me the ideas which later inspired that blog-post.

8. Young and completely broke or old and disgustingly rich?

Neither, by the standards of where I live (the USA). We’re middle-class. We live comfortably, but not extravagantly.

9. If a giant squirrel had commandeered your mode of transportation, whether car, moped, bike etc., and seemed to know how to make it work, what would you do to stop him?

I would assume this was a hallucination, and I would immediately take the medication I mentioned when I answered question #4, above.

10. If you had your own coat of arms, what would I expect to find on them to describe you/ your family?

Some of my ancestors were Scottish, and their clan already has a coat of arms, so I’d simply use it.

Clan Keith

Next, here are my nominees for this award. These are all blogs I find interesting. I also deliberately chose blogs which are radically different from my own.

Robert Vella’s The Secular Jurist

The hilarious blog Seinfeld Law

da-AL’s Happiness Between Tails

The blog https://bananartista.net/

The blog https://swo8.wordpress.com/

Now I need some questions for these fine bloggers to answer:

  1. Do you see the current occupant of the White House as a problem? If so, what, if anything, are you doing about it?
  2. How strong a role does mathematics play in your life?
  3. Which of the sciences do you find most interesting, and why?
  4. Of all the posts on your blog, which one do you think is your best work?
  5. What food(s), if any, could you absolutely not give up for the rest of your life, even for $100,000?
  6. What do you think of astrology?

That’s it! Thanks again to Richard for nominating me; I’m glad I took the time to write this acceptance-post. Also, congratulations to the five new nominees!

Two Excellent Mathematical Websites

I usually only post my own work here, but today I’m giving a shout-out to the websites of a German friend of mine named Tadeusz E. Doroziński. He made this snub polyhedron with 362 faces, which I’m posting here as a sample of his work. All of its edges are of equal length. Like me, he uses Stella 4d: Polyhedron Navigator frequently (available here), and he used that program to create this polyhedron. 

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His two geometry-focused and polyhedron-filled websites, https://geometryka.wordpress.com/ and http://www.3doro.de/, contain much more, including some mathematics which flies right over my head, as the saying goes. If you like the image above, or you are a fan of my own blog, I strongly recommend following the links above to check out his work. Every time I visit either of his websites, I always find something amazing.

A “Thumbs Up” for Google Classroom

This is my 22nd year of teaching, but my first year using Google Classroom. We’re finding it to be a useful tool. This, for example, is the diagram for the Atwood’s machine lab we are doing in Pre-AP Physical Science, beginning today. My students will find this waiting for them in their virtual classroom (on Chromebooks my school district provides), with discussion-prompts to get us started:

atwoods-machine-diagram

I had no idea that four years of blogging, here on WordPress, had been preparing me to use this teaching tool. However, active blogging does require one to develop some transferable skills, especially in fields (such as what I teach) which are similar to the topics of one’s blog, as is the case here.

On Therapeutic Writing, and Putting Hexakaidekaphobia in Remission

hexadeka

When my mother died, last November 16, I wrote an obituary for her, which I was then asked (unexpectedly) to read at her funeral, as one of two eulogies. This was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, but writing it did help me (somewhat) with the immediate problem I was having dealing with grief.

After the funeral, I felt numb much of the time, for months, until May 16 arrived — exactly six months after she died — at which point my tightly-controlled emotional state shattered, leaving me in worse shape (in some ways) than I was on, say, November 17 of last year. This was unexpected, and caused significant problems, including the development of monthly hexakaidekaphobia, a morbid dread and fear of the 16th day of every month. (The word is a modification of “triskaidekaphobia,” an irrational fear of the number thirteen).

June 16 was worse than May 16 — absolutely full of PTSD attacks. (I’ve had PTSD for most of my life; my mother’s death made it worse.) Fortunately, I don’t try to hide mental health problems, as I once did — I try to find the help I need, from physicians, to deal with such problems, and, when I find things that help me, I write about them. I also have long used recreational mathematics to help me feel better when depressed.

It was in this context that mid-July arrived. I went to sleep on July 15th with the knowledge that it was extremely important for me to find better coping mechanisms before the start of school in August. When I woke up on July 16, which could have been another horrific day of severe depression, anxiety, and other problems, I did not feel those negative emotions. This does not mean I had “gotten over” the facts that my mother did die, and that I miss her terribly. However, it did mean I was experiencing grief differently: I was feeling grief, rather than letting feelings of grief control me — and there is a huge difference between the two.

That morning, July 16, I knew what I needed to do as soon as I woke up: I needed to write. For me, that generally means blogging, and that’s what happened. This “therapeutic writing,” as I call it, was helpful enough on July 16 that I continued it the next day. When I next spoke to my doctors, I told them I was doing this, and why, and they agreed that such writing (like the “mathematical therapy” I have done for years) was an excellent, helpful activity. (This “check with professionals” step is essential, and I do not recommend attempting mental health therapy without the help of at least one licensed, qualified psychiatrist, and/or other type of therapist, such as a clinical psychologist.)

Of course, I could do this therapeutic writing in a spiral notebook, and keep it private; no writing has to go on the Internet. Why, then, do I choose to post such material where anyone can see it? I first explained why I blog about mental health issues in this post, but the short version is this: I hope that my openness on this subject can help reduce the social stigma which, unfortunately, still surrounds topics related mental health. This stigma is harmful because it keeps millions of people from seeking the professional help they need. I have also found it a personally liberating experience to come out of the “closet” on such issues, for, as with other metaphorical “closets,” it is the truth that closets are not good places for people to live their lives.

School starts on August 15 — only four days from now — and I’m going to do everything I can to make that day, the next day (the formerly-dreaded 16th of the month), and the rest of the days in the school year as good as they can possibly be for my students, as well as myself. I could tell I was on the right track when I decided to write about monthly hexakaidekaphobia early this morning, but in the past tense. Before I started writing, I “warmed up” by constructing the geometric art at the top of this post, which, if you examine carefully, you will see is based on — what else? — the number sixteen. In my case, at least, mathematical therapy and therapeutic writing go hand-in-hand, and this is what I am doing to try to leave my monthly hexakaidecaphobia in the past, where it belongs.

I still miss my mother. She was once, as I am, a science teacher, and was also involved in education in many other ways. She would want me to have good school days on August 16th, September 16th, and so on, as well as the days in-between — and, to properly honor her memory, and give my students the education they deserve, I am determined to do my best to do exactly that.

If You Really Want to Scare Me, Don’t Use Thirteen.

House_Thirteen

I was alerted today, by e-mail, that a blog-proofreading service has found thirteen whole errors on my blog, and they’ll tell me where they are, exactly, if I send them money.

This blog is four years old. It has over 1,300 posts on it, so that’s, um, an average of one error for every 100+ posts. The logical thing to do, I believe, is to keep doing my own proofreading, which I do every time I look at posts, old or new.

I do hope those 13 errors are not disturbing anyone else, though.

Upon re-reading the e-mail, I found three errors. That’s in one e-mail. I’m definitely keeping my money!

Why I Do Not Write Books

not writing

It’s very simple: errors in writing, of any kind, horrify me. If I wrote a book, and it were published, some would likely slip through, such as the one in the image above. If a book with my name on the cover had been published, and I then discovered an error, I would end up trying to get corrected copies to every buyer of the first edition, eating all profits, and then some. I also just don’t need that type of stress.

Please do not misunderstand: I love books.

Therefore, I do two other things, in lieu of actually writing a book (which has been suggested, to me, more than once). First, I read other peoples’ books. I seek higher-quality books to avoid those irritating typos, for they actually cause me pain when I see them. Even so, some slip through — ouch! — but at least the mistakes aren’t mine. I am almost immune to conventional causes of embarrassment, but this isn’t a conventional cause, and I certainly have no immunity to it.

The other thing I do is to blog, which is, of course, another form of writing. It’s a perfect forum for someone with this writing-quirk — because, when I discover a mistake in my writing, even months or years later, I can edit it away in seconds. This is why, for me, blogging > writing books. However, I am grateful that there are good writers for whom the inequality symbol points in the other direction.