Tag Archives: truth


y=mx+b or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Maths

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Categories: Essays, Geek Stuff, Randomness, Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Like many, I’ve long held the belief I’m “bad at math,” but as the spring semester at Rock Valley College winds down, I’ve learned this isn’t true.

In 5th grade, I tested into the gifted program in the Rockford Public School District. I jumped from standard 4th grade classes to advanced 5th grade classes. Given the shoddy state of Rockford’s standard curriculum in the late Eighties/ early Nineties, it’s no surprise I struggled, especially in mathematics. My gifted program teachers taught as though I had been in the program from kindergarten (as most of the students had been). My troubles at home, which manifested as poor behavior at school, didn’t motivate my teachers to give me extra help, I’m sure. After a rough 5th grade, I returned to standard classes in 6th grade. The result of this ping-ponging between curricula was a severe deficiency in basic arithmetic skills.

Fast-forward three years, when I was enrolled in the Academy, RPS’s gifted program for high schoolers. Still behind in math, I failed my college algebra course the first time around and barely passed geometry. My senior year, I dropped out of my advanced math class (trigonometry, if I recall) rather than face another two semesters of brutality. I hated math.

In 1999, when I took the entrance exams at Rock Valley, I scored less than 50% on the math portion (shocked, I’m sure you are), earning me the privilege of several remedial courses, including geometry. This semester, I’m completing a “super course,” which tackles all of those remedial classes in one semester, save geometry. I have a 91% in the class right now, and finals are in two weeks. On a lark, I retook the geometry portion of the placement test, and scored an 80%: enough to skip the required remedial class. I have one college-level math class to take – scheduled for next semester – before I graduate with my A.A.

What I have learned in this semester at RVC is that I’m not bad at math; I’m bad at arithmetic. I have little difficulty understanding algebraic concepts. Where I struggle is with simple multiplication and division, managing fractions, and the like. My difficulties stem almost entirely from the learning I missed back in 5th and 6th grades. From these deficiencies flow frustration with myself and feelings of stupidity. But I can’t help also feeling proud I’ve been able to overcome some of my limitations (thanks to help from Texas Instruments) and score an A in a class I was convinced I would barely pass, if at all.

It’s perhaps a bit strong to say I “love the maths,” but I do have a new-found appreciation for them, especially algebra. There are theories in math to be sure: ideas unproven because we can’t test every possible case, but for the most part, algebra is fundamental, truthful. Race, religion, political affiliation: these don’t matter to algebra.  y does, in fact, equal mx+b.


This I Believe


Categories: Rant, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I decided last night (after a fairly heated exchange on Failbook) that I would put this post up so that people considering whether or not to create or maintain a friendship with me would know what they’re getting into. Consider it truth in advertising. Also, on the off chance that NPR ever asks me to do a “This I Believe”segment, most of my work will already be done. Yay for advance preparation!

Fair warning: this post is probably not safe for work. These beliefs are in no particular order. While I do hold some convictions more strongly than others, their order in this list in no way denotes their importance to me. This list is pretty thorough, but not comprehensive. Also, some of the things you’re about to read are intended to be humorous and light-hearted; some are not. You figure out which is which.

  • I believe choice and free will are the greatest and most frequently squandered gifts humanity has.
  • I believe you are ultimately responsible for your own life and must deal with the consequences of the choices you make.
  • I believe rape in all forms is one of the most heinous crimes possible, because it denies the victim choice in one of the most private and inviolate parts of their life.
  • I believe the Chicago Blackhawks will win the Stanley Cup this year.
  • I believe people are betrayed by their biology more often than they would like to admit.
  • I believe I’m a conflicted and hypocritical person, but I’m working on it.
  • I believe it is the height of arrogance to presume to speak for anyone but yourself.
  • I believe it is the depth of self-loathing to allow anyone to speak for you.
  • I believe in peace, bitch.
  • I believe there is a power greater than myself in the universe, but I don’t pretend to understand what it is or how it works.
  • I believe humans can live better lives through the practical application of chemistry, biology, medicine, engineering, and imagination.
  • I believe I love my daughter more than any other person in this world, including my wife, whom I love very much.
  • I believe my wife understands the preceding statement and feels much the same way.
  • I believe the preceeding two statements do not diminish the relationship my wife and I share, but enhance it instead.
  • I believe marriage is a social contract between two individuals, not a holy institution. As such, it should be available to all consenting adults, regardless of sexual orientation or gender.
  • I believe government-issued underwear are very uncomfortable.
  • I believe it is better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.
  • I believe words are innocent. They have no meaning except that which you ascribe to them. Make them your own and define them: don’t let them define you.
  • I believe the following statement is true.
  • I believe the preceding statement is false.
  • I believe most people take themselves too seriously.
  • I believe I have many acquaintances, but few friends. You may be one.
  • I believe things on the Internet are not real.
  • I believe fascism by committee in the guise of social justice is the most insidious lie ever told to Americans.
  • I believe American federalism is not a perfect governmental system, but it’s as close as we’ve gotten so far.
  • I believe the Framers of the United States Constitution would not recognize our country as their own.
  • I believe the American federal government has little to no authority to legislate social issues.
  • I believe abortion is abhorrent, except in cases of rape and incest. However, I would never presume to tell a woman what she may or may not do to her own body. That’s between her and whatever higher power she believes in.
  • I believe anyone who would claim I’m not entitled to an opinion regarding reproductive rights because I have a penis is the worst kind of hypocrite.
  • I believe we are not alone.
  • I believe freedom of choice is the only true freedom.
  • I believe thou shalt not kill.
  • I believe Metallica sucked, then got good, and now sucks again.
  • I believe Rush is the greatest rock band of all time.
  • I believe pity is something reserved exclusively for children and the mentally handicapped.
  • I believe disagreeing with one aspect of a person does not invalidate the entirety of that person.
  • I believe magic is nothing more than the judicious application of human will.
  • I believe in striving today to be better than I was yesterday.
  • I believe the only valuation of my worth as a human being that truly matters is my own.
  • I believe “I” is the most beautiful word in the English language.
  • I believe, if you don’t like what I have to say, you can kindly go fuck yourself.