### Archive

Archive for October, 2012

## Happy Equestrian New Year (And: Thank You, Lauren Faust & MLP:FiM Team)

Dear Lauren Faust,

Two years ago today aired the series premiere of this show you created: a show that would forever unite millions of fans – both men and women, adults and children alike, myself included – and change their lives for the better. From the inspirational characters to the wonderful artistry, from its excellent musical numbers (thanks Daniel Ingram) to the brilliant voice acting work all around, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has touched the hearts of so many, so quickly. And I your fan, cannot thank you enough.

To be honest, if two years ago you’d have told me I’d today be a fan of My Little Pony, I’d probably have laughed and made some snide, sarcastic retort. But since then, these colorful and playful bunch of magic ponies have stolen this geek’s heart.

I must admit feel a bit like Twilight Sparkle in the “Winter Wrap Up” episode: I can’t draw or do anything artistic at all; I am not imaginative enough to make fanfiction; and I won’t even dare to attempt a Pony Music Video or any such feat, since it would probably just be a waste of bandwidth. So how do I be a productive brony? I hope in lieu of anything fancy or creative, these words will suffice to demonstrate some iota of that gratitude.

In closing: Thank you, Lauren Faust. And thank you to the wonderful team of artists, voice actors, musicians, and other staff behind My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. It’s been an absolutely fantastic first two seasons, and I eagerly await many more. (Oh, lest I forget, and thank you to all the creative fans who make the wait pass by with amazing art, videos, stories, and other media!)

If you would please, a brohoof!

Aleedye’s Brohoof by ~MacchiatoJolt on DeviantArt (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

Yours,
Peter Gordon

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## Fedora Planet Feed

Oops. It seems when updating my .planet file earlier, I copy/pasted the feed for my whole blog, and not solely the Fedora category as intended. I’ve adjusted that now, so the next time Fedora People runs it’s feed grabber, you should see this instead of my previous couple of posts (which were both not very Fedora-related). That doesn’t mean I’m any less interesting though — Feel free to read my blog at its full website for more! =)

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## Passion, Not a Ph.D., Makes the Professor

It has been said more than once that a good teacher knows the subject matter, while a great teacher is passionate about it. And nowhere is this statement more true than at a university level, where things like high class sizes, tenure, publications in academic journals, and other research opportunities can often cause professors to become rather lackadaisical about their teaching.

For a lot of professors today, a significant majority of their teaching comes down to their lectures. And while a professor may be very knowledgeable about that subject, if he or she does not know how to lecture well, it is ultimately the students who suffer. I’ve had a physics professor, for example, with a Ph.D in his field and decades of experience under his belt. He’s certainly a well-learned expert; but when he gave lectures, he spoke in a very soft, monotonous voice. And with run-on sentences everywhere, it seemed like he never paused to even take a breath. Not to mention that English wasn’t his native tongue, so he spoke with a slight accent. (This one I can’t fault him for; but that doesn’t mean it detracted from his lectures any less.)

Even when I was sitting in the front and center of the class, it was a mental strain to pay attention. Not only that, but his lectures were almost entirely him simply reading from his Powerpoint presentation, which he would post online after each class meeting. So in addition to the effort required simply to pay attention, there was always the mental trap of just reading those presentations on my own, outside class. Combine all of this, and it’s clear to see to how 9 shots of espresso could not keep me awake in that class. In fact, I had to withdraw from it; and I ended up taking Chemistry instead, the following semesters.

On the other extreme, I’ve had professors who are obviously passionate about their classes — for example, asking questions of the students, providing real-world examples, inviting lots of discussion, and really just having fun talking about the coursework. (And for the more awesome engineering professors, this often involves quite a bit of hilarious puns.) This happens even in more extracurricular things, too.

For instance, as part of my university’s Men’s Chorus, I find myself grinning from ear to ear after every rehearsal. Our conductor is fantastic. He’s so emphatic about the music we sing, and so emotive about everything we do in rehearsals and in our performances, from proper vocal technique to really nailing those more obscure rhythms and lyrics, and sometimes even to life in general. He’s also very encouraging and approachable. He clearly enjoys being at each rehearsal. And he clearly wants us to be better singers, and certainly, better people both on- and off-stage. He sincerely wants our choir to be more than just the sum of its voices — and you can see it in his mannerisms, his energy, the determination of how he teaches. (I suppose that in some ways, it’s a bit of an irony that one of my all-time favorite teachers is in a subject far removed from my majors.)

I hope that my fellow students (and former students) have had professors on that better end of this spectrum. For now, I’ll just have to hope that those end-of-semester evaluations are given their due considerations…

Categories: College Survival Guide Tags:

October 5th, 2012 1 comment

I’ve come to use LaTeX extensively for typesetting my Mathematics homework. It just makes things so beautiful. And like the XHTML/CSS split, it really does encourage strong separation of content from presentation. One of the things I first hated about it though, is that I grew quickly tired of using \left and \right with brackets, parentheses, or anything that needed to be automatically be sized to its content.

And, as any good engineering student might, I sought to encourage my own laziness by finding a clever shortcut. After a few minutes of searching Google, I came across the DeclarePairedDelimiter command in the mathtools package. Its usage is fairly self-explanatory, as I’ll let the following demonstrate.

\usepackage{mathtools}

Then you can create your own paired delimiters with the DeclarePairedDelimiter command:

\DeclarePairedDelimiter{\abs}{\lvert}{\rvert} \DeclarePairedDelimiter{\norm}{\lVert}{\rVert} \DeclarePairedDelimiter{\innerproduct}{\langle}{\rangle}

Finally, you can use these new commands in math mode to more easily group your expression. (Append an asterisk to make LaTeX automatically insert the necessary \left and \right commands when you need the delimiters to resize according to their content.)

If $$a \lt 0$$ and $$b \gt 0$$, then $$\abs{a} = -a$$, and so $$\abs*{\frac{a}{b}} = -\frac{a}{b}$$.
The norm of a vector $$v$$, denoted $$\norm{v}$$, is defined by $$\norm{v} = \sqrt{\innerproduct{v,v}}$$.

As a nice bonus, it increases readability of the LaTeX source tremendously, since it gives those grouped expressions some semantic name rather than just being a bunch of formatting. For instance with the above delimiters, \left\lvert \frac{a}{b} \right\rvert is more to type, and a lot less obviously an absolute value, than the simpler \abs*{\frac{a}{b}}.

Happy hacking!

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