Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Why, So What, and Who Cares!

In the continuing saga of my contemporary mathematics studies, I ran across the following titled “The Death of Leibniz’s Dream” while reading the class textbook:

For hundreds of years, mathematicians pursued Leibniz’s dream of finding a universal method of symbolic reasoning. In 1931, Kurt Gödel of Princeton University discovered one of the most remarkable results in all of the history of mathematics. His result, called Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, showed that by starting with a finite set of assumptions and then proving theorems in a mathematical theory such as elementary arithmetic, there will always exist statements that are true but that cannot be proved using the theory. This result was a disappointment to those mathematicians who has believed that all mathematics could be developed from logic alone, thus Leibniz’s dream was finally laid to rest!

The book's author inserts these little gems in an attempt to link the course material with the real world. Now mind that this course is offered to non-science majors who only need a single math credit to meet the general requirements for graduation. Now maybe times have changed, but when I attended college, the most important thing to know was what would be on the test. I guarantee you, no one ever discussed Leibniz’s Dream and its subsequent death! Thinking back, we occasionally had celebrations on the weekends, so maybe one of them was in Mr. Leibniz’s honor!

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Retirement Party

It seems to be a time honor tradition to have a party when someone retires, my departure from Forestry was no exception. For years I reasoned that we didn't have a party when I started the job so I saw no reason to have one when I left. My wish was not to be, my friend and coworker Debby T. insisted that we at least have coffee and cake during an afternoon break. So begins the story of my retirement party!

I offer a quick glimpse of how some foresters do a send off!

My boss was nearly ecstatic because it was the first time in many years I actually listened to what he had to say!

My lovely wife Patty who supports my retirement. I wonder if it's because I will have dinner ready when she arrives home from work each evening?

My friend and former coworker, Earl Rivers, relating an incident from thirty years ago that could have been left untold for maybe another ten years! Thanks Earl! I'll be at your retirement party in June, count on it!

In keeping with the tradition of a roast and toast, the "roastee" gets the last word. I use this opportunity well by preparing a PowerPoint presentation that shared a few stories of my own and named a few guilty cohorts!

Finally, the real reason people attend parties, the cake. In keeping with the goals of the employee wellness program, I requested carrot cake. The frosting on the other hand was butter cream which negated the health benefits of the carrots but tasted great none the less.

It turned out to be a fun afternoon and I am very glad that we had a party. Rare is the occasion that you get to see friends from long ago and far away while not attending a funeral!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Math Experience – Part 2

I spent the entire day working math problems in preparation for the first exam in my Contemporary Mathematics class. Honestly, I don’t ever remember working this hard on any math class I took when attending WSU thirty-two years ago!

I have resolved to never take an online math class again! In such a class, the major pathway to learning is reading the book. Where as I learn more easily by hearing something explained or seeing it done, I am at a bit of a disadvantage.

Today’s experience leaves me to conclude the following:

1.) Thank God I never majored in math
2.) The subject of mathematics has either become more difficult over the years or I have become a lot dumber
3.) I need to rethink my plan that studying math might be fun

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Venn Diagrams Anyone?

I have to keep reminding myself that there are two reasons for taking a contemporary math class. One is to have fun and the other is to expand my mind. At the moment, I am unsure about fun part but very certain on the mind expansion.

After thirty minutes of working with these diagrams, my mind is expanded to the point of a migraine! Is there some real life purpose to a Venn diagram beyond the fact that they remind you of Micky Mouse?

I can't wait to see what chapter two in Mathematics All Around will hold!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Math Is Fun!

As part of “The Plan”, my road map for the first six month of retirement, I resolved to take at least two classes at our local community college. I reasoned that it would be good to take a class for the sheer joy of learning not to mention that it’s always good to expand one’s mind. Besides, it might just be fun!

To that end, I enrolled in a Contemporary Mathematics class which is offered for non-science majors needing math credit. Now it’s been thirty plus years since my last college math class, but I figured if I could survive college calculus, how tough could this one be! As the expression says, “Pride goes before the fall”!

This math class is taught online, so besides the book, you are required to purchase access to a website titled MyMathLab; it’s where all the course materials are located. My first indication as to how challenging this class might be was when I opened the MyMathLab envelope to get the access code. When I peeled back the label, I was greeted by the following: WSCMML-DROSS-SELAH-GLUON-SAPIR-TIRES. My first thought was that I had inadvertently signed up for a key boarding class. Why would anyone need an access code with so many letters?

After keying in the code and triple checking for accuracy, I was prompted for the pass word. Foolish me, I assumed that the access code was all that was necessary for entry to the world of math learning. After quickly skimming the directions, I learned the pass word was your instructor’s initials plus the course number. That seemed simple enough, but after multiple attempts, the door to fun and and math was still stuck shut! I must have spent twenty minutes entering various combinations of numbers and letters; finally defeated, I decided that it was time to email the instructor and ask for help. As I was worked my way back thought the web pages, I happened to notice the following in the center of the page: the course id for winter term 2008 is: abcdef94715. Maybe I should drop the math class and register for a remedial reading class!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Man, You’ve Got To Have A Plan

During my career as a forester, I frequently had the opportunity to work with inmates from the Dept. of Correction’s labor camp. The inmates are organized into ten person crews who assist us during projects such as tree planting or forest fire suppression. Years ago, I met an inmate whose name escapes me, but he taught me a very valuable lesson. At the time, we were working on a fire and he came to me for direction as to how to proceed with an assigned task. As a fire is frequently a constantly changing situation, the plan you begin your day with, frequently is not the one you end with. When he asked for further direction, I mutter something to the effect that at this moment I was not certain what we would do next. As he pulled me aside, he uttered words to me that nearly 30 years later I still remember. He simply said, “Man, you got to have a plan; you won’t go anywhere with out one!” Words of wisdom to live by!

As I began to prepare for retirement some eighteen months ago, I developed what is affectionately know as “The Plan”. I offer my plan for your reading pleasure.

Within the first month of retirement
perform at least one volunteer activity
host a dinner party
read a book
take a fun day trip

Within first three months of retirement
take two classes – for fun and to exercise the mind
plan a vacation
start a passion activity
begin a photo project

Within the first six months
take a vacation
become established in at least one volunteer activity

I case you are wondering about the inmate’s plan for his life, I never asked. Even at such a young age I knew that some questions are better off left unasked.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Whose Woods These Are I think I Know

Many thanks to Robert Frost for the title line on this post; his words just seemed to fit the picture.

This is how the “woods” of the Plainville, Massachusetts' Conversation Area appeared in the cold morning hours of December, 2007. Thankfully, the town fathers had the foresight to preserve a large track of hardwood forest for the enjoyment of future generations.

Countless weekends were spent hiking and camping in these woods as a member of the local Boy Scout troop. Little did I realize at the time that these childhood adventures would lead me to my future career as a forester.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

It Is Done!

As I reflect upon today, I recall the words of Winston Churchill who said, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”.

Today I submitted my letter of resignation which is the last step of the retirement process. In just three weeks, I will join the ranks of foresters who previously work for the Oregon Department of Forestry. For me, it is clearly the end of the beginning of the second half of my life. In just a few weeks, I will begin the third half of life, which I have anticipated for so long!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays!

It seems as if you can not have a holiday without traveling and this year was no exception. Tradition dictates that every other year we fly to the east coast to celebrate Christmas with my family. Anyone who has flown recently can relate when I say that the “friendly skies” are definitely a thing of the past!

Our flight from Portland to Salt Lake City was delayed by a half hour while the plane was deiced. Since planes do not fly well when their wings are covered with ice and snow, that time was well spent! Upon arriving in Salt Lake City, we discovered that our connecting flight was in another concourse so the cross country hike was on. By the time we arrived at the departure gate, the flight was on final call so we jump aboard just minutes before the door was slammed shut.

Once the plane was deiced, we taxied for position in the departure line only to be diverted to a temporary parking area because of a problem with the aircraft's in-flight computer. We sat quietly for forty-five minutes while the pilots and the maintenance guys worked their magic! Since your options are severely limited once the plane is airborne, I am always very thankful when they find and fix mechanical problems before you reach the end of the runway!

Upon arrival in Boston, we were greeted at the baggage carousel with the tangle of unclaimed luggage from the prior day’s cancelled flights. Needles to say, I was very surprised and thankful when our bags rounded the corner on the baggage carousel. In fact, it might be the one of the best Christmas gifts a weary traveler can receive!