Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

It's been a nice quiet Thanksgiving.. The DH was again the founder (and chef) of the feast! We started the day with the Macy's Parade (which I couldn't make it through and managed to find "Sweeney Todd" just as it was starting! This seemed like the perfect thing.. a musical that included songs about making meat pies stuffed with people, whereas we were working on stuffing ourselves.

Sweeney Todd for T-day
Sweeney Todd (w/ Alan Rickman as Judge Turpin)

We also managed to take the time to clear off an episode of "Survivor" and "Star Wars Rebels." Some football was viewed but I managed to not pay attention to it.. I was busy eating pie.

SeanYoda ended up purchasing more than we actually ended up eating: crackers, cranberry goat cheese, pickle salad, potatoes (for mashing), onions, cornbread stuffing mix, gravy, fresh cranberry sauce, a whole smoked turkey, and pumpkin pie.

The pie went into the oven first:
freshly baked pie

The smoked turkey ($30 from Berkeley Bowl) needed to stay in the oven about two hours to reheat:
Smoked Turkey
the meat was very tender..

We have lots of meat leftover for sandwiches, soup, and omelets (he picked up eggs too) and the bones will go to make a soup stock.

Tj's Cornbread Stuffing

Tday Dinner!
Dinner all put together! Smoked Turkey, Stuffing (w/gravy) and cranberry sauce.

and dessert of course!(a couple hours later)
slice of pie

Thanksgiving is an American (and Canadian!) holiday.. The American day of giving thanks was officially made a nataional holiday by President Lincoln in 1863, but was celebrated in various states throughout history.. It often harkens back to Protestantism and giving spiritual thanks for the harvest. So many times the Pilgrims are dragged up as inspiration for Thanksgiving,(and they had plenty to be thankful for what with the local Native Americans saving them from going the way of early Jamestown.)

My experience of Thanksgiving as a child has always been a family holiday infused with religious doctrine (my dad's side of the family was/is Dutch Reformed or Protestant) As I've gotten older I've been able to experience the holiday as the secular day of family, friends, food, and fall festivities.

Today it seems most American Thanksgiving focuses on the food.. I can well imagine a world today that sees America as voracious in all things. In its most ideal, Americans come together as family and friends to share food and company, not unlike the winter holidays. Taking time to slow down and enjoy the time together. If it's done with a game of pick up basketball in the driveway, or touch football in the backyard, or crowded in the family room to cheer on the NFL team of one's choosing, or just sing songs around the piano. There's no wrong way to celebrate.. or not. Many of our family & friends live far off, so phone calls,"face time," emails or texts (or tweets!) are in order.

Yes there is the binge eating, and the 'turkey coma'..but we joke about it and move on, (and not everyone does turkey.. some do tofu, others tamales, others lamb, or duck, or chicken..It's not about what you eat, it's more that you're not eating alone if you can help it. And you take the time to think about the people and things that give your life meaning,(or at least you are thankful for), and the people who probably who aren't as fortunate as yourself.. gratitude, grace, and thankfulness.

Thanksgiving 2015 flickr set

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

One Cat Family Now

my little boy..

toe attack..
while he doesn't help me sleep,

and he's terrible at helping me with my homework..
My Maths Tutor!
in fact, he'd rather park himself on my textbooks & notes than meow the answers to me..

He does miss me & greets me at the door whenever I come home from being out on a walk or at school:

Mommy Cat is home.. (After he already greeted me but wasn't quite "done") #catsofinstagram

A video posted by Pamela Rouse (@meekorouse) on

I'm thinking to create a new blog to put all those cat pix.. old and new.. starting back in Sept 10th, 2001 when Alexander first came to us as a 3 week old kitten (we're eventually letting our website lapse.. so where to host those cat pix??) and honestly, these are a bit more personal than I wanted to put here.. but he (and his sister while she was with us)is definitely a good part of the good stuff in my life here in Berkeley, and what makes life livable for me.. and a better Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 20, 2015

San Francisco Public Library

Spending some time in the City earlier today.. I checked out the Main Branch library this afternoon, (and got a library card before I headed out.) The first thing I saw when I walked in was this lovely glass domed skylight.. I was like "Wait a minute!"

SF Public Library Main Branch

I wasn't supposed to be thinking about maths today! =) ..and yet I was:

The next thing I noticed was the sheer size and contrasting newness while all around was the unmistakable smell of musty old books.

stairs.. there's some 6 floors..

here at the entry you cross over a bridge of sorts and look down onto the first floor:
SF Main Branch Library

I made sure to get a library card before I headed out. They didn't have the book I wanted to checkout but I could place a hold order but would rather not make a special trip to the city just to borrow a book,(unless it's a really good book!) Yeah, I'm lazy like that. ;)

The sun was starting to fade.. time to go home! I couldn't leave without a photo of one of the Market Streetcars..
Chase Bank on Market

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

More Maths!

When in doubt.. read more!

On my quest to make maths the center of my universe and foil the fates.. I'm entreating the book gods to help me out with my maths problem. (What?!!)

ie: I'm really enjoying reading Amir D. Aczel's "Chance"..It's a small book (about 160pgs) has few math equations but a lot of exposition about theory and how things are solved.

Here he is discussing his book "Finding Zero" the beginning of this year at Google Cambridge,Ma. (It's only about 58min. long and discusses math history! er, well, his travels searching out the origin of zero)

It's still too early to know if the reading will help me, but it's better than doing nothing and just struggling through the homework,(in general.) So when in doubt.. keep reading!

more math!
(and don't forget to pick up your 'hold book'..)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Light at Fulton & Derby

On my walk to school this afternoon..the mid-November sun hitting a building at the corner of Fulton and Derby Streets..

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Math Anxiety and Mapping a Way Out..

I like the shape of things.. the shape of certain typography, crispy old maps, scrollwork on a building, perfect circles,(or even crumbly edible circles), things with chocolate, starlight in an empty field, and thumbtacks on a big wall atlas.

Speaking of atlases, I like knowing where I'm going.. so I know when I'll get there. None of this floundering in panic, unsure of landmarks. No; when I get on a bus I enjoy the ride more if I can perceive the destination. Like reading a great book, I like to sneak a peak at the last chapter of a book so the surprise of the end isn't as intense. Some people call it spoilers, I call it having a clue.

Having a clue is not somethng I'll ever admit to having had regarding maths.. any math. I get why we need it.. People use it every day. Even historians use it! There's a purpose to it, and I like that. Sometimes I even find myself admiring the way math looks.. but it's like admiring a poem in another language. It's pretty but what does it mean if you can't translate it?

..and although I like the shape of "pi" I'd much rather eat "pie."
apple pie
my kind of "pie"..


I took math in grade school because it was required. As I got older I got worse at it. I got to the point in high school where every day was excrutiating.. I don't think my math teacher should have been teaching. His temperament was much better suited for sweaty boys on a football field. Sort of a 'tough love' ball breaker. He had no time to explain anything.. he just plowed through it. The kids in my class were no better. I don't think any of us were that bright, but they were good at bullying. Suppose you got a problem wrong and your teacher cracked wise about how dumb you were? Your only reprieve was if he was making fun of another student.. Your classmates would punch you or trip you on your way to the board. Thanks for no favors, there. I'm not sure how I got through it. I recall trying to take geometry once, and while I liked it (and the teacher was 180 degree difference!) I wasn't prepped for it and dropped it. Oh how I wanted to 'get' it though. Some people aren't well suited for math.

I was the sort of person who excelled at vocabulary.. I was a voracious reader in my spare time. I'm also inately curious about things and people. The problem with how they taught math when I was growing up, (and this may be the case still) is that no one has time to tell you the 'why' of anything. Why do we have math? Who created the various formulas and theoroms and why and when do we want to use them?? It was all a matter of "this is what we're doing today and this is what you'll be doing for homework.." Why am I doing this? Why do I need to solve it a certain way? Why does it work (or not?) No time for that, just do it.

Except I couldn't do it. I would sit at the kitchen table in front of my math homework staring at these problems like they would eventually just jump into my head and make sense. I couldn't get help with it and I wasn't learning in school. I would eventually find myself sitting in the darkness weeping every night. I managed to graduate high school with the bare minimum of math skills. I managed to pass my ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational exam) with the bare minimum of math skills. I attempted to go to college and not take maths, and when I did, I ended up dropping the class.

Fast forward some 24 years later and I'm returning to school, I've gotten older.. my math skills haven't gotten any better, the kids are young enough to be my own if I had any and many of my instructors are some 10 years younger than me. Suffice to say, I'm too old to be sitting in maths weeping like a 14yr old.

I took a placement exam which ended up timing out on me as I took too long to figure an answer. I tested into Pre-Algebra, which was where I was in high school, getting my a$$ kicked (somewhat literally) by my classmates. Just thinking about having to take all those math classes I would need to get to Statistics made my stomach churn and the waterfalls of tears start up. Who wants to return to that??


I got a couple different referrals for the same maths prof. from classmates in my California History class some semesters back.. (I love how when you ask people they're like "Whatever you do, don't take that person!!") I met the instructor and they seemed really nice and pleasant and energetic. When they were out of the room I got my first honest feedback from another student saying the prof was really nice but "I'm failing this class!" um.. OK. Maybe I should have ran away right then but, no, that would be rude. I talked to the prof a bit more about the book we'd be using, got the info and before I headed out they gave me info on a summer class and invited me to show up and check it out. How can you say no to that??

I actually did show up the first day of summer session. I found the class and it was yet to start. Within about ten minutes of waiting with a handful of other students, I had a panic attack and scampered off to the bathroom to weep my guts out and then left the school without checking in to let them know I tried to attend. I'm sure the person had better things to worry about.

As it was I did show up for my actual class Fall of last year.. I didn't do that great but I did a lot better than I expected. The first couple times I was waiting for something from the sky to fall on my head. I was waiting to get called on or called out.. or something. There is a regular rhythm to the class.. There's no big surprises, no hoop jumping, no drama really. It was difficult.. and it's still difficult. I'm not doing that great in general. I failed my Intro to Algebra last semester (I got a "D" which is failing.. you need a "C" to move on to the next gauntlet) This semester I'm taking Algebra for Stats.. Suffice to say I'm not much better at that then the Intro Algebra and I'll fail out of this too if I keep it up. I keep showing up though, and some days are really good, and when they aren't, I haven't given up. ..not yet!


What I've picked up outside of math is that there's these great philosophers that did more than a bit of dabbling in math.. and some of the great minds of science (of course) are fluent in math. The things I enjoy are because of math: The Enlightment, Art History, Political Science.. they all have elements or routes to maths in some way. Words. Theory. History. People. Historic Perspective. Happiness.

math gods
Math history and popular culture.. a way in (and out of the anxiety)?

COMMITTED (or just crazy?)

I already decided that some things would need to take a backseat to my pursuit of Statistics.. I already made the mental and emotional leap to having math as the center of my universe this next year, so maybe I should act like it? I'm changing tack and charting a new course. My goal isn't a math degree, it's a History AA for transfer. I can't get that if I don't pass Statistics. I can't pass Statistics if I don't pass this other class, and I can't pass this other class if I don't "get" it or I don't find a way to understand the what and why of what I'm doing. How do you drive a car if you don't understand the mechanics of the vehicle or the laws of physics? (OK people do drive cars without understanding how their car runs or that whole pesky laws of motion thing!)

I don't drive, but I get around OK. I guess that's what I need to do, so I'm going to try this, (as well keep studying & practicing..) and maybe do some deep breathing excercises.. Although I'm not capable of deep breathing either.. the lungs aren't that great; but neither are my math skills.

ps: if anyone has suggestions for great math theory books,histories or relatable 'junk food' (I was thinking Outliers or Tipping Point would be a couple good ones but maybe not (they're more sociology than math) feel free to comment. It's not that reading will teach me math but give me another angle, POV of looking at it all.. and hopefully answer the "why."