Category Archives: Education

Vancouver and the new job

Vancouver Hilton near my new jobI drove up to Vancouver, BC last night to stay at a Hilton close to where the brand new corporate offices of my new company are located. It is a beautiful drive up from Centralia and the border crossing is not too bad. Every time I come up here I think, “I don’t remember it being this beautiful.” It is truly an amazing place with snow-capped mountains, lots of beautiful stretches of water and a huge, cosmopolitan city. I am looking forward to being here now and then and my company says it is fine for me to bring Lorena.

Christian goes to Boston for the summer

Christian's hotel room in Boston (Lincoln Labs internship)Christian flew from Tempe to Boston yesterday to start an internship at MIT’s Lincoln Labs. He moves moved into a dorm at Northeastern University close to (or in) downtown Boston sometime today yesterday and will be shuttled over to the labs every day during his stay. This is another milestone in his march toward his degree. It seems to be a long, long way from laying on the floor learning arithmetic facts during his homeschool days.

He is a one or two years away from finishing his PhD and starting to think about what he wants to do next. He has made his own way economically and in the running of his household since he left home after his Bachelors degree. My level of participation in his education has stood at absolute zero since then, too. It is not that I wouldn’t like to help, I just do not have the skills or knowledge. I know his work at Arizona State and at Lincoln Labs is very demanding both in the hours he spends on it and the complexity of the work. He will be glad to finish.

Update: Amazingly, this is the view from Christian’s dorm room for the summer. He told me he got into the room last night. My understanding is he can see the Boston Museum of Fine Arts right out his window.

Christian’s job is to think

Christian at IHOP Tempe, AZ May 1, 2017We saw the April 30, 2017 whiteboard (below) when we first arrived at his apartment on our move to Centralia, WA. Christian hopes he is on the verge of his first (semi) important, first author publication in a major academic journal. The work for that paper is pretty much done. He has to refine the verbiage and get past the whole scholarly review thing which is never a sure thing, but he has something that is pretty solid. The two whiteboard’s below are two consecutive days of work. I thought he spent a lot of time at the computer, but that is not really how he works. He looks at the whiteboard and then he just thinks. His job, his professor tells him, is to think. He has a second paper in mind. He hopes it will be better than the first. The first is solid–something that needed to be worked out. The second, however, is something that might be a true innovation. Something new, not yet considered, that contributes to the field. We hope so, but it is hard to know. Even after a paper like that is published, its importance might not even be know in the lifetime of the author. Truly interesting stuff. AND the whiteboards look really cool.

April 30, 2017 – Christian’s Whiteboard
Whiteboard at Christian's apartment ASU April 2017

May 1, 2017 – Christian’s Whiteboard
Whiteboard at Christian's apartment ASU May 2017

Christian goes to MIT Lincoln Labs for the summer

Christian and Lorena at Christmas time in Texas 2016Lorena and I have not participated much in the education of the kids other than as cheerleaders since they started paying their own ways in graduate school three years back. So, it is nice to be able to report some new educational stuff. MIT Lincoln Labs who is funding Christian’s research offer him a summer research position this summer. Hopefully, he will be living in a dorm at Northeastern University which appears to right downtown (or within walking distance) Boston. It is an internship really, so now both Kelly and Christian have had technical internships at high tier research institutes, Kelly at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University and now Christian at MIT Lincoln Labs where he will continue his work in network information theory.

Tio Lynn earns his law degree

Tio Lynn's graduation photo!CONGRATULATIONS LYNN!!!! We are all very proud of Tio Lynn, child number three (Lorena is four) of Grandpa Lauro and Grandma Conchita. He earned his law degree and we all now have to call him Licenciado Lynn Neri. He is only a few months away now from meeting all the regulatory requirements to practice law in Mexico. He went through a lot of hard work to get to this worthy goal. That brings the family degree count up to three engineering degrees (Tios Lauro, Jorge and Rigoberto) and Lynn’s law degree. Lorena is still at work on her degree and I expect she will finish it before to long, if we ever quit uprooting her so she actually has the time to finish.

Thanksgiving with family (but apart)

Christian at the Rizos (Kelly, too)Christian hitched a ride with his friend Nathan to spend Thanksgiving weekend with the Rizos in San Diego. Kelly flew down last night from Seattle to join the crowd. We tried to figure out a way to be all together this year, but it just did not make sense. We could not be happier about the alternative as the Rizos selflessly made it all work out (again).

Kelly sent out this photo of Christian working on term papers, test preparation and homework. This is probably the last Thanksgiving he will ever have to do this. He has one more semester with a full load of classes followed by a semester with only one class, then he will be all dissertation all the time until he graduates. That is something for which he can certainly be thankful this Thanksgiving.

Lorena and I will spend some time with friends, but sometime during the weekend, we will cook a turkey–the thought of not having turkey sandwiches and other leftovers is more than we can bear.

Does this girl look harrassed?

Does this girl look harrassed?Kelly sent me a great article on how to raise successful girls. I think it is great and almost surely applies to boys as well. It is titled Want to Raise Successful Daughters? Science Says Nag the Heck Out of Them and was pretty much the operating mode of our family from about when the kids turned two (tongue in cheek, but maybe only slightly). I honestly think there is a good bit of truth to the claims in the article. We had our own little spin on it, but I cannot say that I am not guilty of at least a little bit of this kind of behavior. On the other hand, the über-tiger-mother-from-hades meme is one we rightly loathed so we are not buying this lock, stock and barrel, just maybe lock and stock.

By the way, does the girl in this picture look harassed and put out?

Kelly gets her MS diploma

Kelly's Master of Science diplomaI wanted to post Kelly’s Master of Science in Business Administration diploma as it is the current high mark in her educational efforts. She is almost certainly not done yet (talked to one of her professors last night about next steps), but she is at work now in a good job in downtown Seattle learning new stuff, loving her job and her new co-workers and on the way to figuring out what she really wants to do as a vocation. We are very happy and excited for Kelly.

Coming soon: A semi-momentous anouncement

Some really good stuff is happening, some of which has to do with schooling and some with work. Lorena and I are spending most of the day indoors today, not because we want to be here on a beautiful sunny fall day (not to hot for a change), but because we have to work. I have taken on another project to help with a medical device for developing countries and Lorena is studying for her Statistics class. She has two classes this term, so she is pretty busy. That is all good stuff, but not the subject of this post. I just wanted to put up a marker because some good decisions were made to make a change, but the exact direction is not yet established. I think in a couple of days we can celebrate it and talk about it.

Woo-hoo! Lorena starts back to college!

Clackamas Community CollegeWe found out today that Lorena made it past the waitlist and is now enrolled into two online classes at Clackamas Community College. She only has a few classes left and this was the best way to get her to her degree. It is a challenge because one of the classes is Statistics, a pretty hard class. I actually use statistics on a daily basis at my day job, but her best hope for good help is with Kelly (BS Statistics) and Christian (BS Applied Mathematics). We are very excited for Lorena and hope she can finish either this Spring or next Fall. After (in October) 24 years of marriage, I still relish the thought that we are paying for education. I hope it never ends.

The homework never ends

Christian's last weekend as a twenty year oldChristian got on an airplane a little after midnight on Wednesday to arrive here in Texas at five in the morning yesterday. He is here to celebrate his last weekend as a twenty year old. He got now sleep last night, but had a homework assignment due at three (Texas time), so he did not get to go to bed until yesterday afternoon. The crazy part is that, the problem he was required to solve assumed some things that were not stated in the problem and that mathematicians can never assume. He ended up writing a note to the professor to say how he just did not know how to solve the problem “generally.” The professor wrote back and said he never intended for the problem to be solved generally, just in some important cases. So Christian, in the time-honored tradition of graduate students everywhere, got to waste a night solving a problem that was unsolvable based on the incomplete information provided in the problem statement.

Last first day of class for Christian

Kelly and Christian NC State Day OneSeeing all the little kids starting out in kindergarten and first grade on Facebook and Instagram, we started feeling a little melancholy when we realized Christian starts back to class today for what might be his last formal year of classes in the school year forever. Christian was sixteen and Kelly was eighteen at the time. We found this old picture of Kelly and Christian’s first day of school (their Junior year there after two years at Wake Technical Community College) at NC State. Christian is taking classes in Quantum Physics and Functional Analysis (Math) this semester.

Homeschool continues to grow as the culture (and government schools) coarsen

From an article titled Pressed By Common Core And LGBT Agenda, More Families Homeschool at The Federalist:

One major reason families homeschool is for academic quality. The United States spends roughly $12,000 per student on education, which is more than every other country in the world except Lichtenstein. While our math and science scores have improved slightly over the last few years, we still rank in the middle of the global pack.

In addition, LGBTQ activists have successfully inundated schools with their approved ideology inside sex education that starts now as early as kindergarten. With these problems in public schools and many families unwilling or unable to afford the cost of private schooling, more and more families are choosing homeschooling as an alternative. This ensures they can avoid educational indolence and moral apathy while picking and choosing what learning method, curriculum, and schedule works best for their family.

Every year my own homeschool circle increases and there are waiting lists for the cooperative classes we participate in—and I live in a state that boasts some of the wealthiest counties and highest-praised public school systems in the country. Data released last year from the U.S. Department of Education shows that “between 2003-2012, the number of American children between ages 5 to 17 who are homeschooled has risen 61.8 percent, and that the percentage homeschooled in that age range has increased from 2.2 to 3.4 percent.” Parents are pursuing a style of education they can control that will enrich their children, now with very little fear of the stigma that used to surround it.

This is a great article in that it talks about the normalization of homeschool and the reasons it can be a great way to educate one’s children and not just the reasons to remove them from the caustic government school environment that delivers a bad education. I think this article is just another manifestation of what people are trying to do to fight a morally and spiritually bankrupt culture like the one described in the post before this one.

Pushback on Christian’s latest blog post

Christian recently wrote a technical post on his blog about demosaicing of images captured with Fujifilms new X-trans sensor. He tested some methods to perform the demosaicing, wrote a first pass of his own demosaicing code and then posted about it all on the blog. That kind of thing is pretty interesting to guys who work in that area and/or have cameras. He got a couple of nice comments on the blog post itself, but what boggled my mind was that some guy wrote this over on Hacker News where his article got some coverage:

[sic] someone is wasting a [sic] phd scholarship to solve a problem that only [sic] exist because people keep dumping money on a company that damages their own product by now releasing source or specs?

What a tool. That is like saying people are wasting McDonald’s, Amazon’s or the local donut shop’s money to solve a problem just because the guy solving the problem happens to work for that company. PhD scholarship students are not slaves. Some of their time is their own. Beside that, Christian is not on scholarship. He is a Research Fellow and A Dean’s Fellow, so he is an employee, just like if he were working at McDonald’s, Amazon or the local donut shop. And who cares how the problem was caused. People have the problem and it an interesting problem. Why not solve it? What kind of a waste of oxygen writes a comment like that?

Chronological snobbery and biblical archeology

"House of David" inscriptionJust a day after I wrote a post on The Veracity of the Bible which included links to articles about fairly recent archaeological discoveries that confirm the biblical record, Eric Metaxas wrote an article that describes the blinders worn by much of academia when they evaluate these kinds of new evidences. In the article, titled A Flood of Evidence, Chronological Snobbery and Archeology, he describes a concept using terms first coined by C.S. Lewis. The article starts out like this:

In his conversion story, “Surprised by Joy,” C. S. Lewis explains how his close friend, Owen Barfield, demolished his “chronological snobbery.” Lewis defined chronological snobbery as “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate of our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that count discredited.”

In Lewis’s time, much of academia was already convinced that every past generation formed a staircase of progress, leading (of course) to enlightened modernity. And since Lewis’s death, many intellectuals have only become more convinced of their own perch at the pinnacle of history. These days, we barely even notice the snobbery.

Metaxas goes on to list some relatively recent discoveries with links to some great articles about what they mean with respect to the veracity of the biblical record. An example of one of the discoveries is described in a post on the same site about confirmation that King David was an actual, living breathing person (the famous Tel Dan Stele). There are additional links in and after the story to additional confirmations. Then he goes on to describe the silliness of chronological snobbery and how it dampens the acquisition of a better understanding of ancient history.

The veracity of the Bible revisited

Dead Sea Scroll FragmentOne of our most fondly remembered homeschool outings was a visit to the traveling exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences back in 2008 when the kids were in their early teens. It was particularly exciting for me because it had been a hobby, an avocation really, to read Ancient Near East history for the previous twenty five years to try to get an understanding of what we really know about the events that transpired in the Old and New Testaments. Of course the New Testament and the events surrounding Jesus’ time here on Earth or the most well attested events in antiquity as represented by the documents available to us today and the proximity in time of those documents to the actual events. As part of our world view studies in homeschool, we studied all these things carefully and it was nice to see the artifacts themselves. That this exhibit arrived in Raleigh was coincident with our studies was truly serendipitous.

The Old Testament is so far removed from us that, historically speaking, it is a lot more difficult to find the level of verification for those events from either the available documentary evidence or from archeology. Still, there not nothing and what there is continues to confirm the biblical record. I was very happy to find a couple of articles that talked to all these issues in the last couple of days. The first is a blog post about the way the canon of the New Testament was selected. It put into one article what it took me a long time to figure out reading about it piecemeal. The upshot is hat 22 of the books of the New Testament, the gospels, the Acts, Paul’s epistles (including Hebrews), I Peter, I John and Revelations have always been universally recognized as canonical. In addition, things like the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, the Acts of John, etc. have been considered to be heretical from antiquity. There are a couple of other categories that describe how the canon got to 27 books and no more. I highly recommend this concise article titled An Essential Key to Understanding the Development of the NT Canon.

In addition to that, I found a blog post titled Historical Reliability of the Old Testament: Resources for Study. It is a series of links to articles about what we do know and what we don’t know, historically speaking, about the Old Testament. The articles talk about the controversies, the archeology, etc. of the Exodus, the Babylonian exile and other events and persons in the Old Testament. I good survey of what we know today and a good place to start (from the list) is this article by Peter J. Williams.

My BeagleBone website server and learning new stuff

home dev site screenshot
Learning new things keeps me sane. The reality is that it is hard work to learn new stuff and I am not that fond of new stuff. I am fond, though, of having learned new hard stuff. I am currently on a kick to upgrade my programming skills. A lot of programming is minutiae–a massive jigsaw puzzle of minutiae tied together with clever tricks and best practices that are not always obvious. Right after I arrived in Texas I worked on a webified version of my old GaugeCam project software. I did not get very far–just some user interface stuff, but I put it onto a little BeagleBone Black embedded computer that runs Xubuntu and serves the site from our little apartment. You can access the site by clicking here (not so much to see). The thing has been up and running for several months now. I am kind of amazed.

The upshot is that I thought I would change the focus of my learning effort a little, put up a second page on the same server and see if I could serve live images from two cameras and do some realtime image analysis all from this wimpy little embedded computer. I started on it last night. We will see if I get anywhere with it over the next few months.

Oddly productive, unproductive weekend

Kiwi and I studying hard over the weekend
Lorena and I planned to drive to Wichita last Friday for a working weekend. I turned out that the people with whom we were to work planned to leave after lunch on Saturday so we decided a conference call working session made a lot more sense than twelve hours of driving followed by four hours of work. I have a ton of things to accomplish at my day job and planned to spend the bulk of what time I had left on the weekend for that. I accomplished two things: the conference call (four hours on Saturday morning) and a lot of “contemplation” sessions with Kiwi like the one shown in the image above. Well, there was a little bit more to it than that–Kelly and Christian both called and we talked for long stretches on life and their current paths.

The talks with Kelly and Christian were the most productive parts of the weekend. Christian is at about the halfway point of his PhD program, living through the pain of his third Tempe summer and the bloom of graduate school is definitely off the rose. He is in a good place with his work–he and his professor are performing the final edits on a paper about the research he has performed over the last two years which they will submit in the next week or so. On the other hand, he spends so much time working, there is little time for anything else, so he is looking forward to the day when he can get a regular job where he goes to work in the morning, goes home in the evening and has weekends off–all in a place where the daytime temperature only hits triple digits four or five days per year.

Kelly, on the other hand, is not so enamored with the actual day to day work of her degree. She does not think she wants to do marketing research and/or be an academic, so she is trying to decide whether to finish where she just to have her graduate school complete forever, or switch graduate schools and go back to a degree and field that is a little bit more rigorous–probably in the use of statistics. It is a hard decision, but she has a great opportunity to go either way. The good thing is that she is thinking about it objectively. It might be worth it to just finish out–she is in a good place to do that academically, but if she hates it, she might be better served to step back, reconsider what she wants and move onto something for which she has a passion.

Take harder classes in high school? A better idea is to skip it altogether.

After hammering on The Atlantic yesterday for shoddy reporting, I found an article they published that suggests that taking harder classes in high school does not necessarily translate to future success in college. The article is titled When the Value of High School Is Exaggerated, but whose title on the tab of my browser is Success in High School Doesn’t Mean Good Grades in College. I think both titles and the articles point describe our experience well:

Instead, the pair [who did the research on which the article was based] thinks that if high schools want to prepare students for college, they should focus less on specific content and more on critical thinking and reasoning. Most students will forget the specifics of, say, mitosis shortly after they take their AP biology exam, but they might retain the broader concepts of conducting an experiment and presenting evidence. “It’s really the underlying skills that stay with people,” Hershbein said. That may be one reason that calculus seems to be the one exception in the research, where students who have exposure in high school benefit “mildly” in terms of better college grades. That’s “probably because it is based on cumulative learning to a greater extent than other subjects,” the authors note.

Our premise all along has been that there are a lot of students who could easily transition to community college after the eighth grade. This allows the students to avoid the academic and cultural malaise that characterize the vast majority of traditional schools in America (government and private) and move into an environment much better suited for success in their future endeavors. The community college system in the US is profoundly better at preparing students for life after school either in a trade or further educational endeavor at a four year college. You can read about our experience pursuing that path in the series of posts on this blog titled Why Not Skip High School?