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The year 2011 has been well traveled for me. Not including the U.S., I’ve been to five countries:






And not including California, I’ve been to two States:



I hope 2011 has been good for you and make 2012 even better!

I haven’t posted anything in a while. The first half of summer was fun; the second half, stressful!

As you may know from previous posts, I spent the first few weeks of summer in Europe. AMAZING! I got back to California the beginning of July. I had some friends visit, I visited some friends; all in all, July and the first half of August were fun.

I spent the end of August and beginning of September studying for my algebra qualifying exam; hence no new posts. But that is all done now. I successfully dominated my qual, 24 out of 25! Perhaps in a future post I’ll put up the exam along with my solutions.

Today was the first day of school. It’s nice going to school and not having any classes! I need to take one more class (Galois theory) and then I will officially have my masters degree! Unfortunately, Galois is only offered spring quarter. So in the mean time I’m teaching and doing independent study in math education (more on the math ed in future posts). This quarter I’m teaching precalculus and facilitating a workshop for calculus 3. This quarter is pretty chillax, teach a couple of classes and do some independent study. I don’t have to go to class, I don’t have to worry about homework, and I don’t have to study for exams! Super nice!

Travel blogging is tough. Traveling alone is exhausting! This trip has been a lot of fun though. Packing so much stuff into just two weeks made for a lot of excitment but was incredibly draining. I’m back in the US, but I’m stuck in Detroit. My flight landed at 12:06pm Detroit time and my connecting flight to LA leaves at 10:04pm Detroit time. Yep, a ten hour layover and of all places, Detroit. I tried switching to an earlier flight. There was a 3 o’clock and an 8 o’clock flight unfortunately, they’re both full. My next option was to try and explore the city. Being a major metropolitan area, I figured there would be a metro or bus line that went to downtown. After a lot of seraching and talking to people, there is no metro system but there is a bus system here called Smart Bus. Both people I talked to directed me to the apparently one “bus stop” at the airport. To my knowledge, bus stops usually have a sign, a schedule, or at least a bench. This one had a little sign under a larger sign that said “employee pick up”. I ask some one who looks like a flight attendant, presumably waiting at the employee pick up spot, and asked her if this is the Smart Bus stop. She thinks it is, but didn’t have any more information than that. I do notice that there is a webstie, Aha, I can look up the schedule and figure out  how to get out of this airport! Fail. There isn’t any free wifi in the airport, so I have to use my phone. Service isn’t great but I am able to connect to the sight. But I’m unable to find a successful route to downtown. I wait around at the bus stop for a while but no busses arrive. Defeat. I have given up on trying to leave the airport. Instead, I have decided to stay, I’ll wade it out in the airport. Thus, I have time to write this blog entry. It’s 3:50 Detroit time.


I wrote this entry in notepad, before I had internet access. I have just now got around to posting it. The time of publication for this post is 8 pm (Detroit). And I’m still at the airport…

I’ve been super busy the past few days, but I finally have some time to blog.

Our flight to Rome departed from Paris at 9:40am. It was a rainy morning. We decide to leave the hostel at 6, which would give us plenty of time to take the metro to the airport, go through check in, and so on. We get to the metro only to discover that all the lines are closed due to a workers strike. Now we’re in a bit of a bind. We head back to the hostel and book a taxi. The taxi arrives and we get to the airport just fine.

Rome was warm! To go from rainy weather in London and Paris to 80 degree weather in Rome was a pleasant change. Taking the train into the city from the airport was a bit of a challenge. The first train we boarded wasn’t working so everyone had to exit it and board a different one. We didn’t know which train to take so we just followed the crowd. The train was packed! All the seats filled, and people and luggage crowding the aisle. At one stop a woman boards the train and starts throwing her hands in the air shouting stuff in Italian because she can’t find a seat. Other people start chiming in waving their hands and soon half of the car is caught up in the commotion! We got to the city much later than we planned. Eventually we are able to get in touch with our friend Anna and she meets us at the train station. We check into our hostel, dump our bags, and head out into the city.

Highlights from our first afternoon in Rome include the Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti and the Fontana di Trevi. We all threw a coin into the fountain. On our second day we woke up early and headed over to the Vatican Museum. The museum is amazing! The Sistine Chapel  is breathtaking, but my favorite part was the Raphael Rooms. His painting the School of Athens is incredible! After the museum we walked to Anna’s apartment and had some homemade Italian food for lunch. Delicious! Then back to Saint Peter’s Square and into Saint Peter’s Basilica. For our final day in Rome we, of course, have to see the Colosseum.

From Rome we flew to Venice. Then we had to take the water bus into the city. We check into our hostel late and go to bed. We only had half a day in Venice, our train left the next afternoon at 1pm. We wake up early and explore the city. Just getting lost in the alley ways and exploring the canals was fun.

From Venice we took the train to Munich. The ride was 7 hours but very scenic. We have been in Munich for a couple of days now and staying at our friend Hemond’s house. We’ve been taking it easy in Munich. On our first day had a nice afternoon in Wespark, played some soccer. Then today we took a quick walking tour of downtown Munich.

That’s all for now, more later.

I’ve been in Paris for a day so far. Flew in early from London and didn’t get much sleep. Checked into our hostel then explored the city. The Eiffel Tower is amazing! Super crowded, didn’t have time to wait in line to go to the top. I guess I can’t do everything in this trip, have to save some stuff for next time 🙂 From there, walked to the Arc de Triomphe. After that, took the metro to the Notre Dame. Despite the weather, Paris is beautiful! Sorry for the short post, don’t have too much time to write, I’ll try to have more latter.

As some of you may (or may not) know, I will be traveling in Europe for the next two weeks starting tomorrow, June 14. To document my trip I’ll be blogging about it from this site. My goal is to post something every day; I’ll try to post pictures and share stories from the day’s happenings. I’ve never been to Europe so I’m super excited! My flight leaves LAX tomorrow afternoon…

Keith Devlin is a professor at Stanford but probably better known as the NPR “math guy”. I really like his latest piece on Weekend Edition.

The Way You Learned Math Is So Old School : NPR

Remember going through your multiplication tables in elementary school? Or crunching through long division? Yeah, it sucked and that’s because it’s lame and useless, literally useless. Especially in today’s society where everyone uses a calculator or a computer to carry out arithmetic calculations. Computers do arithmetic for us, Devlin says, but making computers do the things we want them to do requires algebraic thinking. Elementary schools are starting to notice this and it’s changing the way arithmetic is taught. The emphasis in teaching mathematics today is on getting people to be sophisticated, algebraic thinkers. This doesn’t mean that we should stop teaching arithmetic in school; arithmetic is the foundation for strong algebraic thinking, it is not however, the end goal.

I’ve recently been on an origami craze. Even though origami is an ancient Japanese art, a lot has been written about the mathematics of origami and paper folding (as a simple Google search will show). Origami, and paper folding in general, has many interesting algebraic, and of course, geometric properties. The mathematics in many of the articles I’ve seen is pretty complicated and I won’t even try to pretend that I fully understand it. One of the AMS Notices from last year had an article that “use[d] origami as a tool to exhibit explicit solutions to some systems of partial differential equations”. If you are at all interested, you can find the article here.

As far as my interests in origami go, yeah there’s some pretty deep mathematics, but I think it’s a cool hobby to have and I can make some cool decorations for my desk.

The winter career fair was this past week and it got me thinking, I need to figure out what to to with my life. I’ll have my masters degree in June (hopefully, there’s this thing about qualifying exams and I’ve yet to pass one of them, but that’s another story). The obvious choice for me is teaching at the community college level. Yes, I enjoy teaching, but it just feels so limiting to me. I feel like there is more I can do and want to do. I’d like to have a career in math education development, and for that, I would need a PhD in math education. This blurb from the Portland State website sums it up pretty nicely.

I’d like to be “a mathematics educator who can become: (i) A faculty member in a mathematics department or school of education in a university, four year college, or community college; (ii) A curriculum specialist in mathematics, supervisor of mathematics at the middle school level or secondary school level, or a mathematics specialist in state or local departments of education.”

Aside from education, a lot of the “math” related careers I’ve seen are: designing missiles, computer programing, and operations research. I don’t want to design missiles, ever. I have very limited programing skills, but I’m willing to learn. I don’t know to much about operations research, but it seems that mathematicians are the most qualified for this type of work.

I have an on going list of careers that I have seriously been considering, if math doesn’t work out for me.

  • Monk (specifically, a Zen Buddhist monk)
  • Sushi Chef

This list is constantly growing, more will be added later…

On Christmas eve my family and I went around looking at Christmas lights. This is the Balian House in Altadena. We used to go and look at the Christmas lights here when I was much younger and it’s actually exactly as I remember. Apparently the Balian family used to (or still does) own an ice cream company and this was the house they lived in. I’m not sure if anyone lives here now. I think the family just owns it and they still decorate it for Christmas.

The Balian House

The day after Christmas my family went shopping, I decided to go to the Huntington Library in San Marino. It was very crowded. I especially like the Japanese garden they have.

Japanese Garden

Zen Garden