### My professorship at Hogwarts

TO: Faculty

FROM: Dean of Students

DATE: April 7, 2010

SUBJECT: Senior Ditch Day 2010

As it has every year since 1921, Senior Ditch Day will take place sometime this term. Ditch Day is officially recognized as a holiday by the faculty (see the Faculty Handbook, Chapter 9, page 6), but the date is kept secret by the seniors. With great care and ingenuity, the seniors set up systems of puzzles and tasks, known as "stacks", for the underclassmen to work on. Stacks take a variety of forms, and many provide themed t-shirts to the undergraduate participants.

It has been customary for instructors to make allowances for the fact that not only seniors, but all undergraduates can be expected to devote the entire day to some creative and often bizarre enterprises. Because Ditch Day can fall on any day of the week, I encourage you to plan your courses so that one lecture may be missed or rescheduled. Please postpone the due dates for work originally due on Ditch Day for the day after. In addition, since underclass students do not know when Ditch Day is, it is reasonable to give these students an extra day to complete assignments that were due on the day after Ditch day. All students should also have the opportunity to make up labs.

If you ask seniors when Ditch Day will be, they always answer "tomorrow." Caltech is proud of the ingenuity often shown by our students in carrying this tradition and hope that you will join in participating, at least as a spectator. Faculty are welcome to take an informal tour of the houses on Ditch Day.

Thanks for your support of this activity.

Amy Pousson said…
between this and all the fun sounding Cal Tech vs MIT pranks it's further confirmed for me that while probably just as nerdy, Rolla was no where near as cool as Cal Tech. Man...why couldn't we be that cool?!

### On the Height of J.J. Barea

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea standing between two very tall people (from: Picassa user photoasisphoto).

Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Miami Heat tonight in game six to win the NBA championship.

Okay, with that out of the way, just how tall is the busy-footed Maverick point guard J.J. Barea? He's listed as 6-foot on NBA.com, but no one, not even the sports casters, believes that he can possibly be that tall. He looks like a super-fast Hobbit out there. But could that just be relative scaling, with him standing next to a bunch of extremely tall people? People on Yahoo! Answers think so---I know because I've been Google searching "J.J. Barea Height" for the past 15 minutes.

So I decided to find a photo and settle the issue once and for all.

I then used the basketball as my metric. Wikipedia states that an NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumfe…

### Finding Blissful Clarity by Tuning Out

It's been a minute since I've posted here. My last post was back in April, so it has actually been something like 193,000 minutes, but I like how the kids say "it's been a minute," so I'll stick with that.
As I've said before, I use this space to work out the truths in my life. Writing is a valuable way of taking the non-linear jumble of thoughts in my head and linearizing them by putting them down on the page. In short, writing helps me figure things out. However, logical thinking is not the only way of knowing the world. Another way is to recognize, listen to, and trust one's emotions. Yes, emotions are important for figuring things out.
Back in April, when I last posted here, my emotions were largely characterized by fear, sadness, anger, frustration, confusion and despair. I say largely, because this is what I was feeling on large scales; the world outside of my immediate influence. On smaller scales, where my wife, children and friends reside, I…

### The Force is strong with this one...

Last night we were reviewing multiplication tables with Owen. The family fired off doublets of numbers and Owen confidently multiplied away. In the middle of the review Owen stopped and said, "I noticed something. 2 times 2 is 4. If you subtract 1 it's 3. That's equal to taking 2 and adding 1, and then taking 2 and subtracting 1, and multiplying. So 1 times 3 is 2 times 2 minus 1."

I have to admit, that I didn't quite get it at first. I asked him to repeat with another number and he did with six: "6 times 6 is 36. 36 minus 1 is 35. That's the same as 6-1 times 6+1, which is 35."

Ummmmm....wait. Huh? Lemme see...oh. OH! WOW! Owen figured out

x^2 - 1 = (x - 1) (x +1)

So $6 \times 8 = 7 \times 7 - 1 = (7-1) (7+1) = 48$. That's actually pretty handy!

You can see it in the image above. Look at the elements perpendicular to the diagonal. There's 48 bracketing 49, 35 bracketing 36, etc... After a bit more thought we…