Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Let's Bring Learning to Life at Home and in the Classroom

During the 1960s I did some industrial (analytical) chemistry work, then spent six years teaching chemistry, general science and mathematics in high schools. … Then gave up teaching to join IBM in 1970 and spend the rest of my professional life in the IT industry (finally retiring at the end of 2013).

I just received an e-mail from one Stacy Maxton, requesting that I add some links to this page on my website but that page (and most of the others on the site) have now been moved to archive status, so I couldn’t fulfill Stacy’s request.

Instead, since it looks worthwhile, as one who believes strongly in encouraging education (for people of all ages), I’ve taken the liberty of posting Stacy’s request below, where it will probably get more attention:

Hello fellow educator!

I’ve been a cheerleader for math (and, really, education as a whole) for as long as I can remember (in fact – that’s ultimately why I started my own site!).

Over the last several years, I’ve tutored 100s of students to make math more attainable and fun.

Teaching becomes increasingly difficult during the holiday season when thoughts of sugar-plums are dancing in our students’ heads! :) That’s why I decided to put together a list of resources to help educators keep a classroom full of excited children focused and (hopefully!) ensure that learning still happens during this somewhat chaotic time! :)

Please enjoy! And feel free to share with others (on your site: http://notestracker.net/Links/WebResources.htm, and any other medium you prefer)!

I hope these resources ease this somewhat chaotic time for learning!

Keep Calm and Teach On! :)

I hope that the above resource links assist educators around the globe, including visiting Stacy’s site MathCamps of course.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

It’s time to change this punctuation rule (or am I being too dotty?)

Languages are constantly and continually changing, as are the rules for punctuation. I’ve been interested in languages since early High School days (where I was introduced to Latin and French, my first exposure to foreign tongues).

Being used to mathematics and computer coding, there’s one particular punctuation rule that I’d like to see changed for the better

In mathematics and computer programming languages, there are statement construction rules such as the requirement to balance parentheses. In spoken languages, there are sentence construction rules that we are expected to follow.

For example, in “good English” there are rules for the placement of punctuation marks such as the full stop (the dot, or period). Taking as one example Jef Raskin’s essay Effectiveness of Mathematics and consider the final two sentences:

It is because we have evolved so as to have brains that work the way the world does, that part of what has evolved are the logical (to us) processes of deduction. As we build mathematics we build it in conformity with the physical world because the foundations of logic, the very nature of what makes sense to us, was dictated by the physical world. The inherent abilities of our brains were established, and those abilities reinforced, by natural selection. If we have been schooled by the physical world, should we be surprised that our works reflect its teachings? From this point of view, we should be surprised only if mathematics, built on a logic derived from the way the world behaves, was not able to describe the world. We do not need to resort to Penrose’s mystical explanation, which is based on a "belief in the profound mathematical harmony of Nature" as he proclaimed in his book, The Emperor’s New Mind. In an appropriately skeptical book, The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan came close to my position, saying that, "our notions, both hereditary and learned, of how Nature works were forged in the millions of years our ancestors were hunters and gatherers. I think the roots of logic are perhaps deeper than our sentient ancestors." I move from "perhaps" to "must have been".

In the first of these two sentences we see the conventional punctuation rule for concluding a sentence containing a quoted phrase. This rule states that you should precede the closing quotation mark with the full stop. …    “must have been”.    rather than  “must have been.”

In the second sentence, and probably inadvertently, Jef placed the full stop after the closing quotation mark.

I prefer he second usage, and reckon that the rule should be changed to be like this. It makes more sense to me, and is more “balanced” in the way that mathematical expressions and computer programming statements would require.

Let’s start a movement to get this punctuation rule changed. I hope you agree with me that it’s a “better way”.  Or am I just being an unpleasant, unrepentant pedant?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

If it’s safe enough for NASA, then it’s good enough for me (software coding rules)

NASA / JPL Laboratory develop spectacular stuff, and it’s not all rockets and space vehicle of all sorts.

Behind al that NASA has been doing for decades is software, used to monitor and control all their vehicles since the earth orbiters and the moonshots of the 1960s.

I’ve retired from active IT work now, and closed Asia/Pacific Computer Services at the end of 2013 (importantly though, NotesTracker is still available and supported, more about this very soon).

Now I’m an IT end-user and industry observer, and one thing that continues to be disturb and even appall me is how so much flawed and sub-standard software gets dumped upon us by companies of all sizes.

Well, over the decades NASA hasn’t been in the position to deploy any sub-standard applications. When livers depend of application robustness in a manned mission, or a space probe is at the outer edge of our solar system, they can’t debug and alter it very easily (if at al)l. So it has to be as close to perfect as possible right from the start of a mission.

NASA uses a set of coding rules such as “No function should be longer than what can be printed on a single sheet of  paper” to develop top-class applications, and you should consider using such rules when designing and developing your own apps.

Go view a summary of the NASA/JPL Laboratory for Reliable Software methodology at The Power of Ten –  Rules for Developing Safety Critical Code

An application crash?

Friday, August 14, 2015

What is a scientist? And, is the Internet rotting kids’ brains?

There's a recent article Don’t panic, the internet won’t rot children’s brains in The Conversation that’s very much worth reading in its own right.

However, in this case I’m pointing out that it has an excellent, to-the-point passage about the nature of science:

There’s no admission ceremony to become a scientist, no Hippocratic-like oath, no hand placed on a holy book while pledging to uphold this or that. There’s no need for any of this, because without following the fundamentals of science, you are, quite simply, not a scientist.

At the very core of science is the judgement of theories in light of available evidence. Scientists are humans. We have our own beliefs and prejudices, and at times it is near-on impossible to divorce ourselves from these.

That’s why the only kingmaker in science is evidence: objective, irrefutable observations. For every scientific theory proven through observations, there are dozens that lie shattered on the floor. And that’s how it should be.

And I’ll leave it at that, for you to ponder.

Not to be judgmental, but the above quotation has the spelling “judgement” and there’s an interesting discussion of this spelling over at The Grammarist

Saturday, July 25, 2015

How to add “Open with Foxit Reader” to the right-click context menu of Windows Explorer

I use two excellent PDF reader applications on my Windows systems, PDF-XChange Viewer and Foxit Reader, but there isn’t a  top-level context menu entry (right-click menu item) in Windows Explorer for the latter application.

As is my wont, to save you some time and effort, here’s a “how to” explanation that you can use to do the same (and the same approach, with minor modifications, can be used for opening file types other than PDF documents).

The following screenshot shows the end result, the Open with Foxit Reader context menu entry, achieved after just a little bit of tinkering with the Windows registry:


There Open with PDF-XChange Viewer was already there (created by the installer), but unfortunately the Installer for Foxit Reader doesn’t add such an entry (Foxit Software, take note, and add this to you installer).

Of course, I’m assuming that you are already suitably familiar with using the registry editor in Windows. (If not, get somebody who is familiar to do it for you.)


  1. Expand the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT hive entry.
  2. Locate and expand the shell key
  3. Right=click on the shell key and create a new key called Open with Foxit Reader
  4. Right-click on “Open with Foxit Reader” and create a new sub-key called command
  5. Double-click on the (default)value and enter (exactly) the following data string as highlighted in green:

        "C:\Program Files (x86)\Foxit Software\Foxit Reader\FoxitReader.exe" "%1"

As soon as you’ve completed step 5 you should find that the desired context menu entry is immediately available to use (as demonstrated in the first screenshot to open The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking). Not too difficult, eh?

Note that the above worked for me, under Windows 8.1 and details might vary a little for prior versions of Windows. Get a few more ideas from articles like this one one from How-To Geek.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Generate your mission statement

Now there’s no excuse not to have a mission statement for your organization, whether a giant corporation of a one-man band …

Mission Statement Generator


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Group illusion – The missing man. A baker's dozen?

An interesting visual puzzle. Watch the group of people at play.

How many people do you see?
Wait a few moments (repeating cycle).

After the people shift places, count them again!
shifting people

Given up? … Look here for a detailed explanation.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Things to do with tomorrow’s leap second (30 June 2015)

Network World is really on the ball with this opportunity!

What to do with tomorrow’s leap second (for 30 June 2015)


Screen capture of the UTC clock from time.gov
during the UTC leap second,
on June 30, 2012, 23:59:60.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

What Kind of Procrastinator Are You?

Am I a daredevil, self-saboteur, ostrich, chicken or perfectionist? I was going to find out by working my way through this infographic but I’ll leave it until tomorrow, perhaps.

It’s a flowchart to let you determine why and how you procrastinate – but so far I haven’t gotten around to working my way through it.

It’s probably worthwhile, though, as it points out:

“Sadly, procrastination is part of life. We, as humans, tend to want to put off what we can do later. In small doses, procrastination won’t hurt much, other than possibly making you lose a little bit of sleep if you stay up late to finish the job. But if it becomes a habit, it can lead to losing a job or, if you own your own business, the end of it.”

Yawn …  Mañana is soon enough for me as Peggy Lee puts it:

ATTRIBUTION: "Mañana" - Peggy Lee and the David Barbour Quartet, 1950. From “The Snader Telescriptions”. Copyright 2011 Peggy Lee Associates, LLC, under exclusive license to South Bay Music, LLC.