What I believe

I strongly believe: Diversity enriches a society. Immigrants enrich a society. Minnesota is a better state because of the refugees who have made it their home. The Somali community’s presence in Minnesota is worth celebrating. The ideologies that pose the greatest danger to America are white nationalism and toxic masculinity. Anyone who seeks political power by demonizing immigrants and minorities is not fit to hold office.

Book recommendation: Palaces for the people

In Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life, sociologist Eric Klinenberg discusses the role of social infrastructure in maintaining the health of a community and its people. Klinenberg argues that well-designed social infrastructure can help reduce crime, improve people’s lives, bring different people into contact with one-another, and even protect lives during natural disasters. He examines a variety of social infrastructures, including libraries, public housing courtyards, schools, barbershops, bookstores, and community gardens.

Consequences of YouTube's algorithm

As a follow-up to the previous post, consider this video by science educator Derek Muller, recently posted to his YouTube channel Veritasium: In the video, Muller explains why he thinks a previous video, about the use of shade balls in a Los Angeles-area reservoir, went viral. Basically, he explains, when deciding which videos to promote, YouTube’s algorithm seems to be attempting to maximize two outcomes: Watch time: How long the user will spend watching the video Click-through rate: How likely the user will click that particular thumbnail when it’s displayed As a result, Muller says that going forward, he will:

Life in the time of paperclip maximizers

In an influential 2003 essay, philosopher Nick Bostrom explored the ethical implications of developing a “superintelligence”, that is, an “intellect that is vastly outperforms the best human brains in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom, and social skills.” He argued that any such intelligence should be given “philanthropic values”, and designed to be ultimately motivated with improving human lives. Without such a “supergoal of philanthropy”, a superintelligence could be dangerous.

Plotting with TikZ, Part III: Plotting a function defined by a formula, and plotting functions that go through certain points

In the last post, I described how I use TikZ to create a graph that might otherwise be created freehand: In this post, I will describe one method for using TikZ to to plot a function defined by a formula, such as $$y = \left(2x^2 - x - 1\right)e^{-x}.$$ Then I will show two ways to make a function go through a certain point. Plotting from a formula Simple example There are a number of ways to achieve this, and PGF actually includes the functionality to perform calculations in TeX.

Plotting with TikZ, Part II: Functions without formulæ

In the last post, I explained why TikZ is awesome for making plots. One good use case for handmade TikZ plots is to typeset a question like this: (2 points each) A plot of the graph of the function $f$ is below: For each of the following expressions, either evaluate the expression or state that it is undefined: a. $\lim_{x \rightarrow 2^{-}} f(x)$ b. $\lim_{x \rightarrow 2^{+}} f(x)$

Plotting with TikZ, Part I: Why?

This is the first part of a three-part series of posts on generating plots of graphs with TikZ. Last year, I left my position as a mathematics professor, after teaching mathematics at the college level for 15 years (nine years as a faculty member, and six years as a graduate teaching fellow). In that time, I picked up a lot of tricks using LaTeX to produce teaching materials (handouts and slides).

Migrated to Hugo

When I set up this blog in 2012, WordPress was a natural choice for content management system. However, I recently decided to investigate using Hugo to generate this blog, and after some playing around, I made the leap. The biggest reason: I wanted the benefits of a statically-generated site. (Hugo is also more compatible with version control systems.) For the actual migration, I used Cyrill Schumacher’s WordPress to Hugo Exporter plug-in.

“10 PRINT” in PostScript

Back in May, I posted a LaTeX document using TikZ to implement the Commodore 64 BASIC program: 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 The amusement factor (for me) is due to LaTeX’s ability to generate pseudorandom numbers, which may be surprising to some, especially those who think of LaTeX documents as static (deterministic) documents and not computer programs. PostScript can also generate pseudorandom numbers, and hence I present “10 PRINT” in PostScript: