### LaTeX mailmerge package

The LaTeX mailmerge package is super useful, especially for creating multiple versions of tests. Before I discovered mailmerge, my workflow for writing a test was basically: Write one version of the test. Make a duplicate of the file. Edit the file to change all the constants. At least, that was my intended workflow. But typically I would also: Realize that there was some change I wanted to make to the test.

### LaTeX menukeys package

I’d like to put in a quick word in favor the LaTeX menukeys package. This package makes really nice menu sequences, which is useful when you have to explain how to use software. For example, \menu[>]{Tools > Web Developer > Page Source} produces:

### It’s been a long time

It’s been a long time (over a year) since I’ve posted on this blog, because I have (to put it mildly) been very busy with other responsibilities and passions that have taken me away from blogging. Also, I serve as a (low-level, volunteer-basis) officer in a political party, and as a result, I am sometimes reluctant to post my opinions in public, for fear that they might be taken (or portrayed) as official statements, despite my disclaimer (which, to be clear, says that everything written here is my personal opinion and does not reflect the position of my employer or any organization of which I am a member).

### Book recommendation: How Not to Be Wrong

Today, I finished reading How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg. This is a very enjoyable, very well-written, general-audience book about mathematics, which I recommend whole-heartedly. Ellenberg, a math professor at the University of Wisconsin, does a great job weaving together a plethora of mathematical topics, including non-Euclidean geometry, probability, statistics, and mathematical analysis of voting systems. He writes in a way that someone who only vaguely remembers—or never really understood—high school algebra would be able to follow and enjoy.

### In defense of FERPA

In an op-ed piece titled “College kids have too much privacy“, Michele Willens criticizes the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) for making it difficult for families to monitor their college student children’s academic performance. I can understand why some families are frustrated by FERPA. Many families spend a great deal of money to send their young to college. Consider the parents in Willens’s opening anecdote, who learned their daughter had not actually graduated and skipped class for the last two years.

### Some thoughts about online discourse

I hate it when people reply or comment to something you posted, in a way that makes it clear they didn't read what you wrote or posted, (1/) — Chris Phan (@functoruser) May 15, 2015 and that they were just looking for an argument. It's disrespectful and rude. Also, I'm not looking for arguments on the Internet. (2/) — Chris Phan (@functoruser) May 15, 2015 I'm looking for dialogue, discussion, and reasonable disagreement.