Monthly Archives: June 2009

A day to be sad… and grateful

I have no idea what I expect father’s day to be like; but I’m pretty sure it shouldn’t be like this years… 

Our kids woke us up fighting and arguing with each other around 5:30 in the morning.  Stupid things, dumb things, the most ridiculous things that they argue about, so I started my day with a little less than 5 hours of sleep (in truth i kind of dozed in and out from 5:30-7:30, so I may have gotten about 6 hours of sleep).  I don’t function really well on less than 7.5 hours of sleep.  So I’ve been kind of dragging all day, ready to fall asleep, can’t barely keep my eyes open.

I also have such a hard time when being amazed at how American my children are in their safe and comfortable homes, all the food they can eat (and snub their noses at), all the things they have and take for granted. 

I can’t fault my children for having such cushy and safe lives; I’m glad they have them, but I wish, I sure wish that when they sat down to pray for their food, they truly knew how thankful they should be that they had so much to choose from.  I wish they knew how lucky they are to be able to go to the doctors every time their ‘tummy hurts’; and know that they can get the best medicine that civilization has to offer them…

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to be in a part of the world where I can give my children these things, but, I wish there was someway that they could see how really blessed they are, without them having to go without… it’s funny (ironic) how you really can’t learn appreciation for things you have except to experience their lack…  Perhaps that’s why suffering is so important…

So, I don’t fault my children for all the things they have and take for granted, but as I sat there today, eating my 15 fried clams, watching my wife eat her 13 dollar steak, watching my kids throw out their 8 dollar chicken meals, that they just decided they didn’t want after we ordered them; I was thinking about my son and daughter in Haiti much more than usual.

It’s odd, that while during the day today I was wishing that my children were somehow better behaved, and somehow more wizened in the ways of the suffering people experience in the world, so that they could be more appreciative, I probably should have spent a little bit more time, as a father, enjoying the fact that I am a father, and I do have children to annoy me, wake me up at 5:30 A.M., and fight and argue with each other.

Because all the while, as my tiredness was attributing to my frustration in how my children were acting, I was also missing Christella and Jediah something terrible. 

How can you really have a happy father’s day if all of your children aren’t around to wake you up at 5:30 in the morning, to fight and argue with each other, and to have all the healthy food they could want to eat. 

At the end of the day, I have realized, that I should have been myself more thankful today for the time that i did have with my children that are already living at home, and thank God that by the experience of the lack of having some of my children at home, he helped me realize that I need to appreciate what I do have through the sadness of the experience of what I don’t have.

Hrm… I guess being so tired makes me ramble too…  but, Donovan, Braeden, Bella: Thank you for being my children – even with all of your humanity and child-like naivety, and Christella and Jediah, I miss you guys so much, and look forward to the time when we will all be together.

What I’ve been working on the last ten weeks

Ok, so this is going to be really boring for almost everyone… but I am adding it just as a bit of a diary for myself…

 

Tiny bits of information, 0’s and 1’s, coursing through the veins of a mass amalgamation of wires and routers and computers and pupils and into brains. The world of information technology is indeed a marvelous place to become lost and wander. And yet, what lurks behind the monitors and CPU chassis, beyond the insulated blue covering of the cat 5e is the world of mathematics.

In the first week of our discrete math this spring quarter we began discussing algorithmic efficiencies. The goal was to answer the question of what makes one algorithm more efficient than another. To answer this question we studied various ways to compare the complexity and number of steps necessary to complete a computation.

We found that even in today’s world of memory that is measured in gigabits and with tiny nano processors still operating at millions of instructions per second, these operations still take time, and money; and while computers are growing faster, smaller and more powerful, the things we are trying to do with them become more complex and intriguing thus requiring even today’s chip and software designers to be cognizant of operational efficiency.

In chapter two we discussed different types of relations and functions and inductive proofs, laying the foundation for future topics around set theory and proving mathematical statements even when dealing with possible infinitives, like for example, how do we know that n2 is always less than 2n even if we don’t have the computational power and lifespan to execute this algorithm against all possible n’s. Again, knowing that computer processing is still limited to finite computations, this concept of dealing with sets in a finite manner, even when looking to solve problems that fringe on the infinite becomes very important.

Moving onto chapters four, five, six and seven (yes, for some reason we skipped chapter three on cryptography which would have been very exciting!) we began to discuss a collection of related vertices called graphs and networks. Within these chapters analyzed how to build graphs out of connected vertices, and how to analyze graphs for circuits and paths and determine the shortest paths from any given point on a connected graph. We discussed special graphs called trees, and examined different types of trees like rooted and binary trees. Once we analyzed various types of connected graphs and trees we discussed algorithmic ways to analyze the connectedness of these graphs, and learned to understand ways to match up different connected points on a graph (or tree) in the most optimal ways.

Again, discussing the need to remain efficient and small, all of these concepts surrounding graphs and matching and efficient paths between connected points are very important within the field of information technology, and the world itself. These techniques can be used for various things such as trying to find the most efficient way to get water to masses of people, trying to find the quickest and cheapest and most efficient route from point A to point B, trying to prioritize delivery of data packets and speed of delivery across a communication network, and the list goes on and on.

Chapter eight continued within the thoughts of set theory and matching. It expanded on the fundamentals of combinatorics and permutations, providing an understanding of how one can use mathematical algorithms to determine the matching and ordering capabilities within sets of values.

Chapter eight further led into a discussion of iterations within chapter nine consisting of details around functions being called recursively to display cumulative values such as compound interest. Iterations such as the Fibonacci recurrence were discussed, and we examined first-order linear difference and second-order homogeneous linear difference equations with constant coefficients. The purpose of this discussion was to once again go back and understand how algorithms with very large values or potentially infinite input and output can be executed within a finite state with the least number of functional operations.

And then we came to the final chapter: chapter ten. During chapter ten we began to discuss what interests me the most in the whole conversation of discrete mathematics: Finite state machines. We examined logic gates and integrated circuitry, bringing the discussions of algorithmic efficiencies from the ethereal world of non-tangible algorithms to building real world circuits at the hardware level.

During this ten week course, I chose to produce all of my weekly assignments in bits and bytes, utilizing Microsoft C# (a high level interpreted language) to produce input / output sequences understandable and interpretable by human eyes. While some weeks were more challenging than others, each week always presented itself with some new twist to try and understand how to represent some human defined problem in a way that circuits and numbers could operate on and still produce a meaningful output.

While none of my assignments required writing code efficient and stable enough to sustain life (like a ventilator or respirator apparatus) it was still often challenging in trying to produce the optimal output in the minimal number of steps, especially when required to present 3D type representations (like graphs and trees) in 2D technologies like bit streams and bytes. Additionally, there were some challenges to overcome when being faced with the limits of the size of numerical representation on a 64bit operating platform.

In closing, I have compiled a final project that presents in a single user interface of all functions and routines that I created throughout the ten week course. This course has provided the benefit of continuing to broaden my understanding of the fundamental concepts behind computational theory and technological efficiencies.

Project Files

The hidden truths

It was pretty disturbing to find how much of Haiti’s current economic crisis was caused by the tampering by American politics when reading an amazing book called Mountains Beyond Mountains (although this books primary purpose is to discuss the life work of Dr. Paul Farmer to help the destitute people of Haiti)…

 

And then I watched the movie tonight Aristide and the Endless Revolution which went into much more detail around the politics of Haiti in the 90’s and early 2000.

 

Whoever said love doesn’t cost anything….

Nope, this really isn’t a philosophical post – it’s just a straight out humanistic discussion on the literal costs of love. 

A friend of mine wrote to me the other day saying “I wish I could afford to adopt” – and I was thinking, what a SAD reflection on the realities of life.

I’m about to write a 7,000$ check today for adoption costs (1300 of that is just to get some documents translated).  We’ve spent almost double that already out of pocket already, now that we have depleted all of our savings that we set aside for the adoption we’re now having to take loans out to pay for the adoption costs…

Children around the world, starving, dying, sleeping on dirt floors, eating mud, no mother, no father, suffering from treatable and curable diseases, and the literal costs associated with adopting and bringing them into your family, to care for them, love them and give them a hope for a better life is $15,000-$30,000 dollars (that’s a low estimate). 

But we keep reminding ourselves, as a parent you will pay anything for the health and safety of your children, and the health and safety of our Haitian children cannot be given a price, it’s priceless… so while frustrating, and a bit scary to be creating all these loans that will take a long time to pay back, we’ll continue to spend whatever we need to spend to bring our children home, and give all of our children the very best.

Little girls can be so cute…

On my way into the office this morning, my daughter Bella insisted on opening the door for me; I love you so much, comes her reply as I walk down the stairs and she shuts the door, and then further away I could hear her holler at the top of her lungs “I’ll miss you in minutes”…

Where did she come up with that?  How cute!!

Oh Captain, My Captain

On a couple of our plane trips down and back from Haiti the captain’s let Donovan sit in the cockpit and play with the flight controls… I’m like “Don’t touch anything” and they’re like “Everything is turned off, he is fine, take the stick”… One of the times, the captain is like, “Look, the plane can talk to me”, and he ran a pre-flight certification diagnostic, and the plane came back and said something like “Error, not all systems are certified for flight” and the captain said “Uh, oh, that’s not good”.  I assume they had it fixed, there were no flight tragedies that day.

Speaking of flight tragedy, I am getting slightly better on a Plane, although I still sit there and imagine what it’s going to be like to die in a plane crash – I can’t help it.  And somehow, both trips we have taken have been surrounded by tragedies. 

The last time we went there was the NJ crash that killed everyone on board, this time, a couple days after we got back there was the Air France tragedy that killed everyone on board.

Just as I was starting to get used to the idea of flying, I’m reminded how unsafe it really is… and the worst part, due to the fickle nature of politics and governmental paperwork, I am probably going to have to fly back down to Haiti later this year to submit my I 600 in person. =\

 

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