Thursday, December 07, 2006

Fall semester work on my thesis

I had to write a summary of the work I have done on my thesis this semester. I made it into a pdf (because of a few weird characters) and uploaded it.

Here is a summary of my fall thesis work. (PDF)

Note this is not like "the first chapter of my thesis" or anything; it's just a summary of what I thought about for the past few months. It also doesn't have any pictures, which is a shame, though it does have some equations.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Awesome pictures at night

Last night I walked around with my camera and took pictures. I had previously had very limited success taking pictures at night because I didn't understand how to do it. However, I figured out that if I put my camera down on a stable surface (such as the sidewalk), put it on timer, and set the exposure time to one or two seconds, the pictures turn out fine. Who needs a tripod when you have a sidewalk, honestly.

In fact, I am pretty excited about how they turned out. I will be using them as Photo ID pictures on EphBlog, though, so I'm not going to say what they are of (although it is probably obvious).

Sunday, November 05, 2006

My Christmas list

Since you're reading this, you probably like me, and since you like me, you probably want to know what I want for Christmas, which is, according to the dining hall, only 50 days away. Since I'm nice, I'll tell you what I really, really want.

1. No more spots to appear on my legs (or feet, arms, torso, fingers, etc.).
2. The spots that are there, to stop growing.
3. The large red patches and scabs, to heal.
4. The bumps, to shrink and soften.
5. The rash, to go away.

I really wish that one of these times when I am taking a shower -- one of the four or five times a day -- the bumps would just explode. I wish they would explode and make a huge bloody projectile mess and eject the parasites as far away from my skin as possible. I wish I could take hot water and spray it into the open wounds and scour all the parasites away. I just want them to leave. I hate them. I hate that they live in my skin. I hate that my skin is repulsive and bumpy. I would take pain over this. I just want my skin back.

This parasite has made my very unsympathetic. I truly believe that I have the worst case in the NESCAC, that I am the most miserable of anyone, that this parasite is worse than just about anything else anyone could possibly have. I'm wrong, of course, but that doesn't make it stop itching.

I can't concentrate on anything for very long, and when it really itches, it's all I can do to stay still and not scratch trenches into my legs. And it gets worse every day. Little spots are filling in the gaps between the original spots. Spots now cover my ankles, and ten or so appeared on each foot yesterday, whereas before the spots were just on my legs. I now have three on my torso and five on my arm -- areas that were formerly uncolonized.

Neal thinks it's funny, but he's wrong. When I take a hot shower, a rage builds up inside me. I want to tear open my skin with my fingernails; I want my legs to expode. I become calm again when I turn the water as cold as it will go and stand with the rash under the stream, without goosebumps, waiting for the itch to subside.

I go to the health center every day, but they can do nothing for me. They give me tubs of hydrocortizone and bottles of antihistamines; they write prescriptions for stronger creams and stronger pills, but they have no effect. I tell them the itching is making it impossible for me to do anything, and they try to comfort me by saying that it's the same for everyone who goes to the health center, that it's driving everyone crazy. It doesn't work.

My dad says that Pete told the parents about the rash, but said it wasn't serious. I told my dad that's because Pete doesn't have it. It's not life-threatening, but it's mind-threatening. I had to take my math GRE on Saturday despite the itch, and I could barely concentrate. Problems that I could normally solve in a minute or so, I had no idea how to start. It's future-threatening. It's serious. It's driving all of us crazy.

I wear pants all the time so I don't have to look at it. When I take off my pants to shower or apply more lotion, I am disgusted. I have five hundred raised red bumps on my legs. It doesn't feel like skin; it feels like textured carpeting. I run scalding hot water on the bumps because I want to kill them. I hate them. I want to burn them, boil them, freeze them, annihilate them.

All I want is for the bumps to go away.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Three-dimensional matrices

Today I went to the trainer's because my quad still hurts. The trainer had me sit and push with my leg against his hand, do strides with my leg attached to a stretchy thing, and do lunges with my foot on a squishy thing. Then he asked me, "do you know what a three-dimensional matrix is?"

Needless to say, I was quite surprised at this question. "Yes," I said, unclear as to their relevance to the situation. "Are you sure? Three-dimensional matrix? You've done those before?" he asked, and I assured him that I knew all about three-dimensional matrices in math. "Oh! Math!"

It turns out that in the training room, a three-dimensional matrix is this thing where you do lunges except that you jump when you do them, and you do them in three directions (front and back, side to side, and 135° diagonally behind you). I did several sets of these.

Now I know four equivalent definitions for "compact," and two non-equivalent definitions for "three-dimensional matrix."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The color pink in the month October

This shirt is rather clever, I think. And if you can't read the text at the bottom, it says, "October is breast cancer awareness month," which is true.

If you find yourself unaware, here are some clever T-shirts I learned about a year or two ago, but never did anything with. Buy them for people around you, and then you won't forget.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A hero, yup, that's right

Today math colloquium went brilliantly for the first 15 minutes. Around the 16th or 17th minute, a drilling noise began. It wasn't that it drowned out the speaker; to the contrary, I could hear everything perfectly. The problem was that it was loud enough to be a significant noise in the room, and thereby was very distracting. I had heard the practice talk, and therefore knew that the part of the talk occurring now was key, as it linked the first and second halves together, and I was not able to focus whatsoever on what the speaker was saying, even though I knew the material, so I knew it must be even worse for the others.

I tolerated a few minutes of the drilling noise, glancing around, expecting a professor to do something about it. After it was clear that no one was going to do something, I decided that I had to do something. I weighed the relative interruptiveness of the noise versus my getting up and leaving the room, and decided that the noise was going on long enough that I needed to make it stop. So I got up, walked out the exterior door, put my glasses case in the door so that it wouldn't lock, and sprinted away in search of the source of the noise.

In fact, I thought that the noise was directly outside, so that this would be very easy. It was no such thing. I ran into the building and up the stairs, thinking that perhaps it was coming from the math library. No. I talked to the department secretary, who said it was coming from the basement and had been going on all day. I sprinted away, ran down two flights of stairs, and peeked into Bronfman Auditorium. All was silent. I couldn't even hear the drilling anymore. I ran down the next flight of stairs and could faintly detect noise from behind a door I had never opened, or seen open. I opened it and the noise got much louder. I saw that three men were working, one operating a very loud industrial vacuum cleaner thing and two operating a drill of some nature near the ceiling. "Hello!" I shouted, "Excuse me!" The noise down there was loud enough that they did not hear me. Eventually they did, and I explained the situation in about five words and asked them to stop for 15 minutes. They agreed, and I sprinted back upstairs, back outside, picked up my glasses case, walked in, and then breathed heavily as I tried, unsuccessfully, to catch my breath.

The room, which was full of people watching the talk, was nice and quiet now, but only one person acknowledged my return whatsoever. I thought they were going to clap or something. It was that awesome. But they didn't. The rest of the talk proceeded without incident. Afterwards, a few people asked if I had made the drilling stop. I wonder what the rest of them thought -- that I really had to go to the bathroom, and the fact that I returned about 60 seconds after the noise stopped was a coincidence?

No. I made it stop, and I was a hero. That's right.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I admit it: You win.

A few months ago, I took engagement photos for a friend and her fiance. I was going to take their wedding photos as well, but they chose someone else. Now, seeing the photos that resulted from that choice, I agree with the decision. Her pictures are much better than mine. This may be because her camera costs over twice as much as the one I was using, has an aperture that opens two stops wider than the one that I was using, etc., but the fact remains that they ended up with a better product because they chose her. Moral: While the current camera works fine for almost all purposes, borrow someone else's camera when shooting something important.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A picture of my colloquium

Thanks to the requests of Becca and Brent, and the photography of Sunmi, I here present you with a picture of my colloquium, all on one chalkboard. You should be able to get the gist, but I could write out an explanation for the parts I am covering, the parts that are hard to read at the end, and the parts I said aloud. If you click on the image, you can see Blogger's lame "large" version. However, I have hosted the original size version where you can read the writing on WSO.

Friday, September 22, 2006

25 divided by 5 is 14

Neal points us to a very clever video in which the preceding "fact" -- that 25 divided by 5 is 14 -- is proven in three different ways: long division, multiplication, and addition. I like this kind of "proof" and try to collect as many as I can.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Web site about my crew boat

I spent a few hours making a Web site about my crew boat. It explains all the steps of the process, with lots of illustrations along the way. It also has a FAQ section, and while talking with Sunmi today, she actually asked two of the questions from the FAQ, so now I know that the Q really are FA. Also, the site is written in PHP. I will never write a web site in anything else, ever. It makes everything trivial except the content, which is really the way it should be. So please, check it out.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

An elementary proof of Krull's Intersection Theorem

To do analysis on commutative rings, we need a metric, and to prove that the distance function we have is actually a metric, we need to show that it satisfies the three conditions for a metric. Two are easy to prove, but the third requires Krull's Intersection Theorem. Standard proofs of this theorem require advanced knowledge and complicated lemmas, but I'll explain a new, simpler proof that requires only abstract algebra.
Above you will find the title and abstract for my colloquium on September 25 at 1 pm. The proof is not mine; I will merely be explaining it. Feel free to come.

Friday, September 08, 2006

I finished my crew boat

I'd just like to point out that I finished making my five-foot model of a Williams crew boat. I've been uploading pictures of it over the past few weeks. So go ahead, look at pictures of my crew boat. I've even added descriptions. I'll be making a much more extensive explanation of all the pieces and parts sometime within the next month. Here are a few pictures to pique your curiosity:

If you click on them, you can see larger versions.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Classes for the fall

In addition to my thesis, here are the courses I am thinking of taking:

American Landscape History
Economic Development in Poor Countries*
Mathematical Modeling and Control Theory
Violence, Militancy, and Collective Recovery*

I have to choose between the two with asterisks, since I will only be taking one of them. Which should I choose? Opine freely, please.

Monday, July 31, 2006

one-third base times height

Today I had to teach that the volume of a cone or pyramid is one-third base times height. This is not very exciting, and not very intuitive since we weren't proving it, only stating it, and it isn't even intuitive when you prove it (with calculus or with the formula for the volume of a sphere). So I made a model out of cardboard of the three congruent right pyramids that, when put together, make a cube. It was great. I ran out of white cardboard, so I made the inside faces colored, which means that when you assemble the cube, all you can see is white, which kind of helps with putting the cube together if you can't figure out how to do it. The students liked it, as did my master teacher. The pieces don't fit together exactly, but they are close enough to get the point across. I am very proud of my model to illustrate this principle, and I will probably keep my three right pyramids for a long time, if they don't get smushed.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Actually, maybe I don't deserve rights

... where "rights" is a clever allusion to the clever pun I made in my last title. I actually do deserve rights.

An astute mathematician pointed out to me that there is a fatal error in my reasoning in my last post, so ridiculously terrible that I am thinking about deleting the whole post and pretending it never happened. But I'm honest, so I won't delete it; I'll leave it for historical interest. The key is this: Triangles actually have to be on the plane x+y+z=180. Inside the pyramid, there are points like (1,2,3) which clearly are not the angles of any triangle. So, welcome to the plane.

The plane intersects the first octant in an equilateral triangle with vertices at (180,0,0), (0,180,0), and (0,0,180). An equilateral triangle appears at the centroid (60,60,60), and isosceles triangles appear along the medians, which I am not going to bother expressing in parametric form. I think that right triangles appear along the midlines (connect the midpoints to make a small equilateral triangle).

Here is what I propose: Draw in all the medians. This creates six 30-60-90 triangles. I assert that each one carries exactly the same triangles, just with the angle coordinates in a different order. There are six triangles, which corresponds to the 3!=6 ways to rearrange three different numbers. There are three different hypotenuses and three different short legs, which correspond to the isosceles triangles. The 3 corresponds to the 3!/2! = 3 ways to rearrange three numbers when two of them are the same. And there is one center point, because there is only one way to "rearrange" 60-60-60.

Thus, we need only inspect one of these small 30-60-90 triangles. The coordinates of one of them, for example, are (60,60,60), (0,0,180), and (0,90,90). In my picture, this is the one on the top right.

Now look at the midline that cuts across each small triangle (from (45,45,90) to (0,90,90) in the example). The midline acts as an altitude drawn from the right angle to the hypotenuse. This cuts the 30-60-90 triangle into two smaller, similar triangles, one of which is 1/4 the area and one of which is 3/4 of the area of the original. The smaller one, whose vertices are (60,60,60), (45,45,90), and (0,90,90) in the example, contains all of the acute triangles. The larger triangle contains the obtuse triangles, and the right triangles are on the dividing line.

So, in conclusion, 1/4 of triangles are acute, 3/4 are obtuse, and none of them are right. QED.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Acutes or obtuses? And give back my rights!

We had a problem in geometry a few days ago that involved saying whether something was an acute triangle or an obtuse triangle. This is an easy problem, because if one of the angles is greater than 90 degrees, you say "obtuse," and if none of the angles is greater than 90 degrees, you say "acute," and if two of the angles are greater than 90 degrees, you say "get back to plane geometry."

This problem got me to thinking: what are there more of, acute triangles or obtuse triangles? Which naturally led me to wonder: what is the ratio of acute triangles to obtuse triangles?

Now, one way you could do the problem would be to make a "simplification" like say that the angles have to be whole numbers, and then count. But then you'd have to do a lot of counting, and you'd get all confused with the right triangles. So this would be a bad way to solve the problem.

The way I decided to solve the problem was to imagine that the first angle is plotted on the x-axis, the second angle is plotted on the y-axis, and the third angle is plotted on the z-axis. Then your x, y, and z values can all range between 0 and 180, but with the constraint that x+y+z=180. This is the equation of a plane that intersects the axes at (180,0,0), (0,180,0), and (0,0,180), respectively.

All the triangles are contained between this plane and the x-y, y-z, and x-z planes, not inclusive (because the planes contain the "triangles" with angles of 0 and 180, which are not really triangles at all). This region is a triangular pyramid, whose volume is 1/3*(180*180/2*180) because it's 1/3 times base (180 x 180 / 2) times height (180). This is better known as 1/6*(1803).

Then you can think about just acute triangles. Plot the angles as above, and notice that they are constrained both by x+y+z=180 and by x, y, z < 90. x, y, z < 90 is a cube with a side length of 90, with corner coordinates like (0,0,0), (90,90,90), (0,90,90), etc. Note, then, that the solid that includes all the acute triangles is the intersection of this cube with the pyramid described above. Note also that the cube is not contained within the pyramid, because one of its corners is (90,90,90) and the point (60,60,60) is on the surface of the pyramid, the plane x+y+z=180.

The key to knowing the volume of the acute triangles is, then, the intersection of these two solids -- or, more helpfully, the volume of the cube that is inside the pyramid. To find this, we will figure out how much of the cube is outside of the pyramid. Notice that three vertices of the cube -- (0,90,90), (90,0,90), and (90,90,0) -- are on the plane x+y+z=180. Thus, the part of the cube that is outside the pyramid is a small pyramid, similar to the one described above, except with edges of 90 instead of 180. So the volume of this is 1/3*(90*90/2*90), which is 1/6 the volume of the cube, so the volume of acute triangles is 5/6*(903).

Thus, the ratio of acute triangles to all triangles is (5/6*903)/(1/6*1803), which is
(5/6*903)/(1/6*(2x90)3), which is
(5/6*903)/(1/6*23x903), and we can cancel out the 903 to get
(5/6)/(1/6*23), and 23 is 8, so we get
(5/6)/(8/6), which is

So, 5/8 of triangles are acute triangles, and so 3/8 of triangles are obtuse triangles. QED.

For example, if you asked the question: If you randomly chose three angles that added up to 180, and made a triangle with those angles, what is the probability that it would be an acute triangle? The answer would be 5/8. That sort of thing.

This may make you wonder: What about right triangles? There are no eighths left to be right triangles!

That is because a 90 degree angle is a very precise number. If you could pick any three angles that added up to 180 -- not just positive integers, not just rational numbers, but any positive angles -- the probability of your picking exactly 90 degrees for one of them would be exactly 0. Sorry, Pythagoras.

My question is, clearly there is some overcounting here. For example, the math above counts (40, 60, 80) and (80, 60, 40) -- six different points like this -- as different pairs of angles, but clearly they all describe the same triangle. So clearly the math above is wrong (you better have caught that). How to fix it?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Not enough homework

Some of the students finished their homework before the end of the afternoon period today, so I think we need to give them more homework. They are just so advanced. Well, sort of.

Today I got to do more teaching, because I decided to actually organize the class by presenting solutions on the board at one time, and having the students work quietly on their homework at a different time, because it didn't work very well when I was trying to have one student show how to solve a problem on the board while the other students were working on their homework and not paying attention. It worked better today. I have decided that at this point I will have students come up to the board and work through problems just with me, and then later I will have them present their solutions to the class. It was a bit too early to try to get them to present to their classmates, and to get their classmates to listen, on the first day.

I realized recently how much free time we have here -- unless we have duty, we have all of Wednesday afternoon free, and Saturday afternoon and almost all of Sunday. So I could go somewhere even if it wasn't my weekend off. For example, I could up and decide to go to Williamstown, you know, tomorrow. So that's what I did, actually. The current plan is for me and another Williams student to go to Willytown tomorrow, just because we can, and also because we have both run out of cash and need free ATM. Clearly. And also because they have The Night Cafe' at the Clark right now, and really, how could I not see it when it's right there? So I had better see it when it is right there. Probably everyone I know at Williams will be busy watching the World Cup when I am there and won't want to talk to me, but I will just go over to the Clark and look at the excellent paintings and that will be okay.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Once again, saving the day

Yesterday I saved the day in several ways.
  • I fixed the locks on two different doorknobs: one that wouldn't lock, and one that wouldn't unlock. Now they both do both. I accomplished this by hitting them really hard and twisting the doorknobs a lot.
  • I provided a Phillips-head screwdriver to someone who needed it to fix her lamp. Impressively, she returned my multitool to me with the screwdriver put away, which means that she was able to figure out how to get past the safety feature.
  • I unstuck a stuck suitcase zipper on the first try, thereby ending 10 minutes of frustrating effort by my advisee.
In other news, I continue to be mistaken for a student. This morning, when I was sitting at breakfast completely drenched from my run, two students essentially asked me what class I was taking, and were apologetic when I told them that, in fact, I was teaching geometry. So I am wearing my NMH official golf shirt for the second day in a row, to reinforce the fact that I am an intern, not a student.

Why does this happen? You may say it is because I am relatively short, but others are the same height and do not have this problem. And I haven't had bangs for four years, so it can't be that. When adults mistake me for a student -- the bookstore worker hesitated to give me the employee discount because I apparently don't look old enough to be a student -- they tell me it's a good thing, because I will be glad to look young when I am older. And perhaps it is. At least, it's very fortunate that I don't drink, because I am sure I would be heavily carded everwhere I went.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

I got to sleep in until 8:00 today: delicious. I had a good workout, doing a loop that I learned about yesterday in the woods and on the roads. There were five pieces, each supposedly a little slower than 5k pace, and my HR at the end of each was 178, 181, 184, 183, and 188, respectively. So it was a good workout.

In other sporting news, Williams sports will be on CBS today:
Senior crew captain Meaghan Rathvon will be one of the featured athletes on the CBS NCAA Spring Championships Highlights Show airing this Saturday (7/1) at 3:00 p.m. EST. The CBS highlight show chronicles the NCAA championship events that were not televised live.

Rathvon overcame injury to help lead the Ephs to their second NCAA Division 3 women's rowing title in the past five years. Footage of the championship weekend and a brief feature on Rathvon will be included.

Other Eph spring teams may also appear on the show as all six Williams teams that entered a spring NCAA tourney finished in the top seven -- women's track & field (2nd), men's tennis and men's track & field (4th), women's tennis (5th) and softball (7th).
I'll be busy with registration during that time, but I'm glad Williams sports are getting publicity on actual normal television (not television that you pay for, like cable), and getting publicity on television at all. That's great.

I wonder if they will mention that Williams is once again, for the third year in a row, #1 in both academics (US News) and #1 in athletics (Sears Cup). Probably CBS sports doesn't care about academics. Too bad, really.

Friday, June 30, 2006

The first week has come and gone

In the past few days, I have done several interesting things.

  1. I mountain biked on a trail in the woods, canoed on a small pond incorrectly titled "Shadow Lake," and did orienteering in the woods for an hour and a half in the pouring rain.
  2. Conveniently, my sunburn was just beginning to peel in earnest, and the 90-minute soaking turned the peeling skin into a substance the consistency of wet paper, which I subsequently rolled off easily in the shower. This is much better than any other instance of peeling skin I have ever experienced.
  3. I sustained a situp-related injury to my big toe. You may have thought this would not be possible, but you would be wrong.
  4. I ran 400 meters in 83 seconds, which is much better than the first 400 I ran last summer, which, at full-out effort, was a struggling 100 seconds, and it took almost all summer to get down to around 83 seconds.
  5. I got a red circle around a yellowish bite with two teeth marks in it on my arm. I feel about red circles just about the same as I feel about red lines: Get thyself to a doctor immediately. So that is what I did. But the circle, the yellow, the marks, and in fact all evidence of the bite disappeared within a few hours. The problem with never having any medical issues is that I end up being a hypochondriac.
  6. I passed out from a combination of dehydration and thinking about the potential existence of a tick bite on my arm and Lyme disease in my body.
  7. I was somewhat embarrassed, except that very few people actually noticed, because I have become quite skilled at passing out in public places over the years.
  8. I became certified in CPR.
  9. I became certified in driving a school van.
  10. I learned that you have to be 21 to drive a school van.

In other news, I anticipate having five wicked awesome advisees, because I have read their files and they appear to be wicked awesome people. They are coming tomorrow, which is also, as you may have guessed, wicked awesome.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Now I have a job

After a month of unemployment, I now have a job. I remembered today that I am going to get paid for this job! I had not remembered to think about that yesterday. I think it will be fun.

The 229 students at the summer school will be over 50% international students, with many from Turkey, Greece, Korea, and other Asian and European countries. Today we heard interesting stories of cultural differences that students from very different countries have experienced at the summer school, which was interesting. For example, if an older Korean child asks a younger Korean child to do something for him, the younger child must do it, and so we have to watch out for young Korean children slaving away for older Korean children at the summer school. Interesting.

There are 35 interns, 7 of whom are alums of the school and 6 of whom are current or just-graduated Williams students (the director is a Williams graduate, and did a lot of recruiting and publicity on campus). There are a lot of athletic interns. Teams composed of interns will probably be very good. We played softball today, and I was not good at it at all, because I cannot hit a ball with a bat very often. However, I only struck out once.

The campus is in a really beautiful location, on the side of a mountain at the end of a half-mile driveway off of a wooded two-lane highway. There are trees and mountains everywhere you look, and the campus itself is brick buildings and grassy lawns. It's also quite hilly; I went running this morning and the flattest part of my run was the part on trails in the woods; running on the grounds of the campus requires going up and down a lot. I have raced on the cross country course twice, and on the track two or three times, so I have some familiarity with the area, but this will certainly increase significantly in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Wicked awesome oars

Long-time readers of this blog, from back before it was hosted on blogger, back before it had an RSS feed, back before google/ig existed, back when it was text-only, will remember back to when I was working on my five-foot model of a crew boat, back two summers ago. After a summer of not working on it whatsoever, I am working on it again.

I had made oars, with beautiful hardwood blades seamlessly bonded to their dowel shafts, and I had painted the shafts black, leaving the handles the natural wood color. The blades, though, needed to be painted -- so sad to cover up their beautiful color and natural grain! -- and so that is what I did last week.

First, I took a whole sheet of newspaper, folded it in half, and wrapped the shaft of the oar in the newspaper with only the blade sticking out, and attached it with masking tape. Then I spray-painted the shaft this bright purple color. You can see it here (click for multiple sizes, including a very large one):

I had never used spray paint before. This was a special nontoxic paint made for painting children's toys -- because who else would want purple paint? -- so it smelled funny, because it was trying to be all special and nontoxic. (That was the only available purple paint in the store.) I prefer the smell of normal, toxic paint. Anyway, I had never used spray paint before, so I had to get used to it, the way it pools and bubbles if you spray too much in one area, and the way the tiny dots of paint get everywhere, on your hands and the newspaper and everything, and the way you have to spray, then set the object down and go somewhere else to breathe, then return to the spray paint as you exhale. I did two coats of that and let it dry. Here is what the oars looked like after that (the first picture cleverly includes our sailboat in the background):

Purists will note that Williams' blades are not actually the bright, normal "Williams purple" that I painted the oars. Williams' blades are actually more of a magenta color. I tried to achieve the magenta color by mixing purple and red, but found that while the red was oil-based, the purple spray paint, which gave no indication whatsoever on the container whether it was water-based or oil-based (no "use mineral spirits to clean up" or "use soap and water"), turned out to be water-based, so they did not mix. And I don't like magenta anyway, and I don't understand why Williams' blades were magenta in the first place, since the boat itself has purple trim, so I made them purple, because that makes more sense, anyway.

The next day, I added the stripes. Williams' blades have yellow stripes with white on each side, so that is what I did. I was originally planning to paint the stripes on, carefully placing the masking tape so as to have perfectly straight lines, but then I realized I could use electrical tape to achieve the same effect. So that is what I did. The edges are not perfect, but the flat parts look pretty nice. Here is a picture of them, because I am just that proud of my handiwork:

I also painted parts of the outriggers gray, so that now the boat itself is almost entirely painted. I just have to go back and touch up a few spots where I got a bit of paint where it wasn't supposed to be. Perhaps sometime I will photograph the whole boat.

It struck me when I was making the oars and painting the boat that I did an excellent job planning this whole thing from the beginning. At the very beginning, I got everything I would need: Every size of dowel under about 1/2", three colors of paint, two bags of different kinds of beads, two rolls of electrical tape, and a lot of planning. Each time I show the boat to interested people, they ask about the seats that go in the boat. I have the seats all made, and they are connected to the foot board things that the rowers push their feet off of, but I can't put those in the boat until I have made the people, because I drilled small holes in the seats to attach the people to the seats, and it will be much easier to attach the people if I leave the seats out of the boat. That kind of advanced planning, drilling tiny holes in the seats years in advance of when I will ever use them, if in fact I decide that I want people in my boat.

Observant people will notice that there are nine oars. "Why," you may ask, "are there nine oars? True, there are nine people in the boat, and an 'eight' is truly a 'nine' in some sense, but you need not take this to extremes." Did I miscount? Am I so coxswain-centric that I feel a ninth oar is necessary? I will let that be a mystery.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Pictures of flowers

Yesterday I took some awesome pictures of the flowers outside the Clark Geosciences building. What is the point of that? I don't know. I can put them as a very nice desktop background. I can put them here. But otherwise I will just kind of have them. I don't have any particular attachment to these flowers; I only took pictures of them because they were nice flowers, and purple and yellow.

Here, for example, is the nicest one, I think. I am using it as my background.

Here are some more that I think are particularly nice.

They are vertical, so I cannot use even them for a background; perhaps I can make them into a greeting card. I am sure my mother or grandmother would appreciate that.

The other day I was procrastinating, and it must have been some pretty serious procrastination, because I went over and looked at Rebecca's father's blog. It has to be pretty serious to look at someone else's father's blog. Anyway, he mentioned this bit about taking pictures even though he's not planning to do anything with them. That's what I do. Except mine are even less important, because they're of flowers, not even of people.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

End of track

Today we had the "Slow Boy Invite," which is when everyone whose season was over -- females included -- could race if they wanted to. There was a 5k, but if you wanted to run a different distance, you just ran that distance and then stopped when you were done. So I ran the mile. I was the only one running the mile, but two people ran the two-mile, so there you go.

I ran the mile in 6:03. I was relatively pleased with that. It's 15 seconds faster than what I ran last summer, if I remember correctly, and I only got five hours of sleep last night and six or so for the past few, so I was not running at full capacity. My pacing was not so good - 91, 91, 95, 86 -- but eh, I guess that's all right.

We had our awards ceremony afterwards and I got the Mystical Reappearance award. Ha, ha. I get it.

Inspired by my success with a really close-up picture of the right side of Brian's face that I took a few days ago, I took a bunch of close-up pictures of people on the track team. You can see them from the flickr link on the left, and a few below. A bunch of them turned out rather well. I was pleased. I stay 10-15 feet away from the person and zoom in, so that they don't know I'm taking the picture and are thereby not posing or feeling awkward. It works rather well, except when people move and go partially out of the camera frame, which can happen when you're zoomed in that far.

I intend to take some excellent photographs this weekend. Prepare yourself.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Caterpillar infestation

Williams currently has a caterpillar infestation. You can see my pictures of the caterpillars disgustingly covering lots of surfaces, caterpillar chalkings, and just one picture alone. They're gross.

Also, Karen's husband has redesigned his web page,, to use lots of flash. And he has a new CD out. And he has sold some of his sculptures. And you can read his novel. The new design is very colorful. It even moves. And when you visit it, music starts playing. This is why he is a web page designer, and I am not, because I have a flash-free web site that does not move or sing to you. See?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Psychotherapy paper

I am posting my psychotherapy paper, which is a proposal for a research study.

Here is the paper, and then here are Figure 1, Figure 2, Figure 3, and Figure 4.

The paper is an html document; the figures are pdfs. They are tiny pdfs, so they will take no time flat to load. This is because they are just curves on a blank white background. But they are awesome curves. I made them with Mathematica. And I made them such that I could change one thing, and all four figures would adjust accordingly, and turn into pdfs with the touch of a button. It was awesome. You should really check out those curves.

This study proposes to develop a new therapy for alcoholics, and compares it to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) treatment and existing pharmacotherapy using naltrexone. The new treatment is built around the theory of “rational addiction,” in which the alcoholic is not presumed to be under the alcohol’s control, but is rather presumed to be making a rational choice to drink alcohol. In our experimental condition, we will explain the theory to clients and then help them to make changes so that their rational choice will be to decrease their drinking to a sub-pathological level.
So essentially what that means is that I took something I learned in my Decision Theory class, and made it into a study in my Psychotherapy: Theory and Research class.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

I got bounced

Can you believe it? My friend was turning 22, and her friends had her birthday party at the Red Herring, a bar on Spring Street. So I went. I was there for a while, doing just fine, talking to people as one usually does when one is in public. Then my friend ordered a "birthday cake shot." The bartender woman asked to see my ID, because clearly I have to be 21 in order for my friend to have a shot.

"I'm not 21," I said, "and I don't drink. Ever."

In my opinion, the first statement implies the second, but I wanted to make sure she got the point: I was there to talk to people, and there would not be any alcohol anywhere near my lips.

However, it is apparently against some sort of policy for people who are not 21 to stand in places that serve alcohol and not drink. The bartender woman said I could stay for a while, but then I'd have to leave. So I stayed, and then after a few minutes of my -- get this -- sitting at a table with other people -- this guy came and told me, "I think you're the one she pointed me to." As though it is some horrible thing to not drink alcohol in a bar. So I was bounced.

Personally, I think the police have better things to do than to check and see if there are people under the age of 21 in bars who are not drinking. They could, for instance, go after people who are under 21 and use fake IDs and drink even though it is against the law. I feel that would be a better use of Massachusetts taxpayers' money.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Williams women's crew is doing pretty well

I heard a good story the other day. Trinity hadn't lost a race in two years, so they didn't bother bringing their betting shirts to the race last weekend. Then Williams beat them -- by almost six seconds -- and so they didn't have any shirts to give up. Ha.

When I was a coxswain, Marsa made me read all of the rules for the regattas. There was a big packet of all the information that the coaches needed to have, and I read it all and committed it to (short term) memory. And one of the clear regulations was that all teams must bet shirts. I thought it was weird at the time, but clearly if one team does not bet shirts, that's just lame, in addition to being unfair. And if one team is so terribly overconfident that they don't even bother bringing their shirts, that's just funny.

That win bumped Williams up to #1, just ahead of Trinity, in the polls, up from third. Rebecca is tied for 11th. (Because from my perspective, Rebecca is the team. They are the same. William Smith Crew = Rebecca. See?)

Bush at Hands On

A few days ago, President Bush visited the place where I was over spring break. Here are a few pictures from the White House's photo essay on the subject:

Here is President Bush talking to volunteers sitting at the tables where I had breakfast and dinner. For example, I have washed those very tables.

Here is President Bush with one of the long-term volunteers, coming out of the doorway outside of which I disassembled a vacuum cleaner the first day I was there. (It didn't suck up anything when you turned it on, so I took it apart, looked at the inside, and put it back together. Then it worked.) To the left is the big container full of water bottles.

Here is President Bush and a puppy.

Here is President Bush with some woman inside her house. This is what houses look like when Hands On has finished gutting them and scraping off the mold.

Then there was the best one, from this article.

This guy called Niko is from Vermont. Well originally he's from California, where his dad is super-rich and owns a gigantic farm operation, but he wasn't into that at all, so they sent him to the Putney School, which is a private high school in Vermont where you do farm work as a work-study job. He's the one with whom I planted sunflowers and helped with chainsaws on this day. So it's pretty crazy that he met the president and gave him an onion. He was always reminding people to stay out of his garden, and then he gave Bush an onion from it. Cool.

I didn't win

Alas. She existed, for real.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

I won!

I won my race today. I can't remember the last time I won a race. I know I won a cross country race at Dover in high school, and I won the Fun Run in Deer Isle when I was 12, and I'm not sure if that was the last time. In any case, I did so today, which was nice.

Tactically, I ran a pretty good race. I wanted to run 98 seconds per lap, which would be 20:30 (11 seconds faster than last week) for the whole thing. I started the race in second-to-last place, which is what I always do, because races always go out too fast. My first lap was 96, so it was good I was second to last and not anything ahead of that.

The second lap I stayed in second-to-last place, because the people I was running with seemed to be going a pretty good pace for me. The lap was 99, which was fine, so I stayed with them. On the third lap, though, the pace seemed to be lagging, and when I went by Dusty he didn't even give me my split, but just said something like "come on now, make a move."

So at the beginning of the fourth lap, I surged and passed three people right in a row. The third one passed me right back, which was weird -- who does that? -- so I waited a few meters and then passed her again, thoroughly this time. That lap was faster, 97 or so.

Now I was running directly behind three girls from Union college. About 30 meters ahead of us was another girl from Union college and one from Vassar. The Vassar girl had gone out in the lead, with the Union girl close behind, but they were fading slowly and the four of us were gaining on them.

I ran a few laps with the Union girls, and eventually just ran up between them and, weirdly, they moved over and I just passed them right in the middle of their pack, rather than having to run all the way out around them as I expected I would. Two of them dropped back, but one of them stayed right behind me. At one point I think she tried to pass me, but I moved out in the lane so as to make it a bit more difficult, and apparently that was enough deterrant.

I caught up to the two frontrunners with the Union girl (Janie) right behind me, and picked off the Vassar girl and then the other Union girl (Casey). Janie stayed with me, but the Vassar girl dropped back, so that it was just Casey and Katie and me with about three laps to go. At this point Casey dropped back a bit so that it was just Janie and me.

I will interrupt this thrilling narrative to explain one thing. Now usually, in most sports, you don't know the names of your competitors, unless you're one of those people who obsessively memorizes the identities of everyone on the other teams. But when you run a long race, say anything over a mile, you get to know the names of the people you're running against because you hear people shouting at them all the time.

In the case of Union, they had two coaches who were shouting at them. One of the coaches just said their names and some encouraging statements, but the other one was more distinctive. Every time we rounded the end of the curve 100 meters after the finish line, he would tell Janie that she had "heart." "You've got heart, Janie, that's what you've got!" Apparently she had more "heart" than I did, and this was going to be the deciding factor in the race. He also shouted with two laps to go, "you've got more left than she does!" referring to me. But he was wrong.

I ran the last full lap in 91 seconds, putting about 20 meters between me and Janie. For some comparison, my average pace for the whole race was about 6:32 per mile, and that lap was at a pace of 6:04 per mile. So it was a lot faster. And in the last 200 meters, I ran on my toes, so that last 200 was pretty fast.

Now, in the results, it has me getting second.
Women 5000 Meter Run
Name Year School Seed Finals
1 Buchsbaum, Nilly Vassar 18:32.00 19:22.47
2 Davis, Diana Williams 20:30.00 20:29.49
3 Wolkowicz, Jane Union 20:30.00 20:47.11
4 Kohut, Casey Union 21:50.00 20:56.77
5 Bertasso, Karen Union 21:50.00 21:14.57
6 Jackson, Ashleigh Colb- Sawyer 20:58.00 21:26.12
7 Palaudi, Jen Union 21:00.00 21:30.27
8 Leister, Hollie Rpi 21:35.25
9 Thomas, Dana Vassar 20:45.00 21:36.06
10 Mafrici, Steph Rpi 23:10.06
-- Shah, Lisetta Williams 20:45.00 DNF
I am not so sure that this is true, though I have no idea how the results could be wrong. After about three laps I surveyed the runners ahead and determined that I had a chance at winning, seeing only the Vassar girl (the one I passed) and the Union girl ahead. The only explanation that would make sense is that the Vassar girl was one lap ahead when I passed her, so that although I seemed ahead of her, I was actually behind. However, this would require her to have lapped me first, which did not occur, since no one passed me the whole race except the girl who passed me back in the beginning as I explained. Alternatively, they could have clocked her as finished after 6.5 laps, but that also seems unlikely. Thus, I have no good explanation for this odd thing in the results.

Of course, it's not that awesome to win a slow race. You can look at the seed times and see that the whole field was very slow, with the exception of the girl from Vassar. But it's much better to win a slow race than to lose one, and that is what I did.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Happy birthday to my dad

It is his birthday for approximately nine more minutes.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

No more psych

I dropped the psych major for good yesterday. I figure I've taken just about all the psych I want to, and it's not worth taking the last three to finish the major. The three more I'd need include the senior seminar, which would mean a whole class of only psych majors, and I've come to realize that I don't really enjoy classes with all psych majors. So I'm not going to take it.

Please don't take this to mean that I am no longer an authority on all things psychological -- naturally, I remain so. If you want to know anything about social, educational, statistical, cognitive, decision-based, or clinical psychology, you just ask, becuase I know all about those.

This leaves me with some space in my schedule next year. I was thinking about doing the maritime studies concentration instead, but that would require three courses, chosen from just a few, and if I did that I would have the same problem of having to take three courses. So I'm not going to.

My schedule for next fall is as follows:
400-level math course
200-level economics course with an asterisk
another course
I have currently signed up for a senior seminar called math modeling, an econ course called Economics of Developing Countries (the one in which I considered two pitchers of Gatorade) and intro to geosciences / environmental studies. I am not sure about that last one. For one thing, the lab is on Monday, which means I wouldn't be able to go to half of the colloquia. For another, I did a lot of geosciences at the Mountain School and Williams-Mystic, so I don't know how many new things I'd learn. But the professor sounds good. We shall see; I still have a few more days of preregistration.

I have opened comments again. Please comment away.* Perhaps you can tell me what courses to take.

* Please comment away with discretion, i.e., if there is a rule against your commenting, please refrain from commenting, so that I can keep comments open for everyone else. You know, all those people who like to comment. Yeah, them.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Larry Summers

Brian: Have you ever actually encountered any obstacles as a female in math?
Me: Well, this one time I was walking to math class, and I tripped over my second x chromosome.
Brian: That's what I thought.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Spikes and a PR

Yesterday I got new spikes. We had ordered them in the mail, and they arrived yesterday, which was very convenient seeing as how today was my last race of the season.

This is the first time I have ever had spikes. They replace the flats I got in the fall of my senior year of high school, which were the first flats I ever had. Before that, I raced in sneakers.

Here is a picture comparing my flats to my spikes.

When I told my mother I got spikes, she thought I had just gotten the little sharp metal thingies and attached them to my old shoes. But this is not the case. "Spikes" are shoes with screw holes so that you can attach little sharp metal thingies to them.

Here is a picture of the bottom of my flats as compared to the bottom of my spikes.

Today I ran the 5k on the track for the first time ever. I ran a PR, because the first time you run something, your time is a PR, since it is the fastest you have ever run it.

It was also a relatively fast time. I ran really slow last week, so my goal was to run at least as fast as 7-minute miles. My first mile was 6:35, and my second was apparently 6:50. I ran the last mile faster, and had a lot left to kick at the end, meaning that I should have run faster the rest of the time. I missed qualifying to continue my season by 27 seconds (I ran 20:41; qualifying required under 20:15), but 27 seconds is kind of a lot, so I am not terribly saddened. I will certainly run my second 5k of all time even faster. This will probably be at RPI in a couple of weeks. It will be stellar.

And now that I have spikes, if anyone attacks me, I can fend them off with 14 little sharp metal thingies. Awesome.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

My presidential speech

This evening I ran for president of the Spencer cluster. This is my speech.
My name is Diana Davis, class of 2007. I live on an island in Maine, I spent last semester at the Williams-Mystic program, and I am running for President on the platform of Mutiny.

What does the platform of mutiny mean?

It does not mean that we will fight actively against Anchor/Cluster/Neighborhood/Williams housing, because the past year has shown that fighting would never be successful.

Mutiny means that we will simply continue to exist, as though Anchor/Cluster/Neighborhood/Williams housing did not exist.

We will have parties. We will have IM soccer teams. We will have dinners with professors.

But if you support the platform of mutiny, our parties and IM soccer teams and dinners will be just that – parties and IM soccer teams and dinners. Anyone can come, even if they don't live in the Spencer Anchor/Cluster/Neighborhood/Williams house.

Remember that the question is not, “Will our protest make a difference?”

Instead, ask yourself, "Is Anchor/Cluster/Neighborhood/Williams housing good for Williams?" And if the answer is no, ask yourself what you can do about it.

If you believe that Anchor/Cluster/Neighborhood/Williams housing is good for the college, please vote for a candidate who embraces the system.

But if you do not believe that Anchor/Cluster/Neighborhood/Williams housing is good for the college, vote for a candidate who has the same beliefs you do.

Remember, over 60% of Williams has consistently opposed Anchor/Cluster/Neighborhood/Williams housing, according to polls from the Record.

And yet the college put the system into place.

Why did you pick into an Anchor/Cluster/Neighborhood/Williams house?

Because if you didn't, you wouldn't have housing next year.

Why are you here tonight, to vote for Anchor/Cluster/Neighborhood/Williams housing representatives?

Because if you didn't come tonight, you couldn't have dinner; the dining halls are closed to all of us.

Williams has forced this system upon you, but it cannot force your vote.

If you believe that Williams would be better off without Anchor/Cluster/Neighborhood/Williams housing, vote for the platform of munity.

Thank you.
I didn't win, fortunately. I haven't the slightest idea what I would have done if I had. I suppose that being on the ballot would have made me get significantly more votes, but then I would have been more likely to win, and that would have been a bad thing, because I have no interest in planning parties, and I oppose purchasing alcohol for underage students (or for anyone, really), which, uh, might not have made me the best president for a lot of my consituency. Anyway, for the purpose, it was a pretty good speech, according to people who listened to it. And some people actually did vote for me, which is cool.

For more discussion, see Mutiny with me, a discussion on WSO.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Berry essay update

Evan helped me with my permissions. It turns out folders are supposed to be 0755 instead of 0744. I mention this so that you see it is a purely technical problem. 0744 always worked for me before, and I thought that was kind of the default, so I used it. But I'll use 0755 from now on.

Anyway, here's my essay. Figure 1 and Figure 2 also work now, but they're linked at all the relevant points in the essay, anyway. The End.

I disabled anonymous comments, in case the bold message in the upper left didn't grab your attention. The reasons for this are obvious to those to whom they are obvious, and completely obscure to everyone else. Sorry. Feel free to sign up for a username on blogger; you might need it someday anyway. Too bad blogger doesn't accept TypeKey, really.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Pictures with light are better than those without

Yesterday I took pictures at our track meet at UMass-Lowell. Many of them turned out great. They are much better than the ones from indoor track, because there is actually light outside. In order to get the indoor track pictures to be exposed the right amount -- i.e., not extremely dark -- I had to use a really long shutter speed, which made pictures blurry, and use the maximum amount of flash, which meant that if I waited a split second too long to trip the shutter and the person was too close to me, they turned out all washed out.

Outside, there is the sun, and the sun makes everything so much easier. I could take pictures with a reasonable shutter speed, like 1/640 instead of 1/80. It was awesome. I've put a few below. They don't look that good in tiny size, but they look pretty good at full size or at some reasonable size where you can actually see the pictures.

This morning my run was in three states. You can guess which ones, considering Williamstown's geography. Also, yesterday I got a sunburn, and today I threw a snowball. New England is awesome.

When leaving comments, please leave your name, so that I know who you are. Thanks.

Friday, April 14, 2006

A stellar essay

By popular demand -- honestly -- I am posting my recent essay. Unfortunately, when I tried to upload it to WSO, I apparently changed all my permissions so now you get an ugly Forbidden error message when you try to go there, and I can't figure out how to fix it. This didn't happen when I uploaded things to the XC site. Weird.

So in the meantime I have posted the paper and the first two figures on my extra free space. It's not wso/~ddavis; it's not; it's not even -- no, it's That is the pinnacle of icky web space, in my opinion. There are tons of ads. It is kind of sad.

I don't know how to make hyperlinks in PDF documents, so I had to make it an html document. (If I could make it into a pdf, I would, and then there would be no ads.) Please note that (a) the figures are PDFs, so don't get all bothered when Adobe loads, and (b) I have not uploaded Figure 3, which is kind of crucial. But just imagine the curve that is added to Figure 2 to make it into Figure 3. You can do that, right? Right?

Berries and Exercise: Simply Complex
Figure 1
Figure 2

The popular demand was because I got a perfect score on this essay, minus three points for my margins being the wrong size, which I noticed too late to fix them. So it goes.

This essay shows why you might be driven to exercise more than you actually should to achieve your maximum performance. It starts with a hypothetical bird eating hypothetical berries, and ends with an example about running performance, and uses the same analysis for both, which is kind of neat. Take a look.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

My dream room

Last night I picked into my dream room, the room I have been wanting to live in since I got to Williams. It is in West. It is on the fourth floor. And it faces Bronfman.

Those three characteristics are exactly what I wanted; ergo, I have the perfect room. For me.

It is the perfect room for me because I want to be in West where it is quiet, where I won't have idiot suitemates who blast music from their computers through their open room door when they have a party in the common room, like the suitemates I had in sophomore year. Hip-hop music. It is so nice and quiet in West that there are signs on the doors asking people to not slam them between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am. 10 pm! Now that's what I'm looking for.

It is the perfect room for me because I want to be on the fourth floor so that I have to climb lots of stairs every day. I have lived on the second floor everywhere I've ever lived -- Madbury, Deer Isle (both the loft and the upstairs room in the new cabin), the Mountain School, Japan, Sage A, Mark Hopkins, and Mystic -- until winter study of this year. (Please disregard the abysmal quality of the web pages I created almost four years ago.) Now I live on the third floor, which has a way better view than the second floor, and plus, I get more exercise walking up an extra flight of stairs every time I go to my room. This will only increase next year, which is good since I will only be about 200 feet from Bronfman.

But the best thing about this fourth-floor room in West is that it has an amazing view. West is already at the top of the hill, the geologic zenith of the Williams campus. West College, after all, used to be known as "Williams College" -- it had the classrooms, offices, everything necessary to run the college -- so it had to be at a point of strategic advantage. West College is so high up that windows on the fourth floor look over the tops of the adjacent buildings. Clark and Bronfman present no issue; the view of the mountains is unobstructed. The view, specifically, is of Stony Ledge, where the Mountain Day celebration takes place every fall.

Actually, I've not yet seen the view, as I visited the room last night at about 8:30 pm, when it was dark out and the occupant's shades were drawn. However, I have every expectation for an even better view than that from the window of my winter study room.

I would like to end with the Letter to Mold that Hunt Hobbs '09 wrote near the end of our trip to Biloxi:
It has been a good two weeks hanging out with you in Biloxi. I had lots of fun. I had lots of fun killing you, you nasty pestilent s--t.

I take pleasure in hearing your tortured screams as I wirebrush your smudgy, earth-toned excuse of a body into an afterlife which I am sure for you will be a fiery, painful oblivion.


Give me a neatly folded rag and I will end you. I hate you with all my fury.



The only thing worse than you is being trapped in a burning building with four zombies, a swarm of angry bees, and my ex. If you were't a microscopic organism, I would kick you in the nuts, over and over and over.

Be prepared for total war. You will cease to exist and Hands On Gulf Coast will stand gloating as the last evidence of your worthless, sickening life vanishes undear a coat of white latex paint.


You are vulgar, obscene. You have poor taste in music. You shoot hoops like my grandma. You wear tacky ties to gatherings. Your collection of 80's memorabilia is not well organized.

Go to hell. Give Satan my regards and a respiratory ailment.

Yours sincerely,
Hunt, of course, used the actual words, without the dashes.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Referral humor

I like to check the referrals to my web pages to see if anyone has linked to my pages and such (this is very rare). I also like to look at what search terms directed someone to my pages. Today's search terms were the best I have seen in the recent past.
1. My page is the second result for bowsprit netting.

2. My page is the fifth result for, of all things, home improvement television program 2006 big mama house new orleans.

3. My personal favorite: Suppose you just got a cow and you want to raise it, but you don't know how so you need a tutorial on the subject, and you'd like to find a free tutorial, if possible. You might search for cow raising tutorial free, in which case the first result would be my html tutorial. Clearly.
In other words, if you do such a search and click on "I'm Feeling Lucky," you'll be happily directed to my html tutorial, rather than a tutorial on raising a cow. Gosh, I love Google. For real.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

A few updates

I have been too busy to write an interesting and cohesive post, so I am just going to put a few brief updates until I have more time to do such things as write blog posts.

Today was the HRUMC XIII. I met Ken Ono. I also gave a talk about eliminating "monsters" (i.e. curves that obviously wouldn't be minimizing) with elementary reasoning. It went quite well, and it was much better than when I practiced yesterday, due to my giving the motivation behind why we would want to eliminate monsters in the first place. Here was my talk:
TITLE: Isoperimetric Regions in Sectors of the Gauss Plane: Eliminating Monsters
Diana Davis, Williams College

ABSTRACT: The cheapest way to enclose area in the Euclidean plane is by a circle, but what if the plane has varying density? What if we only consider a pie-shaped sector of the plane with varying density? I`ll show how to eliminate shapes (such as the circle) that we now know cannot be minimizing, and give conjectures and evidence for the best shape.
Next year I am writing a thesis with Professor Adams. His research is in knots and hyperbolic 3-manifolds, and as you may recall, he is teaching my tiling tutorial next semester. Since I don't know about 3-manifolds, I'll probably do either knots or tiling. My particular question is still very much up in the air.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Picturing Katrina

It's really hard to describe the scene in Biloxi, and harder still to imagine what it looked like seven months ago. When I was looking for the address for Hurricane Camp, I came upon a Flickr album of pictures of the area. This slideshow (requires Flash) is a set of really artful pictures that focus on details of the destruction and unimaginably diverse objects that washed out of homes and businesses. This one focuses on the houses and what Hands On does inside of them. This one is simply titled "Katrina Devastation," and gives a pretty good picture of just that.

The water washed away the walls and everything inside this McDonald's...

...and yet left Ronald McDonald standing.

What houses looked like inside afterwards, and what they look like before Hands On helps out:

Imagine if that was your house, and your personal objects. It's inconceivable, and truly devastating.

A typical enough scene, though the piles of debris are smaller now:

Imagine if that was your street, and your house and those of your neighbors.

Maybe this is what Rebecca had in mind when she said, "I'd be bound to find something very interesting."

Then again, maybe not.

All credit for the above photos goes to the people in the hyperlinks above (I didn't bring a camera to Biloxi).

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Road trip

I had a plane ticket to fly from New Orleans to JFK (NYC), but I figured that I've flown a lot before, and I know what flying is like, so I'd rather do something I've never done before: namely, drive across the country nonstop. There were some transportation issues anyway -- we were going to have to fit nine people and tons of luggage into a seven-passenger van for a couple of hours -- and this guy named Mike, a senior at Williams, was driving back, so I figured I'd drive back with him and see the country and whatnot. Here is a picture of where we went:

(I saved it as a gif but Blogger wouldn't upload it, so here we are with a jpeg. Too bad.)

It was really great. I'm glad I did it. I missed out on two days of volunteering work in Mississippi, but I saw a lot of the country, got experience driving on the highway in traffic, at night, at night in the rain, at night in the fog, and at night with no other traffic. So it was a good experience. Here is what I learned.
The south is flat. The north is hilly. The middle of the country is dark.
I also learned that people in Georgia drive alone. There was one "high-occupancy vehicle" (HOV) lane that required two people to be in the car and five that were regular lanes, and the HOV lane was not very popular. And all the cars in the other lanes had only one person in them, for real.

We neglected to avoid Atlanta, and thereby got caught in, you know, the 3 pm rush hour. Obviously. So we decided to take 84 and 81 instead of 95, so as to avoid Philadelphia, New York, and Boston.

We drove in shifts. When I agreed to go, I told Mike I didn't like driving. He said I wouldn't have to drive very much. But then I did anyway. It worked like this, in case you wondered:

9 am - 5 pm: Mike
5 pm - 11 pm: Me
11 pm - 3 am: Mike
3 am - 6 am: Me
6 am - 9 am: Mike

There was a time change over the course of this drive, in which we lost an hour. Then we got home and Daylight Savings Time happened, or ceased to happen, or whatever, so we lost another hour. The injustice of it all.

Plus, I got a whole day to sleep (yesterday -- because I only got about two hours of sleep in the car) and a whole day to do my homework (today). The kids who took the plane are just getting back now. And me? I'm all moved in, and almost all done with my homework. How awesome.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Politics of Katrina

While sorting books, we met the AmeriCorps team that is working in New Orleans (more on AmeriCorps below), so I am now a bit more qualified to talk about the politics of that area.

Hands On Gulf Coast -- formerly run by Hands On USA and now by Hands On Network -- has a core mission, which is to rebuild the community by rebuilding houses so that people can move back into them. You have doubtless heard of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, the poorest and most flooded area of the city. Hands On does not rebuild houses in the Lower Ninth Ward, because there is some probability that the whole area will be demolished in the end anyway, and my guess is that any other volunteer organizations in the city have the same policy. Thus, no one can move back into houses in the Lower Ninth Ward (unless they can pay for a contractor) and so there is no community there for people to return to, which is a bit of a self-propogating cycle (the government says the area might not be rebuilt, so the houses aren't rebuilt, so there's no community there, so there's no reason to rebuild the area, etc.).

The houses in New Orleans have much more mold than those in Biloxi, since the water stood for weeks. In Biloxi, there is usually a coating of various kids of mold on the surfaces. In New Orleans, the mold is three-dimensional, a thick carpet of mold on the walls and studs and everything else. Thus, people cannot "camp out" in or near their homes, as they can in Biloxi in FEMA trailers and the like.

Another issue is AmeriCorps itself. This is the 12th year of the AmeriCorps program, which sends several thousand 18-24-year-olds around the country in teams of 10 to work with nonprofit agencies. The government gives them uniforms (grey shirts and tan cargo pants), medical insurance, and $12 a day. In return, they spend 10 months sleeping on the floor and eating peanut butter sandwiches, doing community service all over the country. They tutor children in underprivileged schools, build houses, and do disaster relief.

According to the AmeriCorps teams I have talked to, there is a significant probability that AmeriCorps will "get the axe" next year, so that this will be its last year. (They told me it was to make room for tax cuts for companies, but that's another issue entirely.) Thus, 80% of the teams will spend the last few months on the Gulf Coast, doing hurricane relief. This is probably partly to do as much rebuilding as possible before the program is cut, but it is also to show the government how effective the program is and to try to convince the powers that be to keep AmeriCorps going.

In other news, it wasn't a million books sitting around waiting to be sorted; there were a million books all in boxes waiting to be sent out to schools and children who didn't have any. We shipped out about 150,000 books to schools and children's organizations in the Gulf Coast where either the books were destroyed by the hurricane, or just they didn't have many books to begin with. This organization that we were working with, First Book, gives books to children -- not for them to borrow, but for them to keep. We learned that 61% of low-income children don't have a single book in their house at their reading level. That's pretty sad, and that's what we were working to fix.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Actual surveys

Today I did surveying again, and this time we actually got to survey people, rather than just advertising a meeting! The survey is 52 questions with demographic information, and then questions on what the person liked about Biloxi before the hurricane, what they think the highest priorities should be after the hurricane, and what they think the most pressing issues for the city are. The idea of the surveys is that the Coordination and Relief Center will compile the information about what the citizens of East Biloxi want and give that information to the mayor and city planners, so that they will either have to take that information into account when they plan what will happen next, or they will have to knowingly go against what the city's people want.

We first went to two trailer parks, which are not trailer parks in the traditional sense, but just fields full of FEMA trailers that have sprung up after the hurricane. This was to survey people who had lived in East Biloxi before the hurricane, but who were living elsewhere after the storm. Most of the people were not home -- who would stay in a tiny trailer on a Saturday if they didn't have to -- but I surveyed one woman who was home. She was 20 and had two small children, both about two or three years old, and they were all home watching Saturday morning cartoons. She was African-American, and worked cleaning casinos before the hurricane. I realized later that I'm 20, too, so we were the same age, but living very different lives.

The population in Biloxi is about 15% Vietnamese, and one of the two open places for lunch in East Biloxi is this Vietnamese sandwich shop called Le Bakery. Everyone raves about their sandwiches, and indeed, they are very delicious; we had them for lunch. They have marinated meat and shredded carrots and onions and some sort of exotic leafy stuff, which is quite delicious, especially when you are ravenously hungry.

In the afternoon we did more surveying, this time on streets in East Biloxi. We interviewed a woman who was clearly very well-to-do, and another woman who was clearly less well off, and therefore much more interesting. She and her husband had nine children, the youngest of whom was 15, and she had gone to college on a basketball scholarship. The first floor of their house had been flooded up to the ceiling, and the roof had blown off and landed in front of the house, where they were using it as a shed for the tools that the husband was using to fix the house.

Although it's usually entirely obvious, we are always supposed to ask what the person would like us to put down for gender and race/ethnicity. So we asked this woman, who was a very dark-skinned African-American, what she would like us to put down for race/ethnicity. "White," she said. "No, Black, honey," she laughed. She was very interested in the survey, and labored over which of the 12 choices she should choose as the three most important.

I mention this only because you might think that a 20-minute, 52-question survey would not be people's favorite thing to do on a Saturday when there is clearly a lot of other work to be done. But these people are really invested in their community, and want to see it become a better place. Many people answered the questions very carefully, and really thought about what was most important for the city. When we told them about the meetings, they expressed genuine interest in going.

In contrast, the next woman agreed to do the survey, but really wasn't that interested in it. She just breezed right through it and didn't even bother to have me read off the 12 options; she just told me what she thought was most important and I checked it off. I am not sure if this is because she was not invested in the city, she had something she wanted to be doing instead, she thought the survey was useless, or she was in some sort of chemically-induced state.

I mention this last possibility because the street we were surveying was apparently the big street for drug dealing in East Biloxi. You wouldn't know by looking at it; it looked like a perfectly nice, though significantly storm-damaged, neighborhood. But everyone we surveyed said crime was the most pressing issue for the city to address, both before and after the hurricane, and some complained specifically about street-level drug dealing (primarily crack, apparently).

The last guy was very interesting. We had talked to him at the beginning of the afternoon, and he asked us to come back later since he was busy just then, but very interested. Then he saw that I was holding a detailed map of the area, with every house drawn on it, so he asked to make a photocopy.
Weird thing #1: He wanted to copy the map.
Weird thing #2: He had a photocopier in his FEMA trailer.
We let him copy it, and we went back later. It turned out that he had a Master's degree (there wasn't even a box to check for any education beyond completion of college) and was working on a plan to turn his property and the adjacent ones into affordable condominiums. His theory was very interesting:

In order to live in that area of Biloxi, it is essential that the house be built up off the ground, so that if it floods, it doesn't flood the house. If every single person has to build their house up that far, that's prohibitive; people don't have the resources to do that. But if you put in condos, then everyone above the first story (which I suppose could be a parking garage or something other than living space) is just fine. This is a great idea. He even showed us the preliminary plans, which he had printed out on those big blueprints-size sheets of paper.

So, that was that. It was a good day.

Tomorrow four Williams students of which I am one, five long-term volunteers, and five Berkeley students will go five hours away to do a different project, where we will be until Thursday. There is this organization that distributes books to low-income areas, and over the years it has distributed 40 million such books. After the hurricane, it received one million books to distribute to the Gulf Coast, but it had nowhere to put them since all the warehouses in the Gulf Coast were destroyed, so it put them all in this one big warehouse, and there they have sat for six months.

Anyway, Hands On agreed to send people to sort the books. So I am going to go and sort one million books. It is going to be totally awesome. We are going to sort books all day, and live in a cabin in the woods with hiking trails at night, and the town is going to give us meals, because that is just how awesome they think we are. So I won't be in Biloxi for the next few days, but I will be going to the area of greatest need, sorting books in an effort to expand literacy.

Clearly, it's unlikely that I'll have Internet access. Six Williams sophomores have agreed to take over the posting at EphBlog, so go there and comment and support their noble efforts at continuing the Katrina blogging tradition. I have every indication that it will be stellar.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The elementary school

Today a group of 10 Williams students went to the local elementary school to do "tutoring." Unfortunately for us, the most pressing need at the school today was sorting books, so we didn't get to talk to individual children or do any tutoring. However, I love sorting, and I love books, so it was all right. This school had a lot of its books destroyed in the hurricane, which was terrible, and then it got a huge number of donated books from everywhere in the country, which is also overwhelming.

We went through perhaps 20 boxes of books, sorting them by type (picture book or chapter book) and genre (part of a series, has "God" in the title, Disney or television character books) and boxing them up again. The good thing is that the books are very well sorted. The bad thing is that we didn't really accomplish anything tangible; we just moved books around.

My job, which I took upon myself, was to collect and sort books that were in a series. There were many series I had heard of and read myself (Babysitters' Club, Nancy Drew, Boxcar Children, Goosebumps), many I hadn't ever seen before, but that other people knew well (Alex Mack, Captain Underpants, Mary-Kate and Ashley), and many that someone had clearly started, thinking it would take off, that flopped (I don't even remember their titles). The others were unpacking boxes and separating picture books and chapter books, with several sub-genres within those. Every time they saw a series book, they would give it to me, and I would sort them. I even put the ones with numbers (Babysitters' Club, Boxcar Children, Goosebumps) in order. There were, for example, five copies of the book wherein Karen, the younger sister of Kristy in the Babysitters' club, wins the county spelling contest and gets second place in the state spelling contest. Apparently this is a book parents really like to buy, or perhaps one they really like to discard and send to hurricane victims.

We worked in the school library, and the librarian was quite possibly The Meanest Librarian Ever. Four classes came in to get books while we were there -- first, second, third, and fifth grades -- and if I were in any of those classes, I bet I would be well on my way to disliking books. Every time a child expressed any sort of interest in a book, the librarian yelled at the child. A boy picked up a book off of the table to look at it? "Did I give you permission to touch the books on that table? Get away from that table and be quiet." A first-grade girl tried to check out a chapter book. "This is not a first-grade book. Put it away and go stand in the corner. You won't be checking out any books today." I kid you not; this happened repeatedly, and there are other examples along the same lines.

When we got back, Caitlin and I went for a short run, and at the end we encountered the rest of the group, who were going to walk to the beach, so we joined them. "The beach" in Biloxi is certainly a beach, but you would not want to take your family there, as the beach is condemned and swimming is prohibited. The sand is in big piles in rows, like really long sand dunes, from the machines that scoop up the sand and filter out all the debris. On the ground and in the water there is also a lot of debris -- broken glass, pieces of insulation, and large identifyable objects. Today, for instance, we found:
- a bumper cars car -- seated two, still had the pole that touches the ceiling attached
- a Hooters nametag for someone named Brooke, who was a "trainer"
- the top half of a teddy bear, with a ribbon still tied around its neck
We walked back along highway 90, which is right next to the ocean and is where all the businesses, hotels, and stately homes were. As we were walking along the sidewalk, we came upon something that looked like a marble gravestone right there on the sidewalk next to the highway, which said essentially, "Jefferson Davis's House." We looked up, and indeed, there was the shell of a stately mansion there overlooking the ocean. There were the remnants of a nice entryway, with marble stairs and pieces of fluted pillars, and marble blocks that informed the viewer that this was the home of Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederacy. Interesting. His house is on some nice grounds, with nice trees and grass and such. The house, though, is not so nice anymore.

We walked back past the Biloxi Colosseum, a big round convention center where FEMA's headquarters is currently located, which is across a small road from Jefferson Davis's grounds. Outside there are literally thousands of chairs -- first stacks of thousands of folding chairs, then stacks of chairs that stack on top of each other -- which are just laying out there, discarded, because they are rusty. Assuredly they were stored inside and got wet, and now no one will use them again, at least not in the convention center, because they are rusty. I suppose many people have problems of this kind.

The things you find are really strange -- the nametag, the bumper car, the teddy bear -- but you have to remember how they got there. The water came through people's houses and tore the walls out, and then floated up all of the objects in the house. When the water receded, the objects either came to rest on the ground, or floated out to sea, where they will either remain or come in on an incoming tide and come to rest on the beach. Did I mention this already? This is my favorite fact, so I'm going to offset it by itself:

There is a major shipping lane for container ships that runs eight miles off the coast of Biloxi. When they dredged it after the storm, they found an eighteen-wheeler tractor trailer out there -- full of live grenades.

Now, I didn't get this from the guy who was running the dredger, so I'm not sure how exactly a ship managed to pull up an eighteen-wheeler, or why (and if) live grenades are actually shipped around in eighteen-wheelers in this country. However, it is probably true that a large truck was found in the shipping lanes eight miles off of Biloxi, and that, my friend, is pretty amazing.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Animal rescue

Today I did "animal rescue" with another volunteer and the long-term volunteer that does it every day. First, we organized the warehouse where they keep the cat and dog carriers and cages and everything that they can give out to people, including assembling a lot of cat and dog carriers. We really made the warehouse (which was the space under stadium bleachers) look much better.

Then the "animal rescue" began in earnest. We had a certain section of East Biloxi to cover, so we drove down every street, and every time we saw a dog or cat, we stopped. We asked the people nearby (because there were almost always people nearby) who owned the animal, to which the answer was usually "I do." We asked them if they would like food for the animal, to which the answer was usually "oh, that would be great, thanks," so we gave them cat or dog food -- and a lot of it -- from the supply in the warehouse. We also asked if the person wanted to keep the animal, and usually they did, but in a few cases they were just feeding it because it was a stray that hung out on their property, so we put them on a list to come get the animal next week. (At the end of March, they will drive a cargo van load of animals "up north" to be adopted.)

People were usually very happy to learn that they could get free food for their pets. It is really hard for people to feed their pets, since they often don't have work, so it costs a lot. One guy had seven dogs, including some big ones. We gave him two really big bags of dry dog food. He told us about his grandmother, who had "a lot of cats" and probably needed food for them, so we went to her house and even though she wasn't there, we left 12 small bags of dry cat food on her porch (with a business card so she'd know who left it).

For people who were keeping animals but had a significant need for food for them, they go on a list of people who will get weekly deliveries of food. So each week, someone from the organization will drop off one or two big bags of dog or cat food. That's pretty neat. I guess there are a lot of people there who really care about animals, and who have donated all of this food so that "Katrina dogs" and cats won't go hungry.

One guy had a dog that he was pretty sure had heart worms. Heart worm treatment is very expensive, but there is some new government grant where if the dog is a "Katrina dog" -- essentially any dog living in the Gulf Coast during the hurricane -- it can get heartworm treatment for free (so long as the treatment starts by the end of March). This guy really liked his dog, but he had no money, so he was really glad that this program existed, and the long-termer animal rescue guy we were with helped to set him up with an appointment at the vet, and make sure the treatment would be reimbursed.

This guy was living with his uncle, because although they lived on the same street, the nephew with the dog had lost everything, and the uncle's house was basically rebuilt by now, because he had flood insurance. The uncle invited us into his house, where we sat around the table and talked with him and the nephew about the dog and whatever else. He asked us, "can you believe the water in here was seven feet deep?" And you really can't. In most houses, seven feet is about the level of the ceiling, so basically the whole first floor was full of water, like a fishtank. Can you imagine that in your house? It's almost inconceivable, the ocean in your living room, in your kitchen, all of your stuff saturated and filled with water. But this guy had flood insurance, and the insurance company paid up, so he had, in the last seven months, put in a lot of work and gotten his house back to normal.

The nephew had stayed in his house during the hurricane, and when the water got to a certain level, he realized he had to get out of his house, because it was going to flood completely. So he put the dog under one arm and swam, swimming with one arm, across the street to his parents' house. The problem (one among many, obviously) was that the street was essentially a river with flowing debris, so he had to time it just right when he was going to cross the river/street, so he wouldn't get killed by the debris floating by at a high rate of speed. Luckily, he and the dog both got to his parents' house, and somehow they all survived.

Others were not so lucky. In Biloxi, since the tidal surge was about 25 feet, many people went up into their attics as the water was rising, and then when it rose into the attic, there was nowhere to go, so they drowned in their attics. (Those who survived by staying in attics that didn't flood say they'll always keep an axe in their attic from now on.) In New Orleans, people went up to their attics when the levees broke, and while the water didn't get up to the attic, it also didn't recede for two weeks, so they starved to death in their attics after two weeks up there. (The water receded in Biloxi within about 12 hours, if not fewer.)

Yesterday we talked to a Biloxi Public Works worker who had horrible stories to tell. He had been a first responder, so he walked along the streets immediately after the hurricane. He had personally found seven bodies. I cannot imagine how horrifying and scarring that would be. His friend was in a rescue boat, and his cat jumped out of it into the water. The friend dove in after his cat, and never came back to the surface. Down the road from where we were, a Vietnamese family of 13 all died in their house.

I thought that the people who stayed in their houses during the hurricane were pretty stupid. I mean, there was a manditory evacuation, and it was a Category 5 hurricane with the strongest part predicted to fall on southern Mississippi. How could people not leave? But today I heard a reason why.

People in Biloxi are very poor. I learned of one family that had $400 in the bank when the mayor ordered a manditory evacuation. If they left the city for however many days the hurricane would take, it would wipe out all of their savings to stay in a motel. So they couldn't afford to leave.

Of course, if they died in their house, the $400 wouldn't do them much good. Luckily for them, they survived.

In the afternoon, we were done at about 2:00 with the animal rescue, so we helped out a group that was doing mold. In the morning when the group entered the house, it was really moldy. A previous group had taken out all of the remaining furniture, bathroom fixtures, drywall (walls), actually everything but the studs (2x4s in the walls) and floorboards. Today's group's job was to scrape the mold off of everything that was left. Apparently this was one of the moldiest houses they had yet seen, with green, black, and white mold growing all over everything. But they scraped, brushed, and otherwise extracted all of the mold, and then vacuumed it up.

Our job in the afternoon was to wipe. We took a special mold-killing liquid, dipped our cloths in it, and rubbed every surface to get off the mold dust from the surfaces that they had scraped in the morning. The cloths got very dirty very quickly, so we changed them often, and we scrubbed down the whole house in about an hour. While we did this, we wore "respirators," which is essentially a gas mask, filtering out 99.97% of the particulate matter in the air. (They make you sound like Darth Vader, except harder to understand.) We wore gloves, but mine had holes, which I realized after a while (why are my hands getting wet?). Luckily it was mold dust mixed with mold-killing liquid.

It is interesting, this mold killing, because no one has ever studied how to do it before. FEMA and the EPA are going on this one study that was done on just three houses, which is kind of statistically ridiculous in terms of accuracy, but it's the only study to go on. The experts in mold came down and saw the Hands On process, though -- the scraping, wiping, and then painting over with mold-sealing-in paint -- and said it was way overkill and definitely enough, which apparently they knew. The question is what the happy medium is between, say, spraying Clorox on the mold (doesn't work) and the Hands On process (extremely effective) where it would kill a lot of mold without four days' labor on each house.

Apparently they are doing a study now with 106 identical houses in the same region, trying out the various methods of mold killing to see which one maximizes effectiveness with the least amount of labor. This seems like it could potentially be a statistically valid study, and probably will inform future mold killers.

In lighter news, we got prizes today for taking out the trash. I was sorting recyclables, and I got a prize for that, too: Bling. That's right, I said the word "bling." I got a Mardi Gras-like necklace with black plastic beads and a gold plastic medallion that says Cuervo on it. The Hands On folks found a big box of this kind of stuff when they were helping clean out one of the casinos after the hurricane, so they brought it home and hand the bling, if you will, out to the volunteers for noble reasons, such as sorting the recyclables. I think this necklace I am now wearing has some great significance, even if it is a cheap necklace sponsored by an alcohol company and looted from a casino.

I went running for half an hour today. It was great. I only got shouted at a few times, and I felt just great, since I haven't been doing much running at all. I wanted to run along the beach on Route 90, but wouldn't you know, Katrina had the nerve to tear up the whole sidewalk, so there is nowhere to run. So sad.

We are losing a few Williams kids, but we gained five new ones tonight, so we should have a good contingent here for the next week. The Williams group will be here until early Sunday morning, April 2. If you have nothing better to do (and really, what better do you honestly have to do than help the people who need your help the most?) you should really consider coming down sometime in the next two years. No, really, these organizations, and in particular Hands On, will be here for two years. The weather's great, the company is awesome, and the work and the people you meet will certainly be unforgettable. More on that later.