Posted by: zhak39 | April 2, 2011

My Brilliant Genius Nephew

Rather than respond through a comment to Pi Day, it seems appropriate to bring this one front and center.  If you recall, on March 14 I posted pictures of our Pi Pies.  For kicks, I had some students position a white board from their physics class behind the groaning board, call it a little atmosphere.  As an endnote I put out a challenge to my dear sister’s son to interpret what was on the board.  Successful explanation would result in the Pi Pie of his choice the next time we get together.

He gave a stab at it.

Course, that left me with a little problem.  I’m not a physics guy.  What do I know?  Oh, I know a bunch of people who are.  Last Monday after a meeting with one of my graduate assistants I told him about the challenge.

He smirked.

To be fair, this is a really nice guy so I chalk up the smarmy to cultural difference.  I know he doesn’t mean to be smug and superior.

“There’s no way,” he said.  “This is very high stuff.”

“Humor me,” I told him, then printed the picture and explanation.  I didn’t hear back from him all week.

Yesterday I ran into the professor teaching the class.  Might as well go to the source.

“Professor, do you have a minute?  Could you do me a quick favor?”

Just so you know, this is my favorite person on faculty.  He is incredibly smart, his work is elegant and useful and he is approachable and open.  Think of him as an anti-Sheldon.

The opposite of this

“Of course,” he says with this great Moscow inflected English.

“You know I have this wonderful brilliant genius nephew, right?” I told him.

Professor Anti-Sheldon looked indulgent.

“Yes, of course.  The computer guy,” he answered.

I explained the challenge to him and my inability to verify his answer.  Professor Anti-Sheldon was kind enough not to smirk.  On the outside.

“Let’s see what this genius nephew has to say, yes?”

I showed the professor the picture then scrolled down to the explanation.  Professor Anti-Sheldon glanced at the explanation, scrolled through it, gave it at least two seconds attention.

“Hmm,” he said.  “You have a problem here.”

“Was he close?” I asked.

“Well this is not the problem, you see.  This is the problem.  On the left side of board is the class notes and your nephew, he has grasped the situation and explained it correctly.  This is good.  But on the right side of the board, you see.  This is not the class notes.  These are notes the students used for a different question, you see.  So he explains this as well.  And then this, he relates the left hand side of the board to the right hand side of the board, ehhh, this is a fair explanation.”

“Cool. So what’s the problem?” I asked.

“In all fairness, you owe him two Pi Pies, of course.”

Posted by: zhak39 | March 14, 2011

Loving Pi Day

By now, everyone knows that March 14 is Pi Day (3.14).  Some people take it further and make it Pi second waiting until 1:59 to dive into the Pie Pi (3.14159).  That’s problematic for me because actually it should be 1:59 a.m. and I am generally not surrounded by Pi Pie loving people at that time.  I compromised and brought Pi Pies in for breakfast.

Any Excuse for a Party

For the really straightforward, this chocolate and whip cream confection…

Binary Pi Pie

As a nod to physics.

Peach Blueberry String Theory Pi Pie

For the right brained gourmet free radicals.

sPInach Pie

Nick,  If you can explain what’s on the white board I will make you whatever kind of PI you like.

Posted by: zhak39 | December 28, 2010


Throughout the day yesterday cars slowed down, the White Witch’s paparazzi,  admired the fruits of Helen’s labor.  An interesting contrast, our lawn, to the overblown (and often underinflated) holiday lawn decor.

Flatulent Inflatables

This morning a tentative ringing of the front door bell allowed me to meet a rather nervous young man.  I peeked to make sure this was no irate Jehovah’s Witness or other denizen Bible thumping spokesperson of community standards.  There was a newish looking F-250 king cab  in the driveway with a purposefully casual-looking woman in the front seat.  The man dithered on the front porch for a moment then asked permission to take pictures.  Allowance granted, he turned to the truck and gave a discreet thumbs up.  I could see the flash of a smile coming from the passenger seat.  She was out of the truck before he made it back to the driveway.  He fetched a small bundle of child from the back seat as the woman checked angles.

Chris just pointed out another admirer in the driveway.  Helen’s work is steadily  gaining public attention.

Posted by: zhak39 | December 27, 2010

Winter Wonderland II

Undeterred by the cold, Helen was at it again.

City to Stomp

Happy City Squasher

Posted by: zhak39 | December 26, 2010

A Productive Day

We make a good team, Helen and I.  She has the creative impulse, that artistic vision, the ability to see an unbroken yard of snow and visualize the possibilities.

I’m good at crawling around in the wet.

Helen tested the air, the moisture, the depth of her medium.  She looked at angles, the traffic on the road and chose her site.  She made every attempt to explain her method.

“Just picture it in your mind, think about how it looks and how it would feel.  Shape the snow the way it appears in your memory.”

“Where do you want this mound of snow at?” I returned.

After many hours of pushing and pulling, rolling and heaving, shaping and smoothing we came up with this.

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For closer view, click on the images.

A Day at the Beach?

Oh no!

Lucky I had this Jug o' Blood left over from Zombie Tag

Helen certainly has some incredible talents.


A most productive day


Posted by: zhak39 | December 25, 2010


I have been trying for some years now to simplify holiday meals.  It’s not that I don’t like putting together huge extravagant spreads for just about any occasion.  Food-family-fun is genetically programed and was nurtured by year after year of fabulous daylong gatherings.  I love spending time with my parents, my siblings, their sweet children, my three darling stooges.  It’s just logistically more difficult at this time.

This has been developing over several years now.  Four years ago I actually canceled Thanksgiving until the kids offered to help out a little.  Our simpler menu was actually quite nice.

Perhaps I am just running out of steam but I can’t seem to pull even that much together these days.  Perhaps I am just not as motivated.  So I decided to go a different way.  Instead of pulling together these humongous meals several times a year, I am aiming to create a humongous meal over the course of one year.  Yeah, that’s more like it.

This year Thanksgiving was “Just Desserts.”  I made some sweet quick breads earlier in the week (cranberry orange nut being the favorite).  First thing that morning I started a yeast dough for donuts.  We made pies and cookies and brownies.  All day, just desserts.

For Christmas I decided to do my favorite part of the holiday meal–All D’Oeuvres.

These are all the veggie noms.  I did make some chicken drumettes for  the omnivores but they didn’t make it to the table.

Helen the Cheeseball Master contributed this master creation.

Sam immediately took the head off the poor caveman–relieving his terror.

We had marinated mushrooms with goat cheese, broiled on sesame melba.

For a bleu Christmas, toasted pecans with bleu cheese topped with seedless red grape halves and a cilantro leaf.

What looks like cookies are actually green olive stuffed cheese puffs.

It’s still a lot of cooking and prepping.  Clean up was certainly a lot faster.  It was not an overwhelming amount of food.  I’m kind of a nibbler so the variety was nice.

Next holiday?  Maybe a soup and salad course.  Mom and Dad sent me the most wonderful cookbook, latest in a series put out by the most radical simplicity proponent I’ve ever met.  More to come about that.

Posted by: zhak39 | October 31, 2010

Halloween is not for the faint of heart

There are a lot of neutral in the bag outfits available–bananas, sexy caveman, various superheroes, but let’s get to the roots of this holiday.  Halloween, all hallow’s eve, all saint’s day, samhain, whatever you call it, it is about the thinning of the line between natural and supernatural.  It’s the passage from the time of light to the days of dark.  It’s recognition that there may be other out there, harmless or harmful.

We have had our share of butterflies and fairy days, wizards and pirates.  Now the kids make their own costumes.  And now matter how gruesome, they are still beautiful.

I eats your brains but I say please first

Vegetarian Zombie. Hmmmm.

Humans vs Zombies. You lose.

Posted by: zhak39 | October 21, 2010

Just Amazing

Chris shared this with me last night. The artist is Stefano Barone, a Neaopolitan guitarist.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Just Amazing, posted with vodpod

Posted by: zhak39 | October 9, 2010

The Impossibility of Fluency

The furniture has been installed!  I have an office of my own.

Yesterday as I was moving files into my new office a professor in the next room came to see what was going on.

“This is your office now?  We are neighbors!”

I truly enjoy this woman.  She is highly accomplished, a leader in her field of research, thoughtful and compassionate with her students.  She is also fun and interesting to talk to and slips seamlessly from English to French to Arabic.  She gets excited about other people’s accomplishments and offers praise and support.  Her English is excellent and our conversations are founded on similar experiences and values.

“It is difficult to get respect in academia for a woman.  My mentor brought in more grant dollars than most of the male professors combined and yet she was so often overlooked.  I look up to her and will also make these contributions to science,” she told me one day.

“You are a woman in a field really dominated by men,” I told her.  “I admire that you are also very feminine.”

“Pffff.  I am not She-Man!”

What a great word.  We laugh a lot.

Yesterday she was very excited about my move.

“Now we are neighbors, I will ask you for sugar.”

I didn’t get that one and the student that was helping me move understood it less.  He is my age, the professor much younger, but we didn’t think this was a trend gap.

“I don’t understand.  What are you saying?” I asked her.

“Sugar, sugar.  You know, we are neighbors so when I need, I can ask you for sugar.”

Now I was getting it, and so was the strapping southern guy next to me.

“Oh, so if you run out of sugar in your sugar bowl, you can borrow some sugar,” I clarified.

“Well, yes.  Because we are neighbors.”

The student and I exchanged a look.

“Umm.  I get it.  And by the way, we are in the south so you might want to know something.  When you ask someone for sugar you are asking for a kiss.”

The student’s grin is wide.  You can be sure he’ll be watching out for the very first time the sugar barrel is empty.

Posted by: zhak39 | September 25, 2010

The Anatomy Lesson

Chris is taking anatomy this year. They are doing a unit on skin. This was part of his homework for a presentation Monday.

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