Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Teaching QOTD: This is how it will be for the rest of the semester

I'm teaching the introductory Operations Research undergraduate course. (typically taught to first semester juniors and the core usually is introduction to linear programming.) Even though it is at 8AM the first two weeks have been very lively. Out of ~60 students, there are probably 15+ that take an active part in class discussion. I have been able to teach the material almost completely using question and answer. It is not quite Socratic method, but it is very close (and lets be real, even law schools don't truly use Socratic method.)

Until today (day 1 of week 3). Most of the class was pretty dead. The usual chatter of people arriving is subdued. And I am down to a few reliables to answer questions. I felt like I was actually lecturing for the first time this semester. By 15 minutes I acknowledge the obvious and we take it nice and slow for the rest of the class.

Later today I was chatting with our undergraduate coordinator (who has a good read on the undergrads. She is a teaching professor so they are her focus.) And she told me that yes, this class is particularly good. And that now that we are in week three, the initial excitement and energy of the new semester has worn off, and this is how it will be for the rest of the semester. *sigh*

Friday, September 11, 2009

PSO: Beginnings and ongoings

September. A start of a new school year, with new classes, new projects ramping up. And a new season of the PSO. We went to the gala looking forward to an entertaining time, not with the expectation of being impressed, but a sense of return to art in a form we have not partaken in a while.

Wednesday night was the opening gala. So around the concert was a cocktail hour and the Soiree for us "younger" folks. (while the gala was presumably for the not so younger folks)

Heinz Hall garden at the Gala cocktail hour

My wife and I took the opportunity to have a conversation with a random couple. Or maybe not so random, as the gentleman had the distinguishing characteristic of having a Combat Infantryman Badge, earned in WWII and marked by further service in Vietnam. And the four of us went to have a wonderful, engaging conversation of the things of life, war, arts, our wonderful city, marriage (both couples being recently married).

And the rest of the evening followed the same pattern. Meeting friends old and new. Talking about a new academic year (for all the professors), families to be, projects under way, ideas and goals for the year. The things of a vibrant life. To go with a concert with Izhak Perlman that covered the range from spectacular to rich to delicate.

An evening with old friends and new. Encouragement for a creative life, and glimpses of what we hope is a foreshadowing of a full and rich life to come. And we look forward to a concert season with music and friends new and old.

S & two fairies at the Enchanted Evening Soiree

Color Guard, 9/11/2009

Color Guard, Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh, 10:00 AM, September 11, 2009

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Restaurant: Pusadee Garden, Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh, PA

Outside at Pusadee Garden
Originally uploaded by LugerLA

Pusadee Garden
5321 Butler St.
Pittsburgh, PA

I heard about Pusadee Garden from China Millman's effusive review in the Post-Gazette. And China Millman does not do effusive reviews, so this was on the list of restaurants to go to.

The first thing to note was the outdoor garden seating. And in the urban environment of Pittsburgh, this is not common. The vines and trellis make this work, in an otherwise drab cityscape of Lawrenceville. The second thing I noticed was this was a family restaurant, meaning there is a family on the premises. Rare for a nice restaurant in the U.S. (although more common in neighborhood restaurants where everyone is family).

I had spring roll (and shared crab rolls) with plum sauce for appetizer.

Spring roll and crab roll at Pusadee Garden

Crispy Tilapia with "famous 3 flavor sauce" for the appetizer.

Tilapia at Pusadee Garden

It is spicy and sweet, and the third flavor was somewhat overwhelmed.

A friend of mine had the spicy duck

Spicy duck at Pusadee Garden

How good is it? It is decent food. The flavors were not well balanced, but that may be the sign of a very new (< 2 months) restaurant. Atmosphere, especially if you can get outdoor seating, was wonderful. And I like the casual feel of a family restaurant (clearly they live nearby as I was noting their comings and goings.)

Friday, September 04, 2009

QOTD: Engineers seem to have an interesting, and somewhat unique, definition of fun

Engineers seem to have an interesting, and somewhat unique, definition of fun." Ask your doctor or a local public health official what defines a good time, and you are not likely to hear about the logistics of mass antibiotic distribution or mathematical models of influenza transmission. Larry Wein's opus over the last decade has been, to use a hackneyed phrase, deadly serious, and yet he notes that a personal criterion for his engagement in a project is that it be enjoyable. For those of us in public health emergency response, this provides an important insight into the workings of the engineering mind, since it is precisely those things that we often avoid (i.e., the nitty gritty, and by that I mean quantitative, evaluation of the feasibility and performance of the programs we plan and carry out in the name of health protection) that appeal to Prof. Wein and a relatively small number of colleagues.

From Nathaniel Hubert, Commentary on "Commentary on Homeland Security: From
Mathematical Models to Policy Implementation" by Lawrence M. Wein
, Operations Research, OR Forum

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Book Review: Buried Tales of Pinebox, Texas

Buried Tales of Pinebox, Texas Buried Tales of Pinebox, Texas by Matt M McElroy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is an anthology of horror stories set in present day rural East Texas. For a concept, the authors have been given a setting (which has been fleshed out as part of a table top role playing game) and a collection of story hooks (newspaper clippings that were created as part of the game setting).

The goal of horror is not to scare you out of your wits through the story. The goal of the writing is to draw you in so that you can build in your imagination something that is worthy of fear and shock, and your imagination fills in the gaps.

The stories do this admirably. Because it is a game setting that is fleshed out in several iterations and people using their imaginations, the details of the interactions feel right. You get the sense that the 'normal' inhabitants of East Texas are the practical, hard-nosed people who deal with the life on the terms they were given, which include living in a place where horrors make their appearance. In each story you are drawn in to the people who are in them, who make choices that are believable for their situations, and as the stories end, you realize what comes next (not because it is a shocking story turn, but because your imaginations fill in what the author does not get to).

I have not read much horror, as I'm pretty much turned off by the movie treatments of it. But this book was something I got into. And I would not mind more.

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