Friday, June 26, 2015

I'll Be Lost For Awhile

For now,
I stumble through my existence.



Thinking of you.

I feel you in the soothing temperament of the breeze,
Gently caressing my skin,
Enveloping my soul.

I hear you in the quiet solitude of the night,
Softly whispering my name,
Stirring me from slumber.

For now,
I’ll be lost for awhile.



Thinking of you.

--Randal D. Anderson
June 15, 2015

Sunday, June 21, 2015

When Forever Ends

When Forever Ends

When forever ends,
Be there
Holding their hand,
Kissing their lips,
Reminiscing about the life you both shared.
For at that moment,
As you wipe away the dust from faded memories,
Everything else no longer matters.

Hold on to those moments.
Cherish those memories.
We have but a short time to create them.
For whether your time together
Is measured in months, years, or decades,
The love you shared will be what’s remembered,
When forever ends.

--Randal D. Anderson
June 19, 2015

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Fading Away

My son, I have something to tell you.
Yes it's cancer, please try not to cry.
I have but a few months of still breathing,
So today I begin saying goodbye.

I'll be doing some national drug trials.
Helping them learn from what I go through.
No, there's no pain, I really do feel good.
Yeah, the doctors find that very strange, too.

Mom and I will keep you updated often.
She and I have things to take care of right now.
I need to go but know that I love you.
I'm going to make the most of what time will allow.

Hey son, yes it's dad, how are you now?
Oh, I'm doing well and still there's no pain.
Yes, everything is all taken care of.
I forgot I liked hearing the rain.

We were hoping to visit you all, soon.
But now we're not sure if we can.
We'll know more when I get tested next week.
Yeah, nothing ever goes as you plan.

Well son, another cancer has hit me.
This one so rare there's no name.
I'm now out of the national drug trial.
With all other meds, yes I did do the same.

They now give me a week left to be here.
We'll see how true that turns out to be.
I'm saying my final goodbyes now.
Please try not to find tears for me.

I know that it's hard but stay strong son.
Your wife and your boys need you too.
Your mom will be well taken care of.
I'll talk with you soon. I love you.

Well son, there's a lot going on here.
It's strange knowing that you're going to die.
So many people stop over to visit.
I'm glad I have time to say goodbye.

I really have lived a good life, now
And I'm proud of the man you've become.
Take care of your wife and my grandsons.
I hear the rhythm of my final drum.

Hey son, it's been almost a month now.
Guess those doctors were wrong after all.
Yeah, I'm weak and I tire real easy.
I need to go rest now, I love you all.

Well son, thank you for the videos.
I love those boys so much, yes I do.
It's getting harder to type on my phone now.
Just know how much I love you.

Hey son, I'm getting real weak, now.
I sleep for most of the day.
When awake I feel pain all through me.
I feel I'm starting to fade away.

Well son, I don't ... will ... long now.
It's ... harder ... remember things ... knew.
Need ... go back ... sleep ...
I know ... time ... almost through.

... son, know... love you.
... tired. ... sleep. ... pain.
... love the boys, ... your mom, ... your wife.
I think ... in ... brain.

... son, ... tired ... rest, now.
... what I ... to do.
I've ... good life.
... love you.


--Randal D. Anderson
June 13, 2015

Saturday, June 13, 2015

It's Time To Go

I've seen my last sunset
Felt my last breeze
Heard my last rainfall
Dance among the trees.

I've walked my last mile
Cried my last tear
Dreamed my last dream
It was beautifully clear.

I've sung my last song
Danced my last dance
Played my last role
In this lifetime of chance.

I've felt your last touch
Tasted your last kiss
Loved your last smile
Now I head to the abyss.

I've written my last story
Starred in my last show
Taken my last breath
It's now time to go.

--Randal D. Anderson
June 5, 2015

And Then The Walls Fell

And then the walls fell.
Obstructing our path,
Ambushing our knees.




The future,
So secure just a few days before,
Now an amorphous cloud
Obscured by uncertainty.

But we walk.

With clasped hands,
We walk.

Through the clouds.

Through the rubble.

Through it together.

Well beyond
Where the walls fell.

--Randal D. Anderson
March 21, 2015

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Texas, Abortion, and Math

While reading this New York Times article about a federal appellate court upholding pretty strict limits on abortion in Texas, I came to the following passage:
The Fifth Circuit panel found that the percentage of affected women who would face travel distances of 150 miles or more amounted to 17 percent, a figure that it said was not a “large fraction.” An abortion regulation cannot be invalidated unless it imposes an undue burden on what the Supreme Court has termed “a large fraction of relevant cases.”
And I got to thinking...

So, what does constitute a "large fraction"?

What about epidemics?

Well, I found this Slate article discussing the difference between outbreaks and epidemics. In it, they state that, in terms of the flu:
If the number of flu-caused deaths exceeds 7.7 percent of the total, then the United States officially has an epidemic on its hands. 
Then I got to thinking about autism, because, well, you know, we're an autism family, and all the statistics that get thrown around regarding that issue, like 1 in 88 kids has autism. You've heard the stories and statistics and the desire to determine what's been causing this autism epidemic so I won't bore you with all that. Instead I'll just say that there does seem to be a very big concern regarding the supposed increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism. Some statistics even say that 1 in 50 children have autism.

That sounds scary, and I admit it is concerning, but 1 in 50 amounts to 2% of the children. So my question is: If 7.7% of the total number of deaths are attributed to a certain ailment and that constitutes an epidemic, or if there is so much concern over the well being of 2% of a given population, then how can it be said that 17% is not a "large fraction" of the given population in Texas?

It seems very large.

Seventeen percent of just about anything would be a cause of great concern.

Except for abortion rights in Texas.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Journey

Water flows.
Trees sway.
Life continues its journey
Down the winding path of the unexpected.

Billions of journeys throughout the world.
Some short,
Others long
But each one unique.
And while some paths cross
With journeys shared,
Others travel alone.

But the journey is the adventure.

Travel slowly
For the journey is swift.
There is much to enjoy
In a short period of time.

Take the time.

The unknown.
The pieces that make us whole.
The journey
Our legacy.

--Randal D. Anderson
January 17, 2004

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Couple of Things to Remember

The year isn't half over and I already know I will not be looking back fondly on 2015. It's been a year I'd rather soon forget. Unfortunately, that will not be an option.

My wife has Stage IIa breast cancer and is currently going through chemotherapy treatment; my dad is dying from two cancers, one of which is so rare it doesn't even have a name; and my mom has some horrible skin disease that is so rare only a few hundred people (maybe a few thousand) have it in the entire world. All of that on top of dealing with, for the past several years, my autistic son who has a seizure disorder that no drugs have been able to control.

But I'm not here for self-pity or to ask for your sympathy.

I'm here to say that everyone, yes, every single one of us, has problems. We all have issues we'd rather not deal with or can't believe are happening to us or that beat us down with worry and grief.

Maybe it's what makes us human.

So remember that the person next to you in line at the grocery store, or the person that cut you off in traffic, or the person that gave you a hug and let you cry on their shoulder, well, they have problems, too.

Maybe, even bigger problems than yours.

So we should we respect each other for the things we don't know about one another. After all, with a few exceptions throughout the world, most of us are just doing the best we can to make our way through life.

And sometimes, life sucks.

But not always.

Remember that: Not always.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What Mathematics Do Students Need To Remember?

I puzzle over this question almost daily as I prepare to teach my classes. I’m torn. When I took mathematics classes in college, computers were not ubiquitous, smartphones were still the stuff of science fiction, and the Internet was … well, it was around, it’s just that it wasn’t the easiest thing to use nor did the masses know of its existence. This would be the late 1980’s.

Now flash forward to today, 2015. I have computers for everyone in my classroom, plus some students bring their own computers, most people have a smartphone, and the Internet is revolutionizing just about every single industry. Education will be no exception.

And this brings me to my original question: What mathematics do students need to remember?

Take factoring for example. Do students need to understand what factors are and how they can be useful in analyzing graphs?

In my opinion, yes. To me, that’s really the important mathematics I want my students to remember. I don’t think we need to continue spending several days teaching all the different factoring techniques like has been done for decades and probably much longer. I just believe it’s no longer necessary.

Today we have tools like WolframAlpha, a seemingly countless number of smartphone apps, and computer software that will do such menial tasks as factor.

I used to say to my Beginning Algebra students that it was highly unlikely they would ever factor out in the “real world”. That wasn’t the point of learning it. Instead it was learning how to break things apart and put them back together that was the benefit of learning how to factor. This kept the complaining down to a minimum, but really, my explanation was bogus.

The point of factoring, which has been embedded into the curriculum for decades or longer before I even began studying mathematics, is because we needed to know how to do that particular skill in order to move forward with more advanced mathematics. There was nothing else that could do it for us. We NEEDED to do the factoring.

So, factoring techniques have been taught ever since, and students spend weeks learning this “skill” with most not really understanding what factors are nor how they can be useful in analyzing graphs or really anything important about factors at all. For some, like myself, it’s a fun puzzle to try and figure out. For others, it’s a never-ending maze of confusion and frustration.

Now I’m not saying the reason we should scale back the teaching of factoring is because it may cause confusion and frustration. Hardly. Most learning happens by working through the confusion and frustration. Instead, I’m saying the actual act of factoring is no longer a necessary skill. Technology has made this skill obsolete.

Yes, I know I’m in the minority, here, but please bear with me.

It used to be a very important skill to find the square root of two by hand, or to look up logarithmic values in a table and then be able to interpolate other values. At one time, these skills were necessary in order to move forward with more science and mathematics. These skills became obsolete when inexpensive hand held calculators became available. Now, thankfully, these skills are no longer taught.

However, the concept of the square root of two is still taught. It’s just that now when we need that particular value, we use technology to give us that value so we can then use it appropriately in the context of our problem. Finding the square root of two itself is not the problem. It used to be. Oh, how boring that must’ve been.

I see the same thing with factoring, the properties of logarithms, calculating derivatives, etc. The list goes on.

So, now I have to ask the question: Does there really need to be a three, or more, course sequence to get students ready for college level mathematics? I’m thinking not.

Think about what’s taught in those pre-college level mathematics courses. You know, the one’s titled Prealgebra, Elementary Algebra, and Intermediate Algebra. Most of what’s taught in those classes are obsolete skills like solving equations, factoring, and finding the equation of a line. These things are still taught because at one point all those skills were necessary in order to move forward.

We couldn’t add rational expressions very easily without factoring to find the least common denominator.

We couldn’t figure out the time it would take for $1000 to grow to $1500 if it was compounded monthly at an annual interest rate of 4% without using the properties of logarithms and knowing how to solve an equation.

We couldn’t figure out a perpendicular bisector without knowing how to find the equation of a line.

But today, technology can do all of the above more efficiently and without making a sign error during the calculation.

I’ve often told my classes that the calculator is only as smart as the person pushing the buttons. If you enter incorrect data, then you will not get the correct solution. You need to know if the results make sense.

To me, that’s an important skill. Learning how to slow down, enter the correct data into the appropriate tool, and interpret the results. I especially want them to know enough to question if the results make sense or not in the context of the problem.

So, I’m no longer sure there needs to be so many math classes. And this doesn’t end with pre-college level classes. In Precalculus, Calculus, Differential Equations, etc. there are several skills that have been made obsolete by technology.

Is it possible instead to have fewer total math classes but they all incorporate learning how to use technology to do the menial skills tasks, while at the same time learning what the given results mean and their relationships to graphs and applications? Could that then introduce the beauty of mathematics to more people?

I don’t know.

I hope so.