Thursday, September 28, 2006

Proofs Quiz on Set Theory

I am fast at taking tests. My speed is pretty much independent of whether I know the test material or not - I am often the first to finish a test whether I make an A or an F. I'm just quick (perhaps careless, or unusually self-assured, or a fast reader - I don't know).

On Monday, we started on Set Theory in our Proofs class. As a short primer, here goes:

Venn Diagrams can be misleading because they include implicit assumptions that may not be part of the problem at handA set is a collection of objects. It can be defined by a list, like {1, 2, 3}, or by a rule, like "numbers between 1 and 3, inclusive."

The basic set operations are union, intersection, and complement. The complement of a set is everything not in that set. The union of two sets is anything in either set. The intersection of two sets is anything that is in both sets. Easy-peasy.

There are properties that define various things about these operations. For instance, if A is a subset of B, every element in A is also in B (just like it sounds), and if A = B, that means that A is a subset of B and B is a subset of A (again, just like it sounds).

So on Monday, we were introduced to these concepts. We did one small proof, and then we were told we'd have a quiz Wednesday. I didn't really have time to study for this quiz or anything, so I didn't.

Quizzes in our class are designed to take about 35 minutes. They typically consist of some questions (including a "short essay" where you write a few sentences about something) and some proofs. This quiz was no different. In addition to a short essay and a definition question, it had 3 proofs for us to write.

When I saw what we had to prove, I probably literally paled, because I thought there was just no way I could do them. They were actually pretty simple relative to the realm of set theory proofs, but having never done a single one of those on my own (in recent years, at least), I was nonplussed.

Nevertheless, I started working on them. After I had finished one of the three, Dr. Johnson noted that only I and one other person were still working. I started the second one and the other guy turned in his paper.

"I can go out in the hall," I said.

"No, it's OK, we'll wait," said Dr. Johnson. Then, "Wait, how much more do you have to do?"

"At least a proof and a half!" I said, perhaps somewhat obstreperously.

So he had me go into the hall. With my second proof done, I had completely filled up the back of the paper the quiz was printed on, and had only the tiny spaces between questions on the front side to write my third proof in. I contemplated interrupting the class for more paper, but decided against it. So I ended up writing the third proof in the space under where it was written. I used it as two columns and, instead of writing statements and reasons separately, I put the reasons in brackets after the statements. And I wrote really small. And I barely fit it into the space.

When I turned in my quiz, I noticed that the backs of all the other quizzes that I could see were...blank.

So either the other people in my class have some amazing proof-writing mojo that lets them write a 20-line proof in 4 or 5 lines, or the majority didn't really try the proofs at all. I will find out on Monday. I suspect he's going to have to make this quiz extra credit or something; I doubt he will actually flunk the entire class.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Hark, Austinites

This restaurant review is enjoyable in its own right. It also concerns an Austin restaurant. That combination of factors sufficed for me to link to it:

Review of Buenos Aires Cafe on "I Blame the Patriarchy"

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Cute Cat Edition

If you dislike cute cats, or pictures of cute cats, you should definitely skip this one. But you might as well also just kill yourself now, because, let's face it, something is definitely wrong with you, and it probably can't be fixed.

We recently caught Tigerlily practicing a Cuteness Routine she no doubt learned in cat finishing school:

it's how she keeps her spine flexible
Here's a closeup:

I swear she posed for theseShe continued doing it for a good 10 minutes.

She has to keep in shape for this, of course. One of her favorite exercises is flinging herself onto the screen door:

the entire screen is full of marks from this
Here is the dismount:

she hasn't lost a toe yetI'm not sure what look Sammy was going for here, exactly:

Sammy has lost over half a pound since this picture was taken
When they're not charming our socks off, they spend a lot of time doing this:

Mosch's window has the best viewor this:they have a hard life

Food, or...?

As I mentioned previously, this weekend I cooked a Weight Watchers recipe called "Indian Vegetable & Lentil Stew." It has these ingredients:

1/2 cup yellow lentils (I used red lentils)
1 serrano chile, diced (including seeds)
1 pkg frozen brussels sprouts
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
1 T canola oil
2 tsp (I think?) mustard seeds
3 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 T chopped cilantro
lemon juice (1 T I think?)

You cook the lentils and mash or blend them up. Meanwhile, you cook the mustard seeds in the oil (heat the oil, put the seeds in, cover it with a lid, and wait until the popping subsides), then add the garlic and serrano chili, then the diced tomatoes, some water, and the sprouts, and then, once the sprouts are done, the mashed lentils. Then you remove it from heat and add the cilantro and lemon juice.

I ran into a little snag. When I cooked the mustard seeds, they didn't start popping very readily, so I jacked up the heat (thinking it might be needed because the pan was so large). So the mustard seeds burned and turned black. Then I put in the hot chile and garlic, and, predictably, the house began to fill up with toxic smoke. It's always great when your cooking can be mistaken for chemical warfare.

The finished product looked a bit gruesome:

is this food?
But I'm brave, so I had a tiny bowl to taste. It actually tasted fabulous! It's really spicy, which is surprising for WW. I immediately had a big bowl of it for dinner.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Not Buying Crap

unicorn tote bagOne of the blogs I read regularly is Stop Buying Crap. The blog itself is pretty fun, but I think what's best about it, for me, is just seeing the words "Stop Buying Crap" in my list of links or Favorites.

It's difficult for me to control my spending adequately. I have a general instruction to myself to not spend money, or to spend as little as reasonably possible, but "don't buy more stuff" is a more specific idea that also brings in my strong desire not to have a bunch of useless possessions.

One piece of crap* I wanted to buy today was this bag (pictured above) from Natalie Dee. Part of why I want it is that I just enjoy her site every day, and I'd like to buy something from her so she makes some money. And part of it is that it would be an amusing counterpoint to this bag Mosch has that has a carousel horse on it. And it's just a kind of funny bright red bag.

But our apartment is absolutely lousy with tote bags, and I don't use a tote bag that often. I certainly don't need another tote bag. I doubt many people actually do need another tote bag - you get them at conferences and they are sold everywhere. They're like t-shirts except that you can't wear them as pajamas.

This is where "Stop Buying Crap" really comes in handy. No tote bag for Tam.

(*just to be clear, I'm not at all meaning to suggest that Natalie Dee's excellent tote bag is "crap." It's only crap in the sense that, if I owned it, it would be more crap that I owned. And I'm trying to avoid owning more things of a non-essential nature.)

Generic Diary-Type Post

My life isn't boring, but lately it hasn't been such as to give rise to good blog posts either.

Last night, I had my first test in Calc 3. Barring any uncaught arithmetic errors (or conceptual errors - less likely because I probably would have thought of them by now), I should have aced it. I was reasonably well-prepared and the test was pretty straightforward and didn't ask any of the really tricky types of things.

Tomorrow night, I have my first test in Proofs. This is seriously a pretty fearsome class, which I didn't expect, and by tomorrow I need to have simply learned some proofs I don't currently know and probably can't make up on my own, like a proof of the Mean Value Theorem. I also have a giant homework assignment due, of which I have done 9 pages, which I estimate represents about 30% of the total, and which took me several hours to complete. I'm thinking the rest won't be finished by tomorrow.

In addition to doing crazy amounts of homework this weekend, I also cooked crazy amounts of food. I made a tofu stir-fry, similar to last week's but with plain old cabbage instead of bok choy. I made another bean salad, half as large as last week's but with proportionately more avocado. I made a vegetable dish of black-eyed peas with spinach and onions, using frozen spinach since fresh spinach is currently unavailable. And I made a recipe from my WW cookbook called "Indian Lentil & Vegetable Stew," which involved (accidentally) burning some mustard seeds & hot peppers and filling the house with toxic smoke, but which came out pretty tasty in spite of it all. (I may post a picture of this concoction later. It definitely doesn't look like something a person should eat.)

I have no future plans other than to try to prepare for my Proofs test and continue surviving the week.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Working Too Hard

No, it's not me who's working too hard (crazy head).

Last night I ran into a problem doing my calculus homework - something I should have been able to logic out, but just couldn't. I emailed my professor, Ms. Ethredge, about it. I didn't expect her to email back - I really just wanted to say "would you go over this in class?" and also help clarify my own thinking by writing the email.

She not only wrote back; she attached a Word document with equations and a 3D graph pasted in from Mathematica explaining and demonstrating the answer to my question. I mean she actually wrote a Word document for me to explain this thing.

First reaction: Wow! That is awesome!
Section reaction: Yikes! She works way too hard!

Bean Salad

So this weekend, when thinking of food to prepare for the week, I remembered this great recipe that was in this artsy cookbook my mom had. It was a recipe for a kind of bean salad. Robin made the salad for me one time and ended up keeping the cookbook (sorry Mom!) and I think my mom bought another one.

I really liked this salad, and I was thinking of calling Robin and/or my mom and asking if they had this book and would look up the recipe when I, you don't really need a recipe to make a salad with beans and cilantro in it. It's not rocket surgery.

So I got some ingredients and mixed up the following in a giant bowl:

2 cans of black beans, well rinsed
2 cans of corn, ditto (though I wished I had only used one can when I saw how much it was)
3 very good tomatoes, diced
2 avocados, cut into chunks *
1 small onion, chopped up pretty fine
1/2 of a cilantro bunch, diced to within an inch of its life
1 T olive oil
several splashes of lemon juice
salt, cumin (probably not enough to make a difference), & pepper

It didn't taste like anything right after I made it, of course, but after day in the fridge, it was pretty fantastic and exactly what I had hoped it would be (good in exactly the way I remember that recipe being good). It would probably also be good, and a little spicier, if you diced up a fresh jalapeno pretty finely and put that in there.

I ended up with about 10 cups of the stuff. I brought a 4-cup container to work to have as snacks, and the 6-cup container is at home. My boss wanted to try it, so I brought her about 1-1/2 cups yesterday, and she liked it a lot. (She said, "See, I could be a vegetarian if it was like this. This has flavor." Obviously she has not had much vegetarian food!)

(* I diced the avocados by splitting them in half and removing the pits, as one does, and then scoring each half down to the skin with a steak-type knife, in a criss-cross pattern. Then when I scooped it out with a spoon, it came out in little chunks.)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


For the past couple of years, I just can't seem to sustain the mental focus necessary to lose weight. It might seem sensible to take a break, but what I find is that "taking a break" just leads to gaining weight, even if technically I'm trying to be on a strict maintenance diet (that is, eating enough calories to maintain to my weight), for the simple reason that, at my best, I'll be on the maintenance diet, and then sometimes I'll go off, which overall leads to weight gain. (It's like if your financial plan is to spend exactly your salary, and then you sometimes overspend, you'll end up in increasing debt.)

So given that I really don't want to slowly gain weight over time, the only option I have is to continue to try to lose weight (which I need to do anyway), even though I may only lose very very small amounts (like ~ 5 lbs so far this entire year) or just maintain as a result.

Anyway, right now (the past couple of weeks) I am using the Weight Watchers "Core" plan. I've done this before, and I really like it, and I usually lose weight on it fairly easily for as long as I can keep it up.

On the regular Weight Watchers plan, called Flex, you get "points" to eat. A point is generally about 50 calories worth of food, but higher-fat foods are worth more points, and higher-fiber foods are worth fewer points (so that, for instance, most regular vegetables are 0 points for a regular serving). So it's basically kind of a modified calorie-counting plan. It's pretty simple.

Core is even simpler. You can eat "as much as you need to feel satisfied" of any of the foods that are considered Core, and then you get 35 points per week of any other food you want. (You also earn points by exercising, which is true on Flex as well.)

The Core food list isn't some small list of, like, cabbage soup, carrots, and chicken breasts. It basically consists of all fruits and vegetables, lean meats, non-fat dairy, eggs, non-creamy soups, beans, meat substitutes (soy crumbles, tofu, boca burgers, plain soymilk, soy cheeses, etc., but not sausage-type veggie meats or, for instance, chik'n patties), and whole grains (but not flours). The main things that are not Core are fatty things (cheese, nuts, etc.) and baked goods (bread, crackers, tortillas, cookies, muffins, and so on). Overall, it's basically a volumetric plan (emphasis on foods that have a low ratio of calories to weight), but made very simple by the list & rules.

It's working pretty well so far. The main obstacles to Core are that you have to basically cook your own food (almost no restaurant or fast food, or pre-packaged stuff, is Core), and if your diet relies on bread or other baked things, you're kind of SOL. I don't eat many baked goods, so that works out for me. My other challengs is to be sure to include enough really tasty Core foods (like avocados) so that I don't go nuts because of the lack of indulgence.

Anyway, this time around I've at least figured out what to do for breakfast, which is good. The only cold cereals that are Core are shredded wheat, puffed rice (not rice krispies, but the plain kind of puffed rice), and all bran, none of which I can stand. Oatmeal is Core, but I only like it if it's pretty well-sweetened, which is not Core. (It's OK with frozen blueberries cooked in it, but that takes more time that it's worth in the morning, even in the microwave; my tolerances for breakfast are very narrow.) Anyway, Kashi makes a cereal that is identical to shredded wheat except that is has cinnamon (Core) and sugar (1 point worth for more than one serving of the cereal), so that's what I've been having most days, and just counting the 1 point.

So it's going well so far. My tofu recipe this weekend was Core, and tomorrow I'll post about the other big dish I made this weekend. It's nice not counting calories and being able to just eat a (Core) snack anytime if I feel like it. And I tend to eat more fruit than otherwise, which is good.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Blogs That Never Update

You may be surprised to hear this, but even I, author of a blog that never updates, become increasingly irritated at other blogs that don't have new posts. Eventually I will just remove them from my favorites.

Drew of toothpaste for dinner has an excellent blog post about this phenomenon. It also explains, right away, why my mom does not have a blog. Something about arm dogs.

One of the best things about Note of the Living Deb (which I always misremember as "Site of the Living Deb") is that she posts every single day (except during the occasional vacation or something, but usually even then). Way to go, Deb! It's really nice not pointlessly checking someone's blog all the time.

"Rsch Case-Based Reasng Web App"

Since I might as well work for credits in addition to money, I signed up for independent study credits in conjunction with my CREU grant project. Dr. Paul and I got the form filled out and submitted just right before (literally the day before) the census date for the college, which is the last date you can register for anything, and by the day after census it had not appeared in my online registration info, so I thought it might not have actually been processed in time, but apparently it was, because I just had to pay $200 for the 2 credits and now I have the course title above in my unofficial transcript.

image of my unofficial transcript
I just feel sorry for the person in the registrar's office who had to figure out how to abbreviate our original (very long) course title.

If you want to know more about our project, it has its own blog here: No funny comments over there, please :-) It's a shared blog with Olga and Dr. Paul, though the only post (as of today) is by me.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Tofu Stir-Fry

I made a pretty decent stir-fry today. I started with a Weight Watchers recipe for Vegetable Fried Rice, but modified it a lot. Here are the ingredients:
ingredients all laid out for cooking
1 block of extra-firm tofu
1 bunch of bok choy (leaves & stems separated)
1 onion
1 red bell pepper
2 1/2 cups brown rice
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger (first time I ever worked with that!)
1 T canola oil
2 t sesame oil
1 1/2 T soy sauce
2 small eggs

After heating the oil, I put in the red pepper and bok choy stems and cooked those a bit. I added the onions and tofu, meanwhile scrambling the eggs in another pan. When the onions were mostly done, I added the rice, ginger, bok choy leaves, and soy sauce. Once the bok choy leaves were wilted, I added the scrambled eggs and mixed everything up. Here is how it looked:

tofu stir-fry
I divided this into five portions for lunches. I had one portion right away. It's pretty good - kind of mild, and the ginger is pretty noticeable. I've never worked with bok choy before, and the leaves turned out a little bitter for my taste, but still edible. The stalks came out really good. (I've had them in Chinese food before, of course, but cooking something yourself is different in terms of appreciating its qualities.)