The new calculus book is here!

The day after I published the previous blog post I received both my New To Me calculus book and my Actually New copy of Mac:Office. It was a freakin’ geek-o-rama. (Apparently it doesn’t take a lot to make me happy, but the bit that cheers me is disturbingly specific.)

Here is someone else’s picture of the cover of Calculus by Jon Rogawski:

Yes... it's a Slinky™.

This is the textbook that UW-Whitewater uses for Calculus I, II, and III. So getting one for $30 via Amazon.com was a fantastic buy. And please don’t think I did anyone wrong by using Amazon.com. I bought this from a private seller, not a mindless warehouse. She got $30 she otherwise would not have — Amazon itself buys books like this back at a ridiculously low rate. They would have offered her a paltry $2 and turned around to sell it to someone else for as much as $92. It reminds me a lot of the Miami Co-Op Bookstore’s buyback program after my first semester of college the first time ’round… which is why I don’t have my original calculus book in the first place. (I wonder if I would recognize it if I ever ran across it again. It was mostly black on the outside, and filled with shadows, flagpoles, and horny hamsters on the inside.) Whitewater itself has a textbook rental program, which is a new concept to me but not as valuable as you’d think it would be for me. Yes, I could get my textbooks for free, but I’d need to return them at the end of each semester. I wouldn’t get to keep them! And that would be particularly stupid for a sequence of three courses that all use the same text on purpose. So, for $10 a semester and $0 thereafter… my calculus book.

Now I feel as if I’ll need to justify the purchase of Microsoft software as well. I have been using Macintoshes since 1987, and learned to write my first programs on the Apple ][e. (See what I did there? I could have also written Apple //e or Apple IIe, but it’s fun to be typographically correct every once in a while.) Back in those days, Microsoft was evil. Bill Gates was the Devil. Power to the underdog Apple! But now…. well, Apple has plenty of operating funds available for conquering the rest of the world, nobody really uses AppleWorks, and, let’s face it, the Office suite is so much the standard these days that you just have to have it. If I’m going to be doing technical editing, a real and current copy of Word is a must. And Excel trumps Lotus 1-2-3 (which they probably don’t make any more, and I didn’t bother checking). And I loathe working with OpenOffice. I have used at least two versions of it, and for me it’s a clunky, awkward mess. WriteNow is the best word processing software EVER, but it’s at least a decade-old orphan. As soon as I find the installation disks I will put it on one of my vintage Macs for my own use, just to remind myself that elegant Assembly code can beget an elegant piece of software. But for the Real World, I now have Word and Office and Outlook and Excel.

So. I gave $125 to the Antichrist. I think even Steve Wozniak would forgive me.

Another thing that happened just after I published the last post was that our second exam in Astronomy was handed back. I got a 95, which sits nicely with the 96 on the first exam. I wouldn’t be worried about staying above an 89 (the cutoff level for not having to take the final exam), but there’s this little matter of a group presentation that count for as many points as an exam. We handed in our paper (50 points) but haven’t received feedback yet, and supposedly our group presentation (100 points) is scheduled SOON in the next couple of weeks.

For this weekend I have just a teensy bit of work for that class, too: one packet on lunar craters that I haven’t even peeked at yet, and a two-page paper to be written on a BBC documentary of the Cassini/Huygens project. We watched most of it in class today, but I’ll watch it all again with my 13 year old tomorrow night, and take more notes. That would be another good one to knock out of the park.

Trigonometry? Do I have news from the world of trigonometry? The only news is that I should log off and study some double-angle and half-angle formulae. And maybe make some sets of flashcards to sell on the black market. I hear they’re in high demand.

To the Power of Three

(comes up for air) gasp

I’ve been working pretty hard this semester, and now I have three exam grades to show for it in precalculus: 98, 88, and 94.5. This places me at third in the class overall (and smack in the middle of the five A students), and third best on the third exam (on which 9 students got As). We just started analytic trigonometry last week, and I am really loving working with the trig identities. It’s like a super involved logic puzzle, and so satisfying when I know I’ve arrived at the correct answer. If it takes me more than three or four rounds of substitutions and I feel as if I’m staring at a wall, I just erase it and start over, coming at the problem with slightly different tools.

The jury’s still out on astronomy. We don’t have our grades back for the second exam, though we took it a few weeks ago. I honestly can’t guess at how I did on it…. the material was familiar and I think my calculations were done correctly, but there is so much specialized vocabulary for this subject that it would be so easy to get something just a little bit wrong. Then you might derail the rest of that answer, or a batch of others. That Would Be Bad. So I’m trying not to fret about that. The biggest chunk of the rest of my astronomy grade comes from a group paper (turned in last week) and a group presentation (not scheduled yet). Meanwhile, I’m hastily scribbling down notes on every aspect of the planets, volcanism, plate tectonics, erosion, and impact craters. Then there’s always that two-hour lab on Thursday mornings. My professor has demonstrated a particular genius for developing experiments and explorations that take two hours to finish completely. It’s a gift.

The main thing that’s been going on, however, is that I’m running into a financial wall. At the moment I’m doing everything I can to pay off the bill for this semester; until I have that cleared, I can’t register for the fall.

I have a number of credible reasons for not worrying as much about this as you might think I should; however, I can’t reveal my Top Secret Clever Plan until it succeeds, which should happen just after final exams. Until then, I plan to chop wood, carry water, breathe in, breathe out, and read the fine print carefully.

Oh yeah… I read a book while I was helping ferry the kids to Spring Break and back: A Strange Wilderness: The Lives of the Great Mathematicians. The author is Amir Aczel and this is the link to it on Amazon.com. It’s an overview of math and the people who pushed it forward. It won’t be the last or the definitive book I read on this subject, because I’m far too interested in the history of math and science to stop here. But I will say it’s been much better proofread and edited than The Calculus Wars.

The book I’m currently reading is Fermat’s Enigma by Simon Singh. My oldest son read it all in one go on the way back to Wisconsin from Ohio (hooray to him!), but I’m going through it more slowly and carefully, nothing all the pro-math salvos fired at the engineers and physicists. I’m also dipping from time to time into a history of mathematics book that’s been on my shelf for a while, by Jan Gullberg, and eagerly awaiting my calculus textbook that I ordered a month ago from a private seller via Amazon.com. Any minute now, baby. Any minute.