Category Archives: Taylor Tuesday

Olympic Gold

Hi.  I know I have been delinquent in my duties as a blogger, but here I am trying to make amends with you interwebs.  I’ve been very busy this summer accumulating stories for this blog, and I hope to actually share some of them with you over the weeks.

Today I will brag on myself a little bit.  If you know me you know I don’t like to talk about myself or my accomplishments, but I guess I can talk about this a little since it’s been taking up a lot of my time as of late.  This past Sunday I ran the “Hottest Half” half marathon in Dallas.  Aptly named, as any running endeavor in Texas during August is pretty much the hottest running you could ask for in the continental US of A.  This is 1 of 4 (maybe 5) half marathons I will be running between now and April 2013.  I’ve enjoyed the training, and despite the temperatures during the last 3 miles or so, had a great run this past weekend.  I’m hoping to improve a bit each time.  I don’t have any hopes of being an Olympic athlete (if I did it’d be in the 20k racewalk, my new favorite Olympic sport) but I think I can improve myself through diligent training.

As a 2012 Olympic Bonus to this blog, I leave you with McKayla Maroney teaching Jenna Bush how to Dougie.  I like to imagine why these people were ever put in the same place, let alone why that place was on top of a double decker bus in London with video cameras…

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The Crane Guy

We landed back in Dallas on Monday night around 9:30 from our trip to Rochester (which I will talk about later) to a text from my mom that said “Dad says Mockingbird is closed due to a shooter at SMU”.  Both sets of our parents send us important news stories about things happening in Dallas that Taylor and I somehow miss.  Mockingbird is the street our apartment is on and SMU is only one block over.  Nothing like landing after 8 hours of travel and finding out we might not be able to get into our apartment.

It turns out the story was a little off.  Around noon on Monday a man – dubbed “The Crane Guy” – scaled one of the construction cranes being used for the George W. Bush Presidential library (super excited this landmark will be so near to us).  This is not a small crane.  As Taylor and I were driving down the highway that night I could see a bright spotlight pointed at the top of the crane – he still hadn’t come down.  It reminded me of the scene in Dumbo where he is at the top of the building on fire and they have a giant spotlight on him as the wait for him to jump.  Somehow that made it more chilling.  At around 1:30 that night, the police tried to sneak up – which is pretty difficult to do on a crane – and the man climbed over the railing of the crane, held on with two hands, and eventually let go.  It was a 150 foot drop.  I feel multiple emotions over the fact that while I was sleeping happily in my bed only a block away a man took his own life by jumping from a crane.  Once they identified the man it was confirmed that he had a history of mental illness.

I have spent the last half hour trying to end this post without it sounding like a super long PSA for mental illness.  So I’ll just end with this: it’s okay to get help and it sucks that some people don’t have access to it or can’t afford it.

-Sara

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End of the Universe

I’ve been watching a series on bluray that my dad has let me borrow, “The Wonders of the Universe” with Brian Cox.  This series originally aired on the BBC a little while back.  This guy does a fantastic job breaking down very large complex theories of the universe and through the use of stunning cinematography and moving music turns them into a narrative that is both interesting to listen to but also very educational.  I’ve learned a lot of this material back in high school and college, but given that I don’t study physics as a profession (no, I prefer the much more pure branch of science, mathematics) I don’t have an opportunity to think about these ideas routinely.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed brushing up my chops in physics and would suggest that anyone curious in the ways of the universe check out the series.  I’ve included a clip that does a great job describing entropy (sounds enthralling, doesn’t it!?)

-Taylor

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What Makes You Tic?

We had a guest speaker come to my school today to speak to the student body about being compassionate to others and to discuss tolerance of others differences.  Marc Elliot is 26 years old and has tourettes syndrome as well as a intestine disease that has required him to have only 4 feet of small intestine and no large intestine.  He’s been dealing with adversity for most of his life and has recently learned how to control the “tics” of his tourettes.  He was able to provide a unique perspective on what it’s like to be that “annoying stranger” that people have to deal with and encourage our students to take an approach of tolerance when dealing with other people, especially those that you know nothing about and make unfair assumptions about them from their external actions or appearances.  In case this sounds interesting, here’s some more information:

http://www.marcelliot.com

-Taylor

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Pickles!

This is probably more of a Food activity that should be relegated to Friday, but it just can’t wait.  Sara and I have been frequented a local burger place pretty regularly since we’ve moved here.  We normal wait until we have guests and/or visitors to go there, otherwise we’d probably go far too often.  We had a friend in town last night, so we took him over to “Twisted Root Burger Co.” just down the street.  We ordered our food (I always get “The Verde” burger which has green chili’s, cheese, and guacamole) walked past the booth for George W. Bush (he lives only a few miles away.  Apparently he actually came in not too long ago for the first time) and, since the weather was fantastic, proceeded to the patio.

That's the SMU Pony made of beer bottle caps

Pretty sure the place used to be a gas station

Besides the great burgers, I think the best thing about this place is their pickles.  They have fried pickles on the menu, which are pretty good, but their best items are some house made pickles of various styles that are available at no extra cost.  They have your traditional dill and bread and butter, but they also have “atomic” (a pretty spicy blend), “wasabi”, and “bourbon” as well.  They’re all delicious and I have to force some moderation on myself so I don’t fill up on pickles while waiting for my food to get called.

A sampler plate of pickles

As an added bonus, they had the new Deep Ellum Brewing Company IPA on tap which made for a great beer while enjoying the 80 degree weather on the patio.  A little early for summer, but I’ll take it anyways.

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Professional Attire

I had the joy of attending a College Board workshop two weekends ago to receive some professional development in regards to the AP Calculus AB curriculum and exam.  I’m a pretty big fan of professional development, and usually College Board does a pretty good job.  It was held at a local hotel, with nice food each morning and lunch, as well as pretty comfortable meeting spaces, etc.  I’m never really sure how to dress for these type of events.  Normally I would wear a shirt and tie since that’s what I normally wear to work, but more often than not, I get some odd looks from my fellow teachers when I wear a tie to any sort of training.  I guess teachers either don’t dress up for work, or like to dress down on the days they aren’t teaching.  I’m okay with that so I usually split the difference and wear a nice pair of pants and a button down shirt and no tie.  I can blend in with the people wearing t-shirts as well as those that did wear a tie or equally nice outfit.  Never, though, I have I seen someone wear the following outfits to professional development, and certainly not to a College Board event.  I wish I had taken actual pictures, but these google’d images will have to suffice:

Friday's Attire

I saw this guy and thought to myself that he must of lost a bet.  He didn’t really look like a classy gentleman, but he sealed the deal when he returned the following day wearing this:

Saturday's Attire

The fine print in case you can’t make it out: “It’s not really that important until you’re not getting any”

If I were that guy’s principal and I saw him wearing that, I think we’d have to have a little talk…

-Taylor

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To the Professor!

I am currently re-reading through “The Hobbit” partially because the first part of it is coming out this December:

I’ve grown up reading through Tolkien’s works a few times, but I’ve always had a special place for “The Hobbit.”  It’s written at a more accessible level than “The Lord of the Rings”, which allowed me to read through it at a younger age.  Additionally, my dad is a huge Tolkien fan as well, and had copies of “The Hobbit” as audio books, comic books, animated movies, etc. which made it easy to become a fan.  Besides, you get a great backstory behind Bilbo Baggins, the one ring, Sting (the sword, not the singer), and many other geeky items of Middle Earth lore. Stay nerdy.

-Taylor

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Friends, Who Needs Them?

I heard a lot of great talks at the TCM conference last weekend, but a few in particular stood out to me.  One of my favorites, presented by Dan Teague of the NCSSM, was about using network/graph theory to revolutionize existing models of the spread of infectious diseases.

The existing models makes an assumption that all people interact randomly as if they were walking about the earth in a random fashion, bumping into and interacting with people without any pattern.  However, as we’re all aware, we’re more likely to interact with people that we’re friends with, or at least have some connection to.  If you were able to visualize a group of peoples connections, you’d have a graph similar to the one below:

Each numbered node represents an individual, and the line between them represents a connection (relationship).  The more lines connecting you to other people mean increases your popularity, and thus you are more likely to interact with other people.  When talking about the case of the spread of disease, higher rates of interaction lead to (on average) a higher chance of becoming infected.

One interesting fact discovered when you run the numbers here: your friends are more likely to (on average) have more friends than you do.  This is called the “Friendship Paradox” [wikipedia link].  This is actually useful to catch a potential epidemic early.  Here’s an example:

In 2010 Harvard University conducted a study of their student body to see if this paradox could help predict the spread of the influenza virus on campus.  319 undergraduates were selected and asked to name students that they were friends with.  A total of 425 friends were named.  The university then followed these two groups, the selected undergraduate group and the “friend” group.  If the friend paradox were to hold true, the “friend” group would have more interaction with other individuals on campus, and thus be more likely to catch the flu, and most likely catch it sooner than the other group.  Using self reported data, it was found that the “friend” group contracted the flu about 2 weeks prior than the selected group, and almost 45 days before the flu peaked for the season.  (Full story and more at: http://hms.harvard.edu/public/news/2010/091510_christakis/index.html)

Using this method, and continuing to advance the ideas held within the graph, researchers should be able to mathematically determine where and when epidemics might emerge and take the necessary steps to prevent the spread of disease before it reaches a tipping point.  Even better, through theory and simulation, researchers should be able to objectively determine which people provide the biggest gain in overall health to a community if they were to be vaccinated (either very “popular” people who interact with a lot of others, or people that link two large groups together).

Stay safe out there, and just remember, your friends and family will get you sick!

-Taylor

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I HEART MATH

I’m going to a “Teaching Contemporary Mathematics” conference this weekend in Durham, North Carolina.  I’ve heard pretty good things about this conference from my colleagues and am excited to attend some professional development.  The event is being held at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, which is right near Duke University.  I’m looking forward to hearing Dan Teague speak, for I’ve heard a great deal of positive reviews about his presentations.  He’s running a conference this summer for educators of post-calculus students with a goal to find avenues for those students to become involved in research while still in high school or undergrads in college.  Sounds great, but it’s in Lincoln, Nebraska.  That part sounds… riveting.

In addition to all the great math, I’m looking forward to catching up with a few friends and family in the area.  I’ve been told to try Bullock’s BBQ while I’m there, but I already have plans to go to The Pit while in Raleigh.  I guess this means I’ll have to have a double dose of BBQ this weekend.   Better load up on some veggies this week because it’s off to pig country.

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Dogfish 120 Minute

Over the Christmas holiday, I had the opportunity to pick up a rather rare beer that I’ve been trying to get a hold of for quite some time now.  Dogfish Head brewing out of Milton, Deleware will always hold a special place in my beer lovers heart as they were the first brewery that really turned me on to IPA’s and extremely bitter and boppy beers.  They make several IPA’s and gauge their bitterness and alcohol content by naming them after how many minutes they continuously add in new hops to the boil.  The longer and more hops boil into the wort, the more sugars to ferment, the higher the alcohol content.  Their everyday IPA is 60 minute (6.0 % ABV), a little fancier brings you to the 90 minute (9.0% ABV) and the top of the line, limited run, is the 120 minute (varies, but this year is 18% ABV).  Obviously a beer at 18% isn’t your typical beer.  You can start to think of it more as a wine or distilled spirit.

The Loot

When you start pushing beer to the extremes of brewing some odd things can happen.  Dogfish Head was the subject of a Discovery Channel mini-series on craft beer.  During recording for the show, the Dogfish was going through it’s annual brew of 120 minute.  Although it’s the smallest batch of commercially available beer they brew all year, this production brings in a lot of revenue for the company.  That year in particular something went wrong with the brew (I believe the yeast kept on dying so it couldn’t finish fermentation) and they had to dump the entire batch.  Oops.

They played with the recipe and techniques, did a test batch over the summer, and then finally was able to ramp up production.  I was able to get several bottles of 120 minute while at my parents house (120 minute is not available for purchase for home consumption in the state of TX).  I drank a few bottles, but plan to cellar the remaining 4 bottles for special occasions.  A quality beer with high enough alcohol content can be stored like a fine wine.  The flavor will age and change with time.  Hopefully I have the patience to wait it out for awhile!

-Taylor

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