On Mathematics: Multiplication Tricks and the Concept of Zero

I’m finally getting back to reading Here’s Looking at Euclid, and am determined to finish up some of the non-fiction books that have been sitting in my reading pile for an embarrassingly long time.

I’m mostly posting about chapter three because I want a place to stash this quote about Indian/Vedic multiplications tricks which I found interesting:

Vertically and Crosswise, or “cross-multiplication,” is faster, uses less space and less laborious than long multiplication. Kenneth Williams told me that whenever he explains the Vedic method to school pupils they find it easy to understand. “They can’t believe they weren’t taught it before,” he said. Schools favor long multiplication because it spells out every stage of the calculation. Vertically and Crosswise keeps some of the machinery hidden. Williams things this is no bad thing, and may even help less bright pupils. “We have to steer a path and not insist that kids have to know everything all of the time. Some kids need to know how [multiplication] works. Some don’t want to know how it works. They just want to be able to do it.” ‘

This makes sense to me because I’m a huge fan of specialization. Yes, most kids probably need to know HOW their math works, but for a kid who’s struggling with it, it probably makes more sense to teach them a trick so they can do it, and focus on honing their skills where they excel, instead of spending hours and hours on something they may never excel at, and likely teaching them to hate it in the process.

The other thing that stood out to me about this chapter was the commentary on the Indian discovery of zero being related to their religious understanding of the importance of ‘nothing’ or the void. This bothers me a little as I doubt I agree with their emphasis on nothingness, but I do think the concept of zero is important and helpful in mathematics, and would like to be able to figure out the true philosophical reason behind that.

Perhaps they simply over emphasize the importance of zero as an existent entity, and the proper understanding is closer to it actually being a placeholder for nothing, but I would love to see a Christian worldview explanation of the concept of zero, as I just can’t quite figure out where to start in exploring the philosophical underpinnings.

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Of Dreams and Plans

Every January I start to get the urge to evaluate my life and figure out what I want to be doing that I’m not doing, or at least haven’t finished achieving yet. Colton seems to mange to continuously update his plans and priorities and can’t figure out why January would have this effect on me. So this year I took a little different strategy and made a list of dreams and planned to pick one to work on every 4-6 weeks through the year.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve gotten distracted with a lot of daily life and don’t seem to make a lot of progress. According to my list the last time I picked a dream to work on was in April, and I know I didn’t actually do anything with it.

Oddly enough, a part of my dream to travel to Europe, which wasn’t even on the docket for this year, is coming true this fall. Colton has a work trip to Ireland and I get to tag along. I’m still holding out for a full tour of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales someday, but for now, a few days in Dublin will do just fine.

Aside from travel though, I’m discovering the the core of my dreams is really to do some combination of creative writing and nutritional coaching. (Well, that and being able to sing on key.) I really enjoyed the writing I did for my food blog, and to some extent the videos I made for it, though those were also stress inducing. (Yes, random guy on the internet, it is possible to care about healthy eating and still have fat arms. FYI.) But what I really, really loved was the few comments I got about how people started using my homemade ketchup all the time, or how small children devoured green beans made from my recipe. I loved giving people one small, doable step toward living healthier.

And, honestly, that’s why I started sharing about Plexus. Because I really want to help people get healthier, and because it give me chance to talk to people about their health and nutrition one on one, and figure out personalized suggestions for what might help them.

If I do very well with Plexus maybe someday it can even fund that full Europe trip I’d love to make, but what would make me very happy is if sharing Plexus resulted in lots of stories of other people finally having energy to go do all the things they’ve always wanted to do.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Plexus will ever solve my singing off-key problems.

The Perfect Desk

I have wanted a desk for several years now. I had a desk when I was teenager, and used it for very important tasks like writing journal entries, but I didn’t have the opportunity to use a desk to it’s full potential at the time. (I guess that depends on how you look at it though–my largest desk drawer was full of Agatha Christie novels.)

In the apartment all of my ‘desk stuff’ like the expandable file folder and bills to be paid got stored on one shelf of a bookshelf, and it all inevitably jumbled not that long after every time I organized it. Now that we have a house, we have room for Colton and I to have side by side desks in the dining room.

As I began browsing used furniture I quickly discovered that I have expensive taste in desks. My favorites were always the roll top desks, with the appeal of being able to stop in the middle of paying bills or balancing the checkbook, but instantly hide the mess. Since the roll tops generally sold for around $300, I started trying to convince myself that I should stick with looking for the true non-negotiables, like drawers for storing all my desk stuff inside of.

I started checking Craigslist frequently, and talking myself down to a reasonable desk, until one day I saw that roll top desk had just been posted for $50. It had only been posted a few hours before, and I promptly claimed the first chance to go inspect it. (After checking with Colton if he thought it was worth driving 30 minutes to look at the desk. He said no desk was worth driving to P—- for, but then gave his serious answer that it looked like a good deal.)

I began conferring with the seller about the details of coming to see it. Was it very heavy? Oh, yes, it was so very heavy, and they didn’t actually live where the desk was, so we had to come look at it during the day, and her husband had just had surgery so he wouldn’t be able to help with the lifting. Since Colton doesn’t have a lot of spare time off this  year, I fell back on the plan of drafting nephews to carry the desk… until I got an e-mail that someone had agreed to buy the desk without having seen it.

My desk…

A few days later I heard that the buyer never completed arrangements to come pick up the desk, so I was back to having first chance to come look at it. Yay!

I drafted one nephew to come along, having remembered in the meantime that the other nephew I had intended to draft now has gainful employment which keeps him too busy during daytime hours to come move desks for me. (That pesky getting-older-and-getting-jobs thing…) Then I mildly agonized for a while about whether the heaviness of the desk was exaggerated and whether between me and my nephew Peter and my sister Merrianna if we would be able to load the desk into the car.

The first part of the adventure happened when we discovered that my phone (the only smart phone in the car, and our only source of directions to the location of the desk) was about to die and we didn’t have a charger. Peter copied down the directions into the sketchbook he’d brought along and then Merrianna continued navigating from the almost dead phone. I missed a turn (it was the shortest ‘100 yards’ in the  history of directions, is all I have to say), and began following the rerouted directions when the phone died.

Peter and Merrianna had much conferring about the remembered parts of directions compared to what was written on the sketchbook, and we somehow arrived at our destination with a deal of confusion, but without ever actually having to turn around.

This is when part 2 of our adventure started. We were greeted by a very sweet lady, with whom I’d been communicating, and her brother (not her husband, and presumably, not having just had surgery). I checked the desk, and despite a bit of sticking in the roll top part of the desk, quickly decided that I would take the desk.

The sellers, however, were very concerned about whether the large desk would fit inside our mini-van. They carefully measured many dimensions of both the desk and the inside of the mini-van, and then carefully re-measured when they couldn’t remember the original measurements.

I had been pretty sure from the beginning that the desk would fit, and the measurements sounded like a good match even without remembering the exact numbers in every case. In addition to this, I had picked up one end of the desk as I examined it.

It wasn’t that heavy at all.

We could have easily just picked up the desk, walked it out the mini-van to see if it would fit, and taken it back inside if it didn’t.

Instead, I just tried to direct events in the direction of more action and less measuring. “Yep, that looks like it should fit… Uh huh… Hmm… Okay, let’s give it a try… Yes, on its back… It really seems like that should work… I think we should go ahead and try it.”

Peter and the brother carried the desk to the mini-van while Merrianna and I watched and the very sweet lady gave me tips for what kind of furniture polish to buy if my desk happened to get accidentally scratched on the way home. (I didn’t tell her that I would probably never even notice if the desk got scratched up…)

The desk fit perfectly into the back of the mini-van, with the minor inconvenience of having to be lifted over the metal U-hooks that protrude from the sides of the back hatch. Merrianna and I even got to assist briefly by holding corners of the desk as it was flipped on its back.

We climbed back into the car, slightly exhausted from the social effort of buying a desk from such nice people, and Peter began to reverse the directions so that we could escape the tiny neighborhood in which we were cornered. Despite the fact that the desk turned out to not be heavy at all, it turned out the Peter was essential to the escapade, as he was the keeper of the directions (and the owner of pencil and paper).

And that is the story of how I am sitting and typing this blog post at a lovely, ever so slightly scratched roll top desk (which only sticks a little when you try to put down the roll top lid).

Moving In

It’s been almost two months since I wrote about moving out of our apartment, and it seemed time for an update about the moving in half of the process. It seems that getting sick after we move is a tradition, so I came down with a bad cold shortly after we moved, which slowed down the latter part of the unpacking. It is now, however, nearly done.

Instead of having to cook all our meals in the Instant Pot we have a stove. It has two ovens, and plays far too many musical chimes including an alarm if you leave the oven door open for too long. But two ovens, and not an Instant Pot, so over all, I’m quite happy with it.

Instead of having to work around temporary kitchen storage, we now have a kitchen island which greatly improves the amount of counter space available.

Instead of having to go to the laundromat, I can now do laundry in any weather without having to leave the house and bundle up against the cold. The washer and dryer also play unusually (and unnecessarily) long musical chimes when they’re done, but I can live with that, seeing as how I now have the freedom to do any amount of laundry at any time.

Instead of having bare windows and feeling that our television watching habits were needlessly public, we now have curtains on all our windows. The curtain saga is long and involved, and some of the curtains could still use upgrading (along with one Frankenstein’s curtain rod that I cobbled together when some of the proper pieces went missing) but having curtains is a major upgrade in itself, and greatly improves the hominess of the house.

Instead of a stack of boxes in the closet, we now have new bookshelves to replace the ones that broke in the move, and the closet is shifting over into being useful for normal storage.

Instead of having to root through a plastic tub every time I needed to pay a bill or file a receipt I now have a desk! The desk just got set up today, so I’m especially excited about this one. I’ve wanted a desk for the past few years, and never really had a good place to put one in the apartment, so now I can finally hide all of my paperwork in an organized manner.

I can’t say that all the decorating is done, but I have hung up all of the important wall art (mostly involving dragons), and found a temporary place for the wedding monkeys while I continue to experiment with various set ups. We have more blank walls in the house than we did in the apartment, so I have temporarily put up some pictures we didn’t have a place for before, and will have to decide which ones should be upgraded.

There is a strange shortage of closets in this house, so storage requires some creativity, except in the bathroom where there seems to be an unreasonably large amount of storage (at least for people who don’t use the large assortment of face, hair, eye and nail creams that may be considered standard to others).

I really can’t say at what point in the process the  new house started to feel like home, though it must not have taken too long. I can say that it’s starting to go beyond just feeling like ‘this is the place where we live’ to also making me think ‘I like living here’.

Moving Out

Today we move out of our ‘almost first apartment’. For the first six months of our marriage we lived in an apartment across town. In retrospect, we were hardly there long enough for it to count as our first apartment–it was almost more of an extended honeymoon. At the time however, it was very  much our first home.

I was sick with a very bad cough and cold for the first month after moving into our current apartment, and perhaps the fact that this delayed unpacking contributed to it not feeling like home at first. Whatever the reason, I remember running errands near our first apartment a couple of months after moving, and starting to cry because I just wanted to turn down that lane and go to what still felt like home.

Our current apartment had some perks, however, and once we finally settled in, I really loved living next door to where Colton worked. He came home for lunch nearly every day, which was by far my favorite thing about the arrangement. Him walking to work, and me getting access to our one car most of the time wasn’t a bad bonus to the situation either.

After about three years of living here, I started to get very tired of apartment life. The tiny kitchen was frustrating, and I so loved the idea of having a washer and dryer IN MY HOUSE instead of having to carry my laundry down the steps and sidewalk every week, no matter the weather.

The perks I mentioned above broke through my grumpiness though, and I started to appreciate the reasons we chose this apartment in the first place even more.

And now we’re moving.

We found a house with a very decently sized kitchen, and a washer and dryer right in the kitchen (not even basement steps to deal with!), in addition to having a nice deck on the back and a little more space in the living and dining areas for having people over. I’m finally getting to test out my dream of having black kitchen cupboards that are red on the inside (just the inside of the door, but still, red). We’re putting up better quality curtain rods than the cheap, flimsy ones that seemed like such a good idea on a newlywed budget.

And yet…

I cried when I packed our wedding monkeys. I took down most of our wall art several days ago, but I couldn’t bring myself to take down the dragon pictures until today. Most of our first six years of marriage happened here. We went from thrift store furniture (okay, consignment stores) to actually having color schemes for most of our rooms. I ran a food blog and youtube channel from that tiny kitchen for about a year. We had over more people at a time than could reasonably fit in our apartment.

And it’s time to move on.

I suspect that I’m really going to love living in our new house, and that the adjustment will happen quickly. Once I’ve left this apartment for the last time, it only be empty walls, and it won’t be so hard to say goodbye. It’s the in between of being here, but not really here, with everything that made it ours already packed up in boxes that seems hard.

I’m looking forward to unpacking tomorrow.