Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Brew 30 and 31

Brew #30, a Gewürztraminer, is finally bottled. This one contained elderflowers. There was a near-disaster when I transfered to secondary because the flowers clogged the port. I was able to save 5 of the six gallons, and half a gallon got used to make sangria, so things turned out well anyway.

Yesterday I started brew #31, an Australian Grenache/Mourvèdre. The initial gravity on this one was 1.106, and it had tons of oak to put into it. I tasted the sample for the specific gravity. Pretty good, I'm betting on lots of tannins.

Lovena Peng Loo 1972--2007

It's been a very sad few days. A friend of mine was senselessly murdered by burglars this past weekend.

I got to know Peng over a few days when I was in Malaysia. We both stood in Ian and Julianne's wedding. It was my first time in Malaysia. Peng would look after me, teaching me bits of Cantonese so I could understand better when people spoke "chinglish". She even gave me a Cantonese name, which she used over the years as we kept up over gmail and IM.

I've been rereading those conversations. She would check up on me when she found out I had a cold, teach me Cantonese phrases, and talk about career searching. She was so willing to serve God with the gifts she had, and so intent on hearing from Him about that. I told her that the most important aspect of her job would probably not be the activity, but the people she would minister to. That's just the kind of person she was....

We always thought it was great that even though our Meyer Briggs personality types were exact opposites, and that we lived literally a world apart, we would talk and keep up with each other.

I will really miss her.

Now we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also we believe that God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep as Christians. (NET) I Thes 4:13

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

What Computers were Meant to Be

Today I got the new version of Mathematica. I first learned to use this in 1989 when I took a class from Dan Greyson as a freshman at UIUC. The first example they showed was to type in some function and take its derivative. Seeing the answer pop up on the screen, my reaction was "this is what computers were meant to be."

Now we're at version 6. There are many new features. Many. The things that will catch your attention when you look at the web page will be all the fancy presentation abilities, but there are other nice things as well. One that I particularly like is the "curated information": databases of all kinds of information about chemicals, cities, stocks.... Imagine your almanac was embedded into Mathematica. The command

ChemicalData["Caffeine", "MoleculePlot"]
brings up a (interactive!) picture of one of my favorite molecules:

Here's another feature that will be handy for investment research. This command brings up a nice visual to illustrate a certain banking decision I made last month.

DateListPlot[FinancialData["NTBK", All]]

One of the first of my own programs was to make a picture of a fractal called the Sierpinski Gasket.

I have a lot of ideas for how I'm going to use this. It's interesting in its own right, since I am a programming language professor, and this is a very interesting programming language. But it will also help with administration: I've been collecting exam score data for years now, and I've really been wanting to do some statistical analysis to see how effective various teaching techniques will be. It will be much easier to do that now.

I should have gotten this a long time ago.