Author: hornblower

I got three bags of sand and I'm waiting for the man.

Exam III tomorrow

Hi everyone, just wanted to holler and give you the rundown on tomorrow’s exam. It’ll cover all the material we’ve done since Exam II, which is the stuff from the lecture notes posted in the Documents tab, plus sections 4.2 and 5.3 from the textbook (mostly 5.3 pseudoinverse stuff). If you want to do well, you should know how to do all the problems from the homeworks and the practice problems, including:

– Proving that a vector x is or is not in the span of a set of vectors

– Definition of basis, linear dependence, span

– Finding the solution set of an underdetermined, consistent system

– Finding bases for row(A), col(A), null(A)
– Knowing rank(A), nullity(A)

– Proving a set S is a subspace (use the theorem by showing that S is the span of a set of vectors)
– Proving a set S is not a subspace (use a counterexample (with numbers) to show that S violates one of the requirements for being a subspace)

– Proving that T is a linear transformation (use the theorem by showing T is a matrix transformation)
– Proving that T is not a linear transformation (use a counterexample (with numbers) to show T violates one of the requirements for being linear)
– Knowing the domain, codomain, range of T

– Calculating best approximate solution of an overdetermined system by using the pseudoinverse

For the proofs and other analytical parts of the test, the most important things to understand are the rank theorem, the fundamental theorem of invertible matrices, and the fact that the matrix-vector equation Ax = b means that b is a linear combination of the columns of A, where the coefficients are the components of x

I think about truffle cheese a lot more than is probably normal. Now, you know I am a bit of a cheese nut so this probably comes as no great shock. (Side note: “cheese nuts”would be a great snack, right? Wait, would they? Would they just be gross? I guess I’d probably have to figure out what they are first. Maybe a nut that is embedded in some cheese. Probably not that great. Wait maybe then you fry it? Better, definitely. But good? I’m not sure. I feel like cheese and nuts, while each excellent on its own, ought not be mixed, kind of like Chinese food and cheese. I’ll have to spend some time in the lab and get back to you on this.) However, I believe that (abnormally large volume of cheese thoughts aside) my ratio of truffle cheese-related thoughts to non-truffle cheese-related thoughts is higher than the national average by statistically significant margin.

I think about a cheese called Truffle Tremor, which is made by Cypress Grove, of Midnight Moon and Humboldt Fog fame:


Midnight Moon is the goat gouda that you might recognize from a little store called Every Bodega In Williamsburg; Humboldt Fog is your momma’s favorite fancy cheese. They’re both actually pretty good, but snobs like me enjoy taking the piss out of people for enjoying them, then retreating to our dens of sadness to eat monk-crafted, limited-release, beer-washed smelly cheese while listening to our #veryrare vinyl of the Monkees’ Davy Jones strangling bats in a Lebanese cave.

Anyway, Truffle Tremor is basically Humboldt Fog minus the center ash line plus black truffles. It’s good because it tastes like cheese but it also tastes like truffles. Sounds simple enough. The problems arise in a truffle cheese when it overreaches. I bought a cheese at Trader Joe’s once that purported to be a truffle cheddar. The price was just $6/lb, which should have given me pause (Truffle Tremor is $35/lb at Murray’s, though I think only $24 or so per lb (precut, though) at Union Market). What sort of truffles could they be using to keep the price point that low? As it turned out, there weren’t many truffles involved at all. There was truffle oil and truffle paste, but I felt them merely as truffle remnants, truffle shadows. Truffle memorie that linger only in imagined senses. In trying to be all things for all people — the common man’s reclamation of the princely food — this cheese betrayed itself. We all can learn a lesson from its failure — as Polonius advises, this above all else: to thine own self be true. If you are a $6/lb cheese, be at peace with your nature. Do not cloak yourself in the vestments of a finer curd, but rather accept your limitations, and own them.

If you memorize the Norton Anthology of Poetry and a map of Africa, that’ll help with the extra credit on tomorrow’s exam.

If you memorize “You’ll Never Walk Alone” that’ll help win over the next Liverpool fan you meet.


HW 10 / Snidely Whiplash

Lot on the docket for this email. First of all, the exam ii stats are thus:
75th percentile: 88
median: 79
25th percentile: 68
mean: 73.4

Also, I posted HW 10 yesterday morning, so get started on that immediately if you’ve not already done so. It’s really important. Essential.

There are some solutions up in the Assignments tab — to homeworks, exams, The Great Questions of Human Existence, etc.

Your third in-class exam will be on the last day of class — Wednesday, 3 December 2014.

The final exam is scheduled for Tuesday, 16 December 2014, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:45 a.m., in the usual classroom. It’s optional — if you don’t take it your grade breakdown will be

Exam I: 24%
Exam II: 28%
Exam III: 28%
Homework: 20%

If you do take it, the breakdown will be:

Exam I: 11%
Exam II: 16%
Exam III: 16%
Final Exam: 37%
Homework: 20%

I will drop the lowest homework grade when calculating your average, because I’m a sport and it’s The Right Thing To Do.

Look, I know I’ve been derelict in my duties. You’ve bided your time, patiently awaiting a long-expected bonus fun time email to go with the weekly joy of a homework assignment. (Incidentally, “Long-Expected Bonus Fun Time Email” is the name of a Japanese game show, an American version of which Jakob Dylan is producing for Spike TV this winter.) And I’ve failed to deliver — for almost two months! I could sit around and make excuses — how I’ve been really busy, and I’ve gotten into Guiding Light lately which takes up A LOT of time, plus my neck’s been doing this weird cracky thing lately. Not to mention the beauty of the orange fall foliage has been really getting me down because it reminds me of how the best years of Jersey Shore are far behind us now. (My phone just autocorrected Orange for orange. Not sure if it’s suggesting that based on its presumption of my love for Syracuse athletics or famous Dutch royals. I’d ask Siri but she and I aren’t speaking since she questioned why I kept asking her to find those Kim Kardashian Paper Mag pics. “Why don’t you just save one and make it your background” she says. Because I don’t goddamn want to is why, Siri! What if my 8-year-old cousin Cordelia wants to use my phone? How do I explain that gigantic butt to her? That’s not something the prepubescent mind is equipped to process! Now do my bidding like a proper little servant program.) — but the truth is, saying “I didn’t have time” really means “I didn’t make time”. If you really want to do something, you find the time to do it.

I’ve had to do some intensive reflection these past weeks to get to the root of why I’d eased off the gas pedal of my prattling emails, allowing the city bus of our class’s amusement to take an unscheduled holiday in the Florida of, uh, only occurring occasionally in class when I tell the rare joke or story that happens to land. (That comically overwrought and only tangentially sensical metaphor brought to you by the podcasts I listened to this week — This American Life (which talked about a 1950s NYC bus driver who decided one day to bounce (with his bus) and take a quick jaunt to The Land of Nod aka Bosh’s Paradise aka your favorite state’s favorite state aka Florida), and The Bugle, which is a satirical podcast that loves employing metaphor in this way (though generally much more skillfully. Maybe I’ll try my hand again later this email. Since I have absolutely no idea where I’m going with this email, I’m not going to make any promises.). (Yes, I made that Land of Nod reference solely for the purpose of linking to Singapore by Tom Waits, the opening track to one of the best albums of the 80s, Rain Dogs. (Though saying a record is “one of the best albums of the 80s” is like saying one of your British friends is “one of the chillest members of the UK Independence Party”. (I’m just kidding, of course; there were plenty of artists putting out great music in the 80s — Joy Division, Talking Heads, The Smiths, Kate Bush. It’s just that they’ve become so synonymous with entitled Gen X pomposity and pretension that it’s tough to think of them without wanting to find the nearest copy of Less Than Zero and rip it up with my bare hands. Plus I wanted to make a UKIP reference — The Bugle is British political satire and like I said, I’ve been catching up this week)))

The truth, I’ve realized, is that I’d gotten afraid. Afraid that I’d never again realize the greatness (by which I mean “length”) of the legendary (i.e. “very long”) Ugolino email, or the nearly as astounding virtuosity (I am also using this word to mean “length”) of the captivating (i.e. “almost, but not quite, as long”) Louis Vauxcelles email. Then I said to myself
“You know what, you’re right. And I appreciate your not swearing around Cordelia. It’s bad enough she saw those Kim Kardashian butt pics open in my Chrome browser when I leant her my phone to look up the word ‘obstreperous’. Let’s let her preserve the innocence of youth for a while, in the face of the go-go-go media Twittersphere and the ever-tightening grip of Snapchat and Yik Yak and Whisper and GreenDart and Whipple,” and then I replied back, a little confused,
“Wait, those last two aren’t apps,” to which I responded ominously:
“Not yet.”

Look, those previous emails took me about 10-20 hours to write, which is not time I have these days. What I mean is, lower your expectations. Just look at this email — completely self-absorbed and self-indulgent, not informative about anything culturally or culinarily interesting, and, worst of all, totally bereft of trippy visuals. In other words, I’m not saying these new emails are going to be any good. All I’m saying is that they will exist.

By the way, I just looked up GreenDart and Whipple, and they are both real things, though not apps.

Exam 1 / office hours / platypus

So your exam is this coming Wednesday, 24 September 2014. It’s in the regular classroom at the regular classtime, and you’ll be with all the regular classfolks. I’m pretty excited about it. You should be, too!

I’ve posted a practice exam in the Documents tab. Go over and take a looksee. The solutions are there, too, but don’t look at those until you’ve done the exam, obviously. If you do, I’ll be really steamed, and you don’t want to push me because I’m close to the edge. I’m trying not to lose my head.

Check the syllabus for all the regularly scheduled office hours next week; I’ll also be available for help right after class on Monday. I think I’m going to see if one of the classrooms on the 4th floor of the library (e.g. W4550, or one of the others in that hallway) is empty so we can use it; otherwise it’ll be an al fresco session, because I love nature and the cool air of a new autumn.

I know what you’re thinking: “Yo teach, André Derain was the co-founder of Fauvism, where was the love for him in that last email?” Listen, Derain’s Fauvist work was dope, there’s no denying. Check that London groove

Charing Cross Bridge

Charing Cross Bridge, London, 1906

Makin’ it real funky. But then after a few years he shut down the Fauve factory and started getting all into the Old Masters and making regular-looking paintings with like Browns and Greys

Window on the Park

Window on the Park, 1912

and I’m just like ugh dude what happened, you used to be so chill, we used to get baked and listen to Oneohtrix Point Never together and now you just want to talk about ballet and drink cognac. And you know, I guess that’s cool and I ain’t mad atcha and now that I think about it some of these new joints are actually pretty fresh

Still Life, 1914

Still Life, 1914

but then hold up what happens next? You go off to Nazi Germany and tour around like everything is normal there, like they’re just a regular old country not one trying its hand at world domination and also committing some of the worst atrocities ever conceived. That’s wack of you, André. Maximal prop deduction.

HW 4 / Grover

Your next assignment is now posted in the usual place. It’s due a week from today (i.e., 24 September 2014) at the beginning of class. Don’t forget you have an exam that day, too. Also don’t forget that it’s Scott Fitzgerald’s birthday. Go read Babylon Revisited, or at least drink some gin.

Probably wouldn’t hurt you to eat some Selles-sur-Cher, too.


Unless you’re lactose intolerant, I guess.

University is important, but for some people a nontraditional learning experience is preferable:

“If they ever come up with a swashbuckling school, I think one of the courses should be Laughing, Then Jumping Off Something.

HW 2 / phlegmatic

Your next homework assignment has been hanging around in the Assignments tab since the afternoon. It’s due Wednesday September 10th at the beginning of class. Very smooth.

If you’re an art critic and you want to become famous, first of all you need to slow down a second because, as Anton Ego notes in Ratatouille, “in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than [your] criticism designating it so“. If you look hard at yourself in the mirror and the itch remains, then what you need to do is find some unknown homie or homette (or group thereof) who is killing the game in new and exciting ways, start the hype locomotive and ride it all the way to Fametown, choo choo. You’ll be forever known as the critic who championed this great artist when he was just a neckbearded nobody weaving tapestries in his loft. (In this scenario your discovery is successful in bringing back tapestries as a thing people care about. Just go with it.)


HISTORICAL HOMIES: Ugolino della Gherardesca

Most Prof. Prattle posts are freewheeling, digressive, madcap. Once in a while, though, we prefer to temper the tangential tendency and train our eye on a single subject for an in depth analysis of an HISTORICAL HOMIE. The first HISTORICAL HOMIE piece (declared as such retroactively) was the compelling story of that legendary daughter of Poughkeepsie, Lee Miller. Today our insatiable knowledge lust demands we go further afield to bring to you a tale of derring-do and double-dealing. Without further preamble, the legend of Ugolino:

No math involved

I’m not teaching a class right now, but I don’t think that necessarily means that my prattling need cease. Especially in light of this past weekend’s exciting news from the Golden State’s capital — the results of the 2014 American Cheese Society competition! I’m a fairly regular reader of both print and online news media, so imagine my surprise at finding an email from Murray’s promoting a collection of “Blue Ribbon Beauties” from the 2014 ACS Competition. Surely such a spectacle, in so splendid a city as Sacramento, would have attracted the notice of the international press? I scanned last week’s Economist* and searched the NY Times archive, but there was no mention of this year’s competition anywhere. In fact, the most recent NYT mention of the ACS competition was back in 2012, in a short piece by Florence Fabricant (whose byline I’m always glad to see, mostly due to residual fondness for Sonmi-451). The winner that year was Flagsheep, made by Beecher’s of Seattle; they had recently opened an outpost in New York City, which probably explains why the Grey Lady deemed the ACS results worthy of inclusion that year.

In any case, the Times was not the only news outlet to neglect this important event. The first item in a Google News search for “acs winners 2014” is this stupid article about a contest to win tickets to The Expendables 3. In fact, the only helpful result from that search was this article from something called, which as you might expect is “an outlet for news about all the perishable categories typically featured in a retail store: Bakery, Dairy, Deli, Floral, Meat & Poultry, Produce, Seafood”. Needless to say, the site is now my homepage. (Though what’s the significance of a homepage these days, anyway? I always just have a bunch of tabs open already. Choosing a homepage has become a largely symbolic gesture, like naming a president pro tem of the Senate (besides the whole 4th-in-line-to-the-Presidency thing) or burning an ex-lover’s clothes (shoulda donated them homie).)

A search of the Sacramento Bee‘s archive reveals that they did publish the results, so maybe Google is more to blame for those lackluster results than the media itself. Looks like the L.A. Times has gotten in on the action, too, which is good to see. In any case, the results are thus:


Office hours / Clefable

I’m going to hold office hours tomorrow, Friday 27 June 2014, from 1:15 – 2:45 in our regular classroom (Melville W4550). 



I guess I’ve been a little remiss with the emails for this course, insofar as I’ve been talking about cheese and art but not so much about music. Yesterday in class I mentioned Eric B. and Rakim, so if you’re not already up on them then you have some work to do. Paid in Full and Follow the Leader are absolute, stone-cold classic albums. I can’t tell you what a bummer it is that Korn’s album of the same title comes up  first when you google “Follow the Leader”. That’s a sad state of affairs in this world. There’s really no other rapper like Rakim (he ain’t no joke — actually his only flaw might be his lack of a sense of humor), and Eric B. has turntable skills of the kind you just don’t see nowadays. I love the DJ break interlude on their records, like “Eric B. Never Scared” from Follow the Leader. Plus The R is from Long Island (Wyandanch, to be precise), so if you are, too, you have to give him props. You don’t have a choice in the matter. 

But you don’t want to hear about the old joints. You want to know who’s on the come up in 2014, because you’re impatient and immature. I know how it is. I was your age, too, long ago. So what’s good these days? Well there’s this band called Broods from New Zealand who are pretty good; their song “Bridges” is probably ready to blow (for some reason there are three different music videos from the song on the band’s YouTube channel), though it’s been out for a few months already and hasn’t gotten too much heat yet. New Zealand’s not a tiny country so you might think it’s a bit facile to compare Broods to Lorde, but if you listen to “Coattails” you’d be hard-pressed not to see the resemblance. And it’s not suprising, as both artists share a producer in Joel Little. Their full-length is due out in a few months, so be on the lookout. 

If you’re more into classic soul sound, Curtis Harding has that in spades on his début LP Soul Power. It’s not a perfect record, though I get the feeling he could’ve made a more straightforward album if he’d wanted to, but instead chose to balance some pristine Curtis Mayfield-esque tracks (I mean, check the production on “Heaven’s on the Other Side“) with a few more unusual ones in order not to be simply a pastiche of the past. 

Ghost Beach are pretty good if you’re into the 80s and don’t take yourself too seriously.

I know a lot of you aren’t SBU students, but for those of you who are and maybe happened to go to the recent Diplo concert, perhaps you got into Jamaican dancehall music while listening to Major Lazer in preparation for the event. Well Popcaan is an actual Jamaican and recently released his début album Where We Come From. There’s a good track called “Hustle” on which Pusha T aka King Push aka the Virginia powder don (okay, I made that last one up, but it sounds plausible!) features. If you missed Pusha T’s first solo album (he is one-half of Clipse) last year, then you missed one of the better rap albums of recent years.

If you’re into slow R&B-type joints with snares on the two and four at like 80 bpm, maybe take see what’s good with FKA Twigs (who just dropped a new track from her forthcoming début LP1), or Nisha, or Wet (if that song is too spare for you, holler at the remix, though Spank Rock’s verse on it is a bit weak), or Oscar Key Sung (here’s the pretty strange music video for his song “All I Could Do”) . If dancing until 7am is more your thing, with the World Cup going on now is a good time to revisit Guy Gerber’s classic “Stoppage Time“.


HW 5 / hw solutions / cran-apple

Eyyy so your last homework assignment is posted. Sad stuff, I know. I also posted solutions to the homework you handed in yesterday. Also don’t forget I posted the Fundamental Theorem of Linear Algebra the other day. That is the real dope good stuff.

I am thinking about having extra office hours Friday from 12-2 and/or Tuesday 11-1 or 3-5 (in addition to my Wednesday 11-1 hours). Let me know which of those you’d attend/prefer.

So last week you didn’t get much of an email. I know you were sad. Maybe I was coasting a little after that quality Ninja Turtles/Rennaissance artists discussion. Maybe I was nervous I couldn’t come with anything to live up to the comparison of the butts of a Donatello statue and a pop idol. But that’s no way to live. As Robert Browning wrote, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, / or what’s a heaven for?” (That’s from “Andrea del Sarto” — incidentally, I want to write an essay comparing Robert Browning and the Notorious B.I.G., but that’s not for tonight. Hopefully I get around to it before our course is done.)

HW 3 / exam grades posted / Eiffel 65

Your next homework assignment is now posted, as are your Exam I grades.

I’d write a big ol’ extra email section like usual but I’m kind of wiped out from grading exams so maybe I’ll just find an excuse to send out an email tomorrow or Friday. For now here’s a picture of Michelangelo, the chillest ninja turtle, that looks like a still from the music video for “Get Free” by Major Lazer: