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:



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:



Exam 2 material / important cheese discussion

Here’s what your exam will cover:

Section 3.1: Determinants: Calculating them, using them to solve systems of linear equations, knowing their properties including special cases in which the determinant is easy to calculate (eg diagonal or triangular matrices), using them to find eigenvalues and eigenvectors, using Cramer’s rule.
Section 3.2: Solving systems of linear equations by elimination: Gaussian elimination, row echelon form, three possibilities for a system: (i) a unique solution (ii) infinitely many solutions (iii) no solution. Finding LU factorization of A aka LU decomposition of A and using it to solve Ax=b. Elimination by pivoting aka Gauss-Jordan elimination.
Section 3.3: Inverse of a matrix: Definition of an inverse, how to prove one matrix is the inverse of another (use the definition), what does it mean when the matrix has an inverse, computing the inverse, properties of the inverse. Eigenvalue decomposition of A aka diagonalization of A — what is it, how do you do it, why is it useful (study carefully pp. 204-207 of the text).
Section 3.4: Iteration: Determining dominant eigenvalue and corresponding eigenvalue by iteration (Example 2 on p. 216), solving Leontief model by iteration using properties of the geometric sum (Example 4 on p. 221, and the preceding analysis). Solution by iteration (p.223). Rewriting Ax=b to be in form x = Dx + c (sometimes c = b, sometimes not — see Example 5 (which we did in class)). Theorem 3 on p. 230.
Section 3.5: Condition number
Also, the fundamental theorem of invertible matrices, which is this
The following are equivalent (for A and n x n matrix, b an n-vector:
(i) A is invertible 
(ii) Ax = b has a unique solution 
(iii) Ax = b has only the trivial solution x = 0
(iv) The reduced row echelon form of A is I
(v) rank(A) = n (i.e., there is no row of all zeros in row echelon form)
(vi) det(A) is not 0

So I’ve got a whole bunch of different types of cheese in my refrigerator right now and I wanted to talk about them. 

First of all, I have three different types from Sprout Creek Farm in Poughkeepsie — Toussaint (raw cow’s milk, aged 5-7 months), Smoked Toussaint (same, but smoked), and a raw goat’s milk cheese whose name escapes me. I also have some aged Gouda and Ewephoria from East Village Cheese that are each almost kicked but still have a bit left. And yet despite this bounty, when on Sunday I found myself on Bleecker Street I just had to stop into Murray’s for more cheese. And I’m glad I did because they had a great sale going. I got:
Chevre d’argental (goat, France)
Brebirousse d’argental (sheep, France)
Boerenkaas Gouda (cow, Holland)
Bleu d’auvergne (cow, France)
Making a good cheese board is all about balance and harmony. The fresh, clean chevre starts things off nice and easy, then the slightly funkier but still stupendously smooth Brebirousse (they’re from the same region in France, as you can tell by the names) gets you a little more revved up. I should’ve gotten a semi-firm cheese to follow up — maybe an Alpine cheese like the oniony Scharfe Maxx or classic Appenzeller — but I demurred. I always like to end with a well-aged, unpasteurized, tyrosine-laden cheese and a good blue, so the latter two fit the bill. All but the Brebirrouse were on sale, so I was pretty stoked; usually when I get as much cheese as I did on Sunday I’m out like $50. Plus they had Tom Cat baguettes (best in the city besides Pain d’Avignon, but much more widely available) on 2-for-1 sale, so that was dope.
Ah! I got some fresh ricotta, too. Been eating it on dem Tom Cats with Bonne Maman strawberry jam. DAAAAAAAAMN!

Exam 1 solutions

The solutions to exam 1 are posted in the Documents tab. They’re JPEGs because the department photocopier wasn’t working earlier when I went down. Hopefully it will be up tomorrow and I can replace the pictures with scans.

Your next homework will be due on Thursday, 13 March 2014. Here’s the assignment:

Section 3.1: 24(i), 28, 34

Section 3.2: 3abcd, 4abcd, 8, 9ab, 12, 20

Your next exam will probably be on Thursday, 3 April 2014.

We’re going to grade the exams tomorrow, hopefully we’ll finish up and get the grades on Blackboard by the late afternoon. 

If you’re bummed about the exam, you should watch some Kyle videos to get your spirits up.

If you’re into True Detective, you should watch director Cary Fukunaga’s debut feature film Sin NombreIt was on Netflix Watch Instantly back in the day, but isn’t anymore; you’re enterprising college students, though, so I’m sure you can find a pirated copy if you’re not about paying for stuff.

Manchego cheese comes from sheep, not goats. Come on guys. Goat’s milk cheeses are usually brilliant white, like Monte Enebro:

monte enebro

Monte Enebro has the added benefit of figuring prominently in one of my best freestyle verses:

Other rappers they can chase that cheddar
That ain’t enough, I know I can do better
Gettin at that Pont l’Évêque and the Monte Enebro
Just turnin one into two like Serbia and Montenegro

It has all three classic hip-hop references: fine cheeses, geopolitics, and hustling.

“If you ever fall off the Sears Tower, just go real limp, because maybe you’ll look like a dummy and people will try to catch you because, hey, free dummy.”


Homework 4

Your next homework assignment is now posted in the Assignments tab. It is this:

Section 1.3: 5

Section 1.4: 8

Section 2.5: 9, 11

Section 3.1: 2, 10, 19

Due: Thursday, 27 February 2014, in class.

There was a lot to take in during class today.

The cheese shop in Madrid is PonceletQuints is the Disney Channel original movie from 2000. Quince is the fruit that may figure in the original versions of certain apple-related myths. In the Loop is the film in which a character mentions quince paste once. It’s really, really funny, especially if you like wildly creative swearing by an irritable Scotsman (played by Peter Capaldi, who was recently announced to be the Twelfth Doctor in Doctor Who (I don’t watch, but a lot of people are all about Doctor Who so it’s worth a mention)). Once when I was home for the summer from college In the Loop seemed always to be playing on HBO, so I ended up watching it a bunch of times, which is why I remember a throwaway line about quince paste (actually it was a pretty funny line, but you’ll just have to watch the film).

If In the Loop is the movie I’ve seen the most, The Tallest Man on Earth is the artist I’ve seen perform live the most, at six times1 — every year since 2008, except for 2011 when he didn’t come to New York (luckily I’d seen him twice in 2010). He’s really just that good. This connects to a hyperlink in the previous paragraph: In 2008 I saw TTMoE open for Bon Iver, whom I’d previously seen open for Elvis Perkins, whom I’d previously seen open for Cold War Kids! Wow. I’d previously seen Cold War Kids open for Muse, but that’s where the chain ends because I was too young to ever catch Muse open for anyone. Oh, and the opener for one of the Tallest Man shows was S. Carey, who played drums for none other than … Bon Iver. Talk about a strange loop

1A close second is Thom Yorke, whom I’ve seen five times — four times with Radiohead, once with Atoms for Peace.

The Judgment of Paris, by Peter Paul Rubens (Museo del Prado):


“If God dwells inside of us like some people say, I sure hope He likes enchiladas, because that’s what He’s getting.”

Exam 1 / cheese thoughts

Your first exam will occur in class on Tuesday, 4 March 2014. It will cover all the material we’ve done from chapters 1 and 2, including material from today’s lecture. Next week I will start chapter 3 material, which will not appear on your first exam. I will also review on Thursday the topics that will be on exam one.

Don’t forget your homework 3 is due tomorrow in class. Also, the solutions are posted for the previous homeworks, in case you’ve not noticed.

For the past five weeks or so I’ve had manchego cheese with membrillo (quince paste) almost every day after dinner as part of my nightly cheese plate. It’s a classic Spanish pairing, and the treble is completed with a bottle of Rioja. It’s one of Spain’s greatest accomplishments, right up there with Velázquez’s Las Meninas, the recent edition of La Furia Roja, and Penélope Cruz.


I’ve also been eating a lot of aged Gouda because East Village Cheese sells it for $9/lb and it’s delicious. East Village Cheese is a great store because their cheese is super cheap. However, the quality is admittedly hit-or-miss. For instance, I bought some Comté at $14/lb, which would be an amazing deal for good Comté, but it was a huge disappointment. But there’s nowhere else you can get taleggio and Saint Andre for $4/lb. And this Gouda is as almost good as what they have at Murray’s (the premier cheesemonger in New York City), where it’s often twice as expensive.


“If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason.”

Final Exam

 The final exam will be on Tuesday 17 December 2013 (Beethoven’s birthday! Also William Safire’s.) from 8:00 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (UTC-5). It will be given in the usual classroom, Humanities 1003. It will be cumulative; that is, it will potentially test you on any material covered throughout the course of the semester. You will be allowed to bring one 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper on which you’ve written theorems, examples, definitions, spaghetti alla puttanesca recipes, “Ryan Gosling” in a big heart, or whatever else you feel like. You will not be permitted to use a graphing calculator, but four-function and scientific calculators will be permitted.

 As promised, the final exam is optional. If you choose not to take it, your first three exams will be worth 24%, 28%, and 28%, respectively, of your final grade. Homework is worth 20% of your final grade regardless of whether you take the final, and the lowest homework grade will be dropped. You can calculate your score and decide whether you’re happy with it. I won’t know what the cutoff for each letter grade will be until after the final exam is done and all the numerical grades calculated, but I can say that if you have a 93 or better you’ll have an A, 90-92 will be at least an A-, 87-89 at least a B+, 83-86 at least a B, 80-82 at least a B-, 77-79 at least a C+, 73-76 at least a C, 70-72 at least a C-, and 60-70 at least a D. Barring a spectacular class-wide performance on the third exam (which will be graded soon, by the way) and the final, those will not be the final cutoff marks. That is, you can probably get an A with a 90, a B+ with an 85, etc. I really don’t know, though, so I’m not going to promise anything.
 If you do take the final, the weights are: exam one, 15%;  exams two and three, 20% each; final exam, 25%. If you do better on your final exam I will weight it more heavily. For example, if you got a 45, 70, 75 on the first three exams and an 80 on the final I would probably do something like 10% first exam, 18% each of second and third exams, 34% final exam. I’m still figuring it out, since I want to be consistent for each student. Basically, just realize that the final is an opportunity to make up for poor performance on previous exams.
 I will have office hours next week, probably on Wednesday and Thursday afternoon. I’ll send out an email in a couple of days with details. I’ll also let you know about the distribution of the third exam grades. In the mean time, the best way to study is by redoing all the problems from the old exams and homework assignments, without the aid of your notes or textbook.

 Let me tell you the story of how I fell in love with cheese. A few summers ago, I was travelling around Europe with a friend before our semesters abroad began. Her programs was in Rome, so we ended up there, but I had another week before I had to be in Madrid, so I had some time to gallivant about by myself. After a few days in Italy I took an overnight train to Bern, Switzerland, getting in around 6:30 a.m. The morning chill was a welcome respite from Rome’s 95-degree heat, and I put on a sweater over a shirt that I buttoned all the way up to the top. I was feeling good.  
 Unsurprisingly, nothing was open at that hour, so I just walked around for a while. The alpine air was a blessing after five days of Italian humidity. When I walked along the Aare River, it seemed somehow clearer than normal air, so that I felt as I had the first time I put on glasses and realized all I had not been seeing. I saw a beautiful woman coming towards me on the sidewalk. As she passed me she smiled and said “Bon style !” and I began to wonder how difficult it would be to become a Swiss citizen. I wandered some more until I reached a square where a market was materializing. I hadn’t had breakfast, but an array of samples drew me to the fromager’s table rather than the boulanger’s. I was going to buy some gorgonzola, but then I realized what a folly it would be not to try something new. So I had a bite of a semi-hard, raw cow’s-milk cheese called Mont Vully, named after the mountain in whose shadow it was made about thirty minutes away. 
 I don’t know if it was my mindset, or the setting, or if it was just a particularly good batch of cheese, but as I tasted the Mont Vully I began to feel inexplicably giddy, as if I were being let in on a tremendous secret, or getting away with something illegal. I’d had Roquefort before, but outside of blue cheeses I’d never experienced such an assertive flavor. It was assuredly a stinky cheese, but while assaultive to the nose it was divine on the tongue. I spoke briefly with the proprietor, and when my poor French reached its limit, I bought about half a pound of the revelatory Mont Vully and went on my way. That evening I went to Paris, where I slept at a hostel. I kept what was left of the cheese in my shared room, no doubt to the chagrin of my fellow-travelers and their sensitive nostrils. No matter, though. It made for a delightful breakfast.