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 PerishableNews.com, 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:



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 / 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.”