Mama PhD

Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

January 24, 2013 - 8:44pm
When we think about a continuous variable, that is, one that can take on any value along the number line, we note that the chance that it will take on any pre-determined value is equal to zero. For example, if we want to know whether the variable takes on a value of two, would we be willing to accept a value of 1.9 instead? How about 1.99? Or 1.999? Or 1.999 with a sequence of 9s going on into the next county but, presumably, never actually equaling two? Since it is clear that one can get infinitesimally close to any arbitrary value without actually equaling that value, we say that the probability of a continuous variable actually equaling some predetermined value is zero.
January 21, 2013 - 7:28pm
I’m writing this on Inauguration Day. Although I missed hearing the speech live, I did catch a stream of it a little later on, and I was struck by how, in a relatively short speech, the President managed to remind us of the needs of those who have too often been left out of “we, the people” — women who do not earn equal pay, homosexuals who do not enjoy equal rights, immigrants who are not afforded equal protection. It was a liberal speech in the best sense of the word, a speech open to possibility and progress, and while I could, as always, wish it had gone farther, I was glad I had a chance to read and hear it.
January 20, 2013 - 5:22pm
I had been feeling achy and draggy for longer than I could remember. I had a chronic headache, too. I thought of these as flu-like symptoms, but not the flu, because I don't get the flu. I almost never even get a cold. I have what I sometimes refer to as "autoimmune surplus syndrome, or ASS": my system gobbles up every virus or germ that comes its way, and when it has nothing left to feast on, it turns on itself, like the Ouroboros, the serpent that eats its own tail. I worry about being devoured from within, but not about what is flying around in the air. I figured that feeling lousy was the price I had to pay for overloading myself with work, classes, and active vacations at my age.
January 17, 2013 - 6:33pm
In Economics we talk about maximizing “utility” subject to a given constraint. For example, a shopper wants to choose the best combination of groceries that can be purchased given their present budget. I thought of this recently, as I recalled a class I fell into in my last days of college. Realizing that tuition had been paid that allowed me to take up to eighteen credits my last semester, and also assuming that I would never again have access to courses in Theology or Philosophy, I decided to take as many of those classes as I could before graduating.
January 16, 2013 - 6:28pm
Well, I successfully dropped off my son Nick for his first day of college. If you’ve been following my column (and his), you will know that my son was a “high school burnout” who took some time off before college.  Discovering that he was bored silly with the minimum wage working world, Nick conceded to apply to a local state school. He moved into a dorm last Sunday and started classes at 8:00 am on Monday (which happens when you register late.)
January 15, 2013 - 8:00pm
As a kid, I remember being fascinated by the idea that all my cells regularly die and get replaced over an interval of several years, that at age 10 my body was all different from the body I was born with: what did this mean about who I was? We know even more about cell turnover now - I just looked up human cell longevity, and studies using modern cell dating techniques show that the cells in our body average about seven years of age (except for most brain cells, which survive our whole lives with stable wirings, perhaps answering my question of my identity also being stable, I guess).
January 14, 2013 - 4:39pm
It’s the first day of my new semester, and as always I am scrambling just a bit. Two syllabi done, one almost so. And I put my daughter on the plane this morning to return for her last semester of college. While college is cyclical for me, it’s linear for her, which is tough for me to grasp after all these years. Looking over her commencement weekend schedule during the break, she commented, “There’s always been more school. It’s weird to think there won’t be.”
January 13, 2013 - 6:43pm
Last Friday, Ben called me at work. I answered with some trepidation, because 1) he knows not to call me during supervision hours unless it is an emergency, and 2) he never calls, only texts.
January 10, 2013 - 8:45pm
When I first tried to teach my daughter division, I taught her to ask how many objects she could allocate evenly among a given number of piles of that object. For example, if you wanted to make six piles of marbles, how many marbles would end up in each pile if you began with twenty four marbles?  I found myself thinking of this recently, as I remembered frequent carpools for teenage excursions, often heading towards the Southern part of my home state, Connecticut. I would meet up with friends to allocate those of us without cars among a set number of cars driven by friends.
January 8, 2013 - 7:23pm
Since moving to one of the most expensive housing markets in North America eight years ago, we’ve had to learn to cram ourselves into small living spaces.  Before our relocation, we lived in a 3-bedroom house with basement, deck, front porch, and backyard on a tree-lined street, which we traded in for high-density living--an 850 square-foot condo with a tiny balcony in an apartment complex.  We were two adults, two toddlers, and two cats sharing a cramped space. After a few years we scaled up a bit, but we are still pressed for room.

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