Inner healing is sometimes J-shaped

Suppose your group really believes in being generous to others. And so you open up your house to visitors, have extra people at the table at meals, and likely have someone sleeping on your couch at night. Your friends always ask if they should pick you up because they know there's a good chance someone has borrowed your car. Your group is so warm and caring and welcoming and helpful that others find themselves wanting to be a part of it. People come who are…

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"Seriously, how can you not be an atheist?" Part 2

Like I said in Part 1 of this, the recounting of the experience of another human being can only be suggestive. Is what I perceive mere self-delusion, a strange artifact of a brain evolved for survival, or am I really touching an unseen reality? Also, while I have experienced for myself, and have trusted friends who have experienced highly improbable or even downright inexplicable things (for an example from my own life, see my post here), I know there's nothing I could possibly say a…

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Setting up a home WeBWorK server

I need to play around with WeBWorK for an online course I'm designing. It was actually quite straightforward to set up a little WeBWorK server on my Windows 10 PC. However, there was one issue I faced in getting it to work that I thought might be useful for others to know who might be trying to do the same thing. The WeBWorK site gives a few different means of downloading and installing the software. I chose to download a virtual machine image, and I'm…

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"Seriously, how can you not be an atheist?" Part 1

When people hear that I have a PhD in mathematics, they often assume I'm an atheist. Indeed, in our society there is an inverse correlation between education and religious belief. Moreover, in many people's lives, there is a direct line of causation between the two. Commonly, sometime in adolescence, whatever religious explanation of the world they have grown up with is rejected in favour of a secular view, either in a commitment to outright atheism, or an agnosticism that leaves the question of the existence of…

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I should be dead

This all happened in Central Asia almost 20 years ago. There wasn't much choice at the long-distance taxi stand. Besides a couple of worn-looking Moskvitches there was also a clean, crisp Lada. Since the ride to the capital was already about five hours without trundling along at 70 km/h in a Moskvitch, the Lada was really the only option. And so we negotiated the price with the young driver, and away we went. He was clean, well-dressed, almost preppy looking. As we got started, he…

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Why are you sitting around base camp while the mountain awaits?

This is a message to a certain kind of math major, although it applies with few alterations to many other disciplines. You'll have to decide for yourself how much of this applies to you. We live in an age not only of supreme scientific and technological development, but also of unprecedented access to knowledge. Our university libraries are networked with other libraries and online databases so that almost any book or article is not far away. Scholars have taken time and care to write gentle introductions to their fields…

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A Case Study in Problem Solving: Rubik's Cube

Let's be honest: Rubik's cube is actually a terrible puzzle. It's not hard to get one layer correct, but beyond that it gets ridiculously complicated. Most moves you try to get the next layers mess up what you've already put right. And all those kids on TV who solve it in under 20 seconds? They've all memorized moves from books or from the internet. It would be interesting to know what percentage of people who have picked up a cube have actually solved it without outside…

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Reflections on Wild, Wild Country

In case you haven't seen it, Wild, Wild Country is a captivating Netflix documentary series chronicling the rise and fall of the 1980's Oregon commune of the Baghwan Rajneesh. Spoiler alert! If you haven't watched it, you may wish to postpone reading this. Some unfolding tragedies are like World War 2. What with Hitler talking about neighbouring countries as lebensraum for the German people, it wasn't hard to see conflict approaching. Other stories are like World War 1. A Hapsburg royal is assassinated in Serbia, and 5 weeks later…

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To math majors, with useful advice for other students

Have you ever gone into an exam feeling good about your understanding, only to draw a blank? I remember a third-year algebra test that went that way. I read through my notes again and again until I felt I knew them backwards and forwards. But when the exam came, and I actually had to make use of that information, it simply wasn't there. Since then, I've come to realize how ineffective such a study method is, for it practices and practices the first step of studying,…

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Missing files from Windows share

I have Kodi installed on a Mac mini, which is serving us well as a media centre. The mini is quiet, small, and its nice design is a great improvement over the ugly, noisy tower that used to sit next to our TV. However, the ugly tower had the advantage of being able to house a couple large hard drives. That storage capacity is now in a networked computer running Windows 10. To access media files on the Windows machine I simply set up a video source…

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