Fourier Analyst

Fourier Analysis is a mathematical tool which can do a number of things: separate out signals from noise; help identify patterns or trends in data; filter out all unwanted data and focus on a single signal; use approximations to make generalizations; make approximations of real world signals (think electronic music); combine harmonics to get a stronger signal. That's what I'll be trying to do here!! Won't you join me with your comments?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Please Procrastinate

Today marked another milestone in my eldest daughter's life journey.  A small one for her, as she will continue on with challenges and stresses that will involve me less and less.  But today she completed one of the last major assignments that she has in her high school career.  There is one more term, but as they are now trying to complete the syllabus in all her subjects, she will likely only have regular homework assignments, then the practice exams and the all-encompassing final exams in May. 

So tonight's essay, finally completed and sent off at the midnight deadline, was much procrastinated and struggled with, and marks the end of a chapter in her life and mine.  I don't think she even realizes this.  Generally she gets on with her work without me, and only if I am lucky do I get to read an assignment, usually after it has been graded.  But this time, due to time constraints,  I was asked to help her brainstorm the topic she should write on, and helped to do a websearch for sources.  I even got to do an early proofread.  And..."Wow."  When did she get so smart?  And funny?  And where did she get those insights?  I thought I was good at Math, and while I could pretty readily follow the proof she wrote,  I could never have come up with it as she did.  OK,  maybe I am selling myself short,  as in college I was a Math whiz and I did some pretty complex stuff, but I was at least 4-5 years older and a junior in college at the time.  So now I can say she is working at a level about 5 years ahead of  what was close to my peak in education. 

Don't tell her, but she has already surpassed me.  And she still has a ways to go before she reaches her peak potential.  I am proud.  And sad.  She is growing up and slipping away so fast.  And very probably this was the last time I will get to help her with homework. 

I fuss at her about procrastinating, but a small voice inside me wants to plead with her to just put off for a little while longer the realization that she doesn't need me anymore...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Get Over It!!

As your kids grow up, it is sometimes hard to remember those "moments" that are indicators of significant change.  This week my kids are preparing to go off for two weeks to another ESA Space Camp.  It is a space-themed camp for the kids of ESA employees, held in a different member country every year.  It includes not only daily lessons but also sports and culture activities.  I am always amazed at how my girls come back each year more mature, more world-wise, and full of amazing stories about their experiences.  I soooooo want to go to Space Camp too!!

Today a post from one of my dear friends about her 8-year-old daughter's first sleepover brought back the memory of DD1 wanting to go to her first Space Camp.  The camp is open to ESA kids between ages 8-17.  So the first year she was eligible, DH brought home the description and we discussed it.  DD1 heard and was asking about it.  While it sounded really great,  I was concerned as this one was being held on the west coast of France and involved a change of planes at the Paris airport, and was really quite far away if anything went wrong.  And while DD1 had been on a number of sleepovers,  she had never been apart from one of us for more than a week and I was not really sure she was ready.  Or to be honest,  I was not quite ready for this level of independence.  DH was not really sure how he felt about it, but as he travels a lot and is away from us for longer periods of time,  his separation anxiety was not at the same level as mine.  We discussed it and decided that we would wait for a year and let her go for the first time the following summer.

When we broke the news to DD1,  I explained to her that because it was so far away, there would be no chance for her to come home if she got homesick or didn't want to stay, so we didn't want to take that risk this time.  DD1 was a bit outraged, insisting that she would not want to come back, even if she was homesick, and that she really wanted to go.  I tried a different tactic, explaining that the food would be very different and that she would not speak the language there in France and that there would be a lot of very different things that would be unfamiliar to her, that she would be in a strange environment and that she might get a bit timid or scared.  She countered with the argument that if there was something that she didn't know about that she would just ask someone, and that even if there was nothing else to eat, that she could eat "French fries"!!  (How does a parent argue with that, now I ask you?)  Even explaining to her that she did not know any of the other kids and would not have any friends there, was met with her insistence that she would make new friends.

I very quickly ran out of arguments when faced with my very determined offspring who was sure this was something she did not want to miss out on.  Finally, when she felt she had convinced me that there was no real reason to keep her from attending, I had to tell her the real underlying reason that I did not want her to go.  "Sweetie," I said, "I know you think you will be fine there, and that you will not really miss us too much.  And I know you are already so grown-up that you could probably handle this strange new experience.  And I know that you think that you are ready to go away and leave us for two weeks,  but really and truly, I don't think that I am ready for you to be so far away from me.  I won't be able to talk to you every day, maybe only once in the two weeks you are gone.  I won't be able to tell you goodnight, and to hear about all your adventures, or to be able to explain things to you and make sure you are OK.  So I don't think you should go, not because you are not ready to go, but because I am not ready to let you go."   I gave her a big hug, trying to fight back my tears, and she patted me on the back and I let out a sigh, thinking the discussion had ended.

Then she stepped back from me.  Put her hands on her hips, looked over at her Dad, then back at me and said, "Mom, GET OVER IT!"

Of course my jaw dropped, and out of the corner of my eye I caught DH struggling to keep a straight face. She was so much like me, using the same phrase I so often used with whiny kids when I wanted to end an argument.  Very clearly we had reached one of those defining moments where I felt an "apron string" snap in separation as my child took another step on her path away from me and into her own future.  Of course she attended, and yes she did have a couple of evenings of real homesickness.  But I am sure it was worse for me as I poured over the photo updates that came daily from the camp counselors. It was so easy to identify DD1 in the crowd of kids as she was the smallest, the camp T-shirt hanging down to her knees, despite being the smallest size.  And the phone call halfway thru she sounded so very young, her voice catching to let me know that she was a bit sad, but also determined to overcome her homesickness.  And it truly was a fantastic time, one that she still remembers and talks about.

I still get choked up at recalling the emotions that were so raw, the feeling that my heart was being torn open as I let her walk away from me at the airport.  But also the pride that helped to fill up those wounds as I saw my big girl exerting her independence and demonstrating the skills we have taught her to help her survive in the world.  My maternal grandmother always used to say that raising kids was just a long series of "letting go's".  How right she was!

So I tell my friend that she should not worry, it really will be OK, and that she just needs to take a deep breath and heed my child's advice, knowing full well that it is something I still have to say to myself as I watch my girls going off into the wide world. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Diet, Curse, Loathe

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Liz Gilbert's bestseller! It was a great summer read and I of course used it as an excuse to indulge myself in Bar-B-Q, Prime-Rib, Tex-Mex, Dr. Pepper and Pecos Cantaloupe! I consider Texas my "Italy" in terms of being a food mecca!

And I admit to having adopted some of her great phrases:
  • "That’s the thing about a human life-there’s no control group, no way to ever know how any of us would have turned out if any variables had been changed". (As a scientist, this one appeals to me and I use it regularly now to try and keep from second-guessing myself all the time!)
  • "Some days are meant to be counted, others are meant to be weighed." (Again, I guess it is my scientific bent, but this one gives me a very definite image and helps me gain perspective!)
  • And this one sums up my life philosophy in a much more poetic fashion than I could ever come up with: "Tis' better to live your own life imperfectly than to imitate someone else's perfectly."

The last one gives the reason why following her journey is all wrong for me. Oh I would love to spend a year in narcissistic self-indulgence. And in fact 4 months is likely far to short a time for me to achieve any of the goals that she set for herself on each of her quests. But the paths she chose are definitely not for my feet to trod, at least not at this point in my life.

So I have set out on my own quests and am in the process of laying the groundwork for my own journeys. And yes, the first one also involves the intake of food, but not the indulgence as it seems I have already been doing much too much of that. I don't expect to have near as much fun as Liz did, and I make no promises as to the inspirations I might encounter on my quests. But in the end I do hope that my path will lead to as happy an outcome, though I harbour no hopes of ever achieving a best seller or having Julia Roberts playing me in a movie!

However, should some miracle occur, I have always been told I look a lot like Meryl Streep...

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day (Music Monday)

It's been a long time since I have played this game, but this just seemed so appropriate...

"Let Them In, Peter"

(Sorry I can't upload videos, you'll have to go to the link).

In memory of all those who have served, you are in our prayers.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Sound of Glass Breaking

You might not hear it. The US is a long way from Europe, and the ceilings there seem to be made of some high-tech bullet-proof glass. But maybe one day, and hopefully in my lifetime...

I was 14 years old before I really became aware of the social prejudices in the society I lived in that would (try to) keep me from following my dreams. I wanted to be an astronaut. And at that time the surest path to achieve that goal was via the military. When I learned about the Civil Air Patrol (basically a civilian version of ROTC), I joined at 13. I was one of the few girls in the group, and therefore I participated in all the activities that were set up for the guys. It was really pretty cool! And one Saturday an officer from the Air Force came and gave a lecture about the Air Force Academy. That was exactly what I thought would put me on the path I had chosen to follow. So imagine my shock when I went up to the recruiter afterwards with some questions and was told that it was not open to women.

I didn't believe him. Surely this was a joke. I questioned him further and he was obviously becoming uncomfortable. Some of the adults in our organization were trying not to laugh, as they were already familiar with my strong personality and would have never dreamed of telling me that something was not possible because I was a girl. In the end he advised me to contact my Congressman as I would need his support in any case to get into USAFA. But I came away from the conversation bewildered and angry. I just found it hard to believe that my gender would be considered a handicap and would prevent me from doing something like getting a good education. Unfortunately, it was not the first time I would encounter such limited thinking.

On 7 October 1975 President Gerald R. Ford signed legislation that allowed women to enroll for the first time in all of the nation's service academies, including the Air Force Academy. More than just glass came crashing down that day! It was a bit late for me, but I was pleased to see others getting that opportunity. Since then women have been breaking through various barriers, including this past election when we had a very serious contender for the nomination to run for President of the United States.

But there is a "glass ceiling" that still exists that keeps women from filling more than 15% of the seats as directors on the boards of various corporations in the US. In Europe, the figures are even lower, with single-digit percentages in most of the countries here.

That is about to change! The boardrooms of European corporations are being mandated legally, and are being pressured socially, to add women to their governing organizations. While companies and governments have seen a large influx of women in their ranks, the upper management echelons have resisted changing the status quo for the last couple of decades. Therefore social legislation is being implemented to help overcome the corporate resistance.

I admit, I don't understand why men are so reluctant to accept women into positions of power, but I have personally encountered it ever since I entered the workforce. And since companies have not been able to achieve the balance on their own, in Europe there are a number of laws that have recently been passed that will mandate this change. While I do understand the pitfalls of such "Affirmative Action" initiatives, I also know that without them change will not be forthcoming. Norway has led the way with legislation in 2003 that required state-owned and publicly traded companies to increase the average number of women from 7% to at least 40% by 2009. The average now is around 44%! The Netherlands has a similar law that will take effect in 2016. Spain also has passed such legislation and France is set to do so soon. In other countries the threat of gender quotas has been impetus enough to cause companies to be more pro-active in making changes on their own.

It won't be easy. Because of social traditions and cultural segregation, there are some countries where male domination in many professions will mean shortages of qualified female managers. Many companies will use this as an excuse, even when the evidence for such shortages is not present.

And men just don't get it. My own DH is complaining about the pressure to hire more women in his own organization. He gets no sympathy from me. We have daughters who will be entering the workforce in the next decade. I think he will change his mind if he sees them encountering the same limitations and barriers that I often came up against.

The US does not have such a legal mandate at the moment. But I do believe the pressure to change will come. Women make up over 50% of the workforce, and more women are earning college degrees than are men. There are fewer and fewer professions that can be considered as exclusively male, though there are still many male dominated areas of study. There is still a gender gap in terms of earning ability, and engineering and computer science are still predominantly male bastions, but there are now equal numbers of women earning business degrees and both the "hard" and "soft" sciences are starting to see a gender balance in the student body.

Of course with more women in positions of leadership, it does not mean we will have a perfect world. My DH points out some of the more recent public failures of women directors in various high level positions. But women should be allowed to fail, just as men have done from the dawn of civilization. Our society needs the balance that a female perspective will bring, not only in the boardrooms, but in the ways companies generally operate. Social responsibilities, environmental concerns, and moral obligations need to be given as much weight in decision making processes as is currently given to business objectives and financial targets.

I sincerely believe that a broader and more balanced perspective would have prevented the risk taking decisions that eventually led to collapse if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters or even Lehman Siblings. It's too late for me, but I am oh so glad that the glass is breaking now and that my girls will have more opportunities in their futures.

Oh look Corporate America! Is that a crack I see up there?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sinter Klaasje kom maar binnen...

For who are not familiar with the Dutch tradition of SinterKlass, I refer you to some of my earlier posts where I went into much detail to explain some of the background of this very important family festival here in the Netherlands (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V and Part VI). As part of the tradition, starting in October you already can find the small cookies that the Zwarte Piets throw and/or pass out by the handfuls. These little cookies are also found in small bowls at the checkout counters of all the shops and stores as part of their otherwise non-existent customer service!

But the real fun comes not just in eating these little crunchies, but in making them yourself. For many years I was a volunteer at school helping youngsters measure out and make their own treats. As requested by a former ex-pat who got addicted to these yummies, I share here a recipe for Pepernoten. But my peronal favorite is not the traditional peppernoten, but the spicier, sweeter Kruidenoten which I already blogged about. And when you are tired of the cookies, but have a lot of leftovers still to use, there is the ever popular Kruidenoten Tiramisu that I also included!

  • 60 GRAM/2 OZ. BUTTER
  • 1 TBSP Kruidenoten Spices *
Melt the butter and dissolve the sugar and pancake syrup. Take the mixture off the heat and stir in the other ingredients. Mix well, put the dough in the fridge for two hours. Roll it out en cut out small squares or circles, using not more than a teaspoon size of dough. Bake 15 minutes at 175 degrees Celsius/350 degrees Farenheit.

Pepernoten are the original Sinterklaas-related cookies, though they have been replaced by Kruidenoten in popularity. They look the similar but taste blander. Kruidnoten are crispy like
Speculaas, whereas pepernoten have more or less the same consistency as gingerbread.

This spice mixture can be varied if you do not have all the ingredients, 20 grams/4 TSP of allspice can be substituted for cloves/white pepper/anis/coriander.