Archive for the 'Family' Category

Loss of Continuity

February 23, 2006

I apologize for the following personal note in the midst of a Calculus blog.

Writing a book is a large commitment. You have to have a bigger reason than possible financial reward for writing. And I did. I looked at my beautiful, bright daughters and wanted them to have this book when they were ready to explore Calculus. Chris Adamson, friend and co-editor on several O’Reilly sites said something similar when I was wavering on writing it. He wanted to put it away for his children.

The number of things we have put away for our children.

Maggie Rose, my eldest, has already proofread the first chapter and given it her approval. She’s nine but I truly value her opinion. Elena Maxine loved the pictures. She loved that her dad could write books. There was so much that she loved and expressed. She was a beautiful, happy, loving child who died yesterday afternoon suddenly.

As Kim and I sat up last night crying and holding each other, I asked what the point was of continuing the book. She said “you need to dedicate it to her”.

I sobbed.

I’ve co-written nine books now and never dedicated one to my children. This was to have been the one. I suppose it will be.

I will need help writing this. I will need help for lots of things I suppose. Yesterday it didn’t feel real. Today it feels insurmountable.

It’s certainly a discontinuity. It’s odd because it oscilates between feeling like a vertical asymptote that I’ll never surmount and a removable discontinuity – she’ll wake up soon and be with us again. Of course it’s a jump discontinuity. Something dramatic happened yesterday and life is changed. I’m just not sure how yet.

I don’t know if this is common to mathematicians – but having a deep understanding of the infinite makes me profoundly afraid of death.

In any case, I hope you will forgive this personal intrusion. I have started a personal blog to work this through at Dear Elena.

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Nothin’ says love like a Calculus book

February 14, 2006

Ahhhh, Valentines Day and a young man’s fancy turns to mathematics.

Pathetic? Perhaps.

Kimmy-the-wonderwife doesn’t expect much on Valentine’s Day. In fact, the first meeting of a new chapter of CocoaHeads (as in Cocoa tha Mac OS X framework) is tonight.

Over the years, my students have gotten to know Kim in many examples. She still remembers visiting one class and having a student ask her if she knew that I had thrown her into a pond in one example. She knew about that one. It was a related rates problem in which we looked at the ripples that were generated when she hit the water. She told the student that he shouldn’t worry, she was a very good swimmer. The student smiled and said “oh he told us that. That’s why he said he had to tie cement blocks to your ankles.”

I proposed to Kim on Valentines Day. Neither of us are very mushy about these things but she’s horrible at remembering dates so choosing this day makes it easy.

In any case – it is a very good Valentines Day. I’ve finished writing the first chapter of Head First Calculus and have fallen in love with the subject all over again. I miss being in front of a class and sharing the passion. But this is the next best thing. (Remind me to tell you some time about what I learned from Barry Manilow about teaching)

I’ve tried out the chapter on my nine year old and she seems to like it. The six year old likes the pictures.

Pictures? In a calculus book? Sure – we’re only 40 pages in and already have everything from ancient greeks to a man and a woman in bathing suits.

Writing a book requires sacrifice on the part of people around me. Today Kim gave me one of those special Valentine’s Day gifts that says she really cares in a way that flowers or chocolate couldn’t express (although chocolate would have been nice). She saw the look on my face as I printed out the first chapter and encouraged me to take the time to finish the book.