Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Pluto gets kicked again

Attention Pluto Lovers-

If you loved Pluto as the 9th planet in our solar system, today just isn't your day. But, a new planet, currently named Planet 9, has been discovered. 

Planet 9 has an elliptical orbit that takes 10000 Earth years to complete. Because it is an elliptical orbit, Planet 9 has a minor axis of 20,000,000 miles and a major axis of 80,000,000 miles!

How was it discovered? Because of MATH! Scientists and astronomers now need to collect observational data to confirm the existence!

Take a look at the article and share this major discovery with your students!

The next exciting step is the naming process. Dr. Mike Brown @plutokiller is one of the discoverers of Planet 9. The Mashable article has some interesting potential names.

Personally, I like the idea of Minerva or Apollo for the name. Both fit the naming convention already present. Minerva would be for wisdom and Apollo would be for logic.

Monday, January 18, 2016

For my high school seniors

I was perusing around Facebook and stumbled across this post. I am glad that I was able to connect with the author and she agreed to let me share the good thinking here. If you would like to connect with the original author, take a look at her info here:

Leah Jackman-Wheitner, Ph.D. is a career coach helping people enjoy their lives and work.  You can find out more about her at

Leah Jackman-Wheitner, Ph.D.
Without further adieu....

How to succeed in college:  If you only do one thing, do Hint #5. --  By Dr. Leah Jackman-Wheitner

I got a D on my first exam in college.  It was 4 weeks or so into a Philosophy Honors class.  We'd spent weeks on Mill, Locke and Hume.  Then we spent one day on Buddhism.  I prepped for this test.  I knew we had 2 exams and a final that would be our entire grade (no assignments, no participation grade.)  

We'd had 4 weeks of class.  I knew we were having an essay test with two questions.  So, I studied Mill, Locke, and Hume inside and out.  I was ready.  I skimmed over Buddhism, because we'd only spent about an hour on it.  It couldn't be much of the test, right?  Wrong.

There were two questions.  One on Mill, Locke, and Hume.  The other on Buddhism.  I wrote 5 pages on the first answer and 3 sentences on the second.

And I learned a huge lesson in how different college is from high school.

I knew when I walked out that I'd screwed it up bad.  I could have spent the next weeks complaining about how it was an unfair test, or I could do what I did - suck it up, learn something from the experience, and bust my *** to make As on the other exams to balance out the first one.

It would have been easy to just spend my time complaining about the exam.  And, of course, I did complain some.  But it's a metaphor for life.  When things happen, will you blame external forces or take responsibility for yourself and step up to improve what you can?

Here's my best list of what to do to succeed in college:

1. Go to class.  Regardless of whether the prof says you have to be there every day, just go.  You will learn so much more by being in the actual classroom.  It's a good habit.  It's a good mindset to have for all classes.

2. First day of every class, get two people's phone numbers.  You will have questions over something at some point in the class.  Get contact info for two people so you can compare your memory of what was said.

3. Take notes in class by hand.  Yes, I know the excuses - I'll just type them then I'll be able to read them better.   I learn better when I just listen.

I'm telling you - write notes, by hand, during class, with your phone in your pocket on silent.  That's how our brains encode information most effectively.  There's research about it.

4. Now - if you really want to get good grades, I'm going to tell you the best thing to do.  It's time consuming.  It does require commitment, but it helps like nothing else I know.

Rewrite your notes.

Yes.  I know you're busy.  But you have to decide if you want to be successful or not.  After class or the next day, rewrite your notes.  You can outline the info, highlight, note what page number the topic is covered on, make a list of questions.

I write notes by taking notes on the left column of a piece of paper.  At the top of the right column, I write down things I need to follow up on, upcoming test dates, questions I need to ask the prof later, reminders to myself that I need to go back and look something up in the text, etc.  When the left column is full, I take additional notes starting about halfway down in the right column.  (I'll post a pic later.)

5. Next thing - this is huge.  Actually, even if you ignore all my other advice and only do this, you'd probably be ok.

College is your job.  Your job is to be a student.  It is a full-time job.

So, you do it 40 hr/wk.

If you're in class for 15 hr of class time, then you study for 25 hrs a week.

If you have 16 hrs of class time, you study for 24 hrs each week.

If you want to have every weekend and evening free, then you spend 8 am - 5 pm every day studying.

If you have 3 hours in between classes, find a quiet place, sit, review your notes, rewrite your notes, study, read the reading for the next class session while the topic is fresh in your mind.

If you start your college career doing this, you'll get a good habit going and you'll be better able to gauge the amount of time you need to study in the future.

6. Go see each professor during office hours.  Once a week, go see a professor.  Get to know them as individuals.  I did my undergraduate degree at a school with 26,000 students.  It works in big schools as well as small schools.  Professors want to know you care about their class.

You will have a much better experience in the class if you go talk to the prof.  Just say, "Hi, I'm in your Chem 100, and I wanted to introduce myself."  Go up to them after class.  Go to their office during office hours.

If they know you are making an effort to connect with them, then they'll start looking at you during lecture and trying to see if you get it or not.  If you get that scrunched-up, confused look on your face, they'll notice.  They'll either explain again right then or they'll know that you're going to come talk to them after class.

This is your education.  Make the most of it.  Get to know your profs, then it's so much easier to go talk to them when you get stuck.

7.  Do the reading before the class.  I know you can usually get away without doing this.  I know you have never read before the class.  But seriously, if you want to be successful in life, you have to do things you haven't done before.  That includes reading the material before class.  Profs don't want to just teach the material in the reading.  They want to have interesting discussions about the material.  Remember, they have made an entire career out of imparting knowledge, helping people learn to think, and creating knowledge in their field through research  They love what they do.  They love when students participate and want to learn.  You may not care about that particular class, but if you show some interest, it becomes much more interesting.  If you do the reading in advance and ask meaningful, relevant questions, your professors will appreciate you and will go out of their way to make sure you're understanding the course.

In sum:

- You are a student.  That is your job.  Spend 40 hours a week on your classes, and you'll have time for fun.
- Do the reading.  Go to class.  Talk to your professors.  Ask them questions.
- Take responsibility for your life and your education.

I'm starting to get friend requests and emails about this post.  If you'd like more tips for a better life or life or career coaching programs, PM me.

It's Jan. 15, 2016, and this post is nearing 20,000 shares.  I am blown away and thrilled that so many people are finding value in these ideas.  If you're looking for help and direction in your career choices, email me at

Some great ideas in here. Wish I had thought of this when I was in college. Do you have any tips to add to the list? Share your ideas in the comments! Thanks for sharing! 

Friday, January 15, 2016

How 15 cents was the result of a lot of camaraderie

The opening of this calendar year was a bit of a challenge for us. We experienced some loss with staff members. There was some frustration with the opening institute day. Our wireless network was upgraded, which cause some challenges in connectivity for many staff members. Our ISP had trouble the next day, so the school was not connected and that had its own difficulties. We know there is some more dark days on the horizon, but for 78 members of our faculty and staff, we found a way to laugh, smile, and bond. What could be the beacon of hope amid these dark times? A shiny dime and nickel.

How can $.15 bring happiness? Because it was a group of 78 people who came together with a dream...a dream of winning $1.5 Billion in the most recent PowerBall. For the mere investment of $2, 78 people came together to discuss dreams of philanthropy and easier living; whom they would help and how they would do it. We discussed what the money could do for our families and our dream fulfillment. Most importantly, it tied 78 people together for all different aspects of the building (teachers, admin, custodians, IAs, and even a visiting consultant) for a few days of dreaming.

The Rocket Billionaire Project, as we were known, shared different ideas about the odds in winning, placing them in context, discussing possible curricular ideas, created some trivia questions for students involving math, reasoning, and statistics. We shared investment strategies and discussed how to protect our winnings. We laughed together because we knew that we were not going to win, but we did not want $2 to stand in the way of not being part of the group in the astronomical event that we did win.

One of our teachers described the odds like this: There are C(69,5)*26 or 292,201,338 ways for the balls to land.  That makes the probability of winning the grand prize with one play 0.0000000034.  To get an idea of this task, imagine the following.  Start in Seattle.  Lay a quarter on the highway.  Lay another one right next to the first.  Continue this until you get to New York.  Head south and continue to Miami.  There are now almost 300,000,000 quarters on the ground.  Can you pick the same quarter that the PowerBall Lottery will pick?

Mark Cuban provided us with investment tips:
(1) Hire a tax attorney first.
(2) Don’t take the lump sum. You don’t want to blow it all in one spot.
(3) If you weren’t happy yesterday you won’t be happy tomorrow. It’s money. It’s not happiness.
(4) If you were happy yesterday, you are going to be a lot happier tomorrow. It’s money. Life gets easier when you don’t have to worry about the bills.
(5) Tell all your friends and relatives no. They will ask. Tell them no. If you are close to them, you already know who needs help and what they need. Feel free to help SOME, but talk to your accountant before you do anything and remember this, no one needs 1m dollars for anything. No one needs 100k for anything. Anyone who asks is not your friend.
(6) You don’t become a smart investor when you win the lottery. Don’t make investments. You can put it in the bank and live comfortably. Forever. You will sleep a lot better knowing you won’t lose money.
We even shared events that are LESS likely to happen than us winning:

Source for these fun facts

An asteroid destroying your home
When an asteroid passed within 17,200 miles of Earth in 2012, the real estate blog Movoto calculated the odds of an asteroid actually destroying your home. If you have a 1,600 square-foot house, for example, your odds were 1 in 3.4 trillion, give or take.

Filling out a perfect March Madness bracket
Duke math professor Jonathan Mattingly put the odds of a perfect bracket at 1 in 2.4 trillion. And even that’s a generous estimate, since he took seeding odds into account — like the fact that a 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed. A DePaul professor calculated the odds to be one in 128 billion. If you went with a truly random approach, the odds are more than 1 in 9 quintillion (one followed by 18 zeroes). Any way you slice it, you’re much more likely to win the Powerball. (So, maybe make up for the money you’ve wasted on Powerball by staying out of the March Madness pools?)

Shuffling cards in order
Assuming a truly random shuffle, the chances that a full deck of cards ends up in perfect order and suit — spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs — are 1 in 1-to-the-power-of-68. (Which is to say, 1 with 68 zeroes behind it.) That’s “roughly equal to the number of atoms in our galaxy,” according to Focus magazine.

Your existence
OK, this one is a bit of a stretch, but bear with us. Dr. Ali Binazir, who studies and writes about love and relationships, attempted to calculate the odds that you came to be. As explained in a blog post on Harvard University’s website, he took into account your parents meeting and having kids together; the exact sperm meeting the exact egg; and then that happening for their parents, and their parents and so on back to the beginning of human history about 3 million years ago. The odds he came up with? 1 in 10-to-the-power-of-2,685,000 (10 with 2,685,000 zeroes behind it). So really, you’ve won the lottery already — many, many times over.

When all was said and done, the group won a WHOPPING $12 which translates into an amazing 15.3 cents per person. We all laughed about the enjoyment we had, what we will do with our winnings, and how if we got together with 3 of our friends, we could share a cup of coffee from our vending machine. Most people donated their winnings to our media center to pay for student book fines...their way of paying it forward.

Sometimes we need to take the time to recognize the fun that we can have when we come together with a common goal. We can take this momentum and translate it into more academic pursuits for the students. Even with the challenges we  had to start the year, we had a lot of laughs and became a little closer as a faculty and family.

Plus, we each won $.15!