11 December 2007


Work on the consulting side as been slow since November. That turned out to be a blessing as a fought a very bad case of poison ivy. I don't expect it to pick up until January, though I am very thankful for my few regular clients. I do have a few new prospects, so I'm not at all discouraged.

I finished all my grading for the Belmont courses. It's a relief to be finished, but I still don't know if I'm teaching next semester or not. It would be nice to teach another semester now that I have this semester under my belt, but it would also be nice to have a break. I'd really like to do a mailing, too, to drum up more business for my courses. Plus, I have some catching up to do for grading for the girls, and I would love to have more time to scrapbook (I still have a couple of pictures to paste in my Japan book).

On the other hand, I'm getting a lot of French done on the long commutes to Belmont. I feel like I'm finally getting the hang of sentence structure and basic verb forms. It's funny, though, what they've taught me and what they haven't. For example, I know the words for January, February, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, but not the other months or the other days of the week. And we've learned the names for France, Belgium, Italy, England, and Canada. And I know how to ask about the time and the weather, but they keep making me practice asking about the weather in Canada or in England in January or February --- "Il faisait très froid au Canada en janvier et en février." And I can order coffee, beer, or wine, but I don't drink any of those, though I can order milk because they taught me that (I might need milk in my coffee). But, realistically, I do know that Diet Coke is "Coca-Cola Lite" in France, so I suppose I don't need to know anything else to drink. I've been renting French movies, and I'm really enjoying listening to the French. Maybe I'll learn the other months and some good things to eat that way.

I guess I'm feeling a little bit lost tonight. I should probably grade papers for the girls, but I think I'll read Dumas instead.


12 October 2007

Saxon Math

Things are finally settling down for school this year. My high school student and I really struggled with her math course. Her high school wanted her to put in 3-4 hours a day working on math, and yet it was 95% review. She was so discouraged. She's already had Algebra I and Geometry from books by Harold Jacobs. This was an Algebra II book, and our first time with a book by John Saxon.

I thought I should look ahead in the book to see when the review would end. I discovered that there were several topics that should be covered in Algebra II that aren't in the book at all.
Algebra II should be a study of functions, and Saxon math thinks it's a study of geometric shapes and polar coordinates. It's so frustrating to me. Besides the fact that my child was hating math, I was worried that she wouldn't be ready for higher math in later years if we continued with only the Saxon book.

So I bought another Algebra II book, one by Paul Foerster. She's doing problems in both books so that she can take the tests from the first book, and we're learning all the concepts in the second (more difficult) book. Though it sounds like extra work for my daughter, she's actually doing much better in school since we started this. She's still spending 3-4 hours a day working on math problems, but she's interested in math again. She completes her assignments quickly in the Saxon book because she knows that more interesting material is coming. It's been a burden on me to figure out a schedule that will work for her school and for her, but now that we're getting it settled, I'm feeling better, too. Also, I know that she won't be getting behind in math.

Darin worries that I push my kids too much in math. I don't want to require them to be math majors, but I don't want their future career choices to be hampered by inadequate preparation, especially in math.

12 August 2007

Last Day of Summer Vacation

School starts for the girls tomorrow. And I now have two teenagers.

Maybe I'm just too tired, but I'm not so stressed over it right now. Maybe it will hit me when my oldest and I are going over her math assignment tomorrow that I have a girl in high school now. She reminded us tonight that it's less than six months before she'll get her learner's permit and be able to drive out on the roads.

The consulting business is picking up again now that summer is almost over, and I'm working on class notes for the course at Belmont for next week. When I think about what I have to do, I think that I should be really stressed about biting off too much, but right now it feels like I can handle this. We'll see how it goes. First, I still have to clean up my office and sort papers before the new school year gets too far gone.


01 August 2007

Trip to Belmont

I took a trip up to Belmont this morning to pick up my textbook and start some paperwork. I also got to see where my office will be. (I share with the other adjuncts.) The math secretary also gave me my keys and syllabi from other professors who have taught the course in years past.

It's a nice drive, and it's a nice campus, but it's really hot today, and all the walking around campus (like walking over to Human Resources) while carrying an armload of books around really made me tired. I suppose that I should have brought along an empty book bag, but I didn't think about it until it was too late.

I need to start working on my course materials for Belmont, but what I really want to do is work on scrapbooks. I ordered more pictures over the weekend. I'm thinking that with some careful planning, I can finish up 2006 before the end of 2007. I would really like that. Then all I have to do are baby books, my trip to Japan, anything before the year 2000, the year we spent in Luxembourg . . . . . . .

New projects always seem too big at first. One step at a time, and soon I'll be able to teach Statistics 101 with one hand tied behind my back.


11 July 2007

New school year

There have been several changes in the wind for this next school year. One change is my new teaching job at Belmont University. The other big change is that my oldest daughter is starting high school. We've been homeschooling the kids since kindergarten, but I wanted the kids to have a transcript when they finished high school. So my oldest daughter is going to be in correspondence school this year.

She and I decided on Christian Liberty Academy (CLA). I would have liked to send her to the University of Nebraska high school because of their really good reputation, but we couldn't afford it. On the bright side, we've been using some books from Christian Liberty for years, so we know what we're getting into. Also, we can take individual classes from Nebraska and still get them on her transcript from CLA. I think we might end up doing that for math. CLA only requires one year of math, so after this year, any math she takes will cost us extra, so maybe we can afford to pay a little bit more and get the course from another correspondence school.

For seventh grade for all the girls, I switched to a curriculum from Veritas Press that was more difficult than what we had been using for elementary school. This made for a big jump in time commitment and difficulty between sixth grade and seventh grade for the girls. The positive side of this is that the leap from eighth grade to ninth grade won't be so much of a leap. I'm generally pleased with the ninth-grade text books. So far my girls haven't read many short stories and poetry for the past two years, and not much American literature, and the new literature class will fill in the gaps nicely. I'm still a bit skeptical about the Algebra II book from Saxon Math, but I can supplement with my books if I need to. I think it's a bit light on the trigonometry.

We worked out a schedule for the year together, and I looked through the forms that CLA sent on a CD. Some of them I need to use for them when I send in materials for grading, but the scheduling forms were optional, and we didn't like them. I decided to program my own scheduling forms. I came up with something that the girls and I liked, and so I have the whole school year in the computer now. We can all access the calendar, and I can print out weekly schedules for all three girls. My husband thought I was completely obsessed with this project, but after years of writing out assignments by hand, I can't believe that I didn't write a computer program to do this years ago, and the programming for it took me just a few hours.


30 June 2007

ICES III in Montreal

Every time I look at this blog I realize that it mirrors how overwhelmed I've been feeling since Daddy's death.

I had a bit of a melt-down (again (speaking of Daddy)) the day we were supposed to leave for the ICES III conference in Canada, but to make a long story short, we did finally leave that day, and we went on the trip, and the conference was good, and the girls had a good time, and we got to see lots of friends. The next step for me, professionally, is to finish up writing the papers that I presented, before the end of August.

I sent in the paperwork I needed to send to Belmont, and I'm looking forward to starting my teaching gig there in late August. I'm even looking forward to the commute --- some quality time in the car to practice with my French CD's.

The consulting business has slowed down for the summer, but it's been nice to have a break, and it was nice to have the money in the bank already to pay for the trip to Montreal.

The other big issue for us this summer was getting my oldest daughter ready for high school at her correspondence school. I'll write more about that in a bit.


03 April 2007

About Daddy

This is the eulogy I gave tonight at Daddy's funeral:

When I was a child, I thought that everyone had the same kind of childhood that I had, and it wasn't until I was older that I learned to appreciate the uniqueness of my childhood. Let me tell you about my dad.

When I was little, before I could say the word "statistician," Daddy and I would pretend to be statisticians. We’d do little experiments in the kitchen, or we’d do a survey of words in the newspaper, and then we would graph our results. We discussed the properties of bell-shaped curves. We figured out the probability of drawing a pair of matching socks from my well-mixed sock drawer.

When I was in third grade, Mrs. Hoffman was teaching us multiplication tables, and I was bored. When I told Daddy I was bored in math, he said he would teach me a magic trick. He got out his book of logarithm tables (back in the olden days before calculators could do logarithms), and he showed me how to look up numbers in the logarithm table. Then you would take the logarithms and add them, but when you undid the logarithm they would really be multiplied. I tried it over and over for any multiplication problem I could think of, and the next day I told Mrs. Hoffman that my dad had taught me a really cool magic trick with logarithms. She called my dad later and suggested to him that he should stop teaching me at home. He ignored her suggestion.

But math to my dad was more than just the kind of math you might use as a statistician, it was the kind of math you used in sports. I learned how to compute "yards per carry" and "runs batted in." There is never a time in my life when I can remember NOT knowing the rules to football, baseball, and basketball, and I've been a Nebraska football fan my whole life. Some of you might know that my dad knew Richie Ashburn who played major-league baseball in Philadelphia and later worked for them as a broadcaster, but my dad had other connections, too. When we lived in Vermillion, South Dakota, Daddy was friends with the announcer for the town baseball team. Daddy and Don and I went to a lot of baseball games in Vermillion, and sometimes I would get to sit up in the announcer’s booth, and one time I even got to run the scoreboard, to turn on the balls, strikes, and outs. Daddy took us to high school football, basketball, and wrestling, and University of South Dakota football and basketball, too. And when we moved to Tennessee, we started going to Science Hill and ETSU games and track meets.

Time with Daddy was more than just math. Daddy read out loud to us, everything from "The House that Jack Built" and "Oh How Do We Get to the Zoo?" to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Rice Burrows. Daddy taught me to sing the tenor part on the hymns with him before I could read well enough to read the words of the hymns. We took family vacations out west to see the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, and trips in the east to every major Civil War battle site, and as many of the minor ones as Daddy could find.

Daddy loved to look for patterns in every day things, from the number of petals on wildflowers to odometer readings on the car. I remember calling Daddy on his 48th birthday and asking how it feels to be 48. He said it felt a lot like 47. I called him on his 49th birthday, and he was really excited. This wasn't just any birthday. I had just turned 25, and he was 49, and that was 5 squared and 7 squared. And to make it even better, on his mom’s next birthday, she was going to turn 81, so then we'd have 5, 7, and 9 squared. I remember that he said, "We couldn't have done better if we'd planned it." And I remember thinking, but who would have thought to plan this?

No matter what happened in our lives, I always knew, without any doubt, that my dad loved me and my brothers, even when (or maybe especially when) we were being punished. I also knew, without any doubt, that he loved my mom.

It wasn't until I was much older that I realized that not every child has this kind of childhood. Not everyone grows up in such a secure and loving home with such amazing parents. I also discovered that not everyone loved math and statistics like I did.

Now I’m married with three kids of my own, and this has given me a chance to see Daddy’s teaching abilities with the next generation. I remember very clearly overhearing my dad watching a Nebraska football game on TV, and hearing him explain the kind of plays you might want to run on second and 7. I went out to see who he was talking to, and it was daughter Naomi when she was only two months old. I asked Daddy what he was doing, and he told me that it’s never too early to start training the next generation. And it works. Much to my husband’s chagrin, all three of my girls route for Nebraska. Daddy loved watching his granddaughters play soccer and going to their piano recitals. And Mom and Dad took us all on a family vacation out to Yellowstone and Custer State Park to see Daddy’s beloved buffaloes in the wild.

Besides being a mother, you might have guessed that I’m a statistician by profession. Every day I use the lessons he taught me. I teach classes on time series, and I explain to people how magical logarithm can be. I teach my girls math and music and history, and we visit as many battlefields from the War Between the States as we can manage. I still sing tenor on the hymns in church. I still have a very well-mixed sock drawer.

I could never live up to everything Daddy did. I mean, we are talking about the man who had to walk through the snow barefoot to school every day, and uphill both ways. OK, so he liked to tell stories, and I was fairly gullible, but I did always work hard at what I set my mind to do. I always wanted to do my very best, not so that my dad would love me, but because I loved him, and I wanted to be just like him.

The most important thing that Daddy taught me was to be passionate about God. Finding patterns in nature wasn't some kind of hobby with Dad, or something to pass the time. It was just one way to marvel at all the amazing gifts that God has given us, to appreciate the world around us, to see God’s handiwork in even the little things. Daddy taught me that there is beauty in everything around us. There is beauty in every situation, even the bad ones, when we can see that God is in control. When something miraculous happens and other people chalk it up to coincidence or chance, as statisticians, we can figure out the probabilities and see very clearly the hand of God. Daddy taught me how to see the Power behind the chance.

The older I get, the more I'm convinced that if someone doesn't love math, it's only because they didn't have a good teacher. So every day, I can thank God that I had the very best math teacher, right from the start.

30 March 2007


Tonight I lost my dad to cancer. He was the greatest dad in the world, and my first and greatest math and statistics teacher. I'm so sad to lose him, but I feel so blessed to have had such a wonderful man for my dad and my mentor.

Today was the one-year anniversary of us moving back to the States. I'm so glad that we moved back to the States, and I'm so glad that we live so close to my parents' house.

23 March 2007


If there is anything I like better than time series, it's statistical graphs.

I had a client who asked me to make some graphs for his research report. It was the most fun I've had doing statistics in a very long time.

His supervisor suggested scatter plots. They turned out to be quite helpful.

He also needed a way to compare results over many questions. So I made graphs of the confidence intervals, taking into account that he was doing multiple comparisons. Though they are a little bit crowded, it was still a great way to look at the questions and see where the statistical differences were.

I could be really happy if I could get paid all the time to make graphs for people's research.


26 February 2007

Two-year Anniversary

Yesterday was the two-year anniversary of my leaving the Census Bureau. I'm still in touch with many of my former co-workers, and the more I hear about what is going on there, the more I'm glad I decided to leave.

I was having health problems that the doctors thought were caused by stress. I have had a very stressful past two years with moving to Europe, and moving within Luxembourg, and coming back to the States without jobs or a place to live, with a broken leg that included a hospital stay and surgery. And through it all, I haven't been sick at all (except for that broken leg). I just keep wondering if it wasn't the stress that was getting to me but something in that old building.

So now Census is getting a new building, and I suppose it beats having a lot of health problems, but anyone I know who is already in the new building isn't happy.

If I had moved into the new building, I'd have to spend my life in a sunless, noisy cubicle. Not to mention the daily commute. And there are all the meetings and all the red tape and all the reports to write for management that keep a person from doing fun work like programming and research. If I was at Census, I would be making 8-10 times more than I will make this year (just a forecast of my earnings this year), but it's not worth it to me.

Here I am in my 200-square-foot corner office, with a fireplace, easy chair, CD collection, big wooden desk, and awesome views of pasture land and wooded hills, and a commute that consists of 8 steps from my bedroom door. I like the work I'm doing because I only accept work that I will like. I have time for research and programming. I'm working part-time so I can spend more time with my kids.

So much has happened to us in the past two years that it seems like so much longer since I was at the Census Bureau. Though I seriously doubted my decisions along the way, and I doubted my ability to see God's direction for my life, it's much easier now to have some peace about my current life. I really do feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be.

I celebrated my anniversary by installing SAS software on my computer. It will take me some time to get up and running with it again, but I'm looking forward to having SAS again. I feel very hopeful about my future.


09 February 2007

Health Insurance

The worst part of starting my own business was not knowing what to do about health insurance. I'm happy to say that the debate is over.

My husband received a notice that he would be hired on permanently and was invited to an orientation meeting yesterday morning. We were hoping that meant that he would be hired on permanently starting next week. It turns out that he was already considered permanent beginning this past Monday. That means, as of Monday, we have health insurance! With this permanent job, my husband also gets a raise, and he will qualify to transfer to other jobs in the company that he would like better.

I try not to worry, and I haven't lost any sleep over it, but a lack of health insurance was a concern for me. We are making it financially, and we have some in savings, but we don't have a lot in savings, and one really big bill would have put us in a tailspin. Now I know we're going to be OK. The coverage is really good, and we're going to get the dental also because it will give us a discount for the orthodontist. It's just really such a relief.

I just feel that a huge weight has been lifted off this family. I know we can make now.

03 February 2007

Business is good

Business is really picking up. After no paying clients in 2006, I've had a lot of work in 2007. I've even been a little bit busier than I would like because I don't want to neglect the children. They are being good sports about my working, though. I told them if I make a million dollars this year then I will buy them an in-ground swimming pool. They figured out that I should be making about $4,000 a day, so if they see me away from the computer, they ask me why I'm not working. They can be harder task-masters than any boss I've ever had. On a more realistic note, I'm hoping to pay for orthodontia for the girls, and I'm feeling very hopeful.

23 January 2007

Personal Provenance

My younger brother is two years younger than me and, as long as I can remember, he's been smarter than me. Which, now, is really cool. But when you're little, it's kind of embarrassing.

One of our favorite Catherine-was-so-stupid-and-pig-headed moments to laugh about now happened when we were probably about 6 and 8, or maybe 8 and 10. My brother and I are in the car with my parents, and my brother says something, and I'm not really paying attention because I don't understand what he said. A little bit later, I happen to notice that one of the businesses in town has a balloon hanging on its sign, and it's shaped like a little blimp. So I say, "Look, there's a little blimp!"

My brother says, "That's what I said."

My response was something to the effect: "I know you said something, but that's not what you said."

His response was something to the effect: "What I said was 'Look. there's a miniature dirigible.'"

I proceeded to have a huge argument with him about whether or not what he said was the same thing as what I said. Sometimes my parents would be upset with us for arguing all the time in the car, but this time, I think they were too busy laughing.

So about a month ago, my brother uses the word "provenance" in reference to my grandfather's organ that he was helping me move to my house. I have no idea what he's talking about. "Don't you watch the 'Antiques Roadshow'?" he asks. Well, I do sometimes, but I somehow tend to tune out words that I don't know the meaning of. Words like dirigible. You would think that my brother would know this about me already. So then my brother decides to help me improve my vocabulary and encourages me to use the word in conversation so that I will remember the word. Seein's how it sounds so French, and I'm all about learning French, you would think that I could remember this word. But I don't. I have a really hard time remembering the word whenever I find some opportunity to use it in a sentence. And I see the word all the time now, so I don't know how I missed it before. As an example, here is an article on Wikipedia about a really interesting painting by Jan van Eyck, and the article has a section on Provenance.

So I got out my very first stat book from Iowa the other day, and I find an index card with my dad's writing on it. I have a very clear memory of my dad and I sitting at the dining room table at the house we lived in when I was a kid. I really don't know how old I was, but definitely older than 4 and younger than 12, and probably about 10. I had asked my dad some questions about normal distributions, so he took out an index card from his pocket (my dad loves to carry index cards and pens with him everywhere), and his black felt-tip pen, and he drew some pictures on that card. And I remember afterwards thinking that the card was really important, because when I grew up, I was going to need to know the normal distribution. So I kept it in a safe place in my room, and the card surfaced when I was in grad school, and I was using it for a bookmark, mostly to help me not be so homesick.

I hadn't seen that card in years, and I found it today. And I realized that this is a very important part of my provenance---the documentation regarding my origins.

So I called my dad, and I tried to use the word "provenance" in a sentence, and I couldn't remember the word.

Sorry about that, brother dear.