Lucky Me Jun 2022

As a kid and later through my career, several lucky things [marked in brackets] happened to me; some of these things were fortuitous and some happened because I searched them out — either way, still lucky.

Growing Up

At our house:

  • We had newspapers, a couple magazines (*), a few religious books, and a set of World Book [encyclopedias]. My brother and I read the hell out of those encyclopedias. I say this broadened our interests but I also say we developed our innate interests.
  • We all made [regular trips to the library]. I was raised in Groves, TX. Our town had a small one-room library — I think I read most every book they had. Port Arthur had the wonderful Gates Memorial Library (**). I targeted biographies, periodicals, physics, and mathematics.
Hydrocarbon Processing (*)

From childhood there was always a Hydrocarbon Processing (HP) magazine in our house. My father was a boilermaker at the old Atlantic refinery and actually read through that magazine. I occasionally picked up one of the issues, browsed, looking for something, anything, of interest. It all looked like difficult reading highlighted by dismal process diagrams, emphasis on diagrams, and then emphasis on dismal.

Gates Memorial Library (**)

Plaque mounted near the sidewalk to the right of the library:

‘John Warne “Bet a Million” Gates (1855-1910), a native of Illinois, was instrumental in the early growth of Port Arthur. A prominent businessman and financier noted for his promotion of barbed wire, he became a leader in the development of the city founded by Arthur Stillwell, the president of the Kansas City Southern railroad. Gates was initially attracted to the Port Arthur area by the local oil boom of the early 1900s. As an investor, he figured prominently in the development of the Texas Company (later Texaco).

Later a resident of New York, Gates maintained his business and philanthropic interests in Port Arthur with the help of his son Charles. Gate’s contributions to the city include Port Arthur business college, St. Mary’s hospital, and the Plaza Hotel.

In 1909, John Gates set aside land at this site for a public library, but initial plans for the project were discontinued after his death in 1911. Planning resumed five years later when it became apparent the public library in the nearby high school could not adequately serve the city. Through the efforts of Gate’s widow Delora (1855-1918) and local residents, this library was completed in 1917. The following year it was dedicated and deeded to the city.’

[Public School]

From the 7th to the 12th grade, I had [excellent math teachers]:

Junior High

In junior high, the football coach, Paul Carswell, was also the 7th grade math teacher, he routinely held [math competitions] in class — girls against the boys, oral arithmetic questions for the duration of the class, first oral correct answer got the point. These competitions, rather like a spelling bee, provided great initiative to perform arithmetic quickly. Later in the year, Mr. Carswell suggested I get involved with [UIL Number Sense] and I did. He also gave me his slide rule from college.

[Trachtenberg] At the Gates Memorial library, I discovered the book , The Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics by Ann Cutler. What a revelation — numerous 🙂 methods of performing mental arithmetic backed up with algebraic derivations.

In the eighth grade, Algebra 1 was taught using the so-called [Modern Math] method. As I recollect this was the first year that Modern Math was taught in our school district. Though considered laughable by lay people, it seemed brilliant to me: set theory, the number line, the axioms of mathematics.

I’m back at Gates Memorial, reading all the math I can find in the library, for example, Boolean algebra and Principia Mathematica by Bertrand Russell (no, I didn’t get through the 3 volumes).

I also found the Hungarian polymath [John von Neumann]. At our junior high library, I did extensive reading of the math, the science, and the social side of von Neumann. I note that he developed a prodigious ability to do mental math — in his youth, this was worth developing as a practical skill since he had not yet invented the computer 🙂

High School

[CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics] My older sister became a chemist; I think the book may have been given as part of a high school award

Lamar University

While at Lamar University, I discovered:

[Robert Rauschenberg]

[Robert Maillart] a Swiss civil engineer who revolutionized the use of structural reinforced concrete especially in bridge design.

After Lamar:

[Stewart Brand] The Whole Earth Catalog

[Gregory Bateson ] Steps to an Ecology of Mind

While at Texas Tech, I discovered:

[Buckminster Fuller]
[Count Alfred Korzybski] Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics

[the map is not the territory]

[the very structure of language can influence or distort our perceptions]

[Singularity functions]!08_15_51_PM.pdf

[CRC Standard Mathematical Tables] An excellent handbook; I still occasionally refer to my 20th Edition.

[R. E. Griswold, J. F. Poage, I. P. Polonsky]  Snobol4 programming language (brilliant)

The Snobol4 Programming Language

I still have my book — A SNOBOL4 Primer – Ralph E. Griswold, Madge T. Griswold (1973)

[Norbert Wiener] Cybernetics

After college:

[Computer Algebra]
Richard Pavelle, Michael Rothstein and John Fitch. “Computer Algebra” Scientific American (December 1981): 136-152.,Rothstein&Fitch-Scientific%20American%20Volume%20245%20issue%206%201981-Computer%20Algebra.pdf

[Kernighan and Ritchie] The C Programming Language

[Byte magazine]

[Desmet C Compiler] Ad in Byte magazine (1985) C.PNG

[PLC ladder logic] in the mid 80s, I was introduced to programming PLCs using a PC

[Donald Knuth] 1974 A.M. Turing Award. TAOCP

[Edsger W. Dijkstra] 1972 A.M. Turing Award. Graph theory, EWD series of publications

[Alan Kay] 2003 A.M. Turing Award. Smalltalk object oriented programming

[Finite Element Method] FEA

[Boundary Element Method] BEM

[John Walkenbach] prolific Excel author and MVP

[Tristan Needham] Visual Complex Analysis

A beautiful graphical proof from the preface, page ix

[Leo Dorst, Daniel Fontijne, Stephen Mann] Geometric Algebra For Computer Science, An Object Oriented Approach to Geometry

[Herbert Wilf] generatingfunctionology

Observations Jul 2021

[David Gleich] Finite Calculus: A Tutorial for Solving Nasty Sums

Observations Jul 2021

[Guido van Rossum] Python

[N. J. A. Sloane] The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences

[Brian Greene] American physicist

Your Daily Equation #1: E = mc2

[Roger Penrose] 2020 Nobel Prize. British mathematician and relativist

Brian Greene and Sir Roger Penrose: World Science Festival

[Bret Victor] interface designer, computer scientist, and electrical engineer

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