Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tolkien, Turing, and Nonlinear Reasoning

I just finished giving a midterm exam in one of my classes. Of course, I spent much time thinking about the bonus questions, which I call Nonlinear Reasoning, being a mixture of course topics and humor.

One of bonus questions was the following:

(The Turing Test, proposed by Alan Turing, determines whether a machine can be considered intelligent or not.)
Those who are versed in the War of the Ring could easily deduce that the correct answer to this question is "One Ring":
Sauron and Gollum are not interested in passing the Turing Test because they are only interested in the One Ring.
However, most of my students just answered "ring".

Since I am not a terror teacher, I guess I will have to give these students partial points. However, I also have to be reasonable and just in giving it to them. Since there are twenty Rings of Power in all – Three for the Elven-kings under the sky; Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone; Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die; One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne – I have decided to give them 1/20 points or 0.05 points.

As a teacher, it really is difficult at times to balance being considerate and just to students. In medio virtus: virtue is to be found at the middle, a Latin saying goes. But I think I may just have hit the middle in this recent predicament.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy Pi Day: A Haiku and a Trivia

Today is Pi Day. Happy Pi Day everyone!

March 14 is celebrated in the Geek World as International Pi Day. The derivation of this celebration, being straightforward, is left for the readers [1],  following the great tradition of math textbooks.

I wish to join today's celebration by presenting an original haiku (a form of short Japanese poetry) and a well-known trivia.

Pi Haiku

Circumferential Pi
A point went around
Its distance traveled divided by twice the length of a rotating arm
Behold! Pi is in hand.

Pi Trivia

Do you want to remember the value of pi up to 14 decimal places? 
Just memorize the sentence below.

 "How I need a drink, alcoholic, of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics."

The number of letters in each word gives out the digits of pi in order. 
You should be able to get 3.14159265358979.

Photo credit: "Pumpkin Pi" by bigfoot13 in
[1] But we provide the solution here:
The numerical format of March 14which is 3/14, contains the first three digits of pi.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Lord of the Kings : A Christmas Movie Project - Part I

Three kings will see a great star in the bright blue sky,
Seven men will follow it and lead them far;
Nine days it shall guide them to the greatest King,
One whose kingdom shall have no end.
In the land of Judah, He shall lie,
One King to rule the world, one who'll redeem men;
One King to save the world, and from their sins release them,
In the land of Judah, He shall lie.

Following a great star, the Three Kings of the Orient are led to Rivendell. There, the Elf-Lord Elrond explained to them The Prophecy. Together with Anakin, Harry, Neo and Aragorn, they embark on a journey to bring the Crown of Prophecy to the Lord of the Kings. But the journey turns out to be perilous, for the evil KingWraights are coming after them.


This is a script written for a 2005 highschool Christmas Movie Project. 
Note that this is not written according to standard scriptwriting rules.


MELCHOR : wiseman from the East with the gift of gold
GASPAR : wiseman from the East with the gift of frankincense
BALTHAZAR : wiseman from the East with the gift of myrrh
HARRY : a young wizard
NEO : The One
ANAKIN : Jedi apprentice
ARAGORN : a Ranger
ELROND : Elven Lord of Rivendell
HEROD : The Other King
HALDIR : Elf from Rivendell
WITCHKING : Leader of the KingWraiths
SEN. PAT-PATIN : Dark Jedi

Soft background music (almost like the beginning of Lord of the Rings). Pitch black screen slowly revealing a dark, star-studded sky. Camera pans across the sky. Camera moves down to reveal a town; zooms in to reveal a tower; zooms in further to reveal a man studying the stars.

Observes the sky,while taking notes on a desk
Let me see. There's Canis major, Canis minor, all at their proper places. And of course that will be Polaris.
Scene showing the sky panning through these constellations
Then, there's Orion's Belt and...
He sees an unusually bright star
Peers at the sky
What is this star? I've never seen this before.
Runs towards the tower
Gaspar! Melchor! Come in here! Take a look at this!

MELCHOR : What is it? Have you discovered anything?

BALTHAZAR : Look! There!!! (Pointing at the sky). That is one bright star we've never seen before!
MELCHOR : Hmmmn..That's right! I wonder what it could be.

GASPAR : That's funny. I never knew a star could have such brightness. It could not be Venus for Venus is not yet in the hemisphere, and even Venus could not be so bright!

BALTHAZAR : It's extremely beautiful . Look! One of its rays seems to be pointing to a particular direction!

MELCHOR : That's right! I think it's leading us to something.. or to someone! Good or evil, I do not know.

GASPAR : Something as bright and attractive as that could only lead us to something good! Or even holy!

BALTHAZAR : I agree! I suggest we follow it and see where it will lead us!

MELCHOR : Alright! I already feel a longing for another adventure.

The 3 kings are seen packing their things for the journey. Each one is shown preparing a gift  – gold for Melchor, frankincense for Gaspar, and myrrh for Balthazar.

The kings begin their journey to Rivendell at night, always being guided by the star.

BALTHAZAR : I can't move any further, and it's almost dawn. We need to find shelter.

MELCHOR : Yes. This place is scary. I think we have to go back.

Three elves come out of the forest each pointing a spear at the kings.
HALDIR : You have entered Rivendell, realm of the great elf-lord Elrond; you cannot go back.

Go to Part II (coming soon)

The Lord of the Kings
The Fellowship of the King
Script for a High School Christmas Movie Project 2005

Photo credit : SympleArts at

Monday, October 28, 2013


A tombstone with a Latin text that means "Life is changed, not taken away."

In a few days we shall be celebrating All Souls' Day.  I was thinking that a good exercise could be to write an auto-eulogy. Many have written an autobiography, but I have yet to hear of someone having written an autoeulogy.

The exercise could help us purify our motive for and manner of living. What do people remember most about us? How would we want to be best remembered? What legacy will we leave behind? 

Those thoughts could be further purified by knowing that eventually and inevitably, we shall be forgotten by those whom we wish to remember us, or at least, that these people will also eventually leave this world.  It is then that we can face the stark reality of death and the afterlife.  And hopefully, from that day onward, we could live our life sub species aeternitatis- from the viewpoint of eternity.   

Read more on  From Death to Life

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Rewards of Teaching

Since August this year, I have been going to a public school in Cebu together with some volunteers from a private high school . We give Math and English tutorials to some Grade 4 & 5 students.  Every week is a good experience for me, since, by talking to these kids, I get to practice my elementary Cebuano without fear of committing mistakes.

But my experience this Saturday was special. I was tutoring Math. The topic was conversion of decimals, fractions and percent.  I began by tackling the concept of percent in Bisaya to them. Then I thought of translating "percent" to Bisaya so that they can understand it more.  I translated it as "kada gatos". I was overjoyed when I noticed how they immediately got the idea of percent afterwards.

Then I wanted to teach them how to convert percent, decimals and fractions. I thought of the table below then began giving them easy drills.  Of course most of them got the correct answers.  They were even racing against each other to be the first one to get the correct answer. Meanwhile, the slower-learners were now also eager to get into the competition. After some time, even these latter began understanding the concepts better. After each drill, I teased them if they can accept an even greater challenge. They said "Yes!" each time. I could definitely feel the male competitive spirit in them. They all learned the conversion table in an hour.

Encouraged, I decided to give them a level up the following week. You could see that below the table I made, under the heading "Next topic."  I already thought of my first words next time I see them. Drawing inspiration from Batibot's Kuya Bodjie, I'd say "Mga bata... tuturuan ko kayong ... mag...Integrate! (Yeheeeyy!)"*

* Okay kids, now I'm going to teach you ... how to ... integrate (Hurray!!!)!