Author Archives: Ben Trube

Back in the world… from Canada

I honestly didn’t think it would be more than seven months between posts (if I did I wouldn’t have left you with such a downer). No special reason for the long hiatus. Actually just all the usual reasons. Work got busier, I got more tired, and I had less creative energy leftover from working on the new book.

But this week I’m in a place with boundless creative energy. I just finished the first day of the Bridges Math + Art conference in Waterloo. There are literally not enough hours in the day to talk to all of the interesting people here. Today I went to talks on fonts, fractals, and fun with OK Go.

In the art math spirit I thought I’d share a quick visual from the new book:

I’ve been playing around with fractal genetic codes from the Fractals for the Classroom series. Simple patterns and rotations that make some interesting forms as you keep iterating. Anyone see a Canadian maple leaf in this one?

More tomorrow…

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This we don’t need

It’s been a week since the attack on OSU campus. As you might imagine this particular act of violence struck a little closer to home than most. I’m an alum of OSU and live a few miles north of the campus.My dad is involved with campus ministry, as are some people I used to go to bible study with. While I don’t go down there as often as I used to, I did see a game with my wife earlier this fall, and I sometimes go for a sentimental walk to No. 1 Chinese, Used Kids Records or just down the Oval. I think of OSU as part of my home.

I’m grateful that people were not more seriously hurt and that the situation was able to be resolved in a short amount of time. Though things certainly seemed uncertain for most of Monday morning (I spent the day trying to get work done while listening to 10TV news feeds and Facebook Live press conferences) the actual incident was only about a minute.

Not long after the attack a friend of mine said on social media that he wasn’t looking forward to whatever hateful thing the President-elect was going to tweet on the subject. And sure enough, the Donald delivered:

ISIS is taking credit for the terrible stabbing attack at Ohio State University by a Somali refugee who should not have been in our country.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2016
There are a lot of things wrong with this tweet. For starters, the motive of this 18 year old student will likely never be firmly known, and speculating is a destructive activity. Of course ISIS claimed credit. The attacker isn’t alive to contradict them, and it makes them look like they have more influence. Second, Columbus, Ohio has a thriving Somali community (who were among the first to condemn the attack). We have a legacy of taking in refugees for over 25 years. The president-elect may have won Ohio, but he didn’t win Columbus and he doesn’t know this city or have a right to speak for it.

But honestly it isn’t even Trump I want to talk about, but the people who are using this attack as an opportunity to advocate for a concealed or open carry policy on campus. This culminated today in a group of people parading around the campus carrying guns. Let me repeat. A week after a violent attack on a college campus, a group of non-students organized by a gun-rights activist from Cincinatti decided it was a good idea to march around with guns including assault rifles.

Now to be fair the students were notified, and the advocates were escorted by police the whole way. But this was far from a calm discussion of gun rights. When a professor questioned the group’s presence and said this wasn’t what the college needed, the gun-advocates questioned his citizenship. Lot’s of students are still dealing with the trauma and the fear of the last week. This community is still healing.

There was a lot of luck and providence in last Monday’s attack. A gas leak meant that an officer could be on the scene in less than a minute, and good training resolved the situation quickly. The school’s alert system notified everyone almost as the attack was happening, and the run-hide-fight protocol probably kept a number of students safe. One of the people injured by the attacker had military training, and even tried to grab the knife. There were heroic and well trained people on scene. The students were as prepared as any student population could be. And I believe God was there as well.

Here’s what a someone with a concealed carry permit would have added to that situation. Unless they had hours of extensive training dealing with active-attacker situation, there’s a decent liklihood they would not have drawn their gun, or fired it if they did pull it out. If they drew their gun and fired there is no guaruntee they would not have injured people besides the attacker. And when the officer came on scene they’d be adding another confusing element to a hot situation. Unless they were immediately compliant with the officer’s commands, they’d stand a decent likelihood of being shot themselves.

You may disagree with my assessment, and that’s fine. I know a lot of reasonable people who are gun enthusiasts. Maybe we can discuss it calmly in a month or two. But for right now, why don’t we spend our time having a national conversation about what OSU did to prepare for attacks like these, and praising the work of a fine young officer. Let’s not tar an entire community because of the actions of one person, and let’s stop waving guns around for a while.

That’s not too much to ask, right?

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New Release: Fractals – 2017 Adult Coloring Calendar

frontcover

I know how it is. You get to the end of November and you realize you forgot Mandelbrot’s birthday (it was Sunday). Or your friends ask you to come over for Pi day and then laugh at you when you bring pie instead (which they eat without thanking you). Well don’t worry, I’m looking out for you.

Introducing Fractals – 2017 Adult Coloring Calendar.

Did you know that you can make up math holidays just by choosing the right numbers? I mean, tomorrow is Fibonacci day because it’s 11/23 (it’ll really be cool in 42 years when it’s 11/23/58). I even made up my own holiday on January 26th: Koch curve day (because the approximate fractal dimension of the Koch curve is 1.26. It’s also E. H. Moore’s birthday apparently).

kochtricurve1l4

Feeling stressed? Why not color in some fractal bubbles or a cozy quilt? And take some time to marvel at the clean numbers and lines of the calendar template I created using a python script. There were definitely at least five tiny pixel adjustments to make sure the numbers lined up in diagonals just right.

Perfect for the math geek who also enjoys trivia and pretty colors. But even if your name isn’t Brian Buckley this calendar is a great for someone looking for something just a bit different in their date tracking this year. Available now on Amazon from the good people at Green Frog Publishing.

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Keep your eye on the ball

The last two weeks have been anything but boring. The pace of news seems designed to keep us off-balance. It can make it difficult to find what is worth our attention. If a story is from a few days ago, it can feel like it’s already old news and not part of the conversation we’re having now. Often we gravitate to the things that are easily digestible, that we already are inclined to care about, and that don’t challenge us to do more than give the post a like.

In this post-election season we need to fight this tendency.

Take this weekend for example. On Friday the President-elect settled three lawsuits that were brought against him over the fraudulent practices at Trump University, to the tune of $25 million. Trump did not admit to any wrong-doing in the settlement. Despite his tweet that “The ONLY bad thing about winning the Presidency is that I did not have the time to go through a long but winning trial on Trump U.” the settlement figure (as well as the instructor’s handbook) suggest the case was not a slam-dunk for the President-elect. The settlement also spares Trump the embarrassment of showing up in court, giving him time to “focus on our country.

And this would have been an embarrassing case. Instructors at Trump U were told to encourage students to put themselves in substantial credit-card debt to pay for courses containing information you could easily find on the internet. This is also the case where Trump questioned the abilities of a US born judge to try the case fairly because he had Mexican heritage. Burrito bowls aside we know Trump’s comments about Mexicans have been a bit… controversial to say the least. This situation is unprecedented for a President-elect, and this is not the only lawsuit Trump will likely have to settle. So you’d think that this story would be the top trending topic in my news-feed all weekend.

But as it turns out, Mike Pence got booed at the theater.

Now don’t get me wrong. Both the audience’s reaction to Pence, and the cast’s later words to him were deeply satisfying. There was a throwaway joke on SNL that Pence is the reason Trump will never be impeached, and any democrat who’s taken a closer look at Pence would be forced to agree. Hamilton has a diverse cast and they rightly called out the inconsistency of his views with his attending the show. And Trump’s reaction to the whole kerfuffle shows that he has not abandoned his reactionary twitter habits. The other trending story this weekend were some Trump supporters making Starbucks employees write “Trump” on their cups. This was accompanied by some footage of one such supporter being a dick. Personally, I think it’s nice that Trump supporters like this self-identify. I mean, a barista would never do something to your coffee after you’ve been a jerk … right?

drumpfcup

Both of these stories tickle me in one way or another. But they’re dessert, and you need to finish your meal before you get dessert.

Here’s what I mean. There’s nothing wrong with clicking the links to the Hamilton footage, and smiling at the video. You can spend some time thinking of Pence musicals and share your favorites on Twitter. But that can’t be all you do. There are cabinet appointments being made, there are policy directions being discussed, and there events that continue to speak to the character of the man we just elected. I know we all need a laugh, and I love the Joe memes too. But as John Oliver said last week, we can’t let any of this seem normal. We need to do a little digging to see what’s passing us by in favor of what is shiny and easy to understand.

Here’s an example from my own backyard. The day after I attended the rally in Clintonville, a seeming Trump supporter tackled a speaker at an anti-Trump rally. The tackler was quickly led away in handcuffs to a crowd of people chanting “shame shame.” This clip made me angry. I still think of OSU as my home in a lot of ways, and after the encouraging night I’d had the day before, this felt like we were backsliding. But a few days later we found out that the tackler has aspergers syndrome, that the tackle wasn’t even politically motivated, and that the speaker wanted the police to drop any charges of assault. I could have let the incident play as just fuel on the fire, as a way to get myself mad at Trump supporters, but that would have been missing a larger part of the truth.

We can’t afford to get distracted, and we can’t afford to just take fleeting looks at events. We’re in this for the next four years.  Seeing something that bugs us or delight us and sharing it on social media isn’t going to be enough. It certainly wasn’t before the election and it’s not going to be in two or four years.

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