Monday, July 30, 2007

AP Statistics Training

This week I am attending an AP Statistics Institute in Denver. I have attended a few of these before. I was feeling a bit reluctant to go because it is giving up the last few precious hours of my summer unscheduled time, is in Denver, and I've been before.

But today I was happy with the event. I have a good trainer, and it is different enough from what I've done that it is useful - I got literally about 50 pounds of supplementary material to take home - textbooks, software demos, activities written by the trainer, etc. It also gives me an opportunity to try to figure out how and when I will use the TI-Nspire instead of the TI-84 as I work on some of the problems - because they each have distinct advantages and disadvantages. But I am in virgin territory there - no one else has yet seen the Nspire, not even the trainer. I think I managed to pick two good training programs this summer. Plus I got college credit for both.

Today I was reminded of the fact that the location of one standard deviation from the mean on the standard normal model is the inflection point of the curve - I have not taught that to my kids before and it would be very useful for them in making better model sketches. Also, I learned a better way of thinking about the variance of a linear regression model (r-squared)than I've had before. And, I have a few good ideas for great activities the first day or two of classes that I am looking forward to trying it.

My classes are all large this year - the smallest one is 31. But the trade off is that 4 out of 5 of them are honors classes, albeit mostly freshmen, and 4 out of 5 I am the only one teaching them so I can design them pretty much how I want within the given constraints for each course/grade.

Finally, I also learned I now have enough experience to qualify is an AP-exam scorer. I think I will apply to do that for next summer because expenses are paid and it is a paid position on top of that, and involves a bit of travel to somewhere and would only take a week or two, as well as that due to relatively low numbers of applicants for the Stats exam, I have a good chance of being selected.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Ya Ali!

“And there is one who gives his life
to earn the pleasure of Allah.... (2:207)”
who laid in the Prophet’s bed
and stood steadfastly for Truth
While the others fled.

“...let us summon ourselves and invoke
the curse of God on the liars (3:369)”
at the event of Mubahala -
You, the self-same of the Prophet
And the first to follow.

“Today I have perfected your religion
and completed My favor upon you.... (5:3)”
on the Day of Ghadeer
You are our Mawla
As the Prophet had made clear.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The tiny fish who saw a stone fall

I went and stood on the dock
And tossed a rock
A smooth, flat stone

I let it go with sprite
And it skipped joyfully on the water
And then it sank

A tiny fish saw it fall
And wondered at a thing that should be down
Coming from up

The flat stone swayed slightly
Side to side in the current
Until it came to rest in the sandy bottom

The shiny sand popped playfully
Up and around the stone and resettled
Covering part of the stone

The tiny fish saw that the stone
Was like any other to its right or left.
Had they all come from up?

Then the tiny fish had a big thought
That it had never had before
It wondered as to its own origin.

Did I come from up, too
And what is up, after all?
And the little fish felt unsettled.

It swam to the stone to investigate
Not knowing what it looked for
And it wondered why is there a stone at all?

And why is there a little fish
Worrying about the stone that came from up?
Neither the joyful stone nor playful sand would answer.

So then the little fish swam up
To see where the stone had begun to fall.
Its eyes breached the water just barely.

Over and over again it exerted itself
To go up and see into the heaven
But it could not understand what it saw.

Nothing in the up made sense
To the tiny little fish
No matter how long or hard it looked.

The up was blurry and bright
And full of objects that had no words
And its very matter was foreign.

The little fish was dismayed
At its failure to understand the up
And regretted wondering about the stone.

So the tiny fish went back to the down
And tried to forget its wonder
And its big thought it had never had before.

It thought perhaps it was not for little fish
To understand the up
Or to know why little fish and stones were.

Then night came and the tiny fish
Found its place to be still until the light returned.
And it wondered if there was a why at all.

In the dark it couldn’t really see the stone
Or the sand, or even the water.
But it knew that all these things were there.

Maybe the up was like the dark
Thought the little fish
It just obscured what was always there

Little fish’s heart lightened with the idea
That it didn’t need to see in the dark
Or understand the up to know something.

Gradually the water became light
Along with the tiny fish’s heart
And it felt joyful like the stone

And it felt playful like the sand, too
Because an even bigger thought had
Come to the tiny little fish.

There are some things I know
Because I was meant to know them
And I can look inside or outside and know them.

There are some things I have no words for
And that I can never describe
But they are still real.

On the dock I came again at dawn
And saw a little fish swimming
Happily against the stream

And unknowingly in that instant
I shared a thought with the tiny fish,
A big or tiny thought about God.

And we both were happy.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


I finished reading The Deathly Hallows. It awaited me in the mail when I got home from work today and it took me about 11 hours to read, give or take. I will admit I first read the very last line of the book because I needed to have a question answered right away. The last line answered it for me. And then I could read the whole story and arrive at the end in peace.

I really can't say a whole lot more unless you want spoilers.

Friday, July 20, 2007

My answers are at the post office

Book 7 has been delivered to my local post office - they are just holding it until tomorrow, the official release date. So maybe tomorrow I'll know who lives and who dies.....

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


On Monday my parents had the day off and we went up near the Florissant Fossil Beds to a place where you can try to find, dig, and keep your "own" fossils. Really you don't have to dig much but you have to carefully try to pray apart layers of shale. Almost every layer has fossils in it and the sheets are too thin to get all of them, so you have to have some luck as well. In this one, you can see a nice leaf on the left, there is part of a twig to its right, there are some smaller leaves in the top right corner, etc. My dad also got one with a flying ant fossil, but mainly we found lots of twigs and a few leaves. We were only there a few hours - there are just lots of fossils and they are easy to find.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"I Will Be Like the Sun"

O Imam! You said, "I will be like the sun
Veiled by the clouds ….

And I do not see the sun on a dark day.

Yet surely even in darkness my heart beholds you,
And is bleached from the light
Of your radiant, pure soul.

O Imam! I await you!
I await the sun's rays on my face -
The joy of warmth that I remember without having felt!

For surely my heart basks in sunshine,
Delighting in the warmth of God’s Mercy
That made me love you.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dua for the Month of Rajab

We have begun the month of Rajab, entering the season leading up to the month of Ramadan. There are many recommended acts in this month - special prayers can be found at Fasting is highly recommended from now through the month of Ramadan. Insha'allah I hope to fast from now except for days when I am traveling out of town, sick, or visiting with family/friends in such a way that involves eating (except of course during the month of Ramadhan when that is no excuse).

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
O Allah, bless Muhammad and his household.
O He from whom I can hope for all goodness
And I am safe from His anger at every evil.

O He who gives a lot in exchange of a little.
O He who gives to one who asks Him.
O He who gives to one who does not ask Him and does not know Him,
Out of His affection and mercy.

Give me, for my request is only to You alone,
All the good of this world and all the good of the Hereafter.
Keep away from me, for my request is only to You alone,
All the evil of this world and the evil of the Hereafter.
For indeed it is not diminishing what is given by You.
Increase (for) me from Your bounty, O The Generous.

(Then the 6th Imam held his beard in his left hand and gave a movement to the index finger in his right hand saying :)

O The Sublime and The Distinguished,
O The Bountiful and The Magnanimous,
O the Gracious and the Mighty,
Save my grey hairs from the fire (of Hell).

Stop Thief! and Dark Tower

I found this game at an antique mall for $8. I never played it as a kid because it was too expensive for us to buy, but I remember the commercials and I remember wanting it. When I saw it at the store, it looked like it might work and have most of the pieces, so I bought it. I played it with my parents tonight and everything is there and it works. We had fun playing with 1979 technology.

We also have Dark Tower that we received for Christmas one year - what a great game! We played it for hours and hours. It still works but is well-worn. I found a download so I can play it on my computer, but it loses its mystique that way; it just isn't the same. If they turned it into one of those strategy room-by-room games with good graphics that would be cool. The site I linked is a great fan site! Here is a flash version of the game.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


I've been tagged by Patrick from Patrick's Place to play this meme:
1. I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.
2. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog post (about their eight things) and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog post, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Okay, so 8 random facts/habits:

1. There's a meteorologist who does his reports on the local FM news radio station. In the commercial spots about their news broadcasts, he talks about his "accurate" weather reporting. But every time he says it, it really bugs me because he pronounces accurate as "a kerr ut" while I pronounce it "a kyer ut". So then I wonder where he's from that people say it like that. I also don't like it if I happen to notice that someone pronounces "your" and "you're" the same way. But I guess I'll get over it. :)

2. I think green is too hard a color to paint walls with - so many greens end up looking just gross. But I like green in nature and art.

3. When I was a kid and learned the ASL alphabet, I would sign road signs as we passed them on the highway and it became a habit so that I didn't even realize I was doing it. Then, in junior high I learned to type, and the habit switched to typing instead of signing. I still do it and occasionally will find myself "typing" a road sign I passed 20 miles back. But I don't do it as much as I used to when I was a kid. I also am one of those people that if I'm sitting in the movie theater, I'm probably shaking my leg. It doesn't bother me at all, but sometimes can bother someone else. I think it is ridiculous there is now a "restless leg syndrome" that they sell drugs for. Although I guess some people have problems with leg movement in their sleep or something, I don't know.

4. If I could grant myself a wasteful indulgence, it might be to only ever wear brand new socks. Brand new socks feel and look much better than used ones! So, I buy new socks more often than needed, but, I do wear them more than once. :)

5. I like pretty much all the interests of my dad, generally speaking. Growing up I would see him being interested in astronomy and playing with a telescope, go rockhounding with him in the mountains, visiting ruins of old ghost towns, reading lots of books, etc., and I like all these things, too.

6. I like westerns, mysteries, fantasy, spy, and science-fiction novels. But I've never actually read a romance novel. How do you tell a good one from a bad one?

7. I'm wondering why this meme specifically asked for 8 things. It just seems a strange number to pick. I'm guessing whoever did it first thought of 8 things to say about him/herself, or someone who got tagged was really supposed to write 7 or 10 things but had more or less to say.

8. I have some dreams/fantasies that I want to do, but maybe not really. One of my fantasies is to backpack for a whole season. But, I'm not really a backpacker, just would kind of like to be. That's a hobby/sport you really need companions to do with you, though. Another fantasy is to live in a simple trailer in the middle of 4-corner Navajo country. I'm not sure I'd really like to do this, but part of me finds the ideas appealing.

Rather than leaving comments, I'll just list 8 people here, but of course no one has to play if they don't want to, and anyone who wants to play, can.

1. Carol
2. Victoria
3. Sadiq Alam (Mystic Saint)
4. Manal
5. Organic
6. Anila
7. Safiya
8. Hajar

9. (Maybe Laura in MySpace?)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Sweet English Nasheed by Ahmed Bukhatir


Love of Allah (swt) - Walayah

One of the most central and important concepts of Islam and of our very existence is that of walayah. Walayah is one of the pillars or foundations of Islam, and is fact the most central of the foundations.

Imam Muhammad Baqir (as) described the foundations of Islam as follows:

“Islam is built upon five foundations: communion (salah), pruning of wealth (zakah), fasting (sawm), pilgrimage (hajj) and dynamic loving (walayah). And nothing has been called to the way dynamic loving (walayah) has been called to.”

Most people are more familiar with another tradition that relates the fifth foundation or pillar as the witnessing (shahada) that there is no God but Allah, and that Muhammad (saw) is His adorer-servant and messenger.

Of the five activities that form the foundation, walayah (dynamic loving) is the first and foremost foundation. While the more often heard hadith mentions the foremost as the shahadah, there is not really a conflict between these two traditions, but this shall be explained later.

First let us understand what walayah is. Walayah denotes the activity of coming or working to be in the closest possible proximity to something. If one has walayah with another, then the two things are so close as to be almost inseparable.

Walayah really denotes two activities that take place due to this relationship of being so close. The first activity is that of pure loving, affection, attachment and intimacy. This kind of love can be between two people such as parent and child or husband and wife. The second activity is that of comforting – providing aid, assistance, guidance and support. This activity can also between two people, but at an uneven level. For example, a parent may provide comfort aid, assistance, guardianship and guidance as love to a child, but the child can respond lovingly but not equally, not with the same kind of activity. Instead the child who responds positively does so with loyalty, allegiance, devotion and obedience.

God gives walayah to those who would receive it. For example, in the Qur’an it says, “Allah is the Comforter (doer or giver of Walayah) of those who are dynamically faithful (receivers and responders of walayah - believers); He extracts them from all manner of darkness into light….” (2:257)

Someone who does walayah is called a waliyy. “Waliyyu Allah” is a phrase that describes a devotee, intimate follower and lover of Allah. People who are such lovers of God are mentioned in the Qur’an also: “ Indeed! The devotees of Allah (Waliyyu Allah) will have no fear upon them nor will they grieve.” (10:62)

So, the reason why there is no real conflict between the two different forms of the tradition is that the Shahada is a manifestation and application of walayah. When someone bears witness that God is their waliyy, that person is acknowledging his or her role in the relationship to respond with allegiance and obedience. In the shahada we witness that God is the ultimate source of love, comfort, guardianship and authority and is deserving of allegiance, service and adoration. He is the ultimate and true waliyy of us all. At the same time, one is pledging one’s love, allegiance, loyalty and obedience to this ultimate source of true love. One also acknowledges that Muhammad (saw) is the perfect waliyy (adorer/servant) of God and pledging love, allegiance and loyalty to him (saw) as well due to his relationship with God.

All love - all walayah - ultimately comes from and is due to God. The Qur’an says: “Say O Prophet: My Comforter (waliyy) is Allah, who gradually sent down the Book; he receives the dynamic love (walayah) of the righteous.” (7:196) God both gives and receives walayah, this dynamic love. God loves us, and we respond, either positive or negative. The positive response to the love of God, the walayah of God, is the fundamental activity of Islam and the distinguishing characteristic of a Believer. The positive response is the return of love, obedience, loyalty, allegiance, etc. It is what Islam is all about and what our lives are ultimately all about. The one who becomes a true waliyy or devotee of Allah (Waliyyu Allah) achieves a state of righteousness. Allah loves as the Comforter, then the righteous person responds with love as the Devotee, and then Allah responds with a deepening of walayah toward the Devotee and it can be an ever-deepening cycle. So it all comes from Allah swt and continues to grow and deepen as far as the recipient of God’s love responds. It is only the limit of our response to God’s walayah that limits the depth of return of God’s walayah, which is nevertheless ever present.

The means to achieving this ever-deepening cycle is also explained to us in the Qur’an:

“Oh you who are dynamically faithful (doers of walayah to God, or Believers)! Obey Allah and His Messenger. And do not let yourselves be oriented to a walayah other than this ( or be turned away from him….” (8:20) “Whoever obeys the Prophet has definitely obeyed Allah. And as for whoever lets himself be oriented towards another walayah, then Allah has not made you (the Prophet (saw)) their keeper.” (4:80) Thus, the Qur’an tells us that the method of obeying and doing walayah with Allah swt is through following His Prophet (saw).

This is further explained in the traditions. Truly, Islam is the way (deen) of love. Imam Muhammad Baqir(as) related a tradition as follows: A man was traveling to visit the Imam (as) and the travel caused his legs and feet to become blistered and chapped. He told the Imam (as), “Nothing brought me here from whence I came except the love of you, the Family of the Prophet.” Imam Baqir (as) replied, “By Allah! Even if a stone were to love us, He would gather it up with us (on the Judgment Day). Is the Deen (of Islam) anything but loving? Surely Allah says, ‘Say: If you have come to love Allah, then follow me! He will love you.’” (3:31) Then Imam (as) said, “He loves whomsoever migrates to them (Ahlulbayt (as)). Is the Din anything but loving?” Thus, Islam is all about the giving and receiving walayah relationship between Allah and us, and we respond to His love by loving those who are closest to Him, the Prophet (saw) and his family (as), and in turn Allah swt responds with even deeper walayah.

Further, a positive response to God’s walayah for us is to be just. “O you who are dynamically faithful! Be those who stand for manifest justice, witnesses to Allah, even if it be against yourselves, your parents, or those who are close to you; even if it be against someone poor or rich, for Allah has more walayah than anyone else with both of them (the poor and rich). And do not follow your personal whims and desires and let them prevent you from being just. And if you deviate or turn away from justice, then surely Allah is well-informed of all that you do.” (4:135)

In the Qur’an, Muslims are not addressed directly, but believers who return walayah to God are, for the Qur’an and God make distinctions between Muslims and Believers. Believers are the “dynamically faithful”, the positive responders of walayah. Muslims are those who submit in body or word but not necessarily in this dynamic loving with God. “The desert Arabs say: We believe (are doers or positive receivers of walayah with God)! Say to them, “ You have not yet believed, but rather say, “We have submitted (become Muslims)”, for faith has not yet entered into your hearts. And if you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not let your good deeds go to waste. Truly Allah is Ever Forgiving, Singularly Compassionate. The truly believers are only those who believe (and are dynamically loving with) Allah and His Messenger, then do not doubt, but strive with their wealth and their beings in the Way of Allah. Those are the truthful ones.” (49:14-15)

God loves and is merciful to all of creation. The mercy He shows to all creation is denoted by His name Rahman. He cares for and provides for all. But there is a special mercy for those who respond positively, and that special mercy is denoted in His name Raheem. When we turn to God, God turns to us. The means of developing an ever- closer relationship with God is ultimately what Islam is all about. Every aspect of Islam is to guide us as to how to achieve greater closeness, to deepen our walayah relationship with God. The remaining four foundations of Islam – the prayer, the fasting, the hajj, and the zakat, are all means of deepening walayah with God, as are all other aspects of the deen. But, as the Qur’an has distinguished for us, it is possible to do all these things in word and deed without the benefit of deepening relationship with God. That is, we can be Muslims without yet being Believers. The keys to being Believers are the acceptance of God’s love and the response in heart with devotion, obedience and love, not only to Allah swt but with those closest in walayah to Him, the Prophet (saw) and Ahlulbayt (as).

Reference: Islam Dynamic: The Cosmology, Spirituality and Practice of Walayah by Idris Samawi Hamid