December 5, 2021
When I was in 8th grade in Bexley Junior High School, I took a class in mechanical drafting. We were drawing things like boxes using a T-square and a triangle. One day Mr. Earnhardt, the instructor, decided to give us something a little more complex. It was a block with a round hole through it, and a quarter of the block had been cut away leaving leaving a portion of the hole exposed. That would have been okay if the cut had been square, but Mr. Earnhardt must have been feeling a little wild and crazy that day because he made the cut at an angle. The top and end views (we were doing orthographic projections) were no problem, but the front view was a different story. Mr. Earnhardt wanted us to draw the hole in the front view as a semi-circle. I pointed out that would be incorrect and it should be more like half an ellipse or a parabola or something. To Mr. Earnhardt's credit he acknowledged his mistake. However, since we weren't equipped to draw fancy curves, he had the class just draw a semi-circle.
When I was in 9th grade at Bexley High School, I took a class in algebra. One day we were instructed to write out our solution to some mathematical equation on the blackboard. My solution only took three steps and Mr. Ridenour wasn't happy about that and asked me to explain just what I had done. So I did and my explanation, while a little long winded, was satisfactory. Mr. Ridenour was a jerk, a decent instructor, but a jerk.
When I was in 11th (or maybe 12th grade) at Utica High School, I took a class in chemistry. Our instructor, his name escapes me, discovered that we had not been taught the fundamentals of trigonometry, so he proceeded to give us a fifteen minute lecture on the subject. There was also a 12th grade chemistry class taught by Mr. Slavin that was just awful. I don't know whether he was a bad teacher or what, but his classes were very boring. Okay no great accomplishment here, this is just background.
Shortly after I turned 19 I was called in by the draft board for a physical examination for the Army. The exam also including a written test (the ASVAB). After they had graded the tests, the guys running the show called me over and told me I had the best score they had ever seen, 99 out of 100 or something. Cool, I guess.
Nine years later (more or less), I took a class in numerical analysis at the University of Texas in Austin. The instructor was horrible, it was almost impossible for me to pay attention in class. His delivery was just sleep inducing. The work wasn't too bad. It involved writing programs in Fortran and making calls to libraries to perform some esoteric functions. You just had to figure out what numbers from the stuff you were given needed to be plugged into which slots. I suspect most of it was pretty obscure, but I had been mucking around with computer programming for a couple of years now, so I was able to sort it out. The ultimate program was to calculate the path of a sound wave through the ocean, how it would vary in depth as it traveled through the water. I remember when I finally got it working. I printed the results (everything was printed then, no terminals, not even CRTs) and read down the list of numbers and saw that they smoothly varied within the expected range.
I may have plotted the values using an ASCII printer, but any memory I have has been corrupted by a story about some famous guys doing a physics experiment. They weren't seeing the results they expected until they plotted the numbers using an ASCII printer and then laid out 100 pages or so in a line, then if you looked down the line of pages you could see the value vary like a wave, which is just what they were looking for. They just couldn't see it before then because of the scale.