Monday, February 8, 2016

In Memory of Owen Kipp Sevre

I lost my big brother, Owen Kipp Sevre, to suicide on November 1st 2015.  I could talk about suicide, and how he died, but right now I would prefer to spend my time thinking and talking about his life and how his memory lives on.

For my brother's funeral I wrote a memorial to my brother.  I'm not a religious person, and I want to share my secular perspective on loss.  I hope my thoughts will be meaningful to others suffering from similar loss and tragedy.

In Memory of Owen Kipp Sevre
by Erik Sevre

Owen Kipp Sevre was my brother. Is my brother. In my studies of physics, I learned how atoms are forged in supernovae, with temperatures exceeding 100 billion Kelvin. That reminds me of being a child. Growing up with Kipp, we were brothers, we teased each other, we would fight, and we would explode at each other with temperatures not quite exceeding 100 billion Kelvin.

Every atom that was a part of Owen was forged in a supernova by fusing together atoms. My relationship with my brother was very similar. Early in life, we were not very close, but through our repeated supernova incidents, we eventually found a way to fuse, become close, become friends.

The atoms forged in a supernova have been around for billions of years; they have not gone anywhere. Every time I take a breath, I am breathing molecules of air that I shared with Kipp. As I move on, and continue forward, my brother continues to live. The particles that we shared continue to be a part of my life. I know that not only is Owen Kipp Sevre in my memories, but part of him is literally with me in every breath I take.

For everybody who was touched by the energy of my brother, I want to remind you of the first law of thermodynamics, which states that energy is not created, but also states that energy is not destroyed. My brother was full of energy. And all of that energy, every unit of heat, every vibration he created, every photon that touched his face still exists, and will exist forever. This makes sense to me, since my brother, like my father and myself, is stubborn, and I couldn't imagine his energy fading from the universe without a fight.

My brother has had a great influence on my life. A lot of who I am today comes from trying to copy my big brother. As children, my brother and I saved our pennies to buy our first Nintendo Entertainment System; today, I am still saving pennies to buy a new Nintendo. Kipp could juggle, so when I received my Klutz Book of Juggling, I couldn't give up until I could juggle, like my brother. Owen could work miracles with computers, and showed me how to program when he was fifteen. I didn't get it then, but I continued programming to this day, ultimately making a career of it in an attempt to unravel the mysteries he had unlocked in high school.

I am who I am today because of my brother. He protected me when I needed protection. He influenced me more than he could ever know, and helped to forge the man I am today. As I continue to move forward with my life, I will continue to bring my brother with me, in everything I do.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Student Loans: No choice in who profits from your education

Recently I received an email informing me that my student loans would be transferred from my current loan company to another company called Navient. That was odd, since I had just read the day before about how Navient was a part of the same company as Sallie Mae who has had a history of unethical and possibly criminal activities. This upset me, I trust my current loan provider and don't trust my new loan provider. My undergraduate loans are with ACS and will not transfer to Navient, and I would like to keep my loans together as one big happy family.

Recently I have seen a lot in the news about student loans, but I haven't seen anything about how you completely lose any choice in who carries your loans. For most borrowers that means they are paying tens of thousands of dollars to a company, but they have no choice in which company all this cash goes to. I originally took out a loan with Wells Fargo, but shortly after completing my education license this was sold to ACS-Education.

So in my angered state I penned a letter and sent it off to my senators [Sen. Franken and Sen. Klobuchar]. However since I have seen little discussion on this issue I thought I would post my letter publicly.

To the office of Sen. [Franken/Klobuchar], 
I am writing in regards to something that has disturbed me about my student loans. I went to graduate school to get an education license, and when I took out my graduate student loans I was able to choose which bank I would use for my student loans. Shortly after I finished my graduate school my loans were sold from Wells Fargo to ACS-Education. At the time I was a little upset that my choice was undone, and there was nothing I could do about it, but at least my undergraduate loan was with ACS, so I was happy to have all my loans together under one roof. 
Recently I received an email informing me that my graduate loans had been sold to a company called Navient. This was very odd, since I just read an article about how Navient was closely related to Sallie Mae, and had a history of criminal practices in student loan collections. 
So I started out as a consumer, with a choice of where I spent my money, and who would profit from my student loans. Now I am being forced to pay a student loan company who I don't trust, and probably employs many people who participated in criminal actions carried out by Sallie Mae. 
Somebody is able to profit from my student loans, otherwise why would people buy and sell them. But I am unable to control this. Under our current laws is there any way for me to vote with my dollar? If I were wealthy I could chose where I spend my money (by paying off my loans and investing in the companies that I support), but since I am not I am denied my "freedom of speech" if financial transactions are a form of speech (as Citizens United might suggest). 
If there is a way to keep my loans together with a company I trust, I would appreciate any information on how I could do this. Otherwise I ask you to fight for students, and people fighting loan debt, to have the right to make a choice as to which companies we will allow to profit from our loans.  
Thank you greatly for your time, and I look forward to hearing a reply. 
Erik Sevre

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Breaking YouTube: Thoughts on Psy's Gangnam Style getting all the views

In the past few days, I have seen a few articles about Psy's Gangnam Style "breaking YouTube." In some of the articles, they are claiming that the video broke YouTube, or almost broke YouTube. Here are three articles that I have seen on my Facebook feed in the last couple days about this fascinating event!
Or for those who want to see it in Korean:

Looking at these links, I quickly realized that Psy's video didn't break YouTube, it simply found a bug in the code. What happened is that Gangnam Style simply hit the maximum value for a computer integer and the view count stopped there.  Integers are sometimes called "whole numbers," and computers often use 32-bit integers, meaning that the computer uses 32 bits (or 1's and 0's) to store the value of the number. I find it interesting that the view count stopped, because other things could have happened. Consider the following C program:
#include <stdio.h>

int main()
    int value = 2147483647;
    printf("2,147,483,674 + 1 = %d\n", value + 1);
    return 0;

If you compile and run this program, you will see the output:

2,147,483,674 + 1 = -2147483648

Had YouTube just kept adding to the count past the maximum, we would have seen a negative number of views. This tells us that the number 2,147,483,648 is the max value for a 32-bit integer. It also tells us that something was in place to prevent this number from wrapping around to a negative number. Perhaps there was a check that the the new view count can't be less than the last view count, or perhaps that negative view counts aren't allowed.

Also YouTube could have prolonged this problem by using something called an "unsigned int," meaning that it only used positive numbers (hence doubling the maximum value).

YouTube has now apparently upgraded to 64-bit integers, creating a new max value of 9,223,372,036,854,775,807. With this, each person on Earth would need to watch the video an average of 1,294,508,356 times before it broke again! However, they could have used unsigned 64-bit integers for a maximum view count of 18,446,744,073,709,551,615, but I guess 9.22 quintillion views was enough for YouTube.

So, how long would it take everyone on Earth to watch the video and reach the limit? If we assume each person is only using one computer at a time, we can try to guess.
Psy's video has a time of 4:12 or 252 seconds, so all people on earth would need to watch it for about the next 326,216,105,712 seconds, 5,436,935,095 minutes, 90,615,584 hours, 3,775,649 days, 10337 years, 1033.7 decades, 103 centuries, or 10 millennia.

Let's all open our browsers and watch the video a few more times!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Khan Academy & Friday Blogging

I just noticed that I haven't written anything in over a year, so I am going to try and do a better job of posting regular content. Hopefully I will find time in my schedule to post something every Friday, but we will see if I can keep that going.

Khan Academy Math

My Mission Progress today
This week I want to talk about Khan Academy (  I have been playing with Khan Academy to keep my math skills nice and sharp. OK, my math is probably beyond most of what is on Khan Academy, but I do find that the math drills on the site keep me mindful of "simple" mistakes that I often make. Also they do dive into some pretty in depth topics from calculus and differential equations, so if somebody has mastered all the math on Khan Academy they know a lot of math.

One of my goals on Khan Academy is to get a 100% completion for all the math lessons. At first I thought it would all be "trivial", but working through the statistics exercises helped me to realize there are a few bits and pieces that need to be brushed up. I'm also hoping that they will continue to add mastery problems from calculus and differential equations.

I had played around with Khan Academy back when I was a high school teacher and I liked the setup, but it was a little bulky to try and master everything from the past. So when I logged in recently I was pleased to see that they added a new Mastery Challenge feature that allows you to quickly gain mastery in topics; this is much nicer than the previous method requiring repeated completion of drills. As a user you can gain mastery through a mastery challenge (kind of like a test) or through practice (kind of like homework).  Mastery challenge is a quicker way to gain mastery so I have been working on that to better optimize my time on the site.

Sample Mastery Challenge problem
If I was a high school teacher again I would want to tell my class, "Hey just go play with Khan Academy". Sure, this might not go over well with the administration, but this site does a really good job of assessment. As a teacher I always wanted to be more of a coach than an authoritarian, and I think the current Khan Academy website allows for teachers to act in a role that is more a helper and facilitator, then the role of a lecturer.  When I look at the math questions they are doing a really good job of asking a wide range of questions to check for understanding. They ask questions in multiple ways, and find a way to work inquiry into their assessment. Overall I think any math teacher should be aware of the current state of the website.


They also have pages to teach programming, so I have been poking my head around those lessons. They have a very in depth system for teaching Javascript, a language that I don't know well and haven't used much. Despite my lack of experience in Javascript I can see that are taking a good approach to teaching programming.

Community of Programmers

They have created a community of programmers by allowing students to share their programs online. Sometimes I have fun just going through the programs and playing games people have made.

What makes this really cool is that if someone likes a game, they can take the program and modify it! This is the perfect way to teach students to write readable code, so that it can be more easily shared with other people. A lot of non-programmers and new-programmers don't realize that it is important to have good comments and good formatting of a program because people spend more time reading code than writing code. I wish this was around when I taught my intro to programming high school course!


So while the majority of the programming on Khan Academy is focused around Javascript they have some other interesting units to teach topics in Computer Science. I've been having fun going through the site playing with some of the Computer Science activities for teaching Cryptography and code-breaking. Most of what I have done so far is very trivial, but it is a fantastic introduction to cryptology. I haven't got that far into the lessons, but I hope that they get into the connection between number theory and cryptology at some point.

Currently they have some very cool activities allowing people to play with ancient cryptology (I haven't played with the modern stuff yet, but I'm guessing there are programs for that too). Like the general programming lessons the crypto programs are also a part of the community, so anyone can take the programs and play with them and share them with others.

My Khan Academy Energy Points as of today

Other Topics

While my focus has been to look at math and programming topics, I do want to point out some of the other topics available to study on the website. I love science and plan to work through a lot of these lessons, but I haven't had a chance to yet. In the past they were just videos online, but seeing how they have overhauled the math/programming lessons I am guessing that if they are "Video Only" they will probably be turned into awesome lessons before too long.

Here is the topic list with most of the non math topics:

Science Topics:

Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Cosmology and Astronomy, Health and Medicine,


Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Finance and Capital markets, Entrepreneurship


History, Art History, American Civics

Test Prep:


From the various topics on the website I think it would be fun to look at some of the science projects and play with them. Perhaps I will post some of them online here if I find anything interesting.

Ok, so that was what I had on my chest about Khan Academy.
Like I mentioned earlier I hope to try and write something every week.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Creating and Uploading KML files to a Blog

Nothing New, But a Useful Tool for Geoscientists

Embedding a Google Earth with a custom KML file is not anything new that you can do, but I think it is a useful tool for Geoscientists. I also found some complications at the Google tutorial (basically hard to find links) that I am trying to iron out with my descriptions below. And in addition to an attempt to make life easier for others I am also trying out to see if everything works the way it was presented on the Google tutorial. I found that uploading documents to Google Docs doesn't work quite right with Google Drive (which surprises me, I probably made a mistake somewhere).

Recently I have been playing with the Google Earth tools for embedding Geophysical data in websites. It is actually a fairly simple processes, so I will go through the steps and embed a KML document in this page.
  1. You will need some kind of webspace or a blog that will allow you to edit HTML and add some scripting code.
  2. And you will need to create KML data and check that it looks right in Google Earth.
  3. The KML file needs to get online.
Once you have those in place you will be ready to walk through the tutorial at this site:

Since uploading the file took a little work I will outline what I have done to put my data online and how I have created the embedded Google Earth widget below. Basically I just followed the steps in the link I gave above.

Uploading KML File A Google Web Page or Google Drive (formerly Google Docs)

In Google Drive I created a folder called kml, and I uploaded my KML file for a walk I sometimes take on campus at Seoul National University (SNU).
This site might help with uploading your KML file:
  1. Upload File
  2. Set Visibility to Public
  3. Get a link to the file. 
NOTE: Google Drive didn't work correctly for me, So I redid the steps uploading my data to a Google Site. If you got Google Drive to work with your KML file please let me know what you did so I can double check to find where I made a mistake.

I uploaded my data to a Google Site by creating a "New Page" and for the kind of page I selected "File Cabinet". Then I uploaded my KML file and copied the download location from the download link created.

Using the Embed KML Gadget

The KML gadget creator is located here:

In the Creator paste the URL for your KML file into the correct box.
You can adjust the following parameters:
  • Adjust Title for the Gadget
  • Set Height & Width (Bigger viewers will load more slowly, I went with the default 500x400px)
  • Set Border Color
  • And Control what data is loaded with your KML file.
When your done picking your settings, then hit the button to "Get the Code", and the code will appear below on the page.

Embedding the code in your webpage/blog

You will have to have a way to add html, and you can add the scripted code in your HTML where you want your embedded map!

You may need to download the Google Earth Plugin for your browser, but when you do you should see the map I created for my occasional after-work walk.

I hope this guide is useful to helping you to integrate your Google Earth KML file into your web page!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Less thinking, more sexy posting!

I have found that I am not posting to my blog very often, and I think it is because I have all these great ideas. But the problem with great ideas they require a lot of work and preparation. So I am going to worry less about preparing things, and just post more. That way I will be able to share all sorts of little things that I am thinking of.

The title of this post comes from a recent comic I read on "The Oatmeal".

So my motivation to post is that I was listening to the music video by MC Frontalot. I like his flows and this song just gets in my head and sticks there!

So go forth and nerd it up. Don't forget a torch!

Friday, December 23, 2011

AGU 2011

I want to write about all the people I met at AGU to share my experience, as well as help me remember some of the great ideas and details I came across at AGU.

I am posting all my photos to my flickr page:

I met a lot of people so I will create a list below. I know the list is incomplete, but I hope I have included enough to spark my memories in the future!

Of course I met with my Korean Colleagues:
Sang-Mook Lee, Changyeol Lee, Byung-Dal So

Then I met with people I know from the University of Minnesota:
David Yuen, David Kohlstedt, Evan Bollig (now at FSU and NCAR), Shunichiro Karato (now at Yale), Saswata Heir-Majumder (now at Maryland), Matt Brotten, Gretchen Beebe

Then there are people I have never worked with but met at AGU (some I knew before others I met for the first time at the conference).
Klaus Regenauer-Lieb, David George, Donald Turcotte (for a brief hello), Paul Tackley,  Yoshi JBD Kaneko, Yichen "Jack" Zhou, Liang "Larry" Zheng, Thomas Geenan, Geraldine Robbins, Yoshio Okamoto, Chris Atchinson, Gina Applebee, and many others I can't recall at the moment.

I had some fantastic conversations with a lot of people at AGU.

Gina Applebee is hands down one of the coolest new people I met at AGU. She is a graduate student in geosciences, but what is really cool is the way she is working to help create educational experiences for the blind. I am unsure of her complete story, but I know that she used to be able to see but has lost her vision, and we had a talk about the tools she uses to help her study. I have a lot of interest in teaching the blind because I want to know more about how to create resources to help the blind learn learn mathematics and computer programming. She is a very cool person, and my description does her little justice. I plan to be in touch with her more in the future.

Yoshio Okamoto, is a high school teacher in Japan who is using  spectral 3D technology to visualize seismic data using POV-Ray. I thought he was a real cool guy doing something I wish I had done years ago! POV-Ray is some fantastic software especially for visualizing simple objects. It uses a syntax similar to C++/Java and allows users to create 3D graphics using basic geometric primitives.

Saswata Majumder was a graduate student when I first met him at the University of Minnesota, and now he is all grown up and a professor at the University of Maryland! It was so good to get caught up with him at AGU; I would often find myself wondering what Sash was up to these days. Now I know and I am very happy to be back in touch with him. It is also really cool that he has come to the dark side of computation and spends a lot of time working on computational geosciences!

I spent about 2 days discussing various computational ideas with Evan Bollig. Back at the U of MN he was an undergraduate at the U of MN with basic math and general computer science skills, and now he almost has a Ph.D. in Computational Science and he has a thing or two to teach me about mathematics! We have a lot of common interests, we both bought "Computational Geodynamics" by Taras Gerya, and the last one to work through all the examples in C++ and Matlab has buy a pitcher of beer.

David George was at AGU for a few days and we had a good chance to talk and I am really hoping to continue working with him in the future. He is a mathematician who works for the USGS developing software solutions to mathematical problems that relate to geophysics. He has written the best software to solve the shallow water equations I have seen, as well as applying the software to work on debris flows and other situations that normally aren't accessible to programs solving the shallow water equations.

So that is a brief recount of people I met and some of the topics I discussed at AGU. It is only the tip of the iceberg, but I don't want this post to go on forever so the rest will have to live in my memories!