Playing with the language of math

Associate professor of education Deborah Kuchey had a small amount of summer homework: Read 60 preschool math books translated from Korean into English and edit them for language and math concepts.

She did it in a month.

Kuchey, a math education specialist, was hired by Eye Level, a Korean company that offers special math and language programs for preschool children ages 3, 4 and 5. With headquarters in Korea and now New York, the company is expanding into the U.S., and Kuchey was asked to make sure their Play Math curriculum reads well and meets American standards of preschool math instruction.

Kuchey used the new common core standards as her guide for aligning the Play Math concepts, which included number sequencing, counting, matching, naming shapes. Everything but subitizing. Subi what? That’s teacher terminology for counting from a random number, rather than starting always with number 1.

“Subitizing is part of counting and cardinality,” she says. “I told them it was missing.” Now, hopefully, children at Eye Level programs are learning how to count no matter where they start.

Behind the Green Roof

1 | Xavier’s green roof sits on top of the Hoff Dining Hall and creates an outdoor courtyard for Bishop Fenwick Place, the new residence hall.

2 | The roof is actually structured more like a large pot, with the grass, trees and shrubs

growing in a multilayered container. Sandwiched in between the vegetation on the top and the actual roof at the bottom are a layer of soil, a filtration cloth, a layer of drainage stone and a water barrier.

3 | The soil and grass retain water, decreasing the amount of stormwater runoff. However, due to the additional weight created by the collected water, the building under the roof has to be structurally enhanced.

4 | In addition to saving water, the roof is also a sound barrier, decreasing the intensity of outside noise by 40-50 decibels. In comparison, standard foam earplugs reduce outside noise by 30-40 decibels.

5 | If that weren’t enough, the roof acts as an insulation device, keeping the space underneath cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Thus, the building saves more energy than other buildings on campus and prolongs the lifespan of heating and ventilation systems.

Cigar Czar

They say where there’s smoke there’s fire. But for Kevin McKenna, it means more than that. For him, where there’s smoke, there’s business.

The 2005 communications grad manages the cigar humidor at The Party Source in Bellevue, Ky., so he knows a good smoke when he sees one—enough so that he went out and created one to his own taste.

McKenna traveled to Nicaragua, a country known for its tobacco exports, to learn about the manufacturing process. There, he watched tobacco farmers grow, harvest, ferment and roll premium tobacco into cigars. He was impressed by their intricate knowledge of the plant, which to him seemed like something that couldn’t be taught.

“How do you know when the tobacco finishes fermenting?” he asked one of the Nicaraguan farmers, who had spent his entire life working and living on tobacco fields. “You just know,” the farmer said.

McKenna selected the tobacco to make his own corona blend, which he named La Abeja, Spanish for “the bee.”

“Bees, in folklore, are a symbol of sacred knowledge,” he says. “That farmer knows exactly when to stop fermentation stage, which is the most important step in preparing tobacco. If you stop the process too late or too soon, the whole batch is ruined. It’s just something that he knows from years and years of experience. That’s what makes it good.”

.

[divider] How to smoke a cigar [/divider]

Kevin McKenna’s advice on the best way to smoke a cigar:
1.)  Choose the right one.
2.)  Stake out a spot. “Don’t worry about the [deleted] who give you dirty looks.”
3.)  Clip the end of the cigar.
4.)  Make sure everything’s in good shape. “I like to draw an unlit cigar just to make sure that air is getting through it.”
5.)  Sip on something.
6.)  Lighting matters. “Some people like to use harsh lighters on their cigars; it gives you a hotter, harsher first hit. I like to use a soft lighter on mine.”

Class Behind Bars: My Overnight Stay in County Lockup

It must have been later than midnight, and I was counting the squares on the ceiling. My sleeping bag was a few inches short of being long enough to cover both my toes and shoulders, and a dead spider lay on its back six inches from my face. My cellmate, who had smuggled in chewing gum, was popping it between her teeth.

There were no clocks, no windows. I could only guess the hour. Eventually, the tiles bled together under the fluorescent light, and the gum smacking turned into ambient noise. That’s when I finally fell asleep. Then I heard the gum pop again. And again. And again. And again.

The popping. I needed to get away, even if only for a minute. Irritated, I looked through the cell windows and saw a key on a table just outside. The woman in charge was asleep at the monitors near the key. Her cell phone was turned over so I couldn’t see the time.

Ready for a change of scenery, I pressed the red button above my cot to catch her attention. Her eyes were still closed. I pressed it again. Not even a stir. As I stared at the key and pressed the button for the third, fourth and fifth time, it occurred to me that the whole experiment might be a conspiracy in disguise, designed to keep me there until I lost my mind. I might not actually be getting out in the morning. She needs to wake up right now, I thought, before I do some damage to my cellmate’s gum stash. I started to panic, extending my finger and pressing the red button with more urgency.

She woke up, rubbed her eyes and glanced my way. My pointer finger was rigid, ready to press again in case she did not see me. Thankfully, she did. She walked over and unlocked my cell.

“Feeling it a little too hard?” she asked.

I shook my head yes, pulled up my four-sizes-too-big, jail-issued pants and walked out of that cell before my sentence was up. I only made it six hours behind bars.

Part I: Criminal History


My night in jail was part of Xavier’s Inside-Out Prison Exchange, a course taught inside of the Lebanon (Ohio) Correctional Institution by criminal justice adjunct professor Christine Shimrock. The exchange brings together University students and incarcerated students, and is designed to create dialogue between the two.

When my editor heard that the course culminated with an overnight stay in a county lockup in Mason, Ohio, about 20 miles north of campus, he thought it would be fun to send a writer along. Since none of my coworkers volunteered, I was nominated to cover the story—all 24 hours of it.

This semester, there were eight “outside students” in the class, and 10 “inside students.” The purpose of the overnight exercise, Shimrock says, is to get the outside students to see things from the inside students’ point of view. This is the eighth year that she’s organized the exercise for her students.

“It’s not supposed to scare or intimidate anyone,” she assured me by telephone a few weeks before. “But it’s pretty revealing—I try to simulate the real experience as much as possible. Students come out of this exercise with different perspectives.”

By the time I parked my car at the municipal court, I was nervous. The other students weren’t. They were chatting in a group outside the courthouse, saying things like, “This is way better than having to go to class,” and “So-and-so took this class last year, but he wouldn’t tell me any of the details.”

We walked in at 6:00 p.m., and police officers instructed us to go to the bathroom and change into orange slippers and baggy prison garb. After that, we were cuffed and told to wait silently on the cement benches for our turn to be fingerprinted and processed. We watched as police-trained K-9 units searched our belongings.

My pants were too big and my slippers didn’t fit. When my turn came and the officer waved me over, I thought about asking him for a new pair—preferably one that had two shoes of the same size. Then I saw the solitary confinement room behind him and decided against it. I knew it was going to be a long night.

Part II: Time Served

I’m not going to pretend to know what it’s like to be incarcerated just because I spent an evening in a municipal court cell. County lockup isn’t the same thing as prison. Having sleeping bags or being allowed to buzz your guard to let you out isn’t the same thing as being in prison, either.

For me, the worst part was the mind-numbing boredom. The tile counting, the gum popping and the lack of windows turned minutes into 60 seconds of stretched-out nothingness. I never want to go back.

The best part happened the morning after, when I returned to get the students’ reactions. They were tired, but I could tell that they, unlike most who sleep in a jail cell, didn’t regret staying overnight. Certainly, everyone was happy to head home, but that happiness was undercut by the knowledge that the inside students couldn’t go home too. We left feeling lucky. We also left with a little more understanding of what life’s like on the inside—an important lesson for criminal justice majors.

“I recommend this class to anyone and everyone,” said one student. “I learned so much, and we became close with the inside students. They would be laughing at us right now if they saw how much we complained. This isn’t anything compared to what they go through.”

 

Goetta Life: Saving meaty meals the vegan way

Bratwurst. Chili. Goetta. Cincinnati, nicknamed Porkopolis, is known for its quirky carnivorous dishes. But what if you live in hog city and don’t eat meat? That’s what Caitlin Bertsch, a 2006 math and sociology graduate, asked herself when she cut animal products from her diet in 2010.

“The switch from non-vegan to vegan was easy because I always loved vegetables and fruit,” says Bertsch. “But when my family and I would get together to eat, it did feel like something was missing. I knew that I wasn’t the only person looking for meat-free alternatives to typical Cincinnati foods.”

Bertsch missed goetta the most, which is a German-American sausage that’s made up of spices, ground beef, pork and steel-cut oats. It’s traditionally served with eggs for breakfast or as a sandwich for lunch and dinner.

So she decided to take matters into her own hands. Literally. Using old family recipes and the Internet, she eventually perfected a vegan goetta recipe. The responses from her family and friends were so encouraging that she went back to the kitchen and set her sights on vegan-izing other dishes, like Cincinnati-style chili and macaroni and cheese. They, too, proved to be palate pleasing.

So in 2011, with the help of instructors from SpringBoard Cincinnati—a class that helps creative entrepreneurs start businesses—she launched Vegan Roots, her own meat-free food business. Bertsch cooks from her kitchen at the Brew House near Eden Park and sends her products to restaurants and markets across Cincinnati. She hopes to expand her business to a storefront and is looking into catering options. Ultimately, she’s glad that a different version of goetta is on the shelves—and on her family’s dinner plates.

 

BrewCakes: A tasty blend of business, beer and cupcakes

The taste of a good craft beer is hard to resist. And cupcakes are too. So it makes sense that the two, if brewed together correctly, could make a perfectly delectable dessert.

At least that’s what Emma Royan and Sarah Kinisky thought when they met over a beer one day after work. So they took their thought to the kitchen, and the outcome was the birth of BrewCakes, a business devoted to the irresistibility of cupcakes made with beer. And so far, their plans of world domination by batter and booze have been working out.

Featuring seasonal and traditional flavors, each cupcake recipe is inspired by a different craft beer and includes a shot of liquor in its filling. Royan and Kinisky even have a special place in their ovens for Xavier fans: The Xavier Blue Velvet cupcake is a red velvet Rivertown Hop Bomber IPA cupcake dyed to a perfect Xavier blue. It’s filled with a white chocolate vodka ganache and topped with a vodka-based vanilla buttercream. Xavier’s blue color, the women say, took them hours to perfect.

Together, Kinisky and Royan—like their beer and cake recipes—forge a formidable business partnership. Royan, who works as a special education teacher at a charter school, draws on her communication skills to control the marketing side. And Kinisky, who works as an accountant for Nestle, uses her background in math to figure the company’s financials.

“You know your job is awesome when your bar tab is a work-related tax deduction,” says Royan.

399024_289074811180526_561653448_n

Emma and Sarah’s Favorite BrewCakes

Irish Beer Bomb

A chocolate cupcake made with Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s Conway Irish Ale. Filled with a chocolate ganache whisky shot and topped off with Baily’s Irish buttercream frosting.

The Morning After

A light pancake cupcake made with Rogue Voodoo Donut beer and filled with homemade alcoholic blueberry jam and a maple syrup float. Topped with maple buttercream frosting and bacon.

 

 

Behind the… Foucault Pendulum

pendulum• The Lindner Family Physics Building was built in 1991 to house a Foucault pendulum—a device named after the physicist Léon Foucault. A dome was included in its construction plans to accommodate the length of the pendulum’s wire.

• The pendulum was installed seven years later after a fundraising drive organized by professors in the Department of Physics.

• According to a 1998 issue of Xavier Newswire, the pendulum’s total cost was approximately $25,000.

• The brass ball that hangs off the wire is technically called a bob and weighs 254 pounds—that’s equivalent to the weight of about one and a half kegs of beer.

• The steel wire is 25 feet long.

• Though the bob appears to swing in a circular motion, it actually oscillates on a single plane while the earth rotates around it.

• Only five other Foucault pendulums operate in Ohio, ranging from Cleveland to Portsmouth.

• The map underneath—which is in proper north-south direction—features the United States and is made up of 133 individual pieces of wood. It was designed and created by former physics professor Raymond Miller.

• The map’s design itself is called an intarsia, which is an art technique developed during the Renaissance that involves inlaid pattern and wooden mosaics.

• The map’s pieces, which are cut at 10-degree angles, are made of different types of wood, including Red Oak, African Mahogany and American Walnut.

 

Mapping Peace: The Peace Corp Volunteer Who Painted the World

Marissa Schaefer was looking for something bigger than a classroom when she graduated with a master’s degree in education in 2010. Now, some 3,000 miles, 15 months and one giant map of the world later, she says joining the Peace Corps has turned into the largest—and most rewarding—adventure she’s ever been on.

Ecuador, where Schaefer volunteers, is a small country on South America’s west coast. There, her job is to help teachers become better English speakers, and to help make English classes more effective and fun.

Her latest venture, the World Map Project, has captured the attention of both students and teachers in the school where she works. The world map, a tradition among Peace Corps volunteers, outlines and labels every continent and country on the globe. It took Schaefer, the students and others a week to construct and paint on a wall outside her office. The group finished off the project by bordering the map with their handprints, and the area now serves as a hangout spot for the students.

“My students have seen maps before, but their geographical knowledge was low. Many of them were not able to identify where countries on the same continent were,” she says. “They really loved the idea of the project. They threw themselves into the work and came in early everyday. Their dedication was astounding.”

With one year remaining in Ecuador, Schaefer hopes to accomplish a few more things before coming home. She plans to start a school-wide recycling program, and she wants to organize more teacher training workshops.

And, maybe, she can look at the map on the wall and convince others that life is an adventure and there’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored—just like she’s doing.