26 June 2009

Frank Gabron

The Penn State Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering department's last alumni newsletter had a small feature on Frank Gabron (article follows). I received one of his scholarships while I was an undergraduate, and it (along with my parents being very cool) was what allowed me to spend long enough on campus to pick up a double major with a double minor. Every year I wrote Gabron a thank you note, and every year he wrote back.

One fall his response said he was coming into State College and would like to have dinner. We ate at the Nittany Lion Inn and made small talk. He told some fantastic stories. After dinner we walked outside and shared that awkward I'm-going-to-smoke-dont-judge-me-oh-no-way-you-smoke-too moment. As we stood and talked he asked if I'd like to come to the Penn State game the following day.

I went back to the Inn for a pre-game pep rally with Graham Spanier firing up everyone. We rode over to the stadium and watched the game from the nicest seats I will ever have in Beaver Stadium—the president's box. At halftime we snuck out for a smoke at a place inside the stadium where he knew he could usually get away with one. He was telling me about his Helix Technology Corporation when a campus cop wandered into the outside area. Without missing a beat, the man said "Oh shit, here comes the gendarme!" and cupped his cigarette in his hand behind his back like a kid in a high school parking lot when the coach drives past.

After the game we rode back to the Inn. I fell asleep on the bus on the way back, woke up hurriedly, did a lousy job of saying thank you, and then ran off to flip burgers at Baby's for a closing shift. I don't remember who Penn State played that day, or even if we won. But I do and always will remember that as one of the two or three best weekends I spent on campus.

Update 3 June 2011: It seems Mr. Gabron passed away on the 17th of May at the age of 81. I still and always will smile every time I think of that football game and his generosity in helping me obtain my undergraduate degree.

PSU MNE Spring 2009 Newsletter: Frank Gabron Article

18 June 2009

Trefethen's Gauss Quadrature vs Clenshaw-Curtis Paper

From a quick look into B-spline Galerkin methods, I need to integrate B-spline basis functions against each other. Though I could extract piecewise polynomial representations and integrate them symbolically, it was more fun to see what fixed order Gauss quadrature FOSS existed. I stumbled across Pavel Holoborodko's excellent routines. I'm in the process of preparing a patch for the GNU Scientific Library that ports Pavel's code to GSL conventions (update: patch submitted). Hopefully they'll accept it (update: patch accepted).

While digging around, I ran across a beautiful paper by Trefethen which I just finished on the morning bus ride into campus. Absolutely fantastic.

Is Gauss Quadrature Better than Clenshaw–Curtis?
SIAM Rev. 50, 67 (2008)

The paper is so good that it makes me also want to try implementing Clenshaw-Curtis rules for GSL. Before coding, I need to read this follow up work which it seems may have some numerical details buried within it.

New Quadrature Formulas from Conformal Maps
SIAM J. Numer. Anal. 46, 930 (2008)

13 June 2009

Stack Overflow Dev Day in Austin

Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood will be speaking at Stack Overflow Dev Day in Austin on October 14th. Student tickets to the event are a mere $10 and they provide lunch. Total no brainer.

09 June 2009

Grrr... (Richardson Extrapolation)

Many times, when banging my ahead against on what has to be a really simple problem, I waste a lot of time over-engineering my debugging tools. Behold: richardson.m

(But then, years later, some of this crap comes up in conversation and the tool is already polished enough to hand it to someone else. At least this is what I tell myself...)

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