Probably Potter

Do you play Harry Potter: Wizards Unite?

I’m a math guy. I understand the nuance of probability and the fact it’s often counter-intuitive. And yet, when I try to explain that to friends, it gets lost in translation.

So I decided I’d do some digging and write about how we often misinterpret probabilistic possibilities (and why do it), and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is the perfect medium to discuss it in a future post. But to make it work, I need your help.

I’m conducting a probability survey and I need players to gather and submit data. The time commitment is yours to decide–you can do it for 30 minutes or a whole week.

On July 30, Wizards Unite’s next event begins: Potter’s Brilliant Calamity. New Brilliant Golden Snitches will be appearing everywhere, and this is what makes it so perfect: There is only one Foundable encounter that appears during this event, and it will have the same rarity / catch rate / recovery chance for all players. This means we can gather a large data set to more easily demonstrate how probability underlies the gameplay.

And so how probability often Confounds us when we try to understand it.

Your job, should you accept it, is simple: Play Wizards Unite and keep track of your spells cast when encountering the Brilliant Golden Snitch. Was it Fair, Good, Great, or Masterful? Did it result in success or failure? Aside from Dawdle Droughts, avoid using Exstimulo Potions–those will change the probability of success, and thereby, negatively impact the data. Once you’ve got your tallies, just submit them using the form below.

Probably Potter: Data Collection

After the event ends, I’ll compile the data, crunch some numbers, and report back with a detailed analysis about why probability sometimes seems so…improbable.

Enter the Matrix (or something like it)

I’m sitting at my computer, staring at a blank screen. There are lessons to plan. And yet I can’t move a muscle. I can’t bring my eyes to look at the textbook I need to reference. I can’t open the templates I’ve made to give myself a starting point. I’m paralyzed.

So I close my computer and go home.

Then, on a whim, I decide to take a bath and read. I’ve been promising myself I’d do this for weeks, looking longingly at the tub and thinking, “I would enjoy that so much,” and yet never doing it. So finally I just did it. And the book I brought was Daring Greatly.

And, oh, does she know my struggles.

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This is Not a Drill

The sirens wail. The wind whips into the windows and they shudder, shaking with the force of falling trees. Desks scrape against the floor as students shove themselves from their seats in unison; feet pound like pelting raindrops on the floor.

On the stairs.

As we make our way to the basement. They scurry to find a place beside the walls; they crouch and duck and cover. The lights flicker off. We’re buried in darkness.

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On the Organization of Things

Being the official unofficial librarian has its perks. Last semester, I got to help decide which books to purchase with the $8000 or so allocated to new book purchases each year. And it was exhilarating. I also got to propose a new literary initiative to promote students’ love of reading–complete with school-provided incentives!

But being the official unofficial librarian also has its downsides. Like extra hours after school that are essentially unpaid. And also organizing our bookshelves.

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Ten Things You Don’t Know About Teachers and Teaching

Grading papers. Sitting in a cafe between two tables with chatty white girls on either side of me. I’m not trying to generalize or say they were basic, but could a conversation get more bland? Even unintentionally overhearing them, I craved a little salt on my tongue.

So the girl on my left, she starts saying that maybe she’ll become a teacher, and she, like, read this article about things you don’t know about teaching until you teach, and like, “I know you get the summers off, but I don’t know if I could go three months without a paycheck.” And I was like, girl, forgive my intrusion, but let me tell you how it really is.

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Five reasons I will never teach creative writing again

Back in the earliest days of my college career, I knew I wanted to be a teacher, but I also knew I never wanted to be a creative writing teacher: Don’t get me wrong, creative writing is one of my passions, but by that time I’d spent years participating in online writers communities, reading others’ stories and providing very detailed feedback.

And, if I may, I was damn good at it. People I’d never met before knew my name because of the quality constructive criticism I gave, and sometimes writers would ask me out of the blue to read their rough drafts or proofread their final copies. I was even invited to judge not one but two different short story competitions!

So why didn’t I want to become a creative writing teacher? And now that I’ve finished teaching a four-week creative writing elective, why will I never teach it again?

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I hate it when you’re right

I slept anxiously last night. The snow began falling before I’d left work, and by the time I stepped out to get my haircut, the roads were disastrous (thankfully, I only have to walk across the street). By nightfall, already a few dozen schools had closed.

So I tossed and I turned and every thirty minutes I opened my phone, checking the time in case I’d overslept, and then checking the school closings: the number steadily grew and grew and grew until, at 7 o’clock, I could wait for it to be called no longer: I was going to work today. So I got dressed (my poor little puppy crying as I did so, because she always knows when I’m going to leave), and then met the bus.

Surprisingly, the buses were on time. That, however, was the only surprise.

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Not My Student

I have a student who speaks badly about women, swears when he shouldn’t, and reacts poorly to perceived criticism and the consequences of his actions.

I ask him casually in the hall how his day is going and he keeps walking without even looking in my direction. I sit down next to him in class to check in and I have to say his name half a dozen times before he begrudgingly acknowledges me. I try to have productive, relationship-building conversations, and he actively shuts me out.

Then he grabs some chalk and writes insulting messages on the chalk boards.

And then he gets pissed off and storms out when he gets in trouble.

But he’s still my student.

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You can’t spell “inaugurate” without “argue”

My feelings are strong, and mixed, and I’ve yet to fully process the significance of a Trump presidency and the impact it’ll have on me, my friends, my family, and my kids.

But no matter how long my mind whirs and spits out warnings and error messages, it doesn’t change the fact that tomorrow the 45th President of the United States will take office–and whether we love him, hate him, or ignore him, that fact cannot be changed.

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BOY

BOY

By which I mean it’s the beginning of the year. I’ve moved to a new city–with all the hassles that come from being the good tenant who follows those disastrous ones you see on HGTV who left the place a god-forsaken wreck–and I’ve begun a new job.

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