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2019 February 15

Why do I write?

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 19:56
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O Why Do You Write? Charles French asks

I have a question for all you out  there who write, and that includes writers of books, poetry, plays, nonfiction, and blogs. If I left out any kind of writing, you are included also.

Why do you write?

I wrote my textbook Applied Analog Electronics because I was creating a course for which I could find no suitable textbook. I wanted a college-level introduction to electronics that was focused on designing things, not on applied math. I don’t have an objection to math (there is plenty in my textbook), but I wanted it to be there to solve a particular design problem, not just with sterile exercises. The central theme of the book had to be iterative engineering with design, construction, and debugging of interesting circuits, with almost everything else as support for that activity.

All I could find on the market either delayed design until the third or fourth course (which seems to be the standard approach in EE departments) or was very hand-holding—telling students exactly what to wire and leaving no electronics design to the students.

When I started the book writing, I already had a fairly thorough set of lab handouts and felt that the book would be a simple rewrite with a bit of additional material. Boy, was I wrong!

The book has taken over much of my life (when I’m not teaching the course from it or grading student work) for the past few years. I had a “finished” draft at the beginning of January, but students in my class have pointed out about 170 problems with it, and they are only halfway through the book. A lot of the problems were tiny copy-editing things (commas, spaces, spelling errors), but some were substantive. I have about 50 to-do notes accumulated for me to work on this summer.

I think that this year’s students have been motivated to find errors by the token amount I pay for each error found (25¢) and by the “leaderboard” on Piazza, where I keep track of what I owe each student. To encourage more feedback, I try to be generous in allocating the quarters—something doesn’t have to be a real mistake, if I agree that the wording can be improved or something needs to be rewritten for clarity or completeness.  Students can ask questions about something they don’t understand, and if that triggers a specific idea for a change to the book, I give credit for that also.  (Having question-triggered corrections means that even students at the bottom of the class can get credit for book corrections.)

The question of why I write on this blog is a harder one.  Sometimes I am trying to share something I learned, sometimes I’m asking for help finding a solution to a problem, sometimes I’m motivating myself by making something public (like my weight and exercise records), sometimes I’m just thinking out loud (like many of my posts about the design of my course).  I’d like to say that I blog for the social connections, but so few people respond to my posts that I can’t really pretend even to myself that I am having a conversation.

I think that a few of my posts have been valued (at least Google thinks enough of them for people to come to them with searches), so I have some incentive to keep on writing.

2019 January 21

More typos than expected

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 16:53
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When I released my textbook in December, I offered 25¢ for each typo or other mistake found in the book.  I expected, based on how much material was new, to have about 50 typos in the book.

My students have already found 42 errors, and they are only up to about page 200, so I’m having to revise my error estimate upward to about 100 errors.

This year’s class seems to be pretty sharp—they have done much better on the first two quizzes than last year’s class did, and in two weeks they have already found about as many typos as last year’s class did over two quarters.

2019 January 20

Promote Your Book Party!

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 17:59

I am participating in  January Promote Your Book Party! – charles french words reading and writing announced as follows:

With 2019 well underway, I thought it was a good time to have the next Promote Your Book Party!

Go there to see a number of authors announcing their books (with links to buy them). Most of the books are fiction, not textbooks like mine.

2018 December 30

Book is done (for now anyway)

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 17:38
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I released the final version of the book today, with all my edits from the summer and fall. No more edits are expected until summer 2019—unless a big error is found that I need to correct quickly.

Although I’ve raised the minimum price (to $5.99 from $4.99), the coupon LeanpubHolidaySaleHoHoHo is good through 2019 Jan 1 for the old price.

Students in BME 51A for Winter 2019 should have gotten their coupons for free copies.

Anyone who bought the book or used a free coupon in the past can get the new version for free.  The URL is now, though the old URL should re-direct.

I’m offering a token payment for the first report of any error (25¢ per error, and I’ll scale that up for bigger errors).  For students or tutors in the class, I’ll pay cash at the end of BME 51B.  For anyone else, I’ll pay by PayPal.

The book now has

603 pages
302 figures
12 tables
475 index entries
142 references


2018 December 19

Textbook on sale

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 18:48
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My textbook is part of LeanPub’s special holiday sale.  For the rest of 2018, you can get it for only $4.99 (instead of the usual $5.99) with the coupon

Note: students in BME 51A should have gotten a coupon to get the textbook for free.

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