Mike Huben

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Welcome to the Mike Huben wiki! The URL to this site is as simple as I can make it: huben.us

My email address is also simple: mike@huben.us

I thought a wiki would be the simplest way to organize much of my online activity: eventually, wikis will supplant my other sites. This page is organized roughly by my interests, with the things that might be relevant to my students first.


Get to know me and my thinking

In the greenhouse at IKIAM University

A brief sampler from below and elsewhere:


Haemactis sanguinalis, female (Blood-Red Skipper)

Right now, I'm in transition from teaching in the US to becoming an entomologist in Ecuador. You can read about it in my new blog Metamorphosis. I am engaged to Alina Freire Fierro, who is now a research professor at IKIAM University.

I'm doing some evaluations for disease resistance in tomatoes, with 38 varieties growing so far at IKIAM. I have seed for another 80 varieties, seed for 50 varieties of peppers, and much more seed besides.

Alina and I both have sizable libraries. I love the folding bookshelves that I brought from the US, but we don't have nearly enough. So we had 25 new custom folding bookshelves built by a local carpenter.

I've been living in 4 cities in Ecuador:

  • Quito: the high-altitude capital (2800m), quite large, with access to almost anything. Crowded and polluted.
  • Tena: a rainforest city (600m) and a delight to live in. Ikiam University where my sweetheart is employed.
  • Latacunga: a cold, high-altitude city (2800m), where my sweetheart was employed for 2 years at Universidad Technica Cotopaxi.
  • Banos: a wonderful tourist town at cloud forest altitude (1800m) at the entrance to the rain forest. A perfect climate and excellent restaurants. My sweetheart's home town, and where we will be living and eventually retiring.

In 2022, we will be living for 8 months in Guangzhou, where Alina has a fellowship at the South China Botanical Garden. Here's the location.

Gardening, Botany and Agriculture

Mucuna klitgaardiae with my favorite botanist, Alina.
A corner of my US garden in peak season.

My mom has a picture of me staring intently at Petunias on Jones Beach at age 2, so I guess I've been a plant guy for 60 years or so. I grew my first seedlings in first grade, and have not stopped since then. I worked in the botanical greenhouse of the Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University for a few years, caring for their live botanical collection of several thousand species in the greenhouse and their outdoor garden. I wanted to be a farmer for a while, until I realized that I had dreadful allergies. My home garden near Boston had a bit over 300 varieties of perennials and shrubs, not counting daylilies (see below.)

Currently, I am working on a Tomato Project with some students at IKIAM University, in Tena, Ecuador. The goal is to find the most disease resistant varieties (and perhaps breed with them) to find tomatoes that do not need greenhouse protection from rain-spread diseases.

Now I am in Ecuador: here's my list of Ecuador Botanical and Gardening Resources.

Entomology and Evaniidae

Mouse skin mites using Jamin-Lebedeff interference microscopy.

One of my true loves has always been Entomology. I used to specialize in Acarology (the study of mites), and built a collection of a thousand slide-mounted specimens (and who knows how many more in alcohol that I've never mounted.) I've got a substantial number of colorful mite photographs that I've always wanted to publish, photographed by my friends in the New York Microscopical Society and me. After my last sabbatical collecting insects in Ecuador (1988), I finally settled on my current specialization, the Evaniidae (a family of wasps that parasitize cockroach egg cases.) I study these at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology on an unofficial basis. I'm also a member of the Cambridge Entomological Club.

One of the fun aspects of being a wide-ranging collector is that my collections are used for describing species.

A warty leaf beetle, Neochlamisus gibbosus (Fabricius, 1777). Looks just like my car did!

I have always named my cars: my previous Scion xB is named Neoclamisus because it looks like the beetle.


Age 18, working in the genetics lab at Cornell.

I grew up in Plainview, NY (on Long Island.) I was thrilled to escape to Cornell University where I studied plant breeding, botany, entomology, and computer science. I had many part-time jobs there, working in a genetics lab (photo), the botanical greenhouses, the insect collection and the computer labs. I was a brother in Triangle Fraternity (see: Revenge Of the Nerds.) I worked 3 years for Control Data in NY City, then Minneapolis, and then took a year-long road trip around the US collecting insects and mites in 1981. I moved to Boston, worked six more years, then took a 7 month trip to Ecuador to collect more insects and mites in 1987. I returned to Boston and immediately married, bought a house in Arlington, and worked in software until I changed to teaching high school in 2005. Right now, I'm in transition from teaching in the US to becoming an entomologist in Ecuador. You can read about it in my new blog Metamorphosis.


Mike, Carol, Robert and Peggy.

When I married in '88, my ex-wife Peggy and I both changed our name to Huben (mine used to be Huybensz.) Our daughter Carol was born in '90, and our son Robert was born in '93. As of 2021:

  • Peggy teaches Chemistry in Somerville.
  • Carol is teaching Social Justice in Northampton.
  • Robert has completed his doctorate in mathematics at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
  • I am engaged to Alina Freire Fierro.
Alina and Mike.


From 2010 until 2014, I was a math + CS teacher at Boston Latin School. I've taught:

I was the faculty sponsor for the following student organizations:

I gladly write recommendations for my students, present and past. Just ask.

I'm a science/math/technology weenie, and have also taught Biology, Chemistry, Physical Science, Design Technology, Honors Precalculus, Precalculus and Discrete Math.

I've written an Intelligent Design Overview For US Science Teachers.

Why Is Math Hard?

The One Ring: a riff on Tolkein about unit circles. I always included this on tests to amuse the students.

Linear Programming: an innovative method of teaching a badly taught concept.

If 1∘4=5 and 2∘5=12 and 3∘6=21 then what is 8∘11? (The ∘ symbol is an unspecified operator.) The answer might surprise you.

Here's my Resume.

An idea for a Truth course.

Some Recreational Math Problems.

My theme song is "Weird Al" Yankovic's White & Nerdy.

  • Nerdscore.gif

Aikido and Iaido

Tachi-tori, Aikido techniques for taking swords.

I've practiced Aikido and Iaido at New England Aikikai with the late Mitsunari Kanai for more than twenty years. I'm yondan (4rth degree black belt) in Honbu style (USAF) Aikido and sandan (3rd degree black belt) in Muso Shinden Ryu Iaido. I haven't been active in Iaido lately. I teach children's classes and practice at New England Aikikai, and I also sometimes attend Aikido Tekkojuku Boston, a newer school founded by numerous instructors from New England Aikikai. I also have taught at the Harvard Aikido Club and the Tufts Aikido Club. I met my wife at the Aikido dojo, and the whole family practices.


Terry Pratchett's "Hogfather".

I read omnivorously in science, politics, and philosophy, but I've always read a LOT of SF and Fantasy. My favorite has long been comic fantasy, especially the Discworld and Dresden Files series. My favorite SF is Babylon 5, the most enormous and brilliant space opera in print or film: 120 episodes of one complex story. It makes Star Wars look like the overproduced pablum that it is. I avoid almost all sports programs and events. I don't have a working TV: I tend to watch the rare interesting TV show on the internet. John Stewart and Stephen Colbert are like unto gods.

Daylily Breeding

Vanilla Stella, one of my daylily introductions.

Daylilies are my major garden interest. While I refuse to be so smitten that I myopically class other perennials as "companion plants", I've built a medium size assortment (400) for garden pleasure and hybridizing. I've always wanted to hybridize again, and daylilies are such a no-care and simple group to work with that I could not resist. I currently have about 3000 seedlings, 1000 from each of the past 3 years. I am a modestly successful hybridizer with about 20 introduced varieties that sell widely in North America and Europe.

I'm a member of both local daylily societies:

I regularly speak around the region about my hybridizing program and my gardening interests.

Cooking and Eating

Viennese Crescent Cookies, one of my family traditions.

I do a lot of cooking in many styles, mostly really yummy but none terribly expert.

I cook some Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Italian, Viennese, and Latin American dishes, as well as Canadian/American mainstays.

I most love Asian foods with the exception of Korean and Indonesian (I just haven't grown accustomed to them.) Europe holds less gastronomic allure for me, since I don't appreciate wine or cheese, can do without beer, and can't eat most sausages or cured meats because the salt levels are too high. My favorite Chinese places to eat out are:

  • Mary Chung (Central Square, Cambridge) and
  • Yen Ching (Harvard Square, Cambridge.)

If anybody can get me Mary's recipe for Dun Dun Noodles or the Yen Ching recipes for Kung Pao Chicken, I'd be grateful. I also enjoy Dim Sum in Chinatown. When I crave Japanese food, I usually go to the restaurants of my Aikido friends:

  • Yasu Itoh's Tampopo in Porter Square, Cambridge, or
  • Shinji Murakai's Toraya north of Arlington Center.

Philosophy and Countering Libertarianism

David Friedman visiting me. He called this picture "consorting with the enemy".

My philosophical ideas spring from skepticism, relativism, positivism, pragmatism, progressivism and humanism. When evaluating ideas, I work with the assumption that theories ought to match reality -- it is surprising how much theory matches reality badly. This tends to produce a preference for ideas that are valid (ie. work well) rather than theoretically correct (without working well.)

  • Disgust With Philosophy
    I believe philosophical thinking is a necessary tool. But not for any knowledge or wisdom. The only valid use I find for philosophy is to REJECT ideas: most prominently those of philosophers. When students tell me they are interested in philosophy, I want to steer them away from it: what a futile waste of time!

Of course there has to be SOME philosophy that I like. I generally like the philosophers who lean towards science (such as Dennett) and some of the golden oldies such as Peirce and Dewey, though I confess that I haven't read much of the latter two.

  • Evolution and Moral Ecology by Timothy Dean. I haven't spotted a difference between his ideas and mine, though his are greatly better elaborated and explained. Essentially why there is an ecology of moralities and how they have evolved. While he doesn't go there, it effectively answers religious claims to exclusive morality.


Vortices from jet engines resembling the Flying Sphagetti Monster.

I am a zealous, evangelistic, crusading agnostic and skeptic, in religion, politics, pseudoscience, and quack medical practice. I've been posting for about 40 years (first on the old PLATO system and later on USENET) to political and religious newsgroups. I'm a huge fan of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and PZ Meyers.

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