Monday, July 25, 2005


I found this in an old cardboard box full of text books:

In college I was an English major and the only math class I took was "Excursions into Mathematics." With that title I was fully expecting the Letter People to pop out and help me with my homework. I think my problem with math is that it is wholly illogical. I say that in the face of nearly unanimous opposition.

Logic is based on math, they say. The entire universe is quantifiable and predictable because the language of mathematics so accurately displays all of its qualities, they say. Well, yeah there is that, but for me math stopped making sense in elementary school.

It started off making perfect sense. I got a little barrel of plastic bears. They were multicolored and slightly resembled gummi bears, except that they were too hard for me to chew. Not that Iwas the one who thought they were too hard to chew. I was sure that with a couple of hours and a healthy supply of saliva I could at least get some molar marks in them but my teacher assured me in a most reasonable voice that the intended purpose of these bears was not chewing. She told me that one bear plus one bear was equal to two bears. I was a little mistrustful of her on that one because she had just tried to take bearchewing out of my life, but I thought I would give it a try. If it didn't work maybe she would see that math is not the intended use for these after all, and in the lack of alternatives, chewing could resume. So I spit out one bear and then I spit out one bear. I counted each to make sure that the number didn't change. One and One. I pushed them together, wiped my hand off and counted. One-two. There were now two bears! I gasped and then choked as what felt like eight bears tried to go down my throat. I quickly spit all eight of those trouble makers out and raised my hand. The teacher called on me.

"It works." I said, "It really works one bear plus one bear equals two bears!"
"What?" she said, "Don't talk with your mouth full."

When they took away the bears math stopped making sense. Once they took away the bears I was left with an enigma. "One plus one equals two," they tried to tell me.
"One what? Two whats?" I asked
"Oh, one unit, two units"

Do you see where it gets confusing? If you don't define what you are "plussing" then you can't be sure of the result. One what plus one what does not always equal two whats. One man plus one woman will eventually equal three, or four, or more. One half plus one half equals one! How can you add whats?

Then you get to algebra and they tell you A + B = C. A whats plus B whats equals C whats? Now you don't even know how many whats you are adding together!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Wash that Stylus

Hello friend and welcome to my basement.

We all have a basement in our minds. This is mine. It's nothing fancy, but it's comfortable enough. Most of the stuff lying around here is junk, but there are a few interesting things. I'm glad you came. I was cleaning things up a little and I found this in an old plastic storage container.

This happened to me a few months ago at work.

First perhaps, a little background:

There are two kinds of guys: the guy who can look you in the eye, carry on a conversation and laugh boistrously while standing next to you at the urinal, and the guy who cannot. I have always been the latter. Shy bladder, stage fright, call it what you like, if there is somebody else in the room, and especially if they have acknowledged me in some way, the circuits just shut off and I can no more summon a trickle by thinking of waterfalls and the condensation on the outside of a glass of tea, than I could charm a cobra out of a basket in a room full of mongooses (or is it mongeese?)

I blame my grandfather.

He had the disconcerting compulsion of sneaking up on you whilst in the restroom, waiting by the door for the sound of tinkling to begin and then bellowing "CUT 'TOFF!" as he threw open the door and pinched a butt cheek. The resulting abrupt cessation of tinkling never failed to entertain him.

Fast forward in my life to two months ago. I'm in a bathroom at work which has one urinal, and next to it, two stalls. The stall next to me is occupied and I can see the fellow's sneakers and bunched pants under the partition and hear his labored breathing. I will spare you the details of all five senses because I am quite sure you get the idea. The stall next to my neighbor issues a flushing sound and the former occupant exits to wash his hands. So there is a washer behind me and a pooper next to me. (Please forgive the crudity.)

At this very moment, with these surroundings, and in mid-stream my PDA (Handspring Visor Edge for the detail oriented) starts tooting out the Imperial Death March from Star Wars. I immediately blush and go into panic mode. Working with only one hand for obvious reasons, I try to remove the PDA from my pocket, open the cover and turn off the alarm without hosing my loafers. I get the silly thing to shut up, and set it on the urinal to finish my business when the stylus comes free of its restraints and clatters noisily under the stall wall to my right.

Face blazing now, I zip up, pocket the PDA and contemplate what to do next. Pooper is probably just as embarrassed as I was because he was really getting into it when my little silver stylus came clattering into his personal space. He didn't say a word and neither did I. He had gone silent, and I didn't know if it was because he was through or because he was in the same hesitation as I. Finally the poor fellow sees a pale, shaking hand dart under the wall, pluck the stylus with pointer and thumb (with pinky extended of course) and whisk back out of sight.

Apparently his silence did signify that he was done because as I was standing up his door started to swing open. Terror filled me and I fled, stomping up a flight of stairs just outside the restroom. You see I did not want to make eye contact, did not want to stand shoulder to shoulder with him washing my hands. I went into a bathroom one floor up and washed my hands in there, trying not to laugh too loudly at myself, fearful that beyond all reason he would pursue me into this restroom and demand an accounting for my behaviors.

Down deep I know that normal people do not have to deal with stuff likethis.