Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Anti-Santa

Sung to the tune a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

(Let me hear you now, with feeling!)

Atnas the Christmas burglar,
He cased out a family's house.
Waited until the dad left,
And the daddy's pretty spouse.

Knowing that no one's home now,
He proceeds onto their land,
Atnas the Christmas burglar,
implements his rotten plan.

He begins out on the porch, taking stereos.
Then he moves into the back,
Stuffing things into his sack

Then he went for the tool shed,
Taking all my garden stuff,
He probably pet my dogs' heads,
'Cause the neighbors never heard them "rufff."

Instrumental (as the criminal loads his car in my circular drive and gets ready to leave the property)

Atnas the Christmas burglar,
has things that belong to me.
He's really made me angry,
although he's made my dog's happy.

I've searched through all the pawn shops,
Haven't found my trimmer yet,
At least I still have my family,
including two bad watch dog pets.

Thank you God, at Christmastime, amid our shopping sprees
Nothing's as important as
A good insurance policy

Now I just hug my children,
and I also kiss my wife.
But I sleep with eyes open.
Take my stuff but ne'er my life.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Evil Santa

You've gotta love the environment around a high school campus on the last day of class before final exams leading up to Christmas break. While the majority of students are exempt from their final exams, the halls are as dense and as festive as they are going to be until next year when everyone comes back to school rejuvenated with a hankering for mathematical instruction. Indeed, if there was ever a day where students could use an extra minute in between classes, today would be the day as they casually mender to and from their classes, not worried about being late and missing the first part of the in-class movie.

Not all classes, though, are showing movies. No, some are dedicated study halls where 28 out of 30 students play cards, chess, or draw festive pictures on the board while of the 2 students who actually have to take the final exam, one is asleep in a pool of slobber on his desk no doubt dreaming of working his review problems, while the other student is absent.

There are some classrooms, however, that are the exception to the "dead week" rule: those that forge ahead with new material up until the bitter end. These classes are, of course, the "uncool" classes with the "tyrant" teachers who never give students a break. These tyrants, realizing that most of their pupils (students, not eye parts) are not studying for the finals from which they are exempt anyways, uses every instructional technique in his arsenal of torture to hold the students' feet to the fire until the bitter end. Having quizzes and new lessons for which he, the unfavorable despot, will hold the kids accountable upon their return in January.

"It's not holiday break yet," he's heard to say as a faint, almost inaudible "muuuuuuuhaaaaahaaaaa" enters the consciousness of the forlorn students in attendance, their plaintive cries falling on deaf ears. "Trust me, I'm not only a ruthless dictator, I'm a professional educator," the oppressing autocrat sneers as his pupils (eye parts not students) dilate in ecstasy. It does no good for the already-crushed spirits of the students when the slavedriving wet-blanket of a teacher points out that if he were to allow partying and festivities in his classroom on an instructional day, not only would he be a terrible ward of the taxpayers and their parents' money, but he would have to compensate by giving a classroom lesson on Christmas morning in each students' home in their living room in front of the tree (quid pro quo), and logistical nightmare almost as daunting as Santa's himself, but an egregious violation of church and state. This message falls on deaf ears, much like the ensuing lesson.

So what sort of teacher would do such a thing on such day as the day before the day before most students begin their weeks-long vacation? A teacher that has the students' best interests in mind. A great teacher who has his eyes on the horizon and not just the ground in front of him (this is a great skill to have, but you have to have your eyes on the ground in front of you too, or you're likely to trip on a pothole while jogging on an unrepaired road at night at college right in front of a sorority lawn party . . . . you don't want to learn THAT the hard way . . . like some person I know).

Yes, I'M the person who has done all these things, quizzes on the day before finals AND the tripping thing. Luckily, my students know we very well, and they expected nothing less. Hopefully they also comply (somewhat) willingly because they actually REALIZE that I have their best interests in mind, that I LOVE math, and that there's no greater gift than the gift of knowledge.

It was very rewarding these past two days being the tyrannical, mathematical Santa. Let me just recite the final part of the quotient rule in calculus by saying . . .

Ho Ho.

Monday, December 14, 2009

If cavemen could speak

I hate to always rant and rave about the negative, but stupid people and stupid rules get me much more agitated than the smart, competent ones. Although blogs about the wonder of rainbows and the joy of a long-awaited and much needed rainstorm do wonders for increasing our awareness of the good things in life and help us to "count our blessings," they don't do NEAR enough to help us get those chips off our shoulder.

I'm convinced language was invented out of man's innate need to complain about things that effected and affected him.

(rock hits caveman on head)
  • without language: caveman rubs head and tries to look up at spot on head only to realize he can't see it. continues to rub head.
  • with language: caveman yells "WTH!!" and feels better instantly
(caveman told to do something asinine lest he lose his caveman status)
  • without language: caveman rubs his head and wonders what the rubbish of sounds coming from the caveman making the threat actually mean and how he can actually lose his "caveman" status.
  • with language: caveman yells "WTH!!" then points out that the person making the demand is nothing but an unintelligible caveman and that he would actually PREFER to lose his "caveman" status, if it were even possible, so that he wouldn't have to be associated with such asinine cavemen.
(caveman told to quit making high-quality tools out of flint to attend a seminar put on by another caveman on how to make high-quality tools out of flint, whereby the presenter has never actually made a high-quality tool out of flint, but has rather only read about them in "books," incidentally carved into stone tablets by tools developed by the man forced to attend)
  • without language: caveman forced to attend points to his arsenal of tools and grunts puzzlingly.
  • with language: caveman forced to attend yells "WTH!! Have you ever actually noticed what I'm doing here?! I'm making the darned actual tools you caveman! Look here! Tools. They don't make themselves, but then again, seminars don't attend themselves, I get it. Why wasn't I at least asked to lead the seminar on tool making. I could have actually brought some of my samples. By the way, did you know that saber tooth tigers salivate when they hear about cavemen seminars? . . . What's that???!!! You want me to bring my stone carving tool that I made to the "tool making" seminar that I'm forced to attend so that all the other caveman in attendance can use it to sign in so that their attendance can be well-documented!!!
I'm guessing that since we as a civilization are well passed the caveman era, that we DID eventually begin to speak, and that we developed because bad ideas were voiced and pointed out. This is why caveman committees are not read about and why the saber tooth tiger is extinct. Unfortunately, we are forgetting common sense and our voices are falling on deaf ears. The process and "knowledge" of tool-making is transplanting the product, the importance, utility, and palpability of something real and meaningful, itself.

In a world where students are expected to train to build tools by reading about the process, then being tested on the process itself, it's no surprise that they, when thrown out into the tool-building world, must finally begin their education. It's also no surprise that the teachers actually skilled in tool building who try to teach the physical craft to their apprentices, when constantly required to attend (and document that they attend) tool-building seminars, are exiting the profession.

No extinct species can ever return from their ultimate demise, but I think the caveman is making a strong case to the contrary. If this happens, the saber-toothed tiger will soon follow. Perhaps we need more saber-toothed tigers on the loose BEFORE we all become cavemen again.
Hey, I think it's raining outside . . .

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A perfect way not to spend a day

There are two things I simply cannot do. I cannot sit standing, and I cannot stand sitting.

Although they are both physically impossible (send photo evidence to the contrary and I reciprocate by showing you evidence of division by zero), the latter is something I also cannot tolerate, and booooy did I get to practice my patience today.

As a self-diagnosed adult with ADD (among other ailments), my mind tends to wander without much effort. Although this can be a source of constant creativity and insomnia, there are other side-effects, namely my inability to sit still for extended periods of time as well as my lack of interest in people who ramble, babble, talk incessantly, go on and on, are redundantly repetitive, . . . Being the adult and professional that I am, there are times where I can focus my attention with the skill of a veteran Yogi and feign enough interest so that it appears to those around me that I DON'T have ADD, but perhaps only suffer from a pinched nerve in my coccyx and neck. Today was one of those days.

Attending the second of three installments of forced professional development by my school district, I missed an entire day of instruction to attend a seminar on how to be a better teacher. Much to my dismay, the first rule of the day was NOT "Be in the classroom with your students." Rather, the seminar focused on how we math teachers who teach at levels below calculus can implement calculus-type problems in levels all the way down to algebra I. Luckily for me, my training and experience have afforded me the opportunity to teach at all levels, so many of the ideas at the session were ideas, lessons, and strategies I already know and use. But I'm not above thinking I don't have anything to learn, I try my best to be attentive and to contribute to the conversation so that it's not a waste of time. This becomes increasingly difficult as we work through problem after problem after problem, hour after hour after hour, problems that I easily could have written.

It's days like today that I empathize with my own students and how THEY must feel sitting in my class each day, but then again, it only makes me realize more that if I'm the one in front running the show, I'd better make it entertaining if not interesting or I'll lose my audience. Unfortunately, not all presenters realize or are capable of this. Nothing against this presenter, per se, she was very knowledgeable and capable, but she WAS teaching down the middle to the crowd, and I've never fit in well with crowds. I know that if I cannot first capture my audience's attention, I'll never capture their imagination. Additionally, I must sustain their interest to keep them captive, all while keeping them moving in a direction that I want them to go in.

There were many times today that I felt that all I could do to endure the day was to jump up in front and start leading the seminar myself (this was AFTER I drank down my fair share of "complementary" coffee from the employee lounge.) It got to the point that I took long bathroom breaks even when I didn't have to go to the bathroom. Believe it or not, as many times that I got up to stretch my legs, I never missed a beat when I returned to my seat. It was like watching one episode of a soap opera every two weeks--you still pick up on the plot (even though the infants are now teenagers.)

Luckily, I did get to excuse myself a bit early because of a subsequent engagement--the Math Club Christmas party back at the high school (I hope they're not still waiting for me to come out of the bathroom). I felt so liberated as I walked out the double doors, with Nietzsche's quote resonating in my head: "If it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger." I felt like the Incredible Hulk.

Arriving back at school among all my students who were filled with yuletide, mathematical spirit, I felt once again back in my element. I don't know who was happier to see who. For motivated students who love to learn and for an enthusiastic educator who loves to teach, we all agreed that I should miss school a lot less often. After all, that's what good teachers do, even if they're "weaker" for it.

Perhaps for the final session, I'll pull one out of Tom Cruise's book. No . . . not jumping up and down on a couch, but rather THIS one . . .

Of COURSE I'm awake!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Coming Clean


Forgive me readers, but I have sinned. It's been too long since my last blog entry. In fact, my computer's cache memory did not even recognize me, and I had to retype my username (although it then IMMEDIATELY pulled up my password with an--I could have sworn I heard--"Oh yes. . . of course . . . welcome back most eminent sir.") So much has happened since I last blogged, writing a poem about the rain (if you'd like to read it, log on to the blog that has been posted for the last 3 millennium). Ironically, opposite of what you'd expect, since my "Ode to Rain," it really hasn't stopped. Of course it has transitioned from HOT rain to COLD rain, as the time frame between posts has spanned several seasons, we've been fortunate enough to have had to use the "Resolve" carpet cleaner since then to clean up all the mud spots on the carpet in the house caused by the mixutre of all the formerly DRY dirt with all the WET rain on the lawn.

So what's happened since then? Not a whole lot. Obama is still president (although at the time of my last post he was still then just a president withOUT a Nobel Peace Prize). Since then, 30,000 more troops have been ordered to Afghanistan to fight the chimeral, elusive Taliban by the winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize. (NOTE: the inventor of the prize himself is rolling over in his grave, not only because he is laying on an uncomfortable rock, but because he invented Trinitro Touline, alson known as TNT, or dynamite.)

I blame the lack of pedantic blogging on the current school schedule in which I am forced to operate. Having taught for 10+ (where + means "greater than or equal to 1 second") years under a 90-minute block schedule, meetin each class every OTHER day, this years regulare "work you butt off" schedule has been quite an adjustment. Meeting every class every day but for only 50 minutes has thrown my Circadian rhythms waaaay off. I've been trying to adjust, but I can't help but still being rudly interupted by the dissmissal bell about 2/3 into my lesson, usually right when I'm about to reveal the whole kernal of the lesson. How anticlimactic and unfulfilling is THAT to the studetnts??!!

I'm still in 90 minute mode, but every day.

They say this is better for the students, which I'm OK with. If they get 2/3 less math every day but they get it EVERY day, that's more math in the long run and in smaller chunks . . . provided they are doing their homework. Which brings me to the OTHER change this year.

Homework is worth 0% of their grade, which means it doesnt' count towards their final averages . . . numerically. Try convincing an over-extended teenager that they don't have to do homework but that it is as important as going to the dentist, and you'll have a lot of happy students with excessive plaque build-up. Add to the fact that when they finally DO go to the dentist, he'll not only CLEAN their teeth to a brilliant white, he'll also fill any cavity caused by lack of brushing. Well, I've become the mathematical dentist.

When it comes time for the test, I finally have chance to see, much to my DISsupprise, that many students aren't "brushing." In other words, MOST FAIL (at least according to my standard of brushing 3 times a day AND flossing DAILY). It's obvious that most are brushing once a week, in between episodes of "Glee" and "Grey's Anatomy," (I'm beginning to wonder if I should rename my two math shows to start with "G," or at least be aired on major networks.) As their "dentist," when I finally assess their "teeth," I feel the need to fix everything first, then gently reprimand. This means a generous curve to the scores and a stern talking to, whereby I vow to hold them in "low esteem" if they don't turn their habits around.

I have about as much recourse and influence as an eccentric dentist who happens to make it "cool" to brush constantly, floss daily, and who gives low-fat, tastless, hard, dry (but free) candy on the way out the door.

Consequently, I keep cleaning "more and more," while the teeth get "dirtier and dirtier," simply because no one at home, or in a position of real authority wants to deny children from enjoying their candy.

Draw your own inferences from this fable, the moral of which is: DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

Good luck Unicorns this Saturday. May you beat the Katy Tigers with the cleanest of teeth.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Very Much Needed

Rain, Rain came today.
For all too long you've been away.
Arid creatures want to play.

Rain, Rain you fell from high.
Big fat drops fell from the sky,
Wetting all that time left dry.

Rain, Rain you quenched our thirst.
We were thinking we had been cursed.
It's been so long, it's like the first.

Rain, Rain please hang around.
Keep sending moisture to the ground.
Turn to green all that is brown.

Rain, Rain splash on my face.
Slake me in your cool embrace.
All that is gone, please do replace.

Rain, Rain you're geographic,
You cause problems with our traffic.
But I'm grateful you're not holographic.

Rain, Rain you've got your own Rhyme
From Mother Goose, how sublime.
I'm so jealous. Is that a crime?

Rain, Rain you even get your own Blog!
You sure can be a publicity hog.
Now I can't even go for a jog.

Rain, Rain you have such great powers.
You can cause the death of millions of flowers
When you selfishly withhold your life-giving showers.

Rain, Rain so where have you been?
We've been down here on Earth taking one on the chin.
Now that you've come, I sure hope you have a twin.

Rain, Rain our umbrellas' been forlorn.
With your arrival, our apparati we adorn.
We just wish they were a bit more worn.

Rain, Rain without you we yearn.
Your long term absence gives us much concern.
For our garbage and tree limbs we, by law, can't burn.

Rain, Rain it's feast or its famine.
May you last longer than a spawning salmon.
Stay for a while, won't you? A-men.

Rain, Rain you've come down in tons.
And I hope that your presence has only begun.
But if not, you've had your day in the sun

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tower of Hanoi

Long ago in Brahma, or was it Bali, maybe it was Burma, definitely NOT Boston, the god was Brahma, or was it Buddah, definitely not Bob, a group of Hindu priests were charged with the daunting task of moving 64 giant golden disks stacked on a giant pole to a different pole. Why? 'cause they were told to by someone of great importance. The disks were originally stacked so that the largest disk was on the bottom, and each successive stacked disk was slightly smaller in diameter (radius, circumference, surface area, and volume too). The priests had to not only move ginormous golden disks, but there were rules too! Arrrg, rules.

In the process of moving disks, there were only two other poles on which the could (and had to) temporarily stack the disks. Additionally, and this one's the real kicker, no disk of larger radius could be stacked upon a disk with smaller radius. Great.

As if that wasn't enough for them to decide to abandon the project and possibly their religion, the great, superior being that ordered them to do such a random, arduous task instructed them that upon completion of the restacking, the temple would turn to dust and the world would VANISH, including all the fruits of their ridiculous labor.

With blind, faithful religious fervor, they set out, never bothering to "hustle," or to actually calculate how long the task would take them.

That's where I come in.

Before determining how long it will take them, we need to determine how many moves they will have to make with the disks. For the sake of clarity and conserving energy, I'll start small.

A typical modern puzzle has 6-10 smaller disks with 3 dowel rods. Something like this:
One way to see if there is a way to "count" the number of total moves for n disks is to start with one disk, then two, then three, etc. and look for a pattern. A mental or actual experiment would yield the following results:
  • one disk takes one move
  • two disks takes three moves
  • three disks takes seven moves
  • four disks takes fifteen moves
Continuing in such a manner will eventually lead one to the formula that for n disks, it will take 2^n - 1 moves. For example, four disks: n = 4. 2^4 = 16, and 16-1 = 15. This equation can also be mathematically derived by defining a recursive relation, then reducing it down to the finite sum of a geometric series. I won't get into that here, but ask me to show you in person some time . . .

So as it turns out, in the case of the Hindu priests, it would take one move less than 2^64. Wow. In case you're wondering, that comes out to

18,446,744,073,709,551,615 moves!

That's JUST over 18 quintillion moves. Assuming these priest worked in shifts around the clock, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, not even taking leap day off, not even taking time out to update their Facebook status, making an astounding and doubtful ONE MOVE PER SECOND, it would take them a shad (shade + tad) over 580 BILLION years pull it off . . . only to be reduced to ashes at the end.

Totally anticlimactic. Think about THAT next time someone knocks over your house of cards or destroys your sand castle.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A day in the life

Now that school has started back up, I'm trapped in my daily routine of unfulfilling minutia. Do this, then that, then that, then that again, then do it all over again the next day. Each moment is filled with actions that repeat themselves Monday through Friday.

Get up at 5:00, make coffee, check for the newspaper, watch Sportscenter, check for the paper, drink coffee, check for the damn paper, feign interest in the Houston Astros season, get the paper, look at the paper's pretty pictures, do the crossword, pretend to care about the American League highlights, feed dogs, personal hygiene, put on clothes the wife set out for me the night before, wake up family, get kids ready for school, see the wife off to work, feed the kids chicken Cordon Bleus for breakfast, watch SportsCenter top 10 highlights again, finish coffee, get in the car and drive away, turn around to make sure I closed the garage door and turned off the coffee maker, go by the in-laws' house so my kids can say "hi," get in the line to drop the kids off at school, make room for someone trying to turn into the drop-off line from the wrong *friggin*lane, give the kids kisses, hugs, and priceless advice, drop them off, get to the high school, curse when I find out my classroom hasn't been cleaned, greet the 1st tutorial student of the day, resist the urge to tell them they are there 15 minutes before tutorials officially begin, TEACH MATH AT A FRENETIC, EUPHORIC, NON-STOP PACE, watch the clock for 20 minutes until my contract day ends, go to the in-laws to pick up the kids, spend 20 minutes telling my kids "we're leaving now, come on, I'm leaving without you, get your stuff, just 1 more minute, I'm serious, you can walk home, give Grammy and Poppy hugs and kisses, where are your shoes? and socks? do you have your bag? your homework? I'm leaving. . . . ," get home, check the mail, put the kids on their homeworks, sign their folders, listen to the stories of their day at school while I do a little housework to impress the wife before she gets home, feed the doges, feed and water the chickens and check their eggs, tell the neighbor girl to go home 'cause the kids are doing homework and that 3-year-old girls shouldn't come over to play without an adult, tell my son to practice his piano, make subtraction worksheets for my daughter, listen to the sound of no piano playing, yell a bit, check homemade math homework for correctness, correct a misplayed piano note, greet the wife when she gets home, help with making dinner making next-day's lunches and picking out next day's clothes (except my own), eat with the family while we talk about all the upcoming events that we need to fit into our schedule, I clean the dishes while the kids dote on their mother as she sits in the recliner relaxing while ET and the local news play, coerce my kids away from their mother and "encourage" them to take the dogs for a walk around the block with me, I take the dogs for a walk by myself, water the dogs, get the kids into the shower, listen to the wife's monologue about her day, nod in period affirmation while the wife speaks while trying to determine in the back of my mind if my child has spent too much time in the shower wasting water, I yell "hurry it up in there!! You wanna turn into a raisin??," get the kids dressed, make them read on their own a bit, do a bit of grading/planning for school while the wife watches primetime TV, tell the kids to go to bed, recreate on the world wide web, tell the kids to go to bed again, check the Astros score on the internet, tell the kids if they don't go to be now they can sleep outside with the dogs, personal hygeine, tell the kids they are WAY up past their bedtime, check out ESPN on the tube while doing crunches, burpees, and pushups, demand that the kids go to bed or I'll take away their birthdays, personal hygiene, read a book while the wife watches the evening news, turn off the TV that plays to a sleeping audience, finish the chapter in my book, check on the (finally) sleeping kids, lay in the dark in bed thinking about all the things I didn't get done today and all the things I have to do tomorrow, finally doze off only to be awaken every 3 hours by the incessant noisome barks from my ADD yellow lab, wake up WAY TOO SOON.

At least today is almost behind me and tomorrow's another BRAND NEW DAY.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Thoughts on a particular color

Green is . . .
  • not my favorite color.
  • the color of my envy for those whose favorite color is green.
  • verdant.
  • associated with Martians, even though Mars is red.
  • is a noun, adjective, and a mistaken adverb.
  • is the best color my kids can get at school for their conduct.
  • is the worst color my kids' hot dogs can be in their school cafeteria.
  • is the actual color of my kids' hot dogs in their school cafeteria.
  • is nearly chartreuse
  • the latest fad.
  • very expensive.
  • something worth going.
  • not easy to be.
  • the old color of my grass before the summer of 2009.
  • an unnatural hair color.
  • a signal meaning "go" for a grape, "wait" for a banana, and "stop" for a school hot dog (a la Mitch Hedberg).
  • is a funny color for a lantern.
  • the color of some bugs (see photo above or click here.)
  • the only color that can get you pinched if you're not wearing it on one particular day.
  • a color that often appears in the loo after a fresh insertion of "2000 flushes." (oooh gross . . . )
  • a difficult topic for an entire blog.
Tell me what green is to you by replying.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

An amazing, humbling gift




Today I got one of the most thoughtful, cherished gifts I have ever received as a teacher. In fact, in all my years as a son, student, construction worker, butcher, baker, candlestick maker, and starving unpublished poet, I cannot recall a gift as the one I opened today. Aside from my job as a parent (which I really don't view as a "job" per se, especially since the hours are horrible and the pay is even worse) today's surprise was almost as good as the time my kids cut up my Larry Bird rookie card and put my face where his was (previous incident embellished for dramatic effect--I did that very thing for my OWN father in 1984).

The best part about today's wonderful reward had nothing to do with the hours and hours and dollars and hours of time spent in creating the handmade gift over a course of two years. Neither did it have anything to do with the fact that it was a 30-page book with letters etched into gold-plated papers strewn with diamonds and rubies inlaid around the perimeter of each page (again this is exaggerated, but the fact that everything was hand-typed, as opposed to "typed by the hoof of a team of oxen" and professionally bound in a tightly-wound spiral spine lead me to see the precious jewels nonetheless).

The best part was that the two girls who collected, compiled, and collated the copious amounts of crap considerable content did so not only for ME, but for three of my closest, most respected colleagues. To give such a memorable gift to four different people, with the same covert comprehensiveness as these two girls did, it's amazing that they not only graduated at the very top of their class but made perfect scores on their AP test. If I, myself, had been charged with collecting the "non-critical curricular content" as they, I couldn't have concentrated, much less mastered, what the collection of material was actually trying to convey.

To keep the gift more personal, I will not go into more detail about what it was that was actually given, only to say that it was a book of collected mutual experiences over a span of an intimate academic year (or even two or three!) between awesome students and proud, passionate, pokerfaced teachers: a gem that will survive for posterity and will serve as an amazing, salient, and palpable reminder when times aren't so rosy of why people like the four of us fortunate teachers get into the business to begin with.

I'm proud and humbled to have received such an honorable and amazing gift that I can share with me, myself, I, and my family, and although I will miss the daily interactions with these and all my other amazing former students, I know they will continue to do well and succeed in each and everything they do if only they exert and exhibit a fraction of the effort and enthusiasm they put forth while under my tutelage.

As they each get older, wiser, more experienced, and richer, I only ask that if I'm NOT invited to the eventual wedding, that I am at LEAST invited to be their Facebook friend.

Friday, August 14, 2009

We're such animals

Want to hear about my trip to Disney World this Summmer?

Are you all ears. . .?


. . .what a time spent at Disney World again this year! With four parks and so much to see, this year's summer vacation was like an entirely different destination than last year's trip to the same wonderful place. But this year's experience was not only enhanced because of the insight gained from last year's trip, but also for a number of reasons.

For starters, the day we got there, it began to pour down in buckets, closing the pool at the Animal Kingdom Jambo House Lodge, much to the disappointment of my restless, traveling-in-a-car-for-hours weary kids. Coming from the nationally recognized drought-stricken area known as Central Texas, seeing rain (I THINK it was real and not just an elaborate Disney effect) was so magical, I felt like going to the Magic Kingdom and just walking up Main Street with my tongue held out.

It rained much more during our 8-day stay, and I'm proud to report that the pre-purchased ponchos from the Dollar General store in good ol' NB worked as well as the $8 ones with Mickey's mug that permeated the park during a downpour like cash permeated the register drawers in the park.

Last summer, on day two, my son got sick, really sick, and we spent our entire third day in a non-Disney minor emergency center watching a "Reba" sitcom marathon amongst Orlando's indigent just to get an overpriced script of antibiotics that weren't covered by insurance. And I thought Mickey set a Human trap! The rest of the trip was only tolerated as my sick, infected son melted in the son and forced smiles when I made him take pictures with the characters. This year, he (and everyone else) was as strong as Hercules (a character seldom seen or marketed at the park).

Additionally, last year, my then 5-year-old princess had the legs of a newborn Bambi, as I had to carry her most afternoons and evenings. This year, even though we came prepared with a stroller, she galloped through every park from opening to close often going through what looked like an epileptic fit of joy on the evening shuttle bus rides back to the lodge. Her mother and I met a lot of new people on the bus because of this, even though they were moving away from us as we befriended them . . .

On the bus with Jenna

With all the rich experiences (that leave you poor) we had this summer, by far the best part of trip was all the food and dining experiences. The smartes adjustment we made from last year, in addition to bringing our own antibiotics and the stroller, was to pack only pants and shorts that had expandable waistbands. Purchasing the dinner plan, our entire experience was planned around where our breakfast, lunch, and dinner reservations would be. The buffets were amazing, and not just because they had sneeze guards over the food, but the food itself was culinary cuisine. The African themed buffet at our resort was by far the best. "Boma" is a smorgasbord of authentic dishes that tempt the pallet and stuff the belly (almost all of which is either already off the bone, or at least killed and skinned in advance). Who knew falafel was so delicious or that one could eat 25 falafel balls . . . after a full course of other exquisite entrees? One really gets in touch with his saber-toothed tiger (a saber-toothed tiger with a wallet) at a restaurant like that. Then there was dessert and those addicting Zebra Domes. How dare they make them so delicious and bite size?! Thank God for elastic waistbands.




To make a long blog short, if you've never been to Disney World, you've gotta go. Unfortunately, you've also gotta come back (they actually have fine print on their literature that says their resort hotel rooms CANNOT be permanent addresses.) 'Tis the most magical place in the world where everyone is so happy and friendly, food is amazingly tasty and plentiful, landscapes are impeccably manicured, T-shirts run under $30 ($29.99) standing in line for rides is an air-conditioned educational experience, everyone wears Oakley's, you don't need long ears to be Goofy, and, of course

it rains!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

TV Trip

I was very disappointed and confused last night when I turned on the boob tube (if that's what you call a 52-inch plasma, high-def, digital television).

Sadness came to me, but it wasn't because I didn't find myself winning the million dollars on GSN's "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire."

I was perplexed, but it wasn't the result of the dials on my remote control being mysteriously rearranged.

I felt a bit blue viewing the idiot box, but not as a result of the much anticipated mid-season premiere of "GHI" being a major let down, but for the new "Ashley" investigator.

The puzzling scenario had nothing to do with the fact that my kids wanted to watch something other than "Hannah Montana."

You might think I'd be disapointed with television when I can can't tune into any new episodes of MacGyver, Stargate SG-1, or the Golden Girls, but that wasn't it either (besides, I've got all but one of those series on DVD).

It would be enormously confusing during a tv-watching session if, while flipping throught the hundreds of available channels, there was actually something worth watching, but that didn't throw me off last night.

Most people would cry tears if the batteries in the remote finally went dead (have they EVER been replaced), meaning we'd have to either change the channels manually or get up to find new batteries, however, my batteries were fully-charged the evening prior to tonight.

How bizzare it would be if the food on the Food Network actually wafted their glorious aromas into your living room, but unfortunately, all I smelled during "Man vs. Food" was my own armits.

Melancholy might set in if I was watching a show on the DVR, only to miss the last 5 minutes because the recorder ran out of space, and bewildered I'd be if the reason the DVR ran out of room wasn't because of month's loads of Hannah Montana episodes hadn't been deleted. But last night, the only show in the DVR recorded list was "The Real Lincoln."

If anyone would need comforting if they tuned in to watch their favorite show only to find it was pre-empted by a State of the Union Address, but the evening after two night's ago was not a night Obama spoke to the nation.

A distressing dither would no doubt manifest if a television network ran one of those ". . . this is a test of the emergency broadcast systems . . ." but it was actually NOT a test. But yesterday's evening didn't even bring me a routine false alarm.

So what had me so despairingly dejected and perturbedly puzzled while watching television last night?

I couldn't find ANY Michael Jackson programming!

Maybe I didn't try hard or long enough, or maybe things are returning to normal.

Thank God there's Youtube.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Greatest Metal Vocalists of All Time!!

After not blogging for some time, I wanted to come back with something that was thought-provoking, comprehensive, and a bit controversial. I've spent the better part of the day coming up with my list of what I think are the best rock/metal vocalists of all time.

I came up with a list of 100 people, which was surprisingly difficult to assemble (many were left off the list), listed in descending order from greatest to 100th greatest. I paid no mind to popularity, albums sold, length of hair, sexual orientation, etc. but instead rated them on their soulful ability to hit the notes, passion, and their ability to emote the music. Many of them have octave ranges of either 4 or 5 and can crack glass without effort. Although I can handle the second on the rare occasion I do the dishes, I can't compete with them with my paltry 0.43 octave range, even though the gene is in my blood, as quite a few gentlemen and gentlewomen from my ancestral land of Finland (you'll notice their names when you read them)--the homeland of Progressive/Symphonic Metal--make the list.

I case you haven't heard of some of the guys, look them up on Wikipedia. Check some of these guys out when you have a chance. They're all worthy of a download and listen. Feel free to disagree and/or come up with your own list, but don't knock 'em 'til you've tried 'em.

Let the discussion begin . . .

My top 100 Rock/Metal vocalists of all time.

1. Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden)
2. Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica)
3. Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Audioslave)
4. Steve Tyler (Aerosmith)
5. Layne Staley (Alice in Chains)
6. Geoff Tate (Queensrÿche)
7. Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian)
8. Axl Rose (Guns ‘N Roses)
9. James LaBrie (Dream Theater)
10. Jon Bon Jovi (Bon Jovi)
11. Ronnie James Dio (Black Sabbath)
12. Ivan Moody (Five Finger Death Punch)
13. Timo Kotipelto (Statovarius)
14. Sebastian Bach (Skid Row)
15. Matt Barlow (Iced Earth)
16. Phil Anselmo (Pantera)
17. Glenn Hughes (Black Sabbath, Deep Purple)
18. Paul Rodgers (Bad Company)
19. Tony Harnell (TNT)
20. Corey Taylor (Slipknot)
21. Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam)
22. Dave Mustaine (Megadeath)
23. Klaus Meine (The Scorpions)
24. Rob Halford (Judas Priest)
25. Miljenko Matijevic (Steelheart)
26. Glenn Danzig (Misfits, Danzig)
27. Ari Koivunen (Finnish singer)
28. Bon Scott (AC/DC)
29. Freddie Mercury (Queen)
30. David Draiman (Disturbed)
31. Jarko Ahola (Teräsbetoni)
32. James Hetfield (Metallica)
33. Maynard James Keenan (Tool, A Perfect Circle)
34. Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin)
35. David Coverdale (Deep Purple, Whitesnake)
36. Sammy Hagar (Montrose, Van Halen, Chickenfoot)
37. Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath)
38. Russell Allen (Symphony X)
39. Lance King (Avian, Balance of Power, etc)
40. Philip Labonte (All That Remains)
41. Marco Hietala (Nightwish)
42. Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge)
43. Lemmy Kilmister (Motörhead)
44. Jonathan Davis (Korn)
45. Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, etc.)
46. Michael Sweet (Stryper)
47. Eric Adams (Manowar)
48. Ian Gillan (Deep Purple)
49. Andi Deris (Helloween)
50. Brian Johnson (AC/DC)
51. Geddy Lee (Rush)
52. Mark Slaughter (Slaughter)
53. David Defeis (Virgin Steele)
54. Tarja Turunen (Nightwish)
55. Amy Lee (Evanescence)
56. John 'Gio' Cavaliere (Black Majesty)
57. Serj Tankian (System of a Down)
58. Steve Perry (Journey)
59. Jeff Keith (Tesla)
60. Roy Khan (Kamelot)
61. Chad Kroeger (Nickelback)
62. Bono (U2)
63. Yama-B (Galneryus)
64. Howard Jones (Killswitch Engage)
65. Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth)
66. Robin McAuley (MSG)
67. Michael Kiske (Helloween)
68. Tim "Ripper" Owens (Beyond Fear, Yngwie Malmsteen)
69. Chuck Billy (Testament)
70. Jeff Scott Soto (Yngwie Malmsteen, Journey)
71. Joe Lynn Turner (Yngwie Malmsteen, Deep Purple)
72. Rob Zombie (Rob Zombie, White Zombie)
73. Wayne Static (Static X)
74. Pepper Keenan (Corrosion of Conformity)
75. Billy Corgan (The Smashing Pumpkins)
76. M. Shadows (Avenge Sevenfold)
77. King Diamond (King Diamond, Merciful Fate)
78. Randy Blythe (Lamb of God)
79. Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gathering)
80. Vince Neil (Mötley Crüe)
81. Chad Gray (Mudvayne, Hellyeah)
82. Blaze Bayley (Iron Maiden)
83. Dee Snider (Twisted Sister)
84. Don Dokken (Dokken)
85. Joan Jett (Joan Jett and the Blackhearts)
86. Ian Astbury (The Cult)
87. Alexi Laiho (Children of Bodom, Warmen)
88. Dennis DeYoung (Styx)
89. Anders Fridén (In Flames, Dark Tanquility)
90. Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil)
91. Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society, Ozzy Osbourne)
92. Paul Di'Anno (Iron Maiden)
93. Roger Daltrey (The Who)
94. Steve Marriott (Small Faces, Humble Pie)
95. Zack de la Rocha (Rage Against the Machine)
96. Lajon Witherspoon (Sevendust)
97. Tom Araya (Slayer)
98. Ryan McCombs (Soil, Drowning Pool)
99. Shagrath (Dimmu Borgir)
100. Josh Todd (Buckcherry)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Predicting with confidence

If you've ever read time off of a clock, then you're familiar with something mathematicians call modular arithmetic. You might also think that modular arithmetic is science of counting all the possible ways you can configure an office using cubicles, and you'd be clever, but you'd be wrong. Modular arithmetic is simply ordinary arithmetic (adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, exponentiating) performed on numbers whereby you reduce the result to an equivalent number based on something called the modulus of the arithmetic. What does this have to do with a clock?

Well, let's say that it's 8:00 in the morning. You have to be at an important place in 5 hours, or 1:00 in the afternoon. Without much thought, you just did the following arithmetic operation:

8 + 5 =1

Writing it like that makes if feel strange and dirty and absolutely false, but yet it's true. . . in modular arithmetic. If you were in the military, or were one of those strange non-military people who prefer "military time," or a 24-hour clock, you would say that your important destination must be arrived at at precisely 1300 hours, or 13 o'clock. Because most people use the 12-hour clock, you're likely to get a few strange stares from people when you announced it, and you'd probably have to "do the math" for other interested, mathematically illiterate bystanders.

But it's exactly because clock values repeat them self in regular intervals of twelves that clock "arithmetic" is simply modular arithmetic with a modulus (abbreviated simply as "mod") 12. Because 8 + 5 really is 13, we can rewrite the above statement in modular form as

13=1 mod 12

We actually would read this as "13 is congruent to 1 modulus 12," which is a fancy way of saying 1300 hours is 1:00pm to most of us. Now that we've established this new math, let's say that we were big dorks, and one day we decided to not only abandon telling time on a 12-hour clock, but we wanted to keep track of the elapsed hours over a one year period. Imagine the strange looks we'd get if one afternoon 4 months later later, some stranger asked us for the time and we responded with "1841 o'clock . . . . on the DOT!" Would there be anyway to figure out the answer quickly without subtracting out full days at a time? Well yes.

What we'd really want to know in this case is the answer to the question 1841=? mod 24 which would give us the current military time, or, since we know it's in the afternoon, 1841=? mod 12, which would give us the current time p.m. The answer, as it turns out, will simply be the remainder obtained when dividing the given number by the given modulus, 1841/24 or 1841/12 here.

I turns out that 24 goes into 1841 76 times with 17 left over (1841 = 24*76 + 17). So 1841=17 mod 24. That means it's 1700 hours, or 5:00p.m. Using mod 12, we see that 12 goes into 1841 153 times with, you guessed it, 5 left over. So what time is it? Time to have that drink.

It turns out that MANY numbers are equivalent to the same number for any given modulus. For example, 5, 17, 29, 41, 53, 65, 77, 89, 101, etc. are ALL equivalent to 5 mod 12. For all such numbers that are equivalent to each other, we say they are elements of the same Residue Class.

Modular arithmetic works for other things too that occur in regular intervals. Take the world of competitive skate boarding. Imagine a shredder pulling off an AMAZING "7863" rotational trick. Since 1 rotation = 360 degrees and 7863 = 21*360 + 303, we know that so the skater did 21 full rotations plus an additional 303 degrees. Stated mathematically, we can write 7863 = 303 mod 360.

Modular arithmetic also pertains to the days of the week, with a modulus, of course, of seven. Perhaps you'd be interested in knowing what day of the week it will be exactly 1,000,000 days from today. Not that you'd be around to enjoy that day, seeing how its more than 2,739 years from now, but you're such a dork that you ponder these things. How could we do THAT calculation using modular arithmetic?

Let's start with today. Today is Friday (woooo hoooo! is it 5:00 yet?). From here, it requires a little more cleverness. Since 1 million is a power of ten, we will start the computations with the following, seemingly non-intuitve equation, and try to build up the left side, simplifying the result (mod 7) as we go.

10 = 3 mod 7

Feel free to verify this by dividing 10 by seven and finding the remainder. Now in any equation, even if it's modular, we are allowed to square both sides. Here we go.

100 = 9 mod 7

From here, we'll note that 9 = 2 mod 7, so we replace it in the above equation.

100 = 2 mod 7

We can now make a big jump to a million by cubing both sides. Since 100 cubed is 1,000,000 and 2 cubed is 8, we obtain the following.

1,000,000 = 8 mod 7

Now because 8 and 1 are in the same Residue Class, they are interchangeable. Performing the interchanging act we finally reach our desired equation.

1,000,000 = 1 mod 7

So how does that tell us what day of the week 1,000,000 days from today be? Well, the equation tells us that it will be the same day of the week that ONE day from today will be. Say it with me now, "If today is Friday, then tomorrow is . . . Saturday!"

Wasn't that a lot more fun than using a calculator? (Just say "yes.") Besides, our method works for numbers that are beyond the calculating capability of your calculator. If you don't believe me, tell me quickly what day of the week it will be 10 to the 100th power(that's called a "google" baby, a 1 followed by one hundred zeros) days from now.

If you you said "Wednesday, " you're calculator is lying to you.

Feel free to get back to me on that.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Answer For The Ages

Yesterday I posed a mathematical puzzle in which I challenged you to determine the ages for three children based on some loose, esoteric clues. Due to the overwhelming lack of response, I assuming that either no one read it or I was able to sufficiently stump you.

For those of you who DID give it a go, did you determine that the woman had twins? Did you figure out which one had blue eyes? Do you now know what the census taker ate for breakfast?

Let's explore now how the census taker, after a hearty morning meal of bacon, eggs, and grits, was able to complete his inventory of the house of the enigmatic mother of three.

For the first clue, the woman said that the product of ages of her children equaled 36. If we assume that none of her children are age "zero",as I used to muse about my 6-month-old daughter, and if we also assume that we're talking about integer ages of kiddos, then there are only a small, finite number of possible ages that fit the equation. A careful attempt can yield all eight possibilities. Here they are. Check my work. Make sure they're the same as yours.


Although it would be highly unlikely that the woman would have a pair of one-year-old twins and a another 36 year-old rug rat, but that still leaves seven respectable possibilities. It's obvious why the man had to ask for the second clue. But with the extra hint that the sums of the ages totaled the address of the house across the street, how does that help us? The census take actually got to SEE the number of that house, while we were kept in the dark. Well, it turns out that we don't even need to know the number of the house!! So why have that clue at all, right? To answer that, we'll need to look at what the sums of all the above combinations yield.


Do you notice anything peculiar about the sums? You should see that all but ONE of the sums are unique. The sum of "13" actually appears twice! This means that the house across the street MUST have been house number thirteen. Duhhhhh! Right? Why's that? If it's not obvious to you, I'll explain further. This fact has nothing to do with the numbers of the mathematics of the sums AT ALL. It comes from a clue from the puzzle scenario. Remember that the census taker needed a third clue in order to conclude his detective work. Had the sum been any of the other combinations, he would have had his answer, but because 13 appears twice, he needed further clarification as to which of the remaining two options were the actual ages.

Even though the woman was put out at the man's final request, comparing his annoying unrelentingness to her eldest child, and refused to offer her assistance any more, she unwittingly provided him with all the information he needed.

Do you see it yet?

Her children now had possible ages of 1, 6, and 6 or 2, 2, and 9. Because the woman has an eldest child, we can infer that she has a pair of two-year-old twins and one, eldest child age nine!

A pretty nifty piece of mathematical detective work, huh.

Well, stop the presses. Just like Andrew Wiles's origianl proof of Fermat's Last Theorem was later found to contain a flaw that was overlooked by everyone, so too does my little scenario contain a tiny glitch. My wife immediately pointed out that the ages could be a 1-year-old and a pair of 6-year-old twins, since even twins, apparently, are born ONE AT A TIME, so that even though they are the same "age," there is an OLDER twin and still an ELDEST child.

D'0h!

Andrew Wiles eventually fixed the error in his proof, and now it stands as rock solid. I'm hoping I can reconcile this tiny inconsistency as successfully as he was able to. Perhaps I can go back to the original scenario and somehow cleverly work in the necessary condition that all ages be rounded to the nearest year, or maybe I'll just rewrite it so that the status taker never even offends the woman at all, with her simply telling him, "two, two, and nine. Goodbye."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Puzzle For The Ages

Here's a delightful puzzle to help you get over the Wednesday hump, or maybe it will get you stuck there. Either way, delight yourself in mathematical detective work to see if you can figure it out.

A member of a census organization is going door-to-door collecting information. He comes to a house where a woman answers the door. After introducing himself, he asks her how many adults live in the house. "Just me," she replies, as the screaming and yelling of children pierce through from the living room. "I'm guessing you have children," he astutely asserts, "how many?" "I have three, and they're about to drive me out of my mind. How many of them do you want?" She asks back. "Um, ma'am, if you'll simply allow ME to ask the questions," he rudely replies. "Now if you could please tell me the ages of your three children, I'll be on my way." Feeling slighted, the woman becomes irritated and less cooperative. "Absolutely NOT," she retorts. "You're gonna have to work at it now Mr. Census man. Here's a clue. If you multiply all their ages together, you get thirty-six." She then slams the door in her face.

The census man pulls out his calculator from his pocket and punches a few numbers, then knocks on the door again. When the woman answers the door this time, she is even more irate as the sounds of obstreperous children spill out of some hidden room in the house. "Sorry to bother you again, ma'am, but could you please offer me one more hint as to your children's ages? "If it'll get you off my doorstep, you should know that the sum of their ages equals the address number on the house across the street." BAM, slammed the door.

Determined to get this information, the census taker runs across the street and peers at the number on its mailbox. He again pulls out his calculator, punches a few keys, then scratches his head a bit. With a determined temerity, he knocks on the woman's door once again. "I'm so sorry to bother you again, but I need to have just one last clue and I'll be our of your hair for good." (Screams emanated from inside the house) "You're just like my oldest," she said "unrelenting!" Then she retreated back into the house and was gone.

Now the census man may not be suave, but he's no dummy. From her last, subtle clue regarding her child's temperament, he is able to discern the ages of each of her three children. Can YOU figure it out?

Answer and explanation tomorrow. But you can't read tomorrow's answer if you haven't mentally sweated over it today.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Returning policies

Right now at school, we're in the process of tying up all the loose ends to what has been a very productive and interesting academic year. As teachers try to simultaneously squeeze in one last test while preparing students for a final exam from which they know most students will end up being exempt, students are making summer plans. One of the most celebrated orders of business that students must tend to is turning in their textbooks.

A bitter-sweet thing, no doubt, this year our campus is returning to an old tried-and-true procedure for recollection: turning them into their teacher!!

The past few years, the gymnasium has been set up like a long corridor where students would bring all books to one specific class, then be released via a pre-determined schedule to the gym, where they would make their way through the "buffet" line, finding the appropriate pile for their individual textbook, and dump their cargo one book at a time. This procedure was very efficient, but it also had a few drawbacks.

First, the basketball team had to recreate in the other, smaller practice gym. Second, books inadvertently ended up in the wrong pile. For example, a student fresh out of failing his English class might put his spelling book in the Algebra I stack. Or, a lazy student might put both of the books he actually remembered to bring that day in the very first stack he saw. Third, there was no way to actually know if a student actually turned their book in. Because the books weren't scanned in as they were TURNED in, students who ended up owing $85 for a math textbook they probably never cracked could simply tell the authorities administrators that the "put it in the gym." It was creating a too convenient excuse for the apathetic, the dishonest, and the unfortunate victims of random textbook thievery.

This year, students must physically turn in their books to their respective teacher, and we teachers must document which students have and have not done this. Yes, it means more work for the teachers, but at least we don't have to go through every single page and add up a list of nickels that students owe us for every tiny stray mark or tattered pages like it used to be when I was a student, although we are still required to look for errant mustaches drawn on historical figures.

Being the collector of the precalculus and calculus textbooks for my students, this new-again procedure has afforded me the opportunity to interact individually with each student one last time before they hit the swimming pools. It also gives THEM a chance to finally write their name on the inside cover. I'm surprised how few of them ever took the time to do that originally. When I was in school, writing my name in my book was not only required, but it was like I was signing a contract for the course, making me feel a heightened sense of responsibility for its safe keeping and appropriate use. Back then, we also enjoyed looking at the long history of names that preceded ours. "Awwwww, I got a 'dumb' book," we might say if we saw that 7 years previously our neighbor down the street with the barking dogs and the appliances on his lawn had our book. "Alright!! Easy 'A' in this class," we would rejoice if we happened to get last year's Valedictorian's book.

It is interesting to see the various reactions from students as they hand over their heavy tomes of information. It's like a great burden, an immense weight has been lifted off their shoulders, and the stand a little taller afterward without their backpack weighing them down. It's also surpising how few of them even need to use the Kleenexes I offer them as they part with there "loved one." Most aren't even interested in saying their final goodbyes. I don't hear, "So long page 273, I'll miss you!" or "Adieu back-of-the-book-answers-to-odd-problems, you spent so many homework sessions with me." I don't even hear the failing student, "Adios stranger, I didn't even get a chance to know you."

What I DO hear alot, though, is "What on Earth is a book cover anyway?"

If they only knew . . .

Monday, May 18, 2009

You Go Girl!

Did you hear what happened over the weekend in the fascinating, thrilling, unpredictable world of thoroughbred horse racing?

At the 134th running of the Preakness Stakes at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, for the first time ever, track officials didn't allow the spectators to bring in their own beer, so the thrill and buzz seekers went to the NASCAR races instead.

A forever-lost Preakness Tradition

Also. . . .

A little girl beat the blinders right off of the 12 boys she was running against.

Coming out of the 13th slot, the 3-year-old Filly named Rachel Alexandra became the first female to win the event in 85 years, since Nellie Morse made the boys cry way back in 1924. Not even Nellie Morse's daughter, Nellie Flag, could accomplish what only 5 females have been able to do.

When asked after the race how she was able to leave all the men in her dust, Rachel, who could have truthfully gloated about how the rest of the competition were a bunch of losers, instead tactfully responded with just an enthusiastic whinny. The comment was later translated into, "All the men were horsing around, making dismissive jokes at my expense before the race, commenting on my manicured nails, trying to make me feel self-conscious about the white spot on my forehead, and my "unlucky" number 13, telling me that I belonged in the WNBA, which didn't even make horse sense. I just used all that energy to motivate me to prove to them, that although my name was not Babe Didrikson Zaharias or Ruffian, it WAS Rachel, and I had every right to be there." Indeed, it was a loooong whinny.

Finishing right behind Rachel was Mine That Bird, the Kentucky Derby upset winner, who made his characteristic late charge from the rear only to come up full length short of the galloping gal. When interviewed after his galiant but futile gallop, Mine That Bird was tight lipped in his response and gave only "genetic predisposition" for his noticably long face.

Now with two of the three major races out the way, each with a different winner, there will not be a Triple Crown winner again this year. Nonetheless, the Belmont Stakes, the final and most challenging race of the three, is shaping up to be as exciting as an NBA game seven between Magic Johnson's Lakers and Larry Bird's Celtics. After a gruelling test at the first two races, the showdown at the 1.5-mile track between the Kentucky-slighted Ms. Alexandra "the Great," and the Preakness-slighted Mr. That Bird will will be exciting to watch. Who will win the two-out-of-three battle of the sexes? Will Ms. Alexandra be the Billie Jean King of the Belmont or will Mr. That Bird be the Peter Sellers of the classic British comedy, or will it be more like the upcoming collaborative album by Ludacris and Shawnna?

Although neither horse will have a chance to win the coveted "Triple Crown Oats Bucket" this year, there is still possibility that a Triple Crown winner will be crowed. How can that be? It turns out that Mine That Bird's little jockey in the Kentucky Derby, Calvin Borel, didn't ride him again in the Preakness. Instead, Mr. Borel mounted a different horse (with the help of a ladder) for the second race. That horse was Rachel Alexandra. This begs the question: how did he KNOW to do that? Is Mr. Borel so talented that he can race ANY horse to victory, or did he just get lucky in sitting on two animals who would have with a 120-lb sack of flour on their backs? I guess we'll just have to get the answer to that question in a few weeks at Belmont. It would be interesting, although highly unlikely if a 120-lb sack of flour existed and also entered the race, and if Mr. Borel mounted a thoroughbred by the name of "Born To Lose," or "Congenital Defect."

I wouldn't bet on it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Productive Day

Some simple things I learned today:
  • John Michael Montgomery's brother IS in the Montgomery-Gentry duo, but he's actually the OTHER guy from who I thought he was.
  • Even make-up games can get rained out.
  • It doesn't matter how much compressed air you use after a haircut, you'll never blow all the tiny pieces of hair off your body.
  • Taking a shower with your watch on feels as awkward as sleeping with your socks on.
  • You NEVER want to run out of chlorine tablets for your septic gray-water.
  • It's okay to take a nap in the middle of the day in the middle of a rhythmic downpour, as long as you're not wearing your socks.
  • Any attributes that qualify you for delivering a graduation keynote address are the same attributes that qualify you for an honorary doctorate degree.
  • It's no fun to follow basketball if your team's out of the playoffs, nor is it fun to watch baseball when your team is the "Bad News" Astros.
  • Some coffee houses DO still understand an order as simple as "Tall Black Coffee."
  • Macaroni and White Cheddar is nowhere near as delicious as regular mac & cheese.
  • Dead bees can still sting.
  • The quality of my golf game is inversely proportional to the amount to time I practice it.
  • The same is true for everyone who is at a driving range on Saturday morning rather than on the links itself.
  • "Barack" moved up 10,126 places last year on the list of "popular boy names." Unfortunately, it is still in 2,409th place.
  • Making homemade toothpicks is a waste of time.
  • A $500 diamond ring can bring a smile to woman's face.
  • Plastic lag screws are a fast, cheap substitute to using Tapcon Masonry screws. By the time the box falls of the exterior of the house, the cable man is long gone.
  • It's best not to try to guess the mysterious liquid accumulated at the bottom of the kitchen trash bin or how it penetrated the "Force Flex" tough Hefty bag.
  • Did I already mention that you NEVER want to let your septic run out of chlorine tabs?
  • Fruit bowls are just a place to hold rotten bananas.
  • Anything you want in life, you can purchase a "Hannah Montana" version of it.
  • Even though the traffic signs say, "Watch for Water on Road," I notice a LOT of don't even try.
  • Sonic Drive-In boasts 168,000 possible drink combinations, one of which is "Large Tea with sweetener in a cup with ice and a lid and a straw."
  • Lifetime warranties on sunglasses don't cover you losing them, 'cause, technically, they're still "alive" somewhere, just not on your face.
  • Taking naps makes you sleepy.
  • Disney character shirts make my look Goofy.
  • Some landscaped commercial areas have crosswalks that lead directly up to them for no apparent reason.
  • Few things are as ephemeral as a clean childrens' playroom.
  • "Pink Panther I" and "Pink Panther II" are some of Steve Martin's best work.
  • Blogging about underwear is less interesting to readers than blogging about my drab, boring "Mathematical Musings."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Look under THERE!!!

Did I just make you say "underwear?!!" Tee-Hee.

Here's a short poem to commemorate.


I met a man one day
who had a notion in his mind
to give me all his underwear
at least, all that he could find.

I thanked him very much
and said, "That's very kind and all,
but I have plenty in my drawer.
Besides, you're kind of tall."

"Your underwear won't fit me,
only cover up my FACE :0
That's not the way they're 'possed to fit
That's not their common place."

"Besides, yours have tears in them
and holes inside and out .
You should, instead of offering them to me
just go ahead and throw them out."

"Okay," he said
as he put them in the trash.
"You wouldn't want 'em anyway,
'cause I've got this ugly rash."

So off he went away from me
to carry on his life,
to the one who washes all his drawers,
his kind and underwear-buying wife.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mathematical Musings: XVII

Again, another installment of the silly things I've said in class, although I'd deny every bit of it.
  • Hurry up and wait your turn.
  • I scheduled my alarm for 2:17 so that I’d remember when to turn my alarm off.
  • Student: Look Mr. Korpi, I have an idea. Since the schedule this week is all messed up, why don’t we split the assignment up in two. We can do part today and part tomorrow. I think this would be a good compromise. Korpi: What are you—the Henry Clay of Calculus Class
  • Today is the first day after the second day before the next day that comes after the previous day last time.
  • Please live each day to its fullest. Another Wednesday won’t come around for another week
  • When it comes to teaching Calculus, I’m like Pavlov’s dog. When I hear the bell to start class, I start salivating.
  • My wife and my favorite time of day is dusk: when our son goes down. He is such a dynamo.
  • SURE we can watch a movie next time in class. However, I don’t have a VCR, so we will just have to sit around and stare and the cassette tape. I hope it’s a suspenseful movie!
  • I love to get up every morning and look at the photos in the local newspaper. After all, it is the journalistic equivalent of a children’s picture book.
  • f I was any stronger in will, I might have the power to consider saying “No”—to nuclear arms.
  • Today after school, I will be giving an AP review. If no one shows up, I will still give the review, because that’s just the way I am—a man of my word. Please feel free to walk by and laugh at me through the window.
  • The next time I have surgery, I’m going to pay the extra cost to have a STERILE room. It’s money well-spent. And that extra $5 to be off the floor, the cost-benefit-analysis has been DONE, and you should DO it! Unless you like hospital food.
  • Student: when is all this weather supposed be good. Korpi: Tomorrow . . . . . . . If you think rain, thunder, mud, wind, and cold are good.
  • Welcome 4th period . . . . . . I’ve been expecting you.
  • Hurry, hurry on in to class. Seats are going fast!
  • Ouch!!!! That look like it hurt worse than dividing by zero!
  • This world needs more saber-toothed tigers.
  • It appears that all you need to do to be immortalized on the front of Beer-lover’s T-shirts is to come up with a divine sanctioned quoted condoning the consumption of the frothy ale. The only competitor is Ben Franklin. Here’s my contribution. "On the sixth day, God also made beer; this is the primary reason he did nothing on Sunday."
  • It’s a sign of our times, and perhaps our self-incrimination, that our 4 \-year-old son knows the meaning of being “voted off” of a television reality show.
  • Student: How long will the test take today, Mr. Korpi? Korpi: Well, at least the whole period . . . . or less.
  • OK, I know we’ve worked a lot of examples today, so this will be the last one. . . before the next one.
  • Feel free to burn me in effigy over the weekend.
  • Today as you work on your semester review, think of me as Mr. Radio Shack: you have questions; I have answers. I'll be over here behind my computer chatting with Trekkies.
  • Because I accidentally made the final exam a little longer than usual, you will unfortunately not be able to finish it. But the good news is, I will still grade the ones you don't do.
  • Man, I feel like Santa Claus in a shopping mall around semester review. This long line of students at my desk waiting to talk to me.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Blloggoggoggaggoggagghogg

Do you see anything wrong with this sign?

Could it be that the depicted Indian is actually a Cayuga and NOT a member of the Nipmuc tribe? Perhaps the NIPMUC INDIANS ESCHEWED THE USE OF ALL CAPS? Maybe the sign incorrectly overstates the power of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority? Maybe the Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce had nothing to do with the sign.

NO, to all of the above. There IS and error, but it's much more subtle.

Did you catch the misspelling? (Yes, "misspelling" has two "s"s).

Believe it or not, Lake "Chargoggagoggmanchaoggagoggchaubunaguhgamaugg" should actually be spelled Lake "Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg." That means there's actually TWO mistakes, not just one.

Now before you demand that the typesetter at the sign company be fired for being so blatantly incompetent, realize that he CORRECTLY place 43 of 45 letters correctly, which means that at almost 95%, he's likely to have been the salutatorian of his typesetter class. Think you can do better?

Besides, what kind of name is Chargoggagoggaggoggmangg . . . whatever, I'm not getting paid to typeset (it that's even how they MAKE signs, nor am I paid to blog)? As you probably guessed, it is from the Nipmuc (not Chayuga) language for "unnecessarily big name for a relatively small body of water," at least that's what I deciphered it as after my extensive research quick Google search of Nipmuc language. But after a much smarter search of Google, utilizing the "always accurate" Wikepedia.com, I realized that I was off in my translation (so much for using "context clues" like my English teach had taught me so many years ago). Apparently, the translation is different, but no less humorous, than my primitive interpretation. What some "expert" linguists (and conspiracy theorists) believe the name means is "you fish on your side, I fish on my side, and nobody fish in the middle."

What selfish indian fisherman! I why exclude indians with the advanced skill of "boat making" from participating in the "feeding of their belly?" Imagine if I took the same approach to my AP Calculus class, renaming it "AP callcallullaaccittucctticcuus" which would translate in my own, made-up language called "Grumpyoldmanese" into the phrase "Smart people take, dumb lazy people don't take, and everyone else give my $20." Those Nipmuc indians were the original semantical warriors.

Most politically correct experts of the Nipmuc language, whose name is Frredd, claim the name, which is incidentally the longest name of any official place in the Americas, not counting the unofficial name that many students give to calculus of "Calc@##$%&*!!@#*$%$%^&#@*&*%$$#@^&^@#*&^%##**&^@#$%!**$%&*@#$%! . . . (#*&$$^@&*%(!@#*$&%&$&lus," seem to opt for the less curmudgeonly-sounding "Fishing Place at the Boundaries -- Neutral Meeting Grounds," which makes the lake sound more like a meeting for a boring convention rather than a recreational fishing hole.

Then there are some boring, uniteresting people in the nearby town of Webster, Massachusetts who simply refer to the lake as "Lake Webster." These are the same people who eat Hamburger Helper for dinner every single night and know not when (or at what temperature) to serve white wine, primarily because Boone's doesn't make white wine. That type of oversimplifaction not only denies the lake of its cultural legacy and therefore its place on the map and blogs across this great land, but it is the same attitude that failing students of mine have when the approach Calculus as if it were entitled "Adding single digit integers on you calculator"--doomed to scornful looks, derision, and a good laugh. Good thing that THESE type of individual are not the official people in charge of things.

The good news for the lake, though, is that Massachusetts OFFICIAL officials have admitted to the two misspellings and have vowed to have the signs changed to reflect the correct spelling of the lake. State officials have already begun interviewing for the job of making the new sign, beginning with the Valedictorian of the "typesetting class," a Thai student with the successful completion of a sign bearing the the native name for Bangkok, Thailand on his resume:

Krungthepmahanakonbowornratanakosinmahintarayudyayamahadilopo-
noparatanarajthaniburiromudomrajniwesmahasatarnamornpimarnavata-
rsatitsakattiyavisanukamphrasit