Thursday, April 30, 2009

Setting the Record Straight

There have been lots of rumors going around lately regarding the swine flu. Who has it, who doesn't have it, that it's a giant hoax put forth by the makers of Tamiflu, and (my favorite) that school is closed until May 11th! Now some rumors are true (like that last favorite of mine) but more often than not, the rumors are nothing but sensationalized hearsay fabricated my scandal-mongers for the sake of having "something" to talk about. Heck, weathermen do it all the time, reporting that it's going to rain only so that they can report that it didn't rain like it was "rumored" to have supposed to--but that's another story altogether.

Looks like the forecasters were wrong again. Good thing I was drinking a Mai Tai

Teaching in a high school with throngs of loquacious, social adolescents who thrive on high drama, I hear my fair share of things whispered throughout the halls. This is mainly how I learn about John breaking up with Sally because he's "gay," and how Timmy almost died from smoking a whole garden full of Salvia. Most of the time, the rumors are innocent enough, even when they're about me, like the time everyone thought that I really hated precalculus students, which was so ungrounded that it was humorous: I didn't hate ALL of them.

But there are times when words can hurt as bad as sticks and stones, and there are times when even the most preposterous rumors are perpetuated for far too long that they cease to be amusing, kind of like when students asking more than once if they can have a "Free Day" in class. But long before there were hints, lies, and allegations being spread about every sneezing person on campus having swine flu, there was an informational invention about ME being chattered about all around my perimeter and even in the grocery stores on Sunday morning. While I guess I should be flattered to have my name come up in the same conversation as Jesus and "Uncle Ben," but being the butt of an ongoing, untrue allegation, even if it's not damaging to my reputation, is a bit frustrating, annoying, and disappointing.

Rumors DESTROY the flavor of rice

For several weeks now, I have been asked if I and a close colleague and friend of mine are leaving our teaching positions to accept a "better" job in a "better" school district. It sounds harmless at first, maybe even somewhat flattering, first to think that there IS a better job or better school out there, and second, that I have been recruited, courted, and seduced into teaching at that educational Eden. But after I've continually dismissed the rumor and reassured my students that I have no such plans or aspirations and the questions still come at me, I've got to wonder if there's some sort of covert plan to GET me to leave!

What makes this situation even more appalling is that my colleague and I DID, in fact, visit another campus to speak with the principal about the possibility of the marriage between their needs and our talents. The visit was mainly to case their school and bring back good ideas to make OUR school better. Although we didn't get any panacea for handling tardies, we did bring back some useful insights. This visit took place early LAST SCHOOL YEAR!!

We obviously returned to our teaching positions this year, and since then have attacked our curriculum with more fervor and dedication than ever before. With both of us being alumni of the great school we now teach at, we were NEVER serious about leaving, but now, a year later, long after we even forgot we visited that campus, someone let's the cat out of the bag. Well, that's one dead cat. Time to put it bag into the bag and bury it next to Schrodinger's fated feline.

In an age of instant information, where students text message each other continuously about every tiny detail of their existence, it's rather strange that this type of message took so long to grow into the weed it now is. If this rumor was a student, it would be a junior student who goes to the bathroom during 1st period precalculus only to return without washing his hands just in time for his senior final exams!! Talk about a tardy problem.

So officially for the record. I'm going to set the record straight:
  • I am NOT leaving New Braunfels High School (except occasionally on the weekends to see my family).
  • I am staying on board to continue to teach at my alma mater.
  • I'm a true-blue Mule Unicorn who bleeds red (sorry, I only WISH it were blue).
  • I am NOT a Jedi.
  • Not ALL those Facebook "friends" are my friends. Some are relatives.
  • That was NOT me coming out of that bar
  • YES, I HAVE thought about joining the alien circus.
  • No, I DON'T do math all the time at home (sometimes I throw in a little physics)
  • YES, those ARE my real Biceps
  • NO, I'm NOT addicted to knee surgeries
  • YES, I AM addicted to coffee
  • NO, I CANNOT divide by zero
  • YES, I have NO outstanding warrants for my arrest
  • And NO, I do NOT have the swine flu (yet)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The "Piggyfly" Effect

In early April in La Gloria, Veracruz, Mexico, near the "manure lagoons" on a giant pig farm, 4-year-old Edgar Hernandez gets the swine flu. Today on the other side of the continent, an entire community closes it's schools for 10 days.

Talk and hype of this new Swine Flu has already made more people sick of hearing about it than those who have actually been afflicted by the virus. Even with the historically recent epidemics of the Asian flu, Hong Kong flu, SARS, and the Avian flu, I never thought that such an outbreak would ever effect or disrupt my life as this swine flu has. Being a perpetual "hand washer," "sneezer into the crux of my elbow," and being around so many surgical masks (unfortunately), my family has always done our part to keep germs at bay, going so far as to steer clear of annoying neighbors. In fact, I thought that being a teacher and being exposed to the communal germs brought to campus by the students of various hygiene habits actually increased my immunity against infections in much the same way allergy shots are designed to work.

I've rejoiced (silently) when school closed down for a day or two because of a couple of ice crystals on a bridge. These rare moments were an opportunity to frolic with the kids without the serious risk of breaking the flow of obligations. But a school closing for 10 days because of an unknown, morphing strain of influenza virus? "Never will that happen! That's movie fodder!!" "When pigs fly," I thought. But now it's official: "Pig's flu!" Who knew?

Ten days is an awfully long time, just long enough to get used to new habits, like sleeping in until 6:30 a.m., actually eating breakfast, laying around in lounge shorts, delegating chores to my children ("Tate, come press this button on the remote control for me"), watching "Days of our Lives," and updating your status on Facebook. But with an incubation time of 5 days, the mandated "vacation" was chosen to span two incubation periods, and also because it coincided very nicely with a Monday return.

With over 150 deaths in Mexico from the H1N1 et al strands already, and the first confirmed death in the U.S. just this morning, no precautionary measures are being spared. Until health officials get a firm grasp on what this virus really is and how to contain it, taking measures to avoid a massive outbreak via social settings makes sense, although I can already picture large groups of students gathering on their "break" to tube the river, play volleyball, and study math.

Those who are already tired of hearing about this piggish, piddly flu (the same types of people who stay put to ride out hurricanes, volcanoes, tsunamis, and a busload of Jehovah Witnesses in their neighborhood) draw attention to the 30,000+ deaths in the U.S. each year due to the common flu. What they fail to realize is that the common flu is, how to say it . . . , more COMMON than the swine flu. An estimated 50 million (that's 6 trailing zeros before the decimal, infinitely many beyond it) Americans contract the general flu each year. That comes out to a mortality rate of 0.06%, miniscule really. Of those that fall into that unfortunate percentage, they are likely to be those with weakened immune systems, such as infants, elderly, those with respiratory disease, and those who have spent 10 consecutive days indoors on a couch watching "Days of our Lives." As of today, the mortality rate for this new flu is at 2.6%, with 66 confirmed cases in the U.S. alone, 6 of which are in Texas. Like a rattlesnake with Turret's syndrome and buck teeth, this isn't something anyone wants to mess with.

Now that the "swine flu" has entered into the vernacular, more people with symptoms are being diagnosed. There are hundreds of potential cases currently pending, and people are scrambling to purchase items they think will protect themselves. Drug stores are selling out of surgical maskswhile making all the news stories appear to be at first covering a Michael Jackson Fan Club Convention. Although is is doubtful whether the masks provide any real defense against the swine flu, it is making the surgical mask making companies rich. Look for designer colors and styles to hit the shelves at your local department store soon.

So the reality is that because of a small boy in Mexico (who's made a full recovery), I've got an unexpected 10-day sabbatical that I get to spend with my own children. Although it complicates things, one should never let a world-wide health scare go to waste. The kids and I will make the most of our time off. Perhaps we'll start with a little arts and crafts activity: pimping our homemade swine flu masks.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Attack of the TAKS

Brains are a churning
Calculators are crunching
Pencils are smoking
And students are munching

Each lost in their thought
of x's and y's
solving equations
finding rectangle's sides.

Today is the TAKS test
Mathematics's up first
It's smart to start testing
with the test that's the worst

We're all in the midst
of day one of the four.
At the end of the day
we'll still have three more.

Students sit for exams
'cause the state says they muss'
They're judging the students,
but they're, too, judging us.

These high-stakes conditions
try to adequately measure
What a student can remember
under high-stakes pressure

But the test is untimed
and some finish fast.
Others go slowly,
lest they must go to class.

Bubbling and gridding
they work through the test
certain on some,
and guessing the rest.

Some take small breaks,
put their head down and sleep.
Others just zone off
without making a peep.

As I actively monitor
alert and aware,
sometimes a student
feels the weight of my stare.

I've never spent 4 hours
that felt quite so long.
Even pacing the room
didn't move time along.

Then slowly they finish
first one and then two,
and now that they're done,
they have nothing to do.

So now I must make sure
that everyone's quiet
And keep one's who've finished
from starting a riot.

I know it's my job
and I shouldn't be bitter,
but at times I just feel
like a paid babysitter.

Then finally, at last,
the last person's done.
In reality, though.
The long week's just begun.

Tomorrow, then Thursday,
then Friday as well.
"Oh cometh, ye Saturday,
our savior from . . . "

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sham Wow, Slam Pow

A giant big mess has been made
that cannot be cleaned up by a maid
and not paper towels
or even Shamwows
can turn these lemons to lemonade.

"So what's the big mess?" you inquire
Well it involves a female for hire.
And a famous pitch person
in a situation that worsened
When she failed to put out his fire

It appears that the pitchman got randy
After absorbing a bucket of brandy
So he picked up a hooker
(he's not much of a looker)
And retreated to feast on his candy.

In their room it soon was hardcore
As the hour approached that of 4.
They were chopping and slicing
and cutting and dicing
Then the Shamwow guy gave a roar.

As he slipped her the tongue she did plea
"Please keep that gross thing out of me!"
She bit down so fierce
His tongue she did pierce
So he punched her to get himself free.

With a slap and a chop to her face
There was blood all over the place
there were lots of wet tears
and a couple spilled beers
Leaving them both in disgrace.

Arrested and booked into jail
Vince "Offer" Shlomi soon posted bail
and asked himself "How
he can now sell Shamwow?"
In light of this messy detail.

Now that he's committed his crime
And tarnished his image with grime
his next big manuever
should be to sell spot remover
If he's ever got another chance to shine

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mathematical Musings: XVI

Another weekly installment of my pedagogical persiflage.
  • I’m not of the high and supreme moral fabric you think I am. I’m more sub-lemon than sublime.
  • He who forgets his food in the microwave is doomed to reheat it.
  • I like to be fit. I don’t like to exercise though, and when I’m fit, I’d rather have someone else do it, like a Tailor, but it’s very important to be fit. You wouldn’t want your clothes to fit you inappropriately.
  • You can bet that that will happen 99 times out of 99 ½ chances.
  • My dad used to work in the used car business. It was brutal. He had one day off a week, and when sales were down, he was required to work on his day off. As it turns out, Idiot Shark Logic dictates that fewer sales is a function of lack of salesmen. So what ended up happening is there were 10 guys just standing around most of the day instead of just 8. The neanderthal sales manager who sits on his brain all day, had no clue that low sales was not caused by the lack of salesmen to handle the customers BUT THE LACK OF CUSTOMERS THEMSELVES!!!! Hello!!
  • I know all the digits of Pi, I just don’t know what order they go in.
  • Student: “Mr. Korpi, is the next test going to be hard?” Korpi: “Do you really want me to answer that? What do you think? Have we had one yet that’s been soft? Let’s just say it’ll be darn solid.”
  • As much as I dislike teaching Precal, not only because I don’t like the subject, but especially because of the whiny, youth-like, skill-deficient students that take it, if I’m going to keep teaching Calculus, I need to keep teaching precal so that I don’t end up feeling the same way about calculus. I’d rather get the stupidity out of them at a lower level than at a higher one.
  • My wife keeps telling me I’m out of shape. I keep telling her that I’m not out of shape, I’m just so malleable and flexible, that I can take on many shapes. Right now I'm a circle.
  • I’m about to say something that is not funny in the least bit: “Orbital Sanders aren’t so random as cheeseburgers driving taxis.”
  • Have you ever tried to assemble phrases of words that you imagine have never been spoken in that particular sequence before? Phrases like, “Whale aphrodisiacs with chalk and dice,” or the rarer sequence, “Hey! I like math.”
  • Have you noticed that all cars now have a starting price of like, under 35 thousand dollars, like $34,999? Then in the commercials, they show the car, and in the small print at the bottom, it reads, “$34,999 base price, $84,999 as shown,” and you’re wondering, “Dang, if that one’s 85 grand and it has all the components of a car, what’s the base model that costs 35 grand lacking? Do the windows roll down? OH! They all have On-Star, so I can find the closest McDonald’s Restaurant. How did we ever get along without these cars? I don’t know, but I’m going to have to keep getting along without them, ‘cause I sure can’t afford them, and I can find McDonald’s by myself, thank you very much. It's right next to Dollar General.
  • Do you ever wonder when we are going to run out of original melodies for songs? Or at least when we are going to run out of melodies with G, C, and D as chords? They are already recycling melodies at my sons Pre-K school. Every week he comes home singing a different song to the tune of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” . . . Think about it, you’ve learned 3 different tunes as a tad to the ABC song: ABC, Twinkle, Twinkle, and Baa, Baa, Black Sheep. . . .No, you never wonder that? Well, I’m going to make a prediction: I’m saying in 180.95 years.
  • You’re Lazy with a capital “E.”
  • My wife’s name is spelled “S-H-E-A-L-Y-N-N.” The P is silent, and noticeably absent.
  • I think “Nimrod” is a word that is too frequently underused.
  • When I drive places in town, I might as well be a passenger, because it’s all the stupid people behind the wheels of the other cars that DRIVE ME CRAZY!!!!!!!!!
  • I Love to play tennis, and I suck at it, so that always happens to be my score, too. But it’s still OK, because I just like to raise a racket.
  • Writing jokes is not a joking matter. You must take it seriously or people will just laugh at you.
  • “People” magazine: it’s like High School for grown-ups.
  • I laugh at people who read magazines like “People” and “Us;” people who watch programs like “Entertainment Tonight” and “Xtra.” I guess the general American public needs to live vicariously through the shallow, idiotic, materialistic people they choose to support. It’s like tracking your stock portfolio; only, you are not earning anything on your investment in celebrities. You go to their games, you watch their movies, you read their books, you buy their clothes, you sing their songs, blah, blah, blah. If you don’t want me to LAUGH AT YOU, you must become one of these people and not the people who are interested in them.
  • One of my favorite bands is “The Cure.” Listening to their music is like a big Vicodin pill for the troubled soul: it provides acute, temporary comfort to a chronic, incurable illness.
  • I’m so tired, I can almost sleep, but not so tired that I can’t.
  • I’m so bored, you can use me to build a piece of wood.
  • I was very precocious as a child. When I was 1.9, I really acted like I was terribly 2.1!
  • I like to say funny things, especially when people are eating; it’s fun to watch mashed potatoes and root beer shoot out of someone’s nose, unless you are sitting across from them, then it’s just gross, but funny to others. I like people laughing with me, not at me. This is why I always sit across from librarians.
  • My wife tells me I’m delusional; that I think I’m funnier than I really am. That’s OK. I’ll have the last laugh when I get someone else to play my wife on my sitcom: someone like . . . Lassie!
  • I don’t know what I’d do without my wife. I love her to death. But sometimes she drives me crazy, so instead of getting mad, I just try to love her more and more and more and more, hoping that I really do love her that much.
  • I don’t know what to say in a situation like this, so I’ll just say, “Skitelbitsemkarft.”
  • I’m not a good comforter. If something tragic has happened in you life, you can expect a “there, there” from me. If you have died, you can guarantee an extra “there.”
  • Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!! I always knew the results of your test would come back Pos . . . err (cough) I mean Negative! Look at that alien over there!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Writing is easy. It’s coming up with what to write that is a bit more challenging.
  • If I ever wrote a book, people would probably be amazed, since the advent of the typewriter and keyboard. They would probably ask, “Why didn’t you just type it? That would have been more appropriate. Then you could have just emailed your editor your manuscript as an attachment.” True, but how many people can say that they have typed a book?
  • My new favorite band is “Los Lonely Boys.” Everyone else I introduce them to, which means tape them to a chair while the band plays in the background, says that they will “never give it up” and that the band sucks!! You know, Willie Nelson is touting them as “His favorite new band.” I guess that makes me and Willie honorary members of the band.
  • I’ve said a lot of profound things in my life, and many funny things, but none as profound and funny as the claim I just made.
  • In 1943, America was preparing for World War II, but my Dad was a Sophomore in High School thinking, “If I can only land that rural farming girl, our son can drive a standard automobile. Oh the gene pool potential, because the spaceships of the future will have standard transmission, and that girl can drive a tractor.”
  • I’m a very dizzy fellow. I guess I shouldn’t spin so fast in my own boots.
  • Life sucks: if you’re lucky.
  • Wife-n-someone who tells you what to do, when you want to do otherwise.
  • When we graph Supply and Demand curves, we measure price on the vertical axis and commodity quantities on the other. An example of a commodity could be a commode. It works well as a commodity, but it works better as a toilet.
  • At my house, we reserve the second-story for the upstairs only.
  • I don’t care much for polka music; it’s like crazy, annoying polka music with words I don’t understand.
  • In mathematics it is impressive to be able to navigate through a long problem and perform all the necessary long and drawn-out computations successfully; however, it is even more impressive if you can find a way to do the problem more efficiency and actually do less complex and lengthy calculations. Efficiency, after all, is nothing more than intelligent laziness.
  • My wife and I have a three-year-old son and an 18-month-old daughter who was born about a year and a half ago.
  • When I went for physical therapy after my knee surgery, I was the only patient there who didn’t like playing dominoes.
  • My surgery on my knee went so well, I think I am going to have the other done to match, but not just yet. I figured I wait 100 years or so.
  • When it comes to enforcing my knee-bending exercises, my wife is very inflexible.
  • The only thing worse than having to use crutches, is needing them and not having them. But I have to admit, I rely on them pretty heavily. I'm embarrassed to say that I use them as a crutch.
  • I’m so tired, I could sleep with a horse.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A bug in your ear

Have you ever heard of an earworm? Well, if you've ever seen the 1982 "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" movie, you know how things like "ceti ells" can make their way into your cerebral cortex via your ear canal only to constantly irritate you, aggravate you, pester you, drive you mad, if not kill you altogether. But aside from Ricardo Montalbán introducing foreign objects into your Eustachian tube, what else can find itself passively lodged in there???

Well, of course, there's "Otodectes cyanotis" (ear mites), but those are really more common in canines, felines, and people who stick their ears next to and inside of the aforemetioned animals. For most of us out there, accidental manifistations of accidental audicle accessories includes the occasional Q-tips, water, giant wax balls, croutons (don't ask), and that damn song "Who Let the Dogs Out" (don't you know they have contagious ear mites???!!!)

The modern lexicon has coined such an annoyingly catchy song an "earworm." Much like a computer worm that infiltrates a computer and network without any user intervention, eating up vital resources and bandwidth, an earworm starts out as an unassuming , innocuous melody that passively overtakes your subconcious mind, leaving you singing out loud without realizing it, tossing and turning at night while you envision yourself performing the song at a sold-out concert, or performing an exorcism to rid the devilish ditty from your corrupted soul. You might find yourself singing than new "Free Credit Report.com" commercial jingle out loud while you're standing in the line at the grocery store where you're about to pay for your Doritos and beer on your credit card--that's just a little embarrassing, you might as well be wearing the pirate suit at that point.

Some people call them "songs that stick in your head," scientists have called them "haunting melodies" or "involuntary musical imagery," but the idea of a worm crawling around in your head feeding off your brain and doing serious damage to your nervous system is much more appropriate. And for different people, the worm is usually something different. Some people have stronger tolerance or immunity to catchy songs that infect most other people.

If you're a person who has never found yourself singing the "Macarena" while sitting through a boring business meeting, you're in the exclusive minority of people who live under rocks. If you think that you're too sexy to be caught with Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy," then you're nothing but a narcissist in denial. If you've ever ridden the "It's a Small World" ride at Disneyworld without having nightmares and suicidal tendencies, then you're lying through your teeth! If you know what I'm talking about, and you've since recovered, then I'm so very sorry to bring up repressed memories. I would suggest listening to the latest Disney earworm before the image of creepy little animated children in sombreros and lederhosen resurface--that new song would be "Hoedown Throwdown" from the new Hannah Montana movie.



In a previous blog, I mentioned how I enjoyed watching the movie with my family and how "catchy" the song was. Thinking my daughter would enjoy learning the song and dance, I acquired the movie soundtrack and found a Youtube video that teaches the moves. Now that song not only plays 'round the clock in my head--I was doing the dance in my dreams last night, at least I thought they were me dreams until I woke up sweaty, tired, and singing the song--it plays constantly through the speakers in my house. I find myself now itching, sweating, going stir-crazy, asking myself "Who let these dogs out??" Stupid me!!!!!

So how can one rid themselves of these toxic worms? Letting them wear off on their own can last several weeks, which by then, you're family, if not infected themselves, is likely planning an intervention on your behalf or looking up the phone number to the psych hospital. The few moments my mind's not going "boom boom clap, boom de clap de clap," I've found sanctuary in another catchy worm I picked up over the weekend: M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" from Slumdog Millionaire (which no doubt infected many others previously when it showed up in "Pineapple Express")
All I wanna do is (BANG BANG BANG BANG!)
And (KKKAAA CHING!)
And take your money




But it doesn't take long for this temporary relief to be as bad, if not worse, than the infliction it was supposed to assuage, as the lyrics quickly change in my mind to
All I wanna do is (SLEEP SLEEP SLEEP SLEEP!)
And (ZZZZZZ SNORE!)
And just get some rest
Maybe writing about all this will help me clear my mind so I can again refocus on other things like feeding myself, personal hygiene, and, of course, sleeping. With any luck, I'll catch on to a trendy lullaby or a smooth, sleepy, relaxing instrumental song, that would actually be beneficial to my current state of mind.

Oh no . . . . I'm hearing Chuck Mangione in the back of my head. Why does it have to be a trumpet. A trumpet!!



Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tips for Earthy Living

Happy Birthday, Earth. Happy Earth Day everyone else!

Today's the one day a year where we "celebrate" this great, improbable terrestrial ball and all of its life, resources, beauty, and diversity. Or at least SOME people celebrate it. With eco-friendly practices pervading American, if not Global, consciousness lately, "Going Green" has become the latest fad. Capitalism, wasting no chance to exploit this new mindset, has pandered to the the people willing to spend lots of green to go green. In fact, it is not cheap to be so conservation-minded.

For instance, we have to pay extra for rural recycling service where we live, so I don't buy it. Instead, I take my recyclables to my in-laws once a week to be included in their service. At the grocery store, we take our own handsomely-designed and sturdily-constructed green shopping bags, made from, of course, recycled materials. Those bags weren't as "free" as the complimentary plastic and paper bags we used to take our groceries home in.

But really, whatever the motivation, this new "fad" of sensitivity and awareness has one beneficiary--posterity. Our Earth, although remarkable resilient, is not totally resistant to the careless, selfish, detrimental practices of it's current inhabitants. We owe it to our children, grandchildren, future generations of homosapiens, robots, cute little fluffy kitty cats, and Mother Earth herself to live as if we were only renting borrowing our space here on this planet, in much the same way we take care of a rental car good friend's hammer newborn baby.

So what can you do today to celebrate this "artificial" holiday? Hopefully, your actions today will only jump start a new way of thinking, and a new way of everyday living.

In case you're looking for some ideas, here are some:
  • Install composting toilets in all bathrooms of your house except the ones you actually use
  • Boil your OWN water
  • Turn off all the lights in your house when not in use, unless they're already not in use
  • Brush your teeth using organic banking soda and distilled vodka water from the Earth, not the bottle faucet
  • Wash you clothes in cold water once a month instead of hot water each week, unless you want to keep your job
  • Remove all spray tips from your cans of aerosol paint and hide them in small lock box made from recycled porcelain toilets
  • Keep your batteries (AA, AAA, C, D, 9-volt, etc.) in the refrigerator AT ALL TIMES. This will prolong their life until it is time to take them to a disposal facility that specializes in used battery disposal for a large fee
  • Carry a large plant around with you wherever you go to help convert your carbon dioxide pollution into oxygen more readily
  • Conserve oxygen and talk less
  • Ride your bike instead of driving your car. When possible, ride your bike downhill only.
  • Have your HVAC system service by a licensed professional who drives a "Smart Car" and uses only "Earth Friendly" freon
  • Place a cup under any leaky faucet and generously spread the accumulated water over your lawn at 3:00 in the morning.
  • Unplug all your clocks when you're not interested in what time it is. They hoard energy!
  • By a small windmill and set it up in a breezy area, this should help dissipate heat and dangerous greenhouse gases
And finally, the best advice I can give you involves using the toilets you actually use . . .
  • If it's brown, flush it down. If it's yellow, let it mellow.
Happy Earth Day everyone!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Wait is Over

This weekend I saw two great movies.

For me, watching one movie a month is a bit excessive, and being a horrible judge of what movies are actually good, it's even rarer that I feel afterward that the 2 to 3 hours spent was well worth it. While some people are content with movie watching as mindless recreation, as a temporary escape from the reality of life, I expect much more out of my movies. I want them to deliver on their namesake: I want to be moved by them. I expect to be not only thoroughly and wholeheartedly entertained, a good movie will get me to explore my beliefs, convictions, values, and will take me on a roller coaster ride through all the essential emotions. If at no time during the movie I find myself fighting back cathartic tears, I get angry, 'cause I'm not getting my time or money back.

Now I'm not a smart man, but I know what a great movie is . . . ."Forrest Gump," what I think is one of the greatest movies of all time, has all the essential elements, and is really like 5 movies in one--a great bargain. The original "Rocky," does it for me too, not so much the sequals (although I cried when Apollo Creed died). "The Godfather" is in the same class, even though there is no Lieutenant Dan character in it. "The Dark Knight," has moved into my top five simply because of Ledger's performance, the way he made that pencil disappear . . . OUCH!

Most recently I've been disappointed by movies like"Journey to the Center of the Earth," "Michael Clayton,"(It was actually "GREAT!?") and "Get Smart" (get real!) These movies were more like bad bubble gum that not only loses it's flavor as soon as you get it out of the wrapper, but that has such horrible consistency you can't even blow a bubble with it. Taking advice from friends is no good either. The same guy that might have your back in a bar room fight is the same guy that will recommend a movie that leaves you wishing you had rather been beaten to a pulp.

On Saturday night, I finally took in the award-winning "Slumdog Millionaire." With sooo many friends saying how wonderful it was and rarely liking the "Best Picture" winner ("Howard's End" for one--I couldn't even finish it), I put it off as long as I could. Finally succumbing to the pressure, I was immediately taken by the soundtrack and cinematography, not to mention the fact that I could play a trivia game (my favorite) throughout the show. And what a show it was, possessing a little bit of everything from action, to drama, a love story, comedy, multiculturalism, cricket, good vs. evil, justice v. injustice, Dicken's modern-day Fagen, great acting, perfectly placed sound effects and background music, trivia (of course), and even dancing at the end during the credits. Although I rarely ever watch a movie twice, this is one I might have to take in again. Even right now as I write this, I'm listening to the soundtrack trying to make out what the Hindi lyrics are saying, but since I don't know Hindi, I just bob my head and groove along with it.

Earlier that Saturday, my family dragged me to the new Hannah Montana movie. With major resistance to another installment of "Teen Disney" shows which permeate, saturate, and dominate our TV viewing at home, the last thing I wanted to do was sit in a theater and watch some synthetic storyline by which "Hannah Montana" grows up and becomes just "Miley." Her transmogrification was going to happen whether I forked out money for tickets, popcorn, bon-bons, pickles and a jumbo soda to see it happen. I'd know the transformation was by watching my daughter's wardrobe change from Hannah to Miley in much the same was it changed from Dora the Explorer to Hannah. But when the kids are begging you to go, what are you going to do?

What I wasn't suspecting was that I would actualy LIKE the show. Granted, viewing it in a theater full of little girls on Hannah fieldtrips and full of reluctant fathers like me provided the atmosphere in which I could enjoy the show without questioning my motives. With a very simple, even trite, storyline and only capable acting at best, the message of the importance of family values and being true to yourself never get old. The soundtrack, too, was surprisingly well-written. Perhaps the musically side of me appreciated the real talents of the singer-songwriter side of Ms. Cyrus more than her histrionic acting. For instance, there is a tender moment in the movie with her father where she sings to him her "Caterpillar/Butterfly" song. I get sappy and emotional over things like that, especially sitting next to my own 6-year-old daughter, even though at the time, she was bouncing up and down in her chair paying no attention to the movie.

That soundtrack, too, I now have at home, and my son and daughter are trying to teach me the "Hoedown Throwdown" lyrics and dance. It's AMAZING how quickly little kids can memorize stuff when they want to, but they have a hard time remembering the sequence of getting ready for school in the morning. If I have to remind them one more time that clothes go on AFTER their shower, I'm going to have a real, live hoedown throwdown with them.

Although I'll likely never watch that Hannah movie ever again (until it comes on TV on the Disney channel and my kids hide the remote . . . ) the entire experience with the family made it very pleasureable and enjoyable, except for the fact that my daughter ate my entire pickle, even though I asked her a hundred times at the concession counter if she wanted one, and she repeatedly said, "No (thank you sweet, wonderful) Daddy."

So while I wear out the Slumdog sountrack while fondly reflecting on the movie itself and foolishly attempt to line dance with Hannah all over again like I did almost 20 years ago with her father's "Achy Breaky Heart," I'll be waiting for the next movie gem to stumble upon.

I hear there's a MacGyver movie in the works. Forrest Gump, move over, "step to the side, jump to the left, stick it, glide, zigzag across the floor, shuffle in diagonal, when the drum hits, hands on your hips, one-footed 180 twist, then zigzag, step, slide, lean in left, clap three times, shake it out head to toe, throw it all together, that's how we roll . . . do the hoedown throwdown.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mathematical Musings: XV

More silly classroom banter spoken by me in the heat of a mathematical moment.
  • If each of you (students) don’t live up to my expectations, it is your failing, not my mistake.
  • Last week, I kept getting this Pop-Up ad for Viagra; it was like the ad, itself, was on the stuff.
  • If I don’t see y’all ‘til next time, have a great time ‘til then, or even better.
  • I have graded your tests. Some did better than others, some worse than others. One person did no worse than anyone, and one also did no better than anyone. The lowest grade was below the top score, which was above the lowest. The rest of the grades were distributed between the high and low grade. So, overall, the grades were somewhere between zero and 100, with the lowest score not being zero, but the highest grade actually being 100. I will hand them back to you now.
  • After this problem, we will be closer to being close to almost being ready to be fixing to be almost done.
  • Thanks for catching my error. I knew something wasn’t right. It just didn’t feel right when I did it. I was thinking, “Did I leave the iron on at home? No, I don’t iron. Did I forget my car keys this morning?” As it turned out, I just missed a negative.
  • Korpi: “Here’s the last of the easy ones . . .” Student: “Ya, before you beat us to death with the hard ones.” Korpi: “No, No, No! I prefer to call it 'flogging'.”
  • Because this class asks much more profound and probing questions than the other class; consequently, we have more lively discussions. Also, consequently, we have to go more quickly through the lesson. But, more intelligent people ask more intelligent questions, and, more intelligent people can learn more quickly. So to get the lesson in, I usually have to talk 90-to-nothing, almost intelligibly fast. I am confident that you will either get the lesson or quit asking so many darn questions.
  • It’s OK in our answer if we restrict the domain. The domain of our answer can be a subset of the domain of our original function. What we don’t want to happen is for the original problem’s domain to be a proper subset of our answer. Think of the dire and irreversible consequences!!!
  • Although my daughter is 10 months old, when people ask how old she is, I say, “Zero.” From this, they infer, usually, if they don’t breathe through their mouth, that she is in the interval of the non-inclusive interval of zero to one. Some people think she is actually zero, even thought they don’t even realize that that is impossible.
  • What a great lesson I have in store for you today. Today you are going to say, “Wow! I can’t believe public education is FREE!” I haven’t been this excited about a lesson since last time.
  • The best way to avoid discipline problems in the classroom is a heavy dose of cheesy, really cheesy jokes. The kids will get used to them and come to expect an order of free queso with every lesson.
  • OK, you say we should preserve the domain at all costs. I say, it’s OK to restrict it, so long as we don’t expand it. It’s a matter of preference really. I’m the teacher, which means, I’m the boss. If there is no real profound mathematical consequence, you will do as I say, or your class rank will drop. Otherwise, we are just splitting hairs, and when I say hairs, I mean like on the top of your head, not bunnies. That’s for biology class, AND that’s how the real-world works.
  • Today is a free day. I’m really tired. If you object, please take it up with the Principal. To keep it on the level, though, as I sleep, you may calculate the area under my curve. Please use theoretical data rather than empirical. I would like to live to sleep another day.
  • Yes I drink a full pot of coffee each day, and I put it all in this big giant mug. And that’s all I need, just one cup a day, then. Don't tell me that it’s bad for me, too much caffeine, etc. If caffeine is bad for you, then everything is bad for you. I’ll honestly say that the fumes from that powerful bold-colored green dry-erase marker are more detrimental than caffeine . . . but for you students, in the name of mathematics, I assume the risks. It just comes with the job of being a math teacher.
  • To student: Your homework is like a really good steak—rarely done.
  • My marvelous masters of math meddle in my mistakes, making my mishaps material for mathematical merriment.
  • All arrays aren’t always arranged alphabetically.
  • Mathematical mastery mitigates matriculation misery.
  • Determining Derivatives Demands Dedicated, Diligent Disciples.
  • Homework helps hone helpful habits.
  • Confidently calculating complex calculus computations commands committed concentration.
  • Learning limits lightly is, loosely, lunacy.
  • Intimately investigation infinitesimals introduces initiates and ingrates to infinite ideas.
  • Participation prepares people positively for purposeful pursuits.
  • Most matters of math muster the mind’s mighty muscle.
  • Knowing numbers is a non-negotiable necessity.
  • Proving postulates purports painstaking persistence and presupposes patience.
  • Educators endure enormous entourages of energetic ensembles.
  • Alliteration almost automatically alleviates ailments . . . Anyways . . .
  • Painful persistence pertaining to particular procedures promotes prolonged procurement of proper practices.
  • Functions form the fundamental foundations of finite formulas for finding forces.
  • Fall finals foster fear for fatuous fellows who frantically forget formulas.
  • Starting spring semesters signal salient, sallying sounds of seniors singing saporous, seductive songs of summer.
  • Trig’s tricky triangular tasks take time to tackle triumphantly.
  • The real roots of romance aren’t reason or ‘rithmetic, rather reducible to raw, robust regard for roses.
  • The terminable task of taking the TAKS test is torturous and taxing, though tacitly tolerable.
  • You say I drink too much coffee. 10 cups a day! Big deal. You should see my coffee maker. It can make 12 cups at a time. So to me, 10 cups is already in moderation.
  • Man, this Calculus book is heavy. I get tired of lifting it up on my podium. It must really suck to be y’all, having to carry it around all day with all those other books. Man it sucks to be y’all. . . . And all that math homework you have. . .
  • Although my big huge mug says, “Texas Tea Cup,” it’s just a false front, a cover, for what it really contains. No, my friends, it doesn’t contain any tea at all. It really contains the warmer, equally caffeinated drink: coffee. It’s so fun to fool people.
  • That was a great discussion we had today. Thank y’all for being so mathematically feisty.
  • A function and an inverse have all their y-ey and x-ey stuff switched. What is "exy' on the function is now very "exy" on its inverse.
  • Calculus is so much fun because we get to have some great philosophical discussions regarding zero and infinity. They are such seriously profound and related concepts that history has had many sects devoted entirely to them. That’s s-e-c-t-s. Probably fewer of the other type.
  • Korpi: “I know I promised that this would be the last problem we work today in class, but I want to work just one more, because I think it will help you in the homework.” Student: “So you’re a compulsive liar, huh?” Korpi: “No. Just call me a ‘Friday Fibber’.” Student: “So you aren’t a compulsive liar?” Korpi: “Yes, I am. I was just lying earlier.”
  • Dang!!! I hate these white dry-erase markers. I never know where to erase!
  • The slower I talk, the sleepier I get!
  • I think the past participle of “to drink” should be “have drinken,” not “have drunk.” I think the word “drunk” should be reserved for times when you say, “Dang, I’m drunk! I guess I have drinken too much!”
  • There are only 2 minutes left for the quiz. You should be getting really close to making your final guesses.
  • Korpi: “Boy, it sure feels like a Friday today!” Student: “But, today is Friday.” Korpi: “Hence the veracity of my previous statement!”

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Drunk and Fight

Last week in my precalculus class, two students were thumbing through a thin book whose cover me recognized. You see, back in high school myself bought I the same exact book! The book was titled "Strunk and White: The Elements of Style." At the encouragement of my then AP English teacher, the book was purchased by myself, and was to serve as the grammatical bible for all of my future writing and speaking endeavors. I thought it strange to see it reemerging in the hands of a student after all these years, for I have not heard any students nor teachers speak of it during the 10 years I've been teaching high school. In fact, during that time, the language and grammar has actually deteriorated with the advent of email, texting, blogging (myself excluded), and twitting. So to see that the same students who have to follow the precise rules of mathematics were interested in learning the ancient, proper rules of grammar, I was ecstatic.

The writers, Strunk and White, teach us that we should not separate a noun from its restrictive term of identification. We are also not supposed to use a colon after a preposition or dependent clause to list things, and other misuses like: separating independent clauses with a comma. Unless it's necessary, using a dash limitedly--(and not to adverbialize adjectives) like only when--and not arbitrarily--when another puncuation mark--unless for poetic purposes--will not do, and each time you uses the word "each," you should follow with the singular verb.

One of the most egregious misuses is of the personal pronoun, which myself is very guilty of using. Unless yourself have already referred to you in a sentence, the reflexive pronoun, as well as the passive voice, should not be used--that is. (Unless you're trying to spread the culpability very thin, as in: the vase was broken by myself.) By the way; periods should go outside the parenthesis only if, the clause in the parenthesis is an independent one (otherwise--if it is a dependent clause-- it should go on the inside).

When placed at the beginning of the sentence, a participle phrase must refer to the grammatical subject it refers to. And we all know about ending a sentence with a preposition--it's not not supposed to! As Winston, the man, Churchill once quipped: "Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put!"

churhill didn't mind absences of commas or captial letters, though

There are also rules of composition that help yourself write good. Statements should be NOT phrased in the negation of the opposite, but rather in the positive, nor should infinitives be, unless absolutely for only poetic "liscence", split. When putting together a string of words to describe a feeling, one should not refer to a description of the thing that one is wanted to try to say in a way that is not too long or wordy or redundant or wordy or too long, but instead one should be brief and concise. For example, saying that my best friend is someone that I do not have much confidence in, I should say that I, myself, "distrust" him, but sometimes I think that advise like that, when in the middle of a sentence, is something that I do not have much confidence in.

Another great tip is to not write like, umm, you know, as if, well, quite straightly, as if you were speaking, you know? Owing to the fact that writing is like more "formal" than speaking. L o o s e s e n t e n c e s s h o u l d a l w a y s b e v e h e m e n t l y a v o i d e d -- u n l e s s y o u r t e a c h e r r e q u i r e s y o u r p a p e r t o b e " d o u b l e s p a c e d " . We should always keep and maintain with a pen related words in a sentence together when writing, unless the sentence has a related word about someone in your family you despise for putting that stain in your rug right in the center.

When summarizing a work, Strunk and White suggested that use always use the present tense, and when summarizing in general, use one tense, which is what I'm doing here. Because these authors are so preeminent, we believe their every suggestion like: they suggests putting emphatic words or word phrases at the end of a sentence. We have hardly advanced--though--in eloquency of language since they have written the book; although, we have advanced in many other ways. Like we have refrained form mispellings, and separating only two things listed with commas. Additionally! We have lost our enthusiasm for emphasizing simple statements by adding an exclamation mark at the end! In fact, ourselves have advanced to unnecessarily adding too many (which is so appropriate when we split an infinitive)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On page thirty five of the book they say "don't spell out numbers, unless they occur in dialogue." My wife said, "I learned that in 3rd grade!!!!!" The authors also express there irriatition with the misuse of words! Me to, although some might thing its alright. Between you, me, and the fly on the wall, me totally disagree with they're rule about "'between' involves only too subjects, while 'among' involves more than two." As to whether to use "as to whether" or just "whether," using "whether" is sufficient, enough, and adequate. Also, the use of and/or apparently either damages the sentence and/or leaves it totally ambiguous. And anybody who starts a sentence with and or doesn't use "any one" in lieu of "anybody" is a grammatical fool!!!!!!

When it comes to "lay" and "lie," not even Strunk and White really know the difference, only to say that "chickens lay, cheaters lie and politicians do both."

And did you realize that "enthused" is not a word? But merely a "made up" word by lazy, enthusiasitic people??!!..)) I have a mixed time relating to these guys (even though they say that myself should rather say that we have alot (a lot) in common, yet differ in respectable ways), even though I have a difficult, challenging time letting all these rules of un-/non-/ anti-?? superfluency to be utilized (used?) Although it's concise, I cannot (or is it can not, or can't) seam to absorb all of it's consice wisdom. In fact, like my golf swing: the moar I no, the moore I 4get.

Despite both being dead, the language continues to be shaped by new additions of both (Strunk and White)'s famous book. But, don't look for the Twitter version to, although very palpable, be on BSS (Book Shelfs Sune).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Something Dark, Something New

I've finally gone over to the dark side--I've joined Facebook.

I've never been one for small talk, and I've never been one to jump on the popular bandwagon. It took me many years before I bought my first cell phone, and even now my wife is one of the few people I talk to it on, and believe me, those conversations are anything but "small" talk. I've always preferred face-to-face conversations about ideas rather than remote telecommunications about the weather, my wardrobe, or what I'm doing this weekend. I guess that's why I like teaching so much--everyday I have 90-minute blocks of live interactions about great ideas (trigonometry, function analysis, calculus, problem solving, and the novel idea of "doing your homework").

When it comes to writing, that's something I've always loved to do, ever since my 10-page saga titled "Oopidoo Nimnal and his ray gun" earned an A+ in 2nd grade. For several years, I even kept a journal (Shut Up! it wasn't a diary) in which I wrote poetry and entertained the fascinating and strange ideas that were floating around in my head. It was like having quiet, meaningful conversations with myself about ideas (many of which were questionable). Even now, I'll come across an old spiral notebook or a 3-ring binder with all my "brain droppings" scribbled in them. They're still fun to read to this day, and doing so is like looking through old photo albums, the pictures the words bring back so vivid in my mind.

Fast forward to the computer age, which not only made it easier to edit and store my drivel (although initially harder to write, as I was used to pen and paper composition rather than pounding keys in front of a then, cathode ray tube), but gave people simple, convenient ways to share their stuff with others through e-mail (has this word evolved to the unhyphenated version?), personal web pages, chat rooms, and discussion forums. I seldom e-mailed anyone and NEVER participated in the whole chat room thing. I was content with my writing as pure metacognitive, introspective activities.

Then came the "Web Log" which soon became know as the Blog. I began reading a few and found them to be funny, interesting, and sometimes enlightening (especially Scott Adams's), but best of all, it was a passive activity with no pressure to comment, and required no interaction except through the words on the page . . . errr . . . screen. As I read more and more, I thought, "wouldn't it be neat to do that? what a great way to discipline yourself into writing something of meaning everyday? with the prospect of actually having someone or maybe even TWO people stumbling across it in cyberspace and READING it, it would also "force" me to temper my thoughts and diction." Once I found out that there were free sites for blogging, I got going at it. Except for the occasional downtime due to the chore of daily living, the activity has served its purpose.

Facebook has now been on the scene awhile, and it has supplanted the ostentatious competitor "My Space" as the respectable social networking site. Having never been one for "social gatherings," "social bathrooms," "social studies," or "social networking," my energy has always been drawn from within. The act of reading and writing, not socializing, which I've always associated with that "small talk" stuff, is what I prefer. But I thought that joining FB would give me a chance to actually reconnect with some old friends from the past and give me a way to stay in touch with other friends I've met outside the state (Facebook has pictures, so in my mind, it's better than emailing.)

I didn't realize what I was in for. As soon as I completed my username, password, high school graduation year, favorite color, social security number, bank account information, wall safe combination number, and time of day my home was vacant with my valuables inside, Facebook came up with so many "suggested friends" for me to contact, I thought I shopping online at the "Cost Co for lonely guys without friends." I innocently clicked several names of people I remembered from high school, 10 or so, leaving the remaining 20 "on the shelf." After clicking "next," Facebook took it upon itself to send out invitations to those I had selected to be my friend!!!!!!!!!! Oh crap! I thought maybe checking their boxes would only put them on MY list so I could easily check in on them LATER when I felt like contacting them PERSONALLY. I had no idea it was going to make me seem like a pathetic, lonely, loser, guy soliciting long-lost familiarites.

I immediately thought about deleting my entire newly-created account in the hopes that FB would follow-up to everyone with a message like "Friend request terminated due to termination of requestor," or "Nevermind, Kevin found friends on his own." But before I could actually carry out the fail-safe option, I got confirmation that three people already accepted my invitation!!!!!

"Wow," I thought. "Do you think they've been sitting at their computers in anticipation of having a chance of being MY friend? Or could it be that I'm not the sorriest loser out there desparate for some type, any type of friendship?" I ultimately figured that they were just cool old friends who happen to be online at the time, and I decided to leave my account and outstanding friend requests intact.

But then it got a little out of hand . . .

What I wasn't prepared for was the inundation of "Friend Requests" sent to ME from all sorts of people: people I knew, people I'd seen, people I didn't know, people who had names that rhymed with people I'd once read about . . . . so on and so forth. With the POWER to either "accept" their "friendship" or "deny" it, I've found it very hard to deny anyone because of my GIANT HEART (even from the cold, insensitive distance of cyberspace, it seems like a rude and snobby gesture), but I also am reluctant to "take on" too many "friends" because I don't want the pressure and the strings attached with having hundreds of stranger thinking their my best bud.

The whole "comment" feature has me a little stressed too. There is an expectation and obligation to comment on every little teeny, tiny trivial thing from someone's recently posted photos of them spreading ant poison in their back yard, to a quiz someone took that says he's like a Swiss Dachshund, to a quick line someone typed about how he's tired and looking forward to watching TV tonight!! I don't want to be rude and leave them hanging. As inane as the topics might be, a quick-witted comment could be a real boost of confidence or energy to the person on the other end. It's hard living by the Golden Rule. The baggage that comes with all these new remote "friends" is more work than I bargained for.

So I comment, and I comment, and I try to keep them short (which is also stressful), and I try to sound very excited and not to cynical when I tell someone that I'm glad they just LOVE the new Rascall Flats song. But it's not easy (no just because I really I can't stand that Rascall guy's voice) . . . but it IS kind of fun, 'cause typed words have no intonation nor facial expression, so my new best friends might THINK that I really think it's cool that she drives a fuel-efficient Toyota Prius, when in actuality I'm hammering the typing keys in disgust with my tongue out because deep down inside I prefer gas-guzzling trucks.

As with anything that's new, I'm dedicating a lot of time to this new venture, which only makes getting everything else done more difficult. So if blogging is my steady "girlfriend," this whole FB think could just as well be my "mistress" for now. I'm hoping the novelty wears off by December, 'cause if not, this year's Christmas Card is going to cost me a bundle on stamps alone.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Troubled Waters

Judging from the lack of response to yesterday's abstruse blog, I'm guessing everyone out there was either too busy taking advantage of the "One Day Sale" at Bealls Department Store, saving an amazing 40% off of items marked up 60% -OR- tow serious math blogs in a row was just too much for the average person to take much interest in.

Although I can read, write, and do mathematics at any hour of any day even neglecting personal hygiene to do so if need be, to expect others to share the enthusiasm and stamina for such unrelenting, gratuitous subject matter is a bit unrealistic. Nevermind the fact that next year's students will be subject not just to two consecutive days of math, but FIVE days in a row . . . each week, as we move to a 7 period day.

Until then, though, I guess I should pace myself with the math and stick to dispensing the recondite commentary on infinity is small, periodic doses. So what can today's blog be about? What else is there besides mathematics?

Perhaps I can write about the recent acts of piracy taking place off the coast of Somalia?

Gone are the days of swashbuckling, wooden legs, and pet parrots. The modern day pirates are simply well-armed terrorists looking for much more than a way to express their desire to download free music. Although we all like our free Britney Spears music (who wants to actually pay for that?), today's pirates are looking for tens of millions of dollars in ransom money to take back to their direly poor nation in order to purchase more weapons, repay Taliban loans, or because they don't have Bealls One-Day-Sales back home. You just can't shake a stick at these violent predators, unless there's about $35 million attached to the end of that stick, in which case, they'd probably take the stick too, and hold if for additional ransom of a few cents.

Most recently, they failed in their attempt to seize a U.S. flagged vessel traveling more than 400 miles off the coast of Africa, well outside their usual radius of operation, taking the captain as an elective hostage on the ships lifeboat. As U.S. warships fled to the area, the 4 pirates were sitting ducks in the water, out of fuel, out of options, and running out of time. As risky as the international pirating, kidnapping, and extortion business is, these comrades found themselves facing the most powerful Navy in the world. Finally after 5 days, with the "go ahead" from our new Commander-In-Chief, Captain Phillips was freed as snipers efficiently took out 3 of 4 pirates, which was enough to encourage the 4th one to surrender.

At least this incident had a happy ending . . . for America anyway. With the ship reaching its port under armed escort, and the Captain escaping unharmed, we can all take a collective sigh of relief and cheer the bravery of the crew, the courage of the captain, and the strength of the U.S. Navy. We can also expect some fallout from this event. Rest assured, now that the U.S. has been involved, the rules have changed. Obama has vowed to step up defense and protection against such acts of piracy, while the pirates themselves are now vowing to make the U.S. regret having drawn "First Blood." The television industry is already determined to produce the "made for TV" movie of the whole ordeal, casting Dan Akroyd as Captain Richard Phillips.

Who's who?

But in an age of technology and heightened awareness of terrorism, it's shocking that modern day piracy on the high seas is even possible. Perhaps it's because of my pragmatic predisposition, entrepreneurial naivete, or just my upbringing, but if I was a poor and hungry and living on a coast, piracy wouldn't be on my list of "sustainable" ways to provide myself with food, shelter, clothing, and internet access. The audacity and complete lack of morality, if not the desperation combined with a cache of high-powered firearms, it must take for these pirates to do what they do. Certainly if this is a solution to a problem, in their eyes, it is a myopic, short-termed one that cannot and will not last. It's not a business you can pass down to your son or grandson. Especially when you're messing with the United States, be it under Truman, W., or Obama.

Private companies who have to navigate the waters, put their crews and products at risk, and who have to pay the ultimate ransoms are not going to do so without taking measures and fighting back. Powerful nations will get involved, as the U.S. now has. Which begs the question: are these acts of piracy simply the work of desperate Somalis simply exercising Chutzpah and bad judgment, are are they part of a larger network of terrorists trying to fund a bigger cause and bait the U.S. into an imbroglio? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, ships will continue their passage through the Indian Ocean, taking wider and less direct routes to safely reach their ports, Bealls will continue to offer artificial value to unsuspecting customers, and Britney Spears will continue to make bad music that people will be illicitly obtaining off the Internet.