Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I've heard that pregnant woman sometimes get cravings for some pretty outlandish, unconventional combinations of things to eat. . . whether they're edible or not. Mac and cheese with lobster tail is quite common. Grilled cheese with Gain laundry detergent . . . not so much. These cravings usually pass, and a normal diet is resumed (even though the husband has a much harder time getting off his "empathy diet for two").

Well, I know I'm not pregnant (I hope), and although I LOVE the smell of Gain, I haven't had the urge to sprinkle it all over my Post Toasties in the morning (I really don't eat any breakfast, but I thought the imagery would work for the general reader). What I HAVE had an insatiable craving for lately (3 months now, qualifying it as more than a craving, fad, or "Tonight Show" host guarantee) is for something with much less "dirt-lifting" capabilities as any laundry soap. I've truthfully been addicted to


(I don't know how to type a Tilda. Perhaps I'll figure it out by the time I'm through with this post and these three plump, verdant, spicy jalapeno peppers currently in front of me). By addiction, I mean that I can't even do a decent math problem anymore without a fiery sensation in my mouth and some masticated seeds in my belly.

I've eaten so many lately that I can't even support my habit by shopping at the local HEB, not only because it was eating a hole in my wallet, but because they weren't eating a big enough hole in my stomach (weren't hot enough). I've resorted to shopping at CostCo, a place I used to make fun of for stocking a 5-gallon tub of mayonnaise. Now I've embraced their 6 pound, 4 ounce container of pre-sliced AND whole jalepnos (not yet) which are both cheap ($6) and sufficiently hot (4600 Scoville heat units).

My first trip to the warehouse superstore, I bought two containers and was barely able to make it through the check-out line before I dug into the one containing the whole jalapenos (wait for it). How embarrassed was I when I hit the exit door and had to explain my pepper addiction to the lady with the Black Sharpie, and that the two "unaccounted" jalepeños (DID IT!) were evident on my breath. Talking to her up close avoided me a nasty confrontation with CostCo security (who incidentally wield MUCH larger and MUCH sharper Sharpies).

On my second trip to the store (after I ran out of the first batch), I was determined to buy enough jalapeños (Two in a row!) for any pepper enthusiast trapped in a bomb shelter. I bought a thousand containers!!! (actually, it was only 4, but the cashier looked at me as if it were 1000 and that I had plans to use them in some kind of chemical warfare . . . perhaps the look was because of the 5 gallon jar I mayonnaise I bought that day--who uses all of THAT?!)

With every meal, I found myself loading up with heaps and heaps of the glorious peppers.

Breakfast: Breakfast tacos? Make mine a harvest of jalapenos (missed one), oh, and if you can wrap it up in a tortilla and add a few scrambled eggs and a strip of bacon, that would be great!

Lunch: I usually only drink water for lunch. Now I was eating at least two full peppers and, surprisingly, less water (the heat never seemed to bother me, and whole jalapeños (redemption) are so moist that you actually end up squirting an unsuspecting victim no less than 5 feet away as you bite into one.

Snack: A new eating time of day I have devoted exclusive to munching on whole jalapeños.

Dinner: This is usually with the family. It doesn't matter if it's Hamburger Helper (business idea: "Jalapeño Helper"), New York Strips, Deluxe Cheeseburgers with Jalapeño Jack Cheese marinated in jalapeño juice with fried jalapeño slices on top, I add I giant heap of sliced jalapeños to the top of everything. Surprisingly, no one in my family wants to kiss me after dinner, not even my two dogs.

I can't explain the sudden craving and tolerance for this pepper. I don't want Habañeros, Serranos, or ghost peppers--they're just painful. I just want the heat and taste of the jalapeño, but that's just as odd. Growing up, even though it was in the Rio Grande Valley where everything was Mexican Cuisine and Salsa was king, I had ZERO tolerance for heat ("pica" not "calor"). I was a lightweight "Bolio!" My friend once "tricked" me, in 2nd grade, into eating a whole jalapeno (he told me it was the non-Tilda type, which was more like a pickle than a jalapeño . . . not to mention the fact that he was going to give me a "Washington" for my daring feat. Aside from getting a piece of popcorn stuck in my throat for over a week, it was the worst childhood experience of my life. I got my quarter (not even a dollar!), but I spent the rest of the night doing the "Curly Shuffle" all over the living room floor as my stomach distended from gallons of water I thought would quench the fire.

Since then, I've stayed as far away from them as I could. Pickles were too similar in texture, crunch, and color that I couldn't even watch "Larry the Cucumber" on "Veggie Tales" with my kids when they were young (I know . . . he's a cucumber, not a pickle), thereby missing an important chapter of their lives because of a disturbing chapter in mine.

NOW, I'm buying my own raw peppers at a farmer's market, pickling them by the pounds, and storing them in my garage as if I were some colonial Puritan, eagerly anticipating the day whereby I can open them and chomp them down jar by jar. Not only can I not explain my sudden appetite for them (like I can for the Jonas Brothers' music--my KIDS like them), but I have no explanation why I have a new-found tolerance for "pica" heat.

Why just a couple of days ago, I was at an all-you-can-eat Chines buffet (please don't ask why, just realize that I have a HORRIBLE short-term memory) with some friends, and I had loaded on my plate all the "spicy" crusty entrees that were coagulating under a heat lamp. From "Spicy Joe's Chicken" (is Joe a Chinese guy?) to "Chicken with Brocolli and Jalapeños," I had my plate piled with the spiciest, least-fresh (apparently most people avoid these types of food, so they're the most likely to be left-over from . . . . last week), I made my way to the sushi. Now, I have an even more horrible experience with Sushi than I ever did with jalapeños (and I've yet to get a sudden, irrational craving for it), but next to the Sushi was a small tub of green paste which resembled guacamole sauce . . . and I absolutely LOVE guacamole, especially if its got jalapeños in it.

Knowing it was actually Wasabi, I piled a giant scoop of it onto my fried Won-Ton and headed back to my table with a practical joke of my mind. Back at the table, I commented how funny it was that a Chinese restaurant would have guacamole on its buffet, as I slid the corner of the fried Won-Ton containing the gigantic gob of Wasabi into my mouth. The looks from the table were noticeably those of alarm and concern as they grabbed for their cell phone to dial 9-1-1.

"That's . . . uh . . . not guacamole! Spit it out man." The effect was exactly as I had hoped. Not only did my sinuses immediately open and my eyes began to flood with tears that would make Niagara falls look like "Stinky Falls" (a local falls much smaller and less impressive as those in New York). I held my ground and acted like nothing had happened. My jalapeño training had prepared me for this.

To make a long story short, I now have to budget for 6-pound containers of jalapeños, I'm currently saving for a separate room to store these containers, and I can play funny jokes on friends at restaurants.

I can't explain why all this is so. Perhaps it's because I'm getting older (I turn 36 tomorrow), or because it's because I got kicked in the head by a mule a few months ago. All I know is that I'd LOVE to see that childhood "friend" of mine again, accept his bet, and DEMAND a dollar bill--that would go a long way towards my next 6-pound tub.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mathematical Musings XVIII

I hear a lot of things in my math classes like, "When is the bell going to ring," "Can we use our calculator," and sometimes even things like "I wish Mr. Korpi would assign more homework," and "Wow! I think I actually understand this stuff." What I hear, though, is nothing compared to what my poor students have to hear coming from my mouth. Here's another installment.

  • Math is the language of the Universe. This means it is the language of love, too. So, for Valentine’s Day, I wrote my wife the following poem:

My love for you is like a one-to-one monotonic increasing function.

Together we have passed the Vertical and Horizontal line test.

For each of me, there is always only one of you.

But it’s your Vertical Asymptote that I like the best.

(After she read it, you’d have thought I had divided by zero!!)

  • Jimmy Carter Plumbing: Getting you out of sticky situations Peanut Better than any other nut out there
  • My first T-ball practice went great! Of the ten kids, there was only one kid who wasn’t doing what I asked. He was running around, going to the bathroom, playing on the nearby stacked drainage pipes and playgrounds instead of playing the field like all the other boys and girls. When we got home after practice, he got in BIG trouble.
  • Gabriel’s Horn is a paradox: It’s like a bell of a trombone that extends to infinity, but it holds a finite amount of paint, however, you could never buy enough paint to give the outside a single coat!
  • Don’t just do something!!! Stand there!
  • If you liked that last problem, you’ll love this one! If you didn’t like the last problem, you’ll still love this next one, because you should have liked the last one.
  • Since we’ve had a quiz every class for the last two weeks, we definitely won’t have a quiz next time in class . . . . . . . . . . . unless it is a pop quiz.
  • If you forgot to put the “+C” at the end of the problem either take off 5 points or add it there really quickly so that I don’t know you left it off. Also, it the second case, please also hit yourself violently in the head and yell, “Geeeeesh, I’m not going to THAT again.”
  • I’m giving out truckloads of free advice and help Monday through Friday each week and some of you come in here without a container to put it in!
  • Of course this integration stuff is difficult, lest you become bored and sick of it all!
  • I have already not said that before. Now please, don’t make me not say it again!
  • The other day, I twisted my ankle playing with my kids. I tripped over a hole that was sticking up out of the ground.
  • Student: Korpi, are you going to skip tomorrow and go the soccer game? Korpi: Go to the soccer game, I might, but unfortunately, I cannot skip anymore . . . bad knee.
  • If you're not confused, you haven’t been paying attention.,
  • I’m right 95% of the time. I don’t worry about the other six percent.
  • Oh, Discrete Math!! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
  • OK, if I have ten marbles in a bag, what’s the probability of drawing out a red coin on the first throw?
  • Anitsesquipedalian is a make believe word that means ‘to be opposed to the use of large, imaginary words.’
  • Think Five. High Five. Five-Alive. Math Power to all. Go AP!!
  • I mean that it’s not so much the mode as the median.
  • I think all my jokes are funny. Funny, weird, though. Not funny, ha, ha! Weird, isn’t it?
  • Let’s just do this example for kicks and giggles.
  • OK, let’s stay focused and not waste our time engaged in idle discourse . . . hey, where’d you get that shirt?
  • In Mathematics, they seldom don’t never not disprove things by not concealing the fallacy of the negation of the opposite of a statement. For real!
  • Ever since my son was severely burned by the hot frying oil, he has a newfound respect for heat. He is now much, much more careful when playing around volcanoes.
  • Why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 devoured 9, or something like that, I think it was 9.
  • In middle school, I played trumpet in the jazz band. It was a blast!
  • I may do foolish things, but I do them with enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is the key.
  • I don’t want to over generalize, but every teacher in the world who uses this method, uses this very method.
  • I only do math on days that end in “y,” and every other day in between.
  • You either get this stuff, or you don’t. Most of y’all fall into one of these two categories.
  • For your next test, please learn the material well enough to get an “A,” or learn it just well enough to fake getting an “A” so that I cannot tell the difference.
  • Boy, if I had a nickel for everytime I heard that, I wouldn’t have enough nickels to rub two of them together.
  • So, when you tell me you don’t “understand anything,” what specifically do you not understand?
  • Could you possibly imagine a day without doing math????!!!! Well then, if only your math skills were as strong as your imaginations, we wouldn’t have a problem.!!
  • Student: Mr. Korpi, I didn’t do my homework. Korpi: Ha, ha, ha, ha. That was a good one. . . . Wait a minute. What did you say? For a second there, I thought you said you did your homework.
  • I can guarantee success on the next test if you follow these simple procedures: Pay attention in class, take good notes, do your homework, and work your review sheet 22 times without any help from me, friends, or notes. Yep, that should do it.
  • Guess, what?! If you only focus on the grade and not the learning, you only get the grade, you don’t get the learning. The grade only lasts you through the next report card, the learning last at least 3 days longer.
  • I’m sorry, am I teaching over your head? Well, it would help if you weren’t ducking at everything I said.
  • Sure, it’s easy for me because I’m the teacher. Do you think I was born a teacher? NO!! I had to actually DO the math to learn it, just like you . . . errrr I mean, NOT like . . . well, do you get my point? Probably not. The answer is 5. Next question, good luck in the real world.
  • Why do I like math so much? The answer is quite simple, it’s because it is so easy to teach, and it makes teaching so easy. It is the only subject that practically teaches itself, that everybody understands, people are naturally fired-up about math. All I have to do is point, and my job is done. So why do I like math? Out of selfishness, laziness, economy, and greed. Why are you in my class?
  • So converting three feet gives us approximately, no exactly, 15 toes.
  • Let’s see. 36 + 7. That’s . . .Ok . . .carry the one, divided by . . .borrowing from the neighbor . . .divided by . . . times . . . taking the log .. . . verifying . . . ok . . . that makes . . . oops, forgot to round . . . ok. . . approximately 43.0000000.
  • Life sucks, then you walk into math class. Guess what?! Get over it!! This is an elective
  • I don’t know how to ask you any nicer to “shut the heck up” than to say, “please, shut the heck up, or I will assign math problems until you understand it.” You certainly don’t want that, do you?
  • I’ve noticed that as the years roll by, I’m more interested in bread.
  • As time goes by, I become more jaded, more cynical, more fat, and more old. I wish I wasn’t so jaded (and that I could use my comparative adjectives poetically-er).
  • Did you hear the great news????!!!!! I bet not, since your mathematical confustication has you screaming at the top of your lungs.
  • I’m doing super-bum-ously great . . . but fear not, I’m getting much better.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

In defense of mathematics

Today I got an email from a former student whose college professor had them takes sides in a letter written by a pre-law student, who, thinking that math was irrelevant to his career, was asking to be "excused" from having to take any more math courses.

Naturally, my former student decided NOT to defend the student who had written the letter, but against the idea that math is not important for becoming an attorney. She, along with about half the class, had to defend their position (not a bad assignment), but was shocked to hear after the assignment that her own professor not only defended the student, but actually took sides AGAINST the students that took sides against the letter-writing student, citing reasons, among others, that a student shouldn't have to waste what would amount to an extra year of undergraduate studies taking unnecessary math courses if their profession of chose didn't use math.

I got a plaintive letter from this student who was bothered by her professor's immediate dismissal of her group, not to mention the professor was WRONG!

She asked for my opinion, and here's my response:

First of all, it's a poor student who has to take another year of college simply because of math credits. A REAL student, pre-law especially, should be crafty and slick enough to fit those courses in without having to take extra an extra year. Just take 18 instead of 12 hours, and cut out unneeded electives like "ballroom dancing" and "Advanced Golf."

Secondly, people with great math skills who also have great communication skills make great lawyers. Mathematics requires deductive reasoning, drawing sound inferences, creatively conjecturing as well as demanding patient pertinacity, attention to detail, the discipline of concentrated daily efforts, and forges the habits of mind I would hope any lawyer defending ME would have (not that I plan on needing a lawyer).

In fact, I took the LSAT once and scored quite well on it. The test had many, many questions requiring the skills mentioned above, especially logic (which is a branch of mathematics). I attribute my great score to my math background.

True, you'll probably never have to find the integral of a trig function in order to save a client from death row, but anyone who says that the benefits of taking math courses would not help him become a better attorney, for reasons already mentioned, will probably end up being the type of attorney that advertises on TV and in phone books.

The best attorneys, like the best doctors, and any other professional, don't need advertising and AREN'T in it for the money.

I hope that answers your question, if not settles the debate.

Feel free to share my response with your professor.

By the way. I took the LSAT out of curiosity, not necessarily because I wanted to be a lawyer.