October 29th, 2006
|06:32 pm - The Year After Glambo: Part IV|
What could possibly be so terrifying? I mean, what would horrify a group of Americans hardened by years of Texas Chainsaw Massacres and Hostel and SAW and the Bush Whitehouse and such things? I mean, was there really anything left that could actually frighten, I mean really frighten, anyone in this country?
But Dad apparently thought he had an answer, and he had never led me wrong. I leaned toward him intently, waiting for his revelation.
"You," he paused significantly, "can go as a mathematics teacher!"
I stared at him in awe and amazement as he sat there smugly wearing his "I survived a year as chairman of the Math Department" T-shirt.
"That's it! That is IT! Oh! And I can hand out little pieces of paper with math problems on them and go 'POP QUIZ!' And then, if they do it, I'll go, 'Oh, I'm sorry -- I need you to do that in base eight!'" I was practically dancing with joy!
Once again, in the eleventh hour, I had a costume idea. It might not be able to beat Glambo, but if I knew the people who usually attended these parties, it would be a truly horrific experience for all.
A mathematics professor with a pop quiz. Other than, perhaps, an IRS Agent, no more frightening thing could possibly be conceived.
"Can I wear that shirt?" I asked him.
"You sure can!" he said with a grin.
And the plot was begun. Now, the wheels were turning. You see, Dad is a math professor. In fact, he's been a math professor for over forty years at our local university. His trademark (so to speak) well known by almost everyone who's ever taken a math course here, is his loud, wild, and crazy Hawaiian shirts, shorts, and sneakers. This has been his uniform for all this time, and has become so much associated with him that, when I first went to college, and appeared wearing one of Dad's hand-me-down bright neon blue shirts with giant white flowers on it, one student asked if I was his daughter. A bit surprised, I admitted I was, and asked how he knew.
"Recognized the shirt, dude," was the reply, "Righteous!"
So, of course, for verisimilitude, I would also need to wear one of Dad's Hawaiian shirts. I sorted through his closets until I found the very one: bright screaming red with palm trees and the word "Hawaii" scrawled across it in various places in a sort of bizarre cursive font.
I had sneakers, of course, but the shorts might be a problem. You see, Dad is a bit of a large guy. He's six-foot-two and weighs ... well, let's not get specific. Suffice it to say that I could probably fit into one leg of his shorts with room for another one of me in the other. Finally, I settled on borrowing a pair of shorts belonging to Charlie, and that part of the costume was saved.
Now it was time to get serious. I mean, sure, a math teacher is pretty scary and all, but a math teacher with a pop quiz? HORRIFIC! I started to think about possible problems, and, like many such things, it escalated.
First, for the terrible pun required of such costumes as this, I copied a Coca Cola(tm) logo into a file, and put "This quiz made possible by funding from a grant by [logo]." It was a quiz sponsored by Coke! It was, after all, a "pop" quiz.
Oh yes. I am evil. What, you're just now noticing that?
But then, the problems. I had an absolutely perfect one. This one came to me from an old song by Tom Lehrer that my Dad used to listen to when I was a child. The song was called "New Math," and in it, Lehrer solves a simple subtraction problem of 342 minus 173, then tells you that the book he got the problem out of wants you to do it in base eight. "But don't worry," he assures us, "base eight is just like base ten really ... if you're missing two fingers."
Oh yeah, baby. Base eight. That would be CERTAIN to strike fear in the hearts of EVERYONE! Well, except for the occasional Tom Lehrer fan whom I knew existed amongst the party guests. However, I figured the chances of them recognizing that and having memorized the solution would be slim. I jotted it down, grinning all the while.
Then, I came up with an idea for another problem. This one would be even MORE evil because it would be unsolvable! Even for those who knew math and could kind of do it, this would be a challenge to get to the point where they would say it couldn't be done! And then, when they said it couldn't be done, I would yell, "What? Can't be DONE? What if GALILEO had said 'it can't be done?' What if Liebniz or Einstein had said 'it can't be done?'"
And I would give them an F.
Yes, I would scrawl an F on their paper with a big red pen!
"Hey, Dad," I asked, sticking my head back into his office, "Can I borrow a red pen?"
"Sure, here you go," he said, handing me a brand new red Sharpie out of a box.
"Don't mention it."
I went back to my office to print up my unsolvable equation, then went and handed it to dad. It was a quadratic equation, see, and you would end up with zero in the denominator, so you couldn't solve it! It was brilliant!
"Minus eighteen," Dad said after glancing at the equation for a moment.
Wha ... what? I did a double-take.
"Wait, how did you get that?" I asked incredulously. "You can't solve that, you've got a zero in the denominator of the quadratic formula!"
This was terrible! My unsolvable problem solved in SECONDS! What in the world was I going to do for my pop quiz NOW?
[to be continued here]
And I'll take snicker doodles.