Tuesday, September 30, 2008

And Bono, The King of Ireland

So, so funny. The last two minutes are supremely great.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fun With Math

I'm tutoring again and that means (in my case) making up practice questions. It's easier to use the questions in my book, of course. The problem is that I'm being forced to teach out of a new, and therefore unfamiliar, book, and it's impossible to find questions grouped by types. So, I write my own.

Since I figured most of my readers are big nerds and because I haven't posted in a while, I thought I'd give you all a chance to show off your SAT Math Chops (such as they are). Below are six SAT-level questions, written within the last 24 hours. The first person to send me all the correct answers will win
1) a Jeep Grand Cherokee
2) a hunting lease in Dorado County, New Mexico, and
3) a signed first edition of Shakespeare's plays.

More importantly, they'll have my undying respect. Because no matter what anybody tells you, there is NO MORE IMPORTANT SKILL in this world than the ability to solve SAT math questions accurately and quickly. No there is not.

Seriously, the first correct answer set will earn a shout-out and maybe a drink, if I know you. And like you. And you can prove you didn't cheat. (I'm talking to you, Williams).

1) All of these questions would be considered medium-level difficulty on the SAT.
2) To give yourself the true test-taking experience, you should do all questions in under six minutes.

The Mojo Itself

1. A hat is marked up 20% above its original price. Then it's new price is increased by another 30%. What is the total percent by which the original price has been increased to arrive at the final price?
A. 60%
B. 50%
C. 40%
D. 30%

2. A stuffed wombat is put on sale at 40% below normal rate. After a day, the store's owner comes to his sense, realizes how valuable wombats are, and raises the price 80% above it sale price. The final price is what percent of the original price?
A. 118%
B. 144%
C. 108%
D. 92%

3. What number is in the one's digit of 3^237?

4. Which of the following could NOT be the equation of a line parallel to the line: y = 2/3x + 4?
A. 3y-2x=9
B. 6x-4y=2
C. y=2/3x + 800
D. 3y + 10x = 4

5. Which of the following points lies on the line: y = 4x-5?
A. (-5, 0)
B. (7, 23)
C. (2, 2)
D. (4, -5)

6. The line y=x+4 forms the hypotenuse of an isoceles right triangle. If one of the remaining sides can be defined by the equation x=3, which of the following could be the equation for the third side?

A. y=6
B. x=2
C. Y=x-4
D. yx=5

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Palin the Barbarian

I don't know if I would recommend the most recent New Yorker's profile of Sarah Palin or not. It does, however, contain one unforgettable passage:
At one point [Palin] said, "We love our polar bears." She had just got through explaining why she opposed a ban on aerial wolf shooting. In the past decade or so, Alaska's voters have twice rejected this practice--the chasing and gunning down of wolves from small planes--and on both occasions the state reauthorized it. Now the anti-wolf-shooting crowd had forced a third referendum on the issue and Palin, who kept a pair of wolf pelts hanging on her office wall, behind a cradle swing for Trig, was keen to see the initiative fail."
"The chasing and gunning down of wolves from small planes...." That's a phrase you don't come across very often. Not often enough, certainly.

For the record, I have ALWAYS been part of the anti-wolf-shooting crowd.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Of Giraffes and Bloggers

My friend John over at ASWOBA has pointed me to a great new web site, one I'd encourage all of you to check out. It's called Animal Review. It contains scientifically accurate discussions about various animals leavened with huge amounts of (what seems to me very male) smart-aleck humor.  ("The central difference between Israel and skunks is the fact that Israel has never admitted to own any nukes, whereas skunks paint themselves black and give themselves white racing stripes as a way of advertising that, yes, they are skunks, yes, they’re ready to mess you up bad.")

This introduction to the giraffe is worth quoting at length.
The giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis, lit. ‘Tiny, but said ironically’) is Nature’s concept car. Large and impractical, the giraffe was never meant for mass production, but some executive fell in love with it at Detroit’s annual Animal Show a few years back, and giraffes have been losing money ever since.

Massive ungulates and the tallest of the land animals, giraffes can be up to 18 feet tall and 3,800 pounds, and about two thirds of that is neck. Like most mammals, the neck of a giraffe has seven vertebrae, though in the giraffe each is elongated and covered in tacky chrome plating. Looking to justify the expense, the neck was put to use for getting leaves off acacia trees on the Africa plains, which was sold in the giraffe marketing campaign with the slogan ‘Whether in the Whole Foods produce aisle or on the Serengeti Plain – you’ll never go hungry.’ And then, in a truly gauche moment of designing nonsense, the giraffe’s head was topped with two ridiculous-looking cartilage horns.

As with most concept designs, the enormity of the giraffe created more problems than it was worth. To move blood against gravity up the neck, a giraffe requires a two-foot heart. It requires special anchor muscles to keep the neck upright. It requires a complex pressure regulation system in the upper neck to prevent blood flow to the brain when the giraffe bends over to fill up. It also requires a tight sheath of thick skin over its legs to keep the capillaries from bursting due to the blood pressure such a neck height creates. All this requires energy. Too bad, acacia trees.

As one might suspect, the giraffe’s size isn’t the advantage the guy at the dealership says it is. Sure, giraffes can eat from trees, and most predators leave them alone, but it’s not uncommon for lions to give it a go at knocking a giraffe off its feet. Then these very same lions will promptly eat the giraffe. As a rule of thumb, once one thing goes wrong with your giraffe, several other things are likely to follow. Repairs are famously expensive, and a certified giraffe mechanic can sometimes clear six figures a year.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Football Predictions

Well the new season is upon us.  Another five months of beer commercials, injury reports, and Chris Berman.  I feel the fear upon me.

Like all subjects about which I know very little, football is one on which I have a myriad of strongly-held, often conflicting opinions.  Since I know none of you will sleep tonight unless you can find out what I think about PacMan Jones, I've taken time out of my busy Chemistry Memorization Schedule, to set down some of my sure-to-be-proved right predictions about the upcoming season.*

1. The Titans will give up on Vince Young.   This will be his last year in the NFL as a starting quarterback.  All those people who made so much noise about how the Texans should have drafted Young out of college will send me personal letters of apology, agreeing with my forecast (made at the time) that he would amount to a big-time bust.

2. The Falcons will cover the spread more often than not.  They will win at least 6 games.

3. The Eagles will not make the playoffs.  Westbrook and McNabb will each miss at least 6 games due to injuries.

4. The Steelers will be really really good.  (I know: they're always good.  I didn't say these were BOLD predictions.  GET OFF MY DAMN CASE).

5. Jake Delhomme is done.

6. PacMan Jones will actually live up to his promises, not get arrested, and help his team.

7. The Browns will not make the playoffs.  They will also have two different players get in trouble with the law.  (Or, as we say here on the West Coast, "the po-pos.")

*This post was written on Saturday, a day before the season began.  So if some of the predictions already look stupid--that's why.  

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Dolt

Edgar was preparing to take the National Writers’ Examination, a five-hour fifty-minute examination, for his certificate. He was in his room, frightened. The prospect of taking the exam again put him in worlds of hurt. He had taken it twice before, with evil results. Now he was studying a book which contained not the actual questions from the examination but similar questions. “Barbara, if I don’t knock it for a loop this time I don’t know what we’ll do.” Barbara continued to address herself to the ironing board. Edgar though about saying something to his younger child, his two-year-old daughter, Rose, who was wearing a white terrycloth belted bathrobe and looked like a tiny fighter about to climb into the ring. They were all in the room while he was studying for the examination.

“The written part is where I fall down,” Edgar said morosely, to everyone in the room. “The oral part is where I do best.” He looked at the back of his wife which was pointed at him. “If I don’t kick it in the head this time I don’t know what we’re going to do,” he repeated. “Barb?” But she failed to respond to this implied question. She felt it was a false hope, taking this examination which he had already failed miserably twice and which always got him very worked up, black with fear, before he took it. Now she didn’t wish to witness the spectacle anymore so she gave him her back.

“The oral part,” Edgar continued encouragingly, “is A-okay. I can for instance give you a list of answers, I know it so well. Listen, here is an answer, can you tell me the question?” Barbara, who was very sexually attractive (that was what made Edgar tap on her for a date, many years before) but also deeply mean, said nothing. She put her mind on their silent child, Rose.

“Here is the answer,” Edgar said. “The answer is Julia Ward Howe. What is the question?”

The answer was too provocative for Barbara to resist long, because she knew the question. “Who wrote ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’?” she said. “There is not a grown person in the United States who doesn’t know that.”

-from Sixty Stories