New math and old math

Anyone who has chuckled over the various versions of the “you have two cows” political system paradigm will enjoy this math paradigm.

Teaching Math in 1950:A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?…..

Teaching Math in 1960:

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

Teaching Math in 1970:

A logger exchanges a set “L” of lumber for a set “M” of money. The cardinality of set “M” is 100. Each element is worth one dollar. Make 100 dots representing the elements of the set “M.” The set “C,” the cost of production contains 20 fewer points than set “M.” Represent the set “C” as subset of set “M” and answer the following question: What is the cardinality of the set “P” of profits?

Teaching Math in 1980:

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.


Teaching Math in 2010:

El hachero vende un camion cargado de lena por $100. Su gasto de produccion es……..

Of course the temptation is always to personalize something like this, and I have to admit that I did learn math with the 1970’s system. That’s actually pretty close–hee, hee, it’s a great parody.  Now that I am myself a teacher, must also admit that I use the 2010 method with my students.  Pero mis estudiantes son los madres de los que estudian matematica. Their children speak perfectly fluent English and often help their parents translate.

(via Arul John‘s joke pages )

I shouldn’t laugh at this, but….

This comment made by “Ralph” has been driving me crazy for days now:

I am not certain whether your failure in this regard is a result of a congenitally weak intellect, habitual cognitive laziness, adherence to some ideology or another that stunts systematic thinking, or a willingness to misrepresent reality when it serves the needs of your current rhetorical project.

The comment was made by a liberal to someone defending a conservative website, but it’s so classic and covers so many bases it could be applied almost anywhere.

It’s sort of like the classic insult when Bilbo Baggins gives his fiftieth birthday farewell speech in The Hobbit, “I know less than half of you less than half as well as I should, and I like less than half of you less than half as well as you deserve.” As the guests are still trying to work out whether or not this is a compliment to them, Bilbo flaunts his disdain of custom even more by using the Ring of Doom to disappear.

So why is Ralph’s comment so outrageously funny, and why do I feel so bad laughing at it?

Does everyone discover insults as entertainment at some point in their lives? For me the discovery came in the back of the debate bus sophomore year. That was the year our high school debate team took the state “A” championship. The insults were predictably “sophomoric” and mostly ad libbed. The only one I remember now was the standard “I’d have a battle of wits with you but never fight an unarmed man.” Sensing that the comments were not helping team morale, we quickly tired of the game.

For some reason, since that day in the back of the bus, I just can’t bring myself to put anyone down. Oh, I can think of insults all right. Sarcastic comments spring constantly to the tip of my tongue, but they never seem to be able to get past the teeth. I’m just unwilling to say anything hurtful, even if I know the other person has no similar qualms. It’s almost as if I am unwilling to regard anyone as an adversary. There is always the possibility that they could be led to see the light, if only they weren’t approached in an antagonistic style. Can anyone be truly beyond redemption?

But where I have held back, Ralph has gone on, probably in his junior year, senior year, and more, to finely hone both his style and his analysis of remarks worth insulting. He unfailingly chooses people who are so disgusting that no one really minds when he shreds them. And the shredding is done in such meta language that who can be sure what is really being said about them?

Ralph isn’t funny just because of schadenfreude, though that is one component. The other component is truth.

I remember being in some group or another and being given the following exercise. Describe a person who really irritates you. We instantly all thought of the same person. Then you have to change the description so that it contains your original assessment of the situation, but is emotionally neutral. That is, it gives information diplomatically without expressing a value judgment. We ended up saying that the person, an obnoxious, overbearing control freak whose uncle just happened to be a senator, had a “strong personality”. Mustn’t upset Senator’s dear nephew. A few months later, I added the word “difficult” to my repertoire.

What Ralph does is like what Bilbo did–express an undiplomatic sentiment in such diplomatic language that by the time you work out whether it’s an insult or not–if you can–you have gotten a glimpse of the situation from a different and rather complex angle. If you said the same thing in the simplest language possible, for instance “You are either stupid, an airhead, a Marxist, or getting paid to write lies”, it would sound childish and petulant, and would probably not ring true.

So does Ralph’s gift for insults get him in trouble? Is it the one sticking point that prevents glorious success or holds him back from promotions and positions of trust? Or is it the trait that inspires respect based on fear, or maybe it puts him in a position of authority as one able to handle difficult people? Probably none of the above. Although I no longer have his blog address, I remember seeing his blog once, and it was pretty academically dull, sorry Ralph. He’s not the only one. Funny how people’s academic writing is so different from their leisure writing.

“Misrepresent reality”. Has kind of a nice ring to it. “Serves the needs of your current rhetorical project.” Hee, hee, hee. Thanks, Ralph.

The guy who wrote the original paragraph Ralph was responding to is an English teacher’s nightmare.  He started out with a nice enough topic sentence about why we should ignore a particular conservative website that advocates assault and battery against liberals.  But then, instead of developing the idea or defending it with reasons and examples, he quickly degenerated into non sequitors and vague generalities impossible to decipher.  Finally he ended with the statement to “clean up your backyard”. Ah. At last something a tree-hugger can sink their teeth into. It turns out that Ralph’s backyard has complex problem involving a shedding magnolia tree, too much shade, and no ground cover.

Well, for Ralph or any other liberals with a magnolia and/or ground cover problem in their back yards, may I suggest stone paving blocks? In areas with such deep shade that grass, traditional groundcovers like ivy, hosta, daylily, sweet woodruff, lamia, or even moss won’t grow, I have had quite a bit of success with both stone and brick, although I have to add that my maple tree–and maples do have a reputation for both dense shade and shallow roots–is not too shady, nor are the roots too shallow to support lawn from a good shade seed mix.  As far as the leaf problem, raking will give you blisters, plus it takes a lot of time, and then you still have to deal with the leaves. I would wait until no liberals who might comment about your carbon footprint are watching, then take a lawnmower with a bag attachment, chew up the leaves with the lawnmower, google magnolia leaves to make sure they can be composted (I think it’s sycamore you can’t compost), then bury the leaves somewhere. A half hour (and not really that much gasoline) and you’re done.  Trust me, the guy who has so much to say (or not say) about ignoring conservative websites will not tell you this.

Easter Sunrise Service Fashion Statement in Chicago’s Daley Plaza–Lime Green Jersey Barriers

The Easter 2008 sunrise service in Chicago’s Daley Plaza might have been drab except for the lime green plastic jersey barriers cleverly utilized as a wind break from the fierce Lake Michigan winds that rage down Washington Avenue in March.


Posted in Curiosities, Homeland Security, Humor, Illinois, Terrorism. Comments Off on Easter Sunrise Service Fashion Statement in Chicago’s Daley Plaza–Lime Green Jersey Barriers

Camel accuses Obama campaign of Fearmongering and Shameful, Offensive Drudgery

drudge2.jpgWhile the rest of the blogosphere was busy bickering about the picture of Barack Obama in Kenyan attire that went viral after appearing on the Drudge Report this week, and their claim that it came from someone in the Clinton campaign, and the Obama campaign’s response that it was “shameful offensive fear-mongering”, the Camel’s Nose has obtained an exclusive email from a camel that claims it was subjected to “shameful offensive Drudgery” by none other than Senator Obama himself.

While the other blogs frequently don’t do their homework and print things without knowing whether or not they are true, that will never happen here at the Camel’s Nose. Everything here is double-checked five ways from Sunday.

At first I was skeptical about this camel thing. After all, the email from the camel in question was received by a little-known Republican blog, whose name escapes me at the moment. And the Senator is a Democrat. If someone wanted to discredit him, isn’t that just what they would do? Give a fake email to some Republicans and say it came from who-knows-where. By the time it all got sorted out, the damage would have been done. Well, I’m not going to fall for that crap. I sort things out first. And besides, I’ve never heard of a camel that was able to send emails.

barack-camel-wajid-kenya-8-27-06.jpgBut then, a few things started to fall into place. First, miraculously, an exhaustive examination of the Obama campaign’s cache memory turned up the information that the senator had actually been in the camel’s hometown of Wajid, Kenya on 8/27/06, the exact day when the official campaign photographers were so very attentive and the rest of the press said the senator was busy getting his African sartorial lesson.

Now, surprise, surprise, surprise, a photo of the incident with the actual camel has come to light. No doubt about it. The camel is NOT happy.

But why? Inquiring minds want to know, so we checked further.

Here’s the information we uncovered, from another stop the senator made in Nairobi, Kenya.

barack-nairobi-kenya-kibera-slum-8-27-06.jpgWhat is he saying to the crowd? According to the purloined email, Obama is shouting, “Can you eat camels?” And the crowd is shouting back, “Yes we can.”

Talk about divisive fear-mongering…

Extra credit if you can spot the photographer from the Clinton campaign who took that Drudge Report photo in this 2006 Nairobi crowd scene.

Update: Finally someone who says something about this whole thing that makes sense–the local BBC guy, Yusuf Garaad Omar, head of the BBC’s Somali Service explains the meaning of the costume. “They have a council for Peace and Development, and when they get delegates they dress them as a nomadic person.” Cool.  The American senator shows up and gets the standard Council Delegate Treatment.   I should hope so.

Posted in Camels, Election 2008, Humor, Obama. Tags: , , , , . Comments Off on Camel accuses Obama campaign of Fearmongering and Shameful, Offensive Drudgery

Iraq the Musical

This came out last year but for some reason the music keeps going around in my head. Click on the button to hear the anti-war message from


Fallujah, Ramadi, gonna be a party

Bacubah, Samarra, goin’ there tomorra’…

Shias and Sunnis

Suicidal loonies…

No one can rhyme the word “orange”, but these guys found a rhyme for “Ramadi, Fallujah.”

Seems like everyone likes the Beach Boys for political statements. What event was that where Cheney, before he started his speech, hummed a few bars of Barbara Ann with the lyrics “Ba ba ba, ba bomb Iran” ?

Posted in Humor, Iraq, peace. Comments Off on Iraq the Musical

Yousef sends me “IT Consultant” internet joke from Amman

Okay, I admit I opened this one at work. I was finishing my syllabus for summer semester and trying to get my campus email to work when I saw Yousef’s latest email joke and had to open it.  Then of course the computer tech and another teacher heard me laughing so I had to forward them a copy too.  Thanks, Yousef. 

Once upon a time there was a shepherd looking after
his sheep on the side of a deserted road. Suddenly a
brand new Porsche screeches to a halt.

The driver, a man dressed in an Armani suit, Cerutti
shoes, Ray-Ban sunglasses, TAG-Heuer wrist-watch, and
a Pierre Cardin tie, gets out and asks the Shepherd:
If I can tell you how many sheep you have, will you
give me one of them?’

The shepherd looks at the young man, and then looks at
the large flock of grazing sheep and replies: ‘Okay.’

The young man parks the car, connects his laptop to
the mobile-fax, enters a NASA Webster, scans the
Ground using his GPS, opens a database and 60 Excel
tables filled with logarithms and pivot tables, then
prints out a 150 page report on his high-tech

He turns to the shepherd and says, ‘You have exactly
1,586 sheep here.’

The shepherd cheers, ‘that’s correct, you can have
your sheep.’

The young man makes his pick and puts it in the back
of his Porsche.

The shepherd looks at him and asks: ‘If I guess your
profession, will you return my animal to me?’

The young man answers, ‘Yes, why not’.

The shepherd says, ‘You are an IT consultant ‘.

‘How did you know?’ asks the young man.

‘Very simple,’ answers the shepherd. ‘First, you came
here without being called. Second, you charged me a
fee to tell me something I already knew, and third,
you don’t understand anything about my business.. Now
can I have my DOG back?’

Posted in Humor. Comments Off on Yousef sends me “IT Consultant” internet joke from Amman

Max Karson tests boundaries of Virginia Tech shooting hyperbole, gets arrested for thoughtcrime

Why do some people have a sense of humor and others not? Some people find sarcasm and satire to be hilarious while others do not even recognize them as humor. You have to explain to them when something is tongue-in-cheek.

Max Karson is a 22-year-old student who tests the boundaries of such humor and frequently runs afoul of them. This time he has been arrested in connection with remarks he made about the Virginia Tech shooting. Apparently he made a statement in a classroom at the University of Colorado that he was “angry about all kinds of things from the fluorescent light bulbs to the unpainted walls, and it made him angry enough to kill people,” according to the police report. It was claimed that students were afraid of him because of his statements, but another student had a different view of the class discussion:

“Max is honest, and people aren’t always willing to hear what he has to say,” said the student, who didn’t want her name published.

She said Tuesday’s debate started as an effort to understand how someone could go on a killing spree like the Virginia gunman’s.

Karson — who circulates a controversial underground publication called The Yeti on the campus — told his peers that he thinks institutions provoke anger in people, which eventually causes them to “crack,” the student said.

“He said, ‘Anyone who has walked on this campus and hasn’t wanted 30 people dead is lying to themselves,'” she said.

When Karson was asked why institutions make him so mad, the student said Karson used the women’s-studies class to illustrate his point: The room was in a basement and had unfinished walls and fluorescent lights.

According to a police report, Karson said: “The basement room with fluorescent lights and the unfinished wall make him angry enough to kill people.”

“But I didn’t feel threatened,” the student said. “He was just theorizing in an intellectual discussion about why people kill.”

In the meantime the Wikipedia article on Max Karson may be deleted. In the discussion about possible deletion, one writer who identifies as a university professor states,

After the shootings, most instructors initially encouraged honesty and openness in classroom discussions about Virginia Tech. The classroom was a “safe space” where no single opinion/emotion was privileged as “right” or denounced as “wrong.” For many of us, the freedom to speak openly about our emotions was an important component to the healing process. Nobody went so far as to support the killer; but some empathized with his pain and loneliness; others said they’d decided to be more sensitive in the future toward social outcasts like Cho Seung-Hui. The tone completely changed, however, when Karson was arrested. Not wanting to be the next arrest victim, students and professors reverted obediently to reiterating the politically correct… attitude. Karson’s situation opens the book on a whole new set of questions: Can professors still allow critical thought? Are all ideas equal, or are some more equal than others? Should we encourage dissent, or should we fear its consequences?

yetisorry72.jpgKarson’s underground paper, the Yeti, is currently unavailable online. I was able to read a few excerpts of it in other publications, though, which were unexpected enough to make me relax and crack a smile, but too heavy-handed to approach giggle status on my humor scale. I suspect Karson’s best writing is yet to come when he matures a little and learns a more subtle touch.