Saturday, 31 March 2012

The Problem with Math

When I was a kid....math questions laid out in stories...were the most terrible things on the face of the Earth.  They tended to run the stages of: John had forty oranges and gave away fifty percent to his friends, and then ate one-half of what was left.  How many oranges does John have remaining.

I would literally freeze and try to think of the mathematical formula that would fit this problem and how it would work.  Time wasted?  At least five minutes.  Eventually, I'd get to a point where I would just envision forty stupid oranges in some cardboard box and twenty were gone.....they weren't part of my problem anymore.  So when the remaining, I'd just envision me eating half of these, and could just see the remaining ten standing in front of me.  Time wasted under the new concept?  Thirty seconds.  True, I didn't have a formula of sorts to show how I had the answer.....I just had this one thing....the answer.

I noticed this week.....this unusual math instructor.  Apparently, he's gotten pretty bored.....so he's started a new trend in America.

The test question (one of twenty): John's father gave him 1359 marbles.  John swallows 585 marbles, and dies.  John's father decides at the funeral to give away the remaining marbles to John's nine friends....in equal amounts.  How many marbles did each friend get?

It was pretty bad in the old days....but this makes things twice as hard for a guy from Bama.  First, I'd be asking myself what kind of idiot swallows 585 marbles?  Do I know anyone who would do anything like this?  Then I'd wonder if these were full-size or three-quarter size marbles.  Did John sip water or Mountain Dew while swallowing the marbles?  Did John call the emergency room at some point?  Was John on meth, or some Vicodin drug?  What did John's dad write on the tombstone?   How was John remembered by his nine friends?  Did they remove the marbles before burying him?

I'd probably consume thirty minutes on this one problem before I came to the real question....how many marbles did the nine friends really get?

It would bother me to have a math instructor like this.  He would be tempting you to think on things beyond the math problem itself.  Maybe it was a good thing that I graduated from high school in 1977.  If I had problems like this as a fifteen year old kid today.....I'd probably give up school by sixteen and just flip burgers at McDonalds for the rest of my life.

The Badboy LIst

As most of you know....I'm a GS employee with the Department of Defense.  This morning....we had a new directive tossed at us.

There is this list of countries where....if we were planning on traveling to.....we have to ask permission before we can be allowed to go.  This is for military folks and civil service folks....who work for the Pentagon folks.  Typically, the country list includes places like Libya, hostile war zone locations (Afghanistan), and today....extended itself out to most of Mexico.

Cruise ship episodes?  Still possible, but they'd prefer that when the boat docks in these forbidden states of Mexico (they didn't put all the Mexican states on the forbidden list).

I sat and pondered over this.  We've come to the point of putting a good bit of Mexico on some forbidden list.  You can actually compare these areas to hostile war zones....which ought to trigger every single American into asking some stupid questions.  Is it really that unsafe?  Is there even a trend to show a reversal possible....or does it get worse in the future?  Is it even unsafe to travel ten miles over the border and go fishing?

I'm guessing a thousand folks associated with the US military are sitting there tonight.....sipping a Mexican beer, and wondering how to handle this trip they had been planning for three months....which involves a nice hotel, in a hostile and forbidden zone.  Do you write up the request and deal with a US military committee who might allow or disallow your trip, or just drop the whole idea?  Then you have to wonder....do they know something that you don't know....and you'd be better off and safer going to Chicago or Memphis....than traveling to Mexico?

I eventually expect this same Pentagon committee to add neighborhoods of DC, Miami, and New Orleans to the same list.....if they were being practical and right about protecting folks.  It might take ten years....maybe twenty....but they would have to add other unsafe places to this bad-boy list.  The sad thing here....is that you'd be safer in some areas of Mexico....than you would in some areas of Memphis....after dark.   A new reality of sorts.