Thursday, September 29, 2005

And her heart grew three sizes that day

So there’s one thing about The Doktah that I made not have made clear on this blog. The Doktah is a bit of a crank. She hates fairy tales and love stories. She loathes romantic comedies and she doesn’t like to read fiction. Her favorite movie genre is horror. Bad, slasher horror.

But while we were on our infamous trip to San Francisco, we decided to go to a movie. Unfortunately for The Doktah, there were no slasher flicks playing. The pickings were pretty slim all around, actually, but we were determined to go see a movie. It was a weeknight! We were living it up! We were going to the movies if it killed us!

We ended up settling on How the Grinch Stole Christmas. We had both been skeptical of this movie because it’s a dangerous thing to mess with a classic like the Grinch, but The Doktah was particularly reluctant to see it given her own tendency towards grinchiness. She was afraid she’d be sickened by the sweet nature of the film, but, given the alternatives, we agreed

At the end of the movie, when the Grinch and his extra-large heart is singing with the Whos in Whoville, I glanced over to The Doktah and saw a tear rolling down her cheek. Her heart, it had broken the measuring device.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Baseball fans can be geeky too

Speaking of arguing about the semantics of limits, I had what boiled down to the same conversation with father about how to keep track of how many games ahead or behind one baseball team is from another. My father explained it to me, and, although he did teach me to keep track of team placement, I can’t remember exactly what my father said, I just know how understand it. For me, each game is worth one game, or point. The team that wins game gets half a point, and the team that loses the game loses half a point. That way, if two teams play each other, the one that winning team gains a whole game over the loser, which makes sense, and also allows for keeping track of teams that don’t play each other.

So when my father explained it to me, I thought about it, and told him how I understood it. He got all upset, and said, “No, it’s not like that.”

“But it works,” I said.

Again, just like my high school calculus teacher, he was stumped by this fact. He considered my technique, applying it to theoretical baseball teams, saw that it worked, and said, “Well, fine, it may work to keep track of team placement, but that’s not how it really works. The games aren’t worth ‘points,’ for one thing.”

“But the entire purpose is to keep track of placement, so if it works to keep track of placement, then it works, right?” I said.

“Look,” my dad told me. “I don’t care how you keep track in your head, just don’t tell people you are assigning ‘points’ like that, OK?”

“OK,” I said, rolling my eyes. And Baseball Cap Guy reacted in much the same way when I told him my team-tracking technique. So I guess it’s just not kosher. But for any of you out there who could never understand limits or baseball team standings before, try my way.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

When geeks argue

The Husband and I have an argument that has been ongoing since college. You see, I was telling him about learning how to do limits in my high school calculus class. I developed a technique for understanding what to do when x approaches infinity: Plug in infinity for x, cross off any terms that are added to or subtracted from infinity, and then cancel an things out just like you would for any other number. For example, the limit as x approaches infinity for (2x+1)/x is 2. How do I know? Plug infinity in for x. Drop the 1 and in the numerator, because 1 is nothing compared to infinity. You’re left with 2x/x, or two times infinity divided by infinity. Cancel the infinities, and bam! The answer is 2.

When I told my high school calculus teacher how I was doing these limits, he got all upset and said, “You can’t ‘cancel out’ infinity. Infinity is not a number.”

“But it works every time,” I said. “It’s what you were doing in the examples, you just weren’t saying ‘cancel out the infinities.’”

He cast around for a decent response to this simple fact, and said, “Well, fine, but just don’t say you’re ‘plugging in’ and ‘canceling out’ infinity.” I agreed to not say it aloud, but that is how I do limits and how I will always do limits. Because it works every time! And it makes perfect sense to me.

Enter The Husband. Somehow, limits came up as a topic of our conversation. (This is not so bizarre given that we are both in professions that actually require us to take limits sometimes. I know! People really do it!) And when I told The Husband about my conversation with my calculus teacher, he, too, got all upset.

“You’re teacher was right. You can’t ‘plug in’ infinity,” he said, exasperated. “Infinity is not a number!”

“But it works every single time!” I said. “It’s just semantics, here. That’s what you do too. You cancel out infinity when you have infinity over infinity, you just don’t call it that.”

I tried to demonstrate my point by going through some examples of taking limits, but The Husband just got fed up with me every time I got to infinity over infinity. Eventually, the conversation degraded into name-calling.

To this day, if I want to get The Husband’s dander up, I just mention that I’m planning to “cancel out the infinities."

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Oh... right

The Husband is going to a conference tomorrow and won't be back until Thursday. I was thinking about how I'm going to miss him while he's gone, and this morning I said to him, "You know, this will be the first time we won't get to sleep in the same bed together since we got married!"

He replied, "What about the six weeks last summer when you started your job up here and I was still in Jersey?"

Oh, well, sure. If you're going to count that...

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Saline drops

The Doktah and I were hanging out in my living room, probably watching Buffy or something, when she started complaining about something in her eye. Now, I consider myself something of an expert when it comes to getting something in your eye. My eyelashes fall into my eyes so frequently that I often wonder how it is that I have any eyelashes still attached to my eyelids. In fact, I used to keep a mirror by my bed so that, when I was reading before going to sleep, I wouldn’t have to get out of bed every time I got an eyelash in my eye. I used that mirror six times a night.

So when I saw The Doktah suffering, I ran upstairs to get the eye drops I keep on hand at all times so she could rinse out her eyes. She looked at the bottle somewhat skeptically, but I assured her they were just saline drops. “Trust me,” I told her.

Well, she dropped them in her eyes, and pulled face. “Um,” she said after a few seconds, “they kind of hurt.”

“What?” I said. “Don’t be ridiculous. They don’t hurt.” I took the bottle and examined it. “They’re just saline!”

“Well, she said, eyes reddening, “maybe some of the water evaporated and the salt is too high of a concentration.”

“I don’t see how that could happen. The bottle’s sealed,” I said, and I decided to try out the drops myself. I tipped my head back and dropped them in.

“Oh my lord!” I cried as the liquid fire drops hit my eyes. “What the hell happened to these?” I ran upstairs, tears streaming down my face, and found a fresh bottle of saline drops which solved the problem.

Moral: Saline eye drops have a shelf life.

Friday, September 09, 2005

My poor mother

There was a bridge between my house and my lab that I walked, biked, or bussed over twice a day. This bridge was falling apart, by which I mean actual pieces of the bridge fell off all the time. At one point, I found a gaping hole in the sidewalk that was so big, a small child could have fallen through it. But I realized I should have chosen different words when I called the city to report the hole, because the guy on the phone gasped, panicked, “A small child fell through the bridge?”

I cleared that right up, but pointed out that the gaping hole was an accident waiting to happen. With his mind at rest concerning small children, the city worker said, “Oh, on the South St. bridge? We already have people working on that hole.” I looked across the street at the cones and construction markers surrounding one of the other gaping holes on the bridge.

“No, it’s a different one,” I told him.

“You mean the one up at the intersection with the highway? Because we…”

I knew which one he was talking about, and cut him off. “No, it’s not that one either. I know you already laid a metal plate over that one. This is a new hole.”

The man sighed, “That damn bridge. OK, thanks for letting us know,” and we hung up. And I am happy to report that by the end of the day, there was a metal plate bolted down over the hole to prevent the falling through of any small children.

Nevertheless, the state of the bridge drove me crazy. Yes, I realize that closing the bridge for repair would cause major traffic and inconvenience for the city, but you know what else would cause major traffic and inconvenience for the city? The collapse of the bridge! And you’d also get deaths!

They didn’t even close the bridge for repair when a gigantic chunk of it fell off onto the interstate. Fortunately, it didn’t hit anyone, but that was just lucky.

So why did I title this entry “My poor mother?” Because there was one spot on the bridge that made a loud bang whenever cars drove over it, and a really loud bang when trucks hit it. I often used my walk between home and the lab to make phone calls, and I was talking to my mom on the bridge when a truck came by with a bang! bang! I couldn’t hear my mom over the noise, so I said, “Hold on a sec,” and waited until the truck finished passing by.

When I got back on the phone, my mom was shouting, “Mo? Mo! MO!” hysterically, because she thought I’d been shot.