Monthly Archives: March 2015

Having pie on Pi Day

My friend, Bruce Wertz, often reminds me of the Frank Sinatra song (or movie), “A pocketful of miracles,” but in Bruce’s case it’s “A pocketful of trivia.”
Yes, after church, during treat time, he’ll hand me a soon-to-be raisin and ask why John Steinbeck would have anything to do with it. Before I attempt an answer, he blurts out, “It’s a Grape of Wrath.”

Two weeks ago, he wished me “a happy Ides of March . . and happy pie day.” The Ides of March is a no-brainer; we need to beware of the day Brutus and his gang of rabble-rousers assassinated Julius Caesar.

But pie day? Oh! He means pi, as in 3.147. Bruce wasn’t making it up: There is a pi day, observed in several big cities and universities. It’s ideally suited for nerdish mathematicians.

It’s simple. Let’s say you have a perfect circle one inch across. Without cutting it, can you tell how long (circumference) will be? The answer is 3.147 inches.
Now there are clearly many more applications for pi, and even leading mathematicians claim that the fraction (3-1/7) or the decimal (3.147) really doesn’t end. You could spend the day trying to find the final digit. Continue reading

Honor code among players

One gets cabin fever. It was easy to be stricken by that affliction during last week’s frigid days of winter.

Outside of the Optic, stalactites and stalagmites grew to about 12 feet. I craved air and sunshine, which I received with a quick walk around nearby Lincoln Park.

I had just started my brisk walk when a touch-football game broke out. I saw a group of four — three men and a woman — playing as if they meant it. I needed to take in all that action. The group, probably in their 30s, were using a softball instead of a football, but from what I could determine, they were following football rules, Vegas style.

The group’s sloshing around brought me back to my youth, when going beyond touch football and having kids knock one another down was the rule, not the exception. I wondered whether this two-on-two game was inspired by some very recent Facebook clips showing the mayor of a big city urging people not to be foolish. The clip showed young men leaping out of their balconies, flipping and landing head-first into deep snow that fell in places like Boston. Continue reading

D.S.T is great

Why must people look a gift horse in the mouth? I used to struggle with that expression — until someone wiser explained.

I surmise the expression refers to those who question the quality of something given to them. Accordingly, if you receive a horse with no reins attached, you should be grateful and not check under the hood to determine the age, health, strength or orneriness of the beast.

As a teacher, I struggled with the notion of penalizing students for slips and falls way early in the course. Essentially — like many of my colleagues — I threw out the lowest grade students had received that term, on the assumption that every student is entitled to one poorformance. Then one kid asked, “What you doing that for?” My response, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

Remember, a foolproof way of determining a horse’s age is by counting the teeth.

We’re getting a version of that on Facebook, the online chat room that lets users spill out whatever they want. Some turn it into a religious pilgrimage, guaranteeing that if you write “amen” to a posting, untold riches will be yours in 15 minutes. Others simply like to chat or play games. Some post family photos. But too many people “doth protest too much” in the sense of using Facebook for bragging on themselves. Continue reading

Who’s a Neanderthal?

It might have been around the time of my first prom date — that would have been in the mid-’50s — when we’d been studying early man: Piltdown, Neanderthal, Cro-Magnon. We students at Immaculate Conception School became fascinated by the terms, presented with drawings of what our ancestors might have looked like.

Accordingly, anyone who failed to render a quick and correct answer when called on by Sister Mucha Misa was labelled a Neanderthal, the same way we’d brand our classmates as creeps or nerds, or even Communists.

It was then that for no reason I could discern, my prom date called me a Neanderthal. I still wonder whether that appellation came because I was aggressive as I dropped her off on her front porch — or not aggressive enough.

Remember, in the innocent ‘50s, there wasn’t much to do in Las Vegas but go to one of three movie theaters, four if you count the drive-in. Or we could swallow a late-night burger and fries at the Home Cafe or the Silver Spur, the only 24-hour restaurants in town.

As I was leaving my date’s front porch, I recalled the Neanderthal christening and said, “You’re wrrronng. I just got a promotion — to Cro-Magnon.” Continue reading