Monthly Archives: February 2008

Eureka? …or, ‘my final week, and i spent it nekkid’

Today’s Featured Question is a real toughy; I spent an hour, and I can’t get anywhere universal; I can only flail about. But at least I get credit for the previous Question: “If I knew I ‘only had’ (sic.) one week to live, what would I do?

Answer: Probably try to prove this theorem… after I hunted down the child who wrote the question and explained the difference between “only had a week” and “had only a week“(!) Hint: A guy who ‘only has one week to live’ will have to live without a car, food, beer… oh, and clothes, while we’re stripping him of everything else. 

theer's meerorem

 

Stuttgart 2008: Success! (…almost)

     Regular readers of this column who wish me well, (if the two are not incompatible), will be pleased to learn that I almost did it! I finished a respectable third, representing my Little beLeaguered nation in this year’s “Drunk-Drive-athon” held in Stuttgart, Germany two weeks ago. You probably want a short account of the action, so read on:
“Anyone can drink; anyone can drive; ahh, but to do both, and well..” is the challenge engraved on the Chromium Mug, which god-willing I may yet hold proudly kinda overhead-ish next year. With any luck, that Austrian judge will get run over crossing the road. His insistence on the ‘Copenhagen interpretation’ of the Urination sub-clause was what cost me the gold.
      Ok, this year I decided to go with a higher handicap: my two bottles of Bailey’s Irish creme plus a quick six of Beck’s netted me a whopping .68% blood alcohol, which meant I could actually score a bit lower on the course and still win. Of course they don’t tell you the Inebriation-Index before the trials. See, the whole thing is carefully set up to simulate an actual drunk-driving experience. Including the unfamiliar vehicle and last-minute road-directions. This year I drew a green Buick LeSabre I’ll call ‘The Three-Mile-Islander’ for its incomprehensible array of un-marked buttons and lamps, like Babcock and Wilcox’s nuclear-reactor control board, which pretty much destined the thing to melt down. 
  So I was helped into the car; “Keys are under the seat!”, they slammed the door shut and started the clock. Cameras facing backwards and forwards, attached to the roof, plus recording sensors on the gas, speedometer, turn-signals, brakes.. just about everything, generate a data-base which the computer uses to calculate how closely your driving resembles that of a hypothetically sober Mr. Goodnick. It’s not really a race, more of a rally, and the whole thing lasts about an hour, including…well including being stopped by an official dressed as a policeman. Your ‘performance’ is video-taped. I did real well in that part, standing downwind of the officer, one-word answers, papers in my hand, sort-of. The tape does show me asking to try on his hat, but I said it in a non-threatening way, and only lost two points. The real kick in the butt was the absurd instrument/control panel of this awful vehicle. I got cocky in the middle of an intersection, hit the power-seat-adjust by mistake, crushed myself against the steering wheel, tried to reverse it and made things worse by hitting ‘seat-up’, I guess. Turned me into a soprano, (and one who’d had to piss like crazy since almost Mile One.) After somehow extricating myself from the pincher-effect, I found myself locked in the vehicle. Ok, no problem, roll down the window, right? Wrong. more un-labelled buttons, including ‘cruise control’, ‘seek’ on the damn radio, and some other warning buzzer, which turned out to be ‘turn signal on too long’. Somehow I pulled over, jumped out, and pissed against a wall. We do that in Israel. Like I told the judges, “See, to our peoples, “if they never saw it, they won’t know what it is, but on the other hand, if they saw one already, then it’s nothing new I also threw in the thing about wearing out my prostate by being too famous for my own health.. don’t know why I thought that’d win me sympathy(?)Anyway, the Austrian judge didn’t buy it, the prude. Plus the wall I ‘defaced’ was the front of some ‘Kilianskirche’ on Kaiserstrasse….VerlorenstraBe..hell, I don’t remember. He tried to claim that I picked it on purpose(!)
    In the end, I got 1087 points; some whiz-kid Albanian albino took second with 1103, and the winner was, as expected, for the third year in a row, Darryl Buck, from Amarillo, Texas, with 1127. He is good, I’ll give him that, but lucky, too, drawing a ’67 Mustang, a female cop, and going with a .40 Index from straight Johnny Walker, probably the right compromise. But pray for me, fans: I’ll get him next year in Dallas or my name ain’t… whoa, now what’s my name, officer? Wait, I got it right here in the old wallet-thingy… um “Trojan” Yup, dat’s me, boss. Anyway, back home now, my prize money plus a quarter bought me a good cup of Turkish coffee, plus here a “ma’shteen be’kir” gets a little respect. You can look it up….

English Usage Tip # 479:

    Couldn’t help but notice here on Xanga that even some veteran linguistic heavy-hitters seem a Little be-Leaguered by the confusion surrounding the similar-sounding words, ‘lei’, ‘lie’, and ‘lye’. And so you shouldn’t god forbid drop the ball in front of millions of adoring fans, here is the birds-eye lowdown, in Clip ‘n Save form, on their proper usage:

The verb ‘to lei’ simply means ‘to adorn the neck of a welcome guest, tourist, or other personage with a string of flowers. Ex: “Aloha. Please to smile while I lei you, Ma’am.”  It is an active verb here; the passive form is expressed as ‘getting lei-ed’ , which should not be confused with the variant ‘getting a Leid’ (sic)  which carries the sense of “understanding the german words to a song which generally goes like: ‘This brisk fall air makes me wanna climb a mountain in my leather shorts, but alas, my lover is dead, and this here rose weeps for our eternity lost… etc.'”
To ‘lie’, on the other hand
, is to tell a tall tale, to fabricate a phony garment from whole cloth. “I lie, constantly; yesterday I lied, and tomorrow, god willing, I shall continue to lie.” One who lies is known as a ‘liar’. He may profess to be a ‘lyre’, but don’t believe him, as a lyre makes an entirely different sound.

And finally, the verb ‘to lye’ means: “to bathe someone or some thing in caustic soda; sodium hydroxide to be exact”. Please be aware of any aluminum jewelry worn by the victim, as the hydrogen gas evolved by the exothermic reaction can be flammable. The past tense can be tense; Ex: “Where is your hair?” “Oy, yesterday I lyed a guy and it didn’t turn out well.” “Ja wohl, das tut mir lied..Gibts etwas anderes neues?



As you can see, caution is the byeword in proper usage, so be careful, und bye for now
.

Math-makers 102: “Little Mort”,The Exciting Conclusion??

    In our last episode, Johnny and Bunny were planning a party, and fretting about how best, if at all, to ensure that the invited guests would be able to sit, each opposite his or her private heart-throb. Johnny’s original instinctive confidence was tested by the intricacies of the problem, and near the cliff-hanger of an ending, both he and Miss Universe were scratching at a blank wall. Now while you slept, they continued playing with numbers, both complex, imaginary, and irrational, to no avail. But god-in-the-machine appears in this thrilling Final Chapter, in the form of a likeable Dom Delouise lookalike with an improbable name… so let’s listen in as we hear Cutie-pie say:



“Call Morti, duh!” That’s what she said, but to me it sounded alot  like the proverbial “Nu, let’s just pull over and ask somebody”
“I’d really rather just drive around in circles lost here in Beer-Sheva for another half a day or so, darling, if it’s you’re ok with that..”
I said, true to form.Ok, I was agreeing, of course, but without admission of guilt. Morti, we hadn’t heard from him since he’d sold his start-up firm to the Belgian giant, Orgasmetrics Inc. for a small fortune. Mortimer Descartes, a short comical balding immigrant from Bordeaux, France, had been our house guest for a few weeks, while he settled into his adopted homeland. We’d had a lot of fun together: I loved calling him “Le Petite Mort”, or even ‘Morti merde a la carte”. And if anyone could help us out, it’d be Mort.
“Just so he doesn’t have another ‘invention’ to try out on us..” I smiled at Sweetie, “..like that ‘le petite mort-gauge’ thing with all the wires and sensors, blood-pressure cuffs, and pulse recorders, you know.”
“Yeah but it was fun, helping him to establish a base-line for..”
She smiled
“A base-line?” I corrected her. “If I recall, it was our ‘hyperactivity’ that made him go with a logarithmic scale on the damn thing.” Morti had been trying to quantify, how to say this.. um.. ‘mutual simultaneous pleasure’, and of course, being handy and even, ok, ‘loud’, we’d been a natural choice for guinea pigs. We’d done test runs twice a day for two weeks. hey, anything for science. Anyway, I dialed his old number, and ten minutes later he was sitting in the kitchen, looking at the charts.
“Simple. You need to go for quantity, not quality over here..” he pointed to the matrix.
“Can’t we have both?” I kinda winked, to remind him of our past ‘services’, but it was obvious he was intrigued enough by the problem to hang out with us till the fat lady screamed.
“No, I mean the data, just restructure it as ‘points, like in the Eurovision Song Contest, but from one to ten, for each opposite-sex guest, and then we have a simple math waltz in the park.” Morti grabbed a pencil and showed me what he meant. I could feel a chill of eureka  as I quickly grasped the correctness of his approach.

“Honey, can you..?” I turned to where the computer in the corner had been screen-saving for the last hour or so.
“I already did it.” Madame Cutie pointed to the screen with a triumphant ‘Voila!’. She must’ve figured it out at the first mention of ‘quality’ and ‘quantity’. The new charts were ready for action:

old and new versions
“Ok, now just make a third combined chart out of ’em, like a town-to-town distance cross-matrix.” Morti instructed. Smelling victory, I playfully fought with Gorgeous hand-to mouse for the honor of constructing the final version.

solution


“Ok, now just pick the ten highest numbers off the chart and you got it” Morti was wolfing down the last of the salmon like a starving shark, but we didn’t care. Our party was saved. Or so we thought… (cue ominous music and fade… )

“You can leave your hat on”

    One would think that Oliver Sacks’ classic recounting of odd cases of brain dysfunction, “The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” would be immune to the scourge of cheap imitators and profiteers. One would think, but. ‘one would be wrong’ as I love to say, sorry to say.
   A quick look at the list I jotted down at the local mass-market bookstore is enough to prove that while immitation may be a form of flattery, it can also be a source of annoyance… or amusement; I’ll let my dear readers judge the merits of the following offerings:



1) The salesgirl actually confused this one, “The Man who Mistook his Hat for a Wife” by Oliver Secks for the real thing, so similar was its cover art, except for a somewhat furtive looking gentleman kneeling beside a fur hat, saying “ceci est ma femme”. I thought to leaf through it but the pages seemed to be stuck together, so I laid it down, face down, and moved on to:
2) Oliver Sucks: “Only Men, Only Hats” This one had lots of pictures. You don’t wanna know.
3) Oliver Soaks: “The Man who took his Wife and his Hat to the Cleaners”. Another ‘men’s book, I guess in the self-help genre, written by a retired divorce attorney, it claimed to have “over 100 tips for your successful exit strategy“, plus an all-new “laundry made easy” appendix for the newly rich and single. Ugh.
4) Ollie Versache: “Running with Berets” Didn’t know quite what to make of this one. The guy on the cover did look quite fashionable though
5) “The Man who Mistook Miss Tuck for  a Wifi” by Olive R. Sax looked like it might’ve actually been a fun read. Just out in paperback, the blurb called it “torrid, lascivious, and disturbing at once”
6) There was a fluffy kids book, “Ollie’s Silly Hat Tricks” which I bought in the end. Quirky. I’ll have to review it here sometime. Along with my thoughts on the movie re-make I rented at the checkout, “A Man, a Woman, and a Hat” Looks romantic from the picture on the cover; two lovers in the rain, trying to take cover under a too-small fedora on the beach.

Bottom line: Have a pleasant weekend but be wary of imposters. …Oh, and stand by for more in the series, “Matchmaking Math for Party-planners”

Matchmaking 101

You know, there is a conjecture that a solution must exist, for any arbitrary’ n’ couples” I told her, without a trace of posturing.
“A ‘conjecture‘ is there?” She feigned salon-intellectual pomposity, and then laughed.
“That’s what we have to call it, Sweetheart, ’til it’s been proven” I explained.
“So nu, prove it already..” This time it was the spoiled princess voice.
    We were sitting and eating breakfast, me and my one-and-only, love-of-my-life, imprinted on my limbic-system, thank god I found you, Girl. Million-dollar -a-slice Icelandic salmon with genuine Philadelphia cream cheese, delivered by hand-picked-for-their-brotherly-love couriers fresh each morning. Yes nothing’s too good for her Chosen One. And we were planning a small party, twenty guests:  ten guys and ten girls. Decor, cuisine, entertainment, all these had been quickly settled; we hardly ever disagree on anything. But seating? She was concerned that one or more of the guests might be troubled over having to sit opposite his or her god-forbid ‘second choice’. I let myself ponder a second the  mathematics of the challenge, and remembered having read something long ago, germane to the issue. Ok, I probably could have stated it in a more ‘plain-folks’ style, but she actually likes jargon, (and everything else about me, did I mention that?).
“Ok, well… um… let’s see…” I started.
“That’s a proof?” she asked, feigning innocence. I just love her.
“No, pussy-cat, I’m just warmimg up. Now here we go: Each guy can rank-order the girls in preferential order, right? …assign each one a number from one to ten.”
“As can the girls, obviously..”
She handed me another slice of salmon.
“Obviously. I was getting to that. So we now have an array of hope…” I paused a second for her smile  and lost my train of thought, as I considered jumping on a new one.
“So we can create a matrix, like this one:” I quickly drew a chart on a notepad

matrix . My Valentine took one look and reached around behind her to boot the nearest computer, “I think if you plan to submit this to the Journal of Theoretical Matchmaking, you’d better..”
“You’re right”,
I said, grabbing my Bolivian coffee and setting up at the new mission-control position. A few seconds later I had a sample matrix staring at us, waiting for the starting gun:

“Great!” oozed Sweetie-pie, kissing the back of my neck. “Everybody’s happy.”
I hated to disappoint her, but rigour is rigour, and our proof, at least, was still in the fore-play stage.
“No, they just know what they want; we gotta help ’em get it. We need a procedure, see..” I thought of all those dumb ice-breaker party games that lesser-lights seemed to think we needed in order to ‘mix’, back in the Stone Age. Like giving you the name of a food, and you had to find the girl with the animal that ate it. I always got a carrot, which never went with my Sears sweater.
“Well, we could first line them up in two rows, across from each other, on the lawn.” I thought that’d be

progress.
“Unless it rains”, she pointed out a flaw in the logic.
“Ok, assume a perfect world. We pick Guy one, he looks at his chart, and walks toward his first choice girl..”
“…who becomes immediately very ill..” She laughed at her intuitive grasp of reality. Women think of everything.
” Ok, maybe she wanted Guy Nine, who am I to legislate morality? So we’ll let her go to that dumb Guy Nine,nu..”
“..who becomes immediately ‘very ill”
She was repeating herself.
“So how would you do it, Miss Einstein?” I really didn’t have a plan, tell the truth, plus I get a free point for respecting her opinion, don’t I?
“Math, Johnny. ..’the uncanny efficiency of math’, you know, Wigener?”
I let Dream Girl take my place at the keyboard while I attempted to get a couple eggs not to ‘marry‘ the teflon skillet. By the time they were on the table she had made some admirable headway:

charts
“What’s up with Girl Three, you know, Miss ‘Na-na-na-na’?” I had to ask.
“She don’t like guys, I guess..” Cutie said ,slyly. As if God almighty had filled in the chart on Mt. Sinai.
“Just great! Replace her. In the name of science.” I decreed, imperiously.” And it kinda looks like Girl Two’s a real knock-out, huh?”
“Dat’s life, kid.”
my co-conspirator informed me, again washing her hands of responsibility. “We do want a realistic model, right?”
“We want a killer party, first, and to get this thing past peer-review of course. Ok, we’ll invite ‘Foxy’, but let’s fudge some choices for Sappho, ok?”
I still had no idea how to stage-manage the thing. I took a deep breath:
“We need a procedure, an algorithm, if you will..”
“I will”
Silly girl.
“..which specifically excludes the possibility that Girl Four, for example, sitting across from Guy Seven, will start to play footsy with Guy Nine, sitting next to him, leaving Guy Seven to try to schmooze Girl One, who make become..”
“Violently ill?”
I laughed at her little obsession with…um.. ‘puke’. “You know what I mean, though, right?”
“Oof! This is like, a simultaneous equation of 100 variables. Can’t we collapse it somewhere?”
she wanted to ‘finish math’ as much as I did. And both of us more than Bertrand Russell. We looked at the charts, scratching our heads in loving unison……

(to be continued, when I get His Meerness, to whom I’m indebted for this puzzle, to reveal the solution. At least I’m honest, haha)

Significantly “Other”

Methusalette was significantly older than I, in her late 660’s to be precise, and hadn’t spoken a word for the last century or two, Still attractive though, in her camel hair robe, she motioned for me to come in, and with her feeble hand she slid the covers back to make room for me on the bed. It was plain what she had in mind: I was three months late on the mortgage in those days, and she must have sensed that I was desperate for every shekel. I bent over and spoke softly into her ear:”Thoosy, there’s a significant legal issue here, you’re probably aware of that..” She rolled her ancient eyes but was silent.

I gulped, and started to undress. “…a SIGNIFICANT issue..” I repeated, “It’s even on Xanga..”

Thoughtful and sensitive, as older women often are, she moved her head ever so slightly, to call my attention to the note she had apparently prepared for the occasion, there on the side table, where it lay beside her quill pen and assorted lotions. I picked it up and read the painfully scrawled hand-writing:
“Enjoy… I’ll give you a SIGN IF I CAN’T take it anymore.”

I may  not have answered Today’s Featured Question…