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Mrs. Leonard was a Bitch

YOUNGSTERS RETURNING TO CLASS FOLLOWING A FIRE DRILL IN A CHICAGO ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. FIRE DRILLS ASSUME A GREATER IMPORTANCE IN THE GHETTO SCHOOLS WHERE AREA BUILDINGS ARE MORE VULNERABLE TO VANDALISM AND FIRE. NOTE THE VACANT BUILDING WITH BROKEN WI

YOUNGSTERS RETURNING TO CLASS FOLLOWING A FIRE DRILL IN A CHICAGO ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. FIRE DRILLS ASSUME A GREATER IMPORTANCE IN THE GHETTO SCHOOLS WHERE AREA BUILDINGS ARE MORE VULNERABLE TO VANDALISM AND FIRE. NOTE THE VACANT BUILDING WITH BROKEN WI

Awkward Social Encounters

Awkward Social Encounters

A man holding a blunderbuss.

A man holding a blunderbuss.

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) in Fort Worth Zoo

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) in Fort Worth Zoo

Geese flying over the Research Triangle Park headquarters parking lot.

Geese flying over the Research Triangle Park headquarters parking lot.

So...Are Ellipses just a Grammatical version of the Mathematical Concept of the ‘Remainder’...?

I’m attempting to solve one of the greatest mysteries of the universe and I sit here befuddled and perplexed.

Like the obscure rise and fall of Hub scores...occasionally...perplexed would surge and the rankings would be reversed.

Mostly though...the trend was running towards befuddlement.

My worst fears were confirmed about an hour ago. The solution to the problem...at its core...was mathematical.

That said, there were reasons why I had been a history major. I opened my ‘repressed memory box’ after pulling it from my ‘closet of shame’. The skeletons, which live in my ‘closet of shame,’ helped me move it. It was full.

The material I was looking for was in the second-grade stuff. Filed under...Leonard, Mrs. (Math Phobias).

My mind cast back in time...

Chicago. 1971. Prussing Elementary School. Depths of winter. Grey skies. First Floor. Room 104. Steam-heated radiator stuck on Hiroshima-type setting and blasting out heat in a clattering of pipes. Mrs. Leonard’s Second Grade class...

(Clatter, clatter) Went the pipes...

I was eight and awkward. I had improved from those dark days when I was seven and awkward, however, as those who followed the case studies generally agreed...in terms of awkwardness...my ninth year would prove much like my seventh...thus eradicating any transitory gains I had unknowingly garnered while whiling away the eightieth percentile of my first decade.

It was a day like any other. I was settling into my desk as I pulled out a copy of a book I had found in the library. It was about Pilgrims and the early Indians of the Massachusetts Bay colony. Like every morning...Mrs. Leonard had her own agenda.

Also, like every morning...I was surprised when her annoying nasal voice intruded into my fantasy world of Pilgrims and Indians...

“OH Mr. Forgets-His-Glasses and Pays No Attention?” She snidely intrudes on my mental efforts to blow away a turkey with a blunderbuss...

“Huh?” I squint at her while trying to figure out what she was talking about.

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I had forgotten my glasses again and hadn’t been paying attention. Still...I thought the sobriquet rude and demeaning. I vowed to tear into Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s principal work on education, Emile: Or, On Education to see if she had the right to speak to me that way. After this Pilgrim story of course...after I shoot this here turkey with this here blunderbuss...

Even at age eight I understood...you can’t pick your own nickname.

Still, this one sucked. It was entirely too literal and lacking in any notions of double entendre, in my opinion. Mean spirited stuff, really.

Mrs. Leonard was a bitch.

Her braying voice startled my imaginary mental turkey into an early flight and my blunderbuss blast proved unequal to the task as I got off a delayed shot...

“OH Mr. Forgets-His-Glasses and Pays No Attention?”

“Yes, Mrs. Leonard?”

“Yes, Mrs. Leonard?” She mocked. She came stocked for mocking. “It’s your turn to complete a math problem on the board.”

The class collectively held its breathing. Except for Charlie Tamuda. He had asthma...he was wheezing away like a stevedore...

(Rattle, rattle) Went Charlie’s lungs...

Pupils writing on the blackboard in a village school in Laos

Pupils writing on the blackboard in a village school in Laos

Addition, division, subtraction and multiplication symbols

Addition, division, subtraction and multiplication symbols

Illustration depicting two people facing each other, engaging in a typical "staring contest."

Illustration depicting two people facing each other, engaging in a typical "staring contest."

Could This Be the Reason I Don’t Like Math...?

The drill was this: Mrs. Leonard would put five math problems on the board with the intention of five students going up, completing their calculations, and sitting down. She would critique, erase, write new problems, and the cycle would continue anew...

Like a pedophile priest working his way through a line of alter boys, the process was designed to be efficient.

I was normally the monkey wrench in that machinery of efficiency. Invariably...I was placed nearest the roaring steam-heater. I won’t say that I got the hardest problem...they were all pretty hard.

My four companions finished their problems and sat down. Four more students came up and answered theirs and sat down. These were critiqued, erased, and replaced with yet more unfathomable numbers as the next batch of my compatriots moved forward to contemplate and complete their portion of the exercise...

I stayed glued in my position. The chalk in my hand. The long division problem stared down at me as I stared up at it...

A battle of wills...

The radiator roars. My hands sweat. The chalk turns to paste in my soggy grip. Charlie’s lungs rattle. Mrs. Leonard harangues. The radiator pipes clatter. The clock moves forward. Recess bell. I can’t go play. I must remain at the board.

During recess I stand fidgeting in front of the chalkboard...three inches away (as directed by Mrs. Leonard) breathing in chalk dust. She was of the opinion that since I never wore my glasses...I must like to squint at things...

I was eight...I didn’t mind squinting at things...

My classmates would try to help. That was another reason for the three inch rule. In a rare world, in which, eight year olds showed more empathy than a functioning adult...they would attempt to slip me the answer. I can’t help but think that, had I been wearing my glasses, it would have been easier to discern their helpful prompts...


Drawing of the basic American Pilgrim's Hat

Drawing of the basic American Pilgrim's Hat

The Whimsical Fantasies of Youth...

As I listened to the other kids yelling and playing outside, during the recess that I was denied, I fed small sticks and leaves into the fire that was my hatred for Mrs. Leonard. I gently blew on the coals to ensure an even blaze. Just like the Indians taught the Pilgrims...

I fantasized about Mrs. Leonard being killed in a Turkey/blunderbuss related shooting accident. Ideally this would happen before afternoon recess. It never did...

Occasionally, my fantasies would involve having Mrs. Leonard being kidnapped by wily savages, while the Pilgrim community dithered about, in no apparent hurry, to secure her release...

“Alas...Goodwoman...Spinster Leonard...She BE indeed a bitch...” Went the standard Pilgrim refrain against any alacrity of movement on her behalf...

Unfortunately...for both the Pilgrims and me...the crafty Indians usually let her go of their own accord...

“Humph...Squaw...big bitch. You take.” They would normally complain as they dumped her in an unceremonious heap before melting back into the hinterland of my imagination...

This was my morning routine during the nine-months I spent in the second-grade, remembered, through the saddened eyes of a sad eight year old...yearning to play at recess...yearning to kill his second grade teacher...yearning to return to the dog-eared history book...

I envisioned myself enclosed within the stocks and pillories of the village common.

Ensconced in the same ritualistic humiliation they afforded my 17th-century forbearers (those that didn’t understand math) as they waited out their own sentences of shame.

Typically...I would be released from my bondage following first recess.

Mrs. Leonard would provide a snarky comment, a derisive sidebar, and the missing quotient to the long division problem I had sparred with all morning...

As I recall...on that day...the number three was revealed to be my elusive antagonist...

“Well played number three...well played...”

(Clatter, clatter) Went the pipes...

(Rattle, rattle) Went Charlie...

(Cough, cough) A small puff of chalk dust leaves my lungs...


A silhouette of Stripper on a Pole

A silhouette of Stripper on a Pole

Emmental cheese, one of the Swiss cheese varieties.

Emmental cheese, one of the Swiss cheese varieties.

Classroom door inside the Cathedral of Learning

Classroom door inside the Cathedral of Learning

American and Filipino troops surrender to the Japanese at Bataan.

American and Filipino troops surrender to the Japanese at Bataan.

I’m an Adult Now...with Big-Boy Pants...

Unlike the silliness of youth, I was no longer thinking about turkeys and blunderbusses. I was thinking about strippers and string cheese.

Back to Hub scores. I had spent the morning analyzing the relative rankings of my Hubs, Hubber Scores, and Karma ranking. The results proved as elusive as trying to hunt wild turkeys with a blunderbuss on a frosted morning in 1632.

There appeared to be neither rhyme nor reason for any of the movements...

My latest ‘Top-ranking’ Hub (whatever that really meant) was descending down the pole like an aging stripper, with arthritic knees, and unlikely to go back up...

I opened up a package of string cheese and began eating it. They should make Swiss-cheese String cheese...

After I made the unintended connection between Switzerland and String cheese...the next mental leap became obvious...

Werner Heisenberg and his pioneering study of String-Theory...

Creative Voice entered the room and, upon seeing the opened Leonard, Mrs. (Math Phobias) file on the desk, gives a shrill shriek...

“What’s that bitch doing here!??” It’s understandable.

In terms of mental damage caused by the teaching methods of Mrs. Leonard...Creative Voice took the brunt of the hit.

I had created mental barriers for myself...whenever she (or math) would intrude on my psyche...I would think about strippers and string cheese. A defense mechanism, really.

Creative Voice had never fully allowed it to heal...’The Horrors of Room 104’

Internal CD player, of course, didn’t exist in 1971. He was Internal 8-Track player back then...

Still...tough love...

“Put on your Big-Boy pants!” I verbally slapped him. “I was doing research. She’s dead! She was a hundred years old back then. She’s dead! She can’t hurt us anymore! She’s dead.”

“Are you sure? How can you be sure she’s dead?” Creative Voice asks in a pleading voice...

Ironically...we did the math...

If, X=Mrs. Leonard rotting in hell, and Y=A train leaving Cleveland bound for Chicago...they should intersect... That was the problem. If the goal was for an intersection in hell...the train should never have left Cleveland in the first place! Creative Voice used this as proof that Mrs. Leonard was not dead...

“Perhaps an imaginary number?” I suggest.

“You mean like three?” Creative Voice asks...

“Ah...our old adversary...the number three.” I remember...

We gave up. Some math problems don’t have answers. Usually the hard ones...or the (even) numbered ones at the back of the book...

Collecting our scrapes of calculations, we placed them in the Leonard, Mrs. (Math Phobias)file, replaced it in my ‘repressed memories box,’ and pushed it back into the ‘closet of shame’. The skeletons asked for pizza.

I told Creative Voice to order extra pizzas...I was calling the A-Team...


Greek philosopher Archimedes in his bath - 16th Century carving.

Greek philosopher Archimedes in his bath - 16th Century carving.

Two Nabisco-brand Fig Newtons stacked on each other.

Two Nabisco-brand Fig Newtons stacked on each other.

The A-Team...

Algorithm was the term most frequently used and bantered about. I didn’t really understand its meaning. I did know that it started with an ‘A’ and that was a place to start...math things that began with the letter ‘A’.

Archimedes...

Algebra...

Angst...

An hour later the pizzas were delivered, the skeletons appeased, and Archimedes was splashing about in the tub...

Sir Isaac Newton arrived representing algebra. Apparently, he was the creator of the discipline. At age nineteen no less. Creative Voice and I hated him. Algebra gave us a rough time in High School and College. Still...we liked what he was doing with figs...

Creative Voice and I supplied all the required angst...

“EUREKA!” Screamed Archimedes from our bathtub.

That was his third ‘Eureka’ moment in forty-minutes. I had no idea he was a fan and practitioner of multiple ‘Eureka’ moments... I mean bully for him...but you don’t have multiple ‘Eureka’ moments in another man’s tub. It’s just unseemly.

“So how do you get the fig into the Newton?” Creative Voice was grilling Newton.

Newton was confused. “Whatever do you mean, good sir? The apple was my breakthrough. I know not of figs.”

Oh-oh. Absent any working knowledge of figs and their Newton-ing process...Newton was nothing more than a bad memory of four semesters in High School and three attempts to pass Intermediate Algebra in College...

“EUREKA!” Screamed....

I banished Archimedes from the bathtub as Creative Voice simultaneously bans Sir Isaac Newton from our kitchen table.

All that remain are Creative Voice, angst, and I. And Internal CD player. Creative Voice and I were frustrated. Angst...was...well....anxious. Internal CD player suggests a road trip...

“I’m a Traveling Man...”


Werner Karl Heisenberg (1901 - 1976)

Werner Karl Heisenberg (1901 - 1976)

A graphical representation of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

A graphical representation of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

Cosmological argument on w:ex nihilo—Initial Chaos Theory, Abrahamic Philosophy. Created image using 'Paint.NET'.

Cosmological argument on w:ex nihilo—Initial Chaos Theory, Abrahamic Philosophy. Created image using 'Paint.NET'.

Amtrak Cascades at Carkeek Park

Amtrak Cascades at Carkeek Park

We’re Off to See the Wizard...

We’re going to the source. We walked the halls of Hubsville...looking for a staff member who could explain the Metrics, Mysteries of’ for us. With over two-hundred thousand Hubbers and twenty-four staff members...?

As we made our way through the building, I told Creative Voice about my Werner Heisenberg—String Theory—Swiss-Cheese Theory. He was doubtful and I knew why...I had fudged the data...

“Werner Heisenberg was a German.” Creative Voice states flatly. “If you try and make a link to String Theory via String Cheese Theory via Swiss Cheese Theory...and, do so upon the back of a German, rather than a Swiss...won’t the mathematical foundations be shaky?”

I was impressed by his grasp of Quantum Physics.

“Perhaps.” I reasoned. “But...Heisenberg was a German in the 1940s...I think most of them wanted to be called Swiss after the war...?”

“Like an imaginary number?”

“I guess. But with blood and bones and guilt.”

“Are you implying that you found damaging information about Werner Heisenberg and a secret Nazi past?” Creative Voice questioned with incredulity...

“Oh, hardly.” I told him. “He seems clean. I’m just saying...that was a common dodge back in the day. Besides...it was a way to move the whole String-Theory thing along...you know...narrative need...”

He did...it was a literary device we had used before with, at times, limited success...

The truth was...all I knew of Werner Heisenberg was gleaned from a quick Wikipedia search of ‘String-Theory’ and a corresponding quick look for Swiss sounding names associated with the discipline. Werner fit the bill...

We discussed it for awhile...

“You know,” posits Creative Voice. “If we can somehow fit Chaos Theory with String-Cheese Theory...”

“Oh sure...right, right,” I agreed. “Of course, that would be the dream-team theory.”

We had long favored Chaos Theory as an answer to the problem. Not because we understood Chaos Theory any better than we understood Long Division. We didn’t.

We have, however, been life-long fans of the 1960s television show, Get Smart! and we figured if we could somehow talk to the head of Kaos...Konrad Siegfried (played by actor Bernie Kopell) ...he could explain it to us...

“What if the train left Cleveland going backwards?” From Creative Voice.

“That would implode the Amtrak Time-Continuum...I don’t see that happening...”

Eventually, we gave up. Some math problems don’t have answers. Usually the hard ones...or the (even) numbered ones at the back of the book...


Common building isulations inside an apartment building in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Common building isulations inside an apartment building in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Paul D.

Paul D.

Paul E.

Paul E.

Statue of Col Harland Sanders (KFC Founder)

Statue of Col Harland Sanders (KFC Founder)

White Silkie chickens at a Ukrainian zoo.

White Silkie chickens at a Ukrainian zoo.

Jay R.

Jay R.

Down the Three Halls...According To...the Two Pauls. And a Jay...?

The Learning Center was closed. We moved on to the staff cafeteria. Also, largely empty...except for two janitors. They were cleaning out the grease trap above the stove...

“Excuse me?” I interrupted the two men.

They turned to me.

They didn’t look like janitors. At least...they didn’t fit the mental repertoire of pictures of janitors that continuously moved through my head. No. These guys looked like computer guys. Still...a lot of dot.com bubble pops had to generate a lot of instant janitors. How could my mental repertoire keep up?

Unfamiliar music was playing out of a boom-box on the table...

“I’m sorry to bother you but I’m trying to find out about Hub metrics and what not.” I politely addressed the man on the left.

Mid to late thirties, perhaps. He had a round-ish face that wore a bit of a smirk. His hair evidenced some curls that were, clearly, in business for themselves. Paul D. was stenciled onto the uniform above the breast pocket.

His companion, Paul E., according to his stenciled moniker, looked to be about the same age as Paul D. He had the same, sallow, computer-guy-like-pallor. He was smiling.

His hairstyle would have held him in good stead as Richie Cunningham’s understudy on Happy Days.

Paul D. explains, “Hubpages have developed two ranking methods, which like the herbs and spices Colonel Sanders uses on his chicken, are shrouded in secrecy.”

“Are you saying that chickens are at the heart of this?!” Asked a, suddenly excited, Creative Voice.

Both of the Pauls jumped back startled. I normally like to hide Creative Voice from ‘the straits.’

He had been silent up to now, skulking about, pondering, listening, taking notes, and thinking of the Silkie Chicken Hub he had been hankering to visit for some time...

“Um...yes.” Said Paul E. The two Pauls exchange knowing glances.

“If I may clarify?” I then proceed to clarify. “Even if we find these chickens and talk to this military guy...Sanders...he’s not sharing his herbs and spices, right? Where can we find the answers?”

A third man comes from behind the refrigerator. Creative Voice and I jumped back startled. We didn’t know he was there...the stenciled identification named him as Jay R.

Longish face, thin lips...if a widow’s peak is a hair style...well then...there you go...

Jay R. had been silent up to now, skulking about, pondering, listening, taking notes, and thinking of the Transylvanian Naked-Neck Chicken Hub he had been hankering to visit for some time...

“You could spend the night on Bald Mountain until you hear the Angelus bell signaling Ave Maria. All should be revealed at that point.” Jay tells us cryptically.

“What the f**k are you talking about?” From Creative Voice.

“What the f**k are you talking about?” From me, a split second after the one above, from Creative Voice.

“What’s You Talking ‘bout, Willis?” From Internal CD player, in a rare, Gary Coleman parody.


Do not mince with this beef.

Do not mince with this beef.

The east face of en:Bald Mountain (Utah) in the en"Uinta Mountains of Utah.

The east face of en:Bald Mountain (Utah) in the en"Uinta Mountains of Utah.

A Buddhist relic in the South.jpg; p.123 The passing of Korea (book)

A Buddhist relic in the South.jpg; p.123 The passing of Korea (book)

Brief Internal Monologue...Then Down to Business...

This results in a brief argument between Creative Voice and me...

“So...what...he’s just busting out with dialogue now?” I asked scornfully of Creative Voice. “No more cool use of obscure songs and lyrical musings? He’s just going to bust out with ‘What’s You Talking ‘Bout Willis’? Really? We never even watched that show.”

“WHERE’S THE BEEF?” Roared Internal CD player...

“Oh...yes...I see your point...” Creative Voice concedes...

“Right?”

The two Pauls and a Jay stare at us quizzically...

“Sorry.” I said to the three men. “Could we get directions to this Bald...”

“Mountain.” Supplied the two Pauls and a Jay.

We received a dizzying amount of detailed directions which seemed to center on three converging halls that would lead us to the ‘mountain’. We would be guided in our journey by the ‘mystical’ capital letter M, which we were to keep our eyes open for.

How do you MapQuest ‘Three Converging Halls’ and a ‘capital letter M’?

They were also vague about the accommodations once on the mountain. From the bells and Ava Maria stuff from Jay, we assumed it was a ski resort run by Buddhist Monks...

By the end of the night...we would be disabused of this notion.

As we were leaving, I asked, (on Internal CD player’s behalf), what band was being played on the boom-box...

Mongo Music.” Offered Paul E.

“Really?” I had never heard of them before...

We bid adieu and moved off into the night...

“Do you think they will find the answer?” Asked a nervous Paul D. after we left.

This notion was met with scorn.

“Pfft...I doubt those guys can figure out how many times four goes into twelve...” Observed Jay. “Still...I will monitor their progress to make sure they don’t.”

They talked for awhile longer about the need to hire more staff...specifically...janitor support before returning to the grease trap...