Multiplication by Subtraction

No one in our family is a math whiz – we’re all literature folk with one black-sheep biologist mixed in. Quite frankly, I think the average student is taught way too much mathematics in school. If you don’t plan on becoming an engineer, physicist, or statistician, do you really need to have advanced calculus or trigonometry? I’m sure most would disagree, but I wonder if we aren’t taught too much high level math and not enough basic life skills. How did my girls graduate high school with honors yet have never been taught how to balance a checkbook, write a resume, or fill out basic government paperwork?

mathematics-1509559_1280I’m not saying I can’t do math. I can function on a very basic level and I helped the kids with homework until they got to about the eighth grade. That’s where I went rusty and chewed pencils down to nubs before blaming teachers for their new math and its crazy calculation methods. Give me Markmatics, which is a math theorem based on very rudimentary understanding, a calculator, and Google.

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A Bastion of Good Advice

It’s a word! And not to be confused with another of similar sound (most of the time).

Late in my daughter’s senior year, I was given the task of sharing advice as she headed to college. I believe I offered sound, excellent advice that is good for anyone who is forced into a new situation.

I humbly submit my advice:



The best way to deal with the problems of life after high school by sharing them with intimate friends.  Making friends who won’t

a) drag you down,  or

b) be a complete time and emotional drain.

This can be hard.

Your mother isn’t good at these things, so I’m going to give you some advice that has helped me through many new beginnings.  First, you have to identify a friend target.  Look for someone with whom you may have things in common and approach cautiously.  Once within range, start a generic conversation.  If you get those initial, warm feelings that they might be suitable as a friend, loosen up and fart.  It doesn’t have to be a chair-rattler – just a little shooter.  If they act startled and remove themselves from your company, they weren’t meant for you.  If they are unfazed or better yet, laugh with you, you might have the makings of a friend.

The next step to further test your friendship is to pick a conspicuous moment about a week later and up the ante with another fart, building some resonance and duration to the effort.  (It would be best to have some broccoli or chili the evening prior to the second salvo to add smell, really testing their resolve.)  If at this point, you haven’t run the poor kid off, you may just have the beginnings of a wonderful friendship – the kind you’ll need to weather the storms of life.


Of course, farting is an allegory for sharing feelings of fear, doubt, uncertainty, homesickness, loneliness, and/or angst. Either will work for this exercise, but farting is by far funnier and more memorable. Think about the stories you’ll have looking back on your very first encounter. Good luck.

Remember we are always here for you, but we know the face you make when you’re gassy.



Now you may consider the other word…