Friday, November 30, 2018

Mining for Fractions

I've been getting deluged with sweet baked goods, as often happens around this time of year. People brought several desserts to Thanksgiving, like cupcakes (which Dave informs me were actually "Victoria sponge sandwiches" and not cupcakes at all) and pecan pie. And then my boss brought me pumpkin pie from her Thanksgiving dinner, and a box of macaroons that her houseguests gave her. And then we had "staff appreciation day" at work, when the parents bring in baked goods for the school employees -- which led to me walking away with chocolate chip cookies, brownies, blondies and some other goodies.

Of course it's all meant well and I am not complaining, exactly. I just need to pace myself! I'm trying to eat just a few sweet things per day as well as walk to (and sometimes from) work. I don't have a weight problem but I'm 52 and at this stage in life it creeps up on us!

Yesterday at school a fifth-grader kept coming to me for help with his math homework. Lord! There is literally not a single thing I am worse at than math. He's a funny kid, very earnest and friendly, and I wanted to be of some assistance but I also didn't want to steer him the wrong way. He's done this to me before, asking about long division. Who remembers how to do long division?! Get a calculator, kid!

Well, yesterday he wanted to know how to turn a fraction into a percentage. When he showed me his pencilled, scribbled calculations I felt that same old sense of panic that I used to get in math class. I could not tell him from memory how to solve his problem (see what I mean?), but I resorted to Google and got him an answer.

I also told him, "Nicholas, when it comes to math, you'd be better off talking to virtually any other adult in this building than me."

Maybe I shouldn't let on that I can't even do fifth grade math. They might fire me.

(In all honesty, if it were just me, I could probably do it. But when I'm giving advice to someone else there's an added layer of uncertainty, a responsibility, that makes me second-guess virtually everything I think I remember. Know what I mean?)

This is my next book. It's a yard sale purchase I made in Anna Maria Island, Florida, some time back. It was published in 1928 and I bought it solely because I loved the look of it. It's kind of fun to rediscover old books that have been completely forgotten.

According to the flyleaf, it's "a virile and swiftly moving tale of Alaskan mining life." Apparently Elby Wagner was a miner himself.

Hmmmm. I'll let you know how it goes.

(Photos: A garage on Morocco Street in Bermondsey. Not sure why the horses are there -- my guess is they relate to the earlier use of that building, possibly as a stable. And yes, the building really is that crooked.)


  1. I love that building with the sort of scary looking horse heads. I bet you are right. I bet it was a stable at one time. That reminds me of my very first trip to London back in 1985. It was the only time I took one of those on and off tour busses. They drove us by a stable that was two stories tall with horses looking out at us from the second floor. I have no idea where it was because, I've never seen it again in all the subsequent times I've taken to London. My hotel was near Paddington Station and I remember walking in the neighborhood and seeing a blacksmith shoeing a horse when I peeked down a mews. I have a photo of that. Thanks for the memories.
    Enjoy that book. I have several old books that belonged to my grandfather at one time and I enjoy reading one every now and then. The last one I read was a mystery and I enjoyed reading it and contemplating how difficult it was to solve a mystery without phones and GPS and the internet and yet it all went so smoothly.

  2. That horse is scary!
    And that book reminds me of the original scouting manuals. A "virile" tale, eh? Are you sure this isn't some form of early gay lit?
    Here's what you should do with all of the Christmas goodies- take them home and wrap and freeze them. Then you'll have dessert for the entire year!

  3. There are always lost puppies around school . They seem to pick someone to fallow. So there's your reason for doing gr 5 math. These kids need our support.

  4. probably for the horses and carriages pre-autos. I'm against using calculators in school to teach basic math people need to be able to do that without aid. higher math, fer sure a calculator. I barely made it through chemistry even with a slide rule and only because my teacher took pity on me and gave me a D on the final without grading it.

  5. Morocco Street? That's kind of auspicious given the fact that The Peace Corps posted you there. There is also at least one Florida Street in London over at Bethnal Green.

  6. I've read some pretty good books that were very old. I mean books that aren't classics, just random finds. Hopefully that one turns out to be a good one.

    In agreement with Red on the "lost puppy". Maybe along with wanting math help, he just wants a kind adult to talk to.

    I like those horse heads!

  7. Just wait 'til you get older, Steve. Those pounds go on a lot easier than they come off!