Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is This a Super-Good Deal, or What?

I was looking to buy a suitcase, and I stumbled upon this item on ebay. A five-piece set for $45 + $20 shipping. First I thought, "Wow! That's way to good to be true." So emailed the seller. He said he is in fact selling five pieces for $45. Now I'm thinking, "Well, if it's true, maybe it's not that good a deal." What do you think? Should I jump on this, or will I be buying something I don't need. I only need one small suitcase. But this guy is selling five for the price of one! What do you think?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Why I Need a Manager

Subject: Math Tutor
From: CM

Saw your posters advertising math help. I am in Math 201, but am having trouble with algebra. Was hoping you are available to sit down with me and work on some problems.
Thank you,


From: e
To: CM
Yikes! Math 201 can be very difficult if you algebra isn't up to speed.

For me, the most convenient time to meet would be Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday before 11 a.m. Does that work for you?

From: CM
To: e
Unfortunately, I have Chemistry lectures and lab M, Tu, W, F mornings. Thursdays I have work.

If we can not find a time that work for both of us, perhaps you can recommend someone?



From: e
To: CM
I don't know any other math tutors. How about I call you later and we
discuss the options over the phone?

From: CM
To: e
My number is below, I'm done with class for the day.

I called CM, and we discussed scheduling options. After much back and forth, we decided that Friday afternoons would be the best time to meet. Throughout our conversations, both via email and over the phone, one issue was conspicuously absent: he never once asked me how much I would charge or mentioned anything about money. "Aha!" I thought to myself, "I can fleece this sucker. After meeting him once, he'll be so enthralled with my superior tutelage that when it comes time to say goodbye and he asks me my rates, I'll tell him it's $45 an hour, and he'll agree to it. Or maybe he'll bargain me down to $40. But I certainly won't lose him entirely if I'm just a wee bit greedy." Thus I had blithely thought on Tuesday afternoon.

We were supposed to meet Friday at 2:00 p.m. At 1:05 I got a text, "Hi, it's CM. Finished class early, I'm in the engineering library." I texted back, "All right. I'm coming over." As I hopped across the campus, I told myself, "Well, $45 is a bit greedy, but I can definitely ask for forty. Don't chicken out e, ask for forty!"

We met. We discussed limits and derivatives. Then we moved on to a simple limit problem. I knew how to evaluate the limit using some shortcuts, but I could not for the life of me remember how to do it without the shortcuts. My student didn't either. Time was up and he got up to leave. "How much did you say it would be per hour?" he asked, "$25?"
"Aurgh!" I thought, "Did I really say $25? Am I mishearing? Did he maybe get mixed up with that other tutoring sign hanging all over campus advertising $20 an hour? Well anyways, I can't ask for $45 when he's expecting $25 and I couldn't even evaluate the limit!"
"$35," I manage to choke out.

Aurgh. From now until the end of the semester I'll be making ten dollars a week less than I could have made if I only I would have had a bit more confidence. When I was just starting to get involved in tutoring, a friend of mine (who has since graduated from Brooklyn College with a degree in applied mathematics) told me that he too dabbled in tutoring. "It's not hard," he said, "The only reason it didn't work out for me was because I didn't handle the business aspect well." Aurgh. The business aspect.

Oh yeah. Ten minutes after CM left, I remembered how to evaluate the limit.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Lonely Man of Math

(Why am I publishing this comic, rather than the many other fine specimens available at Because this one is narrow enough for blogger to display normally.)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Banana History is More Interesting Than You Thought

Did you know that bananas were first cultivated ten thousand years ago? Did you know that bananas cannot survive without active human help? Did you know that before the 1950's a different breed of bananas was common--but that breed is now extinct? Did you know that our current breed of bananas may become extinct in the near future? Read more at Damn Interesting.

Incidentally, this totally destroys this silly creationist argument.