Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Why (Some) Math Teachers Hate Me

My junior year of high school I took pre-calculus. I did not particularly like pre-calculus--or any math classes for the matter--and yet I took it. My teacher was a very nice woman who thought one thing, said another thing, and wrote an entirely different thing on the board. I liked her, but couldn't understand a word of what she said. Needless to say, it was very difficult for me to understand the concepts of calculus which we studied.

Finishing my homework each evening was, therefore, a struggle of near epic proportions. My father, who throughout my school years usually helped me with math homework, suddenly found himself helpless in the face of matrices, graphs of sine waves, and logarithms. I was equally helpless.

And then one week my uncle and his family came for a visit. This particular uncle engineers rocket boosters, which is quite impressive work. He had always been a bit of a math/science geek, so in desperation my father turned me and my calculus questions over to Uncle, even though Uncle was on vacation. Hope sprang in my bosom, (or somewhere in that general vicinity) and I spread my homework out in front of a kind and helpful Uncle.

Uncle began to peruse my homework with a look of studied concentration, and I'll never forget his next words to me: "Hmmm, I don't know. I haven't done any of this stuff in years." My father and I looked at each other incredulously: a man who builds rocket boosters doesn't regularly use calculus?! The hope in the general vicinity of my bosom began to fizzle out, and a righteous indignation began to build instead. The next day I walked into class and told my teacher, "Calculus is useless. My uncle is literally a rocket scientist, and not even he uses this stuff!"

And that's why (some) math teachers hate me.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Cats and Dogs

So I've decided my dog is a feminist. My feminist theories teacher used to say that a feminist recognizes that she has more in common with females not of her class than she does with the males of her same class, and this pretty well describes Abby: she reaches across barriers to form relationships with females not of her species, rather than form relationships exclusively with the male of her species. Let me explain.

Two years ago we adopted two dogs: Abby and Zach. Abby is a beagle mix, and Zach is a basset hound mix, but that's not important to the story. We adopted these two lovable muts from a local humane society, who had in turn rescued them from an animal shelter out in Tooelle. They had been abandoned and abused, and were both in such bad shape the humane society volunteers weren't sure if the dogs would survive. But they did, and they're the two closest animals that I've ever seen. When we adopted the two, the volunteers made it very clear that they were a pair and couldn't be broken up, which was fine with us because we had fallen in love with both of them.

And they are a pair. They sleep curled up next to each other, they groom each other, and they whine at the door if the other is outside. I really don't blame them, though, for being so close and dependent on each other. They've been through hell and back again, looking out for the other all the way; I don't care what species you are, experiences like that will keep you close.

Now, enter Della, and here's where it gets fun--or rather, funny. Della is a stray cat who followed my sister home one day. (No, literally, she just followed Kate home and has stayed ever since. Animals tend to that to us a lot in our family.) Once it became clear that Della was staying put and had decided to become a member of our family, we started letting her into the house. She and Abby hit it off right away. They sniffed each other's private parts, then curled up next to each other and went to sleep. Easy-peasy.

Della and Abby have continued to stay "friends" I guess you could say. Della is a bit of a tease (she's a cat after all) but things stay amiable between them--no spitting, scratching, and biting matches yet. Abby is never perturbed by Della prancing around in front of her, and Della isn't bothered by Abby's unnatural propensity to sniff every rear end that passes by. It's not unusual for one to curl up next to the other on the couch and fall asleep.

Which all got me thinking. I started thinking about human beings, and women in particular. Sometimes we feel like there are barriers between us and other women: she doesn't like me, I don't like her, how could she say those things, why does she have so many kids, why doesn't she have kids, she's too pretty/skinny/fat/stupid/smart, we don't have anything in common. I've been one of the guilty ones myself, assuming that I "get" somebody when really I don't get her at all.

That's why I'm grateful for a big, fat dog like Abby. She was already very selfless in her relationship with Zach, and obviously got a lot of fulfillment out of their friendship (as much as dogs can be fulfilled, I suppose). Yet when Della came along I like to think Abby recognized her own need for female companionship, and that transcended the barriers that should have existed between them. They should have been fighting like, well, cats and dogs. But instead Abby decided to just go with it and have a good time. No matter how fulfilling our relationships with men might be, and no matter what we might think of other women, the fact is that sometimes women need other women.

So, maybe it's all a bit silly, and maybe I'm reading a bit too much into canine/feline relations, but thanks anyway to Abby for reminding me how important my relationships with other women are, and for reminding me that I've got some pretty great girlfriends. We don't sniff each other's rear ends, but we still manage to have a good time.