Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Car Trouble Saga: (Part 1)

I am in the throes of studying for qualifying exams. For those of you who aren’t aware of this torture device Academia uses as its own version of Darwinism, I will be tested for approximately 12-14 hours over two days. The horrific details are seriously worth an entire post of it’s own, so let’s just leave it as consisting of a LOT of studying. This involves a lot of practice exams, group discussions, re-reading textbooks, and typing up study guides. I’ve been in The Office for about 6 or 7 hours a day for the past few days and will continue for the next week and a half. The Man has been awesome in dropping me off in the morning and getting me once I am ready to tear my hair out sometime in the afternoon/evening.

So this evening was no different when I called and said that I was ready to head home and take a break before diving back into the books. The Man turned the corner shortly after in The Might Taurus (which The Man has affectionately named Madeline), I got in, and The Might Taurus faltered. It opted to falter like a bad 90s rave with shaking, shuttering, and flashing all of its electronic lights. This seemed like a negative sign, so The Man chose to turn the car off hoping that it was perhaps the dense humidity of death that was causing The Mighty Taurus to cough and freak out… I mean that’s what we do when it’s this stupid outside.

angry car

So there we were, smack in the middle of the parking lot at The Office where the city is notorious for towing strange people (according to them I am strange and unworthy of a parking permit… again worth another post). And we were impressively blocking basically every car in the place. This was completely fine until the entire city decided it was also a fine time for them to return to their cars and attempt to go home. That would have been easier if we weren’t waving at them like overly friendly crazies. So we attempted reviving The Mighty Taurus. It responded to our vain attempts by turning into an unimpressed exhibitionist by flashing (its lights at) everyone in the vicinity and clicking away its disapproval. Click Click Click Click!

It was pretty clear we were officially stuck.

Since The Man and I are arguably impoverished, the idea of a tow truck was panic-inducing. To Google and to The Dad we turned! Both avenues turned up some vague mentions of electric issues, starters, wires, batteries, and alternators. Since all of those things are slightly different, and we know basically nothing other than how to start and drive one of these things — The Might Taurus was in dire need of a doctor. But darn it, we were going to attempt every known fix before we figured out how to get it there. No. We have three degrees between the two of us. None in auto mechanics or… anything realistic… but BRAINS! (But seriously… anything could have been in that car, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you.)

car parts

That’s the moment when The Man turned to me and said I should ask people if they had Diet Coke in The Office. Needless to say, I was pretty unimpressed with his hydration needs in the middle of our auto-crisis. Seriously? If your Diet Coke addiction is bad enough that you can’t bring yourself to critically think about car parts, you need to check your life. You need to check your choices. The Man then started rambling on about Diet Coke working as a way to get rid of corrosion on car batteries, so I was then convinced he’d lost his mind. But there I went to The Drug Store to purchase a bottle of Diet Coke.

I returned a moment later having successfully “played it cool” while purchasing what could only turn into an embarrassing mechanic moment, and The Man and I popped the hood. To my surprise, the Diet Coke hit and magically carbonated the battery’s way to clean connections! Like… it was magic, but I was also highly disturbed that a food item could essentially melt away corroded metallic waste. WHAT DOES THAT DO YOUR STOMACH?? The Man acknowledged that his innards are probably shot to all heck due to a daily regimen of holy cow that’s violent chemical reactions. BUT The Might Taurus bounded back into life! We were back in business!


The Man revved the engine a bit, and we edged back onto the road. The dashboard lights may not have been working, the radio wasn’t running, the AC really wasn’t working – but we were moving! We were consoled by the fact that we only live 2 miles from The Office. If we could only navigate The Mighty Taurus to her home, The Man could turn to Google for a false sense of mechanic prowess tomorrow in hopes of fixing the persistent issue. We made it past downtown pretty well, wound through the houses and past the rail road tracks, and we were still golden! The Man, who had by now worked up quite the perspiration stains in his pushing the car, thinking, Diet Coking, and rejoicing decided that it was time to casually begin drinking the rest of our only Diet Coke. Perhaps my reaction of, “Would you stop drinking our precious life juice? What if we need that again!” wasn’t logical… but it was certainly some killer foreshadowing.

It was at the third-to-last light that we started to feel unhealthy signs of giving up. The Mighty Taurus started to shutter and groan a bit while we were stopped. No amount of revving the engine seemed to spur her back into a fury, and it was as we came on the end of the intersection that she gave up all together. As we drifted to the side of the road… it was clear this saga was far far from over.

on the side of the road nowhere to go

to be continued…


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The Fibonacci Cat Sequence

Here’s a guest post full of awesome from The Man (illustrated by ME!):

Today I will share with you a discovery I have made in the field of Cat Mathematics which I have entitled the Fibonacci Cat Sequence.  I will also describe the risks of the Fibonacci Cat-scade Scenario and attempt to determine the COCL Limit.

Just as a brush-up, the Fibonacci Sequence is that neat little pattern of numbers where you add the last two elements to get the next one.  If (1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,…) rings a bell, good for you.  If not, don’t worry– the maths will make sense soon.

teacher man

First we must seed the sequence with the values F(0) = 0 and F(1) = 1.  Imagine as follows:

I start out with no cats.  [F(0) = 0]

But someone gives me a cat.  [F(1) = 1]

For a while, I am happy with one cat.  [0 + 1 = 1, so F(2) = 1]

The Wife and I had no cat.  Then we adopted Mehitabel, and we are happy with her.  So far, so good.

Hitty to the world

After a while of having one cat, many people decide to get a second kitty as a playmate.  [1 + 1 = 2, so F(3) = 2]  And after getting a second cat, a third little kitty would be so cute in the mix, no?  [1 + 2 = 3, so F(4) = 3]

My Honored Grandmother had two cats, meek little Tabby and a big black Maine coon cat named Pharaoh.  When my father moved up there to Massachusetts with her, he brought along our old cat Tom.  (The fifteen-hour car ride from Indiana to Massachusetts with an ill-tempered, half-drugged part-Siamese is a tale better left for another time.)  So by adding a third cat to the mix, we were a stable position.  And when poor Tabby passed away, Honored Grandmother adopted spritely Henry.

3 kitties

So far the Fibonacci Cat Sequence is fairly linear, except for a little dawdling there at the beginning. But here’s where things start to take off.  Once a person has three cats, they may not simply get a fourth cat.  They will immediately get a fifth cat.  [2 + 3 = 5, so F(5) = 5]

My aunt passed away a bit ago, and she had two cats, Sassy and Ginger.  So those two cats came to live with my father and Honored Grandmother.  And then they had five cats.  Not too long ago, Pharaoh fell ill and passed away as well, and then there were four.


Just recently, one of Stockbridge’s most celebrated residents, Mary Flynn, passed away, leaving behind her cat Andy.  Andy has come into Honored Grandmother’s care, and now they once again have five cats.

From here, the sequence really starts to take off.  [3 + 5 = 8, so F(6) is 8; 5 + 8 = 13, so F(7) is 13; 8 + 13 = 21, so F(8) is 21, etc.]

cats cats cats

And this is where the danger really begins, in a phenomenon I would like to tentatively call the Fibonacci Cat-scade Scenario.  The further you go past three cats, or F(4), the more out of control your cat-hoarding tendencies get, until you suddenly are up to your eyeballs in fur-buckets.  Once you have five cats, you cannot simply get a sixth or seventh– you must get an eighth.  Once you have eight cats, you cannot simply get a ninth, tenth, eleventh, or twelfth– you must get a thirteenth.

We must now examine the risks of becoming a Crazy Old Cat Lady (COCL).  [I use the term COCL in a gender-neutral sense: both men and women can become Crazy Old Cat Ladies, and the term is simply being used out of respect for tradition.]  Estimates vary as to when precisely a person becomes a COCL, and future research will need to investigate how age, gender, and actual insanity modify this number.  My work here is primarily to create a mathematical backbone of sorts for those future investigations.

For now, I will postulate that the divergence point between a strict linear model and the Fibonacci model at F(4) is the COCL Limit.  Once you have more than three cats, you are in danger of being a Crazy Old Cat Lady.

cat graph

In the case of Honored Grandmother, I’ll give her a pass, partially because my father lives there in the house with her (so two of the cats could be his, and three of the cats could be hers), and partially because she’s the most awesome, tough-as-nails octogenarian I know.  But for others tempted to expand their cat-families to F(5) and beyond… beware.


Filed under The Thoughts

Dice with Buddies: An Open Letter

Dear Buddy,

It’s not every friend who remains loyal to you day in and day out, through thick and thin, for over a year. But you have stuck by me. You have been there for me when I relocated for graduate school. You were present on my wedding day. You even stuck with me through late nights of studying and paper-writing. I know if I need you in the early morning or late at night, you’ll be there.

Perhaps it’s worth noting that we are complete strangers.

A randomizer in the Dice with Buddies app introduced us, and we have never shared words (…with Friends). There’s just this understood code. Play. Win or lose. The last person always hits “rematch”. Winning or losing doesn’t really matter anymore, since the act of playing has simply become a staple of life. Missing at most a day or two between rolls, the interaction is predictable…and beloved.

dice with buddies

Sure, I have sometimes wondered what your name is or where you live. I’ve probably spent more time than necessary deciding that we live in nearly the same time zone because our rolls match up almost seamlessly. I’ve also hit the messenger button countless times to make a sassy comment about the close game or the fact that I have an entire personality thought up based entirely on your score after score after score.

But then I stop to think about it.

No. It just feels like breaking the silence would ruin this unspoken relationship. What if all we have in common is the rolling of 5 dice? What if eliminating the mystery on the other side of the network ruins what we have going? I just couldn’t risk what we have. What’s the saying? Good fences make good neighbors? Perhaps in this era, a solid cell phone screen and indecipherable profile picture will do.

So today I will just continue rolling, waiting for my phone to light up with your next move.

Your Buddy

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