Category Archives: The Thoughts

Life philosophies for the win!

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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Filed under The Life, The Thoughts

Search Engine Psychosis

I have many super powers. These include having the capability of making any moment into a full opera performance, falling over with nothing to push me, but coolest of all —- I get to see how people get to this post. Did you click on a Facebook link? I know that! Did you somehow manage to decipher my twitter failings? Woot! But sometimes… sometimes there is a reader who comes through a google search. And those searches, my friends, are NEVER normal. Now I am crazy, but I now know some of YOU are nuts. I really wish I could sit down and speak with you because I want to know what on God’s green earth led you to google “retarded worms” and why on earth you thought I could somehow help with your situation. Since my super power does not lend itself to knowing your identity, I will simply let all of you in on some of the best search engine terms over the years.

1. “bugs getting married”


Though I know immediately which post you could get to by googling such a phrase, I am more concerned with why you were wondering about insect marital customs in the first place. I’m all for basic rights and a freedom to marry, but I’m pretty sure we’re sticking with the debate regarding humans at this point. To further the point, I’ve never met a bug in a committed relationship that could evolve into a marriage (Though this is a apparently an active field of research.) So really… why on earth would you think about this let alone take the moment to sit down, pull up a search engine, and decide upon the appropriate wording for such a search? I can’t figure it out!

2. “cowerson of bagpipes”


Dear pursuer of bagpipes, I can only assume that you are a bagpipe instructor and/or a Scottish heritage enthusiast. If that’s the case, then a post about my grandmother’s love interest is probably not something that helped you along in your highly revered pursuits. In fact, you demonstrated your bagpiper prowess by knowing the word “cowerson” was even a word that could be googled next to the word “bagpipe”  in a realistic and coherent manner. But again… why?

3. “hiccups that sound like a pterodactyl”


I am not alone in my genetic flaw of pre-historic bird hiccups! I find it hilarious that someone found it necessary to google this affliction, but now know there is a community for you. A group of humans whose diaphragms hate them with the nastiness of a dinosaur’s morning breath. I suppose it’s fitting, in the end, that my readers are just as nuts as I am. Search on!!

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Carly Rae Jepsen: A Feminist Explanation

If you haven’t heard the song “Call Me Maybe” a gatrillion times due to a the radio, countless covers, and that part of your brain that fills in the lyrical blanks anytime any of the words of the song are spoken – you are not alive. The single is said to be the anthem of this summer, and it’s basically impossible to avoid singing. It sneaks into your brain when you least expect it and BAM you’re screaming out the chorus…

Yes it is alarmingly catchy, but I have philosophical issues with its popularity. That’s right. Prepare for me to wet blanket all over your perky, Canadian-given fun.

Now I will rarely identify as a feminist (it’s the “f” word) but I’ll just own it this time. First, Carly, you should just own the awesome! Don’t feel like a “maybe” is a necessary tag. You don’t need a lexical “out” in order to preserve your dignity. Walk to up the man, give him your number, smile cutely, and walk away. You are hot – don’t question yourself.

Secondly, the overwhelmingly positive reaction from the women-liking men of this work is unsettling. The Man has explained to me that the “maybe” is mean to be coy and therefore attractive, but I don’t buy it. We, as women, are told men look for confidence. When a woman is sure of herself, nothing could be more beautiful. Yet here is the male species ogling over a girl with a tagged on “maybe.” Are you ladies confused yet?

In hopes to rid myself of a potentially irrational dislike of an artist for a single, poopy song, I took to Wikipedia. Carly certainly had a cool start from Canadian Idol, and everything from Canada gets a +3 for cool. (Even the Biebs…) I decided to give her a chance. I like music – even crappy pop music – the rest of her stuff couldn’t be that bad.

It could.

Let’s just say her song cleverly entitled “Bucket” included the lyrics “There’s a hole in your bucket, dear Liza.” – which were perfectly fine on their own but should never have made it into any other song… ever – let alone be sung in all seriousness. I really can’t deal with it.  At least “Call Me Maybe” provided some interesting conversation about dating etiquette or feminist zeal, but what else can you gather from a hole being in Liza’s bucket? And why is it so catchy??

In the end, I give her a +3 for Canada, a -2 for feminism, and a -56 for horrible lyrics. I will admit my issue is not with her voice, her sound, or her look. She’s pretty cute, and I wish her the best. Now someone get the girl some lyrics!

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The Identity Vest

I feel like every single time I have to go to a government office (DMV, Social Security, Post Office) I need to prepare for apocalyptic scenarios in which all other official government departments “poof.”

to poof (v.): [puf] to vanish without warning; to become remarkably and inexplicably unhelpful; to simply stop working as it has for your entire life

Their websites always tell you what kind of documentation you need. For example, you may need your license, birth certificate, and one piece of mail. That piece of mail should be from one of three different companies. If you do not subscribe or rent from the above companies, please jump up and down 3 times and produce a receipt from you local lending library…

It’s gotten to the point that I now carry every single form of identification I can muster: Passport, License, Social Security Card, Student ID, lease, work contract, wedding license, immunization records. I really feel like they should offer one of those nifty vests like the hunters wear for all the different kinds of ammo and tools.

“Aha! You thought I didn’t have my original birth certificate, but I do… and three copies in subsequent pockets! I have outsmarted your most cunning red tape story of all time!

The goal after using THE IDENTITY VEST then would be to run home as quickly as humanly possible and avoid all potential fires and/or explosions and/or rain storms. Taking out all forms of existence in one swoop is not advised.

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The Art of Teaching

The Man just landed a new adjunct teaching job, and I also have done and will do a lot of teaching in my life. Through observation, though, I have found many professors find it their duty to use the loftiest terms possible to flaunt their big and fancy degrees. It’s a big slap in the face with, “I learned so many things about one thing, and you don’t know nearly enough… MWAHAHAHA!”

Here’s my challenge to myself and to all the instructors in the world. Don’t teach it unless you can boil whatever it is down to the form of a children’s book. That’s right. And add those character names worthy of the game Mad Libs.

Fact: It’s always harder to explain something highly theoretical or advanced to a regular person, but it makes you a better academic. I promise. So for the moment… stoop low enough to entertain the thought of teaching EVERYONE what you know.

Those Organic Chemistry classes could be so much easier!

“So kids, Flor Ine was the most popular girl in school and could hold hands and form a bond with ANY boy she wanted…”

X-Bar Syntax becomes a breeze!

“So Adge Ective met up with her friend Deter Meener under A Bar in order to work out…” (Sorry… that was INCREDIBLY nerdy.)

And Nasal Assimilation begins to make even more sense! (adding a moral to your story is even better)

“Little Enn didn’t feel comfortable in her own skin and felt like she needed to blend in with the crowd. She would act differently around her friend Pee than she would around her friend Kay. This concerned the rest of her family. Sometimes they could barely recognize her!”

Equipped with this newest educational theory, go forth and be knowledgable. Happy Teaching!


Filed under The Grad School, The Thoughts

University of WUT?

Aside from telling stories about growing up and about that guy I married, I do exactly what I want to do in real life… for a “living.” I am a professional learner-of-all-things. Specifically, I am a Linguist. Now before you ask me how many languages I speak – know that I don’t speak a ton. Just know this… I am a scientist, and I am reallllly good friends with your brain and what it can do.

Was I always a Linguist? No – Once I was a fetus. After that, I was a Linguist.

Now no one gets paid to acquire language, very few people use language well enough to get paid, and I could never hope to be paid for my writing. So I had to do a few things so that people would be willing to pay me.

I had to research, get in, and attend The Awesome University for an undergraduate degree. Then I had to do a bunch of things to prove my brain did the brain things. They give you a diploma for the brain things if you do them well enough. Then I decided I wanted to do something with that diploma and applied to like a million other universities for PhD programs, interviewed 5 times, and finally decided on The Grad School.

My favorite memories of The Awesome University are the crazy stressful moments in gargantuan classes when asked to prove myself or the miles-long homework assignments. (A draft of my senior thesis actually has blood on it…)  Covered in blood, sweat, and tears – sometimes literally – I figure that four years of that makes you a super human. Add a couple of intense identity crises, and you’re set!

The only time I didn’t feel that my super powers were honed was when I decided to take online classes in order to finish up. I learned absolutely nothing. And when your brain gets a pass, it will definitely take a 3 month vacation.

That was my only experience with the whole online education thing, so I had stayed out of it until then. When I saw the chasm of difference between what I had done for 3 1/2 years and what I did for a semester, though, I couldn’t believe that entire degrees happen that way. What about becoming a super human? What about the scary moments and the brain things? What about the arguments that make you simply better?

So when The Search Engine threw an ad at me about getting my PhD online… I stopped. I just signed up for a 5 year obstacle course of hours long exams, grueling class work, teaching, and publishing. I signed up for defenses that would take the better part of an afternoon simply to move onto the next phase of the obstacle course. If I couldn’t get a semester’s worth of super powers through online classes, there’s absolutely no WAY the entire PhD could happen that way… right?

It’s baffling that 9 years of struggle can be boiled down to a check and a website with little to no requirements other than that. Academia, my training base and my beloved home, seems diluted and disrespected. I guess I can only hope that after all this is done, and I have my super human powers complete with the cape and the nifty mask —

— that I can defend what is mine when I stand next to a graduate of The University of WUT who just wrote a check.


Filed under The Grad School, The Thoughts