Tall, Dark, and Mysterious


Ladies and gentlemen, we have employment.

File under: Meta-Meta, Know Thyself. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 3:32 pm.

I’ve been keeping most of you in the dark about this one: this development has actually been in the making for around two months, which I believe is longer than a season of The Apprentice takes to film. It’s also longer than it takes for the President of the United States of America to confirm a Supreme Court justice. I could have posted at length about each of the n interviews involved in this process, but that would have elicited comments of support, and I don’t think I could have handled that. Nothing like hundreds of folks becoming emotionally invested in my employment to increase the pressure on me to perform.

The short story is this: in a rather sorry job market, I managed to land a position 1) in education, 2) that provides me with an expense account, and 3) that doesn’t involve teaching precalculus to eighteen-year-olds who don’t know how to add fractions. Also: travel! And (some approximation of) job security! (Read: they can fire me at any time, as opposed to them automatically letting me go after less than a year, like all of my previous jobs.) It’s like Christmas came early this year, and Santa didn’t skip over the Jews’ homes like he usually does!

I anticipate, by the way, that this job will be a lot less stressful than last year’s. This is good news and bad news. Good news because I’ve grown accustomed to that feeling of not wanting to strangle anyone; bad news because we all know that great artists must suffer for their work, so expect to witness this blog’s rapid descent into sitcom-quality pap. Next up on Tall, Dark, and Mysterious: Moebius Stripper doesn’t want to miss the once-in-a-lifetime chance to see pop idol Trevor Hartthrobb in concert, so she sends her absent-minded identical twin sister to cover for her on an important business trip. Hilarity ensues!

Of course, morbid curiosity (and dedication to my readers) might lead me to accept a standing request to tutor the friend of my now ex-client. By his own account, this prospective student “isn’t as good at math” as his pal. What the hell could that possibly mean, I wonder? That when he goes into the kitchen to get a glass of water for me and another for himself, he’s not sure how many glasses of water he needs to bring back in all? I invite those of my readers with more experience and/or more creativity than I to speculate (and take bets) in the comments. I swear, every time I think I’ve hit rock bottom in terms of mathematical ineptitude, I remember that I’m teaching the work of the folks who discovered negative numbers.

More about the job later. Or not, depending on what that non-disclosure agreement says.


  1. congrats

    - Theo — 10/7/2005 @ 4:09 pm

  2. First, congratulations. (I’m pretty sure I’ve not signed any non-disclosure agreements that would prevent me from saying that.)

    Second, I hope you do take on another tutee; a good job that you actually like seems less likely to generate amusing anecdotes. (And it’s all about amusing us, you realize.)

    Third, and on a more serious note, thanks for highlighting some of the problems that “kids these days” have. It’s helping me to refine the way I supplement my son’s math education.

    - Doug Sundseth — 10/7/2005 @ 4:10 pm

  3. Congrats! I hope the new gig works out well for you.

    - kmsqrd — 10/7/2005 @ 5:29 pm

  4. wow cool. just keep the blog going is all i ask.

    - vlorbik — 10/7/2005 @ 6:12 pm

  5. “Isn’t as good at math” probably means that he’ll be familiar with one function on his TI-83, specifically “Tetris.”

    - K (other) — 10/7/2005 @ 6:49 pm

  6. Congrats!

    - Chris Phan — 10/7/2005 @ 7:16 pm

  7. Hearty congratulations, MS! I’ll think of your happy new state while grading today’s precalculus quiz on trigonometric identities. (Quoth one student: “I hate trig!”)

    - TonyB — 10/7/2005 @ 7:24 pm

  8. “not as good at math” probably involves claiming that they can’t do long division with remainders, since there’s no way things can’t turn out right, because some unspecified higher power (as john stewart said, “not God, but someone with the basic skill set to create a universe”) is the reason math works. after all number theory isn’t a fact…it’s just a theory, right?

    - Polymath — 10/7/2005 @ 7:41 pm

  9. Thanks, all. The blog will continue…just not during working hours. (According to the employee handbook, the company does not promise that they do not monitor their employees’ computers. And I’m not going to be stupid about this.)

    Doug - wow, your third comment made my day. Just yesterday I was remarking to a friend that my real target audience for my math-education rants are elementary school and high school curriculum designers - and a parent supplementing his kid’s education certainly counts there. I’m flattered, really.

    TonyB - hey, my precalculus students last year also hated trig! We must have the same students!

    K and Polymath - LMAO. And yes, number theory is just a theory: personally, I believe in intelligent counting. (Actually, I do believe in intelligent counting, and think that it should be taught in school, alongside - nay, instead of - the calculator stuff. But that still leaves room for number theory in the curriculum.)

    - Moebius Stripper — 10/7/2005 @ 7:55 pm

  10. ahem…and uhhh also…congrats of course.

    (bad polymath, bad! rude polymath, rude!)

    - Polymath — 10/7/2005 @ 11:15 pm

  11. Congratulations!

    - Hack — 10/8/2005 @ 12:33 am

  12. I don’t recommend taking on lost cause tutoring cases just to make blog fodder. Should you be tempted, remember that you can always go to idiot blogs to get your hunger for stupidity filled.

    Of course, I’ve tutored since I’ve gotten my “real job”, but it’s the “tutoring” one does for friends and family. Just helped a neighbor with an elementary stats & prob class for a bottle of red wine. Helped a co-worker understand that YES 0.9999….. = 1 (it was about his kid’s class. I couldn’t believe I had to go through this thing again, years after I stopped reading sci.math).

    - meep — 10/8/2005 @ 1:37 am

  13. Oh, and don’t Canadian political campaigns take less time than that interview process?

    - meep — 10/8/2005 @ 1:38 am

  14. Hurray & congratulations!

    - Pilgrim/Heretic — 10/8/2005 @ 7:11 am

  15. Polymath - no need to apologize, as that “it’s just a theory” remark is possibly the funniest thing ever posted to this blog. IM’d that one to a bunch of friends after I saw it.

    And yeah, Meep, I can’t believe I forgot that one: it takes Canada less time to interview and hire a prime minister than this company took to hire me.

    - Moebius Stripper — 10/8/2005 @ 9:05 am

  16. C-o-n- [grabs dictionary] -ga line [no]
    Welcome back to the world of the employed.

    - Old Grouch — 10/8/2005 @ 9:46 pm

  17. Congratulations. I am curious on what exactly you’re doing, though: there are certainly many jobs which do not involve teaching precalculus to eighteen-year olds who don’t know how to add fractions (and with expense accounts, even!).

    - saforrest — 10/9/2005 @ 12:14 am

  18. As a major follow-up to my (apparently inspired) comment earlier, i have fully flushed out my theory of Intelligent Division. It appears for the first time ever on my blog (click my name to take you there). It is the first serious challenge I have seen to the fatally flawed remainderist approach, and I hope you will consider it seriously.

    - Polymath — 10/9/2005 @ 10:01 am

  19. Congratulations. As for teaching the innumerate, soon the memories will fade, leaving only a slight facial twitch at odd moments whenever fractions are mentioned. Don’t go back on our account. Believe me, the corporate world will provide much blog fodder, if only in a highly disguised form.

    - John — 10/9/2005 @ 12:57 pm

  20. Congratulations.

    I wondered why the vagaries of the job-search process had faded from view, and why the long expedition to recover Unemployment Insurance, and the struggle to teach a tutee to think got so much attention.

    - karrde — 10/9/2005 @ 9:36 pm

  21. Yeah, I’ve been pretty mum on the things that have been occupying the bulk of my time over the past few weeks: interviews, and the fact that I’ve been spending 20 or so hours a week mucking about in the pottery studio. But you didn’t miss much: the interviews were long and tedious, but not particularly interesting. Also, just because I now have a job doesn’t mean that the job-search process has faded from view entirely: I could still write, for instance, about how I was just (last week) contacted about the job I applied for in March. If I get invited for an interview, I’m tempted to get back to them six months from now to arrange a date and time.

    - Moebius Stripper — 10/10/2005 @ 12:13 am

  22. Would a “mazel tov!” be appropriate?

    - Engineer-Poet — 10/10/2005 @ 12:21 pm

  23. my experience this semester leads me to believe “not good at math” boils down to inebility to escape the snares of Freshman’s Dream, confusion at such complicated demands as distributing exponents, and a general dislike of, in a graphing problem, doing anything more than just plugging in points and graphing them.

    Good luck, and congrats on the job.

    - rosona — 10/10/2005 @ 1:00 pm

  24. Congratulations! - You must have found the right shoes to wear!

    As for the potential tutee, it’s probably not that they have less mathematical aptitude than their friend, they probably just have (a bigger) attitude problem. e.g. an unwillingness to sit still / pay attention / listen / do assigned problems / learn / think. Oh the fun you could have.

    A note of caution: I think I saw your proposed post-good-job post (about the identical twin) on the Women’s Network last Saturday afternoon.

    Finally, a question from your psycho-therapist/analyst: Why ‘Trevor’?

    - Declan — 10/10/2005 @ 1:39 pm

  25. But, Rosona, the thing is that the student I just finished tutoring - he of the A-minus - couldn’t distribute exponents (HELLO, that was LAST week, not THIS week), and why would he even have to plug in points to graph when he had a TI-83+? And this new kid isn’t even as good at math as that.

    As for “why Trevor”: when I was ten or twelve, I had, um, friends who read The Babysitters Club books, and, uh, I heard that there was one book where one of the characters - Stacy? Claudia? whatever - had a crush on a kid named “Trevor”, which, we were told in the first-person narrative, was “the most romantic name ever” or somesuch. And for some reason I just happened to think of that mid-post.

    Oh, you laugh. But look: I’m not the one watching The Women’s Network.

    [And, re: shoes - I had my first n-1 interview while the weather was still warm enough for sandals. By the time interview n came around, I figured they weren’t going to reject me for something silly like, say, wearing the same shoes that I wear in the pottery studio. But I washed them!]

    - Moebius Stripper — 10/10/2005 @ 3:51 pm

  26. I have very similar shoes - vegan Dr Martens. But, I am irritated that the brown lining shows around the edges. This is the down side of shopping on the internet. Normally, I go to Payless where I can see what I’m getting.


    - al_art — 10/11/2005 @ 3:54 pm

  27. I am so delighted to hear this news. It’s good that you will be working with grownups. I wish that I could get some of that…

    - EdWonk — 10/11/2005 @ 9:16 pm

  28. Al_art - oh, I’d never buy shoes over the internet: I have long, narrow feet, and my knees demand shoes with strong support. Most of the shoes I try on don’t meet my specs, so there’s no way I’d chance sending away from them. I bought mine on a trip to New York City, and I love them. (Good thing I didn’t order these online - they’re a full size and a half smaller than anything I’ve worn since I was fourteen. When they say “this shoe tends to run large”, they mean it.) My knees haven’t acted up in years, and my feet have remained dry when I accidentally spilled a half a bucket of water on them. (This is why I wear these things in the pottery studio!)

    - Moebius Stripper — 10/11/2005 @ 10:50 pm

  29. News From North Of The Border

    You can’t always get what you want…and if you try sometimes…. you might find…

    - The Education Wonks — 10/11/2005 @ 11:32 pm

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