What was the probability of there being a college math class called “Numbers”?

The great comebacks
You Snooze, You Lose Division

John in Highland writes: “I always get a laugh out of Joe Soucheray’s column when he writes about Mathematics. Lately he has been amused by the efforts of the Minnesota Department of Education to establish new math standards.

“Joe and I both attended the College (now University) of St. Thomas, and neither one of us, by our own admission, was a standout in math. I had struggled just to get C’s in high school Algebra/Trigonometry. When I started college, one of the requirements of my course of study was that I take a minimum of one class in mathematics. I had nightmares thinking about having to take Calculus.

“As it happened, however, there was an option for those of us who wanted to avoid Calculus. There was another math class available, Probability, and it fulfilled the mathematics requirement. The only problem was that it was in great demand and limited to 40 students. On the first day of class, there were 43 students in attendance. The three who had registered last were told that they would be allowed to attend the class only if others dropped out before the next meeting.

“The next meeting day arrived, and as the first order of business, the names of the unlucky three were called out. They were told that there were no drop-outs, and that they had to leave the class. A friend of mine was one of the three. He stood up and in an irritated voice said: ‘You mean I can’t take any Numbers?’

“The professor was not amused.”

Then & Now

Kathy S. of St Paul: “In Spring 1972, I took Modern Russian History from Dr. Cunningham at St. Kate’s, as an elective and for fun. Dr. Cunningham could be counted on to keep things interesting; I regretted not hearing his take on Ivan the Terrible.

“It happened that Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko was coming to Macalester to do a poetry reading that semester, and he visited St. Kate’s to have lunch with students. Dr. Cunningham and I, along with my fellow students, met him in the cafeteria. When Yevtushenko sat at a table I took the seat across from him. I announced that the only word I knew in Russian was nyet (no). The Russian men laughed and said I needed to learn da (yes). It broke the ice. It turned out that they thought we were all studying to be nuns. We cleared that up.

“One of my classmates asked Yevgeny if he believed in God. Since the Cold War had not melted and he traveled with KGB minders, this was a question he could not really answer. I froze and frowned at the questioner, and Yevtushenko blew it off. Dr. Cunningham later said that my reaction told Yevtushenko that we knew he could not answer that question.

“In the end I asked Yevtushenko to autograph the paperback copy of ‘Anna Karenina’ I was reading for the class. He did not want to, but I had nothing else to sign, so he did. The next day, a student at Macalester asked him to autograph a piece of paper. He went into the nearby bookstore to buy a book of his poetry, which he signed and gave to her. I thought he might have wanted to do something similar for me. I would have liked to own such a book. And I didn’t get to the reading.

“At the poetry reading at Macalester, Ukrainian protestors rushed him on stage and accidentally knocked him off it as they reached for the microphone to shout slogans. This caused some shock and controversy, and much discussion. I stopped by a picnic a few days later and was told to not discuss it, since the older Ukrainians there supported the protesters. I now wish I could have discussed the issues a little with them.

“Attached is a poster from the reading; I might have taken it off a wall.”

Half-empty? Or half-full?

Semi-Legend writes: “Subject: Which upbeat news story do ya read?

“My wife, an earlier riser, reads the Minneapolis paper before I do. She showed me two adjacent stories that ran on the back of its business section today [Thursday, April 14, 2022]:

“Under the headline ‘Broad rally lifts stocks on Wall St.,’ a one-column story said stocks closed higher ‘as an upbeat report from Delta Air Lines sparked a rally in the travel industry.’

“Sharing the top of the page was another headline across five columns: ‘Delta lost $940M in its first quarter.’

“Ah, but below that: ‘The airline expects better days soon. . . .'”

Could be verse!

Another “timerick” from Tim Torkildson: “Easter dinner is complete / One more bite I cannot eat / All the ham has disappeared / My throat is full, and can’t be cleared / The dinner rolls are merely crumbs / Someone, please, pass me the Tums / One last piece of pie remains / Please send the children my cremains.”

Our times

Elvis: “Subject: What are BDAs, and why do we need them?

Elvis dived into a whole new world today, reading about BDAs: Beaver Dam Analogs. This began with a headline on a news site Elvis monitors out in Oregon, where he used to live.

“The United States Forest Service, which is not held in high esteem by most locals, just announced a new project to utilize BDAs to attempt to make the headwaters of a local creek back into the swamp it used to be, and not the meadow it has become.

“The now-lost, and obviously missed, Lower Black Butte Swamp probably used to be full of beavers and beaver dams, until the white folks showed up and trapped them all out. Now we believe what needs to happen is to build analog beaver dams to hold back water and reclaim the swamp. No dollar figure to do this has been announced, but you can bet they have already spent a lot of money on studies and meetings to get to this point.

“Much like Elvis‘s last post about competing products to attract or repel deer, our government agencies have the same problem. One Forest Service department is tasked with doing things like reclaiming swamps and spending money to build fake beaver dams, while down the street, at the Department of Fish and Wildlife (their version of our beloved DNR), another person issues trapping permits, so that every winter people can go out into this public land and trap whatever beavers might already be there, then sell their fur for good money.

“In Elvis‘s Internet wormhole searches this morning, he quickly found a site full of learned articles and papers about various BDA strategies. If you didn’t know already, the ‘post’ method of analog dam construction is overused and ineffective, and there are many firms whose sole business function is to be contracted to build a series of BDAs on your land. There probably are conferences Elvis could attend to learn more about BDAs, hear panel discussions and meet vendors who sell BDA products.

“There was also a handy definition with some big words that beavers won’t know about themselves or what they do for us:


“‘A Beaver Dam Analog (BDA) is a man-made structure designed to mimic the form and function of a natural beaver dam. BDAs can also be used to increase the probability of successful beaver translocation by creating immediate deep water habitat that reduces the risk of predation. In general, the design and installation of BDA complexes is a simple, cost-effective, non-intrusive approach to stream restoration that can influence a suite of hydraulic, geomorphic and hydrologic processes in order to achieve a range of common restoration goals.’

“Having drunk another cup of coffee and already spent too much time on this topic, Elvis will leave you pondering about the potential advantages of digital beaver dams, rather than old-fashioned analog ones.”

Band Name of the Day: The Digital Beavers

Website of the Day: “Six Days Afloat in the Everglades”

%d bloggers like this: