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iSchool January 16, 2009

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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The Russian’s got an iPhone. I can’t remember if it was for Christmas or just for occasionless extravagance. Probably the latter, knowing the Russian, who loves nothing more than a bit of occasionless extravagance and only thinks a day has been well spent if cash has been parted with to acquire something needless and luxurious. Or on a night out. Or on flights somewhere. Which perhaps bespeaks a much better attitude to life and money than my own, which consists of never leaving the house and, the second a penny ever arrives, doing something sensible with it, like paying tax, or paying bills, or paying off debts, or going out and blowing it on booze.

Still, the Russian has an iPhone. And I can quite see the point of it now that I’ve worked out how to win the tennis game. And then it has that clever Shazam music-recognising programme which Herr Engelsk alerted me to last summer which I then thought – and might still, at a push – was the best technological invention since the fax. But now we’ve discovered the even funner midomi, which is a programme that lets you sing into the phone and then it tries to tell you what it is you’ve sung. Unfortunately, it almost always tries to tell you you’ve sung something by Avril Lavigne, when I don’t think I’ve ever heard a song by her (except I do know Complicated, having just looked at a list of her songs) (I’ve got a feeling I might have gone head-to-head in karaoke against my niece in that one) (I bet I won) (though not via iPhone), but we have managed to make it recognise us singing something by Abba, Eternal Flame (on the Russian’s recommendation, as he said, belittling his singing abilities, the programme had even recognised his rendition) (though he thought it was originally by Atomic Kitten) and Hava Nagila.

But anyway, apart from improving our tennis and singing skills, the iPhone is even refreshing our education. I think it’s just as well I’m a whoopsy as I’d be much too thick to help my children with their homework but we did have cause to resort to mathematics the other day. Technology can make even the utterly mundane interesting for half a second and the Russian and I whooped with wide-eyed amazement when the device told us that it was 360m to our nearest tram-stop and 460m to our nearest U-Bahnhof whereas, I must admit, trudging those unquantified distances in real life has never aroused my excitement once.

“Hm, so it’s 100m from the tram-stop to the Underground,” I said to the Russian as we were bored of discussing the essence of being yet again.

“Da, I sink so… Oi, nyet, ze distance maast be as ze byurd fly.”

“Oh, well maybe I’d better go and stand at the tram-stop and ask the phone how far it is to the Underground then, otherwise we’ll only have to move on to, ‘Whither the Russian soul?’ or, ‘Something happened on the way to the smetana queue/chip-shop’.”

“No, use myeths,” suggested the Russian, as if I was 14.

Anyway, thinking it was good for my personal redevelopment, I’ve been out to buy a set-square, a protractor, a compass, an exercise book with squares in it, logarithm tables and a slide-rule and got down to business. But to spread the fun, I’d like your help or, rather, I’d like to test your skills too and see whom, based on IQ, to foster and whom to delete from my circle of acquaintance.

“Hmm, but which maths to use? Well, I’ve got two distances and one unknown distance. Two known lines and an unknown line. Ooh, a triangle. Oh bugger. Is this trigonometry? I don’t know my sin from my cotan. Or is that something else? Oh, hang on, it’s a perfectly straight line from here to the tram-stop. And then a 90° turn from there to the Underground. Oh my god. It’s a right-angled triangle!”

Darlings, Pythagoras it is.

Frau Schmidt has a gammy hip. Frau Schmidt has an appointment with a specialist to see about getting a hip replacement. Frau Schmidt needs to get to the U-Bahnhof which she knows is 460m as the crow flies, because every time she needs to get to the station, she waits for an obliging flock – or is it parliament? – of crows to sweep her off her balcony and deposit her there and they announce the distance like a taxi-driver might announce his fare. But today the crows refused to deposit Frau Schmidt at the U-Bahn as they were on the go-slow and said they wouldn’t fly a flap further than the tram-stop. “360m, that’s our limit today, Frau Schmidt,” they squawked. Frau Schmidt says it hurts if she has to walk more than about 200m. Will Frau Schmidt make it to the U-Bahnhof without too much trouble or will it be effing and blinding all the way?

Right, we’ve got the hypotenuse, i.e. the distance from here to the U-Bahnhof. 460m. And we know that from here to the tram-stop is 360m. So, how far is it from the tram-stop to the U-Bahnhof? Please show your workings.

All correct(ish) answers will receive a one-man standing ovation.


1. sylvia - January 16, 2009

I don’t know if it covers Berlin, but there’s a marvellous website called walkit dot com. You plot your point of departure and destination, and it gives you the best route, tells you how many calories you’ll use up depending how fast you walk, and also how much carbon you’ll save by not using various forms of transport.

An i phone saved the life of a yuoung guest of ours recently. He and his father were visiting from the US and the poor boy was being dragged all around the relatives. Luckily he had the games on his iphone to keep him going as my daughters’ hostess skills were sadly lacking…..

2. Wierdo - January 16, 2009

It’s 58.41m to two decimal places. I hope. If it’s not, I’m gonna be a laughing stock if any of my potential students read this blog (I’m studying to be a maths teacher)

I even started doing it without a calculator…until I relised that I didn’t know the square root of 3412. I even had a pretty diagram…Hope I’m correct: I’d like a one man standing ovation (sounds a bit like an innuendo…)

3. suburbanlife - January 16, 2009

Glaaargh! A Math problem on a Friday morning, by which time my brain has leaked out to the pavement. This is a unique and funny post and i congratulate you for pulling in the maths mavens among whom i am not one.
Rumpole got himself a Christmas present of an Ipod and i am thoroughly sick of listening to Bob Marley. I think I’ll flush said Ipod down the toilet. If it told distances, that use might come in handy, but Bob Marley (24/7 and even whilst sleeping) is just too much! G

4. narrowback - January 17, 2009

I failed high school geometry three times…this is a geometry problem, right? or is it calculus?

I agree with suburbanlife, this is an inappropriate question for a friday. Can I have my mom call the headmaster to complain that the assignment is unreasonable?

After a two weeks of trying to craft the next fiscal year’s budget (for the job) in the midst of an economic meltdown the last thing I want to tackle is a math problem

5. Ed Ward - January 17, 2009

Yeah, narrowback, but *this* one has a solution. Not that I’m going to attempt it.

6. Mr D - January 17, 2009

Part of me wants to run and hide and pretend I never stopped by this way. That’s what maths problems can do.

But I also need to yell a great big CONGRATULATIONS to the Russian! And to yourself for having the chance to be near one every day. An iPhone, that is. Although yes, a Russian, too. An iPhone-owning Russian, even…

Sorry, my brain’s just exploded. I’m off to try that singing app.

7. annie - January 17, 2009

Can’t Frau Schmidt get a cab? Every day I am caught out by the kids with basic maths (‘Why are you counting on your fingers?’ asked one of my 7 year olds the other day), I’m not going near this one.

iPhone – there’s posh.

8. BiB - January 17, 2009

Annie, I trust you gave the little blighter a clip round the ear-hole and put him or her in the naughty chair for the rest of the week and made him/her wash his/her mouth out with soapy water for daring to give you back-chat… Do you know there are short-hop taxi-fares in Berlin? Frau Schmidt could probably get to the U-Bahn for a couple of euros. The crows are free, mind.

Mr D, in a bout of insomnia yesterday, I played games on it with the sound off and the Russian slept throughout, so that’s certainly an improvement on me wanting to have the laptop whirring noisily and brightly away.

Ed, Ed, but where are you in your French virtual form? Blogging’s not like riding a bike, you know. You’ll have to go on a refresher course and everything. And we need to know how life in France is treating you. Blogue! Blogue! (If you don’t mind me tutoying you.)

Narrowback, is your mother that brave type that would ring the headmaster to complain? My mother’s much more obsequious, believing anything anyone in a position of authority told her. If the head had told her I had to go and live with him to improve my maths, she’d probably have agreed. And, do you know, I can’t remember what calculus is. I haven’t got a clue. And I even had to google algebra when writing this, and the first wiki-style definition said algebra was all about replacing numbers with letters. Was that all it was?

G., my apologies for providing a poor start to a Friday, which we should all be able to count on as being a not-too-horrid day… And my sympathies about the iPod. (I slightly mind having to write all these small is followed by a capital. I’d happily do that if I spoke Celtic languages, but I don’t.) Does he at least put ear-phones on? Or is that scratchy noise even worse? I did slightly enjoy catching the Russian dancing away as he cooked with his ear-phones in the other day. He had no idea I was peeping.

W. my answer is so COMPLETELY different. Seriously, off-the-planet different. Magnificently different. Nothing like 58.41m and at no point did I get to wanting to find the square root of 3412. I desperately want you to be right and me to be wrong. I’m afraid you’re going to have to show your workings. Because, in my answer, Frau Schmidt will be effing and blinding with room to spare. If a² + b² = c² and we know that c=460 and we know that either a or b – I’m not fussy – is 360, then mustn’t the vital tram-stop-U-Bahnhof distance (either a or b) be the square root of 460²-360²? Or am I all arse over tit, mathematically? By the way, is there maths to help you work out square roots?

Sylvia, I’ve made a copy: http://milenadellefortezze.blogspot.com/ for you to paste in. Don’t lose it now… I checked out the walkit.com site but, alas, it is only for the UK, though there’s bound to be something similar in Deutschland. I always thought, by London standards, I had grown up not THAT uncentrally. Of course I now see it’s actually 450 miles from Charing Cross.

9. headbang8 - January 17, 2009

You used to be a whoopsy. Now you’re an iWhoopsy.

You’ll need to get the iCruise app and pick up some iTrade. Be sure to wear a Crumpler before downloading.

10. BiB - January 18, 2009

Headbang, I have to admit I haven’t yet rifled through it to see how it can enhance a gay-man-about-town’s life. I think, as far as my beloved is concerned, the having it is the most important thing. Plus his mum already had one and it would never do to be outdone by your mother.

Is a Crumpler a protective sheath? He’s currently carrying it round in an old sunglasses holder, the former resident(s) of which have long since departed. I suppose there is a logic to him never throwing anything way after all.

11. narrowback - January 18, 2009

BiB you have no idea as to how forceful my mother was… Ican give you the details over a couple of pints in the future but she once got her way by threatening to give birth to my youngest brother in the principal’s office of SS Cyril & Methodius Parochial School. Apparently a woman in labor can be quite intimidating.

I would add however that she was more prone to complain about the nuns not being tough enough. My comments above were in a more contemporary vein…my teacher friends tell me about parents complaining directly that there’s too much homework, etc.

Ed, there is a solution it’s just that the citizens don’t want to face it…we try and cut back on bread and circuses – they complain

12. ThePenguin - January 18, 2009

I am still holding out on the iPhone front, but do now own a mobile phone with a built-in TV.

The other day I saw someone actually making a phone call on an iPhone for the first time – I’d quite forgotten they had that feature.

13. Ed Ward - January 18, 2009

I’m going to get an iPhone and start blogging again very soon, I hope, BiB. But you can’t get any of these things without the all-important bank account, the documents for which are snailing their way across continents (I hope) as I type. I’ve got buckets of bloggage stored away in what passes for my brain, promise.

14. wierdo - January 18, 2009

BiB I refuse to come back here to admit that I was wrong and you were right. It aint gonna happen.


15. bowleserised - January 19, 2009

BiB – please promise me you won’t get an iPhone. If you do, you’ll be glued to it and I will never learn anything about the state of old ladies’ hair in Pankow. About which, another post soon?

16. In Acual Fact - January 20, 2009

iPhones. Pah! Spit! Scourge of the modern age. Wouldn’t be seen dead with one – and there’s no reception in Meerbrook….

Apart from that, I prefer my BlackBerry – but notice the capitalisation and my desperate searching for the ASCII code for the TM symbol, fanboy…..

And as for “it can enhance a gay-man-about-town’s life.” What can it do for the rest of us moderately happy men-about-town? Eh? Eh?

17. IsarSteve - January 20, 2009

iPhones: afraid I’ve got one too!

Sometimes it IS a bit embarrassing when sitting in a group of friends when we all simultaneously take out our iPhones and check our mails..

Something akin to a sexual ritual.. checking our appendages are still in ‘working’ order..

@BIB.. Möchte gern am Donn. Aber noch nicht 100% sicher ob ich schaffe..

18. helena - January 24, 2009

I’m with Annie on this one – why can’t Frau Schmit take a cab? Or, if her hip really is that bad – wouldn’t the hospital send an ambulance to collect her?

19. BiB - January 26, 2009

Helena, true, true. I hadn’t thought through all the options at all. I might have to do an honorary one-man standing ovation for best alternative route instead.

Steve, komm dann diese Woche. Ich glaube, es ist sofort Tradition geworden. Hoffentlich sind alle Anhänge noch wo sie sein müssen. Aber Mail zu prüfen beim Tuntenstammtisch ist, natürlich, streng verboten.

IAF, so is THAT where you are? It looks rather lovely. Is that your house with the trampoline in the garden? And you must run round that reservoir like nobody’s business… But I won’t be pushed on how an iPhone can improve the lives of the moderately happy. Legal minefield.

B., I promise I won’t. The Russian does have a very good game on his which we both adore and try to outdo each other on but otherwise I am only relatively excited by it. I can see the appeal of always having access to e-mail but then I never leave the house, so always do already. Which means no hair-posts for now. Too busy. Yuk.

W., we need to compare workings. My answer is the square root of 82000 which, according to the net, is 286.something. I’m perfectly willing to believe I’ve done something wrong and that your answer is right. That one-man standing ovation is still yours for the taking if only you’ll prove your rightness to me.

Ed, well, I look forward to you being back on the internet again and us being able to read your words. Though perhaps it’s been a good exercise in something – abstinence, probably – having to soldier on internet-free for all this time. Won’t the Frenchies let your German bank account do for now? We’re practically one big happy country after all…

Pengers, I don’t think you can actually use the iPhone to make or receive calls. You must have your wires crossed. They haven’t got a dial, you see. But you CAN check the weather in Ouagadougou, which I do on an almost daily basis, and you can play games and you can write down that someone is coming to read the (heating- and water-)meter(s) on January 26th at 2pm (which inspired today’s consequential-as-ever blog-post).

Narrowback, she sounds as if she is not to be messed with. I hope she carried through with her threat and did indeed give birth in the principal’s office. Is your younger brother called Cyril in honour of the fact? (Catchier than ‘Method’ as a name.)

20. Mr D - January 27, 2009

No 10: “how to enhance a gay-man-about-town’s life”.

Erm, hello? It’s shiny! Surely that’s enough?

21. BiB - January 27, 2009

Mr D, I’m not sure if its shininess is one of its main attractions as far as he’s concerned. I’ve got a feeling it’s the must-haveness that appeals more. Plus all the technical wizardry of it, of course. And the fact that his mum had one.

22. narrowback - January 27, 2009

genau, not to be messed with tho’ she’s mellowed with age.

the principal, sister jean getrude, folded like a house of cards & my mom got her way (rightfully so I might add) and my brother james was born in hospital. while the slavic/irish name combo is common here in chicago it’s fairly rare in the ny metro area.

will you be in town at the end of march? i’ll be in for a couple of days the last week of the month.

23. In Acual Fact - January 27, 2009

Mr. D, I’m appalled at your shocking, outdated, stereotypical view, and anyway, I thought it was because they were now available in pink.

24. BiB - January 30, 2009

IAF, do you mean they can be customised? My hand-me-down pay-as-you-go Samsung with a faulty battery makes me feel a bit inadequate, I must say.

Narrowback, there’s a very vague chance I’ll actually be away for a couple of days FOR WORK at some point in March. Imagine! I think you’ve e-mailed me the exact dates. Will keep you posted.

25. narrowback - January 31, 2009

OK… hope you’re around for a pint or two

26. BiB - February 3, 2009

Have checked my potential away dates and they don’t clash with yours. I’ll try not to accidentally give up booze again before you arrive.

27. narrowback - February 3, 2009

great….and I’ll prepare to climb off the wagon for a couple of days.

other than a potential day trip down to leipzig I’ve no fixed schedule

28. BiB - March 16, 2009

Narrowback, I’ve had your e-mail and will definitely be here when you are and look forward to seeing you then. But are you now permanently on the wagon?

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