Mathochism: Snores and darkness

One woman’s attempt to revisit the math that plagued her in school. But can determination make up for 25 years of math neglect?

The final test of the semester was yesterday, and it was a real bear. It covered five chapters — well, to be fair, five half chapters — but there was still a lot to deal with.

I haven’t been displeased with the Youthful Professor for the most part, because he is serious about teaching, he is clear with his explanations and breaks down concepts well. But he refused to set a test schedule, saying we would have tests as the material required. The problem with that is that some of the tests were light on material, while others, like this last one, felt like an exercise in sausage making.

And he admitted this has been a problem for every pre-calc class he’s taught so far. Surely such a problem could be solved with a little organization? The Dour Algebra Professor may not have been the cuddly sort, but he was very good at getting through material on schedule, then testing on schedule, and I think his technique worked for me. I got an A in that class, even though it was a subject I struggled with back in my school days.

Oh well. I think I did okay, and even if I didn’t, YP drops the lowest score, so my B-streak is assured, as long as I don’t choke on the Final. (Oh, how I wish I hadn’t choked on the Geometry Final!)

Getting to this test, though, was not easy. Two weeks ago, trig suddenly turned on me. We had gotten to inverse functions, which involve chopping up sine, cosine and tangent graphs into pieces so they pass the vertical and horizontal line tests. I thought I had the concepts down, but then I started doing the homework, and it in no way resembled what we’d been covering in class. Arcsin[sin1/2 + tan -1] what now?

Luckily, a test review earlier in the week proved fruitful. YP gave me a good strategy for solving such problems, and I did not fear them on the test. I’m not sure the other students found it so useful. As YP was going through an explanation for why inverse sine functions are only one-to-one between 90 degrees and negative 90 degrees, I heard snoring.

I looked behind me, and a young man near the classroom door was slumped over his books. He may or may not have been drooling. Now, I’ve written before about YP’s ability to teach through any and all distractions, but I lack this ability.

This was not the last snoring I was to hear this week.

Every year at about this time, we get mighty winds in Southern California. They’re called Santa Anas, and like the French Mistral, have been known to cause wildfires and drive people mad.

On Wednesday afternoon, as I was trying to memorize sequence equations, the power went out. This was challenging, since I also happened to have some cinnamon buns baking at the time, the heater on, and a YouTube video on Fibonacci playing at the time. It was also almost dark.

Luckily, the buns were almost done, the house was nice and warm, and I had plenty of candles and a good flashlight. But my dinner plans were pretty much ruined, since I didn’t know if the stove still worked safely without electricity, and I didn’t want to open the refrigerator or freezer.

My spouse came home, and told me the lights were out for miles. We managed to find a restaurant still in the lit zone, and had dinner. We came home to a dark house. I lit a bunch of candles, tried to study a bit more. We went to bed in the dark.

And then I couldn’t sleep. I was worried about my packed freezer thawing, since I had just stocked up. I was worried that the lights would come on suddenly at 2 a.m., and that my oven would start beeping the way it sometimes does after a power outage. And then, of course, I was worried about the test.

Then, every time I tried to fall asleep, there was the snoring. My poor spouse often gets sinus problems during the Santa Anas, and since these were the worst winds in a decade, he was in bad shape. No amount of prodding or poking could make him roll over and stop making a sound I can only describe as the spout of a whale.

I guess it’s only fair that I deal with this now, since last year, at about the same time, I kept him awake with my sleep apnea. But it would have been nice if he had saved the hideous noise for a night not before a big exam.

Waking up on test day, therefore, was utter misery. So was finding out we still had no power. It came back on again at 9 a.m., and I made coffee and checked my e-mail, only to have it go out again. Luckily, that outage only lasted an hour.

When I was finally able to access news again, I realized how lucky we really were. 300,000 people in the city lost power. Many of them are still without power two days later. I’m glad to have escaped that.

And I’m glad the test is over. The final is in two weeks. Here’s hoping I have electricity and get sleep then.

All text copyrighted by A.K. Whitney, and cannot be used without permission.

One comment

  • That sounds really frustrating. As a fellow resident of Southern California, I find it really difficult to concentrate on anything when the winds get cooking. Particularly this batch! Hope you did well on the test!

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