The Time Between an Apology

Last week on America’s Got Talent, comedian Howie Mandel made a joke after watching the act of Stevie Starr, a magician known as the “Professional Regurgitator.”

“You, sir, make bulimia entertaining.”

He apologized profusely after the next commercial break, understanding that the twitter-sphere was already calling him out for the insensitive remarks and how they might impact those might develop similar disorders.  This is a snap-shot of what happened shortly after Mandel’s comments.

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Amber always had to do her homework with the TV on.  The general noise helped her concentrate on pre-calculus, or at least that’s what she told her parents.  It was nice to have some sound in the room and if she was being honest, she liked the distraction a bit.  Staring at cosines and tangents for any amount of time was tedious and taking a peak every now and then of a singer or magician on her favorite show wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

Her attention was focused on finding the variables within cofunction identity equations when she looked up at the TV.  Howie Mandel was speaking.  She stopped to listen.  After all, every girl in Sycamore High School took their social cues from the fifty-nine year old comedian.  Whatever he said, they did.  He was in the middle of speaking to a magician who had just vomited a woman’s ring into his own hand after swallowing it moments before.  The crowd was clapping for the “Professional Reguritator” but even Radio City Music Hall fell silent when Mandel began to speak.

“You, sir, make bulimia entertaining.”

Bulimia?  She had heard about that in health class last year.  It was a mental disorder where people binge on food then purge by various methods.  It was extremely dangerous.  But Howie had said it was entertaining.  And if Howie Mandel gave the green light to engage in a potentially life-threatening activity, then she must obey.

This pillar of society, whose opinion held absolute sway over a generation of adolescent females born before 1997, had all but directed her to purge.

Remembering fragments of her health class, Amber rushed to the bathroom and huddled over the toilet.  She stuck her number two pencil in the back of her throat, tasting the well-worn eraser first then the gush of bile and hydrocloric acid.  Her body wretched and dispelled the chicken and rice casserole that her father had made earlier that evening.  She felt more entertaining already.  Howie was right.  The comedian, who had previously been know for putting a latex glove over his head and blowing it up with his nose, was her compass.

“Tell me where to go Howie,” she whispered, wiping thin ropes of spit from her mouth.  Across the country she was sure that millions of girls just like her hunched over a slab of cold porcelain with watery eyes.

Amber pressed the eraser to her esophagus again and waited for another eruption.

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World’s First: Guy Who Had to Describe What the Number Zero Was

It is 9th century AD.  For several centuries mathematicians in Egypt and Mesopotamia had designed elaborate numeral systems without the number zero, many using placeholder variables and even punctuation marks to work around instead.  That is until Indian mathematician Bhramagupta formally introduced zero as part of the numerical system. He is attempting to tell a grain merchant, Siddantha, about his discovery.

Bhramagupta:  Do you get it now?

Siddantha: I still have no idea what you’re talking about.

Bhramagupta: Ok, if I have a single pebble, how many pebbles do I have?

Siddantha: You have one.

Bhramagupta: Right.  Now what if I don’t have any pebbles?  How many pebbles is that?

Siddantha: Yeah, this is where you’re losing me.

Bhramagupta: What number is none?

Siddantha: How can you have a number for nothing?  It’s nothing.

Bhramagupta: Right, but that’s my point.  Let’s say I have twelve carts of hay and then you take those twelve carts of hay.  How many carts of hay do I have left?

Siddantha: You don’t have any?

Bhramagupta: Right.  So if I wanted to write down that I had nothing, how would I do that?

Siddantha: What’s the point of writing down that you have nothing?  Seems like a waste of papyrus.

Bhramagupta: Yes but we need a way to formally express that value.

Siddantha: What value?

Bhramagupta: The value of nothing.

Siddantha: Dude…what?

Bhramagupta: I call it zero.  Here, I’ll draw the symbol for you.

Siddantha: That look like the letter “O.”  Now you’re just being confusing on purpose.

Bhramagupta: Noit’s zero.

Siddantha: Ok, I’ll play along.  Zero, as you call it, is a number just like five or seven even though it’s value is nothing.

Bhramagupta: Yes.

Siddantha: Can I divide a number like seven by this zero?

Bhramagupta:  No.

Siddantha:  What?  Why?

Bhramagupta:  That’s just…like impossible.

Siddantha: Dude…what?

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More firsts:

World’s First Sarcastic Person

World’s First Person to Use Rhyming

World’s First Garbage Can Salesman

An Annoying Ancient Greek Kid Home from University

Adrienus is a 19-year old boy who just returned home after his second year studying at the Platonic Academy in Athens.  His father, Lormio, is paying for the whole experience.  

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Lormio: Welcome home son!  What tidings from University do you bring?  Do your instructors give you any news from the war?  The last we heard our soldiers were marching to Attica to drive back the Spartan hordes.

Adrienus: Wow, dad!  You shouldn’t refer to them as hordes.  Spartans are people too.

Lormio: They’re attacking us and constantly trying to kill every natural born Athenian.

Adrienus: That’s you’re Western Perspective.  Did you ever think that maybe we’re the bad guys to them?

Lormio: Haven’t you heard about the Spartans?  They’re brutal people.  They take babies deemed too weak to be good soldiers and they throw them off a cliff.  They literally have a communal pit full of dead babies.

Adrienus rolls his eyes.

Adrienus: It’s just a cultural difference.  We should respect their traditions and not generalize.  There are Spartans out there who don’t kill weakling babies.  What about them?

Lormio: I pray to the Ares, God of War, that you’ve learned more than that about the world.

Adrienus: Yeah, let’s pray to Ares, dad.  Because he’s a real thing.  Magic invisible man in the sky controlling battles and swords?  Please…

Lormio:  Oh great, now you don’t believe in Gods?  What the heck am I paying for you to go to school for?  I sent you there to learn how to count so you could come back and help me sell olives.

Adrienus: I’m learning about more important things.

Lormio: What’s more important than olives?

Ardennes:  Gee, I don’t know.  How about forms?

Lormio: Like for building walls?

Adrienus:  No.  Forms.  Plato says it’s like how everything isn’t really what it seems.  Everything on earth is a copy or an image of what it truly is.  Forms are the physical manifestations of the things we perceive.  Not the things themselves.

Lormio: What?

Adrienus: Yeah, I didn’t expect you to comprehend.

Lormio: No, I think I do actually.

Lormio clenches his fist.

Lormio: So for instance this fist.  This isn’t really a fist.  What you perceive as a fist is actually just a combination of things it represents, right?  So what does this fist represent to you?

Adrienus swallows deeply.

Adrienus: Um…I don’t know.

Lormio: I’ll tell you what I think it represents.  I think this hand represents the destructive force.  It represents Poseidon’s tempest.  Zeus’ bellows.  Ares’ chariot.  It is strong and brutal.  But that’s my perception.  What is yours?

Adrienus: I think it means I should go help mom with dinner?

Lormio: Good guess.

Top Five Best Tasting Children’s Books

Editor’s Note – This is a guest post written by Charlie McCormick, a 7 month-old in my son’s daycare center.

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The world of tasting children’s books doesn’t have to be intimidating.  Don’t let the terminology and technical jargon scare you off.   With a little experience you can start down the road to being a true aficionado.  This is a short list of some of the most scrumptious texts on the market today to get you started.

Thomas and the Freight Train by Reverend W. Awdry – I will say I was skeptical when I first licked the cover of Thomas and the Freight Train.  To me, the Brits always serve fare which leaves much to the imagination.  But boy was I surprised!  This book has hints of oak, apricot and currants.  It finishes clean and bright and is not too sweet.  The book tastes best when paired with your entire fist or the edge of the coffee table.

Little Blue Truck by Alice Shertle –  Several earthy components to the pages give it a really authentic, organic taste.  This contrasts the subtle notes of vanilla and licorice in the aftertaste.  Nice balance with a full, round body.  For some reason, the book is best served after being knocked out of your dad’s hands and onto the dirty kitchen floor.  It really opens up the bouquet.

Like brownies, many people treat the crispy edges of this book like a delicacy in and of themselves.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – I soak the top part of my shirt with drool just thinking about this unbelievably yummy book!  The colors are what draws you in but it’s the zesty taste with hints of wild pepper that keeps you coming back for more.  The Caterpillar is sure to blow your mind (almost literally if your fontanel hasn’t completely closed yet).

Pajama Time by Sandra Boyton – This book is a classic.  Boyton consistently puts out absolutely delicious books, but this is easily her best.  It features nice thick pages which you just can’t wait to sink your gums into.  It is rich, decadent and creamy. There is a stick to your ribs quality that will be sure to facilitate a hefty bowel movement which will likely ruin any cute outfit you were wearing.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn –  My mom left this one on the couch.  What a portion!  Most of the books on this list only have a few pages to chew but Gone Girl had over 300 savory pages.  The taste may seem a bit harsh at first but I found the thin pages easy to rip off and stick in my mouth.  My mom immediately pulled it away from me and said it’s not a children’s book, which has only left me wanting it more!

The Un-Binding of Isaac

And Abraham picked up the knife to slay his son.  Then an angel of the LORD called to him from heaven: “Abraham! Abraham!” And he answered, “Here I am.”

And He said, “Do not raise your hand against the boy, or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your favored one, from Me.” – Genesis 22:10-12

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The voice of the Lord retreated into the parting clouds, the Supreme sound echoing off of the bluff.  God had relented.  A faithful servant of the Lord, Abraham was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice.  He had been moments away from drawing a knife across his son’s neck and burning him alive, all at the behest of the Lord.  The smoke of his progeny’s flesh was meant to appease the Almighty.  However, the Lord saw Abraham’s devotion and sent an angel to abort His own edict.

The muscles in Abraham’s hand relaxed, the grip on Isaac’s neck softened.  Isaac turned to face his father, rolling over on the crude stone altar.  Abraham looked at his son’s tear-streaked face.  In that face he saw the future of man.  The Covenant of the Lord was imbued in this boy’s bones.  He was his son…his dear, dear son.  Abraham cleared his throat of the dry Morian air.

“Hey-hey buddy….”