1. Ingvar wants to scale the wall of an Irish monastery. The wall is 20 feet high, and right in front of the wall is a moat 15 feet wide. How tall must Ingvar’s ladder be in order to reach the top of the wall?
2. Thorgils can burn 20 English huts each hour. Hastein can burn 35 English huts each hour. Working together (albeit on opposite sides of the village), how long will it take them to burn all 385 huts?
3. Siggurd is in a blood feud with Ottar. Ottar is also in another blood feud with Illugi. For each relative killed by Siggurd, Ottar kills 3 of Siggurd’s relatives. For each relative killed by Illugi, Ottar kills 4 of Illugi’s relatives. Today Ottar kills the same number of Siggurd’s relatives as Illugi’s relatives. Ottar has killed at least one person today. Siggurd and Illugi do not have any relatives in common. What is the smallest number of people Ottar may have killed today?
4. Hrafn has 5 sons. Skuli has 5 daughters. Hrafn and Skuli want all their children to marry, but they don’t care who weds whom. In how many different ways could the 5 couples be paired?
5. Svein’s longship is fleeing from Gunnar’s longship at a pace of 20 miles per hour. Gunnar’s longship is pursuing Svein’s longship at a pace of 25 miles per hour. If Svein is currently 10 miles ahead of Gunnar, how long will it take for Gunnar to catch Svein?
After a long day, including a classroom observation by an enthusiastic Chinese delegation observing our school’s international student program and a farewell visit with my parents’ moribund cat, I returned home to find a single flyer in my mailbox. On it was the loveliest figure in all of creation:
I’m not entirely sure how I was chosen as the poster girl for my grad school’s English program, although I suspect it has something to do with the vehement refusal of the first person they asked.
I didn’t find out about this exchange until later, however. By the time I learned of it, I had already given in to the increasingly desperate e-mails from the marketing people, who had cleverly avoided use of the word “photogenic.” Instead, they kept their message to the point.
I showed up at the specified classroom at the scheduled time, expecting to stand in front of a screen and smile. Instead, the photographer handed me a dry erase marker.
For you non-educator types, that’s the equivalent of telling a comedian to say something funny or instructing an athlete to do something athletic. It just doesn’t work on command like that. After a few seconds, however, I began lecturing on the Odyssey.
According to the photographer, it was one of the easiest shoots he’s ever done.
Then I met with marketing person assigned to interview me. Despite my request just to write my own statement, she insisted that it would be best for her to interview me and then write up what “I” had said. Eventually I persuaded her to share her summary with me.
Using my mastery of the English language, I carefully crafted a testimonial both positive and honest (a task tantamount to juggling torches while riding a rickety unicycle on a frayed tightrope suspended over a mob of clueless protestors). After this there was a vast silence.
Two months passed, and then one day I found an advertisement in my school mailbox.
Apparently the photo shoot didn’t work out as well as it had seemed. My hair was in lank curls, my shirt filled with rows of wrinkles, my eyes bulging from their sockets, and my mouth curved into a deranged oval.
Eh, I thought, they’re only mailing them to every English teacher within a hundred miles.
That summer, the marketing people emailed me to ask permission to put me on their website. I agreed, saying that I wasn’t fond of the picture but they were welcome to use it.
In the late fall, I heard yet again from marketing folks. The conversation went something like this.
Marketing Person: We’re doing another photo shoot, and I remembered you didn’t like your picture. Want to redo it?
Me: Meh. Maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.
Marketing Person: We’d really like you to update your photo.
Marketing Person: Pretty please?
Me: Oh, all right.
Marketing Person: Great! We’ve got you scheduled for the photo shoot and video portion.
Thus it was that I found myself clad in a wrinkle-proof shirt and fake teaching Norse mythology for the sake of the camera.
That was the last I heard from the marketing people... until I opened my mailbox yesterday. There I am, in slightly less demented form, fronting a group of three former graduate students.
Maybe they think I’m photogenic.
Yesterday was my five-year college reunion. Although many aspects of the festivities were quite nice, the gathering was fraught with any number of uncomfortable situations:
long gaps between events...
coping with campus alterations...
running into the same people multiple times...
unknown professors at departmental open houses...
encounters with vaguely familiar classmates...
... and a surfeit of babies.
Stay tuned for ideas on how to improve a reunion.
- Greet professors I've never met with a hearty "You remember me, don't you?"
- Sample all the snacks and assorted goodies. Pick top three food-providing departments to return to next year.
- Nod vigorously at all comments made by real department alumni.
- Steal one book from each office and hide it at the next office.
- Expound upon my exploits as a pharmacist/sculptor/army chaplain.
- Offer to play matchmaker for any single attendees. Assign future spouses by interpreting the paths of squirrels running around on the quad.