Skip

"The coroner’s report from Argentina makes slighting mention of a brain tumor..."
February 3, 2010 3:05 PM   Subscribe

"Back in 1993 I was tutoring my sister in algebra. Her quizzes and tests were always made of word problems with a running storyline involving many recurring places and characters. I tied the fate of the main characters to how well she did on the previous quiz, so a good performance brought them good fortune. Unfortunately, one test she completely bombed, and, well, this is a transcription of the quiz she got next."

(The author is Emily Short, a past master of the interactive fiction scene. )
posted by Iridic (40 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, hey, can we get a PDF warning on that, thanks.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:09 PM on February 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Talk about math anxiety! That was great.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:24 PM on February 3, 2010


Best of the Web! Thanks.
posted by RussHy at 3:27 PM on February 3, 2010


That is about a hundred different kinds of awesome.
posted by unSane at 3:28 PM on February 3, 2010


That's cool! :)
posted by zarq at 3:29 PM on February 3, 2010


wow, very impressive
posted by deliquescent at 3:31 PM on February 3, 2010


That's pretty fantastic. I think I would have enjoyed it if someone taught me algebra that way.
posted by ocherdraco at 3:32 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


*blink*
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:36 PM on February 3, 2010


Someone should start adding math problems to classic literature: what percentage of the fence can Tom Sawyer paint per hour; how long will it take Madame Defarge to knit a square foot?

As a kid, I loved reading and hated math; had Emily Short been my older sister, I might have loved both.
posted by sallybrown at 3:44 PM on February 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


I do this too, but not with such incredible detail...yow! Impressive. The only problem with tests like this is that they really put ESL learners at a disadvantage (something we always have to consider in a city like Toronto). It's a great math tactic in moderation, but if you take it too far you have to ask whether you're only evaluating their math learning.
posted by Go Banana at 3:46 PM on February 3, 2010


Oh, hey, can we get a PDF warning on that, thanks.

Why do people say this in 2010? What objection to PDFs do people still have? (Seriously I don't understand it at all and want to know the answer)
posted by Perplexity at 3:51 PM on February 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Or are people using browsers with status bars turned off? I over-compulsively look at the target of a link before clicking on it.

This is great, but as soon as I saw the first hint of a riddle in it, I started having flashbacks and cold sweats. Panic Document File.
posted by june made him a gemini at 4:02 PM on February 3, 2010


So wait, is the epilogue an extended version of the "you know Mom killed your older brother and buried him in the basement, right," joke?
posted by FuManchu at 4:04 PM on February 3, 2010


Well, this explains the writing behind LOST.
posted by knile at 4:08 PM on February 3, 2010



Why do people say this in 2010? What objection to PDFs do people still have? (Seriously I don't understand it at all and want to know the answer)
posted by Perplexity at 3:51 PM on February 3 [+] [!]


I too, am perplexed by this.
posted by Panjandrum at 4:18 PM on February 3, 2010


For a lot of people, pdfs are opened in another application. It can be annoying having a window pop up if you aren't expecting it.
posted by stavrogin at 4:33 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


The problem with PDFs is that Acrobat Reader is a piece of shit that can lock up your entire browser if the PDF doesn't download quickly enough. Might not be a problem if you use Google Chrome, where each tab is a separate user process though.
posted by delmoi at 4:39 PM on February 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why do people say this in 2010? What objection to PDFs do people still have? (Seriously I don't understand it at all and want to know the answer)

1. It opens another application—Preview, on a Mac.
2. On a Mac, it deposits yet another little file on my desktop.

But that was a good little math story, even if it was on a PDF.
posted by limeonaire at 4:42 PM on February 3, 2010


Am I the only one who found the writing too overblown to scan well? It's a good idea executed well in part (and bravo for making this kind of effort), but reading that excessive prose while trying to do the algebra parts would have been way too taxing for the kids I tutored back in the day.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 4:50 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Before I had a modern computer- when I was chugging along on an old piece of shit that I had because I couldn't afford anything else- opening a PDF meant closing everything that wasn't Acrobat Reader and suffering through horrible slowdown. When I got a newer computer, I quickly came to understand why nobody understood my then-loathing for PDF files.

They're great if you're on a modern computer, and especially if you have FoxIt, but if you can't afford modern hardware, odds are that opening a PDF is just more trouble than it's worth.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:05 PM on February 3, 2010


I'm surprised that people open links without checking the URL first. Have you never been lemonpartied? Anyhoo, point is that it's already perfectly obvious that the link is a PDF, if you've an ounce of common sense.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:06 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


kittens for breakfast : Oh, hey, can we get a PDF warning on that, thanks.

You mean, like "mouse-over the link and look at where it goes"?

Seriously, never trust any link. Even on as usually-trustworthy a site as MeFi. Even well intentioned links can take you somewhere inappropriate for your current viewing circumstaces.

But a PDF? C'mon, people, this problem has existed for over a decade. Tell Adobe Reader to open them outside the browser, and although they still might not ever open, it doesn't crash anything but Adobe Reader.


stavrogin : For a lot of people, pdfs are opened in another application. It can be annoying having a window pop up if you aren't expecting it.

Let's all put on our Big Girl pants and just close the window and move on with our lives, shall we? ;)

"OMIGOD! I clicked... and a window opened! Help, help, hackers have taken over my computer!"


Pope Guilty : They're great if you're on a modern computer, and especially if you have FoxIt, but if you can't afford modern hardware, odds are that opening a PDF is just more trouble than it's worth.

Oh, gimme a break. Even the wimpiest of handhelds - Phones for that matter - Can deal with opening a PDF.

"Much ado about nothing", indeed.


Incidentally, cute link. if I ever have to tutor someone for a period of time, I will definitely adopt that method. Thanks, Iridic.
posted by pla at 6:13 PM on February 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


Or just use Google Docs
add the pdf you want to view to the end of https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=
and voila
posted by pantsrobot at 6:39 PM on February 3, 2010


I'm just telling it like it used to be for me, and how I'd bet money it still is for some people. Not everyone can afford to upgrade at what the technologically savvy would regard as a normal pace; I know people who are chugging along with machines from 2000 or 2002 because they simply cannot afford to upgrade.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:20 PM on February 3, 2010


If this derail doesn't end soon, something horrible is going to happen to our heroine.
posted by felix betachat at 7:33 PM on February 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


You mean, like "mouse-over the link and look at where it goes"?

This doesn't work in all browsers. Notably: the poxy version of IE that my work's IT dept inflict upon me. But thanks for the smug.
posted by pompomtom at 7:35 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is there an answer key?



Hey what are you guys doing hanging out with all these trees and stuff, is this some sort of forest?
posted by Cold Lurkey at 7:47 PM on February 3, 2010


Many links to webpages are made to Metafilter in the context of Front Page Posts (FPP). Some are Single Link Youtube Posts (SLYT), others are Not Safe For Work (NSFW), some are to PDFs. Wednesday evening, Iridic posted a PDF link, the only one that day. However, his post was not tagged as SLYT, PDF, NSFW even though it could be any of those and perhaps more than one. The same day there were 128 links in FPPs, of which only 6 were NSFW. Iridic does not live in Argentina, but likes to tango. What is the probability that Iridic's PDF is NSFW?

Out of every Metafilter reader who is upset at clicking a PDF not knowing it was such, one of ten is upset enough to express their distress as a comment in the thread following the FPP, but only one out of every 1540 is upset at clicking on PDFs without knowing. 4 users expressed their distress as comments in Iridic's thread. Including those not commenting, how many MeFites were distressed at clicking the PDF? How many total MeFites clicked on the PDF?

If only one out of every 112 MeFites clicking on FPPs is doing so in a place where NSFW posts are truly Not Safe, what is the probability that Iridic's unlabelled link caused a MeFite to lose their job?

No cheating by using your iPhone Word Problem App.
posted by bumpkin at 8:04 PM on February 3, 2010 [8 favorites]


stavrogin : For a lot of people, pdfs are opened in another application. It can be annoying having a window pop up if you aren't expecting it.

Let's all put on our Big Girl pants and just close the window and move on with our lives, shall we? ;)

"OMIGOD! I clicked... and a window opened! Help, help, hackers have taken over my computer!"


Someone asked why people complained about PDFs and I gave them an answer. -_- :D ;\ ^_^

"OMG I'm a raging jackass on the Internet who can't discern basic intent behind a statement! HOPE ME! Random bold!"
posted by stavrogin at 8:12 PM on February 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


Pope Guilty: They're great if you're on a modern computer*, and especially if you have FoxIt, but if you can't afford modern hardware*, odds are that opening a PDF is just more trouble than it's worth.

* That is, made since 2001.

Seriously, get over it. This is up there with OMGIt'sNotMarkedNSFWButThere'sACussWordOnPage7
OfThatInterviewIJustWetMyselfWhatIfACoworkerIsLooking
OverMyShoulderICan'tGetAnotherJobButI'mStillWebSurfing
InViolationOfMyWorkplacePoliciesWhileAtWorkOMG!

(And, yes, I get the need for NSFW warnings on images.)
posted by IAmBroom at 8:39 PM on February 3, 2010


The only problem with tests like this is that they really put ESL learners at a disadvantage (something we always have to consider in a city like Toronto).

Insightful if sad. I guess ideally it's a double opportunity to improve English AND math?
posted by alasdair at 2:02 AM on February 4, 2010


Yep. Confirms why I went to an art college where math OR science was the choice. This made me go into a grand mal seizure.

Math bad. Going to a college where you ace biology--good.
posted by stormpooper at 5:57 AM on February 4, 2010


* That is, made since 2001.

My Mac Pro (2 x 2.66 Ghz Dual Core Intel Xeon with a gig of ram) tower has Adobe Acrobat 9 installed. Every time I click on a damned pdf link in Safari or Firefox, especially if the PDF is large, it takes at least 15-30 seconds to open in a new tab or window, which always seems like a freakin' eternity.

It's an annoyance. And no one is here saying it's the end of the world.
posted by zarq at 9:28 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not enough math.

Also, there is a technology for making text (and formatting and layout! and images!) viewable by people with web browsers, which is not associated with bloated, proprietary software, so its somewhat grating when someone goes out of their way to only provide that text in a format which is associated with bloated, proprietary software.
posted by Reverend John at 10:26 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's an annoyance. And no one is here saying it's the end of the world.


I.. can't believe you're running a dual core intel xeon with only 1 gig of ram.
posted by phaedon at 1:38 PM on February 4, 2010


I.. can't believe you're running a dual core intel xeon with only 1 gig of ram.

I know. Talk to my office. It's the computer I use at work.

My home computers are an older Dell Laptop (Inspiron 6000 running WinXP) which is primarily used to surf the net and run OpenOffice, and a home-built tower with far better hardware (Intel quad core / 4gb of ram/1TB of hard drive space.)
posted by zarq at 2:18 PM on February 4, 2010


I for one would have preferred to know ahead of time that it was a PDF. /shrug That way, I know to look in my downloads window when I wonder 'why didn't it click'.

It's a small concession, and I don't think it would be too much of a burden to acquiesce. Please?
posted by rubah at 4:32 PM on February 4, 2010


Also, even though certain 'net-capable cell phones are capable of handling PDF's, that doesn't mean they're quick or convenient to download and open. My BlackBerry Curve takes a while to open and display PDFs, (again, the time is file size-dependent) and it was only manufactured about 6 months ago. It also has an 8gb micro sdhc chip aboard.
posted by zarq at 5:11 PM on February 4, 2010


Yay, Emily Short! I was in love with the IF world in middle and high school, and her games were always the most engaging and fun to play. Galatea was my favorite because of its background in Greek mythology - my other love. I don't think any other medium made me so happy to be kind of nerdy. I'm superglad that you posted this - I clicked the link without checking the post and the author seemed totally familiar.
posted by ajarbaday at 7:56 PM on February 4, 2010


Google-cached HTML-only version. As best I can tell, the PDF link has already used up its bandwidth for the month.
posted by ethand at 11:30 AM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


« Older Hundred-to-won   |   It's a cruel season that makes... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post