Have a Slice of Pi

Einstein Pie

They say “Pi R Square”, but I’ve always found it to be round. I love pie, but Pi – not so much.  I cannot express my dislike of it.  You could say the thought of Pi makes me irrational.  It makes my thoughts go in circles.  Did I mention that I love pie?  Mathematicians like to express Pi as equal to C over D.  I would like Pi better if it were expressed as equal to ice cream over crust.  The area of a pie plate is in direct proportion to my appetite for pie.  The lack of notes in my geometry books is in direct proportion to my lack of interest in Pi.

Some of my math-smart friends are more into Pi than I am into pie.  They tell me “Pi” is the English spelling of the sixteenth letter of the Greek alphabet and that the symbol for Pi is derived from the first letter of the Greek word “perimetros” meaning circumference.  This makes sense since the number Pi represents the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.  The number Pi, which has a constant value that approximately equals 3.14159, is an irrational number; a real number that cannot be expressed as a common fraction and it has an infinite or endless decimal representation, without any repeating pattern.

People who love math and happen to have a lot of time on their hands have come up with something called the “Pi Code”.  I immediately thought they had cracked the code to the security system at Marie Callender’s, but I was incorrect.  The “Pi Code” is an alphanumeric (base 26 or base 27) system by which the digits in Pi, when taken out to a place value of several billion, can be converted in letters of the alphabet and thus reveal words – a giant word search puzzle if you will. The fictional character “Doctor Matrix” (introduced by Martin Gardner in 1960) used to say “properly interpreted, the number “Pi” contains the entire history of mankind.  On the other hand, I know Marie Callender’s contains a lot of pie.

I like to fly in hot air balloons and, like me, my balloon pilot friends like pie.  However, they LOVE their Pi Balls.  A Pi Ball, shot for pilot balloon, can tell you more about the precise launch site weather and winds than just about any app.  This low-tech tool is simply a helium balloon which is released prior to the balloons going up.  We watch the speed and direction of the balloon’s ascent very closely to gain an idea of where our balloons will go once airborne.

With all this love of Pi, it makes sense that March 14th, or 3/14 or 3.14 has become internationally known and celebrated as Pi Day.  On this day, love is all a-round, and a-la-mode.  It also happens to be the birthday of renowned theoretical physicist, musician, artist, mathematician and all-around brainiac Albert Einstein.  I have a theory that we would all gain a relative amount of energy from wishing Dr. Einstein a happy birthday whether it be by enjoying some pie, or some Pi.  Just be careful to keep an eye on your circumference and diameter because those can be affected by pie.

© 2017 Curt Savage Media

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One Gallon of Water

One Gallon of WaterEddie spontaneously shouts out across the workroom floor “I’m doin’ the best I can with what I’ve got.”  Carl responds with “You’ve got a lot!”  Eddie shouts back “Thank you!”

We all have a lot; a lot of material wealth in comparison to some people in the more impoverished places on Earth.   Most of the monetary wealth in the world is concentrated within a very small percentage of the global population.   Not my percentage.  However, the kind of wealth I possess – clean water, safe shelter, adequate food, clothing, personal transportation, discretionary income – is enjoyed by a relative few as well.  It’s said that if you have adequate food, shelter and clothing, you are richer than 75% percent of the people in the world.  I’m thankful for being in the fortunate 25%.  Thankfulness and appreciation for our blessings is something I’ve always tried to teach our children.  Sometimes life gives me a little help with that lesson.

When our sons were in the elementary grades, we used to go to the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh at least a couple of times a year.  On one of our last trips, we spent literally all our money in the Center and left the parking garage headed for home instead of going downtown for treats.  As we waited in line to merge onto the highway, we saw a man standing at the top of the on-ramp going from car to car asking for something.  We didn’t even have any change in the ashtray.  I prepared to just politely dismiss his request and drive on.

The man came up to my open window and surprised me with his request.  He looked parched (a hot summer day) and his voice was hoarse.  Listening to his accent and looking at his manner of dress, he struck me as possibly being an African Immigrant.  He asked “Do you have any water sir?”  His request confused me for a moment. Did he just ask for water?  I always carry water in the van in case of engine overheating or emergencies, but I never thought of this.  I blinked and said “Yes.  I can give you water.”

The boys reached into the back and retrieved the gallon jug.  We had parked in an underground garage and the water was quite cold.  They passed the jug to me and I handed the gallon of cold spring water out the window to this man.  We all watched as he stared in disbelief at the jug.  The man reached in the window and hugged me around the neck and then began to leap in the air while holding the jug over his head shouting “Thank you, thank you, praise God!” over, and over again.  He was smiling and holding out the jug to show all the passing cars as we drove away.

I guess God doesn’t ask us to give what we don’t have, but only asks us to bless others by generously sharing what He has provided for us.  I never thought a gallon of water in the back of our van was a big deal.  Giving something that cost me only fifty cents didn’t make feel particularly generous.  I just didn’t have that much to give, but in that man’s perspective, it was a lot.  Have you got a lot?

© 2017 Curt Savage Media

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The Ice Man

I knew my dark-bthe-ice-manlue blazer was in the closet somewhere.  Exactly where was difficult to say now that the “Lifetime” LED ceiling light fixture had burned out.  I groped around in the dark fully expecting to find myself holding a cat by the neck the next time I withdrew my hand.   My knuckles smacked the sharp corner of a box causing thousands of dollars to tumble across the floor; too bad it was only Monopoly money.  Losing my balance, I lunged into the black void.  The quick flash of a steel blade caught my eye as I fell.

I lay on the floor in the closet with my would-be assailants on my chest.  Judging by the archaic appearance of the attackers, it was obvious they hadn’t seen action in a while.  I clambered around trying to get to my feet as the black clad figures fell to the floor, choking on their own dust.  They kept their grip around my ankles as I extricated myself from the den of doom.  I dragged those culprits with me into the sunlight streaming through the torn window shades.  It was at that moment I recognized them as the Riedell Brothers.

Even from their compromised position on the bedroom floor, the brothers disparaged me.  They recalled a lost passion from my youth; comparing me to a younger, stronger man who paraded in public with scantily clad dancing girls, older “experienced” women and connoisseurs of fine drink.  All of us in the above company could often be found lying tangled in a pile of sweating bodies, our dripping chrome reflecting the glints of the disco ball.  The bothers were right; it was time to feel that old pain again; those tightly tied strings of the past cutting off my circulation.

I fueled up the four-door and blew down Route 422 headed for a date with destiny.  As I wheeled into the driveway, my accomplices were waiting for me.  We stuffed the Riedell Brothers in the trunk to keep ‘em from clamoring; we figured they’d try to cut us if they got close enough.  Riding down 19 in the dark, we didn’t know what to expect.  We were going on a tip; take the brothers to Mario’s joint.  There, it would be easy to put ‘em on ice without drawing a lot of attention.  Good thing. I didn’t want to break any legs or heads.

We walked right in the front door like we owned the house.  Mario was nowhere to be seen even though his name was all over the place.  The lights were low and the music was loud. That made it easy to sneak the Riedells in and tie them up.  My Lieutenant moved upstairs to keep an eye from on high while me and my girl took out the brothers.  “This is the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done” she said as we worked our way across the floor, looking to blend in.  I was ready to make up for lost time and keep a promise; the first dance at the Lemieux proved it.  I had my daughter by the hand and the Riedells on my feet and it felt great!  It was her first time on the ice, and my first time back on it since throwing the Riedells in the closet 20 years ago.  I might just find myself skating through the rest of my life.

© 2017 Curt Savage Media

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You’ve senarcissusen those pretty, trumpet-shaped, long-stemmed flowers that pop up through the snow in early spring here in the northern United States.  They’re a genus of the Amaryllis family.  We know them better as Daffodils, Paperwhites and Jonquils.  There are almost too many varieties of Narcissi to count.  I recently saw a pistachio green cultivar that I didn’t particularly care for.  I prefer the white and yellow varieties that self-install, or “naturalize”, themselves across our northern landscape.  Clumps of them can be seen blooming on hillsides, along highways, next to fence posts and even between cracks in sidewalks.  The Narcissus is amazingly adept at popping up where least expected and uninvited; even where unwanted.

Persistence in self-assertion seems to be the key to their proliferation; The Narcissus’ amazing ability to find a foothold, root, survive and even flourish on the edges of places they shouldn’t belong.  Let’s see a show of hands; who’s bought those potted and forced Paperwhites in the floral section of the grocery store, taken them home to enjoy and then tossed them out next to the trash cans after they whither?  You can’t throw them in the can because you need to shake them out into the compost pile and recycle the pot, right?  But the trash cans are closer to the door than the bins or the pile, so there they sit – for months!  Next spring, guess what?  Up through the covering of fall leaves – blossoms!  The same thing happens when I divide out clumps of daffodils and forget to replant the separated bulbs.  I’ve tried to blame the phenomenon on horticultural squirrels, but now we know better.

The Narcissus plant is not to be confused with Narcissus of Roman mythological legend, although I consider that Narcissus to be a bit of a blooming idiot – sorry.  The story, written by Ovid the Poet of first century BC Italy, in the third book of his “Metamorphoses”, tells the story of a young hunter, Narcissus, who spends much of his time in the woods.  A mountain nymph named Echo falls in love with Narcissus and follows him through the woods.  He calls out to her “Who’s there?” but, because of a curse placed upon Echo by Hera the wife of Zeus, she can only reply with Narcissus’ words “Who’s there?”  Narcissus, being annoyed, rejects her love.  Heartbroken, she retreats to the glens and wastes away until all that is left is her voice, which we call an echo.  Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, learns of Narcissus’ self-centered cruelty and lures Narcissus to a pool where he drinks, then sees, and falls deeply in love with “all the things for which he himself is admired.”  His love being unrequited by the image in the pool, Narcissus wastes away in the same manner as Echo.  Legend says a trumpet shaped flower appeared in the place where his body had been; the Narcissus flower.

This story is where we get the word “narcissist” from.  The term can refer to anyone who is self-absorbed, self-centered or in love with themselves.  A managed and appropriate level of self-love is mentally, emotionally and even physically healthy – especially in a world where other “lovers of self” are predatory practitioners of the Dark Triad of the personality traits of narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy.  However, one must be careful not to overindulge “the self” or we could end up with a society full of narcissists popping up all over the place like the much-preferred narcissi; or are they in bloom already?

© 2017 Curt Savage Media

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via Daily Prompt: Cling

The WordPrwp_20170112_004ess word for today’s daily word prompt was “cling”.  I thought about that.  Cling; one of those words that sound weirder the more you say them.  It could be the sound a medium sized bell makes; like a combination of the big “clang” and the little “ring” – cling.  I’ve heard of Cling Peaches but I don’t know why they’re called that.  Do they stick to the roof of your mouth when you eat them?  Maybe they cling to the branch making them hard to pick.  Would that make them Cling-ons, or rather Klingons?

Static cling is great for sticking butterflies to buildings in Manhattan if you’re Microsoft, but it’s not much fun if you’re a woman wearing a polyester miniskirt in midtown during a windstorm.  I know my socks mock me while they cling to the insides of my dryer, just out of sight, waiting to bite me with blue lightning should I try to dislodge them.  How about  those little bits of plastic wrapping you remove from a package and then they get stuck on you?  There I am, shaking and waving my hands wildly trying to remove the shreds of plastic clinging to me as those around me back away.  I have a better chance of becoming airborne.

Do you dread trying to use cling wrap?  Nearly without fail, I yank the entire roll out of the box when I attempt to tear off a piece.  Once I have a piece of wrap in my hand, it wants to cling to itself more than anything else!   If I can salvage the wrap after several minutes of unsticking and unfolding, there’s still no guarantee it will cling to what I wanted to protect.  Those commercials showing bowls of food being held upside down while covered with cling wrap are hard for me to believe as are the ones showing a hungry tiger taking a pass on a steak wrapped in cling wrap.

Clinging to the side of a cliff is good if you’re a rock climber.  However, clinging to a myth is not a good way to avoid reality.  Myths have a way of evaporating leaving those who subscribe to them clinging to nothing but mist.  Cling to the truth and the truth will cling to you.  Have you ever noticed how smells cling to your clothes, skin and hair?  Just a few moments in a cigarette smoke filled room leaves you smelling like an ashtray.

So – if we’re going to cling to something, or have something cling to us, what would we want that thing to be?  I think that thing should be hope.  Just because our favorite princess has escaped the clinging grasp of Earth is no reason to let hope slip away.  Cling to hope like those balloons your uncle rubbed on his head and stuck to the wall at your 5th birthday party.  Defy gravity and cling to hope like that lizard on the ceiling in that cheap hotel room in Arizona.  Cling to hope like I’m clinging to my word prompt.

© 2017 Curt Savage Media


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Crashing the Creche

Many of you are prob-star-wars-crecheably familiar with the story from Chapter 2 of the Bible’s book of Luke concerning the birth of Jesus.  This has become the traditional “Christmas Story” so wonderfully portrayed in Christmas plays at churches around the world and in Charles Schulz’s first animated movie “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.  Unfortunately, the cast of characters in these plays is not entirely representative of what really happened on that Holy Night.  The mob scene on stage during the rehearsal of Charlie Brown’s Christmas play is probably a much more authentic portrayal of what Jesus’ birth place looked like than the cute little manger scenes we place under our  trees or in our front yards during Christmas.

Bethlehem was a small town in the hill country of Judah about 10km south of Jerusalem.  It was known as a place where sheep used for the common and priestly sacrifices were raised and grazed.  Most people from Bethlehem who were not involved in the sheep trades left and moved to other nearby cities where they could find other employment.  Joseph lived over 100km to the north in Nazareth.  When Governor Quirinius conducted a census, little Bethlehem swelled from several hundred residents to several thousand inhabitants.  This overwhelming influx of travelers pretty much debunks the “all is calm” assertion in the song “Silent Night”.

Roman officials and troops would have been in Bethlehem; many more of them would have arrived to provide security and administration for the Census.  “Canabae” were small city settlements that sprung up around Roman forts and camps.  The Canabae contained a large “lixae” of merchants, prostitutes, slaves and other non combatants such as cooks and other support staff.  There’s no telling how large this Canabae would have been, but I’m going to guess at least a couple thousand people.  We’re beginning to understand why there was no room at the Inn, or ANY inn for that matter.  Then; there were the animals – LOTS of animals!

The manger, or crèche (Etymology – from the Middle French and Old French words “creche or “creshe “ meaning “manger or feeding trough”) was obviously part of the story.  However, this crèche wasn’t a single feeding trough by itself in a large empty barn.  The animal pens were probably jammed full with the animals of the dignitary travelers who wouldn’t park their rides among the Canabae.  In addition, there were sacrifice lambs, doves, pigeons and oxen; a regular farm show!

Finally, we get to the figures in the crèche.  Of course, there were Joseph, Mary and Jesus, but there were no wise men with gifts.  They didn’t arrive until sometime around Jesus’ first birthday and they went to Joseph’s home, not the animal pen.  The shepherds from the fields were definitely there, but what did they do when they left?  “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” (Luke 2:17-18).  The news probably caused a near riot!  Here’s what I think the nativity scene looked like; hoards crashing the crèche – Merchants running with their carts like peddlers at a parade, camp prostitutes trying to get a look at the baby, roman soldiers investigating the cause of the commotion, animals in an uproar and at least a few heavenly guardians in the room.  The night was certainly holy, but definitely NOT silent.  Now I need to find a bunch of new figures for my nativity scene!

© 2017 Curt Savage Media

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Christmas; A Radical Approach


Have your Christmas traditions become “Same old, same old”?  Is your holly not so jolly and you tinsel totally tarnished?

The commercialization of Christmas has taken the day in a direction far from its original foundations.

There’s a word for going far away from where you’re supposed to be.  That word is “lost”.  Like getting bad directions from your GPS and arriving at the party long after the floors have been cleaned, Christmas has intentionally been sent to the mall taking us light-years away from the true celebration.

So – how do we find our way back to where we got off track?  In my experience navigating ships, when our location (or position as we called it) was in question, the first step was to ascertain our position by looking around us, looking for landmarks, looking at our radar screen and checking our sonar to determine the depth of water under us.  We would then take that gathered information to my chart table and see where it placed us on the chart (map).  If none of the observations determined (fixed) our position, step two was to slow or stop our engines until we could figure out where we were.

What does navigating ships have to do with finding Christmas?  Quite a bit actually.  Knowing where you’re supposed to be is an important part of knowing where you are – or are not.  Let me explain.  An intended course from one place to another is called a “track” in navigation.  Pencil lines are used to mark out track lines on charts.  If the position information talked about in the paragraph above doesn’t place the ship on the pencil line, then the ship is “off track”; we are where we don’t belong.  Calculations are made by the navigator to adjust course to get the ship back “on track”.

To be proficient at navigation, I needed to use a bit of geometry and algebra.  Now – what does math have to do with finding Christmas?  Aside from figuring out credit card balances and comparing sale prices, math can help us get our Christmas back “on track” to what it’s really supposed to be all about.  “Radical” in mathematics is a word (from the Latin “radix”) meaning “root”, or basis, or source.  A radical is also a datum or axis upon which everything else turns or is based.  This is where we get the “radius” of a circle – going from the outer edge to the center.

The bigger and fuller your circle of Christmas activity, the father away you can be from the center of who it’s all about.  Jesus was not only a radically different kind of individual during his earthly life, He is also the “radical” of Christmas;  the person upon which it is all based – the center of it – the root of Christmas.  If your Christmas is feeling flat, maybe you’re “off track”.  Stop and look around.  Where are you in relation to the true Spirit of Christmas?  If what you’re doing to celebrate Christmas has little to do with Christ, maybe you need to change your course.  Remember the shepherds in the fields?  They didn’t run to the marketplace to go shopping after the angels appeared over their fields. The shepherds ran with no gifts in their hands to Bethlehem to see God’s gift to the world; now that’s a radical approach to Christmas!

© 2016 Curt Savage Media

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