Thursday, April 30, 2015

Z is for . . .

The final Mad-Cool-Math Nugget is . . . the Zollner illusion.

Image courtesy: Wikipedia

Besides making you go cross-eyed, the purpose of this optical illusion is to make your brain doubt that the diagonal lines in this image are parallel. The shorter lines set on angles mess with your perception. This illusion is named for the person who designed it: German astrophysicist Johann Karl Friedrich Zöllner. (Wikipedia)

Want to see more? Go to this Wikipedia page. I grabbed a few of my favorites to share here.

In this Simultaneous Contrast illusion, the background changes from dark grey on the left to a lighter grey on the right. Believe it or not, the bar in the middle is one shade of grey. Yes, really.

Image courtesy: Wikipedia

In this next one, focus on the black dot while you move your face closer to and then away from the screen. Don't go too fast. We don't want any broken noses. The outer rings should appear to rotate. Trippy.

Image courtesy: Wikipedia

And finally, the dancer. Is she moving clockwise or counterclockwise? The first time I saw this she seemed to switch direction after a second and danced clockwise from then on. I keep trying to see her dance counterclockwise, but my mind isn't cooperating. Typical. (I was also one of those people who saw "The Dress" as cream and gold.)

Spinning Dancer

By Nobuyuki Kayahara (Procreo Flash Design Laboratory) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

And that's all folks! Sing it with me: Now I've blogged my ABCs, next time won't you blog with me!

 It's been a blast. Thank you to all who've stopped by, commented, followed, and maybe even made off with a free download of one of my stories. Special thanks to those bloggers who kept coming back for more despite the math theme, including

Chrys Fey at Write With Fey

Nick Wilford at Scattergun Scribblings

Cold As Heaven

Rena Rocford at Doctor Faerie Godmother

Lynda Grace An Hour Away

Sarah Foster at The Faux Fountain Pen

Keith's Ramblings

Mark Coopman at Viginette's from VA (and D.C. too!)

Alex J. Cavanaugh

If I forgot anyone, my sincere apologies. See Read you next week at the IWSG!


Finally, if you missed any of the free downloads from my new collection Ursa Major And Other Stories, the price is reduced today through the month of May.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Y is for . . .

The Y Game

Image courtesy: Wikipedia

In this game, two players take turns laying chips on a triangular board. The first player to make a path that connects the three different sides wins. The winning path will form a twisted version of the letter Y, hence the name. I probably should say something about strategy since my theme this month is Mad-Cool-Math Nuggets, but nah. Not in the mood. Yesterday's blog was sufficiently mathy for several days worth of blogs.

This game caught my eye because my kids have a slightly different version. In Bingo Link you only have to forge a path between opposite sides of the hexagon. The sides are color coded red, blue, and yellow so you don't forget where you are going. The twist is that each player calls out the picture in the spot they choose to place their marker. The other players then have to find that image on their board and they get to place a marker in that spot. Maybe it could be called the I-game, for I-spy.

Image courtesy: Amazon

Bingo Link is quick to learn, but boring once you're past age 6 or 7.

What are your past or current favorite board games? This past Christmas we got Forbidden Island which is a great cooperative board game. We also love One Night Ultimate Werewolf. That one looks more like a card game than a traditional board game, but I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

X is for . . .

This month I'm posting Mad-Cool-Math Nuggets to foster an appreciation of all things mathematical. Then I'm going to teach pigs to fly.

Image courtesy: Wikicommons

X is for . . . the following problem:

Let x = 0.99999 and don't ever stop typing nines, because they will be repeating for all eternity. Wait, we can't do that. How am I going to get the proper notation on Blogger? Usually, you draw a horizontal bar on top of the first 9. But that's going to be tricky. Some places uses parenthesis, such as 0.(9). Ew.

Figulty fum. Let's just agree that 0.9999repeat will be my notation for this repeating decimal today.

So now, I will amaze you by proving that 0.9999repeat is actually equal to 1! Better than pulling a rabbit out of a hat, huh?

Here's how it's done:

Let x = 0.9999repeat

Multiply both sides by 10. In algebra, equality will hold as long as you perform the same (legal) operation to both sides of the equation. Something not legal would be division by zero. Note that multiplying 0.9999repeat by 10 looks like giving this number a little push to left. The decimal is now after the first nine instead of before it.

10x = 9.9999repeat

Now we will write 9.9999repeat as the sum of the following two numbers: (Don't freak out, this is equivalent to breaking 1.5 into the sum 1 + 0.5. No biggie.)

10x = 9 + 0.9999repeat

Next, we will perform a substitution. Since x = 0.9999repeat (go back to step one if you forgot), it is perfectly valid to rewrite the above as:

10x = 9 + x

Are you still with me? Good! Now we will subtract x from both sides of the equation. Does that seem strange? Don't worry, it will make sense in a moment.

10x - x = 9 + x - x

Do you know what 10x - x is? (Just say: 10 rabbits minus 1 rabbit leaves me . . . 9 rabbits!) So, 10x - x = 9x. Along the same vein,  x - x is zero. Nothing. Which means x - x can disappear, like magic. So the above simplifies to:

9x = 9

Now we will divide both sides by 9:

(9x)/9 = 9/9

Now 9 divided by 9 is 1. (FYI, we don't write 1x, because it looks weird. We just write x.) So on the left, the 9s "cancel", leaving us with x. On the right, we have 1. So

x = 1

Wasn't that great! Don't you love algebra! Happy dance! We started with x = 0.9999repeat at the beginning and after 3 different operations to both sides, 1 substitution, and 1 rewrite of a number into the sum of its parts, wah-la! We end up with x = 1.

Or is your reaction more like this fellow's?

Image courtesy: John Benson

No worries. The remaining Mad-Cool-Math Nuggets will be extra light. I think we may all be experiencing blog fatigue.

Monday, April 27, 2015

W is for . . .

This month I'm posting Mad-Cool-Math Nuggets.

 Image courtesy: rsteup

W is for Wald, as in Abraham Wald and a memo he wrote during WWII about damage to planes that had flown over Germany and returned. The idea for this blog comes from the article Five Statistical Problems That Will Change The Way You See The World from the site Business Insider.

As a member of a statistical research group, Wald's job was to collect data on which parts of a plane were hit the most by German fire. This information was supposed to help determine where the planes might be reinforced. So far, so good?

Now Wald found more bullet or flak damage to the fuselage and fuel systems than to the engines, so guess which parts he recommended to reinforce?

The fuselage and fuel system, right? No! Here's the twist: He was collecting data from planes that had returned, not the ones that were shot down. So Wald reasoned that the fuselage and fuel system could handle serious damage from bullets and return, while the engines could not. In other words, the returned planes showed little damage to the engines because the engines that did sustain serious damage never made it back.

Smart fellow.

This kind of statistical research in WWII was the beginning of Operations Research, which uses techniques from other mathematical sciences, such as mathematical modelingstatistical analysis, and mathematical optimization, to get optimal or near-optimal solutions to complex decision-making problems. (Wikipedia) That was a mouthful, wasn't it?

Here is some information about the plane in the image above from the photographer:

A beautiful C-47 at the 2009 Geneseo, NY air show. This aircraft originally served with the 12th Air Force in the Mediterranean Theater in 1943 and the 9th Air Force in England 1944-1945 as part of the 316th Troop Carrier Group. It was one of the lead aircraft of the first strike of the D-Day invasion on June 6th, 1944. More info at

Impressive! Coincidentally, Geneseo is practically next door to where I live, Rochester, NY.


You can download my novella, Ghosts of a Beneficial Place, for free today. It's about a mom juggling the stress of family, job, and a child with autism.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

V is for . . .

This month I'm posting Mad-Cool-Math Nuggets.

V is for Venn diagrams which are named for John Venn who dreamed these up around 1880. Today these pictures showing relationships between a finite number of sets are used in probability, logic, statistics, computer science, linguistics, and humor. (Wikipedia) Versatile little buggers, aren't they?

Here's your basic, 2 set model with a nonzero intersection (well, kind of):

Image courtesy: Mike Atherton

Each circle represents a set. Set A contains people who are alive. Set B contains people who are pushing up daises. The intersection (those alive and dead at the same time) contain zombies. But you knew that already.

Here is a Venn diagram with three sets. (Those of you who might take offense at irreverent humor, please skip past this image. If I could blot out the word "mindless" I would.)

Have you ever thought of the connections between popular supernatural beings in fiction and religious supernatural beings before? It's kind of interesting actually.

 Image courtesy: Frantisek Fuka

Okay, you're past the potentially offensive part. Keep in mind that sets do not have to intersect at all.

Image courtesy: Bernard Goldbach

It is also possible for one set to be entirely contained in another. Let A be the set of books you wrote. Let B be the set of bestselling books. In a perfect world, the circle represented by A would sit completely inside the circle represented by B. For those of us that are still aspiring, the intersection of A and B remains empty. Alas.


Interested in a free story with a hint of the supernatural? You can download Ghosts of a Beneficial Place through Monday for free.

I got the idea for this story from biking by a gazebo sitting next to an abandoned restaurant and thinking about how a haunting in books and movies is usually scary. The haunted place is the site of a murder or perhaps an insane asylum. Strong negative emotions stick to the place like glue. Well, could you have a beneficial haunting in a place where the emotions experienced were ones of joy? Where would that place be? How about a gazebo that held hundreds of celebrations like weddings, baby showers, and birthdays over the years?

Friday, April 24, 2015

U is for . . .

This month I'm posting Mad-Cool-Math Nuggets to foster an appreciation for all things mathematical. (Because becoming a published author of fiction wasn't challenging enough. (Insert sarcasm mark here. Did that ever happen by the way?)) Am I using parenthesis way too much? I think yes.

 Image courtesy: Ludie Cochrane

Okay, U is for unknown or variable. Is it just me, or should eighth grade algebra be renamed: The Quest for X? I mean, that's all I remember. Solve for x. Find x. Quadratic equations. Word problems. Every single time there was a variable whose value was unknown, we called it x. Maybe we should have used u for unknown or v for variable, but we didn't.

Why x? Well, it's not used as much in English compared to other letters. Using "a" could potentially be confusing since "a" is also a word. So what's up?

To the internet!

Guess what? There is a reason we use "x"! According to this article by LiveScience , an ancient Arabic algebra text from 820 A.D. used the word "thing" for variable. For example, 4 things equals 20 for scholars waaay back when would become 4X = 20 for kids today with a solution of "things" being 5 or X = 5 (because 4 times 5 is 20).

The Arabic word for "thing" was šay'. (Don't even think of asking for a pronunciation.) In the translation to Old Spanish, šay' became xei, which was later abbreviated to "x". Aha. Mystery solved.

Seen this image? You can get t-shirts or posters bearing this joke.

Image courtesy: Brandon I.

As a math professor, I would have viewed this as pathetic. The student just didn't study. But as a writer, I gotta give the student credit (or partial credit at least). The problem did not say "solve" or "find the value of" ; it said "find". Word choice matters, peeps. Am I right?


From today through Monday, you can download my novella, Ghosts of a Benevolent Place, for free. Here's a blurb:

Having an autistic child is plenty challenging. Now throw in a teenager, a perpetually traveling husband, and a full time job. Audrey Ericsson has it all and then some. One day, by a little gazebo on a forgotten stretch of Lake Ontario, Audrey meets Gloria, whose husband Winston suffers from Alzheimer's. The unlikely friendship that blossoms between Ian and Winston is nothing short of miraculous to Audrey. When Ian begins to spell out words with rocks on the beach, Audrey is first thrilled, then puzzled, and eventually frightened. Are the mysterious stone messages from Ian, Winston, or something else entirely? (Approx. 74 pages)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

T is for . . .

This month I'm posting Mad-Cool-Math Nuggets.

T is for tangent. Writers and/or their characters go off on tangents all the time, meaning we pursue a somewhat related or irrelevant course while neglecting the main subject. (The Free Dictionary) Take my character, Audrey Ericsson. She goes off on tangents all the time, but it's too be expected since she suffers from ADHD. And her son has autism. And boy, this has totally morphed into an advert for my new short story.

See what I did there? I went off on a tangent.

So what's a mathematical tangent? A tangent line touches a curve at one point without cutting across the curve (at that point). Imagine I ask you to balance a long spike on your head. Hopefully, you would opt to lay it somewhat horizontally on top of your head and not stab it into your skull. Same idea.

A tangent line can and often does intersect a curve at some other point as seen below. (Math is fun.) That's the source, but also a true statement. For some people. People like me who like math and can't stop going off on tangents. Gotcha!

Image source: Wikicommons

In this image, the red line is tangent to the black curve at the red dot (not where the red line crosses the black curve).

Lines can be tangent to circles too. Circles can be tangent to other circles. Planes can be tangent to spheres. It all happens the same way: the two items in question touch at one point.

Keep in mind that you can draw a tangent line at any point along a continuous curve. The video below shows many tangent lines to various points along a curve. The green lines are tangents with a positive slope (going up), the red lines signify a tangent with a negative slope (going down), and the black lines happen when the slope of the tangent line is zero (also known as a horizontal line.)

Is it just me, or does this look like someone riding a roller coaster while carrying a vaulting pole? Wheee! And speaking of roller coasters . . .

Graph of sliding derivative line

Source: By en:User:Dino (English Wikipedia) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


If you want to know more about Audrey Ericcson, stop by from tomorrow (4/24) through Monday (4/27) for a free download of the novella Ghosts of a Benevolent Place.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

S is for . . .

This month I'm posting Mad-Cool-Math Nuggets.

S is for Sphere Inversion. I got the idea for this blog from 5 Seriously Mind-Boggling Math Facts on the site Live Science.

Here's the question: Can you turn a sphere inside out without tearing it and will the result still be a sphere?

The answer is yes, and here is a YouTube video from UnexpectedLogin showing what that would look like:

Kind of like watching a lava lamp isn't it? The cool part? According to the Live Science article, the person who proved this, topologist Bernard Morin, was blind.

What's topology, you ask? It involves the mathematical study of shapes and the properties of space that are preserved by stretching and bending, but not tearing or gluing. (Wikipedia.) So for the sphere inversion above, it had to be done without tearing the sphere or poking a hole in it.

Ever heard of topology? Like lava lamps?

Yesterday, I blogged about Benford's Law and how in a seemingly random group of numbers, the first digit is more likely to be a 1, then a 2, and so on. In our very small collection of data we got the numbers: 148, 1809, 239, 306, and 7. So that seems to hold! (Kinda, sort of, maybe).


I got an email from my editor and it looks like I'll be doing one more freebie this month from 4/24 until 4/27. Stop by for details on Friday. Or tomorrow, because I be babbling, rambling, and being quite silly on tangents.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

R is for . . .

I'm posting Mad-Cool-Math Nuggets for the A to Z Challenge.

Image courtesy: Wikicommons

R is for random data. I got the idea for this blog from 5 Seriously Mind-Boggling Math Facts on the LiveScience website.

Consider all the street addresses in the United States, or the lengths of all the rivers in the world, or stock prices. What will the first digit of these numbers be? A random collection of the nine nonzero digits? Surprisingly not!

For many large collections of numbers, you will see that more of them start with the digit 1 than any other digit--about 30%. The next largest group will start with the digit 2, and so it goes down to 5% of the numbers starting with the digit 9. See the graph above.

You can read more about Benford's Law here. Large sets of numbers that do not follow Benford's law do exist, such as telephone numbers.

Want to try a little test of Benford's law? If you aren't worried about security, put the number of your street address in the comments below. Any street address number will do: home, work, school, favorite bar. I'll start: 249.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Q is for . . .

I'm posting Mad-Cool-Math Nuggets this month.

Image courtesy: Gabrielle

Q is for quadrilateral or a four-sided polygon with four angles. Some common quadrilaterals include rectangles, squares, and parallelograms.

I bet you know what rectangles and square are. Heck, you might even be square, like me. In a parallelogram, like the name implies, the opposite sides must be parallel and equal in length.

One interesting fact about quadrilaterals is that no matter what kind you draw, you can connect the midpoints to make a parallelogram. (Source: The Twelve Most Controversial Facts in Mathematics from The Business Insider)

Here's an example from Wikipedia:

Image courtesy: Wikicommons

In this picture, the black lines going from A to B to C to D form the grey quadrilateral. The midpoints are E, F, G, and H. The red lines between these midpoints form the red parallelogram in the middle.


Did you take geometry in school? Like it? Hate it? For me, ninth grade geometry was special because the teacher turned out to be the mom of my best friend in kindergarden.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

P is for . . .

This month I'm posting Mad-Cool-Math Posts in an attempt to foster an appreciation for mathematics. (Talk about an uphill battle.)

Image courtesy: NASA's Marshal Space Flight Center

P is for probability. I demonstrated how to calculate probability from odds in yesterday's blog, so today I'm keeping things light. It's Saturday after all. So here's a fun little quiz on the probability of some unlikely events:

Which is more likely?

1. Being struck by lightening or attacked by a shark? ___________

2. Being crushed to death by a vending machine or becoming President of the United States? ____

3. Driving into a deer--in Hawaii vs. having conjoined twins? ___________

I'll just hum Dumb Ways To Die while you consider these scintillating questions. (Not that all of these events necessarily imply death, mind you.)

Okay, ready for the answers?

1. The odds you will be struck by lightning sometime in your life: 1 in 12,000. (CNN)

Odds of being attacked by a shark: 1 in 11.5 million. (Discovery News)

Lightning storms are much more dangerous than sharks. According to the internet, about 5 people are killed by sharks in a year, while 100 million sharks are killed by people annually. Who's scary? We are.

2. Odds of being crushed to death by a vending machine: 1 in 112 million (Discovery News)

Odds of becoming President of the US: 1 in 10 million (Source)

For some reason, this seems counterintuitive. I guess it's because the use and abuse of vending machines involves millions of people every second of every day, while one person is elected President once every four years in the US. Despite the low odds, please don't rock one of these machines if your candy bar doesn't drop. Around 13 people die this way each year. But do rock the vote.

3. Odds of hitting a deer while driving in Hawaii: 1 in 6267 (Source)

Odds of having conjoined twins: 1 in 200,000 (Source)

This might be the easiest to get correct even if you weren't aware that Hawaii has deer. These animals were introduced in the 1860s as a gift from Hong Kong. Since then they have made their way to several of the islands, destroying vegetation as they go. (Source)

Do you have phobias about unlikely events such as sharks, plane crashes, or fatal spider bites? Do the statistics make you feel any better?

Friday, April 17, 2015

O is for . . .

This month I'm posting Mad-Cool-Math Nuggets.

Image courtesy: mkw87

O is for Odds.

Odds are used in statistics and in gambling. I'll take a wild guess and assume you'd find gambling more fun, so I'll stick to that for this discussion.

Let's start with probability. If you roll a single die, there are 6 possible outcomes. So the probability of rolling a 2, for example, is one-sixth or 16.67 %.

In betting odds, we look at this example a little differently. The odds of rolling a 2 are said to be 5/1, read "5 to 1". Why 5 and 1? Because there are 5 ways the outcome we want will not happen (rolling a 1, 3, 4, 5 or 6) and 1 way the outcome we want (rolling a 2) will happen. This is known as fractional odds, and you can use these two numbers to calculate the same probability of rolling a 2. Here's how:

The probability of an event with A/B odds is B / (A + B). In this case, the probability, or odds, of rolling a 2 is 1 / (5 + 1) = 1 / 6 = 16.67 %.

Fabulous. So how does this work with money? Bet $M on an event with A/B odds. If you win, you get M x (A/B) dollars plus your original $M back. (If you lose, say bye-bye to your $M.)

Bet me $1 that I will roll a 2 on my handy-dandy die, an event with 5/1 odds. If I roll a 2, you win, and you get 1 x (5/1) = 1 x 5 = 5 dollars, plus your original $1 back. Squee! (Don't spend it all in one place.)

If you bet $8 on the same event and win, you get 8 x (5/1) = 8 x 5 = 40 bucks plus your original $5 back.

Ready to hit Vegas? Well, maybe not. The example above is a fair game, statistically speaking. If we were to play enough times, you would win about as much money as you would lose, and so would I. Neither one of us would make a profit. In Vegas, casinos need to make money to stay in business.

Remember Hunger Games and the saying "May the odds be ever in your favor"? Yeah, right. That didn't work out so well for the players. All but one bit the dust. The same holds in Vegas. The odds are definitely in the casinos' favor, by design.

Ever been to Vegas? Play the lotto?


Would you like to download a free short story about a odd woman? One who believes she witnessed the assassination of the President? Click on over here for a copy of The President and the Pea.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

N is for . . .

The Null Set

Image courtesy: Thomas Guignard

Okay, break's over. Time to get back to some Mad-Cool-Math Nuggets. Today we're going to delve into the wonderful world of set theory and achieve instant literary success in the process. Ready?

To define a mathematical set, think of all the books in your house. Each book is an element in the collection, or set, known as your library. We'll call this set L. Pick out your favorites and you have a subset of your library we could call F. Pick out the ones you've read more than once and make another subset called R (for repeat).

It's possible F = R, meaning every favorite has been read more than once and every book read more than once is a favorite.

Maybe your particular R is empty, meaning you never read a book more than once. In that case R would be an example of a null set, denoted {}. Another name for this is the empty set.

(If you hate to read and have no books then, like the image above, your L = {}. That, in my opinion, would be a sad null set indeed.)

Null sets, or sets that contain no elements, can be a little weird. They are a subset of every set you can think of, which means they must be a subset of themselves.

Say what? Let's go back to your library, the set L, whether it's empty or not. Consider the books written by my cat as a set called C. I love my cat, but she hasn't written any books. She doesn't even stand on my keyboard to type lsdkghkdjgsl. She's too busy sleeping in my bed all day. So the set C is empty or C = {}.

For C to be a subset of L, every book in C must be in L. Conversely, if C is not a subset of L, then there must be some book in C that is not in L. That's impossible, because C is empty and has no books. So C is a subset of L. (That, my friends, was a proof by contradiction. We mathy folk are tricksy, no?)

Have I blown your mind or bored you to sleep? I do apologize, but I did promise literary success, so let's get to it. Since a null set is a subset of every set, then I can say, without lying, that the set of my published novels is a subset of the books on the New York Times Bestseller List. I can also say that my published novels make a subset of the books that won the Pulitzer. How? Because the set of novels that I have published is a null set. Ta da!

Care to share something about your library set L? Is your subset of digital books bigger or smaller than your subset of paper books?


Want to read something with no math involved, including a price? Feel "free" to download my sci-fi short short, The President and the Pea. The only confusing part is the unreliable narrator. Did Annette Hutchins really witness the assassination of the President of the United States? Or is she mental?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

M is for . . .

The Monty Hall Problem

Image source: Wikipedia Commons

This math problem is dear to my heart because I distinctly remember where I was and what I was doing when the solution came: driving up one of those tight, cloverleaf, exit ramps off a highway. I couldn't wait to get home to write it down.

This problem gets its name from the original host of the TV game show, Let's Make a Deal, where a player faces three doors, two of which hide booby prizes and one hides something worth winning. Here 'tis:

"Suppose you're on a game show, and you're given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1, and the host, who knows what's behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, "Do you want to pick door No. 2?" Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?" (Wikipedia)

What do you think? You've picked a door. After that, the host shows you that one of the two doors you didn't pick hides a booby prize. You could stick with your first choice or switch. Seems a fifty-fifty chance now, doesn't it? But that's where the math comes in.

The answer is that you should always switch. In fact, you have a 2/3 chance of winning the car if you do switch and only a 1/3 chance of winning if you don't. Surprised?

Here's the key: At the beginning, when you selected one door out of the three, you probably picked the wrong one. Why? With 2 goats and 1 car, random picking means there's a 2/3 chance you picked a goat. Therefore, odds are the car will be yours if you switch.

Cool, huh?

Do you (or did you ever) watch game shows? Would you prefer a goat over a car?


This week's short story giveaway, The President and the Pea, features a sci-fi tale inspired by The Manchurian Candidate.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

L is for . . .

Logarithm  Liebster Award.

I was going to do logarithms today as my Mad-Cool-Math Nugget, but then I got nominated for a Liebster Award from Harry Potter fan, Mithila Menezes, over at fabulous 1710. So I say, screw the math lesson, let's have a little fun. Besides, it would have been a nightmare to work with the notation for logs in Blogger anyway.

This award involves answering 11 questions and then nominating 11 people to answer your 11 questions, and so on, like a chain letter. Here are the questions Mithila posed to me:

1. Give me one word which describes you.


2. Which is your favorite blog post to date that you wrote.

Safe Sex: Penguin Style because of the snappy title. Snort! That one was also an award/question blog. I'd totally forgotten that! How bizarre, how bizarre.

3. What is the one thing that you have to do every day?

Read, exercise, and sleep are high on my list, but I also have two kids and two cats that expect to be fed and given buckets and buckets of attention. The husband? He’s learned to fend for himself.

4. Which is your favorite quote?

The one at the top of my blog. It describes my life perfectly and that is a shame.

5. What is the one thing that you would love to do before you die?

Find the key to immortality? Sorry, couldn’t help myself. Um, I won’t tell you that, but I would be quite jazzed to get a novel published.

6. Which do you prefer – Chocolate or cheese?

Come on! You are killing me here. If I were at The Melting Pot (a fondue restaurant), it would be cheese. If I were anywhere else: chocolate.

7. Give me one word in the dictionary that you would love to remove and the reason why.

A truly odd question. Why would a writer give away any words, no matter how foul? I suppose I’d chuck “very” because according to the rules of good writing, it’s not allowed anyway.

8. If you had a choice between love, riches, fame, or intelligence, which one would you select and why?

If I pick love, I will attract the adoration of a crazed assassin who will remove my heart with an ice pick. If I pick riches, I’ll turn into a miser. If I pick fame, I’ll be really irritated because, for me, camera flashes trigger migraines. Is intelligence safe? Not exactly. Then I'll be keenly aware of all I don’t have. THIS IS A TRICK QUESTION!

Okay, I’ll pick love.

9. If you had the opportunity to change your blog name, what would you change it to?

Steven King

10. Name your favorite blogger.

Tough one. Does the IWSG (Insecure Writer’s Support Group) count?

11. Which do you prefer: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn? Why?

I have a LinkedIn account, but rarely use it. I set up a Twitter account, but have long since forgotten the password. Look, I’m doing well just getting Blogger to load here. Give a Luddite a break!

Here are my 11 suckers nominees:

1. The Un-lost Wanderer

2. Patricia Lynne, Independent Author

3. After the Honeymoon

4. V. L. Jennings

5. Joanne Faries

6. Lynda Grace An Hour Away

7. Sharon Marie Himsl

8. Mamajenna says it

9. Cold-As-Heaven

10. Two Shoes In Texas

11. Doctor Faerie Godmother

If your blog is on that list, here is your mission, should you choose to accept it. (If you are interested but are too busy with the A to Z Challenge, don't feel you have to participate right away. There is no deadline.)

1. Link back to the person/blog who nominated you. (That would be me.)

2. Answer the 11 questions given to you by the person who nominated you. (Also me.)

3. Comment on this post with your link when you are done. (Seeing as we are in the middle of A to Z, you can comment on whatever post of mine is currently up if you'd rather, but I would like to see your answers when you're ready.)

4. Nominate 11 bloggers with under 200 followers, and give them 11 questions of your choice.

5. Remember to notify your nominees of their nomination and provide a link to your post.

6. Grab the Liebster badge and display if proudly on your blog. (Optional)

Here are the questions for my nominees:

1. What are you reading now?

2. Who is your favorite author?

3. What book would you like to see made into a movie?

4. Hate snow or love snow?

5. What television series, if any, are you addicted to?

6. Best vacation spot is . . .

7. Have you ever run into a celebrity? If so, dish. If not, who would you like to meet?

8. Which well-known authors have you met or would you like to meet?

9. If you could go back in time and change one thing, would you? What would it be?

10. Is blogging still relevant or will Twitter/Facebook/Other eventually replace it?

11. Complete this sentence: The best thing I've ever written . . .

Thank you Mithila, that was fun! Feel free to let loose with your answers to any of these questions in the comments below whether you were nominated or not.


This week I'm giving away a free download of my short story, The President and the Pea. This sci-fi piece was based on a nightmare I had about President Obama, broken eggs, and the "Soda Ban" that tried to limit soft drink cup size in NYC. What can I say? My subconscious is a strange place. I did replace Obama with a future, Spanish-speaking president so as not to excite Big Brother anyone at the NSA or Homeland Security. Not that I'm paranoid. Really.

Monday, April 13, 2015

K is for . . .

I'm posting Mad-Cool-Math nuggets this month.

Image courtesy: Seb Ruiz

K is for kite.

I know, that doesn't sound particularly mathy, does it? As you go through the A to Z challenge, there will come a letter that will stump you, especially if you have a theme. In math, there are letters for which the topics are bare to nonexistent, and the worst is K. (Second worst? J)  I don't know why, but there's a dearth of madly cool math topics starting with K, or ones which I dare to tackle for a general audience.

So what I have for you is a mathy definition of a kite: a quadrilateral with two pairs of adjacent, congruent sides. Hey, at least the picture's nice.

Quadrilateral: four-sided polygon with four angles, you know, like a square or rectangle.

Adjacent: Here that means touching. Notice how the two shorter sides touch each other at the top corner and the two longer sides touch each other at the bottom corner.

Congruent: identical in form. In the kite above, the top two, shorter sides are equal in length, as are the lower, longer two sides.

What letter has or is going to be difficult for you this month? Q? Z? Ever fly a kite?


This week, I'm offering another free short story to download called The President and the Pea.

Sixty-something Annette Hutchins has her quirks. She abhors eggs and never drinks anything red. But those oddities pale in comparison to the secret she's been forced to keep for years. Annette witnessed the assassination of the President of the United States. Or did she? Approx. 35 pages (8,800 words)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

J is for . . .

Ready for today's Mad-Cool-Math nugget?

J is for jump discontinuity.

Here is a picture of a nice, smooth continuous function:

Image courtesy: Wikicommons

Compare that unbroken, blue swoop to this choppy, blue step function, which hops up at every number leaving a gap. Such a break is called a jump discontinuity.

Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

This particular step function is called a floor function. We've got two axes here: the horizontal x-axis and the vertical y-axis. Where x = 0, you see a solid blue dot. That means y = 0 there too. Where x = 0.5, y still equals 0. Where x = 0.9, y is still 0, and so on until you get to x = 1. Then the y value jumps up to 1 too.

Similarly, when x = 1.2 or 1.4 or 1.8 or 1.99999, the corresponding y is 1. Then when x = 2, y jumps from 1 up to 2.

What kind of kooky person uses something like this? You do, every time someone asks your age. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

I is for . . .

This month I'm posting Mad-Cool-Math nuggets.

 Image courtesy: m.a.r.c.

I is for infinity.

Infinity is not a number. It is an idea, one of an endless, boundless, never-ending . . . something.

It's bigger than all the grains of sand on all the beaches on earth. It's bigger than all the stars in the universe. So if you try to think of infinity as a really big number consider this: a Googol (no, I didn't misspell Google, whoever came up with our favorite search engine did the misspelling) is a 1 followed by 100 zeros.

A Googol is bigger than all the elementary particles in the known universe. (Math is Fun) But it is not the biggest number, because you can have more than a hundred zeros after a 1; you can have a Googol of zeros! That's a Googolplex, which sounds like a good place to see a lot of movies. And that isn't the biggest number either. You can't ever get to the biggest number, because if you did, you could add 1 to it. There is no biggest number. There is infinity.

One of the cool things about infinity is that even though it's not a number, there are different sizes of infinity. Yes, you read that right. Think of the natural numbers starting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and so on. These numbers will never end. They are infinite, but you can count them, so that size of infinity is called countable.

Compare the natural numbers to real numbers. Real numbers include the natural numbers, plus all the decimals like 1/2, 1/4, the square root of 2, and pi. Between the natural numbers 1 and 2 alone, there are an infinite number of real numbers! You can't count the real numbers, so they are called uncountable. Wild, huh?

So next time you watch one of Disney's Toy Story movies and Bud Lightyear says, "To infinity and beyond!", go ahead and call Bud an idiot. You can't go beyond that which has no end. Or can you?


Today is the last day to download my novella, Ursa Major, for free. This is a coming-of-age tale based on a nightmare I had about the woods, a freak September snowstorm, and a bear. Tune in next week for a different give away.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

H is for . . .

I'm posting Mad-Cool-Math nuggets this month.

H is for a Hamiltonian Graph.

There is a branch of mathematics called Graph Theory and, in this case, graphs are not bar graphs or line graphs. They look like a bunch of dots, some of which are connected by lines. Dots are called vertices and the lines are called edges. You're learning college-level math now, isn't it awesome?

Don't get too excited. This type of math is done in kindergarten classes all the time. How? Well, in a Hamiltonian Graph, you can forge a path along the edges that will pass through each of the vertices exactly once. Ready?

Make a Hamiltonian path for this graph:

Image courtesy: Science Kids

Congratulations! I knew you could do it.


Two more days to go on the free download of the novella Ursa Major. Response has been good, so thank you. And next week? There will be a different freebie. Stop by then for details.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

G is for . . .

This month I'm doing Mad-Cool-Math Nuggets to spread the word that math is more than arithmetic.

Image courtesy: FrodOx

G is for Graphs With Benefits. Whoa! Who knew, right?

This title comes from the article The Twelve Most Controversial Facts In Mathematics on the website Business Insider. One of those twelve facts is that your friends are probably more popular, on average, than you, which means they probably have more, um, notches on their bedpost than you, if you get my drift. It also means their blogs have more followers as will their Twitter accounts--something to keep in mind as you flit from blog to blog during this challenge.

As an introvert, this doesn't surprise me in the least. Of course my friends have more friends than me. But what if you don't consider yourself an introvert? What's going on?

The Business Insider article (link above) is quick and easy to follow, but I know you're busy, so the key here is your super-extroverted pal or pals. (Alex Cavanaugh, I'm looking at you. Or Mini-Alex. Isn't that scavenger hunt a blast?)

Anyway, as soon as you know (or hook up) with one of these super-popular folks, it skews the average number of friends of your friends (with or without benefits) above the number of your friends. Got it?

No? Okay, here's a little example. Say you have 3 friends, Mike, Amy, and Joe. Mike has 3 friends, Amy has 1 friend (you), and Joe has 20 friends. So the average number of friends of your friends is (3+1+20)/3 = 8. And 8 is more than your 3 friends.

So which are you? The introvert with a few friends or the extrovert behind this mathematical phenomena?


This week, I'm giving away one of my short stories, Ursa Major, for free. It takes place in a small, Maine town, the main character is a social outcast, and there's a fantasy element involving bears. The author most likely to have influenced this work is

(a) Stephen King
(b) Salmon Rushdie
(c) Margaret Mitchell

Thanks for playing!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

F is for . . .

Image courtesy: new 1illuminati

Fractals: a natural phenomenon or a mathematical set that exhibits a repeating pattern that displays at every scale. (Wikipedia) You can find them in frost, lightening, and even broccoli. They're in our DNA, used for computer graphics, and in cornrow braids.

Can you identify these natural fractals?

Image courtesy: Mr and Mrs Apteryx australis

Image courtesy: Alexey Kljatov

Image courtesy: Ivan Turkouski


FYI: The title story from Ursa Major And Other Stories is available this week to download for free.

Something with a heavy gait and a taste for donuts lurks in the woods behind Josh Surrel's new house in Caribou, Maine. Not that he has much time to worry about it. As the new kid in school, he's got to figure out quickly whether to join the outcasts or the bullies, if he's got the guts to speak to the prettiest girl in ELA, and the answers to his hideous math homework before he lands in detention. Yet when everything goes wrong, these problems become meaningless. Josh finds himself alone in the dark, freezing in a freak September snow storm, searching for the one thing he's most afraid of . . . 

Approx. 83 pages* (21K words)