My Regret Log(-arithm)

Hate– to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest

Those definitions come courtesy of “Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary”.  Because if you’re going to spend ten bucks on a book from Barnes & Noble, you might as well grab the thickest tome you can find; one with every word possible and teeny weeny pictures.

Webster and I have a mild disagreement over the definition of “hate”.  I tend to give hate an older meaning, that it is akin to cursing something; wishing it had never existed.  When my best friend says she hates someone, I will respond, “Do you really want them to be cursed for all time?”  And yes, she hates it when I do that.

Since I lack the power to create much, I am slow to curse much.  There are very few things I will go on record as hating.  3D glasses.  Pigeons.  Hummers.  Oh, and one more thing.

Logarithm– the exponent or power to which a base number must be raised to equal a given number

Look at that phrase.  I have some meager comprehension of the concept, but even the definition makes my head spin.  I get that it all comes down to a matter of degrees.  I dislike beets.  My dislike of war is exponentially greater than my dislike of beets.  I understand that.  Once you throw in a factor has a number other than ten in the equation, and my mind is lost.

Part of it is my upbringing.  We had a nerd family.  We did not go skiing in the winter; we stayed home and read books.  We had e-mail back when Prodigy and AOL were the two main options.  (Netscape, dial-up, and baud rates were all common terms in my formative years.  Oh, ‘90s.)  By the time I was ten I had received instructions on QBasic and MS-DOS Prompt.  (Think of it as a primitive from of App-developing.  We did not have HTML coding to learn when I was young.)  The intellect way of life was for us.  We even watched educational TV on Nickelodeon.

That status continues to this day.  My father has three patents.  My family is filled with electrical engineers, actuaries, computer engineers, nurses, and aspiring forensic scientists.  College was presented as an option, but the assumption was that you would go.  Just as it was assumed that we would be skilled in the ways of mathematics.

I still remember when it hit me.  Elementary and junior high were fine.  Geometry was a little kooky.  However, having a memory for factoids served me well.  (The opposite of b plus or minus the square root of, etcetra.  Quadratic Equation- Conquered.)  However, for my final math class in high school I had Pre-Calculus.  Solid teacher, quality school, and a fancy graphic calculator could not save me from logarithms.  (I have hard enough time spelling logs, let alone executing them.)

I was sitting there in class and he was writing on the white board and I thought to myself, “Wait, what?” Happily for me and my high school grade point average, that was introduced at the very end of the spring trimester.  I passed, I was done, and I thought myself free of the blight that was math.

My senior year was free of high-concept math.  I took accounting.  I did pretty well in honors English.  Plus, I let myself have fun with three drama classes.  (I highly recommend that last part.)  I spent that last year of high school in relative academic bliss, free of obnoxious math forever.

Then college had to come along and ruin everything.

I found out that I had met most of my math requirements, but still had to take one or two more classes.  So I signed up for a course and hoped for the best.  Much to my delight, a friend from high school was in the class with me.  Of much less delight was the reappearance of the dreaded logs.  You should have seen the lump in my throat when I found out logarithms and I dueling once more.

I do not remember all the details.  I know I passed the class.  I know logs and I were both in the classroom.  I cannot imagine how I would have been able to cheat on the final exam.

But I do know that I cheated on the homework.

When I was in fourth grade or so I asked my best friend how to spell “sheriff” during a spelling quiz.  I was caught and it was addressed.  (In a perverse sort of way, it worked.  I have remembered how to spell that word ever since.)  However this math homework was the one that I think, “counted”.  It was a college assignment.  This course was being paid for, I was old enough to know what I was doing, and I did not understand what was going on.

The friend was not to blame.  He let me borrow his paper under the auspices of, “checking my work”.  This is all on me.  Again, I do not see how I could have cheated on the final exam.  But if I fudged things on my homework, would I absolutely, positively, slide-rule pointed menacingly to my temple, guarantee that I made it out of that test with my integrity in tact?  Honestly, no.

Somehow I passed.  Perhaps the log portion of the course content was only significant in my brain, not in the grading scheme.  It still plagues me though.

Not on a practical level.  Pfft, not at all.  To this day I have yet to encounter a situation that logs would have fixed.  That was part of the problem; there was no application in the real world for me.  More than a decade has passed without me even running across, or even tangent to logs.  (Or running sine or cosine for that matter.)


What bothers me is that I try to do the right thing at all times.  Thousands of comics and years of church will do that to a guy.  I try not to jaywalk, I try to keep my timesheets accurate and I try not to pocket fistfuls of twenties from the register.  My boss gives me high marks for integrity and honesty whenever I have a review.  When a customer accused me of stealing, my supervisor knew it was not true.  I work hard for that standard.

And in that course, I failed.  Sure I passed the class, I graduated on time, and I got a little piece of paper decreeing that I was a success.  But I still remember that homework in front of me that I failed.

One day I will figure out logs.  I do not need it in my life.  I do not have any great interest in the concept as an intellectual pursuit.  It is more that I want to prove to myself that I really could have figured it out if I had kept at it.  Maybe if I had asked for more help or if I had looked at more examples it would have clicked.

I was not born with an interest in Alfred Hitchcock; I had to work at it.  Jogging was not a family activity; that happened because I put forth the effort.  So why did I take the short cut in college and not try a little harder?  If I really do think I am smart, there should be some attempt to increase those capabilities.

One day the concepts of logs will get worked out in my brain and it can join the history terms I had to memorize and never use again.  (“Mercantilism- the colony is there for the benefit of the mother colony.”)  Then the reality of what I am capable of will match the claims that my degree puts forth.  I will be able to say that I can do logs.  I just will not need to.  (Shrug)

What I will not be able to say is that I never cheated or let my integrity slide.  That is something that I really do hate.

About Cosand

He's a simple enough fellow. He likes movies, comics, radio shows from the 40's, and books. He likes to write and wishes his cat wouldn't shed on his laptop.
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