July 12th, 2006

nerd heart: epsilon greater than

My reply to a post in mathematics, or why I like math so much


Some non-mathematically inclined people have been taught that problems in math (from their experience) have one and only one solution that can be obtained by the "plug and chug" method. As we know so well, though, this method fails over time. I've discovered that the more I learn about math, the less I know about it. It's an adventure of sorts. I often start by introducing long-unsolved (or still unsolved!) problems that non-mathematicians can understand: Goldbach's Conjecture, Fermat's Last Theorem, Continuum Hypothesis (this one requires a little background, but not much), and so on. There's no plug-and-chug method for finding these solutions. It involves exploring previously unknown areas, making your own mark, a willingness to go beyond what you already know without a clutch--just like in any other area of life. When you do, though, the abstractness is beautiful.
In other news, tonight I shall attempt cooking a full meal for the first time. I should probably start slicing and dicing those onions. Remember, Sujin, they're not made of smiles. They're NOT made of smiles.

To the kitchen!

The First Time in the Kitchen

Well, the kitchen and I are both intact.

I started by dicing onions so I wouldn't have to think about it later. Thing the First I learned about cooking on my own: Whatever anyone tells me, Vidalia onions still cause slightly watery eyes. Of course, this could also be attributed to my innate wimpiness when it comes to such things, but I'm not going to think like that. So I chopped up the onions until I had what I needed. Okay, I cheated and didn't chop enough, but that's because I don't fancy onions that much, my love of onion rings aside.

Then I browned the meat. I've done this before for spaghetti and tacos (although I haven't had to do everything else for these meals), so this was nothing new. I did, however, have to drain the meat so I could mix some seasonings in it. I was almost ready to pour the fat down the sink when I heard a small voice in my head. Mum's voice. "When you drain the meat, don't pour the fat down the sink," she had told me last night. Then I saw the drainer, and it dawned on me. That's why she left it there. So I spooned all the meat into it and let it drain while having some can opener action.

First, I should explain that we have one of those pocket can openers, and for ages I couldn't figure out how to use it. I can now, but every now and then the can slips on me, and I have to start all over with that can. There I was, opening eight cans of assorted vegetables (three cans of assorted tomatoes, two cans of corn, three cans of assorted beans) and stirring the seasonings (taco seasoning and ranch dressing seasoning--it was so good) at the same time so I could get everything in the pot and cooking sooner. It was multitasking at its finest.

Finally everything was in the pot. Then I had quite the important question. What temperature was "simmer"? Yes, I know it sounds like a stupid question, but for me it was quite an important one, so it wasn't stupid at all. I called Grandmother and asked. She told me it was "as low as you can go." I turned the stove on low, but then I thought, "Doesn't that just keep stuff warm?" I didn't think anything of it until Mum came in half an hour later. She took a peek at my creation and told me that it wasn't cooking because it was on low, although she could smell it upon entering the house. So I let it boil before turning it back down.

That was Thing n+1. I stopped keeping track by then. It did cook, though, and we ate soon after Dad came in. It was good. Amazingly good, in fact. To be more accurate, it was so good that Mum and Dad want me to cook more often, and since Mum's boss is going on holiday next week, I'll probably have to.

Remember the ingredients I listed? I had made enough soup to feed everyone on my road. Then again, only ten people live on my road. Mum and I took some soup and strawberry pie (that's a story in itself) to Uncle Pat's so he could revel in my first real time in the kitchen. While we were there, Mum and I put together a stool that had come in for him that day. He too said that I had done well.
So that was my cooking experience. By the way, I still have gobs of soup left. Anyone want some?