I’m a mathematical Einstein. More specifically, like Einstein’s mother. When she was 2.
In middle school, I whizzed through geometry. But then came algebra. When I nearly failed calculus, my dad promised I’d still become the next Gary Kasparov. It turns out, not so much. After I flicked the bird to Combinatorics and P-Chem in college, I prayed that I’d never have to “do math” again. And so it went for fifteen years. Then I met “By Hound & Eye.”
I couldn’t sleep last night, so I printed out the excerpt Chris posted. It was fast, fun and addictively satisfying. Like crack. Er, I mean Sudoku, that first time you played it. Armed with nothing more than a pen, some napkins and a pair of chopsticks, I’m now equipped to show all my art historian friends how mankind first invented that perfect 90° angle.
If, like me, you tend to think descriptively, you might want to approach By “Hound & Eye” as if it were titled “Da Vinci For Dummies” or “Shop Trignometry 101.” The entire exercise on squaring circles, pages 41-55, took me nine minutes to complete. The second time, just two minutes. So that brought my total investment to 121 minutes. Oh wait, did I forget to mention what I did for the first 110 minutes of insomnia? That’s how long it took me to find a compass.
The problem is that I’ve thrown all my compasses in the waste bin. The most recent iteration was a “Made in Germany” model by one of my favorite writing brands. I’d paid about $30 for it at a nice art store, in hopes of improving my Arabic calligraphy. But man, that compass was one of the most frustrating, imprecise, cheap-#@$ pieces of %^&@ I’ve ever purchased. I tolerated it for five years. Then last summer, after seeing my three year old draw a better circle by hand, I chucked it in the trash. It turns out globalization has brought us not only thousands of tool-like-objects, but also millions of writing-like-instruments.
So last night I spent 90 minutes scouring the house in hopes that my wife still had a cheap compass squirreled away somewhere. Turns out, I must have thrown hers away too. (Yes, I have a bad habit of burning things that don’t work. I know some people resell their junk on e-Bay, but I just can’t bring myself to pretend – even to a complete stranger – that an object that doesn’t do what it was designed to do is worth even a penny.)
Around minute 90, I started deliriously screaming expletives in the basement. I’d forgotten it was 2:15 a.m. Startled, my pregnant wife wobbled downstairs to find out what the crisis was. I explained. Confused, she asked me, “Don’t you have a bunch of those in your workshop?” “No,” I replied, “Those are dividers. A compass is like dividers but with a pencil on one side.” Still bleary eyed, she yawned for fifteen seconds, then went into my office, picked up a pencil and handed me a roll of scotch tape. I blushed.
This now-obvious solution works better than any compass I’ve ever owned. First I used a wooden pencil and the tape. Then I found that a mechanical pencil with rubber bands was even sturdier and faster to adjust. Both variants allowed me to draw the concentric circles on p. 46 on my very first try.
So, if you haven’t completed the excerpt yet, here’s my promise: it will only take you 10 minutes. That’s assuming you already have a Starrett 85. Otherwise, this exercise will take you 12 minutes, because you’ll have to first spend two minutes making your own compass.
Oh, and save some trees. Unless you want to use the excerpt as a coloring book, the only pages you’ll need to print out are pp. 46, 48, 51 and 56. Go get ‘em, Albert.
— Brian Clites, your new moderator and author of TheWoodProf.com blog