Bylines and Timelines: What Are The Chances


I push open the empty, red foil while the smooth, dark richness of a Dove Dark Promise oozes in my mouth. The inside of the wrapper says simply, “Never settle.” I quickly interpret this to mean I should get back to work. The chocolate treat ended a quick lunch break from working on our latest Farm and Dairy cookbook. I use great finesse in putting off work, and with our cookbook deadline bearing down on me, my adrenaline pumps steadily stronger.

Although everything is well organized and falling into place at last, I’m going over it all with my fine-toothed red pen, polishing it up for you. I’m pleased with our book; I think you will be, too.

My quiet concentration is disturbed as the front door opens with a muffled explosion of footsteps and girls’ excited voices. Kathie retreats to her cluttered room, no doubt to loll and listen to music. She takes after her mom – we’re slobs with our stuff. Josie, our organization whiz, begins tidying her room and runs the vacuum (only in her room, of course; the whole house could do with a sweep). I ask them how much homework they have and tell them to get started.

I stop tapping my keyboard to make supper. Mark lets the dog run (she’s tied most of the time) and fixes a loose cable connected to the north of the house that rap-tap-taps when it’s windy and disturbs Kathie at night since it’s outside her window.

When I check on the girls’ progress, Kathie transports me to Mesopotamia, the fertile crescent of 2500 B.C. She looks at a timeline in her book; Babylon conquered Ninevah around 611 B.C. They are learning the geography of the area in that era (try this one: “The arid area of the era has eroded.”). She shows me a picture in the book. Use of the wheel began at this time in this vicinity. The illustration of an early wheel looks (without my glasses) like a large chunk of gingerbread (or maybe half a brick).

Josie is sprawled on her futon working on math – a course they call “Double Block”; it counts as two credits and takes two class periods a day. It covers function, statistics, and trigonometry combined with pre-calculus. Jo knows she can’t consult me – I went no further than geometry. She tells me that the probability of winning megamillions by getting five numbers with the megaball is 1 in 135,145,920. I can accept this; I don’t play the lottery.

Jo worked the letters M-I-L-K on her paper just like the Jumble word games her grandma always played in the daily Vindicator. “Is that math?” I ask.

“I’m arranging the letters into as many possible combinations as I can.” she says. “It has to do with probability.” I wonder what the probability is that I cook a supper, do dishes, finish laundry, plan Farm and Dairy family pages for next week, and write a column before bedtime (not to mention the cookbook). I’ll have better chances with the lottery.

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