## straight line

don bequeathed me an assignment, specifying that i should assume a growth rate that would double th population each year. i added some crucial new theory to th middle of th project, in two places developing new formulas that were significant advances. he praised my completed work, but focused exclusively on th portions that he had sought to have done, asking why i had not added a graph of th population numbers

i was explaining it to another colleague and to ross, but spent too much time on background explanations to th major new formulas i had worked out, before they were called to appointments. i walked with ross to his car, telling him i wanted to at least mention th graph don had requested, which i found mildly amusing because . . . and ross himself completed my thought, that i would have done th graph on a lognormal scale. and that on that scale, numbers representing a rate that doubled th population every year would of course simply be . . . and again ross completed th thought, waving his hand upward to represent th simple straight line that th graph would show

as he left, i reiterated to several other colleagues how curious it felt that it might be expected that my project might somehow be enhanced by a graph with just an obvious straight line. i pointed out that normal population growth would be more like a few percentage points at most, maybe even flat for some places, that a rate that would double population every year would stack th earth several people deep within 17 years, to which one of my colleagues quipped that stacking all th people would only make th growth rate worse

i stopped by a classroom where i wanted to tackle a formula that had stumped everyone else, figuring that my work on th special extra formulas for don’s assignment would carry over to this one. given its reputation, i thought this new formula would be quite difficult, but gathering up th terms as i walked from th classroom, i realized that th final two components could be reconfigured so that they could be combined, then simplified, and that then th entire formula could be solved via th quadratic equation, complex even then, but still solvable

i went down to where th cruise ship was loading up luggage for our trip back home after th close of th semester. my own luggage remained as misplaced as guilt. th university president’s wife was with a group of women at a nearby booth, so i thought she might be handling a key administrative function, but they were only selling kitchenware, so she pointed me back up th hall to seek help finding my things

th hallway was tiered like a lecture hall. students who had completed their semester were carrying luggage down to th ship, but some remained at desks in th hall finishing up their final examination. a professor offered to assist me and another student in finding th missing pieces of our own assignments. we did find two stray papers with assignments up in th top corner of th lecture hall, but those were not ours, rather had been left by students who had not completed their work

up in th next room a woman called out to passing students from a booth, offering reduced closeout prices on hardware, not just because of th semester’s close but also because her employer was vacating this region. most students ignored her, one of them snidely remarking that if her company were truly committed to th students as more than just sales of their product, then they’d stick it out and remain in th region. th saleswoman seemed taken aback, then defended herself by claiming that gene himself had left but that in his case it was because he could not face his own self. i was almost out of th room before i realized th full implications of her insult. i turned back and reprimanded her, pointing out that she had no insights of her own in th matter but was merely accepting th spiteful hatred expressed by gene’s enemies without having any real understanding, and that just by opening her mouth to such garbage she was only expressing her own stupidity. she tried to argue back, but it was exactly as i had warned her: all that came from her voice was th admission “i’m stupid”

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