(We’re taking a calculus final. The TA is a well-known Lord of the Rings fan, and we’ve had running LotR jokes all semester.)
TA: “Okay, guys, everyone look at me. We’ve been over the rules, but just in case: no notes, pencil your answers in on the scantron sheet, and graphing calculators only – no more ‘can I just used my cell phone’ nonsense.”
Student: “[TA’s name], my calculator batteries just died! What should I do?”
TA: “Here, I’ve got a big box of spares.”
Student: *struggling* “I can’t get this packaging open…”
Student 2: “Here, I’ve got a pocket knife.”
TA: “And I’ve got a pair of scissors if you need them.”
Student 3: *from the back of the room* “OR MY AXE!”
(Everyone starts laughing.)
TA: “The only axes allowed on the exam are in the graph section.”
TA: “Oh, come on, you’re in a math class. Deal with the math jokes.”
(The professor enters with a stack of exams. With him are two exam proctors.)
Professor: “Tolkien jokes already, [TA’s name]?”
TA: “Hey, I didn’t start it.”
(The professor starts handing stacks of exams to the TA and proctors.)
Professor: “But I’m about to finish it. [TA], take these exams down the left flank. [Proctor 1], follow the desks down the center. [Proctor 2], take your exams right, along the wall.”
(At this point, many of the students have realized where this is going: Theoden’s lines from ‘Return of the King.’)
Professor: “Forth, and fear no problems! Solve! Solve, students of calculus! Points shall be taken, scores shall be splintered! A pencil day! A red-ink day! Until three thirty!”
(The professor pulls out a pencil, holding it out like a sword, and runs down the first row holding it out. Students hold up their pencils, hitting his as he passes.)
Professor: “Solve now! Solve now! Solve to good grades and the class ending! MAAATH!”
Entire Class: “MAAATH!”
Entire Class: “MAAAAAATH!”
Professor: “Forth, exam-takers!”
(The entire class rises to their feet and gives him a standing ovation. A week later, we get an email from the professor.)
Professor: *at the end of the email* “PS: I appreciate all of you who wrote in their evaluations that I was the one professor to rule them all, but the best one yet was the student who called me ‘Mathrandir.’”
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A Hero’s Guide to Monsters
1. Find a monster and give it a name. Any name will do, people say that names have power, to be careful what to pick, but really, for this, any name. To even hold a name is power enough. Call it by that name until it begins to respond, only good things have names. Wait and it will become good.
2. Find a monster and bring it into your house. Feed it at your table, make it eat with cutlery and crockery, sit up straight, elbows in. Feed it so it is not restless, so it does not fall into monstrosity again. Wait and it will become calm.
3. Find a monster and treat it gentle. Show it goodness, calmness, kindness. Never strike it, speak softly, make your way closer to it every night until you can sit beside it. Women and tigers, old songs still sung by the fire, such an act has never been impossible. Wait and it will become soft.
4. Find a monster and sing it to sleep. Ask it how its day went, how the people treated it. Tell it that everything will be ok, that in the morning all its fears and sorrows will leave it and the birds will sing. Tell it about the sun, about springtime and budding leaves. Kiss its forehead every night and wake it up every morning. Wait and it will become nothing more than a scared child.
5. Find the person standing before you, a child wearing a monster’s face, trapped in a body all grown up and alone, and give it a hope, and give it a home. Let it leave knowing there’s a place for it to come back to. Let it return and curl up in front of the television with you and weep into your shoulder. Make it popcorn and put chocolate on the popcorn and let it lick its fingers and fall asleep. Cover it with a blanket. Wait, and it will become nothing more than what it has always been. All you did was peel back the darkness.
6. Find another monster, repeat.
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