# Mathematics #1: A Wall of Lights and Estimation Skills

Today’s post comes from NorthShorer.

Four weeks ago the night after I had the useless shots in my back I could not sleep and decided at 3:00 a.m. to take out the garbage. When I opened the door to the garbage room, I walked into a wall of lights.

The owners of our building finagled two grants to install LED lights throughout the building at only slight cost. I have been hearing about this for a couple months and imagined, I suppose, a few small boxes of bulbs, not that pile, which is only half the bulbs for the hallways, security lights, garage lights, and parking lot lights. Another pile even larger was in the other garbage room at the other end of the building. Reminded me of a few stories of people who failed to estimate the weight and volume of pennies they either ordered or amassed. To be fair these new lights are not just bulbs; they need new fixtures. For instance all the standard recessed tube lights in the three stories will be replaced by a same size fixture holding several LED bulbs.

What also is surprising is how much brighter are the LED lights in the garage and hallways. Our yard is almost daylight from the new security light above us. I have avoided LED lights because they gave such dim light.

On Wednesday they will install LED lights in the attached lights in all apartments, which is nice for me because I cannot reach the ceiling lights. They will also cart away for free all of the fluorescent bulbs we have. Our apartment is about the average. It will get 27 new bulbs. The building has 65 apartments, plus eight other rooms to get bulbs. 27 times 65 equals 1,755 bulbs. Add in another four dozen to get, say, 1,800 or so. How big a pile will that be? I bet each will come in a protective carton. I happened to be in the Batteries Plus store recently. The owner noticed my address and said he was supplying just the bulbs. He, too, had underestimated the volume. The supplier told him the bulbs would have to be shipped to the apartment building because they would not fit in his strip mall store.

All the medical facilities in this town will soon get LED bulbs under a grant from the same sources. There are six large clinics and the massive hospital, plus a couple smaller ones. What will those piles look like? I am pleased for this change because the tube lights give me a bad headache while I wait around.

Estimation is a vital skill. Schools are doing more to teach it, for one thing to try to get kids not to just accept what their fancy graphing calculators say. I am usually rather good at estimation, except in extraordinary events like these lights. I am very good at estimating distances and travel times. For weights I am usually far off. I know what time it is quite well without using a clock, a skill I developed working outside as a child. I don’t have to be outside seeing the sun to do this. Not sure if this is estimation, but I almost always know which way is north. When I do get turned around, I get agitated. I used to astound my partner with this ability plus the ability to remember routes we took on a previous visit, sometimes months before. In the post and common roads of the Northeast that is a challenging skill.

The students used to be astounded by how the chemistry teacher and I could quickly estimate calculations and come close. He was a very intelligent man and knew rapid calculation skills. His estimations were often exact..

I am intrigued byhow computers find complex answers through a series of estimations instead of seeking an exact answer when it is not needed. This shortens the time for calculation, often by days.

How are you at estimation of volume, distance, weight, time needed for a task? Do you know what time it is without looking at a clock? Do you know which way is north on unfamiliar ground? Can you guess the number of beans in the jar? Do you always measure carefully for recipes?

## 41 thoughts on “Mathematics #1: A Wall of Lights and Estimation Skills”

1. i’m pretty good at estimation
pretty good at time and direction
bean in a jar? who knows? i might walk by and guess but being there when the answer is announced is required to know if you are close
i use ballpark measurements on things like rice and flour because i can be off a bit but for most cooking i go with the bout right method and add what appears bout right for cumin basil salt or olive oil
my kids give me flack but my guestimations were checked a while back where it was possible for my daughter to pour my guestimation inyo a measuring cup and to her amazement proclaimed it real darn close to what i was ballparking.
i didn’t gloat much but i was happy i passed this test and thought it would end the snide comments while i was whipping stuff together, no such luck
i keep ballparking they keep saying it needs to be measured
my moms building did the lightbulb thing for 500 units. it took up a chunk of the parking garage used for about 100 cars took a month to get install completed.
how wonderful
those lights are all on 24/7 in the hallways and elevators i don’t believe they did the ones in the units owned by individuals just the ones that are common areas and meeting rooms
what a great idea i would love to see the difference in the electric bill so we can understand the impact of the change

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2. is anyone a watcher of the middle? there is a classic episode where the mom while working in a used car lot suggests they fill a car with jellybeans and let people guess how many are in there. when they proclaim the winner they open the door to let the winner see the inside of their new car with expectations that the beans will cascade out. instead they are all welded together from being on display in the sunshine for 3 weeks and the door won’t open
great show add it to your streaming list. good cast good stories

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1. xdfben says:

The Middle is one of my favorites.

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3. Jacque says:

Rise and Make a Good Guess Baboons!

I don’t estimate jelly beans. I am good at estimating time and money. And apparently heeding weather warnings.

I was very pleased with my weather estimates for my trip to Iowa this weekend (which were vastly assisted by weather radar via Dark Sky). I left earlier than planned Friday afternoon for Iowa to miss the storm arriving Saturday, when I had planned to leave. Roads were clear, but wind was heavy out of the South on Friday evening. All was well, until deep into Iowa near Story City. A wall cloud with even heavier wind from the west moved across the skies and prairie. When the wind hit my car and the semi trucks around me, we wobbled on the road, adjusted, then drove out of it. That was about 7:30pm

However, at around 9:30pm a tornado hit that area, uprooting trees and doing the usual tornado damage.

Yesterday afternoon I travelled home. Roads were clear, wind from the north was 11mph leaving the car’s gas milage impaired.

On Saturday I attended the Stratton Cousins’ Reunion in Ames, Iowa. That was really fun. We watched a video of a now deceased cousin, Ray Morris, playing slide guitar and rocking a room a few years ago somewhere in Iowa. There was picture of an affluent, mystery couple who look just like cousin Rex, but who no one can identify now. Then we compared allergic reactions and feet with high arches common to many of us.

I spent several days with my mom playing Rumikub, cleaning her room, sorting clothing and estimating her size for some new jeans. And I nailed the size and the Kohl’s coupons that resulted in bargain shopping for her. Satisfying.

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1. Jacque says:

PS, no sense of direction even on a sunny day. Baking: measure carefully; cooking stew: toss in what I have in guesstimates.

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1. it’s interesting how when giving a reference you mention the nw corner the person doesn’t reference the world that way how you just find another way

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2. Sounds like a pleasing visit, Jacque. A news story recently broke about all the stores that advertise great sales with reduced prices. Turns out that the “sale prices” are the usual prices in most cases. Only two of the store chains studied actually reduced prices when they announced a sale: Bed, Bathroom & Beyond was one and Target was the other. All others advertised sales that were fakes, especially J C Penney, Walmart and Kohl’s.

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1. NorthShorer says:

“On Sale
4 for a dollar
Usually 25 cents each”
Works very well

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1. J C Penney, a chain that is struggling, hired a new CEO a few years ago. He halted the fake sale campaign and instead advertised that the stores would now have great prices every day. Sales absolutely bombed, and he was fired. Turns out J C Penney isn’t doing well generally, but the customers they get are hooked on the idea of “sales” that are not actually sales. That made me sad. Candor has always been a big thing with me, and candor turned out to be toxic in that case.

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2. NorthShorer says:

Coke products, the price of which I watch cloesly for Sandy, will be good, 3/12 packs for \$10, 11 or 12. Then for awhile they advertise them on sale for \$5.49 each. The word SALE all over the displays.

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3. littlejailbird says:

Everyday low prices works well for Aldi.

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3. xdfben says:

Is “Dark Sky” the one that will say something like “It’s colder than snot” or some other slightly R rated alert?
It’s kinda fun… I think you can adjust the alerts to be PG or R rated.

Oh, nope, that one is called ‘WTForcast’ – also by Dark Sky…

….I thought I was wrong once but I was mistaken.

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4. Not so good at estimating time for a project. Volume? Weight? Eh.

I’m pretty good at measuring distances, mainly due to decades of playing golf and having a very good idea how far is 50, 100, 200, 400 yds.

My wife remains awestruck by my innate sense of time. I never wear a watch anymore, so if we’re out on a hike or in some other situation with no clock available, and she asks me what time it is, I can usually guess within about five minutes of correct.

My sense of direction is also up there. I pride myself on never having gotten seriously lost in the BWCAW. Although one time on a very small lake, I wasted almost an hour looking for a portage that was not only on the wrong side of a small creek (according to my map) but was hidden from view on the lake because the water level was about three feet lower than average and the portage was tucked into the woods more than 50 yds from the water.

Jellybeans in a jar? No freakin’ clue.

Recipes? I follow the directions precisely the first time, then improvise and adjust as desired. The exception is for baking because so much precise chemistry is involved. But I usually leave the baking to my wife, anyway.

PS- If anyone is in or around Hudson, WI on Saturday morning, April 21, I’ll be signing copies of Castle Danger at Chapter 2 Books from 11-1. I’d love to say hi to some TBers–or even some lurkers! 😉 Come on out and say hi, everyone. I don’t bite.

Chris in Owatonna

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5. NorthShorer says:

Maintenance friend was up in Cities with family. Sunday he went out to show off his big 4 wheel drive pickup, but he did not say it that way. But he was. Being Kevin he pushed and pulled out a few cars. Then his GPS (on his way to a brewery no less) sent him down a street next to a railroad track. 30 yards down the road he realized he was on the tracks. He just drove to the next crossing

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6. One of the cliches of our culture holds that women pay little attention to true compass readings. They give directions that are chains of left and right turns. Men, according to this notion, usually want to know true compass readings and use them when telling someone directions.

I used to assume that was a phony stereotype, then one day a woman stood near my desk and said something about “up north.” To emphasize, she pointed . . . due south. Since that day I have paid close attention to the way men and women describe geography. To my surprise, women rarely work with accurate internal compasses and men usually do.

When I give directions I now use both systems at once. I will tell someone to “take a left turn when you get to Juliet” but then I’ll add “which has you going east.”

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1. NorthShorer says:

When we moved to Mankato with its non grid streets, I had to guide Sandy around town to get to main places and places she went regularly, such as volunteering at a group home. I would say Left and Right (I knew compass points was a no go) but she would say green house, two stories, white shutters. That is supposed to be a way many women get around

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2. I do recall, Steve, riding with you to the farm of Barb in Blackhoof. When we left, you turned the wrong direction coming out of the driveway, and I eventually convinced you to turn around. Do you recall that?

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1. PlainJane says:

Just to be sure you’re not the only person to challenge these absurd stereotypes about women in relation to time and directions, I’ve twice driven Steve to medical appointments in vain. In the first case we were an hour late for the appointment which was earlier that same day; in the second, we were there on the wrong day. This is most definitely NOT a male/female problem.

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2. Particular people may have tendencies. If you know one woman who doesn’t know north from south, that is HER problem, not a problem of the entire female gender. If you know one woman who identifies routes by identifying particular houses, that is HER tendency, not a female thing. Individuals are, groups aren’t.

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7. reneeinnd says:

The question for me is “Are you a left brained cook or a right brained cook?” Left brain cooks measure carefully and accurately. Right brained cooks estimate. I am a left brained cook the first time I do a recipe, then I relax and estimate, more or less, after that. Husband is very poor at estimating the amount of time it will take him to do things.

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1. I believe you are right. Advanced cooks have the experience and confidence to wing it with recipes. When I was learning to cook I would cling to measurements as if that would guarantee a good result. I later noticed that when I had prepared a dish often, I could comfortably improvise and ignore careful measurements.

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2. gets em done way quicker than he thought huh?

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8. NorthShorer says:

Threw these two guest posts together over to distract me from Sandy. Her health issues are all spinning out of control. Lupus, seizure, diabetes, colitis. Sleep is all over the place. Up all night, sleeps all day. Does not rest. Agitated.

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9. NorthShorer says:

OVER weekend

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1. littlejailbird says:

Truly sorry, NorthShorer. I’m not glad you are going through all this, but am glad we can be here and help distract you.

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10. sorry clyde
hope she gets it baxck to a workable situation

i think as we get older we alll feel vulnerable. the body we once took for granated is starting to turn on us and the answer isnt the one we want to hear.
you are old.
take this pill or that therapy or stop doing that behavior and stop expecting it to be any different in the near future is the real answer.
i am so thankful that the medical people are good at figuring the stuff out that they are but they see the world in avery different way than i do. they see it as a sickness needing to be treated and i see it as a screwed up interaction that needs to be reevaluated
how com all of a sudden i get itchy all over the damn place
how come my digestion is all over the place
i go in the doctor and he asks if this is still going on and thaat is still going on and i say yes. do you have any ideas on how to dweal with it so it goes away? he thinks and scratches his head (or hers) i have a couple of lady doctors too these days. 3 or 4 actually. huh.
they fix what they can and out i go
my dogs and cats are getting old
none of them have been to the vet.
the vet is stupid expensive these days and i hope the animals stay healthy. the dogs get tick medicine form menards and the cats get imprisoned and no access to the cold cruel world where danger lurks
on is fat and one is skinny. one had an issue one time that just about likked him where he got dehydrated and the the vet said feed him m=nothing but canned food. we did and he is skinny and appearantly healthy the other is fat, waits for the dogs to walk away form thier bowl of dry and goes for it as long as she can go undetected. dogs are now what 5 or 6 and i dread dealing with the stuff that starts coming up with old big dogs but i dread coming up with answers to my mom and my wife and my kids as we go through the process. i am always ok and will be until they pull the plug but its hard to deal with the mentality of dealing with the symptoms instead of the cause for people and the idea that test and respond is the answer with pets.

sandy and you have had health be such a integral part of your life for so long with no good answers it must be enough to make you crazy.
i hope that you get some good things happening soon and the health that you hope for is less evasive and longer lasting when it comes around.
your posts are such a delight it is a shame to hear they are because of needing to find a release but thanks for choosing us for the release. it is always a treat. hope sandy and you do better soon and going forward

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11. littlejailbird says:

Well I’m better at estimating time for a task than some people I know. You would think they would figure out that it always takes longer than they think it will and take that into account when estimating their time. But no, they never learn.

I wonder if doing a lot of cooking helps with estimating how long a task takes? If you’re responsible for making food for others and it has to/should be served at a certain time, you dang well better be somewhat accurate at figuring out how long it takes to make something.

I tend towards being a right brained cook but I do have a lot of recipes that I more or less follow. Sometimes I get an idea in my head of what I want to make and when I can’t find a recipe to fit that idea, I will combine two or three recipes or majorly tweak one recipe to get what I want. It usually works out pretty well when I do that.

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12. I’ve long been puzzled by smart people who are consistently late. Intelligence isn’t the issue, and skill at predicting the future is equally irrelevant. Some people think of themselves as busy. They misjudge appointment times because they prefer the optimistic projection over the realistic one. That is, they believe what they want to believe. When my daughter tells me she’ll meet me at a certain time, she always imagines she’ll be sooner than she is. She even knows I don’t believe her estimations, but still she clings to the hope she can be on time.

A relative from my erstwife’s family drove me nuts by being late all the time. She’s a really smart woman–much smarter than I–but she is typically an hour or more late to every meeting. Part of the problem with her was that she didn’t mind being late. Punctuality was not one of her hangups.

I will always remember her Thanksgiving turkey. She badly misjudged the time needed to thaw a frozen turkey. Dinnertime was rapidly arriving, and the turkey was still rock hard. She ended up using a blowtorch on that bird, which produced a memorable meal with a turkey that was raw at the core and scorched to charcoal on the surface.

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1. A bathtub of hot water thaws the bird in an hour or two

I had the same smart guy call three years in row to remind him of how to thaw his frozen bird for tomorrow

I am not an organized thinker I am very good at winging it

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13. littlejailbird says:

The dilemma of Thanksgiving: buy a frozen bird and hope it thaws in 3-4 (or more) days in the fridge, during which time you can’t really put anything else in there or buy a fresh bird and have to go to the madhouse grocery store close to the day to pick it up. That’s part of the reason why I decided long ago that being thankful does not necessitate cooking a turkey. In fact, it’s easier for me to feel thankful without turkey – I’m thankful that I don’t have to thaw and cook a turkey!

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14. It doesn’t need to thaw in the fridge for 3 days ( see above)
Brine with spices and stuff for a couple hours while thaw is in place is huge

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1. littlejailbird says:

Fine. I still don’t want to cook turkey.

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1. PlainJane says:

But you don’t need an excuse for that, ljb. No need to find a complicated justification for not wanting to do it. ” I’m not cooking a turkey” will suffice.

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1. reneeinnd says:

But, really, cooking a turkey is no big deal and really easy!

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2. PlainJane says:

I know, but still, you don’t need an excuse to not want to do it.

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3. littlejailbird says:

You’re right, PJ. It’s not just the turkey, of course. I like it with stuffing inside the bird which is more work than no stuffing or stuffing in the oven. I don’t like how big it is – if it spends any time in the fridge, it’s hard to get anything else in there. And the thing is when I cook the turkey, I’m also trying to please everybody by cooking a bazillion other things, too, and I find that stressful. And then, whoosh, people eat it all in what seems like a few minutes and the cleanup, which is massive, begins. And I can’t just clean up, I make soup, too, which means that a few hours later I have to put the broth in the fridge, which is already packed, and then I clean up after making the broth. So, yes, I am not cooking a turkey – probably not ever again. I’ve done roast chicken for Thanksgiving (with fewer side dishes than is usual for Thanksgiving) and I’ve done meat pies and find those a much more pleasant alternative.

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