Playing Around with Numb3rs

by Beth Green

JD spoke to the dark-haired man accompanying him as they entered the Saloon. "The guys can be a little rowdy, but they're a pretty friendly bunch if you just give 'em half a chance." The two men approached the table usually occupied by the members of Team Seven. JD proceeded to introduce each of his friends, concluding, "Guys, this is Charlie Eppes. We met at the conference."

As friendly "Hellos" were exchanged, Nathan tried to get up to speed. He'd been out of town for the past couple of days and was forced to ask, "What conference?"

Buck helpfully supplied, "The conference JD went to for guys who couldn't get laid on a bet."

JD talked over Buck's disparaging words: "The Conference on Applied Mathematics and Scientific Computing."

Buck leaned back to take a deep draught of his beer. He belched then continued, "Like I was saying, the Nerd convention."

Ezra leaned forward to enter the conversation. "Mr. Wilmington, I believe that you are mistaken." JD's self-satisfied smirk disappeared as Ezra added, "The man said it was a conference, not a convention."

Buck waved his mug in salute. "I stand corrected." Buck noticed Ezra open his mouth to add a comment. The mustached man continued before Ezra could interrupt. "Okay, I'm sitting, but you know what I mean."

JD shook his head. "See, Charlie, this is what I have to put up with every day."

Buck nodded. "Yep. The kid has to hang out with us so that he can learn from the best. Speaking of which, there's a face I haven't seen before. I believe that I'll go over and introduce myself." Buck stood then turned back to JD and Charlie. "Watch and learn from the Master, kid." With nothing better to do, the occupants of the table sat back to observe Buck in action.

Ezra spoke up. "It's time to make this more interesting. I propose a wager as to how long it will take Mr. Wilmington to return with the lady's phone number." Ezra quickly jotted down the various estimates as Buck's friends placed their bets.

Charlie asked JD, "Don't they mean if he gets the lady's phone number?"

JD replied, "Nope. You don't know Buck. The question is when. I'm betting on five minutes."

In actual fact, it was ten minutes before Buck returned to their table. Josiah greeted the ladies man's triumphant return with an announcement to his friends. "Gentlemen, pay up."

While money exchanged hands, Buck stated, "In case you were wondering, her name is Rita and she's a flight attendant. She's gonna call me this weekend after her flight gets in. If she's anything like the last Rita I met, it's gonna be a great weekend." Buck grinned an ear-to-ear smile then licked his lips in anticipation before returning to his beer.

JD shrugged. "Just goes to prove what Charlie and I were talking about earlier. He's kind of handy with numbers, and he's got the statistics to show that. . ." JD paused and turned to his new friend, "How did you put it?"

Charlie smiled. "I was going to be polite and not mention it. However, if you really want to know, I can show you that statistically speaking there is an inverse relationship between measured intelligence and the increased number of varying contacts with members of the opposite sex."

Josiah laughed, Ezra smirked knowingly, while Buck just looked puzzled. (After all, he'd had a few beers, and his brain wasn't quite firing on all cylinders.)

JD clarified, "It's got to do with a certain lower degree of discrimination coupled with a lower IQ."

Rather than admit to any confusion, Buck declared, "Well, I can tell you that I'm the last person on earth who you'll find doin' any discriminatin'."

Charlie laughed. "That's my point exactly." He continued, "However, that's the fun thing about statistics. They can be manipulated to insert into any proof that you care to set up. By the way, in case you were wondering, I'm a Professor of Applied Mathematics."

Buck snorted. "Who would've guessed?"

Charlie ignored the implied slur as he continued. "Actually, I'm not nearly as fond of statistics as I am of pure mathematics. It was another Charles, Charles Steinmetz, who said that 'Mathematics is the most exact science, and its conclusions are capable of absolute proof. But this is so only because mathematics does not attempt to draw absolute conclusions. All mathematical truths are relative, conditional.' Math is pure, simple, elegant, and essential."

Buck shrugged then turned to JD. "I can tell you guys had a lot of laughs at your little conference, or convention, or whatever the hell it was."

Charlie decided that it was time to start defending himself. "Hey, I'll have you know that mathematicians are some of the funniest guys around."

Buck interrupted. "Funny dressers, maybe."

Charlie ignored the crack as he continued. "For example, here's a joke for you. I used it to good effect as an ice-breaker at the conference."

Buck inserted an editorial comment, "I'll bet," as Charlie continued.

"A physicist and an engineer are in a hot-air balloon. Soon, they find themselves lost in a canyon somewhere. They yell out for help: "Hel-loooo! Where are we?"

Fifteen minutes later, they hear an echoing voice: "Hel-loooo! You're in a hot-air balloon!"

The physicist says, "That must have been a mathematician."

The engineer asks, "Why do you say that?"

The physicist replied: "The answer was absolutely correct, and it was utterly useless."

JD and Charlie laughed appreciatively. They were the only ones who did so.

Buck nudged JD. "Well, kid, you can take comfort in the fact that you're not the only one who can't tell a joke."

JD objected. "I can, too! In fact, I've got another one for you."

Buck tried to head JD off before he could get started. "Hey, JD, your glass is empty. Let me give you a fill-up. Charlie, I'll top your glass off, too." Buck did his best waiter imitation as he rose and proceeded to empty a pitcher of beer into his friends' waiting glasses as he made his way around the table. Buck returned to his seat and refilled his own glass.

JD was not sidetracked. "Anyway, I was saying." Buck groaned as JD continued, "A physicist, a mathematician and a computer scientist get into a discussion about what's better to have: a wife or a girlfriend."

The physicist says, "A girlfriend. You still have freedom to experiment."

The mathematician says, "A wife. You have security and reliability."

The computer scientist responds, "You're both wrong. It's best to have both, so that when the wife thinks you're with the mistress and the mistress thinks you're with your wife - you can be with your computer."

JD smiled hopefully as he looked around the table. Charlie politely returned his smile but no one else so much as snickered. JD grumbled, "You all don't know a good joke when you hear it."

Chris interjected, "Do, too. We'll let you know when we hear one."

Buck couldn't resist the invitation. "I got one for you."

Chris sternly interrupted, "I meant a good joke."

Buck raised his right hand. "This one's good, I swear."

Buck ignored Ezra's, "Please, spare us," as he continued.

Buck illustrated his story with hand and body motions as he spoke. "A little old man limps into an ice cream parlor. He slowly shuffles his way over to the counter then painfully pulls himself up onto a stool. After catching his breath, he orders a banana split.

The waitress asks kindly, "Crushed nuts?"

"No," he answers, "arthritis."

Ezra should have known better than to be drinking when Buck was telling a joke. The undercover agent was usually quite appreciative of Buck's sense of humor. Consequently Chris was treated to a beer shower as Ezra inadvertently spit out his beer at the conclusion of Buck's joke.

The laughter that erupted from Team Seven's table was partially due to Buck's joke, but also benefited from the sight of Chris's abrupt leap away from the table. The dark-clad man futilely wiped at his damp clothing while simultaneously cursing both Ezra and Buck.

Buck spoke through his laughter. "Aw Chris, don't be mad at me. I didn't do anything."

Chris stared at Buck through fierce green eyes, "You told that damn poor excuse for a joke."

Buck shrugged. "Well, even you gotta admit it was funny."

Chris threw his damp, beer-soaked napkins at Buck's head. "I'll admit no such thing."

Buck futilely attempted to duck Chris' throw. As he moved, his elbow came into contact with his beer mug, causing its contents to slosh over the table and directly onto Ezra's lap.

It was Ezra's turn to take a hasty leap away from the table. He was sputtering mad. "You. . . You. . . imbecile!" Rather than try to match Chris' skill at profanity, Ezra took up his own beer mug and upended its contents onto Buck's head.

Buck indignantly declared, "What I did was an accident. What you did was just plain nuts!" With that comment, he threw a handful of peanuts at Ezra.

Fortunately for JD, Charlie had made him aware of the possibility of a retaliatory strike so that both men had just enough time to move away from Buck prior to his beer shower.

JD turned to his new-found friend as they watched the antics of the remaining members of Team Seven from a safe distance. "Hey, Charlie, thanks for the heads up."

Charlie smiled. "Well, given my observations of the behavior of your friends and their actions, it wasn't too difficult to predict a possible outcome."

JD nodded. "Actually, if you knew my friends like I do, you would've changed that 'possible' to 'probable.'

The two men smiled as Inez came bustling up to their table. "Madre de Dios! You are supposed to drink the beer, not pour it out onto everything!" She shoved a mop at Buck. "If you think that I am going to clean up your mess, you are very wrong."

Buck leaned the mop up against the table as he raised his hands half in surrender, half pleading, "Aw, Inez, it wasn't my fault!" He ignored the "Yes it was" from Chris as he continued to try to plead his case.

Charlie turned to JD, "You're right, coming here was a good idea."

JD smiled. "Yeah, that's my friends. Entertaining as hell, and no cover charge for the show."

Inez had resorted to cursing in Spanish as Buck tried to get Ezra and Chris to shoulder their share of the blame. To no one's surprise, Buck ended up wielding the mop.

Charlie and JD continued their conversation. Charlie stated, "You seemed to enjoy yourself at the conference. If you're not doing anything in July, you should come to Texas for the Eighth U.S. National Congress on Computational Mechanics. There's a presentation on Extension Theorems for Lame Equations for Nearly Incompressible Media with Applications to Numerical Solution of Problems with Highly Discontinuous Coefficients that I think you'd really enjoy. . ."



Author's Note: The above is an actual panel and conference. I won't be there, as my brain hurts just from typing the above. Also, FYI, there is a Conference on Applied Mathematics and Scientific Computing this June so you can still get your reservation in, if you'd like to attend. The only thing is, it's in Croatia, not Colorado. (Beth's excuse: hey, they both start with the letter 'C')