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What I like about my name is that it's a kind of money. I like to see how I'm going against the American dollar or the British pound at the end of the TV news when they give the day's financial report.

Or the German mark. I wonder why my parents didn't call me Mark Yen. If I ever write a novel my pen name will be Frank Rouble. That'll crack 'em up.

Anyway, back to the TV financial report...

I usually do pretty well against the Australian dollar. Though my dad reckons that the Australian dollar ought to be devalued. When the dollar is strong it's harder to export things. Our friends, the Jingos have 60 000 bottles of mead sitting in their warehouse at the moment. They thought they were going to send a container-load to South Korea but then the dollar went up and the mead became too expensive. So it sits in their warehouse. They've stopped making mead for a year or two. They just bottle fruit juice and jam for other people.

Huh...you probably don't know what mead is, anyway. It's a drink made from honey. Bob Jingo makes it from honey and hops--so it tastes like beer. But it's sweet...and all pure product. Bob says you can't get a hangover from it. I wouldn't know. I've never tasted alcohol in my life. I don't want to damage any of my brain cells. If I get dumber I won't be able to calculate as well. One drink can knock out a thousand brain cells. After the age of 18 (I think) I'm going to lose 300 000 brain cells every day anyway. Till then I want to get smarter and smarter.

But back to the mead. It's a famous drink. Rotten honey, basically. People in Europe drank heaps of it hundreds of years ago. My mum told me that when a young couple got married they spent a whole month where all they ate was honey and all they drank was mead. A honey moon. Get it? I bet they'd be weak after that.

When I told Manty about honeymoon she said, 'Oh, how sweet!'

Vomit.

My favourite cartoon is Donald in Mathmagic Land . So I decided to dream up a descriptive video all about maths from my point of view. Well, it's the only point of view, really. Don't think that I'm on myself. You read the video, then you'll understand what I'm getting at. Although you probably won't. The only person who's shown any interest so far is Danielle. She's always supported me against my enemies. Like Hilary, for instance. Well, they're not really enemies, as Danielle constantly reminds me. It's just that they pick on me all the time.

 

But my project--well I do have some interests other than maths--my project, for instance, was going to be about the mathematics of the human body. So it was only going to be half maths, rather than 100% maths.

The human body project. You know, how many cells are there in the human body? I was surprised when Dr Claire didn't know the answer--though I can see why. But then she asked me that basic question about my volume in cubic centimetres. I mean, elementary .

How I figured it out (in about 10 seconds) was I know that when I do a dead man's float (e.g. in aquatics with Mrs Broom) the top part of my head sticks out of the water. So (assuming a normal amount of air in my lungs) my density must be slightly less than that of water. Now my mass is 45 kilograms...and a kilogram of water has a volume of a litre. So, if I were completely submerged, I would displace more than 45 litres of water. So my volume must be a bit over 45 litres = a bit over 45 000 cubic centimetres.

(Eureka??)

Yes. I was raving on about the ideas I had for my project (before I changed my mind). Measuring the human body...

I read somewhere that if all the spongey stuff in your lungs (that gives them a big surface area to let the gases be absorbed and released from your blood) was taken out and spread out flat it would cover two tennis courts! One tennis court for each lung.

So I got to thinking about other human body stuff that would be easy for me to figure out for myself. For instance...

If you could take off your skin and spread it over the floor, how many of your friends could lie down on it?

I was getting really into that sort of stuff till I found out from Fuzzy that that's what the Aztec priests really did, sort of. They would walk round for days wearing the skins of people they had sacrificed.

Ten to the power yuck!

That's when I decided to make my project a bit more pleasant ...but still quirky enough to keep me awake while I was working on it. Naughty and nice at the same time. A contradiction in terms.

Like 'military intelligence' or...

I'm getting off the subject. What I ended up doing my project on was paradoxes.

Why don't you have a look at it? It's not all maths.

Or else, go exploring and find out more about me. (Not that I'm the centre of the universe, or anything...although in a way, that's true. But I am a bit different in a wacky sort of way that I'm quite proud of, really.)

I mean, my life is dominated by maths. It's almost as though everything has been set up for me on purpose.

For instance, you've probably noticed that the dates in the month of most of my friends' birthdays are prime numbers or squares or cubes or something interesting like that. (Naturally, mine is a prime.) I didn't choose the friends after looking at their birth dates, it was the other way round.

Well, I often remember people by their numbers as much as by their names. It seems like a weird habit but it you end up finding quite useful information...and discovering some weird things.

For instance, while I talk to people I often add up all the letters in their name (you know: A = 1, B = 2, C = 3, etc...) to see if they make an interesting number.

Well, the first time I can remember talking to Alice (although I've got a vague feeling that I'd already talked with her lots of times before, it's just that I can't remember them)...

What was I saying?

Oh, yeah. I was talking with Alice one day and I noticed that the letters for ALICE LIDDELL almost added up to something very interesting: 88.

88 + 1 = 89

89 is the only number I know of (not counting 1) that is both a prime number and a Fibonacci number!

It was too much to be a coincidence.

Perhaps that's why Charles Dodgson (sorry, Lewis Carroll) was so interested in her (the original Alice) in the first place. He was a pretty cool mathematician so he would have thought through all this stuff, too.

It's interesting, too, that the original Alice married a guy called Reginald Hargreaves. ALICE HARGREAVES adds up to a prime number!

And so does REGINALD HARGREAVES...

I mean it's almost unbelievable.

Suddenly I thought--What about Alice's middle name? If it started with 'A' then ALICE A LIDDELL = 89 and we have a powerful and unusual person in our midst.

I nearly wet my pants, I was so excited over this.

Until I asked Alice what her middle name was.

At first I was incredibly disappointed. Then I added up the total for her full name.

Of course ALICE P LIDDELL adds up to a prime number. Well, that's not so surprising. But...

ALICE PLEASANCE LIDDELL = 164

You may think that 164 is no big deal.

Until you know some inside information about me...

You see, my parents are both fanatic bushwalkers and photographers. They often abandon me to 'go walkies' into the wilderness. They leave me in the care of my grandmother (dote, dote) or sometimes I spend the weekend (or a week or two) with one of my few true friends.

When I was younger my parents took me along on their bushwalks too, unless they were going into high country during winter.

The result of all this is a humongous collection of slides which they show at their famous slide evenings where every one goes ooh! and aah! while I struggle not to go to sleep.

You see, the thing about the bush is--it's too messy for me. It's hard to get a handle on it from the mathematical point of view. I much prefer cities, or at least farms, where things are organised somewhat.

You can see I'm not much into chaos theory, yet.

Sorry, I'm trying to explain something, aren't I?

One day in 1968 my parents (who were engaged at that stage but not actually married or my parents yet) were having one of their lightning trips into the (now flooded, then world-famous) Lake Pedder. They had left Hobart in the dark and by dawn were trudging on the old track that sometimes turned into a creek. Their aim was to spend a couple of hours on the beach before turning back.

There was a mighty beach at Lake Pedder then. So flat--so they tell me, and I've seen the photos to prove it--that you could walk nearly a kilometre out into the lake before getting out of your depth in the button grass-stained water (it was coloured gold to purple over the white sand). The beach was big enough to fit all the central part of Sydney on it. In its last months planes used to land on it and take off from it every day. Now, of course, the old beach is deep underwater. But divers have been down and said it's still there, intact.

Where was I?

Oh, yes. Mum and Dad got to the beach. It was a nice day. They sunbaked a while and ran in the water and swam in the creek that flowed into the lake. While they were swimming they heard a voice calling out to them. They got out.

It was a little, old man, brown as a berry (that's what Mum said--I've never seen a brown berry). He had a big nose, silver hair, piercing eyes, glasses. He said, 'Watch out. I saw a tiger snake swimming in there yesterday. It's the mating season so they're a bit aggro. Be careful.'

That was all the swimming for the day. But they chatted to this old guy who they thought must be a hermit or something. They went to his tent. It was stuffed full of cameras and photographic gear.

Mum and Dad realised they were in the presence of the famous photographer Olegas Truchanas.

They only had an hour to chat with him. He told them about how he would come back, day after day, to the same spot, waiting for the light conditions to be right for the perfect photo.

I think that Mum and Dad both fell in love with him, then, in a sort of a way. He became their guru, their teacher. They spent many hours with him after that, often paying him surprise visits down in the south west somewhere. Mum only realised later how patient he must have been. 'What he was on about was photography, not disciples,' she said.

But Mum and Dad must have been a great help to him in the audiovisual presentations he made all round the country when Australians learnt how beautiful the wild country was and how it needed to be protected from development.

They were devastated when Olegas Truchanas died on 6 January, 1972 when his kayak got caught under a rock in the Gordon River Gorge.

That day they decided that if they ever had a child, and he was a boy, that they would call him Olegas.

Pronounced Oh-lay -gus.

But when I popped out 3754 days later they took one look at me and said, 'He's Kevin.' I've no idea why.

So Olegas became my middle name.

You add it up:

KEVIN OLEGAS YEN = 164

Notice something?

So you can see the two of us are bound together in some mysterious way. Our lives are intertwined and I'm only just beginning to work out how that might be...

 


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