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Just Fine

Sometimes I get distracted. I will be talking about something like, I don’t know, something like direct variation. And then I will stop mid-sentence and look at the class. I will look at them and change gears — tell a story.

When this happens, they set their pencils down. They have learned to see it coming.

So last week I was talking about something like, I don’t know, I think it was solving rational equations. And I stopped mid sentence and looked at them. And changed gears — really changed gears. Somehow I was talking about the design flaws of the pens that I use, specifically, the failings of the visual design of the pens which led me to buy a pack of medium point pens when I really wanted fine point pens.

This is more significant than it might appear at first glans. With medium point pens, there is a limit to how cleanly I can annotate my diagrams and equations. With fine point pens, I feel like a draftsman. With medium point pens I feel like I’m writing with jumbo crayons. And the design flaw in all this is that there is no clear annotation on the pens to differentiate them. No annotation, that is, except for a dim gray “Fine” vs. “Medium” written on a dark gray band at the bottom of the otherwise identical black pens (identical, mind you, to the extend that the packaging for these pens does not say “Fine” or “Medium”).

To demonstrate my point, I walked out to Jasmine’s desk with one of each of the pens.

“You tell me,” I said. “Which one is fine and which one is medium?”

She looked at the pens and with no hesitation said, “This is the fine pen.” She handed it to me.

In shock, I squinted at the dim gray text at the bottom of that pen. I could not see what it said. I squinted harder. I saw an ‘F’.

“You are right!” I said. The class laughed.

That’s sixty year-old eyes for you.