Don’t let this savvy/smart sounding title fool you – I hardly consider myself to be either ideal here, but even an average Joe finds the right answer once in awhile. And in my experience, it can certainly help to recognize the merit of both concepts, those being that of ‘smarts’ and ‘savviness’ respectively.
Last week I found myself at Craft – a charming little local craft beer store – sampling some very fine brews. On the counter sat a clear glass jar, filled to the sealed top with what else but fresh, Earthy-green hops.
Hops are a vital ingredient in many a-manner of brews, specifically the now wildly popular IPAs (Indian Pale Ales). There’s quite a long history and culture surrounding when and why hops were introduced to the brewing process – as well as how that process has evolved over the centuries. But perhaps I’ll save that chronicle for another post or several. The point is that these green little flower buds are indeed a vital element within the brewing world, often noted for the distinctly bitter and or citrusy zeal they can impart upon any given drink.
Next to the hop jar was another jar with white paper slips inside. The beertender explained the contest: simply guess how many hops were in the larger container. There was some discussion about what the number might be – and many guesses – but as these answers were scribbled down, I continued to drink, and think: what equation might work to make a close guesstimate?
I say guesstimate because I’m not confident enough in my mathematical skills to call it anything else. In fact, I’m so unconfident that I don’t even call what I do ‘math’, but rather ‘maff’, which is, according to the self-dictionary inside my head: “Joe’s method of numerical processing rooted in subjoetivity rather than in consistent mathematical modes of calculation.”
This is not to say that I don’t use actual tried-and-true formulas, but rather that I don’t trust that they’re always the right ones, or that I carry them through correctly, resulting in my need to substitute some elements of any given mathematical process whenever I feel the need to adjust an equation by thinking, eh, seems closer to what’s probably right by adding or subtracting ________ instead.
To give some further context, I remember talking to my teacher after my 10th grade state math exam. I was rightfully nervous as to whether or not I passed. “I’ve gotta say,” she began, raising an eyebrow. “This is probably the most interesting test I’ve ever seen.”
“Is that…good?” I asked, brows equally uneven.
“Well, you passed,” she said to my exhaling relief, and then continued, “’cause you got enough of the answers right, even though you used all the wrong formulas.”
“Yeah, mostly. But you showed your work too, so, two out of three still counts as passing. I’m more impressed how you somehow got enough answers right.”
I shrugged. “I guess they just seemed right.”
This ‘lesson’ stuck with me through the rest of high school, then college, and all the way more than a decade later to this craft beer store counter with its hop jar. I knew enough to try to calculate its volume. π r2, or something, right? I used my phone – which I know from the model type to be about 7 and 1/2 inches long – to approximate the radius, and height. Ah! That was the other part of the equation! Volume = π r2h
Subtracting a few dozen for the slightly narrower neck of the jar, I came up with a solid sounding number: 580. But staring at the thumb-sized pieces I realized a problem: solid, or rather, full, which the inside of this vessel was far from. Each hop’s similar yet still unique shape created far too many gaps among them to total 580. It was time to adjust my calculation. It was time for maff.
A “smarter” guesser might have been able to employ an equation among a small sample set(s) of hops to calculate the total volume of space in-between said set(s) and then just multiply that by the total sets to come up with a number of units to subtract from the original total. This explanatory sentence alone, however, was a struggle enough for me to write – and even then doesn’t seem entirely right – and so creating an actual calculation along these lines was far from a practical option. Instead, I dug back into my 10th grade math skill sets, tilted my head in study of the jar, took another sip, and thought: eh, fifty fewer should do the trick.
My final tally came out to 520. I was the closest without going over by ten hops.
Now that’s some savvy maff for you.
Do you have maff stories of your own? Savvy tricks? Please feel free to like, comment, and share! And subscribe for future musings by entering your email on the right!