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Entry 18 Z Axis

I made it to page four hundred of the Fountainhead by Wednesday night so Thursday morning I was feeling pretty good even though biking to school left me more tired than usual. I hoped all we would do for gym is run because I wanted to save myself for subjects that really counted.

Of course Honors English came first. The teacher made us describe the themes of our books in a single sentence, and she nearly had a fight with Koli. Koli hates her book, but it is too late for her to switch.

When he asked her to describe her book in one sentence she said: "Smug city author makes fun of decent country people." Clearly something about what she said made the teacher uncomfortable. He told her that Tobacco Road was a classic. She told him then that city people decided what was classic and didn't care what country people thought.

I looked at Atalaya and tried to substitute blacks for country people and boy did what Koli and the teacher say both sounded ugly. My own description of the Fountainhead was not so flattering either. Here it is: "Loner architect tries to build really good buildig in a world full of idiots."

Yeah, laugh if you want to. I managed to survive gym, with the assholes who liked to slap towels in the shower and then we were all at our usual table for economics. The teacher was showing us the elasticity of demand. I knew the name for it because my new economics books taught me. Atalaya just had fun explaining that some goods are more price sensitive than others and that some purchases complimented others.

After a while half the class started throwing out examples and then though Atalaya came up with a really great counter-example: popcorn at a movie. It smells good so you buy it. You expect to have it. It doesn't matter what price they charge unless it was something outrageous like a hundred dollars.

"Then you would say demand is ineastic for popcorn?" asked the teacher who was working up a sweat. He really was.

"No," answered Atalaya. "I think something else is at work besides these sterile mathematical laws. I think advertising and custom have more of an effect than price."

"And how would you draw that on a graph?" sneared the teacher.

"I'd either draw several graphs, or I'd draw a graph in three dimensions."

"How do you draw a graph in three dimensions?" Yes, the poor teacher's face was red.

Atalaya smiled. "You use a third axis," she replied.

"And where do you put it. Ms. Grimsely, the board is flat."

"Ever hear of perspective?" asked Atalaya.

"Will you draw that for us?" asked the teacher.

Calmly, as if she were in geometry, Atalaya went to the board. She drew three axes using perspective. This is not hard to do. If you couldn't do this, you'd have no mechanical drawing. Atalaya and I both had shop in middle school, so this is probably where she learned it.

Then she explained what each axis stood for. The sales of popcorn (Q or quanity) was the Y axis. The X axis was price (P. You can use any letter you want. Atalaya also had algebra in middle school.) The Z axis was smell or S. The more S you had the more popcorn got sold. The sales of popcorn formed a flat sheet that rose towards the back of the board (more smell) and fell to the right (more price). She said the sheet was lumpy and slanty though it would be hard to determine its exact shape without following what went on at a real theater.

When Atalaya got done with her presentation, the class clapped. Atalaya bowed. I was glad I saw all of it.

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