The Bitch

New Math

Since learning of her fascination with the Mathletes characters in the movie Mean Girls, real Mathletes from around Miami have been ringing The Bitch's phone off the hook with reports of their true-life abacus adventures. In fact some middle school geniusesrepresented well for Miami-Dade in the state finals of MATHCOUNTS, an arithmetic competition, March 10 and 11.

The Bitch visited with some of the team and asked about brain-bowl life and rapping à la Kevin "G" Gnapoor: "Say you wake up late for school and you don't want to go. You ask your Mom 'Please?' but she still says 'No....'"

Ransom Everglades Middle School student Billy Bunce, age thirteen, says the division drill team beats most extracurricular options: "There is a club system during the last half-hour of school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so you're either in a club or you have study hall. There's different clubs like basketball, computer games, pillow art, and math club."

Pillow art?

"Yeah," smirks Bunce. "I guess you make decorative pillows." Bunce took a break from logarithms to explain what happens during a MATHCOUNTS formula face-off: "It's more logic, thinking type of math."

The top three schools and the top four individual students advanced to the state competition. The schools are Ransom Everglades, Nautilus, and Palmetto middle schools. The students are Bunce, Shirley Zhou (Palmetto), Paul Blachar (Ransom), and Maurice Oxios (Nautilus).

Blachar, age fourteen, also doesn't share The Bitch's enthusiasm for MG. "They are not portrayed as the coolest kids in the world," says Blachar. "And I don't like the name Mathlete; it's like they're trying to make a nerdy kid feel good."

Would he encourage other students to join Mathletes? "Well, let's just say that the last Saturday I had to get up and compete, I would much rather have been sleeping."

Nautilus student Maurice Oxios, age fourteen, surprised himself by placing 15th out of 307 students. "I get really nervous and excited [before competing], but I was really pleased," says Oxios. "It's actually very exciting because I heard that before me, there's only been a student from my school who had placed 22nd." Does he envision a career in mathematics? "Architecture's something that runs in my family, but I also play sports -- basketball, baseball, and football -- so that's a possibility, and I have some interest in law," he says. The Bitch thinks his résumé is looking impressive for an eighth-grader.

Somebody Call House of PainThe Bitch was reflecting that it's been about a year since the closing of the Irish House, a long-time tavern where no one was ever sent away with a blood alcohol level of less than 0.2. For months a sign has hung on the shuttered Miami Beach establishment promising a Hooligan's would soon open in its place; calling a phone number on the sign gets an answering machine message welcoming callers to the nonopen restaurant. The City of Miami Beach Website recommends the still-to-come spot as "a great place to go."

A bookkeeper at the Hooligan's on South Dixie Highway -- the one still owned by former county mayor candidate Jay Love -- told The Bitch that, owing to "lots of permit delays," the Alton Road bar won't be opening "until summer -- probably late summer."

Set on VibrateIndividualism can never be taken too far, as demonstrated by Miami Beach entrepreneur Maria Teresa Lopez, who is making a name for herself in the cell-phone-appearance-personalization industry.

Lopez, a 23-year-old originally from the Dominican Republic, was already busy enough as a marketing major at FIU and the events coordinator for the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce when she decided to apply 4000 Swarovski crystals to her utilitarian black cell phone. Friends asked about the sparkly gadget, and Miami Chic was born. Lopez says it usually takes about three days to decorate a phone, iPod, or Blackberry. "Why be drab when you can be fab?" she says.

Ashes and DiamondsThe Bitch is constantly scheming about ways to increase her cash flow that don't include donning a green Starbucks apron. So when she learned about a drawing for a multicarat stone of the "dog's best friend" variety this past week, she was quick to seize the opportunity. If about twenty VIPs had been a little more in tune with the Tarots, any one of them might be holding a piece of ice worth $50,000 in his or her paw. Yep, the prize was a diamond, the glittery birthstone of the cruelest month, which a certain few souls won then quickly lost in the maddest, March.

The location of the giveaway was the doomed Howard Johnson motel on the north edge of downtown Miami. The occasion: the sales launch party for the soon-to-rise Marquis, 67 stories of luxury at 1100 Biscayne Blvd.

Diamonds have made a really rich man of Lev Leviev, a Tel Aviv-based mining mogul whose company Africa Israel is the lead investor in the project -- his estimated net worth is about two billion dollars. Hence the door prize.

With Marge Simpson gazing across the downtown darkness from the skyscraper a few blocks south, an announcer reached into a glass bowl stuffed with little strips of white paper. And the winner of the $50,000 diamond: "Melissa Garafalo." Melissa? Melissa? After several minutes passed, it was determined she was not present to win.

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