Several cases of beer into one of the early planning meetings for the first Spittoono Festival, the discussion of defrayal of expenses came up. A sound system had to be rented, flyers printed, and other items would need to be paid for. The best idea, and the most common for music festivals, was to sell T-shirts. The organizers knew a local screen printer who would agree to print the shirts for free. Since Earl Miller - an avid hot air balloonist and the only member with any spare cash - was putting up most of the front money, the shirt design was a line drawing of a hot air balloon with "Why Not Balloons" (the name of Earl's balloon company) above and "Spittoono Fiasco '81" below. Plain white cotton T-shirts could be bought for $4.00 each. It was decided to buy 300 shirts and sell them for $5.00 each.
Earl jumped up and declared he would figure the profits.
He borrowed a pencil and paper and a calculator and moved to a remote location to do his calculations. He would punch the calculator and write something down, scratch his head, punch some more and write some more. The planning meeting progressed and Earl was soon forgotten. After about a half an hour, Earl rejoined the main group and announced he had finally arrived at the figure
for potential profits on the sale of the T-Shirts. If all 300 shirts, bought at $4.00 each were sold at $5.00 each, the profits would be $714.32.
He's been "Algebra Earl" ever since.