Leap Day

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Everyone knows that there are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, and 365 days in a year. But every now and then, something weird happens, and there are 366 days in a year. The reason for this is that a year is in fact about 365.25 days, but it would complicate people’s New Year’s Eve celebrations if the New Year didn’t start at precisely midnight every year. So we add an extra day to the end of February every four years, despite the fact that it would be much cooler if that extra day could be added to Christmas break instead. Obviously, whoever made that decision (Pope Gregory XIII, I believe) didn’t really think that part through very well. The weird part is that a year isn’t exactly 365.25 days either.  It’s more like 365.242, so adding an extra day every four years will eventually get us a little ahead. The obvious solution to this dilemma was to make a rule that, if a year is divisible by 100, it’s only a leap year if it’s also divisible by 400. (Hence, 2000 was a leap year, but 1900 wasn’t) It’s almost as weird as daylight’s savings. But not quite.

On the other hand, it might be better just to think of February 29 as being a totally random day that arbitrarily appears on our calendar once every four years for no particular reason. That way, we can pretend that we’re all time travelers.

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The Problems with Numbers

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I hate prime numbers. I don’t mind the little ones; I guess nineteen is the first one I really can’t tolerate. In fact, I’m actually quite fond of the numbers five and seven and thirteen in particular. But once it gets to nineteen and twenty-three and twenty-nine, I think that prime numbers make life hopelessly complicated. They don’t make any sense. They have so many smaller integers to choose from, I just don’t see why they can’t find anything except one to be divisible by. (I also hate the fact that it’s so hard to talk about prime numbers without ending sentences with prepositions)At least little prime numbers have an excuse, because they don’t have as many littler integers beneath them.

Once, I discovered that if I added up the number of Scrabble points for each letter in my first name, middle name, and last name, the result would be thirty-seven, which is not good because it’s prime. I therefore decided to give myself an imaginary second middle name worth 12 points in order to bring my number up to forty-nine. Forty-nine is cool because not only is it not prime, it’s also a square. That solves the problem with my name, but it doesn’t get rid of all the prime numbers hanging around the world and making life even more confusing than it already is.

On a somewhat related note, it doesn’t really make sense for us to count in base 10. I know it’s because we have ten fingers, but still, ten is factored into two times five, which seems kind of random. It would make more sense if we counted either in base eight (because it’s two cubed) or nine (three squared) which are just much more logical and convenient numbers. Personally, I prefer base eight because then we could still count on our hands, we just wouldn’t use our thumbs. Nine would just be weird because we’d have to use one thumb and not the other, and I don’t think thumb discrimination is fair.

Another thing I hate about math is trigonometry, but that’s just because it doesn’t make any sense.

Imaginary Words

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Once upon a time, I thought that ‘laxy’ was a real word. Obviously, its definition was somewhere between ‘lazy’ and ‘lax’. I learned the truth the hard way; that is, I once tried to play the word ‘laxy’ in a game of Scrabble. The word was challenged and looked up in the dictionary, and I was greatly surprised  to discover that it wasn’t there. In denial, I ran to consult every book in which I thought I remembered having seen that word, and found that they all actually said ‘lazy’. It was a traumatic experience; my view of the world in which I lived was badly shaken.

Another word which I thought was real and also used frequently was ‘quotia’. Come to think of it, that belief also was brought to a sudden and shocking end during a Scrabble game. Someone had played ‘quota’, and I insisted that it was supposed to have an I after the T. Everyone else said that there was no I, so the dictionary was consulted, and I was forced to reluctantly acknowledge that quota was a real word and quotia was not. That was such a difficult idea to accept that I still use the word quotia sometimes. For the record, a quotia is not exactly the same thing as a quota; it’s a bit more specific. The word ‘quotia’ is a combination of ‘quota’ and ‘quotient’, and it is what you get when you split a task or project into small sections (individual math problems, lines in a book, etc.) and divide it by a unit of time (minutes, hours, days, etc.) to determine the rate at which you should work towards the completion of the task or project.

I have also learned that ‘causual’ is not a word and ‘casual’ is, and that there’s no such word as ‘spacial’; it’s supposed to be ‘spatial’. If you think about that, it makes no sense, because ‘space’ is spelled with a C, but my spell-check says that I’m just going to have to learn how to deal with it.

Anyway, the moral of this story is that in order to overcome one’s linguistic misunderstandings and to learn to speak in a language that other people might understand, one must play a lot of Scrabble.

Valentine’s Day Poems

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Around this time of year, one sees ‘clever’ Valentine’s Day poems all over the internet and on cards and on the packaging of pretty much any product that comes in packaging. As a somewhat nerdy English major, I like to read these poems for the sole purpose of laughing at them. I always wonder if anyone actually would use them as a means of communication. Unfortunately, as such poems are almost invariably sappy romantic poems, anyone who has non-sappy and unromantic Valentine’s Day messages to convey via bad poetry is somewhat at a disadvantage. Therefore, as a public service, I would like to offer the following unromantic bad Valentine’s Day poems, for anyone who might have any use for them.

 

Roses are red, violets are blue,

Have you discovered the gift I left you?

It’s alive and it’s slimy and it’s kinda green.

I’ll know that you’ve found it when I hear you scream.

 

I have something to tell you, so please don’t be annoyed.

There’s a Valentine’s Day danger I suggest that you avoid.

You might think that this holiday is something really sweet,

But don’t google image ‘human heart’ too soon before you eat.

 

Roses are red, violets are blue

How are you liking this poem I wrote you?

Please observe that I took the time

To make it real good by making it rhyme.

 

I like you just a little bit; all right, not at all.

I turn around and run away when I see you in the hall.

But I have to ask you anyway, “Oh please will you be mine?

‘Cause no one else is willing to give me a valentine.”

 

Roses are red, violets are blue,

Please step aside, you’re blocking the view.

Random thoughts

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As a science fiction weirdo, I sometimes find myself wondering if it would really be possible to transfer one person’s consciousness and mind into another person’s body, and if so, how that would work. One of the main things I wonder is whether, if another person’s mind was to live inside of what is now me, they would then become me. In every movie or story I can think of in which such a thing happens, the mind and identity that has moved into a new body is unchanged, but I don’t think that would be the case. Since thoughts occur with the movement of neurons in the brain, they are technically physical and belong to the physical aspect of a person. Besides that, maybe personality traits are influenced by physical factors, such as the individual’s pulse rate or metabolism, or height or weight or eye color, or any number of different things.  On the other hand, maybe in terms of mental characteristics, everyone is essentially the same, and differences in personality are just excuses we make up to behave in certain ways. In that case, on a cognitive level, being in a different body wouldn’t feel any different at all. Or maybe, I need to stop wondering about completely pointless things and get back to my homework.

Logic is a logical fallacy

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For any viral video or article that contains any mention of religion, a significant portion of the comments will be from atheists, insulting the intelligence of Christians or making fun of them. Then there will be a few other comments from people insisting that not all Christians believe that stuff, because some Christians are intelligent, logical, scientific-minded people, too. It’s not just on the internet; I also hear a lot of those kinds of remarks in everyday life. Apparently, most people think that rational thought means doubting God and the Bible, or at least certain parts of the Bible. People in general seem to have a mindset that to believe anything requires having proof, and that anything that is not proven is therefore wrong and ridiculous.

The problem with that idea is that once you start demanding absolute proof for everything, you are reduced to believing in nothing. If you think you can’t acknowledge the existence of God without indisputable evidence, how can you take for granted that your senses are infallible or that everything you think you observe in the world around you is real? It doesn’t take much skepticism to come up with quite a lot of everyday examples of situations in which a person’s perceptions are not reliable, such as optical illusions and dreams. As any good science textbook will point out, even scientific  tests and experiments, which so many people tend to trust so fully, can be affected by errors or by unobserved confounding variables. There is no such thing as absolute proof. From that position, you cannot make any logical or rational argument. To draw logical conclusions, one must start with premises that can be assumed to be true; logic cannot exist in a vacuum.

In other words, before logical thought is possible, it is necessary to take something on faith. We could be like Enlightenment philosophers and put our faith in the power of our own minds, disregarding the possibility that maybe we aren’t all-knowing and logically infallible. We could be like so many modern, rational people and put our faith in the power of science and human achievements, disregarding the possibility that maybe other people aren’t all-knowing and logically infallible, either. Or, we could put our faith in the existence of God and the truth of His Word, disregarding the possibility that maybe there’s no such thing as God and that anything that somehow does exist anyway is just a random freak coincidence that doesn’t really make any sense. It doesn’t make a person any more smart or logical to go with either of the first two kinds of faith.

Just sayin’.

The Adventures of my Pizza

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For lunch today, I bought myself an individual sized pizza, and then I went to eat it outside. As I walked in the direction of my favorite bench, I chanced to meet a stray cat who happens to be a friend of mine, and I offered her some cheese from my pizza. She told me she didn’t like pizza, and proceeded to curl up and fall asleep upon the aforementioned bench. The next thing I knew, I was surrounded by a mob of kittens who did like pizza. They swarmed around my feet, climbed into my lap, and helped themselves to my food, while I, of course, made absolutely no effort to stop them.  In return, I was permitted to pet some of  them. They tell me that I’m awesome and that they love me and that they will be sure to find me again anytime I have pizza in my hand. But next time, I’m supposed to get more than one, and hold the tomato, please.

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