Monday, August 30, 2010


There is no such thing as "useless knowledge." You'll never know when you need to know the 1923 lineup of the New York Yankees, the exact dimensions of the Golden Gate Bridge, or the exact airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow. So keep reading, and keep learning. Nothing you learn will ever truly be wasted.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fill In The Blank

"In __________, there must be balance."

Possible responses include:
  • Life
  • Diets
  • Skateboarding
  • Gymnastics
  • Boats
  • Airplanes
  • A set of several forces acting on a single object, which is moving at a constant velocity. 
  • Budgets*
*Not necessarily true, given the United States' current national debt.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


People make associations, strange mental linkages connecting one subject to another. The smaller connections make sense sense (peanut butter/jelly, tuna/mayo, Sinatra/smooth, etc.), but the mental chains of association are never short. The brain's chains are forged of thousands of links, most of which the brain's owners don't even understand (white bread/loneliness, water ice/laughter, a capella music/nostalgia, etc.)

If you try to dig deep and analyze each and every link, you might make sense of these long strings of unconscious thought. But you probably won't.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Schedule Change

Due to increased responsibilities and a greater workload (and in an effort to maintain the quality of my posts), I will no longer be updating Looks Like A Tangent daily. Instead, I will switch to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday post schedule. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Watching magic shows is super fun, but also irritating. When you're a nerd like me, you obsess about how every trick is done. Are there magnets in that table, or is he lifting it with hidden string? Can you psychologically force someone to pick a specific number from a phone book? And when the magician reads (and totally blows) your mind and you have no idea how he did it, it's all the more annoying.

This is a true story; the sentence read from my mind was "bow ties are cool."

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Words are ideas; they can mean whatever we want them to mean. (I already talked about this a bit, but it bears repeating. Just ask George Orwell.)

I therefore propose the following (and quite harmless) change to the meaning of the word "trippy."
Trippy - adjective - of or pertaining to the act of tripping while walking.
 Used in context: "This cobblestone path is so trippy... I fall over at least once a day!"

Friday, August 20, 2010



Life is like a cinnamon roll: When you get everything right, it's delicious.

Also, it's best served reasonably warm.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


The human mind is conditioned to percieve the world in certain ways. You get used to seeing doors of a certain width, rooms of a certain height. If these proportions get thrown off in huge, obvious ways - for instance, by the vaulted ceiling of a Gothic cathedral - your mind can adapt. But when the rules are only bent slightly - when the ceiling is lowered by six inches and the doors are widened by about four inches - you feel something is off.

It's like a general case of uncanny valley, but with much fewer of the psychological issues concerning identity and such.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Packing: noun - The process by which your life disappears before your eyes, and is placed into large, plastic boxes to be moved someplace else.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Awareness, Versatility

Always be aware of your surroundings. Specifically, also make mental notes of the resources available to you.

Also, don't be afraid to think unconventionally. Use the materials around you in versatile ways. Some people only see a plastic fork as a tool for eating; don't be afraid to see it as a small crowbar or as a flexible lever arm. If you happen to be properly prepared, you can use that lever arm to make a mini catapult. And then you can have some real fun. (Plus, you'll make this guy proud.)

Monday, August 16, 2010


You only get so much time, and you often can't control how you spend it. Even if you'd rather be using it on something else, don't waste the time you have by complaining; just make the most of it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hidden Confidence

Purple patterned socks: The hidden win

Sometimes, you need purple argyle socks to get through the day. There isn't anything particularly special about purple argyle socks, and most people won't notice them, but sometimes just knowing they're there can give you the extra boost of confidence you need to get through the day.

This principle also applies to lucky underwear, hidden rolls of duct tape, crazy key chains, double rainbows, and similarly awesome things that other people don't know about.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Matter is temporary. Newspapers and plastic bottle get recycled. Plants compost. The atoms that make up our bodies were once clouds of cosmic dust. Everything is recycled. Everything is temporary.

However, if we can remember things, they become permanent. A shirt can get cut up into rags, but if you remember wearing it, it's still a shirt. Even if you part ways with a friend, you can still keep them with you in your mind. Physically, nothing is permanent. Mentally, everything is permanent.

(That would be a deep and philosophical conclusion, except the mind, which stores "permanent" memories, is itself matter, and thus temporary. Crud.)

Friday, August 13, 2010


Archaeologists learn about ancient cultures by observing that small fragments they leave behind. In the right hands, a bit of pottery can speak volumes about its long-deceased makers and a half-destroyed statue can reveal cultural norms and values. Half a stone tablet can provide the foundation for deciphering dead languages.

As such, I am genuinely terrified that future archaeologists will discover the Internet and conclude that our culture worshiped naked people, illiterate cats, and bizarre videos.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Jules Verne Likes Math For Its Own Sake

Jules Verne liked his mathematics. While describing Dr. Ferguson, the rugged, extremely well traveled protagonist of Five Weeks In A Balloon, Verne posits the following question:
"Given the number of miles traveled by the doctor in making the circuit of the Globe, how many more had his head described than his feet, by reason of the different lengths of the radii? - or, the number of miles traversed by the doctor's head and feet respectively being given, required the exact height of the gentleman?
To start, let's draw a diagram:

Figure 1: Dr. Ferguson travels the world.

The blue and green thing is the world, and the gray guy in a suit is Dr. Ferguson. As he travels (we'll assume at sea level) across the world (which we're assuming is spherical, with a radius r), he creates an angle θ between his starting point, the center of the earth, and his ending point. He thus moves across an arc length d. However, because of Ferguson's height (h), the distance between Ferguson's head and the center of the earth is greater than the distance between his feet and the center of the earth, so his head move across a different arc length, dhead. We're trying to solve for Δd, or dhead - d

From here, it's simply geometry. We know that d = rθ, so θ = d/r. Similarly, we know that dhead = (r + h)θ. By substitution, we determine that dhead = (r + h)(d/r). Let's simply...
dhead = (r + h)(d/r)
dhead = dr/r + dh/r
dhead = d + dh/r
Since  Δd = dhead - d, we can substitute and get Δd = (d + dh/r) - d = dh/r.

The difference in distance traveled by Ferguson's head than that traveled by his feet is thus the distance his travels across the earth times his height, divided by the radius of the earth. While we have to rely on a bunch of assumption to get this simply answer, it's likely a very close approximation.

Now, to finally answer Verne's question: Assuming Dr. Ferguson is 6 feet tall, and that he has traveled around the world exactly one time, we can compute that Δd = (circumference of the earth)(6 feet)/(radius of the earth), or that Δd = 2π(6 feet) = 12π feet= 37.699 feet. Which makes sense, as the earth's radius is huge compared to the height of anyone who isn't Yao Ming. (And, comparatively speaking, the earth's radius is still pretty big for him too.)

If you cared enough to read all that, I'm sure Jules Verne would be extremely happy with you. At any rate, I'm very happy with you.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Early Drafts

The phrase "revenge is a dish best served cold," went through a surprising amount of revision before it arrived in the English vernacular today. Early forms of the phrased included:
  • Revenge is a dish best served medium-rare.
  • Revenge is a dish best served with a side of fries.
  • Revenge is a dish.
  • Revenge is a dish best served deep fried.
  • Revenge is a dish best served in an Italian restaurant.
  • Revenge is a dish best served at high velocity.
  • Revenge is a dish best self-served (unless you live in New Jersey).

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Things I've Learned

  1. No matter how old you get, you're never "too old" for simple pleasures. The win-the-lollipop contest at the food store might be market at kids, but that's just a suggestion: There's nothing really stopping you from getting a free lollipop.
  2. A normal sleep cycle might be ideal, but there's something wonderful about sleeping until 10:00 AM. However, that something wonderful is quickly canceled out, as something annoying about staying up until 2:00 AM.
  3. Good friends are really hard to come by. Spend as much time with them as you possibly can, while you can. (See below.) People are important.
  4. No matter how much time you have, it's still not enough. Moments are just that; moments. You might wish they would last forever, but then they wouldn't be moments.
  5. A good story doesn't have to be told in chronological order. It's just much harder to tell that way. Also, a good story doesn't have to make sense. It usually helps, though.
  6. Parallel parking is crazy hard. You're trying to navigate a small, metal box (with multiple blind spots) into a space not much bigger than the box itself, trying all the while not to hit other small metal boxes on either side of you. It makes you want to buy a Mini Cooper or something.
  7. Real sugar tastes better than high frutose corn syrup. This is scientific fact.
  8. Things happen for a reason. Everything has a purpose. You might not know what exactly it is, but don't despair; you can often figure it out later on.
  9. Lists of ten things are boring and cliche. Everybody makes top ten lists; there's no reason for it. There's nothing at all wrong with having a list of nine or a list of eleven. The world needs to stop getting so hung up about the number ten. Really, it's just another number.
  10. There's something funny about irony.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Time According To Goldilocks

"Time is strange," thought Goldilocks. "Forever is too long, and incredibly scary, but a finite amount of time seems too short."

As Goldilocks stared at the edge of eternity, she realized it would be hard to find something "just right."

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Few Changes...

I've been playing with the Looks Like A Tangent's layout. I kind of like the new background; it feels more suited to the blog's (lack of consistent) subject matter. However, I spend most of my time writing the blog rather than reading it, so the ultimate judge of this new layout is you, the reader. Is the new layout an improvement, or should I switch back to the old one?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Good And Bad

Good: Taking Pictures With Your Phone. Although I'm really bad at cell phones, I can usually find my way around a phone's camera feature. As such, I was able to use my camera phone to forever immortalize the image of a man in a pretzel suit. Awesome, to say the least.

Bad: Getting Pictures Off Your Phone. My ability with cell phones ends at taking a picture. However, being the computer geek I am, I notice my phone has a USB port, and thus assume I can just transfer the pictures to my PC via USB. I plug my phone in, Windows downloads drivers, and all is good. Except it isn't: Windows installed the phone as a modem, not as a storage device. After hours on Google (my phone's manual is pretty rubbish), I discover that I need a separate program to move multimedia on and off my phone. The program, however, is so old that it only works with 32 bit operating systems. Never before have I wanted to punch a telecommunications company in the face.

Verdict: I Got To Blog About A Man In A Pretzel Suit. Totally worth it.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Thing That Are Awesome

The Pretzel Man, aka salted awesome.
  1. Pretzel suits. This guy was outside a soft pretzel store, and I got to take his picture and shake his hand. It was awesome.
  2. In a similar vein, warm soft pretzels. They taste delicious, and they make your car smell wonderful. (For increased awesomeness, eat one with a can of Coca-Cola. Beautiful.)
  3. Pink shirts. Lots of men fear the pink dress shirt, but if worn correctly they can look as good as - if not better than - their white and blue cousins. It takes a bit of confidence to pull off, but the payoffs are immense.
  4. Movies that don't make sense. (I'm looking at you, Memento.) You aren't quite sure if you understand them, but they make you think.
  5. While we're at it, watching movies with friends. If you're watching something by yourself, you're just sitting there staring at a screen. Awkward. When you watch with friends, you can make fun of the movie and laugh when your friend final realizes that "Donnie Darko" is spelled with a "k," not a "c." It's stops being just a movie, and becomes a memory.
  6. Laughing. Laughing with friends. Laughing so hard, you have no idea what you're even laughing at. Laughing at puns, laughing at jokes, laughing at bad jokes, laughing at stuffed dragon puppets. Just laughing at life.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Post About Nothing

From a purely theoretical standpoint, is it possible to have nothing? Let's analyze.

Imagine a normal-sized bathroom, floating in space. Naturally, the bathroom has a toilet, bathtub, etc., inside. All those things are something, so get rid of them.

We now have an empty room, floating in space. Except it's not really empty; there's still air. Replace that with a vacuum. But even then, there's still four walls (with blue floral wallpaper) and a (cool tile) floor, so remove those too.

Now we have nothing floating in space. The room we had, for all intents an purposes, is gone. However, it's still not nothing. If we have nothing floating in space, then there's still space, which is something. In order to truly have nothingness, we'd have to create an area where there was no space, make a big wide rip in the fabric of the universe. Now, inside this hole in space-time, we might have nothing. (Your mileage on this may wary, depending on your understanding of theoretical physics.)

The philosophical question really is this: is nothing still something? If nothing is something, we can't ever truly have nothing, because the nothingness itself is still something. If nothing is a lack of anything else, then as long as there is something else besides the nothingness, then the something else provides a meaningful context for the nothing, and thus the nothing is still something. In order to have an area of complete and utter nothingness, there could be nothing else to give it meaning as nothingness. True nothing can only exist in an utterly empty universe, which, quite frankly, is a bit of a depressing thought.

(Sorry if this is hard to read; philosophy isn't terribly light material. Also, I've written "nothing" so many times, it no longer looks like a word. I apologize if reading it this many times has had the same effect.)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

On Movies

There are good movies, and there are movies you enjoy.

They aren't always the same movies. A film could have great actors, great effects, phenomenal directing, and a wonderfully-written script. It can win Academy Awards for being such a great movie. But that doesn't mean people will enjoy it.

You can recognize and respect the fact that a movie is good, but you most certainly don't also have to like it.

This, of course, leads to a few questions: are good movies good because they're good from a cinematic standpoint, or because people enjoy them? Do they have to be cinematic and enjoyable? What about movies that you know are good, but you aren't sure you understand? I've seen quite a few of those lately.

Of course, there are also movies that are enjoyable because they're bad. But that's a different (though larger) ballgame.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Hiccup Diaries

Today, I got the hiccups. Here is the record of my attempts to cure myself. (All events recorded here are true. Times given are approximate.)

2:30 PM - I develop a case of the hiccups while walking the dog. It is annoying.

2:43 PM - I return from walking the dog. The hiccups remain.

2:45 PM - I eat a marshmallow. Apparently sugar helps cure hiccups. Hiccups continue

2:48 PM - I drink from the far edge of a glass. (You can't bend the glass down, so you need to bend your whole body forward.) Legends has that this cures hiccups. In reality, it merely makes you look silly. Family members laugh. Hiccups remain.

2:50 PM - I eat another marshmallow. Increased sugar dose does not stop the hiccups.

2:55 PM - I ask a family member to scare me sometime in the near future. Scares are rumored to cure hiccups, but I suspect this request will only result in 15 minutes or so of paranoia.

2:57 PM - I eat another marshmallow; hopefully the sugar will kick in before the scare does. Paranoia runs high.

2:58 PM - I eat a Dove chocolate. The increased sugar does not help, nor does the wrapper's motivational quote.

3:02 PM - I open a lemon favored lollipop. Perhaps a constant drip of sugar will end the hiccup's reign of terror. I am becoming increasingly desperate for a cure.

3:06 PM - The hiccups have worsened; they are louder and more frequent than before. My worries deepen.

3:08 PM - I watch this video, hoping its scary surreal cows will cure the hiccups. (Originally posted here.)

3:10 PM - Hiccups seem to have gone into a remission. Has my combination of sugar and surrealism stop their horrid advance?

3:16 PM - It has been six minutes since my last hiccup. Am I finally free? I get a glass of water (drinking it via the regular lip of the glass) and another marshmallow in an effort to secure the cure.

3:18 PM - Eight minutes since the last hiccup. Forty-eight minutes after their reign of terror begin, the hiccups have subsided. I am in the clear! (Also, the scare requested at 2:55 never arrived... so much the better.)

EDIT: 5:37 PM - I have the hiccups again. Awesome.

SECOND EDIT: 9:01 PM - After recovering from the 5:37 hiccup attack, I find myself hiccuping again. I am both angered, confused, and extremely worried. Will this ever end?

Monday, August 2, 2010

How To Call Shotgun


Modern society is all about social position, and no position is more coveted than that of "shotgun," the front passenger seat in an automobile. Since the dawn of automotive time, man has sought the most effective ways of securing this position; some are honorable (switching off every few stops) and some are not (hopping into the front seat while no one is looking). At long last, however, an authoritative source (read: me) has come up with a just system of rules for determining who shall ride shotgun. Read on and be enlightened:

The Supreme Laws Of Calling Shotgun
Article I: When a group of two people must travel by car, the shotgun position shall be given to whoever is not driving. Easy enough.

Article II: In a group of three or more, the shotgun position shall be given to the passenger who "calls shotgun" first.
Subsection 1:  In order to "call shotgun," a passenger must shout the word "shotgun!" loud enough for the other passengers to hear. If the call is too quiet, and none of the other passengers can verify the caller's claim to the shotgun position, his call is rendered invalid, and the position is still up for grabs.

Subsection 2: One may only call shotgun when in visual range of the vehicle to be ridden in. Any calls made outside of visual range are invalid.
Article III: It is the driver's responsibility to mediate disputes regarding the shotgun position.
Subsection 1: Any decisions made by the driver are final. His word is law.

Subsection 2: If two or more passengers call shotgun at the same time, it is up to the driver to break the tie.
Article IV: When the driver's boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/significant other is present, he/she/it is given the shotgun position by default. Any calls for the shotgun position as described by Article II are rendered invalid in this situation.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

On Finding Stuff

Few things feel better than finding something you lost long ago. Especially if it's something you were particularly attached to. Finding a lost sock, for instance, is like being reunited with a lost friend. (Especially true if you wear a lot of patterned socks.)