Servo Diem

Since the dawn of history we have immortalized the exceptional in art and song. Statues, murals and architecture were more commonly employed in the classical period, while today we use music and facebook pages to commemorate movements and saints. One method which has been used throughout history to honor significant people and events is the holiday. Just look at your calendar and you’ll see days dedicated to wars and kings, countries and queens. Unfortunately, the past decade has seen an alarming growth in the number of marked days.

It all started with the dawn of the special interest group, when a few well-meaning citizens sat down together and decided that their cause was the best one. They discussed how they could create a public symbol for their cause, but statues, paintings and songs weren’t far-reaching and accessible. They wanted to reach the entire world with this symbol, but they didn’t want to actually make something, so they decided to borrow a day from the calendar and call it their own.

This wasn’t a big deal; after all, they only took one day and there was plenty remaining. But other groups caught on, realizing that they could compel others to recognize their movement by creating special interest days. Soon, special interest groups were gobbling up days in a frenzy, until one group had a brilliant and terrible idea: the special interest week.

Today, we have dozens of days, several weeks and even a few months dedicated to special causes, and more are being generated all the time. Just listen to the radio for a few minutes and you’ll hear a promotion for National Wildlife Week or Bike to Work Day. Unfortunately for these groups, they fail to realize what made holidays special in the first place, their scarcity. A calendar with 365 holidays actually has 0 holidays; none of the days are special because all of them are special.

One day we could be observing No Power Hour on Bike to Work Day during National Wildlife Week in Breast Cancer Awareness Month. There’s no question that this needs to stop, but what can we do about it?

August 30th is now Calendar Preservation Day. In order to promote awareness about the dwindling number of unmarked days on our calendar, we will all join together, with one voice, on August 30th and say, “We will no longer recognize special causes on certain days!”

Menu Mayhem: Part I

It’s a clear, warm Saturday night in August, around 7:00 PM, when you decide to go out for a nice dinner with your darling.

You arrive at your destination: a mildly extravagant downtown eatery. After being led to your seats, you and your lover open the menus and begin scanning them while discussing the day’s events.

A few moments pass and you are gently interrupted by a well-spoken man in his late twenties with a clean but edgy haircut and a light beard.  With a confident and friendly tone, he introduces himself and adds that he will be your server for the evening. You order a couple of drinks to sip while you scour the selection of appetizers and entrées.

You take turns pointing out potential choices, but each one doesn’t quite fit your appetite tonight. The peppercorn steak looks appetizing, but you don’t really feel like eating that much meat. The southwest chicken salad sounds delicious, but it’s a salad. Several unproductive minutes go by and the server returns to take your order.

You request a few additional moments to finalize your selection, but you’re actually less sure about what you’re going to order than when you walked in. After frantically turning the pages back and forth, you surrender – there just isn’t anything good on the menu.

This is not an uncommon experience for restaurant patrons, usually ending with the defeated selection of something mediocre. There is a way, however, to avoid this tragedy.

Read the entire menu.

This solution is obvious, of course, but no one does it. Menus are one of few literary sources which are seldom read from start to finish. Newspapers and magazines are explored in a nonlinear fashion, but they are much larger than restaurant menus and are still read categorically.

We will often open menus to a random page and begin reading at an arbitrary location on that page. We’ll read one or two items in the nearby vicinity of the first, then skip to another page. We explore appetizers, desserts, drinks and entrées without actually reading any of the sections in full. By the time we begin to lose hope we have actually explored only a small number of the choices on the menu.

Even if you aren’t going to read all of the items, at least read the entrée section before dismissing the entire menu. Claiming that your options are exhausted before examining the entire selection is obviously quite foolish.

Read your menu like a book: start to finish.

In part II we will see how a systematic exploration of a typical restaurant menu exposes terrible inconsistencies.

They Suddenly Appear

Driving can be a dangerous activity, especially for critters who venture onto busy motorways. The evidence is spelled out in lumps of blood and fur on the side of the road – animals should avoid moving vehicles. Unfortunately, animals must often cross these paths at their peril to forage for food or locate a mate. Their demise is one of the many consequences of using automobiles for transportation. But let’s think for a moment, why do birds get hit by cars?

If you’ve ever struck a bird with your car, then you probably felt bad for the poor creature, but kept on driving as you should have. Yes, you are a bad person for killing an innocent and beautiful creature, but we’re not here to dispense judgement, we’re here to find out why a bird, which can fly, was hit by a car, which cannot.

Flight gives birds the ability to travel at nearly any height they choose. If you don’t understand the mechanics of flight, think of it as swimming in the air. Some birds can reach heights of 30,000 feet during migration, but most of them fly below 500 feet over shorter distances. There are two competing theories which attempt to explain why birds choose to fly at vehicle height instead of easily soaring above traffic.

The first possible conclusion is obvious: birds aren’t intelligent enough to know that they shouldn’t fly in front of cars. This explanation is logical and convincing, but not very interesting.

The second conclusion is that the birds that fly in front of cars are actually teenage male birds trying to show off to their friends and potential girlfriends. Why else would they dart out at the last second when they can clearly hear and see a vehicle approaching? Birds, like humans, want to be cool, and sometimes being cool means taking risks. There’s nothing cool about flying safely over a car to the other side of the road.

Why did the chicken cross the road? Because all of his friends were watching.


If you want to freeze water, you must lower its temperature to 0° Celsius. If you want to melt iron, you must heat it to 1530° Celsius. But what if you want to freeze iron?

If ice is frozen water, then solid iron is actually frozen liquid iron. Therefore all solid substances that have a liquid state are frozen at room temperature.

Everything is frozen.

The Good Stone

Most of us think we are a pretty good person. Although we may not declare the fact with words, our self-righteousness is spoken by our actions. We all do things that we know aren’t right, but we do them anyway because they aren’t really that bad, like spitting our gum on the sidewalk or writing a blog while we’re at work. However, each of us has a list of things we would never do, because those things are really wrong, like stealing a car or cheating on a spouse. This list of inconceivable acts keeps us safely elevated above others, so that we may gaze down with contempt at those who do not hold to our standards.

This system also applies to social laws, ensuring that we don’t fall into that stereotypical group of people we enjoy disliking so much. We may have a nice house, but we don’t waste money like those people. We may not have the best kept yard, but at least we don’t have car parts lying about like them. Even if we were to break one of our rules, we would have a completely logical reason for this exception. All of our deeds are reasonable and fair, neither too hot nor too cold.

Basically, the idea is that, no matter who we are, we can use certain rules and behaviors to distinguish ourselves from others. We create an arbitrarily line in the sand, or a point on a slope, based on what we feel is right and say, “Anything beyond this point is unacceptable.”

As shown above, you rank somewhere slightly above average goodness which those people cannot seem to attain. Wait, why is A Stone on the graph? The reason is that the whole system we have set up to measure our goodness uses only negative indicators. We think we are good because we don’t swear too much, drink too much, drive too fast or watch too much television, but, according to that standard, a rock is superior to us in every facet.

A stone will never hurt, never steal, never lie,

Never will it curse you, or ever leave your side.

But a stone will never love, never smile, never give,

And never will it praise you, for it will never live.

Be better than a stone.


Hair is an important part of our identity; our hair makes us feel beautiful, confident and cool. Whether it’s braided, dyed, spiked, straightened, shaved or grown down to the ankles, hair is one of two primary outward social identifiers, the other being clothing. The style with which we wear our hair can surely solicit ridicule from certain groups, or praise from others.

Our locks can also open the door to success. A short, clean haircut says, “I’m ready for a promotion,” while a greasy, unkempt ponytail ensures unemployment. It is said that even the color of our hair can send signals about our lifestyle and character. Blondes, for example, are commonly known to be hyperactive, overbearing and obnoxious, while brunettes are intelligent, professional and socially responsible.

Hair can be sexy, too. A woman with dark, luscious curls flowing down her shoulders may draw many men’s eyes her way. But, for all the power, beauty and strength that our hair can project, it is all destroyed once detached from our scalp.

When two lovers share an intimate moment, they may gently caress each other’s hair, but only a disturbed individual would caress that hair once it is removed from the head. Likewise, many of us try to infuse our hair with an exotic aroma to attract the opposite sex, but smelling some hair that isn’t attached to a person is not acceptable. Once our the crop of our crown is cut it transforms into trash, filthy as any other unwanted body matter. This phenomenon also occurs with finger and toenails, but they are less often admired or caressed than our hair.

The only way that cut hair may be restored is by making a wig, but wigs made from other people’s hair are still kinda gross.


A water hyacinth is an aquatic plant which floats on the surface of a lake or pond, much like a water lily. Unlike water lilies, however, the hyacinth is not rooted in the soil; it floats freely with its roots hanging several inches below the surface. The soil-less nature of the water hyacinth may seem unremarkable, but only until we explore the implications of such a trait.

Because a water hyacinth’s roots are not in the soil, the plant must receive all of its nourishment from the water in which it floats. This means that every element and nutrient required to make a reproducing, photosynthesizing plant is present in that water. In essence, a water hyacinth is made out of water.

Now let’s go over what we’ve learned about water hyacinths and the origin of babies to decipher what this implies about the genesis of humans.

  1. Babies are made out of food.
  2. Water hyacinths are made from water.
  3. Plants are made out of dirt.
  4. Animals are made out of plants, which are dirt.
  5. Humans are made from animals and plants, which are made out of dirt.
  6. Humans are made from dirt.
  7. God rested.


No two objects are the same. Even a dime, one of billions produced since the Coinage Act of 1792, is not completely identical to any other dime. Of course, comparing one dime to another with our eyes may yield apparent inconsistencies, but we are not just comparing their general shape and composition, we are comparing them down to the atom, quark and string.

The reason why we will be examining dimes, rather than the more traditional snowflake, is because coins are produced under highly controlled conditions and are intended to be identical. Of course, this is true of all coins, but dimes are particularly shiny and cute. Modern American dimes are 91.67% copper and 8.33% nickel, so at least we know that their composition is always consistent, or do we? They may all be 91.67% copper, but what about the decimal place after the 7, or the one after that? We could go on and on until we reach the final decimal place which measures only a single atom of copper. Let’s begin.

We’ll start by calculating how many grams of copper are in a dime.

2.268 * 0.9186 = 2.079 g Cu

Now we divide our copper content by one mole.

2.079 / 63.546 = 0.03272 mol Cu

Then multiply the result by Avogadro’s number.

0.03272 * 6.02 ^ 23 = 27,895,400,042,860,190 atoms of copper in each dime.

Since the U.S. Mint began production, there have been 86,426,821,377 dimes pressed, which is nothing in comparison to the copper atom count in every dime. Given these numbers, it seems unlikely that two of these coins have identical composition, especially since we are ignoring the fluctuation in both the copper to nickel ratio and total number of atoms in the dime.

Every object also experiences different events and conditions from the moment of its creation. Everything is subjected to varying degrees of light, heat and pressure, which makes it more unique. As soon as you touch something you deposit oil, bacteria and flakes of skin onto it, leaving a part of yourself behind.

If we take into account the shape of the coin there is even more room for dissimilarity. Unlike mass, location has no smallest unit of measure because we live in an analogue world. When we measure properties such as length or location, we are using numbers, which are digital, to describe something that cannot be perfectly measured. An atom can be one yoctometer further along on an axis than another atom, or less, because location is not limited by being comprised of physical units. But what if we compare something more basic, like an atom, instead of a dime? At least we can say that each atom of copper in a dime must be the same as the others, can’t we?

For simplicity’s sake, let’s ignore the fact that there’s 29 different copper isotopes and pretend there’s only one type of copper. We have to look at what an atom is made from, then measure those units’ exact count and location. Scientists now say that beyond the quark and gluon, there are strings which are the ultimate building block of matter. The theory is that the frequency with which they vibrate determines all physical properties in our universe. Of course, once we start examining the exact frequency of the vibration, we encounter another analogue property and arrive right back at square one.

It seems unbelievable that of the trillions and quadrillions of physical objects on our planet, no two are equivalent, but, as we learned before, even events that have a statistical possibility may be impossible.

There is always another decimal place.