Stealing from Thieves

When stocking up on provisions at the local grocer, we are often bouncing around from section to section, crossing items off our list one by one. Unfortunately, in our haste we might walk past an essential ingredient in tomorrow night’s dinner without even realizing it and we are forced to, somewhat embarrassingly, turn around and go grab it. But we don’t want to rotate our kart in the narrow, crowded aisle just to get one measly carrot that’s infected with measles or a crumby loaf of bread, so we abandon our vessel of victuals and swiftly stride back to the omitted ingredient.

As you walk away from the kart, you make sure to remain within sight of it, suspiciously glancing back every few seconds. But why all this glancing? There is no reason to be concerned about the grocery kart. The groceries you have chosen are not unique or superior to other groceries in the store, and, unless you brought a child, you don’t own anything in your kart anyway, so there is no reason for someone to take form it. Even if someone wanted to steal something, there is no ownership until the time of purchase, so there can be no theft inside the store.

Go ahead, leave your kart. No one will take your food.


“Happy anniversary!”

A symphony of applause, laughter and kazoo erupts as the aging couple enters the gymnasium. Party hats are promptly fastened to their crania as they are escorted to their seats at the head table by two of their young grandchildren. They take their chairs below a sparkling banner which reads, “Fifty and Counting!” Joy and gratitude are written on every crease and wrinkle as smiles engulf their faces. Waves of emotion crash over them as they recognize one familiar face after another, some they’ve not seen in decades. The shock is amplified when it becomes clear that many guests have migrated great distances to show their support. This is truly a magical evening for the aging couple, but why tonight? Why is this anniversary so much more important than the last?

Anniversaries are an important part of our lives. They are achievements, medals of accomplishment, which we wear with pride, reminding us of our past, passions and commitments. Anniversaries can mark anything from births and weddings to freedom and tragedy, but why are some anniversaries more significant than others? Why is the 50th year more meaningful or important than the 49th? This is because anniversaries are a mixture of two concepts: commemorative days and significant numbers.

Marking days on the calendar in honor of special events, both personal and public, has been a popular method of commemoration throughout history. It’s obvious why you would want to celebrate a birthday or wedding day, but the reason for the emphasis on certain years is more illusive. The cause, to put it plainly, is that we consider some numbers to be of more importance. Let’s take a look at the three importance factors which make up all significant numbers and attempt to unravel what makes them dearly beloved.

Two: Though not especially significant for anniversaries, the number two plays an important roll in calculating number importance, which we will discuss later. Although two does not add to a number’s significance, it is a vital component in the production and division of even numbers, which are much more well-liked than odd ones.

Five: By far the most significant odd number, five is a commonly found in years of commemoration. However, the number five, though compelling, borrows much of its importance from another number. This is the second most valuable factor.

Ten: The most valuable factor and the basis of all number significance and commemoration, ten is the backbone of all monumental anniversaries. Every important year is created using the numbers two, five and ten. The more fives and tens used to create a number, the more significant it becomes. Here’s an example of a few important anniversaries:

  • 20th: A product of ten and two, arguably more significant than the 10th, but not as significant as the 25th.
  • 25th: A product of ten and five divided by two. Notice how this number incorporates more importance factors, which makes it more significant.
  • 30th: A product of ten and three, this anniversary is less significant than the 25th because it has a factor of three, which has no importance.
  • 50th: A product of five and ten, this anniversary is more significant than the 25th. This is because it is a product of five and ten but is not divided by two.

Getting the picture? Let’s put it into a formula:

  • Importance = (TenCount * 3) + (FiveCount * 2) – DividedByTwo
  • 20 = 10 * 2 : Importance(20) = (1 * 3)  =  3
  • 25 = 10 * 5 / 2 : Importance(25) = (1 * 3) + (1 * 2) – 1 = 4
  • 500 = 10 * 10 * 5 : Importance(500) = (2 * 3) + (1 * 2) = 8
  • 500 = 10 * 10 * 10 / 2 : Importance(500) = (3 * 3) – 1 = 8

Now that we understand how to calculate which anniversaries are the most significant, let’s look at some possible explanations for why two, five and ten are considered important to us.

First, the anatomical explanation. We have five fingers on each hand, ten in total, so we are used to counting in fives and tens. Our bodies also usually have two feet, two lungs and two eyes, among other useful things. Because of the natural occurrence of these numbers in our daily lives, we could be drawn to them. But, if this is the case, why would ten be more important than two or five?

One argument is that these numbers are easier to deal with mathematically, therefore we like them. A dime is worth ten cents not because of our love for the number ten, but because having a coin worth ten cents is a practical way to exchange change. This is a persuasive argument, but would only explain areas which require calculation, such as physical measurement and currency.

Another theory is that all of our number affinity is caused by the decimal numeral system. As children, we all learned to count to ten and, from an early age, began to recognize its significance. When we count up from one, everything is straightforward until we reach nine, then we must cross the threshold and carry over, restarting at one again. Perhaps this process burrows itself deep into our minds, inscribing the importance of the number ten onto the tablet of our subconscious.

So when you celebrate an anniversary, you are celebrating the cause for the commemoration as much as you are celebrating a significant number.

The Advance

Our bodies are always changing. We are growing, aging, healing, rotting, and dying all the time. Thanks to our good friend, mortality, we are all destined to endure the debilitating effects of age. One area of great concern is our hair. As we age, our hair loses strength, color, gloss and curl. Though all of us may worry about these changes, males are haunted by an additional effect: hair loss.

Many men feel emasculated and vulnerable when their hairline begins its recession. To avert this catastrophe, men will go to great length, including surgery or the wearing of fine hats. There are few things more pathetic than a grown man distraught and insecure because of an unavoidable genetic feature. Perhaps they should be thankful that their hairline is receding, not advancing.


Commuters are often tempted to violate traffic law to hasten their travel, especially when caught in the teeming thicket of rush hour on a highway. A popular method for averting this petroleum-powered prison is to infiltrate the HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lane. Obviously, risking an expensive speeding ticket to save some time is not wise, but in moments of extreme emotion, unwise choices can be very appealing. However, we are not here to discuss the viability of criminal behavior in extreme situations; we are here to dissect the term high-occupancy.

First, let us define the form and function of the HOV lane. An HOV lane is a traffic lane reserved for vehicles carrying two or more passengers. They are usually found on saturated highways leading into and outof urban areas, and are often enticingly vacant. The HOV lane’s job is obvious: to encourage drivers to carpool by offering them an exclusive supplementary lane. What is difficult to understand is why a vehicle with only two people in it is considered high-occupancy.

It would be a colossal exaggeration to regard any vehicle containing two people to be highly occupied. After all, is two really a high number? It’s the second lowest possible number of passengers. If having two passengers designates a vehicle as high-occupancy, then a vehicle with one passenger must be low-occupancy. This is known as a binary logic system, and it only allows for either a high or low state. But, as we know, the world is not black and white, often offering complicated variation and exception, not rigid classification. What about vehicles carrying synthetic beings? What about a bus bus which has just dropped off or is picking up a multitude of passengers? What about vehicles carrying children? What about all the things that you said we were to gain?

Apparently there is no distinction made between a parent taking their child along on an errand and a Greyhound full of transients headed into the city. According to traffic law, these vehicles are equally occupied. We should acknowledge and appreciate the unique contributions of each vehicle’s occupation, defining additional states of vehicle occupancy in collaboration with new occupancy-specific lanes. A good start would be creating an MOV lane.

Wiggly Wigs

We named this creature because of our fear,
now fear this creature because of its name.

An insect we greet with scowl and sneer,
an innocent insect living in shame.

Spare this poor creature, give pity, not blame,
a victim of slander, a scandal severe.

For an Earwig is not this great scourge of fame,
an Earwig’s a wig which is worn on the ear.


To begin, answer these two questions:

1. Of the movies you own, which one is your favorite?

2. When was the last time you watched it?

Chances are you haven’t sat down and soaked in this classic in quite some time. You adore this film and you have access to it at all times, yet you never watch it. Why is this?

The graph above shows how likely we are to watch the movies that we love during the various phases of release. We can see how excitement and anticipation cause increased viewing likelihood during theatrical and DVD release, as well as small swells upon television premier and DVD purchase. Now let’s see what availability looks like throughout the release period:

If we compare these two graphs, we can see that there is a correlation between the film’s availability and the likelihood of watching it. When the movie is in stages of high availability, the likelihood of watching is increased. This is generally true up to the DVD purchase, when likelihood and availability diverge. What is especially fascinating, and the subject of our focus, is how the likelihood of watching is at its lowest point when availability is at its highest. To clarify: when you own something, you no longer desire it.

Think about all that you desire in life. These are things that you do not currently have. At first it seems obvious and appropriate that we do not yearn for something which we possess, but this behavior is, in fact, strangely self-defeating and masochistic.

Besides possession, or ownership, and desire, choice also contributes to the behavior. In order to desire something, there must be an option for us to desire (choice).

As we can see above, when there is no choice, there is no desire, for we are forced to accept out situation. When we have choice, desire flourishes, for we can then desire all the things that we do not have. When there is an oversaturation of choice, we have no desire; this is sometimes called choice fatigue. For example, let’s say that you just bought a brand new television, but it’s 1960 and you only have 7 channels. Because there are so few channels, and no option of acquiring more, you are forced to enjoy those 7 channels thoroughly. As a contrasting example, imagine you recently subscribed to satellite television, inviting a massive migration of media messages into your home. Despite the gargantuan quantity and diversity of entertainment at your fingertips, you are not satisfied by any of the options. This is due to both an increase in choice, which causes an increase in expectation and, thus, disappointment, as well as decrease in desire, since that which you once craved is now in your ownership. Some would complain that an increase in channels means there are fewer quality choices, but it is precisely because there are more quality choices that our desire decreases. A choice that would have been acceptable before is now rejected in search of something greater.

As for ownership, it is a poison to desire, causing it to wither like a severed vine. There are some situations where we can enjoy, with renewed passion, the things that we own. There is hope. Spain has a plan.

When we unsuspectingly encounter something we own, outside of our control, we are released from the bondage of ownership, free to enjoy it once again. When we find that our favorite movie is being shown on television, or our favorite song is playing on the radio, the shackles are shattered. Even though we could choose to enjoy the thing at any moment, it is only when we do not choose it that we can enjoy it. The exact cause for this exception is obscure, for now let’s just accept it as a gift.

So now that we know how to destroy desire, we also know how to cultivate it. We must preserve our desire; do not own the things you love. Borrow them, share them, rent them, but do not own them. Do not cage the beast of desire.