Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Math Formulas We Can Really Use

If any cry of anguish is universal across generations, it's this one, said by kids in Algebra classes throughout the land: "Why do I have to do this stuff? Am I ever going to use it in real life?"

Kids and adults alike acknowledge that we use elementary-school math in real life on a daily basis. We add, subtract, multiply and divide quite frequently. But when teachers start replacing the numbers with letters, and are introduced to terms such as "variable" and "polynomial", then those instructors meet resistance from students, and their protests often center around the idea that this kind of math will do them no good in the real world.

A lazy adult will simply affirm the students' suspicions by admitting that complex algebraic problems don't make their way into everyday life. It's an easy thing to say, but the truth is that life is full of situations in which formulas are required or at least helpful.

Here are some math formulas that ring true in real life:

1. Formula: C ~ 1/T

Real-life application: The size of a pickup truck is inversely proportional to the likelihood that the driver is a cat owner.

Where "C" is the likelihood that the driver is a cat owner (the dependent variable), and T is the truck size (the independent variable). As T increases, C decreases.

2. Formula:
G = A - (C + RE)/O

Real-life application: If you've ever grocery-shopped, you are aware of the Obvliot, the one who blocks the aisle by having their cart on one side, and their body on the other. Shoppers like you need to be able to calculate the available space in order to determine whether to try to get through, or just go around.

-G stands for the Gap that you can drive your cart through.
-A is the width of the aisle
-C is the width of the cart
-RE is the width of the Rear End of the shopper who's trying to keep you from making progress in your journey.

and of course

O is the measure of how Oblivious the shopper is to the fact that they are in the way.

3. Formula: A = P x SF

Real-life application: The worse a perfume smells, the more is applied.

Where A is the amount, in gallons, of perfume that is applied to the offender's face/neck/whatever, where P is the perfume, and SF is the Stink Factor.

Do you have any more math formulas which apply to real life?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Sit back and let me tell you a story:

One day a couple of years ago, I made a trip to my local supermarket. I encountered 4 different people during this single trip; together, those 4 individuals confirmed for me what I always suspected:  people can be very selfish, and have no idea that they are. 

1. When I arrived in the parking lot, I wanted to turn into one of the lanes so I could park, but the car ahead of me had to go forward or somehow get out of my way. Alas, that driver didn't see things my way, so he just...kinda...stayed...where...he...was for a while. He didn't seem to care that someone might be behind him.

2. When he finally moved, I drove toward an empty parking space that I had spied on the way in. It turned out to not really be empty, because another person in another car in the adjacent space went wayyyy past their yellow line and effectively took up two spaces. And they were in a smaller-than-average car, I might add. There was no need nor excuse to take two spaces.

3. Once parked, I walked into the store, I had to wait what seemed like an eternity as the person trying to grab a shopping basket decided it was a good time, and place, to rearrange the contents of her purse. She did it in such a way that I couldn't get to any of the other carts.

4.  No story set in a grocery store would be complete with out a person who managed to block an aisle so that none could travel past them. Once I got my cart and onto the cereal aisle, this shopper had her cart taking up the right half of the aisle, and her enormous self taking up the other half, as she carefully studied the ingredients listed on the box of each and every box of Pop Tarts in front of her. Rather than allowing me a way to get down the aisle, she just kept reading that label, so I went the long way around, down the next aisle, back onto the other end of the aisle she had been blocking me from.

The common thread between the 4 incidents, which, I promise you, happened during a single trip to the store: They all were made possible by people exhibiting an astounding lack of common sense and general obvliousness to the fact that there might be other people around who are affected by their decisions and actions.

In the spirit of Brangelina and Bennifer, I have decided to combine the fact that these people are (a) oblivious and (b) idiots into the the one-words description: obvliots.  The sad thing about the obliviot is that there is no known cure. And they are everywhere.

NOTE: I just googled the word "obliviot" and found that someone else already invented it, and it pretty much means what I said it means. I had no idea. Must have heard it somewhere and remembered it in the back of my head. Oh well. I didn't invent the word, after all. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Best Songs You've Never Heard, Part 5

I'm going to post a few links to Youtube clips of my favorite tunes that have been criminally unknown or underappreciated. This is Part 5. click here for Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

In no particular order:

Sam Moore, from 60's R&B legends Sam and Dave, showed in this late 80's recording that his voice was as strong as ever. He played an R&B singer in the movie John Cusack/Tim Robbins comedy "Tapeheads" and was featured singing this song in a sparsely-populated nightclub. While the movie is extremely funny, this song is as serious as it gets.  The powerful lyrics, combined with incredible vocals and a nice sax solo by Junior Walker, make this one irresistible.

"The Flame", by Spyche

Technically, we can't say this song is unknown, as it was a big hit for Cheap Trick. But this version, by a local Dallas musician with a day job, is a big improvement over the original. Take away the Cheap Trick over-emotive vocal, and strip away the over-production, and you have a great song delivered by a real songbird and accompanied only by a bass guitar, and you have a real gem.  Close your eyes and listen, and when she says "over you" at the 0:48 mark, your heart may just break in half.

"Tough it Out" by Webb Wilder

I'm not sure how this song is categorized. It's not country. It's Southern Boogie Rock. Whatever it is, just crank it up real loud.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Best Songs You've Never Heard, Part 4

I'm going to post a few links to Youtube clips of my favorite tunes that have been criminally unknown. This is Part 4.  Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

In no particular order:

"Old Habits Are Hard To Break" by Ronnie Milsap

John Hiatt wrote it and recorded it, but no version can compare to this one. Milsap's vocals here are as good as anything he's ever done. If you didn't know he had done syrupy ballads before, and heard him here for the first time, you'd swear he was a lifelong bluesman. This story of a man appealing to his female friend to get out of a destructive, soul-killing, relationship grabbed me the first time I heard it. It may be my favorite recorded song ever. 

"Only Human" by Rosanne Cash

Many years ago, I noticed a consistent theme in Rosanne Cash's music: it's extremely important to her how people treat each other, and when someone is less than considerate to her, she's going to say something about it. this is epitomized in "Only Human". For more examples, check out lyrics from her other songs:

"You were always so disappointed in me, because I couldn't ever do nothin' right."

"What did I say to make your cold heart be this way? Maybe I'll just go away today."

"You always find a way to hurt my pride. If I'm not crying, you're not satisfied. I don't know why you want to hurt me so."

"I don't have to be nobody's fool, and I won't make no exception of you. I don't have to crawl. I can just walk away."

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Best Songs You've Never Heard, Part 3

I'm going to post a few links to Youtube clips of my favorite tunes that have been criminally unknown. This is Part 3.  Part 1  Part 2 Part 4.

In no particular order:

"It Ain't Real If It Ain't You" by Mark Gray

Mark Gray was a country singer who never caught on, but this is a gem. His vocals are as soulful and meaty as it gets. Sadly, country fans probably ignored this song in order to pay attention to some line-dancing nonsense. I still have the 45 for this one.

"Nail It Down" by the Meat Puppets

I may be wrong, but believe that Dwight Yoakam's friend Pete Anderson produced this one. Straightforward rock and roll.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Best Songs You've Never Heard, Part 2

I'm going to post a few links to Youtube clips of my favorite tunes that have been criminally unknown. This is Part 2. Part 1  Part 3 Part 4.
In no particular order:

"Infested" by Course of Empire

I don't know if I'll ever understand why this one didn't make this band famous. It had a cool video. Course of Empire had a great regional following and a great stage presence. The sound fit in at a time when Grunge had brought back crunching guitars.   Ah well.
"Infested" needs to be cranked up to be properly enjoyed.

"Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps" by Doris Day

The two songs on this page could not be any more dissimilar. Still, a great song's a great song. This one's from the pre-rock era, early 1950's.  It has an irresistible melody that's not easily forgotten. "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps" will stick in your head.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Best Songs You've Never Heard, Part 1

I'm going to post a few links to Youtube clips of my favorite tunes that have been criminally unknown. This is Part 1.
For the rest of this series: Part 2  Part 3 Part 4.

In no particular order:

"Penny To My Name" by Eva Cassidy
Eva Cassidy had one of the greatest voices I have ever heard. She recorded in a friend's studio and sang at local places near her Maryland hometown, but only became well-known after her death from cancer at age 33. "Penny to My Name" tells a heartbreaking story of a young woman trapped in a hard marriage, with young kids, barely scraping by while running a gas station and dealing with a drunk for a husband. What's really heartbreaking is that she's living in a place that many people want to escape to, but she has no appreciation for the gorgeous view she enjoys daily, and she only wants to see city lights and get away from what she thinks is an unexciting life.

"Don't Change On Me" by Ray Charles

He looks young here, perhaps late 30's. He belts out a song that expresses his love and appreciation for his partner exactly as she is.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Eyes on My Father

DING!  With a swing of the bat, the little white ball, headed toward the catcher’s mitt, was forced to do an about-face, and was now outfield-bound. The 11-year-old batter, realizing the ball was well-hit, was determined to stretch this one into a double.  As he rounded first base, the right-fielder reached the ball. The runner headed toward second as the outfielder scooped up the ball, transferred it to this throwing hand, then let it fly toward the infield. As the runner slid into second, the ball came in, just a tad late.  Jacob was safe with a double.
With a big smile on his face, he stood up and looked toward the dugout, where his dad, the team’s manager, was standing and cheering. The son’s eyes locked in on his father’s, and they shared a proud smile.  Neither noticed the noise around them, but it sure was loud.

That loudness was a combination of 40 or so adults cheering, clapping, and yelling not-very-helpful instructions to the players. Half of them were parents on Jacob’s team, yelling while the play was unfolding, cheering him on from the moment of the “DING!” to the moment the umpire yelled “SAFE!”. The other half of the noisemakers were parents from the other team, encouraging their fielders as they tried to throw that runner out, and then, once the play had ended, congratulating them for the effort.
Despite the noise, the boy on second base had narrowed his focus. He didn’t care that a bunch of other kids’ moms and dads were cheering him on; he just wanted his eyes to confirm what his heart already knew: Dad saw, and Dad is pleased.
At the moment I caught Jacob’s eyes as they locked in on mine, I realized my son was painting a picture for me of the ideal way any child of God should live their life: to push aside all other distractions and focus on pleasing his Father.
For much of my life as a Christian, I’ve viewed pleasing my Heavenly Father to be a nice bonus as I pursued what pleased me. I’ve paid way too much attention to the applause of those around me: the ones offering their approval as well as those voices which urge my defeat. I’d have experienced immeasurably more joy if I’d just blocked them all out and let the approval of my Father be my primary motivator.
Don’t read this the wrong way: God doesn’t love me more if I perform for Him than if I don’t, just as my love for my son doesn’t increase or decrease as his batting average rises and falls.  My heavenly Father has already demonstrated His love for me in the ultimate way: by sending His Son to die in my place. Neither the quantity nor the quality of His love for me can increase beyond that.   This isn’t about earning His love. This is about blocking out all distractions, and making Him the only One that matters.

I’m reading a powerful, fascinating book by Mary DeMuth, titled “Everything”.  The author describes her newfound priorities this way: “We [she and her family] want to live a life where we crave the things of God, hunger for righteousness, and worry more about what God thinks of our reputations than what others think.”
DeMuth’s description of living for God is about so much more than a ticket to Heaven or material blessings. “The gospel…shouldn’t merely be the crutch we fall on when life gets ugly. It should be the legs we walk on, the air we breathe.”
The point of focusing on pleasing God isn’t to win His love or (especially) to earn salvation; by making it all about Him, we know Him better, and we give Him an opening to impact the world through us:
So that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;” Colossians 1:10

A few minutes after Jacob stood on second base, he came around to score our first run of the game, and that moment is captured in the photo above. Scoring a run after a double is nice, but when we make eye contact with our Father, and know that we have pleased Him…well, that’s irreplaceable.