I’m going to get the elephant out of the room right off the bat.  Yes, it was again my birthday three days ago.  Strange how they seem to pop up every year on the same day.  Last year’s blog held a promise to never again yell in impotent rage about how much I hated Father Time and the passage of his precious commodity.  So I’m forty-one, and perfectly happy to be so.

You might want to wipe away that bit of sarcasm that just oozed from your screen.  Stains, you know.

Instead, I’m going to talk to you about math.  I love math.  I teach math.  I see math in everyday life.  In fact, I happened upon two people having a math argument in, of all places, the Walmart parking lot, which certainly doesn’t fit with the stereotypical view of customers of said store who are often portrayed as bumbling buffoons only two steps above orangutans and one step below rhesus monkeys on the evolutionary chart.

To all orangutans… I apologize for that awful speciesist comment.  You are, of course, equal to rhesus monkeys in all ways.  I shouldn’t use blatantly speciesist comments in humor.  I mean, it’s not like your cows.

To all cows… oh fuck it.  Animal rights people can suck a soy egg.

Anyways, back to the math at hand.  I have used my stellar artistic abilities to produce a diagram of what exactly the two individuals were fighting about.

math picture

See?  Isn’t it just the purdiest thing you’ve ever done seen?

The debate was over which path should be taken while crossing the driving lanes.  The gentleman was arguing that path 1 was shorter to the entrance.  The young lady was arguing that path 2 was shorter to the opposite side.  And as everyone should know, if you had a decent geometry instructor at any point in high school or college, they were both technically right.

Pythagoras’s theorem states that the square of one part of path 2 added to the square of the second part of path 2, must equal the square of path 1 ( a²+b²=c² sound familiar?).  Therefore, it is both true that path 2 is the shortest path across the lanes and path 1 is the quickest to the actual store doors.  What you may not realize is that, in this situation, math is also telling us that the gentleman in the argument is an impolite jackass, and the young lady is a considerate human being.

Why?  Because path 1, while shorter for the pedestrian, accounts for more time within the driving lanes – forcing any driver of a car to sit and wait for his lazy ass to get out of the way.  With the speed the guy was walking, he could have saved the driver about six seconds if he had taken the short path across the lanes and continued up the sidewalk by using path 2.

There was also a discussion I had with a smug prick who tried to insist that 80% was always more than 20%.  Oh, how my math brain gagged at his stupidity.  Context matters in math, just as it does in writing and reading.  When I pointed out that the phrase, “20% off,” is exactly equal to, “80% of the price,” he whined that I was using semantics.  When I then pointed out that 80% of a dollar is much less than 20% of a hundred dollars, he complained that I was “cheating” by changing the total amounts.  I simply informed him that I wasn’t the one who used the word, “always,” which means, “in all cases,” and having demonstrated two cases where 80% wasn’t more than 20%, I had proven the statement he made wrong.  He called me a smart ass and walked away.  Logic Victory!

So yea, I love math.  Even when math kicks my butt with new algorithms I was never taught back in the Stone Ages when I went through school.  But I trust that I will be able to figure it out because math doesn’t lie.  And math tells me that by definition, I’m in a “prime” of my life.

Math is such a good friend to remind me of that.  Go forty-one!