Friday, January 21, 2011

SIWIK@16: Hot Chicks

There's a book out, called Dear Me: A Letter To My Sixteen Year Old Self, in which celebrities write short letters to themselves at the age of sixteen. It's an interesting idea, and one I support, though the more I think about it, the more I realize that I'd want to send a lot more than one simple note back through time to my own pubescent avatar.

Thus, Sh...tuff I Wish I Knew @ 16. Part the first:

* * *


Congratulations. Now that you're becoming a high-school senior and discovering that the world isn't just classrooms and grade-point-averages, I thought I'd send along a little...well, older-self advice. Yes, you're coming out of your shell, spreading your wings, whatever you want to call it. And yes, you're a pretty bright kid for all that. But trust me, by the time you get to where I'm sitting, there's going to be a lot of stuff you're gonna wish you knew back where you're standing right now. If you're reading this, and you believe it, maybe you'll be lucky enough to learn some of it.

First, you've noticed that there are these creatures around you who seem to be able to command your attention whenever they like. While your standards (not just because of your age, but because it's the danged '80's) are a bit different than mine, we'll split the difference and refer to them as 'hot chicks'. Pretty amazing stuff, eh?

Want to know how you can spend more time around them? Thought so.

First step -- take a deep breath. They're not goddesses, they're people, with interests and curiosities and opinions all their own, just like other people. You don't have to prove yourself worthy to hang around with them. Heck, keep on the path you're on (trying new things, stretching your wings, showing your talents), and they're going to be just as interested in you as you are in them.

Well, OK, not 'just' as interested. We'll get to that in a bit.

But first things first -- there is literally nothing preventing you from being friends with every hot chick you meet, from here until middle age at least, except your own preconceptions. That's what we're here to work on.

Next up, the bad news. These hot chicks are not all desperately looking to have sex, and they're certainly not all looking to have sex with you. You may find this disappointing, but actually, it's an advantage -- once you get that idea out of your head, that if you don't end up screwing one of these girls you're wasting your time, you're going to end up with a much happier late adolescence and early adulthood, trust me. Because the advantages? Oh, ho, man.

Y'know how other guys assume that any guy who hangs around with hot chicks and isn't trying to screw them must be gay? Those people are jealous. Making them jealous is a good thing.

Next, you know that warm fuzzy feeling in your stomach you get just looking at a hot chick? You're going to get that a lot. And, even better, the even more amazing feeling when one smiles at you, laughs at or even with you, and gives you a hug in front of six other guys. Oh, and there's this absolutely incredible feeling you get when you walk into a room with a hot chick dressed to the nines on your arm, and every other guy in the room stops to look. Trust me, it's awesome.

OK, now that the vain part of you is satisfied, let me talk to the smart part.

You know that feeling you get that nobody understands you? That nobody can really relate to what goes on inside your head, because they can't see the world through your eyes? Even that feeling you get sometimes that other people assume they wouldn't understand what's going on with you, so they just don't try? Guess what? Hot chicks get it.

I'm not saying they get you, necessarily, but the truth is that most are assumed to be a lot happier than they are, most see life from a perspective that other people don't get, and especially, most are sick and tired of being thought of as just 'pretty faces' and dismissed.

You are going to be the best damned friend these women ever had, and it's going to be awesome. But again, not like you think right now.

No, no, I get it; I'm you, remember? You don't have to explain to me that you're looking for something more than just physical stimulation. I know. Here's the problem, though: the one thing you're not ready for yet is that people, not just hot chicks, but people in general, don't fall the way you do. This isn't yet the time to explore that, so let me just explain how that affects you here:

You don't have to try to explain to every single one of these women how much you care about them.

For starters, they'll see it for themselves in your friendship. And trust me, the hot chicks you'll be attracted to have brains enough to figure that out for themselves.

More importantly, though, if you dump your feelings over some poor girl's head, you're going to be hitting exactly the same button that the clueless guy who just wants a quick lay is hitting, and you're not even going to realize it. Trust me, it's not a sex/love/romance/commitment thing. It's just that you're going to be pushing her toward something she's not sure she wants to give. It's a combination of trust, plus putting demands on someone as a price for your friendship. It may seem more noble that you're asking for her heart instead of her underpants, but it's the same basic conflict.

And yes, I realize that saying that is the easy part. I'm writing to you from nearly 30 years in your future, and I'm still not sure how to keep the part of me that wants to pledge undying love quiet. But here's the thing -- if you don't think you can get past that, if you feel as though you're going to want to constantly remind this woman how much she means to you, then do both of you a favor. Don't. Start. If you go for it anyway and can't keep yourself in check, god knows it'll be painful for you, and believe it or not, it's not going to leave her unaffected, either.

If you can work your way around that, then you're going to have some of the best times of your life ahead of you, believe me.

No. No. Stop. Don't give me that 'what if she...' business. Like I said, the hot chicks you're going to be attracted to have the brains to figure it out for themselves, and if by some chance one does decide that she wants to take you up on those feelings, trust me, she will find a way to let you know.

Good luck, kid.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Five Weekend Myth, Debunked

This year, July has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays. This happens once every 823 years...
- Too many Facebook statuses to count

If you want to believe that people are stupid, have really short memories, and really suck at math, here's your chance. There's a meme going around that July 2011 will have 5 full weekends, and it'll be the first time this has happened in centuries.

It won't be. In fact, the last time this happened was in October of 2010 (yes, not even three months before this post), and the same meme went around the web then.

If you're thinking, "Omigod! This thing only happens once every few centuries and it's happened twice in less than 12 months! Awesome!" Well, I have bad news for you: this happens all the freaking time. Rather than just pull out a calendar and show you how often this happens*, I'll try to explain using math.

* - SPOILER ALERT: By the end of this post, I'll be pulling out a calendar to show you how often this happens. Yes, I'm a hypocrite.

Let's begin with something easy. Any month that starts on a Friday will have five Fridays: the 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th. If that month happens to have 31 days, then it will also have five full weekends, since Saturday will be the 30th and Sunday the 31st. (It is true that, because of this, only a month with 31 days can have five full weekends -- so if someone tries to claim that a shorter month will also have five full weekends, you can debunk that really easily.)

So, how often do months with 31 days roll around?

Thirty days hath September
April, June, and November
All the rest have thirty-one
Excepting February alone

The old rhyme is right on, and by a process of elimination we can easily see that there are seven months each year with 31 days (January, March, May, July, August, October, and December). So you start with seven chances every year to see a month with five full weekends.

Next, note that just about every month contains a number of days that doesn't work out to an even number of weeks -- only February (in non-leap years) has exactly 28 days. So, since the number of days in each month is causing the start of each month to shift around the week, chances get even better that you'll see some month in any given year start on a Friday. This is not to say that every year gets a month with five full weekends (in fact, 2012 has no such month), but here's the thing:

If a given year doesn't have a month that starts on a Friday, the next year is more likely to.

Why? Because the number of days in the year also don't divide evenly into weeks. If they did, then years would start on the same day every year, and the progression of weeks would be eminently predictable -- July might always start on a Sunday, for instance, as it will in 2012. But because the normal year has 365 days, while an even 52 weeks contains just 364 days, each year progresses by a day on the weekly calendar. So in 2012, January will start on a Sunday, not a Saturday like it did this year.

So if you have a year where all the 31-day months start on some day other than a Friday (like 2012), the shifting of all those starting days by one (or two, in the case of leap years like 2012) means that you get seven new shots at the apple, so to speak.

And lo and behold! The next 'money month' that only happens once every 823 years will actually March of 2013.

"Okay, okay," I hear you thinking, "so it's not as rare as all that. It's still gotta be pretty rare, though, right? I mean, three times in less than three years has to be a fluke?"

No, my good person, it doesn't. If you understand enough math to build a calendar, you can build what's called a perpetual calendar, in which any combination of day, month, year, and day of the week can be determined. And since the math required to calculate calendars has been around for many centuries, the ability to produce perpetual calendars has also been around for centuries -- see that Wikipedia page linked above, which contains an image of a Swedish perpetual calendar used to calculate which day Easter falls on...from 1140 through 1671.

But for our purposes, this perpetual calendar works best. The provider of the calendar gives you a handy guide for using it as intended, but we can also use it to find out how often five-full-weekend months come around:

  • Start at the '1' in the 'days of the month' box in the lower right of the calendar,
  • Go to the right until you reach the 'Friday' on the same row.
  • Go up.

Each month you see, in each year in the same row -- both to the left and right of the month names -- starts on Friday the 1st. And thus each such month with 31 days will have five full weekends. The particular calendar I've linked to covers 1775 to 2025, a span of 250 years. And during that 250 year span, it's easy to see that there are a lot of five-full-weekend months**; heck, there are years that have more than one month with five full weekends, such as 2010, for example. Yes, the very year in which people started sharing online about how rare it was to see a month with five full weekends was a year that had two such months!

**If you don't feel like doing the comparison yourself, the total is 227 five-full-weekend months during this 250 year period, or nearly one every year.

In truth, a year like 2012 that won't have a five-full-weekend month in it is actually somewhat more noteworthy, even if it's not particularly rare, either. According to the same calendar, 36 of the 250 years on the calendar won't see a five-full-weekend month.

And OMG! Every one of those years has June as the month that starts on a Friday! That has to be when the aliens will come!

Or not.