The Tangential
JFK

I Was a Teenage JFK Conspiracy Buff

In 1991, my best friend Bob and I saw Oliver Stone’s JFK and suddenly, we two Minnesota teenagers understood the TRUTH about that dark day in Dallas. Lee Harvey Oswald was just a patsy, the straw man thrown to the fire by a Cuban-Texan-District-of-Columbian conspiracy that stood to make untold billions from the Vietnam War that […]

Airplane

Why “the Extra Legroom Society” is Part of the Solution, Not Part of the Problem

In a recent New York Times column, Frank Bruni decries “the Extra Legroom Society”—his term for the increasing profusion of price levels in everything from plane rides to amusement parks. Here’s where Bruni and I agree: increasing economic inequality is bad. Here’s where we differ: an increased array of price levels is a bad thing. I […]

Mortality and Immortality William Harnett

How to Stop Fearing Your Own Mortality in Five Easy Steps

  1. Accept that there is no God. One of the most basic arguments used to justify, if not the truthfulness of, then at least the practical utility of, the existence of a higher power is that it gives us something to look forward to after death. Now I’ve never been one for rote practicality, […]

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Why You Should Be Skeptical When People Say Language Determines Worldview

This week, Slate and The New Yorker have been talking about linguistic research that insinuates that an indigenous tribe called the Pirahã basically have no concept of numbers. Why? Because their language, according to this study, doesn’t have numbers, and, presumably because of that, they failed at an exercise in laying out quantities of batteries. […]

Breaking Away copy

How Not To Be an Asshole On Your Local Bike Path

Let people know when you’re passing. Zipping past someone out of nowhere is annoying, scary, and dangerous. Just give a shout: “on your right” or (better) “on your left,” please. A bell is helpful, but it doesn’t let the biker in front of you know which side you’re coming up on. Teach your kids to […]

Yellowstone_Caldera

Eight Things to Start Freaking the Fuck Out About RIGHT NOW

Global warming. At first, global warming seemed like just a long-term challenge, a problem for future generations to solve with their magical future technology. Then, it became clear that it was our problem—not just the cause, but the effects. We’re having a balmy high-70s autumn in Minnesota, while just one state over they’re getting 30 inches of […]

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The Openest Letter

As many of you approach your ninth birthday, I can’t help but think that how long you’ve been alive is a year shy of how long I’ve been a fully functioning adult (I’m 46) and about how much life lies ahead of you. So, as you venture down this unknown path, there are a few […]

McGonagall

Ten Easy Ways to Stay On Your Professor’s Good Side

1. Communicate early and often. Know you’re going to miss class, or be late on an assignment? Confused about an upcoming exam? Say something now instead of later. This shows your professor and TA that you’re on top of things, that you want to work with them to do well in their class. 2. Don’t copy […]

Spies Like Us

The Eight Dumbest Things Students Do When They Try to Plagiarize

Going into way too much detail about a topic that’s not closely relevant to the assignment. If the assignment is about Durkheim’s views on religion and your essay includes three long paragraphs about his views on gender, that’s the kind of thing that makes your instructor go hmmmmm. Turning in an essay with a weird […]

world's dumbest loser

Self-Deprecation Dos and Don’ts

DON’T: Be self-deprecating in a facebook post. The only possible results are significantly more un-satisfying than just having low self esteem alone, without the internet. You’ll either get 1) lip service from someone who’s totally unimportant to you 2) jibes from your cooler friends for being a pity whore, or most upsettingly 3) no response […]

Sigmund Freud

A No-Nonsense Guide to Analyzing Your Dreams

If you dreamt about: Losing a tooth: You are horrible to your body and you know it, you drunk. And you smoke way too much. Hooking up with someone of the same sex: You are a little bit gay. That’s ok! Falling off a building: You are either semi-suicidal or wish you were a bird. Going to prison: You […]

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Don’t Study a Language Just Because You Think It’s Pretty/Cute

I have been thinking about the many reasons people choose to study a foreign language. Here is a list of possible reasons: -You are interested in the culture behind the language. You want to understand the music, the literature, etc. in its native form. -Someone in your family speaks it and you want to honor […]

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