automobiles, vocabulary, dogs

January 30, 2008


The first automobile was built in 1672 by someone who should’ve known better. It was built again in 1769 by a Frenchman. Neither was all that successful or else we should know. If you do not own an automobile you are “carless”. The word “car” comes from “chariot” or “cart”. There is one car to every eleven people.1 If everybody decided to get into a car at once a few would be left in the rain. This doesn’t seem to bother anybody. Rudolf Diesel invented the diesel engine. Who didn’t see that coming? Ransom Olds invented the Oldsmobile but not the Ford. Henry Ford invented the Ford. I think you get the picture. The automobile is nothing new.


If you want to talk you have to use words, but not all of them. For instance, “rigmarole” is hardly ever necessary. It is derived from “ragman rolls”, which is a long list or catalogue if it’s anything at all. Use this term in a conversation and see how far it gets you. Not very. I don’t see the point in shortening it to “rigmarole”. When I want to save time I just stay in bed. This isn’t good enough for everybody. Saying “rigmarole” in mixed company is your own fault. Words should be used sparingly if at all. Take the dog for instance.2


Nobody invented the dog except perhaps himself. Dogs are cute.3 Canis lupus familiaris is its Latin name. Latin will take the fun out of anything. On a good day, an Irish Wolfhound is a dog.4 Dogs walk on their toes and actually like it. They are dichromats seven days per week. Dogs have 220 million smell-sensitive cells but that’s no reason to be jealous. The Border Collie is extremely smart and comes from England.5 Dogs are sometimes in films but try telling that to them.

1 Some guys have all the luck.
2 Go ahead.
3 This has nothing to do with their withers.
4 Doesn’t he know it!
5 No correlation.


clouds, caterpillars, turkeys

January 29, 2008


Nephologists are the first to admit that if anything’s to be done with clouds it’s talk about them. There are only two categories of clouds but that doesn’t make things easier. For instance, is cumulonimbus incus a convective or layered cloud? Which would you rather be?1 Personally, I never met a cloud I didn’t like. In China pink clouds are a symbol of happiness. God led the Israelites as a pillar of cloud, just because he could. If you’re “on cloud nine” you are in a state of bliss. You see what I’m getting at.2


Some people think they can just become lepidoptera. I say not so fast. Try being a caterpillar for a while and see if you like it. Hindus look on the caterpillar as a symbol of inadequacy.3 In North American Native folklore, however, the caterpillar is equated with sexual awakening. That’s weird, but personally very helpful. Silk comes from a type of caterpillar, but I won’t tell you which. A caterpillar, if he plays his cards right, can become a butterfly, which is generally pretty and can fly. That’s nice, but he’s still a butterfly.


Turkeys are unfortunate creatures and they don’t even know it.4 Mexicans ate them for Thanksgiving long before we did. To the Native American eye the Turkey’s neck swellings suggested female fertility. This was before optometry. Turkey meat contains an amino acid called tryptophan. People with bigger things to worry about say it causes drowsiness. It does not. Conversation with extended family causes drowsiness. When a Toltec saw a turkey he reached for his umbrella. This didn’t confuse the turkey any more than anything else did.

1 Trick question. I don’t care.
2 Clouds are also symbols of fertility, if nothing else is handy.
3 That’s not all they do.
4 Show me a turkey and I’ll show you an idiot.

apples, france, origami

January 28, 2008


Apples are everywhere. Drop a handkerchief and see if it doesn’t fall on one. In Latin they’re called Malus domestica if you care. When Romeo said “a rose by any other name” etc. he didn’t know that the apple is related. Since there’s nothing else to do, people go crazy over apples.1 People go crazy over anything. Apple pie, an American symbol, is full of the stuff. There are as many apple types as there are apple cultivars. Most apple cultivars live in England, where they can get away with it. Apple enthusiasts will have you believe that consuming one per day keeps the doctor away. It does not. They’ll also tell you that apples help prevent colon cancer, prostate cancer and lung disease. If I were as dubious as an apple, I’d do my best to prevent cancer too, just to be safe. If you eat enough apple seeds you can die. Frankly I do not trust them.


In the 4th century AD, when nobody was looking, a tribe of Franks overran Gaul and waited around for somebody to invent escargots. It took awhile.2 The French are known for the guillotine and, more recently, an outrageous accent. They still refuse to accept the Imperial System of measurement and obstinately stick to the Metric, which is used everywhere else in the world but the United States (see previous post). You cannot tell a Parisian from a mile away, but you can from a kilometer. France officially recognizes Scientology as a cult. You can’t expect a country to get everything wrong. (In a list of French people you will find Brigitte Fossey and Simone Signoret, which occurs naturally nowhere else.)


Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding. Something has to be. You can fold all the paper you want and still not be an Origami expert.3 That takes time.4 A paper airplane is not origami. It’s kamihikoki, but still fun.

1 The people of Franklin, Pennsylvania take it even further. Can you blame them?
2 It was not worth the wait.
3 It’s also possible to be an origami theorist, but not without consequence.
4 I’m hungry.

lungs, bumble bees, USA

January 27, 2008


It is no coincidence that some of my best friends have two lungs.1 Not everyone is so lucky. A certain salamander that inhabits tropical forests doesn’t have any lungs at all, and isn’t he proud. You can’t blame him. Nobody was around to teach him otherwise.

Lungs are essential to life and they know it. They don’t just sit there and take it. You can’t, for instance, kill yourself by holding your breath. But you can, in the middle of a conversation, fill your lungs with air, puff your cheeks out, and stare silently at your companion until he gets up and leaves the room. This will show him.

The Bumble Bee2

Some people call bumblebees “humblebees”, which ought to tell you something. To me a bee is a bee. Anybody who says different is probably an apiarist.

All bumblebees but one collect pollen. The others think he’s crazy and aren’t afraid to say so. Humans refer to him as the “cuckoo bumblebee”, to the cuckoo’s disadvantage. Apiarists use the term Bombus psithyrus but don’t seem any happier for it. Nobody has thought to ask the bee itself.

The United States of America

The United States of America covers a total area of 3.79 million square miles. It was formed on the premise of tax-free tea but now look at it.

Two of its fifty states are not attached to it and it shows. Hawaii is a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean. Barack Obama was born in Hawaii but most people were not.3 Alaska is the largest US state.4 We bought it from the Russians as a joke. Only Alaskans can truly appreciate this joke.


1 One of them is used for breathing. Same with the other. Don’t ask me which is which.
2 The female bumblebee’s hind leg forms a corbicula, but that’s not what bothers me.
3 Hawaii became a US state in 1959 but didn’t notice it until three years later.
4 You can fit two Texases in the state of Alaska, but not for long.

oceans, movies, money

January 25, 2008


There is a total of six million tons of gold in the world’s oceans.1 How much is in a warm bath, you ask? None. And yet how much time do I spend in the ocean, comparatively? Wrong. I don’t spend any time in the ocean, and I don’t think the ocean minds. Anyway, it seems the ocean is perfectly happy coming up with new facts about itself. Some bodies of water just can’t leave well enough alone


Speaking of oceans, did you know that “Titanic” is the highest-grossing movie of all time? So did I. When a movie does this well at the box office we are wise to turn a critical eye toward it.2 Why do we all flock to the cinema in such overwhelming numbers in search of the same experience? Some questions just don’t have answers. This is not one of them.


The first documented use of gold coins is in 560 BC. I’m assuming exact change was given.3


1Or is there?
2Or, if you don’t have one, ask politely to borrow your neighbor’s.
3It was not.

plants, elements, moon

January 24, 2008


The vast majority of plants, I’m now being told, are “flowering dicots” – 200,000 species of them, to be exact. This isn’t necessarily cause for panic. Like most people who don’t know the first thing about plants, I’m always caught off guard by new information like this. You can never prepare yourself enough when it comes to plants. I wouldn’t put anything past them. If these particular dicots have been flowering since long before humans came along, I’m sure they know what they’re doing. If it works for them, it works for me.

The Periodic Table of the Elements

It turns out Rhenium (Re) was discovered by two German scientists named Walter Noddack and Ida Tacke. Or is it the other way around? Also, it’s unclear whether they actually discovered the element or were just caught with it in the dark room by the janitor.

Our Magnificent Moon

I guess the moon is egg-shaped, and not a perfect sphere? Nobody tells me anything. Also, it just occurred to me that the word “oval”, or “egg-like”, is derived from ovum, which is Latin for egg. But then, plumbum album is Latin for “tin”, so don’t be jealous.

Ova and out!