Saturday, May 14, 2005

Trivia: What tool am I?

You are a drumstick: Absolutely insane. That is how most would describe you. You aren't afraid to take risks, and enjoy putting yourself in strange situations. Most people hang out with you because of your hilarious sense of humour. You light up any bad situation, and can help all of your friends with their problems, except for your own. Because of this, you enjoy being around people like you. Many shut you out for your very weird, random personality, but honestly, you shouldn't care. Most compatible with: Guitar and another drumstick.

What Random Object Represents Your Inner Self?

Press: The Vatican's Sin of Omission - NYT

My most recent thought on this longstanding concern is that Hitler would have sacked the Vatican just as soullessly as he sacked the rest of Europe. I greatly respect the late Archbishop Oscar Romero, but I doubt the Pope should have taken such a public stance against such a global menace.

The Vatican's Sin of Omission - New York Times

Trivia: Internet inspirational stories

The punch line of one of my favorite birthday cards goes: Because I know how much old people like to get mail. So I can appreciate friends who at least are thinking of me when they send me these interminably long inspirational stories about the little boy (or girl) who is dying in the hospital, says (or does) something so poignant, motivating the parent (or pastor) to rally community support ... showing how angels walk among us. I can empathize with those who believe and share these stories, and yes, they are fine stories; I just do not have the time or credulity to finish reading them. Because I have been a professional technology writer for 20-plus years, I live on the Internet around the clock, so I have seen hundreds of these things. (It would be an interesting if pointless sociological study to examine how and therefore why these stories appear with subtle changes over time.) Anyway, I do not believe they are true unless I can verify their appearance in a newspaper or other publication with more authority than an email that has passed through four million hands so far. I find that asking friends nicely not to send me those kinds of stories helps (because of how busy I am or how many I already receive); and that may work for you too. Those less experienced with email may snap back at you though, presuming a personal rejection, so be forewarned.

Trivia: Urban legends on the Internet

The Internet is a vast collection of information, but also a storehouse of sociological behavior. Why do people send along all these urban legends via the Internet? Because they sound plausible and answer questions we want to see answered; so unless we know better, we share them with all the close personal friends in our email address book. I have received hundreds of these urban legends over the past 20 years which, on checking, proved false; in that time, I have sent on two without verifying them, and they proved to be false too. (Remember the observation-deck photo of the plane poised to hit the World Trade Center?) Speaking as a journalist, I advise others to verify all such legends on, or simply trust others to learn these things through more authoritative channels than tag-team Internet mail. For example, this morning I checked a report that women stranded in their cars can reach non-emergency highway patrol by dialing *677. Turns out this one is 1% true: *677 (or *OPP) works only in Ontario, Canada (

Proverbs: People before dogma

I can summarize ethical religion in three words: People before dogma. Any religious or moral teaching should actually have compassion on the people it claims to protect. Merely saying one hates the sin, but loves the sinner, is not enough. Anyone can claim to love another from afar, but true compassion means coming down from that religious high horse to converse with and even befriend the other, face to face. "Perfect love casts out fear" (I John 4:18).

Proverbs: People before profits

I can summarize corporate ethics in three words: People before profits. It is mercenary greed to take jobs away from Americans for the sake of profit alone (which seems to go mostly to the CEO as opposed to R&D and the oft-vaunted shareholders). Seeking profits by marketing a product that causes any harm to the environment or to people (as opposed to less harm than the cost of projected lawsuits) is immoral and indefensible.

Proverbs: It's the people, stupid

The Internet is not about the information, but the people who are striving to learn and grow with it. Most everything in life is not about the things, but about the people who are stewards of the things. Technology is just a tool; it is people who decide how to use any tool (pencil, gun, subpoena) at their disposal. I pray that we only use things and make decisions ethically.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Neologisms: Giddy-two-shoes

A teenybopper, esp. at the mall or a party.

Trivia: Signons and passwords

People often ask how I came up with this or that unusual signon to an email or website account. Frankly, I never spend more than a few seconds of mental energy inventing any signon or password; I'm a natural and prolific brainstormer. I was Greenbean on from the nickname of my first roommate but also of a challenged friend we helped learn to read. I was Paulers on because Stevers sounds stupid. I've been Mamaninfas on a dating site because Mama Ninfas is a great Houston source for the vitamins found in fajitas and margaritas. As for inventiveness with passwords, I'd never repeat any real ones here (or anything close to them), but here is a flavor of the riffs I might riffle: perchick, binky, tortellini, gravage, grimaud, fogarty, grimsby, primpie, pocketapoo, philardia, reynaldi, acouscous, spaghettini, frumpie, gorchabev, hopalong, grenadine, wladowice, blunderbuss, nogoodnik, loogie, koplah, krispie, nunchuk, paganini, pascagoula.

Relationships: Bald or impotent?

The latest Oprah issue reports that most men would rather be impotent than bald. Speaking as a member of the Clean Pate Club myself, this is patently ridiculous. Why are men always mistaking what's on the outside for what's on the inside? Why do men always put their ego-driven needs ahead of the relationship? Lastly, why do men seek arm candy or a Stepford wife instead of a truly equal partner? (Probably because a woman can out-relationship a man most any day.) Both women and men are capricious; but more women put up with, and even enable, men's mercurial temperament than vice versa. Why is that?

Neologisms: gonkulate

I see this goofy-sounding mot as a noun (gunky precipitate) and a verb (any suggestions?).

Gibberwocky: sodium bifurcate

I've used this one since college.

Gibberwocky: squigget

Proverbs: If you can't be kind, at least be vague

A form of this proverb came in an "Internet wisdom" email from my folks this morning and got my attention. It's a good lesson to keep in mind: Graciousness is the opposite of being a blunt verbal instrument.

Trivia: Minnesota vs. Houston

In Minnesota, your glasses fog when you go indoors in the winter. In Houston, your glasses fog when you go outdoors in the summer. (This morning, my glasses would fog just breathing on them.)

Gibberwocky: gench

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Gibberwocky: Gibberish jabberwocky

This weblog is meant to be a fishbowl for a fraction of the thoughts I have each day. It will cover many topics, which I hope you appreciate, but two of the oddest things you may find will be Neologisms (words I make up, with definitions) and Gibberwocky (words I make up, but have yet to and may never explain). You are welcome to suggest your own definitions in the best spirit of playing Fictionary!

Faith: Basics of Christianity

Since my faith is central to me, here is a capsule explanation of Christianity for those who don't follow such things (like me with professional sports):
History. Jesus of Nazareth healed the sick and preached to Jews about "our Father in heaven" with traditional religious but also radically compassionate views. He also claimed to be "the son of God," which according to C.S. Lewis makes him either a lunatic or truly the Messiah, Jesus the Christ. After predicting he would rise again, Christ was crucified (a gruesome death, as seen in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ). His followers (first Mary, then a dozen-plus and finally hundreds) saw him and spoke with him after he "rose on the third day"; later they watched him ascend to heaven with a promise to come again. Fearing persecution, they laid low for fifty days until they were "baptized in the Holy Spirit and in fire," which emboldened them to preach "the Good News" that "the kingdom of God is at hand," adding thousands to their numbers in the first day alone. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch about ten years after the persecutor-turned-apostle Paul of Tarsus began preaching Christ to non-Jews. The "gifts of the Spirit" poured out on Pentecost (the birthday of the church) have begun to reappear in the last century, but they remain a minor trend and highly controversial.
Theology. Orthodox and Roman Catholics are the most traditional and conservative Christians, accounting for half of all believers. Protestants (Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians etc.) represent denominations that have appeared since Martin Luther and the Reformation, largely for differences in theology (Calvinists favor God's sovereignty over humans' free will by imposing a false dichotomy) and polity (hierarchical vs. democratic governance). Non-denominational groups prefer charismatic qualifications in their pastors over academic and ecclesiastical ones. Catholics and most Protestants are mainstream, mainly "preaching to the choir," but evangelicals and fundamentalists (esp. Baptists) are on the rise as they proselytize the unchurched and even nominal Christians from mainstream denominations.
Faith. Evangelical Christians maintain that you must believe in Jesus and say so aloud as the only way to be "saved" (find your life's purpose and, later, find admission to heaven). Fundamentalist Christians maintain that the Bible must be interpreted literally (God and morality are black and white--no grays, not to mention colors). However, mainstream and evangelical Christians agree that to go to heaven, it is not enough to "be a good person" or by merely associate with nominal believers; one must make a "personal decision to choose Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior." (Infant or adult baptism is a secondary issue, but once is enough.) This begins a personal relationship with Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit; by God's free gift of grace, one's character becomes more like Christ's. The true Christian is called not to know about God, but to know God's own heart and so to be changed in order to glorify God, to love others as much as oneself, and to speak the truth in love. The true Christian's cry is "Jesus is Lord!" and his anthem is "Come, Lord Jesus!" Almost everything else is human interpretation…

Words: Fob and fob off

I have a security fob to enter a contract client site, and this morning I was wondering if "fob" and "fob off" are related. Merriam Webster says no:

fob (noun)
2 : a short strap, ribbon, or chain attached especially to a pocket watch
3 : an ornament attached to a fob chain
Etymology: perhaps akin to German dialect Fuppe pocket

fob off (transitive verb)
1 : to put off with a trick, excuse, or inferior substitute
2 : to pass or offer (something spurious) as genuine
3 : to put aside
Etymology: Middle English fobben
archaic : DECEIVE, CHEAT

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Names: Crapitto's and Ima Hogg

Speaking of restaurant names, Houston has a restaurant called Crapitto's. I know, I know: I couldn't believe it either; but it's supposed to be excellent. (Their ads say "With a name like Crapitto's, it's got to be good.") Of course, Houston is home to the mansion and gardens of Ima Hogg (a name that is unjustly snickered at around the country). Look up her impressive accomplishments or, better yet, tour the late spinster's gardens (esp. during Houston's Azalea Trail, as I finally did this spring), and you will think of her and Houston most fondly.

Spelling: Mandarine Cafe

I saw a restaurant sign on Long Point for Mandarine Cafe. Unless that's a French take on Asian cuisine, I hope the owners can spell the name of their own restaurant right.

Holidays: Mother's Day

If you work in the demanding field of high-tech as I do, you will always find someone who knows or is a wiz at something you're not (at least yet). So I was impressed to hear how Maxwell Wogan combined high tech and high touch when he gave his mother a hand-pressed compilation CD of beautiful music for Mother’s Day that includes: Song for Mama (Boyz II Men), Get This Party Started (Pink), Brand New Life (Rachel Lampa), You’ll Be Blessed (Elton John), Everything I Do (Bryan Adams), Harder to Breathe (Maroon 5), Died In Your Arms Tonight (Cutting Crew), End of the Road (Boyz II Men), God Is a DJ (Pink), Four Seasons of Love (Boyz II Men), On Bended Knees (Boyz II Men), She Will Be Loved (Maroon 5), Just Like A Pill (Pink), and Secret Place (Rachel Lampa). What a great son! I'll have to do something similar once I get more tech and more time.

Trivia: Worst joke contest

You might be appalled to know I was once booed off the stage of a worst joke contest. I set out to intentionally win, and should have clinched it, but they would have none of it! On a separate note, I generally win pun-offs by a mile, so I was pleased to emcee one, setting a competitive pace though still outdistancing everyone in room. You may be pleased to hear I’ve since given up on puns and bad jokes. (Minnesota has so many—unless it was just my friends at the time.) The Rev. Michael Kolar said puns are the most spiritual form of humor, since they make fun of the teller instead of the listener, but after moving to Houston, I realized my “groaners” were not making me any friends.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Names: Wynche

Never call a woman a wench (unless you're watching Cable Guy), but one of the most feminine (and Southern) woman's names has to be Blanche--not Blanch, which would be as scary as watching Cable Guy! Perhaps a detente of sorts between the two--with overtones of Wynona or Winnie--might be found in Wynche...?

Proverbs: Everything is an intelligence test

On my first day as a documentation contractor at Compaq (Jan. 1999), I said: "Everything is an intelligence test!" Did your college psych class mention an experiment where a monkey, a dog, and a chicken were placed behind a plexiglass barrier (no sides) in front of their food? The monkey thought, "Hey, I can go around this glass and get my banana"--so he did. The dog saw the monkey eating and thought, "Hey, I can go around this glass and get my food"--so he did. The chicken just stood there staring at its food. Moral of the story: Don't be a chicken.

Nostalgia: Heat warps Saturns

In my Twin Cities Institute for Talented Youth days, Russian classmates Bruce Kvam and Eric Biever created a graffito that was an inside joke: Zhar korovit plastinkii ("Heat warps records"). Today I learned that, because of its dent-resistant polymer chassis, fire does in fact melt Saturn cars. (My ex-wife works for Saturn.)