Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Ass In Assumptions (one) ~ Early Morning Thoughts

Assumption comes from the Latin ad + sumere, and has the meaning of "to take something for granted," "to suppose that it is true." Assumptions typically take for granted that something or other is a fact, the way things really are. The thing that makes assumptions difficult to deal with is that they largely occur at the unconscious level.

For example: Why should anyone study? One ponderous answer might be, "Knowledge is better than ignorance, or, It is more important to acquire learning than it is to know nothing. "
And a voice says: "That's certainly obvious." I wish it were, but it is not. Identifying assumptions is never obvious. Assumptions are not learned in school and then promptly forgotten -- like the capital of Britain , or the Einstein's famous formula. Assumptions are typically picked up from the culture in which we live. We acquired them as we acquired so much of our other knowledge from the culture, without being especially aware that we were learning it. (insert trumpet sounds around the above statement please)

Before going on, I need to add another little term to the discussion - construct. A construct is any idea that people invent in order to accomplish some particular end. (please insert more trumpet sounds here) A construct is not the same as an absolute truth. A construct is simply an idea which people--very often people with an agenda--have created.

It's been awhile since I mentioned anything about D&D. While not a major part of my writings, what has happened over the last few weeks IS a major part of my life.

I have written about how I met Toby and some of what we have gone through in an attempt to make he and I -"us." For a number of reasons that has undergone a change, and we are going to remain in the friends category. This is a good thing. It's making maps match territories, making sure luggage tags are accurate and accomplishing what they need to on each of our life journey.
What is important now is to work hard at developing yourselves into truly wonderful human beings. Ultimately, the relationships you form are a reflection of your own state of life.
Going back to D&D for a bit - They both, but one of the D's in particular have acquired a number of assumptions from the culture we live in AND (although they would be loath to admit it) the gay culture they surround themselves with. That happens no matter what the orientation...but in this case, the one D's assumptions have stronger influences than most. For all I know, D has some serious personal experiences that have caused some of his strong assumptions to "flower." Re quoting from above: Assumptions typically take for granted that something or other is a fact, the way things really are. Even if they are not that way.

D had placed Toby in a category based on his assumptions...even though the assumptions had little basis in fact. It started the night he told me that I "had more patience that he did what
"those' kind of people." Now, "those kind of people" is a phrase that has always had the effect on me that fingernails on a blackboard have. And usually my reaction to each is about the same. Being a product of the 60's and 70's albeit not directly in the South (except for one VERY long year) - I am extremely aware of just how that phase was said and used.

I never expected anyone I was deep friends with (and who knew anything at all about me) would ever show serious bigoted assumptions or anti-people assumptions at anytime. As time marched/moved/tip-toed on with Toby and me, there were other remarks that were made showing a lack of understanding.

Toby could come across negatively IF (again - IF) no one asked questions. I had no problem looking him in the eye (which is a little difficult as he is several inches taller!) and asking what I needed to know. Was there a possibility of untruth? Yes, but as I learned with children (all three of them!) truth WILL out...all you have to do is listen for it.

AS D&D would not listen let alone ask, their reactions became more and more pronounced - to me and toward Toby. I was walking a fine line that was no longer a balancing act but a high wire act without a net.

-- more tomorrow

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

According To Einstein ~ An Elegant Time Waster

Normally, the timewasters postings like these involve the computer. You can solve this one on paper, but I think a computer spreadsheet might make it a little bit easier. I am not responsible for nibbled pencils, too many cups of coffee or the fact that you might growl at people as they try to talk to you while solving this puzzle.

According to legend/myth - Albert Einstein wrote this as a small boy, and 98% of the world can not solve it.

Two things wrong with that sentence - 1) if I remember rightly he was too busy getting in trouble as school to be this creative and 2) I would imagine that 98% of the world would simply be uninterested in the puzzle. This puzzle has also been attributed to Lewis Carroll, and various other authors.

The version below is quoted from the first known publication in Life International magazine on December 17, 1962.

1. There are five houses.
2. The Englishman lives in the red house.
3. The Spaniard owns the dog.
4. Coffee is drunk in the green house.
5. The Ukrainian drinks tea.
6. The green house is immediately to the right of the ivory house.
7. The Old Gold smoker owns snails.
8. Kools are smoked in the yellow house.
9. Milk is drunk in the middle house.
10. The Norwegian lives in the first house.
11. The man who smokes Chesterfields lives in the house next to the man with the fox.
12. Kools are smoked in the house next to the house where the horse is kept.
13. The Lucky Strike smoker drinks orange juice.
14. The Japanese smokes Parliaments.
15. The Norwegian lives next to the blue house.

Now, who drinks water? Who owns the zebra?

And before I get strung up on a yardarm - let me offer a couple of "clarifications":
Each of the five houses is painted a different color.
Their inhabitants are of different national extractions,
own different pets,
drink different beverages
and smoke different brands of American cigarettes.
One other: In statement 6, right means your right.
One more: The houses ARE in a row.

As always, I have been known to be bribed talked into sharing the solution via email.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Once A Pun A Time ~ Early Morning Thoughts

On May 19th, Austin, TX will play host to an annual event of non-earthshaking proportions.


A little history is in order - starting with the ISTPF -International Save The Pun Foundation (who knew??):

Founded by the late John Crosbie in 1979, the International Save The Pun Foundation has become the world's largest and fastest-growing apocryphal society. Since one person in five in North America is a functional illiterate, and since everywhere the little red schoolhouse is full of too many little-read students, the Foundation exists to arouse a greater interest in reading by encouraging people to have fun with words.

To quote from their history:
The current chairman of the bored, Norman Gilbert, is a financial planner based in Toronto, Ontario. He first subscribed to the pundit in 1984, after hearing John Crosbie in a radio interview, and has never looked back. When John died in 1994, Norman acquired the rights to the Foundation from John's estate, the transaction taking place, appropriately, on April Fool's Day.

Under Norman's leadership, the Foundation's 1,600 members continue to stumble onward, spreading the good (and sometimes not-so-good) words, and scattering their gems of linguistic libertinism about them like Johnny Appleseed, although perhaps not always with the same level of appreciation. Hysterically screaming "Up the pun!", this unruly band of rebels may be found waving tattered copies of the pundit, and storming the barricades of grammatical rules and regulations around the world. From Australia to Zimbabwe, wherever they are erected by the steadily retreating phalanxes of pedants and self-appointed guardians of our language, the barriers are falling, and people are having fun with the language, thanks to the unceasing efforts of Norman and his plucky crew.

With great hesitancy, I bow to my love of words - and my admiration for the truly awful pun - and present two of last years winners of the pun-off.

There is a time-limit of 90 seconds for which can be added 30 seconds making a total of 2 minutes. Quite long enough to listen to a string of puns I would say. There are two divisions: Punniest of Show and High-Lies & Low-Puns - and each division is limited to 32 participants.

(hint: read it carefully)

The graffiti on the PLATHroom wall was simple: "For hot one-on-one word play, call 1-800-WORDCORE.

And so I call, and she answers, and she jumps right into it.

She says, "Are you ready for some aural sex?"

And I say, "Oh, yes!"

And she says, "What are you drinking?"

And I say, "A tall tequila mockingbird, what are you drinking?"

And she said, "A nice vodka milkSHAKESPEARE. You sound so buff...have you been working out? I can tell you have tight vocabs. I'll bet you have a huge dictionary."

And I said, "Oh yes, indeed, it's the Oxford English Language Dictionary. 151 pounds of pure...definition."

And she said, "I want you to give me multiples right now!"

So, I purred, "Onomatopaea!"

And cried, "More! More!"

So, I moaned, "Supracalifragilisticespialidocious!"

And she said, "Don't fake it. Give it to me RILKE."

So, I whispered, "Antidisestablishmentarianism..."

And she screamed, "Affirmative! Affirmative! I want you to rap for me! Now!"

And I said, "What? Rap? I can't rap!"

And she said, "But rappers are SO sexy!"

And I said, "I can't rap! I was a Lit Major!"

And she said, "Oh, go PLATH yourself! I know you've got a superior WHIT, MAN, so just pull out your DICKENSON and start KEROUACKing now!"

So, I said:

"Uhm... Yo...

My words are warm wool slippers, put your poor, cold feets in
they'll lock you up like Alexander Solzenitzen!

I'm cooking up lyrics like I was a chef, see?
I'll give you Rhymes and Punishment like Dostoyevski!

Before you step to me, you better back the heck off,
'cuz I've got more plays that Anton Chekov!"

She said, "You need to slow down, why you be Russian? By the way, you sound a little gay... Are you a homophone?"

And it was then that I realized this wasn't really working for me. We were just two relationships passing wind in the night, crashing into the same GINSBURG.
--Eirik Ott (copyright 2006)


Four years ago I stood here and presented an ABC primer on animal puns. Since Richard Lederer and I now have a new book out (titled THE GIANT BOOK OF ANIMAL JOKES), I thought it would be appropriate to present an all-new alphabetical primer on animal puns, with completely different animals. Here I go:

I will not cast ASPersion on my previous performance, but I will BUCK the trend of not using the same theme. I just hope it doesn't become a CATastrophe and I start DRAGON my feet. And I hope no one will feel any EEL will towards me, as I just want to have a lot of FAWN. In fact, I'll GOAT to any length to keep these animal puns going forever and HEIFER. I'll tow the line and try not to give up an INCHworm, as I dig for more animal puns. If I have to search for animal puns at night, I'll use a JACKAL lantern. My goal, as always, is to keep up the KOALAty of these animal puns. If I can offer any tips to anyone, just LEMUR know. If you're not sure, merely MULLET over for a while. But don't be bashful; because, in this case, no news is bad NEWTs. If I'm ever in your neighborhood, I'll stop by for a visit if OPOSSUM by your house. And I'll drive carefully, since I don't want to be accident PRAWN. If I come, I promise not to QUAHOG the conversation. You must think I'm a RAVEN lunatic to keep up this SHRIMPly awful animal punning, when in fact it actually makes me THRUSHed with delight and URCHIN to tell even more. So, are you VIXEN to invite me over? If so, I think WEEVIL have a good time. We could sit around and talk about the death of some skate and ray fish, commonly know as X-
RAYS. Or we could dress up, go out, and YAK it up. Finally though, if a female is invited, she should be sure to wear (as the French say) ZE BRA.
--Jim Ertner (copyright 2006)