Thursday, November 24, 2005

Why Do I Write?

Recently I posted a comment to an excellent article written by a friend on Ergo Sum. What I wrote works well as a standalone thought, so I decided to post it here as well.

Why do I write? One reason is to teach myself.

Whenever I begin to write something — as I have just now done — I rarely know what it is that I want to say, only that I have something to say, and want to let it out. By the time I am finished, I do know what it was that I wanted to say. In the process I have learned something. Because I generally write alone, without the influence of others, except by means of research, it's not unfair to say that I have thereby taught myself something derived from my reasoning and meditation on the topic at hand.

There does not have to be an audience in order for me to write. I am my own primary audience. I will read what I have written and then I will reread it. If I read it again years later and have changed my mind about what I have written, or find that I could have said it better, I will change it, because I am pathologically incapable of reading a sentence under the control of an editor and not editing it. In fact, I'm engaged in that very activity right now!

Our need to teach ourselves reminds me of what the apostle Paul said at Romans 2:21: "Do you, however, the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself?" Most people desire at some level to be teachers when they speak or write, to be conveyors of information in some sense of that expression. In speech we have only the speed of thought's opportunity to edit what we say. Perhaps that is one reason some of the best thinkers also use word whiskers and regressions when they speak — they are searching for les bon mots, and are already revising in their heads their just-made expressions.

Another Bible-related thought that comes to mind is the obligation that Christians acknowledge to be teachers of others, an activity in which I myself happily engage. Many is the time I have experienced, when called on 'to make a defense before others who demand a reason for' the things I know and believe, that upon articulating some matter to another person, I have in turn clarified it in my own mind, strengthening my own understanding, and in turn my faith. (1 Peter 3:15) It is not unusual in such circumstances for me to think to myself afterward: "Zounds! I didn't know I knew that!"

Monday, November 14, 2005


  • I'm pathologically incapable of reading a sentence under the control of an editor and not editing it. In fact, I'm doing it right now!

  • I'm having one of those experiences where an action produces a repeatable but seemingly unrelated reaction, so remote as to seem impossible. It's like turning on the car radio and the muffler falls off. Try explaining that one to a mechanic. He'll say: "Hey, I'll bet you been to college, ain't you?"

  • Lynn's Law of Losing Stuff: The surest way to lose something is to buy two of them so that you'll have one in case you lose one.

  • Once my wife said she'd been to the doctor, where they gave her a shot in the butt that left a eucalyptus taste in her mouth. Hmmm. Gives a whole new meaning to the expression "tongue in cheek", doesn't it?"
    "Don't give me any of your tongue-in-cheek humor! I don't know where that tongue has been!"

  • When I say something and you say something else, but neither one of us gets mad and calls the other one an apostate or a heretic even though the other one is clearly wrong — that's called being balanced.

  • The other day I got an email message with this in the subject. Hmmm, I'm not sure, but does this look like a spam message to you?


  • It's not hard to tell where some people are coming from. They speak
    with a Windows accent.

    You have learned the sort of patient tolerance that only regular users of Microsoft operating systems and women with alcoholic husbands or sons on death row can ever truly understand. (I think that's a quote.)

  • So I told my friend: "The world is divided into two classes
    of people: Those who get it and those who don't."

    He asked: "What do you mean by that?"

    I said: "That's what I mean."

  • We just went on a long vacation. Those hula skirts on the Eskimo women were really cute. Or did I get on the wrong boat?

Why I Hate News Groups

In the early days of the Internet, I used to read Usenet news groups, now more commonly known simply as news groups. Today I will read some specific news group no more often on average than once in several months because I have come to detest them and the culture that comes with them. In addition to the endless spam, vulgarity, profanity, and flame wars, the on-topic content is often useless.

Therefore I have not read news groups for years, except to field responses to some specific question, usually technical in nature. When I do get an answer at all, generally the answers I get fall within a limited set of models:

  • My computer is better than yours.

  • See for some hot pictures.

  • The answer to your question is explained on page 972, paragraph 3 of my book "Arcane Science Artfully Obfuscated", pulished in 1951, which I take the liberty of recommending that you acquire as an addition to your reference library.

So I rarely bother.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Attending Live Professional Sports Events

I've attended one professional football game in my life, when I was nine years old. I went with my grandfather to a Chicago Bears game in December at Soldier Field in Chicago. We had cheap seats, I could barely see anything, and it was bitter cold. I did not enjoy the experience.

Today I often watch the Monday Night game, some of the playoffs, and usually the Superbowl, but little else. I never watch college football. I will never go to another professional football game. I despise the rough crowd, and I like the closeups and commentaries you get on TV.

I've attended one professional hockey game in my life, when I was eleven. Some visiting aunts and uncles and my mother took me on the evening of Thanksgiving Day, after stuffing myself all day. I sat in the middle back seat in the car on the way to the game. In those days all my relatives smoked. My parents gave that up cold turkey in 1960, but this was in the mid-fifties. I had asthma then. The combination of discomforts made me sick to my stomach. They had to make an emergency stop on the Chicago Lake Shore Drive and hustle me out of the car so I could throw up on the ground instead of on them. I didn't quite make it; I still barfed on myself but missed my relatives. Once I heaved, I felt much better for the rest of the night. My family were pretty good sports about it, but I didn't smell too good the rest of the evening. There weren't many people at the game, with few people around us, so my mother made me sit in the row behind them -- out of smelling range.

I didn't enjoy that experience or the game, which I found boring. I have no interest whatever in hockey, and have not watched a game even on TV in at least thirty years. I will never go to another professional hockey game.

I've attended one professional basketball game in my life, unless you add one enjoyable Harlem Globetrotters game in high school. It was just a few years ago, when the Suns made the NBA finals but were beat by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The seats were fairly good, and the Suns beat the Minnesota Timberwolves that game. I enjoyed that experience, but I rarely watch basketball games. I'll probably never go to another professional basketball game unless a rare opportunity to take someone's seats to a good game drops into my lap.

I have not attended many major league baseball games in my life. When I thought hard I was able to recall every single major league game I've ever been to -- a total of nine since 1954, four of them in the last two years. I have never not enjoyed being at a baseball game. I like the game and I like the experience of watching it at the ball park. As Woody Allen said: "It doesn't have to mean anything. It's just a beautiful thing to watch."

If I were to go regularly I'd get a small FM radio so I could hear commentary on radio. That will never happen, because (a) I have too many other things to do; (b) it costs too much; (c) when I think about it, I resent the direction the professional game has gone the last few years, with the money and the attitude of many players, not to mention all the between inning nonsense that goes on. Baseball in its classic form from when I was a kid is a thing of the past.

Mastering Baseball

My wife and I have been married 27 years. In that time I've watched more than a few baseball games. We have also been to a few major league games and also numerous minor league games. Suzy usually pays attention when she sits down to watch with me. In this much time you'd expect most people to pick up a few things that most baseball watchers take for granted — including some things I had down pat by the time I was eight years old. But the rules of baseball are not easy, so it's no surprise that someone who has been watching the game may occasionally ask questions such as these that were asked during the recent World Series.

"How many innings are in this baseball game?" This is actually another question in disguise: "When will this baseball game be over so you can turn off the TV and pay attention to me?"

"How many fouls make an out?" As anyone who knows the game is aware, this is something that is easier to understand than it is to explain.

In the seventh inning, when it was 0-0: "So will they just keep playing until someone gets a run, even if it takes all night long?" Ummmm — yes. (The night before was a 7-5 game that didn't end until the 14th inning.)

In the eighth inning, with men on base and the score 1-0: "So if they score a run, will it be over?" No. It will be tied. It's only the eighth inning. There are nine innings unless there is a tie after nine. " Oh that's right, this is the World Series." Ummm, there are nine innings in every baseball game. Unless it rains. (There's got to be an exception to confuse matters.) You knew that. "Oh yeah."

As Ebby Calvin LaLoosh said in the movie Bull Durham? "This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains!" Think about that for a while.