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C-Notes, Part 2
Assorted thoughts in 100 words or less

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OCTOBER 25, 2002:

Some pious people disapprove of kids dressing up as devils and witches for Halloween.  Do these folks really think the kids are promoting a satanic agenda?  Or do they fear that if cute, non-scary little devils are scampering about, their own threatening warnings of eternal damnation for sinners will lose their terror?

I'm bothered more by the amoral, almost criminal nature of traditional Halloween activities.  We turn kids into little mobsters.  Not only do they learn vandalism; they also learn extortion ("trick or treat," which means "give me some candy or I'll egg your house").


NOVEMBER 19, 2002:

My computer monitor takes up no space on my rather small "student" desk.  Instead, it sits just beyond the desk on a set of adjustable shelves.

The monitor's shelf is six inches lower than the surface of the desk.  That means that the bottom of the screen's desktop coincides with the back of the physical desktop, while the top of the screen is ten inches below my eye level.  And that means that I can look slightly down at the monitor.  Not only is that more comfortable, it also works better with my bifocals.


OCTOBER 18, 2002:

Since childhood, when I encounter a car or a truck, I tend to look it in the "face."  I look at the headlights as if they were eyes.  I try to read the car's expressions to predict what it is about to do.  Is a turn signal blinking?  Are the front wheels turning?

I usually do not look at the driver for these clues.  The driver, hidden in the dark behind the windshield's reflections, is only the invisible brain of the vehicle.


OCTOBER 7, 2002:

On a cool North Carolina winter afternoon, I parked near Cameron Indoor Stadium.  When I returned to move the car, there was a Duke cat curled up on the warm hood.  As I said hello and unlocked the car door, he stared at me from five feet away.  Then I apologetically held up a hand, palm down, fingers dangling, and flipped my fingertips toward the cat.  He understood instantly, got up, and jumped off the hood.

Surprising:  The cat and I, who had never met, both knew the word for "shoo" in pet sign language.


OCTOBER 25, 2002:

College football games in September can be interminable, with all the procedure penalties and incomplete passes and heat cramps.  My rule change suggestion:  starting from the kickoff, the teams have 90 minutes to play the first half.  For every minute they exceed that limit, the third and fourth quarters will each be shortened by 15 seconds.  So if the first half requires two hours to play, the third and fourth quarters will be only 7:30 long instead of 15:00.  The second half will take only one hour to play, and we'll get out of there.


OCTOBER 11, 2002:

As a teenager, I amused myself with a 2x4x8" sponge.

I tee it up in the living room.  Throngs of imaginary fans watch.  I kick the sponge.  It glances off a lampshade, hits the couch, bounces off a table, and then rebounds from a wall before coming to rest, upright, touching the door.

The crowd goes wild!  What were the odds that I could get the sponge to take all those bounces in that exact order?  And yet that's just what I have done.  Truly amazing!

(And when I narrate the film, I'll describe the kick before I make it.)


JANUARY 2, 2003:

Recently, the Concerned Women For Something-Or-Other objected when their name was translated into Spanish as Mujeres Preocupadas, "Worried Women."

I wondered, what's wrong with that?  Does not "concerned" mean "worried" or "anxious"?  Do concerned people not frown and fret, obsessively troubled over Something-Or-Other and what must be done about it?  Do I not avoid such unhappy people?

I checked the dictionary and found that "concerned" can also mean simply "interested" or "affected."  Fair enough.

Nevertheless, I think that Concerned Parents organizations ought to rename themselves something like Involved Parents, lest I continue to imagine them with constantly furrowed brows.


AUGUST 20, 2002:

"His eye is on the sparrow," according to the old hymn, "and I know he watches me."

It's inspired by Matthew 10:29:  "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet without your Father's knowledge not one of them can fall to the ground."

Oddly, neither the hymn nor the Gospel claims that God is actually going to do anything about the misfortunes that befall his creatures.  These texts merely say that he is watching and omniscient and knows about our troubles.

Presumably, he feels our pain, but the texts don't even claim that.


JULY 9, 2002:

On northbound East Ninth Street outside Jacobs Field in Cleveland, there are programmable three-line signs over each of the three lanes.  That makes nine lines in all.  This week, they comprise a single message:



THE 22nd.







In which order should the lines be read?  It's a tough question in sign design.

The most natural way for me, vertically then horizontally, almost makes sense:  "Cleveland National Games welcomes veterans, July 9 thru the 22nd (wheelchair July 13)."

But I suspect that the other possibility, horizontally then vertically, is intended.


OCTOBER 18, 2002:

As a boy, I dreamed up stories about a round island far away.  In the center was a circular lake, and in the middle of that lake was a smaller island with the important government buildings.  The population of the island consisted of birds.  One elite species of bird ran the government.  Other birds built boats to carry cargo across the lake.  To propel the boats, they constructed little steam engines out of copper.  As technology advanced, they eventually used their steam engines to power copper airplanes.

Birds flying about their nation in airplanes.  It could happen, couldn't it?


JANUARY 14, 2003:

Wall Street Journal artists rework newsmakers' photographs into hedcuts, a distinctive "engraved" look.

Example:  my high school yearbook photoI was ahead of my time in 1971.  For our low-budget cable TV newscast, I stylized Marion Star photos to disguise the fact that I'd "borrowed" them.  I'd copy the newspaper page; such Xeroxes back then didn't reproduce large black areas well, so the result was a coarsely shaded outline.  I cut out the headshot, pasted it on a card, and retouched it with a pencil, extending the cropped shoulders.  Hopefully most viewers didn't realize what I had done.

UPDATE:  In that era, the big TV networks like NBC also sometimes enlisted artists to convert photos into drawings to be used as “over-the-shoulder” graphics.  The WSJ adopted the style for print in 1979.


OCTOBER 18, 2002:

A verse of the hymn "The Church's One Foundation" describes the members of the worldwide church this way:

"Elect from ev'ry nation yet one o'er all the earth."

When I was young, I had not yet encountered the word "elect" used as a noun.  Assuming that it was a verb, I interpreted the verse as an appeal for all countries to cast ballots and choose one person (or being) to be President of the World.

I had no idea why.


DECEMBER 16, 2002:

Someone has pointed out that nowhere in the nursery rhyme does it say that Humpty Dumpty is an egg.  Where did we get the idea that he was?

In Chapter 6 of Through the Looking Glass, Alice meets an egg (right) and quickly recognizes him as Humpty.  Perhaps she, like the rest of us, had read the nursery rhyme in an  illustrated book.



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