I have a funny quote from Fred Allen to start off this week. It appeared in our local newspaper on Sunday:
“A committee is a group of people who individually can do nothing, but who, as a group, can meet and decide nothing can be done.”
Kind of reminds me of Congress, or maybe the U.N. Oops!
Cogito ergo cogito sum —
I think; therefore, I think I am. Ambrose Bierce
I offer this cogent quote from Ambrose Bierce because earlier this week, while surfing the web, I discovered something called The Original Ambrose Bierce Site – Definitive Ambrose Bierce Site Since 1996. I thought that hugely interesting, especially considering Bierce died in 1914. I knew Bierce was a genius, but didn’t know he was so precocious.
April Fool’s Day passed again this year, as usual, mostly unnoticed by me. It’s part of the body of my deepest inbred prejudices that I hate practical jokes; which meant, of course that without fail during my working days there had to be one lost soul in the office who was absolutely in love with the things. I have in mind a certain fate for all such folks that I won’t indulge in sharing here, out of charity, of course.
There’s been a pressing matter on my mind this week so pressing it’s forced me into inaction. It encompasses a question that I absolutely should find the answer to but can’t work up the ambition. The problem is the proper use of commas. I know I overindulge the little beggars I put them in where they have no business being or omit them from their proper places altogether. But I can’t leave the darned things alone. I’m stymied though by memories of 7th and 8th grade English classes with their interminable lessons in punctuation grammar and worst of all the diagramming of sentences the reason for which I’ve never yet understood. Maybe I should just ban commas from the rest of this blog and never use them again.
We woke up on Thursday morning to 2″ of snow, a winter weather warning in effect, and accidents occurring all over town. On Wednesday afternoon, we were sitting in shirtsleeves on the deck, enjoying the warm sun. Ah, spring time in the Rockies, you just never know what to expect.
Speaking of punctuation marks, I’ve become more aware of in the last month or two of the abuse of the lowly period (.). The internet has dealt a severe blow to the power and prestige of this little dot on the screen and I’ve been just a guilty as the next fellow. For example, for years now I’ve written such things as the name of the English author we all love without periods — GK Chesterton, when I know in my guts it should be G. K. Chesterton. It’s oh, so easy to leave out the periods when typing a name or abbreviation on the web. This sloppiness has, in my opinion, led to even worse offenses such as leaving out capital letters completely which is fine for e. e. cummings but specifically disallowed for everyone else. And don’t get me started on the complete abandonment of proper grammar and spelling; there are many things I see on the web, even on the sites of large newspapers and magazines, that make me wonder whatever happened to the editorial staff of those institutions. Does no one proof read anything anymore?
I notice there is a new book out by Nicholas Basbanes on the history of paper. Reading a review of the book in the Times Literary Supplement, I learned that the wood based paper everyone uses today wasn’t patented until 1845, much more recently than I would have imagined. It also seems that, despite the decades old dream of computers and other digital devices freeing us from our unbreakable chains of paper, just the opposite is happening. Here’s a quote from the article:
“In the decade since then (9/11/2001), Silicon Valley has touted the paperless office as the answer to deforestation. Basbanes’s [sic] rejoinder is that paper, made for centuries from old clothes, was one of the first industrial products to incorporate recycled materials. More famous for its digital spying, the US’s National Security Agency processes plenty of old-fashioned paper, to judge from the 100 million documents it pulps every year before turning them over to manufacturers of pizza boxes and egg cartons. Paper and computers may not be polar opposites so much as conjoined twins. Paper punchcards were integral to the first calculating machines, and the twentieth-century spread of personal computers and printers increased consumption of the paper that they were originally expected to render obsolete.”
The reviewer attributes the longevity of paper to it’s durability, portability, and foldability, traits which even the most up to date electronic gadgets have yet to replicate. I’m glad of that.