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Random February 2, 2006

Posted by dr. gonzo in Miscellaneous.
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We live in a strange world, where I am convinced everything happens by chance and nothing else, no grand director, nor exquisite design. Things just happen. Randomly.

This light bulb has been burning bright since 1901. 105 years. Odd.

Atari, faced with declining sales in the early 1980s, buried millions of cartridges in the New Mexico desert. This appears to be completely true. Bizarre.

The president mentioned Zimbabwe in his State of the Union address as one of the nations that do not enjoy liberty. (Text of speech). Another case of saying random things with no intention of following through on them. The list included Iran, Syria, Burma, Sudan and North Korea too. Surprising.

People and occurrences are entirely random. My light bulbs burn out all of the time, it’s ridiculous. I have known about the horror of Robert Mugabe for several years, at least. Not that we can do anything about that now embroiled in a useless war that even the Pentagon says the military is too overstretched to “win.”

I finally heard an anti war opinion state “I don’t support the troops.” Bold.

Speaking of random, has anyone ever seen the P.T. Anderson, (who is a near-deity btw), film “Punch Drunk Love“? If not, you should; but if you have you will remember that Adam Sandler’s character collects Healthy Choice Pudding UPCs and cashes in on a promotion that exchanges the bar codes for airline miles. Thusly earning a near-unlimited bank of miles to travel with for the rest of his life. Odd enough in a movie. But it really happened. (original forum post here). Fantastic.

I’m sure Healthy Choice never anticipated it, so odd, the whole idea of collecting all of those pudding cups. No company could have anticipated that. It’s just too chance, far fetched. Tedious.

There is a giant pineapple in Australia. A 140′ muskie in Wisconsin. And an 8′ jackalope in Douglas, Wyoming. At least pineapples and muskies are real. There is also a 31 foot tall rusty office chair in Alabama. Curious.

Pangrams anyone? A pangram is a holoalphabetic sentence, one that uses every letter of the alphabet. A good example: The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog. A classic in typing classes everywhere. Pangrams aren’t as cool as perfect pangrams. When a pangram is perfect it uses only 26 letters, each one once. They are near impossible to construct and I contend that no one can write one that doesn’t: a) use acronyms, initials or contractions b) use words so obscure that the sentence has no meaning or c) use names (proper nouns). I would love to see a usable perfect pangram.

About.com has a 28-letter pangram: Waltz, bad nymph, for quick jigs vex.
Wikipedia has some acronym heavy examples of actual perfect pangrams, like this oddball: Glum Schwartzkopf vex’d by NJ IQ. Perplexing.

Words are about as random as it gets. I had an argument with a friend once about language, specifically the colloquial use of the word ‘ax’ as a substitute for ‘ask.’ (On the link, scroll down to nonstandard variant). I contend language is so fluid that to exclude words based on your own non-usage is not only limiting your comprehension of culture and human sociology but also downright ignorant. He was just upset because it was in the dictionary. A dictionary, I assert, is no authority on language, it is merely a collection of words and often late in listing additions to the vernacular.

Case in point: Lewis Carroll.

If you haven’t read Jabberwocky you should, I think I was first exposed to it in junior high. It appeared in “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There” and Carroll literally makes up a gaggle of words in this poem, which he is known for. Most of them are portmanteaus (a term Carroll coined), combining the sounds and meanings of two different words to form a new word. Anyway, I count over a dozen made up words in Jabberwocky, one of the greatest works of nonsense verse in the English language. Phenomenal.

Before leaving Wonderland you must click this link to the British Library. You can browse the original manuscript for “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” It’s 3D and interactive and extremely cool. There are several other works available but no others by Carroll.

That’s it for now. Life is random, so was this post. Oh well. Obscure.

Photo 1: 105 year old light bulb, web cam grab.
Photo 2: John Tenniel’s 1865 illustration for “A Mad Tea Party.”

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