Counting

We learned some things so long ago that we have no recollection of the process.  The words “Mom” and “Dad” and the names of our siblings.  That you don’t stick your hand into an open flame or onto a glowing red burner.  Simple temporal concepts, like “today” and “yesterday” and “tomorrow” and “later.”

And basic words.  Anybody who has children knows that kids typically learn the words “yes” and “no” some time before the age of two and then stubbornly and infuriatingly speak, shout, or scream the word “no” exclusively for the next 12 months.

countingBut counting comes later, along with learning your ABCs.  Counting is a building block for math, just like learning the alphabet is a building block for reading and spelling.  When you think about it, counting is a fairly sophisticated concept.  First you grasp the difference between none, one, and many — and then you learn that specific words and symbols represent precise numbers of, say, the little meatballs in the Chef Boyardee spaghetti that your Mom served for lunch.

One of the challenges of counting, of course, is that the words that represent the numbers, and their progression, aren’t intuitive.  I thought of counting and its challenges when I stumbled across this article about the words “eleven” and “twelve” and their history.  For many kids, the numbers between 10 and 20 are the big challenge because they’re weird and not consistent with the concepts that come before (between 1 and 10) or after (for 20 and up).  To this day, I think the only reason I know the world “delve” is because of the rhyme I learned about counting as a kid.  (“Eleven, twelve, dig and delve.”)

So where did eleven and twelve come from?  According to etymologists, both come from the root word “lif,” which apparently meant “to leave” — the concept being that 11 would mean one left after 10, and 12 would mean two left after 10.  It’s weird, and something that would forever after cause kids learning to count to stumble and hesitate after then got to 10, but it’s not unique to English — when you learn how to count in French, at least, you encounter the same issue and strange words just after “dix”.

That suggests that, in the early days among the common folk, most people didn’t need to routinely count up to 573, or for that matter much past ten.  That makes sense, because we’ve got ten fingers and kids learning to count often do so using their fingers.  Our ancestors created special words for the numbers just past ten, but at a certain point they probably just shrugged and settled for “many” rather than going for precision.

Lots of kids learning to count would like to have taken the same approach.

Crossroads Of The Country


This morning finds me at the Hilton hotel at the Chicago O’Hare Airport.  And when I say “at the airport,” I mean at the airport — as in, right on the airport grounds, so that you see the Hilton sign dead ahead when your plane pulls into its gate at Concourse G.

How many thousands of people have been to meetings at the venerable O’Hare Hilton and roamed its sprawling, gently curving, utterly generic hallways?  It’s the perfect spot for business meetings of people from diverse locations, at one of our busiest airports, with great connections, smack dab in the middle of the country.  For that same reason, a visit to the O’Hare Hilton is the ultimate in transitory experiences.

Last night I flew into O’Hare, walked to the Hilton, and had dinner in one of its restaurants.  Today I’ll go to a meeting in one of its conference rooms, eat the conference room breakfast and lunch offerings, and fly out tonight — all without ever setting foot outside the airport grounds.

When I get back to Columbus and someone asks how my trip to Chicago was, I’ll say I didn’t go there– I just went to the O’Hare Hilton.

Airport Chic

  
The B concourse at Port Columbus has undergone a bit of a facelift, and the renovation process has addressed two of the new issues raised by modern travel.

First, what should be placed right beyond the TSA checkpoints, to help those sock clad, disassembled travelers who emerge stumbling from the process, holding up their pants, clutching belt and shoes, and trying to navigate their roller boards past the other huddled masses?  Port Columbus has come up with star-shaped benches just after the TSA area that seem to work pretty well as a drop bags, shoe-tying, put yourself back together gathering point.

Second, what about seating areas at the gates?  Before, the airport just had rows of back seats; the new feature is serpentine pods with low tables that look like the interior of the Jetsons’ house.  The black seats are still there, but the serpentine seats at least break up the monotony.  You’re not going to use them if you need to charge your devices, though.

  

Birthday Wishes

  
Today is my birthday.

It’s great to live in modern times because, among other things, it’s easier to wish people happy birthday, and in more communication methods and forms, than ever before.  I’ve received grossly inappropriate, unforgivably ageist cards from family and friends, Facebook congratulations from pals old and new and a post from UJ with a picture of us as toddlers, text message birthday greetings, and nice emails from clients and colleagues.  It’s been great to be the target of so many good wishes.

I’ve even received happy birthday emails from my optometrist, my periodontist, and the America Red Cross.  I suppose there’s a kind of message there, too.

Selling Reading

IMG_0854Schools are always trying to come up with things to make kids want to read.  I’m not sure any of it works — kids either pick up the love of reading or they don’t, and the summer reading clubs or painted signs or gold stars don’t seem to make much difference one way or the other — but I had to hand it to the unknown artists at the school down the block who came up with a flying saucer, a space shuttle and boosters and representations of all of the planet in the solar system.

One question:  does anybody use the phrase “out of this world” anymore?

Password Obscenity Roulette

Hacking hackers are everywhere these days, and all at once.  For the IT guys amongst us, that means tinkering with firewalls and new defensive software and systems vulnerability checks and incident response plans and all of the other technical gibberish that makes IT guys boring death at a party.  For the rest of us, we can only groan in grim anticipation, because we know that we’re going to be asked to change our password . . . again.

rouletteOne of the great challenges of modern life is remembering all of the different “passwords” that we must inevitably use to access our various electronic devices and internet accounts and computer access points.  Unfortunately, we can’t use passwords like Allen Ludden would recognize. In fact, they can’t be a properly spelled word at all.  So that it’s a “strong” password, it’s got to include a weird combination of capitalized and lower case letters, numbers substituting for letters, and random characters, like ampersands and pound signs and question marks.  The result often looks like the sanitized representation of cursing that you might see from the Sarge in a Beetle Bailey cartoon — minus only the lightning bolts.  (@#%*$^@#!)  In a way, that’s pretty appropriate.

Of course, all of these suB5t!tu+ed characters, plus the fact that you need different passwords for different devices and accounts, plus the fact that passwords now must be changed much more frequently, make it impossible for the average human being to remember the passwords in the first place.  How many of us sit down at a computer or pick up our tablet and idly wonder for a moment what the &*%$# the password is?  And there’s the new year/check writing phenomenon to deal with, too.  When a new year comes, how long does it take you to stop automatically writing the old year in the date, because you’d been doing that for the past 346 days?  I had to change my iPhone password several weeks ago, and I still reflexively type in the old password every time I’m prompted, until I dimly realize that I’ve changed it and it’s time to key in the new one — if I can remember it.

There’s a positive aspect to this.  We’re all getting older, and people who deal with aging say that if you want to stay mentally sharp as the joints creak and the brain cells croak you need to play word games or solve puzzles.  Well, this generation has got that covered.  We don’t need silly games, because we’ve got frustrating passwords.

 

Dog Signage

German Village seems to be a very dog-friendly place.  Most of the people you see walking around have a dog, and I’d guess that dogs outnumber cats by about 10 to 1, if not more.

IMG_0828But then there’s that unfortunate but inevitable biological byproduct that dogs tend to leave behind. And if you don’t own a dog, and you’ve got a nice little flower bed between the sidewalk and the street that you’d like to cultivate, and the dog owners walking by aren’t living up to their end of the dog owner’s social compact with the rest of humanity, you might just get fed up about the whole issue.

And when that happens, a passive-aggressive sign is bound to be the result.  I particularly liked this one, with its neat penciled lettering on lined school notebook paper and all-weather plastic sheathing.  Proper punctuation and grammar, too, as well as kid-sensitive use of an acceptable alternative to more vulgar terminology.  It obviously wasn’t written in the heat of fury, but rather as a matter of deep resignation and indignation, after one too many discoveries of an unpleasant surprise.  The heartfelt “it’s disgusting” at the end is a particularly nice touch.

And it worked, too.  We always pick up after Kasey, but once I saw that sign I decided that discretion dictated steering Kasey away from even snuffling contact with that particular patch of ground to more neutral territory.