State of the Cubes (after 200)

My Cube Statistics in the "Search" multi-purpose cube tell me that it has been 843 days since my first cube, since the birth of this project. It also tells me this present cube is number 200. Non inclusive of this entry, the following are the up-to-date statistics saved herein for posterity, marking the milestone:

Total Cube Topics = 40
Total Cube Topics with Cubes = 33
Total Cubes = 199
Total Words Written = 92,979

Days Since Start = 843
Days Cubed = 103
Most Days Without Cubing = 140
Last Day Cubed = 9/18/2009
First Day Cubed = 5/29/2007

Average Cubes per Topic = 6.03
Average Cubes per Day = 0.24
Average Days between Cubes = 4.24
Average Words per Cube = 467
Average Words per Day = 110

At 92,979 words written, I'm roughly 1,500 from surpassing the word count from my botched attempt at a novel…. which is a whole lot of writing.

Despite some long periods of dryness (the longest being 140 days), I'm still committed to this project. I enjoy writing when the mood is right and time is available. Now I'm out of school and the exhaustion of writing because I have to is mostly gone.

I need to get back on the wagon. Truth is I have a bunch of half-cubes in a Word file I carry around. In it I write notes to myself about movies and restaurants and other thoughts so that I can later digest and finish. The mood has to be right and the problem is lately I have been all over the place, with not much motivation to sit and write – too distracted even.

Oh well… so the story continues.

Created: 9/18/2009

Lost in Cartoon Translation

So I was driving to work today and for no apparent reason I started thinking about The Flintstones. I guess I drove past a store with a name that implied the sale of marble and that reminded me of Barney Rubble. Why Barney Rubble? Well, in Spanish, the sidekick cartoon character was called "Pablo Marmol." That name translated into English would be Paul Marble. The discrepancy brought about pondering of what the correct translation (if one were necessary) would have been. To begin, "Barney" has no translation to Spanish that I can locate. Rubble is "Escombro" in Espaρol. So, Barney Escombro? Sounds terrible. Glad they changed it. Wonder who made the call and why the choice. I guess Rubble and Marmol are phonetically similar and they both can be associated with cavemen. The Barney – Pablo switch I'm sure was purely arbitrary. Or was it?

Moving on from secondary characters, one finds even greater gold: Fred Flintstone. Let's start with the first name: Fred/Frederick or "Federico" in Spanish. Short for "Federico" could be "Fede", perhaps even "Rico" although that'd be too ethnic. It is obvious that the short-and-sweetness of the name Fred would be lost if translated. The solution: "Pedro" or, if in English, Peter. Now this has some sort of reasoning behind it – at least if not intentional at least coincidental. It is well known that the name Peter stems from the Greek word for "rock" and thus it is directly related to the cartoon and its historical setting. Maybe the use of "Pablo" for Barney was a play on Peter and Paul since there has been many known pairings with such names.

Next and finally would be the last name: Flintstone. Although not a word on its own accord, the iconic last name can be split into two obvious words: flint and stone. In Spanish flint is "pedernal" and stone is "piedra." They went with "Picapiedra" which is also not a word but the combination of two: "pica" is to crush and "piedra" is stone. So, instead of translating or using a type of rock, they went with his profession, which also makes some sense considering that was the likely way last names originated.

Interestingly enough Barney's wife Betty didn't get butchered or translated. Her full name in the Spanish version of the cartoon: "Betty Marmol." And as for Wilma, well, she got translated properly into "Vilma." Seems like the women fared much better than the men – staying at least in the same area code as they God-given (or Hanna-Barbera-given) names.

Why to I waste time and capacity thinking (and then writing) about these things?

Created: 6/11/2009

Looking Out into the Past and the Big Numbers Within

If we could create a powerful enough telescope, we would be able to see the beginning of the universe. What do you think we'd see?

In February of 2008 astronomers using the Hubble telescope took pictures of what they believe is the farthest galaxy ever seen. It was 13 billion light years away. That means the image taken in 2008 reflects the state of that galaxy (its light stamp – what it looked like) 13 billion years ago. The magnitude of this number is mind-boggling. It is impossible to know, but right now if we could instantly be transported to that galaxy there is no telling what we'd see – a completely different system or maybe even nothing at all.

To me, the magnitude of the numbers and the size of the universe certainly answer the question about life in other planets. We cannot be alone in a universe so vast and so old. It is mathematically impossible.

For consideration, let's assume the first human beings evolved or were created 200,000 years ago. The species began writing about 5,000 years ago. The greatest advances for the race, including technology and medical breakthroughs, probably all happened in the last 1,000 years (even the last 200 years). By a matter of comparison with the universe itself, the human race is infinitesimally small and young. In the grand scheme of astronomical enormity, we are nothing but one spec of sand in the Sahara desert. And here we go – feeling all important and accomplished, performing our mundane tasks. Human vainness is something else.

It is incredible to ponder on such large time spans because our time here is so small. How can one ponder the length of 1 million years when we're alive a mere 75 (or so)? Then again, how can the average American grasp the concept of 1 trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000) when they make about $40k/year (census data)? It would take that average American 25 million years to make that type of money (holding all other factors constant).

I believe the vastness of the universe and our ambivalence to its size and age teaches us something about how we manage large quantities. When a number is big but within reach or reason, we are more adept to manage to process its size. When the number is astronomically large (national debt, farthest galaxy, Obama budget), we glaze over it and move on. It's almost like our brain runs one of those run-of-the-mill calculators with a ten digit maximum; a bigger number just registers an "E" for error, and thus we shrug and move to the next thing. Fascinating.

Created: 5/7/2009

The Breakdown of Lactose

5CH4 + 5CO2 + H2O + C2 ?

I think it is possible. Some of us are certainly better equipped to catalyze such reaction.

Created: 4/23/2009

Pride only if by Effort

In this day and age that we live in "Pride" is a word that is tossed around quite liberally. In many of these instances, I believe the word is not so much used as abused. Perhaps semantically speaking the culprits of such verbal assault are not wrong to use the word. Regardless, I present to you the following argument: pride should only come from effort, anything else is a feeling derived from pure coincidence and warrants no attention.

"I'm proud to be Hispanic."
"I'm proud to be White."
"I'm proud to be a Christian."
"I'm proud to be an American."
"I'm proud of my heritage."
"I'm proud of never doing drugs."
"I'm proud of my accomplishments."

Six of these common statements are different than the other. In a particular order, the first five have nothing to do with anything other than random luck, "birth luck" (except if the person has converted to Christianity or become an American by way of immigration, but let's just assume this person is born into both). God alone (unless you want to contest God's existence) can determine what a person will be born into and where this is. I'm not proud to have been born where I did, because I had nothing to do with it. I am not proud of being a Herrera. I am happy with the cards I was dealt, but there's no need to be proud. That's all.

Similarly, I can't say I'm proud never to have done any drugs (at all – none – zip). I state this not because I've done drugs (I haven't), but because doing drugs would take effort, and resisting effort is just following inertia (physically speaking). This, of course, presents the fact that if effort results in ill or wrong-doing, then you should feel embarrassed, repentant, and/or ashamed for your actions. So, where I would not feel pride for never doing drugs, I should feel ashamed to have done them (had I done them). Once again, the lack of effort does not yield pride.

Take the last statement, "I'm proud of my accomplishments." This is the only phrase that is well scripted. It states effort. Something that I have done makes me proud. Something in my control has had a positive outcome such that I am proud of it. Unlike the others, this statement is absolutely individualistic and devoid of "birth luck." It takes away divisive characteristics inherent to genetics and luck such as gender, race, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, etc. and focuses only on what's really important: achievement.

Put it to the test. Here's another random sampling (my answers follow in the bottom):
1. "I'm proud to be a soldier."
2. "I'm proud to be a recovering alcoholic."
3. "I'm a proud parent of an honor student."
4. "I'm proud of my Irish heritage."
5. "I'm proud to be gay."
6. "I'm a proud member my fraternity."
7. "I'm proud to be a Native American."
8. "I'm proud to be a geek."
9. "I'm a proud black woman."
10. "I'm proud to have never smoked a cigarette."

(Results: 1. absolutely correct – this takes effort and courage – reasons to be really proud. 2. correct – in tandem you should feel ashamed to have been an alcoholic, it did take effort to break off that behavior – a reason to be proud. 3. If you have anything to do with your child's success, then correct, if not, then you shouldn't take credit. 4. wrong – "birth luck." 5. wrong – genetic. 6. this one hinges on the effort required to be in that fraternity – good looks and likeability or connections are not effort. 7. wrong – "birth luck." 8. wrong – genetic. 9. wrong – "birth luck." 10. wrong – no effort required.)

Created: 6/18/2007

The Muscle Gets Strained

Writing to me is like exercising a certain muscle of the brain. Sometimes I have to write things and this exhausts my will or desire to write anything else. Recently I had to type a paper for school on my Myers-Briggs Assessment. This seemingly simple analysis required a good amount of insight and mental capacity. During the time it took to put this whole thing together I couldn't even fathom typing anything else. It ended up being four pages, single-spaced, and chock full of information. Was it thorough enough? Was it insightful enough? At this point, and in all honesty, I don't care. I gave it a good shot and that's good enough. This is more the attitude of someone who has reached the point of saturation on a single topic than someone who doesn't care.

Like my brain can only compartmentalize writing as one function regardless of the topic, I couldn't think about writing anything else for a few days. This was reminiscent of the time in which I was completely submerged in writing my novel. I couldn't even consider writing anything else. During that time, I was applying to grad school and remember having a hard time writing the required essays. I had to virtually unplug my mind from the novel for a few days. It did work and I finished them up quite nicely, although I couldn't have done it without some major edits (thanks SPG).

Since I have mentioned it, I guess I'll discuss my novel in some other cube some other time.

Created: 6/13/2007

Grownup Radio

When I was younger (a preteen to be more precise), I remember going with my dad to his softball games. The company he worked for at the time owned a club outside the city where he'd play every Saturday. I remember he was a catcher. My mom also played at some point, but had to stop because of a bad back. I didn't go with my dad to watch him play or to play ball myself. His teammates also brought along their kids, who where mostly my age or younger – some of which were really good friends of mine. In a big city, kid get-togethers of this type are seldom possible, so it was very cool to be able to hang out with regularity.

The club and the many days I spent there with my friends bring back a plethora of memories. We ran wild in a secure, fenced environment, occasionally getting into trouble, always getting dirty, and always having fun. Perhaps I will write about this one day while the memories are not too grainy. There are so many things that come to mind about that place and time.

The point of this cube was not necessarily to reminisce about what I did when I got to the club every Saturday, but about my memories of the treks there. My dad and I have always had an interesting relationship. During my youth, (pretty much until I was off the payroll) he played the role of disciplinarian. We weren't close – I don't recall many of the typical "father-son" talks that are common on movies or television. To make things worse, at that age we had very little in common. As you can imagine, there was nothing for us to talk about. Perhaps my memory didn't bother to capture and retain small talk – so to say that we didn't speak is probably inaccurate. Regardless, there was nothing of substance ever exchanged that I can recall. Is this simply due to the age difference? Is it because of our lacking relationship at the time? I don't know. I don't care. It was what it was and that's that. I don't hold any ill feelings towards him because of it at all. After all, things are quite different now, and "the now" is more important than "the then."

Meanwhile, back to memory lane... At that time my dad had a Fiat Mirafiori – a modest Italian four-door sedan. It was grey with brown cloth upholstery (I remember it being like a fine corduroy type of material). It had a very distinct smell I can almost recreate in my mind right now. It was like a perpetual new car smell that wasn't. It's hard to describe, but it's so vivid in my mind I'm amazed. The car had a tape deck. I know this for a fact because my dad had a Men At Work (Business as Usual) cassette that he sometimes played and I remember liking it (heck I still do). Despite this technological advance, allowing us to enjoy our very own selection of music, on the way to the club my dad would almost always make me listen to AM radio – the news.

The monotone voice of the narrator was numbing. Nothing the man spoke of was of any interest to me. Politics, sports, international events, local news, traffic, radio ads: all absolutely insignificant to a person my age. The rides to the club were about 45 minutes long. Silence between my dad and I was drowned by the voice of the news reader. There was no talk radio then – just the inevitable recycling of evenly delivered, boring news. At least on the way back my dad was usually too tired to stand it. He would often switch to FM and listen to music. I'm surprised I can even remember the rides home because I often fell asleep.

Many years later, my love for music is trumped by my hunger for information. Commonly, on my way to and from work I listen to the AM talk radio stations. News and conservative talk both inform me and help me stay up on my political toes – whether I agree with the host or not. Boortz, Hannity, and Medved are my favorite political hosts. I don't always agree with what they have to say. They are entertainers catering to a segment/an audience. Some are more intellectually honest than others. Like you and me, they do what they do to make money and I don't blame them for it. I've actually been on the air with Boortz twice. When I can, I like to listen to Clark Howard – consumer guru. I have found talk radio to be interesting, informative, relevant, and entertaining.

I guess that's one of those things that should happen when one becomes a grownup. The things spoken by these faceless voices through an AM band actually begin to mean something. I recognize that the events happening around me, that are being reported, can potentially affect my life. I am part of an active society – I'm a gear that, although small, helps turn and shape our collective environment. Nothing bothers me more than those loose bolts in the bottom of the machine that don't want to participate, but will occasionally jump into the well-oiled and tuned engine to hinder its production.

That said, when the voices turn monothematic and the news excruciatingly repetitive, I always turn to music. Usually not caring what's on the radio, I listen to my own burned mixed CDs. As the songs beat loudly out of my car speakers and I shamelessly sing along, I drift to a time when the talking heads and current events and the markets didn't matter at all. Good times.

Created: 6/6/2007