You Don’t Have To Be Einstein To Figure This Out

June 7, 2002

Every time I start my word processing program, a little guy who looks suspiciously like Albert Einstein marches out. Why is Einstein in my word processor? This was a guy who was, admittedly, a mathematical genius, but he consistently flunked grammar and literature in school and didn’t start talking until he was eight. His wife had to paint the door of their house blue because it was the only way he could remember which house was his, and I’m supposed to trust this guy when he tells me I’ve misspelled "portmanteau"? And occasionally he pops up with the message, "Would you like me to help you write your letter?" No thanks. First of all, I’m not writing a letter. Secondly, the only letter of Einstein’s that I know of was a warning to the President about the atom bomb and it was written for him by a couple of Hungarians. Not that I have anything against Einstein–or Hungarians. He was probably one of the smartest people who ever lived. He understood the implications of atomic bombs falling into the hands of people who were loony enough or stupid enough to actually use them, and yet somehow figured out a way to not be so overwhelmingly depressed by this that he could spend most of his time scribbling down equations that showed how if you had a twin and one of you travelled on two trains at the speed of light when you came back the other twin would be older than you, plus you would be famous for having travelled at the speed of light.

Most of us aren’t that smart. We have to have other things to distract us, and not only from atomic bombs in the hands of idiots but from the radon in our basements, the carbon monoxide in our closets, all those anti-bacterial products in our bathrooms that are breeding super germs, and the fact that everyone in the neighborhood has painted their door blue as a joke on that nice old man who lives down the street. For me those distractions have always included wondering whether I’m using a word like "fallow" correctly, having to go to the dictionary, and while I’m there, just for hoots, checking to see how the word "nipple" originated. (The answer and its connection to elephants may surprise you, but not nearly as much as the fact that it used to refer to small hills. Which is the sort of thing that makes me start wondering where the expression "making a mountain out of a molehill" came from, and whether in areas where there are no moles people say "make a mountain out of a nipple," and whether this has any effect on the plastic surgery trade in those areas. But I digress.)

But now that I have the little Einstein guy, I don’t have to go anywhere. He’s taking advantage of my natural laziness, correcting my spelling and suggesting alternate words for me, which leaves me with a lot of spare time to sit there and get depressed about things. Maybe I should take a clue from Einstein, though. He once said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge", and this is especially true when you KNOW that the ozone layer is disappearing and there’s not a lot you can do about it and you would prefer to IMAGINE that everything’s fine–at least for a while. After all, taking a short break from things does make problems seem less like mountains and more like molehills…although if they start to look like nipples you’re spending too much time alone.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


"Never try to outstubborn a cat."
— Robert Heinlein

"Cats are the ultimate narcissists. You can tell this because of all the time they spend on personal grooming. Dogs aren’t like this. A dog’s idea of personal grooming is to roll on a dead fish."
— James Gorman

"Meow is like aloha — it can mean anything."
— Hank Ketchum

"There is no cat ‘language.’ Painful as it is for us to admit, they don’t need one."
— Barbara Holland

"Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea."
— Robert A. Heinlein

"We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it — and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again, and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore."
— Mark Twain

"Of all God’s creatures there is only one that cannot be made the slave of the leash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat."
— Mark Twain

"In order to keep a true perspective of one’s importance, everyone should have a dog that will worship him and a cat that will ignore him."
— Dereke Bruce, Taipei, Taiwan

"Managing senior programmers is like herding cats."
— Dave Platt

"Cats are smarter than dogs. You can’t get eight cats to pull a sled through snow."
— Jeff Valdez

As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat."
— Ellen Perry Berkeley

"One cat just leads to another."
— Ernest Hemingway

"Dogs come when they’re called; cats take a message and get back to you later."
— Mary Bly

"Cats are rather delicate creatures and they are subject to a good many ailments, but I never heard of one who suffered from insomnia."
— Joseph Wood Krutch

"People that hate cats, will come back as mice in their next life."
— Faith Resnick

"I have studied many philosophers and many cats. The wisdom of 
cats is infinitely superior."
— Hippolyte Taine

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
— Albert Schweitzer

"The cat has too much spirit to have no heart."
— Ernest Menaul

"Cats seem to go on the principle that it never does any harm to ask for what you want."
— Joseph Wood Krutch

"Some people say that cats are sneaky, evil, and cruel. True, and they have many other fine qualities as well."
— Missy Dizick

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