Digressions At The Gate

August 3, 2001

"Human nature being what it is, these events will surely be repeated."–Thucydides

Mount Etna recently started blowing its top again. This reminded me of when I was a kid and I heard that when volcanoes erupted, they only belched up lava on one side, so I figured if I were ever near a volcano and it started to erupt, I could just run around to the other side. Heck, I thought, I might even stick around and watch. Then I learned that volcanoes are a lot bigger than I originally thought, and there’s not always a lot of warning. Thanks to bad Hollywood movies and so-called educational programming, I now know that some volcanoes erupt fast-moving clouds of hot ash and rock called pyroclastic flows. Knowing this won’t do me a lot of good if I’m ever near an erupting volcano, but could come in handy if I ever meet a volcanologist at a party. The coversation will probably go something like this:

Me: Seen any pyroclastic flows lately?

Volcanologist: Actually I’ve been doing tephrochronology on some trachyte material in a caldera rim.

Me: Um…boy, these little egg rolls sure are good, aren’t they?

Mount Etna is one of two active volcanoes in Europe. The other is Mount Vesuvius. It’s most famous for burying the city of Pompeii in 79AD. The Latin author Pliny the Younger, who was apparently standing on the right side of the volcano, saw the eruption and described it in letters to friends, adding, "Hey, do you think I could pitch this as a movie idea to Hollywood?" The eruption buried several hundred people, as well as a large collection of pornography. Fortunately today, thanks to the magic of technology, any pornography produced around Vesuvius, Etna, or any other volcano, can be transmitted immediately to computers anywhere in the world, thus saving it from almost-certain destruction.

Like many web entrepreneurs, the Romans really liked pornography. Some people think this contributed to the collapse of Rome. Actually Rome’s collapse was a result of several factors, including barbarians breaking through the borders and pipes made from lead. Well, I’m not so sure about the lead pipes having anything all that much to do with it. We’ve got radon in our basements, asbestos in our schools, and practically every household owns the board game "Clue" which comes with a lead pipe, and we’ve gotten along just fine. Efficient Roman plumbing did provide an excuse for the barbarians, though. They’d come knocking on the border doors and ask to be let in. The conversations would go something like this:

Barbarians: <Knock knock.>

Romans: Who is it?

Barbarians: It’s Frank. I’ve come to fix the sink.

Romans: Oh, come in!

Not all the barbarians were Franks. Some were Visigoths and Vandals, but they found that when they said, "It’s Vandal. I’ve come to fix the sink," the Romans would get suspicious. Of course the Romans should have known better than to let anybody in. After all, their ancestors the Trojans had been defeated after they accepted a gift of a large wooden horse from the Greeks whom they’d just defeated, and didn’t bother to look inside to make sure it wasn’t full of Greeks.

Fortunately we have their example to learn from. Specifically, we’ve used their example to name a special type of computer viruses–Trojans. That’s also the name of a brand of condom, which raises the question, Why name a condom after people who weren’t smart enough to keep their gates closed? And isn’t it ironic that condoms–which are supposed to prevent the spread of viruses–share a name with a kind of computer virus? Of course the condoms sell quite well, while original Trojans were defeated, not unlike the computer viruses that were supposed to cause a complete Internet meltdown earlier this week. Really the only thing melting down is the suburb built on the wrong side of Mount Etna, which just proves that, while history may repeat itself, it’s never in ways you expect.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

Seen on T-Shirts

Frankly, Scallop, I Don’t Give a Clam (seen on Cape Cod)

That’s It! I’m Calling Grandma! (seen on an 8-year old)

Wrinkled Was Not One of the Things I Wanted to Be When I Grew Up

Procrastinate Now

Rehab Is for Quitters

My Dog Can Lick Anyone

I Have a Degree in Liberal Arts – Do You Want Fries With That?

Party – My Crib – Two A.M. (on a baby-size shirt)

Finally 21, and Legally Able to Do Everything I’ve Been Doing Since 15!


West Virginia: One Million People, and 15 last names

FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION. It comes bundled with the software

A hangover is the wrath of grapes

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a cash advance….


They call it ‘PMS’ because ‘ Mad Cow Disease’ was already taken

He who dies with the most toys is nonetheless dead.

Time’s fun when you’re having flies …. Kermit the Frog

POLICE STATION TOILET STOLEN … Cops have nothing to go on.

FOR SALE: Iraqi rifle. Never fired. Dropped once.


A picture is worth a thousand words, but it uses up a thousand times the memory!

Time flies like the wind. Fruit flies like a banana.

HAM AND EGGS — A day’s work for a chicken; a lifetime commitment for a pig.

WELCOME TO KENTUCKY – Set your watch back 20 years.

The trouble with life is there’s no background music


The original point-and-click interface was a Smith & Wesson.


MOP AND GLOW – Floor wax used by Three-Mile-Island cleanup team.

Quoting one is plagiarism. Quoting many is research.

A shirt with a Harley Davidson logo on the front had printed on the back, IF YOU CAN READ THIS, THE WIFE FELL OFF.

My husband and I divorced over religious differences. He thought he was God, and I didn’t.

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