Over-hydrating Plums; Kittens; Hashtags (again)

Day 16: Monday

Morning, Tim!

I’m glad to see you are back to your senses (at least taste…I do love a good cup of Earl Grey!)

I’m not sure I’m satisfied with your explanation about latin phrases, but I will take this opportunity to enlighten you about my weekend. While visiting family (again!) I came upon two kittens. While they smelled a bit like res, they were utterly adorable, and I knew immediately you’d want me to capture a picture for you!

cf.cats cf.cuteandcuddly cf.icantevenhandleit


I also had a very good discussion while home regarding something I believe you to be keenly interested in. Naturally, we discussed purple fruits.

First we discussed grapes and raisins. Grapes are delicious. They can be made into wine (more delicious) or grape juice (still good). Raisins are also fine, but they are dried grapes. There is no raisin juice (makes sense…they are dried grapes).

Then we discussed plums and prunes. Plums are good. Prunes are…useful. But you don’t typically get plum juice, you get prune juice. What?! That doesn’t make any sense. Prunes are dried plums. Why aren’t we making juice from the juicy version of the fruit?

Just when you thought I was going to be done talking about purple fruits though…

So Tim, you know your hands can get pruney, perhaps by washing dishes for a long time or taking a lengthy soak in the tub? Some suggest this happens naturally to help with grip but that’s pretty irrelevant to this discussion. Importantly, it occurs when you are overexposed to water. That’s the exact opposite way we currently make prunes. Yet I think I’ve provided sufficient evidence suggesting you could go from plums to prunes by over-hydrating and dehydrating. Where was THIS when I was looking for a science fair project?

Sometimes as I write, I imagine my future employer coming across this blog…

I do wonder about this as well. I assume you are referencing this in hopes they do come across to see the deep, rigorous analytical thinking you’ve done in the past. I think my above logic speaks for itself.

Loved the perfume, Tim – keep it fresh.

Until tomorrow,



Intoxicating Perfume

Day 15: Friday

Good morning Zak,

I am writing you this letter over a fresh cup of loose-leaf Earl Grey tea…

Picture of this post being written over a fresh cup of Earl Grey

This is so meta…

Long time readers of Thily Fin will understand the psychological significance that Earl Grey has for me.  In this context, I’m using the phrase “long time” in roughly the same sense that a 14 year-old boy might use it when he’s in a committed relationship.

Zak, in your last entry you raised a deeply philosophical question about the sense of a particular phrase in context:

Does the Latin abbreviation cf. really mean “Hashtag?”

I once had a Latin teacher who said that “crap” was a suitable translation for res, so Zak, let me just answer your question with a question: does the fact that the ancient Romans never considered likening the concept of “random stuff” to fecal matter or that they didn’t use hashtags to share and compare pictures of kittens all over the world preclude the possibility of us using modern slang to translate Latin phrases?  Isn’t it possible that Cicero’s classic masterpiece De Re Publica, “On the Public res or “On the Republic,” is actually best interpreted as a philosophical commentary “on the public excrement?”

Sometimes as I write, I imagine my future employer coming across this blog…

As you can see, this cf. joke, like most things, gets a lot better when you dissect it.  When I was a 14 year-old boy in biology class, I had to dissect a rat.  Rats are also one of those things that get better when you dissect them.  When you’re given a rat in biology class, it doesn’t seem anything like the concept of “rat” that you thought you knew in real life.  It’s all frozen and yellow… really it’s closer to the concept of “burrito” than anything. But dissecting a rat is one of the most beautiful and meaningful experiences you will have early in life.  You will suddenly become very interested in biology, and later in life it will enrich your understanding of the concept of “rat race.”

Our brains have odd ways of associating concepts, words … and smells.  This can help us be creative when writing.  When I smell bergamot, as I do in my tea right now, my brain associates it with Medieval Italian love poetry…


Ferdinand de Saussure

There was once a French dude named Ferdinand de Saussure, who believed that the association between a word and a particular concept was always fundamentally arbitrary.  He would have argued that there is actually nothing absolute about they way we define words.  What I’m trying to say is, if it’s any consolation to people in biology class, there once lived a random French person with a fantastic mustache who at least in principle wouldn’t have necessarily objected to you giving “rat” the same definition that is presently reserved for “burrito.”

And then there’s Lucretius’ classic poem De Rerum Natura, “On the Nature of res” or…

Anyway, as you start to take your rat apart, you will begin to notice a thick miasma of death that is now filling the space where you were once used to finding breathable air.  That ambrosial aroma is a concept called “formaldehyde,” one example of how rats get better when you dissect them.  The smell of this intoxicating perfume is permanently carved into my brain, right next to memories of my 9th-grade lab partner and rat intestines.

And that’s one great way to begin a committed relationship.

Until Monday,