May 01, 2001

Rhyming orange

For some reason, my shoulders were sore this morning from rowing yesterday. So I
went to the gym and did legs this morning so they could be sore too. My body is
now symmetric in its pain.

"Doing legs" involves squats with a barbell behind my neck (up to 70 lbs today!),
front squats, leg presses, hang cleans, a few clean and jerks (which I don't think
I do quite right, so I only do a few), and calf raises, in case anyone is
wondering. "Doing arms" is lat pulldowns, seated rows, bench pulls, shoulder
presses, upright rows, and bicep curls. Either way, I warm up on the rowing
machine and do lots of stretching afterward.

Stretches are important to me; if I don't do them, after a while I start feeling
like I've built blocky, dense muscles (whether they're visible to the naked eye is
a completely different matter). They're actually a bit uncomfortable. In high
school I got to the point the I could do splits (only with the right leg forward),
but I lost them somewhere in my mid-20s.

End exercise journal

According to Amazon, in addition to one book for work, I have on the way to me:

  • The latest Elizabeth Peters, Lord of the Silent, just out today
  • Miss Read's Thrush Grange
  • the recently-issued collection of Manly Wade Wellman's John Thunstone stories,
    Third Invocation to Legba
  • Sean Stewart's Mockingbird

Are you jealous yet? Probably not, if you're href="">Evilena, href="">Mechaieh or href="">Phelps, as the first two probably already
have Lord of the Silent by now, and the third has a whole collection of Miss Read.
Possibly not even if you're My Brother the Writer, who may have the Wellman book
by now. The Stewart book is recommended by people who like Connie Willis, so I
think it's a safe bet.

On a completely different topic, it turns out the Tom Lehrer once managed to rhyme
'orange', supposedly the only English word that doesn't have a

Eating an orange

While making love

Makes for bizarre enj-

Oyment thereof.

This inspired Douglas Hofstadter to write a longer poem with similar rhymes in
tribute, but I think those are all downhill from Lehrer's Ogden Nash-worthy
quatrain, so won't quote them here.

Which makes me think of poetry, which, believe it or not, is actually analogous to
what I'm doing at work. One of the most common responses of software engineers to
the imposition of processes is that they stifle creativity. The best answer I've
seen to this is that instead, they give a framework, or foundation, within which
to apply creativity. When designing a car, you don't exercise creativity in
reinventing wheels; you build on what is known and try to go farther. Back to
poetry, Robert Frost said that "Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the
net down". I don't entirely agree -- there are constraints other than rhyme and
rhythm that can be imposed on a poem -- but it's true that some of the most rigid
forms, like sonnets and haiku, have been some of the most fertile.

On the other hand, poetic forms need to balance a certain amount of looseness with
that strict structure -- the rules of a sonnet don't specify either content or the
actual rhymes, just their pattern. I think this rule may have more general
application to the ways in which humans do our best work. In other

Tell me, tell me what to do,

Just don't tell me how to do it.

Give me what I need from you,

Then let me find my own way through it.

I'd rather not be just your pawn,

But still, don't be too laissez-faire,

I will not plead, I will not fawn,

I'll work with you if you'll play fair.

I'd rather work within the rules

If I help choose what those rules are.

I'll find my way (I'm not a fool)

But sails must have support from spars.

I need a frame on which to lean my weight,

As trees need wind to grow up strong and straight.

It is left as an exercise for the class to determine why the above is not actually
a sonnet. It is left as an exercise for the writer (me) to determine why she
decided to post the above.

Posted by dichroic at May 1, 2001 04:59 PM
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