#Hashtag or #Octothorpe · 23 May 2015

Young people call them hashtags, but they are really pound signs or number signs. Or more technically, octothorpes.

I never heard of an octothorpe (or octothorp or octatharp or octatherp) until we were having supper one night. Seems that my kids know lots more than me. About seemingly everything. Or at least everything you can find on the internet. Which seems to be just about everything in the universe. (It is mindboggling thinking that the universe could be contained on the internet.)

At any rate, we were having a conversation at supper when some topic I do not remember was brought up as a great writing topic for MediocreMan. (Could you hear the fanfare as you read my moniker?) Then we went on to other topics and finally, Thing 3 brought up the word “octothorpe.”

We must have been talking about Twitter and other social media, which contrary to popular culture, none of my boys really seem to be that enamored with. It could be because Thing 1 is the only one with a smart phone and tied into the interweb twenty-four seven, but the boys seem to have little use for social media. They all have Facebook accounts, but none of them uses them much. In fact, they really show disdain for social media and lament the fact that they need to use it at all.

Which brings us to the octothorpe.

When Thing 2 and Thing 3 were showing their disdain for social media, I brought up the fact that I use both Facebook and Twitter. To keep up with people (or at least spy on them a little) and to promote my writing (not doing so well with that one). That was when the octothorpe came in.

It seems social media junkies like to actually use their digital jargon in real conversations. We have all heard people say, “LOL” when they mean laugh out loud or instead of giving a courtesy laugh. (I hear LOL in my classroom every once in a while when I try to make a joke, but usually not until I tell them that they were supposed to laugh.) The other thing people like to insert into conversations is the word “Hashtag.”

On Twitter (and I suppose other social media), the pound sign or “hashtag” is used like a topic sentence. If a bunch of people use the same hashtag on their posts, the topic is said to be “trending.” (It is interesting how people put “-ing” onto the end of a noun to make it a verb, but that is a topic for another day.) People who tweet a lot seem to think that saying “Hashtag” in front of their topic is a way to bring attention to said topic in a conversation. (I never seem to be trending because I never hear anybody say, “Hashtag Miyoshi.”) At any rate, it is rather funny how the internet and social media have invaded conversation IRL (that means “In Real Life” from what I understand about teenspeak).

Teenagers all seem to know about this hashtag social media convention whether they use social media or not. So much so that Thing 3, whose social life consists mostly of Skype, brought up the ubiquitous octothorpe.

I am not sure why Thing 3 knows that the number symbol or hashtag is called an octothorpe, but somehow he does. I wondered how he knew about it and he just shrugged, “I found it on the internet.” (I think he surfs the internet in his sleep or something.) So naturally, I needed to find out more about this strange word and symbol.

According to the internet, the word octothorpe was invented by some folks at Bell Labs. Which is why it makes sense that it is on every phone. But Wikipedia and Wiktionary differ slightly on how the octothorpe came into being.

Like I said, Wikipedia and Wiktionary both agree that somebody from Bell Labs brought the term octothorpe into being in the current age, but Wiktionary quotes noted Canadian poet and typographer, Robert Bringhurst’s thoughts about its origin. “In cartography, [the octothorp] is a traditional symbol for village: eight fields around a central square. That is the source of its name. Octothorp means eight fields.” (From octo-(“eight”) and thorpe (“field, hamlet or small village”).) Whether it is true or not, it actually makes sense.

I suppose it does not really matter where the term originated. I just thought it was funny. After all, I told my family, it does not even have eight anythings, so why would anybody call it an octo-something-or-other. I am sure they all looked at me dumbfounded (which happens all too often at our house or at least it enhances the story when I say it that way, and what does dumbfounded mean anyway? that somebody just found out somebody else was dumb, that does not make any sense, at least in this case). They could all see that there are certainly eight fields around a village. Not only that, there are eight lines coming out of the central square. That is four sets of two not just four as I had thought (and maybe even said out loud). That was of course, why they were all dumbfounded. I thought eight was four. Or something like that.

Needless to say, they all had a great laugh at my expense.

So to make a long story just a little bit longer, I must admit that I had to think about the shape of an octothorpe. But the great thing about the Wiktionary note about eight fields around a hamlet is that I actually understand it. At least, I got it once I could count. I may not be the brightest bulb in the bunch, but I am not the village idiot either. The surrounding fields make sense. Whether that is how the symbol (and perhaps even the name) came about or not.

When all is said and done, I must admit that I love dinner conversations. Even the ones that have a hearty laugh at my expense. And even though the octothorpe was not the extent of our conversation, it provided stimulating conversation and plenty of entertainment for our family.

So to all you social media-ites, promote a little hashtagging about the octothorpe. Maybe #octothorpe will bring nice conversation and entertainment to your family supper too.

© 2015 Michael T. Miyoshi

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Mother’s Day Oops · 16 May 2015

Mother’s Day is one of those days that you just cannot miss. But for all the years that I have been writing, I have not done a specific Mother’s Day piece (except to write about my mom and her technology). Oops.

The problem with writing about mothers is that there is only so much niceness that can be said in one day let alone one piece of writing. How many times or how many ways can one person say, “Thanks for being my mom and bringing me into this life”? Think about it. All the sappy stuff that they put on greeting cards does not convey the proper respect and love that people feel for their moms.

Moms are gentle and loving and nurturing and caring and loving and kind and patient and loving and helpful and stern and loving. We cannot use enough great words to describe our mothers, and yet when we try the words sound like so much tripe. Yuch. Gag me with a fork (or spoon as the valley girls used to say).

I have this gag reaction when I think of all those sappy Mother’s Day cards, but have sent them or given them to my mom in the past. The need to send cards or do something nice is not just because Mother’s Day is a greeting card holiday, but because we really do want to honor our mothers and show them how much we care about them. We really do think that they are wonderful and stupendous. And loving. We really do believe them to be superwomen who can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan. We really do love them and cherish them above all other humans that we know. It is just that we cannot say all the things we want to say in a greeting card poem or even a silly MediocreMan blog. At least I cannot.

The three special women in my life (my wife, my mom, and my mother-in-law) are special beyond words. There are not enough superlatives to describe them. There is not enough depth to tell of my love for them. God gave moms to us as a special gift. His words after creating people, “It is very good,” are the best words we can speak to the special women in our lives. They are indeed very good. And I thank God for the special moms in my life.

Even though I say there are not enough words to tell of my love and respect for my moms and my wife, and even though I believe there are not greeting cards good enough to give to those women, I have neglected them all far too often.

Life is too busy, too full of stuff, too overscheduled. We often neglect the people we love the most. We often go for the good and forget the best. That is how I feel when I hastily pick up or make a card for my wife. I feel like I am missing something when I just pick up some flowers instead of planning a nice day to spend with the mother of my children. While I may sometimes think that Mother’s Day is a greeting card holiday, I believe I owe a debt of gratitude to my mom and my wife that I can never repay. And so while any little trinket or gift is not enough, they will have to suffice if only to show a glimpse of my love and devotion to the women I love.

When it comes right down to it, all of this is to say that there is no real way to say all the things we need to say to our mothers and wives. One day, one gift, one gesture is not enough to tell of our undying devotion to the most important women in our lives. Still, we must try. We must give our all to the women we love. And we must work hard to show them that undying love. Instead of shrugging when we forget. Instead of playing it off with a simple word or two like “sorry” or “oops.”

I know that my words are not good enough. That they are inadequate to describe the depth of love and devotion I feel toward my mom and my wife. Still, I hope that some of that love is conveyed when I say, “Happy Mother’s Day.” (Even if it is a week late. Oops.)

© 2015 Michael T. Miyoshi

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Our Dog Can Read · 9 May 2015

I would not be surprised if our dog could read. After all, she understands English and she knows what day of the week it is.

I know dogs are smart, but it seems ridiculous that our dog, Yukiko (a little West Highland White Terrier), seems to be able to read. At least the calendar. Each Saturday, she gets up with me earlier than everybody else and earlier than is her norm. She sits by me (or sometimes on my lap) as I read my Bible. And she gets impatient if I go past 8 a.m. That is Saturday breakfast time for her. I figure if I fed her any earlier, she would just want to wake up earlier and earlier and I would not get to sleep in a little on Saturdays. She would be scratching at her kennel wanting to get up too soon.

But getting up early on Saturdays is not the only thing she does to convince me she can read.

Of course, the other thing about Yukiko knowing when it is Saturday could be attributed to her nose. Certainly, we all know the power of the Schnauzer’s schnoz. Yukiko knows Saturday is pancake day. Most of the time. And even though she wants the delectable delights when she can smell them cooking on the griddle, I find it odd that she wants them even on the Saturdays when we do not cook them.

Sure, it could be that we have been having pancakes for breakfast on Saturdays for pretty much all of her life. And she has certainly been given her pancake on those days. But if dogs cannot at least read calendars, I wonder why Yuki wants those pancakes on Saturdays when we do not have any. I suppose there could be something to the seven-day cycle being an integral part of the universe, but I still think our dog can read.

Okay. Maybe she cannot read, but she is still plenty smart. And she is like the kids. Or at least like they used to be when they were younger wanting to stay up past their bedtime.

When it is time to go to bed, Yukiko asks if she can have a drink or go to the bathroom. Or both. She dilly dallies around thinking that she does not need to go up the stairs until we do. She makes sure that her routine is not changed and demands that she get her time to lie on the bed for at least a few minutes of snuggle time before going to her own bed. Yukiko is getting to be an old dog, but she seems to be up to kid tricks.

I know it is ludicrous, but I sometimes wonder what we would see if we could be a fly on the wall when nobody was home but the dog. (I suppose we could put a camera up, but that seems too Big Brotherly.) I can imagine her heading off to her favorite spots to sleep as everybody was heading toward the door. She likes to sleep in a storage tub in the front room closet or on top of the shoes all strewn about near the bottom of the stairs or with her head on the cool porcelain of the downstairs bathroom toilet, so I can see her lazily making her way to one of those spots. Some days, she might even be asleep already in one of those spots as the last person leaves.

But I have seen Yuki open just one eye when somebody nears her as she sleeps. She peers out from beneath her shaggy brow and sneaks a peek at what is going on around her. Sometimes, she just closes that single eye again. Sometimes, she gets up to join in whatever is happening. As everybody leaves in the morning, I can imagine that one eye opening and watching the door to ensure the last person is out.

When enough time has passed or when her morning nap is over, I can see Yukiko getting up, stretching, and going to the couch. Instead of taking another nap like we see her doing when we are home, I can see her putting her front paw on the TV controller and putting on a movie and relaxing until the clock shows that she ought to be taking her afternoon nap or at least looking like that is what she is doing when everybody comes home again.

I know it is just imagination, but I sometimes wonder if that really is what the dog does. After all, there are some strange shows in the Netflix watched category that I know I have not seen.

Our dog is certainly smart. Like most dogs, she understands or seems to understand human language. She is smart enough to delay her bed time. And she at least seems to know and understand the calendar. It may be ludicrous, but all these things make me think that our dog can read.

© 2015 Michael T. Miyoshi

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