Tag Archives: Philosophy

Lorem Ipsum or how Cicero never met any masochists

I’ve been reading Lauren Ipsum, which is sort of a Phantom Tollbooth meets computer science sort of book, in which you learn about round robin transfers, are attacked by a pack of jargon, and meet a traveling salesman. The title got me to thinking that I’d see the Lorem Ipsum text in a lot of places (default icon text of a text file in Linux, icon of Notepad++, etc.) but I didn’t actually know what it was.

The basic purpose of the Lorem Ipsum text is to provide a dummy text for showing the layout of a type-setting, column format, etc. It’s been around since about the 1960’s but was popularized in computers in the 1980’s by the Aldus corporation. You all have probably heard of the phrase “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog“, a pangram or sentence containing all of the letters of the alphabet. The lazy dog phrase has been used for years to show all of the various letters of a font (and has been the way I’ve tested a keyboard on new computers or ones that have been recently dropped). While good for fonts, “lazy dog” doesn’t have a lot of variation in it’s appearance and when repeated over and over again in a layout looks a lot like “No Beer and No TV make Homer something something”.

Turns out there are a lot of variations of the Lorem Ipsum text but they all come from approximately the same source, Cicero’s tome On the Ends of Goods and Evils (De finibus bonorum et malorum for all you Latin junkies out there). The generated text is typically nonsense, either in  Latin or in English, taking bits of phrases and scrambling them together to look like natural text. Lorem is actually a truncation of Dolorem, which may have originated in a 1914 translation of the Cicero text which starts the word on one page with “Do” and starts the next page with “lorem ipsum”.

You can actually generate both the “lazy dog” text and the “lorem ipsum” text easily in Word 2007, 2010 and 2013. Type the following into a new Word document and press enter:


This will generate a three paragraph, three sentence variant of the Lorem Ipsum text. To get something longer, just put values into the function like so:

=lorem(p, l)

With p equaling the number of paragraphs and l equaling the number of sentences (not actual page lines as the Microsoft Knowledge Base article might suggest).

“Lazy dog” can be obtained with the following


And some random text from the Microsoft Help file can be placed with this:


The main thrust of the Lorem Ipsum passage from Cicero is the following “Neither is there anyone who loves, pursues or desires pain itself because it is pain” (thanks Wikipedia for the translation). Obviously Cicero lived in a much simpler time. I guess you could look at masochists and say that they are actually following Cicero’s principle of obtaining pleasure after toil and pain, but I think it might be a bit of a stretch. Still Cicero seems like my kind of guy when he says “To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it?” Maybe some of you are saying that exercise creates endorphins and improves your mood and alertness, but you still can’t avoid the laborious part.

BTW, A value of =lorem(100, 100) will get you a NaNoWriMo text in about two seconds.

For those of you really in the mood for some 1st century philosophy, here’s a great scanned text of the Lorem Ipsum book I found with the original Latin and English on opposite pages.

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What I’m Reading

I read probably 99% for enjoyment these days, evidenced by the fact that a lot of what I’m reading are comic books.

I love going book shopping with Brian, not the least of which just for the excuse. He has less good used book places to go in Findlay so whenever he’s in town we do the rounds of the Half Price Books or Acorns. Trouble is whenever we leave the store I’m walking out with CDs/DVDs and a few comic books, and Brian is walking out with a whole stack of books on Zen philosophy or old classics or books that look a whole lot more impressive.

And Brian writes and distills these ideas well. When he discussed The Myth of Sisyphus I actually thought it might be something worth reading, and at the very least I came away with an understanding of what the book was trying to say.

Now truth be known I’m not suddenly going to become a philosophy major. And there’s a good case to be made for my love of genre fiction since I’m trying to be a good genre fiction writer. But the best genre fiction, the best writing, has a depth to it that comes from reading more than just pulp novels. It comes from a curiosity about the world.

Now I do have a curiosity about the world, particularly mathematics, and more specifically fractals, as you might have already guessed. But truthfully I haven’t figured out how to make fractals into a good story, or fractal thinking, or the fractal nature of the universe. I love writing books about how to create fractals, and suspect I will write another, but it doesn’t help the fiction much.

What I’m looking for are books that make me think. I read a lot of interesting articles, and sometimes I share them with all of you. But I only read maybe 1 or 2 books a year that really make me examine he universe, life, and everything. And more importantly, at least to me, spark ideas for how to explore those concepts in fiction.

I’d like to tackle the Singularity of course, but I feel like I haven’t quite figured out how to talk about that without sounding like the crazy bearded man on the street with a cardboard sign taped around his neck saying “Repent. The end is near.”

So I guess what I’m asking is what do you think I should read that I shouldn’t miss? What book that you’ve read would you look at me in disbelief for not having tried? And what new or old idea should I take a look at?

Maybe something old and something new, definitely something borrowed, but nothing blue. Not looking to be depressed people 🙂

Leave your thoughts in the comments and thanks!

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Filed under Writing Goals

Life’s Simple Answers

“We want an answer to Life, The Universe and Everything. Something simple.”

A few weeks ago the republican candidates for president were asked to define themselves with one word. Their choices were Consistent, Courage, Resolute and Cheerful (I’ll let you guess who said what).

For myself I’ve chosen three words: Writer, Programmer, Singer.

I think we like simple answers, but even with three times as many words there’s a lot about myself I’ve left out.

For starters I could add “christian”, as my faith informs all three of these passions in my life. Now that I’m married “husband” wouldn’t be a bad choice, and hopefully someday “father”.

But even with additions there’s a lot I’m leaving out. I used to sing, but I haven’t been part of a choir for over a year. I’m working as a programmer, but rarely create any programs for myself. I love to write, but there is still so much more I am striving to achieve before I feel I can change “writer” to “author”.

Something about life defies an easy answer. If it didn’t 42 would be as good an answer as any.

I like the complicated answers, the ones that take time and discussion to muddle out. My dad and I have been talking about classic literature and thought. There’s a conversation that’s been happening through human thought and literature from the days of Plato, Aristotle and Socrates to the modern thinkers of today. It takes place in styles of literature, in ideas, in science, in all areas of life.

I want to be part of this conversation.

Some fun in honor of this our 42nd post:

I had a little fun with Yahoo’s Babel fish doing some back and forth translation. I started with the following phrase in English, “Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy“, and translated it into a number of different languages and back again to English. Here are the results:

Chinese: The traveller guides to the galaxy
French: The hitch-hikers guide with the galaxy
German: Tramper lead to the galaxy
Italian: The Hitchhikers guides to the galaxy
Japanese: The hitchhiker leads to the galaxy
Portuguese: The Hitchhikers guides to the galaxy
Russian: Hitchhikers direct to the galaxy
Spanish: The hitchhikers direct to the galaxy

If you had some other words to describe the Republican candidates you are not alone. The Daily Beast posted some word clouds that sum up public opinion. You can see them here.

I’ve added a Blogroll to the site and have a few other updates planned. Stay tuned!

And finally

What one word (or three) would you use to describe yourself?

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Filed under Faith + Life, Round-Ups