Seven degrees of separation from busy to lazy


1_Earth_(blank)Before Walt Disney had the Sherman brothers, Rob and Rick, create the earworm* known as It’s a Small World (After All), the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy wrote about the small world concept in his short story Chain Links. If you take the time to read the four-page story by clicking on the title, you’ll see how Karinthy is able to establish an association between two people unknown to one another with just two acquaintance links between them, and another pair with four acquaintance links between them.


Most people today attribute the idea of six degrees of separation to Karinthy. According to the 6° of separation theory, every human being is connected to every other human being by six or fewer links (friends or acquaintances) between them. In its various iterations, the concept now includes Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, a game connecting every Hollywood actor, ham or otherwise, to Kevin Bacon in the required six or fewer links. Go here to test it out.



If the SDS theory is true, we are all just six or fewer acquaintance links from Pope Francis, Macklemore, your crazy neighbor, and every terrorist on the face of the earth. This is good news for the acronym known as NSA (National Snooping Agency / No Secrets Allowed), because the theory can justify snooping on all of us. We are all guilty by association. Of course, the national acronym shows some restraint, restricting its snoops to three degrees of separation for persons of interest. Or so they say.

Someone is watching all your links.

Someone is watching all your links.

What does this have to do with busy and lazy? Back in the old days of crossword puzzle books, I used to play a word game in which you had to start with one word and end up with another by changing one letter of the word in a designated number of steps. I thought of this the other day when I realized how I seem to alternate between busy and lazy. So I started a word list and discovered the two states are separated by seven degrees of separation.


I start out BUSY, and all that frantic effort leaves me BUSHed. Tired and frustrated, I begin to BASH my head against the wall and LASH out at some of the people around me. Then I withdraw and build a flimsy retreat of LATHs. Confined by a cage built by my own hands, I postpone what I am supposed to do and find I am LATE for deadlines and for completing my well-laid plans. Once that happens, I lose focus and begin to LAZE around. That hammock-like verb leads to LAZY (hours wasted staring at moving objects on my computer screen).

It looks something like this:









What does this all mean? And why do I keep starting paragraphs with questions? I don’t really know, so I’ll make something up. First, words and how they are spelled can be linked. I like that because I enjoy words and wordplay. Second, ideas can be linked, for example, Frigyes Karinthy’s chain links and Kevin Bacon’s cinema links. Someone clearly needs to discover the links between toilet paper and nuclear fission, as well as vaccines and peanut butter. And I could be that someone if only moving from lazy to busy were as easy as moving from busy to lazy.


*Earworm = A song or musical phrase that 
burrows into your head to consume part of yourbrain. The earworm extracts tiny bits of 
sanity, extruding addle, which causes you to
become addle-brained. An ear worm can also 
make bad words come out of your mouth.


Photos courtesy of Wikimedia:   Big chain link     Earth


A name by any other name


Texas' most famous Hogg - Governor during the 1890s (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)


If you are from Texas, you already know about Governor Hogg and his daughter. Before Hogg, governors had to be brought in from out of state; he was actually born in Texas and served during the 1890s. I heard about him when I was a very young child and immediately loved him because he named his daughter Ima. At the time, I didn’t consider how Ima felt about it; I just liked the sound of it. When I heard he had another daughter named Ura, I wished that my parents had loved me enough to name me Ura Hogg. Later I found out that Ura didn’t exist. I have lived with a broken heart ever since.


I can’t trace my love for wordplay to the story of Governor Hogg, but it definitely taught me that people’s names are fun to play with. (Note to reader: I am doing my best to stay away from pig puns. With a name like Hogg, that’s hard to do. But for your sake, I will gird up my tender loins and get out of this paragraph as fast as I can.)


Here’s what got me to thinking about Hogg. Yesterday, we saw a car with a license plate from Iowa. From deep within my brain, a wish came bubbling up; a wish that my last name was Lott and that I was from Iowa. Then my online name could be Iowa Lott.


The lovely Ima Hogg kept her name all her life (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

In the privacy of my own mind, I do this kind of nameplay all of the time. I once worked with a woman whose last name was Mennen. When she told me she had a grown daughter, I was quite excited. Before I could offer to be a matchmaker, she told me the daughter was already married. I dreamed of fixing her up with a man named Black. She would use a hyphenated last name: her maiden name and her husband’s last name. I imagined her wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses and a black suit to work. When people asked her name, she would answer simply, “Mennen-Black.” Had I been more careful about who I married, I could have had a name like that.


There’s more, of course, but today is the first day of classes for this semester and I need to get there early. I always look forward to my classes. The people sitting in those chairs are not just students to me, they’re names.