Lorem Ipsum, Anybody?

What’s the story with this pseudo-Latin-adjacent garble?

The ability to focus and concentrate seems to elude me today. I know that being overtired has a great deal to do with that. And I’m not getting any younger. But “fogbrain” is a dangerous thing to have in these days of the internet. I have been flitting from one web page to the next for the past 4 ½ hours. It’s time to get serious.

Once I’ve picked a topic to blog about, I usually enjoy the research process. I love learning everything I can about a subject, digesting all that information, and then…

Ohhhh. I just lost another hour. Dammit!

What was I saying?

Oh yeah. Research. I love digesting all that information and then producing what I hope is an informative and yet entertaining post for you. I want you to enjoy learning stuff, you know? After all, connecting one’s edification to one’s happy place is a recipe for success.

I knew what topic I wanted to write about 5 hours ago. Lorem Ipsum. I’m sure you’ve seen those garbled paragraphs of gibberish that graphic designers and printers use to show what text would look like in their latest website or brochure or template or packaging design. (And given my inability to concentrate, all my research has been looking like lorem ipsum today.)

I braced myself before Googling lorem ipsum. I was afraid that all I would get back was page after page of templates with incomprehensible placeholder text that would not tell me what I want to know: What’s the story with this pseudo-Latin-adjacent garble, and why do designers use it so faithfully rather than just creating random gibberish of their very own?

I expected rather slim pickings with regard to the history of this weird, muddled stopgap language. It wouldn’t surprise me if I were the only one who cares. But to my shock, I discovered that I’m completely wrong in those assumptions.

In fact, there has been much ado about lorem ipsum over the years. For the uninitiated or curious people out there, this photo shows you the full body of the lorem ipsum text:

It doesn’t exactly trip over the tongue, does it? But it does its job. It takes away the power of the words in a layout. The words simply become font, a mere element of the overall design. Just for fun, I provide you with this translation by Jaspreet Singh Boparai, who tried to make it as incoherent in English as it is in Latin.

“Rrow itself, let it be sorrow; let him love it; let him pursue it, ishing for its acquisitiendum. Because he will ab hold, uniess but through concer, and also of those who resist. Now a pure snore disturbeded sum dust. He ejjnoyes, in order that somewon, also with a severe one, unless of life. May a cusstums offficer somewon nothing of a poison-filled. Until, from a twho, twho chaffinch may also pursue it, not even a lump. But as twho, as a tank; a proverb, yeast; or else they tinscribe nor. Yet yet dewlap bed. Twho may be, let him love fellows of a polecat. Now amour, the, twhose being, drunk, yet twhitch and, an enclosed valley’s always a laugh. In acquisitiendum the Furies are Earth; in (he takes up) a lump vehicles bien.”

The theory is that if a printer were to place understandable text in a sample, people would focus on the words and what they were saying, rather than looking at the color, font, and layout of the product. Words are powerful. The information conveyed by the words might bias the customer against said product. It would never do to use a pro-Trump story on the cereal box sample packaging you’ve created for a liberal customer, would it? And if you put John-Paul Sartre’s treatise on atheistic existentialism on your website design for the Vatican, you’d most likely lose the account.

(This is me, resisting the urge to go rogue and start reading about atheistic existentialism.)

Another nifty thing about lorem ipsum is that printed drafts that contain these words are much less likely to be mistaken for a final version. It would be a really expensive mistake to have more than a million copies of a sample layout for an ad campaign appear within the pages of Vogue Magazine.

And because of its varied word size and spacing, and the frequency of repeated letters, at first lorem ipsum looks like your language. And that’s regardless of what that language is, as long as it’s written in the Roman alphabet that so many languages, like English, use these days. Just don’t look at the actual words too closely.

So, yeah, gibberish it is, then. But why this particular gibberish? Where did it come from? Apparently, I’m not the only one who has wondered about that. Thank goodness Richard McClintock, a Latin scholar who must possess a lot more focus and follow-through than I do, was on the case. He was able to track down the source of lorem ipsum by focusing on one word in the passage: consectetur. It’s a Latin word, but it’s not very common. (It basically means enhanced.)

Given the rarity of that word in documented Latin text, it didn’t take him long to discover the root source of lorem ipsum. It’s from Cicero’s “De Finibus Bonorum Et Malorum”, sections 1.10.32 and 1.10.33. Lorem ipsum is a chopped up, modified and scrambled version thereof. (Why no one has seen fit to make a Wikipedia page for McClintock, the discoverer of the origins of lorem ipsum, is beyond me.)

Cicero lived from 106 BC to 43 BC, and was then beheaded by order of none other than Marc Antony. (You might say his life was “cut short”. See what I did there?) But before that, he was an extremely prolific writer. Fortunately, he was posthumously declared to be a “Righteous Pagan” by the church. In other words, the church realized that he hadn’t been introduced to Christianity, as it did not exist during his time, but he had led a virtuous life, so he got a religious “get out of damnation free” card. And as a side benefit, the church saw fit not to destroy all his writings.

If you’d like to see a translation of Cicero’s original text from which lorem ipsum was born, check it out here on the Wikipedia page. It’s a very dense, yet well-thought-out treatise on pleasure and pain.

So, have we been using lorem ipsum since the age of Cicero? Most assuredly not. According to Wikipedia, movable type wasn’t even invented until the year 1040. Before that, we only had woodblock printing, which came about around the year 200 (or about 243 years after Cicero was standing before the pearly gates, most likely in a state of great confusion). It’s a safe bet that no one would waste a perfectly good woodblock to make a lorem ipsum sample.

Richard McClintock theorizes that lorem ipsum was created in the 15th century, because the works of Cicero were extremely popular at the time. Unfortunately, no samples of lorem ipsum from that period are extant. But then, why would anyone have bothered to preserve them? Would you keep a sample of a sample? (If so, newsflash: you’re a hoarder.)

But after McClintock’s brilliant detective work and revelation, another theory cropped up, based on yet another single “word” in lorem ipsum: Lorem. It is not a Latin word. So where did it come from?

It seems that Latin scholars are diligent when it comes to research, because an uncredited scholar tracked down all the versions of the Cicero passage that he could, and what he discovered was that one version, printed in 1914, could not fit the word dolorum (meaning sorrow) onto one page. Therefore “do-“ appears at the end of one page, and “lorem” starts on the next page. That would be a pretty fascinating coincidence if it’s not the source of our beloved gobbledegook.

We know for sure that this filler text has been around since at least the 1960’s, because we have examples of it from a French company called Letraset, which used this passage for the dry-transfer sheets they produced in various fonts, for people who wanted to rub lettering onto something. Some of digital font producers use this same passage to this day, as shown here.

So that’s almost everything you need to know about lorem ipsum, except for a few juicy tidbits. First, some people, who can’t make up their minds about what message they want to promote, have Lorem Ipsum tattoos.

Second, a lot of sites have humorous filler generators based on Lorem Ipsum. My favorite is the Bob Ross Happy Text, which on my latest visit came up with this: 

“No pressure. Just relax and watch it happen. Anyone can paint. Everybody’s different. Trees are different. Let them all be individuals. Play with the angles. In your imagination you can go anywhere you want. If you do too much it’s going to lose its effectiveness. I like to beat the brush. That easy. God gave you this gift of imagination. Use it. Son of a gun. No worries. No cares. Just float and wait for the wind to blow you around. Even the worst thing we can do here is good. Now we don’t want him to get lonely, so we’ll give him a little friend. Let your imagination be your guide. You have to make these big decisions. Decide where your cloud lives. Maybe he lives right in here. Let’s put some highlights on these little trees. The sun wouldn’t forget them. How do you make a round circle with a square knife? That’s your challenge for the day. We’ll put some happy little leaves here and there. Isn’t that fantastic? You can just push a little tree out of your brush like that. It takes dark in order to show light. Once you learn the technique, ohhh! Turn you loose on the world; you become a tiger. This is the time to get out all your flustrations, much better than kicking the dog around the house or taking it out on your spouse. See there, told you that would be easy. And right there you got an almighty cloud. A happy cloud. Let’s make a nice big leafy tree. Think about a cloud. Just float around and be there. Very easy to work these to death. Everything is happy if you choose to make it that way. A little happy sunlight shining through there. Here’s something that’s fun. I was blessed with a very steady hand; and it comes in very handy when you’re doing these little delicate things.”

That site is a great one to visit when you need a smile.

The final juicy tidbit is that human beings can turn anything into a controversy. Some design professionals want lorem ipsum to be avoided at all costs. They say that if you are designing a layout that’s going to be driven by words, you should use real words. These “anti-ipsters” go on to say that when you use lorem ipsum, your design is not enhancing the meaning of the content. Instead, your content is enhancing your design. Gasp!

That, that is what you want to turn into a scandal? Please. Cicero is probably laughing from on high.

Sources in addition to those cited above:



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West Coast Wander: The Aftermath

An adventure doesn’t start when you set out, and it doesn’t end when you get home.

We had a two-week vacation, and decided that it would be fun to drive down the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California and then drop off our rental car and take a train back home. I’m calling this journey the West Coast Wander, and plan to blog about it every other day so as not to totally alienate those who have no interest in travel, and yet allow those who do to travel vicariously with us. Here’s the first in the series, if you want to start at the beginning.  I hope you enjoy it, dear reader.

In many ways, an adventure doesn’t start when you set out, and it doesn’t end when you get home. There’s often much planning and research involved. I’m really grateful that I have a partner who gets into this portion of the trip as much as I do. Gone, forever, are the days when I did all the research and reservations and the other person just sat comfortably back and enjoyed the ride. If you are going to take a trip with someone, I strongly suggest you take a deep dive into the vacation prep. That’s a good part of the fun, and greatly adds to the anticipation.

In fact, not only does Dear Husband do much of the reserving after mutual discussion, but he also prefers to drive, just as I prefer not to. So I must admit that he drove all the 2250 miles himself. Suits me. But I did feel a tiny bit of residual guilt, because I’m sure I got to see more than he did.

He also did about 85 percent of the ritual schlepping of the luggage from car to hotel to car… rinse… repeat. Believe me, it didn’t go unnoticed. And he often has to do a great deal of work as we travel. He continues to bring home his fair share of the bacon even as we feast upon it. I’m ever so grateful for him.

I must confess that DH has a lot more energy than I do. By way of example, when we got home after this epic journey, I sat glued to the recliner, with my dachshund snuggled up against me, as if I had been dropped from a 50 story building. DH, on the other hand, immediately unpacked 90 percent of his stuff. In my single days, I had been known to leave things in my suitcase for months after a trip had ended. Since I no longer live alone, I wouldn’t think of putting things off that long. But the same day? Nope.

I did manage to put a load of our dirty clothes in the washing machine, though. I even turned it on. That counts for something, right?

Since I have a luxurious amount of vacation time (Union strong!) I have also gotten into the habit of having an extra day at the tail end of the trip to chill out at home before getting back onto the work treadmill again. So that night I went to bed knowing that I’d be able to sleep in. What a gift.

I woke up around 3 am for my mid-sleep pee, noted the time, and thought, “That’s cool. This hotel has its alarm clock in the exact same location as I do at home.” But wait! I was home! Yay!

As more evidence of the difference in energy levels, DH woke up bright and early, met up with some family to tell them about the trip, and, with their help, removed the trash from two miles of roadway in front of our house.

I slept ‘til noon. Traveling can be taxing.

In the previous posts, I didn’t talk much about the souvenirs we picked up along the way, so some photos thereof appear below. Neither of us are really into stuff, so we tend to focus on fridge magnets, stickers, and postcards, as they don’t take up very much space. And we do often get a Christmas ornament or two. They’ll provide us with many happy memories over the years. I hope that makes up for the mild post-vacation depression I am known to experience.

Ah, but what an amazing trip we had! The pandemic put its stamp on it in a lot of weird and unexpected ways. I never realized how I used to dance through life assuming that places would open themselves up and draw me in. Now, it gets a lot more complicated. Often reservations are required. Just as often, places are locked up tight, with no anticipated reopening in sight. I don’t think our world will ever be the same. That gave the trip a curious aftertaste. But I think it’s safe to say that, on the balance, a good time was had by all. As it should be.

One thing I just realized is that after two weeks driving along the west coast, with the Pacific as our constant companion, we never once touched the ocean. (Well, unless you count getting our shoes slightly wet when we visited the tide pools of Duxbury Reef.) How did we manage that? That’s practically a crime.

Hmmm. I guess we’ll have to go back someday. If so, I’ll be sure and tell you all about it.

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Unquestioned Answers

Use your noggin.

I spend a great deal of time on this blog discussing unanswered questions. That’s probably because they drive me nuts. I prefer having answers. Doesn’t everybody?

Apparently that’s the case for the majority of us, because in this past decade, I’ve seen more and more people grabbing hold of answers with both hands, in seeming fits of desperation. They don’t wish to question those answers one little bit, no matter how absurd those answers seem to be to those with even a modicum of critical thinking skills.

Beware the unquestioned answers, dear reader. Eschew the conspiracy theories. Reject anti-science. Avoid liars and all manner of tellers of tall tales. If it seems weird, question it. If it’s just a bit too pat, delve deeper. Listen to more than one source for your information. And don’t let one of those sources be Fox News. If it’s supposed to be a huge secret, wonder why the person telling you knows. If you’re told that they’ve just appointed RuPaul’s housecat to be the Minister of Justice in North Korea, it’s probably too good to be true. Don’t just blindly follow authority. Use your noggin.

We have brains because they’re meant to be used. Now is not the time to get lazy. Educate yourself. And for heaven’s sake, vote.

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The Worldwide Hum


I’ve got goosebumps. I was surfing the net and, just by chance, I came across an article entitled, “Cracking the Mystery of the ‘Worldwide Hum’” and I let out an audible gasp. I quickly read it and realized that something I’ve been hearing, sporadically, for years, might not be a figment of my imagination after all.

It always happens at night. And I’m always indoors when it starts. It sounds like that buzzy, rumbling sound that a semi truck makes when its engine is idling. Or maybe it’s someone driving by while playing music really loudly on cheap speakers, so all you hear is the buzz. Only, this is even louder and it doesn’t fade away. I always expect to see a gigantic truck in my front yard. But of course, I never have.

I can feel the buzzing through the floor and walls. But oddly, when I go outside to investigate, the sound gets more quiet rather than getting louder as one might expect. I’ve walked down to the street and looked both ways. Nothing. Once I even hopped into my car and drove around the block to see if something was going on nearby. Nope. A few times, my husband said he’d heard it, too, but not very loudly.

It doesn’t happen often enough to disrupt my life, and I’ve sort of gotten used to the concept that it must be a figment of my imagination. I have never talked about it with others unless they were present when I heard it. I just kind of looked at it as a periodically annoying thing that goes away after a few minutes.

And then I read this article. Apparently people have been hearing this hum since at least the late 60’s. And many mention that it’s louder indoors, and mostly occurs at night. Wow.


The man who wrote the article is keeping a database for the purpose of scientifically researching this hum. If you hear it, too, you can add to the database here. It’s called the World Hum Map, and I’m finding it comforting to see how many other people hear this sound. As the home page explains, this is not a website for hysterical conspiracy theories or pseudoscience. It’s a thoughtful attempt to solve this mystery scientifically.

Even though scientists have yet to answer the many questions I have about this hum, I feel like a thousand pound weight has been lifted off my shoulders, because now I know I’m not alone in hearing it. People hear it all over the world. That’s a start. I’ll take it.

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A Temporary Home Schooling Idea

Science can be fun!

As more and more schools are shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents are desperately casting about for temporary home schooling ideas. In order to keep your children up to date on science, I strongly encourage you to check out Zooniverse.org. It’s also a great place to go if you’re stuck at home and bored silly. I can’t think of a better source to get people of all ages interested in science than this people-powered research site.

Check out my previous blog post about this site for more details, but rest assured that even more scientific projects have been added to the site since then. Here are a few:

  • Help the University of Wyoming track and study racoons.

  • Help identify regions of the universe where stars are being born.

  • Track the life histories and criminal careers of Australian prisoners.

  • Listen for earthquakes.

  • Transcribe handwritten letters between 19th century anti-slavery activists.

  • Count, identify, and track giraffes in Northern Kenya.

  • Help characterize the surface of Mars.

Sometimes it takes a village to complete a science project. I’m getting excited just writing this post! Let’s take this opportunity to teach our children that science can be fun!


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Holy Group Grumble, Batman!

Turns out that bats speak to each other as individuals.

Every time we learn something new about the natural world, it makes me realize just how little we know. Given that fact, it’s awfully arrogant of us to act so superior and proprietary. How can we walk through this world with such confidence and act upon it with such haughty indifference when we don’t really have a clue as to what’s going on beyond our ken or how our actions impact said goings on?

Take, for example, this article in the Smithsonian, entitled “Researchers “Translate” Bat Talk. Turns Out, They Argue—A Lot

It seems that thanks to some voice recognition software, researchers have determined that bats not only speak to each other as individuals, using different tones of voice, but they also have matched up certain sounds to certain actions. Predictably, they argue about food and their positions within the sleeping cluster, and invasions of personal space. But they also discuss males that make unwanted mating advances. In other words, they’re not all that different from us.

Except they’re willing to poop in my attic. So there’s that.


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Get Your Scientific Groove On

I love science. Whether it’s anthropology, meteorology, sociology, psychology, chemistry, oceanography, astronomy… you name it, I’m fascinated by it. I wish I realized that as a child. In public school, I viewed science as just another damned subject I had to get through. And my teachers didn’t inspire enthusiasm. I might have taken another path in life if they had.

Now more than ever, science is important, because our current administration is against all things scientific. When someone encourages you to be ignorant, it’s time to closely examine that person’s agenda. Knowledge truly is power. Don’t let anyone take your power from you.

The most exciting thing about today’s world, in my opinion, is that thanks to the internet, we can now all be scientists. There are all sorts of citizen science projects out there. If you have any spare time at all, even a minute a day, you can make a difference.

Five years ago, I wrote about my favorite people-powered research site. And since then, Zooniverse.org has expanded its studies to an unbelievable degree. On any given day you can track wildlife in Kenya, track solar storms through space, train an algorithm to detect plastics on beaches, explore the ridges on Mars, identify meteors, identify marine mammals, classify orchids, transcribe museum records, annotate soldiers’ diaries from WWI, and find planets around stars, just to name a few of the projects.

I get excited just thinking about it. You can be an explorer without leaving the comfort of your own home! How cool is that?

There are other sites that are interesting as well:

Scistarter.com uses citizen scientists to address local and global problems. You can help collect search and rescue data related to hurricane Harvey, map Mars, detect orca sounds, investigate weather and climate change, help measure the brightness of the night sky, and many other projects that you can search according to your interests.

If you want to get even more hands-on with your scientific inquiries, check out publiclab.org. They help you come up with ways to actually do field science to collaborate on and contribute to locally important matters, with the support of the global community.

And the National Wildlife Federation offers a lot of fun and family-friendly ways to assist scientists in their research. You can monitor fireflies, track the migration of monarch butterflies, count the birds in your back yard, or observe constellations.

There are just so many ways to make a difference now! We can all contribute. We can all make this a better world, in spite of trends to the contrary. Expanding our knowledge is the best way to resist ignorance. Join me!


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What is it With Lists?

Is it me, or are lists becoming ever more prevalent? In just a lazy perusal of trending topics today, I came across:

  • 12 most iconic swimsuit moments.

  • 5 tips to get the most cool from your car air conditioning.

  • 25 makeup tips all older women should know.

  • The deadliest snakes ever found on the planet.

  • The full list of the 43 Kmart, Sears stores closing around the US.

  • Top 10 disturbing modern experiments.

  • 10 famous historic figures who suffered horrifying diseases.

  • 81 topic ideas for starting a blog that matters.

What is it with lists?

I get it. We’re all in a hurry these days. We want our information in bite-sized pieces. We want to be able to skim over the boring bits, or the parts that don’t seem relevant to us. But jeez…

I think lists also appeal to our desire to be right. “Top ten rock bands of all time? Oooh! I bet I know!”

And let’s face it: we’re becoming lazy. We want the work done for us. What used cars give you the most bang for your buck? I dunno. You tell me.

If I were more interested in upping the traffic to this blog, I would start posting more lists. Maybe I will do that occasionally. Hmmm. But first I should probably Google the top ten reasons why that’s important in life.

top 10

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Why Do We Need Politicians Anymore?

The other day my dog jumped on me while I was in the middle of REM sleep. It felt like someone dropped a canned ham on me from a two story building. In retrospect perhaps it was a good thing, because it brought something to my conscious mind that had apparently been percolating in my subconscious. Under normal circumstances I’d have lost the thread of my dream-weaving upon awakening, but this was as if the door to my dream world was kicked in. By a canned ham.

Now bear with me, because this is a half formed theory, but the more I think about it, the more I like it.

For centuries, it made sense to have politicians. In a world that was predominately rural, in a time when it took days to travel to city centers and months to get news, it was only logical to have people who would represent you when it came time to make critical governmental decisions. Back then, even the electoral college actually made sense. Imagine that.

But it’s a different world now. In this technologically advanced age, there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t all weigh in directly on every single issue that matters to us. One person, one vote, every issue. We could do away with congress entirely. Heaven knows they haven’t been doing much of late in any case.

Think about it. No more years-long election campaigns. No more tedious and warped political advertisements. No more gerrymandering. No more bribes. No more sex scandals. No more ignorant misogynistic rants. No more adding pork to various issues to satisfy a powerful politician’s personal agenda. No more unfair balance of power. Every citizen would have an equal amount of power.

What it would do, unfortunately, is give even more influence to the biased news outlets, because everyone would be trying to sway your opinion before you weigh in on various issues. The misinformation would be flying thick and fast, even more so than it is today if that’s possible. You’d really have to do your homework, and I doubt many people would take the time to do so. They certainly don’t seem to now.

And we’d have to figure out a way to deal with computer hacking.

Like I said, this is a half formed theory. Heaven only knows how we’d pass a budget. But wait. We don’t seem to do that these days anyway.

Here’s the scary part about this concept, the part that will make you blink. In order to switch to this type of pure democracy, barring violent overthrow, we’d have to gain the cooperation of the politicians who are currently in office. They’d have to, effectively, vote themselves out of a job. And they wouldn’t. We have given them all our power, and there is no way that they’ll ever let it go. No way.

I don’t know about you, but I find that rather terrifying.


Playing God—Stem Cell Research vs. English Bulldog Breeding

Whenever I hear people react with outrage at the concept of stem cell research, I have to shake my head. “How dare we mistreat human embryos in such an outrageous fashion?” Never mind that it could result in cures for Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, heart disease and diabetes. “We have no right to play God!”

Sigh. Before you get all bioethical, behold the English Bulldog.


And here’s what the breed looked like 90 years ago.

historic bulldog

And here’s how their skulls have changed over time.

bulldog skull

What possible benefit could there be for a dental formation like that? And what do you think this does to their ability to breathe?

Through selective breeding, we have turned this once healthy creature into an abomination that can’t even breed naturally. No, English Bulldogs have to be artificially inseminated, because slot A no longer fits into fold B.

They also now have health issues that were not known a century ago. Over time, we have caused their shoulders and hips to spread, and their legs are now at odd angles. This causes elbow and hip dysplasia. The increased wrinkling of their skin which makes them look so cute has resulted in fold dermatitis. I have seen bulldogs with puss in their wrinkles. They’re also very sensitive to heat, and their nasal passages have been so deformed that they have trouble breathing. Due to their outrageous proportions, they are also completely unable to swim. They sink like a stone.

To what purpose have we warped and twisted the bodies of these poor creatures? We did it because we could. We did it because we wanted to. It’s sick.

In contrast, stem cell research has a very important purpose. It could save lives. It causes no one any pain, and would benefit the human race.

So before you start taking the moral high ground about playing God, before you decide to relegate generations of humans to the agony of preventable disease, kindly stop selectively breeding animals, and speak out when others do so. Maybe then I might take you seriously.