Category Archives: This Blog

I am inviting my treasured subscribers and readers to help co-write a future post here at The 100 Billionth Person.  The subject, as best as I can frame it, will be shared shorthand. Let me explain…

You and your partner/best friend might use a word or phrase whose full meaning only the two of you understand.  Either of you might occasionally mention it in conversation with the other, to quickly convey a certain concept or idea.  The word/phrase likely sprang from a specific shared experience, but has since become your shorthand for a more general idea.

For example, I can name two shared-shorthand terms of ours: “The Ashley Principle” and “The John Sexton Rule.”  (I will explain the meaning of these when I compile the post.)

To clarify, shared shorthand is more than a simple analogy like, “This is just like the time we ran out of gas in Sheakleyville, Pennsylvania.”  Instead, just the word Sheakleyville suffices to refer (for the umpteenth time already) to the consequences of being inattentive to one’s fuel situation while driving late at night in the dead of winter in the middle of nowhere.  But more generally, the word Sheakleyville conveys the lack of foresight at the worst possible time.  At least it does in a certain household.

There should be a better term for this than shared shorthandSecret word and codeword sound too conspiratorial, while jargon and lingo refer more to local or in-group language.  It is not metaphor (e.g., “the world is a stage”) and not really metonymy (e.g., using “suit”  to refer to a business executive).  Maybe some English major who subscribes to the blog (you know who you are) can help us all out here.

In any event, I am calling on my readers to share personal examples of shared shorthand.  This will make the post more fun than me just writing about ours.  In your contribution, name the word/phrase, of course, along with some details about its origin and the shared meaning it now has for the two of you.  A few sentences would be fine, but feel free to be as lengthy as the story calls for.

Rather than post your contribution as a comment, I would prefer that you email it to me at the100billionthperson [at] gmail.com.  That way, I can compile and publish all the entries at the same time.  I will use contributors’ first names only.

I’d like to publish this post in the next few weeks, so please don’t delay!  I look forward to hearing/posting your shared shorthand examples and the stories behind them.  Thanks!

More in  Life, This Blog | Read 2 comments | Subscribe and tell your friends

I was in sixth grade when I started writing my pass-around-the-classroom colored-pencil-and-crayon humor magazine — if we agree to call six or seven sheets of stapled-together notebook paper a magazine — titled Reader’s Disgust.  I took my inspiration (and much of my material, at least at first) from MAD magazine, from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, from The Saturday Evening Post, from the Steve Allen Show, and even from my mom’s trove of Better Homes & Gardens.  Hey, I had a grade-school imagination (and a like audience), so I did what I could with the materials at hand.

Mad Magazine #33 My homeroom teacher Mr. Smith also read my magazine, but he was more bemused than amused.  The most memorable thing Mr. Smith taught me in sixth grade was the meaning of the word plagiarism.  After his admonishment to me about copying other’s material and passing it off as my own, I did try to produce more original content — but the name of my magazine, lifted from MAD (right), stuck for its 16-year life.

Over the rest of my school-years, it became clear to me that the road to nerd-acceptance was paved with jokes, especially those at the expense of authority figures like teachers and principals or mocking the rust-belt city we lived in.  My magazine’s popularity was in no small part enhanced by the facts that (a) our small-town school was stiflingly boring and (b) the Reader’s Disgust was, by definition, contraband and thus carried an aura of taboo.  I did let a few trusted high-school teachers read the magazine, but I have no idea what was ever said about it in the teachers’ lounge.  That said, there was undoubtedly some talk.*

At any rate, when I retired from engineering and started writing this blog, I pretty much picked up where Reader’s Disgust left off in 1980.  (Lest you wonder, by then I had long given up crayons and had moved onto ink splats, pages with torn corners, and poems that did not rhyme, clear signals of my artistic maturity.)  Trouble is, The 100 Billionth Person did not start out with a captive, receptive audience of utterly bored high-school students; instead, my readership would comprise a handful or so of my and my spouse’s friends with, presumably, more refined tastes. 

Bear with me for this tangent:  I’ve always needed two reasons to be creative.  The first is to entertain myself while at the same time imagining the adulation I might get from those who grok (yes, I used that 60s word!) what I create as much as I do.  The second reason involves actually entertaining people without the ego-feeding element, i.e., creating good work for the sake and worth of doing so.  This aspect is always a lot harder, at least for me, as it usually feels like work.  But if I bear down, stick to business and do things carefully, the results are (well, sometimes, almost) as satisfying as raw adulation.

Often, my spouse (also my biggest fan) has encouraged me to do something to increase the size of my audience, because she apparently thinks I deserve a larger one.  I have no idea what the something I could do would be, as I have no connections… but more importantly, I’ve decided that I’m OK with the way things are.  A classroom-sized audience is probably best for me:  it keeps things personal, and I’m comfortable.  Why strive to be famous?

If I were famous, things would be a lot different around here:

  I would have to hire an agent to find lucrative opportunities.  My agent would insist on being paid.  To pay the agent, I would have to run ads on this site and pay Google to invade your privacy.  Then, bingo, you would be stalked everywhere you went on the internet.  But I wouldn’t care, because I was famous.  So that would sort of be bad.

  I would have to be careful what I say.  If I were famous and I inevitably said something the wrong way (and as we know, the definition of wrong is always evolving), I could get canceled.  I would get hate mail.  I would lose subscribers and advertisers.  In other words, it would be just like now, except I would be famous and hated.  That would be bad too.

  Everything I ever said or did in the past would also be scrutinized.  All those salacious details of my school years and professional career would be unearthed.  (Plagiarism, you say?  Aha!)  While I would lose my core subscribers – sorry to see you go, dear friends! — the notoriety and unjustice of my situation would no doubt attract an anti-PC following, likely the very libertarians I now deride.  I would get a call from Joe Rogan asking me to be on his show, or maybe just get together for an energy drink.  I’d have to think about that.

  I would have to develop my own line of luxe products and promote them on the blog.  CHColors — designer crayons in trendy fashion shades.  (Hot Dog Pink is the new black.)  Flames ReLit — scented candles that automatically regift themselves as thank-you items.  The 100 Billionth Bar — a chocolate bar sort of like the 100 Grand bar, only it would be a million times better, and much more expensive, because I was famous.  All these items would feature the now-heavily-marketed logo of this blog along with a highly flattering near-likeness of me painted by a celebrity-turned-artist (Tony Bennett?  George W. Bush?) done for me as a personal favor.  I would return his favor by giving him a Flames ReLit.

  If I were famous, only my closest friends would know my phone number; no one could just email me.  (You kidding?  Me read emails?  That’s what an agent is for.)  My network would be the people I meet at parties or promotional tours (boring!) or awards ceremonies (also boring but a great opportunity to virtue-signal) but that’s the way it is when you’re famous.  Once you have a million followers, who cares about the 1,000,001st — as long as you all keep checking my Twitter feed and buying my stuff.  That’s what friends are for.

When I add it all up, it’s much easier just being a legend in one’s own mind.  I’m glad I’m not famous.  Thank you for helping me stay that way.

______________

* Now, the mandatory footnote to the story.  The events took place in our high-school newspaper room in the Springtime of Eleventh Grade (wasn’t that a Schubert sonata?) as the latest issue of Reader’s Disgust was being circulated.  The magazine had landed in the hands of our Clubs Editor, Saundra Chiarini, when the newspaper’s teacher-advisor Patrick J. Panella suddenly swooped in, snatched the magazine from her and headed out the door.  Uh-oh, thought I, witnessing the Great Confiscation from just a few feet away. 
I can’t remember whether it was that day or the next when I was called into to see Miss Jessica Jenkins, our high-school Guidance Counselor (who, as far as I recall, neither guided or counseled).  Jenkins had obviously been assigned the task to (a) lecture me along the lines of, do you think this is funny? (uh, yes) and (b) inform me that I was fired from the newspaper staff.  I remember having the temerity to ask her to return the confiscated magazine to me.  I was denied.  So someone out there has a valuable memento.
In retrospect, it seems Panella must have been tipped off, maybe by someone in the teacher’s lounge, but we will never know.  What I do know is that my subversive activities cost me the National Honor Society Award that year (true), the stain of which darkened the rest of my life.  Hey, I might have been famous.

The Jackson Pollock Cover - Reader's DisgustThe Black Squares Cover - Reader's DisgustThe Magical Mystery Cover - Reader's Disgust

 

 

More in  Humour, This Blog | Read 4 comments | Subscribe and tell your friends

Twenty years ago, back when the internet was in its wide-eyed childhood, before Google, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest scrubbed and scoured the humanity out of the web and turned it into a trillion-dollar digital strip mine, I had a homepage.

You may not remember that, in the late nineties, many tech startups imagined that their road to internet riches lay in enticing ordinary people to create shrines to themselves on the web.  Sites like Angelfire, GeoCities, Go.Com and Tripod offered free homepages for that purpose.  Naturally, I took the dive.  The thought of having one’s own address on the WORLD WIDE WEB (!) was irresistible to anyone with an outsized sense of identity and correspondingly few friends.

I thought that my homepage (and those of others) might be a way to make connections, maybe even friendships, with like-minded people without geographic limitations.  One of the popular ways to interact in the homepage era was via a site’s guestbook.  People who visited your website might leave a comment in your guestbook, just to let you know they were there.  The remarks were friendly, never snarky, as that would not only be rude but would be sure to deprive oneself of a nice comment in return.

I happened to stumble upon my old guestbook while searching the Wayback Machine for fragments of my tbns.net homepage, CHCollins on the Web.  I decided to share it (below) as a reminder of how life used to be, not only on the web but in the real world.  I’d prefer that you view its length not as an indulgence but as an illustration of how charitable and generous folks could be.

The first line of each entry lists the visitor’s screen name, their website (if they had one) and the date of their visit.  Some of these screen names are so poignantly 1990s.  I never knew the real identities of many of them, i.e., those I played hearts with on Yahoo Games.  The visitors who used real names were either the folks that I “met” on photo-sharing sites (PhotoCritique, ShutterCity) or other homepagers who were in the same “web ring” as me.

Three of the comments in this guestbook archive happen to be from current subscribers!

GUESTBOOK (1999-2001)

  • Jeanie | 02/Jul/1999:16:41:40
    You have some interesting personalities on your web page. I guess that makes you an interesting person also.  Thanks

  • toes | My Romantic Hideaway | 14/Aug/1999:22:32:49
    I’ve really enjoyed visiting your page, you have alot of good content, I look forward to viewing your next update : )  Toes

  • shirley2716 | 17/Aug/1999:01:04:10
    you have avery lovely website.  I enjoyed the artwork. keep it up, I look froward to seeing more.

  • bovineboss | 26/Sep/1999:16:21:38
    Moo!!!!!!!

  • mary m | 27/Sep/1999:20:16:37
    Craig, loved your site! I started with watercolors and then people. Where do you keep the originals (art, that is)?  They are beautiful. I really liked the avacado and bananas. I am working on a web site for our department. Can we talk? Would you share some tips? Love, mary

  • Em | 06/Oct/1999:10:46:37
    Somehow, this web-page is cooler than I would have imagined!  Nice work Dad! I will continue to browse around after classes.  I will recommend this to my friends, they would be amused at what a cool dad I have!

  • Kim Adams | Kim’s World of Photography | 16/Oct/1999:13:31:43
    Craig, you are so talented. This is a great site. I look forward to seeing more of your nice photos on Photocritique. Best Wishes.

  • Green I´s | 06/Nov/1999:04:20:44
    Craig – somehow I just knew you had to be a crazy man. Love your homepage. :) Christel  PS: Nice to see a fellow Kodak and Corel user.

  • Gary Martin | 09/Dec/1999:16:03:19
    Criag, great web page…. I like your design a lot! You’re inspiring me to get off of my tail and get a web page put together… something that I need to do, but which I keep defering until “later” because I’ve been having too much fun with my photography! Best regards, Gary

  • rosewood36 | 16/Dec/1999:23:56:01
    Hugs to you!!!!!!!! I like your web site it is real nice. Yust a note to let you know that we are at 6 weeks and counting…*G*….both me and the twins are fine. I will let you know when they are born…..till then, don’t do anything that I wouldn’t…..LMAO

  • Jim Gatschene | 19/Dec/1999:22:34:22
    Great Home page Craig. I’ve been trying to get my son to help me set up a similar web page. I admire your work.  I have put a few of my albums on Zing but I believe it is hard for people to see them unless they sign up too. (No cost) Keep up the good work!!

  • Kim Adams | 02/Jan/19100:16:26:55
    Craig, My second visit to your page. I love it. Interesting section about your life and family. I also remember playing Atari. I enjoy your commentaries on photocritique.  My brother Bradley is now in jail for being a smart***:) Happy 2000 to you and your family. Thanks for your helpful insight on my photos.

  • Terry | R.S.V.P. | 14/Mar/2000:18:30:50
    I certainly have enjoyed visiting your site! “Midnight Express” is the most intense film I recall seeing.

  • Paul Bracey | Stream of Consiousness | 14/Mar/2000:23:15:14
    Today – photocritique.net, Tomorrow – The Louvre! Keep on posting!

  • Ruth | The Wildwood Cottage | 20/Mar/2000:20:07:38
    Great site..thanks for sharing a bit of yourself with the world!

  • John Sidlo | 26/Mar/2000:22:36:46
    Although I’m “in the biz” and have had a website (offering software) since 1996 (recently dismantled) I have yet to make my own “home page”. It’s on my list of tasks for this millennium! And when I do, I’ll come back here to take another look. Nice job!

  • L. Lanning | Life in the Chihuahua Desert | 08/May/2000:09:30:04
    Came your way through the Friends of Art webring and had an enjoyable stay. You’ve a good attitude I think. What more can we do with this life than to share a bit of ourselves, spread a little color and humor, and try to cause no pain? I hate heights and glass elevators, too! Come and share a bit of desert color with us.

  • Barak Yedidia | Barak’s Photography | 06/Jul/2000:19:05:00
    Craig, Enjoyed your website. I share your admiration for Fred Rogers among others.

  • tess campbell | 26/Aug/2000:14:03:42
    Craig…thsi has to be one of the best personal web pages I have visited in a long time. WOW you are some all-around creative guy. I bookmarked the site so I cam come back often…want to hear some of those MP3’s.

  • Garry Schaefer | Garry’s Page | 12/Sep/2000:08:49:43
    Craig, yours is the best personal web site on my list of bookmarked favourites. I’ve wended my way through most if not all of its intricacies with much pleasure. The highlight for me is, of course, the Photography section, including your innovative “Double Letter” series and recent “Tools” scanner-based series. I’m honoured that you have included a link to my digital photography web site. I’ll be certain to be back from time to time to see what’s new. Best regards, Garry.

  • ola s 09/Oct/2000:14:35:44
    since I knew you before this as a photographer, I now espescially enjoyed the other things, esp.the music (“Playing Against the Wind”) and some of the poetry (Graft on pepler simt and shun / Sortie nefers habla ned!) cheers, Ola.

  • Pam Ramsey | Castle Ramsey | 31/Oct/2000:20:56:17
    I enjoyed your page. I love to surf photography webrings since I also post my photos on my web page.

  • Ruthie | 23/Jan/2001:20:27:51
    Well, after all these years, you never cease to amaze me! You are such a talented guy! It’s taken me this long to even look at your web page and I can tell you that it will take me some time to get through it all. I will look forward to checking it all out! (in my spare time!) I have no doubt that it will amaze me! Love you and give my sister a kiss for me!

  • Kim Adams | Kim’s World of Photography | 11/Feb/2001:09:18:14
    Craig, I haven’t been here in a long time and decided to come back for a look. I especially enjoyed your autobiography section. You are very talented and have a lovely family.

  • John Sidlo | someday… | 01/Mar/2001:22:49:07
    Fun to come back to visit, almost a year after my first visit. You *must* embellish your site with your wonderful Chalon-sur-Saone photos you’ve treated us to on PC. Cheers, John

  • Carol Waldvogel | 15/May/2001:11:06:15
    Craig, what a wonderful website! I have enjoyed your images elsewhere for some time…now, I am also impressed by your many other talents! Loved your poetry, especially liked the “haystacks” and the (haiku?) “moved by tired skys”…anything but boring! One of the best, most interesting personal sites I have visited!

  • Carol Waldvogel | 15/May/2001:11:15:51
    OK…so I am not the great speller that I once was! But tired “skies” moved me every bit as much… ;-)) Besides…I did mean to say also, that you have a beautiful family!

  • Huntress Stone Angel | The Web Brawls | 06/Jun/2001:15:59:09
    Dear CH Collins, I enjoyed your site very much…your photography was so crystal clear, you seem to have an idea of what you are looking for and want to photograph before you do photograph something. It’s all cohesive. Thank you very much for a nice time, and I would like to extend my invitation to you to join an online organization called The Web Brawls. I won’t bore you with my pre-formed letter, I think you would resent that, but let’s just say that it’s another way to get to that 6% of addicts you were talking about…toodles, Huntress Stone Angel / The Web Brawls.

  • Steven Schnoor | Random Magic | 27/Jun/2001:14:00:32
    You know I’ve enjoyed your photography for quite some time. Some shared interests in photo subjects, movies (well, The Deer Hunter, anyway), similar “skill” on the golf course (though I’m still looking for my first eagle), and concerns about the intricacies of parenting, etc. make your site a good one to return to when I need a boost. Above all, though, is the humor and intelligence you show in your pages — rare elements on the web. I had a real good time here.

  • Terry Forrest 17/Jul/2001:21:54:48
    Hi Craig! Took a quick look at some of your website and photos. You have a lovely family. Your photos that I checked out speak to me of someone very creative, interesting and not afraid to try something different. Will be back at some point to see some more! Terry

  • Dawn | The poetry and art of Dawn Baker | 11/Oct/2001:19:40:40
    Hi Craig, I just had to stop by and see your painting called Shapes….You were right, we do have paintings that resemble each others….very intriguing…. I do love yours, and the way you use color, way cool! I enjoyed my visit here very much, you have much talent, and I thank you for sharing : ) Take care

  • Brenda Bohannon | 08/Nov/2001:13:33:49
    This is FASCINATING stuff, Craig! You are BRILLIANT artist and I’m completely captivated here! Thanks so much for sharing CHCollins on the Web with me, your ShutterCity friend, Brenda! :~)

  • Bruce Irving | Bruce Irving Songs | 14/Dec/2001:08:47:24
    Hi Craig! Cool web site! Rob told me about it. It was great to see some of your creative visual work and hear some of the old CMU “greatest hits.” It’s been a while, so if you get a chance, drop me a line. Take care, Bruce

• • • • 

I’m guessing that most of the visitors to my homepage back then had the same idea I had,  to make connections.  Though hardly any of my web connections evolved into friendships,  those who weren’t your friends could still be decent and nice.  Those were the days.

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