While looking at the Guinness book of world records recently, Reid and Liam and I were delighted about how specific and detailed the record categories are becoming. For example, world record for the longest time juggling seven potatoes and one bowling ball. Largest number of people to stand on one table that is also underwater when everyone is wearing helmets. Etc. I am making these up, but you get the point.

With this kind of logic, The difference between world records and unique events gives way. World records are simply the first person to ever do a particular thing, and there after the person to do that particular thing most rapidly or whatever. Naturally, we started wondering about what unique events and conditions we ourselves have created.

There are, of course, many things that count. For example, recently Liam and Reid have been timing themselves as they race to step on all of the stones in our new garden walkway. We started timing ourselves. I think I was the first to break the 10 second barrier. However, Reid is now fastest, with a time below eight seconds. Thus, he is absolutely the world record holder at that event, but mostly because no one other than the three of us have ever even attempted it.

This brings us to Fonlemeglistartkaineldreden.

Fonlemeglistartkaineldreden is a word that I invented with a high school friend named Nathan Todd. We were very creative. We were also deeply into absurdist and nonsensical humor. The point of the word, however was to create a word that no one had ever said before. I think we were probably successful. Thus, we are only created it but we memorized it. We gave it some kind of meaning as well. As I recall, it is connected to the dog like a deity named “Fonlespot.”

The point is, not that this is a world record. Point is that no one has ever said Fonlemeglistartkaineldreden, unless they learned it from Nathan, or me. And now, my children. However, just to be sure, Nathan and I went to step further. We realized that, Given the nature of human creativity and human language, the probability that someone had said a word which was somewhat similar was too close for comfort. So we went further.


That little beauty right there has 18 syllables, and although they are not random, they are pretty darn close. I don’t know how many different syllables or morphemes exist in English or another languages, but assuming it is, say 10, that would imply that the chance of someone saying, or even intentionally creating a word of that length which turned out to be the same would be something on the order of one in Sextillion.

In other words, no one has ever said or thought of fonlebackmegliswogargytartmeredkainelwaterdredenshlet unless you learned it from Nathan or from me or people who learned it from us. A world record, of a sort.

Fun stuff.

Life Science Presentation!

Liam and Reid’s Life Science Presentation, April 8, 2021!

Liam and Reid studied life sciences with me this semester, the culmination of which was a presentation on microscopic life, the definitions of life, and their investigation of microscopic life in various water bodies in the woods near our house. Grandma Marie and Grandpa Topher joined us as an honorary audience. The boys did a great job, I thought!

Celebrating the life of Theodora Elkinton Waring, my Granny.

Granny passed away this fall, in the comfort of her daughter’s loving care. Although in the end she didn’t recognize Abby, and was confused anew every day by the virus and pandemic conditions, she died peacefully, and had a very good life. We celebrated her, like we do everything this year, over Zoom. More than 100 people and families showed up.

A zoom memorial for Granny was not what we had ever imagined, and would have seemed like a loss, but it was just what we all needed, and it was delightful to see so many Waring relatives who I get to see so rarely, and who are such lovely people.

The ceremony was well prepared and carefully organized by Sarah and Jonathan. The children (Topher, Kitty, Nat, Abby, Lydia) all spoke, as did the grandchildren, each for a single minute. Here is what I read.

Granny was a magical thinker.

She loved telling stories about history.
Quaker history and family history being the best two types. Dearie.
She would liberally add details of which she could never have known.
Precisely what the wife of a general had said
Where she had once stood,
or just how she felt.
It was a part of the story because
the story was better that way.
Because she wanted it to be true.
And so, for her, it was.

I saw this in our conversations about Tom, in the years after his death.
She would imagine forgiving Tom.
Imagine Tom coming back to her.
Imagine reclaiming Tom.
Tom was a part of her story because
Her story was better that way.
Because she wanted it to be true.
And so, for her, it was.

Thank thee, Granny. We love thee. And thee will stay with us.