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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Ralph and I are tuning in to a week-long online conference centered around a particular note-taking app that we use. I say “note-taking” to keep it simple, but it’s really a quite powerful app that lets you create all sorts of links between your notes, and it gives you a sort of mind map of how all your stuff is connected.

Some people call it a brain tree, or a second brain. The guiding principle behind it is “linking your thinking,” based on the premise that you don’t think in isolated documents, but in a web of ideas that sort of mesh and collide and reference each other. And if you can somehow see those relationships, you can start to be more productive and creative.

If this sounds like a lot, it kind of is. I was looking forward to the conference to help untangle some of the conceptual stuff and put me on a practical path to making the most of this app.

Today there was a talk that I particularly enjoyed, that was the precise exact thing I had been hoping for. It was full of excellent ideas for actually being creative, and letting the app do some of the work. It was given by a highly skilled researcher who was an engaging and witty teacher.

She also had a fair amount of Portuguese accent.

Things were going rather well, and I was enjoying her anecdote about carrot cake and dreamily imagining making some this weekend, when she got to a part of her presentation that was focused on… well, focus.

Except with her accent, every time she spoke the word it came out as fuckus.

First we had to choose an object to fuckus on.

And if we were making the carrot cake, we had to fuckus on the carrot cake. And once you put it on the table, you would fuckus on the table.

Since I was half a brain deep in my own carrot cake fantasy, it startled me at first. Then it amused me. Then I was giggling like an eighth grader, with tears streaming down my cheeks, desperately trying to fuckus on what she was saying, but only able to screech-snort every time the word came out of her mouth.

I mean, she used that word a lot of times. And I laughed after every single one.

The good news is that I can’t wait to go back and listen to her talk again, because she had some really great advice for being creative. The other good news is that it really did help me be creative, because it birthed this blog. I guess that’s what happens when you fuckus.

Sometimes, even if it’s juvenile and ridiculous, you need a good laugh.

I know today is May the Fourth and it’s commandeered by all things Star Wars, but I am making it May the Mirth. Because all the Netflix comedy specials ever aired did not make me laugh as much as I did today.

It also got me thinking about things that inspire this sort of uncontrollable mirth. They aren’t rational. They probably aren’t even funny. But something just tickles your funny bone and you can’t help yourself.

A particular incident in college came to mind, as these arbitrary things do when they affect you in a way that you remember three decades later.

I was in French class, and my professor was a tiny elderly lady with round glasses and a very energetic, animated personality. She held class round-robin style, with everyone in chairs in a circle. I was sitting next to a friend who was also taking the class.

I haven’t got a clue what the lesson was about, all I know is that at one point the professor got so excited about whatever knowledge she was imparting that she knocked her own glasses off her face. Without missing a beat she scooped them up, set them back in place and kept going.

I’ll tell you right now that the only thing worse than sitting facing all of your college classmates and trying not to giggle like an eighth grader is sitting next to your friend and catching her eye every few seconds while choking down the laughter and pretending something got stuck in your throat so you have to cough-guffaw to get it out.

I think what makes things funny is that you never know what will make something funny.

So treat yourself to a few minutes of connecting your own mental notes to come up with something that you found snortingly hilarious. I bet you’ll still shed a few years about it today.

Photo: a screen shot of my brain tree. That big chunk on the left are all my notes about cocktails. All that scattered stuff, well, that’s just my brain.