Weighty Matters
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   May 6, 2021

For some reason, our language associates heaviness with seriousness and importance. The very word “gravity” can convey both of those feelings. On the other hand, things that are relatively trivial are considered “light,” in the sense of having less weight. To make these matters even more convoluted, we now have the designation “lite,” – no […]

No Bones About It
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   April 8, 2021

I thought it was a big deal, about three decades ago, when I got my first broken bone – after falling off my bike. But it was only the collarbone (clavicle), and only a “hairline fracture.” This, I knew, was one of the easiest bones to break, and one most likely to heal quickly, which […]

 

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Long Division
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   April 1, 2021

In many marriage ceremonies, the couples swear to stay together “Till Death do us part” – and some manage to fulfil that vow, even though Death may be a long time coming. No similar oaths, that I am aware of, bind parents and their children – in fact it is assumed that, at some point, […]

Perish Prolixity
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   March 25, 2021

When I was first privileged to write this column, I was set a 750-word limit. I knew that I could go a few words over or under, and nobody would care. But I decided to make a game out of turning in exactly 750 words each time. What made this relatively do-able was that, unlike […]

Smile!
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   March 18, 2021

In our culture, the act of smiling has not always had a very positive image. Among great paintings, I can think of only one that would qualify. It’s called “The Laughing Cavalier” by Frans Hals (1624), but he is only smiling, not laughing. By the time of World War I, however, it was a different […]

Causes
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   March 11, 2021

One way to make life seem worth living is to find a cause you truly believe in, and devote yourself to it. It might be political – getting someone elected – or social – getting something banned or permitted – or religious – spreading your own belief, or disputing someone else’s. I myself have rarely […]

Labels
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   March 4, 2021

For many years, you couldn’t buy certain items, such as mattresses, in the U.S.A., unless they contained a federally required fabric label, or “tag.” I’m not sure exactly what information these labels provided, but what I do remember is that they also contained a very severe warning against removing them. Something like “DO NOT REMOVE, […]

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Rejection
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   February 25, 2021

Being rejected is a basic human experience, for which most of us need to be better trained than we probably are.  If you ask Mr. Google about rejections, he’ll give you many lists of famous and successful people who failed over and over again, but went on, and, through sheer persistence, became the stars and […]

World Wars Re-Numbered
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   January 28, 2021

Most of us grew up thinking that there were two World Wars, the first in 1914-18, called the Great War, which became World War I, when its successor of 1939-45 qualified as Number Two. But let me tell you how I came to question that whole idea. My father’s elder brother, Mortimer Brilliant, was, like […]

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I’m All Years
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   January 21, 2021

Surely it can’t be pure coincidence that the number of degrees in a circle is almost exactly the same as the days in a year. (Of course, 360 was more suitable, giving us 4 neat angles of 90 degrees.) But, while we’re on the subject, why do the times a circle’s circumference is bigger than […]

Limits
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   January 14, 2021

Our language has a nice way of softening the meaning of nasty expressions. Take the word “deadline.” There was a time, not too long ago, when a dead-line was a line beyond which, if caught crossing it, you were liable to be killed. This was most applicable in a prison situation, when the captors had […]

Eggscuse Me
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   January 7, 2021

I’m sure you’ve heard it said that “you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.” This, I suppose, is another way of stating the Machiavellian principle that “the end justifies the means” – i.e. to get a good outcome, you sometimes have to employ less-than-good methods. My problem is that I don’t like breaking eggs […]

No Dumping
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   December 31, 2020

Like most of us, I can’t help noticing the signs and notices people put up, even if they don’t apply to me. One which inevitably catches my eye is on a white picket fence I pass every day, while walking to or from my office. It’s a probably store-bought sign, and says simply, “No Dumping.” […]

Declaration of Dependence
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   December 24, 2020

If life is a swimming pool, look for me at the shallow end. I’m not (by my own standards) a very adventurous person – and advancing years have not made me any braver. But what they have done is make me increasingly aware of how many different things I depend on, just to keep going […]

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