This Column Really Bytes

Pssst. Hey. This is your Tuesday column talking.

Mike's on vacation this week so I decided to just write myself. Mike and a few other people (such as Plato) believe there are ideal representations that exist in some sort of idea space and occasionally some human gets a glimpse of one of these. Plato thought mathematical concepts such as spheres and numbers existed as these "Forms." Writers sometimes get entire novels downloaded during dreams. Mike thinks his best columns are funneled from this ideal place through him to you. (Of course, that assumes he actually has columns which are "best" (which means some are "better" and some are "good") but we know the truth and he's off camping somewhere and the concept isn't germane so let's move on).

I'm going to explain how I usually get manifested from atoms to bytes to a meme: an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture. Once a week or so in his dreams, Mike receives an excellent, topnotch idea from me that he immediately forgets upon waking. Occasionally, some vestige remains, a remnant of thought he pathetically tries to fashion into a fully-clothed idea. Other times, he just writes. But he always starts with pencil and paper!

Now you'd think some highfalutin database developer would use a computer, but he likes sitting in a comfy chair at home or in a booth at Avogadro's converting musings to atoms of graphite imposed on atoms of cellulose. Eventually, when the Friday night deadline rolls around, he squats at a keyboard and finally types the column into the computer, turning atoms into electronic bytes so his idle thoughts can join the Information Age. While typing, he edits the draft (apparently believing he can improve something somehow), and then once it's all typed in, he edits on the screen which is much smoother and easier than scratching out words with a red pen and penciling in cramped, unreadable phrases between other lines. Sometimes, he prints out a copy, converting clean, easy-to-use bytes back to dirty atoms and edits that and then types in the changes! If I had a physical form with a head, I would shake it.

Eventually, he gives up trying to write a decent column, runs what he has through the spell checker to make sure all the words are rite, and then e-mails it to the Coloradoan. I love e-mail. Pure bytes of ideas streaming through the wires and waves of civilization, enlightening (or disgusting) all who receive them. But alas, I can't directly enter the thoughts of readers as a meme. There is no Vulcan mindmeld yet, no Jedi Force that may be with y'all, so at the newspaper, clean bytes are displayed on the monitor as reasonably clean, easily changed atomic blips. There, the editor cuts the text representations, pastes it into the program holding the editorial page, and formats it, trying to make the column at least appear readable.

From there, it is converted to bits on a printing plate which create bits on a newspaper which get delivered to your homes through the magic of technology and the drudgery of capitalism.

Eventually, the bits of newsprint rot into the earth at the landfill or get recycled into more newsprint or paper bags. But the idea can live on in the minds of readers, perhaps in the mind of some college senior who begins investigating Platonic Forms and eventually wins the Nobel Prize. Or perhaps some eighth grader will realize that if Mike can get published, then she can certainly make a living as a writer. And that's the whole point of a column, passing on memes that could infect humanity with some new concept or understanding.

Well that's it for me. Next week, Mike will be back with his regular, lame column. Maybe you ought to go on vacation then.