Tuesday, July 20, 2010




: to conduct or direct the steering of (as a ship)

In 1963 the USPS instituted the use of two-letter state abbreviations in order to make room for the new and exciting zip code. Prior to this rule, the name of the state was often entirely spelled out, or abbreviated according to the list in the Associated Press Stylebook. As in the APS, Conn. = Connecticut, my home state. I always remember writing "Conn." in my return address, until one day I was told otherwise. This may have been in 1987 when the U.S. Secretary of Commerce approved the use of two-letter codes within government documents, thereby making it more widely used. Or maybe not. Maybe I just didn't know any better and somebody made me feel foolish for writing out Conn. when I could have just been writing CT. That's entirely possible.

I'd like to admit something about Connecticut: I actually like the place. Of course it's common to harbor some level of animosity toward where one grew up, but the longer I am away, the more I enjoy every return visit.

Here are some things I learned about Connecticut in the last five minutes:

- The name derives from the Mohegan word quonehtacut, meaning "place of long tidal river." I don't know what river to which this name refers. Housatonic?
- It is known as The Constitution State (I did know this) because it developed the first constitution, apparently, EVER (I did not know this part).
- Home of the first: payphone, can opener, firsbee, and (according to CT.gov) the first hamburger, served at Louie's Lunch in New Haven.

Okay. Enough of that.

Let's get serious about CONN here. According to Robert A. Heilein—"the dean of science fiction writers"—a human being should be able to "change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, CONN a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, and die gallantly."

This is a tall order. I feel pretty confident about 11 of these 21 demands. Another 5 I could do with a little help. And the last 5 would be a challenge, including the CONNING. But I won't reveal the rest. That's for me to know and you to...not know.

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