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Head in the clouds


Last school year, one of my daughter’s first assignments was to create a word cloud.

I don’t recall all the details, but she and her classmates were required to write an introductory paragraph or two, with their likes and dislikes and hobbies and such, then enter their submissions into a website that creates word clouds — visual pictures of the text that weights the most common words by making them appear bigger than words used less frequently.

At back-to-school night, my wife and I admired her word cloud. There, we saw things we thought appropriate to her tween sensibilities: references to her favorite musicians du jour, maybe a TV show or two, her hobbies, etc. Simultaneously, however, our eyes alighted on a rather large word toward the lower right: husband. Say what?

Since we’re neither from Arkansas nor the 1800s — where, and when, I understand preteens wed frequently — we couldn’t figure why on earth our lovely daughter would espouse a spouse in the story of her life.

After meeting with her teacher, who was similarly stumped, we confronted our daughter. As it turns out, she merely included a bit of trivia in her paragraph: that my wife knew the husband of my daughter’s teacher. As in, “My mom knows your husband.”

Because the introductory submissions were so short, there were few words from which to choose, so “husband” was among the biggest words purely by chance.

I bring that up not because I want to assure the slobbering junior-high masses her hand is still available (back off, fellas), but because my blog just hit a milestone.

My last entry was my 200th, and ever since I saw my daughter’s word cloud, I knew I wanted to mark the milestone with a Rolling Along word cloud.

See, every now and then I’ll pen (keyboard?) a blog wherein I’ll grouse about the road or weather conditions or a wayward rodent or, oh, yeah, some gem of a human who tries to kill me, and, somebody will post a comment about what a negative fellow I am. Inevitably, the rant is something like, “If riding your bike is so awful, why do you do it?”

I resist the urge to reply, because I figure aforementioned trolls skip over the blogs in which I wax poetic about rainbows and shooting stars and unicorns and moonbeams, and, because they’re such magnets for negativity, are drawn to the blogs that include a bit of conflict.

Or maybe I am overwhelmingly negative.

If so, I don’t mean to be. Obviously, I consider the positives of cycling outweigh the negatives, or I wouldn’t do it.

Hence, the word cloud.

Rather than re-read all 200 of my blogs (even I couldn’t do that), I simply copy-pasted a whole bunch of ’em — like, 50 or so, which I had close to hand — into the wordle.net website to create a word cloud.

Much to my relief, the biggest, boldest words weren’t curses or near-curses or overtly negative words. Sure, what precedes or follows, say, “drivers” or “kids” or even “wife” determines whether the overall phrase is good, bad or indifferent.

But I was thrilled to see only one word that triggers a negative thought — bad — and it was awfully small.

The two biggest — and, therefore, most common — words in all those blogs? “Bike,” by far, followed by “like.”

So, there you have it. Bike like. I think that pretty much sums it up.

This word cloud of the past 50 or so Rolling Along blogs shows the most common words in the blog. The larger the word, the more common its use.

This word cloud of the past 50 or so Rolling Along blogs shows the most common words in the blog. The larger the word, the more common its use. by Andrew Hartsock


Ken Lassman 7 years, 5 months ago

Alternatively, you can sum up the blogs with the other obvious word and come up with the phrase:

just bike!

RoeDapple 7 years, 5 months ago

Back in the days I would get "ole Rusty" out of the shed and ride a bit I don't remember ever being told I had my head in the clouds. I do remember hearing I needed to remove it from a part of my anatomy though . . .

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