Ripples in Time


Greenwich Paving Stones

I like the way that these stones were laid. Their concentric-intersecting pattern reminds me of ripples on a pond after successive pebbles were thrown into the water, where newer ripples erase older ones as they all continue to arc outwards from their different origins. I can imagine some child, standing on the bank and hurling rocks that send water striders skittering from one tsunami to the next. An imaginary scene that is frozen in time, but captured by these stone’s layout.

Some might call these cobble stones, but Harry, my Father-in-Law would be quick to correct their error. These are cut stones. Their rectangular shape shows that they have been worked. A cobblestone is a rounded unworked stone, such as one plucked out of a stream bed. ‘Paving stone’ ambiguously covers both.

These stones cover a courtyard at the Greenwich observatory, where a metal bar is inlaid that signifies the Prime meridian. I was standing on that bar when I took this picture, so you can think of these ripples of stone as emanating out from it. Looking at this pattern, within that context, the phrase, a ripple in time, comes to mind.  I wonder it that was the artisan’s intent?

The Full Catastrophe


Am I not a man? And is a man not stupid? I’m a man, so I married. Wife, children, house, everything. The full catastrophe. – Zorba

Ill-Matched Lovers, Quentin Massys, 1465

Ill-Matched Lovers, Quentin Massys, 1465

As part of this year’s ‘Ignite!’ season, we went to hear a reading of the new play, “The Full Catastrophe”, by Mark Weller. Adapted from the David Carkeet novel of the same title, this is a tragicomic story of the verbally disturbed Wilsons, Dan and Beth, of Saint Louis, MO (Ladue actually) and their troubled marriage. In order to save their marriage, they hire linguist Jeremy Cook to act as a live-in marriage counselor. Cook has only recently lost his longtime gig of studying preschooler’s speech patterns and has just snagged this new job with the mysterious Pillow Agency. Roy Pillow the strange founder of the Pillow Agency, author of the Pillow Manual and creator of the Pillow Method has as his main dialog contribution the line, “The Horror. The Horror.” He repeats this line throughout the play, all Kurtz-like, as from Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”.

This is Jeremy’s first case. To say that Jeremy is a little off-kilter himself is a bit of an understatement. He comes to the subject of interpersonal relationships with the same understanding that a visiting space alien on his first trip to earth might have. Still, he is able to diagnose the problem with this linguistically troubled marriage right off the bat as “complementary schismogenesis” or the mutual creation of division, but once diagnosed he seems at a total lost at how to cure its woes.

Part of Jeremy’s problem is his own tortured history with love. Years ago, he let his one true love, Paula, walk out of his life and has come to regret it ever since. Tension in the Wilson household comes to a head when news arrives that the summer camp that Dan and Beth had planned on housing their son, Robbie in, has suddenly closed. They had planned on spending their summer together, jetting off to Italy, renewing their lost passion for each other and saving their marriage. Beth is heard yelling at and accusing Dan, “The summer is ruined! The summer is ruined!”

Not knowing how to relate to, let alone counsel Dan and Beth, Jeremy’s big moment comes when he helps the kid do a homework assignment that is requiring him to write a sentence ending in a preposition. The linguist tells him to imagine a little boy who is upstairs in his room waiting for his father to come read him a story. He goes to the top of the stairs and waits. He hears his father coming, but when he sees the book his father has chosen, he’s disappointed. So he says to his father, “What are you bringing that book that I don’t want to be read to from out of up for?”

We Have Nothing to Fear …


Yucca Plants at White Sands National Monument

Yucca Plants at White Sands National Monument

Triskaidekaphobia is the word for fear of the number 13. Greek, this word translates literally as “3 and 10 fear”. It is a subset of the general fear of numbers, numerophobia. Triskaidekaphobia is a superstition that is said to originate with the idea that Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus Christ, was the 13th person at the Last Supper and since Christ died on a Friday, every Friday the 13th is said to be unlucky. In general, there is no proof for this superstition, except for today. This Friday the 13th is unlucky enough to find itself overshadowed by tomorrow.

Tomorrow, Pi Day or March 14th occurs every year, but tomorrow will be the Pi Day of the century. If you write tomorrow’s date using the shorthand, 3/14, then this sequence corresponds to the first three digits of the number Pi, 3.14, the ratio between the diameter and circumference of a circle. If you add the year to the date, 3/14/15, then this year you get the first five digits of Pi, 3.1415, but it goes further. Tomorrow, at 9:26:53, you get the Pi second of the century, 3.141592653. You could go further, but I find that the enjoyment of the moment is only that much shorter.

The math teacher said, “Area equals pi R squared.”
The slow student answered, “Pie aren’t square they’re round.”

I could not find any word for the general fear of dates. Google only returned entries for fear of first dates. I also couldn’t find anything on the fear of Pi, which is surprising, because it is an irrational number. The closest that I came was the word, pastrophobia or the fear of pastries, which includes pies. Fear of flaky desserts should not be confused with fear of deserts or xerophobia, although I have done so in the past, but my spelling is better now. Right? I know that the desert pic is a stretch for this post, but it is cool and maybe scary. I got a mini cherry pie today that I thought that Anne and I might share tomorrow at the opportune time, assuming we have the courage of our convictions.

I do have a fear of our sump pump. If I am in the basement, doing laundry and the pump kicks off in a roar, it always gives me a start. If I am lying in bed and in the middle of the night and it kicks off, I also find that unsettling. It sounds like some large creature is growling downstairs. It rained all day today and the soil was already saturated, I’m expecting a fitful night’s sleep tonight.

In addition to being Pi Day, tomorrow is also Albert Einstein’s birthday. It is also Pat A’s, another genius. File this under the saying, ‘every dog has his day’, but I was called a genius today and by my boss no less. Maybe it would be better filed under the saying, ‘the one-eyed man in the land of the blind is king’. It has been very hectic at work lately, but because of circumstances beyond my control, I have managed to avoid the worst of it. Honestly! A lot of other people have been burning their candles at both ends. Today, we had two tables that we wanted to ensure were the same. One was in a Word document and the other was in Excel. Two of the walking dead were prepared to go number-by-number by hand through hundreds of numbers when I suggested just subtracting the two. You should end up with a table of only zeros. My boss just happened to be present when I made this suggestion and he actually called me a genius. He even went on to sing my praise to his boss. I was reminded, what Gitmo interrogators have known for some time, sleep deprivation is a powerful weapon.

Helpful Hygiene Tips


Willets

Willets

During this morning’s surfing, I discovered the New Yorker’s 2014 best of anthology of their “Shouts and Murmurs” column. There are dozens of entries there and I have chosen to share one or two with you. The first one is dedicated to all those helpful friends and family members [You know who you are!], who over the years have offered Nice-And-Gentle suggestions on how I might correct a grammar / spelling mistake or were simply trying to improve my writing’s overall clarity. I always appreciate your feedback. As an aside, I’m offering a prize to the first such compulsively corrective person who can successfully diagram the following sentence.

Never mind and never fear. I am an, thankfully, expert of sentences. Read on and be disbelieving! There is much to have taught you, and little time, so very, very little and small time. —James Thomas, “How to Write a Sentence” (October 24, 2014)

I bought us a pair of electric toothbrushes earlier this year and I must say that at least for me, they have been a real boon for my dental hygiene. Trips to the hygienist now only rate a 5 on the pain scale, instead of their normal 9. The hygienist even commented on this improvement, before she reminded me that I still need to do more flossing. I subsequently got a water-pick. Technology is the final solution for Nazi hygienists. So it was with some dismay that the other day, I discovered a film of gunk that was starting to bond the base of my electric toothbrush to its charging stand. I then noticed that there was no analogous film on Anne’s electric toothbrush.

My mistake was remarking about this phenomenon to her. She then proceeded to vehemently point out to me that she had read the instructions and that I obviously hadn’t. If I had read the instructions, then I would know better than to just rinse the toothbrush and then return it to its stand. If I had read the instructions then I would know that after each brushing I should disconnect the brush head, rinse it and then dry the head and handle, before reassembling and returning the toothbrush to its stand.

Well, at least I put the cap back on the toothpaste tube.

I love my wife and I love my in-laws, even when they are being too retentive and I’m not talking about water here. Anne is a very easy-going person, my better half, but sometimes she gets into ‘teacher mode’. At those times it is best if I just shut up and go to work. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I retire. Hopefully, she’ll retire then too and this teacher mode will become a passing phase. I’m not so sure though. I think that it has now become ingrained into her psyche, a learned student-produced-response.

7. Student-produced-response math: You have one remaining pair of clean underwear, besides the pair you are currently wearing. You have an additional pair of underwear that doesn’t cover your entire butt and says “Thursday.” How many days can you go without doing laundry? —Cora Frazier, “New S.A.T. Practice Questions” (March 17, 2014)

Let me give you a hint: Today is Saturday.

Anne’s hint: On the first day you wear your underwear normally, on the second, you wear them backwards, on the third day you wear them inside-out and on the fourth day you wear them inside-out and backwards.

Be prepared to show all of your work.

Shower Thoughts


‘Shower thoughts’ is a term that applies to any sort of one-off thought you might have while carrying out a routine task like showering, driving, or daydreaming. It is also a comment stream on Reddit. Nick Offerman plays Ron Swanson on the TV show, Parks and Recreation. On this show he has a knack for kooky aphorisms, often delivered deadpan, with his characteristic gruff and manly manner. On this TV show he once responded to being served a dinner salad, with the comment, “Excuse me, you seemed to have served me what my food eats.” In the above Mashable video, Offerman reads some of Reddit’s shower thoughts in all his Ron Swanson glory. Offerman’s glowering presence give these shower thoughts a pseudo-profound semblance of thought that might seem more insightful than they really are. Below are some more shower thoughts that I liked and wanted to share with you:

  • In the word “scent”, is it the S or the C that is silent?
  • Morticians should tie dead people’s shoelaces together incase there is ever a zombie apocalypse.
  • Global warming is the revenge of dinosaur ghosts because we disturbed their oily slumber.
  • ‘Dictionary’ is the most useless word in the dictionary
  • If the show Full House wanted to be literal, the kids would have been a set of triplets and a set of twins.
  • Are ships named after men still referred to as ‘she’?
  • Shouldn’t we sing Happy Birthday to infants when they’re born, since it’s their actual birthday? 
  • Only one silent letter separates the statements “I am in grade school” and “I am in grad school”. 
  • When I butt dial someone it is also a booty call. 
  • I’d actually be much more hesitant to ask my dad for $20 if he was made of money.

FYSA


San Francisco Pier

San Francisco Pier

What I wanted to write about yesterday, before I became distracted by the twin demons of Wikipedia and continuity, was bubble vocabulary. I’m writing this post before I pick its photo, so any relevance to it is purely serendipity. Bubble vocabulary is words on the bubble. Words which you think you know, but just aren’t sure. Sometimes you use them correctly, sometimes you don’t. When you don’t use them correctly it tells more about your friends then it does about your vocabulary.

My program manager has a better vocabulary than I do. I guess in part that explains why I am working for him and not vice versa. A few of his ‘I’m the smartest person in the room’ words include lubricious, duopoly and sequestration. Sequestration made this list way before it was au currant. I’m still not sure about lubricious. It has two definitions either, offensively displaying or intended to arouse sexual desire or smooth and slippery with oil or a similar substance. I like to think it was the later, it has an aerodynamic feel. I was not there when he used the word. I did recently receive an email from him though. In this email he used a cryptic acronym, FYSA. I had to Google it. I think he meant, For Your Situational Awareness. He is very much into keeping the team in the know, but an alternative definition was Funny You Should Ask, which I liked better. I don’t know why he just didn’t use FYI.

I mentioned serendipity before and at lunchtime I hit upon a related topic. The Ghent online dictionary is holding a quiz. It is a timed quiz where you are presented with 100 English words, except not all of them are real words. Your task is in as quick as is possible is to separate the wheat from the chaff. Your task is to answer yes or no do you know this word. Beware though, because they penalize you for wrong answers. Here is the link for the quiz, it is way better than all those other online quizzes. Don’t use IE like they advise not to.

Peristeronic


Peristeronic /pəˌrɪstəˈrɒnɪk/ (adj.)

  1. A reference to pigeons
  2. Of or relating to pigeons

Pigeon-fancying was a popular pastime in nineteenth century England.  Charles Darwin became a fancier in 1855 and studied variations in pigeons as part of his research for his seminal work, On the Origin of the Species.  All that being said, peristeronic is now an extremely obscure word and only came to my attention through my reading of the online comic strip xkcd

Sorry folks, but it has been that kind of week.  😉