Thursday, November 10, 2011

Word of the day: raillery

The word of the day is raillery:

Etymology:  < French raillerie (a1495 in Middle French) < railler (see rail v.5) + -erie -ery suffix. 
1.a. Good-humoured ridicule or banter, often disguising a serious purpose; teasing, mockery. 
b. An instance of this; a satirical, teasing, or mocking remark. 
2. Abuse, invective; unpleasant or unkind criticism; taunting. (OED)

"In the years following Kael’s rise to influence, her career swiftly acquired the social rhythms of a fall term in the seventh grade: best friends announced themselves; enemies followed; friends soured into enemies; enemies warmed into friends; and several people, friends and enemies alike, tired of the raillery and went off to play on their own. The underside of Kael’s contrarianism was a constant hunger for material to rage against, and many conflicts were (as seventh graders say) her own fault."

 - Nathan Heller, "What she said: The doings and undoings of Pauline Kael", 24 October 2011 The New Yorker

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Word of the day: girandole

The word of the day is girandole:

Etymology:  < French girandole , < Italian girandola : see girandola n.
1. A species of firework; = girandola n. 1. 
2. A revolving fountain-jet; = girandola n. 2. 
3. A branched support for candles or other lights, either in the form of a candlestick for placing on a table, etc., or more commonly as a bracket projecting from a wall.
4. An ear-ring or pendant, esp. one which has a large central stone surrounded by smaller ones. (OED)

"The era also turned out its fair share of counterculture-colored girandoles—“Jesus Christ Superstar” (1973), “A Star Is Born” (1976), and “Hair” (1979)—as if to keep the sixties flames burning."

 - Nathan Heller, "What she said: The doings and undoings of Pauline Kael", 24 October 2011 The New Yorker

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

word of the day: lodestar

The word of the day is lodestar:

Etymology:  < load , lode n. + star n.1 Compare Old Norse leiðarstjarna .
1. A star that shows the way; esp. the pole star.
2. fig. A ‘guiding star’; that on which one's attention or hopes are fixed.

"As a writer, Kael had such lodestars as Partisan Review, which she read avidly, and Dwight Macdonald, then its editor, with whom she tried to correspond. (In 1943, when she learned of his plans to launch Politics, she wrote to him, 'I am looking forward to a magazine which will stand for the principles and position you represented on Partisan Review.')"

 - Nathan Heller, "What she said: the doings and undoings of Pauline Kael", 24 October 2011 The New Yorker

Monday, November 07, 2011

word of the day: jocose

The word of the day is jocose:

Etymology:  < Latin jocōs-us full of jesting or joking, < jocus : see joco n. and -ose suffix1.
1. Of persons, or their dispositions, etc.: Full of jokes: given to joking; playful, sportive, waggish.
2. Of speech, writing, or action: Of the nature of a joke, or characterized by jokes; spoken, written, or done in joke; playful in style or character.  (OED)

"George Roy Hill is a “sincere” director, but [William] Goldman’s script is jocose; though it reads as if it might play, it doesn’t, and probably this isn’t just Hill’s fault. What can one do with dialogue like Paul Newman’s Butch saying, “Boy, I got vision. The rest of the world wears bifocals”? It must be meant to be sportive, because it isn’t witty and it isn’t dramatic. The dialogue is all banter, all throwaways, and that’s how it’s delivered; each line comes out of nowhere, coyly, in a murmur, in the dead sound of the studio."

 - Pauline Kael, "The Bottom of the Pit", 27 September 1969 The New Yorker, as quoted by Nathan Heller, "What she said: the doings and undoings of Pauline Kael", 24 October 2011 The New Yorker

Sunday, November 06, 2011

letter to the Baltimore Sun: human trafficking in Maryland

Here's the text of a letter I sent to the Baltimore Sun, and here's a link to the article I refer to.  (Warning: the Baltimore Sun now has a New York Times-style paywall, so you only get a certain number of free page views per month.)


Dear Baltimore Sun,

I was very pleased to see your front page story today (Nov.6, "On the streets of Baltimore, a new hustle") on human trafficking in the United States. When most people think of human trafficking, they imagine third-world countries, not Baltimore Street. Thank you for doing your part to raise awareness about this very important, very relevant, and very local issue. I hope that you will continue your coverage on this important topic: for example, what is the status of the Phylicia Barnes murder case, and is anyone investigating whether she was a victim of human trafficking?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Word of the day: eldritch

The word of the day is eldritch:

Etymology:  Of obscure origin; connection with elf n.1, conjectured by Jamieson, would be suitable for the sense, and is supported by the form elphrish , apparently the same word. 
Weird, ghostly, unnatural, frightful, hideous. (OED)

"To me the original survival horror game was Alone in the Dark, released in 1992. Like many of the stories of H. P. Lovecraft it was based upon, Alone in the Dark generated suspense from the gradual immersion of its hero into a disturbing world of eldritch mystery just below the surface of everyday reality. More was implied than seen."

 - Seth Schiesel, "Angry Birds, Creeping Dread", 27 October 2011 New York Times

Friday, October 28, 2011

Word of the day: Brobdingnagian

The word of the day is Brobdingnagian:

Etymology:  < Brobdingnag , the name given by Swift in Gulliver's Travels to an imaginary country where everything was on a gigantic scale. (OED)

"It does not end, that lonely epic battle of the solitary warrior, the copy editor, armed only with pencil or 'delete' key, his back to the cubicle, as colossal looming forces of puffery, leviathans of cant, brigades of Brobdingnagian mendacity swarm and threaten to overpower him."

 - John E. McIntyre, Colossal! Epic! Glorious!, 28 October 2011 You Don't Say (warning: the Baltimore Sun's paywall is up, and you can only see 15 page views per month without a paid account)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Word of the day: apposite

The word of the day is apposite:

< Latin apposit-us , past participle of app- , adpōnĕre , < ad to + -pōnĕre to place, put. 

1. Put or applied to. Obs. rare. 
2. Well put or applied; appropriate, suitable (to). 
3. Of persons: Ready with appropriate remarks, apt. Obs. 
4. absol. or as n. That which is placed beside or in apposition. Obs.  (OED)

"Malcolm might want to look at Arthur D. Trottenberg’s 'A Vision of Paris' (1963), which pairs Atget’s photographs with excerpts from 'À La Recherche du Temps Perdu'.  The two men were not just contemporaries with a fine-grained way of looking at the world; they shared, as Trottenberg says, a 'bitter-sweet nostalgia.'  Some of the book’s pairings are eerily apposite."

 - Geoffrey James, "Picture Books", 17 October 2011 The New Yorker

Monday, October 24, 2011

Word of the day: deliquesce

The word of the day is deliquesce:

Etymology:  < Latin dēliquēscĕre to melt away, dissolve, disappear, < de- prefix 1c + liquēscĕre to become liquid, melt, inceptive of liquēre to be liquid, clear, etc.
1.a. Chem. To melt or become liquid by absorbing moisture from the air, as certain salts. 
b. Biol. To liquefy or melt away, as some parts of fungi or other plants of low organization, in the process of growth or of decay. 
2. gen. To melt away (lit. and fig.). (Mostly humorous or affected.) (OED)

"The truest thing I can say about the Amish is that within a week, or even less, they will disappear from the media and from the nation’s consciousness. They will deliquesce — until the next newsworthy incident — into the background of contemporary America."

 - Joe Mackall , "Our Amish, Ourselves", 20 October 2011 New York Times

I'd observed this phenomenon in a number of the jars of "dry" chemicals I threw out the other day, and while I suppose if I had thought about it I would have figured that there was a technical term, now I know what it is.

Fukushima Daiichi vs. Deepwater Horizon

Here's the text of a letter I submitted to The New Yorker:


Dear The New Yorker,

Evan Osnos makes useful comparisons between the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown and the meltdowns at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl ("The Fallout", October 17), but an even more useful comparison would be to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.  Both disasters were man-made (although one was catalyzed by a natural disaster of historic proportions, and the other only by human error); both exposed its workers to acute risks (although one killed eleven people, and the other killed no one); both continue to have enormous environmental and economic impact.  The decision to pursue nuclear power is unquestionably not without risks, but neither is the decision not to.  If, in an effort to avoid disasters like Fukushima Daiichi, we increase our reliance on fossil fuels, we can expect in the future more disasters like Deepwater Horizon.


In particular, Germany decided to shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022 (and that probably has more to do with its slow economic growth recently than Euro crisis does, since Germany exports electricity (or, used to)), but no one's talking about quitting drilling for oil, even though it seems clear to me that in any comparison between Fukushima Daiichi and Deepwater Horizon, the latter was a more serious disaster.  And that's not even getting into the long-term impacts of anthropogenic climate change.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Word of the day: sibylline

The word of the day is sibylline:

Etymology:  < Latin Sibyllīn-us , < Sibylla  
A. adj.1. Pertaining to, uttered or written by, one or more of the Sibyls.In this sense usually with a capital, and qualifying books or oracles: on the nature of these see Encycl. Brit. XXII. 13. 
2. Oracular, occult, mysterious.
3. Excessive, exorbitant.  In allusion to the Sibyl who sold three books to Tarquinius Superbus at the price of the original nine. 
4. Resembling a Sibyl. 
B. n.In pl., the Sibylline oracles or books. (OED)

"On the mound

at the mouth hole,
he scouts around

with sibylline
yellow eyes

and then, owl-
wise, decides

to clean house."

 - Sidney Wade, "Burrowing Owl", 17 October 2011 The New Yorker

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Word of the day: shpritz

The word of the day is shpritz:

spurt, to squirt, to sprinkle (Yiddish Dictionary Online)

"This became clear the other day, when the two creators of “The Phantom Tollbooth” were briefly sequestered in a Manhattan living room to talk about their work, and why it has lasted. Feiffer and Juster, both born in 1929, are like a pair of wryly benevolent uncles, with Norton the dreamy, crinkle-eyed, soft-spoken uncle who gives you the one piece of good advice you never forget, and Jules the wisecracking uncle who never lets up on your foibles but was happy to have you crash on his couch that night you just couldn’t bear going home. They interrupted, teased, and shpritzed each other as they recalled having blundered into a classic."

 - Adam Gopnik, "Broken Kingdom: Fifty years of 'The Phantom Tollbooth'", 17 October 2011 The New Yorker

There's a figurative sense that the Yiddish Dictionary Online doesn't convey.  OED, you fail me again.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Word of the day: pythian

The word of the day is pythian:

Etymology:  < classical Latin Pȳthius (adjective) of or relating to Delphi, or to the oracle and priestess of Apollo at Delphi, (noun) Delphic Apollo ( < ancient Greek Πύθιος of Delphi, or the Delphic Apollo) + -an suffix. Compare Middle French, French pythien (1550).Ancient Greek Πύθιος is now generally held to have been derived from Πυθώ or Πύθων (classical Latin Pȳthō , Pȳthōn ), the older name of Delphi and the surrounding region; but it was in ancient times connected with the legend of the πύθων or monstrous snake said to have been slain there by Apollo (see python n.1). 
Chiefly Greek Hist. 
A. n. 
a. A native or inhabitant of Delphi. Freq. applied as a cognomen of Apollo (cf. Pythian Apollo n. at Special uses). 
b. The priestess of Apollo at Delphi; = Pythia n. Also fig. and in extended use. 
B. adj.Of or relating to Delphi or to the oracle or priestess of Apollo at Delphi. Also: of or relating to the Pythian games. (OED)

"A sort of suppressed terror hung in the air and seemed to seize us,—a pythian madness, a demoniac possession, that lent terrible reality to song and word."
 - W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Word of the day: mawkish

The word of the day is mawkish:

Etymology:  < mawk n. + -ish suffix1.
1.a. Inclined to sickness, feeling sick, queasy; without appetite; faint. In later use Eng. regional. 
b. Having no taste or inclination for a specified action. rare. 
2. Nauseating; having a nauseating or disgusting taste or smell. Also in later use: tasting sickly or insipid. 
3. fig. Imbued with sickly, false, or feeble sentiment; overly sentimental. 
4. slang.  [See discussion above.] Slatternly. Obs. rare—0. (OED)

"Nor does the paradox and danger of this situation fail to interest and perplex the best conscience of the South. Deeply religious and intensely democratic as are the mass of the whites, they feel acutely the false position in which the Negro problems place them. Such an essentially honest-hearted and generous people cannot cite the caste-levelling precepts of Christianity, or believe in equality of opportunity for all men, without coming to feel more and more with each generation that the present drawing of the color-line is a flat contradiction to their beliefs and professions. But just as often as they come to this point, the present social condition of the Negro stands as a menace and a portent before even the most open-minded: if there were nothing to charge against the Negro but his blackness or other physical peculiarities, they argue, the problem would be comparatively simple; but what can we say to his ignorance, shiftlessness, poverty, and crime? can a self-respecting group hold anything but the least possible fellowship with such persons and survive? and shall we let a mawkish sentiment sweep away the culture of our fathers or the hope of our children?"

 - W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Word of the day: ipso facto

The word of the day is ipso facto:

Etymology:  Latin.
By that very fact; by the fact itself. (OED)

"Their offences at first were those of laziness, carelessness, and impulse, rather than of malignity or ungoverned viciousness. Such misdemeanors needed discriminating treatment, firm but reformatory, with no hint of injustice, and full proof of guilt. For such dealing with criminals, white or black, the South had no machinery, no adequate jails or reformatories; its police system was arranged to deal with blacks alone, and tacitly assumed that every white man was ipso facto a member of that police. Thus grew up a double system of justice, which erred on the white side by undue leniency and the practical immunity of red-handed criminals, and erred on the black side by undue severity, injustice, and lack of discrimination."
 - W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Word of the day: metayer

The word of the day is metayer:

Etymology:  < French métayer (1150 in Old French as moitoier ) < meitié , moitié moiety n. + -ier -ier suffix, after post-classical Latin medietarius person owing half tithes (860), hereditary tenant farmer entitled to half the yield (1007; also as adjective in sense ‘granted as a tenancy at a rate of half the crop’ (866)) < classical Latin medietās mediety n. + -ārius -ary suffix1. Compare mezzadria n. 
A farmer who holds land under the métayage system. (OED)
which brings us to métayage:
Etymology:  < French métayage (1840; compare Middle French moitoiage agreement to share in halves (1396)) < métayer métayer n. + -age -age suffix. Compare earlier metaying n.
A system of land tenure in which the farmer pays a certain proportion (usually half) of the produce to the landowner as rent, and the owner provides (a part of) the stock and seed. (OED)
"The legal form of service was theoretically far different; in practice, task-work or "cropping" was substituted for daily toil in gangs; and the slave gradually became a metayer, or tenant on shares, in name, but a laborer with indeterminate wages in fact."

 - W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903

Monday, October 17, 2011

weekend update

Saturday I worked, but then Morgan did take me out to lunch at Sticky Rice, which was very nice of him.

Saturday evening we grabbed a quick dinner at Fatburger (conclusion: not impressed, but maybe I missed the soul of it by not getting a burger with bacon, chili, and a fried egg) before going to Austin and Chantelle's for a dessert party.  My favorite was Austin's orange cake with cranberry glaze and cream cheese frosting, but his pound cake was very good too.

Sunday we visited the 1:1 scale model of the James Webb Space Telescope on display in the Inner Harbor, in a desperate attempt to muster public support and prevent its funding from being cut.

We had a nice chat with an engineer from Northrup Grumman, and saw a really wonderful presentation called Journey to the Edge of the Observable Universe.  If the telescope launches (2018 is the current estimate, assuming funding doesn't get cut (by ESA, because we don't do that sort of stuff anymore)), it will push that edge a little further away, and, because light only travels as fast as the speed of light, a little further back in time.  Hubble can see 13 billion light years, but the Big Bang was 13.7 billion years ago.

We made a quick trip to the library and the hardware store before going to Cylburn Arboretum to see Ruthie sing in the Handel Choir of Baltimore.  Our favorite was the Ernani Aguiar.

After the concert, Ruthie very kindly invited us back to her house, where we played Yggdrasil (a cooperative but not too complicated board game), had a nice dinner, and played with Hannah.

On the way home, we stopped at Afters and read our climate paper.

Word of the day: ceil

The word of the day is ceil:

Etymology:  Of ceil v. (recorded of date 1428) and the derived ceiling (1380), ceiled , with the cognate n. found as cyll n. in sense of ‘canopy’ c1500, celure , found as syllure , sylure ?a1400, the derivation is doubtful. The group is not very old in English, and traces of it in French are scanty.
Three sources have been suggested: (1) Latin cēlāre , French celer (11th cent. in Littré) to hide, conceal, cover up; (2) Latin cælāre to carve, engrave in relief; (3) Latin cælum sky, vault of heaven. If Latin cēlāre could be shown to have acquired in late Latin or Romanic the simple sense of ‘cover’, it would suitably explain the English words in all their uses; but such is not the case, and in particular, French celer does not appear to approach the required sense. In favour of Latin cælāre (compare cieler Godefroy) there are certainly early quotations (see sense 1, and ceiling n. 1) in which ‘carve’, ‘carving’, is a possible sense; but nothing of the kind occurs under celure n., and if ceil ever meant ‘carve’ this sense evidently soon entirely gave way to one congruous with that of celure n. On the other hand we have the known fact that medieval Latin cælum , Italian cielo , French ciel , acquired the sense of ‘canopy, vault, roof, tester of a bed, etc.’; and there are traces of a derived vb. cælāre to canopy or vault, whence cælātum , cœlātūra , in senses identical with or derived < cælum . Difficulties are that while ceil v. and celure were so common in 15–16th cent. English, and can hardly be connected with Latin exc. through French, their occurrence in Old French itself is extremely rare: a single instance of cielee past participle (with variants celee , chelee , couverte ) has been noted in Chrestien de Troyes, Ywain (ed. Förster 964). It is possible that *celeüre , *celure < Latin cælātūra was common in Anglo-Norman, and thence passed into English, but the whole subject remains for the present beset with conflicting difficulties; the apparently certain point being that we cannot separate the English words < cælum , ciel , canopy. See celure n.
1. trans. ? To furnish with a canopy, hangings, or a screen. Obs. Cf. celure n. 
2.a. To cover with a lining of woodwork, sometimes of plaster, etc. (the interior roof or walls of a house or apartment); to wainscot. Also with †over. Obs. 
b. To overlay (with gold, marble, etc.).
3. esp. To line the roof of, provide or construct an inner roof for (a building or apartment); usually, to plaster the roof. Cf. ceiling n. 5. 
4. Naut. To line (a ship, or a compartment in a ship). Cf. ceiling n. 4b. (OED)

"All over the face of the land is the one-room cabin,—now standing in the shadow of the Big House, now staring at the dusty road, now rising dark and sombre amid the green of the cotton-fields. It is nearly always old and bare, built of rough boards, and neither plastered nor ceiled."

 - W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Word of the day: quadroon

The word of the day is quadroon:

Etymology:  < Spanish cuarterón person who is by descent three-quarters white and one-quarter non-white (originally spec. American Indian) (1605 or earlier; 13th cent. in sense ‘one quarter’) < cuarto fourth, quarter ( < classical Latin quartus : see quart n.1) + -erón , suffix. In β. forms probably by association with words in quadri- comb. form or quadru- comb. form. Compare French quarteron (1722; < Spanish).
Now chiefly considered offensive. 

A. n.1. A person who is by descent three-quarters white and one-quarter black; a person with one black grandparent. Formerly also: †a person with one black great-grandparent (obs. rare). Cf. terceroon n. 
2. By extension: any person of comparably mixed ancestry; a plant or animal obtained by crossing in such proportions. Now rare. 
B. adj.attrib. That is a quadroon; having one black grandparent or (formerly) great-grandparent.

"Here sits a pretty blue-eyed quadroon hiding her bare feet; she was married only last week, and yonder in the field is her dark young husband, hoeing to support her, at thirty cents a day without board."

 - W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Word of the day: loam

The word of the day is loam:

Etymology:  Old English lám neuter = Middle Dutch, Dutch leem , Middle Low German lêm , whence modern German lehm masculine; with different declension the word is found as Old High German leimo (masculine) (Middle High German leime , modern High German dialect leimen ); the Old Germanic forms *laimo- , *laimon- are from the root *lai- (:*lῑ- ) to be sticky, occurring also in lair n.2; for cognates in other ablaut-grades see lime n.1 
1.a. Clay, clayey earth, mud; occas. ‘earth’ or ‘clay’ as the material of the human body. Obs. 
b. Used loosely for: Earth, ground soil. arch. 
2. Clay moistened with water so as to form a paste capable of being moulded into any shape; spec. a composition of moistened clay and sand with an admixture of horse-dung, chopped straw, or the like, used in making bricks and casting-moulds, plastering walls, grafting, etc.
3. A soil of great fertility composed chiefly of clay and sand with an admixture of decomposed vegetable matter.

"This was indeed the Egypt of the Confederacy,—the rich granary whence potatoes and corn and cotton poured out to the famished and ragged Confederate troops as they battled for a cause lost long before 1861. Sheltered and secure, it became the place of refuge for families, wealth, and slaves. Yet even then the hard ruthless rape of the land began to tell. The red-clay sub-soil already had begun to peer above the loam. The harder the slaves were driven the more careless and fatal was their farming."

 - W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903

Friday, October 14, 2011

Word of the day: whilom

The word of the day is whilom:

Etymology:  Old English hwílum , later -on , -an , = Old Saxon hwîlon at times (Middle Dutch, Middle Low German wîlen formerly, Dutch wijlen late = deceased), Old High German hwîlôn , -on (Middle High German wîlen , wîlent , German weiland formerly) dative plural of while n. 
A. adv. (and adj.) 
2.a. At some past time; some time before or ago; once upon a time: = while adv. 2, whiles n., conj., and adv. 6a. arch.
 b. as adj. That existed, or was such, at a former time; former; †of a person, ‘late’, deceased (obs.): = while adv. 2b. arch. 
3. At a future time, some time; in future. 
B. conj.= while conj. 1, 3. dial. 
C. Aberrant uses. (OED)

"Here are the remnants of the vast plantations of the Sheldons, the Pellots, and the Rensons; but the souls of them are passed. The houses lie in half ruin, or have wholly disappeared; the fences have flown, and the families are wandering in the world. Strange vicissitudes have met these whilom masters."

 - W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Word of the day: scupper

The word of the day is scupper:

Etymology:  perhaps < scupper n., but the connection of meaning is not clear.
a. trans. To surprise and massacre. Mil. slang. 
b. colloq. To defeat, ruin, destroy, put an end to. (OED)

"Christopher Turner writes in 'Adventures in the Orgasmatron' that Wilhelm Reich coined the term 'sexual revolution' in the nineteen-thirties to express the conviction, informed by his Marxism, that 'a true political revolution would only be possible once sexual repression was overthrown, the one obstacle Reich felt had scuppered the efforts of the Bolsheviks.'"

 - Ariel Levy, "Novelty Acts: The sexual revolutions before the sexual revolution", 19 September 2011 The New Yorker

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Word of the day: cantonment

The word of the day is cantonment:

Etymology:  < French cantonnement , < cantonner : see canton v. and -ment suffix.
1. The cantoning or quartering of troops. 
2. The place of lodging assigned to a section of a force when cantoned out; also (often in pl.) the place or places of encampment formed by troops for a more permanent stay in the course of a campaign, or while in winter quarters; ‘in India the permanent military stations are so termed’ (Stocqueler Mil. Encycl.). 
3. transf. Quarters; places of occupation. (OED)

"After the attack on the Mehran base, people working on behalf of Hizb ut-Tahrir distributed leaflets at military bases and in cantonments in Karachi, with the aim of stirring up a revolt."

 - Dexter Filkins, "The Journalist and the Spies: The murder of a reporter who exposed Pakistan's secrets", 19 September 2011 The New Yorker

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Word of the day: bitty

The word of the day is bitty:

Etymology:  < bit n.2 + -y suffix1.
1. Made up of little bits (used disparagingly); consisting of (too many) unrelated parts; scrappy. 
2. Covered with or containing bits or scraps (of a material). 
3. = bitsy adj. U.S. colloq. (OED)

"Much the same occurs when Lucien doodles a self-portrait in a sketchbook; without ado, the figure enters the film—a looming, crooked alter ego, played by an actor with a puppet’s mask. He continues to materialize, unsummoned, throughout Gainsbourg’s life, sitting down beside him to play a piano duet, or—once Lucien has grown up and changed his name to Serge—caressing, with elongated claws, the naked, snoozing body of one of his lovers. This peculiar being is never wholly explained. He remains a benign Nosferatu, halfway between the demon that dogs romantic souls, luring them into a hellfire of trouble, and a treasured imaginary friend.

You may be freaked out by such episodes, and there is no doubt that they turn 'Gainsbourg' into a bitty and whimsical affair. On the other hand, I would back anything that loosens the bonds of the bio-pic."

 - Anthony Lane, "Private wars: 'The Debt' and 'Gainsbourg'", 12 September 2011 The New Yorker

No, still not quite sure what he means.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Chicken with Mustard Sauce

Monday, September 19, I worked late, and Morgan brought me kabobs from a new place in Federal Hill for dinner.

Wednesday, September 21, I worked late, and Morgan took me to Brick Oven Pizza and Mr. Yogato.

Thursday, September 22, I made Chicken with Mustard Sauce from Rachael Ray's 365: No Repeats, and served with couscous and a bag of salad dressed with oil, red wine vinegar, and Tuscan Sunset.

It was nice, but I don't know whether it was worth the trouble.

Sunday, September 18: A Raisin in the Sun

Sunday, September 18 I went to the grocery store and made a late lunch out of Ma-Po Tofu with Tomatoes, from The Food Matters Cookbook:

We were not impressed, so I was quite surprised when my leftovers the next day had vastly improved over the initial lunch.  I guess the rice soaked up the liquid?

We went up to Bohemian Coffee House to finish reading our climate paper.  We tried to go to Club Charles for dinner, but apparently it doesn't open until six, so we went to Soup's On Baltimore instead and then saw Everyman Theatre's production of A Raisin in the Sun.

I'd read A Raisin in the Sun for seventh-grade English.  Mostly I remember Bennie being the only sympathetic character, and I didn't remember Asagai or George at all.

This time, I found Mama much more sympathetic (my very favorite line from the play is one I have no recollection of from reading it 14 years ago: "Well, good night, George"), and I even found Walter Lee a little sympathetic, which can only be testament to a fine cast and director.

Saturday, September 17: Slutwalk Baltimore and Constitution Day

Saturday, September 17, I brought my sign (only slightly the worse for being rained on) to Slutwalk Baltimore.

It finally got autumnal here (right on schedule), so that probably influenced the apparel.  Not nearly as large a crowd as at Slutwalk DC, but not embarrassingly small, either.  After briefly gathering at West Shore Park, we marched up to City Hall via Baltimore Street, where there were speeches.

It's too bad the march wasn't in the reverse order: if the speeches had been in the Inner Harbor, passers-by might have heard them.

Slutwalk Baltimore ended about an hour and a half before scheduled, so we stopped by Red Emma's and looked over our climate paper before heading up to MICA's Constitution Day celebration, a panel discussion on "Free Speech and the Digital Age".  Given who was hosting the panel, it makes sense that the panel included an ACLU policy analyst (Jay Stanley) and an artist (Trevor Paglen), and given the subject matter, it makes sense that the panel included a blogger (Andrew Sullivan), but I still think that if the University of Chicago had been hosting this panel, it would have included a sociologist, a historian, and a professor of constitutional law.

I spent most of the panel getting more and more annoyed with Mr. Sullivan.  He began his remarks by announcing not just that he disagreed (which is fine) with the two previous panelists' opinion that the digital age brings perils to free speech as well as opportunities for it, but furthermore that he was astonished that there existed people who disagreed with him.  Possibly because he gets all of his news from blogs, so encountering someone who disagrees with him or perceives the world differently than he does is astonishing?  He also seemed completely unfamiliar the FISA law and especially with its 2008 amendment, which is what I had thought the panel was going to be about.  (So if I anticipated that the FISA law would come up in the discussion, and if the artist anticipated that and looked it up even though it's outside his area of expertise, then why couldn't the blogger anticipate that, too?  Possibly because he gets all his news from blogs.)

My favorite exchange from the panel, which I think encapsulated the entire discussion:

Mr. Stanley: Private companies have other interests than the public interest.
Mr. Sullivan:  Like what?!

In other words, Mr. Sullivan likes that he gets targeted advertising, but lacks the imagination to envision any dystopia in which the information that is now taken from him without his permission could be used in a way that he might not like in the future.  Maybe he just needs to read more science fiction.

Word of the day: Hogarthian

The word of the day is Hogarthian:

Etymology:  < the name of William Hogarth (1697–1764), English painter and engraver + -ian suffix.
Of, relating to, or characteristic of William Hogarth or his style; resembling or characteristic of the subjects depicted in Hogarth's work.Much of the work of Hogarth is characterized by the use of satire to examine questions of morality, and often features vivid characterizations of the disreputable side of 18th cent. English life. (OED)

"Hensher's take on what's wrong with England is ambitious, but it is undone by a Hogarthian zest for vituperation and by the sheer number of things that get his goat."

 - Deborah Friendell, "Blighty: A provocative novel of Britain in crisis", 12 September 2011 The New Yorker

Monday, September 26, 2011

Word of the day: captious

The word of the day is captious:

Etymology:  < French captieux or Latin captiōs-us fallacious, sophistical, < captiōn-em (see caption n.).
1.a. Apt to catch or take one in; fitted to ensnare or perplex in argument; designed to entrap or entangle by subtlety; fallacious, sophistical. 
b. Crafty. Obs. 
2. Apt to catch at faults or take exception to actions; disposed to find fault, cavil, or raise objections; fault-finding, cavilling, carping.

"One hesitates, therefore, to criticize a life which, beginning with so little, has done so much.  And yet the time is come when one may speak in all sincerity and utter courtesy of the mistakes and shortcomings of Mr. Washington's career, as well as of his triumphs, without being thought captious or envious, and without forgetting that it is easier to do ill than well in the world."

 - W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thursday, September 15: Wedding in Plymouth!!!

Thursday, September 15, I flew out to Plymouth for my brother's wedding!!!  After picking me up at the airport, we had a very nice lunch at an unassuming Thai restaurant in Dearborn (because the Groupon was about to expire: it turns out that that was not, in fact, the same reason the wedding date had been chosen), and then we stopped for cider and donuts (and wine tasting!) in Northville. We looked briefly at bikes, then returned home to freshen up before meeting Ryan at Roger Monks.  We ordered portobello fries, and sat near the window so that we could see Teacup Wedding move the rope at 6:00 on the dot to allow us to park.  Turns out they don't move the rope: the rope is meant to discourage you from bringing more guests than you actually need.  The wedding was lovely, although not quite as short as mine.  I used my very best handwriting to sign as a witness on the marriage certificate.

I really am grateful to Andrew and Kara for inviting me to be their witness, letting me stay with them (on their wedding night, no less), and touristing me around southeast Michigan, and I'm so happy that Kara's in our family.

Friday (September 16) I flew home super early to Baltimore, and we went to the Corner Bistro & Wine Bar for dinner.  Very cute; we'll have to go there again.

Wednesday, September 14: condo meeting

Wednesday, September 14, I made a quick dinner out of the Baked Sweet Omelet from How to Cook Everything before heading to the condo meeting, which took a longer than necessary.

Sunday, September 11: Washington

Sunday, September 11, we went down to Washington to see the African-American Civil War Museum, where we learned that the march of progress is anything but steady and monotonic.  Then we went to the new Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr memorial.

(We came in the wrong side, so it wasn't until pretty late into our monument experience that we figured out the conceit.  I'm posting the photo above so you won't have the same trouble.)

I picked up a copy of Great Speeches by African-Americans in the gift shop, because it occurred to me that while I had heard the same four sentences from the "I Have a Dream" speech about a hundred times, I don't think I had ever read the entire speech.  As I read it, I was getting more and more annoyed by the (very loud) helicopter flying (very low) overhead, back and forth, back and forth (because surely the terrorists are going to strike the Tidal Basin, unless this helicopter stops them!), but then the president's motorcade drove by, so that was all right.

We walked to meet Morgan's parents for dinner at The Old Ebbitt Grill, and on the way we stopped by the Lincoln Memorial, and then the contrasts between the two memorials became apparent.

1.  The MLK memorial might seem pretty large in the photos above, but it is  really quite small as compared to the context of the other memorials, especially the Lincoln Memorial.  Not quite monumental.

2.  The Lincoln Memorial is complete.  Lincoln has ascended to Zeusdom, the text above him reads "IN THIS TEMPLE / AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE / FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION / THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN / IS ENSHRINED FOREVER": his work is donemission accomplished.  We don't have to worry about it anymore.

Whereas MLK's statue is very deliberately incomplete: he has not fully emerged from the stone.  There is still work to be done.  There will always be work to be done.

Saturday, September 10: errands, MTG Tournament, and Ukrainian Festival

Saturday, September 10, we went to the post office to mail my passport renewal application, the library to pick up The Colour of Magic, and Spoons for the bacon pancakes with Nutella.  We went to Canton Games for what was advertised as a "show up, get a free pack of Magic cards, minimaster, win a free pack" (i.e., we assumed that we could just play each other, then collect our won pack), but turned out to be a real, full-blown tournament.  We didn't show up until the third round, but really, that was just fine, because we were there for about two hours as it was, and I think I would have gone absolutely insane if I had had to be there for six.

After the tournament, we went to Patterson Park to walk around, only to discover that the Ukrainian Festival was happening.  There were lots of pierogies, beer, sauerkraut, sausage, and potato pancakes.  I got a very generous and delicious sampler from Ze Mean Bean Cafe.  There was also an awesome giant shark slide.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Word of the day: eyot

The word of the day is eyot:

Old English íggað , ígeoð was perhaps a diminutive of íeg , íg , island (though the ordinary power of -að was to make abstract nouns, as in huntað hunting). The subsequent phonetic history is obscure: the normal descendant of íggað would be ieth (compare flieth ); the vowel of Middle English eyt might arise from an Old English variant égað , as in ég isle for íg (compare also Old Norse eið ‘peninsula,’ in Shetland eid ‘a tongue of land’); but the t is unexplained; the later -et , and mod. -ot , are artificial spellings after islet (Middle French islette ) and modern French îlot.
An islet or small isle; especially one in a river, as the aits or eyots of the Thames. (OED)

"After a while a small speck on the rim of the world resolved itself into a eyot or crag, so perilously perched that the waters of the fall swirled around it at the start of their long drop."

 - Terry Pratchett, "Close to the Edge", 1983

Not quite sure why he's saying "a eyot" instead of "an eyot".

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Word of the day: coruscate

The word of the day is coruscate:

Etymology:  < participial stem of Latin coruscāre to vibrate, glitter, sparkle, gleam.
a. intr. To give forth intermittent or vibratory flashes of light; to shine with a quivering light; to sparkle, glitter, flash
.b. with cognate object. (OED)

"A double rainbow corruscated into being."

 - Terry Pratchett, "Close to the Edge", 1983

Not quite sure why he's spelling it with two rs.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Word of the day: débridement

The word of the day is débridement:

Etymology:  French, lit. ‘unbridling’.
The removal from a wound, etc., of damaged tissue or foreign matter. (OED)

T-REX:  Sometimes if you have a festering wound, doctors will prescribe maggots!  Certain breeds only eat dead tissue and ignore healthy tissue, which cleans out the wound at a level a surgeon simply couldn't!  NICE.
DROMICEIOMIMUS: That's no secret, T-Rex!  Maggot debridement has been around since antiquity.

 - "DID YOU KNOW: you don't even get to keep it/them afterwards", 15 September 2011 Dinosaur Comics

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Word of the day: sequela

The word of the day is sequela:

< Latin sequēla : see sequel n.
 1.a. Pathol. A morbid affection occurring as the result of a previous disease. Chiefly pl. 
b. transf. A consequence. (OED)

"Because mammalian PFKs are known to contain an allosteric activation site (which binds ADP/AMP) and a catalytic site (which binds ATP), we considered the possibility that acyl-CoAs could bind to an adenine-based regulatory site and modulate PFK-1 activity to integrate glycolytic flux with fatty acid oxidation. Such a mechanism would be of particular relevance considering the well established accumulation of activated fatty acid derivatives (e.g. fatty acyl-CoA and acyl-carnitine) and their deleterious sequelae in lipid-related disease states such as diabetes, hepatic steatosis, hyperlipidemia, and related component parts of the metabolic syndrome."

 - Christopher M. Jenkins et al."Reversible High Affinity Inhibition of Phosphofructokinase-1 by Acyl-CoA", JBC 286:11937 (8 April 2011)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Word of the day: eutectic

The word of the day is eutectic:

Etymology:  Greek εὔτηκτος easily melting (εὐ-eu- comb. form + τήκ-ειν to melt) + -ic suffix.
A. adj.
That is a eutectic; of or pertaining to a eutectic or its liquefaction or solidification; eutectic point, the melting-point of a eutectic, or the point representing it in a constitutional diagram. 
B. n.

A mixture which is distinguished from other mixtures of the same constituents in different proportions by having a single temperature at which it melts and freezes, this temperature being lower than the freezing-point of any of the constituents or of any other mixture of them. Also fig.  (OED)

"Two eutectic points are postulated to occur: one at a very low 1,2-DPG concentration and the other at a 1,2-DPG concentration slightly higher than 66 mol%."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Molecule of the day: violaceum

The molecule of the day is violaceum:


It's an antibiotic (also antimalarial) from Chromobacterium violaceum.

Word of the day: Aufseherin

The word of the day is Aufseherin:

"Of the 55,000 guards who served in Nazi concentration camps, about 3,700 were women.[citation needed] In 1942, the first female guards arrived at Auschwitz and Majdanek from Ravensbrück. The year after, the Nazis began conscripting women because of a guard shortage.
The German title for this position, Aufseherin (plural Aufseherinnen) means female overseer or attendant."

 - Wikipedia

"The ultimate ambiguity of the plot is that we cannot be sure if Lisa really sees Marta on the ship.  The Aufseherin may be hallucinating, her mind corroded by guilt and fear."

 - Alex Ross, "Testament: Recovering a Holocaust opera by Mieczysław Weinberg", 5 September 2011 The New Yorker

Monday, September 12, 2011

Word of the day: chaconne

The word of the day is chaconne:

Etymology:  < French chaconne, < Spanish chacona, according to Spanish etymologists, < Basque chucun pretty.
An obsolete dance, or the music to which it was danced, moderately slow, and usually in 3–4 time. (OED)
Wikipedia (and they wouldn't lie to me) goes into a little more detail: "A chaconne (French pronunciation: [ʃaˈkɔn]; Italian: ciaccona) is a type of musical composition popular in the baroque era when it was much used as a vehicle for variation on a repeated short harmonic progression, often involving a fairly short repetitive bass-line (ground bass) which offered a compositional outline for variation, decoration, figuration and melodic invention."

"Only the chaconne climax falls short: it seems a bit blatant."

 - Alex Ross, "Testament: Recovering a Holocaust opera by Mieczysław Weinberg", 5 September 2011 The New Yorker

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Word of the day: epigone

The word of the day is epigone:

Etymology:  In pl. < French épigones, < Latin epigonī, < Greek ἐπίγονοι, plural of ἐπίγονος born afterwards, < ἐπί upon, after + -γονος, < root of γίγνεσθαι to be born. The designation οἱ ἐπίγονοι (Latin Epigoni) was applied especially to the sons of the seven heroes who led the war against Thebes; the mod. use is in allusion to this.
One of a succeeding generation. Chiefly in pl. the less distinguished successors of an illustrious generation.  (OED)

"The first impression is of an epigone.  So I thought for years, listening to the few Weinberg recordings that came my way.  Recently, though, I became entranced by a disk of the 1944 Piano Quintet, by the ARC Ensemble, and began to perceive the subtle ways in which Weinberg stands apart from his hero."

 - Alex Ross, "Testament: Recovering a Holocaust opera by Mieczysław Weinberg", 5 September 2011 The New Yorker