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

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Word of the day: huckster

The word of the day is huckster: 

1. A retailer of small goods, in a petty shop or booth, or at a stall; a pedlar, a hawker. 
a. Applied to a woman. 
b. Without distinction of sex. (The ordinary use.) 
c. As term of reproach: A regrater, an engrosser of corn, etc.; a broker, a middleman. 
2.a. trans. and fig. A person ready to make his profit of anything in a mean or petty way; one who basely barters his services, etc., for gain; a mercenary; an overreacher of others.
b. An advertising agent chiefly concerned with the preparation of advertising programmes for radio broadcasting. (OED)

"Both she and Corinne, of course, are doomed to fail, Farmiga knowing full well—as Katharine Hepburn knew, and as Barbara Stanwyck showed, when she played a preacher, caught between sincerity and hucksterism, in “The Miracle Woman” (1931)—that the tussle of flesh and spirit is never done, and that the quenching of all appetite still leaves us with a mysterious thirst."

 - Anthony Lane, "Devotions: 'Higher Ground' and 'One Day'", 29 August 2011 The New Yorker

Friday, September 09, 2011

recap of the week: catching up

Monday I made Seafood Pomodoro with Linguine from Robin Miller's Quick Fix Meals.

So while Mark Bittman is being unrealistic when he says a meal will take 45 minutes, and while Rachael Ray is being delusional when she says a meal will take 30 minutes, Robin Miller says her meals take 20 minutes, with predictable results.  Try more like an hour (even with leftover chopped onion from the freezer).

Once again, I'm used to cooking out of The Food Matters Cookbook, so it didn't occur to me until too late that it would have been really nice to have some vegetables.  I need to get in the habit of serving salad whenever I serve pasta.  I met Morgan at Panera's where he had spent the day doing math, so I did pick up a French baguette to go with the meal (because, surely, what it needed was more carbs).

Tuesday we had our concert, after which we went to Chazz for a celebratory dinner, after having read about it in the Baltimore Sun.  It was a very pretty restaurant: next time, we should sit at the pizza bar.  That is, if there is a next time.  The food was only ok, but pretty pricey.  I can get a much better margherita pizza at Pub Dog for less.  (Since when does a margherita pizza have tomato sauce on it, anyway?)  Should have checked Yelp first.

Wednesday I made Lemony Zucchini Risotto with Fried Eggs, from The Food Matters Cookbook.

Maybe risotto, like pie, is something I should only order at restaurants.  It was nice, but was it really worth the effort?

Last night we had dinner at the happy hour at the Rusty Scupper, which is always nice.

weekend update: Grand Prix

Friday evening we walked a bit around the racecourse to see what we could see, which was: a bit through the chain-link fence at Sharp and Conway, a bit through the chain-link fence at Lee and Light, and really quite a nice view from the foot of the hairpin on Light Street: you could see the cars coming straight down Light, and Light slopes a bit upward there, so it had a bit of a stadium-seating effect there.  But by the time we made it down there the racing had stopped for the day, so we went to dinner in Federal Hill, which seemed eerily deserted, especially for a Friday night.  (Probably because no one could get there, because Light Street was closed.)  We went to the Abbey Burger Bistro, where I risked Aristotelian evil (wishing for bad things and getting them) by building my own burger featuring the meat of the month: medium rare duck on a pretzel bun, with sauteed onions, mushrooms, brie, and white truffle oil, with the macaroni and cheese on the side.  It was quite rich, but really delicious.

Saturday we tried again to walk around downtown, which involved, as Jean Marbella said, walking miles but only going blocks, without seeing much besides the gulag-end of the fences, which got pretty tiring.  I concocted something for dinner inspired by Farm-Stand-Vegetable Green Curry, from Every Day with Rachael Ray, but used eggplant and zucchini instead of broccoli and bell peppers (because that's what the farmers market had Thursday), and non-green curry (because that's the only curry paste I could find at the Fresh & Green).  I served it with the last of our quinoa.

It was ok: Morgan was more taken with it than I was.  (I'm still looking for curry that tastes like the yellow curry at Noodles Etc.)

Sunday we went to Whole Foods to get groceries (add that as another cost of the race: it was impossible to leave our neighborhood by car, and Whole Foods is the only grocery store within walking distance, seeing as we live in one of those urban food deserts), and I made Lime and Honey Glazed Salmon with Warm Black Bean and Corn Salad, from Rachael Ray's 365: No Repeats.

It was pretty delicious, but because the salmon was from Whole Foods, it was also quite pricey.  Probably not any more than you would pay for a comparable dish at a restaurant, though, and at least I'm pretty confident that it actually was wild Alaskan salmon.  I'll make it again the next time I have company.

Word of the day: husting

The word of the day is husting:

Etymology:  Old English hústing, < Old Norse hús-þing, house-assembly, a council held by a king, earl, or other leader, and attended by his immediate followers, retainers, etc., in distinction from the ordinary þing or general assembly of the people (the Old English folcgemót, folkmoot n.).
I. In form husting.
1. An assembly for deliberative purposes, esp. one summoned by a king or other leader; a council. rare (in general sense). Obs. exc. Hist.
II. In form husting, pl. hustings.
2.a. A court held in the Guildhall of London by the Lord Mayor, Recorder, and Sheriffs (or Aldermen), long the supreme court of the city.The early history of this is in many points obscure. The mention of ‘husting's weight’ in the charter of Cnut (see Compounds 1) suggests that the husting had already then become a permanent institution for the transaction of civic business.
The Hustings or Court of Hustings was formerly a court of common pleas, of probate, of appeal against decisions of the sheriffs, a court of record for the formal conveyance of property, etc.; but it is now convoked only for the purpose of considering and registering gifts made to the City. In the Calendar for 1898 ‘Hustings’ were set down for 31 Tuesdays during the year, although there had been only one meeting since 1885.
(a) singular husting. Obs. exc. Hist.(b) plural hustings in same sense as the sing.
b. According to Cowell, a similar court anciently held in other cities: but it is doubtful whether this is the meaning of the passage in Fleta. 
III. In form hustings, now usually constr. as sing. 
3. The upper end of the Guildhall, where this Court was held; the platform on which the Mayor and Aldermen took their seats. Obs. 
4. The temporary platform from which, previous to the Ballot Act of 1872, the nomination of candidates for Parliament was made, and on which these stood while addressing the electors. Hence, contextually, the proceedings at a parliamentary election.

"On June 8, 1858, four days after Catherine Dickens signed a deed of separation, Edward Bulwer was speaking before his constituents in Hertford when his estranged and often outrageous wife showed up and heckled him, shouting, 'Sir Liar!'  Bulwer had married Rosina Wheeler, the daughter of a women's-rights advocate, in 1827, but he beat her, and kept a series of mistresses.  According to a well-corroborated story, he once bit his wife in the face and had to be pulled off her by the servants.  After they were legally separated, in 1836, he had their children, aged six and ten, taken away from her; she barely saw them again.  She took vengeance by writing novels–her first, 'Chevely; or, the Man of Honour,' is a satirical portrait of her husband.  After she showed up at the hustings, he had her declared insane, and committed to a lunatic asylum."

 - Jill Lepore, "Dickens in Eden: Summer vacation with 'Great Expectations'", 29 August 2011 The New Yorker

(I think that paragraph would have made a whole lot more sense if the first sentence had been moved to be the penultimate one.  I guess the author was trying to tie in the Bulwers' story with the Dickens'?)

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Molecule of the day: phlorizin

The molecule of the day is phlorizin:

It's a natural product found in the bark of apple, pear, and cherry trees.  It inhibits sodium-glucose symporters, and thereby causes renal glycosuria and blocks intestinal absorption of glucose.  It can therefore be used to decrease blood glucose without (directly) manipulating insulin signaling, as in this paper

Baltimore Sun letter update

The Baltimore Sun posted my letter on their web site.  (I like my version better, but whatevs.)

Word of the day: optative

The word of the day is optative:

Etymology:  < Middle French, French optatif (adjective) expressing desire (15th cent.), (noun) word expressing a wish (1374), optative mood (1548) and its etymon post-classical Latin optativus (adjective) expressing desire (4th cent. in grammatical context), (noun) optative mood (4th cent.; compare Hellenistic Greek ἡ εὐκτική) < classical Latin optāt-, past participial stem of optāreoptate v. + -īvus-ive suffix. Compare Italian ottativo (early 14th cent. as †optativo, noun and adjective), Spanish optativo (1490 as noun), both in grammatical sense. 

A. adj. 
1. Grammar. Having the function of expressing wish or desire.   optative mood (also mode) n.  [translating post-classical Latin optativus modus (4th cent.), in turn translating Hellenistic Greek εὐκτικὴ ἔγκλισις] the mood or form of the verb of which a prominent function is the expression of wish or desire, as in ancient Greek μὴ γένοιτο ‘may it not happen!’. 
2.a. Relating to choice, or expressing desire; relating to the future and to the decisions it involves. 
b. Roman Law.  [Translating classical Latin optīvus.] = optive adj. Obs. rare.

"In an hour-long talk, rife with allusions to Leibniz, Hume, Kierkegaard, Wilde, Woolf, and Hardy, Miller offered a reading of 'Great Expectations' in which he argued that the novel is defined by 'the optative mode of self-understanding,' an experience of modern life, in which everything is what it is but could have been something else."

 - Jill Lepore, "Dickens in Eden: Summer vacation with 'Great Expectations'", 29 August 2011 The New Yorker

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Molecule of the day: bicinchoninic acid

The molecule of the day is bicinchoninic acid:

It apparently chelates Cu(I) ions to produce a  purple product.  Peptide bonds can apparently reduce Cu(II) ions to Cu(I) ions, so bicinchoninic acid can therefore be used to assay the amount of protein in a solution, as in this paper.

Monday, September 05, 2011

letter to the Baltimore Sun: Grand Prix police priorities

Here's the text of a letter I sent to the Baltimore Sun:


Dear Baltimore Sun,

On Saturday, I crossed over the Grand Prix track via the skywalk between the Pratt Street Pavilion and the Gallery.  Racecars were driving on the track, so I lingered for a moment to see what it was my tax dollars had bought.  But only for a moment, because then three police officers ordered me to move along.  Now, I know that it wasn’t for crowd control (there were only three other civilians on the bridge besides me, so there was no congestion crossing the bridge) or safety purposes (I have seen far more people congregated on this very bridge during parades down Pratt Street without risking the bridge’s collapse), so I could only conclude that they were there on behalf of the race organizers, who presumably believe that in addition to buying the right to use the people’s roads, they had also bought the right to observe the race from any other point in space, public or private.

I was delighted.  I could only conclude that there were no homicides left to clear, no citizens in the Northeastern District waiting for cops to respond to calls, and no teenagers dealing drugs on West Baltimore corners, if three of Baltimore’s finest could afford to spend their time hassling taxpayers for standing on public property.  Surely Mayor Rawlings-Blake had therefore scrapped her plan to hire 300 more police officers, and the money saved could instead be put toward repairing our crumbling schools and reopening our shuttered rec centers and city pools to keep our children off the streets and out of trouble.

Imagine my disappointment, then, when I opened Monday’s Baltimore Sun to learn that, in fact, there had been no fewer than six shootings in the city during the course of the Grand Prix, one of them fatal.

Turns out it was just another case of our city’s administration's putting the interests of developers ahead of those of its own citizens.  I cannot help but wonder that we might do more to convince people to come visit and spend money in our city if we focused our limited police resources on reducing crime in our city neighborhoods rather than letting the Grand Prix organizers use them as taxpayer-provided hired muscle on deserted skywalks downtown.

In conclusion: I survived the Grand Prix, but I'll be glad to have an excuse to be out of town come next Labor Day.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Word of the day: stet

The word of the day is stet:

Etymology:  3rd singular present subjunctive of Latin stāre to stand.
‘Let it stand’; a direction in the margin of a proof or MS. that matter which has been altered or struck out is to remain uncorrected. The direction occasionally signifies that a non-standard or irregular form should be retained. (OED)

"An example: You know that if your writer uses hopefully as a sentence adverb, some readers will grow hair on the backs of their hands and commence baying at the moon. You know that if you change hopefully to it is to be hoped that, some readers will find it insufferably pompous and affected. You may damn the torpedoes and stet it, you may change it, or you may write around it. You will reach a decision, not by applying a Rule, but by gauging the various weights of the author’s preference, the reader’s needs and expectations, and the publication’s tone."

 - John E. McIntyre, "Prescription for prescriptivists", 1 September 2011 You Don't Say

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Word of the day: ukase

The word of the day is ukase:

Etymology:  < Russian ukaz, < ukazat′ to show, direct, order, decree. Hence also French ukase, oukase, Portuguese ukase, Spanish ucase, German, Danish, Swedish ukas. 
1. A decree or edict, having the force of law, issued by the Russian emperor or government. 
2. transf. Any proclamation or decree; an order or regulation of a final or arbitrary nature. (OED)

"Like a doctor who realizes that what was taught in medical school twenty years previously may no longer apply, the editor has to realize that time may have passed by the ukases of his sixth-grade English teacher or her first managing editor."

 - John E. McIntyre, "Prescription for prescriptivists", 1 September 2011 You Don't Say

Friday, September 02, 2011

Baked Rigatoni with Brussels Sprouts, Figs, and Blue Cheese

Last night I made Baked Rigatoni with Brussels Sprouts, Figs, and Blue Cheese from The Food Matters Cookbook.

I thought it would be bluer, and figgier.  As it was, the Brussels sprouts were the overwhelming flavor (which is fine with me.)

I paired it with Brooklyn Brewery's Oktoberfest, as per the recommendation of the employees at Urban Cellars.  It did work to clear the palate, and maybe if the pasta had been bluer (as I thought it would be), it would have been a better pairing, but as it was, it was nice, but nothing special.

Word of the day: precise

The word of the day is precise:

Etymology:  < French préciser to make precise, to determine exactly (c1350 in Middle French in an isolated attestation; subsequently from 1788) < précisprecise adj. 
trans. To make precise or definite; to define precisely or exactly; to particularize. Now rare. (OED)

"I wrote a piece for the T.L.S., so I'm just précising it."

 - Judith Flanders, as quoted by Lauren Collins, "Nerd Out", 29 August 2011 The New Yorker

Not entirely sure why The New Yorker is choosing to go with the French spelling while the OED doesn't: perhaps it's just one more of its eccentricities, like the way it spells "coöperate" (which I first saw in my edition of The Complete Sherlock Holmes, and have enthusiastically adopted ever since).

Gingered Tomato Salad with Shrimp

Wednesday night I made Gingered Tomato Salad with Shrimp, from The Food Matters Cookbook.

I used a bag of pre-hurricane romaine hearts, so they were getting a little long in the tooth.  Also, tomato season appears to already be over here in Maryland (at least according to the one produce stand at the Thursdsay farmers market), so these are supermarket tomatoes.  With ripe tomatoes and fresh greens, the salad probably would have been a lot better.

I paired it with Woodhall's Angler White, which my mom had picked out when we visited the winery last October.  (I'd been saving it for when she came back to visit me, but she hasn't yet, so we went ahead and drank it.  I can pick up another bottle when you do come, Mom, and it will be fresher.)  It was, well, semi-sweet.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Baltimore mayor election 2011: educational backgrounds

Because I'm a snob, here are the CVs of the mayoral candidates for Baltimore's upcoming Democratic primary, to the best of my knowledge (sources are generally from the campaign web sites), in alphabetical order:

Frank Conaway:
BA, Morgan State College (now Morgan State University) (1960)

Jody Landers:
BS (business administration), Morgan State University

Catherine Pugh:
BS (business administration), Morgan State University
MBA, Morgan State University

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake:
BA (political science), Oberlin College (1992)
JD, University of Maryland School of Law (1995)

Otis Rolley:
BA (political science and Africana studies), Rutgers College (1996)
MCP (Master in City Planning), MIT (1998)

Wilton Wilson:
bachelor's, Johns Hopkins University
master's, Bowie State University

(Whatever point I might have been trying to make is now completely out of my mind as I am still reeling from the revelation that Frank Conaway apparently doesn't have a web site.)

Word of the day: jounce

The word of the day is jounce:

Etymology:  Of obscure origin: it has been compared to jaunce v., which it partly approaches in use, but with which it can scarcely be phonetically connected. Several words in -ounce, as bounce, flounce, pounce, trounce, are of obscure history. 
1. intr. To move violently up and down, to fall heavily against something; to bump, bounce, jolt; to go along with a heavy jolting pace. 
2. trans. To jolt, bump, or shake up and down, as by rough riding; to give (a person) a shaking. (OED)

"I unwrap a Dentyne and, while
jouncing my teeth in rubber tongue-smarting clove, try
with the 2-inch-wide paper to blot butter off my fingers."

 - May Swenson, "The James Bond Movie", 1 September 2011 The Writer's Almanac