Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: that time Eugene Markovitz chose not to give up on young people

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for that time Alice and Katherine's great-grandfather chose not to give up on young people and in so doing, inspired a daytime Emmy-award-winning film, "The Writing on the Wall."

You should watch "The Writing on the Wall", but if you don't have time to go do that right now, you can read this article in the LA Times: http://articles.latimes.com/2003/oct/04/local/me-markovitz4

I never got a chance to meet Alice and Katherine's great-grandfather, but this story gives me hope for all of us, and I am thankful.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Word of the day: choss

The word of the day is choss:

Friable, crumbly, or loose rock, typically considered unsafe or unpleasant to climb.

1930s; earliest use found in Margaret Mitchell (1900–1949), novelist. Representing a colloquial or humorous pronunciation of chaos.


"My hands were torn and bleeding already, so I paused to wipe them, one at a time, but I lost my grip and bounced from front to back over the choss, transferred by the tumbling rubble to the bottom of the wall."

 - Lori Lansens, The Mountain Story

Today I'm thankful for: that time Mr. Taft taught me how to shake hands

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for that time Mr. Taft taught me how to shake hands.

When I was in eighth grade, on the first day of school, someone came up with the cute idea of everyone in the middle school's shaking everyone else's hand in the middle school.  As an introvert, the idea was a bit overwhelming to me, so I wasn't terribly enthusiastic.  When I shook Mr. Taft (my eighth grade U.S. history teacher)'s hand, I pinched his metacarpals (not intentionally), and he said, "Ow!"  But then he stopped, and showed me: note the web between your thumb and forefinger.  When you shake someone's hand, your web should intersect their web.  If you do that, you can squeeze someone's hand as hard as you like, and it will come across as firm, never painful.

A strong handshake is a simple thing, but crucial to success in America.  It wasn't part of his lesson plan, but Mr. Taft saw an opportunity to teach me something, and went ahead and did it, and I am thankful.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: that time my dad flew out to take care of the babies

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for that time Morgan had a meeting in California, and my dad flew out for a week to help take care of the babies (as we speak).  Alice, Katherine, and I are lucky to have so much support in our lives, and this is just one example, and I am thankful.

Word of the day: oxblood

The word of the day is oxblood:

1. a deep dull-red color.
"Nola, with her soulful blue eyes and neat silver hair, strode by in her oxblood poncho, and I remember thinking that a person would be able to see that shiny red poncho from space."
 - Lori Lansens, The Mountain Story 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: the ACLU

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Word of the day: noodle

The word of the day is noodle:

1. Slang. the head.
2. a fool or simpleton.


"'Well to be sure!' said Joe, astounded,  'I wonder how she come to know Pip!'
"'Noodle!' cried my sister.  'Who said she knew him?'"

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Friday, January 27, 2017

Word of the day: sportive

The word of the day is sportive:

1. playful or frolicsome; jesting, jocose, or merry.
2. done in sport, rather than in earnest
3. pertaining to or of the nature of a sport or sports.
4. Biology. mutative.
5. Archaic. ardent; wanton.


"'She wants this boy to go and play there.  And of course he's going.  And he had better play there,' said my sister, shaking her head at me as an encouragement to be extremely light and sportive, 'or I'll work him.'"

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Today I'm thankful for: infant formula

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for infant formula.

Nursing and pumping are both great options for feeding babies, and while they work great for many people, they don't work for everyone, and fortunately for us, we have infant formula.  Scientists have studied what nutrition is necessary for growing babies, and infant formula stays on the cutting edge of that science.  Not only does it include everything we believe babies need, but it is also getting updated all the time as we learn more about the components of human milk.  Some babies have special dietary needs, and we have specialty infant formula that meets those babies' needs, too.

Before an infant formula manufacturer can introduce a new infant formula, they need to notify the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who reviews the formula to make sure that it is safe and nutritious before it can be sold in stores.  I have worked with the individuals on the infant formula team at FDA: they are all highly qualified, hardworking people who are dedicated to the work they do, and I am glad that they are on the case.

I am also thankful to the manufacturers of infant formula themselves, who are committed to making formula not only safe and nutritious for infants, but also user-friendly for their sleep-deprived parents.  Powdered infant formula comes in a very fine grain, which dissolves very easily into water, with very little work on my part, while still being coarse enough to not float into the air in the way that, say, powdered LB broth does.  And for those times when you don't have the wherewithal to even mix the easy-to-use powder with water, ready-to-feed liquid formula is also available, which has already been pasteurized and is ready to go.

Another benefit of infant formula I learned to appreciate just a few weeks ago, when I was sick with some dread contagious disease, and managed not to infect the babies, which I'm not certain I could have done without infant formula.

Alice and Katherine, and so many other babies, have infant formula as a safe, nutritious, and user-friendly option, and I am thankful.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Word of the day: perspicuity

The word of the day is perspicuity:

1. clearness or lucidity, as of a statement.
2. the quality of being perspicuous.

1470-80; < Latin perspicuitās. See perspicuous, -ity


"Joe recited this couplet with such manifest pride and careful perspicuity, that I asked him if he had made it himself."

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Today I'm thankful for: that time I was IPP

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for that time I was immediate past president of the Hopkins Toastmasters Club.

I have learned so much from Toastmasters, and possibly the most important thing I learned was when I was IPP.  

When I was president, the previous year, I poured my little heart and soul into the club.  I had no idea what I was doing, so I made lots of mistakes, learned from them, and through my experience, formed strong opinions about what worked and what didn't work.

The next year, the club had a new president, who didn't necessarily do things the way I would have done them.  And once again, painfully, through making mistakes, I eventually learned perhaps my most important Toastmasters lesson yet: that just because someone does something differently than how I would have done it doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong.  

Knowing the difference between an actual mistake (which, depending on the situation, may require my calling attention to it) and just a different choice than I would have made is a crucial skill, in all areas of life.  It's a skill I'm still trying to develop every day, but, because of my time as IPP, I'm much better at it now than I was, and I am thankful.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Word of the day: purblind

The word of the day is purblind:

1. nearly or partially blind; dim-sighted.
2. slow or deficient in understanding, imagination, or vision.
3. Obsolete. totally blind.

1250-1300; Middle English pur blind completely blind; see pure (in obsolete adv. sense), blind

"Much of my unassisted self, and more by the help of Biddy than of Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt, I struggled through the alphabet as if it had been a bramble-bush; getting considerably worried and scratched by every letter.  After that I fell among those thieves, the nine figures, who seemed every evening to do something new to disguise themselves and baffle recognition.  But, at last I began, in a purblind groping way, to read, write, and cipher, on the very smallest scale."

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Word of the day: execrate

The word of the day is execrate:

1. to detest utterly; abhor; abominate.
2. to curse; imprecate evil upon; damn; denounce.
verb (used without object), execrated, execrating.
3. to utter curses.

1555-65; < Latin ex (s) ecrātus (past participle of ex (s) ecrārī to curse), equivalent to ex- ex-1+ secr- (combining form of sacrāre to consecrate; see sacrament ) + -ātus -ate1

"Water was splashing, and mud was flying, and oaths were being sworn, and blows were being struck, when some more men went down into the ditch to help the sergeant, and dragged out, separately, my convict and the other one.  Both were bleeding and panting and execrating and struggling; but of course I knew them both directly."

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Today I'm thankful for: David Siffert's post on anti-Semitism and Jewish politics

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for David Siffert's thoughtful post on anti-Semitism and Jewish politics (https://www.facebook.com/siffert/posts/10101064035576000).  The ability and the choice to write with great feeling, context, nuance, and consideration for other people's feelings, all at the same, in as brutal a medium as a Facebook post, gives me hope for the future, and I am thankful.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Word of the day: manzanita

The word of the day is manzanita:

  1. any of several western North American shrubs or small trees belonging to the genus Arctostaphylos, of the heath family, having leathery leaves and clusters of white to pink flowers.
  2. the fruit of one of these shrubs.

"Nola suggested a flat spot up the hill near some manzanita, which would help block the wind."

 - Lori Lansens, The Mountain Story

Word of the day: chinquapin

The word of the day is chinquapin

  1. a shrubby chestnut, Castanea pumila, of the beech family, native to the southeastern U.S., having toothed, oblong leaves and small edible nuts.
  2. a Pacific coast evergreen tree, Castanopsis chrysophylla, of the beech family, having deeply furrowed bark, dark green lance-shaped leaves, and inedible nuts.
  3. the nut of either of these trees.

"A long branch of spiky chinquapin reached out from nowhere to snag the nylon shell of my parka, and when I stopped to free my sleeve from the yellow bush, I was surprised to spot the girl in the green flip-flops moving slyly through the distant trees."

 - Lori Lansens, The Mountain Story

Word of the day: jig-back

The word of the day is jig-back:

  1. an inclined cable tramway with two cars that are connected in such a way that as one goes up the other comes down.


"The tram worked on a double jig-back system, with one car headed down the mountain while the second climbed up; hung on twenty-seven miles of interlocking cable strung out between five massive towers bolted into the mountainside."

 - Lori Lansens, The Mountain Story

Word of the day: shaver

The word of the day is shaver:

1. a person or thing that shaves.
2. an electric razor.
3. Informal. a small boy; youngster.
4. a fellow.
5. a person who makes close bargains or is extortionate.

1375-1425; late Middle English; see shave, -er1; compare chip off the old block


"'Excuse me, ladies and gentleman,' said the sergeant, 'but as I have mentioned at the door to this smart young shaver,' (which he hadn't), 'I am on a chase in the name of the king, and I want the blacksmith.'"

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Today I'm thankful for: Morgan's doing both drop-off and pick-up

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for the fact that Morgan both drops the babies off at day care and picks them up from day care every day.

Morgan is a really great dad, and Alice, Katherine, and I are lucky to have him.  Being a great dad takes a lot of work, and he does it enthusiastically.  Doing drop-off and pick-up is just one example, and I'm thankful.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Word of the day: ague

The word of the day is ague:

1. Pathology. a malarial fever characterized by regularly returning paroxysms, marked by successive cold, hot, and sweating fits.
2. a fit of fever or shivering or shaking chills, accompanied by malaise, pains in the bones and joints, etc.; chill.
1250-1300; Middle English < Middle French, short for fievre ague acute fever < Latin febris acūta  
"He shivered all the while so violently, that it was quite as much as he could do to keep the neck of the bottle between his teeth, without biting it off.
"'I think you have got the ague,' said I."
 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Today I'm thankful for: that time that Sicilian restaurant in Rome opened early for us

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for that time that Sicilian restaurant in Rome opened early for us.

It was our last night in Rome (and indeed our last night in Italy).  We had picked out this Sicilian restaurant we wanted to go to.  A bit after seven in the evening, we walked up. The door was open, so we walked in and asked whether they had a table available for dinner.  "Of course!" they said.  "When?"  "Tonight", we said.  "...You mean now?  Uh...sure, why not?"  They ushered us to a table, and we had a great meal.

About an hour and a half later, all the other diners started coming in.  It was only then that we realized the restaurant didn't open until 8:30pm, but they had opened, just for us.

I guess we weren't doing as the Romans do, but they welcomed us nonetheless, and I am thankful.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: that time Mr. Friedlander told me not to be sorry

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for that time Mr. Friedlander told me not to be sorry.

I was applying to summer programs while I was in high school, and I needed two recommendation letters, so I asked my 10th grade Quantitative Chemistry and Physics (QCP) teacher, Mr. Friedlander, to write one.  About a week later, I figured I should follow up, to make sure I didn't miss the deadline, and I said, "I'm sorry to bother you, but I wanted to check in on the letter of recommendation I asked you to write for me."  And, after assuring me he would have it ready by the deadline, he said to me, firmly, "Don't be sorry.  You're not bothering me."

That was the first time I recall anyone saying that to me, and it has since become a central tenet of mine.  Perhaps you've heard me say to you, "Don't be sorry", or, "There's no need to be sorry", or, "Never apologize for doing your job."  And just the other day, someone to whom I had previously said something to that effect, said back to me, "Never apologize!", so Mr. Friedlander's advice is now in at least its third generation, and I am thankful.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Word of the day: enfilade

The word of the day is enfilade:

  1. Military.
    1. a position of works, troops, etc., making them subject to a sweeping fire from along the length of a line of troops, a trench, a battery, etc.
    2. the fire thus directed.
  2. Architecture.
    1. an axial arrangement of doorways connecting a suite of rooms with a vista down the whole length of the suite.
    2. an axial arrangement of mirrors on opposite sides of a room so as to give an effect of an infinitely long vista.
1706, from F. enfilade, from O.Fr. enfiler "to thread (a needle) on a string, pierce from end to end," from en- "put on" + fil "thread." Used of rows of apartments and lines of trees before modern military sense came to predominate.


Like that train we took to Ostia Antica.

"Instead, Sevigny has gone for a purer form of fun: an enfilade of domed caverns where dancers away to rock and disco hits flanked by tiled nooks from which clusters of beautiful folk watch the whorling crowd."

 - Nicolas Niarchos, "Bar Tab", 16 January 2017 The New Yorker (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/16/well-heeled-ebullience-at-pauls-casablanca)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

word of the day: imbrue

The word of the day is imbrue:

1. to stain
2. to impregnate or imbue (usually followed by with or in)
1400-50; late Middle English enbrewen < Middle French embreuver to cause to drink in, soak, drench < Vulgar Latin *imbiberāre, derivative of Latin imbibere to imbibe


"At other times, I thought, What if the young man who was with so much difficulty restrained from imbruing his hands in me should yield to a constitutional impatience, or should mistake the time, and should think himself accredited to my heart and liver to-night, instead of to-morrow!"

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Monday, January 16, 2017

Word of the day: chandler

The word of the day is chandler:

  1. a person who makes or sells candles and sometimes other items of tallow or wax, as soap.
  2. a dealer or trader in supplies, provisions, etc., of a specialized type
  3. a retailer of provisions, groceries, etc.
early 14c. "candle-holder;" late 14c. "maker or seller of candles," from O.Fr. chandelier, from L. candelarius, from candela "candle" (see candle).


"Mr. Wopsle, the clerk at church, was to dine with us; and Mr. Hubble the wheelwright and Mrs. Hubble; and Uncle Pumblechook (Joe's uncle, but Mrs. Joe appropriated him), who was a well-to-do cornchandler in the nearest town, and drove his own chaise-cart."

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

word of the day: squally

The word of the day is squally:

1. characterized by squalls.
2. stormy; threatening.

"After that, he sat feeling his right-side flaxen curls and whisker, and following Mrs. Joe about with his blue eyes, as his manner always was at squally times."

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Sunday, January 15, 2017

word of the day: jack-towel

The word of the day is jack-towel:

a long towel with the ends sewed together, for hanging on a roller.

"She's a coming!  Get behind the door, old chap, and have the jack-towel betwixt you."

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Saturday, January 14, 2017

word of the day: pollard

The word of the day is pollard:

1. a tree cut back nearly to the trunk, so as to produce a dense mass of branches.
2. an animal, as a stag, ox, or sheep, having no horns. 

"I pointed to where our village lay, on the flat in-shore among the alder-trees and pollards, a mile or more from the church."

 - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Monday, January 09, 2017

Word of the day: curvet

The word of the day is curvet:


  1. Dressage. a leap of a horse from a rearing position, in which it springs up with the hind legs outstretched as the forelegs descend.

verb (used without object), cur·vet·tedor cur·vet·ed, cur·vet·ting or cur·vet·ing.

  1. to leap in a curvet, as a horse; cause one's horse to do this.
  2. to leap and frisk.

"Instead, they rampage into dance, climbing onto the hoods and the roofs of their vehicles, making holiday in the heat, and chanting, 'Another Day of Sun.'  The camera swings and curvets in accord, then rises to survey the scene: half a mile of merriment where none should be."

 - Anthony Lane, "Dancing with the Stars:  'La La Land'", 12 December 2016 The New Yorker (https://www.google.com/amp/www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/12/12/dancing-with-the-stars/amp?client=safari)

Word of the day: twee

The word of the day is twee:

  1. affectedly dainty or quaint
905, from childish pronunciation of sweet.


"Whenever the show threatened to get twee, it veered toward spooky grandeur: an assault on Akhnaten's temple is headed by a Grand Guignol general wearing a top hat capped by a skull."

 - Alex Ross, "Pyramids and Wikileaks: Modern opera thrives in Los Angeles", 12 December 2016 The New Yorker (https://www.google.com/amp/www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/12/12/modern-opera-thrives-in-la/amp?client=safari)

Word of the day: hieratic

The word of the day is hieratic:

  1. Also, hi·er·at·i·cal. of or pertaining to priests or the priesthood; sacerdotal; priestly.
  2. noting or pertaining to a form of ancient Egyptian writing consisting of abridged forms of hieroglyphics, used by the priests in their records.
  3. noting or pertaining to certain styles in art in which the representations or methods are fixed by or as if by religious tradition.
  4. highly restrained or severe in emotional import
1656 (implied in hieratical), from Gk.hieratikos, from hierateia "priesthood,"from hierasthai "be priest," fromhiereus "priest," from hieros "sacred."


"At the same time, its static, hieratic text, derived largely from ancient Egyptian and Akkadian sources, lies far outside the operatic norm, and makes most American librettos of recent decades look bland"

 - Alex Ross, "Pyramids and Wikileaks: Modern opera thrives in Los Angeles", 12 December 2016 The New Yorker (https://www.google.com/amp/www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/12/12/modern-opera-thrives-in-la/amp?client=safari)

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Word of the day: subvention

The word of the day is subvention:
  1. a grant of money, as by a government or some other authority, in aid or support of some institution or undertaking, especially in connection with science or the arts.
  2. the furnishing of aid or relief.
c.1400, from M.Fr. subvention, from L.L. subventionem (nom. subventio) "assistance," from pp. stem of L. subvenire "come to one's aid," from sub "up to" + venire "to come" (see venue).


"He was rescued by Miller's friend Anaïs Nin, who, after shopping the manuscript around and finding no one else who was willing to print it, offered to subvent publication."

 - Louis Menand, "People of the Book: Two faces of American publishing", 12 December 2016 The New Yorker (https://www.google.com/amp/www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/12/12/people-of-the-book-2/amp?client=safari)