Wednesday, December 30, 2009

OK, Really Quick

It's entirely possible that I'll be away from my computer for some time to come, not that it would make any difference in the frequency of my posts. I just couldn't let that time go by without this acknowledgement.

I know it's been a month or so, but you may recall a feeling of goodwill and a general sense that things were better on November 30 of this year. That's because Bilbo and I managed to get together for some conversation, a couple of drinks, and some tuna sashimi. We're currently awaiting our Nobel prizes for solving all the world's problems during that two-hour session. I think the committee may not have my address right.

After we had satisfied ourselves that the world would be a better place if people just listened to us, Bilbo mentioned our meeting in his next day's blog post, and had this to say: "Since Gilahi hasn't mentioned this earth-shaking event on his blog yet, let me just say that I found the self-described 'aging hippie' to be a funny, erudite fellow with whom I have much in common ... particularly a sense of humor that appreciates the Marx Brothers, Steven Wright, and the immortal Red Skelton. Sadly, we only had two hours in which to solve the world's problems, which wasn't quite enough, so we've agreed to get together again and give it another shot. We can't do any worse than Congress."

I too particulary enjoyed our chat and found Bilbo to be engaging, funny, and a pretty great storyteller (queue "Mutual Admiration Society"). If you ever get a chance, get him to tell you how he met his wife.

I sort of felt bad after he posted the glowing compliments about me. I was just going to say that I felt that neither of us was as obnoxious in person as we appear to be in our blogs.

We plan to get together again, so when you get your big tax refund, all the soldiers come home from overseas, health care is free, the weather is warm, and you see a rainbow, you'll know who to thank.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Such a Deal!

I know that I've used a lot of space here to talk about English abuse. It's a button of mine. Deal with it.

We've all seen and discussed less/fewer, lose/loose, there's no "a" in "definitely", everyday/every day, etc., but this one is just so incredibly ridiculous (no "e" in "ridiculous") that I must admit it never even occurred to me:

Having said that, if you've never visited, I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Different Take On An Old Classic

OK, since it's the day before a long holiday weekend and nobody's going to be reading this anyway, I thought I'd do something quick just to have something out there.

My daughter sent me this link, which I'd never seen, so I thought I'd pass it along in case there was anybody else out there that had missed it. Besides, how can you not love The Muppets?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Oh. That's very different." - Emily Litella

I was watching Food Network the other day. Despite the fact that I was slipping in and out of a nap, I was surprised by the political tone the network has taken on.

It seems that on nearly every show, the host was telling me to "cool it on Iraq". Now I don't know if they meant that we should be withdrawing troops or just being more patient with the whole ordeal, but I don't really believe that Food Network is the right venue for this sort of political posturing.

There seems to be some feeling among the stars of the network that some other countries may not be up to speed on the whole situation over there. Giada De Laurentiis was saying something about preparing Turkey on Iraq, while Bobby Flay was going a step further and suggesting that we actually "grill" Turkey on Iraq. Rachael Ray, being the cutesy, word-combining, muffin that she is, went so far as to suggest, I believe, that the two countries be combined into one. As she was cooking, she mentioned something called "Turkey-Raq". The countries do share a border, so maybe one big country might not be such a difficult thing to do.

What I don't understand, though, is how preparing (or even grilling) Turkey on Iraq will help us "cut back" on Greece, but that seemed to be an overriding concern. Apparently Greece is something to be avoided, but I understand that the coast there is beautiful.

Further in the political arena, Ina Garten is apparently pleased with President Obama's recent diplomatic forays, as she was going on and on about the benefits of sitting down to dinner with China. She's the only person I've ever heard refer to the country as "the good" China, though. Who knew that someone who lives and cooks in The Hamptons could be such a blatant commie?

The most disturbing thing I heard all afternoon was from the local network scientist, Alton Brown. As nearly as I could tell in my sleepy, dreamy state, he's very much in favor of keeping the nuclear option open, no matter what the conflict is. Despite the new openness in the banks, allowing The United States to collect billions in untapped tax revenues, Mr. Brown was insisting on how good it would be to have the Swiss charred.

I should really try to pay more attention, I guess.

Monday, November 23, 2009

"In... and out..." - Pink Floyd

All right, folks. It's geek time again.

I'm currently on a medication that comes in inhaler form. Attached to each bottle is a multipage document that tells me all of the awful possible side-effects, how to use it, etc. The other day, however, I noticed this on the side of the box for the first time:



I've gotta say that in all my years of doing word puzzles and being generally, if not justifiably, proud of my vocabulary and all that, I've never seen or heard the word "outsert".

So, I went to that source of all knowledge, the internet, and asked Google to "define: outsert". Much to my surprise, it came up with 3 definitions.

  • An outsert is a four page card wrapped around and attached to the outside of a magazine or other publication.
  • Any additional printed piece included in a polybag and mailed with the host publication
  • Printed material attached to the outside rather than inserted into a package. Also, package outsert.
Who knew!? So that makes me wonder about the etymology of the word "insert", of which "outsert" is obviously a variant. The online etymology dictionary tells me that the origin of "insert" is:
1529, from pp. of M.E. inseren, from L. inserere "to put in," from in- "in" + serere "join together" (see "series").
OK! So obviously an "outsert" must be from "outserere", which means "out" + "join togeth..."

Wait a minute. The only way this can possibly make any sense at all is if we assume that it's all right to take any word that begins with an "in-" and, if it doesn't quite work for us, substitute an "out-". I believe this may be an idea whose time has come.

I have to say that before I did all this research I was a bit confused by the word, but having looked it up, it has become downright outcomprehensible.

Over the years, I've been outvolved in many, sometimes outtense, conversations about the outtricacies of the English language. If you're of an outquisitive nature, just a little outvestigation can reveal a not outsubstantial number of outtimate, outvaluable details about words, usages, origins and outsights outto the language. It is outteresting to think that this outformation could help you in many ways, from communication to reading comprehension. You could really impress your future boss at an outterview. Imagine not having to struggle with the outdecision of being afraid of using the outcorrect word. You might even become less outhibited about speaking in public. Why, the possibilities are almost outconceivable!

So my pleasure in finding this was pretty much outdescribable. I have outserted a new word outto my vocabulary. One of the cool things about English is that new words can be outtroduced without being outvasive. Some words become accepted, others become downright outactive. This outdomitable language continues to outvite change. It outtercepts new ideas and outcorporates them. It outgests foreign terms. It outcreases daily. There is an outherent evolution to it.

Bear in mind however, and I don't mean to be outdelicate here, that no matter how much you may learn about English, no matter how big your vocabulary becomes, you're never outfallible.

Friday, November 13, 2009

All Right Already

Thanks to all of you who keep asking me why I'm not posting. I'm very sorry, but once again there are things going on in my life that appear to be gagging my muse. And by gagging I mean "applying a gag to", and by "my muse" I mean my inspiration.

I think it says a lot about my readers that I felt the need to explain the phrase "gagging my muse".

Anyway, since J. M. Tewkesbury told me this morning that she was getting more and more disturbed by the giant bug that she sees every time she checks my blog (see previous entry), I just thought I'd pop something in here quickly for a change of pace.

I think the picture above brings a whole new meaning to the term "handicapped bathroom", and brings to mind the question of the day: Are handicapped stalls in public restrooms reserved for the handicapped, or are they simply there for the convenience of the handicapped?


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"I've had enough bad news to last a lifetime" - Del Amitri

OK, it's been a stressful couple of weeks for me. I'm going to try to write about it without getting into too many specifics because, well, you just don't need to know them.

In a nutshell, a two-week period a couple of weeks ago involved 3 different doctors, a dentist (just coincidental) and a blood test at the lab.

For the past two years, I've had an issue with some wee beasties swimming around in my bloodstream. They can check your blood for certain markers that indicate the evidence of said beasties. As I understand it, any numbers below 10 mean you don' t have the beasties, any numbers from 11 to 100 are inconclusive, and any numbers over 1oo indicate the positive presence of the beasties. My first blood test indicated markers over the 1,000 level. Now this isn't dangerous, but it's a little off-putting, if you know what I mean, to know that there are little wee beastie parties going on in your body. There's nothing to be done to evict the beasties except to wait for them to get tired of the neighborhood and decide to move on.

Anyway, every 6 months or so I'd get another blood test and every time, my numbers would actually increase. Apparently the beasties found my body a very attractive place to live. I mean, the temperature's a pretty constant 98.6 degrees F, food is provided daily, lots of entertainment opportunities, housing prices are low, the schools are good, nearby shopping, and so forth.

On my last doctor visit, he prescribed yet another blood test and explained to me that some people never get rid of the beasties and go on to live, and I love this phrase, perfectly normal lives. This is the same guy who would describe a truck full of Jell-O Pudding rolling over your chest as "a little pressure". Anyway, as I was about to leave, he asked if there were any other issues and, like the addle-pated idiot that I am, I mentioned a small development that had occurred recently. He immediately got the doctoral look of concern and demanded to check me out. He poked, he prodded, he actually inserted things into me. He then declared that I would probably need surgery and referred me to a surgeon.

So the next morning I go to the lab and get impaled for a blood test. A few days later, I go to see the surgeon. He poked, he prodded, he inserted things into me. He asked how old I was. When I told him that I was 52, he asked when I had my last colonoscopy. I told him that I'd never had a colonoscopy. He said that he wouldn't even consider operating on me until I had a pre-op colonoscopy and a pre-op checkup with my physician including an EKG. He then referred me to a gastroenterologist.

So a few days later I go to see the third doctor. I got a description which sounded to me like, "We move a full crew and lots of heavy machinery into your body, burn off anything that's in the way, snip off anything we don't like, and get lots of before-and-after photos. It's incredibly painful, but you'll be unconscious." You're damn straight I will.

I won't give you any information at all about the day-before preparation for the colonoscopy, except to say that I was very disappointed to learn that vodka does not count as a "clear liquid" for these purposes.

So I'm in for the procedure. I can tell that my body is in full retreat because they had to stab me 3 times before they found a vein. I'm wearing a T-shirt, socks, and a gown that's, shall we say, immodest. They had me roll over on my side and I watched as the doctor put the hypodermic into the IV drip (it was a clear liquid, I would've rather gone with the vodka). The last thing I remember seeing was the large television set on which my intestinal tract would soon be displayed in hi-def. This, folks, is reality TV.

Finally, we come to the good news. Six months ago, the markers for the wee beasties in my bloodstream had escalated to 3,435. In this last blood test, the number was down to 8. Remember that anything below 10 means no infection. Also, after the procedure, the gastroenterologist told me that everything looked good and that, to quote him, "Surgery is not indicated." Just as the three greatest words in the English language are "I love you", the 4 greatest words are "surgery is not indicated". Trust me.

Plus I got a whole folder full of pictures of my innards.

No, no matter how much you beg, I will not post them here.

I'm hale and healthy, folks. Also, next week starts two weeks' vacation for me, and I get to enjoy it knowing that I'm wee beastie-free and I don't have the prospect of surgery hanging over my head.

For all of these things, I am grateful.

Gone, gone at last, gone at last
Gone at last, gone at last
I had a long streak of that bad luck
But I'm prayin' it's gone at last
--Paul Simon

Monday, October 5, 2009

Unclear On The Concepts

I don't know if it's me or if things around me have started changing. I find myself uttering the phrase, "You're kidding, right?" a whole lot more often than I used to.

We went to the movies yesterday (The Invention of Lying, a very funny concept that could have easily been condensed into a 5-minute Saturday Night Live skit but was a bit stretched for a 2-hour movie). Before going into the theater, we made the ritual stop at the concession counter.

If you've been to the movies lately, you know that a small popcorn comes in grocery sack and a small drink comes in a 55-gallon drum. A large popcorn is backed in on a flatbed truck and a large drink is delivered via fuel tanker. We ordered a small popcorn and a small Mr. Pibb. The guy behind the counter asked if we'd like to upgrade to a large and informed us that by doing so, we'd get free refills.


Is it just me? If I've ordered the smallest version of something that you offer, would I ever want to get the larger version if all that gets me is even more of what I've just ordered? Who came up with this marketing ploy? Does anybody ever accept this offer? If so, why?

I can see where this might work at, say, a bar. If I ordered a margarita and the waitperson told me that if I got a jumbo margarita then I could get free refills, I'd certainly go for it. But if I don't think I can even finish your smallest pork chop, don't try to sell me a whole pork loin by telling me that I have the option for free pigs.

And now, a brief word on conjunctions. Before the movie, our good friends at Sprint put a reminder on the screen that said, "Don't forget to silence your cell phone and enjoy the movie", which immediately prompted me to say, "Gosh, I remembered to silence my cell phone, but I forgot to enjoy the movie." You see, these were two different, unrelated concepts that they were trying to convey here. They didn't need the "and", and it changed the whole meaning of the sentence. What they wanted there was two sentences: "Don't forget to silence your cell phone. Enjoy the movie."

Yeah, yeah, I know. Trivial little English language peeve. Nobody except Bilbo and me cares. However conjunctions can make a difference in interpretation. Consider the following two sentences:

1) He's got long hair and he's brilliant.

2) He's got long hair but he's brilliant.

When using "and", the first clause is simply descriptive. When using "but", there's an implication that he's brilliant despite the fact that he has long hair, and therefore that long-haired guys are not, as a rule, particularly smart.

Not sure how I got off on this tangent when I was talking about popcorn.

"It was a stupid post and I read the whole thing."

"It was a stupid post but I read the whole thing."

Come to think of it, conjunctions may not necessarily make such a big difference after all.

He's kidding, right?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Good Day/Bad Day

It's good to know that during these trying times, equal weight is being given to the important issues of our day.

Good day for: The other half, as federal prosecutors in New York said a review of Bernard Madoff's records showed that only about 50 percent of the jailed financier's customers had lost money -- the rest withdrew more money from their accounts than they deposited. Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence for cheating clients out of billions of dollars. (CNBC)

Bad day for: Inequality, as a British store, Debenhams, is launching a line of underpants for left-handed men. The underwear -- made by U.K.-based Hom -- will have a horizontal opening instead of a vertical slit accessed from the right-hand side. The innovation is supposed to help save time and embarrassment for those accessing the area from the left. "In our view," said Rob Faucherand of Debenhams, "this is a vital step toward equality for left-handed men." (Reuters)

And I loved this quote concerning the configuration of right-handed underwear from the Reuters article so much that I feel compelled to add it here:

Almost 10 percent of British men are believed to be left handed but men's Y-fronted underpants have traditionally had a right handed opening from the time they were invented in 1935.

"As a result," Debenhams said, "left handed men have to reach much further into their pants, performing a Z shaped maneuver through two 180 degree angles before achieving the result that right handed men perform with ease."

So any of you left-handed men out there who were lucky enough to make money from Mr. Madoff's schemes should get your hands out of your pants and stock up. Unless you just enjoy that kind of thing.

So where are the left-handed bras that have the hooks on the other side?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

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