Saturday, February 25, 2006

Weekend word U

This is a busy day because I have a busy week ahead of me and I need to get ready. But I will go ahead and post a weekend word. The last one ("tellurian") attracted far fewer comments than I anticipated, so I hope you like this one. It is UXORIAL [uhk-SO-ree-uhl]. I am guessing that some of you will have signed a contract at one time which included the phrase et ux. Not really the prettiest sounding word, ux is the Latin word for "wife." So anything that has to do with wives can be described as uxorial. I wanted to make up a poem rhyming "so real" and our featured word, but there is no time. See you when I get back from San Diego.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Memories out of the blue

Today my colleague at worked asked about the number of post-secondary degrees I have earned and it led to a discussion of European universities. (I completed a Licence ès lettres humaines at the Université de Nice back in the mid-70s.) I think that most Americans assume that European universities are better than their American counterparts. I don't know about now, but thirty years ago, I found French college students to have had a broader exposure to information, but a more restricted ability to analyze. That was my only edge in the classes since I was working in a language I had only begun to learn five years earlier.

One day in a class about the development of Romance languages from Latin, we were taking a test. I noticed that the girl next to me kept watching me. Finally I turned to her and whispered, "What??" She expressed surprise that I was taking the test without using any cheat notes. Interesting. The most intimidating class was one in which each student had to present an oral report and the topic that I chose came up as the second report. But at least I could just sit back and breathe once it was over.

BTW the parrot has nothing to do with the narrative. It's just a cool photo that my son in Australia took. They have parrots flying around wild there.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

It is a block!

This is one of two WOOD BLOCKS from India that we used in our early married days to save money on gift paper. The floral design makes a border; the other block (see below) is for filling in the middle. I think that these may have been originally designed to print fabrics. When we bought them (in wonderful Austin TX), they already had ink residue on them. The clue in the poem(s) was in the first line: "would block." That's why you had to read it out loud. Be sure to click on the pictures to see them at a larger size.

Are you watching the Olympics any? The new snowboarding events are pretty dramatic. I don't think that I would want to participate in the snowboard cross--it looks rough. But it is fun to watch. Too bad that Lindsey Jacobelli tried to show off at the end of the race and wound up with the silver medal. But to hear her tell it, that's just the culture of snowboarding. Yeah, kids, just as long as you're having fun, that's the main thing.

Annie asked about the other block, so here it is. This view shows the face of the block. Notice how regular the alignment is, and this is hand-carved! You can see that some of the thin circular portions of the design have gotten chipped. Probably this block was to be discarded, but some crazy American said she or he would buy all the discards. When we print using this block, the pattern has its consequent defects. But it yields an organic, artsy-craftsy look.

This photo shows a side view where you can discern the handle which has been nailed to the block. On this piece, I attached a wire loop to the handle and we used to hang the thing on a wall as part of our "young married days" decor. Now it sits rather forlornly with the other block accumulating tiny cobwebs on the cabinet above my computer.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Something borrowed, something blue

OK, there's nothing blue here, but there is something borrowed. I got it from SpookyRach who got it from Cheesehead who got it, etc. It is a measure of how you see yourself versus how others see you. Please visit this site and add your opinion: Johari index. But don't forget to keep guessing about the "watzat" below. Thank you.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Time for another "watzat"

There is a reason for the name of this blogsite. Sometimes the discussion is philosophical (see below) and sometimes it is just a game. Today's posting is a guessing game. What do you think the object is which is represented in the photo at right? I have two such objects in my office and Cat and I have used both of them, particularly in our young married days. Start guessing!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The fugacity of blogs

It occurs to me that blogs are quite ephemeral. Oh, the archives are there and it would be possible to look at a posting from a year ago and even comment on it. But who would see it? I don't even look back at my own postings. I often forget to go back to other people's blogs to see if they responded to my comments. Then when I do remember, well, it's too late. They have moved on.

There is a balance required with blogs. Write too frequently and people give up on reading you. They don't have time to read every posting. Write too infrequently and you get the same response for a different reason. Of course, I suppose that some people (like Mindy) write because they just have to express themselves, whether anyone is reading or not. But then, why not just keep a journal? No, bloggers want to interact with a world remote from them. The unasked question is, "Am I important? Does anyone actually care what I have to say? Do they think I am funny or wise or articulate?" So we propel our statements out into the everchanging blogosphere, hoping to connect with all the traffic.

Cat and I saw the play "Six Characters in Search of an Author" last night. It deftly addresses the questions of personality and persona, temporal and permanent reality, character and actor. Why are we so frenetically in transition? What's the hurry? And yet, what if our identities were permanent, static and predictable?

Well, happy blogging, y'all. I think I will start on my tax return. And perhaps I will give up on "Tales from Blogland." The game is over; everyone has moved on to other games now.

Weekend word T

It is not that I have forgotten about weekend words. It's a matter of time management. And I think I need a new dictionary. Well, I guess I don't have to have a new one, but I have been looking. I saw a single-volume dictionary at Hastings that was only $12.99 and it seemed pretty good. It had a lot of very recent words, but limited etymologies. I was looking through the T section when I saw TELLURIAN (accent on the second syllable). It comes from the Latin word for earth and just means "coming from earth." But the dictionary pointed out that the term was used in science fiction to refer to "earthlings." So you run into tellurians every day. Maybe you have wanted to ask someone, "You're not actually tellurian, are you?"

A comment from my eldest son made me think about Scouting days. What friendships we had then! My buddy was John Rollins. He was about a year older than I and on a weeklong campout in New Mexico one year, we were the ranking Scouts. That meant that near the end of the week, John and I were allowed to climb a nearby mountain alone. Our Scoutmaster gave us all the Hershey bars that remained in the chuck wagon and we headed up the mountain. Once the terrain turned to gravel, the going was slower, both due to altitude and poor footing. At one point I told John I could not go further. He wanted to reach the peak, so I stayed back and took a photo when he finally got to the top and waved back at me.

Only it wasn't the peak. When he got back down to me, he said it was just a rise; it would have been impossible to reach the peak that day. And besides, the clouds had started looking ugly. As we made our descent, we could hear the wind howling behind us as the mountain was enshrouded in dark clouds. As it turned out, the rangers had been keeping an eye on us. When we got down to the ranger station, we looked back to see that the mountain was covered with snow. We had stayed just ahead of it all the way down.

I think I still have that photo: a mound of gravel with a tiny figure perched on top. I has been a long time since I saw John. His brother David came to our Scoutmaster's funeral last year, and told me John was really sorry he couldn't come. Me, too. I'd like to know if Scouting proved as beneficial for him as it did for me. Well, that is my tellurian tale for the weekend.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Yep, me and George, we're like this

Over the weekend, I was catching up on some genealogy stuff and came across an interesting item. I have been able to trace my ancestry on my dad's side of the family back to Epaphroditus Howle, born in 1685. This ancestor of mine lived in St. Peter's Parish of New Kent County, Virginia. He had a son named Thomas who had at least three sons: Thomas, Epaphroditus, and James. (These three names were very common for the Howle men in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. My great-great grandfather Thomas Epaphroditus Howle was a hero of the Civil War--on the Confederate side.) The grandson Epaphroditus lived in the same area and is almost certainly the person who signed a receipt in 1758 given to Mrs. Martha Dandridge Custis, a widow who employed Epaphroditus Howle as overseer of her plantation. (She had married Daniel P. Custis who was twenty years her senior and had two children by him before he died in 1757.) The following year (1759), Martha married, in St. Peter's Church, a young surveyor who had just resigned from military service--George Washington.

Now I do not know that my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather's brother attended the wedding, but he lived there and worked for Martha before she married the future first president of the United States. Seems reasonable, don't you think?