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Archive for March, 2004


Wednesday, March 31st, 2004

Over the weekend, I biked out past Watertown into the Charles River Reservation. A nice ride, though I was heavy disappointed that the river trails end so close to the city. I saw tons of Canada geese, and a few much larger white birds with black bills. The only word I could come up with for them was “swan”, but I thought we didn’t have those in America.

Turns out we do! Based on a couple minutes’ desultory internet research, I believe that what I saw were Mute Swans, cygnus olor. I take the Latin to mean “swanny swan”. They’re originally Eurasian, but since they’re sightly they get imported places to purty up ponds and such. The Swan Boats at Boston Common look to be modeled after cygnus olor.

I don’t know how or when I started thinking such a crazy thing as “ain’t no swans in America”. I’ve seen these birds all my life, and no doubt called them swans.

They are beautiful. I recall reading someone in Spanish class, some exponent of naturalism or some shit (not a naturalist!), suggesting that one “tuerce el cuello al cisne”. I wouldn’t like to do that. I’ll torque your collar, sissy!


Friday, March 19th, 2004

This is sad. Victor Hugo is a wonderful bookstore. I hate to see a good place for used books go.

I found about this through an Australian weblog. I guess I should get over to Boston more often. Or at least, before May.

But on the upside, I just found out about the Bryn Mawr bookstore in Cambridge…


Thursday, March 18th, 2004

This is neat.

It is interesting that they call this a subvocal system, which is the name David Brin used for his sci-fi invention (which does the exact same thing) in Earth, a pretty decent read. Here’s a hunk lifted from a a review of the book by Bryan Osborn.

There was also the similarity of telepathy. However, in Earth, Brin called it “subvocal”, and the receivers were computers. The following excerpt explains, “She didn’t have to speak aloud, only intend to. The subvocal read nerve signals, letting her enter words by just beginning to will them” (Brin, 283).

Brin has been a consultant to NASA at some time in his life, apparently.


Wednesday, March 3rd, 2004

The learned word for correct pronunciation is orthoepy, which is itself kinda tough to pronounce. It looks like both orTHOepy and ORtho-epy are accepted.

Some people’ve spelt it with an umlaut, orthoëpy. But that’s deprecated.

For Love of Insects

Monday, March 1st, 2004

Ms. Gaw has a description of a silverfish-induced homicidal rage that very much strikes home for me.

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a silverfish in the flesh. But I get the same overwhelming feeling of disgust from Scutigera coleoptrata, the house centipede. I hate those nasty little fast motherfuckers. Shriek aloud and kill kill kill when I see them.

For some reason, I learnt from a college dormmate that the house centipedes were called silverfish, and continued to call them by that name for years. Miranda’s story taps into this primal disgust, even though I know she’s talking about a different critter.

They are poisonous. Apparently they’re not much given to biting people, but when they do it can cause pain and swelling, similar to a bee sting. Nor are they, I think, good to eat — whenever my cat has eaten one, he has followed up by running from room to room at top speed, yowling piteously. Trying to outrun his own stomach, I reckon. Serves him right for having such awful taste in food.

And I’ve seen their bite at work, too, back when I thought they were fast the better to run away.

Desultor is supine on his dorm bed, looking benevolently up at the ceiling. All alone. Outside, the day has been darkening into evening — the light in the east-facing room is gray and flat. He notices an enormous big-bellied spider in the inch-wide crack between the ceiling and the molding. He gazes upon it placidly, contentedly; at peace with death’s place in the universe and his room.

Desi: Spider, thou art hideous to behold. And yet I call thee friend, yea, even brother. Thou slayest insects which vex me. Lo, why should I live, and not thee? Did not the same God make us both?

A blur of motion in the channel between the molding and the ceiling. Velocity probably over a meter per second.

Desi: Oi, what’s this then?

It is a large house centipede, certainly over an inch long, and it is bearing down on the spider, which calmly awaits it.

Desi: You finna get yours now, nasty-ass silverfish motherfucker! I hope you get some spider eggs laid in your paralyzed ass or some shit. Punk-ass silverfish bout to get busted! Aw shit!

The centipede closes on the spider, and they’re together, and then they part by a few centimeters’ space. The spider gives three or four convulsive jerks, smaller and weaker each time, and is still. The centipede picks it up and carries it along the molding, disappearing out the transom.

Desi: Whoa. Heavy.

Incidentally, that wolfish centipede is the only one of its kind ever to enter my sight without my at least attempting to kill it.

The Temporo-Pædantickal

Monday, March 1st, 2004

Reference to times such as 12 AM and (especially) 12 PM can elicit adverse comment. Look you (runneth the argument) — A.M. and P.M. are Latin, meaning ante and post meridiem respectively, where meridies is of course noon. Noon is at noon, therefore it is neither A.M. nor P.M. It is just M. And midnight is likewise not properly assignable to the A.M. or P.M. One would like to call it anti-meridiem, abbreviated “A.M.” but this might baffle the vulgar — and besides, surely the temptation to form portmanteau words from different classical languages, though not so villainous as some of those which beset us, is one from which deliverance is devoutly to be wished. An altogether deplorable habit, and most injurious to the young, the ever-impressionable young, who should only be exposed to the purest linguistic constructions.

This argument against calling noon 12 P.M., however, fails — it has feet of clay — for noon is not, in fact, God’s noon. Our whorish parceling out of the continuing expanse of earthly creation, our mastery-seeking quantization of the Lord’s subtle meld of sea and sward, mountain and moor, into Time Zones (or as I call them, Mammon Zones) has perverted the notion of noon beyond all recognition.

This, however, is not even the half of it, friends. We Americans, with our prideful fiction of “Daylight Savings Time”, pervert the notion even further. (O Columbia! If even thou, fair lady, sinnest so, what hope have other nations?) It is possible for what we errantly call “noon” to be hours from God’s noon.

Should we cast down these prideful fictions, and return to God’s noon as our noon? Or would that be in itself overly prideful — should we, that is to say, keep our current Mammon-noon and thereby bear the sins of our forebears on our shoulders as a reminder (and a chilling one) of our own propensity to sin? Friends, I cannot say.