Friday, 31 October 2008

The Memes I Like

3x Thursday: 10/30/y2k+8: Boo!
1. Do you like Halloween? Why/why not?

Well, it is a cool sort of thing. And it is Samhain, which is special to me. I love this time of year. And October is my favourite month, so why not go out with something fun?

2. What's your favorite part of the Halloween season? Why?

Pumpkin carving is my favourite part. Picking the pumpkins, planning what I'm going to put in, and executing it. I love it all!

3. Do you have plans for Halloween this year? If so, what are they? If not, why not?

Yes! I am going to do what I do every year! Make the house totally dark to discourage trick or treaters!

October 31, 2008
Four For Friday - The Election Edition

Q1 - Talk About It: Many of my friends have commented they cannot discuss politics with co-workers, family, friends and others without conflict rearing its ugly head. Do you feel you can talk with your family and friends about this particularly divisive Presidential election?

Sure I can. They have their opinions and I have mine. Sadly, we are all agreed - the best of the pick seems to be Obama, but I don't know... they both are liars and into the mudslinging, and we as a nation clearly endorse this behaviour, or at least encourage it. And while the workplace is mostly plugging for McCain, I still can't abide the idea of his running mate. I don't think the world of Obama, but I really think McCain is just the devil with a clueless running mate!

But I don't mind discussing it as most of my family are liberals like me and my friends are aware of my liberal ways and the fact that I know I am a stupid - or I should say, ignorant - voter.

Q2 - And The Winner Is: Do you know who you're voting for in next week's Presidential election?

I do; and now, so do you.

Q3 - Call It: A pollster is a professional whose primary job is conducting private pre-election surveys and advising candidates on election strategy. Put your pollster hat on: Who will win the Presidential election and by what margin (in percentages)?

No idea. I would not even pretend to guess. I will say that I doubt the margin will be that big, however. It appears to be a very close race.

Q4 - Issues: What do you think is the most important issue in next Tuesday's Presidential election?

The biggest issue is immigration reform but amazingly, no one - not one candidate on ANY level of this political system - has touched it or even brought it up. We wouldn't want to lose the potential votes of the Hispanic community, which clearly comprises a huge amount of the voting constituents.

I'm disappointed in both sides on that. Imagine not mentioning a key item like that because you might lose some votes. It is staggering.

Saturday Six: Episode 237
1. When was the last time you donated money to a charity, and which cause was it?

It was Planned Parenthood and I will never make that mistake again. I still love what they do, but suddenly they inundated me with mailings and calls and all sorts of nonsense. Now no one gets donations unless I can make them anonymously.

2. Think of the last time you were specifically asked for a handout from someone who approached you on the street: did you give him or her anything?

I bought a homeless person a sandwhich once. I won't give out money.

3. What led to that decision?

It is right to give something to someone in need. But the money more often than not goes to something other than food.

4. Take the quiz: How Good Are You?

Check all that apply to you or that you agree with.
You donate to charity.
X You speak kindly to people, even if they are rude to you.
X You don't intentionally lie.
You respect your elders.
X You watch your language, especially when you're not around your friends.
X You say “please” and “thank you” often.
X You are more of a giver than a taker. You consider yourself generous.
X You don't make fun of people who are less fortunate or capable than you are.
You don't gossip.
You don't eat or drink in excess.
You listen more than you speak.
X You don't cheat... on significant others, on your taxes, or while playing games.
X You are a clean and tidy person.
X You are disciplined. If something needs to be done, you act on it.
X You are friendly and inclusive. You don't ignore people for being a bit strange or different.
You spend money wisely. And you always have a bit of money in savings.
X You don't suffer from jealousy. You are truly happy when other people succeed.
X You are at least somewhat sensitive. It pains you to see other people suffer.
X If someone criticizes you, you'll consider it as valuable feedback - even if you don't agree.
X You take loyalty seriously. You have never betrayed a friend's trust.
You keep your promises, even if you regret making them.
X You don't steal or take what isn't yours.
If you accidentally committed a crime, you would own up to it... even if it meant time in jail.
X In romantic relationships, you are 100% committed. You take love seriously.
X If your country was in need, you would try to serve it anyway you could.

You Are 60% Good
You are a fairly good person. You strive to live a moral life whenever possible. You are usually kind, generous, and loyal. However, you do have a dark side that even you may not see. When it comes down to ethical decisions, you tend to take the path of least resistance. So you may end up lying, cheating, or engaging in other bad behavior... because it's just easier to do so. You are also probably: Conflicted and confused about the current course of your life. Right now you are on track to being: A slightly crooked politician. To be a better person: Break one bad habit - whether it's telling white lies or spending too much money.

5. Which kind of charity/organization of the following list are you least likely to donate money to: a church, a people-oriented charity, a children-oriented charity, an animal-oriented charity, a college, or a food bank?

Oh, churches, definitely. They don't pay taxes and I feel very strongly that the money is not benefitting the right people.

6. If you could permanently block a single, specific charity from ever contacting you again, which would you block and why?

Well, all of them. I know my mind and who I want to support; I hate being bothered by groups that manage to circumvent the do-not-call lists!

Happy Samhain! Happy Hallowe'en!

I love Hallowe'en and what it means and I love that this is the Wiccan New Year! It's neat. The thing I'm not crazy about is the trick or treating kids... most of them aren't.

When I got to a certain point, a certain age, it was no longer cool to go out trick or treating. This is what kids do - little kids. And I knew that people answering the doors were thinking why is this young teenager standing here?

Now when the kids show up, they are too old, and some scare me. Young teenage males in half-assed costumes with that attitude of hand over the goods don't make me feel warm and fuzzy. Luis may feel okay about it and want to answer the door, but they may not be inclined to try to do anything with him. I know I can't definitively say that. The doorbell rang maybe six times tonight and I didn't answer any except for the Chinese food delivery guy. Luis answered it twice. He came home with candy and ate some, and gave less out. What a night!

When I was a kid, you didn't eat any fresh fruit that might have been given to you. Of course, most kids I know wheren't exactly jumping up and down over fresh fruit. Unless they were jumping up and down in rage. I used to get all sorts of pennies and small change for UNICEF. Or something like that. Why? I never donated the proceeds, I kept it and spent it on... more candy! (Keep in mind that I'm a "recovering sugar junkie".) I lived in an apartment complex that I never left on Hallowe'en - there were a gazillion apartments and I would go back home to change bags to get the next take of candy!

Now everyone's afraid of everyone else, so they go to schools, malls or town squares where the stores give out goodies. We are still sugar junkies but now we have instilled a fear of the things we used to do and most of us survived to talk about it. Wonder what they will have done to Hallowe'en in another ten years?

But it is warmer and leafier and nicer than it was in a while. And the daylight lasted longer. I never could understand the logic of changing the clocks right before Hallowe'en! (Then again, I don't understand why we still do it at all!)

A.W.A.D. - Contradictory Words

When you sanction a project, do you approve of it or disapprove? Should one be commended for oversight (watchful care) or reprimanded for oversight (error or omission)? When you resign from a job, do you leave it or re-join (re-sign) it?

When a proposal gets tabled, is it being brought forward for discussion or being laid aside? Depends on which side of the pond you're at. If the former, you're in the UK; if the latter, you're in the US.

I call them fence-sitters. They sit on fences, ready to say one thing or its opposite depending on which side they appear. I'm not talking about politicians. These are words, known by many names: autoantonym, contranym, self-antonym, enantiodromic, amphibolous, janus word, and so on.

Sometimes it's a result of two distinct words evolving into the same form (cleave from Old English cleofian and cleofan) but often a single word develops a split personality and takes on two contradictory senses. All of us have a bit of yin and yang and these words are no exception. The context usually provides a clue to help us understand the right sense in a given place. Look for more such words in AWAD this week.

MEANING: verb tr., intr.:
1. To split or divide (past tense: clove or cleft or cleaved; past participle: cloven or cleft or cleaved)
2. To stick, cling (past tense and past participle: cleaved)

Sense 1: From Old English cleofan. Ultimately from the Indo-European root gleubh- (to tear apart) that is also the source of glyph, clever, and clove (garlic). And that's also where cleavage, cleft palate, and cloven hooves get their names from.
Sense 2: From Old English cleofian.

PRONUNCIATION: (kuhn-TIN-yoo-uhns)
MEANING: noun:
1. The state of continuing: remaining in the same place, action, etc.
2. An adjournment of a court proceeding to a future day

ETYMOLOGY: From Anglo-French continuer, from Latin continuare, from continere (to hold together), from com- (together) + tenere (to hold).

MEANING: verb tr.:
1. To spread false and malicious charges against someone
2. To sprinkle with holy water

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin aspergere (to sprinkle), from ad- (toward) + spargere (to strew).

copemate, also copesmate
MEANING: noun:
1. An associate or friend
2. An opponent or adversary

MEANING: noun:
1. The essence of someone or something
2. A trifling point

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin quid (what) which also gave us quidnunc and quid pro quo.

ETYMOLOGY: From French couper (to cut), from Latin colpus (blow), from Greek kolaphos (blow with the fist) + mate (fellow).

Saturday, 25 October 2008

A.W.A.D. - Words Coined for This Year's Presidential Candidates

Two years in the making, the 2008 US presidential election will take place two weeks from now. By the time the campaigns end, the candidates will have spent more than a billion dollars trying to get the job. All those bucks for a position that earns less than half million dollars a year and lasts only four years! But weighing the post by its salary is like saying that Olympic athletes sweat for years just to pocket a few hundred dollars' worth of gold.

The post of President of the United States carries immense power to make decisions that affect, for better or worse, people the world over. The effect of the actions of a president last for years and eponyms (words coined after someone's name) enter the language that reflect their legacy, such as Reaganomics, teddy bear (after Theodore Roosevelt), etc.This week I have selected five words that appear to have been coined after this year's presidential candidates (Obama, Biden, McCain, and Palin). These are all 100% dictionary words -- they have been in the language even before these candidates were born.

Enjoy these words, and don't forget to vote!

PRONUNCIATION: (o-BAM-byuh-layt)
MEANING: verb tr.: To walk about

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin ob- (towards, against) + ambulare (to walk). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ambhi- (around) that is also the source of ambulance, alley, preamble, and bivouac. The first print citation of the word is from 1614.

MEANING: adjective: Having two teeth or toothlike parts

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin bi- (two) + dens (tooth).

MEANING: noun: A poem in which the author retracts something said in an earlier poem

ETYMOLOGY: From Greek palinoidia, from palin (again) + oide (song). It's the same palin that shows up in the word palindrome. Here's a palindromic web address:

MEANING: verb tr., intr.: To make or become meek or submissive

ETYMOLOGY: From meek, from Old Norse mjúkr (soft, meek).

PRONUNCIATION: (BAR-uhk, the first syllable is the same as in barrel)
MEANING: verb tr., intr.:

1. To shout in support: to cheer
2. To shout against: to jeer.noun: A building used to house soldiers

ETYMOLOGY: The verb sense of the word is perhaps from Northern Ireland dialectal barrack (to brag).The noun sense is from French baraque, from Italian baracca or Spanish barraca (hut, tent).

Thursday, 23 October 2008

The Better Memes

Thursday, 15 October
3x Thursday: 10/16/y2k+8: Puter Stuphs
1. What kind of puter do you have? PC or Mac? Do you have a preference of type? Why/why not?

I have a Gateway laptop. It is almost three years old but works well, has a nice big screen and a ton of space. I don't need to know what kind it is specifically... I don't own a Mac and Luis wouldn't even want one in the house. Having worked on both (it's been a very long time, but I did do graphic design on a Mac), there was a time when Mac was considered the premier computer; but I never did find a big difference between them. But Macs were not user friendly - they would get errors that were not English and crash all the time. And when they crashed, they really crashed.

2. For what purposes (surfing, gaming, writing, etc) do you use your computer?

I never use my computer for gaming, ever. I always feel that games are not the same if you are not holding cards or handling pieces or doing something a little more obvious than just hitting keys over and over. A simplistic view, but still. My husband makes up for the lack of playing on my part. Surfing, somtimes; writing, most of the time, whether e-mail or blogging; work, often (sometimes from home, too). But I never play games.

3. Would you consider yourself to be 'computer savy'? Why/why not?

It's savvy, not savy. I am more savvy than the average user, yes. I am by no means a programmer or a technical guru but living with a programmer I know more than Joe User. And I understand more about networks and the basic principles of most programs than Joe User. It helps. But I know when to go for help with this. That makes me a savvy user.

October 17, 2008
Four For Friday
Q1 - Ouch, That Hurts!: Who do you think hurt the United States of America more... Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda on 9/11 or the people responsible for the current state of the economy?

I think both, just on different levels. What bin Laden did was... obvious; big; flashy. It was horrifying and immediate, no waiting for the evil thing, no sneaking up on us. There was nothing you could miss about what happened on 11 September 2001. I saw most of that day's terrible events as they happened. Luis called me only moments after the first plane flew in; the second one I saw hit and knew what I was watching. (I'd been home since I'd been in an accident on 1 September.)

What happened with the economy was not over night or within minutes and there was no explosion. And while it is easy to point a finger and blame one person or one thing, it is never that simple. Everyone is saying Clinton gave Congress a command to make the American dream of owning a home a reality. Let's honest; presidents can veto things but really have little power otherwise. It is Congress running the show. And suddenly 535 people with overblown incomes and too much vacation time had a bad brain moment and thought, "Yeah! What a great idea!"? How do you buy that?

No one with a moment of financial savvy would have bought into this idea. And yet, here we are.

Owning a house is very much a part of the American dream; it is probably everyone's dream in all countries. But look at the phrase - American dream, not the American-we-are-gonna-give-houses-to-those-who-can't-afford-them. How did it somehow become okay to not work for your dream?

Q2 - Advice: If you were asked to deliver the commencement speech at your high school: A) Would you do it? B) What would you talk about?

No, but then, I'm not sold on the idea that I am the most successful person in my class of over 300. That seems... unlikely. By their standards - by my standards, I am extremely successful, for one reason - I'm happy! I love what I do, I love my house, my life in general. I have to say in that way, I am the most successful! How many of my classmates, mostly hitting the big 4-0, are saddled with kids they didn't want, a spouse that isn't putting out and a midlife crisis of huge proportion that is compounded by not enjoying their jobs or maybe not having one? Hmmmm.

Q3 - Event: "Hello! Is this [insert your first and last name here]? My name is Peter Gadwa and I'm calling from Ticketmaster. By a strange twist of events (pun intended), your name has been chosen to receive four tickets to any event in the world -- past, present or future. What event would you like to attend and who will be joining you?"

No, thanks, I'm not interested. And since no one can correctly pronounce my first name, I'm on to the sales call/cold call thing. And that is too strange a twist of events for me to buy it. And past... who's got the time machine?

Q4 - Commute: If a high-speed or local rail line was available to take you to and from within seven blocks of your home to work or shopping, would you use it at least four times per week or are you too attached to your automobile?

Well, I am fairly attached to my automobile, but if it was more cost-effective to do the high-speed train to work, I would put on my Sea Bands, get reading material, and take the train! I'm more attached to getting to work with the least amount of wear and tear.

Saturday Six
I hope you’re having a great weekend so far, and that your Saturday is brighter, drier and less gloomy than the one here in Charleston. If you’re ready for a little diversion, then get ready to enter a state of interrogation…about the states we call home.

1. Other than the state you currently live in, which state have you visited most often?

Pennsylvania or New York, I am not sure. Probably New York.

2. If you had to move from your current state, which three states would you most likely consider for a new place to live?

Oh, goodness. I don't know. I like all of the states I have been in, including Texas and California. I haven't been to many states, though, so I don't know if I'm qualified to answer that. I suppose I could live in a lot of places. I will admit that of all the states, I liked Florida the least. The southern parts (I've been to West Palm Beach) were stunning; but Orlando was disgusting and a hole. And the poverty in middle Florida was the worst I've seen. So I guess that is the least likely place I'd live.

3. Think of your home state: off the top of your head, do you think you could accurately name your state’s slogan, the state bird, and at least half of the counties (or parishes) that make up your state?

Yes, I can. I live in the Garden State, state bird is the goldfinch, state animal is the horse; counties... there are 26... let's see...


That is all I can think of at the moment.

How would you describe your weight?
Somewhat slender
Very slender
A little overweight
Very overweight

Do you like to be around people?
Not really
Yes, definitely
How would you describe your personal politics?
Very conservative
Somewhat conservative
Somewhat liberal
Very liberal
Do you like snow?
You like it sometimes
You love it
You hate it
How often do you go to Starbucks?
A few times a week
Every day
A few times a month
A few times a year

How important is religion in your life?
Very important
Extremely important
Somewhat important
Not important

You Should Live in Alaska
If you don't want to live in Alaska, you might also consider:


I don't love snow that much! And I could not deal with the daylight/darkness imbalance.

5. Which state do you have the hardest time seeing yourself visiting some day?

Well... I don't think there is one... maybe Alabama? It sounds so boring. But I find it hard to believe that any state doesn't offer something!

6. What’s the biggest tourist attraction or draw you’d mention to someone considering a visit to your state?

Oh, well... I don't know what the biggest tourist attraction is here; but I feel there are tons of things to see in New Jersey! I take visitors to see Tripod Rock, the 3,000 year old petroglyphic rocks and the 300 stone steps in Parsippany, the history of Morristown's Square, Sussex county's parks, the Atlantic Ocean. There are many, many things to see here, that have nothing to do with New York City. I love New York City, I do. But I am incensed that every where I go there are many more postcards of NYC than all of New Jersey.

Thursday, 23 October
3x Thursday: 10/23/y2k+8: Motivate!
1. What motivates you? Why?

Isn't that a little broad? A lot of things motivate me. That is very hard to answer without a more specific questions.

2. What happens when you can't be motivated to do something you need to do? How do you get the motivation back?

Again, this is hard to answer without more specifics.

3. Are there any changes in the state of your world that need some motivation to do? What they are is optional, but how will you motivate yourself to do it?

I don't know. I'm a lot more proactive in changing more world, so how do I answer that? I think again I'm lost without more detail.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Substance Over Size

You may have noticed that I am blogging far less than normal. And you would be right. But someone had asked me what was up with all the questionnaires and memes and I realised that somewhere in that haze of mad posting frenzy, I'd left all the substance behind that makes me a good, meaningful writer and cashed in for number of postings on a site that probably few read.

Substance. Isn't that what makes life rich and meaningful?

I suppose that the unbelievable amount of people out there who only have style and no substance (and it is disappointing how many do fit in to that catergory) would argue that they do have depth and meaning. Somehow, someone who is totally focused on their appearance and doesn't read or write or wander outside of their own town doesn't seem to have a lot in the way of substance. On the other hand, without tons of plastic surgery and a boatload of improvements made to my appearance, I won't be accused of this anytime soon. I'd like to be beatiful but not vain and wrapped up in my looks.

Well, my blog needs to reflect that there is a brain in here, and not just the faddish memes and questionnaires. And while I do still say that they have a purpose (anything that makes you think and especially quesiton that which a moment before you knew to be absolute truth is good), they cannot be the length, depth and breadth of this. And they are not of me. I look smiley and dopey and flakey, but I'm deeper than that by far.

While I was on vacation, I realised that avoiding my mother and not dealing with this whole multiple-stroke-word-salad-stuck-in-bed thing is not helping me. It certainly wasn't helping her and Ray was opening showing disappointment in me (for Ray to say anything means he is really, really feeling it - that is a passive trait). So when we went on Friday of last week, he had stepped out at one point to locate some more skim milk for Ma and I told her how I felt.

I told her that I know I haven't been there very much and that I felt badly about it. I explained that this is not something I am good at dealing with and that this has nothing to do with her or that I don't love her; it's me and it is my baggage. You could see that she understood what I was saying and she was really good about it - she didn't say anything, but the look in her eyes said it all. She's my mother and I love her. She knows that and I am making sure to call Ray and have him say it. I did say that I still would really only be able to get there on weekends - work is a time soaker but the muscular dystrophy is making it more and more difficult to summon up the energy to so anything after a full day of the normal insanity that is Human Resources.

She has it, too, so she - of anyone - knows the more dibilitating side of this. I try not to show it work, I try not to allow it to be visible; but I know I am slowly getting worse. I see it more and I wonder what other people see.

I'm not sure I want to know.

Getting back to work after ten days out has been both exhausting and a little overwhelming, but good, too. It is where I am meant to be and I still love my job. It find that I am more motivated than ever in some ways but right now I am feeling the faster pace of autumn and the layoff season that we are careening wrecklessly toward. Well, that is not right - there is nothing "wreckless" about what we do or how we do it, as layoffs are a normal and known part of the industry - but it is moving along so quickly! I'd been looking forward to it but suddenly I am feeling weighed down by it.

It won't last.

As with spring, it is a sudden burst of energy and then quiet and empty abound... a strange phenomina that always shocks me in that in the corporate world, layoffs are this horrible, unbelievable life-altering nightmare and here, it is a welcome respite for many. Worked to insanity during the season and putting in far more than the normal fulltime hours of any corporate employee, this is the vacation of a lifetime, and everyone has sudden short-timer's disease. The rest so sorely needed but not there from April through most of October has arrived and not a moment too soon. Many employees work six days and the biggest department (which swells from a dozen or so people to over 70 in season) work seven days a week. The weekends are only four hours per day, but there is no way that working every day for seven months isn't completely taxing and totally enervating by the time autumn arrives.

Let the rest begin!

It will begin soon, although not for the front departments, who see a marked increase in late November and December. The two week shutdown period is their opportunity to let it all go.

None-the-less, it is coming sooner rather than later. And so my workload gets nuts again this time, as it does in March through May, until we are fully staffed and ready for the return of warm weather and 65-hour workweeks.

Back to substance... although to me this has been very substantial. And more than a little satisfying. I'm too lazy to boot up my laptop so I am logged into my husband's computer and the moment I hear that garage door open, I have to make a hasty exit. He'll want to torture himself by checking the continuing plunge of the stock market... I know my 401(k) looks awful, so I won't do that to myself. I just blindly hold on to "what comes down must go up"!

And with that, dear reader, I leave you to your musings!

Friday, 17 October 2008

A.W.A.D. - Words About Words

Today when we spell the word "color" instead of "colour" we can thank a crotchety, humorless man for saving wear on our fingers, not to mention savings on paper and those obscenely expensive inkjet printer cartridges. October 16 marks the 250th birth anniversary of Noah Webster (1758-1843), lexicographer extraordinaire, who compiled the American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), the first authoritative lexicon of American English.

Webster believed in establishing cultural independence from Britain and as such he emphasized a distinct American spelling and pronunciation. His dictionary listed various unusual and shortened spellings of words. He would hardly have imagined how the tide would turn one day. According to reports, more British children today spell "color" instead of "colour", for example. Webster's suggestion of using "tung" instead of "tongue" didn't stick, though.

Today Webster's name is synonymous with dictionaries and the date of his birth is observed as Dictionary Day. In his honor, this week we'll present words about words. As Webster said, "the process of a living language is like the motion of a broad river which flows with a slow, silent, irresistible current."

PRONUNCIATION: (ep-i-OL-uh-tree)
MEANING: noun: The worship of words.

ETYMOLOGY: From Greek epos (word) + -latry (worship). The first citation of the word is from Oliver Wendell Holmes, in his 1860 book Professor at the Breakfast Table.

PRONUNCIATION: (yoo-niv-uh-KAL-ik)
MEANING: noun: A piece of writing that uses only one of the vowels.adjective: Using only one vowel.
ETYMOLOGY: From Latin uni- (one) + vocalic (relating to vowels), from vox (voice).

PRONUNCIATION: (par-uh-GO-jee)
MEANING: noun: The addition of a letter or syllable at the end of a word, either through natural development or to add emphasis. For example, height-th for height.

ETYMOLOGY: Via Latin, from Greek paragoge, from para- (beyond) + -agogue (leader).

PRONUNCIATION: (si-may-see-OL-uh-jee)
MEANING: noun: The study of meanings in a language, especially the study of semantic change.

ETYMOLOGY: From Greek semasia (meaning).

1. Poor choice of words
2. Incorrect pronunciation

ETYMOLOGY: From Greek caco- (bad) + -logy (word).

NJ Road Upgrades and "Your Taxes at Work"

I understand the need to pay taxes. I also understand the need to gripe about it, but more important;y, I do understand that we cannot live in a tax-free society. I get that. And as much as I may not care for how much comes out of my weekly pay cheque and where it goes (although I am more incensed about the distribution of the property tax), I know that there are a lot of things that couldn't/wouldn't have happened without those taxes.

I also know that we in the United States pay low taxes compared to other countries. I'm particularly fond of that.

However, as I was driving home from the ocean on Wednesday, I came upon road work. Well... it was road something, but I am reluctant to classify it as "work". Ever see road work signs in New Jersey? I don't mean the little orange signs telling that there is road work ahead in two miles; I mean the green signs that read what work is being done, amount of money being allocated to the work, estimated start and finish date, and some verbiage about your "tax dollars at work".

This is a misnomer.

Perhaps the word I'm looking for is "oxymoron", jamming two words together that make no sense. Some examples:

thunderous silence
military intelligence
intelligent design (always my favourite for sheer screaming stupidity)

You get the idea. Well, this was definitely the point where I thought about asking for my taxes back. If you are going to use them, at least use them wisely. At 1100 those guys should all be out there working their asses off. Instead, I located two men out of what should have been anywhere from 12 to 30 men, and those two weren't really doing anything. They were leaning on the hood of a pickup truck. There were no plans or drawings or paperwork of any kind on said hood. Just these two guys, leaning and looking at the area that clearly needs more work.

For this they shut down two lanes. For What? No one was doing anything! Not a thing! And those were just the two shining examples I saw, not the rest, who had the sense to lay low (literally) and not be viewed by the motorists as the not-working men they obviously were.

There are a lot of people who think they have some constituional right to not pay taxes. I disagree with that. Or, I should more accurately say, yes, you can decline to your taxes, so long as you understand and abide by the rules of doing such, which is to pay a penalty of some kind: whether it is paying your taxes back with a monetary penalty, jail time (which is a little silly, but whatever) or community service. But no government can run without some kind of regular income. And it is unreasonable to expect a good standard of living without putting into it.

Stop griping about paying taxes. Let's gripe about the wisdom of their use!

Monday, 13 October 2008

Scottish Music Solves the Blues

The Maryland Renaissance Faire is the best for a number of reasons, not the least of which is due to them having the Scottish Rogues, the O'Danny Girls and a host of other music makers! I love them.

The O'Danny Girls are fun because of their lyrics and I highly enjoy their singing. It's all vocal - just singing. The Scottish Rogues are mostly music, no lyrics. Both are enjoyable, but for all-out happy footstomping fun, the Scottish Rogues are the best. Luis can't take it very much but I love it. It makes me happy and light up from the inside out - and seeing and hearing them live definitely brought out the joyousness I'd been missing.

After they played I found Nelson and told him I wanted to thank him. He was curious about that, and I explained that last year I'd first heard and seen them. I bought their CDs that were sold there and burned onto my iPod what I hadn't (Renee has all of their stuff). I told him that their music got me through this summer, which had been personally hard, with happiness and upbeat music.

For one moment I thought he was going to cry. He thanked me warmly, commiserated (he'd had a bad summer, too) and then gave me a big hug. It was... warm and personal. This guy doesn't know me from Adam (or should I say Eve) and didn't remember that last year he'd had his image taken with me and looked upon me as yet another lovesick woman who'd come to moon over him.
Perfectly understandable, since that is a curse of being frontman of any stage group. And he is very attractive, but I'm 40 years old, not 18. Attractive or not, I've got one man and more would be more work :)! Anyway, it was really very nice. Here is the image, which has three of the four players at the Faire (Randy is missing; I met him last year).

After that we wandered around and saw more of the vendors. I had a good day and spent over $200 in the space of three hours maybe. I got four belts (I really needed them), one mug with leaves (I really didn't need that...), the medallion in another image, a DVD of the Arial Angels, two CDs and I got my Tree of Life necklace repaired. Not bad - the necklace repair was free but I couldn't buy something else from him with Luis standing right there, watching. He hates it when I spend my money.

Yes, my money.

It was a really good day. And the most amazing thing of all... my back is feeling quite good!

Saturday's Reading

It went well, and had some interesting aspects. I went to Izolde last year and she was insightful and helpful. I wish I'd written it down at the time; I did mention it in my blog but without any details. I took a picture of the cards and this it:

OK, this is hard to look at, but the first card that I picked is the purply-looking card (the Nine of Swords) in the center on top of the other card, which is something like current events. She said that it looks like there are a lot of strong things going on in my life, and I will want to make radical changes in my life, but shouldn't until I get through them. (Makes sense so far... and there are a lot of really emotionally "strong" events going on in my life.)

Under that card is the Nine of... uh... oh, boy. You can see why I'm not cut out to do this... What was it? The Nine of Aces - no, sorry, the Ace of Rods - means in conjunction with the other card, that there are a lot of negative emotions right now, but underneath it I'm normally a very happy person. I smiled at that. She is right. I have not been my truly happy, feeling-good self all summer. I felt good in little bits and pieces, but my personal life has been fraught with so much emotionally bad and draining things that I haven't been able to really feel that way - joyous. Happy in that momentarily distracted way that I have but not all-the-time happy. Feeling joy, something I miss.

Let me look at the image again. The next card is the - oh, boy. I can't tell which is what. I'm looking at this and thinking that the Swords card was the one that showed happiness as my normally primary emotion. I can remember that the three cards to the right are the ones representing Luis and our relationship; the three left one represent my professional life and its direction. The main feeling was one of positive indication... Luis wasn't going anywhere and I wasn't changing jobs. Good - because I very dearly love both. Still, it takes work for this. Not that I don't know that.
The general outlook is more positive. Thank the gods.

Well, it was good and I felt better. And she's really a great person.

Only the Good Memes

Thursday, 9 October
3x Thursday: 10/09/y2k+8: Music & Pirates
1. Do you like iTunes? Why/why not? What do you think of the iTunes store maybe going away? Does it matter to you? Why/why not?

I like the iTunes program, it is a very good organiser and tool. I do not use the iTunes store. Why should I pay $1 a song when there are other avenues available? I rip all of my CDs and I do buy music online. I won't reveal what site I go to. But they are very reliable and I have used them very often. They also have a lot of hard-to-find tunes, which is great for me.

2. How do you get your music these days (torrents, iTunes, Amazon, record store, other)? What's your prefered method of media (mp3s, cd, vinyl)? Why?

As usual, I've jumped the gun. See my answer above. Overall I prefer CDs, because then I have a back up source. That means a lot to me. I have lost music and been crushed by it.

3. Do you play any Rock Band or Guitar Hero? What do you think of downloadable content? More specifically, what do you think of downloading entire albums to play when you've already bought the CD in the past?

Uh, no, I don't play Guitar Hero or Rock Band. What are those? And sometimes I do download whole albums, having forgotten I have the CD or knowing the CD is damaged. What do I think of downloadable content? Well, I suppose I would say... "It's a beautiful thing."

Friday, 10 October
Four for Friday
Q1 - Cutting Back: The rising price of consumer goods is driving shoppers from all lifestyles to use coupons for food, beauty aids and pharmacy products at an increasing rate, according to some of the country's largest purveyors of manufacturers' coupons. Has the current state of the U.S. economy forced you to take a second look at your spending habits? If so, are there any areas in particular where you are consciously cutting back?

Has the current economy changed my spending... in some ways, yes. But not in a big obvious way... I doubt I will ever be a coupon clipper. I was able to do it when I had a really poor income; what makes anyone think I'd do it now? I think the only way it has changed me is being a little more gasoline conscious. I shop at the grocery store exactly as I always have. I go in, grab what I need and get out. I don't price compare, I don't agonise, I just get what I like and that is it. Today I went to the store and picked up ham, bologna, rye bread (looking at the sugar content and not the cost), a bag of Smarties (for my two rolls a day), six boxes of the Crystral Light sugar free raspberry lemonade mix and skim milk. I did want cereal but forgot it. Duh. What did I pay for it? Heck if I know. I knew when the machine gave me a total. And I knew I had the funds to cover it. That is all I ever need to know.

I didn't say you should take any tips from me about managing money!

Q2 - Installment vs. Lump Sum: A winner of a $42 million lottery in Michigan may do something almost unheard of: receive the money in installments rather than getting smaller, one-time cash payment. The unnamed winner of the October 3 jackpot told state lottery officials she would be taking the annuity (lottery winners typically take a lump-sum payment with plans to invest it, but confidence in the stock market has dropped with the current financial crisis). If you won a $42 million lottery tomorrow, would you take the money in installments or one lump sum?

I have thought about this. I will admit that I haven't rethought it at all since that time, and not based on current stock market trends. I don't think my thinking would be any different. I would take it as one lump-sum, spend a fraction of it on myself, pay off what debt I have, and invest the rest. There are other investment vehicles than the stock market. I would invest it, though and carefully. The lump-sum payout in this case is still the better answer for me.

Q3 - Worries: Just prior to Congress' passing and the president's signing of the Treasury bailout legislation on Oct. 3, the percentage of Americans saying they worried about money the previous day hit a new high for the year at 48%. Since that time, worry has declined, with the percentage of Americans worried about money falling to 39% in Gallup Poll Daily tracking from Oct. 4-6 and 42% from Oct. 5-7. Are you worried about money (asked differently, do your current worries have anything to do with money)?

Well, I am not worried about myself or Luis. Where I am stupid with money, Luis is not. But I am not high maintenance. I have my car, paid off. Our house is closer to paid off than not. His income and job security is very high, and so is mine. We are not in need of spending much, and while we did scrap plans to renovate the two bathrooms, we are going to make repairs without worrying over the cost. We have gone more green and that is a huge savings.

But I do worry about the base population. There will be a lot of other people falling into that black hole of financial loss. There is house I pass ever day with a silver Acura CL in the driveway and I always thought it looked as though the house were just built (but it may be that it was a normal ranch house or something and the owners turned it into the square brick travesty it is now. A few days ago I passed it and it had a sign on the lawn: OWNED BY BANK... oooohhhhh, oh, my. Not good.

Q4 - Fund That Cause: Billionaire investor and businessman Warren Buffett is again the richest American, deposing Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, after Forbes magazine recalculated the fortunes of some of the 400 wealthiest Americans. If you could compel Buffett to give away 50% of his $58 Billion net worth for a single cause, to what cause would the money go?

Good lord. Half of $48 billion dollars? Well, not into this ridiculous plan called the Economic Bailout. But I think a sum like that should go into a number of things, and none of it into a race track. I really don't have an answer for this. How about the humourous, self-serving answer? Let charity begin in the home: mine! I would take one million of that and be very, very happy.

Saturday, 11 October
1. When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper and mailed it?

Mmmm. A month ago, maybe a bit less. I love writing.

2. Can you change the oil on a car?

I was when I had my 1977 Chevy Camaro. Now I couldn't even tell you where the oil pan is located.

3. Name three things you have on you at all times.

I always have my iPod, my camera and a book. Always.

4. What’s your life motto?

He who dies with the most money is still dead.

5. What’s a word that you say a lot?


6. What were you doing at midnight last night?


7. When you looked at yourself in the mirror today, what was the first thing you thought?

Oy vey...

8. Who is your worst enemy?

Me. I am my own worst enemy.

9. What does your watch look like?

I love my watch. It has a black band; a large, wide face with silver markers; numbers at midnight, three, six and nine; a second hand and a small digital display at the bottom. The digital read out is in international time. The face lights up to show everything if the lighting conditions are poor. The second hand is there for me to take pulse readings. The digital display lets me tell time. I do actually know how to tell time, but I misread the dials without numbers all the time.

Saturday Six: Episode #235
This week, there’s a movie-related quiz. Lights…camera…action!
1. What’s the last movie you watched in the theater?

Hmmm. Let me think... I don't go to the movies that often, but I can never recall what I've just seen... I think it was Swing Vote, and I loved it. It was a good movie.

2. How much is absolutely too much to pay for seeing a movie in a theater at night?

Uh, nothing. We usually go to the matinee, first thing, around 1000. I don't want to be in the theater during date night. No way. So it is around $6.50 to do this in the morning. The concessions, however, are where they get you.

3. Other than popcorn and a drink, what concession item are you most likely to buy in a movie theater?

Usually the pretzel bites, but very often I bring contraband to the movies. I'm not a believer in this kind of thing. I can get anything they have, and at far less. While the theaters may not like it that people bring in food, they cannot search my bag and I don't bring in loud things.

The meme would not come up, so I guess I'll never know what genre I should be in as a star. But I would say something that is fun but not stupid. Although I would be in The Fifth Element.

5. What was the last movie you watched at home?

Bee Movie. I like it.

6. Would you have paid to watch this film in a movie theater when it originally came out?

I would have except that people take their kids to see animated movies and there is no showing any more that is safe from having kids in the audience. It is heinous. There should be one showing per day that is "child-free" for those of us who want to strangle the kids and their ineffective parents!

Saturday, 11 October 2008

A.W.A.D. - There Was A Word for That?

With the largest vocabulary of any language, in English we have a word to describe almost everything. And when we can't find one, we're happy to borrow from another language (from German: schadenfreude, pleasure at another's misfortune), or just make one up (petrichor, the pleasant smell of rain after a dry spell).

That said, let's not gloat over how many words we have. English's poverty shows in many places, for example, when it comes to words to describe relations. How useful is it to introduce the woman with you as your sister-in-law when the term could mean any number of things? This week we visit a few terms that make one say, "I didn't know there was a word for it!"

MEANING: noun: One who laughs excessively.

ETYMOLOGY: From Greek hyper- (over) + gelastes (laugher), from gelan (to laugh). A related word is agelast: someone who never laughs.

MEANING: noun: A design feature copied from a similar artifact in another material, even when not functionally necessary. For example, the click sound of a shutter in an analog camera that is now reproduced in a digital camera by playing a sound clip.

ETYMOLOGY: From Greek skeuos (vessel, implement) + -morph (form).

hey rube
MEANING: noun: 1. A fight between members of a circus and the general public. 2. A call to rally circus members in a fight.
ETYMOLOGY: The term originated in the 19th century when circuses were rowdy affairs and Hey Rube was the rallying cry to call all circus people to help in a fight with townspeople. It's not clear whether Rube in this term was someone specific or simply a use of the informal term rube (shortened form of Reuben) for an unsophisticated person from a rural area.

MEANING: noun: 1. A fleshy appendage over the beak of a turkey. 2. A net for holding a woman's hair at the back of her head.

ETYMOLOGY: From Old English snod.

PRONUNCIATION: (suh-RAN [the second syllable is nasal])
MEANING: noun: Fine rain falling from an apparently cloudless sky, typically observed after sunset.

ETYMOLOGY: From French serein, from Old French serain (evening), from Latin serum (evening), from serus (late).

Friday, 10 October 2008

Vacation So Far

Friday Night...

Vacation is always a good thing.

I'm watching Titanic, which was and still is a very good movie. It took the facts of a historical and disasterous event and intertwined it with a really good story to give it that fun movie feel instead of a documentary. The RMS Titanic was an interesting ship. Of course, the problems will always begin with giving something an inappropriate name. Calling any ship "unsinkable" is a sure way to ensure that she will, in fact, sink.

Like a stone.

It's chilling to see a boot, a pair of glasses... a few feet on, the skeleton of a doll's face... another distance and and there is the beatifully scalloped fireplace from the main dining room. Chilling, but amazing. The water has preserved as much as it has destroyed. But the water is what killed her.

What killed the people, however, is just sheer screaming stupidity. First they build the supership of the age (1912). They christen her Titanic and then sell her as the unsinkable Titanic, outfitted with only 20 of the 50 or so lifeboats that would have saved everyone. Silly designers, wanting to outfit an enormous unsinkable ship with lifeboats. Then after the ship was determined to be sinking they loaded up the lifeboats at half or less of the capacity that they were designed to hold. One disasterous event after the next.

Human appear not to learn too much from their mistakes, it seems. Foolish and unthinking decisions based on falsehood, overblown thinking and political agenda also killed those onboard the Challenger and the Columbia. Hmmmm. Good to see we get so much from history...

Ah, but I digress.

I got home around 1315, had to pack and shower and get Luis out as well. We left around 1430. However, if you are going to travel, do it on a Jewish holiday! No one was on the road. We sailed through New Jersey, Delaware (which even in traffic is a "blink and you've missed it" state) and Maryland. A new experience. Even our brief trip on 495 was uneventful. When have you ever heard of 495 being uneventful? I was amazed.

Saturday Night...

I'm not, as usual, going to be able to describe the whole vacation in great detail with every bit of minutia... so here are the highlights:

We drove down Thursday afternoon/evening and it was great
We had dinner around 2130 and then had game night at a friend's house (a woman with two-toned hair that helps make board games and is getting ready to own a house - I'm really bad with names)
We got in after 0030, way late, but it was a lot of fun

We got up around 0800, went out for breakfast in Bethesda, MD
We walked around a really nice open area
We went to the National Zoo and saw lots of cool animals
The hippos are bigger than I'd thought
The panda is, too
We left the zoo around 1430 and it took over 30 miutes to go ten miles (never going to complain about New Jersey traffic again!)
We came home and had some truly amazing sex
We went out to dinner to celebrate Izolde's birthday
I don't know how I feel about Vietnamese food - my meal was good, though
We got in around 2130 and watched most of the rest of Titanic, but I fell asleep before I could see the traumatic ending

We got up this morning at 0715 and got dressed for our day at the Maryland Renaissance Festival
We left the house around 0915, relatively on time
We got to the Faire and got our entry tickets
I bought four belts (yay!), a mug, a necklace, got my necklace repaired, bought two or three CDs and one DVD
I loved seeing/hearing the O'Danny Girls and the Rogues
I had my picture taken with the Rogues and loved it
I had a very good reading from Izolde that described how things are looking for the future
Renee and I are enjoying each other's company
We left after we saw the Arial Angels around 1500
We got home without sitting in traffic
We had some chips and then ordered pizza - yummy!
We are going to have game night again here tonight

We'll get up whenever and go out for breakfast
Luis and I will head home after that

And I am coming home with a lighter heart

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

A.W.A.D. - Words That Put Down

The pejorative suffix -aster (meaning something that is inferior, small or shallow) gives us some delightful words when it comes to name-calling. A reviewer brands a poet a poetaster (an inferior poet) and the reviewee might return the favor by calling the former a criticaster (an incompetent critic).

In the same vein, we can have a philosophaster, an astrologaster, and a theologaster. Lest we get carried away here, let's remember that a grandmaster is not an inferior grandma.

This week we'll review five words you can use to put people down.

PRONUNCIATION: (PUH-li-ti-kas-tuhr)
MEANING: noun: A petty politician.

ETYMOLOGY: From Italian politicastro, from Latin politicus (political), from Greek politikos, from polites (citizen), from polis (city) + Latin -aster (pejorative suffix).

MEANING: noun: A nosy or gossipy person.

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin quid nunc (what now), implying someone constantly asking "What's new?"

PRONUNCIATION: (an-AL-fuh-bet)
MEANING: noun: An illiterate; one who doesn't know the alphabet or the basics of something.
ETYMOLOGY: From Greek analphabetos (not knowing the alphabet), from an- (not) + alphabetos (alphabet), from alpha + beta.

MEANING: adjective: Eccentric, silly, scatterbrained.

ETYMOLOGY: Of unknown origin.

MEANING: noun: A greedy person.

ETYMOLOGY: From French gourmandise (gluttony). Both a gourmand and a gourmet enjoy good food, but a gourmand is one who eats to excess while a gourmet is considered a connoisseur of good food.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Hubble Space Telescope Views Solar System with Sharp Clarity

NO OTHER invention or tool used in astronomy has advanced our knowledge of the universe as much as the telescope. Invented in the early 1600s, the telescope enabled early astronomers to extend our vision and knowledge of the heavens.

While ground-based telescopes transformed early astronomy, the views were limited by the Earth's blurring atmosphere. As telescopes grew in size, they were located on remote mountaintops to minimize impacts from the atmosphere's obscuring effects, but the atmospheric limitations still remained to some degree.

This changed in 1990 when the Hubble Space Telescope was deployed above the Earth's atmosphere via the space shuttle Discovery. While there have been other orbiting observatories, the Hubble has truly changed our view of the universe as no other telescope before it.

Early in its life, the Hubble suffered from faulty optics, which limited its usefulness. The problem was corrected with a very successful servicing mission in 1993 by the astronauts aboard the space shuttle Endeavor. The new "eyeglasses" cleared the Hubble's flawed vision, and astronomers and the public were quickly amazed by the results. Since that time, the Hubble has been rewriting the astronomy textbooks.
Though it is not the largest telescope ever built, the Hubble's location 380 miles above the Earth's surface enables it to view the universe with unprecedented clarity as it orbits our planet once every 96 minutes. It has captured spectacular views of stars being born in clouds of gas and dust and has also imaged exploding stars at the end of their lives. It also has viewed the planets in our solar system with exquisite clarity, far beyond the capabilities of ground-based instruments.

Some of the Hubble's most spectacular photos have captured the public's imagination. They have graced magazine covers and computer monitors as desktop "wallpaper." One particular photo of an object called the Helix Nebula was e-mailed across the Internet. The spectacular photo shows the colorful outer layers of a dying star being ejected into space in a final burst of energy, a fate similar to what might happen to our own sun billions of years from now.

This is just one of many spectacular images the Hubble has snapped during its mission. You can view some of the best shots by going to A servicing mission to replace several critical components on the Hubble was scheduled for this month, but technical issues will probably delay it until sometime in early 2009.

Once the Hubble is finally serviced, it will be able to carry on its important work for several more years, peering into the far reaches of the universe where humans have never gazed. When the Hubble's mission finally comes to a close, it will be replaced by an even more powerful instrument known as the James Webb Space Telescope.

It will have a larger collecting area than the Hubble, with more sensitive sensors. It will be placed in an orbit far beyond the moon so that the light of the sun, moon and Earth do not interfere with its observations. The new space telescope undoubtedly will, like its trailblazing predecessor, open new chapters on our mysterious universe.
Jupiter remains the dominant object in the evening sky. It will be near the moon during the evenings of Oct. 6 and 7.

Saturn will be near the moon during the morning of the 25th. Through a telescope, Saturn's rings appear only a few degrees from edgewise.

Venus climbs a bit higher in the evening sky this month and can be seen near the thin crescent moon about 45 minutes after sunset on Oct. 31, just in time to greet trick-or-treaters.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Astronaut's Diary Goes on Display in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM - Pages from an Israeli astronaut's diary that survived the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia and a 37-mile fall to earth are going on display this weekend for the first time in Jerusalem.

The diary belonged to Ilan Ramon, Israel's first astronaut and one of seven crew members killed when Columbia disintegrated upon re-entering the atmosphere on Feb. 1, 2003. Part of the restored diary will be displayed at the Israel Museum beginning Sunday.

A little over two months after the shuttle explosion, NASA searchers found 37 pages from Ramon's diary, wet and crumpled, in a field just outside the U.S. town of Palestine, Texas. The diary survived extreme heat in the explosion, extreme atmospheric cold, and then "was attacked by microorganisms and insects" in the field where it fell, said museum curator Yigal Zalmona.

"It's almost a miracle that it survived — it's incredible," Zalmona said. There is "no rational explanation" for how it was recovered when most of the shuttle was not, he said.
NASA officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The U.S. space agency returned the diary to Ramon's wife, Rona, who brought it to forensics experts at the Israel Museum and from the Israeli police. The diary took about a year to restore, Zalmona said, and it took police scientists about four more years to decipher the pages. About 80 percent of the text has been deciphered, and the rest remains unreadable, he said.

Two pages will be displayed. One contains notes written by Ramon, and the other is a copy of the Kiddush prayer, a blessing over wine that Jews recite on the Sabbath. Zalmona said Ramon copied the prayer into his diary so he could recite it on the space shuttle and have the blessing broadcast to Earth.

Most of the pages contain personal information which Ramon's wife did not wish to make public, he said. "We agreed to do the restoration completely respecting the family's privacy and the sensitivity about how intimate the document is," museum director James Snyder said.

The diary provides no indication Ramon knew anything about potential problems on the shuttle. Columbia's wing was gashed by a chunk of fuel tank foam insulation at liftoff and broke up in flames just 16 minutes before it was scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. All seven astronauts on board were killed.

The diary is being displayed as part of a larger exhibit of famous documents from Israel's history, held to mark the country's 60th anniversary this year. Also on display will be Israel's 1948 declaration of independence, the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan and a bloodstained sheet of paper with lyrics to a peace anthem that was carried by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at the time of his assassination in 1995.