Monday, 31 August 2009

ARTICLE: Trouble Sleeping? Just Breathe

If your mind is racing and you are having difficulty falling asleep, a few minutes of simple but effective breathing exercises can help calm your nervous system on a chemical level and lead to greater success in hitting the sack. The awareness and control of breath has been a central component of yoga, martial arts and Taoism for thousands of years. There are dozens of different methods and exercises you can explore through a good teacher or book. The practice of breath control in yoga is called pranayama. I'll detail a simple pranayama exercise here that is particularly effective for falling asleep called alternate nostril breathing (that's "nadi shodana" for the Sanskrit posse out there).

Alternate nostril breathing is a great way to clear obstructed nostrils, balance the yin and yang energy of the body and focusing the busy mind on the present for a deliberate and calming exercise. When our nostrils are unobstructed, we involuntarily alternate breathing through one or the other about every two hours. Breathing through your right nostril stimulates the left side of the brain (intellectual, analytical, rational thought) and prepares the body for physical action (yang energy). Breathing through your left nostril stimulates the right side of the brain (creative, emotional thought) and prepares the body for passive mental activity (yin energy). If both nostrils are not clear, breathing will become imbalanced and so will the energy in your body.

When you are feeling restless at bedtime, head outside (weather permitting obviously, but even in wintertime, you can certainly spend a couple minutes on a balcony or porch in brisk air), sit in a comfortable chair and begin the exercise. You will likely have a really hard time focusing your mind on only the breathing exercise. Establish a rule that whenever your mind wanders away from the breathing exercise to other random thoughts, you have to start over. With practice, you'll develop the esteemed ability to relax and center -- not just to calm the mind for bed but any time the stresses of life are closing in.

Alternate nostril breathing is performed as follows: Take one hand up to your face for blocking nostrils. For example, your right thumb will close off your right nostril while your right index or middle finger will close off your left nostril. Block off the right nostril and inhale fully (notice how your inhale and exhale will be slower since you are only using one nostril). Pause at the completion of your inhale and switch nostrils by using your finger to block the left nostril and releasing your thumb from the right nostril. Exhale through the right nostril, inhale through the right nostril, then pause and switch to exhale through the left nostril. Thus, you switch nostrils in the middle of the breath cycle. To complete a cycle of 10 breaths, count each inhale/exhale as one. After your complete your breathing session, you can return to bed with a calm brain and hopefully induce a good night's sleep.
If only that was all it took...

Friday, 28 August 2009

I Have to Have This!

It is a grey, rainy, icky, stay-inside-and-read-a-book kind of day. What does one do when down?


I made a quick foray onto e-bay and started with candles. I love candles and of course I'm heartbroken that Illuminations has closed its doors. Not that I have been able to find some of the really old fragrances like Pear and Wasabi but there was a teeny ray of hope that maybe I could when they still were open. I found a couple of candles under Woodwick (new to me) and White Barn Candle Company, but nothing exciting. I skipped around then, looking briefly at office organisers, DVDs, etc. And then I typed in "crystal".

Crystal brought up all sorts of stuff - bowls, jewelry, etc., but I realised that this was too general. So I typed in "flourite", and then got specifically flourite items, but again, most cut into gemstones or jewelry. Ah. So I typed in "flourite balls" and hit gold - or in this case, flourite!

I did do some fast shopping - two beautiful flourite balls, one light and one dark; and one rainbow obsidian ball, just stunning! And I bought them all from one seller, so after that purchase I did some browsing and then I found this:

Description: "This gemstone heart is brand new, fabulous look. Perfectly polished. Labradorite is a powerful crystal with tons of energy and this one has plenty. It would be a great addition to your collections. The heart pictured is the exact one you will receive. All pictures were taken in natural sun light.

Labradorite is truely a fascinatingly beautiful mineral. Its a mineral whose charm is not fully noticed and may be overlooked if not viewed from the proper position. Generally a dull, dark looking mineral with no special virtue until the colorful shiller is observed glowing on the surface. Labradorite can produce a colorful play of light across cleavage planes and in sliced sections called labradorescence. The usually intense colors range from the typical blues and violets through greens, yellows and oranges. Some rare specimens display all these colors simultaneously.

The color display is from lamellar intergrowths inside the crystal. These intergrowths result from compatible chemistries at high temperatures becoming incompatible at lower temperatures and thus a separating and layering of these two phases. The resulting color effect is caused by a ray of light entering a layer and being refracted back and forth by deeper layers.

This refracted ray is slowed by the extra travel through the layers and mixes with other rays to produce a light ray coming out that has a different wavelength than when it went in. The wavelength could correspond to the wavelength of a particular color, such as blue. The effect depends on the thickness and orientation of the layers. If the layers are too thick or too thin no color shiller is seen. Also if the viewer does not observe from the precise angle or if light is not supplied from the proper angle then no color shiller is seen. The labradorescence is truely a one of a kind mineralogical experience and must be observed in person in order to truely appreciate its beauty.

Metaphysical Properties: Emits a powerful light energy, from planetary sources and beings, to the soul of the user. Used in facilitating astral projection. Stone of transformation and utilization of the subconscoius mind. Promotes intellectual, intuitive, and mystical wisdom. Stimulates brain, reduces anxiety and stress. Clears, balances, and protects aura."

I sent the seller a message saying I really have to have this but I spent my budgeted money for this week (when I have my tire replaced today I will have, anyway - $200!); what can you do for me so that I can get this without worrying that someone else will swoop in and take it away? It's a "Buy It Now" listing at $149.99 with a shipping fee of $10.35 and it weighs 4lbs, 10.6oz! It is over 4" in size! By and far the largest Labradorite I have ever seen!

I have to have it!

Hopefully I will get a positive answer to this. I'd like to get it next week or the week after. I also asked if they have any rutilated quartz, as I only have one rutilated ball and while it is stunning, it is smallist and I'd like to add another to the collection. I should ask about stands, too - all of mine are full...

The two flourite balls will be joining many, many more but they are all special to me - these are not that big (they are about average to a bit larger but I have one at home that is 80 or 90mm and these are (light) 40mm and (dark) 50mm. Still, they are quite gorgeous and they are banded, quite obviously so. I love that look.

"Fluorite (also called fluorspar) is a halide mineral composed of calcium fluoride, CaF2. It is an isometric mineral with a cubic habit, though octahedral and more complex isometric forms are not uncommon. Cubic crystals up to 20 cm across have been found at Dalnegorsk, Russia. Crystal twinning is common and adds complexity to the observed crystal habits.

The word fluorite is derived from the Latin root fluo, meaning "to flow" because the mineral has a relatively low melting point and was used as an important flux in smelting. Fluorite gave its name to its constitutive element fluorine."

I have a large collection of flourite but it is the nature of flourite to vary greatly - some are so light that they almost look like clear quartz; others so dark and rich they look more like amethyst. And while the more psychically able will use them for whatever metaphysical properties they may have, I'm a psychic doorknob and just admire and enjoy the beauty of the stones.
I did see some other items that I am "watching" in ebay: a 54mm large green fossil sphere, a 64mm green jasper ball, a 71mm green malachite sphere, a 64mm red tigers eye sphere, and a 45mm yellow turquoise with hematite sphere (it is quite fascinating). I fully intend to buy those, too!

The other ball is rainbow obsidian, and while I have an obsidian ball and a couple of snowflake obsidian balls, I don't have, nor am I familiar with, rainbow obsidian. It looks incredible. Of course, I have a soft spot for obsidian as it is volcanic rock (usually referred to as volcanic glass) and many a powerful volcano has spit it out. And you know how much I love volcanoes!

It would be more interesting if this came with a pedigree...

"Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass formed as an extrusive igneous rock. It is produced when felsic lava extruded from a volcano cools without crystal growth. Obsidian is commonly found within the margins of rhyolitic lava flows known as obsidian flows, where the chemical composition (high silica content) induces a high viscosity and polymerization degree of the lava. The inhibition of atomic diffusion through this highly viscous and polymerized lava explains the lack of crystal growth. Because of the lack of crystal structure, obsidian blade edges can reach almost molecular thinness, leading to its ancient use as projectile points, and its modern use as surgical scalpel blades."

I don't know where this comes from or what volcano spit it out, but it will be mine to admire.

The only thing I need now is to have a wooden piece I can hang on my walls at home that would house all of my crystal balls so that the cats and cleaning ladies can't accidentally break them!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

A.W.A.D. - Pictures Worth a Thousand Words

with Anu Garg

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this week we'd be featuring 5000 words. Each of this week's words is accompanied by a wonderful, whimsical illustration by cartoonist Doug Pike ( Besides the word of the day, each cartoon includes many other unusual words. Doug's cartoons have illustrated many magazines and his new book Gone With The Wine has just been released.

MEANING: noun: Colored glass or enamel used in mosaic

ETYMOLOGY: From Italian smalto (enamel, glaze), related to smelt (to melt)

USAGE: "Using Carrara marble, Venetian gold and glass smalto, Elaine M. Goodwin creates mosaics inspired by the Classical, Byzantine, Victorian and contemporary worlds." Going out; Staying in; The Times (London, UK); Jan 14, 2009.

MEANING: noun: Loss of ability to recognize objects, people, sounds, etc., usually caused by brain injury

ETYMOLOGY: From Greek agnosia (ignorance), from a- (without) + gnosis (knowledge). Ultimately from the Indo-European root gno- (to know) that is the ancestor of such words as know, can, notorious, notice, connoisseur, recognize, agnostic, diagnosis, ignore, annotate, noble, narrate, anagnorisis (the moment of recognition), and gnomon. Also see prosopagnosia (inability to recognize familiar faces) and alexia (word blindness).

USAGE: "Jeff Koons turns agnosia into an artistic principle. And that has the effect of letting us see our world, and art, as profoundly other than it usually is." Blake Gopnik; Man From Mars Comes in Peace; The Washington Post; Jun 17, 2008.

MEANING: verb tr.:
1. To cheat or trick
2. To drive or herd in a rough manner


For 1: Perhaps from chiaus (the word for an official in the Ottoman Empire), one such official defrauded people

2: Origin unknown

MEANING: noun: A pal

ETYMOLOGY: Cobber is an old-fashioned Australianism. It's perhaps derived from English dialect cob (take a liking to).

USAGE: "Farewell cobber, it's been a blast." Jane Wright; First Word; Sunday Herald (Glasgow, UK); Sep 26, 2004.

MEANING: adjective: Covered with frost; frostlike.

ETYMOLOGY: From rime (frost), from Old English hrim.

Cartoonist: Doug Pike
routh: abundance

USAGE: "Wild and frozen and mad, nothing but slow-cracking glaciers and phenomenally unfriendly seas and long-broken huts on rimy windswept beaches haunted by the spectres of chill Russian miners." Euan Ferguson; Why Are They Cool? The Observer (London, UK); Apr 23, 2006.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

A.W.A.D. - Finger Exercise Words!

with Anu Garg

A few hundred years ago if you spoke about the importance of exercise, people would laugh at you. They got all the exercise they needed from work, outside or at home. Making a living, raising a family, walking to and from places, gave them enough movement, so they didn't have to worry about exercise.

Today we have fitness centers, gyms, and personal trainers. There are high-tech machines, and even electronic games to help us exercise. Each gadget comes with its own selling points. Some you can strap to your arms and legs and tummy and relax in front of the TV -- they claim its vibrations give you your daily recommended quota of exercise. There are virtual reality exercises, dancercise, elliptical, and who knows what else.

In that spirit, consider this week's words as your complete exercise system for the fingers. This fingercise provides the daily recommended exercise according to federal guidelines. Each of the words featured in this week's A.Word.A.Day, when typed on a standard qwerty keyboard, will exercise all your fingers.

PRONUNCIATION: (dy-AS-truh-fiz-uhm)
MEANING: noun: The process of deformation of the earth's crust that produces continents, mountains, ocean basins, etc.

ETYMOLOGY: From Greek dia- (across) + strophe (turning). Ultimately from the Indo-European root streb(h)- (to wind or turn) that also gave us catastrophe (literally, an overturning) and apostrophe (literally, turning away, referring to the omission of a letter), and boustrophedon.

USAGE: "There is even a mosque across the street from the hotel, but most people here believe it was spirits, not volcanic diastrophism, that sent deadly vapors roiling up from Lake Nios, killing the villagers who lived over the hills." Jonathan Broder; Spirits in Lake, Bottle Haunt Cameroon; The Chicago Tribune; Sep 2, 1986.

"But facing impending disaster is the cost of living in a place blessed by geography and climate, but cursed by the immutable process called diastrophism that lifts mountains, carves coastlines, and moves continents." Still on Shaky Ground -- 10 Years After Loma Prieta; The San Francisco Chronicle; Oct 17, 1999.

MEANING: noun: A defect of vision in which objects appear smaller than normal

ETYMOLOGY: From Greek micro- (small) + -opia (vision)

NOTES: Micropsia is often associated with migraines. It's also known as micropia. The opposite, where objects appear larger than their actual size, is called macropsia (also known as macropia, megalopsia, and megalopia). These distortions in perception are also called Alice in Wonderland syndrome after the little girl in Lewis Carroll's books who enters a hallucinogenic world. Also see diplopia.

USAGE: "Seated on the chill concrete, I felt a recurrence of my childhood micropsia, a night terror I thought I'd left behind at age eleven or twelve, in my bedroom on Dean Street: the sensation that my body was reduced to speck size." Jonathan Lethem; The Fortress of Solitude; Doubleday; 2003.

PRONUNCIATION: (SUH-pli-kuh-tor-ee)
MEANING: adjective: Humbly pleading

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin supplicare (to kneel). Ultimately from the Indo-European root plak- (to be flat) that's also the source of fluke, flake, flaw, plead, please, and supple.

USAGE: "The supplicatory attitude that some Taiwanese politicians have shown to China to win its favor must stop." Bill Chang; Warnings on China Also Meant For Taiwan; The Taipei Times (Taiwan); Jun 11, 2005.

PRONUNCIATION: (ad-ee-AF-uh-riz-uhm)
MEANING: noun: Tolerance or indifference, especially in the matters of religion.

ETYMOLOGY: From Greek adiaphoros (indifferent), from a- (not) + diaphoros (different), from dia- (across) + -phoros (bearing). Ultimately from the Indo-European root bher- (to carry, to bear children) that gave birth to words such as basket, suffer, fertile, burden, bring, bear, offer, prefer, birth, and phosphorus (literally, bringing light).

NOTES: Adiaphorism is the idea that things not specifically prohibited by the Scriptures may be treated with indifference (i.e. they are permissible). Also known as latitudinarianism (but not platitudinarianism).

USAGE: "Adiaphorism is probably the fastest growing theological position in the country. A cheerful adiaphorist can take whatever pleases them from the collection of customs and rituals of Christmas without a moment's worry." Sara Maitland; Do We Do Christmas Right?; Independent (London, UK); Dec 24, 1996.

PRONUNCIATION: (sim-PAH-ti-ko, -PAT-i-)
MEANING: adjective:
1. Like-minded; compatible
2. Congenial; likable

ETYMOLOGY: Via Italian or Spanish from Latin sympathia (sympathy), from Greek sympatheia, from sym- (together with) + pathos (emotion, suffering).

USAGE: "Basil and tomatoes are simpatico in so many ways. One major trait they share is that neither should ever be refrigerated unless they have been chopped." Bill Ward; Warm, Flavorful, Fresh Summer Food; The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson); Jul 29, 2009.

ARTICLE: Twelve Words You Can Never Say in the Office

If you're old enough to understand the reference in this headline -- George Carlin, anyone? -- then you're old enough to need a refresher course when it comes to talking about technology.

We've put together a list of outdated tech terms, phrases that you shouldn't be using at work anymore because they will make you seem old. This is especially true if you're looking for a new job. For example, on an interview, you should be talking about "cloud computing," not "ASPs" even though they are basically the same thing.

This list is useful for 20-somethings, too. Now when the senior person in the office uses one of these terms, you'll know what he's talking about.

1. Intranet
Popular in the mid-90s, the term "intranet" referred to a private network running the Internet Protocol and other Internet standards such as the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). It was also used to describe an internal Web site that was hosted behind a firewall and was accessible only to employees. Today, every private network runs IP. So you can just use the term virtual private network or VPN to describe a private IP-based network.

2. Extranet
An "extranet" referred to private network connections based on Internet standards such as IP and HTTP that extended outside an organization, such as between business partners. Extranets often replaced point-to-point electronic data interchange (EDI) connections that used standards such as X12. Today, companies provide suppliers, resellers and other members of their supply chain with access to their VPNs.

3. Web Surfing
When is the last time you heard someone talk about surfing the Web? You know the term is out of date when your kids don't know what it means. To teens and tweens, the Internet and the World Wide Web are one and the same thing. So it's better to use the term "browsing" the Web if you want to be understood.

4. Push Technology
The debate over the merits of "push" versus "pull" technology came to a head in 1996 with the release of the PointCast Network, a Web service that sent a steady stream of news to subscribers. However, PointCast and other push technology services required too much network bandwidth. Eventually, push technology evolved into RSS feeds, which remain the preferred method for publishing information to subscribers of the Internet. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication.

5. Application Service Provider (ASP)
During this decade, the term "Application Service Provider" evolved into "Software-as-a-Service." Both terms refer to a vendor hosting a software application and providing access to it over the Web. Customers buy the software on a subscription basis, rather than having to own and operate it themselves. ASP was a hot term prior to the dot-com bust. Then it was replaced by "SaaS." Now it's cool to talk about "cloud computing."

6. Personal Digital Assistant (PDA)
Coined by former Apple CEO John Sculley back in 1992 when he unveiled the Apple Newton, the term "personal digital assistant" referred to a handheld computer. PDA was still in use in 1996, when the Palm Pilot was the hottest handheld in corporate America. Today, the preferred generic term for a handheld like a Blackberry or an iPhone is a "smartphone".

7. Internet Telephony
You need to purge the term "Internet telephony" from your vocabulary and switch to VoIP, for Voice over IP. Even the term VoIP is getting old-fashioned because pretty soon all telephone calls will be routed over the Internet rather than the Public Switched Telephone Network. It's probably time to stop referring to the PSTN, too, because it is headed for the history books as all voice, data and video traffic is carried on the Internet.

8. Weblog
A blog is a shortened version of "Weblog," a term that emerged in the late 1990s to describe commentary that an individual publishes online. It spawned many words still in use such as "blogger" and "blogosphere." Nowadays, few people have time to blog so they are "microblogging," which is another word that's heading out the door as people turn Twitter into a generic term for blasting out 140-character observations or opinions.

9. Thin Client
You have to give Larry Ellison credit for seeing many of the flaws in the client/server computing architecture and for popularizing the term "thin client" to refer to Oracle's alternative terminal-like approach. In 1993, Ellison was touting thin clients as a way for large organizations to improve network security and manageability. Although thin clients never replaced PCs, the concept is similar to "virtual desktops" that are gaining popularity today as a way of supporting mobile workers.

10. Rboc
In 1984, the U.S. government forced AT&T to split up into seven Regional Bell Operating Companies [RBOCs] also known as Baby Bells. Customers bought local service from RBOCs and long-distance service from carriers such as AT&T. Telecom industry mergers over the last 15 years have formed integrated local- and long-distance carriers such as AT&T, Verizon and Qwest. This makes not only the term RBOC obsolete, but also the terms ILEC for Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier [i.e., GTE] and CLEC for Competitive Local Exchange Carrier [i.e., MFS].

11. Long-Distance Call
Thanks to flat-rate calling plans available from carriers for at least five years, nobody needs to distinguish between local and long-distance calls anymore. Similarly, you don't need to distinguish between terrestrial and wireless calls because so many people use only wireless services. Like pay phones, long-distance calls -- and their premium prices -- are relics of a past without national and unlimited calling plans.

12. World Wide Web
Nobody talks about the "World Wide Web" anymore, or the "Information Superhighway," for that matter. It's just the Internet. It's a distinction that Steve Czaban, the popular Fox Sports Radio talk show host, likes to mock when he refers to the "Worldwide Interweb." Nothing dates you more than pulling out one of those old-fashioned ways of referring to the Internet such as "infobahn" or "electronic highway."

Friday, 21 August 2009

All About Me - Four Years Later!

It makes sense that while the main "Happy Anniversary" post should mirror the topic of having my blog turn four, the second post to this would be best served in updating my bio - life was very different four years ago.

So here goes:

Yes, this is me.

I've explained the nickname Tr'Aislínge at some point in the last four years, but not in the original post of 21 August 2005. My name is really Aislínge, pronounced ash-lin[g], but years ago when I worked at Miller Harness Company (then located in East Rutherford, New Jersey) as an assistant to the Apparel Purchasing division, three of us went out to lunch, actually had a drink or two and made up nicknames that have stayed since. Melissa Kaplan (now in Texas) became Smells, Rio (originally from England) became B.O., and I'm commonly called Ash, so I became Trash. I put the apostophy in shortly after to make it look more like a nickname, and since I prefer the long version of my name, I have Tr'Aislínge.

I've had my e-mail address,, for at least 12 years, since 1996 or 1997. Before that, I had, an inexpensive software package that allowed one to write e-mails and read e-mails at their leisure and then connect to the Internet just long enough to send and receive missives. That was how Vinnie Kochhar and I met - in a chatroom, but the wiccanese address was similar to someone else he knew. I haven't thought about this in years.

Back to me. I'm 41, live with my husband of 19 and a half years, Luis, and we have two cats: Siobhan, who turned 1 in early July and Sorcha, who is about five months old now. I still miss my first cats, Ariel and Chelsea, who made it to the ripe old age of 18 years each the summer of 2008.

Luis and I will have our 20th anniversary on Monday, 22 March 2010. I will turn 42 on Tuesday, 26 January. I happen to love my birthday, think it should be a national holiday in the United States (it is a national holiday in Australia, but has nothing to do with me), should have a (free) advert run in the New York Times to announce it and absolutely want my coworkers to come and sing to me and my friends to throw me a party. I would really love a surprise party... but Luis hates party planning and even when he threw my Big 4-0 party, he paid for it all and I arranged it all!

I weight about 175lbs right now, which is better than the 190lbs I'd weighed in prior to going on vacation in late June. I returned from Montana almost ten pounds lighter and joined a gym and have kept the momentum going. I'm by no means slender, but I am working on it. I would be happy to see what 150 looks like and then take it slowly from there. I doubt I would ever get so thin that I would look unhealthy, but it would be nice to look 41 - not 50 because I'm carrying 40lbs extra!

I'm 5'4.5" (I want that half-inch noted!), and while this is the low end of average, I would not mind suddenly growing, say, two inches. Well, two and a half inches. I think 5'7" sounds like a great height to be - tall enough to see over crowds better, and the added plus of making the weight loss thing a lot easier! And I'd like-- okay. By the time I am done going down this road, I will look like Michelle Pfeiffer!

I have brown eyes, dark brown hair which has enough grey to warrant colouring it, and sallow skin that tans poorly - at my darkest, I'm lighter than other people's winter white. Normally I could care less about having colour on my skin, but my trip west saw me tan beautifully and I admit, it's been rather nice! So once a week I lay in my hammock and renew that colour.

I enjoy a multitude of mostly sedentary activities, which doesn't help - reading everything I can get my hands on (except the classics, something I've never been fond of); I love to write - blogging, letters, etc.; Facebooking (I don't think that is a verb, but it is turning into one); some television; animated movies; learning about the sciences and other things; learning new words and improving my strong but not perfect English skills; organising and (my one semi-sedentary but not when actually out activity) being an EMT.

I've been an Emergency Medical Technician now for just over six years. It is very interesting and completely satisfying work. I an a volunteer EMT, both because I enjoy giving something back to the community and because I am an adrenalin junkie. Doing this volunteer is really great. The hours aren't always ideal - 18:00 to 06:00 - but I like putting in Sundays to get the daylight riding experience.

Now, I suppose I could turn out to be a stay-at-home homemaker but those of you who know me, know that is not possible! I don't like, want or have kids. I love my line of work and I love where I work. I'm happy with everything about my profession. I have a charmed life. It is not perfect - whose is? But it is better than average and I would not trade it in for anyone else's!

Luis and I live in an 11-room house on the Lake Hiawatha side of Parsippany - we are in Parsippany, but not in any other section. Parsippany is quite big - here is what Wikipedia has: "According to the United States Census Bureau, the township has a total area of 25.4 square miles (65.8 km²), of which, 23.9 square miles (62.0 km²) of it is land and 1.5 square miles (3.8 km²) of it (5.82%) is water. Lake Hiawatha is an unincorporated area located within the township." It also has Troy Hills, Lake Parsippany, Mt. Tabor and Rainbow Lakes. All have the same zip code except Lake Hiawatha.

I was born in Lenox Hill Hospital (Manhattan, New York) to Harry and Wendy Trebilcox on a Friday at 10:39. They divorced in the early 1970s and Harry went to live in Pennsylvania and my mother and I moved in with Ray Kellogg. I have the unique family set up of having two fathers, which is interesting. They are both wonderful people and very different from one another.

I spent the first two and a half or three years in Demarest, New Jersey (Bergen County); moved to Wallington, New Jersey (also Bergen County) after that and lived there until I was 13, then we moved to Wayne, New Jersey (Passaic County) where I grew up and moved out at age 22.

Luis and I moved in together in October of 1990 in Fairfield, NJ (Essex County), then bought our first house in Lake Parsippany (Morris County) in 1994. We had to get a bigger house in 2002 when his mother died and we got the inheritance... his father. Not exactly what I had in mind when the word inheritance came up... but on the other hand, I love our house, the area and the squad! So while yes, it is an unmitigated pain to live with Luis' father, there are the payoffs, too.
I've covered four New Jersey counties in 41 years, which is not too bad!

I also grew up in Trucksville, Pennsylvania (Luzerne County) where my grandparents lived. Here is the entire Wikipedia entry on this teeny town: "Trucksville, Pennsylvania is an unincorporated village located in Kingston Township, Pennsylvania, a township of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. It is the "neighbor town" of Shavertown, located literally adjacent to Trucksville. The village is the site of the Lands at Hillside Farms, a popular small dairy store planned to expand into a major U.S. attraction the likes of Williamsburg, Virginia. The town has a volunteer fire department, Methodist church, and less than 1,000 residents. Trucksville is named for the town's founder, William Trucks who operated a sawmill in the 19th century."

I stayed there every summer, every school break a week or longer and every Christmas. I loved being there and I really loved my grandparents. I was never close to my mother's mother and my maternal grandfather was a smoker and died when my mother was 15 - more's the pity, because I think we would have gotten on extremely well.

Professional success came late to me because I'm flaky and have to struggle to manage what comes so easily to many others. I started out working at Wyckoff Bakery while I was in high school, then worked in the Willowbrook Mall, then my mother pushed me to go to Kelly Services, a temporary agency in Fairfield. I worked for two days filing and hated it, then went to NJCT and learned how to operate an absolutely flooded switchboard. Eventually I moved to being a receptionist at different places, including Miller Harness Company, where a big guy named Izzy decided he liked me and hired me to be the assistant to three people and him in the Apparel Purchasing department. I left there in 1994 and went on to Fillimerica as a receptionist, Meta4 Digital Design as assistant to the owner, and then finally to PNY Technologies in January 1998 as the Human Resources Rep with one other person and the manager there, Jocelyn Rondina.

I stayed with PNY until April 2001, then had some temp jobs until I became the Human Resources Generalist for Universal Solutions in 2003. The company began its permanent downhill slide in early 2005, when I left there and went to Givaudan as a temp from March until July, when the manager of the Liquids Compounding department died (we had been working on making me a permanent part of the staff). I made the choice to leave there and temped briefly at Berlex, then began temping at a private facility in 2005. It was the strangest place in the world to work after all the corporate time... but I would not ever work anywhere else!

I think that covers all the highlights!

Happy Anniversary to Traislínge's Blog!

On a sunny day in 2005, I'd gone to the mailbox as I'd done so many times when I got home from work and retrieved my mail. In there among the cheesy adverts and myriad bills was my guilty pleasure, People Magazine. And inside the magazine was an article on 40-year-old virgins. The movie The 40-Year-Old Virgin with Steve Carrell had just come out and that engendered this article. I was sufficiently motivated by the article that the half-idea of joining a blogging service suddenly became the whole idea.

So on Sunday, 21 August, I sat down in my home office in front of my desktop computer and found Blogger, opened up my account, filled in the information about myself (which does get updated from time to time) and finally, after inputting, designing, mulling, and selecting, I was finally at my first posting ever!

The first post was not "First Topic: 40-Year-Old Virgins". The first post was actually entitled "All About Tr'Aislínge" and went like this:

All About Me/Basic Traislínge Blog Rules
"Yes, that's me - Aislínge. The "traislínge" thing will be explained at a later date (everlasting love and thanks to "Smells" for that one) but it is not a put-down. The other person there is my husband, Luis, who will get (willingly and un-) a lot of mention.

I should explain that Luis and I have been together for nearly 16 years now (we consider our anniversary 22 March [1990]). We are not legally married. I am not religious and therefore not bound by any ecclasiastic reasons to be bound to anyone, however, the legal marriage is not there either. However, calling Luis my "boyfriend" is patently ridiculous and just a little tepid. We have been together longer than many married couples and have been to a few weddings that have since ended rather acrimoniously... so. You see where "boyfriend" simply doesn't work. He is not my "domestic partner" and he is not my "little friend" (a grandmother's description) and certainly not my "roommate". I suppose POSSSLQ works, but I believe the government has discontinued that term (it means Person of Opposite Sex Sharing Same Living Quarters and used to show up on some government form[s]). And most don't know that term. I like to say that we are living in sin... just to be difficult... you can decide how you feel about it.

My name is pronounced "ash-lin[g]" - it's a hard "g", like in "girl" or "gout", not soft, like in "gel". It's Gaelic and very typical of it - extra letters with no seeming purpose and missing letters.

I'm 37, born on 26 January, and I am 5'4" and approximately 189lbs - subject to change, of course, althought not usually for the remarkably better. I have gotten as high as 205 and as low as 170 (last August, thanks to a upper digestive illness that allowed me to keep nothing down - not a recommeded way to lose weight!). However, up until I was in my early 20s, I was my correct weight. I miss it and while I recall being thin and if I don't see a mirror I feel thin, I'm not. I'm not quite morbidly obese, but I'm most definitely Rubenesque... sounds nice, right? (I am fortunate that for the most part I am evenly distrubuted in my excess weight and so while I'm not slender, I'm not oddly shaped. Although I hate my upper arms - but those are from my paternal grandmother and likely they'd look flabby no matter what...)

I have a multitude of interests - I read voraciously, love my "Word-a-Day" e-mails, consider a well-rounded vocabulary a key neccesity, love almost all the sciences, write long, detailed letters to people in other places: currently Czech Republic, Germany, England, France, Malaysia, Dallas in Texas and Keene in New Hampshire. I love to write. (Maybe that is why a blog makes so much sense for me.) I regularly read science fiction, fiction, "The Complete Idiot's Guide To ..." and "... for Dummies" books, and always get Discover, National Geographic, and People magazines. I have not one but three atlases and one globe (that I desparately wish to upgrade - it still has Czechoslovakia on it, along with USSR). I have some many books that they are not just in our library (the downstairs bedroom) but also in my office, Luis' office and our dining room.

I collect: Sensa pens, writing paper, crystals, seashells, organising tools, CDs and DVDs. I also collect foriegn and old bank notes and coins. I love getting bank notes. Most have a very low value but they are just so wonderful. American money is dull as dirt, although nice to have - in my wallet...

I am a Human Resources Generalist by profession. I am a volunteer EMT by vocation (there is, to me, difference). I am also a wench at the New York Renaissance Festival, where I have been now for 19 years. It runs every weekend from the first weekend in August to the last weekend in September. It is a fun thing and I do enjoy it.

A few things will never come up in this blog: my professional life as regards current position (when I have one) and current work-related stories. That may change once I am no longer with that employer but even then it will only be in the extremely abstract. I will admit that in my line of work, I would most certainly become employee-non-grata if I were to discuss issues - being in Human Resources.

Another item that will not be discussed are details about people I deal with in the line of my volunteer EMT work. It is unethical and illegal and although I will freely discuss my personal feelings on the various things I encounter, no names, addresses, specific times or associative details of any patient will come up.

All friends will have made-up names to protect their anonymity. That's only fair. I probably will keep any friendship-related gripes out as well, just so that no one can say anything about a situation that they know is about THEM and see my personal feelings on it. No one likes that.

I suppose other rules will come up as I go, this being an all new experience. For now, we will start with those."

This went up at 17:27 and was promptly followed by two more posts: "First Topic: 40-Year-Old Virgins" (posted at 18:15) and "A Day in My Life" (posted 18:45). One thing to know about the post time is that it actually reflects the date and time one opened a new post, not when one hit the "publish post" button with the mouse. So that can be misleading... especially when several days has elapsed since I opened the post and subsequently complete it and forget to update that information. I can also post-date or pre-date any posting, such as this one, to go live at the time I wish. While there is a better than high chance that I will be up at 00:01on Friday morning, one of two things will be happening: I will be on a call or I will be getting ready to go to bed. Either way, I will not be posting at that moment.

Actually, I think I will amend the time. Instead of going live at midnight, I will have it go live at 17:27, when I posted my original, first-time ever post in 2005. That is even more fitting! And as we are getting together with friends for dinner, that is a time I'm unlikely to be available as well.

Happy Anniversary, Tr'Aislínge's Blog!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Article (with Images!): Symbolim and the [U.S.] Dollar Bill

Crack open your wallet, pull out everyone’s favorite portrait of George Washington, and be prepared to learn about some odd symbolism that probably seemed perfectly normal in the 18th century. Here are the explanations behind some of the more baffling parts of our nation’s smallest bills.

What’s that weird pyramid drawing on the reverse of the bill?

The two circular drawings on the reverse of the bill are actually parts of the two-sided Great Seal of the United States. Although we don’t see the entire seal outside of our wallets too often, the notion of having a great seal is actually as old as the country itself. The Continental Congress passed a resolution on July 4, 1776, to create a committee to design a great seal for the fledgling nation, and heavy hitters John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson got the first crack at creating the seal.

Congress wasn’t so keen on the design these big names brought back, though, and it took nearly six years and several drafts to finally find a suitable seal. Congress finally approved of a design on June 20, 1782.

What’s the story behind the Great Seal of the United States?
According to the State Department, which has been the official trustee of the seal since 1789, both the obverse (front) and reverse (back) of the seal are rich with symbolism. The obverse picturing the eagle is a bit easier to explain. The bird holds 13 arrows to show the nation’s strength in war, but it also grasps an olive branch with 13 leaves and 13 olives that symbolize the importance of peace. (The recurring number 13, which also appears in the stripes on the eagle’s shield and the constellation of stars over its head, is a nod to the original 13 states.) The shield floats unsupported over the eagle as a reminder that Americans should rely on their own virtue and strength.

The symbolism of the pyramid on the seal’s reverse is trickier. The pyramid has 13 steps – the designers apparently never got tired of the 13 motif – and the Roman numeral for 1776 is emblazoned across the bottom. The all-seeing Eye of Providence at the top of the pyramid symbolizes the divine help the early Americans needed in establishing the new country. The pyramid itself symbolizes strength and durability.

The divine overtones don’t stop with the unblinking eye, though. The Latin motto Annuit Ceptis appears over the pyramid; it translates into “He [God] has favored our undertaking.” The scroll underneath the pyramid reads Novus Ordo Seclorum, or “A new order of the ages,” which was meant to signify the dawn of the new American era.

How did the seal end up on our dollar bill?
We can thank former Secretary of State Cordell Hull’s busy schedule for that one. Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace had to wait for a meeting with Hull in 1934 and decided to kill time by thumbing through a State Department pamphlet on the Great Seal. The pamphlet contained an illustration of the reverse side of the seal with the pyramid, and Wallace was quite taken with the drawing. He took the seal to President Franklin Roosevelt and suggested the country mint a coin using the two sides of the seal.

FDR liked the seal, too. (Roosevelt and Wallace were both Masons and loved the all-seeing eye part of the reverse design, which echoed the concept of the Great Architect of the Universe.) He thought the seal should be on the reverse of the dollar bill rather than a coin, but he was worried the mystical imagery would offend Catholics. After Postmaster General James Farley assured FDR he didn’t think his fellow Catholics would have any problem with the design, Roosevelt approved a new dollar bill design that first appeared in 1935.

Did the Founding Fathers swipe any ideas from a magazine?
Possibly. The familiar E Pluribus Unum motto that the eagle holds in its beak underscores the union and togetherness of the 13 colonies. It might also underscore early Americans’ love of periodicals.

According to the State Department, recent historical research has indicated that this Latin motto may have been borrowed from Gentlemen’s Magazine, a London publication that ran from 1732 to 1922.

The magazine was popular in the colonies, and its title page always carried the E Pluribus Unum motto.

Why don’t the dates on the front of the bills change that often?
At the lower right of the portrait on the bill’s obverse you’ll see the word “Series” and a year. You might notice that these don’t change each year the way the numbers on minted coins do. Why not?

According to the Treasury, the series date only changes when there’s a new design for a bill, a new Treasurer of the United States, or a new Secretary of the Treasury. (These are the two officials whose signatures appear on either side of the portrait.) The series year itself changes when the Secretary of the Treasury changes, while a change in the Treasurer of the United States means that the series year remains the same, but a suffix letter gets tacked onto the end of the year.

What are the various other numbers on the obverse of the bill?
The bill’s serial number is the most prominently displayed set of digits on the dollar, but they’re not alone. If you take out a dollar, you’ll notice there are four large numbers in the corners of the bill’s open space.

Like the encircled letter to the left of Washington’s portrait, these numbers tell which Federal Reserve Bank issued the note. (Each Fed’s number corresponds the letter of the alphabet assigned to the bank, with A=1, B=2, and so on.)

The tiny letters and numbers that appear on the top left and bottom right of the bill’s obverse indicate the position of the note on the Treasury’s printing plates. If your dollar bill has a tiny “FW” before this code, those letters indicate that it was printed at the Treasury’s facility in Fort Worth, Texas, rather than in Washington, D.C.

Monday, 17 August 2009

ARTICLE: Four Lies that Can Cost You Your Job

It so happens that I disagree with this article. I would never look at someone's hands and feet and assume that he or she'd gone out for mani/pedi... especially since I've no idea if that person had one on Tuesday and it is now Thursday. I don't know too many people who leave early just to cater to his or her looks. Most of us do this in our off time.
I wouldn't start eyeballing employees for using a sick day as a mental health day. As long as they aren't exceeding their allotted days and only getting sick in a pattern (Monday/Friday only, or better yet - and I've seen it - Monday/Friday only in the summer absences), when did I become the "are you really sick" police? Most people take a large number of their sick time in one block, if any - one good influenza or streptococculus virus will take you out of the game for over a week. Last year in February, a couple of months after getting my flu shot, I came down with one nasty flu in the "40% of flus this shot doesn't cover" arena.
The company I know for billable hours doesn't round. Things read .1 hours. If they did it in 15 minutes increments, that would be one thing. But I don't want to know people or companies that do slimy things like rounding up billable hours. And to suggest that it is okay as long as you are "flying safely under the radar" is not good advice. Make your hours honestly, please.
Who doesn't think that helping a vendor outside of your office with your professional knowledge isn't a grey area? I give my husband advice all the time about stuff he tells me but I know that 90% of it is ignored and the rest is just free advice, my responding to a conversation. I don't sell my services to his company. (Not that they'd want them anyway; as relaxed as I've became being outside the corporate America world, his company thinks I'm overboard.
Anyway, here it is:

Article: "When Mark N. was approached by one of his company’s vendors, the Information Technology professional had no idea that secretly taking on a client in his spare time would cost him his job. Sure seems obvious after the fact, but Mark is not alone.

Lisa F. shares his pain, but from a managerial perspective. “I know when a woman lies about being sick, just by looking at her hands and toes.” For the senior level new media executive, the giveaway is newly polished nails. “You cannot imagine how many women come in after a sick day with a fresh manicure or pedicure,” she observes.

Every day individuals fib, lie and embellish their way through the work day, not realizing that there are repercussions. The consequences may not always be as severe as termination, but it can be a reduction in bonus, a permanent mark on your record or a poor score on your yearly review, not to mention the damage done to your reputation among fellow colleagues. What follows are 4 frequent fibs that every single should avoid in the workplace.

Pulling the Healthy Sick Card
If you call in sick when you’re feeling perfectly fine you better be smart about it. Taking off one too many hangover Fridays, or regularly turning the day before calendared holiday 3 day weekends into your personal 4 day long weekends, will no doubt cause suspicious minds. So come clean to your supervisor and ask that these be reported as vacation days, or try to schedule your healthy sick days on less conspicuous days during the week.

The Faux Appointment/Emergency
Leaving work under false medical or other emergent pretenses is asking for trouble. Take it from Kristine who played hooky to get prepped for a date and was spotted getting her hair blown out at the salon by one of her co-workers. All it takes is one sighting or slip and you can lose your credibility, especially when medical or family issues are used as an excuse.

Pointing the Finger
When people’s jobs and egos are at stake, blaming others when you’re at fault can lead to war in the workplace. Remember, it’s a politics game and you’ll lose if you try to dodge the bullet by feigning innocence. Folks, the only way to keep allies and integrity intact is to play fair and take ownership of your conduct and work in good times and in bad.

Fudging Hours & Fudging Expenses
Working to make sure you get in those all those billable hours is seriously stressful. You may hit your targets by rounding up to the nearest hour but don’t press your luck. This is a serious offense, and companies’ billings are increasingly being examined by their clients and their clients’ audit units or accountants. If you’re a certified professional, lying here may not cost you just a client, but your license."
Just a side note: It is now 1540 and the Sears guy still is not here to fix the dryer. And he called an hour ago to ask me if I really wanted him to come because my dryer probably just needs to have the lint thing cleaned (we do clean it) and I don't need to pay $75/hour for that. The door is broken, too. So he's supposed to be right here. Maybe he called from southern New Jersey...
...before you ask me what I'm doing home already!

I Love "Drop Dead Diva"!

Yes, I know, not my usual flavour of show. But, as with so many shows, this is all Luis' fault!

A few Sundays ago, a new off-season show (guaranteed to keep people as television junkies throughout their days) started called Drop Dead Diva. At first I thought this is some wierd teenage depressing soap opera like The Life of the American Teenager (total garbage) or 90210 but this surprised me. Luis liked the premise and when he told me about it, I could not miss the opportunity.

A young, cute, perfectly figured woman is killed and in a mix up where she thought she'd be going to heaven, she reached forward, hit the enter key on a keyboard and ended up alive again... in the not perfectly figured, young or cute body of another woman. The person she becomes? A successful lawyer who earns big money, has quite the brain, weighs more than I do and is not fast-tracking it to becoming a model.

Here is the fun part: the diva, Deb, cute, sexy, brainless and vacuous, now has Jane's overweight, normal, brainy and completely brilliant mind (and has her own assistant), job and life. Usually in these kinds of ideas, the brain and personality is that of the original owner's but the body is someone else's who should have died and miraculously hasn't. The producers must have figured (and rightly so) that Deb could not possibly keep Jane's job if she did not have Jane's lawyer's knowledge and reasoning.

Good thing!

Jane clearly would not have survived as a model. Ever see the "plus size" models? They are all the lowest possible end of "plus" and even then for some it is a stretch. No one is modeling the size 26 stuff, they all model the size 14 or 16. (This is my way of saying we aren't really this stupid. The average plus sized consumer has to be seeing the same thing I am. And I'm still, unfortunately, a plus size consumer!)

Anyway, the episode that aired last night was wonderful. It made me think and it made me feel strongly about things (not that this is ever an issue for me, but even so...), and it was funny and fun. All very important qualities for a good telly show. I can't watch some of the mindless junk that Luis engages in, and you know what a snob I am - if it has a laugh track, it is lowbrow and tasteless and I want to know nothing about it.

On the other hand, he watches stuff that is the other end of the spectrum - boring, humourless and too dramatic - to wit, The Life of the American Teenager and... um... I can't think of another title. The first one is about a teenager who gets pregnant and keeps the baby. Stop. Already I've lost interest. What a great way to completely derail your life. And here it is - depressing telly for the whole family!

I will admit that if it keeps any teenagers from getting pregnant, I'll sing its praises to the heavens! I will still not watch it, however. It really just is not my kind of viewing.

I happen to agree with Howard Stern (not my favourite person but has a liberal mindset) that if you don't like something, don't have anything to do with it. Except paying taxes. That you have to suck it up and deal with it. But viewing, listening, playing or engaging in something you don't like is silly but so is boycotting it. Everyone should get to watch or listen to whatever he or she is into watching or listening.

Just don't watch or listen to it when I'm around!

Friday, 14 August 2009

HUMOUR: The Over-30 Crowd


If you are 30 or older you will think this is hilarious!!!!

When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to tears with their tedious diatribes about how hard things were. When they were growing up; what with walking Twenty-five miles to school every morning

Uphill... barefoot... BOTH ways

Yadda, yadda, yadda

And I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way in hell I was going to lay a bunch of crap like that o n kids about how hard I had it and how easy they've got it!

But now that... I'm over the ripe old age of thirty, I can't help but look around and notice the youth of today.

You've got it so easy! I mean, compared to my childhood, you live in a damn Utopia!

And I hate to say it but you kids today you don't know how good you've got it!

I mean, when I was a kid we didn't have The Internet. If we wanted to know something, We had to go to the damn library and look it up ourselves, in the card catalogue!!

There was no email!! We had to actually write somebody a letter, with a pen!

Then you had to walk all the way across the street and put it in the mailbox and it would take like a week to get there! Stamps were 10 cents!

Child Protective Services didn't care if our parents beat us. As a matter of fact, the parents of all my friends also had permission to kick our ass! No where was safe!

There were no MP3' s or Napsters! You wanted to steal music, you had to hitchhike to the damn record store and shoplift it yourself!

Or you had to wait around all day to tape it off the radio and the DJ'd usually talk over the beginning and @#*% it all up! There were no CD players! We had tape decks in our car. We'd play our favorite tape and "eject" it when finished and the tape would come undone.cause that's how we rolled dig?

We didn't have fancy crap like Call Waiting! If you were on the phone and somebody else called they got a busy signal, that's it!

And we didn't have fancy Caller ID either! When the phone rang, you had no idea who it was! It could be your school, your mom, your boss, your Bookie, your drug dealer, a collections agent, you just didn't know!!! You had to pick it up and take your chances, mister!

We didn't have any fancy Sony Playstation video games with high-resolution 3-D graphics! We had the Atari 2600! With games like 'Space Invaders' and 'asteroids'. Your guy was a little square! You actually had to use your imagination!! And there were no multiple levels or screens, it was just one screen forever!

And you could never win. The game just kept getting harder and harder and faster and faster until you died! Just like LIFE!

You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on! You were screwed when it came to channel surfing! You had to get off your ass and walk over to the TV to change the channel! There was no Cartoon Network either! You could only get cartoons on Saturday Morning. Do you hear what I'm saying!?! We had to wait ALL WEEK for cartoons, you spoiled
little rat-bastards!

And we didn't have microwaves, if we wanted to heat something up we had to use the stove ... Imagine that!

That's exactly what I'm talking about! You kids today have got it too easy. You're spoiled. You guys wouldn't have lasted five minutes back in 1980 or before!

The over 30 Crowd

Thursday, 13 August 2009

A.W.A.D. - Shortest Words

with Anu Garg

The tinier the point of the needle, the more easily it goes through. The thinner the blade of the sword, the more swiftly it cuts through. Often the same goes for words. A short, potent word helps convey an idea in just a few letters. This week we'll feature a few single-syllable words, and in the spirit of the week's theme, we'll keep this paragraph short.

And we begin with a word that's even shorter than short: ort.

MEANING: noun: A scrap of food left after a meal

ETYMOLOGY: Of Germanic origin, ultimately from the Indo-European roots ud- (out) and ed- (to eat)

USAGE: "On the table in front of him was a plate, a few orts of supper nosed round by a pair of cats." Bill Mesce Jr; Officer of the Court; Bantam Books; 2002

MEANING: noun: Stale, humid, and stuffy atmosphere, as in a crowded, poorly ventilated room

ETYMOLOGY: Of uncertain origin, perhaps from fogo (stench).

USAGE: "[The butterfly stroke] may have a fug of raw, sweating masculinity about it, but it's also the most irritating of all strokes." Barney Ronay; Vladimir Putin's Tough-guy Swimming Technique; The Guardian (London, UK); Aug 6, 2009

MEANING: verb tr., intr.:
1. To rotate (a floating log) by running on it in place
2. To spin or rotate

ETYMOLOGY: Of uncertain origin, perhaps a blend of birr and whirl

USAGE: "Area lumberjacks compete in events ranging from axe throwing to birling." Robert J. Hughes; Driving Off the Beaten Path; The Wall Street Journal; May 10, 2002.

"The ball broke to him on the right of the box and he birled round in one motion to score with a fierce low shot into the opposite corner of Poom's goal." Martin Hannan; Dobbie Arrives in Fine Style at Hibs; Scotland on Sunday (Edinburgh, Scotland); Jul 27, 2003

MEANING: noun: A soft, round bread roll

ETYMOLOGY: Of unknown origin

USAGE: "Ken Johnson still has his grandfather's recipes and enjoys baking at home, more so in the winter when he loves to throw together a batch of baps." Graham Hawkes; Batch of Baps; The Press (Christchurch, New Zealand); Jul 16, 2009

MEANING: noun: A steep bowl-shaped mountain basin, carved by glaciers. Also known as cirque

ETYMOLOGY: From Welsh cwm (valley)

NOTES: The letter w works as a vowel in the Welsh language and it has given another such word (without a standard vowel aeiou, or y) to English: crwth (krooth) meaning crowd.

USAGE: "By a process of elimination, which is a ticklish phrase to use about Soviet selection methods, the hordes of trainees will be reduced to about 150 fit to carry Stalin's name over countless crevasses, through the cwms, and along the cols -- to the very ultimate peak of the ultimate mountain." Cold War For Mount Everest?; The Sydney Morning Herald; Apr 21, 1952.

A.W.A.D. - Paired Eponyms

with Anu Garg

Love and Marriage go together like a horse and carriage, so the song goes. They do, often, but not always. On the other hand, characters in this week's pairs do go together, at least in language.

This week's eponyms (a word coined after a person) feature two people who work together, well, like a nut and a bolt, or a rack and pinion, or yin and yang, or an axle and a wheel.

Alphonse and Gaston
PRONUNCIATION: (AL-fons uhn GAS-tuhn)
MEANING: noun: Two people who treat each other with excessive deference, often to their detriment

ETYMOLOGY: After the title characters in a cartoon strip by cartoonist Frederick Burr Opper (1857-1937). Alphonse and Gaston are extremely polite to each other, to the extent that their "After you, Alphonse", "You first, my dear Gaston!" routine often gets them into trouble, such as when they can't evade a trolley which mows them down while each insists on letting the other go first.

USAGE: "A weeklong bout of Governor and public worker unions playing Alphonse and Gaston on contract proposals has the public frustrated about an end to the nonsense. No one really cares who goes first and no one cares if the offer is on or off the record, written or oral, engraved on fine linen or scribbled on a Post-it." Cynthia Oi; All We Really Want Are Some Solutions; Star-Bulletin (Hawaii); Jul 12, 2009

Tweedledum and Tweedledee
PRONUNCIATION: (tweed-uhl-DUHM uhn tweed-uhl-DEE)
MEANING: noun: Two persons, groups, or things that resemble each other so closely that they are virtually indistinguishable

ETYMOLOGY: The term is first cited in a poem by the poet John Byrom (1692-1763) about the musical rivalry of the composers Giovanni Bononcini and George Frideric Handel where he called them Tweedledum and Tweedledee:

Some say, that Signor Bononcini,
Compared to Handel's a mere ninny;
Others aver, that to him Handel
Is scarcely fit to hold a candle.
Strange! that such high dispute should be
'Twixt Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

The characters Tweedledum and Tweedledee make their appearance in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass as well. Ultimately the names are of imitative origins, from tweedle (to produce a high-pitched sound) + dum (sound of a low musical note) and dee (sound of a high musical note).

USAGE: "Voters often lament having to choose between tweedledum and tweedledee." Bruce Lambert and Elissa Gootman; Tweedledum, Tweedledee and Nassau? The New York Times; Oct 29, 2001

Jekyll and Hyde
PRONUNCIATION: (JEK-uhl uhn hyd)
MEANING: noun: Someone or something having a split personality that alternates between good and evil

ETYMOLOGY: After the title character in the 1886 novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894).

USAGE: "Nutritionists say carbohydrates are a classic Jekyll and Hyde -- they have two faces." Janice Tai; Let's Hear it for the Carbs; The Straits Times (Singapore); Jul 16, 2009

Mutt and Jeff
PRONUNCIATION: (mut uhn jef)
MEANING: noun: A pair of people having dramatically different characteristics, such as height
ETYMOLOGY: After Mutt and Jeff, comic strip characters of the same name, created by cartoonist Harry "Bud" Fisher (1885-1954).

NOTES: The strip originated in 1907 and its principal characters were tall Mutt and short Jeff. Both we re lovable losers. The strip was wildly popular and inspired the idiomatic usage to refer to a pair of comically mismatched people. The term also applies to a pair of interrogators one of whom appears threatening while the other presents a sympathetic persona. The word is also used as a Cockney rhyming slang for 'deaf'.

USAGE: "Granted, not many of us use a banana to hook the handle of a pot that's slightly out of reach. But invention's become a necessity for my wife, Kathi Langston, who, at 5' 1", has to contend with the kitchen that I, at 6' 2", designed and built years ago. ... It's clearly our Mutt and Jeff combination that's getting in the way of a blissful relationship with our standard kitchen." Patrick Langston; The Long and Short of Living With an Imperfect Kitchen; The Ottawa Citizen (Canada); Mar 28, 2009.

"The disgraced former president Richard Nixon was paid $US 1 million for a 1977 interview with David Frost. ...James Reston Jr., Frost's Watergate adviser: 'I was in army intelligence ... and the Mutt and Jeff, good cop-bad cop thing is usually two people, but Frost, he did both roles.'" Ian Munro; Stopping the Rot; The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia); May 3, 2008
Darby and Joan
(DAHR-bee uhn joan)
noun: A devoted old couple leading a quiet, uneventful life
[After a couple named in an 18th century poem in The Gentleman's Magazine (London).] In 1735 Henry Woodfall, a printer's apprentice, wrote a ballad titled "The joys of love never forgot: a song" about a happily married elderly couple. His inspiration for those characters was his own boss John Darby and his wife Joan:
"Old Darby, with Joan by his side,
You've often regarded with wonder:
He's dropsical, she is sore-eyed,
Yet they're never happy asunder..."
As you can imagine, he wrote this poem after Darby's death. This poemin turn became an inspiration for follow-up poems and eventually Darby and Joan became a metaphor. In the UK, clubs for old people are still called Darby and Joan clubs.
-Anu Garg (words at
"On the shores of holy Lake Manosarovar there is a nameless hotel run by a very elderly couple, a sort of Tibetan Darby and Joan." Karen Swenson; At Tibetan Hotels, Don't Expect the Light To Be Left On; The Wall Street Journal (New York); Dec 4, 2001.

ARTICLE: Newfound Planet Orbits Backwards

Planets orbit stars in the same direction that the stars rotate. They all do. Except one. A newfound planet orbits the wrong way, backward compared to the rotation of its host star. Its discoverers think a near-collision may have created the retrograde orbit, as it is called.
The star and its planet, WASP-17, are about 1,000 light-years away. The setup was found by the UK's Wide Area Search for Planets (WASP) project in collaboration with Geneva Observatory. The discovery was announced today but has not yet been published in a journal. "I would have to say this is one of the strangest planets we know about," said Sara Seager, an astrophysicist at MIT who was not involved in the discovery.

What's going on
A star forms when a cloud of gas and dust collapses. Whatever movement the cloud had becomes intensified as it condenses, determining the rotational direction of the star. How planets form is less certain. They are, however, known to develop out of the leftover, typically disk-shaped mass of gas and dust that swirls around a newborn star, so whatever direction that material is moving, which is the direction of the star's rotation, becomes the direction of the planet's orbit.WASP-17 likely had a close encounter with a larger planet, and the gravitational interaction acted like a slingshot to put WASP-17 on its odd course, the astronomers figure.

"I think it's extremely exciting. It's fascinating that we can study orbits of planets so far away," Seager told "There's always theory, but there's nothing like an observation to really prove it."

Cosmic collisions are not uncommon. Earth's moon was made when our planet collided with a Mars-sized object, astronomers think. And earlier this week NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope found evidence of two planets colliding around a distant, young star. Some moons in our solar system are on retrograde orbits, perhaps at least in some cases because they were flying through space alone and then captured; that's thought to be the case with Neptune's large moon Triton.The find was made by graduate students David Anderson at Keele University and Amaury Triaud of the Geneva Observatory.

Bloated world
WASP-17 is about half the mass of Jupiter but bloated to twice its size. "This planet is only as dense as expanded polystyrene, 70 times less dense than the planet we're standing on," said professor Coel Hellier of Keele University. The bloated planet can be explained by a highly elliptical orbit, which brings it close to the star and then far away. Like exaggerated tides on Earth, the tidal effects on WASP-17 heat and stretch the planet, the researchers suggest.

The tides are not a daily affair, however. "Instead it's creating a huge amount of friction on the inside of the planet and generating a lot of energy, which might be making the planet big and puffy," Seager said.

WASP-17 is the 17th extrasolar planet found by the WASP project, which monitors hundreds of thousands of stars, watching for small dips in their light when a planet transits in front of them. NASA's Kepler space observatory is using the same technique to search for Earth-like worlds.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

ARTICLE: French Pool Bans Muslim Woman for 'Burquini' Suit

I personally was appalled at this. I feel very strongly that she has a case for religious discrimination and I hope she pursues it as far as she can.

"PARIS – A Muslim woman garbed in a head-to-toe swimsuit — dubbed a "burquini" — may have opened a new chapter in France's tussle between religious practices and its stern secular code. Officials insisted Wednesday they banned the woman's use of the Islam-friendly suit at a local pool because of France's pool hygiene standards — not out of hostility to overtly Muslim garb. Under the policy, swimmers are not allowed in pools with baggy clothing, including surfer-style shorts. Only figure-hugging suits are permitted.

Nonetheless the woman, a 35-year-old convert to Islam identified only as Carole, complained of religious discrimination after trying to go swimming in a "burquini," a full-body swimsuit, in the town of Emerainville, southeast of Paris. She was quoted as telling the daily Le Parisien newspaper that she had bought the burquini after deciding "it would allow me the pleasure of bathing without showing too much of myself, as Islam recommends. For me this is nothing but segregation," she said.

The issue of religious attire is a hot topic in France, where head-to-toe burqas or other full-body coverings worn by some Muslim fundamentalists are in official disfavor. France is home to western Europe's largest Muslim population, estimated at 5 million, and Islam is the nation's second religion after Roman Catholicism.

A 2004 law banning the wearing of Muslim head scarves at public schools sparked fierce debate. That legislation also banned Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses in public classrooms. French lawmakers recently revived the issue of Muslim dress with a proposal that the burqa and other voluminous Muslim attire be banned.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, a conservative, backs the move, saying such garb makes women prisoners. The "burquini" covers the arms to the wrists and the legs to the ankle and has a hood to cover neck and hair.

An official in charge of swimming pools for the Emerainville region, Daniel Guillaume, said the refusal to allow the local woman to swim in her "burquini" had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with public health standards. "These clothes are used in public, so they can contain molecules, viruses, et cetera, which will go in the water and could be transmitted to other bathers," Guillaume said in a telephone interview. "We reminded this woman that one should not bathe all dressed, just as we would tell someone who is a nudist not to bathe all naked," he said.

Guillaume said France's public health standards require all pool-goers to don swimsuits for women and tight, swimming briefs for men — and caps to cover their hair. Bathers also must shower before entering the water. Guillaume said Carole had tried to file a complaint at a local police station, but her request was turned down as groundless.

Carole told the daily Le Parisien she would protest with the help of anti-discrimination groups.

Emerainville Mayor Alan Kelyor said he could not understand why the woman would want to swim in head-to-toe clothes. "We are going back in civilization," he said by telephone. Women have fought for decades for equal rights with men, he said. "Now we are putting them back in burqas and veils."

The suits have a clear market.

Women "jump on the occasion so they can swim with their families. Otherwise, they end up staying on the beach and watching," said Leila Mouhoubia, who runs an online site from France that specializes in the sale of Islamic swimsuits. Sales, she said, are strong. "I think it's forbidden (in France) because it presents an image of the Muslim woman (and) they have prejudices against Muslims," she said by telephone. "They want women to be undressed."

Mouloud Aounit, head of the anti-racism group known as MRAP, said the decision to ban Carole from the pool appeared fair, since pool authorities were observing regulations. But Aounit lamented that the incident was likely to fuel religious tensions. "The rules must be the same for everybody, regardless of the color of their skin or their religion," Aounit said. "The concern I have is that this case will again lead to stigmatization of the Muslim population in France."

The all-body suits, worn regularly by some women in Muslim countries, are growing popular in the West. They can be seen on female Muslim lifeguards on Australian beaches, in the United States and various European countries, from the Netherlands to Sweden — which OKed them after two women won discrimination cases last year."

Once again, I'm blown away at the French - and in general, the world - attitude toward Muslims. We prove time and again that we are as unworthy as any could be of our own religion. Where is the tolerance that we should show others as citizens of the world?

Sadly, most people are not citizens of the world but unwitting pawns to the idea of nationalism. I love being an American, I love living in the United States, but I do not agree with the "our way or the highway mantra more often heard than not. It is wrong to believe that people who emmigrate from the Middle East or other regions are less entitled to their beliefs and cultural mores than ours. We would raise a right royal fuss if we were given such an attitude somewhere else, but it is seemingly okay for us to do this to others.


One reason I cannot support organised religion is this intolerance toward all other religions - even those that are under the same broad umbrella as yours but not speicifically the same! So even though there are so many Christians in the United States, a country founded on religious freedom, we still find that the Jehovah's Witnesses don't like the Southern Baptists, the Mormons don't care for the poligamist Mormons, the Reborn Christians don't care for the Episcopalians, and Roman Catholics don't like anyone! Does that make any sense?

I find all the fringe groups a bit distasteful: the crazy people in Waco, the uneducated fools involved in the Oklahoma City bombing, the polagamist Mormons (I personally could care less if they want to have multiple wives; it is the reasoning, the treatment of the wives and the open pediphilia that bothers me), the KKK (yes, religious fervor has a role in that disgusting group) and of course the other religions' fanatics, such as the Taliban and Al Quaeda. I'm sure that Judaism has its fringe groups, most likely prevalent in the disputed territories of the West Bank, Jerusalem and neighbouring areas, but they don't seem to have the universal or newsworthy presence that the others have.

But this article above... well. Are we going to be fair and tell people you cannot wear your cross or Star of David or Wiccan symbols? Yogs can no longer be practiced as a form of exercise because suddenly we might have a rash of Eastern religions taking over? If women of the Islamic faith wish to wear burquinis and burquas, where is it anyone else's place to pass judgment on them?
More metal midgetry: 'Emerainville Mayor Alan Kelyor said he could not understand why the woman would want to swim in head-to-toe clothes. "We are going back in civilization," he said by telephone. Women have fought for decades for equal rights with men, he said. "Now we are putting them back in burqas and veils." '

We did not put anyone in anything. The women made a choice. You would fight for women to make the choice to wear less (how delightfully self-serving) but you would take away a person's choice to wear something you don't like.

I'm quite right in saying that is just stupid.

A Great Shower Missed! The Weather is NOT Your Friend...

I know that the Perseids are an annual event and I can live with that. This means that should I live to be 98 and I am hale and hearty most of it, I have 75 shots to see it as an "adult" and several more as a child old enough to recall the magic and wonder of it.

And if you live in the right place, you'll likely see it every year.

Unless you are stymied by, of all things, the weather. This season has been exceptional in its ability to occlude more often than not a perfectly wonderful, clear sky. I've missed more full Moon views than not thanks to this delightfully cool, wet, overcast garbage and that I get 29 different times a year to see this! The crescent Moon has only been visible to me a couple of times since the spring. This month I managed one set of the Full Moon, and the days following - maybe three days - and since then, nothing. The Moon right now is just a blob of white light, not even defined enough to be round, through the thick haze. Once again, crushed by the weather.

Onr the exciting things about the Perseids is the startling visibility even in this area, where the biggest enemy after the weather is light pollution. (All our younger employees love our proximity to NYC but I wish they'd turn NYC off a couple nights a week or move it farther away.) In Montana, I wouldn't need to worry about ANYthing being diminished! The term "Big sky country" is accurate not only to the relative size of visible sky but to the clarity of it. No light pollution, not obstructions, not even heat haze (here in Joisey, heat haze is number 3 on the list. In the winter is when the best viewing happens).

All is not lost, however. Come October 21-22, the Orionid shower comes to town and I will be in Vermont, where once again, light pollution is not the enemy. Mid to late October that far north, neither is humidity. The only potential fly in the ointment is the dratted weather again, and by the gods, I'll make a deal with Gaea if I have to!

And if all else fails, I still have the belovèd Leonid showers on 18 November which occur at predawn on Wednesday. As I am up at 0415 fpr work normally, this I should see. Once in a while it has been overcast on this shower, but more often than not, the temperature of the ambient air completely stymied the viewing of it in open air for anything more than ten minutes at a time. November can be quite cold...

Still, it is better than nothing!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Meteor Shower Tonight! ARTICLE, Too

I had totally forgotten about this momentous event until I saw this. I just hope (fruitlessly, of course) that the weather won't completely occlude the shower!
Strong Meteor Shower Expected Tonight
The annual Perseid meteor shower is expected to put on a good show this week for those willing to get up in the wee hours of the morning and wait patiently for the shooting stars. In North America, the best time to watch will be between midnight to 5 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 12, but late Tuesday night and also Wednesday night could prove fruitful, weather permitting.

The Perseids are always reliable, and sometimes rather spectacular. The only things that puts a damper on the August show are bad weather or bright moonlight. Unfortunately this week, as the Perseids reach their peak Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the moon will be high in the sky, outshining the fainter meteors.
Still, skywatchers around the globe will have a good chance of spotting the brighter meteors. Some already are enjoying the show.
Already underway
The Perseids are bits of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, which has laid down several streams of debris, each in a slightly different location, over the centuries as it orbits the sun. Every August, Earth passes through these debris streams, which spread out over time. "They are typically fast, bright and occasionally leave persistent trains," says Joe Rao,'s Skywatching Columnist. "And every once in a while, a Perseid fireball will blaze forth, bright enough to be quite spectacular and more than capable to attract attention even in bright moonlight."

Low numbers of Perseids, including some bright fireballs, have already been reported as Earth began entering the stream in late July. Seasoned observers have counted up to 25 per hour already, or nearly one every two minutes. Most meteors are no bigger than a pea. They vaporize as they enter Earth's atmosphere, creating bright streaks across the sky.

The Perseids appear to emanate from the constellation Perseus, which rises high in the sky around midnight and is nearly overhead by dawn. Like most meteor showers, the hours between midnight and daybreak are typically the best time to watch, because that's when the side of Earth you are on is rotating into the direction of Earth's travels through space, so meteors are "scooped up" by the atmosphere at higher rates, much like a car's windshield ends the lives of more bugs than does the rear bumper.
Astronomers expect up to 200 meteors per hour in short bursts of up to 15 minutes or so. But many of the fainter meteors will simply not be visible due to moonlight, and rates will go down even more for those in urban areas. More likely a typical observer under reasonably dark skies might hope to see a meteor every couple minutes when the bursts come, and fewer during lulls.
When to watch
The best time to watch is between midnight and dawn Wednesday. Forecasters say the best stretch could come between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. ET (1-2 a.m. PT), which would be after daybreak in Europe. Some Perseids might be visible late Tuesday night, and Wednesday night into Thursday morning could prove worthwhile, too.
Meteor forecasting is still in its infancy, however, so the best bet for anyone truly hungry to spot shooting stars is to get in as much observing time as possible from around 11 p.m. Tuesday night until dawn Wednesday, and if you miss that show, try the same time frame Wednesday evening into Thursday morning.
Meteors should be visible in the pre-dawn hours, weather permitting, all around the Northern Hemisphere. "Earth passes through the densest part of the debris stream sometime on Aug. 12," said Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. "Then, you could see dozens of meteors per hour."

Viewing tips
The best location is far from city and suburban lights. Ideally, find a structure, mountain or tree to block the moon. Then scan as much of the sky as possible. The meteors can appear anywhere, heading in any direction. If you trace their paths backward, they'll all point to the constellation Perseus.

People in locations where any chill might occur should dress warmer than they think necessary to allow for prolonged viewing. Seasoned skywatchers advise using a blanket or lounge chair for comfort, so you can lie back and look up for long periods. Allow at least 15 minutes for your eyes to fully adjust to the darkness. Then expect meteors to be sporadic: You might see two in a row, or several minutes could go by between shooting stars.
Avid meteor watchers might want to try scanning the northeastern horizon from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. local time (your local time, wherever you are) for Perseids that graze the horizon. "Earthgrazers are meteors that approach from the horizon and skim the atmosphere overhead like a stone skipping across the surface of a pond," Cooke explained. "They are long, slow and colorful – among the most beautiful of meteors." He notes that an hour of watching may net only a few of these at most, but seeing even one can make the whole night worthwhile.