April 24, 2005

more depressing statistics

if you needed more reasons to be disapointed in humankind here is a recent study on basic science knowlenge. particularly troubling are the percentage of people who don't understand evolution (47%), the big bang (67%), or how long it takes the earth to go around the sun (46%).


april showers bring uncomfortable social situations

the other morning i was in the shower here. the facilities in these old buildings are of the big horse-shower type design: they have two shower heads at opposite ends and a curtain in the middle. there is a locking door that opens into the middle of the stall. i was performing the morning cleanliness routine on one side. shampoo. rinse. minding my own business. repeat. then, out of nowhere, some jerk comes in and says, "hey man, let me get in there?"

horrified pause.

this fellow wants to get into the small shower area with me, separated by only a thin “curtain” (finest of all privacy devices), with the intention of becoming naked and soapy within 3 feet of yours truly. to say the least, i'm not really into that idea. so in the most incredulous tone i can muster i reply, "uh, are you sure about that?"

"i've got to get to class," he retorts, sounding not at all surprised by my reluctance to accept a scenario whose unremitting horror is not expressible in words.

needless to say, i was forced to cut my shower short because of this marauding jackass.

this is my 6th straight year living in a dorm and i must admit, it’s beginning to wear on me slightly. i don’t try to get into showers with other guys, i wait or use the one on another floor. nothing is so important that i need to get within 3 feet of another naked man. we don’t have to be savages here. i am getting pretty tired of living around these idiots. it is just so wrong to go around forcing people to either give up shower time, or participate in what could pass for the opening scene of a gay porn flick.

April 21, 2005

adage on the interruption of a particle physics lecture:

better to remain quiet and be thought a fool than to have your personalized cell phone ring speak for you and remove all doubt.

April 18, 2005

boogie woogie woogie

it may interest you to know that there exist fish with a “sense” of electricity. in addition to the usual five (and yes, fish can “smell”…i’ve done experiments) they possess the ability to detect slight aberrations in an electrical field of their own creation. these “weakly electric fish” live, obviously, in dark highly conductive waters and set up a 1 volt field around the electroreceptor in their tails (the “weakly” comes from comparison with their better-known counterparts, the electric eel and those ilk who can set up 600v potentials). they can then judge the resistance and conductivity of other sea creatures that enter their field, thus identifying them. the waveform emitted by the electric organ can even be used to communicate with friends. there is a great article about them here.

i bet my goldfish wishes he had a sense of electricity the way that people wish for sixth senses like x-ray vision or telepathy. these intrepid aquatics have one going for them, but to enjoy it they have to live in the gloomy depths.

April 16, 2005

the people's albatross

of all the crackerjack things the soviets did over the years, this has got to be one of the most crackerjack ones. in an apparent attempt to impress everyone with the architectural splendor of communism, plans were drawn up in the 1930's to construct a gigantic "palace of the soviets" in the heart of moscow larger than the empire state building. capped off with a likeness of
none other than lenin himself (chubby edition of course), 100 meters high. each of his legs would have been the same size as the statue of liberty and the entire structure would have been the tallest structure in the world. i hope that they were planning on having that plane fly circles around the thing all day long, with moving spotlights pointing up at it from the base.

of course, like everything else the communists did, this worked out exactly according to plan. after blowing up some famous church to lay the foundation, the builders discovered that the land was too marshy to construct a stupendously large monument. as they were about to fix it, world war two started and they gave up, turning the left-over cement basin into a glorious "swimming pool of the soviets" instead:

it just goes to show you: if you ever want to erect a scary-looking palace of ridiculous proportion, make sure that you're truly committed to building it, or you'll end up with a big ditch full of wet commies. and nobody wants that.

April 15, 2005

galactic ultraviolence

an astronomer named john dubinski has been making n-body simulations of galaxy collisions. particularly of interest is movie #1, the impending milky way/andromeda impact (set your vcrs for 3 billion years from now, it should be quite a show). it is probably best enjoyed by simultaneously playing the 2001 theme. of course, the third movie about cluster formation has its own music...its own inappropriately creepy music.

April 13, 2005


by the power vested in me by the state of rhode island i now officially declare the era of the livestrong bracelet over. i can appreciate the exploitation of a stupid trend for charity, and to the extent that this is the main accomplishment of the yellow bracelet people i can tolerate it, but with the duplication of the fad by innumerable other organizations i feel i have to draw the line. yesterday i saw a girl with no fewer than 5 such wristbands, all of differing colors. message to other charities: you need to come up with your own promotion. plus, the people who wear these things are so goddamn phony. you gave 100 cents to charity! here’s you metal, it’s yellow and it goes around your wrist!

don’t misunderstand me, there is absolutely nothing wrong with giving only one dollar to any charity. the cancer people will use it better than you, you know? but advertising the fact that you gave one dollar, like this makes you some kind of philanthropist? lame. not to mention that the people who wear these things seem to be saying “i know that this trend is ugly, but i am doing it for charity and that makes my nonchalance noble.” yes it’s a step up from the usual “i know this trend is ugly but i am doing it to look nonchalant and that makes me cool,” but not a big one. so in my eyes, the fact that the cancer research people were taking advantage of this attitude was clever on their part. but now we’ve got thousands of groups copying it. tsunamis, other diseases, goddamn student organizations. the bracelet proliferation has to stop. what was marginally (and probably unintentionally) clever when used by one group is now dreadfully aggravating when ripped off by a bunch of clones. i mean is a bracelet for the space shuttle really necessary?

i agree with the shuttle people*, but you won’t be able to take advantage of those humanitarians who want help looking altruistic the way that livestrong does. plus, what does “demonstrating your commitment" to the space shuttle accomplish? no one who sees you wearing the thing will be able to do anything about it. at least if someone is inspired by your cancer bracelet they can give money to cancer research.

i think we need a bracelet that demonstrates the wearer’s commitment to getting rid of these bracelets. it should be clear or something.

either that or a bracelet showing devotion to the building of a teraelectronvolt collider. we could call them liveelectroweak bracelets and they would be the color of particles.

*not because the shuttle is any good itself. the “research” is bs, legitimate scientists aren’t interested in whether you can grow
toothpick potatoes in zero-gravity, but because fixing the hubble telescope if we need to is really important.

April 11, 2005

the hovercar: an ode

in my formative years, when i was yet a mere sapling to the mighty oak that stands before you today, he was a cub scout. with the pointless little projects and silly uniforms i hated the experience itself but tangentially encountered one of the most influential forces of any young boy's childhood.

for you see, all cub scouts had an automatic subscription to boy’s life magazine, and boy’s life magazine had a certain advertisement in the back of every issue that no cub scout can ever forget. here, seared into the memories of millions of former scouts is the baffling photo from that ad:

a hovercraft. the weird triangular structure, large circular anti-gravity pads, and silvery mystery cylinder on the front. how could any seven-year old leafing casually through the “gifts and gimmicks” section fail to be captivated by such an outlandish contraption? yet, as soon as these youngsters inspected the description closely they would find that it was not, in fact, an actual “hovercar” for sale at around $5, rather an instructional booklet of how to build such a hovercar using only, of all things, an “ordinary vacuum cleaner.” now, if the panel had simply read “hovercar” with no picture or further elaboration most american males aged 6-40 would still probably remember it, but there are two reasons that it was the most deceptive advertisement of our generation. the first is the kid’s expression. he appears to be inspecting it, as though he just found it hovering outside his bedroom window one morning. like he didn’t just spend the last 6 months of his life in the garage with his dad’s welding torch. the second is that the hovercar appears to be about 2 feet off the ground. impressionable flying enthusiasts are led to believe that this thing hovers above houses and trees. over time i recall learning, in this order, that: you had to build it yourself, it remains a fraction of an inch above the ground at all times, that ground has to be perfectly flat and smooth, and it requires a power cord. not the futuristic vehicle that we envisioned.

i only bring it up since i thought about the hovercar yesterday after years of the memory slumbering in the back of my mind and realized that it is probably the most universally recognizable icon of many childhoods; the holy grail of many a young cub scout’s life.

April 10, 2005

you've come a long way baby

bad taste is a cruel mistress. i believe that there is something fundamental to the nature of certain things that marks them unerringly as low and classless. something deep within the essence of inanimate objects that whispers “i belong at a stock-car race.” the color turquoise, paraphernalia with the budweiser logo on it, and pretty much every occurrence of the male pony tail (sorry guys) are prime specimens of this unalterable taint. black jeans, gold chains, vinyl siding, you get the idea. i could spend all day listing this nonsense (which was all napoleon dynamite seemed to be, sorry again guys), but perhaps the eternal pillar of tackiness and the subject of today’s derision is the word ‘baby.’

yes, ‘baby,’ subject of a thousand pop songs. to me at least, there is just coarseness to the word that i can’t put my finger on and can’t get comfortable with. maybe it’s the “ee” ending. maybe it’s the comparing grown women to infants as a way of expressing affection. whatever it is, use of that word, especially by characters who seem to demonstrate decent elocution at less cringe-inducing points of a film and parents addressing their over-3-year-children, gets under my skin like the shrill chattering of adolescent girls.

in all of the english language it may be my least favorite noun. it has only three appropriate uses:

1. in reference to a newborn
2. the ironic george costanza fashion: “i’m back baby!”
3. gauging the classlessness of people who use it in the unapproved fashion.

anything else deserves an interaction with my aforementioned punching-squad. its up there with the non-ironic 'mama,' 'daddy' and 'doggy.' there's something about those youngster words ending in vowels. guys, once more, my apologies.

April 9, 2005

extrasolar planet spotted in our solar system!

over 150 planets have been discovered so far by looking at wobbles in the paths of the stars they are orbiting. but, of course, since the planets themselves don't emmit radiation it has been impossible to observe them directly, until now. some astronomers believe they may have gotten a photograph of a planet orbiting gq lupi at a distance of 100 au. it must be pretty big to be visible from reflected light at this distance, since 100 au is 2.5 times as far away as pluto and the star itself is at least 400 lightyears away. the spectrum seems to indicate that the object is cool, but more analysis of the mass will be needed to show that it isn't a brown dwarf. amazingly, this star with its companion was already photographed in 2002 and 1999 by sky surveys done with hubble and subaru but no one had noticed it until this march.

April 8, 2005


a while ago i noticed that my fingerprints on either hand were the same for matching pairs of fingers, except they were reversed in direction (as though in a mirror). the loops go left on my left hand and right on my right. this is pretty much what you would expect since everything else is symmetrical on people. and this is indeed the same for all my auxiliary fingers and thumbs—except for the pointer finger on my right hand, it goes left! the pointer looks the same on both hands. in physics terms: fingerprint parity is not conserved. here is a helpful diagram:

in fact, so strange was this to me when discovered that i conducted a survey by electronic mail and found that that everyone (of about 10) had this non-mirror conversion aspect. one person even had a ring finger with the same problem. why would my hands go through all the trouble of reversing themselves on a finger-by-finger basis and then screw up on the most important finger? does dna really leave this kind of thing up to chance? most importantly perhaps, why is it irregular? why does almost everyone have just one finger that does this, and is it always left hand uniform, right hand finger backwards? please leave a comment with your fingerprint specs, i don't want to look this up.

April 7, 2005

bottoming out

i think i just heard a cat food commercial narrated by david duchovny. now seems like about the right time for his carreer to hit its nadir, but he's really taking his decline seriously, i mean, cat food. that's going out with a bang!

i also just saw a commercial with cars riding on only the front two or back two tires. "why have four wheels if you don't use them?" the message being: this is what non-4-wheel drive is. well, it's not, but that isn't what i noticed. there was one of those tiny messages on the bottom of the screen that said "professional drivers, closed course. do not attempt." how would anyone watching even know how to go about attempting it? "yeah, i was thinking of filling my trunk with cement and just driving around with the front of my car 6 feet in the air. i saw it in this awesome commercial and since there weren't any warnings, immitating it must be ok!"

April 6, 2005


a few of my favorite quotes from non-major astronomy exams i graded last summer:

how are extrasolar planets detected?
"extrasolar planets have been detected and it is known that they exist in our solar system"

"extrasolar planets have been detected through syncrotron radiation"
what is the trip to venus that requires the least amount of energy? draw if nessasary

"least energy orbit to venus is at the solstice when the sun's gravity is least"
"follow the gravity pulls from planets and let the spaceship ride that wave from one side to the next"
and about 50% of the rest said something gleamed entirely from science-fiction movies and never discussed in the course like,
"use a gravity slingshot by going around the moon"

"slingshot around the sun"

"gravitational slingshot..."

"take a slingshot and hit me between the eyes with a sharp rock because i'm a retard"
ok, that last one was made up, but the rest are actual quotes.

most of the people in that class seemed to think that short answer questions in astronomy are like the ones in english or some other dopey humanity subject, as in: partial credit no matter what you write. they are not. if something is completely wrong it's completely wrong. and astronomers know it, because you see, in science there is such a thing as a right answer. i handed out many a zero that day my friends.

fists of courtesy

people simply don't know how to conduct themselves in crowds. every day when i go to the dining hall, or walk out of a crowded classroom there are countless individuals blocking my progress needlessly, conducting inane conversations loudly and generally carrying on in a manner appropriate only for toddlers. when in public, you don't simply cease walking with a bunch of people behind you, or camp out in front of a doorway to have a conversation. and yet, no amount of shoving and mumbling to myself will convince the acerebral herds. thus i have devised a solution: vesting a certain number of conscientious students with the power to enforce these social courtesies -- through punching. they'll be given some kind of unique identifier, such as a bright orange hat, credentials from the student government and the license to "correct" the misdeeds of those frustrating morons who saunter slowly in front of people with somewhere to go and strike up a chat with someone 30 feet in the distance. and to make sure that the enforcers don't go mad with power, they'll only have their authority for 2 weeks, then never again. it's a perfect plan. individuals who don't know how to walk around crowded public places are sociopaths who understand nothing but physical punishment. this is the only way of fixing the problem. i wish i could punch them myself, but i would be secure enough in the knowledge that someone out there is punching them for me.

April 5, 2005

crow: marinate, broil 6 months, serve

the obligatory baseball predictions. i hope that the al non-east is more exciting than it seems right now.

red sox
wild card: yankees
i could crank out a thirty pager on this. wishful thinking perhaps, but i fall within the camp that doesn’t see a major shift in the pitching balance between the archrivals. johnson is obviously a good pickup (especially looking to the postseason) as long as his arm doesn’t fall off, but the sox have a depth advantage:
schilling = johnson
wells (less than sign) mussina
clement pavano
> wright
wakefield/arroyo > brown

clement, who last time had a great era and a deceptively bad win-loss ratio due to lousy run support will have a great year in 2005, i predict. miller is more of an unknown quantity, but with 6 in the rotation, any one injury or lemon won’t be dishabilitating for the sox. not true for new york, who in addition to having little pitching leeway despite an aging staff, can’t match the bench which was so important to last year’s boston team. pokey, kapler, roberts and mientkiewicz all played a large part last time around, and though they may have moved on, the management has secured lateral or improved replacements for the replacements (payton et al.). and speaking of replacement-level, womack?!*

hittingwise the sox have a definite upper hand. last year’s most potent offense is back with nixon and mueller starting the season injury-free and a solid batter replacing the shaky trifecta of last year’s shortstops. in my opinion, the absences of trot and bill mueller were to blame for the sox’s early-midseason malaise last time and probably the reason they didn’t capture the al east. of course, the yanks aren’t slouches here either.
i don’t go in for much of the sports psychology but there are a few important things to consider. the one big risk for the sox is that they’ll have trouble adjusting to a post-2004 world where they still have to play games (lets hope that “writing” a book didn’t max out johnny damon’s all important mental energy). the big risk for the yanks is that the pressure will destroy them, but in a different sense. the yankees are not a team that truly enjoys winning, rather as a team and a fan base they fear losing and are relieved when they don’t. (they are also a fan base that will give a cheater-extraordinaire like giambi a standing ovation. how “classy.”) anyway, none of this is a good competitive mindset, but neither is growing fat and happy from last year’s miracle. at this point in time the yanks are desperately hoping that they can still win, but with as much talent as they have, the mental aspect is almost certainly irrelevant.

the orioles are likely to continue their inexplicable habbit of beating up on the sox and yanks for no known reason while sucking in general (please just ny) and the blue jays should surprise a few by being better than expected, but there can be no doubt that they'll still be renting out skydome for wizard conventions come the postseason.

central: twins
none of these teams are particularly inspiring. i wish i had something to offer here but i just don't care. hopefully somebody totally random will prove me wrong and come out of oblivion to challenge the bargain-basement twins for their title but it isn't likely. hopefully the white sox won't go back to the
hockey uniforms and detroit will learn that it takes more than one average player among sucky ones to have a decent team. and if the royals didn't show up to any games this year i doubt that a single person would notice (or even if they did notice that they would care (or even if they did care that they would be displeased)).

west: angels
another uninspiring area. the only teams in the hunt are the north america angels of anaheim and the texas rangers of dallas. oakland has finally finished dismantling their pitching and the rangers are still suffering the long-term-effects of george bush jr.'s inept leadership. deficits, massive deception, moral grandstanding in the grandstands, choking on pretzels, all fingerprints on their general lousiness. plus they traded a-rod, but hey, he was never a "true" texas ranger anyway. they always seem to take a half-hearted swipe at the wild-card but with the stacked al east, it is hard to imagine them making it really competitive. i would like to see seattle challange someone for something, but you know...meh.

too many people have tried not picking atlanta for too long. i refuse to make the same mistake. even if they had swapped out the entire team with kansas city and changed their name to "the los angeles braves of atlanta" i would choose them out of fear. the signing of hudson, return of smultz and the resurgence of last year's slumping offense ought to keep them on top of the division. the marlins will be fast on their heels but good pitching always beats good hitting and turquoise ought to be banned from major league baseball. nonetheless if the cubs delicate pitching falters they could easily be wild card. the mets are going to discover that two overpaid stars can't carry their team (even though i expect pedro to have a great year underneath all the low-flying airplanes) and the phillies are going to discover that they still suck.

central: cardinals
wild card: cubs
the powerhouse cardinals haven't made any significant detractions for last year's 105-win team and i don't see them getting any competition for the division. it would be nice if the astros made things interesting, and houston will have andy petitte back, but this won't begin to account for the losses of beltran, kent and the gentle downward trend of the old-timers like biggio. the cubs have the classic successful-post-season wild card persona going for them: several dominant pitchers with little depth in any particular direction. nomar is clear of the injury and whininess demons that have plagued him lo these past two seasons and should be back to true nomah form. as long as prior and wood stay healthy and chicago somehow manages to do two things at once to stay ahead of the marlins for the wild card the cubbies could actually have some success in the post-season for once, except of course that they're the cubs. i’m really just picking them because i want to believe they can walk and chew gum, but i don’t really. hopefully they’ll surprise me, i hate the marlins.

west: padres
and why not? i reflexively don't want to pick the barry bondses since one-player teams bug me to no end and the dodgers, (last year's winners) seemed to go out of their way to make dubious off-season moves. even if they do win it won’t be deserved. i have a feeling we'll be seeing quite a bit of the derek lowe face this year with the dismal l.a. infield and run-support. plus, i have to go out on a limb somewhere. the padres seem to have had a realization about their pitcher's park and wisely made the decision to play small ball. dave "the steal" roberts is batting lead-off. i can easily see him stealing 300 bases, frequently reaching second on passed balls, and hitting 62 inside-the-park-home-runs.

*about womack: my friend and i used to play a demo for some baseball game on the inauspicious sega-saturn. the demo would only let you play homerun derby, and after a little while it got so easy for us that we had to go to some lengths to make it a challenge. we would thus pick terrible players from the bottom of terrible rosters and try to get them hitting it out of the infield. tony womack became a fast favorite. his stupid sounding name and hilarious niche as a player rated by the video game as possessing only "speed" for a positive attribute was more than enough to endear him to us. the ultimate journeyman, somehow he has now landed a job as one of the starting nine on baseball's $4 billion team. from the laughingstock of 13-year-olds to a new york yankee millionaire in less than a decade. truly a meteoric rise. in the words of my friend, womack has “aged like fine wine.”


hangdog -n. someone only fit for hanging dogs, hence: a low skulking person, a sneak

haplography -n. a mistake in printing or writing (not repeating part of a word)

hebetate -v. to grow dull or stupid

horologe -n. timepiece

hoyden -n. a nude girl

humectant -a. retaining moisture, or food aditives which do this

humeral -a. of the shoulder

April 4, 2005

me and the girlfriend yukking it up last night:

[ironic]: "...egypt, pakistan, they're all the same."


"we're laughing because we hate people from other countries."

"no we don't."

"we don't? uh oh. i guess you're not going to like the love poem I wrote you yesterday."

part of a head

one of my favorite books is a 1000-page tome called curiosities of popular customs, printed in 1897, that i got for a dollar from my high school library. it is an encyclopedia of archaic "rites, ceremonies, observances and miscellaneous antiquities" as the subtitle claims. a "compilation of antiquarian writings" if you will, under headings like "dog-whip day" "corpse-gate" and "wassailing the orchards." if that wasn't enough, the writing-style is all old-fashioned and racist in its’ descriptions of non-anglo-saxon rituals.

probably one of my favorite entries is on st. james' burial place in spain:

"numerous miracles had already been performed at [st. james'] shrine, which were capped by the appearance of st. james himself at the battle of clavijo in 841, where he killed single-handed sixty thousand moors..."

and i only hope people are saying stuff like this about me after i'm gone:

"...though the spanish body of st. james has disappeared, there are many other bodies of the saint preserved in europe. one is claimed to have been brought to toulouse in the fourth century. another body of st. james is said to have been translated into italy...the heads of st. james are very numerous: there is one in toulouse, while two are at venice (one in the church of st. george, another in the monastery of ss. philip and james). there are a skull and a vessel of the saint's blood in the church of the apostles at rome, a head at valencia, another at amalfi, still another at st. vaast in artois, and part of a head at pistoja. bones, hands, and arms of the saint are scattered about in great numbers, and are shown at troyes, in sicily, on the island of capri, at pavia, in bavaria, at liege, at cologne, and in other places. some bones of the saint are shown in the escorial."

so for those of you playing the home game that’s like 15 whole bodies for one person.

can you imagine the rivalry between those two churches in the same town that both say they've got this guy's head? and the place where one has the whole body and one has just a head. not to mention the "part of a head" people. that must be some item they've got there to even give them the idea to try to pass it off as a saint's in the first place. how impressive does a part-head have to be before people start saying to each other "man, we have got to put this thing on display."

yes, there is a word for that

espirt d’escalier - n. thinking of a witty retort too late, or the remark itself. it comes from the french for “staircase wit” as in, you thought of it on your way out.

April 3, 2005

the 4 sciences

when we were kids we all thought that there were 4 branches of science:

having no concept of what composed the forefront of scientific research we let the toy people and the pbs people fill our heads with this perception. there were geology kits, geodes, rock tumblers, and always a shelf in the toy store with different polished kinds of rocks in the little sciency area. i know that i had a rock collection that i stored in a brown paper which kept tearing for some reason. obviously there were dinosaur toys as well, and big books with pictures of the prehistoric. it was an unquestioned belief that if one was to start digging in the back yard, bones would be unearthed sooner or later. it was simply a matter of interest. and if we ever saw a piece of fantastic art work like this it would be mere moments before we recalled the single most important thing we knew about dinosaurs...

that they died off before humans evolved so they wouldn't have to be the subject of humiliating paintings like this one.

i was, obviously, more a space and atoms type kid. there wasn't a lot of merchandising in the 'atoms' direction but there was always the impression that a people were working on it. in vain i once attempted to build an atom with styrofoam balls and wire. it was much harder than i expected. there was the periodic table and countless diagrams with red protons, blue neutrons and yellow electrons. here's an obligatory stock photo:

incidentally, i cannot ever recall a time when i didn't know what made up atoms, i have no memory of learning it for the first time. i guess that's why i'm a physics major: i am under the misguided impression that it comes naturally. but those documentaries were a bit deceptive, they always sort of made you think that if you became a physicist, your job would be to shrink down in size and look at a single slowly moving atom, color-coded for your convenience against a black background. every day the professor of one my quantum mechanics or particle physics classes doesn't say something like "today we're taking a field trip...to boron!" i grow more and more disappointed.

space was just astronomy with a twist of astronaut missions. but you wouldn't say you were interested in "astronomy," you would say "space." and the most vital fact to know about it? that you can't hear sounds in the vacuum. something you dearly wished wasn't true but couldn't change.

probably the best aspect of these two subjects was the way that they were constantly trying to impress you with the length or volume scales. any book was filled with statements like "if the earth were an ant on the top of the empire state building the sun would be the epcot center ball located 15 miles away." to read these books was to enter an alternate universe where the standard units of measure were football fields, golf balls and skyscrapers.

April 2, 2005

today on ebay.aq: save on mittens

there is a web domain for antarctica. it's .aq. so in case you are an enterprising young antarctican who wants to start a website, this is something to keep in mind. i don't feel i need to elaborate on the absurdity of this fact any further.

there are also, of course, internet codes for all the usual loser countries that we know so well. such as .li for liechtenstein and .va for vatican city. north korea has .kp but i don't know who's using it. and then there is the ultimate mystery: .nt for the "neutral zone." i suppose they're planning ahead for when starfleet decides to demarcate some buffer room between us and the klingons.

April 1, 2005


yes, at some time or another we have all oh-so-cleverly wondered “you can be disgruntled, but can you just be gruntled?” thus generating a pity laugh from our friends who have either already wondered the same thing themselves or don’t care. of course, if you took the time to look it up you would find that indeed you can simply be gruntled and that it means what it ought to. same the same goes for ‘overwhelmed’ (a capsized boat has been whelmed, they use it in the end of moby dick) and ‘nonplussed.’ somehow ‘uncouth’ has a non-prefix form ‘couth’ for both the usual “crude/sophisticated” connotation and the archaic “known/familiar” one. the ‘tid’ of ‘tidbit’ fame is its own word as well but for some reason it means soft or nice.

there is also a frequently used cosmology term: ‘recombination,’ describing the era of the early universe when all of the electrons and protons first combined to make hydrogen. first. how we get recombination out of this instead of combination i’ve got no clue. i’ve even asked a few professors, and nobody else does either. there is a better explanation for why there are positrons (anti-matter electrons) but we don’t call regular electrons ‘negatrons.’ well, there really are negatrons. the word was coined simultaneously with ‘positron’ in the same 1933 paper but never caught on.

the only words that really bother me in not having non-prefix forms are ones like ‘oblivious’ and ‘obvious’ and 'object.' in latin ‘ob-’ means “toward, in front of, or on account of.” like the way the head of a coin is the ‘obverse’ and the tail is the 'reverse.' take away the ob- however and you've got nothing. not even the oed has anything on the non-obs. some of them work with a re- instead, but not all. this is unusual, since even if a word is totally archaic it usually exists simply as an opposite to whatever the well-known term is. i suppose that ob- words aren’t like the rest since ob- is just one of those latin things that romans liked to stick on the front of stuff just to sound cool, but it still bothers me. someday i will become a lexicographer and use the political clout that surely comes with such a job to hold senate hearings on this. thus exposing the ones responsible to public scandal and disrepute, and at long last enshrining 'livious' and 'edience' in our national vocabulary.