Saturday, February 04, 2006

A is for Apple

Since the day I first tasted them two years now, my favorite apples have been Pink Ladies. My previous favorites, Gala apples, are number two. But Pink Ladies often are not available, so I still make do with Galas from time to time.

Yesterday, at Whole Foods, I tasted an apple I had never tried before. It was wonderfully fragrant, lovely to look upon, and its taste put my beloved Pink Ladies to shame. The apple was called

In Greek mythology, food with which the Olympian gods preserved their immortality.
"ambrosia." The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press., 2003. 04 Feb. 2006.

Accordingly, my new apple rankings:

1. Ambrosia
2. Pink Lady
3. Gala

None of these would cook well, though.

Ah, yes, but what do they smell like?

From the oldest's composition, entitled Snowflakes:

You can make a snowman with snowflakes and snowflakes taste like snowflakes.

They do

1. Without a doubt; certainly.
2. In fact; in reality.
[Middle English in dede, in fact : in, in; + dede, deed, fact.]
"indeed." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 02 Feb. 2006.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Happy Bir...

My birthday is next week. I'm going to be a thousand and seven.

This morning, my friend E. came over with a present, as she's going to be away next week. She was giddy as I reached in the gift bag and pulled out a small, fancily boxed rum cake and a tiny pink candle, the kind used on children's cakes. I set out Play-doh for the youngest as E. unsealed the box.

When she opened it, we both started laughing, silent laughter, the kind punctuated only by the occasional snort or faint rasp. For the box, already small, was four times as large as the actual cake. The candle was longer than the cake in every direction; we measured.

be had
1. Be outwitted; also, be cheated, deceived. This expression employs the verb to have in the sense of getting someone in one's power or at a disadvantage. [Slang; early 1800s]
2. Be bribed or influenced by dishonest means. [Slang; early 1800s]
"be had." The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992. 03 Feb. 2006.

"Kindergarten is a Merlot"

From a Washington Post article about the No Child Left Behind act's effect on a local school:

Monte E. Dawson, Alexandria schools' executive director for testing and evaluation, was the man in charge of Maury's battle to convince state education officials that Maury should come off the list. He described the process as a matter of judgment. It would, he said, be rather like sampling a new and supposedly improved wine.

"You are swirling the wine around," Dawson said. "The judge might say, 'I like the bouquet, but it tastes like dreck.' "

noun, slang
Trash, especially inferior merchandise.
[German, dirt, trash and Yiddish drek, excrement, both from Middle High German drec, from Old High German.]
"dreck." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 03 Feb. 2006.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Comic Stripped

A quote from a Washington Post article about retired Senator, now Episcopal priest, John Danforth:

Danforth is no squalling liberal. He is a lifelong Republican. And his own political history shows he is no milquetoast.

One who has a meek, timid, unassertive nature.
WORD HISTORY An indication of the effect on the English language of popular culture is the adoption of names from the comic strips as English words. Casper Milquetoast, created by Harold Webster in 1924, was a timid and retiring man named for a timid food. The first instance of milquetoast as a common noun is found in the mid-1930s. Milquetoast thus joins the ranks of other such words, including sad sack, from a blundering army private invented by George Baker in 1942, and Wimpy, from J. Wellington Wimpy in the Popeye comic strip, which became a trade name for a hamburger. If we look to a related form of popular culture, the animated cartoon, we must of course acknowledge Mickey Mouse, which has become a slang term for something that is easy, insignificant, small-time, worthless, or petty.
"milquetoast." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 02 Feb. 2006.

At the Wimpy restaurants in Delhi, the menu features lambburgers instead of hamburgers.

And my favorite comic strip ever, other than Peanuts, is Calvin and Hobbes.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Thank you, Dr. Shen

Standing from leaning to set a box down, my father hit the top of his head on a hanging cabinet, gashing his scalp and knocking himself quite silly. When the wound would not stop bleeding, I insisted on taking him to the urgent care clinic, where the doctor administered a tetanus shot, gave a head injury exam, and sealed the gash with dermabond and a hand most

1. Dexterous; deft.
2. Skillful and adept under pressing conditions.
[French, from à droit : à, to (from Latin ad) + droit, right (from Latin dīrēctus).]
"adroit." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 02 Feb. 2006.

Brother, Have You Got A Pillow?

I work the graveyard shift. This is untoward, from a biological point of view. We have strong mechanisms in place to encourage us to sleep at night. This is what the rest of the world does, and unless I want to have no normal social contact whatsoever I must return to a normal sleep schedule on my days off. This means I get to toggle my sleep window regularly from the accepted nighttime hours to daytime (made as night-ish as possible with heavy curtains) for every other week or so.

This week the powers-that-be have been assigning me work all over the clock:
  • Tuesday--3:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.;
  • Wednesday--9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.;
  • Thursday--midnight to 5:00 a.m.

The question is, how does one sleep for a schedule like this? Because it's murder on one's

circadian rhythm.
A daily rhythmic activity cycle, based on 24-hour intervals, that is exhibited by many organisms.


It's an interesting aside that when deprived of this day-night cycle people will fall into a sleep schedule slightly longer than the 24-hour cycle. Strange.

Curiouser and Curiouser

I saw this headline today at
Lohan injured in teacup accident

I immediately thought of the Mad Tea Party Ride at Disney World. Now Lindsay Lohan is rather well-known for her multiple car mishaps but I would have thought she could handling riding in a teacup. Well it turns out that she fell on a broken teacup and had to have her cut stitched closed.

I couldn't help but feel that the headline was

Misleading adj.

Tending to lead one into error

"misleading." Roget's II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995. 01 Feb. 2006.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bon Voyage

(*looking around*) So these are the shiny halls of Wordaholism! Very swank! In keeping with my status as the newest squatter--er, denizen--I will make my entrance quietly through the side door, and try not to be disruptive, unlike this stout old matron who is being very splashy with her


  1. To begin a new venture or phase; embark: launch forth on a dangerous mission; launched out on her own after college.
  2. To enter enthusiastically into something; plunge: launched into a description of the movie.

I'm free dead!

From a Washington Post article:

A D.C. jail inmate was killed in traffic this morning after he escaped from a prisoner transport bus, only to be crushed by oncoming cars at a busy downtown intersection, police said.

out of the frying pan into the fire
From a bad situation to one that is much worse.
[This expression, a proverb in many languages, was first recorded in English in 1528.]
"out of the frying pan into the fire." The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992. 31 Jan. 2006.

Monday, January 30, 2006


It was foggy this morning when I let the dogs out and walked down the driveway to pick up the newspaper. The cool mist on my face reminded me of days in Maine when the fog was so dense I couldn't see the ocean across the street. I could hear the buoys, though, ringing softly to tell boats to keep seaside of them.

The lobstermen's buoys were my favorites. They had no bells, but they were brightly painted in each lobstermen's color and stripe pattern. Ropes underneath the buoys led down to the traps themselves, sitting on the sea floor.

On clear mornings, I would sit on the deck to eat my breakfast so I could watch the lobstermen's boats. They would approach each of their own buoys, pull the trap up, and take out any lobsters inside.

Occasionally, the buoys would break free during bad weather. They would wash ashore, the traps at the bottom of the sea lost forever. The lobstermen never came to our little cove to get them, so they would just sit among the tidal pools until someone took them or the sea washed them back out.

I haven't been to Maine in over twenty years, but I still have the buoys.

1. Full of wishful yearning.
2. Pensively sad; melancholy.
[From obsolete wistly, intently.]
"wistful." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 30 Jan. 2006.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Wordaholics abroad, unite!

Well, I went to the bookfair yesterday and was (as expected) overwhelmed. Two things, however, struck me:

1) the educational book hall was a dense-packed, overfull clot of humanity, from stalls hawking little kids’ books to those selling university test-taking guides. In one stall’s corner, I wandered over and spied 5 or 6 (apparently) late teens absorbed in tomes on operations research and nuclear physics.
2) all of the halls were overwhelmingly dominated by foreign (ahem. Make that non-English and non-Hindi) languages. Yes, intellectually I already know this and this, but it’s quite another thing to be confronted with rows of stalls in Telugu or Urdu or Marathi or Tamil, each with their own hundreds of books on display.

As with most things in India, it was something of a

ba•bel also Ba•bel
1. A confusion of sounds or voices. See synonyms at noise.
2. A scene of noise and confusion.


(p.s.: I didn’t see any Anita Desai…at least in English.)

Acquired Taste

Last week, the youngest decided eggs are yummy after roughly two years of my foisting them upon him with no great success. To celebrate, I showed him the famous egg song. Then he insisted we watch it overandoverandoverandover. I too find it slightly

1. Strongly attractive, as if with a magnet.
2. Inducing hypnosis in.
"mesmerize." WordNet 1.7.1. Princeton University, 2001. 29 Jan. 2006.

Please, won't you sit down?

Pick one.
A. Sofa
B. Couch
C. Settee
D. Lounge
E. I know that piece of furniture by another name.

I'm a sofa girl myself. That's the design/fabric combination of one of the sofas in the den, by the way. I bought it from a couch man; he kept referring to it as a couch. I'd say something like Can I order this sofa in this fabric?, and he'd say No, that couch doesn't work with that fabric. It was slightly distracting. To me, couch is a verb.

To convey in language or words of a particular form.
"couch." Roget's II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995. 29 Jan. 2006.