Our word for today is floccinaucinihilipilification. May you never have to use it in a sentence. Or spell it in a spelling bee!
As you might guess, my main dude, M, helped me with this post--starting by coming up with the word in the first place. It was in a novel he's reading by a famous comedian, movie actor, and banjo player named Steve Martin. The book, which is called The Pleasure of My Company, is about a man with a bad case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. And in the story, the man actually does manage to use floccinaucinihilipilification in a sentence. This was a first for M, who had never heard of it before. He went straight to the online Oxford English Dictionary and found that it means "the action or habit of estimating something as worthless."
When he told me this, I thought that the word itself might be in need of some floccinaucinihilipilification. I mean, there are what--29 letters in it? But "estimating something as worthless," which is the main part of its definition, has only 30 letters, so you're basically saving one letter. And if you add up the syllables, floccinaucinihilipilification has 12, while "estimating something as worthless" has only nine. So which is the bigger waste of breath? I rest my case.
On our walk this evening, I asked M if our new f-word is the longest word in the dictionary. He did a quick computation and said it might be one of the longest, that it has one more letter than antidisestablishmentarianism, which was the biggest word he personally knew before today. But when we got home, we went back to the online OED and found that the biggest word it contains is this 45-letter monster: pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.* According to the dictionary, this is "an artificial long word said to mean a lung disease caused by inhaling very fine ash and sand dust."
Long? Can't argue with that! But artificial? Why not real? And "said to mean"? Said by whom? And for heaven's sake, why? It looks like some humans have forgotten (or never heard of) their own KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
*PS - While the above p-word is thought to be the longest "regular" word in the English language, the longest word of any kind found in Britain is the name of a village in Wales: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. This is usually abbreviated as Llanfair PG. Here is a picture of its railway station:
M wants me to let you know that Paul Krugman's blog post today on "Interest Rates, Inflation, and the Way the World Works" is worth reading. He says it's not as "slightly wonkish" as Dr. K suggests, if you don't get too caught up in the graphs. It seems wonkish to me, probably because I'm--you know--a dog. But since many of my readers are humans, M thinks that they, especially, ought to take a look. He says some of the comments are pretty good, too. (Especially this one.)
I'll bet you thought it was just Thanksgiving--or as it's known around our house, the Ides of Thankshallowistmas.
M tells me his birthday falls on Thanksgiving Day on average once every seven years. He says this is also true of anyone whose birthday is November 22nd, 23rd, 25th, 26th, 27th, or 28th, which are the only other possible dates for the fourth Thursday in November. All Thanksgiving birthdays follow a repeating pattern of six, five, six, and eleven years. My man's last one was six years ago (2005), and the one before that was way back in 1994. So the next one will be in five more years (2016), then six years after that, then eleven years, and so on. But M says that if he's still around by 2033, he won't know Tuesday from August, so who cares.
Well, me for one. I care a whole bunch. Here's to the guy who walks me twice a day whether I feel like it or not:
Yesterday we honored one small part of our military, the Marines. Today, Veterans Day, we salute all of the men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces, regardless of which branch they chose. I hope that you had or will have a chance to see or take part in one of the celebrations that are going on all over the country. M and J and I watched C-SPAN's coverage of the ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, and it was very moving.
Not only is this Veterans Day, but it's an extra-special one. There can't be another one like it for a hundred years. That's because today's date--11/11/11--is a numeric palindrome. It reads the same from right to left as it does from left to right. In fact, if you use a sans serif font (one without all those little pointy things at the ends of the letters), this one even reads the same upside-down. Observe:
Upside-up: l l / l l / l l
Upside-down: l l / l l / l l
(Okay, so I fudged a bit by also using a lower-case letter L for a 1. Just pretend this is M's old manual typewriter.)
When you have a chance, you should find out (if you don't already know) why the number 11 is so important to Veterans Day--and an earlier version called Armistice Day. Then for fun of a whole different kind, check out why the number is also important for lots of numeric palindromes, not just today's date.
(Here's an example: 111,111 x 111,111 = 12,345,654,321.)
Final item: M likes to start his day by trying to work the Celebrity Cipher. This is a substitution-code puzzle by Luis Campos that appears in our local newspaper. Since today's cipher was a great one for Veterans Day, we thought we'd share it with you. See if you can figure it out:
. . . the United States Marine Corps was founded by a resolution of the Continental Congress. So happy 236th birthday and a great big Semper Fi! to all of our jarhead friends. According to M, "jarhead" is a term of endearment used by members of the other service branches who are secretly envious of the Marines' snazzy high-and-tight haircuts. I guess it's an okay nickname, though I personally prefer "devil dogs."
Here's a nice slow-cadence rendition of "The Marines' Hymn" as it was performed at the Iwo Jima Memorial on November 10, 2007, by the United States Marine Band:
(To see the full-size version on YouTube, click here.)
But at my house we have something better to usher in the first day of Thankshallowistmas: The Big HalloWeenie!
Whee, doggies! Do I look delicious or what?
Yesterday my sister Jenny took me for a stroll to give the neighbors a little peek at the well-dressed pup:
Here, Jen. I'll show you a trick for anyone who doesn't give you a bodacious treat!
Note to my long-time readers: I know that it seems out of character for me to wear something besides the occasional hat. But this thing actually feels pretty good . . . downright comforting. Maybe I can wear it the next time we have a bad thunderstorm. Also, I'm not really doing any trick-or-treating tonight, since I'm not supposed to have candy.
After we got home from our walk, M and J helped Jenny with her costume. Hers isn't for trick-or-treat, either, but for an office party. This year she's decided to dress up as Axl Rose, one of the founders of an old rock band named Guns N' Roses:
Here she is belting out a G N' R song called "Welcome to the Jungle." I think it refers to a different jungle from the one I used to live in. M asked her to be careful not to scuff his boots.
In other Halloween happenings, M found an article that was supposedly written by one of his favorite economists, Paul Krugman, on a website known as the Onion. The piece is entitled "This Sure Is A Spooky Time For The Economy." If you'd care to read it, just follow this link. You'll probably understand it better than I did. What I liked the most was the picture of Dr. Krugman dressed up as Dracula:
Well, it turns out Dr. K didn't write the article. He obviously has a sense of humor, though, as evidenced by his blog post setting the record straight. In it, he Halloweenishly misquotes another famous "K" economist, John Maynard Keynes, by noting that "In the long run we are all undead . . ."
One of the nice things about my daily walks around the neighborhood is getting to meet new friends. So far I've met at least a gazillion--a couple dozen more if you count the ones who fed me while I was still living on my own.
Just when I think I've met everyone there is, somebody else pops up. Our "stop-and-chat" almost always ends with M telling the new person about my blog. This week, as a little reminder, we've started handing out my very own business cards. Take a look--first the front side:
And now the back:
Pretty cool, huh? I wish we'd thought of it about half-a-gazillion people ago.
M fusses that much of what passes for country music these days . . . isn't. Instead it's slick, overproduced soda pop that tries to boost its audience by attracting fans of every other genre. This doesn't mean a lot to me, so today I asked him how you can tell if a song is truly "country."
"You can just feel it," he replied. "For one thing, the music isn't something you're apt to hear in an elevator. And the lyrics speak the language of real down-to-earth people. A country song taps into your rawest emotions. It reaches into your chest and rips your heart out."
This was starting to sound dangerous. "I don't think I could listen to many of those," I said. But because I'm always eager to learn about the human condition, I asked him to help me find a good example. And what he showed me just blew me away. It's by a band called The Notorious Cherry Bombs, which doesn't seem to exist anymore. (However, a couple of its members, Rodney Crowell and Vince Gill, do have successful solo careers.)
The name of this genuine country song is "It's Hard to Kiss the Lips at Night That Chew Your Ass Out All Day Long." After listening to it a few dozen times, all I can say is, "Bring back The Notorious Cherry Bombs!"
I used to live in the woods with a homeless man. When he died, some people took him away, and I was left on my own for a long time. Fortunately those days are over for me. Unfortunately they're not over for lots of dogs, cats, and people.
M says that when he was a kid, homeless folks were known as hobos and that they sometimes moved around the country by hitching rides in railroad freight cars--or often underneath them! This might sound glamorous, romantic, and even fun. But I think it's most likely just miserable and dangerous and I wouldn't recommend it.
Here's a good song about hobos. It was written by a man named Goebel Reeves and made popular by many folksingers, especially one named Woody Guthrie. This particular version is sung by Woody's son, Arlo. I hope it will help you see that homelessness, whatever you name its victims, is a terrible thing. Contrary to popular belief, it's not a lifestyle most of them choose for themselves, but one that's been forced on them through bad luck. If you are living in comfort, please do whatever you can to help those who are not.
(To see the bigger version at YouTube, click here.)
My adoptive sister Jenny likes to perform in community theater. Most recently she's appeared as "Dinah Grayson," one of five characters in a play called The Dixie Swim Club, by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten. The production, which ended its two-and-a-half-week run today, was an Awareness Event connected with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Some of the ticket proceeds were also donated to that cause.
The play was staged by the Sands Theater Company at the Athens Theatre, a newly renovated local landmark.
Here's a publicity picture of the cast (that's Jenny/Dinah on the right):
And here's the old theater:
M and J went to see the play last weekend and said that it was very enjoyable.
"What's it about?" I asked M on one of our recent walks.
"About two hours," he replied.
I gave him a "Don't-make-me-use-these-teeth-on-your-leg" look, and he smartened right up. The play, he informd me, is about five ladies who are good friends and former teammates on their college swim team. They get together for a long weekend every August at a beach cottage on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The story takes place in four acts in the cottage's living room, over a period of 33 years.
"They stay at the beach?" I said, my stomach suddenly feeling a bit queasy. "So it's a horror story?" (As you may have seen elsewhere in this blog, the beach--or more properly the ocean, or any large amount of standing water--sort of terrifies me.)
"Not even close," he said. "It's a comedy--and a very funny one, with just a tinge of tragedy for people who like to keep things realistic." He went on to explain that the script was full of great laugh lines, thanks in part to playwright Wooten, who spent some years as a writer and producer on a popular TV sitcom called The Golden Girls.
Here are several photos from a couple of the performances:
M and I had lots of pictures to choose from, but these will give you the general idea that the ladies really enjoy their reunions. One thing that struck me is that in most of the photos I saw, Jenny seems to be awfully thirsty. I wonder if she ought to try drinking a large bowl of water before she goes onstage.
My Grandma Grace left us four months ago today. I still miss her like crazy. I miss her coming to visit me and the way she always asked M, "How is Buddy?" whenever she couldn't come over. And I miss her comments on my blog.
Grandma was such a great human--kind and generous, cheerful and helpful, and talented in so many ways. She could sing and dance, knit and water ski--though M says she hadn't done the latter in quite a few years. She played piano and ukulele, and when she was in high school she also played the clarinet. At various times in her life she flew airplanes all over the country and sailed a big sailboat called Night Train. M says she was a great cook, too (especially chicken pot pie!), and that she could underwrite insurance policies. (I have no idea what that last thing means, but it sounds pretty hard.) She could even touch-type.
More than anything, Grandma loved her family. She loved her parents, her sister, her kids and grandkids and great-grandkids, all four of her husbands, and her many other relatives, including the in-laws and outlaws.
I thought today would be a good day to post a slideshow that I made from family photos of Grandma. The pictures date from October of 1924, when she was a baby, to September of last year, when she was . . . not. Most are from her own big collection of albums, but some are from M and J and other kinfolk.
One of Grandma's favorite songs was "When You and I Were Young, Maggie," by George Washington Johnson and James Butterfield, so I decided to use it in the slideshow. There are lots of beautiful renditions of it on the internet. The one I picked is known as an instrumental, because it doesn't have the lyrics. (I mostly want people to focus on the photos, so I'm using just the "Butterfield" part of the song.) This version is by a group of musicians called The Trybe, from their CD Riverdance & Other Irish Panpipe Songs.
While I'm giving credit where it's due, I also want to thank my adoptive Sister Bonnie and Aunt Suzie for their help with some tricky photo-editing and software problems.
Finally, a small request: If you enjoy this tribute, please share it with others who might like it, too. Put it on your Facebook page. E-mail it to everyone in your address book (the way M says Grandmas are often prone to do!), or go outside and drag people in off the street to look at it. I want the whole world to know what a special lady we're celebrating.
And now, without further ado, heeeeere's Grandma!
P.S. - For those who prefer to see the bigger YouTube version, here's a link. In either case, if your computer will support it, try the "Full screen" mode, which makes it easier to read the captions that are on a few of the pictures.
Wow! My Old Man got to be the fifth commenter on one of Professor Krugman's blog posts this morning. Of course, I don't understand a word of either the post or the comment. But it does show that some days M can be pretty quick with the mouse clicker.
There's a boatload of bad stuff going on these days. Lots of hate and anger and poverty and misery and greed and envy and spite and blame and crime and punishment and [insert your favorite downer of a situation here] . . .
Then out of nowhere a story like this one appears and wah-LAH!--it rekindles your faith in a certain highly developed species:
It seems that a high school athlete named Josh Ripley was running a two-mile cross-country race when he stopped after about a half-mile. The reason he stopped was to help a competitor from another school who was injured. The second boy's ankle had been spiked by the shoe of a third runner. The injury was an accident and not on purpose, so that's some pretty good news right there, in this day and age. But the best news was what happened next.
When Josh saw the boy's bleeding ankle, he didn't say, "Well, it sucks to be you" and leave him there. Instead he picked the boy up and carried him that half-mile back to the coaches, so he could get medical help (which included a trip to the hospital and quite a few stitches). Then Josh turned around and ran the complete race, which he didn't win.
Or did he?
To find out the rest of the story of "The Compassionate Mr. Ripley," follow this link.
M wanted me to bring this to your attention, and since it's his computer I can hardly say, "Oh, no you DIH-unt!"
Apparently there was a refreshingly "progressive" letter to the editor of our local newspaper last Saturday--all the more remarkable when you consider that the paper is slightly to the right of Attila the Hun. The writer was making the point that our members of Congress (remember those "Pointy Heads on the Potomac"?), like other federal government employees, get to choose their health care insurance from a number of providers. The government, he notes, picks up 72 percent of the premiums--which essentially means that this portion is paid for by the taxpayers.
M didn't "Snopes" this figure, but he says it doesn't matter in light of what the letter writer points out next, which is this: The other 28 percent of those premiums come out of the individual Senators' and Representatives' salaries--which means (drum roll, please) that taxpayers end up on the hook for that part, too.
So in effect, the health care of all members of Congress is subsidized 100 percent by the American taxpayers! How on earth, the writer then asks, can so many Senators and Representatives want to repeal the Affordable Care Act of 2010, which simply tries to level the playing field for regular Americans? Is there, he wonders, anyone who is under more socialized medical care than a member of the U.S. House or Senate?
Another of those things that make you go, "Hmmm . . ."
2. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 3. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 4. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 5. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 6. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 7. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 8. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 9. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 10. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 11. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 12. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 13. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 14. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 15. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 16. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 17. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 18. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 19. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 20. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 21. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 22. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 23. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 24. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 25. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 26. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 27. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 28. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 29. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 30. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 31. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 32. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 33. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 34. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 35. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 36. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 37. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 38. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 39. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 40. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 41. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 42. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 43. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 44. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 45. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 46. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 47. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 48. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 49. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs. 50. A litter box is not a mini-bar for dogs.
There--are we good now? I no longer see a litter box as a mini-bar for dogs.
If you've followed my blog for a while, you'll know that I love to spot famous humans who look like other people--or especially like other life forms. So, for example, I've helped to spread the lookalike mystique of one U.S. Senator "Tooter" McConnell:
And the Mysterious Bovine Billionaire:
Today I'm proud to add to my collection a picture of Sarah Jessica Parker in the Land of Oz:
Isn't that a stitch? As you can see from the caption, I found it on a website called TotallyLooksLike.com. If you're looking for a place to waste a little time, that's a pretty awesome one. They also have a cat that seriously emulates a guy on CNN:
And even a dog that looks like food:
Lookalikes are all over the place. Here's a pair I saw on TV the other night that hits pretty close to home: I live in Florida, where we have this governor named Rick Scott, who happens to be very unpopular. I'm not sure why people hate him so much, especially since they elected him. But somebody--I think it was Stephen Colbert--was saying that folks would probably like Gov. Scott better if he'd stop trying to kill Harry Potter.
(I'll admit that M had to help me a little with that one.)
The target of his wrath is a group of people he calls "The Pointy Heads on the Potomac." Sounds like some kind of club.
He's also taken to quoting one of his favorite authors, a guy named Mark Twain, who wrote, "It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress."
Oh, and this one: "Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."
M tried to explain why the P.H. Club has him so riled up, but it was all about their failure to understand something known as "simple Keynesian economics," and of course I'm just a dog, so whhhttt!--it pretty much went sailing over my head, too. I did gather, though, that this P.H. bunch and Congress are one and the same organization.
"Pointy heads I can understand," I told him. "Look at your average Irish setter. But why do they also call it Congress?" He said I should look up the word "Congress" in the dictionary and be sure to peruse all of the definitions. "Believe me, the appropriate one will jump right out and hump your leg--or worse!"
I've been searching online, trying to try to find some of my long-lost dog relatives. Of course I know that M and J and Flaky Arlo and Crazy Willis are my real family now. But I have spotted a few canine critters to whom I feel a strange kinship--almost an animal magnetism (har har). Even if they aren't my true blood, I think they'd be a lot of fun to hang with, since we seem to share some of the same interests. (Okay, one of the same interests.)
Lordy, that last one rings a bell. Mum? Is that you?
M cracked up over this headline, which was on the front page of yesterday's Daytona Beach News-Journal. After he explained to me what a strip search is--and what strippers do for a living--I found myself sharing his amusement. At the same time, though, I have to wonder about the mental process that led to this totally unnecessary act.
The story by staff writer Jay Stapleton begins:
DAYTONA BEACH SHORES - Four exotic dancers won a $200,000 settlement from this small, seaside city after a judge ruled police shouldn't have strip searched them during a nightclub drug raid. Even topless dancers have rights not to be strip searched unlawfully by police, U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven found . . .
The article goes on to say that the plaintiffs were wearing street clothes at the time of the September 2009 raid at Biggins Gentleman's Club. Maybe so, but hello-ooo! Why did the cops feel the need to strip them? They're topless dancers! If you just watch and wait, won't they eventually do it to themselves?
As much as I like most humans, they sure are a hard breed to understand.
When Grandma Grace was flying airplanes, one of her favorite groups of associates was a club called the Ladybugs. (M says that women aviators were called "Ladybirds" or "Ladybugs" since at least World War II and probably even the 1930s.) As a result of her connection to this club, she began to collect ladybugs. Ladybug jewelry, ladybug painted rocks, ladybug refrigerator magnets--you name it, Grandma had it. Here's a sample:
Because of her love of ladybugs, we think we have evidence that Grandma came to visit us Monday night. Monday was the Fourth of July, a day that I normally hate since firework noises scare me as much as thunderstorms do. There was lots of booming and banging going on outside, so I stayed pretty close to M and J--even though they were watching more booming and banging on television.
Anyway, cut to the chase: Yesterday morning M was walking around the side of our house and happened to look down at the ground beneath the gate to the air conditioner cubby. Here's what he saw looking up at him:
Yep! A ladybug! A BIG ladybug--about the size of a computer mouse. (Which is pretty large as ladybugs go.) As M bent down to pick it up, he could see it was made of some kind of paper or cardboard and that it was a bit cracked and had some fire damage on it.
(M says please excuse the weeds, but he's been too busy in recent weeks to pull them. Nor does he have time to Photoshop them out of the pictures.)
It turns out that this particular ladybug is a type of firework. In fact it's a little rocket that spins and shoots way up into the air. Here's what it looks like underneath after it's made its flight:
We also think that this ladybug was Grandma's calling card, because it chose our house to land at. So I'm happy to give Grandma a "pass" for her rather noisy, showoff-y visit. And we are all very happy to add the bug to her collection.
Here's a video clip I found on YouTube that shows you that when a ladybug takes off, she's really booking!
I think I've mentioned our tuxedo cat, Arlo, a time or two. He's the one that likes me. (Willis, the other one, is a crabby old curmudgeon who wishes I'd move to the moon.) The trouble with Arlo is that he likes me too much. He is always in my face, licking it (or my ears), giving me little love bites, and generally being a pain. Sometimes he just lies across my face and zones out, which does not enhance my nap-taking experience. Here's an example of his pushy behavior:
As you can imagine, sometimes it's hard for me to breathe.
Then, just when I'm about to get up and "mistake" him for one of my stuffed animals and shake him until his eyeballs rattle, he'll decide to at least uncover my mouth. It's like he knows just how far he can push me.
I think he also knows that I like him, too--though I'll be darned if I know why I like him. Maybe you've got a friend or relative like that.