Mar 242017
 
Kattatonic

by Kim Pederson……. I’ve broken a solemn vow. When Survivor debuted about a hundred years ago or so, I said I would never watch a “reality” show. I managed to keep my self-promise until now. What happened? Hekla, Katla, Vigdis, Bubbi, and Por — that’s what happened. You might think these are Norse gods of some ilk or perhaps the participants in a Norwegian version of Big Brother, which would be Storebror if you want to get picky. However, these five individuals are neither superhuman [continue reading…]

 March 24, 2017  Posted by at 12:52 am Issue #211, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Mar 172017
 
Time to Be Anti-Social?

by Kim Pederson……. “The vaunted human capacity for reason may have more to do with winning arguments than with thinking straight.” So goes the picture caption to a New Yorker article by Elizabeth Kolbert titled “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds.” She begins her piece by describing a 1970s Stanford University research project that asked some undergraduates to distinguish between real and fake suicide notes. Some were told they did really well and some were told they did really poorly. In reality, they all did [continue reading…]

 March 17, 2017  Posted by at 12:36 am Issue #210, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Mar 102017
 
Buffaloed Beyond Belief

by Kim Pederson……. In a recent blog post, Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty asked me (well, everyone) a question I never expected to be asked: “Have you ever struggled to figure out the ‘buffalo buffalo buffalo’ sentence and given up?” This is one query I can answer unequivocally: no. In fact, I was not aware that a “buffalo buffalo buffalo” dilemma existed. The sentence GG references is (not simply) eight “buffalos” in a row: “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.” Yes, this is a [continue reading…]

 March 10, 2017  Posted by at 1:14 am Issue #209, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Mar 032017
 
Deepity Doodoo

by Kim Pederson……. The day after President Trump’s first state of the union address that for some reason they don’t call the SUA for a first timer, it seems appropriate to bring up the concept of deepity (thanks, Randy!). Deepity is a word not coined but adopted by philosopher Daniel Dennett. According to Wikipedia, Dennett used “deepity” for a statement that is apparently profound, but is actually trivial on one level and meaningless on another. Generally, a deepity has two (or more) meanings: one that [continue reading…]

 March 3, 2017  Posted by at 12:50 am Issue #208, Kim Pederson 1 Response »
Feb 242017
 
An Exercise in Portendity

by Kim Pederson……. On April 20, 2016, Merriam-Webster posted this article in its A Thing about Words blog: “2,000 New Words and Senses Added to Merriam-Webster Unabridged.” Thankfully, it didn’t list all 2,000 words and senses, just a few to give you a taste of what’s new and now “official” in our language. These are words like “waggle dance” (what bees do), “dipsogenic” (producing thirst), “ICYMI” (in case you missed this it stands for “in case you missed it”),”hella” (extremely or much of), and “dox” [continue reading…]

 February 24, 2017  Posted by at 12:56 am Issue #207, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Feb 172017
 
All Out of Whack

by Kim Pederson……. So, balance. It’s a complicated thing. Our bodies achieve it (or try to) every day. mostly unbeknownst to us. They keep (or try to keep) our core body temperature, our blood glucose, our plasma ionized calcium, our blood O2/CO2 pressure, our blood oxygen, our arterial blood pressure, our extracellular sodium and potassium content, our water volume, and our extracellular fluid pH, among many other things, on an even keel. I have no idea what most of these are but thank you, body, [continue reading…]

 February 17, 2017  Posted by at 12:44 am Issue #206, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Feb 102017
 
Redux-Shmedux

by Kim Pederson……. In an email I received today The Grammarist wondered “Do reduplicated phrases cause anxiety?” The question relates to the term “heebie-jeebies.” According to MW, the H-J term is a plural noun that refers to “a tense nervous jumpy condition produced by various causes (as in strain, irritation, fear, worry), one sometimes marked by hallucinations.” It first appeared on October 26, 1923, in the Barney Google cartoon strip. Other reduplicated phrases (RPs), that is, phrases where part of the root word is repeated [continue reading…]

 February 10, 2017  Posted by at 12:56 am Issue #205, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Feb 032017
 
Looking Up (for a Change)

by Kim Pederson……. I see it over my head all the time here. On clear nights that is. Usually hanging directly above, it seems, the street where my house (and we) live. I’m speaking of (well, writing of) the constellation Orion, of course. We see it so often here because Orion sits on the celestial equator, which is the projection of the earth’s equator into outer space. We’re on the same plane or near enough to it here in Key West. Orion shares this plane [continue reading…]

 February 3, 2017  Posted by at 12:52 am Issue #204, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Jan 272017
 
Holy Moly, Statement of Odd

by Kim Pederson……. I’ve taken to saying “Holy Moly!” lately (or, alternatively and redundantly, holy moley) whenever something surprises or dismays me. I don’t know why. Mostly, I assume, to avoid blurting out other things that might not be appreciated by those within earshot. I realized just now, though, that I have no idea where the expression originates or how it gained its present usage. So, going right to that world’s foremost unimpeachable source, Wikipedia, I learned that “holy moly” came into use in 1892 [continue reading…]

 January 27, 2017  Posted by at 12:36 am Issue #203, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Jan 202017
 
Mr. Science 600 B.C.

by Kim Pederson……. So, static electricity. Not something you think about every day. Not something you likely consider even on those days when your hair suddenly decides to jump up and go off in search of the invisible Van de Graaff generator someone or something just turned on in the room. Not even when you notice the cat hairs clinging to your t-shirt appear to be auditioning for some yet-to-be-announced Fantasia sequel. I’m only thinking about it now because of a Salon article that popped [continue reading…]

 January 20, 2017  Posted by at 12:50 am Issue #202, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Jan 132017
 
And Now for a Little, Very Little, Peace and Quiet

by Kim Pederson……. It’ everywhere, it’s everywhere! No, I’m not talking about Chicken Man. That’s “he’s everywhere, he’s everywhere!” I’m talking about noise pollution, one of the banes of living in developed societies that can drive you not just literally but actually crazy. You likely know what I’m talking about and if not, here’s the definition: noise pollution is “disturbing or excessive noise that may harm the activity or balance of human or animal life.” So what does noise pollution–generated outdoors mostly by machines, transportation [continue reading…]

 January 13, 2017  Posted by at 12:46 am Issue #201, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Jan 062017
 
There's No Place Like...a Hermetically Sealed Climate-Controlled Lucite Cube

by Kim Pederson……. If you are/were 77 years old, you might be feeling a little wear and tear, too. But unluckily you are not an object of affection that spurs thousands of people to send in hundreds of thousands of dollars so that your “materials” can be studied and repaired and then preserved “in a special temperature-controlled display case.” That honor goes to Wizard of Oz Dorothy’s ruby slippers at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. Created in 1939, the slippers have become, sadly, a [continue reading…]

 January 6, 2017  Posted by at 12:46 am Issue #200, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Dec 302016
 
The Treachery of Perceptions

by Kim Pederson……. Merriam-Webster announced recently that its “Word of the Year” for 2016 is “surreal.” MW chose this word because…well, let them explain: Surreal is Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year because it was looked up significantly more frequently by users in 2016 than it was in previous years, and because there were multiple occasions on which this word was the one clearly driving people to their dictionary. The MW editors also note that there were three major look-up spikes for surreal in 2016: one [continue reading…]

 December 30, 2016  Posted by at 12:32 am Issue #199, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Dec 232016
 
Scrooged??

by Kim Pederson……. I received my auto insurance policy billing schedule the other day and was surprised to see my premium going from $86 per month to $120. The policy premium climbed from $1150 for the year to $1446, which is about a 26% boost. When I expressed my surprise via email at the price change for the same insurance coverage next year as this year and asked why I hadn’t been notified about the hike and the reason for it, I received these responses: [continue reading…]

 December 23, 2016  Posted by at 12:44 am Issue #198, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Dec 162016
 
Putting an End to Folly

by Kim Pederson……. Back in the fifteenth century, some believed that madness, depression, and stupidity were caused by something called “the stone of folly” or “stone of madness.” Said rock was purportedly inside the skulls of the afflicted personages, so, logically, the cure would be to open up the cranium and take the stone out (click this link for an “interesting” demonstration). Thankfully, as Jessica Parker tells us in her article “The Stone of Madness,” such operations were likely never done, except perhaps on stage [continue reading…]

 December 16, 2016  Posted by at 12:38 am Issue #197, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Dec 092016
 
Icelandic Pentameter

by Kim Pederson……. So I was thinking about some reasons to move to Iceland today. One, Donald Trump would not be president there. Two, they have polar bears. Oh wait. They eat people. Scratch that one. Two, they have Jacuzzis everywhere (better known as hot springs). Three, they have Norwegian roots, as do I. Four, they have the Icelandic Phallological Museum (better known as the Penis Museum). Five, according to the island’s official website, “thanks to the Gulf Stream, Iceland enjoys a cool, temperate maritime [continue reading…]

 December 9, 2016  Posted by at 1:13 am Issue #196, Kim Pederson 1 Response »
Dec 022016
 
Our New Blackbeard

by Kim Pederson……. In 1853, an American named William Walker took forty-five men to Mexico, “conquered” the city of La Paz on the Baja Peninsula, declared his conquest to be the Republic of Lower California, made himself president, and instilled the laws of Louisiana, where slavery was still legal. The Mexicans said “Don’t think so” and eventually kicked Walker back to the United States. He was tried there for violating the Neutrality Act of 1794 and acquitted in eight minutes. About a year later, Walker [continue reading…]

 December 2, 2016  Posted by at 12:36 am Issue #195, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Nov 252016
 
Never Fear. All Is Well...Sort Of

by Kim Pederson……. Not surprisingly, many people here in the United States have been searching desperately for silver linings since November 8 (as many others celebrate finding theirs unexpectedly). So I went looking for TTCMUs (things to cheer me up) the other day and came across some news that, while not exactly good in nature, might be considered to have a silver hue by those desperate enough. Just to give you a clue, the title of the article I stumbled on is this: “One in [continue reading…]

 November 25, 2016  Posted by at 12:56 am Issue #194, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Nov 182016
 
To Whom the Finger Points

by Kim Pederson……. Since Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the presidential election, there’s been mucho finger pointing. Hillary and her senior staff were too arrogant and overconfident. The Democrats ignored/shunned the locals in all the wrong places. The gobsmacked media gave DT too much free attention and Hillary too little. The FBI director deliberately torpedoed the Dem’s chances at the last minute. No one (except DT perhaps) saw the outcome coming and everyone (except DT perhaps) was shocked by it. But, as I’ve discovered, we [continue reading…]

 November 18, 2016  Posted by at 12:58 am Issue #193, Kim Pederson 4 Responses »
Nov 112016
 
Mind Your Own Petard

by Kim Pederson……. Admittedly, it’s kind of a wonky catchphrase. We have Shakespeare to thank for it, as we do many other cliches that were not cliches when he wrote them but rather snarky little gems of intellect and wit (or more laconically, SLGIWisms, pronounced “sill-geh-wiz-ems”). What am I talking about? See if this rings any bells. Let it work; For tis sport to have the enginer [military engineer] Hoist with his own petar[d]; and ‘t shall go hard But I will delve one yard [continue reading…]

 November 11, 2016  Posted by at 12:54 am Issue #192, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Nov 042016
 
Want to Do Better? Bring More Brains!

by Kim Pederson……. So in the previous blog I mentioned that the bright side of the Higgs doomsday ball of instant death (BID) that may eradicate us at any moment (either that or 10 to the 100 years from now, which would be better since Medicare and Social Security would have run out by then) was that the BID would “save us” from the space brain threat. More specifically, it would “do away with a paradoxical menagerie of disembodied intelligent beings that shouldn’t exist.” At [continue reading…]

 November 4, 2016  Posted by at 12:50 am Issue #191, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Oct 282016
 
The Power of Positive Drink...er..Thinking

by Kim Pederson……. I came across an interesting term recently: Pygmalion effect. Of course today I cannot remember the context of our chance meeting but, what the heck, I recalled the phrase itself and will cling to that as some small evidence that my mental capacity has not deserted me altogether (yet). The PE, also known as the Rosenthal effect, is a phenomenon in which higher expectations lead to an increase in performance. To put it in Rosenthal’s words, “what one person expects of another [continue reading…]

 October 28, 2016  Posted by at 12:44 am Issue #190, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Oct 212016
 
Why Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin Should Read "The Great Gatsby"

by Kim Pederson……. More years ago than I like to admit, I was a graduate student at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. I was also a teaching assistant and, since I was in the English Department, our assignments were to teach first-year English classes. At times in those courses, I would ask students to read aloud from whatever piece of fiction or nonfiction we were studying. At times, I was shocked to see some of them read very haltingly, even sounding out unfamiliar words [continue reading…]

 October 21, 2016  Posted by at 12:38 am Issue #189, Kim Pederson 1 Response »
Oct 142016
 
It Warn't So. I Tried It.

by Kim Pederson……. The September 2016 issue of Scientific American features an editorial titled “The Tweets We Hold to be Self-Evident.” The op-ed subtitle reads “The US presidential election shows how far the political conversation has degenerated from the nation’s founding principles of truth and evidence.” The editors go on to quote Huck Finn saying “It warn’t so. I tried it.” and call this “one of the most powerful lines in American literature because “a respect for evidence is not just part of the national [continue reading…]

 October 14, 2016  Posted by at 12:40 am Issue #188, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Oct 072016
 
Getting Plotto

by Kim Pederson……. Everyone looks for guidance. Some things, many things, in fact an innumerable number of things are too hard for us to figure out on our own. We are all “dummies” in one way or another and, given how much there is to know, that’s not a surprise nor a slur. We can’t know it all, even though some people like to give that impression (no names will or need be mentioned here). Fortunately, there always seems to be someone willing to help [continue reading…]

 October 7, 2016  Posted by at 12:51 am Issue #187, Kim Pederson 1 Response »
Sep 302016
 
One Millionth of One Percent

by Kim Pederson……. “We don’t know a millionth of one percent about anything.” This quote from Thomas Edison appears in the lead paragraph of The Book of General Ignorance. In that same paragraph, authors John Mitchinson and John Lloyd make this observation: “There’s an idea going about that the human race basically understands how the universe works…. Regrettably, that’s not the case.” They then go on to ask and answer 230 trivia-jewel questions like “What’s the name of the tallest mountain in the world?” and [continue reading…]

 September 30, 2016  Posted by at 12:54 am Issue #186, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Sep 232016
 
Beware the Croc in Beach Clothing

by Kim Pederson……. There are times when I don’t believe the old saying “there’s a word for everything.” That’s usually when I make up a word to fill the gap, a process I call “partermition.” There are other times when I’m not so sure there’s not a word for everything. I had this thought the other day when Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day popped up as “eclogue.” An eclogue is a poem in which shepherds converse. That’s right. There’s a word made up just to [continue reading…]

 September 23, 2016  Posted by at 12:50 am Issue #185, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Sep 162016
 
Time for a Galactic 911 Call

by Kim Pederson…… Reading another SF story the other day (“The Thing on the Shelf” by David Gerrold), I was introduced (or reintroduced perhaps given my usual memory issues) to the concept of “chronosynclastic infundibulum” (CI). Gerrold refers to the CI in his tale, noting that it comes from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel The Sirens of Titan. A CI, as defined by the website Verbotomy, is “a place, or a moment, where all the different kinds of truths fit together, and where there are many different [continue reading…]

 September 16, 2016  Posted by at 12:38 am Issue #184, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Sep 092016
 
There's a Light, Over at the Chicken-Legged Place

by Kim Pederson……. One of the characters in Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire (of Wicked fame) is Baba Yaga, the supernatural being (a.k.a. witch) from eastern Slavic folklore. (She’s in Russia in the novel.) Baba flies around in a mortar carrying the attendant pestle and lives in a house (called “Dumb Doma” in Maguire’s book) that stands on chicken legs (sometimes a chicken leg). In Egg & Spoon, Baba invites, or rather has a large cat chase, a young girl named Cat into her [continue reading…]

 September 9, 2016  Posted by at 12:47 am Issue #183, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Sep 022016
 
We're Off to See...

by Kim Pederson……. August 25 marked the 77th anniversary of the 1939 film Wizard of Oz opening in theaters. August 25 wasn’t the world premiere, however. That happened fourteen days earlier in, of all places, Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Why bring this up now? Because, in an online note about the anniversary, NBC’s Today show reminds us there are still seven lessons to be learned from the film today: Dream big The right shoes can pull a look together Don’t be afraid to ask [continue reading…]

 September 2, 2016  Posted by at 12:42 am Issue #182, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Aug 262016
 
The Indestructibility of Art

by Kim Pederson……. Confluence is an interesting word. In strict terms, it means a place of coming together (which reflects, confluentially, on the blog I posted yesterday). The word appears most often in “confluence” with references to rivers and streams but it can apply to other things as well (meaning us). Yesterday, I experienced a strange confluence. I saw the video clip of the former ISIS member confessing at his trial at The Hague to destroying historical buildings in Timbuktu in Mali. Also yesterday, I [continue reading…]

 August 26, 2016  Posted by at 12:29 am Issue #181, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Aug 192016
 
Hi, Anxiety

by Kim Pederson……. Apparently if you were to ask most Americans today “What, You Worry?” the answer would be yes. In his New York Times article “Fifty States of Anxiety,” economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz (SD) tells us that, based on the Internet search count for various types of anxiety, Americans are 150 percent more worried today than they were in 2004. Some of the subjects of these anxieties are what you would expect: travel, separation, work, school, home, driving to name more than several. Some are [continue reading…]

 August 19, 2016  Posted by at 12:38 am Issue #180, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Aug 122016
 
What the Dickens?

by Kim Pederson……. My new word for today is “corpus” (plural: corpora). According to my good friend Merriam-Webster (or is it my good friends Merriam and Webster?), a corpus is the whole body or total amount of writings of a particular kind or on a particular subject, such as the total production of a writer, e.g., the Dickens corpus. Seeing this reminded me of a Roger Rosenblatt essay in The New York Times called “To a Writer, a Body of Work Is a Taunt.” Roger [continue reading…]

 August 12, 2016  Posted by at 12:31 am Issue #179, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Aug 052016
 
The Othello Method of Energy Conservation

by Kim Pederson……. The concept of scale–the proportion of one thing compared to another–is a tricky thing. Take, for example, our solar system’s largest planet, Jupiter. If you put a solo NASA picture of Jupiter along side one of the Earth, your eyes would tell you that these two worlds appear to be about the same size. And then you, or me to be exact, would engage in a little research and the ridiculousness of that interpretation would become readily apparent, as the image below [continue reading…]

 August 5, 2016  Posted by at 12:48 am Issue #178, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Jul 292016
 
Why Have One Face When You Can Have Two?

by Kim Pederson…….. People face choices every day. Each time they likely weigh the pros and cons and come to a decision about which choice wins out over the others. Sometimes, though, they are not able to choose, hence the expression “being of two minds” about something or someone. There’s nothing out of the ordinary about these occurrences. Being of two minds becomes more of a challenge, though, when someone really is of two (or more) minds. Such individuals suffer from dissociative identity disorder (DID), [continue reading…]

 July 29, 2016  Posted by at 12:32 am Issue #177, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Jul 222016
 
Just Messiahing with You

by Kim Pederson……. We attended the staged reading of a new play the other night called The Return. In it, a world famous newscaster announces he is Jesus Christ and has returned out of concern for the sorry state of, well, everything. Thinking about the idea of a second coming took me to a memory of a Roy Buchanan song entitled “The Messiah Will Come Again.” Buchanan is an amazing guitarist who, sad to say, should have all microphones immediately cut off at the slightest [continue reading…]

 July 22, 2016  Posted by at 12:28 am Issue #176, Kim Pederson No Responses »