Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Post Thanksgiving Vocabulary

Well, I have not posted in quite some time due first to the flurry of preparation surrounding the parents' Thanksgiving visit, and then to their visit itself. It was quite a time! I will publish some pictures when I have the energy. For now, as I try to force my brain back toward something resembling a dissertation groove, here are some more words from the freerice vocabulary test game, which I then looked up in the OED.

= dangerous (variant of perilous!), apparently quite an old word, with examples in the 14th and 15th centuries. How usage can trick us! I would have called it as some French-derived word having to do with speaking (French: parler, to speak) but that was totally wrong.

mazzard = sweet cherry; a small, dark cherry of Devon origin, the fruit of a variety of the wild cherry or gean, Prunus avium. Origins of the word unknown, possibly related to mazard, a bowl or drinking vessel. Early spelling variations include mazar, mazer, mazard, and massard.

coir = coconut fiber, used for making ropes, cordage, matting, etc. Origin: Malayalam (or Malayali, one of 22 official languages in India, this one spoken in the South Indian state of Kerala) words: kayar (cord), and kayaru (to be twisted). Also, the thread or cordage made from that coconut fiber.

illation = inference (from Latin, illationem, n. of action from inferre, illatum: to bring in)--drawing a conclusion from premises, or the conclusion thus drawn. Also (and this is more what I would have guessed): an Ecclesiastical term referring to a Eucharistic Preface to the Tersanctus, known as the Preface in the Roman and Anglican liturgies.

= prophetic (form of Latin fatum [fate] + dic [weak root of dicere, to speak]). So, to speak about fate.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Research Excursion

On Sunday I was working on my dissertation. This is a fairly commonplace occurrence, if not as commonplace as it should be. I was at one of those dangerous transition points between one section and another, when I'm always tempted to just set it down for a week or so because I've more or less finished the one thing but haven't yet got my hand in with the next one. But I knew I should really get my hand in.

Suddenly the passage I was looking at reminded me of a note I'd taken from a book I'd looked at nearly three years ago. Frantic shuffle through notes--yep, there it was, a citation of a citation, the ultimate goal being a 1983 article in a Chinese-language periodical. Library catalogs: yes, U of C had it.

I am allowed to use the U of C library, though not to check out books and I have to get a day pass each time. There may be a limit to the number of days too, but I haven't discovered it. It's rare for me to go down there because it's such a public transportation pain in the ass.

Apparently on purpose, Hyde Park is cordoned off from the rest of the city. I went there once last year and was very sketched out. But then, I'd made the mistake of taking the most direct route from home, which meant I approached from the west. This time I took the best route from work which, rather paradoxically (since my work is west of my home) meant I approached from the east.

From the east, Hyde Park doesn't have the feeling of an invisibly walled-off compound facing a ghetto. It just seems like a small college town, autumn leaves falling peacefully, bright-colored chrysanthemums, kids playing on the sidewalks, highly intellectual-looking people strolling by and chattering in a large variety of languages. I got off the bus at not quite the right place and ended up going for a long walk, but I found the library eventually.

Once there I was immediately distracted by a great book-sale. Ten dollars lighter and at least ten pounds heavier (if one considers the combined system of me and my backpack), I tracked down the article I wanted and got substantial sections from two other books I'd been meaning to look at as well.

This afternoon I went to one of my favorite coffee-shops, the Bourgeois Pig, and had a look at the article. It was only one page, and I had been worried that it would be too insubstantial. But you can say a lot in one page of Chinese, densely type-set at that. One page of pure research gold, at least as far as that section was concerned. I not only got my hand in, I wrote the whole section, just over a thousand words.

In case you haven't noticed my Diss-o-meter at right, have a look at it! You too can watch my late-blooming dissertation grow at about the same speed as grass. Okay, maybe not that fast, given how often my dad has to mow the lawn. Still, a 1000 word day is nothing to sneeze at. If I do that every day, I even have a chance of meeting my goal.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Free Rice

Word buffs, try this cute time-wasting activity! A friend of mine sent me the link to a multiple-choice style vocabulary test, where the sponsoring organization will give ten grains of rice to the third world for every word you get right. It's here, but watch out, it's addictive. Keep an eye on the "vocabulary level" because that's the fun challenge for yourself. I'm having a hard time getting above 50, and it's fun to try. But mostly it's just amazing how many wacky words there are out there.

For fun, I made a list of the ones I got wrong and then started slowly doing some research in the OED on them. I bet the free rice people won't mind if I share the ones I looked at so far:

cerumen = earwax (from Latin cera, wax)--also the French word for wax--anatomical

isinglass = mica (or a firm whitish translucent gelatin gotten from the air-bladders of fish, especially sturgeon, and used for making jellies, clarifying liquors, or making glue) a name for mica because of its resemblance to the fish gelatin. Apparently a corruption of the obsolete Dutch word, huisenblas.
commove = disturb

= happen again (more literally, of wounds, to become raw again, from Latin crudescere, to beome raw)--a wound breaking out again, and extensionally, and idea recurring, connotation of pathology

lam = thrash (etymologically related to "lame" --to cause someone to be lame--but usually used in reference to beating)--colloquial/vulgar/slang

= sand flea: A small species of flea (Pulex or Sarcopsylla penetrans), found in the West Indies and South America. The female burrows beneath the skin of the human feet (and sometimes of the hands) and becomes greatly distended with eggs, which are sometimes hatched there, causing itching, and painful sores. (Word is some corruption of a West Indian name, possible related to the Spanish chigo--small) Also called chigger or jigger by English-speakers.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Vegan for a Week

Pocket of Bolts and I have decided to be vegan for a week. We've talked about it occasionally--it's part of our great long-term food experiment project, namely, trying to find the diet that makes us feel the best and also allows us to lose weight. We tried Diet for a Small Planet type eating, complementary proteins, etc.--what we tended to call Malthusian vegetaraianism, being a vegetarian because it's more ecologically responsible to be lower on the food chain. It was tasty, but unbelievably fattening! Lots of milk and cheese.

One of these weeks, we're going to try being straight-up healthful omnivores (chicken breast etc.), but we decided to try being vegans first. Believe it or not, it's not actually all that hard. We eat a lot of Asian food anyway, which is readily vegan-able. I also bought a vegan cookbook, Garden of Vegan, from our favorite bookstore, Unabridged. Our weekly menu planning, which we've been doing for several months, really helps. We have meals lined up already. We just don't line up anything that has milk or cheese in it.

Lunch is tricky, because if we don't pack one we are really stuck. Also it's hard giving up milk in my tea. We both miss cheese a lot. But overall, it's not nearly as hard as I had imagined it would be. And we are losing weight, despite gorging ourselves at every meal. I think part of the thing is that all of the usual snacks are off limits! And when you're exercising will-power as part of a larger project, it's somehow easier than exercising will-power on a case-by-case basis.

I think ultimately our ideal diet (socially, financially, and health-wise) is probably a slightly flexible one--largely vegetarian or vegan at home, milk/cheese/eggs/meat with company or in restaurants. But in some ways it's only easy giving up cheese and milk chocolate because it's a) temporary and b) absolute. As I said, the case-by-case decisions are more difficult.

One think about the vegan experiment--it sure does feel clean. Not to say I'm eating all organic or natural or anything. There is an incredible variety of chemicals in Coffee-mate, my milk substitute in tea, and in some of the other things we eat. Still, overall I feel cleaner. And although my metabolism seems a little lower than normal (and much lower than when I eat meat), I don't feel like I have less energy. It's more like the reserves are spread more evenly, if that makes any sense.

Anyway, more on this later!

Last Weekend

So sorry for the lack of updates. I think part of the problem was that last weekend was kind of crazy, and so I've felt a bit behind ever since. Last weekend:

Friday night we went out with one of my favorite friends, let's call him Kami-tsukae, because he is an absolute origami master. He deserves his own post, so more on him later. But anyway, we went out for pizza and beer and a whole lot of talking. It's hard to even say all the great things about Kami-tsukae, but at the same time he's a troubled soul. Being a philosopher (one of PoB's classmates, originally), he has the knack of abstracting his own problems into philosophical positions. You might say this isn't such a good thing to do, but it does enable one to talk about personal things without actually getting into personal details. Good for us over-intellectualized academic types. We have decided that the three of us our going to do "Bible-study"--more on this soon!

Saturday night, we were invited to a banquet in Chinatown. It was a fund-raising banquet for the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago ("the midwest's only Chinese-American museum!"), and I believe it was a $100/plate type dinner. Pocket of Bolts and I were invited (as in, we didn't pay) through a connection with my work. I managed to get us a ride with some other people, and PoB was very patient as I chattered away with them in Chinese. Indeed, he was overall a 5 star boyfriend that night. It's impossible than anything could have been less vegetarian friendly than the meal we ate (Cantonese food), so he'd decided in advance that'd he'd be willing to be an omnivore for one day. (He liked the duck and beef, but was less keen on the squid!)

There was also a lion dance (I'll update with photos if I can get them off my phone), and some live music. The bands they had engaged to provide the music kept urging people to dance. Sure the place had a nice dance-floor, but who's going a rich, shy Chinese person to go out and dance in a brightly lit room with several hundred other rich, shy Chinese people watching them? It just wasn't happening. Finally, a very distinguished looking middle-aged couple took the floor and it was about all I could stand. I persuaded PoB to come out onto the floor too, despite his insistence that he wasn't sure what to do. I told him we'd fake it. And so we did. Now tell me, am I or am I not actually marrying Prince Charming!? Because what was his comment when we and just one other couple were determinedly faking an ability to dance under bright lights in front of several hundred rich, shy Chinese people? He said to me, "You're fun!"

Because isn't it fun to step up and be a star when no one else is willing to? Isn't that the meaning of seizing the day?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Gifting Meme

Here is an interesting blog meme that I have lately seen going around. I pondered it for some time and decided I wanted to try it (despite potential sketchiness?).


By the end of the calendar year, I will send a tangible, physical gift to each of the first five people to comment here. The catch? Each person must make the same offer on her/his blog.

I was thinking about whether this could potentially lead to exponentially increasing gifts exploding like an algal bloom out through the blogosphere. One would suppose that two factors might tend to damp this down though. One would be the lack of five willing commenter/recipients--possible fate for my own offer I'd think--and another would be reciprocal gifting, because surely you don't have to make the offer twice.

Am I overthinking this? I suspect so.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Halloween Goth

So I always wanted to try being a Goth. You know, just once. Well Halloween's the time to try that sort of thing out right? So I cobbled together something resembling a Goth costume. I was unfortunately lacking in death-themed jewelry, and I couldn't quite reconcile myself to some sort of paling product, but I did black lipstick and nail-polish, even though I am pretty bad at applying both. Well I did my best.

And yes, I did go around looking like this all day, including in my class. They were at least mildly amused I think. None of them have ever even seen me in a skirt, I think. I tried to do a lesson that was on the fun side, though their energy is quite low due to midterms and post midterm slump. I also brought candy for them, which they seemed to like, and scary big fuzzy tarantulas as prizes for Chinese-character bingo.

I didn't do anything in the evening. A long work-day ahead of me and a long work-day behind me--I just wanted to sleep. But I did take these silly pictures. I know that real Goths are skinnier and sicklier but I did my best. I do think from the right angle I have a slight resemblance to Helena Bonham Carter as crazy evil witch in the last Harry Potter movie. :)