Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Intercalation Day 2012

Today is the day we intercalate, i.e. interpolate or insert, a day in the 365-day solar calendar. This is necessary because the revolution of the earth around the sun takes slightly longer than 365 days, and every few years, we have to "reset" the calendar.
The extra, intercalary day is commonly called a leap day and consequently, the year a leap year. It occurs every fourth year, if and only if the year is evenly divisible by four but not by 100 (unless it is also evenly divisible by 400)!
Other calendars insert leap days, weeks, or months. The Hebrew calendar, for example, is a luni-solar calendar and inserts an intercalary (or embolismic) month 7 out of every 19 years (based on the Metonic Cycle). A leap year in Hebrew is called Shanah Me'uberet (pronounced shah-NAH meh-oo-BEH-reht), literally "a pregnant year." This is necessary to realign the lunar year and the solar year so that the biblical holidays remain in their proper seasons.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Nero Wolfe and Words

I was telling someone about how much I have enjoyed Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe detective novels over the years. The stories are outstanding, but I have also learned many words and strengthened my existing vocabulary, my diction, and my understanding of grammar through these novels.
Wolfe is a colorful, crotchety character, an orchid-growing genius gourmet, who never leaves his house on business. A little eccentric you say? Indubitably. Here are a few vignettes from just the first few pages of Stout’s 1962 suspense thriller, Gambit, the 37th in the 47-title Nero Wolfe corpus.
Archie Goodwin, Wolfe’s sidekick, assistant, and "man Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday" is explaining the situation to their newest prospective client, Miss Blount. “There’s a fireplace in the front room, but it’s never lit because he hates open fires. He says they stultify mental processes. But it’s lit now because he’s using it. He’s seated in front of it, on a chair too small for him, tearing sheets out of a book and burning them. The book is the new edition, the third edition of Webster’s New International Dictionary, Unabridged, published by the G.C. Merriam Company of Springfield, Massachusetts. He considers it subversive because it threatens the integrity of the English language. In the past week he has given me a thousand examples of its crimes.”
“Once he burned up a cookbook because it said to remove the hide from a ham end before putting it in the pot with lima beans. Which he loves more, food or words, is a tossup. “

Wolfe: “Do you use ‘infer’ and ‘imply’ interchangeably, Miss Blount?” She did fine. She said simply, “No.”
“This book says you may. Pfui. I prefer not to interrupt this auto-da-fe. You wish to consult me?”

“She had hit exactly the right note, calling him a wizard and implying (not inferring) that he was the one and only—after mentioning what she had in her bag ($22,000).”

“Will this burn?” “Sure, it’s buckram…You knew you were going to burn it when you bought it. Otherwise, you would have ordered leather.”

Children of a Lesser God

Tonight we watched "Children of a Lesser God." It won an Academy Award in 1986, but we had never seen it. It was excellent, and I highly recommend it. It is touching and romantic, a "feel-good" evening's entertainment.
The synopsis online: "Children of a Lesser God" is a love story about a speech teacher who falls for a beautiful yet distant deaf girl in a small New England school for the deaf, and the obstacles that they face due to their differences.
Marlee Matlin won an Academy Award for "Best Actress in a Leading Role" for the movie in 1986.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Height vs. Length

How in the world did basketball players go from being tall to being long, from having height to having length? It may just be the announcers (whom I love to listen to) on our home sports network, Altitude TV, but I do not believe I have ever heard the words height or tall come out of their mouths. They talk about one team having a length advantage over the other. The guard is having a hard time guarding the taller player because of his length. Huh?

Babies have length. Anyone who stands erect has height. Babies are said to have length because they are unable to stand. They lie in the crib and are said to be so many inches long. A person is said to be so many feet tall. An upright person has height, not length.
This seems to be one of those annoying vogue words that someone started using and others found cute and made a permanent part of their vocabularies. Vogue words can be useful and colorful, as pointed out by William Safire here, but some are just plain ridiculous and annoying. Don't you agree?

The Importance of Being Earnest

The Arvada Center has fast become one of our favorite entertainment venues in the area. Their musicals and plays are delightful. Recently, we saw Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" at their Black Box Theatre.
It was farcical yet intelligent, with wonderful wordplay. It was well-cast, well-staged, well-acted, and just plain fun.
This play has numerous clever, often humorous. lines. My favorite is this. Jack Worthing has just told Lady Bracknell (Aunt Augusta) that he has lost both of his parents. Her reply: "To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness." Review by the Denver Post here.
We started the evening at one of our favorite fast-food places, Kokoro Japanese Restaurant, just south of the Arvada Center on Wadsworth.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Blizzard February 2012

At the beginning of the week, Colorado meteorologists began to warn us of an impending snowstorm of historic proportions.
 It seems the greatest recorded snowfall for February in Colorado was 22 inches in 1912.
 They were predicting between 15 and 22 inches for one 36-hour period.
It came in Thursday evening. I must say CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) and our City did a satisfactory job of keeping the roads open in difficult conditions.
 There was a short  hiatus Friday midday, and we wondered (hopefully) if the weather folks had been wrong again, but alas...Good for making snow angels, though.
 It piled pretty high on our front lawn. Here's Pam modeling. Official total for us was 20 inches.
Clearing a path to the porch. These snow walls remind me of what we read in Exodus this morning, i.e. the walls of water rising up on either side of the Israelites as they fled through the Sea of Reeds (aka the Red Sea) before Pharaoh and his chariots.
 For those who think we live in a frigid climate, we do not!
 It was cold for a day or so, but this morning dawned bright and clear. The sun was out, the temperature was in the upper 30's, the humidity was low, and the snow was melting. Balmy!
Pam captured me "prancing" out to get the snow shovel.
And of course, we had to illustrate that in Colorado, we barbecue year round. Our 2012 Blizzard barbecue picture.
Previous Blizzard barbecues here.
Thanks to niece Pam for the most excellent photos.