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This post has nothing to do with it being just past midnight on New Year's Day! Haha!

I was just thinking about weird usage rules in English style. There are a lot of them, but the weirdest one I can ever remember running across is in the Associated Press stylebook.

See, when a noun is singular but happens to end in S, it takes apostrophe-S to make it possessive, not just an apostrophe like most trailing-S plurals. A lot of people don't know that, or won't believe it, including a number of college professors I've had. The AP stylebook acknowledges it, but with one wacky exception case. In the AP style, a singular noun ending in S takes apostrophe-S in the possessive UNLESS it ends with a double S AND the next word starts with S.

So, for instance, "the Baroness's minion" is perfectly acceptable in the AP style, but "the Baroness's secretary" is not; it would have to be "the Baroness' secretary", despite the obvious and glaring fact that that is inconsistent bordering on arbitrary. No rationale is given for this; I can only assume that it's just that four in a row is too damn many "S"es. :)

Also, I remember reading someplace once that the longest English word you can touch-type with one hand on a QWERTY keyboard is "stewardesses". I don't know if that's true, but I enjoy it.

Current Mood: silly fact dep't

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It occurs to me that there are a couple of special people who have birthdays right around this time of year, and amazingly, I think both of them are still on LJ at least a little.

So! Happy birthdays, keshwyn and ladysprite!
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So I just read where a couple of yoyos hijacked a pickup (improperly) transporting medical radioisotopes in Mexico, broke open a container of cobalt-60, and then (perhaps because it turned out not to be oxycodone? not sure) ditched it, but probably not before getting a bunch of it on them.

They shouldn't be too tough to spot.

Current Mood: facepalm!

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So if I put up a sign warning my neighbor who constantly walks his dog too close to my house that he might be killed by ice falling off my new metal roof this winter, am I reducing my liability by warning him, or increasing it by acknowledging that I know it could happen? (Note that I'm not even taking into account the fact that he should just not be walking that close to the house; well aware that nobody involved would give one-tenth of a shit about that if he got hurt and sued me.)
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Alexandra Kollontai (1872-1952), Lenin's first People's Commissar for Social Welfare - Bolshevik, activist, and a woman with a keen grasp of romance:

"[A pregnant woman] does not belong to herself; she is working for the collective. From her own flesh and blood she is producing a new unit of labor."

Ooh, Alex. You know I love it when you talk dirty to me, baby.
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"Hi, uh, I'll have a barbecue chicken sandwich, please, and a vanilla creme donut if you've got any."

(middling pause) "I'm sorry, I'm all out of French rolls."

"Hmm. Well... "

"We could put it on a bagel or something... "

"I was just about to say, could you put it on a bagel?"

"Sure. Also we don't have any vanilla creme donuts. We have chocolate creme... "

"How about a bismarck?"

"I'll check." (middling pause) "No, no bismarcks."

"OK, chocolate creme it is."

(short pause) "I'm really sorry, Dave just sold the last chocolate creme."

"... OK! No donut for me, then. Hang on, what about a chocolate donut with those crumbly yellow bits on it?"

"Ummmmmm... drive up, I'll see."

(drive up)

"I think you mean butternut? But we're out of those."

"Hmm. Well, just the sandwich then... "

"Wait wait wait! We have that in donut holes!"

So I did eventually get a donut. Sort of.
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Remember those commercials? They always gave me the creeps when I was a kid. The bubbles were always so happy to be going down the drain when their job was done, but I knew. I knew they were going down there TO DIE. I wondered if they knew that, or if they'd been told by their mysterious, bubbly masters there was some kind of bubble paradise awaiting them there.

Current Mood: weird

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So I have two main anxiety problems. I don't think either one really qualifies as a disorder, as such (although, shit, what I'm hearing about DSM-5, I'm not sure if any personality quirk doesn't qualify as a disorder any more, including the personality quirk of not having any notable personality quirks), but they do overlap a bit, and current trends in society are making them both harder to deal with than usual.

One is that, by default, I'm constantly worried about inadvertently giving offense. (I'm not always bothered about doing it on purpose, mind you, but that's a different diagnosis.) As this is becoming harder and harder to avoid of late, I find that it's really cramping my style - particularly as I've recently had one of those dolly zoom moments where one realizes he's actually accomplished one of his silent fears. I didn't think I had said anything particularly incendiary at that time, but it appears to have cost me at least two friendships of fairly long standing, and (as a function of the above) I have no idea how I might safely even attempt to repair the damage. I'm not even really sure how I managed to cause it. I mean, I know what I said and can make a reasonably educated guess, based on the reaction, as to how it was perceived, but... well. Anyway. Because I'm not quite certain how I did it, I don't even dare try to apologize for fear that it'll just come across as one of those politician non-apologies ("I'm sorry you were offended") and make everything even worse.

The other problem is that I have long had a horror of my position not being understood. Unfortunately, it now appears that this puts me at great risk of committing that most tragic of recently designated social crimes, "mansplaining". I'm not even sure what that is, but based on the structure of the word I'm guessing it has to do with a) being a man and b) explaining, and from context it appears to be a function of Being That Guy, which, see above.

So basically, recent trends in the social discourse have configured a couple of fairly mild anxieties into a mutually reinforcing feedback loop, and now I pretty much just don't dare to talk to people most of the time. I saw a news article the other day about a subculture of people in Japan who just never, ever leave their rooms, and I have to say, there are moments when that starts looking like a fairly attractive lifestyle choice.
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The person who wrote this headline has probably been waiting a lifetime for the chance.

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Someone on my twitter timeline retweeted a PSA about leaving pets in cars on hot days, and it reminded me of what may have been the single awesomest thing I ever saw somebody do in person.

Many years ago, my father and I attended a large air show in upstate New York. It was held in a freshly mowed cornfield on a blazing hot weekend in August, and the museum that was putting it on had enlisted the local chapter of the Civil Air Patrol to handle the parking and security, so there were high school kids in battle dress roaming around with rubber M-16s and white gloves, directing traffic and whatnot.

As Dad and I were trudging the mile or so from where we'd ended up parked, through the sea of hot metal that was all the cars that had gotten there before us, we noticed a disturbance up ahead; a small crowd had gathered around a car and was chattering excitedly. One guy was trying to open the driver's door, which was obviously locked, and a few people were looking around in that MY GOD WHY DOESN'T SOMEBODY (other than me of course) DO SOMETHING way people on the edge of panic in a crowd sometimes do. Getting nearer, we saw that this was because some imbecile had left a dog in that car. Said dog was still conscious, with his nose pressed up against the inch or so of open passenger side window he'd been left, but clearly in considerable distress...

... and the nearest CAP kid strode up to the car, shouted something like "STAND CLEAR!" and smashed the driver's window with the butt of his rubber M-16, to a great chorus of cheers from the crowd. Dog extracted, canteen uncapped, water administered. No hesitation, no fuss, no wibbling about liability. He and his CAP chapter probably got sued. I hope his CO stood behind him, 'cause that kid was a god damn action hero.
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A lone guy in the stands doggedly going "let's go $team_name" (clap clap clapclapclap) in a situation requiring a rally by the home team, and nobody joins in. Saddest thing in the world? Discuss.
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So there's a shelf on the wall behind the toilet in my bathroom, and there's a can of shaving gel sitting on the shelf with, by chance, its ingredients list turned outward. A bit ago I happened to find myself standing there for several seconds with nothing much to do, so I read the ingredients list. One of the ingredients is sorbitol, which I believe is the sweetener used in diabetic candies.

I am ever so slightly disturbed by this.

(Another of the ingredients listed is "PVP", which I can only assume means that next time I shave some idiot will come into my bathroom and start griefing me.)

Current Mood: uh?
Current Music: Fall Out Boy - Where Did the Party Go

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"We knew three things going into this. First, that it had a Van Patten in a prominent role. Second, that it was made for TV. Third, that it had a Van Patten in a prominent role, but I had no idea it would be this bad!"
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Three years ago I said this after watching the first couple episodes of Doctor Who Series 5:

"Anyway, having seen... the Tenth Doctor's initially very promising career go horribly, depressingly wrong not once but, er, pretty much annually for several years, I think I'm always going to be waiting for that other shoe. Or, to put it bluntly, the better they make Amy, the worse it's going to sting when Karen Gillan gets a proper job."

Oh, man, I hate it when I'm right.
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Academic recognition get, as I believe the young people say nowadays.
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You know, if Doctor Who had just ended with Series 5... that would've been sad? But on the other hand, it would've kind of rocked, because - having just re-watched "The Big Bang", I'm reminded of what a startlingly natural endpoint that is. I mean, yes, there's the Obvious Plot Scaffolding for Series 6, but if it had been ending they presumably wouldn't have put that there, and the rest of it is uncannily good as a place to just put the whole thing down, step back, and say, "Well, there. We don't need to get into detail about what happens next. Crazily ever after."

Of course, it didn't happen that way. It kind of did for me, in that I made no really great effort to keep watching the show after that point. This was not the result of a conscious decision process, really; I just... wandered off. I do that from time to time anyway with nearly every pop-culture interest I have, and in this case it was made much easier by the natural, erm... breakiness (there, I've made a word) of it all. I think I did watch "The Impossible Astronaut" when it originally aired, but my only enduring memory of it now is of finding it confusing and feeling like it just wasn't necessary somehow.

(I've since picked up bits and pieces of what followed, enough to look back at that earlier version of myself and say to him, "You think it's confusing now? One toke, you poor fool? Wait'll you see those goddamn bats, man.")

(Of the actual end of that character arc ("The Angels Take Manhattan"), I'll only say this: I never would have believed there would be a day when I would wish for Russell's relentless preciousness back.)

That said, I probably will pick up the thread again sometime - possibly once the school year is over, I'll take a stab at the other half of Series 7, because, well, OK, my favorite characters are gone, but at least that means I no longer have to wonder quite so intensely what the hell they are doing. :) Besides, I've always kind of prided myself on not hating on the new kids just for hating-on-the-new-kids' sake.

Current Mood: disorganized in thought, word, and deed

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Lots of press coverage of the new-pope process, and many of the reporters really want us to be impressed, but I don't know. Tradition is fine, I'm for it, but when an organization's traditional values include superstition, fear, cruelty, tyranny, rapacious greed, overpopulation, massacre, suppression of ideas, and the general promotion of blinkered, Philistine pig-ignorance, I have a hard time mustering enthusiasm for its pageantry. "Patronage of the arts" doesn't really get close to offsetting all that.
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So. Trip to Boston yesterday/today. Really a bit pathetic. 600-odd miles, 14 hours behind the wheel (four of them quite miserable), a pricey night in an... odd... hotel, two and a half hours in a succession of waiting an exam rooms, and a small fortune in tolls, gas, parking fees, and road food... for (I timed it) 170 seconds of face time with the doctor. (And for around 45 of those he'd left the room to look at an X-ray.)

On the plus side, there's no sign of anything getting unauthorizedly frisky in there. On the minus side, that was an awful lot of faff to be told that, and I suspect most if not all of it could have been accomplished here in Podunk, or at worst in Bangor.

Worse, they want me back for two playdates in September. You know... just as the school year is starting.

Worst, I discovered on this trip what I was too preoccupied with the medical emergency to realize last summer: the city is now quite some distance outside my comfort zone. I've become quite appallingly provincialized, to the point where it was only about 65% fatigue that made me go to ground in my hotel room and not come out until it was time to report to the hospital, then head straight home. Another 10% was cheapness, but the remaining quarter was a wariness bordering on paranoia about, well, everyone in sight, basically, when I was out on the street walking between the parking garage and the hotel. Instead of walking over to the Fire + Ice on Berkeley, which is maybe a block from the hotel, I genuinely chickened out and ordered a pizza instead. I can't even fall back on laziness. I was just scared to go out.

This is dismaying, as it never used to bother me particularly to walk around urban areas, and it's not as if I was in the Combat Zone (does that even still exist?) or something. I was on friggin' Clarendon Street, a stone's throw from Copley Square. Nor am I any safer, in any practical way, up here in the land of meth & honey. Pathetic.

Bah. I am deeply dissatisfied on many levels.
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