Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

Eggcorns and Mondegreens

September 7, 2010

I have long been a fan of quirky expressions, puns, and the like. I remember SNL performer Rich Hall‘s invention of Sniglets, words that don’t appear in the dictionary but should. Here are two examples (here is a list):

Icision (ih sih’ zhun) – n. Delicate operation performed on Neapolitan-flavored ice cream in which one entire flavor is precisely and systematically removed.

Ignoranus: A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.

Another class of words are variously called a malapropism or an eggcorn. Malaproprism (mal a propos or inappropriate) is not usually that funny (except perhaps those from Archie Bunker):

“A woman doctor is only good for women’s problems…like your groinocology.” (i.e. Gynaecology)

Eggcorns are more like puns, which are rarely thigh-slappers:

  • chickens come home to roast see roost » roast

Mondegreens, on the other hand, are funny misreadings of a phrase. The most famous is “Gladly, the cross-eyed bear” (Gladly the cross I’d bear), according to Jon Carroll, the mondegreen collector. I like the origin of the term, from Percy’s Reliques,

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl O’ Moray,
And Lady Mondegreen.

The actual words are “and laid him on the green.”

More later on the origins of curious phrases like “dead ringer.” Did it originate with the Victorian phenomenon of safety coffins which had a bell so a person inadvertently buried alive could ring it and be saved ?


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Summer serenity

July 5, 2010

Michiana Sunset

Tranquil Lake Michigan, beautiful sunset, and the wires to send this post to the Internet ! Click to enlarge.


How to organize your family with Google calendar

June 25, 2010

Some years back, my wife was looking at possible business opportunities related to wireless and home networking. Though nothing came of it, one of the suggested applications was a family calendar. Now there are many online ways to set one up for free. I recently responded to an email list question on how to set up a family Google calendar.  Here is that advice with some additions:

In my family, everyone has a Google account and their own individual calendar. From their Google calendar Settings, they can share any calendars they own with specific people (eg other family members). When you share your calendar with person Y (a subscriber), Y gets an email invitation to share your calendar. If they accept, your calendar is available to their Google calendar display (you can hide it or display it).

The owner of a calendar sets permissions for the subscribers ranging from complete control, subscribers can add or edit events, view the calendar, or just see busy/not busy. These permissions can vary for each subscriber so your spouse can change/manage your calendar, but your kids can only view it.

All of ours are set so others can add or edit events. So, I can see my kids’ class schedules, if they post them, and any other events they put on their calendars. I can also add events such as their next flight home ! We also have a family calendar, a husband and wife calendar, and I have a work calendar. You can set the color of each calendar so you easily distinguish events by calendar.

You can make your calendar public (good for teachers sharing their workday with their students ?) if you so desire. I subscribe to two public calendars – Jewish holidays and US holidays.

You can sync your calendar with mobile devices . With my (Google) Android phone, I have a calendar app that is equivalent to having a browser pointed to your Google calendar.You can also sync with desktop applications (eg Outlook), but I am not sure how that works. Some years back I tried to sync with the Palm Desktop application without success. I think all major mobile devices have an app, but the functionality varies.

One neat thing about the Google calendar is that you can add notifications to an event that will send an email or an SMS text message a certain time before the event. You have to link your cell phone to receive the text message. I can’t tell you how many times I set notifications to remind me to call the kids to help them wake up !

On feature of Google calendar I have not used is that you can send  invitations to an event and track RSVPs. I am sure that is probably very useful for things like meetings. A related tool that my stock club uses to help schedule meetings is Doodle, where invitees can indicate which of several possible times they can attend.

These are great organizational tools that can help ease our busy, complicated lives. Enjoy !

Science, sermons, and calling Mom

May 21, 2010

It is pretty much required for rabbis delivering sermons on days when Yizkor, the memorial prayer is said, to talk about our connection with our parents, as that relationship forms the context for remembering the dead and contemplating our own mortality. So it wasn’t a surprise that in yesterday’s Shavuot sermon, the rabbi talked about calling your mother. What was remarkable is that the sermon brought in both science and advertising !

Rabbi Michelle Robinson told us about a surprising scientific study. The study found that speaking with your mother on the phone for 15 minutes lowers stress in 7-12 year old girls, as measured by cortisol and oxytocin levels, as much as 15 minutes of physical reassurance ! I guess this explains why many mothers get calls from our kids in college before and after exams. Just hearing their mother’s voice washes away some of the stress of the test. Probably, calling Dad does not have the same effect.

She also brought up a wonderful anecdote from the world of advertising. In 1979, South Central Bell had legendary college football coach Bear Bryant record a commercial. The tough football coach (he once played with a broken leg) was supposed to say “Have you called your mama today ?” Having recently lost his own mother, Bryant ad-libbed and added, “I sure wish I could call mine.” The phone company’s intuitive knowledge that simply hearing your mother’s voice is comforting was an astute business move. Legend has it the stock soared as grown men heeded Bryant’s ‘suggestion.’

Enjoy the commercial !

USPS is a typical government-run-enterprise

April 15, 2010

I just shipped a package with the few things my parents forgot to pack at the end of their recent visit. The US Postal Service offers a service where you can send Priority Mail (or higher service) using their Click-N-Ship interface. It’s pretty convenient, and I’ve used it a lot when I don’t want to spend 20 minutes to go to a post office with something bigger than a letter, or if I want limited traceability and proof of delivery.

The only problem was that it had been over a year since my last shipment. Lo and behold, the site closed my account without notice and according to their online chat technical support, could not recover it. So all of the addresses I had previously entered are lost, which definitely cuts into the time savings from buying postage online and printing a label. This contrasts with what I’ve experienced with most vendors I’ve used where they keep accounts and information for much longer.

No anomaly here. The USPS is just another government-run-enterprise where there is no strong (profit) motivation to provide excellent customer service.

If you are looking for the medical condition

March 28, 2010

Ebstein’s Anomaly is a congenital heart defect. There is information, a foundation, and support groups here and here (and probably elsewhere) for this condition.

Hello world!

March 24, 2010

Welcome to my blog ! Comments (public) and messages (private) are always welcome. Subscribe at right to see new posts.