SKIP THE $20 WORDS

Dictionary, Shmictionary

Time to confess: tell us about a time when you used a word whose meaning you didn’t actually know (or were very wrong about, in retrospect).


The last time I used a word that I didn’t know how to pronounce, but whose meaning I understood just fine, was “epitome.”I had read it in context many time and understood its meaning. But how to say it out loud? I got it wrong.

Everyone laughed. I never forgot. I was 9-years-old.

I don’t now and never have used words when I don’t know what they mean. I look them up. That one little moment of humiliation was sufficient for a lifetime. I always wince with pain when I hear people misusing words. It used to require one find a dictionary to look it up — or at least ask someone “What does “phenomenology” mean?

These days, you just Google it. Some words, like “epistemology” and “cosmology” (as opposed to “cosmetology”) require a little more than a single sentence explanation. I avoid using them unless that’s what the post is about. Unless you are trying to lose your audience, find more easily recognized words.

It doesn’t make anyone look smarter to misuse 20 dollar words when a 5 dollar word will do the job nicely.

Meaning of life

From “The Meaning of Life” Serendipity, June 30, 2014

Revelation #3: It’s all in the wording.

You need the right lingo to dazzle your audience. Big words (4 or more syllables) used in the right context can showcase your education and intelligence. People will make little cooing sounds to show their admiration.

Big words enhance your likelihood of getting a management position. You can write important books. Have a blog like me (and I know you want to be just like me). Big words can take you a long way if you are skilled at deploying them.

Note: Make sure you know how to pronounce them. Mispronouncing big words will cause unexpected laughter … not good unless you are aiming for a stand-up comedy career.

Epistemology

Let’s start with epistemology. This is an excellent catch-all word you can drop into any conversation. Most people will have no idea what you are talking about but will be too embarrassed to admit it. On the off-chance you encounter someone who actually recognizes the word, you can use this handy-dandy definition from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the philosopher’s convenient source for everything:

Defined narrowly, epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief. As the study of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with the following questions: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are its sources? What is its structure, and what are its limits? 

I bet you still have no idea what it means. The awesome truth is that epistemology doesn’t mean anything because it means everything.

Anything that means everything means nothing. Equally, when something claims to do everything, it has no actual use. This applies to people, concepts, and kitchen appliances. In practical terms, everything and nothing are identical. (Remember infinite sets from college math? It’s like that.)

Phenomenology

On to phenomenology. When I was studying religion in college, phenomenology was a way to prove the existence of God. Phenomenologically speaking, all human experience is proof of God. Except the same reasoning can prove there is no God. This is the joy of phenomenology.

Phenomenology can help you prove all things are one thing, all things are God. You are God. I am God. I am a warm cup of tea and you are a daffodil. If this doesn’t clarify it for you, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy offers further elucidation:

Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object.

In other words, you can use any and all human experience, your experience and anyone else’s, to prove whatever you want. Phenomenology is fundamental to all belief systems: religion, politics, and Fox News. Lots of people believe in religion, politics and Fox News, so maybe they will believe in you too.

WANDERING SENIOR WITH BOOK

Verbal Confirmation – To be, to have, to think, to move — which of these verbs is the one you feel most connected to? Or is there another verb that characterizes you better?


Confused. That would be my verb-du-jour. Except it’s not a verb. Maybe I am not a verb at all. Maybe I’m a noun or — heaven forbid — an adverb or an adjective! Horrors!

Take last night.

I recently read Gretchen Archer’s most recent book. It has not yet been released. Due out October 24th. Double Strike (A Davis Way Crime Caper Book 3) is really great … definitely the best yet and I loved the first two books, so I really adored this most recent one.

I haven’t reviewed it yet because it’s a bit early. I don’t like to review unreleased books longer than a week before they become available. I want people to be able to actually buy the book, not have to wait a month or two before it’s ready to be downloaded or ordered.

I’d been keeping the book on the end table next my recliner. This is where I spend most of my waking time. I have a laptop here, Garry sits next to me (he has his own laptop). And there’s the big TV, a good little CD player in case we want music. Robby the Robot in case we need entertainment … and usually a bouquet of  flowers because my husband is a peach.

I decided to put Double Strike in the bookcase in the office where I have all Gretchen’s other books and mementos.

I picked up the book. I fully intended to take it to the bookcase until I realized another book was missing … one I was planning to take with me and read on vacation next week. It wasn’t where I thought it should be, so I went to the office, thinking maybe I left it on my desk, or in the other office — might I have put in the bookcase? How about the bedroom, with the miscellaneous books and CDs I’m planning to listen to or read?

This other book — Savior by Martha Kennedy — was in none of these places and I started to panic. What could I have done with it? The older I get, the more absent-minded I become. I kept looking until I realized I was looking right at it. I had put it — because Martha and I share a passion for Robby the Robot — right next to Robby on the coffee table. Logical, in a non-linear way.

75-MyBooks-NK-05

That was when I realized I had no idea where I’d put Gretchen’s book. I’d had it in hand when I got up because my initial mission was to put it in a safer place, but I’d gotten distracted looking for Martha’s book … and obviously had put it down somewhere.

Where did I leave it? I had been in 5 different rooms and the hallway. I started in the living room, went to my office. Then down the hall to Garry’s office, where we have the big bookcases. From there, I went to our bedroom — with a quick side trip to the bathroom. I had stopped, made the bed, decided to change into my big tee-shirt because it was late and I was tired of elastic.

I then went back to the living room and watched some TV with Garry. The newest NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans (I think that’s going to be a keeper) and The Black List (another favorite). We record everything because zapping the commercials is so satisfying.

Now, it was bedtime. I gathered up my Kindle, my cup of juice, my bag of medications and a protein bar. Down the hall to the bedroom. Which was when I realized I had no idea where I put Double Strike. I retraced my steps to the best of my ability, but couldn’t find it anywhere. I knew it had to be in the house because I hadn’t left the house. I had put it down somewhere en route to somewhere else.

Eventually I found it. It was on the keyboard of the electric organ. Under Garry’s copy of Malkin’s movie references. I don’t want to think about how it got there. I picked it up, gave it a little kiss because I was so very glad to see it, then took it to the bookcase. Where, after rearranging a few things to make room for it, it has finally gone to live where I originally meant to put it.

You ask me about verbs? Verbs? Moi?

Color me befuddled. Confused. Is there a verb for that? As in … to be or not to be?

WHERE OH WHERE HAS MY LITTLE PROMPT GONE?

Truth Serum - You’ve come into possession of one vial of truth serum. Who would you give it to (with the person’s consent, of course) — and what questions would you ask?


I would start by asking why you can’t seem to regularly publish the Daily Prompt without problems? Why there were never any problems until you started working with formats that are pretty, but obviously full of bugs that keep recurring? Where are your Alpha and Beta testers? And when you post the prompt … doesn’t anyone check back to see if everything is working okay?

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You know, in addition to bloggers, pretty much all of us are or were workers. We performed jobs for which we were paid, in some cases quite well. We did our jobs. We understand taking pride in our work, being professional. Every day. Because we are and were responsible. What is wrong with you? Seriously? Don’t you have any pride in your work?

You put out prompts that look like you spent an eighth of a second thinking, then posted the first thing you thought of. Dull stuff, repetitive stuff, stupid and occasionally offensive stuff. And never a personal word to say “You know, I kind of screwed up yesterday. Hope you like this better.” Not a “people person,” are you Ben. You’re a desk jockey, doing your thing, no contact with your customers, no interchange on a human level. No sense of obligation to any of us.

You ought to already know the prompt is broken again. Because — like any good professional — you should have checked to see how it’s going. And seen it isn’t going. And would be all over your support staff to fix it so you wouldn’t disappoint us.

But … that’s not how it works. You’re too important maybe? Too remote? Too out of touch? Or you don’t care one way or the other. Think we are a bunch of nags, annoying you?

It doesn’t matter why it happens. Once? Twice? Three times? Okay, you’re still fixing a bug. But again? And yet … again? Is this professional? Maybe you should give this job to someone else … you know … someone who truly wants to do it. Properly. So now, to the serum.

Mr. Huberman: Do you want your job or more to the point, this part of your job? Do you feel an obligation to those you supposedly serve to provide service? If so, how can you explain failing to do your job regularly, not fixing problems before they affect all your customers? Where is your sense of pride and professionalism?

I’m just not seeing it.

NO GREAT DIVIDE

The Great Divide – The Daily Prompt for Monday, September 29, 2014

When reading for fun, do you usually choose fiction or non-fiction? Do you have an idea why you prefer one over the other?


There is no great divide. You must have made that up. Or maybe you don’t read much because if you did, you would know that literature is a continuity, a world without walls.

All my friends read. Friends and acquaintances, we read everything. Anything. Non-fiction and fiction, fantasy, mystery, and science fiction. The back of cereal boxes and magazines. Newspapers. Science and biography. Auto-biography and historical fiction.

I’m not sure there’s a whole lot of difference between historical fiction and regular old history anyhow. There’s a lot of fiction, made-up nonsense, wishful thinking and mythology in traditional history … and a lot of truth in fiction. Sometimes, the freedom an author gets under the cloak of fiction gives him or her the opportunity to write truer and reach more people than he or she could accomplish in an academic setting.

books and the duke

Those who love books don’t worry much about such distinctions. We pick books based on whether or not they will engage us. Teach us something we want to know. Make us laugh, cry, grow, change.

Most importantly, books take us out of ourselves. They transport us into a bigger world and give us food for thought and tools for understanding.

May a day never come when I confine my reading to a single genre, rejecting all others.

May the world never force such an awful choice upon me or anyone.

MORE STATS AND STATS – 5,000 BLOG FOLLOWERS

5000 followersStatistics are a hot topic among bloggers. Some of us obsess over them. I don’t obsess exactly, but I’m aware and interested. I take a daily look. Usually.

Over all, things are looking up at Serendipity. There has been a slow but steady increase in readership over the past 7 months. It’s encouraging — and today I breached a threshold.

FOLLOWERS

I’ve got 5,000 blog followers, the only followers I feel I can (more or less) accurately count.

I have no idea how many Facebook “friends” check out my blog. I suppose a majority of them occasionally check out a post, but most are linked to me because we play (or played) the same game(s). A few hundred more follow me via Twitter and Tumblr. I have no idea how actively they follow. I have no idea how actively anyone follows unless they comment or otherwise make contact.

WHO IS ACTUALLY READING ME?

I’m sure at least half of my 5,000 blog followers are no longer actively following me or were never really following me at all. Some are spammers and con artists, pornographers, trolls and troublemakers. I don’t hear from the real weirdos … and there are a few of them, too. The conspiracy nuts, the ones who are planning to overthrow the government but hopefully lack the skills to do more than rant.

Many followers sign on hoping I’ll do a reciprocal follow. I don’t. Won’t.

For anyone who wants me to follow them, I often check out sites because a comment catches my interest. Don’t send your link if you haven’t read a post or two on my site. I’d just as soon you not send your link at all. If you comment, I’ll have all the information I need to find you. Sending your blog’s link as a comment is rude.

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PAGE VIEWS 

Everybody’s numbers fluctuate. They go up and down without any obvious reason. Unless it’s a multi-week nose dive, I don’t worry about it. Usually, there’s no apparent reason. Or, it can be a seasonal thing. Holidays, the weather, political stuff — all these and dozens of other factors will change what people do online. I used to fret over it, but my recent life has been so stressful, I decided to make blogging a stress-free zone.  I know if things get slow, they will pick up. Eventually. Blogging on the same site for three years has taught me patience.

And, of course, I’m a wild card, maybe the biggest wild card. Because I’m the primary writer. I post every day and have for more than two years, only missing the period when I was too sick to do it.

Even at the best of times, all my posts are not brilliant. I have inspired days and blah days. Sometimes, I think a post is terrific, yet no one agrees. Other time, I think a post is dull, pedestrian — but it gets tons of hits. Go figure. I’m definitely better at gauging my work than I used to be, but that brings me up to maybe 50%. The rest of the time, I think I’ve got it nailed, but I don’t.

All-stats-9-27-14

THE COOL KIDS

I keep hearing that there are “cool” bloggers who are hyper popular and garner all kinds of awe and adulation. Everyone (apparently) wants to be one of the cool kids. I don’t actually know who the cool kids are because I avoid extremely popular sites. They are so busy, it’s impossible to have a dialogue with anyone. Or at least, I can’t. I’m not going to line up to be heard.

I think there is a tipping point when a blog becomes an enterprise. It gets too busy, too professional. I’ve seen blogs morph from personal blogs to businesses. I wonder if the bloggers even realized what was happening.

The first symptom? They stop responding to comments … or only respond to a particular group of followers. If I comment but never get a response? I will stop reading and following. I don’t require 100% reciprocity, but I need some acknowledgment. If you are too busy to ever answer my comments, you are too busy for me.

TAKING A LONG VIEW

I prefer to take a long view of statistics. I have yet to match, much less exceed, the numbers I made in November 2012. I had a lot of help that month. We had a highly controversial presidential election and a super hurricane which conspired to make the Internet a wild and crazy place.

I’m getting back up there gradually, month by month. Statistically speaking. This time, maybe it won’t be a fluke and it will stick.

Then again, maybe not. I’m sure I won’t post every day forever. I’ll get tired someday. Not soon, but eventually. Nothing is forever. Definitely not me.

AT THE OLD BALLGAME – RICH PASCHALL

Harold takes a road trip, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Friday was “Fun Day,” or at least that is the way Harold saw it.  It was a day given over to sports.  Harold read all the sports he could in the morning paper.  Watched some on television.  He even made time for high school or college games in the area.  In the late spring and early summer, there was minor league baseball to be seen.  Every Friday could have an appropriate sports theme.

On one particularly nice Friday in the baseball season, Harold decided to drive all the way to St. Petersburg to catch a major league baseball game.  It’s not that the Tampa Bay Rays, who did not play in Tampa, were an exciting team, but the visiting team was making a rare appearance.  Actually, it was Harold’s favorite Midwest team.  The Chicago Cubs and the Rays were having an interleague game and Harold thought that was just about the only reason to drive over an hour to get to a baseball game.

The details of this road trip were laid out in Harold’s computer-like mind the night before.  He knew exactly what to take, when to leave and how long to stay at the park.  It would be a treat to see the park, as Harold had absolutely no reason to make the trip before this.  It would be years before the Cubs would come that way again, so they certainly had to be on Harold’s schedule as well as the Rays’.

St. Petersburg, Florida

St. Petersburg, Florida

Neither team was very good.  In fact the Cubs were in last place and the Rays were not in the running for anything.  The Chicago organization called it a “rebuilding” year, but most years were rebuilding years for the Cubs.

It had been that way since 1908.  Still, Harold had an unexplainable affection for the team so he decided to take the trip. When the appointed hour came, according to his expert calculations, he was off.

He arrived at the parking facility more or less on time and spied the ticket office right away.  There were not a lot of cars as the team needed a winning season to fill the lot, so Harold got a spot close to the ticket windows.  He put up the sunshield in the front window and then added another for the back.

It didn’t matter. The car would be hot when he returned, sunshield or not.  With plenty of time before game time, Harold took a leisurely stroll to purchase his tickets.  He only had to wait behind one person when he heard someone call out.

“Harold?  Harold, is that you?”  It was George, a former colleague from work and his wife Martha.  Whenever he heard their names together it reminded his of a movie or show, but he could not remember which one.

It was not important to him.  George, like many Cub fans, would travel almost anywhere to see the boys in blue play.  Older Cub fans with time on their hands frequently made vacation plans to include a Cubs’ road game.

“Hello, George, Martha,” Harold said, not at all certain he was glad to see them.  “What brings you down here this time of year?  People normally visit in the winter.”  At that, it was Harold’s turn at the ticket window.

Ballgame seating

Ballgame seating

“I need just one ticket,” Harold declared.  “I don’t want one of those 281 dollar tickets.  I think a 66 dollar ticket is quite enough.”  Actually Harold thought that was too much but he figured it would be a rare treat.  When he collected his ticket, Harold turned around and said to the couple, “Well, it was nice to see you again.”

But when George got to the window, he had other ideas.  He said to the person selling tickets, “Can you get us two tickets right next to that last guy?”

“Sure,” she replied and sold him the next two seats.  Harold would be on the aisle and the couple from the north would be right next to him.

“Hey Harold, wait up,” George shouted and the couple hurried along to catch up with the master planner.  The problem is, George and Martha were not in the plan.  They all went into the park together and Harold and George had to stand around for fifteen minutes while Martha went to the women’s washroom.

When they got to their seats, the National Anthem was being played.  George decided to sit next to Harold for half the game in order to tell him everything that happened since Harold had retired.  Martha took the second half to update George on local gossip, most of it having to do with people Harold could not remember — or possibly never knew.

Harold’s seat on the aisle did not prove to be so ideal, since vendors and fans frequently went by, obstructing his view.  Beer vendors were particularly annoying because when they stopped in front of Harold, they were usually there for too long.

The game moved along slowly. The Cubs fell behind early due to errors and poor relief pitching.  It did not look major league.  At precisely three hours after the start of the game,  the alarm on Harold’s watch went off. He announced to the now somewhat tipsy couple, it was time to go.

“Go?” George shouted in horror.  “It is only the bottom of the eighth.  The Cubs could have a rally.  See, I have my rally cap.”  At that George took off his cap, turned it inside out, and put it back on his head.

“But I have somewhere to go … and the game has run long.”

Martha protested, “You’re retired.  Where do you have to go?  Sit down and watch the Cubs come back.”  The couple put up such a fuss that Harold sat back down just to put an end to the scene.  Rays fans around them were shouting at them to sit down.  It was embarrassing to the usually quiet Midwesterner.

The Cubs went three up, three down in the ninth, as might be expected from such a team.  The threesome filed out with all the others.  When Harold got to his hot car, the traffic was building. The trip through the lot and onto the roadway was slow and painful to Harold.  The Cubs had played as expected, but the day had not gone as Harold had planned it. Harold, master planner of retirement time, had been defeated again.

NOR ANY DROP TO DRINK — 3 YEARS AT MANCHAUG

From The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (text of 1834)
By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

I’ve been talking a lot lately — for obvious reasons — about the drought we are not officially having. I thought it was time to show you what I see and how I know we are having a drought. And why I wonder how come no one except me seems to find this alarming.

All these pictures were taken at the same location: Manchaug. At the dam and the lake formed by the dam. And the river that used to feed this waterway, except that now it’s more like a puddle than a river.

Manchaug, September 10, 2011

Manchaug, September 10, 2011

This was shot on September 10, 2011. My granddaughter and I were wandering around and there it was. We both shot a lot of pictures that day. I called these “The Crystal Falls” because of how it glittered in the sunshine. Of all the local waterfalls, these were the most lovely.

Manchaug above the dam, April 2012

Manchaug above the dam, April 2012

A mallard at Manchaug

A mallard at Manchaug

All the way through the spring 2013, everything was fine at Manchaug. There were fish, turtles, ducks, geese and lots of water.

Flip the calendar to this year, 2014.

I have not seen a swan since the beginning of May. Whitin’s pond where they have always nested, is showing its bottom. The dam at the foot of the pond is dry as a bleached bone. The swans used to battle the geese for nesting room on the pond.

Now, neither geese nor swans are to be seen anywhere on the pond. I’ve only seen a few geese anywhere … and they were on the Blackstone River itself. No herons. No schools of baby fish along the banks.

Manchaug - July 2013

Manchaug – July 1, 2013

Manchaug above the dam, June 2014

Manchaug above the dam, June 2014. The dam is completely dry.

The stream that fed the lake is gone.

The river that fed the lake is dry. On the right is where the river was. Gone.

So we don’t have an official drought, but all our dams — there are 43 of them on the Blackstone — are dry. The rivers are mud, drying in the sun. I wonder when the someone will “officially” notice we have a water problem? Because if they officially acknowledge a problem, then “they” have to do something about it. As of right now, they have even issued low water warnings. I don’t understand why they haven’t at least issued warnings to well owners to go easy on water usage, to not water lawns, wash cars, fill hot tubs and swimming pools!

Where are the water fowl? Have they flown off to places that have more water? I hope so. The alternative makes me a little bit queasy.

You’d think someone would do something, wouldn’t you?