31 October, 2008

Perusing the Dictionary In Pursuit of Pursuit

I’ve been pretty good with spelling as far back as I can remember, but there are a few words that I always seem to have problems spelling correctly. There are two categories here, actually:

1. Words that I spell incorrectly and which I know are wrong as soon as I see how I’ve spelled them, and

2. Words whose spelling, despite looking at them on the page or screen, still eludes me.

This second category caught my attention recently. I began to wonder what it was about these words that make them so hard for me to get right. I mean, when I look at (or just think about looking at) the word spelled however I think it should be, I have an odd, sinking feeling that it's not right. But I can't figure how it should be spelled, either.

So, today the word is “pursue.” I tend to spell this “persue.” Sure, when they’re right next to each other, I’m pretty sure that the first one is correct - though there’s still room for doubt. So, I thought about this particular word for a while . . .

I think what messes me up is that there are two “u” vowels in it, right next to each other, but they are not pronounced the same. I think that’s why my brain wants to put something different than a “u” in the first spot. After all, the other “u,” in the “sue” part of the word, actually sounds like a “u” - “yooooooo.” I suppose that from now on I will need to remember that this word is one of those odd ones in this language. Odd to me, anyway.

Oh yeah. Don't even remind me of the existence of “peruse!”

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26 June, 2008

Disgusting Freshity

For the most part I really abhor marketing aimed at creating a softer image of something that is repugnant. Take political campaigns, for example. Those campaigns give opportunities for some of the most blatant white-washing of tombs. Though, since there's usually an opponent to delve and criticize, the marketing fluff avails very little.

Other times, the images that marketing portray are not so easily debunked. If the white-washing is really subtle, or if the nastiness of the material that is being covered up is not so nasty, the marketing can be really effective. I still am not sure which is worse. The subtle spins cover up only small sins, but which can endure unchallenged for a long time. The blatant ones will fool those who want to be fooled, but the rest of us just laugh at them.

Sometimes the marketing spin on a company is so wrong that it's funny. Here are some pictures of a local steel forge works, on Cortland Ave. These are shots taken from the outside, looking in through some of the "garage doors."

All in all, these shots show some pretty clean and orderly areas given what goes on in a forge. Still, there's lots of dirt and grime. And I can only guess at how smoky the places get at times.

Well, forges need marketing fluff, too. Or, at least, that's the impression I get from this banner that is stretched across Cortland avenue for people to see right alongside these grubby images:





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17 June, 2008

Assorted Insanity (a.k.a. English Sucks)

What do you associate with the word, "assorted?" For me, it is a box of assorted chocolates - the kind that are all mixed up so that you can't really tell what's inside the candy until you bite down on it. I mean, these boxes of chocolates almost always have the word "assorted" printed somewhere on the outside. So, for me,

Assorted = Chocolates

A few days ago the Word of the Day that is emailed to me from the Merriam-Webster web site was "assorted." Here's the definition that came with it:

as·sort·ed [uh-sawr-tid] – adjective
1.consisting of different or various kinds; miscellaneous: assorted flavors; assorted sizes.
2.consisting of selected kinds; arranged in sorts or varieties: rows of assorted vegetables.
3.matched; suited.

[Origin: 1790–1800; assort + -ed2]

The first definition matched up closely with my own understanding of the word. But I read further and realized an interesting incongruity in my thinking. The second and third definitions imply some kind of order: sorting; arranged; matched. Funny, even though the root word, "sort" is pretty obvious, I'd never thought of this word as having anything to do with order - it was always miscellany/chaotic/unorganized to me.

So, does anyone use "assorted" to refer to something that's been sorted? Something that has varying parts, but which parts have been grouped together by some kind of sorting process? Not me. And I'm kind of ticked off that I never thought about it before. I mean, the word even says "sorted" in it!

I dunno. The weirdness probably comes from some long-forgotten, but gruesome past.

Stupid English with its sordid origins.

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18 May, 2008

Ridiculous (but understandable) Apple-iciousness

Does this seem a bit over-the-top to anyone?

I've seen all kinds of vending machines before, but I found this one in an airport. I mean, I completely understand how someone might have an urgent need for an accessory while traveling. But what tweaks my mind about this is not that it's a vending machine in an airport, but that:

  • You can buy things with a credit card
  • You can buy things that cost more than a couple dollars
  • You can buy things that you'd find in the Apple store

Take a closer look:

You can buy a freaking CAMERA???? Here's some more:

I didn't compare prices to see how jacked-up these vending-machine consumer electronics goods are, but I have to believe that they'd be as outrageous as a $5 candy bar.

However it did occur to me that this vending machine is perfectly placed. These are exactly the kinds of things that travelers would buy. Imagine the temptation with this machine staring at you while you are waiting for a long-delayed flight!

Talk about impulse buying . . .

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You never know what you'll find on the way to church

And, today, it was this:

I just love this! How cool would it be to buzz around the city in this, with your pet monkey riding in the sidecar?!?

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04 April, 2008

"That'll be five cents, please."

“There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit” - 1 Corinthians 4:12

“There are varieties of approaches, but the same Bums” - 1 Theo 4:12

Last summer saw me hit one of the most stressful and angry times of my life. Ever. Those who know me well know that it takes A LOT to get me angry. Stress is a different story, but I am pretty good at not stressing over small stuff. So, suffice to say that I was in a pretty shitty place. It was so bad, in fact, that my well-honed ability to put a positive spin on (a.k.a. see the blessing in) any situation was utterly unable to spin me out of the feelings of anger and betrayal.

It was weird.

So it was during the first couple weeks of this “strangry” time - when my feelings were the most raw - that I was out with some friends having pizza at Piece, a pizzeria & brew pub near my apartment. I ended up leaving the group a little bit early because the strangriness welled up inside and I just needed to be by myself. I got up, excused myself, and started to walk home.

Walking along the sidewalk with my mind reeling and going over and over and over again the succession of events that got me to this place; thinking of ways to deal with it all; screwed up face; tears dripping their way across stubble and into my beard. I was looking straight ahead, but with my mind whirring at breakneck speed, I only saw as much as I needed to avoid walking into anything. I was in something of a state of shock, I think.

Five minutes into my walk and halfway home, as I walked along the sidewalk of Milwaukee Avenue looking like the sky had just fallen on me, I suddenly noticed a Homeless Guy walking towards me. As he neared, he held out his hand. I stopped and grabbed it.

“It’s OK, man. It’s not all THAT bad.” he says. He could clearly see my screwed-up face.

My mind was yanked out of its strangriness spiral for a moment. It hit me that this random stranger had just given a kind word where one was desperately needed. I felt a little bit better, and shook the hand that I’d just grabbed:

“Thanks, man. I know. I know. You’re right. Thank you!”

I realized that this guy was my angel. I mean, I really believe in angels: people, animals, things that God uses to help us out when we need it. This was just the right word at just the right time. I began to consider how wonderful it was to have a Random Stranger Homeless Guy bless me in this way. And that made me feel a little better, too.

I stopped shaking his hand, released it, and thanked him again as I walked past him, continuing my way home. I was only two steps beyond him when I heard him say,

“Hey man, have you got a dollar?”


Even Balaam’s ass was still an ass after God spoke through him.

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28 March, 2008

Chasing Ambulances

I have had to hire an attorney recently.

I thought I'd have to hire a second attorney, for a completely separate reason from the first attorney.

I have an attorney back in Texas that I hired for business & real estate reasons.

I have had several phone conversations with at least three or four other attorneys.

Oh yeah, and I work for attorneys. But none of the attorneys above were ones that I work with.

How the hell did I ever get to THIS place???

So, when I saw a television ad for a Chicago law firm that specializes in personal injury law (read: ambulance chasers) I mostly ignored it. There are a lot of those commercials, after all.

I ignored it until the final moments when they put a slide up with their contact information. When I read it, I had the strangest mix of laughter and disgust that I think I've ever felt.

Laughter: The firm's name is "VanPopering Law Offices." I couldn't help but see an extra "o" in the name "VanPopering." And that was funny.

Disgust: Their phone number - 1-800-S.O.S-HURT

That phone number, for me, encapsulates the whole ambulance chasing world: Revving up the litigation world; Litigating everything under the sun; Preying on hurt people; Driving up medical costs; Feeding the disgusting lack of responsibility that people take for their own health.

Do these kinds of attorneys actually help people (besides themselves)?

So, to ameliorate my disgust, I tried to turn it to funny. I put their phone number digits into http://www.phonespell.org and found some better ways to spell out that number:
  1. 800-POP-GURU
  2. 800-POP-GUST
  3. 800-SO-PITS-8
  4. 800-SO-PIUS-8
F*cking ambulance chasers . . .

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10 March, 2008

Texas Contrasts

The inspiration for this entry comes from a comment that Rob made to me during our trip to Texas last week.

When you are in Texas, near one of the major cities, you don't have to drive very far before you're in The Country. It is not uncommon to have the skyline of Houston/Dallas/San Antonio in view just a few miles away, as you try to pass an enormous combine on a two-lane farm-to-market road. After you pass that combine/herd of cattle/horse trailer/tractor you're just as likely to turn onto a highway - with cars buzzing by at 80 mph - as you are to turn onto a dirt road leading to the most beautiful bucolic scene you've ever seen.

It is the combination of skyscrapers, flat land, wide open spaces, and ubiquitous ranch land that makes this contrast possible, I'd say. There may be other places in the world where similar combinations produce such contrasts, but when I think of major U.S. cities that have skyscrapers and skylines, I can't think of many (any) which have a combination that brings rural and urban trappings so close. And as for non-U.S. cities, I've only seen a few of them, and not many of them have these particular contrasts. It is definitely one of the things that I cherish about my relationship with Texas.

Texas. To a mid-westerner, "Texas" evokes stereotypical imagery and compels people to try to talk funny. But, to me, after spending half of my life there, thoughts of Texas just make me smile.

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