What Does it all Mean?

I was watching something this morning (it’s pretty funny actually, you can find it here) in which the speaker, a comedian by the name of John Branyan, said that Shakespeare had a working vocabulary of 53,000 words while the average American has a working vocabulary of 3,000.

And well, I just don’t think that’s fair.

Now I suppose that by working vocabulary he means words used, or possibly even words used regularly, but I would propose that we all have two vocabularies, words we use and words we understand.

The words we use vocabulary would be relatively small, I’m willing to believe that it falls in the 3,000 word range especially if you don’t consider technical jargon whatever flavor that might come in.  I can talk all day about positioning in a lateral decubitous manner to allow access to the right  superior anterior retro-peritoneal space in preparation to rescect the renal pelvis and spatualate the distended ureter in a ureteroplasty, but that doesn’t mean a lot to most of you.  So sure, “working vocabulary” 3,000 words, why not?

Then there’s the words we understand.  That number is a lot bigger.  Once upon a time I was told that antidisestabilishmentarianism is the longest word in the English language (although firefox doesn’t recognize it so maybe it’s not even a word).  This is a word I understand, it’s one that I recognize, that I know the definition for and that I could use in a sentence if I happened to be talking about the belief that the Church of England should be separated from the government of England.  However, that’s not a conversation that I have very often.  It’s a word I know but don’t use, so is that in my working vocabulary?

Here’s another example, maladroitly.  I’ve been reading a lot of Brandon Sanderson lately, fantastic stuff, and Brandon Sanderson really likes the word maladroitly.  I can’t blame him, it’s a great word.  It’s a word I understand.  And it’s significantly more likely that I am going to be discussing something that was done in a maladroit manner than that I’m going to be discussing the Church of England.  However, I’m still not going to use the word maladroitly.  Why not?  Because I don’t want to sound like a pretentious prick.  But I would be willing to bet that Brandon Sanderson wouldn’t either because for some of us there’s a third vocabulary.

For those of us who write (I haven’t really written anything in over a year but I’m still going to include myself in this category) there’s our written vocabulary.  This vocabulary, while possibly not quite as large as the second, is a great deal larger than the first.  This is where I just might use the word maladroitly.  This is where I can use all those fun words like celerity and marshaling and haste and not really worry about being seen as a tool.

And this is all we know about Shakespeare.  The only vocabulary of Shakespeare’s that we have is his written one, of course it’s larger than my “working vocabulary” he was writing!  And not only was he writing he was writing in iambic pentameter which requires even more creativity.  For all we know he wanted to use the word clumsily but he needed the extra syllable so he went with maladroitly instead.  Comparing me to that?  That’s just not fair.

Apropos of all that, the dictionary.com word of the day is: Slimsy, an adjective meaning flimsy or frail (and not a word I would use in conversation or writing (it looks too much like flimsy, as if I just got it wrong.))

So, what’s your favorite word?

Putting the Joseph Back in Christmas

I’m not a knick-nacky person.  I don’t have bric-a-brac.  I’m not a curio keeper.

That being said I do have several (5 or 6) nativities that I put out this time of year.  And I noticed something as I was setting up the scenes this year.  I have nearly no Josephs.  Every creche that I have has a baby Jesus (naturally), they all have a Mary (almost always kneeling), they all have three wise men.  Every one of them has a random assortment of livestock, sheep, camels, cows and maybe an angel.  Each also has a minimum of one shepherd.  And then they have the other guy, the is he a shepherd or is he Joseph guy.

I have a gorgeous white china nativity (no doubt given to me by my mother in law) that has all the necessary pieces (Jesus, Mary, 3 wise men, a camel) and two other guys.  One is holding a sheep and the other a shepherd’s crook.  Ummm…

I'm a little nauseated by Precious Moments but I'm even more bothered by the 3 shepherds and no Joseph.

This is not my nativity but you get the idea, which one is Joseph?

I don’t really know what to do with that.  I made the guy with the crook Joseph because- well the guy with the lamb in his arms is definitely a shepherd right?  But the other guy really is too isn’t he?  So where’s Joseph?

Most of my sets are like that.  I’ve played with the idea that my kids have lost Joseph, heaven knows they’ve played with the nativities enough (and we have the missing arms, halos, etc. to prove it) but they’ve never played with my china one (I do draw the line somewhere) and what are the odds that they’ve lost all the Josephs and only the Josephs?

The thing is that I think Joseph is important.  I get that Jesus is the most important, I have no argument with that.  I don’t hold Mary in the regard that some do, I’m looking at you Catholics, but I still have huge amounts of respect for her.  But to my mind the next most important figure there is Joseph.  It’s true that he didn’t contribute the usual DNA offering that most fathers do.  But he was chosen BY GOD to raise God’s son.  He, of all the guys around was deemed worthy by an omnipotent, omniscient, father to be the physical father figure to the most important person to ever live.  It wasn’t that he just happened to be engaged to Mary, he was picked just as much as she was.  That’s kind of a big deal.

And yet I have 3 wise men and one maybe shepherd possibly Joseph guy?  That’s just not right.  So this Christmas while we’re singing about Christ and about the virgin mother how about a shout out the virgin father, to the guy catching that baby?  How about a little love for Joesph?

Sister Wives

I’ve been watching that new show on TLC (actually I’ve mostly been watching it on demand) and I’ve gotta say, very interesting.

As a Mormon, as a product of polygamy myself (not directly, I just have the one mom but when you hit the grandfolks and the great grandfolks and so forth) it’s a topic that I’ve given some thought.

And here’s where I stand:  I’m opposed to marrying a 13 year old girl off to her 50 year old uncle.  I’m opposed to marrying a thirteen year old girl off at all.

Except now I’m going to play Devil’s advocate. I’m opposed to marrying a thirteen year old girl off at all in this culture but scholars agree that Mary, the mother of Jesus was probably not a whole lot older than that and that Joseph, her eventual husband, was probably considerably older than she was because that’s how it was done back then.  And I’m ok with it having been done that way for them because that was what they were used to and what they had grown up expecting, it’s just not ok now because it’s not who we grow up or what we spend our whole lives expecting.  Except in communities in which that kind of thing happens (the YFZ ranch etc.) that is the expectation, that is what they grow up expecting so… well, I’m undecided.  End Devil’s advocate.

But in the case of Sister Wives they were not married off at thirteen.  They married young but not any younger than this girl, or this one.  The husband is within spitting distance of all the wives in age (heck, I believe the Wonderhusband and I with our 6 year age difference are probably farther apart than any of them). They all knew what they were getting into.  When Kody (the husband) and Meri (the first wife) got married it was with the expectation that there would be more wives.  She was raised in a polygamist family and she liked it.  Janelle, the second wife, was not raised as a polygamist but she was friends with Meri and Kody for a few years before she married Kody and when she did it was of her own free will.  Christine, the third wife, was also raised in a polygamist home and according to her she always wanted to be a third wife.  What that says about her is not up to me to say (although I suspect that someone with a background in psychology would have a good time with her) but hey, she got exactly what she wanted.

What it all comes down to is that for what it is I think it’s fine.

It’s my understanding that the state of Utah is looking into prosecuting Kody for polygamy.  (How interesting that we prosecute the husband but largely ignore the wife who obviously enabled this criminal behavior.  Doesn’t that make each of the wives accessories?) To that I have to say, really?  We don’t have actual crime to prosecute?  Let me put my feelings this way: If it’s not legal to marry more than one wife then he’s only married to Meri, whether he “married” the others or not.  Which means that the relationship he’s having with the others is an adulterous one.  Is adultery illegal?  Is it something that we prosecute?

In all honesty I think that adultery ought to be illegal and I think that we ought to prosecute.  But even if it were and even if we did, can we not start with adulterous relationships that result in families being destroyed and in children being raised by single parents and in… well, problems?

Here we have a man who lives with and loves his wives, he lives with and loves his children.  I don’t know this as a fact, but I don’t believe that any of the wives are claiming welfare.  At least two of them work, Kody works, they look out for each other, they take care of each other and of each other’s children.  Maybe they’re just pretty good at hiding it but I don’t get any of the “bleed the beast”, “you’re all going to hell” kinds of vibes that you get from some of the other polygamists.  These are just people living the way they feel like they should and the way that they want to, just like we all do.  They’re not anti-monogamy, some of the children have said that they’re not interested in practicing polygamy in their own lives and they’re not shunned for that, they’re not disapproved of, that is a valid lifestyle and one that they’re free to choose.

Basically, as it’s portrayed on TLC, polygamy for this family is exactly what it says it is, one big family with three mothers, one father and a whole grundle of kids (although the Duggars still outstrip them by a ways) and they act like a family.  And that’s good enough for me.

Nice Weather We’re Having isn’t it?

I’m not good at small talk.  I never have been.  Unlike Mr. Darcy (who at least professed to have the same problem) I know exactly why that is.  It’s the same reason he wasn’t any good at it, I don’t practice.

The thing is that I have no interest in it.  The thing about small talk, about nearly any conversations with strangers, is that it’s just the same conversation over and over and over again and it’s talking just to talk.  I have no interest in that.

I get bored by the same story over and over again.  Bored enough by them that often when something happens that’s blog worthy, I’ll save it for the blog.  Meaning that I won’t go to work, 15 minutes after having eaten a huge plateful of salad with dishwater salad dressing on it and tell my friends at work about the stupid and disgusting thing that I just did.  I have to save it if it’s going to be of any use to me because if I don’t I’ll just get bored with the whole story and be unable to tell it even one more time.

I remember becoming aware of my conversational boredom in high school.  You remember high school, when the answer to “how are you?” is always “tired” and then we try to out tired each other.  We go into the details of why we’re so tired “I was up until midnight catching up on my homework” or, “I totally forgot about the paper due in History until, like, 10:00 last night so I was up all night working on it.”  And I realized what a boring conversation this was.  We were all tired, we all thought we were the tiredest (although the truth of the matter was that I was the tiredest since I had to get up at 4:30 every morning to deliver newspapers and then go to early morning seminary and then go to a show choir class all before the normal school day started) when the truth was that we were all tired because we were all teenagers and were too stupid to go to bed.  (I frequently am still too stupid to go to bed, I just recognize that as my own problem and refuse to complain about it.)

So I quit having that conversation.  I stopped being “tired” when I was asked how I was.  (It’s possible that that that was the origin of  “fantastic” which is currently my go to answer for those sort of mundane greetings.)  Maybe this is the origin of my inability to make small talk, maybe if I had carried on with it in high school I would have developed a talent for the inane.  As it is I don’t really talk to people I don’t know and often, even with people I do know, I have an “unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless [I] expect to say something that will amaze the whole room…”

I think I may have missed my mark here.  I guess it’s time to shut up.

Exercises in Futility

I commented once on Facebook that there is nothing more pointless than cleaning your house while there are still children in it.    Most people agreed.

However, today I would like to amend that statement.   I maintain that there is nothing more pointless than cleaning one’s house while there are still children living in it, but today I put forth the idea that there are several things that are equally pointless.  Below you will find an incomplete list, including the rationale behind the inclusion of each item.


1.  Trying to make a 2 year old eat.

My children are, as a general rule, pretty good eaters, and for the most part, feeding a two year is a fairly effective exercise however, there are times when for whatever reason, the two year old in question does not want to eat.  I postulate that in that case, it is not possible to get that two year old to eat.

As an extreme example I’ll tell you about a gal I work with whose, now four year old, son has not eaten anything other than graham crackers, pringles, milk and apple juice in 2 years.  It began shortly after her daughter was born, when her normal, well adjusted, two year old son suddenly decided that he only wanted to eat graham crackers and he’d only drink milk.  For a little while, a few days, that wasn’t too big of a deal, her child asserting his independence, then it was annoying, then concerning.  Finally my friend, Corinne, decided that enough was enough and her son needed to eat something else.  So she refused his requests for milk and/or graham crackers, offering instead, the entire contents of her kitchen.  She though, as perhaps several of you have, that given enough time, he’d get hungry enough that he’d eat something else.  He didn’t.  He went for 36 hours without eating anything at all. Finally, Corinne, as a nurse, decided that she was unwilling to take him in to the ER for dehydration without at least trying something else so she took a big syringe home from work, filled it with apple juice and made a game of squirting the apple juice into his mouth, thereby expanding his palate to include apple juice.  But he would go no further and eventually she gave up.  (He has since expanded to include Pringles but, as I mentioned, it’s been 2 years…)

2.  Telling children to be nice, to not call one another names, to keep their hands, feet and other objects to themselves, to mind their own business.

I have no long drawn out story for this one, just my life.  But this never works.  Ever.  Inevitably they keep doing whatever it was that was driving their sibling, and their parents crazy until they’re good and ready to stop.  Sometimes physically moving one or more involved parties has some limited success but realistically there’s nothing to be done other than to just get through it.

3.  Asking (pleading with, begging, exhorting…) a child to use the toilet rather than the floor, their pants, the planter, etc…

That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Now this list is hardly exhaustive and with only 3 (4 if you count the house cleaning part) entries it hardly counts as a list at all.  So I need your additions.  What is the most futile thing that you do?  That you live with?  Something animal related?  Political? Whatever.  Let’s see it.

Seasons Change

Note: I have one week to raise the rest of my HERA money.  As of right now I’m short $45 $25 $15 $5.  C’mon, you can spare 5bucks to fight cancer can’t you? have met my goal!  You guys are the best.  I’m leaving the button up for the rest of the week until I go to the event next Friday so feel free to click it and donate.  And as always you can donate to my LiveStrong page.  I didn’t win that bike but the fund-raising efforts continue.

I noticed Tuesday morning as I rode my bike to the train that it’s cooler in the mornings these days, specifically that it was a little bit too cold to sit on a platform waiting for a train in clothes that were just slightly damp from having worked up a sweat riding to said platform.  It wasn’t the kind of cold that makes one shiver per se, just that cold the sinks deep into the muscles and leaves you feeling slightly cold for the next four or five hours (it makes for a fun day at work, let me tell you).

I noticed on my ride home from work that it’s getting dark earlier.  A lot earlier.  (And then it gets really dark making the last part of a bike commute really interesting.)

In short, the seasons are changing.  We’re moving into fall.

I’m wondering if there’s something I can do to arrest this change, or if I’ve let it get too far.

Now, I don’t want to be misunderstood.  I have no argument with fall.  I like the colors.  I love the rain.  I’m even a fan of the cooler temperatures.

I just don’t like what fall means.

The thing is that I’m not a fan of winter.  I live in a state known for its fantastic winter sports but I’ve never even worn a pair of skis.  I don’t snowboard or snowshoe or … I don’t do any of that.  Every year I rediscover the fact that I’m ready for winter to be over right around Christmas.

And then it just keeps being winter.  For months!

That’s my problem with fall.  On its own it’s fine but what it means is that winter’s coming.

I think that the whole change of season thing used to be a lot easier on me.  Before we had air conditioning I was always happy to have fall roll around to give me a break from the heat.  in fact, I think I got, by the end of summer, so that I was about as sick of summer as I am of winter at the end of winter.  And then I bought Sean A/C for his birthday.  And here I am.

So my question is this: do you have a favorite pair of socks?  Why?  What brand are they?  Where did you get them?

Taking Big Bites

In my house, when there’s a child who needs spoon feeding that child sits by Sean.  Inevitably, sitting with their dad they’ll eat better than they do for me.  My problem is that I just don’t have a lot of patience for child feeding, I’ve got other stuff going on.  So rather than being patient and slow I load the spoon up, to try to maximize the amount they’re getting with each bite.  In my head, at least in my subconscious, this will make the meal go faster.  In reality it usually resulted in tears and an unwillingness to eat and a host of other inconveniences and the meal ended up taking longer than it probably would have it I had just given the baby baby sized bites.  But I didn’t, because that’s not how I do anything.

About a year ago I was spending a fair amount of time rock climbing.  Most of the time it was just me and a friend who was only slightly more experienced in the sport than I was.  But occasionally, rarely, I would have the chance to talk to someone who climbed a lot, someone who had some expertise in the sport and their comments tended toward the same thing.  “Slow down.  Plan your moves.  You power through the early part of the climb and burn yourself out and then you’re stuck halfway up the wall.”  In other words, take smaller bites.

Well, I’m not spending a lot of time climbing anymore (although I am planning on going in about 2 weeks if I can raise the final $45 [follow the link to donate]) but I am spending some time bicycling.  My bike is an $80 Walmart special 15 speed “mountain” bike.  I ride it to and from various nearby establishments, the library, the store if I’m not buying too much, school and as I’ve mentioned before, home from work.  And in all those rides I’ve changed the gears exactly never.  The bike is in the hardest gear and that’s where it stays.   It’s not that I don’t know that I’ve got options, it’s not even really that I don’t have any reason to change gears, I would occasionally really appreciate an easier gear.  But if I change gears then each rotation of the pedals translates to that much less distance, it makes my efforts that much less efficient and well, I take big bites.

I did the same thing about a year ago when I went back to school.  I took all the classes I could fit into my life as fast as I could take them.  The goal was to be done as fast as possible.  The result was an extreme case of burnout about halfway through the summer such that I almost didn’t take classes at all this semester (but then I was offered a spot in a class that I’ve been trying to get into for a while and I felt obligated to take it).  I was stuck halfway up the wall too tired to keep going.

What this means for me in school is that I’m going to try to be a little more patient, a little more willing to slow down, to realize that it doesn’t all have to be done now, to realize that this is a marathon, not a sprint.

What this means for me in cycling is that if and when I ever get the chance to buy a “real” bike (one that comes form a bike shop rather than from a department store, one that actually fits me) I’ll probably buy a single speed with a pretty steep gear.  I neither want nor need other options.  Sure, conventional wisdom says that what’s important is the cadence (the speed at which you turn the cranks) and not the speed at which you’re moving.  But that’s just not how I roll (get it? roll? bike? Ha!) I take big bites.

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