Friday, January 26, 2007

Words: logorrhea [MW]

Function: noun
Etymology: New Latin
: excessive and often incoherent talkativeness or wordiness

(I just introduced this word to JS, an accomplished editor, so maybe others would like it too. It comes from the Greek for word + flow -- like diarrhea comes from the Greek for through + flow -- and aside from that unpleasant juxtaposition, logorrhea to me suggests the plash and splay of words in a cascade of foolishness or mindlessness -- sort of a verbal train wreck that takes too teeth-gratingly long to lurch to a stop.)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Press: A Sweet role for Tim Guinee

"Sweet Land concerns a farmer (Guinee) in 1921 Minnesota who receives a mail-order bride (Elizabeth Reaser). He can't marry her when his Lutheran community, distrustful after World War I, resists her German roots. But the two persevere in an understated love story also starring Alan Cumming, John Heard, Lois Smith, Paul Sand and Ned Beatty."

Words: pilgrim, peregrine [AHED]

NOUN: 1. A religious devotee who journeys to a shrine or sacred place. 2. One who embarks on a quest for something conceived of as sacred. 3. A traveler. 4. Pilgrim One of the English Separatists who founded the colony of Plymouth in New England in 1620.
ETYMOLOGY: Middle English, from Old French peligrin, from Late Latin pelegrinus, alteration of Latin peregrinus, foreigner. See peregrine.

ADJECTIVE: 1. Foreign; alien. 2. Roving or wandering; migratory.
NOUN: A peregrine falcon.
ETYMOLOGY: Middle English, from Old French, from Medieval Latin peregrinus, wandering, pilgrim, from Latin, foreigner, from pereger, being abroad : per-, through; see per– + ager, land.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Press: Snake robots slither to the rescue - CNN

"Choset and his team have designed a number of different snake robots that can undertake all manner of tasks from assisting in surgery to leading the way in rescue missions after earthquakes or collapsed mines.

Compared to existing robotic devices and traditional means of search and rescue using sniffer dogs, snake robots are packed with sensors and can use their unique shape and delicate movement to crawl over rubble and bend around obstacles.

Last year he and his team made a break-through by building a prototype enabling them to remotely climb up walls and around pipes."

Neologisms: unamenable

"He is, like, so not against the idea" or "Brother, you know I can't say amen to that."

Words: amenable [AHED]

ADJECTIVE: 1. Responsive to advice, authority, or suggestion; willing. 2. Responsible to higher authority; accountable: amenable to the law. See synonyms at responsible. 3. Susceptible or open, as to testing or criticism: “The phenomenon of mind . . . is much more complex, though also more amenable to scientific investigation, than anyone suspected” (Michael D. Lemonick, Time July 17, 1995).
ETYMOLOGY: Probably alteration of Middle English menable, from Old French, from mener, to lead, from Latin minare, to drive, from minari, to threaten, from minae, threats.

(See: menace. The origins of this word interested me after I posited the word unamenable, which would basically mean unnonmenacing.)

Technology: Photorheological fluids - Viscosity tunable by light

(J. Am. Chem. Soc. abstract, "A simple class of photorheological fluids - Surfactant solutions with viscosity tunable by light")

"Photorheological (PR) fluids, i.e., those with light-tunable rheological properties, may be useful in a variety of applications, such as in sensors and microfluidic devices. Currently, the need to synthesize complex photosensitive molecules hampers the applicability of these fluids. Here, we report a simple class of PR fluids that require no special synthesis and can be easily replicated in any lab from inexpensive chemicals. The fluids consist of the cationic surfactant, cetyl trimethylammonium bromide (CTAB), and the photoresponsive organic derivative, trans-ortho-methoxycinnamic acid (OMCA). Aqueous mixtures of CTAB and OMCA in basic solution self-assemble into long, wormlike micelles. Upon irradiation by UV light ([400]trans to its cis form, which alters the molecular packing at the micellar interface. The result is to transform the long micelles into much shorter entities and, in turn, the solution viscosity decreases by more than 4 orders of magnitude. Small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) is used to confirm the dramatic reduction in micellar length. The extent of viscosity reduction in these PR fluids can be tuned based on the composition of the mixture as well as the duration of the irradiation."

Musings: The way the world should be (#1)

OK if I am to start a list of the way the world should be -- would be if I were in charge -- it would start with a high-tech system installed in every public bathroom (private facilities optional) that could somehow sense whether a person washed their hands after using the loo and, if they left without availing themselves of the sink, it would shoot him -- it would always be a him -- in the hindquarters with a tranquilizer dart and drop him, unconscious, outside the door for 20 minutes or so. This would greatly improve public health and peace of mind, not to mention teach better hygiene and manners to the boors among us -- even to some devout Baptists.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Weather: 43 for 45 degrees

OK this is getting too complicated. Yesterday morning while walking Miss T, I decided it felt like 46 degrees -- but I never got a moment to follow up with a temp check. So I just now checked the 24-hour record and it says at that hour it was 48 degrees -- but it felt like 43. So was I too high, too low, or spot-on with the difference?

Anyway this morning, I decided it was 43 degrees and came in to discover it is 45 degrees -- but it "feels like 39." Good grief!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Musings: This ain't no bomb shelter

I got a candy bar from the vending machine today, ate it, then looked at the print inside the wrapper. Visit the Web site and enter this code for a chance to win NFL prizes, it said. So I called up the site, clicked the link, and was told: Sorry, this contest expired in October.

So how old was that candy bar, I wonder? And what does it say about the company that makes -- not to mention the vending machine company that vends -- a candy bar that outlasts a months-long prize contest by several months more? It's not like I live in a bomb shelter and want my calories to last for a year or more...

Press: UD researchers seen as innovators of iPhone

"The wonder lies in an entirely new way of controlling computers, cell phones and other electronic devices, saving time and smoothing their functionality.

Instead of a typical cell phone's buttons, the iPhone has just a screen, and is operated by specific finger motions -- a capability similar to the products made by the firm that Elias and Westerman founded in conjunction with UD [the University of Delaware], called FingerWorks. Under Westerman and Elias' guidance, FingerWorks built a range of these multi-touch devices, including a no-touch keyboard, mouse-less mousepads and other gadgets that allowed users to initiate computer commands with finger gestures, or just by getting their fingers close to the keys."

(We are finally starting to get close to the gesture-based interface I imagined and described in one of my last columns as editor in chief of ComputerUser exactly 10 years ago.)

Proverbs: Be nornal!