Saturday, February 27, 2016


It was bitterly cold a few weekends ago, and it can be a real problem for the plumbing…

This isn’t even an exaggeration. It literally sounded like a pipe had burst. It also explains why I’m always scooping bowling ball sized clumps out of the litter box.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Language of Confusion: Out on a Limb

So why do we call the digits at the end of our limbs what we do? Let’s find out!

As a verb (like, to finger something) showed up in the early fifteenth century, and as a noun it showed up sometime before that, although there’s no specific date. It comes from the Old English finger, which means…finger. Shocking. As to where it came from before that, no one knows. It might be related to a Proto Indo European word for five, which makes sense since there are five of them (including the thumb) but that’s just a guess.

Thumb comes from the Old English Þuma—Þ is thorn, so the word is thuma, and of course it means thumb. It comes from the Proto Germanic thumon, which apparently meant “the stout finger”. Before that, it was the Proto Indo European tum-, swell. So because the thumb is the fattest of your hand digits, it’s related to swell.

Toe comes from the Old English ta, which of course means toe and is even cuter than the word toe. It’s actually a contraction of another word, tahe, which comes from the Proto Germanic taihwo. Because that word may have originally meant finger as well as toe, and if it is, it’s related to the Proto Indo European deik, to point out, and the origin word for digit.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Social Intelligence

Hey, I’ve got something cool for today! It’s another quiz. This one measures your social intelligence by seeing how well you can do picking out what a person is feeling just by looking at their eyes.

There are 36 questions, and the average is 26. I actually got a 31 (when I took it again while typing this up, it was 32), so I guess I’m good at figuring out what people are feeling by looking at their eyes. It honestly surprised me since I’m so terrible at picking up social cues. I guess being overly sensitive is useful in some ways.

This kind of thing is useful for working together in groups—the higher the social intelligence of group members, the better they can work together to solve complex problems. Which makes sense, since the more a group can understand each other, the better they can cooperate. How you’re feeling and other things can also affect your score, so don’t feel bad if you get below average.

So how’d you do?

Saturday, February 20, 2016


Sometimes, you just want to get things done without anything bothering you. And the universe just won’t let that happen.

I should probably stop chucking things out the window.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Secret Origins: Zero

I finished the letters, so I might as well do numbers, right? And what’s the best number to do the history of than the one that doesn’t exist?

As a concept, zero is kind of interesting. It’s the absence of everything. While civilization had no trouble making up numbers for things we could count, what about something that’s, well, nothing?

As a word, zero showed up in the early seventeenth century. Now, you might be thinking “Then what did we call zero before that? We had to have something for it!” And we did. Cipher. Seriously. The story behind that can actually be explained by the word zero’s history. It comes from either the modern French zero or the Italian zero (bet you can’t guess what those words mean). Before that, it was the Medieval Latin zephirum, which comes from the Arabic sifr, cipher, which in turn is taken from the Sanskrit sunya-m, empty place or naught. Both zero and cipher come from the same place, but the French and Italians jazzed it up and we just had to use it, I guess.

The 0 symbol is a bit more complicated. Now, the alphabet we use is Latin, but their number system is nothing like ours. We use 0, 1, 2 etc. They use Roman numerals, which I’m sure you’ve come across. It means they didn’t need to use a 0. Their symbol for 2000 is just M. No 0’s required.

The Sumerians were the first to use a counting system to keep track of goods, and that idea was passed on to the Babylonians in 2000 BCE. They used what’s called a positional system, where the place the symbol was located indicated the value—159 means one hundred, five tens, and nine singles. And since they used base 10—i.e. they’d go from 0 to 9 and then from 10 to 19, 100 to 109, and so on—and they needed something to indicate when a number was 10 and when it was 10000.

The invention of zero as a concept is attributed to India, although the Mayans also came up with their own version of zero. But if you go look at ancient Indian scripts, you see a tiny little o symbol, the ancestor of 0. It got a bit bigger, but didn’t really change much from there. It just had to wait for the idea of zero to spread, and that’s why we have 0.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

From The Spamfiles

It kind of feels like I just had a spam post…well, we’re doing it again!

Another widow wants to give me her money! I don’t know why gmail thinks this woman wants to steal my personal information. Widows give away their money to random strangers all the time.

Wait a minute. This guy isn’t a widow. I’m immediately suspicious.

A nimble sex request. You definitely don’t want to do it unnimble.

I’m always getting spam from this “Fingerhut” place, but I honestly never knew that it had anything to do with credit. I mean, when you hear “fingerhut” credit isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Or the fifth. Or the hundredth.

There’s a lot to love about this one, and I’m not talking about puppies. Mrs Maria Roy is an Cardiologist by prefession. This is gold. Pure gold.

Saturday, February 13, 2016


Ever have one of these moments?

I wish I could say I was exaggerating even a little.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Language of Confusion: Disastrous

Kind of as an extension of last week’s weather theme, today we’re looking at the etymology of some catastrophic events. I wonder if it will be as Germanic as the last time.

[Reads ahead]


Quake showed up as a noun in the early fourteenth century and even earlier as a verb, coming from the Old English cwacian, shake. That word comes from another Old English word, cweccan, which also means shake and has no known origin. There’s not even anything remotely like it in other languages. It just showed up one day.

Tornado actually showed up in the mid sixteenth century as ternado, a word for a windy thunderstorm. There are actually a lot of variant spellings of tornado, including tornatho, tornathe, and turnado, but its modern spelling might have been influenced by the Spanish word tornar, to turn. Tornado has no real origin before that, but it probably comes from the Spanish word tronada since that word means thunderstorm like tornado used to mean. So I guess we have Spanish to thank for this one.

Hurricane also showed up in the mid sixteenth century and like tornado it’s also Spanish in origin, in this case coming from huracan, hurricane. It also has tons of different spellings to it since it wasn’t until the seventeenth century that English decided how it wanted to spell it.

Blizzard is recent enough to have an actual date to it, 1859. Yet despite this, no one actually knows where it came from. Before it meant a snowstorm, it actually had meanings like a violent blow or a hail of gunfire. Which seems strangely appropriate.

TL;DR: No one knows where disaster words came from for some reason.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

More Movie Reviews

Because sometimes I’m out of ideas for things to talk about.

Okay, most times.

All the time.

This movie stars Jennifer Aniston as a miserable chronic pain sufferer who’s having trouble not being a total asshole to everyone around her. Granted, she has reasons for being so unhappy, but she’s still pretty terrible to people. It’s both amusing and awful, and always entertaining. What I like is that the character is unlikable but not to the point where you absolutely hate her, and everything she does makes sense. You know exactly why she does what she does and is who she is, and at the end, you can understand why she’s taking some steps towards being happy. There’s no miracle cure for her, but she is at a point where she can really live.

This Australian movie stars Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes as the parents of two children (not young children; they’re like twelve and fifteen) who have disappeared into the outback one day just before a dust storm. There isn’t much plot to it; instead, it focuses on the toll the disappearance has on the parents as they struggle to figure out what happened. There are no easy answers. In some cases, no answers at all. It’s a good movie, and definitely heart wrenching, but don’t expect to come out knowing what happened.

And now we’re going to Canada. It’s a bit of an international theme. The most I can say about this movie is that it’s confusing (mostly due to the anachronistic way it’s told) but I still liked it. It’s about a snowplow driver in Quebec who hits a man and tries to cover it up. Things of course get out of control and flashbacks reveal exactly what led up to the accident. Honestly, I’m not sure why exactly I liked it, just that I found it interesting. I’m always a sucker for character driven stories I guess.

The fourth and last movie in today’s set of drama films is Bluebird, about a bus driver whose distraction at a critical moment causes a boy to be left on her bus overnight during freezing temperatures. Again, it’s not story heavy. It’s mostly about how one small mistake can have devastating consequences for everyone, even those who aren’t involved. The boy is hospitalized in a coma he might not recover from, the driver, Lesley, basically fired, and their families have to decide what happens next. And that really isn’t easy.

Overall, really good movies if you want character studies. I would recommend all of them. I think they’re all still on Netflix, so if you have that, be sure to check them out.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Up Early

I had to get up early for a doctor’s appointment last Monday. So I figured the best thing to do would be to go to bed early so I wouldn’t be too tired the next day.

Let’s see how that turned out for me.

Alternative title: don’t be responsible it will only lead to misery.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Language of Confusion: Stuff That Comes From The Sky

The blizzard a few weeks ago got me thinking about why we call snow “snow” which of course made me start to wonder about the names for weather in general. So here we are. Except I actually etymologized rain way back in 2013, where I did it with rein and reign. On to the others.

Snow showed up as a verb in the early fourteenth century. The noun showed up earlier, although no specific date was given. Snow used to be snew/snaw/sniwan (snow) in Old English, and further back the Proto Germanic snaiwaz. That’s as far back as we can trace, which is unfortunate because I’d really like to know who came up with a word like “snaiwaz”. It sounds like sneeze. Which, disappointingly, is not related in the least.

Thunder showed up in the thirteenth century, coming from the Old English Þunor/Þunrian, which is just thunder. That Þ is a good emoticon for a tongue sticking out, and it is also thorn, which makes the th sound. So it’s just thunder without the d, I guess. Anyway, before that, it was the Proto Germanic thunraz and even earlier the Proto Indo European (s)tene-, resound or thunder.

Sleet’s origin is rather obscure. It showed up in the early fourteenth century as slete, and might come from a possible Old English word, slete/slyte. That word, if it exists, is related to the Middle High German sloz and Middle Low German sloten, which means hail and frankly is a much cooler word than sleet. That word comes from the Proto Germanic slautjan and slaut, which is related to sleet. Frankly, it would be a weird coincidence if sleet didn’t come from this word, but stranger things have happened.

Now, there’s more than one hail. It relates to health and to what you do to get a cab, but neither one is related to the frozen rain hail so we’re just going to ignore them. Hail—from the sky—comes from the Old English haegl/hagol, hail. That word in turn comes from the Proto Germanic haglaz, which probably comes from the Proto Indo European kaghlo-, pebble. Weird how this one can be traced so far back and yet sleet is a big question mark.

You might notice I didn’t do lightning here. That’s because it’s just light + -ning and that can wait until I do a post on light. Which I’m sure will happen eventually.

TL;DR: Weather stuff seems to all be Germanic. Who knew?

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

February Goals

January has come and gone. You don’t have to worry about your New Year’s resolutions anymore. The worst of winter is behind us…hopefully. Oh hell, what if it’s waiting around the corner ready to clobber us again?

Okay, trying to calm down now. Calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean. Time to look at my goals.

January Goals
1. Finish up the project I’ve been working on. Yeah, I know I’m vague. I don’t know why. I just don’t like getting into specifics before something is complete.
You know what you’d think would be easy? Making a cross-stitch pattern. And you’d be wrong. You could devote hours to it almost every day for two months and still only be half done with all the little boxes and dozens of colors. And maybe you’d be mad by that time. Referring to yourself in the second person. Getting ready to snap at any moment. Um, anyway. Not done yet.

2. Actually do some non-work writing this month! Please!
No : (. I’m totally bummed about this. I know I was busy doing the stupid pattern that is devouring my sanity, but still.

3. Do A-to-Z Challenge posts! If I want to be able to do it this year, then it’s especially important that I get them done ahead of time.
Hey, I did this! Yay!

I put in a solid effort to anything. The only one I consider a real fail is 2, but only because I’ve been focusing so much on 1. The lesson here is to never, ever agree to make a picture for my mother.

February Goals
1. Either finish that stupid pattern or go insane trying.

2. Maybe write this time, dang it!

3. Do all the stupid miscellaneous stuff I have to do this month, like taxes and signing up for the Challenge reveal and finally learning how to spell miscellaneous. February seems to be a popular month for all the little extras.

Okay, that’s my February plan. What are you up to this month?