Thursday, August 30, 2012

The death of the English language?

When I was growing up, I loved to look up words in the Oxford English Dictionary, which we happened to have a copy of (as my mother was a college English teacher, specializing in Victorian literature). Indeed, at one point I seriously considered studying linguistics and semantics, as I love language and words.

But, after being sent an article about some of the latest words to be included in the Oxford English Dictionary (or OED) -- hat tip, which happens to be one of the new phrases, to friend of the blog D. -- I have to say, this is not my mother's dictionary. And I am not happy.

Vajazzle? Really? How many people (outside those who watch the British reality TV show The Only Way Is Essex) actually use or know that word? And how many people will still be using this word five or 50 years from now? Which douche (yet another new word) thought it would be brilliant to include that gem? And can we vote him off the island?

Granted, not all the new words seem ridic (like ridic). Inbox, ripped, and video chat all make sense to me. But do you really need a special entry for date night? And is mwahahaha even a word? And lolz? (Please note, I am not laughing.) But whatevs (which was added last month).

Do these words really belong in the Oxford English Dictionary? (The Urban Dictionary, definitely, but the OED? Not so much, IMHO.)

I don't know about all of you, fellow lovers of the English language, but I could use a group hug about now.

Note: You can find a list of all the words the OED added this August here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

You might be a Republican if...

You might be a Republican if... you get your news from Fox.

You might be a Republican if... you think facts were invented by liberals.

You might be a Republican if... you don't believe in global warning (or climate change), or that it has nothing to do with people. (See "You might be a Republican if... you think facts were invented by liberals" and "you get your news from Fox.")

You might be a Republican if... you think evolution is just another liberal theory.

You might be a Republican if... you don't what Liberalism actually means -- and don't care.

You might be a Republican if... you are against people receiving government entitlements (Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, farm subsidies, corporate tax breaks, student loans, government loans), except if it's you, your family, or your business receiving them.

You might be a Republican if... you complain about taxes in one breath and complain about the poor quality of your schools, police force, roads, and bridges in the next.

You might be a Republican if... you are "pro life," except for those who can't pay their medical bills and pregnant women.

You might be a Republican if... you think women, blacks, and/or Hispanics should "know their place" (that is, at home taking care of the kids and having your supper and a drink ready when you get home from work; helping your sports team win a championship or else in jail; taking care of your lawn for minimum wage, respectively).

You might be a Republican if... you think cheating is wrong, unless your wife has her period or you're out of town on business.

You might be a Republican if... you believe government shouldn't interfere in people's private lives, unless they are a woman. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Getting schooled

I can't believe my baby's starting... high school. How did that happen? It seems like just yesterday she was heading off to kindergarten (in a very similar outfit) -- and I was in high school. Sigh.

Here's hoping the teenager's first day of high school doesn't suck (like this poor guy's).

On a lighter note, my good friend, A., sent me this excerpt from a book titled F in Exams: The Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers, which made me laugh out loud (and then silently weep, because it is so true):

There are 300 students in the 10th grade.
Mary and Mark want to find out the 10th grade's favorite color.
Mary asks 30 people. Mark asks 150 people.
Mark says, "My conclusions are more likely to be reliable than Mary's."
Why does Mark think he's right?

Answer: Because Mark is a man.

Here's to a good school year!

Friday, August 24, 2012

He's gone to that big bat belfry in the sky

I was saddened to learn that Jerry Nelson, the man behind (technically under) Sesame Street's Count von Count just died at 78. (You can read a short obit here.)

While it's been a while since I watched Sesame Street, I can't count the number of times we listened to "Ninety-Nine Bats (In My Car Today)" on car trips with our daughter when she was younger. Even today, every time I see that Delta Faucet "Hands" commercial, I immediately think of the Count (Jerry Nelson).

And who could forget doing "The Batty Bat"?

RIP Jerry Nelson. Tonight when I count the number of stars I can see out my window, I'll think of you, up in that big bat belfry in the sky.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Do you know Prepster Pineapple?

Welcome to another Shameless Plug edition of J-TWO-O!

Today's shameless plug: my new online retail business, Prepster Pineapple.

So what is Prepster Pineapple? Prepster Pineapple is that cool, preppy-looking pineapple guy over there on the left, the product of my teenage daughter's imagination. Pretty sweet.

And Prepster Pineapple Clothing is our (as in the teenager and my) line of preppy, hip clothing. Think Tommy Bahama with a more Hawaiian, preppy bent, designed for teens, tweens, and prepsters of all ages.

Right now, we are just selling Prepster Pineapple t-shirts (pictured below, which are made from super soft 100% combed cotton) for men and women, boys and girls...

and Prepster Pineapple polo shirts (made out of 100% pique knit cotton and way cooler than those overpriced preppy alligator, polo player, and palm-tree shirts), which are available in Men's, Women's, and Youth sizes (sample shown in white, below) — and are perfect for all you golfers, boaters, and weekend athletes.

And if you use the code PP-FS-SOCIAL-0812 at checkout between now and August 31, you'll receive free shipping* on your order! (That's a $6 savings!)

Not interested in buying a shirt right now? No problem. But if you could take a few seconds to "Like" the Prepster Pineapple Facebook page, or get your kid, too — and spread the word — I'd appreciate it.

Also we want your feedback! We are currently working on new items for the spring. So if there's a color t-shirt or polo shirt you'd like to see (we're going to be adding pink), or you have a suggestion for a clothing item (keep it clean people), let me know via email or a blog comment.


*Right now we are only shipping to addresses in the United States.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

LMFAO + NASA = Latest YouTube hit

Houston, we have a video.

Presenting "We're NASA and we know it" -- or what happens when a bunch of Mars happy geeks do a parody of LMFAO's "I'm sexy and I know it," featuring the Mars Curiosity rover and video of Mars.

Crane lower that rover.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Cat physics

Great flipping cats! This video explaining how and why cats always land on their feet is awesome -- and educational.

Note: No cats were hurt in the making of this flipping cat video. (As for the humans, they are lucky those cats didn't rake them.)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Vegging out

Every year around this time (i.e., August) the spouse, teenager, and I spend a few days in Amagansett, Long Island, visiting my mother and stepfather. And one of the highlights of our annual trip is visiting Amber Waves and Quail Hill, two community-supported agriculture farms.

There are few things in life more gratifying -- or delicious -- (at least to me and the family) than picking and eating locally grown vegetables (and fruit), especially this time of year. Indeed, we always time our visit so that we can go "picking" with my stepfather at Quail Hill Farm -- and see what Katie and Amanda have growing over at Amber Waves Farm.

Here are some of the highlights of our recent adventure in farming.

Amber Waves Farm, where the volunteers are...

simply radishing.

Hmm... looks like someone picked a peck of peppers (and eggplant).

Upon spying these fine-looking fowl:
Me: Aw, look at the chickens.
The teenager: YUM!
(And, indeed, we had chicken for dinner that night, albeit not those chickens but these, and they were yummy.)

While over at Quail Hill Farm...

I'm pretty sure that eggplant was happy to see me.

And what's this? A sweet cherry tomato from my sweet girl.

And I do believe these little tomatoes are ready for their closeup!

What's that you say? You want some more? Well, lettuce entertain you.

Looking at all these delicious photos makes me miss the farm already, though thanks to the bags of vegetables the teenager picked, we will have fond memories -- and fresh veggies -- for days to come. (Here's the recipe for the Moosewood Tofu-Stuffed Peppers the teenager made for us last night.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Words with Friend Alec Baldwin

Welcome to another Shameless Plug edition of J-TWO-O! Today's shameless plug: My stepfather's new book, Eye Rhymes (pictured at right -- and a steal at only $9.95).

What are eye rhymes? Also known as "visual rhymes" or "sight rhymes," eye rhymes are verses based on words that look as if they should rhyme but don't (e.g., bomb, comb, tomb). And the book Eye Rhymes is filled with 47 of them, all written by my stepfather, wordsmith and cryptic puzzle creator John de Cuevas, and illustrated by his friends Sara Ferguson and Janet Young.

And what, pray tell, does this have to do with Alec Baldwin? I'm so glad you asked!

Alec Baldwin -- along with master thespian Blythe Danner -- narrate the online version of the book, which you can listen to (and read along with -- for free) at (But would it kill you to buy a book?)

And while I am shamelessly plugging books, it's not too late to purchase a copy of my mother's children's book, Polarity Bear Tours the Zoo: A Central Park Adventure!

Okay, my work here is done.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

August reading (more book recommendations)

After not reading many books (or as many as I normally do) this spring, I went on a bit of a reading tear the last month. Below are eight more books I recommend.

As per usual, if you click on the book title, you will be taken to the Amazon listing.

Looking for more book recommendations? Here you go.

Read a book you'd recommend? Please leave the title and author in the Comments.

(Note: As many, or most, of you know, I prefer the happy to the sad; to laugh rather than to cry; stories of the functional rather than the dysfunctional.... You get the idea. Basically if the jacket copy contains the words heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, I cried, or a tragic... I ain't reading it. Though there are the occasional exceptions.)

Herewith, eight good reads that will if not make you chuckle or smile (in parts) will entertain or enchant or provoke (in a good way).


The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne. I had sworn off romance novels (aka fairy tales for frustrated housewives and single women), so was somewhat pissed to discover that what I thought was a work of historical fiction (a story of intrigue between the French and the British that takes place in early 19th Century France) was, in actuality, a romance novel. Sigh. (I really should pay more attention to jacket covers.) That said, it was one of the best romance novels I've read -- well written, with interesting characters (to me the characters were the best part), an intriguing plot, and okay, I'll fess up, the romance part was fun. (Note: I just clicked on the Amazon description after writing that and snorted. Makes me feel ridiculous -- also that I should have gone into marketing romance novels. Seriously, people get paid to write this stuff?)

Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d'Art by Christopher Moore. I have another confession to make: I have never read a book by Christopher Moore. Yes, yes, I know several of you have recommended Moore over the years, and I tried to read at least one of his books. But for some reason I couldn't get into his stuff. Until I picked up Sacré Bleu, which our wonderful librarian recommended to me. Having just returned from a trip to France, and having an abiding love of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painting, I was immediately sucked into Moore's latest, which claims to be about the color blue (or ultramarine), which it is. But it is more a sly, witty work of historical fiction covering the French art world of the 1890s. If you are a Christopher Moore fan, a lover of Paris (particularly during La Belle Epoque), and/or a fan of Impressionism, this book is a must read -- though you may not think of Impressionism in the exact same way again after reading it.

The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones. Knowing little about early Islam or the Prophet Muhammed, I found The Jewel of Medina, the fictional story of the Prophet's favorite wife Aisha, a fascinating read.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. This book came highly recommended by a friend who knows of my love of Italy (particularly the Cinque Terre region) and my picky reading habits. And while Beautiful Ruins is populated with its share of dysfunctional people and heartache, I still enjoyed it -- and wanted to catch the next plane to Italy, or at least eat some Italian food, while reading it.

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson. I'm not sure why I loved this book. Maybe it's because I love magical realism and the exotic, or maybe it's because I'm a bit of a geek. But I could not put it down. Literally. A story of hackers and jinns, Arabian royalty and rabble, good and evil, Alif the Unseen takes the reader on an extraordinary journey into the unseen -- a kind of modern Arabian Nights.


The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken: A Vish Puri Mystery by Tarquin Hall. If you didn't already know (from previous Book Nook posts), I am a huge fan of Tarquin Hall's Vish Puri mysteries. Set in India, and featuring India’s Most Private Investigator, The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken takes Vish Puri into "the dangerous world of illegal gambling to solve the murder of a high-profile Pakistani on Indian soil." If you like a mystery with a sense of humor set in a (somewhat) exotic locale, I highly recommend Tarquin Hall's Vish Puri mysteries, beginning with The Case of the Missing Servant.

Black Moonlight by Amy Patricia Meade. A charming, light mystery set on an island just off Bermuda in the 1930s. I hadn't read the previous three Marjorie McClelland mysteries, but I had no problem getting into (and enjoying) Black Moonlight. The perfect beach -- or pool or hammock -- read.


Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women as I Knew Them by Frank Langella. I am not a big fan of memoirs, but I enjoyed Langella's frank reminiscences of famous people he met (or almost met) -- actors, writers, politicians -- over the course of his career. Interestingly, with one exception (Rachel "Bunny" Mellon), all of the people Langella writes about are dead (hence the title, a pun).

Until fall, I wish you happy reading.