Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Fun with Words: Polyp

At my doctor's appointment on Tuesday, the OB/GYN announced that I have a polyp in the lining of my uterine wall.  Not a huge deal, but it was news to me.  At our last visit, she only discussed the hemorrhagic ovarian cysts.  She kept talking about how the location of said polyp is making it difficult to control my bleeding, even with the birth control pills (hence why Leonard has been leaking bodily fluids for nearly two months now -- oh, TMI warning!), but I was still focused on the word "polyp."



Say it with me:  "polyp."

Make sure you enunciate; I want to hear those p's -- polyP.

I once saw a picture of nasal polyps when I was looking up some sinus symptoms.  They look like little sacs you could pop.  The combination of the illustration and the word "polyp" made me think of oranges.  Specifically, the fact that you can break an orange slice down into itty bitty segments and "pop" them.  Plus the word "pulp" has similar letters to "polyp."

Image courtesy of

When I was in grade school I also used to "pop" the unopened hosta flowers that lined the path from the school to the church.  I'm sure God didn't appreciate it, but they made such a satisfying little "pop" that I couldn't help myself.

Image courtesy of


Polyp.  Polyp.  Polyp.

The word has practically lost all meaning now.  The term, by the way, for that (when saying a word over and over again makes it nonsensical) is jamais vu.  It is the opposite of déjà vu, which means "already seen" (from the French).  Jamais vu translates to "never seen."

I think I'll name my polyp Fred.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ranty McRantersons: Baseball Edition

So there's a petition going around (I've seen several friends post about it on Facebook) to make the MLB's Opening Day a national holiday. Anheuser Busch has even endorsed it (hello, publicity stunt!). There's something about this stunt that I find beyond ridiculous, even offensive. "But Leonard, it's just a day off of work! Who doesn't want that?" I don't, not when it costs this much.

While I would never begrudge someone his or her enjoyable pastime, it is just that: a pastime. And while it is a colloquialism to say that baseball is the U.S.'s national pastime, it's just a fun thing to say; there is no official pastime. More than that, what about other pastimes? I'm sure the fans of football, soccer, hockey, basketball, etc. would like the openings of their seasons recognized nationally. Hell, perhaps I think National Knit in Public Day should be recognized officially so I can participate. Like many sports, knitting too requires skill, talent, dexterity, practice, eye-hand coordination, spatial recognition, and (gasp!) math.

And what about the myriad of different art openings? There are many, many of us who do not enjoy any sport at all. Surely those seasons and offerings should be recognized as a part of our culture, too.

But here's the part I really, REALLY dislike: I am tired of the inflated status sports continue to have, not just in this city, but in this country -- especially when budgets for arts programs continue to be slashed across the country, at both local and federal levels. Combine that inflation with the god-like status many players receive (or take upon themselves), add in the culture of hypermasculinity that pervades both college and professional sports, and we get things like accused rapists, murderers, animal abusers, and homophobes.
And I find nothing in that that I want to celebrate. That "free" day off of work isn't so free after all.

So, by all means, please enjoy your "sportsball" and your pastimes and your hobbies, but also please stop trying to foist them on the rest of us.

Review: The Night Circus

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. This book fascinated me; I read it in two nights straight. I even dreamt about it in between. The description of "behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians" doesn't half do it justice. Indeed, that's all I ever read of the description, and then stopped reading because it sounded silly. The book is anything but silly. Something about it, and about the circus itself, just resonated with me. The way the chapters are laid out and the stories overlap kept my brain intrigued.

My only regret is that I read it on my nook. The dates at the beginning of each section are important, and if I had been reading a hard copy, I would have been able to turn back and double-check dates more often. My first edition nook makes that nearly impossible (and when it is possible, very cumbersome).

One thing about downloading the eBook from the library is that it has to "prepare" and then open the file on my laptop in Adobe Digital Editions. The message for this book said: "Preparing The Night Circus," which led to visions of a tiny circus in my computer (and made me giggle).

I may have to purchase a hard copy to reread again.

View all my reviews

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Why I Don't Say 'African-American'

Just in time for Black (not "African-American") History Month,...
I do not use the term "African-American."  As with most things for Leonard, it breaks down to semantics.  And, per usual, we'll break this down bullet-point style.

  • Africa is not a country.  It's an entire CONTINENT.  So when you say someone is "African," yes, they might be from Kenya, Somalia, or Nigeria.  They might also be from Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Morocco, or one of the 55 recognized countries that make up the continent -- including the island of Madagascar, where we like to move it move it. 
  •  America isn't quite a country either.  This gets a little tricky, but bear with me.  The full name of this country of my origin is The United States of America.  That preposition "of" is  important.  These United States are part of America.  Given our location, we'll have to presume that we mean North America, which is a continent.  So "America" in this instance can also mean Mexico and Canada.  And if we don't use the adjective "North," we're also left with Latin America and South America.  So even though we might say we're "American," the word itself is rather ambiguous.
  • Not all black people are from the continent of Africa.  What about Haiti?  Or the Dominican Republic?  Or a thousand other places around the world where non-Caucasian people are found?  You might say, "But Leonard, all of those black people originally came from Africa."  To which I'll say, "Fine, and if we trace back far enough, we ALL came from that same region before the phenomenon of continental drift."  You'll say, "It's ridiculous to go that far back!"  And I'll say, "Exactly."  I find it ridiculous to assume to trace all black people back to Africa.
    • Did you ever stop to think that perhaps that person doesn't want or is unable to trace their heritage back that far?  Perhaps he or she would simply like to be known as a person in the here and now, as a citizen of the United States.  Speaking of which... 
  • What do they call black people in other countries?  They certainly don't say "African-American" in Ireland, do they?  Here, I'll put it in the form of a joke:
    • Q:  What do you call a black person in Great Britain?
    • A:  British.
  • That's the thing of it.  I think perhaps country of origin is more important in terms of identity than race.  Which reminds me, race is social constructI'm sure you've all heard that there could be a larger difference in DNA between a (white) blonde and a (white) brunette than between a white person and a black person.  But what about this?  Y'know in those demographic boxes we sometimes fill out (I check "white"), well "white" is a relatively new option.  A hundred years ago or so, the U.S. of A. was the Great Melting Pot, so the demographic options were things like "Irish," "Polish," "German," etc.  "White" did not exist.  That we have it now as a concept is part of why it's a social construct.  (This is, of course, a very simplified explanation of a larger concept.  This article by Ta-Nehisi Coates gives more insight into the discussion.)
I could fill this page with more anecdotes about times the term "African-American" has backfired, but here's the one that sticks out:  a student at a prominent university here applied for and was almost granted a scholarship for "African-American" students.  The university started to renege on the grant upon learning that said student was originally from Egypt.  That's not the kind of "African" they meant.

When we/you say "African-American," what we/you really mean is "black."  So why not just say that?

"But, Leonard," you'll say, "'black' sounds so crude.  Maybe even...racist," you'll whisper, hoping we're not overheard. 

"African-American" is way for people to assuage whatever guilt they might feel over "race" while still sounding "politically correct," or, as I like to call it, "pretentious."

If you're uncomfortable saying "black," ask yourself this question:  why do you feel compelled to say it (or "African-American") at all?  Is it somehow necessary to the story you're telling that we know the skin color of the person involved?  Let me put it this way:  would you still say it if the opposite were true?  Would you say, "I ran into this white guy today..."?  Probably not.

Similar to when I discuss heteronormativity with my students, I point out that we do not feel compelled to say "I was talking with my straight friend at work" because we assume the person is straight unless told otherwise.  Similarly, we might assume a person is white unless told otherwise.  Black people, gay people, are not the "Other," defined only by their non-straightness or non-whiteness.

I suggest instead that, unless it is somehow imperative to the idea you're trying to get across, you not say "black" or "white" or "gay" or "straight" at all.  Let your audience's assumptions fall where they may; that's on them.  You  might be amazed at how your speech changes.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Kill Da Wabbit

Well, I can finally say that I've tasted rabbit meat.  Not that it was on my "To Do" list or anything, but now I've done it.

Perhaps I should back up, though, and explain how we buy meat in this household.

We buy meat in bulk -- but not from Sam's Club or any such nonsense.  Being the hippies we are -- well, they are (my Unit and in-laws; I consider myself "half-hippie" at best) -- we buy our delicious, organic, grassfed beef from local farmers half a cow at a time.  Let me repeat:  half a cow.  That's a lot of meat.  (Make your own jokes.)  We split that "half beef," as it's called, between our three families (during a process I like to call "meat poker"); each family ends up with approximately 60-80 pounds of red meat deliciousness.  That is roughly one regular freezer full of meat.  My Unit has to play "meat Tetris" in order to put it into our freezer.

We order chickens this way, our Thanksgiving turkeys, and now most recently, rabbit.

I should add that I did not order the rabbit; I had no interest in eating rabbit.  My Unit ordered it.

After making a certain number of jokes about bunnies in our freezer, she roasted the rabbit in the oven with carrots and potatoes.  While it did smell good (not unlike roasting a turkey), I could not bring myself to try any when it was done.  Just couldn't do it.

The next day, she took the leftover rabbit meat and made rabbit and dumplings.  Now I love her chicken and dumplings -- LOVE IT.  Hell, I just love dumplings!  A wad of delicious carbohydrate goodness dripping in gravy?!?  What's not to like??

This, too, smelled delicious from the stove top.  I finally called up enough courage to taste a spoonful, with a large dumpling right on top.  It was warm, and the initial flavor was what I remembered from chicken and dumplings.
But then...

Then there was this taste, clinging to the roof of my mouth.  A kind of tangy burnt-ness I didn't like.  I described it to my Unit, even saying, "It almost tastes like it's burnt," and she said the taste I was describing was probably the "gaminess" of rabbit.

I said, "But I still like dumplings!"
She said, "So just eat a bowl of dumplings!"

I took another spoonful of broth and just dumplings, but no go.  It still had that weird, "gamey," rabbit-y flavor on the roof of my mouth.  All those dumplings that I couldn't eat -- it still makes me sad (and hungry) thinking about it.

So there ya go.  I've tasted rabbit, and I didn't care for it.  I guess it goes to show that not everything tastes like chicken.