Monday, January 31, 2011

Belated Birthday Cake

Friday afternoon my office mates put together a birthday party for me, Sue, and Mikel.  This lovely million-layer cake is from Finale.
Vida entertained everybody with her hand tricks.
I point toward the cake, but I look into the future.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Modern Maturity

Today, as I turn 56, I'd like to say a few words about getting old.  Many Boomers have taken on the laudable project of making their contemporaries feel OK about getting old.  We get plenty of health advice and are told that we can have a sex life after 40 or even 50.  All this is good.

But, as in any large movement, there are unrealistic extremes.  Menopause needn't be feared, and perhaps it has been over-pathologized, but it can be troublesome for some of us.  Some women seem to believe that anything menopausal should be endured, otherwise we are ruining the celebration of our later years. At one point my hot flashes were so intense that my glasses fogged up.  That made it rather difficult to sleep; I went with medication.

In a recent interview Jane Fonda said, "I don't feel comfortable about having had plastic surgery.  But I got tired of catching my reflection and seeing that I looked so tired when that wasn't at all how I felt."*  I wish that, instead of this defensive tone, she had simply said, "I had the surgery because I wanted it.  What's that to you?"  The interviewer's questions weren't recorded, but criticism is implied.  One of my favorite health gurus, Christiane Northrup, advises women who have decided to get cosmetic surgery to keep it secret because, "You'd be amazed at the number of judgments your friends may have concerning cosmetic surgery,..Some of your friends won't think you're very spiritually evolved, for instance, if you want to remove the bags under your eyes. Frankly, how you look is none of their business."** To Fonda's credit, she has admitted, in the past, to discomfort with becoming an old broad.

When I read that interview I immediately remembered a friend from the 90s, a man, who was always bragging about how age was "just a number" to him, blah, blah, blah.   Then one day told me he was getting the eye-bag operation because his eyes made him look tired, while in reality he was energetic as all get out.  His eyes lied.   (I want to emphasize that he gave me this explanation unsolicited.  If I looked disgusted, it was because I knew he wanted to date women 20 years his junior.  Age was more than "just a number" in that respect.)  So Fonda's "excuse" was not new.  Then he hinted that he needed somebody to look after him for a few days after going under the knife, but I didn't oblige.  His lecturing had got my goat, so I let that old goat arrange for his own care.

One of the undisputed advantages of aging is that, if you've been paying attention, you may be a lot smarter and than you were as a young pup.  If you've also learned from experience, you might even become a more complicated, interesting person.  So why do some people praise "young attitudes" in older people?  Young attitudes are only appropriate for young people; in old people they are pathetic!

In conclusion, I'd like to encourage everybody to think positively about aging.  But realize that when you've been young in an age of youth-worship, going over the hill can be traumatic.  If some age-related rot is bothering you, don't be ashamed to change it, if you can.  And don't annoy me with fake justifications!

*More, December 2010/January 2011, page 24.
**Christiane Northrup, The Wisdom of Menopause, page 384

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Composing and Comprising

In high school, I learned that there were some French people who wanted to keep English words out of their language.  In response, I vowed to eliminate all French borrowings from my speech.  I can't remember what this involved; maybe I avoided rendez-vous or bouquet.  I hadn't heard of croissants back then.
Nowadays, I have a much less ambitious linguistic project:  using comprise correctly.  By occasionally sneaking a comprise into casual conversation--"You, know, my household comprises just me and two cats!"--I hope to put off the day when compose and comprise become synonymous.  Someday every words will mean everything.  I'm doing my small part to hold off linguistic chaos.

The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style
comprise.   A. 

And compose.
Correct use of these words is simple, but increasingly rare. The parts compose the whole; the whole comprises the parts. The whole is composed of the parts; the parts are comprised in the whole. Comprise, the more troublesome word in this pair, means “to contain; to consist of”—e.g.: “Summit Hall Farm comprises several hundred acres on the exterior portion of the original settlement of the Gaither family” (Wash. Times).


Erroneous Use of is comprised of.
The phrase is comprised of is always wrong and should be replaced by some other, more accurate phrase—e.g.: “The Rhode Island Wind Ensemble is comprised of [read has] 50 professional and amateur musicians, ranging in age from 15 to 82” (Providence J.-Bull.).


Comprise for are comprised in or constitute.
If the whole comprises the parts, the reverse can't be true—e.g.: “Of the 50 stocks that comprise [read make up] the index, 40 had gains, 8 had losses and 2 were unchanged” (Fla. Today).


Comprise for are.
This is an odd error based on a misunderstanding of the meaning of comprise. E.g.: “They comprise [read are] three of the top four names in the batting order of the 30 most influential sports people in B.C. for 1997” (Vancouver Sun).

How to cite this entry:
"comprise"  The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style. Bryan A. Garner. Oxford University Press, 2000. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  Harvard University Library.  14 January 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Romeo's Thumbs and the Future of Felines

Romeo is a polydactyl cat.  He has one extra toe on each front paw. These cats are common on the East Coast, so are sometimes called Boston Thumb Cats.  Hemingway favored this kind of cat, so it is sometimes called a Hemingway Cat.  (Thanks to Julie & Dave for this info.)

 One of the many six-toed cats at the Ernest Hemingway House in Key West, Florida.

The extra thumbs are not necessarily a disadvantage; they can give the kitty extra dexterity.  I believe the polydactyl cat's extra dexterity (and Hemingway's favor) will allow it to eventually take over the feline kingdom.  In a thousand years, cats will have paws capable of making tools.  Then, I have no doubt, the kitties will build a sophisticated material culture.

 Ultra-civilized felines of the future. 
Artist's conception.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

And the Winners are...

I received several name suggestions for my new kitties:  Sampson & Delilah, Buster & Calliope, Sid & Nancy, Jupiter & Kona, Giorgio & Trixie, Harriett & Peter.  Those who took the poll cast 4 votes for Romeo & Juliet and 1 vote for Bobo & Curlicue.

So this is what I have decided to do:  their official names will remain Romeo & Juliet, but at home I will cal them Big Guy and Kitty.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Monday, January 03, 2011

Sunday, January 02, 2011

At Home with Romeo and Juliet

I didn't think I would adopt so soon after Snookums's death, but I saw this couple of kitties on the MSPCA website that looked perfect for me.  Romeo and Juliet had already been together 3 years.  Their owner died.  Juliet's outstanding attribute is her black nose; Romeo's is his big front paws.  When I brought them home, Romeo was shy, but Juliet was exploring in no time.