Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Stark morning names

October 3, 2015

Yesterday. First name up: Charley “Mad Dog” Starkweather (the spree killer from the ’50s). And that led me immediately to the Starkadder family from Stella Gibbons’s comic novel Cold Comfort Farm.


Flintstone days

September 3, 2015

In the local real estate news (from NBC Bay Area yesterday), “‘Flintstones’ House in Hillsborough Listed for $4.2M” by Tamara Palmer and Ian Cull:

Hillsborough’s most recognizable piece of real estate has hit the market.

The home at 45 Berryessa Way, though relatively small by the town’s standards at 2,730 square feet, is seeking a big price tag of $4.2 million


A story that will take us through several twists and turns of pop culture.


Scientists at play

September 2, 2015

Passed on by Chris Waigl, a piece on the Washington Post‘s blog: “Scientists celebrate the world of animal genitalia with #junkoff” (by Rachel Feltman):

Scentists: They’re just like you! They have good days, they have bad days, they glue themselves to angry crocodiles, and they recognize how utterly ridiculous and funny animal genitalia can be.

#junkoff is the latest hashtag to take off in the scientific corners of Twitter, and it’s exactly what it sounds like.

Scientists who work with animals contribute their favorite images of penises and vaginas. Including the remarkable 4-headed penis of an echidna (aka spiny anteater, an egg-laying mammal).


The 4 million

August 18, 2015

From O. Henry in 1906, the collection The Four Million:

The Four Million is the second published collection of short stories by O. Henry originally released in 1906. There are twenty five stories of various lengths including several of his best known works such as “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Cop and the Anthem”. The book’s title refers to the then population of New York City where many of the stories are set.

(The 2014 census estimate for NYC was 8.49 million — more than doubled in nearly 110 years.)

Meanwhile, the number of spam comments afflicting this site passed 4 million yesterday. (more…)

Bacteriological picture books

July 27, 2015

A Tom Gauld cartoon in the latest (July 18th) New Scientist:


Bacteria crossed with children’s picture books.



July 13, 2015

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water —


it was Shark Week again, and Findependence Day!


Fletcher and a trail of associations

July 12, 2015

Today’s morning name was the family name Fletcher. Just that, to start with. It looks like an occupational name, like Baker, Brewer, Butcher, Carpenter, Farmer, or Hunter, but referring to an occupation that is now rare (Carter ‘comeone who transports goods by cart or wagon’, Cooper ‘barrel maker’, Cutler ‘knife maker’). And so it is. From NOAD2

a person who makes and sells arrows. ORIGIN Middle English: from Old French flechier, from fleche ‘arrow.’

An enormous number of people have the family name Fletcher; I’ll look at two here, one real (the actress Louise Fletcher) and one fictional (the investigative reporter Irwin M. Fletcher, known as Fletch). But first, the adaptation of the family name to a personal name, as in Fletcher Christian.


Juan Rulfo

July 8, 2015

A note on the writer. From Wikipedia:

Juan Nepomuceno Carlos Pérez Rulfo Vizcaíno, best known as Juan Rulfo (… 16 May 1917 – 7 January 1986) was a Mexican writer, screenwriter and photographer. He is one of Latin America’s esteemed authors and earned reputation on his two literary works, El Llano en llamas (1953), a collection of short stories, and the 1955 novel Pedro Páramo. Fifteen of the seventeen short stories in El Llano en llamas have been translated into English and published as The Burning Plain and Other Stories. This collection includes the popular tale “¡Diles que no me maten!” (“Tell Them Not to Kill Me!”).


Calvin and books

July 7, 2015

Two recent Calvin and Hobbes strips, on books in summertime:



Books are so quiet.

Aspects at 50

June 25, 2015

Geoff Pullum’s column in the Lingua Franca blog (of the Chronicle of High Education) on the 22nd, “Revolutionary Methodological Preliminaries”, went back 50 years to a signal event in linguistics publishing. Geoff begins:

It is rather surprising that more has not been done this year (thus far, anyway) to commemorate a significant semicentenary: the 50th anniversary of what could reasonably be called the most influential linguistics book of the 20th century. [Aspects of the Theory of Syntax] was published by MIT Press in 1965 as “Special Technical Report 11” of the Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT, and has recently been re-released with a new preface, but it doesn’t seem to have inspired any major conferences or other celebrations. Yet it gets more than 25,000 citations, according to Google Scholar, and it laid the foundation for 50 years of interdisciplinary research on how human minds could possibly create and manage the extraordinary complexity of language.

I was there for the occasion.



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