Archive for the ‘Language and medicine’ Category

A high-theatrical digital collagist

November 29, 2023

That’s Hector de Gregorio, whose fantasist digital collage Love of Hermes came past me on Pinterest recently:

(#1) The male figure’s face is (a version of) de Gregorio’s own; the composition is packed with symbols and allusions of many kinds. only a few of which I can identify

Some of the iconography in #1 might be understood from information in the Wikipedia article on the Greek god Hermes:

Hermes is an Olympian deity in ancient Greek religion and mythology considered the [emissary and messenger] of the gods.

… his main symbol is the caduceus, a winged staff intertwined with two snakes copulating [sometimes crowned with a pair of wings and a sphere]

[AZ: Among the many female objects of his love was the love goddess Aphrodite, with whom he fathered the god Hermaphroditus — born a handsome boy, then transformed into a hermaphrodite, with a name compounded of the names of the two parents]

… Hermes also loved [many] young men in pederastic relationships where he bestowed and/or taught something related to combat, athletics, herding, poetry and music

Now, four more of de Gregorio’s dream-like, often highly theatrical, body-focused compositions — two relatively spare ones, two densely symbolic ones. Then some words about the artist.


Three words to marvel at

November 1, 2023

🐇 🐇 🐇 trois lapins to inaugurate November, the final month of autumn or spring (depending on which hemisphere you’re in), and celebrate the Day of the Dead. A day on which we’ll enjoy three English words that have entertained posters on Facebook (from now on, FB) recently: calceology ‘the study of footwear’; telamon ‘male figure used as an architectural pillar’; and hallux ‘the first and largest toe (on a human foot)’.

At this point, you might admit that these terms are English words but, quite rightly, object that it would be bizarre to talk about expressions that almost no speakers of English know or use as words of English. Certainly, if I asked you whether English has a word for the study of footwear, you’re almost surely going to say no, because part of our everyday understanding of word of English is that such an expression has some currency, and hardly any speakers of English know or use the expression calceology.

On discovering the technical term calceology, then, you might be willing to say that the term is an English word, or maybe even a word in English, but still balk at saying it’s a word of English. It should by now be clear that we’re dealing with distinct concepts here, and grappling, awkwardly, with putting labels on them. At least one fresh label is called for. I’ll hold off on choosing a label to cover the territory that includes words of English until after I’ve looked at three other characteristics of CTH — calceology, telamon, and hallux — separate from their lacking currency.


Doctor vs. vampire

October 27, 2023

A wonderful wordless cartoon by Liana Finck from the 10/30/23 issue of the New Yorker presents a  challenge in cartoon understanding: what do you have to know and what do you have to recognize in the cartoon if you’re going to understand what’s going on in it and why that’s funny?

An intense confrontation between a doctor and a vampire: the doctor seeks to repel the vampire. while the vampire, in turn, seeks to repel the doctor; each is shielding their eyes, to avoid seeing the repellent brandished by the other (the crucifix threatening the vampire, the apple threatening the doctor); the confrontation appears to be a standoff

A full appreciation of this comical Mexican standoff requires that you recognize the two characters, one drawn from the real world, the other from a fictive world of popular culture, somehow (absurdly) joined, indeed frozen, in mortal combat — which means recognizing why the crucifix is a threat to the vampire (this requires your knowing some vampire lore) and why the apple is a threat to the doctor (this requires your recognizing the joke’s inspired mainspring, a subtle pun on a proverb in English).  Truly awesome.


A sick day

September 20, 2023

Meant to post about Probal Dasgupta on autoimmune diseases and about my raft of them, but I lost the day to a mystery sickness, no doubt made worse by the smoky air outside, which leaks into my house and makes breathing uncomfortable; and certainly made worse by extravagant joint pain (in my hips and knees, subverting my new-found ability to walk with a cane or on my own two feet; and spectacularly in my hand joints — the right hand fingers swollen and painful for some days, on top of their existing damaged-nerve disability and pain; the left middle finger and two knuckle joints red, swollen, inflamed, made useless with pain).

I got my meals (using my poor right hand to substitute for the useless angry left one, usually my “good hand”) and otherwise slept through the day, feeling utterly exhausted and headachey.

A rapid Covid test showed nothing. My blood pressure and pulse rate remained excellent throughout the day. Early in the day my temperature was 96.5 F, significantly lower than my normal temp, which hovers around 97.6 (a degree lower than most people’s). But just now, after a salad for dinner, I felt a bit feverish, and indeed my temp was a bit elevated (for me), 98.5.

Testing my O2 uptake turned out to be tricky. My right-hand fingers are undependable, period, and it turns out that an inflamed finger gives an alarmingly low (false) reading. But I had one finger on that hand that wasn’t inflamed, the ring finger, and the oximeter read 97% for that finger this morning, still does.

Otherwise, I just feel really really crappy.

Oh, yes, that joint pain is what I’ve come to call osteoarthritism, a nasty autoimmune affliction that mimics osteoarthritis (a named disease that involves actual degeneration of cartilage), but travels around the body in unpredictable attacks that consume anywhere from minutes to days.

Now I’m going to try to figure out how to wash my dinner dishes and go back to bed.

When this passes, I’ll post about Probal and about my osteoarthritism, my DoE (dyspnea on exertion), my spontaneous aphonia, and more.

I really really want to get back to walking. That was truly delightful.


Turkish Neutrogena

September 7, 2023

Neutrogena hand cream (for dry or chapped hands), specifically. Which I’ve used as a moisturizer for dry skin and a healing cream for abraded skin, on various parts of my body (especially as an adjunct to the coconut oil I use daily on my feet, legs, hands, and arms); it comes in almond-scented and unscented versions. Unremarkable until recently. But yesterday it excited the interest of four linguists, in exchanges on Facebook.

Set off by Monica Macaulay:

— MM: This is a new one on me. I ordered some Neutrogena lotion and the picture looked like what I’m used to, but look what came!!! Is that Turkish? Something went awry with the space-time-language continuum? I’m very puzzled.

(#1) EL KREMİ in its tube

— Geoffrey Nathan: Definitely Turkish — i’s without dots, c-cedillas, s-cedillas. No idea what it means, however. Just remembered — eller means ‘hands’. From a morphology problem.

— AZ [who, once a teacher of introductory morphology, also recognized eller]: Had the same experience a little while back. The lotion seems to be unchanged, but the packaging was a surprise.

— MM > AZ: Really?!? So this is a known unknown? Very, very strange.

— AZ > MM: Well, known to me. You’re only the second person in my experience to have gotten Neutrogena in Turkish.


Safeway’s AI soup nazis

August 31, 2023

🐅 🐅 🐅 tiger tiger tiger for ultimate August, anticipating the welcoming bunny trio of September

I get my groceries from a local Safeway, with shoppers and deliverers supplied by Instacart. Safeway has an excellent line of deli soups, which I described for you in my 7/21 posting “Real food”, focusing on Safeway’s Signature Cafe (their brand name) chicken tortilla soup (in a plastic container), which was a major step on my route back to real food after my gall bladder surgery; I noted at the time:

Safeway has a whole line of these soups, including a clear lobster bisque suitable for liquid diets and several very nice chunkier soups, including a minestrone, chicken noodle soup, jambalaya and broccoli cheddar soup.

Yesterday, continuing my incursions into red meat and animal fats — cheese was the first wedge into this territory, but I’ve since moved all the way to (pork) carnitas and carne asada — and needing to order in some milk from Safeway, I thought to reconsider the store’s other soups, so I searched on “deli soups” on the Safeway site.

And got a notice — new in my experience — that this search was powered by AI. Instead of the expected inventory of Safeway’s dozen or so or deli soups, I got only three such soups, and these three were scattered among a huge number of listings for canned soups (from various companies). Not deli soups at all, but just soups; in fact, towards the end of the list, it branched into canned meats. So a massive AI screw-up.


The grand jury’s cough drop

August 18, 2023

The political / medicinal pun RICO Law / Ricola: on Facebook on 8/15, Kyle Wohlmut passed along  — “meanwhile in Switzerland” — the 8/14 Mike Scollins titling RICO LAW of an image from the classic Ricola (Swiss cough drop) commercial:

Posted within minutes of the Georgia RICO indictments (see below)

Now to the commercially medicinal and the political-conspiratorial.


Getting warm

August 4, 2023

About my body — my core body, and, separately, my peripheral and surface body — and how it’s been changing, dramatically in the past few days. Dramatically improved, I hasten to add, in case you were worried you were about to hear another litany of my sorrows.


Sex overdrive

August 1, 2023

🐇 🐇 🐇 rabbit rabbit rabbit to inaugurate a fiery August; it’s also 🇨🇭 🇨🇭 🇨🇭 Swiss National Day, and I am wearing not only my Swiss flag shorts, but also my Switzerland t-shirt (Hail Helvetica! and all that) — meanwhile, adjustments in medication and my diet, following my nephrologist’s directions, have brought me control of my blood pressure (which was scarily low for a long time, after a previous period of being too high): right in my target zone just now (4:20 am: 126/69, with a pulse of 73 bpm — my pulse rate had also veered wildly all over the map, from highs of 110 to lows of 48 — so YAY!)

In my 7/23 posting “A recovery landmark”, I reported on the return of my high sex drive (of 70 years’ standing) after a long period of sickness (prominently including my gall bladder surgery), during which my sexual instincts lay utterly dormant; the return of sexual desire is a reliable sign of returning health, and a cause for great celebration. And, once again, regular self-pleasuring (as we say when we want to be decorous — though I note that self-pleasure, noun or verb, isn’t in NOAD or AHD5).

Now, one common consequence of a sudden change in the body’s state is a period of overshoot, an overcompensation for the pre-change suppressed state. After weeks of lassitude, your energy returns — and then, for a period, you’re hyperactive. After which you bounce back and return to a more normal state.

A few days after the reappearance of my sex drive, in the middle of the night, I went into sex overdrive, and it was awful.


The frozen Tortoise

July 27, 2023

First, the news event, from yesterday. Then a Facebook exchange between Greg Morrow and me, about what might have afflicted Mitch McConnell, the minority leader of the US Senate. (GM and I both deprecate the evil of the Tortoise in the sharpest terms, but this posting is entirely about what might have caused his notable freeze.)