Archive for the ‘My life’ Category

Garden moments

July 15, 2016

Today’s Calvin and Hobbes in my comics feed:


In the land of sentient plants.

Meanwhile, I’ve been laboring on getting my little container garden in hand, after a decade of devastation, neglect, and drought. Into the land of vegetative reproduction (cymbidiums,geraniums / pelargoniums, coleus / plecranthus) and nurturing some gift plants (two succulent gardens, kalanchoe, penstemon, and hydrangea).



July 13, 2016

On Sunday I went to shapenote singing (2-4, at the Unitarian Universalist Church in south Palo Alto), for the first time in two or so years. Much trepidation, but I manasged reasonably well, especially in the early (“warm-up”) songs, which were so familiar I could sing the shapes and the verses without looking at the book. Tremendous expense of energy, as I was singing full-out, so I was done in after two hours, but happy.

Of the several possibilities for a closing song, we did one of the “new songs” (new to the 1991 edition of the (B.F. White) Sacred Harp): 347, “Christians, Farewell”, reproduced here (with permission) from the book:


(Click to enlarge the image.)

Hamrick adapted the text of #621 in Benjamin Lloyd’s 1841 Primitive Hymns, and more recently Caroline Bonnet supplied a one-verse secular text.


Notes on my father

June 29, 2016

I have a backlog of Fathers Day postings, which have been impeded by the labors of contracting my belongings into a small space. A process that unearthed reminders of my dad. In more or less reverse order: the original Arnold M. Zwicky on vacation; the nameplate from his desk at work (as a public health officer); and plates from a wonderful wildflower book he picked up in Switzerland in his youth.


An offer (the first of several)

June 15, 2016

I’m in the midst of a gigantic divestment / divestiture of belongings, designed to reduce the contents of two highly packed condos (including a truly gigantic library) to one relatively uncluttered one, preserving the things I think I’ll want to use in the scholarly life left to me (I am an old man). More on this below.

But here, an offer of a collection of CDs with performances of musicals (about 50) and with movie soundtracks (about 15).  Get your show tunes and soundtracks!  Just pay for the shipping.


Still solid, after 20 years

June 8, 2016

(Warning: heavy technical linguistics.)

This morning a linguist working on auxiliary reduction in Scots dialects wrote to ask me about the 1997 Pullum & Zwicky LSA paper “Licensing of prosodic features by syntactic rules: The key to auxiliary reduction” (a paper Geoff and I are still proud of). The abstract is available on this blog, but the handout is not (though other handouts are there). A significant problem with word processing formats was the culprit, but (spurred by my correspondent’s query) Geoff managed to unearth a clean copy of the reading script for the paper, which includes everything from the handout and more. Now available for public consumption here.


It was 13 years ago today…

June 3, 2016

Well, Sunday, not actually today, and Sgt. Pepper’s Band has nothing to do with it. As I wrote here on the 1st:

Back in late January, I posted about a visit to the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto for a breakfast outdoors … That day was just after my man Jacques’s birthday (his 74th). Today is just before Jacques’s 2003 death day (on Sunday), so there’s a certain symmetry to these two plant postings.

Jacques was a plant person, roses especially, but also tree peonies and daylilies and tomatoes and lots more. He valued plants for their beauty, their scent, and their culinary usefulness, but was wary of plants whose attraction lies mostly in their quirkiness (like Kniphofia, or red hot poker, #1 in my recent Gamble Garden posting; and he detested the showy bird-of-paradise plant).

But the roses, oh the roses.


Anti-spam architect (plus a mathemagician)

May 21, 2016

The anti-spam architect would be Elizabeth Zwicky in a “Yahoo Women in Technology Profile” by Michael McGovern (Talent Community Manager at Yahoo!) on the 18th. The piece is in the form of an interview, but with questions submitted in writing by McGovern and answers written out by EDZ, so you get the full flavor of her writing — lucid, pointed, often wry. There are photos: one of EDZ with her team, one an unposed head shot of her which catches her nicely. It’s a bit too light, a consequence of the fact that the photographer (Opal Eleanor Armstrong Zwicky, then age 6) was a novice at the camera, though she already had a good eye):



Joe Dallesandro

May 17, 2016

(About art and gay porn, but not much about language.)

A tribute to the Warhol superstar Joe Dallensandro in his youth, in preparation for writing about two very different art books from 2011 — Kevin Clarke’s Porn from Andy Warhol to X-Tube (a survey of American gay porn and the business that creates it) and Christopher Reed’s Art and Homosexuality: A History of Ideas —  that nevertheless share several points of interest, of which Andy Warhol is a prominent one.

JD is pictured in the Clarke book, in a stunning full-page reproduction of a Bruce of L.A. photo (a full-frontal shot of JD in a pitsntits pose, with a half-hard penis), from Bruce’s only photo-shoot with JD (in the 1960s)  — viewable in a posting (“Joe Dallessandro in his youth”) on AZBlogX, along with another photo from the same session, showing a naked and pensively tumescent JD in profile (with an inscription to Reed Massengill).


Marian Bush

April 17, 2016

The death of a dear friend — not anyone of great fame, but a fine and delightful person, a mainstay of both the Peninsula Sacred Harp singers (who she often hosted at her house) and the Action League of the Peninsula — our very own Raging Grannies.

Marian in Granny gear — she was funny and ornamental, but also earnest and fierce:

I especially remember coming across her at a protest against the invasion of Iraq, respendent in purple and indignation, in a crowd of Grannies. I haven’t been able to find a photo of her leading Sacred Harp, alas.


Hilary Putnam

April 3, 2016

A few weeks back (I have been preoccupied with many things), the announcement of the death of the great philosopher Hilary Putnam, who was one of my teachers at Princeton and later became an academic friend. From the NYT on 3/18/16, “Hilary Putnam, Giant of Modern Philosophy, Dies at 89” by Bruce Weber, which begins:

Hilary Putnam, a Harvard philosopher whose influence ranged widely across many fields of thought, including mathematical logic, philosophy of mind and language, epistemology and metaphysics, died on March 13 at his home in Arlington, Mass. He was 89.

In the world of contemporary philosophers, Professor Putnam was known for the breadth of his thinking, the vividness of his provocative arguments, and his penchant for self-questioning and willingness to change his mind.

In a field of inquiry characterized by elusive concepts, dizzying “isms” and subtle taxonomies, philosophers are in continual battle to resist simplification. Infinite, or at least enormous, complexity is the nature of things, Professor Putnam argued, writing that “any philosophy that can be put in a nutshell belongs in one.”



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