During my undergrad studies, I took a number of history classes with Dr. Anne-Marie Wolf, who specializes in the Middle Ages. (Don’t call them the Dark Ages, that’s rude. We know a lot of things about that period, it’s not a lost era.) When she told us how to parse information from ancient laws, I felt like I was let in to a secret logical door out of a supposed dead end alley of knowledge.

If there is an ancient law text that says “Anyone who steals a chicken will be fined 20x,” you cannot say with authority that people who stole chickens were ever fined 20x. This does not mean it is a statement bereft of information. You can know for sure that people stole chickens. If people did not steal chickens, they wouldn’t bother writing the law down. You can also tell that they had a monetary system, and that chickens were of enough value in that community that it was worth writing down a law about their abduction. Differences between punishments can also tell you about societal values and priorities. A society that has a lesser sentence for killing a woman than killing a pregnant woman considers a pregnant woman to be of greater value. You might infer that the society was focused on growing larger and needed a greater military or manual labor force.

This has stayed with me, so when I see signs that say “No Smoking” I know that people have smoked there, and seeing a sign that says “Do not leave belongings unattended,” tells me that at some point, someone left their belongings which led to a problem large enough to merited making a sign about it.

This statement implies mean activities.

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November 19, 2011

in FACT,history,logic

When I have thought about and used this word, as in ‘painstakingly obvious’ or ‘she described the incident in painstaking detail,’ I break up the big morphemes as ‘pain and stakingly.’ Then, yesterday, I pressed random word on wordnik.com often enough that I got to the page on the word painstaker. The definition is “One who takes pains.” OF COURSE, said my brain, it is someone who takes pains to make sure every detail is in place. Pains taker, not pain staker.


April 29, 2011

in dictionaries,english,Etymology,FACT,insignificant linguistics mystery,wordnik,Words & Origins

1. Robert Munsch
Context: I went to a reading at Barnes and Noble.
Proof: He signed my book.

2. Ozma
Context: I went to their concert, man I was drunk.
Proof: They signed my shirt.

3. Ok Go
Context: I went to their concert, man it was great.
Proof: They signed my shirt.

4. Kurtwood Smith
Context: He was part of the Lifeboat Theater, which my mom was in, and we hosted the reunion party in our backyard.
Proof: There are pictures from the event and we are clearly in the same location. He said nice things about my mom.

5. Dulé Hill
Context: I went to a house party for Obama in NoPo at a very gay house, he spoke, seemed unbelievably good at being cool in person, then we left to go to a different party.
Proof: No media proof.

6. Forrest Kline from Hellogoodbye
Context: I went to their concert. He was kind of sick, but I hugged him. VICTORY.
Proof: He signed my shirt.

7. Adam Lisagor
Context: I went to Monsters of Podcasting at the Bagdad to see You Look Nice Today Live!
Proof: We took a picture together!

8. Amanda Fucking Palmer
Context: I went to a ninja ukelele concert in the park blocks. It was like a French movie dream. I hugged her. VICTORY!
Proof: She signed a playing card, and we took a picture together!

9. Ezra Furman
Context: I went to his concert at the Doug Fir. I hugged him. VICTORY!
Proof: He signed my CD.


September 28, 2010

in Autobiographical,autographs,children's literature,concerts,confusing list,FACT,famous people,hugging,Music

Every day when I look at the glowing red sign at the front of the bus I think, “If there was an extra ‘e’ on that sign, that would anagram to ‘Sequestered Pot.'”


April 16, 2010

in anagram,Autobiographical,best post ever,bus,FACT,public transit,word games,Words & Origins

1. Flashing Lights – Kanye West ft. Dwele (56)
2. Feel Good Inc. – Gorillaz (55)
3. I’m Really Hot – Missy Elliott (55)
4. Get it Together – Beastie Boys (54)
5. We Trying to Stay Alive – Wyclef Jean (46)
6. Fett’s Vett – MC Chris (45)
7. I Just Wanna Love U – Jay-Z (42)
8. Pump It – Black Eyed Peas (41)
9. Fire Water Burn – Bloodhound Gang (39)

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April 4, 2010

in FACT,ip-op,Music,play count