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TMI Cyber Monday Morning Latin Lesson

December 2, 2013

When the call came in to party central that we were going to try and kickstart ye olde Blogosphere with a Cyber Monday special, my mind immediately went to a different meaning of the word cyber.  The relationship I had with the Ex- was a special one, and since it was a long-distance thing, we did a lot of talking online and over the phone.  In case you don't remember, the Ex- is my pseudonym to protect the identity of my former fiancee, with whom I had many a sexual (mis)adventure.  Our relationship, such as it was, suffered from being a long-distance thing.  Fortunately, we had phones and computers with which to chat, converse, and flirt.

As our relationship progressed and turned more sexual, we did a whole lot of sexing over the interwebs, more commonly known as "cybersex."  While I spent many a night with the phone held in the crook of my neck between my ear and my shoulder or doing some serious one-handed typing, there came a point where I needed to describe what it was I was going to do to her.  In graphic detail.  Because she liked the dirty talk.  A lot.  However, I was not sure of what term she preferred for her "lady parts."

This has always been an awkward and delicate situation for me.  Anytime that I was faced with a new girlfriend or a new lover, someone with whom I may, one day, be getting intimate, I would always stumble when trying to discover what term she used when discussing her Holy of Holies.  Most of the time, I would broach the subject tenderly, by inserting a cleverly-placed "*ahem*" into the spot where the questionable euphemism would or should be supplied.  It was after the third or fourth *ahem* that the Ex- finally revealed to me that her preferred term for her lady parts was the Terrible C-Word (or cunt, if you're not twelve years old).

I've already touched upon the derivation of said euphemism and how it is related to rabbits.  A cuniculus makes a tunnel; an *ahem* has a tunnel.  See?  Brilliant.

A few weeks ago, I came across an amusing cat picture on the internet.  No, really.  Guys, I know you might not believe this, but there are a lot of cat pictures on the internet.  Well, this one was somewhat clever:  it featured a long-haired feline sitting between a woman's ankles and the cat was looking up.  Naughty, naughty, kitty.

That got me to thinking, though:  Where did the association between a woman's genitalia and a friendly kitteh begin?  So, I did some research on the subject.  I also looked into the etymology of the word "pussy."  See what I did there?  I am the master of the bait and switch.

Anyway, the term pussy, when applied to a cat, comes to us (probably) from German, where the term "puss" is used as a familiar form for cat, kind of like how we use kitty nowadays.  The word puss (and, by extension, pussy) was used not only for cats, but also for rabbits and bunnies (connecting us back to the above euphemisms!) and an ironic sort of name for tigers.  It seems as though the word "puss" was used lovingly for anything that it warm, covered in hair, and is easy to stroke.

I know what you're thinking, but let's not go there just yet, because we have other connections to make here.

Puss and Pussy were also old school affectionate names for girls, kind of like we use Sugar, Dear or Honey today.  Despite all this, however, it seems that the warm, hairy, lovable parts of a female's anatomy are not the straightforward connection you might naturally assume.  However, there was probably some trading back and forth of terms in various languages in Europe, whether it was the Germanic tongues that the Angles and Saxons brought to the British Isles or the Romance languages derived from and adopted by various barbarian tribes that took up homes in Western Europe as the Roman Empire slowly crumbled into history.

With that said, pussy, as it pertains to female genitalia, probably did enter into the language as a slang term for girls.  However, in this case, it probably came from the French word la pucelle, which means "young woman," which is ultimately derived from the Latin term puella, girl.  It probably began to be used as a euphemism for vagina in English and then spread out from there.  Both French and German have back translated words meaning "cat" to use as slang words for female genitalia, such as la chatte in French--notice the gender of the noun!  This is probably an instance where the similarities in pronunciation of the two words blended the meanings of the word together--puss and pussy meaning something soft and furry as well as a term for a young woman.  From there, despite having different definitions, the similar pronunciations of two words eventually led them to be connected, though cats and vaginae really don't have that much in common...other than having lots of pictures of each on the internet.

The connotation between a slang term for a woman's reproductive organs and someone who is weak, I thought, was an obvious one:  if you're a man who either won't stand and fight or who appears weak and effeminate, you might have female reproductive organs and are therefore a pussy.  It's a schoolyard taunt that many of us have made without thinking about it.

However, I learned that it most likely has nothing to do with girls, cats or soft, furry, touchable things.  Instead, a pussy of a man is one who is weak in spirit, and the term pussy, in this case, comes from the word "pusillanimous," which has descended into English from Latin and means "having a very small soul or spirit."  Pusillanimous, in English, means "lacking courage."  Rather than throw out the sesquipedalian word, it got shortened to it's first two syllables:  pussy, and though the /u/ sound in pusillanimous is slightly different from the /u/ in pussy, the similar spellings came to be pronounced the same way. 

Offended yet?  No?  Good.  Disgusted?  No?  Well, get ready.

One more meaning for the word pussy to hit you with:  if you change the pronunciation of the the /u/ in the word to sound more like that in the word "bus," you get a whole different meaning.  And I think we can all agree that a pussy should never be pussy.

That does remind me of a time in an undergraduate scientific Latin and Greek class where the professor translated pyoma (I think) as "a pussy tumor."  I was writing that down, when suddenly I was hit with a spelling question.  I turned to my friend Amanda and whispered "How do you spell 'pussy?'"  Then we giggled like the twelve-year-olds we were (I was a senior, she was a sophomore, so totally appropriate).

Alright, let's see here:  REM lyric worked into the text.  Check.  TMI post about how I used to cyberfuck my Ex-Fiancee?  Check.  Useless Latin trivia?  Check.  Picture of LeeLee Sobieski?  Check.  Hovertext?  Got it!  Pictures of scantily-clad women?  You betcha.  Several puns and double entendre?  All over the place!  A really long post that no one will read?  Double check!  Alright, that about wraps it up here.  See you again in two years!

Friday Morning Latin Lesson, Vol. CVIII

April 26, 2013

April was an exciting month in the life of Emperor Caracalla.  Oh, you weren't familiar with Caracalla?  He was Roman Emperor from 198 to 217, part of the Severine dynasty.  To give you the short history of Caracalla, he was a dick.  Don't believe me?  Just ask his brother, Geta, with whom he co-ruled the Empire after their father, Septimius Severus Snape died.  That is, until Caracalla had Geta murdered in 211.

Caracalla was born on April 4, 188, in Lugdunum (which we call "Lyon" nowadays) and was saddled with the name Lucius Septimius Bassianus.  There we go with the names ending in "-anus" once again.  Understandably, ol' Low Asshole (rough translation) changed his name to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Caesar to better connect with former, greater emperors, Marcus Aurelius and a couple of the Caesars.

The name Caracalla?  Oh, I'm glad you asked.  He earned it because he went everywhere wearing a cloak with a hood.  It was a bit of local fashion among the Gauls, and when Caracalla became Emperor, the fashion really took off.  Kind of like a Ronald Reagan jelly bean theme or a Bill Clinton saxophone motif. 

Caracalla was a military man, which was important for two reasons:  one, commanding the army (and having their support) went far when trying to stake a claim to the throne in Rome.  Just ask Geta.  You know, if he wasn't murdered by his brother's goons.  The second reason it was important was that it helped him keep the throne after he won it.  It also was nice that his soldiers decided that they would also wear caracallae, thus helping make the garment popular.

Caracalla gave a finger to the traditional look of an Emperor, wearing his hair and beard in traditional short, military fashion.  Also, most of his depictions showed him scowling; Caracalla wasn't going to take your shit.  He was one of the first Emperors who didn't try to beautify his image, and it showed.  Oh boy, did it show.  Diocletian is usually the first name on list of megalomaniacal asshole Emperors, but Caracalla was near the top.  Thousands died in the persecutions under Caracalla, mostly for supporting his brother Geta's claim to the throne.  Or for just pissing him off.

The boys had been sparring on-and-off for years about co-rulership of the Empire, so their mother, Julia Domna, arranged to have her sons get together, sit down, and work things out.  Caracalla did, sort of.  He ordered those members of the Praetorian Guard loyal to him to kill his brother.  Geta ended up dying in Julia Domna's arms.  Classy, Caracalla.  He then ordered the military to slaughter anyone who supported his brother's claim to the throne, pretty much ending all threat to his rule.

Caracalla then claimed that he killed Geta in self-defense, the old "he's coming right at me!" defense.  The people of Alexandria did not quite believe the Emperor, and thus produced a satirical play about the subject.  Caracalla, who didn't have time for your shit, was unamused and, when 20,000 citizens of Alexandria came out to welcome him to the city, Caracalla had them slaughtered.

For all that, Caracalla also did some good things.  His big thing, the thing that he might best be remembered for, the thing that almost absolves him of the boorish dickishness was known as the Edict of Caracalla.  In it, he extended the rights of citizenship to every free man and woman (this was a big deal) in the Empire.  Previously, citizenship had been granted only to those who lived in Rome and was extended out to cover the Italian peninsula.  Caracalla thumbed his nose once more at tradition and extended citizenship to anyone living within the borders of the Roman Empire.

Caracalla is also known for construction of one of the last major public works in Rome:  the Baths of Caracalla.  Covering a sprawling 33 acres, the baths were one of the few to also include a public library with rooms for reading in both Greek and Latin; two palaestrae or gyms for practicing boxing and wrestling; a row of shops; a dedicated swimming pool open to the sky and featuring bronze mirrors to warm the water; and several large gardens for bathers to stroll in after they finished splashing about in the heated waters of the baths.  It was all open to the public; an estimated 1600 bathers could be accommodated at one time at the Baths.

Though this might seem like an exceedingly generous thing to do, it was one of the ways that Caracalla kept his enemies at bay.  He taxed the rich families heavily in order to provide for these public works.  After killing Geta, Caracalla took the army and began moving around the northern and eastern provinces of the Empire, demanding more money from the rich families to support his army's movements.  He also levied heavy taxes in order to pay for meaningless temples, palaces, baths and other such constructs in these outlying provinces.

However, the Baths were his most famous and lasting works.  They are still a popular tourist attraction in Rome today, and there is written evidence that the Baths were used well into the 19th century in Rome, though they had to be rebuilt a few times thanks to the ravages of time, earthquakes and the odd band of savages moving through the area.

Seems fitting that we should honor Caracalla with today's Latin phrase:

Balineo utimur!

Pronounced:  "Ba-lynn-aye-oh oo-tee-myur!"

Um...yeah.  Hovertext.

I mentioned April being a big month for Caracalla.  Well, the always-friendly and terribly-tactful Caracalla had been offered a marriage proposal with a Parthian bride that would bring about peace between Rome and neighboring Parthia.  In true Caracalla fashion, he went through with the sham of a wedding and then had the bride and all the guests put to death. 

Damn.  Red Wedding, anyone?

The Parthians, none too pleased about this, threatened and then attacked Roman lands and so continued the Parthian War of Caracalla.  Satisfied with his handiwork, Caracalla mustered his soldiers and headed east, hellbent on finishing off the Parthian threat once and for all.  Many had thought or hoped that Caracalla's daddy, Septimius Severus Snape had ended the Parthian threat, but it turned out only he could keep the Parthians at bay.

On April 8, 217, while on the way toward the enemy capitol of Ctesiphon, Caracalla called a halt to the march and headed off to the side of the road to toss a whiz.  A man named Julius Martialis, pissed because Caracalla had killed his brother, went Inigo Montoya on the Emperor and killed him with a single sword-stroke while the Emperor was pissing.  There's a good chance that Caracalla died with his dick in his hand, the attack was so fast and so decisive.  The assassin was then shot through with an arrow ending his fifteen minutes of fame right then and there.

Conveniently, the chief of Caracalla's Praetorians was a man named Macrinius who, amazingly, succeeded Caracalla as Emperor.  Macrinius was Emperor for about a year before he, too, was assassinated.  No word on where his dick was when he died.

Friday Morning Latin Lesson: Vol. CVII

March 22, 2013

Salvete, amici!  Here we are again at the end of another week, and what a week it's been, eh?  Is your bracket already busted?  Are you asshole deep in snow yet?  How about that new Pope, eh?  That covers pretty much the sum total of all the news that was this past week, doesn't it? 

This is, of course, the greatest time of the year for me, being that the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments are going right now.  The men's tournament, of course, tipped off on Tuesday with the "first four", the four in this case being the first four games, otherwise known as the "play-in" games.  However, "purists" don't count these first four games (because purists are dumb) and you probably have to look long and hard to find someone who actually counts these games in their office pool brackets.  I guess it's understandable; only the truly sick and depraved would watch these games and hold an actual interest in them.  I don't have a problem.  I swear!

The tournament itself has picked up the moniker "March Madness" (even though half of it this year will be played in April...) which stems, somewhat, from the phrase "mad as a March hare".  March is the month in which rabbits get it on, which would be one reason for those hares to be acting all harebrained; sweet, sweet cunnus cuniculi is on the line!  March Madness originally was the nickname for the Illinois state high school tournament--a Land of Lincoln version of Hoosier Hysteria (so much alliteration...).  It was lifted by noted national sportscasting perv and Webb-family hero, Brent Musburger, who probably thought it his own creation when he spewed it forth in a drunken broadcast during 1982.  We thank you for that, Brent, as well as the gift of Katherine Webb in a bikini um, diving, or whatever shit she's doing in that television show.  Shut up and close the blinds--I'm watching here!

The term "Sweet Sixteen" showed up sometime in the 90s, and was once again lifted from a high school tournament.  Several lawsuits with much legalese being bandied about came from the state of Kentucky, where Sweet Sixteen was used for many, many years to describe the final sixteen teams playing in their state high school tournament.  Final Four, also, was stolen from a high school tournament, this time going back to the hotbed of high school hoops, the great state of Indiana, where "final four" was used to describe the last quartet of teams that survived the semistate rounds of the tournament before class basketball ruined Indiana high school athletics forever.  Someone claimed that "final four" was used in the late 70s to describe when Marquette was one of the final four schools left in the tournament, but Marquette can go fuck themselves for all I care.

Oh, thanks for Tom Crean, by the way.

March, of course, gets its name from the Roman God of war, Mars.  Martius was the first month of the Roman Calendar, and it was ruled over by Mars--the embodiment of bloodlust and battle of warfare, as opposed to Minerva who was the strategist--because Martius was the time for planting crops and for making war.  Mars was originally an agrarian god, one who looked over the soil, the crops and the land.  The connection between the soil and battle was made glaringly clear in the movie Gladiator, where Maximus is constantly rubbing the soil on his face and fingers before battle.

Mars also gave us the name for Tuesday (in a round-about way).  The Romans thought that Mars, the planet in the sky, commanded the second day of the week, and so they named it dies Martis or "day of Mars".  When the Romans came in contact with some of the Germanic folk, the Germans liked this idea and so they began calling the second day of the week after their God of War, Tyr.  Thus, the name of the second day of the week became "Tyr's day" which eventually morphed into Tuesday.  And with the first four tipping off on Tuesdays, we've brought this bitch full circle.  All praise Mars!

Tempus est Furori Martis!

Pronounced:  "Tem-poose est fyoo-roar-ee Mar-teese!"

There's some serious meta stuff going on in this picture.  Also, hovertext!

March, of course, has the reputation of "coming in like a lion" and going "out like a lamb."  We're three weeks into March, with the first full day of Spring being yesterday.  This weekend, most of the country is bracing for another major snowstorm.  Yep.  Totally going out like a lamb!  I thought maybe this other phrase would be helpful while you're shoveling your car out of yet another bank of snow left in the wake of the plows.

Te pedicabo, Philippe...

Pronounced:  "Tay pay-dee-cah-boh, Phil-lee-pay"

A translation more accurate that weather prognosticating rodents in the hovertext

Lay in some alcohol and have the pizza man on speed dial:  it's going to be a long weekend.  Might as well get drunk, watch some basketball, and have cholesterol-laden regret coursing through your veins on Monday morning!  Valete, omnes!

Let's Talk Library Etiquette

March 20, 2013

My kids changed schools this year (again).  They now attend a school which is maybe two miles from my main place of employment.  It's also a charter school, so it does not have any busing routes, which means that suddenly daddy becomes the bus driver.  Which means I totally get to smoke pot, wiggle my fingers and think about how amazing they are.  Like, mind-blowingly amazing.  Whoa.

Anyway, since radio around here sucks (the frigid, empty expanse of space holds not a candle to the vast wasteland of corporate playlists or morning- and evening-drive time deejay drivel that is foisted upon the innocent listeners of the Triangle area), my children and I have been rocking the audio books for most of the year now.  And we've all really enjoyed them.  I've introduced them to a few of my childhood favorite characters (Bunnicula) and we've found some new gems along the way (Bartimaeus. kicks. ASS!).  They say that it's supposed to be a good thing for kids to listen to audio books as a way of expanding their minds and increasing their vocabulary and blahblahblahblah.  I just know that I don't want to put a fist through the front face of my radio because Klinger has some other badass witticism to thrust upon us about how awesome ice-cold Budweiser is.  Yeah, man.

I almost punched my screen just imagining that scenario.

The only problem has been moving from one series to the next.  The aforementioned Bartimaeus trilogy was the first audio book we picked up, and it was a hit right away.  Everything else has kind of paled in comparison--mostly because the story for Bartimaeus was so awesome, and the narrator, Simon Jones, gave the titular demon a personality that popped right out of the speakers (and off the page of the book, since I bought all three of them in various paper and electronic formats).  As I mentioned, we've been through several, and some have not been as good as the others, but overall we've been pretty happy with the experience.

Currently, we're listening to the Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper.  The fourth book of the series, The Grey King, was a Newbery Award winner, though I don't think that it's any better than the other books in the series.  Perhaps because it involved more questing, the second book, The Dark is Rising, was my favorite.  Overall, they've been a good listen.  On Monday morning, on the ride to school, we finished The Grey King, and so while I was out on my lunch break, I thought I would swing by the library and pick up the final book in the series.

Not so fast, my friend.

Everything was fine, initially.  I walked in the door, dropped off the finished audiobook and then went over to the section of the library where the kids audiobooks were featured.  This is where things began to go pear-shaped.

And, I mean that almost literally.

As I approached, a large, unfriendly-looking woman, festooned in steak fries dipped in ranch sauce--okay, I'm making this last part up.  She was wearing a sweatshirt.  With kittens on it.  Silhouetted.  Kittens.

I probably should have given up then.

However, I persisted because I knew where the book was that I needed, and I knew that this library had a copy of the book.  As I approached the three shelving units of audiobooks, she settled her dead, yellowish eyes on me, picked up her purse and set it on the shelf next to a stack of books she was going to check out.  The purse and the books were stacked up right in front of the book I needed.

So, I decided not to make a big deal out of it.  I would just wait my turn patiently, like a mature, calm, cool-headed adult.  And that's what I did.  I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

After five minutes, she shuffled down to the next bay of audiobooks.  Before she slithered away, she looked at me, not once, but twice.  Most normal human beings would have excused themselves and asked if I needed in to the area that she was guarding.  However, ranch-infused, kitten-sweater wearing embodiments of Dolores Umbridge don't ask such nice things.  They simply look you over, dismiss you as a functioning member of society, and then dig through the audiobooks with their pudgy, beringed fingers.

So, I waited.  And waited some more.

At this point, my childhood spent being raised in the Great Lakes region was beginning to show through, and I hit this woman with some of my finest Passive-Aggressivism.  I leaned toward the books.  I folded my arms.  I paced back and forth, all the while looking at her nasty little pink purse, looking through that insult to humanity, to the place where the book was for which I so yearned.

Unfazed by a world going on around her gravity well, she continued slumping toward the third bookshelf, pawing at the titles neatly ordered there.  I continued to pace, by now having waited fifteen minutes simply to get my book.  Finally, she slouched back toward her purse and books, but then decided to have another go at the first bay of audiobooks, taking another two minutes to go through the titles before, with a heavy sigh signifying how put out she was that she had to take her stuff and go, she finally heaved that atrocity of a purse onto her shoulders, picked up the stack of books and, not without one final look at all the titles on the shelves, waddled away toward the check out area.

I stepped forward, took the book that I needed, and was gone.

Five seconds.  That's all it took.  Five.  Fucking.  Seconds.

I walked straight to the check out line, beating her by a good thirty yards.  I scanned my card, scanned the book, printed the receipt and was gone in thirty seconds.  Quick as a wink, I was out with my book.

That is, if the wink took 25 minutes.  Twenty-four and a half were spent waiting on silly Sally Kittenlover to move her prodigiously pink handbag out of the way. 

The lesson:  if someone is standing in line trying to get to the same area where your shit is stacked up, kindly ask them if they need in there.  More than likely, they will politely say yes, take what they need, and thank you up one side and down the other for your altruistic sacrifice.

Otherwise, you end up the subject of a public-shaming in the blogosphere.

Friday Morning Latin Lesson: Vol. CVI

March 8, 2013

Salvete, omnes!  I'm sure you've heard a rumor to this effect by now, but in case you missed the news (there are still plenty of rocks to live under...hey, we don't judge here (we totally judge here)), Pope Benedict resigned at the end of last month.  In a rather unprecedented move, the pontiff cited lousy health as the reason why he left the office, the first Pope to do so since Gregory XII way back in 1415 AD (duh).  Even then, Gregory was forced to resign the office.  You'd have to go back to Celestine V (Pope for half of 1294) to find another Pope who quit, and he was rewarded for his resignation with a prison term that ended his life.  In case you were wondering, it was the Pope who took over after Celestine, Boniface VIII, who imprisoned Celestine; Celestine ended up dying in prison.  Wait, that's not good work!

In fact, it was Celestine who even made it possible for a Pope to quit.  His one act was to provide the Pope with the right to leave his seat in Rome, take his ball, and go home.  Boniface VIII, who we can probably guess did not much care for Celestine, wiped out all of Celestine's work other than the right to abdicate.  Celestine was canonized for his piety and service; before this turns into a feel-good story, remember that sainthood is always given posthumously.

The Pope, of course, rules from Rome and, with the notable exception of a few years in Avignon, France, the Pope has always ruled from Rome.  In fact, the Pope ruled in Rome even before Jesus was born. Quid dicisne?

The Pontifex Maximus was a title given to the head priests of Rome, even back during the days of the Republic.  Most of the time, these were leaders of the state religion--which, of course, pre-Constantine, was a pagan, polytheistic belief system--and as such the Pontifex Maximus was allowed to determine how the temples were run, when and what services would be provided, animals to be sacrificed, and he was even able to shuffle priests and priestesses around from one temple to another as he pleased.  Sounds kind of familiar, eh?

When Julius Caesar was murdered, a man named Marcus Aemilius Lepidus (his name means "charming" or "effeminate"; you make the call) was the Pontifex Maximus.  However, when Octavian took over and became Augustus Caesar, the first Emperor, Marcus Aemilius went into exile.  As Lepidus was an ally of Julius Caesar's, he represented power that Augustus wanted, so Lepidus did the sensible thing and ran.  He kept the title of Pontifex Maximus until his death (again, sound familiar?).  After he died, it was decided that the Emperor of Rome should also be the head of the church--after all, he was the head of state already.  Augustus then added the title Pontifex Maximus to his long list of accolades.  The Emperor of Rome kept the title Pontifex Maximus (though it was seldom actually used) until Emperor Gratian decided he didn't want it anymore sometime in the fourth century.

It is unclear as to whether the Pope assumed the term Pontifex Maximus (which means "the great pontiff") and then Catholic bishops became known as pontifices, or if it happened the other way around.  Whichever, the Bishop of Rome, aka the Pope, became the Grand Pontiff.  Pontifex itself is an interesting word.  It is believed to come from two words, pons meaning "bridge" and the -fex coming from the verb fecere, which means to make, do or build.  Literally, the pontiff is one who builds and bridge between men and the gods.  Or, in the case of the Pope, he is the man who serves as the bridge between Man and God.  We still have the verb "to pontificate" in English, which means to serve as a bishop, or to speak as if you are infallible, especially at length.  The noun pontificate means serving as a bishop.  *yawns*  Boring!

In case that was not enough of a Latin for you, let's get down to the actual lesson, shall we?

Meum magis prope Deum fers.

Pronounced:  "May-oom mah-geese pro-pay Day-oom fehrs."

Nearby translation in the hovertext

A little, somewhat related addendum here.  Trent Reznor has recently confirmed that he did spend most of last year writing music for Nine Inch Nails, and that they will be touring the country later in the year with an eye toward a World Tour in 2014.  Like a lot of other people my age, I really got into NIN when I was in college back in the mid- to late-90s.  My room mate (also named Matt) introduced me, but I had actually accidentally bumped into NIN a few months before Matt let me borrow "The Downward Spiral".

I was on the phone with the Ex-, back in the time when we were doing more talking than physical interaction (part of that being that it was a long-distance relationship...) but our relationship was spiraling downward toward being a sexual one.  We were talking one night and we were actually talking about sex, as in sex with each other even!  Being a goofy-assed naive Midwestern lad with limited experience in the arena, I could barely contain myself and I told her "I want to fuck you like an animal" (God, I'm so suave!).  She giggled.  And then I added "I want to know what you feel like on the inside.  I want to be in you."  She giggled again and then said, "Yeah, I've heard that song, too."  I was a bit confused, but I went with it.

When I later learned that there was an actual song with those lyrics, I was agog.  I thought I was being dirty sexy, but really I was just ripping off Trent Reznor.  I felt much less creative then.  Less creative, but still horny as fuck.  It's almost like I was a college-aged male.  Go fig.

Don't forget to spring forward this weekend.  Enjoy yourselves.  It is the last weekend of the regular season this weekend for college basketball.

Totally Sciencing It Up: The Shot Heard 'Round the World

February 19, 2013

As if there was any doubt what explosion I'd talk about this week.  But, in case you missed it, there was an impressive meteor event in Russia last week, where a chunk of space rock came plummeting into our inner atmosphere and detonating over the Chelyabinsk region.  Since it actually flew over a fairly well-populated area in Russia, there have been dozens of videos of the event, which is pretty cool because things like this are rare enough on their own.  To give planetary scientists a chance to look at and study the event, though, was invaluable.

The event itself would have been cool enough if a big hunk of rock had simply fallen from the sky.  However, when the hunk of rock exploded in the atmosphere, well, that was something to write home about!  Here's a compilation of some of the best videos capturing the event, thanks to Russia Today's channel on the YouTube:

Pretty impressive, to say the least.  Unfortunately, thanks to the shockwave of the explosion shattering glass and throwing people to the ground, about a thousand folks sustained some kind of injury.  Fortunately, nothing seemed to be life-threatening.

So, why did this thing explode?  Well, we all know that when an object enters the Earth's atmosphere, it begins colliding with all the gas molecules that comprise our atmosphere.  The object giving us our close encounter is usually traveling at such a high rate of speed that it suffers millions of these interactions a second, and the brushing off of gas particles is enough to transfer heat via friction to the chunk of space rock.  This heats the object up until it starts to glow--think about the coils in your toaster, except imagine them traveling around 40,000 miles per hour!.  Since most space rocks have a fairly high content of iron in them, this analogy isn't too far off.  We've all seen pictures of forges and foundries where molten iron and steel are glowing hot.

The reason why iron (and most anything else that glows when heated) does that is because pumping heat into a system adds energy, and when you add energy, you excite the electrons surrounding the atom.  As the electrons get excited--like, literally quivering with anticipation--they jump, much like a corgi looking for a treat.  Unlike the corgi, the electrons have to travel into different shells surrounding the atom.  After jumping, the electrons aren't where they are supposed to be, they are excited, and they now want to go home where they are more comfortable.  The electron then falls back down to its original shell, and when it falls, it releases that energy in the form of light (and heat).  

But why the explosion?  Well, as you might expect, the heating of the space rock isn't uniform.  The composition of the rock isn't uniform, either, and so as it heats, some of the solids in the rock are vaporized--literally turned into gas form--and as we've learned, gasses expanding more rapidly than their container can withstand = explosion.  And explosions = awesome.

And what an explosion!  It was estimated that the Chelyabinsk blast was roughly equivalent to 20 atomic bombs going off at the same time!  Sensors from around the globe picked up on the shockwaves, which does, literally, make it a shot heard around the world.  Im. Press. Ive!

The difference between all these space rocks, also, involves where they are and their size.  Asteroids (literally, "star forms") are very large chunks of space rock, but they are smaller than planets, planetoids and moons, typically have no atmosphere, but they do have enough mass to exert gravitational pull on other objects.  Sometimes the definitions can get a little hinky.  Phobos and Deimos, Mars' moons, are technically captured asteroids from the asteroid belt.  Eventually, someday, they'll crash into the surface of Mars.  Talk about Fear and Dread!

Meteoroids are small chunks of space rock, like our friend who provided the spectacular aerial show over Chelyabinsk, that have not interacted with Earth's atmosphere (yet!).  Once they hit the upper atmosphere and start glowing, they are called meteors.  If, by chance, they make it to the surface of the Earth (which, despite its size, the Chelyabinsk meteor has yet to provide evidence of reaching the ground) they are called meteorites.  Or starmetal, if you're into D&D--which I'm not.  Seriously.  Stop looking at me like that.

Of course, it has to be mere coincidence that this whole thing happened but three days after the DVD release of Skyfall.  *nodding*  Well-played, MGM...well-played...

Friday Morning Latin Lesson: Vol. CV

February 15, 2013

Thank Gods it's the Day of Venus!  See what I did there?  A little bit of Latin/English bastardization!  It's brilliant, I tell you!

Fine.  Be that way.

Anyway, we're sliding down the back-half of February now as yesterday was the mid-point of our only four-week month.  There was something else that went on yesterday, too, but we've already covered that a few times in ye olde blogge.  Yes, I'm a shameless self-promoter.  Actually, I'm just backing up my claims with...well, not fact, since a lot of that was speculation.  So, yeah, shameless self-promotion it is!

The fifteenth of February, though, marked the final day of the Roman celebration of Lupercalia.  The Lupercalia was a three day festival, beginning February 13th and running until the 15th, in which the Romans honored the god Lupercus, sometimes identified with the (somewhat more recognizable) Faunus, who really resembled the Greek deity Pan.  Lupercus was the god who watched over shepherds.  More importantly, Lupercus stood in (and presumably helped protect) the cave where the twins Romulus and Remus were suckled by the she-wolf lupa when they were abandoned in the wild.  You might remember that Romulus grew up and later founded the city of Rome (after bashing his brother over the head with a shovel).

Incidentally, a slang word for "whore" in Latin is lupa...not a very loving remembrance for what could be considered the city's matriarch.

So...if we celebrate the Lupercalia in February, why is February not Luperary?

It all boils down to where the month falls on the Roman calendar.  This is the time of year when the world begins to emerge from its long winter slumber (the world here being the Mediterranean...when Minnesota conquers most of the known world, then we'll talk about when spring arrives).  As such, thoughts turn to planting of crops and birthing of babies, which all ties back to fertility.  Februus was a Roman god of purification, and in order to get the world ready for planting of crops, it was time for purification.  Februus is possibly linked to a much older purification and fertility rite, Februa, which was probably adopted in after the Romans conquered the Etruscans.

There is also a chance that Februus is tied to the Roman goddess Febria, who was the goddess of the fever.  The fever (also associated with malaria) was seen to be a sort of internal purification flame; if you survived it, your body was purged of whatever ills had caused the fever, and you were the stronger for it.  Remember, viruses were a couple of thousand years away from being known.

While we were busy celebrating the purification of the world and preparation for planting and birthing the spring clutches of agricultural animals, we might as well throw in human babies as well, right?  So, all of the celebrations about purifying the land and body were lumped in with the Lupercalia.  The final day of Lupcalia was recognized as the Februa.

Lupercalia involved young men of the city running around the city walls.  It wasn't a race so much as it was just a tradition.  All of the women of the city who were pregnant or who were hoping to be pregnant, or who might get pregnant, lined up along the streets and the course of the run, holding out their hands.  The youths running through the streets and around the walls struck the waiting ladies' hands with thongs made from the skin of the goats sacrificed in the name of Lupercus (because wolves like eating goats and sheep--get it!?!?).  This would then bless the women of Rome with ripe, fertile uteri, ready to be impregnated.  It was also to help ease the pain of childbirth and to make sure healthy babies were born, so it wasn't all just foreplay.

As Christianity took hold in the Empire, the Lupercalia was frowned upon (as were most pagan rituals); it was essentially phased out by the fourth century.  There is no real proof, but given the church's predilection toward placing "major" Christian feasts and holidays around popular pagan rituals, there is a chance that the Saint Valentine story was retconned so that he conveniently died during the middle of the Lupercalia.  Here, instead of celebrating a guy with furry goat legs, let us celebrate a man who may not have existed and who was martyred for performing these Christian weddings.  Killing goats, bad; beheading peaceful men, good.

As someone who grew up in northern climes, we didn't start thinking about such things as planting and such until much later in the year.  February was always pretty harsh--it was cold, snowy, and there was a lot of flu and colds going around.  Maybe, for the folks in the south, Februus and his prepping the land for planting season makes sense, but for those in the frigid north, Febria is more appropriate.

Either way, these days February usually invokes images of cold and snow, which provides a perfect backdrop for today's Latin lesson:

Quoniam figeo, tremo!
Pronounced:  "Kwo-nee-ahm fri-gay-oh, tray-moh!"

Shaky translation in the hovertext

As if on cue, the master prognosticators of the area have told us to be ready for snow over the weekend.   It's not supposed to be much, which means that the mass panic will be somewhere short of riotous stampedes in the street, but with minor bouts of teeth-gnashing and wailing.  Thank God no one has decided to name this "winter storm".  Regardless, stay safe, stay warm, and brew up an extra pot of coffee.  I might drop in for a visit.

Totally Sciencing Shit Up Tuesdays: Melts in Your Mouth AND in Your Hand

February 5, 2013

If I say I did a lot of reading during the time when I wasn't posting much, can we call it a sabbatical?  No?  Fine.

Anyway, while I was out and about, gadding about town in my labcoat and safety glasses, I read a book called "The Disappearing Spoon" by Sam Kean.  A quick summary would go something like "Kean investigates the history and position of all the elements on the periodic table."  It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but for someone with a chemistry degree and a mild interest in the science, I found it to be an enjoyable read.  The science got a little more intense toward the end of the book, but it's still worth a look if you enjoy reading about some of the strange histories that went on behind the elements on the periodic table.

Quick tidbit I picked up:  Did you know that Marie Curie had a bit of a reputation for being a cockmonster?  She was accused, multiple times, of putting the moves on various other scientists by luring them into closets to show how her radium samples glowed in the dark.  And, when in Rome.  Er, Paris...

Speaking of Paris, did you know France has a shitload of elements named for it on the periodic table?  The easiest one to identify is Francium, element 87.  As the segue leading into this paragraph referenced Paris, it, too, is recognized as Lutetium, element 71, which derives its name from Lutetia, the Latin word for the city that we now call Paris (which is named for a warrior from the Iliad...)  The other Franklandia-inspired element is Gallium, number 31.

Gallium is linked to France based on the old Celtic kingdom of Gaul, which Julius Caesar brought under Roman rule in a rather impressive fashion.  There is a second, somewhat contentious origin for gallium's name, but it's also French AND Roman.  The man who discovered gallium, Paul Emile LeCoq, allegedly named gallium for the Latin word gallus, which means rooster, which is what LeCoq means in French.  This has since been shown to be apocryphal, and the etymology is typically associated with Gaul.

In one of those cosmic sort of coincidences, any Latin student worth his or her snuff knows that "All Gaul is divided into three parts"...and gallium is found in the third column of the periodic table because it has three valence electrons.  There has to be a conspiracy theory in there somewhere.

Gallium is an interesting element in that it is a metal--it's shiny lustrous, can be drawn into a wire or molded into a sheet, conducts heat and electricity--and in the morning of a lovely spring day, it is a solid.  By the afternoon, it's a liquid.  In fact, if you hold it in the palm of your hand, it melts!  The melting point of gallium is somewhere around 86F (30C).

Well, this certainly screams for a demonstration, doesn't it?  Absolutely!  Enjoy!

Gallium can possibly be toxic, so don't try this trick at home, or, if you do, don't blame me when the cops show up asking questions.  I'll blame it on Sam Kean, anyway.

Gallium itself isn't used much, but gallium is such a whore for other metals that it alloys readily.  I've never seen this, but apparently gallium and sodium spontaneously mix together to form a T1000-esque puddle of liquid metal which is almost as lethal...just in a really prolonged exposure sort of way.  However, gallium salts make some damned fine blue LEDs, and gallium is responsible for the blue light of your Blue-Ray player (eh? eh?).  A gallium alloy is probably the shit in your thermometers, since mercury be all toxic and such.

Did I say spontaneously alloy?  I DID say spontaneously alloys!

Sure, that was a mild "explosion", but it burst nonetheless.  It did fit the proper definition of a gas (carbon dioxide) expanding within a container (the can) faster than the structural integrity of the container could withstand.  So, hooray Tuesdays!

Gallium also can make some high-quality mirrors, since it is shiny (as well as lustrous) and the surface is highly reflective.  You just need to make an alloy of it with another metal in order to avoid having your mirror get all melty when you're drying your hair.  Curiously, it "wets" whatever it is touching, so if you play with it too much you'll go blind you could end up with a fine, gray sheen on your hands.  Handle at your own risk, Solomon Grundy.

Gallium's size actually allows it to diffuse into the spaces between metal atoms in metallic lattice structures.  You can actually see this happening in the time-lapse video above (the second video); it's the disruption of the metal interactions that make the alloys brittle and/or liquid (depending on how much gallium is present).  For some strange miracle of nature, gallium just loves to get in there and intimately mingle with these other metals.

When it comes to alloys, this element certainly is that kind of gallium.  And we love it!

Monday Monday, Can't Trust That Day

February 4, 2013

There's a certain set of humanity that I really, truly cannot stand.  It is the people who announce that they are not watching the Super Bowl.  Even worse are the people who gleefully announce that they just watch it "for the commercials."  Here's your feedbag, sheep.  Try not to shit on the carpet.

Naturally, I didn't watch the Super Bowl.  I realize that, by typing this, I have become a hypocritical twat.  I'm okay with this.  Mostly, I'm using this as a set-up for the remainder of the sexually-charged, lurid tale I'm about to embark upon.

Okay, it's not that lurid.  I'm just trying to keep your attention.

I didn't watch the Super Bowl, mostly because Green Bay wasn't playing in it.  I don't feel the need to sit and watch a football game when my favorite team is not playing.  If I'm bored, sure.  But, there was a lot of video games to play, laundry to be done, and dinner to prepare last night.  So, no Super Bowl for me.  I've somehow coped.

My weekend was, however, busy as fuck, which is why all this stuff got done late Sunday afternoon and Sunday night.  When a person works two jobs, they tend to spend at least one day of the weekend working; such was my Saturday.  Then, I had to spend Sunday catching up on all those tasks and chores that I did not get done last week because I work two jobs, I am raising a family, and I'm writing a book (or three).  That's a lot of shit to pack into a mere five days.  Occasionally, I enjoy a night's worth of sleep, too. 

On top of all that, it's Girl Scout cookie time.  The sordid tale of that is priceless, as well.  I had signed my daughter up to work the cookie booth on Sunday, from noon to two in case she had basketball practice in the evening.  The Girl Scout troop leader decided to change the location at the last minute.  And, she also decided to change the time.  At the last minute.  But, instead of sending emails warning anyone, we were supposed to check our check-in site.  I'm not even sure I know what that means, but it's what I was supposed to do.  Instead, I drove from one location to another, went home, and then drove back to what was supposedly the correct location.

Man, I love making things more complicated than they have to be.

Finally, we arrived at the right place at the right time only to discover that another troop had set up their booth without clearing it with the Girl Scout council.  We had booth squatters on our territory.  Heads should have rolled.

Instead, I went home and continued with the laundry.

In the end, I crumpled into bed last night, exhausted, around 11:30, knowing full well that the alarm was going to smack me in the face with Kansas at 6:00 in the morning and that this wayward son would be carrying on with his normal, daily routine.  I know, I know.  White whine.  First world problems.  I get it.

I progressed through the morning, preparing the kids, taking them to school, and then I shuffled into work, where my Outlook program reminded me, not unkindly, that I was due to be at a meeting at 9:00.  I hadn't had my second cup of coffee yet.  There needs to be a separate level of Hell dedicated to the nine a.m. meeting crowd.  Level Seven Prime or something.

So, at the meeting, I'm groggy, exhausted, wondering where the fuck my weekend went.  Everyone was focused on the Super Bowl (naturally) and talking about deer antler spray.  My response was something like "yeah, fuck that stabby motherfucker right in his stabhole".  I may have paraphrased that last part, but the general idea has been conveyed (hence the term "paraphrasing). Bite me.  Blogging is hard.

And the meeting progressed.

Later, after the meeting, my supervisor swung by to "check in" with me, because I seemed "a little down" at the meeting, and wanted to make sure "everything was alright."

It's fucking Monday morning, and Monday after the Super Bowl, at that.  Aren't people given a little bit of leniency to not have to have a smile plastered on their face while sipping of the Corporate America Bullshit flavored Kool-Aid?

What?  No, seriously, what?  Is this a new concept, that Monday sucks, that Monday morning might retain some of the vestiges of the weekend, clinging to a person like a forlorn lover still abed?  I thought America was built on the notion that Mondays suck.  Facebook constantly reminds me on Sunday that Monday is the following day and that--watch out--the work week begins anew.

Apparently I missed a memo somewhere that I need to be happy and perky all. the. fucking. time.

So, here's to Monday, the best damned twenty-four hour period of time that can happen to a person!  May no one ever besmirch your good name again!  I so look forward to us meeting once more the following week!

And may all the perky Monday fans have their own Circle of Hell reserved for them.  On Tuesday.