Neural Flatus: Body Words

A crop of Carter’s Little Nerve Pills from Boston Public Library. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

It’s a twofer this morning. I had “lachrymose” and “sanguine” bumping around my noggin when I woke up earlier desired. But I already know the meaning of these words: lachrymose means tearful, from the Latin word for tear (the same root that gives us “lacrimal gland” or tear-producing glands). Sanguine, on the other hand, feels almost opposite in certain contexts. I tend to think of sanguine in its hopeful usage, but it’s referring to the flush, reddish color of blood (imagine the blood, or “color” draining from a hopeless face), and comes from the Latin for the same.

This got me thinking about other words derived from body parts that have emotional or behavioral meanings beyond their simple descriptive denotations. Take “bilious”, for example, which may refer simply to the digestive fluid produced by the liver. More colloquially, however, a bilious person is considered to be thoroughly unlikeable (see also the similarly used “splenetic” and “dyspeptic”).

The word nerd in me would LOVE to hear any other such body words. Share ’em if ya got ’em.

Neural Flatus: Perspicacious

This time it was “perspicacious”, rattling around my tired mind well before sunrise, after my intestines woke me for a ride in the porcelain bus.

Perspicacious sounds like something Foghorn Leghorn would toss out in one of his monologues, but it means essentially the ability to see through the surface to what’s real. Webster’s entry has a little too much fun differentiating between perspicacious and its synonyms, but it’s a nifty, not-so-little word that’s been around for a few hundred years.

Neural Flatus: “Bound for the Floor”

Music video for “Bound for the Floor” by Local H

Okay, so sometimes its not just a 3 dollar word that pops into my head. Sometimes its a song from 24 years ago. The video is unremarkable (though the kids are adorable), but the song still rocks pretty hard. I feel like ’96 was one of the last good years for “alternative” rock before it ceased to be an alternative to anything.

Semantic Satiation

Dave Letterman says “lumpy” over and over until it sounds hilarious.

I’ve been watching Ted Lasso (have you been watching Ted Lasso? You should be watching Ted Lasso) recently and at the beginning of an episode I watched last night, the titular Lasso gets hung up on the word “plan”. After he says the word a few too many times he feels like it starts to lose its meaning. When he asks his friend/assistant coach about his experience, he’s reminded that it’s called “semantic satiation”, whereby a repeated word becomes abstract noise to a listener.

I’m always here for nerdy, linguistic trivia thrown into the middle of my emotional sports comedies.

Operating Theater

The Old Operating Theatre” by Uglix. Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

It’s week 2 of virtual schooling for my second grader in Richmond, Virginia. There’s a lot of bubbling consternation among the parents of kids in my daughter’s class. Whether it’s the length of the day or the frustration with certain assignments, folks have a lot to say. I don’t think it’s perfect by any stretch, and my child’s teacher is the source of some issues (extreme technology deficit at the top of the list), but I’m still cautiously optimistic. Every day the students improve their mute button etiquette. The teacher finds clever ways around her own technological limitations. The students respond to and engage in the classwork. I’m super lucky to have had my daughter tell me this morning that she likes her teacher, and she has been generally positive on the experience so far. We’re privileged in that regard, and I recognize that many students may be struggling along with their teachers for a variety of reasons (different needs, home/care center environments, etc.).

I have a hypothesis, however. I think a new and terrible source of anxiety for parents is our sudden and complete view into our children’s school day. Last year, like every year before, we sent our kids to school and hoped to get a few sentences out of them about their day when they returned in the afternoon. We didn’t witness the teacher’s instruction or see any classwork until the results came home. We haven’t been in the classrooms witnessing challenges, disruptions, and any other issues that might surface.

Except now we are. Or at least folks like my wife and me who are largely white and/or privileged. Folks like us who have the money/time/job flexibility to have one or more parents working from home, lending assistance to our kids while they learn remotely. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our superintendent has received most of his feedback on the schedule from parents in the West End and Northside, home to most of the white families in system, with typically higher incomes. I don’t presume that there are no issues for students in other parts of town, but most of the vocal frustration of schedule and operation isn’t coming from the Southside or East End.

Did you have great teachers/school years throughout your entire education? If you did, you’re super lucky and I envy you. When I think back on my own second grade year I recall the very worst teacher of my primary education. She was actively hostile toward me (though I never shut up…)! My daughter’s learning circumstances are not ideal because, well, GESTURES BROADLY, but her teacher is fine. She’ll be fine.

I’m sympathetic to the parents and children that are dealing with real educational, emotional, neurological, social, or other issues in this situation. Every accommodation should be made to ensure equitable education for all students across socioeconomic strata and different levels of ability. But that’s not most of the families. I think a great deal of parents could benefit from weaning themselves off of active monitoring of their kids’ virtual school days. Our kids are smart! Let’s back away (at a reasonable pace) and let them develop self-sufficiency. Perhaps our collective blood pressure will lower.

Virtually Educational

Today is a return to school, such as it is. My daughter attends a school district that is 100% virtual through at least the first half of the school year. My son is starting pre-kindergarten and does NOT want to listen to what his mom or me tell him. So in the best interest of both of them, we’ve taken the calculated risk of sending him back to his in-person school for pre-k. The faculty and staff at his school are great about wearing masks, and the drop-off/pick-up protocol is terrific. But it’s still a bunch of little kids who won’t be able to stay apart because they’re four years old.

His absence from the house, however, will allow our second grader the peace, quiet, and brain space to focus on this weird new virtual schooling world. She loves to learn, actually enjoys reading, math, and science, so we hope that the quiet in our hose allows her to adjust while my wife and I get to our own work. We’ll see…

Worth the Drive

Sunset at Atlantic Beach taken with a dang iPhone using Halide for the RAW, edited in Lightroom Mobile, and exported to JPG.

Tomorrow is my daughter’s 7th birthday and, in these damnable corona-times, that means no party or even a hangout with her friends. Call it overcompensating, call it one last hurrah for the summer, but we decided to take a short family trip to the beach for the occasion.

Takeout dining and easy outdoor social distancing at the beach make this a lower-risk trip, or at least that’s how I’m rationalizing it. Either way, the change in scenery and the smell of the ocean ought to be good for us all before diving into virtual schooling on Tuesday.

Happy birthday, kiddo.

Camera Sleuth: Kodak Retina Ia

Retina Ia” by Michael M.F. on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

My friend Trey shared a screen grab from the HBO series Lovecraft Country in a photography-oriented Slack channel. He wondered what type of camera was used by one of the lead characters. I have not seen the series (never been an HBO subscriber), but I’m given to understand photography plays an important part in the show.

I was told the show takes place in the 1950s, and I figured the production designers were likely to have used an American (or at least American branded) camera. Ansco? Argus? Kodak? I zoomed in a bit to get some more details…

Yeah, I know that’s fairly pixellated, but there are a number of useful details I could pickup from that crop:
  • It’s a “folding” camera; the whole thing doesn’t fold, but there’s a door that opens (under her fingers) and the lens pops out on bellows.
  • There’s a cable running from the flash to the lens at the bottom.
  • There’s a little black semicircle on the right side of the lens barrel.
  • There’s a knob/winding dial of sorts at the top of the camera body, and it’s not very thick.
  • You can see a small viewfinder window above the lens, part of a solid top plate of the camera.
  • You can also see some kind of metal and textured protrusion on the far right edge of the camera.

All of those factors and the ever helpful Camera-Wiki.org led me to the Retina Ia, a camera manufactured in Germany for Kodak AG starting in 1951. Moreover, the camera in the TV show is most likely using one of the 50mm f/3.5 lenses based on the black ring around the lens opening, as opposed to the 50mm f/2.8 pictured at the top of this post. Obsessive nerd success!

If the season wraps up with continued plaudits, I’ll see about watching some episodes. I can’t help but want to check out a show that pays such homage to greats like Gordon Parks while making photography itself an important element of the show.