Friday, January 26, 2007


For similar reasons, I shied away from M. T. Anderson’s “Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation,” even though it won last year’s National Book Award for young people’s literature. Just because the author himself uses the term “astonishing” to describe his subject doesn’t automatically make the book astonishing; it could be merely stellar, sensational, breathtaking or un-put-downable. For somewhat different reasons, I avoided Kate Atkinson’s “One Good Turn,” because even though it was described as an “astonishing thriller” in an ad in The New Yorker, this assessment came from one Linda Grana of the Lafayette Bookstore in Lafayette, Calif. Linda Grana may be a critic of the first water, on the same level as Samuel Johnson and Dale Peck, but if the word “astonishing” does not appear as part of a review by a designated cognoscente in a mainstream publication, I do not buy the putatively astonishing product. I can’t be buying books just because somebody in a bookstore somewhere said they were astonishing. I’d go broke.

Joe Queenan, in his hilarious 21 Jan NYT essay, Astonish Me.

Generally regarded as such; supposed. See Synonyms at supposed.


[Middle English, from Old French putatif, from Late Latin puttvus, from Latin putre, to prune, think; see pau-2 in Indo-European roots.]


puta·tive·ly adv.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007


These are vertiginous, thrilling times for music fans. Where once my only options were CDs and radio, I can now deploy a battery of devices, platforms, and formats to enjoy the music I already own and to find more. Most of us are only now starting to unlock the potential of our iPods, but the pace of change in the digital-music sphere is such that even the pleasures of spinning the wheels on our nanos will soon seem old hat. As I’m writing this, I’m playing a Flash-based MP3 blog extractor called Hype Machine. It’s a simple Web-based application that sucks songs mentioned in music blogs into an Internet radio stream...

- Michael Hirschorn, in The Digital-Music Mosh Pit, from the Jan/Feb Atlantic.


Etymology: Latin vertiginosus, from vertigin-, vertigo
1 a : characterized by or suffering from vertigo or dizziness b : inclined to frequent and often pointless change : INCONSTANT
2 : causing or tending to cause dizziness
3 : marked by turning : ROTARY
- ver·tig·i·nous·ly adverb


Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Nellie McKay's first album, 2004's Get Away From Me, had the logorrheic charm of someone trying to get every idea out of her system at once, lest she never get another chance. And she seemed intent on precisely that, publicly squabbling with her then-label and temporarily retreating to Broadway in the recent revival of The Threepenny Opera.

As a result, it's easy to focus on McKay's lunatic-fireball appeal, but the hymn-like "Gladd," from her long-delayed Pretty Little Head, offers a reminder that she's also capable of jaw-droppingly beautiful songs.

- from Nellie McKay Gets Sweet And Serious, on

Logorrhoea or logorrhea (Greek λογορροια, logorrhoia, “word-flux”) is defined as an “excessive flow of words” and, when used medically, refers to incoherent talkativeness that occurs in certain kinds of mental illness, such as mania. The spoken form of logorrhoea (in the non-medical sense) is a kind of verbosity that uses superfluous or fancy words to disguise a useless or simple message as useful or intellectual, and is commonly known as “verbal diarrhea.”...

- Wiki

Monday, January 22, 2007


As incongruent as it seems for Harper—with his baggy jeans, oversize T-shirt, white-gold Jesus pieces, and braids—to have a chance to become the face of skateboarding, consider how unlikely it was for him to get this far in the first place. He grew up in Southeast [D.C.]. Both of his parents had drug problems, and his father was in and out of jail throughout his childhood. While skaters in Rockville and Arlington were hitting up their fathers for gas money, Harper shoplifted groceries so his family could eat. Just a few years ago, Harper was what would generously be described as at-risk. He ran wild in the streets, selling drugs, fighting, stealing. He carried a gun when he answered the door. “Everything those rappers rap about, I lived,” he says.

- from Chairman Of The Board, in the 19 Jan Washington City Paper.


ADJECTIVE: 1. In sharp opposition: discrepant, incompatible, incongruous, inconsistent. Logic : repugnant. See AGREE. 2. Made up of parts or qualities that are disparate or otherwise markedly lacking in consistency: discordant, discrepant, dissonant, incompatible, incongruous, inconsistent. See AGREE.

-from Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition. 1995, on

Friday, January 19, 2007


A package of concessions offered to the US by Iran in 2003 was very close to what the US is now asking from Tehran. The BBC reports that Iran offered, among other things, to end support for Lebanese and Palestinian militant groups and to help stabilize Iraq following the US-led invasion. But a former US senior official told BBC's Newsnight program that the package was rejected by Vice President Dick Cheney's office.

One of the then Secretary of State Colin Powell's top aides told the BBC the state department was keen on the plan – but was over-ruled.

"We thought it was a very propitious moment to do that," Lawrence Wilkerson told Newsnight. "But as soon as it got to the White House, and as soon as it got to the Vice-President's office, the old mantra of 'We don't talk to evil'... reasserted itself."

-from Report: Cheney rejected Iran's offer of concessions in 2003 in today's Christian Science Monitor.


Main Entry: pro·pi·tious

Etymology: Middle English propycyous, from Anglo-French propicius, from Latin propitius, probably from pro- for + petere to seek -- more at PRO-, FEATHER
1 : favorably disposed : BENEVOLENT
2 : being a good omen : AUSPICIOUS
3 : tending to favor : ADVANTAGEOUS
synonym see FAVORABLE
- pro·pi·tious·ly adverb
- pro·pi·tious·ness noun


Thursday, January 18, 2007


His [Max Boot's] real worry is that the Pentagon's continued exploitation of the information revolution will be "hindered by a sluggish, bloated bureaucracy that has resisted countless reform efforts." Boot never fully explains why this bureaucracy, which has been sluggish and bloated for many years, did not hinder the U.S. military from moving so far and so fast in the first stage of the information revolution. But he suggests one reason: the bureaucracies of U.S. adversaries were even more sclerotic. On the other hand, "nimble, networked groups like al Qaeda may be better positioned than the United States to pursue today's brand of transformation into its next phase."

- from The Real Meaning of Military Transformation: Rethinking the Revolution, in the Jan/Feb 2007 Foreign Affairs.


1. anatomy.
In vertebrates: the white fibrous outer layer of the eyeball, which is modified at the front of the eye to form the transparent cornea. Also called sclera.

1. Hard or firm.
2. Relating to or affected with sclerosis.

Etymology: 16c: from Latin scleroticus, from Greek skleros hard.

-definition from

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

cyberinfrastructure (CI)

We are entering a second revolution in information technology, one that may well usher in a new technological age that dwarfs, in sheer transformational scope and power, anything we have yet experienced.

We are already intimately familiar with the first revolution, now well underway. Information, computer, and communications technologies have transformed nearly every aspect of our lives, creating entirely new opportunities and challenges, and trailing some “inevitable surprises” in their wake.

In the science and engineering community, these revolutionary technologies have helped us scan the research frontier at velocities that are orders of magnitude faster than ever before. These tools are not simply faster—they are also fundamentally superior. They have raised the level of complexity we can understand and harness. That capability is growing at a breathtaking pace.

Just consider two revolutionary innovations in our tool kit: computer simulation and modeling. Combine these with new visualization and observational tools—such as sensor nets, satellites, and distributed observatories—and you have a flood of data that threatens to swamp our capacity to preserve, analyze, and apply. With these new capabilities comes the challenge to use them to cross new frontiers of discovery.

The engine of change for the next revolution is cyberinfrastructure (CI), a comprehensive phenomenon that involves the creation, dissemination, preservation, and application of knowledge. It adds new dimensions that greatly increase transformational potential.

Like other infrastructure—the electric power grid, the national highways—CI combines complex elements to create a dynamic system. It eclipses its many hardware and software components to enable people and their interactions with technology to become the central focus.

from, 11 Jan 07.