Make Robert Smarter!
I just can’t seem to find the time to read much nowadays,
so it would be helpful if you could send me a short book summary,
or some facts or advice that will make my life
less vexing. Mnemonic devices are particularly welcome.
- whether people who live in Peoria ask, “How will it play in Peoria?” (for that matter, whether anyone does, nowadays);
- whether anyone born after (say) 1980 uses the expressions “broken record”
and “flip side”;
- why Joseph Heller’s novel Closing Time was so bad, when most of
his others have been so brilliant;
what hypergeometric functions and Lyapunov exponents are all about (update: I don’t really care any more);
- how to map a 4-D hypercube onto nested 3-D cubes;
- and where I can find a videocassette of the movie of Jerome K. Jerome’s
Three Men in a Boat (Norah F. Rodgers found out there are three versions
of the movie). [Update: Saw one version on Netflix; not really worth the wait.]
Closed questions (or, Made Robert Smarter!):
- Where to find a copy of Joseph Heller’s story “I Don’t Love You Any More”: published in
Catch as Catch Can. Alas, not really worth the wait.
- A puzzle: what’s the longest English word contained in a song (longest meaning either
having the greatest number of syllables or the greatest number of letters)? I’ve found
incomprehensible, praseodymium, unceremonious,
parthenogenesis, and psychopharmacology, and Paula M. found
octogenarian. Erin A., far beyond the call of duty, reports:
- transcontinental (Placebo, “Then The Clouds Will Open Up For Me”)
- condescendingly (John Mayer, “No Such Thing”)
- misunderstandings (Vendetta, “Precious Existence”)
- counterproductive (Readymen, “Organized Madness”)
- uncharacteristically (Momus, “Love on Ice”)
- how to remember the difference between centrifugal force and centripetal force: Noam Mohr offers
“Centripetal means towards the center [pet- means to seek], and centrifugal means away from the center [fug- means to flee]...”.
- how to parse hell if I know (is it short for something?): Matthew Daly offers the theory that it’s
“a corruption of ‘(I’ll be) damned if I know,’ which is clearer from a grammatical if not a spiritual point of view”,
and who the hell am I to argue?
- what wide means in wide awake: Greg Steiner says it refers to
the width of one’s eyes, and he may be on to something.
- why Hungarian notation isn’t named after its inventor, but rather after his
nationality: Nikkie “Yellow” Velasquez likens it to Egyptian
engineering, a denigrating term.
- what “all-purpose flour” means (surely that’s an exaggeration):
Lisa McShine informs me it’s the Jack of all trades, master of none of
cooking staples, used as a general thickener, etc. (I thought the name meant
it could be used for any purpose -- medicine, home repair, you name it.)
- whether I missed much by skipping all those bits about whaling in
Moby-Dick: Melissa Wilson says no.
- whether people who live in Toledo say “Holy Toledo!”: Carla Barcus
says no. Kim Ekelberry also says no, and adds that many people who live
in Ohio say “Ohia”. Memo to Ohio residents: stop it.
- why my old clothes dryer had a dial labeled “automatic temperature
control” (if it’s automatic, why is there a control?):
Xah Lee chalks it up
to Russell’s Paradox, and I suppose that’s as good a reason as any
(at least, it’s as good a reason as no reason).
- how to get ballpoint pen stains from 1988 out of a white shirt: Kim Ekelberry
says to use hairspray, or dye the shirt black. I say, I’m switching to pens with
- how to remember the difference between synecdoche and metonymy:
(in addition to being the only person to mention my misspelling metonymy)
offers that metonymy is more metaphoric than synecdoche:
"All hands on deck!" is synecdoche, but "Step on the gas!"
is metonymy. (Or maybe vice versa. Edward has since told me that my explanation is wrong,
but I don’t expect anyone to have read this far.)
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