Tuesday, July 31, 2012


While looking up the word wishy-washy in the OED, I came across this obsolete nonce word, which means "to make wise."

1938, at a grocery at 324 E. 61st Street (Walker Evans)
 [via Vanished Americana]

Wishy-washy, by the bye, is the adjectival form of the noun wish-wash.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


From a photo caption in Trout Unlimited's report Tapped Out: New York's Water Woes:

Hinckley Reservoir, Hinckley, NY

The report goes on to say:

In a process called hydraulic fracturing, anywhere from 2 to 5 million gallons of fresh water are pumped into each well, extending a fracture in the shale, such that the gas can be recovered in greater quantities and at a higher rate. Environmental concerns from the drilling operation are numerous, including the effects of the massive water withdrawals on area streams and wetlands. Some withdrawals in New York will be regulated by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) — a multistate commission comprised of officials from New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland — for withdrawals over 100,000 gallons per day out of the Susquehanna watershed. The Susquehanna watershed includes the south-central portion of New York, however, does not cover New York’s entire Marcellus Shale formation that extends west and east of the Susquehanna watershed. Some of the proposed wells in New York, outside the authority of the SRBC, are located in delicate headwater areas, and operations will continue through typically low streamflow months in late summer and early autumn. The current laws and regulations in New York do not adequately protect these streams from these massive withdrawals, and notably do not allow for proper review of the cumulative impacts of multiple wells. 

As the anti-fracking rally approaches this weekend in Washington, D.C., it's difficult not to be reminded of that other Hinkley, the one without the c, the one that anchored a movie and made the issue of water quality interesting.

The more I think about how many law suits are not being brought in the name (against the name?) of high-volume hydrofracking, the more I think the whole process is still in what might be termed "the experimental phase."  Really: wouldn't a responsible state government want at least several years' of testing, monitoring, sampling, before opening its arms (Tom Wolfe would say its legs) to the IOGA of NY and all of its global friends?

Can't we turn on the lights without these people sinking their jaws into the Southern Tier?

Statement to ponder, from Mark Z. Jacobson, director of Stanford University's Atmosphere/Energy program and  a professor of civil and environmental engineering: "Based on our findings, there are no technological or economic barriers to converting the entire world to clean, renewable energy sources. It is a question of whether we have the societal and political will."

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I took a seat this weekend at the Community Bookstore and read around a bit in Nora Epron's collection Wallflower at the Orgy, filled with pieces from the 1960s. From the opening pages:

But here are these remnants of my former self, old snakeskins, and it amuses me to read them and remember how dippy I used to be.

The better cover art from 1970
(credit: Rare Book Cellar)

Thursday, July 19, 2012


A spelling I haven't seen, at a fruit vendor today on 72nd and Second Avenue.

I'll take this fruit with any spelling.

Friday, July 13, 2012


From a curator's card at Proteus Gowanus, whose gallery and reading room (and whose Writhing Society I sometimes join) is about to close for the summer. The card refers to a 1930s experiment involving frogs and a (I think it was only one) pregnant female homo sapien.

We are resurrecting knowledge of the pregnancy test and the fungus it helped to spread to bring attention to a bioassay which went wildly awry.

Bioassay . . . Scientifically terminological, but also has a bit of a flounce. Bio is the waist and assay is the billowing skirt. Dunno. This is the kind of entry I'll look at months later and think Well, it was true at the time.

The Frog Fungus Survey will be on all day tomorrow, Bastille Day, and visitors can see the card for themselves.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


From "Vanishing Voices," text and photo piece by Russ Rymer and Lynn Johnson in the July 2012 issue of National Geographic, the term means "a necklace of yellow stone beads." It is a word from India's Aka language, whose speakers number between 1000 and 2000.  According to the magazine, "The Aka have more than 26 words to describe beads."

My questions are

Direct: Why does the Aka language have so many (is 26 many?) words to describe beads?

Tangential: What do linguists mean when they say a language has died of natural causes?

An endangered language: matchstick or shooting star?
[photo: The Telegraph]