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All contents herein (except the illustrations, which are in the public domain) are Copyright © 1995-2011 Evan Morris. Reproduction without written permission is prohibited, with the exception that teachers in public schools may duplicate and distribute the material here for classroom use.

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Semper Ubi Sub Ubi

 

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An update from The Word Detective

Dear friends,

I’ve been meaning to post an update to my original message from February, but I’ve discovered that there really isn’t such a thing as a quiet moment in this sort of situation, and it’s easy to let things slide when you’d rather not think (let alone write) about them. But several people have, understandably, asked for an update, so here we go. [For the full back story, see my original post at http://www.word-detective.com/2016/02/a-message-from-the-word-detective.]

First of all, my profound thanks to everyone who responded to my fund appeal in February. Your contributions have made a huge difference in our morale during my ongoing cancer treatment as well as our ability to pay bills, fix failing plumbing, and keep the lights on. We’ve also been greatly moved by the good wishes, prayers and messages of support you’ve sent in all forms, from email to handwritten cards. It’s beyond my capacity to respond individually to each of you, but I would if I could.

Fortunately, thanks to contributions from readers (and my family), we have replaced our death-trap 1997 Toyota with a more recent used Toyota, which makes a huge difference on trips to chemotherapy sessions 40 miles away (e.g., it no longer takes a five full minutes to get up to 55 mph, a big advantage on the freeway, where everyone else is doing at least 75). I realized in retrospect that some of my initial reluctance to embark on chemotherapy several times a week was due, unconsciously, to the strain of our trying to drive that rickety old heap to the hospital. That’s scary.

The chemo appointments themselves are not entirely unpleasant. I sit in a recliner in a small room for a couple of hours watching Law & Order reruns (or House reruns, which are weird to watch in a hospital). Everyone is very nice and very competent, and I even get free tuna sandwiches from the hospital cafeteria. I was fully expecting nausea after each session, but they’ve apparently made great progress on that front in recent years, and I’ve been mostly nausea-free. My hair is, predictably, falling out, and I had to shave off the beard I had grown earlier this year when it became so wispy that I began to look like a wizened wizard in some sword and sorcery epic.

One effect of the chemotherapy that’s apparently unavoidable is an absolutely staggering physical exhaustion; I’ve been dealing with “multiple sclerosis fatigue” for years, but now I sometimes have difficulty lifting my arms above my waist or walking across the room. Chemo can also trash your immune system, so even a simple cold could become a real danger. Hello, hand sanitizer, and when we go shopping I often just wait in the car. Small children, or people who associate with them, must keep back at least 300 feet. I also can’t drink our well water because of agricultural runoff from nearly fields. Worst of all, I am no longer allowed to sift and change the kitty litter, a mundane task many people say I had raised to an art form. In fact, at least in theory, I’m supposed to wash my hands after every time I touch a cat. Yeah, that’s gonna happen.

I’ve also been dealing with multiple sclerosis brain fog for many years, but the severity of “chemo brain” is truly disturbing. My short-term memory is completely shot. On days I have a medical appointment I drive Kathy crazy by asking “So what time do we have to be there?” at least ten times. I am often completely wrong about what day of the week it is. More disturbingly, I was briefly under the impression that it’s 2017, which might not matter that much if I weren’t writing it on checks.

As for our financial situation, The Word Detective website had been supporting itself for years through subscriptions and donations, along with some revenue from ads. With my diagnosis and the financial reversals of last year, that income suddenly played a much larger role in our household budget. Unfortunately, the fact that I am no longer updating the site has reduced that small income at the worst possible time. All of which brings me to ask for your continued support via our page at www.word-detective.com/subscribe.

Contributions via any of the PayPal links on that page will be gratefully accepted; the easiest option is the “One-time Contribution” link on the page, which lets you fill in any amount, and you can also designate that amount as a continuing monthly donation. The “Awesome Sustainer Subscription” option a bit above it on the page automatically sends $5 per month via PayPal, and the “Super-Awesome Sustainer Subscription” sends $10 per month. Sustaining monthly contributions of any amount make an enormous difference, and many thanks to readers for continuing theirs. But whatever you can afford will be deeply appreciated. And if PayPal isn’t your cup of tea, checks can be sent to Evan Morris, PO Box 1, Millersport, OH 43046.

(I should emphasize again, however, that the Word Detective mailing list is a dead parrot, not even pining for the fjords; thus you will not receive any Word Detective columns by email.)

Of course, there are, as I mentioned in my note in February, more than 1,500 full-text columns available for free on www.word-detective.com, which should keep any sane person busy for a year or two. I’m also going to be tweeting links to favorite columns from the past (which may be new to you) on the @word_detective Twitter account.

Again, thank you for your continuing support, your good wishes, and just for continuing to read and enjoy the site.

Evan Morris
words1@word-detective.com
PO Box 1,Millersport, OH 43046

September-October 2015 Issue

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi

readme:

As observant readers will have noticed, this issue of TWD spans two months, rather than the usual one (although the most recent issue was also a two-monther, and a bit late to boot, as is this one). I apologize for the delay, but my MS has made my vision very unreliable lately, making getting anything done quite difficult. On a good day, my visual field resembles an old analog TV with bad reception: constant visual “noise” and fluctuating sharpness. On a bad day it’s all that plus flashing lights at the edges and big patches of fog or (my fave) total blackness drifting across my field of view. My eye-hand coordination has also decreased to the point where I make constant typos even with my new two-finger hunt-and-peck.

Continue reading this post » » »

February 2013 Issue

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi

readme:

Way to go, Downton Abbey. Your show’s been staggering around on crutches since Matthew stood up from his wheelchair, and you blithely kick them away. This has not gone over well with either viewers or critics, quelle freakin’ surprise. The best analysis I’ve read (I’ve lost the source, sorry) is that the writers, having trod the well-worn path forged by Jane Austen, et al., had reached the point where Austen and the gang usually stopped, i.e., the happy ending/wedding.

But Fellowes & Co. forged bravely on, realizing too late they hadn’t a clue as to a proper plot beyond thwarted love, and wound up wandering in circles, spinning ludicrous subplots that went nowhere, and sporadically killing people. Literally in circles. Seriously, that’s the third maid canned for inappropriate romantic behavior, Daisy has unwanted suitors stacked up like incoming flights at LaGuardia, and why can’t poor Lady Edith get a boyfriend who isn’t a simpering wooden weirdo on wheels? (“Yes, you’re right, I am actually married … but my wife is in an asylum because she watched this show.”)

And now they’ve done away with arguably the most appealing character (Lady Sybil) and Matthew, who Slate dubbed “the Magical Middle-Class Guy,” the audience proxy and primary pivot in the arc of the show. Well done, chaps. That leaves Daisy the dramatic elbow room she’s always lacked, and the path is greased for another chapter in the treacle-sodden adventures of Bates and Anna. Perhaps they can open a Thomas Kincaide poster shop in town. But hey, no harm, no foul. Most of the audience probably shows up primarily to admire the furnishings and fantasize about how nice they’d be to their servants, so the fewer yammering actors in the way, the better. Not for nothing is PBS selling replica tiaras.

Yes, I know that Jessica Brown-Findlay and Dan Stevens, playing Lady Sybil and Matthew Crawley, both declined to renew their contracts. But either Dan Stevens should have been replaced (it is a soap opera, after all, and that’s how soap operas handle such moments), or the entire series should have been rolled up and ended. But is life without Molesly, Little Jimmy, Thomas, et al., really necessary? Bewitched replaced Darrin and went on for another three years. It’s not too late to patch things up for next season. Why not go Full Gonzo and hire Charlie Sheen?

While we wait to see what lies in store for our plucky band, I recommend these two spirited and well done parodies made by the BBC back in 2011: Uptown Downstairs Abbey Part One and Part Two.

Oh well. It occurred to me the other day that if I ever won the lottery I’d probably watch a lot more TV. I see online discussions and I’m amazed that perfectly normal, intelligent people can actually DVR and watch 19 series episodes every week and be devoted fans of shows I’ve never heard of. But when you work at home, you really never leave the office, so there’s always a nagging feeling you should be doing something productive, which makes it difficult to really relax and veg out.

I’m also reluctant to watch any new series because I seem to cast a hex on whatever I decide to like and — bam — it’s immediately cancelled. Carnivale on HBO, The Event on NBC (I think), some weird thing about aliens in Florida a few years ago, and Last Resort on ABC have all fallen prey to my baleful interest. I started watching Law & Order UK on BBC America a while back, and in the third episode I saw they offed a major cast member. Seemed like a warning. Disheartening, to say the least.

For the moment, anyway, we’ve been watching The Americans on FX (an awful channel, judging from the ads they run), which centers on two KGB sleeper spies operating as a married couple with children in the suburbs of Washington in the early 1980s. The series was dreamed up by an ex-CIA agent and is predictably implausible, but does have some nice touches, such as a sly allusion to Soviet numbers stations and a plot involving an umbrella with a deadly tip, clearly modeled on the 1978 murder of Georgi Markov by Bulgarian and/or KGB agents in London. Note to the production designers, however: I seriously doubt that the Soviet embassy in DC in the 1980s actually decorated its walls with Bolshevik recruiting posters. But you can make up for that by showing the spies’ kids watching Rocky and Bullwinkle outwitting Boris and Natasha. Moose and squirrel forever!

OCD Update: OK, now we have our early 80s anti-hero crouched in the woods with a 21st century mini Maglight LED flashlight in his mouth, using what appears to be an early 2000s Kenwood transceiver and a small UHF Yagi antenna to communicate with somebody, hopefully somebody close by. Fifteen miles maybe, Moscow not so much. BTW gang, if you’re looking for authentic 1980s tech gear, eBay is full of it.

Here are some goats expressing their opinions.

As always, your support is deeply appreciated, which is to say that I spend every day obsessively scanning my incoming mail for those “You have a new subscriber” PayPal messages that keep us in peanut butter and cat food. So please consider subscribing.  And now, on with the show…