This wasn’t a big week for reading, but I’ve completed about 60% of a book by Richard Wiseman entitled Night School: Wake up to the power of sleep. (I may or may not finish it over the weekend.) This book examines topics such as sleep deprivation, sleepwalking, dreams, nightmares, night terrors, and the power and purpose of sleep. I like that this book crosses boundaries. There are a number of dry self-help books to teach one about how to sleep. There are also a number of creative nonfiction books with fascinating historical and scientific tidbits about sleep, but which have no practical implications beyond providing some intriguing cocktail party banter. This book crosses streams to good effect. It also helps keep one’s attention by using the “night school” premise to interactive ends. There are little quizzes along the way that serve as summaries and encourage one to retain key information.
I only bought one book this week, and that was a short, technical book by Loren Fishman M.D. entitled Pain in the Butt: Piriformis Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Yoga. Fishman is a medical doctor who uses yoga therapeutically–primarily for musculoskeletal afflictions like back pain, scoliosis, plantar fasciitis, arthritis, and–obviously–piriformis syndrome.
That’s all for this week. I hope to have more to mention next week.
As I recall, these mountains sat near the Willkanuta Mountains. Anyway, they lie somewhere along the road between Cuzco and Puno in the Peruvian Andes.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Painted Word is a collection of interesting words with definitions, insight into each word’s origins and evolution, and interesting or humorous usages. These aren’t all GRE words (massive and mostly useless words that have little value beyond impressing admissions committees.) Many of the words will be familiar to readers without huge vocabularies. On the other hand, there will be words that are new to even New York Times crossword puzzle solvers.
As the title suggests, there’s a little bit of an art-related theme. However, I’m not sure I would have noticed this if it hadn’t been for the title. There are a number of colors included among the words—colors known mostly to interior decorators and not to most heterosexual men. There are also a few artistic styles (e.g. intimism.) However, the bulk of the words aren’t clearly related to the fine arts. Many of the entries are loan words, i.e. words that have been used in English literature or other English-language media but which are of foreign origin.
I’ll include a few of the words that captured my own interest:
Autologophagist: one who eats his / her own words
Bafflegab: language that misleads—intentionally or not
Cataphile: a lover of catacomb crawling
Inkhorn: an over-intellectualized word
Lambent: shining with soft light on the surface of something
Millihelen: the amount of beauty that would result in the launch of a single ship.
Monogashi [Japanese]: the sigh or sadness of things
Sonicky: A great sounding word—coined by Roy Blount Jr.
Phlug: belly-button lint
Snollygoster: a shrewd but corrupt politician
Ubantu [Bantu / Xhosa]: the interconnectedness of all things
This book is full of fun insights and statements. I learned that “hush puppies” were literally carried to throw to noisy dogs to get them to stop barking. There are many interesting and humorous quotes. For example, Brendan Behan said, “Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it’s done, they’ve seen it done every day, but they’re unable to do it themselves.” Brief vignettes are used to help give depth of understanding to words. One such story is about a Luddite looking upon the operation of a steam shovel who said to his friend, “Were it not for that steam shovel, there would be work for hundreds of men with shovels…” to which his friend replied, “or thousands of men with teaspoons.”
I enjoyed this book. You don’t have to be fascinated by the minutiae of semantics to find it readable and interesting. It’s not as much like reading a dictionary as one might suspect.
This was taken on Budapest’s Embassy Row (i.e. Andrássy út.)