Monthly Archives: April 2012


daughterboard n. a small printed circuit board that attaches to a larger one

It is a little known fact that I once worked in a factory soldering mother and daughterboards all day. It was for 6 months after my father was diagnosed with a brain tumor and I did not go away to college as planned. Since we didn’t know if he would live much longer, it was important for me to stay home. My father was the provider in our family before he became ill. My mother had worked here and there when I was a kid, but her jobs hardly paid the bills. It was necessary for me to work and bring in money right after my father had brain surgery and so I worked with my aunt who was the manager of a factory in Little Ferry, New Jersey.

Those 6 months of soldering boards were the hardest yet most valuable months of my life. I had spent most of the summer preceding it anticipating college life. To say the least I did not expect my father to have brain surgery and given a death sentence. As much as I was disappointed that I had to work, the soldering and assembly that I worked on at the factory brought a sense of order to my days. I remember sitting at my bench listening to the radio and soldering each tiny circuit one by one onto the boards. I was actually very skilled and perfected just the right amount of solder that I needed to get the perfect weld. I used to solder dozens of boards a day. There was such a sense of satisfaction when the bell rang at 4 pm seeing the pile of work I had completed. It’s a satisfaction I rarely attain from work to this day.

Eventually, I was put on the telephones – which I didn’t like as much. I frequently hung up on people by accident and I didn’t like acting cheerful and chipper to strangers constantly. My boss wouldn’t let me read when the phones were dead so I collated instruction manuals.

During my 6 months as a factory worker, my father’s health improved. He had lost most of his eye sight since the tumor was in his occipital lobe, but the rest of his brain functioned well and his body was strong. He knew I needed to go away to school…that if I didn’t I would likely be stuck working in a factory in New Jersey. So when January came we rented a mini van with my aunt, my mother, brother and my father and drove to Providence to move into my dorm room – a semester behind everyone else.  It was a proud day for me – much different from my previous trips to visit the school. My father and I had driven to Providence my senior year in high school several times for orientation and my interview. We always rented a car and I would nap in the back seat so I would be in good shape for my interview. I still remember the peach air freshener and NPR playing on the radio. Whenever I smell those little peach tree air fresheners, I think of dad.

I suppose the reason I digress is because I never thought that working in a factory for 6 months would serve me well in life, but I often find myself thinking about those days – especially when I was working before Graham was born. I find it so strange that often times the events in life we are most embarrassed and ashamed of are the most important and formative. They are the most honest accounts of our lives and represent our most intrinsic qualities.

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ullage n. the amount by which a container falls short of being full

The OED is a pessimist. The word ullage assumes that the glass is half empty. I wonder if there is a word for the amount that half fills the glass? I just did a quick search for antonyms of ullage and found in several places that none exist. Perhaps I should make one up? How depressing that there is no positive counterpoint to this word.

I was already having a bad day before this word. All I really want to do is eat one of those Pepperidge Farm frozen cakes with the frosting that comes off in perfect little sheets…and perhaps watch some of my favorite Bill Murray movies – Groundhog Day, The Life Aquatic, Rushmore, Lost in Translation, Caddyshack…this would be an awesome day. However, this is not the adult thing to do. I have a baby to care for and various household cleaning chores. One might say the glass of my day is half full of drudgery.

So, glass half empty or half full. I think it depends on the glass and what is in it. A half glass of beer is half empty, while a half glass of vomit is half full. How funny that when a glass has something that I like in it, I see the void as negative while when it has something foul in it, I see the void as positive. Perhaps this makes me a glutton of some sort. I would be a better, happier person if I was satisfied with half a glass of beer – but I always want more.

This brings me to the topic of ambition. In my opinion, ambition is all about viewing the glass as half empty and always trying to fill it up. I was brought up to always strive for something – but this leads you to a life of constantly attempting to fill a void. How can one be happy when one is constantly trying to fill a hole. This reminds me of a scene from a great movie…

I think I am going to focus on making my glass smaller with less of a void to fill. Sometimes it helps to change perspective…

“…the moon was so beautiful that the ocean held up a mirror..” I start with one paradox and end with another.


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abscission n. the process by which parts of a plant break off naturally, e.g. dead leaves

I suppose I could wax poetic about the beauty of fallen leaves and autumn. I could dig up some obscure Robert Frost poem and post it on here – and I do love me some Robert Frost – but that’s not what came to mind when I chose this word. I instantly thought of this scene from one of my favorite martial arts movies, Hero. Kung Fu movies are good for Fridays and this particular scene is marvelously beautiful.

There is a certain beauty in the life of a leaf. Right now as I write this I am looking out of my window into the yard and there are thousands of leaves blooming. They start out as little white flowers on some trees and big, stinky purple flowers on others. Spring is their youthful, child stage. Then the summer comes and they turn tough and green to withstand the heat and thunderstorms – like adults. They find employment in the Summer giving shade to people and children. Then as the Autumn approaches they turn wonderful, mature colors – unlike the delicate pinks and whites of the Spring. They are older, wiser and approaching their abscission. Then they fall and carpet the ground, seeding the earth for the next Spring. We go through months of cold without the company of leaves. Even the trees look sad to be so barren. But then they return in the Spring. It’s amazing how we overlook the beauty of such an amazing thing because it is in such abundance. Makes me wonder how much I don’t pay attention to everyday.

This word also makes me thing about this White Stripes song.





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youse pron. you (usually more than one person)

I am absolutely amazed that this is an actual word in the OED. It really shouldn’t be. They should have a note in there somewhere about Italian Americans or New Yorkers. I am almost tempted to start using this word in my vocabulary as I have heard it enough in my life.

Here is a list of media where you can find the proper usage of “youse:”

The Sopranos

Jersey Shore (Ronnie especially uses this word often.)

A Bronx Tale 

Rocky I or II

You can also head to Federal Hill in Providence, RI or Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn if you want some active usage of “youse.” Just stand on the sidewalk and wait for someone to walk by.

I have also located a poem by e.e. cummings using this word…not that I am convinced that this is an actual word…I can’t trust a poet who doesn’t even use proper punctuation. I don’t usually like e.e. cummings but I actually enjoyed this one:

mr youse needn’t be so spry
concernin questions arty

each has his tastes but as for i
i likes a certain party

gimme the he-man’s solid bliss
for youse ideas i’ll match youse

a pretty girl who naked is
is worth a million statues

Now youse stop sitting at your computer and go get some fresh air!

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oojamaflip n. something that one cannot or does not want to name

Whatchamacallit, whatsit, thingamagig…oojamaflip. So now I have added a new nonsense word to my repertoire. Awesome. I have never heard this word used in common language. It makes me think of the whatchamacallit candy bar – which is really tasty. It also makes me think of Fraggle Rock, which is also a wonderful thing. The Doozers were my favorite and they actually have the Doozer knitting song on Youtube – which just made my day…

Now that I have a baby, I’ve realized how poor the quality of children’s television is. Sesame Street is ALL ELMO. I feel like Jim Henson would be so disappointed. There should be more Oscar and Grover. Snuffy is never on anymore! Sesame Street and the Muppets were so intelligently made that adults could enjoy them. I can’t stand the children’s shows today. Thomas the Tank Engine? Dora? Really? It’s so depressing. Creepy Mister Rogers was ten times better. Those puppets in the Land of Make Believe were freaky as hell, but they lit the match on a child’s imagination.

I think that may be the nub of the problem with children’s television these days…they go too far. The muppets, fraggles and creepy puppets were almost a real life depiction of a child’s imaginary friends. They sparked childrens creativity without doing the whole job for them. This is why I hate toys that make noise and move. Children need to learn how to create their own thoughts and imaginations…not have everything done for them. My husband and I talk about the toys we loved as kids – Memory Games, Sit and Spin, Choose Your Own Adventure books. Let’s hope the whole retro fad extends into children’s toys, games and television.


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luck n. success or failure apparently brought by chance

I have to confess that I chose this word on purpose because I really wanted to write about it. Over the years my husband and I have created a comfortable life for ourselves. We have a nice home, a happy baby boy and a great dog. We sit by the fire and drink wine. We have dear friends, plenty of good, healthy food, and have travelled well. We are grateful and feel blessed. However, if you say we are “lucky” I might have to punch you.

The word lucky inevitably comes up to describe my life after some piteous story about someone else’s hardship. I am forced to recall the adage “never judge a book by it’s cover” when I hear the word lucky to describe my life. I wish I could start spouting off the stories of my hardships – my brothers cancer, my father’s death from a brain tumor, how I worked in a factory out of high school because I couldn’t afford college, my first job as an accountant that I took so I could pay the rent…etc. etc. If one were to stack up all of the hardship and troubles I have had in my life, the pile would be equal to or higher than my good fortune pile. Good things come to those who work, and sometimes they don’t come at all even if you’re working really hard. Sometimes you have to keep working toward the light at the end of the tunnel however small that light may be.

I would prefer to say that we are blessed for having some of the good things in our life. We were blessed to give birth to a healthy baby, but it has taken skill and hard work to keep him healthy and growing well. I have definitely made sacrifices for it. Yes, we have a nice house in the suburbs – but you should have seen some of the shit holes (pardon my language) we have lived in – including a fourth floor attic apartment that was slanted and a duplex that had no subfloor that Stella (our dog) would pee through to the basement because she was scared of living in Brooklyn. We’ve had brand new cars that have been keyed and tires slashed. There have been firings from jobs, death and lots of debt. I have cried for whole days until my eyes were swollen shut…and I know my future has its fair share of pain and hardship waiting for me when I least expect it.

You can say I am lucky for one day or one hour, but not to describe my entire life. I am not entitled to what I have and I know it can go away tomorrow. I know what it means to have nothing at all and to have to start over from the beginning. Yet therein lies the beauty of a well worn life – there is always a beginning. When you’ve seen the bottom and looked up to the top the last thing you count on getting you there is luck.

Mother to Son 

By Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor —
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now —
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

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altocumulus n. cloud forming a layer of rounded masses with a level base, occurring at medium altitude

When I was a kid, I used to ask my parents what clouds were and they always told me that they were nothing. They said you couldn’t hold a cloud in your hand and you could walk right through them. It just never made sense to me that something that there was so much of in the sky could be nothing at all. It had to be SOMETHING. Over the years as I got older, I would look at clouds and try to find the objects in the world that they resembled. Everyone does this…some clouds look like Jesus, some look like phalluses, etc. So I eventually thought that clouds could be many things and that my parents were dead wrong.

In planes, clouds scared me because they blocked out the view and I always wondered when a pilot is training how he/she gets over flying through a cloud. It must be scary not being able to see in front of you. As a passenger, I love being about the clouds and seeing them create a floor in the sky. They look so solid as if you could walk on them.

As beautiful as clouds can be, they have been a source of anxiety for me several times in my life. When I was in the Canary Islands a few years ago, we were driving down from the peak of La Gomera Garajonay Park and were so high up that the clouds descended on us in the car. The roads were incredibly windy and we couldn’t see all that well and I panicked. I also don’t like clouds when they turn dark and get close to the ground before a storm. They make me think they are turning into tornados when they do this…and I am terrified of tornados.

I like my cloud white and fluffy. Unlike fog, which is dark, thick and ominous. Clouds somehow carry hope, happiness and light. There are always clouds around the rainbows children draw. Clouds make a bright blue sky seem bluer. I prefer my bluest skies with a cloud or too. They remind you that imperfection is beautiful too.

My favorite song about clouds is by The Rolling Stones…it captures the essence of cloud-ness…

So someday when my son asks me what a cloud is, I will not answer “nothing”. I will teach him the complexity of clouds and how something that seems quite trivial can have so much meaning.

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gobshite n. a stupid or incompetent person

I wish I was still in a work setting so I could use this word. Goodness knows that corporate environments are full of this particular breed of person. This word also reminds me of our trip to Ireland awhile ago since its source is Irish slang. One of the things I love most about the Irish people is their candidness and ability to tell you how it is. If you’re stupid or incompetent, they will surely let you know. They also have an incredible knack of finding just the right words to capture their meaning as well. Perhaps that is why so many great writers have come from Ireland – Joyce, Yeats, Lewis, Swift. I am not Irish, but sometimes I wish I was (my deceased Italian relatives are rolling over in their graves…). Italians are blunt and honest as well, but they are less eloquent and humorous when doing so as the Irish. At least, that has been my experience.

Anyway, back to gobshite. I was just googling this word and came upon an interesting cognitive bias called the Dunning – Kruger effect. Here’s some info from Wikipedia:

Kruger and Dunning proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:

  1. tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
  2. fail to recognize genuine skill in others;
  3. fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;
  4. recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they can be trained to substantially improve.
So basically stupid, incompetent people are also ignorant assholes? Sounds like a recipe for manager of the year at almost any company in America…
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