Easily Confused Words: Parsimony and Persimmons

OCTOBER 18, 2012

Ichabod was a pious and parsimonious pastor; however, one persimmon season, he really lost his head… #currying_favor

Today’s tweet references the similar sounding words of “parsimonious” and “persimmon”.

To be parsimonious means to be extremely conservative with one’s money and resources. It’s an adjective, and synonymous with “stingy”.

A persimmon is a fruit that arrives in autumn. It is a bright yellow-orange color, and has a tomato-like leafy ‘cap’ on it. Its skin is also very smooth and hairless like a tomato.

Ichabod is a reference to the title character in the George Washington Irving story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, as is the joke about losing his head. In the Sleepy Hollow story, Ichabod Crane is chased by the Headless Horseman.

Is this debatable?

OCTOBER 16, 2012

A friend of a friend was talking about the election online and it got me thinking about the whole process. We’re picking people to lead our country at the local, state, and federal level, but it’s a really old-fashioned, inefficient process. It’s amazing we put up with it and don’t demand better.

We are a democratic republic and the most powerful country in the world. Um right? So why wouldn’t our election processes be as user-friendly and sleek as we expect our iPhones to be? Why does Apple have dynamic product launch shows, with video and graphics, while our candidates spew numbers and facts, no visual presentation highlighting this info or pointing out just where the hell it came from. You know, just in case the source was their buttocks, emerging mere seconds ago in a poof of genius. Or its pure crap off Fox news, or a far right or left wing blog.

Apparently one side is miffed at the fact checkers doing their work in the hours and days following a debate. That level of arrogance is astounding to me. If you are running for office, have respect for the voter. Don’t lie. Do tell me what your plans are in detail if you expect to get the job. I’ve been in Starbucks while they interview baristas. Managers ask “tough call” questions to gauge decision-making abilities and determining whether someone is a good fit. If a minimum wage employee is subjected to this level of scrutiny, why shouldnt the federal executive branch be given at least that much pressure, if not more?

In an office environment, it’s rare if not impossible to give a presentation without powerpoint. But when was the last time you saw a presidential debate with visual aids? I think the last candidate I recall using them was Ross Perot.


Today’s Tweet: “It’s not unheard of, or verbotent, for cells to be pluripotent…” #nobelprize #currying_favor
The 2012 Nobel Prizes are being announced this week. The first one awarded is Best Lead Actor in a Physiology Comedy or Musical. I kid! I kid! [Though that would be awesome.]
But in all seriousness, the first category is the Nobel Prize is indeed the Physiology or Medicine category.This year it was awarded to two men, Shinya Yamanaka and Sir John B. Gurdon. Ironically, Gurdon’s work was published the same year Yamanaka was born. For another layer of irony, that same year, Watson and Crick were awarded their Nobel in Physiology. 
But back to the present…Yamanaka feels deep gratitude to Gurdon’s work, that he couldn’t do his own stem cell discoveries without that precedent. [You just never know the kind of impact you can have in life, do you?] I could go on, but the interviews with each scientist are here at the Nobel site. You can hear both men describe their work in their own words and in their own voices. That is so much better than the poor paraphrasing I could do on this blog.
Being a wordgeek, I was fascinated by the word pluripotent to describe stem cell behavior. It’s not a word I hear everyday.So I do what I always do–made a guess, then looked it up. 
If you don’t know much about stem cells, it can be hard to guess where this term ‘stems’ from. ‘Taking it apart, though. “pluri” sounds like plural, as in “more than one”, and “potent” means power. “Plural power” is a pretty good hint phrase to this word’s meaning.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, pluripotent means “not fixed as to developmental potentialities; especially :capable of differentiating into one of many cell types”. It had been a prevalent belief that cells were the type they were, they couldn’t change. And while this is true of red blood cells, or organ tissue cells, white blood cells, for instance, it is not true of stem cells at all.
If these cells only started and ended their development at the same time, no procreation or growth would be successful. Think about all the changes just our body, not to mention our worldview and self-realization have undergone since we were in diapers. I could wax philosophic that people are more like stem cells than they realize, full of pluripotential, which is actually a word too.
But I think that’s another post, for another time, for another blog. 


Winning. Sometimes it seems it’s all Americans care about. Maybe that’s a consequence that is inevitable in any capitalistic country. The rich, the attractive, end up being worshipped like gods or at least idols. 

Why else would they jump back and forth between the same old two parties for years like those are the only two options out there? 

I try to watch the debate and my head just spins from all the throwing around numbers and percentages. The so-called winner last night, Mitt Romney. He had an answer for everything and was doing some awfully out of character pandering to the middle class. He never cared about the middle class at Bain, in the last 8 months, or even last week. Changes like this are why he’s nicknamed “Etch a Sketch”–he will say ANYTHING to appeal to a crowd, but don’t expect that same rhetoric next week when he’s pandering to a different crowd. And he doesn’t disclose details about what the hell he’s actually going to do if elected. His running mate doesn’t either: I don’t have time to go into  

He might have won the debate by being the chattiest, and making it appear that he was moderating and setting the pace more than the Lehrer or Obama. But this doesn’t make him a winner at all.