Once a year

Okay, this is going to be one of those long, rambling, soporific, multi-segmented entries. Sorry. Maybe I’ll bold a part of each segment so you can find those that catch your fancy.

Mispronounced words. Remember when you were growing up you’d mispronouce some words, because you’d only read them and never heard them said? That happened to me a lot, at least. I had some classics: “awry” (aw-ry), “misled” (missle-d), etc. I thought I had gotten over that phase for the most part, but I just found another gem: “biopic”. I thought it was bi-op-ic, as in biopsy and biology, and of course it’s really bio-pic, as I learned on the plane flight back east for Thanksgiving. Luckily, about half the friends I queried (the ones who, like me, don’t watch E!, I imagine) were also duped. Amusing, though — and I’d be interested to hear any good ones you’ve had!

I feel better now. Recently, a life decision I had made several years ago came back to haunt me, and until this last week it was far and away the the decision I’ve most regretted making (as much as I’ve tried to justify it morally). Anyway, some friends in Boston pointed out that several good things — wonderful things, really — occurred because of that decision, events that are really incomparable on the scale I was using. Long (and totally vague) story short, it really hit home that our lives are complicated and intertwined and my decisions may affect others in ways I can’t possibly fathom. In the end, it made me feel very happy.

Reunited with the green shirt. As a poetic (well, prosaic, really) coda to my odes to green shirts found here and here, my mom reunited me with my missing green shirt when I was home last week. Wahoo! Unfortunately, it’s a bit rattier than I remembered.

Other home activities. My parents got me hooked on Six Feet Under, much as they did with the Sopranos when I went home two years ago. We watched most of the first season, and now I’m buying back into my brother’s Netflix account just so I can get the remaining DVDs ;).

I also played some piano at home, which reminded me of two things 1) how much I suck at piano and 2) how much easier it is to explore various harmonic constructions on a piano, where you can just think about the notes and play them, than it is on a guitar, where you have to struggle to come up with a fingering that’s attainable by humans, and not just 18-fingered creatures from Alpha Centauri.

And I read. Ooh, I’ve been reading some good books lately…
For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway, which I found ultimately very good and depressing, although several of my friends claim that they found it incredibly uplifting.
Positively Fifth Street, James McManus. McManus was sent to cover the World Series of Poker and the coincidental murder of one of its founders for Harper’s. However, smitten by the poker bug, he used his advance money ($4000) to earn his way into a $10000 seat in the tournament, much to his wife’s dismay. But he’s a skilled amateur player and ended up doing amazingly well. It’s a fun read, and has gotten me hooked on poker recently. Also, in another coincidence, the people accused of the murder were just acquitted this past week.
The Living Planet, David Attenborough. He’s one of my favorite nature writers. A fascinating book.
Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Tad Williams. One of the best fantasy series ever, and some fun brain candy. I’m just digging in now (it’s about 3000 pages or so).

Thanksgiving, Lake Tahoe. I love Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday of the year, because it actually means something and it’s not quite as overloaded with consumerism, cynicism, and greed as the other major holidays are — no gifts, no cards, and few platitudes. Also, I usually get to see most of my friends and family in one fun-filled week! During H-Y weekend I hung out with a bunch of college friends, which was great. I was only there for 24 hours so I didn’t get to see everyone, but I did get to meet some new people like Feng!

Home was great too, although I missed my high school friends by a day. Next year I’m getting my ticket well in advance so I don’t have to fly back at weird times.

On Friday, after travelling for 20 straight hours from Cheshire, CT to Hartford to Phoenix (three hour wait since my plane arrived just after my connecting flight left) to Oakland to El Cerrito to Route 80 East, I arrived at Lake Tahoe to spend the weekend with some IHouse friends. It was awesomely fun, and also quite ridiculously beautiful. Here are some pictures:


I meant to give the vacation a perfect ending by seeing Pinback at Bimbos. They’re super fun live, and Umesh liked the CDs he heard me play so he wanted to come too. Unfortunately I hadn’t gotten tickets in advance since I didn’t know when I was coming back from Tahoe, and when we got there we found out that the show was sold out. Doh.

Misinformation. Have you seen this report that claims that red states are more generous than blue ones? Specifically, Mississippi is the most generous state in the U.S., and the New England states are at the bottom. I’ve seen it mentioned several times in the last couple of weeks, and I feel obligated to point out that it’s totally bogus. Thank you for your time.

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13 Responses to Once a year

  1. klog says:


    Oh yeah, I’m totally with you on the mispronouncing things, btw. One particularly memorable one was the word melancholy when I was in elementary school. I was *convinced* it was pronounced with an accent on the “an” and with a ch like chair. My teacher read the word from a book to the class one day, and I was actually embarrassed for her because I thought she didn’t know how to say the word, that is until I went home and told my parents and they basically laughed at me. It’s never been the same to me since. Those were the days…

    • aj says:

      Re: words

      My favorite so far is one my sister’s friend used to say: “ass-PART-a-me” for “aspartame”. Sounds kind of cool and funny, and besides, it’s a physiologically accurate statement :).

  2. snafuuu says:

    I’m pretty sure I mispronounced “apostle” when I was younger, probably emphasizing the first syllable rather than the second.

    In more recent news, I mispronounced Shelbyville as “Seblyville,” but that was more of a brain freeze than a misreading. Brandon won’t ever let me live it down, though.

  3. ccho says:

    You were at the H-Y game? Have you heard about this: http://www.harvardsucks.org/

  4. walther says:

    wow, i too had no idea about “biopic” until i read what you wrote just now. my contributions are “epitome” (EP-pi-tome), “hyperbole” (HY-per-bowl), and “hors d’oeuvres.” embarrassingly, i still sometimes accidentally say HORZ-de-VORZ because i see the phrase spelled out in my head when i say it. that, and sometimes people jokingly say it that way on purpose, which makes it erroneously stick in my memory as a real phrase. i used to keep a list of these types of words that i or my co-workers would butcher because we had read them in print as kids, but never hear our ESL parents actually say at home. also, i observed that our strict 1st-generation american parents tended to limit our tv viewing, which i think also contributed to our vocabularies outpacing our pronunciation abilities. =)

    • aj says:

      A first-generation thing…

      I think generally it’s just people who read a lot more than they watched TV. I think it also has to do with what kind of friends you had at school — whether you and your friends used those words in conversation — since they don’t really use big words on TV that much (biopic and epitome, of course, though)… certainly not on the trash TV shows I watched :).

      Another classic of mine was “savannah”, which I used to answer a Geography Bee question in fifth grade. I had read about it a bunch of times (I was big into nature books back then) but when I answered, it came out as something like “SAH-vah-NAH” or something, and it took the teacher like ten seconds to process my answer.

  5. awu says:

    Re: “mispronounced” words — same here, but I noticed I inherited a number of default guestimation mechanisms and vocal patterns from my parents and my study of Spanish.

    I used to say documentary like my mom does, doc-u-ment-ary, more like doc-u-ment-ari than document-ary, and then there’s “via” and little words like those.

    Then there are plenty of words which are “mispronounced”, but maybe not. Like, uh, what’s that common one, oh, there’s “forte” and “primer”, and, …, okay, I need to sleep.

    I actually do remember you saying “aw-ry”. I can hear the AJ waveforms in my head right now, smiling and bouncing about.

  6. rwclark says:


    How do you post your images to your LJ? They always look really nice. Do you create the thumbnails/layout manually or do you have some sort of program that does it?

    • aj says:

      Re: Images

      I use Picasa’s “Export to Web” feature, and then copy out the resulting HTML code. It generates the drop-shadowed thumbnails for me, which is nice.

      • rwclark says:

        Re: Images

        Neat. I could probably use iPhoto to do something similar. Your Tahoe trip looked fabulous. I’ve never seen it looking that nice.

  7. ccho says:

    ImageMagick + perl or just CSS would work too.