What I Picked up Along the Way This Week

Living as Apprentices

Fascinating facts:

Because fleas were a common problem, medieval castle owners planted herbs beds to be walked upon.  The herbs were crushed by foot traffic and released oils which were picked up by shoes and trailing skirts.  This protected them from fleas.  We can do the same technique.  Plant chamomile and creeping thyme to along borders  of your yard to prevent deer ticks.  (From an article in the Home section of the Holland Sentinel.)

Captcha words, the on-line puzzles used to verify that the user is a human,  have another  purpose.  The words in captcha are words that computers that are digitizing books don’t recognize them.  Once we type them, computers recognize them!  (From the TED Radio Hour on NPR about  Luis von Ahn whose company reCAPTCHA, sold to Google in 2009.)

St. Francis of Assisi made a pilgrimage to the Sultan of Egypt Malik-al-Kamil during the Fifth Crusade.  This peaceful encounter, which went on as thousands of Christians and Muslims slaughtered one another in the name of God, was, perhaps, the first dialogue between the warring religions (From Pastor’s Corner, a column by Sister M. Brigid Clingman in the Holland Sentinel.)

Gerrymandering, the practice of redrawing congressional districts after a decadal census to favor one political party over the other, is being pointed out as one of the reasons for the current government shut-down.  Members of the House of Representatives aren’t as concerned about raising the public ire because they are sent from districts that are homogeneous rather than diverse.

 By the way, the word gerrymander (originally written Gerry-mander) was used for the first time in the Boston Gazette on 26 March 1812. The word was created in reaction to a redrawing of Massachusetts state senate election districts under the then-governor Elbridge Gerry . In 1812, Governor Gerry signed a bill that redistricted Massachusetts to benefit his Democratic-Republican Party. When mapped, one of the contorted districts in the Boston area was said to resemble the shape of a salamander. So we have a “portmanteau” word (a  combination of two (or more) words or morphemes, and their definitions, into one new word) created from Gerry and salamander.

Another by the way: Lewis Carroll first used the word portmanteau (which originally referred to a  suitcase that opened into two equal sections) to label words he created in the poem Jabberwocky (found in Alice in Wonderland).  Here’s the first stanza:

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy [miserable + flimsy]were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe. “

(Sources for above information:  Slate.com, Wikipedia, Encarta, Diane Rehm show on NPR, Hardball on MSNBC.)

So . . . what does all this miscellaneous information have to do with living as apprentices?  Our brains, our intellect, our minds are a wondrously complex invention. We must not waste or ignore what our Good and Beautiful God has created.  Learn all you can!

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