Monday, March 01, 2004

For the Lover of Words

Check out this interesting compendium of dictionaries - you'll surely find something good in here!

Just finished my latest audio book Pompeii . Wonderfully narrated with appropriate Roman voices. Full of suspense, even though you know what will eventually happen - actually that increases the drama. Meticulously researched , you'll learn a lot about aqueducts and volcanos, all while having a great time. From an Amazon blurb about the book

All along the Mediterranean coast, the Roman empire’s richest citizens are relaxing in their luxurious villas, enjoying the last days of summer. The world’s largest navy lies peacefully at anchor in Misenum. The tourists are spending their money in the seaside resorts of Baiae, Herculaneum, and Pompeii.

But the carefree lifestyle and gorgeous weather belie an impending cataclysm, and only one man is worried. The young engineer Marcus Attilius Primus has just taken charge of the Aqua Augusta, the enormous aqueduct that brings fresh water to a quarter of a million people in nine towns around the Bay of Naples. His predecessor has disappeared. Springs are failing for the first time in generations. And now there is a crisis on the Augusta’s sixty-mile main line—somewhere to the north of Pompeii, on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius.

Attilius—decent, practical, and incorruptible—promises Pliny, the famous scholar who commands the navy, that he can repair the aqueduct before the reservoir runs dry. His plan is to travel to Pompeii and put together an expedition, then head out to the place where he believes the fault lies. But Pompeii proves to be a corrupt and violent town, and Attilius soon discovers that there are powerful forces at work—both natural and man-made—threatening to destroy him.

If you want to get started on Audio books, just click the link at the top of the page and you can get a free audio player (will also play .wma or mp3 music files) with a year's subscription to Audible. 2 books a month for $20 - cheap when you consider what you would pay for audio books in a bookstore. Books on tape or on CD often run between $25-$50 each. (or click the link on the right side of this page and save $100 on an Ipod). And with an an Audible audio player, you just download books - no tapes or cd's to lug around. You can check out some of the books I've read in the last year on the right side of this page - click on the links and you'll see what the price is, if you are not an Audible listener. Then imagine getting that book for just $10! A wonderful service - especially useful if you are driving lengthy distances to work or are working out at the gym on treadmills or anywhere that you are doing something mindless and could be enriching your mind at the same time.

Master and Commander

Now on to the Patrick O'Brian series and the first book in his series. Wonderfully narrated by Patrick Tull, an old salt if there ever was one, great prose and a whole new world of terminology. I'm already prowling the Net for naval terms. Did find a great sight at this link describing his books and so much more. Most of you are familiar with the recent movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, starring Russell Crowe. That was the 10th in the series, so I've got some reading to do before I go see the movie. :) Check out the book jacket covers and an interesting article by Robert O'Harrow in the Washington Post.

Back to brushing up on my naval terms!

Word of the Day:
Gerrymander - To divide (a geographic area) into voting districts so as to give unfair advantage to one party in elections. And for a bit of word history regarding this strange word:

WORD HISTORY “An official statement of the returns of voters for senators give[s] twenty nine friends of peace, and eleven gerrymanders.” So reported the May 12, 1813, edition of the Massachusetts Spy. A gerrymander sounds like a strange political beast, which it is, considered from a historical perspective. This beast was named by combining the word salamander, “a small lizardlike amphibian,” with the last name of Elbridge Gerry, a former governor of Massachusetts—a state noted for its varied, often colorful political fauna. Gerry (whose name, incidentally, was pronounced with a hard g, though gerrymander is now commonly pronounced with a soft g) was immortalized in this word because an election district created by members of his party in 1812 looked like a salamander. According to one version of gerrymander's coining, the shape of the district attracted the eye of the painter Gilbert Stuart, who noticed it on a map in a newspaper editor's office. Stuart decorated the outline of the district with a head, wings, and claws and then said to the editor, “That will do for a salamander!” “Gerrymander!” came the reply. The word is first recorded in April 1812 in reference to the creature or its caricature, but it soon came to mean not only “the action of shaping a district to gain political advantage” but also “any representative elected from such a district by that method.” Within the same year gerrymander was also recorded as a verb. (Word history courtesy of Gurunet)  

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