Noun noun noun noun

This is a notice in the lift here in Kent Vale notifying residents of the management’s intent to conduct an exercise in which they will clear the bicycles that have been abandoned in the bicycle rack areas.

The lineup of four nouns (bicycle, clearance, exercise, notice) verges on the cumbersome, but in principle you could go on modifying nouns with other nouns until the cows come home.

For your ruminating pleasure, I present this truly unwieldy noun phrase:

university freshman student campus dormitory ground floor kitchen cleaning schedule establishment group selection committee meeting date email notification recipient complaint management task handler assignment deadline

It denotes the deadline before which someone has to assign a handler for the task of managing complaints from people who have received email notifications about a committee meeting for the purpose of selecting a group for establishing the schedule according to which people will clean the kitchen on the ground floor of a freshman dorm on the campus of a university—except that it’s ever so much more concise.

Chinese largely copes without articles and prepositions; surely English could, too!


This morning on the AYE I saw a yellow truck belonging to a company called Buildables (not to be confused with Build-a-Bear). On the side, the truck said:

We build walls and ceilings faster than the speed of this truck.

I wanted to take a photo, but of course it was gone too fast.

Just now I did a Google search and found the Buildables website. I have no idea whether their products and services are any good, and I’m not in the market for walls or ceilings at the moment, but the design and content of the website was better than I was perhaps expecting.

I’m always fascinated to see products and slogans on vehicles rather than just the company name. Maybe someday I’ll get a photo of one of the trucks that advertises those purple Japanese sweet potatoes or a truck from that moving company whose bee mascot is cross-eyed (!).

Do Animals Think? by Clive D. L. Wynne

Do Animals Think? is accessible. The writing is highly educated but at the same time warm and gentle. The sense I get is that of someone who is so brimming with enthusiasm for the natural world that the enthusiasm bubbles out of him in all the conversations he has about nature and science—conversations he is eager to start because he is eager to share with anybody and everybody what it is that he knows and loves about the world. Reading this book made me feel like I was sitting in the author’s living room having a friendly chat. And a cup of tea.

The enthusiasm does not detract from the science; Wynne is ever careful to be clear and precise. Where there is room for misinterpretation, he stops and explains the intended implications of his words. And he never does it in an impatient or condescending way that makes me feel like I’m an irritatingly uninformed freshman, or, worse, a recalcitrant intellectual opponent.

Wynne shares with other authors whose work I have read the goal of re-enchanting nature. Even if—perhaps especially if!—animal behavior is not mysterious in any supernatural sense, we can still feel wonder and amazement when we observe or read about it. The two books I’m thinking of are George Levine’s book Darwin Loves You, for which I was the production editor assigned by the publisher, and The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins. I’m sure there are some overlaps with the work of Daniel Dennet, too. Wynne’s mention of Darwin’s Dangerous Idea moves it up in my stack of books to read sooner rather than later.

I don’t agree with everything Wynne says, but I have the utmost respect for what he says and how he says it, and I would be willing to read any book he writes, on any topic, if it’s written like this one.

For more on Do Animals Think?, including what I disagreed with and some things I learned, see below.

Continue reading Do Animals Think? by Clive D. L. Wynne

So many books, so little time.

My copy of The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley stands as testimony the fact that no matter how much I read, I will probably always acquire books faster than I can read them.

Why? Because this book was given to me on my birthday in 1997, and I haven’t read it yet.

You don’t believe I’ve had it that long? You should. I still have the gift receipt. Behold!

It’s been 7,069 days… receipt or no receipt, I guess it’s too late to exchange it.

Actually, funny story: A friend and I had a shared birthday party that year. This book was to be her gift from one of the guests. However, she already had the book, and in fact she’d already read it. From the same guest, I was to receive a CD. However, it was an album I already had on tape, and in fact I didn’t even have a CD player. The situation was awkward for a minute, but the solution immediately presented itself: My friend happily took the CD and I happily took the book. Ta-da! Everyone wins.

Fat lot of good that book has done me since then, though. I saw the movie adaptation one year on New Year’s Eve—that’s probably part of why I haven’t felt any particular need to read the book, though I still vaguely intend to. It’s daunting, though, because it’s not just a long stand-alone novel, it’s a series of seven of them—not that I don’t enjoy long books. I’ve read all the Wheel of Time books, all the Sword of Truth books, and as many Ice and Fire books as George R.R. Martin has managed to publish thus far.

And, indeed, I have a keen interest in King Arthur retellings. But there are a lot of them! And I have a lot of them. See?

Thomas Malory, Howard Pyle, John Steinbeck, Roger Lancelyn Green, A.A. Attanasio, Henry Frith, and more!
T.H. White, Stephen R. Lawhead, Mark Twain, Jack Whyte, Catherine Christian, J. Robert King, Nancy Springer… and John Steinbeck again.

Maybe I’d rather read Twain, Pyle, or Malory next. Or, you know, Steinbeck. Or heck, just keep reading nonfiction, which I quite enjoy.

Then, too, there’s this, which I only found out about just now: allegations of child abuse have made Marion Zimmer Bradley’s works less popular.

So maybe The Mists of Avalon will just keep sitting on the shelf, reminding me that you just can’t do all the things in life—especially things you only ever vaguely intended to do.