Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Expand your vocabulary! #1.5

A friend shared a cool French expression with me over breakfast, and I wanted to pass it along:

L'esprit de l'escalier (Staircase Wit):

Thinking of a clever comeback when it is too late. The phrase can be used to describe a riposte* to an insult or any witty remark that comes to mind too late to be useful—after one has left the scene of the encounter.

This name for the phenomenon comes from French encyclopedist and philosopher Denis Diderot's description of such a situation in his Paradoxe sur le com├ędien. During a dinner at the home of statesman Jacques Necker, a remark was made to him which left him speechless at the time because, he explains: "a sensitive man like me, overwhelmed by the argument levelled against him, becomes confused and can only think clearly again [when he reaches] the bottom of the stairs."

Pronunciation: e-SPREE des-kal-i-YE

Pictured: The world's longest stairway at the Niesenbahn funicular railway, in Switzerland, with 11,674 steps

*Riposte: ri•poste - noun
1. A fencer's quick return thrust following a parry
2. a retaliatory verbal sally: Retort
3. A retaliatory maneuver or measure
"He's known for having a brilliant riposte to nearly any insult."

Sources: Wikipedia;;

Quite possibly my all-time favorite hike: The Eagle Creek trail

One of the great things about Portland, Oregon, is it is very quick and easy to get out of the city and immerse yourself in nature.

Located just over a half-hour from the I-205/I-84 junction, heading east on 84, you'll find Eagle Creek, one the the most beautiful, varied, and fun hikes I've ever had the priviledge to experience.

This hike has something for everyone: It's long and almost all uphill, and the highlights of the hike (a half-dozen major waterfalls, scenic outlooks, camping grounds and even a lake) are paced a perfect intervals, offering a challenge at every level of fitness.

At 1.8 miles, you'll reach what is probably the most popular site of the hike, Punchbowl Falls:

If you continue on to the 7-mile mark, you'll be rewarded with the climactic 160' Tunnel Falls:

Just past a little past that, there's a decent campsite where I would recommend settling down for Night One. Campfires are reportedly "strongly discouraged", but allowed, which is definitely a perk. If you do plan on making a fire, I'd recommend having plenty of starter fluid and paper on hand, as fuels may be moist.

If you are really adventurous, in the morning, you could continue for an additional 7 miles to camp at Wahtum lake:

Wow! Looks idyllic!

Hoofing it all the way to Wahtum Lake would make for a round-trip exceeding 30 miles, however, so it would need to be a full weekend trip. I have yet to make it past Tunnel Falls, so if you are planning on going, please invite me!

(Click for full size)

 FYI: Parking is $5 per car, per day.

For more information on Eagle Creek, including history and directions, visit:


Monday, September 27, 2010

Expand Your Vocabulary!

Expand your active vocabulary with some multiple-syllable, lesser known, under-used, and uncommon forms of words!

This week's words:

Lesser Known:

Propitious: pro•pi•tious - adj
1: Favorably disposed: Benevolent
2. Being a good omen: Auspicious
3. Tending to favor : Advantageous

"Now is a propitious time to start a business"

Uncommon Form:

Decrepitude:  de•crip•i•tude - noun
1. The quality or state of being decrepit

"The house has fallen into decrepitude"

Decrepit: de•crip•it - adj
1: Wasted and weakened by or as if by the infirmities of old age
2: A) Impaired by use or wear: Worn-out, B) Fallen into ruin or disrepair
3: Dilapidated; Run-down

"My decrepit car barely starts."


Gargantuan: gar•gan•tuan - adj -  tremendous in size, volume, or degree

Interesting etymology: First known use: 1596. From Gargantua, a giant with a very large appetite in Francios Rabelais' La vie inestimable du grand Gargantua ("The Inestimable Life of the Great Gargantua"), one of "a connected series of five novels... [which tells] the story of two giants, a father (Gargantua) and his son (Pantagruel) and their adventures, written in an amusing, extravagant, satirical vein." The name Gargantua was likely derived from Garagantesi, an Egyptian hieroglyph translated as "gourd, pumpkin".

Sources:;; Wiktionary; Wikipedia; and the Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, Part 2, by E.A. Wallis Budge.

I would like to personally challenge you to use one (or all) of these words in the next week. If you do so, return here to tell us how it went!

If one enlists in the military as a medic, and fills this role in war, ultimately, do you think they are helping, or harming?

An Army Medic, who is both an armed solider and a healer: Is he part of a problem, or of a solution?

Some may say he is fulfilling a support role, or in other words, helping to 'enable' the combat. Imagine a branch of armed forces without healthcare. Would anyone join them? Would wars be fought if the soldiers knew no help was available to them?

Yet I don't think wounded soldiers generally return to battle, at least not immediately, and I don't believe that saving lives or aiding the hurt could ever be considered innately wrong.

What about a United Nations medic? They are supposed to be neutral peacekeepers, but they could also be considered a resource.

I'd like to hear other's thoughts on this matter.