Wednesday, September 14, 2005
That's an 'A', not an 'E', Mr. President ...
Sax – Yes, we all know about William Jefferson Clinton and his technology innovations, but apparently a sax is also a small axe for cutting roof slates, with a point for making nail holes. From the Olde English seax, ‘knife’, of Germanic origin.
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“Change and decay in all around I see ..” Even the OED fails me sometimes. It’s all very well to know that SAYE is an acronym for “Save As You Earn”, but why the cryptic entry that SBS is “Sick Building Syndrome”?
Buildings can fall sick? If so, who treats them, doctors or architects? Is a sick building wheeled into some kind of vast amphitheatre, where a tall man in green overalls and mask pokes into its innards, all the while bullying a team of plumbers and masons and electricians into passing him the “No. 10 pliers, please” or “3/8 inch left threaded sprocket for outbound drain”?
Or does SBS refer to people getting sick of buildings? If so, there is only one place on earth the term could have originated – Chapin Apartments in the State University of New York at Stony Brook, known on campus (for obvious reasons) as the Peoples’ Republic of Chapin . Units in this lovely complex of semi-detached (you can’t always hear the couple in the next apartment fighting over birth control) town houses (grad students’ version, glorified slum) each with a view (see below!), are available at very reasonable rents ($650 for a shared apartment, out of a stipend of $1050 which is about $900 after taxes, how do we pay for the trips to the micro-brew?!).
The view, ah the view! Out of the window of my room, I had this scenic panorama. Of an overflowing garbage vat. Right outside our front door. Wunnerful!
And when we stepped out in the morning, we had this glorious view of the second ugliest building in the entire Northern Hemisphere (referred on appeal for the top ranking, the jury’s still out on that one), the Stony Brook University Hospital. Which started out as a standard ’60s style government building eyesore, till somewhere down the road the Flash Gordon crew butted in with a request for a “really really shit ugly space-port”. And THEN they had a ‘moment’ that may have inspired George Lucas for the Darth Vader look. And after that they chose the most treeless spot in 1800 acres to put it up.
Campus legend has it that when it was completed, the guy who was supposed to formally inaugurate it didn’t get a good look until he stepped outside for a photo-op. Whereupon he started saying something about “This truly modern facility tha …. aaaAWWWKKk!!!” And had a spectacular fit and became the first emergency patient in the UMC. Patients are blindfolded when they enter and leave the building …
Oh, check it out for yourselves.
NB: The cafeteria was kind of OK, though.
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