No Complaints #51: Climacteric, Connie and Colonel Brandon

What a week. I’ve mostly just been here, looking at this:

Things to read

“We can thank the French for at least having a word for this peculiar stage in a woman’s life. ‘Menopause’ comes from ménèspausie, which in turn comes from Latin via Greek (mens, a month, and pausis, a pause) and simply means a cessation of the menses. I prefer the word ‘climacteric’, which is still used by medical professionals (and the title of one of the few dedicated journals on the menopause). Climacteric comes from the Greek for ‘rung of a ladder’ and means a critical stage or turning point. I like the dramatic sound of it, because, having had one menopause already, I know that it can feel dramatic: tragic and comic all at once. The word ‘oestrogen’, meanwhile, is derived from oestrus, a Greek word mostly translated as ‘gadfly’ or ‘frenzy’ (but sometimes as ‘verve’) and the suffix ‘gen’ (‘producer of’).”

Science knows almost nothing about the menopause, a condition approaching half the world’s population will experience. Email to Pocket.


It’s a little like he’s the editor of a posthumous novel – he wants to present the songs as closely as possible to how Connie would want them presented. And in order to do that, he needs to get to know Connie. He’s basically reconstructing a person to go along with very, very personal music.

An unlikely story of the internet, a missing woman, and some very, very beautiful music. Email to Pocket.



“Have you ever chewed on a sprig of thyme or chomped down on a whole peppercorn or clove? It’s not pleasant. That’s because most herb and spice flavors are actually chemical weapons. Their role is to repel insects and snails and other animals that try to eat them, and to kill microbes – especially fungi – that try to infect them.”

I had not actually ever thought about why herbs and spices taste the way they do, but now I can’t stop. Email to Pocket.



“The male mayfly looks like it has a huge compound eye glued on top of another smaller one, devoted to scanning the skies for silhouettes of flying females. The aptly named four-eyed fish has divided its two camera eyes in two, so one half sits above the water’s surface and examines the sky while the other looks out for threats and prey below. The human eye is reasonably fast, adept at detecting contrast, and surpassed in resolution only by birds of prey – a good all-around eye for the most versatile animal of all.”

The best way I can think of to sum up this feature is “why are eyes”. Email to Pocket.



“With minor exceptions, Roman numerals do not change their meanings when they change their place. On the other hand Hindu-Arabic numerals do change their meaning when they change their place. Consider this question, what does ‘3’ mean? When we encounter 3 in 437 or in 3,145,872, it means two different things. It is not ‘just a 3!’ In the first it means ‘thirty’, in the second ‘three million’. A more extreme example is provided by the occurrences of 3 in 1,234,537, where it has two different meanings!”

People in medieval Europe had a much better excuse for not being good with numbers than I do today. Email to Pocket.


Things to listen to

The Transformer podcast came to me via an email conversation about Women Make Podcasts, Too, and the first couple of episodes that are out so far have made me think like nothing else has in ages. The focus of the series is women in engineering – past, present and future – but it very quickly moves beyond the requisite truism of “we need more women in engineering” to become something much more interesting about why and how such a core profession has remained so male-dominated for so long. I also liked the focus in episode two about the women who built Waterloo Bridge, too, and how emblematic that particular story is of the overwhelming problem we have with the invisibility of women’s work to the world at large.

Things to watch

The Toy Piano Virtuoso.

Non-stop noot-noot.

Race against the dying of the light (to build an igloo).

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Yeah, I'm green. What of it?

The guest gif


THE END. See you next time*!
*Next time will probably be next Friday. If you want to suggest things I should include in the next one of these, please do reply and send me links.