Confusion of meaning

Feb. 25th, 2017 03:31 pm
oursin: A cloud of words from my LJ (word cloud)
[personal profile] oursin

Something to do while waiting for your flight instead of browsing the duty-free?

Helsinki airport is decorated with stuffed hares and wolverine, and much of its rich animal life – beavers, lynx, bears – can be shot under a strict licence system.

Enquiring minds wish to know whether licences may be obtained in the departure lounge and whether guns may be hired there as well... though my own thought would be, and are these large predators any threat to travellers who just want to sit and have a drink and try to log on to the airport wifi?

Okay, that garbled sentence, in an article about wolf culling in Finland does follow on from this one: 'Finland has 300,000 amateur hunters, more than 5% of its population.'

But I would consider this serious punctuation fail, no? Do people not read over their text, and are there not editors?

Am somewhat reminded of my speculations about suburban foxhunts of suburban foxes, with concomittent suburban sabs.

(no subject)

Feb. 25th, 2017 11:25 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] brigid, [personal profile] choirwoman, [personal profile] tigerflower and [personal profile] toft!
oursin: Photograph of a statue of Hygeia, goddess of health (Hygeia)
[personal profile] oursin

(Guess what, it's all more complicated.)

I was at a meeting at former workplace this pm because just because I am no longer professionally associated with [particular archive], I am still widely considered A Nexpert in the matter.

So anyway, I was at this meeting, and something set me thinking about the Broad Street Pump.

And how this gets boiled down into a metaphor about removing the handle of the pump as being the dramatic and appropriate action to stop [Bad Thing].

Incidentally we note from that account that John Snow did not himself go and dramatically wrench the handle off the pump but pursued proper channels, take that, mavericks!

But what it's actually about is:

a) meticulous gathering and mapping of data to identify the problem.

b) beyond the emergency intervention: how about we do something to prevent cholera getting into the water-supply, huh?

But people do love the dramatic iconic story. And while I doubt John Snow is exactly a household name, we do note that he gets a pub named after him, as well as there being memorials to the pump itself. Whereas Sir Joseph Bazalgette, who did a whole lot more to provide sanitation for London, doesn't, though he does have a memorial on the Victoria Embankment.


Feb. 24th, 2017 09:55 am
nanila: little and wicked (mizuno: lil naughty)
[personal profile] nanila

The exceptionally splendiferous [personal profile] thirdbird sent Humuhumu and me some "kitty hats", as Humuhumu is calling them. She was so proud of hers she wore it to nursery today. Thank you!

Croydon Fun Weekend 2018

Feb. 23rd, 2017 04:43 pm
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[personal profile] nou

Just a quick heads-up that, after a year off in 2017, the Croydon Fun Weekend will be back in 2018, running from Friday 26 January to Sunday 28 January.

I’ll provide more details closer to the time; but in the meantime, if you’re interested in helping to organise the weekend or in running any sessions, please let me know! For an idea of the sort of things that might be included, see programmes from previous years: 2014, 2015, 2016.

oursin: Books stacked on shelves, piled up on floor, rocking chair in foreground (books)
[personal profile] oursin

I was given to think, if not very much, by this article which floated past my attention lately: If you want to get smarter, speed-reading is worse than not reading at all.

I assume he's talking about people who follow some programme that is intended to increase their natural reading speed, rather than people whose natural speed of reading is fairly quick (Frankie Howerd voice going 'Don't Mock' at his boast of reading 100 books in a year).

It is unlikely that readers will be able to double or triple their reading speeds (e.g., from around 250 to 500–750 words per minute) while still being able to understand the text as well as if they read at normal speed.”

If you’re reading fast, you’re not engaging in critical thinking. You’re not making connections between Infinite Jest and other post-modern texts; you’re not challenging a historian’s version of the American Revolution. You’re not having a conversation with the author. And if you’re not doing the work, you’re only walking away with surface knowledge.

Oh no? Begging to differ there. There is no 'normal' speed across the board: there is the speed that is normal for the individual reader.

Related, at least by a rather random process of association, In praise of readability, which is engaging with this rather problematic piece Against Readability (query: are not invocations of 'soap-opera' and 'middlebrow' gendered dog-whistles?), which is one of those 'god forbid readers should enjoy themselves' pieces.

oursin: Photograph of small impressionistic metal figurine seated reading a book (Reader)
[personal profile] oursin

What I read

I finished Truth is not sober, and while a lot of these stories were clearly responding to particular issues of the time, at which some worked better than others as actual stories for the ages, there was something very delightful indeed about coming across a trove of Holtby's fiction that I hadn't already read.

JA Jance, Judgement Call (2012) - clearly I've been falling behind on the Joanna Brady mysteries, because I discovered 2 I hadn't read available in ebook and one crossover with another of her series characters that I don't much care for. I'd forgotten how good they are, or maybe this was a particularly strong one.

Ellen Klages, Passing Strange (2017) - ok, it is a novella, but I thought this was a little on the slight side, might be just me.

On the go

Still trucking on with the massive Inchbald biography, which is perhaps a little close focus, but does do a good job of embedding her in her wider theatrical milieu.

In spite of Kobo's claim that I had cancelled my pre-order (on the very morning it was due to be available WOT) I have acquired KJ Charles, An Unseen Attraction and am about partway through. Just possibly the author is being a tad presentist in the characters' expressed distaste for the excesses of Victorian taxidermy - kittens stuffed and doing the sorts of things they do in Louis Wain paintings, etc?

I was also recommended (I think via [personal profile] coffeeandink, an ongoing WIP original fiction on AO3 'The Course of Honour' by Avoliot, which is charming.

Up next

Well, there's another JA Jance sitting on my ereader, plus the various Flashmans I inherited, and I'm tempted to see to what extent John Masters' Far, Far the Mountain Peak (1957), which was probably my personal favourite of his Savage family sequence, holds up.

(no subject)

Feb. 22nd, 2017 09:13 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] laura_anne!
oursin: Julia Margaret Cameron photograph of Hypatia (Hypatia)
[personal profile] oursin

Intriguing article in Sunday's Observer which tries to get beyond the knee-jerk shock horror that there has been a demand at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London) for the philosophy course to be a bit less dead and white - Are Soas students right to ‘decolonise’ their minds from western philosophers? - even if 'male' still seems to be the default, except for passing mentions of Hannah Arendt, one of which alludes to her as one of several influenced by Heidegger.

And I am all for being less Eurocentric, or at least considering the ways in which its being the occupation of dead white elite males affected the development of philosophy as it is taught in Institutionz of Highah Learninz, and what counts as 'philosophy' -

But I think there are questions there are who does it and what counts as part of the tradition and the canon -

- matters that I have given some thought to in other realms of endeavour, and, of course, bearing in mind the Russ cases as shown forth in How to Suppress Women's Writing of how, if a woman does achieve something, it Doesn't Really Count and it is off in its own separate (and inferior) category.

And thinking of the tendency to the construction of patriarchal genealogies of [intellectual/cultural fields] leaving out those women who were there when it was new and uninstitutionalised (Patricia Fara also pointed out the importance of non-elite male artisans and craftsmen to the Great Men of Science Making Big Important Discoveries: which is not even massively Back Then, see 'Norman Heatley was done out of the Nobel' because he was the lab assistant).

Serendipitous art

Feb. 20th, 2017 06:49 pm
oursin: Painting of Rydale by Barbara Bodichon (Bodichon)
[personal profile] oursin

At the weekend we went to the Tate Modern - where we were underwhelmed by the current Turbine Hall thing.

However - WHY was I not told? I have not seen them there before and didn't even know that they had them - there is a Louise Nevelson room.

When I first saw that there was some Nevelson material in the Materials and Objects section I thought, well, maybe some smaller piece or two or three?


Two LARGE molto-tipico Nevelsons, one in black and one in gold.

An American Tribute to the British People is an abstract gold sculpture


Black Wall 1959.

I think I may go back just to hang out in there for a bit.

(And we may note that 'one of the most important figures in 20th-century American sculpture' was an immigrant...)

(no subject)

Feb. 20th, 2017 09:29 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] dsgood and [personal profile] elekdragon!


Feb. 19th, 2017 08:05 pm
oursin: Frontispiece from C17th household manual (Accomplisht Lady)
[personal profile] oursin

Bread made during the week: the basic Tassajarra yeasted loaf (with my usual adaptations as to liquid milk rather than dried, reduction in amount of sweetener + salt, etc), 50/50 approx white and wholemeal spelt flours, a little molasses. Quite nice.

Saturday breakfast rolls: basic buttermilk, 3:1 strong white flour/coarse cornmeal.

Today's lunch: halibut steaks, which I poached in water + salt, peppercorns, bay leave and a dash of sherry vinegar, with samphire sauce, and served with garlic roasted kalettes (ooowoooo-bopbop-shoowaaaah) and Ruby Gem potatoes roasted in beef dripping. Though I say it as shouldn't, this was all rather good.

(no subject)

Feb. 19th, 2017 11:31 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] lilliburlero!

4. The Plot Against America (Roth)

Feb. 18th, 2017 04:36 pm
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[personal profile] mrs_leroy_brown
Roth imagines an America where Charles Lindbergh is nominated as Republican candidate for the 1944 presidential election. He runs a populist, isolationist America First campaign, and his shock win ushers in a new and terrifying era of bigotry and antisemitism.

The story is told through the character of young Phil Roth and his family's experiences during the aftermath of the election; a device that cements the alternate universe he's created. Whilst his brother Sandy just wants to fit in, the rest of the family are wary of Lindbergh's Office for American Absorption, a programme that sends young Jewish kids to gentile rural areas to work on farms and become "more American".

I do love me some Philip Roth - his meticulous research paired with staggering imaginative detail almost always pays off, and this book is both chilling and apt.

Not the one I would have expected

Feb. 18th, 2017 03:17 pm
oursin: Picture of Fotherington-Tomas skipping, with words subversive male added (Subversive male)
[personal profile] oursin

In fact, I'm pretty sure I have seen letters to the editor to the effect of when will Tim Dowling's wife kick him out or run screaming into the distance?

And one must think that this is a more general likelihood for the male columnist writing lifestyle columns very much based on his own life and domestic/familial mishaps.

But it turns out that it is not Tim Dowling who is now reporting on the breakup of his marriage, it's actually Tim Lott who is writing I have left the family home. Divorce proceedings are under way. My wife and I have separated after years of struggling to make our marriage work.

Apparently he has been diagnosed with inattentive-type adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He admits that 'I can be very disengaged, disorganised and abstracted – tendencies I had previously put down to a creative temperament' (one may well consider that those characteristics have often been excused, particularly in the human male, precisely because CREATIVE PERSON, rules do not apply, even if in this case there is a diagnosable reason).

One does wonder that one does not see this more often: I rather think that the marriage of the guy I remember from some while back who used to bang on about the joys of fatherhood and his meanie wife not wanting to have more children did break up.

Re Tim Dowling, I do rather wonder if Mrs Dowling bears as much resemblance to her avatar in his columns as Paul Dashwood did to The Provincial Lady's 'Robert', but who knows.

I did, for a wonder, find myself nodding at Dowling's column this week over the reflection:

It occurs to me that we’ve accidentally passed on a load of mild phobias and private snobberies as if they were a template for living. Long after our roles as parents and children have been discharged, we will still be bonded by these local rules and preferences.
I pick up my fork and feel its strange weight. I realise that even our most dearly held family prejudices will probably dissolve in time; once you leave home you discover that many kind and decent people eat from absurdly big bowls.

Which made me wonder further how many of the strictures recorded by Nancy Mitford in Noblesse Oblige were in fact specific to the Mitford family rather than the upper class as a whole.

Friday several

Feb. 17th, 2017 01:58 pm
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin

Achieved at last: haircut and teeth cleaning (the dental practice had a cancellation).


Trucking on with executor type things. Thought that while I'm waiting for various information, I might as well start filling in the probate and tax forms in case there's any other info I need. Do they really need to know whether any of my father's cousins are still alive? His parents were one of 12 and one of 13, but, while a lot of Home Town were related to us, we did not have huge jolly family get-togethers and I have not seen even the ones we had some contact with for decades. WOT.

Also Trucking On: O, I thought, I will take this opportunity to scan the will so that I can send the designated of copies when I finally have everything put together. Dear rdrz: the Probate Office is very, very, very determined to tell you that your original will should not have any staples, paperclips or (I guess) treasury tags holding the pages together. The solicitor who was holding the will had, oh so very usefully, clipped it into a folder with eyeletty things - besides the two, top and bottom, holding it in the folder, there were 2 more eyelets and 2 staples holding it all together. Y O Y. Retired archivists do not, I may add, receive as a ritual leaving gift an inscribed destapler, which would not have worked on the eyelets anyway. I managed to remove them, at the expense of one broken nail and several lacerations on my fingers.

Also wrote a letter to my sister as one is obliged to inform other named executors that one is in the process of proceeding to probate, in writing, by which I take them not to mean, by text, which is our habitual means of communicating.


Achieved in academic-related matters, sending off abstract/description of what I'll be talking about to two events I have committed to. Now I have to write the things.


Dept of embarrassing myself: While at the hairdressers my stylist was commending the non-black colour of my purse as making it a lot less easy to misplace. Dr rdrz, I could not find it this morning. I eventually found it had fallen out onto something with entirely insufficient contrast for me to spot it the first time I looked.

There are people who don't do this?

Feb. 16th, 2017 01:55 pm
oursin: Books stacked on shelves, piled up on floor, rocking chair in foreground (books)
[personal profile] oursin

A fifth of readers report characters from novels cropping up in their daily lives, hearing their voices even after putting books aside.

Though I'm not sure that it's characters so much as a particular voice.

And it's probably not quite the same thing as finding oneself in a situation where one has the sensation of falling into a work by a particular author - which was sometimes my experience when negotiating with the inheritors of archival collections, which could vary from Agatha Christie to Angus Wilson (don't think I ever came across anything quite in the Henry James Aspern Papers mode).

Or like thinking a certain place is a setting for Particular Type of Murder Mystery.

Have had the experience of being so (negatively) haunted by the mood of a book after finishing it that I had to go and read something entirely different stat.

Will record here - though I think I've said it before - I'm very glad that life didn't turn out like Iris Murdoch novels.

oursin: Photograph of small impressionistic metal figurine seated reading a book (Reader)
[personal profile] oursin

What I read

Finished Battle for Bittora - I was a bit *sigh* that the romance went the way it did, and I thought the ending was a bit, well, rather late in the day for her to have that epiphany. Not sure the elements meshed very happily, in all.

Elizabeth Gill (not, I may say, the currently alive novelist of that name who pops up in the GoodReads sidebar but a crime novelist who died in 1932), The Crime Coast: a Benevenuto Brown Mystery (1929, recently reissued by that publishing co that keeps sending me freebie ebooks. Aka on original publication as Strange Holiday.) Not bad - there is a bit of that info-dumping of back story that takes the form of people going on in a way that does not sound in the least like normal conversational English, but I will entirely give it points for its not being 'the dago dunnit': even if the Argentine brother and sister are both fairly dodgy in other ways. Lush descriptions of the South of France and the arty bohos that hung out there. Perhaps just that bit too much happy coincidence leading to the solution.

George Macdonald Fraser, Flash for Freedom (1971) - I collected my father's Flashman paperbacks when I went to the old homestead the other week - I thought he had more than I found, but may have been wrong about which ones he had. Anyway, I think Flashy still holds up, because, unlike too many characters, he is clearly intended to be reprehensible, so the codfish is not called for.

Molly Keane, Good Behaviour (1981). I have been aware of this book ever since it came out, and feeling fairly meh about it: but read something the other week that inspired me to get a copy, but no, it just doesn't ring my bells. I was thrown quite early on when we had a lengthy episode in more or less omniscient about the governess (and I'm not convinced Aroon is capable of making that up). I can live with unsympathetic characters and unreliable narrators, but have come across plenty I have enjoyed more.

Cassandra Khaw, Hammers on Bone (2016). I will give it points for actually following through on the noir tone with noir tropes, and the mean streets being those of Croydon, even if a) the situation of the central character was not dissimilar from something else I read recently and b) the horror elements didn't do it for me. But don't think I shall be picking up the next part.

Also discovered somewhere I did not expect two of my Florence King collections and did a bit of dipping into these.

On the go

Winifred Holtby, The Truth is Not Sober: short pieces by Holtby, I think previously uncollected - no, first came out in 1934, but I don't seem to have come across it before this reissue by Blackthorn Press, because so far, none of the stories seem familiar. Only part way in - a section of fable-type satirical stories, nice but a bit slight.

Annibel Jenkins, I'll Tell You What: The Life of Elizabeth Inchbald (2003) - not far into this yet, but seems like a solid bio of late C18th actress and woman of letters.

Up next

Dunno, really.


Feb. 15th, 2017 05:19 pm
nanila: little and wicked (mizuno: lil naughty)
[personal profile] nanila
Today is Very Important Day. Today is Bloke's Birthday. And hence, there has been BAKING. Behold!

Star cookies (from the dough reserved at the weekend)

That most American of treats, pecan pie (with toasted almonds, because I didn't have enough pecans, ho hum)
Pies, we made PIES!

And choccy biccies. Huzzah!
Choccy biccies
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin

I now have a hair appointment (tomorrow, and one can now book an appointment with one's favoured stylist online), a doctor's appointment (early next month), and dental hygienist session in the fairly distant future, because they are booked solid (but will let me know if there's a cancellation before then).

On my last visit to the dental practice I was told they would be moving in the new year. However, their website, email footers, etc, all give the old location...


In other news, someone has identified May Morris as the sender of a handmade valentine to GB Shaw.

I do wonder how serious it actually was. Because though GBS was a mega flirt, one gets the sense that there was not much follow through...

Perhaps not quite in the 'Run, girl, run! Don't look back' category? (Whereas re Wells, one might wish for a time machine to go and leave warnings.)


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