Friday, December 28, 2007

Auckland, Ho!

I'm now in Auckland, and will be for several days in case any of the residents would like to get in touch, catch up, or generally socialise. ;-)

Mum is out of hospital and was looking OK when I saw her, although she's on a restricted diet for a while.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Holiday Special

You know how in soap operas just before the Christmas shutdown they have lots of exciting (and usually bad) stuff happen to people so that the audience will be interested to find out what happens when the show restarts? I had a Christmas Holiday Special a few years ago - lots of people around me were having a lot of drama in their love lives, and from my safe seat of audience I was interested in a sympathetic kind of way. This time round, lots of people are being sick, ill, depressed, or otherwise miserable, and it's pretty sucky. Mum has been admitted to hospital for the second time in three days, and we're off to visit as soon as we know what ward she's going to.

To everybody else who's ill: Get Better. And Happy.
To the people who aren't ill: Merry Christmas.
Actually, to everybody: Merry Christmas.

ETA: Mum's still in hospital, but seemed relatively chirpy when we visited. To add some, she's ill, but as far as anyone's saying, not in danger, and expected home tomorrow. And there's nothing like walking through a hospital on Christmas Day to know that there's always someone with a worse story than yours. Merry Christmas, and to all a good night.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Missing, Presumed ???

I can't find the sugar jar. I saw it this morning, and now it's just ... gone. Did I accidentally tidy it away in the freezer? (I've already checked the fridge.) Did it head off hitchhiking to see the wide world? Did we have a very polite burglar who made sure to lock all the doors behind him?

ETA: In the cupboard with the tea cups. In hindsight, it's surprisingly obvious.

I Have the Sinus Infection That Never Ends...

Or rather, the bally thing just keeps on coming back. My latest visit to the doctor netted me antihistamine tablets, a different kind of nasal spray (which interestingly uses the same active ingredient as my asthma inhaler), a sinus wash and a script for a third round of antibiotics if the above doesn't help after a couple of weeks. I feel like a lily-livered hypochondriac never happier than when laden with pills, except I'm not imagining the symptoms. Bah humbug. Actually, sinus washes are fairly weird to use - they squirt salt water up your nose in a more controlled imitation of dunking your head in the sea, and although most of the liquid runs out just as soon as you squirt it in, I found it took a good five minutes for my nose to stop running.

And in a note of surrealism, here is a music video by a group of fresh-faced, probably mild-mannered, possibly inbred folks singing in praise of a god who, if he exists, strikes me as a deity to be hated, feared and resisted with all one's being. Kind of weird to see this stuff 2000 years after the lynchpin of Christianity stood up and said "Hey, why don't we all try being nice to each other for a change." Scarily, I don't think it's a parody.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

La la la.

The dress of awesome pinkness is now finished, down to the last hem, hook, untwisted strap and hat with matching ribbon. And it looks pretty damn good, too. :-)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Windmills in the Mist

Wellington is not an easy city for a novice cyclist.

For firstly, the geography hates us: while there are some fun whizzy bits, you spend far more time trudging up a big hill than enjoying the freewheeling speed. And that's not even counting the days when the wind slams into you like a brick wall and swings you across to the other side of the road in the middle of traffic and makes the uphill bits even more of a misery. A pox on it, I say.

For secondly, the motor traffic is generally unsympathetic. There are far too many drivers of gaz-guzzling behemoths who are crippled by poor depth-perception and the conviction that one inch of clearance is all I really need as they pass me. Bastards. Just remember, you ecological lepers, that in a world with a finite oil reserve my actions keep your monsters on the road just that little bit longer.

For thirdly, there are all those other cyclists. The ones in the skintight sports clothes and the muscly bodies. The ones that glide past me effortlessly with a cheerful wave. The ones that don't have to explain to shopkeepers that they're not having heart attacks, they've just been cycling. I hate them, mostly because I wish I was just like them.

There are, however, a few compensations. Like yesterday, f'r'instance, when I cycled up into the clouds and felt like I was on an island floating away into space. There's this landmark, see, that is up on the horizon everytime I go into town. I've walked down from there a couple of times after Repton and I had walked around the bird sanctuary, but never cycled the distance before, and it's been lurking in my subconscious for a while - I can take you, I was thinking, I'm sure I can. And yes, it turned out that I can. Brooklyn Wind Turbine, you've been ticked off my list.

Maximum elevation: 299m
Minimum elevation: Dunno. My Google-fu is weak. Brooklyn shops or Kingston - I'm not sure which is higher.
Round trip distance: ~11.6km.
Trip time there: ~1 hour.
Trip time home: ~1/2 hour. (One of the attractions of the wind turbine, I confess, was knowing that the trip home would be easier than the trip there, a rare commodity when you live in Kingston.)
Hardest bits: Todman St just out from Brooklyn Shops and the beginning of the narrow road that's dedicated to the wind turbine. That was pedalling so hard the front wheel was jumping off the ground, that was.
Lunch afterwards: Toasted bacon sandwich. Yummy.


Monday, December 10, 2007

I Hate Christmas Shopping...

It makes my feet hurt, I get fed up with dodging people, and on days like today the humidity just makes me want to wilt. Fortunately, all the retail staff I talked with today fully understood my pain and were duly sympathetic - I suspect they'll be less so in two weeks time, however.

Also, it's frustrating when no item in particular leaps out and says "Me, Me, I'm perfect for So-And-So" and I'm fairly tempted to include in all my packages a friendly note instructing the giftees to pretend to like it lest I wail and gnash my teeth upon them. OK, I found some things that I think people will really like, everyone else can just do the pretending part. ;-)

Grinchingly yours,


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Christmas Carol

My sister has just asked me to translate a carol for her from her Medieval songbook. It's quite pretty so I'm passing it on.

Quem pastores laudavere
Quibus angeli dixere
Absit vobis jam timere
Natus est rex gloriae

Ad quem magi ambulabant
Aurum, thus, myrrham portabant
Immolabant, haec sincere
Nato regi gloriae

Christo regi, deo nato
Per Mariam nobis dato
Merito resonet vere
Laus, honor et gloria

The king, the king whom the shepherds praised,
The king with whom the angels spoke,
He is separated from you now, with awe,
The king of glory is born.

To he whom the wise men travelled,
To whom they carried gold, incense and myrhh;
They burned these things with sincerity
To the born king of glory.

To Christ the king, the born God,
Given to us through Mary,
He resounds truly with merit,
To Christ the king: Praise, Honour, Glory.

Translation notes: This poem is holding back the subject to the last line of each stanza as an intensifier. This works well in Latin syntax but less so in English, hence some of the repetitions of 'Christ the king' inserted where there were none before: they aid comprehension and I think add to the poetic effect. The third line of the first stanza I'm not terribly sure about, it doesn't quite seem to fit the rest of the verse and 'timere' could be a form of verb. I'm choosing to translate it as adverbial by comparison with the equivalent line in the other stanzas.

Pronunciation notes: (Cat asked how to pronounce it, with particular reference to 'c's.) Bah humbug. 'c' is the worst of the lot. In the Classical period it's believed to have sounded like a 'k' does now. In the Medieval period it could be like an 's' or like a 'ch' depending on where you live, and that's before you take into account the spelling confusions between 'c' and 't'. I refer you to someone with more knowledge on the subject and suggest you go with the Southern Continental / Church Latin instructions, hence pronouncing 'c' as 'ch' and 'g' as 'j' when coming before most vowel sounds.

Scansion notes: The poetically inclined will have noted that this poem is both rhythmical and rhyming, developments in Latin poetry which were pretty much concurrent with the rise of Christian poetry. Classical Latin poetry is quantitive, the music that comes out of recitation is based on patterns in the length of the vowel sounds, not in patterns of stressed syllables. Rhythmical techniques did exist in part, but were mostly reserved for rhetorical prose. I suspect that one of the drivers in the early days of rhythmical poetry in the Christian Church was its use in singalongs - rather than performance pieces that one speaker presents to a crowd, many of the early hymns were written as group pieces for use during services and to keep people's spirits up in the middle of a purge. Later on, of course, when Latin was only ever learnt as a second language, rhythmical poetry became a lot easier to write than quantitive, it's easier to hear stressed syllables than vowel quantities that you have to look up in a book because nobody pronounces them that way anymore. There were still people writing the latter, but I don't know of any really good pieces.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I Am Making A Dress Of Awesome Pinkness...

Although interestingly, my perception of the colours has changed from "Oh, those look nice" in the fabric shop, to "My word, that's rather intense" when I modelled the partially completed dress whilst wearing a white t-shirt, to "Oh hey, that does look nice" when modelling the more completed dress in bare skin. It's very summery.

Several people have been telling me over the past few months that I ought to watch a comedy series called Black Books. They were right, it totally rocks, although hearing the voice of a mad Irishman shouting in my head as I'm trying to go to sleep is rather worrying.