Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fun with grammar

Grammatical snippet of the day: there's a construction called "left dislocation," which was quite common in Old English. Example:

"My couch, it's covered with copies of Dante."

The gist seems to be you state the topic of your sentence as a grammatically separate element, and then you get into the sentence proper with a pronoun. It's somewhat redundant--if you wanted to be more efficient, you could probably leave the pronoun out altogether. People still use this construction, especially when talking. Left dislocation is not an appositive, a descriptive phrase set "apposite" to the noun, because appositives come afterward to add information or clarify the reference. Left dislocation, it starts with a clear reference and adds the pronoun later.

Left dislocation is said to be more common in "topic-prominent" languages, another phrase I'd never heard before. Topic-prominent languages apparently don't think in terms of subjects and objects, exactly, as in terms of "what this sentence is mostly about" and "what other nouns are necessary to help me talk about it."

Cool, no? Hat tip: the Wordhoard.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Spenser the poet

[I]ndeed, the study of Spenser's poetry is the best introduction available to the fascinating problem of what there is about poetry that can can bring more poetry into being, for no man has made so many other men into poets as Spenser has.

...Spenser did not allow himself to be inhibited either by the fear that a universal symbolism founded on sacramentalism might betray him into Catholic poetry or that his own fictive covering might obscure the truths of Scriptural revelation. No one else has so cheerfully and astonishingly combined pagan mythology, Christian symbolism, and personal mythmaking while remaining centrally in a main doctrinal tradition of Christianity.

Spenser had the humanist belief that classical thought and poetic form did not conflict with Christian truth; for him all myths merged, as all mirrored a unity of truth. ...Like Sydney, Spenser believed that a poet shared in the creativity of God, and therefore believed also in the poet's responsibility to bring his creation into a meaningful relationship with the moral order of God's creation.

--Harold Bloom, "Introduction to Edmund Spenser," The Best Poems of the English Language

Wow. Oh that someone might could write that about me! I think I need to go read more Spenser now.

Friday, September 19, 2008


"You'd think they'd go on a crusade or something. 'Hey, guys, 2/3 of us have to die anyway. Let's do something cool. Let's go sack Constantinople! RAAAA!' You're not going to put me on your blog, are you? Fine. I'm off to go sack Constantinople with lemmings."


In other news, here's a post about lemmings. I don't know why I'm having such a rodenty evening. But they do look kind of like Tribbles. Just don't put any quattro-triticale around.

Best-laid plans of men for mice

The mouse Maraschino has developed an infected eye. It's been messed up since about March, but the other day Jonathan determined within his soul that This Must Not Go On. So he scouted about online, and one site recommended dosing mice with the contents of a vitamin E capsule.

Vitamin E we have. So every once in a while, we bring Merry up to the bathtub with a big old towel so it's not so stark and a carrot for good behavior (which she ignores), and attempt to swab vitamin E around her eye. She doesn't care for it, and grooms enthusiastically, rubbing the E directly into the wound, which is exactly what we want. It does seem to help. Her eye opens now.

Tonight was one of those nights to dose the mouse. It was fairly typical. We coax her off the wheel (rattle-rattle-rattle, squeak squeak), bring her up in the "penthouse" part of her cage, and once in the tub she cowers and scampers, and goes in and out, and sins, and runs back and forth through her sin a few times.

Jonathan tries to calm her. She'll have none of it. He puts out a hand for her to sniff, and she runs in terror. She won't touch the carrot. I catch her and she leaps from my hands into Jonathan's shoe and up his jeans (oops). We catch her and put her back in the tub and wait for her to calm down. She won't calm down.

I catch her again, cleverly holding her over the tub this time. She runs up and down my forearms, and Jonathan sneaks in with the cotton ball. Ha! Dosed! We put her down and she hides in the back corner of the tub. "Okay Merry, back into your little house," we say. She won't go in her little house. Now she takes an interest in Jonathan's hand. She demonstrates a fine, sublime disregard for the fresh carrot. We eventually manipulate her into the cage and take her back down.

She immediately gets on her wheel and starts running. Rattle-rattle-rattle...

Friday, September 12, 2008


One of the nicer things about job-hunting would be the way it tends to leave spare time lying about which one may direct toward books. I have a Richmond library card. This card has been well used lately. :-) I've been researching young adult fiction, and thought I'd share some of my findings with y'all.

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson: not bad. Terribly modern, but I actually liked it better than the original Peter Pan book. It's a good rollicking adventure that ties together quite a bit of the back-history and still manages to tuck away some surprises for the reader. I liked the unusual treasure. Not recommended if you object to disgusting food items.

The Luxe by Anna Godberson: traumatic. It's set in turn-of-the-century New York high society, and it's chock full of hollowness, conniving, backstabbing, and politicking among so-called friends. Sin is sin, but I find it difficult to believe good society girls engaged in quite so much sleeping around. Maybe they did; but the plot was painful anyway. I couldn't put it down, but I don't mean to pick up the sequel.

Fire Bringer by David Clement-Davies: very good. It's about a herd of Scottish deer, which isn't an encouraging premise, but stay with me here. The deer manage to stay deer-like for nearly the whole book, but it's about so much more: tyranny, loyalty, destiny, friendship, mercy, natural law, real guilt, justice, and sacrificial love. There are some great lines, and it even manages to make a quiet little natural-law assault on certain varieties of feminism. The author had clearly been reading great literature. There were even Macbeth allusions.

Maiden Crown by Meghan Collins: Northern. This is historical fiction in the high tradition of Rosemary Sutcliff, and it's a better book than the title sounds like. It's based off Danish ballads, set in twelfth-century Denmark, and written in the 1970s. We meet King Valdemar, his mistress Tove, his young betrothed Sophie, and Stig, the young man the king sends to retrieve her. Yes, it's quite as awkward as it sounds, but well-handled, I thought. And it has a kind of a happy ending, in a difficult Northern way, or at least a good ending. The book has virtue, not just passion, and forgiveness. I'd probably recommend it for older teens.

The Strictest School in the World: Being the Tale of a Clever Girl, a Rubber Boy, and a Collection of Flying Machines, Mostly Broken by Howard Whitehouse: hilarious. I checked it out solely on the basis of the title, read it in one evening, and kept bursting out laughing and reading good bits to Jonathan. I am definitely going to read the sequel.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Discovery, prompted by cleaning the stove top

In the noodle realm, there are no specific ones. They're all random noodles.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Old medieval things of interest

Here the reader may learn of Pictish princesses and the name Eithne (or Enya). Eithne was a convert of St. Patrick and also the mother of St. Columba. The post also looks into why a particular Pictish Eithne got a mention in the Irish annals. I tend to agree with the theory that she had something to do with the church, and was therefore of interest to the Irish monkish annalists.

The lady Aethelthryth, my dragon's namesake, also gets a mention. Hat tip: Unlocked Wordhoard.

Monday, September 08, 2008

It is a lovely place, my house*

It's very nice, having a house.
This is the bookshelf, obtained with such great effort. It leans a trifle drunkenly, but a bookshelf it is.

This is the dragon Aethel- thryth, made by Amelia for me. She looks good on the medieval lit shelf, but Beowulf makes her nervous.

And, last but not least, this maple lives outside my kitchen window. :-)

*However, my house contains no Turkish Delight whatsoever, so trekking here midwinter to betray your siblings will do you no good.

Quotes of the weekend

"Come to the dark side. We have cookies." Jonathan, attributing it to Mr. Stanulis

"It's a bear! Actually, it's like a forest that eats bears and displays their pelts on its own branches. And I feel like a very small, undernourished bear." Jonathan on legal research

Upon discovering our wedding date: "You're fresh from the altar!" Liz at church

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Murphy liberates a bookshelf

I wanted to see my sister and liberate an extra bookshelf from Emily-Rose; and I did.

Turns out it's a four-hour drive from here to there. Good to know. Also, the bookshelf was kind of in not that great shape, and despite the efforts of Kathy, Miriam, and Ryan, dismantling it enough to get it into Olwen brought it into really not-that-great shape. Though Miriam rather impressively produced a toolset for the purpose, and politely took charge of the process so it happened. Kathy stood one one end, and I stood on the other, and we played tug-of-war while Ryan and Miriam pried. No, seriously.

And I had some good talks...with Dr. Hake, who discovered I still don't quite know what I'm doing with my life (bother! He wasn't supposed to notice!), and with someone else, who recommended moving back to P-ville to be aimless there (thanks).

Then I misplaced my husband after I got back. I was going to pick him up about six-thirty, but he was in a dead cell zone and we finally connected about eight, by which time I was freaking out good and proper and just about to go get campus security. But Kay--wonderful Kay--found him for me through email. Thankfully, he was not in a dead-wireless zone.

But we did get home; and I had gotten to visit with my sister, which was after all half the goal; and the mouse Merry was still in her cage, alive and everything; and we now have that bookshelf.

And I'm just as glad it's a new day.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Quote of the day

"Consequently, when the Pevensie children had returned to Narnia.... it was (for the Narnians) as if King Arthur came back to Britain, as some people say he will. And I say the sooner, the better."

--C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Monday, September 01, 2008

Quote of the day (well actually from last Saturday)

"When I am not losing my morality, I'm losing my mind. Ah, law school!" --Jonathan

It amused me...


"It's a mistake trying to cheer up camels. You may as well drop meringues into a black hole."

--Terry Pratchett, Pyramids