28 October 2010


Some of you might have noticed that the pauses between my posts are getting longer and longer. (If you didn't notice, please don't tell me; it'll destroy my illusion that people are actually reading this blog.) I could come up with all kinds of excuses: I'm too busy because I have papers to write, it's cloudy outside, my cocker spaniel just died... But, in the case of the cocker spaniel, that would be a flat-out fabrication, because I've never owned a cocker spaniel in my life, and likely never will. (Completely beside the point and entirely parenthetical, the cocker spaniel reminds me of that extremely annoying passage from Midsummer Night's Dream: "I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius, / The more you beat me, I will fawn on you..." If you think Taming of the Shrew is misogynistic, try this on for size. It makes me want to smack Helena- show some self-respect, girl!)

The plain fact is that I haven't been writing because, well, I haven't been writing. Perhaps that is due to my wish of increasing your interest by suspense, according to the usual practise of elegant females. But, actually, like Lizzie Bennet, I don't have any pretensions to that kind of elegance. (Incidentally, Helena, you could stand to take a few lessons from Lizzie!) It's just that I've had other things on my mind than random ramblings in blogs. And sometimes it's a good thing to pause from what you're doing- pause, and take a deep breath (several weeks long, in this case), inhale some oxygen, exhale it again, and let your whole body go limp. Aaaah. (flop, bang! No, I didn't say go so limp as to drop on the floor! Sheesh.) Sometimes we don't notice how tense we are until we pause, and make ourselves purposely sit still and let go.

And sometimes, we just pause for no particular reason. Or because we're done with whatever it was we were doing. Or because we need to reevaluate. Or because the break-time bell just rang (sorry, that's the vestiges of public-school attendance and a five-month stint as a factory worker when I was twenty). And then, when the pause is over, we can start again. Or not. Sometimes pausing makes us realize that the frenzy of the foregone activity was really not all that necessary, and just as much can be accomplished at a calmer pace. Or, the pause gives us the energy to tackle the task with renewed vigour. Which, I'm hoping, is what's happening with my writing. Or not.

Life, the universe, and spaniels. Get a grip, Helena.

19 October 2010

Electronic Dog Polisher

I got myself an ebook reader the other day. Now, I need more reading material like I need a hole in the head. No, I do not intend to go to this company's designated website and download "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" for $9.95 (or whatever they're asking- I haven't actually checked). Firstly, I don't intend to read TGWTDT, because it's a fat book and I've got other stuff on the go, and secondly, if I did, I've got ready access to a hardcopy; I'd just have to pluck it off the shelf and bear it home for some gratuitous page-flipping.

No, the reason I got this electronic dog polisher is to polish electronic dogs. Oh, pardon me- you don't know what an electronic dog polisher is? It's an electronic device that does one specific job and nothing else, preferably a job that you wouldn't need or want to do in the first place if you didn't have the item (like polishing dogs). We've used that term in this family for a long time - and then, one day on TV, I actually saw an electronic dog polisher advertised! Well, it was a special vaccum cleaner attachment for vaccuming your dog or cat, but the principle was the same. The hilarity was considerable.

So, back to my electronic dog polisher - um, ebook reader. I got it because there are times when I need to read ebooks, and reading them on a computer screen is a pain in the you-know-what. (Have you ever wondered if You Know Who ever gets a pain in the you-know-what? No, me neither.) Turns out that most of the ebooks I need to read actually won't download onto my reader, because their publishers are holding onto them for dear life and won't let Jane Average download them; you have to look at them on the proprietary e-library website. Ah well. That's okay. I still have stuff to read on my reader, because it came pre-loaded with 100 free ebooks- ooh, aah, wow! Never mind the fact that they've swiped all those books from Project Gutenberg, where the world's classics happily sit in the public domain. I can now read Jane Austen on an electronic screen, instead of picking up the hardbound gold-edged copies I've got on my bookshelf. Oh, the wonders...

But honestly, it is fun. And I do enjoy the fact that I can carry around Austen, Dickens, and Carroll in one lightweight slim package to access whenever I feel like it. I've even got The Communist Manifesto and The History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire on there. I'm sure they'll come in handy next time my dentist's appointment is running really late. I'll let you know what they're like.

10 October 2010


Inquiring minds have inquired - no, wait, the mouths associated with the inquiring minds have inquired - no, actually, it was the fingers attached to the hands associated with the inquiring minds... Aw, heck. Some folks 'as wanted to know what's with this "Teaist" thing down there in my side bar. Let me enlighten you.

Teaism is a religious persuasion not unlike Theism or Deism. The most basic tenet of its beliefs is that "A Good Cuppa Cures All Ills." But actually, because tea-drinking encourages moderation and tolerance, we don't insist on our members subscribing to this doctrine verbatim. If you are more comfortable with stating that "A Good Cuppa Is a Fair Beginning to Making One Feel Somewhat Better About a Considerable Number Of Ills," that's good enough. You're in. As long as you appreciate a cuppa, we welcome you to our ranks.

Teaism is a religion of diversity. Of course it began with the common tea plant, Camellia Sinensis, sipped as good ol' English Breakfast, Orange Pekoe (which, incidentally, has nothing more to do with the citrus fruit than that they're both named for the Dutch Royal house of Oranje- or maybe the house for the fruit, and the tea after the house, or the other way round), or any other number of "plain blacks". But there the diversity begins. There are so many varieties of even just black tea (ever tried Darjeeling, the "champagne of teas"?), never mind the ways to drink it. With sugar or without, with milk, with cream, with lemon (though not all at once- my brother tried that once when we were kids; he got banned to the next room while finishing up the resulting revoltingly curdled mess, rather like slimy, stringy cottage cheese floating in the tea. Not pretty.). Then there's green tea, white tea, oolong- all of those still from the same plant, just different processing techniques. All delicious brewed up in the cup. And then we get into what Hercule Poirot calls "tisane", which roughly translates into any tea that's not made from the camellia sinensis plant. My favourite would be peppermint, homegrown if I can get it- it's got more bite that way than the stuff in the tea bags. Chamomile is a lovely soother. Rosehip has a great tang, almost like fruit juice. And I won't even begin to list the varieties that are purely medicinal; we'd still be here tomorrow.

Incidentally, my daily brew of choice, gunpowder green, does not, in spite of its name, encourage violence. In vino veritas, in camelliam sinensis pacem. May the brew be with you.