29 July 2012


I haven't been posting much lately. As excuses, I can only offer (in no particular order): a term paper, company, a camping weekend with friends, and raspberries, blueberries, cherries, apricots and black currants (yes, all-at-bloomin'-once). Double, double, toil and trouble...

Oh, and speaking of bubbling cauldrons, let me just give you a bit of advice: when you make jelly, like black currant which is one of the best kinds there are, don't follow the instructions on the pectin box insert, but go with the jelly test. You know how when you cook jelly and you pull the spoon out of that rolling boil, when it's reached jelling point the drops run together and sheet off the edge of the spoon? (You don't? Well, never mind then. But you should try it some time, just for the thrill of having seen a rolling-boil-jelly-test. Ooh, aah, wow. We get our excitement where we can. Whaddaya mean you've got better things to do?) Anyway, the jelly test: if I had paid attention to the jelly test instead of slavishly following the instruction of "boil hard for one minute exactly", I would not have had overboiled jelly which didn't set and had to be taken back out of the jars and re-boiled with additional pectin. Blinkin' waste of eight snap jar lids- grmblgrmblgrmbl. Ah well. I saved one of the jars of the runny stuff; it should be delicious on pancakes. So, advice for the day: go with the jelly test, forget the written instructions. (And that sounds downright profound. But I can't be bothered to follow up on it right now; I'll let you do that for yourself).

And then I was sitting in the living room, the lovely hardwood floor protected by a ratty old shower curtain, pitting cherries while I was watching the Olympic opening ceremonies on TV (cherry-pitting is a messy business; by the time I was finished I and my immediate surroundings were splattered with cherry juice in a manner that looked downright gruesome). I was feeling rather emotional that day, so I sat there weeping, while I denuded cherries of their pits (or is that "pits of their cherries"?), at the sight of the little deaf children signing "God Save the Queen" and Rowan Atkinson playing the repetitive bass note of "Chariots of Fire". It was a spectacle worth seeing (the ceremonies, not my weeping).

So there you have it - after this, I bet you're glad I hadn't posted anything in a while. That's the kind of thing my life has been about in the last few weeks.

Life, the Universe, and Jelly Tests. I'll try to come up with better excuses next time.

18 July 2012


My son coined a new word the other day. He does that, coining new words or phrases, I mean. For the most part he does it unintentionally - he just uses a word that seems to fit the occasion, and sometimes it fits so well, we keep using it afterwards. For example, there was that time when he looked out the window on a stormy day at the whitecaps on the lake, and said "Look at that rampage of waves!" Well, how much better can you describe what was going on there? As far as I'm concerned, ever since then when there's a high wind the waves are rampaging.

And this particular new word is actually not so much a word as a spelling. He wrote a note to his teacher at the end of the school year, telling her what a great person she was - and what he said was that she was "oresome". Oresome? That's an oresome word. His choice of spelling is a direct result of his favourite leisure time occupation, which involves swinging a virtual hammer in a virtual mine and collecting I-don't-know-what-kind-of minerals to do I-dunno-what with. In his world, ore is a much more common thing that awe, and, I might add, much more practical.

I think "oresome" is a far more useful word than "awesome", any day. You see, something that's "awesome", all it does for you is make your jaw drop (and perhaps make you drool a little out of the corner of your mouth). But something "oresome", that's got substance. There's a little vein of gold running through that rock. Oh, fine, maybe it's aluminum, or iron. But there's some metal to it. An oresome rock is not just any old rock, it's one you're going to search for; it's special and very desirable.

You know, I'd rather have rock and ore than shock and awe, wouldn't you?

Life, the Universe, and Oresomeness. Here's to newly minted words.

15 July 2012

Holding Pattern

I haven't got anything to say. Not even supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. So I won't say it. There isn't any particular reason for any of that, just that most of my wit and inspiration sort of drained out my ears and evaporated in the heat; and what little was left of it got spent on stuff I was obligated to do (like course work for school).

So this blog is currently flying a holding pattern, waiting to come in for a landing. Don't worry, it'll happen eventually. Meanwhile, here's a pretty picture of a petunia to keep you occupied:

Life, the Universe, and Holding Patterns. Thank goodness for petunias.

08 July 2012

It's a Mystery

I really like mystery novels. It's a little odd, that, as I loathe and abhor violence, and you pretty much can't get any more violent that murder. But for some reason, reading about cranky old rich men being offed for their money doesn't disturb me, probably because it's not a fate that's likely to ever befall me - I'm not a man, will (alas) probably never be rich, and as for being cranky and old, I'm hoping to stave those off for a while yet.

Actually, there is a weird sense of safety in reading murder mysteries - the kind I like, anyway, which are the English cozies, preferably the genuine "Golden Age" article à la Agatha Christie & Co. They're set in a proscribed circle of people, in a time and place far removed from my own reality, and the sleuth always finds out whodunnit, so justice is served and peace restored. And if the story includes a charming romance between a pretty young girl and a handsome young man (amateur detective, part of "the Force", or simply mysterious stranger, I'm not picky on that), then my satisfaction is complete. Ah, escapism.

However, there's one thing that strikes me as being a genuine mystery, in reading mysteries. It concerns those aforementioned charmingly beautiful young girls. In addition to being charming and beautiful, they are usually also quite intelligent - it's part of what makes them so well suited for being a focal point of the story. They see the clues, they sense that something is wrong, they shiver in the cold draft emanating from the sinisterly-left-open window and jump when the soft-footed tabby cat silently brushes by them in the darkened room where they sit, thinking about the handsome young man who is so disturbing to their tender feelings but might still be the murderer. They even almost solve the mystery, usually. However, they seem to be afflicted by a peculiar disability.

See, it's like this: whenever one such girl is told, usually by said handsome young man of chiselled brow and masterful demeanor, that she should not, under any circumstances, tell anyone of her suspicions (which she has just voiced to him in the darkness of the night, leaning on the balcony railing overlooking the rose garden) - or, alternatively, that she should not, whatever else she may do, leave the house without informing him of it (this is usually accompanied by a look of more than usual seriousness from the grey/brown/deep-blue eyes of said handsome gent) - somehow or other it seems to cause the girl's brains to trickle out of her pink and shell-like ears. Or something like it.

Because as soon as a directive of this kind is issued, the girl is guaranteed to do the very thing she was told not to do. She hears the command, fully agrees to it, but somehow always figures that it must not apply to Mrs White (who is, after all, only the cook), or Colonel Mustard (who is surely too pukka sahib to have done anything so sordid as commit the murder), with the inevitable result that she spills the beans to and/or leaves the house in the company of the murderer him- or herself. Of course, as anybody could tell her, it directly leads to her undergoing several pages' worth of hair-raising suspense, being menaced by said murderer in the kitchen/conservatory/ball room with the revolver/rope/lead pipe while he or she monologues about his or her reasons for committing the murder and gleefully prophecies that no one will ever find the girl's body, foolish thing. All of which she could have avoided if she had only paid attention to what she was told.

So what do you think - auditory processing disorder? Something that affects only one very small part of what she's hearing? Because it can't be stupidity; the whole rest of the book establishes very clearly that the girl in question is not stupid.

Ah well. It doesn't really matter all that much, because, fortunately, in the nick of time, just as the murderer is about to pull the trigger/tighten the rope/swing the lead pipe, he of the chiselled features comes bursting (or, alternatively, stealthily creeping) through the french doors, incapacitates the villain (having taken careful note of the monologued confession which clears up the remaining questions about the murderer's guilt), then roughly pulls the girl into his arms while angrily exclaiming "Don't ever do this again, darling!" and presses a hard kiss on her trembling lips, thereby removing the last vestiges of doubts that the girl had about her feelings for him, and/or making her realize for the first time why she always went weak at the knees whenever he glared at her (which she had previously taken for a sign of dislike). D'oh. The End.

Life, the Universe, and Mysteries. It's a mystery, what?

02 July 2012

Grammar Crime

I just re-read my Christmas letter from last year, for reasons I need not go into at this moment. And part-way through, I found, to my shock and chagrin, that I had committed a heinous, horrible, heart-stopping grammar crime. To wit, I wrote "My son is not yet taller than my daughter and I." Oh, the shame! I cringe, I grovel, I blush rosy-red all over my badly grammarized face. (What's my face got to do with grammar? I don't know; it just sounded good at the moment to say that.)

In case you're not quite sure what's so terrible about this, let me enlighten you. It should have said "...my daughter and me." He's taller than ME, not taller than I (well, he is now; he wasn't when that letter was written). So obvious, so very, very obvious, when you drop the first word out of the list! It works with the reverse case, too- it's not "Him and me are going for a walk," because you also wouldn't say "Me am going for a walk," or "Him is going..." Oh, okay, fine- maybe I wouldn't say that, but you would? Far be it from me (from I?) to tell you how to grammarize yourself.

Actually, truth be told, I'm not all that big on grammar, really. I do know how to use it, for the most part, and it bugs me when it's used sloppily by people who should know better. But I don't really know the theory behind it, don't know the rules. I just know what sounds right, for the most part, but if you want to argue really strenuously about some fine grammatical detail, and have rulification to prove your point, I just might have to back down on it, and I'm quite okay with that. Or if you truly couldn't care less if your speech is grammatical, that's fine by me, too; I'd rather hear a kind word couched in bad grammar than a perfectly worded insult. Grammar is, after all, only a tool.

When I was in grade 5, back in Germany, they tried to teach us grammar in school. My language arts teacher knew full well that grammar is at best a yawn-inducing subject, so he tried to make it more interesting by introducing a little alien who had, purportedly, landed in his backyard, and was trying to communicate with him. Said alien didn't speak the language very well; in fact, it was consistently making grammar mistakes, and our teacher was in need of the aid of his students for correcting the alien's errors. Hmph. The first time he came out with that story, it was interesting (somewhere along the lines of "What the heck...?" It wasn't quite what one was used to from one's German teachers.). The second time, it was mildly amusing. And after that, if the alien was brought up, we knew that we were in for yet another grammar lesson... Sigh.

But, here's something that just occurred to me: my grade 5 days were in the distant past of the year 1978. Hmm. Small alien, bad grammar. Wonder it makes me, that does. I don't recall the physical description of my teacher's alien - but do you think that just, perhaps, after it hung around in his backyard for a while, and failed to learn proper German grammar from him due to the lack of interest on the part of his students in providing grammatical aid, it powered up its spaceship, and flew West across the Atlantic? And then it flew a little further yet, across the Southern States, until, just short of yet another ocean, it touched down in the backyard of a bearded fellow who was busily scribbling away on the script for a new movie. And the alien stepped out of its spaceship - no, wait, it hovered out. And it opened its greenish mouth, and uttered these immortal words: "Do. Or do not. There is no try." (By this point, the alien had given up the attempt to learn proper human grammar, in any language; it just talked any-which way.) And the young man in whose yard the alien had landed took out his movie camera, shot footage of the alien, and released it two years later to great critical acclaim in movie theaters across the world. (Whether the alien got any royalties out of it is hitherto unknown.)

And here I thought my teacher had just made up that alien to try to teach us grammar.

Life, the Universe, and Grammar Lessons. Thought of this I never would have, had it not been for the heinous grammar crime which slipped by me in my Christmas letter.