Sunday, April 29, 2007


I have arrived on the first leg of my journey and things are going well. I had another post almost ready to publish but the silly computer time ran out and I lost it so this is going to be short. I don't know how much time I'll have while away to write but I'm hoping to have some updates as I go and I'm also planning on writing things after the fact so we'll see how it goes.
And that's all (for now), folks.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


If cleanliness is next to godliness where does that place the Romans seeing it was the barbarians who introduced them to soap?

Monday, April 23, 2007


It is true that you can never go back. Life changes; you change, the people and places around you change. But occasionally there are opportunities to return to where you were before. I worked at a Standarbred training barn for five years during highschool. When I went off to College and University I had to stop my job. It was hard to go. But this past month I've been able to go back once every week or two and help out again. In a way things are different. Some of the changes are good, some sad (not being as fit as I used to be is only one of them). But in a way noting seems to have changed. At least not at the heart of what mattered. Maybe the towels are put away in a different spot but Ron is still Ron and things are really much the same as they ever were. I don't know how much more I'll be able to work there after this week but I am very thankful for the opportunity to go back. I feel like I'm fifteen again!

Friday, April 20, 2007

the happy home

I have sorely neglected this blog in the past few weeks and I have a feeling that neglect will continue for a while until life gets back to 'normal' (whatever that looks like) but rest assured, my many readers, I have not forgotten about it. The blog will live on though seas may roar and foam...

Once again I have a lazy quote post but I really have wanted to quote this passage for a while. I don't know what other people's experiences with homeschooling were but this gives a good picture of the essence of our home life (well, maybe not down to the details but there's something about the feeling in this scene that seems to capture part of my childhood. Ahh, those were the days...)
So, here is a long excerpt from George Eliot's Middlemarch:
Also, it must be admitted that Mrs Garth was a trifle too emphatic in her resistance to what she held to be follies: the passage from governess into housewife had wrought itself a little too strongly into her consciousness, and she rarely forgot that while her grammar and accent were above the town standard, she wore a plain cap, cooked the family dinner, and darned all the stockings. She had sometimes taken pupils in a peripatetic fashion, making them follow her about in the kitchen with their book or slate. She thought it good for them to see that she could make an excellent lather while she corrected their blunders 'without looking' - that a woman with her sleeves tucked up above her elbows might know all about the Subjunctive Mood or the Torrid Zone - that, in short, she might possess 'education' and other good things in 'tion', and worthy to be pronounced emphatically, without being a useless doll. When she made remarks to this edifying effect, she had a firm little frown on her brow, which yet did not hinder her face from looking benevolent, and her words which came forth like a procession were uttered in a fervid agreeable contralto. Certainly, the exemplary Mrs Garth had her droll aspects, but her character sustained her oddities, as a very fine wine sustains a flavour of skin...

Mrs Garth as certain hours was always in the kitchen, and this morning she was carrying on several occupations at once there - making pies at the well-scoured deal table on one side of that airy room, observing Sally's movements at the oven and dough-tub through an open door, and giving lessons to her youngest boy and girl, who were standing opposite her at the table with their books and slates before them. A tub and clothes-horse at the other end of the kitchen indicated an intermittent wash of small things also going on.

Mrs Garth, with her sleeves turned above her elbows, deftly handling her pastry - applying her rolling-pin and giving ornamental pinches, while she expounded with grammatical fervour what were the right views about the concord of verbs and pronouns with 'nouns of multitude signifying many', was a sight agreeably amusing...

'Now let us go through that once more,' said Mrs Garth, pinching an apple-puff which seemed to distract Ben, an energetic young male with a heavy brow, from due attention to the lesson. '"Not without regard to the import of the word as conveying unity or plurality of idea" - tell me again what that means, Ben.'
(Mrs Garth, like more celebrated educators, had her favourite ancient paths, and in a general wreck of society would have tried to hold her 'Lindley Murray' above the waves.)
'Oh - it means - you must think what you mean,' said Ben, rather peevishly. 'I hate grammar. What's the use of it?'
'To teach you to speak and write correctly, so that you can be understood,' said Mrs Garth, with severe precision. 'Should you like to speak as old Job does?'
'Yes,' said Ben, stoutly; 'it's funnier. He says, "Yo goo" - that's just as good as "You go".'
But he says, "A ship's in the garden", instead of "a sheep",' said Letty, with an air of superiority. 'You might think he meant a ship off the sea.'
'No, you mightn't, if you weren't silly,' said Ben. 'How could a ship off the sea come there?'
'These things belong only to pronunciation, which is the least part of grammar,' said Mrs Garth. 'That apple peel is to be eaten by the pigs, Ben; if you eat it, I must give them your piece of pastry. Job has only to speak about very plain things. How do you think you would write or speak about anything more difficult, if you knew no more of grammar than he does? You would use wrong words, and put words in the wrong places, and instead of making people understand you, they would turn away from you as a tiresome person. What would you do then?'
'I shouldn't care, I should leave off,' said Ben, with a sense that this was an agreeable issue where grammar was concerned.
'I see you are getting tired and stupid, Ben,' said Mrs Garth, accustomed to these obstructive arguments from her male offspring. Having finished her pies, she moved towards the clothes-horse, and said, 'Come here and tell me the story I told you on Wednesday, about Cincinnatus.'
'I know! he was a farmer,' said Ben.
'Now, Ben, he was a Roman - let me tell,' said Letty, using her elbow contentiously.
'You silly thing, he was a Roman farmer, and he was ploughing.'
'Yes, but before that - that didn't come first - people wanted him,' said Letty.
'Well, but you must say what sort of man he was first,' insisted Ben. 'He was a wise man, like my father, and that made the people want his advice. And he was a brave man, and could fight. And so could my father - couldn't he, mother?'
'Now, Ben, let me tell the story straight on, as mother told it us,' said Letty, frowning. 'Please, mother, tell Ben not to speak.'
'Letty, I am ashamed of you,' said her mother, wringing out the caps from the tub. 'When your brother began, you ought to have waited to see if he could not tell the story. How rude you look, pushing and frowning, as if you wanted to conquer with your elbows! Cincinnatus, I am sure, would have been sorry to see his daughter behave so.' (Mrs Garth delivered this awful sentence with much majesty of enunciation, and Letty felt that between repressed volubility and general disesteem, that of the Romans inclusive, life was already a painful affair.) 'Now, Ben.'
'Well - oh - well - why, there was a great deal of fighting, and they were all blockheads, and - I can't tell it just how you told it - but they wanted a man to be captain and king and everything-'
'Dictator, now,' said Letty, with injured looks, and not without a wish to make her mother repent.
'Very well, dictator!' said Ben, contemptuously. 'But that isn't a good word: he didn't tell them to write on slates.'
'Come, come, Ben, you are not so ignorant as that,' said Mrs Garth, carefully serious. 'Hark there is a knock at the door! Run, Letty, and open it.'

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I got through my final Shakespeare exam and can now put those notes away.
It was a good thing to have to study but I am glad it's over. Now on to the other exams. After a wonderful holiday I suppose I must pay my dues and put my nose to the grindstone (it's a little long in any case). It would be nice to get some incentive for this renewal of labour. In light of this situation, I think it is fitting to quote one of Henry V's famous speeches. Not the St Crispin's Day one--I'm hoping to save that for the appropriate time (if I can remember when it comes)--but the one before Harfleur. If this doesn't rouse me into action I don't know what will:
Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility;
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let it pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his counfounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English,
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeomen,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry "God for Harry, England, and Saint George!"

Thursday, April 05, 2007

lesson learned

I'm staying at my brother's apartment for a few days. Being left at home for most of the day yesterday I spent a few hours of the time cleaning their kitchen. I didn't mind it at all; I actually find a certain enjoyment (most of the time) in bringing order from chaos. It was especially nice because it was the opposite of the type of work I have been engaging in recently (papers etc). I got quite a bit of satisfaction in the results. It wasn't a pig sty but it clearly hadn't been cleaned for quite some time (beyond the normal washing of dishes when necessary). I wiped down the cupboards, scrubbed the counter and stove top, got rid of all things growing in the fridge, put out the garbage (trying to rid it of whatever the source of the funky smell was) and did other assorted tasks. I was happy with the result and wasn't sure how the guys would take it when they came home. Would they feel bad that I had spent so long cleaning their kitchen? Would they be surprised with what a difference the cleaning made? What would they say?

They said nothing. Later in the evening Brady said "thanks for doing the dishes. I was planning on doing them but didn't get around to it." That was it. I mean it was nice of him to notice I had done the dishes but I had done so much more than that! Their not saying anything didn't really hurt me, it just surprised me. The kitchen looks so different to me from what it was like before I started that I couldn't understand that they didn't see the difference too (after all, they live here).

This incident has reinforced what I already knew: guys are not observant in the same way that girls are. If a woman walked in the kitchen who had seen its previous state, her first comment would be on how good it looks. I knew this difference existed but I didn't realize how deeply it really ran. I need to remember this for the time when I am married. It is fortunate that I've learned this at a time when the inattention does not hurt me.

Further lessons from this incident: I am not going to attempt to tackle their bathroom.

inconvenient love

I've been indulging in a little Trollope as a treat. One thing I have noticed is that now, even with this being reading for pleasure, I am still reading it as if for class. It is a good habit and makes for rich reading but it surprised me at first.

The aspect I have enjoy the most about Trollope is his characterization. This extract is describing how one of the women in the novel responded to finding herself in unrequited love.
In herself she regarded this passion of hers as a healthy man regards the loss of a leg or an arm. it is a great nuisance, a loss that maims the whole life, - a misfortune to be much regretted. But because a leg is gone, everything is not gone. A man with a wooden leg may stump about through much action, and may enjoy the keenest pleasures of humanity. he has his eyes left to him, and his ears, and his intellect. He will not break his heart for the loss of that leg.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

black keys only, please

Here is an extract from the entry for Irving Berlin in Benet's Reader's Encylopedia:
Berlin had an extrodinary range of musical styles and was one of the few in the American music business (Cole Porter was another) who could successfully write both words and music. His accomplishments were all the more impressive in light of the fact that he had no musical training; he played only the black keys on his piano and only in the key of F sharp. He had a mechanism built into his piano that would change keys for him.

That last point is important becuase so much of the repitoire from that time comes from him and it would have been pretty boring if it all was in F sharp. Of course it would also have made things a little easier for other musician who normally play in a variety of keys only to have to worry about the one key (similar in principle to the blues progression: you know what's expected and are happy to deliver).