Saturday, August 30, 2008

You might be a medievalist if...

"You add the word 'yet' to the statement 'I don't know that language.'"

You may find the complete list at this post. :-) Hat tip:

Friday, August 29, 2008

I need some woods

We're having another misty, moisty, muggy day. It's really rather nice, not hot, and we needed this storm. All our grass was turning brown. I think fall is here; leaves are starting to scatter on the University of Richmond roads, which, incidentally, I adore. They go down a steep woodsy hill and wind through more forest, a real one with pine trees and all. It reminds me very much of the road down the the skating rink, into that steep little canyon behind Hot Rocks.
The strangest thing about our housing complex is that there's so little outdoors. The place is begrassed and tidily-bushed and landscaped to within an inch of its life, and I can't even find a decent stream. There are woods off that-a-way, miserable little snatches and corners of them, but they're full of beer cans and broken glass, and I have no intention of going into them alone. I know where the James River is, but not a good place to go hang out with it, and anyway rivers are not conducive to floating little impromptu boats and splashing about without an audience. No; I was thoroughly spoiled, first by our beautiful mesas and then campus.
It's Virginia: there's got to be outdoors somewhere!
On the positive side, there's a big old maple right outside the kitchen window. It's definitely older than my house, which is encouraging. I'll keep you posted when it starts to change colors. And my schefflera (Bertie Woozle) and impatiens seem very happy on the front porch steps.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Blogger being weird

Incidentally, for about the last month, Blogger has been doing weird things to my formatting--it randomly removes my line breaks and double-breaks between paragraphs. I've hunted through their help files and tried to report the bug, all to no avail. Has anyone noticed this? Anybody have ideas what to do about it?

The green and the gray

There's nothing quite like a gray day, a drizzly day, where it rains quietly when you get up, carries on raining all day, and apparently means to keep going while you mortals give up and go to bed.

Today was that sort of day. I picked up Jonathan mid-afternoon from his last class, and we retired comfortably home, to our open windows and cinnamon toast and books and tea (on my part).

I read my new book by Richard Halliburton (published 1927) where he goes and explores the Greek isles and follows Odysseus' route. Jonathan read Zahn's The Green and the Gray--which exactly describes the sort of day it was. When I imagined the first week of law school, it wasn't this; but I can't say I mind a bit. :-)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Maybe I am fearsome after all

::Jonathan laughs randomly::
Me: What?
J: I'm repressing a comment.
Me: I'll repress you.
J: I know. That's why I'm repressing it.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

BBC book list

From Semicolon, here's a fun book list: bold the ones you read, italicize the ones you mean to read, star the ones you loved, and strikeout/x out the ones you hated or refuse to read. :-)

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
*2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. The Harry Potter Series - JK Rowling
*5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman X
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy X
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller [maybe]
14. Complete Works of *Shakespeare [I've read a lot, but not all, and loved some: how do you mark that?
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier [maybe]
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot [maybe]
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy ['s so long and Russian]
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll X [Lewis Carroll disturbs me. His fairy tales are written by the Grownup In the Room, with a wink and a nod and cultural references I don't get.]
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. *Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma- Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
[Wasn't that included in #33?]
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini X
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden X
40. *Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown X
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. *Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy (Started but didn't like it)
48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood X
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding [maybe]
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel X [Too disgusting for me]
52. Dune - Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon X
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez X
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov X
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold X [Picked it up and put it down again]
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac X
67 .Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy X [Hardy again!]
68. Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
73. *The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce X
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath X [I can't take Plath, whether she's brilliant or not]
77. *Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker X [She ignored her daughter while raising her, who grew up to repudiate everything Alice believed. What kind of recommendation is that?]
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven -- Mitch Albom X
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams [Started it once; I think I'll go back.]
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas [In the middle of it!]
98. *Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables– Victor Hugo [Maybe]

Query: why did Bridget Jones' Diary beat out Brothers Karamazov?

Bureaucracy, meet technology

I got my new license yesterday! It took two and a half hours, but my name change is complete. It went smoothly, except for the computer, which knew it held the advantage and mocked the feeble efforts of my DMV agent. It cooperated after an hour of help from Supervisor Kitty, tech support, and a call to someone Kitty knew at another office.

Monday, August 18, 2008

In my scrapbook, I have...

a Kanary
Queen Margaret

That is what happens when you let Jonathan and me loose with the "in my scrapbook" game.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

In memoriam

Lilly is away. Little cat went about the garden: She not wildcat like Tex, never stray. Did a predator catch her? My smile hides.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mummy 3

"Mummy 3: The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor," which Jonathan wishes to subtitle "The Sad Abuse of Jet Li," has its moments. Kind of. But chiefly it's an awful little film.

It was doomed to fail because they didn't get Rachel Weisz back to be Evie O'Connell, and she was rockin' awesome. Maria Bello is not rockin' awesome. The script...I'm not sure if even Weisz could have saved it, but Bello certainly didn't. :-( Brendan Fraser and Jet Li were amusing, but they couldn't quite carry it off. It's basically the plots of the earlier Mummy movies with Pirates and the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. (I'm serious: the Evil Emperor gets Orc music. That's how you know he's Evil.)

Basic plot: that great kid Alex is all grown up and boring-ized and is excavating the Emperor's tomb in China and sorta-kinda has a girlfriend who tries to kill him but he doesn't mind, and his parents turn up in China and go all heavy-parent and insult her. But that's okay, because the evil (we aren't sure why, but they say so) Emperor is about to be wakened from the dead, and Alex's girlfriend's mission in life is to keep him from becoming immortal by preventing him from drinking at the Pool of Something-Or-Other in Shangri-La. The O'Connell parents forget they don't like her since there's a much more obvious threat. But the O'Connell parents have mysteriously become boring and suspicious since the last movie, and don't believe the girlfriend when she says the only way to kill the Emperor is by stabbing him through the heart with the special dagger her mother cursed. Naturally, The Worst occurs.

So the yetis hop in and out of the movie in an anime sort of way, and Evie's brother Jonathan is as greedy as ever, and the girlfriend's mother calls up an army of the dead to combat the Emperor's undead terra-cotta army. Why do otherwise rational beings want conquest-happy undead Emperors running round loose? Why do people persist in bringing back the souls of people who died badly and are likely to be very angry? And why, why, why do movies with unimpressive plots have to have dialogue as bad as all that?

Anyway, they eventually get it sorted out, kind of, and all the undead armies conveniently dissolve into dust, and Jonathan determines he's really going somewhere without mummies now. So he picks Peru. The last line of the movie was, "Then mummies were found in Peru..."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


By George Herbert.

Who sayes that fictions onely and false hair
Become a verse? Is there in truth no beautie?
Is all good structure in a winding stiar?
May no lines passe, except they do their dutie
Not to a true, but painted chair?

Is it no verse, except enchanted groves
And sudden arbours shadow course-spunne lines?
Must purling streams refresh a lover's loves?
Must all be vail'd, while he that reads divines,
Catching the sense at two removes?

Shepherds are honest people; let them sing:
Riddle who list for me, and pull for Prime:
I envie no man's nightingale or spring;
Nor let them punish me with loss of rime
Who plainly say, My God, My King.

Timor mortis conturbat me

Pauline Baynes, illustrator and mapmaker for Narnia and Middle-Earth, passed away on August 1. I'm sorry to see her go. Photo: thanks to

Monday, August 11, 2008

Swords in the umbrella stand

It's a little hard to see, but this is the window to our lair, which is very small and full of books and also doubles as a guest bedroom. If you look closely at the window, yes, you can see that books do in fact obscure the lower half of it.

It's a great apartment, and very us-ish. What do you do? :-)

Jonathan and I just got back from a week at his parents' while he took all-day-every-day law prep classes at U-Penn. The classes were great; but while he was doing that, his mom and I came back to Richmond for an overnight, to meet my mom and sister, who were driving out to visit.

So the four of us had some great girl time in the apartment. I think my favorite comment was from his mother: "Of course! Everybody keeps swords in their umbrella stand!"

Friday, August 08, 2008

Ben and Lisa's wedding

Many of us have been waiting a long time for this, and a happy event it was. :-)

The groom, looking at his Lisa.

The groomsmen. The rehearsal was exceeding- ly warm, but the Lord answered prayers and kept it from raining during the ceremony.

Lisa was beautiful.

Things grew breezy and overcast for the reception. The cake was tall and white and gardeney...

And they danced in the rain. Perfect, n'est-ce pas?

The happy event was July 20, 2008.

Friday, August 01, 2008

"No stars so lovely"

A post about Scotland.

Jonathan and I were married June 28th, and for our wedding trip went to Scotland. :-) This was partly because we're both partly Scottish, partly to see a castle or two of Macbeth's, and partly because we'd never been and wanted to. We liked Scotland, for the record.

We stayed in Edinburgh most of the time, but took three days in the middle to go up to Inverness. Edinburgh is very much a city; very international, lots of ethnic restaurants, and I'm sure I saw Cyrillic-character graffiti. But it's a lovely city.

We didn't rent a car, so we became well acquainted with the air, train, bus, and even taxi systems. Public transportation in Scotland is a beautiful thing, and the bus drivers are even helpful. "Did ye want to go to Cawdor village or the castle? The castle? Verra well, I'll set ye doon there." But when the buses fail you, you can walk. The cities are actually pedestrian-friendly. And there are lots of little gates with honeysuckle or fuschia dangling over, and random historical plaques in corners, so the walker is well rewarded.

Scottish food is most unjustly maligned, incidentally. We thought it was amazing--except for coffee, hamburgers, and Chinese food. They cannot make those to save their lives. But if you confine yourself to tea and toffee sticky pudding and interesting little soups and salads and breads, and chicken, and fish-and-chips, and risotto, and Italian food, and paninis, and pasties... you get the picture. They use real ingredients, I do believe, and the waitresses are extremely nice. And even the burger place behaved like a real restaurant. We also learned that you will weird out the keepers of pubs if you try to order lemonade with your dinner. Eating in Scotland is downright fun. :-) We fell in love with the proper Scottish breakfast, consisting of tea, juice, toast, eggs, bacon or sausage, fried mushrooms and tomatoes, and yogurt and cereal and black pudding if you liked. (I didn't.)

When we weren't hanging out at bed-and-breakfasts, we indulged our favorite pastime of castle-hunting. Cawdor came first, being just a ways outside Inverness. Do you remember that line of Scott's about the birds, the funny one that was very long and embarrassing? "No jutty frieze, buttress, nor coign of vantage, but this bird hath made his pendant bed and procreant cradle. Where they most breed and haunt, I have observed, the air is delicate." This is of interest because it's true. The air at Cawdor is sweet, sweeter than any I've known, sweet like the waters at the Utter East. Shakespeare must have known.

And as it happens, the air of Cawdor was one of its better parts. It's the Lady Cawdor's house and is quite modern inside: at least, it was redone in the seventies, which is unfortunate. That wallpaper... There are many hideous treasures inside which I suppose they couldn't bear to get rid of. I can't blame them; I'm terrible at getting rid of things, myself; but it was a shame to see the castle so...uncastley. It was, as Bunter put it, a period piece, my lady, but of an inferior period. Jonathan was sorely disappointed at the gatehouse's indefensibility.

The next day we bought a picnic and took the bus to Urquhart Castle. We arrived just as they were ending some sort of historical even, apparently involving jousting and costumes and (oddly) the last yowling electric-guitar strains of Queen. It felt like something out of "Knight's Tale," which would discombobulate anyone. But eventually the historical people all went away and left us to explore the castle properly.

Urquhart traces its history back to the 900s when St. Columba converted the chieftain Emchath there on his deathbed. At some point it got built as a proper castle, and later someone else added additional living quarters off to the side. Then Jacobites deserted it during their rebellion, and blew it up with gunpowder so the royalists couldn't get it. Or maybe I'm getting that backwards. But now it's this dramatic gray stone ruin jutting into Loch Ness, and we saw it on a perfect evening. It was cloudy--the tourists filtered away--the loch slapped coldly against the water-gate landing--the museum and shop closed--and we betook ourselves to a little stair, to eat our bread and cheese and strawberries and wait for the bus.

Jonathan decided he could probably hold the castle against any force of the size that would be likely to come and try to take it. The clouds drifted down the loch. Soon the far mountains were obscured...then the nearer hills and the village...and soon it was just us and the castle. And the rain. The bus was half an hour late. But we had an umbrella and a picnic, and there are worse places to sit and wait than at a ruined castle in Scotland with one's new-wedded husband.

The third castle we hunted was Stirling. For this, we took a train up from Edinburgh. It dropped us right at the town, and the town is the sort that grew up around the castle like in David Macauley's Castle. So up to the castle we went. It's another amazing building. I quite see why the Scots and English kept wanting it. It's built on top of a rocky hill that overlooks the country in all directions, with a gorgeous thick wall or double wall, and then the building inside. We saw them weaving replacement "Unicorn" tapestries for Her Ladyship's chamber, and the newly restored Great Hall with thrones very much like the celebrant's chairs we used for Macbeth, and muddled about in the chapel and the somethingth regimental museum (I still don't know why it was in Stirling Castle, but oh well) and garden named after somebody because his body was thrown there after he got murdered, and had tea in the castle cafe, and then we left to go see Bannockburn before it closed.

It looked much closer on the map, in my defense. Also, I think the nice lady gave us directions to Bannockburn Village instead of Bannockburn Battlefield. I didn't know there WAS a Bannockburn Village. But by the time we figured this out, it was late. We were footsore. We wanted our dinner. The battlefield was closed by then anyhow. So we stood under our umbrella because it was raining again, and waited for a bus, which came and took us to our train.

It was a fun honeymoon. God was good, and always did send us a bus or hold up the train or locate an eatery for us, or whatever was necessary. And, furthermore: we're happily married. :-)