Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Novum lingua

If the title to this post is incorrect, it’s Google Translate’s fault. I freely admit I don’t know what I’m doing. But this will change: I am studying Latin this year.

The desire has been building for a while. (Quite a while: my high school offered Latin, but I couldn’t fit it into my schedule.) Every now and then, something I’m interested in will involve Latin, or at least Rome.

  • I’ve had a lifelong interest in Greek mythology, and they always mention that the Greek gods and goddesses had Roman equivalents.
  • I minored in linguistics in college, and I was especially interested in how languages change and develop. Latin was the ancestor to two languages I’ve already studied: Spanish and French.
  • For years, I’ve enjoyed a mystery series set in Rome, and while I certainly didn’t need to know Latin to read it, it piqued my interest in Roman culture.
  • My recent interest in Stoicism has led me to read some of Seneca’s works. My library carries the Loeb Classical Library editions, which have the original Latin on the left page and the English translation on the right. I’d start cross-checking the English with the Latin, trying to guess which was equivalent to what, and would lose sight of what Seneca was actually discussing. Oops.
  • One of the kinds of music I like is modern renditions of older songs. Some of those songs are old enough to have been written in Latin. I’d like to know what the lyrics mean without having to search for translations on the Internet.
Latin inscription on a well in the UK.

Someday, I will understand this.

But I’ve been reading these books and listening to this music for years, so why study Latin now? I think the impulse was triggered about a year ago by finding a copy of Complete Latin by Gavin Betts at a used book store. It insisted on coming home with me, then hung around on a bookshelf the way so many of my purchases do, waiting for the right moment in which to be read. Meanwhile, it exerted a small gravitational pull. By now I’ve got a DVD set, an instruction book, two quick study guides, and a grammar summary. My growing Latin section has probably reached critical mass.

I have made it through the first lesson. It starts gently, with a short history of Latin followed by basic pronunciation. I expected my Spanish and French would be useful for this. And they’re not useless: I’m well aware that English vowels are not like the vowels of other European languages. But oddly enough, it helps to have studied Japanese, even though Japanese has no linguistic relationship to Latin at all. But when I read, “Ideally, repeated consonants, as in pellō (pel-lō), reddō (red-dō), should both be pronounced, but this is difficult for us as it only occurs in English in compounds such as book-keeper,” I remember that repeated consonants are fairly common in Japanese and that I’ve practiced them. At least I don’t have to learn a new writing system for Latin.

My immediate goal: learning to say my alma mater’s motto correctly. (It’s not a pun if I use a common Latin phrase there, is it?) Apparently one does not pronounce the last two words of Natura et revelatio coeli gemini as “seely gemini.” I wonder if they told me that when I was there.

Photo credit: andrew_j_w via photopin cc

Weekly Photo Challenge: Yellow

This week’s photo challenge is timely. It’s been cloudy here for most of December, and while I’m not finding it depressing, a splash of bright color is welcome. That yellow is my favorite color is a bonus.

And because yellow is my favorite color, it pops up throughout my home:

Yellow coats.

“The better to see you with, my dear.” Especially at a bus stop at night.

Pegasus tree ornament

A favorite ornament.

Yellow pens.

I rarely have two of the same pen, but…yellow.

Set of 3 mixing bowls.

Yes, I bought the set for the yellow bowl. But I love the three of them together too.

iPad and cover.

Of course I made my iPad cover out of yellow yarn.

And when friends learned I was blogging yellow, they volunteered yellow things of their own:

Yellow orchids.

ClaireDaLoon’s orchids. Flowers in winter!

Drop spindle and rolag.

Suncat’s golden spinning.

(Daily Post—Weekly Photo Challenge: Yellow)

Things not to say to the ophthalmology nurse

Having finally decided to commit to cataract surgery, I made an appointment with the ophthalmologist to set it up. Perhaps to encourage me to stay committed, they presented me with the consent form—although nothing is making me show up, it’s much harder to think of changing my mind now that I’ve signed the paperwork. Consent forms are the sort of thing I make myself read through even at the best of times, which a Mercury retrograde period is not, so I plunged in. There were no real surprises in the form, not counting the one reference to hysterectomies.* I acknowledged that the doctor isn’t guaranteeing good results, that he discussed the risks with me, and so on. They swear they’ll ask me my name before the surgery begins, which is reassuring, although I hope they also ask me which eye the cataract is in.

Amongst all these disclaimers and promises, the form stated that any tissues or organs removed in the course of surgery “will be disposed of in a respectful manner.” Until I read that, I’d never given that issue any thought. But that phrase conjured up images of a tiny coffin—dark wood, lined in pink satin, and about the size of a sugar cube—in which my cataracted lens would be laid to rest. It would be marked with a wee gravestone, commemorating my lens’s lifespan. A chip of marble would do nicely, perhaps a scrap from a full-sized gravestone.


Like this, only smaller. Lots smaller. (photo credit: Mike Schaffner via photopin cc)

My only explanation for what happened next was my growing nervousness. As the reality of what I was doing sank in (omg, i’m really going through with this? eye surgery? how soon? ack!), I started to ramble out loud. The poor nurse got to hear about the micro-coffin. He looked up from his computer and I could see him mentally reviewing my last sentence or two. And then there was that second where he must have decided that no, I really wasn’t making sense.

He stared.

I shrugged, smiled tightly, and flipped over the next page of the consent form to continue reading.

(Note to self: be really, really mundane when at medical appointments.)


*How many of you went back to the first sentence to verify that I’d said “cataract surgery”?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Relic

The Ford Building in St. Paul, Minnesota.

This is the Ford Building in St. Paul, Minnesota—”Ford” as in Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company. The short version of its history is that it was built in 1913 (1916?) as an assembly plant, was quickly converted into a sales center, and was eventually taken over by the State of Minnesota for office space.

The Ford Building is currently in limbo, which is a possibility for a relic, but not a satisfying one. It’s all neat and crisp when seen from the front, but look along the side. That vertical striping and the ripply effect come from the wire fencing attached to the exterior wall to keep pieces of it from falling on people’s heads. The building is too historically significant to demolish on a whim, but it’s not really usable as is and bringing it up to modern standards would be expensive. So it…sits there.

(Daily Post—Weekly Photo Challenge: Relic)

CONvergence 2014

Another 4th of July weekend, another CONvergence. Not that the 4th of July was completely overlooked. I had a room on the 19th floor of the hotel this year, which allowed me to watch the fireworks displays of at least 6 different cities and suburbs in peace, quiet, and air conditioning.

I haven’t seen final registration figures for this year yet, but let’s assume it was over 7,000 people. Despite the fact that there probably were at least another thousand people there above last year’s total, somehow it all worked better logistically. The major registration backup that was last year’s defining moment was eradicated this year. I took a chance and showed up late in the afternoon instead of first thing in the morning, and it worked out: 2 minutes to check in at the hotel, 5 minutes to pick up my con registration…and 20 minutes waiting in line for an elevator to get to my room. (That last bit was not entirely unexpected after 16+ years of attending conventions at this hotel.)

The official theme of this year’s con was A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. I hereby dub “diversity” as an unofficial theme. It’s not like diversity suddenly popped up out of nowhere—the con has been actively pursuing it for years now—but it seemed to have really established itself in the programming this year. I saw panels for getting beyond the gender binary in SF/F, Asperger Syndrome, dissecting “aliens vs. white guys,” disabled people in fiction, asexuality, and coming out as atheist. Plus, of course, the “standard” panels on urban fantasy, dystopias, this year’s crops of SF/F movies and TV shows, writing, parenting, crafting, and so on. Coolness.

I always expect to take photos and fail to do so, but this year, I had a decent cell phone camera, so I figured I really would take photos. And I did…just not of the con. I took photos of the generic hotel painting in my room and of the equally generic flowers used in every public and commercial planting around here:Generic painting in a hotel room.DQyellowlilies

I got pictures of Sunday morning’s storm: Storm seen from a hotel room window. CONvergence2014storm2

But basically only one photo was con-centered, and it’s pretty much indistinguishable from con photos from any year:

CONvergence panel.

I think this was Saturday’s “The Hobbit: That Wasn’t in the Book!” panel, but I’m not going to swear to that.

I give up.

Guess what? Read half a library’s worth of writing books and suddenly people aren’t saying all that much that’s new at the writing panels. I still went to several of them, though. There’s a world of difference between the neat and clinical stuff in the books and writing as actual human beings practice it, and I like listening to what writers have to say on the matter. (Plus, it’s great knitting time. I got the better part of two sleeves knitted this weekend as well as another inch or so on the Pink Thing.)

I talked to one person that I knew once during the entire con, but I kept catching glimpses of someone I hadn’t seen in 30 years throughout the weekend. I bet there’s some sort of science of how you run into people at huge events that explains this.

And at the absolutely trivial level, I admire how this year’s purple badge goes so nicely with my purple lanyard and the generally pink/purple shades of my wardrobe. Coordination is everything.CONvergence 2014 adult badge.

Little squiggles and dots

We all have strange relationships with punctuation — do you overuse exclamation marks? Do you avoid semicolons like the plague? What type of punctuation could you never live without? Tell us all about your punctuation quirks!The Daily Post

punctuation My favorite punctuation marks—favorite in the sense of having a favorite color: something you like and take pleasure from—are two symbols that I almost never get to use: the inverted question mark and exclamation point in Spanish. They’re so wonderfully practical, letting you know ASAP that you’re heading into a question or an excited declaration. Sure, question words like “who” or “how” can clue you in, but they can be misleading, What was his name? and How are you? are obviously questions, but What a disaster! or How rude! aren’t. (Luckily, English-speakers get other clues to help.) But beyond their usefulness, I like their appearance: familiar, yet unexpected. If I read Spanish more often, I’d probably get used to them and not notice them any longer, but for now they’re rare enough to still be special.

As for English, the language I do use, I don’t have a favorite-like-a-favorite-color punctuation mark. But you’ll find some of them in my writing more than others. I lean towards too many parentheses. I’ve finally learned to let them pop up naturally as I write and then thin them out while editing, because else I tie myself in knots trying to work around them. I’m trying to use the em dash more as a substitute, but I don’t think I’m fooling anyone. Hey, they say it’s a good thing to find your writing voice, and I have. It happens to be a voice with a lot of parenthetical asides. I use quite a few ellipses as well. I was happy to discover that there’s an ellipses character. Perhaps you’re thinking, You find it difficult to type three periods in a row?. No, but when a computer considers the ellipses a single character, it doesn’t break it up at the end of a line. The single-character ellipses also saves me two characters in Twitter. See? Useful.

Other than that, my punctuation uses are pretty mainstream. Oxford comma? Yes. Semicolons? A tad formal for everyday writing, but I find uses for them. Just because something is a bit stiff doesn’t make it wrong. Apostrophes? Little land mines, each and every one of them, but worth the effort. Periods? A basic staple, and probably not appreciated nearly as much as they deserve. I mostly obsess over them when writing one-sentence photo captions. Use them? Don’t use them? Yes, I think about things like this.