Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 10:48 pm
Start-of-season wax clinic at Soo Finnish Nordic tonight! Was really looking forward to this, 'cuz my skis haven't really had a proper waxing since I got them -- just whatever the store put on them, plus a daily touch-up with express wax.

So, my major learning for the evening: it turns out, applying proper wax to skis does indeed make them more slippery, and therefore faster! However, it also makes you more clumsy...! Going to have to check the package to see if this side effect is listed on there. Will be in touch with the wax manufacturer if not. ;)
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Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 09:37 pm
Something I've wanted to do for a while: You know those sites where you can fill in which states/counties/whatever you've visited? I'd like to generalise that. You could zoom to a particular area and it would say "counties of Wales" or "police force areas of Wales" or "wards of Salford" or whatever. Then when you chose one you could colour the regions in as you wished, and make a key. And then you could save them as SVG or PNG, both with enough metadata that you could reload them back into the site and get your editable state back. Some sort of integration with Wikimedia Commons would be nice too. What do you think?
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Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 01:59 am
Gentle Readers
a newsletter made for sharing
volume 2, number 7
15th December 2014: the strangest whim
What I’ve been up to

I've been dividing my time between writing, contacting potential literary agents, and being asleep-- this last because they're trying me with a new antidepressant. So far it seems to be going well, but time will tell.

Two special offers for your attention, especially if you're looking for last-minute ideas for presents:

1) Because my partner Kit and I are still both too ill to work, I've reissued Time Blew Away Like Dandelion Seed, a collection of over a hundred of my poems. You can buy the paperback from Lulu. A signed and numbered hardback edition is also in the works: I'll let you know when it's ready. (The best regular way of supporting Gentle Readers, and me, financially is still through Patreon.)

2) My good friend Katie, who is a talented photographer as well as a nursing student, was due to study in the Netherlands next semester, but then she was unexpectedly sent to Finland instead. The Finnish cost of living is rather greater than the Dutch, so she is selling prints of her work to make up the budget shortfall. Please do go and check them out.

A poem of mine

FOR NIGHT CAN ONLY HIDE

When once I stop and take account of these
that God has granted me upon the earth,
the loves, the friends, the work, that charm and please
these things I count inestimable worth;
when once I stop, I learn that I am rich
beyond the dreams of emperors and kings
and light is real, and real these riches which
exceed the worth of all material things...
   when thus I stop, I cannot understand
   when few and feeble sunbeams cannot find
   their way into that drab and dreary land,
   the darkness of the middle of my mind.
yet darkness cannot take away my joy,
for night can only hide, and not destroy.

Something wonderful

The City of Westminster is one of the towns that make up Greater London. In 1672, its population was growing very fast, and builders were anxious to buy land for housing. George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham, owned a mansion in Westminster called York House, and he agreed to sell it for demolition and redevelopment. The price he named was £30,000-- around £6 million in modern money-- plus one extra condition: all the streets built on the land had to be named after him.

The developers agreed, and set to work. Soon they had built George Street, Villiers Street, Duke Street, and Buckingham Street, at which point they were running out of naming possibilities, with one small alley yet to be named. Thus, in a moment of desperate lateral thinking, they gave it the ingenious name of Of Alley.

Something from someone else

Chesterton wrote quite a few poems about depression. I like this one particularly because it starts humorously-- literally using gallows humour-- but once it's drawn you in, it ends on a serious point about hope. Ballades are a difficult form, but Chesterton makes it look easy, though in fact he's made it even harder for himself by his choice of rhymes. It's conventional to address a prince at the end of a ballade, who is often assumed to be the Prince of Darkness (i.e. Satan): thus the end of the poem is about the downfall of evil, and perhaps the Second Coming.

BALLADE OF SUICIDE
by G K Chesterton

The gallows in my garden, people say,
Is new and neat and adequately tall.
I tie the noose on in a knowing way
As one that knots his necktie for a ball;
But just as all the neighbours— on the wall—
Are drawing a long breath to shout "Hurray!"
The strangest whim has seized me... After all
I think I will not hang myself today.

To-morrow is the time I get my pay—
My uncle's sword is hanging in the hall—
I see a little cloud all pink and gray—
Perhaps the rector's mother will NOT call—
I fancy that I heard from Mr. Gall
That mushrooms could be cooked another way—
I never read the works of Juvenal—
I think I will not hang myself today.

The world will have another washing day;
The decadents decay; the pedants pall;
And H. G. Wells has found that children play,
And Bernard Shaw discovered that they squall;
Rationalists are growing rational—
And through thick woods one finds a stream astray,
So secret that the very sky seems small—
I think I will not hang myself today.

Prince, I can hear the trumpet of Germinal,
The tumbrils toiling up the terrible way;
Even today your royal head may fall—
I think I will not hang myself today. 

Colophon

Gentle Readers is published on Mondays and Thursdays, and I want you to share it. The archives are at https://gentlereaders.uk, and so is a form to get on the mailing list. If you have anything to say or reply, or you want to be added or removed from the mailing list, I’m at thomas@thurman.org.uk and I’d love to hear from you. The newsletter is reader-supported; please pledge something if you can afford to, and please don't if you can't. ISSN 2057-052X. Love and peace to you all.

Sunday, December 14th, 2014 01:28 pm
I can remember going through that stage fairly clearly. I was about five, and I'd read a cracker joke at a party that said:
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Major.
Major who?
Major road ahead.
This is because there used to be road signs that said "major road ahead", but I didn't know this-- they'd been obsolete before I was born. I assumed it meant that a major in the army rode ahead of the rest of the soldiers. That seemed a bit odd, but when I told my parents the joke, they laughed. Can anything compare to that moment when you make someone else laugh on purpose? So I told the joke again the next day, and it somehow wasn't funny any more. Clearly, then, I had to learn new jokes, but how? I determined to experiment by changing the joke slowly to see whether I could work out what made the original joke funny. My first attempt was:
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Major.
Major who?
Major curtains.
Of course when I told my parents that joke they laughed as well because of the surrealism, which made constructing a hypothesis about the nature of humour rather difficult.
Friday, December 12th, 2014 08:56 am
Sick at home all day, you say, human? Awesome.

Read more... )
Friday, December 12th, 2014 08:40 am
Conjunctivitis in both eyes.

Fuck you, body.

Going back to work for two days might not have been the best idea ever, but there's no need to punish me for that.
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Thursday, December 11th, 2014 10:04 pm
For an English Lit GCSE assignment I wrote the diary of a policeman who was following Wordsworth around the Lakes in the belief he was a Napoleonic spy. At one point our hero attempts to get the suspect to prove he's a poet by quoting the piece he's working on. It goes:

"Behold her, single in the field,
Reaping and singing by the hedge;
Reaping and singing by herself;
It really sets my teeth on edge.
Her notes are flat; it gives me pain
To hear her solitary strain."

"If she improves," he adds, "I may revise the stanza."
Thursday, December 11th, 2014 07:22 pm
Today I coughed so hard I nearly vomited.

My life is so glamorous. Is it the weekend yet?
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Thursday, December 11th, 2014 02:32 am
A few years ago, I collected 110 of my poems into a book; I'm bringing it back into print for a few months in order to pay bills since my partner and I are both too sick to work. You can buy it from Lulu in the UK, US, and many other countries-- usually it's US$20, about £12, but at present it's discounted to US$17, about £11.

There will also be a numbered and signed proper hardback edition of fifty; I'll be doing that through Kickstarter and announcing it later this week.

Let me know if you have questions. And tell your friends!



Reader comments:
“It's happy, sad, funny, thought-provoking and occasionally groan-worthy.”
“Overflowing with beauty, sadness and joy.”
Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 09:32 am
Summa cum laude. I am so proud of the husband.
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Sunday, December 7th, 2014 03:33 pm
I started coughing yesterday evening. And now today I am once again down with a temperature (38.2 at the moment).

I was only sick three weeks ago! What the heck, body?

The husband is having his PhD defense tomorrow, so I am mostly just lying around feeling sorry for myself today...
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Saturday, December 6th, 2014 08:25 am
I am currently rewatching Star Trek: Voyager, which I used to watch on German TV when it first aired, so when I was a teenager. I even hung out in German fandom a bit back then, as pretty much the only non-Janeway/Chakotay shipper... (B'Elanna/Tom was my weapon of choice... I still went after the obvious ships back then...)

Anyway, I am only watching the episodes I want to watch because Gosh, Voyager has some terrible episodes. I am now in season 4 (last episode: The Raven). Voyager, when it was good, was, in my opinion, amazing. It just also was very bad when it wasn't good. And I seem to have had more tolerance for Seven's outfit when I was younger. It just seems to stand out and scream at me right now.

When I read a review of the series that called it 'the feminist Star Trek' before rewatching, I laughed. But actually, I think it does a pretty good job at it for a Trek TV series. It's almost offensively heterosexist at times, and Tuvok and Harry really need more to do, but the women are usually portrayed as capable and invaluable members of the crew. They talk to each other, they have personal lives not solely revolving around their designated love interests and so on. I like that. And Jeri Ryan is a very good actress, I think.
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