Saturday, April 01, 2017

Life on my own #51: Long distance

So I'm engaged now.

Yeah, Me-a-year-ago is just as surprised as you are. On April Fools Day 2016, one year ago today, I had just figured out I had better buy myself some flowers instead of waiting around for Prince Charming to prance in with a bouquet. I wasn't exactly expecting Prince Charming to show up anytime soon, if at all.

All I can say is, God clearly has a sense of humor.

The short version is, I thought I was just having lunch with an entertaining out-of-town business traveler and it turned into... History. Most of this history played out over a distance of some 1,300 miles (give or take a hundred or so), over Facebook, Skype, email and vacation days. Considering I always thought I'd be terrible at a long-distance relationship, that could be the most surprising aspect of this whole surprising epic.

So it was easy to go on living my independent, solo life. Most of my acquaintances didn't even know Prince Charming existed until several months after I met him. (Of course, there was no concealment from my good friends.) Long distance meant none of the usual dating nonsense, no weekly restaurant visits, no Netflix-and-chill. Life on the surface doesn't change much when you are falling for someone you only see once every few weeks.

I'll resist the cliché comparisons to an iceberg or an ocean.

What did change was how I spent late evenings. Texting, then Skyping, at the end of a workday. A tender wish good night. All of the sentimental stuff you see on the silver screen doesn't compare to the uniquely silly conversations you have when there's nothing specific to talk about, no particular reason to talk, yet you talk anyway.

Then again, our independent lives have meant plenty of stories to tell. Having not had the same weather makes even such a quotidian subject interesting. (And really, weather doesn't get enough credit as a topic of interest. It shapes even the culture in which you're immersed. But that's a topic for another day.)

And were it not for our skill, even comfort, with living on our own, perhaps this romance would have faltered at the outset. Perhaps it would have petered out as either of us decided the result wasn't worth the monumental effort. Perhaps it would have breathed its last as two people found out the miscommunication that can happen when you're not often physically present. Perhaps it would have given up the ghost as less perfect but more convenient dates presented themselves.

But a life on my own meant I knew I would survive, even thrive, sans boyfriend. Less perfect beaus would have failed to convince me I would be happier facing the unknowns of a shared life than the knowns of living solo.

The transition to a shared life isn't over, won't be for many months. And I'll probably never be quite rid of the independent spirit that has shaped my life so far.

I hope not, anyway. I'm certain it's a strength, something by which a romance turns into a 50th anniversary dinner.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Life on my own #50: Roses in springtime

I've come to appreciate a bouquet of roses.

For the longest time, I was like, roses? They're pretty and all, but so are lots of other things like clean floors I don't have to sweep dead rose petals from.

And thorns are poiky. (That's pronounced like boy-key. It's a technical term meaning "owwwww I pierced my thumb.")

But I was shopping for groceries the day before Easter, feeling mighty fine. Spring had sprung and I'd just finished a morning full of yard work. A purple hyacinth had magically appeared in my shopping cart, 50 percent off. A few minutes after I picked up that pot, I passed the display of bouquets and noticed a small but pristine bunch of roses for just $4.

Why not? I asked myself.

I've been given a single rose just once or twice, and got a bouquet no more than that. There were rarely any flowers inside my house growing up - my mom is allergic to pretty much everything. I simply had no idea what a bouquet sitting on the dining room table would be like.

So on the spur of the moment, I bought myself a beautiful, perhaps small bouquet of deep red velvety roses.

It was an adventure. I had to figure out how to carry them without hurting them. Would they get crushed in the shopping cart? In my grocery bag in the car? What if the movements of my driving knocked the jug of milk onto them?

Somehow I found an appropriately sized vase for them in my cupboards. I actually read the directions (!) on the plastic wrapper to find out how to care for my new experiment. I looked suspiciously at the little packet of "flower food" and decided to set it aside.

Then the flowers remained perched on a windowsill or on my dining room table for several days.

Gradually, I would notice a faint, pleasant scent every time I came home from work. Instead of the putrid smell sometimes coming from the dirty dishes in the sink, I sensed the aroma of a well-tended garden, the fragrance of a blossoming flower.

It was better than any diffuser. It's what I want my home to smell like every single day.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Miata Diaries: Young navigators

You're not supposed to drive with the top down on Dec. 12.

But if it's 62 degrees out, how can you resist?

I took the Miata out for one final spin of the season on that abnormally warm day, just before topping off the tank and parking it in the garage for the winter. Clad in leather coat and a matching gray and black hat, I zipped here and there through the city streets, enjoying the unseasonably comfortable weather.

Before leaving, I texted a friend to see if her three daughters - all ages 10 and under - would like a ride.

"I just asked the girls if they were interested and their eyes bugged out with huge smiles," my friend texted back. 

So a little later that afternoon, this little red car could be seen - and heard! - making loops round and round a quiet little residential block, carrying a couple of blondes. 

It's fun to leave the car in second gear and rev it up just so the kids feel like they're racing. And you can take corners more quickly in this sort of car than in a family van.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The TARDIS explained to a non-Whovian

Yes, I know my blog has lain dormant for some time. The reason? My laptop died a couple of months ago and I still haven't gotten the new hard drive for it. I suppose I don't want to face actually having lost a bunch of photos and music I hadn't backed up. At least I didn't lose my documents!

But as a slight interruption to this extended hiatus, I present the following exchange I had tonight with a co-worker. I copied this verbatim from our inter-office IM, where I'd just mentioned the TARDIS in a conversation about Halloween costumes. Whovians, prepare to be amused.

Paginator: I looked up tardis and read an urbandictionary definition and am even more confused

Me: umm.... so it's basically a time travel spaceship in disguise as a phone booth

Paginator: back to being speechless

Me: it's a big deal in the TV show Doctor Who. And it's supposed to be able to shapeshift into pretty much anything as a disguise, but the shapeshifter part broke so it's stuck being a phone booth.

Paginator: are they going to fix it?

Me: no... long story short, it's basically the last one of its kind and there aren't any spare parts for it. Kind of like a Ford Pinto or something

Paginator: that sucks. Do they still use it as a phone booth or did they throw it out?

Me: no it still travels and all that, it just looks like a phone booth. The phone doesn't actually work that well

Paginator: oh, that's better than just a phone booth

Me: yeah, it's pretty awesome. it's also bigger on the inside, like Mary Poppins' carpet bag. You walk in and you find out it's like as big as the Starship Enterprise inside.

Paginator: or the bottle from I dream of Jeannie

Me: yeah, that too. Except I think that bottle only had like one room, didn't it?

Paginator: I think you're right.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Miata Diaries: Road trip to Mammoth Cave

Let's visit Mammoth Cave, she said. Let's try to pack all the camping gear into the 5.3 cubic feet of trunk, she said. 

So that's what she did.

Yes, believe it or not, all items needed for a weekend camping trip - including food - fit into the tiny trunk that can barely contain a guitar case. That's tent, ground mat, camping chair, clothes bag, grocery bag full of food and snacks, and incidentals. Oh, and a hefty camera case for a DSLR.

Those summers working in a shipping warehouse come in handy when you need to pack like you're playing Tetris. 

It had to fit, you see. Because yours truly decided to plan a detour specifically to enjoy a scenic ride through Brown County, Indiana, with the convertible top down and in high gear around the corners. (Well, not the absolute highest gear. But the pickup ahead was percipient enough to pull to the right to let this driver pass.)

It might not have happened that way, but it did. Despite unceasing rain for the first couple of hours of the road trip. Yours truly embarked with prayers that the rain would let up by the time the detour route was reached, and lo and behold, it did.

Rain came down once again as the destination neared, though. What would have been a slow, relaxed tent setup hour turned into an hour's adventure eating at Cracker Barrel for the first time. The experience was only made more immersive by the distinct Kentucky drawl the staff and most of the customers used.

When time came to leave the tip, the clouds had parted, leaving space for sunshine to brighten the just slightly postponed camp setup.

You may not be surprised to learn this trip included 5.5 miles of backcountry hiking, 12 miles of kayaking (without the help of any current), 4 miles of cave hiking and a total of more than 600 miles of driving, including two long Ohio River bridges. Oh, and two ferry rides across the lazy Green River.

Picture yours truly, sticking the Miata in park and floating across a river, like it was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Snapping pictures along the way, to boot. What the ferry operator must have thought! 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Review: God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life

God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Veith Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Luther said that faith serves God, but works serve our neighbor."

That's an early sentence out of Gene Veith's short book, which resurrects Martin Luther's teachings on the workaday world for the 21st-century audience (who, like me, has probably never read a word that Luther actually wrote, besides the hymn "A Mighty Fortress" anyway). And with it, Veith launches into a clear outline of what Luther and others taught about the holy pursuit of... plumbing.

Veith covers the vocations of work, citizenship, family and church membership, often using regular-Joe examples related to plumbing or farming or a host of other occupations. The writing isn't as exciting as, say, an adventure novel, but it's sufficiently on layman's turf that you don't have to have studied Biblical languages or church history to follow what he's saying.

I've read Veith's blog, Cranach, for quite some time. Topics there range far and wide, and when you learn what he believes about "vocation," or calling(s) for what we do with our time and talents, you understand why. For one thing, he thinks it's "in vocation that evangelism can most effectively happen." If the plumber does his job well and goes above and beyond in order to do so, people begin to ask why.

As someone who has regularly considered selling everything and flying off to the mission field -- but hasn't, at least not yet, in part because my skills are more suited to work in the continental US -- it's refreshing to learn the ways in which my faith is not only compatible, but foundational, to what I do for a living and how I do it. As Veith explains, my reach for excellence and integrity may look the same as another good worker without that foundation, but at the end of the day a Christian's purpose in doing it is to show love for his - or her - neighbor. Even if I'm in the US heartland, my work can have eternal impact.

After all, Veith points out, no one lives in a vacuum, completely capable of filling all his own needs. The farmer must still buy seed, and fertilizer, and equipment. He'll call the plumber, just like I would. And the plumber, in turn, gets somebody else to help prepare his tax return. "Whether we want to accept it or not, self-sufficiency is an illusion. We do depend on other people... for our very lives."

He's right, you know. Even overseas missionaries need their friends back home who are good at stuff like writing or computer programming. Even plumbing.

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The eloquence of the Greatest Generation

I received a lovely surprise today at work: A thank-you bouquet from a WWII veteran.

This veteran is originally from the town where I work and at 90 years old must be one of a very small number of men left who had served in World War II. He had seen an article I wrote recently about the Roll of Honor, a local monument to the area's WWII veterans (both the living and those who've passed on). So he called me this week, hoping someone at the paper could send him a photo of the monument.

He lives out of town and had never seen it since it was rebuilt in 2010, even though his name and those of several of his relatives are on it.

I couldn't find him any from the paper but I snapped a few with my phone on my way to an assignment and emailed them to him. He replied with his thanks and I figured that was taken care of.

Then about noon today, one of the front desk ladies brought these peach roses, saying they were delivered for me. For the life of me I couldn't guess who had sent them, until I read the short note with the veteran's name.

In flower language, peach means gratitude. Those of us in journalism treasure every kind word we receive - there is a bulletin board at work with the note cards we've received over the years pinned to it, just to remind us that not all the feedback we get is negative. But this is by far the most pleasant "thank you" any of us in the newsroom has ever gotten.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Jane and the Doctor #1

As I re-watched one of my favorite episodes of the British TV show "Doctor Who," which features a story surrounding Agatha Christie, I was inspired.

Wouldn't an episode featuring Jane Austen be the best thing since sliced bread?

I shared this desire with a Whovian fan club I belong to on Facebook. Then I began imagining what interactions between the Doctor, his companion and various characters in Jane Austen's life might look like.

As easy as these have proven to write, this is undoubtedly only the first of several installments of the sort. The vignettes below are not presented chronologically, by the way. "Ten," of course, denotes the Tenth Doctor, and Donna is his companion in the fourth season of the reboot.


Jane's mom: "And is this your wife?"
-both Doctor and companion deny it vigorously-
Mom, as if offering consolation: "Oh, never mind, there are still many wonderful ladies you may meet."
Doctor, as aside to companion, with Jane overhearing: "It's universally acknowledged, you know, that a single man of apparently good fortune must 'be in want of a wife.'"


Ten: Oh hello there!
Jane: Good morrow, sir.
Ten: Where're you off to?
Jane: The village apothecary, sir. Are you looking for direction?
Ten: Oh, no, just pottering about, you might say.
Jane: Ah. Well, ah, the moor about half a mile farther on is a beautiful walk.
Ten: It is, isn't it? I might even find a cave there. Far better than any town. 'What are men to rocks and mountains,' eh?
Jane: My, sir, you've expressed my feelings exactly.
Ten: I'm the Doctor, by the way, forgive me for not properly introducing myself earlier.
Jane: A pleasure to meet you, doctor...?
Ten: Just the Doctor, miss.
Jane: Well then, Doctor, I am Miss Austen, or properly Miss Jane, as my sister is slightly elder. I find it rather odd, though, that you do not seek an introduction through a friend.
Ten: Who? One of these trees here? Hello, Tree, why don't you introduce me to the young lady?
Jane, smiling: Sir, you are absurd.
Ten: It comes from reading too many novels.
Jane: I'm afraid, sir, I must beg to differ. Absurd behavior manifests itself generally without the help of fiction.
Ten: Ah, quite true. Anybody who can't take pleasure in a good novel 'must be intolerably stupid,' too. So perhaps I haven't read enough.
Jane, dimple peeking as she tries not to smile again: I'm sure the village apothecary might give you a prescription.


[at an officers' ball]
Donna: Well, Galahad, get yourself out there and dance! And you'd better not ask me because I'd tie myself in knots trying to figure these things out.
Jane: You amuse me so, Miss Noble. If you would like I could teach you the cotillion. It's really far less drudgery than you seem to think.
Ten: Ha, I'd love to see that! Donna Noble twirling around, being taught a dance by Jane Austen herself!
Jane: Miss Jane, if you please.
Ten: Well, Miss Jane, I think you might have better things to do. I see a young gentleman heading this way.
Jane: That's Mr. Lefroy, sir. Have you had the pleasure of meeting him?
Donna, staring: No, but wouldn't THAT be a pleasure!
Ten, clearing throat: We haven't, but would you do the honors?
Jane: Assuredly. Mr. Lefroy, this is Miss Noble, and a man who calls himself the Doctor. Doctor, Miss Noble, this is Mr. Lefroy, a neighbor of mine.
-all exchange how-do-you-do's-
Lefroy: What a pleasure, sir. Say, if you don't mind my asking, have you read anything decent lately? It seems many of the locals have been filling their heads with the likes of Udolpho. Few have even known the pleasure of an evening of reading from Fordyce's Sermons.
Ten: Oh?
Lefroy: Yes, if it can be believed. I've often thought that reading, instead of dancing, should be made the order of the day at a party. It would be so much more edifying.
Jane: But not nearly so much like a ball, you must admit.
Lefroy: Would that be so terrible, Miss Jane?
Donna, aside to Ten: I take back what I said. I'd rather kiss a toad than him.


Ten: Something's wrong.
Donna: Of course it is. Something's always wrong around you.
Ten: No I mean, something's wrong with Jane Austen. Or at least with her love affair.
Donna: What love affair? Worried that Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy aren't going to end up together?
Ten: Don't you know that that Tom Lefroy there was supposed to be the one she fell in love with? Now tell me, did she look like she was in love to you?
Donna: How could she be, with that sapskulled dullard?
Ten: Exactly. Now the question is, why? What has happened to make him so revolting? It's almost like Mr. Collins come to life.
Donna: Who's Mr. Collins?
Ten: -pause- Have you NEVER read "Pride and Prejudice"?
Donna: Oh come on, I can't possibly remember every detail about the books they made you read in sixth form.
Ten: But it's "Pride and Prejudice"!
Donna: So what? It's still a fat old novel. And a bloody boring one at that.
Ten: -shakes head-

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Life on my own #49: Notes on adulting

Disclaimer: I'm not qualified.

To dispense advice on being an adult, you first have to have a decent amount of experience. Four years post-college doesn't reach that level.

But one of my (ubiquitous) younger friends let her Facebook world know the other day, and I quote, "I can't believe....that in five days I'll be 20 years old. Oh my." First, let's applaud her use of Associated Press style in spelling out a single-digit number.

Applause, please. You're missing your cue!

Now that that's out of the way, let's reminisce a little. When I turned 20, I wasn't even with my family. It was the semester I studied abroad, in Costa Rica, and I managed to get through half the day without anyone making a big fuss over me and my little coming-of-age. Then the student coordinator found out.

I'm pretty sure I was presented with a cake and some flowers, but I don't exactly remember. And I apparently neglected to take any photos.

That all seems like it happened eons ago. But at the time, it didn't really dawn on me that I was no longer to be called a teenager. The verbified-noun "adulting" and accompanying millennial angst hadn't even been realized yet.

Fast-forward five years. Through buying my first car. Through college graduation, where I decided to wear the most ostentatious earrings I owned just for the fun of it.

As you can see, they didn't even match the cords I'd earned.

Fast-forward through my first "real" job, my first hunt for an apartment. My first move across state lines, my first date, my first time buying a house.

I'm 25 now. Those things -- life -- all make being 20 years old a rather difficult feeling to remember.

Thing is, none of these things made me an adult. Lots of people have not done any number of the above and it doesn't make them any less over the age of 18. Not moving out of the house wouldn't have meant regression into the teenage years.

What makes you psychologically an adult, if you ask this rather novice one, is twofold: considering, and accepting, the consequences of what you do; and regularly taking care of others' needs even when it's inconvenient.

I wore a rather odd choice of earrings for my college graduation -- the one time I'd appear in umpteen reminiscence-worthy photos for many friends and once-friends. Seems foolish on the surface, but I knew the consequences. And I was fine with them; I "owned my decision," as they say now. Too bad I lost one of the earrings, or I'd still wear them now and again, too.

There are a few things I've done because of the impact they'd have on people. A good impact, is what I've hoped for. Sometimes I don't do things, too, because I don't want to change someone's life for the worse, even a little bit. It's something I'm working on now. Practicing "adulting."

It's too bad "being an adult" has become associated with "being boring." As if putting thought into any decisions, aiming for no regrets, were undesirable.

What they don't know is ... "adulting" is worth it. Worth the energy, worth the weird looks when you don't really want to do something because you don't want the headache in the morning... or sometimes worth the headache when the evening before was a blast.

Worth staying up till 12:30 a.m. to finish laundry so you can get more things done in the morning.


Friday, March 27, 2015

The Miata Diaries: Stubborn screws

I've been warring with a pair of rusted-on rear license plate screws since Tuesday. This is Friday. I tried everything in my arsenal -- every screwdriver that was even close to the right size, WD-40, silicone spray, a screwdriver borrowed from a friend, even a screwdriver borrowed from the local AutoZone. The one from AutoZone was finally a tight fit in the slotted head, but resulted in halfway stripping one of the screws.

It was to the point where I considered getting a friend to drill out the screws. (Or zapping them with my sonic screwdriver.) But I tried one last time.

Another squirt of silicone spray, several taps on each screw and a couple hours' wait. And then, the last straw: A pair of combination pliers with teeth that might either wear down the edges of the screws or sink into them tight enough to provide some leverage.

So into the cold garage I went, at about 8:45 p.m. No more daylight left, but I finally had the energy to give it a go.

Setting the pliers around the right-hand screw, I gripped as hard as the tiny space between the pliers and the surface of the car would allow. And I gently tugged, then harder as I felt the pliers teeth staying put on the screw.

At first, nothing. Then an infinitesimal budge. A few more slow tugs and the rusty stranglehold was broken.

Emboldened with my first success, I seized the second screw and with the same technique managed to get it loose, too.

Thus, I ended up in the checkout line at Wal-Mart at 9:30 on a Friday night with a set of new license plate screws and a glitzy just-for-fun plate frame in my arms. Oh, and a random $2 shirt because it's nigh impossible to bypass the sale rack. (Admit it. You know exactly what I mean.)

Sometimes, you gotta celebrate the small successes.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Miata Diaries: Show and tell

I had promised a friend of mine yesterday that I would give her a ride in my new car before leaving for work. I forgot when the time came to leave, so I made it up to her today after church.

Parked next to a visiting college student's Camaro, the Miata looked to me almost like a toy car. She said it was gorgeous. Throughout the beginning of the ride, she felt along every surface she could reach - the textured plastic door handles, the smooth plastic dash and its round - almost bulbous - HVAC vents, the cloth seat, the vinyl soft top, the cold, metal framework holding the soft top up, the thin flap of fabric hiding that framework from view.

She felt the comparative roominess of the passenger legroom, which surpassed the expectations she'd formed after seeing the red-and-black mass we approached in the parking lot and feeling how short it was - shorter than even her petite frame. She could lean her elbow up on the top of the car.

My friend listened to the rumble of the engine as I revved it up to 4, maybe 5,000 rpms on the short spin through the countryside, assuring her I was only going around 50 mph. She felt the slight jerk accompanying each shift of the six-speed gearbox and the warmth of the sun's energy transferred through the car's outer surface.

When we returned, her dad asked, tongue in cheek, "did you let her drive?" He and her mom had informed me and their other guests yesterday that they make good-natured jokes about visual impairment. "We forget she's blind," they explained.

Monday, March 09, 2015

The Miata Diaries: Buying my dream car

I've liked the Mazda Miata roadster since I was about 11 years old.

I called it a "Mrs. Peel car," alluding to one of the characters in the old British TV show "The Avengers" that I and my siblings watched growing up. Pretty much any cute little roadster qualified as a Mrs. Peel car.
Yes, it's an old TV show...

But I was able to see a Miata in person -- even sit in it -- when my parents visited a used car dealer to look for a minivan. I thought it was the bee's knees.

Even after I bought my first car of my very own, I realized my taste in cars hadn't changed much. I loved small and I loved stick-shift. And I still liked a Miata. So when I made a "bucket list" of things I definitely wanted to do sometime in my life, owning a Miata made it on the list.

And now it's checked off.

I bought a 2007 Mazda Miata touring car last week and can hardly wrap my mind around it. I own my dream car. How is that even possible??

But I love it. I can't wait for the weather to warm up. Six speeds (yes, not just five) with the top down ... ah, the thrill of it!

Since I've told people about getting my dream car, I've had several friends tease me, between chuckles, with cautions about it being a "man magnet."

"I heard you were looking at a 'look at me, I'm single and want to met a guy!' car today. Found one that's a convertible and in red even," one relative texted me early on in the car search. I had to chuckle. And when I told another friend I'd probably do mostly country driving in it, zipping around the rural roads and such, he was like "... but you'll only meet cows out there."

Retorting in the same joking attitude, I told him that some of the local cops were quite handsome. :P

But in the seven days I've owned this thing, I've had to wash it twice. And both times within hours after I washed it, I know it attracted guys' attention. One, driving a white muscle car of some sort, pulled up even with me and revved the engine a little. Another gave a wolf whistle.

It's quite entertaining, really, the reactions a classy roadster will get in a small town.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Review: Beowulf

Beowulf by Unknown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was not one of those who "suffered" through Beowulf in high school. I enjoyed it, perhaps thanks to a modern translation by Burton Raffel that I found at the local library. And, if I hadn't gone for a different career, I could see myself having pursued an English major in college... for the fun of it. So take the following as you will. Also, if you're reading this, you're probably at least vaguely familiar with Beowulf's storyline, so I'll just skip that and get straight to what sets this volume apart.

The thickness of this volume's spine is deceiving: The Beowulf saga itself spans only pages 13 to 105 out of its 425 pages (not even counting the preface). But that's because there's a lot more gold for the willing book nerd to unearth. To wit:

J.R.R. Tolkien is most known for his trilogy "The Lord of the Rings," which I enjoyed as a teen, but in fact he was a dedicated scholar of English literature and well-versed (haha) in some of the languages from which modern English is derived, including Old English, the tongue in which the earliest manuscript of Beowulf was written. Christopher Tolkien, editor of this volume and son of J.R.R., takes some pains to demonstrate his father's expertise with the language - even including, as an appendix, about six and a half pages of original work J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in Old English before converting it back into modern English. Not being familiar with the language myself, I'm left to admire the pretty shapes the weird letters form, however out of reach their meaning is. Christopher also included a hefty commentary on the translation drawn from J.R.R.'s lectures to students studying the text for their Old English class sessions.

As for the translation itself: This one is officially my favorite rendering of the ancient European epic poem. For one thing, it's prose - and yet it maintains a lyric quality in the lilt, as I call it, of the phrasing. C. Tolkien writes, "it seems to me that he designedly wrote quite largely in rhythms founded on 'common and compact prose-patterns of ordinary language,' with no trace of alliteration, and without the prescription of specific patterns." Of course, J.R.R. fiddled with the usual word order sometimes to keep the lilt going, but on the whole this translation has none of the stilted feeling of translations that try to maintain the "regularities of the old poetry" that just sound really, really weird to the modern ear.

This is fun to try at home: Reading aloud several lengthy passages in a bad Scottish accent just to fully feel the lilt. Who cares that the legend is set in Denmark? Just pretend you're David Tennant and argue that he played Hamlet so it shouldn't matter.

For the really dedicated word nerds among us, the commentary on the text is pretty neat. I'm not quite that dedicated, so while I did read some of the notes (and learned a fair bit about random Old English words I still couldn't pronounce), I skimmed most of them, just stopping to read portions that dealt with the legend itself and its relation to "historial" (the Tolkiens' word, not mine) fragments as separated, as well as may be, from the fairytale elements.

The funnest parts of this volume are in the back, though: a short recreation of the legend, without the "historial" bits, that J.R.R. wrote in the style of one of our familiar children's fairy tales; and two versions of a ballad J.R.R. Tolkien sang to Christopher when the boy was probably 7 or 8 years old. The legend may have been an academic exercise in attempting to reconstruct the source legend that eventually gave rise to the Beowulf mix of legend and "historial" figures, but it's just good writing. Unfortunately, only the lyrics to the Tolkien ballad of Beowulf and the Monsters are here preserved, not the tune.

Oh, and one more fun fact: The illustrations, including the cover art, are all J.R.R.'s.

In all, this work is a must-read for Tolkien lovers or students of European ancient literature. Or people who like to practice their Scottish accents. Somebody, please get David Tennant to record the audiobook.

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Actual Facebook ads I have gotten

I still use Facebook, despite previous rants against its effects on our lives.

My job also entails that I Google a lot of randomness.

And, I think at some point I told Facebook I didn't want to have personalized ads.

These are the amusingly irrelevant results. Prepare to laugh.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Movies with reporters

Yes, I ended up becoming a reporter.

Funny thing is, there are a number of movies and TV shows I enjoyed in my childhood that featured a reporter (or some other figure of journalism) as a main character. And I never realized until sometime last year just how many there were. A partial list for your perusal:
  • Roman Holiday
  • Early Edition (TV show)
  • It Happened One Night (sidenote: the plot is practically identical to Roman Holiday!)
  • Assassination Bureau (Diana Rigg is splendid as the investigative journalist, if completely unethical)
  • Superman (comics/movies)
  • Crocodile Dundee
  • Godzilla (the U.S. one with Matthew Broderick)
  • Twister (the lead guy was a weather reporter - and on an irrelevant note, Cary Elwes is a fantastic villain here)
  • Hoodwinked
More recently, a few other movies have featured reporters/editors in a lead role.
  • 27 Dresses
  • Hitch (well, she's a gossip columnist)
  • How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Fascinating (at least to me). Of course, pretty much every journalist featured committed some glaringly horrific ethical no-no, but one comes to expect it of Hollywood.

P.S. Was there a reporter in "Independence Day" too? I haven't seen that in years but I feel like one part was shot in a newsroom... I don't think any main characters were reporters, though.