November 30, 2011

Frelling knitting


Mostly it’s been raining today.  Especially when I’m trying to get hounds hurtled.  I was sitting in Wolfgang this afternoon with the windows curled down just a bit so hellhound steam* wouldn’t fog up the glass, hoping that it would stop raining long enough to let me do at least an abbreviated hurtle before Tabitha was finished with Peter and ready for me, and knitting.  Arrrrrrrgh.  Remember I said the other night that I’d started a new knitting project while I was waiting for doodle photos to load?  In the first place, I have enough squares at this point for several secret projects, not only the two that . . . are still not finished because the ‘sewing up’ thing is in the way.**  In the second place . . . there is more to knitting than squares.  So they tell me.

            I decided I wanted to do something else, not only for the sake of my education.  Something that did not involve forty-six gajillion squares that would turn out to be far less square-like in aggregate than they seemed to be individually.***  Something that would be new and amusing.  I also decided I should do something that involved purling.  I have two auction squares† to produce some day when the doodle level has dropped a little farther (for all of which I have already accepted money††) and I need to be able to (a) count††† and (b) purl on command to succeed in this task.

            So I decided to resurrect the leg-warmers.  Remember the leg-warmers?  This whole knitting thing began with leg-warmers . . . almost a YEAR ago.‡  But they’re ribbed.  And ribbing looked a bit like . . . hurtling hellhounds in monsoon mud on crutches.  I prefer challenges that involve at least a 1% chance of success.   It was Fiona’s brilliant idea that I begin with a hellhound blanket, which would be pretty much hideous-beginner-error-proof because the hellhounds won’t mind, and hideous errors in a little 20 x 14 stitch square are, meh, it’s just a square, there’s always the next square.  And then I got deflected onto several wheelbarrow-loads of squares for my Secret Projects . . .

            And now it’s nearly a year later.  So I got the leg-warmer recipe, I mean pattern, out, and discovered that the Blessed Fiona had written it out for me so I didn’t have to translate either Knitting Language or recognise which number series are for grown-up-human-woman size as opposed to dwarf Pekinese.  And I began to knit.  And purl.


            . . . Okay.  Dissecting my humiliating failure, first, I am a moron, and I can’t tell left from right (or clockwise from anti/counterclockwise).  I’m reading it from one of my helpfully illustrated knitting books and it says, wrap wool anticlockwise . . . and I’m cheerfully wrapping it the other way.  ARRRRRRGH.  But the second thing is that the yarn I’d bought, despite the fact that it’s exactly what the pattern calls for and is described as ‘easy knit’ is not easy knit enough.  It’s chunky, and made up of a variety of threads, some heavier and some finer, and some gauzy little gossamer ratbags whose ultimate thrill is to get caught invisibly somewhere, tighten, and pull.  I’d forgotten, for example, that when I started out I tended to knit so fixed-and-strainingly I could barely shove the resulting stitches along the needle—I am sorry to have remembered this fact so graphically.  There was language.  There was knotted yarn.  There were rows of lumpy stitches that looked like something out of the Wreck of the Hesperus.  Slightly after I had come to this conclusion myself Fiona suggested by email that I revert to hellhound squares again for basic practise. . . .

            So that’s what I was doing, this afternoon in the car, as the rain sluiced down, and hellhounds breathed damply from the back seat.  I’d learnt to purl months ago, via Fiona and Bronwen, but, rather unforesightfully, all I’d done was purl a few entire squares just to get the motions fixed in my mind.  (Which you then flip over, and they look just like your knitted squares.)  I’d never tried swapping, knit and purl and knit and purl, let alone swapping every few stitches, as one must do for ribbing.  After the fourth time I had ripped out the first half-dozen rows of the leg-warmers (and this was not the toughest top-quality yarn to begin with, and it’s beginning to look a little haggard), I got out the hellhound yarn.   I’m working down to ribbing.  At the moment I’m knitting two rows and then purling two rows, and back again.  The first row I spend trying to revert to the other stitch.  By the end of the second row I’ve forgotten the other stitch.


            But SHADOWS is still going and going.  ‡‡‡ 

* * *

* I swear there’s about 110% more water vapour in dog breath than human breath.  Or maybe more alveoli per square inch in hellhound lungs.  

**  Sewing-up takes space.  You have to keep laying the freller out and sort of dry-blocking it to see if it at all resembles what it is/was supposed to be.  Anguish.  And then trying to decide what to do about the fact that it doesn’t.  The individual-square-knitting phase is much to be preferred.  Squares are or at least seem to be much more immediately recognisable as . . . squares.  Not to mention the not-needing-space part.  And the discovery that the squares are not square enough

*** And the lack of square-like-ness increases geometrically with every non-square added to the interesting object spread-eagled on the table.  

† Speaking of squares 

†† Yes, this preys on the mind.  Especially in the middle of the night.  The real reason for going to bed at dawn is so I can be awake and glaring back at the demons during the scary hours. 

            Have I told you we’re supposed to be able to keep our bells through Christmas, although ringing in a restrained and tactful manner might be a good idea, and then they go off to be gilded and diamond-studded in January? 

††† I am hoping that recent breakthroughs on the subject of higher maths and hard sciences may have a knock-backwards effect on my capacity to do arithmetic.  I can float lightly past my limited comprehension of Professor Stewart’s clever tricks while falling asleep in the bath, but it would be very useful to be able to add and subtract reliably.  I’m not even asking for long division.  

‡ How embarrassing.  Well, I’ve been busy.  Not writing PEG II and now—gasp—writing SHADOWS. 

‡‡‡ Maggie wrote:

Another day passes as a seventeen-year-old named Maggie.
Shadows will be about a seventeen-year-old named Maggie… and will most likely come out when *I* am a seventeen-year-old named Maggie. YAAAY!

Oh . . . golly!  Er . . . how is your relationship with algebra–?

Extreme Brain Death


There may be a lot of blog headings like that between now and the end of January.  I have spent all frelling day on SHADOWS.  I’m too old to go on like this, this hour after hour thing, counting the passage of time by how often the hellhounds want something.  What?  You want another hurtle?  Didn’t you have one just . . . six hours ago?  And furthermore I didn’t go to bell practise again tonight.  This is . . . extreme.* 

             Right.  I have nothing to say . . . so I’ll answer some forum comments.

Diane in MN:

Really bad teaching won’t only convince the student that she’s stupid, it will make the subject seem useless and terminally boring. This takes a long time to get over. But you now get to follow whatever paths interest you and read stuff written by good writers, so it’s no wonder it’s a lot more fun than sitting in a classroom with a dreary textbook stuck in front of you. Also no one will give you an exam. 

Part of what is so frustrating in hindsight is that even though I’ve known for years that a lot of my dislike of various subjects was in part due to bad teaching I have felt very little urge to find out how much because the belief that I am stupid lingered, like Greasy Build Up in your kitchen drains.  It didn’t matter that I’d been taught badly if I was unengageable on this or that subject anyway, you know?  When I think of everything I managed to be turned off in school I almost wonder what I’ve spent my life doing.  Well, sneaking around the back entrance, for one.  I thought history in school was pretty much a total snore too, but I did contrive to decide that was because I wasn’t interested in kings, politics and wars:  I was interested in what was going on with the little people back home in the villages, trying to raise enough crops and critters to keep eating.  

            I’m still pretty exam phobic, which is still tiresome.  This isn’t how it works in the real world, but what exams are supposed to be for is to tell you if you’ve learnt the material or not.  If you don’t do some of the frelling problems how do you know if you can?  I get this just flipping through PROFESSOR STEWART’S HOARD OF MATHEMATICAL TREASURES while falling asleep in the bath.  I rarely do achieve the answer, but I’m a lot more engaged if I’ve tried.  (He says this himself, gently, in the introduction.)** 


And re memory, if Raphael and the Angelic Horde have already stuck in as many extra memory chips as your main laptop has room for, then yes, as you say, the poor thing has come to the end of its evolutionary journey. 

Only this time I’m not going to let them take it away.  Last time I bought a laptop they did take the old one away, with some likely story about a refit for some deserving charity . . . is there anyone who takes elderly, semi-viable computer kit any more?  But as several people (including, I think Diane in MN and Blogmom) have said, with reference to the final straw of the battery on this one going phut, you don’t need a battery if you keep it plugged into the wall.  And I have occasionally missed having ready back up.  I’m going to miss having laptop back up at the mews when they take this one away to transfer all its secrets to the new one. 

Of course, the log-jam will partly depend on how many of your mega-programs you have open at any one time. 

No, no!  You misjudge me!  You wound me!  Even I know to turn everything off before I turn Finale on—and I not only turn everything off, I go make a cup of tea when I turn the homeopathic stuff on.  It takes FOREVER to load and then it sort of sits there grumbling to itself and twitching like a sleeping dog till it finally concedes that it might work if I asked it nicely.  I’m hoping this situation may also improve with the new one with the more memory than an entire pantheon of gods (and goddesses). 


I wanted to clarify that Robin’s pendant does not say: Public Restroom This Way or I Am an Apple Dumpling (which may be a very difficult task considering we’re only looking at two characters. At the most it could have said ‘restroom here’ or ‘I apple’). 

I had thought some of those wildly complicated characters one sees in Chinese (or Japanese) are wildly complicated because they’re saying more than just one simple word.  I feel that either of the characters on my pendant have enough waving fronds to have been quite specific about the apple dumpling.  It could even be the complete recipe.
It really does say happiness (and good fortune and blessing) and long life (and old age, age, life, birthday…and funerary).
The first character on top is Fu (second tone) and here it is in the simplified: ?. Fu means happiness, etc.
The second character on the bottom is shou (fourth tone) and here it is: ?? Shou means long life, etc.
Happy belated Birthday to Robin, since I’ve left the ranks of stalker and have now crawled out of my shell to contribute to the conversations. ??  

I had originally planned to ask if anyone had any idea where to find the font support or whatever you call it for the characters, because on my screen, anyway—I don’t know if it’s WordPress or IE, or what—in the forum they just show up as little blank rectangles.  But I copied and pasted into Word to write the blog post and . . . lo and behold, here they are as beautiful little characters.***  (Presumably they will regress to little blank rectangles once I paste them into the admin window however.)   So anyone else out there frustrated by characterlessness . . . try pasting in Word or equivalent.  I don’t suppose WordPress has an add-on gizmo for Chinese/Japanese characters?

            And now, what does the last character say?  Happy belated birthday, shell crawled out of, or conversation contribute to?  It seems to me quite complex enough to say all three, but then I was expecting cinnamon and pastry with the apple dumpling. 

            And . . . thank you!


It may be worth noting that in one sense Geometry is the most Mathematical course that most students take in the field. The arithmetic-algebra-trigonometry-calculus sequence is very useful but it is usually taught in a relatively applied way. Geometry is frequently taught from a more theoretical point of view emphasizing why things are true rather than what you can do with them. 

Oh!  Now I was always in the liberal-arts college track in school, so Experience May Vary, but what I had was the algebra-geometry-algebra II-DUCKING THE ISSUE BY TAKING EARTH SCIENCES† sequence.  I was told that liberal-arts wusses like me always liked geometry best because . . . unh . . . it was the most describable in English, that is in language type language rather than maths type language. 

            I wish I could remember my geometry teacher’s name, because he was another total sweetie, and I’d (cough cough) immortalise him here too if I could.††   He was another piece of extravagant luck:  Mrs Curry was young and enthusiastic;  he was old and near retirement, and too nice for his own good, and was stuck teaching the really dumb kids.  I was in that class not because they had twigged that I was really dumb, but because of a scheduling conflict caused by being new to that school system.   But I was happy with the dumb kids.

            You’d think that after two years of good maths teaching that my barrier wall might have crumbled a little, but it didn’t.  The years from kindergarten through the beginning of eighth grade with Algebra Teacher from Hell were not shed that easily. 


Is it wrong that I now want to read “Attack of the Zorgs”? It sounds quite… exciting…  

Well, let me see.  Zorgs have rather long, elliptical bodies, with one large eye on a stalk, and three limbs variously used for handling and locomotion, each limb ending with a kind of hand with three grasping talons, and they are very fearsome warriors. . . . 

* * *

 * I wasn’t going to be able to hitch a ride with Niall tonight and I thought, no worries, I’ll take Wolfgang.  But about half an hour before I was due to leave I thought hmmmmmmm.  Under the current workload I’m only just barely keeping the ME back behind its electric fence^, driving is a weak point even when I’m feeling hearty and fettlesome and it’s the first thing to go when I start fading and I’m driving Peter and me to see Tabitha tomorrow . . . can I afford a forty-five minute commute behind the wheel tonight?  Erm.  Maybe not.  So I didn’t go.  I stayed at home and flogged myself silly over SHADOWS.  But at least there isn’t far to fall from a chair at the kitchen table. 

^ Think ‘triffids’ here 

** Speaking of user-friendly books . . . I forgot to remind you of ALEX IN NUMBERLAND the other night, which I found very user-friendly.  Oh, and ALICE IN QUANTUMLAND is now on my wish list . . . but it doesn’t seem to be available as audio.  Rats.  Speaking of the wrong kind of inoculation:  I was thinking of this after recoiling in horror from the illustrations in BRIEFER HISTORY.  I don’t think the photos are really terribly helpful . . .  but part of my ‘training’ as a maths phobic is to look at equations and go AAAAAAUGH.  Having listened to ALEX before I looked at the pages I’d heard the numbers before I had to face them in a format I remembered from school.  I’m keeping this shocking revelation front and centre as I try to hack through a little of my teach-yourself-hard-stuff books. 

*** Much as it pains me to do so I may have to pause here a moment and praise Word. 

† Going to boarding school for your senior year has its uses.  I don’t think we cracked an equation all year, but we had deeply mathematical experiences like going camping in Mt Katahdin State Park.  

†† Note that the reasons for remembering Mrs Curry’s are twofold:  first that it’s such an intensely romantic name—Penelope Windsor Curry—or I thought it was, and second she went riding at the same stable I did.

* * *

Curiouser and curiouser.  Britabri’s characters show up fine here in the editing window . . . but are question marks on the public blog.  What does anyone else see?

It’s Sunday, therefore I am short of sleep*


But we had eight ringers this morning.  EIGHT.  I’m trying to remember the last time we had eight ringers for our eight bells.  After a howling gale with rain hammering on the windows at 7:45 am when the frelling alarm went off, and me lurching swollen-eyed around the cottage saying, I don’t want to go out in this, I don’t WANT to go out in this . . . at 8:45 it suddenly cleared off and became blue and dazzling and glorious.  And all the bells rang out. . . .

            Another day passes as a seventeen-year-old named Maggie.**  I envy her the amount she can still eat, but other than that I’m okay to stick with the elderly decrepit me.  She’s also a lot better constructed*** to cope with the intrusive magic besieging her landscape than I am.  I was thinking about this again after posting about how unsettling I found Aeon Flux the other night at the cinema:  I’m what you might call professionally off balance, I’d really rather not fall down the rest of the way, I might hurt myself†.  So if a dragon†† flew into the courtyard at the mews††† tomorrow would I be more or less likely than the average bystanding human to say, oh, hey, cool, that’s a dragon, or run screaming?

            Blither blither blither blither.  It’s been another good day as a seventeen-year-old named Maggie and as a result (a) I have no brain and (b) I’m having some trouble climbing back out of the vocabulary of an alternate-reality teenager.  I was also thinking‡ about the way I think of SHADOWS as my first ‘genuine’ teenage high school novel, which probably ought to be DRAGONHAVEN.  Except that Jake’s a grown up by the end with a kid of his own‡‡ . . . and more crucially, since a lot of my protagonists start out teenagers, he doesn’t go to high school.  Maggie goes to high school.  Yeep.  She takes algebra.  Double yeep.  With reference to my saying on these virtual pages some time recently that my hard sciences/maths phobia is probably largely due to very bad teaching . . . it’s probably taken me these forty-plus years also to come to a point where I can face going with a character back through the doors of an average suburban high school.  Well, maybe not quite average, but . . . ‡‡‡

            Meanwhile, speaking of hard science, I’m about to download§ James Gleick’s CHAOS., that ratbag, is having another 25% off sale for members so I was cruising for more tasty hard(ish) science.  As I’ve told you before I tend to avoid customer reviews of fiction—what ordinary readers want out of fiction is just too, um, various—but I usually do read reviews of nonfiction because there I am a very ordinary reader and may learn something from the same.  Not infrequently you see some aggrieved and outraged person saying, you’re going to have to buy the hard copy too!  You’re not going to be able to make sense of the maths from the audio!  Snork.  I wouldn’t frelling dream of trying to cope with any of this stuff without having the underlinable-paper copy also at hand.  Self-improvement is expensive.§§

            Having said that, I got out of step with BRIEFER HISTORY OF TIME and, having finished the audiobook a couple of days ago, the paper version finally fell through my door yesterday.  And . . . um . . . well, there are no equations§§§ but the illustrations make it worse.  Electron interference (p 98)?  Feynman diagram of Virtual Particle/Antiparticle Pair (p 123)?  What?  If I’d picked it up in a shop, instead of on Audible, I’d’ve put it down again.

            Meanwhile . . . Hannah is going to read CHAOS too.  We’re going to have a book club of two.  And if anyone had told me thirty years ago that Hannah and I were going to agree to read a book describing The Third Great 20th Century Revolution in the Physical Sciences (after relativity and quantum mechanics) at all, let alone over the Christmas holidays for light distraction from the figgy pudding, I’d have probably made myself sick laughing.

            Menopause Brain Rules. 

* * *

 * I was distracted from the passage of time by reading UNDER MILKWOOD.  Haven’t read it since college, I think.  Golly.  I may have to blog about this.  I read Dylan Thomas in my teens, of course, As One Does, or at least As One Did if one fancied oneself a sensitive literary intellectual in the 1960s (adolescence, I believe, optional).  But . . . GOLLY.  Also WOW

** Over-identification with fictional characters?  What you say?

 *** You should forgive the term 

† Also being elderly, decrepit etc. 

†† Although there aren’t any dragons in SHADOWS.  I don’t think.  Er. 

††† And good luck to it:  parking is already an ordeal and a torment. 

‡ Which is generally considered to be a function limited to those in possession of brains 

‡‡ This is not my idea of a spoiler, but if it is any of yours, apologies.  

‡‡‡ It’s not as if all my teachers were dire.  I had a lovely algebra teacher—I’ve told you about her.  We left Japan, and the algebra teacher who told me I was the stupidest child she’d ever taught, mid-school-year, and when we got back to America two months later the principal at my new school laughed a lot and tried to put me back a grade.  I could cope with the catch-up everywhere but algebra—and they would have put me back a grade if it hadn’t been for Penelope Windsor Curry.  If you’re out there anywhere, and have taken to reading fantasy writers’ blogs in your retirement, thank you very much. 

§ I hope I’m about to download . . . insert a few practise screams of rage and frustration here.    

§§ And it’s not, it seems to me, as if they’ve got all the bugs out of the electronic delivery system yet either.  An iPhone is a finite entity.^  After I’ve listened to something I delete it, of course:  if I want to listen to it again I can always re-download it^^ from my Audible ‘library’.   But—as the little iPhone warning box tells you—if you delete it you will lose all your notes and bookmarks.  Gee.  Thanks guys.  That’s really foresightful programming. 

^ Speaking of finite, as in computer memory, I had an email from Raphael, Computer Archangel, on Friday, and he says what a good thing I went for the ridiculously huge hard drive, that he’d been doing the sums, and . . .

            I should have my new laptop next week. 

^^ . . . theoretically 

§§§ As I recall this was one of the red herrings about the previous one—there were no equations, how hard can it be?  Um. . . .

Brain dead


To begin with, I finally did the revised cartoon for the tower—the membership drive* one.  Vicky has asked after its potential existence a few times over the last several months and last night sidled up to me at practise and said that it would be very nice to have it in time for the Christmas concert, when we can expect a pretty fair turnout of the local riffraff, and I winced and said yes, yes, certainly.  I have tended to claim that I’ve forgotten about it—and with Vicky staring at me I’m quite likely to have a blank about almost anything**—but the truth is that when it has crossed my mind I instantly order it back into its corner.  Later.  I’ll do it later.***  It’s going to be complicated, it’s for a public purpose†, and the reason I was having to do it over in the first place, instead of merely tidying up the original, is because it had to be smaller—A5 rather than A4††.  I don’t do smaller.  I especially don’t do complicated smaller.  So I’ve been putting it off.

            BUT I FINALLY DID IT.††† 


I know. But I couldn't face long (rope) tail ends. I did fix third dude from the left's missing hand though.

            And then, not content to rest on my laurels, chiefly because resting on laurels doesn’t pay very well, I ripped off a good two hundred and thirty-seven thousand words of THE ATTACK OF THE ZORGS—THE SCARLET PANJANDRUM—CHOLMONDELEY AND THE GOBLET OF RUM PUNCH‡—wait—I’ll get it in a minute—SHADOWS.  Well, nearly 237,000 words.  What, in my world of writing, where every letter must be chipped out of the granite cliff face with a blunt piton‡‡, counts as 237,000 words.

            So I’ve earned being brain dead.

            But I still need to sing.  And go to bed early it being Sunday tomorrow and service ring is earlier every week.‡‡‡  Saturday nights tend to be when I hang guest posts, supposing I have any available.  Not that I’m complaining or anything . . . §

 * * *

* Um . . . the membership amble.  The membership blindfold donkey-tail-pinning. 

** Name?  Name?  Do I have a name? 

*** I’ve had to learn to resist this impulse when I’m doing bell-fund doodles.  I’ll pull an order form out and it says ‘a Bactrian camel playing pinochle with a white rhinoceros’ and I go AAAAAAUGH^ and look for something less challenging.  I’ll come back to this one later.^^  As I keep saying, the odd ones are fun—it’s that frelling TIME ELEMENT^^^ again.  I don’t have to think about fanged muffins. + 

^ ONE hump and ONE horn are ENOUGH 

^^ Speaking of unusual requests, danceswithpahis has posted to the forum where the hellcat with platypus comes from.  And I forgot to mention when I hung the doodle that the hellcat was specified as fuzzy, which is why the hellcat in question is so . . . well, fuzzy. 

HorsehairBraider wrote

. . . Those are just my observations: that goats will pick up and chew on things, even though they don’t actually regard it as food. 

I’ve only known friends’ goats, never, unlike you, had any of my own, and what little I used to semi-know is decades old.  Different breeds of goats are—er—more and less robust in their ideas about food, yes?  And with reference to the poor goat you mention who died of eating baling twine, I did wonder about the shingle-eating goats of my acquaintance if they were getting a balanced diet.  Eating non-food makes most critter-owners think ‘deficiency’. 

^^^ which does not appear on the periodic table because no one has figured out where it fits.  

+ Please do not read this sentence out of context. 

† I know that doodle-buyers are more or less free to do as they like with their doodles, but I doubt anyone is going to make up several hundred copies and pass them out as flyers.  At least I hope not.  Furthermore, I’m very unlikely to meet any of you on the streets of New Arcadia. 


††† Not without language

‡ Name, name, does it have a name? 

‡‡ Which process is so laborious it is not unusual to have forgotten what the word is by the time I get to the end of it.  This is one of my better excuses for embarrassing spelling mistakes. 

‡‡‡ I swear.  One of these Sundays soon I’ll be able to ring before I go to bed. . . . 

§ I never know, when someone promises a guest post and then I never hear from them again, if they have fled the country, leaving all credit cards, passwords and internet facilities behind, or if they did send it and Outlook ate it.  This is on my mind a little more than usual—not that my email and I are ever on what you would want to call good terms—because a friend and I have just been emailing back and forth:  Did you get mine about —?  No, I didn’t, did you get mine about —?  Silence. 

            If we’ve discussed it and you send me a guest post and I don’t answer, SEND IT AGAIN.  I love guest posts.  Even if I don’t think I can use it or if I want to ask you to make changes I’m pretty sure you won’t want to make, I wouldn’t have ignored it, okay?  But since this is my blog and my problem I don’t feel I can chase the no-shows.  Very sensible of you, not wanting to write a guest blog, don’t blame you at all. . . .

Forum round up, more of


Have been trailing around under a cloud all day, a cloud of Handbell Worry.   I have enough worries.*   

            So let’s have a little more forum round-up. 


What anime were you watching? 

The first feature was Aeon Flux.  There’s a lot of stuff on the web—including YouTube clips—about it.  I’ll just say that it’s a lot creepier in the dark of a theatre than it is in snips on your computer screen.  Also, what we saw was silent, which was part of its anti-charm**, and monochrome—all beige and black.  Much more unsettling.***

            The main feature was Akira.  Ugh.  Sorry.  But ugh.†  But I loved Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro, so I am not wholly lost to anime.  

Maren quotes:

LRK wrote:

. . . the tree was full of peacefully munching, perfectly relaxed, goats! . . .

I don’t know the specific documentary, but I think it was probably these guys. It looks like there are lots of pictures and YouTube videos if you Google “goats in trees”. 

I want to see a video of them running up the trees in the first place.  I’m not nearly so impressed that they can run down.  

It is a misconception that goats will eat anything. They . . . are pretty much the pickiest animal on the farm. . .  They would certainly never stoop to eating a rope. Now that is not to say they might not pick it up and mouth it a bit, but eat?  Never

Well, it depends on your goat, doesn’t it?  I actually know the ‘fussiest eater’ version of goat keeping more than I know the ‘eats anything’ myth, but friends who’ve had goats say that it’s more that you never know what goats may take into their heads to decide is a delicacy, which may include things like the (human) kids’ winter coats and house shingles (which I would have assumed would be full of poisonous wood preservatives, but apparently not in this case).  And rope.  At least one goat couldn’t be staked out because she’d eat the rope and trundle off cross country.  And she didn’t just gnaw it through.  She ate it.  (Again I’d’ve thought this would play havoc with her digestion . . . but I guess not.)  But this sort of thing must be where the myth got started . . . ?  And why goat keepers often have grey hair within their first year of goat-keeping, from worrying about what the goats have unexpectedly been eating.  Speaking of worrying.  


Youtube is both awesome and really, really annoying for teachers. . . . watching blatantly wrong performances . . . is not an insignificant problem, particularly if students’ music-reading skills are sketchy. If you learn by ear, you may not catch a mistake in a recording. And if you learn it wrong, it’s a total pain to fix it, both for the teacher and the student.

For the . . . student who will . . . check what the singer sings vs. what’s on the music, Youtube (and . . . recordings in general) present a different problem. Your interpretation of a piece is supposed to be yours. What frequently happens is a student falls in love with a particular recording . . .  and then tries to imitate it. Sometimes the imitation is just in phrasing/interpretation . . .  but frequently there can be subconscious attempts to make one’s voice do what the recording artist’s does, whether or not your voice is made to do that – which is what Nadia was worried about. This is a bigger problem, as voices that are trying to do things they can’t (yet) can end up . . . very messed up. . . .  

My teacher’s opinion on recordings was always . . . : when you start learning the piece, leave the recordings alone. After you get the notes/rhythms/basic interpretation under your belt, listen to as many recordings as you can. This theoretically gives you oodles of exposure to lots of different interpretations, so you can grab her breathing spot, her phrasing of this particular passage, etc. . . . 

Harrumph.  Well, since Nadia is catching me up about listening to YouTube, I must have to take some of this seriously . . . but basically I’m going to say what I more or less said here on Monday:  I haven’t got enough frelling voice (yet) to try and make it do anything except totter anxiously through the notes in more or less the right order, speed, and pitch. Try to sound like Marilyn Horne?  Hahahahahahahahaha.  And I’m going to say this to Nadia next week too††, and see what she says, since I have to assume I’m missing something.  Meanwhile I am trying to learn Dove Sei cold turkey and . . . 


And then she reminded me that if I’m serious about this better-choir thing I need to start thinking about learning to sight-sing. AAAAAAAAAAUGH.

I admit it. I laughed my evil teacher laugh when I read this. 

Sigh.  And did I tell you on Monday that I took a deep breath and said, okay, when my hour lessons start?  That was before I found out they were starting next week. 


That Marilyn Horne recording is the one I remember from my art song literature class a couple years [ago]. Sooooo lovely. I’m absolutely in awe of her breath support and those long legato lines! 

Yes.  She’s a whole book in herself about breath support.  I’d loved her for years before I was lucky enough to hear her in person and . . . I was completely dumfounded.  It’s not that I thought there was any hocus-pocus about the recordings, just . . . the human mechanism can’t do that.

I usually start with Youtube when I’m learning an unfamiliar song, too.

Oh.  Yaaay.  Whew.  I’m not just lazy and backward. . . . 

I try not to listen to the same performance over and over, though, so that I don’t end up singing it exactly like whoever I’m listening to. 

Well, see above.  I can’t.  But without thinking about it I automatically prefer to hear different versions because I’m looking for a rough guide not a perfect template.  At my level a perfect template would just be depressing. 

But, though I’m capable of sightreading, I do find it easier to have some idea of what the song is supposed to sound like before I start beating out notes and rhythms! 

Well, this is my excuse—and what I’m going to try on Nadia when I see her again.  My sense of rhythm is a little unpredictable and it’s quite a good idea that I check against someone who knows what they’re doing occasionally (speaking of having to relearn after mistakes).  And as soon as I get away from the gorgeous professional recording or superlative student recital and back to my piano, my music and my . . . ahem . . . voice, the gorgeous-professional fades rapidly under the onslaught of the real

Jeanne Marie

LOVE Marilyn Horne!

And, after listening to Dove Sei, I couldn’t resist listening to THIS 

And what a good way to end a blog.  With cookies.††† 

* * *

* Tower Bell Worry, for example.  We had enough of a turnout tonight that I got to ring Cambridge, which of course means I screwed it up:  which is doubly^ annoying because I’m fairly close to being able to ring the wretched thing.  I just never know from one month to the next when I’ll get the chance to try.  But the current worry is that we’re about to spend fabulous amounts of money on getting our bells all fabuloused up . . . and then won’t have anyone to ring them.

            Niall had told Penelope Colin’s shocking news and she got me in a corner tonight and started telling me forcefully—as only someone who has taught classrooms full of junior high boys can be forceful—that I would certainly fit into one of Niall’s other handbell groups and that it would be fine and that furthermore the energy spike^^ of learning to ring with a new group would have me ringing Doohickey Surprise in no time.  Uh huh.  And I will have SHADOWS finished by the end of January.^^^ 

^ Or, possibly, spliced.  Splicedly?  

^^ What she means is ‘adrenaline panic’ but she’s too nice to say so 

^^^ IF IT WERE DUE IN AUGUST SHADOWS WOULD BE GOING BRILLIANTLY.  Well, it is going pretty well.  It’s just not going end-of-January well.  Speaking of worries. 

** And was pretty much the reason for its inclusion, since one of the board of three who are trying to get this show on the road as a regular few-times-a-year feature of Weird Alternative Cinema, is a composer of off the wall electronic music.  He wrote a sound track, and it worked extremely well. 

*** And it was unsettling, although I’m easily unsettled.  I spend too much time officially out of my mind and planet and I don’t really need anyone trying to yank my chain.  On the other hand, I’d been warned it was going to be sexually kinky.  Either they’d had to cut the extreme bits to get permission to show it, or I had a more comprehensively experimental youth than I realised.  

† And about the loathly lady story:  there is pretty much a loathly-lady story for all occasions.  It’s really only the reverse of Beauty and the Beast, and every human culture we know enough about to know the stories it tells has some version of Beauty and the Beast.   It will not amaze you that I have the McKinley version of the unsatisfactory King Henry in hen-scratches in a paper file folder somewhere, waiting for time to write it up.  

†† Eeeep.  Speaking of worrying.  I am going to be in a complete falling-down-and-biting-the-carpet frenzy of terror by next Wednesday.  The combination of going to her home for the first time, and having the first of my hour-long lessons is rendering me incapable of believing that I am capable of learning anything at all, let alone filling up an hour. 

            I am so frelling hopeless.  Gaaah. 

††† What I missed, having been born too early for Sesame Street.

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