Monday, 30 April 2007

Friday, 27 April 2007

There's no need for that

Apparently Popworld has been cancelled!

Thursday, 26 April 2007

This is as good a place as any to store this

The Lord's Prayer in Old English (162 pp. 17-18)
Ðu ure fæder
þu ðe eart on heofonum
sy þin nama gehalgod
cume þin rice
si þin willa
on eorðan swa swa on heofonum
syle us todæg urne dæghwamlice hlaf
and forgyf us ure gyltas
swa swa we forgyfað þam ðe wið us agyltað
and ne gelæ[d] þu na us on costnunge
ac alys us fram yfele
sy hit swa.

Beware beware her flashing eyes her floating hair!

I have a touch of Stendhal syndrome this morning.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Happy things about the Old English gospels

1. The Old English for disciple is "leorning cnihtas", literally "learning boys". (Cniht became elevated in meaning over the years, until it became the modern word knight, which is why we spell it like that, how we used to pronounce it.)
2. Beautiful script. Well done, AElfric and your friends at Bath!
3. There are odd hooks on some ascenders. Yay!
4. It has manumissions in it.
5. It made Parker happy. Poor old Parker didn't have a lot of things to make him happy once Elizabeth made him archbishop.
6. The script of John is quite rectangular. I collect quite rectangular script. (Quite rectangular is a technical term we palaeographers use -- it's a very complex discipline, no really it is.)
7. In Old English you don't ask, you ax. Just like in Futurama!
8. Jesus says his kingdom is not of Middle Earth. (Though that's Tolkien's fault for nicking Old English terminology -- it just means "this world".)

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

I approve of this

It could almost be Belgian.


As part of one of my jobs I get to edit some Anglo-Saxon charters, specifically the archive of Wilton Abbey. The problem is that there have always been easily enough other things going on to fill up my half-time work on that project; but this week I decided just to ignore them all and get on with the editing. It's making me happy. It's not a surprise to me that I'm enjoying the writing, but it's been so long since I did the thing where you write something and send it off and it comes back covered in scribbled corrections and suggestions. Editing Latin isn't too much of a problem -- I find that if I sit down and translate it very carefully that helps to catch any errors I or the scribe have made. But editing Old English boundary clauses is a new thing for me. It involves making annotated translations, so that this:
Ærest on roddan pol nioþeƿeardne
First to the lower-part of ? Rodda’s pool (? gen. pers. n. Rodda or river-name cf. R. Rodden, Salop, or *rodde, ‘club, pole’; + pol, ‘pool in a river’).
Then ideally I work out where Rodda's pool is, and the next step in the bounds (langan hlinc, the long bank) and so on until I've oulined the whole Anglo-Saxon estate -- probably it coincides with the parish boundaries. Luckily Susan Kelly, queen of charters, is helping me.

Learning stuff is fun. Yay!

If you live near Didlington or Chalbury in Dorset help would be appreciated. Plus once I've done this one there's another 33 to go.

Sunday, 22 April 2007


I have a horrible suspicion I'm coming down with another flu/cold; my head is bunged up and I feel awful for no reason.

If you were going to make an intelligence test, a basic portmanteau one, then you might get people doing puzzles under timed conditions. That's essentially what an intelligence test is, though perhaps with a careful variety of puzzles. But when I'm ill I can power through Sudoku and Kakuro and the other puzzles I have lying around, I just sort of hoover them up. Last time I had flu it didn't even feel like thinking -- I just knew where the numbers went, and it was almost mystical. This morning I have done several 5-star Killer Sudokus in quick time, while usually I have to abandon about half of them because I'm stuck. But my brain is clearly not functioning 100%. It feels like it's stuffed with cotton wool. The bugs seem to have impaired some part of it which usually prevents my thinking in that pure mathematical way.

Possibly it's related to this phenomenon, where sleep-deprived people made quick moral decisions based on numerical factors. In the meantime I've had enough of Sudoku and I'm going back to bed.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Genre fiction

So, a novel about fighting cannibals in a post-apocalyptic wasteland wins the Pullitzer, and is therefore serious fiction, and a novel about Isaac Newton and the Glorious Revolution wins the Prometheus award, which makes it science fiction and for geeks. This is very annoying: I assume it's because Cormac McCarthy has always been writing the great American novel while Neal Stephenson started in "postcyberpunk", apparently. This is all just pointless categorisation. Borges gets credited as the real thing, but closest to him in spirit writing at the moment are people like Neil Gaiman and Kelly Link, who count as genre. It's not just science fiction and fantasy, there's chick-lit, romance, and detective fiction too; there's some serious writing tucked away in those sections of the book shops, and some poor rubbish on the main shelves. And it's not like it's not genre to have to read another blooming novel about people living in London having disfunctional love lifes and hating their jobs. Enough already! Especially if they're losing their minds in some way, or are being brutalised by cubicle life.


George Foreman's has called all five of his sons George Edward Foreman after himself. Two of his five daughters also have George-related names.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Aren't scientists wierd 1.1

Here are some scientists tickling rats under laboratory conditions:

Apparently rats like to play...

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Deux pressions, s'il-vous plaît

I have just got back from Paris, where I went to see an exhibition and some Parisian friends. I had a very nice time -- I'm always surprised how much I like Paris. The romanticisation is a lot of baloney, but it's actually a lovely city. I went with a friend who has the excellent quality of a similar attention span to me, and this makes me free to say that all the art is beginning to bore me and I could do with a beer. Yay! Not to mention how effortlessly they seem to make good food there.

The exhibition was wonderful, but also frustrating in that I want to see script, and of course the parts of the books which are open are the shiny bits. These may or may not have some minuscule script on them, but the higher grade the book the more likely it is to have whole openings of gold and majuscules, so the sort of script I particularly want to find out about for a project of my own, the Caroline minuscule of high-grade liturgical manuscripts, remains annoying invisible a few pages further into the book. I can forgive the general public for this, easily, because there's no reason why my preoccupations should be imposed on the world at large, and in general decorated pictures are beautiful and appealing -- though I do think that most people appreciate a good page of script if shown it -- maybe just a few pages at a time though, not a whole roomful. But it annoys me that curators take this point of view too -- that the tip of the book-iceberg, the pretty stuff, is the only bit that counts. It's because they tend to be art-historians, not historians. The catalogue could easily have included more pictures of the script of the manuscripts.

That aside, it was an excellent trip. I put a very edited group of photos up here, many of them taken from the Seine on a boat trip, using my little camera phone.

Saturday, 7 April 2007

Devon, I'm in Devon

A pair of buzzards live in one of our oak trees, and as I type this I'm watching them through my bedroom window, rising on the thermals. They spiral round and round to get to a good height for hunting. It reminds me of the Fatboy Slim track, Bird of Prey, though the video for that has a different sort of bird of prey.

In the paddock a week-old baby alpaca is trying to get some starlings to play with her while her mother grazes. She should have some better playmates within a few days because the other two alpacas in the field are both heavily pregnant. I saw one being born once. It was bizarre; it just sort of slid out in a long thin sausage shape, mostly made of legs. After a moment's rest it unfolded, and in less than an hour she was on her feet and exploring with the whole herd following behind her. The mother didn't seem particularly bothered by the experience, and continued to graze for most of it. A couple of hours later she produced a bulging purple afterbirth which, contrary to EU regulations, my parents buried.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Young parents

My mother recently told me that her wedding day was the worst day of her life. She's not keen on being the centre of everyone's attention, and at only 21 I suppose she was young enough to take all the kerfuffle very seriously. This picture shows her and my dad at 18 and 19, when they'd already been engaged for a year. Aren't they adorable? They're younger than many of my students. It's like they're from a different planet from me.

It was taken by a photographer who was roaming the streets of Aberdeen looking for pictures of city life. I suppose they represented the students and youth and all that. My dad has a beard and a bald patch now, and my mum's hair has been white-grey for as long as I can remember. Other than that they haven't actually changed much.

(It's their 35th wedding anniversary soon, so she's allowed to say that about her wedding day.)

Monday, 2 April 2007

Things that are quite good

1. Blackbirds doing that thing where they run past you with their heads down, to draw you away from the nest, in case you're feeling malevolent. I'm not malevolent to blackbirds but I do think it's a nice gesture. I hope the fact that I never follow them isn't putting them off; I saw one of them looking at me puzzledly today as I walked away.
2. This website for an exhibition on Carolingian manuscripts in Paris, and the fact that I'm going to out to see it the week after next. The website's quite good, you can play with it to get nice images, and some of them are script which is good.
3. Avril Lavigne completely not getting it in the latest Popworld: free from 4OD.
4. Kittehs.