Thursday, 20 November 2008

Bad things and something good

1. I had to buy a new laptop because my old one was getting iller and iller, and can no longer access its battery among other issues, not least the tractor noise it makes. It was a bit of a waste because I haven't really been in the mood for heavy technological expenditure. If you're going to spend hundreds on a new gadget you ought to get the most possible pleasure out of it, but it all just seemed like a huge chore to me. Anyway I solved three little problems and I thought I'd mention them in case they're of use to anyone.
a) Predictably itunes was the hardest to transfer: it turns out that wherever you keep your library -- I was moving it from an external hard drive to the second partition of an internal drive -- the actual important files are in the Music folder in your own user directory on the C: drive, and those are the ones you have to transfer in order to keep all your info like play counts and podcast subscriptions. If you copy over the ".itl" file you're OK. For some reason using the XML option didn't work. Then of course I had to authorise my new computer for the itunes store and for, and deauthorise the old one. Also, why will itunes only let you back up to CDs or DVDs, and not to an external hard drive? Given how long most of us have spent posting CDs into the drive in order to amass our itunes libraries, why on earth would we want to reverse that process? It's insanity.
b) You can't connect to Lapwing with Virgin Wireless Manager on. This puzzled me for ages before I worked out what the issue was. You can easily turn Virgin's Wireless Manager off; in fact I'm thinking of jettisoning it altogether. I told the computing service help desk and they're going to add it to their FAQs, since there must be other people in Cambridge who use Lapwing and have Virgin broadband at home.
c) I keep all my important stuff on a little USB drive so that I don't have to worry about versioning, and I have a beautiful little batch file which automatically backs up for me every time I plug it in, meaning I have all my work in a recent form on both my home and work computers. My new laptop wouldn't autorun from a USB drive, which ruined this whole scheme. Eventually I sorted that out by editing the registry from these instructions; thanks AJJ for googling better than me.

2. I got two notes yesterday which made me sad. One was from a local police officer, handwritten, and the other was from the Housing Society of the block of flats where I live, both to the same effect. Apparently there is going to be a community meeting to discuss "the problem of youths climbimg and antisocial behaviour". Now, I have mentioned before on this blog how much I like having the Le Parcour/free-running kids about. They leap around the area between the two blocks which make up the flats where I live, bouncing off things with the elegance of monkeys, and walking on their hands, etc. They must be in their early teens -- I'd guess around 13-15 -- e.g. they are children, playing outdoors and having fun. I haven't ever thought of them as anti-social. Did we need to get the police involved? Is this a police matter? I'm worried we're doing that thing one hears so much about in the media these days, reacting with unfair fear to children who are only being children. What are we actually expecting them to do with their time? OK they're not a very approachable bunch, but we don't want young kids to be approachable by strangers, it wouldn't be appropriate. I understand that children over the age of 12 have been banned from the local playground, and presumably we don't want them sitting at home playing on their playstations or doing unsuitable things on the internet. Poor kids. I want to see them running free! In time they'll have to grow up and worry about adult things but for now why can't they just leap about, daringly risking grazed knees and perhaps broken arms in order to look cool in front of their friends and very occasionally girls?

3. But if I go to the meeting and try to put this point of view I will not be sympathetically heard, and it will probably turn out that the kids have been throwing stones at old ladies or something. I have had bad experiences with this before. It is very hard to deal with people whom you think are over-reacting without coming off as an unpleasant person incapable of sympathising with other people's traumas, and there are some hardcore complainers who live in my block of flats.

4. I did have the audio cassette of On the Hour, but it was only a few episodes, and now both series are available on itunes. Hurray! This is the good thing. It has the beginnings of Alan Partridge, when he went around asking athletes about their groin strain, and will make you feel nostalgia for the days of John Major and Douglas Hurd. Some of it was repeated in the later TV version, The Day Today. Hurray for Chris Morris! Here are his thoughts on the CERN hadron collider.

Saturday, 15 November 2008


1. I put four blogs into and it thought they were all written by men:
Neil Gaiman 54%
Taking Liberties 59%
Kenodoxia 78%
and this blog 81%. I found this disconcerting til I looked at its accuracy rate.

2. This shouldn't need saying. I get so angry about the fake religion/science divide, I'm not even going to say any more about it.

3. A friend of mine who lives in Rome and is the only other person in the entire world who doesn't like the Wire told me I should watch Gossip Girl. I am enjoying it very much. But no one else will because you all love the Wire. It's one of those great US teen dramas where the actors have even sillier first names than their characters; the main four protagonists are played by people called Blake, Leighton, Penn and Chace. I think genderanalyzer would have even more trouble with those. (F, F, M, M btw). The theme is "rich people have problems too" -- it's a sort of New York O.C. but with none of that tedious agonizing (at least so far). Hurray!

Friday, 14 November 2008

De raris fabulis

Ever since arriving at Cambridge and finding that the Insular Latin course took it for granted that I had done A-level (which is no longer the case) I have felt like I am playing catch-up with my Latin. (I did GCSE, at which level you just translate all the words and rearrange them into a sentence -- no man ever bit a dog in GCSE. With a smattering of superficial intelligence you can do well without learning much grammar at all.) In my first ever Cambridge supervision Andy Orchard (Provost Orchard as he is now known) showed me St Patrick's Confessio and asked me to spot the grammatical errors. Andy made the point that we were lucky when we could understand Patrick at all since his Latin education had ceased at sixteen (though in Patrick's case this was because he was abducted and sold into slavery, rather than that he chose different A-level courses). I meant to give up Latin every year, and never quite got round to it, until for my MPhil I edited the Vita S. Cuthburge; at that point my Latin was at a reasonable standard, but it slips away again so fast.

Anyway, at least our Insular Latin classes did start slowly, with early medieval texts made for teaching Latin to boys in monasteries. One, misleading called De raris fabulis, had some surprising ideas of what sort things they were going to need to be able to say in Latin. There doesn't seem to be a text online, but here is part of an image, taken from the wonderful Early Oxford Manuscripts Online, of the perhaps Cornish manuscript:

It's rather a nice bit, as opposed to the many chapters which involve savage beatings:
Audi frater ueni huc.
Quid uis carissime indica me?
Ego uolo te salutare.
Audi princeps da mihi potum de liquore qui in manu tua est.
Audi pistor uel cocus da mihi cibum ex colina tua.
Audi frater carissime ueni iuxta me et sede in pace.

Then the rather endearing:
Audi uxor pulcherima ueni huc cito et osculare me et pone manus tua circa collum meum.
and the more daring:
O puella optima da mihi osculum.
then the rather bathetic:
O iuuencula laua uestimenta mea hodie laua caput meum et faciem simul cum barba.
to the troubling:
O frater ueni mecum ad meam necessitatem.
which gets this understandable response:
Non ibo frater quia non facile est mihi quia aliud opus occupauit me.
How seriously would one take this as suggesting that people talked to their wives in Latin? Not very, I suspect. There are advanced colloquies for better students, including a very scatological slanging match between a teacher and a pupil. Oddly this also includes the Latin for asking someone to accompany you to the toilet, and a request not to stand in the light.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Some stuff

1. My father is back from plant-hunting in Arunachal Pradesh. Oddly enough this coincides with the British Museum running an exhibition about Arunachal Pradesh, helpfully titled "Between Tibet and Assam". There were riots while my Dad was there, and they got thrown out of a border region by a tetchy general, but to be honest I'm on the general's side because I know my Dad was hoping to sneak over some mountain pass into Burma. They all enjoyed themselves anyway. My father is the young one of the group, in his late fifties; his friend Peta is in her seventies and still happily striding about the Himalayas. How did I not get to be one of these people? Was I just born fifty years too late, and the wrong class? Or do I have only my own self to blame?

2. Talking of trees a friend sent me this helpful link; I'm not sure how to feel about there being no logical need for fish poison. Is that sad? Or is it happy for the fish? I might have to hunt through Borders for Country Walking Magazine to hear more of Ray's thoughts on this.

3. The same person sent me this link, from Bookslut. Admire the positioning of the "click to look inside" arrow. Also I like "broad riding" as a key phrase for Lady Chatterley's Lover. I remember reading it when I was 13 and being shocked, but not by its explicitness -- even as a young nicely-brought-up girl I'd read stuff at least as explicit -- but by its complete lack of romance, or even much in the way of emotion. I read tons of D. H. Lawrence as a teenager and for a while The Plumed Serpent was my favourite book but now it seems almost unreadable.

4. Actually I was wondering if the Circle Line was running:

And when I got to the platform the Circle Line was running. Hurray!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008


Indie bands whose music I dislike except for one song which I love
•Travis, Sing
•Coldplay, Don't Panic
•Keane, Better Than This
•The Killers, Mr Brightside (although it ought to be the popjustice compilation version which fades into Sophie Ellis Bextor singing Dear Jimmy)
•Oasis, The Importance of Being Idle (they had other songs but they've been overbuskered)

Bands I am slightly ashamed of liking
•Scooter (e.g. Posse)
•Basshunter (he's such an old-style idiot but the blurb for this video says the record's success was due to word of mouse, and you can't resist that)
•Scroobius Pip vs Dan le Sac

though I do approve of beards like that; he has decided to have a beard and then abandoned restraint
•Sash (here is encore une fois long version with the French intro)
•Enrique Iglesias, e.g. the ping pong song

Music that puzzles me
Why did Sam Taylor Wood stop being a vaguely controversial but very successful Young British Artist and decide to release a cover of I'm in Love With a German Filmstar produced by the Pet Shop Boys? I feel like there's some message there I can't read. The video is quite good except that it is the same as the stuff she did as a video artist.

Also we should all just agree that prank calls are not now nor ever have been funny
These aren't really prank calls but if they were they would be the exception.