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My walk was the walk of a human child, but my heart was a tree.

"Whenever you see an oak-tree felled, swear now you will plant two."

10/20/15 05:36 pm - 22 fascinating facts about elephants (according to Bartholomaeus Anglicus, in the year 1240)

1. Elephants have more wit and mind than any other beast.
2. They avoid mice, and run away from them.
3. They do the deed of reproduction backwards, and then the female gives birth in water or in the forest. She leaves her foal where he was born, because of the dragons which are their enemies and kill them. She is pregnant two years, and has sex once, and lives for three hundred years, as Isidore says.
4. Pliny says that elephants are the most virtuous beasts.
5. At the new moon, elephants come together in great crowds, and wash themselves in a river. Then they go home to their own places, but they look after the young elephants and make them walk front of them.
6. When elephants are ill, they go and gather medicinal herbs. Before they use the herbs, they look up to heaven and pray for the help of God, in some religion.
7. Elephants are clever, good at learning, and easy to teach. You can teach them to recognise the king, and then they will kneel down when they see him.
8. If an elephant sees a lost human coming towards her, she will hide, so as not to scare him. Then she shows herself bit by bit, and leads him home. But if a dragon should pass by, she will fight it, and defend the man. She does this especially when she has foals, because she's afraid that the man might come and find them. So it makes sense to lead him out of the wilderness.
9. Elephants always go around together, and the oldest one leads the way. If they come to a river, they send the little elephants over first, in case the big elephants break up the crossing place.
10. Also, elephants are strangely modest. They have sex in hidden places, when the male is five years old and the female between ten and twelve. In that two years she is only fertile for five days. So people in India hide their tame female elephants when they are in season, because otherwise the wild elephants will knock down their houses and stables.
11. Tame elephants are very useful in battles, because they can knock over soldiers, and that's wonderful. They're not afraid of armies. On the other hand, they are afraid of pigs, and they run away if they hear one.
12. Elephants can knock down tall trees in order to eat the fruit.
13. Elephant blood is cold. Dragons like to drink it to cool themselves down.
14. Elephants get cold in the winter.
15. They can wade in water up to their chins, and they can swim. But they can't swim for too long, because they're heavy.
16. Elephants are never malicious, but they are sometimes accidentally cruel or fierce-- for example, if you make them angry, or if you get them drunk. So some people give wine to elephants, to make them fiercer in battles.
17. Elephants keep track of the movements of the stars. When the moon is full, they go to the river, and greet the sunrise by dancing.
[picture of original text]
18. When an elephant is being chased by ivory hunters, it smashes its tusks together and breaks them, so that the hunter will leave it alone.
19. Elephants mate for life. Male elephants never fight over females. In fact, elephants don't fight much at all. But if they fight and one of them is wounded, they put the wounded elephant in the middle of the herd for safety, and defend it more than they defend themselves.
20. If an elephant eats a chameleon, he will go and eat a wild olive tree, which is a remedy against the chameleon's venom.
21. An elephant has a soft belly and a hard back. So when he fights a unicorn, he puts his back towards it, in case the unicorn sticks its horn into his belly.
22. Elephants have very little hair, no bristles, and large, long, thin ears that hang down.

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10/14/15 03:29 pm - Paravel Television

Kit​ and I are having a conversation about the ITV franchise for Narnia.

"This is Paravel Television, broadcasting a full colour service on the Stormness, Ettinsmoor, and Lantern Waste transmitters of the Independent Broadcasting Authority.

Hello, and a very good morning to you. A quick rundown of this morning's programmes: at nine we have the regional news and weather; at nine thirty, we ask Is Man A Myth? At eleven, The Holiday Programme is travelling to Tashbaan, and Not A Tame Lion at noon rounds off this morning on Paravel."

(And now I'm asking myself whether making a mockup of this for YouTube would be as fun as it sounds.)

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10/9/15 10:05 am - One of my favourite ESOL stories

"What does 'great with child' mean?"
"But the sentence is 'Mr Smith is great with children.'"

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10/6/15 04:11 pm - "Do you think religion has a part to play?"

I was sleeping in, but the doorbell woke me up. Two bright-eyed enthusiastic girls in their late teens were standing outside. One of them did all the talking.

She: Hello! I'm ___ and my friend here is called ___. We're doing a survey. Would you like to take part?
Me: (blearily) Go on.
She: Do you think morality is declining in our society?
Me: No.
(her friend writes it down)
She: Can you explain why?
Me: I don't have any reason to believe that previous ages behaved any more morally than we do. And if morality does seem to be declining, it may be because of increased visibility and better reporting.
(her friend is scribbling frantically)
She: Right. And what do you think could improve the morality of society?
Me (thinking slowly, still half-asleep): Well... there are many reasons for unethical behaviour, but it seems to me that much of it is due to lack of ability to choose otherwise. If your family's hungry, you're more likely to steal to feed them. And even when things improve, this turns into a habit of behaviour. So we need to reduce social inequality.
She: More freedom for people?
Me: Yeah-- freedom means you have more choices.
She: Thanks. And finally, do you think religion has a part to play in increasing morality in society?
Me (suspicions confirmed): Yes, because in order to play a part in society you have to be aware of your context within it... the big picture, and religion is often a good way to learn to think on that scale. Of course you can get that in other ways, as well-- it's not restricted to people of faith.
She: Thank you. Er, did we wake you up?
Me: Yes, but it's okay. It's not often people get me out of bed to discuss ethical philosophy.
She: This has been very philosophical. Here's a card with some more questions-- we'll be back next week to talk about what you think about those. Is the house next door number ___?

Good luck to them. If they're going house-to-house in Salford asking questions about ethics, I hope to God they stay safe.

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9/23/15 10:27 pm - Humbug

Every new word makes someone complain. Here’s how “humbug” was received in the 1750s.

There is a word very much in vogue with the people of taste and fashion, which though it has not even the ‘penumbra’ of a meaning, yet makes up the sum total of the wit, sense and judgement of the aforesaid people of taste and fashion! I will venture to affirm that this ‘Humbug’ is neither an English word, nor a derivative from any other language. It is indeed a blackguard sound, made use of by most people of distinction! It is a fine make-weight in conversation, and some great men deceive themselves so egregiously as to think they mean something by it! – “The Student; or the Oxford and Cambridge monthly miscellany”, 1750

…odious, horrible, detestable, shocking, Humbug. This last new-coined expression, which is only to be found in the nonsensical vocabulary, sounds absurd and disagreeable, whenever it is pronounced. – “The Connoisseur”, 1754, issue 14

Our pretenders to wit is not still more barbarous. When they talk of Humbug, &c. they seem to be jabbering in the uncouth dialect of the Huns. – “The Connoisseur”, 1754, issue 42

[image: “Mint humbugs” by Ka Faraq Gatri. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0] This entry was originally posted at http://marnanel.dreamwidth.org/341103.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

8/17/15 01:50 pm - Anarchism compared to vegetarianism

Something I said at a party at the vicarage last night:

People ask why I'm an anarchist. The reasons are a bit like my reasons for being a vegetarian. I believe this would be a better world if we gave up eating meat-- and that humanity can't survive unless we do. Once, perhaps, our civilisation was at a stage where eating meat is necessary, but we've shown we've got beyond that now. But now and then, in a world where most people still have to eat meat, I might agree to eat meat too for the short term-- with caution that it doesn't become the long term. It's easy for the best to be the enemy of good.

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8/6/15 06:03 pm - Boycotting the Stonewall movie

Homophobia seems to me as if the straight people are crammed into a small and dimly-lit circular compound, holding on to all the power and hating the queer people outside full of colours and sunshine. Most of us want to break the wall down, stop the hatred, let the power flood out and the colours flood in. But some say the answer is for everyone outside to run away from the sunshine and climb into the courtyard too.

For years before the Stonewall riots, queer people had held peaceful protests asking to be respected in the same way that straight people are respected. Nobody listened. Then the riot happened, queer people fought back, not assimilated and not ashamed. And the wall began to break.

But the wall-climbers haven’t gone away. We’ve often seen LGBT associations forget trans folk in their hurry to climb over the wall into respectability. And this film is selling a lie. The rioters weren’t the acceptable face of gay culture. They weren’t even trying to be.

They lived on the outside.

So do we.

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8/1/15 10:46 am - Privation of good

I've always heard that the idea of "privation of good" was something Augustine came up with. (Summary: evil is not a thing in itself, but only the absence of good-- like how darkness is the absence of light.) But 300 years earlier, Epictetus was saying:

"As a mark is not set up for the sake of missing the aim, so neither does the nature of evil exist in the world." (Enchiridion, 27)

Isn't that the same idea?

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7/31/15 06:33 pm - Corbyn and electability

I don't give a damn whether Labour is electable under Corbyn-- the next election's too far off to worry about. What I *do* care about is having an effective Opposition, and that's something I'm certain he can provide. Six PM's questions a week, the chance to choose who's on the front benches, and a guaranteed place in almost every political TV show-- given a year or two, he'll move the Overton window enough that today's estimations of who's electable will be irrelevant.

I don't believe for a moment that Labour can't gain power with Corbyn as leader-- we can't know, because there hasn't been a Labour Party that was much distinguishable from the Tories since the nineties.

No, I don't think Corbyn is the second coming of Marx. I don't think the Labour party is going to do a great deal of good for ordinary people any time soon. I don't believe electoral politics will deliver enough change to fix the system. But I do believe that the parliamentary Labour Party can do more good in the world than they're doing right now.

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7/24/15 04:29 pm - Information Bona Highway

HORNE: Well, you might have noticed that round-the-horne dot com is looking a bit drab these days. So I decided to hire a website consultant, and the first one I tried was called "Information Bona Highway".

(FX: shop bell)

JULIAN: Oh, hello! I'm Julian and this is my friend Sandy.
HORNE: I need some help with my website. I found you online...
SANDY: He's been googling us, Jules.
JULIAN: We get so much trade that way, Mr Horne.
HORNE: Do you have much experience in site design?
JULIAN: Oh, we've been at it for years. Back with Geocities and Myspace.
SANDY: Yes. Everyone wanted a bit of Myspace. They were positively queueing up for my top eight.
JULIAN: Tom-- you remember Tom? He was my top.
HORNE: I want my site to look a little less...
SANDY: Nineties?
JULIAN: Passé. That's your actual French.
HORNE: Yes. Would you be available to update it?
SANDY: Oh, you'll be wanting my help, Mr Horne. I'm positively a tiger of web design.
JULIAN: A tiger in the stylesheets.
SANDY: I do everything that's handled by the client. Everything responsive. If you want a nice double-column layout, I'm your man.
JULIAN: He just tweaks his padding-bottom and we're away.
HORNE: I see. Are you both client-side?
JULIAN: No, I concentrate on the back end. Django, mainly.
SANDY: Django! His Python is a sight to behold.
HORNE: Can I run it on Windows?
JULIAN: Oh, no, I swear by Debian.
SANDY: Swears by it.
JULIAN: Nothing else manages my packages so well.
HORNE: And it's more secure, I take it?
SANDY: Well, I must be frank, Mr Horne. Julian's never been much of a dab hand at intrusion detection.
JULIAN: Traitor!
SANDY: Well, it's true.
JULIAN: I can guarantee, guarantee that someone will be probing my ports this evening.
SANDY: Will you excuse us, Mr Horne? I really must go and check his log.

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