Log in

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."

7/4/15 02:51 pm - puns

Sometimes I like throwing puns into a discussion without marking them as such, and seeing whether anyone notices. I'm at a conference thing, and they're doing massages for the people there. I had one, and afterwards the massage person said, "Sorry to cut it short, but I have three more people to go in the next twenty minutes. I didn't realise I'd be so busy!" I said, "Well, everyone wants to feel kneaded." They agreed, and I smiled, and went on my way.

This entry was originally posted at http://marnanel.dreamwidth.org/336931.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

7/3/15 09:51 pm - The Ghost in the Crown-- act 2, part 1

(I haven’t finished Act 2 yet, but here’s the first part. More soon.)

I'm reading a book
That I took from my school.
Polonius comes in.
(He’s a pompous old fool,
But also my girlfriend
Ophelia’s dad.)
I’ll scare him away!
I’ll pretend to be mad!

He said, “Who am I?”
And I looked all about.
I said, “You’re the fellow
Who sold me a trout.
But have you a daughter?”
He said, “Just the one.”
“Be careful,” I said,
“If she walks in the sun
Where meat becomes maggots
And milk becomes curds.”
He asked what I’m reading.
I said, “Words…

“But what do they say?”
And I said, “I detect
Some satire, some slander,
Some lack of respect.
It says: when you’re old
Your eyesight gets hazy.
Your whiskers go grey.
You start to go crazy.
Your eyes fill with goop.
And yes, it’s all true
But seems a bit rude
To codgers like you.”

He hurried away.
But my uncle instead
Strode into the room
And called me and said:

“I will open the door!
I will show you a thing!
You will like what I show you!”
(Said Claudius King.)
“Your friends came to visit!
Come quickly and see!
Some friends, and I call them
Thing R and Thing G!
They came to the castle
To be a surprise!
They might cheer you up!
And they’re not at all spies!”

They said, “We’re in Denmark
To see how you are!
Would you like to shake hands
With Thing G and Thing R?”

This entry was originally posted at http://marnanel.dreamwidth.org/336692.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

7/3/15 01:22 am - Gentle Readers: proof by elephant

Gentle Readers
a newsletter made for sharing
volume 4, number 1
2nd July 2015: proof by elephant
What I’ve been up to

I'm back! I've been ill for quite a while, and I've missed writing Gentle Readers enormously. But today I'm back.

A picture

Metro gnome

Metro gnome

Something wonderful

The voyage of Columbus didn't convince anyone that the world is round. Nobody needed convincing, because nobody believed that the world was flat. Nearly two thousand years earlier, a Greek scholar named Eratosthenes had demonstrated it-- not only the shape of the earth, but even how far it was around. (He went to two different cities, and measured the angle of the sun when it was at its highest point on Midsummer Day. Then, since he knew how far apart the cities were, he could work out the circumference of the earth.)

But a century before Erastothenes, Aristotle's book On the heavens (Περὶ οὐρανοῦ) gave five reasons to believe the earth is round. And one of them is a proof by elephants.
How to find the shape of the earth using elephants
What do you find if you go as far west from Greece as you can, to Africa? Elephants!
What do you find if you go as far east as you can, to India? Elephants!
So obviously if the east and the west both have elephants, it stands to reason that they're next to one another.

"Hence one should not be too sure of the incredibility of the view of those who conceive that there is continuity between the parts about the pillars of Hercules and the parts about India, and that in this way the ocean is one. As further evidence in favour of this they quote the case of elephants, a species occurring in each of these extreme regions, suggesting that the common characteristic of these extremes is explained by their continuity."

Thomas Aquinas helpfully pointed out the flaw in this reasoning:

...they make a conjecture as to the similarity of both places from the elephants which arise in both places but are not found in the regions between them. This of course is a sign of the agreement of these places but not necessarily of their nearness to one another.

Something from someone else

This is a famous retelling of a very old story.
by John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, "Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he;
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

At this point I should include my parody; I wondered what might happen if blind elephants had tried to find out about humans.
It was six jolly Elephants
(And all of them were blind),
That all agreed to search a town
To study humankind,
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The first one felt a person's head;
In puzzled tones he spake:
"This wonder of a Human Man
Is flat as griddle-cake!"
The others solemnly agreed,
"'Tis true, and no mistake."


Gentle Readers is published on Mondays and Thursdays, and I want you to share it. The archives are at https://gentlereaders.uk, and so is a form to get on the mailing list. If you have anything to say or reply, or you want to be added or removed from the mailing list, I’m at thomas@thurman.org.uk and I’d love to hear from you. The newsletter is reader-supported; please pledge something if you can afford to, and please don't if you can't. ISSN 2057-052X. Love and peace to you all.

This entry was originally posted at http://marnanel.dreamwidth.org/336130.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

7/2/15 08:06 pm

Random happy memory:

Once, in a needlework class at secondary school, I overheard the girls at the next table, gossiping about a Korean girl who wasn't in the room. She was in our year, but she'd only just started at our school, so they didn't know her very well. One particular thing they didn't know was that she was my cousin.

"Did you see that new [redacted] girl?" one said.

"Yeah," said the other. "Looks like a sumo wrestler."

It was a beautifully satisfying moment when I turned round and said, "Is that my cousin you're talking about?"

They spluttered for a few moments, then said, "But she can't be your cousin!"

"Look, I ought to know who my own cousins are."

"But, but...," they said. "Are you adopted?"

I hope it was a teachable moment for them in more ways than one.
This entry was originally posted at http://marnanel.dreamwidth.org/335972.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

7/1/15 05:37 pm - The Ghost in the Crown - Act 1

What if Dr Seuss had written Hamlet?

The sun did not shine.
There were clouds overhead.
I sat in the castle
And wished I was dead.
My father had perished.
My dad lost his life.
My uncle usurped him
And married his wife!
An action more evil
Than man should commit.
And I did not like it!
Not even one bit!

My mother, the queen,
And her husband, her kin,
They knocked on the door.
They said “May we come in?”
They opened the door
Of the room where I sat.
And they said to me,
“Why do you sit there like that?
Did you know derrières
Are a bit like your dad?
For everyone’s got one.
(Or everyone had.)
You cried for a night
When he died without warning.
But you can have lots
of good fun in the morning!
There’s plenty of fathers!
They’re twenty a dime!
They don’t last forever.
They die all the time!
So stop going round
In a suit of black cloth.
You’re sure to be sad
If you dress like a goth.
Don’t run off to college.
Just chill for a while.
Now I’m your new father.
So give us a smile!”

And then I was sadder
Than ever I’ve felt.
My body’s alive
But I wished it would melt.
My mum, like a beast,
With my uncle was lying,
In less than a month
From her mourning and crying.
They jumped into bed
While her tears were undried,
And I wished that the Lord
Would allow suicide.

My friends came to tell me,
“Come quickly! Come down!
We’ve seen on the ramparts
It gave us a fright
Like we never have had!
It shines in the dark!
And it looks like your dad!”

I went to the ramparts
High over the town.
I looked! And I saw him!
The GHOST in the CROWN!

He said, “Listen closely,
For everyone’s sake!
They said I was killed
By a venomous snake.
My bruv did the deed!
Not a serpent that hisses!
He wants to be king
And to sleep with my missus!
Tell your uncle from me
He’s a murdering swine!
Or your haircut will look
Like a mad porcupine!”

I’ll be posting these over the next few days, one for each of the five acts of Hamlet. When I’m done I’ll work on some illustrations. Feedback and sharing are very welcome. This entry was originally posted at http://marnanel.dreamwidth.org/335745.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

6/7/15 05:27 pm - getting to church early

This morning I'd set the alarm assuming Kit was coming with me to church, but she was soundly asleep-- we'd stayed up to watch the Nebula awards in Chicago last night (because a friend was a nominee and another friend was speaking).

So I got to church uncharacteristically early, and there I discovered I'd been elected a sidesperson in absentia at the parish meeting a fortnight ago. (I had to miss the meeting, and I forgot I'd put my name down as a possible candidate.) Not only that, but today was my first day on the rota, and I had no idea what I was doing. But if there was one day I should have got there early, it was today!

This entry was originally posted at http://marnanel.dreamwidth.org/335479.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

5/26/15 11:31 pm - trans unicode erratum

trans tech folk, other trans folk, other tech folk:

I'm planning to submit an erratum to Unicode. U+26A5, U+26A6, and U+26A7 all have the informative alias "transgendered sexuality".

code chart
(from http://www.unicode.org/charts/PDF/U2600.pdf. Original encoding proposal: http://www.unicode.org/L2/L2003/03364-n2663-gender-rev.pdf)

I think the first word should be "transgender", and the second word should be something other than "sexuality", but I'm not sure what.

The questions I have are:
1) do you think asking for this change is sensible?
2) what do you think the informative alias "transgendered sexuality" should be changed to?
3) can you think of good sources I can cite when I'm explaining why the change should be made?

If you saw this on Facebook or Twitter or wherever, feel free to answer there and I'll copy the answer here onto Dreamwidth/LJ.

love and hugs.

This entry was originally posted at http://marnanel.dreamwidth.org/334879.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

5/22/15 07:44 pm - On Josh Duggar and Mike Huckabee

TW child abuse, sexual assault

so, this is what i have to say about Josh Duggar.
Q: what's it called when you hush up your own children being raped to preserve your reputation?
A: it's called Omelas. and if you, like Mike Huckabee, care nothing about walking away from Omelas, i don't want to know you. that's all.

This entry was originally posted at http://marnanel.dreamwidth.org/334831.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

5/16/15 09:29 pm - Humans of Manchester

Three people I met today:

1) His granddaughter was a chorister at the cathedral, and she has to work very hard at Chetham's both on her schoolwork and on practicing. He'd done his national service in the army as a young man. It was a terrible two years, being ordered around by people who weren't fit to lick your boots. But he was glad of it, because he'd learned to play the system, and this knowledge comes in useful anywhere. If you were "a follower" you'd probably have got far more bored than he did. The other good thing about it was that having to learn discipline meant you got self-discipline thrown in, and that had been really useful for organising himself after he was demobbed.

2) She was in charge of all the cathedral volunteers: there were about seventy of them of all faiths and none. She herself was a Roman Catholic, which she said made very little difference in an Anglican cathedral. When she was a young girl living in Ireland, her grandfather was asked to send the kids to the local Church of Ireland school by the headmaster. The school's intake was too low to be sustainable that year otherwise. Her grandfather agreed. Soon he saw the RC priest walking down his front path to talk to him. He wouldn't go out, but he told someone to tell the priest that he was doing what was best for the community.

3) He was in the Arndale Centre, begging via psych manipulation techniques. If I hadn't been trying to get to the loo, I'd have had more fun with this.

He, walking up: "So, do YOU speak English?"
Me: "Yeeeessss...?"
He: "Ah, I like the way you say yeeesss. My name's Daniel. What's yours?" (puts out hand; I shake it automatically; he now has eye contact. He smiles warmly. I grow increasingly suspicious.)
Me: "I'm Thomas."
He: "Well, Thomas, I was..."
Me: "Look, what's this about?"
He: "I was just wondering whether you could spare me some money for a coffee."

I gave him £1 (which was more than I could really afford) for a good try, and for teaching me a beautiful opening line. "So, do YOU speak English?" breaks the ice, and indicates he's been trying to talk to a bunch of people so he's frustrated and you'll want to help him, and makes you want to do better than all the people so far. [Edit: It also has an unpleasant racist dogwhistle side that I'd missed entirely-- thanks to Abigail for pointing it out.]

This entry was originally posted at http://marnanel.dreamwidth.org/334388.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

5/14/15 01:15 pm - Repeal of the Human Rights Act

Some politics:

There has been talk of repealing the Human Rights Act recently. This is the legislation which makes the European Declaration of Human Rights binding on the UK. The EDHR is nothing to do with the European Union-- it was created after WWII as a check on states becoming totalitarian in the future. So repealing it worries me.

I keep hearing people say, "How can we let the Human Rights Act apply to murderers? What about the human rights of the people they killed?" But if the Human Rights Act applied only to "nice" people, it wouldn't be necessary. It exists to provide a baseline for absolutely everyone, no matter how much the state or the public dislike them.

Amnesty is getting a petition together against the repeal of the Act. I've signed it, and if this worries you as much as it worries me, please sign it too. You can find it at http://keeptheact.uk/ .

Anyone reading this post to the end deserves a cup of coffee, so I've put some on.

This entry was originally posted at http://marnanel.dreamwidth.org/334313.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Powered by LiveJournal.com