Παρασκευή, Οκτωβρίου 29

A Bookmark of Sorts

Much to say, no time in which to say them. Will return to blogging soon - the backlog of amusing things to blog about grows ever-larger. Was expecting the internet connection at home to be set up by last weekend, hence had put off blogging for a bit.. but I really don't expect it to be set up till next Monday.

Incidentally, did you know why 'calf' (the young bovine) and 'calf' (the lower bit of your leg) have the same name? It's because the old English word 'Cealf' meant 'a lump of flesh', and it was once believed that calves were born a shapeless lump of flesh and then licked into shape by the mother-cow (they do look shapeless at birth because they're covered up with the after-birth. Now that you know why a 'calf' is called a calf, it's obvious that the lower bit of your leg has a large lump of flesh too - the calf!

Oh. A curious word I found in the dictionary the other day - 'Merkin'. A pubic wig for a woman's nether regions. Uh. Ask me not to explain this one - I merely record what I find... I merely remark with all the rest - 'Can such things be?'

Here's another bit of random trivia... I'm doing Coptic, the last form of the Egyptian language, and the number 5 in Coptic is ΤΙΟΥ, pronounced Tiu... which is a rather cheeky word in Cantonese (if you don't know, I'm not telling you)...

Παρασκευή, Οκτωβρίου 22

I am Love?

You are Love
Love: You are bubbly, kind, and pure. You
enjoy the company of friends and those close to
you, and are just a generally happy person.
Your main desire is for those you care about to
feel appreciated.

What emotional state are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Ha. Right.

Curious Gobbets

Soundtrack: Some piece for Cornetto and continuo by Merula.

  • Got something interesting in the junk mail today. Usually junk mails are about medications, sex aids, porn, debt relief... but hey, I got one about "The Glory of Baroque Dresden"- an exhibition in Detroit. Now that's unusual... I don't know what's stranger, that an exhibition on Baroque Dresden is on junk emailing, or that it's happening in Detroit!

  • Another strange thing in my email today - the University of London Buddhist Society is holding a Christmas Party. Uh... Christmas party for buddhists?

  • Remember my friend who works in a school in East London, and who alerted us to the student with the sesquipedalian name Kalaippriya Saravanapavanaithasivam? He's found another unfortunately named student - Dung Dao.

  • Πέμπτη, Οκτωβρίου 21

    Ginger Candies from Geek Central

    Soundtrack: the opening chorus "Herz und mund und tat und leben" from Bach's cantata of the same name. I'm listening to it on the iPod, quietly... no librarian's come round yet!

    Hi from Geek Central! I'm in the Institute of Classical Studies right now. I've just moved from Andrij's living room floor to a rented room in Central London - 20 mins walk from Chinatown, 15 mins walk to the ICS, and 40 mins walk (if I can be bothered) to King's. Being so close to town costs more in rent, naturally, but as one saves on transport... it's alright. Oh, and not to mention being 20 mins from Chinatown, I can get fruit and veg cheaper and fresher than at Tesco's or Sainsbury's.

    So yesterday I was at Chinatown shopping for groceries, and there was a slightly dotty little old lady asking the counter clerk where the ginger candies could be found. Clerk pointed in my direction (I was at the candy section, naturally). Little old lady came over and looked all over the shelf, not looking above her eyeline (about my chest-height). Getting flustered at not being able to find it, she started berating the clerk. I decided to say "up here, granny" in Cantonese (all this happened in Cantonese) and pulled a packet of the ginger candies down to her. She thanked me profusely, then started to examine the packet closely... "how much is it?" I looked and told her £1.60. She went "Where was this manufactured... I can't see.. silly me didn't bring my spectacles..." so I thought alright... and looked at the thing for her. "Zhongshan county, Canton province - from what I can make out, granny".

    She then said "oh it must be good then, that's my family's old village (it was village 50 years ago)" I made the mistake of saying "oh what a coincidence, mine's from there too". She then got all excited and said, "Oh how nice... will you split this packet with me? It's awfully large and I can't finish them all"

    Now how does one refuse a little old granny? One doesn't. So I said "oh good idea, we'll try them and if they're good, we can buy some more" and she nodded excitedly and went "Exactly". Oh well, it was only 80p, and I got something to blog about =)

    Vostochnniki Vigilantes

    This is a post that was supposed to go up a week ago, but I didn't quite get round to it, so here it is, and may it be no less welcome for that:


    Happy Feast of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God!

    Details of the feast here.

    Andrij and I woke up mighty early this morning - 5 a.m. in order to get to the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral for 7. Andrij and Arsen were chanters, and I was server. Three of us help keep the lazy Basilian clergy there in line - Andrij and Arsen SING everything, making sure the clergy don't try to cut corners and end up with a spoken liturgy (low mass). I for my part, insist on kissing clerical hands and light the charcoal for the censer early - this way they can't say they don't want the fuss... cos it's already lit!

    For those who aren't aware, the Basilians are a major religious order of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church. They are severely latinised and have horrid hybrid liturgies and spirituality. Those of us who are Easternisers and want to preserve our traditions detest this order. Andrij and Arsen and I enjoy winding them up, preventing them from cutting corners and abbreviating things. It's a strange state of affairs when laymen have to keep clergy in line, liturgically speaking.

    So we arrived and it turns out there were three bishops celebrating (even though they all vested as priests and not as bishops, lazy basilians)... I've never served for 3 bishops before. Aside from Bishop Paul, who is the current bishop for Ukrainians in Britain, there was Bishop David Motiuk (the youngest Ukie bishop in the world, at 40), and Metropolitan Stefan Soroka (in charge of all the Ukies in the US).

    It was quite interesting. Andrij and Arsen sang their cantor/choir/congregation bits out of a translation that the Basilians don't like - I noticed raised eyebrows several times from the clergy during liturgy. More raised eyebrows during the Lord's Prayer/Our Father when I recited it sotto voce in Old Church Slavonic (I don't know it in Ukrainian). Again, raised eyebrows when I took off my stikharion at communion time and left the sanctuary to receive outside the sanctuary.

    After Liturgy, Bishop Paul introduced us to Metropolitan Stefan and Bishop David. They looked quite bemused. Oh I should so like to have been at that breakfast table... I can just picture it... "Pavlo... you have Vostchnniki... " in the same tone of voice one would say "Ahem... you have mice in your kitchen".

    Τρίτη, Οκτωβρίου 19

    A Cut On My Finger

    Soundtrack: "Cut On My Finger" by the Swim Shadys.

    Was moving some stuff out of Liggy's basement on Saturday afternoon - that dark, damp, dusty and cold cellar. Going down the steps, I slip and fall and land on my ample behind, and end up unscratched, except for a small cut on the fleshy pad on the last phalange of my left middle finger. it's very annoyingly placed to run against things, whatever i'm doing. What was playing on my ipod when I slipped and fell? A song by the Swim Shadys entitled "Cut on my finger", which has the refrain "I've got a cut on my finger and oh, it hurts so bad". Ironic that.

    Library Misspellings - Oh this one's a gem:
    LIVERMORE, Calif. - It didn't take a nuclear physicist to realize changes were needed after a $40,000 ceramic mural was unveiled outside the city's new library and everyone could see the misspelled names of Einstein, Shakespeare, Vincent Van Gogh, Michelangelo and seven other historical figures.
    Amusingly enough, the artist isn't repentant:
    "The importance of this work is that it is supposed to unite people," Alquilar said. "They are denigrating my work and the purpose of this work."

    The mistakes wouldn't even register with a true artisan, Alquilar said.

    "The people that are into humanities, and are into Blake's concept of enlightenment, they are not looking at the words," she said. "In their mind the words register correctly."

    Πέμπτη, Οκτωβρίου 14

    Britain is a Third-World Country

    On Monday the 28th of September, I went to the Temple branch of my bank (Natwest, in case you were curious) to cancel my previous card (which was stolen) and to order a new one to be sent to my branch at Tottenham Court Road. The lady behind the counter said about 7 working days, it would take. I checked on 7th Day. Nothing. Last Friday (that's 9 working days from the date of ordering the card) I went to check - thinking 9 working days would be more than enough, allowing for the incompetence of the British.

    Not surprisingly, they checked their store, and nothing had arrived. The chap at the bank apologised and said perhaps to give it till Monday or Tuesday. Alright. I play it safe and wait till the next Thursday. 14 working days.

    So today, I go to the bank, and they say they haven't got it. I told them it was ridiculous, as they'd assured me it would be ready in 7 working days, and it was now 14 working days. They asked me how long ago I'd ordered the card - I said nearly THREE weeks ago. The chap then asked me if I was sure, and if it wasn't one week ago.

    I lost it there and then. I asked to see the manager. To the manager, who was apologetic, I said perhaps it might be a good idea to check if the card was ordered at all. They check the system. Lo and behold - 'uh, oi'm sorry sir.. nuffin's been ordah'd on th'system. If ya wont, oi c'n ordah annuva for ya, but it'll taike annuver seven working days."

    So I smile, and say in a voice loud enough for the entire bank to hear (it's a projection thing, not volume):

    "Gentlemen. I was assured my card would arrive in seven working days. It is now FOURTEEN working days past that, and you NOW tell me the order wasn't placed? ANOTHER seven working days? This isn't some banana republic. This is Great Britain - or is the 'Great' meant to be ironic? TWICE before I've come in to this branch to ask if my card's arrived and you're telling me no one had the presence of mind to check if the order was indeed made in the first place? This is laughable."

    Seeing that both the counter clerk and the manager had British surnames, I added:

    "If this is the way the British work, not only is it small wonder then that you chaps lost an Empire, but that a good number of your former colonies are now doing far better than Britain herself."

    Every word true, of course. And what could they say in response? Nothing. They turned ashen and looked down and stammered at this volley from an ex-colonial (Yeah, and in perfect Public School accent too). I was not in a charitable mood.

    So alright. A new card's arriving in 7 working days' time. And their customer service manager will be giving me a ring (to apologise further I suspect). I'm tempted to be difficult ... who knows, I might just end up with some recompense or suchlike, like what Eugene got out of Starhub.

    Truly this is a third-world country.

    Τετάρτη, Οκτωβρίου 13

    More Gobbets

  • A friend now works (temporarily) at a Sixth Form College (for my Singaporean readers, that's equivalent to the Junior Colleges of Singapore) as a admin assistant. This sixth-form colllege is located in East London (where Indians and Blacks are the majority and Whites a minority). He recently came across this rather long name, which is long even for Indian names - Kalaippriya Saravanapavanaithasivam

  • The Anglican Chaplain to King's College sent out an email yesterday, inviting one and all to the chapel next tuesday for evensnog.

  • Didn't make it down to Fencing practice last night - had my first full day of class - 10-1, 3-5 and 6-8. Small wonder I didn't quite feel up to fencing from 8-10.

  • Τρίτη, Οκτωβρίου 12

    Amusing Links

    Soundtrack: Oboe concerto in D by Dittersdorf.

    Two amusing links from Mixolydian Mode:

    Eurocrats leave Wales off EU map - A bureaucratic blunder has left Wales off a map of Europe on the cover of a prestigious EU reference book.

    Buyer won't return city's pricey error - One of the problems with abstract sculpture is that it is likely to be sold as junk.

    Δευτέρα, Οκτωβρίου 11

    Medicinal Maggots

    From Dappled Things:

    Everyone knows that leeches are being used again by doctors. But, until recently, I had no idea that maggots were, as well. Certain wounds heal only with great difficulty because of dead tissue that remains within them. When it's too difficult to remove the dead tissue surgically, some doctors are using an old technique: stick some maggots into the wound and let the little critters feast on the dead flesh.
    ... They remove the dead tissue that impedes healing "mechanically," FDA determined. It's called chewing. But maggots do more than that, says Sherman, who raises the tiny, wormlike fly larvae in a laboratory at the University of California, Irvine. His research shows that in the mere two to three days they live in a wound, maggots also produce substances that kill bacteria and stimulate growth of healthy tissue....
    Very neat, in a sick and revolting sort of way.

    Postgrad Life

    Soundtrack: No music as personal stereos are forbidden in the library of the Institute of Classical Studies, where I am right now.

    How's life as a postgrad? Lovely. Every privilege is granted - it's as if we're demi-gods. A thousand and one introductory sessions. We're being presented to the whole world, it seems.

    So here I am in the Library of the ICS. Every once in a while, someone walks by - THUMP THUMP THUMP. I don't understand it - can't they walk quietly? Not to mention this is a carpeted floor - they're like baby elephants trampling thru. Imagine the noise if it were wooden floors... or the squeaking if it were laminate floors.

    Sick and tired of Telemarketers?

    From Anhelyna:
    The Direct Marketing sector regards the telephone as one of its most successful tools. Consumers experience telemarketing from a completely different point of view: more than 92% perceive commercial telephone calls as a violation of privacy.
    Telemarketers make use of a telescript - a guideline for a telephone conversation. This script creates an imbalance in the conversation between the marketer and the consumer. It is this imbalance, most of all, that makes telemarketing successful. The EGBG Counterscript attempts to redress that balance. Full version here.
    Any volunteers to translate it into Chinese? :)

    Click on this link

    It's cute. Really.


    Elton John was at the Q awards last Monday, receiving the award for 'Classic Songwriter', and he decided to do a bit of bitching. Referring to Madonna getting nominated for 'Best Live Act', he said 'Madonna, best f***ing live act? F*** off. Since when has lip-synching been live? Anyone who lip-synchs on-stage, when you pay 75 pounds to see them, should be shot.' Ooh, catty.

    In yesterday's Metro (a free newspaper aimed at commuters, rather like Today and Streats in Singapore), there was the story of Anthony Crane, who digging in his attic and book collection, decided to get rid of some of it, offering it for sale. He had a copy of Aesop's Fables, which he expected might fetch a few hundred pounds. He was surprised to find that the volume of tales by the ancient Greek storyteller was 500 years old and one of only three known copies in existence. Yeah. 'Gobsmacked' is the word. Seems it was printed in Milan in 1497, this Vita Fabulae, Latina et Italiana, with special woodcuts adorning each leaf, had a print run of about 100 copies. How much did it sell for? 16,675 pounds. Wow.

    Πέμπτη, Οκτωβρίου 7

    Mus... mus... veni, mus!

    Soundtrack: Se in fiorito ameno prato - Caesar's aria from act II of Haendel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto.

    Was having dinner at a friend's last night - let's call him G. G's been having problems with critters in his house - of the four-legged furry variety. Yes. Mice. Every once in a while things get nibbled, and he hears squeaking, scutting and movement but never could find the mice.

    So last night, as we were relaxing after dinner, G hears a loud scuttling and squeak from his kitchen. He rushes in... and doesn't find anything. He hears the scuttling again. Coming from the toaster. He looks in. AHA! The mouse, trying to use the toaster as a stepping-stone to get to the bag of muesli, managed to fall into the toaster, and couldn't get out again.

    A grin spread itself on G's face and I immediately knew what he was thinking.

    'RESIST THE URGE!' I said. Tempting as the idea was to me too, turning on the toaster and roasting the mouse would rather spoil the toaster for future use, and while I have no idea what roast mouse smells like, I'm not sure I want to find out.

    We settled for taking the toaster out of the house, and then opening the bottom trap door (for shaking out crumbs) over the open bin.

    One down... Gods know how many more to go.

    The lesson in all of this? Why buy mousetraps when you can buy a toaster instead!

    Τετάρτη, Οκτωβρίου 6

    Hiho from London

    Soundtrack: Praeludium from Bach's Prelude and Fantasia in C minor BWV 921/1121 played on a lute-harpsichord by Robert Hill.

    Hiho all,

    Apologies for not writing - I've been slightly overwhelmed these few weeks.

    I'm now back in London, starting a Master's Degree in Late Antique and Byzantine studies. I was scheduled to move into a room this sunday, but it appears that the renovation of the house is taking longer than expected, so I'll only be able to occupy the room around the middle of next week. Meanwhile, Andrij has been gracious enough to allow me to camp out on his living room floor - Щиро дякую Andrij!

    In a sleeping bag on a carpeted floor has been good for my back - I also happen to be using a hard rattan woven block for a pillow (traditional Chinese) - it's doing wonders for my neck and back!

    I'm annoyed. I was going to bring two pairs of black shoes - one slightly dressy pair with laces, and a pair of black zip boots (slightly elegant but still sleek and strong enough to be multipurpose). However, I brought only one pair - the boots, hoping to break them in... and on first use, the zipper on one side breaks. Now I only have 3 pairs of brown shoes to wear... it's havoc on my colour coordination! disaster! Mum and Dad think I'm mad to bring 3 pairs of brown shoes. Oh come on - one pair of brown derbys, a pair of sandy-beige trainers, and a pair of chocolate-brown Hermes sneakers. That's not excessive! Come on, gay man's luggage! Anyway, I'm going to see if they can repair the zip - I'd love to buy more shoes, but let's be sensible here...

    I brought 3 coats - one short lightweight black Boss coat, one long Boss black trenchcoat, and a mid-length Armani tan suede coat. Liggy's away in Russia till 11 Oct so I can't get my stuff in her basement till she returns. There I've got a mid-length dark green Boss coat, one heavy navy east german naval officer's overcoat from the 60s (gold buttons and all...). That should be *just about* enough for coordination.

    Was walking up and down East Ham High Street today - I don't understand why there are so many mens shoes with long pointed toe caps. I swear, they must add a good 2 inches to the length of the shoe. It's like poulaines all over again.

    Will write again as soon as I can!