I seem to have difficulty writing about Reach tournaments I coached. Readers may wonder why, since trivia seems to be my one outward glory, do I not brag about it a little more. I do not know the answer to that; modesty is not it, though, since, as you may have noticed, I do give play-by-plays of the tournaments I play
in (well, how can someone like me resist bragging that she knows about Tokhtamysh, Life of Pi
, and the zeroes of the Riemann zeta function? However, I have a hard time writing about the Regional championship.
I will recount but one event: one is that I took one of the students to the Nepean Sportsplex to pick up some junk food. Two girls ahead of us, from other Reach teams, were confronted with the vendor saying he would only sell food with a chaperone, as prior teenagers had made messes.
I step in smoothly. "I'm a chaperone."
He looked at me from under his eyebrows. "You sure?"
"Yep, I'm twenty, I can show you ID if you like," I flashed a smile.
I think my complete self-assurance, the one Athaira especially sometimes comments on,
put him off; he let the student and me make our purchase without actually requesting ID.
What else should I tell? Oh, we won, by the way. Our school is the Reach champion of the national capital, yet again. Our only loss was a nasty 350-340 versus "Graham High School" (whom I highly dislike; they mocked Aizen-Miyoo). The Grahams are going to the Provincials, along with us and runner-ups Worcestershire High School (where the Lord of Reach is from). We like the Worcestershires and look forward to a good tournament.
But although making it to provincials is a great salve to our honour, and the gold-plated trophy a greater one still (at the beginning of the tournament, I show the students the trophy, point to the 2001 plate with our school's name and go: "Me!" Then point to the 2004 plate and go: "Coach: Me!" And then after we won it, the graduating students on the team joked about how next year they will visit the trophy in the showcase, and always point to the 2006 plate and say, again, "Me!") it still means money.
Which is why on Saturday at 9 a.m. I was in the lab at the university, quietly figuring out the idea of animations in PowerPoint. Now, since I had never dealt with PowerPoint before in my life (during the Lord of the Rings festival thing, I learned that you stop a slide show by hitting Esc; that was the limit of my knowledge), my mastering it in a few hours is indeed an interesting line in my resume.
The Language Acquisition Lab has several distinct advantages over the dungeon Mac lab at school:
a) I can come and go as I please; I have the key!
b) I can eat at my desk if I so desire
c) The window view is, though not the best view on campus, vastly superior to the window view from the school Mac lab, which view is absent due to the small factor of the absence of windows (we are in a dungeon, remember?)
But, I must admit, I did miss the Mac lab.
And I particularly missed Keynote's QuickTime exporting capability. At one point, I experimented with transferring a show to our fishbowl iMac, which has MS PowerPoint for the Mac OS, and tried exporting it there. But the results were frightening, and I abandoned the idea. Instead, I resolved, on Monday I will return, my meek, penitent, prodigal and imperious self, to the iMac I have grown to love, and export and burn the DVD there (and if everything is wrong, well, there were the PowerPoints; I had knelt to ensure this possibility), and all will be well and happy with the world.
But I get ahead of myself. I did not spend the whole day before the PC; Psycholinguistic Shorts was also happening, and whenever I could (or at least for the coffee breaks) I would sneak off to there.
They were liberal with their coffee-break treats, providing cookies and Timbits and coffee and oolong tea (ah!) and other fun things. I was quite intrigued by a display that looked a little like a Passover plate, but sharing none of the actual elements except for the egg (besides, I may be, as Tsvi joked, a bad Jewish girl, but I know roughly when Passover falls and it is not on the last week of March, not in 2006). A linguist explained that it is the symbols of the Iranian new year. I now cannot remember all of them, except for the live little goldfish and the egg, and, if I recall correctly, the candle. But it was neat.
I watched a few of the presentations; and I asked questions. If the gentle reader has not yet noticed, I have an annoying habit of asking questions. I may be a simple little undergrad, but, brace yourselves, once Tourmaline raises her hand...
As Amico and her teammates found out when they made the presentation on Leo and Simon's verb use. At the end of it, hehe, Tourmaline raises her hand and asks whether the suffix dropping cannot be accounted for by simple phonological assimilation.
Amico's teammate Albina looked a little startled. "Well, we could not calculate all of the phonological factors, as you should know, you transcribed the stuff, you heard their phonology..."
I giggled like a schoolgirl (which I am) on the sofa.
As soon as the team headed back to their seats, Albina made a cut-the-throat motion towards me and hissed, "Darn you, Tourmaline, the exact same question was asked at the first conference we presented this at!"
I was myself startled at this information. "I didn't know that. It just seems...logical to wonder about, from the examples you give."
"So you didn't know about our previous conference, where someone asked us the same question?" another teammate joined in a playful desire to gut me.
"No, not at all."
During coffee breaks I got conversing with Prof. Jensen and with Neil, the TA for Sociolinguistics (Neil is his real name). We discussed various typing and coding programs: a PhD student complained that she wished she could actually see the codes in Word! "LaTeX," I replied, "LaTeX." I told them of my information theory paper for His de Maths, and they all laughed at me quoting Gerard van Herk: "You can be efficient, or you can be clear. Or
you can be cool." Neil mentioned that his master's thesis was on the use of complexity theory in linguistics: apparently it dictates that if there are two words in the language that mean the same thing, they will find different niches so that gradually one would be used in one context and one in another; I cited evidence from Russian borrowing to agree with his point; there was so much data I wanted to include in my paper!
Then I returned to la plage de St.Tropez, that cool spring day I need you there
... but I do not have you, so I went at it alone. By 9 p.m it was done: I had the animated slide shows, and so no matter what happens, we will have something to show at the trivia night. I went home in stark relief that I actually had nothing to do on Sunday. Other than my two assignments due Monday, my Syntax presentation on Wednesday, and my His de Maths presentation on Thursday. Of course.
But on Monday I did have something to do.
After a Dark Hunt that grows more efficient each time I do it, I located the Dark Lord in the math help room. Since, as the astute reader has noticed, Lady Cauchy knows and loves me, and I myself used to be a fixture in the math help room, long ago, before the world turned inside out, I proceeded straight to bandy words with my former tutorees on probability and statistics (which, the gentle reader will remember, I know nothing about.)
They were discussing the drawing of hands in poker and I tried to recall those wonderful words of choose and nCr and other probabilistic things (which I know nothing about.)
"How hard would the test be?" one of the girls asked the Dark Lord.
"I don't know," the Dark Lord grinned. "There are three versions: the easy test, the hard test, and the really hard test. Which one do I pick? It depends on what I feel like tomorrow. Sucks to be you."
"Pick the easy test, please!"
From my awaiting fifth position by the radiator, I remembered an argument over our Ferrari-Full-of-Geishas reunion dinner, and grinned to myself.
"You'll have to see what I feel like tomorrow," said the Dark Lord. "I shall have to leave you here; I also need to give Tourmaline what she wants."
"What are you doing here?" the girls asked me.
Both the Dark Lord and I avoided the question, although the Dark Lord did inquire of me whether I would take long.
"No, I only need to export the shows to QuickTime. Then tomorrow I will burn the DVD of them, and all should be fine."
Among the things that I did that evening was to take the four shows I already had the sponsors inserted into, and export them to PDF. Then I emailed them to Lady Mollweide, with a note that these were the first four rounds, any problems, etc.
The QuickTimes of them I saved on my key. I only had the patience to do four question rounds and four answer rounds, because changing the transitions back from PowerPoint to Keynote still took a long time. The rest will happen tomorrow, since the captain of the AVA had interrupted my Reach practice to ask when he will be able to practice with the slide show. I promised him I will have it for him by Wednesday.
I do not recall what problem I had asked the Dark Lord to solve. I only recall that when I realised he will not be able to solve it for me, I said, "I'm glad you are restraining yourself from saying 'It sucks to be you.'...But I did say I will get them the DVD by Wednesday."
"Alright then, I'll say it. It sucks to be you."
It never sucks to be Tourmaline the adult. To be Tourmaline the child sucked mightily: it was trying to find the way amid a people of strange tongue, in a world of indescribable loneliness. To be Tourmaline the adolescent sucked mightily: it was crazy in love and dying every minute, it was devastation and tragedy over each of the thousand and forty stupid mistakes that Barbara Hambly claimed each Jedi student must make (to think that there is a list is mistake number four). But being Tourmaline the adult does not suck; after all, I cannot even remember now what the problem was that inspired this exchange, so obviously we fixed it. Though I may not be able to afford all the things I want, though my brother leaves blog posts nagging me to find time for aikido, though I may not be able to do an obertas turn, though my love life currently be, in Carrie Bradshaw's words, "______ and the City": I come through. It does not suck to be me.
"Oh, Dark Lord," I asked, "tomorrow, should I bring you chocolate or should I bring a blank DVD?"
He considered the prospect. "No, just bring chocolate, it's fine."
However, when I woke the next morning, there was a message from the Lady Mollweide who had looked at the PDF's:
Lady Mollweide to Tourmaline, March 28, 12:19 AM:
I've been having intermittent problems with gmail this evening so have only just taken a look and the text seems very variable - positioning etc. I now have to track down my husband to take a look and see what he thinks. That may run into the morning...
That bloody positioning and fonts were my Achilles heel!
Tourmaline to Lady Mollweide, March 28 8:29 AM:
As for the PDF's - I hope you are not talking about the body text of the questions, because that was meant to be sometimes on the left with respect to the pictures, sometimes on the right, etc. A hundred and seventy-six slides with text right in the middle will grow dead boring. Now as to the titles, I admit, yes, it is a little difficult to always get them consistent. Sometimes the computer will allow me to copy-and-paste the title right in the same place...but sometimes it does not.
I did not elaborate on the difficulties I have had making this show. I did not point out to you, so no one knows but the Dark Lord and me, as to how the Apple program, although beautiful, refuses to save when you break up a show into parts, and refuses to open once the show gets big enough; as to how I had to do the "Everything Else" round several times over again from scratch because of this information loss; as to how I gave up and abandoned the Mac completely to switch to PowerPoint; as to how carrying out the switch took me from 9 a.m to 9 p.m on a Saturday; as to how I worked on Monday from when I left you to 9 in the evening converting the four rounds back again, because that way they still look better; as to how compiling each round to the QuickTime format takes at least half an hour of just the computer chugging and me furstrated out of my mind and thinking also of the huge History of Mathematics presentation I have to do on Wednesday, which is only a quarter done and which I am going to work on tonight while the iMac chugs away again... Yes, I will correct the texts in the Geography, History, Miscellaneous and Science sections - as well as doing the other four rounds. This will add three hours to my stay in the lab, not counting the forever-and-a-day it takes to burn the DVD. I will do it, but I hope you understand that my first reaction when I sent over a hundred hours of work and the first comment I got back was on the one weakness it cost me about twenty of those hours to work around - I said words that the school network blocks on web sites.
As the astute reader may remember (or I may not have specified), 8:30 AM is when Concolor and I are supposed to start work on Tuesdays. So I arrived late, growling under my breath, and I told Concolor the whole story. I did not quite do the proverbial weeping on his jacket, but I clearly voiced my frustrations.
I showed the QuickTimes to him. As we watched, I noticed where titles shifted here, fonts were inconsistent there...
"I don't see it," he said. "I mean, I don't notice it at all, and I am not under stress. The people there will be under stress, they won't see it. Trust me, it looks really good."
I looked at him archly. "Are you saying that because it is really good or only because you love me?"
He laughed. I did make two requests of him; one was to get the song "American Pie" and before four o'clock that day, since I planned to burn the DVD by then; the other was to get me some transparencies for my Syntax and His de Maths presentations. However, between Reach practice and His de Maths, I procured the transparencies myself; perhaps it was not the most economical method to get it at the Grand and Toy, but it was the most convenient. I was now the proud owner of fifty laser-printer transparencies - have fun!
And I was a lot more cheerful when I went to the Mac lab again.
"I will need two computers," I said. "Just so I can work on one while the other is compiling." I chuckled, "I know, give Tourmaline a computer and she will ask for two..."
"No, it's fine," said the Dark Lord. "I assume you will take the computer next to the one you are using?"
"Yes, of course," I laughed, and presented him with Lindt dark chocolates. "In exchange for a couple of DVDs."
"You didn't have to do that, you know," the Dark Lord tried his usual spiel, and as usual, indeed more than usual, in vain (hey, we had already arranged the trade exchange!) . I think he has accepted that it is in vain, and simply passed me two DVDs - "I think two would be enough." While I took care of my own logins and all that fun stuff, I, still trying to burn off the last of my hurt that morning, told him the story of how Lady Mollweide got me very angry indeed over underappreciating the amount of work I had put into the slide shows.
"I showed them to Concolor at work and they looked fine..."
"I won't get into it," the Dark Lord replied, "I won't get into it."
Now in retrospect, his reaction was incredibly predictable. Such behaviour as I tell of is far more often seen in another situation. However, my temper flared inside: Concolor and I are just
friends! This is not a lovers' squabble or agreement, this is not ...Are you saying this because it is really good or just because you love me?
Concolor, if you love me, I am sorry: you have a name in the blog, and I am perfectly satisfied with the way things are. But such is my fate as a young woman who can smile that I can never, ever be sure that I will get an honest answer to the above question.
But I said nothing of this to the Dark Lord; I was reminded of the several times in our junior high school when I would cross the courtyard and overhear grade sevens and grade eights point me out: "That's Concolor's girlfriend." I hadn't been; I had desperately wanted to be, even without appreciating at the time that being the girlfriend of someone on the AAA volleyball team, that junior high school's one pride, would give me power I had never had in that great dancing game of adolescent popularity dynamics. Now I appreciated it, and so I kept quiet. I sometimes joke I was born to be an expensive mistress, and being thought of as some man's mistress does have its occasional advantages. I cannot stop the Dark Lord thinking what he wants of me, no more than I can stop many of the rest of the school's population from thinking what they want of me and the Dark Lord.
I turned on the two computers, and "Don't Stop Me Now" as well; quietly, because the Dark Lord was in the outer lab helping a student study. I had known her back from my Acta days, when I was the grade 12 editor and she was in grade 9; I will give her a name: Olivia.
I set up two computers chugging away, and myself danced a little, then eavesdropped on the Dark Lord's conversation.
"I can't do this!" Olivia complained.
"That is why you study and ask for help," said the Dark Lord.
study, and I do
come for help. I am studying constantly, every day, and all the weekend - and I am still bad at this."
I leaned against the doorpost, smiling.
"Don't study all the time," said the Dark Lord. "On Friday nights, go out and watch a movie. Studying then does not help anyone. Go out. Watch a movie."
"Sage advice," I remarked. "Speaking of which sage advice, have you seen V for Vendetta
"Hmph!" said the alleged mistress of someone she had seen said movie with (it was such
a romantic time; unfortunately they had to drag the rest of the Language Acquisition Lab along.) "By the way," she added, "which test did you go with for those people: the easy one, the hard one, or the very hard one?"
"Oh there was no easy one nor hard one; there was only the very hard one. I gave them the whole nine yards. By the way, so many people wonder about the expression 'the whole nine yards.' Shouldn't it be ten yards, they say, because they think it is about football, right?"
I know nothing about football - absolutely nothing - but I know and love an awful lot about historical linguistics, which the history of various sayings and expressions kind of touches, and so I pricked up my ears.
"It is not about football," the Dark Lord continued. "It comes because in the war, when they had the first machine guns, they were fed by belts of cartridges, right? And the belts were nine yards long. So if you wanted to really blast at an enemy, you would say, 'Give 'em the whole nine yards,' meaning that you blast all the bullets you've got at them. So I say it is not about football, it's about war. So that's what I tell to my students: give 'em the whole nine yards."
I raised my eyebrows. "Clever. Did anyone tell you, by the way, that you look like Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto?"
He neither showed complete bewilderment nor instant recognition. "No."
"You do," I grinned, "quite a bit."
The Dark Lord offered Olivia chocolate all around; I took some too, joking, "Isn't there the rule about no food or drink allowed in the computer labs?"
The Dark Lord shrugged it off.
I returned to my little computers chugging away to the annoyingly excruciatingly difficult intervals of Freddie Mercury, and got back to accepting the things I could not change, fixing the things I can, and judging the difference.
Don't stop me now ('cause I'm having a good time)
Don't stop me now (yes, I'm having a good time)
I don't want to stop at all
Olivia must have left, as the Dark Lord came back to the inner lab to work on something on his laptop.
"When I said you look like Isoroku Yamamoto, you did know of who I meant, yes?" I asked.
"Good. Are you extremely punctual?"
"Yes, I think so."
To myself, I quietly disagreed, here and there, but then who am I to complain? He had many, many opportunities to not be punctual in the almost-five years I have known him; he only took a few of them.
"Isoroku Yamamoto, the man who died because he was extremely punctual..." I mused.
The Dark Lord grinned. "They shot him down because he was flying in one of those Betty bombers," he became suddenly animated; from many many post-trivia-game storytelling sessions, I know the feeling. "They called them Betty bombers because they were easy to shoot down, right? Because when you hit the fuel tank, the whole thing would go up in flames. So they shot at one of those and they hit the fuel tank and he went down."
Smiling to myself, a few minutes later as the QuickTimes compiled, I pulled out my copy of David Kahn's The Codebreakers
(I had it along with me in order to be able to use the DVD-burning time to catch up on my information theory project; Kahn has what is still one of the best explanations of information theory I have ever read, the reason I am what I am today) and checked the story of Yamamoto's death. "You're right," I announced to the Dark Lord. "You're right."
"I was better at history than I was at math, you know," he reminded me.
"Yes, you told me that," I said, remembering with fondness a talk we once had just before my birthday and just after a Calc 2 exam. "But teaching math is a lot easier than teaching history, you told me."
"Oh yes. Can't you think of me as a history teacher?"
"I do not think anything
of you, Dark Lord." I replied, facetious and firm.
He looked startled at this; perhaps it did not come out the way I intended. What I meant was that many, many times I have made some assumption about him, only to gain a piece of data that made the assumption crumble into falsehood. So I try to no longer make assumptions or care, but enjoy things the way they are. It does not matter at all to me what he does during the hours I do not see him, except as a conversation starter and making sure that he is not hurt. He has his life, and I have mine, and learning that other people have their own lives to live and you cannot try to change theirs has made mine a lot happier and not sucking to be me at all.
Finally, the Dark Lord prepared to leave, leaving me the bag of chocolates, "in case you want any more."
Maybe I should have asked for advice then. But teaching myself so much in those long weeks had given me the impression that I could figure out by myself anything in that Mac OS 10 interface, so I simply said goodbye, resolving that I will not resort to the chocolates except as a matter of last resort in the result. The Dark Lord left, to head with his usual punctuality to other places and other roles I do not make assumptions about.
All of the QuickTimes were compiled to my satisfaction, if I recall correctly. I slid the DVD into the iMac, and opened up the iDVD program, created a new iDVD file, and dragged the first QuickTime to the box saying "Drag file here."
The computer turned orange.
Well, it did not turn orange. The entire screen turned an orange-yellow-brown burnt-sienna colour, except for a very narrow line at the bottom of the screen that showed the old desktop colours (turquoise with swirls; I know not if those are the iMac's default wallpaper settings or if the Dark Lord or other system administrator put them in, but suspect the former). Around the screen the cursor wandered, but clicking it, with or without the Ctrl button depressed, had no effect whatsoever.
The beloved Alt-Apple-Esc sequence that does such wonders when our dear fishbowl iMac refuses to cooperate had no effect whatsoever.And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see.
Come and see Tourmaline Hessanite Variety, the first person in school and university history to test Keynote 3 to destruction and drive an iMac G4 insane.
I got up and paced, and ate a chocolate ("Praise be to you, o Dark Lord, and I love you!"
). I waited.
I clicked on the On button on the iMac. The screen went dark. I clicked again. The screen went burnt sienna.
I shall not repeat how many times I repeated all of the above attempts (including the eating of chocolates). I thought of how my cranky little PC would do that sometimes, and what I would do then.
On the other iMac, I began composing an email to the Dark Lord, beginning with that riveting opening sentence:
The computer is orange.
Then I abandoned the email. For one thing, I was still (and am still) very very nervous about such an incursion of the Dark Lord's sacred privacy (it really is not sacred; that is for normal things; there should be another word beyond sacred, but I know of none in English; пресвятейшая,
was the only word to describe the way this concept has been hard instilled in me, enough to require a language with layered intensifying derivational affixes). For another, there was another remedy.
I wrote to him instead, as usual, explaining my predicament, the way it came to be, and the steps I had taken to attempt to solve it.
And then I ate a chocolate, crossed myself, and pulled the iMac's plug.
The screen went dark.
I counted three heartbeats and plugged it in again, then pressed the On button. And there came my beloved iMac desktop, as if I had never left it (almost; Keynote and iDVD were not on, of course), as if it had never been so very naughty.
But it was seven p.m, and, believe me, I was definitely not in the mood for any more experimenting with DVDs.
I completed the Dark Lord's letter, writing in abject apology as to how I pulled the plug on a computer. Then I saved all of my QuickTimes on my USB key (they just barely fit) and added that I will take the DVDs home to see just in case I could burn them there.
(I did leave the Dark Lord most of the chocolate.)
Well, Society Max prepared to burn DVDs. But then he took a very long time about the preparing part, and then preferred to watch a bit of dubbed Apocalypse Now Redux
instead. And then my older brother came home, and then at 11 o'clock we all made the rash decision...to watch Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
. The Goblin translation, that is, The Bros and the Ring
(when Arwen chants the spell to raise the waters of the Ford of Bruinen, she isn't chanting some random Quenya blabber; she is saying very clearly, approximately,
Blessed be sweet-smelling soap
And warm fluffy towels
Let's all wash and splash
And be clean and nice
(from a Russian children's poem about a boy who is taught the virtues of cleanliness)
which I consider a much more effective spell for washing up some Nazgul...)
In any case, the gentle reader may surmise that I finally approached my older brother about the DVD problem at around 1 a.m.
He considered the problem one way, considered it another way, then said, "Heck, why don't I just lend you a laptop and have you project the straight Keynote files from there?"
Blessed be sweet-smelling soap
And problems' simple solutions
And blessed be friends who have laptops
And who love me. And blessed be sleep.
(To Be Continued:
Wednesday - Syntax presentation, hopefully I will not be here for very long, God's in his heaven and all is well with the world but watch the skies for news of me.
Thursday - Mac OS Ghostwheel, my Info Thry talk and the entropy game, seeking the AVA and testing the laptop with office admin, I forget to return the auditorium keys, I will see you at 3, emailing does not work.)