I will post this in parts. It will keep me feeling like I have done something.

So, the tale of the Reach provincials of 2007, the sad, funny stories of a brain tournament in the wonderfully boring city of Scarborough (subset of the Toronto megapolis.) Olwen: Aww, can't we go clubbing that Sunday night? Cuchulain: You can go clubbing in every one of the zero clubs in Scarborough.

Up next: the rooms snafu, settling down in the rooms, the meeting, the practice game, the evening "gala" banquet...
I apologise, o ladies and gentlemen. I have made a lot of promises, and I value my word of honour - but I also value my Cryptography grade (that academic advisor BETTER register me for the course) so I have not been on LJ because  I have other ways of procrastinating on my term paper my writing juices could theoretically better be spent writing the term paper. Anyhow, the termpaper of Doom is finally done, and I have finally figured out why I could not possibly make LaTeX margins smaller (hint: the preamble is BEFORE the \begin{document} command...I have made a ridiculous number of documents in LaTeX without figuring that out...) It does not exactly have the mathematical flavour Prof. Theberge may be hoping for, but it is very definitely cryptographic. If you are really really curious, I will post my papers, setting up a filter. Or send them over to [profile] zigzitsa - I have not had time to commit to her, and she may as well be useful (silly Tourmaline, how many times were you told that stopping writing at the end of a chapter sets you up for writer's block?)

Anyhow, tomorrow I hand in last paper and last Acoustics assignment. The final paper on Urban Di (more about that later) is still to be handed in, but I am steadily growing free-er! 

Um... Probability exam Thursday, Logic exam Friday, Acoustics exam AND Urban Di final assignment due Monday...

- Mail stuff...
- Finally post the story of grad school meetings and that Ten Things That Begin With C.
- Post some other tales of my life
- Order Wolf Moon and Lycaon at the least, and start saving up for other incredibly lovely things that have debuted in BPAL
- Go to aikido...I do not think that will be likely until the afternoon of the 11th.

Possible stuff to do after the 11th:
- Set up agent-catching package
- Hang up the fractals from my 2006 calendar (I think a clothesline stretched across my ceiling will do, somehow. But I will need to raid the art store for hangers.)
- Possibly rearrange my room. My mother keeps on nagging me to throw out the books I don't read (often), but...they're BOOKS! Today I come into my room and find it startlingly rearranged, and I rather like it, I admit.

Anyhow - I have to do other stuff now  - but I am alive!!!
syncategorematic: (reading)
( Nov. 16th, 2006 09:06 pm)
from[personal profile] juniperus
This is a list of the 50 most significant science fiction/fantasy novels, 1953-2002, according to the Science Fiction Book Club. Bold the ones you've read, strike-out the ones you hated, italicize those you started but never finished and put an asterisk beside the ones you loved.

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien *
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov*
3. Dune, Frank Herbert
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin*
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson

7. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley *
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe*
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.*

13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey*
22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card *
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling *
27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams *
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin*
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven*

40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien*
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson*
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer
syncategorematic: (erythraean)
( Nov. 16th, 2006 12:29 am)
This isn't a typo in the title. It WAS a typo in the body of an email I sent to myself bearing my Urban Di assignment material (incomplete, and one table of which I had to do all over again because we didn't save it, sheise!) since Gmail throws a hissy fit if emails are sent without text in the body, so for those emails where attachments occur I have a tendency to write brief nonsensical messages for - I figure I do not need to impress myself, because myself already knows that I am an idiot (or at least, play one on the world stage pretty well at times)

Here i am, finally after many false starts and digressions being done my pile of homework, smelling faintly of La Bella Donna Della Mia Mente, and cursing Hogg and Tanis's Probability and Statistical Inference, 7th edtion, for making very little sense in its explanations. I presume few mathematical texts make sense to me close to midnight, with Probability being my slackest course to boot (I always promise myself I will do the homework earlier...Umm...) However, the fact that the Wikipedia's articles make a lot more sense than Hogg and Tanis who were paid to write the darn textbook, angers me greatly. The Wikipedia explained it well enough that i was able to prove why the Cauchy distribution had no mean, only to discover I do not have to.

I have taken care of every round sponsor - due to nefarious calculations, using data from my Bagelshop days, as to how much ten donated pounds of coffee actually retail for - so what I now intend to do is actually insert the last little logos into the PowerPoint, make the answer sheets all sweet and pretty, and...

You gentlefolk all LOVE to follow along the progress of a high school fundraiser, don't you? But I am sure the most loyal of you are muttering, "Last spring's trivia night updates were much more fun. Where is the Dark Lord those days? Tourmaline arguing with the Dark Lord is a lot more fun to read than Tourmaline waxing eloquent over PowerPoint..."

And I am NOT waxing eloquent over PowerPoint; I just have to use the thing. I make it pretty to the best of my ability but, scarred by my experience with a very small video card, I keep it simple. (Oh yeah, and to answer your eager and expectant questions, I do not know where the Dark Lord is and I have not needed to know for the last week or so. Probably, at this hour of quarter to one, either sleeping, which is a wise and beneficial activity, or playing PS2 (3?) or  planning how to teach incompetent grade twelve students probability and statistics, which he does a lot better than Hogg and Tanis do.)

I have vented my frustrations with the work I have to do, and I will now go to bed.

Darn you, florals, why does my skin eat you for a quick snack? Wink, and they are gone, quick as a northern summer (the logician complains that a northern summer and the time florals stay on my skin are measured according to two completely different scales...the metaphor-maker replies that it is cold, and dark.)
syncategorematic: (Default)
( Nov. 2nd, 2006 11:05 pm)
Well, having a personal writing journal seems to be the cool thing to do, due to the NaNoWriMo fever gripping my corner of the LJ world, and I am a fashion victim as usual. So, dearest friends, if you wish to peruse some fantasy and criticise it left, right and centre, for you I have made the tedious conversion from Word to LiveJournal text at


If you wish to peruse that journal, pray post a comment here, explaining who you are if I do not already know, and why would you want to do that (I have not converted all of my friendslist to zigzitsa's friendslist because perhaps some people have other things to do with their spare time than read fantasy hidden under the command whose usage still eludes me, the lj-cut) and detailing your recent violations of international copyright law...(kidding about the last one.)

Once you are in, feel free to comment, criticise, question, etc.

(Incidentally, zigzitsa is a very old, archaic Russian word for a cuckoo.)
syncategorematic: (singing)
( Oct. 17th, 2006 07:55 pm)
What Tourmaline Needs To Do:

Study for probability midterm on Thursday, so as to get good grade.

Get her OSAP password renewed and apply for OSAP student loan (Ontario Student Assistance Program, for ye non-Ontario-ites): mother delivered ultimatum that her paying for both me and my brother for the winter semester is mathematically impossible (me paying for myself is also mathematically impossible) and what do I think I am, cool or something, for not taking a loan out? Of course, I had set my OSAP entry password back in high school, and forgot it long ago.

Finish up that slide show for Trivia Night on November 17 (pictures are inserted, but animation needs to be done, Tenth Round needs to be written, and the whole thing converted to Keynote, QuickTime, etc.)

Work on her obertas turns - show on November 4, and if you do not get yourself able to do the hopak sequence of turns, there ain't a whelk's chance in a supernova you are performing, honey. ("get yourself able" was not a structure of standard English, methinks, before I wrote this sentence...)

Apply for grad school, darn you, we have beaten that dead horse before.

Pick term paper subject for Cryptography and start writing paper.

Find practice-interview subject for Urban Dialectology. Sign for the equipment, by the way - horrible neck problems kept me away from class on Monday.

Finish writing the interview questions for Urban Di - by tonight.

Get further involved in the Urban Di community under study.

Clean room.

Organise and advertise the NAQT High School Tournament on November 18.

What Tourmaline Wants To Do

Rewrite first two chapters of Novel #1, attack the chaotic mess of Cool Scenes that is Novel #2, pull all the wiki notes into Novel #3, continue the very interesting draft of Novel #4, since methinks I left my characters in a sticky situation for months. And rewrite opening scene of Novel #4, for 'tis very descriptive and probably boring. And put that short story opening I scribbled down in my journal into typewritten form and continue it.

Format and compile the chat notes from my last eight tarot readings.

Run an index on said readings. Persuade LaTeX to produce an index, darnit!

LaTeX the fractal formulas for Alice Kelley's 2007 calendar.

Scan some black and white drawings of mine, and colour them in GIMP, because that would be fun.

Finish that card I was drawing in GIMP, because it is cool.

Purchase that lovely card case I saw today, for the smart deck to live in.

Purchase business card holders for the smart deck to be dressed in. (Yes, I love the smart deck. Did I write about it? No, I did not...)

Write long and loving journal post about the smart deck.

Finish that lovely Vysotsky parody that I warned about.

Purchase that edition of the Medieval Scapini that is calling my name, and play with it...

Get some nice boots (waterproof and reasonably winterproof) and a nice bag - not that mine isn't nice, but...I am a woman...

Get money.

Get back to aikido - but that would mean losing some of time to do other things on the want list.

Happiness is when the desired coincides with the real. I am pretty far from happiness right now.

I wish you joy, I go to write questions about the Urban Di community.
syncategorematic: (erythraean sibyl)
( Oct. 17th, 2006 06:57 pm)
I am very very tempted to sign up for NaNoWriMo - yet another thing those evil enablers at bpal.org have exposed me to.

But...why why why do the inventors of this pick November, the last month before exams? Why?

Well - since no one reads the "novel" people produce, what I can do is whip together a collage of blog posts, forum posts, dream notes, story sketches, letters, cryptography notes, urban dialectology assignments, acoustics questions, probability problems, tarot dialogue chat - run them all through a word counter, and out comes the chaotic mess of words, thoughts and ideas that is Indicolite BlueTourmaline Hessanite Variety... I am sure I write far more than 50,000 words a month if these all count...

Unless you want a soliloquy on Feistel ciphers, output feedback, XOR, and irreducible polynomials in Galois fields, I will not write any more right now, since I am studying for a Cryptography "quiz" in exactly one hour.

I wish everyone joy, and to some, finding what gives them joy.

Warning: there is a blog draft I have that is in Russian. Rather good Russian song parody (so far), but it may hit friends' pages in annoying fashion once I finish the song.

The song IS about how I love you people.
syncategorematic: (durer - irascible curly-head)
( Sep. 17th, 2006 01:13 pm)
So, I have dropped Geometry, but will keep on going to classes.

I am in negotiation with the Faculty of Science about Cryptography.

I am working in the lab on a PowerPoint presentation, so far three rounds of which are very pretty.

I had lunch with the Almighty Big Cheese of Ottawa Sociolinguistics, Shana Poplack and her lab, and asked more questions than anyone else, and laughed at the grad students taking out a photograph of a sign - of Macy's fourth floor (for the non-sociolinguistics geeks, this refers to a famous experiment by William Labov, THE Almighty Big Cheese of Sociolinguistics, period, who is of course based in Philadelphia, but who famously tested the "r"-lessness of different social classes in New York by asking them for the fourth floor of various department stores, most notably Macy's.)

I have used my probabilistic knowledge to calculate the probabilities of coincidental Tarot spreads for all the spreads I know. I was bored in Probability. I was even more bored in Acoustics.

I am about to begin dancing again.

I am left with the question, "Do I really want to go to grad school?"

I mean, ever since I was maybe four years old, people joked about me getting a doctorate. And Career Studies told me to become a university professor, but that is because I have such a wide range of interests I skewed the program results. But...but do I WANT to listen to tapes and analyse them for the rest of my life, or stare at patterns and analyse them? Heck, what do I want? And am I good enough to get it?

I have a Phoenix scent locket, so now I am going about smelling nice to high heaven and I am very happy about that.

But I am not quite happy, and this time I do not know why. Of course, the Tarot deck I made using Alice Kelley's fractals is a master at answering one question only, "What is keeping the querant from being happy?" which is why my querants, particularly Snowfox, have nicknamed it "the smart deck." But I cannot use it to read for myself. Other readings have pointed out to me that I am stressed and lonely and unhappy, and may perhaps require help. But help from who?

Most people have a tendency to attract people of a certain kind to them. I joked that mine are geeks, but they are not. Mine are the people to whom, at least for a little while, I may serve as golden Sun counterpart to their bitterness, and whose relationship may be summed up in a paraphrase of Robert Byrne's reply to "Have a nice day": I: "I wish you joy." They: "Thank you, but I have other plans."

They need me to see another side, perhaps. Perhaps I need them, to see another side, a side I do not wish to see. And then we pass like ships in the night, and I and all my knowledge and joy am alone again.

Yesterday I thought about this; the thinking, oddly enough, came to me in Russian. After fourteen years, my soul still knows what its native language is, and in the deepest of thoughts, prefers speaking to me in that.

The answer was, "Wait."

The Movie Of Your Life Is An Indie Flick

You do things your own way - and it's made for colorful times.
Your life hasn't turned out how anyone expected, thank goodness!

Your best movie matches: Clerks, Garden State, Napoleon Dynamite
So, what did you learn in school today?

In a few minutes, I will be heading back to the Special Topics in Algebra: Cryptography course. Concolor is in it with me (that is, I am in it with him; as of writing this sentence, I am pulling my "unofficial auditor" act - but this may soon change). He does not like the professor, and thinks the course can be taught in a much more interesting manner.

I disagree. I did not think I could use cryptography, or had any passion for it. I just came out of interest.

And when I saw the list of topics, my blood surged and my heart raced as it did the first time I heard that I was loved.

I am a geek. I concede. But I have learned, somewhat, to listen to what my instincts tell me. And my interests were telling me that this is oh be still my heart - SWEET!

I may not have yet completed the prereq Introduction to Probability. But I HAVE read Burce Schneier's Applied Cryptography (I think I have; I have read most of it, at least) - and Kahn's The Codebreakers. And I have taken the RSA algorithm in Group Theory and coding theory in Applied Algebra. And hey, I wrote an A+-level essay on information theory for His de Maths.

I can talk him into it.

Honey? You are taking five courses this semester already. Logic and Set Theory, which would be useful in your semantics and computational linguistics career. Urban Dialectology I, which you need as a fourth year credit, and because, my dear, who can resist the knowledge that all Required Reading cometh from Philadelphia (when it arranged in order in the copy on reserve, that *grunt* is) and the desire to learn more about the speech of this City of Brotherly Sociolinguistic Love. Speech Science: Acoustics, ditto, and because, hey, it's the Glorious Sine Wave. Introduction to Probability, which, hmm, you kind of need for information theory, for cryptography of course, and because you know, getting a four-year honours mathematics degree without knowing a lick about stats beyond mean, median and mode...is not a good idea.

So where do you think you will fit another fourth year course?

There is Introduction to Geometry. But it is taught by Prof. Jessup, star in popularity among the math department students. But it may be bad, it may be bad, it may...

Nope, Jessup had me, and if he had any hints as to who my King of Wands in my personal chart may be I would have fallen in love with him, when the class started talking about clocks and the unit circle, and why in the Northern Hemisphere sundials run clockwise.

"Anyone here been to the Southern Hemisphere?" Dead silence from the class. "Anyone here born in the Southern Hemisphere?" Jessup raises his hand. "You should visit the Southern Hemisphere sometime. It's a neat hemisphere."

And the course is about ISOMETRIES.

"It's all about the networks," said I to my Tarot readees once I, half by accident on the smart deck of Alice Kelley's fractals, learned to see the networks. It is about the networks, the patterns, the continuities, the isomorphisms, the reflections, the things that remain the same despite changes, the things that remain connected...

Thank my lucky stars that I managed to get my own reading on Monday night - and learned, politely, that cryptography is written in my chart (Queen of Pentacles inverted), that I would be feeling a huge burden of work, and the oracle card drawn at the thought of the geometry course was "retreat."

Sure, I will.

I visited the school, and on Monday I began the Reach for the Top season anew. There is talent there, I hope (knock wood). Raw talent. Now disciplining it was always my challenge and concern. And getting it to go find its own sponsors for the second annual (I knew I should have at least stopped Lord Bedivere before saying this) trivia night on November 17, as I am busy.

I did go to resume my prowling hunting down of the Dark Lord. Thanking my lucky stars that the summer I had was such that I can look anyone in the eye at the question "How was your summer?" and reply, savouring the words, "Absolutely fantastic. And how was yours?"

I did not find the Dark Lord on the first day. Instead, Lady Cauchy and I shared reminiscences about whale watching, as she had gone to Nantucket over the summer - and she can now endure Moby Dick past the chapter about Folio, Quarto and Octavo whales, at which point I myself, aged 13, had thrown the book (Octavo edition) across the room.

The next day I did find the Dark Lord, and we arranged that he was fine with me using the lab - it is me finding the time to use it that is the problem. And is still the problem, because that wonderful cryptography course I mentioned? It begins at 4:00.

Well, on the other hand I would not have to bring in a gas mask, as the Dark Lord assured me I would need one to endure the repainting of the lab. I have a perfectly well equipped lab of my own, and I have PowerPoint 2003 there, too, that I can get as much of the work done in as possible, before resuming my friendship with Keynote 3. I did get all the questions entered on the weekend, though neither illustrated nor animated. There is still time.

And for the first time in my life, I emailed the Dark Lord telling him, very briefly, of my scheduling problems / crypographic love life. Incidentally mentioning that I have downloaded Blender, and am currently wrestling with it. Not mentioning that my covert reasons for downloading it were to design Tarot cards with.

Speaking of which, I have now happily TeX-ed all the records of my Tarot reads, and, brace yourself, David Knuth - I am going to index them.

I can't help it. I think language, and I think math. I came back to aikido yesterday after taking August off for pecuniary reasons (i.e damnéd poverty). Six sessions of hanmi-handachi later, my bony-callused knee issued an ultimatum and is still seething, but that is not the problem. The problem is that I still "don't believe in ki, I believe in vectors." Vector curves, continuous in C1, - or discrete.

And today, sleepy after an evening of readings, in Probability class on the prof explaining the multiplicative principle, I asked about drawing cards out of a deck. Meanwhile trying to remember, if we did take up that example, how many cards are there in a normal deck, because I am pretty sure it isn't seventy-eight?

Matrices, tarot cards, aikido takedowns, continuous curves, network graphs, probabilities, all swirl together in my brain, to form the lens I see the world through.
June 27 was an amazing day. Amazing in that my madness did grow great, and I learned to smell, and smell, and then smell more.

Lately previously I had been enjoying others of my newfound madnesses: Star Trek, Concolor's provided Battlestar Galactica, and the teasing and jokes of my new coworker Thalia, who replaced Carrie when the latter departed for greener pastures.

Tourmaline to Concolor, June 25
Thalia has been teasing me about my partiality for Worf ("But he's bumpy!" "On his head, yes." "But how do you know he won't be bumpy elsewhere, too? And he is unstable, with all his talk of honour.." "At least I know what drives him. I don't trust the quiet men, I like knowing what the man likes and dislikes clearly.") On Friday, she started doing an imitation of Schwatzenegger, as well as talking about crushes. I remarked that having a crush on a fictional character is the ultimate safe thing for teasing purposes, as the chances of me actually meeting "the big burly Klingon of my dreams" are nil. Thalia replies (Schwartzenegger voice): "Oh no, you're going to marry him (Worf). You're going to have his Bumpy Babies."

The Bumpy Babies sent me into paroxysms of laughter for about three minutes, with my stomach hurting for the rest of the day. Thalia also coined the word "Blingon" which she interprets as "rapper Klingon" and I interpret as "Klingon who likes jewelry."

My geek quotient is going through the roof, but as I said to Thalia, there is absolutely no one I know who is not geeky in one aspect or another. Let him who has no geekiness upon himself cast the first stone.

Concolor to Tourmaline, June 25

Bumpy Babies..I like that.

...Now go find yourself a nice Blingon who can treat you right!

Tourmaline to Concolor, June 25

Is there a bar where they congregate?

The more I watch Battlestar Galactica (infrequently, for my computer and my DVD player sporadically dislike Concolor's wonderful enabling) the more amazed I am at how good it is for a sci-fi show. Acting, story, writing, concepts...and I am only on episode 3, please keep this up!

And as for the community which made "enabling" enter my vocabulary...

Tourmaline to Irene, June 27, 2006

The order came!!!

Silk Road is in an amber vial! And there was Nephilim, Sheol, Hades, Moscow, AlShairan, Nyarlathotep, and frimpage: Blood Countess, Kyoto, Bewitched, Tum, Cathode and Faustus!

Now which to try first???

Tourmaline to Irene, June 27, 2006

This is the text of my post in the I Got My Order! thread:


Never thought I would use this, but I need to!

I got the order you can see above in my morning mail. It must have come at around 9:00, I went down at 9:30 to pick it up, first thing on getting out of bed (day off, I love ya). I danced around the room, sorted out the imps, posted, made tea...then at quarter to eleven I see a mail truck pull up, I pop out as soon as they finish to check what's there: another order for me!!!

With no CnS
Order: 5/5
Shipped: 6/22 (no CnS)
Arrived: 6/27 - super fast!!!

5 mLs of Ra, Ahathoor, Tum, Khephra (two are in amber vials, I wonder why)
Imp pack of Masabakes, Anubis (X2!), Death on Pale Horse, Scales of Deprivation, Block Buster, and Love Me
Frimps of: Twilight, Thalia, Yerevan (on wish list), Belle Epoque, Golden Priapus, March Hare, Zephyr, and Jezebel!

Now what else can happen on a day when I dream of my love in the night and the day starts like that?!!

Gotta go soap my hands; I am running out of wrists to try the booty!!

No, I did not dream of Worf, why do you ask?
Miracle BPALs that break all the rules: Scents that shouldn't work on you but do


Incense in Kathmandu made me want to be sick; even the hint of incense in Death on a Pale Horse (not listed) made me wary. But Nyarlathotep calls me to him again and again, and his incense is just enough to make him smoky and dangerous and darker, like a bad boy with a feline swagger that makes me feel quivery against all reason...

And what scents absolutely broke your heart when they did not work on you?
Hades showed me his narcissus side and nothing else. I expected a more exciting, mutable scent. I dreamed of exotic words like opoponax and ambergris. I tend to him gently, hoping that this Lord of the Underworld would someday be persuaded to show his exotic and creative side he promised before. Perhaps he fears hurting me, so only shows himself as a delicate flower. Little does he know that I am strong, I can bear a little variability, if only for the sake of CHANGE! A tear stands in my eye, as this reminds me too much of an unrequited love I am trying to persuade myself to drop, and vowed to do so the very day Hades arrived.

Alas, at a later date, that very lord of the underworld who had been so discreetly narcissus with me, showed me the other side of his nature, and I concluded that the labdanum note in both Sheol and him raises dark spectres of Donna Karan Black Cashmere, and makes me want to be sick. The dark horror of it.

Speaking of which, I am sure some of my readers (possibly even an integer rather than a fraction) are wondering, "So, what happened to the Dark Lord? He was my favourite character all along!"

Yes, all 1/10 of you will get your wish. I will tell of my last interactions with the Dark Lord.

At the beginning of May, the school's quarterly newsletter went out. In it there was a brief article on the trivia night, which included thanks to a bunch of people, including "the Dark Lord, the ideas man." But not to me. Now, as the wise Jarvenpa pointed out, both my Taurus Sun opposite Pluto in the 12th House and my Chiron in the 7th House make me a wonderful at loving and giving - as long as I feel I get something back.

And my Scorpio rising makes me absolutely anal about promises kept and trusts broken. He had told me to keep him out of this! I sought out the Lady Mollweide, and she told me she had indeed written the paragraph, she had been unaware of the Dark Lord's request for privacy, and she had kept herself and me out of this because we would get credit at the end. Oh, and they had already set a date for next year's trivia night, to coincide with a Spaghetti Night scheduled by some other service club.

I sighed and agreed, my smouldering Chiron still not fully appeased, and on the Friday before we left for Reach Provincials, I went to find the Dark Lord at lunch, hunted him, and finally cornered him.

*TOU: [% as usual, bypassing the redundant formalities] I owe you an apology for letting your name
be in the newsletter when you had requested it not be.
*DAR: It's all right.
*TOU: And Lady Mollweide told me that she had scheduled next year's trivia night for November. So I shall see you in August.
*DAR: Sure, that's fine.
%com: Tourmaline marks those words very well indeed
*DAR: Wait, I may not be there then. Well, Tourmaline, I am sorry, but I am running a little behind schedule now, so I shall talk with you later.
*TOU: It is ok. Later whenever. I need to go get some lunch.

And so I went to Toronto, musing to myself. Just before the eventful weekend I had already written poetry about, I went
down to the Mac lab again; the other Lord who taught the combined graphic arts course had left the door open, and I had walked in with my usual silence, and greeted them both, startling the other one. The Dark Lord was robed in white as he, as usual, wrought magic over his laptop.

I recounted to him the tale of my line from the Toronto gala: "Just give me your contact information, sir, and I'll sell you the Robotics Club!"

"Wait a couple of years," said the Dark Lord.

Then the well of our conversation ran suddenly dry. My desperate Ceres conjunct Chiron in the seventh house ("Ideas, exchange of information, learning, talking, writing--these are things that feel to Tourmaline as "yes, I am being cared for" and are the primary ways she tries to care for others") sought for other topics, but it was awkward, it was artificial, it was painful. To this day I will not know why he wore white. And, now that I think of it, why should I care?

"I will go," I said, and turned on my heel.

There came a word that seemed very odd, as its semantics did not match its intonation, which did not match its context, a context where I had never heard it before.

"I beg your pardon?" said I.

"Sorry," the Dark Lord repeated.

"A good long weekend to both of you," I nodded, and walked out. I now forget what song I sang as I headed beneath the blossoming lindens to the university lab, where I, and my Chiron conjunct Ceres in the seventh house ("Fears about communication, a sense from childhood of not being heard properly...") were needed.

I finally realised what I needed from the Dark Lord to carry on a proper conversation; he is not like Concolor, with whom one could talk about anything and feel the communication justified. To communicate with the Dark Lord, a teacher with inarguable talent for his job, you need to ask a question. And right now, I wrote, I lack questions that are (a) those he can answer (b) those he will answer (c) those that I cannot answer myself easily in other ways. The Dark Lord, unlike Tourmaline, is not a trivia machine. I am sorely in need of friends, but it is no use trying to make friends out of oracles.

So I wrote.

After Chicago, one of the first people I wanted to chat with was Lady Cauchy, so on Wednesday, the day after I slept for thirteen hours, I went to the math office after work, and gave on the door my usual double knock that I had not made in a long time. And a tall figure in blue opened the door, whom I did not expect to meet there and was not prepared for.

"Can I help you?" asked the Dark Lord, and I saw him smile for the first time in a long time.

When I am caught off guard, I can say wrong things; and I believe I had explained that the Dark Lord always makes me say the wrong things, for such runs the interaction. I said something to the effect of, "No, what would I talk to you about? I no longer need the lab," and requested to speak to Lady Cauchy.

Of course you all know what happened then: I hardly recall what I spoke to Lady Cauchy about, I was clearly aware of the Dark Lord leaving the math office behind my back, and (we all know you, Tourmaline, you would not be Tourmaline any other way, and we really should make a habit of provoking you to be rude to us, because the aftershocks are so fun) Tourmaline was haunting and hunting the hallways the very next day. To do what? Chorus it, Best Beloved: a-po-lo-gize.

I did manage to find him, and in a classroom, to boot.

"First of all, I need to apologise, I did not mean to be so rude yesterday, and I do need to talk to you," quoth I.

As usual, he said it was all right. As for the proposed discussion (I was a little amused-afraid to contemplate that he might be afraid of my asking him more than he was ready to answer), he suggested the exam period.

"When?" I asked.

"Well," he said, "I have supervision in the gym on the first day..."

An announcement came through the P.A asking teachers to log off the system as they meant to do something about it. The Dark Lord asked me to wait a little as he needed to check his email before he got off the system.

"Sorry," he said. "It is all right," said I, wondering why him apologising me seemed like such a rare thing, and so fine.

I left soon after, with the idea of the exam period clear in my mind. Alas, the Dark Lord, for all of the powers he is renowned for (irony at silk setting) has no clear visions of the future.

On Monday I came and saw him, and he asked me to come on Tuesday or Thursday. On Tuesday I came and could not find him at all. On Thursday, when he wore red (red? Yes, red, and the sad thing is that I did not get my brain completely addled by the sense of wrongness of that; the Dark Lord of kyanite colours that I had know and loved has changed) he asked me to come on Tuesday or Wednesday the next week, after the exams were finished. Now it is a deep sign of something wrong with me that I actually did not give up, for I did need the Mac lab.

On the Tuesday, that eventful Tuesday June 27, I went to the school. I had a sneaking gut feeling that I will not be able to find him again, but I wrote my excuse as talking to Lady Cauchy (and the Choco Leibniz ritual...)

Sneaking gut feelings are often unreliable, and sometimes kablooie.

Lady Cauchy and I had a long and happy conversationl she too had been shocked at the Dark Lord's use of the colour red, apparently more shocked than I was, whatever that means. I introduced her to my blog's "50 Reasons Picard Is Better Than Kirk" post (and, sly imp I am, added the blog, not the post, to her Favourites file) and downloaded The Picard Song for her. Alas, we could not hear it on her laptop, but she said she will get to listen to it at home, where her sons may know what to do about this. Then I went to the Mac lab - on the off chance.

Another teacher coincidentally let me in, and so, for the last time this year, I did finally ask the Dark Lord about plans for next year.

He inquired further into the logistics of having Trivia Night and Spaghetti Night, since he had already discussed the disadvantages of the cafeteria at great length. I said that I will email Lady Mollweide that very day to inquire about those details (I did; as of the time of this writing, she has not replied to me).

So about the use of the Mac lab, he said he was amenable to the very first day of school; I repeated the question several times, so he better have been sane when he said that, because I am taking him at his word.

As I moved to go, I offered to share with him too the boundless glory of the Picard Song. He politely declined; "Not in the mood." I was a little startled at this being the same man who once upon a time quoted Star Trek left, right and centre, but whatever.

"So on the very first day of school I shall be back to haunt and bother you," I said by the door.

"You never bother me."

Now I have evidence to contradict that, but who am I to dispel illusions that work to my advantage? "I will find a way. Have a good summer."

And thus, closure achieved, and no more Dark Lord Saga for the summer, you readers may skip to this point.

Last night, on the full moon of July 10, I applied Khephra as usual, and I had a dream:

Ra is stronger than ka (Egyptian soul) or Kali.

I lie, tossing and restless, on a bed when this idea comes to me, and afterwards I go to a school, where they perform dramas in the bathroom - Ra is stronger than Kali - and I have to collect gems of lapis lazuli and turquoise and chrysocolla, but a skinny urchin steals a ball of turquoise from me, and I make him give it back or else I will throw him by his wrist over my shoulder. I make the acquaintance of Professor Kingsley, a blue-eyed, curly-headed man, who saws down birches for me, large ones near the school, because Ra is stronger than Kali. I go up with A. Rosenbaum, who is inviting us to a choir concert, and I see in the library twenty volumes on astrology, bound in soft green leather. I cannot take out even Volume I, but I help the women with me fold glossy paper over the library selections they had chosen. Ra is stronger than Kali.

That Ra, the god of the rising sun, may be stronger than Kali, Hindu goddess of war, is a fairly obvious moral. Is it worth disturbing my dreams to tell me that peace triumphs over war?
syncategorematic: (durer - irascible curly-head)
( Jun. 17th, 2006 09:27 pm)
Want to Get Sorted?

a Gryffindor!

Aw, I so thought I would be a Ravenclaw.

Now this is something I did not expect!
I'm Destruction!
Which Member of the Endless Are You?

But, as usual, if I give the other possible answers, depending on my mood, I get
I'm Destiny!
Which Member of the Endless Are You?

I thank the defunct but archived website of the first church of Stewartology
http://web.archive.org/web/20011117004918/www.mokuzen.net/stewartology/ (I can't make links right now)
for this hilarious list (and of course I thank Irene for sending it to me); I am just putting it somewhere where it will be more convenient for me to get at it and sway the doubters:

Reasons Why Captain Picard/Patrick Stewart Is Better Than Captain Kirk/William Shatner

We'll add more later when we're not so busy with our lives!

50. Picard would have won the fencing duel with Trelane.
49. Picard's science officer has a detachable head.
48. Picard is aging beautifully, while Kirk... bleh.
47. Picard never bashed Gene Roddenberry.
46. The Borg destroy truly inferior beings, and only assimilate INTELLIGENT life.
45. Not only did the Borg assimilate Picard, but they chose him to be their LEADER.
44. Two words: Tight abs.
43. Picard can speak more languages than Kirk has even had the pleasure of hearing.
42. You won't hear anyone laughing when Picard's doctor says "He's dead, Jean-Luc."
41. When Picard speaks, everyone in the room pays attention.
40. Kirk had to wait for Trelane's parents to come along and save his butt, while Picard outsmarts Q time and time again.
39. Picard is man enough to admit to his mistakes.
38. If Picard was going to sing with his buddies around the camp fire, he'd pick something a lot better than "Row Row Row your boat."
37. Nobody EVER slaps Picard on the back.
36. Picard was responsible for the death of Dr. Crusher's hubby, and berated her son constantly, yet he STILL manged to make her fall for him!
35. Three words: GOOD Special Effects.
34. Kirk fought over women. Picard lets women fight over HIM.
33. Picard has beat down and killed Klingons hand-to-hand.
32. Picard uses that cool gender-free pronoun in his "boldly go" preamble.
31. One word: CLASS.
30. Picard's acting skills have NEVER been mocked on children's cartoons.
29. Picard is BUFF. Lookit that!
28. Picard is actually smarter than his First Officer.
27. Picard doesn't jump in the sack with anything that moves in a lame effort to prove his masculinity.
26. You'll never see Kirk on the cover of TV Guide being praised for his sex appeal.
25. That Shatnerology page is way uglier than ours. ^_-
24. Picard kicked the tar out of the Borg. Many, MANY times.
23. Picard isn't a skanky, womanizing horn-ball.
22. Picard has the respect of big burly Klingons.
21. Picard will actually THINK his way out a problem before beating stuff.
20. Picard has the really cool voice!
19. The Patrick can actually ACT. Shatner can only over-dramatize.
18. Can we really respect a character created in the 60's?
17. British people are way cooler than those weird Canadians. ^_-
16. Picard can quote classic novels. Kirk may not have even read the book.
15. Picard didn't wear an ugly puke-yellowish-green shirt.
14. Picard was never demoted in rank.
13. Kirk has saved the earth a few times... Picard has saved the entire UNIVERSE a few times.
12. Picard had Whoopi Goldberg for a bartender. Kirk didn't even have a bartender.
11. Guys who drink all the time are incredibly repulsive.
10. Picard looks the Baldness God in the eye and laughs.
9. Can we really respect a guy who wears a toupee?
8. What the hell kind of middle name is Tiberius?
7. Picard understands that you can't shoot first and ask questions later.
6. Kirk CHEATED on a Starfleet exam.
5. Picard likes Shakespeare, and isn't afraid to show it.
4. Picard actually treats women with some respect!
3. How much non-Star Trek acting have you seen Kirk do that anyone that wasn't an obsessed Kirk fan actually heard of?
2. Nobody would hire Kirk for his vocal abilities.
1. Kirk's DEAD! Lookit that!

I can think of at least one more: Picard drinks tea, Earl Gray, hot!
Picard has The Picard Song!

I am sorry. After twenty-one years of resistance I have finally been assimilated. I watched four Star Trek movies in forty-eight hours; it is NOT good for your brain. This caused Irene (and Concolor, I would believe) great joy and the rest great laughter. And then I spent many happy hours pursuing the Wikipedia ("a dangerous pastime, I have noticed" - Prof. Jensen) in search of the context of the quotes on the Picard Song, which song has a SCARY ability to be stuck in your head.
syncategorematic: (when I am tired)
( May. 5th, 2006 12:58 pm)

Take the Celebrity Deathwish Test!

So why does Tourmaline start a post on April 12, and only continue it in May? Because Tourmaline has, wonder of wonders, been writing. Actually proper writing, not blogging, emailing, putting up forum posts, but working on my Theocracy story and reminding myself why I am in love with at least one of my characters (I love all of them, that's why they are my characters, but this one I especially love. My dream man. Athaira, he is not a white-collar mathematician crimelord, but he is the equivalent in that world... You know who he is, I sent you the draft.)

I got a rush of beautiful creation at the dialogue and the paragraphs - and then I offered to show it to Concolor. I have given up on him now; he has not read it. Concolor is useless. And I find it amusing to note my transition from 11-year-old "I zealously guard my treasured writings" "Touch apply, and I swear that you will die" to the 20-21-year-old who, like Pushkin, seeks out a neighbour and "choke him with a tragedy in a corner." Comment, comment, tell me! Acknowledge, I am a writer of staggering genius. Or at least, offer me the wonderful constructive criticism that I love Shilhak-Inshushinak for, and indicate to me where, despite being a writer of staggering genius, I cannot speak English, or my characters are completely fictitious and bear no resemblance to any person living or dead. I will grit my teeth, exorcise, and laugh afterwards.

To exercise while exorcising is very useful.

Irene has waxed eloquent about the works of Gene Wolfe - the Book of the New Sun - for a long time. I claimed my state of poverty as an excuse to avoid seeking them out, until at the beginning of May, the idea hit me: "You are bilingual, you fool; get thee to www.lib.ru and see if Gene Wolfe existeth in translation."

He doth. And now I am working through Sword of the Lictor consumed, even through the veil of a skilled translator's work (at least three skilled translators for the three books so far), with envy and fascination. Let others wax eloquent about the Lord of the Rings: I have read fantasy and science fiction right, left, and centre, and Urth recaptures a desire I have not felt in a while, jaded and cynical twenty-one-year-old I am.

And (I dent my vow), how did he make a torturer so darn sexy?

I began re-hunting Moshkov's library for the free fantasy that I will probably detest once I get into the making of the rent money from my own books, but love now. In a week, I found that Anne McCaffrey's directory had suddenly vanished. I was shocked; let my brother criticise my taste if he will, I read MCCaffrey for the first time in grade four (outreading my "best friend" at the time, the sister of my later occasional stand partner and the daughter of the man who ran the robotics club at a fellow school) and thus they have become the comforting books for me. Dragonquest, somehow, is the book I reread when the world is turning inside out. Don't ask me why, something in the meter, I suppose.

And it's gone?

I frantically saved files of a whole bunch of other works while I can, including, although I have not yet attacked them, the entire Riftwar saga of Raymond E. Feist.

Why Feist?

I take my vow to not talk about love/sex and throw it at the wall and it takes a green-twig fracture. There is a woman I love. Not in the least bit in a sexual way; being bi would double my chances of a date on a Saturday night, but it is not the way I am. But if I have seen you twice, and talked to you once, and well over a year after that I still plan what to talk about when we meet again, that is love in my book; a girl-crush of helpless worship, of "I want this person to be my friend; I want this person to be me! (I still get my writing and aikido and dance and trivia, of course...)" She was the significant other of a man I had a crush on; not knowing that, he introduced me to her at the Bagelshop. I can pull up, right now, the feeling of a horse kicking me in the solar plexus when the two of them walked in; and, a twenty-minute-long girl talk later, while he politely perused the specials, the feeling that we had so much in common that I loved her too.

And she looked like a girl who had come to buy bagels months before, whose face at the time I did not file in my memory, but who had Magician: Apprentice under her arm, and I asked her about it, having myself once picked up A Darkness at Sethanon at a garage sale and never having gotten more than twenty pages in.

"Well," she said, "I love Feist, and so I would recommend him to anyone..."

I do not know if it was the same woman I later loved; she did not have a man with her. But Feist, to me, links together my crazy loves hereafter. My life is woven through with threads of books that are important to me though I did not finish them. Feeling I need to do research before attempting Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon led me to The Codebreakers, to Shannon and information theory, to the idea that math and linguistics can go together, and to who and what I am today. The Lord of the Rings: book, movie, French speech, Athaira, Goblin translation, old Gam-Gam, two massive undertakings by the Graphic Arts Club and two respective dinners, a salute for inventing the modern fantasy genre for the rest of us - and unlike everyone else in my known universe, I like The Silmarillion better.

These are stories I felt like recording. Why not now?

Life without love, without love, without love is not worth living,
An hour without love is an hour, is an hour that time forgot.
We feel good, we feel good, when we are loving and giving,
Even if - they love us not.

Let me tell you a few of the events of April, and since I am insane, I will tell at least one of them in rhyme.

One day, in the month of Taurus, under the rule of Ra and Horus,
(And whatever god it is that sends us cold and wind and rain)
My trip to Maryland was ending, when I got an email sending
From Irene: "A trip is pending! I go to Israel again!
Come and hear one last refrain!"

There's a store called Shepherd's, fashion, for which Irene has a passion,
And a piece she had a crush on, by a gal named Rita D.
Bracelet 'twas, of turquoise mainly, but Irene had stated plainly
She had coveted insanely that piece for a year or three.
And although I say that mainly it's a style not for me,
'Twas a lovely piece to see.

But at Shepherd's worketh there a girl of whom I am aware
That a dialect we share from a land of amber snow.
Seeing Irene dither a while, she showed her a piece in similar style
Such that I could not help a smile; 'twas a merry piece to show.
"Which is better?" "I don't know."

Before the mirror pirouetting, with me aiding and abetting,
Irene tried in different settings both the bracelets she desired.
One was class monochromatic; the other whimsical, erratic,
Cheerful, with a bead emphatic... "Which," quoth she, "should I acquire?"
I gave her a look enigmatic: "'Tis you who those beads require."
I'm bad at poker, but no liar.

With one my Irene is toying; in the other she is joying...
Till I said: "I'll toss a coin; we'll see what the coin will say.
If both love and logic fails, we'll decide by heads or tails
Which you'll wear at the Wall of Wails, which in Ottawa will stay.
And if both tell you siren tales, well, there's always layaway,"
I gave my dispassioned say.

Once, twice, thrice I tossed my penny; Irene cried, "Don't tell me any
Of its answers; 'tis too many chances; sibyl, tell me true."
I regarded her, perusing: "Truly, if I'd had the choosing,
I would take the more amusing. It, I feel, is right for you.
And that's what the coin said, too."

So the fun one she was keeping; 'tother stayed in Shepherd's sleeping.
Next day I get a message weeping: "Mother says 'twas the wrong ware!
She said 'tis a crime of passion to buy such a whim of fashion.
In my style I feel it's clashing, and hear not its siren air.
On n'est pas serieuse quand on a dix-sept ans, it doth declare.
Je veux etre serieuse. Quoi faire?"

I wrote (though my French be dirty): "Could you name one gal of thirty
Who thinks she should have been more serious and had less fun at seventeen?
Wear it now; it makes me smile; and if you're not happy in a while,
There's a jeweller with a style, a young lady named Kythryne,
Who is known for many a mile for wirework ne'er before seen.
She'll make precious art of turquoise; darling, fear not, there's Kythryne."

Irene left for the Holy City, feeling happier and pretty.
As for me, fate had no pity: 'twas the month of The Exam.
The syntax of transformation class had no examination,
To my joy and exultation; but the others: oh god d---.
There were essay expectations in His de Maths: what a sham;
For two years I have shunned essays, and no essayist I am.

On April 11, my brother's birthday (yes, our family had the annoying habit of all being born in April except for my father), I went to aikido again. Oakenshield taught, and put me on fourth-kyu review - sankyo, all the way! I, nervous and concerned, misjudged an atemi, and accidentally clipped Oakenshield on the nose hard enough to dislodge his glasses. I apologised immediately; when I have accidentally punched my brother he has a tendency to be very annoyed indeed, so I have learned the value of apologising immediately, frequently, and profusely when punching someone in the nose. Then I walked with Oakenshield after class, putting in yet another apology and discussing comic book characters, if I recall correctly.

We parted near the university. To get home, I took a favourite shortcut, near the school, having to go through the alleyway between the military buildings and the City Hall. Usually, it is quiet and dark there.

Tonight I saw soldiers running around with rifles, shouting at each other. One of the soldiers was sitting down, with something dark next to him. Pool of blood! was my first thought, in the shadowy light of the streetlamps. Then I heard the yells "He is neutralised!" and looked closely to realise that, no, it was an M-16 assault rifle he had put down next to him (I later checked with Society Max to make sure the Canadian army does use M-16s; I knew what I saw was not an AK-47, because even in semidarkness I do recall the flag of Mozambique; and I was under the impression Uzis are a little smaller.)

I dismounted from my bike, uncertain.

"Come through, ma'am, it's all right," someone in authority yelled to me.

I walked my bike through, grinning with self-amusement at my adventure of passing through a war game exercise of the Canadian army, and trotted into the turning circle. It was a little after 9 p.m (my walk with Oakenshield had taken its toll on my usual cycling ETA to that point between aikido and home), and three guesses who I see heading to his car, on this hour of this day of all days?

The Dark Lord, for his walking silhouette I would recognise even in the streetlight shadows, turned his head to figure out what the shouting by the military buildings meant. To see a quick-stepping erstwhile volunteer who rarely crosses paths with him at this hour.

"It's a war game," I said. Excellent introduction, strangers in the night.


"It's a war game over there. Hello," I remembered Canadian formalities. Hey, in my world I would rather know what is the meaning behind running shouting soldiers near my place of work, than know that someone acknowledges greeting me.

"How are you?"

"Quite amused at going through a war game."

"Anyone getting shot?"

"No, but some people were neutralised."

"I guess it is a war game then. Have a good evening. Did you join in the fun?"

"No, I was unarmed. I prefer my fighting on equal terms. Have a good evening."

I rode off, giggling at my own evening of practicing torture methods of wrist controls, punching an instructor in the nose, apologising for it, walking through a war game, and meeting another instructor of very different things. Did you join in the fun, indeed. I love my life.

On Easter Saturday I took the bus to Bayshore shopping centre: just to see what is there, although usually I refuse to go anywhere my bike cannot take me. What I saw there was yet another thing to covet and, on the way back, the Civic Hospital helicopter rising. It took it a long time to get going: first the engines began to whirr, and I stopped to watch, hoping. I was just about to give up when the great propeller blades began to spin, spun, spun, spun, then when I was already getting bored of that, with a light rocking, the helicopter rose from the ground, and I got the same thrill I always get at watching a flying machine, my heart in my mouth, as it described a rising arc to fly away to sick people unknown. I suppose the time saved by taking it compensates for the time lost through getting it going. I rode off singing. I do not know why flying machines - planes, helicopters - drive me wild, no matter what their size. They do. Maybe I was a pilot in a past life. Maybe my father designed helicopter drive shafts.

I spent the rest of my Easter weekend preparing my taxes. Now I want two years' worth of tax refundin', so I gotta learn to do my taxes. It is the most boring job in the world that I have endured; I can see why professional tax preparers get paid their big bucks, to save the rest of us the boredom. And my taxes even lack the potential to be interesting: "Did you hold foreign property worth more than $100,000 in the past year?" "I wish." "Do you receive benefits as a member of the clergy?" "No." "Do you receive benefits as a member of the military?" "No."

Then I went to Magpie Rideau, as I used to do.

"So, did you do anything interesting this weekend?"

"My taxes," I sighed. April is the cruellest month...

"Is it because you are Russian?"

And that was when I decided I will no longer favour Magpie Rideau with my patronage. A few weeks later, I considered doing so, but just giving that girl a piece of my mind as to why, I understand now, you must never ever ever start a conversation about ethnicity. I may buy jewelry from her, but she and I are not that intimate. And besides, what the heck does being Russian have to do with filing income tax by April 30, as all Canadians are supposed to do? Then I changed my mind about that. The girl is an idiot, true; nothing can change her. I just will not buy jewelry there anymore.

My birthday fell on Orthodox Easter, so instead of partying as such, we went to a celebration hosted by the church.

I have told Traci this before, "Judging by the number of older men hitting on me, I am destined to be a second wife."

And I have recently come to put into words what I had known instinctively for a long time: "There exist few worries that cannot be banished by stepping on a dance floor." As is usual, it was mostly women with a few men bouncing to the beat, and me doing cabrioles and pique turns. "Wow! You do dance professionally?" "I hang out at the rehearsals with a semipro troupe, and I am the worst of the lot and have to fight tooth and claw to get a walk-on part..."

If only all people got their highs at social events by dancing! No, people must also get drunk. And when men get drunk, they start thinking that because I danced with them politely once, I will do so again and again. For them there is an aikido move called double tenkan; I developed a whole choreoraphy out of pivoting out of the way, in perfect time to the music, whenever he tried to take my hand, Turn north, turn south; it looked like a jive move from a distance. Remember the dancefloor scene in Shrek 2, when Prince Charming keeps on trying to kiss Fiona, and she pivots out of the way here, takes a rose in her teeth there? Someday, I will put my "Don't Dance With Me Dance" into a screenplay.

My brother put up the text to Yuri Shevchuk's song on his blog, wondering how to translate it.

Jurij Shevchuk, lead singer of rock group DDT, in live solo acoustic concert. (Rest of album is here)

This song actually taxes my Engrish. I am looking at it, and scratching my head, as I have no idea even how to start translating it. I’ve fed this text to Babelfish, but systran choked on it too. I guess it does not only tax me….

Россия (Небо на Земле)
Rossija (Sky on Earth) (mp3)

Then he went to me and said "Hey, can you translate some poetry for me?"

Well, I was trying to study for exams, I was trying to blog, I was trying to write, it was getting late, and I had given up trying to do anything productive. I printed the words he cited, and started sketching the translation. I saw a possible rhyme in the last verse, and worked backwards from there.

Where till dawn stands darkness raven,
Order sheets from prison sent
Are obeyed by minds unshaven
In unfaith, like testament.

Time upon their backs they carry
Pour it for weighing at each pass,
Polish up the marble forehead, [?]
And feed the Spassky hourglass.

Beneath icons they moan by day,
By night they howl at the sky,
Always sit in the wrong sleigh,
And head to the doctors by and by.

How many heads by now ‘ve been offed,
Not a single one sewn back.
They sing of grandparents’ profit,
While they trudge the bottom’s track.

Save themselves for the first dying;
Before the second come the wakes.
All saints the devils are crucifying:
God, it seems, his rest day takes.

All’s wrong-coloured, all’s frustration,
All the light one could see, and no light here.
Ambushed by a grimbeard nation,
And tortured many a year.

They seek with fire by daylight clear
A way to a world where it’s not the same.
There’s many holes out, they all hear,
And yet out no one came.

There, where by light stands darkness,
Where light by dark forever stands,
From Gospel to Councils wander
Minds strange to understand.

With hairy eyes their deeds they sew,
Hammer out children forge-defined.
They hitch sleds for summer’s snow,
And resemble human kind.

Hey you, cough to me, louse living,
Softly sing beneath moon’s rest,
Of how, in happy drunk oblivion,
I slept on a stable’s breast.

And I dreamed of other years:
A world with neither fools nor war,
Where maids nude and slim appear,
Where men sober-minded are,

Where a drunken angel winging
Brought us news of joy and mirth…
All of us, on our beds singing,
Build a heaven upon Earth.

Ha-ha. There was talk between my brother and his website partner of me attending or participating in poetry readings, but nothing has come of it yet. Anyhow, if my novel gets published, I am going to have to contact Shevchuk sooner or later, since I quote my translations of his work there too.

I was reading Black Phoenix Trading Post's Naughty or Nice inquisition's examples of pleas people submitted to prove their naughtiness or niceness. I was amused greatly. One person did haikus. I thought, "Hey, if it was me, I would not just do haikus, I would do a full-fledged poem!" Then I went to my morning shower thinking about it (somehow my poetry usually ends up being composed either on my bike or in the shower or while waiting for the laundry or otherwise...) This resulted, and I sent it to Irene, and she says it made her morning:

Listen, this lady is naughty!
She's proud, conceited and haughty
With lustful and fantastic dreams
(Never you mind that she seems
Gentle and pure,
Shy and unsure,
Caring and kind,
Never you mind:
In her eyes naughtiness gleams!)

She's a mathematician, that's right!
Doesn't that ruin her plight?
She would memorise,
Folks to terrorise,
Awful algebraic statements, that's right!
(Never you mind that two days out of three
She teaches, for free,
High school kids; you will see
It's only to find
Her love; never mind.
She's naughty as naughty can be!)

She's insolent, taunting, and bold!
And don't start on her passion for gold:
Her earnings she'd spend
On jewels without end,
No matter what common sense told.
And now she is crazy for oils
(Never you mind that she toils,
And would always lend
Cash and time to a friend,
Find the perfect gift,
Uncaring for thrift;
Doesn't that prove she's a serpent in coils?
She's naughty, as you have been told!)

She hates washing dishes; 'tis shady!
She can't sew and knit like a lady,
And, rather than learn,
Her money she'll burn
On clothes and shoes...or Mercedes.
She's a lover for chocolate dark:
Don't you see that evil spark?
(And never you care
That she'll always share,
And she would tell lies:
Claim it was free when she buys
It on purpose: she's a liar, so there!
That shows her naughty mark!)

She's a fantasy writer, alas!
She is doomed now, that naughty lass.
On pre-exam night
She's just sit and write,
Trusting to memory to pass.
And she always remembers all naughty affairs
(Never you mind
That a friend in a bind
Would always get time,
A sweet letter or rhyme,
And she'll rarely remind
Of dues; never mind:
When she does, him in debts she ensnares!)

I am certain you can hardly guess
From her looks, that her room is a mess:
Her clothes always look right,
So she's a hypo-crite,
And that's naughty forever, without cess!
Her bookshelves are constantly falling
(But when the BPAL oils come calling
She'll make everything clean
Lovely to be seen
To match the sweet smell
But, you know, well,
Forget it; her favourite oil is Fallen
And that means, as you surely can guess,
That she's fond of one sworn to the ruler of Hell!)

I have still, as of writing this, not received a shipping notification for my re-stock of Fallen. And I find that on every forum post I write, even in reviews of other oils, I always somehow mention Fallen. This girl has a crush. Come to me, o my love.

(More tales of April coming; just getting a post out.)
The week before me writing this has been a very very trying week.

On Monday I came back to the school to work on the slideshow, and finally learned enough to go straight to the downstairs lab to seek the Dark Lord.

He was sitting at his desk without his glasses as I came in, and he regarded me with eyes to which I was probably a blur (I have the feeling I learned once that he is myopic). I have only ever seen him without his glasses at times when he and I were both very tired, so the sight of his face without them must always trigger the protective instinct in me. So a few seconds after I entered the Mac lab, I asked, "Is everything all right?"

Not that I expected him to admit that anything was not; I suppose my motivations were just to convey that I do occasionally care. In exchange for getting the iMac.

As he opened the Mac lab door for me, I ask, "So, have you seen V for Vendetta yet?"

"No, not yet."

What sort of evil powers were keeping the Dark Lord, the man who saw The Matrix Reloaded at the 12:01 a.m screening, from watching a Wachowski brothers' movie on his March Break? "You'll like it."

"Did you see it?"

"Yeah, Concolor and I saw it on Saturday." Somehow the imp that lives behind my tongue did not mention that nearly the entire Language Acquisition Lab accompanied us.

"Concolor? And how is he?"

"Being a gentleman who would pay for concessions," said I. "Do you want some chocolate?"

"Maybe later. How long do you think it will take you to finish this?"

"Maybe another four or five hours, barring any accidents."

"Nothing can go wrong with a Macintosh," the Dark Lord said confidently.

"You need to meet the iMac at work then," I laughed.

"It goes wrong?"

"Yeah, it's one of the fishbowl ones. But I think this show is beginning to look really good. Knock wood." I looked around for wood. "Knock wood laminate substitute." I knocked the table.

"Yeah, it is looking really good," the Dark Lord agreed.

Oh gods above, why were the evil ones among you listening?

The Dark Lord left, promising that he would be back, and I worked on. After a while, I needed to go to the washroom. Realising that, given my luck, the Dark Lord would return exactly on time to see the lab empty, I carefully closed the door of the inner lab. So carefully, indeed, that I heard the lock click, and realised that what I had done was lock myself out.

To prevent this, I carefully put a doorstop against the outer door. And returned from the washroom to find that guess what? The door had slipped over the doorstop, and now I had no choice but to seek the Dark Lord.

As I entered the main building, a sinewy arm in a rolled-up blue sleeve held open the door for me.

"Oh, there you are! I have locked myself out of the lab."

"That's ok."

"I mean, I knew that if I left the door open, that would be the precise minute when the Dark Lord comes back and sees the lab abandoned..."

"That's ok, I know that you would only be gone for a short while."

High, high opinions, I thought to myself as I got back into my seat. The Dark Lord puttered about the lab, out of the corner of my eyes looking like I imagine wizards to move about their laboratories, only I do not picture wizards' labs to be as austere as the Mac lab. "It arrived," he said cheerfully, picking up a round box the size and shape of a film reel.

"What did?"

The box contained a slim book and some other objects. "It's the kit The Director in the Classroom. So I can teach my students how to make movies."

"Ooh, where did you get it, and can I have some?"

"I ordered it."

"Did you expense it?" As I said when Consuelo picked up the tab for our entire dinner at the Elephant and Castle, one of my fondest wishes is to be rich enough to expense my meals.

"No, that takes too much paperwork. I hate paperwork."

"I hear you." He had taught me that expression. "I hear you."

As the Dark Lord finally put on his coat to leave, I repeated my offer of chocolate.

"No, not now."

"Is the place where you are going likely to have chocolate?" I challenged.

"Yes, I think so."

He left me behind, and at around 7 the catastrophe came.

First I put some new animations in, but then Build Inspector refused to let me change their order or change them from On Click to Automatically, those fields in it remaining mute and unresponsive. Growing frustrated, I moved back to a slide where I knew I had changed the builds before, only to find it not working there too. Desperate, I closed the file and went to open it again.

And up came the worst possible message you can imagine without someone being dead, sick or injured.

Keynote cannot open the file triivia night.key.

"Why?!" I screamed at the flat screen. "For the love of all the gods there are, tell me why?"

In my History of Mathematics presentation, I make the argument that computers are still a long way from understanding human language. The Apple iMac G5 with iWorks 2006 is a case in point.

I went to pull the unresponsive file to my memory key, and was relieved to see the blue bar "Saving..." grow. At least it was not "Keynote cannot save the file triivia night.key because it is damaged," another memory error I am familiar with. Well, there was the memory key, and if worst comes to worst, there was the backup CD I burned two weeks ago. Well, one of those weeks was March Break and another was truncated because of that stupid emergency and the Dark Lord's meeting. So there was not that much work to be made up.

It is an interesting observation that all through that long trivia night slideshow saga, I never felt despair. I felt frustrated, yes; I felt stressed out, yes; I felt angry at technology and the people around me, yes; but I never felt that it was not going to work out. I felt that, given only a titanic effort on my part, it will all work out fine. The good will end happily, and the bad unhappily. That's what fiction means.

And it did take a titanic effort.

The next morning I dropped by the school before work to write a note to the Dark Lord telling of my plight and telling him I will be back on Wednesday. Tuesday was out of the question, because on Wednesday was the English Syntax (which has no exam) final test, and I meant to study for it. After filling another sheet of foolscap with writing, I headed off to the lab where Concolor must be waiting, humming under my breath Kipling's

Where my lover calls I go,
Shame it were to treat him coldly.
'Twas a fish that rippled so
Turning over boldly.

And having no idea who I meant.

I entered a darkened lab, with the lights off, and it took me a moment to scan the quiescent computers, the bag on the floor, the Concolor sprawled on the floor catching up on a sleep deficit... I laughed and we slowly got to work, confirming that the His de Math assignment was indeed due on Thursday.

I came back to the lab after Reach practice, having nowhere else in particular to go. Concolor greeted me.

"I have done all of the questions except the fourth one, and it's the last one so it must be the hardest."

"Let's see?" It was on Q's polynomial division ring, and its imposed order. I fell to thinking, almost literally although not so rapidly, as I lay down on the floor, feeling myself almost as strong a sleep deficit as Concolor's, and pondered out loud. "So assuming x is less than y, without loss of generality..."

Concolor lay down about a foot away from me. "The fact the you can divide by polynomials within it must be important..."

The key clicked in the lock and we both sprang up and got into chairs, I at least thinking that even the Language Acquisition Lab would find it odd to see us two lying on the floor together...discussing total orders of polynomial fields.

"How long are you staying?" Aldonza, for it was she and Amico, asked us.

"Well, we have History of Math at 1:00," said Concolor, "but one can never be late for history."

"I like that," I laughed. "One can never be late for history. I should put that as the title of a blog post."

Gentle reader, you have been warned.

That afternoon, though, was not for much studying, as
(a) Society Max showed me how to access his computer, and his MP3 collection, on mine through the LAN, and so I spent a great while emailing myself Marek and Vacek, my favourite Vanessa Mae songs, and my favourite Queen song of all time.

(b) Remember my discussion of the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab?
Tourmaline to Irene, March 21:
P.S The oils arrived!

I just realised that the envelope I was kicking aroudn the floor is a
priority mail package for me that my kind family had tossed into my room...

Irene to Tourmaline, March 21
!! Tell me how they turn out!

Oh, and --

You got Snake Oil, right? ... a quick warning about that one: like a
fine wine, it's meant to be aged.

Tourmaline to Irene, March 21

No I did not get Snake Oil, I got Silk Road, Aizen-Miyoo, Lightning, Dragon's Heart, O, Fallen and Haunted. Hey, that makes seven. I had wanted all of them, which one was the freebie? Oh, (checking my order) the mind-readers! The mind readers! Dragon's Heart was the freebie! And here I am, picking that precise one to try first, and I am stinking up the place ;-) wearing it and listening to Ride of the Valkyries ;-). I won't rant about individual notes, but so far I love it, and a sniff at the imps made me immediately love all of them except Aizen-Miyoo, which reminded me too much of guava or etrog (you Israeli, you know what guava and etrog are ;-) But I'll give Aizen-Miyoo a chance.

Me studying disliked Syntax for exam tomorrow, but me very happy.

Ok, examining the description of Dragon's Heart, I am smelling the musks - I cannot tell the smell of whatever dragon's blood smells like, or fig or currant either. Since I like musks, that's fine by me. If I sniff up close, I am getting a resiny amberlike scent, so maybe that is the dragon's blood. But the musks definitely dominate. I am not getting a dragon impression, but I don't mind; I like the scent.

I will check which of the oils I have is best for exam-taking.

And a double-check shows: Fallen: amber and musk, O: Amber and musk, Haunted: Amber and musk, Silk Road: everything, Lightning: ozone and marine, Aizen-Miyoo: funky spices. "We're guessing the gal likes amber and musk," think the experts at the lab.

Now that I have put some on, me likes Aizen-Miyoo. It smells...as if guava and a really nice citrus mated and had a child. Not something I would eat, but yummy to smell. That's first application. I will keep you posted.

To self: Go study passive structure, girl!

Ok, Aizen-Miyoo had a chance to dry a little, and it is still very interesting: almost-fruity, almost-spicy, with some kind of cool (temperature; and expression of admiration) undertone. Me likes this lotsa.

On the other wrist, Dragon's Heart is now strongly amber resin - and I smell the dragonfire! And ta little bit of something that I think has to be currant.

I thank you for introducing me to this wonderful company.

Now that Aizen-Miyoo is dry, I can smell the sweetness - something similar to vanilla; although the citrusiness lingers. It now smell like something you'd like to put on your chai latte (if you're me, and I've had Timothy's new chai latte that is fantastic, with sweet and spices...).

On the other wrist, Dragon's Heart has gone to a very clear resin amber smell all the way -with that fiery hint.

Me loves both.

Tomorrow is going to be either Lightning or Fallen for the test, and then maybe some O to try... hmm...

I wore Lightning for the test.

Tourmaline to Irene, March 21

So, I think O is not the smash hit it was cracked up to be, with me. Yesterday I tried it before going to bed, O on one wrist, Fallen on the other.

I love Fallen. I was intentionally lying with my wrist near my nose. I think I want to make Fallen my signature scent for night (Lightning works for day so far, although I have not yet tried Silk Road or Haunted).

But O is just a blend of something sweet and something medicinal, and it did not make me feel sexy and lustful and whatever - it just made me go "ok, this is an ok smell, but nothing in comparison to Fallen."

I think my body chemistry may bring out musks really strongly on first application. But I will give O another chance at a different time of the month before writing it off, as I love Aizen-Miyoo now.

Lightning is beautifully fresh - something indeed like a garden after a thunderstorm. It clears my notstrils.

Although I should note in my observations that my nose is slightly stuffed up and I may only pick up the strongest notes.

I will bring some of the imps tomorrow to show you.

Tata for now, I wish you joy.

The test I finished quickly enough to go back to the lab and write another email to Irene.

Tourmaline to Irene, March 22

Lightning smells like fresh wet flowers. I like it.

Now Fallen time again. Musk, here I come. And something that I think is votiver. I can smell the breath of imperial florals now.

Me going for lunch.

Not just any lunch; the whole bunch of us were going to Perfection-Satisfaction-Promise for Aldonza's farewell lunch.

Interestingly enough, the conversation at the peaceful restaurant turned to Scientology this time. Now that Amico has sent me the link to the South Park Blainetology episode, and while waiting for it to download I read a whole lot of the xenu.net site explaining the evils of Scientology, I think I dislike Scientology intensely.

Today I am not alone. The fragrance of my home-flower garden shall stay with me. Thus ran the quotation from Sri Chinmoy on a flower box at PSP, and we all had a laugh over it.

Fare well, Aldonza.

At the school, the Dark Lord was working with a few other students in the lab, and let me past them to get into the Mac lab.

"So," he said, "I tried opening your file, and it gives me the same error message. I wish I knew what it is, but it says nothing about what kind of error it is. So I am afraid I can't help you."

"Well," I said, "it's saved on the USB key. Could we try it on another computer, to see whether it is a local computer problem or a Keynote problem?"

We opened the computer next to mine, stuck the USB key imn, rebooted the iMac to make it recognise the USB key...

And got the same message: Keynote cannot open the file triivia night.key.

"Well," said the Dark Lord, "I guess you'll have to take it off the CD and reconstruct your work. And you know what? Every time you save, try exporting to PowerPoint. That way, even if the Keynote file fails, we'll still have the PowerPoint file."

I got to work, but before I did, I accessed my email and downloaded a certain song to open with iTunes, and perhaps the Dark Lord and his student heard, with irony set to delicate silk.

Tonight I'm gonna have myself a real good time
I feel alive
And the world is turning inside out
Floating around in ecstasy
So don't stop me now
Don't stop me
'cause I'm having a good time
Having a good time

I'm a shooting star leaping through the sky
Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity
I'm a racing car passing by like Lady Godiva
I'm gonna go go go there's no stopping me
I'm burning through the sky yeah
Two hundred degrees that's why they call me Mr. Fahrenheit
I'm travelling at the speed of light
I wanna make a supersonic man out of you

Don't stop me now
I'm having such a good time
I'm having a ball
Don't stop me now
If you wanna have a good time
Just give me a call
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 wanna stop at all

I'm a rocket ship on my way to Mars
On a collision course
I am a satellite
I'm out of control
I'm a sex machine ready to reload
Like an atom bomb about to oh oh oh oh oh explode
I'm burning through the sky yeah
Two hundred degrees that's why they call me Mr. Fahrenheit
I'm travelling at the speed of light
I wanna make a supersonic woman of you

Don't stop me don't stop me, don't stop me hey hey hey!
Don't stop me don't stop me ooh ooh ooh (I like it)
Don't stop me don't stop me
Have a good time good time
Don't stop me don't stop me

I'm burning through the sky yeah
Two hundred degrees that's why they call me Mr. Fahrenheit
I'm travelling at the speed of light
I wanna make a supersonic man out of you

Don't stop me now
I'm having such a good time
I'm having a ball
Don't stop me now
If you wanna have a good time
Just give me a call
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 wanna stop at all

Well, I turned the volume down at "I'm a sex machine ready to reload." The school has its standards; just like in the USSR, except in Health classes every person in the school came into being by immaculate conception.

I listened to the Dark Lord joking to his student, to his irony and the dry humour I used to love so well and missed so much, and the thought struck me - maybe it was not the Dark Lord changing and seeming so depressed that I reacted to last fall. Maybe he is one of those people who only know how to act around teenagers with that dry humourous mockery. And now that I am not a teenager anymore, the power balance between us has shifted (and he has been a little afraid of me, believing my intellect to be superior to his, for a long time now, and I can cite many quotations to prove it.) So perhaps his apparent change to dry cold depression is simply because he does not know how to act around someone who used to be his inferior and is now his equal in our societal balance. I have broken out of the student-teacher relationship system, and, besides giving me what I want and more, and the very occasional mockery at a third party that we used to share all the time and now have not since the Cathcart Street tale, he has no idea how to act around me.

That's ok. A lot of men don't.

But what does it say about me that I enjoyed the inequality of the teacher-student relationship?

No, it was not that which I enjoyed. It was the sense that, because I was the smart one, the responsible one, and the one with a similar sense of humour, that he would look at me when he was going, "They're hopeless. They're hopeless." And I would nod yes in understanding. I enjoyed that unity.

There is a Russian song, "I just waited and believed Though my heart denied That we two are two trees, two leaves, By the same riverside." Only the rhyme is kept in an alternative Russian verse that I would translate into English as

I just waited and believed,
Though my heart was in the dumps,
That we two are two trees, two leaves,
And all the rest are stumps.

The Dark Lord's entry interrupted my musings. "Oh, and save them under different names, do you get what I'm saying?"

"No, say that again?" Maybe the unity was gone - but I remembered the first time I had ever truly admitted that I did not understand something, and that had made me a much better person, and that had been to the Dark Lord too.

"Well, say you have worked for an hour, and you decide that's enough work, you decide to save..." (An hour? I had saved three times already in those twenty minutes.) "And you save under trivia night 1, say. Then you work for another hour, and you save - save it under trivia night 2. And the next time you save after that, save back on trivia night 1. So that if one of them breaks down, we can go to an earlier one and see what was different. I'll be upstairs if you need me. "

Wise advice. Trivia night 1.key, export to trivia night 1.ppt. Trivia night 12.key, export to trivia night 12.ppt. Trivia night 1.key, export to trivia night 1.ppt...

Out of Memory Error.

Delete everything unnecessary - songs, other files I could re-download, etc. Empty trash. Export to trivia night 1.ppt.

Out of Memory Error.

Carefully leave the lab door slightly open, go up to the math office, and knock twice.

"Dark Lord, PowerPoint is giving me an Out of Memory Error, even after I have deleted everything I could."

"Well," said he, "export it to Images, then."

That worked. He came back later, me happily exporting to Images, and he got ready to go.

"How long do you think it will take you?"

"Another four or five hours. Knock wood. Although I guess knocking on wood substitute did not work last time. There!" I sprang up and grabbed a dowel rod from behind the storage cabinet. "Knock wood."

I put on a song. It was for him as he put on his coat.

If you're blue and you don't know where to go to
why don't you go where fashion sits,
Puttin' on the ritz.

Different types who wear a day coat, pants with stripes
and cutaway coat, perfect fits,
Puttin' on the ritz.

Dressed up like a million dollar trouper
Trying hard to look like Gary Cooper (super duper)

Come let's mix where Rockefellers walk with sticks
or "umberellas" in their mitts,
Puttin' on the ritz.

Have you seen the well-to-do up and down Park Avenue
On that famous thoroughfare with their noses in the air
High hats and Arrow collars white spats and lots of dollars
Spending every dime for a wonderful time

If you're blue and you don't know where to go to
why don't you go where fashion sits,
(Puttin' on the ritz)
(Puttin' on the ritz)
(Puttin' on the ritz)

But then, late in the eighth hour, with trivia night 1.key open, I clicked on trivia night 2.key.

Keynote cannot open the file trivia night 2.key

A cold sweat broke out on my forehead. I went to the iPhoto, opened the last album. I could not for the life of me figure out how to extract them one image at a time. Finally I clicked on "Make slideshow in QuickTime," and waited.

It did make a slideshow. In QuickTime. But very differently from the one that Keynote makes. iPhoto is designed for displaying people's digital camera photos, so its slide show simply drifts from one picture to the next. Cute for those snapshots of your baby with Aunt Matilda; totally impractical for any question game where you need to read text on the pictures. And it's half a gigabyte in size, too.

And then I accidentally closed trivia night 1.key while trying to minimise it.

Keynote cannot open the file trivia night 1.key

I deleted trivia night 2, the older previous export, and saved the previous PowerPoint on the USB key. Then I took one of the spare CDs the Dark Lord had given me when I burned the CD backup, and I burned the album on it. Then I wrote the Dark Lord a long and very sad note. Saying I will be back tomorrow.

In the morning I met Irene for coffee, and over our conversation she smelled the imps, and I frantically worked on my His de Maths assignment. Once that was done, she and I discussed Russian - particularly the tense vs. aspect. To explain the Russian past tense of the verb "go" I gave it, and realised that was the imperfective aspect. "I was going to visit my friend when a crocodile attacked me. So you never finished it."

"So in Russian, crocodiles attack on people?"

"Yep. It has the derivational affix from the verb 'to fall,' right? So a crocodile fell on you. That is even scarier."

"So you mean those things that we were doing in the past tense, we never finished any of them?"

"Nope. Or you did them repeatedly."

She and I went to watch several more His de Maths presentations. In some of them, the most interesting part was watching Pestov try not to nod off.

After school I came to the Dark Lord, but he was with a student. So meanwhile I worked on the not-yet-done sports round, waiting for his bidding on what to do with the main round.

Finally I came out to him. "I have all the show as it is saved on images. Is it possible to pull the builds out?"

"If you want pretty pictures. So do you want it animated, or do you want it to work?"

Dark Lord, haven't you learned yet that Tourmaline wants both? Always, Tourmaline wants it all. "Ok, so I have the PowerPoint presentation. I tried it on my computer last night and it could not open it, but I think that may be my computer. When we saved things on my key at work, I saw pictures of the PowerPoint, so I think it is there."

The Dark Lord plugged the key into his laptop, and pulled up the file. Leaning over his shoulder, I laid my hand before him, with the two fingers crossed.

The literature title page appeared, playing. With the builds in the wrong order, like I remembered they were, but all there.

"So there it is. I guess you will have to do it in PowerPoint and display it on a laptop."

"One of those PC computers out there?" I asked, pointing to the outside lab.

"Unfortunately none of them have USB ports."

Long long ago in my robotic days, I had overheard him complaining about that. Then I did not care. Now I cared. A lot. "So do you trust me with your laptop for four hours?"

"Unfortunately not. Where I go, my laptop is going with me."

"Ok, then," I decided, "the lab at work has a good computer with PowerPoint. I will export the sports round right now, save them both on the key, and go to the lab and do it there."

Quick and decisive as usual. "I think what is happening is that your file is getting too big," said the Dark Lord. "I think you need to split it up into little chunks."

"We tried that before, and it could not save, remember?"

"Ok then."

"So you will need a laptop to display them," said the Dark Lord as I came back with my precious burden. "The school has a laptop, but it would not be able to take this PowerPoint. Keynote exports to the newer version, the one that comes with Windows XP. The school laptop has Windows NT, and they fixed all the things wrong with NT and called that XP. That's ok, I am sure some of your friends have laptops you can borrow."

Friends? Dark Lord, there is Concolor, and maybe Irene. And... "If I grow really desperate, can I ask you?"


"Do you know yet what you are doing on Friday, March 31, between 7 and 10 in the evening?"

"No. Ok, I'll see what I can do."

There is a way I learned in Lord Pencilturn's gypsy dance of pirouetting and going down on one knee. If done right it is very graceful; whether done right or wrong, it is murder on your knee, and I can only do it, on a good day, over the right, onto my damaged right knee. I did not do it then. I just went down on one knee before him. "Thank you. I do not know if I will come back here again."

I was going up the stairs when it hit me that if I am moving out, I might as well clear out. I returned to find the Dark Lord still there.

"Maybe I should erase the files I have on that computer," I said.

"No, don't for now. In case you need them again."

"I am just a little worried about the security of all this..."

"I told my students not to touch it."

"Yes," I said, "but how afraid are they of you?"

"If I tell them I will kick them out of the course right then and there if they touch it, they obey."

"All right, then even if I do not come back here, you will see me again."

Amico was a little surprised at seeing me at the lab, but accepted me working on that PC.

And so I settled down, and realised that of course I will need to come back to the Mac lab again; the acknowledgement show was still in Keynote. And then I did a trick to split the PowerPoint presentation into little chunks, a trick cunning in its very lowness: I saved seven copies of the big show, for the seven rounds in it...and in each copy I deleted every slide except for those of one round. So I got seven PowerPoint shows. And then I did the same thing to split each one into the questions and the answers.

And those things are huge in their memory. The whole show was 79 MB - and each round is between 20 and 30 MB. I would definitely not be able to carry these away in the free space on my brother's USB key.

Ok, I planned. Today I get all the files arranged and all the fonts changed. On Friday I do not work; it is Reach finals. On Saturday I will figure out the animations. And on Monday I will bring the show back to the Mac lab, have Keynote open each little chunk, export them all to QuickTime, and burn them all to DVD.

With each setback, I was still brought closer to the goal.

And so it went into a long night, with me listening over and over again to "Don't Stop Me Now," and that most trashy yet comforting of songs, Army of Lovers' "La plage de St. Tropez."

We drink tea for two,
The sky is blue and I love you,
It's in your eyes you love me too.
Where it never rains we drink a shower of champagne
Let's dance away, let's go insane.
Crying when I empty my last bottle of sherry
I survived the winter of Paris
Come on, la plage de St. Tropez,
that summer day I need you there
I take your hand, I say mon cher,
And we're in love.
Oh, on la plage de St. Tropez
We have a dirty love affair
And there is music in the air
When we're in love.
March Break felt a little empty at first; I had not realised how much the school and its related projects have been creeping into and dominating my life. But I found myself delighted to actually get a bit of a rest and concentrate on different things entirely.

Keira, planning the hybrid tournament on March 18, requested borrowing of the school's buzzers, and I picked those up the Thursday before.

Tourmaline to Keira, March 11

All's fine on the buzzer front. They are currently parked in my living room, and they will be there. However, I may not be at Monday's practice: the linguistics dept is holding a math seminar, and it's been a while since I've taken some time for myself. It is sad if my way of relaxing and casting my cares away is to attend "A workshop on statistical methods for analysis of first language acquisition and psycholinguistic data" ;-)

And indeed the workshop was fun - although it actually only began at four, but I skipped the practice anyway, simply taking the time to hang out in the lab, write letters, and blog a little if I recall correctly. Although when the seminar came, Consuelo (Concolor's mother) pointed me out as the only person present with any formal math training, stats are far out of my league: I am sneakily getting away with a mathematics degree involving no stats whatsoever. Their discussion of SAS and analysis of variance went completely over my head after a while, as I dug out my sociolinguistics assignment on making sense of data collected by the Ottawa Intensifier Project and tried to make sense of it. It was then that I realised that the numbers were not percentages, and I completely lost making any sense out of it.

However, much more fun was the dinner after the seminar, at the Elephant and Castle (Consuelo explained that such pubs are actually named for a mangling of "the Infant of Castile") where us happy gang of eight gals from the language acquisition lab and the statistics professor (who is the father of one of them) chatted in Spanish and English.

Tuesday I went to work with Concolor. Once he heard that I do not have to go to the school to coach at lunch, he proposed going somewhere for lunch. However, this was not to be: Amico and Aldonza were curious about getting some results from the Copula Omission Project. For the last few weeks, Carrie, Concolor and I had been going through transcripts and finding Leo and Simon's (their real code names; I do not assign code names on top of code names; that is too encicode for me) uses of am, is, was, were, be, and marking them @gram@overt, @ungram@overt, @ungram@null. Even though the only one of the three stages of Leo and Simon's development that was completely coded was the first stage (a bow from yours truly), that Tuesday Amico tried to use the freq @ command in CLAN to at least find out how many times in a particular file the boys used @gram@overt.

The numbers looked interesting. But, overeager be us linguists, we checked the numbers using the Find command directly in the file. And we got completely different numbers. Freq gave us 12 @gram@overts, and Find was giving us at least 30. On the other hand, freq claimed that there was a mention of "yesterday" and one of "absolutely" in the session - and neither Find nor Microsoft Word, which we pasted the text into to use the Find function, could encounter one of those ghostly words.

So, Amico and Aldonza and Concolor and I worked like crazy little beavers all through what was supposed to be my lunch, trying to account for the discrepancy. We even left a note to Carrie, who had been quietly using the freq command to spell-check the transcripts: "Stop using the freq command! It's unreliable!"

Tired and still confused, Concolor and I walked to His de Maths.

"Could it be that freq is reading the words that have letters in brackets as phonologically incomplete, such as "do n(o)t" for "don't" or "he(r)e" - or "yeste(r)day"?" I mused. "That would explain the ghost words. But not the words freq seems to be missing. It can't be a computational limit on the number of words it finds, since it found something like 144 the's without any problem. Hmm@fp... By the way," I looked up to tease Concolor, "you still owe me lunch."

On Wednesday, I talked to Carrie about it, and she reminded me what the CLAN command was that would extract the tokens in context. It was combo @. We used it, and we realised that, indeed, my conjecture is right: unlike Find, freq does see "yeste(r)day" as "yesterday." However, that still does not explain why we found 30 @gram@overt's with Find and 12 with freq. A mystery to this day, since I have not been able to duplicate our experience that Tuesday.

In His de Maths, we had a presentation on the constants of mathematics, including Pi. That it happened on 3/14, (and covered the minute 1:59) was the only notable thing about it.

And that Tuesday afternoon, I decided that I have had enough martyrdom for causes; I deserve some fun too. And Concolor had once lent me a CD with the jpg's of all the pages of the graphic novel V for Vendetta... Which was coming out on Friday...

Tourmaline to Concolor, March 14
When are you planning to see V? And can I come, especially if it is Saturday or later rather than Friday (there will probably be crowds on Friday, and I have rehearsal anyway)?
Since you'll probably be comparing it to the book a lot...

Concolor to Tourmaline, March 14

C'est un bonne idée! I will let you know...hopefully we can see it this weekend! Maybe Amico would like to join in?

Tourmaline to Concolor, March 16

Sheesh, I have just forgotten that I have to read for a quiz tournament on Saturday, at the university, from 9 until about 5 or 6. Thus if we go on Saturday, we will go for an evening show; my Sunday should be completely free. We should find out ASAP what the World Exchange's schedule is, and plan our weekend around that.

Pretty important thing to forget, given that we have been planning that tournament since, like, November.

P.S. And the mean websites change their schedules on Friday. It plays Thursday 10 pm. However, looking at the other movies, most of them play on Saturday at 7-something and at 9-something.

Concolor to Tourmaline, March 16

To my dearest Lady Variety of Streetshire

Upon perusal of that great electronic network we affectionately call the Internet, I have ascertained the times of showing for the adaptation of our most beloved Vendetta. Hereafter are the aforementioned: 12:30, 3:30, 6:30, 9:30.
You will note these times apply both to the Jewish and Christian Sabbath; allowing the 9:30 hour on the former (as per your previous engagements), and any choice on the latter.

Let us hope the adaptation has merit in more than simply Ms. Portman

I fervently await your reply,

Yours sincerely,

Lord Concolor of Avenue Dukedom

Do not provoke me with fake Elizabethan English; I can talk all four legs off an Arcturan Megadonkey in that dialect. And persuade it to take a walk afterwards.

Tourmaline to Concolor, March 16

The hour of nine past the sun's midday and thirty more minutes on the hourglass doth seem most pleasing to us, for we have not any need to wake early on the Christian Sabbath.

The reviews do say that the strolling players hired to portray the characters wrought by the pen of Master Alan Moore do so well indeed; yet they complain that screenplay doth wander on many subplots. In truth, I wonder if they have read the original work of graphics, for it doth indeed wander as well. They do reprimand Master Moore for complaining in a silly manner. However, we will judge, and enjoy the explosions. To paraphrase the Russian expression that was about women but applies to a great many things, "there is no such things as a bad movie, there is such a thing as too little vodka."

On Thursday I finally rekindled Irene's and my tradition to meet for coffee and chat of many things - of our times at school, of Russian grammar, and of the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab now. This led to that, and I invited her to attend the His de Maths presentations.

We arrived to the presentation on John Nash late (quote me, "Oh, math history presentations never start on time...oh, this time they do.") Irene listened attentively to the tales of John Nash having affairs with his students, writing insane things on the board, to the argument as to why mathematicians go insane (I argued that it is because dealing with abstract objects all the time can seriously skew your perception of reality) and to the accounts of the Hilbert problems. And to Pestov's recap of the field axioms, which provoked my tilting back my seat after I had answered a few: "Let someone else have a turn, I have said enough." Zero does not equal one.

As we were getting up to leave, Pestov approached me: "Tourmaline, I seem to see you less frequently. Why is that?"

"That's because I dropped Topology," I said complacently.


Don't professors get little notices that such and such a student had dropped the course? "So you have abandoned my class!" "Not of my own free will, sir, and I am as devastated as you are!" This time it was of my own free will, and I was not devastated at all. "It was being too stressful on me, and I dropped my most difficult course."

"So what did you learn today?" I asked Irene as we walked to Sociolinguistics. "Other than the fact that John Nash had affairs and that I am a desperate show-off who asks pesky questions?"

"I think that Pestov is intimidated by you," Irene said. "I can see him being nervous every time you ask a question."

A little vain person deep inside me thought Serves him right for jilting me last summer. Now he sees what kind of inquiring mind he has missed.

Irene enjoyed Sociolinguistics, I think. Unlike field axioms, a discussion of age-grading is more easily accessible to random people - and an acquaintanceship with Jane's beadwork is never a bad thing.

And when I came home that night, there was a check from Reach for the Top for the packs I wrote. Finally! I would have run and deposited it and made a payment on my Magpie necklace right then and there, but I decided not to rush. Tomorrow, before work, I would do it.

The next day was St.Patrick's Day, and as i headed to the Rideau Centre, I suddenly realised that I was not wearing anything green. And an old tradition I have read once says that anyone not wearing green on St.Patrick's Day may get a pinch from anyone Irish. And Carrie is Irish.

Catherine at Magpie greeted me as she set out little cards saying "Sale! 30% off!"

"Hi, I have come to make a payment on layaway #30666," I said my usual line.

"Why don't you just pick it up?" said Catherine. "We are having a sale on, tax off all designer jewelry."

Sales usually do not apply to layaways made prior to the sale, in my experience, but if Catherine knew otherwise, that was all good. "Well, do the math for me," I asked, "and I'll see."

And that was why, as I entered the lab, I said to Carrie, "Hold it a minute, let me put on something green..." and I put on the necklace. Luck of the Irish.

The Ottawa Hybrid Tournament was marked by a bad vendetta between Binturong and the Lawn Bowler. Indeed, as I may have hinted before, Binturong is a highly unreliable character and I trust him a much shorter distance than I can throw him. I did not expect him at all to join my table when we met at Quizno's and he made that offer, and I was indeed surprised that he did so. There, he descibed the Lawn Bowler to his teammate, "Think of the most unattractive man at the tournament..." The funny part was that she immediately placed the Lawn Bowler. But the aspect of Binturong's behaviour that I did not bear witness to but which scandalised Keira was that she trusted him to read a game between the Lawn Bowler and the Wise Men of Trivia - and Binturong kept on ruling against the Lawn Bowler.

It infuriated Keira. It did not ruffle me, because at lunch I went to check my email in the lab, and there was a message from Concolor.

Concolor to Tourmaline, March18

When shall I pick you up? 8:30?

Tourmaline to Concolor, March 18

I should be done by then. If not, I will just drop the question pack and announce to the teams, "That's the end of games; I am going on a date." Actually, if the tournament lasts until eight, I won't be the only one who will be crying.

8:30 is good.

And then the tournament ended (the winners were McGill B) and I prepared to lug the buzzers home. Thanksfully, I had forgotten my gloves in the lab, and while fetching them I checked my email again.

Tourmaline to Concolor, March 18
Me free! I will be home and ready by 8:30 for sure (I am writing this from the lab).

And, looking around the lab, I thought to myself "Why do I need to schlep the buzzers home anyway? They are much safer in the lab, and I will be in the lab right before I go to school anyway. At home they may just be cannibalised for spare parts or something."

Joy to the world.

At 8:27 I looked outside the door window to see Concolor's car. Darn, and I was not yet dressed! In a whirlwind I put on boots and jacket, said goodbye to my parents, and dashed out to the porch. The guy sitting outside the girl's house while she takes forever to dress may be a cliche, but I want no part of it.

"How long have you been waiting here?" I asked as I got into the car.

"Like, a minute. Don't worry."

"So who is coming with us?"

"Amico, and Aldonza. I invited them. I was not sure if Aldonza would like this, but she likes movies, so..."

Amico and Aldonza did like it. I was a little flustered because while Amico was there we could speak English, but as soon as Aldonza got into the car, we had to almost completely switch to Spanish. The obligations of sociolinguistic code switching.

Concolor parked the car at the World Exchange, and we ascended and bought our tickets.

"Do you want popcorn?" Concolor asked.

Aldonza and Amico did not want any. I hesitated, but when Concolor said he would be getting some for himself anyway, I admitted to a fondness for popcorn. Concolor bravely took on our entire concession bill, Amico's and mine and his own. Amico and I, guilty, tried to give him bills, but he waved us aside.

I do not normally watch TV, or, as the astute reader may have noticed, go to the movies, so the trailers that were being shown were completely new to me. "X-Men 3?"

"No," Concolor replied, "that's Mission Impossible 3...There's X-Men 3."

"Is that Magneto?" I think I asked about someone on the screen.

"No," Concolor replied. "You mean, you haven't seen the other X-Men?"


"I have them."

I laughed. "Thing to lend Tourmaline #22..."

Then the feature presentation came on, and we were in the world of Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving and the Wachowski brothers.

I must admit I had been afraid it would turn out a bad movie. Amico was even more afraid: she had seen The Matrix Reloaded, and I had not. I had read the reviews, talking of marvellous acting and complaining about the subplots. I did not think that the movie went off on a bunch of subplots at all; far less than the graphic novel. Indeed, many of the events were changed, but unlike Alan Moore, I do not blame the Wachowski brothers for that. I think Alan Moore had one piece of art, and they made another piece of art, and for that they should be commended.

And of course, there is the interesting feeling of listening to V and closing your eyes and thinking "Agent Smith..."

As we drove home, I muttered, "I want to see it again."

Concolor agreed.

Concolor to Tourmaline, March 19
ah, beautiful beautiful Vendetta.

"No snowflake, in an avalanche, ever feels responsible" - V(oltaire)

Tourmaline to Concolor, March 19
Two fingers up -
V for victorious!
- And also two fingers
to put the eyes out.
From Tuesday to Wednesday
We fight to death glorious
But we can't understand
What Thursday's about.

Do we have what we want in this world?
Do we believe that we can change it?
Revolution, you have taught us power
And belief in the injustice that good inspires.
How many worlds do we burn an hour
In the name of your sacred bonfires?

Human flesh is the sweetest meat,
As the war-winter Judases know and live.
What's for breakfast? Again Jesus you eat?
Eat, but know that we won't forgive!

Do we have what we want in this world?
Do we believe that we can change it?
Revolution, you have taught us power
And belief in the injustice that good inspires.
How many worlds do we burn an hour
In the name of your sacred bonfires?

And what should we do, should we sing with our breath?
On whose shoulders did my head alight?
How many Afghanis is the price of death?
If someone's life isn't right?

Do we have what we want in this world?
Do we believe that we can change it?
Revolution, you have taught us power
And belief in the injustice that good inspires.
How many worlds do we burn an hour
In the name of your sacred bonfires?

- Yuri Shevchuk, "Revolution"

Shevchuk is the writer and lead singer of the Russian hard-rock band DDT, and has a talent for very poetic turns of phrase in his lyrics. I have translated several of his songs, amateurishly, but watching V really made me think of this one and figure out approximately what it would sound like in English (I always try to keep my song translations as singable as possible with the original tune); I'll see if by Tuesday I can get an mp3 to show you what it sounds like, if you're interested.

Tourmaline to Concolor, March 20

An interesting thought: Valerie, in the movie, says she filmed the Salt Flats and met Ruth in 2002, and lived with her for three years before the fascism started. Do the math: the Wachowski brothers mean to say that the fascism could have started in 2005 or 2006 - as in, now, if we do not heed the movie's message.

And the sight of the underground train loaded with fertilizer explosives made me think of the Oklahoma City bombing there in the theatre, although I forgot to mention it afterwards. A double check on Wikipedia confirms that the Oklahoma bombing was caused by a truck loaded with fertiliser and car fuel and driven towards a federal building - and was the worst act of terrorism against the U.S by its own native citizens. See the parallels? I do not think Moore specified what kind of explosive V used, so I am sure that was what the Wachowskis were thinking.

Concolor to Tourmaline, March 20


you must disseminate this to the others!! (read...Aldonza & Amico)

You have taught us power, indeed. But now school was beginning again.
What was the week all about?

First of all, I forgot to tell that on Friday afternoon, tired of the boys' slacking off and the dead silence in the van when I asked about sponsorship approaches, I wrote the following email to the trivia team, cc Lady Mollweide:


I was very disappointed by the news that none of you have yet raised a cent to help the trivia night in four weeks. So I am forced to state the following concrete instructions:

1. Each one of you has until the end of March Break (March 19, 11:59 pm EST) to raise at least $300, including one Gold Sponsor. Otherwise, at that time (12:00 am March 20) I will access our registration form at NAQT and REMOVE ALL PLAYERS WHO HAD NOT DONE ENOUGH FUNDRAISING FROM THE TEAM. Even if you are the best player on the team, if you really do not want to go, there is no point in taking you.

2. If doing this removing leaves me with less than THREE (3) players who have shown themselves willing to go, I WILL CANCEL OUR TEAM PARTICIPATION, THE TRIP, AND THE TRIVIA NIGHT. I do not care if the two remaining players raised a thousand dollars each; a two-person Canadian team against four-person American teams will make Canada look really bad, and so it is better not to go. i WILL CANCEL THE WEBSITE AS WELL. If we are bragging about our prowess to the world and are at the same time doing nothing to show we actually work hard, we are lying to the world.

So mobilise your family, print those attached letters on heavy paper, ordinary paper, pink paper, or flowery paper or what have you, and get to work. If you are absolutely desperate by the 19th, bring in $400 and your family will be named Gold Sponsor (the extra charge is so fewer of you will go for that option).

I simply cannot carry all the work of doing this on my own small shoulders. In case you do not know, I am a full-time third-year student in an honours double-degree program (fifteen hours a week PLUS homework and there's lots of it); I work ten hours a week, have dance rehearsal for eight hours a week, work on an instructional martial arts video for six hours a week, and work on your trivia night slideshow for five to six hours a week. And I also have to travel to all those places and to sleep. There simply is not enough time for me to try to raise at least eight trivia night sponsors by myself as well; otherwise there will be no trivia night anyway, because I will be in Royal Ottawa.

If you have any questions, please reply.

I will see you on Tuesday.

I returned home to tell my mother of this, and she reprimanded that I was being far too harsh on the boys. So I wrote a reply letter:

Tourmaline to Lady Mollweide
I will watch and see whether they will call my bluff; my own family is now accusing me of being too harsh on the kids. I may actually be lenient about the $300 and if they come crying to me on the 19th saying "Tourmaline, we only have $150 and one door prize!" I will definitely cut them slack. However, if they shoot for the moon and miss, they will still land among the stars somewhere, as that cliche goes, so for now I do not want them to know that I am prepared to settle for less. What I will settle for, in the end run, is some sponsor name on every slide, and at least ten teams actually appearing at the trivia night. Soceity Max is currently playing good cop to my bad cop; he is sending them Cyberus's sponsorship web page.

Don't tell 'em.

Society Max's letter itself is too amazing for words; however, it is not mine to quote, so I will not quote it.

Crows in the sky
Monks under the sky
And in a white shift
Between them I lie.
I lie in the open
Fair and bright.
Young is the wind.

Old is the light.

My funeral was
In a church's great inside.
I was a fair lady
A beautiful bride.
My soul stood near,
Stood singing right there...
But the people did not believe.
At the body they stared.

All fate and all prayer
Were all changing place.
My lover was silent
And on his pale face
The light from the candles
Would hardly fall...
Forgive, I
Always forgave him all.
The candle burned out,
The censer's chain gave,
The earth, with a moan,
Was becoming a grave...
I leapt past a chickadee
Into the sky -
Now I am free,
A white bird am I.

Above all my family
Circling I came,
And laughed, not understanding
Their grief at all.
We will meet again
But we won't be the same.
There is a true freedom...
I hear my flock's call.

Yuri Shevchuk apparently wrote that song in memory of his wife, who died of a brain tumour. My mother was talking at the dinner table of letting a friend listen to it, and weep. "It's the words he uses. Family (blood kin), the fact that she forgave her lover, always forgave him everything... We do that."

We do. (I took some liberties with the translation, and there is one verse I am missing.) Another song by the same author, I hummed more and more as I planned my sponsorship attacks:

I, I am a nerve coiled through, my throat is a fuse alight,
Ripping from the pressure to the ones that I will turn right.
I am the poet of the ending day, there are too many things I hate.
If you insult me in this way, I will simply kill you, Fate!

I am a shepherd, a wolf red-furred, no trick will I be taught.
Of toothless words I graze a herd, and of course I will marry the lot.
An electric chair am I of course, you can't sit long in my stead.
Yesterday I punched the Universe, raising my earthly cred!

Through the hungry mob
Standing in line for Art
Pushing them all aside
Uncaringly I shove through.
Press cheerfully harder on Art,
We will cut a path to its heart,
No doubts, to the heart of Art,
Friends, come with me and you!

(I managed internal rhyme, I managed internal rhyme in a translation, me clever as sin!)

At the Reach practice, I requested that someone, and not Kilhuch because he has enough with the website, and not me because I have already made that clear, design advertising posters for the trivia night.

A small scrappy grade nine volunteered, and I got his email address to give him the details, and as soon as I got home that afternoon I sent the following message (this is going to be quite the multi-style post):


Thank you very much for volunteering to do this; we really appreciate it. However, I must warn you, as I warned Kilhuch, that you will have to work under deadline, and the key word in deadline is dead :-)

Here is the info we need in the poster:
I think it will look better if the information is typed. If you do not have a graphics / photo editing program, my brother highly recommends the freeware GIMP from http://gimp-win.sourceforge.net - (if you use Windows) - that way you can either draw the whole thing on computer, or make a hand drawing, scan it in, and replace the handwritten text with typed text.

Now here comes the DEADLINE part: I would like to see and approve a soft copy of the poster (.jpg or .jpeg) by Thursday 12:20 pm, so that we can print them and start handing them out on Thursday after school or Friday. Which means that if you have a scanner at home or are doing the entire thing on computer, you have until Wednesday evening to do it; if you do not, you must get the poster, all but the typed text part, ready tonight and either scan it at school or give it to me on Wednesday at 3 o'clock by the Social Science office and I will take care of scanning it and replacing the text. Please send a reply email by 10 p.m today to let me know which of those options you prefer.

Good luck, and I will definitely find a way to reward you for that poster if it is good

I did not go home immediately because I stopped by the city hall. No one was sending anything to the mayor, so I guess I will. I was in luck: walking into the city hall I saw my dance ensemble director talking to Lord Pencilturn, and the two of them helped direct me to where the mayor's office actually was, where I eventually delivered the letter of request into someone's capable hands, then stopped to leave a letter to be passed to the office of the local councillor. However, silly me did not write in the councillor's name, which I myself consider rude, so I resolved to remedy my mistake the next day, as well as deliver letters to all other councillors Lady Mollweide and I judged to be even vaguely applicable.

There was no answer from the poster-writer by ten p.m. I resolved to go to the Social Science office by 3:00 the next day anyway. What can I say? I hope.

Wednesday was International Women's Day. As I explained to Carrie, in Russian culture that is basically Valentine's Day and Mother's Day rolled into one: if you do not give your women (mother, sister, wife, girlfriend, teacher, coworker, etc.) flowers or other tokens of your appreciation that day, o man, consider yourself a pariah doomed to sleeping on the couch for as long as memories last.

After 80 minutes' work with Carrie, where we got quite far in the transcription we were working on, I left for English Syntax. On coming back to the lab, I cannot even now remember for what, I greeted Carrie and Concolor --- for on Wednesday in the lab Concolor and I are like dawn and dusk in Pushkin's "and not allowing gloom to cover / The evening sky, dawn's roseate light / Flies to replace the blush of twilight / Giving but half an hour to night."

"So how far did you guys get?" I grinned.

"Nowhere," they sheepishly admitted. "Well, first we were talking about the Oscars, and..."

Carrie went on ahead, and Concolor and I had a conversation, that, in the spirit of my work, I will use a running joke Concolor started, and transcribe in CHAT format.

*TOU = Tourmaline
*CON = Concolor
%, %com = comments explaining the action
Of course, I am fudging it, and this conversation will definitely fail the CHECK command in the CLAN program all CHAT transcriptions are "compiled" with; there are neither hyphens not multiple utterance terminators (several sentences) allowed in the same speaker tier. And of course, there is no @Begin and @End. Derivation crashes.

However, let me remind Concolor that he was being very silly, and will probably be embarrassed later. but he did make me laugh. Perhaps the only time that day.

*TOU: I am going to the city hall again. You want to walk with me?
*CON: No, not this time. I am meeting Aldonza for lunch.
*TOU: [% mock pout] Aww, with Aldonza and not with me?
*CON: I can walk down to the first floor with you.
*TOU: Do that.
*CON: [% mischievously] I will walk down a floor with you. I think our relationship is ready to go to that next level, physically. We feel comfortable notching it up a level - or down a level, as the case might be.
*TOU: [% laughing hilariously] bye !
%com: Tourmaline walks outside; suddenly head of Concolor comes through the doors afterwards.
*CON: Wait, I have another one!
*CON: I am going to go down with you, that's it.

I was laughing all the way to City Hall. I can never think of walking downstairs with a man in the same way again.

However, my waiting at the Social Science office came to naught - the grade nine did not appear.

"Well," Lady Mollweide said, "I hate to ask yet another thing of you..."

"I will do it," I said quietly. "Tonight, after I am done at the Mac lab." At least coming in to the math office half an hour early should gain me half an hour of extra time.

The Dark Lord was not in his office. Nor was his coat. But his car was still there, so he must have gone somewhere that simply required crossing the campus, right? Saying hi to Lady Cauchy and Lady Runfar and Lady Melpomene, I declared that I will waylay him, parked myself in his chair again, and settled to read the Globe and Mail and Ottawa Citizen I had picked up in the Science Office.

I skip articles, but even so it takes me a while to read all the interesting content of two daily papers. The Ladies offered their sympathy, but they claimed they had not seen him at all in the last few days; he was always busy. At each slight sound in the hall, I was all ready to drop my paper and proceed to the lab to make a needed backup copy, but no sound was the lord whose dominion the lab was.

And dear all the gods there are, I hated wasting time, I who seems to live her days in hyperdrive, desperate to cram every bit of living she can into them. He could have left a message. He could have told someone. I was growing annoyed.

Finally, at 4:15 I stood up, and announced, "Ok, it's letter-writing time again."

The Ladies chuckled.

"The correspondence of the Dark Lord and the Lady Tourmaline," I sighed, "will be published one of those days. Of course, it is rather one-sided. May I have a piece of foolscap?"

Dark Lord,

3:30 - 4:15

"Tell them I came, and no one answered.
Tell them I kept my word."

And I ate your chocolate, too.

--- Tourmaline Variety

And as I walked away from the school, the Dark Lord, in his car, drove past me.

If you insult me in this way, I would simply kill you, Fate!

I have heard that there is at least one site on which girls who had been hurt in love post names, photos and coordinates of men who jilted or stood them up, to warn other women to beware. Oh, I was angry enough for my wasted forty-five minutes to want to go to that site and enter the real name, real coordinates, and real photo of the Dark Lord, doing my part to ensure he sleeps on the couch for the rest of his life, for standing up Tourmaline Variety on International Women's Day!

Well, making the posters took the entire rest of my afternoon. And on to one in the morning. Since I do not have a colour printer, and the school does not have a colour printer (as far as I know; I go by Lady Mollweide's words, not the Dark Lord's), but Lady Mollweide does, it was to her that I was emailing every new version of the poster. The first one, although lovely in my sight, was too dark and too small-printed. I ended up making ten versions of the darned poster, in different colour schemes, and finally making a white one, I went to sleep without either showering, or, though it was my turn, washing the dishes.

The next day I got up to wash the dishes, only to meet my father's anger that I had not washed them the night before.

"I stayed up until one in the morning," I snarled, "making stupid posters for stupid trivia night, for your information."

"Well, why didn't you get someone else to do it?"

That was the straw that drove me to tears. It may be that birds and butterflies break out of shells when they grow up. Us humans build shells around ourselves on reaching adulthood, and mine is still too thin and too easily broken in places. "I did ask someone to do it! He never showed up! I had to do it myself!"

"Well," my father said practically, "don't associate with bastards."

"I know, easy for you to say! You can't know someone is a bastard until you find out!"

"True," my mother defended me, "you can't just assume everyone is a bastard to begin with."

"Well, you know what," my father said, "don't try doing it all yourself. Let it go on autopilot for a while, and watch what happens. What are those flowers doing on the table?"

"They're from your eldest son. He bought flowers for Tourmaline and me for Women's Day. We should take the carnations out, though; they'll kill the others soon if left with them."

Easy for you to say, I thought again. Thank be to the gods for Carrie, and for the fact I dropped Topology. I was twenty minutes late to my prescribed half-hour coding session, but I worked into the hour to balance everything out, letting Carrie read the Dose on the clock.

And I did not go to His de Maths either. There were two presentations scheduled, both in French, which the English speakers had the right to skip. Although I am by no means monolingual, I am even more vengeful than I am a French speaker. There had been three times in our nearly-five-year association that I had come to an appointed meeting to find the Dark Lord AWOL. And I, for one, am determined to not let such things pass without an explanation, or a making it clear that I am one to not let such things pass without an explanation.

My hunting led me to the math office, several times. His coat was in his office, but his laptop was not; his desk looked exactly as I left it yesterday, except for my letter. Out of curiosity, I casually looked into the garbage and recycling bins to see if my letter was there. It was not, but their levels were low' they could have been recently dumped.

"I tell you, Tourmaline," Lady Cauchy said, "I still haven't seen him."

"Well," I declared to the math office, "when you do see him, please tell him that Tourmaline is very angry with him, and she will probably yell at him when she next sees him."

I did not plan to yell at him. I planned to quietly explain to him that several people had let me down that day, and he was a person I had least wanted to be among them. That while I depended on him for the Mac lab access, on my side I had absolutely no leverage on him but whatever respect he had for me, and I was hurt to see no evidence of such respect yesterday.

It was Tanaquil who gave me the hint I needed to complete my hunt. He sat before his laptop in a computer lab. And of course, it is a truth universally avoiding acknowledgement that whenever I see the Dark Lord, whatever I planned to say in advance is lucky if 1% of it gets said (this is not a trait restircted to the Dark Lord alone, but strongly correlated with him). Darn the man, but perhaps what I do say is always the best of all possible statements.

*TOU: What happened yesterday?
*DAR: I had a meeting.
*TOU: And you could not have told someone in the math department to tell me?
*DAR: No.
*TOU: Well, I was very unhappy.
*DAR: I'm sorry. # You'll have time.
*TOU: [% trying to civilly get a point across] We seem to be running on different timelines. I don't have time.
*DAR: Isn't it for your thing in May?
*TOU: No, for my thing on March 31st. Which you kindly registered for me.
*DAR: You'll have time.
*TOU: How does Monday look?
*DAR: Monday looks fine."
*TOU: Okay then. [% Tourmaline moves to go] Have a good weekend.
*DAR: Wait a sec. Monday is March Break.
*TOU: Well, how does Friday look?
*DAR: You mean tomorrow? Bad.
*TOU: Even in the morning?
*DAR: Even in the morning.
*TOU: All right then. But it does make me hurt and unhappy. Have a good March Break.
%com: Tourmaline exits stage right and the camera follows her; end of session

And thus went the reputed yelling session. If I go on this way, how would anyone believe that I can, and do, yell, that I can, and do, get mad at people, and that I can, if pressed, use all of my very extensive memory of someone I cared about enough to get angry at, and I can hit them where it really hurts. I do have a small nuke against the Dark Lord; I toyed very briefly while raging as to whether I should use it. But that is mutually assured destruction while I need the darned Mac because 80 MB of one of my heart's love children are stored on it; I cannot commit such evil. And so I had to grit my teeth and endure two men letting me down on International Women's Day. And, and my Russian woman's soul made tears sting at my eyes at this as I walked back to the university, my brother being the only man who gave me flowers. Well, I regarded it in perspective, if there had been a Mac session, I would not have had time to do all the posters. But I don't want to be a meek Patient Griselda. I remembered Zog's accusation of me being imperious, and I welcomed it with pleasure.
"Because it is now over. Because Ve-Kesh had his reasons."

"He had his reasons!" It was Juan's outburst this time. "Rimma, if someone was going to murder you, would you lie back and let him because he has his reasons?"

"For one thing, if he is incredibly abysmally stupid enough to actually consider murdering me," Rimma dragged out, "he'd better have pretty amazingly good reasons, and I don't think insanity or brainlessness count. For another, let's now stop discussing the past we cannot change, and turn to the future that we must."

- From an early draft of my novel, deleted in later versions to make the plot sleeker. Yet Rimma is my alter ego, and I am the same way now as I was then. I yield to this alleged meeting. Because he had his reasons. And because that did allow me enough time for mine.

But that afternoon, our posse semi-organised a letter-handing-out trip. Cuchulain and Bedivere went with me, and, wonder of wonders, we managed to get three door prizes! As well as a bunch of letters handed out. We were safe, we were safe, we were safe!

Friday, though, I needed to pick up more letters from the school - it was the last day before March Break, everyone should have campaign letters, right?. I wheedled a twenty-minute break out of Carrie, and, humming, I proceeded on that path I tread so often.

The little grade nine who had failed me was talking to his friends in front of the building. His eyes on seeing me were full of that false bravado that this age seems to assume, as I gathered the deepest disgust my voice is capable of to tell him: "You're fired."

(I never watch reality TV, so I do not know how Donald Trump does it. I do it like me.)

"I quit!" he replied, protesting, as I walked past, coldly, without bothering to explain to him that normal people, when quitting, give two weeks' notice and reasonable reasons, and clear up all of their running obligations before leaving. I should know: I have quit two courses, a job, and three potential boyfriends; I know how to do it with dignity.

The Lady Mollweide greeted me warmly, but explained that I will need to print new letters - she will gladly sign them, but their department had a staff meeting right now, so she would be busy.

I know the sequence of steps by now and will remember it for a long time: the colours as once again the letter downloads from my email, the whirr of the warming laser printer --- and the smell, that soapy smell of heavy paper hot from laser ink, mixing with the smell of ballpoint ink as I deposit my messy signature on forty letters, one after another as still more are spewed by the dragon printer. The staff meeting ended just as my patience did, and I had time to tell the Lady Mollweide that I have taken all the prepared letters with her signature as well as mine. My letters are waiting for her signature to be complete. Then I headed back to the university with the quip I learned from CSI "Gotta go, I'm on the clock."

Then the realisation struck me: I had forgotten to get a newspaper! Any other day of the week I can live without a newspaper, but on Fridays, how can I live without knowing what Jay Stone of the Ottawa Citizen and the people at the Globe and Mail Review think of the movies opening in theatres that week? I asked Carrie's permission one more time to absent myself from work at 3:00, and ran off to the SocSci Office, ostensibly to pick up some politicians' letters, truly to pick up my movie and Facts and Arguments fix.

I strode out again, Citizen and Globe and Mail under my arm, keeping them pressed against my chest and only folded two-ply because of the heavy-paper letters between the sheets, when in the crowd of students rushing off to March Break I saw the Dark Lord exit.

"Have a good March Break," I said archly, with no trace of hard feelings in my voice, turned away, sidestepped off the sidewalk to avoid two overfashioned girls walking abreast, and landed hard on the side of my foot. I remained upright but I strained my left outside tendon that runs along the fibula, and it hurt annoyingly during dance class and still hurts now, on Monday. Moral, boys and girls, is: if your life involves a lot of dancing piqué turns in circles, saying hi to the Dark Lord may be hazardous to your career. Whether you have or have not forgiven him.

"Soren," I asked at dance rehearsal, "may I infringe on the hospitality of your car again this evening?" That is my convoluted way of asking people for a drive.

"Of course, of course."

"I feel a little embarrassed to be asking for things all the time," I said, stretching my leg on the barre.

"Well, you know," Soren said in that manner of his in which he and Rustem are identical, "most people, given the chance, are nice people. They like helping others. You know, there was a study done: they lost wallets in various cities, with $100 in them, and 99 times out of one hundred, the wallet would be returned with all the money intact."

"I heard of a different study," I said. "They put keys on the sidewalk and timed how long it would take for the keys to be stolen, in various cities. Moscow was the record, at seven minutes."

I spent my spare time watching Russian music awards shows - I need my fluff for my overtaxed soul. On Monday night, my whole family watched again as singer Dima Bilan (now Russia's representative for the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest) performed the song that won the professional jury prize for "New Songs About The Most Important Things"" "You Have To Be Near." I must say that whatever the song is like, that young man sang it believing in it - and currently I feel strongly when people sing without believing in their song - and I respect that. Indeed, he drove himself to a fever pitch in his performance, and in the post-song interview he still had trouble coming down from that transcendent existence. I know that feeling; it is the finest part of the performing arts, love, and bipolar disorder.

"He is a man possessed," my mother remarked. "Tourmaline, beware of tying your life to such a man."

I pointedly looked at my father. "Too late," I said, grinning mischievously.
I slept in for Topology today, and, rejoicing that I do not have to go to it, I finally rose and headed for an area of my computer I had long neglected. Yesterday, rooting around in another account on my computer, I discovered to my joy that a draft of my old Theocracy story I had given up for dead when my hard drive went comatose last summer was actually recovered, and was openable. As soon as I got it back into reading format, I fell to reading, and could not tear myself away. "What will happen next, what will happen next?" "Of course you know what will happen next, narcissistic honey, you wrote the thing." "Aye, I do remember who dies and who lives - but I do not remember how they got there. And I am always pleasantly surprised when I go back to any piece of writing I did and discover that no matter what I learned in the intervening interval, it does not make me cringe.

Tourmaline writes in this blog of hers about her love life but obliquely until now; brace yourselves, dears, because her first and greatest and most loyal love is writing itself, and to that, every sentence I craft of my own free will is epithalamion and drug hit.

Jane gave me the necklace she made for me, and I love it dearly, intentionally going to every mirror in my range to admire myself in it. I wore it to the trivia practice where I beat BInturong 335 to 110; they told me of a kid who came in as I was leaving last week, and when told that I would be pretty difficult to beat, yelled, "One month, and I will beat her!" The University of Ottawa Trivia Team laughs. Out loud. I am bad at sports, pop culture, and physics, I admit. There are plenty of things I do not know, including the capital of Maryland. But the Trivia Team still laughs at him.

After a cursory Dark Hunt, I again parked myself in the chair of the Dark Lord: "His coat is here, his laptop is here; he cannot be far away, and he has to go through me." I am the very pink of courtesy; I do not move any thing to look closely at other things, for when the Dark Lord feels his privacy is threatened, he bites. I regarded the staff lists, and the board school year calendar, and the list of school contact numbers, and the white board on which the math department put "quotes" by their number, including one by the Finance teacher: "After my first time, I was in traction." I did not seek to invent meanings behind this; it was probably actually the first time skiing.

And I noticed a glass jar of lollipops and chocolate hearts. "Ok," I announced to Lady Runfar and Lady at 4:05, "I'll give him another ten minutes, and then I'm eating his chocolate."

"Does he know you are waiting for him here?" Lady Runfar asked me.

"He should; I always come here at 4:00 on Monday. Of course, I will not make any nasty remarks about the Dark Lord's memory."

The Dark Lord arrived nine minutes later, and I repeated my now-cancelled threat to him for historical reasons.

"You could have taken it without waiting," he said.

"I could? Well then, I will." The lollipops please me not, but I helped myself to three red-foil-wrapped milk-chocolate hearts left over from Valentine's Day. Then we went to find out why the traditional new-file-copy-paste-save algortihm breaks down when it comes to Keynote. Alas, we could not determine this, putting into jeopardy my idea of having the separate rounds be separate video files.

"You do realise that this will just cause you more headache, right?" our local defender of a headache-free lifestyle spoke up.

I sighed and agreed that if Keynote itself is against my getting headaches, who am I to object, and I settled down to work to the music I had, following the principle "loop the song you like until you hate it, then switch to another song you like and repeat." I particularly listened to Vyssotsky's "Private Borisov."

"Private Borisov!" "Sir, yes, sir!" "Tell how it went, alright?"
"I was on my last legs, I barely stood.
It rained hard, and I grew tired, then came a foggy night...
Only I had warned him like I should!

"He joked around when "Who goes there?" I shout,
At my shot in the air he yelled, "Cut it out!"
I hesitated, but I didn't quarrel;
I spat out my fag and discharged the barrel."

"Quit it, private, better for you if the truth comes out.
You'd have known him a mile away..."
"No, I just heard someone coming, in the dark I shout -
It was cloudy, rain, and fog, I say."

"He joked around when "Who goes there?" I shout,
At my shot in the air he yelled, "Cut it out!"
I hesitated, but I didn't quarrel;
I spat out my fag and discharged the barrel."

"Private!" the investigator tortured on out loud,
"The court martial won't be so nice again!"
"It was dark, I couldn't recognise no one with fog and cloud,"
I went on repeating my refrain.

"He joked around when "Who goes there?" I shout,
At my shot in the air he yelled, "Cut it out!"
I hesitated, but I didn't quarrel;
I spat out my fag and discharged the barrel."

A year ago, and I do not forget old deprivations,
We had argued a little in the mine.
Too bad we didn't get to finish the conversation:
There was the bell for the evening line.

And there he'd joked when "Leave her alone!" I shout,
On my right punch he there yelled, "Cut it out!"
I hesitated - I was hurt, too mad to say -
I spat out my fag, threw down my knife, and walked away.

Luck was with me then, that he survived the year...
While I just did my duty well that night.
It was true, rain, dark and fog, I was on guard right here...
By all the rules, shooting him was right.

For he joked when "Who goes there?" I shout,
At my shot in the air he yelled, "Cut it out!"
I hesitated, but I didn't quarrel;
I spat out my fag and discharged the barrel."

Until I tried translating that song, I had never noticed the importance of the line "Luck was with me then that he survived the year," literally, "that he turned out a survivor." Hmm, I will not comment to explain that song; it explains itself, and trying to go deeper into it is "like dissecting a frog: few people around are interested, and the frog dies." I wish I had a better knowledge of English slang, but I do the best I can. I shoudl reread Athaira's Dictionary of the Underworld.

Afterwards, I headed home, tired and drained and feeling almost dull. And I watched the 23 and 24th episodes of Evangelion.

My, how did they do it? Concolor did say that Episode 24 was his favourite episode, a ray of light in the darkening mood of the series. But it was the first episode about which I now think, "I have to rewatch this. Watch it again."

However, I had no time. There were too many other things I wanted.

What do people want? On Friday's rehearsal, I was stretching with Elizaveta, Soren, Taglioni and Sylvie, and Soren looked at me in full butterfly and said, "I wish I was that flexible."

"I wish I could jump that high," I replied. "I wonder what Taglioni wishes for." She seems to have everything.

"What do you wish for, Taglioni," Soren and I asked, "that other dancers in this group have and you do not?"

Never let your sister be in the same rehearsal with you. "Boobs," Sylvie grinned at us impishly.

Well, if the boyfriend is fine with them, why should anything else matter?

I do not worry in dance any more; I have so much trivia-night stuff to do that I just go in to dance, rehearse, do the best I can, and if I fluff or lose a turn sequence, or am not selected for a show, who cares? I now don't and who other than me does?
Ok, sweetheart, put the pedal to the metal and the bottle to the throttle. Lots of things happened Valentine's Week, and many more Reading Week, and here is little Tourmaline, writing still about the SCT, and watching the Olympics like the mad Olympics fiend she is, and planning Trivia Night like there is a tomorrow and it is Trivia Night Zero Hour.

I mean, I should not have wasted so much of my time watching the Olympics, but, my dears, anyone who knows what they are doing is beautiful to watch, and trust me, even if you come last at the Olympics, you know what you are doing. Besides, like every proper Canadian woman, I have a mild celebrity-crush on Jeff Buttle. My mother's Russian friend emailed her pictures of Evgeny Plushchenko "just in case they don't show him over where you are." Of course we did watch him, although I still nurse a mild celebrity-crush on Alexei Yagudin, if I had to pick a figure skater. I am amazed at Emanuel Sandhu's immaturity, though - to walk around with a chip on his shoulder for eight years, just because he did not go to Nagano, hmph. We watch figure skating religiously here: "Marie-France Dubreuil did not hurt herself that badly! She landed in perfect breakfall position!" Now I cannot decide which of the women skaters to root for: Irina Slutskaya just because she is Russian, although my parents were criticising her plumpness right left and centre, and linking her heart problems to it; or Sasha Cohen for skating to some of my favourite music in the short program.

My mother made a very interesting observation during the first Saturday's women's 15K pursuit. Two women were leading, Neumannova of Czech Republic and Smigun of Estonia, and my mother says: "The Estonian will pass her." Sure enough, she did pass, as if pulling up secret reserves of power, and my mother says, "You know how I know? Because when the camera shows them both full-face, they are matching each other stride for stride, but the Estonian has that little added flick of the wrist that gives her a little extra power. So she could just hold back until she finds the right time to pass the Czech girl; she knew she had the speed." My mother herself used to ski competitively in the 10K and 15K, and was a master of the sport; she knows. Bad, bad me, to only go twice this winter, but it's been a crazy winter, weather-wise.

Forget about hockey; what I like watching is luge. And bobsled and skeleton. They should show more sliding sports on TV, darn them. And more short-track speed skating; that is so fun to watch. The Globe Challenge once had a contest on how to change the rules of a well-known sport to make it more interesting; I propose speed skating on the luge track.

Ok, what happened at school:

On Monday, I got my English Syntax midterm back and I did not do so well at all. I may be able to wheedle an extra mark out of it, but it got me very depressed. In topology we looked at the topological properties of the letters of the alphabet, only Pestov could not pick a serif or sans-serif font and stick with it, which annoyed me.

On Tuesday, at Concolor's request since he has three midterms and at my hearty assent since I also had three midterms, we cancelled work. All the gods there are, what a wondrous luxury it is to sleep in. But in History of Math I got another assignment back, and I had gotten 14/20 on it, which displeased me incredibly. I did not go to aikido on Tuesday; I was studying for the morphology midterm, but what actually happened was that I got hold of The Lexicon of Stupidity and did not study for the morphology midterm very much at all, as I read it. Very very funny.

On Wednesday I wrote the morphology midterm, and I will say no more about it here, because it seems that all the midterms I write about here before I get my marks back turn out bad. Well, maybe I am just incompetent, but why take chances? Then I went to work with Carrie, but we did not end up doing very much work at all. Aldonza, a visiting researcher from Spain, was there with us and so was Amico, the PhD student who supervises us, and several other Spanish grade students; they ended up having a discussion about regional accents of Spain, which turned into a discussion of swear words. I joined in, bravely using my half-grown Spanish to reference a great many Russian swear phrases. Believe me, a discussion of swearing by professional linguists, calmly citing examples, especially in Spanish, is something to be heard - but, alas, not transcribed in a family newspaper.

Then I went to English Syntax again, and found myself signed up to work on a project concerning Spanish syntax with a girl I will call Tara.

Thursday was two-midterm day. Of the other events of Thursday I will tell when I get to talking of trivia-night business. Let us just say that I could not finish two questions on the Topology midterm, and then I got my latest assignment back: 13/20. I was devastatingly depressed. I spoke of it with Concolor in History of Math. He later wrote me the following letter:

Anyway, you seemed slightly bummed about math. Don't worry...you haven't reached "the pinnacle of your understanding in math" (or however you put it). There just comes a time (for everyone) where we can't learn the material in the amount of time they give us with all the other stuff we're supposed to do. A lot of math is just a question
of familiarization; it takes time to learn what something means "by definition" and then what it ACTUALLY means (i.e. the picture you can make in your head), which is what ultimately you will take out of it.

Anyways, don't worry, none of the great mathematicians learn math the way we do now, they just spent days on one question, moved on to another one, etc. And they were never "tested" by how fast they could answer a given question.

I wrote back:


One hundred percent on the Socio midterm! (I know, we took it up in class). And the rest of the day went pretty well, although I did not go to aikido (this Saturday I better make up for my week off). I think Socio is going to be (knock wood) my safety-vest keep-afloat high-grade course. But do you also see how depressing History of Math is? Since math (along with music) is a talent that motivates brilliant child prodigies, it gets really depressing to hear of all those people who published papers at fourteen and got doctorates at twenty and think "Here I am, nearly 21, with a B+ to A- average, getting back an assignment with a 13 out of 20..." and you kind of think that if you are not super brilliant at math by now and getting the undergrad research scholarships banging down your door and papers with your name at the AMC, there is absolutely no point in you studying math, wasting your time with it just for the love of it. It gave me a mantra to remember for life when Boily, on the first day of Analysis, admitted that on his first three assignments when he took that course, he averaged 20%. So you can make it into math grad school without getting A+'s in everything that comes your way. Pestov is a prof with 'a world name,' as the Russians say; I cannot imagine him knowing of any other kind of mathematician than the ones who start off brilliant and burning bright ... and, some of them, fizz out in insane asylums.

The problem is - I like math. I find it beautiful. I guess, at heart, I am a fantasy writer first and foremost and it is the imaginary worlds that math creates that appeal to me.

However, even though I am better at linguistics and writing than I am at math - about three times better - I cannot bring myself to give up math. I guess I have in me that mountaineering song:

...And one could go down, one could go around,
But no, we choose the harder ground
And like the warpath is the path we call.
And one could go down, one could go around,
But no, we choose the harder ground,
And like a warpath is the path we call.

Who hasn't been there, who hasn't dared,
He has never tried and proved himself fair,
No matter that below he plucked stars down from the sky.
Below you won't see, in peace or strife, through all your long and happy life,
One tenth of all such wonders as on high.
Below you won't see, in peace or strife, through all your long and happy life,
One tenth of all such wonders as on high.

And math is the mountains to me, and I will not give it up. But it still bothers me what others think of my outward performance in it. I have set the standard by which I judge myself and my own success to be the things I do worst - math and dance - rather than those I do best: linguistics and trivia. It would be very easy to say "Oh, I am such hot stuff because I am the Division I trivia champion of Eastern Canada" but somehow it just makes getting a 1%-of-the-year's-mark assignment back with less than 90% on it hurt all the more. If I am so good at one thing, why not at everything? Or why not have that one thing be something that people respect, like Olympic hockey?

Reading Week icumen in
Lhude sing hooray
If you are blest to have no tests,
Forth a week of play
Sing hooray
Sing "You (school) people get your arses into gear, I cannot be the only one planning this trivia night and working on my His de Maths project as well and keeping up in aikido and trying to graduate "something cum laude" and wheedling money to go to the TWO Nationals I qualified for in one respect or another, and doing enough around the house to keep my family letting me into it, and getting money to pay all my debts and getting somewhat closer to getting people reading something with my name on it within the next year or so, and going insane! How come, if I am so second-rate, can no one else do what I want fast enough and well enough to do it right?! All of it."

That's my problem. I want all of it.

Sorry for the rant. This will go on the blog anyway.

I wish you joy

The other event that happened at school is that I commissioned a necklace from Jane after seeing her make its beginning. And by the way, Jelibeenz, if you read this I must tell you that I wore your necklace to the Secionals, hoping it will bring me luck, and was wearing it pretty continuously except for aikido since February 10. Thank you.

I will stop this post here, and start another one about my exploits off school and on Reading Week.
Many things have happened this week. First of all, on Friday, Luiza, claiming the ensemble's main flaw at the Ukrainian New Year celebration was a bit of sloppy footwork, taught us all a little Highland dancing to improve our precision. That rehearsal was not a good rehearsal for me; my turns were all over the map, and even straightening out my backbone did not help. However, I am now trying to practice the first step of the Highland fling in front of the mirrors. On Sunday, Kella, the director of the school, taught us new barre exercises: a Hungarian plié exercise, a French-Canadian tendu exercise, a circle warmup from the mountains of Ukraine, and a grand battement exercise in the Irish style.

She's handsome, she's pretty,
She's the belle of the whole fine city,
She's lovely, one two three,
Please, will you tell me who is she?

On Saturday's aikido class, we received our kyu certificates: a backlog of ranks that for my brother and me dates back to sixth kyu. I am now in odd aikido limbo, as officially I am certified as a fourth kyu, although I have not taken the test, and I am not at all certain I know the curriculum requirements. I keep on trying to schedule a weekly kyu workshop, but some god conspires against me.

After that, I spent the rest of Saturday afternoon watching the first five episodes of The Master and Margarita. Naughty me, I kept on thinking, "Better get to work. No, just one more episode..." I got to the fifth one before I drew the line. That is a series you can watch over and over and over again.

On Monday in Syntax class, I was struck by the sudden urge to design aliens. It started with an alien hand; I will justify my actions by saying the hand was inspired by a syntax tree. Lazily observing the review of traces and transformations - I am actually slowly beginning to agree with most of them, but I let the secret spark of syntactic rebellion smoulder - I drew alien hands and the alien skeleton, colour-labelling joints and cartilage. I need to ask the Dark Lord about graphic arts; I dearly wish to animate this alien hand and see what kind of movements it can make. Given my current crowded schedule, the spare time to animate alien hands will probably come in June. "Dark Lord, could you tell me where to download Blender?" "What do you need it for?" "Oh, I was drawing aliens in Syntax class, and I wonder how they move..."

Seriously, the more I learn about linguistics, the more it makes me wonder about the science-fiction possibilities of alien contact. Most SF stories, written by non-linguists, kind of assume that translating alien languages is going to be easy ("Death and Designation Among the Asadi" excepted), except for a few alien words for concepts in extraterrestrial culture. Perhaps the best idea I have heard for a truly alien tongue is the languages of Tlon in Jorge Luis Borges' "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius," a story I also reread this week. In one of the languages of the imaginary world Tlon, (which is featured in all the literature of the imaginary country Uqbar, which is imagined by the imaginary society Orbis Tertius, which is imagined by the real Borges) there are no nouns; everything is expressed by verbs. In another language, everything is expressed by adjectives alone. One can also look at the list of language universals, compiled by the Linguistics Encyclopedia, and imagine a language which violates every single one of them. Well, the writers of The Empire Strikes Back were brilliant in assigning Yoda a standard word order seen in almost none of the world's languages: Object-Subject-Verb. It actually made them suitably alien.

Speaking of aliens, I now know the first thing we have to ask them upon decoding their language. In History of Math, Pestov led us for a while through the Continuum Hypothesis and the Zermelo-Fraenkel-Axiom of Choice (ZFC) axioms of set theory. Those axioms are as absolutely basic as mathematics can be; they are what the foundations of mathematics rest on. However, Godel proved, with the Incompleteness Theorem, that given any system of axioms, you cannot prove that the system does not lead to a contradiction while staying within the system itself. If that confuses you, it is the same as when I write a check, I should not be the one to also verify its creditworthiness. (Sweet, the Incompleteness Theorem in a nutshell.)

The problem with that is the Continuum Hypothesis. The number of elements in the set of natural numbers, integers, or rational numbers is aleph-naught; the number of elements in the set of real numbers and complex numbers is C (\mathfrak{C} in LaTeX-ese). We know that C is bigger than aleph-naught; the question is how much bigger? Are there any numbers between them? The CH says there are none, and it may have been the most famous problem in all of mathematics: to prove or disprove the CH. Using ZFC.

Now Godel did not rest on the laurels of the Incompleteness Theorem; he then went and proved that if ZFC is not self-contradictory, then ZFC plus CH is not self-contradictory. Great, the non-mathematicians sigh with relief; CH is true then? No, along came Paul Cohen and proved that ZFC plus the assumption that CH is false is not contradictory either! So theoretically we can do math in either world.

"Wait a sec," I raised my hand. "Either a set with cardinality less than C and greater than aleph-naught exists or it does not. We cannot have both situations in the same world, can we?"

"Ah," said Pestov, "it depends on what you mean by 'exists.' "

"If it can be imagined and does not lead to contradiction, then it exists," the wannabe mathematician and even more wannabe fantasy author maintained.

"But we cannot show that set while we work in ZFC, here."

I grunted. "I know the first thing we need to ask aliens once they land. 'How do you do set theory?' " Oddly, no one laughed.

Well, Pestov believes, and began a "proof" to convince us as well, that very soon ZFC will be replaced by a stronger axiomatic system, in which the CH will be obviously false. That appeals to me. Having only two first transfinite cardinal numbers would be simpler, but the possibility of others in between them appeals to me.

On Monday, I also babysat the 11-month-old I had mentioned before. I learned
a) Barney is better than Teletubbies, and the Wiggles are better than Barney
b) my arms are still sore from hosting that mighty five-kilo weight around as I dance, and it's been a week.
c) Adriano Celentano's "Stivali E Colbacco" is a great song to dance to, and looking up the lyrics, I find they make me smile. Ah, the Slavic soul

Mi sembra la figlia
Di un capo cosaco
Con quegli stivali
E quel nero... colbacco
Ahi, ahi,ahi
Ahi, ahi, ahi

Chiunque ti guarda
Rimane di stucco
Ed ogni ragazzo
Si sente un calmucco
Ahi ahi ahi ahi ahi
Ahi ahi ahi ahi ahi

Tutta la gente si gira
Si gira.
Quando ti vede passar
Non sente piu che c'e freddo
C'e freddo.
E resta ferma a guardar.

Sei alta sei bionda
Sei proprio uno spacco
Con quegli stivali
E quel nero colbacco.
Ahi ahi ahi
Ahi ahi ahi

Tutta la gente si gira
Si gira.
Quando ti vede passar
Non sente piu che c'e freddo
C'e freddo.
E resta ferma a guardar.

Sei alta sei bionda
Sei proprio uno spacco
Con quegli stivali
E quel nero colbacco.
Ahi ahi ahi
Ahi ahi ahi
Ahi ahi ahi
Ahi ahi ahi

Tutta la gente si gira
Si gira.
Quando ti vede passar
Non sente piu che c'e freddo
C'e freddo.
E resta ferma a guardar.

Sei alta sei bionda
Sei proprio uno spacco
Con quegli stivali
E quel nero colbacco.
Ahi ahi ahi
Ahi ahi ahi

In advanced aikido classes now, we are avidly doing kick techniques. It takes an indredible amount of trust to let yourself be thrown without your feet, with nothing between you and the ground but air and nage's skill and your own, and you tucking your head in for fear, so much that your neck tendons still hurt five days later.

I will learn.

But Friday dance rehearsal was the best ever. For once, Lord Pencilturn had looked disappointed the Friday before, when I told him I will not be there for the ensemble's Winterlude show, so don't put me in "Encounter." This time, Elizaveta finally expained to me that trick of choreography in "Encounter" I never understood, and while we were practicing turns, Lord Pencilturn yelled to me to keep my arms higher and not jump so far. I finished the turn sequence and withdrew to the wall to let the men advance, grinning at Elizaveta from ear to ear: "He yelled at me! That means he acknowledges I am not beyond help!" Our first run through of "Encounter" was sketchy, but the second one, I admit freely, is the best I have yet danced "Encounter" in my life.

And then we worked on Lord Pencilturn's new choreography: it is amazingly fast, but I can do it! Just...not at speed. Yet. Afterwards, even before the rehearsal ended, I understood Robert Graves' line from "To Juan at the Winter Solstice": "All fish below the thighs." Only it should be interpreted as "All dead below the thighs"; allegro dancers of the world, stand up and agree with me! But my thighs are looking a lot better now that they did this summer, for one thing, and for another, I found myself thinking how Lord Pencilturn's choreography made a weird kind of sense. I know I first started getting aikido with exactly the same feeling: "It makes sense!" Dancing makes sense! I make sense!

Tutta la gente si gira
Si gira.
Quando ti vede passar
Non sente piu che c'e freddo
C'e freddo.
E resta ferma a guardar.

Well, today I skipped dance completely. I had to finish a lot of homework. And clean the house for guests. And then welcome said guests. I tried to atone for my failings by dancing to Afric Simone's "Hafanana" and then "Stivali E Colbacco" again.

And there ended my high opinion of my dancing. My mother came and told me that my movements were too jerky, and I, upset when I was dancing that she was hitting at what I loved most, yelled at her "I am trying to work on it!" and fled the room. Later she called me back and explained to me that still, if I continue on like this, it is pretty evident why I am not in the core ensemble, and once my ligaments lose their elasticity at 32 or 35, I will find myself doing a turn and snapping the ligaments in my knee. She cited a yoga instructor who came to her after injuring a muscle in his shoulder two months before. He had thought he would just work it out, and ended up exacerbating it so much he could not raise his arm above his head anymore. She suggested I work on slow music instead of fast music, or do tai chi.

I went to wash the dishes, thinking about this. If I am that bad, why is the ensemble nice to me? Why do they lie about me, then? Because they are polite and well-bred? Well, indeed they are polite and well-bred, but I cannot recall the last time Taglioni criticised me. Is it because the time she did, I somehow gave her the impression it was a waste of time to give me advice; I do not follow it? And the ensemble is polite and well-bred, but I have no real friends among them; they may say hi to me, or chat in circles that include me, but no one ever invited me to any gathering outside rehearsal. And the same goes for aikido. And the same goes for school, except for those times when guys end up havign crushes on me. I must face the facts and acknowledge them: busy and active as I might be, I have no friends.

Except possibly Athaira and Concolor, but it is hard maintaining a long-distance friendship in Athaira's case. I have no friends, and I am not really good at anything. If I was good at math, would I get D's? I am no good at dance; I am going in completely the wrong direction, it seems. I may look vaguely good at aikido, to a beginner, but no one in fifth kyu is ever actually good, both martially effective and graceful, and the first brute on the street will show me how "good" at aikido I really am. And if I was good at writing, wouldn't I be published by now? And wouldn't I not avoid reading through the first chapters of my work? And if I was good at linguistics, wouldn't I...I guess I cannot find a flaw; I am good at linguistics. But I want to be great at something, indeed, great at everything, and I want to be loved as well. And it seems all around me are simply well-bred sycophants, who do not think for a second about me when I am not in front of their eyes, and I will have to acknowledge that what my parents have been telling me since I was seven was right: I have no friends except my family.

That realisation came to a little child, and it comes again and again now. Go away and let me cry.
Happy Julian Christmas!

On Friday we had a meeting at work to work out our schedules, and afterwards Concolor and I ended up walking together all the way to the Glebe, where, like a gentleman, he invited me for lunch. While we waited for lunch he showed me the three first episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion, an anime Concolor adores; indeed, he said that I am a true friend if I get shown Evangelion. Although apparently the first episodes do not go deeply enough into the depth of the show, I quite enjoyed them, although I was amused at the subtitled theme song, particularly the line "The cruel angel's thesis bleeds through a portal like your pulsing blood." "So the Angels just came to earth for a thesis defense?" I joked. "Maybe," Concolor laughed, "they were looking for an external examiner."

When I put on some music to dance in the evening, Society Max indicated his and my older brother's iPods and suggested I can plug them into the speakers and listen to them if I wanted. Of course I wanted; laugh if you want at my sad fondness for practicing obertas turns to old international disco, but I am quietly very fond of Afric Simone's "Hafanana," the only song by them I have heard. I do not listen to any disco artists indiscriminately: my liking for Modern Talking begins and ends at "Brother Louie"'s catchy rhythm (I once wrote a long trivia question on Modern Talking; no one at the tournament answered it, so I am probably safe in admitting my knowledge of them), and most other music I only listen to one or two tracks on the album. Anyhow, very probably it is in my genes: I rather like the theory that blames Dschinghis Khan, Baccara, Arabesque, and the rest of the East German disco acts for the breakup of the Soviet Union.

The next day I woke barely in time to make it to the advanced aikido class at my dojo - I decided that Concolor's dojo's crazy hours are completely not for me, given the havoc they had wreaked as described in my previous post, and put the money I had had set aside for its monthly dues into other savings. The first class involved some intricate stylisations of iriminage, and me having great trouble with the footwork. The second class involved an intensive review of the shihogi sword kata, which I like for its simple iterconnectedness.

Step forward and cut; step forward and thrust; turn and cut.
Step forward and cut; step forward and thrust; turn and cut.
Turn 270 and cut; step forward and thrust; turn and cut.
Turn 270 and cut; step forward and thrust; turn and cut.
Step back and cut; step forward and thrust; turn and cut.
Step back and cut; step forward and thrust; turn and cut.
Tenkan and cut; step forward and thrust; turn and cut.
Tenkan and cut; step forward and thrust; turn and cut.
Look to your rear and cut; step forward and thrust; turn and cut.
Look to your rear and cut; step forward and thrust; turn and cut.
Ninety-degree double tenkan and cut; step forward and thrust; turn and cut.
Ninety-degree double tenkan and cut; step forward and thrust; turn and cut.
Double tenkan and cut; step forward and thrust; turn and cut.
Double tenkan and cut; step forward and thrust; turn and cut.
Change hanmi and cut; step forward and thrust; turn and cut.
Change hanmi and cut; step forward and thrust; turn and cut.

I like listening to this chant as I do it (it is probably more fun in Japanese) so here I bored you all non-aikidoists with it, transcribing an entire kata so that you never complain again I won't shut up about jewelry! I had never before had shown to me all the applications of the eight parts to variations of shihonage, and I must admit it helps my shihonage very much to remember, "This is not his hand; this is a sword; step forward and thrust, turn and cut." Except on the tenkan part, where the step forward and thrust etc. is actually unnecessary. That is what I probably love most about aikido - how natural movements are incredibly powerful when used without thinking. I caught myself thinking about iriminage too, "You are thinking too much about what goes where. He is attacking you; you have enough experience, honey, to react however makes sense at the time." Running is good.

I arrived home at 2:30, and at 3:00 Soren was supposed to pick me up - the dance ensemble was going for its annual Ukrainian Christmas carolling.

I had very little idea what was about to happen; Taglioni's email told of 10 layers of clothes and Ukrainian costumes, so on top of two, but warm enough layers of clothes I slipped on my embroidered shirt. Then I grabbed the little black stole to keep me warm and look vaguely Eastern European, downed a cup of maté (I am addicted to that drink) and snacked on a few chocolate truffles I had handy.

Soren pulled up, as I had described our house in enough detail he could not mistake it for any other, down to the unicorn. He was dressed in full men's Ukrainian costume, with galoshes over his boots. While we picked up Margarita as well, discovering that Lord Pencilturn himself was sick and could not make it, I frantically sight-hummed the carols to myself. Jacob never did get the copies to me at the Bagelshop, so I was basically seeing them for the first time. But thankfully, the Quinns were holding a rehearsal before the actual sortie.

I also did not expect that the table would be laden with cookies, chocolates, soft drinks and chips for us: "Didn't anyone tell you you will be eating all day?" Most of the dancers who had arrived before us were sitting in the living room watching an Indiana Jones movie.

At rehearsal, I started off as a soprano, but found maintaining that range too stressful on my voice, so I defected to the altos; there were too few altos anyway, and Taglioni, being one of the few musically-trained people there, sang the alto part to keep them in tune, since the altos carry the main melody in all of the carols we sang.

After rehearsal, us women already wrapped in colourful shawls and scarves, the men in the long zipun coats, we performed for the Quinn parents. Then we bundled up into cars, Taglioni, Soren, Magda and Luiza designated drivers, and set off to the first house. Tradition has the youngest person carry a large cardboard star into the houses (the words to the songs are pasted to the back of the star); the star should be the first to enter and the last to leave. Also, before entering, all the carollers yell:

Kohu, kohu,
Koliaduem koliadu,
Koliada, koliada,
Daite nam piroga
Yak ne daste piroga
Stianem hatu zaroga!

Which means, as far as my Russian-Ukrainian takes me, approximately, "We have come to carol, give us pie, and if you don't give us pie, we'll pull the house down by the horns!" Compare the text of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas," which goes "Now bring us some figgy pudding and bring some out here...For we all like figgy pudding so bring some out here...And we won't go until we've got some, so bring some out here!"

The first trip was to Magda's house, where her father, brother and sister welcomed us with small treats but warmly. Before that, I had made the error of leaving my coat in the car when I came out, which resulted in a little more dancing than usual. We did not stay there as long as in the other houses, though.

The second outside trip was to a lady in my adult dance class, who was expecting guests, but we had arrived before them. So we ended up giving two concerts, and in between stuffing ourselves with all kinds of food: cookies and strudel and chocolates and soft cheese and cheese with claret, and hot and cold apple cider and brandy and vodka, and hot sliced sausage of caribou, ostrich, emu, and wild boar. I like ostrich sausage.

Next we went to the seminary on Baseline Road; there, the students were gathered to dinner. Everyone sang along with us, as they apparently knew all the carols. Afterwards, we had more snacks and drinks, and Cartman, Margarita and I got into a discussion with one of the instuctors there, who was originally from California. "What brought you from California here?" Margarita giggled. "Don't you know it's warmer in California?" It turned out to be because Ottawa has a very high reputation as a centre of theological study. Margarita discovered, to her surprise, that this was a Catholic seminary; the ensemble had been coming there to carol for at least five years, and she had always assumed it was Ukrainian Orthodox.

Then the instructor and I got into a discussion of linguistics, and I ended up almost explaining to him Professor Jensen's clock - how the synthetic languages change to analytical, and analytical to agglutinative but I glossed over that part, and agglutinative back to synthetic. As we left, he was very impressed.

The next house was holding a large house party - for the first time in my life I saw a Christmas party of the kind described in the Globe and Mail Style section, with the women in dresses and jewelry and the men in suits, all drifting around the living room sipping cocktails or coffee and chatting. We made the acquaintance of a lady with a two-year-old son, whom she was raising to be Ukrainian-English bilingual. Margarita and Vera gathered around him, talking to him in Ukrainian, and I joined in with little Russian. We got into a game of "touch your nose" where he will push on our noses and we would say "Pop!" I tried saying "Beep-beep" instead, or, imitating the Roadrunner, "Meep-meep." This absolutely charmed the boy. He took my hand in his own, and told me very seriously, "Downstairs." I followed where he led me, telling Vera and Margarita to call me if we were about to leave, I seem to be going on a little tour.

Downstairs was a TV that was fit to compare with the World Exchange theatre screen (the Dark Lord once mocked the World Exchange by comparing it to the TV in the next room; the next weekend a co-worker of mine said, in a different conversation, "The World Exchange? Isn't that the one with the screen the size of the TV in my basement?" "My god," I said, "another friend of mine used the exact same metaphor. All I can conclude from that is that I have two friends with TVs the size of the World Exchange theatre screen.") The boy sat down in the big leather La-Z-Boy and looked at me. In broken Ukrainian, I suggested we go back to mamma. He led me back up and then told me, "Upstairs." At this point in the tour mamma drew the line and suggested he show me the living room instead. By the fireplace, we found a black toy car, and we played vroom-vroom with it until it was time for us to leave.

The rest of the evening begins to blend together, under colour and intensity and much chatter. Besides, this has already been a long tale.
What did I do for Christmas?

The evening was spent in rapid email argument with Shilhak-Inshushinak; let's just say that probably no student of history, no matter how ambitious their thesis is, will ever again link ancient Mesopotamia and 1920s USSR history in the way they interwove in that conversation. But I learned more about Ashurbanipal than Lord von Colonnade , my Ancient Civ teacher, ever told us. Since the entire Elamite civilisation was breaking news to me when I met Shilhak-Inshushinak (pray convey to him that typing his chosen name is a bother, and I hereby forbid other characters choosing their names from now on; what will the world come to if they take such liberties?), I suppose I must blame Lord von Colonnade for a woeful lacuna in my knowledge. Snow Crash, come hither and let me reread you.

I woke late, wasting my precious day off, yet productively spent it first cleaning up the living room, and then settling down to writing. Shilhak-Inshushinak maintains the same position as Isaac Asimov did in an editorial I read recently (seriality, I love you) - ambitious writers should spend their time writing novels, not essays, letters, or blogs beyond what is necessary to cover the subject. He has a point; yet I know the kind of writer I am. My writing congeals out of a vast pile of notes, some in specialised notebooks, some in math-notebook margins among matrices and integrals, some in conversations scribbled down, some in emails, and some now in blogs. When I am actually engaged in writing a novel, yes, my post length will probably start converging to zero. Right now, I have one in the last stages of production, yet three in the first stages, existing as clusters of paragraphs, scenes, dialogues, character histories, and explorations of motivations, geopolitics, the physics of magic, and dragon biochemistry. If I write like that, like a patchwork quilt, I love having as many dialogues and observations transcribed as possible, to whittle at later. The snow of Bronson Avenue may end up on the icecap of a long-settled Titan, and the words of the Dark Lord may be spoken by...a Dark Lord. It would be a lot more fun if I do not forget them.

Besides, I have mentioned before which of the Erikson psychosocial crises I am facing. When I was younger, I used my first novel, along with a great many poems and journal entries, to figure out who I was. Now I may use my next novels, a great many poems, journal entries, and blog posts, to figure out the next question, perhaps by calling it out to the world: "This is what I am, this is where I'm going; who's coming with me?"

Anyhow, I spent much of Christmas Day rewriting a certain key scene, which I admit I could not have written without knowing as much about mental disorders as I do now. And then, of course, sending the scene to Shilhak-Inshushinak to check for poor usage of the present perfect tense. What did I do without email? What did I think I was doing back when I wrote 60 pages longhand?

I did take some time out of it to watch a DVD a friend gave me a while ago - yes, it was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. On DVD. But if you want to watch movies on DVD while the original is still in theatres, and you happen to speak the language of the second most pirating country in the world, you are in for some interesting adventures. The first file was the English movie dubbed by some amateur into Russian, doing all the voices himself, and seemingly without any practice at all, since the translated sentences were often morphologically and syntactically inconsistent. But you could just hear the English dialogue under the Russian, which was a lot more interesting, and if there was a way to remove the dubbing, I would do it.

The second file was even more fun: the translator's voice (and regional accent) changed, and at first it seemed like the translation got better. I tried listening for the English dialogue under the dubbing, but something about the vowels seemed very funny. Finally I understood - the characters were speaking German. And the translator was translating into Russian from German. Here I was, watching a Russian dubbing of a German dubbing of an English movie. Gillyweed was therefore cited as the German word, some word ending with Kraut. And I did not hear Ralph Fiennes' voice work as Voldemort, something I would have loved to hear someday. Well, the movie was free - and worth every penny. My brother, watching it, remarked often on how "Harry" is pronounced the same as "Gary" in Russian - that is, the most famous Gary, Kasparov. And the Goblet of Fire makes blue fire, so the movie is crying out to be parodied as a retelling of Gary Kasparov and the chess computer Deep Blue (by the way, Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine is a very good documentary, and even better if you understand the Russian speeches they do not subtitle, and the music on it is surprisingly good, if anyone can give me hints on where I can find the soundtrack). My brother and I agreed that the Harry Potter movies are dying for a Goblin translation. I will explain Goblin translations another day.

Yesterday, on Boxing Day, I misread the schedule and instead of coming in 11 to 6, I came early and worked 9 to 6. Am I that fond of $15? The Bagelshop was surprisingly un-busy; everyone was out buying electronics and clothing, I guess. After work I phoned Athaira, who had worked all that day too, and, coincidentally, had seen Goblet of Fire on Christmas Day as well - in a theatre, in English, like normal people. We arranged to meet today (Tuesday) to exchange gifts and make pumpkin pie.

I began work at dawn, at 7 am. Rosa was due in at 8, but she phoned to say she will be late, so Traci and I were left alone.

Bringing the pastries to the little island in the middle of the store where the cash and the deli counter are, I sang, "Here I am, stuck in the middle with you." Traci gave me a funny look. "Where is the radio?" I asked. "That's what I want to know, too."

But Traci was not to have radio songs. She was to have me, and I was on a French kick that day.

Il joue avec mon coeur
il triche avec ma vie
il dit des mots menteurs
et moi je crois tout ce qu'il me dit
Les chansons qu'il me chante
les rêves qu'il fait pour deux
c'est comme les bons moments
ca fait du bien quand il pleut
Je me raconte des histoires
en écoutant sa voix
c'est pas vrai ses histoires mais moi j'y crois

Mon mec à moi il me parle d'aventures
et quand il brille dans ses yeux,
je pourrais y passer la vie
il parle d'amour comme il parle des voitures
et moi je suis où il veut, tellement je crois tous ce qu'il me dit
tellement je crois tout ce qu'il me dit
oh oui...mon mec à moi

Sa facon d'être à moi
sans jamais dire "je t'aime"
c'est rien que du cinéma
mais c'est du pareil au même
ses films en noir et blanc
qu'il m'a joué 200 fois
c'est Garvain et Morgan
enfin ca ressemble à tout ca
Je me raconte des histoires
des scénarios chinois
c'est pas vrai ses histoires mais moi j'y crois

Mon mec à moi il me parle d'aventures
et quand il brille dans ses yeux
je pourrais y passer la vie
il parle d'amour comme il parle des voitures
et moi je suis où il veut,
tellement je crois tous ce qu'il me dit
tellement je crois tout ce qu'il me dit
oh oui...mon mec à moi

- Patricia Kaas, "Mon Mec A Moi", with possible grammatical errors in the lyrics from a site, and one intentional change, with which I always sing it.

Astonishingly enough, I once looked up to see Lord Hammerblow, my Grade 12 AP English teacher, in the store (those who were in his class may recall the reason for his name). He wished me a merry Christmas holiday. Myself, I was randomly wishing people happy Hanukkah. "Even if they are stocking up on ham like there's no tomorrow," I remarked to Serena, "happy Hanukkah is what they get." Serena, who, I discovered, had a Jewish education that eerily parallelled mine, laughed. I continued singing Hanukkah songs to drown out the Christmas carols CD that, evilly, came back on!

The lights of Hanukkah are shining
Their glow will brighten up the sky.
Let these lights of love tell the story of
A miracle of days gone by.
The people had a little oil
Enough to last for just one night
But through God's great ways it burned eight long days
For the Festival of Lights.
Light the candles, let them glow,
They'll remind us of the miracle of long ago.
Light the candles, burn them bright,
For the Festival of Light.
- a song we had to sing in grade 5 choir for the Christmas/winter assembly. I include it for forthcoming reasons.

I forgot to mention, for forthcoming reasons, that the Bagelshop got a shipment of promotional gifts from the Dairy Farmers of Canada. They are cutting boards for cheese portraying a stylised and whimsical picture of a mother cutting cheese for her son. We are giving them away to every person who spends more than $100, but the boss gave a few to his close friends, one of whom passed it on to her close friend, who is my mother. So my home has one.

But enough about Monday and Tuesday's work. After work I set off for Athaira's house, eager for gifts and giving and pie.

Athaira is probably my oldest friend, and definitely the friend who most matches my insane side, and the insanity of us together is more than the sum of its parts. More seriously, I will not speak lightly of mental disorder; Athaira and I are both reasonably sane, just with a silly streak a mile wide (I am able to conceal it when I need to; I cannot speak for her) and vivid imaginations we are not afraid to let loose. Which is why we started off writing fantasy collaborations of varying length and quality, and now various story games are a staple of our meetings. We had gone through the Who-What-Where game I had used to entertain the guests on my 11th birthday, went on to Mad Libs, then the Question-Answer game (one person writes a question, then the other, without seeing the question, writes an answer on the other side. "Athaira: What is my future career? Me: Oh hungry? Oh Henry." - 1998-99.) Then we returned to the Who-What-Where game, expanded, elaborated and enriched it with traditions, and we are still practicing it. Someday I may share the Quest for the Beaker.

Athaira gave me the Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake, assuring me it is one of the best things she has read in years. She and her family were delighted at the gift I gave her; I had not even noticed its elven style until it was pointed out by her mother. We also gave each other chocolate, naturally, I receiving a Drosté Honey Nougat milk chocolate tablet, and she a Cote d'Or dark chocolate orange tablet, a flavour she has apparently never before been exposed to. 'Twas the season of my converting Athaira to a few of my favourite things. Both chocolates were happily consumed by both of us while making pie.

I have not rolled out a pie crust since, if I recall correctly, Christmas 1996. And that had been with a bottle instead of the fine rolling pin Athaira's family has. "To make pies. It is good for a woman to make pies," as Magda said on Sex and the City. My family baking generally involves dumping whatever random ingredients are available into the bowl, beating them into submission with a blender, then tossing scoops of them on a pan and calling the almost-invariably swiftly devoured result pancakes. Since they are almost always a hit, we must be doing something right. Athaira seems to follow recipes with strict orthodoxy.

We made dough according to the Tenderflake recipe and made two pies, one with her family recipe for filling and one with canned filling. I consulted the recipe; Athaira, working by my reasoning that she knew better what pumpkin pie filling was supposed to be like, tried to improvise around the instructions on the can without any evaporated milk. Me: "Oh, just add real milk until the consistency is about right, then stop." I am a pure mathematician to the core: left side should equal right side; make it happen; once it does equal, stop. Athaira uses sophisticated measuring cups and spoons; I, regarding an amount of melted butter that was greater than the teaspoon required by the recipe, considered the fate of the leftovers, said, "Who cares?" and dumped all the butter into my mixing bowl. "You're cooking with Tourmaline here!" I grinned to Athaira's slightly startled look. I also learned how to grind up nutmeg using a sophisticated grater I have never seen before. As nutmeg is a spice totally missing in our family, especially in whole-nut form (we grate our own ginger and cinnamon bark, on the other hand), that was a delightful experience. "Did you know that I have read recently that nutmeg is poisonous in large quantities?" I chirped.

I am apparently better than she is at rolling out dough, despite the aforementioned date of the last time I did it; maybe it's my motto, "No such thing as too much flour"; maybe it's beginner's luck. Out of leftover dough we crafted two "turnovers": Athaira's with the traditional raspberry jam and apricot jam; mine, experimental, with orange marmalade. "You will never know if it works if you don't try it." Then, while the pies were baking, we sat down to some Who-What-Wheres. In the middle of them, Athaira answered a phone call from her sister, and her mother, sitting in the next room and overhearing Athaira's side of the conversation, misheard "run" as "rum." "Why are you talking about alcohol on the phone?" Athaira, who drinks even less than I do, protested. This detail is included for forthcoming reasons.

While we were engrossed, Athaira's mother brought a pair of ebony carvings into the kitchen. "Those are from Malawi," she said proudly. "They are symbols of friendship." I perused the little persons. They had large eyes and resembled Roswell aliens more than anything else, except Roswell aliens are usually portrayed as having arms. "They're scaring me," said Athaira. "They are going to give me nightmares." "They look like aliens to me," I remarked. "Maybe aliens visited Malawi long ago, and they were very friendly, so they are immortalised in the culture as symbols of friendship." Then Athaira and I returned to the game.

The game is played so: a piece of paper gets written on it the questions that are in boldface below: Who? With (who)? Did what? Where? When? Why? How? Who saw? Who is to blame? What were the consequences? The question marks are usually omitted for speed, which is sometimes utilised in the game. Then Player 1 writes an answer to the first question on the paper, then folds it down so the other player(s) cannot see, and passes it to Player 2. The latter writes her answer to the next question, folds it down, and passes it along in the circle; this is a game for two or more players, but we like two, since more answers from one person allow for a story or theme to be developed. After the consequences have brought the story, of sorts, to a conclusion, it is unfolded and read aloud, usually to ensuing hilarity. That day we played simultaneously, each with a pen, each writing at the same time and exchanging. This means that often you forget what you wrote last on this particular paper, which affects the narrative arc.

Over the many years we have played this game, we have developed traditions. One of them, among Athaira, me, and often Iselen, the person to blame must always be Thoth, a brilliant former classmate (he allegedly wrote his MCAT medical-school exam this summer, and was still holding down 99% grades at Queen's university last Athaira heard from him). It almost goes without saying that, our imaginations and the courtesy rule "do not use a person in the room to commit some stupid act" being the only limits to the answers, the Who-What-Wheres recount a very skewed history and take place in a world that randomly mixes reality, wishes, jokes, film and literature. The Quest for the Beaker is a case in point, but the following Nutmeg Saga, as we dubbed it, provides an introduction. Bromthymol blue entered our set of tropes when Iselen and I surreptitiously played Who-What-Wheres in grade 11 chemistry. The tales of Ol' Gam-Gam and the Divine Forklift will be recounted in future posts.

In all the odd game rounds, all the odd questions are answered by me (odd as in x ~ 1 mod 2, no comment about other meanings.) In all the even game rounds, I answer all the even questions. The rounds were played simultaneously, two by two.

So, disclaimer: if you are not ready for a bit of insanity, go read another blog. Not Athaira's, though. The tales of Ol' Gam-Gam and the Divine Forklift will be recounted in future psts. Familiarity with the Harry Potter canon, Pirates of the Caribbean, a little Seinfeld, current events of the entertainment world, and the previous contents of this blog is encouraged. And before I conclude the post with this grand finale, pray note, Shilhak-Inshushinak and Athaira, that I have never yet mentioned what you complain is my overwhelming obsession.


Who? The Sugar Plum Fairy, and the Orange Bumblebee
With sanity of a rather questionable nature, and a spatula of mythic proportions
Did what? Nefarious things with nutmeg. To Dolores Umbridge.
Where? Away in a manger - but not a special one, just some random manger.
When? In a time of joy and gladness and massive shoe sales.
Why? A long history of emotional trauma, courtesy of various teachers of mathematics over the long, dark history of their school careers.
How? By not fearing to make mistakes and trying really hard.
Who saw? Tourmaline. She started to write of it in her journal, but it evolved into another ode to her ruling passion, jewelry.
Who is to blame? Thoth! He can't make pumpkin pie.
What were the consequences? We could never look at screwdrivers the same way again.

Who? A pumpkin improbably named Mervyn
With passion!
Did what? Participated in an impromptu game of Quidditch, which soon turned to mud wrestling when the brooms wouldn't fly
Where? In the great hall of Hogwarts (a lot of "pumpkin juice" was involved)
When they were on Christmas holiday and so finally had time to celebrate so
Why? A reason to hope for the end of schizophrenia, and a great obsession with jewelry.
How? Love will find a way. In this case, the way involved screwdrivers and dynamite.
Who saw? Ol' Gam-Gam. He made everyone write an in-class essay on the activity. The essays were collected by the National Enquirer and made a bestselling book and a blockbuster movie.
Who is to blame? Thoth, for old times' sake. Dunno how - maybe mind control or something.
What were the consequences? King Kong won a special performing arts award, and celebrated with yummy goodness.

Who? Godzilla. And Harry Potter.
With burning curiosity and the scientific method
Did what? Rescued the Triwizard Cup from the Dead Marshes. It was dead. Dead, I tell ya!
Where? On the canal, before it was actually open. The Beavertail huts were still closed.
When they were building a tower to reach the heavens. Altitude sickness...Glossolalia...
Why? A deeply-rooted psychological need for attention. Attention at any cost.
How? Using BUTTER! And Real Cream!
Who saw? Rita Skeeter. She wrote a blistering attack on their reputations and was sued for libel. The case was tied up in court for decades.
Who is to blame? Thoth. He milked the cows wrong, they kicked, the milk curdled, our heroes drank it...
What were the consequences? They were fined for going on the canal, but won their case against Mrs Skeeter. By that time, she'd made so much money from blackmail she had no trouble paying damages.

Who? King Kong and Gollum (both personalities)
With nutmeg...and brandy beans...and cinnamon...and SNUFF! And Bromthymol blue.
Did what? Auditioned for Canadian Idol. Enthusiastically. Dance was involved.
Where? Around the Festivus Pole. They aired grievances. Interactively.
When they should have been studying for exams, but they decided that this will be more profitable in the long run
Why? They really, really, really, really wanted some bagels and lox.
How? The free spirit, unplanned, whatever seems like a good idea at the time approach.
Who saw? The dairy farmers of Canada. The activity was portrayed on promotional cutting boards, but cows got upset.
Who is to blame? Thoth. But he childishly refused to accept responsibility - in fact, he ignored the whole situation.
What were the consequences? They got their bagels and lox. But no cream cheese.

Who? Hermione and Parvati Patil, and Crookshank
With a deep conviction in the moral rightness of their actions, and abs of steel
Did what? Danced the Hora. To celebrate Hanukkah.
Where nobody could see them
When? At Hanukkah, duh! Their glow will brighten up the sky.
Why? They were bored. They had nutmeg. Honestly, what else are you going to do with nutmeg?
How? A miracle of days gone by. Ron was invited, but chickened out.
Who saw? Tourmaline. She wrote a poem about it just in time for the new edition of Teen Angst Poetry. Adolescence is such a trial.
Who is to blame? The grindylows. Their singing was off key. Thoth was one of them.
What were the consequences? They had to go into therapy for years to recover from the trauma. Even now, they still have nightmares.

Who? The newly-crowned Canadian Idols (yes, they won. If you object, you should have voted then, eh?)
With a star map. And a laser pistol. And two AA batteries. And some nutmeg.
Did what? Sought to prove, once and for all, the existence of that strange ancient large mythical mystical being: Santa Claus
Where the two Neptunes twinkle gleefully above the billowing grass
When they had heard "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" on the radio one too many times
Why? To remind us of this miracle of long ago.
How? They never actually figured that part out, which is why their efforts were abortive and Santa's existence yet remains a mystery.
Who saw? Madame Olympe, who told of this to Fleur Delacour to help her win Triwizard.
Who is to blame? Who else but Thoth? He refused to clap for Tinkerbell.
What were the consequences? They got an award cutting board portraying King Kong and Gollum. And bagels. And some jewelry. And a new oven mitt.

Who? The grindylows, after banishing Thoth
With cinnamon, ginger, aaaand...NUTMEG
Did what? Made rum. Lots of rum.
Where? Behind you.
When the rum ran out. The beer ran out. The coffee ran out. So did the Bromthymol blue. Aaaaaaah!!!!
Why? They thought it was funny. They have a bizarre sense of humour.
How? Size does matter.
Who saw? People in Malawi. They made scary statues of it.
Who is to blame? The people who drank the rum in the first place!! How dare they?
What were the consequences? The statues gave me nightmares and the screaming interfered in others' study time (sorry).

Who? The Who
With a little nut tree, nothing would it bear but a silver nutmeg (ooh yeah!) and a golden pear
Did what? Created a lasting monument in bronze to that influential spice: NUTMEG
Where? On a rumrunners' island. They put nutmeg in the rum...
When they had had a little too much rum, and hand't anything better to do anyway
Why? They liked hockey.
How? The immutable bonds of friendship and love.
Who saw? The aliens who had once visited Malawi. They showed friendship, despite all. One has to mind one's manners.
Who is to blame? Thoth. He gets scary when he's bored, and scary things happen.
What were the consequences? The rum ran out again. The aliens flew away, but left friendship behind.

Who? The Hogwarts Orchestra
With Bromthymol blue (seasoned with nutmeg) and RUM
Did what? Formed a secret army of Defense Against the Dark Derivatives
Where? In the math office, when everyone was away for Christmas
When they were seized by a spirit of adventure, but calculus was banned by the EQAO (the Death Eaters)
Why? They were hungry. This made them lightheaded. And a bit dopey.
How? With complex numbers. And, of course, nutmeg.
Who saw? Lord Voldemort. He thought it was a pretty good idea and resolved to try it himself. One day.
Who is to blame? The out-of-tune trombone, played by Thoth. And the EQAO. And the Quotient Rule.
What were the consequences? They were really hung over the next day. Much Tylenol was consumed.

Who? The Dementors of Azkaban, led by Barty Crouch (junior)
Without nutmeg
Did what? Staged a coup and took over the headquarters of the rumrunners
Where? In the Room of Requirement. It had some chamberpots in it, but they kicked those out of the way.
When all hope was lost, so fool’s hope made it seem like a good idea
Why? They had no nutmeg! What more do you need?
How? A strong sense of commitment, stubbornness, and nobility of spirit.
Who saw? Peter Jackson. It was an influential childhood memory he made a blockbuster movie of later.
Who is to blame? Thoth. He goaded them into proving themselves by saying their superpowers were effeminate.
What were the consequences? On a day all will know, the Divine Forklift’s salutations shall ring across the world from tropics to the snow!

Who? The Ghosts of Christmas Nutmeg
With an Alvin and the Chipmunks song stuck in their heads
Did what? Exterminated bad fruitcake. Everywhere. Prohibition was nothing to this.
Wherever they could find the room
When they blamed fruitcake for schizophrenia and violence against Manitoba
Why? In an effort to increase job satisfaction.
How? Using chess boxing! Very versatile skills.
Who saw? A soon-to-be millionaire, who turned the concept into a game show.
Who is to blame? Thoth adulterated the nutmeg in the Fruitcake Conspiracy!
What were the consequences? They sleep with the lights on now. And look over their shoulders every ten seconds.

Who? The ghosts of Christmas past, present and future
With too much Nutmeg Frappuccino from Starbucks (it’s hard to have too much, but they did it.)
Did what? Sought to instill the spirit of Christmas into Lord Voldemort and Wormtail
Where? In Azkaban, while the nutmegless inhabitants were staging their coup elsewhere
Whenever they felt like it. All sorts of random, boring, inconvenient moments.
Why? Their pumpkin pie was made with soy milk.
How? Visions of sugarplums to dance in his head. And warm fuzzy feelings they sent, and candy. And pie. And cookies. And chocolate. And candy.
Who saw? King Kong. He fell in love. Or maybe it was addiction to nutmeg…
Who is to blame? Thoth. He had spiked their rum. With more rum. And with NUTMEG.
What were the consequences? The price of soy milk went through the roof.

And then we ate the pies.

I leave you with a parting conclusion from the first round: Remember, "Oops!" is not what you want to hear from your torturer.