Saturday 25 May 2024

Away from her

Elder daughter is criss-crossing Norway with a friend who has live there for the past few years, a dream-trip twice postponed by circumstances financial and pandemic. Yesterday, she found herself in Oslo's Deichman bibliotek, the largest library in Norway, and confronted with a Canadian (and Victorian) connection.

Nine years ago, I wrote about my brief encounter with Alice Munro. She died about a dozen days ago, and readers across the country mourned, even though she had been sidelined by dementia.  Her short stories remain, though: wry, pointed, and bleakly funny.

I bet Norwegians really got her, I texted elder daughter this morning.

Tuesday 7 May 2024

Hackers in Hades

So, yesterday, I was rather pleased with myself.  I'd managed to publish a blog-post, something I've been not doing enough lately.  I'm under no illusions that I have much of an audience, you understand; this blog was always for my own satisfaction.

Still, I took a few moments to look back on some recent entries ("recent" being a relative term) and, on a whim, clicked one of my own links, leading back to an older post.

I was horrified to find myself on an unfamiliar "Blogger" profile, featuring a message saying my link wouldn't work for "this blog", which appeared to be entitled "Ostitnotesfromhades".  The profile was some entity called "Nag", no information about them, except that s/he hosted five blogs, "Ostitnotesfromhades" being one of them.

I don't claim to be all that tech-savvy, but I knew better than to click on any of those links.

Unnerved, I set about reporting "Nag" to Blogger.  What particularly worried me is that "Nag"'s homepage appears to be on a Google account under my old Hades email address.  This is because my blog has remained there since 2007 -- mainly because I've never discovered how to change this. If Blogger tries to contact me, the messages will go to a dormant email account, which may make me look suspicious.

I then set about the irritating process of changing my Google password for that old account, and the even more annoying procedure of introducing two-step verification. Then I shut more barn doors, by going to the older blog post with the nasty, "Nag"-ated link and switching it to "edit" mode to remove it from the blog without deleting it.  (I was able to find it by doing a keyword search.) And I simply deleted the link on the more recent post, but I have a sinking feeling I may need to go through all the 1500 or so entries and check for any links back to my blog.

I think, from a flash of a map, while I was doing these things, that "Nag" may be burrowed somewhere in Australia.  He may also be burrowed somewhere in this blog, or even in the old Google account.  

Hello, "Nag", you insect.  You're not at all welcome.

So I may not be here tomorrow.  Or today -- it's already tomorrow in Australia.

How depressing.  Hackers really do belong in Hades.

Monday 6 May 2024

Spelling counts

It's cold for May, and I'm willing myself up a hill.

Well, it's hardly a hill, just one of those barely perceptible inclines that make you wonder why on earth you're feeling tired.  My steps feel somewhat off-balance, and I tighten one strap of my packsack to redress the balance.

Halfway up, I spot a man in a dark green hoodie, standing in the sidewalk, head bent over his phone.  I note the baseball cap under the hood, but can't make out his face.  I feel a slight whisper of anxiety, and bend my path around him, giving him a wide berth.

"Excuse me," I hear him say as I pass, and I keep going, thinking that perhaps he's apologising for taking up the sidewalk.  This is Canada, after all.

"Excuse me," he repeats.  I stop and return.

"Just a random question.  How do you spell 'guitar'?"

I feel myself smiling.  "G-U-I-T-A-R."

He raises his phone.  "And there it is; it came right up!"

I giggle, and turn to continue.

"Thanks!" I hear him call.  

I revolve in the also barely perceptible rain.  "It's not often I can solve a problem so simply!"

"You have a great day," he says.

I head home, feeling less burdened and footsore.

We've both turned into human beings.

Sunday 31 March 2024

The advantages of a liberal arts education


"Actually, this is perfect viewing for the day between Good Friday and Easter," said the Resident Fan Boy, not quite pompously.  

After an exhausting afternoon guiding younger daughter and Demeter (and, truth be told, the RFB himself) through the steps of decorating eggs using shaving cream, I felt like kicking back with a bit of ballet on my Royal Opera streaming subscription, and chose The Dante Project.

As we watched Dante descend and dance through a tour of the circles of Hell, with the poet Virgil as a guide and partner, the RFB continued:  "Because Jesus spent the day after the Crucifixion..."

"Harrowing Hell," I said, not taking my eyes from screen.

"...he went down to..."

"Harrow Hell."

"....save the people born before Christianity..."

"The Harrowing of Hell!"

"What?"

"It's called the Harrowing of Hell. It's like you couldn't even hear what I was saying!"

"Well, I never heard it called that."

The Resident Fan Boy is also a son of the rectory, so I, the lifelong Unitarian, was rather surprised. 

"You've never heard of the Harrowing of Hell?"

"Well, I guess you're the one who studied theology..."

English literature, actually.  It did come up.

Friday 8 December 2023

We was getting nowhere

For the first time in a long time, I watched a Doctor Who episode twice.  I used to do this regularly on writer Stephen Moffat's episodes; in fact it usually took at least three watches for me to figure out his plots.  I'm a bear of little brain.

For "Wild Blue Yonder", the second of Russell T Davies' bridging episodes leading up to the intro of the next Doctor, Ncuti Gatwa (whose Rwandan first name is pronounced something like "Shooty" - he's another sexy Scot), the plot is easy enough for me to follow, but I had to go back to check a particular moment.

If you haven't seen the episode and want to avoid spoilers, stop reading.  (But I'm really pleased you're here!)

"Wild Blue Yonder" reminds me strongly of "Midnight", a Tennant episode from his third season,  In WBY, there are also formless malevolent beings who are using enfleshed beings to manifest themselves and take over - in this case, the Doctor and Donna, who have crash-landed on a marooned space-ship hovering in nothingness on the edge of nowhere, due to an accident involving coffee.

As promised, the special was scary, and provided a nice illustration of the advanced acting skills of Tennant and Tate.  Predictably, the Resident Fan Boy was particularly impressed with Catherine Tate's performance, while I admired Tennant's dramatic acrobatics.  Years ago, he switched seamlessly between the frenetic Doctor and the repressed John Smith in "Human Nature/Family of Blood" (my very favourite DW episode).  Here, he transformed himself by adopting the empty-eyed black stare of a predator. Brrrrrr.

Next episode is predicted to be one of Russell T Davies' world-gone-ape**** extravanganzas.  I tend to not quite like those.  We'll see.

When watching the previous Doctor Who special episode "Star Beast", I was startled to hear Donna declare that her grandfather Wilf was alive and well, because I knew Bernard Cribbins had died in the summer of 2022. In fact, I'd screen-saved this rather wonderful re-imagining of the Sergeant Pepper album cover, illustrating Cribbins' career, which went so far beyond Doctor Who:

And then (this is another spoiler - you've been warned), "Wild Blue Yonder" drew to a close, and there was Wilfred Mott, in his wheelchair.  It was the only scene Bernard Cribbins managed to film, a few weeks before he died at age 93.

Which left me with this earworm (composer Ted Dicks and lyricist Myles Rudge).  I've had worse.

Saturday 2 December 2023

Furby or not Furby

Iphis texted me this week.

Have you seen the new episode of Doctor Who!!

Had I seen the new episode -- who does he think I am? (Okay, let's not go there...) I cheerfully replied that I had seen it at the earliest opportunity.  I hadn't planned to, but the Resident Fan Boy had tuned in to  Disney Plus at the moment of release, and I just happened to return from the coffee shop at the same instant.  I sat down to watch a few minutes, and, of course, ended up watching the whole thing, and was late for Demeter's breakfast call.  It was David Tennant, after all, narrower than ever, and now with a deeply lined brow.

Iphis was, I suspect, especially excited about Russell T Davies' carefully inclusive story.  (If you haven't seen the "Star Beast", and wish to be surprised, you might want to stop reading about here - and I thank you for reading at all.)

"Star Beast"'s plot turns upon a number of circumstances, one being the fact that an important security office uses a wheelchair, and a major one being the gender identification of Donna's daughter Rose.  It's the inclusivity that, no doubt, thrilled Iphis and, undoubtedly, irritated and infuriated a certain cohort of Whovians. They're just going to have to suck it up, as I'm sure this is how Russell T Davies intends to continue.  

I understand this week's episode (which begins in less than an hour, as I type this) is supposed to be very scary and not particularly child-friendly, and the finale of this David Tennant three-parter will be over-the-top crazy, which is usually where RTD leaves me behind.

"Star Beast", with all its modern sensibilities, is a bit of the gentler, family-friendly outing, and even features a Furby-like creature called The Meep.  Sounds precious, doesn't it?  (You know you're in trouble if a creature is voiced by the not-at-all reassuring Miriam Margolyes.). The plot reminds me strongly of "Smith and Jones" from Tennant's second season as The Doctor.  You've been warned.

I plan to head out to Demeter before this morning's first broadcast of the apparently terrifying next Doctor/Donna outing - mainly so she gets breakfast, rather than brunch, but also so my hands don't shake the tray.

Friday 1 December 2023

"He didn't carpet-bomb Cambodia"

Shane MacGowan and Henry Kissinger had pretty well nothing in common, except for dying within twenty-four hours of each other.

Because I'm a Canadian, and therefore blocked from news organizations on social media, I learned about the demise of MacGowan from actor Christopher Eccleston, who posted his picture on Instagram.  My heart sank, because I was rather a Pogues fan.  (I was rather surprised to hear that Henry Kissinger wasn't dead already, to tell you the truth; he was 100 years old, after all.)

Someone on Twitter - I continue to refuse to refer to it by its rather Teutonic rebranding - was nonplussed, not that either of the men had died, but that MacGowan had received rather more coverage and longer articles.  The wags were quick on their keyboards: "He wrote better songs."

One of them, and my personal favourite, is "Haunted" which was first recorded in 1986 with Cait O'Riordan.  Some years after getting kicked out of the Pogues for his legendary benders, MacGowan re-recorded the song with his friend Sinéad O'Connor (who later would report him to the police when she witnessed his taking heroin, but they were still friends when O'Connor died earlier this year.) 

You were so cool, you could have put out Vietnam.

Another tenuous link to Henry Kissinger?  (Nah.)

Saturday 25 November 2023

Squirming squirrel

 

An unfamiliar movement caught the corner of my eye, as I sat in the living room, doing something else. It took a moment to realize that it was a black squirrel squirming through the dead leaves in the concrete well that constitutes our "patio". It moved on its belly in an odd serpentine pattern, and I noticed that one one of its legs was injured.

I called the Resident Fan Boy, as I watched in growing horror and despair.  The creature was attempting to leap out over the wall, which is roughly thigh-high (for us humans) at one end and knee high at the other.  

The RFB and I consulted the internet and discovered, that for injured squirrels in our province, the institution to call is the BC Animal Helpline (1-855-622-7722).  There was also a suggestion to line a cardboard box with old towels.

"We don't have a box," declared the RFB, who had left a message on the helpline.  (It was the weekend -- of course.) Without a word,  I marched down to our condo building's recycling room, found a flattened small container, reassembled it, and returned, where the RFB was on the phone with someone who had evidently called him back.

They wanted a video, so we scribbled down the email address.  By this time, the squirrel had retreated to a corner by the lower wall, a curled-up fluffy mass of defeat and exhaustion.

I opened the sliding window, and stepped out, closing the screen quickly behind me, although our cat was napping and missing the entire show, which he would have found engrossing.

"The tail is covering the head," I called to my husband.  "They'll want more action than this."

"They suggested scaring him."

"Isn't he terrified enough?"

I took a couple of steps forwards, my phone in video mode.

In a flash, the squirrel sprang over the lip of the wall, and, still moving on his belly, disappeared over the garden soil, farther and faster than I would have thought possible, out of reach and out of our responsibility.

I wondered if he would be able to climb, or whether a predator would get him.

Squirrels die every day, of course.  We just don't witness it.  I was relieved to not have to watch.

The RFB called the helpline to update them.  I suppose we should donate...

Sunday 22 October 2023

Piecrust promise


Double Leo Sister and Jolly Not-So-Green Giant Brother-in-Law had descended into Victoria from their up-Island home to have an early Thanksgiving dinner with us the Friday before the long weekend, using up the last of the piecrusts I'd stashed in the freezer.  

On the Sunday, I had a lovely block of "alone time" while the Resident Fan Boy and younger daughter went out for lunch.  It was then that I discovered that I was out of shortening, so resigned myself to making all preparations on Monday.  I was in bed when the RFB approached me to quietly ask if I were making pies at all.  Apparently, younger daughter had observed my lack of preparation, and had made an equally quiet and anxious inquiry.

Younger daughter lives somewhere on the autism spectrum, which despite the rainbow-like terminology, is a very concrete and literal place.  Holidays must be made manifest and occur on the appropriate day, which, in our case is the holiday Monday.  (Many Canadian families have the meal on the Sunday, to allow for travel time.)

I, of all people, know the importance of making holidays tangible in our house, so rose early to make the dough and chill it, before heading out to set out Demeter's breakfast.  Home to roll out seven piecrusts: two for the counter, five for the freezer.

After another trip across the street and down the block to pull together Demeter's lunch, I returned to make the filling from pumpkins from last year's Hallowe'en, mashed and waiting in the freezer.

To further realize and cement Thanksgiving, I'd assembled a playlist for daughter's Spotify account, and put it on while I worked, knowing she'd hear it from her bedroom.

A Disney version of "Turkey in the Straw" drew her out, and I explained what I'd done.  She seemed chuffed. (Other tracks included:  "Thank You Girl" (Beatles), "What a Wonderful World" (Louis Armstrong),  "Eat It" (Weird Al), "All Good Gifts" (London cast of Godspell), "Get Happy" (Judy Garland), "Happy" (Pharrell Williams), "Food, Glorious Food" (original cast of Oliver!), etc.

We eventually sat down to a simple supper (attended by Demeter, of course) with our traditional sides of Caesar Salad and garlic bread, followed by pie, glorious pie.  And younger daughter was relaxed and happy - even chatty, by her standards.

It's important to keep piecrust promises -- perhaps because they're so easy to break.

Monday 16 October 2023

Fingernail shadows

A tsunami of sickles on a street near us
The first partial solar eclipse that I remember occurred on a warm summer afternoon years ago.  Our neighbours in our Edmonton neighbourhood had a small rectangle of smoked glass, and about half a dozen children took turns peering at the strange image of a black circle biting into a bright orange one.  (Not a recommended medium today!)

It was the only indication that anything was different about the afternoon.  The sun continued to shine brightly -- except that I noticed the shadows made the sidewalk appear to be paved with cloudy cobblestones.

It wasn't until I was a parent myself, on a bitterly cold and cloudless Christmas Day, my first in Hades, that I realized what I had been seeing hadn't been a childish fancy.  The midday light reflected through the latticework of our porch on to the pitiless smooth snow, a strange cluster of half-discs. 

Not long before we finally escaped from Hades, another partial eclipse swung by us on a summer's afternoon.  I tried a colander, to no avail,  but wandered to the front of our house, where tiny crescents were scattered amid the shadows of the leaves on our front walk.

So, on Saturday,  I set the timer on my phone, and wandered home from the coffee shop, scanning the ground for sickles. About two minutes before the eclipse was scheduled, I spotted what I was seeking in the centre of a quiet street, and frantically gestured to an older lady strolling up the sidewalk.  She told me, in an accent faintly tinged with Eastern Europe, that a neighbour from her building had already shown her the view through a "screen" - I didn't dare ask - and that it was "once in a lifetime" for her; she'd never seen an eclipse.

Next, a family with two young boys meandered by, but the kids were too young to be impressed, and their parents, though polite, were reserved, when I pointed out the odd shadows on the grass. 

Undaunted, I headed back home, following a trail of sun-bows, and, ahead of me, a young woman was holding up her camera to the sun.  A friend had just alerted her to the event via text.  I pointed to the shadows behind her, and she exclaimed in astonishment, and starting snapping pictures.

Stopping at the path leading to the entrance of our building, I used my phone as well - to phone the Resident Fan Boy, telling him only to "come out --- now".

By this time, a matter of less than ten minutes, the fingernails were rapidly thickening into something less delicate, more ordinary.