Tangle-Tongued Confusion and other stories

The Today meme is hosted by Masha! Join in over at Piękno, or leave your own sensory notes in the combox.

Today I am...

* * *

Feeling... kind of exhausted.

It's been the kind of afternoon where you sit down to blog, but first your computer crashes on contact with a flash card, and then your blog won't load, because the domain host is having some kind of issue. Also, three cups of coffee apparently weren't enough.

It's also been the kind of week where—well, first you're anxious constantly, partly because you're job hunting and partly because you didn't sleep much the previous week. Then, you discover you might as well go ahead and take the SAT, because if you get 580 or better on math, you can get out of the basic math requirement. Unfortunately, you don't discover that till you've already started the process to take a math placement test, which you then have to put on hold, which makes you feel like an idiot who is wasting a lot of nice people's time.

Also, you haven't been studying for the SAT, because you thought you weren't going to take it.


Anyway, I took a practice SAT yesterday—took it cold. No studying. The result of that experiment is that I will be studying math hard for the next week, because:

That's a 580 on math—just good enough.
Attained by missing mostly gridded questions, which aren't penalized.
We'll see if I can manage to equal or supersede that next Saturday.
As for the rest: yay for competing with seventeen-year-olds. :P

* * *

Seeing... sunshine, and last Sunday's snow finally melting. Seven inches of snow is pretty impressive for us. I'm quite proud of myself for having gotten the car to church and back without destroying anything.

* * *

Smelling... nothing, because I haven't put that loaf of bread in like I told myself I was going to. Maybe I'd better. Be right back...

Tasting... spicy Mexican mocha brownies, adapted from a recipe sent me by MissPhotographerB. It's a box of brownie mix made with a stick of melted butter (no oil), a tablespoon of vanilla, two eggs, 1/4 cup of water, 1 1/2 tablespoons espresso powder, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and an ounce of chocolate, finely chopped. The results were outstanding.

* * *

Listening... to Hudson Taylor. This was a random YouTube recommendation, and a fantastic one. I'm loving this duo in general and this song in particular.

This is the view from the other side
Put down your weapons
Let's be defenseless

* * *

Grateful... to have my husband home from Rome!

Also for how pleasant and helpful everyone I've spoken to at USU has been, especially considering how many times I've called them in tangle-tongued confusion.

Reading… Fiddler's Green by A.S. Peterson. Course requirements and freshman orientation material for USU. Anything I can find on understanding algebra. And these quotes from Mr. Rogers, who passed away twelve years ago yesterday:
"I believe that appreciation is a holy thing, that when we look for what's best in the person we happen to be with at the moment, we're doing what God does; so in appreciating our neighbor, we're participating in something truly sacred." —from his Commencement Address at Middlebury College May, 2001
Words to live my life by—written by the best of neighbors. Miss you, Mr. Rogers.

* * *

If I fail next Saturday, it will be because I didn't have these two items
with me.

* * *

Studying… algebra, as aforestated. (That is too a word, Blogger.)

Working on... "Clair de Lune." My piano teacher is amazing, natch.

Loving... Christie and Masha, who have talked me through a mountain of emotions this week. <3

Hoping... that I can handle work and school and life without coming completely unglued from reality, and without having to quit choir or blogging. ;)

* * *

Maia: "I'll help you do your makeup. Or take pictures. Here,
swing that camera strap a little closer."

Happy weekend!


Currently Reading: The Outsiders

by S.E. Hinton
Speak, [1967] 2006
“The kid’s okay?” 
“I’m okay.” I tried to think of something to say. I’m usually pretty quiet around people, even the gang. I changed the subject. “I didn’t know you were out of the cooler yet, Dally.” 
“Good behavior. Got off early.” Dallas lit a cigarette and handed it to Johnny. Everyone sat down to have a smoke and relax. A smoke always lessens the tension. I had quit trembling and my color was back. The cigarette was calming me down. Two-Bit cocked an eyebrow. “Nice-lookin’ bruise you got there, kid.” 
I touched my cheek gingerly. “Really?” 
Two-Bit nodded sagely. “Nice cut, too. Makes you look tough.” 
Tough and tuff are two different words. Tough is the same as rough; tuff means cool, sharp—like a tuff-looking Mustang or a tuff record. In our neighborhood both are compliments.
* * *

There are two kinds of people in the world, as far as fourteen-year-old Ponyboy Curtis can tell, and he and his gang belong to the underdogs—the greasers, the outsiders. The greasers are used to watching their backs and sometimes getting jumped by the rich kids, the Socs, until the night someone gets killed. Then they discover how deep their loyalty goes and who they cannot afford to lose.

* * *

S.E. Hinton, writing in the voice she knew and drawing from her own experiences, brought the world of teen classism and bullying to the attention of a wide audience. At least as impressively, considering her age—sixteen at the time of the writing—she brought it to life. Her narrator, Ponyboy, observes his world quietly, even innocently, accepting his often horrifying life situation with childhood resilience and reporting on it with a surprising perceptiveness.

His greatest success is in conveying the humanity of his gang to the reader. The story left me with tears, a lot of memories, and a half-dozen new friends.

Advisory: The violence and tragedy are onscreen. The voice, however, is childlike enough to make it readable for its typically middle-grade audience.


Harry Potter Book Club: Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapters 13–14

Hail, friends! It's H.P.B.C. time. I didn't mean to move the Book Club to Tuesdays, but—well, the blog schedule's more or less up in the air till I get settled into new routines. Thanks for your great patience. ;)

The Firebolt. Source.

Here's Masha, from this last week, talking about the Hogwarts staff:
It's too bad Rowling never gave us a sneak peek into the staffroom: Snape sipping bad coffee (no cream) and glaring at Lupin - remembering every wrong done to him; Lupin avoiding conversations that might lead to awkward werewolf issues; McGonagall drinking some sort of smokey, peaty tea (with milk and a biscuit), writing lesson plans and ignoring everyone..tension and unspoken arguments everywhere. Dumbledore couldn't have picked a less cohesive staff if he tried.
Her post also contains a recipe for a dementor drink, in case you want to practice your Patronus charm. And I recommend reading down into the comments to get BTanaka's dramatization of a Hogwarts staff meeting.

As for Christie, the news is out: she's finally getting to move to Wales to join her husband! Which seems a tad more important than keeping up with the H.P.B.C. right now. I know she's still reading the book, but she's also packing, and preparing to say goodbye to family and friends, and finishing up a job, and chasing a three-year-old... and she doesn't have any more time allotted her per day than the rest of us do. We'll look forward to a post from her whenever she gets the chance.

In the meantime, she's getting to move a lot closer to Hogwarts than the rest of us. Not fair.

On to this week's reading!

* * *
This Week in Reading Harry

Read: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, chapters 13–14

Potential Discussion Points:

These chapters are quick reads and pretty light in a lot of ways. I'll just hit the high points:

1. Cedric Diggory. He's such a good guy. He was awesome even before he sparkled. ;) (Sorry, Masha. I couldn't resist.)


2. Bath buns. Here's a recipe, if you want to try them out. Apparently Jane Austen loved them, which is reason enough to give them a try; of course, the ones she got were probably better than Hagrid's. These look good, but I don't have caraway seeds, so I can't make them right now. Bad planning on my part.

3. Harry's anti-dementor spell. OK, I shouldn't laugh... I shouldn't... but Malfoy and company's getting scared out of their wits by a Patronus and then chewed out by Professor McGonagall, after a really mean-spirited attempt to sabotage Harry, always makes me grin. "Fifty points from Slytherin!" It's about time you took fifty points from a House other than your own, Professor. I mean, really. ;)

And yet, this picture is kind of adorable. Source.

4. Lupin and the Marauder's Map. Ooh, so many secrets. It's so much fun reading this when you know the end of the book. Considering what you knew, Lupin, I'm appalled that you didn't turn that map in. Glad, but appalled.

Art by FabiolaCapo
What I have never quite been able to figure out is whether Snape knew who the mapmakers were. Obviously he didn't know what the map was, but did he recognize the names?

Frankly, I think... aw, dang, it's SPOILERS. Well. Let's put it this way. The four insults carry a decent bit of personality to them. I'm partial to Mr. Moony's; he's clearly the most literate of the bunch. But then, of that foursome—while I love all three of the good guys very much, Moony is my favorite. He just is. What a beautiful heart.

5. Harry, crime, and punishment. It's common for critics of the Potter series to complain that Harry gets into an awful lot of trouble and never seems to get punished, face consequences, or be otherwise fairly set in his place by an adult. This chapter presents two of the best counterexamples in the series:

a. Hagrid tells Ron and Harry off for their mistreatment of Hermione. Hagrid isn't the world's most observant guy, but he's so softhearted that he winds up being very perceptive when it matters to a friend. While Harry and Ron don't respond with immediate behavior changes—Ron is too angry, and Harry too fond of taking the easy way out when he's not having to risk his life to save the world—they are not untouched by the lecture.

Source. Looks like one of Marta's to me.
But GOSH. This was surprisingly hard to find.
 Do people ever draw Hermione with, like, books?
Instead of being hit on by every guy in the series?
b. Lupin manages what Snape never could have done: he makes Harry feel guilty for breaking the rules. I'm not sure there's a more successful punishment in any of the books than Lupin's few, well-chosen words here. It's quite a powerful little scene—it manages to make me feel like I took a deserved kick to the stomach, and I didn't go sneaking off to Hogsmeade.

6. Poor Hermione, who "took nobody's advice but signed up for everything." I'll have to be careful to not get myself in that deep when I sign up for classes. No SPOILERS for me! I have to do everything in [SPOILERIFIC noun and adjective redacted].

Bother! That comment was a waste of time. Too many spoilers.

"Ah, well, people can be a bit stupid abou' their pets," said Hagrid wisely. Behind him, Buckbeak spat a few ferret bones onto Hagrid's pillow.
One of many, many reasons to love J.K. Rowling: she's so. freaking. hilarious. <3


A Soft and Golden Light and other stories

I have been a very bad blogger lately.

This week, the primary problem is that Lou is in Rome. His absence leaves me with no motivation whatsoever to stick to any kind of routine. I have spent all week trying to write and failing, staying up way past bedtime, not bothering to put sheets on the bed, eating at the oddest hours possible, and otherwise batching it like a college boy. But hopefully that will get better, and I will try and return to something resembling a decent posting schedule next week.

But this week has also been amazing, so hang on for verbal and visual snapshots therefrom. Working backward:

* * *

I think I inherited my mom's tendency to mess with her hair when she gets emotional. This morning, under the influence of the past week, I picked up a pair of scissors on my way to take a shower. The result:


I kind of love it so far. The only problem is that watching a Carly Rae Jepsen mashup was part of what gave me the idea. If I keep getting "Call Me, Maybe" stuck in my head every time I look at myself, the bangs might not last.

* * *

When I began seriously considering college, I started clicking through U.S. News' enormous list of best online bachelor's degree programs. One of the top fifty absolutely floored me with its tuition rates, so I clicked over to the school and started researching. I read through the description of their Liberal Arts B.A. program—and I couldn't have more perfectly described what I want out of a college education. It emphasizes four areas of study:
  1. historical and cultural traditions: classes in history, anthropology, folklore, religion, geography, linguistics
  2. understanding social and legal institutions: classes in sociology, political science, economics, human development, psychology, management
  3. appreciation of the arts: theory or history (i.e., not skill) classes in art, theater, music, literature
  4. critical/reasonable/ethical inquiry through logic: classes in philosophy, ethics, debate and persuasion, statistics/methods
...and, to cap off the awesomeness, it requires two years of a foreign language. Spanish!!!

That right there decided me on both going back to school and applying to that university as one of my top choices.

Yesterday afternoon, I decided to check the status of my application and see if they'd gotten my GED transcript. This is what I found:

I get to be an Aggie!!!! (Not the Texas A&M kind...)

More later, after I get the letter that tells me what I have to do to say Yes, and start talking to program advisers, and... oh my gosh, everybody. I am SO EXCITED!!!

* * *

Very late Monday night, seated at the keyboard and overwhelmed emotionally, I improvised my way through setting a blank verse poem of mine to music. I played with it a line at a time till it sounded right, sometimes focusing in on a candlelight piano sound, sometimes letting myself drift off the tonal center.

I didn't write it down, but it comforted me. We tend to think of art in terms of permanence, of works that survive and transcend time. But sometimes you just need to make the beautiful thing once.

* * *
Camera experiment, with the pretties the schola gave me.

Late Monday night, Masha sat in her car in the snow, Christie sat in her apartment with her little boy, and I sat on my couch, and the three of us talked on Google video hangout for three and a half hours. Besties! I love you two girls.

* * *

I spent Monday itself at my sister's, trying vegan blueberry muffins, letting my nieces disembowel my purse and eat all my Tic Tacs, and not moving any more than necessary for a good hour as the three-year-old slept snuggled on my lap. My sister kept asking if I wanted to move the niece to the couch, but Aunty was too charmed by the small one's loving confidence. I get wrapped around little fingers so easily.

* * *

Lou kissed me goodbye in the dark Monday morning, long before sunrise. Not since we got married have we been separated for a week, and until now I've not had more than two consecutive nights at home without him. I wasn't sure how I'd handle it. His daily emails keep me sane.

* * *

My camera and I have been studying and experimenting these last few days. Mostly I've been working on still targets, because Maia moves around too much for beginner focus practice—but of all the blurry pictures I've gotten of her, I did sort of like the light in this one:

* * *

The men of the chant schola I directed got me flowers and a card, which they presented after the last Mass we did together. We were an exhausted bunch at that point, but a victorious one. We'd done the improbable: we'd sung the chant propers at a Sunday Novus Ordo Mass.

We also did polyphony (well, a canon) and sang four beautiful hymns in harmony; we sang from the choir loft and had the old pipe organ played and flute and recorders with it—and, quite frankly, we rocked. All thirteen of us (ten singers, two musicians, and me... don't tell Professor Trelawney), if I may say so myself.

* * *

Lou and I came home from a successful first Mass to our first-ever houseguests—one of Lou's college buddies and his incredibly sweet-natured wife—who enthused about hearing the old chants. Then Lou and his friend set about getting limes into bottles of Corona, and my new friend and I made fajitas and proper California guacamole, and the four of us sat down to the kind of dinner and conversation shared by friends who are close in age, in ideals, and in life situation. I was aglow straight through it.

I'm actually really happy with this picture.
And beyond delighted with the flowers
and the card. Thanks, guys!
As houseguests, we couldn't have had better. They put up very patiently with sleeping on the air mattress and never glimpsing the cat.

* * *

The light up in the choir loft comes through the stained glass soft and golden, reflects off tall organ pipes, and crowns its genius by flattering everyone. I always think my friends are beautiful, but a good warm light emphasizes the hallowed in all beauty. Whoever designed our church building understood that. (Whoever painted the inside bright white and put acoustic tiling on the ceiling, not so much. But the old choir loft is still a gentle place to stand.)

There were no microphones carrying the ten deep voices out of the loft and down into the nave. The resonant acoustic of the building did the work, balancing the schola against the force of the organ, floating the flute and recorders on top.

Traditionalists may hate me, but we did Fontgombault one better and put not just organ underneath the chant but a flute drone above. As far as I'm concerned, it was heaven meeting earth.

* * *

On rare occasions, a passing reference in a casual conversation can change the way you see the world. One conversation with two of my friends last weekend has been teaching me, ever since, about what it means for a Catholic, for a follower of Christ, to love.

Love means a lot of different things, and it takes a lot of different forms. This time it was a wild bird sprung from a cage, glorying in being free at last to stretch its wings.


Intense Little Details and other stories

Happy Valentine's Day from Maia to all of you.
I'm sorry she's not a nicer cat. :P

* * *

Sunday afternoon.

Sunday afternoon, I can melt, and that will be OK.

Until then, my life is full—full of short black dresses and scallops baked in the shells my grandparents bought me in Florida—full of rich voices in a high choir loft with old pipe organ and flute bolstering them from beneath and above—full of houseguests, to Maia's certain horror and our absolute delight—full of the little details of organizing a fairly intense musical event, as well as the little details of taking care of people and making sure they can enjoy themselves.

If you wonder why I keep missing blog posts, it's because I'm too busy to think. I might be saner after a proper meltdown Sunday afternoon.

* * *

I'm currently dreaming of how long it will take my GED transcript to travel to a certain campus in certain Midwestern foothills, and how long it will take a letter—one that hopefully says Welcome—to travel back.

Among at least a jillion other anxieties this week, I'm hoping the Admissions Office doesn't think my transcript is a bomb just because I mailed it in a photo mailer. As it turns out, the post office doesn't carry normal envelopes big enough to fit a sealed business envelope in. Who knew?

* * *

Fortunately for my sanity over the past few days, there's coffee. There are also snowdrops.

* * *

Music of the week: In honor of Valentine's Day, one of my all-time favorite love songs. It's true for many kinds of love, and I'm only getting a good start when I say it's dedicated first and foremost to Lou.

* * *

Happy Valentine's Day! You're welcome in my house even if my cat hides and hisses.

Much love,


Harry Potter Book Club: Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapters 11–12

Hail! I have excuses for posting late this week, too, but they might bore you and they'd certainly slow down the post. On to the H.P.B.C....

Masha posted on the Marauder's Map, the Fidelius charm, and Lupin:
There is a certain hazard in reaching out to people, particularly to people you care about deeply.
In this chapter, Professor Lupin is walking a fine line with Harry. He is, in this book alone, Rowling's best attempt at a father-figure for Harry...
Art by Patricia D./perselus
He is. Several men spend quality time in James Potter's vacant shoes—Dumbledore, Arthur Weasley, SPOILER—and as much as Harry loves and honors those men, only SPOILER really steps up as father rather than as friend or mentor. And even SPOILER, for SPOILERIFIC reasons, only gets halfway there. Lupin is not just a quality teacher for Harry in this book; he is as wise and loving and parental as any relative stranger could reasonably be, and no one ever quite equals him in that.

While Harry never acknowledges that gift in words, I think he knows it—and I think that's a lot of what's behind the fury in a certain scene in book seven.
... and it's clear he steps into the role unwillingly.
There are a lot of possible reasons for that. Masha says,
Maybe he knows that reaching out to Harry will eventually require him to confront all the losses and missed-opportunities in his past.
...and that's similar to my own thoughts. Lupin was conscientious on his own even when very young, but was also very easy to influence, unwilling to challenge anyone he loved. Now in his thirties, he's prone to a sense of guilt and inadequacy so strong that it chokes his judgment, makes it next to impossible for him to feel his way forward in the right direction. (He reminds me of myself sometimes....) And yet, he's wise and caring and possibly more empathetic than anyone else in the series. I love that guy.

There's lots more to come from Remus John Lupin... but for now, on to this week's reading!

* * *
This Week in Reading Harry

Read: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, chapters 11–12

Potential Discussion Points:

Source. But I was sad and it was the meme-makers' fault,
so I put in a tiny apostrophe after "dementors."
The usage could be singular, rather than plural,
but it's clearly possessive.

1. Christmas at Hogwarts. I love that presents appear at the foot of the bed in the Wizarding World, although this seems to be a charm of some sort, not connected to any personage either legendary or historical or both. Which makes me miss Narnia's Father Christmas.

Christmas dinner at Hogwarts sounds like an awkward family gathering full of stereotypes. Trelawney (the crazy relative) and McGonagall (the enforcer of family tradition) are much less than civil to each other. Dumbledore (the one who makes sure everyone gets together, like it or not) has to play diplomat between them. Snape (the one who 'has not' and is therefore a little to the outside of things, like a spinster aunt who wanted to get married) gets teased about something that embarrasses him.

Which makes me particularly grateful for my family Christmases.

Art by Michael Sheridan

2. The Firebolt. Not the most sensible gift, but then, it's not given by the most sensible guy. Sometimes gifts are given with more feeling than wisdom. Feeling types—as opposed to Thinking types, in the Myers-Briggs—are often subject to this failing. (Being an off-the-charts Feeler, I do this sort of thing myself, usually with affirmation. I wish I could stop, because I see it make people uncomfortable.)

Art by Sarah M. Zagacki
3. Buckbeak and Hagrid. Right now, I'm smiling because Hagrid couldn't leave Buckbeak outside at Christmas, and because Ron made tea as a form of comfort. Crazy they both may be, but it's a good kind of crazy.

And there's no better way to get your mind out of an obsession than by fixing it on someone else's need.... although my mind develops obsessions a lot more frequently than others' needs make their appeals to me. It's rather a constant thing. Fortunately, said obsessions don't usually involve revenge.

4. The Patronus, by definition:
"The Patronus is a kind of positive force, a projection of the very things that the dementor feeds upon—hope, happiness, the desire to survive—but it cannot feel despair, as real humans can, so the dementors can't hurt it. But I must warn you, Harry, that the charm might be too advanced for you. Many qualified wizards have difficulty with it."
I'll bet many qualified wizards do have difficulty with that charm. Hermione later does, as I recall, which makes sense—like the giving of not-very-sensible gifts, the casting of a Patronus is more of an emotive work than a logical or technical one. Intelligence does not necessarily increase happiness—not even when it comes with mastery.

Especially not if you're Grumpy Cat.

As for the definition itself: here in the Muggle world, we don't quite face the utter annihilation of our souls, nor can we quite place our hopes outside ourselves in some invincible protective form. But if Rowling's dementors are depression with substance and animation, it only makes sense that the antidote would be corporealized happiness and hope.

If "Expecto Patronum" doesn't work,
try kittens!
5. I Expect a Guardian! I love this post by Terpsichore over at The Egotist's Club. Terpsichore asks,
What happy memory or hope is your guardian against Dementor-like feelings?
and doesn't get much of a response, but it's a good question. I'll answer, but first: considering that Lupin defines a Patronus as "a kind of positive force, a projection of the very things that the dementor feeds upon—hope, happiness, the desire to survive," it's odd that Harry is asked for a happy memory. Memories can help, but hope is what's needed, and that's what I like about Terpsichore's post. She points out several (SPOILERIFIC) instances where Harry's casting of a Patronus is done by some means other than memory, and then says,
Where a happy memory may not get us through, our hopes may; perseverance may; or faith may, the assurance about what we do not see.
I employ of all of the above; depression is not a one-weapon battle. But when I "can' see the point o' livin'," like Hagrid in Azkaban, here's one idea that defends me well: the thought of young people whom I know and love dearly, some of whom love me dearly in return—young people who need to see me fight through life, for whom my giving up would be devastating and might influence them to do likewise. I spent yesterday with two of them. There is not much in this world more precious to me than their innocent faith that Aunty lives for them.

This turns out to be a personal Patronus drawing, but I thought it was SPOILERS.
Art by MauserGirl.

6. "Lily, take Harry and go! It's him! Go! Run! I'll hold him off—"

This one just hurts me. Lily's sacrifice is made much of in the story; James', perhaps because he—unlike Lily (SPOILERS!!!)—would have gotten murdered anyway, is not. But when Voldemort shows up at the Potters' hideout, James doesn't hesitate.

Fan fic in pictures: James protecting Lily in a more cheerful way.
Art by burdge

If only he could have gotten in a lucky AK. *weeps*


The Gods of Work and University and other stories

Valentine's Day cactus... it didn't bloom at Christmas
I missed Masha's linkup today, so this is kind of the random post of randomness—the more so because my brain is tired.

My cup of coffee and I sat down this morning to tackle a chapter of algebra. Instead, enthusiasm joined the caffeine to keep me all a-jitter and breathless as I wrote several of the important sort of emails that you want to spend hours over, because you're desperately afraid that if your space bar double-types—and mine will cheerfully triple-type when I'm not looking—and you don't catch that, the answer will be "No! The gods of Work and University only accept the unblemished offerings of perfect people."

There was a terrifying but rather fun high-speed editing test in there, too. And in the middle of all the excitement, my browser crashed in spectacular flames.

But I have now done all that can be done for the day. Upon getting permission from myself to stop panicking, I have moved on to feeling dazed and sleepy and—since this school doesn't require the scores to admit me—more than usually tempted to unregister from the SAT and eat the nonrefundable fee.

At least it's now the weekend. Yay. I'm going to go make cookies in a few minutes.

* * *

Maia: "I want to sleep on the towel shelf. There are too many towels, and I can't fit in there. Move one."

Me: "No, kitty. I'm not making it easier for you to get cat litter on the clean bath towels."

Maia: "Hmpf." *bats eye shadow compact onto floor*

Crate full of blankets: an acceptable substitute. In a pinch.

* * *

Everything is useful when you write fiction. E.g.: if I ever need to describe the experience of a character's getting stabbed or shot in the chest, I will remember how it felt to sneeze with pleurisy.

* * *

Music of the week: Marian Call. My friend Alison linked her on Facebook recently with a comment about all browncoats needing to listen to her. At this point I've killed the better part of an hour wandering around Ms. Call's blog and website and YouTube videos, and I'm not sure how to decide between linking the song for River or the song for Jayne, so you get both. And I've got a new musician to follow.

* * *

On rainy late-June days, when it's 55 degrees out, I miss Montana. On early February days with highs in the low 20s and lows in the teens, I yearn over Arizona. It's almost enough to make me overlook tarantulas and water shortages.

* * *

Cats have been sabotaging human work for centuries. Here's proof. Thanks for the link, Lou. <3

Also, these people are adorable. They re-create scenes from movies using cardboard boxes, household items, and their own little family, including their baby. Major cute fix at CardboardBoxOffice.com, if you need it:

Happy weekend!


Currently Reading: The Fiddler's Gun

The Fiddler's Gun (Fin's Revolution, #1)by A.S. Peterson
Rabbit Room Press, 2009
"Now then," he said and carefully thumbed up the latches on the case. He opened it and Fin and Peter leaned forward to see what was inside. The box was lined in red velvet, and the bottom half was molded to hold three habitants. The first was a violin, glowing lusty red in the firelight. The curves and luster of it were stunning, feminine. It was the most delicate and graceful thing Fin had ever seen. The second object was the violin's bow, long and elegant, strung with white hair. The third object in the box was a Spanish blunderbuss, made of dark red wood and adorned with silver flourishes. The handle was engraved with an ornate B and embellished with festooning swirls and curves. It was as beautiful as the violin but graceless and menacing, its barrel flared out like a mouth yawning open into a scream. 
"Now, see here, you got to put that hurt someplace, and this is where old Bartimaeus learned to put his." He lifted the fiddle out of the case and caressed it. 
"It's beautiful," whispered Fin. 
"Aye," he said and crooked it into his neck. He drew the bow across the strings and the instrument moaned a forlorn note. "Beautiful, that's what you got to do with that hurtin', you got to turn it beautiful."
* * *

Phineas Michael "Fin" Button was born the thirteenth daughter to a man who wanted a son—so, naturally, she grew up in an orphanage, wearing a boy's name and, whenever possible, dirty trousers. She can out-cuss and out-fistfight the boys, and she mostly ignores or sasses the girls, including the two sisters who run the orphanage.

In her late teens, as the American south erupts into pre-war skirmishes with the British, she's ready to marry Peter LaMee, the only person in the world who makes her feel like a girl and like it. Before they can wed, however, she inherits a fiddle and gun from an old reformed pirate, followed by a life of crime from a violent and lustful Redcoat. Faced with unforgiving law, Fin runs for the sea, where she learns to use Bart Gann's gun as easily as she uses his violin—but she never stops writing to Peter LaMee.

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Before I get to the interior: Evie Coates' spectacular cover art is one of my favorite things about this book. It's absolutely beautiful.

A.S. "Pete" Peterson, like his brother Andrew, is one of the more gifted evangelical Protestant writers whose medium of choice is the novel. I got outright enthused over the attractive prose, humor, and thoughtful poignancy in the first few chapters. The book later left some of the stronger literary currents and sailed in the direction of straightforward adventure story, which cost me some of my enthusiasm, as I'm not much of a straightforward adventure story fan, but those who prefer extroverted adventure to prolonged introspection should enjoy the tale with ease.

Lesser writers can fail to interest me in angry, violent characters, so it's very much to Peterson's credit that I liked Fin. Her favorite shipmates, Bartimaeus, and Peter are all quite lovable, and crazy Captain Creache is a proper swashbuckling villain. The gun, Betsy, is a character in her own right, and Peterson's detail—engaging throughout—is particularly arresting whenever Fin interacts with the weapon.

Apart from faint hints of stilting in the prose, the dialect sometimes feeling a tad off, and the light but unmistakable flavor of modern nondenominational thought—aspects of which taste a bit out-of-place in a historical spread—there's really nothing to complain about. Those flaws are so minor that it seems unfair to mention them, and I wouldn't bother if they didn't rank so highly among my literary pet peeves. I do, however, intend to read the sequel, out of curiosity about Fin's further adventures on the high seas and a healthy share of concern regarding Peter LaMee.


Harry Potter Book Club: Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 10

Apologies for the lateness of this blog post. In the past day and a half, I've submitted one university application, put together and sent off one résumé and two writing samples for a job, planned and directed the first men's chant schola rehearsal, attempted to play "Aeris' Theme" and "Clair de Lune" for my fantastic new piano teacher, and (barely) survived the requisite anxiety attacks for all of the above. Also, Hermione and I are having the same kind of week:
Professor Lupin smiled at the look of indignation on every face. 
"Don't worry. I'll speak to Professor Snape. You don't have to do the essay." 
"Oh no," said Hermione, looking very disappointed. "I've already finished it!"
This conversation happened yesterday morning:
Me: "...but I do have my GED, I got it way back in 1996, and I'm scheduled to take the SAT on..." 
Very Nice Admissions Advisor: "How old did you say you were?" 
Me: "Thirty-six." 
Anxiety: "Do they not accept students who are this old?" 
Very Nice Admissions Advisor: "The reason I ask is because if you're over 25, you're not required to take the SAT." 
Me: "!!!"
Of course, I've already paid for it and begun re-learning all that math, so I might as well.

Now, Harry! Masha posted this week, mostly about Lupin's response to Harry:
I thought Rowling said the Dementors represented depression, not fear. Two very different emotional experiences. So if Harry feared the dementors themselves, wouldn't he be more afraid of despair than fear?
I also enjoyed BTanaka's response:
No, his advice doesn't really make sense. The real answer, of course, is "that suggests what you fear most is hideous demons that destroy all happiness and can eat your soul. Very wise, Harry."

Christie has yet to post, but I'm sure she will soon, so we're moving on!

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This Week in Reading Harry

Read: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, chapter 10

Potential Discussion Points:

1. Harry's mother's voice. You're an orphan, raised by people who hate you. You can't remember your parents at all. Not till you were eleven did you even see pictures of your parents, and then you saw a mirror-image of them specifically designed to drive you mad with longing. Eventually you run into demoniac, soul-sucking creatures that mess with your mind in horrible ways till you lose consciousness—and in that state, as your mind goes black, for the first time in your life, you hear your mother's voice. Screaming. As she's about to be murdered for protecting you.

There aren't words.

Art by bananacosmicgirl

2. The Marauder's Map. This is one of Rowling's great inventions, and it raises so many questions that I just can't stand it. How did Fred and George ever figure out how to work it? Did Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs use the exact same phrasing? And of all things, well—I could probably never work it, because I'd have to say:





Source. And the list goes on...

and I just can't solemnly swear that...! (Shocker revelation: I'm kind of an uptight person.)

Did Hermione ever use it? Because she strikes me as too conscientiously law-abiding. If there's a record of her working the map in the books, I've forgotten it. Feel free to remind me. Avowal of personal mischief is obviously not a problem for Fred, George, or Harry, of course.

This also raises the question of how serious you have to be about the words you use in Potter magic. Harry's not "up to no good" when he's using the map to watch over SPOILER in book seven.

3. What Harry overhears. So, yeah, eavesdropping is a bad idea. I can't say more than that without SPOILERS. But it is a convenient plot device, and Harry really gets an earful here. Mass murderer Sirius Black was his dad's best friend. Black is in Azkaban, not just for murdering thirteen people, but for betraying James and Lily and Harry to Voldemort.

Art by ditraveler

As we've noted a few times, this book is full of strong contrast between darkness and light, and we get a bit of it in this chapter, which is right in the middle of the book: the darkness of Harry's dementor-inspired memory of his mother's death, followed by humor and comfort from Professor Lupin; the trip through the dark tunnel followed by a sweetshop and swirling snow; and then, in reverse pattern, the warmth of Harry's brief Christmastime moment in The Three Broomsticks with Ron and Hermione and his first taste of butterbeer, followed by a trip under the table where he hears dark things about Sirius Black and his parents' death.

I'm trying not to question the believability of a scene in which the Minister of Magic and Professor McGonagall gossip with Hagrid and a barmaid. The idea of Hagrid himself gossiping on several pints of mead is no big stretch, of course. Good old careless, reliable, affectionate Hagrid.

Your turn! Now I want to make some more butterbeer.


Extensive Study Materials and other stories

Find the cat. :)
The Today meme is hosted by Masha! Join in over at Piękno, or leave your own sensory notes in the combox...

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Today I am...

Feeling... ragged out, but good. I'm not sure which has tried harder to wear me down this week: the algebra or the pleurisy. At least both are improving, although not quite as rapidly as I'd like.

"Your performance in the algebra category is below your average performance."
Why, yes, it is—I haven't looked closely at a polynomial in ten years,
and I've dedicated my life to reading and writing.
I'll actually be worried if my algebra score ever bests my English.
Not that I'm not going to try, mind.

Seeing... stars—it's a clear, cold night.

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Smelling... warm paper, as of this morning. I photocopied all the music for the chant schola.

Tasting... coffee, instead of tea. At long last! I was thrilled enough to drink four cups. We'll see if I sleep tonight.

Listening... to the new piece I picked out for the guys to sing on chant weekend: William Byrd's "Non nobis, Domine." It's a canon, so it'll make a good introduction to polyphony (thanks for the idea, Veronica Brandt) and should be easier to learn than the Verbum Caro I linked a few weeks back.

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Grateful... for pain medication. This blog has been brought to you by ibuprofen. After one meeting, three errands, one bout of furious housecleaning, and one enormous church dinner party to attend, there's only one reason I'm still upright. Considering that since Monday morning it's hurt to do things like move, lie down, and breathe, I'm very grateful indeed.

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Reading… all the tutorials on this awesome little SAT prep site, except for the sentence completion one; I'm not too worried about that. I'm in between books, but I have S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, Catherynne M. Valente's The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, J.D. Horn's The Line, and A.S. Peterson's Fiddler's Green stacked around my corner of the couch.

Studying… for the SAT. I've got the CollegeBoard SAT study guide, which appears to be an entire ream of paper bound together; it ought to keep me busy for the next few weeks.

Working on... a college application that I'm just about ready to submit..!!!

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Loving... my supportive husband.

Hoping... that all the guys in the chant schola enjoy themselves, and that they don't get frustrated with their loopy director or the extensive study materials she keeps sending around or the complicated chants. And for success in applying to school and for work.

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Because I promised:

Me: "It hurts to stand up straight,

Happy weekend!