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Posts by Margaret Ball

A Linguistic Trip through Time

Without going into the boring details, it’s been a rough month. Not that I’m complaining. After all, unlike pretty much everyone else in the country, I planned to be stuck at home for all of March. So, no gripes there. And while everyone else has been going stir-crazy, I’ve been going passive. Lacking the energy and concentration to do anything worthwhile, I’ve mostly been lying around like a damp rag, listening to audiobooks. Mostly to various German tutorials, because unlike novels, they don’t have a plot which requires my attention. Well, not much of one anyway.

Wandering among different tutorials produced at different times has given me a mild case of temporal whiplash. Read more

Hiatus

I’m posting this in advance to be published Thursday afternoon, because I don’t expect to be in a position to do anything useful that day. My second knee surgery is happening just before that, and based on the last time, I will still be totally doped up on pain medications come Thursday. Seriously, that stuff sucks my brain cells out. The hospital might as well be a hygienic opium den with really boring decor.

And before then? I’m on the verge of finishing Tangled Magic and my blasted characters are on strike. I really, really want to get the requisite HEA written before surgery, so that after I get out of the opium den I can start proofreading and editing without worrying about the ending pages. So, sorry, unless Elspet Rattray and Lord Kinross manage to communicate with each other today, I won’t have any brain cells to spare before the operation either.

See you guys in a few weeks.

Besetting Sentences

In St. Jago, der Hauptstadt des Königreichs Chili, stand gerade in dem Augenblicke der großen Erderschütterung vom Jahre 1647, bei welcher viele tausend Menschen ihren Untergang fanden, ein junger, auf ein Verbrechen angeklagter Spanier, namens Jeronimo Rugera, an einem Pfeiler des Gefängnisses, in welches man ihn eingesperrt hatte, und wollte sich erhenken.

Clear as mud? Allow me to provide a first-draft translation, the kind of thing you hack out before normalizing the word order and all:

In St. Jago, the capital of the Kingdom of Chili, stood just at the moment of the great earthquake of 1647, in which many thousands of people their downfall found, a young, of a crime accused Spaniard, on a pillar of the prison, in which one him locked-up had, and wanted to hang himself.  Read more

When the music dies

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn.”

-T. H. White, The Sword in the Stone  Read more

Have we reached peak virtue signalling yet?

 

A couple of days ago Sarah mentioned in passing that she thought she was seeing a welcome shift in popular fiction: “I think the mood is changing.  Only six months ago, I swear every cozy mystery released genuflected towards the homeless, who were always laid off computer programmers, or something.  Now… not so much.”

That observation cheered me for two whole days… until I decided to take a break from my current preoccupations (reviewing German and soaking up Appalachian folklore) with the latest Dana Stabenow. Read more

I’ll take it anyway

newyear

One of the few good things about being an old codger is the sense of perspective. We may not have flying cars or moon colonies yet, but 2020 has a lot of features that I find more immediately useful than being able to zoom over the live oaks to the supermarket. (Grocery delivery, for one.)

90 percent of my favorite books are available as e-books and, for the first time since 1990, I can see pockets of empty space on the bookshelves!

I get to research a historical fantasy from my couch instead of trekking over to the rare books collection where I’m strip-searched and refused any writing implements other than one pencil… to read a modern facsimile edition of an Elizabethan fencing manual.

The kid in Brooklyn can call any time she wants to chat instead of waiting for messages urgent enough to justify three minutes at night time lower calling rates.

Instead of parsing mainstream media stories to figure out what they’re carefully not saying, I can check out a wide variety of alternative news sources and form my own opinions about the story behind the spin.

Looking farther afield… charities that distribute used clothing overseas now tell me that they don’t want any garments that aren’t in excellent condition. Being able to hold out for a new-looking shirt instead of being happy with a ripped and stained undershirt probably doesn’t seem like luxury to us in America, but it’s a vast improvement for much of Africa. The wealth created by the Industrial Revolution continues to spread.

Those millions of people who were supposed to starve to death during the overpopulation famines to follow 1970… didn’t. I’m sorry about the ones who did starve and are starving because of our inability to completely destroy all manifestations of socialism/communism/totalitarianism, but in celebration of the non-famines, we could do worse than erect a statue to Norman Borlaug.

And as for the personal robots… Pass on that one. I’m not letting Alexa or any of her friends into the house, thank you very much! And the First Reader gave me a nifty little phone case that supposedly blocks location tracking, so in the unlikely event I actually go anywhere, the Data Giants won’t have an automatic record of my movements. Some “progress” is to be celebrated, but some is to be thwarted.

(Header image: Interior of Stanford Torus. By Donald Davis – NASA Ames Research Center)

Regency Collection

At this time of year I’m more inclined to sit back, digest, and think over the past year than to do anything more creative than finding room for another piece of pie. And one of the great joys of the last year – well, the last couple-three years, actually – has been the discovery of research sources that would have made me think I’d died and gone to Heaven, back in the unlamented days when I made weekly pilgrimage to the university library to lug home a double armload of books that just might contain some of the nuggets of information I was looking for. With reprints, online books and useful websites, easily available information on Regency manners and mores, in particular, has exploded since those days; here’s a quick list of some of the sites and books I’ve found most useful (and most dangerous, considered as time sinks). Read more