Friday, November 30, 2007

dawn french is alive and well and moving to cornwall

thank goodness for that!

read about her current plans here.

it is interesting to me that she had been reported as saying that she didn't think she would live to be very old. i have often felt like that. i don't think it is being particularly morbid, it is just a feeling. as long as i am reasonably healthy, i'm happy to hang around. i plan to see qpr win the premiership (which means at least another 30 years i'd say).

as for ms. french - the article begins thus:

"To say that Dawn French is much loved is rather like saying that some women quite like chocolate. If she wasn't a national treasure before The Vicar of Dibley hit our TV screens in 1994, that status was swiftly accorded her after she put on a cassock and answered every village's ideal of how a woman of the cloth should be: compassionate, capable and heaps of fun."

i think i'd like her to play me in the miniseries :-)

evel knievel r.i.p.

somewhat breaking news - evel knievel has died after a long illness. what is it that makes us such rubbernecks? does seeing someone defeating the odds give us hope for ourselves? or perhaps the potential that they will go down may improve the odds for ourselves? the times reports:

"Perhaps his most infamous stunt was an attempt in 1967 to jump the fountain in front of the Caesars Palace casino in Las Vegas. Before the jump, Mr Knievel put $100 on the blackjack table. He lost and drank a shot of Wild Turkey bourbon. On the ramp, his motorcycle inexplicably decelerated and Mr Knievel crashed into the car park, putting him in a coma for 29 days.

When he awoke, he was a world-wide celebrity."

i have to admit that i just don't get it, but then i am someone who thinks that the sounds i hear in the car park at six flags are more like screams from a battlefield than sounds of people having fun.

times obit

"Knievel also worked in the Montana copper mines, served in the Army, ran his own hunting guide service, sold insurance and ran Honda motorcycle dealerships. As a motorcycle dealer, he drummed up business by offering $100 off the price of a motorcycle to customers who could beat him at arm wrestling. At various times and in different interviews, Knievel claimed to have been a swindler, a card thief, a safe cracker, a holdup man."
ny times

Thursday, November 29, 2007

trivial questions

the science page in yesterday's indy online has some examples of trivia questions texted to "any questions answered". here are a few of my favourites:

"How do you say "I love you" in binary code?
I love you in binary code is: 01001001 (I) 01101100 (l) 01101111 (o) 01110110 (v) 01100101 (e) 01111001 (y) 01101111 (o) 01110101 (u).

Are there more cows than cars in the world?
Yes, there are more cows in the world than cars: an estimated 1.4 billion cows compared to about 1 billion cars. Cows produce 20 per cent of all methane.

Can a turtle breathe through its bottom?
Yes. Many species of turtle have special sacs opening off the cloaca (anal chamber) permitting take-up of oxygen. Sea-cucumbers also "buttbreathe" .

In which town or city in the UK do people have the highest life expectancy, and what is that age?
The London borough of Kensington & Chelsea, at 80.8 years (men) and 85.8 (women), has the highest life expectancy. Glasgow, at 69.3 and 76.4 years, has the lowest. (hurrah - my mother lives in k&c!)

What is the world's oldest tree?
At more than 4,800 years old, the oldest living tree is "Methu-selah" , a bristlecone pine in the White Mountains, California. Its exact location is a secret.

How much does an elephant poo in its life?
An elephant would produce around 2,492,000kg of excrement over its lifetime. On an average day, the average elephant produces around 100kg. For a human, the daily amount is around 250g.

What time is it at the poles?
Time zones divide along lines of longitude and meet at the poles, causing them to be in all time zones. The South Pole is on the same time as New Zealand.

What was measured in Gillettes?
The strength of early lasers was unofficially measured in Gillettes, named after the power needed to burn a hole in one razor blade."

muhammed the bear

have you been following this awful story? the gist of it is that a british teacher named gillian gibbons has been arrested in the sudan for blasphemy. yesterday the telegraph thought that she might be released. they described the incident thus:

"Miss Gibbons arrived at Unity High School - which caters for wealthy Sudanese children as well as expatriates - in August, after leaving Liverpool in the summer. She asked one of her pupils to bring in the bear and let the children choose the name Mohammed, prompting complaints from several Muslim parents. It is seen as an insult to Islam to attempt to make an image of the prophet. The seven-year-old student who inspired the naming of the teddy has insisted the teacher was not trying to insult Islam. The boy, called Mohammed, told the Daily Mail: "The teacher asked me what I wanted to call the teddy. I said Mohammed. I named it after my name.""

today the bbc reports:

"Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, has been sentenced to 15 days in prison and will then be deported. She escaped conviction for inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs, and will now appeal."

wtf? the idea was that each night a student took the bear home and wrote down what happened to him that evening. the reports were then collected in a booklet. kind of like flat stanley. anyway, again according to the bbc:

"Sudan's top clerics had called for the full measure of the law to be used against Mrs Gibbons and labelled her actions part of a Western plot against Islam."

insulin may be causing me to lose my mind - what is their excuse?

ps a perspective from jemima khan

don't mind me ...

tourists everywhere may be devastated - the voice of the underground, the woman who recorded those immortal words "mind the gap", has been given the sack by london underground. a spokesperson said that it was because she had publicly criticised london underground. she claims that she was misquoted.

more details from the bbc here.

verity lambert r.i.p.

i am mourning the death of verity lambert, who amid myriad successes was the the producer of the first ever doctor who. the telegraph obit includes the odd sentence:

"Verity Ann Lambert was born on November 27 1935, the only child of a Jewish accountant, and educated at Roedean, where she frightened herself watching Great Expectations on the school projector."

for me, at least, a strange collection of facts for a single sentence. anyway, the rest of the obit is linked at the bottom of this note. i note her passing for being in the vanguard of women who made successful careers in television. also, it happens that she was behind many programmes that i enjoyed, e.g., the naked civil servant, minder, rock follies, edward and mrs. simpson, and rumpole of the bailey.

telegraph obit

"The common factor was Lambert's tenacity and drive. A small, energetic woman, she kept up a ferocious schedule and refused to accept the conventional wisdom. Although not a writer she had an instinctive grasp of whether scripts worked and she also had a strong business sense. She was renowned for having a short fuse, and Jeremy Isaacs, her boss at Thames Television, once remarked that she could reduce grown men to tears."
the times obit

"n drama, not the controller nor even the writer, let alone the accountant, was king, but the producer, now a creature extinct in all but name. He (Verity, was a very rare she) was poised professionally on that rich cusp between the management and the talent - writers, directors and the hundreds of skilled creatives - outside. If the bosses trusted the producer, and often they did with a combative generosity, it was the producer who made a crucial difference to the health and vitality of the entire system. Verity was at the very top of this steep, wary tree. She had the greatest range, charisma and durability. Not only the producer's producer, but the audience's finest ally."


while the following quote from a recent interview in the telegraph throws a little wobbly into my respect for patricia cornwell:

"She flies helicopters, rides motorbikes and is terrier-like with her causes. Several years ago she set out to prove that the British Impressionist painter Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper, and she is still on the case. "The Sickert Trust had better watch out," she warns tantalisingly, "when copyright expires on his letters in 2012.""

i was still excited to discover that she is now prepared to be more open about her spouse, Staci, and their relationship. the rest of the interview may be of interest if you are a fan of her books. you may find it here.

ravaj is back!

too boring to explain absence. meanwhile, was home sick today and what i want to know is: if i spent all day in my room and mostly in bed, how did my fingernails manage to collect so much dirt?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

more on social participation

let us just say that when a friend tries to set up two of her other friends with each other, things that the first friend finds endearing may not be so to one or the other of the other friends ... thence the early dialogue during disastrous date three:

"(our friend) says that you like to drink milk?"
"why yes, i do (goes into cute story about why no coffee or tea)."
"hmmmm. i am a vegan."


Monday, November 19, 2007

a question of free speech

in the wrong exam that i took yesterday, i had to write a brief essay about whether or not universities in the usa should place any limits on free speech on campus. luckily they said "any", which made the argument much easier for me. anyway, now comes the following news from oxford university:

"Police are bracing themselves for violent clashes between university students and far-Right groups after the Holocaust-denying historian, David Irving, and the leader of the British National Party, Nick Griffin, were invited to speak at the Oxford Union. ... The speakers were invited by Luke Tryl, the president of the union and a former chairman of the Halifax branch of Conservative Future, the Conservative Party's youth wing."

the details of the story are here, in the telegraph online.

i am an utter idealist at heart, who hopes that the individual will be able to make up her/his own mind based on the ethics and reason that underpin the culture and civilisation that i believe are most likely to lead to tolerance and peace in our world. i am always being told to be realistic, and sometimes i even am.

nu - what does one do with holocaust-deniers and fascists? and is there a difference between institutions of education, i.e., those that hope to shape and develop young minds; and other, public, forums? of course i do not know. i feel that if these people are not inciting others to violence and hatred, there are few grounds upon which to ban them. according to the article, the real problem is the people beyond the university who are planning to go up to oxford to fight for their guys. *sigh*

Sunday, November 18, 2007

woody allen notes on morality

today's ny times has excerpts from more eric lax interviews with mr. allen. it also has bites from short stories old and new - if you decide to have a look, it may help to have a pocket oxford english dictionary at your fingertips. i have to admit that i still like the way this man's mind works. consider the following sentence, describing a piece of junk mail he receives from a new age goddess:

"There is a fervid endorsement by someone named Pleiades MoonStar — a name that would cause no end of consternation for me if I were told at the last minute it belonged to my brain surgeon or pilot."

i am rather fond of his tangents :-)

in the eric lax selection, allen comments on his well-documented belief that god does not exist:

"People jump to the conclusion that what I'm saying is that anything goes, but actually I'm asking the question: given the worst, how do we carry on, or even why should we choose to carry on? Of course, we don't choose — the choice is hardwired into us. The blood chooses to live. [Laughs.] Please note as I pontificate here, you're interviewing a guy with a deficient denial mechanism. Anyhow, religious people don't want to acknowledge the reality that contradicts their fairy tale."

while i suspect that he may have been traumatised in his youth by either emily dickinson or a negative experience with a rabbi, he is addressing a question in which i have some interest: wtf is the point of it all? or, with a little less melodrama, if god is not at the centre, what is? on what may morality be based? r. hillel is quoted in pirkei avot: in a place where there are no men, strive to be a man. allen says:

"Now, there are plenty of people who choose to lead their lives in a completely self-centered, homicidal way. They feel, Since nothing means anything and I can get away with murder, I'm going to. But one can also make the choice that you're alive and other people are alive and you're in a lifeboat with them and you've got to try and make it as decent as you can for yourself and everybody. And it would seem to me this is so much more moral and even much more "Christian." If you acknowledge the awful truth of human existence and choose to be a decent human being in the face of it rather than lie to yourself that there's going to be some heavenly reward or some punishment, it seems to me more noble."

i don't know for myself how important it is to be noble, but i do find it helpful to have as many reasons as possible to try to be a mensch.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

the vienna vegetable orchestra

i have just watched the following video. while for me it has served as the perfect antidote to examination stresses and the nadir of november, it may not be so appealing for you. nevertheless, i urge you to watch it. a few moments of modern music, played on lettuce and carrots and cucumbers and peppers. i am particularly enamoured of the carrot recorder, and also the yellow pepper/carrot trumpet where the top of the pepper serves as a mute. here you go:

how did i discover this? thanks to the telegraph online, at a page you may view here.

also, please note the lack of waste. wherever health and safety services permit, at the end of most concerts the audience is offered fresh vegetable soup made from the instruments.

the owl of learning - bad news, good news

today ravaj took the first examination of the three that are necessary to be licenced in the state of massachusetts as an elementary school educator. the fogginess of sleep-deprivation brought on by a desperate blitz on overdue work meant that she was not exactly sure which exam she was going to take. however, she prepared as her classmates did, and spent hours making flashcards for all the technical terms about reading that she needed to know. she should have realised something was up when, instead of calling out the correct positions in italian for her swordfighting teacher, she kept saying, "phonemic awareness!" and "graphic organiser!". thanks to some coaching by a kind housemate, ravaj thought it possible to make a passing stab at the 'foundations of reading' test today. imagine her surprise when the test papers were handed out and she found she was taking the literacy exam instead! luckily, she is semi-literate, and thinks she found enough spelling and punctuation mistakes in the multiple-choice section to make the passing grade. luckily indeed. imagine how she would have felt if things had been the other way round!!

Monday, November 12, 2007

migrating and emigrating pandas

the associated press reports that pandas in southwestern china are being forced to move as the bamboo that they eat is in its regenerative phase and thus there are massive food shortages. henry sanderson writes:

"Most of the pandas' favorite arrow bamboo in a 217,000 square-mile region of Sichuan province is going through a once-in-60-year cycle of flowering and dying before regenerating, said Yang Xuyu, deputy head of the province's Wild Animal Preservation Station. The pandas are moving to other areas of Sichuan, which has about 40 reserves of various sizes. "No wild panda has been found dead of starvation," said Yang. But more than 80 percent of bamboo in the affected region, called Ruoergai, is now unfit for the animals to eat, he said. Pandas will not touch the plant once it flowers.

About 1,200 pandas — 80 percent of the surviving wild population in China — live in several mountainous areas of Sichuan. Hundreds of pandas died of starvation in Sichuan in the 1980s when arrow bamboo in some reserves flowered and then died. Pandas derive most of their nutrition from arrow bamboo and can starve once the plant enters its dying-off stage. The bamboo produces seeds before dying, and takes 10 to 20 years to grow back. Yang told a conference on panda survival in Chengdu, Sichuan, on Sunday that a shrinking habitat due to farming and industrial development makes it increasingly hard for the animals in the wild to find food during the bamboo life cycle, according to the Xinhua news agency. China's forestry bureau is carrying out a panda rescue drive and working with the World Wildlife Fund to try to restore panda migration paths, Xinhua said."

on a more positive note, mei sheng (which translates as "born in the usa"), arrives safely at the wolong nature reserve in china. mei sheng was born in the san diego zoo, and returns as part of the agreement with china that allowed his parents to go to san diego in the first place.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

remembrance sunday

poppy day is here. bbc online has memories from survivors of the First World War here.

this is one of my favourite poems by the war poets:

Break of Day in the Trenches

The darkness crumbles away
It is the same old druid Time as ever,
Only a live thing leaps my hand,
A queer sardonic rat,
As I pull the parapet's poppy
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies,
Now you have touched this English hand
You will do the same to a German
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,
Less chanced than you for life,
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurled through still heavens?
What quaver -what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in men's veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe,
Just a little white with the dust.

Isaac Rosenberg
(1890 - 1918)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

ahhhhh, bless

a pleasant image to bear in mind before i go to sleep.

kate moss mess

this is absolutely fabulous. reports are just coming out that kate moss met david cameron, and thought he was a plumber. it's going to be on parky, or maybe was already this evening. in any case, here is what yahoo had to say about the event:

"Conservative Party leader Cameron said in an interview to be broadcast Saturday that he met Moss at a charity bash recently and inexplicably found himself engaged in a conversation with her about flood damage to her home. "So I went on like this, twittering on, and she turned around and said, 'God, you sound like a really useful guy, can I have your phone number?'" he told the Parkinson chatshow on ITV1. "I went back to my table and said, 'The good news is, I met Kate Moss and she wanted my telephone number. The bad news is, I think she thinks I'm something to do with drainage'."

social participation

have been writing for class on the skills and opportunities for the social participation of children in the classroom. and then it occurred to me to consider my social participation beyond the classroom. there has been little opportunity and less time and energy for the ravaj to rampage through the social whirl of waltham. there was one first date in brooklyn which ended in disaster as my car was locked into the parking lot for the night (it closed at 10 pm. in new york city. !!!) and i ended up sleeping the night on the couch of said date. needless to say we are no longer in contact with each other. then there was the friend of a friend who invited me to a holocaust survivors' lunch to set me up with a friend. that was just scary. let us hope for third time lucky. let us hope for a third time. meanwhile, back to discussion of good ways to encourage students to make eye contact when greeting each other.

norman mailer is dead

i've never been a big fan of the work and/or person of norman mailer. i have to acknowledge that issues of masculinity kind of dip below my radar. i did, however, enjoy reading the following sentence in the bbc online obit today:

"Mailer's obsession with masculinity and violence often got him into trouble. He once beat up a sailor on a Manhattan street because he believed that the man had questioned the sexuality of his dog."

elaine is correct

owls of learning have been very demanding in the past week, leaving little time for blogging. just in case there may actually be the possibility that one person wondered for a nanosecond who the actor in the last post was, there is a comment to that post which reveals the answer.

or i can just tell you.

(daniel radcliffe)

Monday, November 05, 2007

name the actor

do you recognise the person seen here in his upcoming role as the son of rudyard kipling? today we may be remembering the fifth of november (well, those of us ex-pats for whom it still is the fifth of november), but it will soon be remembrance sunday, when this drama will be shown on british television.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

qpr 2-0 hull city

celebrating the first goal

remember remember the third of november.

the first goalscorer for qpr this afternoon, pictured above, was the delightfully-named hogan ephraim. in the second half, we scored again, thanks to mikele benjamin leigertwood. five games without defeat, conceding only one goal in that time. first game with our new italian leadership. we won! and i am off out to celebrate ...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

o to be in manhattan ...

... now that cyrano's there.

cyrano de bergerac by edmond rostand is my favourite play of all time. i have only seen the film versions with gerard depardieu and mel ferrer, as well as steve martin in 'roxanne'. now it is on broadway, starring kevin kline and jennifer garner. and it even got a good review today in the new york times.

if the owl of learning did not feel as if she were in the last stages of trichomoniasis (the owl kind, not the people kind. yuck!), she might consider going to nyc for a weekend to see the play. however, we have entered the nadir of november, and all time and energy must be directed to her studies and her work. :-(

thursday thirteen xxi

Thirteen Word Definitions that I can Never Remember

an adjective meaning humpbacked and (of a heavenly body) convex at both edges, as the moon when more than half full.

an adjective meaning not yet completed or fully developed; rudimentary; just begun; incipient.; not organized; lacking order.

a noun meaning the sensation of movement or strain in muscles, tendons, and joints; muscle sense.

an adjective that can mean without interest or significance; dull; juvenile; immature; childish;lacking knowledge or experience; uninformed.

an adjective that can mean incisive or keen, as language or a person; caustic; cutting: trenchant wit. clearly or sharply defined; distinct.

an adjective meaning serving to indicate or point out; stimulating interest as a means of furthering investigation. also, encouraging a person to learn, discover, understand, or solve problems on his or her own, as by experimenting, evaluating possible answers or solutions, or by trial and error.

a noun meaning a set of rules for solving a problem in a finite number of steps, e.g., for finding the greatest common divisor.

an adjective that when referring to a nose means shaped like an eagle's beak; hooked. otherwise, of or like the eagle

a noun that means a branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge.

a noun meaning Idle chatter. or talk intended to charm or beguile. it used to mean a parley between european explorers and representatives of local populations, especially in africa.

11. MOOT
this one is still confusing even though i looked it up! on the one hand, it is something that has been previously decided or settled and is therefore not relevant to discuss; and on the other hand it can be understood as bringing something up in order to discuss it. for more information, look at the usage note near the bottom of this page.

an adjective that can mean having or suggesting a calm, sluggish temperament; unemotional.

a noun meaning originally, opposition to the disestablishment of the Church of England, now opposition to the belief that there should no longer be an official church in a country. usually used, however, as an example of the longest word that someone knows :-)

phew! now, use them all in a sentence!! happy tt ...

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

ps not for the faint of heart, well, not for anyone who faints easily ... the first tt i viewed after posting was really quite fascinating - 13 operations. those of you with a medical bent may enjoy it.