Underrated Things

Dorothy Grant and I were text-chatting about the weather (chilly with steady rain from 0545-0700 the next day), and the pleasure of being inside and dry, or at least of not being out in very cold rain, drenched to the skin and staying wet for several more hours. Dry socks are a critical part of the equation. Cold, wet feet make everything else miserable.

Hot water on demand, especially clean hot water on demand is also underappreciated by people who have never been without access to that blessing.

Food that is available when you want or need it, and that you know is safe.

Access to books, all kinds of books, new books and old books and cool random books, fiction and non-fiction.

A firearm or sword hilt that fits your hand and that doesn’t bite. Or really, any tool that fits you and the job both.

Cars that start when you need them to, and that can hold what you need them to hold.

A really nice pair of sturdy, warm gloves that fit your hands. Ditto shoes. Well-fitting shoes are woefully underrated by people who have not found a pair yet.


Meditations While Doing the Wash

Why do turtlenecks only tangle with flannel and not with each other?

Does flannel ever stop filling the lint trap?

One pair of blue jeans will stain three separate loads of whites, especially white cotton.

White knee-high trouser socks will absorb dye from anything, even things that don’t stain other white clothes. Strange.

Is it possible to do a load of bedding and NOT have things end up, still damp, in the corners of the fitted sheets? Even when using corner clips to prevent this?

Bourbon, Cwm Rhondda, Llangolfin, Ein Feste Burg

Confused yet? Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of tune names in many hymnals. Sacred Harp and its derivatives often had tune names that leave people scratching their heads: what does this have to do with Boston, or Charleston, anyway?

When you thumb through the tune names section of a hymnal, you will find that the names are the first words of the original text (“Herrlibster Jesu,” “Ein Feste Burg,” “Veni Immanuel”) or the Psalm tune from the Geneva Psalter (Old 100, Old 113). Occasionally the title comes from a folk-tune name (Captain Kidd, aka “Wondrous Love,” Ash Grove, Slane, Ar Hyd Y Nos). Sometimes the name is jettisoned because “Star of the County Down” is probably not a great tune name, besides being long. A few are renamed because the folk-tune inspiration had a text that was, hmm, less than traditionally devout (see “Captain Kidd.”) Some Sacred Harp tunes also nod to the original text, such as “Promised Land” – “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks” – which has a chorus of “We’re bound for the promised land.” Holy Manna is another tune like that “…holy manna will be showered all around.” “Morning Trumpet” includes the phrase “And shall hear the trumpet sound in the morning” in the chorus and verses.

Cwm Rhondda and Llangolfin are both Welsh tunes. The first one is probably better known “Guide me, o thou great Jehovah.” Some Welsh and other tune names are translated, but these were not. Methodists tend to have a number of the Welsh titles, because the Methodist Movement really caught fire in Wales in the late 1700s, and almost replaced the Church of England among the ordinary working folk. Rhondda was a valley in Wales known to the composer, who was Welsh.

“Sicilian Mariner” was attributed to sailors from Sicily. It probably didn’t come from there, but no one’s going to argue now. “The Austrian Hymn” was written by Hayden for the imperial court in Vienna, so the name does fit (“Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken” or “Deutschland Über Alles”).

American hymns, namely those written by American composers and often found in collections like The Sacred Harp or Southern Harmony have names from all over the map – literally. A lot of them are city names, but might have nothing to do with the city. Charleston, Boston, Abbeville, Fairfield, Corinth, Liverpool, Detroit, Nashville … “Bellevue” might be one of the familiar ones, since it is incorporated in the modern setting of “How Firm a Foundation.”

And no, I don’t know how “Bourbon” became a tune name, although the off-kilter part of me wonders if the composer had indulged too much in said liquid and had a conversion experience. Alas, more likely, it was named for the French Bourbon, like the place and the dynasty.

Making Someone Happy

I hadn’t planned to. I dressed in my usual “not mass day, not suit-coat day” style of skirt, blouse, and boots, or dress and boots. I’d taken off my hat, since I was indoors. As I came into the coffee shop, a younger gent held the door for me. I smiled, he smiled back.

An older man, probably in his 70s, sat at a table near the order counter. He wore a vest with the insignia of a heavy-equipment dealer on it, well-worn jeans, and a work shirt. As I studied the menu, he smiled. “It’s so good to see someone in western clothes again,” he said. We chatted a bit. He’d come to the area from Back East in the mid-1950s and had worked for the same earth-moving and heavy equipment company ever since. Still worked there today. He mused a little about things back then, and the changes he’d seen in town. I ordered, and he left. He called the folks behind the counter by name, and said “See you tomorrow.” Apparently he was a regular.

I hadn’t planned to dress to make anyone happy, but I did. It made me feel good that the gentleman’s morning improved a little. It was a bit of a mitzvah, a little blessing of service that I did not intend but that delighted another person.

Back when I was in grad school, I descended to the near-Stygian depths of the history-n-stuff building to get something from the University’s Slowest Vending Machine. As I debated my choices, a lady came up beside me. I made some dumb jokes about “Do I get the fat group, the fried group, or the chocolate group?” She chuckled. I made another off-hand comment along those lines, then got a candy bar. “After all, if you are what you eat, I’m fast, cheap, and easy.” She almost fell over laughing. I hurried off to class.

She tracked me down later. Things had been very stressful, and it was the first time that she’d laughed in several days.

Sometimes, by accident, I get it right.

So Much for Stereotypes!

I was reading Metal Hammer magazine for the interviews with Floor Jansen and an article about Tuomas Holopainen of Nightwish. Those were interesting. I disagree about “best Nightwish album,” but hey, he’s the composer and boss, I just listen.

However, one of the first articles was about a member of the band Obituary and his feline rescue charity. Yes, he has a cat shelter and also does trap/spay/neuter/release in the Tampa, FL area. The charity is called …

Metal Meowlisha.

Farther into the magazine is a full page ad for the Mystic Festival in Gdansk, Poland. Ghost is headlining, along with Gojira, Danzig, and there will be a “few” other bands. In the fine print at the bottom, it says “Dinner: from 4 Euro., incl wide selection of vege and vegan options” The site is 10 minutes walk from historic downtown Gdansk [Danzig] and 15 minutes walk from the beach. Vegan and vegetarian catering at a metal fest.

OK, given the number of metal musicians that say they are vegetarian, I’m not entirely surprised, but it sort of ruins the stereotype.

Of course, I ruin the stereotype. A lady in my semi-pro chorus was looking at one of my Avantasia shirts and asked what it was about. When I told her, her jaw hit the floor, because she could not imagine me, Alma-the-soprano, listening to rock, let alone metal, even symphonic metal. So I played part of “Raven Child” for her. It wasn’t quite what she was expecting (but we didn’t get as far as the chorus, where the metal aspect really kicks in.)

Oh, and just for fun, there’s also a history article about metal musicians and fans, and Dungeons and Dragons™. And a few of the songs and albums based on D&D.

Since it’s a British publication, there are also some fascinating euphemisms in the music reviews. Because you can’t come out and say, “This album stinks,” quite like you can in the US, so you find work-arounds. (And there are a number of bands reviewed that I wouldn’t touch without wearing a hazmat suit. I’d also insist on clergy backup. Erk. To each their own. There are also some songs by bands I generally like that I heard once and deleted, or skip when I play the CD.)

Revisiting Music: Adiemus

I was reading a semi-recent issue of a heavy-metal music magazine (interviews with Floor Jansen and Tuomas Holopainen) and for some reason, the very not-rock group Adiemus floated out of the depths of my memory. It was actually a project of the Welsh composer Karl Jenkins, and became a surprise sensation after part of one song was used in an airline ad and a car commercial.

I have the cassette somewhere, but didn’t feel like digging for it, so I went to the Tube of You.

Yes, it is still a cross between pop, New Age, and classical. That might be why the interviews brought it to memory, since they were discussing symphonic metal, which combines heavy metal and classical instrumentation. Adiemus was also good for “music without understandable lyrics” when I wanted something melodic but that faded into the background when I was writing or being brain dead (as happened once a week while I was in grad school. I’d lay on the floor with my headphones on and just listen and let my brain disengage.)

Adiemus uses vocals and orchestra to paint sound pictures. Think of it as Impressionist music. The voices don’t sing actual Latin, or they repeat a Latin word or phrase, but for sound reasons. It’s meaningless. The voices are “untrained,” because that’s what the composer wanted. It’s not bad, but not opera or another specific style. It works, at least for these recordings. There’s a lot of layering of voices, up to 40 layers, plus strings, woodwinds, some brass, and percussion. The songs range from driving “tribal”-type pieces with fast tempos to slower, very meditative compositions. They flow into each other.

It’s not to everyone’s taste. I have to be in a mood for Adiemus and stuff like it. But it’s not bad, and it works as background when I need something between me and house sounds that doesn’t have a specific flavor or reason for listening.

If Only English Were Fonetik . . .

but it’s not.

I could not figure out why spell checker kept flagging “tournaquit.” That’s because it is “tourniquet.” Around here, instead of an “i” sound in the second syllable, we say more of a “uh” sound, sort of a schwa e. Since I spell by ear, I get red flagged every time I try to write the word as pronounced.

Part of the problem is my limited available memory. By the time I load 1) the idea, 2) the words, 3) grammar, 4) how to hold the pen and write, or type, I’ve run out of active memory. Something has to go. So I never learned to apply spelling to writing. To complicate life, I learned spelling and basic grammar during the phonetics craze in the late 1970s-early 1980s, when you were supposed to learn the letters in words that went with the phonics codes, like the upside-down e for the terminal “uh” sound and so on. Some I remember, the sound codes that is. The rest? Did not help me at all. I ended up writing like someone from the latter 1500s-mid 1600s, that is to say, partly phonetically.

I have no problem spelling Spanish, German, Latin, or even Hungarian, once I learn letter combinations (like “sz” for “s” in Hungarian.) Grammar, that’s different, but spelling causes me no, keine, 0 problems. Alas that I have to function in English 95% of the time.

Spill chuck is knot my fiend. I know what words should look like, most of the time, ish. But sometimes my “it sounds like” spelling is so mangled by dialect and regional pronunciation that even on-line dictionaries run screaming. OttoCorrupt on the phone? Oh lordy. Once you get past “it’s never duck. Never, ever ‘oh duck’?” Some very odd things have been sent before I could catch the “correction.”

I have the most difficulty with words English borrowed from French. Germanic, Anglo-Saxon, Persian, Russian, or Japanese or Spanish? Far fewer difficulties. So of course English absorbed French with wreckless abandon.

Dictionaries require at least getting close to the proper spelling. Oops.

Abbreviation Confusion

A&P, or A&P, or AP? One is a federal certification, one is a grocery store chain, and one is a type of college credit test. That’s one difficulty with only 26 letters – they tend to get reused in ways that can lead to a certain lack of communication.

“Down with the BLM!” Which had nothing at all to do with a relatively new political movement and everything to do with complaints of overreach by the Bureau of Land Management.

The Society for Pediatric Radiology shares initials with Stop Prison Rape, which led to some quick web address re-working.

Then you get abbreviations that would be fine in English but that are not used because of associations in another language. For example, when historians write about the early German Socialist Party, Sozialistische Partai Deutschland, instead of a quick flip from English to SD, we use the same abbreviation as for the modern party, the SPD. Why? Because in German, SD is used for the East German security police, better known as the Stazi. And for a while, OttoCorrupt was trying to change SPD to STD. Oops. That got changed rather quickly!

I still blink when I see PMU, the French horse-racing wagering group. To me that’s pregnant mare urine. The signs didn’t help, at first.

Original source: https://www.jeanmarcmorandini.com/actualite-pmu.html

I’d say that we need more letters, but that would probably just make it worse. Because English would steal the strangest characters, or most esoteric. We’d probably end up with “Association for Computerized Learning and Teaching” or something being a deadly insult and accidentally causing WWIII when translated into Finnish, or something.

Well, Yes, I Should Think it Would

I’m taking a short course on “how to stop/slow leaks in humans until EMS arrives.” Sort of “penetration wounds 101” with some other traumas also covered. I shook my head at the warning on the class. “Due to the nature of the topic, graphic images may be used.”

How are you supposed to show what sucking chest wounds, knife stabs, vehicular punctures, and other things look like if you don’t use graphic images? Say, “Here’s a human chest. Pretend there’s blood and a hole here?” Anyone who signs up for the class should already bloody well know what they’ll see, pun intended! Especially since training in CPR and basic First Aid are strongly encouraged (but not mandatory).

Good grief. [kitty eyeroll here]

Apropos of nothing save that I’ve been there, and it’s true:


I need to get a tee-shirt that says, “Caution: Fluent in Footnote.”

Smaller Music?

This is just a semi-random observation. A number of groups that I listen to (Avantasia, Dark Sarah, Twilight Force, Blind Guardians, Ad Infinitum) either have a new release out, or are about to have a new release. Thus far, all of the new releases have been smaller than their last release. Granted, Blind Guardian has gone back to their “core” style, after a huge rock-opera type release, so they might not count.

Thus far, I’m hearing shorter songs, or fewer songs, or both, with simpler instrumentation and vocals. Instead of the dozen layers with choirs, a small symphony orchestra, plus guitars, drums, keyboards, and so on, it’s the core rock instrumentals, one or two singers per song, and songs that are closer to five minutes rather than multiple ten minute plus numbers. The quality is still high, so I’m not complaining about that aspect of it, not at all.

These are European or British groups, so I wonder if travel limitations played a role in shrinking the number of people involved per song? Have other listeners complained about the “thickness” of the music and said that they prefer a more traditional rock or metal sound? Is it budget, that the other releases have not brought in enough money to justify the cost of all those people? Or is it rising costs for studio time and musician time? One from column A and one from column C, plus a spring roll?

Perhaps we are easing back into something like happened in the 1600s, when chamber music and small choirs became more common due to a combination of wars and inflation in Europe. Groups are concentrating on their core music and forgoing the orchestras and choirs, or so it seems. Given the rising production expenses, it makes sense, perhaps.

I have no idea. I prefer the fuller sounds. None of the albums has been bad yet, although I wish Dark Sarah’s story-line had given an earlier character more song time. I had expected more long songs from Avantasia and Twilight Force.

I’m glad I have all this new music. My budget’s not so thrilled, but that’s why I saved my pennies for these releases.