Scene from today's voice lesson with the amazing [personal profile] sarcasma  (whom you can hear, incidentally, in this weekend's Essential Opera performance of Massenet's Chérubin. I highly recommend EO based on their last performance.):

We are working on "Why Do They Shut Me Out of Heaven?" which is one of Copland's settings of Dickenson. (Here's someone very competent singing it.) Sarcasma has been very patient while I grapple with the fact that Copland expected singers to just kind of pull notes out of chords that do not contain those notes and it's much more difficult than learning something by Mozart, darnit. 

Sarcasma: Now, because this is you, I don't have to worry about saying things like "What are these words about?" 

Me: Yeah. Patriarchy.

Sarcasma: *Sputter.* Yes. Okay, maybe I do have to worry. 

There ensued a fruitful discussion of the text and the interpretation thereof, during which we agreed that it really is about the patriarchy. So that is how I will sing it. 

Now, of course, I want to find more patriarchy-blaming soprano repertoire. Suggestions? 

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( Aug. 17th, 2011 11:54 am)

More reporting from a Toronto High School: It's the 1950s now, so most of the "Baby Bags" have graduated. For context, I have just edited an entire page that lists all the citywide athletic championships that the Boys' athletic teams won.

Oh authors with your casual sexism! 

When the old auditorium was converted into the Boys’ Gym, the girls inherited the smaller upper gym. The gym rang with giggles and laughter at 3:30 most days while girls played whatever sport was scheduled. The girls’ teams also participated in Hi-Jinks, the Track and Field Days and Cadet Inspection Day. It was a huge honour to be chosen as a cheerleader.  It required stamina and quite a bit of athletic ability to do cartwheels and jumps in formation. The Drum Majorettes group was also always popular.  The 1952 squad was the largest in any school that year.  They performed at the annual Red Feather Tournament of Champions sponsored by the Community Chest (later the United Appeal). It had been organized to raise funds for needy Torontonians. The Majorettes also marched at Varsity Stadium at the City Football Championships and in the Santa Claus Parade.

N.B.: This is the pre-edited version. I'm fixing up the awkward phrasing.

Giggles and laughter! The Boys' teams won citywide championships. The girls giggled and laughed. 

Oh, 1950s. 

From a history of a local high school that I am editing:

During the war, the Girls' Club had become the War Services Club; the Girls’ Club was not reinstated after the war. However, a "Baby Bawl” was organized during the First Form initiation party in 1945. During the day, the girls went to class with their clothes on inside-out, wearing one long black stocking and odd shoes and sporting signs around their necks stating they were Baby Bags. At night, they returned, dressed as babies, to an auditorium bedecked with lines of baby clothes; the stage resembled a nursery. The poor Firsts were put through the horrors of a witches’ den, made to walk the plank and forced to endure other pranks.

I kind of love the matter-of-fact way that this is reported. The author maintains the same tone in discussing
  • the school's football victories,
  • the fact that while before WWII, the cheerleading squad consisted entirely of male cheerleaders, while the post-war cheerleading squad was co-educational, and
  • the arrival of a new music teacher and the growth of the school's music program.
I am creating an online copyediting course. The convention of this course is that each week contains a Discussion topic about which students can post on the class Discussion board.

The topic for Week 3 is Punctuation. So, I get to come up with a punctuation-related discussion topic, for copyediting students.

The hallmarks of a good discussion question are as follows:
  • It must be open-ended, to allow for a variety of opinions. Questions that allow for a simple "yes," or "no," do not really provoke great discussion.

  • It must have sufficient breadth to allow for a variety of opinions. If there is only one right answer, there's not a lot of room for discussion, and the students who post later on in the week can really only say "me too!"

  • It must actually be germane to the topic at hand.

So, Internets, what do you think I should set as the week's discussion topic for punctuation?

The semicolon: marker of an outmoded elite or undervalued shorthand?

Who will save the apostrophe? How?

Who really cares about em-dashes?

All suggestions gladly welcomed. Suggestions that actually provoke discussion will be entertained.

ETA: Stuff like Emily Dickinson's Punctuation: The Controversy Revisited is alas beyond the scope of my course. I am toying with a "how do you balance the needs of your author's artistry with the conventions of punctuation"-type question, but I don't want to have to write an entire idiosyncratically punctuated ms.
From research compiled by Cathy Stephens, and descriptions attributed to Professor Frank H. Norman.*

[personal profile] trouble  and [personal profile] commodorified—this is especially for you.

A certain Miss Ella Watson, on being asked many times to find out the rules for doing certain things at Rideau Hall asked an Aide. She was given the following list, and asked not to let anyone know who had written it.
  1. On entering Government House it is customary to ring the bell once then open the front door and walk right in. The habit of pushing the door ajar and creeping in on all fours cannot be recommended, as it is calculated to give the orderly on duty the impression that you have designs upon the umbrella stand, and that your intentions towards the hat rack are not strictly honourable.
  2. On registering in the visitor's book, you are expected to write your name distinctly, and, if possible, spell it correctly.
  3. It has so often been asked how much guests at Government House are expected to eat. We assure our readers that all guests at Rideau Hall will be bitterly disappointing their hosts if they do not consume more food than is good for them. It is not, however, usual to take anything away from the supper table in one's pockets, except of course an occasional bun or an orange, to assuage the pangs of hunger on the way home.
  4. When entering a private room, it is considered correct to knock first with the second joint of the first finger of the right hand, but in the case of a reception or sitting room, it is generally sufficient to cough outside the door and shuffle one's feet upon the mat before intruding, though the custom of having a little difficulty with the door handle is not to be condemned.
  5. On receiving an invitation to attend a social function at Government House, it is considered good for to send a reply within the month, and the practice of telephoning at the last moment to say that you are not coming is one that cannot be too strongly discouraged.

I expect you all to practise proper etiquette on your next visit to Government House. Remember to wear something with pockets large enough to accommodate a bun or an orange for the trip home.

* Professor Norman apparently instructed the family of the Earl and Countess of Aberdeen in dancing and etiquette while the family lived at Rideau Hall in the 1890s. Cathy's notes say that he attempted to compile lists of rules for visitors to the GG, but couldn't get the Aides-de-Camp to give him enough clear rules.
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( Apr. 19th, 2011 11:26 pm)
Last fall, I went to Guelph to get measured. Hugh Black at True North Cycles measured my height, my inseam, my arms, and my back, and marked all these measurements on the wall of his workshop.

This spring, after looking at drawings, making calculations (I found a real-life application of the Pythagorean theorem!), researching and choosing components, looking at samples and selecting colours, I went to Guelph again.

Hugh had built me a tiny, perfect bike!

Me, with hair in two braids and a turquiose beret, behind my small, dark green touring bike.
Me, behind a tiny, perfect, dark green touring bike with curly handlebars and 650 cc tires. I am wearing a fuzzy turquoise beret and a delighted grin.

For those who care, this is a custom True North frame, with compact drop handlebars, 26-inch wheels, and triple crank (plus a lot of fancy components that I'm happy to tell you all about, but only if you ask.

More photos behind cut. )
I love my tiny perfect bike!

zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Mar. 31st, 2011 12:28 pm)
I have created a new test question! Please test it for me! 

Here's the deal: I'll give you the information you need in order to figure out the answer for yourself. Then you tell me what you think the answer is.


Trade magazine—a magazine that exists for the members of a specific profession or trade, for example Bar Code Quarterly or Canadian Family Physician.

Consumer magazine—a magazine that consumers buy out of interest, for example Model Train Quarterly, Chatelaine, or Cottage Life

Which of the following articles is MOST likely to appear in a trade magazine? 

    1. Sanding Secrets: Getting the Most Out of Sandpaper
    2. Ten Bicycle Helmets That Don’t Make Us Want to Barf
    3. The Silk Weavers of Exurban Anatanarivo: Documenting a Dynamic Tradition
    4. Collaborating With Parents to Implement Behavioral Interventions for Children With Challenging Behaviors

Most of my multiple choice questions test simple recall, so I don't really need to field-test them; this one tests higher-order evaluation and application skills: students need to know the background information in order to answer correctly (which is why I gave it to you), but then they need to think about each of the titles an evaluate which is most likely to fit the mandate of a trade magazine. So it's a bit trickier to know whether it will work as a differentiator.

This is a continuation of something I started on Facebook last night for [ profile] kchew 

Trolls vs Non-Trolls on Toronto City Council )

Gluck wrote this opera, Paride ed Elena. I've been learning one of Paride's arias, O del Mio Dolce Ardor, as a mezzo piece. In learning the piece, I betook myself to Youtube to brave the unfortunate recital videos in search of a nice professional rendition.

Like, say, this one, by Renate Tebaldi. I think she sings it in the soprano key, but whatever. I can live with transposing. Her cadenzas are great.

I'd not heard of Julia Sokolov before I found her video. So all unaware, I clicked on it. Now, I feel compelled to share it, mostly because I can't adequately describe it, other than to say "Gluck. Pennywhistle. Drapery. Drum track. Fabio-lookalike. Imagery! Reverb. Just watch!"

For comparison )
Is that so much to ask?

So I've concluded that it may be time for me to buy a new bicycle.

I love my bike, I really do. I rode it almost all the way home from Ottawa. But I'm forced to admit that she's a heavy bike, and she's not doing me a lot of good. My fingertips get tingly when I ride for too long. And I ride a lot. Also, this year, I'm probably going to have to replace the tires, pedals, seat, and possibly the gears, by which time I might as well have a new bike, really.

My Current Ride
Grey and blue 2002 or 2001 Giant Sedona DX hybrid bike parked outside Grahame's Bakery in Kemptville, ON. Bike has fully loaded panniers and a front bag. Weather is overcast.

My current bike is a 17-inch Giant hybrid, designed specifically for commuters, where by "commuters," I think the bike companies mean "someone who hops on their bike and is at their workplace within half an hour or so." It's a pretty decent commuter/hybrid bike. It has mostly mountain bike features—wide tires, wide handlebars, lots of gears, some suspension in the front forks, and a wide seat—with a more upright, comfortable frame and posture. It handles reasonably well on lots of different terrain, and it's comfy and durable. Really. I haven't managed to break the bottom bracket on this bike, even once. So it's a great bike for someone who rides every day, and who doesn't stick to roads.

But over long distances, this bike has some serious drawbacks.

Cut for OMG bicycle geekery )

Still with me? Ring your bike bell if you've made it this far!

What I Want

Okay, so here's my list of specifications for a bike:
  • Good fit, which probably means women's geometry, though I'm willing to try some unisex models
  • Lightweight, which probably means road-style, though I'll entertain flat handlebars as long as the bike's geometry takes the weight off my wrists and hands, and the posture isn't too upright
  • Tires that are a reasonable compromise between stable enough for some unpaved roads and smooth and narrow enough to reduce some of the resistance I currently encounter. This means that the wheels need to support a slightly wider tire
  • Strong enough to withstand some time on unpaved roads, and to be fully loaded for travel
  • Eyelets on the rear wossname (the thing that houses the axle and holds the wheel in place) so that I can put a rack on my bike
  • More than 10 speeds. I use all 18 on my current bike, but I admit that I don't use the very top or very bottom very often
  • A less upright posture so I spend less time fighting the wind
  • Ideally, one of them there modern steel frames, so that I can have some shock absorption without needing actual shocks. Aluminum is light, but tends to be really rigid. Your modern light steel gives a much gentler ride, I'm told

This leads me to believe that I need either a cyclocross bike or a touring bike, probably. There are one or two hybrids I'll try, but most hybrids seem to assume a more casual rider than I tend to be.

And Here's the Feminism

So, recognizing that I really want a Terry Bike, but cannot right now afford the price tag on such a beast (and also, Terry seems to have discontinued the Madeleine, which really looks like the bike I want, oh yes she does), I wandered over to my favourite bike shop to see what offerings they have.

Cut for disappointment. Sad cycle hoyden is sad.  ) 

I guess women are just a niche market.

So, if anyone finds a used or new Terry Madeleine with a 26-inch step-over (which probably means a size S frame), let me know, okay?
Possibly lost true love. The Terry Madeleine, a relaxed touring bike in light blue and white paint, with drop handlebars.
And if I come into a sudden windfall? I'm so going custom.

So every few months, I get what I think is a bog-standard grief dream. My dad is alive. The death was a mistake. The funeral? An error.

Cut for discussions of death and grieving. Because you might have something more cheerful, or at least less morbid, to do today. I won't be hurt if you do! )
What I want is a nice, footnoted social-scientific book about grief and dreams.
Something that says, essentially, "Yep, these dreams are normal. They indicate [[something]] about the grieving process. People who experience these dreams frequently express [[something]]. They tend to progress in these specific ways. Here are some techniques that people use to deal with feeling emotionally gutpunched the morning after."

I suspect the best I'm going to find is On Grief and Grieving. The book isn't specifically on dreams, but it won't hurt me to read about grief-not-dreams, and David Kessler and Elizabeth Kübler-Ross are rather the western authorities on the subject of grief. The association with Oprah is unfortunate, but I think I can overlook it. Just because someone appears with Oprah doesn't necessarily mean they're more slick than substantive, right? Also, on his website, David Kessler tells readers who feel they need his books, but can't afford them, to write to him—he'll do what he can to get those people a copy. That doesn't necessarily mean the books are awesome, but it does tell me that this is someone who cares about helping people. (I can afford a book. Or I can borrow it from the library.)

I'm okay, really. I just wish I had a better idea of what the program is, and some strategies for dealing with the sucktastic parts. Then again, I'm just as glad to lack much in the way of direct practice, you know?

* If you subscribe to the theories that I see as woowoo, I'm sorry to offend you. We can discuss our comparative ontologies another time (Or, we can agree to disagree, and not discuss them. I'm fine with that.). Right now, please respect the fact that I do not find religion comforting because I don't have any. I don't find appeals to new age principles appealing, and I'm not going to get exorcised, or channel my inner something-or-other without some sort of evidence-based reason to do so.
She's totally right:
Comic below cut. )
Bad grammar kills the mood.

I link because I care.

In other vaguely related news, a team of researchers at King's College, London, have failed to find experimental support for the existence of the G-spot. They studied 1,800 women. Half of the women were pairs of identical twins; half were pairs of non-identical twins.

If one [G-spot] did exist, it would be expected that both identical twins, who have the same genes, would report having one.

But this pattern did not emerge and the identical twins were no more likely to share a G-spot than non-identical twins who share only half of their genes.

I'm not sure about the methodology of this study, though. If you're dealing with a subjective mechanism for gathering data—individual reports of personal experience—how do you control for differing sexual experiences between women (even—gasp—women with similar appearances)? Presumably the breadth of the study would in some wise address this. Among that many women, researchers might expect some trends to emerge, I guess.

Personally, I like what Dr. Petra Boynton (who appears to be the Beeb's pet sexologist; whenever they report on G-spots or other aspects of women's sexuality, she seems to give them a nice quote) has to say about the entire question of a G-spot: "It's fine to go looking for the G-spot but do not worry if you don't find it."

Other research suggests that some women do have a G-spot and some don't. A much less comprehensive Italian study in 2008 used ultrasound to locate an area of thicker tissue in the vaginas of women who reported having powerful orgasms when that area was stimulated. The study examined 20 women (I did say it was much less comprehensive! However, it wins skience points for using ultrasound.)

Ultrasound was used to measure the size and shape of the tissue beyond the "front" wall of the vagina, often suggested as the location of the G spot.

In the nine women who reported being able to achieve vaginal orgasm, the tissues between the vagina and the urethra - which carries urine out of the body - were on average thicker than in the 11 women who could not reach orgasm this way.

Again, Dr. Boynton gives sensible advice for those worried about their girly bits (or those of their partners):

"We're all different. Some women will have certain area within the vagina which will be very sensitive, and some won't - but they won't necessarily be in the area called the G spot.

"If a woman spends all her time worrying about whether she is normal, or has a G spot or not, she will focus on just one area, and ignore everything else.

"It's telling people that there is a single, best way to have sex, which isn't the right thing to do."
zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Jan. 2nd, 2010 10:44 am)
I think anyone who works with kids, has kids, deals with neuroatypical kids or grownups, likes Mythbusters, or likes robots (or children who like robots) needs to read [personal profile] toft 's fic Robots Need Love Too.

Adam likes robots and math, and has a cape. He and his mom have just moved to a space station, where he meets Jamie. Jamie likes quiet, and math and doesn't like being hugged. He thinks robots are pretty neat too.

A snippet:

"Well, I guess we can be friends as long as you don't mind my behaviour abnormalities," Adam says.

Jamie wonders what they are. He rolls the dark blue cylinder in his hand, then opens his pen and slots it in. He draws a little cube on the top corner of his datapad, then another.

"Those are really neat and tidy," Adam says, leaning over to look at his work and almost touching him, but not, so Jamie isn't annoyed and doesn't have to push him. "I can't get them that neat and tidy. I always smudge them."

"Quiet now, boys," Educator Kari says. "It's time for first period." Jamie thinks that's hardly fair, as he wasn't the one talking, but he concentrates on booting up the math programs and inserting his earbuds. He leans over to check that Adam has the right programs up, and he does, so Jamie ignores him for the rest of the period. Adam falls of his chair a couple of times, and once tries to talk to Jamie, but Jamie ignores him. Jamie likes math.
Toft has created an entirely believable space station, and two entirely believable small boys. She tells the story from Jamie's POV, and this is the best fictional representation of the way a child with Autism-spectrum traits might see the world that I've ever read. Adam's behaviour is entirely reminiscent of some small boys I've met—I love the exchange with his mother over Jamie's mother's hydraulic chair, where Adam doesn't understand why his curiosity makes his mom uncomfortable. The story is, as other commenters have said, sweet and adorable, without being cloying or sentimental.

Even if you don't follow Mythbusters (I don't), you should still consider reading this story. It's quite excellent.

Now I'm off to clean out the fridge.

zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Dec. 15th, 2009 04:25 pm)
If I were superstitious, I'd be feeling very nervous about tomorrow's concert, right now.

Last night's dress rehearsal went really well. I'm kind of excited about tomorrow's performance. The soloists are excellent, the ensemble sounds good (even if we don't have any tympani), and the choir is pretty darned good, if I do say so myself.

The superstition goes that a good dress means a bad opening night. I don't buy it one little bit. It's such a relief when a good performance follows an awful dress that I think people remember those instances, and have, by process of inversion, created a superstition around the q. In consequence, I'm just plain happy to be singing this great music and sharing it with people.

(If you're in Toronto, you really should consider coming. Really. There are trumpets!)
Scientific knowledge is based on empirical evidence, and is appropriate for understanding the natural world, but it provides only a limited understanding of the supernatural, aesthetic, or other ways of knowing, such as art, philosophy, or religion.1

Here follows a very short rant. Maybe a rantlet.

This bothers me. It's a clear nod to the godbodies—we don't have apologia or disclaimers in the math standards, the history standards, or the geography standards. We don't have to say that an understanding of literary conventions in English will help you to understand and interpret texts written in English and literary traditions that share a similar cultural background, but may not be easily applied to an understanding of the narrative traditions of a non-literary culture (though perhaps we should!).

What do you all think of this?

1 From the Florida Standards for Science Education, Grade 7. It is, of course, not the only standard, nor even the most important.
I dabble in design. I am not, nor do I aspire to be a designer. However, like most of my colleagues who work with text, either printed, or onscreen, I have opinions about type and typography.

I tend to like old-style, angled-serif typefaces, with good balance between thick and thin strokes: Goudy, Jensen, in a pinch Garamond.

But when it comes to pairing typefaces, and choosing display fonts, I waffle. My own preference is for slightly ornate, whimsical type:  Gallia, Parisian, Rendezvous, even Harrington. I balance my love of whimsy and floweriness against considerations of legibility.

But I recognize that I can't always have ornate display fonts. They're not always appropriate—sometimes I need to focus on legibility, sometimes the documents I create demand a bit more gravitas. So I dither.

I was dithering yesterday over what typeface to use for the headers on a handout on Editing and the Law (aka What Editors in Canada Should Know About Libel, Copyright, Trademarks, Plagiarism, and Model Releases). The body was set in Goudy. A topic of this weight demanded a more serious typeface, but I didn't want to go as far as the monumental Citation. I didn't want to go the cop-out route of using a darker, heavier family of Goudy, and Helvetica doesn't please me.

So I googled something like "Which font goes with Goudy?" and found my way to Esperfonto's handycool font-matching engine. 

Did I mention it was handycool?

Tell it what typeface you need to match. Tell it how you plan to use the matching typeface—display or body text—and what kind of look you need—traditional or modern? Cool or warm? Serious or friendly? Then the engine suggests a typeface. It seems to like Gill Sans a lot. Daniel Will-Harris, the proprietor of Esperfonto, is quick to remind users that we're getting his suggestions and we should feel free to disagree.

Lots of other cool stuff at Esperfonto, too,  including a list of typefaces that work well together (Marigold & Centaur: a match made in mythology, or maybe Narnia! Joanna & Gill Sans—they're a sweet couple who like to go golfing on Sundays. Albertus & Shannon—initially I thought they were going to open a used book store together, but now I see they're actually opening a patisserie.)

Fontastic! *ducks and runs*


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