Month: September 2013

Dom Guéranger

‘I thus began to recite the breviary, which I was proud and happy to do. I found everything about it to be wonderful, and was far from thinking that the day would come when I would cast this book aside as being radically incapable of fulfilling its aim.’

Weird. Around two hundred years later I began praying the post-Conciliar Liturgy of the Hours, loved it very much, and later came to a similar conclusion before switching to the pre-Conciliar Benedictine Office.

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If I were an aeroplane…

…this would be my boyfriend:

That sounds a bit weird, doesn’t it?

Today the Boeing 787-9 had its first test flight and by happy chance I found the live webcast in time to catch all the fun waiting for landing and the brief press conference afterwards. Watching planes take off and land is cool at any time, but especially so when it’s a Dreamliner.

Seattle, evidently, has weather not that much different to Rainland.

Heck, who cares? Who needs to look at the weather when you’ve got my boyfriend in the picture?

Mr. Boeing Communications (forgot his name, sorry) said that Air New Zealand is the launch customer. I may have to get myself out to the antipodes soon.

Phwoar.

Ahem. Excuse me. It’s late and I should be in bed.

Phwoar.

Test pilots. Lucky ducks. I should mention their names, but I don’t remember them as I’m too busy ogling my boyfriend stood behind them.

I should probably get myself checked out.

With the suits. Smiles all round!

Tee hee 😀

All right, some seriousness. I note that the info page shows a whole bunch of airline customers for the 787-9, so we’re not all bound into an Air New Zealand-dominated monopoly. Awesome!

The chap at the podium is Mr. Boeing Communications. Sorry I forgot your name!

Ok. Time to get some kip. Why do I live on the other side of the world to Boeing HQ?

On catching trains

Earlier today I was in a far-off realm and had a problem of logistics.

There was Mass in the early evening, and a fast train back home that I would have missed had I gone to Mass. There were alternative, later options to get back, but not being as fast, I would have got home even later. Quite apart from the virtues of a sensible and regular sleep schedule, I have to be at work tomorrow.

Mass.

Sleep.

Mass.

Sleep.

My scrupulosity and admiration of the Desert Fathers in the red corner versus common sense (which is often much overrated) in the blue.

I wandered up to a large church I’d spotted amongst the skyscrapers, went in, found the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and gave thanks for all that had happened thus far today.

Then I asked my GA to take my heart (the red, bloody, beating one if necessary – you know, Aztec human sacrifice style) to Mass for me. And then turned round, went to the train station, and got the fast train back home.

And I was at peace with the decision I made.

(In addition, I got back home right before the heavens opened and it started chucking it down with rain)

le français

Yesterday I woke up at about eleven, bleary-eyed and groggy from the work week, and realised with not a little bit of dismay that a friend and I had pacted (past pt. of ‘pact’, to make a pact) to meet up and get our French tested. The week had been full of stress and rain and general blah and all I wanted to do was crawl back into bed and make it all go away.

Well I did go back to bed for a bit. It was the weekend, after all. I reserve the right to sleep as long as I please at the weekend – but when you’ve pacted…ugh. All right.

I was pretty sure my French level would be dire. I had six years – six years! – of French at school, but that had ebbed away over the intervening years. For various reasons (not all of which are equally weighty, I might add), however, now was the time to take it up again, and a few weeks ago we had agreed to get ourselves tested. Checked out. Whatever.

It started out with a sure intent to rattle my chains. It was raining. I could barely unlock my bike. It rained harder. Pedestrians on the bike path (Why?! There’s a pavement right there, wider than the cycle path. WHY, in the name of the Almighty and Merciful and Terrifying and all the 96 other epithets, WHY WOULD YOU WALK IN A CYCLE PATH TWO ABREAST?!). Cretins on the roads. More rain. A key snapping in the !(*^&*&#@&(^ bike lock.

Once I actually got to this place (only minutes before my partner in crime), I was ready to bite someone’s head off. This day had not begun well. We arrived at the test centre, dripping, and my friend launched into a conversation (in French, natch) as to what we wanted. I was given some pieces of paper and was ushered into a room where about half a dozen other people were bent over their question papers.

I had forty-five minutes to complete a ‘diagnostic’ test. It felt like I was sitting an exam at school – even though I hadn’t done so in years.

There are lots of things I can’t do. But sitting tests? Oh yea. Even on a Saturday afternoon. A very rainy Saturday afternoon.

<digression>

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve actually sat tests or exams. I recall (or rather, my results recall) being somewhat good at them too. But what had completely slipped my mind was how much fun tests are.

I know I’m strange, but hear me out here. The work you have to do is handed to you. All you have to do is sit there and – no, really – show off. Go on. Show that marker just how much you know! It’s a catwalk, shake your brain booty!

Let’s face it, nowhere and at no time is your mind so going to have precedence over your appearance.

</digression>

Even with that digression in mind, we were reminded that this test was diagnostic, and intended to help determine our CEFR level (sometimes the scourge of language teachers’ lives, but often really quite useful). We should stop once it gets ‘too hard’.

This statement – insofar as I actually paid attention to it – sent my near-OCD side into anxious fits. ‘Too hard’? How on earth was I supposed to define and apply that? Faced with such a quandry, not to mention a time limit (which I suspect was being ignored by everyone), I did the only thing I could: ignore the statement and just carry on.

Which is what I did.

And a few minutes later I shocked myself: I stopped my test and left.

My reasoning was, having completed one set of questions (I swear if I didn’t have such a grammar fetish I’d never have got as far as I did), I looked through the next lot, reasoned that the guess-to-considered-answer ratio was neither favourable nor sensible, and deduced that this was a good place to stop.

The reasonableness of this train of thought shocked me.

So I left the exam hall and muttered in some really bad French to the lady waiting that I was done, whereupon she took me into another room, marked my answers, and then asked me why I’d stopped there because I should have been able to get at least another set of questions done too. My French vocabulary failed me massively, so I just shrugged my shoulders (my goodness, I’m so communicative!).

The lady then launched into what at first seemed like some niffy naffy questions about what I did for a living and so on. I’m a gullible soul and didn’t realise until I’d listed all the languages I could speak a few words of (dang it, forgot the fact that I know two words of Polish!) and the reasons why I wanted to learn Italian (?!?!) that this was the oral exam and she was assessing my spoken French. It was at that point that I freaked out and started gibbering my verbs.

Then she scribbled B1.1 on my form and told me to take a B1.2 class. And my eyes popped out of my head at that, because I thought I’d be solidly in A1-A2 borderland. Daaaaaang girl!

I skipped out into the hallway, met up with my partner in crime, and we went for hot chocolate to celebrate our Frenchiness. It was tempered only by the sobering realisation that Havisten who succesfully pass French have the same level of proficiency in French as I do. And that in order to teach French in lower secondary school requires only B2 level – and that student teachers have four years in which to get there from a B1.

If that’s not a contribution to a general damnation of standards in the Dutch education system, I don’t know what is.

Ah well. Dat allemaal heeft ook niks weggenomen van het genieten van notre chocolat chaud.

Bibliomigration

It doesn’t seem to be a word right now, but I thus declare it to be one, and am quite confident that within ten years, either of the present moment or the singularity (whichever comes first), it will be taken up into the OED and my blog will be cited as an important source.

Bibliomigration, n. the phenomenon, similar to diffusion, whereby books tend to move from areas of high concentration (e.g. bookcases) to areas of low concentration (e.g. sofas, beds, nightstands, kitchen counters, floors, &c.)

Bibliomigration isn’t problematic in itself: books are there to be read, and my bookcases aren’t right next to where I (usually) read my books. But when unchecked, books can pile up in place which weren’t really designed to store them and the inevitable moment arrives when you have to sort through the pile and rehouse everything.

Even that’s not too bad, really. It makes this nerd feel a bit like a librarian. In my very own library!

What is somewhat concerning, though, is that this clear-up (I haven’t come up with a cool word for that part of the process yet) always seems to happen in the wee small hours. It’s almost like there’s some kind of restriction on tidying up during daylight hours. What does this say about either me or my books? Is my inner tidy-upper actually a vampire? Are my books ashamed to travel back to their places when others might be able to see them? Would net curtains twitch and women gossip? Is bibliomigration a modern-day moral scandal?