Sep 30, 2016

Quoth the Raven, Nevermore

This bracelet is from amazing Etsy shop Jezebel Charms, and the text is from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven." Here's the what it says:

"Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, 
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before"

A beautiful piece that goes with everything, especially my steampunkier outfits.

Sep 28, 2016

Etymology Expeditions: Dark Clouds

Today, let's take a look at clouds.

The word cloud comes from old English clud "mass of rock, hill," apparently from the similarity of storm clouds to hills. Sky, from Old Norse sky, also means "cloud."

What about those fancy Latin names? According to Etymology online, they were thought up by British amateur meteorologist Luke Howard in 1802.

Cirrus is Latin for "curl-like tuft, ringlet of hair." The meteorological term is related to the shape of the clouds.

Cumulus means "a heap, a pile, mass" in Latin. That's a pretty good description of cumulus clouds. 

The word for a thin layer of cloud, stratus, comes from Latin sternere, to spread out. It means  "a thing spread out, horse-blanket, coverlet."

The word nimbus is from the 1600s, meaning a bright cloud surrounding a god. It comes from the Latin nimbus, "cloud."

Bonus:  Nebula, Latin for "cloud, mist,  vapor, fog, exhalation," has a sinister figurative meaning of "darkness, obscurity." The astronomical term "cloud-like patch in the night sky" is from the 1700s.


Sep 27, 2016

Watch CircOpera Live!

The Finish National Opera is broadcasting the CircOpera performance live on September 9th at 7 p.m. Helsinki time!

You can watch it here.

Looks like they'll be showing the Alice in Wonderland ballet and The Flying Dutchman later on. Very cool.

Sep 26, 2016

Science Fiction Classics: Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner

Image from
Stand on Zanzibar has the worst opening I've ever seen, a bunch of out-of-context text extracts that read like gibberish. If the novel hadn't been on my Science Fiction Classics reading list, I'd never have gotten past the first chapter, and after I did I kind of wished I hadn't. This book annoyed the hell out of me.

Brunner's "innovative structure" of chapters is split into "continuity" (the so-called plot),  "tracking with closeups" (windows into the lives of minor characters/random people), "the happening world" short collections of descriptive passages, and "context" (scraps and bits of worldbuilding stuff like apartment ads, song fragments, newspaper headlines etc. etc.). It made the novel very hard to follow, especially as nothing much happened even in the plot chapters before about halfway through. I get that the structure is probably why Brunner won the Hugo award for the book, but I really, really hated it, especially the "context" and "the happening world" chapters. It just felt like Brunner had dumped his entire worldbuilding bible into the book. Thoughts like "why should I care" and "this is stupid" kept intruding on my reading experience. Apparently the structure is meant to mimic information overload, and I guess it succeeded.

It didn't help that the characters are unlikeable and the women are mainly there for sex, with the exception of the businesswoman Guinevere Steel, maybe. And nothing very interesting happened in the plot. And that annoying '60s slang: whatinole for what in hell (and different variations using "hole" for "hell"),  calling women "shiggies," and poppa-momma for p.m.. So, so annoying.

Okay, so anything I liked then? Well, the worldbuilding itself is interesting at times, with Brunner's exploration of how people would react to overpopulation. Brunner's future takes place in 2010, and on some counts his predictions feel eerily accurate. The muckers, people who go nuts and start killing everybody or plant bombs for fun, hit a little too close to home in this time of school shootings and terrorists, and people using drugs and alcohol to escape their unbearable lives feels believable. I also liked the concept of Mr. and Mrs. Everywhere, a fictional couple on TV who travel the globe and attend all the most exclusive parties. The idea is that for a fee the TV fixes you and your partner's faces on the Everywheres, so you can watch yourself do all the things you can never actually afford to do.

The name of the novel refers to overpopulation. In the twentieth century there was a claim that the world's population, standing, could fit on the Isle of Wight. Brunner's prediction of the world's population in 2010, seven billion people, would need a larger island to stand on, like Zanzibar.

All in all, I can't recommend this book to anyone but the most hardcore science fiction fans. As luck would have it, there's another one of Brunner's books on my reading list. And it utilises the same "revolutionary structure."  And it's six hundred pages. Oh, joy.

Science Fiction Classics read 44/193.

Sep 24, 2016

New MOOC from the University of Iowa: How Writers Write Fiction 2016: Storied Women

New MOOC, coming up! Here's the info:

"October 11-November 21, 2016: The International Writing Program at the University of Iowa will open a new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on fiction writing, centered on female authorial voices and female literary characters. This online course will be offered completely free to all participants and will welcome writers of all genders."

 Every University of Iowa MOOC I've taken has been awesome, so I'm definitely going. Maybe I'll see you there? You can read more and sign up here.

Sep 23, 2016

The Circus Bracelet

This is the bracelet I wore for the CircOpera. It's from an Easy shop called Mama's Little Babies. They don't have this particular one anymore, but there are lots of other equally cool things. Browse at your peril, it's pretty much a want-one-of-each situation.

Sep 21, 2016

Etymology Expeditions: I Want Candy

Up this week: all things sugary and sweet!

The name cotton candy is fairly self-explanatory, from cotton+candy, but it has many fun names like fairy floss, candy floss, spider webs, and candy cobwebs. Although spun sugar has been around from the 1500s, machine-spun cotton candy was invented in 1897 by the dentist William Morrison. (A dentist. Irony much?) My favourite name for cotton candy is the French one, though: la barbe à papa, "papa's beard." In Finnish it's hattara, like a fluffy cloud.

A sourball meant "a constantly grumbling person" in the 1900s before it became the name of a candy 1914.

Tootsie roll is from tootsie, the baby-talk substitution for "foot".

Did you know that Pez dispensers have been around since 1956? The name comes from German pfefferminz meaning peppermint. The company that made them was Austrian, so that's probably the reason. The first Pez were peppermint-flavoured, then, I guess?

Gob-stopper comes from the English word gob, meaning mouth. On a related note, jaw-breaker meant a hard-to-pronounce word before it became a candy.

Lollipop is a mixture of loll "to dangle (the tongue)" and pop "strike, slap." Another theory has the loll part coming from the northern dialectal lolly, a word for tongue.

 Are you teeth aching yet? Okay, I think that's enough for today.