Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Current Read

I started Sins of the Demon by Diana Rowland but have only read about a page and a half as editing has taken over. I have great hopes for both although one will always war with the other re time, energy, reading and focus. If I'm good, editing will make reading difficult and very slow. If I'm bad, you'll see another current read post soon and I will feel a little ashamed (but happy).

If you like urban fantasy and haven't read Diana Rowland's Kara Gillian series, give it a whirl. Great mix of murder investigations, magic, demons and alternate worlds. And if you think the murder investigations are going to be a little off, what with this being fiction and fantasy, think again. Diana Rowland was a cop.

Hilarious book covers

Marmalade Cat

Today has been governed by two things. The first is Bonzo or Neighbour Cat as we call him. This is my spot and he's been here since this morning. I am currently sitting at the very edge of my spot, my back getting sore, wondering why I haven't thrown him off yet. Answer: I'm a sucker and well, the weathers cold and so was he and I felt sorry for him and he took advantage and he opened the door by himself which shows he really, really wanted in and yeah, I'm a sucker.

The second is this: I made marmalade from a full bag of oranges and one lemon. More than most recipes call for. I cut the amount of sugar in half too. Made an effort to slice the rinds super thin and I kept the pulp out so it is really clear. Very pretty when you look at it up close. It is still cooling and will probably take a few hours more.

Conclusion: Today is an orange day.

Now, back to business. Get rid of the headache and get back to editing.

The English language and nonsense (dumb or dum)

The English language is overly complicated, often nonsensical, frustrating to learn properly, contains too many exceptions to rules and its spelling and grammar are not even agreed upon by all English speaking and writing countries. It gets a little mind boggling when you study it and the study of English is far from the simple field most like to portray it as. Here is an amusing video to highlight some points before I rattle on.

Here are some of other differences: 

British English

American English

British English

American English

British English
Organize and Organise
Realize and Realise
Recognize and Recognise

American and Canadian English

British English

American English

Exceptions apply. Also, the list of differences between the two versions of English is far, far longer. Then you find scientific writing standards are different again, as can be the case with Canadian, Australian and other sub-versions of English.

Now factor in multi-media and the world dialogue. Books are shipped everywhere and read by everyone, we email and chat to people all over the world, we travel more than ever, we study abroad and we work on computers set to versions of English we may or may not be familiar with. This leads to people being familiar with and using a mish-mash of words generally pulled from the two main versions of English: British and American.

Each person who’s paying attention to their writing and correcting themselves will often say their way is right but when you look at their writing closely you will often find it a mixture of American and British English, neither truly one or the other. This may be because of spellcheck settings or because of the writer has been so inundated with both versions of English that it becomes impossible to stick to just one version when writing or thinking.

Don’t get me started on conversations I’ve been sucked into over who is using the right spelling of a word… I am getting to the point where frustration is even flagging, leaving me feeling only weariness.

I vote for this. If what you are writing is informal then just write one of the versions that can be said to be correctly spelt and not a version that can only be said to be a complete misspelling. If what you are writing is formal then make sure you pick a version of English and stick to it. Set that spellcheck, re-read your words and think very hard as you do because some of the differences are not at all obvious. And if even then you trip up and use a mix of the two versions, try to forgive yourself and maybe get the help of an editor. Editors are so steeped in the language they will likely be able to point out the vast majority of mistakes you’ve made, if not all. With their help you will end up with a nice, clean copy you can feel proud of.

The English language is continually changing and updating just by our using it. It is as live a creation as anything not alive can be. It needs care and tending, trimming of unwanted offshoots, guidance and yet acceptance of change. It is much like taking care of a Bonsai, a fast growing one at that. You have to pay attention, clip it back, shape it, but you also have to let it grow, nurture it, feed it, use it and above all allow it to be seen. It won’t do well if clipped harshly, it won’t grow if it is not given enough light of day, it won’t will fade and wilt if given only modest foods. It also shouldn’t be allowed to grow unchecked and unfettered limbs.

Ah, enough. You get what I mean (hopefully). Don’t smother the language and the writers with rules but do give them something solid and functional to work with, hopefully with a little room for play. Don't misuse it too much either. If we break all the rules there will be nothing left for us to communicate with. The English language would eventually erode away into nonsense if we used it incorrectly all the time.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Magic words: origins and uses

First off, before I even looked at magic words in themselves I looked at the origins of the words “magic” and “words” purely because you’d need the two, whatever the form they took, to be able to say a word is a magic word at all. So, here is a little on “magic” and “words”.

Noun: the power of apparently influencing events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.
Adjective: having or apparently having supernatural powers.
Verb: Move, change or create by or as if by magic.
Origin: Late Middle English; from Old French magique, from Latin magicus (adjective), late Latin magica (noun), from Greek magikē (tekhnē) (art of) a magus. Magi were regarded as magicians.

Noun:  A single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing, used with others (or sometimes alone) to form a sentence and typically shown with a space on either side when written or printed.
Verb: (with object) express (something spoken or written) in particular words.
Adjective: with submodifier worded.
Origin: Old English, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch word and German Wort, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin verbum ‘word’.

Common Magic (adjective) Words (noun):

OED recognised. Late 17th century  (as a mystical word engraved and used as a charm to ward off illness): from Latin, first recorded in a 2nd century poem by Q. Serenus Sammonicus, from a Greek base.
Better known to us as a magic word used by stage magicians that also appears in everything Disney and was spoken by the clown who appeared at your 5th birthday party. Power resides in the user of this word, not in the word itself, otherwise those clowns wouldn't be there for your 5th birthday in the first place.

Not recognised as a word.
But it is recognised as a family or proper name.
Because of this, it is possible that to say that when using Alakazam as a magic word you are trying to draw on the powers and attention of a person named Alakazam rather than magic, much like praying but I know of no god named Alakazam.

Sim Sala Bim
Not OED recognised.
Sim Sala Bum was a phrase used by Harry August Jansen. Also, these magic words were used by Hadji on two shows: The Adventures of Jonny Quest and The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest (these could be said to be just one show continued).
Not used very often, this phrase still has some power to it but mostly when written rather than spoken. Spoken, it just sounds silly (I am not saying so by making any comparison to other magic words. There are plenty sillier.).

Open Sesame
Not OED recognised.
Ali Baba spoke these words in the English version of a tale from 1001 Arabian Nights.
The reason most of us know of this magic phrase has less to do with the book and more to do with Disney. When we were kids a whole lot of us ended up seated in the theatre watching the Disney Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves movie. Then those that did see it proceeded to run about like headless chooks screaming “Open Sesame” over everything that could possibly be linked to magic, locks and treasure (imagined or otherwise). It was even often used as a not-so-secret password.

OED recognised. An invented word used in the 1940’s by conjurers.
Preferred magic word of Captain Marvel.
2nd choice of magic word for that 5th birthday clown. Not as easily recognised by kiddies so some confused faces are likely to result from its usage.

Hocus Pocus
OED recognised. Early 17th century: from hax pax max Deus adimax, a pseudo-Latin phrase used as a magic formula by conjurors.
I think I like hax pax max Deus adimax better.
You may know hocus pocus from kiddie TV and Disney movies, also cult horror movies and books where the words hocus pocus have little magic to them and are used more to describe what magic is.

Rarely used or known.
Clowns of Jaye’s magic circus spoke this word so it has some power if spoken in front of the right people.

Alla Peanut Butter Sandwiches
This magical phrase is spoken by The Amazing Mumford on Sesame Street and is a hit with anyone a child when it was first used and any kid currently familiar with it. It will cause uncontrollable giggles in the young.

Johnny Thunder, superhero, used the word Cei-u to summon his magical thunderbolt. Nobody else uses this word and few know how to pronounce it.

Klaatu barada nikto
These magic words need to be spoken correctly and in order.
First spoken in the 1951 movie The Day The Earth Stood Still but they weren’t used as magic words until the awesome movie Army of Darkness.
Any Uni student or horror buff worth their salt will know these lines and use them freely along with lines such as “Alright you Primitive Screwheads, listen up! You see this? This... is my boomstick!” and “Shop smart, shop S-Mart!”.

Meeska, Mooska, Mickey Mouse
This word is often used in the TV show Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and has the power to make the clubhouse appear. I’m sure this means a lot to some of you but it means absolutely zip to me so this phrase holds little power as far as I’m concerned.

Presto chango
Magicians used these magic words to suggest a quick change has happened, usually when the smashed watch is ‘reformed’ into a brand spanking new one. If someone says presto chango to you, check your pockets and/or give the beady eye to anything handed to you that’s said to be new or fixed. Don’t trust the use of these magic words to mean something good has happened.

Hey Presto
OED recognised. British in origin.
Hey presto is a phrase often used to announce the successful completion of a magic trick or to suggest that something has been done so easily that it seems like magic.
This phrase needs less of the beady eye but still beware.
Overused but still a favourite.

Wella Walla Washington
Bugs Bunny from the Loony Tunes prefers this magic phrase no matter the instance. You will hear 30-40 year old men using this phrase but not many others.

Origin: Middle English. From Old French plaisir ‘to please’, from Latin placer.
Known to all as the most powerful magic word there is. Things happen simply by saying this word; attitudes change, what is wanted is often attained, sacrifices are made for you and arguments are curbed.
Such power cannot be found in the use of any of the previous magic words.
The favourite magic word of any child wishing a forbidden cookie.

Allergy free pumpkin pie recipe

  • 1 cup Orgran all purpose flour
  • ½ cup Orgran self-raising flour
  • ½ cup cornflour
  • ⅓ cup Orgran gluten free gluten
  • 125g Nuttlex
  • 2 tbsps caster sugar (optional)
  • 1 tsp Orgran No Egg whisked with 40mls water until thick
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • Pumpkin, cooked (approx. 1/2 a large pumpkin, 1 medium, 1 ½ small)
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 tsp all spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup goat’s milk
  • 6 tsp Orgran No Egg whisked with 120mls water until frothy and firm


  • Peel, seed, and dice pumpkin to fairly uniform sized pieces.
  • Bring the pumpkin to boil in a large pot and simmer until cooked through (soft).
  • Drain the pumpkin and then replace into large pot.
  • Allow pumpkin to cool while you make the pastry.
  • Grease your pie dish.
  • Combine the pastry flours, gluten free gluten, Nuttlex and ¼ cup sugar in a large bowl and rub the Nuttlex through until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  • Add the No egg mixture and ¼ cup cold water.
  • Combine until the pastry just comes together.
  • Roll and press the pastry together until smooth.
  • Wrap in plastic wrap.
  • Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm.
  • Place remaining pastry between 2 sheets of cling wrap or baking paper.
  • Roll out until large enough to fit the pie dish.
  • Peel away one piece of cling wrap, flip the pastry into the pie dish, shape and cut away any excess.
  • Set aside to rest.
  • Mash or puree the pumpkin until smooth.
  • Add brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice, mixing until smooth.
  • Slowly and carefully fold the Orgran No Egg mixture into the pumpkin mix until evenly combined. Do not over stir, you want lots of tiny bubbles to remain in the mixture.
  • Pour the pumpkin mix into the pastry, level with a spoon if necessary.
  • Cook until the top begins to crack: approximately ¾ hour-1 hour at 180°C.

Writing on human skin part I

"I should have been a pair of ragged claws, Scuttling across the floors of silent seas." - The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, T S Eliot.

"All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream" - A Dream Within a Dream, Edgar Allan Poe.

"For every dark night, there's a brighter day" - Tupac Shakur.

"Nothing is worth more than this day" - Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe.

"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." - Macbeth, William Shakespeare.

"And In Time This Too Shall Pass" - "This Too Shall Pass" has a long history, of Jewish and Turkish significance, and is spoken by Solomon in the bible.

"Darpe diem quam minimum credula postero" - translates roughly as "Seize the Day, putting as little trust as possible in the future" but there are several different translations, Odes 1.11, Ode to Cassandra, Horace.

"Reality is wrong, Dreams are for real,"- Tupac Shakur.

"For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing." - Romans 7:19.

"Take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves." - Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll.

Warning: Be very careful choosing your quotes and examine just what they mean before inking them onto yourself. Not everything is as it seems in writing and a misplaced clever sounding quote might make you look like an idiot. Also, be aware that your appreciation of a quote might dim so ponder the quote for a little while before making it permanent.

Monday, February 27, 2012

On the changes in children's and young adult's literature and reading

One of the most startling things to happen over the last decade is the amount of time and money funnelled into marketing books to kids and teens, which has led to the vast majority of kids reading the same books while growing up.

This wasn't really the case for those who started reading in the years prior. There were no books targeted at us that were hyped to the extent of Harry Potter or Twilight. The most available and commonly read books to us were usually early children's literature or comics. R L Stine became somewhat popular with marketing but not everyone read Goosebumps. What popular fiction we read in our late childhood and teen years often fell into the classics or mass produced adult fiction. These were available at the library, school or local. Few of us bought books because they were advertised and available. Most of us just relied on the family collection, our library cards and borrowing from friends. This led to us all reading a wide variety of books of which almost none could be said to be massively popular to our fellows. In the wider world, maybe, but not to us.

By the time we reached our teen years almost no one was reading the same book at the same time. We'd pass them on, sure. We'd say, "hey, this one's good, you'll like this," but usually to only one or two people at a turn. You would never find a group of us desperately reading the most popular and current book, each striving to finish first so that we could claim kudos. The only group reads were instigated by our teachers and rarely entertained purely because, well, a teacher told us to read. There is no easier way to make something seem terribly boring than to be told you have to do it (and on time with a report please).

So what did we read before marketing took out the freedom and replaced it with fad? These. And we were happy for it. 

Personally, I hope that the fad is removed soon as it only helps the one author and the one publishing house each time. While I'd love to make millions of dollars by having my book mass consumed and it going to film etc. I'd rather have my audience read it because they earnestly want to, not because they have to keep up with their friends. They say it is great that kids are at least reading when they read the one book fast but I'd say they'd read more if you just gave them options and allowed freedom of choice without marketing getting in the way. Freedom is fun, races are stressful, classrooms are boring, fads die and leave you with the thought "Why'd I do that?".

Read the comments for a longer list of books.