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No full TBD report for 5 years + 2 months, but two tidbits:

First, last night, TBD fell asleep doing arithmetic problems—their request, to help tire them out—during which, I confirmed that they can add 2 or 3 to any number without counting physical objects. To get the answer, they count under their breath to the second or third number after the initial number.

In other words, they understand and can use numerical succession.

TBD can use the same concept to subtract 2, by counting backwards, but often gets tangled up trying to subtract 3. And when adding 4, they immediately resort to fingers, without even trying to count forward: this is apparently a significantly more complicated task than adding 3.

Second, a bit of talking, talking, which took place after we started watching the World Cup on Telemundo:

Me: “I did it! I caught the fly!” (in mid-air!)


Subject quote from Laus Veneris, Algernon Swinburne.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/685242.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.


Reading, Wednesday, sometimes those go together:


Ivy + Bean Take the Case, Ivy + Bean book 10, Annie Barrows, which ends even more oddly than typical for this series. It also, in various ways, contradicts details set up early on. Still excellent. Am looking forward to the publication in a few weeks, after a few years' gap, of book 11.

Dory Fantasmagory books 1-3, words and pictures by Abby Hanlon -- Also read aloud to TBD after listening to the audiobooks, and THIS series really gains by having the illustrations as the story segues in and out of cartoon format (with clever background details to track). Six-year-old Dory is the youngest of three children, is a little on the young side emotionally, and has an imagination on overdrive. Funny stuff, and I have sympathy both for Dory wanting more attention and the family who finds her a pain to deal with. Her monster friends are great, and the wonderfully named Mrs. Gobble Gracker is a worthy nemesis. Significantly, requests for bedtime stories featuring Dory & Co. ramped up QUICKLY. There is a book 4 out, a tooth-fairy adventure, but the library inexplicably only has the audiobook.

Harriet the Invincible, Hamster Princess book 1, Ursula Vernon -- Earlier this year, I read aloud the first one and a third of Vernon's Danny Dragonbreath books, but TBD didn't really take to them, and given her style here is more knowing than Ivy + Bean or Dory (and requires genre-savvy readers), I was surpised that TBD was eager to finish this and wants the next book. Entertaining for me, regardless, and I like that the narrative does call out Harriet's both good and bad traits.

In progress:

The Avalon of Five Elements, Fang Xiang -- Bound, bound, bounding along, and every so often the story takes a slingshot curve I just didn't expect. I'd like it if the protagonist was a little more serious about the teacher-student relationship, especially after his relationship with his own teacher. Up to chapter 358 or so.

On hold:

Princess Weiyang (translated under the title of its drama adaptation, the original title being 庶女有毒 "Poisonous Concubine's Daughter"), Qin Jian (秦简) -- A historical novel (as in actual-historical, set in the Northern Wei kingdom, and initially appearing in print) with a protagonist who, after being horribly killed, is transmigrated into her early teenage self and so given a life do-over. She has two new life goals: 1) never ever become Empress ever again and 2) REVENGE!!! against everyone who done/is redoing her wrong -- and since she spent almost a decade as Princess and Empress in her first go round, before being deposed in favor of her half-sister, she has both Imperial-Palace-level revenging skills and a lot of people to take down. Weiyang does not have much personality -- but then, neither does Edmond Dantès -- plus I have a little trouble believing that her father is quite this stupidly inflexible, given he's survived several years as Prime Minister. Otherwise, the scheming is quite entertaining. Caught up with the translation at chapter 101 (out of 293), and at this point I'm guessing the climax will make the results of the succession disputes of 452 C.E. line up with our history, unlike as in Weiyang's first lifetime.

Looking through NovelUpdates, I see several similarly sized books with similar premises, some with translations almost complete. Game on!


Into the World of Medicine (穿越之医倾天下, later retitled Divine Doctor Noble Lady: Evil Emperor, Stop Pestering Me (神医贵女:邪皇, 勾勾缠)) by Xia Ri Fenmo (夏日粉末, "summertime powder") -- This would be a yet another mid-level xianxia adventure if it didn't have 1) a female protagonist who 2) transmigrated from our world, where she was 3) a skilled doctor AND 4) a mercenary AND 5) was killed by her family for 6) an inheritance she didn't have -- set the genre blender on Puree. Said MC is also ridiculously lucky beyond even usual for the genre (luck is, notoriously, a major component of cultivation practices) and the author can't decide whether she's committed to revenge against the family who mistreated the body she took over or is truly above them all. So instead, it's bizarre mashup of a mid-level xianxia adventure. I caught up with the translation at chapter 94 and have no reason to suspect I'll continue on when there's more.


Subject quote from Her Guitar, Frank Dempster Sherman.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/684871.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.


Rough waters for Sea Poetry Monday:

A Channel Passage, Rupert Brooke

The damned ship lurched and slithered. Quiet and quick
    My cold gorge rose; the long sea rolled; I knew
I must think hard of something, or be sick;
    And could think hard of only one thing—you!
You, you alone could hold my fancy ever!
    And with you memories come, sharp pain, and dole.
Now there’s a choice—heartache or tortured liver!
    A sea-sick body, or a you-sick soul!

Do I forget you? Retchings twist and tie me,
    Old meat, good meals, brown gobbets, up I throw.
Do I remember? Acrid return and slimy,
    The sobs and slobber of a last years woe.
And still the sick ship rolls. ’Tis hard, I tell ye,
To choose ’twixt love and nausea, heart and belly.

Rupert Brooke (1887-1915) was an astonishingly good-looking but otherwise typical Georgian poet who won fame with a handful of patriotic war poems. It is unknown if he would have remained as optimistic if he had not died during the Gallipoli campaign (before the landing, it turns out, and not during as I've always assumed) and experienced some actual war. He also wrote other light verse, but frankly I find his travel writing the most interesting part of his output.


Subject quote from The Last Chantey, Rudyard Kipling.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/684545.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.


The first link is for the World Cup, of course. The others, you can devise your own reasons for.

Football fields from around the world, many of them improvised. (via)

The 14 Habits of Highly Miserable People. (via)

Cooking stews from the oldest recipes ever found.


Subject quote from Godiva, Alfred the Tennyson.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/684486.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.

Signal boost:

Janni has a op-ed in our local paper: I know what family separation looks like
(ETA: Not accessible from EU, sorry 'bout that.)


Subject quote from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, canto IV, The Byron.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/684129.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.


Notes on learning Chinese, in case others might find it useful. Feel free to chip in with suggestions and advice.

Specifically, I've been learning Mandarin with simplified characters, primarily using apps on my phone. My immediate goal is tourist-level conversational ability by next summer, with long-term goals of basic conversational facility and basic reading comprehension. I try for a bare minimum of 15 minutes study a day, preferably >30.

At this time, my primary learning app is Duolingo, despite the limitations of its Mandarin unit, which is not as full-featured as some languages. Be warned that its method throws you into the deep end -- grammar is absorbed entirely by example -- and there's no pronunciation training, only listening. However, I keep up with daily lessons more readily on it than anything else, so it must be doing something right.*

Hello Chinese was particularly useful as a total beginner -- especially its pinyin training. The grammar notes remain helpful and the free version trains on both listening to native speakers and grading student pronunciation. I've not yet purchased the extended lessons, but am seriously considering it.

The way I learn, reading real texts with pony assistance is very helpful. My current choice for this is Du Chinese, with dialogues and texts read aloud by native speakers, graded by language level. I haven't yet sprung for the pay version because I rarely overtake the free lessons (all are free for a period before paywalling), but if I do more often I probably will.

Dictionary of choice is Pleco. Excellent, even the free version. The for-pay modules (including voice-recognition translation) look VERY useful.

Not in play at the moment:
  • There's a ton of flashcard apps, but I've not kept up with any of them, so not useful to me at this time. (If the HSK exam were a goal, maybe, but it's not.)
  • Once I have a better foundation, Skritter may be useful.
  • MemRise's lessons and manner were really sweet, with extended training using native speakers, but the amount available free was annoyingly little.
  • Various learning games. Though I have kept Study Cat's Fun Chinese on my phone, for occasional play and TBD to use.

Both Janni and I are looking at taking a beginner-level adult conversational class, but only if the schedule works out and it won't start for a couple of months anyway.

* Plus, it taught me how to say "I have 1500 cat photos on my cell phone." I KNOW RITE?


Subject quote from Battle Symphony, Linkin Park.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/683888.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.

For Sea Poetry Monday, we dive below the surf again:

The Coral Grove, James Gates Percival

Deep in the wave is a coral grove,
Where the purple mullet, and gold-fish rove,
Where the sea-flower spreads its leaves of blue,
That never are wet with falling dew,
But in bright and changeful beauty shine,
Far down in the green and glassy brine.
The floor is of sand, like the mountain drift,
And the pearl shells spangle the flinty snow;
From coral rocks the sea plants lift
Their boughs, where the tides and billows flow;
The water is calm and still below,
For the winds and waves are absent there,
And the sands are bright as the stars that glow
In the motionless fields of upper air:
There with its waving blade of green,
The sea-flag streams through the silent water,
And the crimson leaf of the dulse is seen
To blush, like a banner bathed in slaughter:
There with a light and easy motion,
The fan-coral sweeps through the clear deep sea;
And the yellow and scarlet tufts of ocean.
Are bending like corn on file upland lea:
And life, in rare and beautiful forms,
Is sporting amid those bowers of stone,
And is safe, when the wrathful spirit of storms,
Has made the top of the wave his own:
And when the ship from his fury flies,
Where the myriad voices of ocean roar,
When the wind-god frowns in the murky skies,
And demons are waiting the wreck on shore;
Then far below in the peaceful sea,
The purple mullet, and gold-fish rove,
Where the waters murmur tranquilly,
Through the bending twigs of the coral grove.

Percival (1795-1856) was, serially, a physician, newspaper editor, army surgeon, chemistry professor, lexicographer's assistant, and geologist, but now best, if barely, remembered as the leading American poet of the 1820s. His reputation was eclipsed by Bryant and Lowell -- deservedly, as a lot of his poems are Byronism watered down with sentimentality and a touch of Keats -- and he published only one collection after 1830. "The Coral Grove" was the one piece of his that continued being anthologized a century later.


Subject quote from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, canto IV, st 116-117, The Byron.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/683736.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.


The cicadas have awoken in chorus, and in a few days we get thunderstorms (thanks to the scattered remnants of a hurricane passing over us). Sounds like summer.

Which means I'm thinking about Yuletide. In particular, some fandoms I am seriously considering nominating this next year:
  • The Tay Bridge Disaster - William McGonagall - Tay Rail Bridge, Train, Storm Fiend, Passenger, Sensible Man

  • Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra | Diamond Sutra - Gautama Buddha, Subhūti, Śūnyatā (Anthropomorphism), Anatman (Anthropomorphism)

  • Faith and Practice of the Religious Society of Friends - Peace Testimony (Anthropomorphism), Simplicity Testimony (Anthropomorphism), Equality Testimony (Anthropomorphism), Truth Testimony (Anthropomorphism)

Anyone in on any of these?

Anyone have rare and obscure fandoms they're considering, that they're willing to share?

ETA: On further reflection, I think remove the Tay Rail Bridge as a nominated character. Let the prompt be the story of those affected by the catastrophic collapse of the protagonist.


Subject quote from Level Up, Vienna Teng.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/683079.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.


Wednesday reading meme day. Right. That. Looks like it's been too long since I checked in, as this is … quite a lot of reading, actually.

Admin note: I've only intermittently mentioned works read aloud to TBD, which in the past were a large number of mostly picture books and early readers. Now that we're into more chapter books and all-ages graphic novels, I'm going to make a point of noting those genres down, at least for first reads. By way of getting credit for work I'm doing anyway.


Ivy + Bean books 1-9, Annie Barrows -- TBD listened to all of these on audiobook during car rides, and now I've been reading them aloud, which means I'm getting more than just snippets (and we're both finally getting Sophie Blackall's excellent illos). These are solid chapter books, of a length that shades into middle-grade, about two second-graders who never meant to be friends but were so perfectly complementary they become true besties. Bean is the active, social one who cannot sit still, while Ivy is the quiet, bookish weirdo who's training herself to become a witch. Solid writing, deft characterization, and no book is a rehash of a previous one. My favorites are #4 Ivy + Bean Take Care of the Babysitter, #7 Ivy + Bean: What's the Big Idea?, which is an excellent explainer on global warming that's handled with heart, and #9 Ivy + Bean Make the Rules, in which they set up Camp Flaming Arrow in the local park. One more volume to go. (Plus a new book comes out in two months, one distinctly focused on Ivy.)

It turns out that the Magic School Bus franchise includes a couple different series of chapter books (all written after the original picture books and first TV series). Read aloud two books from one of them: Butterfly Battle and Insect Invasion. Both are okay, with almost enough illustrations.

An Accidental Goddess, Linnea Sinclair, a comfort reread while sick -- Romantic science-fantasy space opera. Except for a climactic moment in which the male lead behaves stupidly out of character without selling us on it, this still works.

Casino Royale, James Bond #1, Ian Fleming -- Goes down quickly, but Bond's womanizing is of the misogynistic type and the narrative validates this.

On hold:

The Legend of Chu Qiao: Division 11’s Princess Agent (11处特工皇妃, which is basically the English subtitle; the drama adaptation goes with just Princess Agent), Xiaoxiang Dong’er (潇湘冬儿) — Pseudo-historical reincarnation webnovel, in the subgenre of a female special agent transmigrated after being killed -- yes, that's a real subgenre -- in this case, into the body of an eight-year-old slave girl about to be killed (along with several others) by decadent aristocrat teens for sport. I kinda like the author's strategy for making the grimdark setting palatable: cranking up the melodrama to the max. On hold because I caught up with the translation at chapter 39, which fortunately is after a timeskip to aging her into her teens, as there's a romantic triangle in the works.

Phoenix Destiny (天命为凰), Yun Ji (云芨) -- Now here's something I've been looking for: a xianxia* novel with a female MC. In this case, she's the oldest daughter of a man who abandoned his first family to pursue a successful career as a martial artist -- and she wants an accounting. Which she can get only if she's strong enough. Revenge plot, ahoy! Well, sort of -- as of chapter 115 (where I caught up with the translation) the story is arcing more like a bildungsroman. I'll take that. And more translation.


Heavenly Jewel Change (天珠变), Tang Jia San-shao (唐家三少, "Tang Family's Third Young Master") -- Another xuanhuan webnovel, specifically an entirely disposable fantasy adventure requiring minimal brain cells. The protagonist is a rogue worthy of a classic picaresque novel, but I wish I had noticed the "Harem" tag before starting -- and it took a long time before those elements got prominent enough to be really annoying. Gave up just before chapter 400 (out of 848).

In progress:

So for my current minimal-brainage adventure needs, I'm back to The Avalon of Five Elements by Fang Xiang -- up to chapter 260 or so.

* Oversimplifying: super-powered martial arts based on Daoist cultivation practices -- contrast with wuxia aka traditional martial arts (which includes wire-fu light-movement action) and with xuanhuan aka eastern-based high fantasy (which can include xianxia elements).


Subject quote from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, canto IV, stanza 127, The Byron.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/682838.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.


Short links.

Trebuchets hurl things.

Bakemono scare people.

Fred Rogers was really good at his job. (via)


Subject quote from The Queen of Attolia, Megan Whalen Turner.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/682506.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.


A few striking images:

Oblique and overhead satellite images of the iconic Western landscape of Monument Valley.

All the volcano eruptions since 1883, visualized.

Juno takes astonishing pix. (via)


Subject quote from The Odyssey, book X, Homer tr. William Morris.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/682107.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). Please comment there.

... a place for posting bits of fluff caught in my filters. Warning: I list "very bad poetry" among my interests.

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