April 27, 2004

Belæfed lamb

When we made the lamb folláin for Easter, as usual for us we made more than we could possibly eat that night. Some of the leftovers became lunch of the following days, but a large amount of it was frozen and just recently became a lamb curry, Rogan Josh:


We had rice, raita, and poppadums on the side.

First we cut the lamb up into chunks. Then we briefly cooked chopped onion in ghee until soft, and added yoghurt to the pan. Next in the pan were the spices (chilli powder, coriander, cumin, cardamom, cloves, turmeric), garlic, and ginger. Then we added salt and diced tomatoes and simmered briefly. Then we added the lamb and left it to simmer longer:


At the very end of the cooking process, we added garam masala — we made this spice mixture ourselves at one point, but I couldn’t say exactly what’s in it at the moment — and garnished with toasted slivered almonds.

The rice — basmati of course — was made in our rice cooker, with chicken broth, ghee, peas, turmeric, cloves, cardamom pods, and a cinnamon stick. The raita consisted of yoghurt, cucumber, toasted spices (cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, ground cumin), salt, fresh ginger, and was garnished with paprika.

Two cocktails accompanied the making of this lamb curry, chosen on the basis of name value only: East India Cocktail (1 1/2 oz dry vermouth, 1 1/2 oz dry sherry, 1 dash orange bitters) and Bombay Cocktail (1/2 oz dry vermouth, 1/2 oz sweet vermouth, 1 oz brandy, 1/4 tsp anisette [in this case Pernod], 1/2 tsp triple sec).

eastindia.jpg bombay.jpg

Posted by Mark at 11:46 PM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2004

To writenne spell

In about a week and a half, I leave for Kalamazoo, Michigan for the 39th International Congress on Medieval Studies where I will be delivering a paper entitled “Verbal Constructions and the Structure of Old English Narrative”.1 I’m still working on the paper.

When I submitted my proposal, way back in August or September, I was shortly about to sit my thesis defence, so at the time the only thing I had on my mind was the material in my dissertation. While the title of the paper is suitably vague enough, I am bound somewhat by the contents of the proposal. I’ve got plenty of new material that I’ve been working on since then (as well as some unused material from when I was writing my dissertation) which could be worked into the paper (more interesting for me and potentially more interesting for the audience), but there is only so far I can stretch it, and only so much material I can fit into a 20 minute talk. Also, I find myself needing to balance the desire to talk about my more recent material against the exigencies of presenting a coherent and unified paper. Hopefully I’ll find the right balance…

1 The session I’m speaking in, Ideas of Style in Old English, is on Thursday May 6th at 3:30 pm, but instead of the location printed in the programme it will take place in Schneider 1355, or so I’m told.

Posted by Mark at 06:13 PM | Comments (2)

Russisc geondspiwe

For some reason I’ve been getting a lot of Russian spam lately. Seeing as I know very little Russian, unlike my sister — I know a handful of words and and can count to ten… well maybe six at the moment — this spam is utterly failing to accomplish anything useful for the senders. Is Russia a major source of spam these days, or am I just lucky? While I certainly do get some spam in in various Asian languages that I don’t know, much of the spam from Asian countries comes in English, though often English which seems to be produced by translation software (a topic for another day). Is there a large global marked for spam written in Russian?

While I’m on the topic of Russian, I added a link on the sidebar a while ago to Chainik, the blog of linguistics student who is focussing on Slavic languages. In addition to her study of Slavic languages, she also conlangs (a pursuit I once tried my hand at — another topic for another day). Anyway, another interesting blog that’s worth a look.

Posted by Mark at 06:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sciellfiscas and wyrte

We did another experimental dish on Friday night, loosely inspired by the idea I had of doing California rolls in the form of a salad:


First of all the salad greens were a mixture of baby greens mix and mâche1, delicate enough for this type of salad. The seafood was a mix of various types of surimi (including crab, lobster, and scallops), the key ingredient in California rolls. The other element of our salad was avocado, also a key component to California rolls.

The salad dressing was also inspired by sushi. We mixed together soy sauce, sesame oil, peanut oil, and rice wine vinegar, along with wasabi powder and wasabi lime mustard to give the dressing a bit of a kick.

We tossed the surimi and avocado in some of the dressing and then spooned it over a bed of the greens. Then we poured more of the dressing over top. Finally we sprinkled some toasted sesame seeds over the salad.

It was very good. Other things we could have added, in keeping with the California roll theme, are some cucumber, nori, or some pickled ginger as a garnish.

And as a pre-dinner cocktail, we made ourselves vodka gimlets (2 parts vodka, 1 part Rose’s Lime Cordial). Normally I prefer gimlets made with gin, but (horrors!) we’re out of gin at the moment.


1 Also know as lamb’s lettuce or corn salad

Posted by Mark at 05:49 PM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2004

Se Ceap

Here is a picture of my cat Tigger:


Perhaps this explains Tigger’s many injuries.

(Thanks to one of my students for the link.)

Posted by Mark at 11:58 PM | Comments (0)

Forðgewiten fulfremed and mare þonne fulfremed

On Tuesday I attended an interesting lecture by Professor Matti Kilpiö from the University of Helsinki entitled “Diachronic Changes in the Inflection vs. Non-Inflection of the Past Participle in Old English Perfect and Pluperfect Constructions Formed with Habban”. Professor Kilpiö is writing the entry for habban for the Dictionary of Old English. His findings are perhaps still somewhat preliminary, but he showed some very interesting patterns. While the non-inflection of the past participle in perfect and pluperfect constructions is by far more common than the inflection of said participles, they are in variation during the Old English period (as the inflection becomes gradually less common over the period). He even had examples of sentences with both inflected and non-inflected participles. There were definitely some interesting distribution patterns (including word order patterns), and Professor Kilpiö supplied some very useful handouts.

Posted by Mark at 11:45 PM | Comments (0)

Gebacen swinflæsc

I thought for once I’d write about a recipe which wasn’t entirely successful; it wasn’t a complete failure — it still tasted all right — but it didn’t come out the way I thought it would. The dish was baked pork chops with lemon and herbs:


The recipe was from the 2004 Milk Calendar, a publication by the dairy farmers of Canada — don’t worry, it’s better than it sounds — this year by Christine Cushing. (Is this only found in Ontario, or is it distributed in other parts of Canada?)

First of all, we dipped the pork chops in milk, and thin in a mixture of bread crumbs, dried basil, and dried rosemary. Then the pork chops were put in the oven to bake.

Meanwhile, to make the sauce, in a saucepan we sautéed garlic and onions, along with more basil and rosemary, in butter. Then we poured into the pan milk with cornstarch and lemon zest whisked into it, which we continued to whisk until thickened. Finally we added some lemon juice and salt to the sauce.

When the pork chops were almost done, we poured the sauce over them and baked for a few minutes more. This is where I think the recipe went wrong. There was too much sauce, and the chops lost their nice crispy outer texture.

In any case, we served the pork chops with broccoli and potatoes with the sauce poured over everything. As you can see in the picture at the start of this entry, our pork chops didn’t really come out looking like the picture in the calendar in the background. Oh well.

Posted by Mark at 11:31 PM | Comments (2)

April 23, 2004


Over at Languagehat there’s a discussion of and link to Saganet. Even if you’re not interested in Old Norse manuscripts, it’s worth just taking a look at some of these images.

On a similar note, there are some nice manuscript images available from the British Library on their Turning the Pages site, including images from the Lindisfarne Gospels. Also quite stunning.

Posted by Mark at 12:34 AM | Comments (0)


There is an interesting posting on kennings over at Language Log and a link to a Lexicon of Kennings. Both worth a look.

Posted by Mark at 12:24 AM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2004


There’s an interesting post on Language Log about phrasal verbs and which verbs are permitted to take these so-called “prepositions”. I think Mark Liberman is dead on here. This does represent an older linguistic pattern which has survived to the modern English.

This interesting discussion has inspired me to write on a topic which perscriptive grammarians often make erroneous statements about: ending a sentence with a “preposition”. What perscriptivists don’t seem to realise is that up in sentences like “He cleaned up” or “She finished up” is not a preposition at all. It is more accurately thought of as akin to the separable prefix of separable prefix verbs in German, and due to the Germanic principle of embraciation, the normal word order for such separable prefixes is often the end of a sentence. Ending sentences with such separable prefixes was perfectly normal word order in Old English and in Middle English, and is still normal and acceptable in Modern English. So don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t end a sentence in a “preposition”.

As an interesting aside, I should point out that in Old English prepositions sometimes come after the noun they govern (as in him biforan ‘before him’).

Posted by Mark at 11:46 PM | Comments (0)

And gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche

As I mentioned earlier, I’m in the midst of grading Old English essays at the moment. While this is a fair amount of work — though I fortunately do have a teaching assistant to help mark the 41 eight to twelve page essays — it’s actually quite enjoyable work. For the most part, the essays are really quite excellent, far more sophisticated than one might expect in a second year undergraduate course. This is largely due to the fact that many of the students are actually in upper years, and many are going on to do graduate work. Also, as I wrote earlier, I’m quite pleased with the essay topics. Assigning essay topics is quite fun: you come up with all these interesting topics, don’t have to do all the work, and suddenly all these great essays appear! Indeed, from the very best essays I’m learning new things myself. Not a bad return on the teaching.

Posted by Mark at 05:33 PM | Comments (0)


Every three or four months, we make a large pot of spaghetti sauce:


We then freeze this in two-person portions — one batch usually produces ten to twelve such portions — and have it once every week or two as a good quick dinner.

The recipe is one of my own devising. It started out as a kind of bolognese sauce, but as you’ll soon see, my recipe is not exactly traditional in every detail. The first thing in the pot was the tomatoes: several cans of diced tomatoes and tomato paste.

While the tomatoes were coming up to a simmer, I browned the meat in olive oil in a large pan. First up was the ground beef, which was browned in two batches along with a spoon of minced garlic in each batch. Next I browned the ground pork — this was the first time I used pork as well as beef in this recipe — with more garlic. As each batch of meat was done, it was added to the pot with the tomatoes.

While I was browning the meat, my wife used our KitchenAid food processor to grate, dice, or slice the vegetables. First she grated some carrots which went straight into the pot — the sweetness of the carrots balances the bitterness of the tomatoes. The other vegetables she put through the food processor were then fried by me with again more garlic and olive oil before being added to the pot: diced onions, sliced celery, and sliced mushrooms.

The next stage in the process was the flavourings. I added even more minced garlic straight into the pot, some sugar (again to balance the tomatoes), freshly ground black pepper, and half a bottle of red wine. We didn’t add any salt since we were going to freeze it — we salt at the table instead. We also added a variety of herbs and spices: bay leaves, oregano, basil, lovage, thyme, cinnamon, allspice, and some chili powder to give it some kick.


Once the flavourings were added we left it to simmer for many hours (and several more hours to cool before we could freeze it). Oh, and we enjoyed campari and orange juice while we were making this work-horse of a recipe. We are now provisioned for the summer as far as spaghetti sauce goes.

Posted by Mark at 04:19 PM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2004

Hwa oððe hwam

There is a post by Geoffrey K. Pullum over at Language Log by that I find somewhat curious. He very rightly points out that the use of whom is disappearing from modern English, being leveled into who.

In reference to the sentence Whom were you talking to?, he writes:
In normal conversation, the frequency of whom at the beginning of a clause (as opposed to preceded by a preposition) is now virtually zero.
I am by no means a perscriptivist, but I do think he is somewhat overstating the case here. While I’m sure who is by far more common here, I doubt the use of whom is “virtually zero”, but perhaps I’m wrong. Having worked with Old English (and Old Norse, and Latin, etc.) for many years, I guess I’m very keyed to the use of case in language, but I don’t think I’m prone to using impossibly archaic language in everyday contexts. I’d be interested to know what others who don’t work in the field of linguistics think about this. Pullum goes on to write:
If you are teaching English to foreign learners, you should unquestionably teach them to [use] who in such contexts, not whom.
Again, I wonder about this advice. Surely the most sensible thing is to teach this as an optional rule, but then again perhaps those who have more experience teaching ESL students would wish to correct me on this.

Pullum seems to be understandibly frustrated with the arguments of perscriptivists, but his own argument seems too go to far (hypercorrection of hypercorrection?). Nevertheless, it’s an interesting post with other interesting example sentences, and well worth the read.

Posted by Mark at 11:58 PM | Comments (3)


On Friday night my wife and I went over to Mike Shaver and Tyla’s house to watch the hockey game. Since they had been kind enough to provide a wonderfully bbq’d dinner for everyone two nights before, Mike Beltzner, my wife, and I decided to bring dinner this time.

My wife and I brought the barbequeables. We got some boneless chicken thighs and some pork tenderloin and put them in a very simple but effective marinade which we came up with: soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine, rice wine vinegar, chili garlic sauce, garlic, ginger, sugar, and pepper. They were expertly grilled by Shaver and came out really well. I’m definitely geared up for bbq season now.

Beltzner made a wonderful Greek salad, and for desert we had grilled pineapple with ice cream and rum sauce. It was the the perfect meal to celebrate another Leafs victory.

Posted by Mark at 11:43 PM | Comments (2)

Sciellfiscas II

Last Thursday my wife and I did another iteration of our shrimp and scallop dish:


This time we served it on a bed of rice.

The first change we made to the recipe was to add leeks, as well as broccoli, to the shellfish. We also adjusted the cooking times a bit. We started out stirfrying the leeks until soft, then we added the broccoli to the wok. Since we used smaller scallops this time (and a more even ballance between the scallops and the shrimp), we were able to add both shellfish to the wok at the same time and have them cooked at the same time:


Due to the smaller size of the scallops we didn’t overcook the shrimp this time. The final modification we made was to add a splash of vermouth to the wok right at the end. It was definitely a good addition. I think we still need to adjust the ratio of the roasted garlic and chilli olive oils. Also, the leeks may have been a bit too delicate for the recipe, so we might try a different member of the onion family next time.

Posted by Mark at 11:22 PM | Comments (0)

April 17, 2004

Dissertatio: Back to the Future, or The Future is Now (available)

My dissertation, The Conceptualisation of Futurity in Old English (abstract), is now available for download from UMI ProQuest Digital Disserations (free for those with academic affiliations and with a charge, which doesn’t go to me, for the general public). Strangely enough, it is not yet available in the U of T Library — they seem to be very slow to catalogue new items — but it is available in the PIMS library. It’s about the development and usage of futural verbal constructions in Old English.

Now anyone who wishes can have relatively easy access to it. This is a good thing, I think, since I don’t think I’ll be trying to have it published as is. Instead, I plan to suck all the marrow out of its bones and publish a series of articles based on the best parts of it. Chapter 1 could probably be expanded into a monograph and published on its own, and the rest of it would make sense as shorter articles, also expanded and revised. I think the material will be more approachable that way, and, to be mercenary about it, I’ll get more lines on my résumé that way. But what do others think of the relative merits of publishing a dissertation as a book or as a series of articles?

Posted by Mark at 06:13 PM | Comments (1)


Last weekend my parents visited for Easter. On Sunday, we had Easter dinner along with my sister and her husband:


You can also read my wife’s account of the dinner and see more pictures here. Before dinner, many martinis were drunk, and many appetizers provided by my mother were nibbled.

For the dinner itself, we made Lamb Folláin, which I’ve already written about in these two entries. As you can see, it came out very well:


Along with the lamb, we also made the jus as we did the last time we did Lamb Folláin, and also glazed the carrots in the marmalade as we did before. In addition, we roasted potatoes (with our favourite roasted garlic oil), and steamed some spinach (which we also tossed with roasted garlic oil).

The other side dish, deserving of special note, was asparagus. Since the key flavouring of the lamb was orange, we decided to make orange the unifying theme of our dinner. We steamed the asparagus, and made up an orange hollandaise to pour over it. We had made a lime hollandaise which we had found a recipe for before, so I figured there was no reason one couldn’t make an orange hollandaise. We simply added orange juice as well as lemon juice, along with some orange zest, to the egg, before blending while pouring in just-boiling butter. It came out very well indeed. We kept the hollandaise warm by submersing the jug in a bowl of warm water.

In the picture above, next to the hollandaise is the salad dressing we made. The salad itself consisted of romaine, boston lettuce, radicchio, frisée lettuce, and mesclun. We tied the salad into the theme by serving it with an orange vinagrette: orange juice, lemon juice, citrus olive oil, extra virgin olive oil from Tuscany, orange zest, Trapani sea salt from Tuscany, and freshly ground white pepper. The salad was also quite successful.

We set the table with our china, silverware, and crystal. Here’s a picture of the plated Easter dinner:


Dinner was accompanied by two different wines, Cave Spring Cabernet Merlot and Chateaux Puyfromage.

One final element to the orange-themed dinner: dessert. My wife made a chocolate cake flavoured with Grand Marnier, orange juice, orange flower water, and orange zest. You can read more about the cake and see pictures of it here. The cake was also a resounding success. Along with it we tippled Kittling Ridge Icewine & Brandy.

Indeed the the whole evening was very enjoyable, both for the wonderful and loving company and, if I may say so myself, for the delectable meal.

Posted by Mark at 05:05 PM | Comments (0)

Melior est finis orationis quam principium

As I mentioned before, last week was the end of term. In the last class of both of my courses, my students showed their appreciation with a round of applause — very sweet of them! Is this a common practice? I don’t seem to remember this custom from my undergraduate years, but my memory could be failing me. It was very encouraging in any case. In addition to the applause, a number of students paused after class to shake my hand or thank me in person, so I guess I’m doing something right.

I also recently found out that I now have the dubious honour of having made it into the RateMyProfessors.ca database. While I don’t put much stock in this website, it was nice to see that my rating was generally pretty positive. However, I do believe that student feedback is very important, especially for less experienced instructors, and I look forward to seeing the official U of T class evaluations from my students.

In addition to being useful for improving my grasp of pedegogy, such evaluations are also useful in putting together a teaching dossier. At the moment, I only have evaluations from my teaching assistantships, but by the time I’m applying to jobs next fall, I’ll have this year’s evaluations.

As a teacher, I think I have improved enormously over the course of this year — a trend common to most instructors in their first or second year, I imagine — to the point where I would consider my teaching abilities one of my strongest assets. And it’s not just the in-class skills but all levels of organization and planning. Like anything else, teaching takes practice and experience.

Posted by Mark at 04:31 PM | Comments (0)

April 16, 2004


In the last week of term, I covered riddles with my Old English class. I figured it would be a fun way to end the term. We started with the a couple of basic riddles from the textbook and then moved on to some riddles that I prepared as a handout. Mitchell & Robinson’s A Guide to Old English doesn’t contain any of the double-entendre riddles, riddles which seem to suggest a rather salacious solution but in fact have a perfectly ordinary and polite solution, so I had to make up a mini-edition of some good ones (with glossaries) to use in class. I think the class quite enjoyed them and were only a little traumatised by the experience.

The riddles are also quite interesting for a variety of reasons in addition to the use of humour in Anglo-Saxon literature, as they give an insight into the Anglo-Saxon cultural commonplaces and reflections on the natural world.

Here for the entertainment of my readers are (translations of) some of the riddles we looked at in class. A cookie to the first one to guess the solution to each of the riddles. The first two are polite riddles, the second two are suggestive:

Riddle 46
A man sat at wine with his two wives and his two sons and his two daughters, beloved sisters, and their two sons, noble firstborn; the father of each of those two young men was there with them, uncle and nephew. In all there were five of those men and women sitting there.
Riddle 86
A creature came going where many men sat in an assembly, wise in mind; it had one eye and two ears, and two feet, twelve hundred heads, a back and a belly and two hands, arms and shoulders, one neck and two sides. Say what I am called.
Riddle 44
A wonderous thing hangs by a man’s thigh, under the man’s garment. In the front is a hole. It is firm and hard, it has a good place; then the man lifts his garment over the knee, wishes to touch with the head of his hanging object that familiar hole which he regularly before often filled.
Riddle 45
I heard something grows in a corner, swells and is erect, raising its covering; a bride groped that boneless thing with proud hands, the lord’s daughter covered the swelling thing with a garment.
Posted by Mark at 01:06 PM | Comments (2)


Another fairly simple recipe to blog about, meatloaf:


We had peas and mashed potatoes, with our favourite roasted garlic olive oil (as well as butter, salt, and pepper), on the side.

The meatloaf recipe itself is quite straightforward. In a large bowl we mixed ground beef, bread crumbs, eggs, diced onions, diced shallots, crushed garlic, and seasoned with thyme, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. We then moulded this into a free-form loaf on a baking sheet (rather than in a loaf tin) and brushed the loaf with more ketchup. We then baked it until done. Simple, straightforward, and very satisfying.

Posted by Mark at 12:45 PM | Comments (0)

Chili mid flæschmete

A while back my wife and I made chili con carne, with corn bread and salad:


Not a very fancy meal, but a very satisfying one amid the end-of-term craziness.

First of all we browned the ground beef and then added diced onions to the pan. Next we added the chili powder and fried until fragrant.

The next stage in this very simple recipe was to add all the rest of the ingredients: diced tomatoes, pre-soaked and boiled romano and red kidney beans, canned corn, and green pepper. The seasonings included salt, pepper, and cinnamon. We also added some beer (Grolsch lager, to be specific) and left it to simmer.

We also made corn bread according to my wife’s recipe — though I’m told that the recipe from The Purity Cookbook is the best. After mixing the ingredients, we put the batter into a pre-heated cast iron pan and baked until done. There’s nothing quite like good cast iron cookware. Perhaps sometime I’ll blog about my various cookware preferences.

Posted by Mark at 12:07 PM | Comments (0)

April 15, 2004


Finally a return to blogging! As I wrote in my last entry, I haven’t been able to blog much lately due to end-of-term pressures and my parents’ visit over Easter. Now that it’s into the exam period, I have a bit more time to blog, so over the next few days I hope to catch up on things.

I’ve got a couple of dinners from before Easter to write up, as well as Easter dinner itself. There are also some end-of-term topics I want to write on, as well as some other miscellaneous subjects that have been floating around in my mind recently.

At the moment, while my students are studying away for their final exams, I have essays from my Old English class to grade and a conference paper to write, so although I’m not teaching every day at the moment, I do have a number of things to keep me busy. On top of all that, I’ve been spending some time doing some computer spring cleaning, clearing out my harddrive etc. Nevertheless, I do take time out to watch the NHL playoffs.

So sorry for the delay, and thanks for reading. It’s good to be back!

Posted by Mark at 06:01 PM | Comments (0)

April 09, 2004


My blogging has been a bit irregular of late due to end-of-term craziness. Suffice it to say that I’ve had quite a bit of grading to do lately. And I probably won’t get much time to do a lot of blogging done over the next few days either, since my parents will be in town for an Easter visit. Rest assured that I’ve been saving up a number of bloggable topics to write on and will get to them soon.

Posted by Mark at 08:19 PM | Comments (0)

April 05, 2004

Ic eom stæfcræftes god!

Grammar God!
You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

If your mission in life is not already to
preserve the English tongue, it should be.
Congratulations and thank you!

How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by Mark at 10:41 PM | Comments (4)

Awendednesse Beowulfes

In answer to this question from Blinger I can recommend three translations of Beowulf, actually.

For a very literal, accurate translation, the one in S.A.J. Bradley’s Anglo-Saxon Poetry, which contains translations of the majority of Old English poems, is a quite reliable prose rendering. Bradley is usually the first translation I reach for for Old English poetry.

On the other hand, for a more entertaining verse translation, there is always the recent version by Seamus Heaney. Heaney’s version is quite interesting as a poem in and of itself, but he does take some liberties with the text. There is a handy dual language edition with facing page text of the original Old English poem. Or there is a critical edition from Norton, which has a number of useful extras such as commentary and a collection of important Beowulf scholarship.

R.M Liuzza’s verse translation is quite a successful compromise between these two ends of the spectrum. I quite like Liuzza’s version, actually. It is an accurate representation of the text, and it is interesting to read. It also contains a slew of useful materials in appendices, such as translations of various analogues to the poem and sample passages for a number of Beowulf translations for comparison.

It’s quite interesting comparing these three versions. Bradley and Liuzza are both Old English scholars, and Heaney, of course, is a famous (Irish) poet. Heaney has certain goals in his translation which he explains in his introduction. One of the essay topics I set for my Old English students was to compare two different translations of an Old English text. In addition to the translations of Beowulf there are some quite interesting versions of Old English poems by otherwise famous English poets, such as Alfred Lord Tennyson’s The Battle of Brunanburh and Ezra Pound’s The Seafarer. I’m quite looking forward to what my students come up with.

For those who have read any of these translations, what did you think?

Posted by Mark at 09:46 PM | Comments (0)

April 04, 2004

Ex tempore

A little while back, Blinger wrote an entry about the importance of being over-prepared for teaching, a sentiment I certainly agree with. However, there are times that improvising in the classroom can be very effective.

Last week I gave a lecture (acually part of a lecture) that I thought was quite good, which was done without full preparation. In my Old English class (as I’ve mentioned before), we were looking at a passage from the poem Judith. I’ve been working on the poem in my own research recently, and I had done some additional work with the aim of making some introductory remarks on the poem in class, but I decided that there wouldn’t be time for a lengthy introduction, so I never actually wrote up my notes for class, opting only for some brief remarks.

As it turned out, we finished the passage from Beowulf more quickly than expected, so there was a good 20 to 30 minutes or so at the end of one class for me to do my introduction for Judith, so I just improvised on the subject off the top of my head. I think it was one of my more successful recent lectures actually. It even inspired one student to change his essay topic. Admittedly, I had done a lot of research beforehand, but I wasn’t working from a set of notes. Perhaps the best method is to make the notes and then throw them away. In any case, I certainly couldn’t do a lecture by just reading from a set of notes. I much prefer actually talking to my class and being able to read the expressions on their faces as I go.

Well, I’ll finish off this entry with the Beowulf joke I told my class last week (not my joke originally, by the way): “Beowulf is the story of how the hero Beowulf comes to Heorot to stop Grendel from eating all the Danishes.”

Posted by Mark at 09:28 PM | Comments (1)

Skither and other neologisms

When I was watching the Leafs hockey game on Friday, I heard the most wonderful new word: skither. Sportscasters are well known for mungling words. In this case, skither seems to be a conglomeration of skitter and slither, and was used to describe the movement of the puck down the ice. What a wonderfully descriptive word!

Later that night, I read in Kevin Jackson’s Invisible Forms that Gelett Burgess, apparently a very talented neologist, had coined the word blurb, meaning ‘a brief publicity notice, as on a book jacket’, as well as bromide in the sense ‘a platitude’ and goop.

For some more wonderful neologisms, see Rethabile Masilo’s On English (specifically here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

Anyone else have any others to add to the list?

Oh, and the Leafs won Friday’s game (a shutout against the Buffalo Sabers), as well humiliated the Ottawa Senators 6-0 on Saturday night! Go Leafs go!

Posted by Mark at 07:59 PM | Comments (2)


On Friday night, my wife and I had a new shrimp and scallop dish, along with a French baguette and artichokes bigger than my fist with garlic butter on the side:


This seafood recipe is a new creation of ours; we had brought scallops and shrimp home from the grocery store on a whim and just made it up from ingredients we happened to have on hand. This recipe is a work in progress, and there’s still some tinkering to be done, but as we continue to experiment with it I’ll post more entries on our progress to track the creation and development of this new recipe.

It’s a fairly simple recipe actually. The seafood was first cleaned and dried. We decided to stirfry the seafood, but in a moment of fusion inspiration we decided to stirfry it in a combination of roasted garlic olive oil and chili olive oil. First we heated the wok over high heat until it was very hot. Then we added the oils and swirled to coat the wok. Then we added the shrimp, scallops, and broccoli to the wok:

seafoodstirfry1.jpg seafoodstirfry2.jpg

Once the seafood was nearly cooked, we seasoned with freshly ground black pepper and Trapani sea salt from Sicily. The broccoli was an excellent choice because it holds the flavours quite well. Some of the modifications we’re planning for the next iteration of this recipe to add a splash of vermouth and to include a more even balance between the shrimps and scallops and an adjustment to the cooking time for the different ingredients, since we found that the shrimp cooked much quicker than the scallops.

My pre-dinner cocktail on Friday was a vodka martini, which, as with gin martinis, I prefer with a 3:1 ratio of vodka to vermouth and garnished with three olives:


My favourite vodka, by the way, is Ursus, made from an Icelandic recipe in Holland. Anyone else want to chime in with their favourite vodkas? Madhava, perhaps?

Posted by Mark at 07:18 PM | Comments (2)

April 03, 2004

Tacen sweotol

Over this past week in my Old English class, we’ve been reading parallel passages from Beowulf and Judith (as I’ve mentioned in a previous posting), specifically dismemberment passages: Beowulf’s fight with Grendel and the tearing off of his arm (ll. 809-836), Beowulf’s fight with Grendel’s mother (ll. 1557-1590), and Judith’s decapitation of Holofernes (ll. 94b-121).

In the first passage, in a fight with Grendel, Beowulf mortally wounds Grendel by ripping his arm off; Grendel then flees the hall to die in private. Beowulf then puts the arm on display in the hall Heorot (Hart House, anyone?) as visible evidence — tacen sweotol ‘visible token’ — that he defeated Grendel.

In the second passage, Beowulf cuts Grendel’s mother’s head off with a special ancient sword he finds in her underwater abode. He then proceeds to mutilate the already dead body of Grendel, cutting the head off. Beowulf does this for two reasons, for revenge and so that he can bring the head back with him to Heorot. When Beowulf arrives at the hall, he shows it to the Danes tires to tacne ‘as a token of glory’, again, visible evidence of his victory.

In the final passage we looked at, Judith saves her people, the Hebrews, from Holofernes and his invading army of Assyrians. The Assyrians have beseiged the city of Bethulia, and Judith uses feminine charms to gain access to the enemy camp. The wicked Holofernes holds a banquet and becomes very drunk. Deciding to have his way with Judith, he orders her brought to his bedchamber, but then passes out from all the alcohol. Judith takes this opportunity to cut Holofernes’ head off, though it takes two blows to do it, and then sneaks out of the camp bringing the head with her. When she returns to her city, she orders her handmaiden hyt to behðe blodig ætywan ‘to show it, bloody, as a sign’ to her people. And she says, “Her ge magon sweotole … on ðæs laðestan hæ&eht;enes heaðorinces heafod starian” [‘You may clearly gaze on the head of that most hated heathen warrior’]. Having seen this visible evidence of Holofernes’ death, the people of Bethulia are enheartened and attack and defeat the now leaderless Assyrians, who panic and flee.

I find this all very interesting, the need for visible evidence, the motives for dismemberment, the thematic implications. I should also point out that both these poems are found in the same manuscript, so drawing parallels between the two is very tempting.

Posted by Mark at 05:55 PM | Comments (0)

Hu to gearwienne æghwilcne mete

Having already sung the praises of the venerable cookbook The Joy of Cooking, I thought it meet that I also write an entry on a more recent book with a similar scope, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. Like The Joy of Cooking, Bittman’s book is an attempt to provide a comprehensive resource of standard recipes and basic cooking techniques. I am constantly consulting both works. On Wednesday night, we prepared sautéed pork chops with dried apricots, a variation of Bittman’s Sautéed Pork Chops, Eight Ways:


We browned the pork chops, seasoned with salt and pepper, on both sides. Then we added garlic and dry Fino sherry — this was our own slight modification of the recipe which calls for dry white wine — and cooked until the liquid was all but evaporated. Next in the pan was chicken stock, and the pork chops were simmered until cooked. We then removed the pork chops from the pan and kept them warm in the oven.

The next stage is to make the sauce. We added dried apricots, which had been soaked in boiling water, along with the soaking liquid to the pan and boiled the sauce until it was thickened and the apricots were soft:


When plating up, we poured the sauce over the pork chops and had boiled new potatoes and salad, consisting of romain lettuce and radiccio, on the side. The apricots are a fabulous complement to the pork chops. Like the sautéed chicken breast recipe, this sautéed pork chop dish has become part of our standard repertoire; it is quick and easy, as well as very satisfying. Mark Bittman certainly does good work!

Posted by Mark at 04:57 PM | Comments (2)