July 02, 2007


It’s been almost a year since I’ve blogged regularly, and I apologise for that — it has been a busy year, what with the birth of my son, teaching new courses at a new university, and moving back to and away from Toronto again. But I’ve been missing the outlet, especially over the summer when I don’t have the captive audience of a class of students, so I’ve decided to give it a go again. One of the reasons I stopped writing was that I got bogged down with writing lots of posts about life updates and other mundane topics. So in this latest attempt at blogging I won’t be doing much of that. Instead I’m going to focus on the original purpose behind this blog, which was to freely write about the random little ideas that occur to me about “language, literature, music, food, culture, history” as I wrote in my first entry. So, gone is the day-to-day stuff (for the most part), the food blogging (except for perhaps exceptional circumstances — not that I have that much time for fancy cooking these days), and all the photos.

Having said that, I’m going to briefly break my own rule and give a brief rundown on my life at present. Over the past year I taught at the University of Toronto at Mississauga in the Department of English and Drama. I taught two first-year courses, Narrative and Forms of Literary Expression, not courses in my field but I had quite a bit of leeway with them and enjoyed the experience. I would be teaching at UTM again next year, but my wife got a job at Thorneloe University, so we’ll be moving to Sudbury and I’ll be teaching there as well.

As I’ve mentioned already, our son was born last fall — he’s eight months old now. While neither my wife or I have been blogging much on our own blogs, we did start a separate blog for our son (send me an e-mail if you wish to read the baby’s blog).

Since term ended I’ve attended the Kalamazoo conference, worked on an article which is now just about ready to send out, and planned for our move to Sudbury. So life is pretty busy, but I’ve got lots to write about. By the way, though I’ve been absent from my own blog over the past year, I have been keeping up with reading other people’s blogs, and now that I’m back at writing my own blog, I’ll get back to posting comments on other blogs as well.

So stay tuned for posts about such ideas as the connection between the development of seafaring technology and humans’ sense of their place in the world, some reflections on Byronic heroes, teaching time travel literature from ancient to modern, some ideas about the future of literary scholarship, and other half-baked ideas. It’s good to be back!

Posted by Mark at 11:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 30, 2007

Test Pattern

Stay tuned — new posts coming soon!

Posted by Mark at 02:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 25, 2007

Blogiversary III

This is a bit of a tease really. I haven’t managed a blog post in over six months—my apologies for that—and I don’t think I’ll have much time for more posts in the near future, what with work and a four-month-old son. Indeed, what little time I have for blogging now is spent on posting on the blog dedicated to my son (if you’re interested in reading that, drop me a line and I’ll let you know the url and password). I’ve meant to post an entry here announcing my hopefully temporary break from this blog but haven’t got around to it till now, and since today is the third anniversary of this blog…

In the past, I’ve written posts on the spelling of blogiversary (here and here). Here is an update on the number of ghits of the various spellings:


As you can see, the total number of hits has more than doubled since last year. There are no startling changes in the relative frequencies, as the following table makes clear:


The spelling blogiversary, though still by far the most common spelling and more than doubling it’s number of occurrences, continues to decrease in its percentage of the overall whole. And again blogoversary continues to increase in frequency. The spelling blogaversary is making something of a comeback (though not reclaiming third place yet). Anyway, it’s interesting to continue to track this over time, though it occurs to me that by writing these blog posts, I’m affecting the very thing I’m tracking. No way around this I suppose…

Posted by Mark at 01:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 08, 2006


We’re back in Toronto now — have been for over a week now. Unfortunately we don’t have internet access yet, since Rogers never managed to make the connection work (they seem to be quite incompetent), and so we’re switching over to Sympatico. I’ll post more when it’s set up.

Posted by Mark at 07:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 26, 2006

Packing update #4

This will probably be my last post for at least a week or two, since we’ll be losing our internet connection as of tomorrow and heading out on the road on Saturday. I’m not sure when the internet will be hooked up and functioning, but I’ll post again soon after.

I’ll have a lot to post about in August, including:

  • lots of books I’ve read
  • our trip to Aven’s parents’ place in Nova Scotia last weekend
  • my first foray into woodcarving
  • the conference I’ll be attending at soon as I arrive in Toronto
  • my teaching this fall

We’re now doing all the last minute packing. The clothes we’re bringing in the car have been packed into luggage, and the rest have been boxed up, and the bathroom has been finished. We still have to pack up the last few things in the kitchen and the TV, DVD player, etc. Wish us luck!

Posted by Mark at 03:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 21, 2006

Packing update #3

One week till the movers come! We’ve got a lot more done now, thanks to the help of Aven’s parents, whose summer home is relatively nearby in Nova Scotia, and our old friend Emily, who came for a visit on the way to a wedding. Pretty much everything is done now, except for some last minute odds and ends. Our helpers were particularly instrumental in packing up the kitchen, which is a very fiddly and time-consuming job. We’re certainly a lot further on now than I thought we would be. Somehow packing up this time seems much easier than last year. Anyway, here’s another picture of Tigger ‘helping’ us pack:


Posted by Mark at 08:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 19, 2006


Last Saturday was my and my wife’s sixth wedding anniversary. In celebration, we went to the beach we found earlier. We ate lobster rolls, and I braved the numerous jelly fish and went for a swim. Later that evening, my parents, who were visiting, took us out to dinner at the Marshlands Inn.

For anniversary gifts, my wife and I often try to follow the traditional anniversary themes. Traditionally, the sixth anniversary is candy or iron anniversary, though the more modern tradition is woodenware. Thus I bought my wife some dark chocolates (which are high in iron — good for the baby) and some books (made from trees, right?), as well as a couple of CDs she wanted. My wife was even more clever than I and bought me these:


In case you can’t tell from the picture, it’s a set of woodcarving tools and a book about woodcarving. So now I have a new hobby. I’ve been reading about the principles of it, have started with whittling techniques. I’ll write more about it once I’ve managed to accomplish something.

Posted by Mark at 08:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 14, 2006

Packing update #2

We’re making much better progress on the packing than I thought we would be by now. The books and office are all done now, the pictures and decorations are done, and we’ve made a good start on the clothes. The biggest job remaining is the kitchen.

There’s nothing like packing up your belongings to demonstrate how much stuff you have. As it turns out, we have a lot of books. We figure the books represent the largest part of the weight of our stuff (which is what counts in terms of moving expense). These sixteen boxes represent just some of our books:


Fortunately, as you can seen in this picture (and this one), Tigger has been ‘helping’ us pack:


Posted by Mark at 11:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 09, 2006

Packing update #1

We’ve finally started packing for our move back to Toronto. All the crystal and china has been packed — it’ll be going with my parents to Ottawa rather than with the movers. And we’ve organized the boxes which weren’t unpacked from the last move, and have started sorting out the study. Hopefully we’ll get to something a little quicker soon, like the books, so we can have more of a sense of progress…

Posted by Mark at 03:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 05, 2006


I haven’t be able to post over the past week and a half as I’ve been out of town. The reason for my trip was to look for a place for us to live in Toronto, where we’ll be moving as of August. And the reason we’ll be moving to Toronto is that I’ll be teaching at the University of Toronto at Mississauga in the Department of English and Drama for the year. (I’ll write more soon about my teaching next year.)

As for the house hunting itself, it was a gruelling experience, but finally a successful one. Throughout the process I e-mailed photos of the various places to my wife, who couldn’t be there, and in the end we settled on the final place we looked at. It was only a last minute decision to look for a place in East York (we were originally thinking Etobicoke), but we were quite happy with the place and its proximity to the subway. Here’s a picture:


It’s quite a relief to have that settled. Now we just have to pack all our things…

Posted by Mark at 09:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 19, 2006

Fæder Dæg

As you may or may not already know, my wife and I are expecting our first child in October (here’s my wife’s announcement on her blog). I probably won’t be writing very much about this on my blog (partly for safety reasons), though we’re thinking of starting up a separate blog for the baby.

Yesterday was Father’s Day, which is obviously starting to have a new significance for me. This past weekend was also the first stretch of nice weather we’ve had in a little while, so we decided to take advantage of that as well as take advantage of living on the East Coast and see some of the sights around here.

On Saturday we drove along the Acadian coast, along the Northumberland Strait (separating New Brunswick from Prince Edward Island). In particular we were searching for sources of fresh seafood in order to make bouillabaisse. One of the places we stopped at, in addition to a fishmonger, featured a little restaurant which sells various seafood — we shared a platter of deepfried bar clams, shrimp, and scallops for lunch — and a nice little beach. We stopped at a number of little places along the coast buying various types of seafood — cod, scallops, mussels, soft-shell clams — and then on the way back stopped in Moncton to buy a few other things we needed (including some very large shrimp and some tilapia), before going home to construct the bouillabaisse. Not one of the shellfish was bad, which gives you an idea of how fresh it was (not to mention cheap).

On Sunday, we decided to return to the nice little beach to enjoy the nice weather. The ocean was cold, of course, but it was a nice hot day. Below is a picture from the beach, and here are two others (left and right).


And we brought home with us some lobsters and crab legs for dinner! We’ve certainly had our fill of seafood lately, and a very nice Father’s Day. Next year, our baby will be in more than embryonic form…

Posted by Mark at 02:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Silver bullets

Almost a month has gone by since my last post, so I’d better fill in some of the gaps. Here’s a quick run-down, some of which I’ll expand of later:

  • I’m not teaching this summer (the first time since graduating), so theoretically lots of time to get stuff done. But of course as is inevitable when you have so many things you’ve been putting off, progress is slow…
  • As mentioned in my last post, May was mostly taken up with conference going and the attendant conference paper writing. Both conferences went well.
  • I’ll be teaching at UTM next year, so at the moment we’re planning for our move back to Toronto.
  • I’ve been watching a lot of the FIFA World Cup recently. International tournaments are very addictive.
  • This past weekend we’ve finally started taking advantange of living on the East Coast. We drove along the coast, bought seafood for from little seafood shacks, and spent some time on the beach.

That’s all for now.

Posted by Mark at 10:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 23, 2006


It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted. First there was the end-of-term busy-ness, getting grading done and marks submitted. Then I had to write my Kalamazoo paper. Before and after the conference I spent some time in Toronto. And having returned home (with a slight cold that slowed me down a bit), I had to put together my next conference paper for the Narrative Matters conference, which I’m leaving for tomorrow. I don’t know if I’ll have time to post while at the conference, but I’ve got lots to write about, so I will post again soon…

Posted by Mark at 04:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 26, 2006

Olympic verbiage II

The last week or so have been a little light on blogging. It was reading week here at Mount A and I’ve been spending a lot of time watching the Olympics, along with catching up on some reading and marking. And since I wrote a blog entry during the opening ceremonies, it seems appropriate that I write another during the closing ceremonies.

During the last summer games I wrote about some interesting sporting terms that were used repeatedly in the Olympic coverage, so here are few interesting ones from the winter sports.

First of all a couple of figure skating terms: lutz and salchow. Unsurprisingly these two jumps are named after people, figure skaters Alois Lutz and Ulrich Salchow. The Austrian figure skater Lutz apparently first performed the eponymously named jump 1913. The Swede Salchow performed the jump named after him in 1909. No Swedes or Austrians won medals in figure skating this Olympics.

In curling, the leader of a team is called the skip, which presumably is short for skipper, as in the captain of a ship, and thus cognate with ship from Old English scip. However, I can’t explain where the curling terms hammer and hog line come from.

In skiing, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the term mogul comes “probably from Scand. (cf. dial. Norw. mugje, fem. muga, ‘a heap, a mound’), or from southern Ger. dial. mugel in the same sense.” The same web site states that slalom comes “from Norw. slalam ‘skiing race,’ lit. ‘sloping track,’ from sla ‘slope’ + lam ‘track’ (related to Norw. laan ‘a row of houses’).” Not surprising that the Scandinavian countries provide much of the skiing terminology, and though they no longer dominate the sport as they used to, they still do well in them: Norway took all but one of their 19 medals in skiing related events and Sweden took 11 of their 14 in skiing related events.

I won’t even touch snowboard vocabulary, though there’s a lot of it and it’s quite amusing.

And finally sled-related vocabulary. First of all, the word sled comes from Middle Dutch sledde, from the Proto-Germanic root *slido, and is thus cognate with Old English slidan, which gives us Modern English slide. The related term sleigh comes from the Dutch slee, a variant of slede, and seems to be more common in North American English, though the official Olympic term is bobsleigh, not bobsled. And as for the first element, bob, Middle English bobbe, ‘cluster (of fruit, leaves, etc.)’, may be of Celtic origin (cp. Gael. babag). I suppose a bobsled is a diminutive sled? Interestingly, the word luge, from French and before that from Medieval Latin sludia, may also be Celtic in origin, from a Gaulish word cognate to English sled and slide. On the other hand, skeleton, a sport similar to luge, is so called because of the stripped-down nature of the sled, though apparently there is one competing theory that the word is a mispronunciation of the Norwegian word kjelke which means ‘sled’. The word skeleton, of course, comes from Greek meaning ‘dried up’. The turns in the track used for boblseigh, luge, and skeleton are called chicanes. The Online Etymology Dictionary gives the following information: “from Fr., originally ‘subtlety,’ perhaps related to Ger. schick ‘tact, skill,’ from M.L.G. schikken ‘arrange appropriately;’ or from Fr. chicane, from chicanerie (see chicanery).” I’m not sure I see any patterns in all of this in terms of Olympic results…

Posted by Mark at 03:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 25, 2006

Blogiversary II

Well, here it is, my second blogiversary. It was two years ago today that I wrote my first blog post. There have been a few starts and stops along the way, most recently all of last fall. But here I am at it again.

One year ago today I wrote a blog post about the word blogiversary, tabulating the number of ghits for the various possible spellings. It seems like this would be a good opportunity to update the results, so here are last year’s and this year’s results:


The first thing to notice about these numbers is the overall increase of instances of the word, a total increase of about 495.2%. And indeed the number of instances of each individual spellings has increased. The other obvious thing to notice here is that the spellilng blogoversary has vaulted from 4th position into second in terms of frequency. A second table listing percentage frequencies is illustrative:


Interestingly, as these percentage statistics make clear, although blogiversary is still by far the most common spelling, the percentage has dropped off significantly. Similarly, blogaversary, which was the second most common spelling, drops in percentage and rank to the 3rd spot. The two least common spellings bloggaversary and bloggoversary, though increasing in total number of occurrences, drop in terms of percentage frequency. As a corollary of these percentage drop-offs, as I already mentioned, blogoversary has a dramatic percentage increase, thus ranking as the second most common spelling, and the seemingly less likely spellings bloggiversary and blogversary also increase their percentage frequencies.

So, what can we gather from all this? While one tends to expect spellings to become more regularized, clearly the spellings for this words are still in a state of flux. Predictably, the two statistically insignificant spellings, bloggaversary and bloggoversary, are even more so. Blogiversary is still the clear favourite, and the similarly formed bloggiversary, also taking its vowel from anniversary and its doubled vowel like from forms such as blogging and blogger, makes a significant increase. Blogoversary, possibly influenced by the term blogosphere, makes the most significant increase. The simplified formation, blogversary, also increases in percentage frequency. However, both spellings with the a stem vowel decrease in percentage frequency.

It would be interersting to see a year from now how these numbers change…

Posted by Mark at 03:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 13, 2006


Well, due to the storm that hit the east coast, we’re having a snow day, as Mount A is closed today. Actually, the storm didn’t hit the Atlantic Canada as badly as it did the eastern seaboard US, but I guess if the highways aren’t clear enough, it’s a safety issue. While I’m sure we would have been able to get into campus, it would have been a bit of work getting out our door. Here’s some photo-evidence (click to enlarge):

snowday1.jpg snowday2.jpg snowday3.jpg snowday4.jpg

Of course back in Ottawa the transit system could be hobbled and still things wouldn’t be closed for a snow day. But then there’s Toronto, which calls in the military for a little bit of snow, so I guess this is somewhere in between. Ah well, I guess it’s a day of watching the Olympics for me…

Posted by Mark at 08:42 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 10, 2006

Citius, Altius, Fortius

Well, here I am watching the Olympic opening ceremonies (on tape delay) while writing a blog entry. No doubt I’ll continue to write such entries over the course of the games. Here are some initial thoughts, reactions, and notables:

  • Brian Williams is already grating.
  • In addition to watching the games themselves, I’m also watching my wife participate in the Knitting Olympics—Laneius? I have to particularly get behind this because what she’s knitting is a sweater for me. Thanks, love! (See also the nifty buttons on the side bar—this blog is troll-friendly!)
  • See a previous entry on the Olympics.
  • Go men’s hockey Team Canada!
Posted by Mark at 09:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 25, 2006

Happy Robbie Burns Day!

For your reading pleasure, here’s a Robbie Burns poem for you. I think I’m going to go and have a single malt myself.

Address To A Haggis

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!
Aboon them a’ yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’a grace
As lang’s my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin was help to mend a mill
In time o’need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An’ cut you up wi’ ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin’, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit! hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckles as wither’d rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ blody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll mak it whissle;
An’ legs an’ arms, an’ hands will sned,
Like taps o’ trissle.

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer
Gie her a haggis!
Posted by Mark at 08:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 08, 2006

Geoles bec

Unsurprisingly, I was given several books for Christmas. I love receiving books, as I’m often given books that I probably wouldn’t buy myself, but which I quite enjoy. And now I know what I’ll be reading over the next little while.

Among the books I got are Murder’s Out of Tune by Jeffrey Miller, a mystery involving a crime-solving cat. As is clear from the sidebar list of readings, I’ve read a number of books like this featuring cat protagonists, so this looks like just the book for me. Thanks go to my parents-in-law for this one. I’ll post some comments on it once I’ve read it.

My wife gave me a number of books, including Cassell’s Dictionary of Norse Myth & Legend, by one of my doctoral committee members, Andy Orchard. This is an excellent reference book, and it will be useful to have a copy of this close at hand. She also gave me a copy of Chickering’s edition of Beowulf, which contains a useful commentary, and Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization, a book often recommended to me. And finally, she gave me two books by James Burke, The Knowledge Web and Twin Tracks, about which/whom I will post more later.

So quite the bonanza of books. I wish I could spend all my time reading…

Posted by Mark at 05:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 06, 2006

Sublimis, pulcher, amoenus

This is currently the strangely foggy view out of my back window:


Is this view sublime, beautiful, or picturesque?

Posted by Mark at 04:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 31, 2005

Annus Novus (The reports of the death of this blog have been slightly...)

A few New Year’s resolutions:


  1. I will try to blog more often this year — given all that’s happened this fall, it’s perhaps understandable that I haven’t managed to since August.
  2. I will try to keep in touch with friends and family more regularly — see resolution one for my past excuse.
  3. I will try to put aside more time for leisure reading instead of just work reading.

Will that do?

Posted by Mark at 02:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 19, 2005

Dental Anguish

Two dental appointments, two cavities filled, a very unpleasant cleaning, but it’s good to have this done before moving. Thank goodness it looks like we’ll have some real dental coverage once we get to Sackville, thanks to my wife’s doctoral fellowship.

Posted by Mark at 01:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 17, 2005


Well, it certainly has been a long time since I’ve blogged. And this is a bit of a tease really because one of the reasons for this post is to say that I may not be able to blog much over the next few weeks. I’ve also taken this opportunity to update the sidebar. But first of all, an update…

In just over a week, my wife and I will be moving to Sackville, New Brunswick to teach at Mount Allison University. I’ll be teaching in both the Department of English and the Department of Classics. I’ll try to write more about my teaching in a later post, once we’ve installed ourselves in our new place.

In any case, suffice it to say that I’ve been very busy this summer preparing to move, getting ready for my new courses, teaching a summer session of Chaucer at U of T, and generally enjoying Toronto and seeing my Toronto friends before we leave.

Anyway, I’ll do my best to keep everyone updated through this blog as we move and get settled, and hopefully once things are back to normal I’ll get back to blogging on matters medieval, linguistic, academic, gastronomic, etc.

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

April 13, 2005


This quiz is quite interesting actually…

You scored as Musical/Rhythmic. You are sensitive to sounds in your environment, enjoy music and prefer listening to music when you study or read. You learn best through melody and music. People like you include singers, conductors, composers, and others who appreciate the various elements of music.















The Rogers Indicator of Multiple Intelligences
created with
Posted by Mark at 09:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 08, 2005


The past few weeks have been very busy for a variety of reasons, so I’ve got a bit behind in my blogging. As a result, I have a backlog of entries saved up which I’ll hopefully finish up and post over the next couple of days. Here’s Tigger sitting at my computer checking to see if I had updated my blog yet:


As you can see here, here, and here, he got tired of waiting.

Posted by Mark at 02:39 PM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2005

Unnyt cræft

Hmm, this description of me makes me kind of sad…

It 's comforting to say that 'practice makes perfect'....
You are ‘Gregg shorthand’. Originally designed to
enable people to write faster, it is also very
useful for writing things which one does not
want other people to read, inasmuch as almost
no one knows shorthand any more.

You know how important it is to do things
efficiently and on time. You also value your
privacy, and (unlike some people) you do not
pretend to be friends with just everyone; that
would be ridiculous. When you do make friends,
you take them seriously, and faithfully keep
what they confide in you to yourself.
Unfortunately, the work which you do (which is
very important, of course) sometimes keeps you
away from social activities, and you are often
lonely. Your problem is that Gregg shorthand
has been obsolete for a long time.

What obsolete skill are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by Mark at 06:16 PM | Comments (2)

February 25, 2005


Well, since today is Alliterative’s one-year blogiversary, and since it’s been a week since I last posted, it seemed like a good time to get around to posting again. The fact that I’ve got yet another cold — you may now direct your sympathy towards me — coupled with the general busy-ness of my life has already put me behind a bit in my blogging, but I’ll make up for it now.

So it’s been a year since I started blogging. This actually seems somewhat of a hollow milestone — what a bizarre mixed metaphor — since for a large chunk of this year I wasn’t blogging at all, but such is the way things go. In any case, it was my realisation of this impending blogiversary that got me writing again, so I suppose it has served some purpose.

Upon beginning to write this entry, it occurred to me that I had no idea how one would spell ‘blogiversary’, so I decided to do some Google searches to see what was the most frequent spelling. For everyone’s edification here are the results for all the spellings tried:


I’m sure you all find this fascinating reading… Well this sort thing interests me anyway, and since it’s my blogiversary…

Posted by Mark at 03:21 PM | Comments (7)

February 14, 2005

Sanctus Valentinus

As today is Valentine’s Day, for your reading pleasure I give you a stanza of Chaucer’s The Parliament of Fowls:

For this was on Seynt Valentynes day,
Whan every foul cometh there to chese his make,
Of every kynde that men thynke may,
And that so huge a noyse gan they make
That erthe, and eyr, and tre, and every lake
So ful was that unethe was there space
For me to stonde, so ful was al the place.
(PF 309-15)

If you’d like a translation, I’ll include one below in the extended entry. The tradition is that on Valentine’s Day, birds choose their mates for the coming year.

For an account of how my wife Aven and I are spending our Valentine’s Day, read her entry here.

As promised, here’s a translation of the stanza from Chaucer’s The Parliament of Fowls:

For this was on Saint Valentine’s day,
When every fowl comes there to choose his mate,
Of every kind that men may think of,
And so huge a noise they began to make
That the earth, and air, and trees, and every lake
Were so full that scarcely was there space
For me to stand, so full was all the place.
Posted by Mark at 04:58 PM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2005


Finally the moment you’ve been waiting for (well, at least the moment I’ve been waiting for). My weblog is born again!

One of the things that got me derailed before was the feeling that I had to write fairly involved entries, with either photos or a fairly detailed entry in some way. One of my goals this time around is to try to write entries more on the spur of the moment. That’s not to say that I won’t occasionally post some yummy food photos or go on a a detailed academic rant from time to time, but I won’t let that stop me from proceeding with the blog. In a way, this has been how my life has had to operate in general over the past several months.

Also, I may not be able to update quite as regularly as before. I used to try to blog every day or every other day or so, but now it will often be the case that I will only be able to blog once or twice a week. That being said, since this is now the beginning of reading week here at U of T — one of the main reasons I took the present opportunity to resurrect this blog — I will try to start things up with a few entries to try to get things rolling again.

Also coming up soon, on February 25th, is, as they say, my blogiversary, the one-year anniversary of my first blog entry, so I wanted to get things started again in time for that.

So once again, my apologies for disappearing without explanation, and if you haven’t already lost patience completely, stay tuned for more updates!

Posted by Mark at 11:29 PM | Comments (1)

February 01, 2005

Mea culpa

My apologies for the dormant state of this blog. Life has been far too busy over this past academic year. However, I do plan a return soon…

Posted by Mark at 01:54 PM | Comments (0)

August 19, 2004

Olympic verbiage

Recently I’ve been watching the Olympics a lot on tv. Like most Canadians, I’m a little disappointed at the lack of success of our athletes. There has been a lot of talk from the athlete and pundits alike about the reasons for this, but I’m convinced that the main reasons are lack of funding and the Canadian Olympic Committee’s decision to not send athletes in all the events we qualified for — in other words, the COC set the bar higher than the International Olympic Committee. Ostensibly the decision was made so that we don’t have a lot of athletes competing and failing, as we are sending only our top medal hopefuls, but I’m sure it’s really just a cost cutting measure. And you never know when an athlete will have a really good day, perform a personal best, and perhaps win a surprise medal.

In general, I think we need to support our athletes more, or stop complaining that we don’t do very well at the Olympics. Of course it’s an unfair comparison to make looking at the US Olympic success, but a better comparison is with Australia, which is comparable in size and resources, and has recently become one of the top Olympic countries. In any case, I’m enjoying watching the Olympics in spite of Canada’s difficulties.

Watching the Olympics has also allowed me to become reacquainted with some vocabulary that I only seem to encounter during the Olympics, such as peloton and repechage. A peloton is the small clump of cyclists that follows the leader in a bike race. According to the OED, peloton comes from French peloton, and ultimately from Latin pilotta, a diminutive form of pila ‘ball’. It’s interesting to note that the OED does not list this sports usage of the word, listing only two senses: “1. A small ball or spherical mass. Obs. rare” and “2. A small body of soldiers; = platoon”. Perhaps this will be updated in the third edition.

The term repechage, on the other hand, is only a sports term in English. It comes from the French repêchage, from the verb repêcher ‘to fish out, rescue; to give an examination candidate a second chance to pass’, and is defined by the OED as “an extra contest in which the runners-up in the eliminating contests compete for a place in the final”. Both interesting words with interesting etymologies. Isn’t language fun?

Posted by Mark at 05:13 PM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2004

Lac Vert

Last weekend, my wife and I went up to her parents’ cottage, our only real vacation this summer. You can read my wife’s account of our weekend here, and see some photos not included in my post. Here’s a picture of the cottage from the back, which my wife didn’t use:


Among the cottage activities were a cut-throat game of Scrabble won handily by my father-in-law Ian — I came in a distant second — much music, much eating, and some swimming and lounging on the beach reading. Here’s a view from the beach:


I brought up with me my baritone ukulele and my guitalele, knowing there would be guitars already there. Here’s a picture of me noodling on the baritone:


Among other things, we played songs from the two books I had put together containing songs suitable for the ukulele and 50’s rock and roll tunes. Here’s a selection of photos (1, 2, 3, 4).

Dinner on Saturday night was a spit-roasted suckling pig, already described by my wife. Here’s a picture of Pete enjoying his birthday pig:


On Sunday we had barbequed rabbit, which you can see on the table in this picture, the remains of which became a wonderful rabbit stew for Monday’s lunch. Also worthy of mention is a frittata that Aven’s grandmother, Aven, and I made for lunch on Sunday. Made from a variety of ingredients we happened to have on hand (1, 2, 3), the frittata was first fried on the stovetop before being baked and then broiled. That and a cold beer made for a nice lunch.

It was a much needed relaxing weekend, and hopefully these photos give some sense of the experience. I’ll finish off with a photo of Saturday night’s bonfire which, I think, ideally captures the cottage mood:


Posted by Mark at 03:55 PM | Comments (0)

August 06, 2004


Well, I can’t help but feel somewhat insulted by this one. Though I don’t mind the drunk part so much…

You would have been the local fool/drunk.
Village Idiot/ Jester:
You lack ambition. You would have been the local

Who would you be in a Medieval Village?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by Mark at 12:13 AM | Comments (1)

August 05, 2004


Yesterday I went to the gym for the first time in over two years. In the early days of working on my PhD, I did manage to go to the gym a bit, but once I really got into the thick of the dissertation writing, exercise was one of the first things to go. Somehow I never managed to get back into it over this past year of teaching, but I’m hoping that now that I’ve managed to start up again I’ll be able to keep it up over this next year.

I really ought to given how much I’m paying for this. Since I’m no longer a student, I no longer get free use of the Hart House athletic facilities, so I had to buy a membership (fortunately discounted to recent graduates). At least I get towel service with my membership (something students have to pay extra for), and since I’ve now also got a permanent locker, this should all be relatively easy for me.

Incidentally, I know people always say that if you get regular exercise, you will feel more energetic. Well this has never been true with me. While I’m sure I’m much healthier, exercising does seem to lower my energy level.

Posted by Mark at 10:47 PM | Comments (1)

August 02, 2004

All the world's a stage...

And now for the conclusion of my account of my father-in-law’s Toronto visit and our “typically” Toronto activities. Again, those not interested in these types of blog entries can stop reading this rather long entry now, though this entry also has a decidedly literary focus…

On the Monday of his visit, Ian entertained himself with some tree-seeing at Mount Pleasant Cemetery and other family visiting while my wife and I caught up on some work, but on the Tuesday — Ian’s last day in town — we had a number of activities. Since it was Ian’s birthday, we took him out for a sushi lunch — certainly a typically Toronto activity — to New Generation Sushi, our favourite sushi restaurant. It seems, at least amongst our friends, that people break down into different camps depending on which Bloor Street sushi restaurant they prefer. One group prefers Sushi on Bloor, while my wife and I prefer New Generation. (There are also a number of other sushi restaurants on the Annex stretch of Bloor; anyone else want to name a favourite?)

After lunch, Aven and I got to work on the provisions for our evening activity, to wit we made a picnic dinner to bring with us to the Dream in High Park production of As You Like It. The main dish was Coronation Chicken from Great British Cooking by Jane Garmey. The dish, a cold, curried chicken invented in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, is purported to have been enjoyed by the Queen and her ladies-in-waiting in a stolen moment during the rather long ceremony at Westminster Abbey. Since the recipe calls for cooked chicken, we poached some chicken breasts which we then cut up into small pieces. The sauce was made by sautéing onion and curry powder in some olive oil, and then adding chicken stock, tomato paste, lemon juice, and mango chutney and simmering. We then puréed the mixture in the blender, and completed the sauce by adding mayonnaise and cream. The side dish we made was a mango salad that also contained raisins, cashew nuts, mint, coriander powder, asaphoetida powder, and powdered chilli, and the chicken was served on basmati rice:


Here’s a picture of Ian and Aven enjoying our picnic dinner in the Dream in High Park amphitheatre before the show:


It was only later that we realised we perhaps more appropriately could have made something from Eating Shakespeare by Betty & Sonia Zyvatkauskas, a cookbook containing various renaissance dishes. Nevertheless, the dinner we did make was excellent and always one of my favourites.

Our time was only slightly dampened by a brief rain shower, which is quite fortunate given the severe thunderstorm warning. And most fortunately the rain had mostly passed by the time the show started.

The play itself was very good. (You can read my wife’s brief account here.) The acting was quite good, particularly the female lead Allana Harkin in the role of Rosalind. Also worthy of special mention is the fun music in a 50’s style — the play was reset in a 1950’s setting which also made for good costuming options — composed by Marek Norman. I thought perhaps more could have been done with the homosexual undertones of the play. There is, of course, always an interesting irony in Shakespearean plays which feature cross-dressing in the plot since all the female characters were played by cross-dressed boys in Shakespeare’s time. In current productions, which feature female actors, it seems a good opportunity to explore these sexual undercurrents in a different way. Then again, perhaps such heavy handed directing would be out of place in a play written for light entertainment (though there are definitely not-so-hidden depths, for instance the character Jaques). In any case, it was a thoroughly enjoyable production and quite appropriately staged in High Park due to the thematically important setting of the Forest of Arden. Here’s a picture of the beautifully lit stage:


Is it really geeky of me to be quite interested to know more about Shakespeare’s sources, which apparently draw heavily on Robin Hood material?

Posted by Mark at 01:56 PM | Comments (0)

July 28, 2004


This is a continuation of my account of our typically Toronto activities with my father-in-law, comprising Sunday’s activities. Read on if interested in such things…

It seems that we only manage to get out to Dim Sum when someone comes to visit, so we certainly weren’t going to pass up this opportunity. On Sunday, my wife and I went with my father-in-law to our favourite Dim Sum restaurant, the Kowloon, 5 Baldwin Street. This is the type of Dim Sum restaurants in which you order dishes from a card rather than picking them off a cart as they go by. The cart system is fun, but when you order you can be sure to get everything you want. After stuffing ourselves happily — I’m addicted to pork shumai — we wandered into Kensington Market.

During the summer is Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market, which means that the market is closed to cars. It’s quite nice to be able to wander about more easily. Also part of this programme are special themes; this particular Sunday was Kensington Cook Off, but since we were so stuffed from Dim Sum, we didn’t eat anything. Our main activity was to search for some light, cotton, long-sleeved shirts for my father-in-law in the many boutiques, and we found the perfect thing in one particular shop that specialises in Indian clothing. There were also a number of steet performers in the market, and we saw one quite amusing performer who escaped from a straightjacket and juggled a torch, a machete, and an axe while balancing on a a raised board. We also saw the Kensington Community Band, I think they called themselves, led by, I believe, Richard Underhill of the Shuffle Demons and consisting of people from the community of varying abilities and backgrounds:


They were quite fun to listen to. After wandering around a bit more and picking up some vegetables for that night’s dinner, we walked back home looking at the gardens and trees along the way.

That night we decided to have a barbeque. We marinated short ribs in dark soya sauce, chili garlic sauce, sherry, and ginger, and made up vegetable packets of various peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, and onion with wasabi lime mustard (and other flavourings) in aluminum foil packets to go on the grill. We had a lovely time eating outside in the backyard where we sat until it was quite dark sipping after dinner drinks by candle light. Here are some photos (click on the image to enlarge):

nightdad.jpg nightmark.jpg nightaven.jpg nightmark2.jpg

A lovely end to a lovely day! Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of Ian’s visit to Toronto…

Posted by Mark at 02:16 PM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2004

This post has been brought to you by...

A new web ring as been added to the sidebar. Called “letter zed”, this ring is devoted to Canadian spellings. Here’s the official write-up:

Do you have a blog or journal and think it’s about time Canadian English made its presence known to Blogosphere? Then this is the ring for you — Join up and celebrate the True North take on the English language!

So if you’re interested in reading other blogs that hold Canadian spellings dear, have a look at some of the other sites on the ring. And welcome to those who’ve found this site through the ring. Matters of language come up from time to time here (though not so much during the quieter summer). Trolling through the archives, I’ve found two entries that specifically relate to Canadian spellings and dictionaries for your perusal:

The difference one letter can make

Posted by Mark at 11:28 PM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2004


As my wife already mentioned in her blog (along with some pictures), while my father-in-law was visiting here we did some typical Toronto activities, including a visit last Saturday to the Distillery Historic District on Mill Street. I thought I’d include a description of our activities here to give a sense of what Toronto has to offer. (Those not interested need not continue reading this lengthy entry.)

While at the Distillery District, we enjoyed some comestibles from the Brick Street Bakery, including my choice of a roast beef sandwich, my wife’s of a chicken and tarragon pie, and my father-in-law’s of a stout and steak pie:


Wonderfully fresh bread as the contented look on my face indicates.

Of course we visited the Mill St. Brewery:


If you ever have a chance, try their beers (unfortunately I don’t know how widely they are distributed). In particular, I like the Coffee Porter and the Tankhouse Ale.

We happened to have gone to the Distillery District during the Party Gras festival, part of the Beaches Jazz Festival, so we saw many great jazz bands including this fabulous trad jazz band, The Downtown Jazz Band:


The bass player had this neat electric bass on which he even played a bowed bass solo. Notice the tiny trumpet in this picture. We listened to a number of bands ranging from small ensembles to big bands. Another intriguing band we saw I can only describe as Jamaican funk jazz, and we sat for a while and sipped some beer while listening to Zydeco Storm. All in all, quite a good quantity and variety of music.

We also enjoyed the various art galleries and the historic architecture (here’s a sampling: 1, 2, 3, 4).

After a quick respite at home, we headed out to another typical Toronto destination, the Danforth, where we had dinner at our favourite Greek restaurant, Avli. After the fabulous dips with pita, as usual I had lamb chops, Aven had the rabbit pie, and Ian had the roast lamb special, and we enjoyed two different half bottles of retsina.

After dinner, we to see my friend David’s band (appropriately named The David Hein Band) perform at the Black Swan. Excellent as usual. Here are a couple of photos (1, 2). And that was just Saturday. Stay tuned for an account of Sunday’s exciting activities.

Posted by Mark at 05:18 PM | Comments (0)

July 23, 2004


Another quiz, this one rather grimly about which medieval plague I have… Well, it’s all in good fun…

st. anthony's fire

Congratulations! You have St. Anthony’s Fire! Today known Ergotism, this illness is caught through ingestion of a fungal infection of grain, usually rye. If you are not already, you soom are going to be suffering from dizziness, hallucinations, and a sensation of burning in the limbs, thus giving the disease its name. It could result in gangrene. The good news: there is a 60% chance you will survive it! The bad news? You will wish you had not. You will have lingering symptoms for the rest of your life, including mental impairment and being more susceptible to it in the future rather than having immunity. You probably live in a rural town undergoing a very wet winter to have caught this skin-reddening sickness.

Which Medieval Plague Do You Have?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by Mark at 05:02 PM | Comments (0)

July 21, 2004


Last Thursday was our fourth wedding anniversary. Our wedding anniversaries usually revolve around food and culture. In the past we’ve often cooked fancy dinners and gone to museums. This year we decided to take it easy a bit.

We slept in and then went to brunch at By the Way Cafe, where we had eggs charlottine (poached eggs, smoked salmon, sautéed spinach, hollandaise) and mimosas (champagne and orange juice). It’s been a while since we’ve been there, so it was nice to go back again.

Then we decided to do some pleasant errands. First we bought a photo album with which to finally organise our honeymoon photos. Then we went to the LCBO at Summerhill to browse and shop. I bought a couple of bottles of single malt Scotch (a subject of another post) and my wife bought a bottle of Scottish gin. We also got some vodka and some wine from the Corbière region in southern France where we had our honeymoon. We then returned home for a brief rest before going out to dinner.

Since our anniversary was during the Summerlicious festival, in which participating Toronto restaurants offer prix fixé menus, we decided to go out to dinner at a nice French restaurant, Le Sélect Bistro (see the full menu here). I had the vichyssoise (a cold leek and potato creamed potage) to start and my wife had the pissaladière provençale (a traditional Provençale onion tart with a Goat cheese crumble). For the entrée, I had the lamb couscous with Merguez (grilled lamb chops on a bed of couscous with spicy Algerian Merguez sausage, and braised vegetables) and my wife had the free-range old fashioned duck confit with a cranberry relish, scalloped potatoes and French beans. Finally, for desert, I had the gateau chocolat with Grand Marnier sauce and my wife had the parfait praliné with almond brittle. The dinner was fantastic and we would certainly recommend the restaurant to anyone, particularly for its fantastic wine list.

After dinner we returned to our house to enjoy a glass of hydromel, which we had brought back from our honeymoon, and exchange our gifts. Traditionally, the fourth wedding anniversary is the fruit or flowers anniversary, and in more modern practice it is the appliances anniversary. We usually amuse ourselves by trying to work within these boundaries. Earlier in the day I, of course, bought my wife some flowers, but the fruit took a bit more creativity — I gave my wife some mango Body Shop products. The main part of the gift, the appliance, was a fancy slow cooker. My wife gave me a jar of blood orange jam (I love blood oranges), a jigsaw puzzle with a picture of flowers (I’ve become addicted to puzzling), and pasta extruder attachments for our Kitchenaid stand mixer. I’m really looking forward to extruding fresh pasta!

It was a lovely anniversary and very relaxing and enjoyable for us both. Now next year’s fifth anniversary is woodenware/silverware, so I’ll have to start thinking…

Posted by Mark at 01:15 PM | Comments (0)

July 08, 2004


Well, what better way is there to rejoin the land of the blogging than another one of these quizzes? I know they’re kind of silly, but they do amuse me. And who doesn’t enjoy a good bit of palaeography?

Roman Capitals
Roman Capitals- You have a proud and noble bearing,
and are of ancient pedigree, but you tend to be
very rigid and set in your ways.

What Calligraphy Hand Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by Mark at 05:08 PM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2004


Well, after a break of more than a month, I’m finally getting around to making another go at this. I found the first half of this summer even more busy than I thought I would.

The source of this busy-ness was the summer course I was teaching, a section of the Effective Writing course that I taught in the last term as well (more on this later). It was the amount of marking that really made it so time-consuming. Although one would think that since I had already taught the course it would be a relatively easy matter to teach it again, the class prep isn’t the time consuming thing about this class — it’s all the marking. Because of the compressed summer schedule, there was an assignment due almost every class, so since I had about 30 students (instead of the much more manageable 20 I had in the last section I taught) I had about 60 essays to read every week. And strangely, I find it much more time-consuming to grade these Effecting Writing essays than literary essays because of the focus on every little technical detail; the comments and feedback on all the small points is rather tedious. As important as this course is, I somewhat relieved that it looks like I won’t be teaching it again next year.

In any case, for now I have some time off, since I’m not teaching for the rest of the summer. I’ll be spending my time catching up on various things I’ve let slide, including my own research — I intend to work on a number of articles for publication in the remainder of the summer — as well as my blogging, and preparing for next year. Soon to follow are blog entries about my teaching, researching, reading, and cooking. And if nothing else, I should at least have a greater variety of things to write about now. My apologies to anyone who has lost interest in the meantime.

Posted by Mark at 06:32 PM | Comments (1)

May 28, 2004


As Rethabile has rightly surmised, the past few weeks have been very busy — thanks for the kind words, Rethabile, it’s nice to know I’ve been missed. I do still plan to catch up the past few weeks with a series of posts, but for now, this brief post about today will have to do.

Today my wife and I went to see the movie Troy. You can read my wife’s more learned and informed comments, but for my part I found that the film really captured the feel and scope of epic in a way no other film adaptation of epic poetry, at least as far as I’ve seen, has. Whatever ‘inaccuracies’ or changes there may have been, I think that’s the main point. Now if only film makers would treat medieval epic as successfully.

Though romance not epic, there is a film about the Arthurian story coming out this summer, but from what I can tell from the previews I’ve seen so far, I’m not very optimistic. It seems that they’re claiming to be telling a the story behind the myth, a more realistic ‘historical’ story, but instead they seem to be using the stories from the later Arthurian legends and just stripping away all the magic and mysticism. Rather than giving an accurate portrayal of Roman Britain in the time of the Germanic invasion, they’ve included elements of the Arthur stories which are clearly borrowed from later French tradition (such as the whole Lancelot part of the story). But I should hold my judgements until I’ve actually seen the thing.

Anyway, I’m off to a barbeque with friends tonight, but hopefully I’ll blog again tomorrow with further updates and perhaps an account of this evening’s gastronomic delights.

Posted by Mark at 06:35 PM | Comments (3)

May 14, 2004

Gebyrddæg min

My apologies for the lack of blogging lately. I’ve finished all my marking and I’m back from the Kalamazoo conference. Nevertheless, it’s been an exceedingly busy week for a variety of reasons which I’ll write about later. This weekend I’ll post a slew of entries explaining my recent activities. But today is my birthday, and I’m taking the rest of the day off!

Posted by Mark at 11:57 AM | Comments (2)

April 25, 2004

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

April 18, 2004


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)

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)

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)

April 04, 2004

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)

March 31, 2004

What's in a name

I saw another Quizilla quiz which I found curious. Here is my result (if you can manage to overlook the various typos and grammatical errors):

You are from the Anglo-Saxon time period. It was
a very hard time for the people - sickness,
death, barely anyone being able to read. But
the people learned to have a stoic acceptance
to these things. Truly, this is the era where
the stuff of legends are made - the most famous
one being Beowulf. You have a strong sense of
right and wrong. You never give up. Life is
sometimes hard but you learn to look on the
bright side of things. You have a strong
beleif in things that explain; religon, magic
swords, omens, etc. Sometimes, though, you
have a tendecy to make things look bigger,
better, or worse than they are.

Which Era do you belong to?
brought to you by Quizilla

First of all, I find it interesting that the time period is referred to as the “Anglo-Saxon time period”. I suppose this quiz is based on the literary time periods of England. However, another possible result from the quiz is the “medieval time period”. Is Anglo-Saxon England not part of the middle ages? At least they didn’t use the term “dark ages” (a term I find problematic) to refer to ASE.

The content of the quiz result is also intriguing. I guess it’s the usual stereotype people have of the Anglo-Saxon world. I find the use of the term stoic quite interesting. I guess it’s the closest parallel.

For the purposes of comparison, here is the result for the “medieval time period” (with humorous spelling error):

You are from the Medievil time period. If you read
any history book, it’ll tell you all about
sickness, disease, poor living conditions, and
death. But if you look into a literature book,
it will show you something more; honor and
chivalry, love and romance, conquest long
journey’s for love and family. You’re a
hopeless romantic (I remember reading that in
another quiz … ). You don’t waste time on
Earth because you know that some people don’t
have a lot. This is the time period where
people began to relize they could discover and
create something new. You always look to the

By “medieval” they mean the high middle ages or Middle English period in England. Again, these are the standard stereotypes. What particularly fascinates me is the final sentence: “You always look to the future”. Of course the common assumption is that the Anglo-Saxons were always looking to the past. While this is certainly true (as expertly pointed out by Roberta Frank), in my dissertation I argued that the future was an important concept and going concern for the Anglo-Saxons as well. So I hereby reappropriate that sentence in the name of the Anglo-Saxons.

Posted by Mark at 06:01 PM | Comments (2)

March 26, 2004

Sartorial habits

Should I be worried that my students notice and discuss what I wear? I suppose it’s not surprising that people would notice the beautiful sweaters I wear, which are hand knit by my wife (you can read about some of them and see some pictures of me wearing them on her blog here, here, and here, along with a more complete gallery here). Indeed, several of my students have complimented me on the nice sweaters I wear (several of my students being knitters themselves).

Yesterday, however, the hat I was wearing was commented on since it wasn’t the usual hand-knit black toque that I wore over the winter; with the warmer weather it was time to switch to a spring hat. I don’t know if I should be flattered or worried. I think I’ll go with flattered.

Posted by Mark at 02:49 PM | Comments (4)

March 25, 2004

Webbstowa be stæfcræfte

I’ve added a number of new links on the sidebar to language blogs that I read.

The first language blog I started reading was the excellent On English, which I’ve had listed on the sidebar for some time and have mentioned before.

There is an interesting discussion in Language Log (here and here) about case and military prowess in the ancient / early medieval world. As was pointed out, the actual conquerers of Rome were in fact Germanic speakers, specifically Goths, who had nearly as many cases to deal with as there are in Latin. They did, however, have a simpler tense/aspect system. Hmm…

Blinger has a useful entry on putting together a teaching dossier, a process that I’m going through at the moment.

Languagehat has a posting on the Englisc List, an e-mail discussion group about composition in Old English of which I am a lurking subscriber. There is also a review of Simon Winchester’s The Meaning of Everything that is rather more critical than my own. Languagehat makes some valid points. I guess my reaction to the book wasn’t as critical because my expectations were somewhat different; I was expecting a light, entertaining history of the OED, and that’s what it is.

Also worth a read are Tenser, said the Tensor and The X-Bar, which both have excellent titles. Click over to all of these blogs if you’re interested in peculiarities of language.

Posted by Mark at 02:00 PM | Comments (2)

March 21, 2004


I’ve made a small addition to the sidebar: there is now a category index of the category archive pages, so you can now easily browse the entries by category (should you wish to do so). Enjoy.

Posted by Mark at 12:46 PM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2004

Scrabblator Optimus

First of all, another quiz:

You know the difference between indecisive and
undecided, and won’t hesitate to call it!
You probably taught your teachers a thing or two,
and have the glasses to prove it.
But don’t forget, not everyone is asking for your

What Board Game are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Yeah, that sounds about right for me. I do love my words.

On the topic of Scrabble, the Latin Scrabble Tournament at the Centre for Medieval Studies has wrapped up, and you can read all about the results here.

My congratulations to this year’s winner of the title Scrabblator Optimus, Morris Tichenor. It’s quite a feat. In the final round Morris played against my thesis advisor George Rigg. Morris even successfully challenged a word in the game, which must have taken nerves of steel.

One of my favourite plays in the tournament is the word er (played in game one of round 4) which means ‘hedgehog’. Truly impressive. In fact there are a number of clever plays in that game in terms of overlapping word placement involving a number of two-letter words. I guess that’s the key to playing Latin Scrabble: knowing all those short, obscure words.

Anyway, my congratulations to everyone who took part in the tournament and to its organizer. Have a look at the official website, it’s a lot of fun!

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

March 17, 2004

Dies Sancti Patricii

Happy St Patrick’s Day to all! Have a Guinness or a Jameson, (or ignore the day completely if you prefer). Tomorrow I’ll write about tonight’s St Patrick’s Day dinner. For now I’ll mark the day with a bit of trivia.

In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in the year 430, St Patrick is (or may be) briefly mentioned: “Her Patricius wæs asend fram Celestine þam papan to bodianne Scottum fulluht” (ChronE 430.1).1 This is in the E text of the ASC; all the other texts read “Palladius” (as does Bede’s HE). In the A text of the ASC, there is an interlinear addition of ‘or Patrick’ in what is apparently a post-Conquest hand. So there seems to be some confusion here, but it seems like it should actually be Palladius and not Patrick.2 Patrick gets all the glory in later tradition, and poor Palladius get Guinness drunk in his honour every year.

It’s also worth noting that the Irish are referred to as the Scots, which was common at the time (I’m sure it will infuriate many to read this). The passage in Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica gentis anglorum reads: “Palladius ad Scottos in Christum credentes a pontifice Romanae ecclesiae Caelestino primus mittitur episcopus” (HE 13).3 This passage is translated into Old Engish as: “Þæs caseres rices ðy eahteþan geare Palladius biscop wæs ærest sended to Scottum, þa ðe on Crist gelyfdon, fram þam biscope þære Romaniscan cyricean, Celestinus wæs haten”.4

Scots… Irish… to those in the middle ages it’s all the same. What a final sentiment for a St Patrick’s Day posting. Well, I’m off to drink some Jameson and Guinness. I’ll finish off with the only other mention I’ve found in the Old English corpus of St Patrick: “Ðonne resteð sanctus Aidanus and sanctus Patricius on Glæstingabirig and fela oðra sancta”. (KSB 8.2 37.1). A cookie to the first one to correctly translate this passage…

1 ‘In this year, Patrick was sent from Pope Celestine to preach baptism to the Scots.’

2 There is an article on the confusion between the two figures: D.N. Dumville, “‘Acta Palladii’ preserved in Patrician hagiography”, in Saint Patrick, ed. D.N. Dumville (Woodbridge, 1993), pp. 65-84.

3 ‘Palladius was sent from Celestine, bishop of the Roman Church, to the Scots, who believed in Christ, as their first bishop.’

4 ‘In the eighth year of that Emperor’s reign, bishop Palladius was first sent to the Scots, who believed in Christ, from that bishop of the Roman church who was called Celestinus.’

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

March 13, 2004


I just managed to get tickets to the Sting concert here in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre in July. When I tried to get tickets to his concert at Massey Hall (about a week from now) I was disappointed to find out that I couldn’t get two together, and I’d have to pay a rather ridiculous amount for them. But the ACC is a much bigger venue. I still feel vaguely cheated by all the convenience fees, etc., etc., but what can you do?

Posted by Mark at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

March 03, 2004

A Sublimi ad Ridiculum

Two Latin items:

Follow this link to read about the 2004 Latin Scrabble Tournament at the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto.

And my weird Latin phrase:

I want my rubber ducky!
Volo anaticulum cumminosam meam!
“I want my rubber ducky!”
Okay, so you’re a little childish. You know how to
have a good time.

Which Weird Latin Phrase Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by Mark at 01:26 AM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2004

Ring Composition

Well, the main addition to this site today is the web rings section on the sidebar. This site is now a part of the Grammar Avengers web ring devoted to blogs of people who have “a love of language”. It seemed like the obvious choice for me! Do check out some of the other blogs on the ring.

I’d also like to follow up on one of the many cogent and interesting comments posted by Anatole on one of my previous entries.

I would suggest that recent political leaders seem less able to speak off the cuff, or at least they do so less. Their handlers seem to keep them pretty strictly on the script (a wise move in the case of George W. Bush). Even Jean Chrétien, who used to be known for his fiery style of oratory in the 60’s and 70’s, was much more subdued and premeditated in his speach patterns as Prime Minister in the 90’s. But this may not be a reflection on ability, so much as a technological exigency. In the early half of the 20th century, an off-the-cuff remark by a politician wouldn’t be replayed ad nauseum on a headline news channel.

But in terms of the level of sophistication of prepared speaches I think the theory does hold. Political speaches today do sound a lot more conversational and direct, belying their careful crafting. After all, Reagan was known as “the great communicator” for his use of straightforward language. Well, he certainly wasn’t Churchill.

Getting back to my original point, I guess technology of one sort or another has always been a driving force behind spoken-language change: the creation of the technology of writing necessitated the invention of written language, adapted from spoken language; years later the invention of computer technology has led to spoken language again having an influence of written language. The two diverged for a few thousand years but may be coalescing again. Punning again on the title of this posting, I guess written language is coming full circle.

Posted by Mark at 11:50 PM | Comments (1)

March 01, 2004

Ða Wealas and leac

Well, I don’t have time for a full posting today, but I thought I’d just take a moment to wish everyone a happy St. David’s Day. I suppose it’s odd that I titled this posting in Old English (‘The Welsh and leeks’), but I’m afraid I don’t know any Old Welsh (would someone care to enlighten me?); it’s especially odd since the word ‘Welsh’ comes from the Old English word Wealh, which originally meant ‘foreigner, slave’. The poor Welsh were made slaves and foreigners in their own country by the Anglo-Saxons!

In celebration of St. David’s day, we put leeks in our chicken noodle soup last night (made from our home made stock). Etymology for the day: the word ‘leek’ comes from the Old English word leac, which is actually a general word for ‘onion’ and is the second element in the compound garleac ‘garlic’, literally ‘spear-leak’ because of its shape.

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

February 25, 2004

On angynne...

Well, every blog needs a first entry, and this is mine. I don’t intend to write on any specific theme to start off with, but this blog won’t simply be a diary of my day-to-day activities either (though where relevant there may be some of that). I’ll start out just writing about my thoughts and observations on language, literature, music, food, culture, history, and so forth in the hopes that someone may be interested in reading my mad ramblings. In the future, I may blog (if I may use this word as a verb) about music as I write or record it or my academic pursuits as I engage in my research, but for now this site will contain amalgam of all these things. Thanks to Mike for making all this possible. Enjoy the ride.

Oh, and a cookie to anyone who correctly identifies the title of this entry.

Posted by Mark at 03:29 PM | Comments (4)