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Travels in Tartary

 I know some of you were interested in my review of Fathers Huc and Gabert's travels through Tibet in the early 1800s

Reapermum on LJ spotted that you can download the book (it's old and has been out of copyright for a long time), which is handy as it seems to be out of print at present.

'Lamas of the Western Havens' is only part of 'Travels in Tartary, Thibet and China'

Volumes 1 and 2 are both available on Project Gutenberg 
https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/33269 This entry was originally posted on Dreamwidth where it has comment count unavailable comments.

'Line of Separation' and learning German

 If you want a recommendation for a really good German-language (with subtitles) TV programme, then try this recommendation by londonkds.

The drama is called 'Line of Separation' and is on channel 4 iplayer.

It's set just at the end of WW2 and it's pretty harrowing.  Definitely not for children.  Well acted.

My grandparents lived through being bombed, but they never had to live through occupation - for which I am very grateful.

I'm teaching myself a little German at the moment, partly because I'm not too well at present (costochondritis).  I tire easily and can only do a limited amount of computer work before my ribs start hurting.

There's only so much TV one can watch before brain rot sets in - sitting down with board game rules in German, and a dictionary and grammar to hand, at least ensures that the brain is engaged.

There's nothing quite like trying to work out the correct ending for an adjective when used before a feminine noun in the accusative case to force you to have to think...

And if anyone can tell me why it's "keinen Dank"  - Ah, just got it.  Dank is spelt the same whether it's singlar or plural (half the online dictionaries don't tell you what the plural is, which is a right pain).  Thus, "no thanks" and keinen  with 'en' is correct for mixed declension plural before a masculine noun.  (I wanted something to distract me from stress, there's nothing like tables of endings...)

Why, why, why do languages have genders?  
What's the point?

English is good in that regard, but has its own quirks.  eg. "I hit him"  - is that present or past tense?  I never noticed before, until I was looking for simple sentences to translate and realised that I didn't know what tense to use in German. This entry was originally posted on Dreamwidth where it has comment count unavailable comments.


 A book that is far more about character than plot.  Take eight people of various personalities, races, genders, etc., place them on board a space ship on a long journey and get to know them.
By the end of the book, the crew of the Wayfarer feel like old friends. You could sit down at a table with them  to eat a delicious meal cooked by Dr Chef (using ingredients from an alien marketplace), your surroundings cheerfully decorated by Kizzy from whatever she had to hand.  There would be laughs, grumbles from Corbin, an empty seat for Orhan  (who never eats communally, but still has a place in case they ever change their mind), and conversation that will cover everything from navigation issues to bad jokes.

There's a plot, though it's more a series of encounters that help us learn more about the crew, but also about what it means to be human, or indeed to be a sapient being of any kind.
Definitely looking forward to reading the next one!
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Lamas of the Western Havens

I bought this book because I'd met some Tibetan monks and was curious to know more about their history, and also, because I have a weakness for Folio Society books and  this one was on the shelf in a  National Trust second hand bookshop and caught my eye.

This book is the first hand account of two French Catholic monks who set off from China in 1844 on a long and arduous journey to Tibet.  Their journey was as missionaries, trying to reach a forbidden country, but the description of their journey and the detail provide a real sense of the hazards of the route.  
In these days when we can fly from A to B in no time at all, it's hard to grasp the sheer difficulty of travelling on foot and horseback over mountains, of the dangers of brigands, snow, starvation or of simply  losing one's footing on a high narrow path.  
Many travellers didn't make it.
Father Huc describes the journey and the people in great detail.  The 'inns' fascinated me, with their communal raised platforms for travellers to sleep on.  Under the platform was smouldering dung, to provide a little heat for the travellers during the night.
We learn of the small number of converts they made, but also of the Buddhists they met.  Of the squabbles between lamas, of the long and bloody conflicts between China and Tibet and the chancy politics between the two.
The engraved illustrations add the to text and give a good feel for the costumes of the era.
It's well worth reading, both as a travelling and also as a reminder that other cultures are far more complex than we assume.
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Cheap overseas phone calls

 If you live in the UK and want an affordable way of calling overseas, one good option is Planet Numbers - https://planet-numbers.co.uk/

Calls are typically one or two pence per minute, and they also have good online help - I hit a problem, and the person on the chat line worked with me until I'd sorted it out and successfully made the call.

I had a chat with Vjezkova in the Czech Republic yesterday and look forward to chatting to her again before long.

This entry was originally posted on Dreamwidth where it has comment count unavailable comments.
 Because everyone gets them confused...

An accordion is a large instrument where all the keys play the same note whether the bellows are being pushed or pulled.  One hand plays the melody, the other had buttons to push for chords.

A melodeon is smaller than an accordion.  It has different notes on the push and pull.  ie.  Each key plays two notes, which is why it's a smaller, lighter instrument.  The left hand had buttons for chords.  The keys for melody are buttons rather than piano keys, as the arrangement of notes is different from a piano.  Melodeons play in only one or twokeys, one per row of buttons.

An 'English' concertina has hexagonal ends and straps for the little finger and a rest for the thumb.  It plays one note per key (same note on push and pull) and is fully chromatic. (plays in any key)

An Anglo (Anglo/Geman) concertina, has hexagonal ends, and a strap that goes over the wrist, and a totally different layout of buttons.  It has (like a melodeon) two notes per button.  It plays in one or two keys, but may have buttons for accidentals to allow extra keys.  Great instruments for morris - I have one.

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Carbon Footprints

I was just chatting to my dad, who likes to do a cruise holiday every couple of years, and we were discussing the environmental impact.

I thought there was a fair environmental cost to cruises, but we were both surprised by what I found when I looked it up.

Cruises are far, far worse than flying.  If you take a liner to your destination, your carbon emissions will be nearly double that of a similar flight (and the impact of that flight is bad enough that I've given up flying), and there is also a massive impact of sulphur emissions, sewage, oil contaminated water, rubbish, etc.

Add in the fact that many people fly to their starting destination, and cruises are an environmental disaster zone. This entry was originally posted on Dreamwidth where it has comment count unavailable comments.

Environmentally Friendly Xmas.

We had a really good Xmas this year - me, my husband, my daughter and her wife, and my son and his fiance, and our four-year old granddaughter.

We'd agreed as a family on an environmentally-friendly Xmas - which is pretty easy as most of our family already lean that way - second-hand books have been welcome gifts for many years (half the price, twice as many books - it's a no-brainer).

This year, we took it a step further.  The vast majority of gifts were either second-hand, donations to charity, environmentally friendly, hand-made, or board games (being made of cardboard, they have a very low environmental impact - which is fortunate given how much we play them...) 

Second hand lego, second hand lava lamp, hand made gifts - my sister Gillian made a hat and scarf for Oswin with second hand yarn, and Oswin loved it.   Might have been the great purple colour, or maybe the knitted butterfly on the end!

I made a dice bag for my son's fiancee using only materials I already had and she was delighted with it - making it yourself means you can personalise to an amazing extent - find me a commercial dice bag with a brightly-coloured diplodocus and a degu on it!

All the wrapping paper was re-used stuff from last year (and much of it will be used again next year).  Where wrapping paper wasn't available, pillow cases make good wrappers for gifts. (second hand scarves also work well).

Once you get your head round the fact that you don't need to measure love/affection by the amount of money you spend, you will understand why no one spent a large sum on Oswin's gifts and yet, she was delighted with all of them.   A 'Saving Dory' scooter from a charity shop was seized with cries of delight, a cheap bow and arrow (bought on a market stall in the summer before I decided to go totally second hand) provided much fun for Oswin, and her mum, and her uncle!  Second hand children's books are ridiculously cheap, so she got several excellent ones.

I don't think any of her close family spent more than a tenner on her. Was she happy? Definitely!  (Her other grandmother appears to define her purpose in life as drowning Oswin in as many toys as possible, but when Oswin is playing at our house, she frequently chooses to use no toys at all, or to adapt random items to her purpose.   Last week, she re-enacted the school nativity play using majhong tile racks to form a stage, a large quantity of dice (we're gamers, we have LOTS of dice) as the children, and a group of clockwork dinosaurs as the parents.)

My son's fiancee is vegan, so we went for a vegan Xmas lunch which was enjoyed by all (apart from me as I was unwell, and simply not hungry).  We did have an option of a meat pate starter for those who didn't want to go totally vegan, but only a few opted for it.  The deserts were a mixture of vegan and veggie (ie. contained cream or cheese).  The sticky toffee pear pudding was gorgeous (I tried a bit on Boxing Day when I was up to nibbling stuff).

 You know how after Xmas you normally have this great big pile of rubbish?

We didn't.  There's some cardboard from delivery boxes for board games, but that's all recyclable.  That's when I realised just how much packaging new presents come in.

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Daddy Long Legs - book review

One of my Dreamwidth friends recently mentioned "Daddy Long Legs" in her journal.  My brain went "You can get it free on Project Gutenberg!" and about half an hour later, I had it on my ebook reader. 

It's an absolutely delightful book. I originally read this when I as young and never forgot it.  I was pleased to discover that I enjoyed it even more as an adult.

It's a series of letters from an orphan to the mysterious benefactor who is paying for her college education.  She doesn't know what his name is, but the deal is that he supports her education as long as she writes him a regular letter about what she's doing.  As she's only even seen his elongated shadow, she nicknames him "Daddy Long Legs".

She tells him about what she's learning, what she thinks of it, cheerfully berates him for never writing back, tells him of what she gets upto with her friends, comments on all kinds of things with a cheerful irreverence.  (She knows that one of the reasons he chose to help her is that she wrote a humorous school essay mocking the trustees' annual visit to the orphanage)
It's partly a wonderful window into the world of 1912, from the social attitudes to orphans, to the clothes worn by young women, but it's also very funny.   I laughed out loud several times while reading it.

There's a romance that develops between Judy and a relative of one of her college friends, but she is concerned about her background and the fact that he comes from an upper-class family.  (Orphans really were low status back then)
It reminds me a little of "84 Charring Cross Rd". There's the same love of literature, and the same cheerful, humorous, slightly disrespectful but fond  attitude towards the correspondent.

You can get it for free!  Read it.  Far more fun than most classics.

(Just discovered that there is a sequel - "Dear Enemy", back to Project Gutenberg!)
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Climate change - 12 years

 We have to cut our carbon emissions by 45% in the next twelve years to avoid catastrophic (and probably irreversible) climate change.

This isn't some dim, distant future: it's happening now.  This is my lifetime, my children's lifetime, and all of my granddaughter's lifetime.

It's hard for many people to know what they can do to make a difference, so I'm going to try posting regularly on the subject. (I find it difficult to post much about climate change because so many people are in denial, and even people who understand the problem still tend to say "But I can't give up 'x', and the rest just move onto the next post because it's less stressful to read about cats....  But we have to take action, or we lose everything.)

It's hard to visualise what the effects of climate change are. We're already seeing the droughts,storms,  floods and fires, but there is far more to it than that. eg. by 2050, the area where coffee is grown is expected to halve, as the climate becomes unsuitable for growing coffee.

So, what can you do?  Because there are things you can do, and you CAN make a difference.

The big issues are:


Let's look at meat.  Beef and lamb are the biggies here. Cows and sheep both fart methane, which is a very powerful greenhouse gas.  The ideal solution is to go vegetarian, but you don't have to do that to make a significant difference.  We don't eat meat more than once a day, and there are usually several days a week in which we don't have any meat at all.  My son's fiancee is vegan, and that's given us a real motivation to find interesting meals that contain no meat or dairy at all.  

I've made the decision to cut out beef and lamb entirely and only eat pork, venison and poultry from now on.  Venison where I live comes from non-native sika deer that over-graze the vegetation in nature reserves and have to be shot for pest control (as they have no natural predators).  That's definitely environmentally friendly meat!  

In a nutshell, cut out beef and lamb. Eat pork and poultry, and if you're an Aussie, eat rabbit and kangaroo. This entry was originally posted on Dreamwidth where it has comment count unavailable comments.


Judith Proctor


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