by Catriona Mills

Ways in which Microsoft Word Makes Me Laugh: Redux

Posted 3496 days ago in by Catriona

I wouldn’t have thought there was a problem with the line, in the middle of a description of pay rates for mid-Victorian penny weeklies, “Reynolds specifies that this is for ‘the four pages (including the wood-cut)’”.

The preposition use seems just fine to me.

Microsoft Word wants me to change this to “Reynolds specifies that this be for ‘the four pages (including the wood-cut)’”.

Because, apparently, as well as being the author of the fabulous Mysteries of London, a Chartist, a confirmed tee-totaller with an extensive cellar of French wine, and a prolific journalist, George William Macarthur Reynolds was also a Cornish pirate.

Ways in which Microsoft Word Makes Me Laugh: A Much Shorter Series

Posted 3497 days ago in by Catriona

Halfway through editing a section on a strange adaptation of one of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, I come across a squiggly green line under the phrase “the bare breast”.

This seems odd, so I check.

Word wants me to change this to “the bear breast”.

I do realise that it’s simply trying to be helpful on the subject of confusable pairs, but in this case, I’m definitely not talking about half-naked animals.

To prove it, here’s the picture for the story in question.

Not really the sort of thing you expect to find on the cover of an 1866 journal called Fiction for Family Reading, but not ursine nudity, either.

I also suspect that when the noun is “breast”, the adjective is rarely if ever “bear”, excluding any interesting recipes for unusual game that I’ve overlooked.

Or unless, apparently, you’re thinking of getting gummy bear breast implants

Ways in which Microsoft Word Annoys Me: Probably, Alas, a Lengthy, Ongoing Series

Posted 3497 days ago in by Catriona

Microsoft Word wishes me to change “working woman” to “workingwoman”.

Since the thesis deals with female professionalism, this was a request that came up with a fair degree of regularity before I got annoyed and “ignored all”. The combination of adjective and noun expresses my critical focus better than a single word would, anyway.

But is “workingwoman” actually a real word? My trusty OED is in my office at work, and there’s certainly no trace in the OED Australian Dictionary. I could, of course, access the OED online through library catalogue, but see my previous post for that debacle.

Dictionary.com suggests “workingwoman” is a real word, meaning “a woman who is regularly employed” or “a woman who works for wages” (really? How surprising!) but I’m not sure I trust dictionary.com on this one.

“Workwoman” I can see, as a counterpart to “workman”—not, to my mind, a necessary counterpart, but that’s another post.

But “workingwoman”? This one’s baffling me.

Irritating Things About Losing My Computer . . .

Posted 3497 days ago in by Catriona

. . . that weren’t immediately noticeable.
  • I haven’t typed my library password into the website in four years, and I’ve now forgotten it. This makes accessing databases and electronic journals impossible, and is highly irritating.
  • all my lovely PopCap games are gone: Alchemy I hadn’t played in a while, but the loss of my beautiful Bejeweled 2 is a tragedy.
  • ditto Solitaire Till Dawn, hands-down the best Solitaire games for the Mac anywhere. How will I procrastinate now?
  • I really don’t want to spend an hour with my online banking system recreating the spreadsheet tracking repayment of my parents’ loan for the car.
  • I’ve only just now realised that my electronic Bookmarks are gone. Bugger.
  • grateful as I am for Nick’s computer, his keyboard really sucks. Yes, that modifier was necessary.
  • I’m becoming unreasonably annoyed by having to log back into my e-mail programme every ten minutes.
  • on that note, the online Exchange programme has stored all of my received e-mails, but none of my sent ones, which I suspect will cause increasing problems in the future.
  • I miss my James Jean desktop image.

None of these are as major as the complete and utter loss of one of my appendices—it would have to be the one that includes my primary source material, wouldn’t it?—but they’re frustrating nonetheless.

R. I. P., little iBook. I’m going to stop whinging about you now.

The Aftermath

Posted 3499 days ago in by Catriona

I’m in no fit state to update properly, having spent the morning being told that my computer is irretrievably dead (thirteen days out! Why?)

It could be worse; I’ll never grumble again about Nick’s insistence on doing everything image-related himself, since that’s the main reason there was a very recent copy of the full draft on his machine. But I have entirely lost one appendix. Not terrible, but worse than I needed at this stage of events.

But I shouldn’t grumble.

I do, however, have one reasonable request.

If The Doctor is anywhere near Earth at the moment—I realise I’m not allowed to travel back on my own timeline. But, do you think you could nip back to yesterday morning and warn me to back everything up?

That’d be great, ta.

From My Desk

Posted 3500 days ago in by Catriona

To the makers of Lynx Deodorant commercials:

Clearly, you despise women. (Unless, of course, it’s an attractive woman who is willing to sacrifice her own existence and combine with another attractive woman to create a mindless sexual object.)

It might make things easier if you just go ahead and adopt the advertising slogan “Lynx: Roofies in an Aerosol!”

To Guy Sebastian:

You’re not Ray Charles. Go away, and take the makers of Lynx Deodorant commercials with you.

Obviously, I Learned Nothing From Teaching Academic Research Methods

Posted 3500 days ago in by Catriona

I had a post planned out for today, in honour of The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. In other words, I was going to write a list, of the strangest things I’d discovered while editing my thesis. (For the record, it would have been really interesting. You can tell by the way I just had to use a weak modifier to describe it.)

But then my computer died. Not just died. Completely and utterly refused to do anything but make heart-rending screaming noises.

And I realised that, while I had my appendices backed up, I hadn’t saved a back-up of my thesis itself since early December.

That wasn’t the best revelation I’ve ever had.

But if the Internet has taught me anything, it’s that the untimely death of one’s computer two weeks before you’re due to submit a Ph.D. that, as it turns out, you haven’t been backing up properly can only be dealt with through the awesome power of bad haikus.

Alas, iBook is dead.
The hard drive unmounted.
The thesis unsaved.

Packrat during work.
I just needed a panda—
Is that so wrong, now?

The panda stolen
And then the grey screen of death.
My lesson learned.

If Only His Body Had Been Entirely Composed of Bees . . .

Posted 3501 days ago in by Catriona

I know adaptation is a tricky business. When a book I enjoy—or have read, or have simply heard about—comes to the screen, I don’t expect that it will be exactly the same as it was in print. But the difficulties of translating word to image don’t quite explain why a Nazi appeared in a Miss Marple story.

The most recent series of Miss Marple adaptations—the novels Ordeal by Innocence, At Bertram’s Hotel, Nemesis, and Towards Zero—have been a mixed bunch at best. Towards Zero was actually an enjoyable and extremely faithful adaptation—except that it isn’t a Miss Marple mystery. Neither is Ordeal by Innocence, which is a one-shot appearance by research scientist and, as it turns out, highly successful amateur sleuth Arthur Calgary. And I can understand that, since Miss Marple only appeared in twelve novels.

However, I do wonder why, of the twelve adaptations that Geraldine McEwan has appeared in, four have been non-Marple stories. Not only have Ordeal by Innocence and Towards Zero been modified, but also the earlier adaptations The Sittaford Mystery (originally with amateur sleuth Emily Trefusis) and By the Pricking of My Thumbs (a Tommy and Tuppence mystery).

And this is all the stranger when you think that four full-length novels haven’t been adapted since the Joan Hickson days: They Do It With Mirrors, A Caribbean Mystery, The Mirror Crack’d, and A Pocketful of Rye (although the latter, at least, is coming with the new Miss Marple, Julia McKenzie, in 2008). Even The Thirteen Problems would furnish material for at least one adaptation.

When all is said and done, however, the insertion of Jane Marple into non-Marple stories is less disturbing than the alterations made to actual Miss Marple plots. I first noticed this with Sleeping Murder, which is one of my favourite Miss Marple books; nowhere else is she simultaneously as fluffy and old-maidish but insightful and acute as in this novel. Not, alas, in the adaptation.

But At Bertram’s Hotel, which aired tonight on the ABC, was perhaps the strangest. It’s not the most satisfying of Miss Marple novels, to begin with; the plot is strangely melodramatic and somewhat implausible. What it does do well is show Miss Marple as an old woman, coming to terms with the disappearance of the pre-war England of her youth when she revisits a place where time seems to have stood still.

What it doesn’t contain, but the adaptation does, is the following:

  • a garishly made-up German milliner who is seeking his father’s stolen Vermeers and Rembrandts
  • twins who are highly successful quick-change artists and jewel thieves but, nevertheless, forget that right-handed people tend to wear their watches on different wrists than their left-handed siblings
  • a black-mailing chambermaid
  • a best friend whose arm is crippled after a bout of polio
  • a chambermaid who shares Miss Marple’s first name and detective acumen
  • an embezzling lawyer
  • a Polish race-car driver and concentration-camp survivor turned Nazi hunter. Well, all right: the original did have a Polish race-car driver, but he’s slightly less of a Jack-of-all-trades
  • a hotel that serves as a kind of Underground Railroad for Nazis
  • an African-American jazz singer with a predilection for stolen paintings
  • Louis Armstrong
  • and, just in case you thought Louis Armstrong was the strangest thing in this list, did I mention the Nazi?

I started boggling when Louis Armstrong turned up, but it was really the Nazi who tipped the scales for me.

I could cope with Miss Marple being shoe-horned into non-Marple stories.

I could cope with radical alterations to characters (Richard E. Grant is wonderful, always, but that wasn’t the Raymond West of the novels) or even to otherwise strong plots, as in the thoroughly bizarre re-writing of the otherwise wonderful Nemesis. Frankly, I had hoped that the murderous nun in that one was as strange as it could get.

I could even cope with the fact that apparently the most accurate televisual adaptation of Christie’s novels is the Japanese series Agatha’s Christie’s Great Detectives Poirot and Marple, in which the two characters are linked by Miss Marple’s great-niece Mabel West and her pet duck Oliver.

But Nazis? If that’s really necessary, why not make it the Marvel Universe’s Swarm? At least in that case, to quote Wikipedia, you have a character whose “most notable feature is that his entire body is composed of bees with Nazi sympathies”.

When Social Networking Turns to Stalking

Posted 3511 days ago in by Catriona

The other day I received an e-mail from my Visual Bookshelf application on Facebook, with the subject line “You’ve been reading ‘The Devil in the White City. . .’ for more than a week. Still true?”

I was quite content to answer the nosy questions that Facebook poses about my personal relationships, but I draw the line at the website critiquing the speed at which I read.

Ted Naifeh

Posted 3511 days ago in by Catriona

Today I fell asleep on top of my own thesis, which I thought was a bad sign. But, rather than assuming that the result of three years’ hard work is boring enough to induce catatonia, I figured I just needed coffee and a sit down. After a brief interlude of accidentally kicking my coffee mug over, fetching a paper towel and a fresh cup of coffee, sitting down, and realising that I’d forgotten to turn the fan on, I settled in to re-read Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things.

Nick and I bought this in a recent Amazon order, along with another of Naifeh’s works, Polly and the Pirates. I came across a reference to Naifeh on Chris’s Invincible Super-Blog, as part of the series of Relatively Serious Comics Reviews that also introduced me to Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert’s thoroughly delightful The Professor’s Daughter, for which I will be eternally grateful.

I wasn’t entirely certain whether I’d enjoy these, since I don’t normally read goth-infused comics. That makes it sound as though I have moral objections to them, but really they just don’t come in my way much. But is it likely that anyone could resist the story of a young boarder from a school for proper gentlewomen who becomes inextricably mixed up with pirates?

Both Polly and Courtney are wonderful characters, and the fantastical, romanticised San Francisco in which they’re set is worth it simply for Polly and the Pirates‘s extraordinary fusion of pirate ships and nineteenth-century architecture. I’m also rapidly turning over plans—each more improbable than the last—for building my own version of Aloysius Crumrin’s house.

I’m only sorry that Polly is restricted to four issues. At least there are many more Courtney Crumrin tales for me to catch up on.

Inaugural Post

Posted 3512 days ago in by Catriona

I haven’t quite decided why I want to write a blog. Part of it is certainly that Nick fancies designing one, and keeps saying “You know, people would be really interested in reading what you write.”

It’s hard to resist those kind of blandishments.

Partly, it’s because I like to have an outlet, especially now my Ph.D. is coming to an end. Perhaps it might be argued, with careful use of passive voice, that my outlet should be journal articles. But there’s something enticing in a different way about a blog.

I’m ambivalent about blogs as a reader. I read them and enjoy reading them, but part of me feels as though maybe they have a privileged readership, and I’m not it. The same impulse, I suspect, drives my feeling that I may be stalking people who have voluntarily chosen to become my friends on Facebook. Every time I see someone’s birthday is coming up, I get a little guilty sensation. The fact that they have voluntarily friended me is no barrier to the guilt of a second-generation lapsed Catholic.

But I like the idea of writing one. Whether the ambivalence will grow, I can’t say.

What I can say is that I have an idea as to what I want to do with this blog, and it’s vaguely this: reading is both my career and my hobby, and that’s what this blog addresses. If I have somewhere to talk about my reading, I’m less likely to bore Nick senseless by describing in detail why I didn’t like what I just read.

That’s not to say I won’t devote the odd entry to describing how the computer players cheat in Mario Party.

Categories

Blogroll

Recent comments

Monthly Archive

2012
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
2011
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
August
October
November
December
2010
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
October
December
2009
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
2008
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December