Riba Rambles:
Musings of a Mental Magpie

About the author: Elisabeth in early 2007, photo by Todd Belf
Elisabeth "Lis" Riba is an infovore with an MLS. This is her place to share whatever's on her mind, on topics both personal and political. [more]
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Saturday, January 01, 2005
Master Marlowe, I presume
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:30 PM
Christopher Marlowe by André Carrilho, from the January 2nd, 2005 New York Times Sunday Book Review

Yes, I am aware that the main story in today's New York Times Sunday Book Review is an article on the new Marlowe biography. I haven't read it (the article, I mean), yet because I haven't finished the book and don't want to spoil the ending. As I was explaining this rationale to Ian, I realized how stupid it sounds -- I've read countless other stories on Marlowe's death. I know how it ends. But then, as I thought further on it, I recognized that we don't actually know how it ends. We've got a coroner's report that describes some barebones facts -- but those are mysterious enough to support countless stories and theories. And I don't know how Riggs has chosen to explain the inexplicable.

I'm still not terribly far into the book, but I'm really liking it. I think I'm going to have to request the Kuriyama from the library to compare, and I may possibly replace my biography recommendation on my Marlowe in modern fiction page. Kuriyama was an excellent scholarly biography, but Riggs has just really been hitting home, taking the collection of facts I already knew from other sources and turning them into a more immersive world picture. I've now got the titles of the standard school texts Marlowe probably used! I could probably look them up on Project Gutenberg, if I wanted (and may do so, later).

At any rate, right now I'm only on page 58, but it's looking extremely promising...

2004 Year in Review
Posted by Lis Riba at 5:15 PM

You know, I wrote lengthy year-in-review posts for 2002 and 2003.

But I blogged a heck of a lot more last year -- approximately 950 blog entries, with a wordcount around 300,000 (more if I include external post pages).

I started rereading, and while I had a very enjoyable time, it's just too much to try to recount and sum up. If you're really interested, go to my archive page and start reading. There really is some great and funny stuff, but I don't feel like trying to condense it all.

I will provide some followup on my personal wishes for 2004:

 • A better job (at my current company or elsewhere)
It took six months of unemployment in the interim, but I do believe that's a strong, emphatic YES!
 • That Bush does not win re-election and/or the GOP loses control of Congress. Both would be ideal.
Alas, no.
 • An upturn in the economy, so all my friends and family can find better jobs with fewer financial worries
We're about the same there, I think
 • A happy and healthy new baby for my brother and sister-in-law, with an easy pregnancy and labor for my sister-in-law
Thankfully yes
 • In fact, good health to all my family and friends
For the most part, I think
 • A happy climax to my own long-term medical issue
Alas, no.
 • My parents' business to take off and make them fabulously wealthy, without requiring heavy workloads on their part
They're still busy, but I think it's going well
 • My father-in-law's invention to take off and make him fabulously wealthy, with as much time for work as he wants/needs
As far as I know, he's still creeping along with it. Moving in the right direction, but I'm not sure whether it's picked up any speed.
 • To finish writing my unfinished fiction from 2003
Alas, no. In fact, I now have one more piece of unfinished fiction that I'm struggling to complete.
 • To achieve fame, popularity and fortune as a pundit
Not really. I had a brief fling with popularity back in October, which made me decide the effort wasn't quite worth it. On a more positive note, however, I've now got press credentials at two area Shakespeare companies!
 • Or, less ambitiously and more achievably: To rise to the level of Large Mammal in the Blogosphere Ecosystem or a Top Blog in Blogstreet, even if only briefly...
I think I actually did, momentarily, during the October madness. And right now, I'm a Marauding Marsupial, which is one stage below that on the scale.
Books read 2004
Posted by Lis Riba at 1:15 PM

Okay, rounding up the numbers, I read a total of 143 books or novel-length fanfics (ones with wordcount greater than 50,000).

While this seems like a huge jump over the 66 I read in 2003, I became much more diligent (and less embarrassed) about recording fanfics this year. I don't think my fanfic reading has risen terribly much, so the increase may partly be attributed to a difference in measurement. I also did a lot of rereading, something which I've decided to record differently for 2005's book list, so I'll be able to track that more easily.

The 143 works can be divided as follows:

  • 22 works of adult nonfiction,
  • 29 works of adult fiction,
  • 42 works of YA fiction, and
  • 50 works of fanfiction.

As usual, I keep track in a public list, if you want the details. I tried to blog monthly summaries of my reading progress, but only managed them the end of January, end of February, and a six-month review on July 1st.

Best nonfiction:

Best adult fiction:

Best YA fiction:

The fanfiction is too numerous, and (sad to say) too much of it runs together, for me to quickly apply any form of ranking. If you really want recs, just ask.

Largely the same rankings as midyear, when I look at it.

Cedar and Jessamyn made some nifty metrics for their end-of-year wrapups, which I thought of appropriating, but don't feel like crunching the numbers right now. Suffice it to say that the month I did the most reading was May, with 20 books. The month I read least was 2 in October.

And that's about all I feel like writing about this at the moment.

Friday, December 31, 2004
Interlude
Posted by Lis Riba at 4:30 PM

Okay, add one more distraction to my things to do.

We stopped at the bookstore today to pick up Elizabeth Bear's new book. Yes, we've already gotten Hammered for New Year's.

And then, as I wandered through the bookstore, I came upon David Riggs' new biography: The World of Christopher Marlowe.

Now I've already read several Marlowe biographies, so the first things I look for are (a) what the author's angle is, and (b) whether it adds anything significant to what I already know. Since most of what we know about Marlowe is secondhand (through his plays, from informant reports and court records), Riggs seems to be focusing on the surrounding environment. I sat down and started to read, and before I knew it, I was thirty pages in and reading about the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. I already knew most of the barebones facts about Marlowe's childhood -- growing up downwind of the abattoir, with a sewage ditch running down the center of the street -- but somehow, so far, Riggs makes it all seem much more vivid.

Browsing through the library catalogs yesterday, I noticed that my local library network only has one copy of the book on order -- at my city's branch. [You think somebody noticed that some patron keeps requesting every new Marlowe book in the network?] I put in a reserve request for the title, but just cancelled it, having bought the Riggs book for myself.


Needless to say, I still haven't started on my Year In Review posts. I've written nearly 950 blog entries in 2004, with a wordcount of nearly 300,000. So, I'll start by adopting a meme by Steve Gilliard:

Ok, you get to pick the stories of the year.

One, my best posts, two, the best actual stories of the year.

Why?

Because I post so much stuff I've forgotten what I've done. Some of you haven't. So I leave it up to you.
Things to do today:
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:50 AM
  • Write up a year-in-review post
  • Write up my end-of-year reading wrapup
  • Try to finish the damned story I've been writing
  • Fill out and send off rebates (I think one has a 12/31 deadline, so will need today's postmark)
  • Mail in a deposit to the credit union. (I got my first paycheck! Yay!)
  • Deal with this stupid DMCA/copyright claim that somebody filed against my LJ (Rassen-frassen three-day response time -- not terribly helpful when given at the start of a three day weekend!)
Thursday, December 30, 2004
Disaster / relief
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:30 PM

The death toll has now exceeded 116,000.

That's larger than Clearwater, Florida (108,787); Springfield, Illinois (111,454); Waco, Texas (113,726); and Ann Arbor, Michigan (114,024). It approaches the size of Stamford, Connecticut (117,083).

The weblog Tsunami.Loadedmouth.com is holding a donation challenge: Bloggers are pledging various offers in exchange for donations. Guest blogging rights on somebody's community, a 1962 political history book, and (one that amuses me):

J Mann has a challenge: "If someone kicks in another $100 to match me, I promise not to say another conservative thing, anywhere on the internet, until I have blogged 5 well written (for me) posts describing issues on which liberals are right and the GOP wrong, and explaining why the GOP is wrong."

Unfortunately, I don't really know anybody in that corner of the blogosphere, so most of the offers are meaningless to me. [Besides, I donated without any of those pledges; I may add my contribution to the total they're trying to raise, but it doesn't seem fair to wait for a suitable pledge and then try to claim it.]

During the election, some fans created an LJ Community Fan_The_Vote where poorer fen (or noncitizens) offered to trade fanfic or fanart or web services to reward people who made political donations. Has anybody launched something similar for disaster relief? Maybe I should suggest it.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004
The tsunami disaster
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:00 PM

As Josh Marshall wrote this morning:

Tragedies, or stories into which one has no unique or particular insight, are always a challenge for a blogger because silence is read by many as indifference or inattention. Not so.

I, too, have been following the news about the tsunami with shock and horror, but don't really feel I have much to add, and I really don't want to contribute to the partisan bickering and hindsight told-ya-so's that some of the blogs have gotten into.

Not on this issue, at least. Not for me; not now.

I'm finding the enormity (yes, I'm using the word correctly) of this disaster hard to grasp. Entire islands have moved, up to 100 feet, the earth's rotation has been affected, landmines washed out of minefields, and the death toll just keeps rising every time I hear the news.

Just to provide some perspective, the U.S. Census tracks municipalities with populations over 50,000. The death toll exceeded that yesterday, but for comparison purposes here are U.S. municipalities by population.

According to CNN, the death toll now exceeds 80,000. So here is a sampling of some comparably-sized American cities:

  1. Norwalk, Connecticut (82,951)
  2. Plantation, Florida (82,934)
  3. West Palm Beach, Florida (82,103)
  4. Youngstown, Ohio (82,026)
  5. Racine, Wisconsin (81,855)
  6. Reading, Pennsylvania (81,207)
  7. Troy, Michigan (80,959)
  8. Canton, Ohio (80,806)
  9. Lawrence, Kansas (80,098)
  1. Camden, New Jersey (79,904)
  2. Cranston, Rhode Island (79,269)
  3. Lakeland, Florida (78,452)
  4. Carlsbad, California (78,247)
  5. Pompano Beach, Florida (78,191)
  6. Tuscaloosa, Alabama (77,906)
  7. Lewisville, Texas (77,737)
  8. Yuma, Arizona (77,515)
  1. Somerville, Massachusetts (77,478)
  2. Kalamazoo, Michigan (77,145)
  3. Scranton, Pennsylvania (76,415)
  4. Arlington Heights, Illinois (76,031)
  5. Redwood, California (75,402)
  6. Danbury, Connecticut (74,848)
  7. Boca Raton, Florida (74,764)
  8. Evanston, Illinois (74,239)

Greater than the population of Somerville. Completely wiped out. Words fail me.

If the death toll crosses 100,000 (as I fear it might), we're talking in the range of:

  1. Erie, Pennsylvania (103,717)
  2. Berkeley, California (102,743)
  3. Green Bay, Wisconsin (102,313)
  4. Cambridge, Massachusetts (101,355)
  5. Burbank, California (100,316)
  6. Athens, Georgia (100,266)
  1. Davenport, Iowa (98,359)
  2. Dearborn, Michigan (97,775)
  3. Charleston, South Carolina (96,650)
  4. Albany, New York (95,658)
  5. Gainesville, Florida (95,447)
  6. Midland, Texas (94,996)

Bloggers have created TsunamiHelp.blogspot.com as a central repository for up-to-the-minute information. CNN has compiled a list of aide groups accepting donations, if you're so inclined.

I'm sure there's more I could write, but I really don't want to go looking...

At any rate, that's my take on the news.

ALA Midwinter blogger gettogether?
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:00 PM

ALA Midwinter will be in Boston in about two weeks. I'm not planning to attend (at best, I hope to get an exhibit hall pass for some point over the weekend).

However, I know several library bloggers (including Jessamyn and Jenny and Steven and too many others to name) whom I'd love to see.

Anybody interested in some kind of ALA blogger get-together over the weekend? Dinner some evening, perhaps? And if you're interested, let me know if you're willing to play some role in helping to organize it. I know the area, but since I'm not attending, I have no idea what the schedule is like.

Vocabulary lesson
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:10 PM

Poking around the web, I discovered the Oxford English Dictionary has posted their latest updates for December 2004. Which includes the following draft definitions:

fan fiction, fiction, usually fantasy or science fiction, written by a fan rather than a professional author, esp. that based on already-existing characters from a television series, book, film, etc.; (also) a piece of such writing.
Earliest use: 1944 in Speer's Fancyclopedia

and

fanfic, colloq. = fan fiction.
Earliest use: a 1978 article (see the SF fandom citations project for more details)

I also noticed that quotes in some of the other draft definitions came from Usenet posts. The earliest recorded use of fangirl comes from Jim Dyer in rec.arts.comics! I didn't participate in that particular thread, but I was active in that newsgroup at that time and remember him.

[OED doesn't actually credit the author of the quote, just provides the subject, newsgroup, date and a sufficient excerpt. Still, combine it with Google Groups, and I can easily find Bob Mosley's use of "killfile", for example.]

Added later: Just as an aside, but draft definitions of K/S and slash (in the sense of a genre of fiction) were added to the OED in September 2003. Isn't recognition nice?

Myth! Myth! Yeth?
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:25 AM

Via Will Shetterly, I learn that

The winter issue of The Endicott Studio Journal of the Mythic Arts is now online.

I didn't even know there was such a journal, but I already see several articles in the table of contents that I (and possibly some of you) will want to read, including Angels & Minister of Grace: Theatrical Superstitions Through the Ages and a look at J.M. Barrie and Peter Pan by Terri Windling.

Cool stuff.

By the way, Will Shetterly is also requesting help from iTunes users:

If you use iTunes, please put in requests for Emma Bull, the Flash Girls, and Cats Laughing. I understand that the folks at iTunes take that into consideration when they decide who to carry.
Monday, December 27, 2004
All the world seems in tune...
Posted by Lis Riba at 5:33 PM

Well, Google AdSense is no longer suggesting for this blog links to the Liz Claiborne "Elisabeth" clothing line.

Instead, I'm now solely getting announcements of Reba Mcentire music and DVDs. [And I'm sure this post isn't going to help any.

Aren't context-sensitive links so useful? [Yes, I know the fault largely lies with the alternate spellings I provide on my sidebar, but I'm not about to get rid of those, so will have to suffer with inaccurate (and thus nonexistent) keyword suggestions until Google fixes up their act...]

State of the Lis
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:10 AM

Sorry for the radio silence, I've spent much of the weekend just vegging out and reading. Didn't get anything I'd hoped to accomplished, but I finished four books over the weekend (okay, two were YA, but it still counts). At any rate, here are some of the things I've been thinking about writing over the weekend, all crammed into one long post:


The thread on Making Light has finally died down after over 300 responses. It quickly devolved into a guessing game of identifying one author's work written in the style of another. [Full points only for guessing both halves.] Here were my entries (correct answers further down the thread):

First:
"Sir. Might I suggest such a vibrant shade of blue in one's braces might be less than couth and could conceivably cause distress to some of our more delicate friends and relations."
Second:
I knew that dame was trouble the moment she walked into town. The old minister and his wife were dead, and all she wanted to do was play games.
I expected the worst when she knocked on my door. Calf's-foot jelly was just an excuse. Next thing I knew, she was opening the windows and trying to brighten up the place.

I tried to think up others, but my knowledge of the pulp style is limited. I'd particularly hoped, since the thread began with Philip Marlowe written in Christopher Marlowe's style, to return the favor, writing Kit's plots in the style of Philip. Sad to say, I don't think it's going to happen (at least, not by me) though if you're interested in picking up the challenge, I'll share the ideas I had.

But that was in another country; and besides the dame is dead.


Recently finished A Monarchy Transformed: Britain 1603-1714, and yet again find myself looking for a good book on the Hanover transition.

I was somewhat excited, though, because this book is part of the "Penguin History of Britain Series." The good news is they do have a book covering from the middle of Anne's reign through the Georges. The bad news is it's not scheduled to be released until next October.

grumble.


As usual, it bugs me when otherwise good books are less useful than they could be because the publisher neglected to include something obvious.

I think the last time I wrote about this, it was a history of London that failed to include any maps. This time it's Becoming Victoria, a look at the girlhood of the future Queen. And what it desperately needs is a family tree. I mean, get a load of the following paragraph, near the beginning:

With the death of Charlotte and her child, George IV's line became extinct, and it was up to the next son of George III, William (later William IV), to wear the crown and beget heirs to the throne. Ironically, of King William's twelve children only the two daughters of gentle Queen Adelaide were legitimate, yet they were also sickly and died in infancy. The third surviving son, Edward, Duke of Kent, married somewhat late in life, and fathered a healthy child, Alexandrina Victoria.

Maybe it's just me, but the wording confused me whether Edward, Duke of Kent, was brother to King William or one of his many children. I finally looked it up, but a family tree would've been much easier. And then, throughout the book, there are casual references to the FitzClarence children and her favorite uncle Leopold, and I'm just never quite clear who these people are in the family or to the world.

Very frustrating. Other than that, though, a good book.


But speaking of Queen Victoria, found some very interesting news that didn't make it to this side of the pond.

A post-graduate student found a previously undiscovered letter written by Queen Victoria shortly after John Brown's death. Quoting the Telegraph article:

But in the recently discovered letter, written to Viscount (later Earl of) Cranbrook, a close friend and former Secretary of State for India, she wrote of "her present unbounded grief for the loss of the best, most devoted of servants and truest and dearest of friends".

Victoria, who usually wrote about herself in the third person, went on: "Perhaps never in history was there so strong and true an attachment, so warm and loving a friendship between the sovereign and servant as existed between her and her dear faithful Brown."

It is thought the phrase "between the sovereign and servant" was added as an afterthought.

The letter goes on to praise Brown in a most personal way: "Strength of character, as well as power of frame - the most fearful uprightness, kindness…combined with a tender warm heart…made him one of the most remarkable men who could be known."

It adds: "And the Queen feels that life for the second time is become most trying and sad to bear deprived of all she so needs…

"The shock too was so sudden that the Queen is quite stunned."

The letter, written two days after Brown died from an attack of the skin disease erysipelas, is published in the latest edition of History Today magazine.

It was discovered in the Suffolk Record Office by Bendor Grosvenor, a PhD student at the University of East Anglia, while writing a thesis on Disraeli's government. It had been lent to the archive by the current Earl of Cranbrook. "In terms of evidence of a sexual relationship between them from her own pen, I think this is as close as we are going to get," Mr Grosvenor said.

"It's not a billet doux which says 'Darling, you were marvellous last night', but it is a letter to a very close friend of hers in which she compares the death of someone to the death of her husband.

After discovering this Thursday night, I wanted to see the Judi Dench film Mrs. Brown, but the library which had an available copy was already closed for the holiday weekend. Maybe this coming week.


Feeling restless and wanting to enjoy the nice weather, I dragged Ian out to Harvard Square Thursday night. Noticed two new books at the Harvard Book Store that I'm going to want to read, though I probably don't need to own them and can just pester my local libraries.

They are:

Oh, and as long as I'm mentioning books to read, FTL mentioned The Know-It-All by A. J. Jacobs, which sounded up my alley.


As I already said, Ian and I didn't really do much this weekend.

Ian has blogged about our adventures with British food. Gave me a slight upset stomach that nearly kept me from Shabbos dinner with friends. Saturday was Xmas, which we spent with Ian's family, and much fun was had by all. And other than that, I've mostly just been reading.

Ian's shovelling the driveway right now. After that, I think we're going to run some errands. Ta for now!

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