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Mary Wroth

Mary Wroth was the first woman to publish an English-language novel. She's also the first woman known to have written a complete sonnet sequence.

I've written a piece on her for Women's History Month, at gillpolack's blog.

Camphorated oil

Sometimes, the songs I encounter in the course of Grouting-focused events strike me as being things that I would never have encountered in the US. This verse of "Little Peter Rabbit" is currently exhibit A for this train of thought.

Little Peter Rabbit had a cold upon his chest.
Little Peter Rabbit had a cold upon his chest.
Little Peter Rabbit had a cold upon his chest.
So he rubbed it with camphorated oil

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Fine dining with babies

High-end restaurants bring out the highest expectations and the worst of dismissive snark. Even running into that snark second-hand often puts me off discussing restaurants. (But it's annoyance with snark which inspires this post.) Because, you see, I really like to go to intensely creative, experimental, highly-recommended restaurants even if they are expensive. I don't do it all the time. It's a treat. It's a long-term hobby, if you will. It's an education. And it's a financial choice; other people are most welcome to choose to spend their money on things I don't. (I very much appreciate that I have the luxury of being able to make this choice.)

Alinea is in the news currently for its chef, Grant Achatz, insulting the crying baby who dared join its parents for dinner recently. (via aliettedb) They had a last-minute baby-sitter cancellation, and nonrefundable tickets for the currently very, very hard to get into restaurant. He reacted in horror at how a crying baby was likely disturbing all his other customers. I hope everyone else had a good evening that night, even if Achatz did not.

The good news it that not all restaurants competing in the creative, high-end league that Alinea is in, are like that. Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons makes its own fresh purées for babies with vegetables fresh from its garden. Toddler food is given equal care. It's in a hotel, it's true, but it's not alone.

We had lunch at L'Enclume the other week, taking advantage of familial childcare. It's currently rated by the Good Food Guide as the best restaurant in the UK. It was a gloriously wonderful, creative, largely seasonal, twenty-two course meal. Two other tables had each brought a young child. The parents of one, not quite an independent walker yet, handed over a supermarket ready meal for the staff to heat. The parents of the other fed their slightly older baby with food from their plates. The two high chairs the restaurant was using were very different from each other, so clearly they requisitions one from elsewhere for the reservation.

Especially having left Grouting behind, it was a delight seeing the other babies running around. When one because unhappy, one family member sacrificed the quality of their food for a happier child, taking them outside for a break. There aren't any changing facilities, but improvising changing places is an ongoing issue when out and about with a very small person.

One of the things about Alinea's food is that much of it is very time-dependent. If the mouthful isn't served with a minute or three of intention, it won't necessarily work. The hot/cold contrast will be lost. The broth-filled dumpling might be a little more underwhelming at the wrong temperature. It's a conflict between eating the food as the artist/chef intended, and caving to the realities of serving actual people. It's also a conflict over the roles of children in society, and whether or not "fine dining" should be a sphere in which young people grow up comfortable. It's also the endless conflict over parenting styles, tolerance of and reasons for a crying child.

I've eaten at Alinea, one of the very best meals of my entire life. It was years ago, before it was quiet as expensive as it is now, before the non-refundable ticketing system came into effect, valid only for quite of two or four. I called the week before and got a table for one.

Much as company is also good, one of the things that made that meal for me is that I was by myself. It just me and the food and my thoughts and people-watching. It was a meditative, as well as delicious, experience which I could take entirely at my own pace. I enjoyed eating the occasional thought-provoking, whimsical, humorous meal by myself.

Achatz may worry about saddling the baby's fellow diners with their company; but whether they want it or not, they're obliged to have company of some sort, in their multiples of two and four, quite apart from the lottery of whomever else has happened to buy tickets for that meal.

Edited to add: More concrete details on the story. The problem wasn't a baby at Alinea, but parents who weren't actively parenting.

Signing and Makaton

When Grouting became proto-verbal, we belatedly started signing with her. Belatedly because she'd been spending so much time in our arms and it takes two hands to do much communication by hand. Also, because from the start it was learn as we go.

I started thoughtlessly, with a friend's recommendation of catchy song videos with signs on YouTube. Only Baby Sign Time is an American show and, as it occurred to me only a few weeks later, I'd just signed up for a baby signing class in the UK. Grouting still signs "more" and "boat" the ASL way.

Take two. I download a fantastic British Sign Language video dictionary app, free, from the University of Bristol. It's still my default go-to reference when I want a sign to use with Grouting.

Take three. The class begins. I'd signed up for the only one locally available... and it turns out it's teaching Makaton, not BSL. Mostly there's not too much conflict; but thinking we were learning the rudiments of a language was one of the appeals of taking a class.

I am deeply ambivalent about Makaton. It's a commercial product, a language learning framework, with English (not BSL) grammar, simplified signs, standardized, and is (at least in the UK) derived from BSL. There are no free dictionaries. Everything is for sale. It's aimed at children with physical communication difficulties to surmount which have nothing to do with hearing. Down's syndrome. Babies.

Part of the appeal of this project was the idea that I'd learn a bit of another language. The other part was that we'd communicate more easily with Grouting. The communication bit is absolutely a success. Her signs are a fusion of those first few ASL ones, lots of BSL, some Makaton ones, and, occasionally, ones Grouting has figured out or made up herself (keys, fireworks). So it's not a consistent vocabulary since I never introduced it as one. I do still pick and choose signs sometimes on the basis of how easily Grouting could distinguish them from other signs.

Today in class, we were given a sign for Christmas. The North American in me rebels at using a sign based on "putting a turkey on the table" for Christmas. Especially in the same week that we celebrated an early Thanksgiving. BSL recommends a quick bit of beard stroking to achieve the same concept. One ASL version involves outlining a wreath. Either way, I prefer the options given to me by the full-fledged languages to that from the commercial language product.

Terms for redheads

New to me today, three Australian terms for redheads: Ranga, Bloodnut, Blue (or Bluey).

Poll #1942399
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 57

Which of the following terms for a redhead were you already familiar with?

View Answers
Ranga
4 (6.5%)
Bloodnut
1 (1.6%)
Blue (or Bluey)
12 (19.4%)
None of these
45 (72.6%)

Which of these have you used?

View Answers
Ranga
1 (1.7%)
Bloodnut
0 (0.0%)
Blue (or Bluey)
2 (3.4%)
None of them
55 (94.8%)

Which of these are (or could be taken as) offensive?

View Answers
Ranga
8 (11.6%)
Bloodnut
8 (11.6%)
Blue (or Bluey)
3 (4.3%)
Don't know
50 (72.5%)

Railsea Easter Eggs

I just finished reading Railsea and wanted to write these down before I went looking for someone else's list.
Spoilers for Railsea...Collapse )

Hickory Dickory Dock

Hickory Dickory Dock
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck one,
The mouse ran down
Hickory Dickory Dock.

Poll #1939966
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 56

What comes next?

View Answers
Nothing.
32 (50.8%)
Repeat the only verse until bored.
20 (31.7%)
Hickory Dickory Dock The mouse ran up the clock. The clock struck two, The mouse said "boo". Hickory Dickory Dock. (etc. until four/no more)
7 (11.1%)
Something else, to be explained in comments.
4 (6.3%)


I'm not used to this song having additional verses, but that's how it's sung at local playgroups. Is this a recent development? A UK thing? A local thing?

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The Larder at Butler's Retreat

"Better than Belgique" read the recommendation from someone I don't know. Belgique's a chain of Belgian patisserie/cafés in NE London and Essex; they're not bad. The Larder's website shows heaps of pastries and bread. I was looking forward to those. The problem was, I think, that the advice came from someone talking about their Wanstead branch.

Really good ingredients, mismatched expectations...Collapse )

The Larder at Butler's Retreat has a really pleasant location whose design made the line to order often look more intimidating than it probably was. Food was fresh and well-considered, with very good ingredients. I just wish I'd gotten off to a better start: between expecting pastries from the website and our own fault in mis-guessing the end of breakfast service, it took a while before I was in the right frame of mind to enjoy all the positives which the place did offer.

Teddy vs doll

Poll #1937462
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 63

Is a teddy a doll or vice versa?

View Answers
A teddy is subset of doll.
4 (4.2%)
A doll is a subset of teddy.
0 (0.0%)
Dolls and teddies are the same thing.
2 (2.1%)
Dolls and (stuffed) teddies are non-overlapping categories.
52 (54.7%)
It's a "teddy bear", not a "teddy".
36 (37.9%)
Other, to be explained in the comments.
1 (1.1%)


Apropos of a conversation with C this evening.

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Silent alphabet

Phonics is the basis for a national exam in the UK assessing reading competency among the young; fail, and students are remedial readers, regardless of their actual competency in reading.

Thinking about the sounds letters make, I started to wonder if there are any letters of the alphabet which are *never* silent, or if the entire alphabet could be "said" by saying nothing at all....

I'm hardly the first person to try making an alphabet out of this online. I don't pronounce all the words the same as some of those who've tried this exercise, so am not convinced by those in brackets, although they're starting places. * mark words disagreed with by commenters.

A *logically
B thumb
C *chthonic, muscle
D *Wednesday, bridge
E are
F halfpenny
G thorough
H shepherd
I maize
J marijuana
K knight
L half
M mnemonic
N Autumn
O colonel
P receipt
Q lacquer
R [February]
S island
T subtle often
U tongue
V
W write
X faux
Y [mayor]
Z rendezvous

In short: the phonics alphabet *could* be largely pronounced through silence, with just a couple of letters left to say any other way....

Done with some insights from this site, this one and this one.

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