Recent blog entries for marnanel

8 Dec 2016 (updated 8 Dec 2016 at 18:08 UTC) »

My Plover steno dictionary

Here are some interesting definitions from my personal Plover steno dictionary.

Proper nouns

I have a habit of setting up proper nouns with -LZ on the right hand. (It's unlikely to clash with anything; there's no reason beyond that.) So for example:

"K-LZ": "King's Cross",
"SP-LZ": "St Pancras",

(K-LZ and SP-LZ were for typing out this story.)


"KR-GS": "{^~|”}",
"KR-GZ": "{^~|\"}",
"KW-GS": "{~|“^}",
"KW-GZ": "{~|\"^}",
In the standard dictionary, KW-GS and KR-GS are open and close quotes, respectively. I've remapped them to curly quotes. The straight quotes are moved to KW-GZ and KR-GZ in case I need them.

"-RBS": "{^,” said}",
"SKHRAPLS": "{^!” said}",
Separate chords for typing things like comma, close quote, "said", These save me a lot of time. SKHRAPLS also avoids writing a capital S in, for example, "Woof!" Said the dog (because the exclamation mark makes Plover think you've started a new sentence).

"R-R": "{^}{#Return}{#Return}{^}{-|}",
"R-RS": "{^}{#Return}{#Return}{^}“{^}{-|}",
Because I can never remember the chord for "new paragraph".

"TK-RB": "{^—}",
TK-RB is the standard stroke for a dash, but here it's remapped to an em dash.

"TEUL": "until",
"TIL": "till",
In the standard dictionary, these are until and 'til, respectively. I have remapped them because 'til is not a thing.
"OG": "oh",
"PH-R": "Mr {-|}",
"PH-RS": "Mrs {-|}",
"SED": "said",
"THO": "though",
"WAOEU": "why"
The standard strokes for oh and Mr are bizarre and unmemorable.
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Syndicated 2016-12-08 14:31:08 (Updated 2016-12-08 17:42:59) from Monument

"Stop this brain working!"

"At [Gramsci's] trial in 1928, the official prosecutor ended his peroration with the famous demand to the judge: "We must stop this brain working for twenty years!" But, although Gramsci was to be dead long before those twenty years were up, released, his health broken, only in time to die under guard in a clinic rather than in prison, yet for as long as his physique held out his jailers did not succeed in stopping his brain from working."

- Hoare and Nowell-Smith, "Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci", 1971

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Syndicated 2016-11-16 16:30:21 from Monument

10 Nov 2016 (updated 10 Nov 2016 at 20:05 UTC) »

Trump: ten lessons for the left in the UK and US

Lessons for the left

1) Our intel failed.
All media is biased, but we read the stuff biased towards our own viewpoint and ignore all the rest. We need to keep up to date with the media biased against us, for two reasons: a) despite the bias, it might be reporting on something we wouldn't otherwise know; b) we need to know what the right wing are hearing, so we can counter it.

2) Electoral politics is important, but it's only one tiny part.
People matter more than polls. We need to spread love and peace where there is fear and hatred, and that can't be restricted to election season. In particular, whenever the right's policies hurt ordinary people, as they will, talk about it to those people. Hear their stories; tell them ours.

3) It's not a game.
Many people on both sides talk as though we're having a football match between the red team and the blue team. I was once at a count where candidates from the left were saying that the opposition's policies would bring hunger and homelessness. The opposition party just booed. They need to learn that there's more at stake than honour, or even principles: people are going to lose housing, heath, and food because of this vote.

4) Angry white people won this election.
Take hope in the fact that white people will be a minority soon! In the meantime, how can we dissolve and deflect this anger, this prejudice, and this fear?

5) Right-wing voters aren't fools.
They're misled, they've been duped, but they're not fools. If you talk as though they were, they'll just assume the left is a load of smug bastards, and hate us more. Especially if you talk about voters without a degree as if they were voters without a brain.

6) People need stories, not just facts.
The right has sold them a story about scarcity: money is scarce, housing is scarce, jobs are scarce. It's a lie: the scarcity is artificial. But people can't accept facts that don't fit into their stories. So, tell them a new story, a true one, and give them facts to support it.

7) Every revolution brings a counter-revolution.
We've done fairly well in the last few years, and this is the predictable backlash. As I said, it won't last, though while it lasts it'll bring injury and death to the most vulnerable people. Let's make sure it doesn't last long.

8) The left is more than just "not Trump".
And this is our chance to move the window further left. Everyone can make some difference wherever they find themselves. Everyone should be as strong as they can. That includes you.

9) Nobody's ever said "no" to Trump in his life.
More people voted for Clinton than Trump, which means there's a lot of us to say "no" as loudly as we can. Help out the ACLU, because freedoms aren't free. And the midterms are in 2018, so make sure he starts to hear a lot of "no" from Congress then.

10) Four years from now 2020, there will be elections in both the UK and the US. This is where we win back lost ground. Go for it.

Comments welcome. If you liked this list, share it: thank you! (Edit: this list was written by me, Thomas Thurman, since people were asking)
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Syndicated 2016-11-10 13:07:17 (Updated 2016-11-10 19:15:57) from Monument

"Yet do I marvel" by Countee Cullen

Countee Cullen (1903-1946) was an African-American poet from New York, who deserves to be better known worldwide. Here he discusses the problem of suffering in God's creation, with respect to human racism.

by Countee Cullen

I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind,
And did He stoop to quibble could tell why
The little buried mole continues blind,
Why flesh that mirrors Him must someday die,
Make plain the reason tortured Tantalus
Is baited by the fickle fruit, declare
If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus
To struggle up a never-ending stair.
Inscrutable His ways are, and immune
To catechism by a mind too strewn
With petty cares to slightly understand
What awful brain compels His awful hand.
Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:
To make a poet black, and bid him sing!

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Syndicated 2016-11-04 15:38:19 (Updated 2016-11-04 15:51:02) from Monument

A breakdown of "I walked in darkness"

Often, when I don't understand a poem, I've been glad of people explaining it to me. So I'm paying it forward, by breaking down one of mine for you. Here it is:

I walked in darkness. Many a lonely mile,
my eyes and footsteps hesitant and blind,
I sought a kindly light I did not find
in land or ocean, asking all the while
if lightless lives are taken in exchange
for light eternal; still the shades of sight
would whisper, "Even I shall see the light!"
I never thought the light would look so strange.
Not in a temple, echoing and awed,
Not in a palace, glistening and grand,
Nor in my home, nor any friendly land.
But distant, dirty, in a shed abroad,
I met a maiden bloody from a birth
and in her arms, the light of all the earth.
This poem began when Kathryn Rose asked me to write something for Epiphany, which is the day Christians remember the wise men visiting Jesus. Epiphany falls on 6th January, in the darkest part of winter, so I wrote a poem about darkness and light. And because the wise men were on a long journey, and because Christians use light as a symbol for Jesus, I wrote a poem about a long walk in the darkness looking for a light. I was remembering the times I've been walking down a dark country road at night-time, always on the look-out for cars and often tripping over bumps and ditches.
I walked in darkness.
The poem starts with a sudden short sentence. This isn't the usual way poems begin, and it catches your attention.
Many a lonely mile,
There's a pattern of sounds here (an "alliteration"), like this: Many a LoneLy MiLe. All these are sounds you can keep on making ("sonorants"), rather than sounds that stop like "t" and "d". So this reminds you of the journey going on and on.
my eyes and footsteps hesitant and blind
If I said your eyes were hesitant, and your footsteps were blind, it wouldn't make a lot of sense. But it does make sense if your eyes are blind and your footsteps are hesitant. The order of the body parts is backwards from the descriptions. This is called a chiasmus. It feels awkward, to remind you of stumbling in the dark.
I sought a kindly light I did not find
in land or ocean,
John Henry Newman wrote a poem called "Lead, Kindly Light" which uses similar symbols to my poem. But in Newman's poem, the "kindly light" is like a lighthouse-- it shines in front of him all the time he's walking in the darkness, showing him the way to go. In my poem, the wise men are walking in complete darkness. They'd love to see a kindly light, but they can't.
asking all the while
if lightless lives are taken in exchange
for light eternal;
In other words, they've lived their whole life in darkness. So they're asking, when they die, do they get to swap it for living in heaven where there's always light?

"Light eternal" is a symbol for heaven. It comes from an old Latin prayer for someone who has died:

Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei
("Give her eternal rest, Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon her")

Also, people who are dying often see bright light.

I originally wrote "for light perpetual", but then I realised that some people say "perpetual" with three syllables, like me, but other people say it with four. So I changed it to "eternal".
...still the shades of sight
would whisper, ...
"Shades" means darkness, but it also means ghosts. "Darkness of sight" would mean I can't see, and "ghosts of sight" would mean my sight has died. The double meaning lets me say both at once. Kathryn Rose suggested this.
..."Even I shall see the light!"
People often say that someone has "seen the light" when they start following Jesus. I think it refers to the story about St Paul seeing Jesus as a bright light on the road to Damascus. It left him blinded for a while.
I never thought the light would look so strange.
This poem is a sonnet, and there's a rule that sonnets have a change of subject (a "volta") somewhere around the eighth line. That's where we are now, and I'm finishing this part by giving you a shock. All the lines before this one didn't end with a full stop-- the sentences ran on to the next line. This is called enjambment. But here, we suddenly have a line which is a sentence all on its own. It startles you a bit, like the short sentence in the first line.

When people talk about "seeing the light", they don't explain what the light looks like. In this case, the light I've been looking for all this time turns out to be something I didn't expect. That's what the next part of the poem is about, and this line guides you into it.
Not in a temple, echoing and awed,
Not in a palace, glistening and grand,
You might expect to find Jesus somewhere important, like in a palace or a temple, but that's not where he was. You might remember that two of the wise men's gifts were gold (like you'd find in a palace), and frankincense (a kind of incense that would be used in a temple).
Nor in my home, nor any friendly land.
People often feel safe around people like themselves, and they treat everyone else as outsiders, different and scary. (This is called "othering".) Just as you might have expected to find Jesus in a temple or a palace, you might expect him to be someone safe, someone like you. But in fact Jesus was an outsider: a poor person, a homeless person, part of a nation who were hated, and a refugee.
But distant, dirty, in a shed abroad,
The Bible says Jesus was born in a manger, which is a food trough for animals. You would find a manger in a farmyard, or a shed. "Distant... abroad" picks up on "nor any friendly land", and "dirty, in a shed" picks up on "not in a palace". This is another chiasmus pattern.

Also, there's a play on words here. An old translation of the Bible says that "the love of God is shed abroad"-- in modern English we might say that it was spread everywhere. So we're talking about Jesus as the sign of God's love.
I met a maiden bloody from a birth
The sound pattern here goes M-M, B-B. As we saw earlier, "M" is a sound you can keep making. But "B" is a stop: again, it pulls you up and makes you listen.

The Bible says that Jesus was conceived by a miracle, because Mary was a virgin: she had never had sex with anyone before Jesus was born. "Maiden" usually means a young girl these days, but it once meant a woman who is a virgin.

When a baby is born, there's a lot of blood. (Check YouTube if you want to see videos.) I'm mentioning the blood here to remind you of the "dirty" and "not in a palace" parts earlier: when we see nativity scenes they're always very clean and tidy, and the real thing wasn't clean or tidy at all.

Also, starting the line with "maiden" but ending with "birth" reminds you how strange it is for a virgin to give birth.
and in her arms, the light of all the earth.
One of the first things someone does when they give birth is to take the baby in their arms to breastfeed it. Mary has Jesus in her arms.

When he grew up, Jesus called himself "the light of the world", and he's the light that the wise men have been looking for all this time. (You might know the famous painting of Jesus holding a lantern and knocking at someone's door.)

Kathryn Rose set my poem to beautiful music. Now you've read about the poem, you should go and listen to it!

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Syndicated 2016-11-04 14:13:49 (Updated 2016-11-04 14:21:39) from Monument

creature of the night

They're putting me on methoxsalen next week for psoriasis. Today I went shopping for wraparound dark glasses and gloves you can work a phone with-- because sunshine will seriously burn me, and give me cataracts. "The day star! It burns!!"

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Syndicated 2016-10-29 19:08:57 from Monument


One fine dark night with a fine dark sky
And fine-sliced moon so bright,
A Cat leapt forth with a fine black coat
And paws of moonlit white;
If I should ask you to say her name
I'm sure you'd tell me that
She's Yantantessera,
Tessera, Tessera,
Tessera Tessera, Cat.

She had no humans, she had no home,
She had no meals to eat,
But soon, by means of a friendly purr,
Adopted half a street,
Where twenty humans would serve her food:
They all had time to chat
With Yantantessera,
Tessera, Tessera,
Tessera Tessera, Cat.

The Cats' Home heard, and they swore to find
The Cat a Home, and thus
She started work as a Rescue Cat
Who came to rescue us.
And since that day, we belong to her;
We're proud to share a flat
With Yantantessera,
Tessera, Tessera,
Tessera Tessera, Cat!

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Syndicated 2016-10-26 16:35:43 from Monument

Please, talk about masturbation

[I commented this in a discussion about the "birds and the bees" talk. I think it's worth posting separately.] Please, talk about masturbation too, and don't wait until puberty. Here's a (very personal) story I've never told in full before. I discovered masturbation when I was about ten, before I started puberty. Nobody had talked about it, so I didn't know it was normal; I didn't even know there was a word for it. So I worried. About a year later I started puberty and of course I became able to ejaculate. And again, nobody had talked about that. They'd mentioned wet dreams, but never this. So I didn't know it was normal, and I worried. A few months later, I got what I now think was some kind of fungal skin infection. The skin where my pubic hair would soon be growing was alternately red and painful, or dry, cracked, and itchy. For all I knew, this was another weird side-effect of masturbation, like ejaculation. And since nobody had talked about the other stuff, I wasn't comfortable with asking anyone about it. So I put up with the discomfort for months. Even after my pubic hair grew, the rash was still visible and I remember deflecting questions in the changing-rooms after games lessons about whether it was a scar from an operation. All that worry and discomfort could have been avoided. Please, remember to talk about it. This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

Syndicated 2016-10-19 18:15:13 (Updated 2016-10-19 18:16:14) from Monument

fan art: Dream meets Elemental

fan art: Dream of the Endless meets Professor Elemental This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

Syndicated 2016-10-14 15:30:24 from Monument

Deaf/HoH symbol in Unicode

Question for [dD]eaf folk reading (forwarding is encouraged):

I’m working on a proposal to add the standard deaf/HoH symbol to Unicode. I’m looking particularly for examples of its use in running text as a character, as in this mocked-up text:

Can you help me find any? (All contributions used will be acknowledged in the submitted change request, of course.)

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Syndicated 2016-10-14 15:29:34 from Monument

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