March 4th 2008
Today: Cat favourite, or dog?
Twenty second heart (5)
In case you were wondering, the thing I was going to write, but instead forgot, about last time was torture. But I am far too tired to do it now, so it'll have to wait for another time. Oh, by the way, be glad that today's crossword clue isn't 17A in today's Times, the answer to which was 'pulchritudinous' (11D was 'splendiferous' - it was one of those kind of days). Instead, I've taken 5D, a rather shorter and easier word. If you get it right, you can be chuffed with yourself that you've got an answer in today's Times crossword. Nice, huh? Anyways, let's talk about DVDs. I currently own 120 films on DVD (it was about six when I joined Uni... this is where the student loan has gone, clearly). Of these, I'm yet to see 9.5 of them at all (ie there are plenty more I haven't watched on DVD, but have seen on video, at the cinema, on TV etc). These are: Blade Runner (the half), Teen Wolf Too, The Young Ones, Wonderful Life, Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones, Drowning Mona, Platoon, Bringing Up Baby, The Devil Wears Prada (bought to give to my brother, who already owned it, thus it is as yet still sealed) and Firewall. Whilst I'm on the topic, I was pondering the DVDs I own in which one or more characters is invisible to one or more other characters at any point during the film. Seems arbitrary? Well, I guess it is, but it interested me, so you're gonna hear 'em: Harvey, Lord of the Rings trilogy, Stardust, Just Like Heaven, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Fantastic 4, A Beautiful Mind (kinda)... I don't remember it happening in Star Wars or Superman, but it could easily have done. That's enough dull trivia for now... in other news, Simon graduated on Saturday, which was an excellent day all round. Graduations are weird enough - caps & gowns all round - but, naturally, Oxford had to make it a little weirder by doing most of the thing in Latin and imposing some rules (of which no one was quite sure) concerning when and where you could wear your mortar board. Anyways, we're all very proud of Simon for continuing the fine Thomas family tradition of getting a first class degree, so three cheers for him.
March 5th 2008
Today: Champion to embrace old writer (6,4)
Cat favourite, or dog? (7)
It's a funny old bear, the English language, isn't it? Throughout my life, I have picked up many words from reading them, and have had to make my best guess at meaning and pronunciation (hence 'risible' was 'riseable', a fate which has befallen many). Often I have guessed what words might mean based on their similarity to other words - not necessarily because they share an etymology (indeed, the words I have in mind were learnt long before I'd heard of etymology), but simply by association. Thus 'haughty' more or less meant 'naughty' (especially in Enid Blyton, where I read the word most), 'crude' was essentially 'rude', 'proffer' and 'offer' are pretty much the same thing; even 'quibble' and 'squabble' are in the same ball park. I choose these examples, because in every case, that was how I actually did approach the word - but reader beware. It was only last year that I discovered 'serendipity' and 'serenity' did not mean more or less the same thing. In other news, I didn't bore myself sufficiently with DVD trivia yesterday, and so I've been wondering which actors feature most in the films I own. I thought a good measure would be to look at the actors & actresses who have appeared in five or more films that I own: some of the results are a little surprising... but mostly not.
Kirsten Dunst (11), Harrison Ford (9), Michael J. Fox (7), Matthew Perry (6), Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, James Stewart, Anthony Daniels [and a few others who were in all Star Wars films] (all 5). And Tom Hanks will join this merry throng just as soon as I buy Cast Away.
March 10th 2008
Today: A tree's collapsed, causing celebration among Christians (6)
Champion to embrace old writer (6,4)
Answer: Victor Hugo
Wow... work gets a lot more hectic when you're continually having to rectify your own mistakes. Having more or less survived the year-end period without too much stress or strain, it's all kicking off for me now. Mark (my immediate boss) chose a good week to go on holiday... It's a good job, so I ain't complaining (too much), but I could do with a slack period. Glad to have got that off my chest. In other news, you may have been aware of the storm and tempest last night (and coming again tonight, apparently) - from what I read, Devon has washed away, which will probably mean we need to dig out our passports to visit Cornwall, but apart from that it's been as uneventful as England's extreme weather usually is. But it could have been so different. My mother phoned this morning, ostensibly to check that nothing had blown away here, but really to triumphantly declare that she was right. Allow me to explain. Dad is a wonderful man, who is wise, caring and thoughtful - and he isn't often wrong, sadly. This may sound like a good thing, and I suppose it is, but it does mean that we in the Thomas family tend to take rather disproportionate pleasure in those few moments where he does get it wrong: I would give you an example from memory right now, but I'm struggling to think of one. Anyway, so Mum breathlessly informed me this morning, in the midst of the tempest last night she and he were having something of a discussion as to whether or not the eucalyptus tree would blow over and hit the car - she saying that it would, he claiming that physics suggested otherwise. He has an A-Level in physic. She does not. Anyhow, at some ungodly hour of the morning, he braved the wet & wind to reverse the car out of the way (no doubt muttering as he did so, but feeling a little bit chivalrous all the same). Anyways, you've probably guessed the end of the story - indeed, Mum's probably already told you - but I don't want to rob her of this moment of glory. Perhaps this picture will do to finish off.
March 19th 2008
Today: Main road has unknown blend (3)
A tree's collapsed, causing celebration among Christians (6)
The devil, they say, is in the detail. I would like to make an opposite point, and say that the Lord is in the detail - please allow me to explain. I've mentioned before here that 'views' just don't do it for me: OK, you can see a lot of stuff - what's the big deal? It's just stuff. Mountains, lakes, the sea... so what? Now, I've become painfully aware of late that I don't really have that much of an imagination (well, that may not be true - it's probably more that I don't have initiative. Different kettle of fish. But we won't go into that), yet I do not in any way accept that I am soulless, or that not appreciating views is a flaw in my character. Nor do I accept (as my mother seems to believe) that I will necessarily reach the point, in a few years, where I will gladly stare out at the fields and trees and gain some kind of pleasure from it. You see, these are brush strokes that are too broad, these are vague vistas of large elements: a hillside here, a river there. I struggle to see God's glory in such things: it is in the detail that I see the beauty of creation - the process of photosynthesis, the digestive system of a cow... these are the truly glorious things. These are awe-inspiring in their complexity, and truly reveal the glory of God's creation. I'm not saying I understand these things - far from it! Biology was one of my weakest subjects at school, but I know enough to see how much there is that I do not know, and that's pretty incredible. Anyways, by way of contradicting what I've said thus far, I'm also astounded by the big picture - and by this I mean the BIG picture, the planets that shoot around our solar system. Again, I don't know anything much about astronomy, but it's all pretty beautiful (to coin a tautology of sorts) - perhaps the problem with views is that they are too intermediate, neither astoundingly big nor astonishingly small... These musings bring me neatly into Christian music. Now, I don't really want to criticise modern Christian music, since there is some excellent stuff out there, and I know that God works through it to strengthen His relationship with believers. But I'm afraid that too much of it is pretty vapid compared with some of the centuries-old hymns: to pick one from last Sunday's service, the lyrics "Our God is an awesome God / He reigns from heaven above / with wisdom, power and love / our God is an awesome God" are wonderfully true, but - for me at least - don't do much to stretch the mind. Compare that with (and these are words that got me thinking about the subject of today's entry, in fact) "Crown him the Lord of years / the potenate of time / Creator of the rolling spheres / ineffably sublime". I have not yet heard any words that capture the wonder of God's creation quite as well as those last two lines.
March 20th 2008
Today: If writer is to sleep with Heather... (7)
and again:...that man will find a deeply unpleasant experience (4)
Main road has unknown blend (3)
Well, well. My diary entries are like London buses - you wait ages for one to come along, and then Boris Johnson says he'd have loads more of them if it were up to him. Now, can I write a diary entry that matches up to that rather brilliant opening line (which I came up with at lunchtime today)? Probably not. But you do get two crossword clues today [Edit: I've correceted the error in the second clue. Sorry!]. Please let me turn my attention to pedantry - a fine and noble art, as I've said before - and, similarly, its absence. I am not going to claim I'm not a pedant, as my recent anger concerning the preposterous phrase 'two-month anniversary' will testify, but I feel that a lot of what is genuine confusion on my part is chalked up as pedantry. For example, I really don't know what people are talking about when they use the word 'exactly' when referring to time, as in 'it was exactly three years ago'. Sometimes they mean 'to the nearest year', sometimes it's month, or minute, or thousandth of a second (as in 'he ran the 100m in exactly 10 seconds), but often I'm not at all sure what they're talking about. And, of course, all of these are nonsense if you're talking about 'exactly' - the continuous nature of time means that 'exactly' is more or less immeasurable. Mathematically speaking, 1.0000001 doesn't equal 1 any more than 358 does. Which reminds me, if you ever want to make a mathematician (of, it has to be admitted, a certain type) laugh, throw the phrase 'in what metric?' into conversation, and see what happens. In other news, I hope you all have a good Friday.
March 27th 2008
Today: Dylan song, in the style of Jagger? (4,1,7,5)
If writer is to sleep with Heather... (7)
and again:...that man will find a deeply unpleasant experience (4)
Answer: Kipling / hell
To explain the clues from last time, "If writer" = Kipling, since he wrote the poem If. "to sleep" = 'kip', Heather = 'ling'. A staple of crosswords, that last. The second clue is just a "he'll = hell" clue, but I needed something to make a second half to the first bit... and I thought the whole made a topical reference to Macca. Speaking of topical references, the French invaded these shores recently, and we in the Thomas family have seen fit to return the favour, so Mum and Dad have headed in that direction - bon voyage, as they say. These Frenchness abounding reminded me of some brilliant Franglais that was mentioned in the Times a while ago, credited to the late Miles Kington: the French navy, apparently, needed a slogan to raise morale among the ranks. It was suggested that "To the water! The hour has come!" would be sufficiently inspiriting, and so it came to pass - the French, of course, being: "A l'eau! C'est l'heure!" Anyways, c'est temps to movez on. I have joined the world of YouTube-subscribers, since I wanted to share with you a video I put together, and thought embedding it made the most sense - so please find it below. Simply titled 'Tea', it tells the story of what happened at the stroke of midnight on Easter Sunday, when my Lentern tea-giving-up came to an end. Apologies for the particularly dodgy camera work in the early zooming-in - I didn't realise till after I'd made it that my laptop now has a decent version of Windows Movie Maker, which could have zoomed for me much better. Indeed, I've played around - sometimes subtly, sometimes not - with the tools on movie maker, and am very pleased with what they provide. Though not necessarily with my utilisation of them. Oh, and I don't know why there isn't a preview pictrue - if anyone can inform me, I'll be glad to understand. The song, by the bye, is the appropriately titled 'English Tea' by Paul McCartney. Knowing that I take great delight in being over-critical of Ant's video-work (and those blasted animated gifs) I'm sure he'll waste as little time as possible in returning the favour... anyways, without further adieu:
March 27th 2008
Today: Father's half-hearted glib speech (5)
Dylan song, in the style of Jagger? (4,1,7,5)
Answer: Like a Rolling Stone
It's been remiss of me not to mention the death of Neil Aspinall this week. John Lennon, George Harrison, Brian Epstein, Stuart Sutcliffe, Linda McCartney, Mal Evans, Billy Preston, Neil Aspinall... another light goes out.