Sunday, 3 December 2017

"When the Game is Over, the King and the Pawn go in the Same Box"

Those were the first words spoken by Cortana. Who? Ah. No, not the Microsoft one, the one in Halo.
What?
Oh. Well, I was idly wondering why Microsoft chose that rather stupid name for their lumpy attempt to create a virtual 'Personal Assistant' to rival Apple's equally stupidly named 'Siri'.
Google has one too, living in my phone, and it's somewhat more pedestrianly named 'Google now', I rarely use it in the sense in which it has been designed, because its voice recognition is less than stellar in performance, so it's usually easier to just type my queries.

Cortana, then. Googling 'Cortana' pulls up some interesting stuff, which I might have scraps of in the back of my brain, and I was wondering why it seemed such a made  up name and whether some product somewhere that I had encountered was called 'Curtana'.

Before we go there, and you're welcome to leave if you're bored, my brain has always tended upon random diversions, I'd just like to say 'Siri' is quicker, easier, and less stupid-sounding to say than 'Cortana'.  As would be 'Bozo', or 'Plonker'.

Googling, yes, googling, not Binging. Who bings? Hands up bingers? Oh. I see there are three of you... And you all work for Microsoft? Oh. And you've been told very bad things will happen to you and everybody you love.... including Fluffy, if you're caught googling, ever?

I see. It doesn't surprise me. Bing. Like google's needy sibling. Look, Microsloth, I neither want nor need tropical fish over coral reef pictures, when I'm chasing bits of information, I'm distracted enough already, without you showing me sunset over Ayers Rock.... Although its not permitted to call it Ayers Rock anymore, bit like Denali, isn't it.

Cortana. Well there it was in the back of my brain. Curtana! Curtana is the sword used in all of Britain's coronations.
Well, since A.D. 1236, anyway, in Henry the third's reign, when it was employed during the coronation of Eleanor of Provence.  Not so fast though... The one currently used was forged, so far as I can tell, in 1661, though it claims to be forged from the steel of the original Curtana, that was Cortana, going back to the ages of chivalry. There were three swords forged from the same steel, all were extraordinarily good swords, themselves vested with power beyond their steel.  The first of these was Joyeuse, the sword of Charlemagne, (which can be seen in the Louvre), said to incorporate the Spear of Destiny in its hilt,  the second, Durendal, carried by Charlemagne's right-hand man, Rolande, -Rolande was an unstoppable swordsman, and his sword carried magical powers, great juju, because it was made of magical steel, and had in its hilt a tooth of Saint Peter, blood of Saint Basil, hair of Saint Denis, and a piece of the raiment of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was indestructible, and when Rolande was ambushed by Saracens, at the battle of Roncevalles, he tried to destroy his sacred sword by smashing it on the rocks of the mountain, but instead cut a great cleft, 300 feet deep in the ridge. But all was not lost, because he cunningly hid it beneath is gold-armoured body as he died, so the saracens wouldn't find it.
Which brings us back to Cortana, because that was the third, carried by the hero, Ogier, the Dane, son of  King Geoffroy of Denmark, who, defeated by Charlemagne, had to send his first-born as hostage, to live in Charlemagne's household as as a lowly page.
Ogier, howeverscorned he had been,  distinguished himself in battle, saving Charlemagne's life, and turning the tide so the Saracens were routed.
"The rest of the day and the next were spent in the rejoicings of the army. Turpin in a solemn service implored the favor of Heaven upon the youthful knights, and blessed the white armor which was prepared for them. Duke Namo presented them with golden spurs, Charles himself girded on their swords. But what was his astonishment when he examined that intended for Ogier! The loving Fairy, Morgana, had had the art to change it, and to substitute one of her own procuring, and when Charles drew it out of the scabbard, these words appeared written on the steel: “My name is Cortana, of the same steel and temper as Joyeuse and Durendal.” Charles saw that a superior power watched over the destinies of Ogier; he vowed to love him as a father would, and Ogier promised him the devotion of a son."

Allegedly, this sword, gifted by Charlemagne to Ogier (also known as Holger), had previously been the sword of Sir Tristan, Knight of the Round Table. )

Anyway...

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A Question for Adullamite.

Some time ago, Adullamite posted a picture of an odd little red car he'd come across on his travels. I'm a car buff, so I usually am pretty good at identifying old cars. (Cars from the nineties onward I generally have no interest in).
This time I was stumped. But I think I may have found the answer, or would guess that if I could find the original pic.... But I've been unable to remember when it was or the post title....

So, Adullamite, did it look at all like this?


If so, it was a Lloyd... A Lloyd Alexander, built by Norddeutscher Lloyd, the shipping company...


As I can't find the post, it's possible it was nothing like these. If so.... Sigh.  I thought I might have solved a mystery.

Monday, 10 November 2014

In just a few hours it will be Veterans Day in the United States,

Armistice Day.
The 11th hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the time the guns were to fall silent, the end of the first world war. 
Who, I wonder, was shooting on that morning, and why? what did they hope to achieve?  A last kill before shooting season ends?

 Anyway, it was over, it marked the end of "The War to End All Wars",  at the end of which, humans kept on developing weapons and seeking wars in which to use them.

Nonetheless, we hold remembrances, we Brits wave our poppies, Americans their flags. Our neighbourhood is full of flags, very patriotic, these Americans. Veterans day is a holiday, and  retired service personnel will wear their medals, badges, uniform caps with pride, strangers will thank them for serving.  It's not all about the dead, the living are remembered here too.


The school does a yearly project, where each pupil is set to meet and interview a veteran of the forces, to photograph and make a poster featuring that person, on the back is the interview, dates served, nature of service etc. My step-son interviewed a man who's become a friend of mine , Troy is one of a group of friends who meet once a week  over lunch. They all have stories. I thought I'd post here some pictures I took outside the school.






So many are represented, from the humblest rank to the dizzying heights of gold braid, veterans from pre WWII to the present day. Some of these kids have dads, uncles, brothers, mothers, sisters, aunts, in the military, in harm's way, serving, prepared to give their lives if need be.
Whether or not I believe in the wars they are sent to fight, I have the greatest respect for them. The old guys I have lunch with on a thursday have so many stories, war cold and hot. And of tragedies too. 

Tomorrow, they are saluted. But here, as in Britain, there's another reality, of the veterans who failed to reintegrate, the PTSD, the alcoholics, the guys who hold up cardboard signs "Ex soldier, Hungry, Homeless", and I, like the other drivers, check my door is locked, try not to meet the gaze... And drive on by.

Friday, 26 September 2014

YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

YAYYYYYYYYYY!  

Big big big day, the gears of the U.S.government grind exceedingly slowly, but this day brought a bunch of official papers to our mailbox.

I'm  an alien, I'm a LEGAL alien...... Green Card!!!!!!!!!!! Yayyyyyyyyyy!
Of course, it's not without conditions... Carry this card at all times. (and don't lose it?) Well, like my social security card I'll laminate a copy and carry that, keeping the original in a safe place.
And it's only valid to 2016. Before then I have to become a citizen or aply to get restrictions lifted. No, I have no idea what that means, so don't ask.

All should be well in the home of the brave and the land of the free. None of that: "Papieren, Bitte!" "Show your papers boy!" stuff.

Seriously though, everybody's been quite welcoming. Well, a lot of people think I come from New England, that's those who don't think I'm Australian.


Thursday, 28 August 2014

Shoulder Surgery.

Cutting chopping and dicing set for tomorrow, Friday 29th August.
I'm so looking forward to it. The nurse told me not to expect to be able to sleep in a bed for some time... And told me the aftermath is notoriously painful. I replied that I have a good vocabulary of swear-words at the ready.
I also have a lot of books. At least half a week's worth.
After that Amazon gets my money or I watch all those rubbish movies I never got around to before.

And I confess I've been wasting time on Facebook, it has its uses,  but I hate to tell some of the people who pop up and try to friend me, that if we've not been in touch for years, I'm probably not going to want to see every little update....

Once, about twenty years ago I broke my left arm just below the shoulder. It was in a cast for a couple of months, set with a 90 degree elbow position. Never having bust a limb before, I glibly thought that the day the cast came off, life would resume as normal. What an idiot. The cast came off and I gazed at an arm so hairy I thought I was becoming a gorilla, and then... nothing. Elbow stayed at 90 degrees. Stuck there. Muscles disappeared tendons shrunk... No amount of force would straighten it out. And there was a bend where the bone was set.  Took another two months before it was moderately normal again.

Now I'm going to have to learn to live left handed.  It should keep me from boredom, but. Anyway, it's a minor problem compared to some, that others face. I'll try not to moan too much.

My blogreaders will barely notice the difference. I do mean to post stuff. just left handedly.
Sinistrally.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Humerus? Not so funny, really....


Today, I had an interesting experience.  Just before we moved from the old house, I had become aware of a shoulder injury, pain, ache, restriction of movement. so I treated it with ibuprofen, tried not to do the ouchy stuff, like lifting my arm high or rotating it outward, assuming whatever I'd done while shifting heavy boxes and furniture would heal on its own. 5+ months  later, I'm forced to admit that it won't.
So I went to see a doctor, and was referred to a sports medicine clinic, where after examination and x-rays, I was told I have a displaced shoulder joint, caused by a rotator-cuff injury.


So today I was having an MRI scan, to show the exact nature and extent of the damage.
First (well, after a clipboard worth of forms and an eye-watering financial transaction), I was
positioned under an x-ray machine, while a doctor pumped my shoulder joint full of a gadolinium contrast fluid. There was some anaesthesia too, so the needle sliding into the shoulder joint capsule was not too bad, but it's wearing off now and I'd like to bite somebody.
But the MRI.... Magnetic Resonance Imaging... Essentially, you're shoved into a very small hole in a large doughnut. And surrounded by a humongously powerful magnetic field It's certainly powerful enough to suck steel furniture in...




 Pictures via http://simplyphysics.com/flying_objects.html

You are carefully positioned, warned that it's noisy, given earplugs and industrial earmuffs, the operator leaves the room, and a noisy chaos begins. I was told that about ten percent of people are so claustrophobic they can't tolerate it. Well, I've been a plumber. I've gone through holes in floors, walls and ceilings, where there's no room to turn round or roll over.  And I've weaseled myself into tight spaces under vehicles and in engine bays, where despite not being able to move much, I've been trying to weld, or undo a gearbox's bolts. 
So, as the magnetic field oscillated my hydrogen atoms, for what seemed a long time, I was drowsing and comfortably musing about all manner of unimportant trivia.
This procedure was quite untroubling, if you're ever referred for one, it's not something to be scared of.

The scan results will go straight to my doctor, and in a couple of days I should get an appointment to find out what's next. But, he's already told me, it'll probably mean surgery. 

Sigh.

In the meantime, more ibuprofen and on with the painting of walls!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Sirens of Titan.

"The Sirens of Titan" was the title of a science fiction novel by Kurt Vonnegut, first published in 1959... so are the days of future past.

Al Stewart

I was drawn by the sirens of Titan
Carried along by their call
Seeking for a way to enlighten
Searching for the sense of it all
Like a kiss on the wind I was thrown to the stars
Captured and ordered in the army of Mars
Marching to the sound of the drum in my head
I followed the call
Only to be Malachi Constant
I thought I came to this earth
Living in the heart of the moment
With the riches I gained at my birth
But here in the yellow and blue of my days
I wander the endless Mercurian caves
Watching for the signs the Harmonians make
The words on the walls

I was drawn by the sirens of Titan
And so I came in the end
Under the shadow of Saturn
With statues and birds for my friends
Finding a home at the end of my days
Looking around I've only to say
I was the victim of a series of accidents
As are we allI was drawn by the sirens of Titan (as are we all)
As are we all
I was drawn by the sirens of Titan (as are we all)
As are we all...