Category Archives: Uncategorized

How I Read – A Bookish Tag

This tag is making the rounds, so I thought I’d give it a go!

Do you have a certain place at home for reading?
I read in bed; it’s kind of a bad habit. 😆 Once I get my own place, I plan to have a proper reading corner with a tea tray and everything.

Can you stop reading anywhere, or do you have to stop after a chapter or certain number of pages?
Anywhere will do, but chapters or section breaks are best.

Bookmarks or random slips of paper?
Both. I like the paper slips that come with library holds; they’re thin and won’t impact the book in any way.

Multitasking: music or tv while reading?
Usually silence, and definitely not TV or YouTube. If I’m having trouble concentrating, sometimes I’ll listen to lo-fi (yes, lo-fi got me through A History of East Asia).

Do you eat or drink while reading?
If there’s any candy I’ll eat it on autopilot while reading, so I try not to snack at all. I’ll often drink tea.

Reading at home or everywhere?
All the places!

Do you read ahead or skip pages?
No, unless it’s something for work/studying, then I’ll skim.

Break the spine or keep it like new?
Break the spine? 😳 Nevar!

Do you write in your books?
Not usually; it bothers me greatly. I did check off some of the Kafka short stories as I was reading them, to keep track of what I’d read, but I did that with pencil.

Whom do you tag?
Anyone who wants to do it! 😀


If Victorians Surfed the Web: 50 Pseudonyms from the 1880s

In the spirit of the last post, I rediscovered another gem from long ago which I’d always intended to blog about: Victorian pseudonyms!

Back in 1880–1885, Lewis Carroll—author of the Alice books and real-life mathematician—wrote a series of math story problems for magazine readers to try to solve. Some participants mailed their answers to him using their real names or initials, but others were more creative. After giving them a chance to solve each puzzle, Carroll published the correct answer, calling out certain lucky (or unlucky) individuals by their pseudonyms. The collection of stories and solutions was later published under the title A Tangled Tale.

Below, in order of appearance, are some of the names readers chose for themselves. You can just picture them wielding those usernames on blogs or forums today… Bonus points if you can identify which ones come from classic stories!

Victorian Pseudonyms

  1. A Nihilist
  2. A Mother’s Son
  3. A Redruthian
  4. A Socialist
  5. Spear Maiden
  6. Vis Inertiæ
  7. Yak
  8. A Marlborough Boy
  9. Sea Breeze
  10. Simple Susan
  11. Money Spinner
  12. Galanthus Nivalis Major
  13. Bog-Oak
  14. Bradshaw of the Future
  15. Alphabetical Phantom
  16. Dinah Mite
  17. H.M.S. Pinafore
  18. Old Cat
  19. Rags and Tatters
  20. Mad Hatter
  21. Scrutator
  22. The Red Queen
  23. Cheeky Bob
  24. Bo-Peep
  25. Financier
  26. Sea-Gull
  27. Thistledown
  28. Cheshire Cat
  29. Waiting for the Train
  30. Common Sense
  31. Veritas
  32. A Ready Reckoner
  33. Three-Fifths Asleep
  34. Dublin Boy
  35. Yahoo
  36. Duckwing
  37. Euroclydon
  38. Land Lubber
  39. Polichinelle
  40. Old Hen
  41. Mrs. Sairey Gamp
  42. An Ancient Fish
  43. Froggy
  44. Turtle Pyate (Lewis: “what is a Turtle Pyate, please?”)
  45. Old Crow
  46. The Shetland Snark
  47. A Christmas Carol
  48. Old King Cole
  49. Theseus
  50. An Old Fogey

The 1899 Questionnaire

Many years ago, I came across this fun artifact from the papers of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, meant to blog about it, and never actually did. This is a “favorites” survey which Doyle filled out in 1899 – basically like a modern-day blog tag! He has pretty readable handwriting, but you can find a typed-up version of his answers here. (Is it just me or was he clearly bored when he filled it out? 😛 )

It has no title so I’ve dubbed it the (oh-so-creative) 1899 Questionnaire. I also thought it might be fun to fill it out, and if you’d like to as well, consider yourself tagged.

The 1899 Questionnaire

Your favourite virtue?


Your favourite qualities in man?

Kindness and intuition

Your favourite qualities in woman?

Wisdom and perseverance

Your favourite occupation?

Watching YouTube Writing 🙂

Your chief characteristic?

Thinking too much

Your idea of happiness?

A deep conversation (aka Solving World Problems™) with a family member or friend

Your idea of misery?

Having no one to talk to

Your favourite colour and flower?

Favorite color is teal blue, favorite flowers are yellow roses

If not yourself, who would you be?

Something to do with music, probably an itinerant fiddler

Where would you like to live?

Same as where I live now, or maybe further out, in the forest

Your favourite poets?

Tolkien, Longfellow, and various lyricists like Adam Young

Your favourite painters and composers?

Painters: Monet, Caspar David Friedrich, Ivan Shishkin

Composers: Tchaikovsky, and so many more

Your favourite heroes in real life?

I don’t really have heroes, but I admire anyone who speaks the truth even when it’s not expedient.

Your favourite heroines in real life?


Your favourite heroes in fiction?

Sherlock Holmes, half the characters from Lord of the Rings, and Deputy Ryker from The Virginian TV show

Your favourite heroines in fiction?

Tatyana Larina from Eugene Onegin, Marian Halcombe from The Woman in White, and Alice

Your favourite food and drink?

Pretty much anything my mom makes. And Subway sandwiches. For drink: Swiss Miss hot cocoa with eggnog! It’s kind of a meal on its own, though.

Your favourite names?

I love old-fashioned names like Evelyn and Henry.

Your pet aversion?

Random strangers who act creepy or ask personal questions.

What characters in history do you most dislike?

The ones who tried to spread ideology or religion by force

What is your present state of mind?

Sheepish for staying up past midnight when I have to get up at 5:40

For what fault have you most toleration?

I’m not sure I would call it a fault exactly, but I have a lot of empathy for anyone who deals with extreme shyness and low self-esteem, having gone through that myself in the past.

Your favourite motto?

“Live not by lies” – Alexander Solzhenitsyn

The Art of Loving – Questions on Chapters 2.2-2.3

Jordan Peterson (45550029955)
Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Previously: The Art of Loving – A Ramble on Chapters 1–2.1

This post will be rather more disjointed than my first one, as these sections left me with more questions than conclusions.  Bear with me!

As for the picture – especially in this part, I was having flashbacks to 12 Rules for Life, and anyone who found value in that book should probably read this one (and vice-versa).

Chapter 2.2, “Love Between a Parent and a Child”

The big theme of this part was Fromm’s definition of fatherly and motherly love.  He describes motherly love as unconditional, forgiving, and organic to the mother-child relationship – C. S. Lewis’s “Gift-Love,” in other words, with no limit.  Motherly love and validation of the child is present whether the child “deserves” it or not.  Fatherly love, by contrast, is rules-based and must be earned in order to be granted:

Since [Father’s] love is conditioned, I can do something to acquire it, I can work for it; his love is not outside of my control as motherly love is. 

Either type of love can be abused or misapplied; the key is to achieve balance and a smooth transition from the emphasis of motherly love (in early life) to the focus on fatherly love (adolescence and up).  This concept ties neatly into Peterson’s model of Chaos (feminine) vs. Order (masculine) and the individual’s need to walk the fine line between them.

I am not sure I subscribe to this concept, though on the surface it seems to make sense.  If it is true, I would ask what does this mean for the present-day situation, where in the U.S. some statistics suggest there is a fatherhood crisis, leading to a sort of fatherhood renaissance ranging from the popularization of “dad jokes” to the billboard campaign.  And if adolescents are receiving more unconditional motherly love than fatherly love, is there any correlation to the widespread depression, including a higher percentage among adolescents?  It could either indicate motherly love is not unconditional (which is what I would argue), and/or that the lack of fatherly order/rules-based system causes a deficit linked – in some inherent way, maybe – to self-esteem.

Chapter 2.3, “The Objects of Love”

In this section, Fromm elaborates on his theory of true love as an act rather than emotion.

One key concept he highlights is the idea of “paradoxical logic” – the idea that “X is A and not A.”  (Sort of like quibits, for fellow nerds.)   In a way that I found frankly a little difficult to follow, Fromm ties this into his study of man’s love of God.  He compares Christianity to Aristotelian (or binary) logic and Judaism to paradoxical logic: the former emphasizes belief and the latter emphasizes a way of living (though he does point out Christianity does not exclude the latter).  This goes back (obliquely) to his conviction that love is primarily an act rather than a thought or a feeling.  Again, there are echoes of Peterson, who – rather than say that he believes in God – said in a recent interview that he lives as if he believes in God.

I hope I have sufficiently emphasized how philosophical this section is.  Apart from the religious commentary, Fromm covers all kinds of love as well, including the necessity of loving one’s self in order to love others (completely agree!).  At one point, he acknowledges “erotic love requires certain specific, highly individual elements which exist between some people but not between all.”  This doesn’t quite appease my disgruntlement with the first chapter, but at least he acknowledges there must be Something other than pure formula or will-power.  🙂

This statement did raise questions for me: “In erotic love there is an exclusiveness which is lacking in brotherly love and motherly love.” I may have missed something but I’m not sure what the basis for this is.  Though frowned upon in Western culture, parental favoritism is common in other cultures, whether it’s gender-based or simply individual-based.

And here again, I do agree: “If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever.” I would put the emphasis on “only,” because again, I do believe some feeling is necessary, even if it is simply the primal affection we feel for other human beings because of our shared humanity.