“A word bearing the acute upon the ultima is known as an oxytone, one with the acute upon the penult as a paroxytone, one with the acute upon the antepenult as a proparoxytone. One which bears the circumflex upon the ultima is called a perispomenon, one with the circumflex upon the penult is a properispomenon. These terms, though formidable, will save much laborious periphrasis.”

- A New Introduction to Greek, Chase & Phillips, 1941

Needless to say, we never did master the terms, and laborious periphrasis has been our lot ever since.

Laborious Brit. /ləˈbɔːrɪəs/, U.S. /ləˈbɔriəs/

Characterized by or involving hard work or exertion; requiring much time or effort; arduous, tiring; painstaking, tiresomely difficult. Also of a physical action: performed with great effort or difficulty; slow or deliberate; heavy.

Periphrasis Brit. /pᵻˈrɪfrəsɪs/ , U.S. /pəˈrɪfrəsəz/

Chiefly Rhetoric. A figure of speech in which a meaning is expressed by several words instead of by few or one; a roundabout way of speaking, circumlocution.

- OED Online, accessed 9/1/12

Saturday, October 13, 2012

                 I’ve finally gotten around to sending my blog address along to Hampshire’s GEO office, so I suppose this is the part where I stop bemoaning my various kitchen-implement and weather related issues and start pretending to be useful.

                A student life tidbit, then.  Events for students are organized on a few different scales.  The University hosts some, as do societies (and those organized by societies are not necessarily restricted to members, though things like wine tastings and lectures may have a small entry fee).  Events come in all sorts – academic lectures, charity efforts, casual sports, touristy trips, and so on.  Departments bring in guest speakers, Residence Life puts on a few different initiatives to keep students productive and entertained, and some of the residence areas have their own specific shindigs.  The Warrender Park group, for example, is comprised of three roads in Marchmont: Warrender Park Road, Terrace, and Crescent.  We have a facebook group to keep in touch and ask questions, and our RAs and directors get us together for things like pub outings, urban capture the flag, holiday parties, five-a-side football, and so on.  Some flats have signed up to host other flats for little competitive dinner parties, ala  “Come Dine With Me.”  Recently they got us a good deal on tickets to the New Zealand v. Scotland rugby match.  No one I know well is going, but that certainly didn’t stop me from signing up to go along.  If I shirked from everything I thought I was going to have to do by myself, I would have lived a very different life from the one I have.  All of this generally means that you can be as busy and involved as you’d like to be, but you’re also quite free to keep to yourself and find your own way around.  I’m happy enough to do my own thing, but it’s nice to have the option of dipping into a larger group of people should the desire present itself.

           Myself, I’m rather partial to the wine and cheese lectures hosted by Res Life.  I’m a curious person, and an epicurean of a sort, so it’s a nice two for one.  The subjects are interesting, and while the wine isn’t exactly top-shelf, I’m not one to quibble over free drinks, and the soft cheese and crackers are rather nice.  Last week I went to one given by Dr. Gordon Findlater, the University’s Director of Anatomy, on the time and conditions of medical schools in Edinburgh at the time of Burke & Hare.  The whole talk really underlined how much fascinating history is just underfoot here in Edinburgh.  It was interesting and relatively informal, it cost nothing, and I even got to walk away at the end of the night with one of the leftover bottles of cheap white.  Not bad, for a Tuesday night.  It was also a pleasant little walk – about a mile either way – from my apartment to the venue where it was held.  Pollock Halls, a set of buildings owned by the University, is made up of residences and other facilities, like event spaces and fitness centers and whatnot, so it’s good that I had a reason to figure out where it is.  I believe that the residences there are catered and primarily for first-years, so I don’t know anyone in my classes that actually lives there, but I’m sure I’ll find myself there again sometime.  Catered, by the way, is how the University describes housing that contains no or limited kitchen facilities, and where students are expected to eat at a dining hall.  I served my time as a dining hall goer in first year, and I have no desire to repeat the experience.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

            As fond as I am of walking through this city, my keenness wanes when I contemplate walking back to my flat, and then back to George Square in between classes.  It’s only about a fifteen-minute walk either way, but the turnaround is too short for the trip to a cup of tea and an afternoon snack to be appealing.  I’m too frugal to make a habit of spending money on coffee just to spend the time, and so for the first few weeks I would circumvent the cue spilling out of the library café door to find an empty table where I could fiddle with my notes and tell myself I was being productive.  I could, I suppose, bring my laptop with me and work on course-related readings, and so I do when deadlines are pressing.  It’s not as though they don’t give me enough to keep me busy.  It’s a heavy little bugger though, to drag along for just forty minutes of reading.  There are plenty of computers in the library complex, but I am generally idling there in the early afternoon, when most study spaces are filled to max capacity.  All of this is really an elaborate excuse for my new favorite spot to waste time.

            It started when an essay I was reading on the technicalities of visual reference and biological mechanisms for the identification of animation, and it referenced a scene in the Epic of Gilgamesh.   I spent the rest of the hour humming “Palaces of Montezuma*,” and when I finished my reading a little early, I ducked into the library on a whim to see if I could find a copy of the Babylonian epic.  I’ve never read it before, you see, and despite the previous claims on my time, something told me that I ought to.  I found where the book was supposed to be, on the third level of the library and a shelf up from some tomes on the history of Hebrew names, but the first volume had been taken out.  Once I found myself in the ancient history section, however, I couldn’t simply walk away.  My inner Daniel Jackson** took hold of the situation, and I pulled out several books on the materials used by the Assyrians in religious practice.  Nearly all of the nooks on that floor are reserved spaces, but I didn’t want to roam far, as I was short on time.  Several rows over, I found a sort of cubby in the wall, where I could sit on the floor and read while not being underfoot for anyone hoping to get past.  When I got settled, I realized that I was sitting, staring at a rack of nothing but excerpts, analyses, and translations of Homer.  I’ve been returning to the third floor and that same cubby every since.

          As I’ve said, there’s plenty of reading I could be doing for my classes, but this is different.  There is something so enthusing about learning something that you didn’t anticipate.  It reminds me of my childhood, when I’d aimlessly dig through our World book encyclopedias, roaming from entry to entry, finding things that I would have never thought to go looking for.  I love that I have the opportunity to go to university, and my classes are thoroughly interesting, but there is something special about clandestine knowledge – about picking up a book on Assyrian tablet translations, or the history of hieroglyphs, or Ancient Semitic attitudes towards the ocean.  Ancient languages and history are certainly not my only interests, but like I say, I’ve been camping in the classics section as of late.  I’m a horrible procrastinator, always have been, and I can think of few more enjoyable and enriching ways to waste my time.  Learn how to read Coptic?  I don't see why not.

**For those of you that weren’t watching sci-fi in the early 2000’s, Daniel Jackson was the archeologist/ linguist in the elite intergalactic exploration team on Stargate: SG-1.  He starts out as a typical headstrong bleeding-heart academic, and gets consistently more badass as the series progresses.  

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

For all that it is generally overcast here, we do get the most splendid sun-showers.  You'll be walking down the path under a sunny sky, and you'll feel the first flecks of rain, so faint at first the you imagine it's probably last night's weather being gusted off the leaves.  Soon enough it's picking up into an actual shower, from a sky full of sun.  I can walk all the way home like that, the fall coming harder and harder, until the the clouds catch up.  The rain here is never torrential, but because the cover is more or less omnipresent, there's no telling when it will start up again.  I have a deep abiding affection for rain, and do not mind in the least.

On the subject of small pleasures, I've found vegetables.  The little chain grocery markets all offer a rather pitiable selection of produce, and while there are plenty of middle eastern shops in the squares beyond the University, I wasn't previously aware of anything closer to the flat.  Luckily, I dedicated part of the weekend to exploring a little more thoroughly my side of the Meadows, and found a fruit and veg market just half a block down from the Scotmid.  As a result, the dinner for this week is crepes piled with sharp cheddar and sauteed peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms, with a few daubs of thai green curry sauce.  International, make-it-up-as-you-go-along cuisine is the only way to live.  Anyone that thinks that being a penniless university student means that you have to live off pot noodle is lazy, an idiot, an individual with time management issues, or some combination of the three.

Also, either the the recipe that Twinings uses for English Breakfast in America is different from what they sell here, or that yogurt that I had earlier has gone off to a hallucination-inducing degree, because the cup of tea that I'm drinking while I type this is almost suspiciously good.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

That's my first week of classes finished and to the surprise of no one, I found myself throughout it quite thoroughly conflicted by my dueling instincts of intense academic curiosity and an overwhelming predilection for procrastination and self-indulgent time management.  Even now I am writing this as an excuse not to perform household tasks that need seeing to, read endless pages of dense technical writing on human cognition, or go grocery shopping.

My groceries have been rather a sad scene.  I'm on a rather strict weekly budget (one which will certainly not accommodate my newfound appreciation for chocolate hobnobs), and my food has been rather basic to start.  Every time I conjure up some more complicated dish, I'm impeded by my scanty tool collection and unstocked cupboards.  There simply hasn't been time to accrue the sort of thing that most people have in their kitchen, the little things - baking soda, chocolate powder, red pepper, a whisk, a potato masher.  Each week I pick up something new to flesh out our sad, spacious cabinets.  One of my flatmates purchased some small plastic wine glasses - 8 for a pound - for some offensively acidic novelty fruit wines that she had picked up, with the very exciting result that we now have more than mugs and coffee pots to drink out of.  However, when I contemplated picking up some gin or whisky, I found the idea of drinking cocktails out of such receptacles on a regular basis a bit too pathetic to bear.  My alternative, three tumblers for a pound at Poundland, wasn't precisely a classier option, but I derive some satisfaction from drinking out of an actual glass.  It's a small creature comfort, like silverware that has decent heft to it.

Poundland has turned out to be overflowing with curiosities, as good dollar stores are wont to do.  It has all of the usual suspects, as well as a surprising amount of food - I don't trust poundstore eggs and milk, and I don't suppose I ever will.  The seasonal section included 'celebrity masks,' with one's options being either Justin Bieber or... some blonde fellow with a handlebar mustache that I don't believe I've ever seen before.  It's true that my curiosity is piqued when I spot foods that I have heard mention of in British media, no matter how uninspiring they probably are to eat.  I'm tempted to explore things like jaffa cakes, hobnobs, whatsits, angel delight, bovril, minstrels, etc., but I must keep in mind that neither myself nor Sainsburys are going anywhere fast.  I'm sure plenty of it will be utterly disgusting, but I won't know until I try, now will I?  Well, custard in a can pretty much speaks for itself, and I'm pretty dubious of the merits of beef tea, and I have it on good authority that Irn Bru is nigh undrinkable, but what is travel without a sense of inadvisable adventure?

Friday, September 14, 2012

I'll be honest, I'm starting to run out of small talk.  This week is about throwing ourselves together until something sticks, and I'm being better about it than I might normally be, but even so - it's not my scene. Yesterday morning and today, a societies fair was held at Pleasance for all of the societies (student groups and clubs, essentially) to showcase their wares and advertise to new members.  The place was packed, but it was pretty amusing all the same.  A lot of countries and ethnicities have their own student groups (there is a North American club, which I have every intention of avoiding like the plague), but most of them are a little less straightforward.  For example, the History Society has both a netball team and a football team.  A lot of them have pub quiz teams.  Okay, most of it revolves around drinking.

Nicole asked me about pub quizzes, but there's not much to explain.  On designated nights, some pubs hold quizzes.  Sometimes they are themed (films, sports, etc.), but most of them have different rounds on different topics.  People go to the pub, declare their table a team, and try to beat the other patrons of the pub at trivia.  Prizes optional.  It appears to be quite a popular thing around here, second only to pub crawls.  I've never quite understood the appeal of these.  I can think of a few motivations - you're so drunk that you keep getting kicked out of pubs, there are some pubs that are open later that you head to later in the evening, there are different events (like parties or pub quizzes) that you want to go to at different pubs, etc. - but none of these seem to justify the prevalence of this activity.  The method of most of the societies appears to be, "Let's get together because we have a mutual interest in ___ - okay, now let's go drinking together." The Classics Society even throws toga parties.  Perhaps slightly inadvisable in this region's climate, but go for it. I'm told by people who study such things that the only women in Ancient Rome who wore full togas were prostitutes.  Observation from Wednesday night suggests that little has changed.  It's not a complaint, simply an observation.

However, it does mean that the social scene is essentially the drinking scene, and drinking in pubs is awfy expensive.  Probably not any more than in any other large city, but I certainly can't afford to do it four nights a week on any kind of regular basis.  I can get a bit neurotic about money, but I'm trying to cut myself some slack in this first week.  Just last night, for example, I had the most fun I've had on any night out here so far going on a pub crawl with the Linguistics Society.  Finally, people with whom I have more in common than simply being in the same place at the same time, people who can argue language politics and policy and geek out about dialectology after five pints.  We spanned a good range of levels - second years to postgrads - and we bonded over the difficulty of course choice, the stupid questions we get asked about our home countries, and the frustration we feel around people who are nearly apologetic about their desire to learn.  (Unless you're studying for a trade, accounting or some such thing, you had better be damn enthusiastic to be spending this kind of money on your education.  Who goes, "Oh yeah, I'll spend tens of thousands of dollars on getting a degree in psychology/sociology/whatever, but I don't really give a shit"?  Madness.)  Best of all, we had a wug.  Rather, we had a foam costume of a wug that we all wore at one point in the night, in which it was ruddy impossible to see forwards.  Something of a challenge when all of the people wearing it are a: pissed and b: wandering the town at night, searching out the next venue.    If you don't know what a wug is, you wouldn't have found last night half as entertaining as I did.  It's a linguistics thing.  Don't worry, you're not alone.  Also occurring last night was a photographic treasure hunt - groups of students had lists of things to find, and needed to take pictures of themselves with the listed objects - and evidently one of the items was "an animal," because we were approached several times by people asking, "Is that an animal?  A bird or a dolphin of some kind? ... Can you take a picture of us with it?"  And because we were drunk linguists, we insisted on performing the elicitation test on every single person who asked us.  Pissed academics are my favorite.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Today saw me once again waking up later than intended, but it's only half past 2 now, and I've certainly made the day count so far.  I have utterly dispelled any vague initial worries of mine about the effects of a country famous for drinking and fried dough/ meat products on my general health.  I left the house at a quarter to 12 and returned just moments ago, and in that time roamed at least 4 miles of the city.  This is hardly record breaking, and I did spend the time between 12 and 1 receiving a tour of the Bedlam Theatre, but its certainly more footwork than I'm accustomed to in the afternoon.  Perhaps things will change when classes begin and there is less time to spare, but in the mean time, I'm rather enjoying all the wandering - and learning the lay of the place much faster than I ever expected. 

 As usual, there are events all over the place, but I've spent my time walking with one of my flatmates, a theater electrician and light/sound technician, around to various theatres so that she can inquire about job opportunities.  It's a good method for pressing myself to keep an eye on my surroundings.  I have no maps or smart devices to speak of, which means I have nothing to pull out if I wander astray, but which hopefully also makes me look slightly less like one of the hundreds of tourists crawling all over the place. 

-Time Break

This is starting to become a habit - my blog writing was broken off by a proposal to do something else, and go do we did.  This week has been a very vivid reminder of how rubbish I am at names.  Nevertheless, I met a great many more of the people that live in my building (mostly foreign third years like myself, but some freshers), attended a meet and great for the History Society, went to my first pub quiz, and generally tromped through the night with a collective of affable American, English, Dutch, German, New Zealandish, and... whatever Andrews was, people.  I still haven't bought a blanket.  These things come with time.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I love to Travel, I love the Challenge, I love Change

Well, the eagle has landed and all that.  It has been a very busy couple of days, and while I could recount for you every last bleeding detail, I'll spare us all the drudgery of such a thing.  It is my instinct to go through things chronologically, but doing so would soon create such a backlog of things I hadn't mentioned yet that I'd be paralyzed, unable to move forward until I had covered every inch of the past.  Nonsense.  I've been assured that would do far better to be brief than to go dark entirely, only to resurface every month or two with a saga in hand.

I'm currently in my flat, on the top floor of a building about a 15-minute walk from the main campus.  I'm eating jam on toast, drinking tea out of a turkish coffee pot, for lack of a better vessel, and watching the new episode of The Thick of It (expect a tirade on this subject in the near future), which in the typical fashion of British television, is just nearly too awkward to watch.  It is 1:30 am now, and there's much to do tomorrow, like buy a blanket for starters.  The University is putting on a hell of a lot of events, frankly more than I could possibly work up the energy to attend, but I shall endeavor to socialize.  I spent today meeting two of my flatmates (young ladies from Virginia and Oregon, respectively), doing a paltry grocery shop at Scotmid, and just generally getting lost in the city to learn my way around - and in doing so, tripping over a number of landmarks, including the National Library,  Deacon Brodie's Tavern, and the Surgeons' Halls Museum.  All places that will have to wait for another day.

Buying an alarm clock.  Another chore for tomorrow.