Piranesi and Clarke

Kicks Condor alerted me to the imminent release of Susanna Clarke’s new book, titled Piranesi. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is long overdue for a re-read. I definitely was too young and obnoxious to appreciate it back when it was published.  (I sure hope I’ve gotten humbler and wiser by now; or at least, be able to enjoy Clarke’s apparently-genius writing more.)

But enough about Clarke. Piranesi is the name that grabbed my attention far more than hers. Le Carceri remains a profound influence upon my subconscious mind and imagination, far more than any other fantasy world-building. I wrote an essay about my visceral experience, but words can’t really describe how grand and otherworldly the Prisons are. My folio-sized artbook of full-sized art plates, laboriously hunted down after months via Abebooks, remains a prized possession in my library.

I suppose Clarke is the only author out there who’d conceivably write a whole novel about Piranesi and his Prisons. I look forward to reading it!

Thick darkness covered the earth

Last night, I sat at my computer tinkering in a spreadsheet, music tinkling in my headphones, with the lights turned on in the room and in the corridor, the comfortable sound of whirring machinery all around — when a brilliant light flashed outside the window, followed by loud a ‘whoomf’ sound, and between one breath and the next all the machines went dead silent and all the lights went out, plunging me into darkness–

thick darkness

for five seconds
(two breaths, enough for me to exclaim, “What the heck?”)

–then a ‘bump’ sound came from outdoors, the lights came back on, the machines spun up again. The world righted itself and all was back to normal.

It was between those two breaths that I thought, This is it. The apocalypse has arrived, and I am utterly helpless without my life-support machines and intravenous drip of electricity. What do I do now?

Sleep; Arise.

We buried a friend today.  He was a few years younger than me. Left behind a pregnant wife and a very young son, and many many loved family and friends.

He was too young to die.

I didn’t know him as well as others did, but we were fellow workers in the kingdom for a while, and had talked about what it meant to be a shepherd and fisher of people. I didn’t see him around a lot, but the evidence of his impact was all around me: in people, in words. Now I remember glimpses of him over the years: amongst friends, with his longtime sweetheart who became his wife, then holding a baby, then with his boy in tow.  Always amongst friends.

I hadn’t known about the illness until our senior pastor stood on stage one Sunday a few weeks ago and asked for the entire church to pray for him, because only a miracle could save him now.  In retrospect, I already had a premonition of trouble through my brief glimpses, though I didn’t understand what it meant.  I think he knew he was going to die.

But as we prayed that Sunday, I had a distinct vision of a lifeline thrown into a bottomless ocean, and many, many people climbing into the water down that cable — to save not him, but his family.  And the hands pulling up that cable from the surface weren’t human hands, but divine ones.

Indeed, many people, far more than I could imagine, rallied with support.  The friends told stories of his last few months alive, and said that his faith never wavered.  Indeed, burned even fiercer, encouraging and strengthening everyone around him, spending itself without holding back, until the very end.

It was an honour to be at the memorial service.

The Lord stands at the threshold of eternity, the keys of life and death in his hands.  And when he calls a man’s name, he can’t help but come.  To death.  To resurrection.

But he was just too young to die.  Was the work really done, when things were just beginning?  Is it time to lay down the tools, when one is just entering the height of his powers?  Is it really time to rest now, when there is so much more to do?

The man rests now.  –Rests, and rejoices before Christ our Lord.  But for us left behind, it’s time to rise and take up those tools put down, and remain faithful.  This is the way to defy the unfairness of it all.

Let’s start again.

Botched my webdomain migration and lost the original velivolans blog that resided at Hierofalco.net.  The database exists but is inaccessible short of digging into cPanel and phpMyAdmin, and I haven’t the energy nor motivation to extract it at this stage.  It may come back someday.

I want to try something new for this blog, combining a few different projects.  Let us see what comes of it.

UPDATE (5th Dec): Canto refuses to be melded with a workaday blog, so there it is, happy in its own subdomain.

UPDATE (14th Dec): With a bit of MySQL jiujitsu and a website backup (thank goodness for backups), all my posts at velivolans have been migrated and images restored. Everything should be as before. Success! Hooray!

Further adventures in webdesign.

In a paroxysm of inspiration and productivity, I spent the last weekend building my new domain-level website**, including making a fansite (a “shrine” in fandom jargon). Atom.io text editor on one monitor, web browser on the other monitor, with CSS Reference and W3Schools for reference, and a bunch of personal websites and domains for inspiration. The fansite took up most of the weekend: Took an old layout I created years ago, updated, streamlined and enhanced the markup; in between that, I did a ton of research and “content creation”.

**Have to deal with a few things on the backend over the next few weeks (including, er, migrating to a new domain that I recently bought), but soon, there will be NEW STUFF on my domain! Hooray!

Partway through, it dawned on me that I was enjoying the webdesign process. Earlier I’d ranted about my woes of manually converting my Tumblr into a static site built with Hugo. Quite a vast difference between these two experiences!

Continue reading “Further adventures in webdesign.”

Things I learnt: revelling in numbers and elements.

Probably says something about how I’m wired, that I get much more joy reading about materials and physical sciences and the inanimate/inorganic world, than about the biological sciences and living things. And there’s joy in learning about mathematics too. What is there not to love about numbers and elements!

Working with them, though? Chemical elements are a part of daily working life, but advanced math isn’t and takes a bit more effort to enjoy. But, while meeting prerequisites for freshman undergraduate science, instead of taking the standard math unit for science majors that everyone else took, I chose the calculus unit for math majors. The professor was engaging and I understood things intuitively, but found it hard to apply them, worked like a dog to scrape up a pass, and have since forgotten everything from that unit. Yet, given the chance to revel in the wonders and confoundedness that is pure math, I could not pass up that opportunity then, and I still can’t. (Doing a degree in math and physics has been on my bucket list ever since.)

Elements!

Continue reading “Things I learnt: revelling in numbers and elements.”

Who will I be this year?

Had a birthday last week.

Inspired by this post (the blogger had a birthday about the same time as me), I’m also asking the question. Who will I be this year?

Someone who’s courageous to overcome fears and doubt and insecurities to reach for my dreams — whether it’s going on long-term missions, or finishing my novels, or making art again, or trying something new.

Someone who’s not afraid of hard work and risk and failure, who when I fall down will then get up again. And again, and again.

Someone who’s not too proud or self-conscious to laugh at myself, to make a fool of myself, to look like the ignorant dunce — if it means being humble and learning from others.

Someone who is ever more generous, who is willing to pour out my life to serve others… because it’s not about what I can give, but what Christ wants to give through me. He is the infinite source of life and capability.

“No” is a word that comes easily to my tongue, it’s a reflexive response to anyone making a request of me. I want to be someone who says Yes more than No. Yes to spontaneous adventures. Yes to an opportunity to be a blessing. Yes to risk and faith. Yes to something new and wonderful. Yes to joy.

Reviving a long-disused tongue.

I recently finished reading the first collection in
射雕英雄传 Legends of the Condor Heroes, a wuxia/martial arts serialized epic by Hong Kong author 金庸 Jin Yong.

This book is titled A Hero Born and is an English translation by Anna Holmwood; it captures the first nine parts in a 40-part serial. (According to Wikipedia, 射雕英雄传 has a character count of over 900,000.) I stumbled on A Hero Born while randomly browsing shelves in the local library. I’ve lived in Hong Kong but I’d never heard of 金庸, so my interest was piqued. Apparently he’s a household name there, who first published his stories as serials in the newspapers. I’ve since spoken to my handful of HK friends and acquaintances. All of them knew his name.

Through a combination of Wikipedia and Baidu, and my now more-intuitive-than-concrete grasp of Mandarin, I found 金庸’s complete serials/novels online in simplified Chinese, including 射雕英雄传 here. As good a time as any to practise reading and comprehending my mother tongue again.

I decided to read it out loud. It took half an hour, CN-to-EN dictionary in hand, to translate and read the first paragraph of Chapter 1. Though half that time was re-reciting it to help my recall of the characters.

Well… I already knew my Mandarin vocabulary has atrophied over the years, but the extent of deterioration is incredible, if unsurprising. Still, it felt like a slap in the face by an insidious kind of impostor syndrome.

Translation and recall is tough work, but this is worth persevering through over time. I’m thinking of transcribing the text by hand — after all, physically writing things does help with comprehension and recall. And perhaps, eat some serious humble pie and ask my Chinese friends to be language buddies.

And to think that my local library was the catalyst for all this. Aren’t libraries wonderful?

IndieWeb thoughts (2): A postscript, a prayer.

Now that I’ve had some IndieWeb thoughts, what do I do about them?

It’s just revealed to me the state of my own heart and being. I’ve been too inward-looking for too long, and the Internet (indeed, the IndieWeb) exacerbates my conceit.

The longer I’ve been a Christian, the more I pray “help” prayers. I remember scorning those kinds of prayers as a youth. Am I so needy? Do I need to lean on an external support? Why do I speak with such abasement to the Lord Jesus Christ? But the years have taught me humility and the magnitude of my own weaknesses.

O Lord, help me. Help me to get off the Internet, overcome its inward-turning, self-focused, centripetal pull. Give me Christ’s heart for people, his outward focused love that looked not to itself, indeed scorned itself, but always to the other. Help me to see beyond myself and my own, and to be humble and teachable.

Learning Hugo, migrating Tumblr, hating it all the way.

I’m currently learning the ins and outs of Hugo static site generator, while using my Tumblr as a case study, and thus a reason to learn. I’ve been relying on this YouTube tutorial series, and the official Hugo documentation.

Coding and markup for webmastering have always been a two steps back, three steps forward, process for me. All self-taught, amateur, and learnt piecemeal, through poring through documentation and online advice, the occasional guidance from friends (usually serendipitous), and hours of trial-and-error and troubleshooting.

People in my (Myers-Briggs) personality type category tend to gravitate towards programming and coding. I suppose I have a knack for it, and I seem to insist on hand-crafting websites myself, so I must find some enjoyment and value in webmastering. But there’s something that separates webmastering from other my “crafting/creative” hobbies such as writing and drawing. I can enter flow states in the latter two, lose myself in the process of making art or writing stories. Hours pass by, and I never ask myself whether art or writing is worth it. (The questioning usually happens after the fact, when I’m out of the flow.)

I make websites, but I can’t bring myself to say that I love the process, nor have I ever been aware of entering a flow state. Webmastering differs from art/writing in that it’s only enjoyable insofar as it gives returns on investment. At every step, the back of my mind is constantly evaluating, “is it worth it?”

Continue reading “Learning Hugo, migrating Tumblr, hating it all the way.”