Monthly Archives: December 2008

Page 56 Meme

Julianne tagged me for the p. 56 meme. I’m supposed to pick the book closest to me and then post the fifth sentence, and a few more.

The book closest to me is actually the section of Livy’s Histories that deal with the Roman wars with Hannibal. It has a very nice elephant on the cover and page 56, sentence 5 begins:

From the Druentia, Hannibal advanced towards the Alps mainly through open country, and reached the foothills without encountering any opposition from the local tribes. The nature of the mountains was not, of course, unknown to his men by rumour and report — and rumour commonly exaggerates the truth; yet in this case all tales were eclipsed by the reality. The dreadful vision was now before their eyes: the towering peaks, the snow-clad pinnacles soaring to the sky, the rude huts clinging to the rocks, beasts and cattle shrivelled and parched with cold, the people with their wild and ragged hair, all nature, animate and inanimate, stiff with frost.

And then I’m supposed to go to the 56th page of the book I am working on and post the fifth sentence from there. This bit comes from the end of a chapter:

After some time she grew concerned. Surely she and Liisa should have reached the high street by now. She was certain she’d recognize it from the noise. She noticed a new smell, replacing the former stench of animal parts and hides. It was burnt wood, but not from a householder’s hearth fire, more like a whole building that had burnt down and had been left to sit in the weather for a long time, a big building from the magnitude of the odour. If she had passed it on her way to the shop, she knew she would have noticed it before. There was no question about it, she was lost.

And now I tag five people:

Nan Hawthorne


Dr. B. who can do it when she gets back.

Lady Tess


C.W. Gortner

Google asks; I answer

I mentioned the other day that “bullar” was one of the most popular search terms for people finding my blog. Some things are, well, a little more obscure. Lately, I have had people find me looking for answers to questions that I do not answer on my blog, but I could in fact answer in real life. I kind of want to hunt them down and give them the answers they sought, but alas, that is impossible. But, just in case they ever turn up here again, here are a few recent ones:

“What do you call the books where you pick what happens next by choosing different pages numbers?”

What is…a choose your own adventure book!!

“Is The Tenant of Wildfell Hall a fairy tale?”

Oh! I know, I know! *ding* No, it’s not! But it is darned good book anyway, so you should go out and read it.

Some people ask questions that sounds like how long is a piece of string like the not one but two people who asked, “How many tales in Beowulf?”

And this one wasn’t even a question:
“book hidden in stacks lost spain novel bookstore”

But I bet I know the answer — Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind. Another darned good book that begins in a bookstore in Spain.

But the search string I am most proud of was the day someone found me by actually googling “dominican bitches.” Yessssss.

Sephardic Jews leave Genetic Legacy in Spain

A recent article describes genetic studies of Spanish men that show a high percentage of them bear traces of Sephardic Jewish and North African ancestry:

Sephardic Jews leave genetic legacy in Spain

From the 15th century on, Spain’s Jews were mostly expelled or forced to convert, but today some 20 percent of Spanish men tested have Sephardic Jewish ancestry, and 11 percent can be traced to North Africa, a study has found.

“These values are surprisingly high,” the researchers wrote in their report, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

They checked the Y chromosome, a stretch of DNA carried only by men and passed down with little change from father to son. Mutations in this gene can be used to trace ancestry, and some have been clearly linked to Sephardic Jewish and northern African populations.

“The genetic composition of the current population is the legacy of our diverse cultural and religious past,” one of the report’s authors, Francesc Calafell, from the evolutionary biology faculty at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, said on Friday.

I thought it was fascinating, and useful data for medieval historians who are trying to weigh the evidence of numbers of Jews who were converted to Christianity and remained in Spain, and those who left. The high numbers of those with Jewish ancestry are especially significant given the usually low estimates of the population of Jews in medieval Spain. Another report suggested that the number of those with Jewish descent were relatively fewer in Catalunya, indicating perhaps the “success” of the pogroms against them in the fourteenth century.

I am of Sephardic descent through my great grandmother. Her last name was Bondy which means “Bon dia” in Catalan (“Good day” or “Yom tov” in Hebrew). My understanding is that all the Bondys in Bohemia were descended from one Sephardic Jew who moved to Prague in the sixteenth or seventeenth century. By chance, I am going to be spending a month at the university where they did this study in January — maybe I’ll have a chance to talk to the researchers!

Sankta Lucia

sankta luciaNo, not me. Well not exactly. Today is the feast of Sankta Lucia, the patron saint of light. In the old calendar, her feast was the shortest day of the year, and in Sweden it is celebrated with singing, candles, coffee, and special little buns at dawn. It’s also a great chance for me to try out my new camera.

“But Lucy,” you say, “Those little buns look so delicious. Where can I get some for myself?” I am so glad you asked. I posted the recipe for them this time last year, and they’re called bullar. Follow the link and they too can be yours. Which brings me to an interesting factoid about this blog. My food posts are by far the most searched for parts of this blog. If you google “bullar,” this recipe turns up close to the top of the page. But by far the most popular recipe I ever posted is the one for flan de queso. It is regularly the top monthly search string. Makes me think I should post more recipes.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to enjoy my tea.

A New Link

See over there, in the blogroll?
<----------- A new link to the ever-curmudgeonly but always adorable Dr. B's latest foray into the blog world, Globe & Mail Watch. Love to hate Canada’s national newspaper? Concerned about the dreaded seep of the plague of false equivalencies ever further north? This one’s for you.