Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist

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Freudian Time Slip

Alexandrina Brant:

Just something to think about for your Thursday. Does linguistic variation over time and the way society’s use of language changes it (sociolinguistics) stem from subconscious – and/or extraterrestrial – formation of what it means to be human?

Originally posted on Davetopia:

We all, I suspect, have words and phrases we repeatedly remember differently from the majority, whether in spelling or meaning. Often, they seem to stem from mere rote, such as my mistyping ‘from’ as ‘form’ but not vice versa because of a slight difference in the speed my fingers move when touch-typing. But sometimes they seem more meaningful.

Take the case of the anthropic principle: a series of philosophical considerations in astrophysics that observations of the physical universe must be compatible with the observer. While both the literature and experts (as far as I know) apply the correct name, I have noticed a significant minority of interested laypeople call it the anthropomorphic principle.

Assuming from context it is not a deliberate reference to a theological term that received some mention in the mid-1800s, it would be easy to dismiss the confusion as stemming from ‘anthropomorphic’ being a much more common…

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Beautiful People: Greetings to Patience

I’m still editing – and trying to balance the two academic and creative meanings of ‘revision’ – so I have no fully-formed character to present for you. Instead, I’m going to have a new-new character for this month’s great questions of the Beautiful People tag (hosted by Cait and Sky). Patience (surname-not-yet-created) is the MC and a maid in one of the steampunk stories I want to write and of which I have a couple of scenes.

  1. What is their secret desire?

Although she outwardly strives for adventure and wouldn’t say no to the job of travelling into the atmosphere, Patience is actually quite shy and very afeared towards the monster aboard The Mallard cosmic train. Her secret desire is probably a simple one: to have a family and not be a servant her entire life, even if the alternative is ‘serving’ as a mother (!). Thus, it’s natural that she forms a bond with similar-minded family-orientated Milo so quickly. It’s not insta-love (in which I don’t believe), but I have seen this sort of bond form in real life, so I know it is possible to transfer to characters.

  1. What is the best and brightest moment they experience during the story?

Probably kissing Milo. I mean, getting to travel to space is awesome and all, but to meet a fellow mind and to go through mystery with him is something that Patience will never experience in her life again. Hair flowing against the backdrop of stars…

File:Messier 5 Hubble WikiSky.jpg

Messier 5 stars, as seen through the Hubble telescope. Wikipedia commons


  1. What are the emotional places your characters are afraid to go to?

As an orphaned only-child, Patience can be quite shielded at times. Not one of those dramatic leading ladies who struggles to bond because her parents were unfair or abusive or, conversely, over-soft, but nevertheless someone who doesn’t share her mind so much when it comes to serious matters. Her parents were not overly-strict or overly-caring, so she appears to not miss them so much. I think she could open her heart to her childhood, though – not be afraid to admit that she wasn’t a working girl her entire life.

  1. Is there a place/city/room where they will never go?

Patience will probably never get to travel. At least: to the other side of Earth. Even when her contract with The Mallard ends, she will probably go back into service (unless Queen Victoria enlists another such contraption) and thus will be confined to England. Patience is not a lady’s maid – hence why she was dispensable yet reliable – so she doesn’t get to travel to other Earth countries with her mistress. I suppose that answers the question, even though I haven’t really thought out much of Patience’s ‘backstory’ yet.

  1. If they were permanently leaving town, what would they easily throw out? What would they refuse to part with?

She easily throws out her outfits and miscellaneous bits and bobs that she held on to when she worked in her household. These little items – like an acorn seed her first sweetheart gave her – keep her sane on nights when her family are demanding, but when Patience realises that she has a chance to move into a new field of work as a server on The Mallard she doesn’t see the need for trinkets of nature and fabric. Will she reject this move? That’s a question I’ll be asking myself.

Patience has a necklace that belonged to her mother, a small silver cross. She never takes it off, even though it gets broken over the course of the novella. She’d definitely refuse to part with it, due to sentimental value, and her parents’ once-religiosity. It has past and a kind of fortune.

Sweet Dreams

  1. What do they want (consciously and tangibly)?

Patience would rather like to spend some time at the seaside, perhaps trying fish delicacies and lending her hand at gutting the fish. She doesn’t want a fisherwoman’s life over being a maid to a small household, but she’d like to try something different for a while, as she’s getting a little bored of routine and safety. Figures.

  1. On the other hand: what do they need (on the emotional, subconscious level)?

Patience could probably do with some modest restraint. She’s not one of the sharper-tongued MCs I’ve written, but she still has an outspoken streak, even going so far as to question why her mistress sold a ring to pay for Patience to be one of the servers travelling to space.

  1. If they could change one thing about themselves, what would it be?

She doesn’t have the best self-confidence. I know Patience would like her mystery-solving skills to be better based on logic, when she doesn’t realise that she’s actually good at inference mystery and, well, snooping and silent wandering.

Nor, for that matter, does she have the best sense of humour. She’s a serious young woman– though, luckily, not to the point of being the straight man whom I wouldn’t be able to write.

  1. What is the most humiliating event of their life?

Being a servant, she has experience many humiliating moments. Her employers – well, her mistress – are rather demeaning, as was the way for servants. There were many life lessons she learnt about working in a busy household as she grew up, many slip-ups, literal and figurative.

  1. What things do they turn to when they need a bit of hope?

Back on Earth, Patience was friends with a younger maid, Marie, who, although lovely, was the lowest in the social hierarchy, and, as such, a bit of a drip. In orbit, however, Patience cannot turn to her absent friend, and she trusts no one but Milo onboard the lethal vessel. On the other hand, she is known to the driver for her love of almond cake and gingerbread pudding from the dining car.

Look, Cait, food for you! Hope you all enjoyed my Beautiful People post for March. I certainly learnt a lot about the backstory and past of my newest MC. Readers, don’t forget to check out the other writers who have participated in this month’s Beautiful People posting.

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Photo of the Week: Station

For someone who’s been back and forth from Reading to other places for so long, you would’ve thought that I would have seen and known the entirety of the station. For instance, only when I popped to the Surrey convivial did I realise that there are platforms at the other end of the station. In the same way, I didn’t realise that one can see the back end of the station from platform 15.


I love this scene, and just this general skyline sight from the platform. I loved the silver backwards lettering one can see. Cold English Spring day. :P


7 Quick Takes about Human Machines, Squidgy Brains, Null Eclipses

7 Quick Takes Friday of Catholic bloggers’ weeks! Join us! Hosted by This Ain’t the Lyceum.



Did you get to see the eclipse today? We were invited out of our lecture at 9.30 in the morning— to the face of a blank Berkshire sky. Oh, England.

As a friend of mine put it:

Nope, no eclipse here



One of the things I like about the academic writing of philosophy is that I get to write some pretty funky sentences. I mean, I have some pretty duff sentences, too, but then there are phrases like these, which make me happy to be a creative writer:

For the sake of a simplified example, our mind is caused by a program which loads human consciousness onto our flesh-and-blood machine, just as Microsoft Word is loaded onto a laptop.


This is the first philosophy essay that I have written so quickly, prolifically, and with understanding. The topic of Functionalism, if you don’t know it, is a fascinating interpretation of the problem of mind and how humans are, essentially, machines with ‘machine tables’ of set inputs and outputs in order to ‘work’. Behaviour and consciousness are effectively already programmed into us – this, of course, brings up some interesting questions, not to mention flaws brought out from philosophers like Ned Block and Hilary Putnam. The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy page.


I write this as part of my hour break from revision. I’ve been working on powerpoints for my three end-of-module tests next week. Neuroscience has been great, but at the moment I’m working on my social psychology stuff, namely currently mood and intelligence.

I think I’m biased towards Neuroscience, though, due to the squidgy brains that I’ve been painting to help my knowledge.



The second or third dance event of the term is this evening – hosted, technically, by the university big band, but we’re taking the society to the location, so it might as well be our social. I would be looking forward to this a lot more if I didn’t have everything on around these times. I’m just not so enthused, though I would normally be excited for a Saturday night on the dance. :)


Spontaneous music for your listening. It’s one of my current guilty pleasure songs (I will always have a taste for ‘pop-punk‘ bands) no matter how superficial their messages and lyrics are. There’s something optimistic and permanent strength portrayed through the lyrics and the upbeat music, but maybe those are simply the feelings I associate with the song now. I don’t know if the band had any specific connotations (apart from writing it for the film Big Hero 6), but there are elements of Eternal Life there, aren’t there? Immortals, Fall Out Boy.


No editing or fiction snippet this week, due to the above reasons. I miss working on my writing, but I have been doing a little research, something which I don’t normally have the chance to really branch into. Funny how being busy with other work changes one’s perspectives, eh?

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The Harmonograph Swingset, capturing the frequency of love and friendship

Alexandrina Brant:

TED talks – and moreso, TED events – are brilliant. As well as searching in general ’round the TED blog for facts, inspiration, and those nifty little life points that TED seems to bring out, you should take a look at the Harmonograph Swingset, which, with the aid of paired ‘harmonic frequencies’, creates art. Sounds cool, no?

Originally posted on TED Blog:

Two attendees on the the Harmonograph Swingset, a TK. Photo: James Duncan Davidson/TED Two attendees on the the Harmonograph Swingset, an adaptation of a 19th-century invention that turns the frequency of relationships into art. Photo: James Duncan Davidson/TED

If a meet-cute is going to happen at TED2015, it will likely happen downstairs on the first level at the Harmonograph Swingset. This modern-day, hand-crafted timber swing, a take on a 19th-century invention, records harmonic frequencies as visual art.

The swingset is made of two seats, set at right angles and connected to two poles on universal joints, which operate like pendulums. It is operated by human weight. The two pendulums meet in the middle at a marker, which hovers over an enormous piece of heavy drawing paper. When TED attendees sit two at a time in the swing, the pens move across the paper, forming a precise graphic record of the harmonic frequency of the pair.

“Each visual representation is one of a kind,”…

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Among the Catholics

Alexandrina Brant:

Are you taking your faith for granted? Or are you acting like a Pharisee in your criticism? But everyone is a sinner, and everyone can be saved.

Originally posted on All Along the Watchtower:


Newman noted that one of the problems converts had was with the reality of the Catholic Church. Most of them, like him, had had very little do to with the Catholic Church in its parish form before conversion. They had, as he had, studied a good deal, prayed a good deal, and had a good idea from the available sources of what it was they were joining. They were joining the Church founded by Christ. That was all true at the level of the ideal; in practice they found, as Newman himself did, things were somewhat different. People were often perfunctory in the performance of their religious duties, familiarity had bred if not contempt, then the sort of ‘by rote’ practice which had been an irritating part of his original church. As one Archbishop has put it, writing about the 1940s, there was:

mumbled Latin, rushed hurried gestures, half genuflections…

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Photo of the Week: Pearl

Something abstract and nonsense, taking by pure accident, but something that turned out to be rather nice in the end. I am rather a fan of Pearls bubble tea – worth a look up if you don’t know the sort of milky drink I mean.



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