Tuesday, February 28, 2006

My job rocks. Moon rocks.

What did you guys do at work today? File some stuff? Meet with people? Read some documents? Pretty boring, huh?

Guess what I did today?

I watched an astronaut give Walter Cronkite a moon rock. Also Ladybird Johnson and Liz Carpenter were there and Cronkite walked right by me.

And if you are dying to see a moon rock, it will be on display at my work starting next week. (It's really more of a moon pebble, but it is from the Apollo 11 landing, which is cool)

Monday, February 27, 2006

Squirrel Crack?

There must be something really tasty in the parking lot outside my window, as I just counted seven squirrels busily licking the ground out there.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Annual Birthday Brawl

Best movie quote of Friday night:

"The fact of the matter is that neither of you remember what started this ridiculous annual birthday brawl!"

From John Ford's Donovan's Reef (1963), starring John Wayne and Lee Marvin, which is good all the way through, but which is particularly awesome for the first fifteen minutes or so. I've never seen so much beer bottle humor in my life.

(And isn't the Mexican poster for it awesome? Yes, yes it is.)

Friday, February 24, 2006

I am Soulfully Intense

If you like old advertisements and graphic design as much as me, then waste a little Friday time at the Fulton Street Trade Card Collection of the Brooklyn Public Library. More info on the card pictured above is here.

This one is also great. And the dog in this one is kind of disturbing.

Okay, I'll stop now. Except to say that I am soulfully intense.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

All the Pretty Horses

The latest randomly read book was the truly wonderful All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy. This was the first of his books that I've read -- Josh has been gushing about how great Blood Meridian was, and McCarthy has long been on my list of things to check out. In fact, this book is so enthralling that I know I can't do it justice with my rambling sort of review, so I won't even try. Other than to say: Great, and a book I kept thinking about going home to read all day while I was at work.

Just now when I was looking around for a picture of the book, I realized that Billy Bob Thornton sophomore directorial effort was a version of this book staring Matt Damon, with Penelope Cruz. Hmmm. It does also have Sam Shepard in it, and I think Billy Bob is a-okay, but I imagine I would be disappointed with this effort. I'd still be curious to see it though, and I could really see Matt Damon as the title character, although he is a little too old (even back in 2000).

Again: Great.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Wake up!

The interior lining of an envelope, postmarked 1975. Why can't everything look this awesome?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Me so hungee!

I have a doctor's appointment this afternoon (at 1:20, in fact). No problem. Except that they want me to fast from midnight until after my appointment so they can do some bloodwork on me. A little known fact is that I have usually eaten like three times at least before 1:20 in the afternoon. I had a giant dinner of celebration last night, plus some cereal before I went to bed, but I'm already feeling the effects of no morning cereal.

About half the websites I looked at said you couldn't drink coffee or tea either when fasting for a cholesterol test, but the other half said it would be okay and I've decided to listen to them. I don't want to have a killer caffeine headache on top of woozy stomach and light head.

I should have made a damn morning appointment...


an update:

Fasting was not as hard as I thought it would be. It also saved me a lot of time what with not making a lunch the night before, not eating breakfast, and not taking a lunch break. I think I've hit upon a fabulous new time management plan.

The first few hours of being awake and not eating sucked, then I got into a zone where I just drank like ten-thousand glasses of water. I also had one cup of green tea first thing in the morning and one cup of coffee at work. The doctor and the lab tech were both totally impressed by my fasting skills. When I ate some leftover awesome fish chowder at 2:30 it tasted like the best food ever. Then Josh came home a few minutes later with sandwiches and I ate that too. In a little bit, I think I'll eat again. Gotta make up for lost time...

Monday, February 20, 2006

Book Report

I recently expanded the personal rules of my Library Thing catalog to include all of Josh's books that are mixed in with mine (which is, basically, all the books he has already read. Unread books are in the forbidden closet of mystery and are thusly not catalogued). The excellent by-product of this decision is that his books now come up in my random book generator and, therefore, are included in my "what to read next" system.

And that brings us to Donald Antrim's The Verificationist (2000). I'd read Antrim's Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World a few years ago, and really enjoyed it. I'd always meant to pick up this one (and his second novel, The Hundred Brothers, which we also have), but never did because it was Josh's book and I was too excited to read my own books.

I liked The Verificationist even more than Antrim's first novel. This is the somewhat surreal tale of a psychologist on faculty at an institute in a smallish New England town. He has organized a gathering of his colleagues at a local pancake house, and during the course of the evening he stands up and starts to throw a piece of cinnamon toast at another therapist. His father-figure type colleague comes up behind him and holds him up off the ground in a giant bear-hug. Our hero then proceeds to have an out-of-body experience that continues through the next 150 pages of the novel. As he floats around the pancake house we learn a lot about the narrator, his colleagues, and his family. The book has an engaging and complex sense of observation, both of the everyday and the completely bizarre, that is compelling, unusual, and strangely moving. Oh, and its also sometimes very funny.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Rock and Roll!

The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years is filled with wonderful moments: Ozzie making breakfast, the assless pants of Randy O from Odin, Paul Stanley giving his entire interview while laying in bed with some model-type groupies, the hair, the hair, and the hair.

The best part of all, though, was when Nadir D'Priest, the lead singer of London is on stage bantering with the audience and a sheet of fog starts moving out over the stage. His reaction:

"Oh my God. Not more fog."

Not more fog, indeed, my friends. Not more fog, indeed.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Get the Led out

Not enough live concert footage from the 1960s and 1970s coming out of your compu-box? Maybe you should be listening to more Vault Radio. The playlist comes from a ton of recordings made by Bill Graham and his concert promotion company, Bill Graham Presents. I have been playing air guitar in my office all day long.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

If it takes less than 20 seconds, its not a waste of time

Perhaps instead of working, I'll just play this all day. My average seems to be about 11 seconds, but I once got up to 15.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I need my own institute

The most recent stop in the random book-reading game was Who Got Einstein's Office? Eccentricity and Genius at the Institute for Advanced Study by Ed Regis (1987). I bought this book a year ago or so -- the Institute for Advanced Study comes up a lot in my mathematical archives work, and this looked like a readable and informal history of the place. Of course, after buying it, all my other books looked much more interesting and approachable. Then my new random book reading plan took hold and this guy bumped up to the top of the list.

The Institute for Advanced Study was established in Princeton, New Jersey in the thirties by a educational reform specialist and a wealthy brother and sister with a ton of money from the sale of the family department store business just before the stock market crash. It is dedicated to the "disinterested pursuit of knowledge" -- there are no labs, no experiments, and no equipment. Just a lot of blackboards, desks, books, and thinkers. The Institute is set up with a small, permanent faculty, and a rotating set of one and two year "worker" appointments. No one has to teach, publish, or produce anything. They just think and write about things that are so small or so big that you can't see them, you can only write equations to predict what they might be like. They get to eat at the (apparently really awesome) IAS cafeteria and live in the on-site housing. There are lovely woods surrounding the campus that are perfect for thoughtful walks.

Einstein was the first permanent faculty member, and he stayed at the Institute until his death. In fact, the picture above of Einstein's office was taken shortly after his death and is just like he left it. So who got his office? This is answered pretty quickly -- first an astronomer, then a mathematician. Its still in use and hasn't been preserved as a shrine or anything like that.

This book was very readable and interesting. Because the Institute is pretty far-reaching in its pursuit of knowledge, the book is a little all over the place. You get a nice smattering of biographical and personality profiles of major scientists (Goedel, Einstein, Oppenheimer), a gloss over some major mathematical and physical theories (superstring theory, Cantor sets, cellular automata), and a look into some of the politics, advantages, and disadvantages of the Institutes system. Since the book was written in the late eighties, some of the "cutting-edge" information is outdated. The author also has an irritating habit of trying to informalize his prose to the point of calling John von Neumann "good time Johnny" ("Johnny" is pictured here with the computer he invented while at the IAS) and referring to J. Robert Oppenheimer as "Oppie."

I think that most people would find this to be an interesting read, and not just math archivists and science nerds. I'd like to see an updated volume, though. I also like someone to start up an institute for me and pay me a nice salary to just sit around and think and occassionally get coffee and talk with other people who are thinking. This may or may not work for every scientist, but I think it would work well for me.

Advanced studies are just so.... advanced.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Vals, Suckas

I'm opening my heart to you! Can you dig it?

Sunday, February 12, 2006


My favorite movie line of the weekend, from Jean Cocteau's "The Testament of Orpheus", spoken by a time-traveling man who had been stuck in the 18th century:

"In order to smoke in 1770, I had to pretend to have invented the cigarette. They said it was an absurd invention and that it would never catch on."

Saturday, February 11, 2006

On why I hate teeth whitening

When Professor Romance asks about something, you can't deny him the answer. You can, however, ignore him for months, forget he asked the question, and then grudgingly answer it the next time he asks. That is my move, though, so don't steal it.

The people in my family have a tendency to pretty much like everything and go with the flow, with the exception of a handful of people, concepts, or places that we individually can't stand. We will talk for hours about why we can't stand them and irritate our friends and neighbors with the details of this hatred. My mother, for example, hates Britney Spears, people traveling to mars, and this mexican restaurant in Lincoln called ChiChis that is now closed. (She hates them because they put too much ice in her margarita and they wouldn't bring her a new one. Before that happened we would go there at least once a month, after that happened we never set foot inside ChiChis again. You would think maybe that led to their downfall, but they were actually open for like seven more years.) My dad hates Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Roxy Music. And probably some other stuff... And, um, I'm not sure what my sisters hate. Okay, this generalization may only apply to me and my mother.

What I hate is: Henry Rollins, Hummers, those Gatorade commercials, and teeth whitening. Those other things are rather self-explanatory, but perhaps I should elaborate on teeth whitening:

Basically I hate this because it is a false problem that is being marketed like it is a serious issue. Where before people would only get their teeth whitened if they were a movie star or had some kind of tooth deformity, now everyone is getting teeth whitening treatments from their dentists or their local drug store. These people are all thinking about the whiteness of their teeth and comparing it to others. Where before they wouldn't even notice a coffee stain, they now think it is unsightly and should be taken care of. In an expensive and time-consuming matter. That can't be good for your teeth. Just think about it -- all this bleach and these lasers and things. You don't want those on your tooth enamel. They will weaken it! So this stuff makes your teeth look whiter, but then makes them more vulnerable to decay in the future. Its like the whole thing is some kind of dental conspiracy!

Plus, I once had a dentist lecture me for ten minutes about how I should have my teeth whitened, and when I kept saying I wasn't interested he made me watch a video about teeth whitening while I was all strapped down in the chair. What a jerk. A teeth-whitening jerk.

Dude probably left the examination room to jump in his Hummer and drink a ChiChis margarita on Mars with Henry Rollins and Britney Spears. All with their white teeth. The jerks.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Just do the Math

I found these awesome word problems written by elementary school students in one of my collections this morning. Apparantly including an illustration was optional, because this cat was the only one I found. Ah, the miracle of life (and the miracle of multiplication!)

"I had 6 insects. 7 of my insects died because there had been a baby born. But then I found 6 insects. Five were on my shoe and 12 were in the bathroom. But all of them died. Then I found 6 insects in a field. Each insect had 1 baby. All of the adults and babies died. How many insects do I have now?"

"6 punk rockers from different bands all got together to practice their raps. They called on a contest to see who was best. All of the 6 where playing away. 1 group got tired and died that day then the contest was over. 1 group said 'how many rappers are going to play.' You figure this out and tell those rappers so they'll find out."

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Let's all go to Glasgow!

Don't you want to know more about:

  • The emergence of Halloween in different countries
  • Tensions between Halloween and traditional religious events
  • Halloween and Americanisation
  • Media representations of Halloween
  • The economics of Halloween
  • Halloween and ethnology
  • Halloween and tourism
  • Halloween and postmodernity
  • The politics and policing of Halloween
  • Halloween and moral panics

Let's all go study Halloween!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Wet books, ya'll

The carpets have officially been dried, the padding replaced, and the whole damn place steamcleaned. There are still some stale smells floating around, but I think I can treat them with baking soda and positive thinking. The main victims in this tragedy are a bunch of my American Archivist journals (which I hadn't really read yet because sometimes I'm not so good about keeping up on the archival theory), a few books about going to Las Vegas (which I don't really need as much now that I have already been there), and two copies of my senior thesis from college. The thesis is still readable and got pretty dry, and it was really the only irreplaceable thing. I also lost a few pieces of bedroom furniture that were actually cardboard boxes, including a bookshelf and my nightstand. Note: cardboard furniture does not hold up to water. Now I just have to put all my damn shit away. And buy a nightstand.

The final victim is my big toe on my left foot. I guess squatting down and sopping up water for three hours can do weird things to your toe nerves and now my toe feels like it is asleep all the time. This makes me do a funny clomp walk that amuses my husband. My hope is that the tingle toe will dissipate with time...

Click here for not-so-exciting flood pics.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Orangey and Coconutty

Let us forget this sudden flooding and the fans blowing away in our apartment and hearken back to the dry Sunday morning of a few days ago when I made a fabulous breakfast, including a fresh loaf of Orange Coconut Bread and a delectable fruit plate. And coffee. Yes, let us just focus our minds back on the coconut and forget all this flooding....

Monday, February 06, 2006

A bad way to clean your kitchen floor:

1. Have your husband wake you up at 1:30 in the morning because there is water all over the floor in the kitchen.

2. Take every towel in the house and try to sop up the water. Realize that more water is coming in from under the wall. Move all the furniture off of the tile.

3. Call the emergency maintenance pager for your landlord. Wait for them to call back. Wait. Wait. Call again. Wait some more. Have your husband call about twenty times over the next hour while you desperately look for more towels.

4. Find a bucket and start sweeping water into a dustpan and then emptying it into the bucket. This works but is very slow. More water is coming in.

5. Husband will call landlord and leave desperate and pissed message on their machine. Notice that water is now coming up from under the carpet in husband's closet of books and movies and records. Continue sopping up water as husband moves said media into the middle of the floor.

6. Now water is starting to come up in your bedroom closet and up underneath your bookshelves in the bedroom. Move all clothes off the affected side of the closet. Start moving books too.

7. Continue the sop and sweep method of water control. Continue to not hear from landlord. Husband tries knocking on the door of the apartment behind you and no one answers. There is also water running from under the door and out into the hallway.

8. In total desperation, have husband call 911 after trying the non-emergency number and being put on hold for fifteen minutes. Firemen will come.

9. The nice firemen will break into the apartment behind you, which is apparently empty. They stop the water (hose under sink got loose and sprayed everything) and even shop vac up a bunch of it in the empty apartment (firemen are prepared for everything). Now that new water isn't coming in, the sop and sweep method eventually clears the tile of water.

10. Go to bed around five, but don't fall asleep until six. Wake up at seven when the maintenance guy calls (his pager had fallen under the desk in his bedroom and he couldn't hear it). Tell guy the story, and tell him you will call him back after you get some more sleep.

11. Sleep for another hour, then wake up with the anxious jitters. Drink coffee, type listy blog entry and wait for hubby to get up so the maintenance guys can get in here and do their thing.

12. Waste a whole day of vacation moving your furniture around, washing towels, and trying to nap.

But the tile is super clean in our kitchen, if you can call something clean that has been submerged in gross brownish water that came through the wall. Also, my feet and legs won't stop tingling from three hours of squatting and wiping up water, and my hands feel all gross from three hours of being wet and wringing out towels.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Art Corner

Much like Whitney Houston, I believe the children are our future, and to that end, I am compelled to share the drawings of the future. I love this group, although I'm not exactly sure who is pictured. Green suits with lots of horizontal lines will soon be the rage for bald men. You heard it here first, folks.

Friday, February 03, 2006

That Bringas Woman

The random book list generator experiment continues! This time my LibraryThing page told me that I should read That Bringas Woman (or La de Bringas if you want the Spanish title) by the 19th century Spanish author Benito Perez Galdos -- nicely pictured in this painting by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida.

I remember buying this book at Half Price, but I don't remember why I thought I should buy it. I'd never heard of Galdos, never heard of the book, and I don't even really remember reading the back of it for a plot synopsis. I think maybe it was only a dollar and I liked the picture on the front. Once I got it home and realized it was a classic Spanish novel from 1884, my lukewarm passion for the book cooled even further, and it sat lonely on my shelf until the random book reading plan of 2005 brought it to my attention.

To my surprise, I really really enjoyed this book. A lot of that has to do with the excellent translation by Catherine Jagoe, in combination with her skillful introduction and footnotes. The problem with some 19th century literature, particularly that which was originally written in another language, is that they are all the time referring to events that you don't know about, alluding to figures you have never heard of, and trying out new literary techniques that you can't recognize because they don't come through in the translation. Jagoe solves these problems with some supplementary material, including a timeline at the beginning of the book that puts Galdos' life and literary output alongside his contemporaries in the world of literature, and against historical events that occurred during his life. Her introduction (which I read when I was halfway through the book for some reason, usually I wait until I get to the end, but I felt like I wanted a little more context) and her note on the translation provide even more context. And best of all, at the end of the book she gives us snippets of criticism about the book that summarize its reception from 1884, when it was released, through the present day. Maybe its just the geeky English major in me, but I love that stuff.

Galdos was a very popular author in Spain at the time that this book came out -- in fact, it is a bit of a mystery why he is so overlooked in the literary canon of today. Jagoe seems to suggest that part of his disappearance has to do with Franco's dislike of Galdos' leftist leanings. This book is part of a group of books that feature interlocking characters (although not really a series), and with La de Bringas, Galdos shows the influence of Zola, veers away from his regular style and dips his toes in the pool of Realism. This more informal observation of everyday life, peppered with colloquialisms, inner thoughts, and lots and lots of detail, was something different than what Spanish audiences were used to. And, if the criticism in the back of the book is any indication, not all of them liked it right away.

Okay, so what is the story about? It is kind of a morality tale about Rosalia Bringas, the wife of a middle-class civil servant who lives in the Royal Palace with her family. She wants to rise in the social ranks, which apparently involves wearing a great deal of expensive and frivolous clothes. The problem is that her husband is a bit cheap and really doesn't believe in going into debt to buy clothing. Rosalia takes matters into her own hands, obtains some loans, and buys a bunch of clothes which she then hides from her husband, who is very busy anyway working on a complicated memorial picture made entirely of human hair. One loan turns into two loans, and Rosalia is soon "under the intoxicating influence of an overdose of fripperies." And has no way of paying the loans back. Her only options are to sleep with one of her husband's rich friends so that he will give her money, or ask one of her relations who she knows has the money if she will loan it to her. The problem with the relation is that her sister and this one rich gentleman are living in sin together which has put all kinds of shame on the whole family. Rosalia's decision says a lot about her character and leads to the climax of the novel.

Okay, maybe that was more than you wanted to hear about this overlooked Spanish novel from 1884. Still, I thought it was good enough that I want to seek out some of Galdos' other novels. Plus I have this whole idea in my head for an essay that would compare this novel with Ibsen's play "A Doll's House," that came out just five years before this (thank you, timeline).

What will the random reading generator bring up next? Only time will tell!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Quick Cooking Tip!

If you have nicely marinated a pork tenderloin, browned it in a pan on the stove, put the pan in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes, removed the tenderloin and let it sit for five minutes, and then want to put the pan in the sink don't grab the handle of the pan with your bare hand. It will burn, you will feel stupid, and you will have a painful blister on your pinky for the next week reminding you of your error.


Culturate Yourself!

If you really needed an excuse to come to my work and walk up and down the hallway outside my office, you can come check out our new exhibit -- Marching On: Independent African American Films From 1935-1950. And after that, go see some of the free films being shown around town in conjunction with the exhibit. There are some really nice movie posters, stills, old film reels and other things to be seen around here.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Everything's coming up Kristy

While there may occasionally be some minor downsides to having an unemployed husband, one of the many silver linings is that the employed wife does not have to go to the grocery store, figure out what to buy, or cook dinner. I actually kind of like cooking dinner, but I hate making the list and I hate hate hate going to the grocery store.

So, the first thing that comes into my mind when dear Dr. Mystery tells me he is going to be working a temp job three days this week was that one of those days was grocery day. And that means I would have to go to the grocery store.

I can honestly say I haven't been to the grocery store, except to run in and buy beer or tampons, more than four times in the past 14 months. That is a pretty good run. I've cooked dinner (besides instant soup or sandwiches or noodles with cheese) maybe five times. I have been a very spoiled lady.

This week, that all changes: I made the list, I just got back from the store, and tonight there will be honey-hoisin pork tenderloin with sesame seeds on the dinner table when my working man gets home. And, even though I was dreading it, the grocery store actually wasn't that bad. I even had the amazing luck of missing a giant rainstorm while I was in the store and not getting my groceries all wet when I took them to the car.

All that and I even had time to figure out our taxes this afternoon. Another benefit of an unemployed husband: bigger tax return.

Now I've got to start marinating my tenderloin.

Either senile or peckish

Octopus takes liking to sub off coast.

The best line: "It's unusual for something like this to happen, a giant Pacific octopus attacking an underwater robot."