Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Grab Bags

I bought the happiest bag of coffee at the FreshPlus grocery on 43rd and Duval the other day. This store is right in my neighborhood, and for some reason I am constantly forgetting about it. Last Friday my forgetfulness was overcome by my desire to avoid all the construction by my house, and a plan to go to FreshPlus for beer and coffee beans was born. The main reason I bought these Cafe Copan beans was (obviously) the burlap sack. But the main reason I was attracted to the burlap sack was because my arms were full of beer and I needed something that would be easy to grab.

Did the marketing folk at Cafe Copan ever think about this angle? My guess is, no. But they should. And now I have this nice little burlap sack, and I'd love to do something neat and crafty with it, but I have no ideas. In fact, my best idea so far is to use it as a sack. Not very creative. Any suggestions?

And finally, please note that this company also sells totally cute 4 oz bags of their beans in mini-burlap sacks. And that the coffee is very good.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Happiness in one click

Feeling sad? Feeling bored? Don't know if you can go on? Just click here and wait for the singing to start. You will be treated to the happy sounds of the wee Owl Jolson (singing a song by Al Jolson) from a 1936 Warner Brother's cartoon (synopsis and lyrics here). Josh and I watched this cartoon amongst several dozen others on one of the Looney Tunes DVDs this weekend, and the song still hasn't left my head.

I also discovered that I would love to own every one of the Looney Tunes volumes. So put that on your list.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Rare book librarians: CSI Style

We watched an old episode of CSI last night that focused on a suspicious death in the rare book conservation lab of a Las Vegas historical society. (Painstakingly detailed plot synopsis here. Josh had to put up with many scoffs from me during the episode (note: Josh hates scoffs during CSI). Here are some jewels:

1. The dead woman was the conservator who accidentally killed herself when trying to poison her boss because he found out she was forging documents. Also she was sleeping with her boss. Also she was sleeping with the only other employee we see at the library, a high-functioning autistic man. Conservators = thieving sluts?

2. The curator of the library, the conservator's boss, is a total jerk. He is pretentious and full of scorn for anyone in his library.

3. The autistic librarian was a pretty good guy, although it would be difficult to picture him in a public service role at a library. He does have an indignant speech where he announces that he has a Masters in Library Science that is pretty endearing.

4. A lot of fun talk about PH levels and conservation techniques. Honestly I don't know enough about this to know if they were making it up or not. Me = not a chemistry person.

5. It is apparantly extremely easy to sneak books in and out of this library. Perhaps that is because only three people work there.

6. The phrase "all you have in this business is your reputation" was repeated about a million times.

The moral: Come join the world of rare-books librarianship -- its sure to be a blast!

Saturday, January 28, 2006


So my new system for figuring out which book to read is to head over to my Library Thing page, click on my profile (or look at my random library bot on the side bar of Spacebeer), and get a random listing of my books. The first book listed that I haven't already read, I'm going to take off the shelf and read. This system isn't perfect, as I haven't put all of Josh's books into my Library Thing library, so they won't ever show up. And, honestly, if its a book I really don't feel like reading, I'll probably skip it.

Luckily, the first book that came up in this new system was one that I did actually want to read, even though I must have bought it ten years ago and haven't ever picked it up: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos. I had seen the 1992 movie Mambo Kings with Antonio Banderas and Armand Assante, and remembered thinking it was okay but not super great. I liked all the music stuff in it, and I liked that Desi Arnaz, Jr. played his dad, but the story didn't really stick with me. Maybe that was one of the reasons that I resisted picking up the book. This is, however, another case where the book is awesome and the movie is so-so.

I don't want to say too much about the plot, but structure of the book has us sitting up in a cheap hotel room with Cesar, the older of the two Castillo brothers who came to New York from Cuba to make it as musicians in the 1940s. It is the 1980s now, and he is getting old, in poor health, and the doctors said he would die if he continues to drink. Rather than waste away, he decides to get really drunk until he dies while listening to the old mambo records that he recorded with his brother and the rest of his band, The Mambo Kings, in the 1950s and 60s. I generally don't know that much about Cuba, Mambo or New York in the 1950s, but this book really took me into that world. The structure of the book was well defined into this last night of Cesar's life, but his memories take you back and forth from his childhood to the present. Not in a corny way, though, in a flowing sort of thoughtful way.

It kind of makes me want to watch the movie again, more to see the bandleaders and the mambo greats and kind of flesh out the sound of the book than for the actual plot.

I'm trying to remember where I bought this book, and I can't figure it out from the markings. It apparantly cost $1.19. The front page is incribed "To Shirl from L" and on the very back page someone wrote "avuncular" and "internecine (strife)." I guess Shirl didn't know what avuncular meant....

Random book generator choice number one: A success!

Friday, January 27, 2006

We had our portrait done.

Here we have a lovely drawing of Josh and I, as executed by our favorite almost six-year-old artist whose name starts with a Z. Notice I am big and beautiful and Josh's clothes are see-through. This girl draws with an inner eye, I tells ya.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Another reason to dislike football

The abandoned Motown building getting demolished to make way for Super Bowl parking makes me sad, but what makes me even sadder is that tons of Motown documents were in the building when it was demolished. before and after pictures taken by the Detroit blogger who was interviewed on NPR.

Also note that this isn't the original Motown location, which is still standing. That doesn't really make it any less sad, though...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Fun games for all!

Last night Josh and I were talking about our childhoods and the games we used to like to play. It quickly became apparent that I am very boring.

My top games, besides making clothes for Barbies from scarves and making forts out of couch pillows in the basement:

1. Folding the laundry while pretending that it was my job to fold the laundry really well. I would try to get my sister to play this with me and then get irritated when she didn't fold it well enough. Update: I don't let Josh fold the laundry either.

2. When my cousins would come over to visit (we had three girl cousins that were the same ages and me and my two sisters), I would constantly try to get everyone to play this game I made up where each of us would sit in a room by ourselves with a notepad and write a story about an imaginary place that we would pretend was in that room. Then later we were supposed to get together and share our stories. For some reason, no one ever wanted to play this game except me.

3. Organization. That's right, when I was a kid I made up a game called organization where I would, you know, organize things. I would actually make the suggestion to my sisters that we "play organization." They never wanted to.

4. My sister and I would put a big paper grocery sack on the ground between us and cut pieces of junk mail and scrap paper up into little tiny pieces of confetti. We would pretend that it was our job, and say things like "I hope we get a lunch break soon." I could actually get my sister Jill to play this one with me sometimes. We would rarely take the obvious step of throwing the confetti around the room because I would always want to save it and see if later we could cut more and fill up the whole bag. Occasionally I would agree to putting some of the confetti in a shoe box to balance on a slightly open door so that our littlest sister Hilary would get a head full of confetti when she came into the room.

Feel free to break any of these games out at your next party...

Something I hate:

Shorts with something written on the butt.

If there are words around me, I'm going to read them, and I don't want to read your butt, but I will feel compelled to. Then I will feel gross.

Don't make me read your butts, people.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Take it easy

This weekend I blasted through the sixth of Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins books, Gone Fishin', courtesy of a loan by the gracious and hospitable tjd. This is the first of Mosley's books that I've read, although I saw the movie of "Devil in a Blue Dress" with Denzel Washington, and thought it was pretty great. (And while this book was not Devil in a Blue Dress and it isn't always fair to picture actors when you are reading a book, you all have to admit that Denzel is looking pretty good up there in his role as Easy Rawlins....) After reading Gone Fishin', I'd like to dig into some more of Mosley's books, and lucky for me, this one is actually a super-prequel that jumps back to when Easy and Mouse were just teenagers. It is really more of a coming of age story than a mystery novel, but it is so well written and engaging that I didn't miss the mystery one bit.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Interview is a semi-guilty pleasure magazine of mine (although I haven't renewed my subscription for another year even though it is ridiculously cheap). It has nice pictures, and there are generally some vaguely interesting celebrities in each issue. I'm the kind of person who reads every word of the magazines I subscribe to and every page of the books I buy. Yet I almost always skip Ingrid Sischy's inane "Letter from the Editor" column in Interview. Tonight I was bored and flipping through the latest issue when my eyes skimmed her letter and found this jewel of a sentence (actually two sentences and a lot of hyphens):

"In part, thanks to hip-hop's affection for over-the-top accessorizing and Hollywood's preoccupation with full-on camera-ready red-carpet appearances, these are real good times for houses that specialize in high jewelry. But, in other quarters -- New Orleans, most obviously -- there are thousands of people who have no houses."


Ass Ass

I got a copy of Sarah Vowell's most recent book, Assassination Vacation for Christmas this year. The first thing I noticed about the book was that its title starts with Ass. Then I noticed that the title actually starts with AssAss, which is even funnier. Luckily for you, there is also much more to admire about this extremely readable and adorabley geeky book from everyone's favorite radio personality.

This book follows Vowell through the histories, memorials, museums, statues, and physical remains related to the assassinations of presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. Like everyone, I had a pretty good idea of the circumstances surrounding the assassination of Lincoln, but Garfield and McKinley were pretty much a mystery to me. Still, the tangled web of personalities, plots, and historical circumstance around the handsome and murderous actor, John Wilkes Booth (pictured above) and the eventual death of Lincoln (complete with theatrical "Sic semper tyrannis!") provided several new tidbits of historical information for me. For example, did you know that Robert Todd Lincoln, Lincoln's oldest son, who was at his father's deathbed, also happened to be in the room when Garfield and McKinley were shot? And that Edwin Booth, John Wilkes' brother (and the most popular Shakespearean actor in New York, even after his brother embarrassed the family with the whole assassination thing) actually saved Robert Todd Lincoln's life before Lincoln was shot?

There is even more dirt to dig up on the assassin of President Garfield, the rather crazy Charles Guiteau (the wild-eyed guy to the right, whose archival collection resides at Georgetown and sounds very cool). Like nearly all presidential assassination attempts, this one is mired down in the politics of the day -- namely a fight amongst Republicans over who should get the presidential nomination -- Grant or Garfield. It obviously eventually went to Garfield, which made the old guard Republicans mad. Guiteau was a rather isolated and strange man who had twice lived for extended periods as part of the free-love Oneida cult in upstate New York (although by all accounts he weirded them all out so much that he didn't get to experience much of that free love himself). After being repeatedly turned down in his attempts to secure the position of French Ambassador (for which he was basically the most unqualified candidate in the country), he shot Garfield at a train station (Garfield lived for several months afterwards, but eventually died of blood poisoning, most likely the result of poor doctoring and not Guiteau's bullet) and then went on to represent himself at his trial and basically proved that he was ridiculously insane. Of course, he was put to death anyway.

Finally, this cute, lonely, and humorless anarchist Leon Czolgosz pulled the trigger on President McKinley. He was influenced by the fiery rhetoric of Emma Goldman, and likely was trying to impress her and the other anarchists with his actions. While his actions may have done just that, they also ultimately resulted in Goldman and others being exiled to Russia, and a ban on people holding anarchist beliefs from entering the country. It also catapulted the larger-than-life Teddy Roosevelt into office, as he was McKinley's VP at the time of his death.

Although all the historical minutiae is fascinating, as an archivist, my favorite part of the book is Vowell's appreciation for the people who work with the physical evidence of this history on a day-to-day basis: The volunteer docents that show people through the birthplaces of presidents and assassins, the forgotten statues memorializing forgotten politicians, and then bone fragments and bullet casings that have been carefully preserved for years. As Vowell writes:

"Even though I am currently the only pilgrim paying my respects to the relics in this out-of-the-way museum, it suddenly feels pretty crowded in here, what with all the people who made this exhibit possible -- from John Wilkes Booth on down to the intern who probably typed the labels -- breathing down my neck. I can't make up my mind which step in the process is weirder, the murder or this display, unless the weirdest step of all is taking a fourteen-dollar cab ride to look at the display about the murder."

So, five thumbs up for this one, and I'm happy to loan it to anyone who wants to give it a read.

(Have you all noticed this new concordance feature on Amazon? Its basically awesome. Also it gives you crazy stats like how many words per dollar and per ounce in each book. I love stuff like that.)

Thursday, January 19, 2006


I saw a copy of a special edition of Newsweek in our break room at work that was all about the cinema, so I grabbed it and brought it home for my dear film-watching robot to glance through. Once it's home, I notice the big "2000: A New Millennium" banner at the top. Then Josh points out the date on the bottom: Summer 1998. How does a eight year old magazine end up in the pile of browsable magazines in the break room? I know I work in an archives, but that is a little ridiculous.

Geek Out!

You have been dreaming about an internet radio station where you can listen to nothing but science and math related songs. You awake with visions of children's educational tunes, hilarious parodies of popular songs with science-related lyrics, and actual songs by real bands with a science theme. Take my word for it, you have.

Well, my dear readers, your prayers have been answered. Or, if you just want to look at a list of all the songs in their database, rock your geek self over here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Me vs. the Beautiful People

I was talking with Josh a little bit ago about a friend-of-a-friend that I don't know very well but that everyone else seems to really really like. I found myself telling Josh that I instinctively don't like this guy because he is too good looking and too popular. I have trouble taking really popular, attractive people seriously, and while I don't hate them as a default, I never find myself really liking them either. There is something kind of untrustworthy about someone who is so easily liked.

Basically, I guess I'm saying that if you are my friend you are attractive, but not too attractive; friendly, but not overly popular; and together, but not overly confident. And if there is something a little weird, uncomfortable, or goofy about you, I probably liked you right away.

Image honorably borrowed from Daniel Clowes. I think it's from David Boring

Hollywood Nights

Watching a two hour episode of American Idol = Wasting your life.

Watching a two hour episode of American Idol and drinking bourbon = A rockin' party.

Guess which one I chose?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


After four days of standing behind a booth and watching a sea of mathematicians flow around me, I've come up with some completely unverifiable and yet undoubtedly true observations:

1. 76% of all male mathematicians over the age of 55 have remarkably long beards.

2. 76% of all male mathematicians under the age of 40 have remarkably long ponytails.

3. Many of the male mathematicians between the ages of 40 and 55 have both beards and ponytails. They are in a transitory phase.

4. I saw a few young male mathematicians who wore their ponytails up high on their head. (Think more "cheerleader" than "sensitive smart guy"). I found this was a disturbing trend and I hope it stays underground.

5. Maybe about 30% of mathematicians are women of varying ages. I found them generally hard to generalize.

6. Mathematicians will go crazy for chocolate. I put a few pieces on top of my candy dish of hard candies whenever the crowd around me dwindled, and it rocketed business back up. I saw grown men pick through my candy dish for chocolate, and then take a few pieces without saying hi, asking me about my display, or taking one of my brochures. At least take a brochure, dudes. Seriously.

7. Despite all these semi-snarky fashion statements, mathematicians are the most friendly, polite, weird, and socially unusual group I've ever been around, with the possible exception of librarians. In fact, I think the two populations have a lot in common: They both attract vaguely "nerdy" individuals, they both encourage extreme specialization and knowledge of arcane subjects, and in both professions you can pretty much wear whatever you want all the time.

Strangely enough, the mid-winter conference for the American Library Association is being held in San Antonio this week, just one week after the mathematics conference. San Antonio is being overrun by friendly geeks!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Mathin' it up, Texas style

Conferences are hard hard work. After three and a half days of standing on a concrete floor behind my exhibit in the vendor hall, just about every muscle in my feet, legs, and back is killing me. There are a lot of reasons to admire and appreciate Martin Luther King, Jr., but right now, my major reason is that I get a day off today and I can decompress at home instead of going off to work.

Although the Riverwalk is sometimes cheesy and a little crowded, San Antonio in general is just lovely. I can't believe I'm such a dork that I don't go down there more often to visit, particularly since one of my best friends, two aunts and uncles, and a smattering of cousins live down there. I'm sometimes a rather lazy visitor.

One of the best parts of my stay, besides visiting with said friend and relatives, was staying at the Menger Hotel (home of the awesome pink peacock wallpaper pictured above). This hotel was built in 1859 (maybe? I'm too lazy to look it up, but that sounds right) and is located right next to the good ole' Alamo. I stayed in the historic section of the hotel, in a room that overlooked a lovely courtyard garden with a fountain. Hotel history has it that Oscar Wilde spent a lot of time in that garden when he was visiting San Antonio. In addition to Oscar, such greats as Mae West and Teddy Roosevelt hung out at the Menger as well. Since it was one of the fanciest hotels in town for a long time, pretty much any movie star, singer, politician, or dignitary that came through San Antonio in olden-days would have hitched their pony at the Menger. Also, its haunted, but I didn't see any ghosts. Unless the ghosts were in the next room and watching HBO too loudly and constantly flushing their toilets.

A pictorial overview of the trip in all its glory can be found here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

She's Leaving Home.... Again

It seems like I just got back from my holiday travel, and now I'm heading out the door again. This time I'll just be taking a short drive down the road to San Antonio for a big mathematics conference. Since I have my new gigantic memory card for my camera, I might just come back with hundred of photos of The Menger Hotel where I'll be staying. Or else some math stuff. Or both!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Unjust Boots

Yesterday, after a really long day at work, I escaped from the building and walked out to my car. On it, I found a giant orange boot and a big notice telling me I was a non-paying deadbeat. The thing is, I've never ever had a ticket on this car. Not one. I called the University parking folks and the lady told me I have over a hundred dollars of unpaid tickets. Not so, I say. I bet those were from the previous owner, as the University ties these to the license number and these plates came with the car when I bought it in March. The lady didn't know. She gave me a bit of the run around but eventually sent a surly dude to come take the boot off. Of course this made me cry, but luckily I had oversized sunglasses on and no one saw. The thing is, I am totally a good girl and if I got a ticket (which I probably wouldn't ever get), I would pay it right away. And I hate being in trouble, even when it isn't my fault.

There is a happy ending though:

I went home and wrote an appeal to the parking dudes, and this morning when I got to work I see that two guys worked on the problem and figured something out (its complicated, but they took the tickets off my name, kept them on the previous owners name, and although my plate number will still trigger a boot call by the university police, when they call in the dispatcher will tell them that I am "unbootable.") That is the word they used. Unbootable, ya'll.

Unless I get my own tickets, of course.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Off with her head!

Over the holidays I was sitting around with Josh's family and some commercials for a History Channel show about Henry VIII came on. I naturally unleashed upon them a great gush of enthusiasm for Henry the VIII, his six wives, and his three children. I'm really no expert on the guy, but I sure do like reading books about him. Josh's sister, Katie, just happened to have Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl in her trunk and loaned it to me on the spot. I'm so glad she did, as it added a whole new character to the Henry VIII drama in my mind. Not a whole lot is known about Mary Boleyn, the famous Anne Boleyn's sister. She may have been older than Anne, and she might have been a little younger. Either way she almost certainly had an affair with Henry VIII before her sister did, and most likely had a son by him while he was still married to his first wife, the long-suffering Katherine of Aragon.

This book is told from Mary's perspective and paints a rather unsympathetic picture of the Tudor court and its most influential member, Anne Boleyn. The book is a little romantic and sometimes kind of silly, but it is extremely readable (especially if you are into this kind of thing). Sometimes the sibling rivalry and not-so-subtle comments on the treatment of women at court can get heavy-handed, but if you don't take the whole thing too seriously you will find an engrossing and intriguing read in your hands.

And in case you were wondering, Mary Boleyn eventually married a lowly soldier for love (which really pissed Anne and the rest of her family off). She also kept her head off the chopping block, even though her sister and brother were both executed to make way for Henry VIII's third wife, Jane Seymour. Later, during the long and stable reign of Anne's daughter Elizabeth, Mary's children made some good marriages and ended up ruling over a powerful English dynasty.

Three cheers for historical fiction!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Hot reads

Now that we are back in town, I am once again ready to skip down memory lane in the form of analyzing the books I read oh-so-many years ago, or in this case: In 1999.

Let's put these books in context, shall we. 1999 was my last year of college; it was the first year I had a real, grown-up, full-time job; and it was the year that Josh and I started dating. Kind of an eventful year. Does all this excitement play out in the reading list? Let's examine it a little more closely:

1. Obviously I was in a Shakespeare class. I don't think I've re-read any of these plays since 1999, although I still have my book of Shakespeares complete works and I'd like to dig into them again. This was a strange class because it was taught by a professor whose wife was a teacher at my high school. I took a Shakespeare class from her my junior or senior year of high school that was oodles better than the class I took from her husband four years later. He was kind of a jerk. I still like Shakespeare, though.

2. I was also in a class on the British Novel that rocked. I think I ended up auditing the class because I already had enough credits and I didn't want to have to write the papers, but I really wanted to read the books. I'm glad I did because they were all pretty great. Especially Virginia Woolf's The Waves (which I don't think I would have read or understood outside of a class), Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day, and Hollingsworth's The Swimming Pool Library.

3. After graduation I made some strange reading choices (Seven Arrows? The Book of Green Tea?), but I also read some books I still love (all the Kosinski stuff -- he is strange, kind of a faker, and sometimes irritating, but I still love him). And The Beautiful Room is Empty is so good -- I'd really like to go back and re-read the Edmund White I've read and seek out his books I haven't seen yet.


And, a reminder: If you have any bills or letters to send out, do it today before the stamp prices go up two cents tomorrow and you have to go to the post office to get those little two cent stamps before you can send any letters out. A postage hike really helps me to catch up on my correspondence.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

L-town, the cute animal perspective

Gus wants you to look at our pictures from Lincoln. You wouldn't argue with this face would you? Gus particularly recommends the pictures of fog (everyone loves coming out of a bar to find the world shrouded in thick fog. The fun part is trying to get to the grocery store in 10 minutes before they stop selling beer, when you don't really remember where it is and you can't really see. Don't worry, only the passenger took pictures.) Gus also loves the boob bongos.

If you still don't want to see them, maybe you should ask Bartleby here. You have to trust him because he is wearing such a cute sweater and he is a dog.

His favorite Lincoln moments were New Year's Eve [with a special nod to Josh's new beer drinking move], the Papers show at Knickerbockers (Papers are great and you should listen to their songs now), and anything involving cats.

Especially these guys:
Simon, Tigger and Hayward!

Morning Math

Half a bottle of wine = good

Stiff bourbon and water drinks = great

Put them together = awesome!

The next morning = headache


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Photos from the West

Just in case you would like to pore in detail over the first part of our holiday travels, I have uploaded all my western nebraska photos to my Flickr site. I actually got some nice out the window shots (like this pond with geese above), the sugar factory, trains, lots of cute kitties, cute puppies, cute kids, cute babies, and a whole series of shots involving a weird head massager. I also caught Chimney Rock going up Josh's nose.

After all that, I'll leave you with a shot of Josh's sister's back yard:Tomorrow: The East! Including an extensive series of drunken fog shots, a small dance party, and New Year's Eve. Plus a dog with a sweater on!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Deal of a lifetime

I love my bed. After two and a half weeks of sleeping in a series of spare beds, my own personal bed is the best ever. I would like to go back there, but I have a million errands. Anyone want to go to the store or unpack or go to the bank or pick up the mail or wash my car for me? I just made some good christmas coffee and I would give you one sip in payment.