September 06, 2009

The Memory of Running

So, I have come into the possession of a bicycle and have decided that since I do not live all that far from campus I should start riding my new (to me) bicycle to school. (Its nice that school has started so that I'm not just on campus tooling around the library coming up with things for myself to do or read. Although, I did really enjoy my Summer of Proust.)

The day before school started, I went out and bought my school supplies, which this year included a helmet, lock, and pump so that I could inflate my tires to the proper pressure. (I would also like to acquire a basket, so that I could stop carrying the old backpack I've had since undergrad and instead carry, full-time, my new fancy-pants school bag I got when I was back in Iowa. I'm still on the look out for a nice one.) And, then when I got home from work I took myself for a little ride. And, while I was riding, it occurred to me that I probably haven't ridden a bike (that wasn't stationary) since I lived outside of Kansas City. (For those of you at home keeping score, that's eleventy-thousand years because I am Methuselah.) Lucky for me, "its like riding a bike" is an adage for a reason.

Monday, I had to be on campus by 9, so I left around 8:15 because I didn't know exactly how long it would take and I was shocked at how quickly it took me to get on campus. I also became aware of a hill that I previously had been unaware of. (Nothing like the Pentacrest, for the Iowa City folks out there, but enough for this little fatty to being huffing and puffing after it.) Tuesday, I went in early to get myself situated. It was great. I biked 3 of the 5 days (the other two days I didn't because of assorted off-campus errands that needed to be run prior to my appearance on campus.)

Did I mention it was great?

So, I took myself on a little recreational bike ride this evening. It was also great. I explored the little residential neighborhood behind my complex. It was nice. And, it reminded me of this book I read awhile back. is a book about an overweight guy who keeps to himself who, after a family tragedy, ends up riding his bike across the country to identify his sister's body. I enjoyed it.

August 29, 2009

End User License Agreement

Stephen Fry has written a book about poetry. I remember reading a blurb about it when it first came out. For some reason, I thought it was just going to be a guide to poetry appreciation.

I am sorry, Mr. Fry, for misunderstanding your intent before cracking the cover of your book. But, now that I have, I know that it is something so much better than a book on poetry appreciation. It is a technical manual for writing poetry.

The book has a foreword followed immediately by a section entitled, "How to Read This Book", which contains three rules:

1. Take Your Time
2. Don't be Afraid
3. Always carry a notebook (Fry 2005: xxv)

Mr. Fry tells us that these rules are, in essence, the manual's end user license agreement. You have to agree in order to continue. He even gives you a place to check "Agree" or "Disagree". Beginning this book is my last fling with summer. And, I whole-heartedly agree.

June 10, 2009

What should I make for dinner?

Tyler Cowen has made me laugh with his book Discover Your Inner Economist. But, he has also made me think about markets, narratives, efficiency and the little things that I can do to improve my quality of life. I've already discussed his chapter on high culture. In a later chapter, he also makes some interesting observations about food. Some of his suggestions, I am going to implement and see how they work for me.

I usually operate under the notion that if I can make it at home, I don't want to eat it at a restaurant. I like this guideline for two reasons. First, I enjoy a challenge in the kitchen. Sure, there are other people out there that make a much nicer pumpkin curry. People with a proper background in the art of curry-making who learned from their Mother or Grandmother or Aunties instead of the internet, but my pumpkin curry is still pretty good and it is a lot of fun to hollow out a pumpkin and then to serve guests a meal in the pumpkin shell. The second reason is that I feel that eating out should be a celebration of exploration. I like my trips to restaurants to be interesting, challenging and fun and part of the fun for me is eating something I've never tried before, or something that I've never seen cooked that way before, or eating something that I always mess up at home.

Some of Dr. Cowen's suggestions are in line with my "eating out should be an adventure" guideline. He suggests that when you go to a fancy restaurant, you should order the most disgusting sounding thing on the menu. His idea? Anyone can roast a reasonably serviceable chicken. Not everyone can make Cow's brains taste like something of which you want to take a second bite.

Another suggestion he makes is that when you eat at home, you should eat healthfully. This makes perfect sense, at least for me. Since I am the one making a majority of my meals, I should focus on the skills the create healthy and tasty meals. An obvious bonus of this is that if I only eat healthy things at home, I should end up healthier in the long run. But, the other bonus is if you leave the junk food for outside the house, after you've had the awesome plate of cow's brains (after a started including some foie gras, of course) when someone offers you Baked Alaskan for dessert, you don't have to say no.

So, I look forward to implementing some of these suggestions, especially now that summer and CSA season is here.

June 01, 2009

That one, because its the least creepy in this room: Or, Metropolitan Museum of Art

So, I'm reading this book, Discover Your Inner Economist by Tyler Cowen. Chapter four is called "Possess All the Great Art Ever Made. I enjoyed the first three chapters, which talked about things like incentives and how to use them to control the world and, just in general what economists do. Chapter four, among other things, has some great suggestions for how to make museum going experiences more rewarding. (Also, it reminded me a little of How Proust Can Change Your Life, so the rest of the book could be awful, but I'm still going to say that I like it.)

One of Cowen's suggestions include letting go of any pretense you may have about how much you love high culture and how knowledgeable you are about it. This one was pretty easy. I like museum going, and have been known to drag loved ones through galeries of little interest to them but I still know very little about the things at which I like to look. I know that Cher was right in Clueless about Monet paintings up close, the Islamic art wonderfully geometrical, and that even if there is no rope around the sphynx, you are not allowed to touch its marble magnificence.

Another of the suggestions was to plan a robbery, (hypothetically speaking). In this museum game, in each room, you assess each painting and then decide, if you were to take one painting from this room, which one would you take and why. So, you are making sell-centered value judgments, but you are also working on assessing what is good about each painting and what you like. My sister and I decided that we would stroll the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We had a pretty good afternoon.

Some of the our picks were just because they would be challenges (and, also, of course, because they were awesome.) The Sphynx and a column in the Egyptian room would be impossible to pull off. However, this is a good game because of the discussion that generates.

Beth really enjoyed a tapestry depicting Troy in the Medieval rooms. We had a nice chat about the crossbow because of this tapestry. In the 19th-early 20th rooms we had a discussion about how not every painting by a master can be a masterpiece. In that same room, I found a painting by Vuillard that I'm looking for a print of as it would be perfect over my couch. There was a painting in the European room (and, for once, we weren't taking notes) so we can't tell you who its by or even what its name was, of a woman in blue that had a look on her face that said, "Seriously? You're going to paint me now? Seriously."

Some of my favorite pieces were a stained glass column and a bronze statue that I believe was called "The Vine" in the American room. It amazes me how well motion can be captured in bronze. I also enjoyed the papyrus in the Egyptian rooms and the reconstruction of a chariot on the mezzanine of the Roman room.

There is an exhibition on the Model as a muse, which featured music by Nirvana. We had a moment of cognitive disonance, listening to grunge while looking at high fashion. And, we wondered, "Is Kurt Cobain rolling in his grave?"

Currently, there is also a retrospective of Francis Bacon. These rooms were well worth it, if only for comments of the other museum goers. I find it hard to look at a lot of Francis Bacon's work because its creepy. So, the entire room of paintings that were studies after Velasquez was pretty much my limit. Francis Bacon could have set dressed every Nine Inch Nails video made before the Fragile.

After Francis Bacon, we took in some other modern art. It was nice to end with a little Balthus and Mattisse. Although, the creepiness probably ended our Thomas Crown affair. There are no museums on the menu for the rest of the trip, but we will be seeing a taping of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. This is a more-than-acceptable substitute.

May 04, 2009

Blue October's Foiled for the Last Time

So, this morning I was writing and listening to Blue October (don't judge me. No one has taste during Finals week.) And, this song called "Calling You" came on.

Now, I got into Blue October in a fit of all things Twilight last year (there are many reasons why I wasn't sleeping so well last April; this is my excuse. Stephenie Meyer put a lot of Blue October and Muse on her "Twilight playlists". Follow the twilight link above; they're probably still up.) They're from Houston, Tx, apparently. Its sort of dirty hippie music. But, not like Phish. Dirty hippie, drunk college kid, if Dave Matthews only ever wrote love songs music. The sort of shit you'd expect Edward to sing/write for Bella the rest of incredibly boring and super-creepyweird, immortally long lives. The sort of music that's filled with hope and naivety, and descriptions of proto-codependent behavior.

And, you're asking me, "Kate? Why would you listen to that? Or, you know, read Twilight?" I don't know. I'm just like that. Sometimes, I want things I don't really like. For example, when I eat cheesecake. I'm not a fan, but every now and then, I think, "Ya, I'll have a piece of that."

I was listening to "Calling You". And its just...God. Its just so creepy. I know its meant to be sweet and romantic and...its...oh. Creepy.

You can find the lyrics here.

I'm sure that its sweet to be told that someone is going to tell you that they love you another thousand times. I'm sure its nice to have someone calling to just see if you're okay and asking you if you love them...and...

Look, scratch the surface of this cynic and I really want to believe in love and puppies and people keeping promises and taking care of each other. Mostly, though, I don't think those things actually correlate all that often with creepy codependent behavior like asking someone if they love you repeatedly (even if you do just love the way it sounds.)

And, seriously? The Chorus? I'm just calling you to see/if you're sleeping, are you dreaming/if you're dreaming, are you dreaming of me. I'm imagining that conversation would go like this:

Caller: Hi! Just calling to see how you are!
Callee: Its 3 o'clock in the morning.
Caller: Were you sleeping?
Callee: Yes.
Caller: Were you dreaming?
Callee: Yup.
Caller: Of me? *sounds hopeful*.
Callee: I'm hanging up now.

(Unless of course the callee is me, and its actually 3 AM. Just to let you know, if you call me then and you're not on fire, dead or in jail, the string of words that will come out of my mouth directed at you will make a sailor blush. It will also probably make you cry.)

Obviously, I'm not the demographic a song like this (or really, a book like Twilight). Still, I don't think this is what you should shoot for. I don't think people should glorify relationships like Bella and Edward have. He's controlling and creepy and she's selfish and constantly in need of "looking after (in his mind and then in her mind because she practically ends up with Stockholm Syndrome)" because her boyfriend is frequently putting her in situations that are dangerous for her. Why is that okay? Your boyfriend puts you in danger and you cleave to him because only he can save you? I don't know a lot about healthy, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't count.

January 01, 2009

2009's Definitely Reading List

And, now I unveil my *definitely must-read* list for 2009:

(In No Particular Order)

  1. Silas Marner by George Eliot

  2. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

  3. Compassionate Carnivore by Catherine Friend

  4. On the Wealth of Nations by P.J. O'Rourke

  5. Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson

  6. Break, Blow, Burn by Camille Paglia

  7. The Eight By Katherine Neville

  8. Begin Anywhere by Frank Gianpietro

  9. The Horse, The Wheel and Language by David Anthony

  10. Discover Your Inner Economist by Tyler Cowen

  11. How Language Works by David Crystal

  12. The Ode Less Traveled by Stephen Fry

  13. The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

  14. Swann's Way by Marcel Proust

  15. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Farber

I'm really excited about these books. It looks like its going to be an exciting year!

December 24, 2008

Ten Best

In No Particular Order (unless otherwise noted):

1. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby: "If you wanted to mess me up, you should have gotten to me sooner." This book was funny, touching, and well written. Gold Star, Nick Hornby.

2. Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson: People have been telling me for years to read Jeanette Winterson, and now I know why. How Winterson weaves this tale between the past and the present is incredibly beautiful.

3. Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio. She goes a little hippy a few times, and I could have done without that, but it had some really good ideas on how to get in touch with yourself (pun intended), some wonderful references to solid resources and it was very thought provoking.

4. Sunshine by Robin McKinley: (this one is before Twilight in any order you can possibly imagine.) The main character kicks ass on her own, is a total fucking hero, And she doesn't fall in love with the undead creature, but rather becomes his rescuer/friend. Also, this book made me crave cinnamon rolls like you wouldn't believe.

5. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov: I still maintain that this book as the best opening page (I think its actually four paragraphs) ever written. Nabokov is a literary genius, even if after you're done reading all the pretty, pretty words you remember this that you're reading a story about a murdering Pedophile. (And this is why Nabokov is a genius. Only a genius could make you forget what Humbert Humbert is while you're in the story.)

6. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. This book was a little ridiculous, but it was fun. (Although, upon repeated readings, I would have liked more introduction to Alice so that James' revelation meant something.)

7. The Intentional Stance by Daniel Dennett. "...In fact I suspect that you wonder whether I realize how hard it is for you to be sure that you wonder whether I mean to be saying that you can recognize that I can believe you to want me to explain that most of us can keep track of only about five or six orders [of intention], under the best of circumstances. (1987:243)" This is a book about folk psychology. No, its a book about methodology. Wait, its a book about philosophy. Well, its a book in which Dennett explains his theory about the Intentional Stance. Philosophy rocks.

9. Eat Me by Linda Jaivin. Aussie erotinovel. Follows the lives and loves of four friends (before Sex and the City.). And, did I say Aussie? Enough said.

9. Survival at Auschwitz by Primo Levi. Levi's up front about the possible discrepancies between what he's saying and the historical record. But, even knowing that going into it (and, honestly, who can live through what he lived through and bother to remember dates and times.) its a harrowing tale and a testament to the strength of the human spirit. I think its good to remind yourself once a year or so of what people are capable of.

10. The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo: Sure, its fiction. Sure, its about a mouse. But, I repeat: its good to remind yourself once a year or so of what people are capable of. This tale about bravery, luck, love, red thread, revenge, The power of music and literature, forgiveness and soup brought a tear to my eye. It deserves all the praise it can get.

November 28, 2008

Low Key Friday

After Thanksgiving, things were a little low key today. (One must take some time to recover from the turkey coma.) We woke up slowly, everyone showered and got dressed. We had tea and coffee (well, those of us who are tea/coffee drinkers had one or the other.) We ate some leftovers. We decided what to do with the day.

Whatever it was, we had to be done with it by 3:30, so that Beth could get to work. It was a gorgeous day, so we came to the conclusion that we should do what you do on gorgeous days if it is an option: go for a long walk in the park. So, we took the subway down to Prospect Park , and strutted around it. The road was blocked off through the park, so cars couldn't get in and this falicitated our meandering. We walked past the little dog beach. Although it didn't have any dogs on it, it was full of ducks. In general we just strolled around and talked about books. It was really lovely. Not all of the trees have lost their leaves yet, so it still quite colorful in the park, which added to the warmth from the sun. Around 2, we decided to head back towards the circle where we'd gotten off the subway because there was a coffee shop there. The shop was called Connecticut Muffin. No one had a muffin, though. We all got drinks and we decided to share a Brooklyn Blackout brownie (which, if you ask me, was a little too sweet.) Then, we took Beth to work. I had a coupon I wanted to use so this suited me just fine. I picked up a copy of The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo. It is still a goal of mine to make it through all of the Newbery Award winners and it has been made as a film that will be released soon, so it seemed like a good choice.

Since then, Dad and I have been getting some work done. (I think he may have gotten more work done than I did. Although, he is napping right now.) This evening we are headed back out to have dinner with Beth on her break and then we are going to see the new James Bond film. I'm pretty excited about it. I don't know what the plan is for tomorrow, but I have a feeling it is going to involve writing papers for me. We shall see.

September 05, 2008


There is nothing better than turning on the TV, hitting the wrong channel and instead of getting what you are used to (like another episode of Law and Order) only to stumble upon the BBC's version of Persuasion at the very beginning.

I love Jane Austen. Her books are funny and clever and her heroines are all delightful. There's Catherine Moreland, everyone's favorite nineteen year-old. (She actually tells the man she loves that she thinks his father killed his mother. Its hilarious, in a schadenfreude kind of way.), And, Emma, everyone's favorite matchmaker. Fanny Price, who is quiet and overlooked but his good and wonderful and in the end gets the guy. There's the Sisters Dashwood and let us not forget Elizabeth Bennett and her sisters.

And, there's Anne Elliot. Ah, Anne. This book is so wonderful and so painful. Anne Elliot is old for an unmarried woman of her time and this is made worse for her because she was once young and in love and her Father (and Godmother) didn't approve of the match. Her father and her older sister have been living outside of their means, and so they have to let their home in order to pay off their debts. And, who should rent it? But Admiral Croft, who is married to a woman who is the sister of her Beloved. Of course. He comes back into her life. He's kind of a dick about her rejection (because he is still bitter and maybe, just maybe has feelings for her). She obviously still cares for him. Its wonderful. You should it. I'm watching it.

June 17, 2008

Quote of the Day: Jeanette Winterson

It is true that words drop away, and that the important things are often left unsaid. The important things are learned in faces, in gestures, not in our locked tongues. The true things are too big or too small, or in any case always the wrong size to fit the template called language. --from Lighthousekeeping

May 27, 2008

Booklist '08: Updating the List

This evening I didn't really feel like doing much. So, I didn't. I stayed home and updated my online booklist. Tonight I created a new shelf so I could distinguish between things I wanted to read and things that were actually on this year's list. I'm feeling pretty accomplished at the moment. Sure, I could have done another chapter of Latin or read a little more in The Story of Mankind The Story of Mankind or Oryx and Crake Oryx and Crake or Fool Moon Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, Book 2) , but why would I do that when they internet has provided with such a wonderful distraction? Besides, now when people ask about the book list, I can direct them to someplace they can find it instead of photocopying my hand-written chicken scratch list. So, it wasn't really just time-wasting. It was a practical activity. If you have wondered what was on the book list, you can now go to my goodreads page and have a look!

May 15, 2008

Irons on the Fire.

This summer is going to be full. Completely, absolutely and utterly full. Not only am I moving to New York, but I will also be attempting to read as many of the Newbery Award winners as I can get done. It is a very good list. The idea came from my friend Jackie and there is a small group of us pursuing this task. We have decided to start with the first winner, The Story of Mankind. There is a new edition available that covers everything that has happened since the book was published. I haven't picked it up yet, but it seems like it would be very interesting.

In addition to this, I have also decided that this will be the the summer of Swann's Way. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, I will actually finish the first book of In Search of Lost Time. I'm so very excited about it.

But, that's not where the reading for this summer ends. Oh, no. All of that would be too simple. My friend Mike has recently talked me into reading the Dresden Files. I have just finished the first book. They're a quirky little series. Harry Dresden is a funny and interesting main character. I am very interested in what will happen next. Apparently, it was a very short lived tv show. So, perhaps I will have to investigate that a little further.

November 14, 2007


Our policy is if you're not completely satisfied, I hate you.--Futurama, "War is an H Word"

This guy is reading Dostoyevsky. Well, that guy and some other people are reading Dostoyevsky. For some reason, reading what he has to say about reading the book makes me want to read the book. So, I'm adding it to the long list of things to read once (and if) I ever have spare time again.

I love that list. It makes me happy.

July 03, 2007

Some Place Safe

The problem with moving house is that you misplace things. And, while I find this to be annoying, there is nothing more troubling to me than misplacing something that I want to read.

So, of course while we were packing I came across something and I started reading it. Since then, I can't for the life of me figure out what I did with it. I don't know where it is because I did what I also do: I put it some place safe. If I were a smart person, "some place safe" would mean the same place all the time. A certain drawer or a book shelf. But, not with me. No, "some place safe" is a place where I put something, look at it and think, "This will be safe. I'll remember this." Then, I promptly forget it.

Right Now, Teach Yourself Ethics is so safe that even I can't find it.

June 30, 2007

Quote of the Day: Henry David Thoreau

"A good question is never answered. It is not a bolt to be tightened into place,
but a seed to be planted and to bear more seeds toward the hope of greening the landscape of idea."
~ Henry David Thoreau

June 20, 2007

Quote of the Day: Alain de Botton

I passionately believe that's it's not just what you say that counts, it's also how you say it - that the success of your argument critically depends on your manner of presenting it.

June 18, 2007


Since we've moved again, I've been unpacking and I've decided there are a few things I need to re-read this summer. So, I have started with How Proust Can Change Your Life.

I was also thinking of restarting Swann's Way, you know, for those moments in-between the re-readings.

The back garden of the house was finished this weekend, and I have been left with a number of plants (including a grape vine) to take care of. It is very exciting to be out and playing in the dirt and weeding around things. I have a lovely little spot to grow herbs now.

I need a cup of coffee. And, to go sit in the garden. I'm so excited that I get to do these things!

April 15, 2007

Anthony Bourdain

My friend Father Tom read A Cook's Tour about four years ago. While reading the book you could say that he developed a bit of a man-crush on Anthony Bourdain. He'd have lunch and he'd tell me about the places that Bourdain mentioned in the book and how he was a hard-cooking, hard-smoking New Yorker in a leather jacket and was, in fact, the very definition of awesome. Now, that alone should have been enough of a recommendation to read the book. But, if you know me, you know that my sister basically brow-beat with Wuthering Heights before I actually picked it up.

Well, they made a TV show out of Bourdain's cook tour and I've caught a couple of episodes this weekend. Its amazing. I'm going to have to read the book now. In the last episode he went to Portugal and France, feasting his way through pig and duck and....Tete de Veuax (totally misspelled.), Veal's head. How sweet is that? The French have a dish that is sweet breads with the face of the veal. I almost want to go try it.

March 29, 2007

Happy End of March!

Tomorrow is my last Welsh class. Fory mae e'n dosbarth cymraeg olaf. I'm a little sad about it. But, if you've been following (and recently, missing) my Welsh updates, have no fear. My arholiad cymraeg is on May 11th and due to spotty attendance the last month or so, I have a lot of reviewing (Welsh English speakers read: revising) to do to prepare for the exam. So, This Week in Welsh will probably be even better, if not more frequent than before.


I have also just booked tickets to spend a fortnight in the States. Since I've not been home in something like seven months, I'm ridiculously excited about it. Ridiculously. Now, I hate to be that arrogant person that seems all high and mighty and act like "just everyone wants to see me!" but, if you read this, and you want to hang out if you could email me and let me know when you will be free from April 22nd until May 2nd so that I can come up with a tentative plan. A fortnight goes awful fast and I don't want to miss anyone.

March 09, 2007

Its been awhile


I know, its been forever since I've written. How funny that one person can own so much stationary, be absolutely enamored with the art of letter writing and actually manage to send so few of them. I contend that it is not the letter writing itself, but the posting that gets me. And, it does get me, every time. The post offices here are not publicly owned; they are mostly little convenience stores with little post office cubicles in the back. There is the occasional stand alone post office but it has been my experience that these are always dark or lit with the hideous green florescent lighting that makes everyone look yellow and unhappy. International letters have to be weighed before they will tell you how much they are to mail them. But, then it always ends up being 50p. Always. I should just buy a bunch of stamps at once and then I wouldn't have to worry about it but I never have the money on me for 10 stamps or 12 stamps; its always just the pound I need for the two letters in my pocket. Enough about my postage dilemma.

Its starting to get warmer here. And, its been windy. Not to resort to cliches, but in like a lion. Although, that doesn't mean much here as its always windy. I left the tea bag in my mug a little too long, and the tea has gone bitter. I'm going to finish it anyway, because it would be wrong to waste a cup of tea (even a bad cup of tea). Everyone thinks that things like a "good cup of coffee" or a "good cup of tea" are easy to make. How hard could it be, its some leaves and some water or some water and some ground roasted beans. Except, its an art. Tea leaves can be scorched or worse. (And, don't even get me started on coffee.) That was what was great about Annie's Tea Talk, back in the day when she had them. A little bit of information really does make for a better beverage. And, there's something enjoyable about watching the water boil, waiting for it to get to the "string of pearls" stage so as to not burn your green tea. (I have been drinking of a lot Twinings orange and lotus flower green tea. It is nice, but you have to pull the tea bag at just the right time or you either way tea that is too weak, or tea that tastes like a warm orange.)

I have been doing a lot of reading recently. Mostly academic, though. A lot of re-reading, really, just so I can get my references right. I have also been reading Fracine Prose's Reading Like a Writer. When I finish it, I plan picking up Stephen Fry's more recent book The Ode Less Traveled. Then, I'm either going to dive back into Proust or I'm going to read Northanger Abbey. I recently finished Lady Chatterly's Lover. I have to say that I was a little disappointed in the smut factor. I know it was written, what? almost 80 years ago now but still. It was an interesting discussion of different perspectives on sexuality that used the word "cunt" way more often than you see it in (non-feminist) literature. I did enjoy it, though, despite the disappointment.

I hope that you are well, and that this finds you in good spirits. I hope that the snow doesn't have you down. It will melt, and then it will be unbearably hot. It could be worse, The Welsh word for July literally means, "The end of Summer". So, they only expect it to be nice for June and July. Sometimes, I think I've picked the wrong specialty and that I should be going for my PhD in Literature. I know close reading isn't in vogue these days, but it would be neat to do a corpus study of a piece of literature looking for one thing or another. The end result would most likely be very Michael Hoey, or it wouldn't work at all. Ah, the things that keep me up at night.

Anyway, I miss our conversations and I hope to hear from you soon. Perhaps this time when I'm at the post office I will by 10 or 12 stamps instead of just one.



February 21, 2007

Classic Novel Missions

I finished Lady Chatterly's Lover a fortnight ago. I will write about it. I did enjoy it. So, now I have to choose which Classic novel to read next in my "get back to the classics" Quest, or rather, resolution.

So, while I was thinking about what to read next I found this: Classic Novels in Five Minutes A Day. How exciting is that?

November 30, 2006

NaNoWriMo: This is it.

Well, ladies and gentlemen. This is it. This is the end of NaNoWriMo and I have a measly 3,000 words written. I did not meet the objective. I am, however, not sad by this because of the circus of paperwork my life has become what with job applications and visa applications and trying to come up with a suitable PhD topic that I won't mind spending the next (at least) three years of my life working on AND that will attract appropriate amounts of funding. That's a lot of work.

On top of this, there is the emotional work of dealing with my first Christmas away from home, which will also be John's and my First Christmas together as a couple. On top of this, the universe as seen fit for the honeymoon period of living together to be over so we've been going through bouts of being at each other's throats. Fun. But, we have, separately and collectively decided that this is going to be an amazing Christmas, no matter how we might bitch at each other or how I might be homesick. Its going to be fun and exciting (And, oh dear Powers That Be please, let it be relaxing.)

The plus side of the whole NaNoWriMo experience is that I think I will be able to roll what I have written into a piece of slash fiction that I wrote whilst I was supposed to be studying for the GREs. This added addition of 3,000 words, plus a lot of tweaking to make the new stuff and the old stuff actually make sense may mean that, when all is said and done, I have something that is readable by the general public and not just a big festival of crap.

I'm feeling very hopeful. And, hopeful feels good. I'm going to watch the end of Murder, She Wrote and have lunch now. I have been, on the sly, working on a podcast, as well as a number of reviews and another installment on my ethics odyssey, so watch this space for updates of actual interest soon.

November 17, 2006

Determined? Reduced? Does it matter?

I've been reading Teach Yourself Ethics by Mel Thompson. This is not because it was recommended by the Sarah or Preston but rather because it was less expensive than the books that they suggested and seemed to give a good overview of the topic. I like overviews, they provide you with the opportunity to read a little about everything and then zoom in on what you find most interesting.

So far the book has talked about determinism and reductionism. From what I have gathered from the book, determinism is based on a theory that things, like say our actions, may be determined by causes our in the world, such as our genetics or the surrounding environment. So, its a bit like karma in that determinism argues that there is may be a verifiable link between cause and effect.

Thompson says about Reductionism that it is, "a philosophical rather than an ethical problem, but it is relevant because it claims to render moral language, and the whole idea of personal freedom, meaningless." (2006:21) Reductionism suggests that we are nothing more than the electrical impulses in the brain that cause us to do the things that we do.

Why are either of these things important, you may ask? They are important because in order to be able to have ethical dilemmas, we have to be able to make choices. If what we do is predetermined by our biochemistry or by the environment or if we are nothing more than the biochemical/electrical impulses in our brains then we are not responsible for our actions. As Thompson puts it, "For moral choice (and therefore ethics) to make any sense, I have to believe that a person is more than determined electrical impulses." (2006: 22)

Now, there are things we obviously don't have control over. Like the weather. I can not help that it is raining outside because I did not cause the low pressure centre that is currently over Cardiff (Although chaos theory would suggest that I may have done things that have contributed to the low pressure centre. This, however, is definitely outside the scope of this discussion.) So, in order to discuss ethics, it seems we have to come to a decision about the extent to which people are free to make the choices that they make.

November 07, 2006

NaNoWriMo: Title Page


Its been really slow going, this writing a novel. Its seven days into the month and I've started it three times. The first two times fizzled out. But, now I think I have a solid idea, one that will encompass the previous two fizzles so I won't lose anything in the word count department...

Not that there was much to lose.

As previously mentioned, I appear to be writing a chick lit title. At first, I didn't know how I felt about this. Although, I have read a fair amount of chick lit, it is not my favorite genre. I'd much rather read memoirs or biographies or fiction. (Although, I honestly spend most of my time reading academic tomes, most of which deal with the subjects of language, rhetoric and the brain. Does this surprise anyone?) I got to thinking about it and it seems to me that the reason I was not too sure about writing "chick lit" was that I was surprised that those were the first ideas to spring out of me.

So far I've written about 600 words (well behind pace. In order to reach 50,000 words by November 30th, one would have to write about 1,667 words a day.) I am tentatively calling it "Study Questions". It is about a group of friends going through Graduate/Professional school.

Does the topic really surprise you that much?

November 02, 2006



So, it has been pointed out to me that whilst I am still unemployed (and it looks like there is going to be no change to that status in the near future) I might as well take advantage of my copious (if irritating) amounts of spare time. Obviously, I can't study Welsh all the time. I have taken it upon myself to work on a novel. I will obviously be keeping you updated on my process.

It is day two and I have only about 500 words written, but I think I may have a promising chick lit idea. It pains me a little that I am writing a piece of chick lit, but such is life. I don't have a title as yet nor does my main character have a name but these are things that will eventually work themselves out.

My profile is here if you'd like to monitor my progress.

Book Review: Pick Me Up

Pick Me Up is an incredible reference geared towards helping people answer those pressing questions like, “How are things related?” and what exactly is an “emirp”? The book is divided up into eight areas of expertise, color-coded for convenience. The book suggested that you start anywhere, so I did. I opened up to a page at random (pg. 186-187) where I read about religion, specifically “Religion: Islam to India” which covered Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism. There were brief descriptions that compromised the bottom third of the pages. The top portion was taken up by pictures which included images of holy sites such as Mecca, The Golden Temple in Amritsar and the river Ganges as well as photographs of items of importance/interest to the different religions.

From there, I followed a reference to “forever” in the book that took me to page 249 which asked the question, “What time is it?” This section had a number of questions that it answered in the same, blurby style as before, with a brief description and some small illustrations. There was more to said on this page than on the religion page, but then, with “time” what sort of illustrations could you show? (Sundials, clocks and calendars, if you were curious.) There was a bit about “when time began”which briefly discussed the different calendars that have been in use. This contained a reference to Latin, so I jumped to page 54. Here I found interesting little tidbits on some of the world’s languages. For example, Ecclesiastical Latin is an official Language in Vatican City, even if everyone uses Italian. I did not know that. From there, I went to page 96 on colonization (not surprisingly referenced in a blurb on the English language). I then spent the next hour and a half surfing through the 352 page book, moving from one topic to the next covering everything from numbers to art, then to how to tell stories, the ancient Greeks, democracy, I Ching and world literature. (I am more than a little embarrassed to admit, having graduated from high school one, town away from the National Czech and Slovak Museum that I did not know where Franz Kafka was from.) A few more hours of with this volume, and I will be queen of the pub quiz.

The eight areas of expertise that the book was divided up into are : Science, technology and space, Society, places and beliefs, History, The natural world, People who made the world, Arts, entertainment and media, You and your body, and Planet Earth. In a table of contents of sorts there is a list of all the things that you’ll find in each of these sections, including page numbers. And, as always there is an index at the back of the book.

Each page as a bar that is color-coded on it that includes some text that explains what you’ll find on the pages as well what section the page belongs to. Each set of pages is not necessarily connected to what is preceded or followed by them in the book, so this is not your standard encyclopedia. It’s a little like a hard-copy of a website complete with reference links, a more colorful wikipedia, if you will.

Because each of the pages has small boxes of text that describe whatever the topic on those pages are, nothing is gone into in great detail. However, what is there is interesting. There was typically only one link per blurb, so there were things that could have been linked to other pages, but were not. But, there is always the index, if you’ve read something that you feel should be linked to something.

The format of the book lended itself to amused browsing taking you from interesting snippet to interesting snippet without dragging you down into a load of information you might not understand/be interested in. It is handy to have a reference book that hits the highlights and saves you from having to wade through an entire Encyclopedia Britanica entry. This book is definitely geared towards the younger set, junior high and high school students but I found it interesting nevertheless. In short, Pick Me Up is something that you’ll not only want to pick up, but that you’ll loath to put down.

This review has also been posted at BlogCritics.