Thursday, February 28, 2008

A name is a name

Fanny knows me by name now.

One of my fellow coworkers told me that she called him "Mr. Man" for several months before grasping his name.

I don't know whether to be proud or afraid.

The joys of asparagus

The season for asparagus is almost upon us. This makes me very happy. Having a side of steamed asparagus sprinkled with salt is the equivalent of reading a good book, of reaching the summit of some Appalachian mountain after a long climb, of turning the corner and seeing home.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Something unexpected

One day, I walked into the locker room at the gym, expecting little more than the occasional lady here and there stretching or tying her shoelaces.

Instead, I walked into a storm of flesh.

It was nearly an adolescent boy's dream, this riot of flesh, ladies moving to and fro, chatting and laughing as they got ready for work. Through it all, white towels flashed here and there, as quick as lightning, joined by the roar of hair-dryers and the cacophony of feminine voices.

I was dazzled, and not in a good way. A modest person, I unconsciously avert my eyes whenever I encounter someone's nakedness, with the understanding that they will do the same for me. When I encountered this crazy scene, I hardly knew what to do with myself, blinded by this unexpected change from the norm, not knowing where to look, somehow weaving my way to the back.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Since I liked Samantha Hunt's The Invention of Everything Else so much, I looked into what other books she had written.

Just because I like a particular book does not mean I will read everything else that the author has written--I have not read Ursula LeGuin's science fiction works in spite of the fact that I rank her Earthsea books up there with Tolkien, but when I saw that Hunt's first book The Seas was based on Undine, an early German story written about 1812 and somewhat similar to the Little Mermaid fairy tale, I knew I just had to read it. Fairy tale retellings and 'mythic fiction' are my particular favorite styles of fiction.

Wow. What a weird little book. If you want to know what it's like to be inside the head of a disturbed, somewhat mentally off-kilter girl, this is the book for you. I liked it for the lyrical, strong prose and for the unique take on a fairy tale, but I don't know if I will re-read it anytime soon since you are thoroughly inhabiting the mind of this unfortunate girl and it can be an uncomfortable experience. That, and the rendition of the sea as a living, somewhat careless entity creeped me out (I kept thinking of my experience swimming through a bed of seaweed... ugh).

I particularly liked this quote, which probably doesn't make any sense outside of the context of the book, but maybe you can appreciate its irony:
"The possibility that this might be the truth swoops near my head like a bat at dusk, a bat that soon flies off in the other direction uninterested in me" (p. 186).

This girl is so engrossed in her version of things (convincing herself that she is a mermaid; that her father did not drown at sea, but is waiting for her out there; that her friend melted into water after she kissed him) that, even though she is aware of it, she refuses to acknowledge the truth.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Library of Congress on Flickr

Check out some neat pictures on flickr. The Library of Congress has uploaded two collections of photographs to flickr as an experiment to see what the response would be in user-tagging and the like.

While the collections have uninspiring titles like "1930s-40s in color" and "News in the 1910s," they are pretty neat to look through.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I just want a good read

A friend introduced me to the reading website Goodreads. You can see that I've added a list of books that I'm currently reading to my sidebar. I'm having too much fun with it, especially categorizing the books I've read so far. My goal is to encapsulate the theme or feel of each book, as this will help with reader's advisory (not that the library does a booming business in that part of reference, but it'd still be nice to appear to be the all-knowing librarian: "Oh, so you want a space-age book that reads like a G.K. Chesterton mystery...?").

I haven't gotten too creative, though my list of shelves is growing. I've created the shelf "mesmerizing" for those books that have stayed with me long after I've read them, either because the prose was incredible, or the story was so real, or it was profoundly affecting. Mesmerizing was the only word I could think of that came close to describing the world-changing feel of these books.

I've just thought of another way to categorize books: character-driven and plot-driven...

Money, money

Maybe there's something wrong with me, but I don't want that tax rebate. It's just going straight into savings, in spite of what Bush wants us to do. Why are we increasing our debt just so consumers can continue spending? It's supposedly to help cushion the fall as the spending ballon bursts, but consumers are still going to have to learn to spend less--why dangle that carrot in front of them?

Americans do not understand the concept of living within their means. There's a commercial playing now, where some guy goes into a store to look at big-screen TVs, and the song is: "I want it all...and I want it now." That summarizes the state of things.

The cynical misanthrope in me just had to say something, whether or not you wanted to hear it.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


Fanny called the library one morning and told my co-worker that Heather French Henry had run for governor of Kentucky.

She called me later that afternoon demanding to know if the tie between Clinton ("that girl out there...not the man!!") and Obama ("that black boy out there!") had been broken during one of their races.

You can appreciate how discombobulating it is to deal with someone who still knows quite a bit, in spite of being slightly off her rocker.

The patron saint of modern electricity

This is how I imagined Tesla while I read the book The Invention of Everything Else. If you have not seen the movie The Prestige, you should.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Electric prose

The invention of everything else is awesome. It focuses on the life of Nikola Tesla and a hotel maid Louisa, and the unlikely friendship that ensues when she is caught snooping through Tesla's papers in his room. A surprising blend of magical realism and science, it is a meditation on time, love, creativity, memory, and all other sorts of things, with a dash of time travel and homing pigeons. The author is a powerful writer.

I saw a blinding light...

If you're interested, Project Blue Book, 1947-1969, UFO Investigations, is free to look at online at Footnote. Just click on the "Browse all titles" link near the top of the homepage and look it up in the alphabetical title list. The website has a special partnership with the National Archives to digitize and make available some of the stuff they have.

That's right--this Project Blue Book is for real, a collection of case files made by the Office of Special Investigations on incidents of UFOs. Whether the subject matter of the book is real is up to the reader to decide.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

My admirer

If I interpret Pope's tail behavior correctly, it would appear that this strange little creature absolutely adores me. According to the article "The 9 most common tail positions and what they mean," if, while the cat approaches you with his tail held straight up (a sign that he welcomes you), "the top third of the tail twitches as the cat nears you, this means that he totally adores you." (Planet Cat, page 221).

The extent we go to to convince ourselves that these vain animals actually consider us worthwhile...