Saturday, January 30, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wandering the stacks

One of the perks of working in a library: you come across titles like these:

    Thursday evening

    Bloggy readers - I have been remiss in my posts.  Simply put, after a day of working on the computer, I'm rather reluctant to spend any more time on the computer when I get home.  I'd rather stare out the window at the black steers moving slow as the tide over the pasture out back and let my eyes move out of pixel dimensions back into the real world.  Or crochet as I let my mind wander--it's strangely relaxing how creating purposeful knots (which is what crocheting is all about) works out the kinks in your mind.  Or read.  I'm always reading.  I devour books: it's what I do.

    So I'm trying to jot my thoughts down during the day so I'll have something to post, rather than staring at a computer screen for another hour at the end of the day trying to think of something to tell you all.

    Saturday, January 23, 2010

    Far country

    Now that we've turned a corner into the new year, our trip to Great Britain suddenly seems imminent.  The dream and the reality abruptly coalesced.  We're at the top of the precipice, and the trip is now within sight.  Every day nearer June, the momentum of our approach increases.  I think by April or May we'll be hopping about like schoolboys anxious for the summer to arrive already.

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    A new order

    Meet Theolonius Monk (Monk for short, in keeping with our religious order of cats...though Monk occupies a much lower rank than the vaulted position occupied by Pope).  He's a laid-back tomcat, lean as a whip with beautiful long legs and black markings on his back that look like wings. 

    We adopted him from the humane society.  What better way to honor the memory of Pope, a former shelter cat himself?

    Monday, January 18, 2010

    Water and the machine

    I had an adventure this past Thursday night and Friday morning.

    My hearing aid stopped working. 

    This is always a curious experience, because not only is it a machine, it's also my hearing.  When a machine breaks down, you're appropriately put-out while you run through the list of possible reasons.  On the other hand, when your hearing breaks down, a host of other, more dire, concerns pushes to the forefront: am I losing what little hearing I have left? have I been afflicted with some disease of the ear?  will I be able to continue my present job if I'm completely deaf?  will I ever hear the birds again?!

    I had to wait until the audiologist's office opened Friday morning.  When you have to wait, your concerns tend to multiply and take over your existence.  Thursday night and early Friday morning I kept clicking my tongue and calling the cats, just to assure myself that what little hearing I had was still functional (it was...but I had to be sure).  During the half hour drive to the audiologist's office, I started over-analyzing every vibration in the car, almost certain it was going to break down on me.

    Then I told myself to get over it, shoved all my little worries into the back of my head, and let my mind wander.  Thinking is a lot easier when you don't have any sounds to distract you.  I can't recall most of what I daydreamed--for all I know, I was close to figuring out the meaning of life.  Then I got to the audiologist, where she pulled out a box of what looked like torture devices, fiddled around with the tubes of my hearing aid, poked out a 1/4 inch filter and restored my hearing. 

    "These things are more trouble than they're worth," she said, holding up the tiny slip of filter, which had become logged with moisture.  Moisture is what obstructed my hearing.  I couldn't help but feel a new-found appreciation for the elements of nature.  We construct all manner of devices to overcome the inconveniences that nature puts in our way, and she can still manage to be inconvenient.

    Monday, January 11, 2010

    History of a nation

    While it's a door-stopper of a book that, "if thrown with a good over arm action, [would] bring a water buffalo to its knees*," Rebecca Fraser's The Story of Britain has been a pure delight to read, even if I'm only able to retain about a tenth of the information that I've read so far (I'm already planning to read it through again).  She has accomplished the seemingly impossible: condensed 2,000 years of British history into an entertaining, thoughtful, and well-written book.

    Check out the image of Britain covered in snow, taken by NASA's Terra satellite.  Startlingly beautiful.

    *from Nancy Banks-Smith's review of M.M. Kaye's "The Far Pavilions"

    Wednesday, January 06, 2010

    Thief in the night

    Our cat Pope died Monday night. 

    The house is quiet, and my heart aches.

    "I love cats because I enjoy my home;
    and little by little, they become its visible soul."
    - Jean Cocteau

    Monday, January 04, 2010

    Promises to keep

    My New Year's resolution for 2010 is the same as it was for 2009 with a slight amendment:

    Read and keep a reading journal.

    I'm pretty sure I won't stay true to that amendment, but I would like to savor my reading more and make note of the interesting ideas I come across.  Taking notes, even if it's just quotes or brief summaries, is a great way to remember the content of a book, long after you've put it down.

    Sunday, January 03, 2010

    Books of 2009

    I read about 60 books last year.  Not as nearly much as I did for the year 2008 (see this post It's always books), but it's been a year of changes and adjustments (new job, new house) so I don't feel too bad about that.  At least I was still able to read some.

    Some highlights from my reading for 2009:

    The Magician's Book: a Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia - a fresh view of the series and doubly interesting as it was written from a non-Christian perspective
    A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table - good food is an integral part of everyday life; blend of essays and recipes
    The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - you'll be charmed by the protagonist of this quirky mystery, an 11 year old aspiring chemist who lives in a ramshackle country estate in England
    Spirit and Flesh: Life in a Fundamentalist Baptist Church - a sociologist studies the life of a church for over 20 years - fascinating insights into the mindset of fundamentalist christians
    The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane - an academic mystery that manages to be engrossing, despite inordinate amounts of time spent in the library; interesting depiction of colonial America
    An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England - it's always amazing to learn what the worldview of people was at a certain point in history, not to mention that this was the period that Jane Austen lived in

    Friday, January 01, 2010

    Snow and hobbits

    I'm watching the movie Fellowship of the Ring, first in the Lord of the Rings series.  Watching Shakespearean actors gravely imbue Tolkien-esque lines with nuances of meaning is a pleasure.  I can't get enough of Saruman when he says things like "The dwarves delved too deep," or, quite simply, "Shadow and flame."

    While a movie can never compete with a book (your imagination is still the richest bed for enlivening a story), being able to hear a beloved story come to life enriches the experience even more.

    Whenever it snows, J. and I recite Sean Bean's (Boromir) heartfelt exclamation: "This will be the death of the hobbits!"

    Pizza and streudel

    J. and I spent a day and a half in Chicago while visiting my folks.  We try to visit the Windy City everytime we go up for a visit, since my hometown is so close.  This time around, we attempted a culinary tour of Chicago.  First up was Chicago-style pizza at the Gino's East restaurant near downtown Chicago.  It wasn't too bad, but I don't think it tops Giordano's.  We ordered a small, with 2 slices for each of us, and left with bulging bellies.  The crust of Gino's East pizza seemed to border on fried cornbread, which was a different touch.

    The next day we returned to Chicago in heavy snow, which proved an adventure to slog through on foot in the neighborhoods of Chicago that we visited.  We intended to get pastries at the Swedish Bakery in the Andersonville neighborhood, but the place was a crammed whirlwind of customers waiting for their holiday orders.  The waiting lines made no sense, so we wanded back up the street to a cafe and got crepes stuffed with strawberries and nutella.  The main stretch of Andersonville, a historically Swedish neighborhood, was particularly picturesque that day, with fat snowflakes falling, mounding on the sidewalks and streets.  Buildings here and there were painted the colors of Sweden, yellow and blue, and the snow made it all look so cozy and festive.

    After a detour to the REI store, we wound up in the West Town neighborhood, at Podhalanka, directly across from the Division station of the Blue Line train.  Podhalanka was a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, with 2 little old ladies working in the kitchen, icons decorating the walls, and an old TV set to the Polish channel.  We had a feast that warmed us up after a day of wading through snow and slush.  I got sour borscht soup, and we shared potato pancakes, stuffed cabbage rolls, and pierogi, which are dumplings stuffed with spiced meats, potatoes, and an interesting type of sweet cheese.  Quite delicious. 

    As always, we also visited Christkindlmarket, for streudels and glogg, mulled wine that will put hair on your chest.  My introversion emerges in full force at this market, as people are packed like sardines among the booths set up on Daley Plaza, and I'm usually itching to leave almost as soon as we arrive.  I wish there was some kind of force field I could erect around my person--something that would force people away, or make them think of someplace else they should be whenever they draw too near.

    Anti-social as always, but I still love to visit Chicago.