Thursday, July 31, 2008

No milk in the house means I can't have my usual breakfast of cereal with milk. So I'm eating marshmallows for breakfast instead. It's just like Lucky Charms, only without the annoying cereal bits, ha ha.

I've never had a job before that required sitting at a desk for so long. Who knew a desk job could be so exhausting? My neck is stiff and my lower back hurts a little. My mouse hand is ache-y. My eyes are rebelling at the idea of more time staring at a computer monitor...yet here I am on my day off, you can't keep me away. I need to go outside and get some fresh air.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Rain has been falling hard for hours this morning and it won't let up. There's a lake forming behind my house. I'm really worried.
Update: The rain stopped over an hour ago, but the clouds are still here. I don't think we've seen the last of Dolly here in EP.

Friday, July 25, 2008

I was so sad to hear on the radio that CS professor Randy Pausch died. His Last Lecture is something you need to hear, if you haven't already. Keep some Kleenex handy.

July = Storms

From Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather:
In New Mexico he always awoke a young man; not until he rose and began to shave did he realize that he was growing older. His first consciousness was a sense of the light dry wind blowing in through the windows, with the fragrance of hot sun and sagebrush and sweet clover; a wind that made one's body feel light and one's heart cry, "To-day, to-day," like a child's.

Beautiful surroundings, the society of learned men, the charm of noble women, the graces of art, could not make up to him for the loss of those light-hearted mornings of the desert, for that wind that made one a boy again. He had noticed that this peculiar quality in the air of new countries vanished after they were tamed by man and made to bear harvests. Parts of Texas and Kansas that he had first known as open range had since been made into rich farming districts, and the air had quite lost that lightness, that dry aromatic odour. The moisture of the plowed land, the heaviness of labour and growth and grain-bearing, utterly destroyed it; one could breathe that only on the bright edges of the world, on the great grass plains or the sage-brush desert.

That air would disappear from the whole earth in time, perhaps; but long after his day. He did not know just when it had become so necessary to him, but he had come back to die in exile for the sake of it. Something soft and wild and free, something that whispered to the ear on the pillow, lightened the heart, softly, softly picked the lock, slid the bolts, and released the prisoned spirit of man into the wind, into the blue and gold, into the morning, into the morning!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Upon reflection, these are the eight I'd choose. Don't ask me why.
"Moonlight Sonata" by Beethoven
"Ballade in G Minor" by Chopin
"You Get What You Give" by the New Radicals
"Four Seasons" by Vivaldi
"Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin
"Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" by Cindy Lauper
"Porcelain" by Moby
"Mickey" by Toni Basil

Sunday, July 20, 2008

In the comments for my post on Friday, Stu provided a link to the Wikipedia page for the BBC program Desert Island Discs: "Guests are invited to imagine themselves castaways on a desert island, and to choose eight pieces of music to take with them; discussion of their choices permits a review of their life. Aside from music, they are permitted one book, excluding the Bible or other religious work and the complete works of Shakespeare, which are already present on the island to force more original choices. They also choose one luxury which must be inanimate and of no survival value, though large supplies of champagne seem to be allowed."

Very interesting. Here is the list of what guests have chosen for the past six years (I like the more practical book choices, i.e. a book to identify tropical fish. I can't understand why anyone would take a blank book.) I think I would pick an educational book, like how to speak and write Italian, and for my luxury item I'd pick a piano. I'll have to think about my eight pieces of music.

Review: Woman: An Intimate Geography

In Woman: An Intimate Geography, published in 1999, Natalie Angier takes on a complex and often misunderstood subject: the biology of a woman's body. Angier goes over the basic machinery of the female body as well as the role of hormones in influencing female behavior. In the latter half of the book, she discusses society and evolution's influence on women's behavior. It's complicated stuff, but Angier does a fantastic job of condensing the information and conveying it in an entertaining way, with some really vivid prose.

The author has really done her homework for this book, referencing study after study on human female behavior as well as female behavior in primates and other types of animals. However, this is definitely not a textbook; Angier calls the book a "celebration of the female body." She does have a feminist agenda in the book, though it's an agenda I happen to agree with, so you won't find many complaints from me.

Angier takes on female stereotypes with a vengeance, complicating them time after time with examples from scientific studies. She succeeds in painting a more far-reaching picture of female behavior than most would imagine, particularly through her exploration of aggression in females. Angier also holds her ground well in refuting evolutionary psychologists who seem to traffic in gender stereotypes (the Madonna and whore dichotomy, the women as passive and monogamous and men as philanderers theory).

I'll admit that it took me over a year to finish reading this book. Why so long? I compare this book to chocolate truffle cake: delicious and rich for all the reasons mentioned above, but best in small servings. Angier's prose does get convoluted at times; what bothers me is that I can't imagine anyone talking the way Angier writes ("membranes ruffle up like petticoats" and "eggs pop apart like poked soap bubbles" and I don't think anyone in the history of the English language has used the phrase "a mutinous crew of mad-haired Valkyries"). It's clever but not very natural-sounding. Also, the book is quite dense in information, so a little time to digest each chapter is needed. Finally, the feminist agenda comes on strong at times, though Angier carefully bases her arguments in research.

Still, I loved this book almost as much as I love chocolate cake (which is saying a lot). Angier does an amazing job of unraveling some of the mysteries of biology and behavior. Also, Angier's celebratory tone is refreshing. I really liked that this is not just a factual book with health tips, which has been done, and is often done badly. Angier's research smashed so many of my previously held ideas about femininity to bits, and I love books that can challenge your ideas to that extent. This book is guaranteed to make any reader rethink her ideas of what it means to be a woman.

Friday, July 18, 2008

More blog neglect. I spent about four hours today reading Robinson Crusoe for a book club I belong to. That sounds odd. Why in the world would a book club choose Robinson Crusoe? Did you know it was published in 1719? Anyway, I spent my day off from work trying to catch up and meanwhile neglecting the blog. It's an interesting book--being stranded alone on a desert island seems like it would be sad, but in some ways it would be pretty awesome. I think it would be cool to have an island you could escape to whenever you want.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

In the garden

I now have access to a digital camera--very exciting. I took these pictures in my backyard on Saturday.

Friday, July 11, 2008

I've missed journaling this whole past week. I get home from work tired and lacking the motivation to make a few notes about what happened that day. I should, since some funny/interesting/important things happen every day that I will want to remember later. Funny how when I didn't have a job I would write about the most inane things: Went to the store. Went to the library. Watched a movie. Now more interesting things are happening and I write nothing.

Yesterday was a monster day. I got out of work at 7. Then I went to my Spanish class for an hour. After that, I planned to meet a friend for her birthday dinner at a sushi restaurant across town. I was overbooked--class ended at 8:15 and the party had started at 7:30. I knew I wouldn't have time to stop at home, so after class I changed out of my work clothes into my "party clothes" (a skirt!) in the car.

The restaurant was crowded and club-like with loud dance music pumping out from the speakers. I said "Happy Birthday" to the birthday girl, a former classmate, and introduced myself to the other dinner guests, two girls and a guy, none of whom I'd previously met. I watched enviously as they finished eating plates of chicken teriyaki and rice. I had been too busy to eat dinner that day and I was starving. My dinner companions allowed me to pilfer off their plates while I waited for a tuna roll I ordered to arrive.

Talk centered around Brazil, where some members of the group had recently gone on vacation. I was out of the loop there, but my friend was good about including me in the conversation, which I was grateful for. We gave the obligatory updates about what we were doing for work and school.

Oh, food, how yummy. I devoured the tuna roll when it arrived and then ordered dessert, a cappuccino mousse, which was sadly disappointing for the calories. The idea of going dancing afterwards was floated around briefly, but by that time it was 10:00 and the consensus was that we were all too tired for it. I was admittedly glad the day was over. I drove home tired but satisfied, feeling sort of bad-ass for working AND studying AND somehow getting invited to a cool party, all in one day.

I know I overdid it a little that day, and the party was a roll of the dice, given I only knew one person there, but it turned out I had a good time, so all was well. Another exciting day in my glamorous life...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Drove home yesterday on wet, wet streets. Rain scares me after the floods of '06. Hours and hours of watching the rain fall, and there's nothing you can do to stop it. A reminder that weather is ultimately unpredictable, and powerful. I pray that it doesn't happen again.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Sunday afternoon and I'm listening to The Police. It has been a long time since I listened to "the classics", i.e. "Roxanne", "Can't Stand Losing You", "Message in a Bottle", etc. My '91 Honda's tape player ate my tape of The Police's greatest hits five or six years ago. Now I have a 2-CD anthology I bought with some birthday money. Woo hoo, exciting.

I've spent the weekend trying to digest everything that happened this week at my new job. Upon reflection I feel equally tired and energized, which I see as a good thing. We'll see what next week holds.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Cool "subway slide show" in the NY Times. When I visited NYC I remember being surprised by how quiet it was on the subway. Like an unspoken rule of subway etiquette--don't talk. But alas, pictures can't bring you the damp, mildly gross smells of NYC's underground.
Interesting profile of Shigeru Miyamoto, inventor of Nintendo games like Mario and Donkey Kong (and now Wii Fit), in USA Weekend:

After a series of odd jobs, including playing the guitar in a bluegrass band ("which is not," he says, "a terribly popular brand of music in Japan"), he was hired by Nintendo in 1977.

At the time, Nintendo was looking for new ventures and badly overestimated the appeal of a coin-operated arcade game machine called Radarscope. The company wound up with a warehouse full of them in Redmond, Wash. "For some reason, I was assigned the task of figuring out what to do with the machines," Miyamoto recalls. He came up with a simple game featuring a character scaling a set of girders while avoiding barrels tossed by an oversize ape. That game, of course, was "Donkey Kong," and by 1982 its hero, Jumpman (later rechristened "Mario" in honor of the warehouse's portly manager), would appear on everything from cereal boxes to neck ties.