No, this blog isn't going anywhere, but *I'm* moving tomorrow, and now I have to pack up the computer. It might take me a few days to get set up again.
See ya on the flip side!
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Fact 13: I was in a very local child beauty pageant in the early '70s. My siblings entered me on a lark. They thought my head of natural curls would win me points, but I wasn't dolled up like the other, very creepy contestants there, so I didn't stand a chance.
Fact 14: I've never mowed a lawn. Bullock says he'll teach me how because he has some crazy idea that household chores are not inherently gendered and that I can mow the lawn just as easily as he can cook. Damn feminist men.
Friday, June 23, 2006
Fact 12: I love licorice and fennel. [edited to spell licorice properly - d'oh!]
In honor of both, I searched Representative Poetry Online's concordance, and found this most remarkable and stunning sonnet by George Elliott Clarke, a poet with whom I was not familiar (perhaps because he's Nova Scotian). But I can't post it here because it has a strict publication rights warning on it. So I've linked it instead.
Meanwhile, when I searched fennel, I found the following Robert Browing poem, which I can post.
Two in the CampagnaI
This morn of Rome and May?
Of feathery grasses everywhere!
How say you? Let us, O my dove,
Thursday, June 22, 2006
The Pastry Pirate had a post not too long ago in which she discussed learning why shortening (i.e., the fat you use in baking) is called shortening. (Btw, today is her birthday!) In that post, she wrote:
Do you know why shortening is called shortening?The post suggests that she learned this in her Baking Ingredients and Equipment class. I thought it was really cool, too, as did her commenters. So I mentioned it to Bullock, himself a baker of the serious amateur type and a lover all things technical and historical associated with cooking (or woodworking, for that matter). He was skeptical. As he put it, "Would my 19th century great-grandparents who used 'shortening' have known that's what it did? Did the makers of 'shortbread' name it for its chemical reactions?" That made me wonder, too -- which is older, the science that the Pirate describes above or the words 'shortening' and 'short' in reference to pastry?
It's because shortening, like other fats, is able to shorten the gluten strands that form when water is added to flour and the resulting mixture is agitated (as in kneading or mixing). A shorter, weaker gluten strand and gluten matrix results in more flakiness and tenderness, which is desirable in pie crusts and pastries, for which shortening is most often used.
Here's what the OED shows for the usage history of the word "shortening":
1796 A. SIMMONS Amer. Cookery 34 Loaf Cakes No. 2 Rub 4 pound of sugar, 3 and a half pound of shortning, (half butter and half lard) into 9 pound of flour.Hmm...did the 18th century know about the "gluten matrix"? What's more, look at the 1970 example and its use of "short" as a synonym for tender. That, plus Bullock's mention of "shortbread," made me look up "short," and here's what I found:
1823MOOR Suffolk Words, Shortning, suet or butter, in cake, crust, or bread. 1854SEBA SMITH Way down East 333 We have n't got a bit of shortnin' in the house. 1883Cassell's Fam. Mag. Nov. 758/2 The very reason for boiling the ‘shortening’ with water is that by liquefying the fat a minimum quantity of water can be used. 1970SIMON & HOWE Dict. Gastronomy 347/2 Shortening, a culinary term used more in the United States than in Britain and it applies to fats used in making breads, cakes, pastry etc. All fats, even oils, come under this nomenclature and are used because they make mixtures ‘short’ or tender. 1980Blair & Ketchum's Country Jrnl. Oct. 34/3, 2 tablespoons shortening.
IV. Not tenacious in substance, friable, brittle.Ah-ha, so "short" in reference to pastry means crumbly and has been used at least since the 15th century. (I included def. b. just for interest.) Now I'm pretty positive the 15th century didn't know about the underlying chemistry of gluten, but they did know the effects of the ingredients they used.
[Prob. connected with branch I through the notion ‘having little length of fibre’: cf. sense 3.]
c1430Two Cookery Bks. 52 antake warme Berme, & putte al esto-gederys, & bete hem togederys with inhond tyl it be schort & ikkey-now. 1594Good Huswife's Handmaid 17b, To make short paste in Lent. 1700CONGREVE Way of World III. xv. 46 You may be as short as a Shrewsbury Cake, if you please. 1888EDMONDSTON & SAXBY Home Nat. 99 A thick cake, which may be made of either flour or oatmeal, and may be rendered ‘short’ by the use of fat. 1648GAGE West Ind. 143 This is the Venison of America, whereof I have sometimes eaten, and found it white and short. 1655MOUFET & BENNET Health's Improv. xix. 186 Salmons are of a fatty, tender, short and sweet flesh. 1699EVELYN Acetaria 57 The bigger Roots..should..eat short and quick. 1706LONDON & WISE Retir'd Gard. I. I. vii. 35 Its Pulp eats short, and its Juice is sugar'd. 1856Orr's Circ. Sci., Pract. Chem. 337 Vinegar makes the meat short, short meat being easy of digestion.
So, in short (hahahahaha), it seems that the underlining chemistry of shortening and it nomenclature are simply a happy -- and tasty -- little coincidence. Fascinating.
Oh, and Bullock and his baking grandparents would probably tell you that lard makes the best shortening. Of course, that's not recommended for your vegetarian friends!
3831 4093 songs ripped to my computer -- that's not counting most of the soundtracks and compilations or the jazz and classical CDs I have, but it is most of my "popular music" CDs.
Bonus Fact Track! I still *heart* this album 16 years after its release. (Still need to get its predecessor on CD -- I have it on, gulp, cassette. In fact, I have an embarrassing number of things on cassette still -- all the better to play on that '86 boom box!)
Note: for the link-shy, "this album" is World Party's Goodbye Jumbo and its predecessor is Private Revolution.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
I still have my 1986 Fisher "compact stereo" (i.e., a boom box) with CD player, dual cassette, removable speakers, and graphic equalizer. Stop laughing -- it was a pretty fancy schmancy thing in '86. CD technology was still pretty new, let alone portable CD technology.
I also still have its original cardboard box and styrofoam inserts and just packed it up for the move. I think this may be the last time I use that box, as it's now more tape than box. That box has been UPS'd back and forth between Cowtown and College City 5 times, moved across the country by movers twice, and moved across town (three times -- once this move is done). It's seen a lot of wear and tear. But hey, I bet that box is part of the reason the stereo still works! And let me tell you, it's a powerful little stereo.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Ugh. I am in packing hell -- which is not really a Virago fact, but an excuse for why I haven't been blogging and why I'm three days behind in the 100 facts. Plus, I'm just not in the mood these days. But the 100 facts meme keeps me from disapperaing entirely and gives me content, so onwards and upwards!
Fact 7: I am not actually Stokley Carmichael's son. (You really need to follow the link. It cracks me up.)
Fact 8: Virago though I may be, I am a woman, and therefore, no one's son.
Fact 9: My dad *does* have a really unusual first name, which he got from his father and then foisted upon my brother. I swear if I gave it away, you could pretty much pinpoint *exactly* who I am....OK, I guess that's not really a fact about me, but I was running with the Stokley thing. Well, here's a related fact: my first name is, I am sure, the most common, least unusual in my immediate family.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
I used to live in the same apartment building with "Trixie" from Deadwood. We both moved out the same summer. I'm sure the place hasn't been the same since, given its absence of whores and viragoes!
Btw, she probably says "fuck" just as much in real life as on the show. Then again, I say "fuck" (and its variations) just as much as people on that show.
Friday, June 16, 2006
Morgan blogged her favorite Middle English poem/song (with music still surviving), so I'll blog mine:
Fowles in the frith,
The fisshes in the flood,
And I mon waxe wood.
Much sorwe I walke with
For beste of boon and blood.
[My pedestrian prose translation: Birds in the woods, the fish in the sea, and I must go mad. Much sorrow I walk with because of (OR: on behalf of) the best of bone and blood.]
(Once upon a time I knew a web page that showed the poem in its original musical notation contexts, but now I can't find it. Darnit!)
I love the ambiguity of the "for" in the last line and I love the fact that we don't know for sure who "the best of bone and blood" is. I often use this poem in the opening day of many classes -- general lit. classes, medieval lit. classes, poetry classes, Middle English linguistics classes, etc. -- to establish the problems and pleasures of interpretation and/or translation. (It's also a good little poem for getting students to pay attention to grammar and syntax and to avoid "impressionistic" readings based only on every 4th word. Since it's short, they take it all in.) I often show them just the poem and ask them who they think "the best of bone and blood" is and why he/she/it is causing the speaker to go mad. (And what, for that matter, birds and fish have to do with it.) Then I show them the poem in various anthologies -- some put it in "love lyrics" (best of bone and blood = the beloved) and some put it in "religious lyrics" (best = Christ) -- and ask them how those editorial decisions might affect their interpretations and/or personal responses to the poem. Then I show them an anthology that reproduces the musical setting of the manuscript and ask what that adds to their knowledge. And I continue to add a little more context (manuscript, date, etc., etc.) as we go along at different stages, and we generate more interpretations, but in the end my point is not to arrive at a definitive interpretation -- because I don't think there is one for this wonderfully elusive poem -- but to show how interpretations are made, and that multiple viable ones can be made for the same work, even one as tiny and compact as this poem. But I also point out that some elements remain the same across interpretations -- no matter the reason why the speaker is going mad, the result is still madness and an alienation from the natural world.
By the way, the quirkiest reading a student ever offered -- one to which I had to give a polite response of "highly unlikely" -- saw the speaker as a lone vegetarian in a meat-eating world. Still, I found it a very charming interpretation. Hey, based on the text all by itself, it works. Then again, that makes a good lesson in the problems of context-free reading!
Thursday, June 15, 2006
So I send a lot of e-cards from Blue Mountain (I subscribe annually) because I find they have the funniest and weirdest stuff around. And sometimes it's kind of subversive, too, like the "Barnyard Hoedown" that sings of choosing your "partner" and shows too very clearly female cows dancing with each other.
Anyway, tonight, while searching for cards for friends' birthdays, I discovered the "talking card" series. With these cards, you type in text and a computer program speaks whatever you've written (though, when I wrote "for pete's sake" on one, it thought "sake" was the Japanese rice wine!). For some strange reason, your choices of voice type are:
- US Male
- US Female
- US Female 2 (more sultry, it seems)
- Valley Girl (WTF?)
- Scottish (OK, that's kinda random)
- Sportscaster Male
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
I used to have an early adolescent crush on Stephen Collins when he was on Tales of the Gold Monkey.
So, years later, I used to watch 7th Heaven now and then (epsecially while stretching after an evening run) to see if the crush had survived. It hadn't. An Indiana Jones wannabe in a Grumman Goose is way hotter than a minister with a household over-population problem and a frumpy wife with bad hair.
Oh, and btw, on a fan site for Gold Monkey (which I just found -- no, really) it says this:
The odds are you're part of that generation that "came of age" (God, I hate that phrase) in the early '80s. You listened to Duran Duran and Men at Work, wore your collar up, moussed your hair and had a collection of buttons (you know, those stupid pins you put on your jacket, your purse, etc.).Dude, how did they know??
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
OK, it seems that Bloglines is missing posts on Blogger blogs. I *know* it hasn't uploaded my two most recent posts before this one (yes I subscribe to my own blog -- for these kinds of purposes) and I also know I missed a post on another blog until the blogger updated it. WTF? Is this happening to anyone else?
I'm cheating...I just posted the last fact 5 minutes ago, but it was before midnight and now it's after, so it's a new day. Ha!
Fact 2: My first kiss was from the lead singer of a local rock band in Cowtown -- while he was on stage and I was in the front row. I was 16. I thought nothing cooler could ever happen to me. Now it just seems rather silly and trite.
Monday, June 12, 2006
OK, once upon a time I started that whole 100 facts meme, but then left off at 4 (honestly too lazy to link to myself). And I didn't even do them on consecutive days. But now, I'm at a loss for things to blog and yet I don't want to leave my blog totally silent. So now seems as good a time as any to pick up that ball again. And I'll even start all over at 1 again!
Fact 1: I am the youngest of four children, but because I came 14 years after the second youngest (Ms. V.), I grew up more like an only child. I'm sure I'd drive those "birth order" theorists nuts.
Bonus corollary fact! I'm closer in age to Ms. V's kids than to any of my siblings!
Friday, June 9, 2006
First, the poem, then a story. This is Lawrence Ferlinghetti's "Constantly risking absurdity" (something I do every day in the classroom!) and it's one of my favorite "ars poetica" pieces -- that is, poems about the art of poetry. I like how he takes those hyper-serious concerns of poetry -- Death! Beauty! -- and playfully turns them into a circus act. And who doesn't like a metrical pun like "sleight-of-foot tricks" which then awfully rhymes with "theatrics," all in a poem supposedly in free verse! Or how about all the other puns -- "gravity," performing "above the heads," etc.? Or the perfectly silly conjunction of Beauty's "fair eternal form / spreadeagled in the empty air." Te-hee! And like most poetry, this one needs to be read aloud to appreciate its play with sound. In fact, I have a funny story about that, but I'll let you read the poem first, and then tell the story below.
Oh, and btw, I've always seen this poem in a layout that spreads the lines across the page, like the high-wire acrobat (the simile stand-in for the poet himself) tentatively making his way across the wire. However, Blogger doesn't want to do tabs, it seems (and I don't know how to code it, if that's possible) and the websites that I've seen with this poem display it as below. So, I don't know if the format I'm familiar with is authorial or editorial. If anyone knows, leave a comment, because I'd like to know. Thanks.
Constantly risking absurdity
whenever he performs
above the heads
of his audience
the poet like an acrobat
climbs on rime
to a high wire of his own making
and balancing on eyebeams
above a sea of faces
paces his way
to the other side of the day
and sleight-of-foot tricks
and other high theatrics
and all without mistaking
for what it may not be
For he's the super realist
who must perforce perceive
before the taking of each stance or step
in his supposed advance
toward that still higher perch
where Beauty stands and waits
to start her death-defying leap
a little charleychaplin man
who may or may not catch
her fair eternal form
spreadeagled in the empty air
See, isn't that great?
Anyway, once upon a time I was teaching this poem in a general ed Intro to Poetry class, and my good friend from England, Em -- who I'd know since I was 15, when we "met" as pen pals -- was visiting me and sitting in on the class as well, so I really wanted to impress her with my super teaching skills!
We were doing a group of ars poetica poems and since we were somewhere in the middle to the end of the class, the students had already spent some time on formal aspects, including meter, so after I'd asked whether this poem had a formal metrical structure or rhyme scheme (it doesn't -- it's free verse) I'd asked them if it nevertheless uses either rhythm or rhyme in interesting ways. So, we started reading it aloud and I asked students to note what they heard -- half the class did rhythm, the other half did rhyme, as well as consonance and assonance. The rhythm group was having a little difficulty in figuring out what was meaningful in what they heard, and in identifying true patterns, so I helped the class out by beating out the opening in a very exaggerated way.
But right before I decided to coax them towards some answers, I noticed that one of my usually enthusiastic and involved students was falling fast asleep in the front row. No no no, this simply wouldn't do on a day I was trying to impress my friend! So here's what happened....
I started counting out the rhythm, asking students to think not about iambs and trochees and dactyls and anapests, but what kind of music the rhythm reminded them of.
"CON-stant-ly RISK-ing ab-SURD-i-ty," I said as I walked across the floor, hitting the ground a little harder on each stressed syllable. "What does that sound like?" I repeated the rhythm a few times and finally someone came up with "A waltz!" and then someone said something about "circus music." "Right! It's the sound of the circus calliope or organ!"
"Now," I said, "what does Ferlinghetti do with the rhythm next -- and why? Listen." It was at this point that I noticed the dozing guy. So now, I started from the top again, still exaggerating the rhythm, but now reading continuously to the next line (as one should, of course), accompanied by my stomps.
"CON-stant-ly RISK-ing ab-SURD-i-ty..." I stomped closer and closer to Mr. Dozer until I reached the next line of the poem, "...and DEATH" -- BAM! I slammed my hands down on his desk!
"Wha?! Huh?," he awoke with a start. "I'm not asleep! I was listening! I swear!"
Te-hee. I don't usually care if an exhausted student can't keep his eyes open, but I couldn't resist in this case. It was just too funny! And it also dramatically demonstrated the way the word "death" and its placement disrupts the happy calliope-like (and sleep inducing?) opening rhythm with the potential SPLAT! of the acrobat-poet. The rest of the class got it, anyway. :)
And Em was amused, too.
Thursday, June 8, 2006
I'm sure you've all noticed this, but allow me to state the obvious: making friends as an adult is hard. My social circle here in Rust Belt is tiny. There's Bullock, of course -- and thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for him, because otherwise I would probably be miserably depressed! But Bullock isn't the be all and end all of my life here. There's also Victoria and her husband (who needs a pseudonym), as well as Milton (who I need to make more of an effort to hang out with), and our economist friend, and Smartass Poet and his wife (though Milton and Victoria are closer to them than we are -- Bullock and I need to make an effort to include them more and get to know them). And that's about it for the people in our 30-something age group.
There's also Will and Beck (not their real names), the unofficial parental-type units for me, Victoria, andMilton (because we're all in the same department and, currently, the same neighborhood, and they're Boomers). They frequently feed us and ply us with copious wine. In the summer such feasts are held on the huge porch of their late Victorian home in Rust Belt Historic District. And Will hilariously tells students that I'm his "protege." Since we're in different fields, I think he's being playful, and since we have different styles of teaching, the smart students think this is hilarious as well. But Will has been generously supportive of my work, especially when he's been on the research council in charge of handing out funding. I've heard told that he's my "biggest cheerleader." I'm deeply grateful for that. But Will is a tenured prof with significant authority, so I can't be too chummy with him or his wife Beck. Social, yes. Intimate and revealing, no. There are things I wouldn't tell them.
In short, the social circle is small, so I should welcome the chance to enlarge it, right? So when Buffy, a tenured colleague in another department who's just a little older than I, called me to invite me to a luncheon, I should have been delighted, right? She's a friendly and sweet person who, I think, genuninely likes everyone. In fact, I don't think there's a mean bone in her body. But it's just...well.. we really don't have all that much in common. She thinks we do because we like some of the same TV shows. Or rather, she's obsessed with some of the shows I like (e.g., see the pseudonym I gave her). But beyond that, I fail to see the common ground. For instance, she's a mom of two kids she still calls her "babies" and she belongs to scrapbooking clubs. I'm pretty sure there's a huge gulf of cultural differences between me and the world of scrapbooking. (I'm getting the heebie-jeebies just writing "scrapbook" as a participial verb, frankly.) I think she thinks she does this all in an ironic hipster kind of way. But from my point of view she seems very much a devotee of the cult of American (or at least midwestern) motherhood.
And before I get trolls telling me I clearly hate mothers and America and apple pie, let me say this is not about those with and those without children. Bullock and I have a lot of friends and family with kids and we dig hanging out with them all, kids and adults alike. The point I'm making here is that this particular mom of two and I don't have enough in common to be the buds she thinks we can be. If I had kids, we still wouldn't. The moms I'm friends with don't do scrapbooking, for instance. (Not to chalk it all up to scrapbooking -- that's just a handy example.)
So what do I do??? This feels so much like high school, but then my tactic would've been to ignore her, and I can't do that. And it's not like a guy you're not interested in asking you out, where you can find some polite way of saying "no thanks." How do you turn down an offer of friendship? Or should I stop being such a snob and see if there's more common ground than I think. (For the record, I've spent a lot of time talking to Buffy in semi-social situations on campus, so I do know quite a bit about her and her interests.) I really don't want to hurt her feelings, but...but...argh.
Tuesday, June 6, 2006
Actual conversation with the local phone/DSL customer service dude:
Me: I'd like to disconnect my phone service and DSL.
Fone Dood: What is the reason you'd like to cancel your service?
Me: I'm moving.
Fone Dood: Would you like to transfer your service to your new residence?
Me: No thank you. I'm moving in with someone who already has service set up.*
[Some trading of highly classified information ensues.]
Fone Dood: So, now that we have that information, we can have your service cancelled by tomorrow morning.
Me: GOOD GOD, NO! The end of the month, PLEASE!
Fone Dood (wryly): You're just trying to be difficult aren't you?
Damn, what would I do if I didn't have internet access this month? Oh, I know, not annoy you with utterly mindless posts, that's what.
*That would be the mustachioed Bullock.
I haven't done a silly quiz in a long time, but I really, really couldn't resist this one, as seen at Imbecilities.
Excellent! Death by leeches!
Sunday, June 4, 2006
So, before my mom died, I actually had one more K'zoo post drafted and was intending to put it up right after the others. Then things fell apart and now it seems rather untimely, but it's actually on a general enough theme -- it's a "who am I and where do I belong?" piece -- that when I get a chance, I can edit it a little bit and still post it.
In the meantime, I just remembered something funny that my friend D. said to me once on a similar theme, specifically on moving from a fancy-pants grad program to a rather humble comprehensive university. Here are his words, with the institution names changed to protect the innocent:
At Fancy Flagship U. I felt like Rob Lowe in St. Elmo's Fire, while at Regional Comprehensive U. I feel like Kevin Bacon in Footloose.Te-hee!
Saturday, June 3, 2006
One of my bestest friends in the whole wide world, formerly known as The Empress and a long-time resident of the "the internets," has now joined the blogosphere as The Pastry Pirate. This is good news indeed, because she is a hilarious and excellent writer. It’s also good news because she's writing a chronicle of her experiences in cooking school, which I find utterly fascinating because it's simultaneously foreign and familiar to me (school I know -- cooking, not so much). But it's the unique take the Pastry Pirate has that makes her blog truly distinctive. Here's a sample from a recent post on the uniforms the students must wear:
Everything from the snap-waist baggy pants to the slip on clogs and loose jacket is designed to come off quickly for when you catch on fire.Only the Pastry Pirate would compare chefs' clothing to the clothing of Mongol horsemen.Ya gotta go read more, especially the posts about "Foie Girl." Oh, and get this: someone she knows said her posts were too long! Bwahahahaha! Apparently said person has never read an academic blog. Or any literate, interesting blog, for that matter, among which the Pastry Pirate most definitely counts. So go welcome her, add her to your Bloglines subscriptions, and prepare to be fascinated.
How awesome is it to wear a uniform with the presumption of peril? Designed for when, not if, but when you catch on fire?? It made me think of the Mongol horsemen who wore silk shirts under their armor, not to be sexy (although...), but because the silk fibers wrapped and twisted around arrows on the way in, and actually made it easier to remove them by twisting the shaft in the opposite direction on the way out.
Okay, so maybe it's not a direct comparison, but then, most things remind me of Mongols or Vikings or random pirates in some way.
Thursday, June 1, 2006
Good news #1: I paid off my credit cards
As of today my credit card balance is $0.00. (Well, actually, on my Visa there's the amount I spent on good bras yesterday, but I can easily pay that off, so I'm not counting that. ) The point is, I just finished paying off the nearly $12,000 in credit card debt that I'd left graduate school with. (Oh, there's more debt than that total, but the rest is student loan debt.) And I did it in 3 years, all while amassing a bit more debt for things like computers and car repairs and conference expenses not covered by my university. And now it's ALL GONE.
Yippee!!! Woo hoo!!!
Credit card debt: $0.00. Feelings of joyous liberation: Priceless.
Good news #2: My students like me! They really like me!
Not long ago my Chair asked our top graduating English major to write a welcoming letter to incoming English majors about the department and her experiences. For some gosh-darn reason, this student decided that to demonstrate how wonderful the department as a whole was, she'd use me as her primary example! And since she's our top student this year, her glowing praise of me was also eloquently written, although I have to say I can't take any credit for that -- she was a terrific writer when I first had her as a student her sophomore year. And what's more, the Chair forwarded the letter to the entire department.
And then yeseterday I found a letter from the Dean in my mailbox. In this letter, the Dean said that the survery of graduating seniors had asked students to name a faculty member who'd had a particularly strong and positive impact on their academic careers, and I'd been singled out for praise.
They like me, they really like me!
Both letters are of course going into my dossier, but it's also good to know that the department and the Dean all know that the students dig me. Yay me!