Saturday, March 12, 2005

Mother Nature Hates Me

On Wednesday, Darling Daughter and I spotted the first flowers of spring, *2* snow-drops (little, white, bell-shaped flowers that are the harbingers of spring here and in Sweden) in someone's yard. Thursday, it turned cold and dark. Today, Saturday, we woke to a heavy snowfall. It is still too warm, relatively speaking, for it to stick, so everything was slushy when I ran down to the store around noon. Since we are now guaranteed to neither starve nor freeze to death (yay! tile oven!), I do not plan to move from the house for the rest of the weekend.

[Added about 4 pm—Mother Nature is now taunting me; we're getting alternating clear skies/sunshine and dark gray clouds, but no more snow. Hooray! The snow from this morning has melted off most of the roofs around us. Double hooray!]

I suspect Lovely Husband of a plot to push me over the edge. It is subtle and insidious. This morning he repeatedly said, in a delighted voice: "Look at all the snow!" "It's steadily snowing!" "I love snow!" See the simplicity, the evil?


As an aspiring writer, I feel it is my duty to propagate new words as I come across them. In that spirit, here is a bit of new vocabulary (with attributions) for you to enjoy and use:

fantacular (4-year-old niece) – fantastic plus spectacular, I think
stupitude (me) – state of being stupid
a sphincto-cranial event (via John Scalzi) – an instance of head-in-ass syndrome


I had a very unproductive week, school-wise. I'm only halfway through my primary source for my paper, and I haven't even begun my analysis. I got a lot of housework and Internet surfing done, though, which I guess you could say is the mental equivalent of staring and drooling.

I admit that one reason I haven't finished reading for my paper is that I have been reading for pleasure. My first choice would be fantasy, but since I've read all my books (1) and the pickin's are slim in English at the library (I'm too cheap to go out and buy books), I have only read one Terry Pratchett novel in that genre. So I turned instead to Jane Austen. I have a copy of Pride and Prejudice at home, so I started by rereading that. Then I read Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park.

I have to say that P&P is still my favorite work by JA, followed now by MP. S&S? Not so much liking there. It was hard to understand, and therefore empathize with, the characters in the first half of the book. I may give it another try before I have to return it. There's still Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion to read, so the order of favorites may still change.

(1) "La chair est triste, hélas! et j'ai lu tous les livres" ["Alas, the flesh is weary, and I have read all the books"]-- Stéphane Mallarmé

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Writing and Weather

I used to lurk on a writing-themed yahoo group—until the number of personal attacks outnumbered the number of useful comments—but now have no place to post my brilliant insights on writing. So consider this a thinking-out-loud post and feel free to skip ahead.

One thing that used to annoy me about the writing list was how *literal* people were in their critiques of other people's work. (It's a surprisingly easy trap to fall into.) For instance, suppose you read, "His eyes were filled with anger," or "I could see the fear in his eyes." (1) I understand the argument that these are perhaps overused expressions, but I seriously wanted to start knocking heads together when people objected to them because they weren't literally true.

Now I am reading Metaphors We Live By for my term paper, and the authors are able to clarify the source of my annoyance for this example: human beings conceive of eyes as "containers" for emotions. This idea is so intrinsic to us that we can say someone's eyes are "full of" anger/fear/hatred/joy and not think twice about what it means. We use the metaphor "eye=emotion-container" in our everyday speech, not just as a literary device, so when we encounter it in literature, we should not assume it is an affectation.

So take that, critiquers!

(1) Lakoff, George and Johnson, Mark. Metaphors We Live By. The University of Chicago Press, 1980. p. 50

The weather-caster on CNN International said that Europe was experiencing lower than normal temperatures for this time of year. Well, DUH!

We're currently getting either rain or very wet snow. It doesn't matter, as the effect is the same: melting snow. Hoorah! I would gladly take a whole week of dreary, gray skies and showers if it means the snow will finally be gone. Lovely Husband was hoping for *more* snow, but he's obviously off his rocker. I don't think that's proof enough to have him locked up, though. Hmm...

I will say one nice thing about the snow here—it stays white all winter. In Sweden, it would turn dirty gray, and even at the start of May there were still glaciers of blackish ice on all the street corners where the snow plows had deposited snow over months and months. I guess there's just not a large enough volume of snow here to keep gravelly slush on the streets and sidewalks. The snow that sticks around is invariably on stretches of ground that no one has to (or can) walk across.


Novel Do-Nots, Cont'd:
3. No one will live for centuries without biological or gravitational effects. My old-timers will look like withered potatoes, not young people in the prime of life. This applies to wizards, sorceresses, elves, etc.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

People Watching

I am an inveterate people-watcher. I haven't veered off into voyeurism--yet?--but I really can't help noticing that the love-child of Sherlock Holmes and David Crosby (complete with mutton-chop sideburns and a long-stemmed pipe) was accompanying Anna Nicole Smith's grandmother through downtown today.

Remember Better Off Dead with John Cusack? A woman in the bank was wearing the dad's aardvark-fur coat, minus the cute aardvark-head hood. Where do you even find a coat like that?!

Here's another one: remember the Chicken Lady from Kids in the Hall? A woman on the bus was wearing a furry? feathery? fuzzy? scarf that looked as if she had skinned the C.L. and dyed her fuzzy neck-thing purple. Ghastly.

Yes, I know, I'm probably going to burn in hell.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Cat Psychology 101—Now Enrolling

Here is how I like to imagine our cats view the world.

Eliza Cat (lying on the radiator at the top of the stairs):
"Here comes that woman! She's headed straight for me! Do I have time to hide?! Maybe if I crouch down she won't see me! OH NO! She's spotted me! Run for the bed!!"
(Shoots under the bed like a flash.)

Later, back on the radiator:
"Here she comes *again*! Must flee!"
(Jumps down to the stairs, flings self between rails and drops down one foot to the top of the tile oven.)
"Whew! That was close! It's a good thing I'm so clever and agile!"

Missy Cat (lying across the middle of the stairs):
"That woman wants to come upstairs again—over my dead body, Beeyotch!"


The Chinese take-away was replaced by some sort of Mexican pizza restaurant. I only saw the newly painted window as I drove by the other day. Although the word "Mexican" is on the sign, we don't have high hopes for the quality of the restaurant, as there is a "Mexican" fast food restaurant in town that is pretty much a Turkish kebab house, maybe with a bell pepper thrown into the food. The meat is that shaved goat or pork or whatever. I don't know what kind of indigenous gods there are in Turkey, but that place will definitely give you Montezuma's revenge, if you know what I mean, so we avoid it.

Alas! (My new favorite exclamation after reading Pride and Prejudice. Not that it's in there, but whatever.)

Indoor Fun

When I took D.D. to the movies last week, we got there early enough to catch the very end of the credits from the earlier showing, and I saw that the band that did the soundtrack is named Bananafishbones. That is the best band name I have ever heard! I am already planning to name any goldfish we get in the future that. It's probably a good thing that there won't be any baby-naming possibilities in my future, because Bananafishbones S. has such a ring to it, don't you think?


We inherited some kind of tropical tree thing when we moved into our apartment, and it makes me a little nervous. For starters, it leans over the stairs (it's much too heavy to move), and we brush against it every time we go by. I'm not sure why it hasn't died, because we hardly ever remember to water it. And it has these weird things—I think they're some sort of air-roots—that dangle off it between its big, frond-y leaves; some of them are several feet long, and sometimes they stick out over the stairs, too, like long feelers. If we all turn up missing, check the plant.


In other news, snow.


Sometimes I don't think D.D. lives in the same world with the rest of us. We were watching a movie, and some characters were talking about the prizes (record albums) for a talent contest they were planning to enter. Out of the blue, D.D. says, "I hope they like bagels." There wasn't anything about bagels in the scene, so I asked her to explain what she meant, and she said, "You know, they're like donuts with little seeds on top." Thanks for clearing that up, honey.

D.D. is forever going on about having a "project" or "experiment", usually involving water, plastic bags, and/or strings. Many of her "projects" are variations on a disco ball, but she still has managed to make some, uh, creative things, and even a few things that work, like a string pulley. She's not scared of math, either, so it occurred to me that if her 7-year-old's plans of becoming a dancer don't pan out, she might end up an engineer. But then my experience of working with engineers sits up and screams in horror, "NOOOOO!" I guess 7 is too young for any of us to be making career plans for her yet, but perhaps I will gently steer her away from the soul-sucking career of engineer anyway.


I love this site: The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord. It includes classics such as
7. When I've captured my adversary and he says, "Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?" I'll say, "No." and shoot him. No, on second thought I'll shoot him then say "No."
53. If the beautiful princess that I capture says "I'll never marry you! Never, do you hear me, NEVER!!!", I will say "Oh well" and kill her.

It has inspired me to start a list of things I have seen in fantasy novels that I will NOT do in my novel:
1. My protagonist will never know something without knowing how he knows it.
2. My protagonist will never instinctually know how to do some horribly complicated task (see number 1).

This is just the beginning. I'll add to the list as I come across other useful items. Feel free to send suggestions.

I wasn't going to haiku about the weather again, but during a flurry of crafts with Darling Daughter, my lack of artistic talent prevented me from visualizing the most aesthetically pleasing arrangement of the available beads, foam shapes, paper, and glitter glue, so I had to resort to creating a poem out of lettered beads. In case you can't make it out onscreen, it says

blue skies-sunshine-green-
only a figment of my

It's ok, but it's not the same without the glitter glue effect.
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