Sunday, September 30, 2007

Movie of Life Quiz

The Movie Of Your Life Is An Indie Flick

You do things your own way - and it's made for colorful times.
Your life hasn't turned out how anyone expected, thank goodness!

Your best movie matches: Clerks, Garden State, Napoleon Dynamite

While I haven't seen or even heard of any of the films mentioned (I am very much behind on my movies), I'd say this quiz got it right.
Not that my life has been nearly as colorful as I might have liked... but most people seem to think it's been full of unexpected and interesting twists.
I was thinking about this recently since one of the lucky people writing me a letter of recommendation (who hasn't had to do one for me before and probably won't have to in the future) is someone I've known for a startlingly long time now, although we were out of touch for quite a few years (something that can be said of several people whom I'm now, somewhat accidentally, back in touch with).
It struck me that it must be a rather strange exercise, though I hope an enjoyable one, to review my career and formulate an academic letter of recommendation. Of course, when I have to prevail upon people from out of my past for this sort of thing, I only ask people who would be able to say something worthwhile and interesting about me. But it must be quite a different project for them than for the members of my dissertation committee, who know all sorts of things about my dissertation and other recent projects, and not necessarily all that much else beyond what my c.v. reveals to them. I gather that they examine my c.v. and begin to romanticize about what my life must have been like before graduate school (it was, I am afraid, all too often not that exciting and involved much more time standing over a photocopier than I like to think). Whereas people who have known me since I was 18 or 20 (three of whom have written letters for me in the past ten years or so) get to think about what sort of person I was then and how I was occupying myself and why this left them with a fairly positive impression of me, and then ponder what on earth I've done since then and what has possessed me to go into art history.
It must indeed be strange.
I hope it will be fun to write letters of recommendations for my future students. I also hope that I'll only be asked by people for whom I can write something impressive. It would not be fun to tell someone that all I could say was that they showed up to class regularly, now then would it?

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Technology Annoys Me

At a time when I have postdoc applications to finish writing and get into the mail, a dissertation to finish by spring, and additional unpacking to do so that I will not live in a degree of disorganization beyond my tolerating (I have pretty much given up trying to remember where I have temporarily stowed the long-sleeved shirts), DO I REALLY NEED TECHNOLOGICAL AGGRAVATION?
It is my view that I do not, but apparently the technology gods feel otherwise.
Since there seemed to be no way of getting my laptop to go online again short of reinstalling Windows, the Help Desk people told me to back up my data and bring in the machine.
Fortunately most of my data is on the second hard drive, but I have quite a few programs that keep their data closer to home or in some weird place, and of course then there's the issue of all those personal settings one applies to programs and to Windows. I once lost quite a few fonts by not copying them from an old computer to a new one, too.
I backed up some of my data in two or three places and ways, and dug out one of my external hard drives and backed up the whole C drive onto that. I specifically chose "the whole drive" rather than "files or folders" because I assumed this would be the most thorough and prevent operator error. Unfortunately this later proved to be an operator error because apparently this type of backup is basically a clone and can only be restored in full, which was not what I had in mind (why would I restore the ailing operating system?).
But I went to my appointment feeling well backed up and fairly confident.
I mentioned that my laptop is a tablet PC and uses a special version of Windows. I'm not sure the technician had ever heard of this; he replied confidently that they provide their own copies of Windows and this would be fine. I had not really gotten around to looking up the issue to refresh my memory on how my version of Windows was different than the average XP installation, so I merely pointed out that the tablet version enables me to use the computer as a slate and that regular Windows XP doesn't.
An hour and a half later, I had a spiffy looking new installation of Windows XP with Office 2007 and various other nice things. It went online with ease, so I took it away calmly to install more of my own software, although I thought I should deal with the tablet issue first.
From what I could tell from Microsoft's site, the tablet version of Windows is entirely separate and not something one adds on to regular Windows. I began to long for strong drink.
Forgoing the strong drink, I backed up the new installation just in case I ever wanted it again, and ended up doing what we should have done in the first place, restoring the laptop to its factory default via a secret hidden partition on the hard drive. (This was discovered in the process of some digging around trying to figure out where I had put the things that originally came with the laptop.) I daresay that in a couple of weeks or so I may have the laptop properly configured again and full of the appropriate software and data. This is assuming that I can come up with a stray hard drive to restore the aforementioned backup onto so that I can recover various files, like all of my Czech music and such (although in theory I could copy the music back off the ipod onto the computer). I mean, I'm a grad student on fellowship, I have all the time in the world, don't I? My dissertation will simply write itself while I put my laptop back in working order, because I don't use the laptop for my dissertation, the dissertation just grows there like a fungus on a piece of bread.
So I spent much of today sitting in the Fine Arts Library downloading and installing Windows updates and other exciting stuff using the university wifi since I was hesitant about installing the Verizon DSL software again (the possible cause of my troubles).
Meanwhile, I had called Verizon to get a technician to fix my home phone line because the only time there is not too much static on the line to talk is when telemarketers call, which seems to be several times a day (why did I want this phone line???). Verizon's automated test had indicated that there was indeed a line problem and that I would not have to pay to have it fixed.
The Verizon technician, however, called me this afternoon to say that the line was just dandy all the way to the box in the basement, and therefore the problem is somewhere in my apartment and I have to pay to fix it.
This is a phone line that I have just gotten and had next to no chance to use. The only incoming personal call I have received had to be abandoned because I couldn't hear a word my father said over the static. I resent this static considerably and I resent the idea of paying to have it taken away.
I am unsure what the Verizon technician did to my phone line in his tests, but when I returned home I discovered that my DSL no longer works. The desktop computer is therefore not all that useful to me since the package my mother sent with my LapLink cable seems to be lost in the mail.
Fortunately, one of my neighbors has an unsecured wireless network, so I am not utterly without home internet again, but one can hardly rely on the technological mistakes of other apartment-dwellers.
It is a good thing that rabbits run on vegetarian fare and petting rather than electro-magnetic mysteries. Both rabbits are very unhappy at being denied access to the bedroom of late, but they are very pettable and Ms. Spots makes sure to let me know that she needs to have some of my olives, as well as the last bits of spumoni ice cream. (These are not things Orion will touch.)
On Monday, somehow, the first postdoc proposal will be sent off. My advisor seems mostly happy with it, so it will only have some minor changes at this point...

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pittsburgh Transit

On the whole, the Pittsburgh buses do not rival the Prague combination of tram, bus, and metro. There were never enough of these buses, and their schedules have been curtailed even further in the past year. Two years ago, I often watched three packed buses sail past without stopping, and if the weather permitted, I walked the two miles to school. This year I live farther out and get on my bus closer to the start of the route, so I always get a seat on the inbound trip.
I have learned, however, that the bus I generally take is a less than desirable bus. The 71A is invariably a rolling sardine tin on the outbound trip, and I often hear people announce that they will hang around school for another hour or two in the hopes of getting a seat on this bus. It also takes a route along Centre rather than sticking to Fifth, and Centre is a surprisingly narrow street considering its importance. Consequently, I am pleased to find that I can also take the 500, which is less crowded, appears to be faster, and requires only a few blocks' walk to my door.
I will say, however, that the Pittsburgh buses are well equipped for wheelchair access and that wheelchairs are very efficiently accommodated. The bus "kneels," a ramp extrudes, the bus driver folds up some seats, and the wheelchair rolls into place. This is not something one sees in Prague, where wheelchairs are extremely rare.
I haven't figured out whether wheelchairs are rare in Prague because 1) everyone in a wheelchair is institutionalized and never sees the light of day or 2) 99% of the people who would be in wheelchairs in the US are hobbling around Prague using canes and crutches. I suspect it is some mixture of the two. In any case, I can remember seeing at least two separate individuals in wheelchairs. One was a child taking the tram with his parents (I suppose he was lifted up just the way everyone lifts up prams and other weighty objects); he appeared to have cerebral palsy or a similar problem. The other was a man who often studies at the library. He too appears to have cerebral palsy or something of the kind, and always goes to the library with a helper. I could never understand a word he said, but I have always been impressed by his determination, because the Czech Republic does not strike me as a place that offers much accommodation for the disabled or where there seems to be a strong belief in higher education for anyone with special needs.
In any case, another difference between Pittsburgh and Prague transit lies in the interchanges between drivers and passengers. In Prague, the driver only speaks to passengers regarding practical matters; passengers do address the driver more often than vice versa, but generally also on matters relating to things like needing extra time to dismount. In Pittsburgh, drivers are more loquacious. While in general they do not embark on entire discourses unless the hour is late and the passengers few, they can often be drawn into conversation by talkative passengers.
The other day I was returning home on the 500, which stopped near the Vintage senior center. (At first I assumed that Vintage, which is across from Home Depot, was a wine store, but it would probably be against the law to have a wine store within a mile of two other wine purveyors. Pittsburgh has strange laws about alcoholic beverage sales.) Some elderly persons were waiting at the bus stop, and one of them got on.
"Are you sure you want me?" inquired the bus driver. (I could only assume he was acquainted with his passenger, as he had not asked anyone else this question.)
The embarkee assured him that she did want him, and planted herself at the front of the bus where he would be sure to hear her. She informed him that she and another woman had been busy talking to their dead husbands.
As I was not listening all that carefully, I missed out on exactly why she and her friend had been talking to their dead husbands. In fact, I missed quite a bit of significant data about urns and ashes, but I did eventually hear her say, indignantly, "I sed, they're trying to make a singles bar on my husband's grave!"
Life is rarely boring in Pittsburgh.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Into the Closet

My family has heard a good deal about the peculiar closets in my apartment, so as a diversion from revising postdoc proposal #1 (to be mailed within the week), I introduce The Bedroom Closet.
I suppose some people will glance at this photo and wonder what is so peculiar about it. After all, it's clearly a closet. It even has a door.
All the same, I confess that personally I had always envisioned bedroom closets as places to keep clothing. I've seen everything from slightly larger than this one to actual walk-in closets. I do believe, however, that this is the first bedroom closet I have ever seen that offers no means of hanging up the clothes. And don't most people - male, female, young, old, employed or unemployed, lawyers or ditchdiggers - have at least some clothes that are best kept on a hanger?

What's more, isn't there some limit to how high folded clothing can effectively be piled? These shelves, which are only about a foot deep, must be at least two feet apart. I don't really find it practical to store folded pants in two-foot-high piles. It is true that non-folded sheets can be stuffed into this sort of space without actually falling out of the closet, but they are not very appealing in this form. Besides, I don't really see the point in storing sheets in the bedroom despite the fact that this keeps them close to the bed. A person doesn't change sheets every day, whereas most of us do get dressed on a pretty much daily basis.
And that's not getting to the issue of why anyone would install wire shelving in a bedroom closet. Wire shelving is only suited to boxes. How many boxes does the average person keep in a bedroom closet? I realize that there is a recent decorating fashion for putting everything in open bins and boxes that are then stuck on shelves, but let's face it, while it can be kind of cute, it is not usually very practical, and it is expensive to buy all those bins.

I did already have a couple of plastic boxes of a shoebox-like shape, so I stuck them in place. You would have to have a heck of a lot of them in order to make good use of the space, however, so I tried buying various storage containers to stick on the shelves. Some of the containers proved to be too deep for the bedroom closet and had to be put in the hall closet, which is where one is expected (in this apartment) to hang a great many shirts and knee-length skirts. Other containers were fine for putting things out of sight but not exactly optimal for getting at the things when needed. I suppose that is ok for the flannel sheets that will not be put on the bed for another month or two, but of course (since I have a bed with drawers) I do have other reasonable places to put that sort of thing. I have been a little hesitant to put anything in the bed drawers due to a problem there with CARPET BEETLES just before I went to Prague, but it must be admitted that carpet beetles do not normally eat cotton. They prefer wool, silk, and paintbrush bristles, or, in a pinch, the leather binding on my great-grandmother's Bible.

It is true that towels stack relatively well on this sort of shelving, but again why would I want to keep towels in my bedroom? I would like to keep them in the hall closet, or ideally in the bathroom, but the hall closet is not designed for towels and the bathroom can only accommodate towels-in-use. The bathroom, in fact, will not accommodate the bathroom shelving unit that served me so well in the past, because there is a towel bar placed at a peculiar angle (not what might be called level to floor or ceiling) exactly where one worries that one might knock the towel into the toilet.
Besides, returning to the closet, the alert reader will observe that there are way too many towels stuffed into the space available. I admit I have a good collection of towels, but I have not yet gotten them properly arranged in the space. Bath towels are buried by hand towels and wash cloths, and all of these are burying the iron, whose cord is, naturally, falling through the wire on the shelf.
An added feature of this remarkable closet, not visible in these photos due to the use of flash, is its lack of any light. The ceiling light in the bedroom manages to get a few lumens into this corner of the room provided one closes the bedroom door before opening the closet. This is more than I can say for the light situation in the living room closet, where the only way to find the shoes I want to wear is to drag out shoe after shoe until I find a suitable pair. I always have the sensation that I have turned into a mole whenever I open the living room closet door. One pretty much navigates it by feel since there is no light inside it or in the living room itself. Well - I did plug in one of my two lamps in the living room. It gives a dim light suitable to a World War II blackout.
On the plus side, I have been sitting in my bedroom all evening accompanied by two fine spotted characters who have only spent a small amount of the time chewing boxes and prancing around on my bed looking for nice books to investigate. For the most part they are just lounging amorously together and enjoying being near their favorite human.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Rabbit-Proofing 101

What could be more charming than the sight of contented rabbits engaged in yet another session of adoring grooming (and in my bedroom, no less)?

Of course, rabbits do like to get into any mischief available to them. If an area is to be denied them, it must be denied them on all sides, not just almost everywhere.

For permanent protection of important stuff from characters of a particularly chewy disposition (which is to say Ms. Spots and Orion, as opposed to some lapines I have known), immediate action should be taken. Hardware cloth is a handy item when it comes to protecting low-lying bookshelves, although some means has to be come up with to get at the books.

My parents have their own methods of doing this, which seem to involve blocking off books that aren't used as often, and in one case reaching for the books from the back side of the shelf, which I gather has resulted in some damage to the curtain behind the shelf. They do have, however, some handsome wooden frames for their hardware cloth, which is more than I can say for mine. As hardware cloth comes in rolls, one's first task is to get the stuff to flatten out. Shoving heavy boxes up against it gets the process underway while still allowing some sort of access to the books.

The rabbits in this household evidently feel that it is a waste of my time to go online. I don't think I had the internet functional for more than 48 hours before I came home to discover an expertly dismantled connection. Of course, they did not pile up the cord like this for me to observe; the culprit merely deftly left some pieces of his or her handiwork in an obscure location near the wall where the cord was not taped down.

No wonder both rabbits were settled far under the couch when I discovered this!
Well, the answer to most matters cord-related is... Clear Vinyl Tubing. As the stuff doesn't come pre-split, I tend to put off attaching it to my cords, with distressing results. Still, it is not all that difficult to split with my long-suffering Swiss Army knife. (It has to be split because the plugs on most cords, even phone cords, are much too big to thread through an unsplit tube.)
Travis tells me, however, that he has heard of an alternative product: apparently one can buy pre-split tubing at car-parts stores. This stuff is designed to keep mice from chewing the wiring on the undersides of cars. Regarding this information, I can only observe that you learn something new every day.

I have now got the DSL line pretty well protected, but it looks like I should tackle the phone filter and the exposed part of the phone line as well. After all, rabbits enjoy scuttling under things like this striped laundry bin.

The question now is whether the encased DSL line will become a tripping hazard in the bedroom doorway. Verizon told me very firmly that I must not use a phone cord longer than 14 feet for DSL, so running the cord over the doorframe is not an option. I did try duct-taping the previous line to the carpet, but while that prevented chewing on the taped section, the tape did not really stick to the carpet.
It is my view that I have spent enough of the afternoon rabbit-proofing, as my main project for the weekend is to put together the post-doc proposal that is due in the mail by October 1. I have actually been pretty diligent about that. The "personal statement" and c.v. are pretty much complete, I have picked out and mostly fixed my three writing samples (two are conference papers, so they had to be formatted for other people to read and have footnotes added, and the other is a dissertation chapter which had to have all extraneous matter removed). I have even located four obliging souls to write my letters of recommendation. The actual proposal is not really done, but I did run into a faculty member of my acquaintance at a local cafe this morning and got some useful advice, so I imagine it will all come together shortly.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Help Desk Baffled

I regret to state that my hour-long appointment at the university's computer Help Desk was a complete failure. My helper, after fiddling around with the laptop and its settings and ports for the full hour (uninstalling and reinstalling various things, etc.) and conferring with other experts, confessed himself baffled. I gather it is extremely bizarre that the laptop has suddenly become unable to access the internet via DSL, wifi, OR dial-up. On the first two, it assures me that it is waiting to get the network address, but never finds one. On dial-up, it dials but spends so long post-connecting that it never gets to the stage of verifying my password.
This agreeable but dumbfounded person said that he could only suppose something has gone wrong with my Windows installation and that his supervisor will be giving me a call to set up a much longer appointment in which we will reinstall Windows.
I then happened to run across my department's network person, who was relaxing in the TA Office with our mutual friend the specialist in all things Viking and Scandinavian/Icelandic. We gave the laptop another, briefer, examination and he too confessed himself flummoxed. He did say that he personally reinstalls Windows annually on his computer, but this only confirmed my belief that computer specialists (no matter how brilliant and/or congenial) have a different genetic makeup than I do, and are probably from another planet (sorry Julia and Swobodin). I have previously endured the thrills and excitement of reinstalling Windows, and in my view it is not much better fun than watching paint dry. In fact, I would probably rather watch paint dry since that is a pastime that requires less rapt attention. Nor does watching paint dry involve very many subsidiary issues other than refraining from touching the wet paint.
This, of course, is exactly the sort of diversion one needs while trying to put together a post-doc application that must be postmarked by October 1 and which requires four letters of recommendation to be acquired very much at the last minute from bemused professors. I have already learned that one of my standard recommenders is not available to write anything until the following week, and another one is out of town for the year.
The rabbits have offered up their own unique manner of diversion, in which someone or other removed a Ravel two-CD set from the CD tower, chewed the paper cover thoroughly, and separated the halves of the case so that each CD could be individually pawed. (Perhaps this had something to do with last night's radio broadcast of Ravel's "Tombeau de Couperin.") Ms. Spots also saw fit to impress upon me that yarn can be as fine a treat as good hay; she was observed under the kitchen table with a ball of Crystal Palace yarn gradually disappearing into her mouth. (Fortunately I had pretty much finished knitting the scarf to which the ball of yarn had been attached.)
On the positive side, I have finally gotten the desktop computer to recognize the DSL signal, but this may be a fleeting thing since that was what preceded the laptop's ills. It is exciting having DSL, of course, after having spent 17 hours updating its copy of Windows via dial-up.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Not Actually Dead

It might have been supposed that I had been run over by one of the unruly cars that routinely kill pedestrians around the University of Pittsburgh, but no, not yet. I am merely not very internet-connected.
In brief, the DSL service promised for Monday has not yet been persuaded to work properly on either computer; it worked briefly on the laptop, which thereafter swooned and has refused to access the internet via DSL, wifi, or dialup and will be seen by a technician at the Health Center ... er... Help Desk... tomorrow morning.
Meanwhile, I have a dreadful number of postdoc applications to write and finagle letters of recommendation for, one of my chapter subsections is being annoying, and I am obliged to replace a member of one of the conference panels I put together back in January.
Orion and Ms. Spots are contributing their best box-chewing skills to the situation, and would be happy to bite through all of my cords and wiring if permitted.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Desk in Its Glory

After all this talk about my desk, I thought I would put up a photo of it before it is utterly invisible under mounds of stuff. (Well, actually, this really only shows the top of the desk, but so be it.)
It is a nice-enough looking item, and doesn't entirely clash with the superstructure from my previous desk. I was able to put it together all by myself in a five-hour span of time, which would have been more like two hours had Ikea's instructions been a little clearer. I spent a lot of time staring at the instruction sheet and trying to figure out which piece of wood it was referring to and which way the piece was supposed to go.
Yeah, it looks okay, seems reasonably sturdy, fits into the available space, holds the printer and the monitor, and has a keyboard tray almost large enough for both keyboard and mouse pad.
The alert viewer will note, however, that there is no space left for me to put the laptop, the scanner, or any pieces of paper larger than postcard size. (That's a graphics pad to the right, although I'm afraid someone recently chewed its cord.)
I'm not saying I'm surprised at the lack of place to put important items. No, it's no surprise at all because manufacturers of computer desks do seem to figure that the average user doesn't own any of the stuff sold in computer stores. Nobody would ever own a scanner, a headset, a graphics tablet, a printer, or a ream of paper. Certainly, no one would ever dream of spreading out their printed results. Well, okay, that's why most computer users probably just fill up the house with tables, assuming there is room for them. There is not room in my bedroom for much more than is currently there.
On the plus side, I'm quite pleased with the number of dictionaries and oversized art books I've managed to stow here and there on the desk. If I need to look up a word in Spanish or Italian (not languages much used in my research), it can be done. I did have to put the Norwegian dictionary somewhere else, though. After all, references relating to the Czech language take precedence on this desk.
Dr. Zaius will be glad to see, if he looks closely, a familiar blue-and-green object between the graphics tablet and the ipod. Gumby is still attached to his phone after all these years, although I do have to glue his leg on annually. It would be especially fine if I could also display Mama Valium Rabbit, but she hasn't been seen in many a year and I guess that just goes to show that it's not a good idea to hook up a nursing doe to a milking machine, no matter how lazy she is.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Openness Quiz

You Are 51% Open

You are a fairly open person, but you also like to maintain your privacy.
You definitely will tell all (okay, almost all) to your closest friends...
But strangers and acquaintances only get a peek into your life.

In the interests of full disclosure, I will reveal that Verizon thinks it can get me home phone and internet service on Monday. This means that instead of trying to remember, while at school, what I might need to take care of on the internet, I can handle most of my email and other random internetly tasks at home when I am not awake enough to do much else.
This means that the pace of blogging and use of photos ought to pick up again. I'll bet the entire universe is excited beyond belief about that...

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Work, You Say?

It is amazing to me how much less I get done in the US than in Prague. This was not quite as noticeable in California since my parents did not require me to do too many tasks for them.
I keep telling myself that one of these days I will actually be properly moved into my apartment and have the majority of my belongings not just unpacked but put in some sort of plausible arrangement, and that someday I will actually have a real phone and internet at home. (The phone has now been ordered and will allegedly be functional on Monday.) It is true that I make progress each day on the home front, and that I am also making small amounts of progress on the dissertation. But it does not feel that way.
No, even though I spend very little time in that infamous land of ease and gossip known as the TA Office (I do often eat lunch there in order to enjoy professional discourse on topics such as coffee grinders, carpal tunnel, and the correct dating of the Oseberg Ship), I feel as though most of my time is spent floating about.
Floating about to the computer lab for printouts, floating about with lists of books to find, floating about to doctors' appointments (this morning I had my hands X-rayed no less than 12 times and some dreadful quantity of unwilling blood was removed from my recalcitrant veins), floating about the internet trying to remember what else I need to look up, floating about from one place to another buying ever more boring quantities of household objects while wondering where to store them (atop the refrigerator? under the bathroom sink? on the floor of a closet?).
It must be admitted that I have attended no less than three social events (one night-time grad party, one grad brunch, and one area studies reception), and that I have conversed with several professors, of whom three are even members of my dissertation committee. But still.
My advisor, who seems content with my progress for the moment, reveals that not only should we schedule a defense date now, before the calendar fills up (it can always be changed if some disaster occurs before April), but that if she is to verify my impending graduation to prospective employers, she will have to see some significant chunk of text by November or thereabouts. Apparently there is less of a willingness to hire ABD these days and the candidate's proximity to graduation must be confirmed in blood well before the job interview.
My advisor appeared relatively blithe about this, but only because she evidently supposes that I can throw her a staggering amount of manuscript in the near future. It is thus my plan to start her on the first three chapters, ideally by next week. I do not claim these chapters are done, but there is some hope that they can be made intelligible, apart from the section that awaits perusal of the belated Štyrský monograph (allegedly forthcoming, although the exhibition must be about over). One of my other committee members is also anxious for something to read, so I suppose she can be given the same package.
And so I must return to my attempts to create a useful summary of the Devětsil group as it relates to Toyen and the surrealists...

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Give Me Your Hummus!

Ms. Spots has always been known for her adventurous palate. Chocolate, Indian food, macaroni and cheese, bagels, and gingerbread are only a few of the items that have caused her to race around begging to be fed.
Since the weather has been hot and my stove doesn't work (yes, I will be calling the building management about this, but not until the move-in process has subsided somewhat), I have been living on things like yogurt and bread-and-cheese. Ms. Spots was very excited about one of the bread loaves I brought home from Whole Foods (rabbits prefer certain types of bread, on a very individual basis).
More recently I was varying my diet by eating pita bread and hummus. Hummus has a way of dropping off the knife onto the floor before it reaches the bread, but not to worry, the Spotted Vacuum Cleaner was on the scene.
I have not seen her quite this excited about any food other than yogurt in some time. Every time the hummus container gets opened, she shows up for her share.
Moreover, I'm not sure I'll be able to eat much of it myself. Last night I sat down on the floor to eat a bagel with hummus, and next thing I knew she was climbing into my lap to get at it. We ended up splitting the bagel and she got about 75% of the hummus.
Orion is not, apparently, deeply interested in hummus but does think that he ought to be getting something too.
Remarks on academic matters will be forthcoming one of these days as a diversion from all this domestic news.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Off to IKEA-Land

Since my last desk fell apart dreadfully almost as soon as Travis and I began to move it out of its original resting place in my previous Pittsburgh bedroom, and since John (who was the last of several lucky people to assist me in the moving-out process) had assured me that there was no possible way of resurrecting it, there was no desk awaiting me in the storage unit when I returned.
This has been something of a problem, as while I can use my laptop without a desk, my printer is a behemoth that requires a sturdy surface, and for that matter I would like to get the desktop computer set up again.
The dismembered desk came from IKEA, so I was not particularly anxious to return to that retailer to find a new one. Much of their furniture is made of particle-board, which is extraordinarily heavy and has very little strength. The desk had been almost impossible for me to put together by myself in the first place due to its design, and took me several hours despite the fact that I'm pretty good with hammers, nails, screws, and glue.
At the same time, finding a good desk at Goodwill or a garage sale is not easy. I am sure that many wonderful desks are available when one is not looking for any such thing, but I certainly did not find one last time I went looking.
My Sibling assured me, however, that not all IKEA furniture is junk and that he has been very pleased with most of his purchases. He indicated that at least some of their wares are solid wood and therefore likely to hold a screw under stress.
Since I was not finding anything better or cheaper, I gave in and headed for IKEA-land early this morning after some adventures on the home front involving bookcases, laundry, and other heavy kinds of things.
My general attitude about going to IKEA is that it is a hellish sort of expedition that leaves the explorer drained, exhausted, and impatient. By this I do not mean to suggest that there is nothing enjoyable about it; the fact that it is kind of fun to look at their displays only makes the problem more insidious.
First one goes through the display areas, which tempt one with all sorts of ways of improving the home one does not actually live in. (And, periodically, makes one reel with horror at certain of the more brightly colored and boldly patterned designs.) IKEA is very adept at coming up with endless ways of handling storage, assuming the customer has a place to put more bookcases, wardrobes, cupboards, and other storage units. If one is in a position to devote entire walls to such things, ah well, many wonderful things can be done. Some of us, of course, live in small apartments that do not have any space for added kitchen or bathroom storage (no matter how much we might wish for it), and that do not have enough wall space for much more furniture than we already possess. As far as I could tell before leaving home, I had enough space for a desk in the bedroom and enough space in the living room to consider getting an end table and/or a lamp to go next to the couch. My parents were eager to have me look at wardrobe units since I had mentioned that my closets do not favor hanging up anything longer than the average shirt, but I pointed out that it would not be very decorative to keep a wardrobe in the center of the living room floor, although I suppose it would be more attractive than the cardboard garment box that is currently lording it over all the shorter boxes presently residing there.
I did find a solid pine desk and a potentially attractive end table, along with various inexpensive candles, a corkscrew, and miscellaneous other items that cost a collective pretty penny. As usual, by the time I left, I was anxious never to return, since if I really wanted to get sore feet and spend lots of money, it would be much more fun to go to a museum and visit its gift shop (I noticed that the National Gallery gift shop has a particularly fine selection of temptations this fall).
I will now gather up the remaining boxes of books mailed from Prague that are sitting on my library carrel, proceed on home, and no doubt spend the rest of the day putting together my new furniture in the very limited space available to me. Rabbits will probably arrive to inquire what I am doing and will then wisely decide that it would be well to retreat to a safe spot under a chair where fewer things might fall and hit them.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Adventures in Misreading

As a break from all that tedious and horrifying (carpet beetle-related) news about moving, we have Something Completely Different.
I have always been entertained by the various peculiar things I manage to misread from signs and so forth, but it is rare that I actually remember what they were. In the space of mere days, however, I have come up with a couple of fine examples:
"Certified Pre-Owned Wolves" (this was actually "Certified Pre-Owned Volvos")
"Suicides in Short Fiction" (the original mundane title: "Studies in Short Fiction")
I didn't see anything all that odd about the idea of a book on suicides in short fiction, as there must be quite a few examples of stories about suicide and I might not have caught on to the real title had I not stood in line in front of the book for quite some time, but the notion of certified pre-owned wolves really forced me to take an immediate second look.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Furniture, At Last

The movers have come and gone, depositing everything that remained in my storage unit in various parts of the new apartment. (This does not, of course, mean that I have a real phone or internet at home.) Orion and Ms. Spots were mercifully inclined to nap through most of the process, though they did get up and explore from time to time. I got the distinct impression that while they are as fond of novelty as the next rabbit, they have had quite enough changes of habitat in the past few weeks and do not want any more of this.
Unfortunately, they will have to put up with still more. There is a vast amount of unpacking of boxes to do, some of the furniture has to be put back together before anything can be done with it, a new desk will have to be found to replace the one that fell apart on the way out of my bedroom to the storage unit, and so on and so forth. There will be much scanning of clothing and upholstery for signs of carpet beetles, as these abominable creatures staged a massive infestation shortly before I put everything in storage and it is unlikely that I managed to destroy all of them. (So far there have been signs of past infestation, like the shed skins of the voracious larvae, but no noticeable new holes in anything I've examined.)
The rabbits have also had to put up with their human disappearing for two days on a trip to Our Nation's Capital, where an exhibition of modernist photography was about to close at the National Gallery. The exhibition was good and the catalog was purchased, some excellent Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian food was consumed, and the latest designs at Archelaus Cards were discussed. As far as can be ascertained, Ms. Spots and Orion were pretty much OK with having my friend Travis feed and entertain them during the Washington extravaganza. Ms. Spots already knew Travis, but Orion is cautious about new humans, so he was probably non-pettable the whole time. Both were eager to be petted upon my return.

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