Monthly Archives: July 2010

August the First

This weekend is the move, so posting here won’t be my top priority; everyone send “happy birthday” vibes to my not-so-little brother, and I’ll be back next week!


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Tabula Rasa

Recently, I embarked on a musical project in response to this message from a friend:

“I don’t know much about music but I do love listening to new stuff. I’ve definitely worn out the last batch of suggested material and would love some more! I’ll listen to anything at least once and have very diverse taste. Any suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.”

To the rescue! I don’t know if I’ve ever made a mix for someone whose taste wasn’t already pretty firmly established, so this was interesting to think about. I ended up sitting down with a pen and paper and writing down some of my favorite songs by different bands – and that’s pretty much what I put together, without changing the order around too much, or adding too many other tracks once I opened up my iTunes library.

I kept in mind that it can be overwhelming to hear a lot of unfamiliar music all at once, so I didn’t go digging for deep album tracks – when there was a choice, I went with a song that might be familiar (see note on “Little Black Backpack” below). Here’s what I came up with – 32 songs over 2 CDs. (The glaring omission here is The Cure, so I’d add “Charlotte Sometimes” or “Just Like Heaven” or “Friday I’m in Love,” probably between The Jam and Elvis Costello on the first CD. I was also assuming a basic knowledge of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Clash, The Who, etc., so I didn’t include any of their songs.)

Ups & Downs – Saves the Day
Road Songs and Rock Songs – The Ataris
We – The Descendents
Window – Guster
The Crane Wife 3 – The Decemberists
She Has A Girlfriend Now – Reel Big Fish
The Impression That I Get – Mighty Mighty Bosstones
21st Century Digital Boy – Bad Religion
Stardust Motel – Andrew Norsworthy
Crush – Jimmy Eat World
Safely – Hot Rod Circuit
Jenny Was A Friend of Mine – The Killers
Til I Hear It From You – Gin Blossoms
That’s Entertainment – The Jam
Alison – Elvis Costello

-After listening a couple times through, I’d sub out “Jenny Was A Friend of Mine” for “Smile Like You Mean It”; otherwise, I’m enjoying listening to this myself.

Don’t Ask Me – OK Go
The Future Freaks Me Out – Motion City Soundtrack
Old White Lincoln – Gaslight Anthem
Little Black Backpack – Stroke 9
Love Love, Kiss Kiss – Alkaline Trio
Gotta Have You – The Weepies
Psalm for the Elks Lodge Last Call – The Weakerthans
One More Hour – Sleater-Kinney
Olympia, Wa. – Rancid
Kimberly – Patti Smith
Little Mascara – The Replacements
Lean on Sheena – Bouncing Souls
Plastic Man – The Kinks
Panic – The Smiths
Here Comes Your Man – The Pixies
Gardenia – Stephen Malkmus
Chocolate – Snow Patrol

-Here I’d make a few more changes. Personally, I’ve heard “Little Black Backpack” too many times at this point, but it’s catchy and it was on the radio, and when throwing a bunch of new music at someone, it’s nice to have something they might find familiar. For The Weepies, I had “Take It From Me” in mind and put on “Gotta Have You” instead, but both songs are good. My personal favorite Replacements song is “Left of the Dial,” the track immediately after “Little Mascara” on Tim, and immediately preceding “Here Comes A Regular,” which is also a favorite, but I opted for “Little Mascara” here, for no reason I can explain. Finally, I might have chosen “Susannah’s Still Alive” instead of “Plastic Man” by The Kinks – I like it better musically, but “Plastic Man” is amusing.

What I’m reading: Traffic, Tom Vanderbilt; An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England, Brock Clarke
What I’m listening to: mixes

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Living in Sudbury and going to school in Boston this summer has been my first real experience with commuting by car. It differs in a few ways from commuting by subway. On one hand, you control your environment (temperature, noise level, etc.) and you aren’t surrounded and jostled by other people. On the other, you can’t zone out, it’s harder to calculate the amount of time the trip will take on any given morning, you’re burning up a lot of fuel (and paying tolls), and you are still surrounded by people – they’re just in cars. All in all, I’m looking forward to returning to getting around primarily on foot and by subway, but one thing that has made commuting bearable has been audiobooks.

Before this year, I never listened to audiobooks. On the train, I could read real books, and/or listen to music – but because of the noise in the subway stations, trying to catch every word of an audiobook would have been an exercise in frustration and futility. I figured audiobooks were good for people who had to commute in cars, and I did start to get them out of the library for road trips down to DC or up to Boston. I started out only listening to books I’d read before – Harry Potter, The Picture of Dorian Gray – and I found that narrators with British accents were easier to take. Because the material was familiar, I didn’t worry about missing a word or a sentence or a paragraph here or there if I needed to pay close attention to road signs, traffic signals, or (more recently) instructions from the GPS (“recalculating”).

Over the past six weeks, I’ve spent about two hours driving every weekday. Music alone wasn’t going to keep me from banging my head against the steering wheel in impatience as I crawled along Route 20; I discovered NPR’s Morning Edition, and that was good, but then I began to take audiobooks out of the library. Tentatively, starting first with books I wanted to reread, like The Historian and Jane Eyre. Eventually I picked up a new (for me) book, Christopher Moore’s The Stupidest Angel. I’d read Moore’s books before (I highly recommend A Dirty Job), so I knew the material would be humorous rather than heavy, and I wasn’t going to be completely lost if I didn’t pay strict attention. And what do you know, it worked out just fine!

Most recently, I began listening to Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, which I’d read for the first time in 2007. It blew me away then, and I put it on my list of books to re-read as soon as I’d finished it. The voice on the audiobook was excellent – I have no complaints – but then it was the weekend and I wasn’t in the car, so I took the book off my shelf, picked up where the audiobook had left off – somewhere in Part 2 – and read the rest of the book in one sitting, because 1) I can read faster than most people can talk, and 2) I didn’t really have anything else to do that day.

All of this is to say that, while I certainly wasn’t opposed to audiobooks before, I am all for them now, especially if I’m going to be sitting in traffic. In his excellent book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (And What It Says About Us), Tom Vanderbilt writes, “The ‘audiobook,’ virtually unheard of before the 1980s, represents a business worth $871 million a year, and wouldn’t you know it, ‘traffic congestion’ gets prominent mention in sales reports from the Audio Publishers Association” (p. 17). Color me unsurprised.

But – is it reading? You get the content, sure, and you get the pronunciation as well (like many well-read people I know, I often run up against words that I can spell, define, and use, but have no idea how to pronounce, because I’ve only ever seen them written down and never heard them spoken aloud). But what about the act of reading itself? The only source I could remember that touched on this particular question was a New York Times Magazine article on blindness and literacy, “Listening to Braille.” What with advances in audio technology, is it still necessary to learn Braille? If your “reading” is actually “listening,” are you literate? There is a storm of opinion surrounding this matter.

For the majority of us, though, luckily, literacy isn’t the issue; we can read, just not at the wheel. And that’s where audiobooks come in handy.

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Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Take Me In

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Accidental Thanksgiving Pastry

What I set out to do was make something similar to the butternut squash and goat cheese pastry I’d made with my friend in Toronto in May. I had a sweet potato that needed to be used, and the phyllo dough in the freezer, and the goat cheese in the fridge. So I set about putting it all together, but as soon as I poured a little molasses into the bowl with the cooked chunks of sweet potato, I knew I was going to have to change my plan. (What do you know – molasses in July is not as slow as molasses in January.)

I put the goat cheese back in the fridge, and got the marshmallows out of the cabinet instead (I had them on hand for s’mores). I’m not sure if marshmallows and phyllo dough have every been combined before – it was definitely a first for me – but it pretty much turned out all right!

Accidental Thanksgiving pastry. In July.

What I’m reading: Juliet, Naked, Nick Hornby; An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England, Brock Clarke (audiobook)
What I’m listening to: The Best of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

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Marginalia IV: Realia

Last batch, till the fall at least, and that depends on how clever and amusing my professors turn out to be then. I realize that these aren’t funny to everyone, and some of them contain relatively obscure vocabulary. Just be glad I’m not studying to be an astrophysicist/neurobiologist/chemical engineer/brain surgeon – all of those would be way worse. Besides which, no one would trust me with rockets.

Professor quotes
On adding in Library of Congress (LC): “You might run into another country if you’re not careful.”

On importance: “Spain’s a four-number country.”

On the Literature schedule in LC: “It’s just strange.”

On disappearingĀ  laser pointers: “I wish I had one of those pointer things. I have had them but they’ve all vanished.”

On propriety: “Sorry about the bare feet but my shoes hurt.”

On the Dewey Decimal System: “You can abridge numbers backward!”

On Dewey: “How lovely of the world to arrange itself into tens.”

On an example: “Cute little baby giant pandas.”

On “extraterrestrial” matters: “Alas, poor Pluto. It’s not fair.” (Pluto is no longer listed with the rest of the planets in the Dewey Decimal System.)

On the 800s (Literature) in Dewey: “We’ll look for love…in all the wrong places.”

On the assignment: “Yes, it’s normal to feel stupid.”

On CyberDewey: “Once the whole site disappeared and I was most distressed.”

On starting from scratch: “You never want to make up your own classification system, it always ends badly.”

On the rare books and preservation department: “They kind of frown on the bibliomystery collection.”

On AACR2 (Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, 2nd Edition) appendices: “You don’t go blindly abbreviating around however you like.”

On standards and rules: “You have standards, you can use them, it makes life easier…That’s why we have rules, so you don’t have to think so much about it.”

On access points (or, the cataloger’s nightmare): “If you don’t do this part right, it’s not going to be findable.”

On multiple authors, shared responsibility, and the bible: “We don’t use God as a main entry because that would be disrespectful and strange.”

On unusual situations: “Because LC is not about to say you should not believe in [communication from] spirits.”

On findability: “If you can’t find them in the catalog, you don’t functionally have them.”

On authors’ authority records: “You’re allowed to be more than one person…it’s a little rare.”

On official names and formatting: “Lest you ever think there is agreement about what names should be…there isn’t.”

On digital identity: “All of Libraryland came out of the woodwork and said, ‘We call that Authority Control.'”

On copyright and intellectual property: “Where do you learn about contract law? Nowhere do you learn about contract law.”

On interoperability: “That’s the dictator model and that never works…You can’t force people to do things all the same way – it would be lovely if you could.”

On not doing a print version of RDA (Resource Description and Access, the new AACR2): “There’s a lot of squawking about that at ALA.”

Notes with classmates
“This is like story hour…but BETTER.”

“This is like the most complicated board game EVER.”


Notes to self
New word! –> realia (Best definition after looking it up: “things that are real.”)

-a t-shirt that says “I’m kind of a big deal” (for Dewey, if they wore t-shirts back then)
-a dead parrot (“it is an ex-parrot!”) (a reference to both Monty Python and eXtensible cataloging)

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Adventures at the DMV

The upcoming move to Somerville forced me to face a series of tasks I’d been dreading and therefore putting off: changing my insurance, car registration, and driver’s license over to Massachusetts. Everything had been set up in California before, despite the fact that I haven’t lived there since 2003. While I was in school (in western Mass.), it seemed easiest to keep everything with the permanent address; and even when I moved to New York, I knew that was going to be temporary too. (Three years’ worth of temporary, as it turns out, but still.)

So I guess this implies permanence, or about as permanent as anyone’s twenties are likely to be. Though the specific address will change, probably more times than I’d like, in the next few years, I think I’ll be sticking with this state for a bit.

In my management class, we just went over “escalation of commitment” – usually it implies a situation where Person A has committed to Plan X, and Plan X is beginning to look like Maybe Not the Best Decision Ever. But Person A remains committed, because s/he has already invested resources – financial, emotional, etc. – in Plan X. You hear about this happening a lot in the stock market.

My point is – if YOU’D just spent four hours in the insurance office and the DMV, respectively, you’d be pretty committed to your new home state too. Because THAT’S a good reason, right?

Actually, I like Massachusetts for a number of reasons, all of them trumping the amount of time spent in the DMV. And, considering the horrific experience I was geared up for, everything went pretty smoothly, all things considered. Here was my key to staying calm throughout the process: Time. I didn’t have anything else on the agenda today except to write twelve more pages of a fifteen-page paper, and I didn’t do that, but hey, what are Saturdays for?

This is also my secret to time management. Mom, you know how you’re always asking how I get so much done? Here’s how: I procrastinate about as much as everyone else (except gamers, probably), but I procrastinate by working on other things that I have to do anyway. This is how I routinely got nine hours of sleep per night throughout college, and why I never had to pull an all-nighter to write a final paper. It’s also how my room stays neat. (Don’t feel like writing? Research. Don’t feel like researching? Write. Don’t feel like reading OR writing? Do laundry.)

Anyway, I offer my tremendous thanks to Laura at Triple-A, and to Laurie, Maria, and Patty at the DMV (see y’all again Monday! I’ll remember my passport this time). Next up in this series of adventures will be the Somerville Parking Permit Challenge.

What I’m reading: Traffic, Tom Vanderbilt; A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini (audiobook)
What I’m listening to: Remain in Light, Talking Heads

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