27 September 2006

writing, forest, trees

the milestone of the day: I sent my revised manuscript off to Duke for final approval from the folks there. woo hoo! many thanks to those who slogged through various portions of said manuscript, at the stage when every other word was 'thus' and later at the stage when I decided commas were a fine way to join two complete sentences and yes, indeed, having more than two m-dashes in one sentence was just fine. mm. splices. dangling phrases. gerunds.

hopefully much of that is gone from the book now. I will say that at this stage it seems like a large pile of words rather than a book. I've been working on it at the miniscule word/sentence/correction level, and it's now a forest of trees with every pine needle given in great detail. (side note: I just realised that my imagined forest/trees metaphor is a pine forest. does anyone see deciduous trees in theirs? interesting.) I have no idea what the forest looks like. I've been making sure the needles are in their places.

there is a certain terror in letting one's work out of one's hands. luckily it's matched by a certain exhaustion at having done all of this intellectual grunt work. and so they cancel one another out and result in a query about what wine to celebrate with tonight. hurrah.

25 September 2006

boy I hope we like beets

so as part of the new house (much like our gardeners, bug guy, and pool guy at the Redlands house) we have inherited a relationship with a local farmer who delivers veggies sort of weekly. pretty much the day after he and his crew pick them, we get them. it varies. £10 per delivery, which includes a raft of root and salad veg. lovely. the usual problem with these things is twofold:
1. do you really want to be that close to nature?
2. what the hell is this thing? and what do I do with it?

answer to #1: sort of not. the odd spider and cute centipede I'm cool with. discovered wormy/larvae things in a swede this evening. into the trash. too much nature. ick.
answer to #2: those brown thingies with the rhubarb-looking tops--they're beets. very stainy. very pink. hm. I have 8 of them. we are having borscht from an interweb recipe that looks pretty good (beets, carrots, onion, garlic, ginger, lemon rind...) all but the last two were in the bag.

I hope we like beets.

Computer AV, HTPC

Whatever you call it....

not quite ready for prime time

OK, so seriously, I'm going to try to be a better blogger. I think that the whole buying a house, moving, travelling (blah blah blah) thing is a good excuse for the past month, but the future will be different....

I've spent far too much time over the past two weeks trying to get our new AV system up and running. As most of you know: a) we had a fantastic home theater in California, and b) every piece of it besides the TV (which is now on my dad's wall) was stolen out of our storage unit. So I was starting from scratch, and the very first task – attaching the wall mount to the brick and mortar wall – was daunting.

My grand plan was to include only the following elements:
The idea was that the Mac Mini would run the entire show. It would be the stereo, the Tivo device, the DVD player, and the 'digital hub' that Steve Jobs is always going on about. It's a great plan.

But in practice it's not quite there. The deal-breakers are as follows:
  1. EyeTV is so cool, especially its integration with the Apple Remote, and it would work great if one wanted to throw it on one's laptop and record Studio 60 once a week. But it is not yet ready to replace a Tivo for daily recording and watching. Why? A) It won't start a recording if you're watching a DVD through the Mini's Dolby Digital output. We have Veronica Mars right now people, so that's what we are doing every night. B) The firmware on the DTT Freeview tuner isn't quite right, so despite our very strong signal, some recordings were all stuttery, skipping, rubbish.
  2. The new Apple DVD drives incorporate a firmware that won't let you get around DVD region coding. Our cheap-ass Toshiba DVD player is multi-region, and this is essential for our translantic TV viewing tastes. The only workaround is to set the Macbook to region 2 and then rip the discs for viewing on the region 1 Mini. That's a pain.
So...for now...we've picked up a Freeview Box PVR and will be testing out new versions of EyeTV as they are released. Their tech support seems genuinely interested in making the product better, so that's promising.

But there is good news to report. I'll sum it up as follows:
  1. Plasma rules!!! Don't buy the LCD hype. And don't buy the HD hype either!
  2. The YSP800 is genuis, and I can't believe that it works.
  3. The Mordaunt-Short is the best bass for the money I've ever spent. Unbelievable, non-boomy lows in a quality box, all on the cheap.
OK. That's all for now, it's already too much, and I didn't even get started on connecting cables, wall mount brackets, shipping woes, HD resolutions....

23 September 2006


our former student now good friend Dan has just moved from DC to LA, a seemingly small slip of the acronym and yet as we all know a long, long way away from where he grew up, many many friends, and his partner, another former student of ours now friend, Matt. Having lived away from Sam on two occasions--our first year of grad school and my dissertation research in South Asia--this is completely breaking my heart. Dan's off to grad school, a worthy goal for someone of his intellect, passion, drive, and we need more Dans out here in academic land. Matt's pursuing his art career which is nigh meteoric, intellectual, engaged, and, well, just plain luxurious and fluffy. This does not make anything easier.

Shout out to you both, from those who are also struggling with connections across vast distances and multiple timezones. Much love.


22 September 2006

too much to blog

it's not a case of not having anything to blog about--in fact, quite the opposite. we are moving in to the house, supervising/helping our handyman, attending meetings in the department, running back and forth to meet delivery people (who fail to show up), doing prep for courses, desperately trying to finish book chapters/talks/writing commitments, and all the rest. In short, normal life, except with the whole move thing thrown in.

we've always wondered at real people with real jobs who end one job, move, and then take up the new job the next day. we thought that perhaps because their corporate boss had a special moving company come and do everything for them that it was easier somehow. or perhaps real people all have wives who can stay home and meet the delivery folks, unpack, clean, choose paint colors etc. we often comment to one another that we need a wife. it would help us out a lot. but we don't have one (sigh) and so we scramble a bit.

so apologies for the hiatus. we'll be back on track soon. topics to come:

rubber bands, the Royal Mail, and prankster art
statistical and personality-based analysis of the sofa market: are you mushy, or firm?
car-free living: less hassle? more hassle?
do dogs speak in different dialects?
are we normal?

17 September 2006

getting help (aka friendship)

it is incredibly difficult to ask for help, favours, or tasks from friends, I find. and of course if someone asks me for something I'm happy to be needed, happy to help, glad that I was the one that the person turned to. but one can't assume that of others, right? I generally assume they're thinking: sheesh! yet another favour! can't the girl do anything for herself? and it generally seems that when I ask for something the favour balance-sheet in my head is generally along the lines of: huge debt in my column, huge positive in theirs = I can't ask them for something more!

and so, we find ourselves moving into a new house and depending on others, perhaps more than normal, as we are car-less and have some difficulty navigating around here. it's normal to need stuff when you move, but this time it seems a bit more widespread than normal:

--Sam's parents had not only to get up in the middle of the night to send our dog to us. they had to say goodbye to Luke, whom they'd been taking care of for a year. for us.
--friends here in Swansea have driven us around to no end and continue to say, as they drop us off: just let me know if you need another lift
--a friend here, on 30-minutes' notice, came by our flat, helped us move our stuff out with his car, and stored it in his garage for the month we were gone.
--one of our new neighbours graciously agreed to have the courier deliver our television mount to her door, and then in the midst of my awkward introductions of myself and Sam, offered to loan us their truck on the weekends if we needed it.
--our friends in Redlands have met the charity folks to pick up things from our storage unit in the 110-degree heat, then returned to meet the estimator person, and still are on-board for meeting the movers and getting our stuff on its way to us.

and this is just the recent stuff.

I suppose this is just a shout-out to the global-level friendships, both those involving incredible favours and those not currently in that category. I've come to think of this generosity as a karmic balance in the universe. I may not be able to return the favour to that particular person. but perhaps whatever generosity I can offer goes out into the world and adds to the pool of generous action, potentially returning to me in some unexpected, incredibly helpful form.

many many thanks.

15 September 2006


That's it for now. Soon, I promise, a return to regular bloging...

10 September 2006

greek to me

we are in the new house! well, 1930s, which is practically brand-spankin' new in the long history of Wales, as you well know. but certainly new to us, which is exciting.

after a few days of lovely in-person blogging with the folks over at the Odds are One (note: in-person blogging = posting messages to one another via voice across a table...that sort of thing. don't worry. you'll know it when you see it.), I flew the direct Seattle-Heathrow followed by 5 hour bus ride to Swansea, which was fine, as these things go. or insert 'all international travel is difficult and icky' for 'fine' and you get the gist.

we stole internet from a neighbor at a very low, almost invisible, and extremely intermittent level until we discovered that by plugging the router into the wall we could, indeed, steal internet from ourselves! intriguing! hence the blog post to tell you that we are here, our things are moved in (meaning those things that were already here in Wales), and we are pursuing various errands and tasks in order to set up house. Sam files these under 'oikos'. which is, as the title says....

05 September 2006

country mouse

in Starbucks' new move to capture synergistic markets, they have installed (at least in Seattle) multiple terminals in their stores at which you can browse music, create a playlist, and burn your own CD. the effect when you walk into one of these Starbucks, in combination with the 20 folks already using their own computers, is that somewhat surreal. Something about the comfy-chair-20-inch-monitor-on-a-mechanical-arm combo is disconcerting. more so when someone's using it, plugged into the machine with huge headphones. I experienced a moment of full country-mouse/city-mouse culture shock, as if I'd travelled into the future of Starbucks.

the irony? portable media is dead. get over it. CDs? really? futuristic? not at all. let me make a playlist, download it to my iPod and somehow (because this currently isn't possible) transfer it to my digital music collection when I get home. sheesh. circular bits of metal? how 1999 can you get? gimme something really exciting, already.

01 September 2006

on the crossword page

my Gemini horoscope today (I'm on the cusp with Cancer):
One book can make a difference. Or even one sentence in one book--or a phrase in one sentence. You don't have to go looking for the catalyst, but do be open to finding it.
well der, first off. and then a bit of a cringe for a horoscope touting the power of sentences that itself fails to be able to craft anything remotely approaching a decent sentence (or phrase, for that matter). but in honour of this oddity of a horoscope (how many have you had that told you to pay attention to sentences?) I offer a few phrases from my current Richard Powers novel. Plowing the Dark is about, among other things of course, virtual reality.
But calculation cost; the display code carried so much overhead that it ran too slowly to keep up with its events. Adie released a gingko ball in the air above her canopy. The seedy mace slid down the slope of its infinitesimal accellerations until it struck some surprise tendril or trunk. Contact produced a pop, then seized up. That wall's graphics buffer promptly dropped several frames while its reality engine did the myriad integrals needed to determine the respective obligations of striker and struck. The gingko pod hung in space, waiting for math to decide its fate.

Such a hiccup was not acceptable. Any jerk in the animation and the game was up. Material reality's supreme Cray never dropped frames. That's how you knew you were in the real world: all the flicker-free, smooth scrolling. (p. 61)

back to your respective obligations.