squirrelhaven: cartoon squirrels happy to have no souls (squirrels have no souls)
Today's NYTimes contains the best headline ever:

"Monkeys Control a Robot Arm With Their Thoughts"

I don't even want to read the article, because it can only be disappointing after a set-up like this. Because they're going to tell me that it was monkeys in a lab, who were hooked up to some kind of sensitive equipment, and yes, that's impressive and all. Honestly, I don't doubt that it's incredibly cool. But it can't live up to the wonderful vagueness of the headline, with its implication that it could be all monkeys, everywhere. I've already spun out this scenario in which, individually or collectively, the world's monkeys are psychically controlling some massive robot arm that could strike at any time, and human civilization -- to say nothing of the tigers! -- better goddamn be prepared. (First target: the banana plantations.)

Thank you, New York Times. This is going to be a fun thing to contemplate all day.
squirrelhaven: extreme close-up of a red flower (Default)
Sometimes I am not so smart. For most of the last week I was feeling crappy -- just low-energy, headachy, tired, bleah. And I finally figured out why: it's because I'd gotten so bored with eating all the time (because I really do need to eat ALL THE TIME lately, as in, a full meal every two to three hours) that I'd stopped doing it. And strangely enough, going without food led to feeling miserable.

Having solved that mystery, I'm capitulating to my need to eat more, but the thing is, I'm getting really sick of eating the same stuff day after day. Breakfast and lunch at this point account for at least three, if not four, meals every day, and my repertoire of easy, reasonably healthy breakfasts and lunches can only take me so far. So I'm looking for new ideas. Got a favorite sandwich? Or salad? Or snack? Anything? Keeping in mind I can't bear the smell/taste of garlic these days, and I'm not allowed to eat brie (sigh) or feta or other soft or raw-milk cheeses. I'd be most grateful for suggestions.


On a totally different note, we've been batting around all kinds of name ideas (I'm pushing for Johann Sebastian Beck, which just has a nice ring to it. Or possibly Boutros Boutros Boutros Beck -- 50% more Boutros than the original!), and yesterday D found this which just made me laugh and laugh.
squirrelhaven: extreme close-up of a red flower (Default)
California Supreme Court Affirms Right to Gay Marriage

Particular congratulations to the wonderful woman on my f'list who's been working on this case. I'm not sure if it's okay for me to name you here (even by LJ handle), but you totally rock, and I'm proud to know you.
squirrelhaven: cartoon squirrels happy to have no souls (squirrels have no souls)
I will never see Kermit the same way again.

Or The Royal Tenenbaums, for that matter.

squirrelhaven: cartoon squirrels happy to have no souls (squirrels have no souls)
Yesterday I was reading about how babies can hear sounds in utero, and will get accustomed to the noises in their environment before birth. Which explains why they're soothed by their parents' voices as soon as they're born, but also, the book mentioned that a baby who has never heard a dog bark before will startle and cry on first hearing the sound, while one who has heard barking dogs in utero won't even blink, because it already knows the noise as just a regular thing.

And then later I was listening to Rogue's Gallery, the excellent album of sea chanteys that [livejournal.com profile] yaoobruni gave us last year, and considering that several of these songs would make good lullabies or playtime songs for a little kid (of course, several of them wouldn't, but if you just selected the ones that WEREN'T about whores, you might have something), and then I started wondering whether, if I made a point of listening to a lot of sea chanteys during pregnancy, and if [livejournal.com profile] outsidetheparty and I were sure to talk like pirates as often as possible in the next 5 months, if our baby would be born fully acclimatized to the sounds of a pirate's life...

Which then made me think about poor ninja babies, and how they must startle at EVERYTHING, because their parents are so sneaky that they've been born expecting a universe of complete stealth and silence. And this, in turn, must be a big problem for ninja families, because when your newborn startles and cries at every single thing that happens, it probably blows your whole stealth routine right out of the water.

::worries about the ninjas::
squirrelhaven: extreme close-up of a red flower (Default)
1) Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice" video. Christopher Walken gets jiggy. Seriously.

2) Furry Happy Monsters. REM on Sesame Street. I never knew Michael Stipe had it in him to be this happy. (Thanks, [livejournal.com profile] eeblet!)

3) Björk's new "Wanderlust" video. Fantastically gorgeous. Also, I'm a little proud: the choreography is by a guy I was good friends with in high school. (Sure, we lost touch 13 or 14 years ago. But I can still be proud of him.)
squirrelhaven: intricately carved wooden doors, closed (peacockdoor)
24 hours of freezing rain is just gross. To hell with it: we're going to Florida.

We'll see you folks in April.
squirrelhaven: extreme close-up of a red flower (Default)
Politicians' speeches don't usually make me cry (at least, not in a good, hopeful-and-thoroughly-moved way), but this one did:

Barack Obama speaks about race in America. (The link is for the NY Times's copy of the full text of his speech; you might need to register and log in with the Times to see it, but it's free, and thoroughly worthwhile.)

I suspect this may be how people felt when Martin Luther King, Jr. made his "I Have a Dream" speech. What's most impressive is how unlike a campaign speech it feels. He's not saying "vote for me" or "I'm better than Hillary" or "Republicans are bad." He's just talking plainly about what ails this country, and how it can be improved. And he's damn inspiring.
squirrelhaven: cartoon squirrels happy to have no souls (squirrels have no souls)
I am so suggestible lately. I look at pictures on I Can Has Cheezburger and I find myself thinking, "Hey, a cheeseburger! What a great idea!" Or I read a story in which somebody makes someone else a chocolate cake, and I can barely focus on the plot because I'm thinking "Mmmm, chocolate caaaaake" and wondering if we have the ingredients in the house. Technically this is when I'm supposed to start experiencing food cravings, and I'm not sure if these qualify; I never feel like I *must* have the food in question. More that it suddenly seems like a really, REALLY good idea to have the food in question. Even though it probably isn't. (We actually went out for cheeseburgers yesterday, and I felt kind of sick afterward.)

Bodies are weird.

my haiku

Jan. 23rd, 2008 09:28 am
squirrelhaven: extreme close-up of a red flower (Default)
Memeity meme.

Haiku2 for squirrelhaven
wish my dog could tell
stories because he obviously
has a porcupine
Created by Grahame
squirrelhaven: cartoon squirrels happy to have no souls (squirrels have no souls)
The band name gave me some trouble, but the combination of album title ("Until He Eats Them") and cover image really could not be improved upon:

(Assembled by [livejournal.com profile] outsidetheparty, who is wise in the ways of Photoshop.)

The meme, gakked from a whole bunch of people:

Follow these easy steps:
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
The first article title on the page is the name of your band.

2. http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
The last four words of the very last quote is the title of your album.

3. http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days/
The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

I really did have trouble with the first step. The first time I tried it, it actually gave me an article about a Canadian singer/songwriter, a few of whose albums I own. And while it would be hilarious if Kate McGarrigle (folksinger, and incidentally, mother of Rufus Wainwright) put out a record called "Until He Eats Them" with a picture of poodles on the cover, that wouldn't be MY band, now would it?

So I hit the link again, and got a Beatles song. I tried a third time, just to see if I could get an article that wasn't directly related to the music industry, and got the name of an Australian record producer. Weird.
squirrelhaven: the muppet composer-guy banging his head into his piano (*headpiano*)
305 pages down. 19 pages to go. 5 more workdays before we leave for California. And a partridge in a pear tree.

(Hi. Work's been intense lately. Brain's kinda fried. Social skills atrophying. How're you?)
squirrelhaven: cartoon squirrels happy to have no souls (squirrels have no souls)
I woke up this morning with a name in my head:

Ian McEwan McGregor McSamsa.

I can't stop giggling about this. Is it a literary punk band? An avant-garde performance poet? A naughty party game? A British/Scottish/Czech rap trio? A snack food? A little-known children's book character? The possibilities are endless.


Nov. 25th, 2007 05:07 pm
squirrelhaven: cartoon squirrels happy to have no souls (squirrels have no souls)
I Am the Very Model of a Psychopharmacologist.

I could wish they hadn't fudged a few of the rhymes, but really, as compared with the excellence of the thing, it's a small complaint.

book lust

Nov. 16th, 2007 10:40 am
squirrelhaven: extreme close-up of a red flower (Default)
I've been reading some great things lately, and I keep meaning to post about them. What's finally spurred me to do so was coming across this, this morning:

"Narrow minds devoid of imagination. Intolerance, theories cut off from reality, empty terminology, usurped ideals, inflexible systems. Those are the things that really frighten me. What I absolutely fear and loathe. Of course it's important to know what's right and what's wrong. Individual errors in judgement can usually be corrected. As long as you have the courage to admit mistakes, things can be turned around. But intolerant, narrow minds with no imagination are like parasites that transform the host, change form, and continue to thrive. They're a lost cause, and I don't want anyone like that coming in here."
    - Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore (originally published in Japan in 2002)

Sing it, Haruki.

I'm about halfway through Kafka on the Shore now, and it's excellent, like everything else I've read by this author. Murakami is a strange, strange man (admittedly, I haven't read many other Japanese writers, so it's hard for me to evaluate what's the culture and what's just him), but he's a brilliant novelist. As per usual, this one mixes realism with magical-realism, and blurs the lines between the real and the weird, and the present and the past, and it's hard to tell where it's all going. It's also effectively impossible to summarize the plot. But it's fantastic so far.

Last week I read The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, which was devastating. The first McCarthy I'd read, and I'd been warned that he was bleak and depressing. In fact he makes "bleak and depressing" seem like a funfair, comparatively. But there's this very thin thread of hope woven through his incredibly dark post-apocalypse story of a man and his son walking through a wasted country, looking for something better and trying to survive. The writing is spare and massively powerful, and even though it was bleak enough to literally frighten me, I recommend it highly.

In Italy, I read Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliot Perlman, which also blew me away. It's a long novel in seven sections, each one narrated by a different character, each one offering a different perspective on the central plot-point: a disturbed young man has kidnapped his ex-girlfriend's young son. Everybody has different ideas as to why, and what it all means. Comparisons to "Rashoman" are inevitable, but the book absolutely stands on its own -- it's a total page-turner, even while it's delving into all kinds of meta about how people relate to each other, and how we construe meaning from our own lives, and how language and narrative can create or obscure meaning, etc.

And finally, a while ago I re-read Flaubert's Parrot, by Julian Barnes. I first read this back in grad school, and hadn't revisited it for a while. It's as awesome as it ever was. An amateur Flaubert scholar, giving himself a little tour of scenes from his favorite author's life, finds two different museums that each claim to have the stuffed parrot that once sat on Flaubert's desk, inspiring him. As he tries to figure out which is the real parrot, he reads more and more deeply into Flaubert, along the way all-but-inadvertently revealing his own sad story. I have no idea how much of this book constitutes real Flaubert scholarship and how much Barnes just invented, and not knowing where that line is makes the novel a lot of fun. Also, Barnes is just a very witty, clever guy. Take, for example, this passage, where his narrator discusses an apparent discrepancy in Madame Bovary regarding the color of Emma's eyes:

"Eyes of brown, eyes of blue. Does it matter? Not, does it matter if the writer contradicts himself; but, does it matter what colour they are anyway? I feel sorry for novelists when they have to mention women's eyes: there's so little choice, and whatever colouring is decided upon inevitably carries banal implications. Her eyes are blue: innocence and honesty. Her eyes are black: passion and depth. Her eyes are green: wildness and jealousy. Her eyes are brown: reliability and common sense. Her eyes are violet: the novel is by Raymond Chandler."

How could I not love this guy?

But anyway, having finally gotten all of that down, it's now time for me to return to work on my own (considerably more problematic) book.
squirrelhaven: cartoon squirrels happy to have no souls (squirrels have no souls)
Everything I have eaten today has been spectacular, and I just had to gloat.

For breakfast: toast made from fresh bread, topped with butter and home-made peach jam.

For lunch: sandwich on the same fresh bread, with sun-dried tomatoes and young pecorino (totally different cheese from the dry aged pecorino you usually see in the US; as per my recent trip, this was closer to a Florentine cheese, instead of a Roman one).

For dinner: [livejournal.com profile] kassrachel and [livejournal.com profile] yaoobruni came over, and I made some of the things I learned in Italy. First course was an eggplant roulade, stuffed with a pesto-esque mixture of parsley, bread crumbs, 3 cheeses, garlic, chili peppers, and a bit of olive oil. Second course (or, depending on how you count, second, third, and fourth courses) consisted of three very thin-crust pizzas: a basic margherita, then a margherita embellished with gorgonzola and olives and basil, then a sauce-less pizza with thinly sliced eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, and red onion, with dabs of fresh mozzarella. All three turned out very well, and I'm particularly pleased with the crust, since this is the first time I've made my own pizza dough. And for dessert, a fresh berry salad with caramelized pecans.


I am now very full. [livejournal.com profile] outsidetheparty is tidying up in the kitchen, because he's sweet that way. (And, also, I kind of demanded it, having spent my whole day cooking.) Soon I shall go to sleep. Life is good.
squirrelhaven: extreme close-up of a red flower (Default)
Some months back I posted about a trip to Italy that my mom had suddenly offered to take me on. Time flies; I leave tomorrow. I've been gathering clothes, books, etc., on my bed as a precursor to packing, and even though I've dug up my trusty old Italian phrasebook, and taken out my brand-new passport (the old one had expired), and checked online to see the weather in Florence, it still doesn't feel real that I'm going. I suspect that it won't really hit me until I'm there.

Mom is already in Italy; she's doing a hiking trip before our culinary tour, and will meet me in Chianti on the 20th. I'll have 2 days in Florence by myself -- the first time I've ever been on my own in a non-English-speaking country -- and then 2 more days in Florence with the tour group, which is only going to be 8 people, and the leader is a friend of Mom's. I expect to be much, much younger than everybody else. I'm hoping that 2 days alone in a foreign city will make me so eager for company that I'll be able to get past my customary introversion once the group part starts. (I'm quite confident that 2 further days in a group by myself will make me VERY eager to have someone I can snark with, so I'll be extremely glad to see Mom when she joins us.) I've been to Florence before, but not for a long time (I think my last trip there was in 1992). I remember loving the city. Though I'm a little nervous about the by-myself aspects, there are luxuries to being alone that I'm looking forward to. Namely, exploring without regard to anybody else's schedule; I can stare at the sculptures and frescoes for as long as I feel like it. I'm bringing a journal but not a camera. And some very comfy walking shoes.

After Florence there will be 6 days in smaller towns in Tuscany and Umbria, visiting farms and vineyards and restaurants, eating spectacular foods and having cooking lessons. Italian food is my favorite cuisine in the world, so I expect to enjoy this quite a lot. I'll be sharing a hotel room with my mother, which will be a first for us; I expect that to be, uh, interesting. Probably good. Probably complicated. But probably good. Odds are we won't be spending a ton of time in the hotel, which is almost certainly for the best. (I love my mother very much. I do. It's just that she sometimes drives me crazy. Which is her job, after all.)

And then I'll come home, on October 26. I don't expect to have internet access for the entire time I'm gone, so I'll see you all on the flip side. Have a good not-quite-two weeks, everyone.

book meme

Oct. 7th, 2007 11:42 am
squirrelhaven: extreme close-up of a red flower (Default)
"I'm going to resist this meme," I told myself. "I don't need to do it. I can leave it alone."

I didn't really believe myself anyway. Because I am a lit-geek. )
squirrelhaven: cartoon squirrels happy to have no souls (squirrels have no souls)
I've recently discovered [livejournal.com profile] jillicons, a marvelously strange icon artist. This (*points at icon*) was in her most recent post; of course I had to take it.

squirrelhaven: extreme close-up of a red flower (Default)
I recently made a new mix cd for my car, and the first two songs on it -- which I chose purely because they're both new to me, and I love them, and they sound great in sequence -- are a cover of "Lola" by The Raincoats, and "Bad Education" by Tilly and the Wall. The first of these is about a transvestite, and the second is about a "pretty boy" who "wants to be a pretty girl."

Listening to them one after the other, I've started envisioning an entire cd about gender confusion. (Yes, these are the sorts of thoughts that amuse me while I drive.) It's a no-brainer to throw some Lou Reed on there -- "Walk On The Wild Side" is the obvious choice -- and probably some David Bowie. ("Rebel Rebel"? "Lady Stardust"? "Oh! You Pretty Things"?) Also off the top of my head, I've got "Now I'm Your Mom" by David Byrne, "Girls and Boys" by Blur, "Sometimes I Wish I Was A Pretty Girl" by Robyn Hitchcock, and "For Today I'm A Boy" by Antony and the Johnsons.

What else would you put on such a mix? Any songs having to do with gender-bending, or confused sexual identity, would fit. Suggestions?
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