Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Trouble in the Neighborhood?

Always a treat when Dad sends me an article. Come to think of it, most of my wild animal paranoia comes from the NYTimes articles he forwards along.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Simon & Ivan has officially been up and running for five years and two days. In keeping with our blog's general atmosphere of not laziness but, shall we say, a certain carefree attitude, both of us forgot our own blogiversary. Hey, it's our style. Also, Canada doesn't have the internet and I couldn't post from there.

Fun facts about Simon and Ivan

Posts: 438
Months with zero posts: 5
Number of draft posts with intriguing titles that Ivan should finish and post: 24
Number of title changes: 1
Number of web design changes: probably 6 or 7
Number of times I said to myself while making web design changes "If only I understood html": 346
Number of rotating quotes: 21
Age of rotating quotes: about five years, they're a pain to change, see above
Countries where our blog is read, in some cases for no reason we can understand because we don't know people there: US, Canada, Colombia, Brazil, Germany, Spain, Portugal
Times schistosomiasis came up legitimately: 2
Times schistosomiasis came up for the gross factor: 1
Posts mentioning regretting getting out of bed: 3
Hilarious anecdotes about Ivan's brother: 5
Photos of Simon's chest: 1, but it was memorable
Times Ivan almost went insane over pantaloons: 1, but it could probably be repeated
Animals you learned about: camels, llamas, alpacas, capybaras, Vikings, Shetland ponies, spiders, rogue possums, anglerfish
Uses of anonymity-protecting pigeon: 3
Star Trek jokes: about 47
Posts about baking cookies: 8
Posts about cookies gone horribly wrong: 3
Posts about books: Too many.
Pictures of Ivan's cat: Never enough.


We are now officially posting more than ever so please come back again and again and leave comments and send us cookies and tell your friends in Brazil that we want to know who they are please.

Oh, and thank you for reading this endless stream of hedgehogian nonsense. We like your company.

Another Instance Where Someone is Going to Say "I Told You So"

Despite the pleasing purple/pink color combination of a blueberry bagel and lox cream cheese this breakfast is not what most would call "edible". Therefore it will be added to the maple bacon lollipop list of "things I thought were going to be wonderful but are really better in theory".

Friday, September 25, 2009

Please check back later for this post.

I am in Canada. Did you know they don't have the internet in Canada? It's true. I can't possibly post from there.


It's awfully fun to get home at 3am and have the opportunity to wonder: exactly what sort of events led to the broken sword in the trash can?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The kind of e-mail that makes my day.

Sender: Simon P.
Body of e-mail: How horrible would it be if I brought Somali food to my lab "pirate food potluck"?


My response to this was: Oh that's funny, I love it.

To which Simon P. essentially said: No, seriously. Is it wrong?

To which I would like to publicly state that: Yes, of course. But it is still funny. AND GEOPOLITICALLY* AWARE, which is important. Then I suggested an alternative dish involving weevils, because if you're going to have an historically accurate pirate dinner, you might as well go all out. It transpired, however, that Simon P. was way ahead of me, already studying the feasibility of bringing wormy biscuits, so I guess there's no reason for me to start that pirate potluck advice column after all.

*I am waiting for the day when Inigo Montoya comes up to me and says, "Stop using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Until then, though, I'm going to keep using it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Sometime around September I usually start looking for presents for Simon's birthday. Her birthday falls at the end of October and starting early ensures I will have a gift by March. We have a long tradition of late gifts between hedgehogs and I think Simon has come to appreciate the idea that you could be getting a gift from Ivan at ANY time of the year. In fact I still owe her a present for Birthday '06 and, Simon, it's probably time stop holding your breath, but I haven't forgotten and soon I will get around to it.

This weekend I hiked "Breakneck Ridge" which on two hours of sleep was appropriately challenging and afterward I stopped by an antiques shop in Cold Spring before I caught the train back to New York (sidenote: even if you have been hiking through the woods all day and look appropriately dirty and disheveled, you will get mean looks if you wear sea foam colored Crocs in Manhattan). So I was wandering this shop and sifting through the loads of treasures, of shoes and bottles and dishes and furniture and I came across two cow creamers. Now Simon has a lovely camel teapot and an adorable dog creamer and after seeing "Wonderfalls" I joked that she needed a cow creamer to round out the collection. And finding these cow creamers I was over the moon! A present for Simon-- so early in the season! And I bought them and hauled them back to the city where I took them out and put them on my bookcase so they could get some air.

And then I took a long nap and when I woke up, drowsy and eyes full of sleep I realized how utterly (ha, udderly!) terrifying these cow creamers are. Their eyes are crazy. Their legs are stumpy. What's with the cross on that one's chest? These are Mad Cow Creamers and they are 100% not being sent to Simon for her birthday. I'm currently contemplating how to deep six them in our apartment clutter because I can't even keep them in my room.

So that is the story of how I almost had an on time birthday present for Simon. If anyone knows what I should get for her, I welcome the suggestions... I hear she's into bacon.

Monday, September 21, 2009

In Which Simon Casts Aspersions on the Library of Congress Just for Fun

When I was a freshman I worked in the library shelving books. For some reason I guess I wanted to immortalize the experience, and I took this picture. It is labelled as "fainting from dust intake." I did not like working in the library. For one thing, the dust was oppressive. For another, even though I worked pretty deep in the stacks, there were sometimes people there, and I did not like people interfering in my section because they invariably messed things up. No doubt they spent their youths learning the Dewey Decimal System, because nobody told them about this renegade system of classification put forth by the Library of Congress, well-known as a hotbed of classification rebellion. For another thing, it's not like I was shelving books on South American flora. They gave me PS-PZ, which includes American literature. They gave me American literature, but I was only allowed to shelve it, not to READ it. They will not pay you to READ it. It was a cruel thing to do to an English major. They should have given me the Spanish section.

There is no point to this except that working in this section is the reason I once took out a book of short stories by Hemingway, read two of them, decided the man was unintelligible, and returned it. (And later personally shelved it, no doubt.) I did not try Hemingway again until a couple of weeks ago, when I began reading the complete collection of his stories (purchased for a dollar at a library sale of course). It turns out I love Hemingway. And I shall no doubt be posting about him over the next few weeks. So I guess this post is mainly to tell you that if you hate Hemingway and you don't want to hear about him, you can blame the American Literature section of the Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library for what I will soon force you to undergo.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hello, Lady!

way down there at the end of the street is Lady Liberty and every time I see her I think of Fezzik and greet her with a quiet "Hello, Lady".

Thursday, September 17, 2009


So I went to my bookcase the other day and discovered this brutal tableau.

For some reason, this Viking is braining Dickens. And I don't think I put him there. And if I didn't, then someone else did. But I have no idea who. I guess I have a Dickens-hating ghost.

The Answer

This was the ticket for my take out order, and man did I had high hopes for that rice vermicelli salad with grilled shrimp. Sadly, it did not contain The Question I've been looking for. Perhaps I should have ordered the sandwich...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bibliophilia Gone Awry

This morning I looked at the stack of unread books on my floor and said to myself: none of these are from the Penfield Library book sale. I have some from other libraries, but I have read everything from Penfield. Vile Bodies, A Handful of Dust, Anil's Ghost, The Rings of Saturn, The Robber Bride, The Complete Lord Peter Wimsey Stories, Doctor Copernicus, Heart of Darkness, Brick Lane, The Westing Game, The Shipping News, Postcards, Ankle Deep,: read 'em all, judged 'em mercilessly, put 'em on the shelf. Of course there are plenty of unread books left, but they're from other libraries so they don't count. The Penfield books are the only ones that count because that's the only book sale I've ever been to at which the number of books has caused me actual stress.

However, it causes me more stress to have no books to read. Reading a book you happened upon by accident and paid fifty cents for is the best possible low-pressure reading experience. For example, when I realized that I wasn't too fond of The Robber Bride, I did not have to regret paying $7.99 for it. And when The Rings of Saturn was unexpectedly wonderful, I could congratulate myself on having had the terribly good sense to snap it up in spite of its uninspired cover.

The point is, I looked at my pile this morning and saw the lack of Penfield Library books and thought, well thank goodness it's been a whole year and it's time to go get more books! And so I did. But I restrained myself. See below: the remainder of last year's used-book jackpot in a row, versus this year's, in a stack.

Do you see that? Only eleven books. Totally manageable. And only a couple that are completely, utterly random - those ones are my weakness. Here is a brief list of the unnecessary books I've bought and the very good reasons I needed to own them:

1. Gregg Shorthand (1947): in case I ever need to decipher something!
2. The Mathematical Experience (1981): I used the woodcut on the cover as the basis for a research paper once!
3. SLEEP (1966): Good title!
4. What happens in Hamlet (1960): This is apparently book for people who said, at the end of Hamlet, "What just happened?" John Dover Wilson will now tell you! Because he's pretty sure he knows! It also has an inappropriately whimsical cover design.

I thought those were pretty odd, but they're nothing compared to what I acquired today, the crowning glory of this collection:
5. Victorian Shopping: Harrod's 1895 Catalogue. A Facsimile of the Harrod's Stores 1895 issue of the Price List: It is inherently comical. It is three inches deep. It looks like it's been used as a doorstop. It has a picture of a wig on the front. And the inside is simply delightful.

Look what you can get at Harrod's (in 1895)!

Baths and Bird Cages
Also seen here at the bottom of the left page: The Demon Beetle Trap. It is listed as "BEETLE TRAP, The Demon." This is a treasure trove, folks.


Sardine Boxes, Spoon Warmers, and Tea Pots

Ladies' Blouses (Shown here: styles "Marie" and "Edna")

If things continue to proceed like this, you can count on me writing a post someday in shorthand, telling you why you can't sleep, what happens in Hamlet, and where you can buy a spoon warmer. We here at Simon & Ivan share John Tesh's motto, "Intelligence for your life." It's just not the kind you expect, and it is all useless.

(No, I do not actually listen to John Tesh; no, I am not counting on liking The Corrections, which stands out like a sore thumb in that pile; and yes, of course I found out what spoon warmers were all about - you can find more information here. I think sardine boxes are self-explanatory, don't you?)

Monday, September 14, 2009


I know everyone has their own way of saying goodbye, but you have to wonder about the dude that left a vat of Gatorade (orange speck toward the middle) with his dearly departed...

Friday, September 11, 2009

However, every time I see one, I think of that man lying naked at the bottom of a cliff with a broken matchstick in his hand, which ruins the romance.

On the way back from Stony Brook, my fellow adventurers and I looked out the car window and saw this:

Hot air balloons! We had been meaning to go to the New York State Festival of Balloons for about three years, but kept forgetting, so when we saw this, we followed them to the field they were launching from. There was an admission fee and most of the balloons had already taken off, so we stood on the other side of a fence, with a gang of bikers, and took pictures from afar, into the sun. That's why they all look terrible.

Also, my super-super zoom gets rather pixellated after a certain point. But you get the idea.

I'm 95% sure I went to this festival or something similar when I was about six. (Father, this is your cue for confirmation.) I remember standing next to a balloon as it was being filled with hot air, and thinking both "This is the coolest thing on earth" and "Blowing these things up takes FOREVER." Both are still true. I would not place balloon travel among the faster modes of transport, but it is without a doubt the most elegant.

Unless you are travelling in this one. Click on the picture for a closer look.

Classy! But one question. If that is a spider, why does it have ears?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Compost and Crack

Yes my friends, that's a piece of Crack Pie from the Momofuku Milk Bar. I would write more about it, but with just one slice I think I ate an entire stick of butter and all the dairy fat is making me sluggish. Luckily I picked up a Compost Cookie to serve as a dessert to my dessert. It's gonna be a good night.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

"Last year, one caught fire!"

I am told there are more pirate festivals in New York State in the summer than anywhere else on earth. Actually, I am not really told that, I came to that conclusion myself by reading other people's Facebook statuses. Never let it be said that Facebook isn't a great research tool. Just today I got advice on my taxes. It's remarkable. Anyway, considering how many of these festivals there are, it was surprising to me that I'd never been to one before. For I am the original pirate enthusiast. I liked pirates before Johnny Depp ever thought to wonder how he'd look in eyeliner. I did a whole paper on pirates in ninth grade. I was writing pirates into my stories at the age of twelve. I am David Cordingly's biggest fan. Yes, David Cordingly -- nobody knows who that is and that's why I am the original pirate enthusiast. I think the only person who beat me to this was that guy who used to work in Borders. He had shoulder-length straggly hair, leggings, a floofy white shirt, a bandana tied around his head, and possibly a cummerbund if I remember correctly. Every time I saw him, he was dressed like that. If he wasn't trying to be a pirate, then I have no explanation for his fashion sense.

The point is I've been feeling a little blasé about pirates. Arr, matey, parrots, grapeshot, Davy Jones, blah blah blah blah. Avast already with the pirates. I'd be more interested if a kid showed up on Halloween wearing fatigues and carrying a machine gun and instead of "Trick or treat, smell my feet," said "This oil tanker is now going to Somalia." I would give that child a lot of candy. First of all because with kids these days you never know if their guns are real, but secondly because that child would be demonstrating a much deeper understanding of piracy in relation to the current state of affairs geopolitically speaking of course than some jerk in a floppy hat.

And yet. When the question of a pirate festival came up, my forgotten love for floppy hats surged in my heart and I immediately braided my beard, lit it on fire, and hopped in the car with the crew of the Windy-something. I forget what. I was too dazzled by their costumes to listen properly.

These guys are all over the internet so I'm not bothering to protect their identities with pigeons. Besides, parrots would be most appropriate, and I don't have any.

The highlight of this particular pirate festival was to be a SEA BATTLE. On the SEA. Or the best approximation, a small lake. And with SHIPS. Or the best approximation, one moderately convincing miniaturized ship with sails and a bowsprit and everything, and one that looked more like a tug boat. It being a sort of a local effort, we were somewhat concerned as to what the "ships" were going to look like, whether it was going to be just silly, when we were told that one caught fire last year. That was all we needed. We were in.

The ships sailed up at dusk, one on each side of the lake, shooting some pretty lame fireworks at the shore as if attacking. It looked like it might turn out to be silly after all. But then they met, close up to the beach, and started bombarding each other with fireworks. It was a spectacle. It was about the cutest pirate battle any of us could possibly imagine.

My camera does not take good night shots, but I did my best for you. If you squint and turn your computer upside-down, you can kind of tell what's going on.

There were a lot of fireworks, horizontal and vertical, one minor on-board explosion, a couple of brief fires, and much hollering and clamoring by small children who could not contain themselves. I can't blame them. Pirates are totally awesome.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Consider Yourself Lucky

the email you can't believe you're writing:

"Hi J! Hope the first day with the editor goes well-- just wanted to mention I spilled a full cup of hot chocolate in the bay on Saturday afternoon. I was using a "flavia" packet from the kitchen, so I doubt there's any legitimate dairy in the mix... but still, if the bay smells like death when you walk in, we might need the carpet cleaned. And if the bay smells like chocolate, well... consider yourself lucky! See you tomorrow! Ivan"

Monday, September 07, 2009

Saturday, September 05, 2009

in a new york state of mind

this morning I skipped buying a sandwich on the way to work because I didn't want the scent attracting bears. this afternoon I spilled hot chocolate on my bag and cursed my clumsiness... now I would surely be eaten by a bear. this evening I gave myself a firm talking to-- no bears in brooklyn.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

When I started this, it was about Old Bethpage Village. I'm not sure how John Tyler got involved.

It's a mystery to me why this brilliant contraption isn't a staple of retail establishments across the country. Perhaps it's because nobody makes four pies at a time to serve at the nearest barn-raising anymore. More barns! More pie! That's what I say. I also say...

Harrison and reform!

I'm not sure whether this is referring to William Henry Harrison or some local Long Island politician, but from my advantageous position 168 years in the future, I would actually urge people not to vote for the Harrison who became president. He did have the best ever campaign slogan ("Tippecanoe and Tyler Too"), but then he died 31 days into his presidency, and it turned out Tyler was not such a winner.

Tyler's Various Distinctions:
1. All but one person in Harrison's cabinet resigned due to the fact that he had found a way to deadlock the government by twice vetoing a law proposed by his own party
2. Not surprisingly, his party expelled him
3. He's the first president to have had a veto overridden
4. He's the first president to have had impeachment proceedings brought against him (though they didn't get far)
5. He had the highest number of unsuccessful nominees for the Supreme Court of any president (four; and one was rejected twice)
6. He inaugurated the sectional politics that exacerbated North-South tensions and led to the Civil War
7. He is the only president also to have been elected to office in the Confederacy, and is therefore the only president who was not officially mourned in Washington after his death

But it wasn't all bad. He also annexed Texas and made Florida a state! So we can thank him for making George Bush's presidency possible. Wait, I guess it was all bad. Why couldn't Harrison have just taken some echinacea?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Newtonmore Part 4: Board Games!

Well, folks, when I was staying in that freezing cold hostel in Newtonmore and Travel Buddy found the most amazing treasure trove of board games in a closet, who did I think of? I thought of you. And I took pictures. I just knew you'd want to see this.

The first game we played was based on the Chronicles of Narnia miniseries that the BBC released in 1988. I'm sure you've all seen the new movies and are terribly attached to them and watch them every day after school, but let me tell you, they're crap. You heard me. The 1988 version is magisterial! They made that series on a budget of, I'm just guessing, five hundred bucks. They didn't have CGI. They didn't have Jim Henson. They didn't have children who could act. They didn't have James McAvoy, possibly their most severe disadvantage. And yet, it was powerful enough that I didn't dare eat Turkish Delight for the next fifteen years.

So you must imagine my joy when I discovered there was a game! And my horror when I discovered that it was the worst game ever devised.

You can see here that there are two interlocking wheels on the board. You are supposed to put little cards in those blank spaces around the wheels, and then you roll a number (or if you don't have any dice, you and your Travel Buddy take turns churning out random numbers for each other) and hope that turning the witch wheel to that number makes the corresponding number on the lion wheel land on something useful. Most of the time it doesn't because only half of the lion wheel even has numbers, but if it does, you get to pick up the card if it's a match for any of the cards you were dealt before the game. When you get a full set, it makes up a screenshot from the series, like this:

Now, it's unfortunate that the game makes no sense, takes forever, and isn't fun. But it's downright tragic that all the scenes look like a frat party gone bad. Those fauns are all screaming for a new keg, I'm sure of it. What was I thinking? This is not the mysterious and dignified production that I remember, but then again, there's no accounting for a six-year-old's taste in film.

The next game we played was Escape from Colditz.

Colditz is a German castle that was used as a high-security prisoner-of-war camp during World War II. It was the place they put all the guys who escaped from everywhere else. The game was made up by one of the few people who managed to, you guessed it, escape from Colditz. It took us an hour and a half to get through the instructions. That is not an exaggeration. Escaping from Colditz is hard.

I forgot to take pictures with pieces on the board because by that point I had grown very concerned with trying not to get shot. The instructions are much too complex to go into here, but I will just say that the game is easier for all the potential escapees when there are lots of players (each player gets a troop of eight pieces of some particular nationality) and lots of things going on at the same time. Otherwise the guards just sit around and watch you and you can't do anything. (I imagine this was less distressing for me than for the actual POWs who would have faced the same dilemma.) Travel Buddy and I finally decided that if just one of my guys escaped, we would consider the game over, but even that didn't help. Fortunately one of Travel Buddy's guards developed narcolepsy at the very moment my one lucky Briton emerged from the secret passage, climbed over the wall, and escaped. And we could finally go to bed.

Trivial Pursuit, too, required some alteration of the rules because it was not only the Baby Boomers edition, but the British Baby Boomers edition. It quickly became clear that we were going to die of old age before either of us won if we continued to follow the rules. So we would go through five or six cards trying to find one with an answer the other person had some hope of getting, and that answer was almost always, "Star Trek," "John F. Kennedy," or the name of a character from The Lord of the Rings. Because that's the only cultural overlap we have in common with British Baby Boomers.

We also found a copy of Cluedo in the closet, which we did not play, because there was obviously something wrong with it. Someone should tell the British that they spelled "clue" wrong.

It turns out that Clue was first published in the UK, where it was based on a traditional British board game called ludo, which is essentially pachisi (which is slightly different from Parcheesi, which is trademarked, in case you wondered). Ludo is so named because it translates in Latin as "I play." So Cluedo has a stupid name because ludo has a stupid name. Thank goodness they changed it back for North America or it would be too humiliating to play.

P.S. If someone could please publish a guide to the correct usage regarding the italicization and capitalization of the names of board games, I would be forever indebted.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

location, location, location

Best part of starting the new job: finding out this is across the street.