Tuesday, June 29, 2010

England vs. Germany: a Tragicomic Opera

Simon P. and I like to watch soccer but rarely do we get to watch it together. So when Simon P. found herself watching England get itself eliminated from the World Cup, she took notes to document her agony for me. Eleven pages of notes. Epic angst requires large handwriting.

I'm uploading the more salient points of this document because it cracks me up, and it sort of reads like a poetic representation of what is going through the head of everyone who ever roots for the English national team. So here you have it: England getting thrashed by Germany liveblogged the old-fashioned way, on paper, by Simon P. Only on Simon & Ivan do you get this kind of coverage, folks.

(I include these two mainly because I was amused that I had precisely the same thoughts. Unfortunately, Upson's goal and Gerrard's button nose were ultimately of no use.)

Time out for a moment. Just want to say, this one's my favorite:

Gerrard? Please? Help us?

And the entire last page in all its horror-filled glory:

The lines on the paper make me think of music, so when I read these I hear them in my head as an opera, with a melody of "There was no one there. Where is the defense?" and a refrain of "Gerrard? Gerrard?" and all the while the bass line just goes, "Boooooooo." I think it could be good. But I would never perform it in England. People would kill themselves in the aisles.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Our cameraman brought us fresh lavender from his country home-- it smells like sunshine.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

No Joy in Mudville

The Italians-- they wear their hearts on their sleeves-- and today they were so quiet, so sad. No joy in Roma. I will not be swimming in the Trevi Fountain in 2010.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


This is by far my favorite fountain in Roma. I have no idea where he came from, but it appears he's had is head reattached and he is INCREDIBLY displeased.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oh, the things I struggle with late at night.

I do not use spell check when I'm writing. I have nothing against checking my spelling, it's just that I spell right about 85% of the time and I feel pretty satisfied with that in a working draft. There's no point officially checking the spelling until it's done. If I could have a plot-checker that identifies holes in plotlines, I would use that all the time, but spelling isn't of huge concern. That's why I occasionally have a day (apparently when I'm feeling especially sharp) when I catch instances in which I've decided to just make up a whole new inflection for a word. Instances that I have overlooked for quite a while. It is usually things like using "symbolical" for "symbolic" or "regrettingly" for "regretfully." These may be marginally correct in some outdated usage or among those with poor linguistic taste, but I think we can agree that for normal purposes they are WRONG.

Today I discovered "stupidness" for "stupidity." Used in a sentence: She refuses to use spell check out of sheer stupidness. Actually, scratch that, because according to Merriam-Webster "stupidness" is perfectly  acceptable. I'd like to change my sample sentence to: Merriam-Webster is full of stupidness. Why would you use "stupidness" when you could use "stupidity"? For one thing, if you pluralize "stupidness," you get "stupidnesses," which is . . . stupid. "Stupidities" is far superior. On the other hand, this could be like that time I ran across a usage of "overly" that made me think it was a totally unnecessary word that should never be used -- and then for the next three days I kept thinking of circumstances under which no other word would do. So, I guess it's a good thing I'm not in charge of the dictionary.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Your Guess is as Good as Mine

I'm rather smitten with Italian street advertisements. I never know what they mean 'til I run them through google translator, and even then-- not so clear! This one translates to "to each his own".

I choose the fish in the snifter.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Things Indiana Jones Has To Answer For

I came across the term "hysteron proteron" the other day. There's never any point trying to outdo Wikipedia, so I'll just paraphrase/plagiarize: it's a rhetorical device in which the second of two events is narrated before the first. Like when a tv show starts with a beloved character getting shot or something, and then flashes back to show what circumstances resulted in this compelling turn of events. Wikipedia uses The Odyssey as an example but personally I'm more familiar with Aaron Sorkin's use of this device. I'm drastically misrepresenting hysteron proteron here, but that's okay, because it's not the point.

The point is, when I read those words, I said to myself, "Isn't that what Mola Ram chants while he's trying to take out Indy's heart with his psychic powers, and more importantly his fingers?"

The answer is of course no, Mola Ram is not muttering about Greek rhetoric. He's saying "Mola Ram Sudha Ram," which, according to some person on the Internet, means "Mola Ram is the True Ram" and is "a sort of evil blasphemy" because Ram refers to Rama, a particularly admirable incarnation of Vishnu, the Supreme God in Hinduism.

What are we to learn from this? First, it would have been funnier if Mola Ram had been chanting, "Hysteron proteron onomatopoeia in medias res et cetera . . . " (For me, anyway.) Second, simply having seen Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom has now cost me 118 minutes plus a whole extra hour of my time on earth working out the insane ramblings of a fictional cult leader. I'm convinced that about half the time, having internet access comes between me and a higher quality of life.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Bit of a Mess

It was story time one evening as we lounged around the apartment. N decided to recount the tale of Absent Roommate, and the story was too good not to share. Absent Roommate was never concerned with cleanliness, his room a bit of a mess. Piles of clothes, damp towels, unmade bed... and at this point in the story I had to protest-- we've all been there. I rarely make my own bed and sometimes the piles get out of control, but N said "wait-- it gets better". Absent Roommate was absent for an extended period of time and his flatmates became concerned with noises in the unoccupied space. In the interest of apartment security, they opened the door of Absent Roommate's room and found an open window with lovely sunshine filtering down into the chaos. There, sandwiched between piles of dirty laundry and damp towels, was a plate with two forgotten pieces of bread, two hot dogs, and a several pigeons enjoying the feast.

I imagine this boy will at one point in his life own a fridge that lurks.

In closing: I hope my mother reads this and never complains about my mess again. Also, I hope she does not relay this story to Gilbert P. Kitten, as he would surely pine away for the missed opportunity.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010


Human Head Effigy Bowl, Precolumbian, 200 BCE - 100 CE
Nasca Ceramics; Made in Peru
(Rochester Memorial Art Gallery)

Human Head Vessel, 500-800
Greater Nicoya Ceramics; Made in Costa Rica
(Rochester Memorial Art Gallery)

Funny Face Cereal Bowl, ca. 2003
Trade Winds Tableware; Costcutter Supermarket at York University
(Chez Simon)

When I bought this for a pound I thought I was just getting a cheap, ugly bowl that could also serve as a friend on the off chance I didn't like a single person I met in England. Little did I know it was the (sad) end of a long tradition of bowly things with faces on them. Soooo glad I packed it in my luggage and hauled it 3,500 miles home. Now, if I can find a long tradition of drinking vessels with angry cartoonish roosters on them, I can justify bringing that mug home, too.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

In Which Simon Expresses Displeasure with the New York Times

Chris Matthews put me in a rotten mood by belittling women, so now I'm ultra-sensitive to any and all possible affronts by the media. WHY HELLO, NEW YORK TIMES.

I just read the second-stupidest of two stupid articles the Times published this week. The first-stupidest was about some jerk searching Brazil for new runway models, and the article was vaguely but not overly interested in the racism and chauvinism intrinsic to such an exercise. The subject matter was pretty horrifying, but it was not an opinion piece so I can't complain about the writer not sounding as enraged as I wanted. I should probably be grateful for his mild attempts at irony.

The second article was about a shoe. A 5,500-year-old shoe just discovered in a cave in Armenia. It is apparently part of a very significant find that also includes many other artifacts including food, evidence of religious rituals, and human remains -- with brain tissue.  So what headline did they give the article? "This Shoe Had Prada Beat by 5,500 Years."

I'm just going to quote this bit directly from the article:

"While the shoe more closely resembles an L. L. Bean-type soft-soled walking shoe than anything by Jimmy Choo, 'these were probably quite expensive shoes, made of leather, very high quality,' said one of the lead scientists, Gregory Areshian, of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California at Los Angeles. It could have fit a small man or teenager, but was likely worn by a woman with roughly size-7 feet. (That, according to www.celebrityshoesize.com, would be slightly roomy for Sarah Jessica Parker, whose Manolo Blahniks are size 6.5, and a tad tight for Sarah Palin, who, during the 2008 campaign, sported red “Double Dare” pumps by Naughty Monkey, size 7.5.)."

Are you KIDDING me, New York Times? What the hell kind of science reporting is this? The article on the misogynist was better and more seriously written than this drivel. I'm not saying science writing has to be dry. I'm just saying, there's a huge window between being boring and/or unintelligible, and treating your readers like they actually are Carrie Bradshaw. This article does not seem to be aware of that window. Moreover, the preoccupation with designer shoes seems weirdly targeted toward women, as if women aren't interested in anything unless Prada is involved. I just don't understand why anyone, given this assignment, would think, "Hmm. I'd better go with the shoe angle. That will make this dull sciencey story hott."

Even the archeologists come off as dopes. One compares the find to Pompeii "except without the burning." Oh, ha ha ha. Another says the people who lived in the cave were probably there to provide "valet parking" for all these important objects. Presumably he uses this analogy because he's just referred to the people in the cave being the most well-off in their society, and he thinks we're stupid and we need a modern comparison. But the modern comparison is absurd and misleading. In the very same article we're told that these people may or may not have invented the wheel yet, and their tools are made of obsidian, which they had to fetch from sixty miles away. ("Perhaps why they needed shoes, Dr. Areshian suggested," quips the article. Yes. Perhaps. I'd like to see the writer of this article walk sixty miles to quarry obsidian and bring back a whole lot of it without knowing how wheels work, and see if she still wants to make light of the necessity for shoes.) In short, even the richest and most waited-upon of these people were likely not living a life of luxury. The valet parking metaphor does not clarify, it confuses. And in my case, annoys.

Maybe it's my grumpiness (I didn't even mean to watch that clip of Hardball, it was an accident, I was aiming for Rachel Maddow), but it seems like this article is all about how cute it is that people used to wear shoes, when it isn't cute at all. Cute diminishes the find, the people working on it (when they're not diminishing it themselves for the benefit of the layperson), and the people who left it behind five and a half thousand years ago. It is remarkable. And the New York Times has managed to handle it with less dignity than it gives to a man who's one step away from being a eugenicist.

Usually, I save news-story rants for Simon P., but I didn't have anything else to post about. I'll try to work up something less irate for Friday, but only if the Times agrees not to commit any more atrocities against my intellect.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Locks of Love

As seen along the Tiber.

Monday, June 07, 2010

More on the Classification of Spiders: A Holistic Approach

It's time to revisit the classification system for spiders. The original proposal overlooks the need for situational ratings. These are vital if we wish to discuss encounters with spiders in their totality. Classifying spiders according to visual cues provides us with an understanding only of the spider, not the overall threat inherent in the circumstances under which the confrontation occurs.

For example. This morning. I had an experience. I had just gotten up and I didn't have my glasses on. La la la, I brush my teeth, everything is very nice, it's a beautiful day, etc. etc. Then I see something out of the corner of my eye that looks like a gnat on the wall. But it's a gnat, so whatever, la la la, my teeth are so happy and clean, hooray. Brush brush brush scrub scrub scrub.

Then I put on my glasses and catch this cheeky category two halfway through a descent from the ceiling, frozen in midair like he thinks the stupid thing that can't see won't notice him if he doesn't move his legs. And he has a lot of leg he could move. He is a mother of a daddy longlegs. Under ordinary circumstances this would be a startling but easily rectifiable problem. When, on the other hand, your function is limited by not being entirely awake and suffering from visual impairment, a whole new set of possible complications arises, namely these: (1) I could have walked into it, (2) it could have landed on my face, and (3) if properly aligned I could have swallowed it.

So, it was a category two, but extenuating circumstances made it seem much more like a category three. However, referring to it as a category three wouldn't be accurate and it's important to be accurate. You can't radio headquarters and tell them you've got a category three (over!) when you've technically got a category two, because the troopers they send will be on the lookout for the wrong spider and could be taken by surprise. I believe this demonstrates a clear need for the aforementioned situational rating.

It seems to me that the best solution is a number/letter pairing, where the number is the category corresponding to visual assessment, and the letter indicates the danger level according to real-life conditions. Off the top of my head I'm going to list a few possible circumstances you may wish to denote when categorizing run-ins with spiders:

A. Spider chooses to infiltrate when the enemy is incapacitated in some way, whether tired, sick, drunk, or not wearing glasses
B. Spider launches offensive when you don't have time to deal with him, and then disappears while you're gone, leaving you with the almost certain prospect of being ambushed later
C. Spider turns up in a totally inappropriate place, such as a shoe, a cupboard, a bed, or your lap
D. Spider appears with undue suddenness, ex. dropping from the ceiling
E. Spider jumps (although these are usually small, I'm assigning them a higher rating because they're wretchedly difficult to kill)
F. Spider lays eggs (applies to any and all such occurrences within a one-mile radius of your person, and includes even the mere suspicion of such an occurrence)
Z. Spider makes sneak attack during sleep (this is the ultimate nightmare scenario, qualifying it for the highest possible ranking)

Fortunately this morning only brought a 2A: relatively minor. To live in this apartment, however, is to live under the constant threat of a 1F-3F, which is not pretty: these hideous creatures for some unknown reason multiply wildly by the electrical wires outside my window. After today's incident I refortified the place by spraying deterrent around the windows, but the daddy longlegs tend to come in under the door from downstairs, so tomorrow it's out with the vacuum cleaner and goodbye to situations rated A through E. F obviously will be ongoing, and Z . . . there's no stopping Z.

Friday, June 04, 2010

easter egg

The most useless help menu ever, but it's nice to keep things lighthearted when you're on the verge of pulling your hair out.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Eyeball FAIL

Lately my right eye has been twitchy and strained. Since it obviously isn't beriberi, my first thought was BRAIN TUMOR. Think of the blog post I could write about being awake while my skull is opened! But it is not a brain tumor. I went to my marvelous eye doctor and he explained it like this: "There's this number. Most people are a 6. You're an 18." And then he gave me a piece of card stock and a cat toy.

These are for convergence exercises. The instructions are nearly unintelligible. At the top it says "The Normalization of Fusion in True Space," which sounds like the title of a philosophy of art paper to me. It goes on to discuss physiological diplopia and how you have to train your eyes to see double vision when they're out of alignment, so that they will automatically go back into alignment, like the eyes of normal people who are sixes. I am to return to the office in three weeks at which time I have been informed there will be a test. I hate failing tests, so if you see me and I'm staring cross-eyed at my thumbs, it's because I'm studying.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Second of June

The only thing open on the way to work was Burger King. Our boss did not give us the day off. Plan for retaliation was a sick day on the 4th of July. 4th of July is a Sunday. Life: it is hard.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Under the Sea

Ivan sent me an article about this creature in an e-mail entitled "meet the bone-eating snot-flower worm." When people send you things like this it means they are much too well acquainted with your bizarre interests. (Cf. This message my sister sent me recently: "I was watching Medium and the main character kept hearing pig squeals every time she saw a man bite into a sandwich that had bacon on it. And I thought of you. Don't you feel flattered?" Yes, yes I do.) Anyway, apparently this thing eats the bones of dead whales. Someone's got to.

The New York Times' Scientist at Work blog has been talking about nudibranchs lately. My aunt tells me the term "nudibranch" refers to naked gills. If I actually read the blog rather than just skimming through going "ooooh, aaaaah" at the pictures, I might have picked that up. Nudibranchs, also known by the less attractive term "sea slug," evidently come in endless fascinating variety, of which this is merely one example. Although you couldn't pay me to touch one, I think they're beeeoootiful. At some point when I go back and read the blog, I will tell you what they do. My guess is they eat stuff. Slowly.