Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Rule of Thumb

Singing to your cats is a clear sign that you're spending too much time alone.

If you feel a need to sing, though, might I recommend the following?


Repeat as needed.

[Translation: "Kitties kitties kitties KI-IITTY!" The "c" in "kucing" makes a ch- sound. Extra bonus points if you address the final, singular "kucing" to a particular beastie.]

Monday, September 24, 2007


I'm not sure how I managed to go so long without discovering that The Guardian publishes Top-Ten book lists chosen by prominent authors in its book section. I suppose this could have been a distressing discovery, given that I've long cherished a geeky little fantasy of developing a website with just such lists--but the "competition" has such a wonderful selection that I can't even be jealous. There are lists of smelly books, books in which things end badly, and books in which things end well. There are provocative lists (e.g., Peter Singer's top ten books on ethics) and silly lists (e.g., Joanne Harris' top ten "kids' books with kickass heroines," although I suppose that might qualify as provocative in some quarters). There's even a list of books about trains that are actually interesting.

And to think all I was looking for was more information about Robert Irwin--I just finished his Exquisite Corpse, which is great reading for former fledgling art historians.* It seems Mr. Irwin is an historian as well as a novelist, and as such he contributed a top-ten list of books on Islam to the cause.

*Now there's a top-ten list I could compile: Christine's Top Ten Novels for Former Would-Be Academics in the Arts and Humanities. A. S. Byatt's Possession, David Lodge's The British Museum is Falling Down...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hello, My Name Is Christine and I Am an American

I don't generally think of myself as an American. I don't have a love affair with my gas-guzzling oversized car or consider fast food "dinner" or spend the majority of my free time in front of the television (although I do have my share of televised guilty pleasures). If you detect a slightly superior tone in even this short list, you're on the right track; I generally, I'm afraid, hold myself a bit above my native culture.

My recent trip to Portland for a Vasa convention took some of the wind out of those snobbish sails. I'd booked a room in the convention hotel, the Portland Airport Sheraton, which is--it almost goes without saying--the sort of place I usually eschew in favor of a hostel or B & B.

At first, I was satisfyingly out of step with my surroundings. I took the train from Seattle to Portland and dragged my backpack and old-fashioned un-wheeled garment bag up to James' office. James and I went to lunch at a great sidewalk schnitzel joint, after which I retrieved my bags and took the lightrail out to the airport, where I picked up the free shuttle to the hotel. I took great delight in answering my fellow conventiongoers' queries about traffic with, "Oh, I took the train."

And, of course, the hotel was every bit as dismally pretentious as I'd hoped it would be. My room featured a flat-screen TV and a grand view of the parking lot. A vinyl folder on the desk detailed, in several tabbed sections, the various additional comforts that could be mine for a slight addition to the bill. I was quietly glorying in the horror of it when I noticed the power strip.

Now, for the first time ever, my packing list for this trip had included a section entitled "Electronics," which read in part

laptop charger
phone charger
palm pilot
palm charger
battery charger
mp3 player
USB cable

As I put together the list, I'd actually thought, "Perhaps I should bring a power strip." I hadn't--but in this one particular the Sheraton had anticipated my needs. Before long, I had my laptop, phone, and palm all happily plugged in side by side, and my mp3 player plugged in to a USB port on the laptop. It was just like home, only better...and that was before I discovered I could use the free wi-fi to watch streaming video via my Netflix account.

I was deeply reassured to find I liked the B & B I'd booked for my last night in Portland better, despite the lack of power strips and the inferior wi-fi service. If you ever need a place to stay in Portland, I highly recommend Portland's White House. It's lovely and on a bus line!

She Lives!

I hope those of you I suckered into reading this blog with promises of "daily" posts will accept my apologies. I haven't been feeling so hot lately, and my trip to Portland took a toll on me--so I've been leading a highly edited version of my normal life over the past few weeks.

My health seems to be back on an upswing. What's good for the blogger is, of course, good for the blog, so if you haven't given up on me entirely, watch this space.