: views from the Hill

Friday, June 27, 2008

Back in a few

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Article ideas/commentary plucked from the aether

First Monday's book for discussion in August, as I think I mentioned a while back, is Gabriel Garcia Marquez' LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA

I went over to Book Bay this afternoon looking for a copy, thinking I could take it with me when we're away and read the book way ahead of time instead of during the last few days before First Monday.

I looked under /Marquez/ in the FIC section. Nada. I wandered over to the back of the store and got distracted by the $0.50/item table (3/$1) What is this? Gazillions of first edition mysteries, some in dust jackets, some in dust jackets with plastic covers.


Science fiction classics too. Watty Piper's THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD (with Sanrio stickers front and back and pencil scribbles inside but the ILLUSTRATIONS are there and I [heart] Watty Piper.

I stack stack here and stack stack there. ...

(Excuse me. Could I stash these books somewhere? I haven't finished shopping but there are too many for me to carry around with me. Oh, thanks.)

I took my stashes from the $0.50 or 3/$1 over and stacked them on the counter. I also had a "full price" $5 copy of Maupin's TALES OF THE CITY. We already have a copy of TALES, but maybe I'd like to take a copy along with us on our next trip. (We are looking for lightweight books we can take along with us and abandon along the way. Our next trip requires us for a major portion of the trip to have a combined checked/carryon luggage weight of 26 lbs. ...) Before then we have layovers in London and other long stretches.

I wander over to the "new additions" still looking for LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA. Nada. I do find another $5 book I want.

I check the shelves and displays. Surely there's GGM somewhere in this room.

*FLICK* the light comes on.

I go back to FICTION and look for GARCIA MARQUEZ. Two copies of CHOLERA, one HB, one PB. I choose the PB for weight reasons. (That and the price of the HB, which is the first NAm edition. ...) PB cost $5.

I go back to the front counter and start counting through my $0.50 or 3/$1 books three-by-three and discover I am one book shy of a number that divides by three. I go back to the tables and find an African travel book (how à propos, eh?).

Back to the front counter. The clerk, a volunteer, is counting. xx yy zz aa bb ... and forty-seven. I hand over the African travel book, making it forty-eight. She rummages around with what that all may mean and I say, "$16 plus $5 for TALES OF THE CITY and $5 for LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA."

She adds it all up.

AND! I tell her, I have a Friends of the Library card (10% off) and a one-time extra discount (25% off).

Forty-eight books plus this and that and my total (with tax) is sixteen dollars.

Plus ... that Watty Piper LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD? I plan to sell a human interest/slice of life commentary about cleaning up the childhood classic to pass it on to my grandchildren.

Article ideas/commentary plucked from the aether.

Smoky haze

Woke up to the news station warning of smoky haze. Elderly, children, those with health problems should stay indoors. Set your A/C to "recirculate." Do not exercise outdoors.

Yesterday as we were walking up the path I noticed that the neighbors who've been remodeling one of the older houses on this side of the hill had repainted their gazebo a soft butter cream color.

"Nice," I said, pointing it out to his nibs. His nibs in turn pointed out to me that the gazebo was still as titanium white as ever but the smokey sunshine's golden hue was making the gazebo seem a different color than it was.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Karolina Kurkova Labeled Too Fat (VIDEO)

Karolina Kurkova Labeled Too Fat

Her walk is at the 8: marker, mas o menos.


Too fat?

Oh, puhleeze. No wonder we have Olsen twins and the girl next door worrying about their body images.

Yay hooray! Squirrel Nut Zippers return to town

His nibs is over at his desk across from me, rummaging through online stuff. Turns out the US Air Guitar Regional Finals @ The Independent tonight are sold out, alas.

But THE SQUIRREL NUT ZIPPERS will be there on my bday! What an AWESOME coinkidink.

We're there.

Ego is not a dirty word

Retrieved a couple old Skyhooks cassettes this afternoon, including LIVING IN THE 70s.

I'll have to get CD versions if I want to listen to them at the computer or on the BO, I suppose. We don't have a cassette player here; I can only play the cassettes in the car.

Ego Is Not A Dirty Word

If I did not have an ego I would not be here tonight
If I did not have an ego I might not think that I was right
If you did not have an ego you might not care the way you dressed
If you did not have an ego you'd just be like the rest

Ego is not a dirty word
Ego is not a dirty word
Ego is not a dirty word
Don't you believe what you've seen or heard

If Jesus had an ego he'd still be alive today
And if Nixon had no ego he might not be in decay
If you did not have an ego you might not care too much who won
If I did not have an ego I might just use a gun

Ego is not a dirty word
Ego is not a dirty word
Ego is not a dirty word
Don't you believe what you've seen or heard

Some people keep their egos in a bottom drawer
A fridge full of Leonard Cohen
Have to get drunk just to walk out the door
Stay drunk to keep on goin'
So if you got an ego
You better keep it in good shape
Exercise it daily
And get it down on tape


If you've never heard Skyhooks, "Ego," "Horror Movie," and a couple other cuts are available at their MySpace page

I probably haven't listened to them for going on thirty years. Wish I could remember what made me decide I needed to rummage the cassettes out of the stash. Something that was going on online. ...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Twitterholic: Who are these people?

Twitterholic: Who are these people?


The Good Enough Guide to Health

ABC News: The Good Enough Guide to Health By CAMILLE NOE PAGAN, Prevention Magazine

e.g. Exercise

Gold Standard: 30 minutes of cardio, five or more days a week

Good Enough: 17 minutes a day

A new study from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found that women who exercised just two hours a week (or 17 minutes daily) reduced their risk of heart disease and stroke by 27 percent.

"You don't even have to do it all at once. No fewer than 10 studies since 1995 show that breaking up physical activity into small segments of about 10 minutes is just as effective," says Barry Franklin, director of cardiac rehabilitation and exercise laboratories at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., and spokesperson for the American Heart Association's national "Start!" program.

Get ready. Get set. ... GO!

PopCo, Stuff and Uncrate

Finished PopCo while I was away.

Like The End of Mr. Y, this Scarlett Thomas book had a to-me sympathetic main female character who roamed around in her head and jumped from subject to subject and landing pad to leaping-off-point in a manner I'm quite familiar with. Thomas' heroines remind me strongly of Cayce Pollard, the heroine in Gibson's Pattern Recognition.

The books are filled with consumer culture, philosophy, and weird, quirky bits of trivia. PopCo specifically has enough code breaking arcana to keep you going for a while. Alice Butler, the main character, creates sleuth kits for kids for a megacorp called PopCo (#3 in the world after Mattel and Hasbro) and finds herself stashed away in a corporate getaway with other PopCo creatives, tasked with finding a brilliant product for the teengirl market, which is notoriously hard for toy companies to crack.

I took pages and pages of notes of clever phraseology and references I had no clue to (the Riemann Hypothesis, the Voynich Manuscript), book titles I need to check our bookstash for (and buy if we don't have a copy) (Secret and Urgent: The Story of Codes and Ciphers by Fletcher Pratt) and more.

Thomas even gave a brief explanation to another character of how public key encryption works, an explanation my aunt Ethel would be able to understand!

Is this really the way toy companies are run? Is marketing really as cynical about tapping into the pocketbooks of teens and pre-teens as the book suggests? Could be.

I try not to buy stuff I don't =need=. This book made me even more aware of how you, me, and Mr. McGee are sold to.

Witness: Uncrate | The Buyer's Guide For Men Talk about cool stuff you don't really need!

We won't even begin to explore Archie McPhee and Things You Never Knew Existed.

I received an offer in the mail the other day. Because I'm a special person (because of my W subscription? because of my ZIPcode? because of the stylish, fashionable things I buy at the Goodwill?), ELLE offered me a year's subscription (normally $48! or something close thereto) for only $8!

Well, hey, yes! Of course, they'd love to have me on their subscription rolls.

But we talked about our dear mailman and all the mail he has to bring down the steps and then up our stairs to our front door. And then we talked about the bags of recycle we have to take down our stairs and up the steps to the recycle bin on Montgomery. And we decided that I didn't really need ELLE that much.

We aren't getting a stimulus check from the government. No manna from heaven $$ for stuff. I guess they figure we stimulate the economy as much as we ever will.

The younger niblet, who is doing his Peace Corps stint until June 2010, got his check, though. We'll put it in his bank account and maybe he'll be able to tap it at some point if he is in desperate need for something while he's there. At least it will still be available when he comes home.

Somehow I think his check would go a lot further there than it would in San Francisco. Be more appreciated too. Somehow I think there's less "stuff" where he is and more "Do we have enough food for dinner and breakfast tomorrow?"

Sunrise. Smoke. Saudade.

The sun rose over Berkeley this morning, a deep orange red through the smoke from the fires. I know the smell of smoke comes from hundreds of fires that are burning right now and that people and their homes are in dangerous straits, and yet, still ... though my eyes sting and my throat is more raspy than it would be if the air were clear (raspy throat in part from the cold I brought back from Camp, lucky me), the smell of smoke permeating the air reminds me of Brazil ...


We'd always planned to go back to Belém, drag my dad along, check out 189 Consulato Furtado and the park. Take a boat up the river to Manaus. Swim back in the river of time.

Won't ever happen now. Can't. The smell of smoke in the air brings memories and saudade.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Zimbabwe ... Zambia. What other countries begin with Z?

Upcoming trip to Africa was to include South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. ...

The organizers just called to say (surprise!) the Zimbabwe leg has been canceled. We'll be going to Zambia instead. Organizers will pay for all Zambian visas &c. The visas we had for Zimbabwe won't be needed after all.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

[URL] Corpus of American English

Corpus of American English

Brilliant app.

The Corpus of American English (not to be confused with the American National Corpus) is the first large corpus of contemporary American English. It is freely available online, and it is related to other large corpora that we have created.

The corpus contains more than 360 million words of text, including 20 million words each year from 1990-2007, and it is equally divided among spoken, fiction, popular magazines, newspapers, and academic texts (more information). The corpus will also be updated at least twice each year from this point on, and will therefore serve as a unique record of linguistic changes in American English.

The interface allows you to search for exact words or phrases, wildcards, lemmas, part of speech, or any combinations of these. You can search for surrounding words (collocates) within a ten-word window (e.g. all nouns somewhere near chain, all adjectives near woman, or all verbs near key).

The corpus also allows you to easily limit searches by frequency and compare the frequency of words, phrases, and grammatical constructions, in at least two main ways:

* By genre: comparisons between spoken, fiction, popular magazines, newspapers, and academic, or even between sub-genres (or domains), such as movie scripts, sports magazines, newspaper editorial, or scientific journals
* Over time: compare different years from 1990 to the present time

You can also easily carry out semantically-based queries of the corpus. For example, you can contrast and compare the collocates of two related words (little/small, democrats/republicans, men/women), to determine the difference in meaning or use between these words. You can find the frequency and distribution of synonyms for nearly 60,000 words and also compare their frequency in different registers, and also use these word lists as part of other queries. Finally, you can easily create your own lists of semantically-related words, and then use them directly as part of the query.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Anne Seddon Kinsolving Brown, On Collecting

Anne Seddon Kinsolving Brown, On Collecting

The Daily Show & The Colbert Report on Hulu

The Daily Show & The Colbert Report on Hulu

[Thank you, Laughing Squid]

Organizing the Attic - Week Four BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS

Organizing the Attic - Week Four wherein our intrepid columnist attacks the books in the attic.

Well, numero uno. Books in the attic are never a good idea as Carter Anne Seddon Kinsolving Brown found out decades ago. (She'd put her library at the top of her old house and found that the top was sinking down and the walls were bulging out. ... She had to take all the books out of the upstairs library and rehab the house and then reorganize the library somewhere other than the top floor. ...)


Update: ASKBrown bio. The next mail will bring an intriguing query that puts you on your mettle. Or the parlour-maid may come up some morning and announce that your husband's 18th century dwelling is beginning to buckle under the weight of your books. This actually happened to us last Holy Week [1967], whereupon the Blessed Season was passed in moving 5 tons of books out of the house to the stacks at Brown University. It was a traumatic experience, believe me, with architects clambering about measuring bulges, and carpenters boring holes in the walls from cellar to garret, while Mama tearfully or cheerfully went about designating the books she consulted the least, and movers packed cartons it might well have been termed the Second Battle of the Bulge.

I read the Week Four column and thought, oh, poor baby:

Ever since then, I have been skittish about the size of our book collection, which peaked at about 600 when we moved into our house in the District seven years ago.

So after going through the books in the attic, our intrepid columnist and her husband wound up donating 25 hardcover and 42 paperback books to their local branch library. 10% of the collection? No big wow there.

The hints from the professional organizer the columnist has on tap?

First, check the condition of the book. "Are the pages so brittle and yellow that you're never going to read them?" If so, she says, donate. And second, "be realistic about the format you like to read them in." Most people never re-read paperbacks they've kept for a while, especially the smaller ones, she says.

Would she faint if she saw what I need to get a handle on?

Saturday, June 07, 2008

For those who say, "Sal, your Facebook presence is lame. ...


Well, you're right.

(Or as Heather said last month, "you don't use facebook")

Well. No. Not much. Guilty as charged.

I'm doing the Facebook thing because the younger nib pushed and Sue Hough pushed and others, well, you know who you are.

Facebook'd I now be.

But, all the poking and gifting and wall writing and all ... Well. I'm a geezer here, folks. I have a hard enough time keeping up with blogs and newsgroups and e-mail.

Bear with me.

I did manage to write on Hana's wall tonight. (And send Hana and Aarti friends' requests today ... um. yesterday.)

Do you know how many Aarti Singhs there are on Facebook? Aarti had said, "Sign up!" eons ago. Today I finally had the time to go through all the Aarti Singhs on Facebook and find those that were or might be relatively local and then go through all *their* friends lists until I found one who had friends I recognized (Hi, Hana!) in her friends list.


Friday, June 06, 2008

William F. Buckley

Hillsdale College - William F. Buckley: "This website contains the complete writings of William F. Buckley, Jr. Transcripts from his long-running TV show, Firing Line are available at the Hoover Institution."

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Artists' notebooks


Intriguing what folks have done with their Moleskine notebooks.

Eric Hoffer used Boorum & Pease Memo Books, 4 1/2 x 7 1/4, 98 pages. There are 131 notebooks in the archives, dating from 1949-1977. Hoffer used his notebooks as places to stash his thoughts, which he would later retrieve and craft into his published writings. In all, the Hoover Institute, which holds the Hoffer archives, has seventy-five feet of Hoffer work.

Paul Madonna uses yet another type of small notebook, sketchbook. Neither Moleskine nor B&P, I don't think.

I am an obsessive note-taker, carrying a book on me at all times. I have a theory that we have only so much space available in our brains to remember thoughts. A small percentage of ideas are realized, and if we waste energy holding onto what may later turn out to be a trite idea, we may have missed or forgotten the one of gold. he says.

He revisits his notebooks frequently looking for ideas for his work. In his studio, he has a shelf holding all his notebooks since he began his journey. All his drawings ... he can go back and find something he drew three years ago and remember the angle of a gable or the detail on a portico. Or he can go back to when he first started drawing faces and see how he's changed. He can find snippets of conversation he's overheard or ideas of something to draw. I look at his notebooks and think, wow. This guy is really focussed on what he does. This guy has an archive of thoughts and sketches that will feed his muse for a long long time to come.

I always intend to keep a notebook that captures it all. I have a few Moleskine notebooks that I've bought (because I like blank, bound books) and which the younger nib has given me (accompanied by "Write, Mom!" sorts of notes). I usually wind up, though, with scatterings and scraps of paper with dates and notes and words I need to look up, meanings known but not really, allusions known but not really, quotes that appeal. ... The scraps of paper are often the tab end of a full-page ad on non-magazine stock. Know what I mean? You tear out the ad and there, at the back end of the magazine, is a strip of paper stock about 3" wide and the height of the magazine.

I sorted and stacked Monday for the FirstMonday meeting at my place that night. I wound up with a large envelope (picked out of the daily mail, 'natch) filled with these scraps of paper. (And that's just the bits and pieces lying around uncaged.) Later I'll re-copy them onto blank notebook pages but ... where's the retrieval mechanism except for thumbing through old notebooks?

When world famous author Sal dies, there will be some archive of what made her tick besides the unreachable archives of what she wrote on a computer and posted to the Web lo' these many years past. There will be dozens of half-used notebooks where Sal started thinking about keeping track of her thoughts and where she was and where she thought she was going and then ...

Do you use a notebook to stash and store anything? Pictures? Notes? Thoughts? Do you draw in your notebook? Have a grid that you adhere to? Add color. Write lies?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

San Francisco Real Estate ... the sales effort

Found a 9x14" (or whatever) envelope in today's mail from Pacific Union/GMAC Real Estate, from our buddies Steve (Steven Mavromihalis) and John (John Fitzgerald). Cover letter is signed (really) with first names only.

Steve and John are shopping the sixth floor of the C. Alfred Meussdorffer-designed 1800 Gough. (1800 Gough units are full-floor.)

Steve and John sent us an eight-page full-color brochure with drop-caps and lovely copywriting, describing the Fujitso Plasma HDTV, the Yamaha MusicCast audio system, the ceiling mounted speakers, the kitchen, the bedrooms, the "welcome and dramatic sense of arrival ... opens to a secure elevator vestibule finished in exquisite black lacquer wood and featuring a unique silver leaf ceiling," "The residence becomes simply magical as dusk falls and the golden dome of City Hall becomes the centerpiece, glowing amongst the backdrop of San Francisco."

For those reading from afar, this is code-speak that 1800 Gough is on the southern slope of Pacific Heights, facing the City and not the Bay (or the Golden Gate Bridge, or Alcatraz, or ... well, you get the idea.)

Nowhere in the brochure is the price mentioned because, well, because prices have been known to change and who knows how big a print-run Steve and John had for the brochure.

"Dramatic City skyline views, peering towards Russian Hill and beyond to the Transamerica Tower and the Oakland Hills.

The range is a six burner Thermador (meaning "gas," I assume. I'd never buy this place without gas cooking in place).

I looked at all the pics. Found one I thought Ms. Paula would rilly like. Checked out the price.


Um. No.

And, alas, the pic I thought Ms. Paula would really like isn't on the Web site. The pic was of the walk-in closet for the master bedroom (which has TWO bathrooms so you don't have to squabble over who gets the sink first when you're brushing your teeth before beddie-bye).

The walk-in closet shoe shelving built-ins appear to carry six-plus pairs per shelf. Twelve shelves showing in the pics. WE'RE TALKING ROOM FOR SEVENTY-TWO-PLUS PAIRS OF SHOES.

Oh. My. [fanning self]

(How did our name get on Steve and John's list of potential buyers?)

10 Unexpected Costs of Owning Things

10 Unexpected Costs of Owning Things | almostfearless.com

I know this is true.

The hundreds of magazines I recycled last weekend? I know I probably would've never found time to read them. I know more come in every day. I know I don't need all the books I have. How often do I listen to a given CD?

Do I need my stuff?

But the thought of giving up my stuff gives me the shivers.

Bit by slowly bit ... maybe.

Monday, June 02, 2008

BONK and the bookers

The gang was over here tonight for dinner and a discussion of Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach.

Suffice to say, the comments around the table were less laudatory than the reviews we'd all read.

Dinner was a salad with a simple oil-balsamic dressing, Gorgonzola gnocchi (from Trader Joe's) and sherry Parmesan shrimp (shrimp from Trader Joe's). Dessert was chocolate macadamia nut brownies (macadamia nuts and chocolate chips from Trader Joe's). Oh, did I mention the mixed salad greens were from Costco as was the brownie mix the brownies were based on? Wines from Trader Joe's too. Sparkling cider from Costco. All well-fed thanks to Trader Joe's and Costco.

Back to Bonk. The reviews are splendid. The actuality less so, in my opinion. Had we been set up by the wonderful reviews so any reality would be a let down? Maybe.

We discussed our favorite bits and our letdowns. Wisecrackery. Tedium. Wiseassery.

Mary Roach used to be a San Francisco gel, used to be a member of The Grotto, a writers' collective that includes Po Bronson, ZZ Packer, Laura Fraser, others. Roach now lives across the Bay in Oakland and no longer is part of The Grotto.

The bookers are skipping July because too many of us will be out of town. August read is Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. September (a week late because of Labor Day) will be PopCo by Scarlett Thomas. (The PCV in Ukraine told me to read Thomas' The End of Mr. Y and I found it intriguing. He told me to read PopCo as well. Another booker had been told to read PopCo by someone who gave it rave reviews. PopCo it is.)

October will be Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.

Spent most of today making the house presentable. Stacking my piles of stuff. Vacuuming. Cleaning. Sweeping. Rearranging. I'd figured out the menu over the weekend and made it simple enough that cooking wouldn't be a stress.

Everything worked out just fine. I'm off the hook for hosting until later this year. (The nice thing about hosting, though, is you don't have to find a way home after.)

The August location is over in the Mission. September is just up Montgomery, off Alta. October, November are up at the top of the hill.