Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Weekend camping trip

This past weekend, I celebrated my birthday by going camping with some of my friends at Frozen Head State Park. I had planned to lead one of my infamous death marches on Sunday, but it turned out to be more of a chronic illness march instead - and even then I didn't lead, thanks to the return of my old knee/IT band issue. Instead, I did a shorter hike with some of my friends at the Lilly Bluff area of the Obed Wild & Scenic River.

This photo shows blessings from heaven showering down upon our campsite.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How not to do alumni relations

Dear organization I am an alumna of:

I have now received several postcards and email messages about the company (Publishing Concepts) you've hired to put together a directory for us. Each one asks me to call a toll-free number to verify my information is correct.

You actually expect gen x and gen y folks to voluntarily make phone calls so we can be telemarketed to? You're kidding, right? (Because, really, why else wouldn't we be able to just do this online?) You can't even be bothered to auto-dial my number?

This email, however, does thoughtfully provide an opt-out link, which works quite well.

Hugs and kisses,

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fiction from the Netherlands and Argentina

I've finished the next two books in on the translation shortlist.

Gerbrand Bakker's The Twin is easy to read and a quiet book, even pastoral. The protagonist has led a narrow life on a farm in the Netherlands, stifled by his father and forced into a life of farming by the early death of his twin brother. As the book opens, his father is dying, and the protagonist begins to assert independence for the first time in his life. If this were Hollywood, there would be some fumbling sex, a scene in which he violently sweeps momentos off a shelf, and a tear-jerking moment of reconciliation with his father. But this isn't Hollywood. Instead, it's a much quieter journey, foregrounded by the natural world around him. It's not a book I would have ever picked up based on the plot, but it was a very satisfying book.

Cesar Aira's Ghosts is really a novella. It follows a family that lives in a high-rise condo building as it is being constructed - but over the span of just one day, new year's eve. The book veers from prosaic descriptions of the goings-on in the building to philosophical expositions. The "ghosts" in question don't draw on any archetypical ghosts I'm familiar with; they float there naked, mostly. This book wasn't difficult to read, but I didn't find it riveting, either. (And if the description leads you to expect magical realism, it's not.) While it wasn't my cup of tea, if it sounds interesting to you, I strongly recommend not reading any other descriptions of it; most of them give away the entire plot up to the very last words.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Link soup

Logtop garden
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
The photo is from last weekend's hike on LeConte. It's the top of a log that houses its own little garden. These links have nothing to do with moss, mushrooms, or logs.

Baby's Touch 'N Feel Guide to Russian Literature.

Flight to the suburbs may be reversing.

What do presidents think aobut during commencement?

An unnatural, perverse lust.

Higher ed stuff: How students can "demonstrate interest" in a college. I am very surprised this article doesn't discuss how "demonstrated interest" is correlated with class. For many students, a visit to campus is prohibitively expensive. And for first-generation students, or the only student in a family to consider elite schools, they have no idea that "demonstrating interest" is something to do - after all, you've applied, right? Knowledge of "appropriate" self-promotion is a function of class position and social capital.

Second-tier athletic programs are costing their schools big bucks.

A very relevant article about my life.

Monday, June 7, 2010

LeConte Lodge weekend trip

Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
This weekend I checked LeConte Lodge off my to-do list. We hiked up on Friday and spent the night before hiking down the next day. I had hiked up to the top before, but only as a dayhike. The Lodge, I thought, wasn't quite as nice as the Hike Inn, but the scenery is much more impressive. (For one thing, there are very few people in this world I can really get sleep next to in a double bed.) We got lucky and avoided hiking in the rain - it thoughtfully waited until the evening.

The next day a few of us stuck around and camped at Elkmont, also in the part, to watch to synchronous fireflies. Well, I was hoping for an Esther Williams type of show, which of course I didn't get. The fireflies don't actually blink in unison, contrary to my assumption; they all blink for a few seconds, and then they all go dark. It's pretty impressive, especially given the number of fireflies that are out at once. It's not like your backyard, where a handful are zipping and zapping around.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Virgin Falls

Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
We celebrated Memorial Day by hiking Virgin Falls. It's always a pretty hike, although this time we had some weather excitement - two downpours. During the first, on our way to the falls, there was thunder and lightning, so we waited in a holler until the storm passed. The second, on our way out, was just rain. It was warm enough, of course, that the rain didn't chill us - but it was humid enough that we never really dried out.