March 2009 Archives


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I get back to the US tomorrow! And I am perhaps a bit too excited about this! Stories and photos and incessant rambling soon!!!!

Saluti da Venezia!

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Getting to Venice has been... well, an ordeal. It's involved missed trains, getting body-checked and shouted at in Napoli, an entire country's railway computer systems evidently going down, having to spend the last of my money on a new ticket, breaking my wrists and back lugging my suitcase around, and finally, finally getting here on time to see the sun set on the Grand Canal.

The second I stepped out of the Santa Lucia train station, my eyes filled with tears of joy and elation, and in my head, I felt completely and totally at home. Venice is as lovely as I left it, if not lovelier. I was astounded that the lagoon is just as gorgeously blue-green this time of year as in the summer, and the light is just as warm and staggeringly beautiful in March as July (ahem, except when it keeps raining).


I got to my hotel on the Lido as the cold and dark set in, and I was so worn out and exhausted that it was all I could do to get out of my clothes and crash face-down on the bed. I slept until the next morning, when I discovered that my tiny little monastic cell (seriously - it's the size of my childhood bedroom) has a cute balcony thing, where I ate a breakfast of crackers and herbed cream cheese. It's been that kind of trip.

The first day of research at the manuscript library was utter hell, and I can't remember the last time I've felt so stymied and discouraged. On the vaporetto back to my hotel, I decided I vastly prefer on-site scientific research and must do my very best to become proficient in conservation science. Going into this trip, I had all these misgivings, like I couldn't decide between going forward in art history or tapping out and going full force toward art conservation. Now I am 100 million percent certain that I am content to be done with art history as soon as I finish this degree. The thing is, I absolutely love studying art and art history... I just HATE libraries, digging around in books, and all the documentation which feels utterly divorced from the actual things I care about.

I'll elaborate on that topic sometime soon perhaps.

I went back to my hotel feeling intensely angry, frustrated, and exasperated with the whole endeavor. I had no idea how to get my thesis done from here, I was sick of being unable to communicate with people who understand me, and I just snapped. I sat on my bed listening to music and bawling my eyes out for a rather embarrassingly long time, then did what any reputable scholar would: went out and got smashed on red wine. Fortified also with a plate of gnocchi, I pulled myself together and slept the sleep of the dead. When I awoke, my first thoughts were "Ugh, I'm still in Venice," and I looked at myself in the mirror in disbelief.

Today started out equally awful, with all these irritating circles best summarized by saying that the manuscript which I traveled all the way here to view, they will not let me view. After quite an aggravating amount of time pleading my case up the ladder, I finally got to someone's assistant, who begrudgingly handed me a CD-ROM of all the pages of this manuscript, digitized.

I looked at it dumbfounded, amazed that such a thing exists, yet in the months of correspondence which preceded this visit, it never occurred to the library that perhaps I would like to be mailed a copy of this CD instead of coming all the way to Venice to view it on their computer and pay 7 euros per medium-resolution digital file, 20 per high-quality. That in fact, one can make copies of CD-ROMs and send them to distant locations, like New York!

I'm disappointed that I didn't get to see this manuscript, since from the digital images, it seems amazing, but whatever, I got the information I needed, and as I walked out of the library, I tried to repress maniacal laughter, thinking I would never step foot in that God-forsaken hell hole ever again.

To say I've reacted with rather dramatic emotions these past few days would probably be an understatement. It seems my default mode in Venice has been tears: of joy, exhuberance, anger, frustration, and now, absurdity and relief.

When I finished work for today, I came back to my hotel and chatted with a very friendly Sicilian desk guy, who set me up with free, unlimited high-speed internet. I cannot even begin to express how happy it has made me to get back in touch with friends and have a good long talk with my Mom. I did have a nice hour of troubleshooting in a foreign language when my connection suddenly dropped out, but nothing can match my manuscript library experience for sheer irritation and stupidity.

Tomorrow, I travel to Padua to view another manuscript, this time in a seminary library which is only open from 3-6pm on Thursday and Friday afternoons. I would say that the odds of me actually viewing this manuscript are slim to none, but I almost don't care. Just in case, I'm buying tickets to the Scrovegni chapel, planning a visit to Il Santo, and digging up some other Paduan adventures.

As far as I'm concerned, after Friday, I am on vacation. I have to go back to the Accademia to view my paintings again, and I'm planning to visit a few museums and churches for other research stuff, the stupid lace museum in Burano is still closed (for the third time I've been here!), but yeah, I am going into tourist mode and damn happy about it.

I fly home on Tuesday morning. I'm unreasonably excited to see my family, my kitty, to sleep in a soft bed with enough blankets and heat, to be warm and comfortable and have constant wireless internet, to speak English and almost completely understand everything people say to me... ah, it will be nice. I will curse myself for being so childish and petty in Venice over something so stupid as a manuscript library, but I can't manage to regret things anymore.

I will try to post something more thoughtful and upbeat when I have returned from Padua, but if you only see some drunken musings about art and music, please assume I am happy and have made my peace with Italy.


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Hello from Pompeii! Italy is as amazing as I ever could have hoped, if not more so, and I am having a fantastic time.

The first two days here I toured Pompeii with my professor and labmates, and it is fascinating and amazing. I keep having these staggering feelings of awe and exhilaration, knowing what tragedies occurred here, but also getting to see what life was like and understanding people's experiences.

We met the German group for research in the Herculaneum on Sunday. That morning we discovered there was no electricity for our site because of some conspiracy with the Napoli workers stealing all the extension cords. It did provide the opportunity to explore the site and go into restricted areas with the head conservator, but it was disappointing that we missed an entire day of measuring because of silly logistics.

Measurements went splendidly on Monday, and we were getting very promising and unexpected results. Unfortunately, that was all we were able to do. We weren't getting signal this morning, so they started to move some equipment. Part of this equipment is an extremely powerful magnet, and the other parts are extremely delicate sensors and a radio frequency coil. As they were moving it, I thought to myself, "Wow, that's awfully close to the pre-amp (another piece of equipment in a metal case)," and as I was opening my mouth, the pre-amp flew into the magnet, damaging the coil and breaking the sensors. Everyone was crestfallen, as that has ended NMR measurement for this trip. My main project is to do with these measurements, so while I am still working on other things, my research here is put on hold until the repairs can be made and we revisit the site in the summer. To say I'm devastated would be quite an understatement.

I have had great news about my art history thesis research, however, and I'm moving forward on plans for that. It will be a nice change of pace to work with manuscripts and books after the complexity and physical challenge of lugging heavy yet delicate equipment through an excavation site.

Otherwise I am having a wonderful time. It's fantastic to be in the sunny south of Italy with great friends and colleagues. I'm looking forward to touring more of Pompeii and the Herculaneum, maybe even Boscoreale and some other sites in the region.

I regret that I can't upload photos yet. We are staying in bungalows, and while there is wireless, it tends to drop out every few seconds, with maddening slowness in between. I hope this will improve in Venice. Also, it is almost midnight here, so yknow, another time.

Oh oh oh but HAPPY ST PATRICK'S DAY!!!

Because I was sort of devastated about missing St Patrick's Day this year, my parents and brother got together a very special feast for just the four of us last night, featuring corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, homemade Irish soda bread, a delicious cake my brother baked, and Killian's Irish Red.

It was incredibly tasty and lovely to be with my family when we were all laughing, joking, and not mad at each other. Quite a nice send-off.

Unfortunately, it didn't occur to me to pack before celebrating, so it looks like I still have quite a lot of things to do now that I passed out for most of the night in blissful drinky sleep. As I mentioned, I have lots of things I wanted to talk about, so I'm starting this entry now and will work on it periodically while I pack. Yay diversion!


I made a deal with the universe that when I get back from Italy, it will be spring. For my part in this, I've tried really hard not to bitch about the weather and instead to embrace it, like by going skiing and by dressing (mostly) appropriately to the season.

Therefore, I want sundress and bare leg weather. I am tired of tights (however much I love them) and dressing in layers. I want thin floral cottons, fly-away skirts, and tiny little prints on blouses. I've even been growing my hair long just for the occasion, and I'm going to resist cutting it so I can have a long hair and sundress kind of spring.


Also, my spring shoes are really cute. Yesterday I got adorable yellow flats and these peep-toe stacked-heel slingback tan leather situations that I would really like to break in.

I keep knitting little shrugs and cardigans to wear over a white linen dress that I love (but don't wear enough) and floral dresses. I am actually sort of sad that I don't get to bring all that stuff to Italy this time, as I find myself packing jeans and sweaters instead. But the universe will deliver! Early spring, I say!


When I get back from Italy, I have opera tickets to see Rigoletto at the Met (totally ridiculously excited about that). I've never seen this opera before, so I downloaded thelibretto and mp3s of what is supposed to be an exceptional performance.

I have this knack for arriving in Venice (or last summer in Milan) within days of the close of the opera season, so I have never seen an opera in Italy, much to my dismay. It figures that the one time I will be in Venice during La Fenice's season, they don't have any opera performances, just concerts.

I've decided I probably need to marry someone who is either an opera-lover or musically-obsessed enough that they'll go along with me. My mother and I are weighing the pros and cons of buying subscriptions for the '09-'10 season at the Met and coming up with almost all pros. I feel like an opera subscription is not the kind of thing you'd ever regret, and I'm thrilled I finally have someone who enjoys it as much as (or maybe more than) I do.

Vaguely related, Bat for Lashes is playing April 30th at the Bowery Ballroom and May 2nd at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Tickets are only $15, and she's supposed to be excellent live, so I will probably go, but it bums me out that I can't think of anyone who would want to go with me. This happened years ago when TV on the Radio were first playing gigs in Brooklyn, and I'm still pissed that I didn't just go anyway. It's also looking unlikely that I'll get to the Siren Festival this year, but I'm going to try my damndest.

Ahem, ditto on the Mermaid Parade.

I used to think that having a boyfriend was like instant concert-buddy, someone who, even if they didn't like the music, was somehow contractually obliged to go with you anyway and vice versa. I was quite incorrect in this assumption, and it bothers me to think I could someday find myself married to someone who won't go with me to a concert. Therefore, I think "musically-obsessed" is going to have to move much higher up on my dating requirements for men, maybe even above beautiful eyes or intelligence.

(Lingering hope that if I attend enough concerts by myself, I will meet musically-obsessed single guys doing the same. Realize this hope is absurd.)


Dating-wise, I recognize that I like to keep people at a distance, but you'd be surprised at how few guys want to sign up for a long-distance relationship with me. Even if I quote "Radio Cure" at myself ("Distance has no way of making love understandable"), which I always misheard as "Distance has a way", I still can't give up on the notion that it makes more sense to pay complete attention to someone every once in a while, rather than occasional or begrudged attention all the time.

I am a huge fan of the TV show Bones (and JUST remembered that I had a wonderful dream about David Boreanaz last night!), and one of the characters is an artist named Angela Montenegro. She has kind of non-traditional ideas about love and romance, and inone episode, she is visiting this boyfriend Kirk who lives out in the desert. She does this every year, for 3 weeks, and then they kind of leave each other alone the rest of the time. When people question the sincerity of this kind of love, she responds with something brilliant (which of course I can't find to quote directly) about loving completely in the moment, sincerely and with all her heart, for 3 concentrated weeks out of the year, without all the day-to-day monotony that makes you take the person you love for granted.

I know there is something to be said for actually seeing someone regularly, for having conversations where the other person understands your daily existence and has even met the people you talk about... but I feel like some of my most special and wonderful friendships are with people I see once a year if I'm lucky. Because of the internet, we talk regularly and keep up with each others' lives, we have jokes, we share feelings... I dunno. It seems okay to me. There is a line from Eternal Sunshine that I think of often: "Constantly talking isn't necessarily communication."

I think it should be okay to have separate lives and every couple months or so, make time to see each other, really pay attention, say the things you need to say and do, and go back to your own lives. It feels a lot better to miss someone than to wonder if it's a mistake and feel suffocated.

I still am not surprised to have no takers on this front.


I realized I was regaining my sense of smell when I kissed the top of Smokey's head and I could smell his spicy little brains. I love this cat so much, and I'm going to miss him terribly while I'm away.

It was observed by my labmates last summer that I was considerably more excited to be reunited with the cats than my boyfriend, friends, and family. I think this is because my relationship with cats is purely physical, tactile, and experiential. I mean, you can exchange emails with people or if you really miss them, call and hear their voices. You can't exactly dial-a-purr or conjure up a squishy gray belly when you need one to pet.

My parents have promised to love my little Butter Chubs while I'm away, but I worry he will be sad and feel abandoned yet again. He sleeps with his head on my shoulder like a little bear snuggled in my arm. He purrs when I enter a room because he (rightfully) just assumes he's going to get pet. Ah well, it's only 20 days. I think I - I mean he - will survive.


My relationship with my parents is getting a lot better. I realize that a lot of the things that drive me crazy (unsolicited advice, snippy comments, judgment, accusations that I must be on meth when I don't sleep, and so on) do come from a place of love and concern. I need to just get over myself and recognize that this is a relatively short-term arrangement that will help me get on the path to a better life.

I wrote a little bit ago about how much I'm looking forward to escaping my life here, but I am also looking forward to coming back to it in improved spirits. With spring comes sailing, rowing, running, more swimming, gardening, painting outside, barbecues, going to the beach, tennis (if I can find a partner), and all the things I really love to do outdoors. For better or worse, I do live in a vacation spot, and I can think of worse ways to spend a summer than living at the Jersey shore.

On the topic of barbecues, I seriously want to roast a pig for my graduation party. I don't even like roast pig that much, but I just want to do it for its own sake. The rest of the food will probably be Italian, and I am willing to trade the vision of kegs of whiskey for a bottle or two, plus beer and wine. (Will save whiskey for wedding plans). This party (which really will be awesome) all depends on me completing my thesis and degrees, and it's a little embarrassing how much motivation the thought of a bitchin' party provides in that direction.

It's absolutely time to finish and get on with my life though, lousy prospects or otherwise.

(Two notes on that article: 1. Ha, good thing I'm only getting two masters'! 2. None of the candidates seem to have considered personal limitations or lack of meaningful experience/research as reasons why they shouldn't be hired straight out of grad school. There is an overall tone of walking across the commencement platform and accepting one's tenure-track position with all its natural entitlements that I do find rather laughable).

I have a five-year plan, which I will outline in excessive detail when I return from Italy. Hint: it involves a lot of chemistry and even more school.


15 Beautiful Microscopic Images from Inside the Human Body on Environmental Graffiti.

I always find these kinds of images mesmerizing. I don't mind admitting that part of how I came to switch from Neuroscience to Studio Art in undergrad was when I found myself so entranced with sketching SEMs of neurons that I was no longer following the lectures. I had a total Talking Heads moment where I looked around the classroom and was all "Who are these people? Why are they in my studio? Why is this guy talking about pharmacology??"

Periodically I revisit an idea I had a long time ago for a series of paintings based on disease, tissue irregularities, infection, etc called 50 (or sometimes 100) Small Things That Can Kill You. They'd be painted in exquisite detail, finding the intense beauty in natural order run amok. I have a folder of reference SEMs that I keep on my hard drive for when I get around to it.


My thesis involves rows of flowers found around the bottom of a cycle of paintings, as they relate to herbal medicine and the history of botanical illustration. There's much more to it, but one of the core exercises is in identifying these plants, and now matching them to manuscripts that I'm almost positive Carpaccio referenced.

I put them online so I could print them from my mother's computer, but it occurred to me that I might as well share them here too.

The photographs are lousy (since I had to sneak them while the guard stepped out of the room for a minute), and the paintings themselves are not in the best shape, but if you recognize any of these plants, please don't hesitate to speak up. This whole project started from what I feared was a trite observation, but it turns out that just looking at things is the best way to see what's going on.

Also, isn't it fun to help me with my thesis? Yay!


I haven't actually talked about it that much, but it really boggles my mind that our research is going to be in Pompeii and the Herculaneum. The eruption of Vesuvius was in AD 79, 1,930 years ago. The mosaic we're studying was made by people who lived more than 19 centuries ago. My hands will be setting up equipment where theirs worked. I will be measuring their mortar, standing where they stood, under the same sun. It's an absolute honor.

I am constantly amazed by art's ability to bridge cultures, to make present the lives of those who died long ago. I love studying art history because it gives me a sense of what it was like to be alive at the time the artists were, and not just through words, numbers or events, but I can see, as a fellow sentient being, what it felt like, how they went about their days, what they held sacred, what they considered exciting, how they got by. I will be seeing so much amazing art on this trip that I am positively giddy and tearfully excited about it, and that makes it worth all the stress, anxiety, planning, fretting, cost, worries, research, and everything else that I've put into this.


I have some other things I did want to touch on, but I guess that will all have to wait for my return on the 31st.

I may post a bit from Italy, either here or on Twitter, and I will be reachable on and off byemail or through Facebook (boy did that sentence feel dorky).

Have a safe and happy March, and I will see you in April!


Radio Cure

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Usually when I take dextromethorphan, I have awful, vivid, terrifying nightmares that are worse than any sickness. In this recent bout of bronchitis (I have declared myself cured), I counteracted the nightmares with music (why didn't I think of this sooner?), and instead I had some of the best dreams of my life.

That is, as long as I didn't let iTunes go nuts through the alphabet and harsh my mellow with something awful like Vengaboys (baleeted!). So I made a few relaxed playlists, mostly instrumental stuff, and then threw some Wilco albums on there. Jeff Tweedy has been singing me to sleep, and I just couldn't be happier.


So wonderful.

The other day my friend Hope joked about quoting Billy Bragg lyrics as a blog title, and it reminded me that I'd woken up with the lyrics to "Radio Cure" memorized. And they are terribly poignant to my ridiculous little heart.

I am either emotionally stunted (likely) or I'm going through this phase where my heart's in the same place as it was the last times I lived here, at 17 and 21. I don't really mind either way.

(I have a lot of other things I want to write about before I leave for Italy, and I will get to them, but this, I wanted to keep.)

A couple months ago, I was a Connecticutian.

But today, I finally got my license saying I am, once again, a Jersey girl. It's official.


Veramente vado - yikes!

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(That means "I'm really going!")

Things I have finally gotten together:

- plane ticket to and from Italy purchased, crazy anxieties allayed

- bus to Naples train station, Circumvesuviana to Pompeii

- bungalow booked in camp site across the street from Pompeii entrance

- work plans drawn up, preparatory readings and obsession indulged, NMR and XRF researched and (mostly) understood

- train ticket from Naples to Venice purchased, arm and leg paid for overnighting

- hotel in Venice booked: paid twice the cost of a hostel for a private room on the Lido with internet... still less expensive per night than staying in a Day's Inn in Connecticut (wow)

- appointments made with Venetian manuscript collection

- ferry schedule between Lido and airport consulted

- budget created, with actual money in bank account for this purpose

Holy crap, I really have it all planned. What a delightful feeling!

I am not, as yet, ready to leave though.

Things I have to get together:

- get new driver's license so I have photo ID that matches my billing address (that will be this morning's awesome adventure)

- shuttle or limo to the airport in NJ

- purchasing travel locks, shampoo, toothpaste, Band-Aids, more cold medicine (ugh), hosiery, and (ahem) new underwear (what?? my bungalow-mate said she's bringing saucy bras! I can't show up with over-sized granny panties!)

- figure out what in hell outfits I can possibly pack that I won't desperately hate after 20 days... wish so badly it were summer and I could just fill my suitcase with sundresses again

- pack suitcase with all essentials but still be able to lift it

- buy guidebooks and maps for Naples & Pompeii; locate Venice maps & books

- plan day trips for weekends with labmates

- get in touch with conservation architect in Padua and attempt day trip to see manuscript there... also try to coerce same into letting me spend extra time in the Scrovegni Chapel(crap - try to get tickets to Scrovegni Chapel)

- get letters of reference and introduction attesting to academic and professional status and vast experience with manuscripts... learn enough about manuscripts that these letters are not a total farce

- clear enough photos and music off my hard drive that I will have room for many many gigs of photos and data

- wrap computer's power cord in electrical tape to conceal very conveniently-timed exposed wires where dog chewed plastic bit (grrr)

- print out tickets, confirmation forms, maps, notes, and photos of painting details for comparison with manuscripts

- get bedroom back into "guest room" state so my parents don't hate me while I'm gone

Argh, I know I'm leaving things off. I also know the internet doesn't really need to know what I'm scrambling around doing.

But you DO need to know that for once, I know exactly where my passport is. Ha! There is hope for me yet!

Books (yes, it's a meme)

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I am a little frantic getting ready for Italy (I leave Thursday?!?!), and I'm still getting over bronchitis, however slowly, so yknow, pardon my laziness here. It's a book meme!

This particular list is being posted all over knitting blogs and has some purported origins in a BBC list. It comes with the (I think) dubious claim that most American adults have only read 6.

Because I have the really bad habit of reading books in part and putting them down for several years, or skimming those that I had to read for school, I've italicized the books which I can't, in good conscience, consider "read" in full. I've bolded those that I have read cover to cover, and I've done nothing with those I have not read at all, unless you count the occasional invisible marking of guilt.

As a self-awareness exercise, since I currently possess entirely too many books, I've put an asterisk beside those books which I own (ahem, not all cataloged). Interpret as you will.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen*
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien*
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee*
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 1984 - George Orwell*
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens*
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott*
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy*
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller*
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare * - ha! I received an award in Studies of Shakespeare from Trinity... but I still have a few history plays left to read.
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien*
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger*
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger*
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald*
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy*
25 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky*
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll*
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame*
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy*
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens*
33 The Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis*
34 Emma - Jane Austen*
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis*
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini*
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden*
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne*
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell*
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown*
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez*
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving*
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery*
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood*
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding*
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel*
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen*
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens*
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley*
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon*
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez*
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck*
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov* - it's on my bedside stand right now, but I've only read a few pages.
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold*
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac* - I just can't finish this damn book.
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding*
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie*
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville*
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens*
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker*
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett*
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce*
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath*
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray*
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens*
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert*
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White*
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom*
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle*
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad*
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery*
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams*
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole*
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas*
98 Hamlet - Shakespeare* - why doesn't this go with the Complete Works?
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl*
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Some thoughts at the end of this little exercise before I tally up: there are an awful lot of children's books on here, or typical "high school reading" type books. I would have compiled a very very different list myself.

Books I have read in full: 39
Books I have read in part: 18
Books I have not read: 43

Interesting. I look forward to finishing school so I can read more.

Music fixes everything

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I've been having a little traipse back through RJD2, especially Deadringer and I have the song "Ghostwriter" totally, completely, ridiculously, relentlessly stuck in my head.


I'm talking like, playing it on repeat, walking around constantly with this song. I suspect it accounts for a vast improvement in my mood since my last post.

Equally addictive is the Bat for Lashes album Fur and Gold, especially "Prescilla":


And "Bat's Mouth":


And from the new album Two Suns (which omg, I love this girl), "Glass":


Somewhere, and in several places since then, I've read Natasha Khan described as the British love child of Regina Spektor and Kate Bush. People throw in Björk or Tori Amos as well, and I have to agree, in the best way possible. She just has it.

Parenthetically, my mother brought a bunch of Mount Gay home with her from Canada. It seems that Dark & Stormies taste even better when they're duty-free. I may have to expand on this theory in the hot tub...

Opening and closing doors

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I've had a lot of nervous energy lately, as I got some really worrying news last night about a family member who has been hospitalized (I think he's okay now), and while my mother was on a business trip in Canada, my father and I have been fighting like old pros.

I don't know how I have the capacity to annoy people as much as I do, but my word, does he resent the crap out of me living here. Understandably, since I have a lot of stuff, a lot of clothes and shoes and papers in my room, a painting studio where they used to have a kitchen table, I don't like the same foods as him, I'm infrequently around or awake at the same times as him, I have no patience for being told what to do with my life, and I guess it's very easy to see me as just a constant burden taking up space around here. When I don't want to engage in another round of "when you get back from Italy, you can just pack your things and go" for the thirtieth time in the same evening, I am called smug, hateful, ugly, nasty, and told I have a preposterously arrogant attitude problem.

What a joy it is to live with one's parents at age 27.

But do you see this?

Oh, sweet salvation, that is my bedroom door, closed. (Also, hi shoes! Mama loves you!)

Doors don't really mean a lot around here. Their sanctity is not respected in any appreciable way, few of them actually close properly, and they are usually barged open by a dog or scratched relentlessly by a needy cat.

Still, I am a different person when I have the ability to put a door between myself and other people, even if only symbolically. The sense - even the illusion - of privacy, of being alone, is pretty critical to my well-being, and I'm incredibly relieved to have it back.

I haven't had proper solitude in a really long time. When friends of mine got married in October, I got a hotel room down the street from the reception, and it was the most blissfully relaxed I think I've been in years.

Selfishly, I can admit that this is one of the things I'm most looking forward to about this trip - the 9 days of solitude in Venice, a door between myself and everyone and everything else in the world.

Despite my whining and complaining, my life is pretty awesome most of the time. But I am really, really excited at the chance to escape it for a little while, to disappear as a stranger in another country and do whatever I want, where it really doesn't affect anyone else. I get to be completely autonomous and utterly alone in the world for a little bit, and man, I can't wait!


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So umm, in a week, I'm leaving for Italy. Like, seven days from now, I will wake up and it will be the day I get on a plane, and I will not be home until April!

I'm kind of panicky. How does one pack for a trip that includes camping, working in an archeological site, having dinner with scientists, sight-seeing, studying in manuscript libraries, visiting churches, taking vaporettos, and enjoying prosecco with handsome Italian men?!

Also, I have not brushed up on my Italian. Like at all. I was reading an Italian article about pigments and translating it for my labmate on Wednesday, and I was thinking "Holy crap,where is this coming from??" I guess the Muppets have my back on foreign languages, just as they did when I mysteriously learned French for that exam. I hope they keep it up and learn some flirty words while they're at it, since batting my lashes and saying "Sì" a lot only goes so far.

(Why do I keep talking about flirting with men on what is essentially a work trip? Because Italian men love me. Yeah, I don't get it either, but it's a lot of fun. This will be my first time in Italy sans boyfriend, and I don't mind admitting it's the most romantic place I've ever been.)

(I'm not really looking for love in Italy. I can't deal with the distance of a few states, so how would I cope with a whole continent? Dinner and besos, though? Absolutely.)

I'm freaking out a little about getting everything in order before I go. My parents are having their annual St Patrick's Day party (which I am devastated to miss), so my room, currently a den of thesis-writing and too many shoes, has to be spotless. Foolishly, I thought I could strip the wallpaper and have it painted a deep and sexy blue by now. Yknow, in all that free time on the weekends. Ha.

When I get back from Italy, I will have just two weeks to submit my thesis draft. From there, I have a month to make corrections and polish it, but essentially, this sucker has to be in the bag. Five days after that, I am speaking at a Science & Art symposium, presenting all of our research from last summer. I feel like I've said all this before, probably on this very blog, but I have to keep repeating the sequence of events to make them real.

I have fairly urgent research stuff at work to finish before the trip, as well as some pretty critical thesis things to get together.

And this is not even touching on the little things like replacing my travel alarm clock, finding my power adapters, getting credentials together for photography and entrance into manuscript libraries, umm, finding a place to stay in Venice...

Maybe I should stop goofing off and start a list. Yikes.

I don't know why, but my Wordpress theme keeps breaking. The "header" file gets overwritten, I think, and shows up in the theme editor completely blank. Without it, the whole site won't display properly. Perhaps you've noticed? It looks like the early 90s around here.

So I very intelligently wondered if part of the problem was that I had two instances of the Simply Basic theme installed at once. I deleted the wrong one, and with it, all of the modifications I'd made to get the colors, fonts, spacing, and what all just the way I wanted them.

I guess what I'm saying is that while I angrily try to remember how my site looked when I thought it was perfect, please excuse the mess. I have some grumbling and fidgeting to do.

Was it something someone said?

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Before I begin, I will front-load this with: I started a Twitter account. I think these are all the half-formed one-line thoughts and daily musings that I ordinarily only share with Smokey.

Second, the title of this post is a line from the Smashing Pumpkins song "Drown," which is to say (in a contrived way) that this post is all about Communication. Specifically, my faults therein. Hooray!

I have been told several times lately, with varying degrees of kindness and urgency, that my communication sucks. I don't know if this is a temporary thing, or if it's the way I've always been, but even I can tell it's getting a little worse.

For one thing, I don't really use the IMer anymore (I guess normal people call this AIM?). I am becoming an almost exclusively Gmail person, so I never remember to sign onto Trillian (which I've come to hate anyway). Once I'm on Gmail, though, I have all the things in my inbox to deal with, and I tend to get wrapped up in a little recursive internet loop that rarely involves stopping to say hi to people unless they say hi to me first.

This latter aspect is another one of my major communication flaws: I rarely instigate communication with other people because I am terribly afraid of bothering them. Personally, I never mind when people interrupt what I'm doing (that's why I'm signed onto a chat program to begin with), but I always fear that I will catch them in the middle of something important or when they don't want to hear from me. This is the same reason why I almost never call people, unless it's at a time we've arranged ahead or I am spectacularly drunk and forget to be inhibited about it.

I tend to think I am an open book, what with the sheer volume of online contributions I make in a given day and the degree of personal information I've made available, yet several people called me out when I went "internet missing" for a while in January. I didn't realize how exclusively I rely on the internet to stay in touch with the friends I don't see regularly in person, or that even if I keep blogging and posting to Facebook and what all, if I don't say hello to people individually in real time, they do start to notice.

I talked with an old friend at length this weekend about communication and the impact it had on our relationship. I had been very hurt several times when he seemed to have cut off contact with me entirely, and it turns out that I was the one freezing him out. Worse, I didn't even notice. I kind of just stuck it all on him and resented him accordingly, and I feel terribly guilty about that.

I realize how many of my friendships have ended because I didn't communicate effectively or enough, or I let some small misunderstanding grow into a chasm of silence and confusion until they gave up on me. I'm trying not to do that anymore, but ugh, it's hard.

The weird thing is, I actually do communicate very well. I speak my mind clearly and reasonably articulately when I know what I'm trying to say. I don't back down from what I feel, and I am able to express both my heart and my mind. I tell people exactly what they mean to me as it occurs to me (this generally leads to me blurting out weirdly personal proclamations of affection and flattery because they said or did something that I recognize as characteristically wonderful), and I don't think people question my sincerity since I am pretty much incapable of lying to anyone I care about.

I am, by nature, a talker. In person, I'm almost incapable of being quiet, which I imagine is actually pretty annoying. Recently I was spending time with a friend, and I got sort of introspective and quiet. When I realized how long I'd gone without saying anything, I apologized for being so quiet, and he was stunned. "Really? This is you being quiet?" he said incredulously, "I couldn't think of that many things to say all day!"

So I know I am able to communicate. Maybe even effectively and entertainingly. That is, when I choose to communicate at all. As with every other problematic All or Nothing situation in my life, I need to mitigate the distance between cold silence and overwhelming floods of words and information.

I really am trying. I'm answering emails promptly, instead of letting them sit in my inbox for weeks while I try to think of the perfect response. I'm returning phone calls, even if it makes me panicky. I'm asking questions instead of making notes to look things up later (sometimes - I still have my list). I'm not allowing myself to avoid uncomfortable conversations or hide from people, and I'm making myself be fully honest even when I'd prefer to take my heart off the table and quietly drift out of someone's life instead.

Theoretically, the incredibly awkward steps I'm taking toward becoming a more communicative person should help me a lot, personally, professionally, spiritually, artistically, etc. My feelings of intense dread and imminent disaster are probably perfectly natural, and over time I can put away my armor and just interact with people as a functional, healthy person, instead of a quivering hedgehog looking for a reason to turn to quills.

Ahem. Eventually.

My beautiful friends

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Friday was a crazy fun night. It started with dinner with my department at Noodle Puddingto celebrate the grant that is funding our trip to Italy. This ran late (much to my dismay), but my labmates met some of my wonderful college friends at an art exhibit / loft party in DUMBO, followed by drinks.

I wish I could give a more exciting and comprehensive description, but my head is currently swimming in dextromethorphan and my lungs are making crunchy lo-fi garage rock sounds (lousy bronchitis, I hate you).

Let's summarize it with: my friends are awesome. All of them. I am lucky to know such spectacular, beautiful, brilliant, good-natured, warm, and hysterically funny people, and I am even luckier that they forgive what a socially clumsy, awkward person I am and spend time with me anyway.

(All night I maintained that I wasn't drunk, but seriously? Look at my pupils. I am so full of crap. Those are whiskey saucers right there.)

I can't remember when I last laughed so hard or so much. It was exactly what I needed.

I didn't get home from the city until about 5pm on Saturday, by which point I was well and truly overcome with sickness and certain that I needed to spend the rest of the weekend taking medicine and resting. I have just about perfected the combination of gray cat therapy and romantic comedies which I hope will provide my cure.

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This page is an archive of entries from March 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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