Archive for October, 2008

One striking photo

“In 2003 the first group of female cadets graduated from Iran’s police academy.”

Photo by Abbas Kowsari, in the current issue of The Paris Review.


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Dostoevsky said this?

The soul is healed by being with children. 

                                              —Fyodor Dostoevsky 


I can’t picture the crazy Russian, bearded and brilliant, desiring to be around children.  What would he _say_ to a four year-old?

Yesterday was my birthday, and I have photos and thoughts from that…but my camera needs to recharge and I can’t find the cord.  So it’s FD for now.

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Rainbow crayons for fall

I had forgotten about this:

Remember this?  You find all the broken crayon stubs, peel off the wrappers, and put them all together in a cupcake tin.  I still love peeling off the wrappers-it’s so satisfying.  As Louisa put it, “I like this.  The teachers don’t let us do it at school.”

I actually was afraid they’d turn out mucky: when the wax had all melted (after less than twenty minutes), they looked rather…brown.  But lo and behold—when the wax cooled again, they looked fabulous.

They feel so smooth, and are exactly the shape and size of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups.  Especially delightful are the strands of glitter that shoot through the solid, from where we melted in bits of glitter crayons.

Of course, they are perfect for capturing the red-to-green colorations of autumn leaves.  It’s so cool to color with a side of one, and not knowing until you see it on paper what color it will be, exactly.

(This is a list of things God made in the fall.  The third item down is “pumpkin,” spelled by “sounding it out.”)

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One of my former roommates was in town from Boston, so today, with Matt, we were off to the MoMA.

It’s a rainy day here in the City.

Imperfect.  I couldn’t get it without someone’s head, so I tilted the frame in frustration, and admittance that it wasn’t going to be centered.

This was made up of thousands of tiny icons, the kind that are on bathroom doors or traveling signs.  Except, in many of these, the little human figure was doing something unexpected, like holding an English horn.  Also, without taking a photo with a camera, or looking through a camera lens, the face of the man was _much_ less visible.  I could barely see him.  It was amazing to see him appear when I snapped the shot.  It’s like the tiny icons were too much information for my eyes and visual cortex to sort.

MoMA has a special exhibit right now, outside of the building.  There are four prefab houses, of different designs, installed onto a lot.  Visitors can actually go inside the buildings.  I immediately felt like I was looking at houses to buy, and found myself imagining and talking about, “This could be the bedroom…we would put the Christmas tree here…I’m not sure this is very welcoming…”  I loved walking into each house, and finding the bathrooms, and marveling at the building materials, and wondering what sort of person would live there.  I even climbed into one of the bathtubs.

In this first picture, the outside of the house shows that there are windows all along one side, and a sort of bleacher seating system with umbrellas along the outside.  This house had two bedrooms and I thought it was quite nice.

I actually neglected to take photos of two of the houses: one was a very small silver box called “System 3,” with an unimaginably small living area.  It looked like the inside of a hatch, or a punishment. Except that one side of it was all glass, which I guess is a kind of freedom.

The second house I ignored was great–I was too busy exploring it to take photos.  The “Cellophane House,” it is four stories, all glass and clear plastic, with an open patio on every floor.  

The last house was my favorite: it was like a gingerbread, with a great, decorated porch.  AND, inside, in the center of the house (one roomed), there was a small dollhouse version of the house, to scale.  And inside _that_ house there was an even smaller one, still to scale.  It had something to do with the New Orleans catastrophe after Katrina–the stylized curves in the floor came from a computer model of an equation built from New Orleans city ZIP codes.  I think, upon reflection, that might be where the ornate style comes from as well–from the old houses of that city.

from the inside looking out

on the front porch, looking like new homeowners

This last photo is taken from the top floor of the Cellophane House.  After seeing all of the brand new, hyper-designed buildings, it was shocking to see the side of an old building–with the seams of where an apartment had once been.

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Hallowe’en Treats

Well, I love Halloween.  (I don’t love how hoochy the costumes have gotten, but that’s another post.)  Candy!  Crisp weather!  Bonfires and hayrides and weenie roasts!  (I grew up in the country.)  Also, my birthday is right before Halloween, so it seems most of my childhood birthdays were related, with costume parties and gross, scary prizes like spider rings.  Oh, those spider rings!

And: candy!  I found this list, of “25 Unacceptable Halloween Treats!” over at Jocelyn’s Corner on “open Salon.”  (Read her profile, too–she’s hilarious.)  Anyway: this is a humor piece, and I thought it was going to actually list the worst candy.  Here are my five worst treats:

1.  Definitely apples.  I just don’t get this.  And they get bruised over the course of the night.  Boo.

2.  Peppermints and butterscotch hard candies.  Also Werther’s hard candies.  This is not candy.

3.  The really tiny Tootsie Rolls.  I think these come in the fun-pack bag of Tootsie products.  You usually end up with a hundred of these little guys, and end up eating them last.  I mean: they’re still okay, but not great.

4.  Smarties.  I can eat a Smartie roll once in a while, but would really prefer so many other candies. (Note that in Great Britain, Smarties are “chocolate beans.”  This I can get behind.)

5.  Dum-dum suckers.  Again: not candy.

Yes, I think it is all about delicious candy.  Even though I’m an adult, I’m perturbed by articles like this, which claim that “even middle school kids” “love” “Oral B brush ups.”  Maybe compared to homework. 

I wonder how it feels to be a city kid trick-or-treating.  We were always stomping around in the leaves, on semi-dark streets, through neighborhoods.  The smell and feel of the weather in October is a strong part of my memory about trick-or-treating.  Oh, and the smell of burnt (from the candle) pumpkin, slowly rotting in the outside air–that is such a memorable scent.

Little Louisa, who I am with on Sunday evenings, said, “We go to Lydia’s building, because her building has lots of kids!”  I guess they go up and down the hallways, ringing doorbells, maybe getting an extra treat from the doorman.

We’re going to a pumpkin carving party this Sunday.  I don’t know if we would have any trick-or-treaters in this building, but maybe I’ll get a few carefully chosen treats just in case.

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Yesterday and today, I had a new MO.  Do a task right that moment, no waiting.  Here’s what usually happens.

In the morning, I get an e-mail.  Or, more like it: I start a morning with five e-mails from the previous three-six days.  Each of the five is a specific task.  Today’s included: proof-read and edit a proposal to a press to publish the journal I’m co-founding, track down the RSVP for a person who missed a conference call with me Monday morning, read and approve a writing sample, and write a grant proposal for a teacher friend in St. Louis.  These are all e-mails that have been sitting there, tasks attached, for more than two days.

So I hold them in my head, I maybe download the writing, and I write in my daily calendar that I need to do them.  In extreme cases, I move the task over to the next month when my calendar page turns.  And it adds up, and I feel overwhelmed.  I tell myself, “Next time I’m on e-mail, I’ll… e-mail that professor back, check to see which library that book is in, transfer funds in my bank accounts…and do X task.”

But of course, as the days roll by, so do the new tasks.  Today I got three more.  But I notice that both at home, and at work (where I can send 50-90 e-mails a day), I put off the ones I don’t want to do, but then these are the ones that cause me the most grief.  I don’t like seeing unfinished tasks in my calendar.  I don’t like feeling them add up.

So I started at work.  As soon as I open an e-mail, I answer it.  I also don’t open new e-mails if I’m in the middle of a task.  I read in a recent magazine (Oprah?  Real Simple?) that when we stop a task to do something like check e-mail, it takes an average of ten minutes to get back on track.  If there is a task I _particularly_ don’t want to do, I do it.  Or, yesterday and today: I did it.

And this evening, instead of planning out my evening and listing everything I had to do (which included reading Kant :/ for tomorrow and prepping to right two papers), I just started doing it.  I checked my e-mail, but I also sent off the edits and the grant writing.  It took forty minutes; I did it while some butternut squash baked.  Before I started studying, I just rushed through transfering the funds and composing three e-mails, and knocked several more things off my list.

It’s kind of like tricking myself.  This also works with exercise: instead of thinking about when I should go for a walk, or how, or how much…I just put on my shoes and get out the door.  Fast!  Before I overthink!

So–I’m pretty well set for tomorrow.  And I’m going to try and keep it up.  I don’t know why this works, but the added benefit of not feeling stressed is a giant plus.

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Here are things I would like to complete before Friday morning.

1.  Back a from-scratch chocolate cake for my former floormate Millard, who was ordained last weekend

2.  Re-write my CV

3. Check out (as in borrow from a library) Said’s _Orientalism_ and begin reading

4. Mail three insurance forms and a thank-you note

5. Call Sprint and complain about/revise my plan; call a local Episcopal priest re premarital counseling

6.  Send deposits to the wedding photographer and florist (with note to the florist)

7.  E-mail: the former president of my school re the new Journal I’m founding, three people re Student Senate, and my church re the rehearsal dinner

An assortment, one not really related to the other.  I really dislike making phone calls.  Getting stamps is also annoying, and precludes everything I need to send by post.  Writing my CV should be enjoyable, but I lost the first one and wish I could just find it.

Tomorrow I don’t have class because it’s Fall Break.  So ostensibly I should be able to get everything done.  Friday morning I have a “meeting” (IM) with my Journal co-founder in Israel, and then off to work.  So tomorrow is The Day for to-do lists.  Perhaps also if I _schedule_ in puttering time, it will also still feel like I’m having a Fall Break.  I think no matter what, I’ll take a walk around the neighborhood–I want to see all of my favorite sights now, at the height of Fall.

(from one of my favorite spots)

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