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I was lucky enough to put a library hold on Neil Gaiman's new Fortunately the Milk in the brief window after it had entered the library system but before it was available for check out. So I got one of the first copies. C came in as I was starting to read it, so I began reading aloud to her. And she listened. She listened through all 128 pages of it. In one sitting. I guess we can start chapter books now. Maybe Alice in Wonderland next?

Anyway, after a couple more reads over the course of the fortnight (good thing I enjoy that book), I was telling her that it had to go back to the library and we couldn't renew it because someone else had a hold on it. "You know," I said. "The one with the milk. And the dinosaur. In the balloon."

"Floaty-ball-person-carrier," she corrected me.

:) Win. I guess she was listening. Half a day after that conversation she told me she was sad that we had to give the milk book back to the library and couldn't renew it. I have offered to procure a copy just for us.

(Suggestions for other whimsical books of about that length welcome, please. But note that C does not like books with too much narrative tension. Bad Guys who are actually threatening are not fun for her. Bad Guys who are silly are ok.)
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Recently, I asked SWAPAns how they go about changing the world. Earlier this week, @neilhimself (aka Neil Gaiman) tweeted "For my 25,000th Tweet, a request: If you worry about the future, or just hope to make the world better, buy a book for a child today." So there's one answer. And an easy one at that. Seems worth a try. Wonder if it counts if the child for whom I buy a book is my own?
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The library had the cookbook I was interested in, so I am now 12th in line on the waiting list for it. Useful to preview cookbooks before buying and make sure they aren't full of eggy cheesy recipes.

In contrast to yesterday's race to check things off the to-do list, today I will focus on larger projects that I don't actually expect to complete. I have one paper to write and one to read and edit. I will alternate between them. I might get the editing done today, but it's ok if I don't.
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F. and I decided, pretty much on the spur of the moment, to go up to Austin for ArmadilloCon this past weekend. It was a lot of fun, in a low key kinda way. One of the highlights for me was Steven Brust, who was on a number of panels and was always entertaining (as well as informative). At his reading on Sunday he did a piece from Tiassa, the new Vlad book coming out next year. I can't recall the exact details, but he said it's a departure from the previous books in that it's a collection of two (?) novellas, an interlude, and I think a prologue and an epilogue and that there are four different narrators, including a section from Paarfi. The bit he read had a hint to Devera's father, who I believe had never been mentioned before in the books. After a little research online, it appears that my guess from the hint matches with what Brust outright said elsewhere in an interview. I hadn't known about the interview, so it was a surprise to me.

Other highlights:

The Broad Universe reading, where I won a copy of Phoebe Kitanidis's Whisper in a drawing. They had six books to give away and my name was picked second, so I had a choice of nearly everything and Whisper was the piece that had been read of which I most wanted more. Read it cover to cover that night. It's young adult, so it was a quick read. It's definitely a junior high/high school sort of book, focusing on issues of fitting in and self identity, but I enjoyed it.

Having the winning bid on a signed print by Jeff Ward at the art show. The one I got isn't on that web site. It's a forest scene with a tree trunk that has a doorway in it that is glowing with light. I think I know where I'm going to hang it. But first it needs framing.
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Just saw Julie & Julia. It's hard for me to tell what would be a spoiler here. Since this is non-fiction (with a little embellishing) and since Julia is so iconic, I tend to assume the basic outline of facts is pretty well known. I'll say that I enjoyed the movie to the point of laughing out loud at various points. But I'll put details back here )
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Jhegaala has arrived! I am still tired from having been on the road from the 2nd to the 13th, so I'm not going to start it tonight, but possibly tomorrow night.

My travels took me to DC, upstate New York, and Long Island. I started with a project meeting, had a bit of a rest over 4th of July weekend, and then worked very hard for an entire week, teaching at a course. I'm one of the course organizers, so it's my own fault that the schedule ran from 8 am to 9 or 10 pm every day. It went very well, though. And I managed to learn the names and countries of origin of all 19 students this year. (Some years I fail to remember the names of some of the quieter ones.)

After twelve days of travel it is good to be home.

Middlesex

Jul. 15th, 2008 02:36 pm
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Last night I finished Jeffrey Eugenides' book Middlesex. I enjoyed it very much; it was funny and intelligent. But I have one complaint.

Spoilers behind here! )
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Behind the cut are my speculations and predictions regarding the upcoming seventh Harry Potter book. I have not read any of the online spoilers so this is free of outside influence. Discussion on whether you do or don’t agree with my predictions and speculations of your own are welcome, if they are similarly free of actual knowledge. If you have read the photographed copy on the web or believe you’ve read non-ridiculous spoilers somewhere, please don’t comment on this post until next week.

My guesses )
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Today on the plane, I read The Final Solution by Michael Chabon. You know - the one with the parrot.

Major spoilers herein )
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Books I should get/borrow/read (in addition to ones suggested in the comments of the last entry):

Alison Bechdel, Fun Home - Autobiographical graphic novel.
Bill Buford, Heat - Journalist becomes kitchen slave for Mario Batali!
Julia Child, My Life in France - Autobiography about the start of her cooking career.
The Candle Cafe cookbook, from one of the wonderful vegan restaurants we ate at during my last trip to NYC.

Alan Moore, Lost Girls - Not sure about this one. I have heard mixed things about it. I am intrigued, but I'm not sure I am $75 worth of intrigued and this doesn't seem like the kind of thing I can get from the library.
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Hello? Anybody out there?

It's kind of lonely over here today.

Anyone read any good books lately? Seen any good movies?
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Ran into an interesting non-fiction book recently: Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, by photographer Peter Menzel and writer Faith D'Aluisio. They went around the world interviewing families about what they eat and photographing them with a week's worth of food. The high end was a family in Germany that spent nearly $500 per week on food. The low end was a mother and five kids in a Darfur refugee camp who had most of their food donated by aid agencies. I was astonished by the German family's food bill, but when I read the list of foods they ate, it didn't seem all that outrageous. I haven't actually read the book yet, just run into it through various online sources. There's an NPR story about it from last fall here that includes photos and food lists for a number of families. I found the balance of fresh versus prepared foods and the creeping encroachment of fast foods in various cultures interesting.
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Two weeks ago I spent two nights in Bethesda for NIH grant reviews. It was a good trip. I had several friends on the review committee and had a good time chatting with people during the brief breaks they gave us for lunches and dinners. Had some minor drama on the return trip when it turned out I was at the wrong airport because they'd booked me an itinerary that had me arriving at National and departing from Dulles, but it all turned out fine in the end. (That afternoon featured tapas saying 'Dulles!?! What do you mean that flight is at Dulles!?!' and, an 80 mph, $70 cab ride later, 'No, I do not have a paper ticket. I never had a paper ticket.')

Last week I finished an NIH grant application of my own. Won't know until July how it will fare. It's a resubmission of a revised application and I think we addressed the reviewers' main concerns, but I'm trying not to get my hopes up because with the recent tightening of the NIH budget only 12% of applications to that particular NIH sub-institute are getting funded. That means that really good applications with nothing really wrong with them aren't getting funded because there just isn't enough money to go around. But there's no point in worrying about that now. All we can do is work and wait and try to make some progress so we can send in an update before the review with new results that convince the reviewers how productive and worthy we are.

Interspersed between those, creed_of_hubris and I looked at more houses. We saw some nice ones, but nothing quite right yet. The houses with our favorite layouts weren't in the right neighborhood or had what looked like foundation problems. The houses in the right neighborhood that were in good repair seemed small or poorly laid out or just didn't appeal to us for no reason we could articulate. We've expanded the areas of town that we're considering to see if we can find a newer house with the desired layout in a neighborhood that is still somewhat walkable if not as walkable as our original target neighborhood. But our realtor is still keeping an eye on the original target neighborhood in case anything new comes on the market there. She has a pretty good idea of our tastes now. Though she learned last weekend that we would rather not be in a gated neighborhood, which there are a lot of around here.

Earlier this week I had a quickie overnight trip to Philadelphia for a project meeting for another grant, for which we'll be submitting an application in July. Sorry I didn't try to get in touch with anyone while I was there. I was there for only 26 hours and was on duty pretty much the whole time. I stayed with my collaborators and talked science with them around their kitchen table over dinner. I finally read The DaVinci Code in the airplane on the way home. There were some things I liked about the characters and the plot, but there were also things I disliked about the writing style and the ending. Can't decide whether I want to read Dan Brown's other books. I gather that they feature the same main character.

Late next week - conference in Acapulco! My job is frequently stressful, but the travel perks are great!

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