Friday, August 29, 2008

Did you see it?

History. Right before our very eyes.

photo, Getty Images.

The Winglet, and why---even if they figure out the best use for it---I probably won't be getting one.

Toyota has developed a "personal transport robot," and is currently testing it to determine the best market. It's light enough to carry, has special sensors allowing it to be guided by simply shifting body weight, and features a narrow design--just wide enough to stand upon while still allowing users to share the same sidewalk as the unwingletted population.

Toyota is right this very minute testing the Winglet in airports, resorts, and shopping malls in an effort to pinpoint the best practical application.


I predict potential problems for the marketers of this device. Sure, it comes in a jaunty red color and it's shaped sort of like the futuristic razor I use every day, but it's not exactly sexy, is it?

Just ask any woman on the planet. She'll tell you--there's just nothing as becoming to the female physique as standing with your knees pressed tightly together.

And that pinwheel action I'd be doing with my arms? Stunning.

See it in action here.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Talk about getting the cart in front of the cow.

It's hard to learn a new gig--finding your way around, learning the names and chocolate preferences of the most powerful secretaries, remembering that your office is now on the third floor instead of the second, and just generally doing your damnedest not to screw it all up.

I've missed the opportunity to make fun of a lot of good stuff over the last week or so. And usually, I don't really want any after everybody else has taken a bite of it. But I don't think I can resist going back and asking why it would be that the world's scientists are just now noticing that all the cows are pointing in the same direction, as observed on Google Earth.

BBC: Cattle Shown to Align North-South

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More Billy Collins. I can't help myself.

It's true. I'm not teaching anything as high-falutin' as literature, but that doesn't mean I don't have a real appreciation for a master of the form. And who knows, any of the fledging writers in one of my five writing classes may someday be the laureate of something.

One can only hope.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Love what you do, and all the world will know.

I simply cannot, no matter how hard I try, picture living in a world in which one has enough time to master something like this. Or get such joy in having done so, for that matter. Write this down: It's important to have goals.

Dedication? They haz it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

I love the smell of freshmen in the morning.

Each of the students sitting in my 8 am class yesterday morning were having their first-ever day at college. Most of them were nervous. A couple were petrified. One was in the wrong place.

I, on the other hand, was exactly where I wanted to be.

Here's a little higher-education video to hold you over until Monday. Happy weekend!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Nothing washes the taste of bad haiku out of your mouth like a little bit of poet laureate.

I'm losing my mind, trying to get everything ready for classes to start on Thursday. I do promise you a new, original content post--first thing after that drinking and crying jag I'm saving up for.

In the meantime, in honor of Billy Collins, his soon-to-be-released new collection, and my other favorite poet, I offer this:

Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes
Billy Collins

First, her tippet made of tulle,
easily lifted off her shoulders and laid
on the back of a wooden chair.

And her bonnet,
the bow undone with a light forward pull.

Then the long white dress, a more
complicated matter with mother-of-pearl
buttons down the back,
so tiny and numerous that it takes forever
before my hands can part the fabric,
like a swimmer's dividing water,
and slip inside.

You will want to know
that she was standing
by an open window in an upstairs bedroom,
motionless, a little wide-eyed,
looking out at the orchard below,
the white dress puddled at her feet
on the wide-board, hardwood floor.

The complexity of women's undergarments
in nineteenth-century America
is not to be waved off,
and I proceeded like a polar explorer
through clips, clasps, and moorings,
catches, straps, and whalebone stays,
sailing toward the iceberg of her nakedness.

Later, I wrote in a notebook
it was like riding a swan into the night,
but, of course, I cannot tell you everything -
the way she closed her eyes to the orchard,
how her hair tumbled free of its pins,
how there were sudden dashes
whenever we spoke.

What I can tell you is
it was terribly quiet in Amherst
that Sabbath afternoon,
nothing but a carriage passing the house,
a fly buzzing in a windowpane.

So I could plainly hear her inhale
when I undid the very top
hook-and-eye fastener of her corset

and I could hear her sigh when finally it was unloosed,
the way some readers sigh when they realize
that Hope has feathers,
that reason is a plank,
that life is a loaded gun
that looks right at you with a yellow eye.

Image, The Emily Dickinson Museum's 2008 season poster, designed by illustrator Penelope Dullaghan and available here.

Monday, August 18, 2008

She might also have danced in a field with a mondo scarf. Nothing would surprise me.

My friend Paulette had a birthday this weekend.

She received wondrous and imaginative gifts, drank copious beverages of the alcoholic variety, and partied like 1999.

She had everything a girl in the blush of youth could desire on her big day--except a haiku.

Because I hadn't written it yet.

Birthday haikus
are too hard to write; next year
you're getting a sonnet.

I'm still waiting for the Haiku police to come and get me. They must be close, now.

image, Mrs. Florence Fleming Noyes in a scarf dance, Library of Congress.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Still reading.

Alice Hoffman. American master of magical realism, some would say.

I wouldn't argue with that.

Indeed, I've been enjoying one of her books so much that I forgot to go to bed last night. I was happily on my way to reading in the new day.

Until page 157.

That was when I realized something that had escaped my notice for 156 pages.

I've already read this book.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Better than the bookmobile.

You might be wondering what I'm doing with all my free time, besides making a spectacle of myself in the supermarket and working my way through college composition textbooks.

Why, I've been reading fiction.

And I've been getting it from paperbackswap, a free on-line book exchange.

This is the easiest way I've ever come across to get your hands on a book. (Not counting my very lucky friend who owns a Kindle, and I can't be trusted with one of those.)

Sign up and enter the ISBNs of 10 books with which you could bear to part. (Well, okay--that part might not have been so easy.) You don't have to look up titles, or authors, or the mailing weight; that's all done automatically when you enter the ISBN.

When someone requests a book that you have, you will receive an email from paperbackswap. Follow the links in the email, click on the button to print out the wrapper (with postage, if you choose), wrap up the book and put it in the mailbox to its happy new owner. You pay the postage on the books going out; someone else pays postage on books coming your way.

You receive 2 credits for signing up, and a credit each time you send out a book. Use your credits to order books for yourself.

image, Candlemas Day by Marianne Stokes, 1901.

Even Stephen King thinks there's something scary about it.

It's a strange and exciting thing to find yourself suddenly in charge of your own activities, smack dab in the middle of the workday.

Yesterday, having decided that some part of that strange feeling might have been attributable to hunger, and because I had no real food in the house, I decided to visit the grocery store. I found that it's a very different place when one isn't competing for the very last rotisserie chicken with all the other people who've just gotten off work.

I spent a great deal less than I usually do--because I am now a modestly-paid state employee, but also because I had the time to make more thoughtful decisions. I even had time for a pleasant conversation with an older, one-legged lady at the corn bin, who told me in a confidential tone that--should I find a tiny worm in one of the ears I was at that moment choosing--it would make very good fish bait.

I filed that little nugget of information away. You know--just in case.

A little while later and several aisles away, as I was comparing the qualities of bow-tie pasta to rotini, and struggling in vain to make a choice based on anything between the two, I felt a tickle along my collarbone--not a wholly unpleasant sensation, when it can be attributed to a tall, muscular man named Guy. But, my well-educated, quick-to-find-the-alarm-button inner voice noted, when there's nobody else in the immediate vicinity, it can really only mean that SOMETHING IS ON YOU! Something has shimmied up out of that straight-from-the-field corn and onto your arm and is now CRAWLING ON YOUR NAKED NECK! RED ALERT! RED ALERT!

I can only say that I hope no one saw me.

Image, Akash Kataruka.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Fancy footwork.

Not too long ago, Muffin Uptown and I were watching some very talented people tripping the light fantastic on television.

"I wish I knew how to tap dance," she said.

"You could learn," I said. "You should take lessons."

"Yeah. Maybe. Probably not, though."

And that's all there was to that; nobody said anything funny. But I got the distinct impression that MU thinks that ship has sailed--that it's just too late for her to learn to dance.

22-year-olds are like that, sometimes. She'll probably change her mind. We all know boatloads of 44-year-olds who've decided to change ships in mid-stream. Sometimes, they just hike up their skirts and wade for the banks.

Which is an apt description for what I've decided to do.

I am leaving the fast-paced and exciting life of a busy and important publishing professional to stroll down the ivy-laden halls of higher learning. Very soon, instead of dripping crunchy and delicious taco juice onto painstakingly crafted editorial copy, I will instead by crying over hundreds of student-generated essays that were quite possibly stolen from the internets.

That's 125 students, one essay every other week, for 16 weeks. Will somebody who knows how to do math send me an email telling me how long I can expect to last?

image, Jack Delano. Library of Congress, Tap dancing class in the gymnasium at Iowa State College, Ames, Iowa.

I know some of you might be wondering if I will miss the director gig. See this and this.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

It's like the universe is aligned in a desire to make me happy.

I am an astoundingly simple girl. Truly, it doesn't take more than a nap, a Diet Coke, and the wonder of the internet to make me glad to be alive.

So you can imagine my delight on Saturday afternoon when, having just awakened from a particularly long and rejuvenating couch snooze, and while sipping a cold and frosty Diet Coke from a fresh bendy-straw, I saw this on the intertubes.

Thank you, internets.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The West coast. As far away as you can get without leaving the continent.

From Muffin's travel diary:

I wish I'd known. I would've fed-exed her a box of Shredded Wheat.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Serendipitous, that's what that is.

I was just sitting here, wishing I had a story to tell that made someone else look silly, and just about thiiisss far from giving into the temptation to make up lies and falsehoods against people who love, respect, and trust me.

Suddenly, out of the blue and into my inbox, I get an email notifying me that the new Obama Paper Dolls
are ready!

These, my friend, beat the tired old stuffing out of a boring, everybody-has-one campaign yard sign! And you may have mad spray-painting skills, but you can't make a sign big and ugly enough to be cooler than these. No way.

I'm torn between wanting to get them for everyone I know or buying a set just for me--I sort of want to be the only person in the world who has them.

These collectible paper doll sets feature realistically rendered paper dolls of Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama, their wives, plus casual and formal outfits they wore during the campaign. Each paper doll set includes a brief biography, descriptive notes, and a bonus Election Night Scorecard.

Oh alright, already. Buy yours here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Chris Ware for This American Life.

From the second season of the television show. Very fun, especially if you remember the original story from the radio. Who knew comics were so powerful?

Watch for the cartoon-y Ira Glass. I love him even in block form.

animation by John Kuramoto.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Just an update. Because I really do have some very important stuff to do.

Having experienced everything California has to offer--Disneyland, Venice Beach, Hollywood, Comic Con, and an earthquake--Muffin Uptown has returned home and is, at this very moment, on my couch and working her way through my TiVo library. I've been sitting and watching, waiting for her to do or say something I should blog about.

Nothing yet.

She looks pretty content, right where she is. Even though it's not obvious to the casual observer, I'm sure that while she's watching Project Runway, she's also thinking about finding a job for a couple of semesters to sock some money away toward the ultra expensive grad school she's chosen.

You might wonder what one with a BFA in Fine Art does to make a living--even for a semester or two.

So are we.

Please send your suggestions. She should be finished watching TV by Thursday.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Advice for the Antiquated.

Back when I was around 11- or 12-years' old, I had a book titled, 1001 Tips for Teens. Written by Paul Steiner and published in 1968, it was "a fabulous bonanza of cool, kooky, far-out, and foolproof ideas." I can't remember a single tip from the book, but I do remember feeling especially empowered by the sheer act of having it tucked among my belongings. I have no doubt that having access to this book at such a young age contributed to my later coolness quotient.

So today, in honor of Mr. Steiner and his fabulous bonanza and directly from my personal arsenal, I offer the following *Timely Tips for Tottering old Toots:

If--like me--you sometimes have difficulty seeing things that are far away, as well as things that are right up close, you might be having problems reading your favorite blogs. If middle-aged myopia is your cross to bear, try this trick: Press the control key while rolling the wheel of your mouse toward you. This quickly and instantly increases the size of the text on the monitor.

Since you last pulled away from the pump, have you forgotten on which side of the car your gas tank is located? With a 50/50 chance of being correct, you could just take a wild guess. Or, like Oprah, you could trust your intuition. Instead, why not simply look at the fuel indicator on the dashboard for a seemingly random arrow. Surprise! This arrow is pointed to the side of your car on which your bottomless gas hole lives.

It can be frustrating to wade your way through computer generated voice prompts, especially if you're trying to get a real person on the horn at Alltel. Before you initiate that potentially soul-numbing telephone call, visit the Gethuman website and find out what magic numbers you need to get somebody with a pulse on the line.

If your bender-over is out of whack, you know how quickly those uncollected grocery store circulars can pile up in your driveway and front yard. (Personally, I've never understood why it is considered acceptable to litter someone's lawn as long as the trash in question is securely fastened with a rubber band.) Contact the circulation department of your local paper and ask to be placed on their "do not throw" list. They are almost always in cahoots with the store to make your life messy.

*Also considered: Advice for the Ancient, Suggestions for the Superannuated, Insights for the Infirm, Hints for the Hoary, and Notions for the Not-Long-for-This-World.