Sunday, December 03, 2006

If This Isn't For You, Feel Free to Disregard It

a) Disambiguating Gemini:

Castor is on the side of Capella; Pollux is on the side of Procyon. Easy, no? Capella's the main star in Auriga, the Charioteer, that's way up high and we haven't really gotten to yet. Procyon's in the Little Dog, which looks even less like a dog than the Big Dog. (But both look way more like dogs than The Hunting Dogs look like a whole group of them, but that's another season's constellations.)

[I really shouldn't do my observations and attempts at astrophotography (cursèd low batteries) without shoes on, though. Woo for Alphard in Hydra, though. Next step: using the winter hexagon to locate things outside of the winter hexagon!]

b) My 'Complete Saki' lies, unfortunately.

Ah well. One can't have everything, even in massive omnibus editions. "A Shot in the Dark" and the Clovis story are about the only semi-spectacular ones, in that order.

Monday, November 27, 2006

"My tender one," said Mr. Kopfrkingl...

It was two years ago today that I sat down with a now-battered notebook, a work of Ladislav Fuks', my dictionaries, and a pen. Two hundred scribbled words later, I had started the process of turning his life's published work into English.

I had done some tentative scribblings earlier. I would also do but a [tentative/halting?] heavily-annotated chapter and a half of the work (rework later?) and then let it sit for almost six months, but since that was the try that ended up taking, and since I was thoughtful enough to put the date at the top, that's the anniversary I have.

I can't remember what got me started that day, and those first couple of pages have seen more heavy revision than others, but I now have a sixth or seventh draft of Burner of Corpses and am editing the second drafts of the short story collections Death of a Guinea Pig and My Black-Haired Brothers. I believe I've also got a first-draft first chapter of Mr. Theodor Mundstock sitting in a notebook upstairs as well. This time last year, I'd barely had a second or third draft of the first one; I'm fitfully picking up steam, it seems. The more the merrier.

Goals for Year Three? [Purely as it pertains to translating]. I'd like to have all three of the ones I'm done now in servicable form (read--fifth draft or more), with Mundstock and the novella The Way to the Promised Land at least transcribed from their [as-yet nonexistent] handwritten first drafts. There's enough to do that running out of things is the least of my worries.

I'm thankful for projects, and for all the people who've had a kind or kindly critical word to say along the way.

Only one way to move forward, though.

To work.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

November rain?

Two-thirds of the month has gone by and I haven't listened to that song yet?

I must be happy.

I haven't listened to it even in jest?

I must be busy, too.

My sixteen-of-nineteen day span at work ends tomorrow, and then I'm skipping town to catch up with my roots for a Thanksgiving in the Slovak enclave in southwestern Massachusetts.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A je po říjnu...

Another month past. It has been brought to my attention that others don't necessary use the month as a basic unit of time insofar as conceptualizing projects or lenghty events, preferring weeks or seasons. It's the month through and through for me, regardless of such fripperies as details. March was Buster Keaton, April was housesitting and translating (right up to finishing a collection of short stories at noon on April 31st, as I redubbed the first of May) and September was mono. October...well, they don't all have to be categorized.

Have been academic of late, acquiring books on Old English vocabulary, the dawn of the Slavic languages, and an etymological dictionary of German, which means I can spend my time doing things like discovering case relics in English (whilom, the more the merrier), smiling confidently about my knowledge of Proto-Slavic morphology as reflected in Czech (my agricultural vocabulary is a bit lacking) and finally confirming over that nagging suspicion that the suffixes -heit and -(ig)keit were the same thing originally. And cognate to -hood.

In other wrds, I'm reasonably happy. What's more, I have an application in for immersion studies at Middlebury next fall, and hope to be working on masters applications before the month is out.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Halfway there...

I have been a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers least 1988, those being the earliest Topps cards I have. [well, at least the ones I got myself at the time. Yes, I still have a bunch of football cards. They're in a box in the closet somewhere.]

There was some long story here, involving years of fandom when they were terrible through to dressing up and going nuts when they won a Super Bowl, but I just saw the highlights of their 62-yard game-winning field goal, and there's not much else I can say.

I almost stopped picking them for the first time ever in my father's football pool last week, but thought better of it. Halfway back to .500, boys!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Initial squu-

I was reading through The Dain Curse on a car trip this weekend, and was struck by an unorthodox spelling Dashiell Hammett employs.

"My pants stuck disagreeably to my chilly legs. Water squunched in my torn shoes." (p.220 of "The Complete Five Novels," ch. 13 of the Curse)

I was immediately reminded of a line from the end of Thurber's The 13 Clocks, an all time favorite. "Hark stepped on something that squutched beneath his foot and flobbed against the wall." (p. 124)

Hitherto that word had stuck out and bothered me, occurring as it does on the last page, but as Thurber uses a lot of nonce words (flobbed, for instance, among many other joys) I had thought nothing more of it.

Now we've got ourselves a phenomenon. Upon doing a little research, I find "sqush" and "squush" to be variant forms of "squish" in my big Random House dictionary, and google gives a decent lot of results for "squunched." But this is something I had previously thought only a Thurber thing.

I can idly come up with a few attempts at explanation. Perhaps it's an attempt to render a lack of lip-rounding. I can get the same pronunciation of initial squu- in the second syllable of "sesquipedalian," indicating it may be an attempt to contrast the close-central-unrounded from the mid [i.e., the standard schwa]. Either that, or it's an attempt to avoid the orthographic assumptions of rounding that a double-O would imply .

It could also be a simple case of wanting to put a u after the obligatory qu- cluster. Or a simple visual expedient for dealing with onomatopoeia. How much "-quu-" do we get to deal with in English, after all? Is "squished," "squushed," and "squooshed" a minimal triplet for people?

As for the Hammett, I'm happy I kept Dain last. It wasn't bad, but I can see where he considered it his worst. I'm now re-re-reading Red Harvest for extra fun before I have to return the omnibus to the library. Then I may re-read my copy of The Glass Key.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Sarcophageal Synchronicity

I've talked about it before, but the Elmwood cemetery, halfway between my house and downtown, is in terrible shape. The city replaced the chain-link fence I used to run my hand along as a child during a gentrification project a few years ago, but from the first row things are going awry. Sinkholes, fallen stones, illegibility, weeds, odd lumps in the's bizarre. Well, not really; it's an old cemetery, I suppose, and there've been maybe a dozen people interred there in the last fifty years. It's been niggling at me for most of my life in a very low-key way.

So I walk around there today on my walk from downtown, and decide to go back home and get my camera to come back and take a few pictures, wondering if there are such things as a cemetery manifest and if anyone else cares about this. Is reconstruction even possible? I see two women walking around with a binder, and it turns out less than twenty-four hours ago a story was printed about these two women and their decision to, well, clean up the cemetery.

I introduced myself and we chatted for a while about the sorry state of the cemetery, the city's $300,000 fence, and how the city doesn't want anyone to see the list of occupancy, as it were, because the paper is too fragile. So next spring and summer I may be trying to assist in the restoration of the Elmwood cemetery.

I'm glad it was a nice day.

Obsessive statistics

About 57,500 words transcribed in twenty days (21 calendar days). The short story collections "Death of a Guinea Pig" and "My Black-Haired Brothers" are 'complete,--or at least v.2.0 of each is, those being the first typed drafts.

There's a lot of work ahead, but there always is. I'm going to take a bike ride, enjoy a sunny fall day, eat an apple and walk around downtown for a while to unwind. It is my day off, after all.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Covered in Bees

So I was on my way into work today after noshing my way through our annual Harvest festival (insert gratuitous amounts cider, cheese, bread, &c.) and some guy I didn't recongize asked me three things.

1) If I had gone to Brown.

2) If I worked there.

3) Would I mind terribly much watching his bees?

This was an unexpected series of questions, except for the second, but it transpired he had seen me (and perhaps even engaged me in conversation about) the Brown intramural shirt I sometimes wear while I was working before, and was one of our honey vendors, displaying a hive. He had to go get his car while I watched thousands of bees behind glass three feet from my face, and the occasional outsider bees drawn to the sweet sweet scent pheromones within, or something.

He eventually returned to decamp with his bees, and in an interestingly heartfelt manner, gave me a copy of The New Starting Right With Bees, whose first chapter discusses how to capture a swarm of bees that wanders into one's vicinity. And I had thought it was ants or wasps.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

251 Club!

So I missed the October 1 member meeting of the 251 Club due to using all my vacation/sick time for the latter, much to my great dismay. As with gardening and New Year's resolutions, though, there's always next year. Well, today Nörm and I made up for road trips missed with quite the epic number today.

A nice little nine-hour jaunt. Plainfield, Marshfield, Lyndon, Wheelock, Stannard. And those are just the towns I did new things in. Used bookstores, scenic walks, new restaurants, odd marble stones at the side of the road...Ate well, traveled well, the leaves are nice too. And I got six or seven new books, including some Dashiell Hammett.

New photos up too.

No Čapek today, unless I get inspired before bed. Too many new books make that unlikely.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Educated Caterpillar

Ha! I'm going to become a butterfly? Old wives' tales, sir. Mere fantasies. Bedtime stories for children. It has been scientifically determined that there are only viscera in us caterpillars, and no wings. No colorful wings. One dies and that's that.

-Čapek, Fables II

I forgot I'd outstripped anything I had planned to put up, and I'm running out the door, but a promise is a promise.

Up to 39,000 words since noon two Tuesdays ago. I'll hit 40,000 in a two-week span.

A Mouthful of Burnt Foot

It may seem an odd thing to say, but the Čapek's been nothing but a sideshow for the last two weeks, a public display of the process I've been battling with on much greater terms elsewhere. I'd finished translating two collections of Fuks short stories between November and May, but had only made fiftul inroads into transcribing them. In the last two weeks (well, it's two weeks tomorrow at noon), as a convalescing project, I started transcribing. I've typed a little over 37,000 words since then, and probably have about half that to go. This is the largest typing project I've had in over a year, since I was transcribing Burner of Corpses, the novella I'm done [a third draft of].

The translation strategy I've cobbled together over the last two years involves a handwritten first draft that, while not hard-core literal, is strikingly literalistic in its sentence structure and word choice. Transcribing is essentially creating a second draft in which I give myself leeway to edit syntax and lexicon, before I print and start in on a hard copy with whatever friends I can round up to help.

I love my first drafts, since they're carefully dated, and, in some cases, the place I was working (a house I sat in April, the library, coffeeshops, my bedroom) is noted as well--making them little diaries of sorts. They're funny to go through. In some cases I've overwritten old stuff, I write on the dividing pages, my hadwriting shrinks as I try to fit collections into one book, writing on the back cover... The mistakes are fun too--sometimes I skip lines, or combine lines, or just plain write the wrong thing. Some I have to go back to the text to puzzle the title of this post. Burnt food. It was burnt food.

It almost makes me glad to have been hideously ill; I'd been assiduously avoiding my Fuks all summer. I wish I could remember why.

I'll take another break in a bit and toss up more Čapek. It's a lovely exercise in working straight to the second draft, and it's a good way to diversify my Czech reading. Back to work.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Grasshopper, Child in the Garden, Cactus, Weed


Brrr! Into the earth at once! Must dig into the good, most soil! Hey, a man picked me up! How disgustingly hot and dry he is! I can't take it, my stomach's coming up! Ughhh!

Child in the Garden

He's tearing off flower buds and sticking them in the gravel paths.

"Hey, what are you doing, you little garden-wrecker?"

"Plantin' flowers."


I stab you and for all that you still brag what marvelous thorns I have?


I know, comrade rye: there is a conspiracy against me. When they mow the meadow it is only to wipe me out. They send the hail down on me; they try to burn me with the sun; they hire the moles and locusts to come after me. But I stand my ground. I know why they're after me. Oh, I could tell you a thing or two!

Čapek, Aesop 6,7,8,9/9

I just wish there was a better onomatopoeia for vomiting. The Czech has "Fí!"

This will get buried by Čapek, but...

"As we flew over the fluffy landscape of Greenland I thought how peaceful it would be for the engines to cut out and the airplane to glide silently to a belly landing on the snow. Two hours of quiet shivering, perhaps one final defiant beverage service, and the whole thing would be over. I couldn't think of a more ideal way to go, a planeload of us frozen in place watching that slow sunset."

Just a plug for Idle Words in the sidebar. Man, I loves me some Idle Words.

A Statesmanlike Act, Flowerpot

A Statesmanlike Act

The begonia in the flowerpot wasn't long for this world; in spite of all efforts on its behalf it was rotting underneath and withered on top, so much so that it was terrible to see. The gardener even threw it into the darkest corner of the cellar in a fit of pique. Then he forgot about it altogether, having more important things on his mind than a ruined begonia.

When he was looking for an empty flowerpot in the cellat fourteen days later, he found the begonia resurrected, once so tall but now thirsty as hell, and terribly desperate to live.

"How our gardeners understands his affairs," the other flowers whispered. "What worldly wisdom!"


You're staring, right? Look how much I've grown since spring! Look at the foliage I've got! How redolently I bloom!

Čapek, Aesop 4,5/9

"Thirsty as hell" may be a bit strong, but it was the best I could think of. Eh. It's feisty.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Cat in the Garden, Ownership

Cat in the Garden

You willed an orderly lawn into shape out of arid wasteland, and bushes up out of bare twigs; you raised a housecat on your lap from a stray and spitting kitten. And now your tomcat glides like a serpent through the high grass and underbrush, its golden eyes shining, joyful tremors running through its glossy coat.

"Me? I am a wild beast in the forest primeval."


I've long since held an affection for sparrows because they are merry and poor, because they are grey as old rags, dishevelled as tramps, carefree as children; chatty, satisfied with life and somehow entirely democratic; for this and other reasons I have always regarded them with affection as they eke out their little lives.

Begone, you worthless thing, beat it, you miserable sparrow, get lost, you wretched creature! Where is my cat, where is my cane, where is my gun? You mean to tell me, you little bandit, that you took my first cherry off my little tree?

Čapek, Aesop 2, 3/9

A few artistic liberties here, with "forest primeval" and "little tree" for "wild jungle" and "dwarf cultivar," respectfully.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


You wretched, worthless, ugly little monster, who nibbles away my tender seedlings and gobbles my scarcely-emerged sprouts, you who work your way into every corner of my house in your aimless and repulsive haste, hide under my blankets and swim in my drinking glass; you wriggling little beast, snapping at me with your pincers, I beg you--what on earth are you good for? What purpose do you serve? What contribution do you make? Is there any creature under the sun more worthless than you?

"I'm not useless, sir; I have accomplished something immeasurably useful during my lifetime."

And what exactly have you accomplished, Mr. Earwig?

"I had lots of children."

Karel Čapek, (who else?), Aesop the Gardener, 1/9

Apparently I've started another wee Čapek project. This should take me four or five days; some of these are one-liners. In a short life update, I've beaten the strep and mostly beaten the mono, I figure--at least, I'm only moderately more tired than seems usual. I'm back at work, and somehow our little garden plot is still producing cukes, carrots and peppers. No earwig problems for me, fortunately.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

How to Grow Clouds

It takes a lot of work: it is necessary to weed very carefully, to toss out muck and small stones by hand, to kneel on the earth, bend over, dig about in the soil, water profusely, collect caterpillars, exterminate aphids, loosen the ground and serve the earth; when your back hurts from all this and you straighten up and look at the sky, you will have the prettiest clouds. Probatum est.

[the entirety of Philemon originally in Lidové noviny, 6 September 1925]

Monday, September 25, 2006


I spoke of clay, and a gardener became angry with me. Garden soil, he said, is no clay; it is earth, humus, a useful and living substance; whereas clay, we all know, is dead matter, marl, slag itself. I was ashamed of myself somewhat; the gardener was right. Why, then, did the Lord create man out of clay and not out of soil? It is not written that Adam was made out of humus. It is not said that the Creator made him out of fine leaf mold. He carefully set the humus and leaf mold aside for the Garden of Eden. We gardeners, therefore, do not fritter away the best soil on doubtful pursuits.

--Karel Čapek, Philemon (4/5)

I had fun with "marl" and "slag." Also leaf mold. Mmmm, leaf mold.


I made a discovery: each plant has not only its own leaves and flowers, but a certain kind of root as well. You who don't mess around in the soil, laying waste to weeds, have no conception of the hidden wealth of roots. There are roots that are light, fleshy, sickly pale; or fat, arborescent, rich as a shock of hair; creeping, woody, swollen, tuberous, stubborn, brittle, strong as catgut, shallow and deep, plump and starvingly scrawny, rosy as living nerves and black as dry rot, hirsute and bald; I tell you, life under the ground is just as rich as above it.

--Karel Čapek, of course, Philemon part 3 of 5.

This is the least intentionally funny; but as the man wrote gardening treatises among other things, I'n inclined to smile along with him anyway--hell, it was excellent adjective practice. [N.B., I had originally rendered the adjective "brittle" as "crunchy." Fine on candy wrappers, but here...]

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Don't think I have a collection of them. I only have the four clay pots and some hens and chicks; but the vegetation involved suffices to astound me.

The first little cactus looks like it has a mind to grow itself a piece of raw mutton; it is red tending to violet, fat, and very comparable to a job terribly botched; this wonder of nature is, honestly put, a little loathsome.

The second cactus decided to adopt a shape that seems to have come out of a tinsmith's fantasy. It must be doing this intentionally; it looks like a some sort of manufactured good.

The third one is made up of pretty little fat purple and green sabers with a clear eye towards stylization; the whole thing, though, is speckled with some sort of tropical rash that looks like thick, white, mildewy pustules. It seems to not be contagious, at least.

You should see the fourth monster grow. This hair comes up first, a little star comes out of that, and a green tassel sprouts under the star. Finally the whole thing turns into this horned ball thickly set with prickly stars. I cannot begin to imagine what will happen next.

The strangest of all, though, are the ordinary hens and chicks. I set the first one down and ignored it; let it show me what it could do. Well, it does something interesting; wherever the fancy strikes it--in its armpit, round the back, on its head--it throws out a green leafy head. This breaks open, rolls into the clay, sends out a rootlet and grows like crazy.

I can't even imagine what I would do if a child started to grow in my armpit or on my breast or on the back of my neck. Some hens have twenty chicks on themselves; that's an outbreak of fertility; it is motherhood completely unleashed.

--from Philemon or On Gardening, Karel Čapek

The final verb has the sense of "all hell breaking loose, I get the sense, but am unsure how to render it further. Apparently hens and chicks (genus Sempervivum--I mean to get some for the side of the house) are more succinctly called houseleeks, but that's nothing I've ever heard, and I don't care to use it. Part of me assumes Čapek was actually basing these on real cacti, and I'm tempted to poke around some pictures looking for what these might be based on. My mother's got all the good cactus books, though.

Comments, again, are welcome. There's three parts left to Philemon; I hope to get to one a day through Tuesday.

Friday, September 22, 2006


I was so proud of it; it was full, lightly frosted, and curly-headed like a younger version of František Langer; but suddenly out of God knows where came the caterpillars of the white cabbage butterfly, which, should have gone and eaten some white cabbage over in Strašnice and left my Savoyards in peace if their name were accurate; they devoured everything down to a filigree of veins.

Before that disaster I had been inclined to reorder my system of values and deem cabbage as the queen of the flowers. Well, it's not true, the queen of the flowers remains the rose, by the obvious fact that it cannot be eaten.

Presumably man too must be distasteful, if he is to become the king of all creation.

--From Philemon, or On Gardening, by Karel Čapek.

I'm pleased with this, even if I had to wrestle a bit about the fact that Czech has two remarkably different words (zelí and kapusta) to refer to "regular" and Savoy cabbage, respectably. Well, with various modifiers zelí can also refer to red cabbage and kapusta can also reference Brussels sprouts, but...yeah. The brassicas are inbred and complicated. Čapek was growing kapusta, they were white zelí caterpillars, hence his frustration. I'm more concerned with the rambling in the first paragraph than anything.

I enjoyed throwing in "Savoyard," though, and in a lighter, shorter work of Čapek I feel no harm in doing so. Langer was a contemporary of his at the Lidové noviny, a newspaper where much of his shorter writings appeared.

[edit 8 pm. Some wording in the first, longest sentence (suddenly, laced, etc.); change to "deem" in the second. edit edit: changed my literalism at the end of the first para to "filigree of veins." I like that a lot better]

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ah, so it's strep too.

That would explain the four hours in the emergency room today; the 103-degree fever, the morphine, and the liters of IV fluid replenishment.

Am now on antibiotics too. And hopefully, finally, on the mend from the sickest I've ever been.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ah, so it's mono, then. That would explain a few things.

Like the, uh,





Friday, September 08, 2006

Joy. I've spent since Sunday in the grip of a feverish internsity.

Oh wait. Strike the "-ish intensity."

The Lips show was goood--it was their VT debut (according to them; Nate presumed they'd done in once-plus in the eighties and lost it in the drugs.) and they rocked the house. Light show, balloons, Martians and Santa Clauses in the wings--they even sang happy birthday. But not to me, since I spent the second half of the concert way back in the bleachers with my head in my hands.

It was vastly better than not going. But fuzzy-headedness, temperature swings, and massive muscle pain. I'm supposed to work the next three days and everyone else is sick too. Whee.

Doctor tomorrow, more later.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

...wait, where'd this month, and by extension, the summer go?

Ah well. Shake-ups at work, good and bad, and shake-ups in life, good to middling.

Jelly-making tonight, seeing my Slovak brother over the weekend, some decompression time at my mother's next week, and then Nate's up for my birthday.

Life could be worse, ebbing growing season or no.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

The box elder in my backyard (which is apparently also known as "Manitoba Maple," and is something I could conceivably tap for sap in the winter) is already starting to lose its leaves. Fall is coming, like it or not.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I just realized that I am the middle of two books at the moment:

I am reading Milton's Paradise Lost (easier than I thought to get in to), and I am also reading The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists: A Novel to a friend.

Roughly equivalent, no?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Man, a frustrating day (malfunctioning chainsaws--not enough wood to split) but tonight?

We found a swimming hole about a hundred yards from my mother's house whose existence I had never even suspected in the last two dozen years. It wasn't on our property, but no one was there. It was very cold and very refreshing.

From there? Potato gun firings, tasty kebabs with garden onions and peppers, a brilliant night sky, sugar on some god-damned snow (kept since February in the freezer!( the Milky Way and some shooting stars.

Tomorrow I take home hundreds of lupine seeds, some hay to cover the lawn I'm about to reseed, and a plan to come back up here in three weeks.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Beers and a kebab tonight. (Sidenote: we have kebabs in Burlington? A Bosnian on a street cart who lived ten years in Munich? Side-sidenote: I was speaking German tonight?) But tha's beers and kebabs with a guy I've known since September of 1988. We talked about National Geographic and his dinosaur erasers then, I'm told. But it's nice having beers with someone you've known for three-quarters of your life.

Here's to old friends.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Each of the last four days (in addition to two the week before) I have spent at least an hour outside, attempting to stem the tide of six, seven, eight years of neglect in the backyard of my youth. Washing the patio table and chairs (a bit belatedly for a series of yard parties), and setting to work yanking out weeds. First the milkweeds, creeping into the lawn itself, then the more mundane stuff--vast stands of what I dubbed crapweed, a plant with a stainy orange sap and swarms of white fliy/moth things that seemed to be breeding on it.

Then we found a saw, and set to on the various creepy-climbies, the lilac canes, the sadly neglected forsythias, and the spreading trees. Our pile has grown. The trash littering the yard has also abated or been organized--one of the two dilapidated barrel planters ahs been broken down and its soil redistributed, the railroad signs are stacked against the garage, the hose wound, and the birdfeeders hung up as of yet unstocked. And--what is more--there is now division. Six score bricks, some lying around, some already set in odd patterns on the lawn have been extracted and redug into a series of simple, clean lines around the perimeter. The effect a simple brick boundary can have is astonishing.

The are no more tarps covering piles of furniture (oh, last summer--how I do not miss thee) There are no more creepers pulling at said tarps. THere are no longer a half-dozen trees quietly growing in the back forty. The crapweed flies we have seen languishing in a half-dozen spiders' webs. Instead of the biomass-laden slag heap that happened to be behind our house--is a yard.

Is it perfect? Hardly. The fence needs replacing (which is why I've done precious little in the way of actual gradening) and the garage will too at some point. The lawn, now cleaned, mowed, and raked, now seems threadbare, and in places contains more non-grass than grass. But we have grass seed. And the progress is tangible.

Anything, in any event, that redirects my blogging away from the awful day I had at work cannot be lauded too highly.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Garden party!

I ducked out of work about forty-five minutes early, stocked up, and my garden buddy and I held a little garden party down at the Intervale, under the structure near our plot where we had previously hidden from lightning.

We picked some greens and some cucumbers and laid out a spread. Pimm's cups and raspberry-laced champagne were there for the offering, and it was a lovely summer's day. The peppers are coming along nicely, and we're making plans to make a hot pepper jelly in a few weeks.

Friday, August 04, 2006

After a lovely breakfast (maple yogurt with blueberries and more of my mother's raspberry jam) and some local apples(!) (well, from Dummerston) for lunch, I did a lot of cheating today...but much of that cheating was while trying a new activity in the evening--three of us got together and made sixteen jars of blueberry jelly. Sure, the refined sugar is a stretch, but we might try honey with the next batch--and whoa, did it smell and taste good.

Three jars, my allotment (my labor was the only thing I contributed_ are jelling on my counter. One for me, one for my mother, and one for my brother, should he want one when he comes a-visiting from Slovakia.

More salads, wayyyy more blueberries than normal, and a lot of fun experimentation. It's a good month so far. Now, if I can only get my bike re-assembled.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

No, I haven't given up coffee, or cumin, or cayenne. But sitting here with a Vermont-brewed beer and a handful of loccal blueberries is nice, too. As was having people over two nights in a row over the weekend for stir-fries, salads, and roasted vegetables, containing not only local things, but some local things that we had grown ourselves.

Vermont-grown food is a good thing to rally around, not to mention tasty as hell. I haven't even defrosted my Québec wheat bread or broken into the Addison county chèvre yet.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Open question: if you could have an army of insect minions, and had to choose between the broad categories of "Ants" and "Wasps," which would you choose? [Edit: "Scorpions!" is both the right answer, and wrong. They're not insects, let alone "Ants" or "Wasps."]

I made up a sheet of pros and cons at work today (both had the pro of "relentless") and engaged in lively debate all day.

EDIT: The lists! (my apologies for lame faux-table)

Pros: Death from Above
Repeated stinging
Stylish color pattern

Cons: Not scorpions
Easily disrupted by smoke
Nests highly flammable

Pros: Death from Below
Per-capita strength
Mighty jaws

Cons: Not scorpions
With few exceptions, not airborne

Monday, July 24, 2006

"Mr. Earbrass sits on the opposite side of the study from his desk, gathering courage for the worst part of all in the undertaking of a novel, i.e., making a clean copy of the MS. Not only is it repulsive to the eye and hand, with its tattered edges, stains, rumpled patches, scratchings-out and scribblings, but its contents are, by this time, boring ot the point of madness. A freshly-filled inkwell, new pheasant-feather pens, and two reams of the most expensive cream laid paper are negligible inducements for emabrking on such a loatsome proceeding."

Edward Gorey, The Unstrung Harp.

So I'm back transcribing. This is what it feels like, sort of. But funnier and with nice drawings. I'm also memorizing The Gashlycrumb Tinies in my spare time.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Oh God, there's a new Pynchon novel coming out in December. Almost a thousand pages long.

I've really got to get around to Mason & DIxon.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

While musing on possible analogues of the 251 Club and roaming about on-line, I came upon a Wikipedia listing of locations within New Hampshire.

So I counted them.

13 cities, 221 townships, and 25 unicorporated places.

I propose the formation of a 259 Club as a partner organization to the 251 Club here in Vermont. I may not be the first to do so, to be sure, but would welcome like-minded individuals. Certainly this would foster some cross-Connecticut wandering.

And I do not presume to propose any organization to supersede both clubs for those who wished to try their hand at both, but my incarnation of the 259 Club would recognize its own Plus members and 510ers who wanted to see what the fuss was all about on both sides of the river, so to speak.

[possibly cc:d to Vermont LIfe, Yankee Magazine, and whatever else I can think of]
[EDIT: pending confirmation of my math, of course]

Monday, July 17, 2006

It is a troublesome thing to kill a large centipede on your dining room wall.

It is a more troublseome thing to fail at killing one. I won't be going into the kitchen again for a while.
251 Club! 251 Club!

Shortly put, it's an informal organization (postal mail! mimeographed newsletters) dedicated to, in one fashion or another, visiting all 251 towns and cities (mostly towns) in Vermont, whether doing something interesting, visitng the post office for postmarks, or just driving through.

Today was to have been my second day off in a row, but for the first time since the late winter, I had to work on a Monday. At 6:30. On like four hours sleep. But I started making crazy plans. Would I like to go to the beach right after work? Probably. I think it was the hottest day of the year so far today. How about a road trip later? I and one of my managers had found out we were both inot the 251 Club, and so those plans were off and running.

I got off work at 2:30, I and another co-worker made a surgical strike to North Beach, and I hustled back to work to buy provisions. We hit the road got out of town, and did two--maybe three--towns today in some interesting capacity.

Moretown: We got off the interstate in Waterbury and drove south into Moretown. We got lost trying to find the imporessive-sounding intersection of Moretown Corners, stopped for roadside lemonade, and then disaster struck: We found out we had a flat tire, and I dropped my camera through a hole in my pocket onto Vermont Route 100b (pronounced "lube.") The camera snapped back together (it seemed to not work at first but the battery contact was just jarred out of alignement), we changed the tire for the donut spare, and didn't flip out. We limped back north to a fun swimming hole on the Mad River and waded (in our lack of foresight, we had neither bathing costumes nor towels) and drove north into...

Middlesex: We stopped briefly in an abandoned gas station where I pantomimed filling up a rubber chicken. ANd I got a blurry picture of the town garage. Partial credit. We limped on to...

Waterbury: We stopped for dinner at Arvad's purely based on the name and strolled through downtown Waterbury a bit. Then home.

I'm beat. WIll publish pictures at some point. It's fun to be back in the saddle.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Bought a new bike frame, which is good, as the crumple zone in the front of mine is...well, crumpling. Slowly. It hasn't imploded on me yet, but...let's just say that next week I'll be all about tearing one bike down and rebuilding anew.

Which may provide me with something to ride to farmers markets during August. I'm thinking of trying the Green Mountain Localvore challenge (here for a feature story) Basically, I would be trying to provide all of my calories during the month of August from within a hundred-mile radius of my home. Or completely within Vermont. (there are a number of ways to play)

In its harder-core implementations, this is hard to do. From the Seven Days article:

"The definition of "local" varies slightly from group to group. Some localvore challenges allow participants to consume locally produced foods even if they don't contain 100 percent indigenous ingredients, such as Vermont-brewed beers and Vermont-roasted coffees. Others allow "wild card" exemptions for harder-to-find items, such as cooking oils and certain grains.

The Champlain Valley Localvores, whose challenge runs throughout the month of August, are taking a more hard-core approach. They've agreed only to a "modern Marco Polo" exception, which permits any spices the 13th-century explorer would have had on hand, such as salt and pepper, as well as modern leavening agents, such as baking powder, baking soda and yeast."

I'd probably take exemptions for three things that I can think of--coffee, ginger, and cayenne. And maybe cumin. But I need to do some thought, dispose of some decidely non-local food in the meantime--and look for a source of wheat and oats.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Not the best chip possible by Zidane (he allllmost got too much of it) but that dooesn't matter. It was a lovely idea, and beautiful to watch.

Allez les Bleus!

edit: interesting way for his career to (possibly) end, though. I wonder what he heard that got him to lay the smack down.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The sage of spite is sprawling, and the last of the radishes are in, along with some baby carrots.

My astronomy has suffered lately, what with the massive amounts of both overcast skies and mosquitoes, but so it goes.

I'm plodding ahead on the AMSCO, and trying to find reasonable ways to get Latin texts without that nice-looking, well-meaning, but utterly useless Loeb dual language editions. Or the esthetically displeasing online sources.

It is also my Friday at work, for which I am thankful.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

It's been an eventful last forty-eight hours.

We arrived at a tenative wage agreement Friday after eleven hours of negotiations. I went home and went to bed, worked the next day, then ended up at a "Cops and Robbers" party thrown by a co-worker who was leaving town. Exhuasted but willing to play along, I bought razor blades at work, trimmed my moustache down into something that I felt looked fairly 19th-century villain (pencil-thin, and fairly ugly), painted a monocle on to my face, and went as a jewel thief.

I got home at about sunrise, I think, woke up on my couch at two in the afternoon, threw a bunch of stuff in the car I have for the week, and drove up to my mother's in the country. We're installing a firepit in the yard for the Fourth of July tomorrow, I'm getting some lupine seeds for my yard, I get to see my dog again, and I arrived just in time to go to a concert on the town common.

So I'm in small-town Vermont to relax for the weekend after a brutal week at work, and what do we see? Experimental electric violin. (I loved it, having listened to a bunch of Sigur Ros on the way up. EDIT: Oh, Here they are. They were wearing locally-made tie-dyed T-shirts with their names on, though, and are a lot more fun than the publicity photo indicates.) They used their stringed instruments as drums somehow, performed some Brazilian jazz music originally arranged for the piano, and finished the evening with a half-salsa, half-hula number that included parrot samples. Not, I think, what everyone was thinking. But it was a great time, it's nice to see my mother at her home, and though I've only been up for nine hours, it's time to go to bed.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Negotiating with managament in an exercise in exasperation and frustration. But if I weren't on the team, I wouldn't have the illusion of control. Still, I wouldn't give up my participation in this for the world--it's very informative.

And our radishes are much bigger.

No strike/no lockout clause expires at midnight on the 30th--wheeeee! We've got a long way to go.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I almost got struck by lightning yesterday while weeding around my radishes.

I had some. They are, in fact, delicious.

There was a freakish beauty in dashing to and then huddling under an open-air shed while a fantastic line of storms came rolling through, I must admit.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

My father got me a 1960s-era linguistics textbook called "The Science of Language" some weeks back, and after summarily ignoring it for some time, I've leafed through it and am now glad I did. More recent advances in the field aside, it's very much an intro linguistics book in the modern trasition, complete with humorous footnotes.

"5. It has been humorously observed that one might gain the reputation of speaking fluent and elegant German by simply learning to say correctly a few expressions like, ach so? wie Schade! Ja, Ja, natürlich, and ausgezeichnet, and at every pause throwing in whichever one seems most appropriate." (182)

Wow, such have been my experiences with German. And Polish and Bulgarian, come to think of it.

Monday, June 05, 2006

I've been using the post-vacation vacation time thoughtfully provided by my employers to get a lot done in terms of organizing and streamlining my life (and my life I mean papers) Also, I'm trying to vacuum my room for probably the first time this calendar year. At least. But it doesn't look dirty...

A short list of my haul in Czech books, with reading notes.

1958 Czechoslovak press editions of:

Karel Čapek, Povídky z jedné a z druhé kapsy (Tales From One/the Other Pocket) {read on planes/in Dulles on the way back}
Karel Čapek, R.U.R., Bílá Nemoc, Matka (R.U.R., The White Plague, Mother)
Karel Čapek, Kalendař, Záhradníkův rok (Almanac, The Gardener's Year) {started in Dulles}
Karel Čapek, Hovory s T. G. Masarykem (Talks with T.G. Masaryk) {started on some train or other}

recent printings of:
Ladislav Fuks, Vévodkyně a kuchařka (The Duchess and the Cook) {last of the Odeon Fuks prinitngs, I think--I have all seven}
Michael Viewigh, Vybijená (Dodgeball) {read in Brno}

Also, since I've gotten back, I've been catching up on some reading--I read a draft of an old paper of Nick's entitled "The Valuation and Evaluation of Writing," bits of an old Czech textbook on historical linguistics, "The Shining," and have started in on my bilingual Old French/French "Song of Roland." My French is refreshingly still present, ast least passively, and the Old French is useful as reference for trickier words, believe it or not.

And two more points, the biggest of all:

It's a sunny day.
And two days ago I found out about a Flaming Lips show in Burlington in September...on my birthday...and I just bought two tickets.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

So I'm walking down a busy street in Prague, looking for some building or other...I think it was Národní třida, and I look up at oncoming pedestrian traffic. And there's this guy walking towards me...grinning. A bit too widely for normal fun, not widely enough for insanity. As he walks, he's taking the top off a shoebox, and putting it on the bottom of the box. There's a pair of shoes in there.

Without really breaking his expression or his stride, and right as we're passing each other, he stuffs the shoebox into a trash can and walks on.

That was one of the odder things that happened to me in Europe. Forgiveness of the few people I've mentioned this to in advance; I say this by way of saying the first wave of photos are in.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Tram. Bus. Airport. Plane. Airport. Translatlantic flight. Aiport (Seven-hour layover in Dulles.) Plane. Airport. Home.

Bed, in about five minutes.

Prague, Brno, and Bratislava are still lovely, more on which (with pics!) later.

Monday, May 22, 2006

It's been an oddly full last couple of days, shatteringly me nicely out of a bum week with too much rain (like eight days straight) and too much drinking. (ditto)

Two days ago I worked, then biked in the pouring rain (wearing nothing but cotton) down to the bus station, where I met an old advisee of mine (ah, my days as a freshman advisor) in town on a layover on the way to Montreal. It was good to catch up, and nice to have a visitor, even in miserable weather. Then a bike ride home, more pouring rain. This is when I discovered that when I went over the handlebars Sunday night, hyperextending my arms a bit and scraping my hands, (don't ask--but it wasn't bad) that I broke my shifter and am stuck in seventh of eight gears. Hill climbing's less fun, but my calves are going to be ripped.

Yesterday, I worked (opened, starting at 6:30), then biked down to the Intervale community gardens in the pouring rain to meet someone with whom I was supposed to be sharing their plot in exchange for some seed money and sweat equity. She was there, the floodplain was still a comfortable distance off, and we did some digging, some planting and some planning. Then I hustled up the hill to meet my father and go to a graduation party for a friend of the family's which involved a keg of Bud Light. I relaxed in the evening, because

Today I was up at 5:50 again, opening the store, and then bought some pepper plants and biked back down to the Intervale (this is down a big hill) in the pouring rain to garden some more. As we were gardening, the rain stopped and the sun came out. It was glorious, and my new babies are safely in the soil. Then I hustled back up the hill to make a dinner party an ex-co-worker of mine was throwing called "PorkLoaf2006." It was a massive feast that belied the name. The asapragus and pie were fantastic, and I ended up talking to some guy who had spent six months in Russia filming gay porn. (An odd mix of people, this.) Them I biked across town to the co-op, picked up some more plants for my co-gardener, dropped them off, and then met up with another old, old friend who's in town for the week. She watched me fold laundry as we watched bizarre Christian informercials and a swimming-with-the-dolphins documentary.

And then I actually started to pack in earnest. Or plan it, anyway. Which I need to do. Because I'm going out for coffee tomorrow morning, then working eight hours (training), then going out with some co-workers who were away all weekend, and then at nine in the morning on Wednesday I have to be at the airport.

But I'm cataloging this instead, because it's been a fun last couple of days, things have flowed together quite nicely (thank you, bike!), and I'll want to remember this later.

Next stop Prague!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Went on a mini-bender over the weekend, got bizarrely introspective, got really into the book of Job for a while, which is odd at the bars...

I'm better now. Especially since I had today and yesterday off, and it was nice enough to get some biking and some sun in.

Two weeks from now, I'll be over the Atlantic.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Some nights the world seems to conspire about how little I belong here, no matter how much I do.

Solicitous people in bars asking after my height in ways that dozens of people haev asked before.

OK, so, I find out this one person is a barrista at a coffee shop I frequent--and then it gets mentioned that I am a source of wonderment to the staff due to the fact that I order Lapsang Souchong without pretense, and without being a fifteen year-old Goth. (I blame Nick for this. Not for the not-being-a-Goth thing, mind.)

And then, I'm walking home drunk from the bars, past the location of a bar my parents met in, and some locals ask me if I have a car. "No." is the extent of my response, as I turn the corner, a hundred yards (less, even!) from the house in which I was raised.
The immediate response: "You German or something?"
Me: I was raised right over there, man."

He laughed and disappeared with his friends. But even in the Old North End of my childhood, I'm still a foreigner? Seems kind of harsh. Guess I'll just switch back to Czech for a while.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


I have a "Hill-Sachs lesion," which sounds cooler than "upper humeral fracture" any day, and about a third of my left glenoid labrum has come loose from the shoulder blade, and has attempted to heal itself slightly farther out than is optimal for shoulder capsule function. (In another case of funny name, this is a SLAP tear). So I have the option for elective arthroscopic surgery, which will involve countersinking sugar pegs(!) around the rim of my glenoid cavity and somehow tying the cartilage back down where it should be, while debriding the bone/cartilage itself a bit to encourage bleeding and subsequent (reinforcing) scar tissue.

This is apparently routine.

Apparently, no matter how tight the labrum, if there's a notch in the bone it can unlock itself, so to speak, if the bone that fits into the socket is, say, notched. Or lesioned, say. In a Hill-Sachs fashion. The fix for this apparently involves taking a piece of a dead man's humerus and screwing it into place on top of the damaged site. This, needless to say, cannot be done arthroscopically. Fortunately, my Hill-Sachs lesion is tiny, and the first option has an excellent chance of sufficing. But, the surgeon helpfully added, I could get the first and then if I needed it, they could always come back later and put cadaver bone onto my shattered upper arm. Imagine my joy.

So a month in a sling and six months total recovery time? I haven't said yes yet. But it's not like I do much in the winters...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Repeat from the comment thread below, but since I feel it merits its own entry:

Burlington-->DC-->Frankfurt-->Prague, May 23.
The reverse: June 2nd.

Piia in Prague, a sidetrip to Brno, perhaps visiting a friend's family in Zlín, my brother in Bratislava...and the dream of a day/overnight to Budapest. Can't only see things I've seen before.

Plus, who doesn't want to be helplessly flailing in Hungarian?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Spring is, hopefully, well and truly on its way, and with it comes a frank reappraisal of the state of the backyard. It's had a troubled past--we used to dig up half of it on our "holes to China" project (well, we were five) and the drainage is unfortunate, as well as the erosion, leaving the fence we put up twenty years ago, give or take, floating about six inches off the ground most of the way around the back yard. In addition, it is now unevenly leveled, given our renters' propensity for adding random bits of garden plot, and unevely covered, given our habit of keeping furniture out there under tarps for months at a time. Mmm, dead bits. Add the dilapidated garage (now with elm branch on top!), a few collapsing old wooden barrels, about twelve plastic lawn chairs, and general overgrowth, and it was quite the scene.

Nevertheless, I'm making an effort to get out there, even if in a stopgap capacity at the moment. I've been doing a large amount of raking and general brush-clearing. Found some chives that previous folk had planted, and that's good, since it saves me the trouble of having to deal with them from seed. Plus, I can go hack out some bulbs and bring 'em on down to our communal garden plot at the Intervale when we get to break ground.

I don't have to work until two today (compare that with 6:30 the last two days) so I'm going to try to bag up all the crap I raked up yesterday and attack a badly-sagging forsythia in the back corner I'd sort of forgotten was there.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

MRI was...OK. Didn't hurt at the time, sore as hell later on. Still in physical therapy, actually doing my stretches.

Gotten back into translating, been doing a lot of reading, bought necessary bike accessories (and biked six or seven miles today, woo!) made plans to communally garden this summer...and pizza and beer at dusk with a couple of bike-riding friends.

It was a good couple of days off, that's for sure. All to the tune of the new Flaming Lips album.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

1. Place the patient on back with arm at side with hand supinated and place sandbag on finger tips to remind patient to keep arm in this position.
2. Target the junction of the middle and inferior thirds of humeral head 2 mm inside the cortex.
3. Prep and drape.
4. Anesthetize the skin and subcutaneous tissues with buffered 1% lidocaine.
5. Fill a 20 cc syringe with the proper contrast solution and fill connecting tubing being sure to eliminate all bubbles.
6. Advance a 22 G spinal needle until contact bone at target site. Be sure you are on bone; the subscapularis tendon is very firm and can fool you.
7. Pull back 1 mm and turn bevel toward humeral head. Advance and feel the syringe drop into the joint.
8. To eliminate air bubbles, drip the proper contrast into the hub of the needle and perform a wet-to-wet connection.
9. The injection and the remainder of the procedure depends on the type of arthrogram you are performing:
MR Arthrogram:
Inject 12 cc of a solution of 5 cc normal saline, 5 cc Omnipaque 300, 10 cc 1% lidocaine, and 0.1 cc gadolinium.
Instruct the patient on the importance of the ABER position and how it can help the surgeon figure out how to fix them.

I am, uh, not looking forward to tomorrow afternoon. Thank heavens for step 4. I wish I hadn't read steps 6 and 7.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

My bike is built!

Too bad it's snowing. (I rode it anyway)

I'll need some mudguards. And probably a helmet.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Quick surfacing for a status report:

Rehabilitating: Saw orthopedist, saw physical therapist. Received and am doing my stretches (finally). MRI with big honking needle next Thursday the sixth, surgical consult May 2nd.

Riding: Am building a bike. Bought a cheap frame, have degreased the headset, bought a rear wheel, acquired a set of cranks, bottom bracket, derailleur and shifter. Top priorities are a sprocket and chain, along with the rest of the wheels. Brakes and seating come later.

Translating: Finished Burner of Corpses 3.0, a revision that actually includes comments from native English speakers. My old professor has apparently already used version 2.3 in one of her seminars. But it seems to have gone over well. My audience is now no longer exclusively hypothetical. The other stuff is mostly sitting around in notebooks, awaiting me coming up with the energy to type up thirty thousand words or so. (Less likely now that the weather's improving, but I have hopes for April.

Watching: Am watched out of the Buster Keaton, having seen nineteen shorts and ten features (ten DVDs worth of stuff) this month. But he's still a fave. I need to find some of his early stuff with Arbuckle and the early MGM stuff (I'm thinking The Cameraman here. Also less likely as the weather improves.)

Traveling: pending my checking my paid time off status (used up a bunch of the stuff with my shoulder) and plane tickets to Europe coming down in price a bit.

Friday, March 24, 2006

I have impressively low pain levels and high functionality, apprently, given what my arm's endured over the years. And some physical therapy referrals. Yay.

And an arthrogram in the works for the end of April or so. I get to have a big-ass needle jam dye into my shoulder joint, then have an MRI taken. And then I talk to a surgeon and see whether I need to have him cut me up a treat. It's good to be insured, I guess.

Everyone's still nice at work--one of the women in marketing gave me a Harley-Davidson bandanna with "Broken Wing" emblazoned across it, which I wore tied around my arm all day. I also happened to bring my X-rays with me, as I wasn't going home before the ortho appointment today, and let's just say we have a scanner.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Oh, good. I finally have some time to think and reflect. This, though, is thanks to a seventh shoulder dislocation, caused in a drunken piggyback-type situation gone somewhat awry. This then caused four hours in the ER, incompetent needle insertion, much screaming, morphine, and Versed. Going into work with the ER note the next day with a bloody face and sling the next day was fun in an extremely shaken way. And let's just say that people who I've seen massively altered on a variety of substances on a number of occasions "trying to talk to you about your drinking" is less than helpful. Nevertheless, though I don't think the drinking caused this per se (I'm inclined to blame the height--it makes piggyback rides seem like a good idea in the first place, and makes the subsequent fall that much worse), I'm taking a bit of a pause on the imbibing for the next while.

Yeah. So, orthopedics on Monday. I'm missing quite a bit of work, which may affect the vacation time I'd planned to use to go to Europe, and I broke my glasses, which necessitated a return to contact lenses (for the first time in twenty months!) That'll probably eat into the savings, too,but as I keep saying, at least I'm insured, have savings, and did nothing to my eyes or teeth.

So I'm chainsmoking ibuprofen, making German flashcards and trying to psyche myself up for some one-handed editing.

Ars longa, vita breva and all that.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Some modest accomplishments today:

Got up before ten on a day off.
Voted. Even through in an exit poll for good measure.
Gave blood. Got a (retroactive) first-gallon pin, as I've given the Red Cross eleven pints. (sssh, don't tell them about the eight or nine I gave to the Rhode Island Blood Center)
Bought a pack, used (a Lafuma Directissime 55-liter) that apparently is only for sale in France and the UK for (what amounts to) somewhat more than I paid for it. Made plans for using it. Marveled at all the gusseting and waterproof-zippering and oh my the pockets.
Watched two Buster Keaton features (The Saphead, Go West) and three or four shorts.
Am getting to bed before midnight.

It's my last week at the part-time job. The next three days will not be fun at all. But hell, it's going to be nice to have some more time available. Especially with spring and summer coming up.

Monday, March 06, 2006

I think Buster Keaton remains a sentimental favorite, and for the first two-thirds of City Lights, I was amused, but not overwhelmed. I couldn't or didn't necessarily want to see what all the fuss was about.

Then, at the end, Charlie Chaplin just had to go and make me cry.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Last night in the housesitting gig.

What better way to celebrate than by sitting and pondering a foot and a half of freshly fallen powder with a beer? Why, in an outdoor hot tub, of course.

A snow angel has never been so brisk, I might add. I so rarely get to do mostly-undressed snow angels sober.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Someone on the bus next to me on the way home from Providence was watching "Modern Times" on his laptop. I caught bits, it was funny. I decided to see what our local library had for silent-era films.

Not much Chaplin, but I'm now apparently a Buster Keaton fanatic. Have seen two features (The General, College) and four shorts (Cops, The Playhouse, The Balloonatic, The Electric House) in like the last thirty-six hours. And we got ourselves two more features and about four more shorts here at the house I'm sittin'.

Good times.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Let's see. Providence was fun, plans in tatters vis-a-vis immediate grad school (but in a good way), overworked here during the week but not overly exhausted, Mardi Gras parade on Saturday, day off Sunday...

and I've finally stopped translating new stuff frantically to pause and go back to the only book I've "finished." Good Lord, a lot of it isn't really English, I'm now coming to find. I'm taking an axe (well, maybe just a penknife--a red penknife) to the monster I've made. I think it can be fixed. It's a good thing no one's read it yet, really, I suppose. For now.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Like [a member of] a group of college freshmen rejected by Harvard and forced to go to Brown, I'm Rhode Island bound, as the saying goes, for only the second time since graduation.

I'm excited, though, especially as I've put my notice in at my filing job and will be down to one full-time job, at which I've recently been promoted, as of March 10. And hopefully by then I'll have a transcript on the way and a couple of recommendations in for that master's application.

Loading up my iPod and working on tomorrow's plans, which include lunch in Boston, getting alumnus library access (no borrowing privileges, but still) meeting with an old professor, and maybe a women's basketball game at the Pitz. Breakfast in VT, lunch in MA, dinner in RI should be pretty nice, given that I haven't been out of the state in over three months.

Hey there, what do you say?
I'm going on a holiday.

[Edit: got my state tax refund today as well. Score!]
[Edit edit: and my federal was directly deposited yesterday, apparently. Wow, my evening just keeps getting better.]

Saturday, February 11, 2006


That dress has been retired. Got caught up in a group of acquaintances to plunge with, which was fun...and can now add Lake Champlain in February to my list of interesting swimming experiences.

Toes a bit cold, but remarkably bracing, all things considered.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Stephen Colbert, satirizing portmanteau names for celebrity couples, finished the bit with the following:

"Filliam H. Muffman."

I laughed almost as hard as he did. I wasn't on camera at the time, but...

man, I really missed out on the movie "The Splendiferous Zeppelin Adventures of Filliam H. Muffman," that's for sure.


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A visit to scenic Frost Heave, Vermont.

I did, in fact, get out of town (after some breakfast and a quick hour filing) and up to Craftsbury, which went smoothly enough, except for the fact that the Kingdom is twenty degrees colder and has apparently suffered some thaws as well, given the frozen ruts in most of the roads. Got to catch up with my stepfather, get some work in at the somwhat-recently-built "new" town library, took a nap with my dog...good times all around. Saw my mother as well, who returned that evening from a trip to Florida, and caught up with her as well. Got some fast interstate driving in after dark, too--a good day away from it all when it was desperately needed, all in all.

Funniest thing I learned today: My mother gets asked about cell phone coverage a lot running a vacation cottage--and it turns out that there is some reception up there. It turns out the enterprising and/or desperate have found three places on the common that cell phone reception can be obtained:

1) The turnaround of the parking lot in the library
2) Standing on the granite benches outside the high school (near the payphones, amusingly)
3) In the middle of the cemetery.

Not a lot of people with cell phones up there, but it's amusing how this kind of information spreads nontheless. And that must be really fun to tell someone who really wants to make a call.

Monday, February 06, 2006

“Lo, I have lost my ertia, and am now ert.” --The Golux (paraphrased)

I have been in a bit of self-diagnosed lull recently, and that’s probably being a bit hard on myself. I bought a few CDs (Built to Spill Live and Von spring to mind) and have been doing some reading (Fuks in Czech and some Ethan Canin. [If these last few sentences don’t draw Jef’s attention, I know not what will.] Still, in terms of writing, I haven’t been finding or making the time as in my madcap grove of the end of last month—but I probably shouldn’t be beating myself up too much.

But headed up to my mother’s for the day tomorrow and to Providence in a week and a half, both of which will be relaxing and hopefully productive. Refresh myself a bit. A few diversions. I’m taking…

And this is when I realize I make allusions to my own translations all the time, which seems silly, as no one’s read them. I’ve got something of a Nihilartikel going here, haven’t I? Well, I guess it exists; it’s just really, really, monumentally obscure. A literary hapax legomenon of sorts?

Yeah, these probably aren't the sort of pep talks to use to claw my way back into productivity. Ah, well.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Inertia and Productivity, "Death of a Guinea Pig" (v. 1.0 complete)

92 pages, roughly, with an interesting breakdown, roughly.

First 23 pages: November 18-December 31
Second 23 pages: January 1-21
Third 23 pages: January 22-26
Last 23 pages: January 27-31

So that's splits of forty-five days, twenty-one days, five days, and five days for each quarter of the collection. (Yet another reason why I'm obsessive over recording dates. Now I'm recording locations as well; it therefore takes a step closer to being a journal, albeit one that's 99.5% translation.) The weird part was how this was unintentional, at least until the 22nd or 23rd of the month, when I realize I could marshal myself for a push that would make the end of the month and the end of the collection coincide.

And here we are.

So do I start another book tomorrow, or do I begin the process of transcription? I mean, I enver let myself get more that 1,500 to 2,000 words behind in Europe, but now I'm a good 30k back. Better to have too much to do than not enough. And bought my tickets for Providence; I'll be there from the 17th-19th. Hopefully with a harcopy of something to edit on the bus...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Status Report:

Burner of Corpses (novella): ALMOST FINALIZED
Death of a Guinea Pig (collection): ~70% DRAFTED
Mr. Theodor Mundstock (novel): NOMINAL

I hope to visit Providence in three weekends, by which time I should have a finalized version of Burner of Corpses and a draft of my planned paper providing translations/comparisons a brace of Fuks and Vyskočil short stories, to the extent I am able to properly compare without recourse to, say, university libraries and Czech-language bibliographies.

Also, have been averaging more than a page a day in translation since the New Year and have translated, even if only a sentence, most days in that span. If I am permitted a bit of hyperoptimstic extrapolation, by the end of 2006 I could have a novel and two collections of short stories in handwritten drafts, in addition to the novella I already have more or less finalized. Hence the status report above. I will certainly settle for, and not doubt actually achieve less, but as long as I can keep up the pace, I will. The transcription, and editing, on the other hand...still, I'm producing something. At least partially-effective time management? Who would have thought?

Friday, January 20, 2006

A little research at work later (working with people of varied ages from varied locales comes in handy--I don't know why I hadn't used the co-op for ersatz linguistics research before:

A brief recap from memory:

Most of the people my own age (up to about 28 years old) had never heard of the term "make-work" before, and this included people born and raised in Columbia, S.C., southern New Jersey, Memphis, Tennesee, rural Iowa, and Portland, Oregon.

However, everyone older, including my 29 year-old friend from the Bay Area, had heard of it--one guy from Chicago, a woman originally from coal country in PA, and a woman originally from Albany, in my limited sample. All identified it as something that members of their community had been known to use (the woman from Albany excluded, as she wasn't sure where she'd heard it), but in all cases the word was either singled out as rare or a feature of the speech of the elderly. So, in my limited research, it does not appear to be a regionalism so much as a word that's a bit on the archaic side, or rapidly becoming so.

Further input is requested and welcomed.

Also, the coal-country woman (with whom I empathize, my Slovak forebears having more or less wandered from Ellis Island to Nesquehoning, PA around the first world war) also provided me the link to this site with a link to the "Coalspeak dictionary," an entry of which is provided as a sample:

"mango : green bell pepper. To the rest of the world, a mango is a tropical fruit. In the Coal Region, a mango is a green pepper. I don't know why this is."

The Devil's Dictionary it's not, but it's not without its charm.
Also, last night I discovered that not everyone uses the term "busywork," and that for some people, "make-work" is considered an acceptable substitute.

My interlocutor had the opposite problem.
Still translating and flossing every day, so at least several inadvertent resolutions are holding.

Today: interesting books in unexpected places! I was helping a friend get a mattress and a box spring at ReCycle North on the cheap, wandered over to a bookcase by the front counter, and, thirty seconds later, had three books: "A History of the French Language," and copies of two journals put out by SUNY-Stony Brook in the early 1980s, with, respectively, contemporary Polish plays and Yugoslav short stories. So wow. I should have taken Nick there, as they have all manner of wonderful items, including a larger book section in the back that I didn't have time to go to, as we were somewhat pressed for time.

Nevertheless, I may go back there tomorrow. Maybe pick up a coffeepot too? The addiction goes apace, and I have so much to read and so little free time, especially with all the writing. An unexpected benefit of mild caffeine addiction is that it seems to help me regulate my sleep more efficiently--in any rate, on nights before I work both jobs I'm more likely to get six hours' sleep than my customary four and a half.

I should go write now, but this Rickard book (the French one) is proving tempting, especially in light of my discovery of a bunch of papers I'd printed out second semester senior year, including some of Robert Hall's owrk on proto-Romance in the 1950s. So little time, so if I may be permitted a bit of code-switching... [for those who don't mluvit in a česky way, the following means "to it!" in the sense of "Attaboy!" or "Go go go!"]

Do toho!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Blood donation and translation today. It was the phlebotomist's first day drawing blood. Not only that, but I was her first actual blood drawing in the field, as it were. They were kind enough to let me know beforehand and give me the option to demur, but I decided that I could be brave through this. Also, I've always been told I have nice, stable, and prominent veins, and that I am a fast bleeder. (Note: this is really, really, really only a positive thing when donating blood, but *shrugs* not much I can do about it, anyway. More Vitamin K, maybe?) So I let her have a whack at it, and she did splendidly, so that was fine.

Then, to the library for more translation fun!

Today's interesting find was the description of an old man as a "slaměný vdovec," which my big Czech-English dictionary translated as what was for me an unparsable unit, "grass widower." This, according to my the big English directionary upstairs, means something like "one who lives away from his spouse or whose wife is always away for business or pleasure," and is itself a calque of the German "Stroh.witwer."

So what I seem to have discovered for myself is two different calques here; both English and Czech having translated the elements of a German idiom, rather than the Czechs having borrowed an English expression, as I first assumed. Of course, it could have gone into English and then from English into Czech (or vice versa, theoretically, but we're not talking about "pistol," "robot," or "dollar" here) but Czech's historically close contact with German and high frequency of German borrowings and calques lead me to believe it's a case of independent borrowing.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Another vaguely accomplishful day.

Signed up for the Penguin Plunge today. Translated a few paragraphs of one story, transcribed 1,500 words or so of another.

Also, I finally registered to vote. The Voter's oath was empowering, and it really was about damn time. Looking forward to Town Meeting Day in March. Vermont, bastion of old-school town-level democracy, baby. In any event, it's been a buoyant last four or five days, for the most part. Two quotes seem to have weight for me at the moment, which I will herewith record.

"The suspense is terrible. I hope it lasts." ( Oscar Wilde by way of the original "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory")
"For you will still be here tomorrow/but your dreams may not" (Cat Stevens.)

Monday, January 02, 2006

I said something last night to the effect that I would have laughed in my own face could I have described the events of the second half of December to myself in advance.

I spent my New Year's Day hiking Camel's Hump, to a summit that was bitterly cold, ice-encrusted, and completely devoid of views...and then slid down a third of the mountain using my nylon pants as a sled. It was the most fun I've ever had on a mountain, I think, sweat and bruises aside.

Sweat, bruises, adrenaline and laughter. Let's hope it's an omen for 2006. I hope everyone else's started in at least roughly similar fashion.

Back to work.