radfrac_archive_full: (Harold Ross of the New Yorker)
This isn't so much a post as an excuse to show you a paper owl.

I went to Russell Books today and -- inspired by Backlisted, my new podcast boyfriend -- hunted up Alan Garner's Red Shift.1

The Owl Service was also on the shelf, which let to this fruitful use of my afternoon:

Cut for Owl )

I like very much that Garner makes his books into puzzles, without its being coy or forced. I am trying to hold off on decoding the ciphered message at the end of Red Shift until I've actually read the book. No spoilers please.

So far I like The Owl Service -- the only thing that makes it a young adult book is the way it leaps immediately into its weirdness, rather than easing you through a process of deduction the way a book with aspirations to a certain kind of maturity -- to creating a realistic unreality -- might.

{rf}

0. I looked for, but did not find, the edition of Woolf's The Waves with the absurdly patriarchal back cover copy mentioned elsewhere.

1. I am still compiling the list of essential books recommendations from friends (old, new) and helpful strangers, so right now my reading looks like this: Owl ( Red ( Recommended ( Party (Howards End) Going) Mystery Book ) Shift ) Service, with books for teaching in their own noble stack at my left hand.

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radfrac_archive_full: (Default)
Herein I attempt some deduction.

My edition of Howards End is a decaying Penguin Modern Classics paperback once owned by a Warren Cocking. I don't think he would mind my publicizing this, since he wrote his name the inside front cover, followed by both his address and his phone number.

In which our hero spends a perhaps surprising amount of time describing a hypothetical felt pen. )

What I really came here to do, though, was to talk about the blurb on the back of the book. )

I can see what the blurbist is going for: you are meant to really value and appreciate this book, not just consume it. It's just that they seem to be telling you this while backing away, slowly and mournfully, into the void.

Here is someone else's entertaining mention of the self-same blurb (on a slightly earlier edition). In this blog post, Robin Stevens mentions "the 60s, era of charmingly hilarious back-cover blurbs", and a similarly misguided blurb for The Waves.3

Was that a thing? Was it just a Penguin thing? A British thing?4 I don't remember my other paperbacks of the era having anhedonic and passive-aggressive blurbs.

What I'm asking is -- where can I find more?


{rf}

more footnotes )
3.So far searching for strange old book blurbs just finds me many, many sites about how to write a catchy blurb for your self-published book, and searching "The Waves back cover" gets me illustrated phone cases.
4. It seems very British indeed, in reflecting that distinctive double-negative-for-positive phrasing, e.g. "not unpleasant".

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radfrac_archive_full: (writing)
It's been a long time since I wrote any fiction, so this is an exercise more than anything: physio for the imagination. A ten-minute story that assembled itself while I was in the shower.

I did not explain about freezers, but somehow the rumour reached the snow-person )

{rf}

Audio version of this post here.

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radfrac_archive_full: (Default)
What books are you most glad to have read?

What books are you most glad to have in your mind as objects, if that's how you have books-- to revolve and contemplate --

or as nodes in your web of thought, if that's how you have them -- for their connections to other books or for their illumination of you know Life or science or art --

or as blotches of blurry colour, if that's how you have them -- for the pleasure or surprise or wonder they gave you?

What books would you most wish never to forget? Which have lodged in your spine and made it stronger? The really key keys to your mythologies. The non-negotiables.

I wish to plan my reading better this year, but while I have perhaps two hundred unread books lying about desperate to be taken up, I have limited time and there's a snowy blank where the urge towards the next book might usually be found. (And a snowy blank all 'round.)

So -- off the top of your head -- through old habits of mind or new revelations or sheer perversity -- what would you most not want not to have read?

Sans advice, I will finish Howards End and Party Going and probably go on to Red Shift, since that's what Backlisted recently covered (in n extraoooordinary [DING DING DING] episode, found here.

Cheers for any thoughts at all you care to share.

{rf}

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radfrac_archive_full: (Default)
Just a quotidian report, for those who like dailiness, and to remind myself that such exists.

Reading, walking, shopping, and Superbowls )

I should perhaps sketch our domestic arrangements. )

As I walked home tonight, it was snowing in minute grains, almost rain, yet not at all sleety -- just a fine particulate crystal on the edge of its melting point.

I am disappointed, obviously, at the symbolism of the Superbowl outcome, but it is in keeping with the register of the year so far.

{rf}


1. As I was writing this, I realized that "I made some progress with Howards End" or "I got a bit further into Howards End" and any other metaphors of progress were all going to come out sounding wrong.
2. Though to be fair, "recently" probably means something like 2011. Gah.
3. !!!

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radfrac_archive_full: (Default)
And one more BPAL review (forgive the self-indulgence -- I'm trying to avoid real work.)

Peppermint Cream Cupcake )

{rf}

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radfrac_archive_full: (john simm)
I saw the first cherry blossoms of 2017 yesterday. These clusters of bright pink, with their peppery scent, are my yearly marker of endurance. They signal the possibility of spring, hope, returning light, and not feeling dead inside. "We made it. We survived. Better times are coming": this is the yearly message of the ornamental cherry tree.

However, since I saw the blossoms during a snowstorm on the way to an anti-islamophobia vigil, the effect was somewhat blunted this year.

Turnout at the vigil was disappointing, but this is partly because it was the second vigil this week — the city held a brief gathering on Tuesday, and that one brought about 3000 people. This was maybe 10% of that at peak. I think it was organized by a very few people, though, acting quickly, and in that it was impressive. One of my former students played an honour song. His youth and enthusiasm, responsiveness and commitment -- that does lift my spirit. That might have to be my cherry blossoms this year.

{rf}

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radfrac_archive_full: (writing)
I don't just write lengthy opinions of books; I write lengthy opinions of perfume oils too, often when I really should be writing something else.

Yet there's something so pleasurably difficult about trying to summarize your sense impressions of something as elusive and under-reported-upon as scent.

I often think I'd like to write short stories in the form of reviews (or other formats I find myself using often), but these are just reviews.

Pognophobia (Fear of Beards) )

Salted Caramel Shortbread )

Socerophobia (Fear of Parents-in-Law) )

A new BPAL perfume oil is like a new poem to read, one in a language I only partly understand. Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab was something I heard about on LiveJournal and coveted for years before I took an active role in smelling things with clever names. I keep promising myself I'll retire from buying any more -- save for old age and such instead -- but then the Halloween and Yule releases almost always ensnare me anew.


(Also posted at bpal.org)

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radfrac_archive_full: (Default)
I had a dream last night that L. was feeding baby wolves and I thought it was a bad idea. Very early this morning I skimmed an illustrated post about lycanthropy.

A little bit later, though still far too early, my creative co-worker gave me a ride to my 8:30 am class (heated seats!) (in the car, not the classroom). She told me about the resort where her son works in the summer, which resort shares its remote island with a family of wolves.

She said the island was once a station for something I had never heard of called LORAN. LORAN was a hyperbolic radio navigation system (so the Internet tells me) implemented during WWII and continued in a confusing series of forms (well, A, B and C) [Edit: I had the date wrong here] Loran-A went off the air in North America in 1980, but apparently Loran-C was in use until 2010.

This island station was paired with one in southern Alaska. It was stood down1 in 1977 “after a fire in a generator room,” according to the labour-of-love website on which I found this information.

But what if it was really the wolves?

I sense a rabbit hole gently caving in under my feet.

Talk of mysteriously defunct signal stations reminds me a little of the CBC holiday tradition of playing Fireside Al's gripping rendering of "The Shepherd" on Christmas Eve, in the Dickensian tradition of eerie Christmas stories.


{rf}

1. That usage seems awkward, but that's how the site puts it.

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radfrac_archive_full: (Default)
This eternal virus1 and the world virus of authoritarianism have made me irritable. In this state (and next door to that one) it's difficult to focus and it's difficult to like things and people.

What better time to review some books?

During my illness, I made very few ventures out, but one was to Sorenson's Books, recently and beautifully rehoused with fellow bookseller Chronicles of Crime in a wonderfully arcane warren more like a dream of seeking than a retail space.

I went to hunt up a copy of Georgette Heyer’s Venetia because they were reading it on Backlisted. I ought to have been looking for Howards End, because that is the next book for book club, but in my fog I could hold only one book in mind at a time. They did not have Venetia. I eventually found it as an abridged audiobook through my local library’s Hoopla subscription, which met my needs perfectly well.

The book I walked out of Sorenson’s with was Loving * Living * Party Going, a Picador omnibus of three of Henry Green’s novels. I was somehow under the impression that they were a series, but Green it seems just loved a gerund.

I’ve been hearing about Green as an under-rated novelist for a good long time, maybe most recently in The New Yorker. He was in my headfiles under to be read (sometime), and this seemed to be bookstore serendipity's signal that it was time.

Henry Green’s Loving )

Mad Shepherds and Other Studies by L.P. Jacks )

{rf}

Footnotes

1. Which is to say, this cold I’ve had since Dec 22
2. The wealthy family are named the Tennants. Get it?
3. L.P. stands for "Lawrence Pearsall".

Crossposted from Dreamwidth (http://radiantfracture.dreamwidth.org/1469.html), where there are comment count unavailable comments. Comments either place are great.

Apparently

Jan. 16th, 2017 08:46 pm
radfrac_archive_full: (dichotomy)
I've maxed out the total number of tags -- 1000. I do use them liberally and (I like to think) playfully, but it has been more than 10 years. It seems reasonable that 100 notable things might happen in a year that you'd want to catch and link up and you know, cross-reference.

Hmph.

{rf}
radfrac_archive_full: (Default)
Thanks for the follow-backs, journalfolk. I have no plan for how to make it worth your while.

I am finished Barchester Towers, and glad to be quit of it.

I liked The Warden very much, and there are many things to like about Barchester Towers, but, having read this novel of his, I cannot say with conviction that I like Anthony Trollope. I wonder if the reason I gave up on the Chronicles of Barsetshire all those years ago was my annoyance with this book and specifically its constant lumbering jocularity about the Nature of Woman.

Some of the good qualities of The Warden are still in evidence; Trollope is very good on the pettier, more self-concerned, but not actually evil side of human behavior -- the way that resentment and pride override charity and compassion, for example. Mr. Arabin, ruefully trying to remake his life at 40, moves me, and the signora, though not precisely adequate as a portrait of a woman with a disability, comes close to being a fascinating character study. I wouldn’t say she tips over, quite, into actually being fascinating, though the ambiguity around her injury and its cause, and the constant speculation about What's Under the Blanket, would provide excellent material for, say, Lacan.

The major characters of The Warden seem to have foregone any further personal growth in the sequel and are content to run the little grooves of their personae over and over, like table hockey characters. That was my feeling; the book group liked them better, and thought that the relentless babbling about the hilarious weakness of women was meant more ironically than I did.

(Some poking at the mass conversation (Look! The Victorian Web is still there!) produces various interesting possible positions on this question.) (When I was a youth nothing pleased me more than nested parentheses, especially if I could wrap them all up together at the end: ((())).)

In The Warden there are really no villains – just short-sighted selfish people, and I like that about it. Barchester Towers is painted in broader, almost Dickensian strokes. Mr Slope is stuck in the begged question of bad guys: why is he the villain? Because he's bad. How do you know he's bad? Because he's the villain. Also, red hair. Watch out.

Next up: Howard's End, last read about the same time as BT, which is to say, a very long time ago indeed.

I got violently winded walking to book group yesterday, though the sticky toffee pudding was worth it. Today a little errand walking similarly exhausted me. It was ten days ago the walk-in clinic doctor gave me the puffer and said this thing would play itself out.

So tired. I think tomorrow will be an ugly shirt day (a day when you're too tired to iron the good shirts).

An invitation, of course, to think about illness and wellness, access and ability. Something to discuss with the senora.

{rf}

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radfrac_archive_full: (Default)
I am in a classics reading group, which during 2016 I mostly failed to show up for, excepting January's David Copperfield (1850) and December's The Warden (1855).

You might therefore assume I give special precedence to British books written during the 1850s, though I do not know that to be the case.

The only Trollope I had ever read before was Barchester Towers (1857), in second or third year uni. It is, of course, the sequel to The Warden, but I'd never read that. I don't know why.

Reading choices in early university seem in retrospect both more random and more joyful. I read a book on Provencal poetry, for example, and acquired a permanent affection for Langue d'oc, though I followed up on that in no way. Maybe my reading the book had something to do with Pound? I don't think so, though. I hadn't heard of a lot of big names at seventeen through nineteen, though I wanted to think I was literary.

All I remembered about Barchester Towers until this re-read, so many years later, was Eleanor's shrinking widow's cap and her stomping her "little foot" at one point, which had startled me at the time, as until then I had been assuming she was a fully developed female character.

Further Thoughts on Barchester Towers )

Enough of Trollope for now, I think. I've a drawing date with a friend down the road. This three-week cold has left me short of puff, but I should just about be able to make it a block and a half.

{rf}

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radfrac_archive_full: (dichotomy)
The basement suite gets a fair amount of turnover because it is a basement suite, and a particularly oddly constituted one, being composed of the leftovers of two suites combined when the landlords took over part of one of them for their own use – I think I have that right.

The current guy – my laundry buddy – was away in the summer, and a student – I think of computer science – was subletting. I’d meet the subletter out in public or on the bus and not be sure who he was, only that I recognized him. These days that usually means I’m speaking to a former student, which meant I greeted him with the wrong flavor of solicitude – how are you doing these days? Rather than how’s the basement.

I have a new fridge, because the old one died – this one was standing out in the rain for some weeks, but fridges appear to be sturdy creatures, and it works. It is two inches deeper than my last fridge, so it stands on a pair of narrow boards that jut out from the original platform. It’s not aesthetic, but it keeps my food cold. It is a very noisy fridge, but its particular note is less irritating than the previous one. This one sometimes starts up a bubbling liquid cascade that makes it sound like a giant aquarium.

This LJ is really just an archive – I don’t know why I keep topping it up.

Sometimes I check back with my local friends’ journals, but we’ve all moved on to more ephemeral (or at least harder to recover) social media. I went off to grad school, and by the time I got back the Internet had moved on.

It would be nice if we all had a talky place again, one conducive to thoughtful posts. The journal format is slow and a little bit clunky, but that seems to help with thinking things through a bit.

A big one for elegies, me. An elegy every moment and an extra one, for good measure, for the future, which will also be lost.

Mind you, I have started a possibly regular D&D game at my house, so there's that.

{rf}
radfrac_archive_full: (dichotomy)
A comfort and also a sense of responsibility from visiting back here and seeing American LJers posting about what they’re doing, so creatively, in response to the election. Thank you for tracking your feelings and actions and writing about them.

I generally say I am useless from my birthday until the spring comes – I have severe winter depression, though with some odd compensations that make me unlikely to medicate it. This particular November, obviously, isn’t helping.

Just stopping in to appreciate you, really. Hello. I am also here, trying to think of useful things to do.

{rf}
radfrac_archive_full: (dichotomy)
I have this thing going with the guy in the basement suite. It's entirely chaste, but I think -- I hope -- it's a mutually satisfying exchange.

I live in the magnificent shack in the back yard, but I do my laundry in the entryway to the basement suite in the main house. The suite is a strange knocked-together labyrinth with two bathrooms,s created by fusing a pair of existing suites. Tenancy changes over every six to twelve months. Right now there's a young guy -- an astronomer, I think? Physicist? He told me, but I forget. He has science books lined up on his windowsills (at ankle height from outside). I've run into him once or twice and he seems affable, funny.

Once or twice his laundry's been in the dryer when I needed to use it, as will happen. Instead of cramming all of his laundry higgledy-piggledy onto the small stand next to the dryer, which act seems a little hostile, I use a trick I learned from a tenant in my last building: I fold his clothes.

I don't fold his underwear. My feeling is that you don't want to think about your middle-aged neighbor folding your underwear (unless you do, but I feel confident he doesn't). Instead, I pile it unobtrusively on the towels and put everything else on top of it like, "Oh, was there underwear here? I didn't even notice it." I think these things through. Still, it must be disconcerting to arrive home (or wake up) and find your laundry ghost-folded.

The day after I first folded his laundry, I found taped to the dryer a Ziploc bag with "THANKS" written on it in Sharpie and a five-dollar bill inside.

It seems to me that five dollars is exactly the right amount to create symmetrical confusion between us. Well calculated, Science Guy.

I left the money in place for several days, but he didn't take it back. Finally I took it, because, well, five dollars. I went to the store, bought some stain remover, and put it in the laundry room with a sticky note that said "FOR COMMUNAL USE".

Yesterday I again had occasion to remove his laundry and fold it. I am learning some good tricks, like the way you can let the shirt drop against your knee, quickly fold the sleeves in, and then double it over, all in one movement. Very satisfying.

Later that same day: another baggie, another five dollars. This time I bought some Febreeze.

I hope he's enjoying this as much as I am.

{rf}

Tooth news

Feb. 23rd, 2016 06:50 pm
radfrac_archive_full: (dichotomy)
Had my tooth removed today at the oral surgeon's office next to the sketchiest post office in town. The post office is full of books about sasquatch and advertisements to shred your documents "to protect your identity".

The oral surgeon's office was full of technologies. They do not eff around there. I had three sensors glued to me (sensors which remain glued to me, despite a hot bath), a blood pressure monitor, a heart monitor, a oxygen tube and an IV of sedation. Oh, and a sort of tiara thing on my head. I actually don't know what it was; quite possibly the assistant put it there to amuse herself and to be entirely sure I was too sedated to care.

Cut for surgical details )

I don't feel groggy now, but I do feel tired and intermittently sore. I didn't fill the prescription for Tylenol 3s because I dislike the experience of codeine, but it might have been a good idea.

Circumstances are such that I have to teach tomorrow morning, which I actually think will be fine, given what feels like complete, if painful, lucidity. I even feel less nervous about teaching than I usually do. Perspective, drugs, whichever. I'll take it.

{rf}
radfrac_archive_full: (dichotomy)
(Warning: someone telling you about that dream they had)

I'm in a fancy hotel and they're saying the giant is coming. This has happened before -- in the dream I know this is a recurring experience, an episode that replays. I know how it works, and I know it will be a good thing, yet I'm afraid to see the giant.

I'm hiding upstairs in the dark lounge, which has a balcony overlooking the atrium. I'm hiding from seeing the giant (not from being seen by him) in an almost self-indulgent way, delaying the gratification of the moment when I do see him and it's actually a good thing. As a distraction, I'm trying to watch an educational multimedia piece about Pluto, on an apparatus built into the table (kidney-shaped, dark glass), but it's loud and I can't mute the sound and I'm embarrassed. I minimize how big the giant will be. He probably won't be that big. Just big enough to be a giant.

Footsteps vibrate the earth (see T-Rex in Jurassic Etc). The giant is coming. (Outside in the real world, the storm shakes my little house.)

The giant does come, and he's huge. Just his head is visible going by. His head must be six feet across. He looks like a National Geographic mock-up of early homo sapiens. He doesn't speak. He looks straight ahead and walks smoothly and carefully through the hotel. Then he's gone. Now I chase after to finally meet him.

I go down a back stairway and there's a crowd outside. Among them is a young woman who's sad -- she knows the giant, or is his friend or counterpart somehow, his wife. So I bring her inside.

I take her upstairs to an apartment with my family and friends. Now she's a baby or toddler crawling all over the beds, but there's something creepy about her -- she's got these weird goggles on.

She becomes a grown woman and for a while we're being pleasant but finally I blurt out that I can tell she hates me and wants to destroy me. This delights her. It is true, but she is doing it through psychological warfare -- isolating and alienating me and keeping me away from the giant.

I'm going to call her the monster now because she's the monster of this dream. She's like one of those undefeatable arch-villains who always know what you will do next because, well, she's a part of your own psyche, isn't she.

She is, I think, competing with me to be the partner of the silent giant.

I think about who can help me, and the name of a friend flashes up, so I go to find her in the kitchen, but she's with her mother and they're busy with something oppressive to do with diets and charts, something obsessing, so I wait and the monster is sort of flitting around happily because she knows I'm helpless to oppose her.

So I go down the hall and find a group of my friends sitting in the dark watching TV and I try to explain what's happening, but they're not really paying attention -- they're hypnotized by the TV. I ask them for "wards", for words that will ward me from her power. Someone sort of passively gives me the word "ward" (thanks, kids) so I say it over and over and make a sort of shield around myself of the word written in blue light, but it isn't very effective and I know she can still get through. It was given me by someone with characteristics a little like the monster (or anyway someone sort of annoying) and I'm not sure it will work at all.

About there I wake up. I walk around my little house. No monster, no giant. I'm not afraid, but I wish my psyche had come to a cleaner resolution.

Allow monster and giant to merge into one being? Accept monster and giant as complementary parts of myself? It is not quite five in the morning and the proper symbolism eludes me, but I wanted to make a record. And now I have. Thanks for your time.

A Story

Jan. 29th, 2016 11:15 am
radfrac_archive_full: (dichotomy)
Friday night I spontaneously decided to go out and Do Things for no good reason. I did them on my own, because everyone was busy and also I have no friends.

First I saw Star Wars. It was fine -- not really more than fine. Enjoyable enough. I know Abrams is a fan, but I didn't find it more inspired than the Star Treks. Aesthetically closer, maybe.

Of course I liked that the female characters had more to do and say, but I have very few feelings about the whole thing. {ETA} Although it did do that thing where your perception is altered when you go out into the street, and everything looks like a movie.

I went in hungry, and my small popcorn didn't solve that, so next: food.

A pub recently opened up here that specialized in hot dogs, haircuts, and pinball. It is called Saint Frank's (or possibly Franks or Franks'). I went there next. To my sorrow, they'd had to shut down the pinball. The liquor inspector disallowed it. I love pinball.

I had a beer and a not very exciting hot dog (I didn't need a haircut.) (If fancy hot dogs are important to you, I recommend Cenote.)

Then, this being my adventurous night out, I went to the one still-extant gay bar in town. It was still only 8pm, so there were exactly three people there -- me, the bartender, and one sad, sad man with a moustache. A sad moustache.

Well, I say bartender -- guy behind the counter looked more like he was an investor who got roped into bar duty because the employees all quit or something.

ME: I heard the echo of an empty bar.
BARTENDER: You can come back later if you want.
ME: Um, no, I'd like a drink.
BARTENDER: What do you want?
ME: What do you have on tap?
BARTENDER: Nothing.

So I had a bottled beer out of the cooler for seven dollars.

I fear the joint may have gone downhill, and I would not have said there was much more hill to be going down. I don't mean to criticize the efforts of the owners in keeping open a community space, but it's a hole. It's freezing. It's basically an unheated basement. The place looks like the inside of the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks, without so much red.

It wasn't very kind of me to say that about the empty bar. I meant to be funny. Also, it was true. There is a particular echo.

Anyway, I had a nice enough time. Mostly I just messaged people from the corner about what a hole it was, but that was pretty much what I'd have done if I stayed home, so I felt I came out ahead, even with the $7 beer.

There was a poster saying that there would be an amateur stripping competition at 9, but at 8:55 the total patronage had gone up to about ten, so I caught my bus instead.
radfrac_archive_full: (dichotomy)
I want to record that we threw chunks of ice onto the frozen pond and it made the most amazing sound, a cascade of cheeping and chiming echoes. The ice would shatter and make the whole pond ring. The fragments shot and skidded, striking other chunks of ice and sending reverberations in every compass direction, singing to the north and south and east and west and all the fiddly slivers in between.

This was the Harrison Yacht Pond, specifically designated for radio-controlled boats.* All the little docks were frozen into a thick sheet of ice. There were pockets of other people around the edge also throwing ice on ice.

I want to record that it was cold and bright on the walkway atop the breakwater, but that when some of us climbed down below (I was one of the last) the air was still and warm. We were shielded from the wind, though we could see it shoving the sailboats sideways across the water. We sat there a long time.

Also, L. played "Jesus Take the Wheel" out loud on her device and discussion ensued of the practicality of such an action as compared to pumping the brakes (or, in the case of anti-lock brakes, applying steady pressure).

I've an artist friend who told me she celebrates Christmas until February 1, and while the idea of a five-week Christmas per se makes me feel queasy, the notion of prolonging the idea that we are doing Something Special into January -- bot jsut living through the ghastliest and longest month of the year -- seems like a very good one.

Therefore, I think from now on I will celebrate a secular Epiphany on January 6th and read lots of short stories that end with moments of sudden insight.

{rf}

*It seems to me that I know this poind was donated by someone unlikely like the Prince of Monaco, but I can find no record of this online -- only a Mayor Harrison -- and the pond itself is too far away for a quick check (I do not think the plaque would show up on Google Street View).

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