Archive for October, 2009

IHP’s new website

October 30, 2009

IHP website

Pointing out the new website for Boston Universities International Honors Program (IHP) is really just an excuse to rhapsodize about what a great experience it was for me and try to get other people to connect with it.  That said, isn’t the new website spiffy looking, though?

I’ve been thinking a lot about IHP lately (it figured largely in my Fulbright essay).  Its hard to look back and find the moments that set you on your course and changed your life but I see my time on IHP as uniquely formative.  I think all travel is broadening.  A city-hotel weekend in Canada still opens an American up to a few different perspectives on how life is lived.  For me, though, IHP took me out of myself in a way I never could have matched on my own.

To read a longer encomium and see pictures … read on. Read the rest of this entry »



October 29, 2009

This is the weather the cuckoo likes,
And so do I;
When showers betumble the chestnut spikes,
And nestlings fly;
And the little brown nightingale bills his best,
And they sit outside at ‘The Traveller’s Rest,’
And maids come forth sprig-muslin drest,
And citizens dream of the south and west,
And so do I.

This is the weather the shepherd shuns,
And so do I;
When beeches drip in browns and duns,
And thresh and ply;
And hill-hid tides throb, throe on throe,
And meadow rivulets overflow,
And drops on gate bars hang in a row,
And rooks in families homeward go,
And so do I.

– Thomas Hardy

* This one is really best read aloud or recited.  Try it.  But go slow because it can be a tongue twister.  Its an excellent elocution exercise.

Visits to site:

October 27, 2009

views 1000

WordPress tells me that, since I started posting with them in July, I’ve had a thousand views of the site.  To be precise: 1,036.  I’m not sure whether to be impressed or alarmed but its certainly interesting.  Lost between the Letters started out as a more or less private, academic endeavor and has gradually morphed into a more public venue, but without any specified purpose.  I think of it as something of a one-way mirror I’m on the wrong side of.  Or as a pinup board in a public hallway that I pass by and attach interesting items to, then wander away from.  In many ways I’m still lighthouse keeping.  I think I’ve picked up some readers I don’t know but I’m not sure who or why.  If the fancy strikes you, feel free to comment and introduce yourself.  For instance, one, Vincent, has a wordpress identity I don’t know.  Please, share.

Fog on the Downs

October 27, 2009

wisconsin river

I drove back from Madison to La Crosse this morning, early.  Some weekends I stay over an extra night at home and get up and out by 6:30 in order to be at the office by 9:00 as usual.  Its a bit brutal to drive all that way and then sit in a desk chair all day but it gives a little extra family time.  And its nicer to make the drive in daylight rather than with headlights glaring all along the route.  Its beautiful country between here and there.  Rolling hillsides with pastoral land by the road and tree lined slopes framing them.  And often its mysteriously misty.  The Wisconsin River, which I cross at Spring Green and then follow for a number of miles seems to escape its banks some mornings – covering the low country in fogs and low lying clouds all the way from Madison to the first big hill after Richland Center.  It reminded me today of the River Withywindle, reaching out and influencing the land around it.  As Tolkien describes it, the mist pervades the Old Forest on the edge of the Shire:

“…here and there it lay in the hollows of the wood, and to the south of them, out of a deep fold cutting right across the Forest, the fog still rose like steam or wisps of white smoke.

“‘That,’ said Merry, pointing wit his hand, ‘that is the line of the Withywindle.  It comes out of the Downs and flows south-west through the midst of the Forest to join the Brandywine below Haysend.  We don’t want to go that way!  The Withywindle valley is said to be the queerest part of the whole wood – the centre from which all the queerness comes, as it were.'”

Not that I think the Wisconsin River is queer, or in any way ominous.  But it does seem to exert its influence over the surrounding lands.  And I feel it very strongly when I drive forward into ever thickening mists which concentrate as I pass over the new bridge.  When I pull up the first big hill, angling skyward and see blue in front of me and sunlight following after, I can feel the change in influence.  I love that sense of connection to the landscape.

Classics Circuit

October 23, 2009

classics circuit

I recently signed up for my first act of group blogging.  A group of book bloggers got the idea to have a tour of blogs.  They would pick an author who was great but under-read and then ask anyone who was interested to sign up to read one of their books and then blog about it on a specified date.  Its set up so that one blog will post about the author each day for about a month.  Each will talk about a different book and from any perspective they fancy and in the end it will be a huge variety of view-points and a celebration of the canon.  My interest was already piqued when I read that the second author to be featured is Elizabeth Gaskell at which point I basically couldn’t type fast enough to email them asking to be included. Click here to see the list of dates. The tour begins on November 16th.  I’ll be posting on November 23rd. Read the rest of this entry »

Playing with Pin Curls

October 22, 2009

curls 1

… so, now that my application is in, I have a little extra time on my hands.  Here’s how it manifested itself last night and this morning.  A couple of weeks ago I came across a you-tube video of a person demonstrating how she styles her hair to look like its from the 40’s.  From that first one I found many more.  It appears to be a well developed genre.

curls 2

I found it oddly fascinating and ever since I’ve been thinking about … pin curls.  I gave it a try last night – it takes a while to get the trick of twisting up your hair into perfect little loops behind your head but after a while I stopped trying to use the mirror and did it by feel … and then it worked better. (Obi Wan: “Your eyes can deceive you … don’t trust them.”)

curls 3

I was just messing around with it for a few minutes, not taking it very seriously at first.  I didn’t even have any hair pins so I used little clips instead.  But … it was oddly satisfying to do it all up so I dug out a stash of extra clips (why on earth do I have so many?) and kept going.  Before I knew it my whole head was done up in ringlets.

curls 4

And then it seemed a shame to take them all down again.  So I just tied my head up in a napkin alla Rosie the Riveter and went to bed.  It was surprisingly easy to sleep in and when I woke up it was all still in place, neatly held in place with the napkin.  This series of snaps shows what happened when I took it down.

curls 5Its a bit more volume than I know how to deal with.  I nearly washed it out before work but in the end I managed to tame it to only VERY curly and decided to see how long it would last.  Anyway … the whole thing was so frivolously delightful that I have resolved to get my hands on some hairpins and try again soon.

It’s on!

October 20, 2009


This morning I walked up to the post office desk at 8:34 and asked the clerk to put my fulbright application on their fastest truck to New York.  He somewhat condescendingly informed me that it would go on a plane.  All the better!  The online form was submitted at nine o’clock last night and the hard copy will be in UN Plaza by noon tomorrow and it is all officially out of my hands now.  I’m tracking the Express Mail package via the website.

I’m taking deep breaths.

I had thought that getting the application mailed would leave me feeling light as a feather but actually I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet.  I’m still just nervy and tired from the last intensive weekend of proofing and editing and careful rewriting of my essays.  But now they, my forms, my transcripts, my language evaluation and three recommendations (very mysterious in their sealed and signed envelopes) are on their way across the country.  If you are interested in reading said essays I’m attaching them below.  If you find a typo or a mistake … don’t tell me.  What I’m looking for now is knocked on wood.  I am thinking of beginning an experiment to see if I can do everything in my life from now to next April with my fingers crossed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Melk; de witte motor*

October 16, 2009


If you look closely at the top of the milk jug in this picture you’ll see that it has my name on it.  That is because it was delivered to me yesterday and left in the refrigerator in the farm kitchen at work as part of my new membership in a dairy.  Roald and Amelia (my employers) have been getting raw milk delivered for a while now and I just picked up on the notion a few weeks ago.  I looked up the website for the dairy and saw the picture of happy cows and my heart gave a thump.  Organic Valley may be a coop and Wisconsin based and those are both very good things but … how can it compare with un-homogenized milk delivered in a glass jar right to “my” refrigerator by a nice guy named John?  So … I signed myself right up and got my first delivery on Thursday.  What with the membership starting fee and buying four jars as well as the week’s gallon costs me $25 but I’m totally happy with the price.  Especially since I’ve already begun turning it into value added product.  I rushed home from work last night and tried making my own yogurt for the first time, with pretty reasonable success!  And after this my weekly rate will only be $7 a gallon.  Turning half of it into yogurt, separating off cream for quiche and baking, and having out-of-this-world hot cocoa all the time will make that seven dollars very well spent.  I want to try my hand at making buttermilk (which I use regularly in my pancakes) next but have thus far been foiled by the lack of active-culture buttermilk at the coop.  I need something to start with. Read the rest of this entry »

Banned Book Week, Belatedly

October 15, 2009


I know that Banned Book Week is officially over for the year.  It was September 26th to October 3rd, if you missed it too.  But … isn’t the whole idea really to promote reading Banned Books all the time?  Lets go along with Scrooge and keep Christmas and Banned Books in our hearts all year long.  In that spirit here is an amazing letter written by librarian, Jamie Larue, on the subject of why a particular book will not be removed from the shelves at the request of a patron.  It is three amazing things: impressively thorough and well argued, amazingly calm and respectful and quite beautiful.  I was made happy and peaceful by reading it and it reminded me strongly of all the times in my life I have dreamt of being a librarian.

Here’s a link.  And here it is quoted in full.  Thank you, Mr. Larue.

Uncle Bobby’s wedding
June 27, 2008

Dear Ms. Patron:

Thank you for working with my assistant to allow me to fit your concerns about “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding,” by Sarah S. Brannen, into our “reconsideration” process. I have been assured that you have received and viewed our relevant policies: the Library Bill of Rights, the Freedom to Read, Free Access to Libraries for Minors, the Freedom to View, and our Reconsideration Policy.

The intent of providing all that isn’t just to occupy your time. It’s to demonstrate that our lay Board of Trustees –- which has reviewed and adopted these policies on behalf of our library — has spent time thinking about the context in which the library operates, and thoughtfully considered the occasional discomfort (with our culture or constituents) that might result. There’s a lot to consider. Read the rest of this entry »

Snow Day

October 12, 2009

snow in october

Well I didn’t actually get off from work or anything but … today was a snow day in that it snowed big puffy flakes all day long.  Sometimes it looked like someone was actually shaking down feathers.  I infinitely prefer 32 and snowing to 45 or even 55 and raining.  Thanks weather. Seriously.  I love fall and I love winter.  My sister got a text from her roommate who was visiting her family in Janesville over the weekend saying “its snowing. :'( and its cold.”  Not exactly your man bites dog story.  I have so many friends who kvetch about the winter weather and I just. don’t. understand.

Read the rest of this entry »

Architectural Irony

October 7, 2009

windowless rooms

What’s the definition of irony again? In drama, it occurs when the audience is made (painfully) aware of something which completely bypasses the character.  In architecture we might say its what happens when a designer spends all day (painfully) in a room which is shouting out contradictory messages of which the hapless other occupants are totally unaware. Read the rest of this entry »

To be continued!?!

October 5, 2009

book language of bees

Pro: Laurie R King writes a ripping good yarn chock full of drama and intrigue, danger and emotional misdirection.  I spent the day on the edge of my sofa, literally.

Con: to be continued.

I think anyone who reads this should be forewarned that the latest installment in the Mary Russell set ends on the mother of all cliffhangers.  That said it was a fabulous way to mis-use my Sunday.  I picked up the book shortly after noon as a way to temporarily delay getting into the heavy lifting of the day – house cleaning, Fulbright work and some overdue craft projects and completely went down the rabbit hole.  I stopped a few hours in to reheat some of Friday’s pizza for lunch.  At a break in the drama I did the dishes.  And just before dark I talked myself into walking over to the grocery store for some dinner ingredients.  I read while I walked and had to stand around in the produce department reading with wild eyes until I came to something like a stopping point.  I walked the groceries back and put a few things in the freezer, then flopped back onto the sofa to read further.  My quiche finally was made and came out of the oven at 9:00PM.  I came to a crashing halt at the end of the book less than ten hours after picking it up and found to my horror that … its a to be continued.  ARGH!

That said, my agony is only further indication of well written drama. Read the rest of this entry »

Now, I am a runner.

October 4, 2009


I just got back from a run.  It is raining and 55 degrees and windy.  But I’ve been running on alternate days and this week that makes Sunday a running day so … I ran.  And I did three miles in 30 minutes.  In 29:56 to be precise.  Walking a couple of blocks back to my apartment to “cool down” with the wind blowing chill droplets into my face I decided that I had just met my own criteria for being a “real runner.”

Will run in nasty weather … check.

Runs multiple times a week with regularity … check.

Can do multiple 10 minute miles in a row … check.

Gets up and does all of the above before breakfast … check.

All my life, I’ve thought of myself as the quintessential anti-athlete but now I think I’ve changed that self-image … I am a runner.

Starting my ownleafy forest floor

October 2, 2009

leaves 1

Building on all the fun of painting on Wednesday night, I decided to do a little more last night.  I sat down to paint a little oak leaf I picked up on a hike Monday evening and tucked in my pocket.  I finished up around my usual bedtime and then had a thought about some little card stock that might also be good watercolor paper.  Then when I found it I started sketching out a second leaf on that and before I knew it had done a second one.  I feel like I’m well on my way to starting my own little fall forest floor.

Watercoloring in the rain

October 1, 2009


I got out my watercolors yesterday to finish a long overdue project – I’d started to make some cheesy inspirational wall hangings for a friend for her birthday (in May) and gotten side tracked. In fact I sent a box of little gag presents and totally forgot to include my paintings. But she’s again making noises like she’s actually planning to decorate her room (something I want to encourage). So I finished up one and dashed off another little image, added them to a pile of other postcards, photos and memorabilia and dropped it off at the PO this morning.

The upshot is that I had a wonderful time doing them.  As amateurish as they look they were really fun to make.  I need to start doing this more often again. Read the rest of this entry »