Thursday, June 27, 2013

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Book of Hours preparation

I started working on my book of hours project this week! I decided on my materials and made a rulesheet to guide my lines.

Mine will not be this pretty, but I have hopes that this project will improve my handwriting.

As I work, I'll be following the content of this hypertext book of hours, section by section. I guess I will post some pictures as I complete pages? Maybe I'll try to set up an IFTTT recipe to do it automatically? Any suggestions for easily sharing photos?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

PSA: Book clubbish activities in the near future

Book Discussions I plan to attend this summer! I realize this looks like a high school summer reading list; that's just how I roll. If you are interested in reading any of these/coming along to any of the chats, please let me know - here, on facebook, on twitter, or by semaphore preferred. 

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
Monday, June 24: 4:30 p.m.The St. Agnes Book Discussion Group at St. Agnes Library

The Book Thief
Wednesday, June 26: Online discussion of The Book Thief

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Wednesday, July 3: 3:30 - 4:30 p.m. The Riverside Book Discussion Group will meet at the Riverside branch of of the NYPL

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Thursday, July 18, 2-3:30 Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Margaret Liebman Berger Forum (online registration required:

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
Thursday, August 15, 2-3:30 Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Margaret Liebman Berger Forum (online registration required:

Monday, May 27, 2013

The blog is dead; long live the blog!

Welcome to the final post of this blogging project! Over the past year I have blogged here weekly about lists and organizational systems; over the next year I'll be blogging here about a different project.

Out with the old: my most popular post by far was (unsurprisingly, perhaps) the one about using two-column to-do lists, and the first runner up was (surprisingly, perhaps) the one about cleaning house.

And now in with the new: A couple weeks ago I asked for feedback about what my weekly project should be for the next year.

My ideas were to take the "no new clothes" challenge, to try a new craft or recipe every week, to start a "classics" book club or to create a Book of Hours.

On Facebook, in person, and in blog comments the answer was definitely that I should create a Book of Hours. So, okay! Here I go!

But, because I'm me, I still kind of want to do all of these things. Since then, I have found two book clubs - one in person and one virtual - that read classics in a nigh-monthly, low-stress way. So I'll join those. I reserve the right to blog about them if I so desire.
I will join these two book clubs. 
I also have a backlog of craft and science projects I'd like to try and recipes that look as though they might be delicious, so I will also do those intermittently, and I reserve the right to blog about them, too. As one commenter pointed out, I already try new crafts and recipes regularly, so to make this a year long project would sort of be cheating.

This blog space might get a bit juggly for the next year. I will work on the Book of Hours project at least once a week until it is done or until the year is over, and update weekly with pictures of, and comments about, that. I might also keep posting about organizational systems, recipes, craft and science projects, and maybe mending and thrifting, sporadically. Only time will tell!

In any event, you can expect the first post about my Book of Hours project as the next post on this blog.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Too many buts.

I've been noticing people's buts a lot. I'm not sure whether misused buts are on the rise, or whether I am just noticing them more recently. I started paying attention to buts when I realized I was misreading sentences from bloggers and my students, who often use the word "but" when they mean the word "and."

Then I started noticing the issue all over the place. For instance, in this adorable article about twin valedictorians, an English professor is quoted as saying, “They are the hardest-working students I have met. They are incredibly intelligent but they couple that with a great work ethic. Every assignment they turned in I knew was their best work” (emphasis mine). Now, I know the professor probably meant, "They are incredibly intelligent, yes, but what really allows them to excel is not only their intelligence but also their great work ethic." As the sentence stands, however, it looks like their intelligence is countered by the work ethic. Wouldn't it work at least as well to say "They are incredibly intelligent and they couple that with a great work ethic" instead?

So far, I bet this just sounds like a linguistic pet peeve. But* I think the idea of choosing between and and but actually has further implications.

  • Think about the improv game "yes, and" that teaches improv actors to accept and participate rather than control a scene.
  • Or think about the Adulting postStep 289: When saying something difficult to someone you love, use ‘and’ instead of ‘but’ in which the blogger points out the inherent differences between saying "I love you but you need to respect my boundaries" and "I love you and you need to respect my boundaries."
  • Or think about when the deli Lansky's was vandalized and the Post misquoted one of the owners. As discussed on the blog My Upper West, the Post wrote that he had said “I’m an Italian-American from Brooklyn, but if I was Jewish, I’d be deeply offended,” while the video recording of his statement makes it clear that he actually said “I’m Italian-American from Brooklyn and I was greatly offended by it.”

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, think about your buts. I'm thinking about mine.

*That one was on purpose. The word "and" would not work in its stead.

Nota Bene: One more week to weigh in on what my next project will be! 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Vacation planning

Honestly, my brain is basically mush right now. I am in a fog of grading, and a fog of mortgage paperwork, as both my semester and my home purchase are slated to conclude this week. I'm in two fogs. 

But! Nigh unto all of the brain cells I have left are currently being devoted to EXCITEMENT because I  will be going to Japan on vacation in a few weeks. 

Some brochures Chris picked up at a festival in Central Park.
Here are some of the things I am doing to prepare for the trip: 
  • reading contemporary Japanese books. Three of my favorites so far have been Kitchen, by Banana Yoshimoto, 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, and Kibo ("Brimming with Hope"): Recipes and Stories from Japan's Tohoku by Elizabeth Andoh: a cookbook of homey Japanese cooking with a lot of cultural information thrown in.
  • looking at beautiful pictures of old Japan.
  • reading about other people's packing strategies for long-ish trips.
  • practicing some basic phrases by listening to recorded language lessons. I've been using the Pimsleur lessons and they seem pretty good for learning some stock phrases such as, "Excuse me, do you understand English?" and "Where is Hibiya Avenue?" and "I am not feeling well." I also now know three different ways to say thank you, and in which context to say each. I have no delusions of actual conversational ability, though. I hope merely to convey well-intentioned politeness.

    The Pimsleur guide is weird, however, in that it consistently positions me as an American man who is addressing and sometimes answering for a Japanese woman. I have just learned how to invite the Japanese woman back to my place for a drink. Literally. Thanks, Pimsleur, for confirming that I am not your target audience.
  • doing all of the practical things (buying a Japan Rail Pass, making hotel reservations, getting copies of our passports laminated [thanks, Stella!], setting up a roaming data plan, reading guidebooks from the library, writing down where the U.S. Embassy is, etc.)
  • shopping for a smallish, flattish, leather crossbody bag that zips all the way across the top.
  • asking knowledgeable friends for advice. This is ongoing. In fact, do YOU, dear reader, have any advice for preparing for this trip? Or bag-buying advice? 
Nota Bene: You are still welcome to weigh in on next year's project!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

On the Difference Between Embarrassment and Shame

The other day, worried I was running late, I hurried to class and was disconcerted to find none of my students there. Instead, the instructor who teaches in that room before I do was still wrapping up class. I realized that even though I've been teaching on this schedule for two years now, I had AMAZINGLY forgotten what time my class began and hurried to arrive at the room fifteen minutes early. Whoops. I was embarrassed and promptly told everyone I encountered about how I was absentminded, foolish, etc.

I told everyone about this because I was embarrassed. However, if I had been fifteen minutes late to class because I forgot when it began, I'd probably be ashamed instead of embarrassed. And I certainly wouldn't have jokingly told all my colleagues about it. When I do things I am ashamed of, I don't want anyone to know about them at all. I mean, I don't even want to know about them myself. Embarrassment is funny and public; shame is heavy and private.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines shame primarily as "a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or improprietyand defines embarrassment primarily as "something that embarrasses <the scandal was a major embarrassment>." Hey, thanks, Merriam Webster! That was a big help. They define the word embarrass as "a: to place in doubt, perplexity, or difficulties b: to involve in financial difficulties c: to cause to experience a state of self-conscious distress<bawdy stories embarrassed him>" 

So, my discussion of embarrassment here isn't even the primary function of the word embarrass. And frankly, I don't think "a state of self-conscious distress" covers it. There wouldn't be an entire field of British comedy based on embarrassment if that was all there was to it. 

I'm not sure the definition for shame really covers what shame means, either. In her afterword to The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison asserts that for rapists, rape has "or once had" a "glamour of shame."* It was that phrase that made me think about this difference. I have never felt glamourous when I have been ashamed of myself; that might be nice. Glamour can be comforting, after all.

I guess I am still figuring out the nuanced differences in how I think about these emotional states. Embarrassing things are funny. Shameful things are not. Perhaps embarrassment is caused when I make mistakes that don't hurt anything; shame is caused when I make mistakes that do.

  • I am interested in how others think of these terms - do you use them interchangeably? Differently, but not how I do? 

Nota Bene: You are still welcome to weigh in on next year's project!

*Citation TK - my book is at school and I am at home.