Thursday, August 31, 2006

Patrick Stewart Is Your Friend

Officially, my Spouse is the Trekkie, and I am the non-Trekkie. In reality even a Belgian gets lonesome sometimes, and some days, when I need a reprieve from the high life and my books, I watch Star Trek: The Next Generation. On Spike, a channel I otherwise despise, from 3 to 6 pm.

TNG is the only programme I seem to be able to watch on a regular basis without becoming fidgety. Why? I hear you ask. Yes, indeed, because of Patrick Stewart, the smoothest voice in the universe, the sexiest bald man in tv.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Not a review

Five years of full time education about literature and the study thereof; you’d think it would help. I just finished reading The Time Traveler’s Wife, a book recommended to me by a friend, a teenage boy she knows, and a random stranger who walked up to me on Charles Street as I waiting for the bus. It is hard to think beyond the visceral reaction I have to the book. Maybe I am glad about that; I am not sure.

The rave reviews the book gets describe it as “A soaring celebration of the victory of love over time”. Maybe all this is too personal. Maybe that is why I can’t read Time Traveler’s Wife and believe it a victory. It is a beautiful book, well-written, no, I mean beautifully crafted. It is a good story, and insofar as it is science fiction it is unobtrusive, convincing. A victory, I dare say, in writing. But not a victory of love. It makes me anxious, this book, and sad. Not right away, but gradually. The pattern is too familiar, too realistic, the big & small disappearances, the irreparable loss. How is that a victory?

We have suffered such a loss

Maybe this is why I don’t like all too intellectual literature. One should never outsmart emotion, the power for direct impact that a book has. That this book has. It is rare that I read anything that cuts so deep without leaving me feeling violated, abused. Emotion should also not be used as a literary tool, and Time Traveler’s Wife carefully abstains. What do you want me to say about it? Read, if you want. I am sure many people read it differently than I do. Tell me about it, if you want. I am going to make lunch now – I’ve deserved a break.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Under pressure

There was a period of a few months before I moved to the States and the magical land of wedlock when I kept obsessively checking relationship sites and statistics about marriage. I kept asking myself questions, kept wanting to make sure that we could beat the odds. That we'd be happy.

What did I learn? That the fact that we are in our late twenties, from the same type of background, middle class, married for the first time, white, and college educated will stand us in good stead. I'll spare you the things that work against us.

I told one of my friends, the friend, in fact, who introduced us. I think if she had been there rather than on the phone she would have beaten me with a pillow.
"Stop looking at statistics"
So I did, until now, and now only for this post.

Why? Why all this anxiety? I was never worried about marrying the right person - he so obviously is. I was just worried about the odds. I've been thinking about it and I have some ideas of why that is.

Me: I am critical, demanding and never especially expected to marry

My parents: Divorced. Yes there is a statistical correlation. Also: a lifetime of paternal cynicism about weddings.

The Universe: Too many stories about divorce, too much emotional blood and gore in public.

What should I have learnt? Maybe this - that there is no such thing as odds when human relationship is concerned, and that you never know what the next roll of the dice will be.

I'll take my chances. Life is so much better now.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Food plays a very important role in my life. I love my food, am an avowed foodsnob and I love cooking for my family and for my husband. Having said that, I am neither creative nor especially good as a cook. Cooking for company makes me nervous.

Tomorrow night I am set to cook for a colleague of the Spouse's. I am mildly apprehensive. The colleague is French, which doesn't help. The French can be so particular about food (this guy seems pretty nice though). Btw, I notice that Americans call main courses Entrees. This is completely ridiculous. Entrees, purely linguistically, are starters. Not ever main courses. I mean seriously, if you are going to import word at least remember the meaning. Anyway, so I am making dinner for the three of us. Wish me luck.

Here's a recipe that's too intimidating for me to cook. I am making something easier.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Random noise

So the Husband and I just moved sometime ago. Not far, a 5 minute drive, but a world of difference. No more filth and pests, but a nice clean little flat, decent view, 20's building, decent management, walking distance to two supermarkets and three pubs, right on a main busline, soon to be across from a Barnes & Noble.

Nice, right?

When we moved in they were finishing the building across the street, and they still are, so it was noisy, but they are pretty much done now. Only now they've opened a new building site just behind this building, and now that is being quite, quite loud, with no perpective of it ever ending. Imagine it: every morning, including weekends, the noise starts at 6 or 7 am, and lasts till about 4 or 5 pm.

Dilemma: I really don't want to move. I mean I really really do not want to move. I like this flat, I like the neighbourhood, the rent is reasonable, it is a convenient location. On top of that, I really hated moving, it was a deeply awful process. On the other hand, the question is whether I can live with this sodding noise. The evenings and night are quiet, and obviously that helps, since in the mornings it is usually a question of getting up and getting ready to go, but missing that last hour or two of sleep, or at least having it interrupted, is pretty unpleasant.

What should I do? Try to convince the Husband to move? Try better earplugs? We only moved in a month and a half ago.


Advice welcome.

On an unrelated note, the good news is that in a month and a half we will be on our (sort of) honeymoon. The bad news is that that means we need to start planning the religious wedding. Sigh. I am excited about being married, but the fussing about table arrangements and DJs just seems like the most unexciting thing in the world right now. This is not helped by our current state of indigence. Yes, of course I want to celebrate with our friends and family. Of course I want a fun, slightly odd day of unanabashed nauseating cuteness. I just don't want to organise it. The engagement party, both in terms of the awful planning phase and in terms of its success as a party, is a little too fresh in my mind.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Business controls

I just spent half an hour checking a budget at my volunteer work, and I couldn't help thinking that if only they could produce a more brightly coloured spreadsheet it would be just like being a corporate slave again. It made me smile. There were moments when I liked my slavery, you know.

Vexing vexing

One of those days when all infrastructure seems to be against you. Oh well, as the song goes, we shall overcome.

All is well now; I am fed, the Husband has made me a cup of tea, and I have a depressing movie to watch.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Just now I was looking at my blog stats and noticed that yesterday someone from Portsmouth viewed the blog. Portsmouth, New Hampshire, mind you, rather than Portsmouth, Hampshire, UK where I used to live. I want to go to Porthsmouth, New Hampshire, if only to see if it really is as much nicer than the original Portsmouth as it looks on the pictures. So whoever it was, thanks for coming to see Questing Beast. You made my day.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Working week

Well hello and good morning. Lunchtime, almost, actually, and evening for the Europeans. After a rather nice weekend the working week has kicked off again.

We (the Husband and I) went to see Snakes on A Plane* on Friday. Yeeesh, it is exactly as gory and silly as you would expect it to be, and it made me love Samuel L. Jackson. Platonically. Other than that we had a fairly lazy weekend, a weekend of odds and ends, one of trying to do some housework, of lots of cooking (new cookbook!). Someone told me yesterday to go back to school and you know what, much as I love all the miscellaneous stuff I am doing just not, I think that is not a bad idea. Not full time school, don't get me wrong, but maybe a few interesting courses...

*Stellegasie, you would really enjoy it.

Friday, August 18, 2006


My visiting friend left for lovely Virginia today, and so things are sort of back to normal. I cooked and cleaned, the former half of which was quite fun - trying new recipes and all of that housewifely stuff (which has its perks). I made some more progress on the Stack of Things To Read. In fact, I am, as Tom Lehrer says, "re-reading Lady Chatterly"; Tom got the wrong end of the stick, no doubt deliberately. The book is so much more about the brutalising effect of industrialisation than it is about sex. The sex is by far the least brutal, most human and kind thing there. Strange how people get offended about the wrong thing.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Things on Mondays

Another fun day, some volunteering, some shopping, a fair bit of cooking and eating. Uneventful, I guess, to the outside world, but pleasant enough. Tomorrow we are, finally, going up to Monticello, which we postponed earlier to go to DC.

Life is good, Baltimore is not too warm...I have more books than I could possibly read...

Yes. Not bad at all.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Lazy Sunday

The Husband is back, the friend is still here, and today has been a nice quiet day. Hmm. Nice.

Friday, August 11, 2006


One of my friends is visiting as of yesterday, so I've been out playing today, which was fun. Baltimore's Inner harbor and Lexington Market - I am thankful for that latter one especially; finally a non-middle-class-only market, and fun too. I got plants for the house from said friend, which had been one of those things I've been wanting to get but couldn't find at normal prices... So yay, successful day.

Tomorrow we're off to Monticello. American history and all. Can't say I'm not trying to fit in.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Wednesday, and I am back to volunteering, picking up some extra tasks. This makes my work a lot more interesting, and also more worklike. You know what? This work business isn't half bad, when taken in moderation.

I am reading Dorothy L. Sayers as well, though not while volunteering. The book, In the Teeth of the Evidence, is a tad mediocre, but generally speaking I love Sayers. If any of you like detectives with a bit of education, silliness and a sense of humour, try Lord Peter Wimsey. He is one of those characters who are well-nigh impossible to dislike, even long after on gets over one's fixation with Wodehouse and fairytale England*.

All of this reading does make me long, ever so faintly, for a Sunday drive through the Hampshire countryside.

*Fairytale England: iconically depicted by the poster above the blackboard in my English class, showing three young men in cricket whites lounging on an impossibly green green in front of an Oxbridge college, bearing the legend
"HAPPY is England! I could be content
To see no other verdure than its own"

It took me many years to figure out that this is a Keats quote, and rather unpatriotically followed by
"Yet do I sometimes feel a languishment
For skies Italian"

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

From nocturnal Baltimore: the conclusion of Pattern Recognition

We've just had a thunderstorm here, just at dusk. It was so pretty, and I stuck my head out the window so I could feel the rain on my face. Walking outside just now, the air has that new fresh smell, and things feel cooler.

I finished Pattern Recognition just as the thunderstorm was ending; good timing I guess. It's a lovely sleek book, like James Bond, but both smoother and more human, like Douglas Coupland, only less obvious. Yes. Both entertainment and literature. I can't remember the last time I came across anything like it.

On another note - I am not sure how it manages to be both contemporary and realistic (sort of) in content and yet so indebted to science fiction in style. I think that combination may actually be one aspect of the book's attraction. It accounts for some of the mixed feelings of familiarity and strangeness, perhaps, as Gibson's Cayce calls it, a "mirror-world"feel.

Lovely. Well-written, coherent, and oddly believable (somehow defying the laws of gravity, and steering clear of the debris of nitty gritty life on the ground). Read it.

You know where it was written? Vancouver.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The saga continues

I just sent the AoS*, a small step for immigration but a giant leap for a distressed international couple. Please all cross your fingers that they do not find fault with it/us. We've tried very hard. Other than that things have been very vexing; my bank in Hungary is yet again refusing to hand over MY money, claiming an error on my side. My wrath is great as I am absolutely utterly and positively sure that I got it right this time.

I am starting to have conspiracy nightmares, which may or may not have something to do with that bank, or with the fact that I am reading William Gibson's Pattern Recognition. Rather a good book as it happens, a thriller but not in the usual blood-and-gore sense (I am grateful). Gibson really does have a great insight into contemporary culture, and the perpetual feeling of jetlag (soullag) that haunts his protagonist is entirely appropriate to the disorientation and dislocation present in the kind of life we take as typical of this time. Gibson also really captures the faintly futuristic feel of the present, its technological unlikeliness. Yes. I like. More when I read more - I am about three fifths of the way through.

Those of you who actually like blogs may enjoy Gibson's - it's strange but apt.

* The AoS or Adjustment of Status is basically an application for a green card, and takes forever to process.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Spousal benefits

There are many practical benefits to being married to the Husband. Health insurance. Someone to carry heavy luggage. Company for dinner. A Thinkpad* you can use. All of that good stuff. My new, favourite, however, is, my library card. I am not kidding. Since this morning and for the first time in four years I now have access to a top notch research library.

I wonder if I'll do anything with it.

*leftover affection from corporate slavery. oh I so loved my work laptop.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I dipped my feet into Lake Michigan. It is hard not to do so when you are standing out on the mini-beach near the Adler planetarium on a scorching hot day. The water is pretty polluted but the lake is beautiful.

Today I am back in Baltimore, back to volunteering, and tired. Still, some of the practical stuff is looking doable today.

It is still scorching hot here, as it was in Chicago, Chicage where I very stupidly missed seeing some friends who were in town. Bleh. Still, a lovely weekend.