Monday, July 30, 2007

The Boy Who Lived (No Spoilers)

I was a little late joining the Harry Potter party. When the first book came out in the US in September of 1998, I was a senior in high school. I don't even remember hearing about Harry Potter much at all until college, when my education-major roommate decided to read the first book to see what all the hype was about. When the first movie came out in 2001, I went to see it with my mom and sister, and found it interesting enough to ask for the first three books for Christmas. It was all over after that, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was never unseated as my favorite book of the series.

I've never been an overzealous fan of the series, never spent any time on Harry Potter forums or written any fanfiction or spent hours dissecting every last plot point, speculating how the whole thing would end. I was content to read and re-read, quietly contemplate, and then wait happily for the next book to come out. I never pre-ordered the books, or even bought any in hardcover, since I like my sets of books to match, and had received paperback copies of the first three.

That said, I really enjoyed the midnight release party for book 7 that I attended with Evilducky, the bibliophile, and Danger. It felt like a rock concert for book nerds, and it was fabulous. From the little bitty kids dressed as witches and wizards--some so young I wondered if they are ready for the darker stuff that happens in the later books--to the white-haired clerk who dressed up as the lady from the Gryffindor Tower portrait, to the 40-something woman in witch robes with a Hedwig puppet, for the brief time we were together, I loved them all. Hundreds of people, packing a bookstore and staying up to a ridiculous hour, standing in line for 30 minutes for a cup of coffee or a cookie, running around doing HP-themed scavenger hunts...all of them were there because they love a series of books enough to spend a Friday night being complete geeks.

I love that I had a chance to witness and to some extent participate in a cultural phenomenon that involves reading. Usually it's bad pop music or weird fashion trends or reality TV that gets people all wound up, so to see the same fervor directed toward books was very cool. I love the idea that a kid might see one of the movies and then be elated to discover that there is a denser and even more magical version of Harry's world to be experienced through the books. There's something very encouraging a series that appeals to such a broad range of people. Nerdy bookish kids, popular kids, parents, grandparents, college students, twenty-somethings--just about every demographic seems to have embraced some degree of Harry Potter fandom.

There really is some magic in it after all, I think. Probably my favorite element of the entire Harry Potter thing is the way that it introduces a shot of imagination and "what if" into the world. Just like lots of kids spent several years opening wardrobes and closets, hoping to get into Narnia, just like I always wished for a Terabithia of my own (without the dying at the end of the story), I have a feeling a lot of kids will spend some magical hours daydreaming about receiving their first letter from Hogwarts, about meeting Hagrid and riding on the Hogwarts Express, about going to Transfiguration lessons and Quidditch practice instead of math class and PE. It's been a long and enjoyable journey, and though I'm a little sad that it's basically over (though two more forthcoming movies do ease the sting a bit), I'm grateful that I was in the right place at the right time to participate, and I'm looking forward to re-reading the entire series from beginning to end. And secretly, I think I'll always hope that someday I'll run into Professor McGonagall...or at least a tabby cat with spectacle markings around her eyes.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


I finally got around to compiling a list of all the books I've read so far this year (that I can remember, anyway), and then I did one for 2006. They're over on the book blog if anyone is interested.

Of course, doing this meant yet another day has gone by without posting anything of substance, and without talking about Harry Potter. Better luck tomorrow, I guess.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Learning Curve

At 11:15, I sat down to work on a new fiction piece I've been neglecting. By 12:45, I had put away the clean dishes, sliced the fresh fruit that I'd been ignoring all week, sorted and started the laundry, fed the cat, and cleaned out the cereal cabinet. The only thing I didn't do was add any new words to the story.

Then it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn't taken my pills this morning. I've been taking some form of Ritalin or another since age 12 for my ADHD. Fourteen years seems like long enough for me to question my medication status first, instead of last, on days when my concentration is absolute shit. Ha! Think again, ADD girl!

Photo Friday

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Mr. Kitters and the Deathly Hallows

"I flipped to the end while you were in the bathroom. Before you demand that I
give your spot back, I figure you gotta ask yourself if it's worth it..."

(I finished it. I liked it. I'm hoping to have time to write about it tomorrow.)

Mr. Kitters is going in to the vet's to get his teeth cleaned tomorrow, so his food dish has been taken away. Who wants to place bets on how long it takes before he is yowling / kvetching / tearing the house apart in protest / gnawing on my arm while I sleep?

(Also, I'm sort of nervous about him going under the anesthesia tomorrow, even though his pre-procedure bloodwork came back just fine, so good thoughts / crossed fingers would be appreciated. Worrywart, thy name is velocibadgergirl.)

(Furthermore, we're throwing down an extra $5 for the vet techs to brush out his fur while he's under. I'm predicting he'll come home two pounds lighter. Any takers?)

(Last parenthetical, I promise:  as I was typing this, he jumped up on the counter and started wailing piteously at the cabinet where the treats are kept. It's going to be a long night...his choppers had better come back looking pearly white for all the trouble.)

UPDATED 7/26/07 at 1:50 PM

He's home, a little bit bleary-eyed and trying to decide if he's mad at me, but otherwise fine.

In an adorable and yet utterly bizarre twist, the techs apparently take before & after photos of their dental patients (I guess so the pet parents have proof of results after laying out $125). I was given this photograph when I picked him up:

There's something really incongruous about those huge-ass fangs hanging out in the same frame as that cute pink nose. If I'd known they were planning to take pictures, I'd have given them a little party hat and a tiny coconut bra to put on him once he was unconscious.

Monday, July 23, 2007

To the celestial, and my soul's idol, the most beautified Ophelia

MB's parents visited on Saturday to celebrate his mom's birthday, and one of the things she wanted to do was visit the zoo. We saw pretty flowers:

lots of peacocks:

a sneaky sitatunga antelope:

some craggy tortoises:

a wallaby and a very...erm...manly red kangaroo:

and quite a few other animals. It was a really cool day for July, and even the lions and tigers were napping out in the open.

My favorite animal of the day, however, was Ophelia, the prehensile-tailed Brazilian porcupine. We went to a "meet the animals" program in the children's area, and she was one of the ambassador animals.

We got to pet her after the program, since the quills are only dangerous if they're raised or if you run your hand against the hairs. Her quills felt like plastic soda straws. Ophelia may be one of the most adorable animals I've ever seen.

We met up with Ophelia and her keeper again a little while later in the bird building, and I got to pet her a second time. She propped her front paws up on my hand so she could stretch out and up toward a treat, and then I got to feed her a piece of walnut. Sometimes it really is the little things that make life amazing.

Reading:  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


Saturday, July 21, 2007

This may be the weirdest effing thing I've ever seen:

These are 1,500 prisoners from the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in Cebu, Philippines practicing Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

Snitched from here, via Jenn.

And it reminds me of one of my favorite scenes from 13 Going on 30. (Go ahead and laugh all you want, but I have the biggest dorkiest girlcrush on Jennifer Garner, so I'm not ashamed):

Friday, July 20, 2007

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Just another geeky Monday

On Monday, we had our annual staff retreat at work. I guess they're supposed to be bonding experiences for us, and I suppose they are, but the best part is getting paid to go do really geeky stuff. Last year, we got to take behind-the-scenes tours at two libraries. This year, we went to two historic resorts, the French Lick Springs Resort and the West Baden Springs Hotel. Before you start giggling, "French Lick" is not as dirty as it sounds:

This valley has long been an attraction because of the many mineral water springs found here. The free-flowing mineral water left a residue of salt on the rocks surrounding the springs that attracted the animals, such as deer and buffalo, to lick the salt off the rocks, making this one of the many "Licks" in what is now southern Indiana. Most historians agree that there were probably French fur traders and French missionaries in this area during the time we were part of "New France."

We went to French Lick first, and while we were waiting for our tour guide, I saw these in the gift shop:

And to think...I used to be too embarrassed to photograph ridiculous items in stores. Now I have no shame, because it's For The Blog!

They didn't have Shakespeare or Poe. I looked very carefully, because they would've made great back-to-school gifts for Teacher Incognito. Alas!

Then our tour guide arrived, so it was time to get our collective geek on.

The French Lick Hotel was built around 1897, after the original Windsor hotel (built around 1845) burned down.

The hotel only closed for one year during recent renovations, and otherwise has been an operating hotel since the beginning. The outside of the building (which I didn't get a picture of, unfortunately) and the lobby have been restored to their original condition. There's 5000 square feet of gold leaf in the lobby alone.

(photo from the official website)

The "marble" in the lobby is actually scagliola, a faux marble plastering technique. During renovations, the columns were stripped of multiple layers of paint an inch thick, and then had to be restored. I think our guide said only three people in the United States know how to create scagliola (maybe it was ten), and two of them worked for the restoration company that had been contracted to help restore the hotel. This stuff is pretty cool--I have a geology degree and I didn't even look twice at the "marble" columns and wainscoting.

The original mosaic floor was dug out from under black and white linoleum and carpet:

Here's a restored original painting on the ceiling of Orpheus and Eurydice:

The owner of the hotel during its heyday was a powerful member of the Democratic party, and the French Lick Springs Hotel became the unofficial headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. In 1931, FDR was at French Lick when he first began to rally the support that would later carry him on to claim the Presidential nomination.

People used to come from miles around (I've heard from as far away as the East Coast) to drink the "healing" waters of the natural mineral springs. At the height of its popularity, fourteen trains ran to the hotel every day. Water from the mineral springs--especially the Pluto Spring--was reputed to cure a whole host of maladies. The water has a high sulfur content (and man, the spring we went to smelled horrible), and also, it turns out, contains small amounts of lithium. As our tour guide pointed out, no matter what disease you had, if you drank enough Pluto water, you probably weren't all that upset about it anymore. Standing downwind of the Pluto Spring was decidedly unpleasant.

Yep, sulfur water is a laxative. Fortunately for everyone, now that lithium is a controlled substance, no one is permitted to drink the spring water. You can still take mineral baths in the fancy-schmancy spa, though...I wonder if the baths reek of rotten eggs?

This is in the super cool Power Plant Bar in the hotel basement, next to the buffet where we ate lunch. The switches are from a power plant building on the property that was demolished. When the current owners went to the plant, the switches were still drawing power, even though the plant hadn't been in use for 40 years. I sort of wonder how that never showed up on a power bill.

After lunch, we took a shuttle over to the West Baden Springs Hotel (or HO-tel, as our adorable little old lady tour guide pronounced it). I actually liked West Baden Springs better than French Lick. It has definitely retained more of the old-school resort feel. The grounds are beautiful, and the hotel feels old. At French Lick, the lobby was gorgeous, but walking through the halls, it just felt like a nice hotel, not a particularly old one. At West Baden, I could easily imagine the way the place had been back in the old days, and could almost see the ladies in long dresses wandering around or known guest Al Capone rolling in for some illcit gambling.

West Baden Springs didn't have quite as much luck as French Lick as far as surviving the years intact. It was built in 1901, and was only an operating hotel until the Great Depression led to its closure in 1932. In 1934, the hotel was sold to the Jesuits for $1. Now, I'm pretty fond of the Jesuit order, but I'm quite cross over the fact that they poured concrete down the property's four springs, which remain sealed to this day. The Jesuits sold the property in 1964, and it was a private college until 1983, when was abandoned and fell into disrepair.

Luckily, a lot of the exterior features survived and were able to be restored.

By the time restoration of the hotel began in earnest, only the 200-foot-diameter central dome was salvageable. The building had been constructed in three rings--an inner ring of rooms facing into the atrium, a hallway, and an outer ring of rooms facing the grounds. The outer ring's exterior wall had collapsed in places, and everything outside of the domed atrium had to be gutted and rebuilt.

Each of the steel support structures inside the dome weighs 3 tons. The tour guide said that the architects figured the dome would've lasted forever, even without renovation. All the canvas on the dome was cleaned and restored, and the decorated drum at the top is original.

The inner ring of rooms, facing into the lobby.

The gnome is Sprudel, the "patron" of the resort.

one of the original windows the Jesuits added to the library

In the back of the hotel's restaurant, there's a chef's room. You can reserve it for $1500 for dinner for ten. The Swarovski crystal lamps are pretty nice, but the glass wall behind the table is by far the most bad-ass part, going from frosted to clear with the flip of a switch:

Oh, and the table is set with fifteen thousand dollar Versace china. Yowza.

I really loved the grounds of West Baden Springs. I could totally dig a relaxing weekend roaming around this place.

the Apollo spring, sealed now

this was a billiards hall and bowling alley

in one of the other sealed springs, which the Jesuits used as a chapel

This used to be a fountain in the center of the lobby, but was moved outside
and converted to a flower bed before the hotel closed.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a work day.

Reading:  Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Playing:  Howl by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Would you like to take a survey?

Remember when these surveys were the coolest thing since sliced bread? I'm pretty sure I got one emailed to me at least once a week in college. I stole this one from my friend Dawnabon's MySpace page. Thanks, chica!

For old times' sake:

1. Were you smiling when you woke up this morning?
I don't remember...probably not, because it was very early.

2. When was the last time you met someone new?
I meet people all the time at work, but I don't know if that counts since I probably won't ever see most of them again.

3. What is irritating you right now?
The fact that I'm very tired and had to resort to posting a cheesy survey instead of the cool entry I wanted to write.

4. When did you last eat pizza?
We had DiGiorno tonight.

5. Who is the last person you held hands with?
MB, I would think.

6. Do you have any famous friends?
Not really.

7. What's the furthest you've gone in the past 3 days?
Weird question...I rode in a van for an hour and a half each way on Monday for a trip for work.

8. Last words you heard spoken?
MB saying goodnight.

9. Have you ever kissed anyone named Mike?

10. Besides your bed, what is your favorite thing in your room?
My green dresser. MB hates it but I LOVE it.

11. Do you enjoy piercings and tattoos?
I'm pretty fond of my piercings, and I enjoy MB's tattoo.

12. Who is in the room with you?
I'm all alone :(

13. What are you wearing on your feet?
nothing at all

14. What is/are your favorite pair of shoes?
I'm pretty fond of my flipflops.

15. Who was the last person you told you loved them?

16. What was the last thing you ate?
a bowl of Lucky Charms

17. What were you doing before this?
Failing to write a better blog entry.

18. What's the closest item near you that is blue?
my shirt

19. What instant messaging service do you use?
Trillian and Gmail chat

20. What is your favorite website?
Wow, that's a hard one. I really don't know. My current favorite timewasting website is the lolcats.

21. What's the most abnormal thing you've done in the past 4 days?
I went on a night hike yesterday. Does that count?

22. What do you wear more, jeans or sweatpants?
I look awful in sweatpants, so I refuse to own a pair.

23. What is the last movie you watched?
Live Free or Die Hard. Believe it or not, it was awesome.

24. What do you currently hear right now?
the humming of the computer, and crickets singing outside

25. When did you last buy a pair of pants?
Hmmm...a few months ago at Target, I think

26. When did you last take a picture with someone?
It's been awhile.

27. Where's your favorite place to be?

28. Where did you sleep last?
in my bed

29. Where do you shop the most?
Target, I guess. Well, the grocery store, but that doesn't count as real shopping, does it?

30. Where did you get the shirt you're wearing?
One of the girls at work gave it to me when her bookstore shut down. It has a cat on it who is reading a book.

31. Coach Purse or NFL game tickets?
NFL tickets.

32. Why did you kiss the last person you kissed?
Cuz kissing MB = good thing to do

33. Are you happy with where you are?
In life? Sure.

34. Would you ever take someone back if they cheated on you?

35. Missing someone right now?
I haven't seen my sister for more than half an hour since she left for field school, so that's sort of a bummer. However! Mom and I are going to visit her this Sunday :D

36. Do you want someone you can't have?

37. Would you consider getting engaged or married right now?
That's illegal in the US, I think.

38. Describe your dream car.
My brain says "Prius," but my heart says "1970s Camaro."

39. Describe the background on your cell phone
It's actually blank. I don't have a desktop / background thingie on there.

40. Describe your pillow case.
This week I've got the purple one, to go with the purple sheets.

41. Describe your eyes.
blue and very nearsighted

42. Describe your piercings and/or tattoos.
Three silver hoops in the left ear, three silver hoops and a silver star in the right, and a super secret piercing that you can't see. (Okay, it's not all that secret. But you still can't see it.)

43. Describe what you're wearing.
Blue T-shirt with a book-reading, glasses-wearing cat on the front and Pink Floyd PJ pants (The best PJ pants EVER. Thanks, apathetic one.)

44. Do you like candles?
Love them!

45. Do you believe in soul mates?
I do, actually.

46. Do you sleep naked?
Wouldn't you like to know!

47. Do you burn easily in the sun?
Lord, yes. I am whiter than white.

48. Do you speak another language other than English?
I have maybe 50 words left of Spanish, and I can say "I'm stupid" in Norwegian and "Hello, your grapefruit ate my traveler's checks" in French.

49. What's something you wish you could understand better?

50. What did you do last weekend?
I worked. Isn't my life just one big party?

51. Who were the last people you went out to dinner with?
MB--we went out for Szechwan a few nights ago.

52. Are you a good cook?
The things I cook are decent, but I can only cook three things.

53. Do you believe in love?
Well, of course.

I'm not going to tag anyone, because that would be cruel. Please feel free to steal, however, and leave me a link if you fill one out so I can come stalk learn more about you!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Internet, How Do I Love Thee? (Volume 2)

There is so much weird shit on the internet, you guys. SO MUCH. It is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Several of these links were sent to me by weird shit finder extraordinaire, basscomm.

( 1 )  lolcats:

Resistance is futile. Seriously. Usually when I type LOL, I just mean, "Heh, that was clever." When I tell you that these cat pictures and their ridiculous captions made me laugh out loud, please understand that I was actually laughing my ass off, out loud.

The revolution is beginning. I Can Has Cheezburger has been reviewed in Time Magazine (These home-made cartoons seem to lift the veil on a truth that we all quietly suspected anyway: cats are small, childish, sentient beings, mischievous and innocent at the same time.).

( 2 )  Grad Student Knits a Ferrari:

For her Graduate Exhibition Lauren Porter presented a full scale knitted version of a Ferrari, a hairy combination of a Testa Rossa and a 355--complete with windscreen wipers, wing mirrors, low profile tyres and the famous prancing horse logo, all knitted in glorious Ferrari red (wool generously supplied by Sirdar).

( 3 )  Neuticles has merchandise:

It's weird enough that there's a company marketing prosthetic testicles for pets. I could even see wearing a Neuticles T-Shirt as a joke. But are there really people who need Neuticles barbecue aprons? Neuticles keychains? Necklaces? Gift packs?

(These guys would need the size large neuticles, I think.)

( 4 )  Fake action movie one-liners:

Great article on Slate, inspired by the fantabulous Live Free or Die Hard. And really, it's a great movie. It's utterly absurd, fully ridiculous, pretty much unbelievable, but it's awesome. MB put it best when he said, "That was the quintessential 80s / 90s action flick, but redone and ramped up." And I? I am a complete sucker for 80s / 90s action movies. Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker...

( 5 )  Wicked cool shadow art:

Tim Noble and Sue Webster, Real Life is Rubbish, 2002:  two separate piles of general household rubbish onto which a light is projected, creating a shadow self-portrait of Noble and Webster

(Link stolen from the lovely Angela at On Second Thought)

( 6 )  Also stolen from Angela:

Awesome and Angela both start with A. Coincidence? Oh, I think not.

( 7 )  FUH2:

A website dedicated to saying "fuck you" to H2s? That's pretty funny. The fact that there are 4314 photos so far? Sort of scary.

( 8 )  Big Shiny Thing:

Somehow, a search at work for something related to parasites led me to this:

Jessica Joslin's "Birds and Mammals" sculptures meld animal bones and mechanical parts to make fantastical creatures that appear unnervingly alive.

You've got to check out the artist's homepage, because this stuff is absolutely incredible.

And the first thing, it led me to this:

Rabbit 'knitted by lots of grannies' will lie on an Italian hillside for the next 20 years.

So, do you think Kitters has a chance of making it as a lolcat?