Fourth Wall

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Sweet Surrender

Man, I haven't listened to Sara McLachlan since, what? 10th Grade?

Today had two themes: chocolate and claustrophobia. Dad and I went to the Asian Art Museum to see their special exhibit, Tibet: Treasures from the Roof of the World. We were overwhelmed by the complexities of Tibetan Buddhism and underwhelmed by the quality of the explanatory material. There was lots of (rather dull) information about individual pieces, but very little that allowed one to synthesize the information into a coherent whole. The museum was also very full, and the (very bad) docent from whom we could not escape reinforced my determination to volunteer as a docent at the Oriental Institute.

I received a nice letter from Susan Art, Dean of Students today, which has me several leagues over the moon, considering my first-year GPA of something like 2.4.

This evening we went to North Beach for dinner at Brandy Ho's, our favorite Hunan restaurant. Tourist season, Saturday night, and the North Beach Jazz Festival combined to create a particularly frustrating type of pedestrian congestion. Mom and I bought books at City Lights, and then we went for Gelato. I've been so bad on my diet recently. Just a minute ago I was eating chocolate Pocky... I won't even tell you how many points they are. Maybe it won't count that way. I've lost about five pounds, though, so... that's a start towards dumping the dining-hall weight.

Last time I went to City Lights, I bought A Middle English Reader and Vocabulary, by Sisam and Tolkien. The time before, I requested Machiavelli's The Art of War. This time? An Abridged Samuel Johnson's Dictionary and LeGuin's Steering the Craft, a book of writing exercises. While I agree with Tom that many of LeGuin's theories of gender are a bit off the wall, I love the way she writes about writing. They didn't have the book of hers that I wanted (The Language of the Night), so I bought this one instead. This type of logic may be why my bank account is in the state it's in.

Tomorrow, for a change of pace, I am joining some of the Opus Dei ladies for a free concert at Stern Grove. I haven't been in Stern Grove since my Graduation, so it will be nice to see the result of the... you don't exactly "renovate" an outdoor theater, do you?

Speaking of Opus Dei: one of the reasons I fear for humanity is that someone has written a Dashboard Widget that counts down the days until the release of the DaVinci Code movie.

In other news, my computer is back and better than ever. I decided that there was no better time to upgrade to OS X 10.4, and I am very happy with the changes. As none of you want to listen to me mourn for my lost Agriculture Bookmarks, I shall instead provide you with a brief account of what I am doing with my computer these days.

Adium My favorite chat program. It's a duck. It's free. It works for most any chat account. I do think that Adium X has a few too many bells and whistles, but that's just me.

Quicksilver Also free, and an excellent way to make OS X do what you want it to do, quickly and efficiently. I can't describe it as well as Merlin at 43 folders, so I won't try. Go read what he has to say (look for "Quicksilver" in the archives).

CopyWrite Billed as "Project Management for Writers", it seems to be an intuitive, practical way for writers like me, who always have more pages of background planning than actual writing, to manage their creativity. Not free, but the "Full Screen" option itself makes it worth the $30.00 for those of us trying to take down our Writer's Block, and it is much, much, much cheaper than the comparable Ulysses, which costs 100 euros. I'm moving from the demo version as soon as I get my next paycheck.

NetNewsWire A program for downloading and managing RSS and Atom feeds. An easy way to get news and see if one's favorite bloggers have updated recently. I know that they have Safari RSS now, but this is much more intuitive, at least to my brain. I like checking the news this way, but I'm giving it the month to decide if it is worth buying.

ecto The client with which I am writing this post. I got sick of accidentally closing my Safari window and losing long posts (like this one). I get nineteen more days to decide if I want to buy it, and I'm still undecided. It's useful, but I don't know how useful.

TinkerTool Free, but mostly useless for people like me. A program that lets you get to some extra options in OS X. If I get really good with Quicksilver, I suppose I can use it to get rid of the Dock, but that's about it. And I mean, I already use a Dvorak keyboard layout. I can't think of any people I know who would be able to use my computer if I got rid of the Dock.

Extra bonus program! I love iTunes with podcasts. My current favorite is sparkletack, a collection of "musings" on San Francisco culture. The current musing is on the Mission Burrito, a food that is particularly anathema to the Weight Watchers program, but... they are so very good. The University of Chicago and UC Berkeley both have their own podcasts, as well. The death of my hard drive interrupted further investigation (I would particularly like to try some of the Catholic podcasts), so expect more recommendations in the future.

I got your letter, Vanessa, and owe you a response. However, as I managed to write an entire three-page letter to Margaret and completely leave out the main point of the letter, I wouldn't have any high expectations.

Currently listening to: Ian's "Better than Homework" mix, aka "Bad Wifeing Music"

Wifeing? Wifing? Wiphing? I'm going to bed.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

My Summer Job

I've been working with Excel a great deal recently, as designing charts for reports is a major part of my work. This wouldn't be so bad if it didn't give me intense memories of seventh grade computer science and Mr. Stuart stentoriously announcing that we would be glad to know about spreadsheets one day-- he knew about spreadsheets and had used that knowledge for his summer jobs, and had "never had to flip a burger" in his life.

Well, I'm not flipping burgers. Memories of Mr. Stuart promptly lead to memories of Mr. Stuart's punishments-- generally, banishment from the room to sit at the picnic table outside. "Go sit on the pine!" he would shout, until one day some smart-ass (either Matt H.A. or Eric) shouted back, "This isn't pine! this is Plywood!" -- a statement that said it all about a school in which, as Eddie joked, the history books were so old they contained the sentence, "Someday, man will walk on the moon."

I think he was joking.

While we're on the subject of work, however, can we talk about bad writing? I have had E.B. White on the brain as I fill Excel cells with sentence fragments like "creation of new work through collaborative projects between artists and organizations".

E.B. White once wrote,
On a fetid afternoon like this, when all the nobility goes out of a writer and parts of speech lie scattered around the room among cigarette butts and crushed paper cups, we envy the gossip columnists their lot. We particularly envy them their ability to earn a living by talking in participles. You have, of course, observed this phenomenon of the American press-- the sentence with no verb. From a literary standpoint it is the invention of the century, for it enables the writer to sound as though he were saying something without actually saying it. Thus: "Mrs. Oral Ferrous on the Starlight Roof, chatting with Count de Guiche."

Or, as the world of philanthrophy would have it, "individual artists whose work demonstrates innovation in form and/or

White, however, found a solution. He wrote,
It is perhaps only fair to columnists and to the subjects of their stillborn sentences to confess that, a year or more ago, when we discovered that unfinished sentences were having a bad effect on our nerves, we took to completing all sentences under our breath—using a standard predicate. We found that the predicate "ought to be in bed" served well enough, and that is the one we still use.

"Visual Artists with a mature body of work over two or more decades ought to be in bed." Try it.

(The above citations are from "No Verbs", in E.B. White, Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976, ed. Rebecca M. Dale; Harper Perennial, New York, 1991; p.18 -- A highly recommended book.)

Monday, July 25, 2005

I have the distressing feeling...

... that I'm going to be late for work.

Which wouldn't be so bad, if work involved anyone more than Maggie and me today, and a key part of my responsibility was not to prevent Maggie from pooping on the rug.

(Maggie is a Lhasa Apso.)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

In the Manner of Lewis Carroll...

I mark this day with a white stone.

(That means it was a really good day).

In other news, E.B. White wrote, "Usually, when a man quits writing in his journal, it is either because things are happening to him that he doesn't want to commit to paper or because he has lost interest in life." My lack of posts does not reflect either of these events-- rather, my hard drive has gone ppth, and so I am left without a computer for 7-10 business days. Therefore, no blogging (this is from my mother's computer).

Friday, July 15, 2005

I'm an Aunt!

Well, a Second Cousin removed. Jennie's baby is a healthy seven pounds, and yes, the Phillips tradition continues: it's a girl!

Eight girls in a row since 1951.

Penelope Elizabeth, born July 14th, 2005 (Bastille Day!)

It was a natural birth, with a 4.5 hour labor. Thank you for your prayers.

I should have asked if they are spelling Elizabeth with a "z" or an "s".

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Monday Observation

It appears that St. Mary's Center for the Aged has given up on protecting their window box flowers from those who would pick them.

Instead, they have planted cacti.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Note(s) from the Web

In my day, I have made many jokes about the International Woman's Listhost... a world-wide network where women exchange information about how to confuse, torment, and control the opposite sex... and about its potential for warning women off of guys who are cruel, thoughtless, or who just have really bad ideas about baby names (Holofernes, anyone)?

Little did I know it could actually exist. I present you with: Great Boyfriends: Where Every Guy Comes With a Girl's Stamp of Approval". I can't provide you with any more in-depth thoughts, I'm afraid: I didn't want to sign up. I will say that it's too bad that this guy is a decade too old and a smoker: otherwise he'd be the perfect back-up plan if I get dumped this Sunday (don't ask). He's even Catholic!

In other news, as I catch up on blogs, it appears that Mr. Thompson becomes a velociraptor whilst giving presentations. Ian is AWOL, Heavens and Vanessa have each moved to their respective coasts, and online quizzes confirm that Fr. Keyes is, in fact, a Catholic. Patrick returns from his L. family reunion tonight, after this morning's baptism of his newest (and quite adorable) cousin, Mary Rose. You can read all about it in my new, snazzy, updated links, to your, right.

I'm trying this Weight Watchers Online thing again, and Mom and I are making taking Pilates a priority. With any luck and determination, I should be able to dump this freshman 15... and if I'm really lucky, also shed the ten pounds I got when I quit dancing Sophomore year...although I'd settle for losing the 15, and turning the rest of it into muscle weight. It's hard, because I hated my body even when I weighed 120...but you have to stop somewhere. If I have wide hips, I have wide hips. I'll be thankful for them someday. Goal: to fit into my favorite skirt again. And my Sophomore-year prom dress.

(In slightly related news, my pregnant cousin Jenny (due in two weeks) has announced, on the aquarium theory, that she is buying no more bras...she's decided that it's like a fishtank:the larger it is, the more they'll grow to take it up. Her baby hasn't turned yet, so they've scheduled a C-section, just in case. Pray for her.)