Thursday, August 29, 2002

Nothing to say

I've been sitting with the Blogger template open on my screen for the past 45 minutes while eating my lunch, trying to figure out what to write. But I'm coming up with nothing. I finished the Literary LA book (see below). Tuesday, I spent 10 + hours on my editing project and handed it off to someone else yesterday (big sigh of relief, for the time being). Today is another tasky/busy day at work. Tomorrow is orientation at school, and I have a small presentation to give to the new students. I am reminded that I am now starting my 5th (!!) year of Ph.D. studies and need to get a move on!

I got some pictures back from my trip to Washington, but I can't post them online at the moment because I don't have the claim number info. with me.

So, that's all the boring non-news for now.

Monday, August 26, 2002

Coffehouse LA

Last night I sought refuge in the air-conditioned local branch of Vroman's Bookstore. In the "Essays" section, I came across this book: Literary LA: Expanded from the Original Classic & Featuring the Coffeehouse Scene Then and Now. It's a collection of columns written for the former Herald-Examiner by Lionel Rolfe about bohemian writers with Los Angeles connections, e.g., Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), Aldous Huxley, Jack London, Charles Bukowski. It is a fascinating description of 1960s culture, in particular, that percolated in LA coffeehouses and independent bookstores.

My other purchase was the Fall '02 edition of Vogue Knitting magazine.
It is the 20th anniversary issue of the re-publication of the magazine—a flashback experience for me because I bought (and still have) the premier issue from Fall 1982 when I was in high school.

So I'm dreaming of opening a counter-culture coffeehouse/bookstore/knitting shop and forgetting the corporate and academic worlds....Not really, but it's a fun idea to play with.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Clingy cats

Last night my big cat, Leo, would not let me sleep. He kept trying to climb onto the bed without my noticing it. Usually he sleeps outside the bedroom guarding the window (and his food supply) from marauding neighborhood cats, but last night he wanted to be within touching distance. The little one was content to curl up next to the bed. I finally put Leo out in the hall and closed the bedroom door but did not latch it shut; he pushed it open and came back in. However, he stopped getting onto the bed. Then I almost stepped on Leo when I got out of the shower this morning. While I was getting ready for work, he jumped up on the edge of the tub trying to rub against me as I was putting on makeup. It feels good to be so missed!

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Back home

It feels good to be back in my own space again after a week away. There were no disgusting, decomposing morsels dragged in by the cats and the weather in So Cal has been cool, so the house doesn't feel like it's been shut up, baking. I had managed to wash the dishes, scrub the kitchen floor, and vacuum the carpet before I left, so the house feels rather tidy. The cats displayed the appropriate signs of missing me and being glad I'm back.

I had a good holiday with family and will try write a few posts about it before I get caught up in the routine of life again.

Monday, August 19, 2002

Monday, August 12, 2002


Lunchtime. I just finished a juicy homegrown (by my colleague) tomato with mozzarella cheese, except that I forgot to bring fresh basil so I had to imagine the taste. It was still pretty good, though.

This morning I edited a telemarketing script and sent it off to our legal department for their approval. The script was poorly written. For example:
Question: Are there any restrictions?

Answer: There are a few, but they really aren't that bad...!
Yesterday I played the organ and piano for services at church. The regular pianist/organist got another job, so I'm substituting until someone else is hired. It was fun, except that the back of my legs and rear end are sore from sitting on a wooden bench for almost five hours straight!

It has been VERY HOT. I don't notice the heat in the air-conditioned building at work, of course, but my house is unlivable unless I have the fan blowing directly on me (and I am lying down).

Saturday, August 10, 2002


It is a hot Saturday evening. Actually, it's cooled down a bit outside, but the house is still hot inside.

This afternoon and evening, after a long nap, I've been reading All The King's Men by Robert Penn Warren. I had bought the book years ago at Skagit Bay Books in La Conner, Washington, although what sparked me to get it I don't remember. I had forgotten I owned it until I was looking in the book boxes in the garage and came across it. Robert Penn Warren was one of the author's photographed with his typewriter in the photo essay I mentioned a few posts ago.

I'm enjoying tracking the shifts in verb tense and temporal perspective in the novel, e.g., the use of the subjunctive to narrate a past event. This observation by the narrator, Jack Burden, about his boss, Willie Stark, who taught himself law by studying after working in the fields all day, coincided with some of my (bleaker) thoughts about my situation as a student:
But maybe it had taken him too long. If something takes too long, something happens to you. You become all and only the thing you want and nothing else, for you have paid too much for it, too much in wanting and too much in waiting and too much in getting (p. 68).

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

One year today

Just quick post to observe the one-year anniversary of my website. It certainly has been a fun distraction from studies, and I've enjoyed corresponding with some interesting online friends. Eventually I'd like to develop the site a bit more, but for now I'll just stick to the basics.


Saturday, August 03, 2002

Pray the news

I was struck by this front page article in today's LA Times about a group of Carmelite nuns whose vocation is to "pray the news." They've developed a website on which they post their thoughts and prayers, as well as invite others to consider joining their order.

It's reassuring to know there are people who devote their lives to "upholding" the world by prayer; perhaps because of them some of the plans of those who plot harm don't come to pass.

One of the aspects of Lutheran liturgy I appreciate is space in the weekly written prayers for any one in the congregation to pray. Because I usually read the paper before church, if a news article is weighing on me, I have an opportunity to pray in response to what I read.

Friday, August 02, 2002


I've been considering buying a laptop computer. My desktop version works just fine even though it's now four years old. It does have some limitations, however, e.g., no USB port, so I can't hook up any of the new gadgets, including a scanner someone gave me. I also wouldn't be able to upload pictures from a digital camera, if I were to get one, without the port. (This is just as well. While it would be fun to have more of my own pictures on this site, I imagine it could turn into [yet another] distraction.)

So yesterday I exercised the few vested options I have of my company's stock, which has been doing quite well recently. So I have the funds. But now I have to figure out if I really want/need a laptop and, if so, the daunting question: which one to get....My two primary reasons for considering the laptop are so I can 1) have a more up-to-date machine and 2) be able to be mobile with my computing, especially when it gets hot in my house or when I just need to get out. There are two libraries I can use that are close by, one within easy walking distance.

Well, this morning started in extreme frustration. Today I was going to devote yet another long day to my professor's fast-becoming nemesis ms. On Wednesday when I drove out to school to work on it in splendid air-conditioned isolation, two of the files wouldn't open from the floppy disk. So I (thought I) recopied them onto another disk this morning and drove out to school only to find I had labeled the disk but not actually copied the two files onto it. Not a total disaster—there is plenty else I could have worked on. But my brain shut down and refused to cooperate in any problem solving activities, so I turned around and drove back home.

I've also been considering moving a small desk into my bedroom for non-school related desk tasks, such as sewing or writing letters. I've looked at a couple possibilities, e.g., a long, narrow card table from Target ($28.99); a small side desk from Target ($48.99 on sale this week). I like the card table idea, especially for sewing, but I also have a narrow, metal, 10-drawer stationery cabinet I was given from the estate of a church member who died last year that I would want to fit under the card table because the card table is so long. However, the cabinet is a bit too high to fit under it.

So I ventured down to the "elite" Salvation Army store, which sells some of the nicer things donated to the Salvation Army, looking for a desk possibility. (It's where I found my German manual coffee grinder a few years back.) I didn't find any suitable desks, but I did find an old manual Smith-Corona typewriter. It looked in pretty good condition, and I asked for a piece of paper to try it out. Flashback! My mother had a very good manual typewriter (I don't remember the brand) she used when we lived in Zambia. I learned to type on it, and the tactile memory of how those typewriters were constructed and how they worked came right back—all the levers to adjust the paper, margins, etc. The ribbon wasn't placed in correctly, but I was able to figure it out and fix it. It even has the same kind of carrying case I remember from which you can unhinge the lid in order to type freely.

Someone had removed the price tag, so I asked the clerk what the price was—$17.50. The typewriter is in such good condition and such a beautiful (if that's the right word) specimen of a well-constructed, solid metal mechanical object. Even the ribbon is still very dark. It was worth the purchase just for the object itself, regardless of its usefulness.

Then I got home and started typing. What fun! First, there is no exclamation mark key. One types a single quote ' then backspaces and types a full stop . under it. A few keys, e.g., the single quote!, are in different places on the keyboard, which is strange and leads to many errors, especially if one uses contractions a lot. Then one can't type nearly as quickly as on a computer keyboard because the strikers (I don't know their technical name) get stuck. (I guess that's why typewriter manufacturers came up with the QWERTY keyboard in an attempt to slow typists down.) My accuracy on a typewriter is abominable after being spoiled by how easy it is to correct errors on a computer.

Anyway, I'm not sure how often or for what sort of writing I'm going to use my manual typewriter. (It would fulfill the mobility function of a laptop, to a certain extent, except that it's much heavier and would not be tolerated in a library!) It brings images to mind of novelists or war journalists with mussed up hair and ashtrays overflowing with cigarette butts next to their Underwoods as they pound out their masterpieces. In fact, a few years ago I had cut out a photo article from the (sadly no longer in print) magazine of the Library of Congress, Civilization, called "The Literary Life." [A book was published later, also no longer in print, called The Writer's Desk.] The photos showed well-known writers at their desks (or wherever they wrote), many of whom used typewriters. The black-and-white photos were taken primarily in the 1970s, so I'm sure many writers use computers now instead. But there's still this mystique about manual typewriters and, like me, not a little nostalgia (although I am NOT volunteering to write my dissertation, with footnotes, on a manual typewriter. No, no, no!)

I wonder, too, if not being able to type as fast affects writing by allowing one to be a bit more reflective, not to mention the aural and physical dimensions of using a manual typewriter.

I wonder, too, if I've been reading too much of the catalogue copy from that retailer of nostalgia, The Vermont Country Store. They sell a manual typewriter, an Olivetti, for $199:
Honest-To-Goodness Manual Typewriter

Manual Olivetti moves at a pace that allows time to compose your thoughts. Full-sized keyboard, sliding margin controls, three line-spacing selections and touch controls, ribbon positions for black, red, or stencil. Steel-case machine is built like a tank, with no electronic parts to fail or malfunction. Heavy-gauge vinyl carrying case. Color is gray. 13 ½"x12"x3 ½"; weighs 12 lbs.

Finally, a quote from the caption under Robert Penn Warren's photo:
The hard thing, the objective thing, has to be done before the book is written....If the work is done the dream will come to the [person] who's ready for that particular dream; it's not going to come just from dreaming in general.
Hard words for someone who does far too much "dreaming in general."