Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name.

Although I've been attending talks and lunches since I arrived, today was my first economics department event involving mingling. It was a barbeque on a lovely, lovely day. I split a ginormous burger with a woman I'd seen in most of the seminars. (Can you tell I'm thinking about going vegan? I knew this guy once who claimed he was a freegan. He ate no animal flesh or dairy products unless someone else had paid for it.) Anyhow, the woman who ate the other half of the dead cow. She seemed welcoming and not at all disturbed by having no idea what she'd be starting writing over the summer. Met an even friendlier woman from the South who promised to go hiking this summer and watch basketball this winter with me. Met guys, also, although those conversations seemed less grounded somehow. All of the first and second year students were giddy with relief at finishing their oral examinations. I felt very far removed from that intensity of pressure and then release. My coworker said it made her nervous. Should it make me nervous? I don't know. I feel like that's the kind of thing that's best dealt with as it arises. Stressing three years in advance seems oh-so-counterproductive.

Now I have this link here at the bottom of the page I obviously meant to do something with and I don't quite know what.

How to Do Social Network Analysis

Pick any person in my academic (and possibly personal) life and they can probably tell you something about it. Boss relies on social networks as part of financial services. Friend does computational methods of social networks and whose most recent post conveniently is about networks. Other friend (update your blog already!) will someday do network analysis. Probably three of the people I met today rely on some aspect of social networks. Ohoh, I think it was related to this article about tagging, but that's a much longer post.

I'm in Pittsburgh until Sunday with unpredictable internet access and also lots of partying. Graduation! Belated Mother's Day! More birthday! So 'til later.


Evening Walk

You give the appearance of listening
To my thoughts, O trees,
Bent over the road I am walking
On a late summer evening.
When every one of you is a steep staircase
The night is slowly descending.

The high leaves like my mother's lips
Forever trembling, unable to decide,
For there's a bit of wind,
And it's like hearing voices,
Or a mouth full of muffled laughter,
A huge dark mouth we can all fit in
Suddenly covered by a hand.

Everything quiet. Light
Of some other evening strolling ahead,
Long-ago evening of silk dresses,
Bare feet, hair unpinned and falling.
Happy heart, what heavy steps you take
As you follow after them in the shadows.

The sky at the road's end cloudless and blue.
The night birds like children
Who won't come to dinner.
Lost children in the darkening woods.

Charles Simic

found in The Voice at 3:00 A.M., from D.


Thank you.

Even far away from almost everyone you know, even slightly frazzled over ten requests coming at you from half a dozen directions, even if the April showers lasted into May...and then turned into a deluge -- you can still have a truly great day. I don't think I possibly could have smiled any more smiles. I love you all.



There were peonies on sale at the market last Thursday. Five stems for $10. I adore this flower with its lovely but subtle scent. Soft beyond softness, like moths' wings, as if they would disintegrate when you touched them, but they do not. A slice shy of a solid sphere that is anything but solid. Get your fingers in the petals, find how much space is there, more than between your fingers in your hair, more than cotton candy, it's almost all air. It's the paradox of the thing that gets me. Nothing at all about it makes it more special than other flowers, but it remains my favorite.

I have never bought any peonies. Aside from the bush in my childhood friend's backyard, only my eyes have consumed them in farmers' markets and flower shops. They have to support their demanding maintenance with but a month of blossom production and so are far outside my normal budget for bouquets, not that it's ever preplanned. Having pined for a vase full of peonies for so long, I wonder whether they might be worth even more than ten dollars to me now.

1. Belle & Sebastian, Mayfly
2. the Association, Along Comes Mary
3. Architecture in Helsinki, Spring 2008
4. Red House Painters, I Feel the Rain Fall
5. Rogue Wave, Falcon Settles Me
6. John Coltrane, After the Rain
7. R.E.M., Sitting Still
8. Nada Surf, Happy Kid
9. John Vanderslice, Wild Strawberries
10. Joanna Newsom, Peach, Plum, Pear
11. Jethro Tull, Songs from the Wood
12. Jeff Buckley (James Alan Shelton), Lilac Wine
13. the Arrogants, Butterflies
14. Eric's Trip, May 11
15. Animal Collective, Grass
16. Air, Cherry Blossom Girl
17. Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Beast for Thee
18. My Morning Jacket, Just One Thing
19. Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, Cherry Lane
20. Bill Evans Trio, Spring is Here
21. Iron & Wine, Promising Light
22. Jolie Holland, Springtime Can Kill You



I've committed the cardinal sin of back-blogging. I started this notepad file of stuff in my wireless-less weekend and posted it all at once, just now, under the dates each was actually written. Please forgive me.

Home was loving and comfortable and warm and green, wedding was pleasant, couple was happy. It was held on the estate where my government teacher grew up, with the parties in the barn. Bluegrass band and barbecue. Ton. O'. Fun. Awkward moments:

My mother's cousin knew some lawyer dude who is moving to DC, just after I've gone, and she was all, shucks, we both missed out on a great opportunity. She gave me his vitals, and I can only assume she gave him mine. In fact, she did mention, when she told him not to call the number they'd already given him, "That girl is really cuuute, smart as a whip, I'm sure she'd love to show you around the city." Pause. "But you know, I think she might actually be a liberal."

Options: A) Lie. Nono, I've come back to the other side, ready to "subject myself to the man's authority," a la the sermon.
B) Agree, yesyes, I am an urban-dwelling, baby-killing, pagan, pseudointellectual snob. And that makes your hot establishment lawyer not interested? Perfect. I'll just go back to burning in hell.
C) Evade. I get along with all types of people.

I'm not really the outsider, but sometimes they cast me that way. Which is maybe why my aunt, mother of the groom, the one freaking out over music selection, kept seating me next to the bride's brother, getting his Ph.D in clarinet performance in the far far north. We dark horse middle children who flee the rolling hills must be made for each other. Unless we, you know, swing the other way.

On second thought, a conversation with a friend made me think perhaps I should be glad they're picking the inappropriate ones if there's going to be the slightly embarrassing elbowing, how'd-it-go later.


Secretaries aren’t just racy in the movie

Yesterday my coworker was working from home, boss out of town, so I ended up eating in the conference area with the receptionists. Well-maintained women with smooth bobs, country club tans, and tasteful wedding rings who knit back before it was hip to be square. Conversation shifted from how much kids divulge of their relationships to the Kentucky Derby and then to what happens to a horse after the race. -Why, he gets put out to stud, of course. –Did you know they don’t get to do it naturally? -How does it work, then? -Just as it would for a human. –Well, how do you get the, you know, the stuff?

Horse porn, people. These sweet-looking ladies were laughing riotously over their imagined horse porn at the lunch table. I got a good second chuckle from my out-of-body experience looking down at the situation. Here’s the punchline:

-I don’t mean to embarrass anyone by saying this, but you know, they’re big. That part of the anatomy is big.
-Well, there is that saying.

Indeed there is.


Tea in the Arctic

The permafrost in the office where I work has me going out in search of a warm mug every couple of hours. That combined with stress and a relative lack of sleep had me drinking too much coffee daily. I was jittery in the afternoon, restless at night, and a zombie in the morning. So I cut it out. Now it’s tea, preferably caffeine free or low caffeine, on rare occasions a lemon-scented black I like or black chai. Bags, not lattes. Here are my favorites so far:

Yogi Tea’s Vanilla Hazelnut
– gorgeous, delicious, snuggle-up flavor. You’ll never want to leave. The packaging sends mixed messages with a story from an Alpine cottage alternating with healthy living pointers from South Asian gurus, but it doesn’t really matter. Serve as suggested with milk and honey. Yum.

Harney & Sons Vanilla Grapefruit White Tea – One of two rival independent coffee shops sells this tea by the cup, but not in bulk, so I thought at first they made it themselves (they do roast their own coffee) and it just wasn’t available through any other way. Then I noticed the guy taking the bag out of the normal paper packaging, so I asked to see it. Lo and behold, a commercial brand, findable on the internet even. I used to think white teas were for wusses who couldn’t take green tea flavor, but they’re just different. Delicate, nuanced, and this one is simply lovely.

I guess I like vanilla in my tea. Back in my old haunt, I was partial to the vanilla orchid black whose sales benefitted a local food bank.


More observations about my house

A hand-crank pencil sharpener is bolted to the window frame on the second landing of the back stairs.

I noticed that some parts of the window make views fuzzier than others. The window panes are made of blown glass! An old-school house for sure. But not an old schoolhouse, despite the writing implement accessories.

The view out of the kitchen window is entirely of leaves, out of the living room is of rooftops. Probably that lends to the tree house feeling up here.

Showering at 10 on a Sunday morning will allow you to hear the choir next door. Surreal, to be naked and simultaneously serenaded by hymns.

That the exterior of the house is beige still surprises me sometimes.


So that's what a pop snob looks like.

First off, I haven't ever really kept track, but I'm pretty sure six is the maximum number of comments any single post has received. So if commenting is the goal, apparently I should just be asking to fill in the large gaps in my musical knowledge.

Stephin Merritt thinks that "Zipadeedoodah" is the best tune in Song of the South, which is just a set of Uncle Remus stories made into a feature-length Disney film. Moreover, Outkast is "innocuous party music for suburban teenagers." Not a single black artist made it onto his Playlist for the New York Times, only eleven in this best-of-the-century list for Time Out, and he can't even get through the first few seconds of a Cee-lo song. (all via Sasha Frere-Jones.)

I guess it shouldn't really be any surprise. Merritt has always made me nostalgic for my Busby-Berkeley-loving, completely campy, but also somehow completely tasteful dance teacher of my youth. Once we stood next to each other in the wings, waiting for my entrance for a meditation accompanied by Palestrina hymn, watching another troupe in the throes of urban funk. He said, "it's too bad your stage identity is so shaped by mine, that you are forever consigned to middle-aged white manhood." My away-from-home father didn't do booty, he did ballet, and you just accepted that. The only bass that appears in Merritt's songs is his voice. So if you've got a problem, go listen to some baile funk, drop to the flo', have sweaty, raucous, get-thrown-around sex, and when you're ready for a perfectly structured pop creation with effortless verbal facility that's only slightly stuffy, come on back to the Magnetic Fields.


Can't cover 'em all

My mom just sent me an e-mail asking for help: my cousin and aunt need a list of particular artists they want the DJ to play for the tropically-themed, reggae-soundtracked rehearsal dinner this Friday night. Now, reggae is probably the only genre, aside from acid jazz and maybe trance electronica, that I very rarely listen to. But my aunt is freaking out, I can be the calmly helpful voice, and I also get to weigh in on music! When would I pass up that opportunity?

So far, the list culled from AMG and tofuhut looks something like this. I want to make sure these artists are not too obscure and are also good. And I'm asking for additional suggestions, where you know them.

Bob Marley
Burning Spear
Black Uhuru
Buju Banton
Jimmy Cliff
Gregory Isaacs
Hugh Mundell
Junior Reid

Ok? Thanks, guys.

More on May

I meant to say yesterday, before I got sidetracked into a humanist critique of economists' narrowsightedness, that even though it was May 1, I still got the Poem-A-Day poets.org started in April for National Poetry Month. (Go check it out and read yesterday's.) Though I didn't fall in love with all of them, I thought it was a useful exercise to spend some amount of time every day reading a poem. I can say that some days it was difficult. But if not before, I took a moment or two to flip to the flagged message right at my bedtime.

Can I hope they will continue sending the poems past April?

May Day

Every May 1st in elementary school we took the walk around the Maypole, actually quite unceremoniously, as we were on average 8 years old, nonetheless weaving the pastel streamers into their trellis pattern. I don't think anyone ever stopped to explain exact, or even possible, origins of the day. Communist or pagan - neither resonated very well with grade school gym teachers.

And here we are today, bearing witness to honest-to-God protests by migrant workers. There was a show of support even in this little New England town, several thousand people, said a professor who saw it, on the village green. I don't know how that compares to the presence both in support and protest of the Chinese president's visit. I should have raised the question when the economists sat around in an Asian fusion restaurant discussing why the Asians weren't boycotting. These men who were so fired up over relative price differentials in Copenhagen had little to say about what makes an ethnicity assimilable and what does not. A wife rolled her eyes and said, "Oh, dinner with economists." Of course they think the workers should stay. Free movement for factors of production. But they haven't the foggiest idea how they could be made more welcome.