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Globalization at work

2010 December 8

I know on some level that I’m complicit in globalization, with everything that entails. There’s something about tracking your new computer’s Fedex progress from Shanghai (!) that makes it all just seem a little more real, though.

screen capture showing my computer on its way from Shanghai

What I find even more unsettling, is that the cost for two-to-three-day shipping from China, via Alaska was only $13. Of course, it’s not like they’re flying a plane especially for me, and Maude knows I’m thrilled to get my shiny new Mac in only two-to-three days.  But shouldn’t express delivery from a whole ‘nother continent cost more?

A meme for all my book-loving friends

2010 December 3

This questionnaire showed up recently on a Swedish book blog I read, En full bokhylla är en rikedom (A full bookcase is a treasure). I’ve taken the liberty of translating it and adding a bonus question.

I never tag people on these things because it feels too much like a chain letter that way. If you think it would be fun to answer these questions, consider yourself tagged. You can tag me back in your answer or post a link in the comments if you’d like. (I’m curious to hear what you have to say. And who knows what ideas I might get from your answers?)

1) What book is on your holiday wishlist?

You expect me to limit myself to one book?! Here are three:
Blind Descent: The Quest to Discover the Deepest Place on Earth
Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese
Burmese Lessons: A true love story

2) If you could give a book to a well-known person, what person would you choose and which book? Explain why if you’d like.

Hmmm, this is difficult since you can lead a person to a book, but you can’t make them read. Maybe I’d give Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby’s Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body to Oprah Winfrey, Jessica Simpson, Kristie Alley and any other female celebrity who’s publicly been shamed for her weight.

3) Name a book you’re thinking of giving as a present.

This should really be “a book I’m thinking of giving as a present to someone who never in a million years would read this blog.” I’m thinking of giving my father Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History.

4) Do you have a holiday tradition you follow every year?

Going to Pennsylvania, visiting my parents, getting swept up in the crazy maelstrom of perfectionism and acute sleep-deprivation that swirls around my mother every Christmas.

5) Is there a specific food you serve every year at the holidays?

Chex party mix from my great aunt’s recipe. It is like crack for me and my siblings. <TMI alert>It gives us indigestion to the point where we’ve started calling it “farty mix,” and yet we still cannot stop eating it.</TMI alert>

6) Besides the book in question 1, what else is on your wishlist?

A new kitchen scale — not terribly glamorous, but the one I got when I went to cooking school died last year, and I need to replace it.

A set of Helicore violin strings with a wound E-string.

7) Bonus question for the truly book-obsessed: What book is not on your wishlist because you want to read it so badly you can’t wait for someone else to buy it for you?

Ian Frazier’s Travels in Siberia.

Food buzzword death watch

2010 December 2
by amy

Pringles Multigrain Cheesy Cheddar can

A couple of years ago, I posted about the impending demise of “artisanal” as a descriptor with any valid meaning. I figured that once Quizno’s started selling sandwiches on something they call “artisanal flatbread,” it probably wasn’t long before the folks at Dunkin’ Donuts who heat up the breakfast sandwiches in those turbo-charged convection ovens would start to consider themselves artisans.

Today, I realized that “multigrain”’s days are numbered.

(It’s sort of surprising it took me so long to reach this conclusion.)

One of my colleagues brought in snacksfor her students to celebrate their last class meeting. The menu included Multigrain Pringles. In Cheesy Cheddar flavor. No, seriously, these exist.

And if the very idea of Cheesy Cheddar flavor Multigrain Pringles isn’t enough to make your brain explode, you should know that they’re covered in that lurid orange cheese cheesy powder. (I can’t bring myself use the word cheese here.)

Before we know it a product will be allowed to be labeled “multigrain if it’s made of chlorine bleached, chemically enriched wheat flour plus a few parts per million of floor sweepings from an oatmeal processing factory.

[Cross-posted at]

Swedish word of the day

2010 December 1

I was flipping through my Swedish dictionary tonight, looking up new words that popped up in my last reading assignment of the semester, when I stumbled across what may be my new favorite Swedish word:


The literal translation is “song maid,” but it means “muse” — as in a goddess of poetry or a source of inspiration.

My second favorite acknowledgment

2010 November 2
by amy

I’m a compulsive reader of acknowledgments in academic books. It started back when I was in grad school and wanted to see which of the countless feminist theorists I was reading would have the audacity to come out in print by thinking thanking* their female partners.

Since then, I’ve found that skimming the acknowledgments can give you a sense of a writer’s intellectual lineage: where they studied, who mentored them, to whom do they feel indebted in some way or other.

Some dedications still manage to surprise me, though — like the one I read this morning in the preface to Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann’s The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge

…we wish to thank Brigitte Berger (Hunter College) and Benita Luckmann (University of Freiburg), not for any scientifically irrelevant performances of private roles, but for their critical observations as social scientists, and for their steadfast refusal to be easily impressed.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, my all-time favorite acknowledgment appears in Jill Johnston’s Lesbian Nation: The Feminist Solution. The text of the book isn’t readily available online so I’ll paraphrase:

I’d like to thank my wife for her tireless work typing, transcribing and proofreading, for meals cooked and children soothed, for her love and undying support, but I can’t.

ETA: Replacing “thanking” with “thinking” is definitely one of my better typos. Especially given the context.

Today in bat-related developments

2010 November 1
by amy

I got to use the word “hibernaculum” in a casual conversation. And it wasn’t at all out-of-context.

Hibernation’s been on my mind lately, since we’re past the fall equinox, and I’m starting to feel like I need to sleep all the time. Come to think of it, my loftbed is starting to feel more and more like a hibernaculum.

Adding insult to vocabulary

2009 August 27

Just when I’ve been feeling that my repertoire of derisive expressions is a bit scanty, along comes this line from a review of R.J. Cutler’s new Anna Wintour documentary, The September Issue:

The fashion blogs have been buzzing for months in anticipation of Cutler’s film; some of them have been doling out bonbon-like snippets, including footage of Wintour making a funny little frown — she looks as if she’s just gotten a whiff of rotten egg — as the issue’s cover girl, Sienna Miller, twirls around in a strange feathery dress that curls around her like a malevolent nautilus.

I am so totally going to start referring to people as malevolent nautiluses.

ETA: As I read further in the same review, I came across this jewel:

Over the years, plenty of horror stories have attached themselves to Wintour like stubborn barnacles.

Salon’s movie critic, Stephanie Zacharek, sounds like she’s been to the beach (or a particularly creepy fish market) recently.

Overheard at the office…

2009 March 19

“Judith Butler’s theories of queer phenomenology don’t stick in my head like other things might. Like dirty jokes about camels.”

Overheard at the office…

2009 March 17

“I would have to have a lot of chocolate around to get myself to read John Stuart Mill.”

[Once again with the food and the reading… hmmm.]

Overheard at the office…

2009 March 15

“Hey, there’s nothing like eating chocolate cookies and reading Fanny Hill.”

(Hmmm, I’m noticing a recurring food + reading theme at my job: the abovementioned chocolate and Fanny Hill, Foucault and popcorn, burnt cheese and queer theory. No wonder I enjoy working here.)