Friday, September 29, 2006

A Wonderful Resource

Faced with the project of making a new academic website for myself, I sighed thinking of my paltry skills. But I finally thought, "Hey, I bet the web can help me." Sure enough, just like Open Office (the free equivalent of Microsoft Office), there is Open Source Web Design, a free site for web templates.

Some are quite lovely and most are easy to use (and can be easily edited with Notepad). Check out my new academic site (still under construction). In a short while, you'll see the fabulous new look for my professional website -- it's going to be quite striking!

Well, after an expensive visit to get the NY inspection sticker, we're going to be heading off for cocktails with the president (of the college). That should be awkward and formal!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

New Improved Finnish Pictures

Thanks to Gene, the first batch of pictures is up on Flickr. No labels yet, but maybe in between grading papers I can get some done. This group is mostly the trip to the Astuvansalmi rock paintings across Saimaa lake. Later will be the Helsinki pictures.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Finland Pictures

I finally got the pictures from my trip to Finland uploaded, but you'll find that they're still in raw format and without labels. I hope to remedy that soon, but the beginning of the semester is still crazy and I have a lot of things to keep me busy (including updates of my personal webpages and installing the new academic webpages). But if you want to take a tour, by all means do so -- and feel free to ask questions about the pictures. Most of them will be clear enough: the pictures start in central Helsinki, where I had an hour or so before taking the train to Mikkeli. Next are pictures from the boat trip to Astuvansalmi's rock paintings, then back in Helsinki.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Be Careful What You Wish For...

...because it might come true. I was pleased to receive an acceptance to Kalamazoo last week. For those who don't know, that's the unlikely location of the International Congress on Medieval Studies, the most prestigious conference in my field (in this country, anyway). Knock wood, I have always been accepted for a panel to date. Best of all, I know Wendy is going this year! I look forward to hanging out with my fave gal pal, being Edina to her Patsy.

But that wasn't all I submitted: yesterday I received notice that I will be giving a paper at the Pseudo Society panel.

My ambitious side says, "Yay!" This is quite a coup. My more rational side says "What were you thinking?!" This is the big deal on Saturday (prior to the dance anyway). The big auditorium in Fetzer is usually packed to standing room only. Great possibilities for major crash-n-burn. Ay yi yi.

Suddenly my paper doesn't seem all that funny. The good thing is I have several months to polish it--and polish it, I will.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Back Home

A lovely day with much fun and conversation; and a fine weekend, too, with more of the same. Wendy outdid herself again -- food by the truckloads and yes, leftovers to take home (mmmm, bring on the kugel!). Good to see friends and have a lot of laughs, to be back "home" as much as any place is for us travellers.

Of course, it will take days to digest all the food we ate this weekend...

Friday, September 22, 2006

Rosh Hashanah Ragin' Kegger & Toga Party

The name is misleading -- we don't actually wear togas. But it's an excuse to celebrate the New Year with Miss Wendy and a few other folks, some of whom may be surprised to see us :-) We'll see how the new car runs, although I drove it out last night and all seemed fine (knock wood!).

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Our White Knight

We got a "new" car -- of course it's actually pretty old: a 1992 Honda Accord DX, five speed. Nice to have a stick shift again. It looks like this:

Best of all, it shouldn't be as likely to burst into flames as our mechanic warned the Subaru might. Oh, well -- it did get us here. Maybe we can sell it (the money would be nice), but it's more likely we'll donate it for a tax credit. We can advertise it as rust free, so maybe some DIY folks would be interested in dealing with the "massive oil leak."

Of course the problem is dealing with the DMV again. We have bettered Gene's record -- three trips to get his driver's license. Four trips, so far; let's see if we finally get it on the fifth visit. The last problem? The way Gene's name appears on the insurance card is slightly different from how it appears on his NY driver's license -- largely because they insisted there was not enough room for his name so there's just an "E" on it. No doubt that he was the same person. It simply doesn't fit exactly the form. Talk about anal-retentive rule enforcement. The problem is each time they tell us something new. When this issue was brought up to the supervisor, she said "why are you asking me?" Hmmm, maybe because you're the SUPERVISOR?

We will sally forth once more -- maybe today, maybe tomorrow, whenever we can stomach it. But then, everybody hates the DMV. To paraphrase Stephen Colbert, worst bureaucracy or the most evil bureaucracy?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Dress Like a Pirate!

Cheryl wins "Best Pirate Wench" -- Go, Black Ethel!

Talk Like a Pirate!

Arrr, mateys! Once again International Talk Like a Pirate Day has rolled around and all land-lubbers are encouraged to dig deep and find their inner scalawag. Buckle yer swash or be walkin' the plank, ye dogs! So heed the words of Pirate Bob and sail the BB-Sea. Avast!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Shopping Kismet

We had to get a few useful things yesterday, which somehow (inevitably) led to finding useless things as well. Target has some absolute WONDERFUL Halloween things. Their new emphasis on slick design has again led to snappy looks that make Halloween stuff fun, including a kind of Dia de los Muertos influence that made me buy a plate (a plate!) and made me contemplate buying other things. They don't entirely get over the cutesyness that has destroyed my desire to buy Halloween stuff in the last couple years, but it goes a long way toward restoring my faith in spooky products. Very cool, also -- Universal Monsters-inspired pants and shorts in the men's department.

We decided to dawdle just a little longer by swinging past T.J. Maxx to check out their Halloween holdings. After a lot of picking, we found a couple of interesting items and headed to check out. I turned around and the woman getting in line behind us had a Hello Kitty (adult sized!) folding chair. "Where did you find that!?" In the children's section, folded up, she said. Now, we had seen a good deal of Sanrio in the middle of the store, but mostly just bags. Here was something useful! We bulletted out of there and I grabebd the chair lying under a clothes rack, hoping to find more. It was apparently the last one. The other woman who had immediately charged to the back looked very disappointed. We also found a folding storage box, whoo hoo. Both, of course, for much less than their Sanrio stickers indicated as the original price. well, that stop was worth it!

Two bits of good news: the every fabulous and funny Lee Martindale has given a wonderful blurb for the print edition of Con-Eire, the play we debuted at Trinoc-con this year. She's so sweet! A nice blurb like that will no doubt encourage folks to pick up the book.

Also, Gerry Henkel tells me that my piece on traveling in search of ancient Finland will wind up on the cover of New World Finn. Wow! That's great. It probably helps that I had a bunch of pictures to go with the narrative. Yes, which reminds me I still haven't posted them. This week -- I hope!

All right -- I have a date with Hrotsvit right now.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Coming to a Landfill Near You

The NYTimes has a much forwarded story about the next "revolution" in tea drinking in their story "Tea's Got a Brand New Bag" (with inadvertent mental connections to the always scatalogical Derek and Clive's "Bo Duddley," a vicious skewering of clueless white critics 'interpreting' soul music). The new bag, in Lipton's case, is nylon. This "gossamer mesh" has a hidden agenda: a plan to stick around for 30 to 40 years. That's about how long it takes nylon to biodegrade. Lipton, the future landfills thank you.

If you have a question about the use of nylon bags by Lipton, you should let them know. Perhaps before their big launch of the product on October 4 in New York...

Friday, September 15, 2006

Reason #4298 to Love the Internet

Thanks to Ebay, I finally secured a copy of the long out of print animated feature "Grendel, Grendel, Grendel" which is based on John Gardner's novel and stars the voice of Peter Ustinov. Who knew there was a soundtrack, too? I had heard of the film but never saw it until last night. It's odd -- adapting Gardner's novel, itself adapting the story of Beowulf. There's a cuteness in the animation itself which seems out of place in the story of the monster, but much of Gardner's narrative is there, although the eating of humans is downplayed and displaced more to his mother than to Grendel himself. One of the fun things is that Hrothgar and his men all have Northern accents, but Beowulf when he shows up has a very posh and polished voice and a matching attitude. It would be difficult to convey Garnder's creepy automaton who speaks in Grendel's head, so this is an interesting take. I regret that the very last line is left out (a line which proved so effective in Julie Taymor's production). I'm glad I finally have this and I can use it next time I teach the novel -- or maybe even before...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Icons of Horror and the Supernatural

I received an email from Joshi today saying that he had the page proofs of the book and it looked "fabulous" even without the cover art yet. Supposedly we get copies as well as our work-for-hire paychecks, so I can't wait. Hopefully it will not take as long to get as the last Greenwood project -- I made sure to give them my current address right away. This is the "Sorcerer" piece that I wrote back in April or May, in the midst of all the craziness of teaching, traveling and getting ready to move, so I didn't feel all that good about it. With luck it has been sandpapered a little by Joshi and the folks at Greenwood.

My Pirate Name

Well, I have a better one, but this is one of those fun quiz thingees. Thanks for the link go to the Joey Zone! Don't forget, as my PDA reminded me today, next Tuesday is National Talk Like a Pirate Day!

My pirate name is:

Iron Anne Read

A pirate's life isn't easy; it takes a tough person. That's okay with you, though, since you a tough person. Even through many pirates have a reputation for not being the brightest souls on earth, you defy the sterotypes. You've got taste and education. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Up Against the Wall!

From editor Phil:

Issue # 2 of UP AGAINST THE WALL is now live.


* SENTIMENTAL AIRLINES With his eponymous solo album, Psychedelic Furs front man Richard Butler has made one of the best CDs of the year. Philip Nutman talks to the painter/songwriter/singer and ‘80s icon and reviews this must-have record.

* VERB Daren Wang wants to change the way you think about literary magazines. He tells Al Kaufman how.

* DAN BERN IS TAKING A DEEP BREATH. After an exhausting campaign against GW Bush, the musician is taking it slow and remembering to breathe, as he explains to Al Kaufman.


Guest critic and renowned Whovian Shawn Carter explains why BBC America’s DVD set of the Christopher Eccelston season of the venerable British TV series is something you really should watch – especially if you saw the edited, commercial-interrupted broadcasts on the Sci-Fi Channel earlier this year.


Yes, Lassie, as in the legendary Collie. Run, don’t walk, to your nearest cinema (that’s if the film’s playing in your town) to catch one of the year’s most delightful family films, a treat for children of all ages in this day of clich├ęd computer animation. And don’t forget the Kleenex. Woof! Philip Nutman wipes his eyes...

Plus MUSIC: Arctic Monkeys, Goldfrapp, Mott The Hoople and Kris Kristofferson.

DVDs: THE MANSON FAMILY, TRILIOGY OF TERROR, THE LOSERS, WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS and the women in prison flicks BARE BEHIND BARS and AMAZON JAIL. Meanwhile Justin Griffin gets all warm and fuzzy with MVD’s PORNSTAR PETS.

And a whole lot more...

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Good, The Bad and the...Bland

We went in search of Mexican food last night. We knew there was not going to be a Tony's up here, but surely we will be able to find something good.

We're still looking: last night we tried Jose Malone's in Troy. It sounded potentially fun -- it's Mexican, it's Irish! Well, the pub next to it was jumping, but Jose's was just about empty. Maybe it was the $2 pints next door. Or perhaps not.

The first sign of dubious results was the lack of chips and salsa. There were chips, but you had to order them. Hmmm -- a Mexican restaurant that doesn't give you chips? Worse, when they came they were out of a bag -- or at least tasted like it. And the pico de gallo was fairly bland albeit fresh. Our entrees were disappointing -- fairly bland too, and my "stew" (I was expecting something like carne guisado) was a chunky tomato soup with a few hunks of meat in it. Eh.

So we're still looking for a good Mexican restaurant -- there are some to try in Albany, so more research will be done.

I forgot about a funny thing that happened in my Women & Spirituality class this week: while we were discussing the story of Isis & Osiris, a large spindly insect made its way across the floor and disconcerted a number of the students. We, of course, wasted valuable time discussing whether it was a centipede.

This morning one of my (apparently brilliant) students sent this link to a Wikipedia article on the centipede form of Osiris, saying "I can't help but wonder if Osiris was peeved about being called 'weak' during our class discussion. Perhaps he made a showing to defend his honor?"

It wouldn't be the first time...

Thursday, September 07, 2006


I had an essay accepted for a collection to be published by McFarland, but now they want me to sign a contract giving "ownership" to the editor. Am I wrong to balk at this? Especially considering that the essay is part of a future project; yes, I know I have so many future projects that I may never get to them all, but I'd like to have the choice! Do they just assume all academics are so desperate for publication that they'll sign anything? I am eager for publication, of course, but I'm not too keen to give up ownership of the words I write. Work for hire is one thing -- I know I have no rights to the encyclopedia pieces I have written. The editor tells me she will give me permission to use the material, but it is irksome to ask for permission to use my own writing.

Well, I shall have to think about this.

I'm in my office with much to do to get all my records in order for my classes. Things get easier once the gradebook gets set up. Besides, I have my new fountain set up to soothe me. Oh, and I should show you my office and the building it is in:

My office windows face the front on the ground level. It's quite lovely -- but not very accessible. Perhaps they will be adapting the back door to make it so. It's just so nice being in a house rather than walled in a little enclosure like an anchoress!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Marione Thompson-Helland

I was sad to hear that Marione died today. She had been ailing for some time, but we all had hopes that she would pull through her current ailments and hold on a bit longer, but her daughter brought us the sad news this morning. Marione was the editor of The Beltane Papers. She brought many voices together for the magazine and inspired women all over the world. I was lucky enough to have a piece in the latest issue and to be part of the on-line community built around it. It is hard to think of her being gone, but the strength of her work shows in the women who had already stepped into the void caused by Marione's illness. Her life was a gift to so many, and her work will continue in the hands of those she touched with her words, her publication and her shining example.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Today we had a fabulous day -- bbq, croquet and so forth. Elena's the hostess extraordinaire, so we had no hope but to enjoy ourselves. It is simply not possible. Fortunately, the weather gave us a break and we were able to play croquet despite the water (yes, some balls turned up a fine spray of water as they rolled, but it was no more than expected) and of course, there was Marko's crevasse, full of water, but we won't dwell on that...

But anyway...

Elena was ready for all the fun folk, so we feasted widely on all sorts of treats and every one was stuffed as they staggered toward croquet or pool. It will be days before we recover...

From the Vampire Bed & Breakfast

We arrived yesterday just about lunch time (always a good thing when you are about to be cushioned in the hospitable embrace of the Steier household --- mmmm, kielbasa patties!) and just ahead of the rain, which never quite showed up. I guess it had other folks to see. Elena had many cool things to show us that she is or has been working on -- and she managed to explain layers in Photoshop to us novices in minutes, a topic which has eluded my grasp of the workings of the software. Of course the other big difference in using Photoshop is that Elena has talent!

We sipped margaritas and watched a few films and then collapsed into bed. Now it's time for breakfast and this afternoon, the big BBQ!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Bad Ideas = Bad Ideas

According to A. O. Scott's review, I was pretty much right in my assumptions about Neil LaBute's remake of the classic film The Wickerman:

"A movie like this can survive an absurd premise but not incompetent execution. And Mr. LaBute, never much of an artist with the camera, proves almost comically inept as a horror-movie technician. He can’t even manage an effective false scare, or sustain suspense for more than a beat or two. Nor does the crude, sloppy look of the film turn into cheesy, campy excess. It’s neither haunting nor amusing; just boring.

"So why does it exist? After a while, as you wait for the bee ladies to stop messing with the poor cop’s head and just tell him what’s what, your mind may wander off in search of interpretation. Do the beehives — a symbol associated with the Mormon Church and the state of Utah — have something to do with Mr. LaBute’s religious background? Did the residents of the island get kicked out of M. Night Shyamalan’s village? Nothing so interesting: just another example of Mr. LaBute’s batty, slightly hysterical misogyny, overlaid with some mumbo jumbo about ancient goddess religions that makes “The Da Vinci Code” look scholarly even as “The Wicker Man” reverses that film’s mushy pseudofeminism. .."

I'm shocked, shocked to find misogyny in a LaBute film!

A Bit of Fry & Dracula

The always delightful Stephen Fry reads a monologue from his Cambridge days in this video from YouTube (where would we be without YouTube, the home of many a wonderful Peter Cook clip?). A must for Dracula fans as well as fans of British comedy.