Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A New Halloween Tradition: Horizontal Tree-Climbing

The lighting was a bit tricky for my camera, but this was an unexpected treat on my way to the grocery store to replenish our candy supplies:  kids in costume making the most of a storm-felled tree as an impromptu playground.  

A natural jungle-gym

A princess climbs up to join the fun

I am sorry for the loss of this big old tree, and for the property damage (at least two cars totaled), but it looks like there were no deaths or injuries from it, and I'm grateful for that, at least.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

An Important Part of Recovery Operations

I went to Grand Army Plaza and saw that the entrance to Prospect Park was entirely unobstructed, and many people were strolling into the Park and around the interior roadway.  A very few folks were walking on the central lawn area (far from any trees).

There were a few large trees down, and some folks were posing for pictures in front of them.  

The feeling was very sedate and peaceful; a sort of Zen mood after a big storm.

Then I became aware of a muffled sound from across the other side of the park, a megaphone-amplified voice saying something like: "Prospect Park is still closed.  Please leave the park!"  Everyone kept strolling, as I did, and sure enough, an NYPD van slowly rolled up and by us, repeating this message of good cheer.

We did not visibly react to the announcement -- no one altered speed or direction of their stroll -- but we all quietly complied by exiting the park at the next exit we encountered.  In my case, this was the 3rd Street entrance, which (unlike the Grand Army Plaza entrance) is marked as "closed."

I couldn't help thinking that none of us were doing anything stupid or dangerous.  Surely, rather than deploying scarce NYPD resources to continually patrol the park and inform pedestrians that they must leave the park, they  could simply put up a barricade and signs at Grand Army Plaza? Admittedly, this alternative does require trust in our collective ability to exercise judgment and look out for our own interests, but it also frees up an NYPD van and drivers to where they might be better needed.

Monday, October 29, 2012


The pre-emptive subway shutdown at 7pm last night forced my hand - did I want to be in Zone A or in high ground in Brooklyn?  I packed and unpacked my bags half a dozen times, before I finally hopped on the subway at 6:45 pm.  What finally tipped the scales: My workplace had just posted that they would be shutting down today.  That's how I knew it was serious.

A grocery store was open this morning, so I picked up a few small last-minute items... And a bagel place was open too for one last delicious cappuccino before I beat the retreat to work from home all day.

We'll see how long power lasts here, but so far, so good.  Watched Mad Max with a friend (a grimmer movie than I'd realized), now off to my online class...  Sandy permitting.

I was not at all sure about coming over to Brooklyn, and felt like a real wimp for evacuating, but over the course of the day today, I have been increasingly grateful that I did.  

Best wishes to all in Sandy's path -- stay safe.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Status Update

Since I'm still on my Facebook fast (notwithstanding my quick foray Friday to share the news about the Hobbit premiere weekend known as Mythmoot 2012: A Long-Anticipated Journey), I'll have to update my status here on my blog.

So here goes: I just submitted my first book review to Mythprint!!!  It's a review of Above Ker-Is and Other Stories, by Evangeline Walton.  Whether or not my proposed review is eventually accepted and published (fingers crossed), it's still good just to get it done -- I (ahem) actually started working on it a month and a half ago.

Now I can turn my attention (back) to researching and writing a paper for my class. 3,000-4,000 words.  Due two weeks from today.  Eep!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Mahjong Party

It was time for my first mahjong party on the roof.  Four friends joined me, and we played all the way through the East Wind round.

We seized the table right in the center of the room, which turned out to have plenty of space for dinner, snacks, and ... cake!!!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Game of Thrones - Season 1

I just finished the five DVDs of Season 1 of the Game of Thrones.  A few of the episodes I watched in French, with French subtitles.  I also went back to listen to much of the audio commentary, where available.

Loved it.  I have read the first three books (albeit once through only), and it looks to me like the writers and directors adapted the story really well to television.  And the actors were simply brilliant.

A few initial thoughts on the adaptation itself:

  • I found TV-Sansa far more sympathetic than book-Sansa.  In the book, I hated Sansa for her naive (and deadly) choices with a bitter passion.  In the TV series, we do not actually see her betraying her father to Cersei (which helps a lot), and the actress powerfully shows us Sansa's youth and vulnerability in subtle ways (e.g., body language, facial expression) that are really difficult to capture on the written page.  Moreover, the TV-Joffrey has a chance to work his mojo charm directly on the audience, in a tender scene with TV-Sansa.  We see first-hand how innocent and believable he appears.   So it is far easier to understand how TV-Sansa falls for it... and yet TV-Sansa also seems to wise up far more quickly than book-Sansa. 
  • Once TV-Daenerys stops being a doormat and begins to find her inner strength and power, she reminded me strongly of Buffy Summers (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  Their overall build, features and expressions seem really similar to me (not to mention their hair color!).  
  • TV-Jon looked far younger and (dare I say it) softer than I expected from the book.  I thought he would have a little more "edge" or toughness to him, since Catelyn always made sure he knew he was unwelcome.
  • I think that TV-Jamie becomes sympathetic more quickly than book-Jamie (although they both ultimately get to the same place).  That's a really great scene with him and Catelyn.
  • TV-Pycelle has a wonderful scene (which I don't remember from the books) in which we learn that the "doddering old man" thing is just an act.  LOVE this.
  • It's already hard to believe that book-Varys doesn't know that book-Arya is taking fencing lessons; but it's just about impossible to believe it in the TV show.  (In fact, they seem to be practicing in an area that has an open window to the outside and is not locked or hidden, so actually it's hard to believe that anyone at court is unaware of the truth!)
A few thoughts about the story itself (generally applicable to the book and the TV series):
  • In one or two of the commentary tracks, people suggested (perhaps half-kidding) that Daenerys's affection for Drogo is a form of "Stockholm syndrome."  I can see where they are coming from on that one, but I don't buy that interpretation at all -- mostly because as she grows to love Drogo, Daenerys also becomes more self-confident in every way.  Including in her ability to stand up to Drogo.
  • It is somewhat painful to read or watch the story, because you keep seeing good people make bad decisions.  There is chance after chance for the characters (both the sympathetic and the unsympathetic ones) to avoid plunging Westeros into war.  Someone on the commentary track suggested that it was Catelyn's decision to seize Tyrion that made war inevitable.  But surely there were at least two more clear chances to avoid it.  First, when Robert died, Ned could have either aligned himself with Renly and acted quickly to seize Joffrey and control the situation or aligned himself immediately with Joffrey.  (Either way, all the major powers would have been aligned, leaving little if any opening for Stannis.)  Second, when Ned publicly "confessed" his "treason" to save Sansa, Joffrey could have averted disaster by sparing Ned's life.
I've only scratched the surface, but let's just say this is really compelling television.

Debunking Voter Ignorance?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the U.S. voting public is, by and large, a bunch of ignoramuses.  For a skeptic's take on some of the data, see this Language Log post.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Facebook Fast

I think it's time for a Facebook fast.  A bit overdue, in fact.  The goal is from today through October 31.  Of course, it'll be very tempting to log in later this month - but just think of the willpower I'll build up by resisting the temptation.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

In Memory

I knew Suzie from high school.  I was always better friends with her sister, but they were both part of my social circle for many years and their parents' house was like a second home to me.  (It still is, actually; the household's laid-back, welcoming vibe was in full force this summer at the 100th birthday bash.)

In any event, she was out running with two friends recently near her home, and was killed in a hit-and-run accident.  She died at the scene, the two friends were critically injured.  She leaves behind a husband and two small children, plus siblings, parents, and a centenarian grandmother. 

Her loyalties ran deep and exclusive; her enthusiams could be strong and sudden, but enduring.  She perhaps embraced a certain eccentric geekiness, even reveled in it.  She could be very, very earnest; and very concerned with maintaining connections with people she cared about -- and yet sublimely indifferent to "public opinion" in general, if that makes sense.  Perhaps a typical ISFJ on the Meyers-Briggs charts in some ways, but very much herself.  
  • A planned early morning bike ride. I stayed over, and we set two alarm clocks. Suzie's went off first. She rose out of bed, crossed the room, slammed off the alarm clock, and returned to bed - almost in one fluid movement. Then my alarm went off, and she was startled awake. We all got our bikes ready and gathered in the driveway to head east for sunrise at the beach.   
  • "Two peanuts walked down the road.  One was a salted!" 
  • A boy in Suzie's grad program kept saying "I'm in love!" and whenever she asked about the object of his affections, he always said, "I'm in love -- with life!!"  (I got the sense that she was both pleased with this philosophy and intrigued by the mystery.)  It did not surprise me at all when she finally found out, weeks later, that he actually had a crush on her.  That was Suzie all over, sweet and magnetic, and utterly unaware of it.  But she had already met the man who would eventually become her husband, so the in-love-with-life guy (whoever he was) never stood a chance.  

RIP.  We will miss you.