Archive for November, 2008

More Bike Teases

My wheels arrived today!  They look very cool, and they are lighter than I expected them to be.  I can’t wait now for the rest of the parts to arrive so I can build it all up and ride.  Although they were supposed to be a closeout of the ’08 wheels, the model that actually arrived was the ’09 set.  Team sponsorships are a good thing–because the deal was so awesome on these wheels, my new frame is essentially free (that link, by the way, is for the whole bike, but I’m getting just the frameset and building it up with my own component choice).

I also ordered this today–the team edition 705 bundle.  I’m going to have so much fun with it.

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Just What I Needed

I’ll probably write more about the Blogger meeting in NYC, but first I need to tell you about my books.  We met at the Hungarian Pastry Shop before heading downtown to The Strand.  If you haven’t been to The Strand, well, I’m terribly sorry for you.  It is a huge bookstore (18 miles of books) with lots of old books, new review copies at half price, and other deeply discounted books.  After a late lunch, we headed even farther downtown to the Mysterious Bookshop, one of the best mystery bookstores around.

Here is what I dragged home;

  • James Fenimore Cooper: The Early Years, by Wayne Franklin.  This book was only half price, so I had to grab it.  I’d been looking for it for the past several months because it really is a crucial book for someone in my position.  Plus, I’ve met Franklin at some Cooper gatherings.
  • The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman.  I read the first couple of chapters on the train home, and it is a fascinating book.  The book speculates, using scientific analysis and a lot of imagination, what the earth would look like if humans suddenly disappeared.
  • The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, by E. O. Wilson.  I remember wanting this when it came out a couple of years ago, and since the hardcover was only six bucks, I grabbed it.  It is a plea for the earth’s biodiversity and environment meant to cut across the cultural boundaries that needlessly, foolishly make some people think they cannot be environmentally conscious.  I might use this in my freshman honors seminar next year.
  • The Last Man, by Mary Shelley.  I am embarrassed to admit that I did not know anything about this book.  It appears to be a future dystopia, one of my favorite genres, so I had to buy it.
  • Notre-Dame de Paris, by Victor Hugo.  I’ve been planning to get this book for a long time, and a bargain-priced Oxford convinced me.
  • Resurrection Men, by Ian Rankin.  I’ve been reading Rankin lately, and I like him a lot.  This DI Rebus mystery comes right after The Falls, which I read for my mystery book club.
  • The Maltese Manuscript, by Joanne Dobson.  I took several classes from Joanne, and I have the first four books in the series (in hardcover, autographed), so I had to get this one to complete my set.

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Buy This Book

Go here and buy three or four copies.

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Another Tease

Here are the wheels I just ordered.


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A Tease

I have ordered my new bike…

That’s all I’m saying for now.

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A Good Day

Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures

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Doing My Civic Duty

The lines at the polls in my part of Connecticut were not bad at all at 7:30 in the morning.  My total time, including waiting in line, filling in the bubbles on the ballot, and slipping the ballot into the electronic reader was about fifteen minutes.

There was also a very positive, almost jovial air at the polling center.  Nearly everyone was smiling and seemed to be in a good mood.  The guy behind me in line, a stocky fireplug with a Harley Davidson sweatshirt, kept grinning and joked about not waiting in a line this ling unless there was food at the other end.  I laughed and said they should at least have doughnuts for us.  He agreed and got a faraway, dreamy look on his face that clearly said, “Mmmm…doughnuts…”

My town is a generally peaceful, good-natured sort of place, so maybe the atmosphere at the polls was just the quiet New England way.  Or perhaps the line held a lot of Obama supporters, happy that they were casting their votes in one of the bluest states in the country.  Or perhaps everyone was in a good mood because of the weather: it was chilly but it is supposed to get up to the low 60s later today.

Now I’m going to celebrate my civic-mindedness by going for a long bike ride.

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I just returned from an academic conference in Massachusetts.  I was not presenting a paper this time, which made for a different sort of conference experience: a conference without the anxiety of performance, where I could feel like an insider and outsider at the same time.  Because I am an area chair, I had to select paper proposals and invite presenters, and, once the conference started, I had to chair my panel.  The focus is never on the chairs, so my only worries are about making sure the AV equipment works correctly and hoping that a couple of people will wander into the session, so it is not just the presenters and me sitting there. The organizers had arranged for a musician to perform after the first sessions ended Friday night, so we got to listen to Cape Breton Celtic fiddler Kimberley Fraser, who was very talented.  I bought her CD and got her to sign it for me.

The topics presented at the conference ranged widely across many different academic disciplines, providing an opportunity to find something of interest.  I realized that professional academics, like the students we teach, have very widely varying talents.  The presentations in my panel were both interesting, well-done, and professional.  I sat in on another panel where the papers were mostly interesting, but the presentations were a little flat, and the writing not especially scintillating.  I wish scholars would realize that the obscure references to meticulously fastidious points of theory, while they may be important and significant in a written work, do not soar in an oral presentation.  I, too, appreciate Fredric Jameson, but by the fourth reference, my eyes began to glaze over.

This was not the most egregious difficulty, however.  In fact, academic conferences typically feature more obscure references per mile than anything outside of a monograph proudly trumpeting its allegiance to the Frankfurt school.  No, my most tedious experience was listening to the most disjointed, rambling, incoherent thing I have ever had to sit through without the power to grade it at the end.  The scholar began reading her paper, but for some reason gave up on that about a page into it and just started talking, apparently about whatever vaguely related thought popped into her head.  I was so embarrassed for her, I could not make eye contact, and started writing on my little yellow pad to make it look like I was paying attention and following along.  Here is what I wrote:

What is she saying?  She appears to be rambling & doing a lot of plot summary & only makes passing references to crticis or any other sort of analysis.  Jumping from bbiographical material and back to plot summary gets very confusing.  Does she have any idea at all of what it is she is trying to say?  I have no idea where she is going with this.  Is there a thesis here?  Is there any clear, sustained argument?  She appears to be making this up as she goes along.  I do not understand what point she is trying to make & it is driving me crazy!!  What is the point of the maps [she projected images of maps for no reason at all]?  How does the pilgrimage relate?  Why is the culture significant?  I do not see her point!  Ramble ramble ramble.

The panel chair, peace be upon her, managed somehow to find some sort of question to ask the woman at the end of her presentation.  Fortunately, we ran out of time before the silence became unbearable.  What a mess, though.

The high point of the trip was the chance to meet with one of my former students.  I had not seen her in a couple of years, and, even though we keep in touch on e-mail, it was very good to sit down across the table from her and have a real conversation.  She was, without doubt, my favorite student of all time, and has become a very good friend since the first time she sat in my classroom almost five years ago.  As a bonus, she is, naturally, a true book geek, and we hit a couple of her favorite bookstores before going out to get something to eat.  Clearly, the basic requirement to become my friend is to cherish a love of small bookstores.

I picked up four books:  Tara French’s In the Woods (my friend’s recommendation), Chet Raymo’s The Path, Charles Norhoff and James Norman Hill’s Men Against the Sea, and Jed Rubenfeld’s The Interpretation of Murder.

Going to conferences is a bit of a pain, but the way this trip ended made up for that.

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