Monday, August 31, 2015

An abbreviated list of unusual recent compliments

This summer has passed in a sleet of unusual compliments. ("A sleet" should be the collective noun for compliments. Or maybe "drizzle" or "deluge" or "cloudburst"? I like weather metaphors.) In a not-at-all-humblebrag, I inform you that I have been complimented on my powerful shoulders (oh yeah!), my hands (unspecified compliment), my "muscular arms" (great? although a stereotypically male compliment), and my knee definition. Yes, that's right, the definition and shapeliness of my knees, those gristly bits at the joint mid-leg. Cheekbone definition? What a common compliment. Collarbone definition? Passé. This season's hip look is knees.

Do you have the right number? (We asked these 10 celebrities, and they unanimously said that they'd be wearing 2 --- two! --- knees this season! Whoa!) Do you have good definition? Coming up next: youtube makeup tutorials for outlining, highlighting, lowlighting, and really making your knees pop.

This post's theme word is keloid, a descriptor of scar tissue, brought to you from Miéville's Kraken, p. 128. These comely knees carry certain keloid cicatrices!

[Update: I was also called "the first woman I've met whom I could believe is really a worthwhile top." --- a comment which incited a little flare of anger and revenge-plotting, which I guess is the whole point. I preferred the merry knee compliment.]

Sunday, August 23, 2015

On marriage and land ownership

Mawwiage... is what bwings us here togefah... today.

And it also permeates my social media of late, a symptom of the pleasantness of July and August weather in the northern hemisphere, where most of my acquaintances live. If only there were a social media filter that let me elide* "wedding photos and announcements". It is an inundation, and one that makes me feel like I am falling behind in some sort of absurd life-contest, even though it's not a contest and I'm quite happy with my life. Which is successful!

Part of the overwhelmed feeling is certainly the concentration: a huge spike in the graph for August weddings, a giant plunge in the graph for November, February, and all other months. Babies are similarly-celebrated Giant Life Milestones (GLMs), but they're more evenly spread across the year. A few years ago when my entire cohort seemed to simultaneously graduate from law/business school I had similar feelings of being left behind the GLM-race while everyone else forged ahead.

I found this article satisfying just because it asked any questions about the desirability of marriage: "How we end up marrying the wrong people". I understand, of course, that outward-facing social announcements will focus on the perfection, the love, the happily-forever-after, how lucky X is to spend the rest of zis life with Y, etc. It seems... performative.** And at this point in late August, repetitive.

I think I'd be pretty ok starting my list of criteria with "how much land do they have". A grain of salt: I remain unwed. #Spinsterlife forevah! Until the sufficiently-landed suitor comes along... and we are married in January (in our volcano supervillain lair) or November (by a Pastafarian minister on a hangglider over the Sahara)  or March (witnessed by a pod of dolphins in international waters).

This post's theme word is vituperation, "bitter and abusive language." I intend no vituperation towards the happy couples; their joy is delightful, and should be duly celebrated.

*What would be much more satisfying would be a filter which restricted the feed of announcements to conform more closely to demographic trends, e.g., by showing one divorce announcement for every two wedding announcements.

**... like all social media. My own included. Cognitive dissonance acknowledged.


I am as much a datavore as the next internet-inhabiting member of my socio-economic-educational cohort. Right now, with a few clicks, I can bring up a history of my workouts, personal mass, and grams of macronutrients eaten, going back months or years (depending on the quality of data desired), as well as how long I've worn each pair of contacts I've ever used, and the length of every menstrual cycle. No, this data is neither open nor freely available (at least until I get a good publication out of it).

I have thought about getting a fitbit, but it seems extraneous. At my current level, increasing my steps per day is a tiny factor of my overall activity. Plus I'm not crazy about uploading my data to some company's website, automatically. I want to control the data I generate, and I think this is reasonable.

But this article makes me want to run from the fitbit, for many steps. In fact, I think that I could probably be discouraged from most of my present activities by an article describing them in this light: as an obsessive, addictive, cult-ish fad, in which basic humanity (competition, socializing, merely walking) is suborned in order to commodify community and "brand engagement."


This post's theme word is thrasonical, "bragging or boastful." Linked fitbit accounts are thrasonical interpersonal spam of an unpleasant sort.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Maine art

Gotta be lobster, I guess. If the lobster were riding a moose, it would be even more Mainish (Mainerly? Mained?).
I like this painting style --- it reminds me visually of smudged fingerprints, and my associations make these buttery smudged fingerprints.

Mmmm, food is delicious.

This post's theme word is kickshaw, "delicacy, fancy dish, trinket." Vacation indulgences include many kickshaws.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Portland picturesque sunset

The Portland sunset was spectacular today, and I had a front-row seat on the waterfront.
There goes our favorite mass of incandescent gas miasma of incandescent plasma, vanishing over the edge of this oblate spheroid of note.
The nearby swarm of boats offered an interesting texture of surfaces to reflect the colored streams of light.
All of human settlement in Portland, Maine is simply a dark, low smudge obscuring the beautiful sunset.
Look at that incredible spectrum of colors, bouncing off and diffusing through the clouds.
The sky looks somehow soft and comfortable.
The pink is amazing. Pollution? Chemistry? Physics? Impossible to know.

This post's theme word is ylem, "the primordial matter of the universe." We sit on the patio, watch the sun set, and commune with ylem.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Wolf on a wharf

Well, not really --- but wolf [statue] on an abandoned piling. Very realistic, lifelike, surprising to notice from the corner of one's eye.
Notice his buddies, who have made the leap and are now stalking ever closer to the shore, and the unsuspecting pedestrians on this unexpectedly perilous walking path.

This post's theme word is dess down, "to push with the horns, as a bull". When his verbal dressing-down was for aught, the satyr resorted to dessing down the wandering questers.

Tidepool textures

Some very cool textures were on display on the crusted, wind-blasted, smoothed and craggy rocks that the tide revealed when it receded. This is the idyllic, vivacious north Atlantic in its summer finery, vacationing along the coast just like everyone else.
Wisps of seaweed and moss grabbing a foothold in a shallow pool.
The presence of water is clearly indicated in the change of surface texture: bare rock into lush, soft greenery.
Thick, short, stubby seaweed, photographed through maybe 10cm of water, looked like a soft bathmat. I did not try to wipe my feet.
The entire fanciful landscape is contained in a nearly flat plane --- below, solid rock; above, empty air. Everything interesting happens in a narrow band, as usual.
The texture is fantastic.
The water's surface, a passive prison gate, confines the biological below its strict limits.

This post's theme word is sclerotic, "hardened, stony in texture" (but this is an obscure 3rd meaning). The receding tide of emotions exposed her sclerotic heart, weathered by many past losses.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


The site of the shipwreck of the Annie C. Maguire is commemorated with this painted white message, on the site of the wreck:

This post's theme word is pelagic, "of or relating to the open sea, as distinguished from the shallows near the coast." The lack of visual references makes pelagic navigation more difficult, but assuages most fears of collisions.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

There goes Manhattan

Identifiable from the sky. A very distinctive appearance; just like maps.

This post's theme word is foursquare, "firm, unyielding; frank, forthright; square in shape." The foursquare city planning made navigation easy.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Année du tournesol

It's the year of the sunflower.
Can you locate Ernie?
The convenient sunflower map --- a pleasingly-abstract thing, resembling an extensive Venn diagram or perhaps a postmodern self-portrait of the artist as a very hungry caterpillar.

The Venn diagram style of planting made some of the intersectional plants hard to locate, and apparently also hard to reach with nourishing sunbeams.
The Ernie sunflowers were crowded out by their much taller neighbors.

This post's theme word is boscage, "mass of growing trees or shrubs." The sunflower boscage brightened the surround.

Saturday, August 1, 2015


Saarbrücken is a pretty city, a lovely place to seek cool refuge from the sweltering sun and treelessness of denser and more tropical cities. It reminded me of Ithaca, featuring an expansive university nestled in hills and trees. The weather was pleasant. I took many photos.
Local church, directly out my window.
The streetcar's modernity nestled against the historical buildings.
This is art. Or a sundial? Or a postmodern playground.
The local language is Germany; proximity to France is completely ignored, and signs are not even bilingual (or, when they are, it is German/English). This combined with a forbidding, darkly gothic architecture, to make me think that I happened upon a vampire nest.
Gothic frontage, part 1.
Gothic frontage, part 2.
I visited an art exhibit in an abandoned chemical factory. It was very cool. The ambiance of abandoned rooms and stark pipes, walls, and windows, reminded me of post-apocalyptic video game settings. Some of the art blended with the setting, so that it was hard to distinguish art installations from decaying building.
I'm pretty sure this was just an empty room with abandoned freestanding plumbing features.
The paint flakes, mirrored windows to the next laboratories, and floor tiles was very cool. Unintentional art re: decay and order.
If this were a 1st-person video game, I would momentarily receive a parcour training session across these glassed roofs.

The weather was great, the university was nice, my talk went well, the research was interesting, the scenery was nice, and my ear was delighted to try to decipher German.

This post's theme word is esthesia, "the capacity for sensation." Travel titillates my esthesia.


I've been in Germany all week, living the exciting research life. The weather has been lovely, cool, clear, sunny, pleasant. Like a perfect autumn day. I gave a talk, I read some papers, I experienced the shock of immersion in a place where I speak zero of the local language; it made me miss my relative fluency in France. But of course everyone in the university setting speaks English, too, so it's a hollow complaint.
The church outside my window. Architectural features, a park, foot traffic, and in evenings there is often a live guitarist playing in the restaurant right downstairs. Relaxing and sophisticated. Contrast with the live music festival going on one block away, which was boisterous and loud.
Water reflected on the underside of a bridge. Great texture.
Placid ducks in the city center. I, too, hid in the shade here.
 The broad, bright sky expands over a charming square. Everything feels quaint and adorable to me, I think perhaps my brain is now permanently stuck in a "tourist" gear where every... single... thing... is unbearably whimsical. My fancy is perpetually tickled.
I'm pretty sure that vampires inhabit this building.

I ended up with no pictures of the river Saar, even though I ran along it several times for quite some distance. It was nice, too: water held, by gravity, to the bottom of a curving channel, occasionally buckled to the Earth by bridges. One side is the autobahn and the other is a park with pedestrian paths, shady trees, jungle gyms, beer gardens, and other sedate and pretty city-dressings. I liked it.

This post's theme word is calliopean, "piercingly loud." The Nauwieserviertelfest festivities spread their calliopean joy over several crowded blocks.