Thursday, February 28, 2008


• My friend taught me how to French braid recently, and I can do it on myself now! Very pleased about that. :) Learning how to do something new always makes my day, and I love the look of French braids.

• On Tuesday I obeyed the hair-cutting urge that surfaces periodically and cut me some bangs. The first cut of the scissors was very frightening, as were the results, but miraculously I sorted it out, and I quite like how they look now.

• Gaelic Storm (a truly awesome Irish band who played the music in the third-class party scene in Titanic) is playing in Chicago the night I return from spring break. I probably won't go, but I would so love to...

• My way cool senior buddy who resurrected and now heads the North Korean Human Rights Club is going to be in the Bay Area over spring break, so we're going to rendezvous in the city and I'll get to show her around my magnificent hometown! Yay!

• A sampling of the songs I have recently been infatuated with /am currently infatuated with (I get on kicks where I just want to listen to the same songs over and over for a couple weeks):
"Redemption Song" - Bob Marley
"Fidelity" - Regina Spektor
"From the Inside Out" and "All I Need Is You" - Hillsong
"Upward Over the Mountain" and "Resurrection Fern" - Iron & Wine

• I started copying some Celtic knotwork, and it's positively addicting. Now to try making some of my own...

• The next forty-eight hours look to be rather horrendous. French test, German papers, seventeenth-century German novel (aayyyiii...) to read, ushering for a concert, and North Korean film showing are the worst of it. I've just returned from securing a supply of espresso for myself.

Monday, February 25, 2008

"That would be the French."

For those of you who are unfamiliar with French numbers, I thought I would enlighten you as to their odd nature, at least, the odd nature of the upper two-digit numbers. (And no, I haven't just now learned my numbers, nearly halfway through the semester.) Some literal translations:

70. Soixante-dix. Sixty-ten.
75. Soixante-quinze. Sixty-fifteen.
80. Quatre-vingt. Four-twenty.
90. Quatre-vingt-dix. Four-twenty-ten.
97. Quatre-vingt-dix-sept. Four-twenty-seventeen. (Though seventeen, dix-sept, is literally ten-seven, so I guess you could say ninety-seven in French is four-twenty-ten-seven.)

Amusing, no? The funny part to me is that it's just some of their numbers that get the weird end of the stick. To say "four-twenty" for eighty is perfectly logical, but I just don't understand why they couldn't give eighty its own word -- huitante, or something like that -- when they were willing enough to do so for ten through sixty.

The Korean numbers are rather like that -- par exemple, eighty-eight is eight ten eight. But then there's the small nightmare of the Sino-Korean numbers versus the Korean numbers. Yes, they have two different words for every number, and you have to memorize which uses require which numbers. E.g., Korean numbers are good for age in years and when counting persons, but to say what grade in school you're in, it's the Sino-Korean number you want.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Now that you are gone in this way

When you were gone in such a way that only dreams could do what memories ought to, summer wind filled my sleep. I dreamed wide blue thrown-open skies, toes pushing off of cool tree bark, and dripping faces under those gracious madly loving heavens. And your laughter. You would wake up laughing and I liked it better than any I’d ever heard, because it seemed to come from a miraculously unconscious, essential joy. Your laughter blossomed across my skin in patterns of vines and flowers that I still wear, though their stain has deepened in color to a more solemn joy.

Sometimes I see you striding, jaunty, up-weighted, towards yesterday and the edges of where I can be. You tipped your face up to the sky like it was all you would ever need, and your hair falling back from your star-laughing brow is what I watch wade deeper into elsewhere. When I wake, my tapestry hands hold the thought of your swinging arms.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"C'mooon geese..."

"This is what February looks like. Salt stains and mud next to snow and dirty snow and puddles and nasty grass..." Also goose poo. There are a boatload of Canadian geese who've been hanging around campus all winter. I don't know if that's actually weird, but it seems confused to me. I know Chicago is warmer than some places, but aren't they supposed to go somewhere actually warm for the winter?

I'd really like to reread Madame Bovary. Oh, and I'm fairly sure I've given up on WRC. Whatever.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


That is, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. North Korea. I'm a member of the newly re-formed North Korean Human Rights Club on campus, and I borrowed a book about its prison camps recently from another member. It's based on interviews conducted with North Korean refugees who escaped from the camps, and details in some 260 pages the horrific practices which the former prisoners testified to having witnessed or experienced there. The pages have titles like "A Child Brutally Beaten for a Minor Offense" and "Prisoners Eating Salamanders, Frogs and Anything Else To Stay Alive." I was struck by these sentences in the introduction, as they confirm a notion I'd been forming for several months:

"...[W]e are convinced that the most abominable and horrifying crimes against humanity, worse than those of Nazi concentration camps, Soviet gulags, or anything else, have been perpetuated in North Korea for decades. Although the twentieth century has witnessed terrible bloodshed from ethnic cleansing and genocide, political oppression, and religious hostilities, none has surpassed, we believe, the crimes of North Korea in terms of length, systematic practice, terror, and secrecy. We are convinced that the worst crimes in the world today are being committed daily in North Korea. "

We're preparing a short presentation for an event next weekend, and I and several others are writing a brief...well, not speech, but you know, thing that you say aloud in front of a crowd, to summarize the state of affairs in North Korea and the most important background information. I'll post it when we finish it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Some Christmas Eve honesty

When you go to college, you get to start everything fresh. You can remake yourself as much as you want to. Everyone gets that. What I didn’t think of is that you’re new only for the people at your college. When you go home, there’s no avoiding who you were. Your old self is there, in everybody’s eyes and memories, and you have to return to living with the consequences of your actions.

I started shedding my friends halfway through high school, and the ones who are left are few. I wish my dear new friends were with me to protect me from the past, armoring me with their laughter and hugs, but they’re scattered across the United States (and further) right now, and all I have is some pictures of their lovely familiar faces and a phone with lots of numbers in its address book.

Right now I don’t actually know if I’ve changed at all, and I don't like that thought.
I'd like to think that in the space between when I wrote that (n.b. a melancholy day anyways) and now I have reconciled these...two existences? (forgive me if that sounds dramatic) -- a bit more, at least. That's easy to say now, though; I'm at school. Haha.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A slice of Pi

"Richard Parker has stayed with me. I've never forgotten him. Dare I say I miss him? I do. I miss him. I still see him in my dreams. They are nightmares mostly, but nightmares tinged with love. Such is the strangeness of the human heart. I still cannot understand how he could abandon me so unceremoniously, without any sort of goodbye, without looking back even. That pain is like an axe that chops at my heart."

- Yann Martel
from Life of Pi

Strange book. But good. It's been about two years since I read it. Richard Parker is not what you probably think he is.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The facts

German independent study meets tomorrow at nine a.m.

Received the first text (haha, textus receptus) today at 12:30 p.m.

135 pages of an Arthurian romance to read in German.

"i who have died am alive again today..."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


i love you much(most beautiful darling)

more than anyone on the earth and i
like you better than everything in the sky

- e.e. cummings
from "i love you much(most beautiful darling)"

I'm not feeling up to explaining well and accurately, but please try not to jump to conclusions.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Sometimes I feel like Harry Potter diving into the darknesses of the past to face memories of Death Eaters and Dark Lords

I'm taking a German course on the leftist terrorism of the seventies (in Germany), and it's making me feel really tired and dead. I've had too much in the past three weeks of prisons and hunger strikes and sick fanaticism and suicide.

Friday, February 1, 2008

And a poem for you

I read this poem a couple nights ago and it made me think of a certain post on ennagirl's blog. I suppose a lot of book nerds -- or just people who are currently living through high school or middle school -- could use these words. I hope you feel a bit of extra strength when you read them, as I did.

Reply to Censure
Repulse the staring eye,
The hostile gaze of hate,
And check the pedantry
Of those inveterate

Defamers of the good.
They mock the deepest thought,
Condemn the fortitude
Whereby true work is wrought.

Though just men are reviled
When cravens cry them down,
The brave keep undefiled
A wisdom of their own.

The bold wear toughened skin
That keeps sufficient store
Of dignity within,
And quiet at the core.

- Theodore Roethke

Literary disappointments

I heard from my local bookstore's newsletter of a new book called Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name. After reading Amazon's summary of it, I decided to get it from the library and give it a try. (And I put it on my "to read" list on Goodreads, of course. Teehee.) The title grabbed me immediately, and it involves not just the far north, but even Finland, one of my most favorite mini-obsessions. So promising!

And yet. Frown. I checked it out from the library today, but in just the few pages I read walking back to my dorm, the awkwardness of the imagery and descriptive clauses, and the amateurish telling (i.e. not showing) in her characterizations had me furrowing my brow with displeasure. So I don't think I will be able to read any more. Though I really, really wanted to like it. :(

It usually takes a lot for me to give up on a book part way through it. The only one I can think of off the top of my head (though unfinished books aren't exactly the ones that stick in your memory) is The Candlestone, by Bryan Davis. I put forth a mighty effort reading Raising Dragons, the first in the series, in its entirety because I had borrowed them from a very dear friend and wouldn't like to give them back saying I hadn't read them because they were horrible. But there are so many good books I've still to read, and reading is supposed to be enjoyable -- I don't want to give days of reading time to books that I feel are poorly written and are a chore to get through. What about y'all? How often do you give up on books, and what does it take to bring you to that?

P.S. I do realize I can't really ask others to take seriously my judgment on Let the Northern Lights, given that I made it based on only the first five pages or so. It's just that they were enough for me. Sigh.

P.P.S. WRC update: The Candlestone removed from list