Literary genius

June 28th, 2004 § One comment § permalink

I’m writing a book that offers something for everyone, from four-year-old children to adult fans of magical realism. It’s called If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler Gave a Mouse a Cookie.

Preorders, anyone?

Seventeen pounds of crud

June 25th, 2004 § Two comments § permalink

I had the bright idea of examining my blender’s blade to make sure all its nooks and crannies were clean. Suffice it to say that they were not. The blade is now soaking in hot, soapy water, where it will remain for about a thousand years.

You gave igneous rocks to your enemies? How magma-nanimous!

June 21st, 2004 § Four comments § permalink

Yesterday several friends and I visited one of the East Bay’s fine parks, the Robert Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. Volcanic? It’s a trifle hard to imagine, but 10 million years ago, there were several active volcanoes in the East Bay. One of them formed a peak in the Oakland hills called Round Top. The park has several trails, one of which goes around the base of Round Top and another of which leads to smaller hills and meadows. As we walked the trails, my housemate Suzanne, who majored in geology, taught us about the different rock formations in the park. Even she had trouble telling rhyolite apart from basalt, though. (Here’s one thing I learned: “Basalt” is pronounced “buh-SALT,” not “BAY-salt.” Maybe everyone else knew that already.) Also, my brother’s housemate Lisa taught us about plants. I can now identify barley, wild oats, lupines, wild mustard, madrone trees, and the implausibly named sticky monkey flower (its leaves have sticky bottoms; I don’t know what monkeys have to do with anything).

On our way back to Berkeley, we stopped at the Gateway Emergency Preparedness Exhibit Center & Garden, although I prefer to think of it as the Most Pointless Thing in the Entire East Bay. It’s a small, expensive-looking structure, designed by survivors of the 1991 fire in the Oakland Hills, that’s been plunked down next to Highway 24—not exactly a prime location for a park. The structure has a deck big enough for 100 people, although it’s hard to imagine why even one person would visit. We stopped only because we were so baffled by its presence. A platform extends from the deck towards the highway, offering scenic views of, well, traffic, as well as a power substation. There are placards around the deck’s edge with tips on preparing for earthquakes and fires, including detailed instructions for bolting one’s house to its foundation. Presumably visitors are meant to take notes.

We quelled our confusion by visiting Crepes A-Go-Go, where I devoured a Nutella and banana crepe, and Mod Lang, where I found an Iron & Wine cover of the Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights.” And that was my exciting Sunday. Today I am finishing Crime and Punishment and biking to Rockridge. Oh, the spoils of being turned down for all the summer internships I pursued.


June 13th, 2004 § One comment § permalink

Ah, Berkeley. Amazing food; good friends; fantastic weather. It’s nice to be home.

Last night, I made my own contribution on the amazing food front by making a warm cannellini bean salad with mustard and tarragon dressing, served over greens, with goat cheese and kalamata olive crostini on the side. So easy, yet so delicious. I lucked into a bottle of white wine, spicy and unexpectedly floral, that complemented the salad perfectly. For dessert, we had fresh olallieberries with whipped cream.

The olallieberries came from the farmers’ market, which is bursting with the abundance of late spring. Frog Hollow had the season’s first truly brilliant peaches this week, to say nothing of their apricots. Apparently it’s a banner year for stone fruit. I am more than happy to reap the benefits.

There is nothing like a Dane

June 8th, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

Hi there. I’m home now, but I’ll write a bit about the final destination on my trip, Copenhagen (or København, as the cognoscenti call it).

Unlike in France, where the simplest interactions with others require the use of words that reveal your terrible accent (cf. “bonjour”), it’s easy for an American in Denmark to pass as a native while shopping. Being white helps; blond hair is optional. Also, make sure you’re wearing something that might plausibly be owned by a resident of continental Europe. Don’t go crazy here–you’re not in Paris. Just leave the Bermuda shorts and fanny pack at home (which is good advice anywhere, actually). If you meet those conditions, just follow these three simple steps:

  1. When you finish shopping, go up to the cashier, say “Hi,” and place your items on the counter.
  2. Wait for the total to appear on the register, then hand over the appropriate number of kroner. If the cashier asks you if you found everything you needed, or anything of that sort, you lose. Your befuddled look will trigger the use of English.
  3. When you get your change and receipt, say “Tak” (thanks), which sounds pretty much how it looks.

My brother and I took a day trip to Malmö, in Sweden, and the rules are similar there–just double the “hi” and “tak.”

If, on the other hand, you’d rather just speak English in Copenhagen, go ahead. The Danes seem to have recognized that nobody else is going to bother to learn their language, so a ridiculous percentage of them speak English.

Denmark has a reputation for unhealthy living, and the enormous quantity of cigarette butts, broken Carlsberg bottles, and empty methadone bottles near the train station did nothing to undermine it. Nonetheless, Danish people are creepily law-abiding in at least one way: They simply do not jaywalk. Even on a tiny street with no traffic at midnight, if there is a light for pedestrians, Danes will wait for the light to turn green before they cross. I have no idea why this is, but I suspect pedestrian fatalities there are very low.

Bicycles are insanely popular in Copenhagen. The city is ridiculously flat, which helps. Also, all major streets (and many minor ones) have wide, grade-separated bicycle lanes between the sidewalk and the traffic lanes. Both bicycle and traffic lanes seem to be eight feet wide in most places. That’s almost implausibly narrow for traffic lanes, though, so my pace might have been off. (In the US, by comparison, traffic lanes are often 12 feet wide, and even narrow lanes are usually at least 10 feet if they are striped.)

I had other things to say about Copenhagen, but since I don’t remember them at the moment, I’ll just add that we took a day trip to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, up the coast from Copenhagen. They had a terrific exhibition of work by Jørn Utzon, the architect who designed the Sydney Opera House. The museum itself is lovely as well, with a painstakingly landscaped sculpture garden and panoramic views of the sea. Its incongruous name comes from the fact that its construction was financed by the “Louisiana Foundation,” whatever that is.

I would write more, but there are clothes to be washed, groceries to be purchased, and jobs to be applied for. Ah, the aftermath of a two-week vacation.

Where am I?

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