Thursday, July 31, 2008

possible consolation

Suspicion concerning life:
if chocolate chips are eaten and enjoyed at a decent rate (such as perhaps a handful per day) over a length of time, the enjoyment may possibly reach or exceed that which may be derived from a one-time deal of a batch of chocolate chip cookies (especially when shared around indiscriminately as is my wont).

One must, after all, search out and weigh the merits of the various options.

will I ever learn?

Fact of life:
if one opens the chocolate chip package and begins to eat the contents prior to making chocolate chip cookies, there is a chance that by the time one wishes to make said cookies that there will not be enough chips left for such an undertaking.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

literary questions

I have often wished to write reviews on here of books I have read or, barring that, even a quick comment on broad impressions in response to books I have been thinking about. What generally stops me in this is a feeling that I do not want to judge a book before I have completed it and perhaps chewed over its contents for a while. So while I am reading a book I try to reserve judgement and by the time that such judgement ideally would be ripe I am deep into the next book with all thoughts of the previous one as dim memories of syne.

I do wish to work around this tendency and not just post some interesting quotes but to engage with the material and themes and express my true opinion (something that I often have a hard time getting out). To start with baby steps I shall in this post answer a couple questions I found elsewhere concerning books. Perhaps the resulting discussion will prompt and prod me into a resolve to continue discussions of the like on a deeper level.

What kind of book are you most comfortable reading?
Novels. In particular the huge Victorian tomes that frighten so many people away. I would say that for recreation and ease of reading there are always lighter novels comparable to candy that are a joy to escape into occasionally but would not sustain a steady diet. I love the complex and beautiful writing and insights into human nature that generally abound in a good novel.

What kind of book do you love to hate?
I generally despise the cheap historical fiction books that frame modern anxieties with a show of historic accuracy. I understand that all historic fiction draws attitudes from modern thought. This is understandable because we are all a product of our own time but there should be some connection between the event shown in the book and the central thrust of the book. If the anxiety is social unrest, then to place the plot in a time of riots and such makes sense but merely to use a certain time-period to display the depths of one's research into that time is rather shallow.
In a slightly different vein, this is not about a book in particular but I look down on the modern trend to appear deep by being obscure.

What was the last book that you surprised yourself by liking?
I think it would have to be Elizabeth B B's Aurora Leigh. I thought a novel written in verse would combine the worst aspects of both genres yet it seemed to do the opposite. Some parts did tend to drag on but for the most part I thoroughly enjoyed it.

What was the last book that you surprised yourself by disliking?
I can't think of the last book that I thought I would like that I haven't liked. I'll have to think of this a little more. Actually I was surprised that I did not enjoy Gaskell's Cranford as I had anticipated. I still ended with enjoying it but it took me more than my usual effort to stay with it and complete it. Once finished, however, I look back with fondness on the book and hope that those who are thinking of reading it will also stick with it and find the small treasures hidden within its pages.

What book would you take with you if you knew you would be marooned in the near future?
Well the Bible is a necessity but as I suspect they are referring to entertainment reading I think I would pick something along the lines of all of Austen's work in one volume. I don't think that's cheating since they are often bound together and it is not an overly unwieldy tome. Perhaps if the three volumes of Tolkein's Ring cycle were together that might suffice also but I don't remember having seen them in one volume before.

What forces you to read outside your comfort zone?
Being in an English degree leaves one at the mercy of required courses and assigned reading. Just having graduated I am now looking forward to a life of ever-narrowing scope and opinions. I can't wait!
In seriousness, however, I often look to friends who may have different likes/dislikes than myself to recommend their favourite books. I do enjoy finding merit in books that I would not have considered myself.

And so ends the short quiz. I enjoyed thinking about the answers and I hope that you enjoyed reading them and that they made you think about what your answers would be. I'm feeling stimulated towards further and deeper discussions over literature so hopefully that will transpire in time.

Monday, July 28, 2008


From an interesting article in the New York Times on mirrors

In a report titled “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Enhancement in Self-Recognition,” which appears online in The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Nicholas Epley and Erin Whitchurch described experiments in which people were asked to identify pictures of themselves amid a lineup of distracter faces. Participants identified their personal portraits significantly quicker when their faces were computer enhanced to be 20 percent more attractive. They were also likelier, when presented with images of themselves made prettier, homelier or left untouched, to call the enhanced image their genuine, unairbrushed face. Such internalized photoshoppery is not simply the result of an all-purpose preference for prettiness: when asked to identify images of strangers in subsequent rounds of testing, participants were best at spotting the unenhanced faces.

How can we be so self-delusional when the truth stares back at us? “Although we do indeed see ourselves in the mirror every day, we don’t look exactly the same every time,” explained Dr. Epley, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. There is the scruffy-morning you, the assembled-for-work you, the dressed-for-an-elegant-dinner you. “Which image is you?” he said. “Our research shows that people, on average, resolve that ambiguity in their favor, forming a representation of their image that is more attractive than they actually are.”

When we look in the mirror, our relative beauty is not the only thing we misjudge. In a series of studies, Dr. Bertamini and his colleagues have interviewed scores of people about what they think the mirror shows them. They have asked questions like, Imagine you are standing in front of a bathroom mirror; how big do you think the image of your face is on the surface? And what would happen to the size of that image if you were to step steadily backward, away from the glass?

People overwhelmingly give the same answers. To the first question they say, well, the outline of my face on the mirror would be pretty much the size of my face. As for the second question, that’s obvious: if I move away from the mirror, the size of my image will shrink with each step.

Both answers, it turns out, are wrong. Outline your face on a mirror, and you will find it to be exactly half the size of your real face. Step back as much as you please, and the size of that outlined oval will not change: it will remain half the size of your face (or half the size of whatever part of your body you are looking at), even as the background scene reflected in the mirror steadily changes. Importantly, this half-size rule does not apply to the image of someone else moving about the room. If you sit still by the mirror, and a friend approaches or moves away, the size of the person’s image in the mirror will grow or shrink as our innate sense says it should.

What is it about our reflected self that it plays by such counterintuitive rules? The important point is that no matter how close or far we are from the looking glass, the mirror is always halfway between our physical selves and our projected selves in the virtual world inside the mirror, and so the captured image in the mirror is half our true size.

Rebecca Lawson, who collaborates with Dr. Bertamini at the University of Liverpool, suggests imagining that you had an identical twin, that you were both six feet tall and that you were standing in a room with a movable partition between you. How tall would a window in the partition have to be to allow you to see all six feet of your twin?

The window needs to allow light from the top of your twin’s head and from the bottom of your twin’s feet to reach you, Dr. Lawson said. These two light sources start six feet apart and converge at your eye. If the partition is close to your twin, the upper and lower light points have just begun to converge, so the opening has to be nearly six feet tall to allow you a full-body view. If the partition is close to you, the light has nearly finished converging, so the window can be quite small. If the partition were halfway between you and your twin, the aperture would have to be — three feet tall. Optically, a mirror is similar, Dr. Lawson said, “except that instead of lighting coming from your twin directly through a window, you see yourself in the mirror with light from your head and your feet being reflected off the mirror into your eye.”

This is one partition whose position we cannot change.

I think I'm going to have to check out this last experiment even though it makes some sense on paper it makes no sense to my senses. I wonder if it because the mirror itself gets further away and our perception of thie image is smaller once we move but that the image stays the same. Crazy.


from Charlotte Bronte's Villette:
There is a perverse mood of the mind which is rather soothed than irritated by misconstruction; and in quarters where we can never be rightly known, we take pleasure, I think, in being consummately ignored.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I think that it is generally true that while riding on a high we should expect to hit a low shortly thereafter. I just got back from our church's quatrannual international conference. The week was soaked in communal prayer and was truly blessed. I was drained but was given so much more than I gave (as is usual in God's math. Gotta love it.). On my return home I had a couple things to arrange for the accomidation of a fellow who had travelled with me from the conference. It seemed fairly straightforward and I was happy to show some hospitality.
Little did she know... ah, I can't wait to get to heaven and see the true scope of the dramatic irony in which our lives take place.
I will not write out the details since it will come out at this time as a complaint but suffice it to say that I have never had so much trouble trying to get in touch with people and organize something that seemed so simple. On top of it all, just as I had thought everything was arranged and out of my hands, another complication has arisen. But I am praying about it and going to have a good night's sleep and I'm sure it will all look different in the morning. I'm sure I'll laugh in the morning.
I am so thankful that God has given us humour.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

O Simon

In an addition or continuation of the last post I would like to say that as a side-effect of my new habits I am beginning to hear Simon Amstell's voice as the constant narrator in my head. Now normally, when I read or write things or think them in my head I have no consciousness of a particular voice or accent or tone unless it puts me in mind strongly of something in a particular genre. For example, if I heard "perspicacity" I would think of it in an upper-class English accent and if I heard "you can't handle the truth" a few good men would pop into my head providing they were small enough. However now amost everything has become a joke with me. The tortured tones of irony and suppressed laughter while reading something of a serious nature has permeated the most sombre of materials and I will not even attempt to start with how much more hilarious his voice renders things that are funny to begin with. I just can't get him out of my head but that's okay.


I've become hooked on watching numerous clips from various and sundry British quiz-type shows. I say 'quiz-type' because the primary purpose of these shows seems not to be to ask and answer interesting question (as the category 'quiz show' would suggest) but to take the opportunity to display their utter mastery of dry and, well, British humour while answering these clever questions cleverly. Basically these people are my heroes.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

photo flop

I have one thing to complain about my camera: it takes terrible pictures at night. This is usually not a problem since most of the pictures I take are the type to be taken during the day but times do arise when I would wish the night vision were better. Take last night for instance. I decided to take the night off from volunteering at Bluesfest and actually watch a show. I arrived before the sun set and staked out a place by the stage. Corb Lund was playing and I got a decent picture of his set. Then I waited around between the shows and got some funky shots of my food, feet and face. Then Feist came on. Now if this were a world that revolved around words and if alliteration were the goal, I would have got some funky Feist photos too. Sadly for literaphiles such as myself, this is not the case. The world runs on much more prosaic rules and if my camera does not do well at night, it will not take good pictures of objects at night no matter what the potential in the alliterative sphere. So despite the fact that I was front row at the Feist show, I have little pictoral evidence. Corb Lund (first on stage) My food
My feet
My funny face

Feist but in no way funky. Perhaps it was going for 'fuzzy'. If you can't figure out what's happening, she's casting her shadow on a white screen. I was over to the right so it shows some of what's behind the screen.