Vulcan’s Peak

Riddle me this

January 21, 2009 12:27 pm

Last Christmas, my brothers gave me the 2008 Dragonology calendar, which I assure you has been a great help this year in learning to identify dragons, read dragon script, and evaluate dragon treasure. The June page is a lesson on “Elementary Riddle Work,” though I hadn’t really noticed until I took the calender down this month — with all my moving about last summer, I didn’t have the calendar up anywhere during the month of June.

Anyway, the page is covered in riddles, some of which I’d seen before and some that I hadn’t.  I know a bunch of you are riddle fans, so I thought I would share.  I’ll put the answer in white text below the riddle so you won’t see the answer unless you highlight it.

What does man love more than life,
Fear more than death or mortal strife,
What the poor have, the rich require,
And what contented men desire,
What misers spend, and spendthrifts save,
And all men carry to the grave?

Weight in my belly,
Trees on my back,
Nails in my ribs,
Feet I do lack.
A ship

The wave, over the wave, a weird thing I saw,
Through-wrought, and wonderful ornate:
A wonder on the waves, water become bone.

Oft I must strive with wind and wave, battle them both when under the sea.
I feel out the bottom, a foreign land. In lying still, I am strong in the strife;
If I fail in that, they are stronger than I, and wrenching me loose, soon put me to rout.
They wish to capture what I must keep. I master them both if my grip holds out.
If the rocks bring succor and lend support, strength in the struggle. Ask me my name!
An anchor

The part of the bird that is not in the sky,
which can swim in the ocean and always stay dry.
Its shadow

What gets wetter the more it dries?
A towel

The Riddle of the Sphinx: What goes on four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon, and three in the evening?
A person

Only one color, but not one size,
Stuck at the bottom, yet easily flies,
Present in sun, but not in rain,
Doing no harm and feeling no pain.
A shadow

What force and strength cannot get through
I with a gentle touch can do,
And many in the street would stand,
Were I not a friend at hand.
A key

Round like an apple, deep like a cup,
Yet all the king’s horses can’t pull it up.
A well

Old Mother Twitchet had one eye,
And a long tail that she let fly,
And every time she went through a gap
She left a bit of her tail in the trap.
A needle and thread

Long legs, bandy thighs,
A little head, and no eyes.
A pair of tongs

In marble walls as white as milk,
Lined with skin as soft as silk,
Within a fountain crystal clear,
A golden apple does appear.
No doors are there to this stronghold–
Yet thieves break in and steal the gold.
An egg

Black we are, and much admired,
Men seek for us if they’re tired.
We tire the horse, but comfort man,
Tell me this riddle if you can.

As I was going to St. Ives,
I met a man with seven wives,
Each wife had seven sacks,
Each sack had seven cats,
Each cat had seven kits,
Kits, cats, sacks, wives,
How many were going to St. Ives?

A hill-full, a hole-full,
You cannot catch a bowl-full.
Mist or fog

Little Nancy Etticoat,
In a white petticoat,
With a red nose,
The longer she stands,
The shorter she grows.
A candle

Black within and red without,
With four corners round about.
A chimney

Good bookwormy television

January 17, 2009 1:53 pm

Looks to me that Masterpiece Theater is going to be good for the foreseeable future.

They’ve been doing Tess of the D’Urbervilles the last two weeks, which I missed, though apparently they’re now putting the episodes online, in a limited-time-only kind of way.  So that one is still available, though it’s also four hours long.  I read Tess a few years ago, in the quiet evenings of my summer in New Hampshire.  I remember being captivated by it, and then somewhat frustrated by the ending.

This week and next are Wuthering Heights (clocking in at a total of a mere two and a half hours).  That was one of my big reads this summer, so I’m interested to see what they did with it.  I’m a little confused about how the book makes it onto lists of “greatest love stories of all time” when the main characters seem to resist all attempts at being made likable.  He’s a brute, she’s neurotic, everyone’s miserable.  Amusingly, in some ways it was the inverse of Tess, in that I liked the way it ended.

After that, MT is running the Sense and Sensibility that they used as part of the Jane Austen love fest of last year.  My preferred adaptation is still the Emma Thompson/Kate Winslet one, but this one’s good too.

And we’re getting Dickens adaptations for the rest of the spring!  Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Little Dorrit, and The Old Curiosity Shop.  I’ve seen Oliver! (the movie musical) and I’ve been to the “Old Curiosity Shop,” but otherwise this is all new to me.

Looks like when the show turns back into Mystery! for the summer, we’re getting a few more Miss Marple stories, too.  I always enjoy those — the little old lady sleuth is so delightfully unexpected.

Catching up

January 14, 2009 4:56 pm

Well, a happy new year to you all!  Pug and I were fortunate in that we were able to spend a nice long time at home over the holidays and got to spend time with many of you!  (…she says, having only a vague idea of who might actually be reading this.)  And having been sufficiently poked about having not posted here since Halloween, here we go again!

It’s sunny and gorgeous here in the lovely southwest — cool enough to pull out jackets and maybe some sweaters, but warm enough to enjoy the outdoors.  This is great.  I love cute jackets.

Since late September, I’ve had a freelance writing/editing gig going with a company that produces vacation planning materials.  I’m still hoping for a local, full-time publishing niche to open up, but having this for the time being is very nice.  It keeps me from sitting here bored, it keeps me from getting rusty, and of course the pay is appreciated as well.

Wedding planning is moving along smoothly.  In addition to the ceremony location and the reception location, we now also have a minister and a pair of classical guitarists to play at the ceremony.  I have my dress, shoes, and veil in my closet, and Poke even has her bridesmaid dress.  (We settled on a shade of burgundy that the dressmaker decided to call “wine.”  It’s pretty.)  Next up are tux rentals and invitations, and after that, we’ll get to flowers and cake.

Pug and I are continuing our leisurely re-watch of the ever genius Babylon 5, in which we’re ready to start season 3.  We’ve also been watching the season 1 DVDs of The Big Bang Theory, which were a Christmas gift — his parents’ way of insisting that he really would enjoy it (and, of course, he does).  And one of these days I’m going to get him caught up on the current season of How I Met Your Mother.  I’m not usually much for sitcoms, but those two I like a lot.

Speaking of which, I have been “moonlighting on another blog,” as Courtney sneakily pointed out on my last post.  Courtney, my Boston roommate, has been keeping a TV review blog called Raked for about a year and a half, and I sometimes get in on the fun through ridiculously long comments on the Heroes posts and guest-blogging about How I Met Your Mother.  We enjoy it, and apparently other people out there read it too!  Amazing. I don’t use the same handles I use here, but you’d recognize me.

On the literary front, once I finished the pile of various vampire books, I moved into a category of “other people’s extra copies” — many thanks to the generosity of my friends!  I finally went back to Dune, which I  started (barely) months ago, read on the plane at Christmas time, and finally finished shortly after getting back.  It’s a neat book and I enjoyed it a great deal, but the story didn’t really start to move for me until Stilgar and his group find Paul and Jessica in the desert.  From there to the end, I was hooked.   I would ask those of you who’ve read the book, though: is it just my preference for micro over macro, or did you find Herbert’s descriptions of hand-to-hand combat more effective than his large battle scenes?  It was clear to me from the first description of training exercises in the early chapters that Herbert could write a duel, and I thought the later, higher stakes ones were captivating. Regardless, I enjoyed the subtle machinations throughout, and was very impressed by the …unique-ness of the world Herbert created.

After Dune, I flew through The Eyre Affair, a book-lover’s sci-fi mystery madness, if there ever was one!  Set in the England of an alternate universe in which the Crimean War has lasted over 130 years and French revisionists seem to be altering not just the history but the actual past, a woman named Thursday Next works for a branch of detectives who solve literary crimes and briefly gets trapped inside the story of Jane Eyre.  Hilariously good fun! I figured out the parallel between an aspect of Thursday’s life and of Jane’s well before Thursday did, which I enjoyed.  Perhaps the only weak spot in the book is that the bad guys (an unsophisticated term, but utterly appropriate) are far less intersting than the good guys.

My next read is Bleak House, by Dickens, because January seems the right time of year to read it.  (I intended to last year, but there was the whole grad school plus full-time job madness going on at the time.)  I picked up a second-hand copy a couple of years ago and it’s been calling to me to read it…  I haven’t read any Dickens except for picking up A Tale of Two Cities in high school (I’ve never even actually read A Christmas Carol) so it’s high time I started filling in some of those gaps.

Happy Halloween

October 31, 2008 7:22 pm

It’s a quiet one for me this year.  We carved pumpkins last weekend with Pug’s brother and sister-in-law, but our jacks were unceremoniously moved outside Wednesday morning when I noticed that they were leaning a little more than they had been.  Pug’s now looks like it’s melting! — so it’s off to the dumpster with them in the morning.

So the plan is to hand out candy — assuming we get trick-or-treaters, which we haven’t so far, but it’s possible — and read vampire books.  Which I seem to be reading a lot of lately — and some very different vampire books at that.

After a conversation at lunch several weeks ago, my almost-brother-in-law loaned me the first two of Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake books (of which I’ve so far read one).  Hamilton knows how to spin a story and how to write action, so it’s a fast read.  She tries to keep it very dark and noir-ish — large quantities of world-weary sarcasm — which would start to weigh on you except that the book moves so quickly.  Her real strength is how she handles the basic premise: that vampires and other undead are not only accepted as real, but have been granted citizenship.  It’s a clever reason for a police liaison to be tangled up in vampire business, and she makes the legal detail move the plot forward.

I hadn’t really planned to, but I’ve also started reading Twilight after A. found my weakness by using the line “I’d be interested to hear what you think.”  (She was reading it because a friend at work was enjoying them, and was curious about what sort of vampire book it could be, given who the author is and who had recommended it to her.)  I’m almost 400 pages in and I’ve finally found something resembling a plot (of the “run, the baddies are chasing us!” variety).  Teen romance is not usually my cup of tea (and undoubtedly IS where this book should be shelved), and this is, I’m afraid, no exception.  Also, Meyer needed a better editor (as evidenced by 375 pages of plotlessness and flimsy character development).  I thought Little, Brown was a decent house, but now I wonder if I should get to work, because I could totally write this book.  And whatever talents I may hope to have, that’s not really a good thing.

To round out this assortment of books with fangs, my former roommate, C., and I are attempting to continue our long-distance book club by reading Dracula.  I’ve read it before via the DracuBlog, which isn’t actually running this year, but for the past several years a Drac fan has undertaken to blog the novel — which is written as letters, diary entries, etc. — chronologically.  Partly it’s just just fun, but it also really gives you a sense of the time in which things happen (you check the blog and — geez, is Jonathan Harker still in Transylvania?).  It’s interesting to me to read the book as Bram Stoker arranged it, though, because at least in one instance, the action isn’t chronological:  for the first four chapters all you get is Harker writing his diary in Transylvania.  After that, Stoker takes you back to England and you catch up on what other characters have been doing during his absence, and you really do get a sense of the world having opened up — a contrast between the isolation of rural Transylvania and the more cosmopolitan West.

Happy hauntings to you all!

Mad libs… a toy for all ages.

October 4, 2008 1:04 am

Amusingly, Carmen and I seem to be mutually breaking up.  I’m not sure who has the better blackmail, but I totally trump in the memorabilia category.

Dear Carmen:

I don’t really know how to tell you this, but our affair is over. I think I realized it when I threw up outside of Chicago and I saw you sit on the crazy monk. I’m sure you’re frostbitten enough to understand that Santa doesn’t exist. I’m returning your ring to you, but I’ll keep your left ear as a memory. You should also know that I was interviewed by the Times about your passionate interest in mice.

Good luck on your short-term leave from jail,

Rapidly aging nerd news

August 31, 2008 5:30 pm

That’s the news doing the rapid aging, not the nerds, in case you were wondering.

Harry Potter is also aging, though — the first book came out in the States ten years ago this September.  To wring a few more rubles out of the franchise celebrate, Scholastic is issuing an anniversary edition with a new cover.

UK bookstore Waterstones has been putting together a book of stories so short, they can fit on a large index card.  Most entries, apparently were gathered through a competition, but they also invited entries from well-known authors — including J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Tom Stoppard, and Margaret Atwood.  The JKR card was a snippet of a story about James and Sirius.  As the original has now been sold (proceeds to charity) for massive amounts of money, you can read the text here.

Warner Bros. continues to be over-protective of HP.  Seriously, guys.

Another story with castles (but no wizards):  California man from the Netherlands builds his own.

More prosaic news: planning, books, and other links

August 24, 2008 3:52 pm

I just discovered the previous post while going through a handful of never-finished drafts.  It dates from a few months ago (thus the subway reference), but decided to put it up for those of you who enjoy navel-gazing.

This post is the one with the actual news.  The job search is actually yielding a few leads, for one.  I don’t want to say too much yet, but I had an interview on Thursday (at very short notice) that went all right, and I have one with other people on Monday, and I’ve got high hopes for that one, too.  So more on those next week, I hope.

The other ongoing project lumbers forward as well.  After some deliberation, I ordered a wedding dress last Tuesday, so that should wander into town in mid-October.  It is, of course, gorgeous, in an understated way.  🙂  So now we’re making lists and plotting maps:  possible restaurants for the reception that would be close to the botanical garden where we’re having the wedding, possible hotels that would be close to the reception.  Things we might want to register for and stores at which we’d want to register for them.  What color dress to tell my long-suffering college roommate that she ought to buy.  Supposedly, I should have strong feelings about colors like sea foam or pale peach, but all I’m coming up with is “How about some nice blue or green or purple?”  (Sorry, hon…)

At any rate, things are moving forward.  Some friends gave me a guide to wedding planning published by the folks at, which has been helpful because it has checklists and timelines and all sorts of details.  But I’ve also gotten a lot of sanity from a book called The Anti-Bride’s Guide, which has the refreshing attitude that perhaps you don’t care to wear a massive fairy-princess dress and do the chicken dance at the local country club.  Which means that I would be scandalously outcast among the characters of Somebody Is Going to Die if Lilly Beth Doesn’t Catch That Bouquet, a hilarious collection of anecdotes about  weddings in a particular part of the South — a birthday gift from the aforementioned long-suffering college roommate.

Speaking of books, this morning I finished The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (long titles seem to be the theme of the week) and enjoyed it immensely.  As Pug can tell you, when I started it, I made some faces and gave him some weird looks — the narrator is on the unconventional side, and cover blurbs that raved about the book did so by comparing it to books and authors I don’t care for.  But I’m happy to say that I kept reading, and in the end, I think the reviewer’s comparisons were misleading at best.  I haven’t read The Sound and the Fury specifically, but I think she merely meant that this book is written in a stream of consciousness style similar to what Faulkner used.  And I think she’s off the mark in invoking The Catcher in the Rye.  Yes, both books are first person accounts of teenage boys who feel isolated from society, but where Holden Caufield feels isolated because he’s a cynical, self-absorbed little prig, this narrator, Christopher, feel isolated because he’s… autistic, perhaps, or something like that — we’re never told, and I’m no expert.  But he’s brilliant, earnest, and observant; and life as he sees it is simultaneously fascinating and awkward.  In the end, it’s a book about discovery and self-empowerment.  What do the reviewers know, anyway?

Also recommended, in a lowbrow humor sort of way:  LOLBush at the Olympics.  LOLcat English sometimes makes me twitch, but it seems appropriate here.  Gotta love the Brits.

And if anyone needs a Serenity fix, I came across this a few days ago:  a brief interlude, comic-style, called “The Other Half.”

Time goes by, everything else keeps changing…

1:32 pm

I kind of assume most people sometimes ponder over the passage of time once in a while. I remember being nine and wondering what my brothers (then toddlers) would look and sound and be like when they were my age. I remember thinking the same thing when I was fifteen. (The younger is now past that and I’m pleased to report that both are bright young men who are much taller than I am, take pride in singing bass, and are just generally a lot of fun to be around.)

When I was in middle school, one of my favorite literary heroines at one point wrote a letter from herself at age fourteen to herself at age twenty-four. I seized on this as a fantastic idea; consequently there are several such letters squirreled away at home. One I was allowed to open when I graduated from college. Another is marked for my birthday this summer, and I think there may be another for next year.

(Mind you, they’re all just sealed with stickers…which I’ve popped off more than once in the interim. Perhaps I should have hidden them from myself more thoroughly.)

Of course, the inherent problem in writing letters to your future self is that all you want to do is ask questions, but most of them are so broad that putting them on paper in no way helps you towards an answer. “Where did you go to college?” it probably says. “Where do you live? Who do you live with? What are you doing with your life?” In the end, the content is not so revealing — of those dilemmas, no reminder is necessary. Instead, I’ll sit and look at the object itself. Look at how my handwriting has evolved: Was this during the couple of years when I dotted i’s with little circles? Did I still write my capital A’s the other way? Look how the cursive has gotten smaller and more compact. And I slip back, remembering the foggy projections: What might I look like, think like at eighteen? Twenty-four? At an age when ten-years-ago you toddled around and watched Sesame Street, ten-years-ahead presented the possibility of equally drastic changes.

And for whatever reason, I don’t remember trying to picture myself much beyond twenty-five or so, at least not from the vantage point of middle school — somehow that was Arriving. That was enough to be Grown-Up and settled, I suppose, into some kind of final form. And, largely, it was because twenty-five was misty enough; anything else (beyond vague images of one day having gray hair and wrinkles) was simply beyond the horizon. Twenty-three, twenty-four, that was what I struggled to picture.

But there she is, reflected on the subway windows and bathroom mirrors and computer screens.

Four (maybe five) unrelated topics

August 4, 2008 4:17 pm

Some can almost be called news!  All things I’ve found interesting in the past week.

— Impressive, disturbing, and a dark sort of tribute to American capitalism:  we present the Wal-Mart virus.

— By this point, I think most of you have seen Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.  (And if not, it’s still available on iTunes; DVD to come out sometime soon.)  Shockingly, Pug and I thought it was fantastic, and still go about humming about freeze rays and Bad Horse.  Goodness knows it got a ton of media coverage, but I offer a couple of my favorites:  The Dr. Horrible oral history, because it amuses me, and the NPR piece, because I’m impressed that they picked it up.

— The fourth book in the Twilight series, which has been enjoying popularity among those inclined towards YA vampire-romances, came out this weekend to Potter-like midnight release parties.  I know that at least a couple of you have read the books and enjoyed them — and that at least a couple of you have read the books and offered your critiques on them.  I haven’t read any of them, but I thought this Salon article offered what seems to me like some particularly insightful commentary on them.  (And while we’re at Salon, the same writer had some worthwhile notes on Harry Potter 7.  Naturally, it’s an article from a year ago, but I just finished re-reading Deathly Hallows, so I enjoyed that one as well.  I think she’s pretty fair about Rowling’s strengths and weaknesses.)

— And Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (remember A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich ?) passed away this weekend.

Later: Woah!  They’re making a Gatchaman movie?  Carmen, did we know about this?  I don’t really expect this to be what you would call… good, but Cartoon Network ran a dubbed version called G-Force that my brothers and I enjoyed when I was nine or ten, so it might get a few nostalgia points.

Well, now that’s six unrelated topics.  Or five.  Oh well; the title sounds better as it is.

And… we’re back.

July 29, 2008 7:31 pm

Four month hiatus… check.

WordPress updated… check.

Theme template coerced into looking like home… check.

Something to say… ummm…

The Cliff’s Notes:  Moved to the desert.  Setting up house in a lovely two-bedroom apartment with the Pug.  Job hunting slow, but in progress.  Wedding plans in progress for next April.

Further posts forthcoming at times which are not dinner time.  Stay tuned!