samedi 13 mars 2010

Getting to know me

Finally, my first paper is behind me, and no, I am not sitting on the smallest seat in the smallest room of the house. For anyone wondering about my sanity, that is a reference to Voltaire. The story goes that in reply to a letter critical of something he had written, he replied: Monsieur, Je suis chez moi, assis sur le plus petit siège dans la plus petite pièce. Votre lettre est devant moi. Bientot, elle sera derrière moi.

I don't know if this story is true. However, my first graduate school paper in more than a quarter of a century is behind me. Once I got into it, I didn't want to finish it off. What a vital mental exercise! Why do most of us stop writing papers as soon as we are allowed to? Yesterday, in preparation for my next paper, I went to Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington and came across all 40 volumes or so of Rousseau's collected letters. 40 volumes, people! Maybe more, I didn't count. But think about it... think about the sheer volume of thought he committed to paper. He also wrote books, lots of them. We fancy ourselves writers today because we unload our petty thoughts in blog entries and dash off rapid emails. Most of us have no idea what it means to write any more. Yet another reason to tip my hat to my hardworking and underpaid journalist friends. You know who you are. I admire you for what you do.

And now for something different, taken from a friend's blog. Thanks, friend. You know who you are.

It's one of those getting to know you questionnaires that imply the existence of a stable self and lots of amour-propre. These are the subjects of my next paper, which spans the century separating La Rochefoucauld (17th) from Rousseau (18th). But first, a little banality (or is it anality?):

1. What time did you get up this morning
6:20, to feed the cats before they ate us.

2. Diamonds or pearls?
Diamonds and Rust.

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
In the Loop or was it Entre les Murs? Not sure.

4. What is your favorite TV show?
The ones I watch most regularly (while on the elliptical) are Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow. I'm a news junkie. Not really, but I like saying it. I also like 30 Rock because it is just a bunch of usually hilarious non sequitirs.

5. What do you usually have for breakfast?
Breakfast 1 (6 am): Coffee and 2 squares of dark chocolate
Breakfast 2 (9 am): Yogurt and fruit or toast and egg.

6. What is your middle name?

7. What food do you dislike?
Cooked spinach (I like all other cooked greens, but cooked spinach makes my teeth feel weird).

8. What is your favorite CD at the moment?
Renaud, Tournée Rouge Sang.

9. What kind of car do you drive?
Mini Cooper S (the S says it all).

10. Favorite sandwich?
Admiral Sandwich.

11. What characteristic do you despise?

12. Favorite item of clothing?
My fitted gray hoodie

13. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go?
South Africa

14. Favorite brand of clothing?
Prairie Underground (see fitted gray hoodie)

15. Where would you like to retire to?
A little red house with white trim in rural Sweden.

16. What was your most memorable birthday?
Always the last one.

17. Favorite sport to watch?
Gotta go with baseball, though curling is a close second.

18. Furthest place you are sending this?

19. Person you expect to send it back first?

20. When is your birthday?
July 10th (same as Marcel Proust).

21. Are you a morning person or a night person?
Both. It's the in-between that can be tough, requiring a nap.

22. What is your shoe size?
37 1/2 - 38.

23. Pets?
Our dog Neko and two cats, Pushkin and Munchkin. We also have about 5 fish in our outdoor pond, but I don't know their names.

24. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us?
My tulips are coming up!

25. As a child, what you thought you wanted to be when you were grown up?
First a wordsmith (there was a show on channel 9 of that name and I thought that was the job of the host), then a vet.

26. How are you today?
Not wanting to work on the annual report I have to translate.

27. What is your favorite candy?
Dark chocolate. As a kid, red licorice.

28. What is your favorite flower?

29. What is a day on the calendar you are looking forward to?
Tous les matins du monde.

31. What are you listening to right now?
The tinkling of Neko's collar tags.

32. What was the last thing you ate?
Yogurt with pistachios, golden raisins and a cut-up fig.

33. Do you wish on stars?

34. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
Aqua marine.

35. How is the weather right now?
Sunny and a bit windy.

36. Favorite way to exercise?
Fast walking with Neko/My stick routine.

37. Favorite soft drink?
Fuze Slenderize.

38. Favorite restaurant?
Le Pichet in Seattle.

39. Favorite color of nail polish?
I hate nail polish.

40. What was your favorite toy as a child?
I honestly have no idea.

41. Summer or winter?
Fall. So there.

42. Hugs or kisses?
Depends on who is doing the hugging or kissing.

43. Chocolate or Vanilla?
What a question! Chocolate, like any civilized person.

44. Coffee or tea?

45. Do you want your friends to email you back?

46. When was the last time you cried?
I don't remember.

47. What is under your bed?
A boogie man.

48. What did you do last night?
Went to dinner at Bob and Chris's house. Chris made a delicious pizza and brownies.

49. What are you afraid of?
The world going to hell in a handbasket.

50. Salty or sweet?

51. How many keys on your key ring?
4 - three house keys and one car key.

52. How many years at your current job?

53. Favorite day of the week?

54. How many cities have you lived in?
Seattle, Vancouver, Los Angeles, South Hadley, Shanghai, Paris, La Rochelle

55. Do you make friends easily?
Yes, so far.

56. How many people will you send this to?
To everyone who reads this.

57. How many will respond?
It's up to them.

By the way, my paper was on Françoise Sagan's Bonjour tristesse. Here she is in 1968.