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Happy Birthday, Mama! We had lots of birthday food today with salads and candy. As usual she grumbled when actually opening presents but she really liked them and even thanked me for the hand cream in the evening. She really liked the sample they sent too.

I had my doctor’s appointment with an urologist today. Finally seeing a specialist who can actually offer an explanation is priceless. Having a hot intern take my history also didn’t hurt. They think it is just inflammation and there will be a few more tests in January but it is good to actually put a name to what’s been going on.

Since it was Mama’s birthday, my cousin who lives in California called to wish her happy birthday and then they got on Skype so we could see her little seven month old baby Iris. Iris has these gigantic brown eyes.

I ordered the quilt cross-stitch project on Amazon; I didn’t realize they had them. It will save me a trip to a crowded mall to Michaels. Of course, I had to pick one where animals are reading a book. I’m really looking forward to making this. I usually prefer counted cross stitch and this is stamped one, but I like making something specific as a gift.

Caprica )
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I finished “To Your Scattered Bodies Go” this morning. It really left a lot of room for sequels. I know Burton is not really in the second book – Mark Twain is the main character in that – and I will miss his practicality and him in general. Can’t wait to start on the second book “The Fabulous Riverboat.”

I did some more holiday shopping in the evening. For Bear’s Mom and sister, mostly. Bear and I are getting join presents that they asked for but it felt weird not to actually go and pick something myself so I did get a little bit extra. So I got some baths and candle stuff and a neck pillow thing. Then I spent some time wrapping all the presents since I needed to wrap Mama’s birthday presents for tomorrow. She gets her birthday presents under the tree.

I was listening to my iTunes Christmas album that they gave out for free last year and it finally occurred to me to check out the band that sings my favorite song on that. The song is “A Snowflake Fell (And It Fell Like a Kiss)” by Glasvegas. I really liked their 2008 album based on samples and I think I might buy it.

I have one Invite code if anybody needs it.

Caprica S1E14 )
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Library book saga – so with the deadline to return the recalled library book that I can’t find on the horizon and wanting to avoid $5 a day library fees, I went to the main campus this morning. First, I went to check my office and then library stacks since it happened before that the book I couldn’t find was already in the library. No such luck this time. So I went to speak to the guy at the check-out desk. He gave me a name of his supervisor who was in another library all day. I had to go to work and didn’t have the time to track him then but I resigned myself to the idea that I would just have to replace the book. After my afternoon office hours were over, I went back to the other library on the main campus to talk to the supervisor guy. He actually was very professional and knew what he was doing, which I appreciated. He looked everything up, made the calls (one of the people he checked the price with did not know about the old catalog that all librarians used to use to price a book. He was a bit thrown by this lack of knowledge). In the end, I have to pay $63 - $21 for the book that the library will order and $42 for the processing fee. A bit cheaper than buying the book myself on line with a smaller processing fee. I have the last chance to look for the book this weekend or bring in the check on Tuesday. This is annoying but I did lose this book somewhere. At least I won’t have to pay any late fees since I’m taking care of this in a timely manner.

I was tired this morning, so I was a bit sluggish in my classes. I did manage to talk to most of the students about their papers. Most like the assignment – they are writing about remittances (immigrants sending money back to their home village) and what it means for the home community. I’m trying to get them to complicate their thesis.

I did buy tickets to Harry Potter for tomorrow since Bear and I made plans to go and I didn’t want to worry it would be sold out. That cheered me up this morning since I was having a crappy day.

“Community” continues to be hysterical. They are excellent on farce. I love this show.

Burn Notice S4E14 )

Caprica will air the rest of the episodes in the US on Jan 4 from 6pm on as a marathon.

Fun brain teasers and optical illusions .
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Today is my parents’ anniversary and Papa bought two dozen white roses and for once Mama did not criticize his flower choice. There are pretty white flowers everywhere in the house now. (In Russian tradition even number of flowers are only brought to cemeteries and funerals, so we have to have more than one vase for the flowers; odd number in each.)

“Caprica” got cancelled today. I actually gasped when I saw the official announcement because in this fall season it is my favorite show. I look forward to it the most – I love the characters, I love the storylines that challenge the audience like good sci-fi is supposed it. I love it more than “Battlestar Gallactica” and I did not expect this after watching the pilot (it took me two tries to get into ‘Battlestar’ too). I hope the last episode of the season will wrap things up or at least they do a movie to wrap it up. This was not completely unexpected news (it reminds me of “Dollhouse” last year, waiting for a good show to be cancelled and expecting it) but I’m really disappointed about it. What I’m pissed about is that the last five episodes are not being aired right now – and we have to wait until next year or until the DVD. Damn it.

“Post Grad” They did not have enough story to sustain the movie so they did stupid subplots like killing the cat. This was a very uneven movie that had potential but never quite got there. I’m not sure if I like that she quit her ‘dream’ job to follow a guy across the country but then she is 22 and she is not sure of anything for the first time ever and is following one thing she is sure about. Alexis Bledel is always bad at acting like a girl in love – I never believe her. And she pretty much plays the same character all the time. But there were good moments in this movie and it certainly captures the uncertainly of living after graduation and life vs how society promises it would be. Verdict: meh.
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Teaching day – I showed my students two well written papers, one a “B,” one “B+” to try to get them to understand connections and transitions. I hoped it helped. During the exercise of looking at their own paragraphs I talked a few students through what their connection should be and I saw the light go on in couple of them. That was good. One student came to see me after class; it is at this point of the semester when they usually start to come to office hours. (and they start asking me when my office hours are and where my office is – it is on the syllabus and on the website – it always makes me want to roll my eyes).

Article on the problems in US National Archives. My historian heart is cringing.

So You Want to Get a PhD. An amusing and true video. Hee.

I watched the second act of “Macbeth” today. I am going to try to watch an act a day. I did take my Norton Shakespeare off the shelf since I wanted to reread some of the lines. Since I first read “Macbeth” fifteen years ago and I’ve never seen a stage version, I forgot a lot.

I don’t usually watch “Glee” – I can’t watch high school shows anymore, especially stylized one but I tuned in for Rocky Horror. And it was fun.

Caprica S1E13 )
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There were four stalled cars, including one truck in the middle of the highway, and a car crash (not a severe one) on the road to work today. The morning started dreary with leftover rain and the roadway really reflected this. It was very unusual.

I only had twenty minutes to my class by the time I got to campus and it is a ten minute walk to the building where I teach. And I had to stop by the department office to make photo copies. And, of course, on a day like today where I’m rushing, the copy machine was broken. I printed Assignment 3 but I couldn’t exactly print the lovely table I made yesterday so the students could unpack all the people Pollan quotes. So I just put it on the board and they made their own table in their notebooks. It is not a big deal or anything but I did like my handout and was sorry I didn’t get to use it. It took my students an entire class to actually do this handout, we didn’t have the chance to talk too much about the reading, but hopefully it helps them understand all the arguments Pollan quotes.

I got lunch at the student center and I finished the National Geographic article on Mogao caves in Dunhuang, China. These are 800 caves and 492 are filled with Buddhist art and statues, made from 4th to 14th centuries. The city was in the middle of the Silk Road so there is a lot of multicultural intersections. The art is very colorful . I want to use some of these photos in my future class.

I got the flu shot today. Flu shots always make my right arm sore for a few days. But it is worth not being really sick for a week.

I have not been in a movie watching mood lately. I had two Netflix movies sitting on my table for two weeks now and I have no desire to see them. I tries watching a movie today but I stopped after 23 minutes when I realized that I just didn’t care. It wasn’t a bad movie or anything I was just indifferent. I’ll send these movies back. But there is no movie I really want to see. This is weird.

House S7E4 )

Caprica S1E12 )
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I gave the first part of the midterm today (it is a two day midterm – a rough draft day and a final draft day) and it seemed to go ok. I’m still surprised by the number of times the students ask me stupid questions to which I gave the answer to a week ago when I specifically told them all they needed to know about the midterm. But they still need to ask if they get the rough draft day. It is like if I don’t repeat it three times, it would not go into their heads. I managed to grade some papers while I proctored.

The afternoon wasn’t as productive, mostly because I was tired.

I ordered “Dollhouse Season 2” today since a friend of mine gave me a Barnes and Noble gift card for my birthday a while ago. Now I will have all of “Dollhouse” and all of it is a gift that I don’t have to feel guilty for spending the money for. I might do a rewatch after the semester ends.

“An Evening at Joe’s” ed by Gillian Horvath, a collection of “Highlander” short stories came today. My library cancelled my hold since they couldn’t find an actual copy, and I just ordered a used one for one cent. (well, four dollars with shipping) It looks like brand new copy. I started “Postcards from Alexa” already, since this is why I wanted to read this book in the first place. I also want to see what backstory Jim Byrnes wrote for Joe. I do like when actors actually write about their characters.

Another fun development today for my fannish heart: a bunch of new stories are up from VAMB 2010 drabble exchange and this makes my J/C heart happy.

Caprica S1E11 )

I tried watching the episode of “House” that was taped for me, but I am not in a TV mood, and this is weird for me. I fast forwarded through the medical case to House –Wilson-Cuddy scenes. I’ll watch the actual episode later. Now, sleep. Lots of grading to do tomorrow – my folder review is on Friday so I need to finish grading all of them.
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I’m always the voice of reason for my friends; I calm some people down, I think. This morning I explained why a pre-nup is a rational choice and why marriage is a social and economic contract. I hope that helped my friend calm down a bit since she is a bit of a romantic at heart. Sometimes having a historical perspectives on things like marriage really does help.

Teaching today – they turned in Paper 2 after proofreading, I explained the midterm and then they worked on some grammar. Good class actually. Most kids actually brought the folder with all their work so far like they were supposed to – some still managed to look at me blankly when I said they needed to turn in Paper 1 as well (I only told them four times this time).

After classes I got lunch, figured out my folder review schedule with the department and re-read Michael Pollan’s “An Animal’s Place,” which is the reading my class is tackling next. I do like this article. His main point is that if we are to eat animals (which actually is good for nature and environment since a purely vegetarian diet won’t work for the amount of land needed), we need to look at them and understand how they live and die. He is very much against the industrial complex that treats animals as production units and machines. I like this article, but I think some of my students might find it a bit complex; the idea of reading a 20 page essay was horrifying to them.

I then went to the main university library and did some actual dissertation work for a few hours. I love the new computers in the grad section – the huge computer screens where you can see two pages in Word side by side. It is really good for my eyes.

I came home at eight, very tired. Ate some soup – Mama made very delicious pea soup with lots of vegetables and little turkey meat balls. I had black bread with smoked salmon too. And tea. I do like New Republic teas – I tried Apricot this time and it does taste good. Just what I needed. And then TV to relax a bit and back on the wheel tomorrow.

Highlander S6E6 )

Caprica S1E10 )
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It is a teaching day, which means my body doesn’t like to sleep that much knowing I have to get up early. I woke up without the alarm clock at 6:40. Way too early.

I read some Stephen Fry this morning while eating breakfast in a lounge near my office; I finally got to the part where he falls in love for the first time with a boy at his school and I love his description of bowled over nature of it.

This was a Peer Review Day – the easiest day to teach. I printed out the Peer Review sheet on Tuesday. All I had to do today was collect one copy of their drafts and look over them and give some comments to the students while they read other student’s papers. Many don’t know why topic sentences matter. They like to start their paragraphs with a quote. I already got one guy who thinks he knows better and tries to argue with me when I point out that his thesis is unclear. Seriously, dude, if you want an “A” do listen to your teacher.

I got grilled chicken for lunch and finished the National Geographic article about King Tut’s family. Through DNA analysis, they discovered that his parents were full siblings. With CT scan, it was also apparent than Tut had a club foot and walking was very painful. He is always show with a walking stick – it is not ceremonial. I discovered that I really like archeological articles in this magazine. I think school is the perfect time to read this magazine too.

SyFy channel will show the rest of Season 1 of “Caprica” this year. They will start on Oct 5 at 10pm. Yay. I hope there will be a second season. This is my second favorite current TV show after “True Blood.” “House” is third, “Brothers and Sisters” is forth, followed by “Community” and “Modern Family” and “Dexter.”

Neil Gaiman is doing an interview at the New Yorker Festival in October and the tickets went on sale today. After some thinking about it and staring at the $30 price tag for a while and talking to Papa, I decided to go for it. I do enjoy seeing authors I like to read in person. One of my favorite outings remains J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and John Irving at Radio City Music hall many years ago. So I bought one ticket. Papa would have went with me but this is not Mama’s cup of tea, and she doesn’t like to be left by herself.

Highlander S5 E13,14 )

“Bit of Fry and Laurie” S1E4. Heavy metal recitation –hee. And I really liked the poem sketch in the beginning.
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In the audience for Oscars. Neil Gaiman’s perspective .

Around six in the evening my little neighbor convinced my Mom to come up upstairs to see if I wanted to play outside with them again. Considering I was sitting on my butt all day and wasn’t doing anything important, I figured I might as well. She and her little brother wanted to play jump rope again. We were joined by a teenage girl, who is a bit slow mentally, but who really came a long way since last saw her a few years ago. So the four of us played outside for a bit and it was good to just get out of the home and play with them. It was a bit cold and my hands were freezing after a while but it was fun to pretend to be a kid. Although it is much harder now to play jump rope as my feet get tired much more easily. It was definitely exercise now.

A few articles on cracked.com about the Bible prompted Bear and I to actually read the “Song of Solomon.” I pulled up the New International Version on Bible gateway website while Bear had his Bible in front of him, and then we read it out loud together on the phone – I read the girl part and he read the boy part. It was actually pretty interesting. There were very nice and dirty metaphors in there, and not even metaphors. And it was really romantic and lovely too in some of the poetry. We also discovered, as we were reading different translations, just how much the translation of the Bible and the prude nature of some translators affect the story.

Caprica S1E9 )

We can now watch Netflix on Wii.
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Jon Stewart mocking Glen Beck: priceless.

“Who Do You Think You Are?” Today’s episode is about Lisa Kudrow and she traveled to Belarus! to look into the story of her great-grandmother, who lived in little Jewish community outside Minsk. I just liked that there were pictures on Minsk on national television. And the whole episode was just really sweet especially as Lisa Kudrow found a cousin of her father still alive in Poland.

Caprica S1E8 )
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The skies are grey and all morning it threatened to rain. The rain should last for a few days. Just before it rained I walked to the bank to deposit a check and to the children’s store to start buying presents to take to Minsk. I suspect it is my last walk outside for a while since this rain is supposed to last a few day minimum.

Sometimes people suck . Stars on Ice Tour did not invite Johnny Weir to skate on their tour because he is not “family-friendly.” Johnny Weir has great routines, people love when he skates, he has a fun TV show on Sundance chanel and his not being “family-friendly” is such stupidity and discrimination. I do like GLAAD’s response.

Caprica S1E7. Good show. I really would prefer watching it on DVD since there are many scenes that I’m sure will fit into a story with all episodes this season. Once a week is just slow to watch a sequential show like this. DVD is a better experience. But again, the show is building really well and this is a really clever sci-fi.

I also caught American version of “Who do you think you are” – a genealogy show. Family history and tracing ancestors was always interesting to me, after all I love old documents, so it is a good show. But compared to the British version, the music here is too schmaltzy and they try to build unnecessary drama. This is probably because in England you can watch the show without commercials, and the tone is just different. Still genealogy is cool and I can never understand Bear’s complete disinterest in his own family history.
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Purim is tomorrow and it preparation, and to go with whole reading some Bible this year theme, I decided to actually read the Book of Esther. I did a Purim play when I was fifteen and was in a drama club at local YM-YWHA in my sophomore year of high school. I played several roles including the Queen who got her head chopped off. (I got to scream loudly off-stage) So I know the story, but of course, I want to read the actual bible now. There are only 10 chapters, so the book is pretty short and I can just read it all at once, especially since it really reads like a story. And the actual story is probably very different from the play we did anyway. Beside part of Purim is actually reading the story in the evening and in the morning, which I’m technically doing since the sun has already set.

Esther WTF moments of the day:

Queen Vashti is banned from king’s presence and her throne because she disobeyed King Xerxes’s order to show up at his feast so he could “display her beauty”. It was thought by the law council that that disobedience will inspire other women to disobey their husbands, so, of course, she had to go away to set up the example. Nice, King. The gender stuff didn’t bug me in high school but it sure does now. (Actually, I might have played her a bit differently too, and she doesn’t die in the actual Bible anyway.) So the whole deposition was over their masculine pride and, god forbid, should a woman do something she wants.

But, of course, the King is all happy since now he can pick from lots of beautiful virgins. I do like that at least the girls get spa treatments in the harem. Esther had a year worth of “beauty treatments” before she even came to the King for her sex interview. (It just occurs to me that Esther is Mary Sue since everyone likes her upon meeting her, she is just so perfect.)

So the whole trouble with Haman started because Mordecai, Esther’s cousin and guardian would not bow to him. Still, Haman did take his personal dis a bit too far by wanting to kill all Mordecai’s people, namely the Jews. And the King doesn’t even question this, he is like, yes, go kill them since they are different and might not obey me, you don’t even need to put up your own money to do it.

Esther, had to sort of actually disobey the King, by going to see him without a summons from him. After knowing what happened to Vashti, that was actually brave of her. But she did play it smart, by getting into King’s field of vision, so he would request to see her and think it was his idea. I like that when the king can’t sleep he had a book of chronicles of his reign read to him as a bed time story – it sure would put him to sleep. Haman is a bit of a Lockhart too, too full of himself. Chapter 6 is a bit of a farce too – Haman has to give boons to his greatest enemy because he suggested them, thinking it will be for himself. Bible is amusing at times. Esther claims that she is only bothering the King with her request because her people will be destroyed, if they were just sold into slavery, she wouldn’t bother. (Haman thinks – doh!)

Since King’s commands sealed with signet ring could not just be revoked, Mordecai wrote another one that allowed Jews to assemble to defend themselves. Very clever there. And Jews actually kill lots and lots of people, thousands – they weren’t merely spared – funny, that most modern retellings leave this out. And on the next day, after all the killing (they did not take the plunder, though, the Bible is careful to note) there was feasting and rejoicing that we celebrate to this day as the happiest of the Jewish holidays. The end.

My little Jewish calendar with dates and various holiday descriptions tells a slightly different version that makes Haman a bit more evil in claiming divine bows and other details. I’m glad to have actually read the biblical account of it. In the Purim play I did, Esther and Xerxes were portrayed as a grand love story too.

Actually, to me Esther is also a story of how women were limited in their power but also how they used the limited power they had to influence state affairs. Esther was able to plead and change policy and, through her, her cousin Mordecai was appointed as a sort of prime minister. He would not have otherwise gained that position. She gave him control of Haman’s estates after Haman’s execution and Mordecai was able to hear of a plot against the king that he could stop because he came to the gates to check on Esther. I can’t turn off my brain from analyzing all the gender issues in this story. Stupid graduate school!

I should see what movies they made of this – so much drama.

When my universes collide, it is a bit weird. On EW review of last night’s “Caprica” episode, the reviewer began with extensive reference to “Ender’s Game” – a book I got as a gift for New
Year and which is next on my reading queue. I do enjoy these coincidences sometimes.

I wish NBC could show the whole exhibition gala stake at one time. Kim Yu-Na does beautiful movements with her arms when she skates. Plushenko did a great routine as well; he can be artistic when he wants to.

Bobsled men’s outfits are really really tight.

Possession scene in “Order of the Phoenix” is my favorite scene in all Harry Potter movies. Starting with when Sirius calls Harry ‘James’ until Voldemort leaves the ministry – I just have to watch it whenever those scenes are on, like today on ABC. It all works so well and the filmmakers assumes the viewers are intelligent to understand all the points, he doesn’t overstate.

We went to Brooklyn today, to show the girl staying with us Brighton Beach. It is always fun to see the familiar streets through the eyes of people who never saw it before.
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More snow – this is a third snow storm in a really short time that pretty much is keeping everyone at home.

Funny figure skating faces

Tim Burton and Helena Bonham-Carter – a fun article . They are such a fun couple.

Readings and interpretations of “Poker Face.” See Christopher Walken and Jude Law read verses from the song and South Park incorporate it into their show.

I like Lady Gaga much more than I ever expected to. But I find her videos very original and songs catchy. Papa gave Mama her CD for Valentine’s Day so I downloaded it to my iPod and can listen to it all I want now.

Caprica S1E5 )

Graveyard Book Chapter 7b. A good section. I really appreciated Scarlet’s reaction to Bod’s actions. This book avoids clichés. But I did know where the story was heading, not much was a complete surprise. Still, good story. One chapter to go.
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I walked to the library today, about twenty minutes one way, since there will be a huge snowstorm this weekend that will preclude any walking. Plus I needed to make several stops on the way. I bought a Valentine’s Day card, after looking through a gazillion of very sappy and stupid ones. I decided for silly. I stopped by the bank. The weather was actually very nice and not too cold for a walk.

I returned the fifth Sookie book to the library and picked up the sixth, Definitelly Dead that was waiting for me on hold. I also picked up The North Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland, published in 1980. I’m going to either read the Norse book first or, perhaps, read both, interchangeably. So far I read some of the introduction including a refresher on the Vikings (which just made me want to read the history book I have on Normans in Sicily), the cosmology of Norse universe and some of the pantheon section. I really enjoyed the cosmology section with its nine worlds on three plates/levels held together by the World Tree. There is even a really pretty map in the book. (I found a sort of 3D picture version of it online) It is still sort of heaven/earth/hell cosmology, just ‘heaven’ is just the halls of the gods and some dead special warriors. I like that giants live on mid-level with men and there is a sort of rainbow-bridge connecting top level “Asgard” to mid-level. I’m up to Loki now in the pantheon section. I think I will finish reading this section before I go to sleep tonight and read the rest of the introduction tomorrow. There are 32 myths in the book, followed by a long note on each story. I know I’m in grad school because I will read the notes with the same interest as the myths themselves.

I also picked up the new “Buffy: Season Eight #32” comic book today and it was really, really funny. I don’t think I laughed so much in this comic as when Xander was being such a big nerd in testing Buffy’s superpowers. A lot of dialogue in this month’s installment was just really amusing. Brad Meltzer, who wrote this arc, is a big name in comic books and he knows what he is doing. I’m looking forward to the rest of his arc. For Season 9, though, I will wait for trade paperbacks to read it all at once. This month by month basis is too slow.

I’m quite liking “Caprica” so far. I definitely want to see were the story goes. I actually prefer to watch serialized stories like this on DVD more, but I guess I don’t want to wait and I can watch this for free.

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