A high-falutin’ allusion to sweat perspiration glowing

I am somewhat relieved to know I am not the only one who, on a day as hot and sticky as today, limply thinks “tea-cakes.”

And then there’s this.
Oddly enough, it was one of a handful of English language books I just shipped to Elli.


Knitwit/On Pins & Needles/[Insert Knitting Pun Here]

I thought the day would never come, but it did, it did! Yesterday, I finally got my turn with the library copy of Stitch N’ Bitch!

I was never much of a knitter, although I did complete a few projects in my youth, including the dreaded Boyfriend Curse. I’ve been itching to take it up again lately, and the more study I devote to the history and impact of traditional female industry like weaving, sewing, and knitting, the more I want to honor that history. So I’ve been practicing, making swatch after swatch, and I think I’m ready to tackle a project.

Once I have finished a few scarves, I might try something a bit crazier, like the knitted flip-flops recommended by Jocelyn at Candy Along.

By the way, errata for Stitch N’ Bitch patterns can be found here.

I, robot

I was sitting in the park yesterday evening, silently giggling at the two little boys frolicking in the clearing before my bench, and rereading Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate:

In the same way, for children to learn about culture they cannot be mere video cameras that passively record sights and sounds. They must be equipped with mental machinery that can extract the beliefs and values underlying other people’s behavior so that the children themselves can become competent members of the culture.

Even the humblest act of learning — imitating the behavior of a parent or a peer — is more complicated than it looks.

A few sentences later, Pinker quotes AI researcher Rodney Brooks on the difficulties of imitative learning. Brooks gives the example of a robot observing a person struggling to open a jar:

The robot then attempts to imitate the action. [But] which parts of the action to be imitated are important (such as turning the lid counter-clockwise) and which aren’t (such as wiping your brow)? How can the robot abstract the knowledge gained from this experience and apply it to a similar situation?

As I read this passage, the two boys abruptly dropped their game of “Blast-off to Outer Space!” and switched to the ever-popular game of “Like Daddy Does.” The younger of the boys picked up a spindly fallen branch and announced “I’m gonna break it like Daddy does!”

The bigger boy immediately followed suit, falling upon an equally reedlike stick. “Me, me, I’m gonna break it like Daddy does!” Their exaggeratedly tortured expressions were caricatures of exertion as each grasped a tiny stick by the ends, pressed the center to a knee, and, muttering cries of exertion and frustration, happily failed to effect a snap.

One fight at a time, fellas

Today, for the first time in a year, Fight Club was in at the library. I got home this evening, made dinner, exercised, finished an excellent collection of short stories, and opened Fight Club, thinking I would get in a few chapters before bedtime.

A few minutes ago, I turned the last page, breathing hard and thinking I tasted blood.

I guess I knew when I picked up this book that I was asking Chuck Palahniuk to hit me as hard as he could. I could have put it down at any time — said stop, tapped out, gone limp — but I didn’t. Each fight goes on as long as it has to.

I smell Thomas Pynchon

I hastily snatched Infinite Jest from the reshelving trolley at my library, but only 45 pages in, I seem to be catching an unwholesome whiff of Gravity’s Rainbow. I so want to like it, since I am pulling for any book that makes me laugh out loud on the bus ride home from library, but Gravity’s Rainbow was a grueling experience. Is there anyone out there who cares to persuade me to plow through?

Hmm. It occurs to me that I last read Gravity’s Rainbow in my early twenties, and maybe I ought to take another whack at it.