Thursday, October 30, 2008

Learning new things perqs me up

I just learned something interesting. I was reading the latest book-club pick, Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth, when I came upon this sentence, relating to a stonemason working on building a new cathedral for a priory during the Middle Ages:

His pay was only twenty-four pennies a week, although he got perquisites as well, candles and robes and boots.


We've all heard the word "perks," as in "That guy makes a boatload of money, plus perks!" or "I don't make much in terms of a salary, but I do get some nice perks." I had always assumed that this was a cute term for something that would "perk" up your base pay. I guess I never really gave it much thought. But is it actually perqs we're talking about, short for perquisites?

I looked it up, and sure enough:

perquisite. Middle English. Property acquired by means other than inheritance. From Anglo-French perquisit, Medieval Latin perquisitum.

So we're going around using a cute, modern abbreviation and spelling for what turns out to be a medieval term!

Maybe everyone already knows this, but I didn't.

As I used to say in sixth grade: Neato.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pumpkin time!

Scott and I went somewhere out on Ford Road and found our pumpkin today.

This is the best time of year there is.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Name trivia

Just looked up my name on Is This Your Name (thanks, Sarah!) and discovered this about my last name:

Origin: (Celtic) From suil, eye, and ban, fair: "the fair-eyed."

I didn't know that! I mean, obviously I knew it was Celtic, but this whole "fair-eyed" business is new to me. Too bad my own "fair eyes" are hidden behind heavy prescription glasses, but what can you do.

The other odd thing it says is this:

According to the US Census Bureau, fewer than 0.001% of US residents have the first name 'Maeve' and 0.0891% have the surname 'Sullivan'. The US has around 300 million residents, so we guesstimate there is only 1 American who goes by the name Maeve Sullivan.

So... would that be me? The one American who goes by the name Maeve Sullivan?!

Seems unlikely, somehow. When I put my name in on Facebook, there were dozens and dozens of us. Granted, we seem to be mostly in the United Kingdom, but still. Some of us must be stateside.

Also, in the "Related Blog Posts" section, it actually hit a random post from my very own blog!

Anyway, an interesting name trivia site. Try it yourself!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Music for walking

My mother recently e-mailed me to say that she and my dad cycled from their home in Østerbro out to Valby and back. She casually remarked that this is a forty-minute trip. Each way.

This is how fit my parents are. And my sister's a practicing yogi, so she's about as fit as they come, too.

Which is why I have recently started my walking regimen again. I don't want to be lumbering behind my sprightly family, huffing and puffing. I need, at least, to be able to keep up!

Yesterday, I stepped out into the fall morning chill, not really in the mood but determined to put in at least half an hour. Luckily, the magical DJ in my iPod Shuffle gave me the best walking mix I've ever heard!

I hereby share it.

Wimoweh - The Weavers. This is the lyric-free, big-band version from the 40s. No sleeping lions here: just a lot of wide-awake trombones.

Baby Elephant Walk - Henry Mancini Orchestra. Hee hee! Great walking tune. It's just hilarious and goofy.

Jesus Christ Superstar - Murray Head. Okay, so now I'm flying by Prospect Park trying not to burst out singing.

Get the Party Started - Shirley Bassey. "I can go for miles if you knoooow what I mean," she bellows, and so could I! Uh, in terms of walking, I mean.

Lighten Up, Morrissey - Sparks. Oooh! Now we're picking up the pace.

Happy Jack - The Who. A truly stompworthy tune.

Cobrastyle - Robyn. "My style is the bomb-diddy-bomb di-dang di-dang diggy-diggy!" Yeah! That's exactly what my style is!

Treachery - Kirsty MacColl. Some of the funniest lyrics ever written set to an irresistible profusion of brassy Latin exuberance. I had to try not to dance, as a matter of fact. Luckily, I managed to resist. That would have been embarrassing and, worse, would have broken my stride!

Don't Pull Your Love - Hamilton Frank & Reynolds. This came on just as I turned back onto my own street, which is perfect because this was the final cool-down track on the old Jazzercise cassette my mother and I used to work out to when I was a kid.

When I got back to my place, my energy level was sky-high.

At this rate, I'll definitely be ready to keep up with my super-fit family when I get to Denmark.

And I'm soliciting ideas for more walking tunes, if you have any suggestions. I've got to give the magical Shuffle elf more to work with!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Happy fall!

Scott and I went on a color walk this afternoon. Cider mill, old cemetery, botanical gardens. I'm happy. And I'm going to have some more cider now. And a powdered-sugar donut.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

How Sweet It Is!

Scott and I watched the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown (both discs!) and have been listening to classic Motown songs ever since.

Incredibly, songs that have practically become wallpaper through sheer familiarity ("My Girl," "Heat Wave," etc.) sound brand new now that I'm listening behind the vocalists and truly hearing the brilliant band of session musicians known as the Funk Brothers. I can imagine them all in that cramped studio, each doing their thing. I can see guys stamping on plywood boards to get that bam-bam-bam sound on "Baby Love." I can attach names and faces to familiar piano riffs and bongo beats. I have a better understanding of how they're making the Motown sound that was really like no other.


It's really got a hold on me right now.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Book report!

Why haven't I been blogging? Well, for the past week, I have been completely buried in books. I've read four novels in six days. It's mainly due to the arrivals of my Paperback Swap books, which I picked based on two criteria: either they should be books I've always wanted to read, or they should be books I read long ago and now desperately miss.

It feels weird to be living so intensive a double life, though. I do read a lot, but not quite like this. Finish a book, grab one, finish that. Lift head every now and then and say, "Oh! Where am I? Should I be at work right now? It seems to be 2 o'clock: is that a.m. or p.m.? What day is this?"

I have to stop, I know that: fall is happening out there, my favorite time, and I'm completely missing it! I'll go for a walk today, or maybe convince Scott to take me on an early fall color drive.

But anyway, it's been exciting. I haven't done a total book immersion thing in a long time.

So how about a book report. Here are the books I read this week:

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. I can't discuss this yet, however. This is the current book-club book, and our book opinions are sworn secrets until the Day of Discussion, which is next Sunday. (Well, not really sworn secrets, but it sounds more exciting that way!) Suffice it to say that it was this book that put me in the reading trance in the first place.

Forgive Me by Amanda Eyre Ward. The disappointment. I sent it off via Paperback Swap the minute I finished. Her last book was terrific - I even gave it its own blog entry, and mentioned how I could hardly wait to read her next one. But this was just insulting. You get through a whole story of crisis and struggle in South Africa (that part was what kept me reading) only to be hit over the head with a "woman's place is in the home" billboard. The reporter realizes she doesn't need to be messing around in South Africa trying to change the world when she could go back to Nantucket, marry a nice, rich doctor, and be completely fulfilled by motherhood. Thanks, Amanda Eyre Ward. Goodbye.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Five years ago or so, I was trying to pick a book for the airplane ride home to Denmark, and my then officemate handed me this. I thought, oh, God, now I'll have to read it to be polite, but what do I want with a book about little boys in outer space undergoing military training to defeat insect-like creatures who want to colonize the earth?! I never turned the overhead light off once during the whole night flight. It's not so much the sci fi elements of the book as it is the step-by-step development of the brilliant little boy's military strategy. Who knew I'd be so interested in military strategy, of all things? Anyway, I got the book again this week, plunged in, and was mesmerized all over again. And thanks to Paperback Swap, I got a copy without having to pay for it, thereby very consciously not putting money into its author's coffers. The guy's a great writer, but he's an absolute bigot.

Her Name Was Lola by Russell Hoban. When I was a small child, I loved the Frances books. You probably did, too. Remember the little pencil drawings of Frances the badger? To this day, the story A Bargain for Frances still informs how I make friends. (Frances wisely says, "Being careful is not as much fun as being friends. Do you want to be careful or do you want to be friends?") When I first met Scott, when I was 20 or 21, I mentioned that book and its importance to my social philosophy, and he seized a book off his shelf and said, "You mean this Russell Hoban?!" Turned out Hoban was a prolific writer of novels and was somewhat of a cult figure. I had no idea. The book Scott showed me was Riddley Walker, his favorite novel, which he proceeded to read out loud to me over the next several evenings. (Which was rather romantic, I might add. The reading-out-loud thing, I mean.) More about the extraordinary Riddley some other day, but I became duly fascinated by Hoban, his Orpheus obsession and his infatuation with the creative mind speaking to itself. Every one of his books is unusual and different from the others, but certain threads bind them together. He's in his eighties now, and he wrote Her Name Was Lola in 2003. He weaves all kinds of references to his former stories and novels in there (even Frances!), explores the interconnected depths of the human unknown, as is his wont, and makes you laugh out loud while doing so. There is no other Russell Hoban.

So... now what?! Saturday morning and no book to read! I've forgotten what to do.

Maybe I'll saunter down to Depot Town.

And pop into the used bookstore.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Stupid old iTunes

I love the song "Pure and Easy" by the Who. It makes the hairs on my arms stand up. But I only have it on an ancient cassette, and my new Tape2PC gadget seems to only transfer in mono. Apparently there's a complicated way to reset it (instructions I had to write to the manufacturer to obtain!), but I haven't waded through the process yet.

So. I downloaded "Pure and Easy" from iTunes.

And... it's some totally crap version! Where did iTunes ever find it? Is this the Who?! They sound positively bored. Where's the crazy guitar solo? Why does Daltrey sound as though he's reciting his grocery list? And the worst part is, the part at the end ("There once was a note! Listen!"), which is so forceful and insistent in the real version, just limps to fade-out. They even give "Listen" some sort of disinterested, lite-country harmonization.


I paid a dollar for some weird version of one of my favorite songs! There should have been a warning: 'Wimp version! Do not confuse with amazing version you love!'

Booooo iTunes!

I'm going to go figure out how to set up my Tape2PC to transfer in stereo and dig up the old tape. Now.