Name that poem!

A meme for a Saturday morning: I've just discovered Wordle, a site that lets you generate nice-looking multicolored "word clouds" out of any text you put into it. One of the first things I tried doing with it was running the text of various poems through it. And then I thought, "I wonder how identifiable a poem is when you turn it into a word cloud?" It occurred to me that this could have the makings of a guessing game of sorts.

So here are a few word-clouds, all using fairly well-known poems (I found all of them at

Guess away at the original poems, if you're so inclined, and post your guesses in the comments — and pass the meme on, if you like. I'll post the answers after a few days.

On comfort reading

Inspired by New Kid on the Hallway's pair of posts about "comfort reading," I've been thinking about books to read in times of stress and worry, or general upheaval, or even just vague fits of the blahs. Comfort reading, for me, means going somewhere very much elsewhere for a little while. If the situation that prompted the need for comfort reading isn't too dire, P.G. Wodehouse always does the trick: in Wodehouse's world, nothing goes wrong that can't be put right with a little Jeevesian machination or a few cleverly baroque turns of the plot, and there is nothing so comforting as one of those famous sentences, unless it's a good long succession of those famous sentences. One ends up feeling, as Bertie Wooster would say, pretty well braced. (Can you guess what I'm reading right now?)

If I'm less in the mood for something to make me laugh,* I always come back to Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin novels. (And if you haven't encountered them yet, go forth and start reading the series from the beginning. Right now. Seriously, why are you still here?) Reading them is like total immersion in another century, but they're very far from being escapist. And one's own problems tend to look insignificant when compared with, say, having one's ship catch on fire and sink, or being shot at by the Napoleonic fleet.

I'm also quite fond of the work of Robertson Davies, who wrote novels set in a Canada that feels both remote and oddly familiar to me, if only by reflection; my dad, who introduced me to Davies lo these many years ago, grew up in a small town in Ontario at around the same time that some of Davies' books are set. I feel rather similarly about Margaret Atwood; like New Kid, I loved Cat's Eye, though I think The Robber Bride is my all-time favorite.

And books that I read and loved as a child almost invariably make good comfort reading. Which reminds me, I think it's time I reread all of Joan Aiken's Wolves of Willoughby Chase series again.

I don't just have comfort books, though; I also have comfort movies. But that's matter for another post.

How about you, Reader? Feel free to spread the meme if you'd like!

* Not that Jack Aubrey's malapropisms don't slay me, not to mention his endearingly feeble puns.

Aaaaand I’m done!

As of yesterday, all of my final papers and assignments and presentations are done. Now it's all over bar the diploma. I'm still readjusting to the thought of not having my evenings and weekends given over to classes, readings, and homework. Whatever shall I do with myself? Anyone care to recommend something suitably fluffy (but not, you know, stupid) to read/watch?

Whatever I do this weekend, it'll most likely involve air conditioning. It's supposed to be in the high 90s all weekend. Alas, there are no movies playing in Philadelphia that I actually want to see. I can't quite bring myself to sit through two and a half hours of Sex and the City just for the sake of being out of the heat.

Ah, well. There's always gelato to be consumed in Rittenhouse Square. If worst comes to worst, I'll go dunk myself in the Logan Square fountain.

Birthday, end of library school, changes afoot

Yesterday was my birthday. I'm 33, an appealingly palindromic number (I've always liked multiples of eleven). I didn't get to do anything yesterday evening, because I had a class to go to; thanks to the quarter system, my birthday always falls right around the crazy pre-finals weeks. (The University of Chicago is on the quarter system too, so pretty much all of my college-years birthdays fell into the same pattern. Instead of drunken carousing on my 21st, I had exam cramming with a short cake break. Though I'm sure my liver thanked me for it.)

But I didn't care, because this weekend is absolutely the last I'll ever spend working on MSLIS-related projects; everything is due by the end of next week, and as of the 14th, I'll officially be a librarian. And these past couple of weeks have been marked by all kinds of good news. It's not all bloggable yet (watch this space for further announcements), but suffice it to say that 33 is looking like it'll be a good year. I'm in such a good mood that I don't even care about the looming term paper or the group oral presentation next week. Somehow or other, it'll all get done.

And then, when the end-of-term madness is over, I'll finally have time to blog regularly again. In the meantime, I'm going to see the Wilma Theater's production of Eurydice with a friend this evening. Catch you all again before long!

Hey fellow knitters…

…is anyone else doing world wide knit in public day?

I’m planning to go to the one in Rittenhouse Square, if it’s a nice day, with either the Sweater That’s Almost Done But Just Needs Sewing Together* or the Adorable Baby Hat.

* Which is why it’s not done yet. I like to knit, but I don’t like to sew. I’m hoping maybe the encouragement of a horde of fellow knitters will help me get over the sewing block.

Some biblio-visuals for a Sunday afternoon

Personal anthology: Robert Frost

The job search has all but eaten my brain, and it’s been a while since I posted a poem for the virtual commonplace-book. So here’s a poem while I obsess about interviews and other unbloggable topics:

Spring Pools

These pools that, though in forests, still reflect
The total sky almost without defect,
And like the flowers beside them chill and shiver,
Will like the flowers beside them soon be gone,
And yet not out by any brook or river,
But up by roots to bring dark foliage on.
The trees that have it in their pent-up buds
To darken nature and be summer woods—
Let them think twice before they use their powers
To blot out and drink up and sweep away
These flowery waters and these watery flowers
From snow that melted only yesterday.

Robert Frost

This poem has been on my mind because at the ’06 MLA Convention, I heard Jonathan Culler talk about it, about the oddity of the blustering "let them think twice…" formulation, about the just-there allusion to François Villon ("ou sont les neiges d’antan?") in the last line, and how the lyric isn’t always constructed along the lines of a dramatic monologue with a speaker and a situation. A week or so ago I picked up the January issue of PMLA, which has a revised version of this talk, and "Spring Pools" has been rattling around my head ever since.

What Renaissance humanists and Star Trek fans have in common

This week’s readings for my Digital Libraries class turned out to be some of my favorites of the term so far. Favorite #1: "The Social Life of Documents," by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid, an essay that later became part of The Social Life of Information. Here’s the part that caught my interest:

The sociologist Anselm Strauss explored the way new forms of document allowed
new forms of community (or as he calls them, "social worlds")
to come into existence. His work predates the proliferation of computers
and so provides an interesting view of the way other developing technologies
(copiers, faxes, and so forth) supported social relations in new ways. In
particular, new media allowed small communities (enthusiasts of exotic breeds
of birds or antique motorcycles) to form though their members were often
few, and those few spread over large distances.

These groups can look surprisingly like modern equivalents of the scholarly
communities that formed throughout the world in the Renaissance. These too
were held together by common interests and shared communications. The letters
circulating among the Fellows of the Royal Society in England formed the
prototype for scientific journals, which still bind intellectual communities
together. …

Photocopiers, faxes, and other forms of cheap reproduction have allowed
not only scholars, but other groups of people with shared interests to form
a "social world" with relative ease and autonomy. Neither capital
nor authorization was needed. From political undergrounds connected only
by samizdat journals to wind-surfers, DeLorean owners, and beekeepers, people
with shared interests use communications technologies (both hi- and lo-tech)
to help form themselves into self-created and self-organizing groups. To
a significant degree, these are held together by documents circulating among
members, keeping each conscious of being a member and aware of what others
are up to.

One of the most astounding recent examples has been the spread of "zines"
— cheaply produced newsletters. Needing little more than a typewriter or
word processor, a photocopier and stapler, and the Post Office or a fax,
zines are often put together at home by one or two people and are "mid-cast"
among small groups. The practice began with fans of particular television
programs and rock groups. Consequently, these documents were known as "fan-zines"
and now just "zines."

The Social Life of Documents, First Monday, v. 1, no. 1, May 6th, 1996

There’s much more after that, but I like the idea of a common thread connecting Renaissance humanists, the Royal Society, and Star Trek fanzine authors.

Favorite #2: "The Places of Books in the Age of Electronic Reproduction" by Geoffrey Nunberg, which, despite its having first appeared in 1993, still strikes me as one of the smartest things I’ve read about the shift from a print world to a digital one, even 15 years later. It’s long, but well worth reading. The section that contrasts the "intimate public" where conversation precedes documents, as in 18th-century coffeehouse culture, with the larger type of public defined by shared "participation in the print discourse" ("Other Discourses, Other Publics") seems to anticipate the blogosphere in some very interesting ways.

If the readings are any indication, our class ought to be fun tonight.

Department of small culinary miracles

It’s a little embarrassing that the La Dominique crepe cart has been in business right next to Drexel’s Hagerty Library for four months already and it took me until today to discover it and try their crepes. One can get crepes made with buckwheat flour and a greater range of fillings at Beau Monde Creperie down in Bella Vista — but at La Dominique, you get to watch while the owner makes your crepe by hand, steaming vegetables under a little lid on a grill and pouring batter onto a round crepe-sized cooking surface and decorating everything just so. And then you go off to sit down outside with a fabulous lunch. And it’s right next to where I go to classes.

Now I’m already regretting the fact that I’m only going to be at Drexel
for another month or so. To make up for lost time, I’m going to try as many of La Dominique’s crepes as I possibly can.

Wardrobe advice bleg

[Warning: I’m going to talk about clothes for this entire post. If you’re looking for serious intellectual content, you may want to look elsewhere.]

I just won a small academic award from the iSchool. The prospect of a minor financial windfall, combined with the prospect of an “economic stimulus check” from the feds, has gotten me thinking about upgrading my wardrobe. Of course, one of the nice things about being a librarian is that one generally gets to work in places that don’t hew to a strict dress code; all the same, though, one does want to defy the cardigan-wearing, ultra-dowdy, bun-haired librarian stereotypes. Or at least I do. And if all goes well with this job search (touching wood as I type, which is a bit awkward), I’ll be starting at a new workplace in the fall, and that seems as good an occasion as any to reassess my clothes closet.

Trouble is, I suffer from Don’t Like What Anybody Sells Syndrome. A lot of women’s clothes in my usual price range seem chintzy and badly made, and even when I contemplate laying out extra money, I never seem to have any luck. Whenever I go out looking for a specific thing, it always turns out that Madison Avenue has decreed that what I want is out of style. (Example: last year, when I wanted just a plain white button-down shirt, I couldn’t find anything that didn’t have ruffles all over it. Or pleats. Or puffs. Or bows.) And don’t even get me started on shoes.

So, Reader: where does one go to find professional-looking but not stuffy women’s attire, without breaking the bank on bespoke tailoring or designer labels? I like black (goes with everything!), with the occasional colorful shirt, and I like my clothes to look reasonably fitted. I prefer pants to skirts, and I think there ought to be a law against pants without pockets. Ann Taylor is all right, up to a point, but their clothes often strike me as a bit boring and more corporate-looking than I’d like. Any advice, people of the internets?