Coming soon to a theater near you

So how about that news from the Met that they’re going to transmit performances into movie theaters? Personally, I think it’s a neat idea, even though I’m not really a huge fan of opera on screen; for me, it’s just close enough to live performance to make me wish I were watching a live performance. And I kind of wish they’d picked a different lineup of operas to broadcast. I’m curious about The First Emperor, but it would’ve been nice to see Orfeo ed Euridice (even, alas, without Lorraine Hunt Lieberson) on the list. All that said, however, it’ll be interesting to see how a live performance on a big screen with an audience compares to the PBS opera broadcasts of my youth, watched on the small screen at our kitchen table.

And speaking of things opera-related, my thoughts on the Opera Company of Philadelphia‘s upcoming season are: Yes to La Cenerentola and Falstaff; likely Porgy and Bess; probably not La Bohème unless I hear particularly good things about it. I may check out Temple University Opera Theater’s production of Les Contes d’Hoffman in November if I have time.

(Oh. And Zadie Smith is coming to town and giving a reading next week! Not a musical event, but it made me happy even so.)

Information behavior and a mouse in the house

One of the topics I’m keeping in the back of my head for a future library school paper is that of the information needs of new members of a community. E.g.: you’ve just moved to an unfamiliar place; how do you find out where the nearest place to get a decent haircut is, or the nearest dry cleaner’s, or the fastest way to get from point A to point B, or how the local government handles things like trash collection and recycling? (My mind is on all of these topics for rather obvious reasons.) I’ve blogged previously about the way online sources are springing up to supply this kind of information, and one of the things I may someday write about is the conjunction of the placelessness of the internet with local specificity, so that someone can learn the necessary new-kid-in-town stuff from thousands of miles away. I’m also mulling the enduring appeal of getting recommendations and advice from other human beings, whether it’s asking your next-door neighbor or asking Metafilter.

All of which is by way of bookmarking a topic to investigate, but also to ask for some of that other-human-being advice: I’ve just moved from a place where rodent infestations were scarce to a place where they aren’t, and yesterday I spotted a mouse in my living room. Dealing with mice is somewhat outside my experience, so: if any of you reading this know good way to repel them, would you mind sharing? My landlady has promised to set extra traps and recheck the basement for likely entrances. After much Googling, I’m going to set some traps of my own, try the oil of peppermint approach (which some people seem to swear by and others say doesn’t work), and see if I can borrow a cat. But if there’s any other way short of poison and those horrible glue traps, I’d be much obliged. I don’t like the thought of killing something so small and cute and fuzzy, but I don’t like the thought of hantavirus either.

(At least mice are somewhat less dire than backed-up overflowing plumbing — which did happen to me some years ago. In that case, the solution involved plumbers, a hotel stay, aggressive disinfecting, and steam-cleaning the carpets. Mice seem tame by comparison.)

Further dispatches from the land of the recently-moved

Updates updates updates!

In the midst of moving, I got a job! I’m now the new Reference and Instruction Intern at the Swarthmore College Library. I just started, and am liking it a lot so far. And the commute’s actually quite pleasant: a brisk 15-minute walk to Suburban Station (or, in bad weather, a faster bus ride), and then a half-hour train ride. People complain about SEPTA, but compared to what passed for mass transit in Charlottesville (where Amtrak sucked, the buses didn’t run at all on Sundays, and forget about cheap transit to the airport), it’s awesome.

It looks like I’ll be contributing to the trico libraries news and notes blog from time to time. Huzzah for libraries having a blog presence!

I’m taking Info 503 and Info 510 (Introduction to Information Systems Analysis and Information Resources & Services 1, respectively) this upcoming quarter. Classes don’t start until later in September, so I’m taking the time to get acclimated to work first; I plan on fitting a lot of schoolwork into my train commute. I’d forgotten how staggeringly expensive brand-new textbooks are. Yikes. Reminds me of taking calculus as an undergrad.

Home internet access is still up in the air. Comcast or Verizon? High prices and annoying package deals where you pay more if you don’t buy cable, or using a company that’s been accused of handing over people’s phone records to the NSA? I’m at the point where I throw my hands in the air and say "I don’t care." Hence the sporadic blogging. (And sporadic blog-reading. I want to comment on the ongoing biblioblogosphere discussion about sexism, but I’d rather do so at length, and that may have to wait until the home ‘net access has been established.)

I have, however, gotten a library card at the Free Library of Philadelphia, and between work, school, and living within walking distance of the Free Library’s main branch, I aim to have borrowing privileges at as many libraries in and around Philly as possible.

And in cultural news, the Philly Fringe Festival is coming up. I’m very keen to see Amnesia Curiosa after reading the write-up it got in the City Paper. Also possibly the twilight reading of Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology at Laurel Hill Cemetery, because how often does one get to go to a poetry reading like that?

I made it!

I arrived safely in Philadelphia, and so did all my worldly goods (or if they didn’t, I’ll find out soon enough when I get around to unpacking the boxes of dishes and glassware). Next up: the Benjaminian pleasure of unpacking my library, interspersed with far more prosaic tasks like figuring out how to maximize every available square inch of closet and cupboard space.

Thus far I’ve located in my neighborhood, by dint of either research or walking around:

  • hardware store (a block away)
  • local post office (also a block away)
  • laundromat (two blocks away)
  • drugstores (two of ’em, both close by)
  • coffee shop (four blocks away)
  • a bunch of interesting-looking restaurants
  • bar that also serves good, not-too-expensive sandwiches
  • nearest and second-nearest used bookstores, both within a shortish walk
  • nearest grocery store within walking distance (alas, it’s Whole Foods, a.k.a. "Whole Paycheck")

Back in Charlottesville, I had to go halfway across town to get to the hardware store or the post office. I’ll miss being able to go rent movies at Sneak Reviews and get around on the free UVa shuttle, but otherwise, I heart city life. (I noticed with amusement that all my jaywalking instincts kicked in within a few hours of arrival.)

Also: I’ve missed you, blogosphere! Time to get my high-speed internet connection set up at home so I can catch up with what are probably too many Bloglines feeds.

Greetings from on the road

I’m just back from Vancouver, where I and a couple of friends spent the weekend for the wedding of a mutual friend of ours. Among the highlights of our visit: hiking five miles around the periphery of Stanley Park, watching fireworks over the English Bay, admiring the sealife at the Vancouver Aquarium, and hanging out on two beaches (Jericho and Sunset) staring at miles and miles of mountains and clouds. Vancouver has the most stunning scenery of any city I’ve ever seen, and manages to remind me oddly of California, perhaps because of the palmettos and hibiscus flowers growing amidst the conifers and maple trees. For once, my tendency to pack for every possible weather condition paid off. Parts of the weekend were a crash course in converting centigrade to Fahrenheit in my head. ("Up to 22 today? Hey, that’s not bad!")

Scattered impressions: Great blue herons in the harbor, cormorants diving, and lots of ravens. Incredibly clean air that smells like the sea. People ordering crepes in French at a creperie where we had breakfast. Mountains visible everywhere except amid the tall buildings downtown. Separate lanes for pedestrian and bike traffic in the park, and more cyclists than I’ve seen anywhere else. Lots of internet cafes. Rainbow flags all over and same-sex couples unselfconsciously holding hands (after two years in Virginia, this was like having a weight lifted off my chest). Excellent Malaysian food. No film crews filming anything that we could see, but maybe we were in the wrong places for that. People playing cricket. Strange juxtaposition of west-coast-ness (laid-back, mellow, hippie vibe) with Canadian-ness (polite drivers, tidy streets, low risk of mugging). Sudden, uncharacteristic thoughts along the lines of "If I lived here, I’d learn to kayak, and maybe to ski, too." Impulsive grabbing of brochures for Canadian backwoods adventure-travel tours, which was disconcerting, given that my usual idea of a vacation is to go to a city at least several hundred years old and take in the museums. But if I lived in Canada I’d definitely spend my summer vacations in Vancouver.

Oddest sight seen: a backpacker downtown with a water bottle perfectly balanced on his head and a small, fluffy, black-and-white kitten perching on top of his backpack.

Goodbye Charlottesville

I’m heading off to Baltimore this afternoon, and I have a zillion last-minute cleaning tasks to take care of, so you’re all spared a lengthy post. I may post a bit between now and the end of the move to Philly, but the blog will most likely be fairly quiet. I’ll be back around the middle of August to clear away the tumbleweeds. Until then: happy midsummer!

BORC, moving edition

And after this I will post about something other than the minutiae of moving, I promise. On to the Bullets of Random Crap (TM):

  • I officially have an apartment in Philadelphia! The lease starts in mid-August. It’s quite small, but prettier than all the others I looked at, in a nice converted townhouse in a nifty neighborhood that’s totally new to me (I’ll be about half a mile from the Philadelphia Museum of Art). Basically, I’m exchanging a hundred or so square feet for everything else I was looking for. I may have to do some creative space-saving when I get there, but I intend to approach the challenge as if competing for Apartment Therapy’s Smallest Coolest Apartment Contest.
  • Next week I have an interview for an internship, which looks really good. Cross your fingers.
  • The furniture and the heaviest of my boxes are all in their moving containers outside my building now. Today is for packing the last of my stuff (pots and pans and dishes, mostly) and loading the remainder. Tomorrow is container pickup day, and on Tuesday I bid Charlottesville farewell.
  • I’m listening to my last in-town Sunday Opera Matinee this afternoon while packing: The Ballad of Baby Doe. It’s good to know I’ll be able to listen to it online once I’m in Philly.
  • I was thinking, superstitiously, that things were going just a little too smoothly with the move, but then yesterday I spilled nail polish on the carpet after managing to keep it stain-free for two years. Notes to self: in future, always paint your toenails in rooms with tile flooring, and if you must do so elsewhere, skip the candy-apple red polish and go for a color that matches the carpet.
  • Last night I went to see the Heritage Repertory Theatre‘s production of Sunday in the Park With George. I hadn’t been to a Sondheim musical since a student production of Assassins I saw in college. I really liked it, and have been singing "Well, there are worse things than staring at the water on a Sunday…" off and on all day.
  • Moving is definitely worse than staring at the water on a Sunday. But by tomorrow midmorning the packing and loading will all be over.
  • I need some more Gatorade. Further bulletins as events warrant.


Via Clancy, a “pet peeves” meme. And since an airing of one’s pet peeves is always therapeutic on a hot day in the dead of summer, I’m passing it along.

1. Grammatical pet peeve: I don’t have all that many of them, but “flaunt”/”flout” misuse bugs me.

2. Household pet peeve: People who don’t remove their hair from the hair trap in the shower. I once had an apartment-mate who did this, and it grossed me out every time.

3. Arts & entertainment pet peeve: The way every movie or TV show with an interesting female lead and an interesting male lead seems to go for the “will they or won’t they?” romance plot sooner or later. I get peeved at both the heteronormativity and the predictability. (Also: Commercials before movies. Previews I like; advertising for Ray-Bans or Coke or whatever, I most emphatically don’t.)

4. Liturgical pet peeve: I’m not a churchgoer, so N/A, I suppose. But I’m perpetually irked by people who selectively quote a tiny handful of Bible verses that support their favorite prejudices, while apparently ignoring the whole rest of the Bible.

5. Wild card: People who stand too close when they talk to me. (As W.H. Auden said of his personal space: “Stranger, unless with bedroom eyes / I beckon you to fraternize, / Beware of rudely crossing it: / I have no gun, but I can spit.”) People who punctuate their online discourse with “LOL!” And I’ve already blogged about waiters who ask “Are you still working on that?”

Bonus. Things I do that become other people’s pet peeves: The same apartment-mate who left hair in the shower drain went ballistic if anyone left a newspaper sitting on the dining room
table for longer than a day, which I tend to do if left to my own devices. I still think mine was the lesser crime, though.

Be prepared

I’m taking a break from packing and paper-sorting to say: I forget where I read that, when moving, one should always pack an "unpack me first" box, but it’s a brilliant piece of advice. Because I can already tell that when I finally move into the new apartment in mid-August, I’m going to be so worn out that it’ll be an immense relief to have to open only one box for the immediate necessities of life. Right now, my Unpack First box contains:

  • washcloth and towel
  • clean T-shirt
  • soap
  • bubble bath from Lush (for morale)
  • travel mug
  • toilet paper
  • spare Brita filter (we’ll see if I can cram the pitcher in there too)
  • set of sheets
  • assortment of favorite postcards to prop up here and there to make the place look more like home
  • kitchen sponges
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, my summertime re-read
  • trash bags
  • rubber band ball

Future additions: shower curtain, alarm clock, bathrobe, coffee filters. I feel like a Boy Scout (or rather, a Girl Scout) — actually, I’m really wishing I had been a Girl Scout. Once my furniture’s been loaded into its moving-and-storage pods, I’m going to secure it by tying it down, and I’ve just realized I know next to nothing about tying any knots more sophisticated than your basic shoelace knot. Thank heavens for the internet, where there’s an animated tutorial for everything. I think a fisherman’s bend should probably suffice.

And now I really should be packing…

The garden of forking paths

I’m back from a whirlwind apartment search in Philadelphia, which can best be summarized by "Ow. My feet hurt." Or "You call that a one-bedroom?!" Or "Damn, that’s some ugly carpet." Or, with a nod to Robert Browning, "Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, / Or what’s a heaven for?"* But eventually: success, though it’s not completely official yet, so cross your fingers. The friend I stayed with (who’s probably reading this: hi! and thank you again!) watched me freak out a little about the sudden realness of the imminent move, and then wisely reminded me that all of this is just for a year or`so.

I thought of "The Garden of Forking Paths" ("El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan"), the first Borges story I ever read, and the moment when the narrator senses the possible futures swarming around him. Any decision closes off a swirl of possibilities and sets up new ones instead; and this spring and summer have brought a whole string of decisions large and small. I could practically feel that hum of possible futures, the ones that might have happened if I’d chosen differently here or there and the ones that might happen now. It’s the oddest feeling: as if one were in a Star Trek episode about parallel universes and seeing how reality took any of an infinite number of other directions at any given point.

Other things I did in Philadelphia: interviewed for a part-time job and got a lead on a couple of full-time ones, scoped out Drexel’s library, discovered that my new Drexel login lets me onto the library computers, bought SEPTA tokens, tried the #10 trolley from 36th Street into Center City, and ate some Tastykakes. Alas, I missed the storming of the Bastille at the old Eastern State Penitentiary; I left a day too early. Next year, I’ll take in Bloomsday at the Rosenbach and Bastille Day at the State Pen. And the architecture! I remembered some gorgeous buildings from previous visits, but I’d forgotten just how beautiful those 19th-century houses are.** I wandered around Center City wishing for a camera.

* Sample scene from the search: My hostess and I, walking in west Center City, spied a beautiful old brownstone with a sign in the window advertising a studio apartment. I called the number on the sign and asked "How much is the studio?" "Including utilities," said the guy on the other end, "it’s $1100 a month." Eep.

** No wonder it costs so much to live in one. I walked past one grandiose brick mansion with a little carriage house behind it, and found myself speculating whether the carriage house might be for rent, and how long it would be before I could afford it.