Blogger + Firefox = gibberish?

Every time I try to read blogs hosted at Blogspot — particularly when I try to read archived posts — they turn into gibberish, like this:

HlholastTn:"Pihrepox;mn">x>kss 19P, ems.comy has sfkLas0px8px;ma"’rA byosss trrisin:S8pxusesedilh"’3ick of the University of hpobe2%;a"ht>h"’3ning:0px;mar the way I can /un"30poading nlabrbetosn1ke-H&e1;a"htn:n e1eumueshe s skep:medlH tha hrUnivers

Reloading the page solves the problem, but it’s annoying. Is anyone else experiencing this? It only seems to happen with Mozilla Firefox. Unfortunately, I’ve grown so partial to Firefox that I’d hate to go back to IE.

Apparently I’m the coolest. And from Mars.

Amusement from Google. (Thanks, Rana!)

amanda is an outdated version
amanda is a vivacious young english diva girl
amanda is the coolest and from mars
amanda is 5 stories tall and is one of the oldest buildings in my city
amanda is a chocolate point siamese cat with stories
amanda is optimized to take advantage of tape drives
amanda is an array of devices for detecting muons and neutrinos
amanda is completely unavailable
amanda is a detector being constructed at the south pole
amanda is pursuing her career as a jewel thief
amanda is a network backup utility
amanda is eating super blue green algae
amanda is totally useless
amanda is using a completely new technique to study the universe
amanda is the only person in the room
amanda is finally coming home to the doulton family estate; but is she really amanda?
amanda is hiding at the pirate shop

I think I like "jewel thief," "diva girl," and "hiding at the pirate shop" the best. (Pirate shop?)

(It’s a little disconcerting, though, to realize how popular one’s name seems to be at the porn sites. A consequence of the rapid ascension of "Amanda" into the ranks of most popular girls’ names in the 1980s?)

Catching up on a ton of blog reading

Scribblingwoman shares my pen fetish. (I’m more of a fountain pen person, though. Someday I will earn enough money to splurge on a red marbled Aurora Optima. Or a Delta Dolce Vita Mini. Or a high-end Pelikan. Drool.)

Drooling of a different sort: fabulous-sounding sorbets from green gabbro. Mmm, lavender. File under "wish I had an ice cream maker."

Josh Corey, like me, is fascinated by Ashbery’s titles.

I think I’ll try out this 5-minute story thing (via LiL). Also chez LiL, this entry rings very true. Right on.

Okay. Time to get away from my computer, resell some more books, and continue to fret about moving…

Back from Virginia

Just got back from my trip to Charlottesville. Found an apartment for the summer, in a quaint, charming, historic building (yay!). Freaking out about what to do with the furniture I’m keeping, as said apartment is pre-furnished. (Storage, most likely.) Freaking out about moving in general, but otherwise quite happy. Charlottesville is a town of red brick buildings, white-painted columns, and green, green trees everywhere. Lots of huge magnolias with big glossy leaves. Lots of rolling hills, and the Blue Ridge Mountains in sight from all over campus. All the buildings are graceful and pretty and built to an agreeably human scale, and I loved the brick-paved downtown pedestrian mall. I scouted out one knitting store, a bunch of used bookstores, and lots of restaurants. And the people I’ll be working with at the UVA library? Very, very cool. This year is going to be tremendously exciting.

I must remember to update my summer wardrobe and invest in several gallons of high-quality hair product, if the humidity-induced frizziness of this week was any indication. But, on the bright side, despite lush vegetation everywhere, my allergies barely acted up. I’m a little bit worried about moving to a state whose legislature just voted to outlaw everything even resembling gay marriages, but it’s not like I’ve never lived in a college town in a mostly conservative state before.

And because I’ve not been posting much about poetry lately, here’s some of what Marianne Moore said about Virginia (in "Virginia Britannia," What Are Years?, 1941):

   Pale sand edges England’s Old
   Dominion. The air is soft, warm, hot
above the cedar-dotted emerald shore
      known to the red-bird, the red-coated musketeer,
      the trumpet-flower, the cavalier,
      the parson, and the wild parishioner. …

… The Old Dominion has
      all-green box-sculptured grounds.
      An almost English green surrounds
      them. Care has formed among unEnglish insect sounds,
the white wall-rose. …

      Priorities were cradled in this region not
      noted for humility; spot
      that has high-singing frogs, cotton-mouth snakes and cot-
ton-fields; a unique
   Lawrence pottery with loping wolf design; and too
   unvenomous terrapin in tepid greenness,
      idling near the sea-top;
records on church walls; a Devil’s Woodyard; and the one-brick-

   thick serpentine wall built by

There’s more, but it’s too long a poem to quote in full. But now I have seen those one-brick-thick serpentine walls that divide the Pavilion Gardens, and admired their sinuous curves, and learned why Jefferson designed them that way (short answer: because he wanted to economize on bricks, and a curving one-brick-thick wall will stand where a straight one will fall over).

The curious can find more about Moore at Today in Literature, Sweet Briar College, and Modern American Poetry.

Pulling up stakes

One thing I hadn’t fully realized before I started planning to move to Virginia: moving any great distance involves a curious combination of practicalities and undercurrents of emotion. The last couple of times I moved, it was only across town; before that, when I moved from Chicago to Collegeville, I had no furniture and I mailed most of my stuff. Now I’m trying to decide what to leave behind and what to keep and how much it will cost to schlep it back east. So I’ve been quite busy with the endless Things That Have to be Done in Very Short Order; at the same time, the impending move has been making me brood over my attachments to people, places, and things.

The thing is, although I’m feeling anticipatory twinges of nostalgia at the thought of leaving my familiar surroundings for somewhere totally new, Collegeville has never entirely felt like home. "It’s a transitional town," a friend once said when I was trying to explain why life here feels so contingent and temporary. She was right; that’s what happens when such a big percentage of the population is university-affiliated. I suspect myself of not having put down too many roots here for that reason. There are certain aspects of life in the Midwest that I’ve just never gotten used to, probably because I was always thinking "I’ll leave sooner or later." And now I really am leaving.

I’ll miss the people I met here. I’ll also miss, among other things: a particular Victorian house with peeling yellow paint, the way the light hits the trees this time of year, my regular pub and its lovely staff and the Stilton-covered fries they make there, the farmers’ market in high summer, the bread from the deli down the street, and the sound of trains going past at three in the morning. But it still doesn’t seem like I’m leaving a place where I was fully settled. It’s almost like being homesick for the feeling of having something to be homesick for. Peculiar.

(An aside: Am I a sap if I say that I keep thinking about this Robert Louis Stevenson poem? I read it years ago and kept remembering scattered lines of it until I finally googled them and found the whole thing. Stevenson isn’t the kind of poet one can admit to liking without some small measure of embarrassment; he’s so nineteenth-century. And he wrote for children. But "Whither Must I Wander?" has been on my mind of late. So there.)

And dear God, the sheer volume of stuff I’ve pitched out. The reams of paper recycled or shredded. (Income tax returns from 1993? Half-done drafts of the first chapter of my dissertation, circa 2000? I kept this stuff?) The clothes donated to charity, the books sold or given away. And then there are all the weird little thoughts that go with that: fear of other people picking up your old books at the used bookstore and laughing at one’s marginalia; familial guilt at discarding items that were given as Christmas presents and promptly stored in the closet; alternately maudlin and irritable reflections on ex-girlfriend memorabilia and what to do with it; mild horror at one’s lack of housekeeping skills.

It’s at times like this that I understand the appeal of jettisoning all worldly possessions. Or, failing that, being a nomad and living in a tent. Provided it’s a big, roomy, well-furnished tent, with wall-hangings and such, like the ones the Romans always seem to have in sword-and-sandal flicks or BBC historical miniseries.

Anyway, I’m off to Virginia this week to spend a few days looking for an apartment there and meeting the people I’ll be working with. More when I return. Hopefully, I won’t be needing that tent.

I’m not a political blogger. But… (Rambling ahead.)

In general, my reasons for not posting about politics are rather like Michelle’s:  other people do it far better than I can. It’s not that I’m not paying attention in my offline life, but there are enough political bloggers out there without me, Literature Geek, pointing to the same links. That, and when something happens that’s as deeply horrifying and enraging as the current scandal at Abu Ghraib, words fail me. Sometimes the only response is "WTF? WTF!!??"

However, I’ll make an exception and point to William Saletan’s chronology of what Bush said as the Iraq prison scandal unfolded (at Slate). All those reiterations of the phrase "Saddam Hussein’s rape rooms and torture chambers" on the part of Bush, Rumsfeld, et al., look pretty damn hypocritical now. It’s another instance of something I keep noticing about the current administration’s discourse about the war: a kind of eerie repetition compusion. When in doubt (as at his press conference in April), Bush trots out his catchphrases and repeats them, over and over. Stay the course. Changing the world. Rape rooms and torture chambers. (And that’s just the verbal repetition compulsion. The fact that Bush Jr. seems to want to fight Bush Sr.’s war all over again has already been commented on.)

And see, also, Timothy Burke’s take on the Bush administration’s favorite mantras, "In Nothing We Trust" (5/12/04):

"Free us from oversight," said the Bush Administration on September 12, 2001, "because you can trust in our professionalism and our ethical constraint. We’re the good guys. We won’t do anything bad".

President Bush more or less repeats this mantra today in response to the escalating scandal of American prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo, that it was just a few bad apples, that we’re a democracy and and this shows how great democracy is that it can expose a few isolated misdeeds. Trust us. The world’s collective jaw drops. Does he really believe that?

I spent yesterday evening at one of the informal poetry workshops I’ve been sporadically attending. We sat around in the early-summer heat drinking cold beer and eating chips and guacamole, and reading each other’s poems. Our host for the evening, a recent MFA whose work I always admire for its subtlety and deep strangeness, contributed a poem about war; when we discussed it, one of the points that came up was that we were all interested in the way he used repetitions of his own to suggest the degree to which repetition has dominated the language of politics lately. (I suspect I may be making the poem sound ham-handed. It wasn’t, though.)

I used to not be interested in writing "occasional" poems, or poems about politics. I think that may be starting to change. Someone’s got to take the language back from the recyclers of platitudes.

…and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing

This just in from the BBC: archaeologists think they’ve found the site of the Library of Alexandria. Yup, that one.

That is just so cool. My youthful fantasies of becoming an archaeologist just resurfaced after a decade and a half of dormancy.

[Title of this post from the last line of C. P. Cavafy’s "The God Abandons Antony," translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.]

Unsolved mysteries

I’m formulating something in response to the discussion at Frogs and Ravens and Liliputian Lilith about intellectuals in and out of the university. In the meantime, here are a few of the other (massive and weighty) questions I’ve been pondering:

1. When did all novels start appearing with the subtitle "A Novel" on their front covers? It seems a relatively new phenomenon. Lately I’ve noticed that some of these subtitled novels use the subtitle as a means of broadcasting key details of setting or plot before you even pick up the book and look at the blurb. The Stiletto-Maker’s Apprentice: A Novel of Intrigue in Eighteenth-century Venice. Under the Sound Stage: A Novel about Hollywood. The Strollers of Park Avenue: Yet Another Novel About New York Nannies.

2. When did publishers start color-coding the covers of paperbacks so you can automatically tell which ones are the Chick Novels? They all look alike, graphic-design-wise. It’s disturbingly like walking past the Barbie aisle in a toystore.

3. When did "stylish" become the default adjective to modify "thriller" in movie-review parlance? Everything is a "stylish thriller." Is it just shorthand for "wannabe Hitchcock," or what?

4. When did waitstaff in restaurants start using the phrase "Are you still working on that?" to ask if you’re finished with your food? Why does no one seem to notice how depressing this question is? "Working on that," as if eating in a restaurant were a tiresome chore rather than a pleasure. What are you supposed to say in return? "Yes, I’m working on choking down the last of this steak; it’s not easy suppressing my gag reflex, but by God, I’m giving it my best shot!"

(Apparently, though, I am not the only person who hates this question.)

5. When did Iggy Pop’s "Lust for Life" become the default background music for cruise ship and vacation-package commercials? (Not just Carnival; I just heard it in another vacation commercial.) Does anyone else experience really freaky Trainspotting/Carnival Cruise Lines montages in their head as a result?

6. Why does the thought of Unsolved Mystery #5 make me want to rush out and buy the Trainspotting soundtrack right this minute? I have the sudden urge to listen to Lou Reed’s "Perfect Day" again. There goes my resolve not to burden myself with more new things before moving.

New Ashbery

Languagehat posts a new John Ashbery poem from the NYRB. An excerpt:

We were warned about spiders, and the occasional famine.
We drove downtown to see our neighbors. None of them were home.
We nestled in yards the municipality had created,
reminisced about other, different places—
but were they? Hadn’t we known it all before?

Go read the whole thing.

It’s never over when it’s over

The semester is officially over and the grades are in, which means that it’s officially Grade Complaint Season. I don’t mind showing students numerical breakdowns of how they did in class (actually, I do mind that, a bit; I hate having to quantify everything), but what I really don’t like is finding multiple "Why did I get a B?" queries in my e-mail inbox. It makes me want to hide for the next two weeks and pretend I’ve skipped town already. Or growl and snarl and show my teeth.

On the upside, after this round is over, I’ll never have to deal with another grade complaint again unless I decide somewhere along the line that I really, really want to return to teaching, which looks unlikely at this point.

Oh, and see generally Michael Bérubé, whose blog I’ve been reading of late (must update blogroll again), on the subject of how to reduce grade inflation (NYT, registration required). What he says about the default A/B scale in English departments — "English departments have basically worked on the A/B binary system for some time: A’s and A-minuses for the best students, B’s for everyone else and C’s, D’s and F’s for students who miss half the classes or threaten their teachers with bodily harm" — is certainly true here. (Which is why it’s especially galling to get deluged with change-my-B-to-an-A requests at the end of each semester.) I like his proposal that colleges factor in "degree of difficulty" in determining students’ grades, but I’m kind of glad I won’t be there if it ever gets put into practice.