To be read

6CE16D6B-1BD1-4A5F-B588-EF8D71811E74Last Sunday, I weeded about six bags of books from the collection and shifted accordingly while dusting the shelves. The project took about four hours. One of my goals was to reduce my TBR stack to one shelf, so I photographed this group of hopefuls before putting them in the main collection. Think of it as a virtual TBR stack.

“Physics is not only a history of successes.”

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This is the world is described by quantum mechanics and particle theory. We have arrived very far from the mechanical world of Newton, where minute, cold stones eternally wandered on long, precise trajectories in geometrically immutable space. Quantum mechanics and experiments with particles have taught us that the world is a continuous, restless swarming of things, a continuous coming to light and disappearance of ephemeral entities. A set of vibrations, as in the switched-on hippie world of the 1960s. A world of happenings, not of things.

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Physics is not only a history of successes.

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Time sits at the center of the tangle of problems raised by the intersection of gravity, quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics. A tangle of problems where we are still in the dark. If there is something that we are perhaps beginning to understand about quantum gravity that combines two of the three pieces of the puzzle, we do not yet have a theory capable of trying to gather all three pieces of our fundamental knowledge of the world.

Genuine interest in art

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Detail of Leonardo Drew’s “Number 185” (2016).

Earlier this month, we visited the Smart Museum of Art before seeing Photograph 51 at the Court. From a distance, the piece pictured above looked to me as if it had been blackened in a fire.

Other notes: Once I finished Parks and Recreation, I moved on to The Good Place and now must wait until fall for new episodes. Related: We had breakfast-for-lunch at the Ron Swanson-inspired Whisk last weekend. It was so awesome that it has effectively ruined our local breakfast nooks for us. And speaking of ruining things for us, William Hootkins ((Moby Dick) and Nick Offerman (Lincoln in the Bardo) set the bar for audiobook narration so high that nearly every other narrator is a disappointment. (And, yes, we loved learning that Offerman is an Illini, too.)

To bring this post home, Ron Swanson on art:

Okay, everyone! SHUT UP and LOOK AT ME! Welcome to Visions of Nature. This room has several paintings in it. Some are big; some are small. People did them, and they are here now. I believe that after this is over, they’ll be hung in government buildings. Why the government is involved in an art show is beyond me. I also think it’s pointless for a human to paint scenes of nature when they can just go outside and stand in it. Anyway, please do not misinterpret the fact that I am talking right now as genuine interest in art and attempt to discuss it with me further. End of speech.

School closures

My school was closed Monday for snow. They were also closed early on Tuesday and all day Wednesday and Thursday for extreme cold. When I learned about the mid-week closures, I promised myself I would treat the days off as the gifts they were. No “getting ahead” on weekly chores. The house is immaculate. No reshelving projects. No reorganizing closets. No comparison shopping for a new lawn mower. The library looks wonderful. So do the closets. And I have at least six weeks on the lawn mower purchase.

Relax, I told myself. Approach the days with some child-like delight.

So, yes, I finished our federal and state tax returns, but I also finished Season 6 of Parks and Recreation and three books. Yeah, I caught up on correspondence with out-of-state family, practiced my music, and exercised. But I also slept in a bit and woke up without an alarm clock. And we made fun food: one-pot pasta and crunchy garlic bread; bacon sandwiches; brownies.

For two days: No makeup. No hair products. No work clothes.

I look forward to working with my students tomorrow; I do, after all, like my job. But what a week; Friday is already here!

“But the result was now ours to live with.”

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It hurts to live after someone has died. It just does. It can hurt to walk down a hallway or open the fridge. It hurts to put on a pair of socks, to brush your teeth. Food tastes like nothing. Colors go flat. Music hurts, and so do memories. You look at something you’d otherwise find beautiful — a purple sky at sunset or a playground full of kids — and it only somehow deepens the loss. Grief is so lonely this way.

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In the end, Hillary Clinton won nearly three million more votes than her opponent, but Trump captured the Electoral College thanks to fewer than eighty thousand votes spread across Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. I am not a political person, so I’m not going to attempt to offer an analysis of the results. I won’t try to speculate about who was responsible or what was unfair. I just wish more people had turned out to vote. And I will always wonder about what led so many women, in particular, to reject an exceptionally qualified female candidate and instead choose a misogynist as their president. But the result was now ours to live with.

From the shelves

c753c096-14ec-4b0d-b45f-a9268a1ded27Over the winter break, my younger daughter borrowed my copy of the Halperin translation of Michael Bernanos’ wonderfully creepy and unforgettable The Other Side of the Mountain.* Mischa Berlinski’s Fieldwork caught my eye when I refiled it. What a perfect “Read from the shelves” selection: I received the review copy nearly twelve years ago! The book was good as Stephen King’s EW editorial promised, and it fits neatly onto the mental shelf where I recently placed two other novels about anthropology: Euphoria by Lily King (one of the best books I read last year) and The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara (disturbing content but excellently written).

Since my last post, I also finished Upgrade Soul (Ezra Claytan Daniels; 2016), which I borrowed from the library. For those of you who are still resisting graphic works, especially those who enjoy speculative, dystopian, and/or science fiction, this would be a fabulous introduction to the form: deceptively simple art enriches a compelling and original story. Bonus: The protagonists are a vibrant, intelligent couple who have been married forty-five years.

It has been a slow reading month, but many of my bookmarks are in the last quarter of their books, so I hope to add a few more to my list before month’s end. Sure, it would be easy to blame my discovery of Parks and Recreation on Prime Video for the paucity of books read, but I have also been walking more; and my winter break concluded a few days after my last post, so I have returned to work and to music lessons and practice. ASL studies and snow removal have also nibbled on my reading time. Okay, okay. Yeah. I’ve been gleefully enjoying Parks and Recreation episodes — not binge-ing but definitely choosing the series over a book. If you’re a fan, you probably understand. Color me chagrined.

* I recently learned about another translation by Gio Clairval and have added it to my “Want to read” list.