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It’s been a busy couple of weeks…. so let me explain my absence:  the usual suspects (late nights at work make Claire sleepy and no-bloggy); Queen’s Birthday weekend down at the Lakes Entrance and hiking through the Snowy River National Park; back to back shows for the grand final of the Voice Australia (that’s my girl, Karise!) were all contributing factors.  Not the mention the biggest earthquake to hit Melbourne in a century, a whopping 5.3, which rattled our house for a full 2 minutes (ok, so not really a factor affecting my lack of blogging, but a fun fact nonetheless!)

Then there’s the vortex of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games, which have finally sucked me into their spiral grasp. Read the first book cover to cover in a 24 hour span, and had to force myself to put down the second book at 2am each night to keep my sanity (and combat the Claire sleepy no bloggy-ness). 

But that was then, and this is now. So welcome me back, and enjoy some pictures from coastal Victoria (check out the full pictures page for the backstory on all those broken trees!)


Jumping into the third book tonight, so see you in 400 pages or so…

I’ve finally found something I miss about having a car – karaoke time.

I, like the rest of the world (or maybe just Australia?), am completely obsessed with Adele at the moment.  Turns out, however, that one attracts odd looks unconsciously singing along in a packed 8:45am tram.  But I couldn’t help it!  I had to consciously tap my toes, and hum a little, just to keep the tunes in my head buckled under.

One of the books I’m currently reading, Traffic by Tom Vanderbuilt, is all about the human behavior as it relates to, you guessed it, traffic.  A bit of an odd read for my current car-free lifestyle, but it certainly hits the nail on the head in the chapter dealing with the odd things people do in the inviolable solitude of their vehicles (even when other drivers may be no more than a few feet away).

Like solo karaoke time.  For me, driving time was always my jam time.  Crank up the volume, head tilted, full on jamming.

Oh well, guess the shower will have to suffice.

n. The pleasant loamy smell of rain on the ground, especially after a long dry spell.

I love this word.  I am at heart and soul an urbanite, and hold a strange fondness for the sweet, almost sickly, and supremely “city” smell of a late afternoon rain splattering against a steaming, mid-July concrete jungle.  Always loved the smell, never knew what to call it before the NYT’s review of Reading the OED illuminated its meaning and promptly earned Ammon Shea a place on my reading list.  Fast forward 3 years (which is how long its taken to work its way to the top of the stack), and here we are.

One might think a book about a guy reading a book to be a boring topic.  And it’s not just any book he’s reading; it’s the Oxford English Dictionary, all 20 bound volumes.  But Mr. Shea’s narration of the experience and recitation of his favorite words and the reasons therefor are delightful. 

His laments of the taxing physical symptoms of reading for 8-10 hours per day would be familiar to any lawyer – the cramped and hunched shoulders, waning and occasionally spotty or blurred vision, the delirium of discovering the perfect word for an obscure circumstance, or previously undiscovered error made by a worthy opponent, daily mid-afternoon migraines, and moments of absolute and unshakable boredom….  There were rare few words quoted in the book for which I knew (or could guess based on entomology) the meaning of, and discovered all manner of new words for the mundane and the extraordinary, including an old English 8-point list of words describing a drunkard, based on the seemingly animalitistic characteristics displayed when intoxicated (see, lion-drunke).

From his selected compilation, a summary list of my favorites.

all-overish (adj.) Feeling an undefined sense of unwell that extends to the whole body.  apricity (n.) The warmth of the sun in winter.  backfriend (n.) A fake friend; a secret enemy (the old school word for a frenemy).  conjubilant (adj.) Being jubilant or rejoicing with another; and its close relative, conjugalism (n.) The art of making a good marriage.  gastrophilanthropist (n.) A benevolent purveyor for the appetites of others.  jocoserious (adj.) Half serious and half in jest.  lion-drunke (adj.) “He flings the pots about the house, calls his Hostesse whore, breakes the glasse windows with his dagger, and is apt to quarrell with any man that speaks to him”.  obdormition (n.) The falling asleep of a limb; which can be eased by pandiculation (n.) The act of stretching and extending the limbs, in tiredness or waking.  philodox (n.) A person in love with his own opinion. sarcast (n.) A writer or speaker who is sarcastic.  unbepissed (adj.) Not having been urinated on; unwet with urine (which Ammon Shea appropriately points out is perhaps the weirdest adjective for a person to have occasion to use).  vicambulist (n.) One who walks about in the streets (not like a homeless person, like one who enjoys walking about in the streets of a city).

(NB: these words are so obscure that when I spell-checked this posting, every single one of them was unrecoginzed by WordPress’ dictionary.  Get with the (ye olde) times, WordPress!)

My life as a lawyer (both certified and in training) these past 6+ years has had an unfortunate side effect: it has trampled and extinguished all signs of life from my consumption of leisure reading. After 10 hours of reading printed and electronic documents a day, cracking another one open at bed hasn’t seemed all that appetizing.

 But this mentality was depriving me of something I used to enjoy, nay, love.  Reading.  As a kid, I thought the Pizza Hut Book It! Program was pretty much heaven on earth.  (Book reading = delicious personal-sized pepperoni pizza reward is a fond childhood memory).  Somewhere in college I developed a philosophy of only reading non-fiction—mostly historical accounts, biographies and sociological “why the world is the way it is” books.  And shunning all fiction, even going so far as to engage others in debates as to why fiction is, on the whole, a terrible genre and intellectually unsatisfying.  (I still find nonfiction more engaging, and playing the odds, more likely to be readable than 95% of the fiction crap out there.  But I’m giving fiction another go.)

During the law school hiatus, I kept lists, scribbled notes really, anytime a friend recommended a read, the NYT had an interesting review in its op-ed pages, or a Jon Stewart guest author tickled me the right way.  Over the years, this list never shrank, mostly because I never managed to do any actual reading (just a lot of planning to read) …

 Well, my time has come.  The 2011 New Year coincided with a $300 Christmas gift, and I was ready to tackle my list as resolution #3.  Through a corporate loophole which I intend to exploit fully during my tenure here, I can get “paper materials” shipped to our New York office and sent through for free, which is crucial since books (like everything else) are ridiculously expensive here.  Although I fully support what libraries do, I’m just not a library reader; I like to keep my books as evidence of my conquest (or to gift away later).

 So far, so good.  The first book I tackled was the Art of Travel (Alan de Botton), since we had just landed from one and were preparing for another Aussie adventure.  Me and this book = soul mates.  It would be impossible for me to do justice to the elegance and poignancy of this book, let’s just say that during his process of self-realization about the intricacies of travel, de Botton perfectly described the dimensions of and hunger for exploration and reminded me why it is I love travel so much.

 Next up, Elephants on Acid.  This collection of very short, witty summations of wacky “experiments” and other human and animal torture in the name of science was definitely a page turner.  And this week, I could barely keep my hands off of Nick Horby’s A Long Way Down, a novel about 4 unrelated characters whose lives collide when they each try to off themselves.  The character development is spectacular, and it’s an engaging and consuming read, so long as you don’t mind heavy use of the f-word and looking a bit insane as you laugh out loud on public transportation (reading a book about suicide no less….).  In the end, the satire gave way to an illumination of how easy is it to lose sight of what a gift life is, and how grateful we should be when we are reminded of that fact.

Ahhh reading, my old friend.  Welcome back.

from the date of January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011, I will…

1) balance my life (no promises on how balance will be achieved.  Right now I’m standing up straight, so I could be off to a good start in 2011.  1 down, 9  to go).

2) learn how to make pasta from scratch (and make things that are way more yummy than, for example, freshly-made squid ink pasta, which I always see at the pasta shops in markets.  Seriously, who ever thought that (1) squid ink is tasty and (2) black as death linguine noodles should be considered a delicacy instead of just moldy).

3) read Traffic, Tom Vanderbilt, Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace, On Love, Allan de Botton, Reading the OED, Ammon Shea, The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho, and A Long Way Down, Nick Hornsby, each of which has been on my reading list for nearly or over 3 years.

4) cook kangaroo (and have someone other than my loving husband verify that it actually tastes good).

5) ride in a hot air balloon.

6) blog at least once a week, and at least twice a month with a fun, interesting or unique fact about Australia (Steve has promised to post to the blog as one of his resolutions too). (NB: WordPress has issued “postaday2011” and “postaweek2011” challenges to its bloggers.  Totally on the same page as my blog host.)

7) take a wine pairing & cooking class, and try to remember something other than “hhmmm, wine good!”

8 ) re-learn the piano.

9) see a Tasmanian devil, the world’s most cartoonish carnivorous marsupial.

10) vacation more, for and with less (really, camera, birks, 1 pair pant, 1 swimmie, 1 tank top, 1 jumper (that’s a sweater to you Americans) and my straw fedora should be all I need for any good 4-day weekend in Oz. The straw fedora is perhaps the most essential, to mask the fact that I did not list soap, shampoo or brush among those items.  Oh, and Steve).

Here’s hoping my resolve in 2011 is stronger than in 2010.  I think I should be able to keep up with #6 (at least for a week or two…) Stay tuned.