I don't really know what I am musing on these days. It's more like an irregular stream of consciousness thing...it seems to be working.


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« November 2008 | Main | January 2009 »

w December 25, 2008

I May Have Chosen The Right Profession

As much as I have been enjoying reading the book from the previous post, I still have my doubts about the author's accuracy and interpretation; it is somewhat of a relief to read a review that supports these hunches. On some level, it's probably due to a background in history, where you are constantly enjoined to verify, verify, verify, but on the other, I think it reminds me that I have a sort of sickness where research is concerned. I can spend hours chasing Wikipedia threads down various rabbit holes, but it is a point of some pride that I can almost always come back to the original search; I like nothing better than to be given a research mission, no matter how piddly.
I can't tell you how much better I feel knowing someone else agrees with me on the quality of scholarship of this particular book - and it has nothing to do with being 'right' in a smug way, but rather accuracy and completeness of detail. I'm not willing to totally accept Kirsch's take on things without digging a little further on my own, but it certainly adds useful facets.
I'm not expecting to be the person who finds things all the time for a given patron or employee - that's arguably Google's job - but I bet I can do a pretty good job of helping them find the appropriate thing.

by Heather Hoffman at 10:26 PM

w December 24, 2008


I'm sorry about the a) linguistically off and b) un-funny title but I'm only on cup one of coffee this morning. Anyway, in honor of Hanukkah and also because it was just too much 'my' kind of book, I've been reading Edward Kritzler's Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean, and while it's not the most well written book out there, it IS extremely interesting, and adds a certain added flavor to our concept of buccaneers prowling the Spanish Main. I'm not entirely sure about the historical accuracy, but I certainly intend to dig into this further, as it's quite a wonderful thought, secret Jew/converso pirates attacking the ships of the Inquisition. One of them, in fact,Samuel Palache, is labeled the "warrior rabbi" by Kritzler: "Rabbi Palache, a Barbary pirate who was still capturing Spanish ships in his late sixties, held the first religious services in his home." (Prologue).

It is a nice counterpart to this image I saw today via the London Times online version, wherein the President of Poland, in a kippeh, is handing a Hanukkah candle to the chief rabbi of same, with the cultural attache' from Israel supervising, or something. Anyway, it just seemed so heartening that 60 years after a concerted effort to wipe out any vestiges of Polish Jewry, a major paper would be nonchalantly including this photograph.

Since I will be in the kitchen for about the next 48 hours, have a wonderful and restful holiday - and happy winter festival of your choice.

by Heather Hoffman at 9:23 AM

w December 19, 2008

I Have Never Felt More Like A Parent

So I was insane and volunteered to rabbit-sit the first grade class pet, Fluffy (puer, not puella) over the winter break. He is currently in residence in our back bathroom, which is the most dog-safe place we could put him, while also allowing for the incessant nocturnal scratching that apparently happens. I will say right here that I have never been overly fond of bunnies, but you know, it's Christmas. And he is actually remarkably cute and soft and reasonably easy-going. I guess if you live in a classroom full of 6 and 7 year olds, you learn to chill out pretty quickly.

His cage was sort of semi-gnarly (after he kicked half of the contents over the backseat of my car on the drive home. Charming.), so I sucked it up and let him hop around the bathroom while I dealt with that, for the first time in my life. Fortunately he came with all his toiletries, plus latex gloves, so it wasn't really that disgusting, and I guess after I've coped with dog and kid excretions, bunny pellets aren't really so foul.

All our European friends have been making half-joking references to 'traditional Christmas dinner...' while surreptitiously fingering their butcher knives. So that's the biggest challenge - not the dogs, not the pellets, but keeping M. Fluffy from becoming Hassenpfeffer.

by Heather Hoffman at 2:55 PM

w December 17, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside

My best friend, Los Angeles born and bred, begged me not to do the "Canadian Snow Dance" last night, but I think she'll forgive me (eventually) for the Frost Shimmy.

Yep, that's right, people, last night the temperature dipped low enough to provide a reasonably substantial dusting of frost on rooftops and cars left outside. I am weirdly pleased by this situation, thus perhaps proving her theory that I have ice water for blood due to my partial heritage.
I realized that I have actually never lived in a climate, until now, that didn't have pretty awful winters, and so I guess you learn to take your pleasures where you can. Toronto is by no means the coldest Canadian city, but neither is it the balmiest, and you learn to bundle up and have fun outdoors, or go quietly insane due to slow dehydration caused by ancient and ill-working radiators. When we lived in Texas and North Carolina, we lived in western Texas and North Carolina, which if you know anything about geography and climate = frigging damn cold and icy in the winter. Moving out to California was a treat, and still is in many ways, but every so often, it's nice to be reminded that it *is* a different season elsewhere in the world.

I bundled up my lemon tree on the deck with a fleece blanket and an old sheet, causing it to resemble Michael Jackson at his most paranoid - but hey, maybe I'll still get some lemons from it. Saw a young boy, walking to school, stop at a frost-bedecked car and gleefully write something on the window - it made me smile. Coping with alternative weather - you're doing it right!

And say what you will, dismiss our version of 'cold' (and I know you will) but a temperature at or close to freezing plus frost at least approximates a "white Christmas". So there.

by Heather Hoffman at 8:14 AM

w December 13, 2008

History Camp

So I know we tease a variety of friends for going to math camp or similar, but here is where I confess I went to a couple of 'history camps' when I was a kid in Toronto.

I know. Shocking.

Anyway, I had cause today to make some apple cider, and thought, oh hey, let's stud an orange (well, clementine) with cloves and bung it in, as one does. I realized as I was poking my fingers on those sharp little bastards that I had learned to do this at, yes, history camp one school break when my sister and I were in elementary school. In High Park, there is an 1837 cottage built by one of Toronto's first architects (who also founded the park), called Colborne Lodge, and even at 8 I saw the docents and thought: best.job.ever.

Useful knowledge, studding an orange with cloves? No, nor was the learning to make soda bread. Tasty? Damn straight. Top that, math geeks.

by Heather Hoffman at 1:38 PM

w December 08, 2008

Fell Off the Grid There

It's been one of those autumns where I think I missed November, but no matter - we had a great trip to Seattle, the kids did miraculously well with the long car trip (though we did break it up into a few days each way), and we had only one minor blip in Roseburg, Oregon when Peabo developed croup at midnight in the hotel room. At home I would have self-treated, but given that we were on the road, it seemed best for Gene to take her to the ER, not least because that distinctive bark of a cough was not going to let anyone sleep in the same room. One steroid shot and some breathing treatment later, we were good to go, and the doctor pointed out that we would be just fine in Seattle, given that the best immediate action to take if it cropped again was exposure to cool, moist air - so just open her window. Good thing we weren't headed to Arizona, I guess.

Both girls and I were down for the count with a cold for the duration of the trip, but in a strange way, it was nice: forced us to take it easy and not overextend everyone's good humor with loads of activities. We kept it to one a day, if that, and I think in the end, it made for a true vacation. Plus we watched a lot of Dora the Explorer. A LOT. I keep telling myself Dora is a far better obsession than that irksome purple dinosaur or something hyperactive, and it must be said, Peabo's counting is coming on a treat, probably due in no small part to the influence of Exploradora.

At any rate, I was also trying to chip away at term papers while away, and actually did all right all in all; they are officially due at the end of this week, but given the rash of holiday parties that start up on Wednesday, I decided to be a major dork and get them both done and in prior to that, so that I could play with a clear conscience. This required a certain level of sustained discipline that I know I didn't have while an undergrad and a stupid 20 year old, so it was a bit of a paradigm shift there, but curiously, I suspect that starting early, writing only a few pages at a stretch, and actually thinking about what I was putting down on paper will result in a better product. At least, that's my hope, considering that one of them is worth 65% of my final grade. I finished the 'easy' one last Thursday, and am within 2 pages of finishing the 'hard' one, which is both a relief and a bit stressful. Why? Well, the gentle paradox of long papers kicked in last night - I was initially worried that I wouldn't be able to get anywhere close to the maximum allowed pages (20) and that I'd have to do some serious padding to make it worthwhile. Got to page 17 yesterday afternoon and realized: holy shit, I actually have a LOT left to say and not a whole lot of space left in which to say it. I was fortunately on the last true 'section', save the conclusion, so it wasn't a major crisis, but I did have to laugh a bit ruefully. I can probably edit out some stuff earlier on if need be, or maybe I'll just keep it succinct for the next page and hope for the best. It did bear out my belief from earlier assignments that in many ways, cranking out twenty pages is vastly easier than keeping your thoughts to five.

Anyway, that's why I've been a bit out of pocket lately. I am going to be one happy girl come Wednesday. And by Sunday, potentially one extremely hungover girl.

by Heather Hoffman at 8:37 AM