Posts filed under ‘Life’

Mad Geniuses

For good or usually for ill, I’ve ended up working for more than my fair share of mad geniuses.

There was the obsessive-compulsive biotech entrepreneur who made a million dollars in the stock market and then decided to start a company based not on a passion or even an interest but on his research into market opportunities. There was the concert pianist who sent me out on errands with his driver and let his four Burmese cats lounge around on my desk in fur-crusted baskets while I was trying to work. There was the Internet entrepreneur whose guiding principle for dealing with his employees was “input not consensus,” meaning that he’d be happy to listen to our ideas, but he’d always end up doing exactly what he intended to do all along.

Heck, I’ve even ended up studying with a few like the wild, virtuoso violinist who was my primary instructor at music school. Early in his career, some of his role models told him he’d never learn to play, so he became a musician to spite them. For some reason this must have convinced him that students learn best through goading and humiliation. But, boy could he play. And tell amusing stories.

That’s the thing about mad geniuses, they’re a bitch to work for or with, but they have this exuberance that makes them a whole lot of fun to hang out with. I’d always thought it would be a blast to have a drink with Luca Turin, the scientist who writes deliciously evocative perfume reviews and developed a new theory about how the sense of smell works. When I read about how he used to run into his co-workers’ labs, shove noxious vials of (sometimes toxic) chemicals under their noses and ask them to describe the smell, I thought that maybe Turin might not be so much fun to work with.

This “nice place to visit, wouldn’t want to work there” approach has served me pretty well for the past few years, but then I read this interview with philosopher Slavoj Zizek in The Guardian. I’ve never read anything he’s written, but I know there are people who think he’s a genius. Here’s a taste of Zizek from the interview:

What does love feel like?

Like a great misfortune, a monstrous parasite, a permanent state of emergency that ruins all small pleasures.

Have you ever said ‘I love you’ and not meant it?

All the time. When I really love someone, I can only show it by making aggressive and bad-taste remarks.

Yoiks! I can’t imagine he’d be all that fun to spend time with unless I was in a particularly misanthropic, self-loathing sort of mood. 

[Hat-tip to Light Reading]


13 August 2008 at 20:35 1 comment

How Do You Say Rain in Canadian?

Sunday morning I leave for a week in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where I’ll be giving a paper at a ethnomusicology conference on fiddling.

Today, I checked the weather report: drizzle, showers, sprinkles, everyday, for a week. It’s like someone got bored with the forecast and opened their thesaurus up to the page for rain.

Precipitation, cloudburst,  downpour, anyone?

1 August 2008 at 20:51 Leave a comment

Question of the Day

If it’s bad luck when a black cat crosses your path, what kind of omen is it when a slug crosses your path?

23 June 2008 at 22:45 1 comment

Note to Self…

When the weather widget on your desktop says that the high temperature for the day is 36°, it does not necessarily mean that it’s going to be 36° when you leave the house in the morning.

(Note to European friends: 36°F ≈ 2°C.)

4 January 2008 at 10:02 2 comments

Door#2: Fusilli with Tuna and Herbed Bread Crumbs

I slept most of the day away today (woke up at 8:00 a.m. and then went back to sleep until noon), and and the cold and sleet kept me from grocery shopping, so I had to fashion a dinner out of the contents of my fridge and pantry.

What I came up with wasn’t half bad. I did a variation on toasted, herbed bread crumbs that I often use as a topping for cauliflower — a sort of Italianized  (or is that Italicized) version of Chou-Fleur à la Polonaise.

This is one of those dishes that should be tinkered with depending on your likes and dislikes, not to mention what’s sitting on your shelves, so consider this recipe a template.

  • One portion of pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pinch dried chili flakes
  • 1 large garlic clove, pressed (I was out of fresh garlic so I used some Vietnamese pre-fried garlic slices I had in the pantry.)
  • 1 teaspoon – 1 tablespoon capers according to preference, drained
  • 1/4 cup panko or other non-seasoned bread crumbs
  • 3 ounce canned tuna, drained and flaked (I had a can of that Italian chunk light in olive oil. Yum!)
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs (I used some parsley, sage and rosemary — one herb short of a song — I had leftover from thanksgiving.)
  1. While pasta is cooking, heat some olive oil in a medium skillet. Add pinch of dried chili pepper flakes and one pressed garlic clove and sauté until garlic is golden and fragrant.
  2. Add capers and stand back. They usually spatter. Sauté for about 30 seconds — until the sizzling dies down — and then add the bread crumbs. Stir to mix with capers, garlic an pepper flakes. Turn down heat to medium-low and cook crumbs until golden.
  3. When crumbs lightly golden. Add tuna and fresh herbs. Stir to mix. Let cook for about 1 minute then serve over drained pasta.

Serves: 1

2 December 2007 at 11:11 Leave a comment

Door #1: Bye, NaBloPoMo! Hello, Advent Calendar!

Well, folks, I survived National Blog Posting Month, posting 30 times in 30 days. Now I’ve decided to continue with this blog madness by doing my second annual virtual Advent calendar of posts (aka Julkalender, since it was originally inspired by a Norwegian TV show Swedish blogger).

The goal is to put up one post a day from December 1 through 25 just like you open one door on a traditional Advent calendar for each day leading up to Christmas.

Here are my some thoughts for those of you stopping by during December:

  • I may back-date posts, but I’m still planning on doing 25 of them. Some nights I’m tired and go to sleep early and post the next morning. This gives you plenty of excuses to check back for updates. 😉
  • Don’t expect many actual Christmas-related posts. I’m more likely to post about Squidmas. That doesn’t mean that I can’t use the Advent calendar conceit. I was brought up Christian, and I still celebrate Christmas in an eating-Chex-Mix, exchanging-presents, home-for-the-holidays sort of way. These days, I’m a born-again non-believer, though. (And if parents are godparents are reading this, well, sorry ’bout that. The scientists got a hold of me.)

1 December 2007 at 10:55 Leave a comment

Friday Fiddle Tune 3

Here’s a hambo tune I dedicated to my friend Carolyn when she had surgery. It’s called “Krya på dig” — “Get Well Soon” in Swedish.


If you’ve never seen hambo, here’s a video clip of the dance:

23 November 2007 at 23:42 Leave a comment

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