Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Best of 2009. Or something totally different. I don't know.

Warning: Due to readers' request, there'll be more cellulose.

Helg prompted me to join another joint blog project. A list (or something) of best of 2009 – with all these people participating:
1000fragrances, Smelly Blog, Bittergrace Notes, Shoes-cake-perfume, Scent Hive, Olfactarama, Roxana's Illuminated Journal, Eiderdown Press Journal, A Rose Beyond the Thames, Mossy Loomings, Notes from the Ledge, I smell therefore I am, All I am a Redhead, Perfume In Progress, Savvy Thinker, The Non Blonde and The Perfume Shrine

So now, off you go to read something that is at least a little bit interesting and meantime, I'll watch some of Big Bang Theory.

The general feeling I got from Helg's mail was that it should better be related to perfumery. I didn't have a clue because lately, I've been grumpy and I only felt like creating and filling the category of 'Best kick in the shin'. Nobody volunteered to supply the shin, though, so this one will be lacking and there's just a plain boring list, perfumery included.

Best scent I stumbled upon: Shiseido's Val de Loire vingt et un mai mille neuf cent quatre vingt dix neuf (review will follow), with Shiseido's Basala being a very close second (review will follow)
Best scent I stumbled upon that one can still get somewhere: Chanel's Sycomore (review may follow but it's been ranted about already all over the internetz)
Best scent I stumbled upon and can be bought normally, where 'normally' be defined as 'just about anywhere': Hermes' Le Jardin sur le Nil
Best el cheapo scent: The Body Shop's Rose du Maroc/Moroccan Rose
On a side note, as Notes from the Ledge has it: I'm purging, should you want to inherit a bottle, wait in the queue.
Best stuff for calluses and cracked heels: anything with urea and salicylic acid
Best acne ointment: Skinoren. Doesn't work the slightest but it isn't annoying.
Best antimycotic: not discovered yet.
Best stuff to heal wounds caused by fungi that eat away your calluses and bloody cracks in your heels (works for other wounds, too, but I lack decubits to try on): HemaGel
Best explanation why basic research is useful: HemaGel
Best anti-wrinkle crap: do not grin as I do
Best discovery in clothing: black is the new black
Best discovery in the realm of houseworks: washing powders are oxidizing agents. In normal words, they bleach your things. Mix yours with water, it'll produce bubbles and these will make pale stains on your black clothes. It's about as good as adding that powder that comes with hair decolorants
Best discovery I lack in the realm of houseworks: how to make my stuff black again
Best shoes: Siwa Birks
Best random plant: Any purple Vanda orchid. Nothing that grows naturally should be allowed that kitschy colour. I'll buy one someday, I'm good with the easy orchids
Best music score: the critical edition of Dvořák's Slavonic dances
Best website: Ravelry

I don't think I'm good in lists. I have problems making my own shopping list and choosing what was best and what of the bests should be listed was simply a pain in the arse until I stopped taking it seriously. For much better lists of anything, check The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon (Nope, I'm not paid by anyone for advertising old Japanese literature. By the way, that gal would be a damn good blogger, given the opportunity.) or a taxonomy textbook - I haven't read any yet so I don't have any good recommendations. For the esoteric meanings of shopping lists, check Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum – you won't ever try planning your shopping after that. Now, I can go off to knit and eat bon-bons; those who got as far as here can be easily counted, totalling most likely zero.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009


It is not that widely known that I can read. My ability to read leads to another interesting fact, I own books and sometimes even buy some, like, every week or two.

For some reason, I didn't follow the book market in the Reservation (1) for quite a while so I needed to catch up. I tried the easiest and by far most pleasant way, I went to a bookstore with a shopping list.
That proved to be a disappointing experience, the small bookshops were plainly small and with a limited choice so I shrugged and went to find my Homo Ludens on eBay or... well, just somewhere. Apparently, the library copies are either stolen or booked until next August, or, in the case of the one I borrowed, underlined to death and badly bound, to my eternal anger. Weren't the book messed up, I'd go the way of the cheap and copy it but I thought that being a rather small volume, it might not be expensive. I was quite right on the 'not expensive' bit but the expectation that it may be something like available was just too wild. It was last published in the Reservation in 1997 and the library copies are being stolen because it's been sold out since almost forever. After several days of detailed search of the internetz...

Interlude I.
I wandered into a major bookstore and asked a shop assistant armed with a computer if he could please check whether they have, just by chance, Homo Ludens by Jan Huizinga. "Hey- what?" the shop assistant, who idled around the philosophy department, asked. So far for qualified personnel. This was not the worst yet, though.

...and the internetz spat out a Local Bookstore of Hometown, or namely its branch in Anytown. I reserved it online, happy to support a good bookstore, they are one of the best bookstores I know, you know, stuffed to the ceiling, they stock even back numbers of Dance Zone (2) and various oddities and they sort of serve the needs of the Arts Faculty. Or not actually the needs of it but the innermost wishes. I called them asking whether the Anytown branch could somehow transfer my Homo Ludens to Hometown and the lady on the line nicely and floridly explained how busy they are, how busy the pre-Christmas period is, how they have barely any time to breathe and so on for 15 minutes, ending with a piece of highly useless advice: call the boss and when he drives around, he might take the book to the main store. Then she hung up, leaving me to my own means of conjuring up the boss's phone number.
Since the world is smaller than people generally expect, one of my father's companies opened a shop in Anytown about a month ago so I simply asked Dad who said Yeah, fine. I still don't have the book in my dirty paws, though (3), so nothing is certain.

The other thing I wanted to own were the remaining two volumes of Man'yōshū. I've always wondered what naïve yet lovable soul would want to run a publishing house specialized on Asian stuff and Russian literature between the wars. The publishing house closed down since the last time I had checked (no surprise) so I couldn't plainly order it directly from them and as in the case of poor Huizinga, the bookstores didn't stock it.

Interlude II.
Armed with the experience with Huizinga and a shop assistant, I didn't ask about Man'yōshū in case I was sent to a logopedist or something. I browsed Big Bookstore, trying to find the most probable location of the books, which would be the poetry section. The issue was that I couldn't find the poetry section and it wasn't on the store directory. I asked some information woman, she told me that on the second floor somehow to the right. I went there and after careful looking, I found two shelves of poetry squeezed between celebrity cookbooks and romantic novels. Obviously, there was nothing worth looking at and even less anything I would wish to buy.

Another extensive search brought me to the website of the very some Big Bookstore, they did stock both volumes III. and IV. (I was enthusiastic enough to grab the first two when they came out, good for me or else I'd need to steal them from some library nowadays.) They did possibly stock it and would deliver it to their shop of my choice after checking physically that they have it... so I simply ordered the stuff. While searching, Google led me to various weird websites - if I were a sociologist, I'd write a paper on why it's mostly some tie-dyed rabble (C) (4) who is interested in Asia.

Now, I must say that I like the footnotes much better than the actual poetry; most of it is lost in the translation and what remained is rather bland, not that it would be any wonder, though (5). The afterword said that the Czech translation is one of the two complete ones, after René Sieffert's French one. When one has a crazy guy around, things happen.
Footnotes, well. My messy (should you wish to be nice, call it eclectic) library hides various stuff. The obvious books on botany or Italian painting, more dictionaries than one would want to imagine and the less to live with and a well-worn copy of The Princeton's Companion to Classical Japanese Literature (6). It's one of the bestest reference books I ever owned, basically made of footnotes. Glossaries, maps, such stuff. If I weren't such sociophobic chickenshit (7), I'd hit people's heads with it to see a great example of book design. Simple and efficient.

Is still anyone reading this? If so, say 'yes' in the comments, then I may continue in my book rants.

(1) to those who haven't noticed yet, I'm nothing even remotely close to a patriot. Reservation, when used as a designation for the country whose passport I own, is one big bad connotation of self.
(2) the hard copy of the magazine is half in English, not the website
(3)I could, obviously, take a bus and go there on my own. I didn't feel like going anywhere in the pre-Christmas hell of shopping people; it's not far away but getting there by bus or train is somewhat complicated and it would basically mean half-day trip. Why bother if someone goes there for business every now and then? Alas, the someone is chaotic and forgetful.
(4) to put it short, since I'm not a sociologist, just a mean observer of my fellow humans: tie-dyed rabble (C) is a heterogenous group with a few common traits. They tend to wear cheap stuff imported from India or around which looks vaguely ethnic - unbleached, bad fabric ('It isn't bad, it's irregular because it's handmade!'), some of it is even tie-dyed in a crude manner, featuring 'ethnic' patterns and such. These folks also would like to have some spiritual enlightment (I don't want to know what it is, for my mental safety) and for reasons unclear to me, they believe that it is obtained somewhere towards the East and they don't mean, say, Moscow, Christianity is so passé. Thus they become cafeteria Buddhists or something like that. They are the reason why there's no decent tearoom (imagine Willow Tearooms in Glasgow for 'decent tearoom') in this country, all of them cater to the tie-dyed crowd and most tend to look like a Bedouin tent crashing into an Indian brothel, with a few cheap incense sticks thrown in. So, these folks gather around websites that cater to their tastes and the poor innocent Man'yōshū, a poetry collection that has nothing to do with whatever crap the tie-dyed rabble (C) believes in but for being something better for having come from the oh-so-spiritual-oh-so-better East, is discussed there. Blah.
end of pseudo-sociologic rant
(5) find thee some scholarly type from the right field of study to explain why, should you want to know. I'd be only parroting things.
(6) I got it some ten years ago on March 6, 1996 - I have a catalog - in a bookstore that was closed down long, long time ago; they used to have lots of interesting stuff there, so interesting that I never understood their policy and I don't wonder that they closed down eventually
(7) It works in weird ways. I could elucidate someday, I think

Monday, 28 December 2009

Explanation of sorts

This time of year and the weather drive me crazy, along with the low level stress caused by notorious procrastination. I have SAD, more known as winter depression and I'm annoying. Much snarkier and much more sarcastic than usual (1). And the cat constantly shits on the floor which doesn't help anything either.
That's why I'm avoiding communication, I would be whiny in the best case but more likely just plain mean.
I mean, whoever misses me, mail me or send a card. Not getting any sort of Christmas greeting doesn't mean that I forgot about you - exactly on the contrary. I however don't like prefabricated stuff and empty phrases and in case I got personal, probably you wouldn't like it - I can be extremely annoying when I have this sort of crappy mood and in the best case, you would get a long letter about my daily plight with cat poo in the hallway (and yes, it could be worse. Do not ask, you don't want to know) (2). If you send something, do so, I'll be glad. I'm interested in you and whatever you do although my lack of response could hint otherwise - I'm just avoiding the chance to be an asshole. Wait for the spring, then I'll be back to normal... erm, to the better part of my standard state which isn't exactly normal anyway.

(1) yes it's possible
(2) the Cat from Hell is now sleeping on the radiator and most likely will continue for the next four or five hours so she doesn't say hello

Wednesday, 23 December 2009


I got a late invitation for the International Medieval Congress in Leeds (someone dropped out). I had a happy. I told my mom because I wanted to share and she was around.
Fine, she said. I'll go with you and have a nice holiday. And I must buy you a business suit.

Well, yes, I can handle the situation in such a way that I won't see her all day long, I'm good in sneaking away. Then I'll wave her goodbye at the airport and wander around England on my own, full stop.

I wouldn't wear a business suit before I'm dead. This is just a fact, regardless of my mother's fashion preferences. It's in July, a decent top just must do. (In winter, a black cashmere turtleneck would do.)

Also, how do I explain my mother that I'd prefer if she stopped messing with my life?

I can haz influence, I suspect

Yesterday, I did my first perfume consulting.
A dear friend of mine decided that he needs to buy a perfume for his wife. She wore some Puma cologne many years and two pregnancies ago... luckily, R. didn't want it to be a surprise.
The bad thing is that I don't have that many things that would be readily available so I grabbed the few things that just were around, happily forgetting about the readily available and rather generally liked Covet. We had a nice discussion, R. said that if he knew all this ten years ago, he could've impressed the girls; I snidely remarked that, after all, now he can impress customers anyway. I left a handful of samples there - R. himself instantly fell for Terre d'Hermes - and I hear that although P. got J'adore in one of its variants Jardin sur le Nil, I got it wrong on the phone, they had fun sampling stuff.
Feels good.

postscriptum: Starting choosing a gift on the 22th is not advisable.

Christmas spirit

I should feel festive, I suspect. I don't. The whole Christmas thing doesn't get to me. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I'm a Buddhist. Bad one but still, the religious aspect doesn't reach me and the whole peace, love, family , as the vox populi has it, what Christmas celebrate (1). Of course, the peace, love, family is demonstrated by maniacal shopping. I mean, I like gifts, especially those that lack the element of surprise – this year I know that I'll get two pairs of jeans, meaning that I'll be halfway decently (2) dressed until I lose more weight (3). I don't like surprises, they tend to mean a sweatshirt in candy pink with cute satin appliques (blaaaargh; I'm getting that one too, mother bragged what cool stuff she bought for me)(4). But... well, I go grocery shopping and I need to pass through crowds with maniacal faces who are scourging the shops for anything giftable because gifts have to be. And I, a random passer-by, need to be afraid that I might get bitten and infected with Christmas rabies despite having most of my gifts ready since August.

And then there's my mother. She's that sort of indefinable believer in 'something bigger than us' although when directly confronted, she denies any sort of religious inclinations because everybody knows that religion is an irrational product of insane mind, despite its cultural impact. As such, every year, she digs out the crib, angel figures and various dangly shiny crap to plague the house, listens to Christmas Masses on the radio (I mean, music, not the services, church services are booooring), sighs deeply how oh-so-exhilarating it is and I feel like headdesking.

I know I know, I'm whiny. I admit it. The humankind just irritates me these days... I'd love to sit at home alone and read and knit. Alas, I can't.

(1)This is a country populated rather by fierce atheists and equally fierce ignorants than by Christians. The latter do as they fancy but going to church is not that marketable as to be widespread and annoying.
(2)well-dressed is fine with me but just too time and energy consuming to bother with.
(3)enabling me to wear the stuff now living at the back of the wardrobe, bought when I was 25 kilos younger.
(4)this is nowhere near borderline decently dressed.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Kindgom for a bobby pin!

Bad hair day is rather a known phenomenon. It's a day on which bad hair happens to you while you don't have the opportunity to wash, dry and fix it neatly first thing in the morning.

Alright, yesterday I washed my hair. Don't wash out, said the conditioner, effectively conditioning my hair into a huge spongey thing.
Normally, I would brush it neatly and ignore the general lack of lustre. However...
My shoulder hurts like a freaking hell. My right shoulder and I'm right-handed. All I can do with my right is a small range of movements with my arm down.
For your information, I have waist-long hair. Being changed into a clump of something reaching only halfway down my back didn't improve matters. I hate blow-drying and it takes pretty long anyway.
The only option was to try as much as I can do with my left and fix the whole mess into a hippie chic chignon. In fact, my hair never got so bad that a loose chignon wouldn't make it look classy.

It however needs something to fix with. Hairpins, bobby pins, something along the lines, of which I have a bucketful at the other house. Not a single hairpin here. DPNs would do only for a very sleek style, I'm telling you, especially those brand new steel ones, not for a messy mess.

Thursday, 17 December 2009


In fact, it's laryngitis. Confirmed by Jay, M. D., who is oto-laryngo-whatever, throat doc. Now working in Podunk, and since I needed to go to the Podunk archive to fulfill a historiographic obsession of my father (1), I dropped at the hospital. I could barely speak so J. had a peek and diagnosed me. No hamthrax, feel free to come near me.
Apart from making rustling noises, I have clogged nose and can't smell a thing.
Since the temperatures fell, I decided to finish the merino/quiviut sweater. Some damn nasty bug ate a hole in the fabric, luckily two rows away from the provisional cast-off so I ripped the damaged bit; I however need to debug the thing somehow. The weird thing is that there's no trace of the thing that would gnaw it - no worms, no worm poo... well, I'm getting some pesticide and I'll freeze it when not wearing it. Meantime I can worry about my 50 kilos of other yarn, most of it very yummy for vermin.
K. wanted me to knit baby things and I decided that the time for double-point needles of steel, 1,75mm, has come. I dropped to Martina's to get them and on the way back, I went for the monthly grocery expedition to Tesco. While struggling with the self-service checkout (idiotic it is), I opened my bag while the assistant was messing around. I had the DPNs sticking out of a pocket and then the assistant saw them and exclaimed These are Addis, aren't they!!! (2), I said Nope, they are Langs... he started ranting about how he went to a textile design school (3), we chatted for a while since the traffic was rather low... to cut it short, I met another Raveler. He teaches knitting at some community centre, he knows Martina and shops at her place. The world is small.

( 1)basically, he bought a ruin and decided that it has to be ancient and important ruin. It is not but I'm being pushed to do research because my attempts to change his mind are interpreted as my ineptitude and laziness. Nothing to start with, nothing to go by, boring, annoying. Being asked every day whether I found something doesn't help. My mom's enthusiasm doesn't help either - I'mnot going to ask someone's grandma whether there was a garden shed in the garden 60 years ago. I'm a sociophobic chickenshit and I care a damn
(2) including those three exclamation marks
(3) apparently, those mothers who say My child, study hard or else you'll be bagging groceries in Tesco are mistaken. You can end up bagging stuff even with a diploma or two

Friday, 11 December 2009

Just so

I love the Sitemeter thingy. Call me silly, I probably am, but it's quite a bit of fun to see where my readers come from, both geographically and by what lead them to my blog.
Some are regulars, that Bern person is most likely Laura (hi there!); the South African reader may well be K. but as far as I know, she should be internet-less somewhere out in the wild there or there may be more of them in Cape Town. And S. from Uppsala (hi, too). There's one from Orimattila, Finland, too (hi there, who are you? Drop a line in the comments, someday), or someone from Cologne, Germany. No, I'm not making a cheap joke.
Then there are various things that I don't really get. Someone added me to their bookmarks on Delicious (whatever it might be, I don't want to investigate) with this note: Reviews of unusual perfumes. The writer seems to fall for the bottles more than their contents.
Yeah, sure, whatever. But, who the hell wouldn't fall for the creations of Robert Granaï (my beloved Parure bottle, for example; also Mahora but I didn't find the information specifically concerning the extrait bottle... but who else?) or Garouste and Bonetti's Nina Ricci bottles that will get their own post someday (Les Belles, the bottles known among those of different views as dog turd with a crown, Deci Dela), or the Cubist splendour of Barynia (should someone know the sculpting mind behind, I'd love to know)? Damn, I'm an art historian, what would one expect?

Friday, 4 December 2009

The perfumista challenge - update

Yes, you can still join the Perfumista Challenge.

I got several participants, apart from yours truly, there are:
Marla who writes for Perfume-Smellin' Things
Pat of the OlfactaRama blog
Tar from Virginia
Mark from Southern Australia
Melissa who didn't give me her adddress yet
Mark from England
Mary from California
... and that's all. Damn, people, don't be shy and join the project, it will be fun. Invite your friends, too. The more, the better.

There were a few questions, too.

So, yes, you can advertise yourself and your products. I'll be glad to link to your website if you provide me with the URL. I however do have two requests: this should be a perfumista challenge, not an advertising arena so be reasonable. Also, for the swap, create something new, please, and start selling it after we are done with this.

Should you want to throw in more samples, I'm not against it. One sample is compulsory, the rest is your good will or advertising campaign or decluttering. Since not everybody will be willing to sent out samples by handfuls, you are not guaranteed to get the same amount back.

Should someone want to ship locally for budget reasons, let me know, I'll try my best to take it into consideration. However, since the participants are from all over the world, it might not work.

A reminder: the list of participants closes on December 31 to give you time to blend your potions and to avoid the pre-Christmas postal hell. The exchange is a simple daisy chain, you get an address to send your sample to and someone else will send you theirs. I would be glad if you reviewed the fragrance and posted it somewhere online and sent me the link so that I can make a summary. Those who don't have any website on their own can post as guest bloggers here.

Have fun.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Old, somehow

I went to the Clinic of Oral and Maxillar Surgery to the university hospital to get my splint.

In fact, I've grown up around the university hospital. My great-grandma, who used to babysit me pretty often, lived across the street from the medical school; the view of the building, a construction of the 1950's neorenaissance style, on the top of the hill, is one of my constant childhood memories. I hope no damn idiot decides to reconstruct it and repaint it pink.
Another of my childhood memories is being taken to the department of awful diseases when I was ten. Normal people bring normal souvenirs from summer camps, I brought impetigo. Since I was in that age when I was already a bit too shy to run around and showing oozing wounds on my buttocks (or basically wherever), it took a time before it became really apparent. The GP didn't want to have anything to do with it and referred me to the hospital where I was shown to the students; the old dermatologist who was dealing with me said that he hadn't seen such a nicely developed case of impetigo for decades. I don't think I got to textbooks.
I also spent a memorable holiday in the psych ward there - I had the advantage of losing illusions about (a) shrinks (b) general humankind in the tender age of 19, thus becoming cynical years to decades earlier than the average fellow citizens. Thus my awful sense of humour. Times of crisis are a sort of social accelerator - whatever is in people, gets to surface. In case of the people around me, it was hysterical denial of eessues, such a cute sweet girl from a good family couldn't have a reason for a nervous breakdown, obviously.
My dad did get to textbooks - really. With his two malarias. At the same time; they sent him off to a specialized centre for tropical diseases where the docs said that before him, three or four Europeans had survived such a combo. (For your information, now he's sitting downstairs, chain smoking.)
We used to live across the street from the hospital, our post office was in one of the houses that were engulfed by the hospital... then we moved to the other end, not exactly across the street, grandma lived across the street, we lived one house down the hill. It was just somehow around.
We've moved away some 15 years ago.
In other circumstances, I've become suddenly aware how I was formed by the landscape. The hills on the other side of the valley, creating a horizon and my decreased ability to live in flatlands. The hill with medical school on the top.

A quiz question for regular readers: Why didn't I study medicine?

Knitting status

Exchange between one of the Ravelry editors and yours truly:

losingcount (verbatim): Not sure if you realise it but many of your photos from Flickr are not showing up. Since you are the premier collector of Noro on Ravelry ;-) this is a great loss!

me (paraphrased): I know, my flickr account is messed up, I need to sort out my yarn and take new pics.

losingcount (verbatim): No pressure! It’s just that you are the Noro Queen.

Not that I wouldn't know that I happen to be engulfed by heap of yarn, sometimes called The Legendary Stash of Noro. Those who are allowed into the esoteric waters of Ravelry, will see that most pics are missing as of writing this post. The muddles non-Ravelers need to believe me. I'm slowly fixing that, with great joy because I can play with beautiful yarn.

My new sweater. Just bragging.

Something like winter

It has been sunny until a few days ago. As if the autumn and winter were cancelled and late summer advanced straight into early spring.
Today, I found that it's below zero the hard way. The mailwoman rang to deliver a book (De Boccard rocks, I placed an order on around Monday and by now, it's here), I wanted to go down to the garden door and, well, slid half of the stairs.
Winter has started.

Yesterday I got two boxes of blown-glass Christmas ornaments. Now I need to pack the goodie boxes and go to the post office (again, hate) to mail them off before the Postal Doom of Christmas. For that, I need to find that movie I promised to BM, and some yarn to add (I seem to have lots of buddies in Ravelry, that's why). For that, I need to sort out my yarns. So, again, this place looks like there was an explosion.

Oh, life.