|Okay, I'm a hypocrite. I tend to think that personal homepages are, on the average, useless. Especially when I first started making my own homepage (back in 1994, if anyone's counting), all the examples I could find online had little to no actual content, and they looked even worse. And things haven't gotten too much better since 1994, despite the huge increase in people online.
But as you'll notice, you're reading this on my -- that's right -- personal homepage. And it's really not all that much more content-heavy or well-designed than some of those pages I disparage. But I have an excuse: I really only make these pages in order to learn HTML. I'm neither a computer science student, nor an artist, nor even a particularly creative person, so what you see here is simply my best effort at learning what I could in an enjoyable way.
So, this page is supposed to be about me and my interests. However, I don't quite know what to say about myself. I'm generally perceived to be an extremely shy and private person, and chattering on about myself in such a public forum just goes against my nature. But I shall make a valiant effort to entertain and inform, and you'll just have to see how it turns out.
Important information: I'm Nancy.
I hate cameras, and I don't keep any photos around, but I did manage to scrounge up one decent picture of myself, since it seems the thing to do. It's a few years old by now -- I think I was 22 there -- but I haven't changed all that much since then. No big life story, really. At present, I live in Madison, Wisconsin: I love the winter and hate the summer. For vacations twice a year I'm usually home in Valley Center, California (a bit north of San Diego). That's where my parents (Ron and Kathy) as well as my two brothers (David and Robbie) live, work, sleep, and eat.
More important information: I'm a grad student in German Literature.
This one takes some explaining. Lots of people ask me: why German? Why German Literature? I don't have a pat answer to that, despite the number of times I've had to attempt a response. I simply started learning German in highschool, caught the "language bug," as my teacher described it, and took up French, Italian, and a little Spanish, as well as some self-instructed Latin and a tiny bit of Swedish on the side. If it helps any, some people speculate that I'm rebelling against the prevailing norm in my family: my mother's a mathematician, my father's an engineer, my brother's a physicist, my other brother's a computer programmer, and even my grandmother had an intense interest in astronomy. So here am I, the sole liberal arts major. Ah well. I don't think it's rebellion, but I don't mind the characterization. If you want more information about my academic life, you should probably read my school page.
Equally important information: I love to read, I love music, I love Macintosh computers, and I love cats.
Let's take those in reverse order.
Cats. My cat, Kelson, is HUGE. I am not understating that at all. My vet says he's probably the biggest housecat she's ever seen. He is fat, but that's not really what makes him so big. To quote a popular cartoon character, he's just "big-boned." Or hefty. Or whatever. As of this writing he weighs 25 pounds, and that's down from his all-time high of just under 28. His ideal weight is about 20 pounds. He's now 9 years old, and he's really in fairly good health despite his weight. Unfortunately, about three years ago he was diagnosed with diabetes, but we've managed to get him basically regulated (yes, he gets insulin shots every day), and now he's a very happy and relaxed kitty, as you can see if you look at the other pictures I have of him. We think he's a Maine Coon, but he's not pedigreed or anything, just your typical domestic medium-haired cat. Some people wonder about the name Kelson, and to answer the unasked question, yes, it's a pretty noble-sounding name for a big, fat, and timid cat, but it comes from a favorite series of mine (when I was a bit younger) by Katherine Kurtz. Oh, and he's orange, in case you hadn't noticed. Chime in and let me know if you think orange cats are special -- I'm firmly convinced that there's something about orange cats that just makes them more intelligent, personable, and pleasant than your average tom. But maybe it's just been my experience, as I've only been on petting terms with about 20 cats over my lifetime.
Macintosh computers. I can't say anything about Macs that hasn't been said a million times by devoted MacAddicts everywhere, but suffice it to say, I don't think Apple is going under, I don't plan to switch, I don't have any problems finding software or doing what I want to do, and I honestly love my computer. Can you say the same? (Lest anyone think I'm close-minded, I have used Windows (all incarnations) from time to time, and found it useable but extremely inelegant. And what limited exposure I've had to Linux makes me think quite highly of it, but if I'm going to spring for Unix, I don't see what Linux offers that Apple's own OS X does not.) I'm writing this on my iMac G5, which is fairly new (bought in 2005). I've pretty much grown up around Macs: I started out with an Apple II+ in the early 1980s, then a Mac Classic, then a Mac IIsi, a Performa 636, and finally a Wallstreet PowerBook G3 before upgrading last year. Not surprisingly, all of those except the Apple II are still booted up on occasion, and run perfectly well. I don't game much, and in fact I find first-person-shooters like Quake and Diablo rather pointless. I do, however, enjoy the occasional adventure game or RPG, such as Myst and the Baldur's Gate series, but I'm by no means well-versed in the genre. I'm also not a programmer, though I probably could muddle my way through with some documentation. Mostly I just word-process and browse around, but I have modest graphical skills and some database experience. I do code these pages all by hand, using just a text editor (thanks, BBEdit!) and Photoshop for graphics work, so I'd like to think I've learned a fair bit as the years progressed. If you'd like a laugh, you can check the Internet Archive's Way Back Machine to see how primitive my pages used to look in October 1998 or December 2000 or August 2002.
Music. You should visit my music page to find out more about what I like. In general, I tend to enjoy electronic music, though of the old-school variety rather than the new. From the late 80s until about 2000 I was very much a fan of industrial, neofolk, gothic and new wave music, and my all-time favorite band The Legendary Pink Dots reflects that mixture. I also tend to like what many perceive as 'dark' or 'depressing' music, though of course such characterizations are rather cliche. Radiohead came out of left field for me and amazed me with Kid A, and really catapulted me into a renewed interest for current music, mostly indie and electronic. I also spent some time rediscovering my youthful preference for folk music, both traditional folk from the British Isles but also folk-rock and progressive artists such as Steeleye Span. I also make a point of keeping in touch with what's current in German popular music, and you can find more information on that topic on my teaching materials page. I do play piano, clarinet, and saxophone, but haven't touched any of them in several years.
Books. I do read a lot, though of course much of it is for school, but the last few years I've rediscovered the joys of reading for pleasure. I used to read about two to three paperbacks a week when I was a teenager, and although I haven't gotten back to that level, I think if you count in all of the reference reading and web browsing I do, it would just about equal out. I do have a list of the books I own online now, but I think I'll use this space to talk about my favorite authors and genres.
In keeping with my academic interests, I've read a wide range of German Literature, and have decided that while Goethe may be famous and an undisputed genius, I just don't enjoy his writing as much as I should. But that's okay, luckily I'm not forced to read him any more. Instead, I prefer reading turn-of-the-century poetry and drama, such as the Symbolist poets (Stefan George and Hugo von Hofmannsthal) and other similar writers (Kafka, Trakl, Musil, Rilke, and early Thomas Mann). I also quite like some German Romantic authors, especially E. T. A. Hoffman. A professor here at the UW provided me with such a thorough grounding in the works of Herder that I can honestly say I think he's fun to read, but I know I'm in the minority on that one. Kant, on the other hand, is not fun.
In other literatures, I'm not as well-grounded, but due to Pomona College's broad liberal arts requirements, I discovered that I truly enjoy a lot of classical Greek and Roman writings, Aristophanes being particularly hilarious if you're in the right mood. I also enjoy Shakespeare, of course, and other English dramatists such as Shaw and Wilde. American literature has never done much for me, but maybe I've just missed the better parts. The French Surrealists have provided some hours of fascinating, if confusing, reading: Huysmans is actually enjoyable, while Lautréamont is inspiring, if not to me, then at least to many of my favorite musicians.
And, although I neglected it for several years between 1993 and 1999, I've now rediscovered the fact that I really do enjoy science fiction and fantasy. Luckily, taking those few years off let a large backcatalogue of excellent authors build up for me, so I'm just now starting some new series, which I'll have to categorize later. At this point in time, one of my all-time favorite authors is Steven Brust. I first read his Jhereg and Yendi in the early 1980s, and have followed him ever since (even in my 'off' years, he was one of only two authors I continued to purchase and read). Pleasure reading, definitely, but there's a lot to be said for that. His writing is intelligent and sarcastically witty, and he doesn't hesitate to take on a serious side when it's needed (see To Reign in Hell, essentially a brilliantly rewritten Paradise Lost, as an example). Another favorite is Roger Zelazny, about whom I shouldn't have to say much: his Lord of Light and above all his short stories are simply breathtaking. Other authors I've reread dozens of times are Tolkien, naturally, as well as Katherine Kurtz, Douglas Adams, and R. A. MacAvoy. I've also been extremely impressed with two newer (or newer to me) authors: Connie Willis, whose Doomsday Book should be extremely high on a list of great sf/fantasy, and also Tim Powers, who is eclectic and occasionally quite brilliant. You can see a list of my science fiction and fantasy library here, although be warned that it's a rather large file.
Finally, I do have friends, and some of them even have webpages of their own. There's my brother's webpage with some nice family photos. There used to be a homepage for Richard, but he took it down, in the process doing the LPD and Christian Death world a huge disfavor. Ah well. For consolation, there's Ned's Stromkern site, with information about his band. And finally, there's Susan's site, a longtime friend since preschool.
That just about covers my major hobbies and interests. Naturally, there are all sorts of additions I could make: I think Buffy the Vampire Slayer was one of the best programs on TV, certainly for the first four seasons. I don't see a lot of movies, but I really do love the two or three I see a year, and I do think both The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series (books as well as films) are amazing. I really like Italian and Thai and Indian food, but I can't cook at all. I drink coffee like it's going out of style. I can only enjoy orange juice without pulp. I like snow and rain, and I'm uncomfortable on days when the temperature gets above 75°. I regularly check both The Onion and Homestar Runner for a good laugh each week. I read Salon and Slashdot and a few other sites for news and commentary. I used to go dancing, but no longer have time. I have very irregular sleeping hours.
But really, anyone who's read this far should know these things by now.
Any comments? They're bound to be gratefully received if you mail them to me