Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Time Traveler's WifeThe Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is truly one of the best books I have read in a long time. I couldn't put it down! I was hesitant to read it because the movie just looked so ridiculous--it made it look like Henry was just a randomly disappearing guy. I would NOT put up with that in a marriage. But, I listened to the advise of a good friend, who is also an avid reader, and as it turns out, in the book, Henry actually had a present life.

Because of Henry's time traveling ability, much of Clare's past is actually Henry's future, which is an interesting way to learn about the characters. It is also interesting to watch Henry grow as a man because of his relationship with Clare.

**Spoiler Alert**

I should warn readers, though: I cried. A ton. Big, heaving sobs. I am a book crier, though. Things that in real life, I would just say, alright, let's move on, just stab me though the chest in books. There are moments of absolute tenderness in this book that make your heart melt.  Juxtaposed to this is the terror of Henry's end. The reader sees snippets of this through both Henry's and Clare's eyes, but it doesn't become clear what actually happens for a long time.  And when Henry looses his feet, I totally broke down, because so much of his life depended on his ability to literally run.  All-in-all, I found this to be an incredibly well-written, moving story.

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

The ChosenThe Chosen by Chaim Potok
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Technically, I listened to this book. Recently, I have found that I don't enjoying listening to books as much as I once did. I can read faster than I can listen. So, with this book, as with many others that I've listened to, I felt that there were a number of places that I just wanted to move through. That the characters took a long time getting around to saying what they were going to say. At the same time, this was a really beautifully written story, and I surprised myself by being moved to tears in the final scene with Danny, Reuven, and Danny's father.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

The Hippopotamus Pool (An Amelia Peabody Mystery, #8)The Hippopotamus Pool by Elizabeth Peters
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book was typical Amelia Peabody. I've read enough of the series that the formula is beginning to get old for me. Nonetheless, this book was as well-written, delightful, and entertaining as one would expect from Elizabeth Peters. View all my reviews

Saturday, November 12, 2011

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a really interesting look inside a mafia family.  Not surprisingly, there is an awful lot about the mafia that I don't know.  I really enjoyed reading this book, although I didn't like how easily the people committed crimes.  Also, it seems like a lot of work--you always have to have several jobs going on, and since Henry Hill didn't have a bank account, there was either money or there wasn't, but there was never anything saved up.  And, evidently, I"m a rather square person, because how did they have insurance?  I guess through their no-show jobs.  At any rate, the book was an interesting and easy read about a lifestyle that is foreign to me.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Magic Dry-Erase Board

I once owned a magic dry-erase board.  True story.  Any task applied to the board would eventually get done.  The board saw such mundane entities as vacuum and call landlord about dryer, as well as more complicated items like algebra test Thursday, and please remove the bong from the living room before my mom arrives.  I acquired the dry-erase board well before I met my last roommate before getting married.  Said roommate and I would frequently communicate via the board, and the board often featured a running commentary of miscellaneous things to be done/bought/cleaned/whatever.  It was affixed to the wall by a nail driven through a giant metal clamp, which I had purchased to secure some random art project.  Originally the board came with its own adhesive, but that had long since worn out. 

It came as little surprise one day, when my friend and neighbor, who I will call Gwen in order to keep her online presence minimal, noticed the magical qualities of the dry erase board and added find Gwen a boyfriend to the list of tasks on hand (which included finding me a new job).  My roommate, Bee, and I looked at each other and thought, ok, we'll get right on that as soon as we're finished vacuuming and bong-hiding.

Meanwhile, in another part of the woods, I had also joined a running group.  The typical Saturday routine for Bee, Gwen, and me consisted of Gwen and I going off and running with our different running groups, while Bee went to work.  Gwen and I would return from running very, very hungry and would eat a bunch of scrambled eggs with veggies and cheese and toast and then proceed to fall asleep in whatever apartment we were in.  It was Bee's job to come home from work and wake us up so Bee and I could proceed with our ridiculous Saturday afternoon grocery-shopping routine.  Gwen tended to avoid this bit of mayhem. 

My running group was headed by my former running coach, from when I signed up to run my very first marathon through Team in Training.  Through my running group, I met this guy, Winchester.  Somehow, we became the same pace.  I say somehow because we're now very different paces.  And at the time, Winchester had no idea how fast we were running.  We'd go off for a run of 6, or 8, or 12, or 15 miles and I'd TALK the whole time.  He'd figure, we're not working that hard: Virginia's talking the whole time.  As it turns out, we were moving fairly quickly, and he managed to learn a whole lot more about me than I did about him.  Nonetheless, I discerned some important pieces of information.  Winchester 1) had a great sense of humor; in fact he performed stand-up comedy; 2) was terrific with children; and 3) loved animals. 

This is not exactly my list of qualifications in a man, since I don't want any kids of my own, and I'm allergic to just about every animal ever, but I figured they'd be good for Gwen, who is quirky, teaches music to elementary-aged children, and has this cat, Jordan, who's around 100 years old in cat-time and figures it gives him the right to be a crotchety old man. 

Of course, this wasn't all fireworks and unicorns right away.  Nothing would be more awkward than me saying to Gwen and Winchester, you're perfect for each other, now go ahead and get married.  Winchester was shy, Gwen was gun-shy, having recently gotten out of a messy relationship, Winchester had some budgetary constraints, and frankly, I was having trouble describing each one to the other.  In the world of dating, everyone wants to know what everyone looks like, not what they're like.  And despite the fact that I know that both Gwen and Winchester are super-powered rock stars, they're not the sorts of people who'll make the cover of Glamour or GQ.  Which is really everyone else's loss.

So, fast-forward about a year and a half to my wedding.  Gwen was a bridesmaid, Winchester was a guest.  I was determined that between the alcohol, the music, and the festive environment, the two of them could find about seven words to say to each other.  Until I caught Gwen's mother DANCING with Winchester!  To be fair, Gwen's mom was young when she had Gwen, and Winchester is old enough to sort of fall in between the mother and daughter in terms of age.  Nonetheless, this was not what I was aiming for at all.

I remember turning to someone and saying, that's not what's supposed to be happening, AT ALL.  I'm not sure who intervened, and it doesn't really matter.  When you're the one in the big white dress, you get to make all of the rules.  And miraculously, somehow, Gwen and Winchester managed to exchange phone numbers.

The day after my wedding we were loading boxes into the u-haul that my brother-in-law was driving to California for us, and I saw Gwen's note still on the dry-erase board, as well as many cross-outs from last minute moving and wedding things.  I shrugged because I figured I had done about all I could do on that front. 

We packed up and moved to California, where the dry-erase board made it's home in apartment.  Captain America erased Gwen's note.  Fortunately, by this time, Winchester had worked up the courage to ask her out on a few dates, and while I wasn't positive of their relationship status, I figured things were pretty much out of my control. 

By the time we moved into our house, Gwen and Winchester were happily engaged and I was going to attend their wedding in a month or so.  The dry-erase board had been stacked in the garage with a few other things that hadn't found a formal residence in our new home.

The dry-erase board met it's untimely death when Captain America pulled the truck into the garage and smashed a corner of it.  Like a wily cat that doesn't want to be an indoor pet, the dry-erase board managed to finagle it's way into a place that was out of the line-of-sight of my husband as he drove into the garage.  As soon as he heard the smash, he knew what happened, and when I returned home that day, I was met by a sad-faced husband who confirmed: I have a sad story for you. 

We tossed it without ceremony into the trash bin.  I told Captain America not to feel too bad; that dry-erase board had a longer and more productive life than anyone would have anticipated from it, and in all likelihood, we weren't going to get much more out of it: after all, it helped to find Gwen not just a boyfriend, but a husband.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A is for Alibi (Kinsey Millhone, #1)A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I read this book because I was curious about the series. I can see why it's a best seller, but I was hoping it would be trashtastic, but it wasn't. To be fair, I didn't read the book, I listened to it. In fact I listened to the abridged version. I'm normally not an abridged version person, but I accidentally picked up the short version at the library. I don't think I could have sat through the whole thing, so it's just as well.
This book is a bit of a rom-stery (if rom-com is a silly way to say romantic-comedy, I figure this is a silly way to say romantic mystery), but there just wasn't much of anything. The mystery wasn't very mysterious, the sex wasn't very sexy, and the drama didn't create suspense; I just wanted to shout "get on with it!"

I suppose it's possible that the series gets better, but I'm not going to stick around to see what happens.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

WonderstruckWonderstruck by Brian Selznick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was amazing! The plot line was fairly simple (although I'm sure it's not quite as simple to a child). The book is basically two overlapping stories, one of Rose that takes place in 1927, and one of Ben, in 1977. Rose's story is only told in pictures, and Ben's only in words. The two stories weave together beautifully, and being able to guess the ending does not distract the reader.

For example, Ben runs away to New York. The book says:

Ben continued uptown. After a few blocks, he stopped at a red stone building set back a little bit from the road. It was surrounded by trees and seemed larger than any of the other buildings nearby. The name of the building fluttered on a banner hung between two columns.

It looked like a castle from a fairy tale.

But then, rather than telling the reader where Ben is, the story switches over to Rose's POV, and we see her holding a postcard of the American Museum of Natural History.

Yes, I would absolutely categorize this book as a children's book (my guess would be grades 3-5), but I think any bibliophile should check it out because it's creatively and beautifully done, and is a testament to the reasons I love reading.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

The Demigod Files (Percy Jackson and the Olympians)The Demigod Files by Rick Riordan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book is sort of akin to "Quidditch Through the Ages" and "Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them" of the Harry Potter series.

This book is a few short stories, combined with some insider information and a couple of puzzles. It makes for a cute anecdote to the series, but isn't particularly substantial. Also, I can't tell where in the series it's supposed to occur (other than sometime before the last book).

All-in-all, I'm sure this is a totally entertaining read for the kids who are fans of the series, but adults may want to skip it.

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Invention of Hugo CabretThe Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is perhaps the most interesting book I've ever read. The story line is not that impressive...I would say it is targeted to 4th-6th graders. What made the book unique is that half of the book is pictures. It's described as a story in which you have to read the pictures. Unlike the traditional use of pictures in books, in which the illustrations emphasize the story, in this book, the pictures actually tell the story...if you were to skip the pictures, you would skip parts of the story.

I recommend this book to everyone who is interested in a different sort of reading experience. The illustrations are remarkably well done, and I'd be surprised if a fellow bibliophile didn't enjoy this book!

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

September resolutions

So I think this will be the last month where I post my success or lack thereof with my resolutions.  Somehow in the last few weeks, my actually rather uncomplicated life has become complicated.  Here is a picture of what my day planner looks like:

I can't figure out why I can't rotate the picture, but either way, it's a bit insane looking, if you ask me.

Really, the only things I'm doing right now are training for a marathon and taking a couple of online courses.  But, we have three upcoming trips, my mother's coming for Thanksgiving, we've had the cable guys over, and we have some repair men coming.  And I've been experiencing a lot of what Gretchen Rubin calls boomerang projects...I think I've taken care of something, but there's actually another 197 steps before we're totally done with whatever it is. 

So I'm going to preemptively tell you about September, up until today.  I've read every day.  I've done a lot of crocheting and exercising, and a pretty good amount of flossing.  I need to work on that.  As for book writing, I've got an idea that I think is pretty good, but all I can turn it into is a romance novel and that's not really what I want it to be.  But it's going to go on the back burner while I work on making that day planner look less like I'm running a small country and more like that of someone who has all the time in the world because she's unemployed and doesn't even have kids to raise.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shadow DiversShadow Divers by Robert Kurson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was very interesting and made me want to do deep sea wreck diving, although I've never actually been scuba diving. I think the book did a very good job of explaining the dangers of deep sea diving, as well as the techniques used to cope with these dangers.

Having lived in New Jersey at the time the wreck was discovered, I vaguely recall the story in the news, so it was very interesting to me to read a complete report of the events. It was also interesting to read about how dangerous it was to be a part of a U-Boat crew, and also that everyone who was in the German military was not pro-Nazi.

There were a couple of editorial changes I would have made to the book. The chapters were of varying lengths, and a few seemed to be just a little too long or detailed or both. Also, occasionally, a character would be referred to by their first name and then just a few paragraphs later by their last was a bit inconsistent.

Overall, this is a tremendous read, which is a huge compliment from me, since I don't normally read non-fiction.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With around 30 pages to go, Captain America told me it was time to get ready for bed. I said, "I'm reading THIS book," and he asked if I was going to cry. I said, probably not. Boy, was I wrong.

I'm a crier when it comes to books. Sometimes it's just a few tears. This time it was full on sobs. I haven't cried like that since Dobby died. And it wasn't even over someone dead; it was over a friendship that could not be made whole.

Having taken a few hours to calm down, sleep, and then discuss the series with a friend who also loved them, I have concluded that Hunger Games was the best book in the series, and that while I did enjoy them, the pacing was strange in the last two. Sometimes months would go by very quickly and without much explanation, and sometimes several chapters would span just one or two days. And a lot of events become totally chaotic in the last half of this book. Not it an I-can't-follow-this sort of way, but more like, what-is-going-on!?!?!

To me, one of the most truthful, real moments in the book is when Katniss loses her mind and thinks she can yell at dead people.

Overall, the book is worth the three days it will take you to read it.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Second SightSecond Sight by Mary Tannen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is probably the best of the Mary Tannen books I've read, but she has some quirky literary devices that I don't really enjoy. She changes the perspective within a chapter, which alone would be fine, but she'll do it without identifying the new perspective, so you have to read a few paragraphs in the new perspective before you figure out who the speaker is. Not a deal-breaker, but annoying.

Also, at the beginning of the book, she introduces a number of characters without explaining how they're related. I realize this could be clever, but she's not that good of a writer, so, again, it's just annoying.

Finally, I can't figure out the intended audience of her work. It could be that her books are a little dated, or that I've never known anyone like these characters, but I read them feeling like they're young adult, but not quite, although the library doesn't classify them as YA.

Overall, I liked this book, but it wasn't good enough for me to recommend.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pie+wine+coke+hot chocolate=dinner

And then I had pie, hot chocolate, and orange juice for breakfast.  I'm sure my insulin is going, would you please give us a break so we can get organized? But by the time I got around to dinner last night, I had simply given up, and it made no sense to un-give up this morning. 

Rather than telling you what happened in chronological order, which might make some sense, I'm going to tell you in the order that happens in my head, because that better explains why I had to give up.  And be forewarned, this is not for the feint of heart.

At about 3:30 yesterday, Captain America calls me in a fit of hysteria to tell me he's been stung by a stingray.  Which is apparently just about the most painful thing that can happen to you, aside from maybe having your face chewed off by a rabid squirrel.  I don't know.  Maybe we'll try that next.  So I ask where he is, and he says he's driving home, but that he's having a hard time concentrating.  I say, okay, pull over, I'll come get you, and he says he's in a ton of pain.  We continue this rather useless conversation for about five minutes (it was probably  more like 30 seconds, but whatever), and finally he says, I need you to look up what to do for them.  Aha!  We come to the reason he's calling.  So I do a quick google search and learn that you're supposed the soak the appendage in water as hot as you can stand, which we already knew.  So I call him back to find out if I need to cancel my facial appointment this evening, and I can hear from the frantic way he goes about explaining that he'll call me in 10 minutes that he's on the brink of making Very Bad Decisions.

I'm not sure if you know what I'm talking about, and maybe this sort of thing doesn't happen in less dramatic marriages, but my husband gets this tone where I know that panic/frenzy/endorphins/something takes over, and he's about to start making Very Bad Decisions.  So I take matters into my own hands, cancel my appointment, and come home from work...

To find my husband moaning in agony on the couch.  At least he took a bath/shower first.  And two percocets.  There's water heating on the stove and I pour it into a tub. To soak his foot.  Which looks like this:

But he said that the water was too hot, so I brought him a cup of ice, but in his impatience, he dumped all of it in, so I filled a tea pot with hot water for him, but by this time the bin was full, so we started this process all over again.  I informed Voracious T that at least we were making good use of the tea cozy she gave us.

I didn't actually take that picture, but it's the same tea cozy I have.  I'm not sure if I should be delighted or disturbed that there's more than one.
So after an hour or so of the water being too, too, too hot, I informed Captain America that he was to leave me alone for an hour so I could log back into work and any emergencies he came up with he was going to have to sort out himself.  This worked out pretty well for about 45 minutes until he decided that he couldn't handle the amount of blood in the water anymore.  I have to admit, it was totally gross.  And it smelled. 

So I bandaged up his foot, made him elevate it, dumped out the bloody water, washed the rest of the blood off of his foot, and lit a candle.  All was moving along in relative success until Captain America got up to pee.  He looked down at the bathroom floor and noticed he was bleeding all over it.  I had him sit on the toilet lid, I rebandaged his foot, I checked the carpet for blood (fortunately all of the bleeding was done in the bathroom), and sent him back to the sofa.  We decided at this point that his wound might be beyond my nursing capabilities, and while I didn't think the blood loss was going to kill him, it was a little disturbing that it was still bleeding steadily.  And it was making me truly nauseous. 

So we decided to go to the urgent care clinic.  Captain America hobbled out to the garage (I have no idea why he decided that this was the logical exit point).  He asked me to grab his sandals from the top shelf, so I picked a pair of tevas.  Those were the wrong ones.  So I dropped them on the floor and pulled down his brown flip-flops.  And probably some other shoes as well.  The top shelf is just about the limit of my arm-stretch, so there wasn't a lot I could do about the mess I was making.  And I was at the point where I didn't care anymore.  (When I'm trying to do something useful, like get you to a doctor, and you're doing something annoying, like being picky about your shoes, well, this really does nothing to improve my attitude about the situation).

We get to urgent care, which is, thankfully, not busy.  However a couple of people did manage to come in who were determined more urgent than we were, so we actually had to wait a while to see the doctor.  I suggested to Captain America that I could rip off his bandage so he'd bleed all over the place.  He seemed to think waiting was a better choice. 

Our concerns were primarily that there was still part of the barb in the wound, which we couldn't see because it wouldn't stop bleeding, that it might cause an infection, and that the bleeding wouldn't stop.  In that order.  The doctor admitted that he had never actually see a stingray barb before (I don't fault him for this), so I googled it on my phone, and this is what I found:

Last night I managed to find a cool picture with a dime as scale, but that must have dropped lower in the google rankings today. 

The doctor injected Captain America with some local anaesthetics, then washed off the foot with iodine.  Then he took a water syringe and injected iodine into the wound.  Then he injected sterile water into the wound.  Captain America was not enjoying this procedure at all, although he claimed all he could feel was the pressure. 

The doctor then stuck a metal instrument in the wound to feel around and try to determine if there was anything stuck in there.  He determined that there was not, although Captain America insisted that all of the stuff injected into the wound caused a bubble to form.  Nobody knows what he was talking about, so we all ignored him.

The doctor decided that it would be best to allow the wound to continue to flush itself, so he cut up a latex glove and created a drain that he sewed into the wound.

He told Captain America to keep taking the percocet as needed, he wrote a prescription for some antibiotics, he wrote a note for Captain America's work, he told me to change the bandage today and to bring my husband back tomorrow, and then he sent us on our way.

So then we had to go to RiteAid to fill the prescription.  Yes, Captain America had prescriptions filled there before.  No, this was not part of the worker's comp claim (when he twisted the same ankle about a month ago.  Ironically, he had been cleared by that doctor to go back to work yesterday morning, and then he decided to go kayaking and swimming (because of some stupid rule at his work that you have to take sick time to see a doctor, even if you're seeing a doctor because of a workman's comp claim, so Captain America decided to just use a whole sick day) and managed to mess up his foot again).  No, I'm not going to wait; I'm going to Taco Bell (Captain America's choice, not mine), and then I'll come back.

(Yes, I know that last paragraph is a bit of a mess.  Too bad.  I told you at the very beginning that I was giving up.)

Taco Bell does not sell milk shakes or fries.  I'm not sure how they manage to qualify as fast food without those two staples, other than the fact that they are dirt-ass cheap.  Captain America ordered two tacos and some sort of bacon-ranch-chicken-flatbread-sandwich, which I took two bites of when we got home and decided was wonderful, which really only goes to show my state of mind by the time we got home. 

Conveniently, as I walked back into RiteAid they announced that my prescription was ready.  There was no fee (because of our magically strange insurance, which I didn't have the mental capacity to tell the guy at Urgent Care, so I just paid the $23 he said we owed, and I'll deal with our insurance on that one later), but he did ask me if I wanted to join the RiteAid whatever loyalty program.  I thought: no, I want to go home and eat something, preferably chocolate or alcoholic or both, and sit on my sofa, and not have anyone ask me to do anything for a while, but what I said was no, thank you.

Around this time, I realized that I was probably PMS-ing, and that I was really hungry, and I was still a bit emotional from having just finished Catching Fire, and I was trying to hang on the the deliciousness of anticipation for a few more days before reading Mockingjay, and I must say, I'm pretty impressed with myself to have the wherewithal to realize this was probably why I was disproportionately irritated compared with what the situation actually called for.  And then I gave up.  Captain America asked if he should take just one, or two more percocets, and I said, I don't care.  Take as many as you want.  I'm done for tonight.

When we got home, we discovered two little angels left us LARGE pieces of Julian pies (thanks, P & J!), and that's when I decided that pie+wine+coke+hot chocolate=dinner.  I did run 7 miles that morning.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book took me three days to read, mostly because my reading was interrupted by having to go to work. I haven't enjoyed reading a series this much since Harry Potter came out. Although that's about as far as I'd go with comparing the series: you're reading enjoyment level will be high.

I generally don't write much about the plot in my reviews, because I always think, I'll learn about the plot from the cover and when I read the book. What I want to know from reviews is, should I read the book? And the answer is, yes!

Because I read this one (remember...I listened to Hunger Games on CD), any young-adulty stuff was less bothering. Or maybe there was just less of it in this book.

I like Collins' writing style. What I really like is that around page 250, you know there's no way you're going to get to "...and they all lived happily ever after." It's both frustrating and thrilling, because you so badly want to find out what happens next. At least I do. But then again, I become a little obsessed with books I love. And the best you get at the end of this one is "some people lived, but not before they were seriously hurt and a lot of other bad things happened."

I can't wait to read Mockingjay!

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Monday, September 12, 2011

The Tub People's ChristmasThe Tub People's Christmas by Pam Conrad

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This is another children's book recommended to me by my mother. Usually she does a good job in picking out books, and I think she liked this one because the Tub People reminded her of the Peeps that my sister and I used to play with when we were little.

I also thought I've read other works by Pam Conrad, but when I searched her, nothing rang a bell.

I read this book to Captain America, and we got about 8 pages into it and we both agreed it was just about the stupidest children's book we've ever read. We finished it (I mean, really, it's all of about 30 pages, including illustrations), but it was just terrible. And the first and last page had a random picutre of an angle, that had nothing to do with the story.

If you're looking for a Christmas children's book to read your kids/nieces/nephews, this isn't it.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Jane EyreJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have so many things to say about this book. Someone must have recommended it to me, or it must have been references in something I read that made it sound interesting, because when I picked up the book and read the blurb on the back cover, I thought: why would anyone read that!

This is what the back cover said: Jane Eyre is the story if its title character, a poor orphaned girl who comes to live with her aunt where she endures poor treatment from her aunt and cousins. Jane subsequently ships off to Lowood, a Christian boarding school where she endures more horrible conditions. After some time, life becomes more bearable at Lowood for Jane and she eventually finishes her coursework and spends a period of time as a teacher at the school. After leaving Lowood she comes into the employment of Mr. Rochester as a governess at Thornfield Hall. Jane Eyre is the story of one woman's struggle to overcome adversity and a classic love story.

It sounds depressing and boring, right? But it wasn't that bad. It was rather melodramatic. It was also hard for me to be sympathetic to this female character who just sort of accepts things the way they are, and almost revels in knowing that her station in life is rather low and who has no expectation or desire, really, to rise above it.

For those of you living in the dark (haha, good pun), we in San Diego had a massive power outage on Thursday. I figured I'd try reading by candlelight. People did it for a few hundred years, right? What a pain in the neck that is! Candlelight goes up, but you need the light to come down. It was a rather ridiculous balancing act between finding the right angle of the candle to light the page and the right angle of the page to not create a glare. And then there was the whole bit with the hot wax. I'm not sure how Shakespeare got any writing at all done if this is what he had to work with!

And one other thing: Why didn't Charlotte Bronte ever write the full name of the town/city/whatever?  Why was everything in ----shire?  Like we don't know this is a work of fiction!

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Saturday, September 3, 2011

August's Resolutions

I know you all have been waiting with bated breath (while debating the spelling of "bated" I came across this article) to find out how my August resolutions turned out.  I did very well, with a 50% success rate.  I exercised and flossed 21 times each, and I read every day but one.  I only worked on arts and crafts 6 times, but I did manage to finish one project.  Sadly, I didn't spend any time working on my novel, although based on a dream, a new novel idea came to me (am I allowed to use both "new" and "novel" in the same sentence like that?).  We'll see how that idea pans out.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Snake, the Crocodile and the Dog (Amelia Peabody #7)The Snake, the Crocodile and the Dog by Elizabeth Peters

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I always find that the first hundred pages or so are the hardest to get through, and after that the Amelia Peabody books are rather amusing.

In this book, Peabody and Emerson return to Egypt to hide some artifacts they discovered in their previous adventure, only to "discover" them again. Before you start thinking how un-Peabody/Emerson this sounds, you have to know that in their previous adventure, they swore not to mention where they had been. So they can't very well turn up with artifacts that indicate they've been somewhere they have to claim doesn't exist.

So the plan is to hide them in a probably location, claim they found them this season, and then send them of to a museum, or whatever. But of course, plans go awry and the Peabody-Emerson party is randomly (or not so randomly) attacked, etc.

This is all fine, but Peters never returns to the issue of the artifacts at all. So, presumably they're still in Peabody's possession, but it really is an incomplete plot thread.

This book was entertaining, but not as well written as other Amelia Peabody adventures.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

One thing I know about parenting...

I was talking to a friend of mine, who is 6 months pregnant, and we were discussing pregnancy in one's 30's (no, I am not pregnant, but it seems like everyone I know is).  Someone I know who is in her 20's recently gave birth and she said she had no problems whatsoever during her pregnancy.  She threw up exactly one time, when she had the flu.  I told her to keep having babies, because my friends in their 30's were miserable.  Maybe not all of the time, but they certainly weren't going to describe their pregnancy as no big deal.

Then I was perusing The Happiness Project.  The Happiness Project lists things called Secrets of Adulthood, and the author, Gretchen Rubin frequently links to other bloggers who have posted their own Secrets of Adulthood.  For some reason, this reminded me of the conversation I had with the above-mentioned friend.  I said that while she was having a harder time being pregnant than "20-something," she will probably have more confidence in her mothering, precisely because she's not in her 20's. 

When you're in your 20's you still don't know enough to know what advice is garbage and what you should hang on to.  I believe I said something to my friend along the lines of, "when someone says you have to do something-or-other, you know enough to think, do I really have to? is that relevant? do I care?"

My friend responded with a laugh, "Is that relevant, do I care?! I love you for saying that!"  (I think she may have been getting overwhelmed by the number of baby books out there and the fact that there was no way she could do everything that was being suggested.)  Because by the time you're in your 30's you've learned enough about both life and yourself to know that what someone else tells you may not be relevant, and that, especially when it comes to parenting, you probably don't care how different/strange/whatever you seem compared to the "normal" mom as long as your kid turns out okay. 

I had an Auntie who used to let us draw on the walls.  In very specific circumstances.  As in, right before they were going to be rewallpapered.  This might sound appalling to other parents, but we NEVER drew on walls under other circumstances, and it was made very clear to us that we were only allowed to draw on the walls because they were going to be rewallpapered.  This may not have been a good plan with kids who were more likely to forget the rules, or get out of hand, or color violently (I have, in fact, seen violent colorers. I have no idea where they get the idea that that is acceptable behavior), but Auntie knew that we would follow the rules, and play nicely together, and we had a blast. 

If I were inclined to come up with a Secrets of Adulthood list, up there somewhere around the top would be to figure yourself out first.  It's obviously an ongoing process, but you can't possibly become an adult without knowing who you are.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On learning to read

This is an essay I wrote for copyediting on "my favorite extracurricular activity." Yes, I realize that some paragraphs have fewer than three sentences.  It's very hard to write about one's favorite hobby in 250-300 words.

When I was a little girl, I was so excited to enter first grade. First grade was the grade where the miracle happened: students learn to read. Even before I could read, I loved books. My parents still joke about reading “Big Dog, Little Dog” so many times that they were able to do it in the dark, without the book!

The first day of first grade was a tremendous disappointment. We spent the day doing things like writing our names inside all of our workbooks and taking a tour of the school. We did not learn to read.

Fortunately for me, my mother was also a first grade teacher. I came home from school that day and said, “Teach me to read right now!” My mother insists it took several months for me to learn to read, but in my memory, I could do it within a few weeks.

Because of my mother, I learned to read much faster than my classmates. In fact, I was often in trouble because I was always several pages ahead of the rest of the class.

In second grade, I had a teacher believed that it mattered less what we were reading than the fact that we were reading. He allowed his students to read magazines, comic books, newspapers, and anything else that caught our fancy.

Novels have always been my favorite format for reading. I enjoy the heft of a good solid book, the character development required for 300+ pages of text, and the fact that novels allow me to temporarily escape my own reality. Reading is not just my favorite extracurricular activity, but it is, hands down, my favorite activity. Period.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bag of BonesBag of Bones by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can't believe it took me this long to read Stephen King! I'm a scardey-cat, and always thought I wouldn't be able to handle his books, but after listening to a number of friends praise him, I asked one for a "beginner" SK.

This story is a ghost story, but really isn't freaky-sleep-with-the-lights on. I did cheat a one point I skimmed my way through the book just to make sure I could keep reading it at night, and I could.

King's writing is impressive; he is clearly a talented storyteller. I don't want to give away what happens in the book (and you can always google it if you want to find a plot summary), but I will say that if you never thought you could ready Stephen King, try this one...I survived!

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

I have my mother's toes, and other random thoughts

I have my mother's toes.  Not her feet, although I don't have my father's feet, either, but I definitely have my mother's toes.  They're not bad toes.  The second toe isn't longer than the first toe, they don't look like monkey fingers, and all of my toenails actually grow long enough to paint, if I was inspired to do something as girly as paint my toenails.  All in all, not a bad big of genetics.

I've noticed that in August, the first month I've decided not to have "blog" on my resolution list, is the month I've posted the most number of blogs.  And I actually have one that I started ages ago that I might just post as-is, because it actually needs a lot of clean up to make it decent and I'm not sure I feel like doing that.  And I'm sure my four avid readers really need to read a rough draft of some random musings I had a few months ago.  That's an excellent use of everyone's time. 

And now I'm going to try to tie these two ideas together.

Getting back to my mother and genetics, I also happen to be built just like my mother.  And I've inherited her good health.  Sister, who is six inches taller than I am, with about eight miles of legs, has, as I've mentioned before, more health problems than I could possibly imagine.  Once I asked Sister how she could tell the difference between food poisoning in general and celiac poisoning, and she said, y'know how you feel with food poisoning...? And I had to interrupt her right there because I've never had food poisoning.  Not when I was in Egypt, not when I ate expired yogurt in college, not ever (touch wood).  She looked me incredulously, as in, who lives in that world?

But, I've also inherited my mother's stature.  Once, before Captain America and I were even engaged, I took him home and he met Bia, my mother's mother.  I told him to take a good look at the two of them because if he stuck around, that's what he'd get in 30 and 55 years.  Apparently the view was fine, and we got married and lived happily ever after.  **Sigh**

Unfortunately, neither my mother nor Bia have any waist to speak of.  They also have what my mother calls pancake hinneys (okay, as a total random aside, blogger didn't like how I spelled this word, and Miriam-Webster wants me to buy their upgraded version before it will let me look at this definition, and google wants me to spell it "hinny" which is a cross between a donkey and a mule or something like that).  I've alleviated that second problem with running and lifting weights, but I can't seem to grow a waist.  This has been driving me crazy, because, in case you hadn't noticed, I've been trying to lose weight.  With a waist, you always seem thinner.  I have a wide rib cage and a short torso, so I have to be really skinny to look like I have a waist.

I realized last night that I've been trying to lose weight for over two years now, with nothing to show for it.  So I've been wondering, if, like blogging, I remove it from my to-do list (so to's not actually on any list), maybe I'll have better success with it.

I've been thinking back to when I was skinny, and when I was thinner than I am now.  When I was in high school I was on two swim teams, was a teenager (yay teenage metabolism!  why didn't I appreciate you more then?), and I actually ate two fundraiser-sized boxes of Reese's Pieces every day.  Somehow, I'm not sure that's going to help.  I could take up swimming again, but I'm not sure I want to.  I haven't actually enjoyed swimming since high school. 

When I was in college, I pretty much ate what I wanted, took some exercise and dance classes, and worked out when I thought about it.  I did gain a little weight in college, but I graduated weighting 120lbs, so I was still thin.

The last time I weighed 120lbs, I was on wellbutrin, and as soon as I stopped taking it, I gained the weight back, so that's neither a healthy solution, nor a long-term solution.

When I lived in Oregon, I was a semi-vegetarian (mostly because I lived with a vegetarian who liked to cook, or at least liked to cook more than I do), I lifted twice a week, and I drank less.  I also slept less, which seems funny because people who get enough sleep tend to weigh less. 

I have noticed that after age 26 my metabolism slowed down drastically, which is sad because I'm no less hungry, and while I have no issue eating healthy things like salad and steamed veggies, I still also want to eat tater tots and Hagen Daz. 

I'm currently training for a marathon, which is actually not a good time to try to lose weight because it's a ton of running, which means I'm going to be crazy hungry (this is actually pretty conventional wisdom--most experts don't recommend trying to lose weight while training for a marathon).  I'm pretty sure going back to the way I ate in high school and college is not the right direction to head either, so as far as I can see, my options are to fit swimming and another day of lifting into my schedule, give up alcohol, or just learn to accept that I have no waistline.  I'm not sure I like any of those options, but for the time being, I'm going to try to accept a more zen-ish state of mind.  My husband and my friends don't seem to care about my waist, I'm healthy, and I live in San Diego, for Heaven's sake!  My life is good.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Beauty Detox Solution: Eat Your Way to Radiant Skin, Renewed Energy and the Body You've Always WantedThe Beauty Detox Solution: Eat Your Way to Radiant Skin, Renewed Energy and the Body You've Always Wanted by Kimberly Snyder

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a tough book to review. I really liked Snyder's enthuasism about her eating philosophy, and I felt that she does care deeply about the health and well-being of her readers. She seems like a genuinely good, caring person.

That being said, I just don't think I can do this diet. I really like the idea of it, but I also really like the idea of gardening, and I know it will be no fun for me.

Snyder's basic tenents are pretty much what you would expect: cut out processed foods, alcohol, caffeine, and simple sugars and grains; and eat lots of fruit and veggies. She has this whole thing about the order of the food you eat, by which she means that you should eat the more simple foods early in the day and save the heavier, harder to digest foods for later in the day. Her big thing is that fruits and veggies will keep the digestive process going, perpetually cleansing the body and allowing for elimination. If you eat heavy foods in the morning, the theory goes, you've just slowed down digestion for the rest of the day.

Snyder insists that elimination is the way to rid the body of built-up toxins, etc, which she refers to as "sludge." Eating her way, you will remove sludge from your system and increase your "beauty energy." This is a cheesy phrase, but at the same time, she really, really means it.

She says as you progress on this diet, your hunger and cravings will diminsh over time. This may be true, but I don't like being hungry, and while I'd rather take a nap in the afternoon than have some soda or coffee, the reality is that a nap just isn't an option.

I've tried her glowing green smoothie, which I really don't mind, and I was fairly excited about, as I don't like to eat veggies, but I don't mind drinking them, but it's still a bit more work than I like, and a bigger clean up than I like. What can I say? Spending my free time concocting meals and smoothies is just not what I want to be doing. I'm not that much of a foodie, and since my health is, overall, pretty good, I'm just not that worried about it.

Additionally, she talks about having tons of energy, and maybe if I stuck with the program my body would adjust and I'd have enough energy, but I don't when I'm starting off. I have a naturally high metabolism, and combine that with the marathon I'm training for, and I really do need to eat. Besides, Snyder talks about only needing to do yoga to stay thin, but I don't WANT to do yoga. I WANT to run!

Also, I have a husband, who happens to have an insanely high metabolism, and while I can convince him to have vegetarian dinners a few times a week, this diet is just something he's not going to do. End of story. And he's currently in charge of making dinner.

So the final word is, yes, we would probably all be better off if we ate this way, but I don't think that's realistic for anyone I know, and even while Snyder provides you with stepping stones and doesn't suggest you completely overhaul your diet at one time, and she insists she works with corporate types, stay at home moms, and people of other varieties (in other words, not just hippies), I'd really like to see their daily schedules. Because the time alone to buy fresh produce every few days is overwhelming to me.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Shadow Princess: A NovelShadow Princess: A Novel by Indu Sundaresan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I LOVED The Twentieth Wife, and I thought The Feast of Roses was good, but Shadow Princess was just slow. It skips a generation and picks up when Empress Mumtaz Mahal dies in childbirth, her husband, Emperor Shah Jahan, decides to build the Taj Mahal for her, and their eldest daughter, Jahanara becomes Shah Jahan's trusted confidant, essentially filling her mother's role.

And then not a whole lot happens. There's not really much discussion of the building of the Taj Mahal, there's a little bit of sibling squabbling, there are a few love affairs, but mostly, this book is about what the rich are eating or wearing, or how they travel throughout the empire, and, actually that's about it.

Until chapter 25, when the war of succession begins.

While I was reading this book, a lot of questions came to mind. For instance, how does the Emperor get all of these riches? What are all of his workers paid? What caused the downfall of India? And what happened to Goharara, the child born when Mumtaz Mahal dies?

I'll start with the fourth question first. Simply, we don't know. Around the age of two, her character makes a reappearance on an elephant as the imperial family is traveling around the empire, but after that, nothing. Maybe she died during her childhood. Maybe she lived a rather uneventful life. Maybe there was simply nothing else mentioned of her in Sundaresan's research.

Basically, and I'm really simplifying this here, but the downfall of India occurred for three reasons. One, and the common fall of empires, is that they simply spent all of the money that previous generations have (through time, the common denominator in the fall of any civilization is a lack of resources of some sort). Secondly, Aurangzeb, who assumed the throne after Shah Jahan, was less tolerant of other religions than both his father and grandfather, and thus he disgruntled a lot of people. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the British came in and took over, as they were wont to do around the world.

Now I'll discuss the first two questions I asked. I don't actually have answers, but I have some ideas. In Mogul India, the Emperor owns everything, and once you die, it reverts to him. Traditionally, he'll divide the holdings among the persons heirs (meaning sons), but not always. So the emperor also owns the gold mines and such. Then there are the taxes. I can't quite figure out this system because the emperor can grant cities to people, and then they collect the taxes, which is their income somehow. And finally, there's lots of exporting of spices.

The book doesn't cover what the masses do, but the imperial family lives extravagantly. My suspicion is that most of their wealth comes from owning everything, and not from taxes, because I doubt the common people are paid very well, and therefore couldn't likely pay a lot of taxes. My two hypotheses are that the value of money was very different then than it is today (I don't mean what the money equals in today's dollars, but more what you could do with it/get for it), or that the trickle-down-effect may actually have worked (although I seriously doubt it.)

Anyway, if you're interested in the time period, Beneath a Marble Sky is a much better read.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

I can't believe it took me this long to read The Hunger Games!

The Hunger GamesThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First, I have to make a confession: I listened to this book on CD; I didn't actually read it. This is important to note because this made the young adult aspects of the book really young adult-y, whereas if I had read the book, I would have skimmed past them and probably not mentioned them at all in this reivew.

That having been said, The Hunger Games is a totally engaging story of a girl forced into an arena and how she survives (I don't consider this to be a spoiler, as this is the first book in a trilogy). It was reminiscent of the movies The Running Man and Gladiator, but with a female hero and more humanity to the story line.

It was also refreshing to read a book that centers on teenagers that doesn't contain vampires, or focus on sex and drugs, or make teenage girls out to be ditzy fasion- and boy-crazed individuals.

The ending is killing me, and I can't wait to read Catching Fire!

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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Smokin' Seventeen: A Stephanie Plum NovelSmokin' Seventeen: A Stephanie Plum Novel by Janet Evanovich

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was a welcome return to the more classic Stephanie Plum. The plot has not changed at all, but I did actually laugh out loud while reading this book.

I've come to the conclusion that the two main problems with this series are the repetitive plot lines, and the fact that Stephanie hasn't aged at all. I actually did a Google search to find out how old she's supposed to be, and the most reliable answer I found is that she's 30.

When I started reading the series, I was in my late 'teens/early 20s, and Stephanie's life was entertaining. Now that I'm in my 30s, her life doesn't make a whole lot of sense. When I was young, I didn't know what it was like to be in my 30s, so I was able to just go with it, but now that I know, it's beyond far-fetched.

Additionally, she's been stringing along two guys, and I'm surprised that they continue to put up with it.

All of this being said, I did actually have fun reading Smokin' Seventeen, which is the point of reading. Just don't expect anything new.

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Confessions from the inept

Today I'm working from home.  And because I'm an uber-dork, and I don't want to cheat my company of any time, but also because I don't want to work any more than what I get paid for, I time myself.  So you can relax, this is all off the clock, so to speak. 

So I was uninspired to read more about how self-checkout kiosks work, which, I have to say is less than riveting, and when a friend of mine was here last week, I discovered that I own red eyeliner.  Okay, technically, it's cranberry.  So, I thought, what's a more logical break from work than playing with eyeliner?  Nothing!

First, let me clarify.  I did not buy the red eyeliner.  My mother tests products for Clinique, and they give her free samples of all sorts of stuff, and one of the samples was red eyeliner.  I don't actually ever buy makeup because of this arrangement, which is nice.  Anyway, the red eyeliner is sort of a foam paintbrush, which is an interesting application method because, and I'm sure I'm using all of the correct jargon in explaining this, as you drag it over your skin, the center of the line is actually lighter in color than the edges of the'll find this in art when the paintbrush is wrong for the type of paint you're using.  Or maybe I just have problems.  So, to begin with, the application process is not particularly even.

Then there's the question of what else you're supposed to do.  On one eye, I tried using blends of gray and silver eyeshadow.  In retrospect, I'm not sure what I was thinking, other than that the shade of red was sort of metallic-y, and I didn't think it would work well with the bronze shades of eyeshadow I own.  And I was afraid if I used the greens, I'd just look like a Christmas wreath.  As it turns out, gray and silver were the wrong choices.

Logically, I tried the bronzes on the other eye.  It looked better, but still not in a wear-out-of-the-house sort of way.  And let's face it, I'm not about to put on makeup to sit on my sofa and watch Game of Thrones or True Blood.

So then I thought I'd google "red eyeliner," and lo and behold, a picture of Rihanna showed up (along with a whole bunch of pictures of Goth and least I'm prepared for Halloween). And then I even found a blog that told me how to get this look on my own.  Of course, it involved a whole lot of product that I don't own, but I figured, it's only me in the house, so it's not like I'm going to scare anyone.

So, grew a third eye. 

No, actually I took off the gray and silver eye shadow and started over.  I noticed Rihanna had black eye liner on as well, so I did that, too.  And I don't have any red or pink eyeshadow, but I do have blush, so I tried that.  In the end, I ended up with a very dramatic eye, but I'm not sure dramatically what. 

However, the shade of cranberry is really quite fantastic, so then I thought, well, if it's safe enough to put on my eyes, it's probably safe for my lips.  Unfortunately, no.  Well, not no, as in it's unsafe for my lips.  No, as in, cranberry eyeliner looks dark gray on your lips and that's just repulsive.  And then, of course, you can't just wipe it off.  Fortunately, I own a lip exfoliant (I know, right, I don't even like to wash my face, and yet I own a lip exfoliant?).  It's Mary Kay, and I highly recommend it--the cranberry eyeliner on my lips was no match for the lip exfoliant.

At least my husband wasn't home to see the mess I made in the bathroom.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I am not my sister

This is my second Toastmasters manual speech, way back from when I was still a member of Toastmasters at my old job.  The purpose of this speech is: organize your speech.

My sister sent me an NPR article entitled "Siblings Share Genes, but Rarely Personalities," by Alix Spiegel.  To quote the article, "many siblings have very different personalities.  But to researchers, this is a puzzle.  Siblings share both genes and environment.  Why, then, are they often so different?"  This is something I never really thought about while growing up.  My sister and I have always been so, so different.  But how we are different has changed.

My interest in sibling differences really peaked when I realized a) our differences transcended more than the stereotypical older child/younger child divide; b) when I learned, and continue to see, how different my husband is from his siblings--different in ways that my sister and I are not different; and c) when I talk with friends who are both the oldest, like I am, and have a sickly younger sibling, like I do.

I am going to discuss the article with you, then I will tell you about my own experiences, and finally, I'll leave you with some ideas to ponder.

Before the 1980s, psychologists believed parenting was important; siblings were not.  Then in the 1980s, Robert Plomin published a paper discussing the three main ways siblings had been studied: physical characteristics, intelligence, and personality.  Not surprisingly, siblings generally have similar physical characteristics and similar levels of intelligence.  However, Plomin says "children in the same family are more similar [in terms of personality] than children taken at random from the population, but not much more."  The actual statistic is that we are similar to our siblings, personality-wise, only about 20% of the time.

There are three theories as to why this might be the case.  The first is the theory of divergence and is Darwinian in nature, basically stating that children in the same family will develop different strengths as they compete with their siblings for their parents time, love, and attention.  An example from the article is that "if one child in the family seems to excel at academics, to avoid direct competition, the other child, consciously or unconsciously, will specialize in a different area, like socializing."

The second theory as to why siblings might have such different personalities is environmental.  The theory is, somewhat confusingly, titled the "non-shared Environment theory."  This theory basically states that we don't actually grow up in the same family as our siblings.  Siblings experience major family events such as moving or divorce at different ages and therefor their experiences differ.  Additionally, no matter how much parents say they treat their children the same way, and even if the do want to treat them the same way, in reality this is rarely actually the case. 

The third theory is that of exaggeration.  This theory "is the comparison theory, which holds that families are essentially comparison machines that greatly exaggerate even minor differences between siblings."  An example from the article is that in a family with two social children, the one who is extremely extroverted will be treated as the extrovert, and the other child will be treated as an introvert, even thought in any other family, this second child would be considered an extrovert.

My experience lines up almost directly with this article.  When people meet either my sister or me, and then they meet the other one, they always say, "Your sister is so different from you!"  They say this in a way that suggests that my sister and I are more different from each other than siblings typically are.

Under the theory of divergence, my experience is more physically Darwinian that the mental and emotional Darwinian suggested by the article.  The fact is that my sister is, and always was, more sickly than I am.  There's a fun game my coworkers and I play called did Virginia's sister have that?  It goes something like this: one coworker will say, my father's having hernia surgery next week, and I'll say, oh, my sister had that; another will say, my roommate is home all week with bronchitis, and I'll say, oh, my sister had that.

It's to the point that if we were wild animals, I"m pretty sure she would have been left for the wolves.  But we're not wild animals, and we have access to modern medicine.  So my parents spent a disproportionate amount of time taking care of, and worrying about, my sister.  From the outside, it completely makes sense that parents would spend more time and energy on the child that needs them more.  But I'm sure you can imagine that growing up like this just made me feel like my sister was totally spoiled.

In terms of our environment, my sister and I grew up in similar homes until my junior year of college, when my parents began their divorce process.  Without going into too much detail, it is sufficient to say that it was a much smoother process to me, who was living 3000 miles away at college in Montana, than it was to my sister, still in high school, at home, in New Jersey.  I think this experience, or two different experiences, is the defining factor that explains our different relationships with our parents now that we are both adults.

As far as the the theory of exaggeration goes, my sister was always the crabbier, moodier, more difficult child.  It's understandable now when you consider that she not only caught every disease, cold, and virus that went around her school,  but also that my family spent 20 years poisoning her.  Unintentionally, of course, but poisoning her nonetheless until we learned she had Celiac disease and couldn't eat gluten.  This would make anyone disagreeable.

This is not to say that I was a particularly agreeable child.  I was not.  I think, by the time my mother finished arguing with me about something, she was simply too worn out to argue with my sister.  Which is why, in my opinion, my sister has been better at getting away with doing what she wants than I am.

Also, due to my sister's temperament, I am considered the more reliable, responsible,and patient sibling.  I am not patient.  Until you compare me with my sister.

All of this is very important to me because it helps me understand my family dynamics.  Even though I don't agree with all of the parenting decisions my parents made, and continue to make, understanding the continuing cycle of the fact that mys sister and I are different causes my parents to treat us differently, causes us to become more different, at least helps me come to terms with the treatment.

In conclusion, I hope I have enabled you to think about your relationship with your siblings in terms of divergence, environment, and exaggeration.  I will leave you with a quote from this article, which was originally published for Thanksgiving,"this Thursday, as you eat your turkey, look across the table.  There you may see a brother, a sister, a step-sibling, a twin.  And maybe they're your friend, and maybe they're your enemy, but one thing is for certain: their very existence has had a profound influence on your life".

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Buying art from children?

I started this back when I worked at my old job...I guess I saved it because I thought I'd have more to say, but I really don't.  This is it.

We have this thing at work (wow, that's a brilliant way to start a post)...let me try again...there's a guy at my company is also an artist, and he has a relationship with an art school in San Diego...I think it's an actual school for artistically gifted children.  Anyway, we have a bunch of their art hanging in one of the halls at work.  It's a little sad because it's in the facilities hall, and not one everyone walks down all of the time, but I pass the art on my way to the gym. 

There's this really cool, what I am going to call, pictorial map of Africa.  It's not a real map at all because it doesn't have anything labeled on it, but it has drawings of things that represent parts of Africa on it.  I think it's really cool because it tells more of a story than a regular map.  In fact, I guess the best image I can use to explain it is a treasure map where they show the sharks that you have to avoid, and the strong winds or whatever. 

So like I said, it's really cool.  So I asked the guy at work if the art was for sale, or if the school sold prints of it, like greeting card sets and what have you.  He said they could talk to the student and see if the student wanted to sell the piece.  As you know, I'm all about owning original art.  But this isn't exactly what I had in mind.  Not because it's not good, and not because it's done by some random kid I don't know, but I have some sort of issue I can't quite articulate about buying art from a kid.  Like maybe I'm validating them too soon, or maybe the kid won't do something productive with the money, or maybe the success will go to the kid's head, or I'm really not sure.  Something in my gut just says not to buy it from the student.

But I don't think I'd have any of these qualms if I was buying it from the school as part of a fundraiser or something.  Am I nuts here, or do I just lack the vocabulary to explain my feelings?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

July's resolutions

The month of July started out very, very slow, resolution-wise.  Mostly because we were on vacation.  Also because I didn't really feel like doing anything.  I also decided to remove both "blog" and "stretch" from my resolution list.  I'm not going to stop blogging, but it was becoming something I thought about doing every day, but couldn't really bring myself to do, and who needs that kind of stress over a hobby?  Also, I'm still stretching--I mean, hello! I signed up to run a marathon in October, I have to stretch! But, again, there's just other things I'd rather be doing than thinking about stretching.

Sort of unrelated to my resolutions, I've also discovered that lately, I've had a lot more fun thinking about my reading lists rather than actually reading anything on them.  I know, I don't actually have to read the stuff in the order it was put on the list, but I'm a bit of a control freak about that.  I'm sure if I had a psychiatrist, they'd say that maybe I'm substituting this rather pointless bit of control for something that is currently out of my control (or at least feels that way) like, oh, I don't know, maybe my career.  And now I've just charged myself $175. 

Anyway, on to what I've actually been doing.  In July, I both exercised and flossed 19 times.  I have yet to have Sister demonstrate her 30-second flossing routine, but I would love to have that skill set.  Is this the first month where I've exercised more than I've read? I read 15 times in July, which is actually less than half the month (see paragraph 2 above).  I did my arts and crafts stuff 10 times, which I consider a pretty good success rate, and I worked on my novel a whopping 3 times. 

A word on writing a novel.  It's hard.  I have a bunch of ideas flying around, but no real purpose for these fragments of story lines, and I can't figure out where I want my characters to end up.  And many of my ideas don't work together, so they're their own story.  So I have about 8 terrible books started.  At least they're started, right?

Before I decided to 86 the stretching, I actually got it in twice.  So, based on my fancy math skills, which I don't actually care to explain, my overall success rate for July was 38%.  Not fantastic.  Although my suspicion is (notice how after 7 months of doing this I finally have a suspicion as to how it works?) that it will be hard to be anywhere above 50% because all of these things take time.  And I do currently have a job.  And a husband.  And friends.  And laundry.  And all sorts of other things to do, like get caught up on True Blood.  So, if 50% is the goal, and I got 38%, I've actually had a 76% success rate at meeting the goal of 50%.  See, that is some pretty fancy math!

Friday, July 22, 2011

It's not gross; it's science!

The other day, some friends brought over half a loaf of Amish Friendship Bread and a bag of starter.  The starter takes 10 days to ferment and then I make my own loaves, and give my extra starter to my friends.  It's like those chain letters from the 80s, except it's not annoying and you end up with tasty bread.

There are a couple of rules, though.  You can't refrigerate the starter, and you can't use any metal bowls or utensils.  I'm not a scientist, but I'm pretty sure both of those things kill the fermentation.  This is sort of like sourdough.  Good sourdough starter is actually really old.  I asked my friend, who is a scientist about this.  Okay, not actually about this.  I asked her about making yogurt.  But you do the same thing.  You use some of your last batch of yogurt to make your next batch.  I asked why it doesn't go bad, and she said that basically it becomes more yogurty, and then you dilute it when you make your next batch.

(On a similar note, my freshman year of college I conducted a very non-scientific experiment.  My roommate and I were up late studying for finals, and I was starving.  Somehow, the only thing we had to eat in the dorm room was a container of yogurt, but it had expired.  We theorized that unless there was visible mold growing on it, it was safe for me to eat.  Our thesis: yogurt just gets more yogurty.  Obviously I survived, and I have no fear of eating expired foods.)

Captain America was a bit appalled that we were to leave this bag of mushy dough on the counter for 10 days at room temperature (it IS July in San Diego, but don't worry, it's not in direct sunlight), and then cook it and eat it.  But I informed him, it's not gross; it's science!

He's still not so sure, but that means more bread for me!  Yum!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

June Resolutions

While I enjoy having a resolutions checklist to mark off all of the things I've done, it's frustrating to see how much stuff I'm not doing.  I'm going to blame work, and friends, and chores for sucking up the time I could be spending doing other things.  And by "blame" I really mean, the reality is, that no one can spend every waking moment working on their to-do list, because we all have real things that need to happen.

So that being said, I only had a 36% success rate in June.  My big winners were reading (27 times) and flossing (21 times), and the big losers were writing my novel (0 times) and arts and crafts (3 times).  I had high hopes for both of these when we were on vacation in Colorado, but wouldn't you know, vacationing got in the way! 

I have also decided that I'm going to eliminate "blogging" from my resolutions list.  Not because I don't plan on continuing to blog, but because if I'm going to spend my time doing something creative, I'd rather it be writing my novel or arts and crafts.  Also, as I've mentioned before, I'm just feeling less rantier, so there's less to say.  But I still love to read, so there will be book reviews to post (which I  understand are not everyone's favorite, but this is my blog, and evidently, I prefer reading over ranting...that's probably a sign of maturity or something).

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Animal husbandry?

A study on the correlation and causation of nausea in pregnant women.

Thesis: exposure to disturbing ideas, smells, and sights increases the duration of "morning sickness" in pregnant women.

  1. While the term "disturbing" is subjective, a preliminary study determined that certain ideas, smells, and sights are generally disturbing and upsetting to the population at large, including both pregnant and non-pregnant humans (see footnote a).
  2. "Morning sickness" is a general term used to describe the state of malaise some female humans experience in the hours before noon and attributed to the fertilization of a human egg by a human sperm; however, nausea and vomiting are universal symptoms of morning sickness that have both plagued and baffled mankind through the ages.  While no one fully understands the purpose of morning sickness, it is commonly understood to be a metabolic derangement evolved from early hominids as a way to prevent pregnant females from consuming toxic food products. 
Method of Study:

A double-blind study was conducted using control groups containing both human males and non-pregnant human females, and test groups of pregnant females.  The groups were both divided in half, where one half of each group were exposed to benign images, while the other half of each group were exposed to both benign images and images intended to invoke an emotional response.  

The groups were divided a such: control group exposed to benign images, N=15; control group exposed to both benign and emotion-evoking images, N=26; test group assigned to benign images, N=12; test group assigned to both benign and emotion-invoking images, N=16.  

The benign images, deemed neutral, included clouds, apples, picket fences, and overalls, while the pictures designed to invoke an emotional response included babies, ugly babies, baby cats, baby dogs, baby poop, spiders, vomit, crabs, genital crabs, crab cakes, and crabby babies.  

It was determined (with a standard deviation of s=1.2 (see footnote b)), that the pictures invoked the following emotional responses: clouds, none; apples, mildly happy; picket fences, calm; overalls, none; babies, happiness; ugly babies, horror; baby cats, affection; baby dogs, affection; baby poop, disgust; spiders, fear; vomit, a sense of overall grodieness; crabs, happiness; genital crabs, disgust; crab cakes, hunger; crabby babies, annoyance. 


Animal husbandry, when taken to the extreme, not only increases the risk of sexually based diseases, but also increases the likelihood of penile cancers in lab rats, and induces both pregnant and non-pregnant humans and non-humans to vomit, thus furthering the condition of morning sickness in pregnant humans exposed to such scientific studies. 

a.  It was determined that horror, disgust, a sense of overall grodieness, and annoyance could be classified as "disturbing" and were therefore used as benchmarks.

b.  It was determined that Blogger does not have the capacity for mathematical symbols, so "s" was used in place of the right-side-up-tonge-sticking-out-of-mouth-emoticon that is used to represent the Greek letter of sigma.

In response to some expected criticisms of this post, for those of you who haven't caught on, this was supposed to be both my attempt at writing a fictitious scientific paper, and a mockery of an actual scientific paper.  Additionally, I realize that the thesis talks about ideas, smells, and sights, while the study only deals with sights.  The limitations of the study when compared to the original thesis are due to a lack of funding.  Finally, I apologize for the lack of supporting graphs, tables, and charts related to this study.  I blame the laziness of the the lab staff, who simply "didn't feel like" making them.

Monday, June 27, 2011

On the question of God

I recently had a conversation with an old boyfriend of mine (not the crazy one), who is now also happily married, and it got me thinking about God. I know it sounds weird, but while there were a number of reasons why this relationship didn't work out, his belief in God and my lack thereof was, in my opinion, the main one. 

He was an active Christian, and while I describe myself as a Christian, I don't really do anything about it.  I celebrate Christmas and Easter, and I guess I believe God exists, but I don't  feel anything about it.  And isn't that what faith is?  Feeling and believing something you can't prove?

I believe in other things I can't see, like gravity (although I suppose that's provable), and love.  I know I feel love towards my husband, my family, and my friends.  I feel patriotism towards my country and servicemen.  I will confess, I'm on the fence about pi.  And this might be where my issue with God comes from. 

When I was little, and we went to Church, I always thought it was an act.  I really thought that all of these people in a room, listening to a sermon were pretending they felt the presence of God just like I was.  Even in college, where I met a ton of Christians, I really thought that most of them were pretending, which I totally didn't understand, because I was past the point in pretending to feel something I didn't.  I also don't feel a spiritual presence when I'm in nature, and I don't feel my chi when I do yoga.  And I really don't consider myself an un-feeling person. 

Now that I'm an adult, it doesn't make sense to me that a bunch of adults would pretend to believe in God.  I mean, I think we're sort of past the social stigma that if you don't go to Church you're a bad person.  So why would they all go, if they didn't believe? 

But here's why I can't believe in pi.  It just doesn't make sense to me that the circumference of a circle is it's diameter multiplied by 3.14.  I understand that it works every time, but why are mathematicians, who work in such an exacting field, content with an answer that contains an unending, non-repeating  decimal?  And if there's a God, why would He create such a ridiculous math equation?  If I were a god, and I were working on geometry, I'd come up with a better answer.

But now we're back to where we started, because so much of religion and faith is about seeking answers.  I don't know if there's a god, and I don't know what he was thinking when he came up with pi, but I certainly know that I don't feel his presence, which I sometimes think is a shame, because Christians seem so happy to believe.