Again with the READING
Friday, July 31, 2009

Even today, the Brazilian government estimates that there are more than sixty Indian tribes that have never been contacted by outsiders. "These forests are...almost the only place on earth where indigenous people can survive in isolation from the rest of mankind," John Hemming, the distinguished historian of Brazilian Indians and a former director of the Royal Geographical Society, wrote. Sydney Possuelo, who was in charge of the Brazilian department set up to protect Indian tribes, has said of these groups, "No one knows for sure who they are, where they are, how many they are, and what languages they speak." In 2006, members of a nomadic tribe called Nukak-Maku emerged from the Amazon in Columbia and announced they were ready to join the modern world, though they were unaware that Columbia was a country and ask if the planes overhead were on an invisible road.

Crazy, bizarre, exceptionally well-told tale of obsession and exploration. I loved this book.

What Will They Think of Next?
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Dude. My boring week just got a lot. more. interesting.

My friend A tipped me off to this, and while I think it would be a hilarious candidate for the annual dress-Doc-up-in-an-embarassing-costume holiday card, I'm not sure my family would get the joke.

Seriously. What's next - tampons for bitches in heat?

Lazy Listy
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
1. Short-term tanning in preparation for trip to Greece: Good idea? Bad idea? (keep in mind that I'm never on a bed for longer than 8 minutes at a time) I'm feeling really, INSANELY nervous about "the pale" and think Jergen's might not cut it this time 'round. Thoughts?

2. Speaking of Greece, anyone ever been there? Sean and I are hitting Athens, Crete, and Mykonos. Suggestions, please. Thank you! Er, I mean...σε ευχαριστώ!

3. I need to get my drivers license updated, courtesy of my upcoming 30th birthday. Am wondering which is worse - turning 30, or having my picture taken at the DMV. Attention 30th birthdays: YOU CAN SUCK IT. That is all.

4. Currently stuck in a vicious cycle of online purchasing and returning, courtesy of my ever-changing size and the GAP corp's constant sales. So annoying.

5. Am considering giving up Diet Coke. (pause for internet-wide shock) But not until after this damn half-marathon because DC is my adult pacifier and if I cannot have it before and after the hardest thing I will have ever put my body through, someone is going to die. (deep breath)

6. In a Beth Hart Band phase. Somebody please suggest your new favorite song so I can SNAP OUT OF IT ALREADY. A thousand thank yous, in advance.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I gave her the silk nightgown. It was aubergine-colored with narrow straps that left her shoulders and arms bare, and came down to her ankles. It shone and shimmered. Hanna was delighted; she laughed and beamed. She looked down at herself, turned around, danced a few steps, looked at herself in the mirror, checked her reflection, and danced some more. That too is a picture of Hanna that has stayed with me.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

After a while I began to wonder if perhaps it was dead. Maybe the woman had a dead child, murdered or some such thing, and had put it in my car, and I was riding down the road beside it, talking to it. I had read a story in Senior English about a woman who slept with her dead husband for forty years. It was Psycho, except that Norman Bates in Psycho was a taxidermist and knew how to preserve his mother so she wouldn't totally rot out. Indians sometimes knew how to preserve the dead. I had read about Indian mummies out West. People found them in caves. I told myself to calm down. I remembered that the baby's eyes had been open when she put it down on the seat. But then again, so what if its eyes were open? Had it blinked? What was the penalty for carrying a dead Indian child across state lines?

Yes, ANOTHER Post About Dogs
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
I know the burden of the US prison system is a big deal right now, as well it should be. But to know that there are creative rehabilitation opportunities for inmates who might actually *gasp!* deserve them...well, that just warms my heart. View this online photo album. It's not ground-breaking news, but it's a welcome reminder of all the ways humans and animals can achieve a positive symbiosis.

And I got almost all of the way through the slideshow without crying. Almost. Then I saw this final photo:

May these inmates go on to live healthy, happy lives after their periods of incarceration - lives that are as fulfilling as the ones the dogs have upon graduation from their training. And to think: all the inmates had to do was work hard, and care for something other than themselves. THAT is a lesson we would all do well to remember every now and then.

photo credit: Radhika Chalasani for TIME Magazine

Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Oh boy. Temple Grandin is making some sweeping statements (backed by science, at least) that would prove Cesar Milan so very wrong about so many situations. It begs the question - if wolves (the nearly-genetically-identical ancestors to domesticated dogs) don't roam in packs, but rather families, why would pack mentality be considered appropriate in a 1-2 dog situation?

So much of the advice on "establishing dominance" over your dog is wrong because it's not tied to the dog's emotions. An example is dog training books telling you never to let the dog up on the furniture or on the bed. Dogs on furniture are up too high, supposedly. Another example: books telling people never to play tug of war with their dogs because playing tug of war encourages the dogs to think it's OK for them to challenge you. That's completely wrong. In Animals in Translation I wrote about the study of golden retrievers playing tug of war. The experimenter played tug of war with fourteen dogs, letting one group win almost all of the games while the other group lost most of the games. All of the dogs were more obedient after playing tug of war, regardless of whether they won or lost. Beating a person at tug of war didn't make the dogs more dominant. I wouldn't be surprised if you saw the same thing in a study of dogs getting up on furniture and beds.

Full disclosure: I also like books that reference actual studies with statistically significant results (the absence of which became my biggest irritation with the Milan books). There are so many people out there who claim to know the secrets of dogs - it can be overwhelming. I believe it's all about finding what works best for your relationship with your dog - also, it's helpful to find books that pat you on the back for doing what other books chastise. Hehe. I am clever like that, yes? THANK YOU, TEMPLE GRANDIN.

Happy Madness
Monday, July 20, 2009
Yesterday, the entire family (both sides) descended upon the house for a celebratory gathering of sorts - heralding the impending arrival of my sister's third child. There were kids e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e....crying, laughing, falling down, hitting one another, swinging, bouncing, what other verbs can I use? There were so many people there that I barely spoke to anyone at length, and the only things I took away from the day (other than 5 lbs of newly-acquired weight, courtesy of the On the Border catering team) were smiles and three enormous bites on the back of my legs. Enormous, as in, hardened bite sites with saucer-sized, bright red reaction sites. SEX-AY.

On the upside, fajitas w/beans and rice all week long!

It was a really fun day - I got to see cousins/family that I love and very rarely see - but hoo boy, am I ever glad it's over. Back to the quiet life that I so enjoy.

What did you do this weekend?

Shoot From the Hip
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I'm feeling ultra lazy this evening, so here is your list of my recent life. In a nutshell. [insert: Obvious Austen Powers Quote]

Ok, then. Moving along...

1. Lunch today with friends. Strong, funny women who aren't afraid to just come out with it. Love that.

2. Walked the dog just now, and he was being a stubborn pooper. So, of course, I was pacing around while simultaneously getting divebombed by a host of flying parasites. WHAT IS WITH YOU SUBURBAN PEOPLE AND YOUR BUGS?! I love the trees and flowers out here, but DAMN. You need to STOP IT with the bugs, ya'll. There are a couple still on me - definitely one mosquito in my tank top that I can't seem to squash. Ladylike, right?

3. I would like, someday, to understand why everyone in Virginia Woolf's novels are so obsessively introspective. I'd put stones in my pockets and wade into the river too, if I had to spend my entire existence second guessing myself. Sheesh.

4. As of next week, I will be back in the dance studio - this time, taking class. What do people wear to jazz class nowadays, anyhow? Tights and a tank? Does everyone go barefoot like in the city, or no? Please advise.

5. Dominick's house brand pre-made lasagna: Looks horrendous, tastes divine.

6. I think I just felt another bug on me. DAMN IT.

7. My father was watching the end of tonight's SYTYCD episode with me, and got tired of Nigel's incessant yammering so he called Nigel a windbag. I had forgotten that word even existed.

8. Laundry! Three loads! Am no longer naked! Whee!

9. I don't know who Cam Gigandet is, but I saw his infant daughter in a picture online and she is a straight-up Gerber baby. Easily the cutest baby of 2009. Way to go, Cam! (but seriously - who is Cam Gigandet? IMDB says he's in Twilight - I haven't seen it. Worth the research time, or should I simply remain curious?)

10. Today was a tough day. I'm going to forget that, and hope for the best tomorrow.

There's Always One, Isn't There?
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
This morning, during my daily "you can't have another dog but wouldn't you like to look at what is out there, in case there is one miracle dog just waiting for you to adopt it?" internet surfing, I came across Buttons (seen below). He is a lean copy of my own dog, and adorable, no? The scars on his face are courtesy of someone who thought his mouth should be tied shut. Like, with a rope. For long enough to scar him permanently. Yes, really.

This pet adoption thing is heartbreaking on so many levels: you feel like a hero sometimes, and other times, you think about what happened to your dog or cat before they found you and you have to be very careful about not letting your mind go to the bad place. The animal forces you to remember that things are okay NOW.

I've never been horrified enough about the global food industry and their questionable practices towards animals to become fully vegetarian. When I hear about things like the largest dog raid in US history, I don't drive to Missouri to offer shelter to a dog. (I do, however, wish fervently for the swift punishment of the heartless assholes at fault) The situation I have the most emotional trouble with the one-off dog - the one here or there, or nowhere in particular, who just wants someone to love.

THAT one dog is the one who always gets to me the most - the one that causes me to die a little, on the inside. Good luck, Buttons. I hope you find a happy forever home.

Photo Credit: Chicago Anti-Cruelty Society

Throbbing Pain, With a Side of STABBY
Monday, July 13, 2009
Oh, what to do, what to do. Went to the dentist this morning, feeling right as can be, only to leave with a dull face ache courtesy of one very aggressive hygienist and her godforsaken plaque pick. Sure I have really clean, polished teeth NOW - but I was happier before! Before that feeling - YOU KNOW, THE ONE THAT FEELS LIKE FORKS JABBING ME IN MY JAW. Yeah, THAT ONE.

The only solution to this fiasco is fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, a couple doses of Motrin, and a very large, fountain Diet Coke.

Actually that is my solution to a lot of unpleasant events in life. Hmm.

Let Your Igloo Cooler Mark Your Piece of Paradise
Friday, July 10, 2009
Sunblock? CHECK. Whole Foods Ultimate Burgers? CHECK. A ridiculous amount of light beer? CHECK. It's that time of year again, folks.

Sean and I are off to the races. Go 17! Have a great weekend, everybody.

In Which I Decide to Introduce My Dad to YouTube At the Risk of BLOWING HIS MIND
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Over the past week, I have made some unexpected discoveries about my parents' everyday life. As retirees, I suppose I always figured they would keep themselves busy with friends, grandchildren, denture hockey, needlepoint, whittling tiny garden gnomes from extra know - standard retiree stuff.

Instead, my parents' days are filled with endless nesting (my mother), pages upon pages of blackbelt sudoku (my father)...and every night? My mom (and sometimes I) drink wine and talk while my father watches video clips on the internet. I don't know who all sends these clips to my father, but he has HUNDREDS OF THEM. I had no idea he had so many friends on email! Just tonight, he sat me down and made me watch a not-that-funny video of animals stealing things from people.

So there you have it - a retirement expose of sorts. NOW YOU KNOW.

Any suggestions for funny internet videos (purely for my father's evening entertainment, so keep it clean, folks) should be left in the comments. Here's my favorite:

Update: Found my other favorite clip. GOD, this is funny. This one NEVER GETS OLD.

Commuter Math 101: 2.5 hours of daily train time = lots o'books

To pursue truth with such astonishing lack of consideration for other people's feelings, to rend the thin veils of civilisation so wantonly, so brutally, was to her so horrible an outrage of human decency that, without replying, dazed and blinded, she bent her head as if to let the pelt of jagged hail, the drench of dirty water, bespatter her unrebuked. There was nothing to be said.

Put Your Hands Up for Detroit
Monday, July 06, 2009
Notes from a busy weekend:

- I love Fedde le Grand. Also: Camille Jones.

- A clean tent with no visible, stinky mold is worth 7 mosquito bites on my ass (note to Northern IL mosquitoes: WTH?!) and a bucket of sweat.

- My niece and nephew finally made friends with my dog yesterday. My niece (who, in the past, has repeatedly informed me that my dog was going to "eat her" and then cowered in fear, shaking) has now touched both his hindquarters and ear, as well as a tail. With a smile! I CANNNOT TELL YOU WHAT A RELIEF THIS IS TO ME. Any pet owner will tell you how stressful it can be to think someone you love might be frightened of an animal you know and trust to be friendly - and worse, to not be able to remedy the situation.

- The new Moby album is phenomenal. I want to listen to it until I am old and gray. I anticipate at least one overly-wrought high school jazz routine set to "Wait for Me" this upcoming fall.

- I have decided that "Back to Indiana" is my favorite Jackson 5 song. "I'll be There" is a very close second.

- Fireworks? yawn...

- My family is crazy. Loving, but crazy.

- Workplace went from business casual to officially casual last week. (pause for dramatic emphasis, in which I silently jump up and down like a lottery winner, pumping my fists in the air)

- 10.75 miles is not a fun distance to run.

Thursday, July 02, 2009
Anger doesn't even BEGIN to cover it.

Greenwald concludes the chapter with this gem:

"Andy, a thirty-six-year-old stockbroker from Dallas, TX, told me about one woman he dated: "She was a career woman, but I'm looking for a woman who just happens to have a career."

Interestingly enough, all the books I read aimed at men never asked them to choose between a woman and a thriving career. It was assumed they would have both.

Life in a Northern Town
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
For the past two months, I've been struggling with an industrial-grade case of restlessness. Usually when this type of thing hits, it's a diluted version that manifests itself in a new haircut, or a rare manicure. When spring rolled around this year, I knew something had to give - change - whatever.

As I mentioned briefly yesterday, I recently relocated to the northwestern suburbs of Chicago. I'm no longer living downtown (although I do still own my condo, thanks to the shitty real estate market) and I'm not entirely sure where I'm going to land. For now, I am happy and grateful to be living in my parent's house. Some of you may scoff at the idea, but it is what needed to happen for many reasons, and now I'm able to fall back on my own support system in order to bring about the changes I so desperately crave in my life.

I am in a weird state of limbo right now, and hoping that whatever happens in the next couple of years, I come out of it for the better. Because really - at what point do we stop letting others decide for us what is best? I made a decision yesterday based solely on my gut instinct - which in nearly 30 years of life, is a first for me. Really.

Sorry to be cryptic, but I feel it necessary to protect those certain, delicate brick-and-mortar parts of life that the internet so often delights in dragging through the proverbial mud. Perhaps it's better put this way: Compared to others in these difficult times, I realize that my struggles are nothing. But I am only one person, and I feel them acutely.

From here on out, I vow to trust myself. I vow to try and see the bright side of any bad situation. I vow to value my own insight for me above that of others. I vow to be happy, to thank somebody every day for something they have done, and to remember how wonderful my life really is.