Friday, February 26, 2010

More awesome

Here is another awesome thing. A web comic called Anders Loves Maria. It is about a Swedish couple, and written by a Canadian/Swede. It is NSFW and maybe NSFP (not safe for parents) as there is sex and nudity. I have been reading this for awhile, and the story just ended. Make sure to start at the above link and go forward so as to not be spoiled.

Anyway, it is a sweet/real/sad/funny story of a relationship and I've really enjoyed reading it.

Monday, February 22, 2010


12. City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
This is the third book in a series about a regular girl in Brooklyn who finds out she is actually part of a magical group of people with the job of keeping demons out of our world. I remember really liking the first book and the second, and I enjoyed this one, but I felt the characters were getting a little tired. They lost their complexity and interest a little bit. Also, I figured out all of the surprises really early in the book. That said, it was a satisfying third book and would be fine to end a trilogy, although I think there is a fourth book coming. I will also read it. If you like YA fantasy of strong teenage girls kicking some demon ass, plus some romance and drama, this is a great book for you.

13. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Another YA fantasy novel with a strong female lead. I liked the story of this book better, and really liked the main character who struggles with having a supernatural power of killing. This book twists around a lot of the conventions of fantasy novels and has a lot of good women who seem to be damsels in distress but then take control of their situations. The writing was a little uneven at times, but the characters are all very compelling. I liked this one a lot and will also read the rest of the trilogy.

14. Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
I am apparently all about the kick ass women lately. This is the first book in a long series about Amelia Peabody, a Victorian woman who gets involved in arachaeology and manages to have an exciting and intellectually fulfilling life despite the constraints society puts on women. In this book, she sets out for Egypt, discovers her love for archaeology, and meets up with a bunch of characters important in the future books. I first read a bunch of these when doing field work, and I am not planning to read them in order to get the full story. Amelia Peabody is an awesome character to spend time with.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Becoming moral

I have already waxed poetic about Radiolab. Because they do not make enough new podcasts for all my commutin', I have been listening to oooold episodes. Today on my run (3 miles! woo!) I listened to this one about morality. One of the stories is about a woman who has been haunted by the way she behaved while playing a frontier simulation game back in 4th grade. She talks to various people and finds out that a lot of people have a memory like this. The first time you remember being really embarrassed by your behavior, a time when you did not do what was right that you can't forget and you keep coming back to it.

Some suggest that these times are so memorable, in that they help us remain moral being later on. Once you experience the terrible shame of knowing you did something wrong, you want to avoid that as much as possible. Sometimes these episodes might really impact who you are years later, as you swear to never repeat it.

Anyway, I was struck by this idea and could immediately think of two times when I was about 10 when I behaved in a way that, to this day, I am still really not proud of. Even though I know I was really young and I probably wouldn't blame an actual 10 year old for behaving this way, I am ashamed of what I did at the time.

1) When I was 10 my family moved across the country to a new state. I started a new school in 5th grade. A lot of the other kids had grown up together, and it was the first time I was the "new kid". I was really worried about fitting in. One girl was really nice and welcoming to me so I sat with her at lunch for a couple of days. Until somehow I got in with the more "popular" girls, and they told me if I ever wanted any friends not to hang out with this girl any more. So I didn't. I totally stopped and even joined in when others make fun of her. Today, that seems so unlike me that I am mortified that I ever did it. But maybe doing it, and feeling bad about it, is part of what makes that something I would not do today.

2) This one is not about interpersonal relationships, but about beliefs. It also happened around the same age. When we moved, I also moved from public school to Catholic school. I have mostly good things to say about Catholic education, and attribute a lot of my academic success to my time in Catholic school, but this was not one of its shining moments. I was in religion class and we were reading in the New Testament where Jesus is sending his disciples out into the world he tells them that they, the disciples, are worth more to him than sparrows (Matthew 10:31, if you are interested. I had to use a concordance to look this up. Lucky I have a husband who studies religion!). Anyway, somehow the class got into a discussion of how this meant God loved humans more than animals, and that lead to the fact that animals didn't have souls and would therefore just be dead when they were dead. I have always really loved animals, and at this time had both a dog and especially a cat (Tiger, may he rest in peace) that I totally loved so I just could not deal. Also, it seemed really mean of God to not make an animal heaven. I have never been shy about speaking in class so I asked something about this, or expressed my doubt that animals lacked souls, and the teacher was really not happy. Eventually, she made me stand up and repeat after her that "animals do not have souls." It was terrible and I was embarrassed I ended up giving in and saying something I really vehemently did not believe to avoid getting into trouble.

So those are my stories -- two instances when I was just figuring out how to behave, that have really stuck with me and taught me what it feels like to really know something is wrong and do it anyway. Do you have stories like this?

Friday, February 19, 2010


You are going to hear all about my new true podcast love, Radiolab, in this and my next post. There is no podcast or radio show that is more creative, thoughtful and interesting. Each show asks big questions, like what makes animals animals and humans humans? And then tries to answer them by talking with various scientists and other people. On top of this, it is packaged really creatively, not just in a straightforward documentary style.

Anyway, all that is to tell you about an episode I was listening to called Space Capsules about the Voyager space craft which you have probably heard of. It set off in 1977 carrying a record that had all kinds of sounds from earth on it -- kind of a time capsule to let any aliens know about us. On this episode of Radiolab, they asked various people what they would put on a record today, what sounds would they want to share with any other life out there?

The answers are all really interesting, and it got me thinking. What are the most awesome things around me? What are some amazing things that I want to share about life on earth? To answer this question, and to help me appreciate more the awesome things I encounter all the time, I am opening a new blog feature called The Museum of Awesome. I just want to collect little images, stories and moments that I think are awesome.

So this first entry in the museum is my best podcast love, Radiolab.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Thing I love

R and I have never been into Valentine's Day. It is nice when you are a kid and give out those drugstore valentines and get candy and stuff, but the concentration on romantic relationships as one gets older is not fun. A lot of people tell R he is lucky I don't care about it, as I guess I should stereotypically be demanding chocolates and jewels and flowers. I am pretty much always demanding chocolates, but the rest I can do without. We're looking forward to a nice day of working followed by some important tv watching: The Amazing Race and some Winter Olympics (pairs figure skating starts tonight!).

Anyway, in the spirit of a more inclusive meaning of love and at the suggestion of an internet friend, here is what came to mind when I thought of all the things I love for a few minutes:

My family
So many friends
The cats -- even the one I am threatening to make into mittens
licorice tea from Stash
My office
the jungle
the Amazing Race
the Winter Olympics
my bed
fresh snow before anyone has walked on it
the biological processes that let us live
sunny days
Lake Michigan
the portobello sandwich from a place in Grad School Town
homemade pizza
all my kitchen gadgets
fresh ground coffee
the Sunday paper
my tivo
driving all the way up Lakeshore Drive
Dove milk chocolate
weird shaped fungus
pajama pants

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I owe you some books!

7. Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination by Helen Fielding
Pretty typical chick lit in a lot of ways, although I found the plot kind of more all over the place then usual. It was a cut above a lot of this sort of book, though, as the main character was strong and capable and not obsessing over getting a man. Good fluff, but had some weird pacing stuff going on.

8. Whose View of Life? Embryos, Cloning and Stem Cells by Jane Maienschein
I saw this author speak at a conference, and she is an excellent speaker. I was excited to read this book, but found it really dry and somewhat superficial. I was looking for more of a description of the different views on cloning and stem cells, and this was a pretty straight up history of how humans have viewed embryos through the years. The beginning history was really interesting, but I would have liked more specific examples of recent events and more in depth examinations of the ethical arguments behind using or not using stem cells for research.

9. Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell
I don't know why I read these. Oh wait, because I get them for free sometimes! But seriously, the writing is not good. I used to really like the main character, a medical examiner, but now I am over her as well. This books is not well-written and ends with annoying cliffhangers. I can't promise I won't read more of these, but I'll feel kind of bad about it when I do.

10. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
One of the best sequels I have ever read. This is as good or better than the first book, The Hunger Games, and I may die of impatience before the third book comes out. Some nice post-apocalyptic dystopian young adult fiction.

11. Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss
Awesome, funny book about punctuation. If "about punctuation" sounds good to you, read this book.