The Most Meaningful Book Review I've Written (and the longest): Nomad by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has another hit on her hands. The last book was Infidel, an amazing book about her journey from a strict Muslim family in Somalia to escaping an arranged marriage, to becoming a successful, self-made human rights activist, primarily speaking out about the Muslim community. Her life is in constant threat of death -because it is believed in the Muslim world that you should kill the Infidels. Allah has said it in the Quran and every good Muslim must follow his word. Scary.

I noted parts of the book that were particularly interesting to me, and this is much longer than most any book review I have ever given, it is worth it. If you really can't stand to read long blog posts (um, I'm guilty of that frequently), at least skip down to the quotes from the book down below.

I could almost find something in every single chapter that stuck out to me. It's just a well-written, informative and insightful true story about the Muslim life from someone who grew up in it, who knows it inside and out, and who was able to step outside that world that she knew since birth and see that some things are wrong. Severely wrong. Ayaan is an atheist now, but she believes that Christians need to stand up to the Muslim community and do more aggressive outreach, as the Muslims are doing themselves. She is an atheist, but she is not against people believing in any given deity, so long as an entire gender is not being stepped upon in the process. It is a great stance to have.

This book really challenged me, as I like to believe that I am very open-minded, but most especially about other cultures and/or religions. I accept that we are all not the same. I accept that some people need a certain belief that there is a higher power in order to feel fulfilled in their own life. I accept that certain cultures do things certain ways and that's their right. But this book was fairly anti-Muslim based on the violence and the gendercide going on....and it actually makes a lot of sense. I'm not so sure I'm open-minded about making women have the value of half a sheep. Or about small girls being basically sold off to unknown men for selfish reasons (or any reason I guess). So perhaps I am not so open-minded about the Muslim faith's a hard hurdle for me to jump.

This is a great read. Please give it a try.
I thought I had written a review about her first book, but I'm not finding it. Trust me when I say that Infidel is an amazing book as well - go read them both! Ayaan Hirsi Ali has basically given her life so that this story gets out. She has an entire culture that would like to see her die. She cannot go anywhere without bodyguards. She has no privacy and must live the rest of her life in fear. Please don't let that be for nothing - read this book.

Mahad is her older brother and has some sort of mental illness. This was his treatment:

I knew the procedure. A group of people read passages from the Quran and spit into a pail of water and sprinkle it on the patient. Or they spit on his bed covers after every few passages. Not large drops but little lines of saliva, with the tongue quickly returning to the mouth after letting a little drop fall, a very particular kind of gesture.
It seems as if this is not working, so think twice before trying this at home.

Ayaan was a translator in Holland for years. For government agencies and social services. She describes having to explain to a man that he had AIDS:
I struggled to find the Somali word for immune system, or even virus, and finally told the man, "In your blood test, invisible living things were found that slowly will destroy the army of defenders in your blood." I went on to describe that the blood is made up of white blood cells - though we don't have the word cells-and red blood cells. "The white blood cells are an army that keep away enemies that come into your body and make you sick. But some things, like the one that was detected in your blood, are too strong for your soldiers without the help of medicine."
This is so intriguing to me (and slightly entertaining) because you never think about these new words we Westerners have created through science and medicine and whatnot, that are not in a language that is as old as the Somali language. How would this new word be introduced into society? They don't know about blood do you spread the word about what the English word blood cells is referring to? Interesting, right? I have never thought about it before -even when I lived in a foreign land and was told by my director (who often translated for us) that there is no word in Korean for something I was saying...I just assumed he meant he didn't know it (which might also have been the case many times).

Ayaan is very open in both her book Infidel and this book that she had her genitals cut at a young age. Her vagina was sewn together. Ugh, think about that for a second. Now send some mental love to your girl bits...cause there is some messed up stuff going on in the world. Vaginas should never be cut. Am I right? Can I get a Hell Yeah for no cutting of the vaginas?? Amen sister.
Roughly 130 million women around the world have had their genitals cut. Even though vaginal excision is not mentioned in the Quran, most of the 130 million women alive worldwide who have undergone this brutal ritual are Muslim women.

Where are the feminists??
There are already Muslim schools in America where girls learn all day long to be subservient and lower their eyes, to veil themselves to symbolize the suppression of their individual will. They are taught to internalize male superiority and walk very softly into the mosque by a back door. In weekend Quran schools girls learn that God requires them to obey, that they are worth less than boys and have fewer rights before God. This too is happening in America.
Because Western feminists manifest an almost neurotic fear of offending a minority group's culture, the situation of Muslim women creates a huge philosophical problem for them.

Child marriage is also a logical outgrowth of the Muslim fixation on female purity: if you marry her off early, as soon as possible after menstruation, she won't have time to damage your reputation and devalue your goods. The reality of this is extremely bitter: imagine a 13-yr old girl transferred to the arms of an old man she has never seen before. 
Child marriage is illegal in Western countries, of course, but other aspects of the Muslim oppression of women can be readily imported into both Europe and the U.S. The fact that honor killings can occur in Texas, New York, and Georgia makes the virtual silence of Western feminists on this subject all the more bizarre and deplorable.
Hello, Feminists? Are you there? Where'd you go?? Please come back. Soon.

A story from the author's upbringing that made me really question how anyone believes anything ever:

Allah and his agents played a big part in my childhood. A man named Boqol Sawm tried to terrify us into being devout. He droned into our ears that we were all headed to hell for sinning. In hell we would be burned in hungry flames, dipped in cooking oil, made whole again and broiled from head to toe. Each time we perished, Allah would remake us, give us back our bodies and skins ever more smooth and sensitive. Then he would give his angels orders to start burning us again. These horrors would go on and on until Allah was satisfied that we had been justly punished.

At the end of the book, Ayaan writes a letter to her unborn daughter. It is very sweet, very smart, and great advice for all females everywhere. Here is a small piece of it:
I shall not bring you up in the Muslim faith, the faith of your forefathers and foremothers, for i believe it is fatally flawed. I will, however, introduce you to different religions, their founders, and some of their followers. I will bring you up to have faith in yourself, in science,  and your own reason and the force of life. And I will never seek to impose my believes or unbelief on you.
Beautiful. We should all take those last two lines and have them on posters in our houses. Maybe cross-stiched on a pillow. Or as part of our holiday cards. We should all care as much as Ayaan Hirsi Ali cares.

Breaking News: Breastfeeding is Best for Babies...and p.s. Cancer Sucks!

Last week, our local news reported on a study about how breastfeeding is best for babies.

Why are there still studies being done on whether a mothers breast milk is the best choice for a newborn baby? Yes-it probably is.
But is it a wondercure to prevent sickness? Probably not.
BUT - in the grand scheme of things---do we need to pursue this debate?

Let's move on.
Maybe those really smart scientists could work on a different project. Maybe something like, say....cancer??????

I just don't get it. I'm just not sure I understand why this particular study is being repeated over and over. Here are the facts:
  1. Feeding a baby via the mother is in most cases is probably going to be the best, just as it is best for a fetus to grow inside a womb, not an incubator.
  2. Some mothers are not able to breastfeed, for reasons beyond their control. This doesn't mean they should be ostracized, looked down upon, or emotionally punished.
That's it. Those are all the facts we need to know, right?
Let's move on.
I know scientists and doctors and the like are probably trained on one issue, but just like in that one movie about aliens and a killer asteroid or something-shouldn't we pool our resources and just kidnap the very smartest, top-dog scientists and doctors and force them to work together on a solution to something very important?
Like the mystery of breast cancer. Or colon cancer. Or childhood leukemia. Or uterine cancer. Or lung cancer. Or prostate cancer. Or thyroid cancer...see the theme? Cancer is bigger than all of us. Cancer is killing over half a million americans EVERY YEAR.
Let the kidnapping begin... (To be humane, we will pay them for their time, reward those who make the best contributions/ideas, and allow them 2 phone calls a day and 30 min of personal Internet time a night)
This sweet little girls shirt style is  for sale and would make a great gift to your local pediatrics hospital.

Notes from Korea - Early April - Falling, Travelling & Crazy Korean Kids

Once upon a time a thousand years ago (in 2002), I took a year long teaching job in South Korea. I packed up my 9 yr son, his little white cat and 4 huge bags of "stuff" and we got on a plane and flew from Washington state to South Korea. We lived there for a year, came home for Xmas and then my son stayed in the states for 8 weeks while I flew back over the big pond to finish my contract(the first time I've ever been away from him for more than 2 weeks). We lived in a small town, with no native English speakers, no familiar food, and no real clue of what we were going to do. It was a great adventure!

I wrote long, sometimes boring, letters home. These are them, unedited except for the removal of the whining and begging to my parents to please send this or that. You can click on the pictures to enlarge.
April 2nd, 2002
Andrew fell rollerblading pretty hard yesterday. He was with a couple Korean friends who are apparently really great on their skates. Andrew, however, has only owned a pair for a couple weeks. His friends were not aware of his skill level apparently and were leading him into town...but we live on a hill so there was going to be a downhill area at some point...and the kids were taking a shortcut-which involves a very steep hill, a section of a trail that is dirt and rocks and then a half of a mile trail through some rice fields. They set off and I didn't really know where they were off to, but this is typical of Korean kids-they have a LOT of freedom. About 40 minutes after they left, I got a phone call from Andrew's friend. He said this, "Andrew. Ground. Hit. Andrew. Ground. Hit. Blood. Andrew. Hit. Ground. Help." He apparently didn't know any other english words....but luckily, I knew a bit of Korean, so I was able to ask him- WHERE and NOW and kept repeating that "Andrew where now?" until he understood I was looking for the location of my bleeding offspring. And then I took a taxi downtown and met them and sure enough, Andrew had hit the ground hard.

Andrew and I laughed about the communication later. Apparently, Andrew fell at the bottom of the big hill and the other boys helped him the 1/2 mile through the rice field trail and stopped at someone's apartment where his friend ran inside and called me (Andrew and I carry a card around with key words, our address and phone number, and our school directors name and phone number).

Andrew had quite the banged up leg and a cramp in his neck. My director bought him some patches to put on the muscle, but Andrew only made it four of the eight hours you are supposed to leave it on. They have a really strong menthol smell abou tthem and he said they burn. His neck was better the next morning.

April 6th, 2002
Not much news here-we just got our Alien Registration Cards so they can keep good track of us aliens. Getting these cards was a paperwork nightmare, but since I don't read Korean well enough and I can't really answer most of the questions, my director had to deal with the majority of the hassle. The three of us drove about two hours to the government building, where it took us about 15 minutes to get our cards. The director was very frustrated with the process. I was frustrated with having to listen to his music in the car for four hours. He has a cassette tape of english songs-none of which I've ever heard before. They are really not very good..but the scenery was beautiful!

Andrew was super excited when we got home as there was a package just for HIM from Aunt Susan. It had 30 granola bars and some kool-aid!! He thinks they'll last him a full month, but I give it two-three weeks. He was totally blown away, he wasn't expecting them and REALLY appreciates them.
April 20th, 2002
It's about 80 degrees outside today so I am escaping some of the heat here inside a smelly pc room. The directors nephew is playing with Andrew -the family just showed up and dropped the kid off. I went downstairs and they were about to drive away and I tried to talk to them and all I could understand was that they were coming back at 7pm. I insisted they come back at 5. I'm not sure how I ended up babysitting. Their 8 year old is a wild little monkey!
I think I'm teaching a private lesson today..not really sure. A woman stopped me and kept insisting that I talk to her son..she kept saying, My home? Your home? I don't really know what is going to happen, but I guess I agreed to come to her apartment at 4 today.

We went to Wonju and met my Canadian friend for lunch yesterday. Andrew had a pork cutlet-after we convinced him he wouuld like it. I ordered a bagel-the first I've seen since we've been here. It was about 1.5 times the size of a normal bagel, and they serve it as a whole meal-it's on the menu next to spaghetti with meat sauce, and pork cutlets. Very strange, but it was filling. The place we went to also had Mt. Dew, whcih was a real treat for Andrew as we have never seen it here.

April 21st, 2002
It was just gorgeous today! It was a relaxing, lazy weekend wandering around our neighborhood. Last weekend we stayed in Seoul. We had a great time shopping in Itaewon and then Andrew and I had a great time at an Aussie/Kiwi expat picnic with lots of kids speaking english and food we somewhat recognized!  They are a great group of people and we hope to see them again soon. They meet nearly every weekend, but we are a bit far away so we will try to plan to see them once a month. We also went to a book exchange that some Seoul teachers organized. You bring some books and you take some books-it was nice to come home with a bag full of new books!

I had a little mishap with one of my challenging students last week. Nearly every day, he does something that is a bit concerning, but last Friday, he threw a dice at me and the wrote something bad on the board. I didn't know what it said, but the students in the next class were very upset that a student would DARE to write that in a classroom...My director was told about it, it's just more in a series of negative happenings with this particular boy and he said he would talk to the parent. I am just glad this boy is the only one like this all day-it's only a 50 minute class I have to deal with this. **the boy ended up not coming back to school again, which worked out great for me and everyone in that class!**

No-Reply-Comment Email Fix - The World Could be a Better Place

This might come as a surprise to some of you, but I don't get a thousand comments a day. I don't know why...I should. But for some reason, I don't.

So the few people, mostly regulars, who do leave a comment - I love. LOVE. I love you guys!!! You took 30 seconds out of your busy lives to leave a short comment on a post I spent hours lovingly creating with all my creative energy and in my very little free time. Comments = Love. They do, everyone knows this, it is true.

Let's take a minute to give a small shout-out to the wonderful, dedicated best-blogger friends of mine who have left a comment in the last day:
and Denis a non-blogger

I LOVE you all - thanks for commenting!!!

I love seeing that someone has commented - for you non-bloggers out there, I get an email with every comment, so I know when I get a new comment and I can hit reply to that email and it goes directly to the person.

 But wait.....sometimes it doesn't....because when I hit reply I see this crap:

Notice the To: line?
There's no email address. Meaning I can't reply to the person.

I rarely ever go back to peoples blogs to view comments made after mine (unless it's a really fun comment war going on) and I don't subscribe to comments because some bloggers get a million comments and I get an individual email for EVERY comment made after mine if I do subscribe. SO - I prefer to have someone reply directly to me about my comment, if they want to reply at all. And since that's how I like it, I assume that it's right and that everyone should do it that way. Logical, eh?

But then I get people who have the no-reply-comments email address....which actually means that they don't have their emails attached to their blogger profiles and I'm left with this empty, unfinished feeling. Do you really want me to feel that way?  No, no you don't. Let's fix this issue, shall we? Here is what you can do to make this misery stop:

  1. Go to
  2. Click on Dashboard.
  3. Select Edit Profile
  4. Check the box for "Show my Email Address"
  5. Save changes.
  6. Leave a comment on my blog.
  7. Sit back and wait for the friendly reply.
  8. Enjoy the birds singing, the butterflies flying, the flowers blooming...because now the world is right again.
 I think there is a fear of hiding this email address because you might get spam from some 14 yr old malicious kid in Russia, or a rich long-lost cousin in Uganda who needs your help getting your inheritance before it's too late.

From what I can tell, you have to actually go to someone's profile to get this email address. Is it really possible that your 14-yr old Russian or long-lost Ugandan cousin is going to flip through hundreds of blogger profiles to collect email addresses? I highly doubt it.

And do you really think you're privacy is 100% without having this box checked? It's not. People can find you. Just accept it. No need to be paranoid, it's reality. We are a digital world.

And think of all the interaction you can have with people who you leave comments for. Interaction with other humans is shown to be good for your heart and your brain and maybe your liver. It's almost like it's a health risk NOT to check this box.

For the record, I have had my "show my email address" box checked for four years now and have never noticed that I get any extra amount of spam then I did before I started blogging. Though I do have google, which has the best spam grabber thingy ever and I think I've had just about 15 spam emails in my inbox in the last 4 yrs.

Random Thoughts Tuesday: Food Is Wonderful Edition

Ahhh, Tuesday....Tuesday used to always mean Random Thoughts Tuesday. And then somewhere along the line, Tuesday became the day after Monday. Wait, no, first Tuesday was the day that I had the grilled chicken panini at work (avocado, grilled chicken, cheese, a dab of mayo, lettuce & tomato). Delicious! I miss that chicken panini. Before the panini though, was wrap day at the cafeteria at the hospital where I worked. If I wasn't feeling well on Tuesday, I would still go to work because I didn't want to miss wrap day. When I was looking for other jobs and listing out the pros and cons of whether I should look for a job outside of the hospital, wrap day was on my con list. It was one of the few things I loved about my job for 2 of the 5 years I worked there. We'll just say it wasn't a great job, and I wasn't working with great people.

Anyway......since we're talking random food, here's a great piece of info for you all that might ruin your day:

Terrible Food Creations, courtesy of Eat This, Not That.
California Pizza Kitchen The Meat Cravers Pizza
1530 calories
33 grams saturated fat
4134 mg sodium

The calorie count of this porcine pie comes as no surprise. What else would you expect from a pizza saddled with Italian sausage, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, ham, and salami? And with well over a day’s worth of sodium lurking inside, there’s nothing redeeming about it.
Dairy Queen Buster Bar Blizzard (large)
1160 calories
57 grams fat (30 g saturated, 1 g trans)
111 grams sugars

The Blizzard is known for rolling two desserts into one—it’s nothing more than a clever excuse to eat a candy bar and ice cream in a single sitting. But this concoction takes the ruse to a whole new level, swirling gobs of peanuts, chocolate chunks, and fudge into a cup of soft serve. Suck this unnatural disaster down, and you’ve just imbibed the fat and calorie equivalent of 5 Dunkin’ Donuts Chocolate Frosted Donuts.
As most of you know, I've been counting calories the last couple of months. It's working out really well and it isn't as horrible as I thought. I've become much more aware and realistic about my calorie intake each day. I'm not following a Weight Watchers plan, but they have some really great food! I eat this one at least twice a week for lunch:

It's the Smart Ones Thai Style Chicken & Rice Noodles. It tastes similar to pad thai but only has 290 calories and 4 grams of fat. My panini cannot compare to that. And I can get these at Fred Meyers for $2.50. My panini is $6.75. Weight Watchers also has some ice cream cups that are delicious and really fulfill your need for a snack. Go try them. Go love them.

I have had a watermelon sitting on my counter, uncut, for about three weeks now. It's about at the point where I am afraid to cut it open.

Not food related: I ordered a hammock today. Does anyone have one? Am I supposed to move it periodically so my grass doesn't die? I have a sprinkler system so I guess when the sprinklers are set to run, we should either move it out of the way (not practical) or just bring in the hammock itself and let the stand be watered down each time.

Oh - and when I was flying back from LA earlier this month, there was a dad and his 3-4 yr old sitting in my row. The mom and an 18month old were sitting in the row behind us. Right before the plane left the gate, the mom passes forward a bottle of Benadryl. (smart) This is the conversation that transpired next:
Dad: Time to take our medicine. (dad takes a small little shot)
Boy: I don't really like that medicine.
Dad: I know, it has a weird taste doesn't it?
Boy: I don't want to take it.
Dad: I know, but we have to.
Boy: But wat happens if I don't?
Dad (without even the slightest pause): You'll turn into a frog.

Boy: Oh....okay (and takes his shot).

More randomness here:

Don't You Want a Turtle? Yes, Yes You Do!

You would...if you knew you could do things like this to it:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles........Heroes in a halfshell.

What Have You Been Up To?

In the last 7 days: (click on any pic to enlarge)
...I have taken a ton of photos with my new wonderful camera.
Whiskers really prefers to drink from a small stream from my bathtub faucet. This often leads him to have this splatter of water across his head. He will usually sit in the tub and wait for me to rub my hand across it and clear it from his fur before bounding down the hall.

...I volunteered last Saturday morning at an event called The Great Urban Race in downtown Portland. The race: The Great Urban Race is a wacky urban adventure. Teams of two solve twelve clues, have a wild city adventure and complete fun challenges while discovering the city in a fresh way.  This wonderful nonprofit, Schoolhouse Supplies was part of one of the clues and people had to donate to the agency and have a picture taken with one of our signs. People get into this-some just run like mad and try to be the first to finish, others dress up to try to win best costume. This is my vote for best costume:
Love them!

TMNT! Will this ever get old? No, probably not.
The volunteer crew (aka my friends I roped into going with me) on the left, Schoolhouse Supplies staff on the right.

...I went to my friend Denis' house (above on the far left) and we had a chicken marinade cook-off. We had four contestants with marinated chicken. Two judges. One winner.
The judges...thinking very hard, being very fair (they didn't know which chicken belonged to who).
The host Denis actually won and then revealed that he used a bottled sauce to marinate.Nothing special...just a bottled sauce, beating out the other three handmade marinates. Funny.

No purpose to this pic-I just love this man-cub of mine.

....On Sunday, I volunteered for the Alphabet Project. No pictures. Great group of volunteers. We got a TON of posters made and if anyone knows someone teaching at a not-for-profit school setting overseas, we would love to send them some of our posters. I have a batch going to Tanzania (via Africa Bridge) next week, but have a LOT left to send.

...On Monday, I had a volunteer meeting at Africa Bridge, helping plan the upcoming gala fundraiser that I volunteered at last year. It was such a great time last year, and I'm excited to be more on the planning committee this year. It's such an amazing organization and if you're looking for a cause in Africa (or anywhere), I recommend them!

...On Tuesday, I volunteered downtown at the mission to feed the homeless. I didn't have time to eat dinner before I went (straight after a long day at work), and it was really hard not to just lean over and shove my face directly into the spaghetti we were serving and eat it, pie-eating-contest style. It smelled REALLY good...but alas, it had beef in the sauce and that prevented me from digging in. Which is probably for the best.
I had a 20-minute conversation with a trans-gendered person who isn't homeless but comes down for the food because he/she has no pots/pans/silverware. He just got his apartment and doesn't have money yet to furnish it. He talked to me at length about how hard it was to be himself back on the east coast, where he lived his entire life until two months ago, and how grateful and appreciative he is of people in our city. He would never feel free to wear makeup back east, but here in Oregon, he went to Macy's and sat down and had the ladys at the counter teach him some tricks (and then went out and bought his makeup at the dollar store). He really does do an amazing job at his makeup...I should consider going to Macy's. It wasn't a conversation I would normally have -ever--but it's nice to be a kind listener to someone who was obviously just lonely and needed to talk to someone.

...Wednesday-Friday I worked REALLY hard at my job. That's it.

...This morning I volunteered at Schoolhouse Supplies, sorting donated books that eventually go to teachers. Great cause!!! Fun and easy work.

...And somewhere in these busy days, I managed to log 24.36 hours on the treadmill. That's in 7 days. Not too shabby.

What have you been up to?

Letters From Another Era: Are You Homesick, Mildred?

My mom has this collection of old handwritten letters between various family members, starting from around 1924 I think. I scanned a ton of them so we would have electronic copies...just in case something happened (though I think if her house caught fire, she would grab the box these are in before running from the flames).

They are really interesting little snatches of history, and I love the personalization of handwritten letters. It's pretty sad in some ways that we are such an electronic generation, as we are missing out on these types of things.

Here's the scan of the letter - you can click on it to make it larger. I've translated it (into computer speak) below.

Perth N Dakota
Dec. 14 - 1924

Dear Mildred.
Received your letter on Wednesday and you seem to be quite homesick. We are sending you five dollars and if you want to come home very bad you can come and write as soon as you can and let us know when you are coming. It is so late now that I don't think we will be able to meet you at Bisbee and if we are not there take the Rolla train and come. I made that feather bed last week and I have quite a lot of the other sewing done.
Will close for this time and write right away and let us know when you are coming.
As ever your loving Mama

I'm not sure where Mildred was when this was written, as I know she was in Rolla North Dakota to get her girl scout card in 1923:

And she was busy pulling a B in agriculture class at Rolla High School in 1925:

Mildred is my grandmother:

Mildred Mary Lahey, born 26 Jun 1909 in Towne County, North Dakota; died 07 Dec 1975 in
California. (I was born in early 1974. You do the sad math on that one.)

Did You Hear About The BP Oil Spill? Oh, You Did....

Ugh, that oil spill. What an effing disaster.

I have no idea how this will ever ever ever be solved, but saw this last week (yeah, I'm a week behind in my reading) and made note of it (though apparently not the source...):
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported 522 dead birds — at least 38 of them oiled — along the Gulf coast states, and more than 80 oiled birds have been rescued. It's not clear exactly how many of the deaths can be attributed to the spill.

Dead birds and animals found during spills are kept as evidence in locked freezers until investigations and damage assessments are complete, according to Teri Frady, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

"This includes strict chain-of-custody procedures and long-term locked storage until the investigative and damage assessment phases of the spill are complete," she wrote in an e-mail.

Let me point out the most important part of this news segment:
Dead birds and animals found during spills are kept as evidence in locked freezers until investigations and damage assessments are complete..

Um...we do not know when that will could be months, a year maybe, YEARS?? And in the meantime, we are going to store countless numbers of dead animals in a locked freezer? Until damage assessments are COMPLETE. I don't see how that's going to happen anytime soon. And in the meantime, we are keeping each carcass???  That seems a bit insane. I hate that this oil spill happened---it was a stupid corporate decision not to have a plan in place to fix this "what if" scenario...but isn't it also stupid for us to save EVERY bird & animal who dies because of it?  Can't someone just log the numbers in a database somewhere? Or maybe in a journal ($2.99 at Target)?

Stupid + Stupid = Stupid.

Photo via (ha-I'm not kidding, that's a real website!)

The Moth Storytelling - A Must See Event!

While in Los Angeles this week, my sister and I went to a live show of The Moth storytelling. I know most people don't know what this is (the cool people do), so let me help broaden your world.

From their website (I've bolded the keywords for those of you too lazy to read it all. You're welcome):
The Moth, a not-for-profit storytelling organization, was founded in New York in 1997 by poet and novelist George Dawes Green, who wanted to recreate in New York the feeling of sultry summer evenings on his native St. Simon's Island, Georgia, where he and a small circle of friends would gather to spin spellbinding tales on his friend Wanda's porch. After moving to New York, George missed the sense of connection he had felt sharing stories with his friends back home, and he decided to invite a few friends over to his New York apartment to tell and hear stories. Thus the first "Moth" evening took place in his living room. Word of these captivating story nights quickly spread, and The Moth moved to bigger venues in New York. Today, The Moth  has brought more than 3,000 live stories to over 100,000 audience members.
The screen around Wanda's porch had a hole where moths would flutter in and get trapped in the light. Similarly, George and his friends found that the characters in their best stories would often find themselves drawn to some bright light—of adventure, ambition, knowledge—but then find themselves burned or trapped, leaving them with some essential conflict to face before the story could reach its conclusion. So George and his original group of storytellers called themselves "The Moths". George took the name with him to New York, where he hoped that New Yorkers, too, would find themselves drawn to storytelling as moths to a flame. They did. With no advertising, through sheer word of mouth, every show to date has sold out in 48 hours or less.

EVERY show for over a decade has SOLD OUT. Does anyone know anything as popular as this? No, no you don't.

**On a side note, George Dawes Green wrote a book that I reviewed last year! I had no idea he was the founder of The Moth!**

Anyway, I have been listening to The Moth podcasts for a few months now on my mp3 player while I walk the treadmill. I've heard some really great stories, here are a couple I really enjoyed:
Jessi Klein  A story about going to her sister's wedding at Disneyland (this is an adult-content one, but really quite funny!)
Brian Finkelstein: An American man goes in search of Thanksgiving in Ireland. (one of my all time favorite stories!)
Mike Birbiglia: Procrastination leads to devastating circumstances at the Walla Walla Washington La Quinta Inn  (actually this might have adult content too...)
I have listened to probably 40 or so podcasts now and there aren't very many that I don't like, and there are a LOT that I really love!! Sometimes there are celebrities telling stories-like Margaret Cho, Dan Savage, Lewis Black, Tim Gunn, Ethan Hawke, Julia Stiles, Salman Rushdie, Colin Quinn, Moby...the list goes on and on. And there are a lot of comedians who write for shows you love who just stand up and tell their funny story.

I knew they taped shows in LA and NY, so when I found out I was going to LA for work, I looked up the schedule and sure enough-there was a show happening the day before my training!! I knew I had to go to experience it live.  And it was a lot of fun! As expected. It's actually held in a room in a bar, which is cool. It is quite cozy, like being in a nightclub but the music is replaced by stories.

The theme of the night was Fathers, so all stories had to be about Fathers in some capacity. And they have a time limit of five minutes (which doesn't hold true for all shows I think because some of the podcasts I hear are definitely longer). And you can't have notes-you just walk up to the microphone, in front of a crowded room of strangers, and tell your story.

Very intimidating.
This is what it looks like from the rear of the room where we were sitting:
When you come in, you throw your name in the bag if you want to tell a story. They select one person at a time to get on stage and tell their story. You get about two minutes from the time they pull your name to the time you are actually standing in front of the mic. I don't know why more people weren't really nervous, but there was just one guy who stumbled a bit in his story. And did I mention you only get five minutes? That's not a lot of time...
Soon after my sister and I had found our seats, the producer of the show came over and asked us if we wanted to be judges for the night. Um, hello? Of COURSE we did!!! So she gave us the rules and our judging flipcharts and a very brief chat and then we were set-very exciting! They pick two people to be on a judging team and they have three sets of judges.  We had to pick a name for our judging team, something with the theme of Father. We picked Papa Don't Preach. Another team was Hi Ho Daddy-io. And the third team was The Mamas and The Bastards (a play on the Mommas and the Poppas) - however, that teams' real names were Annie and Jerome and the host of the night (some comedian I think) made fun of them the entire night, talking about how Annie is such a sweet innocent name and Jerome is a bad guy name. And so when they would call out for the judges scores, it went something like this:
"Papa Don't Preach - what's your score?  9.2 - great......Hi Ho Daddio, your score?  9.1- okay....and Little Red Robin Hood and Satan - your score?"  He made up a different name every time-it was really funny. 

We took our job very seriously - considered all the criteria for judging and did our best to give the fairest scores possible. There was only one time where we got a bunch of dirty looks for the score we gave someone.
Nobody received this score! They were all over 8.0.

The winner was Bill Ratner - who I didn't realize was famous-in-a-somewhat-famous-kind-of-way.

The guy that got second place I am pretty sure is Kevin Bisch, who is the writer of Hitch and a new movie being made with Hugh Jackman.. I'm not kidding! It was him!!! We should have made an effort to talk to other people....

Kevin and Bill both were standing next to us while we waited for the doors to open and that was our celebrity encounter and we didn't even know it!

If you live in New York or Los Angeles, you are failing life if you don't make some effort to attend one of The Moth events at some point. They have some shows on the road sometime, but not often. Check out the event calendar and do what you have to - it is an interesting night and you are guaranteed to hear some interesting stories!  If you don't live near one of the events - you can download (for FREE) the stories here.  I can't wait to hear about how much you love The Moth!!!

What's Your Email Address?

Seriously - this is so dead on, right? I'm thinking about getting my own domain so that I will appear to be skilled and capable.

I'm In Los Angeles!! You Should Have Been Here!

I've been away, I'm sure you were wondering why I haven't been blogging.

I was going to Los Angeles for an Excel training for work (I love excel), so I decided to take a couple days vacation and do some sight-seeing. My sister, Jenny, drove up from San Diego and met me and we did a bunch of tourist things, including paying real money for a map of other peoples houses (aka "stars) and driving all over to spy on people.

Like Dr. Phil:

I actually went up to Dr. Phil's intercom (at his gate) and asked for him. He wasn't home, said the women who answered. She asked who I was and I said the first thing that came to mind: "A friend from down the road." I'm not really though. I don't even like him, but we were told that sometimes he comes out and says hello to the tour buses outside and I just wanted a photo. I meant him no harm. Bummer he wasn't home. We could have been friends.

Like the Fresh Prince of Bel Air:
You'll notice how close I am to the house...we weren't exactly sure if we were allowed to drive up to it-it IS someones house (not the Fresh Prince of Bel Air's) and we drove up the long drive cause the gate was open. But it's a loopy driveway and you have to go right past a window on the side of the house, then up around the garage, and then down another long drive. We did it once and laughed and were unsure and didn't really get any pics the first time so we thought-we better do it again--but then the second time, there was someone at the window and we were screaming and trying to leave quickly. Why do people leave their gates open??

We also drove up into this housing area where there is a little security gate and a sign that says to stop and that vehicles will be inspected...but there wasn't anyone there when we came by, so we just kept on driving. We saw someone taking trash into the garage at Kimora Simmons house-she gave us a nasty look. We went up to Nicole Kidman's house and loudly whispered her name, but she didn't respond and you can't see the house so we left. On the way out, the security guard was back in his gate and gave us a good scolding for going into the neighborhood. We let him know that we didn't see anything but he was really unhappy with us. We later thought that we should have asked to take a picture with him-but I don't think he would have found the humor in it.

We had this delicious meal for dinner at the Saddle Ranch restaurant, where you can roast smores outside (um, for TEN dollars!!) and you can get a half-baked cookie with a big scoop of ice cream on top-though it's not really just one cookie-it's a plate sized cookie, but is TO DIE FOR and worth every second I'll have to spend on the treadmill to work it off later.

After dinner we headed over to a comedy show hosted by the winner of Last Comic Standing's 6th season, Iliza Schlesinger.
The show was okay but it wasn't as funny as I had expected. She did little routine bits, starting off the show with about 5 minutes of material--which she had to refer to notes in front of her throughout. Then she introduced the other 9 comics, and at one point she got on stage with a granola bar in her hand, still chewing. And it wasn't part of a comedy bit...she was just in the midst of eating. It was weird, as I think I really liked her on the tv show, but I am not sure I like her now.

Yesterday, Jenny and I did some walking along Hollywood Blvd to see the touristy things, like Mann's Theater and the stars on the sidewalk thing. This is probably my favorite photo from that area:

Then we headed off to the Getty Museum and it was amazing! They have this enormous garden with a gazillion flowers, ones I think they made up as they are really original and fake-like.
Here are a few pics taken (with my amazing new camera:

You can click on the link below Neptune to see the full string of photos:
And I have just one more day of beloved-Excel training and then I'm headed home tomorrow night, where hopefully the teenager has managed to keep the house picked up and the cats fed. And then it's back to the reality of work and no-harassing people in their homes or spending all day taking pictures. Bummer.

Happy House-A-Versary To Me!!

Last weekend we celebrated my one year house-a-versary. Yes, it was just a year ago that I bought this beloved house and my life has changed in a million ways since then. The biggest change (beyond being in a massive amount of debt until the day I die) is my social life. We lived in our apartment for five years and I probably only had company over to hang out less than ten times. I now have people over about twice a month. It's been an amazing and wonderfully fun year and I have loved every second of owning this house! 

So to celebrate my house-a-versary, I had a few friends over to help me out.
This post is a bit picture-heavy, but I didn't post all 98 photos that my friend and I took...just a handful.

Courtney and I getting ready. I was on the side of the mirror that enlarges your face by 10,000 because I am blind without glasses. We had been just hanging out, did some shopping, made some brownies and then realized...oh...we have 30 minutes til people might be here! Let's go get ready!

Andrew is awesome. He always helps me clean up before and after my parties, and this time offered to also help finish up the brownie making-he even did the dishes!! Sometimes you can forget it he's a moody, snarling teenager, he's just so wonderful!

Mike's Hard Lemonade is almost always a theme at my house. I love them and I especially love that they have a light version!
I have no comment. Nobody forced this man to do this-he voluntarily thought it would be a good idea to put earrings and a necklace on.

We almost always end the night with Catchphrase. It's the best game in the entire world. I'm not sure what Jason is doing's like he's pretending it's his turn. Funny little drunk man.
Oh, wait, what's that you see? My beloved teenager at the party? Yes...I have no idea how it came to be, but he hung out with us for quite some time. This led to a discussion on whether we needed house rules for those times when Andrew might be around...

Each rule has a story that goes with it.....I'll spare you all the details on those. It was entertaining and quite funny to all of us there.

Remember how I enjoy taking pictures after I've had *ahem* a few drinks? I have about 8 of me and my friend Dean. Same pose, different levels of blurriness/double chinness/bad smileness/etc.

This is John--make sure you are always on his team if it is a movie trivia game! He's come to quite a few of my games nights and events but I never get him in a picture so I thought since I did---I should post it.

Some people got sleepy early in the evening....

And just couldn't make it the whole night....

The morning after shot...part of the empty bottle collection.

It was a great house-a-versary party! I love my friends. I love my Mikes. I love my new house rules.

And now on to the next....

A Little Italian, Anyone?

I give to you....Un Giorno Per Noi, by my little boy Andrew.

Welcome to Our New Family Member!

We have a new and wonderful member to our family!!!!

Miss Ginger
Mr. Whiskers
Young Andrew
The Mighty Kaylen

And the newest treasured and loved member of our little home:
The new Canon Rebel T2i

Helloooooooooooooooooooooo my new friend!! I love you already.  It's an AMAZING camera!

These are some of the first shots we have taken - look at the amazing quality!!

And it's SO easy to take awesome pictures without even knowing how to use it. There are things called appeture and isotopes and lots of numbers and stabalizing and dials to spin and a million settings that I have no idea about...but I know if I push the button down half-way to take a picture, it focuses for me and the pictures are HD and something like one million megapixels...Plenty of time to learn all that.


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