Win, Lose... Draw

So it might be incredibly mean spirited of me, but I prefer to think of it as a very fierce rivalry, but I'm thrilled to have been the hammer on the Bengals' playoff dreams this year! Fine, I wasn't the hammer per se, but my team sure was! In what was a thrilling game in which I screamed my throat sore and got in shouting matches with at least one Bengals fan (okay, so I called him a pussy, but he really was being one) my Steelers saved some face and defeated the Bengals in what would later be revealed as the devastation to their playoff hopes. The Bengals had needed Kansas City to Win, Denver to Lose and to beat the Steelers in order to get the sixth seed... all happened except for the Win against the Steelers.

Despite that, I'm in a hustle now that freaking Delta canceled my flight for tomorrow and booked me on a flight that would have resulted in me missing my Uganda flight, so I have to fly in much earlier than expected to JFK tomorrow which means I have much more to do tonight to get ready and much less time alone with my hubby tomorrow (we're having family over for the New Years tonight). That really upsets me, but it is what it is I suppose. The reality of the trip has yet to hit since I've been so busy, but I'm sure it'll be quite the culture shock when it does. Bring it on!

Go STEELERS! There's always next year to regain our Super Bowl title... now how to get Cowher to stay one more year? I'm dreading his press conference next week... and yes, even from Uganda I'll definitely be keeping an eye on my Steelers. At least if we move to Raleigh I can stalk Cowher in his new 2.5 million dollar home... is that a bit too fanatical? Nahhhhh.

P.S. Didn't want to mention it, but thought I should. Yeah, the Vikings blow. But as I tell people constantly, they're in the rebuilding process... right?

P.P.S. I should also mention that I do feel bad for my friends and family who are Bengals fans and I mean no hard feelings towards them. My rivalry is completely with the team and with the dumb ass Bengals fans I have to deal with on a daily basis.



Ready, Set, Go!

I'm all packed up now with only a few last minute things I'll need to add. And I must say, I think I did pretty well with the packing, there's extra space for presents and it's not unbearably heavy. Okay, so hubby made me unpack some things, but I unpacked some stuff on my own too. I still have to get a couple of things cleaned up at home, finish the laundry, etc., but overall I'm feeling pretty well prepared for my departure.

In the meantime I've been bathing myself in everything Africa, from reading the wonderful and highly endorsed by me Half of a Yellow Sun to watching DVDs on the war in Uganda and reading articles upon articles about the war and its affect on the youth of Uganda, I'm all things Africa right now. Hopefully I'm prepared enough when I go, my worst fear is going and feeling completely ignorant on the issues that the Ugandans are dealing with.

And of course I'm spending every spare second of time I have with my hubby!

I'm nervous and excited. I'm finally slowing down my obsessing about my packing and worrying about whether or not I should bring something and I'm enjoying every day at home to the fullest and not really thinking too much about the trip yet. I know it's only days away, but there's so much going on before that! Most importantly, the Steelers @ Bengals game that I'LL BE GOING TO on New Year's Eve! I'm so excited, even though the Steelers are out of it, I love going to their live games. And with the impending move, this may be my last chance for a long time. I hope to knock every playoff dream off of the Bengals' faces on Sunday! I know, it's evil and ruthless, but hey, I gotta root for something, right?

Hopefully I'll be blogging from Uganda so y'all can keep up with me, though I doubt I'll be able to keep up on reading blogs since I heard the computers are insanely slow there, so I apologize if I don't visit you as often as usual while I'm gone. Please leave comments and messages for me on my blog so I can keep up with what's going on in your life!

Much love and peace for the New Year to everyone.


Half of a Yellow Sun: A Review

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a vivid and haunting novel depicting the Nigeria-Biafra War of 1967-1970. Told through various points of views, the novel touches on the different experiences from poor to rich of the Biafrans in the war, including a white British man. Coming into the novel with little knowledge on Nigeria and having no knowledge that this war even existed, the experience was educational and emotional. I was ashamed that I'd never heard of this war and was glad for Adichie's novel, to bring to light that which has been forgotten and ignored.

*Spoiler Alert*

The novel is told through three characters' points of view: Ugwu, a houseboy for the Odenigbo, an enigmatic professor with strong revolutionary dreams; Olanna, the beautiful mistress of Odenigbo; and Richard, a white, British man who falls in love with Kainene, Olanna's twin sister. I can say that I knew that either Odenigbo or Kainene would die at the end of the book, simply for the fact that their points of views weren't written and that I sensed that the main characters needed to experience real loss. The novel was vivid and harsh in its reality and yet was not grotesque. I never got the sense that Adichie was just trying to shock us with the harsh details, rather, the details always seemed pertinent and real. The violence was reeling and shocking, and the book led into it in a manner that made its impact more powerful.

Rather than starting us off in the war, Adichie began the novel in the early sixties, when the discontent for the government was just beginning. Adichie then takes an interesting approach, jumping back and forth from the early sixties to the late sixties during the war. This structure was confusing to me and I couldn't grasp a clear purpose for it. I liked getting to know the characters before the war began, but going back and forth didn't seem to accomplish much other than creating slight suspense with the whole Richard/Olanna incident. I remember reading in an interview with Adichie that she chose to do this because stories aren't told chronologically when told orally, but honestly, I still don't really get her reasoning or her purpose. Overall, I found it distracting, and possibly the Only criticism I could give this book. Just as I was getting into the war, she'd pull me back into the early sixties and vise versa. For me, it broke up the flow of the book.

The stories of the three characters are undoubtedly powerful and painful. The views were varied by the character's positions, Olanna was from a wealthy family, Ugwu was from a poor, and Richard was British. Adichie built up the reader's trust and care into the characters before testing the readers by pushing the characters to some ugly acts. The affair between Olanna and Richard is not only horrible, but also heartbreaking that Olanna would disregard her sister so much and that Richard was so infatuated with Olanna's beauty that he'd further reinforce the "ugly sister" feeling Kainene had grown up feeling. But perhaps the most shocking and disgusting was Ugwu's rape of the girl at the bar. My heart sank when he participated and I could never look at Ugwu the same again. Although I didn't want him to die and I still liked him, my disappointment was real and lasting. It brought to light traits in Ugwu I had only suspected, an inherent weakness in being easily influenced, shown first by his unabated adoration of "Master" and Olanna. Ugwu is not a leader and he does not like to be thought poorly of, and so it is these qualities that allowed him to gang rape a poor girl. The irony of Ugwu's much loved sister being gang raped might at first seem too convenient, but with the knowledge that it is very common for women to be gang raped during war, it is very probable that Ugwu's sister would fall victim to it as well.

The most painful and most enlightening parts of the novel was how the war changed people. While Odenigbo, the bright revolutionary light at the beginning of the novel, deteriorated in his disillusionment and disappointment, Kainene grew from the cold, rejecting sarcastic woman to a tower of strength and confidence. The rock for all of those around her. Olanna, Richard and Ugwu also changed, becoming more somber, perhaps more cynical. However, they held their own in the brutal war and fought hard for survival. Olanna grew to see things through her own eyes and not Odenigbo's, she learned to be independent. Ugwu found a way to express himself and keep himself mentally safe during hard times, through words, reading and writing. Richard learned to identify himself with a family in a way he was never able to do in England, he finally felt at home. Was I sad that it was Kainene and not Odenigbo that disappeared at the end of the novel? Of course, but I think that was Adichie's intent. Kainene had become everyone's rock, and she was ripped away at the same time Biafra fell. It was Kainene who represented the heart of the revolution, not Odenigbo. He was all show but didn't have the strength to carry the revolution, to support it at it's roots as Kainene did. Her strength was unimaginable and created from years of feeling like the ugly sister, the unfavored sister. An inner strength that none of the other characters possessed and in the end was more beautiful then Odenigbo's charisma, Olanna's physical beauty, Richard's devotion to a culture that is not his own, or Ugwu's devotion to people who are not his family.

This novel made me cry and deeply shook my insides. I feel changed and felt almost lost as I closed the last pages. I didn't want it to end because I wanted Kainene to be found. I wanted to start another novel immediately to fill the emptiness that finishing the book left in me, and yet that didn't feel right either. How could I dive into a new novel so soon after this amazing book? It is a book that will sit with me for a while, deep in my chest were the powerful novels always do, somewhere between fiction and real life.

Truly one of the best books I've read in a while.


If Only You Could Be As Cheese-Free As Davy

Yeah, man, Go Vikes! Fuck Cheese, you know, cuz cheese just stinks and stuff...

All True Vikings will sustain from all cheese eating activities until after the Vikings @ Packers game tonight. So the real question is, are you willing to give up Cheese for the Purple People Eaters?

Davy is.


Holiday Madness

I may keep this post short since after flipping my open hummace wrap flat into my lap so that there was a good smattering of hummace left on my pants, I also burned the tip of my pointer finger in the sauce from my pot pie so that it now has a nice blister on the tip of it and making it very difficult to type.

A few items to note:

I am perpetually the Indianapolis Colts of Fantasy Football. Last year and this year I made it in the playoffs in both of my leagues with either the best record or second best and both years in both leagues I lost in the first round of the playoffs. As my friend said, it's my goal next year to be the Buffalo Bills of Fantasy Football, of course I may be in only one league next year since I won't be in my current job where I'm in the work league, so there will be less chances for me to make it to the big game, but I gotta dream big, right?

I have a huge headache over the strict carry-on policies now-a-days at airports. It's been especially troubling since I have to spend the night one night at JFK on my way to Uganda, possibly by myself. But obviously bathroom products will be strictly regulated making my life just that much more difficult. Most troubling to me, however is the "One item of reading material" rule. Really, what's the point of that? If I spending the night by myself then I'll definitely need more than one item of reading material.

And Steelers' fans are rampant in North Carolina? Who would have thunk it? I guess it makes sense since it's pretty much directly South of Pennsylvania, and Cowher's moving there after all, I wonder if that'll pull some Steelers' fan into the area. But I've heard from many different sources now that North Carolina is pretty much Steelers' Country... all the more reason to move there. What a relief it'll be to finally be in friendly territory!


Pluggin' On

This will literally be me the next couple of weeks until I leave for Uganda, reading away in every spare moment I can find. Not only do I have my From The Stacks Challenge to keep up with but I have oodles of articles that I wickedly printed off at work on Uganda and Africa to read to be up to snuff on the current events. Also, in addition to reading Last King of Scotland for the From The Stacks Challenge, I'll be bringing and hopefully reading a couple of African themed books while in Uganda. Does anyone else theme their book choices with a trip? I've never gone anywhere noteworthy before, so this will be the first time I'm doing it. I'm interested to see how that books will affect me being in Africa as I read them. Right now I'm reading Half of a Yellow Sun and am really enjoying it. It's been a while since I've been able to really get into a book and lose myself in it and I find myself doing this in Half of a Yellow Sun. It's well written and the characters are complex and interesting. It is also giving me some ideas of different feelings and perceptions of "white people" and colonialization in Africa. Even though the book takes place in Nigeria and not Uganda, I feel that these feelings are most likely similar across Africa since many of the countries were similarly colonialized by Europeans at some point in their long histories. Even though I was already fairly up-to-date on the issues in Uganda, I've been reading more and more about the country's history and many of the different issues in Uganda I had not focused my attention to previously, such as their AIDs epidemic or the land issues that are arising with the IDPs (Internally Displaced Peoples) returning home. There is so much content to read in such little time, I'm a little overwhelmed and have recently taken to being anti-social during my lunch break to sit at my desk to read.

I've also started to more seriously pack, though for Christmas my hubby bought me a new travel backpack (you know, one of those huge ones that you can backpack across Europe with... which I'll probably use it for as well) and I'm eagerly awaiting for its arrival so I can start packing for real. Right now I have many items laying in neat piles in my closet (man, it's a bitch keeping your house clean 24/7 when you're trying to sell your house) eager to find a place in my new backpack. I'm happy to get a new backpack though because I would have had to use my hubby's, which is much too big for me and might not be able to be carried on, and it had no pockets other than the main compartment and a shoe compartment on the bottom. Have I mentioned yet that I'm an obsessive organizer and love tons of pockets? So I was in packing hell trying to work it with that backpack. We figured I'd need my own for Europe anyways, so mine-as-well get one now so I can use it for Uganda, too.

I'm getting more and more excited to go as the time approaches. I'm going to feel like a newbie since it seems like most of the other gals going this will not be their first time in Africa, but for me it's my first time truly out of the country. My poor hubby meanwhile is lining up X-Box 360 dates for while I'm gone!

Oh, one bit of exciting news though! Hubby and I requested only money from everybody for Christmas, but his father insisted on at least buying us one thing so that he could wrap something up for us, so my one thing was Suite Francaise which I've been hearing so much about and am eager to read. Hopefully he gets it for me! Wahoo! The best presents will always be books for me.


Tofu = Gay

So somebody needs to come over and push my mouth shut because I literally cannot believe this article:

Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That's why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today's rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products.

Thanks to The Daily Dish for this enlightenment. Tell you the truth, if this is true then I'd happily feed my son tofu! I've always said that I'd be thrilled to have a gay child because at least I'd know that the child would grow up in a completely loving and accepting home and hopefully will then be better prepared with our support to face the world of homophobes and people prejudice against gay people.

Seriously, though, people have completely taken their fear of homosexuals a bit too far with this tofu bit. Gimme a break!


Thirteen Moons: A Review

Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier is about Will Cooper, a bound boy outcast from his family after he is orphaned by his mother's death. As a bound boy Will falls in love with Claire, a mysterious Indian girl who is the charge of the conflicting character of Featherstone, a cruel and yet fatherly figure to Will. Will is also adopted into a nearby Cherokee tribe by Bear, a wise and kind Indian who clings desperately to the old ways and refuses to move his people from their home land. This novel is epic in the sense that it takes you from Will's boyhood into his old age. It is with Frazier's beautiful and descriptive language that this novel is told in, bring forth the time period so vividly that you feel as if you were there.

I will start off by saying that I adored adored adored Cold Mountain with an adulation that has made me reread the book (something I rarely do now-a-days because there are so many books on my TBR list) and push it onto anybody who shows the slightest interest in literature or reading. I was ecstatic when the movie was made and enjoyed that as well. With this is mind, I approached Frazier's long awaited sophomore novel with great anticipation and expectations. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by it. And I preface this with my adoration of Cold Mountain because perhaps I wouldn't have been so disappointed if I hadn't expected so much from the book. Not only did I expect it to be as intense as Cold Mountain but the storyline sounded wonderful and with all the elements that I usually love in stories. Learning about past times, an intense romance, war, different cultures and redemption. I expected a story that would pull me along by my heart so that I was desperate to keep reading the book, like I was with Cold Mountain. I do warn you, as you can probably already tell, I will compare this book to Cold Mountain often in order to make my point of what worked and didn't work for me in the novel, whether or not it is fair for me to do so, it's impossible for me to separate them at this point.

My first issue was with the point of view, Cold Mountain was in third person narrative and also gave the points of views of both Inman and Ada, which worked wonderful to develop their characters and to build the suspense of their love and their reunion. The intensity of Inman and Ada's love for each other was portrayed perfectly as a representation for other desires, such as Inman's desire to be home and Ada's desire for company and intimacy. Cold Mountain was wrought with desire, danger and heartbreak. Every character was vivid and well developed and the drive of the book was strongly and pulsing. Thirteen Moons was as opposite as you could get. The point of view was first person and I found the voice of Will Cooper to be inconsistent and a bit distant at times. I felt that we lost a lot of character development of some of the main characters such as Bear and Claire through Will's voice. Featherstone, in fact, is the only character that came to me vividly. Even Will's true character was lost on me and felt false. I truly wish the book had been in third person and I would have been interested to have Claire's point of view, though I would have been okay without it. Will's voice was neither convincing nor interesting and the story came out extremely flat to me. The relationship between Claire and him was even less convincing, I didn't feel Will's desire for her except for the first time he met her, and that worked because he'd just been sent out as a bound boy and was lost and lonely and the connection he made with her when he "won" her worked well. However, I never felt it again and much of the story's plot didn't make sense to me. He sometimes goes searching for her and other times doesn't? His search for Claire never seemed desperate or driven, it always seemed like, well, I guess I'll go search for her now because I don't have anything else to do. And Claire was never a person to me, she was a body in which Will coveted. I never once got a sense of who Claire was, she was an enigma, a representation of some sort of perfection that Will made her out to be, but she wasn't real to me and maybe never to Will either. It was an entirely flat romance and got tired and old.

Another issue I had with the book was that the conflict was nearly non-existent, which I find really difficult to achieve considering the book spans over the removal of the Indians to the West and the Civil War. The only time I felt true conflict was when Will and Bear's people were hunting down Charley, and it was from Charley's point of view (told through Will) that presented the conflict and drama. You felt Charley's pain and conflict, not Will's. All the other conflicts seemed glossed over by Will, a quick retelling of the events without letting you experience them. There were definitely not enough scenes and far too much summary in this novel for my tastes.

Overall I was most disappointed because Cold Mountain was such a rich and vivid book and Thirteen Moons was neither. It came out flat and uninspired, even though it had so much potential. I wanted to know Bear and Claire better. I wanted there to be true passion and tragedy between Claire and Will and with Bear's people. I wanted to truly feel Will's love for the Indians and his desire to find a home (I really didn't get this theme at all until I read a line about it near the end of the book). I wanted to experience the tragedy and drama of war, feel the fear of Claire that Will would die, or Will's fear that he'd never see her again. I tried really hard to enjoy this book, and while Frazier's writing was once again beautiful, the story was disappointing.

Now, things I enjoyed about the book. Of course the writing was superb, there's no denying that. With phrases such as:
Writing a thing down fixes it in place as surely as a rattlesnake skin stripped from the meat and stretched and tacked to a barn wall. Every bit stationary, and every bit as false to the original thing.
Often the phrases of description Frazier used were pure poetry and I got to know the land and the times of the 1800s very intimately. I know more about that time period than I did before reading the book and it has led me to be more interested in it. If nothing else, the novel is educational and detailed to an excruciating degree.

Overall, I think my opinion of this book is clear, not one of the worst books I've ever read, if nothing else, the amazing writing of Frazier and the history lesson makes the experience worth it, but definitely nothing to rave about. The good news? The movie rights have already been bought and I guarantee you that the movie will beef up the parts of the novel that were lacking, such as character development and of course the romance between Will and Claire, as well as the drama of war and the removal of the Indians. I look forward to the movie and hope it will fulfill the things that lacked in the novel so I can enjoy the story that was bursting with the potential to be one of the great stories written about that time period in our history.

For some different views on Thirteen Moons, feel free to visit here, here, here, here, and here.


Cool Linkage

I was cruising a cool Steelers Blog, Joey Porter's Pit Bulls (I mean, the name says it all, does it not?), and found a link to Steelers Bars through the States AND Internationally! Now I knew that there were Steelers Bars in most major cities and states, but the international Steelers Bars are pretty cool. I mean, previously, my hubby and I would try to schedule our vacations around the football season so we wouldn't miss a game (yeah, I'm not joking) and the one time we didn't was for our honeymoon but we had made sure prior to leaving for it that the resort would receive the channel the game would be on, luckily it was a nationally televised game. Unfortunately the moment the game started the resort's satellite went down, which resulted in a panicked running around the resort trying to find someone to fix it so we could watch the game. It was the Steelers/Giants game of Ben's rookie year and we sure as hell wanted to see Ben beat Eli's ass... not that we were bitter or anything that Eli got picked before Ben because of his last name. Just curious though, why such a poor showings in Utah and Mississippi? Only one Steelers bar, what'd we ever do to those states?

A mixture of technology and literature in a crazy way.

Orhan Pamuk's Nobel Peace Prize speech.

Now I know what I'll be doing at work for the next couple of weeks. Thanks for showing me this, buddy!

And that's all folks, enjoy your all's weekend, hopefully it's not as bitter cold and horrible as it is here in Ohio. I'll be watching football this weekend, but it'll be more relaxed than usual. Not only have my Steelers already played and won big time (anybody else drooling over Anthony Smith's performance?), but my Vikes have the lowly Lions to play and I've already clinched the division in both my fantasy leagues, so I could lose in both leagues and still make it to the playoffs! Life is good. Next week I'll be back to the stress filled football Sunday with the Steelers playing at Carolina (and they've been lowly on the road), the Vikes playing the Jets (who have been good when they feel like it) and my playoffs in Fantasy Football starting (where one loss means you're out!)

But this weekend, it's all relaxation and fun!

Look for my review of Charles Frazier's Thirteen Moons coming sometime early next week, or this weekend if I'm feeling ambitious.


Some QB Funniness

The new:

And the original:

Don't worry Ben, I still support you even if BradyFan83 has turned his back on you! Though, you have to admit, his video was pretty damn funny. It does beg the question, however, would you rather be adored by BradyFan83 or dissed by BradyFan83? After watching the Brady Tribute, I'm leaning towards dissed.

BradyFan83 apparently has some other vids out there on Randy Moss and Emmit Smith, which I haven't had the opportunity to check out yet, but feel free to and let me know if they're worth it. I did live out the Randy Moss era in Minnesota as a Vikings fan, so I definitely will have to watch that one!


mai wen's Book List of 2006:

Alright, so in a totally unoriginal fashion, I'll be listing some of my favorite books I've read in 2006 (they weren't necessarily published in 2006, but just books I'd read in 2006). I'll throw out a disclaimer that I only started listing books that I read since I started the blog, so I don't really remember all of the books I read at the beginning of the year (gosh, that seems Forever ago!) so the picks might be heavily taken from the end of the year.

  1. Without any doubt Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison was my absolute favorite book I read this year, and one of my faves of all time. It'd been a while since I'd devoured a book like I devoured this one. It kept me up at night and I literally stayed up until 3am to finish the book. Song of Solomon is clearly a masterpiece, and the fact that Morrison has other books out that are deemed masterpieces over Song of Solomon makes me eager to read more of her novels.
  2. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez was a masterpiece as well, a novel that spans across generations of one family and moves you through the mystical and the real, mixing the two so carefully that it is nearly impossible for you to separate the two by the end of the novel. The novel tears at you and is as intelligent as they come. It was a journey reading it and one that I couldn't shake from my bones for days afterwards.
  3. The Known World by Edward P. Jones is also (to be completely cliche) a masterpiece. Another book that mixes the mystical with the real and spans through a time in our history that was as muddied and mixed up as ever. A time when African Americans owned slaves and plantations. A time of transition and ugliness, but also of beauty, hope and strength. The novel is an epic novel that moves you seamlessly through the different lives and experience of its characters and brings you to all the tragic and heroic endings that the book can bear.
  4. Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon is an excellent graphic novel the begins a discussing on the war in Iraq. Overtly political, well written and beautifully drawn, I was disappointed when it was over. Even though there was no possible way for a sequel, I deeply wished for one and was sad by the end.
  5. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel is another graphic novel! Man, I've really broken into new territory this year! Granted, I've read and adored Maus I and II by Art Spieglman, but that was the extent to my graphic novel experience. Thanks to the literary acclaim of Fun Home that buzzed the book in my ear and a good friend who's really into comics, I was able to be more exposed to this great art form. In this graphic novel, Bechdel was daring and stunning. While I had some issues with the book, mostly it involved a wish that the characters outside of Bechdel and her father to be more fully developed, and that was because I loved the novel and the story so much, I just wanted more!
I told myself I'd limit myself to my top five of this year (not counting the first half of this year, which unfortunately I have no memory of what the hell I read), so there it is. I hope it gave you some good Christmas books to ask for!

What were your favorite books you read this year?

From The Well Known and The Not So Well Known

Via Daily Kos:

"Former secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday that it is time to face reality and recognize Iraq is in a state of civil war. Powell made the statement after growing what are known as ‘retirement balls.’"
---Amy Poehler

"President Bush met with the Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki. Afterwards President Bush said 'Maliki is the right man for the job.' Just to remind you, President Bush also said FEMA's Michael Brown was the right man for the job. Donald Rumsfeld [was the] right man for the job. Tom DeLay was the right man for the job. Which would be okay...if Bush was the right man for the job."
---Jay Leno

"NBC has announced that they will now refer to the Iraq war as a civil war. President Bush said no, no, no, no, no, it's not a civil war until it becomes a series of Time-Life books."
---David Letterman

"The White House announced today that it was banning the sale of iPods to North Korea. President Bush said, "If North Korea is going to make nuclear weapons then we won't let them listen to Coldplay."
---Conan O'Brien

"A Trainer at Sea World Adventure Park in San Diego was hospitalized Thursday in San Diego after a killer whale grabbed him and twice held him underwater during a show. On the bright side, the trainer did give up the location of three al Qaeda hideouts."
---Seth Myers

Via Overheard in Minneapolis:

Minnesota Woman: Where are you from?

Iowa Man: Iowa.

Minnesota Woman: (singing) What's high in the middle and round on both ends?

Iowa Man: ...that's Ohio.

Minnesota Woman: Oh... I thought that was Iowa.

Via Overheard in New York:

Professor: If you put a frog in a beaker of water and gradually heat it, at about 160 degrees or so the frog will look around and say, 'Oh, shit! I'm dead!'


Overheard by: Emily J

Professor, as student closes window and piece of paper floats outside: At least it wasn't a body.


Overheard by: jaclyn

Professor spastically spilling coffee on text: I just got so excited by Emerson I ejaculated my coffee all over him.

--Literature class, Columbia University

Professor: The Native Americans used peyote as part of their religion. And if you do peyote, believe me, you're going to have a religious experience. You're going to think you're flying next to God, like, 'Hey, God! Why you going so slow?'

--Columbia University

Overheard by: leilah

Professor: Please turn off your cell phones, beepers, pagers, interactive Gatorade bottles... Thank you.


Overheard by: Kaleena

Writing teacher: ... And I thought to myself, 'These people are artists. They're not supposed to be acting like normal people. They should be acting aloof and riding some sort of bizarre bicycle that they made themselves.'

--Eugene Lang College

Professor: I'm so not used to teaching like this... It's like a classroom.

--Eugene Lang College, the New School

Overheard by: rpk

Also, thank goodness my mother never caught me opening my Christmas presents early!


Packing Away My Life

Okay, so I haven't quite started packing for the big move next year (which probably will take place in May), though I have packed a couple boxes of books so our office didn't look like a cramped library and we could get rid of one of our poorly made bookcases. I tried to lighten the boxes of books by splitting them with clothes, but as my husband will tell you, I don't think it helped much.

I have, however, started packing for Africa, which my husband lightly jibes me for because if it were him, he'd be packing the weekend before the trip, if that! Sigh, I'm destined to be an obsessive over-planner, and hence my packing has begun, as have decisions such as should I get a mosquito net? Should I go with the 30% Deet or 40% Deet bug spray? What's "conservative" dress? Frick, I just realized I didn't think to put PJs on my list, what sort of PJs? I have enough trouble packing as it is for any sort of trip (just ask my husband who has to lug around my weighed down luggage), but for Africa, I mean really, even with lists galore, how can you really be prepared for the completely different world? And plus, we're strongly advised to pack light since we'll be carrying our bags around a lot... yeah, I'm screwed.

Another huge question I had was whether I should bring my camcorder or not. At first I'd thought it'd be a great idea, what a great way to remember all of the events and to relive the experience, especially since it's been a long term desire of mine to write a novel on the child soldiers of Uganda. A video would be an amazing way to document my experience in Uganda that I could use as reference later when I start my novel. However, obviously my first goal and priority is to the people of Uganda and I've since learned that taking pictures and recording video is often seen as rude, depending on the situation, so of course the camcorder is out.

But truly, as I've began my preparations for Africa, I've realized that there's far more to consider than I originally thought. Considerations on how to interact with the Ugandans without being condescending or colonial towards them. I absolutely do not presume to know better how to fix all of their problems then they do and truly I hope to learn from them as much as they learn from me. But then that brings up the question, what the heck do I have to offer them? I'm knowledgeable on the issues in their country right now and have helped raise money for the child victims of the war, but what could they truly learn from me? But maybe they don't aim to learn from me, but only to educate me so that I can come back to the states and educate the people here, and hopefully start a movement that can make an impact - which I hope to do. I'm very curious on what the Ugandans who are participating in this summit aim to get out of this.

There are currently many arguments against short term volunteer visits in developing countries, arguments I was not aware of until I was accepted and started doing some research to prepare for my trip. These arguments make it clear that volunteers can do very little good painting schools, etc. in such a short term visit and that it'd actually be more beneficial to just donate the money that would have gone to travel expenses directly to the people. When you think of it, why would the locals want some people paying thousands of dollars just to travel to their country to paint a school building when they could have hired local help to do it, not only giving one of their countryman a job, but also saving tons of money to be used elsewhere where there's a need. They state that these short term trips are mostly beneficial for the volunteers as a unique experience and a new perspective on life outside of their's, and often all these trips do is make the volunteers appreciate their own lives more. However, most articles do validate the usefulness of volunteers who take what they learned and apply it once they're back home to help the people in the country they were visiting. I'm very thankful that the group I'm going with seems very open and up front about these perceptions and that one of the main focuses for being accepted into the program was what you intended to do with the knowledge learned on the trip after getting home. Also, while the trip is costly, we're attending a summit and not taking a job away from the locals. The aim of the summit is to learn from the Ugandans and discuss at a "round table" (kimeeza) solutions for rebuilding and healing Uganda. We are to come as equals, not as superiors who assume we know more than the Ugandans about their own country's problems. The efforts of this summit is to build relationships that will last beyond the trip and develop into positive relationships overseas in which a mutual goal of helping Uganda rebuild and heal is worked on.

I hope that the youth we visit in Uganda get as much out of this summit as I know I will. I know that this trip and the fact that many view short term volunteer trips to countries in need as a trip more for the volunteer than those in need will inspire and push me to take this trip and make something out of it. I'm don't want to disappoint the people whom I will go on this trip with (who sound like an Awesome group of gals... yes, no boys were brave enough the venture out with us) or the people I meet in Uganda. It is a responsibility that I will carry with me even more so than I already do.

I am excited and nervous about this trip. The last thing I'd ever want to do is offend anybody while I'm over there and I have shed the assumption that people there will be thrilled to have me over there. Ultimately I would feel honored to be a part of the country's rebuilding and healing process, if they'll have me.

What do you guys think about volunteer work in other countries and their benefits or lack thereof? If you think they're not beneficial, what are better alternatives? As a soon to be graduate student of Social Work, I'm truly intrigued by this topic.

For a good summary and up-to-date issues with this conflict, check out this article.


Winter's Bone: A Review

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell is about the rough and tough Ree Dolly who's left in charge of her crazy mother and her two younger brothers. She lives in a poor area where she has relatives seemingly speckled everywhere she goes. Her struggles to take care of her family at age sixteen by herself compounds when her father puts their house and land up as security for his bond, and then he disappears. In a determination to save her house and land, Ree sets out to find her father. Through her quest we learn what one will sacrifice for love and the meaning of courage.

I really liked Ree. How could you not? She says things like, "Right now I feel like I want to blow me a big sloppy hole clean through your stinkin' guts." She doesn't take no shit from no one and she loves her brothers and mother so fiercely that she's willing to risk anything for them, even her dreams of escaping the life of poverty and drugs that surrounds her. This novel is rough and ugly at times, showing people's ruthlessness and weaknesses. It is written bluntly and sometimes awkwardly: "Clouds looked to be splitting on distant peaks, dark rolling bolts torn around the mountain tops to patch the blue sky with grim. Frosty wet began to fall, not as flakes nor rain but as tiny white wads that burst as drops landing and froze a sudden glaze atop the snow." Those sentences are an example of the awkward style of writing I found in this book to be very distracting. The first sentence started out alright, but Woodrell's habit of ending sentences with adjectives makes the sentence harsh (which may have been his intention, since much of the language used in this book are sharp and harsh) and awkward. I felt like often Woodrell's descriptions didn't flow because of this style of writing and it was very difficult for me to get into the story for much of the book because I was so distracted by his style of writing. The second sentence re-demonstrates Woodrell's using an adjective as a noun writing style, but not at the end of the sentence, but rather at the beginning. These two sentences do follow each other in the book, and so to have this harsh method used twice right in a row made me doubly cringe. "Frost wet"? I feel like I'm talking to a two year old who doesn't know his adjectives from his nouns. Maybe it worked for some people, but frankly, for me it didn't. Not that all of his descriptions and writing were horrible, just the ones that used that particular style.

The characters are very vivid in this novel and at once despicable and lovable. It is often that a character you have pegged as one thing shows another face in this story. The characters are often complex, especially Ree, who battles her need to escape with her love and determination towards her family, especially her little brothers whom she wants to be raised different than all the other Dollys to make something of themselves. She also battles her love and attraction for a best friend whom she can never have and the fear and love for an Uncle who raped her and for a father who made mistakes that threatened to take everything from her and her family, but whom she comes to realizes loves her and her family in his own way. Ree is a complex character who doesn't ask for much for herself and protects herself with a hard layer of tough talk and attitude backed by her independence and courage.

This novel is dark and encouraging, brutal and tender, a contrast of all sorts that leave you feeling the harsh realities of the world. It is not a novel in which you can escape in and feel all warm and fuzzy in the end, on the contrary, it's a novel that is unforgiving with it's reality and bluntness and perhaps will make you appreciate your cozy life more, as it did for me. The novel's ending is the epitome of reality in every sense. It does not end in the most ideal way, with a nice red bow tied around it, it ends realistically, how it'd probably have ended in real life. It is a good, quick read, but not a novel that will awe you or steal you from your life. For me, it didn't stick either, the novel quickly drifted from my consciousness and I was quick to move on to my next read, Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier, whose writing style vastly fits my tastes better. It's full of long elaborate descriptions that suck you away into another place. Descriptions that are so pretty that sometimes you forget to pay attention to the actual meaning of the sentence and have to reread it. Granted, that takes you out of the story a bit as well, but in a way that you don't mind because, especially as a writer, you just appreciate the writing so damn much.

My review for Thirteen Moons will be coming, pending the completion of the book. I'm already behind on my aggressive schedule for reading it, so I'd better get a reading!


Thatta Boy!

Big Ben is a man after my heart! An avid animal lover, Big Ben bought his hometown a new K9!

Dude, I'm all about the animal love, I was at Petsmart last night with the hubby and almost adopted three cats.

Okay, so I was already all about Big Ben before his animal generosity, but that sure doesn't hurt my unbridled admiration of him.

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