Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day 9: BWC - Story Continued

Part 3: An Unusual Transformation

One evening after dinner, Fiona and Jack were playing with some blocks in the living room while their mom and dad did the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen. Suddenly, they heard a loud gasp and then an even louder crash. Jack jumped over Fiona and the blocks and in one leap, two cartwheels, and a back flip was peeking by the side of the kitchen door to survey the scene. He could see that his father had dropped several dishes, which had broken into many tiny pieces all over the floor. He also saw that Soupy Sales had jumped on top of his mother's head. Both his father and mother were standing frozen with shocked looks on their faces, staring at something on the other side of the room. Jack motioned for Fiona to come see what was happening. She and Jack peeked around the corner to see what their mom, dad, and Soupy Sales were staring at on the other side of the room. They couldn't believe their eyes! The turtles, who had been out of their cages to eat their cantaloupe, had suddenly grown to twenty times their normal size! The turtles stood staring at one another looking very confused.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day 8: BWC - Story

Part 1: Fiona

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Fiona who lived with her mom, dad, her younger brother Jack, her cat Soupy Sales, and two turtles in a big house by the side of a park in Madison, Wisconsin. Fiona was a very happy girl who liked to giggle a lot. In fact, her mom, dad, and brother Jack were always trying to get her to laugh, because when she laughed it made them all feel very happy, too. Everyone who ever met Fiona instantly loved her and even the cat and the two turtles would follow her around wherever she went, although usually the turtles lived in a cage. But even in their cage, they would stand up against the side watching Fiona, hoping she would come by to visit them, which she often did. Fiona looked exactly like you're picturing her, to a tee! But, there was one thing about Fiona that you might not have guessed. Fiona was just a little girl, but she was already becoming an expert detective. And, not the usual kind of detective. It's true that if anyone lost their keys, Fiona knew exactly where they were. But, also, if someone was unhappy or if two people were arguing about something, Fiona knew exactly what the solution was to that kind of problem, too. She didn't know a lot of words yet, but somehow she knew just enough and just exactly the right ones.

Part 2: Jack

Also, once upon a time there was a little boy named Jack who also lived with his mom, dad, older sister Fiona, his cat Soupy Sales, and two turtles in a big house by the side of a park in Madison, Wisconsin. Jack was a very agile boy who liked to do acrobatics. In fact, his mom, dad, and sister Fiona were always trying to get Jack to do flips and cartwheels because they were so amazing to watch. Everyone who met Jack instantly loved him, because he was also a very happy and loving little boy. The cat and turtles, however, liked to watch him from a safe distance because they never knew when he might run across the floor into a front flip with a half twist. Jack looked just exactly like you're picturing him. He wasn't full of words yet, but he was a good listener and he liked to help his older sister when she was doing her detective work.

TO BE CONTINUED

Friday, January 29, 2010

(Very) Random Question of the Day

Do you try to buy organic clothing? If so, what are you thoughts about doing so?

Day 7: BWC - The Catcher in the Rye

I am not someone who reads books multiple times. I would always prefer to read another book, because there are just so many out there that I want to read. That said, I have read *The Catcher in the Rye* at least four times. Catcher was the first book I ever read in which I strongly identified with the main character. I think it was the first book that made me really love to read. While reading a great article about J.D. Salinger in the New York Times yesterday, I remembered how much I really loved that book and how I felt like I almost lived in it for a little while. The article made me want to read all of his books again and made me hope that somehow someday more of his writing will be published, even though that seems very unlikely.

*The Catcher in the Rye* was assigned as part of an elective literature class I took my senior year of high school. The year before I had had so much reading to do for school in history and literature classes particularly, I pretty much hated reading. So, it was such a relief, as an angsty teenager, to read:

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages a piece if I told anything pretty personal about them.”

I remember when I got to college, I made a good friend because of our mutual love for Catcher. We were both thoughtful, idealistic, somewhat depressed, overly sensitive young people who loved poetry, had pride in our talent, but also had much uncertainty about how to go forward in the world. I think we both related strongly to Holden because he was also depressed, sensitive, and felt alienated by the world, like no one really understood him.

Many years after college, I remember reading Catcher again, for the fourth time, I guess, and discovering that I didn't relate to Holden in the same way at all that I did when I was younger. It was a little disappointing not being able to enjoy it like I had before, but I knew that I had changed and that it wasn't a bad thing. Still, I value the book so much for what it gave me during a time when I needed someone and something to identify with. Thanks, J.D.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day 6: BWC - Art is Healing

Sometimes when I'm feeling down or needing to get through a stuck place, I do something creative, like write a song or a story or a poem or a quiz or something else that is artistic or creative in nature. It's not that every time I do something artistic it's because I'm down and out, but that I find the creative process to be very cathartic and actually that it's kind of, I guess, *essential* to my well-being. I remember in college that a good friend of mine would occasionally suggest that we and some other friends get together in one of our dorm rooms and paint with watercolors. It was so fun. I have to wonder why I don't do that anymore. Watercolors and oil pastels are very enjoyable to play around with. I've never been someone who could draw realistic subjects, but I've always enjoyed putting together doodley patterns. The thing is, I think for anyone who has been trained to do any one of the arts professionally, there is a struggle, because you develop such a fine ability to critique yourself and others, that it becomes hard to give yourself (and others, when you teach) the permission and the space to focus on the process instead of the product. The idea of focusing entirely on the process with no regard to the product at all is especially challenging, but incredibly rewarding.

While teaching voice lessons to community members in Rochester, NY many years ago, it occurred to me at some point that the lessons I was teaching served as a sort of therapy for some of my students. While some were focused on specific goals, like wanting to sing in a choir or band or audition for a musical production, there were many who just had the desire to sing without really knowing why, and who, I could see over the time we worked together, were making changes in their personal lives that showed healthy growth and development. I'm not trying to take credit for those changes, but I do believe that the voice lessons, that learning to sing, helped them to make positive changes in their lives. Because this was such a positive experience for me and I was able to develop teaching methods that were really useful with beginning adult students, I have always really enjoyed teaching that population in addition to teaching more traditional classical lessons.

It was suggested to me a number of years ago that my methods could also be useful as a type of therapy for adults with more serious emotional disturbances, like post traumatic stress disorder, for example. At the time, the idea seemed like a wonderful one, but in thinking about it more I realized I felt quite unqualified to work with populations in which I might be called on as anything resembling a therapist. I have certainly had students cry in their lessons from time to time over the years, but I have never been faced with someone with a really serious trauma to process. So, although this might be an excellent avenue to pursue with my work, I have resigned myself to the idea that I don't really feel qualified to do it. In recent months, it has come to my attention that there are a number of degree programs that might be very appropriate for broadening my skill base. I had always thought that music therapy was primarily a field that trained therapists for work with young children with developmental disabilities, but as it turns out, there are counseling degrees in which you can specialize in music therapy or expressive art therapies that might actually be a perfect complement to the skills and work I have already developed. I have also found a certificate program in sound healing, which may or may not be appropriate. I don't know if I want to pursue a license to counsel with music, but it is reassuring to me that such programs exist should I decide to move in that direction. In the meantime, I would like to encourage you, my friends, to enjoy the arts for all the ways in which they heal you.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Getting To Know You

1. What do you think of the iPad?
2. What about summer (or warmer weather) do you look forward to the most?
3. What do you need from the grocery store?
4. Pick up the nearest book to you, turn to page 5 and write down the 3rd sentence.
5. Is there music playing where you are now? If so, what is it? If not, what sounds can you hear?
6. Who was the last person to make you laugh?
7. If you had a magic genie, what would you wish for right now?

(me: 1. It doesn't look that interesting or useful to me. 2. wearing flip flops and going around without a jacket. 3. tp. 4. "Among the passengers there were some who were returning from abroad; but the third-class compartments were more crowded, and they were all petty business folk from not far away." 5. No music. I hear the refrigerator mostly, but I also hear cars passing by on the street below. 6. Ricky Gervais. 7. to not be sick anymore)

Day 5: Blog Writing Challenge

Good morning. Well, I'm still sick. I had a fever of 100.4 before going to bed last night and then woke up covered in sweat again. Yuck. I feel really sleepy right now. I'm starting to wonder if this is a good idea at all. How interesting can a blog be that's written when my brain is at its weakest? Anyway, I guess I won't give up yet, but I might do something to change the parameters. I don't know. At any rate, I'll try to tell you something interesting.

Yesterday when I was home sick I watched a very funny movie called *The Invention of Lying* which stars Ricky Gervais. It's about a town (and a world) where people always tell the truth and there is no such thing as lying, even in the name of fiction. That is what makes the movie so funny. The main plot line is pretty good, but seriously, what makes this movie hilarious is the ridiculous dialogue between people at the beginning of the film. Part of me wants to give you more details, but part of me doesn't want to spoil it in case you decide to see it. I always like movies better when I don't know anything about them or know very little. Anyway, I also thought *Ghost Town* was really funny. I think that's the last movie I saw him in, the one where he plays a dentist. Ricky seems like the kind of guy who has an infectious laugh, like if you were hanging out with him, you'd be in stitches all the time. There is just something about him that makes me smile, but I know a lot of it is that the jokes he writes are genuinely funny, so he's obviously very smart and talented. But, it's like he's just so amused by life and by funny ideas. I don't really know this, it's just how it seems to me.

Well, I am seriously considering going back to bed. Have a good day.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day 4: Blog Writing Challenge

Good morning. Well, I woke up covered in sweat and am not feeling so especially great this morning. I thought it was going to get easier to get up, especially if I got a full night's sleep, and especially if I got up right when the alarm went off, but I guess being sick makes it harder. What's annoying to me is that this has never progressed into a significant head cold. I am just super exhausted, feverish, have a lot of back pain, and a little congestion, but not a significant amount. Why do I feel like I'm not legitimately sick unless my voice sounds horrible and I'm blowing my nose every 5 minutes? I don't know. I went to work yesterday thinking I was much better, but I felt really hot all day and then went to the doctor and found out I have a low grade fever (If your normal body temp is 97.6 and you have a temp of 99.7, does that make the fever more significant?). A woman I work with told me that if you have a fever, that means you are contagious. I've never heard that before. I thought that you're only contagious for a few days at the beginning of the virus. So, now I don't know where my thermometer is and I think that I should probably stay home if I do still have a fever, but I have no way of knowing that, unless I only consider the fact that I woke up covered in sweat. Or, that it's probably freezing in my apartment, because the heat is not on, but I don't feel cold. Hm. That's not very scientific. Sorry I sound so whiney today. Anyway, I don't have anything interesting to say and I've reached my 200 words, so I'll leave you with something really interesting I read yesterday in the Wikipedia article on Free Will:

"It has become possible to study the living brain, and researchers can now watch the brain's decision-making process at work. A seminal experiment in this field was conducted by Benjamin Libet in the 1980s, in which he asked each subject to choose a random moment to flick her wrist while he measured the associated activity in her brain (in particular, the build-up of electrical signal called the readiness potential). Although it was well known that the readiness potential preceded the physical action, Libet asked whether the readiness potential corresponded to the felt intention to move. To determine when the subject felt the intention to move, he asked her to watch the second hand of a clock and report its position when she felt that she had the conscious will to move.[79]

Libet found that the unconscious brain activity leading up to the conscious decision by the subject to flick his or her wrist began approximately half a second before the subject consciously felt that she had decided to move.[79][80] Libet's findings suggest that decisions made by a subject are first being made on a subconscious level and only afterward being translated into a "conscious decision", and that the subject's belief that it occurred at the behest of her will was only due to her retrospective perspective on the event...

Related experiments showed that neurostimulation could affect which hands people move, even though the experience of free will was intact. Ammon and Gandevia found that it was possible to influence which hand people move by stimulating frontal regions that are involved in movement planning using transcranial magnetic stimulation in either the left or right hemisphere of the brain.[88] Right-handed people would normally choose to move their right hand 60% of the time, but when the right hemisphere was stimulated they would instead choose their left hand 80% of the time (recall that the right hemisphere of the brain is responsible for the left side of the body, and the left hemisphere for the right). Despite the external influence on their decision-making, the subjects continued to report that they believed their choice of hand had been made freely..."
link to article

*ETA: I stayed home.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Day 3: Blog Writing Challenge

Good morning. So, this morning, when my alarm went off, I was square in the middle of a dream*. I am still trying to wake up. Nashira is sitting on my lap (and on top of my left arm) keeping me warm. It is cold in this apartment.

Last evening, after eating a delicious meal of two fried eggs (over hard, in butter) and buttered french bread toast, I watched a documentary called *Naked States*. *Naked States* is about a photographer who does really nice artful nude poses, who decides he wants to photograph someone nude in every state of the U.S. Although in the film he professes to not be a nudist and the scene in which he works with nudists shows them to be the least cooperative of all his subjects, the film really does something to normalize nudity. There was nothing sexual about any of the nudity in the film. There were just lots of naked bodies of all shapes and sizes. Sometimes he photographed just one or two people and sometimes he photographed hundreds of people (like in the middle of the street in NYC and in front of the Boston Public Library) or thousands of people (at a Phish concert in Maine). The scene of 1,000+ people lying in a field in Maine is incredible. All the people are lying on their backs with their hands at their sides looking in the same direction. The bodies look like ripples in an ocean or something. It's really quite beautiful. There is a little political commentary in the film about why it's illegal for us to be naked and at the beginning of the film the photographer gets arrested for causing a public nuisance or something, but most of the film centers around the photographer asking random people if they would be willing to pose nude, seeing their initial reactions, and then how they feel afterwards. Most of the people, or at least those who are filmed talking about their experience, are liberated by the experience. It was quite interesting. I have to say, I love documentaries.

*A person who I think was my friend, Cliff O., but sometimes took the form of Dave S. (the bassoon kind), was at my house (which might have been in the Eastman dorm), hanging out with me and my cousin Julia. We were all sitting on my bed while he was painting my cat, who was Vana in the dream, blue. He was painting the tips of her ears at first, but then when I looked at her more closely, I could see that he was also painting her eyeballs, which upset me, but I wasn't super upset, I was just kind of concerned and joked with him about it. We were talking about how my brother, Eddie, had gone running and we, too, were going to exercise or something. I think right before I woke up, he left to go do something he needed to do before we exercised. And earlier in the dream there was a scene in which I was in the middle of a staircase that looked like something dorm-ish. The walls were red brick, though. I don't really remember the details with any certainty.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Day 2: Blog Writing Challenge

Good Morning! This is the first morning in quite a while in which I've woken up *not* feeling groggy. Woo hoo! I'm not really sure why. I am guessing either a) I'm not sick anymore (even though my nose is still stuffy) or b) It really does help to get up right when the alarm goes off (although I did that yesterday, too, with less spectacular results) or c) 6:00am is a good wake up time for me. Oh. I don't know. But, anyway, I am very glad that I am feeling more awake this morning. Also, I went to sleep a few minutes before 10:00pm last night. So, maybe there is something to the bedtime/wake up time change. I have read that if you consistently get up at the same time, it gets easier and easier to get up. I should note that I have previously been a notorious "snooze" presser. I think I will stick to 6:00am for a while and see what happens. This may be difficult on the days when I have rehearsal from 7-10pm and even on the days when my schedule goes until 8-9pm... but I'll try to be optimistic.

So, yesterday afternoon I was chatting, via google, with my Bostonian friend, Jake, who told me that he was about to make dinner. In the midst of the conversation I told him that I never cook for just myself, that I basically never cook anymore, and that I was planning to have oatmeal for dinner. Jake asked me why I never cook for myself and recommended that I should! I think my brain was trying to use snot instead of neurons to process thought yesterday and I was still feeling sick and had very little energy, so at the time this did not seem like a good idea. But, luckily, in the late afternoon a while later, I started feeling like I had more energy, and I decided that I *did* want to go get some groceries and cook some dinner for myself.

I walked a couple of blocks to a grocery store called *Sutter Fine Foods*, which is a market smaller than a normal supermarket, but bigger than a convenience store, that happens to have a pretty good selection. Also, they have the kind of coffee I like to use in my french press, which I was out of. When I got there, I chose a small yellow squash, a small zucchini, 7 white mushrooms, a white onion, and two small tomatoes. And then I went to the small refrigerated section with cheeses and found a tub of grated parmesean and some fresh four cheese ravioli. In addition to the coffee, I also bought butter, a mini loaf of french bread, and honey flavored Greek yogurt (which is my new favorite food on the planet). On the way home I stopped at Blockbuster and picked up a couple of movies. While I was doing the dishes and cooking, I set my MacBook Pro up on the cabinet which divides my kitchen from what is probably supposed to be the dining room, and chose from hulu.com the last episode of the Conan O'Brien show, which was amusing and touching. I sliced the onions and then sauteed them in a generous amount of butter, then did the same with the mushrooms, then after a while the tomatoes, and then the zucchini and yellow squash. I let the vegetables cook for quite a while before adding some Santa Cruz Mountain Pinot Noir. And then turned up the heat while I boiled the water for the pasta. I boiled off quite a bit of the liquid so that everything was just a bit brown. I guess I forgot to say that I also added freshly ground sea salt and freshly ground lemon pepper while it was cooking, but no other spices. Once it was done cooking, I drained the raviolis and plated them, and then topped them with the vegetable mixture and the grated parmesean. Then I sat down on my futon and watched *No Impact Man*, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The pasta was delicious, if I do say so myself!

*No Impact Man* is a documentary about a couple with a young child who try to reduce their environmental impact as much as possible over one year. It was particularly interesting to me to see how the woman in the picture transforms from an espresso guzzling shopaholic to a much more relaxed and seemingly happy person. But mostly what I liked about the film were the reminders of all the different ways we as individuals make an impact and the ways in which we can reduce that impact. I don't think there was any new information in the film or any issues I had never thought about before, but I enjoyed it just as well. I would have to say the one way in which I make an environmental impact that bothers me the most is the amount of trash I create. It really kind of makes me sick to my stomach. I really do need to cook more and buy less packaged/prepared food. And, I need to make sure I have a reusable coffee mug with me at all times *and* at least a couple of reusable bags. I am not always good about that, so I could definitely improve. Also, I think I need to flush the toilet less often. I don't know if I would go as far as they did in the film and not use toilet paper at all, but I could certainly reduce my water usage by not flushing every single time. And... I was thinking... if I cut my hair, I could take shorter showers. But, I'm not sure about that yet. I think you know you need to make a change when you do something that bothers you so much it turns your stomach. That's how I feel when I'm at a store and have forgotten to bring a bag with me and have to use a bag they provide. I've felt like that for years and I'm glad policies about bag use are changing. It's so disturbing when I think about garbage island. Oy.

Well, it's 7:41am, so I've got to stop! Until tomorrow, my friends! Have a great day!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Day 1: Blog Writing Challenge

It's 6:51am on Saturday morning and I've just rolled out of bed for the first day of my writing challenge. Not only am I super tired, but I've been sick for the last couple of days, so my head is full of snot, which makes it much harder to think clearly. In fact, I have no idea what to write about and wonder if I am still essentially in a dream state. I have Ravel's String Quartet going through my head.

For nearly 30 years of my life I lived in upstate New York. I lived in Syracuse for the first 18 years and then Rochester for the following 11. Since then I have lived in Boston, Madison, and now San Francisco, which are all wonderful places, but there are some things about upstate New York which I miss very much. One of those things is Wegmans, the giant supermarket. I also miss having a driveway in which to park and more importantly in which to unload the groceries which I have just purchased at Wegmans.

Wow. This is really difficult. I just don't really feel like I can think at all right now. I am currently making french press coffee, but it is not ready yet. I'm not surprised that I feel this incoherent. I wonder if getting up this early on a regular basis will lead to greater coherency at this time. I saw a chart of circadian rhythms yesterday on reddit.com that showed that your blood pressure should be the highest at 6:45am that it is all day. Just out of curiosity, maybe I will take mine to see. Systolic number is 100. Yay. That is on the high side for me.

Ok. It's 7:13am and I have just had my first sip of coffee. My challenge to myself was that I need to post by 7:30am. The reason for this is that I normally work at 9:00am on weekdays. But it's Saturday and I'm sick today and am not even teaching any students. Which, I guess, brings me to a good topic. I feel awful, awful, awful every time I cancel students or call in sick to work. I guess I was instilled with a pretty solid work ethic. My mother always bragged about the fact that she never took a sick day from work. I wonder if her parents never took sick days either. All I know is that I feel really pathetic when I take sick days. On Thursday, I was not feeling well. My boss called in sick with a cold and that made me realize that the reason I felt like I had just been knocked out could very well be because I, too, was sick. I had an appointment with my trainer at the gym at Noon and after much debate, decided to go, thinking that maybe working out would make me feel better. At the gym I felt feverish and with each set of exercises started to feel more and more lightheaded. I told my trainer I felt like I was having an out of body experience. He said, "That's not good." After I left the gym and got back to the office, I sat in my desk chair and stared into space for about 10 minutes and then realized that I couldn't think at all and was pretty much no good for working. I stayed for probably 30 more minutes and then went home sick. I subsequently came down with a head cold.

Well, it's 7:34am and I was supposed to post this 4 minutes ago. I am far from satisfied with how this came out, but, I guess, I did what I set out to do.

*ETA: Ooh... I see that the post time is the time I *started* the post! So, it doesn't even show what time I finished writing!!

Friday, January 22, 2010

30 Day Blog Writing Challenge

I have been having a really terrible time getting up in the morning, so I have decided to set a goal for myself to help me facilitate getting up! For the next 30 days (until February 21st), I am pledging to write a blog entry every morning and have it published by 7:30am PST. I have decided that each blog entry must be at least 200 words, but beyond that, I have no specifications for what the entries have to be about or what format they need to be in, except that the words need to be written by me, not quotes of someone else's writing. Also, I can't write them the night before! They have to be written in the morning! So, wish me luck! I will need it. Thanks!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Getting To Know You

1. What is on your feet right now?

2. What sort of computer are you using?

3. What is the weather like in your neighborhood right now?

4. What are you reading that is interesting -- &/or what subjects are interesting to you right now?

5. What's the last movie you saw in the theatre or DVD you watched at home?

6. Who is the last text on your phone from?

7. Are you in school? If so, what are you studying? If not, what would you be in school for if you were in school?

8. What is the last beverage you drank and/or food you ate?

9. What is the last piece of music you put on to listen to?

(me: 1. black socks and black suede loafers; 2. a Dell PC; 3. Rainy, windy, dark, and stormy; 4. psychology, music therapy; 5. Avatar in theatre, Flight of the Conchords on DVD; 6. my neighbor, Colin; 7. No, but I think I would like to study psychology, although I have a partial doctorate in voice performance... I wonder if there is a way to combine those fields?!; 8. Green Tea, Luna Bar; 9. Beethoven 3rd Symphony)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

California

I recently took a weekend trip up to a town about an hour north of San Francisco. Although I was really stressed at the beginning of the weekend because I had to rush there right after work and didn't get a chance to do laundry or any other important weekend things, the next day it became so clear why the trip was exactly what I needed. It is SO green in California right now and as a result, the landscape is just gorgeous. Also, the town we were in was far enough from civilization that at night I saw more stars than I think I have ever seen. It was amazing - the layers of stars, the shooting stars, the brightness of the constellations, etc. It is still so novel to me living in a place where things are actually living in January, given my long history living in places where everything is frozen from October to April. The beauty of this part of the world is entrancing and... I like it. I do. I do.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Books I Read in 2009

These are all the books I managed to complete reading in the year 2009. The book at the top is the one I completed last:

Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart - Dr. Gordon Livingston
The Hound of Rowan - Henry Neff
bonk - Mary Roach
If Only They Could Talk - James Herriot
One Renegade Cell - Robert Weinberg
Better - Atul Gawande
Complications - Atul Gawande
Tell Me Where It Hurts - Dr. Nick Trout
Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson
The Life You Can Save - Peter Singer
The Worry Cure - Robert Leahy
Cognitive Therapy Techniques - Robert Leahy
Feeling Good - David Burns
How To Be An Adult - David Richo

You may notice that I only read one book of fiction... That was The Hound of Rowan, which I actually enjoyed very much despite its many similarities to Harry Potter. It's quite fun. I got really into reading books about science and medicine this year. Atul Gawande's essays are really compelling. He's a terrific writer and the subject matter, which largely revolves around hospitals and his work as a surgeon, encompassed a lot of things I had never really thought about. Both books were eye-opening and I pretty much couldn't put them down until I was done. Robert Weinberg's primer on cancer was really difficult to understand (I had to re-read many of the paragraphs several times over) but very worthwhile. I didn't have any idea what cancer was or how it worked to destroy the body, so it was something I was obsessed with for a little while. Mary Roach's book is hilarious. I loved it. The cognitive therapy books were great and very useful at the time. I thought they were going to totally change my life and I do think they made a positive impression, but it's amazing how difficult it is to change how you think, to change such deeply ingrained habits. I discovered that I really am quite a negative and critical thinker... and learned many ways I can stop that downward spiral once I notice I'm in it. Three Cups of Tea is a wonderful book. It made me think a lot about another favorite book of mine, The Places In Between (Rory Stewart). Mortenson's book takes place in Pakistan, whereas Stewart's book takes place in Afghanistan, but both books are so beautiful. I have such deep admiration for Greg Mortenson's work building schools. What an incredible sense of purpose!! And, I got a bird's eye view of what people are like in a place so far away, a place I may very well never go. I love to travel that way. It's such a treat. Peter Singer's book is basically a plea to people with money to give it to starving children in developing nations. He specifically calls out to people who make at least $100K, which does not include me, but I think it's a worthwhile read for anyone. It drew my attention to the work of a few really noble organizations that I have started giving money to. Also, I read two books by veterinarians. James Herriot is an excellent writer, of course. Dr. Nick Trout's book was really wonderful. He's a surgeon at an animal hospital where I went many times with my kitties while living in Boston. It's a very touching book and gave me some measure of peace. The very last book I read was a book given to me by my brother and sister-in-law for Christmas. It's full of a variety of good advice about life and going out on a limb in pursuit of happiness. Three books did not make it to this list because I didn't finish them in time, but I do hope to finish them all at some point in the next year (I hope!): The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Male Sexuality by Dr. Michael Bader. Dawkins's book has not yet made me decide I'm an atheist (and most likely will not), but #1: It is making me understand his point of view much better and is making me realize that most people I know who don't like him don't actually understand his point of view or what he means by "atheist" and #2: It is broadening my appreciation for science's desire to understand where we come from and how the universe began. The Bader book is absolutely fascinating. That's all I'm going to say. Riveting. The Idiot is wonderful, but it's long and dense, and it always takes me a long time to read Dostoevsky, as much as I love his writing. It often helps for me to switch to another translation if I am having trouble getting through, so I think I'm going to do that.

PS: I should also note that I bought and was given many books that I never ended up reading. One book in that category was Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. I love the title. And, the first chapter was an amazing and touching story. But, chapters 2-5 were really not that interesting, so I quit reading... Also, Who Dares Wins by Bob Mayer was really great and useful to me in overcoming some fears I had, but I didn't end up needing to read the whole book, even though the whole thing might have been useful...