Blog Hop- Brrrrrr With a Side of Ef Don DeLillo

Blog Hop time! Or, as we like to call it- Christine is too lazy to think of a topic and needs to go hammer out a long run before her Sunday half marathon (just running with my nearest and dearest 40,000 fellow runners on the Las Vegas strip Sunday night).

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish- Top Ten Books on My "Going to Read" List for Winter:

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins- I caved and bought the set with a gift card. We'll see... I can confidently say by reading one page of Twilight that it sucks balls; I need to read these myself to say one way or the other.

2. The Women by TC Boyle- I have three books of his that I haven't read yet! I'm a die-hard Tortilla Curtain lover and was mesmerized at his reading, so I'm confident they'll be awesome.

3. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach- A book that I got several months ago through Amazon Vine that has seen a lot of initial success.

4. Light Boxes by Shane Jones- a short little experimental-esque novella that has gotten quite dusty.

5. Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro- A short story collection that will be perfect for when we go on our short San Francisco trip in December. With the constant rushing traveling involves I feel that short stories work best for me.

6. The Time of the Doves by Merce Rodoreda- Honestly, I know very little about this book except that it is set during the Spanish Civil War and is a translated work (a book club selection).

7. Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith- This collection of essays by the anti-chic lit queen is also a contender for travel.

8. Underworld by Don DeLillo- I've been "reading" this beast for years (somewhere around 6) and it's on my 2011 Literary Resolutions list to finish. Fuck DeLillo and fuck this book. The bane of my existence. But, godammit, I'll do it.

9. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov- A classic, shall we? Plus everyone loves a good tale of underage sex. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Yay Kwanza.

10. The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins- Must have at least one non-fiction title.

Please note that:
a. I probably will not stick to this, as I find rules stifling
b. i consider winter from now until May
c. I seriously mean it when I say "fuck Underworld"

Nonfiction Nagging- Antibiotics

Before I begin, I suppose it is my ethical duty to state that I am not a healthcare expert and that my knowledge and opinions come from being a concerned, semi-informed citizen. Wanting to be a doctor and holding a biology credential may make me a nerd, but definitely not a professional.

So, while everyone in the world today was out snatching up TVs for $20 and macing fellow shoppers, I was holed up on my comfy couch reading Antibiotic Resistance: Understanding and Responding to an Emerging Crisis by Karl Drlica and David Perlin (please note that all information in this blog was acquired from this text, unless otherwise noted). For fun. This was not for a class or for credit, it was total self-education. And boy did I learn.

Personally, I stay away from antibiotics because a) they make my birth control ineffective and, more importantly, b) the body can often fend for itself. My cheap-ass younger self spend some time insurance-free time in college and got sick numerous time... and survived. Interestingly, now I don't get sick (knock on wood) often- my personal opinion is that I built up resistance then and during my years teaching elementary school. I've been aware for many years that the world is rendering antibiotics ineffective by overuse and I have wanted no part. Unfortunately, my concerned have now been affirmed: I have no choice.

Antibiotic resistance is a global problem that impacts us all, no matter what. It stems from:

Doctors prescribing antibiotics for viruses (colds!), possible infections, and other inconvenient symptoms. Some studies have found up to half of the 100 million antibiotic prescriptions distributed each year are unnecessary (bets on how many go to kids with slight ear infections, adults who swear they have sinusitis, and people tired of coughing?). We don't like being sick- there's nothing wrong with that. What is wrong, though, are doctors that lack the balls to say "rest, drink fluids, and let your body give it a go for a week or so." Oh, and old-school docs calling in meds without seeing patients? Augh! No! No! No! Doctors admit they simple don't have the time or energy to fight with people. No one likes an unhappy customer.

Moo, Gobble, Oink
The agriculture industry has used antibiotics and growth hormones for years now at an alarming rate. The cows take the antibiotics and we eat the meat. Need I say more?

A Spoonful of Medicine...
Dosing guidelines are too conservative. Resistance happens because of mutation; low dose antibiotics aren't always strong enough to kill a bacteria population before the whole natural selection/survival of the fittest theories kick in. Little Joe Bacteria mutates to resist Penicillin, reproduces, and all the sudden it's not working anymore. Joe Bacteria reproduces... and reproduces... and reproduces... and then escapes the body so your coworker/child/friend/bus seat partner then picks it up. Boom. Higher doses does mean a possible increase in side effects; the pharmaceutical industry is too concerned with low side-effects instead of the resistance problem.

It's All About the Benjamins
Drug companies aren't terribly concerned with developing new antibiotics (or possibly more effective combination drugs) because the money is in more expensive prescriptions for diseases that require prolonged dosages. Pneumonia is temporary (if treated appropriately), while diabetes requires a lifetime of prescriptions.

The authors of this text, nor I, aren't calling for an end to antibiotic usage. They are absolutely necessary, and life-saving, sometimes. There are certain people that should not put off going to the doctor when symptoms show (those with compromised immune systems due to HIV or other diseases, the elderly, young kids that are obviously suffering, etc...), yet most of us need to trust our bodies a little more. And, we need to take care of ourselves so we're strong enough to fight off infection in the first place. Stop stressing! Start eating better! Workout! Laugh! Have more sex! Wash your hands! Go to bed earlier!

It's also really important to remember that there are good little bugs out there- all you germaphobes who carry around hand sanitizer on your key chains need to calm yourselves. Some microbes are good- they help build resistance and break down certain things in our bodies (like in the digestive tract). The authors mention the fact that antibaceterialing (yes, I made up a word... artistic license) the hell out of your house can actually be a disservice to your kids- living in bubbles do not help build up immune systems for a healthy adulthood. So yes, keep your house clean, but it's not necessarily to clean everything with Lysol every night.

So, at the end of the day, it's like voting. I personally can't really do much about this global problem by turning down a Z-Pack, but if we all started working together to reduce antibiotic consumption we could.

PSA for Today

I just/finally finished Jeffrey Eugenides' The Marriage Plot, and, while the end of the month review will be forthcoming, I had to take a few minutes to discuss one of the major concepts the novel deals with, as it's something that has unfortunately been a huge part of my life.

For those unfamiliar with the text, it's about three college graduates stuck in a love triangle. The novel follows them through their late college years into the year following their graduation. Madeline is the one coveted by both Mitchell and Leonard; she chooses Leonard, while Mitchell sets off abroad instead of dealing with the shitty economy of the 1980's recession.

Madeline and Leonard's relationship is quite tumultuous, given that he is bipolar, which is where my connection to the novel comes into play. Stop getting excited- this isn't me announcing a personal diagnosis of mental instability to the world (I'm admittedly moody at times due to running out of cereal or the dog waking me up at 4 am). My father suffered from this mental illness and eventually took his own life when I was a freshman in high school, making me a decent judge of how people with the illness act and how it impacts those around the person. I went into the novel on the lookout for bullshit, but am pleased to say that I feel Eugenides did a good job portraying a bipolar patient. Leonard had highs and lows, his medication was ridiculously hard to stabilize (this was a huge part of my dad's struggle), and those around him felt a wide range of emotions ranging from anger to helplessness to frustration in regards to his behavior. One day Leonard would be throwing parties and leading midnight adventures to casinos and then a few days later he would disappear. Eugenides obviously did his homework- not sure why I had any doubt.

What frustrates me is the false perception of manic depression/bipolar disorder many people have. The word is thrown around constantly for people who are emotional or at times unstable. Let me tell you, there is a definite difference between being moody or depressed and actually having this disease. While I'm not a doctor, healthcare professional, or sufferer, here are some of the more interesting aspects of the disease:

- More than 50% of cases start before the age of 25 (although they aren't necessarily diagnosed til until later)
- Can't be "cured," just managed
- Mania is more than just being hyper; it generally includes fast talking, breathing changes, extreme distraction, prolonged periods of feeling "high" or even irritable, sleep changes, unrealistic expectations, or risk-taking (impulsive sex, spending sprees, etc...)
- The severity of the cycles can differ
- People who are bipolar often have greater risks for anxiety disorders, substance abuse, thyroid problems, migraines and even diabetes
- Genetics play a risk; children who have a parent or sibling are 4 to 6 more times to develop it (so if I stay clear then my kids won't necessarily have the heightened risk). The odds are low already, though, so don't let the statistics fool you. And of course genes aren't the only risk factor- hello nature vs. nurture
- There are lots of available medications that continue to produce more favorable outcomes, but there are still side effects and balancing issues
- Obvious increased risk of suicide
- Those that feel they have symptoms or know someone who may should consult their doctor

And that's my literary-inspired PSA for the day.

Lucky to Be Alive

This is Chomsky:

Sometimes he's referred to as "Buddy," "The Fat K
id," or "Chomskito" (okay, the last one is just by me).

Today he was referred to as "you effing little shit!"

In retrospect, it was partly my fault- I left the book do
wn while I shut my eyes for a few minutes (I just came back from Vegas, so give me a break), and he is still a puppy at 9 months. But, then again, books are NOT TOYS. He's pretty good about only destroying his personal possessions, but today- not so much.

After putting him in his crate and going upstairs to collect myself (thank for the deep-breathing lessons, Yoga Den) I realized that it was still readable and would look fine once put back in the jacket, which I take off before reading. But still. It's my book and he hu
rt it.

Little effing shit.

It's That Time Again

I'm not really a big birthday person- I don't declare the week before the 22nd "birthday weekend" or make lofty gift requests. I think this comes from growing up- my family was on a budget so we did lots of modest family parties and no one went crazy on the gifts (which, by the way, I have no qualms about and is the way I'll strive to raise my kids too). Add in the fact that I'm getting older (no, not my late 20s), I'm cool ignoring it.

That is, unless I get a birthday book cake.

My awesome friend Joanna (check out her food and healt
hy living blog) made me a book cake, including fondant and legible writing (you should see my lack of frosting skills). So cute, such a great color, and so good (running fuel for my impending 3-4 miler).

Growing old sucks, but having true friends there with you makes it a bit more manageable.

Especially when they come to your house with chocolate cake.

Book on Your Back- Awesome, Man (and Pinterest)

I love this shirt, probably because I use the word "awesome" too much.

I'm not really sure about the source; I saw it on this stupidly ridiculous site called Pinterest and then it redirected me to a church site. And then I got scared. Here's the pinning and here's my Pinterest, just to show you the fruits of my trolling.

While I'm talking about Pinterest I just have to say that there are some definite good things and bad things about it, from the few weeks I've been on.

- I'm loving it as a way to store recipes for food, desserts, and drinks
- Great way to remember things you don't want to clutter up your "favorites" with (dresses! clocks! t-shirts!)
- The ap on my phone keeps me entertained on the 1/4 mile walk from my classroom to car everyday. For some reason that walk seems longer than running 5 miles.

- They're growing way too fast and simply don't have the technological support to keep up. The results equal glitches and error screens.
- It's free. This is bad because it's actually valuated to be worth quite a bit; eventually they're going to start charging or are going to eff up our boards with ads.
- It's just another form of social networking that you have to watch yourself on. On my bucket list I stuck up a picture of a boudoir shot because it would be nice to be so hot you'd want people to take your picture. For those that don't know me, I'm now this anonymous slutty person that has secret aspirations of becoming a porn star (porn star name, in case you want to know, would be "Raven Countryside." Kinda of nice). It also allows people you do know to get you better- good and bad. Anyway, you get the gist.

Happy the Weekend is Over Eve. Expletive, expletive, expletive.

Spiney Art

One of the (fun) challenges of having a new house is deciding what you want on the walls. My husband and I are quite particular, and really are in no hurry to fill the walls with random, meaningless crap. You are what you hang on your walls.

My discovery of this awesome company, Ideal Bookshelf, ran by artist Jane Mount, definitely gives possibilities. She creates simple, whimsical paintings made of book
spines that come in a few sizes (8 x10 runs $26, while 11 x 14 $55). You can either purchase prints of ones that she has already created or customize your own actual paintings. There are tons of options for the prints, featuring anything from children's literature to classics to contemporary literature to gardening books. Two of my favorites:

I also really like the idea of taking her note cards framing some of the ones that work with the books I have and love.

What intrigues me the most is the custom painting options, of course. You pick your own books, take pictures of the spines and send them to her. It's a little pricey, but it is customized art. I'm hoping to ope negotiations to go halvsies with the man who pays the mortgage with me after the holidays. This of course made me thinks about the books I'd want if I were to do it. My picks (based on appearance and importance):

Haters Gonna Hate

Why must I torture myself? For some god-foresaken reason I decided to waste my time and watch this tidbit on Nicholas Sparks on CNN today. Those are three minutes I will never get back.

My take:

Headline "Nicholas Sparks calls writing painful"
Thought: The only thing that's painful is listening to your mouth and reading your words.

"I need to blow my nose... allergic to the books."
Thought: I hope you blow the five brain cells you own out of your head and spare the world anymore books. I'm allergic to your books. Sneezing, coughing, scratching and vomiting.

"...All of which have been made into movies."
Thought: Shut up you money-hungry asshole

"I write what I think people will want to read..."
Thought: He had just said writing would be easy if he wrote what he wanted to; can you say "SELL OUT?" Douchebag.

"The motivation for me largely these days comes from that my publishing house expects a novel from me every fall..."
Thought: What would a book you truly wanted to write be like? You have enough clout to say "no," why don't you? Work outside the box, write something you want to. I think I have even less respect for him now I understand "playing the game" when you're young, but this far into it? He could easily rework his contract.

"... a wife and five kids..."
Thought: Oh, he's a [insert religious community that reproduces in excess of 2.5 kids]. I mean someone dumb enough to not use condoms. I mean someone who obviously needs the cash to feed the family.

I almost feel bad for him. And it's passed.

Top Ten Tuesday- You're Making Me Uncomfortable

A lot of things make me uncomfortable in my life. People changing their baby's diapers in front of me. Being questioned about my personal life by people not involved in it. Teenagers with low rise pants. Opening gifts in front of people. Being hit on when I'm sober. The list goes on.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish asks us to divulge the top ten books that have made us uncomfortable. This is pretty difficult; books don't make me uncomfortable and I'm quite accepting of new genres. But there are some that have forced me to go outside my comfort level, and a few that maybe I shouldn't have read when I did. Here we are:

1. Shank by Roderick Anscombe: I read this when I was about thirteen- I have no clue what made me want to buy a book about a man in prison when I was that young. I remember very little except the graphic description about the glory hole (thanks to my husband for that terminology) that the male prisoners employed. At the time it was traumatizing; now I understand that we all have needs and 20 years can be quite a long time...

2. Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison: This is another novel I read way too young and just remember feeling very strange when the young protagonist masturbated, considering I was reading it in the family room while my little brother and sister watched cartoons (see note above about needs... I promise no more awkward sexual references from my youth).

3. Maybe Baby by Lori Leibovich and assorted writers: This was a collection of essay written by people who have made choices to have, and not have, kids. I read this recently, and I think it made me uncomfortable in a good way- as a married girl in my late (ew) twenties this is very relevant topic that deserved some reflection.

4. Big Machine by Victor Lavalle: I'm not normally a sci-fi reader, but I had heard great things about this text so I gave it a try. The unrealistic elements being treated real was hard for me to accept in a novel, but the writing was superb. While I haven't read much since, I wouldn't hesitate to pick up his next novel.

5. A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne: I read this for a college education class and was legitimately uncomfortable with the assumptions she made about the culture of poverty. The blatant stereotyping and borderline racism was just too much for me. As educators we need to understand the culture are students come from, but it needs to be accurate.

6. Marley and Me by John Grogan: I'm not one for the "I found the meaning of life in my animal" genre, but I read the young adult version to my students when I taught elementary and this one made me horribly sad at the prospect of losing my pets. I read it every year and made sure that I had a bottle of water handy when I got to the part where they put him down. I'd stop, yell at some kid for not paying attention and take a few sips so I wouldn't cry in front of my kids.

7. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Piccoult: This book didn't make me uncomfortable for the scientific organ-harvesting aspect; it made me uncomfortable because I was reading such a highly popular mainstream book. What can I say? I'm a snob. It was okay; what my husband would refer to as "Oscar bait" in movie terms. The writing was definitely mediocre.

8. Open Me by Sunshine O'Donnell: This novel is a high under-rated novel, all about professional wailers that people pay to mourn at funerals (illegal in many places, but still happens). It's hard to pinpoint why this bothers me. In a way it trivializes mourning and death, by turning it into a business. Also the abuse the young child in the novel faced was very depressing (by the way, I highly recommend this book).

9. Another Day in the Frontal Lobe by Katrina Firlik: I've used this book before on the blog, and I've rambled on about the regret associated with it as well. This memoir is about a female neurosurgeon and her trials and tribulations in the field. The discomfort factor comes with the remorse I feel in regards to switching from the doctor track to the teacher track. While I've grown to accept and embrace it, I can honestly say it will probably forever be one of the biggest regrets of my life. That and not partying more in college.

10. Underworld by Don DeLillo: This makes me incredibly uncomfortable because I started it six or seven years ago and have yet to finish it. What the hell? That isn't like me, not finishing something I start. I'm a doer! I problem solver! A task manager, a list maker, a to-do addict. It's downright shameful. But, it will happen. Mark my words.

Books on Your Back- Whore!

In honor of the girls who dressed up as Olive from Easy A for Halloween last week, here's a shirt from Novel-T celebrating that stupid whore Hester Prynne:

Can I Get a What What?

What I Need: Patience to teach Julius Caesar to my sophomores during the next six weeks.

What I Want: Good Times painting by Christopher Stott (only a mere $998)

What I Roll My Eyes At: That I had one student ask to read a Chelsea Handler book and another a Miley Cyrus biography for their extra credit books assignments.

What I Hate: eReaders are getting cheaper (than
ks a whole fucking lot, Amazon)

What I Wish: That I could rent a (luxury, fully renov
ated) cabin for a week somewhere out in the middle nowhere and read by a fire drinking Bailey's all day. It would be quiet, it would be cozy, and it would be expensive.

What I Love: That so many great books came out this fall. Perotta, Murakami, Eugenides, Smith, and Ondaatje, to name a few.

What I Wonder: Marisha Pessl's new book would have an actual release date so I could determine whether or now she is a one-hit wonder.

What I'd Visit Tennessee For: Paranassus books
, an independent bookstore that Ann Patchett is behind in Nashville. I've been stalking the Facebook page since I heard her talk about it during the summer and love seeing it come together.

Book Nerd Out

This post is my entry in the Book Nerd Out giveaway hosted by Book Riot: Reviews, Recommendations, and Commentary about books and reading (but, you know, fun).

Choosing my biggest "book nerd out" experience wasn't the easiest task, as there have been many. Being the dorky kid in the bright-pink glasses reading the newest Babysitter's Club Book at recess? Crying over the lost dust jacket for Charlotte's Web? Changing my major from pre-med to English in college? Driving through crazy LA traffic to see Patchett, McEwan, Allende or Hornby read? Or maybe the hours scouring the internet for the perfect book tattoo.

Or maybe when I realized that I owned (well, co-o
wned with my husband) a first edition copy of Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer.

Yeah, that's the one.

It all started last spring when I sucked it up and drove to my Alma mater's (go Bruins!) arch-rival, USC, for the LA Time's Festival of Books. They had stolen it away from the prestigious, picturesque UCLA campus that year and I was mentally composing a list of negatives to blog about when I got home. We stopped at Book Soup's booth and started wading through their tables when my husband asked me about Jonathan Safran Foer's new book. As a fan I felt instant shame, color rising to my cheeks. I had loved Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close- how could I not know he had written something new? Immediately I grabbed it and we start
ed looking at the oddity that is Tree of Codes. For those not familiar, Foer took Bruno Schulz's The Street of Crocodiles and, with Visual Edition's help, created a new story by removing part of the old text by die cutting. It's art.

On the way home we noticed that it appeared to possibly be a first edition and after some research and twittering with Visual Editions we learned that it was. Currently the book is going anywhere from the low $200s to close to $400 (not that I'd ever sell it). It's my only first edition, and while "trophy" items don't generally matter to me, I definitely hold this one near and dear. In an age where people are flocking in droves to digital media I relish this as a possibility for innovation at the print level. In fact, I'm slightly afraid to read it- the delicate pages seem like an accident waiting to happen. Would I push the envelope if I added something about wearing gloves, climate control, and inserting it in my will?

So, this is my "nerd out"- I managed to not know about the new release of a favorite author, freaked out at the first edition status, and allow it to inspire diatribe after diatribe about the future of the book.