Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What Shamu Taught me About Life Love and Marriage

Amy Sutherland was a journalist who decided to write a book about animal training. She went to one of the only animal training schools in the country. She wrote a book about it called: Kicked, Bitten and Scratched: Life Lessons at the World's Premier School for Animal Trainers which I understand is an excellent book. She also wrote a tiny little article for the NY Times about using animal training techniques on her husband and friends and found the way to instant fame. Her article for the NYT was the most emailed article in 2006. Check it out.

This book is a longer length work based on the article. A lot of the information is intuitive, but when put in the perspective of training people, it sheds a whole new light on human relationships. One letter to the editor in the Times reminds readers that Sutherland did not really change her husband, she changed how she acted and reacted to her husband which in turn prompted new and better responses from him. This is a fascinating book, and my husband doesn't know it but I have started "shamuing" him. If you don't have time to read the book, at least read the article. People are, afterall, animals too.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tea Party

I realize that tea parties are off topic for this blog. Since I have met and gotten to know Steph and Sweetcakes, I have taken an interest in the elegant and charming and relaxing practice of afternoon tea.

My sister-in-law and I treated our mother-in-law and her friend to afternoon tea at the Orchid Room at the Hilton Netherland Hotel in Cincinnati. Of all the tea houses and tea rooms I have been to with Steph and Sweetcakes, this is probably the best. I can't wait to take them there.

Simple but time tested loose leaf teas were on the menu:

An individual plate of savories for each guest. Note to tea party goers: If you are a vegetarian order the vegetarian option in advance.

A huge assortment of breads, scones and pastries. This was more than all of us could eat.

An added bonus was that our server Michael knew tea well and presented all of our food and tea with a flourish. Here he is showing a member of our party one plate of the breads and scones:

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I finally broke 300 on this geography game that also helps alleviate world poverty.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


I am fascinated with writers who write about other writers. I loved Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face and was stunned at her tragic death. What was more fascinating was the look inside her life by best friend and fellow writer Ann Patchett in the memoir Truth and Beauty.

I have just finished reading Finding Iris Chang by Paula Kamen. Ms Kamen tells the story of Iris Chang the writer of the famous and internationally best selling historical work called The Rape of Nanking. Iris Chang tragically took her own life in 2004. This beautiful tribute to Iris and her work explains what she stood for and what demons may have possessed her at the end when she shot herself.

I loved Iris. I hardly knew her yet I loved the person she was. I loved how she sought out documents at archives and interviewed people so she could tell their story. I loved that she could not shut herself off from the horror and tragedy and that she let it take hold of her and shape her life and her work. Of course, I do not like where it led her in the end, but her story in all its sadness is a tale worth telling.

I suppose the allure of these memoirs by friends of writers gives us a glimmer of the truth behind the star. The other allure is the discussion of female friendship at its most complex and endearing. What woman among us does not have a best friend we could write a novel about? If we did, what would we say? What documents could we produce that would tell the world her story? What letters are hidden in our attic? What friends would we interview? What memories could we pull up from our crazy life together?

Finding Iris Chang is a story of a great woman who died too soon. It is all the more enjoyable told from an insider’s perspective.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach

I received an early review copy of this book and was interested to note that it was a highly sought after book. I was one of 20 lucky library thing reviewers to receive it. I thought perhaps it might be because I live in Bloomington, Indiana the location of the Kinsey Institute and one of Mary Roach’s subjects in the early chapters of her book.

Whatever the cause, I was thrilled to get the chance to read this fascinating look at how sex research is done and how scientists throughout the ages have viewed sex. What makes it imminently readable is that Roach has the perfect sense of humor and quite literally inserts herself into the science whenever she can. If research about sex seems awkward then it is so much easier to write about and read about when we picture this woman boldly going where no one has gone before, into the sex lab with microphone and notebook, ready to take pictures, make notes and even in a few circumstances participate in the research in order to see it and understand it in action.

Although I enjoyed every chapter, especially her footnotes, most notable was the chapter on MRI’s and coital imaging in which she got her husband to join her in the MRI machine. I also loved the story about the career of Middle Eastern doctor and sex researcher Ahmed Shafik who researches sex undercover. If you think finding subjects for sex research in the west is difficult, imagine trying to do it in a Muslim country.

This book is laugh out loud funny, captivating and very relevant to most of our lives and relationships.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Some of you found the short essay I submitted to the NPR "In Character Blog" on my old childhood favorite Harriet the Spy.

In case you did not--here it is: Harriet the Spy Essay

NPR did a feature this morning on the character!!! Listen here.

Although they did not mention that it was MY idea, I still feel great that they picked her. The piece is terrific. Much better than my essay. Of course they had more words to use. My limit was 150. Thanks to MKP for alerting me to this mornings broadcast.

Also I found this website paying tribute to Louise Fitzhugh:

Go Harriet!