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books

In Link Roundups on
July 12, 2015

Things I Wanted to Write About This Week, But Didn’t.

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teeny tiny succulents at a farmer’s market in DuPont Circle that I wish I could bring back to MO with me.

In true DC fashion, this week has been broiling and action-packed; here’s what I was reading on the metro this week via Pocket:

(Side note: I’m writing this while listening to this week’s ‘Call Your Girlfriend’ podcast [titled: Free Boobin’] and they discuss in detail their insane love affair with Stanley Tucci…a love affair I confess to having as well. Just look at him!)

(Source: the-toast.net)

And no, I couldn’t find a smaller picture of Stanley Tucci. Could I have tried harder? Maybe. But it is what it is. *shrugs*

Have a healthy and happy week!

In Uncategorized on
July 3, 2015

Book Review: The Martian

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The Martian by Andy Weir

Appropriate for: high-school or older, maybe mature middle school children.

Pages: 369

Please tell me you love space stories as much as I love space stories. To me, real-life space exploration (à la NASA) is almost cooler than any sci-fi story thought up by an author behind a desk. Space is still the last frontier, the final untamed wilderness, right? That line of thinking makes astronauts into radical space cowboys. And if any character in fiction currently has the right to be a radical space cowboy, it’s Mark Watney from Andy Weir’s The Martian.

The book revolves around a simple enough plot line: Watney gets stranded on Mars after his crew evacuates, and he has to find a way to survive on the little red planet until he figures out a way to get help or communicate with Earth. (Also, this book is beautifully designed; I’m not sure who did the cover art, but it is actual art. I’d frame this book cover if I could.)

Now, I love space. I used to post up on our big leather couch back in Chicago with my dad for NASA shuttle and probe launches, counting down with the clock on CNN. My family has a background in science, and our obsession with space is well founded: it’s an area of science where our knowledge as human beings is remarkably small. The questions in space outnumber and outweigh the answers. Isn’t that cool? That’s a little bit of the reason I picked this book up as well. Because I’m a nerd. A proud nerd.

The plot is artfully arranged and written to the point where I couldn’t believe I had a hundred pages left at a certain chapter because the suspense and stakes seemed so high. The author, Weir, moves between first-person logs from Watney to third person limited observations of NASA back in Houston, narrating the stress of losing an astronaut (presumed dead) on Mars. Finally, and the part I liked the most about the point of view narration, was the omnicient, almost robotic third person POV that comes in only rarely to list specific details about parts that were installed in machines, or specific actions crew members performed prior to the evacuation. In a way, I feel like that last voice fleshes out the story even more by providing a neutral backdrop against which action can occur.

The only issue I had with this book was also a factor that will sell the book to certain readers: there’s a lot of science. Weir’s story is not that of an astronaut blindly fumbling through space trying to survive, breaking laws of physics this way and that way. Granted, I’m sure some laws of physics and thermodynamics are broken, but they’re too minor for me, a non-physicist, to notice. Weir walks the audience through every attempt at survival Watney makes, from separating particles of water into hydrogen and oxygen atoms to attempting to grow crops on dead martian soil as a food source. Once again, if you’re a well-educated scientist, this may stink of naïveté. But as a purely civilian reader, it’s also a little too high-brow to grasp at times, and can come off as boring in certain parts. By attempting to prove just how much science Watney is using to survive, Weir unconsciously separates the average reader from their identification with Watney. It’s easy to get bogged down in the science speak and forget that this guy is literally in a fight for his life (of which Weir will also remind you, but with more skill and quick, dry humor).

I loved and didn’t love how Watney responded to his situation as well. There was very little emotional examination, at least upfront. Part of this I understood: during a fight for survival, sitting down and crying isn’t a great way to maximize any potential. Granted, emotional development is still necessary to address, and this book lacked it a bit.

All in all? Even if you’re no science fanatic, if you love stories about space, Apollo 11, or anything about Mars and survival of the human spirit, pick this up. The detailed descriptions of Mars, the examination of what exactly a disappearance like this does to the psyche of the victim, his family, and his former crew, and the choices they all have to make in the wake of the accident are qualities that cut through this book’s at times heavy-handed science jargon.

In Life on
June 6, 2015

readers are leaders, man.

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I’ve been doing a lot of reading since coming home from Missouri and subsequently beginning my internship in Washington DC. Here’s where I’ve been burying my nose while sitting outside in the (prairie) grass:

Articles:

“The Last Stand in Africa’s Most Dangerous Park,” by Damon Tabor for Men’s Journal. (You should pair this with the documentary Virunga on Netflix.)

“The Only 10 Things You Need to Know Post-Graduation, from the Man Repeller. I’m not a post-grad for another year at least, but the snark and wisdom this list balances are hilarious.

6 Reasons Why You Should Do Things Alone,” from the Nectar Collective.

The Art of Living–Finding Our Creative Space, by Leah Gray from The Everygirl.

“On New York Bad Days + ‘Fake Problems'” by Grace Atwood.

What It Really Means to Eat a Big Mac at the Arctic Circle,” by Elisabeth Fairfield Stokes.

“Jane Goodall Is Still Wild at Heart, by Paul Tullis for New York Times Magazine. I love the lede to this piece; it’s amazing what little details stick to the biggest stories.

“No Survivors: What Would Happen if an 800-Kiloton Nuclear Warhead Detonated Above Manhattan? by Steven Starr, Lynn Eden, and Theodore A. Postol for Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. (What? I’m a nerd at heart. A curious nerd.)

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Have you seen the bonsai trees at the Chicago Botanical Garden? So teeny. So perfect. So aesthetically pleasing.

Books:

“The Best of Outside: The First 20 Years,” including writing by Tim Cahill, Ian Frazier, Jon Krakauer (!!!) and Jane Smiley (and many, many other phenomenal outdoor, adventure, exploration, and travel writers.)

“Small Wonder Essays,” by Barbara Kingsolver

“Prodigal Summer,” by Barbara Kingsolver (my high school English teacher once said she read it every summer for a while; now I do, too.)

“Under the Tuscan Sun,” by Frances Mayes. I first watched Under the Tuscan Sun last semester for absolutely no reason only to fall in love with the character of Frances and her whirlwind adventure to the Italian countryside. Now whenever I have a bad day, I imagine just picking up and renovating a villa somewhere near Florence. I can’t wait to dig into this book. (Thanks for letting me borrow it, Aunt Dede!)

[Two of the above books were found at local secondhand bookstores. Support local businesses!]

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Not an obsession.

To-Read List:

Radical Self-Love,” by Gala Darling. I’ve read her blog since I first ventured onto the internet, and I’ve loved her journey and her self-love story. I can’t wait to snap up this book once I have a more permanent mailing address in DC.

“Wild,” by Cheryl Strayed. After seeing the movie, I knew I wanted to read the book. I can’t wait to delve into it.

“The Royal We,” by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. What? I still want to be a princess. Sue me.

“Go Set a Watchman,” by Harper Lee. You better believe I’ll be in line to get this book when it comes out on July 14.

What are you reading? 

In Inspiration on
March 24, 2015

I’ll Drink To That.

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(Note: I am currently writing this in a giant beige wool sweater with mutton sleeves from the eighties. Thanks, Mom!)

My maternal grandmother is an icon. MaryCarol was a powerhouse of color, style, and cigarettes. To me, she embodied the last great women who dressed extravagantly well.

Which is why, when I spotted Betty Halbreich’s memoir, “I’ll Drink to That,” sitting on a shelf at my local library, I was instantly attracted. From a coddled upbringing on Chicago’s South Side to a devastating end to a terrible marriage, I loved Halbreich’s wit throughout the book. She pushes the story along with a dry humor and bluntness that is at once amusing and jolting.

Above all, though, I appreciate Halbreich’s love of luxury and of life. A self-proclaimed “child” throughout her twenties and thirties, in her first and only marriage, she’s gently comes into her own as an independent woman post-separation, relying on what would become an iconic job at Bergdorf Goodman’s department store to get her through the day.

It sounds shallow; I can see some of you rolling your eyes as you read this. And perhaps it is. But I know this: every single woman has a piece of clothing in her closet that makes her feel gloriously beautiful. It could be a pair of jeans, a shirt, a dress, or a hat. Halbreich celebrates that fact.

She reminds me of my grandmother in some ways, who was always swathed in some kind of pastel, with pants that sat much too high on her waist, always with a belt. MaryCarol smelled like a combination of cigarettes, oil pastels, and Coco Mademoiselle perfume. She was a florist, an artist, a wife and a mother. She was dynamic. I still look up to her long after her death.

This memoir, if you love clothes, comeback stories, powerful women, dry wit, or simply interesting anecdotes about famous people, is a phenomenal read. I finished it in two days flat. Perhaps the occupation with dressing well is something few people will understand, but the heart of the book, about finding your purpose through self-exploration and serving others, is broadly applicable. If you’re looking for a new read, I highly recommend this book.

In Inspiration, Life, Link Roundups on
March 16, 2015

Begin Again.

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(This is a “Things I Wanted to Write About This Week, But Didn’t” + personal updates. I hope you don’t mind!)

It has been quite a long time since I took to this blog to share my thoughts. A lot of things in my personal life have come to a turning point, and I’m sure details will leak into this blog eventually, as they always seem to do.

I’m proud of the journey I’ve made, and I’m proud of the journey I have yet to make. But some days, it’s hard to be cheerful, so here are a list of things that are making the bad days better, and the great days into phenomenal ones:

The fact that people take books, make them teeny tiny, and then into jewelry.

Can all fictional plots be reduced to data points? This article from The Paris Review discusses whether we can break down our favorite literary works into formulas based on overarching emotion–it’s pretty cool.

Two words: Breakfast. Sandwiches.

GIANT THINGS THAT ARE PRINTED TO LOOK LIKE OTHER THINGS (a.k.a. this comforter from H&M looks so cozy).

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And a little list of tiny things that make me smile. I’ve been keeping lists like these around my room lately:

Homemade chocolate chip pancakes (that I just learned to make) // a good friend’s laugh // the season’s first nectarines // foggy Missouri mornings // Thursdays // Retellings of Greek tragedies that include quite a bit of humor (‘Argonautika’ was delightful, despite all the sadness) // leisurely cups of coffee // living with a great roommate // watercolors // phone calls to my mom // a good cry // sunrises // the fact that spring comes so early here and lasts so long.

I hope you have a great week! I know I will.

 

 

In Uncategorized on
December 8, 2014

Unplugged

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Well last week my hard drive crashed and life became a lot more interesting!

Luckily someone noticed it before me and I saved the majority of important files on my computer, but there’s something about being caught off-guard like that…it was a blessing inside a curse though, because I could pretend I didn’t have any responsibilities during last week’s Thanksgiving Break while the hard drive was off being replaced. Now, of course, it’s miraculously (and expensively) fixed, so I can go back to regularly checking my email and being a general workaholic.

I definitely didn’t go stir crazy without my computer though. Yes, I still had a phone and WiFi and all that jazz. And yes, I did miss West Wing on Netflix and may have watched five episodes in a row when I got my computer back. But did a lot of fun things sans computer too. I read Paper Towns by John Green, a book I’ve been meaning to read (in one day, no less! Girl’s still got it!). I cooked stuffing with my family to prep for Thanksgiving, I played with my adorable dog, and I actually got to relax. For me, it’s hard to relax in a college town as big as Columbia. There’s always someone to make plans with, something to do, somewhere to go. That can really get to me after a while, and I feel a bit emotionally exhausted.

Now, though, after a week of no-computer-no-problems, I feel more capable to tackle my inbox and assignments. I used to think it was annoying when people “unplugged” and then sang its praises. Well duh not using a computer for a week will make you feel better! It’s not rocket science!

But, alas, I have become one of those people. And I don’t know how to feel about it.

Here’s to hoping you get to unplug during the coming holiday weeks, and get to sing its praises too.