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baby-name-wizard2Those of you who read my other blog know that I have this thing about baby names.  I grew up with a really crappy last name, one that invites ridicule and snide remarks, and it is only now, when everyone I know is having a baby, that I realized how traumatic that was.  I implored them to think about their choices, to say them out loud, perhaps even go so far as to run it by a handy eight year old.  So far they have listened to my pleas and not branded their children with anything horrible, but it was touch and go there for a while.

In May I’m going to be an aunt for the first time, when my sister in law has a baby.  I’m very excited for her and my brother both (and for my two best friends who recently gave birth to Jacob and Dylan respectively).  They aren’t really talking names yet, until they know the gender, which is smart move (it removes half the names to fight over).   Like most other couples I know, Tim and I started that fight years ago and have since narrowed it down to a short list for each gender.  And I’m not even pregnant.

Since I’ve got my own future children taken care of, I’ve been thinking about names for my future niece or nephew, especially since my brother’s child may have my last name (poor thing!).  On a recent visit to my favorite independent bookstore, I found Baby Name Wizard in (obviously) the baby section, a place I heretofore did not visit in bookstores, but which, since everyone I know has gotten pregnant, has become like beckoning siren to me.

The first page had me hooked.  I love you Ms. Wattenberg!  Here is a woman who is so obsessed with baby names that she created a computer algorithm that puts names into families for easy cross referencing.  Created. Her Own. Algorithm.  It still gives me chills.

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david-sedaris1It might seem to you readers that Jesse, Devin and I can’t be on this blog together.  However, I can assure you that despite our Clark Kent/Supermanness, we are indeed different people.  Though with our glasses and our geekiness I can’t imagine which one of us would be Superman.  Jesse is more like Charles Xavier in his (sometimes scary) ability to read people. Devin is quite the enigma – she’d probably be the Invisible Woman.  And personally I have always leaned more toward being the Hulk.  But I digress. . .

I waited a while to post since I wanted Devin and Jesse to have some time center stage.  Recently and not so recently this blog has been entirely too much about me and my reading.  But now that they’ve had their fifteen minutes I’m stealing back the spotlight.  If they want it back they’ll have to read.  And post. 

Fitting then, that my post should be about David Sedaris, someone entirely self involved and constantly focused on where the spotlight is (and attempting to get it back where it belongs – on him). 

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Book CoverFull disclosure:  I read Marley and Me (hey, it has a dog on the cover doesn’t it?) and I enjoyed the book immensely.  I laughed at all the funny parts, cringed when required and even cried at the end (come on, you knew it was coming!).  I’ve read that Walking with Ollie is Britain’s answer to Marley and I agree with that in many ways. I also think that both men adore and love their dogs and any judgments that follow are solely in their roles as responsible dog owners, not as good people.

I have four rescue animals – two cats and two dogs.  They are all wonderful creatures, affectionate and loving.  They don’t know they are supposed to be thankful that I rescued them and often act quite cavalier about their living situation (they are, plain and simply, spoiled).  Three of them have stable personalities with no issues that need managing. 

One of them doesn’t. 

He came to us as a four month old puppy and the first time I took him to the vet (the second day I had him) she said “He’s a bit timid isn’t he?”  I wouldn’t realize her understatement until many months later.  By then I had come to realize the little guy was afraid of the car (he puked once he got in), strange men on the street (or boys past the age of 15 or so), my father (even after he’d known him for months), statues of people, holiday decorations, the vacuum cleaner, nail clippers (the dog version and the human version), baby gates, cats, and inexplicably, the Stop N Shop Peapod truck.   Unlike Ollie, he was not afraid of his owner (me) but he did give Tim the fish eye occasionally, just to make sure he wasn’t up to no good.

When I began reading Ollie, I couldn’t help but remember the despair I felt when I realized my dog was not normal.  I felt that I had failed.  I thought that my first dog attempt was a disaster and it was all my fault (did I make him this way?).  That I couldn’t help this poor creature who was just terrified of the world.  I felt for Mr. Foster, I really did.  I’ve been there. 

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Cover ImageAmmon Shea is a total nerd. 

Best of all, he’s not ashamed of it.  He embraces his quirky (to some, but not to me) hobby of reading dictionaries (not to mention his voracious reading habits in general).  Not only that, he takes it all to a new level by reading the OED cover to cover (or rather – covers to covers). 

I applaud his humor, his wit and his self-deprecation because I love a good nerd, especially a self aware one.

I find books like Reading the OED completely and unabashedly undeniable. My only problem with them is that I wished I had written them, but these guys beat me to it!  A.J. Jacobs’ The Know It All is one of my favorite books (of ALL TIME).  I even found David Plotz’s Blogging the Bible an irresistible read (and I’m an atheist!).  Shea calls the OED his Everest.  He’s reading it because it’s there (which I would venture to guess is also why Jacobs and Plotz attempted their arguably insane reading mountains). I empathize with that kind of thinking. 

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I was worried about one of my pets, as I always do, when my mother said to me in frustration “Why don’t you just give away all your pets and. . .”

“Be miserable?” was my reply.  Because despite my anxieties on their behalf (are they sick, are they happy, are they getting all that they need????) I can’t imagine living a life without the little critters. 

Though I am not one of those delusional people who thinks of my pets as kids, they are certainly an important part of my family.  I smile even while getting mauled by the dogs each day when I get home (what human would ever greet you with such happiness?).   When away from home I cannot sleep, ironically, because it’s too quiet.  Though a purring cat can be loud, it sure is comforting.  Being flanked on either side by warm felines bodies leaves some folks cold, but I’ll take the subsequent crick in the neck for a few glorious moments of a group cat nap. 

Though I spend a lot of time attending to my pets’ needs, as an chronic worrier, it’s nice to have a respite from my own issues, even if it means worrying a little about someone other than myself.   When the dogs need to be fed or walked or the litter box cleaned, there is no time for self involvement – and that’s ultimately healthier than the alternative.

I’m not the first to delight in the soothing affect of pets. Ask any pet owner and you’ll get a litany of reasons why their pets are good for them (you may even get melodramatic or just highly dramatic accounts of noble acts and miracles, depending on the pet owner).  And more recently science has supported such anecdotal evidence with studies that show pets lower blood pressure, decrease depression and increase feelings of social support in those who live alone.

So it’s not surprising that Bruce Goldstein’s therapist suggested that Goldstein, a manic depressive, get a dog.  Where medicine and therapy failed, a tiny black lab puppy named Ozzy succeeded. 

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I would have bought this book for other reasons – it has a cute dog on the cover, it’s about veterinary medicine – but the real reason I bought this book is a little more selfish.  The author, Nick Trout is a veterinarian and he did surgery on my childhood dog almost 20 years ago.  That dog was 5 years old and for a while my parents thought they would have to euthanize him.  But the surgery was successful and he lived another 9 years.

A small part of me wanted to see him in print, but his was not a sensational surgery or an emergency one.  This book features both types of surgery, after all, who wants to read about the routine and mundane?  That’s just not exciting and probably doesn’t sell many books.

The format of this book condenses 25 years of experience (including many patients and owners) into a “day in the life” of Dr. Nick Trout.  It’s an exhausting day for him, but a vastly interesting one for the those of us reading.  Of course you must have an interest in all things veterinary.  This book is not for mere animal lovers; it’s not James Herriot (though he never shied away from the gross).  There is some technical jargon which, if it’s confusing, you can probably skim, but for those of us who love anatomy it’s very intriguing.

There is one particular patient whose overarching story connects the book and you will get attached to her and her owner.  In between there are dozens of other patients and scenarios, some lighthearted, some tragic, some funny and some just plain sad.  Dr. Trout’s experience is vast and though he has the brain of a surgeon he has a heart big enough to hold all the patients he cares for.

Cover ImageI finished Mr. B. Gone (I’ll get to that later) and needed a new book for today’s commute, so I picked up this one.  I like nothing more than a good feud.  Historical, epic feuds are best.  And with Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots on the cover, how could I resist?  Two of my favorites in the world of political cat fights.

Alas, I only made it only to page 7. 

That’s right page 7 –  wherein Mr. Colin Evans, the author of this book, said that Mary Queen of Scots was the daughter of James IV of Scotland and Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII.

I had to read it three times, each time more desperately trying to find the loophole.  Some word or another that I’d missed that was changing the meaning of the sentence.  Because, you see she was actually their granddaughter.  Her parents were James V of Scotland and Mary of Guise (who was French).  But no, the sentence was unfortunately very very wrong.

How does such a blatant, glaring, easily discovered, easily fixed error get into such book?  Let alone STAY in such a book.  Where are all the ever eager intern researchers?  How did this slip through the cracks?

Unfortunately this is way beyond my tolerance level.  Though I understand that not everyone is the Anglo-phile that I am.  I know that most people in this country know all the American presidents instead of all the British monarchs from the Saxons to Elizabeth II.  I know that I have a bit of an obsession.  But that is beside the point because due to this blinding beacon of an error I now have no trust that the rest of his information is correct, which of course makes reading the book a useless endeavor. 

Into the book swap at work it goes.  Too bad, because it might have been interesting.


I’ve said before that I’m a reluctant short story reader (and I can see why you may think I protest too much, for I do read more short fiction than I honestly should for someone who claims to dislike it).  My biggest difficulty with it is that I always end up wanting more. 

I like to read in large time increments – settling down on a cold winter’s evening under a blanket, wiling away a Sunday afternoon, passing time on a long commute.   Short fiction tends to disrupt my flow, making me break the surface of reality too soon.  And since it doesn’t do justice to the next story to jump right in before you’ve digested the last one I’m often at a loss at to what to do when I’m finished.

So one would intelligently ask Why then are you reading essays? 

Good question.

The answer is twofold:   1) I LOVE Anne Fadiman – I would read a cereal box she composed and 2) I’ve recently found myself with only short snippets of time to read so essays fit just right.

Of course there is always the danger that when you are in transition from one essay (or story) to the next one that your interest will be stolen away by another, more time consuming endeavor.  Sadly such was the case for me this week.  I was taken against my will into Borders where I bought a dog book (aka my crack) and I’ve been reading that ever since.  I’ll get back to Anne in due time. 

She’s a good companion right before sleep sets in. Except when she makes me laugh too hard.

[Author’s note:  I’m taking off on a tangent today, so don’t be alarmed. The blog format will stay as usual, this is just a jaunt into a new direction. I’ve been sick for over a week, so you can blame the cold medicine if you wish.  I certainly am.  *I have not read this book*  But I want to really, really badly.  Unfortunately I will need to wait a) to get it from the library or b) until it comes out in affordable paperback to read it.  But that doesn’t meant I can’t start talking about it.  It’s a little thing we in the biz call buzz.]

I’ve only very recently become the kind of person who reads the NY Times Sunday Book Review.  Before this, I had always found my books in a very haphazard, but still pleasantly random kind of way.  Now I read reviews.  I try to follow what’s new and exciting.  Actually it’s taken some getting used to; it’s a little unsettling to be aware of books when they come out (or before) as opposed to picking up a stray paperback from a pile in a store.  Moreover it’s not healthy for my book buying habit – because, for me, to be aware of the new hardcovers is to buy them.

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Cover ImageCover Image

{Full disclosure:  I’m a little defensive lately.  My best friend got married in the last of the weddings for this season (what a relief) and we didn’t make it to rehearsal dinner before the “When are you getting married?” questions started.  I’ve mentioned before that reading keeps me sane and my choices this week are no exception.}

I’ve had my anti-bride rant already so I’m moving on to bigger prey.  In a long hot summer filled with wedding after wedding (really it was only three, almost four, but it seemed like exponentially more) I’ve become increasingly frustrated by social expectations being laid at my feet.  Everyone wants to marry me off. 

It still amazes me how rude some people can be.  When are you getting married is not, by any means, an innocuous or polite question.  And yet it’s completely socially acceptable.   Even if we excuse the blatant invasion of privacy there are issues with the semantics.  Firstly there is the “when” of it which implies there is no choice not to – it’s  pretty clear that this is not a question of “if” after all.  Secondly there is the fact that the questioner even has to ask the question, which implies that you’re taking too long (the poor, frustrated souls, I really feel for them).  This questions belongs, along with its sister when are you having kids, to a society where people had no choices in the matter – matrimony and childbirth were inevitable – and frankly, they had nothing better to talk about.  I for one think we’ve moved past that and our social manners should evolve as such.  Unfortunately it appears that I’m in the minority on this one.

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Jessica’s Reading

Jesse’s Reading

Jesse and Jessica are Both Reading

Devin’s Reading