May 2007


Do you remember how cool it was to show off your injuries when you were in elementary school? Someone would get stitches or a broken arm and everyone would gather around as the injured person removed bandages or described how the injury took place. When I was younger I always wanted to break a bone just so I could have a cool cast for everyone to write on. But my parents had kids with strong bones. Out of nine children, only one of us has ever broken a bone and it was my youngest sister Kati just last year.

On the other hand I was a bit of a klutz. I had my fair share of scrapes and cuts. And I did manage to get stitches once from a gash caused by our back door. I got 14 stitches in my foot, but then my dad wouldn’t let me go to school to show it off. He said the doctor said I had to keep it wrapped up because feet tend to get dirty (who knew?) and my dad knew the first thing I was going to do is unwrap it and show it off (duh!). So I didn’t even get to revel in my glory when it was mine to have.

Today though I feel like a little kid all over again. I went rock climbing yesterday and managed to get up the 90-foot wall at Eagle Creek Canyon on my second attempt. However, this wasn’t graceful rock climbing like the some of the climbers who were with us. This was me using any part of my body to hurl myself up the wall. I used my knees, elbows and back as needed. And to show for my triumph I have some pretty banged up armed and legs. I was just proud that I made it up the wall because my first attempt was not pretty (I made it to the first foot hold and fell off).

Oh, and for those of you who are still interested in my reading challenge. I finished book 14 this weekend: Candyfreak by Steve Almond. This book was amazing and made me salivate regularly. I wanted candy more than I have wanted candy in a very long time. Almond writes about the evolution of candy bars and tours a number of candy bar factories. He does not tour any of the big three, however, because they are too secretive and denied him access. The book is basically a nostalgic look at the candy bar industry and shows that, just like in every other American industry, the little guys are being pushed out by the big guys.

One thing I learned is that candy companies have to pay grocery stores a “stocking fee” to put their candies in the register line. The fee is $20,000 or more (I don’t know how often this is paid though). This should explain why we only see Hershey’s and Mars products at the front of the store. No independent candy companies can afford such a large amount of money.

The book itself is amazingly well written. The author is hilarious and the book never gets too dry even when he’s feeding us statistics instead of candy descriptions. I recommend it for a fun read.

Adventures in Trash

As promised, I have posted a review of Book 8 on The Nervous Breakdown. The book was Garbage Land by Elizabeth Royte, whom I had the privilege of interviewing. I also began my own adventure in Garbage Land, and let me tell you there are no Garbage Fairies who miraculously make our trash disappear. But enough of that, you must go to The Nervous Breakdown post haste and leave me some love AFTER reading the post. It will be much appreciated.

Smells I love to hate

So you haven’t left for my garbage post yet, huh? Well, in that case let me tell you about how much I HATE jasmine. It’s the smell of summer and everyone seems to love it because it’s EVERYWHERE and it’s the strongest smelling plant I believe I have ever encountered. In case you don’t know what jasmine is, I have a photo:

In addition to my hatred of jasmine, I also despise the smells juniper and freesia, which are often found in body lotions and sprays. Gro-oss. I tend to like the non-flowery non-fruity lotions. Something that smells clean and fresh, but not like I just stepped out of a fruit basket.

However, I have recently discovered a girly smell that I quite enjoy. And that, my friends, is Tide’s new Lavendar-scented laundry detergent. Seriously, this stuff is heaven.


I totally stole this picture from their Web site. Hopefully they won’t sue me since I was giving them props. But then, you can never trust these big corporations anymore.

Dumb instructions

On to our last topic: I hate when you buy a new product and it has ridiculous instructions to accompany it. Luckily, I didn’t actually buy this product so I can’t be that upset about it. I received it as a free sample in the mail. What is it? Dove’s new Energy Glow daily moisturizer with subtle self-tanners

In the instructions I am specifically told not to apply the product to places I wouldn’t normally want tanned, such as the bottoms of my feet and the palms of my hands. Um, does anyone else here apply lotion with the backs of their hands? I don’t think it would be possible to apply lotion without getting it on the palms of my hands. Perhaps some better instructions would be to wash my hands after applying the lotion in order to keep my palms from looking jaundiced.

Okay, now go to The Nervous Breakdown if you haven’t already been there. Thanks!

Half-marathon Update

I finally ran (walked) my half marathon yesterday. The good news? I’m not nearly as sore as I thought I’d be. The bad news? I got super sunburned. I also have three pretty new blisters on my feet. All in all though it was good though. I didn’t make my goal of 2.5 hours. I did however manage to run 8 miles, which was exactly what I guessed I’d be able to run. Perhaps if I’d aimed higher I’d have finished in less than three hours. I don’t know my exact time, but it was around 3 hours and 15 minutes. Pretty decent for a first timer I suppose. My goal is to be able to run the whole thing by next year.

Some things I learned from this experience:

1. Get more than 4 hours of sleep (aka don’t stay out to 2 a.m. the night before). I had a headache behind my right eye from the moment I woke up in the morning and ran through it. Yuck.

2. If you feel a hot spot the second you put on your shoes you should probably cover it with mole skin or a bandaid because it will definitely turn into a blister.

3. A hat doesn’t cover everything. I bought a new hat especially for this race to keep the sun off my face. Yeah, it only worked when I was directly facing the sun or facing away from the sun. If the sun was to the side of me then half my face was exposed (duh!).

4. Wear a t-shirt. I wore a tank top and it meant that my ipod armband was directly on my skin. It pinched my skin and left me with some pretty ugly cut-looking things on my right arm.

Book 12: Baby not on board by Jennifer L. Shawne

I was originally interested in this book because I thought it was going to be about a trend toward women choosing not to have children or to have children later in life. I figured it was going to be filled with statistics and information about what it means to not have children in today’s world. To me it sounded dry but interesting.

Instead, the book was a funny look at life without children. It is presented like a “how-to” book for couples who are expecting, only it’s for those who aren’t expecting any children. With chapters like “Guess what? Sharing the big news,” “Sharp Edges: Welcome to your childfree lifestyle” and tips like how to deal with other people’s children or a mother who is constantly asking when you’re going to have children, the book is a funny read and could come in handy for those of us who are sick of answering these questions. There are also a number of funny graphics illustrating your life with kids and your life without kids. It’s a quick and easy read too so I’d recommend it for a good laugh.

Book 13: Leaving Microsoft to change the world by John Wood

John Wood left an executive position at Microsoft to start a charity organization that builds schools and libraries for children in developing countries. While this is something we hear about everyday today, it was a completely new idea when Wood started his nonprofit in 1999.

Wood had been with Microsoft for nearly a decade when a trip to Nepal changed his life path forever. He visited a school in a small village there and learned that there were only about 20 books for some 300 students. And the books were mostly cast-offs from travelers, meaning they weren’t at a low enough reading level for any of the students to comprehend them. He made a promise to bring books with him on his next visit. Before heading home he sent an e-mail to friends and family asking them to send as many children’s books as possible. Soon after he received more than 3,000 books by mail and was on his way back to Nepal to deliver on his promise. Little did he know that this was not the end of his journey. Now seven years later his organization has opened more than 3,600 libraries in developing countries.

This book is a testament to the good work Americans can do if they’d look past their own borders once in awhile. The book tells about Wood’s initial travels, his decision to leave corporate America and the struggles of starting a non-profit. At some points I felt like the book was written to try to get me to donate to the cause (which I probably would do if I had an extra $8,000 lying around to fund a school), but for the most part it is just a fascinating story. I never realized how much of a difference an education can make, mostly because in the U.S. we’re entitled to one. Wood points out that it’s not so easy to learn to read or write in the rest of the world.

Check out Wood’s organization here. And you can listen to him talk about it here.

Danger Touch Update

The Score:
Melissa, 4
Rebecca, 8

Yesterday Melissa and I went to San Francisco together and saw a surprisingly high number of motorcycles. Unfortunately we also saw a lot of non-motorcycles as well. I still touched some of them, like this vespa:

There was also this super cool old motorcycle:

Seriously, you should only be allowed to drive that one if you’re wearing goggles and a white scarf. Anyway, you can check out the rest of the battle at www.dangertouch.com.

Book 11: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

I know I’ll probably create a lot of enemies with this statement, but I’m going to say it anyway: Honestly, if I didn’t know I was supposed to think this was a great literary work I probably wouldn’t have read it. It’s just not my style really. That said, I did think this book was worth reading. I thought the ending was the best part because it spoke volumes about the silliness of war. I didn’t get the whole time travel, Talfamadore thing though. I should take an English class so some crazy teacher can tell me what I’m supposed to get out of all of it.

Best thing about the book: It’s only 110 pages long. That’s doable, even if you don’t like it.

Sea Turtle Adoption

You can be a hero like my BFFL (pictured above) by adopting a baby sea turtle from Costa Rica. Not everyone can take a month off to play with the cute soon-to-be-giants of the sea, but you can help fund the people who are down there keeping the sea turtle populations strong.

ANAI is a non-profit organization (aka not funded by the government) so they depend on donations and volunteers to keep the project running. Since the beginning of this year’s nesting season 131 females have nested in Gandoca (where Sofia and I volunteered last year), creating 243 nests that need protecting. Of those nests 63 are in hatcheries built and manned by volunteers.

The adoption money goes to purchasing tools like scientific thermometers to measure the temperature of the sand, and supplying volunteers with plastic gloves for handling the babies. Money is also used to tag the mommy turtles and to build hatcheries along the beaches. So if you want a baby sea turtle named after you, visit the ANAI sea turtle adoptions Web site. You can also read more about the program here.

I am officially in the lead after a rough start yesterday.

Melissa:0
Rebecca: 2

Here’s how the day went yesterday:

I warmed up a bit first. Tried to get up my nerve by touching a bicycle:

Then I saw a motorcycle parked in front of a coffee shop, but it’s owner was also parked in front of the coffee shop (I knew because he was wearing nearly all leather). So I skipped that one and touched a shopping cart instead:

Then a few blocks down I saw a motorcycle and almost had the guts to touch it, but I backed out at the last minute and pretended to be texting someone instead as I just held up my finger near the bike:

Then I saw one in front of a Mexican restaurant and I knew I had to do it. I couldn’t have three missed opportunities. So I stood in front of the bike for what seemed like five minutes and I pretended to be texting someone. Finally I got up the courage and I touched it:

Before heading home I saw another motorcycle and I touched it too. I’m going to have to get even gutsier this weekend though and touch something other than the seat, otherwise all my pictures are going to look the same:

Alright Melissa, it’s your turn to touch some danger. Best of luck!

Danger Touch Day 1 Recap
M-Doll: 0
Bex: 0 (2 misses)

So, it turns out I’m a bit of a pansy when it comes to touching motorcycles. If Melissa even gets one she’ll probably win because I’m just not that gutsy. At least not yet.

The first miss was understandable, the owner of the bike was preparing to get on it and he saw me coming from a block away.

But the second one, well I just got really scared. First, the bike was parked in front of a building with windows all over and I was certain the owner must be near one of those windows (probably the one closest to the bike). And second, the building was the Department of Fish and Game so I’m pretty certain there were rifles and shotguns inside. Plus, there was a blinking light on the bike, which to me meant there was probably an alarm that would sound if I touched it. So pretty much, I’m a pansy because this was definitely a missed opportunity:

Remember you can also check out our battle at www.dangertouch.com.

Book 10: A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut

I’ve finally read my first Kurt Vonnegut book. It wasn’t really a challenge though because the book is only 145 pages long and isn’t really a story so much as a bunch of quotes. It was like one of those hallmark books you buy for Mother’s Day or something, except the quotes are slightly more meaningful. All in all, I think Vonnegut had a lot of interesting things to say, but I’m looking forward to reading an actual story from him.

Oh, and the book probably would have been better if I hadn’t been distracted by the most heinous crime ever.

The Most Heinous Crime

People, if you check out a library book, please remember that it does not belong to you. Therefore, you should NOT write in the margins. It’s distracting to the readers who borrow the book after you. They don’t know what your chicken scratch means, nor do they really care. If you want to write in a book BUY IT.

That is all.

Book 9: Falling Through the Earth by Danielle Trussoni

I first heard about this book on The Nervous Breakdown when Trussoni posted an excerpt from her book, a memoir. The excerpt was about doing acid and was really funny to me despite having never done it myself. After reading this one passage from her I wanted to see what other mischief she’d gotten into so I went out and got the book, only to find out that it really isn’t about a rebellious teenage existence. It was even better.

The memoir is about growing up in a home tainted by the Vietnam War, where Trussoni’s father served as a Tunnel Rat. The book intermingles memories of Trussoni’s childhood and her father’s recollections of Vietnam. The story is about a young girl who, no matter his faults, loves her dad. She stands by his side through a divorce, in which her mother keeps her other two siblings. She spends most of her childhood at the neighborhood bar listening to her dad tell war stories when he’s drunk enough to want to talk about it. And she becomes a defiant teenager just like all of us. In the end (well, it’s actually a storyline throughout the book) Trussoni goes to Vietnam to try to quell the demons she’s seen through her father’s eyes. It’s a frightening experience, and Trussoni tells it with such description you actually feel like you’re there with her.

This book is by far the best memoir I’ve read recently. I learned a lot about Vietnam that I didn’t know (I never heard of Tunnel Rats). And even though my childhood was nothing like Trussoni’s, I really connected with her character. Being the oldest daughter and being a daddy’s girl doesn’t change: we’re loyal to the end, even when we show him tough love. You MUST read this book.

The Danger Touch Challenge

Yesterday on The Nervous Breakdown there was a story about Danger Touch, inspired by a photo taken by Greg Boose (one of my favorite writers on the site). When I read it, I thought the game was hilarious and I challenged my good friend M-Doll to participate with me. The challenge has now begun and you shall be able to watch it unfold here. I can’t wait to see how far this goes.

Fortune Cookie Disappointment


The fortune cookie factory is on the left, right next to the noodle factory.

I finally went into the fortune cookie factory yesterday, thanks to my good friend, Chason. The cookies smelled delicious as usual, but I was disappointed to find out that the cookies are made mechanically and not by hand. This surprised me because there are always a lot of people working in there. I wonder what they’re all doing?

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