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Sunday, October 1

First, my apologies. This blog has morphed from an interesting (to me, at least) collection of recent news items to a "What's New with the Zurnses." I didn't expect that to happen. Well, give me some credit, because isn't self-awareness half the battle?

Anyhow, check out my number:

My e-mail from Thursday night:

"Hello Race Director,

My race number is 666. Please tell me there is some way, ANY way, I
could get a different number.


Clearly, this did not work.

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Monday, August 7

We just got back from India.

Good Lord, we just got back from India.

Yesterday, we were in transit for 24 hours straight. At the beginning of the journey home, I was waxing poetic about how it is a gift from God to have a 36-hour day, and we should grab it and never let it go, and, when we arrive home at 1 p.m. Sunday after 24 hours in transit, we should do laundry and go grocery shopping, and maybe cap it off with a trip to Sunset. 

I was asleep at 3 p.m. I slept for roughly ... 14 hours. So much for the miracle of a 36-hour day.

I could never do justice in a blog entry about how amazing the trip was. But since I really wanted to share a tiny sliver of the experience, I decided to transcribe one day's entry in my 100-page travel journal for you all. So here I sit, at 5:40 a.m. Monday, typing away while eating stale toast because it is all we have left in the apartment.

I also recommend this entry from Slate, which I found during my exhaustive Internet searching before we left. I had actually not read a word of this before the trip, because I was afraid reading a report titled "Why I Hate India" or whatever it's called might be asking for it. But now, reading it, I can completely understand most of it. Except for the part about the OTC maximum-strength prescription drugs.

Anyway, here we are. And here is one day of our trip.

Thursday, August 3
6:55 p.m. Kerala

Levels of Fear One Should Experience While Driving Into Oncoming Traffic in Kerala

The scene: You are in the backseat of a hatchback when your driver decides the vehicle in front of you is moving too slowly. So he veers into the oncoming lane, and approaching is a/an ...

Pedestrian or moped

Please. Clearly you are a newcomer to this new way of driving. Just like paper beats rock, hatchback beats pedestrian. A moped may cause some damage, just not to you.

An auto-rickshaw

This is a toss-up. If it is full-on oncoming, you should be less fearful, as your impact will be with the front end of a scooter/moped. Plus, you have seatbelts, and they don't.

The situation is more dicey if the auto rickshaw is taking a turn into traffic. Hitting an auto when it is perpendicular to you is much less desired.

A loaded village bus or a construction vehicle

In this case, you need to judge how much distance your driver has to execute the pass.

If it's a significant distance, don't panic a bit.

If it's a moderate distance, it certainly looks scary, but your driver is a pro.

If it's one or two car lengths, cover your eyes and hope for the best. Whatever you do, DON'T ask your driver a question at this critical moment, because he will likely take his eyes off the road and looks toward the backseat at you to answer.

So today was a long day. Yesterday was semi-challenging, but it was more of a precursor to our Longest Day in India.

We had booked a day trip to see the southernmost tip of India, called Kanyakumari, and a famous palace, called ... I don't know what it's called exactly. I'll get back to you. [Edited: It's called Padmanabhapuram Palace. That's 15 letters.]

The day started off early for us, at 10:30 a.m. Because of a case of raging indigestion, we ended up getting to the lobby a little late. Then, our favorite hotel employee, Pravanthi, suggested sandwiches, and those took a little while to prepare. While we were waiting, I had a nice chat with her, and learned she has a younger brother, a sister in the States, and both parents. We hadn't seen her for a little while because she was lucky enough to have two days off in a row, and she went home to visit her parents (all staff live on-site when they're working.)

We also talked about Tamil Nadu, where we were heading. I learned the people there are extremely orthodox, but have stopped cutting off the heads of babies as traditional sacrifice and instead have moved onto goats.

(I should interrupt myself. At 7 a.m. we did yoga. I could clearly hear Brian ommmm-ing. The instructor, Shreeti, could hear none of us humming like hummingbirds, like we were supposed to, which slightly pissed her off.)

Right. So we set off at around 11 a.m. The streets were choked with people. India is the most populous country in the world, and this is how you know it's true: Every glance around revealed at least 5 to 10 people. Think about it -- every single glance. In Newton, you could walk blocks and sometimes not see a soul. In India, no matter what time of day, there are people everywhere.

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Monday, August 7 -- Part 2

So we're an hour into our 30-minute-advertised drive to the palace when my stomach starts to hurt. Not extraordinarily so, but enough to make me think I should be safe instead of sorry. So I asked the driver for a Western-style toilet. He says okay.

He pulls up in front of a hotel. I should note that in India often "hotel" means "restaurant." It wasn't the case this time, but it's a fun fact. Anyway, I ask about the bathroom's style. He says Indian.

We move on.

The nausea hits soon after. He's driving twisty roads with a fiery vengeance, probably because he thought I needed a bathroom ASAP. Quickly, effortlessly, I feel like I am going to be sick. I try to explain this delicately to the driver. It gets lost in translation. Finally, he asks, "Vomiting?" I say yes. He pulls over.

I take a couple of deep breaths. There's not much else to do. I don't get sick because the car is finally, mercifully still. He apologizes, I apologize. We move on.

Five minutes later, there is a pop, and then an incessant rumble whose acquaintance I've met before. In the middle ... okay, the bottom of India, we have a flat tire.

We pull over. He takes out his old-school tools and sets down to change it. We just stand there on the side of the road. It crosses my mind to take a picture, and quickly I decide this is a Bad Idea.

Another cab pulls up, this time a small minivan. Kindly, the driver asks if we'd like to join him and his crew, an Indian couple headed to the palace. We hesitate. Why, I am not sure; maybe it was feelings of group solidarity or something. We decide to climb in. Because of my earlier feelings of carsickness, I head for the front seat. The husband loudly, forcefully screams I need to sit in the back. I'm sure there was a multitude of reasons (in his head) why, but I didn't have the energy to argue.

Then, THEN he says something like, "You could have said thank you." I am feeling quite ill, not to mention irritated as hell, so I just say, "Pardon?" He repeats himself. I might have mumbled some thanks, or I might have stayed quiet; I don't remember.

During the short ride, he tells us he knows George Bush, I tell him we like India, and his wife tells us nothing because she's hiccupping the whole time. We arrive at the palace, and scramble out of the van. We never see them again.

We learn where the bathrooms are.

The pros:

All the stalls have doors.
Two of them are flushing toilets.

The cons:

The rest are Indian-style.
None of them have seats.

The toilet paper I was prepared for. The lack of seats was a bit of a surprise.

We tour the palace barefoot, per their rules, "namaste"-ing to everyone all over the place. The palace's oldest parts were built in the 1500s, it's very large, and it's probably the first historical structure I've ever seen without a gift shop.

It was a straight, 40-minute shot to Land's End. I was really excited to see this spot, because it is where the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea (the water we could see from the hotel), and the Indian Ocean all intersect. Because of its vantage point, you can see both sunrises and sunsets, and waves from three different directions. It's very pretty, if you can get past the raging, endemic poverty. Which you can't.

Immediately we were beset by beggars. An elderly woman. A young girl carrying a younger child. They were everywhere. We walked a bit and went back to the driver, who took us to the Gandhi Mandepam, a memorial which contains some of ashes and a pinhole in the dome so the light can shine directly on that spot on his birthday.

We got a tour from a guy who brought us bead necklaces, generally treated us extra-special, then promptly asked for a tip as we were leaving.

On the way out, as I was looking in my bag for American coins to give him, I looked up the stairs. At the top was the girl from before. When she caught me looking, she gave me a big smile.

She runs up, and the guilt/despair/anxiety I feel rises. I try to ask the driver if the four rupees I have in coins would make any difference for her, but he doesn't get my question. Out of desperation and frustration, I grab a 100-rupees bill out of my wallet and shove it towards her. I was ashamed and sad and everything, all at once. I didn't look at her, but Brian tells me it was almost as if she vanished, she disappeared so fast.

Seconds later, I saw our bagged lunch. I realized I could have given her that instead or also, and I looked for her as we drove through the streets. But she was nowhere to be seen.


I feel like I should give a little more explanation to last part of that entry. Tourists are told explicitly to not give money to beggars, as much as you want to (and believe me I did.) Sometimes, kids are pimped to look as desperate as possible by adults. The kids solicit  the money and the adults take it. Also, you are told that giving money just perpetuates the system, and if you give money to one, you are flagged and will be swarmed by beggars.

That's just a nutshell explanation. It is an awful thing to witness, and I really can't adequately describe its awfulness.

Despite all its difficult points, however, we loved India. Pictures will be forthcoming.

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Saturday, May 6

We went to a Sox game last night. Needless to say, it was bittersweet.

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Wednesday, May 3

On Sunday, we ran our first race ...

They had free beer,

And pasta,

And twins.

We finished!

The end. Thanks for reading.

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Sunday, April 9

That's hot you guys  ...

According to this website, Paris and I look 74% like each other. Although it also says I look like, in descending order, Melanie Griffith, Sarah Silverman, Nicole Richie (dude!! come on!), and Lindsay Lohan (71% -- you flatter me, MyHeritage. You're trying to make up for Melanie. I see through your games.)

It also said I resembled Joan Crawford, which is a complete and total lie, and I include that only in the interests of accuracy, because everyone knows Paris and I are BFF.

With another picture, it hit quickly on Shannon Doherty (73%), something my mother has been telling me for roughly ... 15 years, or whenever 90210 came out.

It all depends on what picture, though. Brian was told he looks like Benicio Del Toro (70%), Ewan MacGregor (62%), Sugar Ray Robinson (58%), Christian Slater (53%), and Beyonce (a surprising 51%).

This site is a riot -- I highly recommend it.

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Thursday, April 6

There's a new David Sedaris in this week's New Yorker. That's the good news. The bad news is that it's not online. So please allow me to paraphrase a funny part for you.

(He is describing when he and his siblings are about to be left with Mrs. Peacock, a babysitter whose "hair was the color of margarine" that fell in waves down her back. "It was the sort of hair you might find on a mermaid, completely wrong for a 60-year-old woman who was not just heavy but fat, and moved as if each step might be her last.")

So, right -- the funny part:

"The first two times my parents left for vacation, my sisters and I escorted them to the door and said that we would miss them terribly. It was just an act, designed to make us look sensitive and English, but on this occasion we meant it."

Heh heh heh. (
And no, I didn't ruin the rest of the story for you. I promise.)

Five hurricane names are to be retired, and they include Katrina and Rita. Names are retired when a hurricane is so destructive and notorious that no one wants to jinx themselves with birthing another Katrina. (Can't you see the meteorologist's arguing if the name wasn't retired? "You IDIOT. Don't you remember the LAST TIME?!?")

One time last year, I had a disastrous experience with the social kiss. Every time I think about it, I cringe, because clearly the other woman was so classy as to know this is what people do, and I was so gauche that I didn't get that memo, and it ended up in this really awkward faux hug between literal strangers.
Oof. It was awful. (Reg. req'd)

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Saturday, April 1

(I guess once I picked it back up, I remembered why I liked to blog.)

On her down time, Audrey Raines likes to kick it with a beret. Who knew? (Reg. req'd)

A semi-old (but maybe new to you) David Sedaris story. Accompanied by another slightly stale (publication-date speaking), but still tasty, Murakami story.

A big, fat love letter to Bridgeport (aka Bpt., Dawson) from the New York Times. (Reg. req'd)

Beer geek is planning to get a Ph.D in biochemistry just to study yeast. He also won the elusive "Beerdrinker of the Year" award. As I thought about this, I couldn't help but wonder, which is worse -- being married to a beer geek or a computer geek?

During a recent museum trip, a 12-year-old boy stuck gum to a million-dollar painting. In case you were wondering, it was Wrigley's Extra Polar Ice. And to be honest, the painting kinda already looked like gum on a sidewalk.

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Friday, March 31

It's taken a lot to get me out of hibernation. And this was it:

aka, the funniest things I have ever seen. (And I made that montage in the Gimp, just for you.)

Sam Adams allows you to "flavor profile" your beer, in selected Boston locales, anyway, courtesy of a muddler and your choice of citrus. Pretty neat, huh? (Reg. req'd)

My Murakami is a runner. And he's my kind of guy: After finishing the Boston Marathon, he says "going to Legal Sea Foods restaurant, eating steamed cherry stones and drinking Samuel Adams beer is one of the happiest moments of my life." He just keeps getting awesomer, I tell you.

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Friday, February 24

Okay, everyone is off the hook -- A 16-year-old kid (not any of  you) bought the billionth iTunes song. And he actually bought a song, he didn't skimp via the "No purchase required" site. (Reg. req'd)

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Thursday, February 16

The Love Edition

A loving ode to Lloyd Dobler. I Lloyd Dobler. I don't even have words. (Reg. req'd)

Couples who live in teeny tiny spaces and manage not to kill each other. Like, 400-square-feet tiny. Godspeed to them, because I couldn't do it. (Reg. req'd)

Wedded bliss 'only lasts a year.'

Why people in Connecticut have cold feet. Truthfully, I didn't find this one so interesting, but it fits with the love theme, so who cares.

A couple gets married in a McDonald's. A couple gets married in a funeral home.

And one completely random question: How does one get pita bread to have a pocket inside? Well, I love pita bread. So it fits.
(Reg. req'd)

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Wednesday, February 8

I am going to ruin yogurt for you now. Ready? "Under current federal guidelines, man-made colorings such as FD&C Red No. 40 must be listed by name on product labels. But naturally occurring ingredients, a broad category that includes dead beetles, can be listed simply as 'color added.'" (Reg. req'd)

In the U.K., the first Monday of February is the most popular day of the year for a 'sickie.' I'm a little late with bringing you that fact, but I am going to call sick days "a sickie" from here on out.

How eerie is this image -- the International Space Station chucked a spacesuit stuffed with clothes into outer space, so they could track its radio transmissions. Ivan Ivanovich (what they named him) looks "like a cosmonaut tumbling helplessly through space." Creepy. And first they declared Ivan dead, because they couldn't hear his prerecorded cries for help, but ham radio operators say otherwise.

Just like the claw-a-stuffed-animal games in Denny's, a Maine restaurant has a "claw-a-live-lobster" variation. As expected, PETA was miffed.

The Boston Globe taste-tests bottled salsa. And they have a winner.

Apple kicked off their Billion Song Countdown for iTunes. The person who buys the billionth song wins a 20-inch iMac, 10 60GB iPods, a $10,000 iTunes Music Store card, as well as a scholarship created in their name. You can play without buying a song, though. And I swear, if you win after reading about it here and don't graciously give me one measly iPod ... well, God sees everything.

More workers are using their iPods to escape boredom or chaos in the office. Does it help them focus, or is it a distraction? Well, Brian, does it? (Reg. req'd)

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Saturday, February 4

Totally biting off the Zurnses, and the daRolingers, and Dufftiks, this reporter decides to write an article about her legal married-name-meld. So what if she has a platform at the NYT from which to share -- WE did it FIRST. Perhaps not "legally," but first. (Reg. req'd)

A night out with Andy Samberg, Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis, and Seth Meyers. (Reg. req'd)

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Wednesday, February 1

Stephanie from Full House -- Recovering meth addict. Maybe it was all the "Winnie Cooper = genius" stories that put her over the edge.

Japan marks "Beloved Wives Day." My God, they are geniuses.

A mouthy parrot outs a cheating girlfriend: 'Hiya, Gary!'  the parrot trilled flirtatiously whenever Chris Taylor's girlfriend answered her cell phone. But Taylor, the owner of [Ziggy] the parrot, did not know anyone named Gary. And his girlfriend, Suzy Collins, who had moved into his apartment a year earlier, swore that she didn't, either...And so it went until the fateful day just before Christmas when, as Taylor and Collins snuggled together on the sofa, Ziggy blurted out, 'I love you, Gary,'  his voice a dead ringer for Collins'."

Most college gradates lack skills, such as understanding credit card offers, knowing whether their car had enough gas to get to the service station, and comparing the cost per ounce of food. Not quoted: They lacked the valuable "lying to make yourself look less stupid" skill.

A 74-year-old British woman was blind for 25 years, had a heart attack, woke up, and could see. Best dry British observation ever: "When I first came round I just opened my eyes and shouted, 'I can see, I can see.' When I looked in the mirror I said, 'Oh.' I said to [her husband] Eric, 'You've got older haven't you?'" The guy looks a little like Wallace. Or Grommit. Whichever; you'll see. They're cute.

Woman jailed for leaving kids to go see Springer.

Freakin' freakshow guy made a website of himself playing dead in various rooms in his house. "Crushed by his garage door. Electrocuted in the bathtub. One series shows Mr. Lamb lying face-down in a bowl of chicken soup, above a caption that reads 'Dying from bird flu.'" There really is someone for everyone, though -- his wife Tonya took the photos. (Reg. req'd)

Crazy, semi-addictive game, for when you have free time.

More love for 24 -- a Q&A with a writer, and a story on the guy who composes the music for the show. Fun fact: the guy has "a maximum of five days to compose up to 39 minutes of music."

Life's burning questions: When someone arrives at work, who should say "hi" first?

Fat and lazy, coupled with rich, allows some to get six-pack abs without doing anything. One guy who got the surgery done said he planned to "wear a Red Sox cap and thong to mow [his] lawn." No really, sir -- you don't need to.

That crazy hot-dog-eating lady just ate 26 grilled cheese sandwiches. Ever the overachiever, she lamented she "could have done better."

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Tuesday, January 24

Awesomest thing ever (well, for 24 fans): The Jacktracker.

I have more to post, but when I read about this I had to post it immediately.

And we didn't see last night's yet, so please -- no spoilers.

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Monday, January 16

24 is the best show I have ever watched in my whole life. It has presidential assassinations, car bombs, Russian terrorists seizing an airport, and a schizo first lady of Shakespearian proportions. (Hi, Jean Smart! I've missed you since Designing Women!) And that was just in the season opener.

Articles on 24 (all Reg. req'd)

Back From the Dead, a Secret Agent Is Ready to Save the World Again

The Twist for '24' May Be in Its Ratings

Surviving So Jack Bauer Can Live Another Day (a.k.a. a lil lovin' for Tony Almeida)

Part two of the four-glorious-hours season opener is tonight at 8 p.m.

(Edited to add: Obviously, assassinations, bombs, and the like are all bad things. They just make for dramatic and shocking plot twists, which in turn makes for compulsively-watchable television.)

(Edited to add, Part Two: Just didn't want anyone to think I was a Very Heartless Person.)

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Sunday, January 15

Finally, confirmation on when the Sopranos comes back with original episodes. It starts March 12. And when it does return, it'll just be for 12 episodes, not the 12 plus 8 that was rumored some time back.

We just saw Million Dollar Baby on HBO recently. I'm not a big movie person, but I really liked it, and wanted to recommend it. Please don't respond and say you saw that movie, like, two years ago.

Another recommendation: This is the best stuff in the entire world. It is so wonderful that despite the fact that we have some at home, when we went to Sunset I ordered exclusively this. Imagine -- all the choices at Sunset, and we have it at home. It's that good.

The capsule that was carrying cosmic dust safely parachuted to earth this weekend. Awesomest thing ever: The dust, "expected to be about a thimble full, must be separated from a substance called aerogel, used to help trap the particles. Aerogel is a strong, lightweight silica glass that is 99.8 percent air and looks like frozen smoke." 99.8 percent air?!? That is so cool. Below: One really stoked geek.

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Thursday, January 12

Nice people yawn more. It's true -- read for the study on contagious yawning. (Reg. req'd)

The myth of the elusive, terrifying "Panty Line Killer." (last question; Reg. req'd)

A story about grinding your teeth (which I do all the time, just not as much lately). With scary pictures.

  My heart is broken. My tears are falling. The Borioles are so, so lucky.

This mom kiddingly tells her boyfriend that her kid's dead (oh, ha HA!), so the boyfriend submits an obit to the newspaper for the kid. The kid goes to a Faux-riendly'squite alive and carrying his obit, and now police have to investigate. What the mom said: "I had let my boyfriend know he was doing very, very badly at the hospital, and jokingly I said that he had passed away, and he took upon himself to put the obituary in." WTF kind of mother are you???

So what if I am so lame I eat lunch at my desk nearly every single day.
 Must you rub it in?
(Reg. req'd)

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Saturday, January 7

This kid thinks, "I am going to make a website, sell the pixels as ads, and people will flock to it. I am going to become a millionaire!" And he was right. (Reg. req'd)

New $35 tour of Katrina-devastated area sells out. The company has said $3 from every Katrina tour ticket will be donated to Katrina-related charities. Wow, that's so generous. In a really cheap way.

How do cats "know" to use litter boxes? Hey, I've always wondered. (Thanks, handy Gmail inbox ... question-answerer thingy.)

A 26-year-old artist who chained his legs to draw a picture of the image lost the key to his restraints and had to hop for 12 hours through the desert to a gasoline station for help. His drawing? "It was a pretty good depiction of how a chain would look wrapped around your legs," said a sheriff's deputy. HA!! to deadpan sheriff's deputy.

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Tuesday, January 3

New discovery: Not a touch of snark to be found, which it really could have used. Not even in the "Cute or Sad?" category. (And this was Brian's favorite.) (via Defamer)

On the heels of the "Lazy Sunday" phenomenon, VH1 will launch a new show called Web Junk 20 in January, a weekly top 20 featuring the hottest viral Internet videos. And now Newsweek gives CoN (TM Jen) a story, too.

An ode to Scrubs. I love Scrubs. I would have watched it if I wasn't typing this up. An ode to TiVo: I love TiVo. (Reg. req'd)

On the weekends when the last two books of the Harry Potter series came out in England, young people made far fewer visits to an Oxford emergency room. Stay tuned for some fundamentalist to say that this is yet another sign of the occult. (Reg. req'd)

Microsoft's 'orange badge' -- i.e., temp -- culture gets an online forum. "'You tell people, "I'm an orange badge at Microsoft," and pretty much everybody in the tech industry knows exactly what that means,' says a software project manager who worked at Microsoft through a temporary staffing firm."

Google's next big thing: a $200 PC?

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Sunday, January 1

So ... notice anything different? Coding tweaks to come, I'm sure. Consider this a beta version for the new year.

Olympic torch too heavy for athletes.

A 19-year-old PETA staffer has legally changed his name to

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What I'm Reading:

Zadie Smith
On Beauty

What I've read:

Haruki Murakami
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
So odd, it was very nearly sci-fi. One of Murakami's earliest, it wasn't my favorite, but it was still Murakami.

Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Loved this book. The writers explain mysteries like why crack dealers live with their moms, and the importance of a parent's first official act -- naming the baby.

Joan Didion
The Year of Magical Thinking
Elegant memoir on grief. So they decide to make it into a one-woman show on Broadway. Seriously. That frosted my cookies.

James Surowiecki
The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few ..

Nick Hornby
A Long Way Down
Dawson and I went to his book reading in the summer.

Nancy Pearl
More Book Lust
She has her own action figure.

Kelly Bulkeley
Dreaming Beyond Death

Haruki Murakami
South of the Border, West of the Sun

Emily Transue
On Call: A Doctor's Days and Nights in Residency

J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
I'm a big, fat cliché, okay?

Augusten Burroughs
Dry: A Memoir

Ian McEwan
Review: I liked it. Two thumbs up. (Sorry to not be more prolific on the reasons why. It's really hot right now.)

Augusten Burroughs
Running with Scissors
Review: Weirdest book ever. I could not put it down.

Nick Hornby
High Fidelity
It's okay. Not as good as "About a Boy", but okay.

Kazuo Ishiguro
Never Let Me Go
Ehhhhhhhh ...

Dave Eggers
How We Are Hungry: Stories

John Irving
The World According to Garp
Graciously loaned by Megan

Haruki Murakami
Kafka on the Shore
Review: Suspension of disbelief at its best. I wasn't shocked by every plot revelation, but I enjoyed the ride all the same. "So great is the force of the author's imagination, and of his conviction in the archaic power of the story he is telling, that all this junk [crazy, fantastic plot points] is made genuine." Another review, with more plot detail, for those so inclined.

Malcolm Gladwell
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Review: Very interesting book about snap judgments and your subconscious. Take it with a grain of salt, but the examples are fascinating. Two snaps and a twist.

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