Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Favorite Children's Book WINNER

And the winner, chosen by popular vote, is . . . If You Give a Mouse a Cookie! Runners up were Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day; Goodnight Moon; and The Giving Tree.

Other write-in suggestions were:

  • Where the Wild Things Are (Guess this person didn't see that amongst the options....)
  • Ask Mr. Bear
  • Angus & the Cat
  • Harry the Dirty Dog
  • The Story of Ferdinand
  • Bedtime for Frances
  • George and Martha
  • Old Turtle
  • The Giant Jam Sandwich

    Apparently my childhood reading wax not as extensive as I had thought, because the only one of those write-ins I recall reading is Bedtime for Francis!

    Despite If You Give a Mouse a Cookie winning this poll, walking amongst all the wonderful children's books in Barnes & Nobles distracted me so much that I ultimately purchased a different book. I will reveal my true purchase after this coming weekend, when I attend the baby shower and present my choice to the future baby's parents. In the meantime, however, I will mention that the book I truly wanted to buy apparently is no longer available in print.

    I started my search at Barnes & Nobles, where the woman who assisted me laughed once she finally understood the title I was trying to tell her, and then laughed again when she discovered that it was first published in 1982. (I did not point out to her that Goodnight Moon was first published in 1947.) No Barnes & Nobles in all of NYC carries this book, so whe recommended that I search online, which I did once I returned home, only to find that even Amazon only sells the book via outside vendors! So if anyone comes across a copy of The Baby Uggs Are Hatching, definitely, definitely buy it. That book ranks among the most memorable of my childhood.

  • Saturday, January 21, 2012

    Snapshot Book Reviews: War

    WarWar by Sebastian Junger

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    This book was very obviously (and intentionally) written by a journalist: it included every factual detail anyone would want to know, and even self-accounts are written with a feeling of objective "remove." He looks at topics such as heorism, courage, and love with the interest and objectivity of a scientist--something which I find admirable, especially as he was able to also give compelling accounts of the actual men amid all that exposition. I also learned a lot from the medical and scientific factoids Junger laid throughout the book. Here are a couple of my favorites:

    The basic neurological mechanism that induces mammals to do things is called the dopamine reward system. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that mimics the effect of cocaine in the brain, and it gets released when a person wins a game or solves a problem or succeeds at a difficult task. The dopamine reward system exists in both sexes but is stronger in men, and as a result, men are more likely to become obsessively involved in such things as hunting, gambling, computer games, and war.... Women can master those skills without having the pleasure centers in their brains--primarily the mesocorticolimbic center--light up as if they'd just done a line of coke.

    Reaction times have been studied extensively in controlled settings and have shown that men have faster reaction times than women and athletes have faster reaction times than nonathletes.... The distance at which you might literally be able to "dodge a bullet" is around 800 yards. You'd need a quarter second to register the tracer coming toward you--at this point the bullet has traveled 200 yards--a quarter second to instruct your muscles to react--the bullet has now traveled 400 yards--and half a second to actually move out of the way.

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    Wednesday, January 18, 2012

    Bad Days, Bad News, and Bad Stories: The Emotional Game of “Telephone”

    Imagine a game of telephone: you sit in a circle with your friends and one person thinks of a message. She then whispers it to the person next to her, who whispers it to the person next to him, and so on, until it reaches the last person in the circle. That person then says the message aloud, and everyone laughs at how different it is from what the initial message was.

    Bad days (and the bad emotions they generate) create an effect that is sort of like a game of telephone. Mr. A has a bad day. That night, he comes home and tells his wife, Mrs. A, what a bad day he had. He rants and raves and performs what we typically call "venting." Mrs. A feels so badly listening to him, that the next morning when she goes for a walk with her neighbor Mrs. B, the whole story comes gushing out. She cries on Mrs. B's shoulder, and then goes about the rest of her day not exactly forgetting the whole incident from the night before, but at least feeling a little better. After their walk, Mrs. B has a lunch date with her friend Mrs. C, and Mrs. B's outburst is fresh in her mind, so she tells Mrs. C. At this point, all the anger and sorrow has ebbed from the story; Mrs. B and Mrs. C. feel a bit of pity for Mrs. A and her husband, but they are easily able to shrug and go their separate ways. Later that night, when Mrs. C is sitting at dinner with her husband, trying to think of something to fill the silence at the table, she recalls the story Mrs. B told her and, in a very "You won't believe this" way, gives her own recount. She is so melodramatic in her retelling that Mr. C laughs out loud.

    And there you have it: the end of the emotional game of telephone. An event causes an emotion that unleashes a story that transforms that emotion and shifts it from one polar opposite of the emotional spectrum to the other.

    These emotional transformations, from sorrow to anger or anger to hilarity, are only possible because the emotions become stories and the stories are told and retold. Ultimately, the transformation is in the telling.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    Your Favorite Children's Book

    I need help from you, my readers! At the end of this month, I will be attending a baby shower for one of my dearest friends. In lieu of a card, she and her husband have asked that their guests give a favorite book. I am not too keen on baby books, so I've decided to help them start a quality "early childhood" library.

    The trouble is that I simply cannot decide which book to choose! There are so many lovely children's books that I remember vividly, every time I think I have decided what to buy, I change my mind.

    So perhaps you can help! Please take my super-short 1-question survey below, and let me know what is your favorite childhood book.

    Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

    Thursday, January 5, 2012

    Battle of the Sexes

    Men and women will never see eye-to-eye on some topics. Boobs, for instance. Or sharing feelings. But a few issues remain open for debate. Most of these concern equality . . . or lack thereof.

    Education, for instance. Women are rapidly forming the educated majority. They're graduating in higher numbers with higher grades and pursuing higher degrees than their male counterparts. If those are the statistics, however, then what is causing this gender-based shift? Are women finally receiving and embracing the educational opportunities that have been denied them for so long? Are men getting lazier? Or does early education favor the way girls learn, leaving boys at a disadvantage?

    Beyond the classroom, the numbers flip. More men hold CEO and company-ownership positions than women, and even when women hold equivalent positions in the same company as men, the men tend to earn more than the women. If women are performing better in school, what happens when they get to the workforce? Are they simply not cut out for leadership roles? Or are men bigger risk-takers, meaning greater failure but also greater reward? Are men truly doing the job better, or are they simply more willing to ask for (or demand) a raise?

    Then, there is the ever-contested issue of rape. Yes, rape is a horrific event that can severely damage a person's body, psyche, and reputation. Yes, rapists deserve to be punished. However, merely being accused of rape can also severely damage a person's reputation, psyche, and even body--whether or not that individual is ever convicted. And who is more often accused of rape, men or women? Furthermore, for every woman who fails to accuse her attacker, how many men have also been raped and failed to report the incident?

    Amid all of these debates--who is being treated unfairly? who is the true victim of sexism?--I do have one abiding observation: if a man passes a woman, depending on who that man is, there is a chance that he will beep his horn or let out a whistle or make a lewd face or gesture at her. As a woman and mere observer of humanity, I can attest to this. On the other hand, I have never seen a woman passing a man let out even the softest of whistles or gentlest of catcalls. Nor have I, as a woman, ever even considered doing such a thing myself.

    So are we equal? Not quite yet. But let us not confuse having equal opportunities or deserving equal respect with having equal skill sets. Because I, for one, believe that men and women differ in essential and important ways. Our goal should be to take advantage of those skills and enhance them.

    First things first, however: we should work toward equal respect. The rest will follow.