Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Great fall reads

Fall and winter are great times to curl up with a good book, and these eight books would all make for great reading on a crisp fall evening.

Note: As per usual, I am listing books in the order I read them and clicking on the title will take you to a description on To read previous "Book Nook" posts, click here.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson. Fiction. Yes, yes, I finally caved and read it -- and was not disappointed. Though I kept having a sense of déjà lu. An excellent thriller, featuring a journalist, set in Sweden. What's not to like, except for lots of innocent women being raped and murdered and knowing that somewhere there is someone who could hack into your computer or your bank accounts in a second and steal whatever they want? Still would definitely recommend to mystery buffs (even though I have no desire to read the rest of the Millennium Trilogy nor see the movie, in Swedish or in English).

The Girl Who Chased the Moon
by Sarah Addison Allen. Fiction. A wonderful, magical, modern-day fairytale set in the South. Not as strong as Allen's previous two books, Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen, which I LOVED, but a charming, quick read about growing up, second chances, and finding magic in the every day.

The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece
by Edward Dolnick. Non Fiction. The title pretty much says it all, in terms of a quick summary. What it doesn't say is that the author, an investigative journalist, is a brilliant writer, who gives readers a first-row balcony seat to one of the greatest art thefts -- and recoveries -- in recent history, of Edvard Munch's iconic painting The Scream. Along the way, Dolnick tells of other impressive art thefts and the men and women behind them. Although the work is non-fiction, it often reads like a mystery or thriller. I highly recommend, especially if you are interested in the art world.

The Forger’s Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century by Edward Dolnick. Non Fiction. It seems as though September is Art Heist Month, at least in my house (though I have yet to rent either version of The Thomas Crown Affair, both of which I have seen). Another fascinating look at the art world and art forgery and art theft, this time around the time of World War II, by investigative journalist Edward Dolnick. You don't have to be an art lover to appreciate or enjoy this book, which, like The Rescue Artist, is meticulously researched and very well written.

The Lady Queen: The Notorious Reign of Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Jerusalem, and Sicily by Nancy Goldstone. Non Fiction. With subtitles like these, who needs descriptions? A must read for you Eleanor of Aquitaine and strong women in history buffs. A bit hard-going in spots, but a fascinating look at an overlooked 14th Century queen who wielded considerable power, despite constant attempts by the men around her to subdue and dethrone her.

Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman by Sam Wasson. Non Fiction. Again with the subtitle. Anyway... If you are an Audrey Hepburn or a Breakfast at Tiffany's (the movie) buff, Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. is MUST reading. Another non-fiction book that reads like fiction. I couldn't put it down.

Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art
by Laney Salisbury & Aly Sujo. Non Fiction. Because, like I said, it's Art Heist Month here at J-TWO-O Central -- and after reading about art forger John Myatt in The Rescue Artist, I wanted to learn more. A total page turner.

The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson. Fiction. I literally could not put this book down. (Finished it last night.) A work of historical fiction, set in modern-day England and early 17th Century England and Morocco, about two women separated by 400 years, embroidery, and pirates, The Tenth Gift (bad title) made me want to immediately book a flight to England, so I could spend some time in Cornwall, and then take a plane to Morocco, which I've been wanting to visit (and photograph) for years.

Have you read any good books lately? Please let me know via the Comments. Note: I am still looking for books that will make me laugh at loud (as opposed to plunging me further into depression) -- and Chelsea Handler just doesn't do it for me.

Wishing you all good reading...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Particle physics meets the Jersey Shore?

Okay, so I am "slightly obsessed" with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's largest particle accelerator (affectionately known as the "Big Bang Machine")....

[If you are wondering about the Jersey Shore reference, keep reading.]

And now comes word from Geneva, where the Large Hadron Collider (aka the Black Hole Maker) is located, albeit 100 meters underground, that scientists there are on the verge of a major scientific breakthrough, which, considering that they are trying to recreate the Big Bang, does not strike me as good news. Specifically, scientists are on the hunt for "hot dense matter."

[FYI: The picture above is a computer-generated graphic showing the tracks of more than 100 subatomic particles resulting from the collision of protons in the Large Hadron Collider's Compact Muon Solenoid at an energy of 7 trillion electron volts. Talkin' 'bout some "Hot Stuff"*...]

Now, I am not a scientist, but I do try to stay informed on what's going on in the world, and if scientists really wanted to find "hot dense matter," they could have saved $10 billion and just watched a couple of episodes of Jersey Shore. (Talk about a void...)

Note to CERN scientists: If you do find "hot dense matter" how about naming the new subatomic particle (that goes out with a bang) a "Snooki"?

In related news, for those of you wondering what would happen if you put your hand inside the Large Hadron Collider while it was accelerating particles, wonder no more! (Maybe.)

*Bonus points if you got the Donna Summer reference.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Possibly the funniest cat video ever

Apparently even cats are not immune to Justin Bieber Fever.

[H/T to Tauntr -- though what is with the Tampa Rays uniform, dude?]

Friday, September 24, 2010

Happy National Punctuation Day!!!

Yes, my friends, today is National Punctuation Day, "a celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotation marks, and other proper uses of periods, semicolons, and the ever-mysterious ellipsis."

You can learn all about National Punctuation Day -- as well as the proper use of punctuation -- over on the National Punctuation Day website. The site is also running a Punctuation Haiku Contest, though you would be hard pressed to beat these gems (written by Craig Harrison):

Raised by two parens
I’ve been bracketed since youth.
I’m an inside job.

Dot dot ellipses
The yada yada of print.
So on and so forth.

When my editor removes
My inflamed colon.

And while not strictly about punctuation, I felt this Schoolhouse Rock video, titled "Interjections!" was appropriate to include here:

Happy National Punctuation Day to all -- and be careful where you stick that comma!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Katy Perry does Sesame Street

Personally, I thought singer Katy Perry, she of the whipped-cream shooting breasts, was a bit of an odd choice to be singing a duet with Elmo on Sesame Street. But is Perry's cleavage really harmful to young children? I don't think so. And I think millions of dads would agree.

However, after Sesame Street received a number of complaints about the video, which to date has only been available on YouTube, the producers decided to not feature the video on Sesame Street after all. Which means Perry will have to remain a teenage dream.

Note to Elmo: I saw you trying to sneak a peak up Katy Perry's skirt, you naughty little red monster.

FYI: More about Cleavagegate here.

UPDATED: Best tweet/comment on the subject, courtesy of Katy Perry's fiance, Russell Brand: "Today's Sesame Street will NOT be brought to you by the number 34 or the letter D."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Look what they've done to my brain, ma

Look what they've done to my brain
Well they picked it like a chicken bone
And I think I'm half insane, Ma
Look what they've done to my brain

For some reason, "Look What They've Done to My Song" started playing on the mental jukebox earlier tonight. (The stanza above is the second verse of the song, which describes exactly how I've been feeling of late.)

Actually, I know the reason the song popped into my brain: work-related stress. Just substitute the word writing for song, and that pretty much describes how my week has been going. (Make that the last several weeks.)

So what song describes your week or mood? Let me know via a comment.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

OK Go creates yet another brilliant video

If you watch one video today, OK Go's new video, titled "White Knuckles," which features some very talented performers (and the guys in OK Go aren't bad either), should be it.

(For those of you who thought the creators of "Here It Goes Again," aka The Brilliant Treadmill Video, had gone to the dogs, you were right!)

You can learn more about the making of OK Go's "White Knuckles" over on Gizmodo. I got work to do.

[H/T to]

Friday, September 17, 2010

Do I look like a cat bed?!

Apparently, the answer is "Yes!"

No sooner had I sat down to work yesterday morning, than our lanky black cat, Felix (who when stretched out is approximately three feet long), decided to make himself comfortable in my lap. While I was typing, or trying to. This lasted for at least a couple of hours. (I also had a picture of Felix bathing himself in my lap, but it didn't come out so good.)

Then later, after I finally managed to un-velcro Felix from my lap, wake up my legs, get dressed for the day, eat a little something, and return to work, he took up right where we had left off, making himself comfortable in my lap while I attempted to type and do research. (For the record, despite Felix, a very productive day.)

Ah to be a cat -- or be able to relax like a cat. I am convinced cats can sleep or nap anywhere, at any time. Whereas I am so stressed about work, I can hardly eat or sleep. But when Felix is curled up in my lap, it definitely alleviates some of the stress. It also reminds me of that famous, though apocryphal, line Johnny Carson spoke to Zsa Zsa Gabor when she supposedly came on The Tonight Show with a cat on her lap and asked Carson if he'd like to pet her pussy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Does this ring tone make my breasts look bigger?

Despite what the New York Times says, I don't know a single A-cup female who wouldn't welcome a natural, safe way to increase her breast size. And now, finally, science has heard the call of mammary challenged women everywhere and answered with a mobile solution that is sure to be a ringing success.

I am, of course, referring to the Rock Melon ring tone invented by Dr. Hideto Tomobechi of Japan, who claims that by listening to this particular ring tone 20 times a day for 10 days, a woman can increase her bust size by over an inch. That's a whole cup size, people!

The secret of the breast-enlarging ring tone? It mimics the sound of a crying baby, which triggers a physical maternal response in women that swells the listener's breasts as if she is readying for childbirth.

WARNING: Women with C or larger cups should not watch the following video more than 19 times a day unless they want to risk having to buy new bras.

But wait, there's more, much more, as I discovered while watching a rerun of The Rachael Ray Show at the gym the other day. In addition to cell phone ring tones, there are creams you can purchase that in a few applications can literally turn your mole hills into mountains!

And I just love the names: Bust-Boom!, Breast Success, Quick Bust.

There's even Breast Enlargement Cream for Crossdressing, Transgender and Transvestite Men.

Makes you yearn for the good old days, when a girl just needed to pump her arms back and forth in front of her chest intoning the words "We must, we must, we must increase our bust..."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

So much for the Jets going 16-0. But at least the Giants won.

First the good news -- that is, if you are a New York (Jersey) Giants fan: the Giants won their home opener Sunday, 31-18, over the Carolina Panthers. No, it wasn't pretty. And no, I don't think that it marks the start of a Super Bowl run. But, a win is a win is a win. And it's one more than the New York (Jersey) Jets, who share a stadium with the Giants, have right now.

Speaking of sharing a stadium, the staff and grounds crew at New Meadowlands Stadium (in East Rutherford, New Jersey), where both the Giants and Jets play, deserve a trophy for turning what was Giants Stadium Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. ET into Jets Stadium by 4 p.m. ET Monday (actually a lot sooner than that). Even if you don't care about the Giants or the Jets, check out this short video. Amazing.

But getting back to the Jets, I was totally pumped to watch the Jets tackle the Baltimore Ravens last night, especially after watching Hank Williams Jr. open Monday Night Football on ESPN:

But neither Old Hank's rallying cry nor Mark Sanchez's rugged good looks could save the Jets from an embarrassing 10-9 defeat. (If you click on only one link in this post, read the URL for the one before this parenthetical statement. Brilliant.) I don't know which was worse, the Jets' offense, which couldn't score, even when given several opportunities, or the Jets' defense, which may have gone in the books for record number of penalties in a single game.

Of course, being a fan (of both the Giants and the Jets -- weird but true), I'll be in front of the TV again next weekend, rooting (and praying) for a victory.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Of mice and cats... and squirrels

Who needs mouse traps when you have cats? Not us!

Yes, dear readers, once again I was greeted on my morning rounds with a dead mouse. A very dead mouse. So dead that I decided no picture this time. And two very nonchalant cats (though Flora, our 15-pound torbi, made sure to point it out, twice, in case I missed it).

After feeding the cats (apparently midnight mousing builds up quite an appetite) and giving them fresh water, and deciding to give a pass to photographing my dead furry friend, I went to the kitchen to don my hot pink latex gloves and grab some paper towel and multipurpose cleaner, came back downstairs, and quickly disposed of the mouse.

I then went up to my office to read the news (or what passes for news these days) and immediately came across this story on, about a cat that took in an orphaned baby squirrel... which now purrs.

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Here's wishing you all a mouse-free day.

(Reminder to self: Make sure husband closes the door to the garage tonight, and removes the "Rodents Welcome" mat.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Song stuck in your head? Want to dance like one of those sexy guys on TV? Science has the answer!

Just in time for the weekend, I've got fabulous news for those of you who, like me, often find yourself unable to get that certain song out of your head, and, for all my male readers, news from the UK on how you can become a "sexy" dancer and attract the ladies.

First up, a website that claims to have a cure for ear worms (i.e., songs that worm their way into your ear then get stuck in your head), unhear it. Unhear it's tagline: "Get that damn song out of your head."

Per the site's founders:

"We created this site for those of you that have a song stuck in your head and you can't get it out no matter what you do. Using the latest techniques in reverse-auditory-melodic-unstickification technology, we've been able to allow our users to 'unhear' songs by hearing equally catchy songs. So all we're doing is making you forget your old song by replacing it with another one... sorry."

Of course, ever since discovering the (highly addictive) site earlier this week, I have been swapping ear worms, though I much prefer the ones I acquired on Unhear it's random song generator. (I think the founders have a thing for 1980s new wave music.)

In other groundbreaking news, scientists in the UK have positively identified what makes a man a "sexy dancer" -- and how (in theory) any man can look like a star on the dance floor -- and attract the ladies -- by using these scientifically proven "sexy dance moves."

HINT: It's all in the left wrist and the right knee, guys!

Per researcher Dr. Nick Neave, "If a man knows what the key moves are, he can get some training and improve his chances of attracting a female through his dance style."

FYI: The following would be classified under "all the wrong moves." (You know who you are.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Little Exploding Pony

I'm all for erring on the side of caution but... really?!

So, yesterday, authorities in Orange County, Florida, found a little stuffed pony outside the Waterbridge Elementary School. And, of course, their reaction was... to blow it up. (Maybe the authorities thought it was a Trojan horse?)

And why did the authorities decide to blow up the little stuffed horse? Because apparently a seemingly abandoned stuffed toy on the grounds of an elementary school constitutes a "suspicious device."

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[I am not a fan of gratuitous violence, but I nearly fell off my chair laughing watching that poor little stuffed pony being blown up again and again and again. Mea culpa.]

Afterward, the authorities declared the erstwhile stuffed pony to be "non-threatening." Though I wouldn't want to be the one to tell the poor kid who owned the little pony that someone blew up her beloved stuff pet.

The moral of this blog post? Don't look a gift horse blog post in the mouth!

UPDATED: I just heard that it was a "concerned citizen" [i.e., someone who probably shouldn't have had all those tequilas Monday night] who spotted the "suspicious device" [aka the stuffed pony] at the elementary school and alerted the bomb squad. Also, found this great raw video of the pony bein' 'sploded from a variety of angles. AWESOME.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The dangers of mommy blogging -- and writing about your kids on Facebook

I have never been comfortable with the idea -- or reality -- of "mommy [or daddy] blogging," that is women (and men) who blog about their children. While their descriptions of domestic life and/or their children may be cute and/or amusing (and often are) -- and mommy bloggers generate oodles of traffic and advertising -- it's exploitative, and even dangerous when the parent reveals his or her children's names and where they live.

Another major issue with mommy blogging is it often violates the child's privacy.

That's why, despite many of my friends repeatedly telling me I should become a mommy blogger, I haven't done so. (Well that and the fact that I prefer writing about just about everything -- sports, politics, pop culture, Spanx for men -- besides my family.)

Though, I admit, I have on occasion wandered into mommy blogger territory. But I have always been careful not to reveal my daughter's name or where we live or, until recently, her age and what she looks like -- and have only done so with her permission. Except for my last entry. Which my daughter happened upon last night. After I had retired. And apparently it greatly upset her. Which is why I am writing this post.

Too often, in this era of blogging and Facebook and instant communication, we moms and dads forget about our children's right to privacy (and feelings) when blogging or posting on social media sites -- and I want you to know it can come back to bite you. Big time.

More importantly, though, I am writing (wrote) this post as a form of apology to my daughter.

Daughter, if you are reading this (and I know you are, because I emailed you a link), I want you to know that I feel AWFUL about hurting your feelings, especially as that was not my intent. I love you, and have spent 12 years making sure you knew you were loved and appreciated and felt secure. And I would hate to think I blew all that with a silly blog post (which was intended to amuse not hurt).

So daughter, I apologize to you. And I promise I will not write about you again -- on this blog or on Facebook -- without your permission.

But you're still not getting an iPhone or a BlackBerry for Hanukkah.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Smells like tween spirit

Last Thursday was Meet the Teacher day (or hour) at my daughter's middle school, and I swear you could smell the hormones -- and pheromones.You would think these girls hadn't seen each other in 10 years, not 10 weeks. And the preening! Yikes!

And along with the additional homework that seventh grade entails has come additional demands from the resident adolescent female. Seriously, I am starting to feel like a hostage negotiator -- except I am the one being held hostage.

First up, she wants her ears pierced. (I had promised her years ago that when she turned 12 she could get her ears pierced, so I probably have to pony up on that one.) Second, she wants a new bed. And a new mattress. And a new desk and chair for her bedroom. And a new chest of drawers. (Thankfully, She Who Will Not Be Ignored said she is fine with the paint color -- lilac -- and her rug, which is also lilac.) We told her that we would accede to her wishes if or when we could sell or give away her current bedroom set, which is in excellent condition. (Though we caved and said we would take her IKEA -- just to look -- this weekend.)

NOTE: Anyone looking for a great wooden loft bed with matching fitted storage system = small chest of drawers, book shelf, and pull-out desk? Would be perfect for a child 3 - 9, male or female.

Also, she would like more iTunes. And a whole new wardrobe for fall.

On this last point, the spouse and decided to give her a prepaid debit card. So this year, she will be doing her own shopping, albeit escorted by Mom. If she blows all her money on one or two purchases, too bad. (Must. Be. Strong.) So we told her to do some research online, pick a few stores, and let me know where she wants to go shopping so I can look for coupons beforehand. (Note: We are buying her a good pair of sneakers and a good pair of shoes for day-to-day wear, and underwear, and her winter coat and boots, but the rest of it she's responsible for. And if she wants more stuff, she's going to have to babysit or pet sit for it, or wait until Hanukkah.)

And in case negotiations fail (or scientists do not quickly invent a teenager vaccine), I told the spouse to reserve a room for me at Silver Hill Hospital.

Pray for me, people.