It’s Not Monday, Again; What Are You Reading?

I really need to set myself an alarm or something to remind myself to do this on Mondays!

Reading Update

Today is October 30. In the seven days since I last did this, I’ve read one — count ’em — one book. And it’s not even a long one! Sigh. Anyway, that puts me at 60 books for the year.

Currently Reading

I’m actually not yet currently reading anything, but I’m about to start a new one — hopefully this afternoon. I was planning on grabbing Counting by 7s, but I think I may follow up my last book (The One and Only Ivan) with another book by the same author. My friend B has recommended The Underneath, and it sounds like the sort of thing I might like to read right now.

Beyond that… well, go to last week’s post, and you’ve pretty much got my potential to-read pile there. I may or may not give Allegiant a go this weekend, although I haven’t heard very good things about it. But I can’t very well leave the trilogy hanging, can I?

Primates on the Brain

Because of a book I read (The One and Only Ivan) and a recent visit to the zoo, I have primates on the brain and thought I’d share a few pictures from the Patas monkey exhibit at the zoo.

If you live in Idaho, you probably heard about the drunken idiot (there are stronger words I could use) who broke into Zoo Boise and beat one of our Patas monkeys to death. Our zoo is a small one, although a very nice one, and this random act of violence halved our population of Patas monkeys — an especially grievous situation, because they’re a very social species. Responding to concerns that the surviving monkey might not fare well in solitude, a zoo in New York donated two Patas monkeys to be companions.

The city donated $100,000 to create a new, more secure enclosure for the trio of monkeys.

And then, in the first week of October, the three monkeys suddenly became four.

And later that same week: five! Those monkeys got right down to business!

I was at the zoo on October 26 and went by the Patas enclosure, which had been reopened but wasn’t being cleaned as often in an effort to minimize disruptions and tension for the young family. I was so glad that I remembered to go by, because after a few minutes the two mama monkeys turned around and displayed their babies!

2 mother Patas monkeys with babies

I’m not going to lie; my heart melted. It’s pretty much impossible not to see the relationship between monkey-primates and people-primates when you see the way that these mothers cradled and nursed their babies, how the babies clung to their mothers and looked up at them wonderingly.

Of course, people-primates generally don’t trust that their babies will keep clinging to them as they gallop up rocks on all fours, but then again we have a lot less body hair.

After a little while, one of the babies stopped eating and looked around. It (they don’t know the babies’ genders yet) had such a dear little face, that sort of stereotypical Curious George monkey face.

A clearer picture (if you click on the links above about the baby monkeys, you can see some much better photographs than these I tried to take through thick glass):

Patas monkey mothers and infants

The protective father, Incus, stands between the audience and his family:

Father Patas monkey father Patas monkey

It was really a pretty magical moment. Not a particularly unique one, I’m sure; they didn’t seem concerned about hiding the babies from the public, and there were a LOT of people at the zoo that day. But as I stood there, holding my own little (hungry) baby, it definitely gave me a case of the feels. I’m not sure how much longer my body is going to let me keep up with nursing (I’m having a big drop in supply) but it is such a precious, good thing for H and myself. And look how we are connected to the world!

Then I read The One and Only Ivan, which is a beautiful addition to the genre of “using anthropomorphism to gain sympathy for animal rights,” and yeah. Primates.

What’s on your mind lately?

Stargazing: A Meander

orionA couple of years ago, we moved out of the city, pretty close to the neighborhood I lived in through high school and college. I suppose, when I was a teenager/young adult, I didn’t spend a lot of time looking around outside at 5 in the morning. Now that I’m a growed-up, with growed-up responsibilities like a career and a dog with active bodily functions (but an unfenced yard) I find myself standing outside in the darkest part of the night fairly often — and I marvel at the brightness and clarity of the stars out there. On a clear night, you can fairly easily discern the color of stars, or whether they are pulsars, or whether they’re actually a sneaky planet or satellite instead of a true star.

When I walk out my front door in the early morning, I step right into Orion. It’s my favorite constellation, for no better reason than it’s very visible in this part of the world, and I find it very easy to pick out. I always had trouble finding the Big Dipper, but I could always lock on to Orion.

I used to think that Orion only appeared in our night sky during the winter, but lately I’ve discovered that isn’t really true. I’m not sure where I got that idea. Is it a geographical thing? I grew up in Colorado and then moved to Idaho; maybe that was true of the former? Around here, you can find Orion somewhere in the sky pretty much year-round, although he is definitely at his most glorious in the winter… especially at 5 AM.

I love the name of it. Orion. It bridges that gap between exotic and approachable just perfectly: Not an English word, but not uncomfortably foreign. For some period of time, I imagined naming a child Orion. Instead, I married a man named Ryan — can you imagine the confusion of a household with those two names in it? (Not as bad, I guess, as houses with a Senior and a Junior in it.) It makes me think about the names I loved, before I got too close to the reality of actually having to apply one to a real child. Orion. Anjuli, after the character in The Far Pavilions. Opal. Piers. My imagined adulthood was more adventuresome, I think, than strictly necessary. That’s the danger of reading too many books, I suppose; one grows up expecting camel caravans.

This morning, the moon was right in the middle of the constellation just above and to the side of Orion’s right arm. I looked it up. Gemini, with the moon right between the twins’ bodies. If they were lovers instead of twins, the moon might have been their baby. How’s that for a Friday thought? Celestial incest!

I taught myself about Orion when I was a high schooler. I remember my amusement when I learned that his right shoulder was Betelgeuse, more popularly known among the kid set as Beetlejuice. The star in the center of his belt is Alnilam, a name that enchanted me and filled my head with romantic science fiction daydreams. Alnilam — doesn’t it just sound like something out of a story populated with elves and laser guns? I plotted stories about a lieutenant (another word that always charmed me) in a space corps from a planet orbiting Alnilam, having death-defying adventures in the time-honored tradition of Star Wars fanfic. Gorgeous space opera cheese. Never wrote any of it down, though. Not sure why. Probably so I wouldn’t have to be embarrassed by it in my older, “wiser” days.

Orion’s left ankle is named Rigel, another name that made it on to my “I might name a child that some day!” list only to be stricken down by hypothetical child’s actual father’s name. Instead, I gave that name to a stuffed moose. It was a good compromise, I think. Although someone probably ought to name their child Rigel. [Checking online… Rigel doesn’t hit the charts as a first name but is the 29,761st most common surname in the US. Orion, on the other hand, is practically Jennifer in comparison; 171 babies, out of every million, were named Orion in 2010.]

Orion is pictured with a sword — made of Iota Orionis, the Orion Nebula, and a third star whose name I can’t recall — hanging from his belt. Years of teaching Shakespeare with a naughty twinkle in my eye makes me question whether it was originally intended to be a sword at all. After all, if in Shakespeare a sword is rarely just a sword (“I woo’d thee with my sword!”) would the ancient astronomers have shied away from delineating The Hunter’s figurative sword? Heck, the central star in the “sword” is the Orion Nebula — a cloud of stardust from which life exudes!

I bet when you started reading this post, you didn’t think you’d be reading about incest and… swords. That’s the thing about DYHJ.  I like to keep you guessing.

It’s Monday! (Er, Tuesday!) What Are You Reading?

Reading Update

Today is October 22. It is Tuesday, not Monday. Oops.

This year so far, I’ve read 59 books. I still haven’t adjusted my book-a-week goal and may not; I may just keep reading and see where I end up. It’s not as if I really need any motivation to read a lot right now; I’m desperate to dive into my ever-growing pool of to-read books!

Currently Reading

I’m actually not currently reading anything, because I just finished this book:

The Astronauts Wives Club is nonfiction and tells the little-known story of what it was like to be married to astronauts during the 1960s. It is arguably not very well-written (there are too many women and too many unconnected anecdotes thrown in toward the end, like an unorganized box of snapshots) but I found it fascinating. I’m a fan of things about history that most people don’t think about, especially when it is written very accessibly, as I rarely have mental energy these days to really work at a book. I don’t suppose I was surprised to find the astronauts depicted as pretty childish.

Next on my docket are some titles from our school library: The One and Only IvanCounting by 7s, The Misfits, Zebrafish, and As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth. I’m also toting around a copy of For Us Surrender is Out of the Question: A Story from Burma’s Never-Ending War that I’d like to read if my brain cells ever get lined back up. We have some students who are refugees from Burma (Myanmar) by way of Thailand, and I would like to know more about what’s going on in that part of the world. I think I’m going to start with Ivan; it looks like a fast read.
To Read

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Reading Update

Today is October 7, 2013. This year so far, I have read 57 books toward my initial goal of 52 for 2013. I still haven’t decided how high I’d like to re-set my goal.

Currently Reading

Doctor Sleep

Right now I’m reading Doctor Sleep, Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining. I’ve put any other reading projects on hold to try to get through this big boy, because it’s on short loan from a friend who has it from the library. My plan was to be done with it by today, but I ended up sick as a dog (and hibernating like a bear) all weekend, so I haven’t hit that goal… hoping that I can get it done before it’s due!

I recently finished reading The Elite and Pride of Baghdad. I’m moderately anxious for the third book in Cass’s series to come out. Pride was deeply disturbing, but then again, maybe a parable about war and captivity should be….