My Reading List: August 25 – 29

Walked over to the White House on a nice weather day this week. 200 years ago, the White House was on fire. Nothing but blue skies today.
Walked over to the White House on a nice weather day this week. 200 years ago, the White House was on fire. Nothing but blue skies today.

1) 200 years ago, the Brits stormed our White House and burnt it down. 200 years, a couple of regional alliances, and a handful of totally awesome rom-coms later, The British Embassy tweeted a picture of a White House-shaped cake complete with sparklers and the flags of both countries with a message that they were commemorating the White House burning anniversary with sparklers….and then proceeded to burn down the Internet. Coincidentally, I saw the tweet come through on my Twitter feed and my first reaction was, “Well, that seems wrong,” but then I kind of laughed a little. I mean, it’s kind of like the old man getting pissed all over again about that time his next-door-neighbor’s kid hit a baseball through his window when years later he sees the kid up to bat for the Yankees. Maybe I need to read the history books a little, but it seems that 200 years later, old enemies who are the best of friends now can share a harmless laugh about that time we battled each other for worldwide supremacy. And a piece of that cake…hello, Britain? Don’t you know us but at all??

2) Every time an in-flight mishap of the high school kind creates news, people (myself included) gobble it up. That’s because, when forced to just make the best of an uncomfortable situation or get re-routed and/or arrested, we really can’t complain too much about being crammed into a metal tube going 700 miles an hour at atmospheric heights for hours with hundreds of people when all we want out of a flight is a safe journey from A to B…..and perhaps a screwdriver with some pretzels to soothe our human craving for wide open space for the meantime. So, when something like this makes headlines, everyone has something to say because we’ve all suppressed what’s really on our minds about airline travel just for the sake of having a “smooth and pleasant flight.” In my personal opinion, people who recline their seats are jerks. Yes, the seat reclines. Does it mean you should do it? It reclines into my space so I have to recline into someone else’s space and so on until everyone in the ‘C’ row all the way back is pissed about losing a cubic foot of space. But to preemptively buy a device that takes away someone else’s smallest amenity of comfort for the sake of your own is kind of a new low. $22 is, on some flights, about half the cost of an upgrade. So upgrade if you want or need more leg room. Download a book, order a drink, and just do what the rest of us have to do– suck it up. Or at least buy me a drink if you’re going to be in my space…

3) One of the reasons I started my “weekly reads” post is because I’m trying to be a better reader. Believe me, I understand how great it is to get lost in a story or that hungry feeling you get when you pick up a salivating read and you want to know more about something. Just like work and exercise and life, you have to do what you love, so with reading, you have to read what you love. Like I mentioned in my last reading post, travelogues are my favorite genre of literature because they tie so well with politics and history and can be fiction-esque. So, I picked up a great travelogue that has the perfect blend of these elements: Tim Butcher’s “Blood River: The Terrifying Journey Through the World’s Most Dangerous Country.” This book recounts the journey of a London Telegraph journalist who decides to retrace the steps of Henry Morton Stanley, another Telegraph reporter who trailed Scottish explorer David Livingstone through the Congo. If the line, “Dr. Livingtsone, I presume?” just ran through your head, now you can understand why I’m eating this book up like a dinner plate-sized cupcake. As I write this post, I’m at the part where Butcher recounts in brief the history of the Congo’s Belgian colonization and how it was once a traveler’s paradise where romanticized wild jungle safaris met modern travel conveniences, shadowed by the brutality of maintaining an African colony. I actually didn’t know this when I picked up the book: I picked it up because I wanted to understand what events transpired that leaves the Democratic Republic of the Congo in such tragic disarray. If you’re looking for a “Romancing the Stone”-like story, this may or may not be for you.

4) Despite having some members who are intelligent enough to create a worldwide communications and information-sharing super-highway, the human race has other members who use the Internet to act in ways that make this communications structure seem as impressive as building a sandcastle with an empty beer can. Reading this Salon article that shares one girl’s story of being placed front and center on a fat-shaming website,  I’m disgusted that people actually took time out of their day to say the horrible things they did and that it happens everywhere, all the time. The article is a good lesson in the Golden Rule as well as Internet etiquette and privacy. Most of the people whose posts prompted the author to contact them didn’t seem to realize that what you write on the Internet oftentimes secures a space on the Internet where many people can see it. And you never know when it will haunt you, hurt you, or haunt and hurt someone else. Moreover, the fact that the author maintains a healthy lifestyle despite the fact that she has a condition in which it doesn’t affect how she looks? May I be the first to say that is incredibly impressive, and she should be commended, not degraded.

5) Almonds are my go-to snack. When I’m having a slump around 3PM on a Wednesday, it’s almonds. When I’m two minutes from crossing the starting line of a big race, I’m mowing down on almonds. Almonds, in the form of milk, are one of the base ingredients in my morning banana spinach smoothie. Almonds are my best buddies. But in light of numerous agricultural and environment trends, I have never appreciated almonds more than I do now thanks to this article in The Atlantic. In California alone, almonds are in constant battles between a financially strapped state government and now they’re facing the Battle of Omega-3’s with salmon in a drought so bad they are thinking about adding a “DEFCON 0” drought status. Keep up the good fight, almonds. We’re all here for you.

Have a good long Labor Day weekend! I know I am looking forward to it…

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