#AtoZChallenge: Memory

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I know, I know, giraffe doesn’t start with M. Can’t resist today, though. Like many of you, I suspect, I was watching a giraffe with her brand-new baby (I missed the birth, but so it goes) when suddenly I remembered: I’m supposed to write a blog post today. Right. Yes.

Which got me thinking about that elusive thing called “memory.”

(Ponder that for a second, I’ll be right back, just need to look at that baby giraffe again. And see if s/he is standing yet. Baby giraffes are precocious.)

Almost. Not quite. OK, back to memory. It loses things we need; it clutches things we really don’t, like that one time that thing happened, and it was so embarrassing and you’d like to forget it but it loves to pop back into the old thinker right when you’re trying to go to sleep.

My own memory has always been a bit of a murky mess in some ways; relentlessly detailed in others. I don’t always remember people I’ve known; I have a friend who reminds me of things I’ve long forgotten, marked and inventoried. We joke she’s my historian.

(Why yes, I did just pop over to see the new giraffe again. Admit it. You did too.)

It’s strange that something lasting can be so ephemeral; so real yet unreal at the same time. It forms our basis as we learn from our mistakes and successes. It haunts us. It bathes us in remembered warmth.

(Nearly made it that time! April is standing between us and the camera. A couple inches to the right, April. We’re making memories here.)

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

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Uhm, Well, I Took a Lot of Pictures

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Marine iguana. It’s decidedly not enormous.

So you might be wondering where my Ecuador and Galapagos Islands pictures are, and I can tell you I have them. I most certainly have them.

So. Many. Pictures. 4,903 of them, to be exact, if everything has transferred properly. And that’s just the big camera.

I’ve done a run through all of the ones from my real camera, but I haven’t yet transferred the little camera. Speaking of the little camera, it really did its job and more! I got it primarily for underwater shots, and that thing went to work. I couldn’t see the screen while snorkeling (I snorkeled! I actually learned how to snorkel!) so I just pointed, squinted for the focus button and hoped for the best, and it shot its little heart out.

And it was surprisingly watertight. Not entirely, as you’ll see later with some of the photos from Hidden Beach, but you’ve got to work with what you’ve got.

So hopefully you won’t mind if it takes a little time to share with you the best of what I took. That pic above is probably not my best marine iguana, but I honor requests.

Eventually patience will be rewarded, and by that I mean I can’t wait to regale you with my travel tales until you’re begging me to blog about television.

One more pic for the road!

Ferry from Baltra to Santa Cruz.

Ferry from Baltra to Santa Cruz.

In or near Chicago in October? Come see “Me Inside Me Presents: Witch, Please,” on October 1, 8, 22 and 29 at Donny’s Skybox Theater at 7 pm. Tickets available at SecondCity.com.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

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Photo Time! Brookfield Zoo

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img_4646This weekend, I paid a visit to Chicagoland’s other zoo: Brookfield Zoo. About 4 times the size of Lincoln Park Zoo, it’s tucked away in the suburb of Brookfield, which is easily accessible, and when I say “easily accessible,” I mean you can get there, but you’re going to sit in traffic, even on a Saturday.

I got pictures, but none that seriously wowed me. I also learned that part of the issue I’ve had since getting my gorgeous new camera is that my SD card is too slow, so I’m not getting the full benefit of the burst. That will be remedied before I go on my trip, which I’ll be talking about later on in the week.

Though it was a lovely day, and the zoo not outrageously crowded, there was just something flatter to me about Brookfield Zoo. Sheds were faded with the paint peeling; the abundant gift shops felt halfhearted and uninspired. The light inside the animal houses was also pretty dim.

You might, if you read regularly, know my concerns about zoos, but I’ll say this: the animals all looked like they were plush versions of themselves, like a menagerie of children’s toys brought to life. Even the rhino seemed like he’d been plucked from the shelf.

Albeit a very large shelf.

Anyway, you’re not here for the words, you want to see some photos, so here we go!

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Condors. Huge doesn’t begin to describe them.

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This one knew what it was doing, and showed off its wingspan. ENORMOUS.

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People actually fed these small monkeys, who were not fenced off from us at all. Don’t feed the animals!

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Speaking of huge, this bison was shockingly large. And people are approaching them at Yellowstone?! UHHH…

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I mean don’t they look like you could have picked them up at the gift shop?

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Why yes, that IS a dead mouse these two American Bald Eagles are about to enjoy.

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I think this grizzly is soon to be featured in a shampoo commercial.

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Even the camel looked fluffy. Though she wasn’t named Alexander Camelton, like the new baby camel at Lincoln Park.

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Please go back to the mouse, eagle.

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There were two baby gorillas, but the mom of the little one did not like pictures.

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Shooting at the Shedd

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I swear this stingray was smiling for the camera. I think this may be my favorite picture ever.

I spent half of the Fourth of July being exquisitely lazy, and then the other half with an impromptu trip to Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium. And I have pictures!

Not of the lazy part, that would be pretty boring, I think.

My absolute favorite part of the day? When looking at a tank with sea horses and clown fish, a woman said “look, there’s Nemo!”

Her friend replied, “Where? I’ve been looking for Nemo all day!”

I couldn’t resist. I turned around and said, “So, technically, you’ve been spending the day Finding Nemo?”

Yep, I know, hypothetical reader. I’m a riot.

I wanted to see how the little point-and-shoot did with the fish underwater, and the answer to that was eh. But it definitely has some pluses, and hopefully it will do well when actually submerged in water, which is why I got it in the first place.

So most of the pictures will be from my real camera…there’s just no beating a DSLR and a good lens.

The Shedd opened in 1930, and like the Field Museum and Adler Planetarium on the same campus, the aquarium was, in essence, a gift to Chicago from one of its most successful citizens, John G. Shedd. Interestingly, Shedd started as a stock boy at Marshall Field’s and ended up running the company, and in 1924, donated $2 million to start the project.

You can still see some of the old-style exhibition halls, but now the Shedd has expanded to include an Oceanarium, a wild reef exhibit with sharks, and a 4D experience theater.

What’s that, hypothetical reader? Stop playing tour guide and show us some pictures already?

Oh yeah. Right.

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This bird in the Amazon Rainforest exhibit had the most enormous feet.

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I played with exposure with this one. At a larger size, the purple pops.

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And now for the ones with the little camera:

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The tank that inspired the Finding Nemo joke.

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This entire floor of the parking garage was closed. It wasn’t remotely creepy.

 

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Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter!

A Tail Tale

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Reminder! Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only) is 99 cents for a limited time! Get your copy now while it’s…whatever temperature digital books are!

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20160415_161513So I was just taking a walk the other day, and I turned my head and saw this guy. I looked at him and he looked at me. I pulled out my trusty cell phone camera, took a couple of shots blind — the glare was so strong I couldn’t see what I was shooting — and we continued our assessment of one another.

Chattering a bit to him or herself, or maybe grumbling, because that’s what it sounded like, it then climbed its way up and over the top of the fence. Given that it was a nocturnal animal out in the bright sunlight of day, exhibiting absolutely no fear of me, I promptly left it it to its climbing. I had no interest in playing the rabies lottery.

It went one way down the walking path and I went the other. I looked at it, down the narrow way, unconcerned in its stroll, its tail up, its stride steady and confident. People were coming. It didn’t care, on it went, the sun lighting the tips of its fur.

Maybe it didn’t have rabies. Maybe it was just a city raccoon with a rebellious side enjoying some of the day life.

Big news! Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only) is $0.99 for a limited time!

In or near Chicago? Check out our sketch comedy revue, “Me Inside Me Presents: Neurotrash.” Saturdays at 10 pm, May 7, 14, 21 & 28. Click here for tickets.

Check out my other full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

Sign up for my spamless newsletter. And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

An Elephant Protest

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I read this story about an elephant in India who smashed down part of a house, but then heard a baby crying under the rubble. It went back and removed the debris from her.

People have been encroaching on the elephants’ migratory path, and they’ve been letting the people know how they feel about it. In another story in the same article, an elephant moved a little girl out of the way before destroying houses.

I think the elephant knew that there were people in the other part of the house, and choose what it thought was the empty side to destroy. When it heard the baby crying, it came back.

It was a political statement. An elephant protest. And it was a non-violent one.

Elephants are sentient. It’s obvious, the evidence is everywhere. They remember each other, they mourn their dead, they even create art.

Why do we cling to this idea that sentience is only ours? There are so many other creatures on this planet as self-aware as we are.

Well, most of us, anyway.

A Neuroscientist Explains How Dogs Love Us

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Do you ever wonder how your dog thinks you’re so great while you may not be so sure about that? Wonder what’s going on behind those big, soft doggy eyes? This neuroscientist did, and took his specialty to man’s best friend.


How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain by Gregory Berns. Amazon for $5.99. The powerful bond between humans and dogs is one that’s uniquely cherished. Loyal, obedient, and affectionate, they are truly “man’s best friend.” But do dogs love us the way we love them? Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns had spent decades using MRI imaging technology to study how the human brain works, but a different question still nagged at him: What is my dog thinking?
After his family adopted Callie, a shy, skinny terrier mix, Berns decided that there was only one way to answer that question—use an MRI machine to scan the dog’s brain. His colleagues dismissed the idea. Everyone knew that dogs needed to be restrained or sedated for MRI scans. But if the military could train dogs to operate calmly in some of the most challenging environments, surely there must be a way to train dogs to sit in an MRI scanner.

With this radical conviction, Berns and his dog would embark on a remarkable journey and be the first to glimpse the inner workings of the canine brain. Painstakingly, the two worked together to overcome the many technical, legal, and behavioral hurdles. Berns’s research offers surprising results on how dogs empathize with human emotions, how they love us, and why dogs and humans share one of the most remarkable friendships in the animal kingdom.

How Dogs Love Us answers the age-old question of dog lovers everywhere and offers profound new evidence that dogs should be treated as we would treat our best human friends: with love, respect, and appreciation for their social and emotional intelligence.