Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Don't Touch the Monkeys

A quick travel story - this one comes from study abroad in China (Fall 2000). I mostly took it from a post I had written over at White Sox Interactive several years ago, but it is informative (and amusing, if you like hearing about me being beaten by old Chinese women and monkeys).

I was hiking on a mountain in Xichuan province with a couple of friends. Now, I was really looking forward to this hike, because we were going to see wild monkeys, and I had never seen wild monkeys. I know, you would think someone from Wisconsin would see them everyday, but no.

So, we get to the portion of the trail where the wild monkeys are supposed to be, and there are all of these signs telling us to put our food away, but no monkeys. Now the chances of me climbing a mountain without a Coke in hand are approximately 0%, so I do not heed the signs telling me to put it away.*

With no monkeys in sight, we keep climbing the trail in search of the monkeys. Shortly, we turn a corner, and there are probably 100 people milling about, feeding a pack/horde/gaggle of large, wild monkeys. The monkeys (and people) are everywhere. Of course, like the fool I am, I just run on up to the first monkey I see, overly excited to see the monkeys.

This monkey immediately grabs my unfinished Coke from my hand and scampers up a nearby tree. I am evidently very upset by this, as several Chinese tourists come and gather around me to watch me, the foreigner, getting extremely agitated over a dime's worth of Coke (there was yelling and wild gesturing involved). My agitation does not disturb the monkey, who promptly opens the bottle of Coke and takes a swig.

Eventually, having no way to get my Coke back (and really, did I want a Coke that a monkey had been drinking out of?), I move to plan B - touch a monkey!

Now, I knew these monkeys were wild animals, but I had never seen wild animals come up to people like this - the only wild animals I had seen who were this tame always allowed themselves to be touched (what can I say, before this my only experience feeding wild animals came with deer). It was quite exciting.

As an American abroad, I decide that the best idea here is to disobey the many signs I had seen coming up the mountain, and feed one of these monkeys. I grab a cracker out of my backpack and hold it out for a very large, male monkey nearby the monkey who is happily sipping my Coke.

This new monkey grabs the cracker and sits down right in front of me - perfect! I reach out an arm and touch him. My fingers had barely glanced his hair when the monkey goes crazy, beating on my legs. I jump up, and the monkey continues hitting my legs with his monkey fists. And it hurts! Finally, the monkey tires of beating me up, and goes to beg other people for more crackers.**

My friends, who have witnessed both of these incidents, are laughing hysterically. However, the group of Chinese tourists around us are not so amused. All of the old women in the group (a surprising number, considering we were climbing a mountain) come up to me, tell me not to touch the monkeys, and give me a slap to the shoulder to drive the point home.

Later on the trail, we saw signs telling us not to touch the monkeys, because they bite. There was even a monkey bite first-aid station. So, evidently, I was not the first foreigner to think that the monkeys wanted me to pet them.

The moral? Don't touch the monkeys.

*The best option for a hike? Nope. Do I care? Nope.

** Like I was going to give a monkey who beat me up any more crackers. Stupid monkey.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Cougars = Scary

As you may or may not know, police in the city of Chicago killed a cougar last week. Yes, inside the city limits of Chicago. In someone's alley. Probably an alley where cute little kids lived. And cute puppies. And cute kitties. Who could have been playing outside at the time and gotten all eaten up.*

Supposedly, this cougar walked from South Dakota to Chicago. Which means that, on its way to the alley where it met its death, the cougar passed right through my backyard! I have included a helpful map for those of you who are not geographically inclined, to illustrate that the cougar came through Madison on its way to Chicago:

As further proof of this visit to my fine home, I have certain pictures of the cougar in Madison that prove that this (now dead) cougar stopped by on his way to Chicago:

As you can clearly see, while he was here in Madison, the cougar decided to stop for pictures at the Capitol, followed by drinks down at the Union. Or perhaps a trip on a sailboat. The picture doesn't make his intentions at the Union entirely clear.

P.S. - Dorkiest. Post. Ever.

P.P.S. - Or at least for today. I hope.

*I enjoy that the picture accompanying the article includes a nearby moped and gas can. Although I am not sure what the purpose of including these items in the picture was, I will guess that it was to imply that the cougar was about to steal both the moped and the (more valuable) gas, thus giving police another reason to kill him. You know, something other than the fact that he was a cougar in a densely populated urban area.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Letter

So, a bit ago, someone stole about 40 CDs out of my car. As I have been unable to find this person and give him a stern talking-to in person, I thought I would use the powers of the internet to let him know how I feel about his theft.


Dear Person Who Stole the CDs Out of My Car:

Hi. My name is Sarah. You don't know me, but perhaps you remember my car - the black Saturn in a downtown Madison office building? With the Wisconsin plates? With the George Bush sticker on the back? And the Notre Dame and Northwestern stickers in the window? That would be my car. Evidently, you felt the need to break into it, so I am guessing you might be familiar with the car.

Now, I know that when you cased the parking lot, the outward signs of the car probably implied that there might be something of value in it. I mean, really, if I were to choose a car, my first thought would be that my Saturn, which clearly states "A Republican lawyer owns this car!" is a better choice to steal something from than the Prius down the row, most likely owned by a hippie holdover who is probably carrying around nothing but hemp bags of items to be recycled.

However, my second thought would be, "Those stickers in the back? The ones that clearly state the owner's alma maters? Those indicate that the owner of this car has a great deal of student debt, and therefore nothing of value will be in this car. Also, the fact that this lawyer is driving a 2002 Saturn? This further indicates that there is nothing of value in this car. I think, perhaps, I should go grab those recyclables, as I will both gain something of value, and help the Earth while I am at it! Also, the likelihood of getting shot by the owner of a Prius is probably less likely than by the owner of this Saturn, who, based on the stickers on this car, is likely a member of the NRA."

Obviously, you never got to my second thought, as you chose to ignore the Prius in favor of stealing from my Saturn.

Now, I know that in the first paragraph I may have implied that you broke into my car. My own history of less-than-stellar following of security measures, and the lack of any broken windows in the car implies that I *might* have left it unlocked. However, I am going to remind you that stealing, even from a car that is unlocked, is wrong. You know, the opposite of right. As in, this was such a biggie rule that God Himself felt the need to let Moses know about it. You know, that whole, "You shall not steal" thing (see Deuteronomy 5:19, if you are in need of a refresher on this particular Commandment. While you're looking up that one, perhaps you should take a look at the rest of the Commandments. Or, if you're feeling particularly ambitious, the whole Book).

I will let you know that this is not the first time someone has felt the need to steal something from me. However, I am going to take special comfort in this particular theft, as the sole thing you appear to have wanted to steal from me was the stellar collection of mix CDs that I have accumulated over the last two or three years. Yes, that's right, you did not get a single CD that I have not downloaded from iTunes. In case you're wondering, this means that nothing you stole from me has any actual resale value. So, while I had to spend several hours of my life fooling around on iTunes and reburning these mix CDs, your theft was more of an inconvenience for me than anything else. I am only partially employed at the moment, so I have plenty of time to do this. And, truth be told, I rather enjoyed this whole process. I mean, the part after I had to get through the twenty minute ride home without my CDs.

Seeing as how you seem to have had no desire to steal anything but my mix CDs, this tells me that, even though you are lacking in the ability to tell right from wrong, you have excellent musical taste. I had no idea that there was someone else who wanted three Bryan Adams CDs! And I know you're going to love my "17 Reasons Not to Get Drunk and Download Songs on iTunes" mix - 70s Southern rock forever! I think you'll especially enjoy the four Spice Girls songs I felt belonged on my "Girlie Pop Songs" CD, not to mention the Geri Halliwell song that also seemed like it belonged perfectly on that particular mix CD. Really, how can you not love remakes of "It's Raining Men?"

Also, I am happy to see that there were certain items in the car that you felt were not worth stealing. For example, the $20 that I had stashed in the nifty door storage on the driver's side? Thanks for leaving that. I had found it on the ground, and kept forgetting to put it in the collection basket at church. My church thanks you, because your little theft reminded me that it was there. If you're in need of a Bible to look up that pesky Commandment thing we talked about earlier, I am sure they would be more than happy to help you look it up.

And the six pairs of shoes in the backseat? I don't know where I would find another perfect pair of purple polka dot shoes. Or, for that matter, the $350+ I would need to replace those six pairs of shoes even if I could find proper replacements. No, they aren't premier designer shoes, but I didn't get them at Payless, either. I am pretty sure someone would have bought them off of you on eBay for a nice amount.

But mostly, I'm quite happy you didn't see fit to look in the glove compartment of the car. As you may recall from earlier in this letter, I occasionally let security slide. Which explains why, at the time you saw fit to steal my mix CDs, the extra set of keys to my car was approximately two feet away from where the CDs were sitting, lying on the top of my maps and manuals in the unlocked glove compartment. So thank you for having more interest in my worthless mix of Jimmy Buffett songs than, you know, my actual car.



P.S. - The extra keys are now safely tucked away somewhere other than my car. I have, however, burned new Bryan Adams CDs, which are sitting on the front seat. In case you have already worn out the three that you stole and are in need of new ones.

A Day In The Life

So, I thought today would be a good day to chronicle my supremely interesting, more or less unemployed lifestyle. Because, obviously, that’s something that people want to read about.

8:00 – I wake up, and give myself total props for being up at a normal hour.*

8:02 – I turn on sports talk radio, and am disappointed that all I get are basketball and hockey stories. Does anyone else realize that there were at least eight spring games this weekend that I can think of off the top of my head? Including that of Notre Dame? Not to mention that it’s baseball season? And my White Sox are in first place? Any story involving either college football or baseball would have been infinitely better than hearing about the NBA playoffs, which will end approximately three games into the college football season.

8:30 – Sufficiently ready to commence my job search (read: have my makeup on), I go online and find nothing at my typical places where I look for jobs. Check my email and my dad’s blog (which you should check out, too, while we are on the subject). I read several (read: approximately 25) different accounts of the Notre Dame spring game, which I attended, so it’s a somewhat pointless exercise, as I am perfectly capable of telling you that I am still mad about Jimmy Clausen taking a knee at the end of the game.**

9:15 – I decide that clothing is an important part of my day, and spend the better part of the next fifteen minutes deciding that the first dress I picked out of my closet is the one that I want to wear. I consider putting the other ten dresses I have picked out back in the closet, but then think better of that idea.

9:30 – I start unpacking the car from my weekend at Notre Dame. After getting everything out that might possibly go bad over the course of the day, I end that exercise prematurely and realize that I have more important things to do, like go to my parents’ house and read (for anyone who cares, I started In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson, last night. The fact that I actually stopped reading to go to sleep is a bit of a remarkable fact, because, so far? The book is awesome. I reserve my right to change my mind if it suddenly turns into a lecture).

10:00 – I head to my parents’ house, where I plan to enjoy the 70+ degree weather on the deck with my book. And yes, this is my entire plan for the day. I arrive to find their four cats acting as if they haven’t eaten in days. When I get to their food dishes, I see that there is still food in them from when I fed them last night.

10:15 – I get settled and down to the important business of the day. Which is, of course, reading, punctuated by random intervals where I stare of into space for minutes on end, thinking about such important topics as, “If I were to win the lottery, would I choose to remain anonymous?” and “What color shoes don’t I own?”

12:30 – Realizing that my parents’ cats are all on their heating pad and it is 70 degrees outside, I unplug the heating pad. That’s just wrong. They need to enjoy this beautiful weather.

12:40 – The cats are giving me sad looks (or so I think) because their heating pad is no longer toasty warm. I plug the heating pad back in, and they go back to lounging in happiness. Because, obviously, if it’s 70 degrees outside and you’re wearing a fur coat, it’s important to have a heating pad so you don’t freeze to death or anything.

12:50 – I note that I haven’t eaten yet today. I consider remedying the situation by driving into town to go to Taco Bell ($2.82 for three tacos? I am so there), but that’s ten minutes from here and requires me to, you know, get in the car and do something, so I make some soup. Because, obviously, if it’s 70 degrees outside and you want something to eat, chicken noodle soup is definitely the best choice. Evidently, the cats are influencing me.

1:00 – I watch the cats for a few minutes as I eat lunch (I have some trouble with the whole eating and reading thing. I love to do it, but it usually ends with me wearing more food than I get in my mouth. Not a fashion statement I am keen on making, as a general rule).

1:15 – The cats are supremely uninteresting. Really, when a robin lands approximately three feet in front of you and you are too lazy to even make a half-hearted attempt at catching it and eating it (and thereby giving me a story to tell to my parents later today via email), you are officially boring.*** And, oh yes, I just insulted cats.

1:30 – Read on the front porch.

1:45 – Fall asleep reading.

2:30 – Wake up from my unintentional nap, happy that I didn’t manage to drool all over myself. Go back to reading.

4:00 – I decide that I should write a blog post about the day that I am having. Because, you know, so many interesting things have happened to me today that I should put this out there on the internet for other people to see and be left for all eternity.

4:01 – I remember that the internet is working only intermittently at my parents’ house, and have been too lazy to do anything about it, like figure out the problem and fix it (which will probably only require me to turn the modem on and off, but um, yeah, the modem is all the way upstairs, and I am not, so I can wait until I go home to read the Drudge Report). But, Miss Prepared that I am, I realize I have a jump drive in my bag and I can just write the post and go back to the book, then post later. Because it has definitely been worth your time to read all of this. That’s right, two minutes of your life you can never get back.

*Yes, I realize that when I was working regularly, the idea of waking up at 8:00 a.m. would have been a wonderful (yet almost incomprehensible) idea. But really? I love that I haven’t seen a sunrise in several months. I was getting sick and tired of those things by the end of last summer. Sunrises? Overrated. Particularly when you’re already at your desk for the day. Sunsets? Particularly with a lake, boat, and margarita involved? Totally underrated.

**However, without these stirring accounts of the game, would I have realized that Jimmy Clausen is going bald? Most definitely not.

***Any snickering about how this parallels my own life is probably (read: definitely) deserved at this point.

50 Word Review: In a Sunburned Country

The Book:

In a Sunburned Country

By Bill Bryson

The 50 Word Review:

Unlike the last Bryson book I read, this latest book of his that I read was quite funny. Now, I want to go to Australia even more than before (which would be easier if, say, I had any money).

50 Word Review: Bright Lights, Big Ass

The Book:

Bright Lights, Big Ass: A Self-Indulgent, Surly Ex-Sorority Girl's Guide to Why It Often Sucks in the City, or Who Are These Idiots and Why Do They All Live Next Door to Me?

By Jen Lancaster

The Review:

See my review of Bitter Is The New Black. Oh yes, I am that lazy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

50 Word Review: The Founding Fish

The Book:

The Founding Fish

By John McPhee

The Review:

For a book found in the history aisle, with a title implying that it will contain a great amount of history, this book contains very little history - or anything worth reading, for that matter. As an added bonus (that's some sarcasm for you), there is a last chapter lecture!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Good Things in Baseball

It's wonderful to look at the AL East and see that the three leading teams are the Orioles, Blue Jays and Rays.

Gotta love early season baseball (and hope that it lasts for the rest of the season).