Happy New Year

Every year, I find great enjoyment in reading Neil Gaiman’s New Year’s wishes. This year, I want to offer a few wishes of my own.

Wherever you are in your life: I hope that you make further progress in identifying the things that intrigue you, that thrill you, and that fill you with genuine delight.

Recognize when you need to be gentle with yourself. And recognize when you are being lazy or complacent. Practice the distinction between these. Hold yourself accountable for your own action (or inaction), but do so with compassion.

I hope that you kick your own butt and work towards doing the things you privately dream of. Build your own momentum. Push yourself. Realize that bravery is often no more than this.

I hope that you grow.

All my best,


(Pictured above: New Year’s Eve. Valparaíso, Chile. 2011.)

Midwestern Adventures

In December, I visited the Midwest for the very first time. I spent an extended weekend there with my father, passing several days in Iowa City, Iowa and much of a day in Andover, Illinois. A few highlights:

  • Meeting a key handful of my father’s dear college friends: hearing many entertaining stories, sitting together and sharing tasty meals, exploring their college haunts in downtown Iowa City, and looking through photo albums from their early partyin’ days.
  • Checking out the Old Capitol (the state’s first capitol, now a National Historic Landmark) and its well-arranged museum exhibits.
  • Snow. Snow. Snow. Snow layering the trees and sidewalks, and snow drifting down from the sky and speckling itself in my hair and on my fuzzy jacket.
  • Attending the Hultgren family reunion in Andover: meeting dozens of new-to-me, friendly cousins and relatives; sampling all manner of Swedish-Midwestern foods, including lutefisk, tater tot casserole, and ostkaka (Swedish cheesecake); getting to watch a snippet of digitized video from the 1940s, featuring my great-grandparents and my young (early 20s) grandmother attending a family wedding—in the very same Andover church as the reunion!

Here is a handy-dandy slideshow of all my photos from the trip (after you click Play, you can click the four-arrowed icon at the bottom right to make it full-screen):

Merry Christmas! And a song.

Merry Christmas, my dears. I hope you are able to spend the day with friends and family members who make you feel relaxed and loved. I also hope that you cross paths with at least a few of the following: tasty food; fuzzy blankets; placid strolls; winter weather whose greyness makes you feel sharply, blissfully alive; a fireplace radiating warmth; pine scents; fresh snow; old snow; heat-seeking cuddly pets; &c.

Here is one of my favorite Christmas songs, which is just the right combination of reflective, sentimental, and mildly funny:

Important photos of a wading anteater

In mid-November, I went to the San Francisco Zoo. While there, I gazed joyously at their impressive variety of lemur species, ooh-ed at the many exotic flowers planted beside the pathways, and, as always, took far too many photos.

Then, I got caught up in the hubbub of the holiday season and entirely forgot to share these enlightening photos. However, my blog just feels incomplete and pointless without wading anteaters on it, so I am finally remedying this tragic lack. Aren’t you relieved?

Tentative anteater.
Tentative anteater.

While I’m at it, here are two lemurs & an amiable capybara (click to see larger):

(You can also see a few more SF Zoo photos on my Flickr.)

Bookzest Day, Jan. 20: Great success!

My first ever Bookzest Day was a rousing success (and by “rousing,” I mean “very quiet and placid, but gratifying”). For ease of book selection, I began the day by sorting my Book Mountain into four more manageable Mini-Mountains: one for nonfiction, one for fiction, one for magazines, and one for miscellany (books of poetry or quotes, books of photography or illustration, etc.). This is what they looked like:

From left to right: Miscellany, Fiction, Nonfiction. (Magazines in foreground.)
From left to right: Miscellany, Fiction, Nonfiction. (Magazines in foreground.)

I mostly focused my efforts on the Miscellany pile, and got through 1 full-length graphic novel, 2 illustrated books, 3 photography books, and 1-3 articles apiece from 9 magazines.* Although some of these were shorter reads, I figured they were a good place to focus my energies this time, since their hefty covers make them less conducive to casual bedtime reading.

I ended up reading for ~10 hours, which means that I both met and exceeded my goal of spending 2/3 of my waking hours ensconced in books. Hoorah! Of course, my reading quest will never be done. Near the end of the day, my housemate wandered by with a pile of her old college books, and asked if I was interested in any of them… so I accidentally added three new books on Central American indigenous mythology/history to my Nonfiction Mountain (but how could I say no to that?).

I find it a little sad and strange that “reading all day” has become such a rarity/novelty in my life, but I’m glad that I’ve found a coherent way to confront the issue. Henceforth, I am going to try to start doing a Bookzest Day on a monthly basis—or perhaps even twice monthly, if I get ambitious. (Do you have a spare day? Try it yourself! At least one friend of mine joined in this time, and she was very successful.)

Happy reading!


*Complete reading list, for the silly folks who like details (in chronological order, no less): How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You (Matthew Inman); ZooBorns (Andrew Bleiman & Chris Eastland); Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama (Alison Bechdel); Nonsense Botany & Nonsense Alphabets (Edward Lear); Rare: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species (Joel Sartore); Katharine Hepburn: A Life in Pictures (Pierre-Henri Verlhac); and then assorted articles from my backlog of issues of National Geographic Magazine, Nature Conservancy Magazine, Audubon Magazine, Curve Magazine, and Paste Magazine.