mimi smartypants
Seriously, though: what's with the penguins?

mea culpa automobile

There should be some special indicator light on your car for when you are in the process of doing something stupid and are sorry for it. Like when you suddenly realize that the GPS is serious about right turn ahead and “ahead” means “now” so you have to scoot across lanes and annoy people. And then sit in the right-turn lane with your butt still sticking out into the regular lane. Apologetic handwaves are the etiquette, but a button to push would be so helpful. It would indicate to other drives that you know you fucked up, and that there is no need to honk.


1. Our Lot: How Real Estate Came to Own Us (Alyssa Katz)—Very clear and engaging explanation of the sub-prime mess.

2. Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment (David Kirby)—I am nothing if not in agreement with the conclusions, as lagoons of pig shit can hardly be a good thing, but this was repetitive and not very good.

3. And Here’s The Kicker: Conversations With 25 Top Humor Writers on Their Craft (Mike Sacks [editor])—Good interviews, but eh.

4. Hater (David Moody)—Some blah blah horror gore-porn that ends in a terribly unsatisfying way, as apparently it’s the first in a trilogy. No thanks.

5. The Heights (Peter Hedges)—Many reviewers thought this was a story of self-indulgent overthinkers and their fraught relationship problems told in an overly literary, New-Yorker-story style. That happens to be one of the things I enjoy, so thumbs up. It’s a LOT like Little Children (Tom Perrotta), probably too much so.

6. Snow Blind (Robert Sabbag)—This was so boring that I did not finish it. And that’s weird, because I love drug dealers!

7. John Dies at the End (David Wong)—Again with the boring. It is sad that a book featuring demonic hell beasts ripping out people’s entrails would be boring.

8.  A Thousand Cuts (Simon Lelic)—Debut novel about bullying, sexual harassment, school violence. A lot of flaws but zips right along with a nimble voice.

9. Gang Leader for a Day (Sudhir Venkatesh)—Probably would not have enjoyed this so much if it had not been about Chicago. The author is the guy who did the “crack economy” chapters of Freakonomics.

10. Infected (Scott Sigler)—More horror. I’m on a kick. Decent enough for a genre novel but be warned: gross. There is some graphic gore in here. I unconsciously reverted to a childhood bad habit of chewing on the neck of my t-shirt during some of the ickier scenes.


My kid has many more adventures in the summer than I do. Nora got to go BEHIND THE SCENES at the Field Museum, with a special emphasis on the place where they prepare the taxidermied animals. Flesh-eating beetles, ahoy!

She has discovered Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books and now spends about half her reading time getting killed in creative ways while exploring Atlantis or whatever.

She also accompanied our nanny on a nose-piercing excursion (the nanny’s nose, not Nora’s).

Me: So where did you go for the piercing?

Nora: Do you know this place called The Alley?

Me: Uh, yeah. [The Alley is a Chicago punk accoutrements store, and part of my teenage holy trinity that also includes the Dunkin Donuts parking lot and Medusa's.]

Nora: Yeah, we went to The Alley. Do you know the guy there, with the big holes in his ears? And he has earrings here, here, here, and here [gesturing to various parts of her face]. Do you know him?

Me: No, I haven’t been to The Alley in a long time. But I can imagine.

Nora: Oh, he also has bumps in his arm. It’s like plastic implants under the skin.

Me: Interesting.

Nora: He let me touch his bumps.

Me [just checking]: The ones on his arm, right?

Nora: Yeah.

Me: Okay.


Maybe I am growing up backwards. The other day I posted about how I now have a teenage ailment like monthly cramps (complete with prologue of weepy despair and zits).

You would expect me to have been adolescently dogmatic about my vegetarianism and calmly tolerant about it now, but it is the other way around—if I’m honest with myself I actually have more philosophical problems with eating animals now than I ever did.

I also just cannot let things slide the way I used to. If someone is being an asshole (particularly a racist/sexist asshole), I am much more likely to say something now than when I was younger. It’s not just verbal, either. The other day, near the library, some teenage girls were shoving two other girls around, and the whole thing looked like it was about to turn into a brawl. I yelled at them to cut it out and one of the girls tried to follow me down the block yelling things like stupid honky bitch you don’t tell me what to do I will fuck you up bitch-ass cunt. Of course I ignored this but part of me was all keyed up and excited with a mosh-pit feeling like LET’S FIGHT! Which is insane, I’m a mom and a professional and a nerd and I do not need to be getting my ass publicly beat by people twenty years younger than me. Do I need more vitamins or something? More yoga? Less caffeine?

In summary, I am a few years from 40 and having a second adolescence of sorts. Let’s hear it for sex in the context of a committed relationship, legal and harmless/decriminalized drugs, and rock-and-roll played at a reasonable volume.

—mimi smartypants is having a moderately good time.