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Archive for August, 2011

Five donkeys (and mules) at the State Fair.

 

Plus a bee.

Oh, and some balloons!

So long, Fair, see you next year. Thanks for all the livestock to pet, and for all the cotton candy I got sick off of. Thank you for balloon glows and people watching. Thank you for super dry $8 pork burgers that get stuck in my throat, every year. Thank you for sticky hands and memories of children putting their mouths in dirty places.

It all was very, very amusing.

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Six books on my to-finish list.

I used to consider myself an avid reader. Sadly, these days I can’t make that claim. I have finished four books so far in 2011. Of this I am happy because that is about three or four more books than I finished in 2010.

I wish I could become an avid reader again. When I was in eighth grade I made a goal of reading 100 books in one year. I made it up to, I think, 87 by the end of the year. Then, miffed that I hadn’t reached my goal, it took me another year to round out those last 13 books.

I did almost nothing but read all through high school. I was the only kid in my class who actually read Bleak House when we were supposed to be reading Bleak House, and I loved it. I couldn’t get enough of the classics, and I’d leave the library with stacks of books whenever I got the chance.

When I got to college I still loved to read, but I had less and less time for it as the years went on. Somewhere along the way I got really, really out of practice.

I blame my lost love of reading not on college, but on the internet. Or, more accurately, on my lack of willpower where internet usage is concerned. As wonderfully informative and enlightening as the internet can be, more often it becomes somewhat of an intellectual black hole for me. I head to a cozy spot, all ready to settle down for a good hour of reading, deciding just to check my email for one minute real quick…not realizing that I’m teetering on the edge of the event horizon of mindlessness. Before I know it, I’ve spent an hour or two reading comments to an article about Miley Cyrus’s new tattoo, and my entire chance to better my world has somehow cruelly slipped out from under me.

So I have decided to wean myself from my internet surfing habits, and devote myself to the pursuit of things I used to love. In order to make the transition, I’ve been remembering just what components make for a successfully avid reading session. Of course, you need a cozy, quiet spot; comfortable clothing; snacks, preferably chewy but not too unhealthy; a good beverage; adequate lighting; a reading buddy if appropriate; a writing utensil for taking notes; and, of course, a good chunk of time.

It’s also important to take into account your reading style. I tend to be a kinesthetic learner, so I may need to walk around while I’m reading, or sit in a rocking chair or on a porch swing. This is also why I have my pen and my snacks handy. The more fidgeting I can direct to other parts of my body, the better I will be able to keep my eyes and my mind focused on the page. I’ve also found that reading out loud can help me to absorb the language and the meaning, so having a private place to read can be important.

I think the biggest thing for me will be, simply, getting back into the habit. It takes a certain mindset to be able to sink so deeply into a narrative that you don’t want to come out of it. That you would rather stay up till 4am than not finish the next chapter, and the next, and the next…I can’t even remember the last time that I was that kind of a reader! But, if I really put my mind and heart into it, and am willing to take the plunge, I think I might, I just might be able to devote myself to becoming a reader again.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a stack of books to attend to, and some websites to avoid.

 

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Seven tree trunks in Broad Ripple Park.

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When I got home from yoga this evening I was famished. So I scarfed down a couple cups of rice, a large portion of steamed cauliflower and broccoli, and a granola bar. But what I really want, even after all that, is a pink sprinkle donut.

 YUM.

I don’t know what it is about the pink icing and the sprinkles, but to me it’s like ingesting happiness and smiles.

I thought I was the only one who had this weird fixation on pink sprinkle donuts. Well, besides this guy:

But when I got online to indulge myself with images of my coveted snack (sadly, the donut shop is closed), I found a hoard of objects created for and by pink sprinkle lovers around the globe. Check it out.

A huge Mylar balloon.

Pet apparel.

Life-size plush pink icing donuts who are actually smiling.

Crocheted pincushions.

Jewelry.

Pink mural deliciousness.

A compact case (love this one).

Christmas ornaments.

And a much larger than life-size plush.

Oh and I almost forgot this weird donut purse,

I guess that settles it. I’m not the only one who dreams in pink and sprinkles. Fortunately the craving doesn’t hit often, otherwise I might get sick of them, and that would be a tragedy.

I know where I’m headed come morning!

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Just west of the intersection of 52nd and College Avenue in Indianapolis you will see a new facade. It’s nothing flashy, but the sign had caught my attention recently. It says, Garuda Indonesian Restaurant. Like this:

Hailed as Indiana’s very first Indonesian cuisine, we were excited to try it out. “Oooh, the Spice Islands!” and so on.

So we did.

Let me first say, don’t attempt to park in Garuda’s impossibly tiny parking lot. Even if you do get a spot, it’s not easy getting back out onto 52nd street from it. It’s much, much easier to keep driving about 50 feet or so to Broadway, where parking is plentiful and just a short jaunt to the door.

The inside of Garuda is put together well. The walls are painted in rich, dark colors, and the decor is not bad. I liked the painted brick floor, but I didn’t like how there is no back wall, and you can see straight into the kitchen from every seat in the house. Overall the cozy space gives a generally classy feel.

During our visit we were one of only two parties dining at Garuda. We were seated immediately and the owner, Peter Oomkes, sat down with us to explain the menu since we were completely unfamiliar with Indonesian cuisine. That was a plus.

We ordered two appetizers, Tofu Lumpa and Vegetable Satay. But first, they brought out Krupuk, which is a kind of spongy fried shrimp cracker. I didn’t care for the taste of the cracker, but it did come with a spicy peanut dipping sauce that was quite good.

The Lumpa, a type of spring roll, was tasty, though more reminiscent of a hash brown than a spring roll, in my opinion and experience. The veggie Satay was like a miniature shish-ke-bob, and was also tasty, though not amazing.

For our entrees we ordered the Bami Goreng (noodles and mixed vegetables), Nasi Goreng (Indonesian fried rice with vegetables, and chicken), and Kare Opor (Indonesian chicken curry).

The Bami Goreng (above) was, I think, the most flavorful dish. I’m a little disappointed that they used dumpling egg noodles instead of an Asian noodle. I would be curious to know how the taste would change if traditional noodles had been used. I only tried a bite of this, but Theresa ate the entire thing and reported that it was good.

Now would be a good time to point out that the portions at Garuda are rather small. I prefer this because I don’t like having leftovers or wasting what I can’t eat. However, anyone with a bigger appetite might consider ordering two entrees.

My entree was Nasi Goreng. The presentation of this dish is perfect for me: separate little piles of every component, ready to be mixed and matched however I please in each bite. How did they know that’s how I like to eat? Maybe I have Control Freak written all over my face, I dunno. At any rate, my little pile of rice, little pile of chicken, little pile of veggies and my egg kept me occupied for the short time it took me to scarf the whole thing down. My only complaint? This is the most bland meal I have ever eaten. Apparently Peter Oomkes missed his latest shipment from the Spice Islands. The tiny dusting of soy sauce atop my rice pile was the only added flavor. Of course, Peter did point out to me that I could add flavor with the two pots of sweet sauce and hot sauce that were on the table from the beginning, but I didn’t want either, I wanted spices. Luckily bland food tends to be very palatable to me so I didn’t really care too much so long as I wasn’t going hungry.

I also tried a bite of the Kare Opor. It was very curry-y. Jeff reported it as being a very bland curry, and the chicken very dry. He mixed in the spicy peanut sauce that we both liked in order to add flavor to the dish.

So, the food is bland. That was a disappointment. As for the service, well…it wasn’t horrible. There were some things that were left out here and there, and getting enough plates to share our appetizers was a challenge, but those aren’t things that can make or break a meal. The worst part of the service was that one person would get their entree, then ten minutes later the next person would get theirs, and so on. If Theresa and I had been polite and waited for everyone to get their food before we began, then our food would have been cold by the time the curry rolled out.

I understand that the kitchen was short staffed. I could easily tell this because the chef was cooking about 15 feet from our table with no wall between us. But really, considering that there were about six people in the dining room, they are simply going to have to step up their production efforts in order to run a successful restaurant.

Overall, we decided as a group that, if we were going to spend $10-15 per entree on another dinner anytime soon, we would choose from a number of other places before we chose Garuda. Viet Bistro, India Garden, Thai Cafe: all these places close by offer a LOT more bang for your buck. Larger portions, amazing flavors, variety, hard-earned popularity, and variety—

all these things Garuda has not.

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 I’ve been spending much of my day pondering Life’s Big Questions. I’m not sure what brings it on, but occasionally these existential problems come sailing out of the blue, nearly knocking me out cold.

Perhaps it came on as I considered my financial situation—I live quite comfortably, and have no complaints. However, my car is approaching that point where it is no longer reliable. I need to replace an object that I would rather be able to just live without. I need a car to get to my job at the Humane Society, which I enjoy. However, this job doesn’t afford me much more money than it takes to own and drive and upkeep my vehicle. I could quit my job and adjust my lifestyle to negate the need for a car, but then I wouldn’t get to go to work, which is a way that I have found to meaningfully pass my time.

Which brings me to the question: why do I need to pass my time meaningfully, and what exactly is that meaning?

What, in turn, is the Meaning of Life, if all we are doing is working in order to pay for the things that we need to keep ourselves in such a condition that we are able to continue to work?

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

If you are the religious type, this question is easy to answer. God made us in his image and created the Earth for us in order that we could glorify his existence and prove ourselves worthy of his reward of everlasting life in his presence….right?

As appealing as that sounds, unfortunately I gave up on that mode of thinking a long time ago. It’s just not my truth.

So, I’m back to trying to figure out the Meaning of Life, sans religion. It’s been done before, of course. Nietzsche concluded that life is meaningless, and that this is an opportunity for humankind to reinvent itself.. whatever that means. Freud believed that searching for your meaning in life would make you mentally ill (I can’t argue with that one). Even Einstein, my personal philosophical hero, stated that searching for the meaning of existence is, simply, “absurd from an objective point of view.”

But I just can’t help my self.

I spent some time today considering the idea that the Meaning of Life is to experience pain. Pain and suffering seems to be the only real constant in life, and without it we would be unable to experience joy or pleasure. This is one of the main reasons why I simply don’t believe in a heaven. After a while, even complete bliss becomes the status quo, and ceases to have any meaning (or affect) unless it is paired with its sad and torturous counterparts.

But no, that doesn’t get to the real root of why any of this is all here, and how it came to be here. It only explains why pain exists and is a completely necessary part of life.

Then, as I was wandering around barefoot in my yard and pondering nature, as all good little philosophers do, I came upon my perfect answer. The Meaning of Life, of course, is simply the Propagation of new life. Every single thing that breathes, squeaks, flagellates, photosynthesizes, divides and conquers, is striving toward one true end—to sustain the survival of its own species. If you think of it from an evolutionary standpoint, this explains everything—except the Big Bang, but I won’t go there today.

So….what, now we all have to go out and have babies in order to fulfill our true existence in life? Well, not exactly. For humans, propagating our species comes in many forms. For the vast majority of us it involves furthering progress, whether it be by laboriously researching a cure for cancer, or by handing fries out that drive-through window all day. Whatever your occupation or station in life, you are doing your small part to keep the world turning and the human species growing (and growing and growing…).

In other words, we are all cogs in the huge machine that is humankind.

That’s the depressing part about it. No matter what, no matter how fancy of a car you drive, how many children you have and what they grow up to be, or how many cures for diseases you discover in the course of your life, you are still just a cog.

Sorry.

Of course, anyone else in the course of history who has come to that conclusion has found solace in the fact that they do, in fact, have this Meaning in their lives—to live for others, and for humanity in general. I hope it’s not too horribly presumptuous of me to say that I think Einstein would agree with me. He did say once that “…without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people…” Even though Einstein was a very solitary man who didn’t feel the need for much interaction with other people, he described himself as having that “passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility.”

I like that.

Unfortunately, I’m not so sympathetic toward humanity. I don’t know if that makes me anti-social or what, but I’m certainly not out to make anyone’s life miserable or even inconvenient. I simply don’t particularly believe in Progress. And the thought of helping the human race to become a more powerful and dangerous behemoth than it already is does not particularly appeal to me.

So, I guess I’m stuck. I have a Meaning in Life, but I don’t believe in its virtue. I’m an unwilling cog, wishing that the world contained a significant amount of fewer cogs, or at least more conscientious cogs. I wouldn’t mind not being a cog, but I’m not about to remove myself from the machinery, if that’s what you were considering suggesting for somecog as hopelessly apathetic as I.

Fortunately, Meaning is not completely essential in order to enjoy life. I think most people, even many of the passively religious ones (or should I say, especially the passively religious ones), don’t give much thought to Meanings or Questions. They are content to coast through life grasping after all the little things that Life doesn’t really give a hoot about—jobs, possessions, money, education, vacations, even happiness—just don’t really matter in the big scheme of things. But those are the things that everyone seems to occupy themselves with acquiring.

And not without reason. As sociologist Michael Casey puts it, “Unless you are very lucky or have some sort of religious background this makes you much more averse to asking “deep” questions. We settle instead for our own personal solutions to the question of meaning, taking “small M” meaning from the little things we find along the way and giving up on the idea of a source of meaning which is available to everyone.”

I have no room to judge the people who strive for petty earthly happiness (however blunderingly) because, as you see, I am in the same boat as they are in the end. In fact, the whole premise of my blog and the meaning of the title point to my personal philosophy of finding happiness in the small things: the joyful little Christmases that happen every day.

So how does a girl like me, who has plenty of “small M” meaning, accept her fate as part of the inevitable “big M” Meaning, without really caring to feel like a part of human progress, and without deriving much happiness from social interaction? How do I fill my niche, remain a recluse, and still feel like I’m contributing something really meaningful to the world (if only for my own sake of vanity)?

I’ve thought about this during the course of my typing frenzy, and have come up with a few good answers. First, I Support those who I love and enjoy sharing company with. They are doing great things in this world, and I’m happy to be there behind the scenes just in case they need something. Second, I help the animals that give small M meaning and big S Support to countless human lives. I may not care much about the average person’s life, but I do care about their pets’ lives. And that, in turn, brings happiness to my fellow humans. And finally, I find a great deal of meaning and creative expression through writing. I can keep my solitude, and still tell you exactly how I feel. And maybe even contribute a little something to the world along the way. It all works out like that.

I’m not sure how to conclude this cathartic rant of mine, but I’m pretty sure it’s almost over. My angst has passed, and I feel happy to be getting back to my modest life and endeavors, knowing that my success can only be measured by me, and feeling like I’m doing a good enough job just by being here and doing what I’m doing.

And, not to beat a dead scientist, but, I will leave you with one last quote from my favorite philosopher:

“The life of the individual has meaning only insofar as it aids in making the life of every living thing nobler and more beautiful. Life is sacred, that is to say, it is the supreme value, to which all other values are subordinate.”

~Albert Einstein

 

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I took my four older opossum babies back to the rehab center this afternoon to stay. They had tripled in size since I had taken them on just two weeks ago, and were already outgrowing the larger cage I had kept them in this past week. At the center, I carefully set up a large cage made of 2x2s and chicken wire. They got such luxuries as a big wheel, a hammock for everyone to sleep in, a full-size latrine, a shelf with little t-shirt nests, and a big plate of watermelon chunks for everyone. I also left a little note on the front of their cage saying, *Take Good Care of My Babies*

They loved it.

Even though it wasn’t quite their usual time yet for getting up and starting their evening activities, they spent at least an hour climbing all over the cage, sniffing out every corner, and of course chowing down on the most fruit they have ever seen in their little lives. Whenever I peeked in on them they would be up to some hilarious antic. They were already beginning to make good use of their big wheel, which could fit three of them at a time! Only problem was, if one opossum stopped running, she’d have to hang on for dear life because the other two would charge ahead and send her head over heels right around the top of the wheel, until she met up with them at the bottom. They also seemed very interested in checking out their new neighbors, which included a couple of older opossum litters on either side.

My little dude, however, is still with us. He has gained a mere 14 grams since the day he was rescued, but he has made remarkable progress nevertheless. To think that on that first day I was afraid he might not last the night, but now he is a bright eyed little lad who also enjoyed noming on some juicy watermelon this evening, and delighted me to no end by showing me how well he can use the tiny wheel that I hung inside his little cage.

That’s the memory I focus on at the end of this rather long day. Thanks, Small Fry.

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