Sunday, March 18, 2012

Review: Stiff: The Curious Lives Of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

I started reading this book with some trepidation.  A family member with whom I was vacationing last Fall was in the midst of reading this book and said it was quite intriguing.  Then my parents were starting to peruse cemetaries and various plots knowing they need to make arrangements soon because they are now on the down side of 50.  And with amazement I learned that a good percentage of my extended family and friends had already committed to cremation following their deaths.  The whole burning body concept horrifies me, but not enough to keep me from reading this book.  Amazingly, I felt like this book was equivalent to taking a class on how to be a mortician.

The fortunate part for the reader of Stiff is that the author keeps the narration light and humorous given her less than appealing subject matter.  If you wish to gain the following insights which I have listed below, then do would do well to read this book.

1)  If you wish to know what happens to cadavers should you decide to donate your body to science.
2)  The history of body snatching and utilizing cadavers for medical experiments.
3)  The use of ill-fated criminal cadavers for medical research.
4)  The process of human decomposition.
5)  The process of embalming a body and how a mortician prepares a body for a funeral or viewing.
6)  The use of cadavers in crash tests to improve vehicle safety.
7)  How the bodies of plane passengers can reveal the story of how a plane crashed should a black box not be located.
8)  The use of human cadavers to improve safety gear for the military and  as instruments to determine if and when a weapon will stop enemy encroachment.
9)  The debate concerning when a person is officially dead and just when does a soul leave a body.
10)  The process and perils of cremation.
11)  What exactly happens when a person dies and has opted to donate their organs.
12)  The new ecological burial system being advocated by many Swedes.
13)  The author's decision-making process regarding whether to donate her body to science.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Review: MWF Seeking BFF

For the last two weeks I've been engaged in reading the memoir MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche.  This gal grows up in New York, attends Northwestern, moves back to New York for a magazine position, attempts to conduct a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend, and then finally marries and moves to Chicago.  The problem is that she has no local besties; no deeply connected friend she could call at the last minute to go to brunch or grab a yoga class.  It's isolating moving to a new city where you know no one except your significant other.  She has friends at work, but what if one of them found a new position and moved away?  Would they still remain in contact?  She has two BFFs from her younger years and she deeply misses them.  Let's face it, a phone call and email are not the same as face-to-face encounters with our besties.  So she decides to embark on a quest to find a new best friend forever by essentially putting herself out there and deliberately interacting with potential best friends.  This comes in the form of attending book clubs, being set up with acquaintances known by other friends and her husband, attending improv classes, joining a religious social group. friend speed dating, renting a friend, and even just taking the initiative to introduce herself to wait staff and customer service people who she feels a potential connection.  It gets interesting and what follows are some points that I took away from reading about her experience.

1)  The four key ingredients to lasting friendship include self-disclosure, supportiveness, interaction, and positivity. 

2)  Frequent contact and close proximity help in the endeavor to discover a new best friend forever.

3)  You can count your family, husband, and childhood friendships as critical BFFs; however, you actually should have a network of about 150 people you could reach out to in given situations. 

4)  People tend to find happiness moreso through strong friendships than having lots of money.

5)  One sure-fire way to build a lasting friendship is survivorship.  If  two people have a shared survivorship experience, it can bond them uniquely.

6)  Laughter is vital to friendship.  When you can really bust loose, then you know you have a BFF.

7)  Meeting people is an acutal and vital life skill.

8)  There are different levels of friendship.

7)  The level of sociability one requires as a human being can be inherited.

8)  Men do not appear to appear to need BFFs as much as women.

9)  Long and happy friendships and relationships are built on trust. 

10)  If you find yourself able to share life stories with another person, you are more likely to become
friends; however, if you just continually ask each other questions like it's an interview, the person if less likely to become a close friend.

11)  Many people surveyed actually enjoy spending time with their friends over their significant others.  This is definitely not true for me.

12)  Individuals lose more weight when they have a training buddy than if they are training alone.

13)  Online networks neither expand our social networks nor deepen our already existing friendships.

14)  Sometimes relationships fade for a reason and they are better left as a memory.

15)  Friendships rarely last a lifetime; they appear to be a product of whatever your here and now is.