Friday, April 28, 2006

This article makes me never want to stay in a hospital. Scary stuff.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Vegan Lunch Box

I started reading the Vegan Lunch Box regularly after seeing it as a Blogger Blog of Note. It's oddly fascinating to see what vegan goodies Jennifershmoo will cook up for her son's lunch. I used to think vegan food consisted of tofu and bean sprouts, but Jennifer manages to make a wide variety of food, from brioche to artificial tuna sandwiches to mini blueberry pies. And most of it looks delicious. I'm not a vegan, but if I had someone pack me beautiful lunches like these every day I don't think I'd have a problem converting to the lifestyle.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The BSC goes graphic

The first book of the Baby-Sitters Club series has been adapted to the graphic novel format. Here's Ann M. Martin's announcement on the Scholastic website. What a fun idea. I loved the series when I was in elementary school, and this seems like a great way to introduce the series to the "next generation" of girls. For an intro to the BSC, check out its Wikipedia entry.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Most watched

Eight TV shows I watch religiously (and why):

  • 60 Minutes- Mike Wallace, Lesley Stahl, Steve Croft, etc. ask the hard-hitting questions. Dares to skip the fluff that passes for news these days to cover serious issues like terrorism and the environment.
  • American Idol- An obvious favorite. An unpretentious talent show where the contestants are refreshingly down-to-earth despite being amazing singers. And it's fun to speculate on who will get voted off.
  • The Amazing Race- Great show with exotic locales, fun obstacles, and the hyper-competitiveness of a race around the world. One of the few reality shows that doesn't seem to exploit its contestants.
  • Lost- Loved the first season, the second is getting increasingly convoluted, but I still watch because I don't want to miss anything important. Gorgeously shot and I like the concept of the flashback to the characters' lives before the crash.
  • Survivor- Somewhat sadistic but I watch anyway. A fascinating social experiment set in a tropical paradise.
  • CSI- (original version) I like the dynamic among the cast of this show. The characters are smart, even geeky. Also enjoy the occasional shock of blood and gore.
  • ER- I think this incarnation of the cast is way better than those from years past. Not a very realistic depiction of a hospital (how many doctors look like Goran Visnjic?) but entertaining.
  • What Not to Wear- The ultimate makeover show. Proves that any poorly-dressed person can be transformed into a beautiful swan with the help of $5,000 worth of clothes, two fashion gurus, and hair and make-up experts.

Tally: four reality shows, three dramas, and one news show. I really need to find a good comedy to add to the list. Only one really girl-y show (What Not to Wear), though I think ER and American Idol could qualify as shows with more of a feminine audience. Only one show is on cable (and four are from a single network, CBS). I'll watch cable but somehow cable shows aren't usually "must see" for me. Apparently these shows are fairly popular choices- four from the list are also in the Nielsen Top 10.

NewMexiKen has a page dedicated to Ron Howard's brother. LOL, that's hilarious.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The worst president?

In this week's issue of Rolling Stone: Is George W. Bush the worst president in history? Sean Wilentz, a Princeton professor, makes a convincing argument. One line from the article sums it up for me:

Bush has "...displayed a weakness common among the greatest presidential failures: an unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy, thus preventing any pragmatic adjustment to changing realities."

Wilentz really hits the nail on the head with this one. The unwise war in Iraq, the abuse of powers, the tax cuts for the wealthy, the refusal of the President to acknowledge errors and make changes, this is some serious stuff, and it's about time someone called him on it. Not addressed is the question of how Bush was elected to the highest office in America--TWICE. That will always remain a mystery to me.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Inverse rule

General rule of jobs: personal satisfaction derived from job varies inversely with salary.

Monday, April 17, 2006

New Horizon Band

Check out my cousin's band. The New Horizon Band has both an offical website and a myspace site where you can listen to their music. My cousin is the bass player (never seen him play quidditch or go deep sea diving, as mentioned on his bio, though ;=). I listened to a couple of songs and I'm impressed. These guys have chops. I would describe their songs as rock with a blues influence combined with great vocals. Congrats, cousin, this is really cool.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Coca-Cola BlaK is "...a carbonated beverage that fuses Coke effervescence with coffee essence. Every sip is an experience to enliven your senses and welcome new possibilities." Oh please, who comes up with this stuff?
More coverage of yesterday's pro-immigrant rallies, including this one here in El Paso.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Fat nation

Last Tuesday BBC World News ran a piece on Steve Vaught, a man who is walking across America to lose weight. Wanting to learn more, I checked out his website, where Vaught is chronicling his journey across America. He describes his reasons for doing it here. This is a great story of a man taking responsibility for his life, one man actually doing something about the faceless problem of obesity that about a third of Americans are now dealing with. Maybe anyone who walks across America is a bit of an extremist, but I also think anyone who makes this type of journey has to be really brave and serious about his cause. I admire Vaught for saying, enough is enough, even if people think I'm crazy, even if it takes a year out of my life, this is worth doing to improve my health.

Though I think Vaught is doing this more for personal reasons and not necessarily as a crusade against obesity in American society, I think it's about time people started taking this issue more seriously. I saw some statistics recently estimating that 71 percent of American men are overweight, and 62 percent of women. Seventy-one percent?! That's close to three out of every four American men being above normal weight. And about one out of three American adults is obese. I'm not one of those radical food police people, but really, that's alarming, don't you think? America is the land of plenty, but we've gone too far. Every day on the news you hear more health risks about being overweight- increases the risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc.- but it seems to go in one ear and out the other as people just keep getting fatter every year.

I'm not exempting myself from the discussion as a formerly obese person who now toes the line between normal weight and overweight. Yeah, I've definitely had my struggles with this issue. What frustrates me most is how our society seems set up to be conducive to fatness. Wake up, eat some sugary cereal. Go to the snack machines at work, there are about 50 choices, about two or three of them have any nutritional value at all, and all are loaded with carbohydrates. Go out to eat for lunch, at most places you get served a platter of food that could easily feed two or three people. Get home, make a quick microwaveable dinner, watch some TV, get bombarded with more ads for food. And then there's the issue of exercise. Like many if not most people in this country, I have a job that involves sitting in front of a computer for hours. If I didn't make the effort to exercise, the only walking around I'd do is up and down the hallways at work and at home and walking to and from my car. My point with all this is that you really have to swim upstream in this society to maintain a normal weight. And for those who are prone to abuse food, it truly is an addiction, and one that is extremely difficult to break, with temptations everywhere. What's really amazing is how anyone manages to lose weight in America.

This is a problem that is not easily solved. I would agree that controlling your weight is a matter of personal responsibility, but I think it's at a point where it's also a matter of government and corporations taking some responsiblity as well. Sure, it's up to the individual to exercise and to be educated about nutrition to make better choices about food and not bow to the temptation of the world of junk food all around us. But I also think the government should use whatever influence it has to try to change the status quo. Here's one issue I wish President Bush would take more leadership on, especially since he is reported to be such a fitness fanatic. The government should have schools teach kids more about fitness and health and offer healthy snacks and lunches, instead of all the junk food they currently offer. Build more parks. Launch an extensive public education campaign. Give tax incentives for corporations that encourage employees to be healthy. As for businesses, which the government (especially the current one) is incredibly reluctant to regulate, well, I think it's up to people to change what they buy and force food companies to make healthier products. I think companies that sell junk food need to be held accountable the way cigarette companies have, maybe not with lawsuits (a little extreme), but shamed into some form of corporate responsibility by the media and by activist groups.

Anyway, enough lecturing, try watching SuperSize Me if you want more of that. The path to solving this huge problem starts with people like Steve Vaught. According to his website, he has been walking across America for nearly a year and has lost 120 lbs. I applaud this guy for setting out on this journey and accomplishing so much, including raising awareness of obesity as a problem in America. This is one guy who is actually doing something about his problems and not sitting around complaining about them, and that's something a lot of us need to start doing in this country.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Recommended reading

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Highly recommended, now on paperback, so go out and buy it.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Celebrities with novels

Craig Ferguson wrote a novel? I'd be interested in reading this, that is, if his writing is as good as his monologues on The Late Late Show. Writing a novel seems to be a pretty rare thing for celebrities to do, the only others I can think of are Shopgirl by Steve Martin and Ash Wednesday by Ethan Hawke.
Wow, this is really cool. Thanks, NewMexiKen.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A day I'll never forget

August 16, 2005. It was a normal, hot summer day. I was going in to the gated employee parking lot at work around 7 p.m. I had turned in wide so that I was slightly more than an arm's length away from the device that opened the gate. A split second passed where I thought about putting the car in park while I swiped my card, but I decided it was too much trouble. I leaned far out the window to swipe my pass to open the gate, the car still in drive with my right foot on the brake. The next thing I knew my foot had slipped off the brake and the car was rolling down the sloped parking lot. There I was, half-in, half-out of the car, my left foot dragging on the pavement, trying unsuccessfully to get back in the front seat so I could press the brake. The car was headed right toward a concrete median. Oh good, this will stop it, I thought. When the car rolled right over that median, then right over another, I knew for sure this was going to end badly. As I rolled down the parking lot, all I could do was to get myself completely into the car and hope I didn't die when it finally came to a stop.

A few seconds later, the car hit a median on the other side of the parking lot and stopped. Surprisingly, I was still alive and conscious, the windshield hadn't cracked, and the car was still running. So far, so good. I thought I had gotten off easy. Then I noticed the blood. Blood was gushing out of my head. I had never seen so much blood come out of me. It was all over my shirt and it smelled strong and it scared the hell out of me. I got out of the car and thought about what to do. My first thought was that I needed to find someone to help me, quickly, in case I passed out. I applied some pressure on my head and tried to get across the parking lot. I felt some pain in my right leg and arm as I walked. In the confusion, I had also lost one of my shoes and my glasses. I was in pretty bad shape as I hobbled over to the sidewalk where one of my co-workers spotted me and ended up driving me to the hospital, but right then I knew I was going to be OK.

As you would expect, I spent a few hours in the emergency room that night. I had some stitches put into my head and also had an MRI, which showed that I did not suffer a concussion. I came home with some large bruises and a cut on my lip. But I was going to be fine, no permanent damage done, other than to my car. My car was already old and rickety, now it was wrecked, too.

I was grateful to be alive and lucky the accident wasn't worse. However, in the days after the accident I still I felt a lot of shame about it. I didn't want anyone else to know, but of course, everyone found out about it- my family, friends, and co-workers. I didn't want their sympathy or attention, mostly because I didn't want them to see how stupid I had been. Over the next few months I also ended up having to buy a new car and pay a few thousand dollars in medical bills, more consequences of something that shouldn't have happened in the first place. I wanted so badly to erase the accident, to go back in time to that parking gate and tell myself to put the damn car in park.

But of course that's not possible. As much as I hated it, this was a lesson for me in the school of life, a past-due reminder that I am not God. Which is basically what all humiliations are, but this was a big one. I'm human, therefore I am always one accident away from ceasing to exist. There's really nothing like that moment of not knowing whether you are going to live or die. Sitting in the front seat of a car that is going to crash, you don't know when it's going to stop and how hard it is going to crash, whether you are going to fly through the windshield or pass out and lie there until somebody notices. At that moment, my life was completely in the hands of God (or fate, the universe, or whatever else you might call it). At that moment, I could have died but for some reason I didn't.

I definitely don't face life-or-death situations like that every day. I don't sky-dive or bungee jump or climb mountains. But whether I think about it or not every single day my life is in God's hands as much as it was that day. Anything can and does happen, even in a tame, relatively boring life like mine. If any good can come out of such a bad situation it was being brought low in order to see how dependent on God I really am. Who knows why I made such a stupid mistake and why I survived it. Maybe there is no reason, it was all just random, a combination of my stupidity and the laws of physics. And yet to me it was a lesson, to be more careful, of course (note to self: when in doubt, always put the car in park), but also to realize that ultimately I'm not in charge of the things.

It's eight months later and a few scars are the only physical things left that to remind me of the accident. But I still think about what happened a lot, especially when I'm driving. I think about how one stupid mistake can end it all. It's a scary thought, but it's also something that makes me appreciate every day that some life-altering random mistake or malfunction doesn't happen, every day that I get to work safely and come home to a safe, warm house, every day that I can enjoy life as a healthy and relatively happy person. Those are things to be thankful for and in a weird way I'm glad I had this experience to make me realize it.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

A couple of great posts by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez. Amen, sister.